AFCDV Bordeaux Trip Day 4: The Crown Jewels of the Médoc

The final morning of our trip began with eighth-generation winemaker Sophie Schÿler, who hosted American Friends for a tour of her family’s exquisite and historic property, Château Kirwan.  Before taking the guests on a tour of the estate and cellars, she revealed the property’s accounting books dating back centuries and discussed Thomas Jefferson’s visit, proudly noting his remarks on “Quirouen” wine as “exceptional quality” in his famous book on wine. When the finest samples of Médoc wines were selected for the 1855 World’s Fair, Château Kirwan secured an international reputation, ranking at the head of Médoc Third Great Growths.

Sophie Schuyler          

Mr. Jefferson placed Château Margaux at the top of his hierarchy of wines, and the American Friends guests were graciously and uniquely welcomed to this elegant château on our last day. One of the five first-growth châteaux, Margaux was the only estate given a 20/20 rating at the time of Napoleon III’s classification; Mr. Thomas Jefferson also placed Château Margaux at the top of his hierarchy of wines. Mr. Jefferson wrote, “Chateaux Mafgau (sic) bought by myself on the spot,” “It is the best vintage that has happened in nine years . . . I may safely assure you, therefore, that, according to the taste of this country and of England, there cannot be a bottle of better Bordeaux produced in France.”

After a private tour of the property and cellars, Mr. Thomas Burke greeted the guests in the Nouveau Chai for an extraordinary tasting of Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux 2017, Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux 2017, and Château Margaux 2017. Afterward, Mr. Burke escorted the guests to the Château, where M. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos was waiting to host the guests for lunch with his team: Managing Director Philippe Bascaules, Deputy Managing Director Aurélien Valance, and of course, Commercial Relations Manager, Mr. Burke. Guests were treated to a beautiful lunch and a lively conversation with the team, accompanied by Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux 2016 and Château Margaux vintages, 1996 and 1983. 

Group photo at Chateau Margaux

The last stop of our journey tracing Jefferson’s 1787 visit took us to Château Lafite Rothschild, where Mme. Saskia de Rothschild welcomed our guests for a private tour and charmed them with the history of the estate. She began with the story of Jefferson’s visit, presenting her research to Mr. Sape before leading the group through the production area to the cellars, where the technical director for Château Lafite, Mr. Eric Kohler, hosted the group in the tasting rooms for a glass of the 2015 Carruades de Lafite and a 2000 Château Lafite Rothschild. It was an auspicious ending to a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

George Sape and Saskia de Rothschild

This trip was a year in the making, and we genuinely appreciate the incredible generosity and hospitality bestowed by the châteaux, the assistance by the Cité du Vin team, and the encouragement by the American Friends leadership. Lastly and most importantly, we’d like to express our deepest gratitude to our donors, travelers, and guests for their enthusiastic support of this monumental trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Bordeaux.