This is the sixteenth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series, about the Cos d'Estournel tour we took with a couple friends. Please scroll to the bottom to see all the other posts in this series.
Welcome to Cos d'Estournel, the most educational, well-planned, interesting, and expensive tour we took in Bordeaux. It also turned out to be one of my favorites.
It's hard to get tours at many of the highest-rated, well-known (first or second growth) wineries. Many wineries flat out turned us away, telling us they only allow winery visits from real wine professionals (i.e., not tourists). Interestingly, Cos d'Estournel, a Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growth) winery took a more interesting approach.
They acknowledged our interest, were happy to welcome us, and then asked:
"What is your knowledge in our wines, appellation and region?"
"Have you ever tasted our wines, which vintages?"
"Do you have a wine cellar to age them?"
Frankly, I personally knew very little about the winery, but thankfully we were traveling to Bordeaux with another couple who are really into wine. The husband has tasted several of their vintages, owns several of their bottles, and was interested in buying more. Additionally, he actually has a wine cellar and was able to portray to them that he was a serious wine aficionado (which he is!).
It wasn't until after we responded that they provide us with our wine tour options:
“In the steps of the Maharaja”: A tasting including a Les Pagodes de Cos, three vintages of Cos d’Estournel and a Cos d’Estournel Blanc. Cost: 550€ for 4 persons.
“Discovering the greatest vintages of Cos d’Estournel”: A tasting including 4 legendary vintages of Cos d’Estournel and a Cos d’Estournel Blanc. Cost: 1,500€ for 4 persons.
After some internal debate, we decided to go with the lower priced Cos d'Estournel Tour: 550€ for 4 persons.
We arrived at Cos d'Estournel our third day in the Bordeaux region. By this point, we had already visited the wineries around the quaint town of St. Emilion (and UNESCO heritage site!), Chateau d'Yquem, and Chateau Haute-Brion. This was our first stop on our second full day of winery hopping in the Bordeaux area. Bright and early, we drove about 1.5 hours from Bordeaux to arrive at the tiny village of Cos, which basically just houses the winery.
Story goes that the founder Louis Gaspard d'Estournel recognized the value of the soil in the tiny village of Cos in the early 1800's. He was a wealthy merchant, and thus bought up the entire town for the sole purpose of growing grapes for wine.
Cos d'Estournel has since become a very successful wine, recognized as among the best in the region.
The grounds are really stunning.
Louis Gaspard d'Estournel did significant trade with India, and thus had a special place in his heart for the country. Elements of India can be found all throughout the architecture and design of the winery, such as the chateau itself or the elephant statues you see throughout the grounds.
There are stunning views all around.
The operation is massive, and the technology is impressive.
One of my favorite places was the aging room, where we got to walk on a glass bridge over seemingly endless rows of wine barrels.
There is a very special dark room at the end of the long glass bridge which houses an impressive collection of Cos d'Estournel wines going back at least on hundred years. Check out the elephants holding up the wine shelves.
We also hopped into a van and drove out into the vineyards, where our host Anaïs Crespo taught us various aspects of winemaking. Pictured above, the difference between a Cabernet leaf and a Merlot leaf.
She even took us to picturesque photo spots in the vineyard, like the one above.
A photo posted by Jennifer (@tinyurbankitchen) on
Finally, our last stop was the tasting room: it was time to sample a fascinating vertical of their famous super second growth Bordeaux.
We started with Les Pagodes de Cos, a wine made with the same vines in the same soil used for making the flagship wine, but younger versions that still need time to fully mature. Their roots have yet to grow to full length, thus not reaching as deeply into the harsh, gravel-filled soil.
It's still good, but even Cos d'Estournel acknowledges it as their "second wine."
We also tasted one of their white wines (2011), as well as a vertical of the flagship Cos d'Estournel second growth Bordeaux from 2003, 2004, and 2008. It was interesting to compare them, mostly because we knew that the winery had switched to a more sophisticated and elegant winemaking process sometime between 2004 and 2008. Thus, there was a chance the 2008 would taste better than the two older ones. However, 2003 was an excellent year in terms of climate/conditions, etc., while 2004 was not as good of a year.
We both loved the 2008 and 2003. The 2003 was quite expensive per bottle, so we ended up purchasing a couple bottles of the 2008 instead (and the white as well, which was surprisingly good and not too expensive).
All in all, we had a great time on this tour. It was totally worth the cost.
It goes without saying that the wines we tasted were pretty phenomenal. But beyond that, the tour was really special for a number of other reasons. The people were great. We could clearly sense their passion for the wine and their excitement sharing about it (we didn't get that sense from every winery we visited).
My one regret is that I did not eat enough before coming on the Cos d'Estournel tour. They opened A LOT of really, really nice bottles, and yet we didn't come close to finishing them. It was way too hard - there were only four of us, and we had barely had much to eat up to that point. In retrospect, I would have seriously consider having a hearty breakfast beforehand AND bringing some bread to supplement!
All in all, though, I can't recommend this tour enough. Anaïs Crespo was a phenomenal guide, the tour was education, the grounds and facilities are impressive, and the wine is ridiculously good.
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy
Dinner at a Truffle Hunter's Inn - Tra Art e Querce
Trattoria Della Posta in Montfort D'Alba
Nighttime Truffle Hunting with a Dog in Alba
Osteria della Arco - last dinner in Alba
Stunning Images of La Morra and Barolo, Italy
First Day In Bordeaux, France - Une Cuisine en Ville
Chateau Haut-Brion Tour in Bordeaux France
Restaurant Le St. James
Touring Bordeaux Wineries - Day 1 - Left Bank
La Tupina Bordeaux