Bordeaux tasting trip. Lynch Bages, Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, LMHB, Haut-Bailly, SHL, VCC, Clinet

TL/DR 3 day visit to BDX - Chateau Lynch-Bages, Chateau Leoville-Barton, Chateau Leoville Poyferre, La Mission Haut Brion, Chateau Haut-Bailly, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Vieux Chateau Certan and Chateau Clinet.

We had originally booked this trip for January 2021, however covid had other ideas and it was scrapped. Fast forward 3 years and we finally made it.

Booking notes - all the visits I booked direct, however I probably should have deferred to Henri Challeau who we hired to drive and help select restaurants for lunch. It was a major PITA to book these direct as several chateau aren’t seeing you without a sponsor or trade referral. The French also close for lunch and make it hard to book 3 visits in a day without careful planning. However we pulled this off and credit to Henri who was an amazing guide and I look forward to visiting Bordeaux and working with him again. I did not take full tasting notes as I tried to make sure I wasn’t buried in my phone during visits.

Day 1 - Chateau Lynch Bages - Pauillac
First stop in Pauillac and a cold day in the Medoc. They have a new facility that is quite impressive. Lots of stainless steel tanks with an incredible pulley system to move equipment up and down the mezzanine.

Everything is now done with gravity to make the wine here.

When the tour was done we tasted a 2015 Ormes de Pez, 16’ Echo and 14 Lynch-Bages. The Ormes de Pez surprised me and was quite nice, 49% merlot and the most ready to drink of the 3 wines. May have to buy a few of these for the cellar. The wines in general were pretty cold and needed more time to warm up. No particular notes about the Echo or 14 LB.

Stop 2 after lunch - Chateau Leoville-Barton

Part of the challenge scheduling visits was working around lunch time when the chateaux are closed. I scheduled back to back visits next door to help here.

Another chateau that underwent a large rebuild project. They quite literally have a tunnel from one side to the other that runs underground. Same as before, gravity the theme in the wine making facility.

I had requested a library tasting and we were treated with 6 different wines.

Chateau Mauvesin Barton 12 & 18
Chateau Langoa Barton 06 & 17
Chateau Leoville Barton 04 & 17

It was interesting going from the Langoa to the Leoville and plus just smelling the glass. The standout was the 04’ Leoville which filled the nose with leather and the same on the palate. Not a bad view for the tasting. We walked the grounds after, which were beautiful even in early January.

Stop 3 - Chateau Leoville-Poyferre

Having not been to Bordeaux before, it was quite interesting to see the vineyards full of gravel. They had also moved the dirt in each aisle to protect the vines from frost. Growing the fruit closer to the ground to get the heat of the gravel in the growing season was an eye opener for me.

Not the best quality picture, but this is the dirt they are working with. As Henri said, the Medoc used to be a swamp and the Dutch were brought in to drain the ground so they could cultivate for grapes.

Extremely interesting walk through the facility as they were fining barrels with egg whites and we got to watch and take video of this process.

I had set this tasting up for the 08-10 Leoville Poyferre with a pairing of meat and cheese.

My notes on the wines. 08’ LP, approachable now. Paired great with the cheese and duck. 09’ LP starting to show but still too young, HOLD if you have them. 09’ was the best of the bunch but again still too young to be drinking. 10’ also still too young with a nose and mouth full of leather.

Day 2 - Pessac-Leognan
The first stop was nice and close to Bordeaux city center, La Mission Haut-Brion. They have you stop across the street at the visitor center just outside of Haut-Brion, which is currently under construction for the next 3+ years or so.

They do have a bottle shop in this facility, luckily we finished our tour and tasting across the street and didn’t come back or this could have been an expensive visit.

They start you off with a video and then a walk through the grounds and of course into the mission itself. They have bands at the top that have the best vintages they’ve made. They used to get one great vintage a generation but with warmer growing seasons they have run out of room to list the vintages on the wall. I guess they will have to add another ring around the top.

Same as all others, wines done via gravity however they have special steel tanks at LMHB and Haut-Brion to help with turning over the wine inside. It was quite possible to get a good picture of this but it was unique and stood out compared to all other chateaux we visited.

LMHB and Haut-Brion are made in the same style and they couldn’t be two more different wines. We were treated with the 17 LMHB and Haut-Brion side by side. This was truly, the breakfast of champions. LMHB more floral notes with primary fruit open to drink now even if still young. The fruit definitely was going to open up with more time. Haut-Brion, damn this wine was large and intense. Felt like drinking an iron glove. Always enjoyable to try a first growth but this one needs a lot more time.

