September 2023 Wine and Rugby: wine tasting in Bordeaux

by | Oct 6, 2023 | Food & Drink, International Travel, Travel

After picking up our rental car from Avis at the Bordeaux airport, we headed toward Saint-Émilion to explore the town and wine taste… or so we thought. We found a parking space in the free lot (score!) around 11am, and that’s when I saw several messages telling us our 12:30pm tasting at Chateau Le Chatelet was canceled. What?! We couldn’t reschedule for later that day because of an afternoon tasting in Barsac, and the suggested alternative winery was more expensive and less interesting. Disappointed, we explored the town (including the Clos des Menuts underground cellar), grabbed pastries at Mie et Merlot, and waited for a lunch place we had highlighted to open.


Thankfully our lunch at Comptoir Des arts was solid. I got the camembert with hazelnuts and garlic roasted potatoes and Eric had the goat cheese and waffles. He chose a rose and I had a local red. Luckily I had enough euros to cover the bill because the credit card machine wasn’t connecting to the internet. The service was friendly if a bit rushed.


Overall, we were both unimpressed with St. Emillion – it was very touristy with numerous wine shops and overpriced restaurants. The views from the gates and higher points are nice but I wouldn’t bother spending a lot of time there.

After resting our eyes in a local park for a half hour, we headed south toward Barsac. Our tasting at Chateau Simon with Pauline was lovely. We showed up a little early but she accommodated us. We got to see the cellar room, hear a history of their winery (she’s 6th generation) and a description of the terroir that makes their wines special. She poured us one white, two reds and two (sweet) Sauternes (a 2018 and a 2009). We even got to meet the winery dog, a poodle mix who was very keen on scritches. We left with three bottles, two Sauternes (a 2018 and 2003) and a Graves Blanc.

  • 2022 Château Simon – Graves blanc sec, S.blanc and semillion – Dry, dust, alcohol scent. Citrus, hay,
  • 2016 Château Simon L’Empreinte – from Graves, 70 merlot/30 cab. Lovely floral nose. Delicate palate, medium long aftertaste.
  • 2020 L’integrale Cuvee Respect – all barrel created. Quicker finish, medium body. Balanced wood and fruit.
  • 2018 Sauternes Barsac – lovely balance, honeysuckle, light cooked sugar.
  • 2009 Sauternes Barsac exceptionnelle – deeper honey, lush, coating mouthfeel.

Before heading to our hotel for the night we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some provisions for a quick dinner.

When we arrived at Chateau Champenz we were greeted by the enthusiastic owner who showed us to room 1 – apparently we were the only people there not attending a wedding. She also told us that we weren’t allowed to consume our own food (or drinks!) in any of the public areas as they “have a kitchen” and we didn’t book dinner with them. Seriously? The only dinner option was a 50€ / person chef’s choice and Eric just wasn’t going to go for that, plus we just weren’t that hungry. So, we ate our makeshift cheese plate “away from the other guests” and purchased an overpriced local white that was cold so we could have wine anywhere on the property. 🙄

We both read outside by the pool until it got chilly and managed to stay up until 9pm but eventually crashed after a long day.

Day two of wine tasting went very well, especially after 10 hours of sleep! We checked out of the room by 10:30am and drove south back to Barsac for a tasting at Chateau Graves with Florence, the one of the co-owners. She met us outside and we started the tour with some history and info about the terroir. We had heard a lot of the same information the day before but it was interesting how many microclimates there are in this area and her take was unique. We walked through the vineyards a bit and enjoyed views of the area then headed inside for a tasting after visiting the art gallery.

Eric was good with his notes so I was free to just drink wine. :)

  • Graves white – Semillion and muscadelle (10%) – delicate, med length nice acid. Very fresh. Citrus, mineral stone.
  • Red blend – 80 cab, 20 merlot. Merlot had mildew issues this year. Lots of cherry, a little water melon. Light bodied, but a very long finish with a little bitterness. Nicely balanced acidity.
  • Douce France de gravas – semi sweet. A little apple, orange blossom. Pleasant summer sipper.
  • 2020 sauterne 1, lspirit- med body. Wt peach, Orange, pineapple, some almond and honey. Medium Long finish. All semillion.
  • 2020 priciest – delicate. Lots of tropical notes – pineapple, guava. Long finish, nicely balanced acidity. Sweeter, can age. All semillion.

We purchased a 2020 Sauternes, a Graves Rouge and a reusable plastic glass filled with the Douce France de gravas.

Our next stop was lunch at Auberge Les Vignes in the town of Sauternes. I was quite glad we made a reservation as we showed up to a “full sign” and only one table available – ours! I ordered the foie gras appetizer with apricot jam and a glass of Beaujolais, while Eric had the Castelnau suiderat 2017 (coconut, lovely balance) with curry chicken and smashed potatoes – lots of flavor, not spicy. The highlight was our dessert, a gooey chocolate cake with passion fruit sorbet and real passion fruit pulp on the plate. Exquisite and a highlight of our time in France.


We walked through town a bit vowing to return and then headed back toward Bordeaux for our final tasting of the trip at Chateau d’Eyran. We had the hostess to ourselves as the Dutch couple who were supposed to join us got lost and showed up after the tasting had ended. Eric took notes on the whites while I just enjoyed the reds. I liked the lighter style here and wound up coming home with a well priced Bordeaux red that was ½ Merlot and ½ Cab Sav at 7€. Eric tried the 2022 Rose (strawberry, lingonberry, banana, with medium acidity and a surprising finish) and the dry white (lovely tropical notes, pineapple, lychee, lots of white peach) and came home with a bottle of the white.

We were helped in the nuances of getting gas in France by a random guy on a motorbike – pay a deposit (80€) at the manned window, then pump your gas and you only get charged for what you pumped. The car drop off was just as easy as the car pickup and we were on a tram into town within 15 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to buy tram tickets. On to the rugby!

Our Itinerary

2024 Trips

San Diego, CA (Jan)
Sarasota, FL (Feb)
Madrid, Spain (Mar)
Valencia, Spain (Mar+Apr)
Palma, Mallorca (Apr)
Croatia (May)
Faroe Islands (Aug)
London, UK (Sept)
Bari, Italy (Sept)
Rome, Italy (Oct)
Frankfurt, Germany (Oct)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)