This was probably the least prepared I have ever been for a trip. The day before our flight, I graduated from USC. So my entire week leading up to graduation (and this trip) was filled with final projects, graduation dinners, and a whole lot of other crap. On top of that, I also moved out of my studio into a new apartment in Chinatown and found a sub-leaser in less than a week!
Day 1: Take off – LAX to CDG
Flying from West to East is always tough with the time change, and Los Angeles to Europe is one of the worst. However, Air France First Class does a good job of mitigating that burden.
Qantas International LAX First Class Lounge
Once we got to the check in desk, we were whisked away by the Air France staff to the Qantas International LAX First Class Lounge that they share with a few other airlines. I started the trip off with a stiff gin & soda (because I’m weird and don’t like tonic) and ordered up their famous salt & pepper squid. There were even showers in this lounge should you had felt inclined to freshen up before your long flight. When our flight was ready to board, our Air France attendant came and got us from the lounge and took us to our seats.
If there’s anything to complain about, we didn’t get the new aircraft like our last trip to Paris, so instead of 4 seats there were 10 and the TV screens were circa-1980. But, the seat still went flat and that’s really all that matters! Flat seat + ambien + wine = great airplane sleep and no jet lag!
Pro-tip: Ask for the Michel Cluizel chocolate in first class. They have boxes with 7 of his chocolates from different plantations around the world.
Day 2: Land & Take off again – CDG to BDX
Air France Paris (CDG) First Class Lounge
We landed in Bordeaux with about 2 hours to burn before our next flight. The crazy thing about Air France First Class is you don’t even have to clear customs. Right when we landed, they escorted us to the first class lounge in a BMW. We even got to choose whether we wanted to board our flight to Bordeaux “first” or “last”. Naturally, we chose last so we could spend as much time in the lounge as possible.
The restaurant is catered by Alain Ducasse, and almost all of the food is a la carte, with a three course menu. At this point I really wasn’t hungry after how much I ate on the flight, though I figured I had to take one for the team since it’s not everyday I experience this lounge.
This lounge is pretty crazy, with a relaxation area, business center, showers, and even a full spa where you can get treatments. Also, there’s about 10 people in here MAX at any given time.
Once it was time to head to our next flight, we got picked up in another BMW and escorted to our seats. Rough way to travel.
Domaine de Vallier
For the duration of your stay in Bordeaux for Vinexpo, we were graciously accommodated by one of our suppliers, Benoît Calvet, at his property in Bordeaux, Domaine de Vallier. The property was filled with dogs, horses, and wildlife. It was truly a sanctuary away from the big city hustle and bustle while also being conveniently located ~10 minutes away from Vinexpo.
Chateau Ad Francos
For dinner our first night we were originally supposed to attend an event in Saint-Émilion with Producta Vignobles, but we weren’t sure if our flight was going to land on time, so we bailed on that. Instead, we headed out to Chateau Ad Francos, one of the properties owned by the founder of Maison le Star, Guillaume Brochard.
This place has a TON of history behind it, and was awesome to see the layers built on century after century. It’s in Clovis, Roi de Francs just out side of Saint-Émilion. A Frankish garrison then settled on this strategic hill in 507. It was called “Ad Francos” (from the Franks) where the current name of the village of Francs comes from.
There is a lovely husband and wife who reside full time on property taking care of the grounds while also doing some cooking. Who knew French home-cooking was this amazing? This was by far my favorite meal of the trip.
Day 3: Vinexpo & Dinner @ M&P Comptoir
First day of Vinexpo was packed with meetings and wine tastings. The lunch lines were so crowded we couldn’t even eat! Not that I really cared because it fit in perfectly with my intermittent fasting. Unfortunately, this is most likely the last year of Vinexpo in Bordeaux, as they are allegedly merging with Wine Paris and having an annual event in Paris. I guess I’ll get to go to Paris now 🙂
After a long day, we headed back to the Domaine to get ready for dinner. Stephane from Maison le Star took the group out to M&P Comptoir, a new meat house in Bordeaux. We got 2 massive steaks: one from Valencia and the other Wagyu from Japan.
We had a disastrous time trying to open up a 1982 _____. They didn’t have the proper corkscrew to open it and we broke the cork. To top things off, they didn’t have a filter to pour the wine through, so we had to rig a napkin over a decanter to act as a filtration system. We lost some wine but hey it worked!
Day 4: Vinexpo & Dinner @ Domaine de Vallier
By the second day of Vinexpo I was done with trade shows, but, there were still 2 days left! I got out early and took the tram into Bordeaux City Center where I snuck into the Basic Fit with my buddy’s pass. About as budget of a gym as you can get, it wasn’t the best but in Europe it was far more than I could have expected. And with all the French bread, it was definitely needed.
