by Paige Donner (all photos copyright 2017)
Château La Mission Haut-Brion’s chapel for me sums up the essence of the property. It has been for centuries, and still is, a family home. A home where people have worshipped, where they have begun their lives and taken their last breaths, where meals have been shared, verses read, fine wines enjoyed after a day’s labor in the vineyards.
The elegance of Château La Mission Haut-Brion is that it blends its luxury and taste with absolutely no aristocratic airs. These are some of the oldest vineyards of Bordeaux. I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to have been invited to overnight there on a recent trip to Bordeaux. Granted, this is why most of the wine estates keep up their châteaux, yes because of the vineyards surrounding them and the cellars and vinification rooms and all the acoutrements that go with making great Bordeaux wines. But also to welcome guests, usually who work in or for the wine industry or those who are especially loyal appreciators of the wines. Few château owners actually live on their properties themseves, at least not in Bordeaux.
The entire property still has echoes of piousness threaded into all of its structures and its tasting room feels like one in which a monk would feel at ease. Indeed the owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, who re-did the tasting room and its reception area only a few years ago, handpicked art pieces and even the the design of the iron-framed high-backed bishop’s chairs that encircle the tasting room table.
If you ever get lucky enough to gain entry into the chapel, look high above, at the molding just above the authentic and ancient (16th c.) stained glass windows. There you will see the years of the château’s Millésimes – vintage years – engraved in a band across the four walls. After 2015 and 2016 are added, there will be room enough only for a few more. So in another 4 or 5 centuries it would be interesting to see if perhaps the entire walls are engraved with numbers noting good vintage years.
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