Five Birthdays, a Few Bottles, Many Memories…

Wine is for me, like bread, the basis of all food : the essential drink, synonymous with culture, happiness, and the art of living. Each bottle that sleeps in my cellar contains a universe: the geography and history of the place where it was born, the soil, the plant, the climate, a know-how… A universe ready to escape and to be reborn, at the first and only occasion – like the Genie of Aladdin’s lamp.

I am quite often forgetful when it comes to birthdays. Unlike my wife Thereza, whose memory is phenomenal, I find it hard to keep track of the dates when to congratulate loved ones or to celebrate events of the past. I also don’t like to use reminders, whether electronic or not. I simply do my best…

That said, the month of June is special. Every year, it offers me a calendar well supplied with opportunities for various commemorations … Between the 15th and the 25th of June, there are no less than five days which justify the uncorking of one of the bottles that sleep peacefully today in my cellar… While waiting to accompany the celebration for which they are intended.

Eight days of sunshine… and memories!!!

June 23, 1936: Jacotte’s birthday… and our old summer days in Bages…       

Jacqueline is my sister, whom everyone has always called Jacotte. Like me, she was born in Bordeaux, while our parents, students, were both preparing their bachelor’s degrees, he in Law, she in Physical Sciences.

André, our father, seriously ill at 20, had to abandon his educational trajectory in Paris in 1933, which might have led him to the Ecole Polytechnique, like his two brothers before him. Back in Bordeaux, he married Claudine Lavinal whom he had met a few years earlier in preparatory class, in 1934. I was born the following year, and my sister Jacotte on June 23, 1936, one year after me.

21, rue du Maréchal Joffre, Pauillac

The Bordeaux vineyard is in the doldrums. The Great Depression of 1929 has precipitated the collapse of the wine economy, which had already badly suffered already for over 30 years, following the phylloxera crisis. Most wine properties are for sale.

In Pauillac, 15 of the 18 classified growths of the Commune go bankrupt and changed ownership during the 10 years preceding the Second World War. My grandfather, Jean-Charles Cazes, son of a seasonal agricultural worker from Ariège, after having fought the Great War of 1914-1919 and spent twenty years as a baker, converts to farming. He now takes care of wine estates, which he manages on behalf of owners who are absent or not very interested…

In 1933, he takes over the Lynch-Bages estate as a tenant farmer. The owner, General Félix de Vial, administers the property from afar, in Paris, or Biarritz depending on the season. In the face of the harsh times, the general decides to sell. Despite his efforts, he cannot find a buyer and, in 1939, ends up accepting my grandfather’s modest offer.

General Félix de Vial

In the deed of sale of February 23, 1939, the buyer commits to remove the name of General de Vial from the label, along with the coat of arms which appears above the name. According to the deed, Lynch-Bages wine will now “necessarily bear the name of Cazes from the 1937 harvest”. Jean-Charles Cazes, without a family coat of arms, chooses the coat of arms of the city of Pauillac. It will not impair the reputation of the wine.

In the summer of 1939, my grandparents move to Lynch-Bages. It becomes the family basecamp for the summer and harvest season. For many years, they will spend four or five months there, from the beginning of summer to October, after the harvest. It will become their permanent home in the mid-60s, when heating and running water were finally installed in the 19th century house . Our father André, drafted into the army in 1939, will be prisoner of war and spent 5 years in a camp in Eastern Germany near the Polish border. He will not return home and to civilian life until 1945.

Alsace, winter 39-40, Lieutenant in the 196° artillery regiment

We, his children, live with our mother in Pauillac during the school year and spend every summer in Bages, where we take advantage of the large garden, and share the life of what was then a farm, with its cows, horses, pigs, rabbits, chickens and ducks, its vegetable patch and, of course, its vineyard, which my grandfather strives to keep alive in a difficult time.

It is in Bages that Jacotte and I create most of our childhood memories, those which will never be erased. The harvests, the farm animals, the playing with friends in the village streets, the open-air wash-house at the bottom of the vegetable patch and Plantieu, the old gardener, the donkey cart that had replaced the old pre-war Peugeot, deprived of petrol… but also the bombing of Pauillac and the terrifying view of the 500 planes which shelled our small town in the summer of 1944, the returning of our father from Germany the following year in June, after amost six years of absence… So many moments that have forever left a lasting imprint…

Jacotte, like me, attended ‘sthe Pauillac municipal grammar school, the lycée in Bordeaux, and continued her studies in Paris. She became a doctor, got married and lived all her life in the capital where she practiced medicine, raised her three daughters and now watches her grandchildren grow up. Of course, I’m thinking of marking her birthday by opening a Lynch-Bages 1936. But no matter how much I look in our cellar, I can only find a small bottle of this vintage… It must be said that the reputation of the vintage is far from being at the top. I’ll let the bottle have the benefit of the doubt, and, since I only have one left, I will just photograph it!

