Well, I made it to Bordeaux! I arrived at the train station after a four hour train ride from Paris, and the lovely Madame Katrine was waiting for me. Katrine owns the operation Chateau Gaillard, which she currently has 4 vineyards operating in Saint Emilion Grand Cru. What is Grand Cru? There is a classification system in France (Old World) where the terroir (or land + Climate) is given a value based on the region. Saint Emilion is a favorable region for growing and producing great wines. Grand Cru literally translates to “great growth.” A wine that the French appellation system allows to have “Grand Cru” on their wine label, has to produce certain characteristics of notable quality. Basically, there are rules that the wine makers have to follow and still make great wine.
Oh. My. Bordeaux is so beautiful. It was a short drive from the train station to the Saint Emilion region where Gaillard is located. We pulled up at the main vineyard. I was shown to my room ~ or should I say…… house.
Yes….. so this entire farmhouse is my living “quarters.” I feel like a princess. Or at the very least I am truly living two weeks as Diane Lane did in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. My farmhouse has a main floor office, large kitchen plus dining room with farm table, four bedrooms, a cellar, and a barrel room- where the wine is aging. Laundry room, bathrooms, etc. It is very old~ probably built in the 18th century, but oh so incredibly charming. I get to look out across the vineyard from my bedroom window. We usually have dinner at the farm table around 9 pm in the evenings as a group (10 of us). Then everyone leaves to go home to their families and I am left with this large empty space on acres of grapevines. Surreal is a good word.
After touring my new home, I took a few minutes to settle in. Then Katrine took me into the town of Saint Emilion as we needed some bread for dinner and she purchased crossaints for the morning. We also purchased this delicious almond crumble cake slice with nougatine on top…I have never had this from a french patisserie, and it not only looked beautiful but pairs perfectly with coffee. She said is was special due to my arrival that we have fresh pastry in the morning. The town of Saint Emilion is one of those rare and unique places that pictures do not do justice for. The town is just layered with history, charm, and is absolutely adorable. I was a bit in awe. We then went to all 4 of the vineyard locations and I met the team of people who make this wine. Barely anyone knows any bit of english other than Katrine. This will be a full on immersion 🙂 Then around 9 pm, we met back at the main property (where my Chateau is) and we had a five course meal. This was so lovely as it was VERY traditional. Nothing but simplicity. Delicious peasant food.
I did not take photos because I really wanted to be in the moment and also it was my first time breaking bread with these people. I felt that it would be out of place and a bit rude. Sorry! Hopefully my description is enough ~ I left my camera and phones upstairs. We started with pate and cornichon pickles. This is also when baguette was torn and red wine was poured. We drank the Cabernet Franc from Katrine’s Petit Grave Vineyard and it was incredibly delicious. Then a garlic soup was served. It was quite unique with egg cooked into it…almost like a savory porage. Katrine told me her great grandmother had passed this recipe down and she had been eating it since she was little. Next, was a carrot salad and hot cauliflower gratin. This cauliflower gratin was layered with cheese, milk and herbs. So good! Then came roasted chicken leg.
Oh and we are not done. This is what I love about the french…they really love getting the full experience of a meal. I served myself incredibly small portions as obviously the courses kept coming. Next was the cheese course. At this point more baguette was served and more red wine poured. The conversation lingered over the cheese course and I was thinking we were done. Oh no we were not. Someone got up to make a pot of coffee. Then a warm apple tart as well as vanilla rice puddings were brought to the table. Dinner ended a little bit after 11 pm. Even though I had no idea what most of the conversation was…. I was delighted to just be an observer and listen to the beautiful french language and thoroughly enjoy my food! Tomorrow, I am harvesting merlot grapes from Petit Grave Vineyard. I have learned that only three grapes can be grown in Saint Emilion region of France. They are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Katrine told me that the vineyard tomorrow is using 20% Merlot and 80% Cabernet Franc. I am excited to see what my first day brings. I am still trying to get used to staying by myself in a large Chateau on acres of land… Such an adventure! PS ~ I am shooting pictures mostly with my i-phone. Trust me- I would love to use my Canon camera… if I was here to solely take pictures, obviously I would, but I am here to help these people make wine 🙂