After several hours on the bus (and a lively game of twenty questions), traversing hills and valleys coated in a thick fog, we finally arrived at Chateau Lastours. On one side of the bus, a massive expanse of grapevines, and on the other side, a centuries old house with a thousand stories to tell. After a brief explanation of the construction and history of the house, our guide, the owner of the vineyard, took as out back to see the pigeon coup, a relic from an era when pigeon feces was used as manure to fertilize the soil.
Next we saw the private gardens, where our guide explained that the hedges (which were 200 years old) were planted in the shape of the two prestigious military awards that his ancestor received: the Fleur-de-lis and the Croix St. Louis. He also shared an amusing anecdote from the garden’s past. The vineyard once hosted a Russian delegation for a wine tasting class, which included none other than Vladimir Putin. When our guide’s father told the delegation a joke, all the Russians laughed heartily, with the notable exception of Mr. Putin.
Soon, we were touring the underground facilities where they turn grapes into wine. While it was difficult for me to understand a lot of the technical processes that were described to us, I was struck by how much was done right there at the Vineyard. Having spent a summer or two working in a styrofoam factory back home, I was surprised to see that the wine was made, bottled, and sold in the same location that the grapes were grown. It struck me as very different from the American business model.
Finally, we got to eat a delicious French meal, and taste some wines. We each sampled a red, a pink, and a white, and afterwards we got a free bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate Sam’s birthday. Overall, it was a very interesting and enjoyable day.
Photo credit: Kimmy Drexler