My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Châteaux & Vineyards

When a grand castle becomes a home

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

My friend Corinne and her husband André are what we call in French “des amoureux des belles pierres”, which kind of translate like “lovers of beautiful stones”. But “belle pierres” means more than just pretty stones, it means an old home that has soul and a history. It is about “cachet” and class and history and authenticity. That’s it! Authenticity!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

And so Corinne and André bought a château near mine a few years back. It is called Château Latour Ségur. It is almost a thousand years old and is nested in a large park with magnificent old trees. Oaks, Lebanese cedars, linden trees… It has a large pond in the back, a rose garden up front and an amazing vegetable garden and orchard at the end of the grand alley. Then there are grand stables and barns and so on and so forth.

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As all great people, Corinne and André are animal lovers. There are many dogs running around the château. And chickens and geese and…

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A place like this, so large, lost in the trees at the end of a vineyard could look quite bleak and feel oppressive. It takes a lot of love and talent to make it all look as colorful and bright and full of life as it is. These people are madly in love with their home and they have renovated it with so much care and taste.

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Many wealthy people from all over the world buy their dream home in France. They invest in a grand castle and strip it bare. What they’ll typically do is a complete overhaul rather than careful renovation. They end up stripping the soul away. They don’t understand that these stones have memories. They don’t get that old sometimes is SEXY. They do a complete face lift when all the place really needs it a good glass of wine a pretty scarf and a night out with the girls… You see, I, for one, like a woman with wrinkles. It tells me she’s laughed a lot and i’ll probably have a blast with her around…

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At Latour Ségur you will find beautiful accommodations and a state of the art spa. This place is truly magical and the couple who brought it back to life are very special indeed!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Oh! And André, although he’s pent most of his adult life in the States, is from Belgium! Needless to say he always has the best beer in the fridge and makes “French” fries like noone else!!!

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Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine… and mine!

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This wine, together with Petrus and Romanée Conti is considered the very best money (lots of it) can buy.  The name? Château d’Yquem!

My Dad, who was a Wine Merchant (Négociant) for almost 60 years, has had the chance to taste the very best wines throughout his career. Then one day, he went to a dinner party at our friend’s Clara and said she had served the very best wine he had ever had. You guessed it,  it was a Château d’Yquem. The vintage? 1893! Clara’s husband has been a wine collector his whole life and his cellar is a masterpiece.

Sauternes

Château d’Yquem, officially founded in late 1593 is a “Sauternes”. The Sauternes appellation, located just South of Bordeaux, produces dessert wines. It does so naturally (nothing has to be added to raise the sugar levels). They basically harvest extremely late when the fruit is rotten (noble rot). The sugar concentration then is such that they can transform some of the sugar into alcohol and have enough left to keep the wine tasting very sweet. Sauternes wines have a strong apricot, pear and peach note. Their color is on the darker side of fresh honey.

Yquem was first owned in the middle ages by the King of England (also Duke of Aquitaine). It then went to the Sauvage family and the Lur Saluces family. It was sold to the LVMH group (Vuitton, Dior…) in the late 1990s. The owner, Bernard Arnaud hosted his daughter’s wedding there.

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Dessert wines like these are best served chilled with foie gras, Roquefort cheese and dark chocolate desserts. It is also perfect with dishes that include pears, apricots or peaches… If the wine isn’t cold enough, all you’ll be able to focus on is the sweetness of it. Ever tried warm coke? (Coca Cola I mean!).

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!

Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of Yquem, and although I can’t afford it, it is my favorite wine too! But if, like me, you love dessert wines in general and Sauternes in particular, I suggest you find some  Château Guiraud. The property neighbors Yquem and it is a very special wine indeed. And much much cheaper too ;0)

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!

Saiternes

The pictures here are of Yquem of course, but also of the Sauternes area. Truly one of the most beautiful and bucolic parts of the Bordeaux wine region…

Sauternes

I have beds, I have breakfast and… I have the wine!

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With close to 11000 châteaux and more than 20000 wines around the B&B, you could stay with me for years and never have the same wine for dinner twice :0) Saint-Emilion alone is the size of Burgundy!

