Nestled between the Atlantic and the Gironde Estuary, sits the prestigious wine-producing region of the Médoc. Originating just south of the city of Bordeaux, the Médoc wine route weaves through the heart of some of the most fabulous wine appellations in the world: the Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, and Saint-Estéphe, not forgetting Listrac and Moulis.
Literally meaning “in the middle of waters” in Latin, the Médoc is a long peninsula boasting coastal vistas and a panorama of succulent vines. Home to all but one First Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Châteaux are one in a million while driving along the region’s Route de Médoc. Geologically blessed, the wine of the Médoc is magic and only a château visit does it justice.
Spread across several weekends, I slowly made my way through a few of the 8 appellations that make up this special region. Starting in the Haut-Médoc, I ventured to the Bordelaise countryside on an unseasonably warm Saturday several weeks ago. Finally, after looping roundabout after roundabout, we arrived to Château Lanessan.
Tucked away in the Haut-Médoc, the 19th century Château Lanessan is a hidden gem for lovers of Cab Sauv and…horses! The house itself is neo-classical in style with tudor-inspired influences, dating back to the late 1870s. Perched on the most elevated point of the estate, the Château overlooks a 20 acre English-style park, a natural dwelling for flourishing gardens and an imposing greenhouse.
Equestrian activities make up a substantial part of the Lanessan heritage. In 1880, stables shaped like a horseshoe were built on site. Once ultra-modern in their time, the stables now serve as a horse museum, receiving 8,000 international visitors annually.
A visit at Château Lanessan means enjoying the warm hospitality of director and winemaker, Paz Espejo. She guides you through the vines, cellars, and tasting room, where you stop to share a moment of bliss sipping two Cabernet blends from the portfolio.
The first wine was a 2007 cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot rightfully named, Château Lanessan. After 18 months in French oak and 9 years of bottle aging, the wine is soft and savory. With an inviting hint of casis on the palate and a lingering earthy finish it is a great buy for just 18 euros a bottle!
Our second wine sampling was from a bottle of 2007 Les Calèches de Lanessan, a prime example of what a good Bordeaux should be. Fresh and easy to drink, this wine is like silk on the tongue…a steal at 9 euros a bottle.
On a brisk but sunny day, I found myself in the “not to be missed” wine village of Margaux, snuggled in the southern corner of the Médoc. Although it was November and the leaves have all just about fallen from the vines, I can only imagine how beautiful Margaux must be in the peak of summer. Even now, long tree lined driveways concealed impressive chateaux and infinite vineyards cloaked the landscape in color.
I became acquainted with this highly reputable appellation during a delightful visit at Château Prieure-Lichine, Grand Cru Classé of 1855. Once operated by Benedictine monks and then seized during the French Revolution, this Château has a long yet interesting past. Today, the estate and its 190 acres of vineyards remain planted on a gravely plot of land, contributing to the elegance and complexity of their wines.
The ivy-covered exterior of the modest Château made no resemblance to the contemporary cellar room just inside its doors. Featuring 34 state-of-the-art tulip shaped, concrete tanks, the cellar room is one of the coolest I have seen. These new tanks make single-parcel vinification easy, allowing for the true terroir of each plot to be expressed. After vinification, the wine is moved to French oak barrels where it undergoes malolactic fermentation and at least 16 months of aging.
Our tasting took place in a crescent shaped room with views of the barrels on one side and the vineyards on the other. Poured before us were two wines from the Prieuré-Lichine portfolio. My favorite mouthful was of the 2011 Confidences de Prieuré-Lichine, a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Deep garnet color and bursting with aromas of black currant and spice, the wine was super inviting. On the palate, it is round, textured, and certainly ready to drink.
It was a lovely succession of several day trips to this highly regarded region. The Médoc seems like the place to be any time of year for wine lovers, but I cannot wait to make a return in the spring to experience the beginning of a new vintage.