WAAAAYYYY Back in November I went on one of the most exciting trips of my life to France based on the generosity of AXA Millesimes. I promised then that I would blog about it and now after several months I am going to fulfill that promise! The next few weeks will be short excerpts recalling this fantastic opportunity complete with tasting notes and way too much geeky wine information. Here is the first of many…
It took 31 hours of travel time for me from my house to the back door of Chateau Pichon-Longueville. The time consisted of Flights from SFO to Philadelphia,PA then to Munich, Germany. After that a quick flight to Toulouse there was a bus trip from Toulouse airport to the train station down town then a two hour train trip to Bordeaux. Once I had arrived at the Bordeaux train station it was another hour by taxi before I arrived at the Chateau. The taxi driver spoke little English and I apparently speak better French when exhausted so we had a pleasant chat about the area and when he learned I was here for wine he was happy to tell me that he and his family had worked in the vineyards their whole life. I asked what he was doing driving a taxi then and he replied it allowed more time for fishing. By the time we arrived at the Chateau I was exhausted beyond measure and it was 11pm in Bordeaux. As grueling as the travel was it was fantastic to get rid of any semblance of jet lag. I was greeted by the housekeeper who was kind enough to leave out a small endive salad, a slice of ham, and several slices of baguette for dinner. She also left a bottle of wine. Since it was already opened I felt it would be rude not to sample it however I thought that one entire bottle for a single tired guest was a bit optimistic on her part and a bit of a waste for the bottle. The room in the Chateau was like a fairy tale complete with the small meal laid out in a turret just off the room. It was the most relaxing shade of moss green with a fireplace, chandelier, and numerous antiques to match the period in which the Chateau was built. The bathroom was a periwinkle blue with claw foot tub complete with a large draping shower curtain. It truly was the bed room that you dream about as a little girl. After a quick shower I fell into a deep restorative sleep.
As I was the only one who had arrived that night, I had the Chateau to myself the next morning. While there were people working there they insisted that I eat breakfast in the formal dining room by myself. I’m not one to enjoy dining alone so I ate a quick traditionally French breakfast of a croissant, baguette slices, and yougert then went for a walk around the grounds. The back gardens of the Chateau were partially forested with a small pond which I could easily imagine must have been once used for small boats carrying ladies with parasols. I crossed over this pond by way of a small stone bridge to the back of the gardens. They were manicured just enough to make you believe you were in some fantastic forest but not so much that you realized you were in a formal gardens. The gardens were separated from the vineyards by a small split rail fence which I followed to find a route to the vineyards. I wandered through the vineyards for a while marveling at the small vines, some no more than a foot off the ground and so tightly spaced that it was difficult to walk down the rows. Turning back to the Chateau it seemed that Pichon-Longueville was a green island in the midst of a sea of brown dormant vines. On the eastern facing edge of the gardens there was a large Sycamore tree which I took advantage of to sit beneath, soak up the sun, and marvel at my good fortune. The breeze was soft and light, the sun warm, and the vineyards were spread out around the Chateau in undulating waves. There was a church steeple in the distance and the cross of Pichon-Loungueville closer to my right. It was a very relaxing moment. Soon though it was time to return to the Chateau to meet my fellow scholarship winners and begin the formal trip.
We gathered in the Study of the Chateau, surrounded by books, dark wood, and stuffed songbirds in glass boxes. There were four other students on the trip; Anne Krebiehl (Freelance Wine Writer), Ray O’Connor (Commercial Manager for the International Wine Challenge), Patrick Schmitt (Editor at the Drinks Business), and Nigel Sneyd (Winemaker for E&J Gallo). It was an eclectic and fascinating group and we all were able to meld our diverse backgrounds for an educational and exciting experience.