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Archive for the ‘French Wine’ Category

Burgundy is France’s richest province,  historically, culturally, and, of  course, gastronomically. The region boasts an enviable and proud tradition of culinary excellence and grand winemaking traditions, with the highly sought-after flavors of both red and white Burgundy in ever-growing demand today. And where there are passionate vignerons, a plethora of fine restaurants soon follows. For Burgundians are extremely discerning in their food choices and despite the influx of tourism across the area in recent years, standards remain impeccably high. Moreover, new faces and a more avant-garde approach from the emergent Burgundian firmament have ensured that the region is in no danger of slipping into gastronomic inertia; both the traditional and molecular can now be encountered across the Burgundian landscape.

hotel dieu

The Cote d’Or region, and indeed Beaujolais continue to offer an impressive diversity of restaurants, from the Michelin-starred refinement of L’Edem, to the extreme comfort of local bistros, serving mouthwatering local dishes at attractive prices. But regardless of the venue, central to the local culinary philosophy is only using the freshest, seasonal ingredients locally sourced as much as possible. Resident chefs are fortunate to have access to some of the best produce and meat in France: Bresse chickens, Charolais beef, Epoisses cheese (and many more) wild game, the list goes on. Classical dishes include:  Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au vin and Escargot de Bourgourne but this barely scratches the surface. So, in this remarkable part of France, which certainly doesn’t lack taste, prepare to soak up the riches and amazing flavors among our selection of top restaurants in Burgundy and Beaujolais. Bon Appetit :)

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CELLAR TOURS SELECTION OF PREFERRED RESTAURANTS IN BURGUNDY AND BEAUJOLAIS:

maison colombier

Maison Lameloise

36, place d’Armes
, Chagny 71150

Lameloise

Arguably the region’s most lauded restaurant, Maison Lameloise is inseparable from Burgundian tradition. With a coveted three Michelin stars to its name, it has been offering unparalleled service, food and wine for many years, and was family run for three generations. Now presided over by the formidable Eric Pras, the restaurant’s reputation nonetheless remains firmly based on serving classic dishes using seasonal and regional ingredients. Pras transforms local produce into works of art; dishes that you almost feel guilty eating. We don’t want to spoil the feast ahead, but standout dishes include his marshmallow of foie gras and gingerbread tuile; scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, ravioli of snails cooked in their juices with mild garlic, and his pigeon breast served with fresh pasta and foie gras. The wine list is suitably grand and covers all the major appellations of the region, from Grand Crus to humble village wines. Service is also spot-on, professional and not remotely stuffy. An icon of fine-dining in Burgundy and a must visit for all overs of great food and wine.

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Loiseau des Vignes

Loiseau des Vignes 2

31 Rue Maufoux, 21200 Beaune

A truly remarkable restaurant, Loiseau des Vignes was the first venue in France to offer an entire list of wines by the glass, with over 65 different labels to suit all budgets and preferences. Indeed, if one word sums up Losieau then its wine paradise. Ok then, two words. The list is long, diverse and braves the lesser known in addition to the famous Grand Crus of the Cote d’Or. Opened by Dominique Loiseau in 2007, it sits proudly in the historic centre of Beaune, 250 meters away from the site of the famous Hospices de Beaune wine auction. And as you’d expect, the wine list at this Michelin-starred centre of excellence compliments superlative cuisine, overseen by head chef Mourad Haddouche. His cooking is refined, playful and bold, making use of the finest local ingredients to spectacular effect. Signature dishes include the legendary seared foie gras, the “quenelle de sandre” (a fish ball with lobster sauce) lacquered duck and chocolate cassis bomb. Loisue also boasts one of the largest after dinner cheese selections in France.

loiseau-des-vignes
L’Auberge du Cep

Place de l’Église, 69820 Fleurie

Auberge du CEP 2

It is quite fitting that one of Beaujolais’ most famous red wine villages should boast such a fantastic and great value restaurant. L’Auberge du Cep offers excellent home cooking with no unnecessary frills, lovely service and local wines on tap. The space is cosy -  a bright small dining room tended to by friendly and English speaking staff, who will put you at ease with your choices from the daily specials board. Perhaps start with the Terrine de Canard or the famous snails, followed by a carre d’agneau or Margaret du canard. Those with a sweet tooth will love the dessert of cassis avec and fromage blanc. The wine list is diverse, but with an understandable bias toward the local Gamay grape, in all its glory. Our advice is to stick to the top Fleurie, you can’t go wrong – Highly recommended.

Loiseau des Ducs

3 Rue Vauban, 21000 Dijon

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Top notch but decidedly unstuffy, Loiseau des Ducs is the latest venture from Bernard Loiseau which opened in Dijon in July 2013. Located in the heart of Dijon’s beautiful historic quarter, the restaurant was quickly awarded its first Michelin star this year and continues to offer mouthwatering cuisine, professional service and a multitude of wines by the glass, via the Enomatic machine. Head Chef Louis-Philippe Vigilant shows no interest in fashion, rather he adopts a precise, imaginative approach to his cooking without being over-wrought or conceptualized. A quick glance at their menu confirms this fact; lobster tails in a rich lobster bisque sauce, Charolais beef fillet with a port reduction, pan friend bream, Margaret du canard with foie gras and the legendary Cep ice cream, which has to be tried to be believed! In the warmer months there are alfresco dining options available and if this restaurant has a draw back, well we can’t see it.

loiseu dijon

Hostellerie de Levernois

Rue du Golf, 21200 Levernois

hostellerie Levernois

At the heart of Burgundy’s gorgeous countryside, you’ll find one of the most idyllic and charming country hotels in France. Expertly run by husband and wife team Jean-Louis and Susanne Bottigliero, this luxury small hotel has established a mighty big reputation for its food, service and surroundings. Not to mention a wonderfully long and varied wine list – over 800 labels -  including the great names of DRC and Le Montrachet. Bottigliero’s protege is Philippe Augé, who has ensured that Levernois has kept its Michelin star and will undoubtedly preside other a second star soon. His cuisine promotes the idea of celebrating classical Burgundian heritage and so the age-old dishes are all present and correct. Yet, a touch of the modern flows through the menu; foie gras ravioli with a mushroom infusion, fillet of Charolais with Pinot Noir jus, pigeon breast cooked three ways with white truffle infusion and the Grand Marnier soufflé are just some of the highlights. Our advice – arrive hungry :)

