The 2013 YPO Bordeaux trip kicked off Sunday night. The guests checked into the best hotel in the Medoc, Cordeillan Bages, which is located in the vineyards of Pauillac, just minutes from Chateau Latour, Chateau Pichon Lalande, Chateau Pichon Baron and only a short walk from Chateau Lynch Bages. www.cordeillanbages.com
Opening Night Sunday June 23
The guests enjoyed an opening night party and dinner at Chateau Pontet Canet. Headed by Alfred Tesseron since 1994, Pontet Canet became the first major Bordeaux chateau to embrace Biodynamic growing techniques. The estate enjoys the rare privilege of scoring back to back perfect 100 Pt ratings from Robert Parker for the 2009 and 2010 vintage. Dinner kicked off with multiple vintages of Dom Perignon before the guests were seated at the family table and enjoyed a myriad of vintages of Pontet Canet. The night drew to a close with a glass of the rare Tesseron Extreme Cognac. The Tesseron family own the famed Cognac house bearing their family name. However, the highlight of the night came when the owner, Alfred Tesseron announced that we were all there on his birthday! What a way to kick the trip off, celebrating the birthday of Alfred Tesseron!
Day One Monday, June 24
The Bordeaux system is unlike any other wine region in world. This is due to the way they market and sell their wines, especially at the top end. Bordeaux is huge, making slightly more than 1.5% of the world’s supply of wine, which cumulatively adds up to about 450 million bottles of wine per vintage. However, the best of those wines, perhaps 20 million bottles are what we are primarily concerned with. The Bordeaux system does not allow in most cases, direct sales to customers. Instead, the top wines are sold to Bordeaux Negociants, who resell the wines to importers, wholesalers, large merchants etc. Few people have been offered the opportunity to step inside a Negociant’s office. Even less people have visited one of their facilities. The members of the group started off the week bright and early Monday morning with a tour of one of the most famous Bordeaux Negociants where they were educated in exactly how the murky, secret world of the Bordeaux Negociant system really works.
Construction and renovation is taking place all over Bordeaux. A quick drive up and down the appellation’s main highway bears this out. Most chateaux are closed for visits during renovation. But not to this group! A private visit with the director of wine making and a tasting at the legendary Chateau Margaux took place next.
Lunch time and a lesson in the difference soil and terroir have on wine was the subject of the afternoon. Chateau Du Tertre and Chateau Giscours are located in the Margaux appellation. They share the same owner and technical team. Their vineyards touch. Yet, their wines are completely different. The president of both chateau explained the difference in the wines and terroir accompanied by a tasting featuring multiple vintages of Giscours and du Tertre. This all took place before the group enjoyed lunch next to one of the most beautiful pools and gardens in all Bordeaux. The lunch was made better by blind tastings of older vintages of du Tertre during lunch.
Rauzan-Segla, a Second Growth in the 1855 Classification and one of the top wines in the Margaux appellation hosted the group for a wine tasting and dinner that night. Owned by the same family that also own Chanel and other luxury good companies, this was a majestic evening as it’s a rare privileged to dine at the property, which is the personal home of the owners of Chanel. We were shocked to find we were treated to 1953 Chateau Canon in Magnums. Yes, that’s plural. We drank 2 magnums before finishing the night with bottles of Chateau d’Yquem! Each of the guests also received a nice keepsake from Chanel and Rauzan Segla as they departed the chateau! Chanel fragrances for men and women in the trademark, white Chanel bag!
Day Two Tuesday, June 25
Lynch Bages is one of the first Bordeaux Chateau to become a branded wine in America, and perhaps all over the world making Lynch Bages one of the world’s most famous and powerful brands. The day started with a tour and tasting at the chateau. Up next, we popped into Chateau Clerc Milon. Clerc Milon is one of the first major Bordeaux estates to renovate their facilities with a focus on using green technology. They are now one of best known, unique, environmentally conscious estate. This was followed by a tasting of their wines and because they share ownership with Chateau Mouton Rothschild, the group followed that up with a tasting Mouton Rothschild as well! The tasting was hosted by the director of Mouton Rothschild. You’d think tasting the wines would be enough. Not for this group.
