Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wines of Bordeaux - Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud and Chateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion

(Let's just start this right off with a little disclaimer.  I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE A WINE EXPERT.  I don't even claim to be a wannabe wine expert.  I like wine.  A lot.  I like to drink it and share it and learn about it and visit where it's made.  That's it.  So if there happens to be a few inaccuracies in my post, get over it.)

You thought I'd forgotten, didn't you.  Or maybe you were hoping I would.  If wine isn't your thing, then skip on over to Pioneer Woman's site and read about some cows for a few minutes because we're about to talk about grapes.  Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Cab Franc.   But we're going to start with dessert first in the form of some Sauternes, which means, in Sigalas-Rabaud's case, we're talking about mainly Semillon, but Sauternes can also contain some Sauvignon Blanc and possibly some Muscadelle.

Sauternes gets it's sweetness from something called botrytis, or noble rot.  But in this case rot is not rotten, it's a very good thing.  The rot causes the grapes to "raisin" which means all the sugars begin to concentrate resulting in pure yumminess!  And because the grapes botrytize at different rates, harvest is not done all at one time.  It can sometimes take as many as six trips through the vineyards with everything being harvested by hand.  Which might explain why Sauternes can be a bit pricy!

These are the vines of Sigalas-Rabaud, the smallest premier cru producer of Sauternes, with only about 14 hectares.  If you look in the above picture you may be able to see the Chateau in the distance.  That would be Sigalas-Rabaud's more famous neighbor, Chateau d'Yquem, the only classified premier cru superieur in Sauternes and one of Bordeaux's most expensive wines.

It's typically aged in new oak for 12-15 months before bottling.  In all my winery visits over the years, I've never got to do a barrel tasting, but we were offered this option in just about every Bordeaux Chateau this trip.  Frankly, the Sauternes was the only one that didn't make me immediately want to spit the wine out.  I don't get how Robert Parker can taste that stuff and find fruit in there anywhere.  I couldn't get past the tannins that made me want to rip my tongue out of my mouth and never put it back.

Yeah, they were real generous with offering up the barrel tastings, but not once did they ask if I'd like to try something from 1855.  Wassup with that?

If you click on the above picture and notice the difference in the colors of the wine from bottle to bottle. Also notice the vintages.  The color of later (the 2007 on the left) vintage is much lighter than the 1989 in the larger bottle.  They say the perfect time to drink a Sauternes is when it's the color of a dark copper penny, but whatever.  I may not live that long to enjoy it!  

This is Laure Compreyrot, the owner and first female winemaker at Sigalas-Rabaud, which I found interesting only in the fact that there are only about 20 female winemakers out of approximately 12,000 in all of Bordeaux and her more famous neighbor, Chateau d'Yquem, also has a female cellar master!  
Go get 'em girls!

So that was the only Chateau we visited in Sauternes.  Next, we headed north in the Graves region to Chateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion.

This Chateau produces both red and white wines with the majority of the vineyard dedicated to red....50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot.  

Wines are aged 18 months in new oak barrels.  Most of the time the Chateaus buy their barrels from several different manufacturers in order to get different nuances in the wine when it's time to blend them all together before bottling. 

Chateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion is located in the Pessac-Leognan area of the Graves region which is home to the first growth estate Chateau Haut-Brion.

This is the tasting room at Larrivet.  I'm always a little excited to see the barrel rooms and tasting rooms at any winery.  I think they give a small hint into the personality of the owner/cellar master of the property and maybe a hint into their philosophy on wine....big and showy, sleek and sophisticated, over the top, etc., etc.,.........or maybe not!!

So that was our first day in Bordeaux.  Since the ship didn't dock until mid-afternoon, we only had time for a few visits before it was time to head back into town.  On the way back to the boat, Thomas (our driver for the week) took us by the Bordeaux cathedral.

Sorry for the poor quality of the pic but it was taken from the car as we were driving by!  This is the bell tower of the St. Andre Cathedral which happens to be separate from the cathedral itself.

We didn't go in.  I was all cathedraled out!!

Only in France would you find a naked little one playing in the local reflecting pool.  Or maybe Alabama, but for totally different reasons.  Just sayin!

This is the Miroir d'eau or the Water Mirror at the Place de la Bourse and was about a half block up from where we were docked.  It's a favorite of locals and tourists alike.  The locals bring their children to play in the inch of water and the for the tourists it's a great photo  op......especially at night when you can catch a beautiful reflection of the lights of the stock exchange building across the street.

Directly across the river from the boat was this restaurant, L'Estacade.  The food was good but the setting was better.  A perfect place to sit on the deck and have a post-dinner cocktail and watch the sun set.

Stunning views.

So that was day one!!  Day two includes tours of Medoc, or left bank, wines including Mouton Rothschild!


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