Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chateau Siaurac - An Enchanting Experience during "La Vendange"

A magical afternoon at Chateau Siaurac

If you are a regular reader, you know that I work part time as a regional tour guide for one of the River Cruises on the Garonne River.  This cruise takes it's passengers up and down the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers introducing them to our beautiful area, it's history, its culture and of course, it's wines.

One of the things I have come to appreciate about the Bordeaux area is the diversity of it's wines. Bordeaux is not just one kind of wine, there are many appellations or wine regions here and each one produces unique and different tasting blends.  Fall is a special time of year here. as we get ready for the harvest or "La Vendange".  Each region waits until just the right time to pick their grapes. "Les Vendanges", as it's referred to in plural for the region, is so much part of the culture here in the Bordeaux.  Everyone talks about the weather in September - hoping for more sun and little rain to help the grapes finish ripening. Everyone seems to know someone who is somehow involved in the harvest.  It's truly a way of life here.

Children even learn about it in school.  Last year, my daughter's CP (1st grade) class went to a local wine museum  in the Fall and they heard all about the process of picking grapes and making them into grape juice and wine.  They even got to stomp on some grapes, if they wished.  My youngest still refers to grape juice as the juice of wine! (le jus du vin)

As a guide, it's been a privilege this Fall to be able to share this special time with our clients. One of the properties that we visit is Chateau Siraurac, located in NĂ©ac, a small village near Saint Emilion. This beautiful family run property of 60 hectares is like taking a step back in time.  Since 1832 this family has been producing wine at this Chateau and has been constantly evolving itself and presently produces under 3 labels.  They are passionate about wine making and sharing their story and their wines with others.  This passion is evident as one walks around this property.  It's been a delight this Fall to visit and watch, as they waited for exactly the right time to harvest.
Chateau Siraurac gives a wonderful visit and lunch for our clients.  A member of the Chateau Sirauac team or sometimes even the owner himself, Paul Goldschmidt, walks our clients around their gardens, the vines, the wine production & cellar areas and even a tour of his home, the Chateau itself.    It's a stunningly beautiful property and one can not help but feel this family's love of wine making.  It's no wonder that they won the Best of Wine Tourism 2015- Gold Award for Architecture and landscape just a few weeks ago.
These photos were taken on two occasions about 2 weeks apart.  The first few are the grapes just about ready to pick in mid-September.

Before they harvest, they have to keep the leaves of the vines trimmed back, so the grapes can be easily picked.  The picking at this chateau is done by hand.
We were very lucky one week in early October, the owner asked our buses to drop the clients off next to the vineyard, so we could watch some of the harvesting happening, first hand.  It's was definitely a very special experience for all of us.  (Including myself - this was the first time I got to see La Vendange, first hand and up close)

It's a bit hard to see in the following photos but the tractor holds a flat trailer for all the workers to dump the grapes into after picking.
Picked grapes are carried down the aisles to the flatbeds with these plastic backpack baskets.  The carrier will then lean over to allow all the grapes to dump in.  He then walks back between the vines to allow the individual pickers to dump their smaller buckets into the backpack basket.  It's very precise as they know exactly where each truckload of grapes come from.  They grow different kinds of grapes - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, & Malbec.  Each variety is picked and processed separately in addition to knowing which parcel of the property it came from - as geologically the ground can vary from being limestone, sand &/or gravel.  Very scientific process from start to finish!

 It's very systematic to watch and it was a treat to see it up close.  Look at all those delicious (and yes, we got to taste them!) grapes!
At the production area for sorting, pressing and eventually the fermentation of the grapes.  That particular day, our clients were lucky enough to taste the juice of freshly picked grapes, juice that had been fermenting only a couple of days and then week-old fermented grape juice.  Very interesting to see the differences - first hand.  

After our tour of the vineyard, production area and cellar, the clients walked through the gardens which date back to the 19th Century.  Seeing the inside of the chateau, tasting their 3 different wine labels and a lovely lunch all finished off this magical experience! It was a beautiful day and such a treat!!! Thank you Chateau Sirauac for your gracious hospitality and wonderful tour!

Even though, this tour and day was specially designed for our clients.  Chateau Siaurac welcomes everyone. This chateau is high on my list of places to visit when we have guests!  From June to September, the Chateau is open to the public everyday from 9am to 7pm with visits and tastings in both English and French at 11am & 4 pm without a reservation.  Additional visits can be arranged by appointment.  If you call ahead, gourmet platters are also available served in the garden each day.  

More information about Chateau Siaurac can be found on their website - HERE.

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