And I will drink a glass of champagne instead! Happy Birthday!

June 15, 1973: Our daughter Catherine’s birthday. Moving from Paris to Pauillac on July 14th with 2 little girls and a one-month old baby. My real turning point and a first harvest…  

On July 14, 1973, I’m walking the return path that had taken me from Pauillac to Paris 20 years earlier. With João-Maria, my father-in-law, I pile up our belongings in the Renault 16 and we hit the road to Bordeaux. Thereza and the three children make the train journey, and go ahead of us. Our youngest, Catherine, born in Boulogne on June 15th, 1973, is a one-month-old baby. She is travelling comfortably in her cot. The whole family reunites in Pauillac. While waiting to find a final accommodation in the area, we temporarily settle in the apartment that my parents have arranged for guests, in the old barrel cellars of Duhart-Milon, on the docks of Pauillac. It is right near the beautiful modern house they built 15 years earlier on the site of the old “chateau”, a building without character – which was threatening to become a ruin. A temporary home which will last us 10 years…

Summer 1973 passes quickly. I am now a partner in the insurance agency “André Jean-Michel Cazes” in Pauillac.  We represent the company “Providence”, and I am dedicated to my new profession. I also familiarize myself with the daily life of Lynch-Bages. There reigns Roger Mau, experienced cellar master and vineyard manager. The wine market, after decades of slump, has begun to recover, thanks to the impetus given by the opening of the American market. It begins timidly with the 69 and 70 harvests, then more markedly with 71 and especially 72, which “en primeur” release prices in spring 73 reached unprecedented levels.

Alas…! In September 73 comes the oil shock. The price of a barrel of crude rises in a few days from 3 to 30 dollars, causing the surge in interest rates and generalized credit restrictions. This results in serial bankruptcies of Bordeaux trade companies and triggers the great wine crisis that lasts from 74 to 80. But this is another story…

At the same time, harvest is coming … As a child, I had cut a few grapes and often accompanied my grandfather to the vat room and the cellars. But I didn’t know anything about wine. I just watched the action. The 70s was a time when scientific oenologie took great stides. Under the impetus of oenologists from the University of Bordeaux, in particular Jean Ribéreau-Gayon and Émile Peynaud, this newly acquired knowledge gradually spread across the region. One new subject stands out : the understanding the so-called “malolactic” fermentation, hitherto largely ignored in the field. Of course, in May following every harvest, a slight effervescence could be observed in the barrels. But I have often heard this phenomenon attributed to the “sympathy” that wine would feel with the arrival of spring and the rebirth of the vine, when the sap rises in the branches! “Just let it go and everything will be fine!”

Roger Mau

But in 1973, the wines prices had reached a new level… After the oil shock, the times suddenly becomes more difficult… Vintners realize that when time comes, the Bordeaux Trade will require the delivery of technically finished wines. This damn malolactic must therefore take place at the end of vinification, preferably before the wine is placed in the barrel. Unfortunately, in the field, many facilities are dilapidated and most cellar masters, even the most experienced, did not get a grip on the process.

At Lynch-Bages, the vat room dates from 1866. Needless to say, it is not perfectly suited to the needs of modern oenology. Roger Mau does what he can, but malolactic (we also call it “secondary”) fermentation is restive. Lactic bacteria, instead of malic acid, is also interested in alcohol, increasing day after day the risk of producing vinegar … a terrifying prospect! In desperation, I call Émile Peynaud to the rescue. He visits us and conquers the confidence of Roger Mau who, after the Professor leaves, declares: “This man knows what he is talking about”. It was not a foregone conclusion. We follow the advice of the scientist, who saves the crop. The danger has passed.