Hostellerie de Levernois

Le Benaton

25 Rue du Faubourg Bretonnière, 21200 Beaune

Le Benaton

Le Benaton 2

One of Beaune’s less touristy restaurants, Le Benaton serves refined, contemporary Burgundian cuisine in a relaxed and yet elegant setting. Awarded it’s first Michelin star in 2006, owner and head chef Bruno Monnoir’s cuisine has been described by critics as the “fruit of impeccable discipline, the rigours of which are overcome every time, and transformed into creativity”. Indeed, a quick glance at his menu reveals a very modern take on classical dishes, which are executed with flawless precision and presentation. So expect daring combinations, bold flavours and perfectly conceived dishes. Although there is an extensive list of dishes a la carte, we recommend you try one of the ingenious tasting menus. One menu, the market menu, is composed of dishes only using the seasonal ingredients purchased daily from the morning market in Beaune. The highlights are numerous, but our favourite dishes include: duck foie gras with smoked eel cassis, wild turbot and butternut squash and clementine reduction, Charolais beef fillet with red wine jus and the ultimate dessert – Gold Mountain in a hot and cold caramel sauce. We won’t spoil the surprise, but trust us; you must try this spectacular dish at least once! The wine list compliments the proceedings nicely and includes all the great names you’d hope for at such a prestigious address.

La Table de Lachassagne

850 Route de la Colline, 69480 Lachassagne

La Table de Lachassagne

If you’re curious to try some of the more avant-garde experiences in modern Burgundian cuisine, then make sure to book at table at Lachassagne. The view alone is worth the price of a meal here – in the summer, a gorgeously appointed terrace overlooks the beautiful Beaujolais landscape, where you can watch vignerons harvest their precious grapes over a leisurely lunch. Head chef Anthony Fusco’s divine tasting menu offers such specialties as veal with sweetbreads, salt cod served with celery puree and vanilla mascarpone with advocat sauce, and renders them so delicately that even the most hardened food critic will be seduced. The menu is purposely kept small, allowing Fusco to concentrate on bringing each dish to perfection. His wife, Maeva, runs the front of house and keeps the restaurant feeling relaxed, friendly and warm, in contrast to many Michelin-starred venues across France. Wine lovers won’t leave disappointed, as Lachassagne boasts a veritable plethora of local vintages as well as the famous Crus of the Cote d’Or. In a word – magnifique.

Restaurant L’ Ed Em

Chassange-Montrachet, 4, impasse Chenevottes, Chassagne-Montrachet 21190

edem

No gastronomic journey through Burgundy can omit L’ Ed Em, a restaurant as mythical for its incredible selection of white Burgundies as its superlative cuisine. Head Chef Edouard Mignort is one of the greats, having studied in Paris and Burgundy under the tutelage of various 3 Michelin starred masters, he finally achieved his dream of opening a restaurant of his own with his charming wife Emilie last year. It quickly built a mighty reputation for warm hospitality, professionalism and precise, mouth-watering cuisine executed with flair. The whole experience feels slick and polished, but without the pretension that can so often plague fine dining establishments in France. The key to Edouard’s culinary flair is his unwavering obsession with only the finest, seasonal ingredients, “everything else rests on this foundation,” he says. With this arsenal of great produce, he crafts such delights as Breton lobster and octopus, Bresse chicken with a red pepper sauce and shallot cream, not to mention strawberry poached in red wine with Chantilly cream and mint sorbet. The cheese selection, including, of course, the legendary Epoisses, is one of the best in the Cote d’ Or, as is the generously well-stocked wine cellar, containing many of the region’s most famous names with prices to match.

Guy Lassausaie

1 Rue de Belle-Sise, 69380, Chasselay

Guy Lassausaie

The tables at Lassausaie are some of the most desirable in Burgundy; with two Michelin stars to its name and widely tipped for a third, if pays to book well in advance in high season. For owner and chef Guy Lassausaie is one of the local legends, celebrated for his extremely imaginative, inventive and downright delicious culinary art. In contrast the décor is relatively simple and restrained, make no mistake the meal is the headline act here. Major highlights include game when in season and the most delicious mushroom risotto that you’ll ever eat. Sorry Italy! You could start your gastronomic adventure with fillets of sole with truffles and a prawn emulsion, langoustine with vanilla infused butter from Madagascar, Rack of Lamb with braised shoulder and pea puree, and the legendary Pinot Noir chocolate fondant. The service is similarly impressive, ultra professional yet engaging at the same time. Moreover, Guy boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in the whole of Burgundy, so even long time Burgundy nuts are bound to discover a few surprises.

Le Clos du Cèdre

2 Boulevard Maréchal Foch, 21200 Beaune

Le Clos du Cèdre

Le Clos du Cèdre 2

This outstanding restaurant is housed in the charming Hostellerie du Cedre hotel in Beaune, which attracts both residents and visitors in search of mouthwatering local cuisine. They never leave disappointed. Head chef Christophe Canati, who was appointed in 2012, has quite a pedigree; he trained in the kitchens of Bernard Louiseau and Georges Blanc, earning his first Michelin star at Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint-Emilion in 2002. His cooking is both refined and comforting, invoking a modern take on Burgundian gastronomic traditions. So expect such delights as white crab meat on a pool of broad bean velouté, ballotine of rabbit, stuffed with foie gras and apricot and mille-feuille, served with salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel. All of this served with, naturally, an extensive selection of both red and white Burgundies, with both the superstars and more affordable options available. Service is perfectly judged and the ambiance romantic and intimate, perfect for a special occasion with a loved one. Quite simply one of the best restaurants for miles around and richly deserving of its Michelin star.

Delicious Travels!

Travel Notes in Paris

Posted by gen On October - 3 - 2013

We were in Paris 2 weeks ago, ago visiting our regular suppliers and some fabulous new ones. We visited a number of hotels, restaurants and wine shops, met guides and explored new gourmet routes, and all for our lucky clients.