After a multi-year, complete, top to bottom renovation of the entire estate, Chateau Mouton Rothschild reopened their facilities June 16. This group is the first non-professional visitor’s ensemble to experience the facilities for an extensive tour. It’s hard to visit some parts of the property, and even more difficult to enjoy lunch in the private dining room, which is usually reserved for the Rothschild family! The group enjoyed a private visit and lunch in the private dining room of Chateau Mouton Rothschild with the director of the estate. This is a very rare treat! The wine lunch hit a high note when magnums of 1990 Mouton Rothschild were served!
If you’re having lunch at Mouton Rothschild, the day would not be complete without a visit to Lafite Rothschild! That quickly became our next stop! Chateau Lafite Rothschild is one of the more difficult properties to visit in the Bordeaux appellation. Following lunch at Mouton Rothschild, the group will visit the other Rothschild property. They are neighbors, why not? 2001 Lafite Rothschild was tasted during the visit.
Domaine de Chevalierr is one of the best estates in the Pessac Leognan appellation, producing top quality red and white wine. The owners hosted the group for a private tour and tasting of their wines, which was followed by a dinner on the property in their private home. During the dinner, the group was able to experience a blind tasting they will never forget. The theme of the night was wines ending with the last digit of 4. That meant we were treated to wines from 1934, 1964, 1984 etc… While numerous special bottles, including Chateau Latour as well as older vintages of Domaine de Chevalier were served, one wine stood out above all the other wines at the table, 1934 Chateau Ausone! The soon to be familiar refrain of “It’s all downhill from here” was close to the groups repeated mantra at this point. And with good reason, the parade of wines, topped by 1934 Ausone, all consumed with some of the best, and most prominent producers in Bordeaux seemed to be hitting a high point.
Day Three Wednesday, June 26
Chateau Branaire Ducru is one of the most beautiful estates in the St. Julien appellation. Their wines are elegant, sexy and fresh in style. The owner hosted the group for a private tour and tasting at the estate. The group was treated to a barrel tasting of the 2012 and a blind tasting of 2009 and 2010, perhaps the two best vintages ever produced in the history of the estate. Allowing the group a chance to get to the wines and the owner, the owner brought the group into his home for my and gave them the chance for a one on one conversation on all things Bordeaux.
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is one of the most famous of all the so called, Super Second wines in Bordeaux. They scored 100 Pts from Robert Parker with their 2009 and they almost repeated with a triple digit score, due to their stunning 2010. The owner has put together one of the most acclaimed private, modern art collection in Bordeaux. Following a special wine tasting of the entire line of 2012, which was followed up by a quick tour and viewing of some of the art collected by Bruno Borie, the group enjoyed Champagne on the owners private balcony. If that was not enough, the engaging owner of Ducru Beaucaillou invited the group into his home where he opened bottle after of Ducru Beaucaillou. Just when everyone thought the lunch was over, Bruno Borie went into his private cellar and opened a perfect bottle of the 1982! After coffee, the group took a look at what many insider’s view as the best kitchen in all of Bordeaux. It was at this point everyone was sure it was going to be all downhill from here. How much better could it possibly get?
Warned again that it was all downhill from here, everyone jumped on the bus, taking a short drive down the street. Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron is one of the most picturesque estates in Bordeaux. In fact, the reflecting pool is perhaps the most photographed spot in Bordeaux. They are owned by the AXA group which also possesses Petit Village in Pomerol and Suduriaut in Sauternes. Following a tour of one of the most beautiful estates in the Medoc, the group tasted multiple vintages of Pichon Baron as well as other wines from the estate. The night did not stop there. During dinner in the private dining room of the chateau with the wine makers from Pichon Baron and Suduiraut, bottle after bottle seemed to appear on the table. Convinced the highlight of the night was the pairing of the two most famous vintages Pichon Baron ever produced, the 1989 and 1990, before you knew it, a 1937 Pichon Baron was uncorked! According to the help, they have never seen a bottle that old opened at the property! If that was not enough, not wanting to be outdone the managing director of Suduiraut opened a rare bottle of 1989 Cuvee Madame Suduiraut to close the night.
