My French Heaven

AUTHENTIC MOMENTS & JOIE DE VIVRE

Category: Châteaux & Vineyards

Chateau Lynch-Bages: the genuine care, vision and legacy of a very special family

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As I may have told you before (can’t remember), there are about 11 000 wineries (châteaux) in the Bordeaux wine region. As you may also have picked up, my dad was a wine merchant for 60 years. When asked, out of these 11 000, what his favorite wine is, his only answer is: Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac!

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Today’s story starts a few months back.

As I was driving through the Médoc wine region (the vineyards located North of Bordeaux city where the famous Latour and Margaux wineries are), I stopped for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants: le Lion d’Or. Lamb being a local specialty, I ordered some chops in a garlic and rosemary reduction. The chops came with fried potatoes. The dish and its side looked so pretty that I had to share a snapshot of it on Instagram (shot below). A few minutes passed and along with a few likes, a comment came up. The person wrote: “The Gold Lion, the best fried potatoes in the Medoc”. I was stunned! How could someone know in which restaurant I was just by looking at a plate of fries?! I answered the comment of course and understood that this anonymous reader was in fact the daughter of the owner of the legendary Château Lynch Bages. Her name is Kinou Cazes. She lives in NYC, but we agreed to meet the next time she’d come home to France.

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Fast forward to about a month ago when I took Mimi and Gabriella to visit Lynch Bages. They had a tour of the winery, we had lunch at the bistro and I posted a photo of it on Instagram. New comment: “It’s me, Kinou, I’m home. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” And that’s how I finally got to meet the fabulous Kinou in the flesh. She gave me a copy of the beautiful cookbook she’d just published and promised she’d visit me on her next trip to St Emilion…

I visited Lynch-Bages again last week and was able to spend some time with Marina this time (Kinou’s sister) and Tristane (Director of Sales and Marketing). Mr. Cazes joined us for dessert. He is the owner of Lynch Bages and he is Kinou and Marina’s dad. He owns 3 châteaux in Bordeaux (including Ormes de Pez pictured somewhere here as well) and several other properties including one in Provence where he produces his own olive oil.

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Mr. Cazes is an incredible person. A true renaissance man. And although he is over 70 now, his passion drives him, his family and his many employees alike. He is passionate about wine of course, but also about architecture and history and art in all its forms. His collection of paintings and objects from all around the world is on display around the châteaux and everywhere in the village of Bages. The African painter and sculptor, Barthélémy Toguo was having his artwork shown that very same evening at the château.

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Anyway, I’ve lost my train of thought… Oh yes: legendary château, amazing family, superb food from Chef Jean Luc Rocha and a very special hotel at Cordeillan Bages on the other side of the village. I know I am repeating myself, but you guys HAVE GOT to come visit. If you like great food and wine, this is definitely one place you cannot afford to miss!

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From Cap Ferret to the Dordogne – Mimi and Gabriella’s visit to My French Heaven

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As you all already know, my greatest pleasure in life is to share everything I love about France with my guests and my friends.

My dear friend Mimi (Chef Mimi Blog) came back to visit me last week and brought along one of her dearest friends, Gabriella.

All we did for a week was eat and drink and laugh. Oh we laughed so hard… When people ask me what I do for work, I just tell them I don’t actually work… They always look at me and smile (you know, the “oh poor thing” smile. The suckers think I’m kidding. The joke’s on them!

As always, I’ll share way too many pictures today. You know how hard it is for me to sort through them all. I should have written several posts about this, but… I’ll sort them by day with a few words between each gallery. I hope that works for you and makes it a bit easier to digest (“digest” get it?!)

Day 1: Saint Emilion and the Farmers’ Market. We visited my Butcher Michel to get some nice lean cuts for our lunch. I made green peppercorn steak and sautée potatoes to go with it. Michel loved to meet the ladies and Gabriella gave him a kiss on the cheek. He became as red as the piece of beef he had sold us… I gave the ladies a tour of St Emilion in the afternoon. We returned to the townhouse in the evening and had a light dinner with goose rillettes from the Dordogne on garlic bread, warm white asparagus with a walnut vinaigrette and Saint Felicien cheese on baguette.

