Archive for November 3rd, 2020

November 3, 2020

Some wine news from the Médoc!!!

And here I am again back at you with one of most fluid passions, wines. Of course not just any wine but the Médoc! And not just Bordeaux as if you have read my blog should know it is a genetic name covering a very large area north south, east of the city of Bordeaux! My favs are the Médoc! And a good timing with the events of the day!

And within this peninsula, one of my favorites over the years have been the Saint Julien. Therefore , here is some wine news on the ...Saint Julien!

The smallest and most family-run of the four great communal appellations of Médoc has eleven classified growths. Some are considered the most prominent at the moment. They cover 910 hectares and has 19 harvesting producers. Let’s take a ride shall we!!

End of the afternoon, at the Château de Beychevelle. The Gironde river sparkles. In the 17C, ships lowered their sails , bécha véla, in Gascon in honor of the owner, the Duke of Epernon, Grand Admiral of France and Governor of Guyenne. By the greatest of luck, its label adorned with a griffin-bow ship recalls the dragon boat, a sacred emblem in China. From Château Branaire-Ducru, located directly opposite, on the other side of the D2 road, the blond stones of the former stronghold of the Duke of Épernon illuminated in gold at sunset are at the height of the halo that adorns them every morning, a constantly renewed mystery. Since 1995, the owner ,the philosopher Philippe Blanc watched over the 250 hectares wirh 90 ha of vines of the Grands Millésimes de France property, owned equally by the French spirits groups Castel and Japanese Suntory.

Among which, Château Beychevelle and Château Lagrange, 3rd classified growth, also owned by the Suntory group, are the only ones not managed by a family. This does not prevent the cohesion of this AOC, very confraternal where everyone succeeds. Without lame ducks or failures.   Two of its neighbors, Château Léoville Barton and Château Branaire-Ducru have just hit the world wine column. The first elected Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator magazine, the second hoisted to 16th position in the same ranking in 2019. A first for fifteen years for Bordeaux Grands Crus, topping the stars of Napa Valley, Côtes-du-Rhône or Chianti. For Saint-Julien, a formidable consecration.

With its quadruple-column porch, the current building dates from 1824. It was built by one of Branaire’s descendants, Louis Duluc, who together with his brother Justin participated in the fame of the estate and its classification in 1855. They are the fourth family of owners said François Xavier, younger of the Maroteaux. François Xavier Maroteaux now manages the Château Branaire-Ducru on behalf of their family group. A vineyard with a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (28%), Petit Verdot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (4%). The four noble grape varieties of Saint-Julien. New projects are being undertaken, including the construction of a 100% gravity-fed cellar with 65 tanks. But, he is also the spokesperson for his peers. Elected to the post left vacant by his father as President of the Management Organization (ODG) of Saint-Julien, where decisions are taken unanimously by the 19 properties, each counting as one vote, regardless of its size .

The Château Gloria was born artificially from this puzzle of prestigious lands. As a castle, a locality, the row of workers’ houses called “Gloria” at the entrance to the village. In 1982, the family acquired Château Saint-Pierre, a 4th classified growth. With its 17 ha, the smallest of the city/town hall for which the worldwide notoriety of Château Gloria has ironically in the life of the brands long served as a lever. It is so sometimes with names.

Who would have thought that the venerated Château Talbot (107 ha), named in honor of an English constable who took part in the Battle of Castillon in 1453 would benefit from one of these hazards in South Korea? However, it was enough that in 2002, Guus Hiddink, the coach of the national football team hoisted in the semi-finals of the World Cup, declared celebrating this feat with Château Talbot for the 3rd classified grand cru. Enough to roll the eyes of many there. At Talbot, in the extraordinary kitchen with trompe-l’oeil wood paneling, the plates are stuck to the ceiling. A joke on the part of Nancy Bignon-Cordier and her sister Lorraine Cordier, who died in 2011. Great-granddaughters of Désiré Cordier, they presided over the creation of the second wine, Connétable Talbot, in the 1970s and at the creation of a cellar with concrete beams in the shape of a ramage. Poetry maintained throughout the property. Wild grasses on the steps, vegetable garden, Virginia creeper on the facade, family furniture… Château Talbot was a vacation home for girls. And one of my all time favorites.

