Friday, April 26, 2013

Chât-OH! Living in Saint Emilion, France

Vicki and I realized that all of our Euro travels this year have been to major metropolitan areas.  It was time for a trip to the country; wine country that is!
We immediately knew we would like it here when this greets you at the airport

The Highlights from a Long Weekend in 
Saint-Emilion, France 
Dates: April 20-23, 2013

-€10 RyanAir Flight
Transcript from an actual conversation:
Vicki: "Hey Dan, want to go to France?"
Me: "Pass."
Vicki: "It's €10."
Me: "When do we leave."

To be honest, Vicki and I have never really been fans of French wine, matter of preference I guess. But when you see a RyanAir flight from Eindhoven, Netherlands to Bordeaux, France for €10, you figure you could at least go to France to try to obtain an appreciation for their wines right?

-Our Château
We stayed at Les Belles Perdrix a B&B run by Château Troplong Mondot.  This Château has been in the same family for almost a century and the estate has ties back to Louis XVI, it was the home of his tax lawyer.  Centuries of wine making have enabled this Château to have been classified as Premier Grand Cru Class B (according to the super easy to learn/understand classification system of Saint Emilion wine, ends sarcasm).  Classified or not, they made some very nice wine and their property situated on the Saint Emilion hillside was stunning.

Perhaps our favorite part of our stay was our personal guided tour of the property with Felix. He accompanied us on our walk through the vineyards showing us how he irrigates the rose bushes at the end of each row of vines.   It was fascinating.  The only strange thing was when Felix joined us for breakfast.  We were enjoying our coffee and croissants when out of the blue he decides to put his head on my wife's lap.  I knew that French men were amorous  but come on man, I'm right here!  So my wife gave him a nibble of her croissant, patted him on the head, scratched him under the chin and said, "Good Boy."  After that Felix was content to just lie next to our table on the floor.  Oh, Felix, you lucky dog.

Felix about to "irrigate" the roses.
-Wine tour with "Bruno."(BD Tours)
Bruno (right) and Winemaker
I'll have to admit, I had some doubts taking a French Wine Tour with a guy named "Bruno," but the TripAdvisors raved, so we caved and took his tour.  We were not disappointed, Bruno was the real deal in terms of wine knowledge.  He was actually one of the wine tasters on the classification commission for Saint Emillion wines.  Trust me, it's a big deal.  I'll spare you the details of this classification business; because honestly, I'm still confused by it. But some of these Châteaux live and die by their rating.

Our Wine Tour: One Word Reactions:
1.) Château Mangot (Saint-Emilion) = Stuffy
-painted middle of wine barrels red, so not to see spills
2.) Château du Tailhas (Pomerol) = Genuine
-our favorite, family run, toured with owner's son
3.) Château Soutard (Saint-Emilion) = Corporate
-conglomerate run by insurance company
4.) Château Le Chatelet (Saint-Emilion) = CAVES!
-very cool cave exhibit; free tasting
5.) Château Troplong Mondot (Saint-Emilion) = One?
-only one tasting provided

Can you guess which Château is owned by an Insurance Company and which is family owned?  It's tough, but try.

-San Emilion or Saint Emilion
Prehistoric town about 25 miles (40km) from Bordeaux.  From what I understand the town was named after an 8th Century traveling confessor monk named Emilion.  We thank him and the other monks that followed him to the area for the region's fine wine that we taste today.

The town is like stepping back in time, er more like climbing back in time, with it's steep cobblestone streets.  The hike up to the top of the town is worth it.  The bell tower of the monolithic church was closed during our visit, but the views from the upper landing outside the church are breathtaking. (see pic below)

PRO TIP: Head to the Saint Emilion Tourist Office when you arrive. Free maps, free guide book to the area and information on wine tasting tours.  The staff is very friendly, and most, if not all speak English.

See what I mean?  Breathtaking. (Saint Emilion, from the bell tower entrance of the monolithic church)

-Dune du Pilat
Incredible sand dune located 55 minutes from Bordeaux.  I'll let the video and pics speak for themselves.  BEAUTIFUL!

Thanks for reading!  Have you been to Saint Emilion?  Did you like the wine? The views? The town? Did you climb the Dunes?  Leave a comment and share your story.

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