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Bordeaux holds a special place in our hearts. It's where we first began taking guests back in 1993 and we have many friends here.We run many tours in Bordeaux throughout the year, with custom itineraries designed by internationally-renowned wine expert and writer Peter Smith. Our escorted tours are led by the best guides in Bordeaux - ask our guests! Scroll down or click on the map for information on the various parts of Bordeaux that you'll be visiting!
Bordeaux's vineyards lie at the extreme northern limit of successful cultivation of the varietals planted here. The long hours of summer sunshine ripen the grapes, but moderate temperatures ensure a long growing season which allows the grapes to reach a full physiological maturity. There is ample rainfall over the year, so irrigation is not necessary (in fact is is not allowed). Normally, however the rain will hold off until after the harvest, which usually occurs from late September to mid October.
From Bordeaux west to the Atlantic ocean lies one of the most renowned wine regions of the world. The Medoc begins just outside the suburbs of Bordeaux, and stretches some 80km (50 miles) alongside the Gironde estuary in a NNW strip between 5 and 11 km wide. The Gironde forms the Eastern boundary, and the immense pine forest of Les Landes abuts the vineyards to the West and South.
The Gironde estuary is the largest in Europe, and exerts a major influence on the vineyards of the Medoc, helping to . For this reason, the most desirable vineyards are located where "the vines can see the water", and this indeed is where most of the First-Growths are to be found.
The other major factor is the gravel soils, deposited first by the Pyrenean glaciers and then covered in parts by river sediments. Where the gravel beds are very deep and form outcroppings on the surface they produce excellent drainage, and also hold and intensify the sun's heat, reflecting the precious warmth back up under the leaf canopy to ripen the grapes. Here we visit the famous classified growths such as Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux, Palmer, Lynch-Bages, Montrose... as well as a few that you'll probably not recognize - but will never forget once we've introduced you to them!
Accommodations are often in beautifully restored mansions belonging to working vineyards, which we normally rent exclusively for our larger groups. Other times we'll stay in small country hotels which are just as charming. Rooms are en-suite, beautifully decorated in period style, and are surrounded by tranquil gardens and vineyards.
We eat in a variety of fine restaurants, from gourmet 'Haute-Cuisine' to wonderful local cafés where we eat authentic regional delicacies alongside the workers of the vineyards we have just visited. Many of our meals are arranged in the wineries themselves, and the experience of tasting these fabled wines in the company of those who make them is never forgotten. Picnics by the Gironde and sightseeing in the quaint villages and countryside fill the time between visits, and we can always visit the coast or spend time in Bordeaux itself if you wish.
The Medoc boasts a marvellous 36-hole golf course, just a few minutes from our accommodation. Our golfing guests are tempted to spend a glorious spring morning or tranquil fall afternoon driving alongside some of the local winemakers, many of whom are members of the club.
St. Emilion and Pomerol
The most picturesque village in the Bordeaux region also produces some of it's finest, rarest and often most expensive wines. We are fortunate to have access to several of the most exclusive vineyards of St. Emilion and Pomerol. Many of these wines are known only to a handful of connoisseurs throughout the world, and we taste them whilst we discuss methods and philosophies with the owners of these unique chateaux.
Below the village are acres of limestone caves and the unique monolithic church, standing guard over the precious wines maturing slowly over decades in their silent, dark depths. The village is packed with wine boutiques, art and antiques and will keep you enthralled for hours wandering it's cobbled streets.
On some tours we stay in a charming chateau-hotel in the midst of its vineyards just outside the medieval walls, others we lodge at a luxury hotel right in the village. There are a myriad of gastronomic experiences in this village to satisfy the most adventurous gourmet, from Michelin-starred chefs to casual cafes and bistros that the local winemakers frequent. We try to allow a little free time in the village for you to explore on your own, and of course we are always there when you need us to assist and enjoy with you.
St. Emilion is also the venue for some spectacular events during our tours. You are privileged to be invited to the private banquets of the Jurade of St. Emilion, the governing body of the region's winemakers, as guests of Peter Smith, who is a member. This ancient order takes it's roots from the Medieval traditions of the monastic rulers of the village, and is a rare opportunity to be immersed first-hand in the ritual and splendor of some of France's oldest culture.
These events are held twice each year, for the Flowering of the Vines in Spring, and the Harvest in September, and we normally arrange a limited number of places to join us in these celebrations as part of one of our tours.
Pomerol, the tiny appellation just to the north of St. Emilion, is home to some of the rarest and most famous wines of Bordeaux - Petrus, La Fleur, Certan, Le Pin... Here again we have some special addresses, and you're of course welcome to request a visit to your own favorite producer.
Graves and Sauternes
The Graves region is one of the oldest of Bordeaux, and perhaps less well-known in the USA than it should be. The reds of Graves are sturdy wines, reflecting the gravel beds from whish the area gets it's name. This is the only region of Bordeaux, however, to have classified growths in both red and white wines, and this is where Bordeaux's true connoisseurs come to taste the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grape at their absolute best.
We include of course the top Graves chateau, and whether it be the historic Haut Brion, the superlative Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, or the equally stunning white Fieuzal, this is one of the highlights of any trip to Bordeaux. By no means least is the "new" home of Daniel and Florence Cathiard, who have owned and restored Chateau Smith-Haut Lafitte since the early '90's. Not only do you get to visit with them with their incomparable personal welcome, but can also offer you the chance to stay on after your tours in their new spa-hotel.
Sauternes brings us rolling countryside, ancient chateaux still owned by the old French aristocracy and the most painstaking production of wine possible. A harvest that can stretch over two months helps develop the sugars, flavor and power of the awe-inspiring wines of this appellation.
We take you to the heart of this unique land, where we show you the workings of producers from the incomparable Chateau d'Yquem to extraordinary micro-vineyards such as Doisy-Dubroca or de Fargues.
We stay at another wonderful chateau-hotel, a 5 minute walk from the village of Sauternes itself, where our guests almost invariably wish they had more time to enjoy the peace and beauty of this lovely region. This is also one of the best parts of Bordeaux for cycling, and we can arrange anything from an afternoon ride to a cycling-oriented week or more for those feeling the urge to exercise!