Nowadays, a panoramic tower with ultra contemporary lines has replaced the ancient earthenware treasure of Château Gruaud Larose. Highlight of the wine tourism offer of the 2e cru Classé in a rather reserved appellation in this area, the belvedere was inaugurated in 2015. It is the pride of its owner Jean Merlaut and its managing director, Nicolas Sinoquet. Culminating at 18 meters in height, the mirror-stainless steel building with a glass elevator reflects the variations of the Medoc azure. At a glance, you embrace the 82-hectare vineyard in one piece, but also the panorama extending to the Gironde river. At the foot of the tower, the ponds and lawns of implacable geometry, the 17C castle, the cellars and the creamy and fragrant bushes of Gruaud Larose rosebushes created in 2016 in honor of the king of wines and wine of kings. Further on, south side, Branaire-Ducru and Beychevelle. Even further, the paluts or wet meadows along the river. On the west side, the Jalle du Nord and the Port-Bouey farm, where the sheep for grazing graze.

At the age of 27, the grandson of Anthony Barton, 88 years old and youngest son of Lilian Barton Sartorius, is one of the new faces of Saint-Julien with his sister Mélanie. As if the family of Irish origin still relishes the recent pride of Château Léoville Barton’s ranking (2016), for the title of Wine of the year, entirely British modesty obliges, it refuses to do more than is necessary More than two hundred years after the arrival of his grandfather Thomas Barton in 1722 in Bordeaux as a merchant and the acquisition in 1821 by his grandson Hugh Barton of the charming charterhouse of “Langoa” (20 ha of vines) then of the 50 ha opposite which form Léoville Barton, the line is one of the oldest in Saint-Julien. Hired in 1940 as a liaison with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, he found his estate in a deplorable state after the Nazi occupation. In Langoa, the roof is leaking, it is raining in the basins. Ronald offers his nephew Anthony Barton to join him with the intention of bequeathing him the estates. Anthony Barton’s Fine Wines, while tending to the vineyards. Lilian joined him in 1978 and now it’s Damien and Mélanie. A beautiful family story where the traditions perpetuated from generation to generation make the style. Thus,Châterau Léoville Poyferré (80 ha), prestigious 2nd classified growth over which Sara Lecompte Cuvelier has been watching since 2018 following her cousin David Cuvelier. between members of the same family from the Nord who are preparing to celebrate the centenary of the acquisition of the star cru of Saint-Julien.

Because let us not forget that with Léoville Barton and Léoville Las Cases (98 ha), the three current Léovilles formed only one in the beginning. In other words, the largest wine estate in the Médoc in the 17C. Knights, marquis, nobility, immense fortune. The French revolution goes through this, forced immigration, requisition by the State, fair division between the heirs who ultimately tear each other apart. Expropriations and quarrels forever get the better of the land and the Charterhouse, split in two. About 3/5 of the former domain and, its original heart. A 55 hectare enclosure surrounded by walls at the exit of the village of Saint-Julien-Beychevelle on the way to Pauillac. Here, closely glued to the Château Latour vineyard, venerated Premier Cru of Pauillac, from which it is separated only by a jalle or small stream, the Grand Vin de Léoville Marquis de Las Cases flourishes. An iconic Médoc, 2e grand cru considered as a 1er. What it probably would have been if family bickering had not played their part in the 19C. But this hybrid status is not to displease; for consumers, Las Cases is a cheaper Premier Cru. For merchants, a 2nd which costs skin and bones.

This is a bit more on the Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, the 2019 vintage and one of my favorites chateaux of the Médoc. Château Ducru-Beaucaillou obtained tremendous marks from various critics who came to taste the vat. The owner Bruno-Eugène Borie presents an extended range. Before, there was Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, the estate’s illustrious first wine. There is now Madame de Beaucaillou, from its Haut-Médoc lands, a fruity initiation wine that should be drunk young, the guarantee of a signature for 10,000 cases per year. And then there is always La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, a second, which does not have the name but above all a high-end, powerful, and fragrant cuvée. Next to it, we find Le Petit Ducru, the third wine of the family, whose 2019 present very round and silky tannins. These wines, very precise and very pure, can be consumed now or later. It is technical progress and the production of perfect berries that have given them the possibility of making it. A good range, a nice commercial arsenal indeed!

