Unwrapping this special box of chocolate on my TGV ride to Chamonix leaving Bordeaux marked the end of my wine trip end of this February. This box marked with the letters “HB” is not a box from any chocolatier but a special gift to me from Chateau Haut Bailly during my visit.
Chateau Haut Bailly wasn’t the first Vineyard during my Bordeaux wine tour, but I’d love to have this happy intimate visit to be my first post of the tour to share here.
Just a stone’s throw away from the city of Bordeaux, Château Haut-Bailly, is a Graves Cru Classé estate that has really hit form in the last 6-8 years.
Stepping into the vineyards of Haut Bailly is one of my most refreshing experience during the tour. The beautiful Château overlook its 30hectares of vine which are very well sited on high (at 48 metres above sea level), sandy gravelly ground just east of Léognan village, and the owners are always warm and welcoming.
It still has 15% of its old vines dating from the pre-phylloxera period – a mixture of Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon., and when we walked out to the vines just behind the property, you can see a few rows with all the varieties jumbled together, but each variety carefully marked with different colour strips so the harvesters don’t make any mistakes. To produce the wine of Chateau Haut Bailly, the vinification takes place in thermo-regulated, cement vats of different sizes ranging in capacity from as small as 30 hectoliter vats to as large as 180 hectoliters. This wide range of vats allows for precise vinification on a plot by plot basis.
The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (25%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). It is matured in small oak barriques (50% new) for 16 to 18 months.
In fact, Château Haut-Bailly has been one of the most exciting estates in Pessac Leognan for me. The property was bought by the Sanders family in 1955 and was run by Jean Sanders until it was bought in 1998 by Robert G. Wilmers, a Harvest-educated banker and Chairman of M&T Bank, who spent part of his childhood and career in Belgium. He is married to a French woman, Elisabeth, and together they have completely restored the beautiful 18th century chateau and updated and enlarged the winery.
It really depends if you buy into Parker or not, Haut Bailly has been regularly named as a ‘sleeper’ or ‘best value’ by Robert Parker, and was name-checked by retired Petrus winemaker Jean Claude Berrouet as one of his favorite Bordeaux wines, for its delicacy and finesse. The wine is renowned for its smoothness and silkiness but, since the mid 1990s, the wines have better depth of fruit as well as more grip, concentration and body. Parker gave the 2008 vintage a 95-97, far higher than he had ever scored Haut Bailly before and rerated the previous 91-93 pts of 2006 to 95. To me, its a winery that produces amazing wine with great price.
After a tour of the vineyard and its cellar where they age their 1st wine, and their 2nd wine, La Parde de Haut Bailly ( created in 1967, aged for approx 12 months in barrel), I was being guided into their property. “Oh, my type of place!”, I screamed to myself quietly. Modern yet chic and cosy; books, ladder, fireplace, art pieces and antiques! I immediately fell in love with it along with a glass of Champagne in my hand with lovely canapé amusing our mouth.
After hanging out in front of the fire place, we moved into our dinning room for one of the sweetest pretty lunch I’ve ever had. We had La Parde Haut-Bailly 2007 along with our entrée (sea bass truffle tart) then Château Haut-Bailly 2003 with the main course (veal venere risotto), finally Château Haut-Bailly 1999 with dessert (pear, pain d’epices and pistachio ice-cream), of course who would miss the cheese platter? I can’t help not posting the dessert photo out here. It’s so beautifully made that I felt almost guilty destroying it for my own greed. Besides the good wine, it such a well thought to have chef Jean-Charles Poinsot in-da-house for their guests all time during the year.
Little Wine Note:
La Parde de Haut-Bailly 2007 is less intense than most Chateau Haut Bailly that I had tasted, but still, lots of ripe fruit and mineral notes.
Château Haut-Bailly 2003 – nose is quite earthy with bit of plum, while it tasted alot more attractive than its nose which is very chocolatey and cherry, medium acidity, soft and silky despite the hot weather, matched so well with the veal. I love it!
Château Haut-Bailly 1999 was great as well, with earthy and tobacco on nose, well balanced but I guess is a wine to drink now.
(I bought a bottle of 1999 and 2000 Chateau Haut Bailly too to compare them during the same day at night and will write about how the night goes with them soon!)
After our wonderful wine and dine, we took a walk into their recently opened small wine boutique at the property, with books on wine, grapes, plus a range of cheese, wine accessories and other small gift ideas. I love this shop so much that I blamed myself so bad I didn’t bring another suitcase to carry all of them back home. If you somehow storm into Chateau Haut Bailly, don’t miss your little shopping maniac in middle of the wine!!
Bordeaux can seem intimidating to visitors, but getting a little personal, relaxing with the property’s owner or winemaker over lunch or dinner, and understanding their wines in the context of food surely deepens the whole experience. Afterall, wine is very much about terrior and the people.
Chateau Haut Bailly – the first wine
La Parde de Haut Bailly – created in 1967, one of the earliest second wines to be created in Bordeaux, aged for approx 12 months in barrel.
Rose de Haut Bailly. 100% cabernet sauvignon, made by the saignee method from bleeding off wine after a short maceration in stainless steel tanks.
Special thanks to :
Annual production across all wines 160,000 bottles.