Stop 2 - Chateau Haut-Bailly
I wasn’t sure the timing would work for this stop but Henri made it happen. Another chateau currently under construction but with a beautiful new wine making facility. It is hard to explain how they built this but they went deep down into the ground and then built a concrete dome over the top that is planted and you walk over when going to the facility.

The old facility which they are going to turn into a tasting room for events has the original walls with seashells. Yup, definitely used to be a swamp.

Did I mention gravity yet? A view from the top of their wine making facility.

A huge investment went into this facility. All of the tanks have sensors and the computer display showing the temperatures of each tank was extremely impressive. The tasting room unfortunately faces directly into the sun and was a little uncomfortable with the sun in our face. The wine however was outstanding.

They opened a 17 La Parde Haut-Bailly, 15 and 17 Chateau Haut-Bailly. They have renamed their 2nd and 3rd wines to Haut-Bailly 2 and HB to remove confusion from the old name. I was surprised by the quality of Haut-Bailly. I had not had their wines before this visit. The grand cru was very polished and approachable. The 2nd wine, the 17’ was interesting and one I would like to try again. Will need to source some of these for the cellar.

3rd stop Chateau Smith-Haut Lafitte
I emailed Florence Cahtiard to set this up since we tasted with them last year in Napa and she asked me to switch my dates so they could host us in their home after our visit. Ok done deal. We ended up doing Bordeaux first and Paris after for our vacation because of her suggestion.

We arrived to the grounds and the first thing you see is the spa and hotel the Cathiard daughters are operating just outside the grounds. They have a 2 star Michelin restaurant next door.

Once inside there were pictures of King Charles and Queen Camilla, who visited the estate last fall. Say what? Indeed, will come back to this in a few.

The tower outside the bottle shop and check in area. We climbed the top and were rewarded with a great view of the vineyards.

Once down from the tower, they have their cooperage as they make their own barrels. I do believe they will also be doing this in Napa. They had issues with fire getting permits and they may have resolved it.

A gorgeous barrel room.

As you are walked through the grounds and back up from below, the tasting room has a special underground library for Mr. Cathiard’s library.

We were treated with the 2020 SHL blanc, 16’ Le Petit and 15’ SHL.

My notes, the blanc is a complex but very drinkable white. Will age but could drink now. Le Petit, I did not record a note. 15’ grand cru, power in the glass and demands more time. Clearly a young wine that is going to be something special as it ages.

After our visit, we visited the Cathiard’s at their home on the grounds. I gifted them a bottle of Flora Springs Rutherford reserve from my cellar as they did not get any wine from the purchase of the old Flora Springs winery. We were welcomed into their kitchen and talked in great detail about the King’s visit. They were chosen due to their environmental accolades. They are extremly green and one of the leaders in BDX here. They served 05’ SHL, which is the King’s anniversary year. The King was very interested in the tour including climbing the tower and going into the barrel making shop to put together a barrel.

While sitting in their kitchen, I shit you not; they blinded us two bottles side by side. The first I will leave unnamed at Florence’s request as they drank with their wine making team earlier in the day. A softer wine, more approachable now than the second bottle. 2nd bottle, clearly SHL and same note as the 15’ more power in the glass and structure requiring time before drinking.

On our way out the door, Florence gifted me back a 19 SHL blanc. The Cathiard’s are extremely gracious hosts and it was great to spend time with them again.

Day 3 Pomerol
I had tried to get an appointment at Chateau Canon, they wouldn’t see me. So I emailed Vieux Chateau Certan instead. I had to email them a couple of times as it was too early to book in advance when I first contact them but they finally agreed to a tasting about 2 months prior to our trip.

We stopped on the way to Pomerol and Henri showed us where they added a drain. He wanted to show the famous blue clay.

We were met and hosted the entire time by Alexandre Thienpont. Talk about a treat. He apologized profusely for not always knowing the words he was trying to say to us in English and luckily we had Henri there to help translate for him when he couldn’t find the words. We started walking into the vineyard and checking out these beautiful old vines. Vines up to and maybe over 80 years old.

A few more views in the vineyard. If you see the water on top, it is fighting to go down into the soil. Good luck with the clay.

