Travel Notes from our Bordeaux Harvest Tour

Pascale Bernasse | Thursday, Oct 28th 2010

by Carolyn Russell

Chateau Palomey is located in the Haut-Medoc and is classified as a Cru Bourgeois Superieur Classe in 2003, which is impressive since the vineyard had to be completely replanted when she purchased it in 1989. Martine Cazeneuve, the owner, and her marketing director greeted us when we arrived and took us directly to the vineyard to introduce us to the vines. Martine explained that when they replanted the vineyards, it was the first time the land had been planted since phylloxera devastated the vines in the late 1800s. So, it was a BIG job to replant! The typical blend for their first label is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This is the region with sandy soils and gravel (no clay)….so, lots of rabbits!! The rabbit holes in the vineyard were quite large and you had to be careful not to trip or fall into one….seriously! Martine demonstrated the method for cutting the grape clusters and loading them into the baskets before we were assigned our specific rows of vines to pick. Once our baskets were full, we would raise our hand and someone with a larger bucket strapped to their back would come over for us to offload our grapes so that we could continue without wasting time walking to the end of the row. We only picked a short time (at the most an hour)…..very different from my experience in the Loire, which was not an organized tour but actual labor!
After we picked the grapes, we were able to participate in the manual sorting process which was very cool….we lined up next to the sorting table and waited for the grapes to come by on the conveyor belt. After the grapes went through the destemmer, they were dropped onto the sorting table….it was challenging work to pull out of the small stem particles and undersized grapes before they rushed by! Even with six of us working at it, we missed a lot….I am certain they professionals will redo our work once we leave :-) After sorting, we washed up and then Martine took us through the rest of the winery and described their wine making and aging process. Then, we reached the tasting room and had the pleasure of tasting their 1st label and 2nd label wines from the 2004 vintage, as well as two wines from the other Les Médicaines female producers….which is the first time I have been poured another chateaux’ wine.

After tasting, we enjoyed a ‘typical’ harvest lunch….4 courses for lunch and lots of wine! (although Martine explained that the workers do not drink at lunch, so they actually ate separate from us….although a couple joined us, perhaps because they were learning English or they were ‘full time’ employees so they were allowed to drink….not really sure, but they were very friendly). The food was great….cabbage salad, pork stuffed with prune and noodles, cheese (of course) and apple tart. It was a fabulous day at Chateau Paloumey!!


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