It´s a tough job but somebody has to eat and drink their way through Paris to make sure the standard is up to par!

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Some notes from the trip…

HOTELS- we visited  a range of 4 and 5 stars, current suppliers and new ones,  to see how the wear and tear was looking and how the welcome was.  Weren´t able to visit the 5* Ritz nor the 5* Crillon as both are under massive renovation this year, will be very interesting those grand reopenings in 2015…

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4* Westminster- this classic  hotel named after the Duke of Westminster on gorgeous Rue de la Paix near Place Vendome  is always a reliable choice for its elegant location, very comfie rooms and stellar gastronomic restaurant Le Céladon. The welcome was as good as ever and I was happy to see the hotel is in tip top form, we always recommend this one.

4* Westin- the antithesis of boutique, the Westin is reassuringly “neutral”, a nice choice in Paris for guests looking for an International style hotel. It has open and airy, elegant  public spaces, a calming garden patio and a great shopping location. Popular with North Americans and older guests.

westin 2westin 1

4* Villa d´Estrées- this was my fave hotel from the inspection! A darling townhouse style hotel in an incredibly picturesque neighborhood near St Michel, the welcome here was also extraordinarily warm (especially for Paris!). For first timers to Paris who want to be walking distance to Notre Dame, yet far enough from the tourist crowds to have the feeling of being in an authentic and very pretty quartier, this would absolutely be my recommendation. The owner is young and hands on and extremely helpful, hospitality like this in Paris is rare enough!

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 5* Mandarin Oriental- We had been meaning to visit the Mandarin since their grand opening in 2011, so better late than never. The welcome was excellent, very friendly staff, smiles all around. The decor is not for everyone (artwork is contemporary, for better or for worse I must say), spaces are minimalist, rooms are techie.  Popular with guests from Asia, Russia, and the Middle East as well as American East Coasters. There are flat screen tvs overlooking the bath tubs, Nespresso machines in the rooms and a fabulous 2 Michelin starred eatery run by Thierry Marx (previously at Cordeillan Bages in Bordeaux´s Pauillac wine lands.) The spa here is one of the best spas in Paris.

mandarin

5* Hotel Costes – as always, the welcome here was snooty and the front house staff seemed to all be  hungry and cranky models :) This is a given with the Costes. This beautiful boutique hotel designed by Jacques Garcia is verrrrry sceney and you are likely to rub shoulders with a movie star or visiting rock band. Even at mid day there was a ton of atmosphere in the rollicking bar which is laid out over several Oriental themed rooms. The vibe  is very Orient Express train meets trendy club. The DJs there are famous and the hotel even produces a series of lounge CDs. Recommended for wealthy hispters, and apart from the accommodation, it is always fun to pop into the bar and to dine here.

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FOOD AND WINE GUIDE

How delighted were we to meet a charming American wine expert expat with an art background and based in Paris for the last 10 years?  Very! Preston, owner of Paris by the Glass, is a gem, effortlessly charming, erudite and a superb addition to our collection of wine expert guides in France. Look forward to designing new programs with him soon and to pampering our guests with his fun food and wine tours around Paris.

Superb Wine Expert Host in Paris, Preston

Superb Wine Expert Host in Paris, Preston

COOKING CLASSES IN PARIS

We called in to visit Jane at La Cuisine Paris, a high end super fabulous cooking school right on the Seine with all services offered in English both for mixed group events and for our clients of course, private events. Our clients have done everything from chocolate pastry to macarons here and it was fun to brain storm new ideas like professional cheese tastings, French baguette making and more. We are creating new gourmet tours in Paris and will be featuring their classes for our food loving guests. You could not find a more professional, clean, pretty cooking school in town, and what a location!

Professional kitchen at La Cuisine with dining area overlooking the Seine

Professional kitchen at La Cuisine with dining area overlooking the Seine

 

Autumn leaves and a view of the Seine

Autumn leaves and a view of the Seine

RESTAURANTS

Dauphin- Ridiculously good looking staff serve delish new wave bistro style dishes at this super hipster venue that feels more Brooklyn than Paris. They offer amazingly good value menus and the place was great! We started with smoked eggplant purée spiked with feta and garnished with piquant Basque peppers, total flavor explosion of sweet and sour. Main course was the bonito pictured here, cooked perfectly over a bed of buttery white beans and caramelized onions. They serve a number of nice wines by the glass, we had a minerally white Bourgogne. Completely and utterly recommend. It´s an informal lunchy type spot.

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Au Bourgignon du Marais – always a fave and featured in our post on best restaurants for wine lovers in Paris, the famed Boeuf Bourguignon was as fabulous as ever, perfect for the chillier temps. Located on a beautiful Parisian street right across from the prettiest bakery ever, this spot is always a a treat. To start we had the salad of marinated artichokes and eggplant with cured jambon.  After the rich beef, we could not resist and had the fromage sampler, good heavens, total food paradise. Great service, nice wines by the glass (we had a Givry), expertly prepared traditional cuisine, pretty atmosphere, what more could we ask for?

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Chez Paul- It´s been years since we dined at Chez Paul, a Bastille classic bistro. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that all restaurants in France are now thankfully smoke free. The atmosphere is very Toulouse Lautrec and the dishes are as fabulous and classic as they come in France. We started with a simply breathtaking Fois Gras served with an entire pear poached in red wine and spices. Rich, so rich.. thankfully this was a shared appetizer! Paired with our Gevrey Chambertin, we were in glutton´s paradise. To follow, pavé de cochon noir (black foot pork) with an entire roast garlic bulb over steamed spinach and mouthwatering confit de canard served with perfectly roasted potatoes drizzled with a basil pistou. We barely fit in a lemon sorbet, for digestive purposes of course! Luckily Paris is a city for walkers and we were able to fit in some lovely long walks to help counter our calorie count!

