Fine gravel crackled and crunched under my feet, I felt a little dizzy, still overwhelmed by the beauty that I had just witnessed as I drove through the Médoc. If this region were a minimalist painting you'd see a block of green at the bottom and bright blue with white brush strokes at the top, divided by a gentle curve, the horizon. The vines grow in hard parallel lines, covering valleys and hills, and in between you see the most beautiful châteaux, majestic and elegant, the sturdy walls built of bright sandstone reflecting the sun. The grapes are plump, their juices seem ready to burst their skins at any moment, protected by large leaves hanging over the fruits like umbrellas. The region is praised for its food and wine, but its landscapes seduces your senses.
The gravel that I walked on was surrounded by fragrant oleander and dark boxwood shrubs, shaped like pregnant cones. It was a narrow path framing green lawns in geometric patterns, the garden of one of the dreamiest places I've seen in my life, the park of the mystic Château Larrivaux - home of the inspiring wine maker Bérangère Tesseron. The estate is famous for its outstanding wines, thanks to the women who took care of the land since the château's cornerstone was laid on the grounds of Cissac-Médoc in 1580. Château Larrivaux was always in the hands of women, strong women, like Bérangère and the generations before her, her mother, aunts, and grandmother. They are passionate, they love the family and traditions, and they taught Bérangère the sense of these values. They taught her to create something special at Larrivaux to pass it on to her own sons one day. "I'm just a little person, Larrivaux exists for five centuries, I'm here to take Larrivaux and give it to the next generation. You have to be passionate to work at the château, without passion you can't work here." There's just one problem, the wine maker only has four sons. Her brother has a daughter, so the future will show if it will be female or male.
Bérangère's husband, Basil Tesseron, also comes from a wine dynasty, the equally famous Château Lafon-Rochet, just a couple miles further east. Both of them create the same product, the couple exchanges information about the weather, the harvest, but their businesses are separate. The two estates have different terroirs and approaches and therefore create different wines. "Making wine is all about feelings, intuition. I have more merlot, he has more cabernet, our wines are totally different." Château Larrivaux makes full-bodied wines, round, with a lot of fruit.
"When I drink my wine, I want to eat something. It's a wine you want to share and finish the bottle." Bérangère's life can easily seem perfect, like a picture book ideal, but it's tough, making wine is hard work. She learned to love the weather forecast, she has five apps on her phone. "We always think about wine, looking at the sky, thinking if it will affect the wine, that is stressful, but that's a part of the game." Due to the frost in April 2017, she only produced half the amount of bottles that usually fill the estate's wine cellar.
The family loves food and finds relaxation in their charming countryside kitchen inside the château's thick old walls. The worn kitchen table has been there since Bérangère laid her hands on it as a child. When she chops the vegetables from her garden, she has a beautiful view of the peaceful park. Everything in this room has a story to tell, every polished copper pot, every detail seems to have found its place through the twists and turns of life, not through a plan. The château is a labyrinth of long corridors with creaking floors and more rooms than one can count, full of antiques, velvet covered chairs, old paintings and drawings, wooden toys, and a deer head watching the scenes in the green painted living room for centuries. It's a fairy tale turned into a house.
The Tesserons love the French cuisine for celebrating the simple things, fresh fruits and vegetables, good meat and seafood. "When you have your plate in front of you, you know what you're going to taste, and when you have it in your mouth you recognize all the different flavors." The kitchen plays an important role in their life, the kids who are 9, 7, 4, and 1 year old, love cooking with their maman, cleaning mushrooms or forming meatballs. They also bake chocolate cake on their own, "I never touch anything, but I watch them," says the trustful mother. And when she makes her famous Sunday classic, the family's recipe for Quasi de Veau de Larrivaux (tender veal roast with crunchy bacon topping), the family gathers happily under the ancient tree in the middle of the garden, enjoying food, wine, and life.