All these changes should be crowned with the erection of a new cellar, XXL size, intended to accommodate the grapes from 105 hectares of vines of which 95 are planted. They are going to associate it with a solar farm, and will also use hydrogen energy . A little further on, six giant fans are waiting for a frost alert. An army of metal blades which, once deployed in the vineyard, can raise the temperature by 2 ° C. The huge area dedicated to agricultural equipment, where tractors and various machines are arranged in their garage like Formula 1 cars in their stand. For the image, there is still the castle, an old Gironde house to which a Directoire façade was added during the 19C, then the park, with its gazebos designed for courteous games and joyful tasting. The interior of the main building has just been redesigned, superb, in tune with the times. It has huge rooms where the works acquired over time by Bruno-Eugène Borie stand. We meet Bacchus and Hermès there!! Gorgeous indeed!

And let me run down the 2016 vintage that I now drinking on some of them , of course, only in special occasions these merits them. Hope you enjoy them.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2016 (2e cru classé). The smooth, full and ample attack gives way to a fleshy, voluptuous and caressing palate. Racy, the wine combines sophistication, density and remarkable finesse. A sculptural red!

Château Gruaud Larose 2016 (2e cru classé Prodigiously tasty, this wine of remarkable depth combines aromatic intensity and complexity. Of rare elegance, it still stands out with ultra-fine tannins, a very fresh finish, with great drinkability.

Château Léoville Poyferré 2016 (2e cru classé). Full and fleshy on the attack, the wine quickly shows its beautiful acidity. The palate is complex, fruity, spicy, powerful, with a fine and elegant tannic structure, a nice tension on the finish, on notes of liquorice, cassis and black cherry.

Château Léoville Barton  2016 (2e cru classé). Slender, pulpy, the cuvée delivers flavors of ripe black and red berries, showing a perfect balance around noble, racy and melted tannins, of a vibrant, tangy, wonderfully gourmet intensity.

Château Branaire-Ducru  2016 (4e cru classé). Crunchy fruits, grandiose, fleshy palate and smooth tannins contribute to the tremendous success of this charming vintage in which everything blends harmoniously until the very straight, juicy finish, boosted by an infusion of acidulous fruits (blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry …)

Château Beychevelle  2016 (4e cru classé). Elegance, sensuality, delicacy and complexity guaranteed for this great wine enamelled with fruity and spicy notes. Sacred distinguished, supple, precise, supported by very fine tannins, it leans on a fresh, endless finish.

Château Talbot 2016 (4e cru classé). Colorful, it gives off floral and black fruit scents. First round, rich and crunchy on the palate, it then reveals itself, once rested, with incredible finesse and flavor. Noble tannins coated in a velvety texture. We really want to come back.

Château Langoa Barton  2016 (3e cru classé). Smoothness, roundness and suppleness combine with a certain tension, with notes of raspberry, currant, mocha and spices. Ultradiscrete, racy, the tannins envelop themselves in a creamy, melting texture. Very long, bright finish on lingering tangy red berries.

Château Lagrange  2016 (3e cru classé). This beautiful vintage skilfully combines generosity and good acidity on the finish. A complete wine, endowed with a dose of power reinforced by soft, silky tannins, a very long, peppery, liquorice, fruity finish.

Château Saint-Pierre 2016 (4e cru classé). The almost black dress with purple highlights announces the concentrated mouth after a supple and round attack. Texture of great finesse, rich mouth feel, salivating, with flavors of ripe fruit and minerals. A very beautiful cuvée without roughness, homogeneous, with integrated tannins.

And there you go folks, the Saint Julien in the Médoc of my belle France. Hope you enjoy the post as I did telling you about it. En Vino Veritas!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

November 3, 2020

San Francisco, golden gate, and more!

I feel that when I think of one of USA best travel destination it had to be San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be there in 2004, and it remains one of my goals to come back to this vibrant city by the bay and the golden gate bridge. I will need to find my pictures lol!!! So black and white reading it must be!

San Francisco is a city and county of the same name in the State of California, USA.  The mission was founded by the Spanish in 1776 in honor of St Francis of Assis or San Francisco.

I actually was there from France! bizarre when lived in the USA for 31 years never sought of going there, and then from far away there I was. Life is a beach! But glad was able to say I was there ::)

Many folks like me entered first by the SFO or San Francisco International Airport, when I went we rented a minivan for road travel.

