Thursday, December 29, 2016
Visit and Tasting: Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France
Overall, Bordeaux is a rather sleepy area, not well prepared to receive wine lovers from all over the world to experience the wines they love so much in the area, where the wines are made. But things are changing. Wine tourism has caught up with Bordeaux. One producer that clearly is a leader in this wine-tourism movement is Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte.
We visited Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte in the morning. Following the visit and tasting we enjoyed lunch at the 2 Michelin starred Restaurant La Grand' Vigne, prepared by Chef Nicolas Masse. The restaurant is part of the Les Sources de Caudalie, a complex comprising a hotel, several restaurants and a health spa, which the owners of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte constructed next to the Château.
This posting focuses on the visit of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. A separate posting covers the outstanding wine lunch at Restaurant La Grande Vigne.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Florence and Daniel Cathiard
The noble Bosq family started growing grapes here as early as 1365. The property was purchased in the 18th century by Scotsman George Smith, who gave the estate its present name. He also built the manor house and exported his – by now famous – wine to England on his own ships. Current owners are Florence and Daniel Cathiard.
Both Florence and Daniel were professional skiers belonging to the French Olympic ski team in the mid-1960s (with triple gold medal legend at the 1968 Winter Olympics Jean-Claude Killy). After their career in sports, Daniel built a supermarket and sporting goods store imperium and Florence an advertising agency. In 1990 they bought Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte with the wealth generated by the sale of all their assets. They brought the quality of Smith-Haut-Lafitte wines to the level for which they were once renowned.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Château Smith Haut Lafitte is a Bordeaux producer from the Pessac-Léognan appellation, ranked among the Grands Crus Classé for red wine in the Classification of Graves wine of 1953 and 1959. The winery and vineyards are located south of the city of Bordeaux, in the commune of Martillac.
The estate originates in the 14th century with the house of Verrier Du Boscq who planted vines on a gravelly plateau named Lafitte already in 1365. In 1720 it was bought by the Scotsman Georges Smith who added his name to the lieu-dit and who built the manor house of the property.
The Louis Eschenauer Company bought the estate in 1958, after having already distributed the wine from the early 20th century. In 1990, Florence and Daniel Cathiard bought Smith Haut Lafitte and embarked on a major renovation and investment program.
The vineyard area consists of 67 hectares, 56 hectares of which are planted with red grape varieties (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc). The remaining 11 hectares are cultivated with white varieties (90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sémillon and 5% Sauvignon Gris). The vineyards are located on a gravel ridge to the east of Château Haut-Bailly.
The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats and the wine is then matured in oak barrels (50% new) for 15-18 months. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The Grand vin, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, is annually produced in 10,000 cases of the red wine and 2,500 cases of the dry white. The second wine, Les Hauts de Smith, has a production of 5,500 cases, and exists in red, white and rosé versions. The rosé is produced as a Bordeaux AOC.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafite has been transformed during the last decade from being a perennial underachiever to being one of the leading estates in the Graves region. Before the arrival of the Cathiard Family, Château Smith Haut Lafitte - though a Classified Growth of the Graves region - bore the nickname of Sleeping Beauty.
Daniel and Florence Cathiard invested heavily, restored buildings, replaced vats, constructed a new barrel cellar, converted vineyard practices to sustainable farming and paid detailed attention to hand picking, sorting, and practices in the cellar. The proportion of new oak barrels used in the maturation process was increased and a trio of eminent oenologists (including Michel Rolland) was hired as consultants.
Having raised the wine of Smith to the highest level of quality, Daniel and Florence Cathiard were not happy to leave it at that: they also restored the 16th-century tower, renovated the 18th-century chartreuse, refurbished two underground cellars and started up a cooperage on the premises.
We ended the tour with a tasting.
Wine Searcher Prices (in US Dollars)
Lunch at Restaurant La Grand' Vigne, Prepared by Chef Nicolas Masse (2 stars Michelin)
Following the tour, we went over to the Restaurant La Grand' Vigne for an outstanding wine lunch, prepared by Chef Nicolas Masse, who got his second Michelin star in 2014. (See separate posting).