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Le Square Gardette- Could I eat any more? yes, apparently! It´s all in the name of work…This trendy little eatery on Saint Ambroise in an up and coming neighborhood north of Bastille offers excellent value gourmet set menus. The crowd was very mixed, from Spanish businessmen to a table of Japanese fashion designers, and of course beautiful locals. I started with a glass of creamy Champagne from Michel Genet. The amuse bouche was a warm, smokey cauliflower cream with a smattering of cocoa powder. Very naughty grilled foie gras came next (a month´s worth of zumba classes down the drain) and finally for the main course a perfectly cooked supreme of volaille rolled with fresh sage over delicious little beans, total autumnal comfort food. Accompanied by a heady glass of Châteauneuf du Pape, it was a nice ending to a very productive and interesting few days in Paris.

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Great French Wineries

Posted by gen On February - 24 - 2012

Some Terrific French Wines- “Cellar Tours Favorites”

We are often asked by our clients to include the “best” wineries in their tours (we organize wine tours in France, among other destinations), and this is of course can mean many things. It can mean most expensive, most marketed and famous, most widely sold in your area, so forth. Visiting a winery should leave a lasting impression and be a memorable and cherished experience, this is our philosophy.

The criteria we use when choosing the wineries are not only that they make great wines (that is a given), but that the hospitality is stellar and truly warm, or there might be a terrific architectural icon, or wines might also be organic/ bio dynamic, you might be able to have a private lunch with the owner, and we might be able to organize fun activities like wine blending classes, so forth.

So herewith are some of our favorite wineries in France:

1. Chateau Kirwan, Margaux

Read profile here

2. Chateau Angelus, St Emilion

Read profile here

3. Chateau Coutet, Sauternes

Read profile here

 

4. Chateau Haut-Bailly, Pessac Leognan

Read profile here

5. Domaine Couly-Dutheil Winery, Loire

Read profile here

6. Chateau La Lagune, Médoc

Read profile here

7. Champagne Mailly

Read profile here

8. Domaine De Noiré Winery, Loire

Read profile here

9. Larmandier-Bernier, Champagne

Read profile here

 

10. Domaine de la Charmoise, Henry Marionnet, Loire

Read profile here

Check out more of our recommended French Wineries Here.

Santé!

Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley Part 1

Posted by gen On March - 18 - 2011

Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley

By Simona Piccinelli

The Loire Valley is a sinuous strip of vineyards running along the mighty Loire river in the heart of France, from the Massif Central all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This beautiful region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000  thanks to its beautiful landscape, gripping history (since Charles VIII moved here, it has been home to the French aristocracy) and literature (Rabelais, Balzac and Alain Fournier were all born here), lavish chateaux, historic towns and villages. We recently had the chance to go visit the region on site inspection and herewith some notes and photos from our trip.

Loire Valley

We took a trip to the wine country to learn about the more than 60 wine appellations (AOC) of the Loire Valley, from Sancerre to Nantes: 7 days, 750 km, 21 wineries, 14 restaurants, from Michelin starred to cozy bistros, 10 chateaux: a tough job, but someone had to do it :)

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

First stop was Sancerre, home of the same named great white wine, the greatest expression of Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation was created in 1936 (for white wine; for reds and rosés then it was later in 1959) and there are fourteen communes eligible for the appellation. One of them is Chavignol, better known for its famed goat cheese (Crottin de Chavignol). Here you can find the Domaine Henri Bourgeois estate. The Bourgeois family has produced wine for 10 generations; today, it is managed and run by the exuberant Mr. Jean Marie Bourgeois, who increased the estate vineyards up to 65 hectares and also launched a new winery in Marlborough, New Zealand (another Sauvignon Blanc hotspot). His detailed attention to the different terroirs can be easily found in all of his Sancerres. One of our favourite wines was La Bourgeoise, made with 50 year old vines.

Loire Valley Wine TastingLoire Valley Wine Tasting
Another very interesting wines estate  in the area is Daniel Chotard , in Crazancy en Sancerre.

After a quick stop in Gien, famous for its ceramics – and in Orléans – liberated from the English by Jeanne d’Arc in 1429 – we arrived in Blois, home town of Louis XII. We enjoyed a nice walk through the mediaeval cobble stoned alleys and a visit to the Blois castle. It is one of the most important castles in Loire Valley and it features 3 different architecture styles, one for each wing built by different kings: gothic for Louis XII, renaissance for François I and baroque for Gaston d’Orléans.

Finally lunch time!!! At Michelin starred «Au Rendez- vous des pêcheurs» owner -chef Christophe Cosme impressed us with pike perch with potatoes, celery and foie gras, paired with Les Veilleurs Blanc produced  by Michel Quenioux at Domaine de Veilloux.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour

We walked thought many vineyards and visited several wineries in this part of the Touraine and Cheverny appellations and we felt in love with an ancient grape: Romorantin. It is a traditional French white grape, that legend says was introduced to the region by King François I.

We particularly loved Romorantin made by Domaine de Huards and by Henri Marrionet. Domaine de Huards started with 4 hectares in 1950 and now owns 35 hectares thanks to vigneron Michel Gendrier’s energy and obstinacy. He produces natural wines, with biodynamic viticulture. So no chemicals at all in the vineyards, no oenological products (except for small doses of sulfites) and the use of natural yeasts in the cellar. We particularly loved the Cuvée François Ier A.O.C. Cour-Cheverny, made with 100% Romorantin grapes, from 50 to 83 years old vines. It has a fresh bouquet, it is rich on the palate and has an excellent balance. Long and elegant after taste.

Loire Valley Wine ToursLoire Valley Wine Tours

Henri Marrionet at the is one of the leading wine maker of the region. He loves to work with indigenous grape; in his 47 hectares he planted Gamay (and also a lost variety such as Gamay de Bouze) and Cot (known also as Malbec) as the main red varieties; and then Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Romorantin for the white ones. He planted also some ungrafted vines. His wife and daughter-in-law were excellent hosts, we spent a very delightful and interesting afternoon, walking in the vineyards, talking about their vineyard management and wine making philosophy and tasting their wine range.  We were fascinated by Cepages Oubliés 2008 (100% Gamay de Bouze), Vinifera (ungrafted Cot) and Provignage 2005 (100% Romorantin from pre-philloxera vines).

