If you follow our blogs, you know we travel a lot. It becomes challenging to budget our travel dollars and do everything that we want to do. But every once in a while we decide to splurge. Our last big splurge was the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. What an incredible time. We walked away not regretting spending a single penny. This time we hoped to turn our trip to Bordeaux France into a similar experience. And boy, did we. Once again, absolutely no regrets, and an amazing experience.
As mentioned in our last blog, we were lucky to snag 2 spots during the 2015 September harvest at Château Coulon Laurensac for their The Bordeaux Grand Cru Harvest Tour when someone canceled their reservation (bad idea for them but good for us). Our next several blogs will talk about our amazing tasting and tours—so amazing that we couldn’t fit our days of tastings into only one or two or three blogs. But before we reveal the incredible wines, food, and tours, we want to set the stage in today’s blog.
Our hosts, Margaret and Ronald Rens, bought the Château Coulon Laurensac about 14 years ago and began offering wine tours when they were asked to set up a tour for some of their guests (they previously only rented out rooms). Fortunately, both of them know a lot about wine and hosting people, and it showed. Both have Master of Science degrees and they are both Wine Masters, certified by the Dutch Wine Academy. Ronald is also a Prud’homme de la Jurade of Saint Emilion. In other words, they know wines!
Margaret seems to run the Chateau (and probably Ronald) and Ronald runs the wine. It starts with a beautiful flower bouquet in your room, a refrigerator of water, beer, and soda, and snacks that are replaced daily (although we rarely were hungry enough to eat them). Once Margaret found out you drank tea at breakfast, you had tea without asking. In addition to being a great hostess, Margaret is a good cook (and gave us a cooking class one day). And Ronald…well let’s just say that he is not only extremely knowledgeable about Bordeaux wines, he has an amazing wine cellar, writes about Bordeaux wines, has an encyclopedic memory for vintages and wineries, and is also entrenched in the Bordeaux wine community. What does this mean? He gets his guests into places that not many people can access (we’re sure that Margaret has her hand in getting access too). And, he is also an amazing raconteur, regaling us with stories and interesting facts, while educating us about Bordeaux wines in easy to understand terms. He made sure we were rarely bored and always engaged as he educated us about wine and some things about how France functions. What a winning combination. We were joined in this experience by 12 other people, making the total a manageable 13 participants.
We came here knowing a decent amount about wines, but not much about Bordeaux wines. But we thought we knew the basics, like how to taste wines. Ronald took us to an entirely new level. For example, identifying how a wine smells before and after swirling gives you a hint of its age. Wow. We certainly learned a lot of new things.
The Chateau itself is…well…a chateau. That brings different images to different people. It is large, old (300 years), and is just outside of Bordeaux, in a more rural setting and by the river.
It used to be a winery and the old production area has been turned into 5 guest rooms. While these rooms were larger than ours and had small kitchens in them for the guests, we were on the third floor of the Chateau along with one other guest. Our room was not as large but it was adequate. It had old beautiful wooden floors, a new bathroom and a small sitting area with a TV, DVD player, and DVDs that you could borrow (but we never found the time to even try the TV or DVDs). Guests could use a washer and dryer that were in another area outside the building. We had a small sitting area outside of our room where we, and the guest in the room next to us, could spread out if we wanted. The area had a pool table which we did not use and an exercise room which was off-limits at the time due to insurance issues.
If the weather had been warmer, perhaps we would have dipped in the pool. Still, it looked pretty. A beautiful breakfast room had been created (where we also had our first night’s wine tasting), with lots of glass windows to let in the sun and provide a nice view of the grounds. They also built a beautiful large kitchen where all 13 of the participants could comfortably gather and help Margaret make lunch one day during a cooking class.
The grounds were large and included an older building that was falling in disrepair (we were told not to go into it as the stones might fall down on us). That was cool in itself to have a ruin on your property. How many of us have that? When you think about the age and history of the place, you had to admire everything. But having an older home also means a lot of maintenance. The building was fairly well maintained, but we are sure it had its own issues due to age. For example, we had to hunt for where the light switches were (easy to find once you knew where to look). But heck, our 120 year old place in Boston also had its own issues too. That is part of the charm of older buildings. We loved staying in the actual Chateau.
But enough about the chateau. Our next blog starts us on the road to tasting Bordeaux wines.