Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fete de la Fleur 2011, Chateau Lascombes,

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to the grand dinner at Chateau Lascombes in Margaux known as the 'Fête de la Fleur' organised by the Commanderie du Bontemps de Medoc et Graves, Sauternes et Barsac. This was an excellent quality and most fitting ending to a busy week at the bi annual wine show Vinexpo in Bordeaux, which ran from Sunday until Thursday.

La Fête de la Fleur is literally a party to celebrate the flowering of the vines. This normally has taken place in early June and is a good indication for the harvest to come. The pollination and the flowering will have important consequences for the size and health of the grape bunches which will gradually be formed in the coming weeks. This year the weather has been incredibly warm throughout early Spring and the growth on the vines is significantly advanced....some say 3 or 4 weeks earlier than normal. There is a loose rule that harvest takes place approximately 100 days after flowering. If this is the case then some of the Bordeaux Chateau owners might have to shorten their summer holidays!!! Harvest could be very early this year ( possibly the earliest since 1893).
The Fête de la Fleur dinner is organised by 'Les Commandeurs du Bontemps', who are a group of invited dignitaries and 'movers and shakers' in the Medoc, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac area. Each region has this kind of group....La Jurade de Saint Emilion or the Gentilhomme de Fronsac.
Emmanuel Cruse the owner of Chateau d'Issan in Margaux is the 'Grand Master' of the Commanderie du Bontemps. Before the dinner there were 48 people intronised into the Commanderie...they have to swear that they love Bordeaux wines etc etc.!! These people are proposed by Chateaux or negociants or by fellow members of the Commanderie. It is a good way to get a global reach for Bordeaux wines and to make people feel special.

The Fête de la Fleur takes place at a different Chateau each year and although it is a great honor for the Chateau, it can also be very expensive to host. The Chateaux all contribute and each table is paid for either by a Chateau, negociant or broker. The wines consumed at the dinner are also offered by various Chateaux. A figure that I saw recently estimated that this event cost €1.3 million.....for one dinner!
Chateau Lascombes is owned by the American Private Equity company
Colony Capital, headed by Tom Barrack. Mr Barrack has invested $45 billion in property and assets around the world. He has owned the Chateau for 10 years and now he wants to sell. There were many rumors at the dinner for various interested parties. Chateau Lascombes has been under performing for a while, but it is still a 2nd Growth Margaux estate. There could be potential! Mr Barrack gave a brief, but eloquent speech, followed by Monsieur Alain Juppe, the active mayor of Bordeaux and the popular French Foreign Minister.
Then we tucked in to an astonishing dinner prepared by Eric Frechon, the 3 star Michelin chef from the
Hotel Bristol in Paris.

Caviar d'Aquitaine, Puree de pomme de terre aromatisée au Haddock

Selle d'Agneau en cro
ûte de nori, Gnocchi aux herbes, purée de colrave

Entre le saint nectare fermier et le brie de truff

Ananas gel
ée caïpirinha, sorbet banane-passion, petite meringue

The wines were also excellent:

Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2006 from Magnums....apparently we drank 1/3 of the entire production.

Chateau Lascombes 2005 from Imperials and from Magnums....the magnums seemed much more rounded and smooth than the Imperials.

Chateau Leoville Poyferré red of the night. Absolutely delicious. Maybe this would have worked better with the lamb rather than the Lascombes.

Chateau Yquem 2008.....delicious as always, but a slightly strange vintage choice...neither very old and evolved, but neither very young and fresh. No was sensational.

Then there was coffee in the grounds to the Chateau and a large bar that served Champagne Pol Roger all night. There was an Opera singer belting out her stuff from the top of the Chateau and a hot air balloon hovering around with a gymnast doing a magnificent performance.
It was very amusing to see the great and the good from Bordeaux throw some shapes on the dance floor in to the wee hours.

One of the most incredible evenings of my life. Great fun, great food and a great time.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cellar Tracker Bordeaux Trip 2011

Back in January Bella Wine Tours was invited by the Cellar Tracker community to co ordinate a trip to Bordeaux for an interesting group of wine enthusiasts. The initial contact was from the UK and I was under the impression that if we put together an interesting itinerary, then we would get 20-25 people to Bordeaux. I am always sceptical so I presumed 10-15! The clients for Cellar Tracker are mainly American, but they are truly internet fans, so some of the clients were from China, Singapore, Canada and the UK.
Fortunately the Cellar Tracker community is strong and I organized a busy schedule of visits, tastings and lunches and dinners for the 28 people who signed up for the trip. I offered accommodation in the excellent 5 star Hotel Regent as well as the 3 star Hotel de Normandie.
Here are a few pictures of the happy wine enthusiasts who attended the 4 days of fun at the end of May 2011:

Visiting Chateau Lafite Rothschild. We tasted the excellent 1995.

The incredible barrel room at Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

The 28 people were great fun. Some of them knew each other beforehand, but many of them did not know anyone else. Everyone got on extremely well and we had a busy but fun time.
Here is or schedule:
Sunday: Arrive at Hotels and meet for an evening drink.
Monday: Coaches to Chateau Pontet Canet for a visit and tasting of the 2005 and 2010 barrel sample.
Visit and Tasting to Chateau Mouton Rothschild....2010 barrel sample tasted.
Visit and Tasting to Chateau Lynch Bages....2004 and 2010 tasted
Lunch in Pauillac in a riverside restaurant.

Visit and tasting at Chateau Lafite Rothschild...Tasted the 1995
Visit and tasting at Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste...Tasted 2010 and 2005.
Visit and Tasting at Ch. Pichon Longueville...Tasted 2010,2009,1008 and 2003.

Monday was free to explore the restaurants of Bordeaux.

Happy clients in the tasting room at Ch. Pichon Longueville, where we were really treated to some exceptional wines...2010,2009,2008 and 2003.

Tuesday: Coaches to Ch. La Mission Haut Brion...Tasted the 2007 Ch. Haut brion and 2007 Ch. La Mission Haut Brion.
Visit and Tasting at Domaine de Chevalier....Tasted the 2010(Red and White) and 2005(Red)
Lunch and a tasting with Daniel and Florence Cathiard at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. A delicious lunch after some lovely aperitifs..Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2008 and Rouge 2007. Lunch with the 1998 and 2006 from Magnums.
In the afternoon we visited the majestic Chateau d'Yquem for a visit and tasting of the incredible 2007.

Tuesday evening was free to explore Bordeaux.

The amazing new egg fermentor at Domaine de Chevalier.

Wednesday: Coaches to Chateau de la Riviere in Fronsac. A full tour of the cellars and the Chateau as well as a tasting of teh 2005 and 2010 and the 2001 Aria.
Lunch free to stroll around Saint Emilion.
Afternoon visit to Ch. La Conseillante in Pomerol, where we tasted the 2010.

I arranged a dinner at Chateau Coutet in Barsac. We tasted some fabulous sweet wines....2010, 1998, 1976, 1989 during a beautiful meal in the Chateau.

Thursday morning we visited Chateau Margaux where we tasted the 2007 Pavillon Rouge and Ch. Margaux.
Last visit was to Ch. Rauzan Segla where we enjoyed the 2010 and the 2006.

Everyone had a great time. We covered a lot of ground and we met some fantastic characters and personalities. We also got on very well as a group and it was a great pleasure to organise. There are many notes and many better pictures and detailed tasting notes on the Cellar Tracker main website and the forum.

I would be delighted to organise a similar type trip to Bordeaux. via