Welcome to WineBoy! Not long ago, I was walking down the cobble-stone streets of Saint-Émilion. A few blocks into the old town, I saw a man waiting for us just outside of a garage. He introduced himself as Juan-Carlos and said we’d be starting the tour in just a moment. Out of nowhere, an old woman comes running up to us and hands him the key to the garage. After opening the lock, he turns back to introduce the woman as Murielle Andraud, the original proprietor of Chateau Valandraud. I was in shock, meanwhile, she greeted us with a smile, and left us to our tour.
First we were taken around the establishment, so I’ll tell you a bit about that. When the family originally bought the property in 1989, it was approximately half a hectare (1 Hectare = 2.4 Acres). Personally inspired by Chateau Petreuse, the family worked twice as hard to succeed in the wine world. What they lacked in contemporary technology, they made up for with diligence. Despite working out of a garage, Murielle was constantly out in the fields with the workers, cropping her vines as delicately as if they were bonsai trees. In 1993, Parker recognized them as one of the best wines of Bordeaux. Since then, their success has wildly taken off, with the original winery growing, as well as new ones erected under the same ownership.
After the tour, we were led further into the town and directed to a hole-in-the-wall wine bar, owned by Chateau Valandraud. We stepped in and immediately four bottles were pulled out for us to begin tasting. The first was a 2008 Merlot called Chateau Bel-Air-Ouÿ. While a few pleasant flavors did arise, I ultimately found it too young. The nose was missing, the color was too dark, and it simply needed time to mature. The second bottle, also a 2008 Merlot, was called Chateau Fleur Cardinale. While I found it more drinkable, a trait I attribute simply to its being a Merlot, I still found an undeveloped and blunt taste. It lacked complexity. The third bottle, however, impressed me, a delicious bottle of half and half Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The label was simple, a drawing of a rooster in an old suit framed by the words, “Clos Badon Thunevin.” For a 2008 vintage, I found it drinkable right away. But more interesting than the taste, was the smell. This wine was marked by such a refined aroma of coffee and crème that I might as well have been sitting over a cappuccino. We finished off with a bottle of Chateau Sansonnet, a 2009 Merlot. Amongst almond flavors and a tannic quality, I found this wine to have potential. But for now, it needs time to round out. Our experience was not over.
Browsing the wine selections, we were told about two white wines the vineyard had in production. The first was €75 and the second was €25. The bartender told us she preferred the second, and offered for us to taste it. The wine was fantastic! A Burgundy-style Sauvignon Blanc. It was crisp, straight, and had flavors of salt, minerals, and peaches! In addition to what I tasted, there was a sort of rebel enjoyment in trying the forbidden fruit of Bordeaux wines. Well, maybe not forbidden, but certainly not recognized by the appellation. The production of this wine was both an ambitious act by Chateau Valandraud, as well as a prohibited one by the appellation. For me, it was this white wine that made the experience.
So now you’ve heard about my first tasting in Bordeaux, next time I’ll share some notes about the others. In case anyone is interested, the name of that Sauvignon Blanc was JTL No. 2, I imagine for Jean Luc Thunevin (the owner).
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