With my friends from Saint-Jean-de-Luz who have come recently to Pauillac to “de-confine” themselves, I have uncorked a bottle of this 1973 which had worried us so much in the past. Of course, this is not the vintage of the century and it shows its age. But this wine brings back memories of myfirst harvest – my baptism of fire. And also the memory of Roger Mau. For 30 years, with my grandfather Jean-Charles, he had produced great wines and had acquired great experience. He was also a man of character and an excellent manager. But time had passed, and in 1973 he found himself defenseless in the face of a technical development which he could not control on his own.

That one-month-old baby girl has come a long way today. Just like Jacotte and me, she attended primary school in Pauillac, and lycee in Bordeaux. Catherine chose to study law at the University of Bayonne – and got to know and love the Basque Country. Then she began her professional life in Paris. One day she had the good idea to travel the South American roads where she met Yonatan, whom she accompanied first in Tel Aviv, then to New York. Their son Tal was born in Bordeaux, between two trips… The next two, Élisa and Noa, born in the United States, happily completed the family. They are now all based in Bordeaux and we are happy to be able to see them often.

Happy Birthday Catherine!

22 June 22, 1974: Birthday of Jean-Charles. After our three beautiful Parisiennes, a Bordeaux boy! And a difficult harvest…

At the end of 1973, reassured about the marketable quality of the vintage wine, I devote myself first to my new profession, insurance. Motor vehicles, theft and fire, various disasters, hail, civil liability, etc. become my daily bread. My experience of last Fall in the Lynch-Bages vat room, however, shows me that enology has been making great strides in recent years and that I am cruelly lacking in the scientific knowledge of winemaking. I am also able to measure, on the ground, the technical backwardness in our properties in Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez. Winter is coming. The drafting of insurance contracts and visits to our customers, throughout the Médoc region, leave me little time.

However, I decide to enroll in the weekly courses given by Professor Peynaud and his team at the Bordeaux Institute of Oenology. I’m going back to school!

I’m also tackling the issue of our facilities, which are by now obviously outdated. Our vat room, built in 1866, has remained in the same state for over a century. Historically and culturally, it has great interest. But it is no longer adapted at all to the needs of modern oenology. The 1974 crop is on the horizon. The experience of the last harvest has shown us that we are not able to meet the new vinification standards with our current equipment. In a panic, we decide to acquire half a dozen metal tanks, easy to clean and likely to be (slightly) cooled by running off water on the sides. We install them in the abandoned stables that no longer house our twenty dairy cows, now useless, and the nine draft horses, which we started replacing by tractors a couple of years ago.

On the commercial level, the situation is worrying … The market did not absorb the excessively high prices of 1972’s “futures”. The oil shock and its consequences on interest rates are beginning to take their toll on the Merchants… and the properties that do not have cash reserves… This is our case: in the spring of 73, my father has missed the mark of the ’72 “primeurs” because, as Mayor of Pauillac, he participates in the summer session of the Regional Assembly. The 1972 “en primeur”campaign was short and passed very fast … The shooting window was narrow, and it quickly closed.

Baptizing the latest arrival… Our family in full, at last, in the old Duhart-Milon barrel cellar, on the Pauillac riverfront.

In our family life, however, everything is fine. We are delighted to welcome into our home the arrival of Jean-Charles, born June 22nd, 1974 in the maternity ward of Pellegrin Hospital in Bordeaux. He is a beautiful baby whose birth makes the whole family happy. We can now only hope that nature will give us a good harvest in the fall, and a good vintage, which will age well and that we can drink to his health for a long time to come.

Again! Things had started off fine. Hot and dry in July and August. Everything looks good. But the rain and the wind arrived in September and settled firmly on the region. Depression after depression, day after day, the Atlantic sends us dark clouds laden with rain. The ripeness of the grapes leave something to be desired… but rot threatens the vines, and soon, it is time to harvest… The extra vats in the barn are not quite ready and harvesters were often forced to stop picking by the weather .

In short, the 1974 harvest was difficult. Very difficult. It extended to more than three weeks instead of the usual dozen days. Wine-making difficulties, without being as acute as in 1973, remain. Fortunately we are now accompanied by Professor Peynaud who guides us efficiently.

Despite all our efforts, however, we were not able to perform miracles on this harvest. We did not have a magic wand and we could not change an old nag into a racehorse… The wine therefore remained a little lean and somewhat diluted… And to top it all off, we were to have new difficulties later, when bottling the vintage.

