Sunday, October 5, 2014

A River Runs Through It: Saint-Emilion, Blaye, & Cognac


In our travels we have discovered most cities are divided into sections or communities, whether it be by economic, cultural, or historical, there are distinctions.  Bordeaux may be the first to be divided by soil type.  When in Paris if you refer to Left bank vs Right bank of the Seine it may connote wealth and the old guard of the right vs the artists and students of the left.  In Bordeaux all the money and students are pretty much on the left side, but the wine differences between the two sides is always up for discussion.  In Bordeaux the "Terroir" is EVERYTHING!  The make-up of the soil and the type of wine each soil produces becomes biblical in importance here.  

View of Saint-Emilion from out in the vineyards.  
Saint-Emilion is called the Hill of 1000 wines.

The Merlot grape ready for harvest

 As we travel, one of the highlights is when we rent a car, leave the city and get to visit the countryside.  Bordeaux is beautiful country with very nice people who have  a deep love and respect for their wine heritage.  We hope you all are able to experience it someday.  One more thing, don't expect many wine reviews here, we will leave that to the oenophiles.  The best advice we learned is that every palette is different, whatever tastes good to you is a good wine.


There is no way we can even make a dent in visiting the many wineries in Bordeaux (8,000 Chateaux) so we are going to pick a few in each appellation and hope for the best!  This post is on a few of the wineries found on the "Right Side" of the Garonne River where the cool soil is predominately clay and limestone making for excellent Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.

Our first stop is Saint-Emilion, the oldest wine area of the Bordeaux region dating back to the time of the ancient Romans and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

2 views of old Saint-Emilion - with a silly selfie and without - the town and the couple both look in need of a restoration....

 Saint-Emilion is an historic fortified village filled with monuments of its long history.    
"The Chateau Rochebelle" was the first winery we stopped at outside of the village.

2nd day on the "Right Bank", we decided to take a wine tasting cruise up the Garonne to Blaye - pictured below left is another UNESCO Heritage site dating back to the 12th century "The Citadel of Blaye."  We were taken to a refuge on Patiras Island to do more wine tasting along with small plates of sustainable gourmet delights!

Along with bottles of wine from the Cotes de Bordeaux appellation, we had to suffer gourmet food tastings such as artichokes, duck breast, foie gras (sorry California -but it was my favorite - when in France...), spinach balls (must find the recipe for this), a local fish carpaccio and ending with desserts.  The desserts included chocolate mouse (Rich ate 3) and the famous Canele of Bordeaux - a magical cake with a rich custardy interior enclosed by a thin caramelized shell. (I stopped counting but I think I saw Rich eat at least 8, did I-but these treats are the official cake of Bordeaux!) 
Chef extraordinaire, grand jour!

We stopped at Chateau Falfas in Bourg for a tasting at a Biodynamic (organic) vineyard.  The 50 acre vineyard is harvested manually -no machinery touches the soil.   The Chateau itself is very interesting built in the 14th century and one of the oldest in the region.  The present owner and winemaker is Veronique Cochran- yes a woman winemaker.  (Sorry Veronique for the blurry picture above) She is very proud of the historic reputation and explained to us (in French) about a few of the designs of the building - the estate was passed on to women as noted with the "egg" in the coat of arms and the lower right bottom, you can see 2 female heads who were supposedly the women the estate was passed down to....oh yes, and of course the 2010 Demeure and the 2008 Le Chevalier were impressive

Still on the Right Bank, we went off the wine track to go north to take a quick stop in Cognac.  There are 200 Cognac producers - the 4 big exporters to the USA are Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, and Remy Martin.  We only had time to visit one, so we picked Remy Martin based only on the name of our great niece Remy.  I think we made the right choice!

Remy Martin is a very impressive tour  taking us through the history and the process of making distilled brandy named after the town of Cognac.   If you want more information go to their website -better yet, book a trip and you can visit all 200 Cognac producers!  "Eau de Vie"!!

A perfect pairing - Remy with a macaroon (and not just any macaroon - a chocolate and orange combination created by chef Phillippe Saint Romas)  Missed taking the picture on a pairing of iced VSOP and a beautiful Parmesan shortbread with Roquefort butter and pistachios!  Their website has some of the recipes.

....Ok, back to the Merlot grapes from Chateau Rochebelle  - The harvest has begun, so they don't mind my tasting - let's see, swirl around in your mouth, chew, breathe air through your mouth, then expel through your nose......My first impression - yes light, crisp, tangy, and sweet!.... I predict the 2014 wines will be ones to remember!!

It is impossible to drink wine from every vineyard of the Right Bank but we gave it our best effort - when we were not in the vineyards we were in the wine bars.  Now we must give equal time to the Left Bank......Off to Medoc!