Day Nine: Visit to Le Chai Furtif (The Stealth Cellar) at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

We went back to the hotel, grabbed bikes, and met Mr. Cathiard on the road leading to the Chateau.  We were doing our best to look casual and at home on the bikes – on the very gravelly road with his two enthusiastic dogs bounding along beside us – while we listened to Mr. Cathiard talk about his latest project.

Bob on his bike.
Bob on his bike.

We admit, we were sort of expecting a cellar underground in the forest, so we were listening with great intent as he described the project.  We began to realize what it really was after a few minutes though.  Not really a second label, but a second wine altogether, Chai Furtif was a winery nestled in the woods, built with the highest standards of sustainability in mind.

The Chai Furtif.
The Chai Furtif.
The dogs names were Barrel...
Their names were Barrel…
And Corkscrew.  Perfect.
And Corkscrew. Perfect.

Mr. Cathiard explained that the goal of the project was to be in balance with the forest.  The winery is built in an abandoned quarry, and built of materials that blend with its surroundings.  It’s almost spa-like, with its canopy of trees overhead, making it a very peaceful, serene place.

More art installations.  This one moved.
More art installations.
Forgive us, we can't remember the symbolism of this piece, but it's still really fun.
Forgive us, we can’t remember the symbolism of this piece, but it’s still really fun.

Technically speaking, they spared no expense to make it eco-friendly, with low energy consumption, renewable energy sources and minimal environmental impact in mind.  To that end, they use a unique system to capture the CO2 released during the fermentation, turning it into sodium bicarbonate and rendering this normally harmful bi-product, harmless.  (They have thoughts on what they will also use the sodium bicarbonate for as well – possibly in beauty products.) Everything from the extra insulation in the walls to the low consumption lighting, the solar generated energy, and the regeneration of rainwater to use in their viticulture practices, all feed into the master plan for this very thoughtful cellar venture.

A beautiful vat room.
A beautiful vat room.

Mr. Cathiard sees it as the next generation in winemaking, and we admit, it was a fascinating departure from everything we had seen so far!  At some point, we’ll have to get our hands on the wine produced here so that we can taste the fruit of all of this very diligent – and beautifully designed – labor.

Bob Watt with Daniel Cathiard of Chateau Smith Haut Lafite.
Bob Watt with Daniel Cathiard of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.

Thank you, Mr. Cathiard, for a wonderful adventure!

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