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But what of the chateaux themselves? Surely dining at a chateau would the perfect way to appreciate their wine, so much better than a wine tasting? You're in luck as Bordeaux vineyards welcome visitors to join them for lunch or dinner, where the château chefs pair food with the wine at the properties where they are made. Here are a few of my favourite Bordeaux chateau dining rooms.
Jean-Michel Cazes owner of Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac was one of the first to open his doors to visitors and he also owns the tiny next-door vineyard, Chateau Cordeillan Bages. It is only 2ha but is dominated by an elegant 19th century 'Chartreuse' which he opened as a hotel in 1989; it became a Relais and Chateau in 1992 and confirmed its Michelin star this year under the new chef Julien Lefebvre. It is the perfect gastronomic backdrop for the wines of the region. The 'Café Lavinal’ brasserie in the nearby picturesque village of Bages was also renovated by Jean-Michel and is now the go-to place for locals and visitors looking for more casual dining. Many of the local wine makers and chateau owners are to be seen there, lunching on the terrace.
Chateau Leognan in the Graves, takes its name from the neighbouring village. Like many properties in the area, near the traditional hunting grounds of the Landes forest, this beautiful 18th chateau has an equestrian background. The Manège (riding school) is the name of the restaurant opened in the old stables when the property was renovated. Graves has the advantage of producing excellent white and as well as red wines, and the young chef Flora Mikula, creates an innovative and relaxed menu using regional products to compliment the white, red and rosé wines of the property.
On the boundary between Saint Emilion and Pomerol, Chateau La Dominique has joined forces with trendy Bordeaux Restaurant ‘La Brasserie Bordelais’ to offer a unique dining experience on the roof of their new Jean Nouvel designed cellar. Red glass pebbles resembling the open top of a fermenting vat of wine compete for your attention with the views over the famous names of Pomerol and neighbouring Château Cheval Blanc.
With its two towers, Chateau de Candale looks like a tiny fairy tale chateau nestled at the bottom of the slopes of Saint Emilion. Its size is deceptive as, alongside the cellars crafting the elegant wines of this Saint Emilion Grand Cru, is a restaurant with a beautiful terrace overlooking the vines that run down towards the Dordogne valley. The innovative cuisine using locally sourced produce is the perfect foil for a wide range of wines from the region as well as from the Chateau.
What would you serve with the famous Sweet Wines of Bordeaux? Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes has recently opened the doors of it's converted chapel. La Chapelle, run by the same team of experts as the Terrasse rouge, mentioned above, is the first restaurant to open at one of the prestigious 1855 classified properties of Bordeaux. The bright airy space is the perfect foil for local products and a full range of wines including an excellent selection of half bottles of Sweet Bordeaux.
Or perhaps you would like to try your chef skills while you're in the region? Chateau Soutard welcomes budding chefs into their kitchens for cooking classes to learn about the local dishes and how to match they with the wines of the property as you enjoy the fruits of your labours with a glass or two.
Bordeaux wines don't have to be savoured with a formal meal - Bordeaux can go casual too. Chateau de Cerons is an exquisite chateau that carries the name of this smallest Bordeaux appellation. Built in the 17th century in the traditional chartreuse style, stepping over the threshold of this historical monument is taking a step back in time. After tasting the wines you can linger in the park, the owners Caroline and Xavier Perromat will prepare a picnic basket for you to enjoy under the trees in front of the beautiful 12 century village church. If you are visiting in the winter don't worry you can still enjoy their hospitality in front of a roaring fire in the old Rotisserie of the chateau.
How about a nice cup of tea after all that wine tasting? Chateau Carbonneau will be happy to help. While Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere is busy making the wine, his wife Jacquie welcomes visitors to stay in the chateau guest rooms. Her culinary talents are put to good use with the seasonal opening of a The Glass House, named after the beautiful Napoleon III style glass conservatory. You can sample her home made cakes and scones along with tea or the locally sourced vegetarian, cheese or gourmet duck platters with one of the wines of the property - afternoon tea has never tasted so good.