President’s Trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Bordeaux, Day 1

From October 9-12, 2023, American Friends of Cité du Vin enjoyed an exquisitely curated itinerary tracing the steps of Thomas Jefferson’s 1787 trip to Bordeaux, which featured private receptions in châteaux, luncheons hosted on property, exclusive visits with châteaux owners and top winemakers, rare and unparalleled tastings and of course, a private guided tour of La Cité du Vin. AFCDV President George Sape led a group of twenty guests on this once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.

Guests gathered for a special Champagne toast at Hotel Villas Foch in Bordeaux. Sape told the group that when Thomas Jefferson first came to Bordeaux in 1787, he brought with him a special leather-bound notebook to write down his experiences and impressions of the sights and tastes he experienced. With the help of Roswitha Rodrigues, Creative Director, Magical Monkey, AFCDV created a similar notebook to commemorate this special trip to Bordeaux. Guests were presented with these notebooks, which included a map of the region, background information about the châteaux, and provided space to write tasting notes throughout the week. 

Following the Champagne toast, the group set off for an immersive walking tour of Bordeaux led by local expert Véronique Baggio. Baggio led the group through central Bordeaux, pointing out buildings that stood while Thomas Jefferson visited in the 18th century. Still, existing alleyways show literal traces of the early days of negociants in Bordeaux stacked and rolled barrels of wine to the busy port. Bordeaux’s importance was underscored by its being home to the very first American consulate abroad.

Following the walking tour, La Cité du Vin and American Friends co-hosted a welcome dinner at the site of this first American consular post, historic Hôtel Fenwick. After a warm greeting from U.S. Consul Hector Brown, our American Friends guests were embraced by many local châteaux owners from both the left and right banks. Invitees enjoyed a lively cocktail dinner reception with wines donated by Château Rauzan-Ségle, Château Beychevelle, and Château Carbonnieux. While we could not visit Rauzan-Ségle and Beychevelle on this trip as Thomas Jefferson had in 1787, the châteaux generously shared noteworthy vintages with our guests as an introduction to Thomas Jefferson’s Bordeaux.