Château de Sales is the largest château in the region of Pomerol. The building was constructed in the 16th century and survived the French Revolution.
Bruno de Lambert
Bruno de Lambert, shown here in the courtyard of the estate that has been in his family for five centuries, makes wines that are so light and delicate, they are reminiscent of wine from Burgundy in style. While the Chateau may be old and historic, Bruno is a forward-thinking businessman and fiercely independent wine maker. Like so many others in the region, he refuses to compromise his style of winemaking to pander to the taste of certain well known critics (Robert Parker is the Voldemort of the Right Bank) "I make wines that are designed to give me great pleasure. They are not made to please wine critics," he says.
Temperature control panel
The tanks at Château de Sales are very old, but temperature control mechanisms installed in the tanks have given Bruno better control of the winemaking process. This panel monitors and regulates the temperatures of the liquid in the cement fermentation tanks, ensuring that fermentation is slow and steady.
Merlot on the vine
Just weeks before harvest, bunches on the vine are looking quite ripe. In Bordeaux, growers must comply with yield restrictions in order to label their wines with the name of the appellation (fewer bunches mean more concentrated juice).
Château Cheval Blanc, Saint Emilion
Château Cheval Blanc has long enjoyed the top distinction of Premiers grands crus classés A in Saint Emilion (until a few weeks ago there was just one other producer in the category: Château Ausone). This ranking has propelled it to luxury status on the world market, and Cheval Blanc's posh showroom cellar is a testament to the château's success. In the center is a glass encased stairway, leading to the cellar below.
Château Cheval Blanc's Technical Director (which is synonymous with wine maker) Pierre-Olivier Clouet describes how the unique combination of clay, gravel, and sand in the vineyards allows him to produce atypical wines that are up to 60% cabernet franc, in addition to merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The high ratio of cab franc gives the wines superior aging potential, an important factor in the high-end wine market.
At Château Haut-Goujon in Lalande de Pomerol, winemaker Michaël Garde blends merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec to create wines that are light on the tongue and bursting with juicy fresh berries, which are sold under the château's family label.
Michaël ws very excited to bring out these hand-lettered bottles containing his experimental wines, including a 100% malbec (which is highly unusual in the area). These experiments satisfy his curiosity, but they can cause friction with his siblings in the family business. "Taking a risk can cause worry [for his siblings], but wine is interesting to me, and when I feel inspired to try something different, to me it's worth the risk of one barrel here, one barrel there," he told us.
Merlot vineyard at Château Gaby, Fronsac
The relatively flat vineyard and proximity to the sand and clay-based soil near bank of the Gironde River make Fronsac and its sub-region, Canon-Fronsac, makes this the perfect location for growing merlot. At Château Gaby, there are also smaller plots of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc planted on more elevated limestone plateaus .
Château Gaby's Damien Landouar is a soft-spoken young winemaker with a deep commitment to his grapes. He feels strongly that organic growing is best for the environment and overall success for wines in Fronsac, and uses some nontraditional—and labor intensive—tactics to combat problems like mold and rot. His devotion to the grapes on the vine boarders on obsession. "Daily maintenance makes you closer to the vines. I walk through the vineyards each day so that I am in tune with them," he says.
The macarons of Saint-Emilion
Saint-Emilion is famous for a unique style of macaron made only with bitter and sweet blanched almonds and sugar. There are many shops in town that make these treats, but the locals insist that the best come from La Fabrique de Macarons, who still uses the original recipe created by nuns in 1620.
Canelé de Bordeaux
There was also an abundance of a more well-known regional sweet; crispy, custard-like canelé de Bordeaux. Each of the pastry shops in Saint-Emilion had the mahogany delicacy on display.
Château de la Rivière, Fronsac
The grand Château de la Rivière sits high atop a steep, vine covered hill, and is the largest estate in Fronsac. The site was occupied by Charlemagne in the year 769, and has been called home by many storied families through the generations.
The château's current owner, James Grégoire, fell in love with the site when he first visited with his father at the age of 18. He finally realized his dream of owning the château in 2003.
The company's sales manager, Philippe Larche, unlocks the big wooden door to the wine caves, with flashlight in hand.
Inside the cellar
The tunnels of the underground cellars extend endlessly into the darkness, without a guide you'd be a goner for sure. All along the passageways, bottles from old vintages are neatly stacked on the ground. The tunnels expand for approximately 50 acres underneath the property, with 19 acres being used for wine storage. During the German occupation of France, the cellar was disguised as a shrine to protect the wines within.
Destination dining in Saint-Emilion
Food lovers travel great distances to delight in the culinary stylings of star chef Philippe Etchebest at the glamorous Hostellerie de Plaisance. This dish was one of the standouts: seabream with mushrooms and pork belly, blanketed by a veil of truffle that dissolved in the celeriac sauce that was poured tableside.
Creative cuisine, classic flavors
Another artful dish from Chef Etchebest: A domed ravioli of coiled spaghetti, filled with chopped veal sweetbreads and served in an unbelievably delicious jus and truffle emulsion.
Traditional duck and foie gras terrine
A typical meal in Bordeaux is bound to begin with a country terrine, followed by some more meat, usually beef, duck, or lamb. All of these dishes pair deliciously with the red wines of the region.
Visiting the Darnajou barrique factory
A barrel tasting of the same juice aged in a variety of different new oak barrels reveals that small differences in the source of the wood or levels of toast have a huge impact on the resulting the flavor of the wines contained within.
In this photo taken at the Darnajou barrique factory in Lalande-de-Pomerol, staves that have been left outside to weather begin to form a 225-liter barrique.
Toasting the barrique
Barrel toasting imparts flavor on the finished wine by changing the chemical compounds in the wood, caramelizing the sugars, and adding smoky flavors and aromas. Winemakers select the precise level of toast that they desire for their wines when placing their orders with the cooperage.
Saint-Emilion, from the air
Looking at Saint Emilion from above gives you a better sense of how vitally important the wine industry is to the people of the region. With over 1000 estates producing grapes on the Right Bank, it seems like every square foot is under vine.
Clos Dubreuil in Saint-Emilion embodies the new attitude of the next generation of Bordeaux wine makers, with owner Benoit Trocard helping to lead that charge. Coming from a long line of winemakers spanning back for generations, winemaking is in his blood, and innovation is his true passion. Benoit is currently experimenting with Chardonnay, a grape that is not permitted to be labeled AOC in Saint-Emilion, and he's also created a beautiful claret (a deep red rose wine that was popular before in Bordeaux before the 18th Century).
He is very active in Asso Bordeaux Oxygène, an association of young winemakers dedicated to promoting the region to a new generation of wine drinkers.
Not your great grandpa's château
Clos Dubreuil, a no-frills operation in the back of the winemaker's residence, stands in stark contrast with the grand old châteaux. Within these humble digs, Benoit produces unusual, and delicious wines. His cellar reflects his philosophy: "I make wine to please myself, and if other people like it, great".
The town of Saint Emilion
With so many estates, it's staggering to learn that the population of Saint Emilion is under 3,000 people. It's a place where residents know each other and there is a strong sense of tradition and community.
Parade of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion
Just before harvest each year, the community gathers for two days of traditional festivities surrounding the The Jurade, a meeting of the council of wine makers and industry professionals who are dedicated to promoting the wines of Saint-Emilion.
Presenting The Jurade
Each year, new members are selected to serve the wine community as members of The Jurade. The festivities culminate with an assembly at the top of the tower where the members' names are announced.
The first night of the festivities, the locals gather with the members of The Jurade to remember the history of the region. The presentation culminates with breathtaking fireworks.