Day Nine, First Stop: Chateau Haut Bailly

We were warmly greeted at Chateau Haut Bailly by a member of their PR team.  In addition to spending time touring the estate and discussing their winemaking practices, she and Christina also spent some time talking about marketing in Bordeaux.  In particular, the level of international acclaim the region gets, and how the various chateau decide where to spend their marketing efforts.  It’s always an interesting conversation, but generally ends with the same conclusion – the UK is the backbone, the US is the elephant you can’t ignore and China is the darling that they hope won’t ditch them at the ball.  (Our words, not hers!)

Chateau Haut Bailly.
Chateau Haut Bailly.
They had recently renovated some of the buildings.
They had recently renovated some of the buildings.
The front of the chateau.
The front of the chateau.

The Chateau Haut Bailly estate was founded in the 14th century.  The vineyards are planted on limestone and fossilized shells, which gives a unique character to the wines produced here.  The vineyard is also located at one of the highest elevations in the Graves region of Bordeaux.  Chateau Haut Bailly did extremely well in the 19th century, where is was given the classification of “cru exceptionnel” among the Bordeaux Grand Crus Classes.  In the Graves region of Bordeaux, only Ch. Haut Brion and Ch. Haut Bailly were considered at the top.

Today, an American couple, Robert & Elisabeth Wilmers, own Ch. Haut Bailly, purchasing it back in 1998.  Robert Wilmers is currently the CEO of M&T Bank, and his passion for the estate is evident in all of the work he has invested in raising the quality of Haut Bailly’s wines to their former glory.  They have 26 thermal-regulated traditional cement vats for the fermentation process, ranging in sizes from 30 to 120 hectolitres.  The 26 cement vats enable them to ferment the different lots separately.  They definitely had one of the more impressive cement vat installations that we saw on our trip.  They also use modern stainless steel vats for the blending process.

The traditional cement vats.
The traditional cement vats.
The newer stainless steel vats.
The newer stainless steel vat room.

Here’s what we tasted:

From half bottle to Melchiore.  No, we didn't taste all of that!
From half bottle to an 18 liter Melchior (two cases of wine in one bottle).  No, we didn’t taste all of that!

2008 La Parde de Haut Bailly – Very bright floral red cherries, high acid and good mouth-feel.  Medium bodied with a nice structure of fine tannins.  Sweet, spicy red fruit on the medium length finish.  This is a nice 2nd wine.

2008 Haut Bailly – Deep dark ripe spicy blackberry fruit nose.  Smells like a blackberry pie.  In the mouth, very dark delicate black fruit, with very good acidity keeping it lively.  Nice structure of very fine tannins on the long dark spicy black fruit finish.  This is an excellent 2008 Bordeaux wine, beautifully made.  This will also be a great value in comparison to the competition.

We left Ch. Haut Bailly to head back to our hotel nearby for lunch.  It was turning out to be a gloriously warm and beautiful September day…perfect for lounging by the pool!

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