A Visit to Bordeaux

A Member's Story by Neil Miller

Perusing the pages of the current Opimian Offering featuring Bordeaux, Bergerac, Beaujolais, and Australia (C268) brings back great memories of the trip my wife Susan and I took to France in the fall of 2017.  We rented a gite on a vineyard in Bordeaux and had the opportunity to visit three different Opimian suppliers. We had arranged these visits in advance of our trip with the assistance from Opimian.

Our first visit was with Château Daphiné Rendillon, the original chateau owned by Vignobles Darriet.  Upon our arrival we met our contact, Amy, who provided us with a bit history. The Darriet family has been making wine for over 200 years. They now own six chateaux in Bordeaux, including this one in Loupiac. The vineyards are currently operated by brother and sister, Jean-Cristophe and Sandrine, the eighth generation to do so.

Our visit began in the vineyard, where it was explained that only Sémillon grapes were grown to produce sweet wines. The 100-year-old vines are quite old by normal standards, but were carefully cared for, as the family considers them part of their history. Scattered throughout the vineyard were several 100-year-old pear trees which, for the same reason, were highly prized and carefully tended. Because they didn’t want to risk any damage to the trees or the vines by machinery, this vineyard has always been harvested by hand.


Essential to the production of sweet wine is the development of a mold, botrytis (Noble Rot), which causes the grapes to lose moisture and shrivel up, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. Three conditions are necessary for the development of botrytis: wind, fog and sun. In certain years, if the right conditions don’t develop, the mold won’t grow, and the vineyard is unable to produce its sweet wine.

Our tour continued to the barrel room and adjacent room which housed a 100-year-old wine press, still used for their highest quality wines, as well as a small museum.  At the conclusion of our tour we were treated to a tasting of seven different Darriet wines, including two vintages of Château Daphiné Rendillon. All the wines we tasted were excellent and I would be hard-pressed to pick a favourite.

In the current Cellar Offering, I suspect that Clos du Château de Cadillac, Sémillon (lot 1364) would be very similar to the Château Daphiné Rendillon we tasted. If you want a good dessert wine, you can’t go wrong with this one. The Château De Rouquette Sauvignon Blanc was also wonderful (lot 1361).  Of I could only pick one of the reds it would be a very hard choice, but I would probably pick the Clos du Château de Cadillac Cabernet Sauvignon (lot 1365) as being a top value for a very tasty wine.  If you prefer a more full-bodied wine, the Château Moutin Rouge (lot 1367) is excellent.

Following our visit, it was off to the beautiful little town of Cadillac for lunch and a bit of sightseeing.





The following day, we visited Château Daugay, where we met with Jean-Bernard Grenier. The winery, explained M. Grenier, is owned by his wife, Hélène Grenié de Bouard, who had taken it over from her parents.  The beautiful home on the property dates back 200 years to the time of Napoleon.

Our host guided us down the steps from the house in front of the home into the vineyard, where we tasted some of the Merlot grapes.  While very sweet tasting, he explained that they were not yet ready to pick he explained.  While the The grapes are regularly tested, and M. Grenier has his own test to decidemake the final decision whenas to whether it is time to harvest. They aren’t ready until When the seeds just crack upon bitingwhen you bite down on them, they’re ready to be picked.

Once harvested, the grapes are taken to the winery, located just behind the home, where they are destemmed, sorted and sent through a Mistral machine, which blows away any remaining bits of stems and leaves, before going to the final sorting table.  The wine is fermented in temperature-controlled steel vats, then aged in oak barrels.

We had a very interesting experience tasting the 2015 Château Daugay.  When M. Grenier first opened the bottle, it was very fruity with a definite taste of blackberry or cherry.  As it breathed over the next 15 to 20 minutes it was fascinating to discover how the flavours opened up and the wine mellowed.  It is easy to imagine that with a few more years of aging in the bottle, this wine will be outstanding.

In the current Offering, Jane Masters describes the 2016 vintage (lot 1400) as “one of the best vintages Château Daugay has ever produced”.  Based on how good the 2015 was, the 2016 must be superb!

Following our visit, on M. Grenier’s recommendation, we drove into Saint-Emilion for lunch at Logis de la Cadène where we had an excellent meal accompanied by a glass of Château Daugay.

The next morning it was off to our third winery, Clos Cantenac. This winery is owned by Martin Krajewski who has a long history with Opimian.  Upon arrival we met Catherine, our contact person.  As we started our tour, Catherine outlined how Martin, since purchasing Clos Cantenac in 2007, has built it up from 1.6 to 6 hectares, done much to modernize the buildings and equipment, and even added some new buildings. The result is a very modern winery that produces first-class wines.  The grapes are all hand-picked, and in fact, the harvest was underway the day we visited.  Partway through our tour we met Martin’s daughter, Charlotte.  For several years, she had been working in the wine industry in Australia and New Zealand, flying back to France each fall to help with the harvest. She explained that she was in the process of moving back to France permanently to assist with the running of Clos Cantenac and a winery they had just acquired in Pomerol, Château Séraphine.

Charlotte explained that the grapes would be arriving shortly and invited us to stick around to watch the beginning of the wine-making process. In the interim, we continued our tour. Martin arrived on the way to the tasting room, so we had a chance to visit with him for a few minutes before the tasting.

We started with L’Exuberance Rosé. The bottle itself is a work-of-art, from the dimpled punt to the glass cork. In fact, an empty bottle that we brought back from France now sits in our kitchen window!.  And the wine itself is simply delicious! We then tasted and compared the Petit Cantenac and Clos Cantenac.  The former was a little lighter and fruitier while the latter was fuller bodied and bolder.  We loved both, although, personally, I favoured the Clos Cantenac, as I enjoy a slightly more robust wine.

The L’Exuberance Rosé, Petit Cantenac and Clos Cantenac are all featured in the current Offering (lots 1368, 1371 and 1374 respectively).

Back at the winery the grapes had started to arrive. Catherine and Charlotte together went through the process with us. Because these grapes were destined to be rosé, there was only one sorting table. Normally, for a red, there would be a second sorting table directly after destemming. Today the grapes went from the sorting table directly to the destemming machine, then into the press. The juice was pumped into a stainless-steel tank, cooling it overnight and beginning the process of turning grape juice into wine. In all the years we have toured wineries, this was only the second time that we had seen this part of the process, so it was very exciting.




On our drive back to our gite, we stopped in the nearby village of Puisseguin for lunch at Le Bistro de la Gare – another excellent restaurant!

With visits to three truly wonderful wineries, our week in Bordeaux could not have been any better. And now, to top it all off, nearly two years later we will have the opportunity to see Charlotte Krajewski again on her cross-Canada tour. We are very much looking forward to the Opimian dinner in Red Deer on July 10th!

« For a more extensive account of our travels in France, please visit my blog windaturback.com and click on September 2017, October 2017 and November 2017 in the archives in the right-hand column. For a more extensive account of our travels in France, please visit my blog windaturback.com and click on September 2017, October 2017 and November 2017 in the archives in the right-hand column. »

About Neil Miller

Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Neil Miller retired in 2010 following two years as a teacher and a 33-year career in the property and casualty insurance business.  In recent years, Neil has pursued his passion for photography, specializing in landscape and nature photography.  An Opimian member since 1981, Neil was inducted into the Opimian Hall of Fame in 2012. Neil and his wife, Susan, currently spend winters in Southern California and summers in St. Albert, Alberta. His adventures are chronicled in his blog windaturback.com. He has also published a photo essay on the 2018 Opimian Wine Tour to Chile and Argentina which can be found here.