Our home for these days was Domaine Hauts de Loire, a hunting lodge built in 1860, in the middle of a forest with a private lake. It has a 2 Michelin starred restaurant, run by chef Rémy Giraud, who pampered us with his amazing cuisine and his impressive wine list. We really enjoyed the Veille Vigne 1998 Chateau Gaillard.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour
Part 2 Coming Soon…

Chambord

Wines of the Camino de Santiago- Wine Tasting along the Saint James Pilgrimage

Camino de Santiago

This has been a record year for number of pilgrims on the “Camino de Santiago” with visitors coming from all over the world, and travelling clear across the North of Spain to Santiago de Compostela on foot, cycling, horseback, and those with less time available, by car.  The experience is amazing and even life changing for some, and while in centuries and decades past the pilgrimage was purely religious, these days people from all walks of life and religions take part in the Camino for a number of reasons- spiritual, for their health, as a sabbatical or break between professions, and many, as a unique life affirming vacation. Some of Spain´s loveliest cathedrals and medieval towns are located along the camino. And the bonus for wine lovers is that many of Spain´s best wine regions also crisscross the north of the country.

There are  5 main pilgrim routes to Santiago in Spain, and others originating outside Spain in greater Europe but the most popular and traditional of the caminos is the “Camino Francés“, the French Way which starts in French Basque Country and stretches nearly 800 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela. Here are some notes on wine tasting and traveling along the Camino Francés, for food and wine lovers.

1. ST JEAN PIED DE PORT- IROULÉGUY WINE REGION

Wines of the Camino French Pays Basque

Sightseeing: If you have a few days before starting the Camino, explore the French Pays Basques-  Biarritz, the darling fishing village of St Jean de Luz, the picture postcard of Ainhoa, etc.  St Jean Pied de Port itself is a lovely small town as is Roncevalles and St Etienne de Baigorry is in  the heart of Irouleguy wine country.

What to drink: Domaine Arretxea, Domaine Brana, Domaine Ilarria, Domaine Etxegaraya

Where to stay: Stay in a simple room at the Hotel Pyrenee and dine at their Relais & Chateaux restaurant

Wines of the Camino

2. PAMPLONA- NAVARRA WINE REGION

wine tasting on the camino de santiago

Sightseeing: Puente la Reina with its medieval bridge, 18th century Santa Eulalia de Merida church in Etxauri (14 km from Pamplona), the Hemingway trail in Pamplona, the Ermita de Santa Maria de Eunate in Muruzabal, the monastery of Irache (also a winery) with its fuente de vino (a highlight for walkers on the camino with its free wine), the hamlet of Dicastillo, the magnificent fairy tale castle in Olite, the lovely Iglesia de Santa Maria in Tafalla, Ujue with its fortress and the medieval hamlet of Larraga.

What to drink: El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa (Nekeas), Esencia Monjardin, Alzania Seleccion, Ochoa Vino dulce de Moscatel, Calchatas, Guelbenzo Evo, Coleccion 125 Chardonnay fermentada en barrica (Chivite).

Local dishes to try: Bacalao ajoarriero, Esparragos de Navarra, Cordero al Chilindron

Local festivities: The truffle festival in Oloríz in December, The medieval festival of Olite in August and the international folkloric dance festival in Lodosa in July.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Castillo de Monjardin, Palacio de Muruzabal, Principe de Viana

Where to stay: La Perla in Pamplona, the beautiful Parador in Olite and the Relais & Chateaux El Peregrino in Puente la Reina

Navarra wine map

3. LAGUARDIA- LA RIOJA WINE REGION

wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: Medieval villages like Laguardia, Briones and Ábalos; Tapas (Calle Laurel) and some fine churches in Logroño; the hamlet of Navarrete; beautiful Torremontalbo; Nájera; the extremely important monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla (birthplace of the Spanish language; and the  Santo Domingo la Calzada is a major stop on the Camino de Santiago.

What to drink:  Tempranillo is king here and Rioja has some amazing producers making both traditional and modern style wines. We love Benjamín Romeo´s Contador, Sierra Cantabria, Remirez de Ganuza, Roda, Hermanos Peciña, Muga, Artadi, Finca Valpiedra and Señorio de San Vicente.

Local dishes to try: menestra de verduras (fresh sauteed local veggies, Rioja is a big vegetable producing part of Spain), alcachofas frescas salteadas con jamón ibérico (sauteed artichokes with cured ham, Bacalao a la Riojana (cod, Rioja style), Chuletillas al sarmiento (baby lamb chops grilled over grape vines).

Where to stay: The Marqués de Riscal wine resort in El Ciego is the most luxurious property (with wine spa and Frank Gehry design) and the Villa de Laguardia is a solid four star outside medieval Laguardia, with a spa offering wine and olive oil treatments. Also recently opened in Laguardia´s main plaza is the Hospederia Los Parajes Inn.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Darien, Baigorri, Muga, Lopez de Heredia, Juan Alcorta (Campo Viejo).  Luxury wine tours in Rioja, see sample program here.

Local festivities: the “wine battle” of Haro in June, the medieval festival of Briones also in June, another lesser known wine “battle” in San Asensio and an array of harvest festivals

rioja wine map

4. BURGOS- RIBERA DEL DUERO WINE REGION

wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: The magnificent cathedral of Burgos, the pretty historic center of Lerma, Peñafiel with its castle housing a wine museum, the pharmacy of Peñaranda (dating to 1635!) and the medieval village of Covarrubias.

What to drink: Tinto del Pais, otherwise known as Tempranillo is the main grape in this red wine producing region. Top wines include Dominio de Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Mauro, Dominio de Atauta,  Alion, Emilio Moro, Arzuaga, Viña Mayor, Abadia Retuerta, Viña Pedrosa, Pago de los Capellanes and Pago de Carrovejas.

Local dishes to try: Lechazo asado!! This is the definitive local dish, baby lamb roasted in ancient clay or brick ovens. Also, Asparagus from Tudela, Cochinillo (suckling pig), Morcilla de Burgos (black pudding spiced with paprika) and Salchicha de Zaratán are local specialties.

