Château La Cardonne
The sun was setting as I took a right-turn off the D215, the main road which runs as straight as an arrow from the little town of Saint-Laurent-Médoc, west of the St Julien appellation, up to Lesparre-Médoc. My penultimate appointment of the day had over-run by an hour, and although my arrival time at Château La Cardonne was not fixed in stone I didn’t want to be too late. After all, I have a track record of perfect (ahem!) attendance and punctuality to maintain. Well, alright, almost perfect – there was that time I missed an appointment at a well-known classed growth after going to the wrong château, and by the time I eventually arrived everybody had gone home. But that’s a story for another day.
Braking to avoid a collision with a dawdling chevreuil I piloted my hire car down a dark country lane, eyes peeled for any other wayward wildlife. Thankfully there was none, and before long I emerged opposite Château La Cardonne. I know these roads better than you might think; I have visited and stayed at Château Preuillac – La Cardonne’s next-door neighbour – several times, and there is a tiny AirBNB that I have used up here as well, a useful place to lay my head after a long day of tasting on the Médoc. But this was my first visit to Château La Cardonne. Inching my way along the driveway towards the château the sun gave a last gasp and disappeared, leaving the trees as dark silhouettes against the twilight.
Waiting there, as I pulled up, was the property’s commercial director, Scotsman Andrew McInnes, who had his trademark twinkle in his eye. Ten minutes later I realised why, as I began my first impromptu driving lesson in an enjambeur, those huge (and presumably very expensive) spindle-legged tractors which straddle the vines, as I piloted it along some around the dark and unfamiliar estate.
And that was just for starters.