So as it turns out, New York is a pretty damn cool place! My first time in NYC was filled with as much sightseeing, vino networking, shopping, eating and drinking as one could possibly fit into 3.5 days. I was in the city for the first time on another adventure as Le Wine Buff for the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB)’s Enjoy Bordeaux campaign, on a fully paid business trip. While the point of the trip was to attend the Snooth & Ziff Davis TechEnology event and talk about the full awesomeness of affordable Bordeaux wine alongside my LWB colleagues, I was determined to experience as much NYC as I could handle…and I succeeded.
The event was just an awesome mob of mainly younger wine and tek-oriented vino enthusiasts, with a distinct flair for networking. I was hoping to spend more time sipping the wines as they got more air, but I was all wrapped up in interesting discussions about fascinating new intersections between wine and technology. Indeed, the only people missing were the minds behind that digital wine ingenues at VinTank.
Highlights from the event for me included meeting Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, a luminary in viticulture and enology research at my alma mater, UC Dvais. He is one of the pioneers for research around resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in wine and the subject of one of my articles for Mutineer Magazine. Another biggie was the newly invented Tweetelier (Twitter) for that particular event, in fact! Created by members of CreativeFeed, the creative minds behind Enjoy Bordeaux. You attach the little transmitter to a bottle and setup the radio receiver along with the software and then BLAMMO, a unique tweet each time a bottle is poured during your event. Simple, yet awesome. The last highlight was the afterparty dinner at craft, Tom Colicchio‘s flagship restaurant, he of Top Chef fame. It was another epic, 3+ hour long dinner, quite reminiscent of our meals while together in Bordeaux last summer. It was a tremendous meal and completely lived up to the hype. Yum!
The rest of my time in the big city was spent tearing around trying to see and taste as much of Manhattan as possible and to find the appropriate gift for the Lady. This involved lots of coffee in small places, beautiful silence at the Public Library, oysters and bubbly with Rob at Grand Central Station, drinks in a oversized library and green-lit escalator and drizzly rain with mind-blowing lighting effects in Times Square. Very good times and I left with a deep appreciation of the subway and taxi system of the Big Apple.
This time we’re taking on New York City and Manhattan is gonna stumble down in a vinous frenzy of affordable Bordeaux wine! We’re the wine sponsor for this year’s TechEnology wine event held by Enjoy Bordeaux partner Snooth and tech media publishing titan Ziff Davis. Held at the newly renovated General Assembly, the event will mix some of the icons of tech, publishing and the wine biz and look to do some serious vino mind melding.
I’m excited to be pouring and talking about these wines at the event because I think Bordeaux is coming into another renaissance of exposure for it’s thousands of high quality, affordable wines and their Chateaux, all across the greater appellation. Much of this belief was built during our visit to Bordeaux last summer. This event promises to be “a private, networking event recognizing the wine world’s most technologically forward people, business and practices”…and these are the peeps that need to know Bordeaux!
…then let Le Wine Buffs do it all for you! It’s that time again, where everyone eats hours earlier than usual, groans, collapses around 7pm and then finishes up the late night with a whole new plate, yup…it’s Thanksgiving! I’ve spent *months* coming up with painstakingly precise food and wine pairings for my portion of this article, literally until all of the skin was…ok, you’re right, I didn’t. In reality, I sat on the couch and drooled, thinking of all of the super tasty dishes that I had every year growing up, lovingly prepared by my supermom, Mama Donna.
Nose: Great bright lime, lemon and grapefruit here with a touch of cream and some light florals.
Palate: Very crisp and good for the price, this has that same great crisp fruit from the nose and just barely moves into medium-body with a hint of cream and florals in the finish. Great value year in and year out.
Our pre-foie gras fitness activities accomplished, Alan and headed back to the Normandie for a shower and some breakie. As we approached the hotel, I realized that I needed to get my espresso on and I peeled off to the commuter café that was across the tracks. Here was I was determined to order on my own, with no interpreters. Whether I really was successful in communicating my coffee request or they were just really kind baristas, I got my double espresso with no communication issues to report.
Following a shower and a very fast breakfast, we all piled into our shuttle for the first excursion of the trip, heading into Entre-Deux-Mers and the alluring St.-Émilion, which was one of my favorite spots on the whole trip. It was quite a feeling to look out across the rain-swept land that was outside our foggy windows…it was one of the tens of times on this trip that I found myself almost shell-socked by the beauty of Bordeaux and the fortuitousness that allowed me to appreciate it in person. With more than a little tingling of anticipation, we pulled into the driveway of the very first Chateau of the trip, Château Sainte-Marie, named for the Virgin Mary.
Our host that day was none other than the 5th generation vigneron, Stéphane Dupuch, himself. He is a burly man, but with a youthful, happy face and is as quick to tell a joke as he is to give an opinion on French wine. The winery proper was originally built in the 14th century and owned by monks. The vineyards are situated on chalky-clay soils, perfect for their production of 50:50 red and white wines. Stéphane believes that their land and climate is best suited for Merlot-based blends, but definitely not for Cabernet Franc, which is commonly paired with Merlot in such blends. He compares the three white varietals in their Entre-Deux-Mers whites to the best parts of a woman: “Sauvignon [Blanc] is body, Sémillon is the dress and Muscadelle is the makeup.” His whites were crisp and filled with citrus and minerality. His Clairet was also a big hit, featuring racy acidity, a light to medium body and quite the juicy cherry and raspberry berry flavors, with virtually no tannins. Clairet (not the traditional “claret”) can be compared to a fuller and bigger Rosé, or “Rosé on steroids”, as Rob aptly describes them.