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So, as I was saying, I have rooms, and breakfast is waiting for you by the pool! When are you coming to visit?

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What I love about this part of the country is how the old and the new work so well together. There are fantastic new restaurants in the vineyard and great shopping everywhere, but also properties that have been making wine for over 2000 years… There are beautiful people and gorgeous Farmers’ markets, there are…

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OK, I’ll give you a few days to figure out your travel arrangements!

But seriously, I am so looking forward to welcoming you here someday. My work is my passion and my passion, well, is my work. There is nothing that I love more than sharing my love for Bordeaux with fellow bloggers and foodies who I know will appreciate every bit of it at least as much as I do!

See you soon!

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Of passion, horses and positive change

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I am trying to read more blogs these days. It is such a motivating and inspiring thing to do. There is just so much passion, talent and willingness to share positive vibes in this otherwise gloomy, stupid and violent world…

A French “philosopher” (it always blows my mind that people would have the nerve to call themselves philosophers these days) was asked recently by a journalist: “is there more evil than good in this world? Are people more evil than good?” To which that asshole replied that there was indeed more evil than good. That it was an undeniable fact.

I couldn’t disagree more! I am no philosopher, so I don’t even know if I am entitled to give my opinion on the matter. I will anyway:

The reason why one might think there is more evil than good, is A. because we tend to pay more attention to what shocks us and B. because the media plays on A. and loves to feed us garbage. So yes, we tend to watch the Kardashians on TV; yes we like a good plane crash, but that’s only because of the shock value these provide. I think that, given the choice, any one of us would rather witness the birth of a child, see our favorite sports team win the game or watch the great first audition of a super talented kid on the X factor. So yes, Kim Kardashian’s ineptitudes speak to the animal in me, but watching my team win speaks to the potential hero. One makes me more of an animal, the other makes me more human. One plays to my fears and stupidity, the other to my power…

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I think we all yearn to be inspired. We all want to meet and associate with people who make us feel better and stronger. We want to be passionate and involved. We want to matter. People are good by nature. I am absolutely convinced of the fact that there is more good than evil in us. We just need to pay more attention to whatever or whoever shows it and champions it.

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I recently met such a champion:

As I was driving through the hills of Pomerol the other day, I saw two men plowing a field of vines with their horses. I had seen them before and was convinced it was a new marketing stunt that the Rothchilds, Moueix or other had decided to pull. But I love horses and was very interested in talking to these guys. Maybe there was more to it than just business strategy. So I parked Charlotte on the side of the road, walked towards the younger of the two men and introduced myself. The fellow was still about three rows away from me. As I got closer, I realized that I knew him. His name is Sebastien and we used to ride horses and go to school together some 30 years ago. I stopped ridding after I started college, but he continued competing. His love for horses had never left him and when it came time for him to earn a proper living, he decided to stick with his passion. Nobody can make a decent living out of horses though. People always say that if you want to survive in the horse business, you need to marry well or win the lottery or both. So Sebastien put his thinking cap on and decided he would offer his services to the local châteaux as a freelance horseman, using his gorgeous beasts to plow the fields. He is now making a good living off of this and spends his days doing what he loves, with his animals, in the fresh air throughout the Bordeaux vineyard where he was born… What an inspiration!

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Knowing the guy, I allowed myself to ask the real question: is it just another marketing stunt or is there an actual benefit to using horses in the vineyard. Sebastien could not deny the PR aspect, but he also explained that more and more châteaux owners saw the real benefits of using horses instead of tractors to tend their vines. A man, a horse and a small plow are much more precise that a tractor or other more modern tools. Less vibrations are sent towards the roots and there is no soil compaction as they go through the vineyard. This makes it a perfect solution to work around young plants and very old ones alike. So, if horses are not about to replace tractors in St Emilion, Pomerol or the Medoc, they are a new way to provide genuine care for our money makers (the vines) and our environment. It also makes Sebastien and the tourists very happy indeed. Win, win, win!

And here is to another post that was supposed to be two sentences long and ends up reading like war and peace written by a monkey… Sorry!

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