Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dreams Come True in St. Emilion – Monday, 4/28/08

Today was truly amazing. Even though it rained on and off, it was filled with so many great experiences that it didn’t matter. As arranged, I met Thierry (a friend of my co-author Tim Matz) in St. Emilion at 10am where I parked my car and jumped into his. As a native of the Right Bank, Thierry knew everyone in town and he was a fabulous tour guide. He was also good friends with the owners of L’Ausone – our first stop at 11am.

The tour and tasting of L’Ausone was perfect. Mr. Vauthier and his daughter explained the vineyard system and winemaking process, then allowed us to taste out of barrel the 2007 from En Primeur as well as 2006 in the second year barrel room. All of the wines were brimming with blackberry fruit, mocha, minerals, and velvety tannins with a very long finish. Extremely powerful, yet elegant wines of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The vineyards of Bordeaux are quite different from Burgundy with a Guyot Double pruning and wider spacing with around 6000 vines per hectare. The soil is gravel with clay, but the Right Bank also has more limestone – attested to by the many limestone caves beneath St. Emilion. Rootstock, yeasts, and winemaking are also quite different.

After the tour at L’Ausone, Mr. Vauthier treated us to a wonderful lunch at Le Tertre on a steep cobblestone street in town. We started with a bottle of aromatic 2006 Sancerre to go with two amuse bouches and a dream lobster salad that included the whole lobster artistically arranged in a circle around the lettuce. The main course was fish which we had with a big (slightly overpowering) 2005 La Fleur Cardinal St. Emilion Grand Cru. Dessert was a wonderful apple tart with ice cream followed by chocolate truffles and coffee. A truly scrumptious lunch!

Next stop was Cheval Blanc – a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting because of my love for Cabernet Franc. We were greeted by the technical manager who showed us the vineyards and winery; then we were allowed to taste the 2007 en Primeur blend of Cheval Blanc and Cheval Petite. Both had ripe fruit, plush tannins, and some violet aromas, but the Cheval Blanc obviously had more complexity, a longer finish, clearer acidity and some interesting spice. Both, however, needed much more aging time.

Afterwards we drove through the surrounding vineyards to view Petrus, Pavie, Le Pin, and other famous wineries before heading back into town to visit the Cloisters and engage in a walking tour of the city. This concluded at the doorway of Gracia – a famous and engaging garagist of the Right Bank. Michel Gracia , the owner and winemaker, was a delight with a charming sense of humor and a huge passion for winemaking and architecture. He has received numerous very high ratings from top wine critics around the world, and I called him the “King of Triage” because of his obsession of sorting grape by grape so that only the ripest and most perfect of berries make it into his final blend. This explains the perfection, exquisite fruit, and excellent balance of his wines.

It was difficult to end such a perfect day, but I was rather tired from all of the excitement. Thierry lead the way back to Bordeaux in his car, and I eventually settled -- exhausted but happy -- back into my hotel room around 7:30pm.

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