Wine Consumer


My First Winery Experience: A Millennial in Bordeaux

Wine Consumer Magazine, Natalie Mark

I was a lover of wine for more than 10 years before visiting a winery for the first time. That's a long time to wait, especially for someone who lives in California. My friends told me to just visit the nearest winery, but what I waited for was an unforgettable wine experience... Here is my story.

It begins at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where I happened to meet a lovely man, Andy Jones, a wine maker from Napa Valley. I told him about my love for wine and how I had never been to a winery or wine tasting. He was stunned. I was 29 with a pure love for the taste of wine and I wanted to learn more. We sat together and talked about wine and my plans; he loved and supported my idea to travel to a beautiful, special wine region for my first time, and not to settle for the closest place.

As chance would have it, my work as a Fashion Stylist would take me to Europe for Men’s Fashion Week, which concludes in Paris. It was the perfect opportunity to go to Bordeaux. Here's some advice I got from Andy about Bordeaux:

"Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte has a pretty solid reputation and history. I work with a Frenchman who told me that Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte has "'a pretty 'bitchin' hotel on property,'" so that could be worth checking out...two of his favorite places to eat are La Toupina, and L'entrecote."

I caught a train from Paris to Bordeaux and enjoyed the lovely countryside views. My Australian friend, Bradley Benson, met me in Bordeaux for the two-day journey. He is living in France for a year, so it was perfect timing to share this visit with a great friend.

First stop: Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. The place was paradise (owned by Rothschild in Pauillac, Bordeaux).

I booked my first wine tasting and tour that afternoon at the Chateau. The wines we would taste were the Smith Haut Lafitte White and the Smith Haut Lafitte Red. The tour consisted of learning about barrel making, wine storage, and long-term aging.

Then to the fun part...MY FIRST wine tasting!

Steps I learned for tasting wine:

1. Tilt the glass to examine the residue of the wine. Look at the color as well.

2. Sniff the wine to smell the aromas (fruity, smoky, etc)

3. Swirl the glass of wine in your hand to allow oxygen from the air into the wine

4. Sniff the wine again – the aroma of the wine should now be stronger and more precise

5. Sip and taste and determine for yourself how you feel about the wine.

A video posted by Plum Mark (@plumgoblet) on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:18pm PDT

The white wine was very fresh with a citrusy and a slightly buttery taste. Perfect. The red was smoky with a cherry flavor, which was delightful!

This made me want to taste more!

So the next day off we rode our French bicycles to a couple more wineries for one more tour and tastings.It was a scorching hot day, the excitement of more wine tasting and tours kept me going.

Stop 1: Chateau Haut-Bailly

They only grew red wine on this vineyard. Our lovely tour guide taught me something I thought was really cool about the way that they grow their grapes. At the end of each row of vines, there is a rose bush. If the rose bush is healthy, the crop should be good. However, if the rose bush isn’t healthy, then this is a good indication that the row of vines needs to be given some attention. The reason for this is that the rose bush is more susceptible to plant diseases than the grape vines. In this way, the rose bush acts like the canary in a mineshaft (and as the saviour of wine, we have another reason to like the roses!).

When it came time for the wine tasting, the wine was delicious. Not so surprisingly, I preferred the older wine. (Evidently I have expensive taste!)

Then off to the next Chateau...feeling free but also isolated in wine country was one of the best feelings ever.

Stop 2: Chateau La Louviere:

A young college boy gave us five wine tastings here: a selection of red and white wines. These wines had more affordable price points – only about 25 Euros per bottle. My favorite was the white wine with a beautiful sweet buttery taste, which was a perfect selection for this super hot day.

We then went back to Chateau Smith Haut La Fitte to have an afternoon swim and enjoy a bottle of white wine we had bought from Chateau La Louviere.

Later that night we headed into the old town of Bordeaux, which was so nice to see and explore. We ate a tasty meal and enjoyed it with a divine bottle of 2006 Margaux.

After only 2 days in Bordeaux my first wine journey was over. Back to Paris and then LA, but I am looking forward to learning more at my next wine country visit.

Now that I know the wine tasting technique and have a great idea of how wine is grown and stored, next time I want to delve more into the intricate tastes of wine.

Keep following @plumgoblet to learn more with me on my wine adventures.