Homage á Bages: Dinner with Jean-Charles Cazes

by Chuck Hayward

Homage á Bages: Dinner with Jean-Charles Cazes

Post by Alex Shaw | April 1st, 2012

Restaurant Cordeillan-Bages

Not surprisingly our trip to Bordeaux is not ALL about the wine: this is France after all. During the day, our entire focus is on tasting wine (upwards of 100 today alone). But once the sun sets, we get treated to some of the greatest food in the world. Typically our dinners are in chateaux: with their grand rooms, high ceilings, and Renaissance art, they certainly inspire awe. But this evening, a few of us were fortunate to dine with Jean-Charles Cazes from Chateau Lynch-Bages.

After our tasting of Lynch-Bages’ four 2011 releases (Les Ormes de Pez, in St. Estephe, Lynch Bages, Echo de Lynch Bages, the house’s second wine, and Blanc de Lynch Bages) at the chateau, we drove around the corner to Cordeillan-Bages, the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s not a stretch to say that this was the single greatest meal I've had out of my three trips to Bordeaux for en primeur.

Creamed potato, oysters and caviar, green apple and cucumber condiments

Rather than going straight to our table we were led to an intimate lounge-like space, with deep couches and comfortable chairs surrounding coffee tables. A bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée was poured (nothing is quite as refreshing as Champagne after a long day of tasting barrel samples), and conversation quickly began to flow about the history of Lynch-Bages and of JJ Buckley. We were handed menus, and once the Champagne was finished, we were escorted to our table.

Lightly-cooked foie gras, gingerbread and Maracuya pulp

The magnificence of great French restaurants, Michelin-starred restaurants in particular, is the service. Every detail was perfect. Glasses filled, silverware changed, bread offered, all at exactly the right moment without ever distracting from Mr. Cazes's absorbing company. From our erudite host, to the place settings, to the food, to the wine (2009 Senechaux Blanc, from Domaine des Senechaux, Lynch-Bages’ Chateauneuf property, 2005 Les Ormes de Pez, and 1996 Lynch Bages), the meal was the epitome of elegance, executed flawlessly.

It's impossible to describe the quality of Chef Jean-Luc Rocha's food accurately—hopefully my photos do it some small measure of justice. Each course was more stunning than the next. Oysters and caviar, fois gras, lamb, sweetbreads, and stunning desserts, all enjoyed while dining with Jean-Charles Cazes, easily one of the most interesting and intellectual chateau owners in the Medoc.

Twice-cooked calves' sweetbread, morels with jus and asparagus

When the night finally drew to a close, the six of us from JJ Buckley could barely contain ourselves on the drive back to our hotel. You get accustomed to, and hopefully not jaded by, the great food at en primeur: succulent beef, incredible cheese, local fish, pâté and all the wonderful things that make up French cuisine. But every now and then, a night far exceeds your wildest expectations. This was one of those nights. And we all knew it.

THANK YOU Mr. Cazes!