Day 4 Thursday, June 27
It was an early morning call for the group as they traveled from the Cabernet Sauvignon dominated area of the Medoc to The Right Bank, the home of Pomerol, St. Emilion and more importantly, Merlot. The group checked into one of the most famous, luxury hotels in France, Hotel Plaisance, which certainly enjoys the best view from the highest vantage point in the Bordeaux appellation. www.hostellerie-plaisance.com/
The day started with a private tour and tasting of Chateau Cheval Blanc. If that wasn’t enough, the group dined in the private dining room of the LVMH owned estate with the president of both Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem who after giving the group a personal, guided tour, began popping countless bottles of Champagne in the garden of Cheval Blanc! Lunch time! Next, what seemed like an endless supply of 2000 Cheval Blanc graced the group’s glasses, followed by more bottles of 1996 Chateau d’Yquem than most people have ever seen outside of a wine store. Before lunch was over, the owner of Chateau AusoneAlain Vautheir came by to say hello! Clearly, once again, it was safe to say, “It is all downhill from here!”
If you’re at Cheval Blanc for lunch, there is nothing left to do but go to the famed Petrus estate for a visit! Petrus, one of the world’s most famous, sought after and expensive wines is a rare treat to visit and taste at.
Having free time for a change, some of the group strolled the streets of St. Emilion, others shopped and a few slept. A couple of intrepid, thirsty souls joined the group’s leader who got them a quick, unexpected visit to the home of Jean Luc Thunevin and Muriel Andraud of the famed Valandraud. Murielle popped a bottle of the sublime 2009. When Jean Luc showed up a few minutes later, not wanting to be outdone or leave the group in a perpetual state of thirst, he opened a 2010! If that was not enough, bottles of the Valandraud were being readied to be opened, but everyone ran out of time as the dinner bell was about to ring.
Chateau Angelus, which was recently upgraded to First Growth, Premier Grand Cru Classe’ A status is one of the most famous and revered estates in St. Emilion. They have been producing some of the world’s best wines since the current owner, Hubert de Bouard took charge of the property. The group tasted the 2010 and 2009 wines of Angelus along with their other estates, Chateau Bellevue and La Fleur de Bouard before, during and after dinner in the private home of the owner.
Day 5 Friday, June 28 The Final Day
Looking a little tired after a week of fun, and a bit of debauchery, the group returned to the scene of the crime, Pomerol. Vieux Chateau Certan is one of the best and most famous estates on the Pomerol plateau. Older vintages are legendary! 2009 and 2010 will certainly join that same revered status when they mature. The group visited the cellars, tasting from multiple barrels and bottles with the owner, Alexandre Thienpont.
Keeping it all in the family, from Alexandre Thienpont to Jacques Theinpont, the group took a short drive to visit and taste at the new cellars of one of the most exalted, and elusive wines, let alone most expensive wines in all of Bordeaux, Le Pin. Following a barrel tasting of multiple casks of Le Pin, the entire group experienced a wine few people would ever taste when the owner opened a bottle of 2010 Le Pin!
Chateau Troplong Mondot is one of the top producers in the St. Emilion appellation. Their recent 2009 and 2010 are perhaps the best wines ever produced at the estate. The group toured and tasted at this famous winery. Tired from the day and need something to eat, the group dined at their outdoor patio which offers one of the best views in Bordeaux!
Chateau Pavie was recently elevated to First Growth status in the new St. Emilion Classification. To coincide with this major upgrade, the owner completely rebuilt and renovated the estate in 2 short years, turning an already beautiful building into one of the top show pieces in Bordeaux! This is not an easy visit to get, especially since the group could be the first people to visit the new facilities since the renovations were completed a few weeks ago!
Chateau Pavie Macquin and Nicolas Thienpont are on fire! Their team, which is responsible for numerous success stories including Beausejour Duffau, Larcis Ducasse and Pavie Macquin invited the group to see the brand new facilities and taste some of the wines they are in charge of wine making. And yes, if the Thienpont name seems familiar from the Pomerol estates visited earlier, they are all in the same family.
If the old axiom about saving the best for last is true, perhaps that is why the group returne to Pomerol for their final dinner. Chateau Clinet scored 100 Pts with their stunning 2009 wine. They came close with their 2010 as well. The owner of Chateau Clinet invited the group for dinner at his Pomerol estate to close out the trip. While the group shared a rare magnum of 1985, it was the 2010 Clinet that stole the show for the night. Because the family also owns an estate in Tokaji, the finial wine of the trip was the incredibly rich, Essencia.
Not a bad week for wine lovers. While this trip is going to be hard to beat, planning is already taking place for 2014. See you in Bordeaux next year!