I don’t drink wine.
I never really developed a taste for it, and when I did make the effort for my oenophile husband, I discovered that I get migraines, no matter the color, price, region, or amount of (Or lack of) tannin.
But I do love wineries.
I love the smell, I love the views of the vineyards, I love the history, and the knowledge of the staff, and I just love the civility of the people that patronize wineries. When we travel, we often go where the great wines of the world are produced, and this I don’t mind.
We had a pleasant visit to D’Agassac the day before, but I was hoping for a bit more from our tour of La Dominique.
I booked lunch at La Terrasse Rouge, the restaurant on site, and a “Classic” tour of the estate. The classic tour last about an hour and cost 15€ (About $17 USD) and the restaurant, even for lunch, would be a splurge day as this restaurant is Michelin rated. Reservations (Well in advance) are an absolute must for both the tours and the restaurant.
SIDE NOTE: La Dominique is open every day from April to October and the hours are: 10 am to 7 pm, this includes weekends and holidays. Also open Tuesday to Saturday (10 am to 6 pm) November to March.
Wanting to see as much of the region as possible before our lunch reservation, and since it was a glorious spring day, we set off early toward the vineyards surrounding the ancient city of St. Emilion.
As was the case the day before, there were views around every bend and we stopped at every indent on the narrow country roads to capture the scenery. The fields were teeming with flowers of vivid blues, oranges and reds. It was all together completely enchanting and I couldn’t wait to come back to further explore later in the day.
Leaving the area near St. Emilion for the moment, we navigated back to La Dominique, parked in it’s large parking area and walked the short distance to the visitors center where we checked in for lunch. We were escorted upstairs to to the open and airy dining room. The mood here for lunch is not overly pretentious, we were dressed casually and did not feel out of place.
While slightly disappointed that we were not seated outside on such a lovely day, we were able to secure a window view at the large, multi-occupancy table. We were politely accommodated with an English speaking server who helped Mike navigate the wine menu. We started our meal with a selection of cheese, and meat sliced directly from the haunch. Mike paired this with his first glass of wine, and I had a crisp spring cocktail.
We decided to order different items from the menu in order to taste as many of the award winning dishes as possible. Knowing that he would not be driving for at least an hour post-lunch, Mike also paired several glasses of the house du vin with his meal.
The food was excellent, prepared with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, with divine sauces that engaged all five taste senses and were visually pleasing to the eye.
After lunch we retreated back downstairs to queue up with several other couples in the beautiful tasting room for the winery tour.
Château La Dominique has been owned by Billionaire Clément Fayat since 1969. Completely revamping the vineyards, modernizing the winery, and developing a world class restaurant have brought Château La Dominique back from the brink of extinction.
TIP: Make sure you specify upon booking that you would like to be part of an English speaking tour.
The tour starts at the distinct, eye capturing (And some say, “Controversial”) red walls designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Said to represent the grapes in their various stages, the red walls can be seen for miles on the flat plain around St. Emilion. We then proceeded up to the terrace for a look at the sensational views and the iconic red terrace.
The terrace is covered in six different colors of red polished pebbles. Another visual representation of the different varieties of grapes at different stages, it is a unique way to immerse yourself in the process of winemaking. And the views of the surrounding Châteaus, including the venerable next door neighbor, Château Cheval Blanc, is worth the 15€ tour price by itself.
We were then escorted to the cellar where we were given a brief history on the wines and the vat room. Twenty-two stainless-steel vats have the chore of housing, in their temperature controlled environment, a specific plot of each grape varietal.
However not all of the grapes go into the stainless-steel vats, sixty percent go into new oak barrels, and barrels that have had one previous aging.
During our May visit we were also treated to a view of the wine being bottled. A mobile wine bottling truck was there bottling the latest aged vintage and it was a rare experience to witness how it was done.
We finished off the hour long tour with a return to the tasting room where we sampled two of Château La Dominique’s outstanding wines. Mike purchased a few bottles to take with him, because we were only just beginning our time in France and we had a lot more to celebrate!