Great Drives Series – Around Bordeaux

Chateau, Sahuc Les Tours, Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France, travel, wine, vin, countryside, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I have done a couple of trips into Bordeaux where I have explored the region by car.  There really is no better way to explore the diversity of the region (and its wines!), which may seem at first to be more homogenous than it actually is.  To venture inland, near where Bordeaux runs into the Dordogne is to see a totally different Bordeaux than you may see in the Médoc.  To drive around Sauternes is definitely different than going to Saint-Émilion.

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Beautiful countryside in Bordeaux

sunflower, Bordeaux, France, travel, photo

Fields of sunflowers dot the landscape in parts of Bordeaux

Both times I went were in the pre-GPS era but that did not make it difficult to drive around.  A good map (and a good map reader somewhere in the vehicle) is all you need to be able to explore this area without too much trouble.

Bordeaux, chateau, signs, driving, France, wine, travel

Plenty of markers/signs help the visitor find their way around!

St. Julien, Bordeaux, large wine bottle, wine, bottle, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

With helpful markers like this one, you know you are in wine country!

One of our stops was the Château Ducru-Beaucaillou where we were taken on a private tour of this grand winemaker (through which I would run the next day when I ran in the Bordeaux marathon!).

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Bordeaux, Medoc, France, winery, vineyard, chateaux, wine, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (I would run right past this spot the next day!)

If you are somewhat interested in wine, there will be plenty for you to do and explore. The town of Saint-Émilion is one of the gems of the region.  Walk around but climb up to the top of the town.  There are cafés up there too and nowhere better to be when the sun sets, glass of wine in hand – of course!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, sign, vines, photo,Saint-Émilion, Canon EOS Rebel

The way to Saint-Émilion!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, sign, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Always remember where you parked in a new town! In this case, a nice map at the town entrance helped!

St. Emilion, Bordeaux, French town, France, view , photo, Canon EOS Rebel

View from the upper part of Saint-Émilion down to its main square

We enjoyed some of the big (and seemingly more commercial) chateaux but we also loved to more “rural” areas on roads less traveled and discovering the smaller vineyards and winemakers.  Some of the information offices and hotels had displays full of cards of the many chateaux in the area such as the one below.

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It was one of these cards that led us to discover a gem of a château in SauternesChâteau Sahuc Les Tours.

Chateau, Sahuc Les Tours, Sauternes, Graves, Bordeaux, France, travel, wine, vin, countryside, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The beautiful Château Sahuc Les Tours

The owners even sat down with us to share a bottle of their Sauternes and spent a good hour chatting with us about every topic that could concern French and American alike (they spoke excellent English).  Sauternes (in the Graves area), if you are not familiar, produces a sweet white wine bearing the same name made from sémillon, sauvignon blanc, and muscadelle grapes that have Botrytis cinerea (or “noble rot”) which concentrates the sugars.  We got to see the grapes up front as they began to look like raisins.  But don’t let the thought of rot keep you from drinking this wine!

Sauternes,  Botrytis cinerea, noble rot, wine, grapes, Bordeaux, Graves, Semillon, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Before and after…

That was such a good experience that I returned 7 years later to that chateau – and to my delight, one of the owners was there and, though she clearly could not remember me, realized I really had been there before as I recounted some of the things they had told us the first visit.  Connecting with locals in a real way is one of the rewards of venturing out and exploring this world!

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The friendly owner of Sahuc Les Tours with a delicious bottle in hand

So while this post is about great drives, let’s not forget that this drive is about wine!  Cheers!

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A beautiful wine in Bordeaux


7 Super Photos from My Travels

My seven super photos below show the some of the things that amazed me and the memories I cherish from my many travels.  I think I was tagged for this a few months ago.  I can tell because I had begun placing candidate photos in a special folder but I couldn’t find a post…  Thanks to Lola (@LolaDiMarco) for tagging me.  I will need to think about who to tag since she probably hit some people I would have hit and I also don’t want to hit the person who tagged me months ago! (and I can’t remember who that is… my apologies, I was trying to get it done!)

Here it goes!

a photo that takes my breath away

Flying over the Andes

Crossing the majestic Andes…

a photo that makes me laugh or smile

Walking like Egyptians... In Egypt.

Walking like Egyptians… In Egypt.

a photo that makes me dream

In the Greeks Islands:  A sunset in Mykonos

I dream of returning to Mykonos…

a photo that makes me think

Village savings and loan members posing near Mwanza, Tanzania

Village savings and loan members posing near Mwanza, Tanzania: not begging for help, but taking control of their livelihoods. How we have lost that in our own country…

a photo that makes my mouth water

The grapes that yield a delicious Bordeaux...

