Thanks to Web 2.0, I had the great fortune of being put in touch with a “friend of a Facebook friend” who owns a chateau out in the Right Bank. Within days of our introduction, I found myself making the two-hour journey (first by tram, then by bus) from Bordeaux’s city center to the village of Saint André de Cubzac located in the heart of La Rive Droit.
Michael Affatato, a Long Island, NY native, has been running Chateau La Gatte together with his French wife Hélène since 2004. Michael previously informed me that he had only a two-hour window to give me a soup-to-nuts tour of the property. However, for this fast-paced, high-energy New Yorker with the ability to talk a mile a minute, this proved to be a non-issue.
The first part of my tour was spent being whisked around the different vineyards in Michael’s not-quite-off-road SUV. It had poured a few hours before and the fields were muddy, but Michael was confident that if we didn’t stay parked too long we wouldn’t get stuck! He presented me with a very thorough explanation of each vineyard’s terroir, as well as a history of the land itself. Michael explained that both his single-vineyard wines, La Butte and Montalon, achieved AOC Bordeaux Supérieur classification. However, due to a ‘political snafu’ in the 1930s, his commune did not achieve its own distinct appellation to set it apart from the rest of the Bordeaux landscape―unlike neighboring appellations Fronsac and Côtes de Blaye.
However, what impressed me most about Chateau La Gatte is how Michael and his wife are indeed setting themselves apart from other Bordeaux chateaux through their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. Perhaps it’s the MBA classes wearing off on me, but almost every day I hear reference to the same dilemma confronted by the majority of Bordeaux chateaux owners, “with over 10,000 producers making Bordeaux wine, how are we ever going to differentiate ourselves?”
What struck me most during my visit was how Chateau La Gatte has diversified its operations beyond wine production to include complimentary businesses. In addition to offering a portfolio of five distinctive wines―three reds, one white (a rather exotic Sauvignon Gris/Sauvignon Blanc blend), and one rosé, its owners also manage a Bed & Breakfast at the chateau, as well as run a third business called Appellation Sensations, specialized in the production of wine-infused artisanal products made on-premise using the chateau’s wine. To sum it up nicely:
Customers can drink La Gatte, eat La Gatte, and sleep in La Gatte―fairly forward-thinking for a Bordeaux chateau!
The remainder of my tour included a trip to the fermentation tanks and cellars, followed by a visit to the B&B guest rooms, and wrapped up with a tasting. The white wine, La Gatte Blanc, was a bit of a novelty due to the aromatics and rounder mouth feel coming from the Sauvignon Gris, which balanced perfectly with the Sauvignon Blanc’s strong acidity; yet, together still managed a strong finish. The reds (particularly, the two single-vineyard wines) had both complexity and aging potential―for sure more intricacy than one would anticipate coming from a Bordeaux Supérieur classification.
Sadly, Michael was completely out of the La Gatte Rosé. However, he made up for it by offering me one of Appellation Sensations’ artisanal Bordeaux wine-filled chocolates… My impression: WOW!!―dark chocolate filled with Merlot = a bite of heaven!