My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Châteaux & Vineyards

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…

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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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Mimi & Emma in My French Heaven

You will please excuse me for this mess of a post. I have so much to share here that I don’t even know where to begin. Too many pictures too, but I didn’t have the heart to split the post…

Mimi from Chef Mimi Blog came to spend a short holiday in My French Heaven with her lovely daughter Emma. We only had 4 days together so I wanted to design the perfect itinerary for them. Mimi had purchased these Foodie Days with me as a Christmas present for herself. So much to see, so much to taste and so much to share… Four farmers’ markets and 8 meals together. We focused on cheese and seafood as they are Emma’s favorites.

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I could write on and on about Mimi and Emma and the kind of women they are. I’ll just say that they are both gorgeous and mad about life, living each moment to the fullest. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as in love with good food as Mimi is. What an absolute joy to watch her eat the dishes we had prepared together.

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On Thursday we first stopped at my butcher’s shop to get the fresh foie gras I had ordered. We’d prepare a foie gras and Armagnac terrine we would enjoy on Sunday evening. We then went to the market in St André de Cubzac. There we picked up some delicious strawberries and wild sea bass that we cooked in a salt cocoon for lunch. The fish was served with warm potatoes and an olive oil vinaigrette made with capers, pine nuts and dill. That evening we walked through the vineyard to my favorite restaurant and had drinks on the terrace as we watched the sun set.

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On Friday we went to the market in my hometown and got loads of cheese from Pierre as well as super fresh langoustines and a live lobster we would boil for Saturday lunch. We also bought some calamari that we would cook in Cognac and tomato sauce for that evening. We went back to the townhouse for lunch and made a salad with mixed greens, the sea bass left over from the day before, wisteria flowers and a raspberry vinaigrette. That afternoon, we had a tour of the monolitic church in St Emilion and then a private tour and wine tasting at a friend’s château nearby.

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Market again on Saturday morning, but this time in Ste Foy La Grande. Ste Foy is located a little further East and the feel and contents of its market are quite different. We went home and gorged ourselves on langoustines and home made mayo. In the afternoon, I took the lovely ladies to visit the “La Sauve Majeure” abbey and then Le Château de La Brède, where writer Montesquieu lived. Montesquieu wrote L’Esprit des Lois (the spirit of laws) which inspired the French revolution. We ended the afternoon walking though downtown Bordeaux. Our lobster was on the menu that evening. I made it broiled with a garlic, parsley and walnut butter. DELICIOUS!

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Finally on Sunday, we celebrated both Mimi’s birthday and mine by drinking good wines and eating loads of cheese and cakes from my favorite pastry shop in town. We had seafood bouchées à la reine for lunch and duck confit and sauté potatoes with ceps for dinner. We also went to the brocante that afternoon where Mimi bought a stunning vintage lace table cloth and I finally found the seafood silverware I had been looking for for months…

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I can’t tell you how much fun this has all been and I cannot wait for my dear Mimi to come back. Now we have to explore all the meat options…

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Note: I will share all of the recipes for the dishes I mentionned later this month. This post is already way too long…

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