French winemakers from the Bordeaux region have banded together to introduce their wines to wine lovers in the United States.  Their organization, known as Planet Bordeaux, turned its focus on Houston last night after successful campaigns in New York and Washington, D.C.  An event, hosted by Houston’s Culinary Institute LeNôtre, brought French winemakers together with Houston wine merchants, sommeliers, wine bloggers, and restaurant wine buyers.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Michael Madrigale, Planet Bordeaux’ Ambassador to the United States.  Madrigale has been named by both Food & Wine Magazine and Wine Enthusiast as “Top Sommelier of The Year” and was a 2014 James Beard Award nominee.

Michael Madrigale

Madrigale led the crowd through a tasting of 17 wines from the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur AOCs.  Madrigale noted that Americans tend to believe that Bordeaux wines are all expensive because so many of the great wines from Bordeaux are expensive.  What he hopes to accomplish through the Planet Bordeaux tasting series is to show that there are many high quality but inexpensive Bordeaux wines available to us here in the United States.  To show that inexpensive Bordeaux wines can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with outstanding wines from around the world, Madrigale treated the crowd to a blind tasing of five wines that sell for $20 or less at Spec’s.  The wines included a California Cabernet, a Rioja, a Bordeaux, a Côtes du Rhône, and a Chianti.  The conclusion reached by all the guests at our table was that the Bordeaux was as good as and, in many cases, better than the other wines we tasted.

An incredible meal was prepared and served to the guests in the Le Bistro restaurant by the culinary students at the Culinary Institute LeNôtre under the direction of Chef Olivier Burgos.  The meal started with Seared Scallops with mashed peas, bacon and a beurre blanc sauce.  The main course was Canard Rossini with seared foie gras.  A French cheese course was followed by coffee and assorted desserts.

Chef Olivier Burgos with his culinary students and Alain LeNôtre, founder of the Culinary Institute LeNôtre

One of the French winemakers, Pierre Favarel, introduced the crowd to his family’s vineyard, Domaine de l’isle Margaux.  The vineyard is located on an island in the Garonne river in the Medoc region.  It has served as a vineyard since the 18th Century and was not affected by the Phylloxera epidemic known as the Great French Wine Blight.  The island was once part of the vineyard of the famous Chateau Margaux.  The vineyard has been certified as organic since 2015.  The Isle Margaux wine is a delightful red Bordeaux and is very reasonably priced.  It is available in Houston for the first time.

Pierre Favarel

After tasting so many great but inexpensive Bordeaux wines, we here at would encourage our readers to go to their favorite wine store, grab a few bottles of $20 Bordeaux, buy a loaf of crunchy French bread, and pick out a few of the 350 to 450 distinct types of French cheese.  Savourer!