Diary of a challenging harvest. Starting on October 1, it finished on 22nd! The figures in red are meant to represent the daily weather. From 1 (clear weather, blue sky) to 5 (constant rain)

After attending various schools, first in Pauillac, then Bordeaux, Jean-Charles graduated from University of Bordeaux (Economic Sciences). Then he went to acquire some experience in different jobs – banking, automobile equipment…, in France and abroad: Paris, New York, Sao Paulo… As Montaigne said a long time ago “he travelled to rub and polish his brains against other people’s brains”. He joined our company in the early 2000s and was entrusted to stand at the helm in 2007. For more than 10 years now, he has been doing his best to justify the family confidence, with some success.

To celebrate Jean-Charles’ birthday, which was the happy event of the year 1974, I therefore did not choose a Lynch-Bages of that vintage, which reminds me too much of difficult moments in my life as a winegrower. I got my hands on a very different wine, a white Graves, Château La Louvière. Its owner, André Lurton, was then one of the great figures of our profession, the father of the Pessac-Léognan appellation and one of the craftsmen of the revival of Bordeaux wines

He made modern, forward-looking wines. His white wines age well and this 74, which has spent more than 40 years in bottle, is a magnificent example of the ability of Pessac-Léognan white wines to dominate time.

June 19th: Miklos’ birthday. The most American of all my Hungarian friends.

It started with a phone call in 1978, shortly after the harvest. At the other end of the line, a friend, Philippe Cottin, CEO of what we call in Pauillac “La Baronnie”, that is to say the cluster of companies that Philippe de Rothschild has created around his Mouton property since his taking office in 1922.

Philippe Cottin in the Mouton-Rothschild vineyard

Philippe informs me that the First Growths (Premiers Crus) of the 1855 classification (they were now five of them since 1973, when Mouton joined Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion), have in the past few years been organizing a presentation of the new vintage in the United States, where the market is thriving. It is a continent-wide promotion operation, punctuated by tastings, lunches and dinners over a dozen + American cities.

The events are supported by local distributors who promote them to their customers. The market in America is in full development. Each in turn, a family representative of each property accompanies the trip in order to support the operation  and spread the spread the Bordeaux gospel. This year, the group faces a difficulty: The person planned for 1979 has an impediment and has to forfeit the operation. It must therefore be replaced at short notice, but no one is available.

Philippe, who knows that Thereza and I practice the language correctly and that America and the Americans are not unknown to us, has thought of us. After consulting with his colleagues, he tells me that he has been given the mission to send me an invitation to act on their behalf. Of course, he says, we will add Lynch-Bages to the tasting program… How can I resist such a proposal? Of course I accept immediately.

In the weeks preceding our departure, I learn that the trip coordinator is a certain Miklos Dora, whom everyone calls “Miki”. He lives in Santa Barbara, near Los Angeles, on the Californian coast. After a commercial career in the service of wine, he is now semi-retired and ensures personal representation missions in the United States on behalf of Philippe de Rothschild..

In February 1979, Thereza and I take off for California. This is our first long distance journey since our marriage 10 years ago, and my first return to the United States since my last visit in 1967, in my previous professional life with IBM… Back then it was a visit to get to know the new large computing systems the company had istalled for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh and the NASA Space Center in Houston… Very far away from wine. This trip is the start of a new chapter.

After 12 hours by plane, we disembark in the wee hours in Los Angeles. When recovering our luggage, a short, slender man with white hair approaches: “I am Miklos Dora, I will drive you to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel…” His strong accent betrays his Hungarian origin. On the sidewalk, he makes his first recommendation : “We are going to spend two weeks together. Remember: You will have to be on time! ”, He insists heavily, staring at Thereza, who is a little surprised by the reception. I will understand later that his past experiences have led him to make this a priority issue…

I cannot describe here this first trip in detail. It will remain unforgettable for both of us. Things went well, to the satisfaction of the sponsors, and this visit was followed by two others in the following years, which brought together the same partners and we went along again. Then the Premiers Crus decided to change their approach and abandoned the collective promotion of the vintage. Miki, whom I had come to know and appreciate, insisted on maintaining the concept and asked me to form a new group. I brought together four friends, vineyard owners in four Bordeaux appellations, different from Pauillac : Bruno Prats of Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe, Michel Delon of Leoville-Lascases in Saint Julien,, Claude Ricard of Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Leognan and Thierry Manoncourt of Saint-Emilion. He renamed the event “Fete du Bordeaux”.