Postings on the Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France (Posted and Forthcoming)
Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France
Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy
Bordeaux Wines and their Classifications: The Basics
Bordeaux - En Primeur, Negociants, Courtiers, the Quai de Chartons and the Place de Bordeaux – A Short Introduction
How Does the Negociant System in Bordeaux Work? Tour and Tasting at Millésima - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Dining and Wining on Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris: La Rotonde, Le Dôme and La Coupole, France – Pre-Bordeaux Wine Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours, France
Tour and Tasting from Barrel at Domaine de Chevalier, Graves, Appellation Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé, with Owner Adrien Bernard - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Dinner with a View: At Restaurant L’Estacade in Bordeaux City - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in Bordeaux City - An Update
Schiller's Favorite Seafood Places in Bordeaux City, France
Saint Emilion Wines and their Classification, Bordeaux, France
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in St. Emilion, France
The Wine Empire of the von Neipperg Family in France, Bulgaria and Germany
Tour and Tasting at Château Canon La Gaffelière, Appellation Saint-Emilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour and Wine Pairing Lunch at Château Beauséjour, Appellation Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, with Owner/ Winemaker Gérard Dupuis - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour and Tasting at Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, in Saint-Émilion – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour and Tasting at Château Beauregard, Appellation Pomerol – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour with Dany Rolland: Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Wine-pairing Lunch at Château Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol, with Dany Rolland – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tasting were it all Started: At the "Garage" of Jean-Luc Thunevin, Owner and Winermaker of Château Valandraud, Premier Grand Cru Classé since 2012 - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Charcuterie and Fromage at Chez Pascal in Saint Emilion - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour and Tasting at Château de Fargues, Sauternes, with Prince Eudes d’Orléans - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Wine-pairing Lunch at the 1-star Michelin Restaurant Claude Darroze, with Marie-Hélène Lévêque, Owner of Châteaux Chantegrive - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Visit: Château de Chantegrive, Appellation Grave, with Owner Marie-Hélène Lévêque - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Tour and Tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé.
Wine Pairing Lunch at the 2-star Michelin Restaurant La Grande Vigne (at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte)
Tour of the new Musee du Vin in Bordeaux City
Seafood lunch at Pinasse Cafe in Cap Ferret
Tour of the Earl Ostrea Chanca Oyster Farm and Oyster Tasting in Grand-Piquey, with Oyster Farmer Ralph Doerfler
The 5 Premiers Grands Crus Chateaux en 1855 of Bordeaux, France
What is a Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois? France
Tourt and tasting at Château Palmer, Margaux, 3ième Grand Cru Classé
Tour and Tasting at Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pauillac, 2ième Grand Cru Classé
Wine Lunch at Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pauillac, 2ième Grand Cru Classé
Tour and Tasting at Château Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe, 4ième Grand Cru Classé, with Owner Michel Tesseron
At the Invitation of Owner Michel Tesseron: Private Dinner at Château Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe, 4ième Grand Cru Classé
Tour and Tasting at Château Sociando Mallet, Appellation Haut-Médoc
How a Barrel is Made: Visit of the Cooperage Berger & Fils in Vertheuil
Lunch were the Locals eat: At Le Peyrat in Saint-Estèphe in Saint Estephe
Tour and Tasting at Château Léoville Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2ième Grand Cru Classé, with Anne Cuvelier
Tour and Tasting at Château Margaux, Appellation Margaux, 1ière Grand Cru Classé
Tour and Tasting at Château Kirwan, Appellation Margaux, 3ième Grand Cru Classé, with Owner Nathalie Schyler
Picnic Lunch at Château Kirwan, Appellation Margaux, 3ième Grand Cru Classé, with Owner Nathalie Schyler
Tour and Wine Dinner at Château Haut-Bailly, Graves, Appellation Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé, with Daina Paulin