After I was done working out I took the tram back to Vinexpo. They REFUSED to let me in because of my attire, so I had to use my French to convince them to let me walk through to my car transportation that was waiting for me. That was quite the experience.
Domaine de Vallier Barbecue
Dinner was at Domaine de Vallier so I didn’t have to travel at all. It was very good, they had appetizers, accoutrements, fresh cut iberian ham, and grilled meats and veggies from the barbecue, but wow was I still hungry. The problem with intermittent fasting in Europe, is that everyone else eats breakfast and lunch, so I was ready to absolutely destroy this barbecue, except there were 40 people and only enough food for me if I was the only one there. Luckily, Zac had one of those paleo bars so that helped out a little, but I still went to bed starving.
Day 5: Helicopter Tour, Intercontinental Rooftop Party & Dinner @ Chateau Pape Clement
Despite all the crazy shit we did today, the most exciting part for me may have been finding a salad place in downtown Bordeaux 🤣
First thing first we had a helicopter tour to go on. One of our old suppliers wanted to take us to their new property, Chateau D’arche, a second growth Sauternes property. I got to ride shotgun and take Go Pro footage of the whole ride. It was awesome getting to see all of Bordeaux and the surrounding wine regions from above. There are literally SO MANY vineyards. It’s crazy.
I bailed from the show a bit early again to take the tram into the city center to workout. We were stopping at our friend Mickael’s new apartment in Bordeaux city center before we headed to his event for George Vigouroux, on the rooftop suite at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Hotel Intercontinental Bordeaux Suite
Talk about a sweet view. The suite deck overlooked the city square and you could see all of Bordeaux. It was sunny and 70 degrees — couldn’t have asked for better weather! After 4 glasses of wine my time was coming to an end at the event and we headed to our dinner for the night at Chateau Pape Clement, hosted by Bernard Magrez.
Chateau Pape Clement
The events Bernard Magrez has at Chateau Pape Clement are always a sight to behold, and this was no different. Unfortunately, since we had our event before, we missed the cocktail receptions and some of the exhibits they had, but we made it in time for the violinist playing on an instrument over 400 years old! On top of that, they were pouring 1st label Chateau Pape Clement all night and even had a crazy Cirque du Soleil type act to close out the night.
We almost went back into Bordeaux to go out, but we had a long day ahead of us the next day and the people we were trying to meet up with were clearly very intoxicated, making communication quite difficult. So I made the smart choice and went to bed 🙂
Day 6: Vinexpo Lunch @ Garopapilles & Fete de la Fleur
By day 4, I had had enough of trade shows, and luckily, so had the rest of the show! It was an absolute ghost town on the 4th day, so we casually browsed around and visited some of our suppliers we hadn’t gotten to see yet. And of course we stopped at one of our Italian partner’s booth for some real coffee as opposed to the crap the French call “Coffee”.
We headed out early for lunch in Downtown Bordeaux at Garopapilles, a michelin starred gastronomique restaurant run by Tanguy Laviale and Gael Morand. Apparently, this restaurant isn’t open on the weekends, because the chefs don’t want to work then. Pretty awesome and also typical French 😉
The food was delicious and felt like the first filling meal of the whole trip. I was ready for a nap afterwards, but unfortunately I had to start working and pack my bags because there was a busy night ahead.
Fete de la Fleur
Fete de la Fleur… wow. In 1950, the Commanderie introduced a spring event to celebrate the flowering of the vine. In 1959, when the Graves and Medoc Orders merged and contributed to the formation of the Commanderie du Bontemps de Sauternes et Barsac, the festival became recognized as the Fête de la Fleur.
With more than 1,500 guests, the Fête de la Fleur is the main event for wine lovers from all corners of the globe. We spent the night sharing our passion for great Medoc and Graves, Sauternes and Barsac wines while eating a special menu prepared by a host of Michelin chefs and staff. I mean even JACK MA was there.
The night FAR surpassed any expectations I had. This was clearly the premier Bordeaux event of the year, if not for all of France. There was a total of 1,900 guests on the sprawling property of Château Lunch-Moussas. There was plenty of food, amazing wine, and the evening ended with fireworks and a live DJ until 5am.
After finally getting back to Domaine de Vallier, I chugged 2 waters, went to sleep, and hoped I wouldn’t feel like complete shit the next day.
Day 7: Return – BDX to CDG to ORD
The worst and the best day. Typically, these Europe trips are MUCH longer (~3 weeks), so after 21 days it’s kind of a relief to get back to the states. That being said, it also sucks, because I love traveling and I really enjoy Europe (the food and wine helps).
Flying from Europe back to the states I typically don’t sleep anyways because the flight is so short (~8 hours). So I watched 4 movies and worked and went to sleep early back in Chicago!Since I changed my routing to fly back to Chicago instead of Los Angeles I had to fly Business Class instead of First Class 😲 oh the anguish!Loading Likes...