Finding honest-to-goodness vignerons beneath Left Bank Bordeaux’s surface sheen of money and historical prestige has been a source of great satisfaction for us through the years. Sure, these human-sized operations are increasingly challenging to sustain, but the ongoing acquisitions and absorptions of small domaines is a Darwinian scythe of sorts, leaving behind only those producers determined to remain independent.
Our travels led us recently to Pessac-Léognan, the tranquil and heavily forested northern sector of the larger Graves subregion, and one of the few pockets of Bordeaux where we had never before worked. The appellation, famously, is home to Château Haut-Brion, the only estate in the original 1855 classification outside of the Haut-Médoc, and its gravelly soils—less sandy than those of Graves proper—yield age-worthy wines that combine silkiness and spinal fortitude.
A longtime friend in the region suggested we pay a visit to Stella Puel at Château Bardins, in the commune of Cadaujac. The weather on our first rendezvous was a caricature of winter in Bordeaux—bone-chillingly cold and damp with a slate-grey sky sagging under the weight of its massive clouds—but Stella’s calm and gentle demeanor warmed us immediately. Almost disarmingly open-hearted (particularly for a Bordelaise), Stella talked with us about her personal history, her love of nature and community, her commitment to empowering and retaining her employees, and, of course, her approach to wine. Thankfully, her wines—as is so often the case—mirrored her personality, offering both frankness and generosity, and it was quickly apparent that we had found a new partner in the region.
More on Château Bardins here.