Wine and Geology Tours

Languedoc Roussillon

Tour Dates: September 26th-October 2nd, 2020

Are you ready for a walk on the wild side of wines in the South of France? Welcome to a week exploring the wines and geology of France’s southwest Mediterranean crescent: the Languedoc and Roussillon.

We’ll start in Montpellier, the wine capital of the South of France and home of SupAgro, the top school with the University of Bordeaux for students seeking a career in viticulture, wine making and management. At the hotel we’ll get the big picture of the geology of the Mediterranean crescent along with a starter wine tasting, then a wine dinner together.

Then, two days in and around historic Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and the stunning vineyards of Frontignan, Pic Saint Loup, the Terrasses de Larzac, Aniane, Pezanas and Faugeres. It’s all built on the limestone geology between the Cevennes mountains and the sea.

On the way to the colorful Mediterranean seaside village of Collioure, we’ll check out the geology and wines of St. Chinian, the Minervois, Corbières, and Limoux with time for lunch in medieval Carcassonne. Then an in-depth exploration of the top-notch wines and geology of the Roussillon villages from Maury and Château Queribus to Tautavel, Rivesaltes, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Collioure itself. We’ll learn of the tragic history of the Cathars and the Albigensian crusades, and the modern migrations of people to and from Spain over the Pyrenees foothills. There are a number of surprises along the way, so be prepared to enjoy the mountains, the azure blue sea, Catalan history and some great wines and cuisine.

A professional driver and comfortable bus will transport us from start to finish so there is no need to worry about driving once you get there.

Bordeaux Left & Right

Tour Dates: October 4th-10th, 2020

Of course you know about the Left Bank - of the Seine in Paris. In Bordeaux we will explore the other Left Bank - of the Gironde Estuary and Garonne River - and its world-famous wines. We will learn about their terroirs, their viticulture, their winemaking and of course their wines. 


From our start with 3 nights in the trendy city of Bordeaux, we will travel along the Left Bank to see first hand why these Cabernet Sauvignon blends express the place where they are grown so well. We’ll meet the winemakers in action as we visit the vineyards, cellars and wines from Grand Cru Château du Tertre in Margaux and Premier Grand Cru Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac. We’ll see what makes the wines of St. Estèphe so different from its neighbors and lunch at the Maison d’Estournel. There’ll be some surprises as we return to our hotel in Bordeaux. 


The next day we head up the Garonne River to check out the curious setting of Château Haut-Brion and its suburban neighbors in Pessac-Leognan. Thru the gravel terroirs of Graves, then a tour, tasting and lunch at Château Guiraud in Sauternes as we experience the geology and wines of the full length of Bordeaux's Left Bank. Have you heard of Château d’Yquem? How about AOC's Loupiac, Ste-Croix-du-Mont and Cadillac? The Pyrenees? We’ll learn some important things about the vines and wines grown along the banks of the Garonne River.


First the Left, then the Right Bank of the Dordogne River. It’s known as the Libournais after it’s capital city, Libourne. We’ll explore hilly Entre-Deux-Mers en route to our destination with a picnic lunch in the vines, then 3 nights in St. Émilion. With its terroirs so very different than in the Médoc or Sauternes, we’ll come to understand why the Right Bank’s Merlot and Cabernet Franc blends have achieved their place in the Pantheon of wines. 


In town, we’ll check out the diverse terroirs of the great Châteaux in St. Émilion - Ch. Ausone, Ch. Cheval-Blanc, Ch. Pavie and others - and of its “satellite” AOC’s. You’ll learn about some rising wine stars in nearby Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux. After a visit to a château’s limestone caves carved out of the base rock you’ll have time off to shop and experience St. Émilion's excellent restaurants. Then we will check out the geology and vineyards a few of the world’s most expensive wines - Château Petrus - and other Right Bank vineyards in Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac and beyond. So, Left Bank and Right Bank.


The places and their wines are so different in nearly every way. Let’s go see why.

A professional driver and comfortable bus will transport us from start to finish so there is no need to worry about driving once you get there.

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Former Research Geologist with the US Geological Survey

David G. Howell is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He has been working with Napa Valley vintners for more than twenty-five years and is the co-author of The Winemaker’s Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley. After retiring from the US Geological Survey, Howell was an adjunct professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences from 2005 to 2009. He received a PhD from UC Santa Barbara and has authored more than 150 scientific articles.


Former science center Director with the US Geological Survey.

Owner, Hexagonvins and wine enthusiast. He has explored France, l’Hexagone,  and its wine regions annually for more than thirty years. He and his wife led hiking tours in the mountains of Provence for many years. He is retired from the US Geological Survey where he helped to establish the US Global Change Research Program, and led the USGCRP’s Arctic data team that received the Presidential Design Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has explored the geography, food, and wines of Alsace, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, the Rhône, Provence, Languedoc, the Roussillon, the Loire, the Southwest, and Bordeaux.


Chief Operations Officer (and Ambassador of Fun)

 Koffi is a wine enthusiast and former sommelier candidate. Student of all things wine and geology, Koffi has organized and led wine excursions to several California wine regions. He has produced wine as a “Garagist”, has done internships at several California wineries, and has worked as tasting room manager. Over the years, he has assisted David Howell with the Stanford University’s on-campus Geology of Wine classes as well as Napa field trips offered through the Continuing Studies program. Koffi is fluent in French.

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