I type my contact information and message into the prescribed website fields and hit “submit.” Convinced my information just went into a black hole, I write down the day I contacted Château Lynch-Bages and when I should follow up. Time to research the next winery I hope to visit.
Ten minutes later, I blink in disbelief: there’s a reply from Château Lynch-Bages. “We will gladly receive you in château Lynch-Bages, for a grouped English guided tour…”
Having been to more than 300 winery tasting rooms in 16 countries, I have some experience organizing a wine tasting excursion. In the United States, the majority of wineries are open. You find the “Visit” information on a website and go during opening hours. Easy. Done.
In Europe, it’s not the same. The majority of tasting rooms—also called cellar doors—require reservations. There are some that have a wine tourism/customer service focus and some that don’t—and a whole lot in between. Whenever I visit a region that’s new to me, I’m never sure what I’m going to get.
With Bordeaux, I got the unexpected. All five wineries I contacted replied in less than a day. Two responded within half an hour. Even though one couldn’t accommodate us, at least someone responded to let me know.
Our plans to cycle through wine country were foiled when a tire popped less than five minutes away from our home. We were lucky we were close. Plus it was so hot, we weren’t too disappointed we had to drive. We saved the real drinking for the evenings when we cooked our own dinner, ate outside, and hung out with the neighbors.
Château Lynch-Bages: Used gravity-flow methods long before they became mainstream
Château Pichon Baron: Formerly the estate of a real baron
Château Pedesclaux: One of the most modern wineries in the world
I also found one winery that allowed for unscheduled tastings, although our Airbnb hosts called ahead for us, just in case the winery wasn’t prepared for an English-language visit.
Château Larose Trintaudon: The source of the most value-priced wine we found
Did I get any thanks for organizing the winery excursions? Actually, I wasn’t looking for any, but my friends definitely let me know they were grateful—so grateful, in fact, that they treated me to a two-Michelin-star, multicourse lunch at Château Cordeillan-Bages. I quickly became grateful too!
You know lunch is going to be incredible when even the butter selection is amazing. Fabio’s and my favorite—smoked salt. Runner up, the “pre-butter”—like a mousse made out of cream. The seaweed and pepper butters were also good. Áine couldn’t decide. She said, “Each one is special to me. It’s like picking a favorite child!” In fact, the whole meal was just one special course after the next.
Of course, we had wine with our lunch. I don’t like white Bordeaux, which tends to be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, so I enjoyed some non-local French wines selected by the sommelier.
My Bordeaux wine region adventure was a delight. Granted, I did my research, but once I settled on the wineries, it couldn’t have been easier to arrange a tasting schedule. Bordeaux is certainly known for its wine. It should also be known for its wine tourism. It’s obviously doing something right.