Monday, August 25, 2014

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte: a Bordeaux winery straight out of a James Bond movie


In France recently, living a never-endingly eventful Travelife, we did a private visit to the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the region of Graves.

This is one of the most prominent winemakers in the region. 

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WINES BY OLYMPIC SKIIERS

Chateau Haut Smith Lafitte makes highly-rated wines, and the winery is owned by the Cathiards, a family of Olympic skiers who then went on to make their fortune in the supermarket business, before buying a winery, and creating a luxury hotel and spa.

And perhaps very importantly, the Cathiards have very impressive marketing skills when it comes to packaging their products and getting the world to notice them.

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MOROCCO



A LOVELY HOTEL
IN THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE

Les Sources des Caudalie, which the youngest Cathiard daughter set up and runs, is now considered one of the best places to stay in the countryside around Bordeaux.

It's an informal but upmarket country hotel that's affiliated with the Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) group, and it's got a very good restaurant that's perfect for summer outdoor dining.




THE WINERY'S IMPRESSIVE

As for the winery itself, well, it's pretty fantastic. 

Not all wineries have this winning combination, but Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte certainly does. Plus, the owners themselves work very hard at what they do, which is equally impressive to me.


ONE OF A KIND

I've seen all kinds of wineries all over the world by now.

However I have to say that Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte is something else because it successfully observes tradition while also embracing the 21st century with open arms.

They've also gone the extra mile to ensure that their wines are competitive in the top-end. For instance, they even make their own wine barrels here, which is quite rare for a winery, as it's much easier to buy barrels from a barrel maker.



THE COST OF A WINE BARREL

A new barrel costs about 600 euros when purchased from a barrel maker or distributor, by the way.

And here's a bit of trivia. Most of the top quality winemakers will definitely buy brand new barrels for their wines; and when they're done with a barrel, they sell it secondhand to a winemaker lower down the food chain.

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LIFE OF THE PARTY.
OR RATHER, THE WINEMAKER.

This goes on until a barrel that originally was bought new by a top Bordeaux wine producer ends up being used for sherry by a maker in Portugal, who may be the third or fourth user.

I think the life of a barrel at a top wine maker is two years -- unless I heard wrong or had had too many tastings by then.



EFFORTLESS FRENCH DECOR

Of course we toured everything, including the original underground cellar, which is still very much in use today.

Their tasting room, on the other hand, is very stylish in a French country way.


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It is so artfully done, but it also looks so effortlessly done -- as if things have looked this way since the beginning of time.

We tasted lots of wines here, of course.



THE WOW FACTOR. WOW.

But what makes this particular winery so very special for me is the drop-dead impressive private wine cellar of the owners.

This private wine cellar is exactly under the tasting room, as in literally under a most unassuming wooden floor.

You would never even know it's there unless they decided to show it to you.

We had a private wine tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

SUSPENSE AND DRAMA

Fortunately, they decided to show it to us.

"You'll have to stand back if you want to see it," we were told, as we walked to one side of the tasting room.

I knew we were headed for the owner's private wine cellar, but I thought all along that this was behind one of the doors -- not under the ground.

JAMES BOND, WHERE ARE YOU?

Waiting for James Bond...

We stood back and then, with a click of a button, the floor parted to reveal a very modern staircase, with a very modern room, with music, lights and all the technology you can imagine.

I swear. It was just like in a James Bond movie.

STEP 1



We clambered down excitedly to see a wall of high-tech graphics going on and some really cool music playing.

STEP 2



Amazing. There was even a high-tech installation art display by some famous Korean artist.

Even in a never-endingly eventful Travelife, I've never seen a private cellar like this.

STEP 3



And just as amazing were the wines on display -- just like that, on the table. Some of them were from the 19th century.

I could only look at everything in amazement.

Yes, everyday truly is a never-endingly eventful Travelife.

STEP 4




STEP 5




AND LOOK AT WHAT'S INSIDE THIS PRIVATE CELLAR...

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 1920

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 1878

The endless 3D installation by a Korean artist
in the private cellar of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte



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