On this day exactly one year ago, something very special happened to me. Maybe not this exact day, but somewhere around this day since I had a 15 hour time difference.
I applied for a Bordeaux and Saint Emilion Trip through a special scholarship program. I was selected! As I’ve mentioned before, I may not be that impressive, but my resume is great, so I was selected for my employer, not myself. But I went. I flew across the world, for my first time to ever leave the country, on a plane by myself. A kind stranger helped my navigate the Paris airport to make my puddle jumper to Bordeaux. This thing was tiny, and nobody spoke English and I had been awake for 18 hours so far.
I got off the puddle jumper in Bordeaux with no extra sleep and a headache, to meet a driver to take us to our hotel. I was expecting one other person to join at this point in time. We take an hour drive to our hotel and have a lunch scheduled at 12:15pm… 6:30am the following day in my Florida life. We check in and I want to take a nap and refresh…. but the following is my view.
No kidding. I called this the Beauty and the Beast room. It sits at the very top of Saint Emilion looking down in to the city on the cobblestone streets and the limestone buildings. It was breath taking. And better yet, the windows were just locking shutters the opened all the way up to a view of the town with the most beautiful air that I have ever breathed coming in. Just incredible. I refreshed, but there was no way I could sleep. Lunch was beautiful and I made a forever friend. The rest of the group had delayed flights and could not make it till later in the day. We had a great afternoon with a tour of the city and once the group finally made it in, a fantastic tasting and introduction to Saint Emilion. Then, the best dinner I have ever had in my life. I tried to take pictures, but I loved it so much, I forgot. After dinner, there were fireworks, followed by drinks at a local bar. What an amazing first night full of truffles and wine, that I could never forget.
Let’s talk about the exciting stuff… we visited vineyards, a few stood out much more than others, and we can discuss them a bit, but you’re here for the storytelling. And there are a lot of stories that came out of this trip.
First, there is this guy:
We because instant friends on this trip. We were the only two who actively work in “the industry” and had so much in common. He is way smarter and slightly more nerdy than I am, but we got along great. We were constantly looking for one last drink, while the rest of the group wanted to go to bed. We survived on espresso, as most industry people do, for most of the trip. One evening ended around a table in our hotel lobby drinking left over wine from the Haunted Château (more to come on this later.) we sat around the table with the entire group laughing and joking and leaving with a a group of inside jokes including #mompour, I ❤️ Riesling tattoo ideas and ask me about my Douro. Also laughing hysterically about how far south New Zealand is. The wine and calvados led us here. Almost a year later, Michael and I got to meet this new friend and his lovely wife in New York for dinner! It was the same as our time in Bordeaux. #Puisseguin
Let’s talk about vineyards. A very special Saint Emilion vineyard is the experience specifically. The White Horse, better known as Château Cheval Blanc. We were warmly greeted by the winemaker. He was a kind man and very hospitable. He took us on a tour of the beautiful facility, including a story about the neighbors who hate the modern look of the château expansion, the spotless fermentation room, the barrel room underground, and the very best part of all… family meal with the workers at the vineyard. This is September in Bordeaux. It’s harvest. All the grapes must come off the vines; it’s time to make wine, y’all! They have a chef… the chef makes lunch EVERYDAY for all of the harvesters. It was incredible! And we drank Cheval Blanc! But the lunch was just so special. Cheval Blanc holds its own. They don’t have to do anything nice; they didn’t have to see us; they especially didn’t have to invite us to family meal. It was one of a kind. I can’t even describe how happy it made me.
Then after they fed us, they set us free to explore the vineyards. We wondered in the vines then went to the roof top garden. That was it’s own special level. And you can see the entire vineyard from up there. Then we wondered to the vineyards in front of the building. Incredible… and I’m about to get super geeky here; so many soil types. Clay, gravel, limestone, slate. No wonder this wine is special. It is mostly Merlot (not an evil grape people) with Cabernet Franc and a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Beautiful, rich, deep dark fruit notes that are lush and round with perfectly integrated pepper and tannins. Just Lovely! Just the most amazing experience ever.
Part of the trip through this scholarship includes a MS to join us as our guide; maybe more like a responsible adult to make sure we behave. Our MS was beyond amazing. He was down to earth, he talked about his life and how he got here, and so much more. It was possibly the best part. So one of the days, we had a little down time, and he got us a couple of nice bottles of wine to blind taste us. They were poured when we came down from our rooms and we had no idea what we were drinking. Except, what we were tasting was delicious, classic and testable! The thing about blind tasting that makes it so difficult is that it requires practice. Practice is expensive. Every little bit of support is priceless. This experience was priceless and something that not everyone gets on top of their already free education trip. So the first wine was Domaine du Pegau. Beautiful, delicious, funky Châteauneuf-du-Pape. My initial thought was exactly that. Annnnddddddd I talked myself out of it. That’s the hardest part about blind tasting. You have the tools and training, but your brain likes to make you think you are wrong. It’s a natural human thing. Mine did just that. I should have known. The second wine, less likely to be testable, but freaking beautiful. Pintia is one of those rare, special wines of Spain. I loved it. But I remembered the Pegau. If you think you know something, anything about wine, try to blind taste. Your brain will convince you otherwise. It’s a really great way to bring you back down a level.
There were more vineyards, and more Château’s. There was another one that was special for separate reasons that I remember explicitly. We went to Château Gaby. This is a very old, historic château that was recently purchased and is being restored. It has a classic exterior, beautiful rolling vineyards, but the inside is something special to discuss. It is full of modern art and musical instruments. That was just the house. The barrel room is beautiful and we did a barrel tasting. This was something that you need to be a part of. Just once, you’ll understand the elusive super nerdy idea that is “terroir.” We tasted the same grape harvested at the same time, fermented the same way, from different plots in the vineyard all with different soil types. HOLY CRAP! They all tasted different. So cool!
We had dinner catered in the house after our tour and tasting. Dinner was delicious. The food was great. The company was better. I wish I could remember something more specific about the dinner other than the laughter, but I can’t. It’s sad considering I claim to be a foodie. What I do remember is getting ready to leave. I went to the restroom before we left since we had a long drive back to the hotel. It was located just at the bottom of the staircase. Personal question time. Have you ever had that feeling that something was watching you? You know, the kind like something is there when you should be alone? The kind that shoots chills down your spine? Yeah, it’s not my favorite feeling. But I remember it vividly. I glanced up the dark stairs, and I felt like I needed to run. So I sprinted. Out of the house, to the rest of the group, as quickly as I could. I just ran. Once outside I gathered myself and pretended nothing happened. Terrifying. This let to the evening of drink around the table and leaving with inside jokes as mentioned above.