The highways I 280 and I 80 as well as US 101 criss cross the town! However, ,of course walking even those hilly streets can be an adventure not to forget and never had.For buses ,cable car, tramway information the official site is :

My stay there was spent at the fabolous Hotel Nikko  at 222 Mason Street, Union Square very close to market str and the cable cars and up the Nob Hill to Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 areas.Webpage:

One of the most to see in the city is the Golden Gate Park, extending from the Pacific Ocean along Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street. Another nice park is the Lincoln Park by the end of Ocean Beach and the Bay with the Palace of the Legion of Honor, an art museum. Over to the Presidio National Park that  leads to the Golden Gate Bridge. However, the best way to see the city is by the famous SF cable cars ,and they even have a museum.

One of the funny anecdote is that my collegues all French, took the minivan or monospace vehicule to try to reach Napa wine country; they did took about 5 hrs roundtrip but never went into any winery! Me ,I stayed behind in the city nice and easy sightseeing mostly on food or cable cars !

The Pier 39 with lots of stores and restos and my favorite Crab House at Pier 39,  as well as the Bay and Blue boat rides into Alcatraz. If you want to see the real thing and get on to Alcatraz ,this is the specialist althought I would choose Bay and Blue, second choice Alcatraz Cruises from Fisherman’s Wharfs.

The Ripléy’s Believe or Not museum great with many extraordinary displays , it seems I follow then wherever they are and the very nice Madame Tussauds Wax Museum both at Fishermans Wharf.

The Merchants Association of Fishermans Wharf has lots of info here:

You have the wonderful museum of the Legion of Honor, done in honoring Californians who fought in the wars at France, and today an arts museum; another interesting museum I like is the Exploratorium, where Science and Arts is fused, started by Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, and on a building from 1915. Another is the Museum of Modern Arts , the pompidou of the city, there since 1935.

Some other things to to see that I enjoyed were the Aquarium of the Bay, by the bay, near Embarcadero and Beach st.

There was time to do lots of shopping and bring back , and my favorite because its near the Financial district is Crocker Gallery .

To eat my favorites were Ghiraldelli Chocolates ,and coffee shop and dine especially in the evenings for a wonderful view of the bay at Bistro Boudin, another exciting place to be is The Cannery, the old Del Monte canning factory and since many years, the place to be for shops and restos in San Francisco. with Leila mediterranean cuisine resto (unfortunately this one is closed) , and  Johnnie Walker for those Californian wines!.

If you want to have a nice meal, great steaks,and be in movie history as it was here that Humphrey Bogart’s The Maltese Falcon was filmed then head for John’s Grill  you wont go wrong here ::) , and if you want your munchies and great pints, beer that is then head for Johnny Foleys’and since folks like me cant never be too far from a good French resto, then head for Cafe Bastille off Market and Kearny streets.

Walking I did a lot especially around Japantown (Post st)  and Chinatown (Washington and Powell) ,and Russian Hill areas. You can get a city pass good for all transport in cable cars, Muni transport system, and some of the places I have mentioned above. And finally, for a look back of where it all began ,see the Mission Dolores house, built upon city foundation in 1776, the oldest of course, and the only remaining of the 21 that Father Serra started then. It is at 3321 16th street and Dolores St.

The tourist office of San Francisco

There you go folks a brief overview of my week in San Francisco long ago! Hope you enjoy the post, the story and do visit San Francisco, California USA!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

November 3, 2020

Fougéres and its castle!!!

Well ,well how about this find. As I am heavy into revising old posts with update text and some new photos, I came into a post on Fougéres. And behold, I could not find any post on the castle fortress there! To my surprise! Therefore, this is a new post and new photos in my blog. Hope you enjoy it.  Fougéres in itself is nice as many other posts on it here but now I give you the Château de Fougéres!

Briefly, Fougères is a sub-prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine,dept 35 in the region of Bretagne. It is located in the Marches de Bretagne in the northeast of the department of Ille-et-Vilaine. The city is about 300 km from Paris, 50 km from Rennes,  47 km from Mont-Saint-Michel,  75 km from Saint-Malo, and about 180 km from my house! I passed by it many times on the road N12 going from Brest to Paris via Rennes and Alençon with no tolls! My favorite way to Paris. Of course, once in a while do go into town.

