The Pessac-Leognan AOC region was my first experience of the wine growing regions in SW France thanks to my husbands family from the area. The real estate prices have jumped in the last decade and suburban developments keep popping up, but luckily, there are still lovely vines covering most of the land around Leognan, dotted with stunning chateaux and rustic villages.
The wines of Pessac-Leognan may not be as familiar as some of the Medoc vintages, but they are equally delicious. Rich, tannin-filled, reds from grapes such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes, along with some lovely fresh, floral whites from sauvignon-blanc, semillion and muscadelle grapes. Thomas Jefferson was a fan of these local wines as well.
A favorite white is from Carbonnieux, well worth a visit to the vineyard and chai for degustation (reservation required for the tour, ask for English if necessary). The owner has a nice collection of vintage French cars to view as well.
Most of the chateau, like Haut-Bailly (great Pessac-Leognan red), have separate rooms in their chai or chateau to offer groups meals prepared by the chef in-house. These meals need to be reserved in advance and are generally rather pricey. However, Chateau Leognan, which is a newer ‘chateau’, even though the vines have been around forever, does offer a menu at lunch at their restaurant La Manege for around 35 euro. It’s not always local style food…but it’s priced right. They also have beautiful grounds to walk around and a nice wine shop complete with children’s play area (genius!).
One of our favorite restaurants is the Le Resinier in Le Barp (20-minute drive from Leognan), for its great value on traditional SW French food in a casual environment. It’s wonderful with children in the summer when you can eat outdoors and let them play in the grass. From fois gras to oysters, you won’t be disappointed.
However, if you really want something special, Smith Haut-Lafitte in Martillac has not only great wine but ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ spa and products, a hotel and three places to eat (from Michelin starred La Grande Vigne to a tapas style bar). Goop recently rated their spa as one of the nine most luxurious in the world, ahem.
After all the wining and dining, take a trip to the home of Montesquieu (a great philosopher of the 17th century) in La Brede, which is a family estate rich with French history and perfect for a lovely walk inside and out. Guided tours only, check website for hours.
The whole of France is littered with WWII history. If you happen to drive past the monument mémorial de la ferme de Richemont near Saucats, stop and get out to read the memorial to the 13 adolescents that lost their lives. It’s in the middle of a field and the quiet is almost eerie.
Cheateau Montesquieu at La Brede – beautiful home with interesting history on the man and French construction through the ages – http://www.chateaulabrede.com/en/ – Avenue du Château – 33650 La Brède – check website for visiting hours as they vary by time of year – Phone +33 (0)5 56 78 47 72 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Spa at Sources de Caudalie – for a break from all the vineyard visits, give your skin a little treat from the vine with Caudalie products – https://www.sources-caudalie.com/ – Chemin de Smith Haut Lafitte – 33650 Bordeaux-Martillac – contact directly Phone +33 (0)5 57 83 83 83 and email email@example.com
Leognan Magnum – local wine shop filled with nearly every Pessac-Leognan chateau you could want, at good prices with very helpful staff. Often a few bottles on hand to taste and they help with shipping – http://www.leognanmagnum.com/ – Open Monday – Friday 930am-1230pm and 230pm-7pm, Saturday 930am-1pm and 330pm-7pm – 5 Cours de Mal de Lattre de Tassigny – 33850 Leognan – Phone +33 (0)5 56 64 74 08
Le Resinier – Classic, rustic, SW French cuisine using local products. Set in the countryside at a local Bed & Breakfast – http://www.leresinier.com/ – 68, Avenue des Pyrénées – 33114 LE BARP – Reserve on their website or Phone +33 (0)5 56 88 60 07 and email firstname.lastname@example.orgRESTAURANTS
La Manege – good value, home-style seasonal cooking like fresh fish with chorizo and peppers at Chateau Leognan. Good for groups too – http://www.lemanege-leognan.fr/ – 88, Chemin du Barp – 33850 Léognan – Phone +33 (0) 5 57 67 13 84 or email email@example.com