After a visit with a boarder’s deer and the estate parrot and pooch, we headed off for to a Chateau for which I hold great excitement. Château Bonnet, while the largest single estate in Bordeaux, has always been a favorite house of mine for wines that feature exceptional affordable value for their quality. It is just above the small commune of Grézillac and features some 300 hectares of vineyards. We were greeted by one of the luminaries of Bordeaux, André Lurton. Among many incredible accomplishments during his fascinating life, Lurton helped form the Entre-Deux-Mers and Pessac-Léognan AOCs, is the 40-year mayor of Grézillac and acted as director of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) for two separate terms. Lurton looks and is surprisingly young for someone that has lived in the same room in which he was born for some 86 years!
Following a brief tour around the winery by Lurton, we were treated to an estate tasting within the very cool enclosed winter garden of the Château. The wines were very vibrant, featuring medium bodies and great, food-centric acidity in the entire line, covering white, rosé, clairet and red. Lunch was held in the main dining hall of the Château, featuring a fascinating collection of artwork collected over the decades and plenty of well constructed, balanced wines from Bonnet. Besides the delish fare, the real treat of the lunch was a secretive Lurton bringing out a decanted 1982 Bonnet Bordeaux AOC that featured dried fruit and herbs of black cherry, portabella mushrooms, tobacco and anise and completely altered my understanding of this entry-level AOC: these wines can age.
Our last chateau of the day had an air of Great Expectations to it, with the chateau proper completely empty inside, yet looking somewhat well-kept on the outside. The winery however, was all modern, with beautiful stonework. Château des Laurets is very unusual in that it’s very large 150 hectare estate (90 under vine) actually spans two different appellations and is still the largest within the prestigious Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion and Montagne-Saint-Émilion. The estate is very old (built 1860), but has recently been purchased by the by Benjamin & Ariane Rothschild in 2003 with the intent to gradually restore the estate back to an elite status. We were greeted by winemaker Fabrice Bandiera and given a tour of the newly constructed and restored winery. He was interesting in that he was one of the most progressive winemakers that we were to meet on our trip, even endorsing the use of such new technologies as staves and wood chips, if needed, in moderation. The wines here were pretty impressive, particularly the flagship 2004 Les Laurets, that featured a luscious nose and palate of menthol, graphite, wet earth, and very dark chocolate with deep black fruit. It had phenomenal balance and it’s bit unusual for France, made up of 100& Merlot.
Our final stop of this brilliant first full day in Bordeaux was in what I now consider to be the most beautiful hamlet that I’ve ever had the fortune to visit. Saint-Émilion proper was almost devastatingly beautiful, with it’s ancient cobblestone streets, all stone buildings and the weather that alternated between sunlight, short heavy showers and floating clouds and rainbows…yes, and that was only in the first 2 hours there! We only had a short time to tour the town, unfortunately, plus enjoy our Crémant de Bordeaux apéritif. Indeed, during a delightful dinner at L’Envers du Décor with Stéphane Derenoncourt collaborator Frédéric Massie, I heard so much about its monolithic church, carved from a single block of limestone cliff-face that I excused myself and sprinted down the hill to check it out mid-meal.
Happily exhausted by the end of our long meal, we piled back into the shuttle for a very late trip back to our Normandie homestead and some welcome relaxation. Our first full day was complete with full stomachs and full minds of many memories.
Finally. It’s quite similar to that feeling of gloriously painful anticipation that you once experienced before every birthday as a child…I was finally going to Bordeaux as part of Le Wine Buff program for Enjoy Bordeaux! I have been a ‘Buff since late last year when the pilot program first kicked off. The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) sponsored the trip and we’ve been working for and with them and CreativeFeed to help educate the public on the thousands of affordable, high quality and downright tasty Bordeaux wines that are imported to the US. These wines are the majority from Bordeaux and don’t cost the same amount as the many techno gadgets I brought along with me on the trip. So there I was…in Bordeaux and yet I had never even been to Europe!
I was also able to finally meet the rest of the crew in person.
Indeed, other than a brief encounter with my fellow Bay Area Buff Rebecca Chapa, I had yet to meet any of these vinopanions IRL until now. I had also wrangled in the men who comprise Mutineer Magazine to embed themselves in our vinous midst, so now we’d have shoots for both our documentary and photo ops for articles in the finest beverage magazine on earth…sweet.
I landed off my Air France flight with the Mutineers in tow and we made it to our homebase, the Hôtel de Normandie dead center in the middle of the city of Bordeaux. We arrived with nary a minute to spare before taking a guided tour of the ancient city (it’s only a couple of thousand years old…give or take a decade…). Breathtaking was a word that was used once or twice and the depth of knowledge of our tour guide was just as impressive. Brigitte’s enlightening tour was provided as a courtesy of the Office de Tourisme de Bordeaux. Walking around an ancient city was bound to stir up an appetite and well, a thirst! Here we were surrounded by fantastic appellations or A.O.C. of vineyards and I had yet to have tasted a drop of that tasty fluid known as wine.
Fortunately, the CIVB predicted this predicament and we landed for what was to be the first of a long string of epic dinners, at a restaurant just a few blocks from the hotel, Chez Jean. Yum. More walking around after dark provided some great photo ops as you can see in some of the pics below.
All of the wines from this trip will/are tagged with “LWB2010BDX” and my photos and HD videos can be found by day (Day 1 for instance) and are also all tagged with “LWB2010BDX” on my Flickr. Enjoy Bordeaux also has a set of fantastic photos at their own Flickr. All of our tweets used the hashtag #LeWineBuff. I will continue to upload the wines as I write these recaps and then compile all of the links in one final post for this series about Le Wine Buff in Bordeaux.
So what was the final tally?
12 Chateaux, 8 A.O.C., 9 restaurants, 2 hotels, ~110 wines, ~9GB of photos and videos, 11 pages (10pt MS Word font) of notes typed on my iPhone and 22 hours of sleep, whew.