Fougères is historically, since the arrival of Latin in Armorica, in territory of practice of Gallo (a latinized language) in which it is called Foujerr. However Breton has never been spoken in the country of Fougères which is outside the traditional area of ​​dissemination of the Breton language yet entrance panels of the agglomeration have been installed there for several years. The town has been classified as a city of art and history since 1985. It is home to 24 historical monuments and 87 inventoried buildings of France.

The Château de Fougéres at Place Pierre Symon is one of the most imposing French fortified castles, occupying an area of ​​two hectares, and constituting a medieval ensemble from the 12C to the 15C. The castle is built on the naturally protected site of a rock emerging from the swamp surrounded by a loop of the Nançon river, a tributary of the Couesnon (famous for MSM), acting as a natural moat.


The first fortified castle which belonged in the 11C to the Fougères family was ruined in 1166 after the siege of Henri II Plantagenêt. It is dismantled and its dungeon razed. Raoul II rebuilt it around 1173. Raoul III pays homage from Fougères to king Louis IX (Saint Louis). Pierre de Dreux, known as Mauclerc, seized Fougères by surprise in 1231 but Louis IX, at the head of his army, came to retake the city. Raoul III was Louis IX’s comrade in arms during the Seventh Crusade and died in 1256.

Jean de Montfort, Duke of Brittany, settled there but Du Guesclin seized Fougères which returned it to Pierre II d’Alençon in 1373. In 1428, Jean II d’Alençon sold the Château de Fougères to the Duke of Brittany to pay his ransom. By this time, the fortifications are further increased, in particular by Peter II in the 15C. The castle has two squat towers, the “Françoise” and the “Tourasse”. In 1488, La Trémoille, lieutenant general of the Royal armies, took the castle in a week despite a defense made up of 3,000 men and the King of France left a garrison in Fougères once it was attached to the kingdom of France, in 1491. The Duke of Mercœur, governor of Brittany, lead in rebellion against Henri III, seized the castle on March 28, 1588 and took refuge there.

in 1793, the Château de Fougéres was taken by the Chouans and the Vendéens (fighting in the wars of the West against the French revolution) . The 14C main logis-home was destroyed around 1810. In October 1828, Honoré de Balzac stayed several weeks in Fougères with Gilbert de Pommereul. He visited the castle and the entire region to draw inspiration from it for his novel Les Chouans, published in 1829. Victor Hugo, in Quatrevingt-Treize (1879), was inspired by the Mélusine tower which he describes at length : it is Hugo’s “Tourgue”, “a high and wide tower, with six floors, pierced here and there by a few loopholes, having for entry and for only exit an iron door giving on a bridge-châtelet”. On the ground is the gate through which is visible the famous dungeon, sometimes a prison, sometimes a pantry. It was especially used in 2018 for a video parodying the Harry Potter saga!

A bit about the castle architecture I like

In the Château de Fougéres, the first towers are square and certainly have a defensive role, but a passive one; the circular towers allow the defenders not to fear blind spots during shots; the horseshoe towers cleverly protect the bases of the towers and give enough clearance to archers and crossbowmen. The ramparts are very well preserved and form three enclosures. If the stately logis-home is in ruins, the towers still rise with majesty. Some can be visited: the square tower of La Haye-Saint-Hilaire 12C which gives access to the lower yard, the Raoul tower 15C, the Mélusine tower 14C and the Hallay tower. The entrance gatehouse is defended by the Mélusine and Gobelins towers. The entry and Coigny towers date from the end of the 12C. In the 15C, the Amboise tower (poterne), then the Raoul and Surienne towers complete the fortifications.



At the entrance, there is a quadruple watermill whose wheels were restored in 2013 and still work; one of them runs an electric generator. This mill is located below the concierge desk. The Château de Fougéres is completely remodeled and fitted out to become the entrance to the castle, thus accommodating the ticket office, the shop, a projection room, and an educational space. Access to the west curtain allows you to observe the upper town. In 1892, the town of Fougères bought the castle from the Pommereul family and began its restorations as you see them today.



The city of Fougéres on the castle and its heritage:

The official Château de Fougéres webpage:

The Fougéres tourist office on the castle:

There now I feel much better, a wonderful monument in my lovely Bretagne is fully showcase in my blog, for the memories, for the history for all to enjoy it. Hope you do get to visit Fougéres and go straight to the Château de Fougéres!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

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