Wine & Gastronomy in Bordeaux & Loire Valley

Summer or Fall 2018

Bordeaux – a legendary wine-growing region and vibrant and sophisticated city is a top gourmet, enology and culture destination.  Synonymous with fine wine, Bordeaux is one of France’s most elegant cities. Its setting on the River Garonne has made it an important port for centuries.

Bordeaux City is the ideal base for exploring the wine chateaux of the Medoc, St. Emillion and Bordeaux, and only 45 minutes from Arcachon Bay, famed for its delicious seafood and superb beaches.  It is a key destination for Francofiles interested in French food, wine and joie de vive.  This intoxicating city is filled with charming 18th century architecture and is second only to Paris for having the most historical monuments and protected buildings in France.

The capital of the Aquitaine region benefits from the fact that all the specialties of southwest France are in its backyard:  foie gras from the Landes, oysters from Arcachon Bay, strawberries from the Périgord, Bazaz beef, etc.  The Bordeaux region has more than 5,000 wine chateaux open to the public. We visit three, including St Emillion where the Romans planted vineyards as far back as the second century.

*Please note that if booking independent travel as a self-drive, some culinary elements of the tour may change.

Delicious Highlights

  • Enjoy tasting specialties of the region during a walking tour
  • Welcome dinner at a local bistro in the heart of the historical part of the city
  • Chef-guided walk through the Marche des Capucins.  Then you will prepare what you have bought in her restaurant for lunch.
  • In St Emillion, meet with a renown winemaker to learn about the terroir as well as the secrets of wine-making and enjoy a picnic lunch in the heart of the property.
  • Enjoy a visit and tasting at a chateau in Medoc followed by a private lunch prepared by the chateau’s chef
  • Afternoon visit and tasting at grand cru vineyard. Later joined by their chef, you will have a cooking class at the heart of the vineyard.
  • During an afternoon boat tour of Arcachon Bay, you will enjoy some oysters at a local fishmonger
  • Taking a short walk from our hotel, we will arrive at Caves Duhard for a tasting
  • Wine tasting and lunch at Domain des Huards – winemakers since 1846.
  • Afternoon tour of a chocolate shop of a master chocolatier with a tasting
  • Visit to Chateau Villandry and lunch in Chinon at a family-owned property
  • Afternoon trip to Sainte Maure de Touraine, known all over France for the AOC goat’s cheese (with the straw through the middle) with a tasting
  • Chef-guided visit to the covered market in Tours, followed by hands-on cooking class.

Sightseeing Highlights:

  • Walking tour of Bordeaux and main shops
  • Visit to newly-opened “City of Wine” experience
  • Afternoon visit to Los Luce, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci
  • Day tours to the three main Bordeaux chateaux: de Chambord, de Villandry, de Chenonceau
  • Tour of the Bay of Arcachon on a pinasse with a stop for an oyster tasting

Included in your tour:

  • Five nights at Hotel de Seze, Bordeaux City
  • Three nights at Manoir les Minimes, Amboise
  • One night CDG airport hotel for next-day departure
  • Six lunches and four dinners
  • Transportation in a luxury minibus
  • Breakfast daily
  • All sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary

Day 1:
Meet at Hotel de Seze in Bordeaux.  After some time to unwind, enjoy an introductory walking tour of the city and treasures along the waterfront.  Along the way, we will enjoy tastings of some of the gourmet specialties of the region – ham, cheese, canelés (a pastry specialty of Bordeaux).  Return to the hotel before dinner at a local bistro.

Hotel de Sèze, Bordeaux

Day 2:
After breakfast, we will take a tram to the local Marché des Capucins, where we’ll meet our private chef for a tour of the market.  After collecting our groceries, we will return to the chef’s restaurant for our first hands-on cooking class and lunch.  Afternoon at leisure. We recommend a visit the Cité des Civilisations du Vin (opening in 2016). Dinner on your own.

Hotel de Sèze, Bordeaux

Day 3: Bordeaux – St. Emilion – Bordeaux
After breakfast we will depart for St. Emilion, a charming medieval village listed by UNESCO in 1999. Our first stop will be at Chateau la Tour Saint Christophe.  We will receive a tour of the gardens and meet a renowned winemaker to learn about terroir, secrets of winemaking, followed by wine-blending workshop and barrel tasting.

After this informative morning, we’ll have a picnic lunch at the heart of the property and then a walking tour of St. Emilion, including a visit to the impressive underground monuments.  Back to Bordeaux and evening at leisure.

