Château Cordeillan-Bages: A two Michelin star gem on Bordeaux’s Left Bank
By ANTONY NEWTON
Having worked in the wine trade for over 15 years, I feel almost slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never visited Bordeaux until this autumn. I don’t mean the city, but rather the surrounding wine regions that host some of the most famous chateaus in the world.
Needless to say, I was the first to put my name forward when The Sloaney travel team discussed a two-part feature series about this precious part of France. It comes as a split series due to the layout of the wine regions, which are naturally divided by the Gironde Estuary. While the Right Bank boasts the likes of Chateau Petrus and the enchanting village of Saint-Émilion, I was quietly pleased when I was assigned the Left Bank, which is famed for the Médoc and Graves.
My trip was framed around a visit to the Relais & Châteaux property, Cordeillan-Bages, which is situated in Pauillac. The impressive chateau boasts a two Michelin-starred restaurant and the winery produces its own special vintages under the title of Lynch-Bages.
The drive from the airport up to Cordeillan-Bages, which is only about an hour in duration, was a treat in itself and would whet the appetite of any wine connoisseur. The Left Bank is home to the likes of the historic Château Mouton Rothschild and on the way to Cordeillan-Bages you pass other greats such as Château Pichon-Longueville, which has to be one of the most stunning buildings in the region.
If you book a morning flight, you are likely to arrive at Chateau Cordeillan-Bages just in time for lunch. If you are visiting for a number of days, it is possible to organise a cookery course prior to your meal that is led by Chef Jean-Luc Rocha. He is one of the most successful chefs in France and has won numerous awards while also becoming one of the few candidates to fast-track straight to two Michelin stars. When you attend his personal cookery course, it is easy to see why his talent is so celebrated. Jean-Luc combines artistic influences with exciting flavors and varied textures to create some powerful dishes. He has actually recently been appointed a 4th TOQUE by the most influential restaurant guides Gault Millau and is the only chef of the region to receive such an accolade.
After you have been mesmerized by his creative ability, dining in the restaurant that overlooks rows of grapes proves a real treat. Bordeaux is a chef’s heaven and presents some of the best seafood and agricultural produce in the world. These are dutifully incorporated into the menu and Chef Jean-Luc Rocha adds plenty of expression to each course and also considers the best wine pairings.
After eating like a king, you will certainly need to walk off some of the excess. However, rather than browse the vines on foot, Chateau Cordeillan-Bages offers guests the chance to take a bike ride that carefully weaves through the vines. This brings you right to the heart of the property and depending on the time of year, it is also possible to meet the grape pickers. The land is rather rugged and you will benefit from the electric bikes at times, with the assisted pedals making sure you power up the slopes.
Part of your visit to Chateau Cordeillan-Bages should also include a wine tasting course. Again, this brings visitors to the very core of the region and you can learn how the wine is produced from scratch. It is also possible to purchase a barrel and make your own blend, which is a popular option for groups of friends.
I visited during the harvest and at this time of year you manage to enjoy the hotspots without being disturbed by crowds of tourists. Rather, the region is bustling with grape pickers who are busy preparing for the year ahead. Early indications from those on the ground show that 2015 will prove an excellent vintage.
The summer is a peak time to visit this part of France; however, it is also popular in spring and for the harvest in autumn. However, Chateau Cordeillan-Bages hosts events throughout the year and it is a treat at anytime. In fact, on November 27th they are temporarily stepping away from the red and white vintages to host a Krug dinner for KRUG Clos du Mesnil 2003, which is an extremely rare cuvee. During the event Chef Jean-Luc will create a customized menu that will complement the champagne.
As someone who enjoyed his incredible food in this truly wonderful setting, I thoroughly recommend a visit, if not to the Krug event, certainly during 2015.
Chateau Cordeillan-Bages is located at Route des Châteaux, Pauillac, France. Reservations can be made online at www.cordeillanbages.com, by telephoning +33 5 56 59 24 24 or via Relais Chateaux at www.relaischateaux.com. It is possible to stay overnight for those who want to visit for more than just lunch. There are rooms available and a beautiful swimming pool, as well as the village of Bages, which has a selection of boutiques and a bistro.