Where to stay: Palacio de la Merced in Burgos, Convento las Claras hotel and spa in Peñafiel, and the gorgeous Parador in Lerma, a 17th century ducal palace.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Legaris, Matarromera, Prado Rey, Protos, Abadia Retuerta (who just opened a new gastronomic  restaurant onsite). Luxury wine touring options in Ribera here.

wine tasting camino santiago

5. LEON- BIERZO WINE REGION

wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: Leon´s outstanding cathedral, Astorga, Ponferrada with its fairy tale castle (featured in our most beautiful castles in Spain post), unique landscapes in Las Médulas, the abandoned castle of Corullón, the Cistercian monastery of Carracedo.

What to drink:  The land of Mencia! Amazing value red wines here and top bets include Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas, Paixar, Pétalos del Bierzo

Local dishes to try: “El Botillo” (dating to medieval times), Cecina (cured beef), Cordero asado (roast lamb), Empanada de “batallón”

Where to stay: The Prada a Tope wine estate in Canedo.

wine tasting camino santiago

6. GALICIA- VALDEORRAS

valdeorras

What to see/do: Dine and spa at Spa Pazo do Castro, visit the outrageously baroque retablo in the tiny church of Rubia, the Monastery of Xagoaza (headquarters to the Godeval winery) and check out the Ancient Roman Cigarrosa bridge near the wine producing village of Petín.

What to drink: Godello is the main grape here and our faves are  Valdesil and As Sortes. Other good ones include Joaquin Rebolledo, Godeval and Guitian Fermentado en barrica (Bodegas la Tapada).

7.  GALICIA- RIBEIRA SACRA

ribeira sacra

What to see/do: This is the prettiest of all Galician wine appellations and the riverside scenery is sublime (the Miño and Sil rivers converge here).  Here is a great website in English with a full list of sightseeing options.  Wonderful area.

What to drink: a host of white and red varietals are grown here including Albariño, Treixadura, Loureiro, Torrontés, etc. Uniquely a region known for reds and whites. We love love love Adega Alguiera, as well as Témera, and Dominio do Bibei.

Local Festivities: There are many wine festivals in the region including the charmingly named wine producing area of Sober.

Where to stay: Located in pristine forest and countryside in this beautiful wine region is the delicious Parador of San Estevo, featured in our post on the best wine hotels in Spain.

8.GALICIA- RIBEIRO

Ribeiro

What to see/do: The Monastery of San Salvador in Celanova (founded in 936, although much of what you see now is 16th and 18th century add ons), the curious spas in Cortegada (in a modernista palace) and the tiny but interesting Jewish quarter in the small medieval town of Ribadavia.

What to drink:  Ribeiro is known for its fresh whites and we quite enjoy Viña Mein, not to mention the fab estate of Pazo Casanova.

9.GALICIA- RIAS BAIXAS

rias_baixas

What to see/do:  Stay at the Parador of Baiona, one of the most scenically perched Parador hotels in Spain. Cambados is a quaint fishing village.  And the Cies islands are to die for, rent a private boat to explore.

What to drink: Albariño, but of course! Considered the most elegant white wine in Spain, the Albariño grape flourishes in the vineyards of this area (Rias Baixas translates as “low rivers”, referring to the estuaries in southern Galicia). Top producers include: Fefiñanes,  Pazo de Barrantes (owned by Rioja´s Marques de Murrieta), Pazo de Señoráns, Terras Gaudas, and Lagar de Fornelos. The Martin Codax brand is probably the most popular Albariño abroad, and one you are likely to find back home.

10. SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA!

santiago_compostela

Sightseeing: The cathedral is of course the first stop for pilgrims and the energy here at the end of the camino is amazing, with people from all over the world descending on the cathedral and then the bars and restaurants of the old town. The fun thing to do here is just get lost in the old town and taste food and wine along the way.

What to drink: The tapas bars in Santiago serve Albariño in pretty ceramic cups and it is hard to find a bad house Albarino! The zippy white wine pairs perfectly with specialties like Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus drizzled in olive oil and smoked Spanish paprika).

Where to stay: For us, there is only one place to stay in Santiago itself and that is is at the beautiful Parador, which breathes history and romance.

POST CAMINO WINE EXPLORING:

The Douro Valley is only a few hours south and Northern Portugal is a treat for those looking for fabulous food and wine and unspoiled wine country.

wine tasting on the camino de santiago

Collioure and Banyuls, a land with two souls

by Ivano Martignetti

Collioure
In the south of France, in the “Pyrénée Orientales” there is a stretch of land which is not only renowned for its beautiful sea and landscapes, but also for the quality of its wines, enhanced by the configuration of the land which requires an heroic viticulture to work the vines, as hard as in “Valtellina” or “Cinque Terre”. Machinery aid is not an option here, all the work has to be done manually and just looking at the steep slopes my back already hurts…
Mediterranean France wine travel notes

This little corner of France is so blessed for winemaking that two AOCs have been granted: Collioure (dry) and Banyuls & Banyuls Grand Cru (Sweet natural wine). Four municipalities have the right to name their wines after these two AOCs and they are all well worth a visit: Collioure, Banyuls sur Mer, Cerbère and Port-Vendres.  Collioure is a must see, rich with archeological heritage from ancient populations, architectural beauties, pastel colored architecture and a beautiful Catalan harbor that inspired artists like Picasso, Matisse, Derain and many others, leading this southern beauty to become a cultural centre in France.

Mediterranean France wine travel notes
The sweet Banyuls wines are a whole world to discover, starting from the small, boutique “caves” such as Domaine de la Casa Blanca (8 hectares in total), where you can really appreciate the human touch of the producers contrasting with the beautiful, historic Cellier des Templiers, producing 80% of total Banyuls and Banyuls Grand Cru production. Pair the wines of Banyuls with dark chocolate, chocolate cakes or even cheese, French of course.

Mediterranean France wine travel notes
Collioure is an AOC which includes white, rosé and red wines. Reds are typical southern wines, rich of tannins and alcohol, very enjoyable after a few years. A blend of Grenache noir, Carignan and sometimes Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault will make your meals  joyous occasions!

