Join Tor and Susan Kenward of TOR Wines for an unforgettable AMAWaterways cruise in the world-renowned Bodeaux wine region!
Board the ship in the city of Bordeaux after an optional pre-cruise program in Paris (through AMAWaterways) or in Bordeaux (with Tor & Susan through MmMmTravel). You will journey to, and explore, the renowned vineyards of Saint-Émilion, Pauillac, Pomerol and Libourne, discovering timeless traditions from the winemakers themselves. You’ll be treated to delicious wine tastings throughout your journey, including a tasting at the 14th-century Château de Montaigne, and a “wine festival” in Bourg—an exclusive event for AmaWaterways guests.
You may choose to conclude your journey with an optional AMAWaterways post-cruise program in the UNESCO World Heritage Loire Valley with five extraordinary châteaux visits before an overnight stay at a hotel near the Paris airport. Guests wishing to participate in all TOR Wines events must make their reservation through MmMmTravel. You’ll have the option to begin with an exclusive optional TOR Wines two night pre-cruise stay in Bordeaux or AMAWaterway’s optional two night pre-cruise stay in Paris.
BORDEAUX – Andrew Harper Hideaway Report (preview)
“For the World’s most avid wine lovers that subscribe to the maxim that ‘Cabernet is King’, visiting France’s Bordeaux region offers the ultimate bacchanalian adventure. While the most legendary First Growth Chateau have traditionally been strictly off-limits to visitors, I recently cracked the code.
The Romans introduced wine to Bordeaux in the first century and wine production has been continuous in the region since then. In the 12th century, Bordeaux reds became the first wines to gain international acclaim following the marriage of King Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine and subsequent exports to England. Today, Bordeaux is the largest wine growing area in France releasing more than 700 million bottles most vintages, ranging from $20 table wines to storied collector favorites that trade at auctions for many thousands of dollars per bottle.
As a testament to their global appeal and monumental financial success, many of the top collector-level Chateau have replaced their original winery facility with lavish new edifice. Virtually unrivaled in their extravagance, these modern architectural wonders are simply breathtaking in their scale, and spare-no-expenses pursuit of the finest wine tools. I learned that changes in the French tax laws and European Union agriculture subsidies instigated this modern day “arms race” in competitive Chateau construction a decade ago. The result is a new era of oppulent wineries and private tasting salon that resemble the most fantastic James Bond designs.
The Bordeaux wine region is actually four unique sub-regions that cover a vast area similar in size to California’s Napa and Sonoma counties combined. Virtually all collector-level red wines produced in Bordeaux are blends including some or all of these five grape varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Bordeaux is also the source of several world-famous white wines that are typically blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Medoc sub-region is located near the “Left Bank” of the Gironde river and is home to many of the most iconic Chateau such as Latour and Margaux famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. The “Right Bank” sub-region is just east (i.e. right) of the Gironde river and is known for red wine blends featuring Merlot and Cabernet Franc grown near the villages of Pomerol or St. Emillion. As the city of Bordeaux has expanded, it now encompasses the third most prominent wine sub-region, Pessac Leognan, as a suburb. The fourth sub-region, Sauternes, is home to fabled late harvest white wines such as Chateau d’YQuem. “
Our cavalcade of iconic wine tastings commenced at Chateau Margaux, nicknamed the “Versailles of the Médoc” for the neo-palladian style château that graces the label of Margaux’s Grand Vin. Margaux isn’t just a refined, aristocratic, dwelling-house, but operates more like a self-sufficient hamlet with its own water source, gardens and exclusive cooperage for constructing oak barrels for wine aging. Initially, visiting Margaux feels like a stroll through a bucolic landscape that harkens back to the French Renaissance. Then, you drop down into the subterranean barrel aging facilities through a modern staircase, hidden behind a secret door camouflaged as a maintenance shed, on the edge of the vineyards. (The sprawling rooms below connote the stylish ambiance of a modern museum.) We sampled three vintages from the last decade which provided a delightful initiation to our senses and set the stage for an epic tour.
Our next venue was Château d’Issan, adjacent to Chateau Margaux and near famed Chateau Palmer. This relatively undiscovered gem is extraordinarily picturesque. What it lacks in worldwide fame it more than makes up for in history, superb quality of wine, cuisine and hospitality. In the 12th century, this property was a fiefdom with the name at that time of La Mothe-Cantenac. That wine is rumored to have been poured at the actual wedding of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Our convivial host, proprietor Aymar Cruse, led us on a stroll through the magical gardens around the Chateau. The centerpiece of the property is a Louis XIV era Chateau (almost a petit Vaux-le-Vicomte) surrounded by a moat with fresh water that flows to the nearby Gironde. The Chateau is elegantly appointed with family heirlooms and photos amidst landmark antiques and one of the most grandiose fireplace ever seen in a private residence. We savored a sumptuous lunch featuring local beef paired with the Chateau’s finest recent vintages. A real jewel, d’Issan is an intimate encounter I highly recommend.
Our next day of tastings began at the most prominent Chateau on the Right Bank: Cheval Blanc, established in 1832 and celebrated as one of only four “Grand Cru Classe A,” the Right Bank’s equivalent commendation to the Left Bank’s First Growth classification. Approaching Cheval Blanc one notices the serene, country park setting and stately Chateau as well as a small private chapel. Since 2011, one of the most technologically advanced wineries ever built now lies behind the regal façade. The contemporary architecture encompasses a series of swirling exterior walls reminiscent of Frank Ghery or I.M. Pei. A tranquil rooftop garden offers a splendid panorama overlooking many prized vineyards, including Chateau Petrus nearby. Our tasting highlight was the recent 2011 release of the Grand Vin which, similar to tradition, is roughly equal parts blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. I savored every sip whilst enjoying the view north towards the village of Pomerol and overlooking the winery’s most prized century-old vines that still contribute to the final blend.
I felt quite anticipatory on the way to our next stop as Chateau Angelus has ranked highly on my personal list of favorite Bordeaux since I first encountered their now-legendary 1989 vintage. When sampling this sumptuous red wine, one might deduce the name of this Chateau refers to “Angels” but it actually alludes to the Angelus bell, which is a traditional Catholic call to prayer and to spread good-will to neighbors. The dazzling reds we savored met my lofty hopes. Ironically, the James Bond connections continued as our host reminded us that Angelus is the only wine to ever appear by name in that illustrious action hero’s films twice.
Afterwards, we dashed into nearby St. Emillion, an enchanting enclave that traces its history back to prehistoric times and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, St. Emillion offers breathtaking vistas, epicurean delights, incomparable charm and some of Europe’s most romantic history. Lunch was an extravaganza hosted by our new friends from Chateau Angelus as the proprietors also own a Michelin-starred restaurant named Logis de La Cadène. Our three-course meal was superb (including one of freshest salmon tartare in memory) followed by an ample cheese course expertly selected to accompany the last sips of the distinguished 2011 Chateau Angelus.