Dining For first-rate bistro food on the main road in Margaux, head to Lion d’Or. The Brasserie du Lac at Relais de Margaux offers a larger menu with fine seafood dishes. It’s also a great place to enjoy a glass of wine after a round. Twenty minutes up the road in Pauillac, the Cazes family, which owns Château Lynch-Bages and has played a key role in promoting the Médoc, has restored the village of Bages and opened the lively brasserie Café Lavinal (and a traditional bakery, Au Baba d’Andréa). But the region’s finest restaurant—the bearer of two Michelin stars—is Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac. Thierry Marx (named chef of the year in 2006 by a French food magazine) specializes in Pauillac lamb and smoked Médocaine beef and creates inspired dishes such as a pairing of pressed smoked eel and foie gras served with a textural counterpoint of toasted whole-grain bread.
Wine Tasting Although Bordeaux has lent its name to the broader wine region, the great wines are actually produced in villages outside the city. For visits to the châteaux, reservations are required. The public is welcome, but don’t expect to sample a wide variety of vintages or find gift shops selling cheese and corkscrews. In fact, Château Margaux still won’t sell a single bottle directly to visitors—even its second or third labels.
Instead, try Château Palmer, known as Château de Gascq until purchased in 1814 by an English general named Charles Palmer. Although ranked as a third-growth in the landmark 1855 classification, Palmer’s 1961 vintage is legendary, and the estate has long been regarded as one of the top producers in Margaux.
Another excellent choice is Château d’Issan, which occupies a seventeenth-century estate. Its vineyards are ancient—they’re rumored to have produced the wine that was served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of Europe’s richest and most powerful women, to the future King Henry II of England in 1152.
Lastly, pay a visit to Château Brane-Cantenac. The quality and reputation of its wines have improved dramatically since the estate was taken over in 1992 by Henri Lurton, whose family has owned it since 1922. Lurton believes the challenge of this terroir is to make an elegant, balanced wine year after year, regardless of variations in weather. And he’s clearly succeeding. The New York Times proclaimed that since Lurton has been at the helm, "the wine has gained in body and richness."
Buying If you want to purchase wines that you’ve tasted in the Médoc, the best place to do so in Margaux is La Cave d’Ulysse. The store has a comprehensive selection, including older vintages.
Getting There Air France runs one-hour flights from Paris to Bordeaux. Or take the TGV train, which makes the trip in three hours, and rent a car at the station once you arrive. From there it’s about a forty-minute drive to Margaux.