The grapes that yield a delicious Bordeaux…

a photo that tells a story

A victim of Vesuvius in Pompeii

Hated taking this pic but it was very moving to see this in Pompeii…

a photo that i’m most proud of (aka, my NationalGeographic shot)

Overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables in glorious New Zealand

Overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables in glorious New Zealand

Photo of the Week – Grapes of Bordeaux

Visiting Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in St. Julien was a neat experience since we got a private tour.  But, of course, my eyes go to the grapes and the vines.  Thinking how these little round things will produce a wonderful liquid for us humans to enjoy…  This picture is to not me about perfection in photographic technique but about the grapes, full of color, full of pulp, and ready to be taken…

grapes, vine, Bordeaux, France


Registration for the 25th Bordeaux Marathon (Marathon du Medoc) is Here!!

Ok, the time has come…registration for the 25th Bordeaux Marathon (Marathon du Medoc) is finally here! I received an e-mail yesterday stating the registration forms would be available on the Marathon du Medoc’s website tomorrow (Feb 16th, 2009).

Check it out at:

bordeaux-marathonI won’t be going this year…maybe next year? I made a “pact” with a good friend (who lives in Bordeaux) that I would attempt to run again in 2009 – that was 2 years ago…man, how time flies when you are not preparing!!

If you are considering participating in the Bordeaux Marathon, DO IT! It is a wonderfully unique experience – imagine a marathon that traverses some of the best and most beautiful chateaux and vineyards in the world.

If you want to know more about the Bordeaux Marathon, make sure to read our other posts and comments…and by all means, ask!

If you’ve already participated in the Bordeaux Marathon, please share your thoughts and experiences.

Happy costuming!

Wine and Running DO Mix: The Festive Bordeaux Marathon in the Medoc, France

Bordeaux marathon (France)

No, this article is not about drinking lots of Bordeaux wine until you are exhausted from all the exercise of lifting the glass, pouring wine, lifting the glass again, uncorking another bottle, and pouring again.  Nor is it about visiting 26 chateaux in one day for wine tasting.  It is about the race that takes place in September in the Medoc area of Bordeaux (actually the name of the marathon is Marathon du Medoc,  It is one of the funnest races I have been a part of – not only the wine but because runners come all dressed up and bring props too (be careful one of those props doesn’t run you over, I had a close call!).

Bordeaux marathon  (France)

Lady bugs ready to run

Wine barrel as a prop in the Bordeaux marathon (France)

The barrel is to push ALL the way during the marathon. Nuts!

The Bordeaux Marathon…

My friends (Chris and Wendy) and I thought of going after a larger group had spoken about going together, renting a house, and perhaps some of us running the marathon.  In the end, between one thing and another, the group whittled down to just the 3 of us.  We pretended to train for the marathon as we planned the trip…

My plan was not to run the entire marathon (while I have ran a half before, I really think the human body is not intended for the punishment of a marathon; marathon runners out there, I am not saying you are crazy, but I would be if I ran one!).  I figured I could train for about 6 or 7 miles and, on the day of, perhaps crank another 6 miles out of adrenaline gained by just being part of the event.  And I say event not race because this marathon is an event.

The festive atmosphere begins at the starting line with music blaring and a lot of staring – at the wild and crazy costumes (or sometimes, almost nothing on…) and props.  Then participants go through small towns in the Medoc, past chateaux, through chateaux, or even in between vines in a chateau (and I won’t tell you what I saw some runners do on those vines…  that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Bordeaux wines SO unique…).

Chateau in the route of the Bordeaux marathon (Frnace)

Great views along the way

Oh, and did I mention that along the way, various chateaux are serving wine to the runners?  I don’t know how the finish line scene looks but after 26 miles of running-walking and sampling wines, I can only imagine.

Bordeaux marathon going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

As I said, I had planned to run part of the marathon but I was not planning to walk 13 miles to get to the end.  So, my friends and I scouted the route the day before with the route map to find what would be an easy-to-find spot for them to pick me up that fit within the range I planned to run.

Large wine bottle landmark in Bordeaux, France

Easy enough landmark to remember, you think?

In reality this turned out to be around mile 6 as for the next 10-15 miles, there did not seem to be a town that would be easy to get to with the road closures or a spot easy to find.  It so happened that my stopping point was one of the chateaux that was serving wine to runners… coincidence or miracle?  You be the judge…

Wine stop at a chateau during the Bordeaux marathon (France)

Wine stop!

