Sunday, May 26, 2019

Gate 1 Day 12 - Bordeaux to Loire Valley

May 2019 - Bordeaux to Loire Valley

DAY 12, Sunday - Cognac Tasting, Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley



Depart Bordeaux to the enchanting town of Cognac, world-famous for the grape-based spirit produced here for over 300 years. 

Visit one of the cellars, hear about the history of cognac and enjoy a tasting! 

Another early start.

Located on the country's western coast, just north of Bordeaux, it's a great location to enjoy wine, seafood, and of course, the town's namesake brandy, Cognac.

The distilled spirit made from grapes is aged in barrels for several years, sometimes even decades. You can visit the spots where these brandies are made, and each has a unique story and setting, from former castles to riverfront warehouses. Like Champagne, brandy has to be made in particular region to be able to be called Cognac.

The chateau was built in the 15th century and was the birthplace of Francois I. We'll see him later.

Otard, also known as Chateau de Cognac, is a French cognac house founded in 1795 by Jean-Baptiste Antoine Otard. For over two hundred years, Baron Otard Cognac was privately owned, until it was bought by the Italian company Martini & Rossi S.p.A. in 1991. Today, Baron Otard Cognac is a subsidiary of the Bacardi group.

The cellars of Château de Cognac have 3-metre thick walls and an extremely high level of humidity resulting from the proximity of the Charente river. This environment plays a determinant role in the maturity of the different brandies offered by the company.

1795 Extra – a top of the range cognac essentially crafted from Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie in a special cellar set apart in the Château.

XO Gold - draws its personality from a blend of Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie, rounded off with the Borderies, which lend it the finesse of a delicately floral aroma, and by the Fins Bois, which give it its vigour.

55 - the first cognac at 55° offered by a cognac firm, it is the offspring of blends made over two hundred years ago by Baron Otard.

Napoleon - is a subtle blend of Grande and Petite Champagne with Borderies and Fins Bois.

VSOP - is composed exclusively of the two leading cognac growths, Grande and Petite Champagne, with at least 50% of Grande Champagne.

VS – is a blend of the finest growths aged in Limousin oak barrels.

The Otard family traces its origins back to the middle of the 9th century to a Norwegian warrior named Ottar. From the 11th to 17th century, the descendants of Ottar lived in Dun-Ottar castle in Scotland. Great supporters of the Stuart cause, they followed King James II of England when the later moved to France in exile after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

James O'Tard fought alongside Louis XIV of France and was created a Baron in 1701. It was his great-grandson, Jean-Baptiste Antoine Otard born near to the town of Cognac, who created the cognac trading house bearing his name in 1795. The family owned vineyards around the town of Cognac and were already distilling and ageing 'eaux-de-vie'. The following year he bought the Château de Cognac, built in the tenth century to protect the villagers from Norman invaders,[1] as a base for his business.

And Peter is lost!

Francois I the original hangs in the Louvre.

In the Guard Room are inscriptions, and carvings of boats. These date from the 18th century when the Guard Room was used to hold over 100 British and Irish prisoners from the Seven Years War. The magnificent view of the beguilingly beautiful Charente that they would have had can only have been an additional torment.


Prisoners carved their names into the walls with nails and teeth.

Château de Cognac focuses only on grapes grown in Fins Bois, Petite and Grande Champagne areas. They distill with the lees and toast barrels with more of a medium to high char (most Cognac distillers do a light to medium toast), resulting in rich, unique character. They store almost 20,000 barrels in cellars tucked away in countless wings of the castle with each Cognac released containing some portion of castle-aged eaux de vie.



A road side stop for lunch with baguettes from Chez Paul. We had Peter sit with us, but he "had" to go and see if our guide would join us. No, it is obvious to everyone, but Peter, that she makes a policy of not joining any meals with any of us.

Onward to the very heart of the magnificent Loire Valley, brimming with treasures waiting to be discovered. For centuries, royalty and nobility built their magnificent chateaux here, inspired by the lush forests and rich farmlands. 

Tour the elegant Chateau de Chenonceau. Stretching across the river Cher, the chateau boasts a 197-foot gallery, built over a series of arches. 

Take some time to explore the extravagantly furnished rooms and formal gardens, added by the mistress of Henry II, Diane de Poitiers. 

A lovely if windy afternoon visit. We had about two hours to explore on our own.

In 1535, King Francis I incorporated Chateau de Chenonceau  into the Crown Estate as part of a debt settlement. Later, King Henry II decided to offer it not to the Queen, but to his Favourite, Diane de Poitiers, “in full right of ownership, seisin and possession, completely, peacefully and perpetually, to dispose of as her own and true patrimony.” This artificial exit of Chenonceau from Crown Lands meant that it was saved, two centuries later, from the French Revolution.

First view. Laura suggested we start in the house so that's where everyone headed.

But we decided to go to the gardens first.

Chateau de Chenonceau was given to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, by Henry II but when he died his wife Catherine de Medici forced her out. Diane's garden was created on the right hand side of the castle and when she took over the castle Catherine created her garden on the left hand side!


A WOW view!

Catherine de Medici's gardens were not as impressive. Seems they used to be full of rose bushes.

The small chapel is a delight the original windows here were destroyed by a bombing in 1944; the replacement stained glass were made by a master glass-worker 1954.The Chapel was saved during the French Revolution thanks to the idea of the owner at that time, Madame Dupin, of turning it into a wood store.

Medici's garden.


The old kitchen in the Chateau de Chenonceau is certainly an interesting room to visit. It features a wonderful collection of antique copper kettles and pots.

A massive wood-burning stove and a built-in oven can be found in the palace kitchen.

Many an animal was butchered on this cutting board.

The Gallery is 60 meters (197 feet) long, 6 meters (19.7 feet) wide, lit by 18 windows, with its sandly chalk tiled and slate floor and exposed joist ceiling, it is a magnificent ballroom.

François I’s Drawing Room reminds us that King François I was twice a guest at the castle. The same one we saw at Cognac earlier.

An interesting literary fact.

Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin best known by her nom de plume George Sand was a French novelist, memoirist, and socialist.

That's me in the maze.

There is also a farm.

Continue to Amboise, a delightful riverside town with an imposing castle.

Back on the bus at 5 PM  it is a short ride to the hotel. But Laura makes a photo stop in Amboise.

Yesterday I mentioned that Charles VIII died at his birthplace the Chateau D'Amboise.

A place of residence for French kings from the 15th to the 19th centuries, its destiny is inextricably linked to the history of France. Numerous literary figures and artists were invited here, like Leonardo da Vinci whose tomb is preserved at the château.

Hidden away is a statue of Leonardo da Vinci on the bank of the river Loire across from the Chateau d'Amboise, France where he lived for many years

Continue to the hotel for overnight. 

CHECK IN - 5:30

TIME 7 PM  - Enjoy dinner together tonight at the hotel

Overnight: Loire Valley

Novotel Amboise, Amboise
The hotel is comfortably situated in the heart of the Pays de la Loire, in the center of a landscaped park, opposite the Château d'Amboise. Clos Luce is just within a mile of the hotel.
The hotel offers an on-site bar, Le Troubadour and a restaurant, Cote Jardin serving French cuisine.

Very disappointed in this hotel as it is located way out of town. Dinners at 7 give us plenty of time that we would like to use to wander in a town.

Dinner was nothing to write home about.

A group of us headed to the bar and shared some wine and laughs.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner Hotel

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful takes. I'm quite familiar with Loire and Amboise, even remotely.


This blog does not allow anonymous comments.