For more than 20 years, we crisscrossed the United States showing our wines. The group experienced some changes. Anthony Barton of Léoville-Barton quickly replaced Michel Delon, who was not fond of travelling. Olivier Bernard replaced Claude Ricard at Domaine de Chevalier, which his family acquired in the 1980s. Miki himself retired permanently, but the torch was taken over by Nancy Rugus, whom I had known when she worked in New York with Ab Simon, boss of Seagram’s, who was then, by far, the first importer of fine wines in the United States.

And we continued forward. For over 25 years, thanks to Miki’s and then Nancy’s knowledge of the market, we were able to meet the best distributors in the United States and implant our wines everywhere, from Seattle to Miami, from Boston to San Diego… often with the support from the local chapters of the Bordeaux Commanderies (there are around 40 of them in the United States who do a remarkable job for Bordeaux wine!).

But… Back to Miki. During all these years, over the course of our travels, I witnessed his professionalism, his attention to detail and perfection, as well as the quality of the human relationships he had been able to establish during his exceptional career. His life is a real novel. When he was born in Budapest, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not yet toppled. He was 20 years old in the 1930s. A student cavalry officer with great style, he was sent to continue his education in Vienna, where he seduced an elegant American young lady, snatched her from her companion of the time, and fled with her… to Argentina!

He performed a variety of trades – restaurateur, trader, shrimp breeder, who knows… changed country several times…  He gradually moved north and arrived in the United States where he entered the service of an ambitious young company, Buckingham Wines, who happened to be the importer of the wines that bear Philippe de Rothschild’s name. With Ed Lauber and Tim Enos, he formed a shock trio of sellers to whom Philippe Cottin soon entrusted the launch of Mouton-Cadet, the signature Bordeaux of the Rothschild portfolio.

Philippe Cottin and Ed Lauber in 2000 at the “Fête de la Fleur” at Mouton Rothschild

Their success was considerable and earned them the esteem of the Baron, who himself was very active in the United States. He became Philippe’s friend and, having retired, accepted to become his personal representative in the country. He knows everyone in the business and his address book is lavishly stocked.

Along the way, Miki got married… Five times. He has two children, a daughter and a son, Miki Jr, who became a “legend” of surfing – “Da Cat”, the king of Malibu… He lives in Santa Barbara, mingles with Hollywood stars and plays tennis with Tarzan (Lex Barker). Finally, he meets Christine, a British citizen with whom he has now been sharing perfect love for fifty years.

In 1978, Miki introduces Robert Mondavi to Philippe de Rothschild. At the time, “Bob” is Napa Valley visionary winemaker. Philippe has the temperament of a conquistador… They meet again, this time in Pauillac. They like each other and decide, in a daring move to partner and produce a, a Californian Premier Cru: “Opus One” is born. 1979 is the first vintage. This unexpected alliance lands like a bomb thrown in the traditional – and somewhat stilted world of Bordeaux.

This 19th of June, my friend Miklos Dora is celebrating his birthday. In his honor, I uncorked last night a bottle of Opus One at Lafon-Rochet, with my friends the Tesseron. It is a 2013 vintage, maybe still a little young, but terribly seductive. Everything is there. The power and the sun of California, the finesse of the great Bordeaux grape varieties, the winemaker’s skill … Bob Mondavi and Philippe de Rothschild can be proud to have given birth to such a child.

In Lafon-Rochet, Michel Tesseron know how to decant with style.

I spoke to Miki yesterday by phone. He now lives with his family, in his Connecticut home where he finally retired with Christine, near his daughter Pauline, who married a New York lawyer.

I realize that I forgot to tell you the main thing: Miklos was born on June 19, 1913. The birthday we wish him today bears the number 107 !!! Because of the Covid-19, Thereza and I will not be able this year to come to the birthday dinner, much to our regret. But we know that Miki still is hale and hearty… and has kept a taste for good wine

June 17, 1985: The space shuttle Discovery takes off from Cape Kennedy. Patrick Baudry is on board, with a (small) bottle of Lynch-Bages 75 in his luggage.    

Fall, 1984. It is 7 pm, and I am still at my office of the insurance agency. The phone rings. At the end of the line, a man with a pronounced accent from the Bearn region, rolls the “R’s”, and introduces himself: “André Courrèges”… and immediately asks me a really unexpected question: “Do you want to send your wine to the moon?”  Like everyone else, I’ve heard of the fashion designer who has conquered Paris. He is omnipresent in the news. First I think of a joke… But the tone is frank, the accent inimitable. I listen…

André Courrèges, because it is actually him, tells me that he is in contact with astronaut Patrick Baudry, who is to be the first Frenchman to fly on the American space shuttle in a few months. Courrèges explains: Originally from Bordeaux, Patrick knows and appreciates good wine.