Mediterranean France wine travel notes

Bordeaux En Primeur Tasting, Futures- 2009 Vintage

Posted by gen On April - 12 - 2010

Bordeaux En Primeur Tasting,  Futures- 2009 Vintage

By Lindsay Morriss, Bordeaux correspondent

Bordeaux Futures 2009 Vintage

One of the world’s most renowned wine tastings is the Bordeaux Primeurs. This event is not open to the general public, but organized specifically for the wine trade as a venue to gather professionals from around the world to taste the most recent vintage. Each spring, thousands of journalists, critics, importers, sommeliers, and other influential personalities descend upon Bordeaux to sample wines from the most recent vintage.

These wines represent some of Bordeaux’s most prestigious labels, such as Lafite, Margaux, Petrus, Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem. The objective of tasting these wines is to get an overall feel for the quality of the most recent vintage, which will determine the price at which these wines should be released to the market. Once pricing has been set, they will be sold in the form of futures―otherwise referred to as selling the wine en primeur.

Bordeaux Futures 2009

Bordeaux wine purchased as futures is made from grapes harvested the previous fall. Those who purchase wine futures do so to secure supply for highly demanded wines, but also because it is anticipated that the wine’s price will increase by the time it is bottled and released to the market (generally 2-3 years post-harvest).

The wines tasted at the annual Primeurs are barrel samples of very youthful wine that is meant to age in barrel for approximately two more years, and then for many more years in bottle. Therefore, these wines are unfinished and generally unpleasant to taste. When evaluating unfinished wines, you are not looking for appealing flavor, but rather for characteristics indicating that the wine is balanced and has good aging ability such as structure, complexity, high acidity, and a long finish.

Primeurs 2009

During the last week of March into the beginning of April 2010, nearly 6,000 professionals traveled to Bordeaux to participate in Primeurs 2009. The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (a club representing 132 of Bordeaux’s premier chateaux that stages events around the world to promote the region’s fine wine offering) organized a series of tastings grouped by appellation; whereas, the most prestigious Bordeaux chateaux held their own private tastings at the estate, which could be attended by appointment only.

Bordeaux Futures 2009

I had the opportunity to participate in these tastings because I am currently interning with the Bordeaux-based wine merchant, Millésima S.A.  Together with several members from the Marketing team, we attended all UGC tastings to cover the entire Bordeaux region. Our day began in Médoc on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, where we tasted all Médoc appellations, as well as Bordeaux’s sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. The following day we visited Graves/Pessac-Léognan, then traveled to St. Emilion and Pomerol on the Right Bank.

UGC Program: Primeurs 2009

Location                                           Appellation

Day 1

Château Batailley                       St. Julien, Pauillac & St. Estèphe
Château Desmirail                     Margaux
Château Cantemerle                 Médoc, Haut Médoc, Moulis & Listrac
Château Dauzac                          Sauternes & Barsac

Day 2

Château Smith Haut Lafitte   Graves & Pessac-Léognan
Château Beau Séjour Bécot      St. Emilion Grand Cru
Château Gazin                             Pomerol

Bordeaux Futures 2009

Overall, the 2009 Bordeaux vintage was a bit exceptional in that these wines were marked with intense fruit flavors and honestly, were not at all unpleasant to sample! This was the result of a long growing season with almost four months (July through October) of ideal weather, namely warm, dry days and cool nights. As a result, sugar levels were high and the berries were small (with less water), but contained very concentrated juice.

Bordeaux Futures 2009

There have been many claims that 2009 is among Bordeaux’s best vintages in recent memory. After reading the opinions of well-known wine journalists, as well as developing my own impressions from having sampled many of these wines, I would conclude that 2009 is overall a very good vintage featuring some outstanding wines; though, at the same time has also produced wines that are over-extracted or a bit green from not having been harvested at the right moment. In general, the long growing season favored wines with blends made from predominately Cabernet Sauvignon; whereas, the Merlot-based blends weren’t always as well balanced. However, that is not to say every wine will fit this mold.

Bordeaux Futures 2009

For anyone looking to purchase wine futures, I recommend reading several opinions on the same wine, as well as identifying a trusted merchant who can offer professional advice regarding which wines feature the best aging characteristics. As with buying futures of any traditional financial instrument, there is always a risk that the price will decrease. However, a well-made wine (especially from an acclaimed vintage) will have superb aging ability, leading the wine to appreciate in value over time.

Bordeaux Futures 2009

Perfect Valentine’s Brunch

Posted by gen On February - 13 - 2010

Ideas for a romantic brunch to celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day-

Brunch at home can be even romantic than dinner out, and is a wonderful idea for this Valentine`s weekend. But what to make? What wines  to serve?

How to make it the perfect Valentine`s Day Brunch?

Begin the late morning with crèpes, rolled with strawberries and freshly whipped cream. You can stir in a chocolate or almond based Italian liqueur to the cream…

Romantic Valentine`s Brunch

Toast with pink bubbly, we adore Pommery Rosé. Add to the feeling of special occasion with beautiful champagne glasses and rose petals on the tablecloth…

Romantic brunch for Valentine's day

Continue with Lobster Bisque, a colorful, beautiful and very romantic dish…

Romantic brunch

This dish, believe it or not, pairs well with dessert wines such as the fabulous Barsac/Sauternes wines from Château Coutet

Chateau CoutetOr, if you don’t want to do sweet wine before red wine, carry on with the champagne!

For the savory main course, how about delicate grilled baby lamb chops with rosemary?

Romantic brunch

… paired with something fabulous like Casanova di Neri`s Brunello di Montalcino. Oh, yeah!

Romantic brunch

and finish off your romantic Valentine`s day brunch with some kisses, Baci- the chocolate that says it all.

Romantic brunch

by Simona Piccinelli, Italy specialist

Is there any better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with bubbly? We certainly  don’t think so!

So here is our selection of our favorite sparkling wines of the year- the perfect match for every mood, enjoy:

Speaking of sparkling wines, champagne is of course the king of bubbles and apart from well known maisons, like Krug, Bollinger, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot, etc, we particularly love:

Champagne Tarlant - La Vigne d’Antan

Sparkling wine selections for new year's eve
This Champagne comes from  ungrafted vines, just as they were before phylloxera, thanks to a unique terroir. 100% Chardonnay, improved on the yeasts for over 6 years, it is a great wine, elegant and aromatic. It has rich minerality, hints of apples and acacia flowers and suggestions of hazelnuts and almonds.