Day 2: The coast (Cap Ferret and Arcachon). On our second day, we headed for the coast. We visited a traditional fishermen’s village and had seafood in a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arcachon Bay for lunch. We then spent the afternoon in Arcachon and climbed the highest dune in Europe (quite a workout). We spent the rest of the day having cocktails and delicious food on a terrace overlooking the ocean. The sunset that evening was breathtaking…

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Days 3, 4 and 5 in the Dordogne. From a medieval village high up on a hill called Domme, to the castles of Beynac, Comarque and Filolie, I showed Mimi and Gabriella all of my favorite landmarks. We stayed at a small B&B owned by a lovely Italian couple near Montfort (l’ombrière). A very special place and a lovely couple. We gorged on the best local foods including foie gras, tournedos Rossini loaded with black truffles and duck confit. I think duck confit was an absolute revelation for Gabriella. I failed to mention that this was Gabriella’s first time in France outside of Paris :0) Mimi and I almost killed her with food. 17 fine lunches and dinners in a row… But Gabriella’s a tough foodie! She was able to enjoy every bite of every meal… We also visited “Chateau des Milandes”, the home of musical legend Josephine Baker. Truly special…

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Day 6: The Sauternes and it’s legendary sweet wines. We visited Château Guiraud and had an afternoon walk around the medieval village of Saint Macaire.

Day 7 and 8: The Medoc wine region, wine tastings at Château Lynch Bages and one last medieval castle where Mimi found a baby falcon that had fallen into a well and rescued him from a certain death. I told you she’s a super woman! :0) For our last lunch together that Sunday, I made my grandmother’s famous free range olive chicken. I think that was the last draw for poor Gabriella, pictured here as she was having a food coma in my chair…

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The awesome power of greed and gluttony… and story telling

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It’s quite simple really, if you want the people you love to get together (come together), all you have to do is promise to give away presents and really good food. Loads of it. An orgy of food! You can cut through people’s ego and pride quite easily – “Oh, I don’t know if we can make it this year. We owe money to aunt Selma you know and we don’t get along with… – by adding a good old tale or story to the mix:

Example 1: Come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have a tree and presents for everyone + lots of alcohol + it’s baby Jesus birthday. You can’t miss it!

Example 2: I know we’ve been fighting a lot lately (your new wife being such a gold digger and all), but come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have turkey and pie and mashed potatoes + a game on TV + we have to give thanks for all those nice native Americans giving us food and shelter when we needed it

Example 3: Let’s have brunch on Monday for a change. Bring the kids. There’s loads of chocolate all over the garden + we have to celebrate the fact that Jesus did indeed come back and that Moses helped the Jewish people escape Egypt

So yes, as I said, the recipe is simple: if you want the people you love to get together despite all the traditional family fudes and usual bullshit, all you have to do is promise loads of free food and presents + nice story telling to create the opportunity. If that doesn’t work, say y’all have to do it for the kids and baby Jesus. Or better yet for grandma who may not be here next year to enjoy it… I think I should have called this post “The awesome power of guilt”…

It’s a little late to post about this, but we had quite a special Easter weekend this year. A marathon really. I had my dear friend Quitterie, her husband and two kids at my house on Saturday. We did the egg hunt in the garden and then took the kids to the ancient windmills on the hill. They loved it! I spent Sunday with some of my nephews in Poitiers and Monday was at my parents’ with another bunch of nephews. Witnessing the egg hunt never gets old…

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For those who are still wondering (and I understand how confusing it can be), let’s review the symbols:

  1. Why do we celebrate Easter? One, to celebrate the return of Spring after the cold, dark and wet months of Winter. Two, to celebrate the resurrection of baby Jesus (grown ass Jesus actually). Three, to celebrate the escape of the Jewish people from Egyptian tyranny.
  2. Why the eggs and bunnies? They are the symbol of growth and fertility. We got that from the pagan traditions (way before the religious stuff came along)
  3. Why the chocolate? In ancient times, people gave away eggs for Easter. Indeed, after the fast and the chicken not knowing they could afford not laying eggs for a few days, there was an abundance of said eggs. They were given away so they wouldn’t go bad. Now, about the chocolate: In the 19th century, chocolate makers in the North East of France and Germany thought it would be fun (and very lucrative indeed) to dip the eggs in chocolate and sell them for a profit. And so they did. Later, moulds were made and real eggs altogether disappeared from the equation.
  4. Why the winged bells? Traditionally, church bells aren’t rung during the fast and few days before Easter. People had to find a story to tell the kids who were wondering why this silence. The kids were told that the bells all flew to Rome to see the Pope and flew back on Easter morning carrying chocolate eggs.
  5. Why eat lamb? In the Jewish faith, the lamb represent God’s commandment to Moses to sacrifice one lamb per family and spread their blood on the doors of all Jewish homes. For the Christians, it represents the innocent being sacrificed, as well as the virtues of goodness and kindness and all that good stuff… In France, we serve the lamb with “flageolets”. The tradition comes from Germany I think…

I am telling you! Just promise food and tell a good story. You can get away with just about ANYTHING!

This year, my niece made a stew: Lamb shoulder (brazed) + tons of shallots (browned) + water and herbs. All this was placed in a cast iron pot and cooked on low heat for 7 hours! We didn’t serve the traditional beans with it, but truffled mashed potatoes instead. It hit the spot nicely! :0) I had lam chops and beans on Monday (I didn’t want to mess with tradition you understand…

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