Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tour du Vin de France Part 2 by Shannon

Tour/Tasting/Overnight Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron
Heading south from Cos d’Estournel we pass through the town of Pauillac, which looks like a miniature Bordeaux. Sitting on the Gironde river it is easily recognizable as a port city, with lots of boats and docks to our left. To our right is a pleasant and typical French array of cafes and shops. The day had turned out to be crisp and sunny, despite earlier showers, and as we approached Pichon everything looked bright and green around us.

Chateau Pichon Longueville is an intimidating place. When we pulled in we were almost scared to make noise, and I remember being embarrassed by the all the rucus our rented mini fiat was making on the gravel pavement! The place literally demands reverence, from its meticulously manicured lawns and ponds, to the stoic nature of the chateau itself. Probably one of the most well known chateau of the left bank, Pichon has an interesting history. For more than 250 years the property was managed by the same family, and was part of a larger parcel of land. In 1850 the Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville decided to split his estate between his five children, leaving his three daughters three fifths of the land and his sons two fifths. This devision was decisive and complete, leaving Chateau Pichon Baron forever split from its sister chateau directly across the street, Chateau Comtesse de Lalande. (Which has a very similar appearance.)

A low and modern building sits to the right of the chateau, and this is where our tour and tasting were conducted. We were again amazed at the size of the undertaking happening before us, and were shocked to realize that most of this building and the winemaking process happens underground. Part of the barrel room is directly underneath the pond that sits in front of the chateau, and there are small windows installed in the ceiling where you can look up through the pond! After our tour we were escorted to the tasting room. Here are the wines we tried through and my notes:

Les Tourelles de Longueville 2008: 60%Merlot, 30%Cabernet, 10%Cab Franc. An elegantly styled merlot. Characteristicly complex, smooth and present tannins. Somewhat short/abrubt finish.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2008: 31%Cabernet, 29%Merlot. Again our guide refers to 2008 as a ‘miraculous’ vintage for Bordeaux, and for the Pichon. The grapes fought botrytis, spring was very difficult, but the autumn proved perfect and saved the entire vintage. Big, chewy tannins. Quite dry with a lot of grip. Needs plenty of time, but we could tell this would be a substantial wine.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2004: 60%Cabernet, 35%Merlot,5%Cab Franc. Earth and leather on the nose. Much softer than the 2008, oak and red fruits on the palate. This wine was our favorite of the tasting.

After the tasting we were led into the Chateau itself and given a tour. Renovations had been done through out the 60’s and 70’s, and the interior just exuded old world luxury. The walls and carpet are a light blue, the windows are adorned in plush drapery, heavy wooden furniture and brass light fixtures are present in every room. The ‘library’ was full of old reference books, portraits of men hung on the walls, and there was a multitude of glass encased stuffed birds on all of the shelves. This room certainly gave the whole place a feeling of masculinity. I noticed a feminine touch as well, with an old piano positioned in a music room in which hung a beautiful portrait of a young lady playing the very same piano. The bedrooms were up a spiral flight of stairs. Each one had its one personality, and since my mom was a bit of a scaredy-cat we decided to all share the largest room, which was in the front of the house and looked out towards the river. After giving us a tour our guide left us with the key to the front door, and that was it! We were the princesses of our castle for the night. We shared wild ideas about the history of the place, and what people had lived and been there before us. My sister and I especially loved leaning out the front windows and waving a 'Miss America' wave whenever a tour bus would pull over to take pictures. We ended up being a little afraid of being left alone by ourselves, and camped out in our room for the rest of the night, sharing a bottle of rose.

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