He wants to honor the region and the city where he spent his youth, by taking a sample of its production with him. He tried to interest Bordeaux organizations in the operation, but without success. Very busy with his training in the City of Stars in the USSR, he can not come to Bordeaux to find the partner he needs to set up the operation.

Courrèges tells this story to a friend, Christian Morin, who then hosts a popular Europe 1 radio program. Christian gives him my phone number, assuring him that I would no doubt be more responsive…

The story sounds outlandish, but I believe it right away. Thanks to André Courrèges, I immediately organize for Patrick Baudry to come visit Lynch- Bages. The astronaut schedule is tight and time is running out. There is no question of wasting time on the roads.

I send a helicopter to pick him where he is, in the southwest of France. Patrick spends a day with us and explains his idea: he does not yet know how he can take wine on the space shuttle, but he needs a partner to provide him with a sample of Bordeaux wine in an adequate form, which still has to be defined.

His purpose is quite clear: it is not a matter of advertising a brand, but of honoring Bordeaux and its wine, the region’s flagship product. The vehicle will be the “Challenger” space shuttle, which is scheduled to take off from Cape Kennedy in March 1985.

For several months, we stayed in touch. He returned to Texas, where he was training at the Space Center in Houston, and keeps me posted on his discussions with NASA officials about what he will be allowed to carry with him as souvenirs.

Finally, he obtains the authorization to place in his luggage a half-bottle of wine, and a few grape leaves… I take the plane to Houston to bring him these objects myself.

We spend a beautiful evening together at my friend Joe Mannke’s wonderful “Rotisserie for Beef and Bird”. Joe maintains one of the great wine lists in the United States. I give Patrick the items he will take with him on his trip and he invites me and my family to attend launch in Florida. I return to Pauillac.

Finally, it will not be Challenger. The shuttle is experiencing technical problems. The crew is re-scheduled on Discovery, that will depart, three months later, on June 17, 1985. The whole family has made the trip to attend the show. The takeoff is great, the noise, deafening, the emotion, intense…

The Discovery crew

While Thereza and our children return to France after having visited Disneyland and Epcot, I fly to California. Patrick has invited me to attend the landing planned almost a week later at Edwards Air Force Base, near Los Angeles. A radically different atmosphere. The anxiety of the wait…. All eyes are on the sky. Discovery suddenly appears, very high in the sun, and lands in hover, almost stealthily, in a strange and unexpected silence. Nothing to do with the thundering takeoff. But at Edwards like in Canaveral, the emotion is there.

5, 4, 3, 2, Take off!!!

At Château Cantemerle, on Saturday June 22, 1985, while Discovery is circling around the planet, it is the Fête de la Fleur of the Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc et des Graves. I will be told later that the Grand Master Henri Martin, surrounded by the dignitaries of the Order, concluded his welcome speech by proudly pointing his finger at the sky: “The first wine in space is passing in the sky this evening, over our heads. And it’s a Bordeaux wine!” Mission accomplished.

Henri Martin

Summer 85 passes quickly. In September, as we prepare to pick a superb harvest (in 1988, the ’85 Lynch-Bages will be ranked #1 of the 100 wines of the year by the Wine Spectator Magazine), we are delighted to welcome Patrick Baudry to  Pauillac, accompanied by his comrades from the Discovery crew … They arrive by air, of course, on the school’s athletic field. The helicopters land, the population makes a triumph at the group of astronauts, who parade, music in the lead, in the streets of Pauillac to the Town Hall where my father, Mayor of the city, welcomes them with honor.

They are then received at Lynch-Bages where, after their initiation in the Commanderie du Bontemps led by the great Master Henri Martin surrounded by the fine flower of Medoc viticulture, a dinner is served in the barrel cellar arranged for the event. At the time of the induction and dinner, only the Saudi astronaut will be missed, as he has been exfiltrated by the embassy by special helicopter before the start of the festivities of an overtly viticultural character.

The small bottle of Lynch Bages, that went 110 times around the world in 1985, is now on display in our reception hall. It made us live a great adventure… and remains the starting point of my friendship with Patrick Baudry.

