Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Into Bordeaux

The airplane gently shuddered as it descended through the clouds, waking me from an hour of fitful sleep. In another few minutes I would be setting foot in Bordeaux, the most famous wine region on the planet. Ten hours behind, my body clock struggled to understand why the sunlight streaming through the windows was on the wrong side of the sky. A brief moment of disorientation passed quickly as my brain hit the fast-forward button, speeding through the airport back home in Portland, another, more cavernous one in Amsterdam, and the little twinjet delivering me into a small airport in southern France.

Twin bumps signaled the wheels meeting the tarmac, twin bumps in my chest betrayed my heart skipping a beat or two. My still-groggy brain had enough clarity to say "wow, I'm really here" before I scanned the cabin searching for the other members of the party I was going to spend the next five days with. We, the collective "we", disembarked into a warm and humid September midday. Two of our party, Michelle and Tracy, were in from San Francisco, Jameson from Seattle, and me from Portland. Joe was inbound from Philadelphia and our fearless leader, Mike, was on a later flight from San Francisco.

We were guests of Planet Bordeaux and Balzac Communications, we wine bloggers and wine professionals. For the next five days this little group would be exploring a slice of the Bordeaux region. We'd be eating, sleeping, drinking (of course!), and learning all we could. I suspect we all had some preconceived notions about this trip, what we'd see and do, what we'd drink and eat, and what we would come away with. You'll have to check with the others for their thoughts though.

Andre, a tres cool Dutchman, was to be our driver for the week. He picked us up from the airport and whisked us off to Chateau Sainte Barbe. This gorgeous 18th century Chateau would be a place to rest and refresh for a few hours. We had to still wait for Joe and Mike to arrive, then we'd get going to dinner at another local Chateau.

As our van pulled up the narrow, crushed limestone driveway to Chateau Sainte Barbe, my eyes tried to devour every element of the house and grounds. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, in person, but the immediacy of the moment fulfilled my visions of Bordelais Chateaux perfectly. Broken slate, glowing blue-gray in the light, marked paths around the front yard. Stone planters held a mixture of rose bushes and vibrant green bushes.

Inside, the house felt old, lived-in, and comfortable. There was no stuffy atmosphere, but to call it "classy yet casual" seems to debase the entirety of the elements. It was a home, a place to inhabit, not merely some monument to centuries past. Our hosts, Lucy and Antoine, showed us to our rooms, the men in one wing and the ladies in another. After an adventurous shower and much wiping of the floor, I felt refreshed enough to remain vertically oriented. Jameson too, but the ladies crashed for a few hours.

More to follow...

Beau Carufel