Friday, October 11, 2013

Wine Dinner at Château Haut-Bailly, Cru Classé de Graves, France

Pictures: Wine Dinner at Château Haut-Bailly

The last event of the 2013 Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy was a tour of and dinner at Château Haut-Bailly. It was a most memorable evening thanks to our charming host, Diana Paulin, the very special setting in the dining and the living rooms of Château Haut-Bailly, the excellent food of Chef Jean-Charles Poinsot, and – last but not least - the superb Chateau Haut-Bailly wines.

See also:
Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy

Château Haut-Bailly

Just a stone’s throw away from the city of Bordeaux and our hotel, Château Haut-Bailly, one of the most prestigious Cru Classé de Graves, sits majestically in a 30 hectare (74 acres) vineyard at the heart of the Graves region on the left bank of the river Garonne. Neighboring estates include Château Malartic-Lagravière, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Château Carbonnieux. The estate's second wine is named Le Parde de Haut-Bailly.

Pictures: First stage - Vineyard Walk


The château takes its name from Firmin Le Bailly, a Parisian banker, who bought the vineyard in the 1600s. In 1872, Alcide Bellot des Minières, purchased the estate of Haut Bailly on the advice of Cardinal Bonnet, Archbishop of Bordeaux.

The property was purchased by her great grandfather, a Belgian wine merchant called Daniel Sanders, in 1955. At this stage, there were only 10 hectares of vines on the estate – a waste of an outstanding terroir. So Daniel replanted the vineyards, and eventually these were returned to their original size of 32 hectares. In 1955, Daniel Sanders, a Belgian Bordeaux wine merchant bought Haut Bailly. At the time of the sale, the estate was in desperate need of repair. Their vineyards were in poor shape. At best, only 25 hectares were planted with vines. Daniel Sanders completely renovated Haut Bailly, in the cellars, wine making facilities and the vineyards. In 1979, his son, Jean, took over the estate. For several years the late oenologist Émile Peynaud was retained at Haut-Bailly.

The current owner, since 1998, is the American banker Robert G. Wilmers, with Daniel Sanders' grand daughter Veronique Sanders functioning as general manager, and Gabriel Vialard employed as technical manager.

Pictures: Second Stage - Wine Cellar Walk


The 33 hectare Pessac Leognan vineyard of Chateau Haut Bailly is a complex terroir of sand and gravel over limestone soils. Currently, 30 hectares are planted to 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Over the years Haut Bailly has slowly replaced some of the Merlot vines with Cabernet Franc. On average, the vines are 35 years of age.

Almost 4 hectares of vines are more than 100 years of age! Inside those 4 hectares of very, old vines are all six of the major grape varieties used in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere.

Pictures: Third Stage - Aperitif

Handpicking is still de rigueur at Haut-Bailly. Vinification takes place in a fermentation room containing 26 thermo-regulated cement tanks of different sizes (ranging from 30 to 120 hectolitres). These specially adapted vats ensure that grapes grown in different parts of the vineyard are kept separate from the time they are picked until the vinification is complete. Alcoholic fermentation lasts eight to ten days and is followed by maceration. This process lasts about three weeks. The wines are aged for eighteen months in oak barrels, many of which are new.

Grand Vin: Chateau Haut-Bailly

In total the estate produces 150,000 bottles annually. Approximately 50% of production from the property is Grand Vin, 30% is second and 20% is third wine, although this will depend on the vintage.

In Henry Guillier’s book “Grands Vins de la Gironde Illustrés” published at the beginning of the 20th century, Haut-Bailly is mentioned as being the only Graves, together with Haut-Brion, worthy of being ranked among the Bordeaux Classified First Growths. The price for which Haut-Bailly was being sold at the time confirms this position. In fact, the words “Crû exceptionnel” appeared on the label until 1987.

Pictures: Fourth Stage - Dinner

La Parde de Haut-Bailly

The estate's second wine is La Parde de Haut-Bailly, produced since 1967, but under the name Domaine de la Parde until 1979. It is aged in barrels for twelve months.

Pessac-Léognan by Chateau Haut-Bailly

The property’s third wine, "Pessac-Léognan," which bears the same name as its appellation, was created in 1987. It comes from young vines – an accessible wine that has spent less time in barrel and can be enjoyed young.

Rose de Haut-Bailly

Since 2004, Château Haut-Bailly has produced a ‘rosé de saignée’ when the conditions allow. A few hours after the start of the maceration process, part of the wine is extracted from the vat in order to increase the natural concentration of the red wine. The fermentation takes place in barrels and in vats, at low temperature to bring out the fruit aromas. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé, lively and seductive, is sold under the name Rose de Haut-Bailly.

Pictures: Fifth Stage - After Dinner Tea and Coffee

Robert G. Wilmers, Owner of Château Haut-Bailly

In 1998 Château Haut-Bailly was purchased by American Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO of the M & T Bank based in Buffalo, New York. As a lover of Bordeaux Grands Crus, his dream came true when he became the owner at Haut-Bailly. He spent much of his childhood and professional life in Belgium. Along with his French wife, Elisabeth, he continues his close ties with Europe, where some of their family live.

Hugely conscious of Haut-Bailly’s history yet eager to ensure continuity and modernity, he entrusted in 1998 Haut-Bailly’s management to Véronique Sanders, granddaughter of Jean Sanders.

Pictures: Last Stage - Visit in the Kitchen of Chef Jean-Charles Poinsot

Véronique Sanders, General Manager

In 1998, at the age of 30, Véronique Sanders became the General Manager of Château Haut-Bailly, making her one of a very small number of women in charge of a vineyard and the fourth generation of her family to be associated with Haut-Bailly. After two years of preparation at the Grandes Ecoles françaises, she obtained a Master’s degree in economics at the Sorbonne. She began her career at Publicis-FCB in Paris and Prague. Deciding to improve her knowledge about wine, she returned to Bordeaux in 1997 to obtain her DUAD diploma from the Faculty of Oenology. Following the sale of Château Haut-Bailly by her grandfather, Jean Sanders, Robert G. Wilmers appointed Véronique as Commercial Director in 1998 and General Manager in 2000.

For more information, Jeff Leve from The Wine Cellar Insider has an excellent write-up about Château Haut-Bailly on his website.


Aperitif - The aperitif was served by the fireplace, in the living room.

Morel mushroom raviolis, parmesan emulsion

La Parde de Haut-Bailly 2006, Magnum

Wine Spectator: 90 pts. "Gorgeous aromas of raspberry, blueberry and stones. Full-bodied, with silky
tannins and a tobacco, berry and spice character."

Beef filet Saint-Valerie carrots

Château Haut-Bailly 2003 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux

Ripe berry fruit notes on the nose, supple palate with some chalky tannins, ripe but also elegant.

Château Haut-Bailly 2002 Graves Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux

Black cherry and plum notes on the nose, coupled with hints of roast coffee, good structure, fresh.

Selection of cheeses

Fresh and roasted peaches, peach sorbet

Coffee and Tea - Coffee and tea were served by the fireplace, in the living room.

Average Prices by Wine Searcher (in US$)

2012 64
2011 84
2010 169
2009 179
2008 100

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