11 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My arrival in Bordeaux was marked by decidedly un-Israeli weather. The low clouds, light mist and cool temperatures suggested late April rather than early July. Only a day after walking the streets of Tel Aviv beneath the merciless Israeli sun, dreaded by many but beloved by me, the weather felt like something of a letdown. Thankfully, my guide for the day had decided to start us off with a real highlight — a visit to the Chateau de La Riviere, in Fronsac. The estate dates back to the 16th century, and its location, both in terms of real estate and in terms of terroir, is one of the best in Fronsac. The chateau itself sits atop a wooded plateau overlooking a gently sloping, expansive hill that forms the majority of La Riviere’s vineyard. Just down the road, a somewhat smaller parcel stretches to the top of an even steeper hill. These vines produce the grapes for La Riviere’s top cuvée, Aria.

Thierry, the estate’s marketing manager, took us for a tour of the property, starting at the “Women’s Bath,” a small bathing pool fed by an underground spring. This 18th century addition to the estate retains its form more than its function, but is also a reminder that as far as water is concerned, the estate is entirely self-sufficient.

Next, we entered the cellars. The product of close to 300 years of rock extraction, the underground network now totals eight hectares (about 20 acres), half of which are in use for storage. Aside from two long barrel rooms, most of the walls house large compartments cut out of the limestone, where older wines (dating back to 1962) are kept in bottle.

We emerged on the opposite side of the cellar and made our way into the Chateau building for a quick tasting. The lineup was comprehensive, featuring the estate’s second wine, Les Sources du Chateau de La Riviere; the Grand Vin, Chateau de La Riviere; and the top cuvée known as the Aria. We then tasted three vintages of the Chateau de la Riviere — 2007, 2008 and 2009. Even though it retains some firmness now, the 2008 was clearly my favorite. The wine had just enough richness and fruit to play against the slightly grainy texture and subtle hints of spice. I’m happy that the 2008 Chateau de la Riviere will hit our shelves this month. It will be a fine showcase for both the underrated 2008 vintage, and for the quality and potential of the La Riviere estate.

After lunch at a charming country restaurant (featuring a real treat, the 2002 vintage of Aria), my visit concluded with a brief helicopter flight over the property, with James Gregoire, the owner, at the controls. La Riviere’s outstanding terroir is even more clearly on display from above, as the dramatic sweep of the estate’s hill seems to dwarf the small country houses and pastures below. All in all, it was a great start to my short visit to Bordeaux. I hope to share more about this special trip very soon...

- Dmitriy Krasny
8.1.2013

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