Dreaming of Bordeaux

Bordeaux_Place de la Bourse©Alexander Demyanenko - stock.adobe.com

Like many, I ponder my ultimate travel destination once the pandemic subsides and we are free to travel the world again.  My dream trip, Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion, has been on my bucket list for many years.  With a focus on wine writing, I chose a place that signifies my love of wine and, at the same time, enhances my knowledge of wine-growing regions. I find I learn the most when visiting. My choice also came to fruition through networking with people I met whose stories or connections tie to my desired location.

I want to discover the Châteaux that comprises the Left and Right Bank. While learning the history and culture of the area, I discovered the traditions of winemaking that pass from each generation. Like many of the wineries in Bordeaux, I also see the innovations and modern concepts the younger generations bring into the mix.

The Left and Right Bank Of Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, the left and right bank define Bordeaux’s two most famous wine regions. An estuary of two rivers separates the two banks. The Gironde Estuary divides the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. The area north and right of the Gironde constitutes the Right Bank. The area south and left represents the Left Bank. Both areas create blends typically utilizing five well-known Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The Right Bank utilizes Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant variety, while the Left Bank uses Merlot predominantly.

The quays of Bordeaux Alexander Demyanenko - stock.adobe.com
The quays of Bordeaux. Photo by Alexander Demyanenko

The Right Bank is known for the appellations of Pomerol and St-Émilion and its four ‘satellite’ appellations, Montagne-, Lussac-, Puisseguin- and St-Georges St-Emilion. The area also encompasses Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux and Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux.

Saint-Émilion -Le Clech Gironde Tourisme
Saint-Émilion. Photo Courtesy of Le Clech and Gironde Tourisme

The Left Bank defines the Medoc region with its appellations of St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, and Margaux, as well as Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, and Moulis-en-Médoc. The Left Bank also includes Pessac-Léognan and the white wine region of Graves, plus Sauternes and Barsac sweet wines.

A Bordeaux Tasting Adventure

My story begins several years ago when I met French winemakers during a wine luncheon at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. One person in particular motivated my desire to visit Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion. I was inspired by Paul Goldschmidt, whose wife’s family-owned Château Siaurac, producing wine since 1832. Sitting next to Paul during the tasting, he told me a tale that speaks of family, its ingenuity, and creativity.

Chateau Siaurac Paul Goldschmidt
Château Siaurac. Photo by Paul Goldschmidt

While on a tasting trip back east, Paul took a train to Baltimore for a wine tasting event. The train broke down, delaying the trip for about five hours. Thinking outside the box and knowing he would miss the tasting, Paul decided to have a private tasting with the train passengers. Those who have experienced delays on both trains and planes can only imagine the fun these passengers had tasting wines from Bordeaux off the cuff.

Paul Goldschmidt serving wine on the train.
Paul Goldschmidt serving wine on the train.

The Bells Toll in Saint-Emilion

My desire to visit Saint-Émilion peeked when I met with Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal of Château Angelus. The story behind this winery made me want to visit immediately. They say the bells toll three times a day: morning, midday, and night, symbolizing the beginning and end of the workday and calling people to pray in what is known as the Angelus prayer. The tale goes on to say that the chimes from the neighboring church could be heard in the vineyards. This bell symbolizes Château Angélus, a winery dating back to 1544 and now in its eighth generation. I want to listen to those bells that beckon people to pray and see the church from which they chime.

Chateau Angelus Bells_JB Nadeau
Château Angelus Bells. Photo by JB Nadeau

These stories and the people I have encountered during local tastings aroused my enthusiasm to visit Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion. These stories tell of the place, as do their wines. They say wine is about the place where grapes grow, and the legacies passed down to each generation, which becomes part of the story.

Art and Architecture

Finally, I have always wanted to visit the Cité du Vin. It is not just the wine exhibits that instigate my interest but the museum’s architecture. I have always been an architecture buff since studying art history in college. I have a connection to Frank Geary’s architecture, whose sensibilities are similar to those of Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, who designed the Cité du Vin. That association comes from working in real estate and selling properties to several architects who worked under Frank Geary.  The bond also comes from taking art classes with his son Alejandro.

Bordeaux Cite du Vin et Sicambre_alban gilbert
Bordeaux Cité du Vin et Sicambre. Photo by Alban Gilbert

Living near Santa Monica, I often pass by Frank Geary’s original home. The home’s unique design, a classic example of the deconstructionist movement he led in the 1980s, does not represent a typical building by Frank Geary. Frank Geary took a Dutch colonial-style home and incorporated the materials he loves to utilize in his monumental architectural buildings, whether it is the Disney Music Hall in Downtown Los Angeles or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Frank Geary Home Santa Monica California
Frank Geary Home Santa Monica, California

A Dream Come True

Walking the streets, strolling along the riverfronts of Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, or taking an excursion to visit Pomerol or Medoc opens the door to a new adventure.  I hope this experience avails itself very soon.