Champagne Larmandier BernierPremier Cru Nature Terre de Vertus

Sparkling wine selections for new year's eve
Single cru Champagne, 100% Chardonnay, vintage 2006, pas dosé (no sugar added). Few facts for this awesome Champagne except that it is delicate, fresh, with notes of flowers and chalkiness.

Champagne MaillyBlanc de Noirs

Champagne vineyards

Champagne vineyards

This Champagne is made of Pinot Noir only. It is complex, very elegant, with long finish.

Leaving France to the side for a minute, we also have some very good recommendations for you for Italian and Spanish bubbly:

Franciacorta region: Mosnel - Parosè 2004

Suggested wines New Year's eve
A blend of  70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay for this unusual wine, pas dosè (no sugar added) and rosè, as the name suggests. It has pale onion-skin colour, aromas of wild berry and fresh spices, long-lasting finish. More on the Mosnel wine estate here.

Franciacorta region: Bellavista - Riserva Vittorio Moretti 2002

Suggestions for fabulous bubbly
Mr Vittorio Moretti, the founder and owner of Bellavista winery, labelled this wine with his own name, to guarantee that it is the best of his production. Outstanding blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has character and personality.
The nose is elegant and concentrated, with aromas of peach, honey and white fruit. Fresh, mineral and intense.

Campania region: Feudi di San GregorioDubl

Suggestions for fabulous bubbly

A joint venture with the Champagne maestro Selosse gave life to these unusual sparkling wines from Irpinia – Campania, made with local grapes such as Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. More on Feudi.

Penedès region: Cava Parés Baltà – Cuvée de Carol
Spanish bubbly for New Year's eve 100% Chardonnay for this boutique cava, with intense yellow golden color, intense aroma of fruit and creamy taste. More on this FABULOUS estate here.

Penedès wine region: Cava Agusti Torello – Kripta Gran Reserva 2003
A real masterpiece, made with 45% Macabeo, 23% Xarel-lo and 32% Parellada. It ages 4 years and it is complex, structured, with hints of ripe fruit and light toasted notes.

Cava Segura Viudas – Brut Vintage Cava
Aged in bottle for 3 years, it is made only in exceptional vintages.

Spanish bubbly for New Year's eve

Cheers!

Bordeaux in Autumn

Posted by gen On December - 1 - 2009

We just spent most of the month of November in Bordeaux on site inspection as we are developing new wine tours there. We visited 32 wineries on this particular trip and checked out loads of restaurants (more on that, later!), met wine guides and limo drivers and all the usual inspection tour stuff. What is always amazing about traveling in the wine country in autumn are the COLORS, wow, we saw some magnificent landscapes. Here are some shots from our trip, enjoy!

BORDEAUX VINEYARDS

BORDEAUX VINEYARDS

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn

Bordeaux in Autumn


The southwest of France is a treasure trove of bijoux villages, spirit lifting landscapes and superb food and wine experience. The Dordogne and Perigord in particular are simply breathtaking and magical places which we cannot recommend highly enough. You can sleep in fairy tale Châteaux, meander through the region’s spectacular rivers, visit picturesque hamlets and taste some of the best traditional cuisine in France. Best of all, this is an exceptionally friendly area where you will receive a truly warm welcome.

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should seriously start planning your next vacation in Dordogne/Perigord:

1. Sarlat

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

2. Perigord Truffles

Perigord Truffles

3. Domme

Perigord villages

4. Wines of Cahors

Cahors wine country

5. Brantome- Venice of Perigord

Brantome, Venice of Perigord

6. Rocamadour

Spiritual Dordogne

7. Monbazillac wine country

Monbazillac wine country

8. Monpazier

Beautiful Monpazier in Dordogne

9. Saint Cirq Lapopie

Beautiful Dordogne

10. Ancient man- Perigord is full of prehistoric sites and caves such as the Gouffre de Proumeyssac

Ancient caves in Perigord

Where to stay in Dordogne/Perigord.  We love the classic Vieux Logis in gorgeous Tremolat, the stylish and refreshingly contemporary Les Merles, the  Château de la Treyne for its Michelin starred dining and unbelievable position over the river, the Château Vigiers for golf lovers, Château les Baudry for cozy French hospitality and Le Moulin de l’ Abbaye for a romantic escapade.

What to do: Go river rafting on the Dordogne, truffle hunting, take a private cooking class, explore medieval villages, go wine tasting and vineyard hopping, enjoy long walks in the stunning countryside, take a river cruise on a traditional gabarre boat at Beynac, pop into the wine museum in Bergerac (home of the literary Cyrano de Bergerac) and riverside picnics with foie gras and local wines.

Private chauffeured tours of the Dordogne/Perigord- contact Cellar Tours for a custom designed luxurious gourmet itinerary including unique food and wine experiences.

Beautiful Dordogne

Ten Best Things about Bordeaux

Posted by gen On August - 7 - 2009

We just spent a week in Bordeaux on a fabulous site inspection and can´t praise this graceful and friendly city highly enough. Called the “Mini Paris”, Bordeaux is an absolute must for wine lovers and equally interesting for foodies, architectural buffs and history lovers.

Here is a quick list of the top ten things you can´t miss while visiting Bordeaux:

1. The Regent Hotel- hot, new, very glam

Best of Bordeaux Regent Hotel and Restaurant

2. The Châteaux of the Left Bank

Best of Bordeaux Left Bank Chateaux

3. Romantic Saint Emilion

Best of Bordeaux St Emilion

4. Lunch at cozy La Tupina

Best of Bordeaux La Tupina

5. Cap Ferret´s shabby chic oyster haunts

Best of Bordeaux Cap Ferret

6. Thierry Marx´s 2 * Restaurant at Cordeillan Bages

Best of Bordeaux thierry_marx

7. Biking through the vineyards at Franc Mayne

Best of Bordeaux Franc Mayne

8. Dinner at Le St James in charming Bouliac- what a view!

Best of Bordeaux le-saint-james

9. Sand Dunes near Arcachon

Best of Bordeaux Arcachon peninsula sand dunes

10.Chapon Fin- an institution

Best of Bordeaux Chapon Fin