A small, family production. His son has now taken over the wine making process and has since 2011 (hope I got the year right).

We tasted right in the barrel room with the 22’ vintage surrounding us.

We started with the 17 Gravette de Certan. Per Alexandre, a wine to drink now while the grand cru develops. These are made with the younger vines.

Of course, not to be outdone we were treated with a bottle of the 15’ VCC. We ended up drinking the entire bottle with Alexandre. This wine continued to grow in the glass, but my first initial note was holy shit. THIS, is the epitome of a wine epiphany.

Alexandre as we’re drinking the 15’ asks if we would like to barrel sample the 22’ vintage. Uh yes please!!

We barrel sampled two separate barrels of the 22’, and they were both different. One had the rush of the oak and vanilla and the other more sweet. I pressed Alexandre on why they don’t do a single vineyard like Napa does or a row bottling and he says they get more complexity when they blend. After tasting the two different barrel samples from different batches, I will concur he is absolutely correct. I was sad to leave this tasting. What an amazing experience to taste and discuss wine in general for a good 2 hours. He did say @Jeff_Leve had that same reaction when he tasted there. I was not deep with VCC prior to this visit, I am much lighter in the wallet after this tasting stocking up.

I asked Alexandre how often they host for tastings. He said they approve 1 out of every 10 requests. So to that I say thanks for hosting us as this was truly the best wine we tasted. As we were in Paris finishing our vacation I asked my wife what was her favorite wine. VCC 15’. Then I asked what her 2nd favorite wine was, 17 Gravette. Then the 3rd, the two barrel samples. Needless to say VCC is in another stratosphere in terms of quality.

2nd stop after lunch - Chateau Clinet
We had a bit of a time crunch since we were flying back to Paris but were able to get Clinet scheduled.

I’ve been through this before in my many stops in Napa but its always bad news for a winery to pour for us after we have something special like VCC. I don’t feel like there were any other showstopper wines that completely overshadowed what we had later in the day including LMHB or Haut Brion to start the day.

Clinet was a good visit. They have put some serious money into their facility like the others.

Unfortunately I didn’t even take notes at Clinet. We tasted the 2nd wine Fleur Clinet 19’, young but more open than the 16 grand cru which needs more time. They use more cabernet sauvignon in their blend and I think that was evident in the wine as it was stronger and didn’t shed its strength. One to lay down and come back to.

A final note on Henri Challeau. I did find his name on the site and the many other posts with Bordeaux trip reports. He is a wealth of information about the different appellations, wineries and what wines are trending. Thanks to all the others who posted BDX reviews and trip reports. Henri noted Gazin was a very good value for the right bank. Also thanks to Jeff Leve who gave me a few notes about visiting.


great post! sounds like an awesome trip!!!

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thank you very much, great report from a great trip

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Great stuff, excellent reports and photos - looks like you had a wonderful time!

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Thanks for taking the time and work to make this great post. Really enjoyed it.

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What a great trip! Thanks for the notes and the photos.

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This post is making me regret not having enough vcc. :frowning:


Awesome! Yeah same experience- VCC is easily one of the best wines year in and year out. It’s also one of the few Bordaux my wife looks forward to drinking. Enjoy your VCC journey- great people and amazing wines.

Henri is the best! Glad you had a great time.


That’s a sweet trip! Good for you. You went to a few of my favorite places…

Nice write-up, must have been so much fun. My bdx visit a year and a half ago included some of the same stops, and similar impressions. Where did you eat?

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Nice to see LB has a new cellar - honestly when I went there maybe 15 years ago it just seemed very dirty. I have read at least one wine pundit say she likes that - not me. I think a clean winery means a cleaner wine. But what do I know. Sounds like the VCC visit was very special.

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Wow, incredible trip and absolutely amazing write up my man! Cant thank you enough for taking the time to write it all up!!


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You might not like BAMA then. :blush:

Thanks for the writeup, sounds like a great trip.

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Superb write up, thanks a lot for sharing.

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Great writeup.

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Great write ups as always!

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Its funny you mention this. They did keep part of the historical wine making area and my wife had a sneezing attack in there. It was dank and musty smelling. I believe Henri said there was a doorway that went right into the owner’s kitchen so they could be close to the wine making.

The new facility is very impressive as noted and very well designed.

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I knew this would be an epic trip write up with generous details when I saw your name next to it…Bravo!!