Lynch-Bages 1975, first « Wine in space! »

We didn’t drink it. I doubt, moreover, that the bottle’s journey of less than a week in weightlessness would have had qualitative consequences for the wine. I realize that I did not tell you about the vintage. It was the 1975 harvest. A high quality harvest, magnificent grapes, which gave birth to very structured wines, typical of “Pauillac”. Maybe they lack a bit of roundness? I can’t help but think that this vintage would have been even better if we then had the technical means available today

June 13th, 2020…  Our eldest granddaughter graduation

Sheltering-in-place with her parents and her two sisters in Mamaroneck, New York, because of the Covid-19 epidemic, Sara could not go to Santa Barbara, California, to receive her diploma. The graduation ceremony, always a great occasion in American universities, took a virtual form this year –  a « Zoom  Graduation », inevitably less spectacular this year but still friendly and authentic, as always.

Cheers,  Sara !!!

Thank you to Marina for the editing…

…and to Afsaneh for the translation.


Article By Jean‑Michel Cazes

Comment Your Thoughts

  • We love your writing, the history and passion!

    Thank you for sharing.

    We also adore Lynch Bages wine, 1989 a special favorite.

    Live happy, healthy!

    Your admirer, Tom Webb

  • Cher Jean-Michel,

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blogs! They are entertaining and interesting, and it’s wonderful to hear some of what lies behind my favourite wine. Compliments also to Marina and Afsaneh for their excellent work of editing and translating.

    These are very difficult times, but your blogs bring shafts of light through the gloom. Thank you for making the effort to share your fascinating stories.

    Fond regards from Charlotte and me to you and your family,

  • Dear Jean Michel:your blogs could have been written by Marcel Proust, because they have such wealth of recherches des temps perdus in them. You bring together all the names that have made Bordeaux so special
    Peynaud and André Lurton, the man who changed Bordeaux Blanc forever, Philip Cottin and Anthony Barton, Henri Martin and the amazing Miklos Dora, with his wonderful daughter and finally the Americans who made such great contributions: Ab Simon, Ed Lauber, Tim Enos and Nancy Rugus. And all this is part of the marvellous family history of the Cazes, what a story and what a life. Thank you for reminding me, though I was willing to forget the 1972-74, oil shock, overpriced questionable wine and the misery it brought to Bordeaux and the wine trade. I am sure we will get through yet one more difficult period, and adapt to whatever the future will bring. My best to you and your family and keep on writing Peter Sichel

  • Bravo JMC! I love the Miki Dora surf connection — I never knew that and Jean Charles is of course a Great surfer too!

    Tobin and I will also send this to Denise Lurton and Jean Pierre, she will love the Chateau La Louviere connection.

    Merci Sara, we are in Watch Hill and thinking of you! A bientôt !

  • Dear Jean-Michel, Bonjour and Bravo!

    Such great story telling and story-telling skills. I second Peter Sichel’s sentiments about your ability to evoke and record details of the most important Bordeaux and international personalities of past decades and their lasting influence and legacies.
    Thank you so much for sharing and congratulations to you and your family.
    Sincerely et amicalement, David Lincoln Ross

  • Dear Jean Michel,
    Such a beautiful article.
    Full of historic moments, professionally and personally, as a person and as a family, growing and developing, together.
    I find your stories, any of them, told alone, or bunched together to a grand article, always full of romantic and inspirational spirit. Generosity of spirit and natural connection with people, on all levels is a remarkable quality you possess, in spades!
    I hope you and family are keeping well.
    I can’t wait to visit Bages and Pauillac again, hopefully soon.
    All the best,

  • Dearest Jean-Michel
    Your blogs get better and better! I love them and all the memories and vivid stories that they conjure up.
    It is also wonderful to see how much fun and enthusiasm you have in relating the extraordinary tales of your rich life. Please keep them coming. This is a part of wine history that you MUST share. We all want to read more. Bravo for your writing, bravo Marina and Afsaneh for the production and translation. I treasure these stories and am so pleased to have been a part of some of them!
    With love and admiration as always

  • Dearest Jean Michel
    What a fantastic family history you have produced in your new blog . I really do congratulate you over all your efforts in enhancing your great wine as a world leader,and even conquering space;what a coup for your publicity . You really have put Lynch -Bages on the map and I long to make a return visit to see all the new developments in the name of the family .-I will definitely remember the space story, as it falls on my birthday 17th June [1933] !
    All the best to you all
    Henry Blosse-Lynch

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