a close up of a fruit

Châteaux to See in Bordeaux

France and wine. The two go together like, well . . . France and wine. It comes as no surprise that a country famous for its wine should have numerous regions where exceptional wines are produced. In France, each of those regions is distinct and important, yet Bordeaux remains the country’s largest and most popular.

No matter which river cruise they take, whether it’s the 8-day Bordeaux Affair, the 9-day Bordeaux Sojourn, the 11-day Beautiful Bordeaux, or the 12-day Breathtaking Bordeaux, Scenic travelers are guaranteed opportunities to discover and experience the region’s châteaux in engaging and—in some cases—unique ways. Those interactions begin early on with a sunset reception at Château Siaurac. There, guests can sip the château’s red blend—a full-bodied and well-balanced wine rich with black cherry notes—while they gaze at the château’s Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec vines glimmering in the golden hues of the day’s fading light. 

Later on in those journeys, Scenic guests will visit Château d’Agassac, an estate that is among the oldest winemaking establishments in the region with a history that dates back to the 13th century. The château features a stone manor house—quite literally, a castle—that was built during the 16th and 17th centuries; and it’s there that Scenic Bordeaux river cruise travelers will enjoy an evening concert of classical masterpieces.

River cruisers who wish to spend a day touring noteworthy châteaux and perhaps discovering new favorite wines have plenty of esteemed châteaux from which to choose. And although great experiences (and great wine) can be found at many, the following establishments are ones that offer a little bit more—or something a little bit different—than most.

Château La Dominique & Château Lanessan
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Château La Dominique

This château, based just outside of Saint-Emilion, attracts many Bordeaux wine tourists with a contemporary new cellar, built in 2014 and designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The château’s flagship wine—a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon—attracts many more for its full-bodied, fruity character and long finish. Yet, visitors to Château La Dominique should know that a variety of tours and guided tastings can be arranged. Some private tours can be personalized to fit the visitor’s interests and can focus on the estate’s history, terroir, architecture, and the secrets behind the wines. Others focus much more on flavors. The Blind Taste tour, for example, blindfolds participants and requires them to guess the color, grape varietal, and even the vintage of a specific wine. The Wine and Gastronomic Bites tour, on the other hand, offers a private guided tasting of three wines, pair with three small bites prepared by the chef of the château’s restaurant, La Terrasse Rouge.

Reservations for many of the private and personalized tours and tastings are required at least one to two weeks in advance.

a close up of a wine glass

Château Lanessan

A visit to this château, located about 28 miles north of downtown Bordeaux, is inspired as much by the four distinct wines that it produces as it is by the distinct period of history that the property preserves. Those who are attracted to Bordeaux reds for their richness will want to seek out the château’s namesake wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. A blend of those same grapes also comprises the body of Les Calèches de Lanessan, a red that displays a fruity nose, silky tannins, and offers an aromatic finish. Black fruit and sweet spice aromas are at the core of Voyage de Lanessan, the château’s blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc; while a fruit-forward expression that can be enjoyed young, Château de Sainte Gemme, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Visitors to Château Lanessan can also tour the estate’s lush, 20-acre English garden, not to mention a museum of horse-drawn carriages that date back to the Belle Epoque period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. That time period is also on display in the neo-classical, Tudor-inspired architecture of the château’s manor.

Château Guiraud & Château Mouton Rothschild
a man drinking from a glass

Château Guiraud

Most château tours in Bordeaux bring visitors to the source of some of the region’s most exceptional red blends. A visit to Château Guiraud, however, introduces them to a longstanding and esteemed producer of Sauternes, a rich and elegant desert wine. The estate is as pastoral as any in the region, with tree-lined paths and roads, and its wine-producing history can be traced back to 1793. During warmer months, visitors can enjoy picnics in the estate’s park or under the château’s lime trees (by reservation only), and they can take guided nature walks over the grounds from May to July.

A traditional château tour includes stops in the vinification and aging cellars, as well as a tasting of two wines, including a vintage of Château Guiraud, the house’s revered Sauternes, which earned 1er Grand Crus Classes designation in 1855. Other interactive visitor opportunities include a vertical tasting of that esteemed wine, a tour and tasting of three wines paired with three cheeses, and a tour and tasting that teaches guests how to pair the rich and elegant desert wine with a variety of foods.

a person standing in front of a barrel

Château Mouton Rothschild

As one of France’s most esteemed wineries, Chateau Mouton Rothschild remains a bucket-list destination for wine connoisseurs. The manicured rows of vines, the sculpted hedges, and the raked gravel pathways—yes, the pathways are routinely raked—make it visually stunning and provide some insight into the experience that visitors will have there (some consider the chateau to be the most welcoming of the five First Growth chateaux, a designation that TK). In fact, French wine critics named Chateau Mouton Rothschild “Estate of the Year” in 2017.

Visitors can, of course, take guided tours and participate in tastings, which include the chateau’s TK. However, guests should also visit the chateau’s Museum of Wine Art, which is set in a former barrel cellar and features 17th century German golf- and silverware; drinking vessels used by the kings of Naples; Chinese, Japanese, and Persian porcelain; as well as medieval tapestries, paintings, and other artifacts that all showcase the overlap between wine and art.

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