Saturday, March 31, 2012

Medoc & Margaux Wine Country - Chateau Giscours & Chateau Arsin

 Gardens, Wine & Chocolate!

Entrance to Chateau Giscours
The other day, 2 days before my mother was to leave, I asked her what she wanted to do for the day...what had we not done during her time here, that she wanted to do...Her comment - It would be nice to see some wine country.  Now around here..that's an easy thing to do...We are literally surrounded by some of the best wine area in France to our North, South and addition - Chateau Pape Clement sits smack in  the middle of our town - Pessac.  Because this was a last minute decision, I did a quick look on the Internet to see how we go about touring wineries here in France - imagining that it's different compared to my experiences in New York.

I quickly learned a couple thing to note:
1 - Wine touring season really doesn't begin until after April 1st or even the 15th
2 - Most vineyards (or Chateaux as they are called here) are often only open by appointment and one needs to call or email ahead to arrange a tour & tasting.

Chateau Giscours
The tourist office in Bordeaux recommended an organized bus tour or to head out to the Saint Emilion region as it's a little village and you can walk around yourself and most Chateaux have a branch store in that village.  Our problem, was I didn't really want to drive 45 min. East and just see one village.  I was more interested in seeing the countryside.

Grounds at Chateau Giscours
So the plan was to drive up to into the Medoc region -North of Bordeaux.  I hoped that even if the Chateaux's were not open, we could walk around  the gardens and grounds - some of which looked beautiful on the Internet.  My husband made a suggestion of Chateaux Giscours, as he was working on a committee with one of the owners. From their Internet site, it looked like we needed and appointment there too - but I hoped just to enjoy the grounds.

So off we went - Much to our delight, as we arrived at Chateau Giscours and parked, another small group of tourists like ourselves were coming out of a building.  They told us that tours were not available but the woman inside would do a tasting.  Sounded great to us.  Inside we were greeted by a delightful young women who offered us some of the Chateaux's wines.  She was extremely knowledgeable and we learned a lot not only about the different wines that are made at Chateau Giscours, but also about the French rating system (Grand cru classe, Cru Classe, Cru Bourgeois etc..), reputation of a vineyard, and the different appellation rules in France.  She even explained that Chateau Giscours had mapped out their soils to further understand their different grapes and tastes in each area.  This was probably one of the most informative and  interesting tastings I have done.  We were so appreciate for the discussion.  We were even lucky enough to taste a special wine that had been opened for one of the famous wine critics who had just visited earlier that week!

Tasting room at Chateau Giscours

One of the tasting rooms

Map of the different soils in the vineyards at Chateau Giscours

Another tasting room - Chateau Giscours

Looking out at the vineyards at Chateau Giscours
After our lovely tasting and wonderful conversation with Emilie at Chateau Giscours, we headed out and up toward the village of Margaux.  Margaux is another appellation area and home to many different vineyards or Chateaux in that area.  Just outside of the village, I pulled the car over to take the following photos.  It was one of those moments that you didn't know which view was the prettiest.  There are about 8 Chateaux located in the center of Margaux alone.  Stunning!

Another Chateau near Margaux

Standing outside of the village at Margaux 

Looking toward the village of Margaux

Another Chateau to our left

After enjoying and taking in the beautiful countryside, we headed into Margaux to find a restaurant for lunch.  At this lovely place, Restaurant La Savoie,  we enjoyed some wonderful fish and a heavenly dessert of Sabayon des fruits! (Warm fruit mixed in a light custard sauce)

So in perfect French style, as we were walking around the village after lunch, we came across this wonderful chocolate shop.  The chocolate was delicious, but the chocolate dress - Impressive!!  The dress had been created and worn at a Chocolate festival!

Chocolatier - Mademoiselle  de Margaux
The chocolate and wire dress!

As we left Margaux, we headed up North - further into the Medoc region - enjoying more of the countryside and marveling in the number of vineyards in this area.  Quite impressive!

As we drove a bit further North into  the village of Arsin, we came across Chateau Arsin which was also open for tasting.  Again, these grounds were great to walk around and so unique.  I loved the orange trees out front of the villa along with the statues and fountains.

Chateau Arsin

Orange trees in front of Chateau Arsin

Statue in the Jardin
Fountain in the Jardin of Chateau Arsin

This was a wonderful day!  Full of so many of my favorite things - great wine, beautiful scenery, lovely lunch and delicious chocolate!  I will remember this area and look forward to visiting some of the other Chateaux in the region - hopefully we will plan ahead next time and remember to make appointments!

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