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Bordeaux is big; one weekend is just not going to be enough to cover everything there is to see and do. Here are two different Bordeaux wine weekend getaway ideas. You could even string them together if you can stay a while longer!
The right bank
Choose between the grandeur of Château Soutard or the more relaxed Château Franc Mayne. Both are working vineyards offering chateau hospitality. Tour the vineyards on arrival, where you can explore the terroir of the appellation from their very own underground limestone caves. They will both be happy to feed you too. At Château Soutard you can even take a cooking class testing which dishes pair best with the chateau wines.
Or head to Château de Candale to dine amongst the vines at the foothills of the south facing slopes of this tiny boutique winery. Call in on the way to the ultra modern Château la Croizille to enjoy a glass of wine on their terrace overlooking the spectacular 'Combes' or arena of vines that makes up the best terroir of the property.
On your second day I suggest venturing a little further afield. The vineyard of Saint-Emilion is surrounded by four satellite appellations: Saint Georges, Lussac, Puisseguin and Montagne that are often overlooked. The countryside here is wonderful and the smaller size of the family vineyards means you have chateaux and old homes everywhere you look.
Before leaving Saint-Emilion, treat the historians in your group to a visit to Château Villemaurine. It is the perfect place to learn about the fascinating history of the town. The 'son et lumiere' in the cellars presents the origins of the region and its wines in a very atmospheric way, and of course there is a tasting to finish off. Just remember to wrap up warm, it's chilly in the cellars.
Heading out from Saint-Emilion, stop at Château Haut-Sarpe. More than a chateau, this is a hamlet in a 3-hectare park around the elegant chateau, inspired by the Petit Trianon in Versailles. From the chateau terrace, you will see the view across the neighbouring appellations of Montagne and Lussac. Stroll through the park with its century old trees, a refuge for deer and other animals and discover the picturesque hamlet with ancient lodgings for pilgrims on their way to St Jacques de Compostelle and a unique restored 18th century windmill. You could even stay over in one of the guesthouses here for your second night.
Continue on across over the Barbanne brook, the boundary between Saint-Emilion and its satellites, drive through Puisseguin and onto Lussac where several country bistros will be happy to serve you a light lunch. Then on to the beautifully restored Château La Rose Perriere.
Owned by a cooperage, this is the perfect place to learn all about the skill of barrel making and how the barrels influence the wine, as you taste the different wines from the vineyard. You can also learn about blending and make your very own blend from the wines produced at the property
Stay overnight here in one of the beautiful restored bedrooms. In one bathroom you van soak up the views across the vines from your bathtub!
You can't leave this region without spending some time in the medieval village of Saint-Emilion so on your last day head back towards the town via Château de Pressac. This spectacular renaissance property is perched high on the escarpment over looking the Dordogne valley, one of the best views of the region. The history of the property dates back to the middle Ages, the surrender of the English after Battle of Castillon, ending the Hundred Years War was signed here in 1453. As you look over the vines running down the terraced slopes to the valley, it's easy to see why the chateau received the Best of Wine Tourism in “Architecture and Landscapes”.
Once in Saint-Emilion, you will be kept busy with wine shops selling wines from across Bordeaux, a choice of restaurants from relaxed bistros to Michelin starred fine dining and Europe's largest monolithical church. A lunch and afternoon in the medieval city will be the perfect end to a well-spent weekend.
The second option is a weekend in the majestic Médoc. Some of the most famous vineyards of the word are in the Médoc; grand wines from grand chateaux and estates. But not only famous ones, this weekend will allow to discover a range of wine styles, prices and experiences from this famous region.
Leaving Bordeaux head north up this Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Estuary. Your first stop should be at Château Saint Ahon. The chateau won “ Discovery and Innovation Gold Best of Wine Tourism” for their family friendly, self-guided walk through the vineyard, park and gardens. You can even bring a picnic to enjoy in the park.
Continue by driving up 'la route des châteaux', the D2. It is like driving through a restaurant wine list as you pass by all the famous names. Stop in Margaux at Château Marquis de Terme. Here your guide will take you through the vines of the property on a bike to understand the different terroir and grape varieties that make up the complexity of the wines of the region.
Continue north up the D2 until you reach the hamlet of Bages just on the outskirts of Pauillac. This will be your home for the weekend, at Relais et Château Cordeillan Bages. I hope all that outdoor activity this afternoon worked up an appetite because here, chef Julien Lefebvre, one star Michelin, will treat you to a gastronomic experience accompanied by a choice of wines from the 1500 hidden away in the chateau cellar.
The next morning return a little way south and visit the tiny village of Saint-Julien. Over 87% of this small appellation is classified, giving wines that are at once prestigious and homogenous, known for their elegance and power. Château Gruaud Larose is one of these classified growths, and a visit here will give you a complete vision of the appellation. From high up in their tower, you can see not only the whole of Saint-Julien but also the neighbouring appellations and across the Estuary to Blaye. Once back at ground level, join a cooking class to learn about food and wine matching and finish by tasting the fruits of your labours with wines of the property.
On your way back to your chateau hotel call in at Château Lanessan, where can discover the estate in a horse drawn carriage and visit the equestrian museum.
On your last day before returning to Bordeaux, you could rent a bike to discover the vineyards of Pauillac and the quaint waterside town with its cafés and restaurants.
Make your way slowly back to Bordeaux via the D1, a little further west. This route will take you through the lesser-known appellations of Listrac and Moulis. Stop off for a last visit and wine tasting at Château du Taillan. This vineyard is owned by five sisters; the fifth generation of the family. The beautiful 18th century chateau is a classified history monument as are the 16th century cellars. Finish with a tasting and be sure to include their dry white wine - a rarity in the Medoc. You can even stop for a picnic in the park, the perfect conclusion to another hedonistic weekend in the vineyards of Bordeaux.
By Wendy Narby