I'm sitting in my hotel in Bordeaux, exhausted and exhilarated by the last few days of events of Le Weekend des Grands Amateurs.
It's a weekend for wine lovers, not professionals. Today as I sat next to Chateau Branaire-Ducru co-owner, Patrick Maroteaux, at a delicious four course lunch, he told me, "It's very important for the winery owner to be open to wine lovers.". It's not surprising that Mr. Maroteaux was one of the founding organizers of the weekend, now in its fifth year.
The weekend started yesterday morning with a six and a half hour grand tasting on the river walkway near Chartrons, a historic wine merchant district. I have never tasted so many wines from exceptional houses all at once: Chateau Angelus, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Talbot, Chateau Lynch-Bages, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, more than 100 in all. I myself tasted 75 wines, the majority with notes. It took me four and a half hours with three breaks, and only bread & cheese to sustain me.
Of course I didn't drink all that wine. I and the vast majority of attendees made good use of the silver pedestal spitoons, which were emptied frequently. My favorites included: 04 Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere 04, 03 Chateau Dassault, 01 Chateau La Tour Figeac (all from St. Emillion ); 02 Chateau Beauregard, 01 Chateau Petit Village, and most of the 07s from Pomerol; 03 Chateau Brane-Catenac, 02 Chateau Dauzac (Margaux), 02 Chateau Lynch Bages & Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac).
Dinner last night was at a beautiful Sauternes wine estate, Chateau Guirard. Its drive is striking, lined with tall trees. One of the owners, Xavier Planty, greeted us warmly & cordially hosted another elaborate meal that lasted four hours. Today, the last event was a wine tour. I chose the Medoc, legendary red wine region on the left bank of the Gironde River.
In addition to lovely tastings & gracious winemakers, the tour was also higly enjoyable because it offered the chance to meet & mingle with an international assortment of wine lovers. On the bus back to Bordeaux, I befriended French, Swiss & British wine lovers. And that was one of the surprise benefits of the weekend: sharing it all with my fellow amateurs.