Hotel de Sèze, Bordeaux

Day 4:Bordeaux – The Medoc – Bordeaux
This is a full day visiting two chateaux-vineyards. After breakfast, we leave for the famous Medoc region and Chateau Phelan Segur.  Due to its unique architecture, its stunning views of the Gironde and the nobility of its terroir, it is a great classic chateau.  While there you’ll enjoy a cooking class with their private chef in their state-of-the-art kitchen before discovering the wines themselves with a complete visit of the chateau wine-making facilities.  The tour will end with a wine tasting.

After lunch we will have a tasting at a nearby grand cru winery.  The estate of Pichon Baron was founded in the late 17th century.  Grand cru is a French government classification referring to “great growth” or a very superior wine.

Hotel de Sèze, Bordeaux

Day 5: Bordeaux – Arcachon – Bordeaux
After breakfast, we will travel to the town of Arcachon and visit the local markets before boarding a pinasse – a traditional boat – for a tour of the bay and a stop at a fishmonger to enjoy some oysters.  Back to the hotel at the end of the day and dinner at leisure  in Bordeaux.

Hotel de Sèze, Bordeaux

Day 6: Bordeaux – Loire Valley
After breakfast, depart for the Loire.  Mid-afternoon we will visit the Clos Luce where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life.  He came at the invitation of Francis I in 1516, bringing with him three paintings: the Mona Lisa, St John the Baptist and the Virgin and Child with St Anne.  Leonardo was very prolific.  The four basement rooms enable the visitor to understand the breadth of da Vinci’s knowledge: art, hydraulics, civil and military engineering, mechanics – the list goes on. A visit to the Chateau Luce will provide a private glimpse of the world of the Rennaissance genius.  Dinner.

Hotel Le Manoir les Minimes, Amboise

Day 7: Amboise – Chambord – Amboise
This will be another full day tour.  After breakfast, we’ll visit one of the highlights of the Loire Valley: Chateau de Chambord.  The estate is a game reserve as large as the town of Paris. The Chateau itself is a very unique monument by its architecture and proportions.  After Chambord, we’ll go on to Domaine des Huards where they specialize in wine made only from the romorantin grape and then on to to Max Vauché’s chocolate shop. Back to the hotel and dinner and evening at leisure.

Hotel Le Manoir les Minimes, Amboise

Day 8: Amboise
This morning we will depart after breakfast for the Chateau de Villandry – admiring the restored garden and the beauty of the aromatic medicine plant gardens.  Then we’ll have lunch at a family-owned restaurant in Chinon.  In the afternoon, we will drive Sainte Maure de Touraine, known for the AOC goat’s cheese – recognizable by the straw that runs through the middle.   Enjoy a visit of troglodyte cellars and a complete tasting of Loire Valley wines, followed by a nice lunch featuring local specialities.   In the afternoon, visit the Cave de Roches, which contain a subterranean mushroom farm, gourmet mushroom shop and 16,000 square foot village lovingly carved from the same stone from which the building materials of many of the great chateaux of the region were quarried.  Return to the hotel for an overnight stay.

Hotel Le Manoir les Minimes, Amboise

Day 9: Amboise – Markets & Farms
After breakfast, we will meet our private chef for a tour of the covered market in Tours, followed by a cooking class and a delicious lunch.  Then, in the afternoon we’ll visit Chateau Chenonceau, also known as the “Ladies’ Castle”, being shared by both the wife and mistress of Francis I.  From there, we will drive to Paris and your overnight at the hotel at the airport.

Day 10: Charles de Gaulle
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your return flight.


Yields 4 servings


2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
½ c. creme fraîche
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Cognac or brandy
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 generous pinch of saffron threads
40 mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 cup dry white wine
fresh chives


Whisk creme fraîche and 2 large egg yolks in a medium bowl to blend.  Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat.  Add Cognac or brandy and ignite with match.  Let flames burn out; whisk in lemon juice and saffron.  Set both mixtures aside.

Place mussels in a heavy large pot; pour in wine.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Cover pot and cook until mussels open, about six minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using tongs, transfer mussels to baking sheet (discard any mussels that do not open). Remove top half of each mussel shell; divide mussels in bottom shells among four bowls.  Tent with foil.

Strain mussel cooking liquid from pot through sieve lined with damp paper towel into skillet with shallot mixture.  Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to one cup, about 3 minutes. Very slowly whisk hot liquid into creme fraîche mixture; return to same skillet.  Stir over low heat just until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon – about two minutes.  Remove from heat, season sauce with salt and pepper.  Spoon over mussels.  Garnish with chives.

“Every man has two countries: his own and France.

– Thomas Jefferson

Priced from $4,590 for a group of 12.  Airfare is approximately $1300 roundtrip from Chicago to Bordeaux.

Dates and prices for independent travel upon request.



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