When I was planning this years trip I knew I had to include a couple of tours at some of the big “name” Chateaux, including a Premier Grand Cru if I could. I have done the tour at Mouton Rothschild several times, and while it is excellent I wanted something different. Unfortunately both Chateau La Tour and Chateau Lafitte Rothschild require reservations many months in advance and I was out of luck, so back to Mouton it was.
The drive from Begadan to Paullic is a thirty minute fantasy ride through some of the most beautiful and famous wines of Bordeaux. You pass through St Estephe and see the bright yellow facade of chateau of Lafon Rochet, then turn the corner and pass by Chateau Cos D’Estournel just before you come onto Lafitte, Clerc Milon, Pontet Canet and Mouton on the north end of Pauillac. Mouton Rothschild is a grand property in the world of grandeur. The Chateau itself is not impressive the way Chateau Margaux, Chateau Palmer or Lafitte Rothschild are, but the grounds themselves are beautifully manicured and there is no mistaking you are now in Premier Grand Cru territory. Or as a friend says, “you can’t hide money.”
Our guide for this tour was a lovely young woman who knew her stuff inside and out and whom I remembered from a previous tour. She adores her employer and it showed in her love of the place, it’s history and it’s wines. The only drawback of the tour was that they assigned a couple from Georgia (“the country, not the state,” they informed us) to our group and they were shall we say, unfortunate. They are winemakers in Georgia and it seemed as if their purpose for the tour was industrial espionage. They asked every question about everything multiple times, which bored me to tears, annoyed our guide and made some in our group wish for the goulog. It was excruciating to listen to this guy ask the same questions over and over as if he was impressed by hearing himself repeat the questions. At the end of the tour we were squeezed into a tiny room and offered a taste of 2007 Mouton Rothschild. It was ok; and I’m being gracious. If you have ’07 Mouton in your cellar see if you can sell it and buy something great. The tour was finally over and at 40 euros a person I won’t go back. C’est tragique.
Time for lunch. We drove the short five minutes into the petit ville of Pauillac which adorns the bank of the Girande river and is definitively a working town. You would never know this is ground zero for the world of fine wine simply by driving through. The river itself is an unattractive muddy brown, and the town has nothing remarkable to recommend it. There are three or four good not great restaurants along the quai and we choose one to sit and talk about the disappointing tour at Mouton and the Georgians. I had moules (mussels) for the only time on the trip – they were absolutely delicious – washed down with something forgettable at a fraction of the price of the unfortunate ’07 Mouton. The one really redeeming thing about Pauillac is the Tourist Information center which is excellent, has always been staffed by very helpful people and is great at assisting visitors in understanding the complex region of the Medoc. After lunch we stopped there briefly and walked along the quai before heading to our next appointment at Chateau Pichon Longueville.
Piton Longueville (pictured above) is a fabulous chateau that is stunningly beautiful. It is probably the most photographed chateau in the Medoc because of the beautiful “pool” of water in front of it, the staircase leading to the doors and the spiral turrets that grace it’s sides. It could easily be in the Magic Kingdom! I chose to visit here because at the Bordeaux 1995 tasting we held at the Union League this had been the wine of the night. I was expecting an average tour and frankly after Mouton anything would have been great.
We again had a wonderful guide and this time – without ex-Soviets in our group – our tour went swiftly and beautifully. Seriously, after you’ve seen tanks, vats and barrels there is only so much more you need to see. What we really wanted to do was taste the wine, and at the end of this tour we tasted five of their wines! Five! Mouton – 1; Pichon – 5! Each was beautiful, including the 2009 which was one of the best wines we tasted during the entire trip, even competing with the two 1990’s we had the night before. This is one of the best wine tours I’ve ever done and I highly recommend it if you are in Pauillac.
All this wine tasting can really take it out of you so we drove from Pauillac down the magical D2 past more amazing chateau – Leoville Barton, Beycheville, Gloria, and many many more and finally arriving in Margaux where we would be spending the next several nights at one of my favorite places, the Relais de Margaux. It was a good tourist day, but we hadn’t collected any more Left Bank wines for our blind tasting and I am feeling a little anxious that we don’t have enough wines from the Cabernet dominated region for our blind tasting. We would have to wait until Friday to change that.