As mentioned in my previous post, I took French a very very very long temp ago...
After talking with a friend who is sommelier, and browsing through a French vineyard catalog, I personally wrote to about 20 grand cru vineyards (majority in French) asking to set up a tour for the day that we would be in the region. Granted it was harvest season, very busy time for a vineyard to give tours, but only one responded yes.
A little history for those of you who like historical random facts:
Back in 1855, Napoleon II demanded that the French vineyards be classified (since all seemed great). This classification differentiated the premier grand cru (great first growth wines) which there are only 6 today (majority from the Medoc region in Margeaux in Bordeaux, the duexieme crus ect ect. There are only 66 classified as grand cru wines (great growths). After these classifications, the vineyard that got a classification of grand cru and especially premier or duexieme status were set for life. Since that classification, I do not think a wine had jumped up a level (maybe one - some may argue that it was a huge political reason act). In short, premier wines are tres tres expensive due to their status, duexiem are tres expensive and so on and so on. The good thing is even some of the ones that did not have a superb classification are excellent wines that you can get for practically nothing. Now you see why it was hard to get a private tour.
Now back to the blog - so we felt extremely lucky that one vineyard -Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou which is in the Sait - Julien region (which has 11 of the 66 1855 classifications) along the Girone estuary (which keeps the perfect atmosphere for the wines dry but access to water). It is 25 miles northwest of Bordeaux in Haut Medoc between Margaux and Pauillac. The vineyard is named after the stones in the ground that contribute to its flavor. It is also still owned by a family and not a well well known company like Channel.
We were able to get a private tour of the vineyard, cellars and a wine tasting. We even ended up buying a bottle of their cru in our wedding year. What a fascinating experience. Thanks to our friends at Ducru Beaucaillou for being such great hosts! We also bought about two cases of wine to get shipped back to the states to drink at their "premium" time. Shipping from Margaux saved us at least 3 levels of mark ups.
We even had time to do a quick tour of Saint Emellion, after taking a lovely leisurely boat trip, which was more of a touristy wine town.