Fast forward five more years later, and I'm planning a wine tour in Bordeaux, France, for my girlfriend Marya's 40th birthday present, having saved my pennies for the last 3 years. I finally settled on French Wine Adventures where we'd do a walking tour to organic vineyards. I was really hoping this would not be a mistake.
The tour was to include a wine pairing lunch, so I contacted the tour director Caro Feely to ask if we could get a vegan lunch. She assured me we could. Skeptical, I contacted her a few days in advance to make sure we were good to go for the vegan lunch. "It's all set", she replied. Still skeptical, we packed snacks just in case.
We took the train down from Paris to the city of Bordeaux and stayed at the Aquitain Hotel, booked through HostelWorld.Com very close to the train station. This was important as we had to catch a local commuter train at stupid:30 the next day to catch the tour. In addition to the benefit of it's proximity to the train station, the hotel was relatively inexpensive, nicely decorated, had a wonderful staff, a nice patio (more on that in a bit), and was within reasonable walking distance to the town's center.
On the morning of our tour we took the train to Gardonne Station where our guide Caro was waiting to pick us up to join the rest of those walking with us. We walked and walked and walked along the road, through fields, and along a trail through the forest. Along the way, Caro was able to point out which vineyards were organic.
They started at once serving us red and white wine with tapenade and bruschetta on crostini.
We were assured everything Marya and I was to be served would be vegan.
Next was this tasty caramelized onion tart and salad.
After the risotto came, in classic French dessert style, a cheese plate. Oddly, the French don't eat nearly as much cheese as us North Americans. They eat just a tiny bit after dinner. In my former life, I'll admit that I could have finished the cheese plate myself.
Then came this lovely strawberry tart.
After our meal and loads more wine (our hosts were not shy about opening more wine at the slightest hint of an empty bottle), we got a short tour of the their winery, then began our walk back to our point of origin.
During our walk back, Caro graciously phoned her husband Sean (and the other owner of Haut Garrigue) to bring us some wine from their winery to purchase. After talking to Caro so much about the production of wine, I needed to try their creation. They then gave us a ride back to the train station just in time to catch an hourly train back to the city of Bordeaux.
I'll add that I was blown away by the wine. You've heard of a wine's bouquet? When sipping this white, I could visualize the bouquet.
I'll say that at $149Euros/person, the walking tour might be a bit steep. But I'd been planning this for a while, and we left having had the most enjoyable experience we wouldn't trade for anything.
So, to recap:
French Wine Adventures - Where I booked the tour
The Aquitain Hotel near the train station, booked online at HostelWorld.Com
The Naked Vigneron - where our walking tour took us for an unforgettable organic wine pairing lunch
Chateau Haut Garrigue - our guide's vineyard
Both Haut Garrigue and The Naked Vigneron produce vegan wine. No use of isinglass or egg whites to clarify the wine.