Runners do get to pick up their race number, etc. the day before at the race fair event.  It is a good thing as it helped us figure out how to get to the starting line since we were not familiar with the region.  Even though we had done that, the day of the marathon itself we still had some challenges along the way and ended up following a bus that we identified outside of the city of Bordeaux as likely heading to the marathon!

I greatly enjoyed the run and those 6 miles passed so fast not because I am fast but because of the fun environment. I carried my small digital camera with me and enjoyed snapping pictures along the way.  People dress up for the event and some have props though watch out, one big thing on wheels got out of control on a downhill and almost ran a few of us over…

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Runners with their LARGE prop – runners beware: they are drinking and pushing!

Even if you are not a serious runner or not ready for the distance, I would encourage anyone to try it like I did and experience running and wine in a new way.  I do recommend to stay close to the Medoc (we were staying at the far end of the Bordeaux region which led to a too-early-for-humans wake up call).  If you are a serious runner, it is a fantastic run through beautiful land and sites but you may want to stay away from the wine stops 🙂

There was a good number of things we wished we had known about the marathon and the area before we got there.  Do you have any questions?  Maybe we can help?   We found it hard ahead of the trip to find good info in English, hence the offer…

This entry has received a lot of hits!  What information are you seeking about the Bordeaux marathon?  We’d love to hear from you!


Lillet: Visiting a Favorite

Guest post by Chris Sanders.  His intro:  On a trip to France a few years ago, I visited Lillet and wrote the article below in hopes of publishing it in a local wine magazine… I can’t remember if I ever sent it in for consideration though…anyway, enjoy!

Lillet: Visiting a Favorite

What do James Bond, Hanibal Lecter, Sandra Bernhard and famed chef Alain Ducasse have in common?They all enjoy Lillet. What is Lillet you ask?  Quite simply, it’s an aperitif (French for “before dinner drink”) made of wine and fruit liqueur; and like the notable aforementioned, I quite enjoy the stuff.In fact, alongside red wine and small batch bourbon, Lillet Blanc ranks as one of my all time favorite adult beverages.

So it was that during a recent trip through France, I decided to pay a brief visit to the Lillet distillery in order to learn more about the drink that has drawn such an eclectic grouping of connoisseurs. Located a few miles south of the city of Bordeaux, Lillet is nestled in the small village of Podensac. I park and enter the main office where Roland Coiffe (whose family owns Lillet) greets me. “Welcome to Lillet!” he beams.

It’s a busy day at Lillet as the company prepares to participate in the upcoming Fete des vins in Bordeaux, which is the worlds largest annual wine trade show, kind of analogous to Atlanta’s own Wine South but on steroids – lots of steroids!!

Lillet is known as the ‘aperitif of Bordeaux’ and we’ll have a big presence at the Fete des vins this year,” Mr. Coiffe says excitedly. “We expect to pour more than 30,000 glasses over the two day period,” he adds. But despite his hectic schedule, he takes time out to give a private tour of the facility- NICE!

Tour of the Facility

The first stop is large warehouse where much of the production process takes place.Along one wall there are holding tanks for wine, most of which is purchased bottle ready from select vineyards – but this is changing, indicates Mr. Coiffe: “We are increasingly producing more of our own wine here at Lillet, in order to better control the quality.”

Across the room are a number of large steel containers in which the generations old secret recipe for Lillet’s fruit liqueur is compiled.“Once the wine and fruit liqueur are ready, we mix them together in a solution of 85% wine and 15% fruit liqueur”, Mr. Coiffe says pointing to several huge wooden vats on the far side of the room.

Continuing our tour, we arrive to the aging room, which resembles those I’ve seen at many wineries.Here the product rests after being mixed, in oak barrels, for 6-8 months before it is bottled and shipped out to the world.

Moving on, our last stop is the tasting area, a small bar located in the company’s own museum – it’s the moment I’ve been awaiting – its time for a taste!

Here, amid vintage Lillet posters and other colorful relics, Mr. Coiffe pours up a couple of glasses of Lillet Blanc.Into each glass he drops a small piece of lime, a mint leave, and a splash of Perrier.“This is a recipe you can find on our web site and it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy Lillet”, he remarks.After a sip, I can understand why: “Perfect harmony!” I exclaim.

Soon it’s time to leave and I thank Mr. Coiffe for his hospitality.Smiling, he hands me small bottle of Lillet Reserve – a special formula that includes sauternes wine instead of the traditional semillon. “You can’t get this in the States,” he says smiling. I thank him profusely and am on my way. As I pull out of the small gravel parking lot – beginning my long drive to the Riviera – I glance over at the bottle of Lillet next to me and ponder laying on a beach, enjoying Lillet my favorite way – ice cold with a splash of grenadine – yum!


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