Our visit to St. Emilion was certainly a highlight experience of our European travels. Partly due to the B&B we found that was owned and operated by a South American woman living in France who is accustomed to the American way of customer service and is Cordon Bleu trained…
Chateau Claud-Bellevue is a B&B that surpassed any and all of our expectations. As frequent travelers, we grew accustomed to a certain level of customer service throughout Europe but I have to say that Ana’s attention to detail and desire to make her guests feel at home and comfortable exceeds even the level of customer service that the US typically offers. Ana’s English is superb and she often sat and chatted with us. She and her family made us feel right at home while still giving us space. The B&B itself is brand new and all rooms have been completely renovated. Did I mention very reasonably priced?! Ana’s breakfast is superb. She and her son are Cordon Bleu trained and their meals completely reflect such level of skill.
Ana and her husband began producing wine in 2010. The 2011 vintage had just been bottled and we purchased a case from Ana to send back to the US. Ana followed up on it routinely for several months while we were moving from Europe back to the US to make sure we had received the case of wine when we scheduled it to be delivered. Her follow up was greatly appreciated.My husband and I highly recommend the B&B and hope to return one day.
Chateaus we visited from recommendations
Chateau le Chatelet. This is the one we stumbled across open on Sundays based on the tourist website info. They don’t (or didn’t) speak a lot of English, though, but there were plenty of people “making do.” When we were there, it was a very small operation, small tasting room, and just a couple of brothers making wine. They have received grand cru status so things may have changed a little bit (including the price of their wine).
Chateau Villemarine – Not a bad tour because they have more quarry space open to the public than most of the chateaus, so that is an interesting site to see.
For wine purchasing, Max at Vignobles et Chateaux was the man! Because we didn’t love EACH wine at the chateaus we visited and wanted to ship a bit back to our US address, we made our purchases mostly from this shop. Max shipped all of our wine to us at the time of year we requested (to avoid cooking in the Texas summer heat). This was the most cost efficient way of purchasing wine for us, by far. Max also put together a tasting for us based on our liking. Our time was him was more than well-spent. He even walked us to a couple chateaus for a quick tour having just made the request earlier that morning.
We had lunch at Chai-Pascal which was located in the middle of the city and is nice but casual.
We ended up having dinner at our B&B for each of the evenings as Ana and her son prepared an amazing dish with our requests incorporated. The value was out of this world…inquire with Ana as this is not a listed restaurant.
Other recommendations to us
The underground tour of St-Emillion is supposed to be great.
Le Clos Mirande – “a little out of the village, but lovely views over the valley, and if the weather is nice enough, a lovely terrace for aperitif or dinner.”
Le Tertre and L’Eveners du Decor
Chateau Corbin – “also really enjoyed. A lady is now the owner/manager of this estate, as it stayed in the family. They do a nice tour/explanation of the wine growing process in English that was very informative.”
Chateau Troplong Mondot – “pretty cool views from the back of the property over the village and the vineyards. Other than that, we didn’t find anything overly special about their tour or wine (only 1 tasting).”
Chateau Laniote – “another small, one-man show….who loves magic tricks. Good time though, and a nice place to learn about the process individually.”
Chateau Soutard – these guys were purchased by an insurance broker a few years ago (becoming more and more popular) and all their stuff is like uber-modern and just didn’t quite have the old school St-Emillion feel that one might expect.
The St Emilion tourism site has a nice calendar explaining all the guided tours and also “chateaus of the day” Saint Emilion Tourisme UK
Unfortunately, our visit to Bordeaux was quite a disappointment as compared to our St. Emilion experience and we had wished we stayed an extra day in St. Emilion instead. HOWEVER, our friends who had visited Bordeaux City had nothing but great things to say so I’ve included their recommendations below:
“Nice Dinner in Bordeaux city: Le Saint James Restaurant was tasty! It used to be bring your own wine on Wednesdays and they would semi-customize a menu for you based on your wine.”
Wine Bar in Bordeaux City: It’s the “on tap” kind similar to the place in Brussels. Aux Quatre Coins du Vin and the snacks/food was quite nice as well
If you are planning to go to the coast…
Our friends LOVED the village/town of Arcachon. “Cute, cute town and reminded me of our favorite little towns in Florida. And umm….if you are there, please try the macaroons at M le macaron. There is also a store in Bordeaux city. 30 cours lamarque de Plaisance
Our friends also took the ferry to Cap Ferret and rented bikes for a couple of hours. “Also very nice and enjoyable. They have marked bike routes so this is an easy endeavor.”
Dune de Plya – “super cool as well and worth the time if you are in the area.”