This is the 5th part in my series of blog posts about my trip to France.
My first really good night sleep on the trip has just happened. I left San Antonio on a Saturday and arrive in France Sunday morning. I don’t get to sleep until late that night and have to wake up early. Not really a big deal as far as my typical amount of sleep I get, but still. I check in with the world and then get ready for the world. I head down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Typical continental breakfast kind of thing. Cereals, pastries, juices, milk, coffee, etc. I sit down and have some cereal. Pretty much my typical breakfast. Funny thing is I never had any French Toast (my favorite breakfast food) the entire time 😉
Anyway, once I’m finished it’s time to get on the road. I have two appointments today. One at Chateau Fonroque in Saint-Emilion and another at Chateau La Pointe in Pomerol. First on the agenda is Fonroque. I head to my car and enter the address into the GPS. During my time there, the addresses for these Chateaux many times were no more than a postal code and their name. I used a combination of the car’s GPS and the Google Maps app on my iPhone. The car would get me to the town, while the iPhone would get me to the actual Chateau if I didn’t have a street address.
The drive to Saint-Emilion is about an hour from Pauillac. I have to drive through the city of Bordeaux to get there. It’s a pleasant drive overall even with the construction along the way. It’s a pretty brisk morning and the skies are clear. I take pictures along the way while I’m driving, yeah I know. I finally arrive at Chateau Fonroque about 15 minutes before my appointment.
I park in a grassy area and make my way to the chateau. I find the office and let them know I’m there. They contact Alain Moueix, the owner of the Chateau and let me know he will be with me shortly. I find a bench to sit on outside and only have to wait a short while for Alain to arrive and we introduce ourselves. We start with the vineyards. Chateau Fonroque is a Biodynamic property. Alain explains to me how this all works. While Biodynamic has the connotation of whacky hippies, Alain explains that they use it along with real science to manage the vineyards. While I don’t necessarily believe the whole Astrological side of this (I was an Astronomy major so I consider Astrology to be bunk), there are some valid farming techniques here.
This is really the second time I’ve actually been in a vineyard. The first time was at Spicewood Vineyards here in Texas. When I visited there we drove through much of their property and stopped occasionally to look at grapes. In this case I’m walking through Fonroque’s vineyards. While we really don’t walk up and down the rows we do stop in a few rows so he can show me the Merlot grapes. Being the right bank, Merlot dominates the blend of Chateau Fonroque.
We head back to the winery to continue our tour.
Just like most of the other tours we start from where the grapes enter the winery, then proceed through the fermentation tanks, barrel room, and then we end at our tasting area. Pics below.
We arrive at the tasting area. It’s a beautiful room. Lots of concrete and marble. Great for recording sound for an interview using the on-camera mic of a Kodak Zi8 😉 We are also situated right next to the destemmer. It is behind me in the picture I took above. We get situated and taste two wines. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact ones and I didn’t take individual pics of them 🙁 We conduct the tasting and one thing to remember about Alain is he is very soft spoken. I’m loud and can at least partially drown out the machinery outside. Alain? Not so much. Of course I don’t realize this until after I get back to the hotel. Another lesson.
You can watch our tasting here!
After our tasting, Alain invites me to stay for lunch. And not just any lunch, but lunch with the entire staff. We head to a large building that has a kitchen and large dining hall. I’m floored. The hospitality is awesome. It confirms to me that outside of Paris, the French are very hospitable. And even then, I think I encountered one rude Parisian – the conductor from my first day. We enjoy stew, cheeses, bread, and of course wine. We have the 2007 Chateau Fonroque and the 2009 Chateau Moulin de Cadet.
There are two long tables in the room and I share it with Alain, his assistant, and a few other guests there specifically for lunch and business. Two of them are from a trading company out of Hong Kong. We briefly discuss the growing Bordeaux business in China. The owner of the company tells me he’s been visiting Bordeaux since the 70s, so he’s no stranger to the area, nor to Fonroque. One of the highlights of lunch was the harvester who was dressed at the Statue of Liberty. I asked if it was in honor of an American visiting. Actually, no, she just dressing in different costumes during harvest. I should have gotten a picture with her!
After lunch another visitor came by and he also gave her a mini tour. She was a photojournalist from Paris doing a story on them. I hung around for a bit and shot a few more pictures.
After lunch and the extra bit of tour I headed to my next destination. No, it wasn’t Ausone or Cheval Blanc. I couldn’t get appointments with them. I was headed to Pomerol. No, not Pétrus or Le Pin. Same thing. But that’s OK. I was perfectly happy with my visit at Fonroque (and will go back again next time I visit Bordeaux) and perfectly happy with the next destination, Chateau La Pointe. Another awesome visit. I made the short drive of about 10 minutes to La Pointe. Another really nice looking chateau (they knew how to build these places back then).
I was greeted by Eric Monneret the General Manager of La Pointe. We also head to the vineyards. This is where the name for the Chateau is thought to be derived. The vineyards come to a point when viewed on a map. There is also a convergence in soils here which Eric coves with me. I get to check out some more Merlot, but not just look at it, but also taste it.
After the vineyards we follow the path of the grapes. We head over to the staff working the destemmer. This is outside like at Fonroque but they have a raised platform for work from too.
We then tour the fermentation tanks and barrel room.
We then head to the tasting room in an upstairs room of the Chateau. Again a beautiful room with lots of surfaces conducive to echoes 😉 We set up and begin tasting. We taste two wines. The first one was prior to Generali France, an insurance company, buying the property, and then one after the purchase.
See the tasting here!
After the tasting I thank Eric and head out. It’s sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 and I know I have at least a 1 hour drive back to Pauillac. I’m undecided as to if I should eat in Pomerol or in Pauillac. I asked Eric for some recommendations but ultimately I head back to Pauillac. I take a few more pics on the way back.
I head back to Pauillac after taking these pics. I get through Bordeaux during rush hour and head up the main road to Pauillac. Along the way there are areas where cars can pull over. Not exactly like rest stops here in the States, but more like a shoulder area. I’m pretty tired during the drive and feeling sleepy. I decide to pull over in one of these spots and take a 15 minute nap. After that nap I feel pretty refreshed. I’m not sure if that’s what these things are for, but I was glad it was there. I had seen other cars pulled over so I’m guessing that they are so people can pull over and phone, text, or rest.
I get back to Pauillac and drop off my stuff in my room. I head over to another restaurant on the main street in Pauillac. It’s pretty dead compared to the one I went to the night before. I’m only one of a couple guests there. I can’t remember exactly what I ordered but I did get a bottle of Chateau Léoville Barton (Saint-Julien) Second Vin. Léoville Barton is a Second Growth of Bordeaux. Yeah, Life. Is. Good.
Stay tuned for the next posting from Bordeaux. Another special day for some special reasons.