“Barren” is the only word that describes the conditions of our arrival for tasting (of wine), and eating in the village of Margaux. Barren of coffee, barren of people, barren of sun, even barren of suggestive leafy growth; the grapes are still just emerging. We arrived in Catanac, the town just before Margaux, at exactly 9:00AM. We woke up at 6:00AM in order to catch the bus, which only leaves from Bordeaux once every two hours. The coffee disparity was–I cannot stress enough–a massive problem. The bus driver thought we were absolutely crazy, flagging her down with energetic arm signaling we were told was necessary by the Maison du Vin, who warned, “don’t miss the bus or you will miss the tasting appointment.” What she should have said was, “If you miss the bus you’ll have woken up at 6:00 AM and there will be no wine to ease your pain.” That’s some motivation.
The Bus timetable was, in short, not ideal. Neither was our understanding of Catanac. We wandered for a while into a few even more deserted areas of the village, imagining the discovery of a Boulangerie and getting damn close to a coffee-deprived mirage. Margot kept opening her eyes wide and exclaiming, “but where do they get coffee and bread?” They live on wine; on the little miniscule bits of wine that last on their tongue, collecting after thousands of tastes-and-spits in one day. Yes, not very probable. But ‘reason’ seems a distant concept when a rooster is actually just now crowing (that happened), and you’ve been up for two hours with only a tiny shot of “cafe” pretending to be coffee because you were too sleepy to remember to say the full two words “Cafe American.”
The day could only go upwards. Indeed, I must say that we were already having one of those literally hopeless good times. A desperate hunt for coffee in a ghost town and Roosters ushering you to a wine tasting are nothing other than hilarious. Now the important question that keeps the entire day from being farce: why all the hassle? Margot’s parents bought cases of Margaux when she was born, in her honor. The village and label remained a sort of mascot for her life and, for example, she has a painting of the Chateau in her room. The famed Chateau Margaux is impossible to visit without months of planning and some hefty name dropping or euro dropping, but there was no way we were going to be a few miles from the village and not at least try some nearby wines and eat a delicious lunch.
Chateaux Pierre-Lycee was the 10 AM stop. They gave an impressive tour, not the best we’d tasted in the region, but generally nice, so Margot bought her mother a bottle of wine for Mother’s Day. Notice the red bag in the photos below…we carted that wine 40 minutes down the road to our lunch reservation. We also carted it to all over France until her mother arrived. That is anther story.
For lunch we really splurged. We sat outside in a covered garden at Le Savoie and had the Menu Degustation, with wine pairings:
Duo de Foi Gras de Canard paired with a glass of Sauternes
Two types of Duck Foi Gras, one seared and one pate, with sweet raison and balsamic, olive oil and tomatoes.
Meddallion de Homard a L’ Americaine and a glass of Pessac Leognan
Lobster in a cream sauce and what seemed to be a sort of Lobster Souffle
Filet de Boeuf facon tournedos Sauce et Macarons au Truffes with a glass of Margaux (!)
Steak with veggies, wrapped in bacon, topped with a truffle macaroon. WOW!
Fromage and a glass of Margaux
Croustellant Praline Chocolate, Mousse Mandarin
Praline bars with orange whipped cream.
The four hours of eating was, to say the least, intensely delicious. We did great justice to Margot’s pre-natal agathodemon. Yes, that is a word, I just learned it from Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris and it means good spirit. After a lot of time spent digesting we made a final approach to the actual Chateaux. I can’t officially speak for Margot but that’s never stopped me before… so … we felt, in a word, content.