Over the many years that we’ve had a Rhône-Alone winelist, we have met so many wonderful winemakers and Rhône enthusiasts. During the past 8 years that we’ve visited the Rhône region of France biannually, for the Decouvertes (blog post forthcoming), we have actually met some of the French winemakers represented on our menu, and I am humbled to say they have become friends. They are now people whom I look forward to seeing, spending time with, and visiting again some time down the road, whether it be here in California or in France.
These relationships continue to deepen the (already strong) bond we feel for this region. To me, the people are parallel to their product; they both exhibit passion, uniqueness, mystery, intensity, generosity, sometimes explosion, often sex appeal, and did I mention passion?
Meet Anne-Charlotte! [Above] She is one of the most enthusiastic women I have ever met in the wine business. She is genuine, and warm, and has learned her business from the ground up. She embraces her father’s history with pride, and she has a determination to make her winery the best it can be based on the terroir and what the property has to offer.
A few days after the mistral did some minor damage through the Rhône (toppled a tree on their estate), she walked us through the vineyards, showing us the difference between the soils and explained how they may, in fact, change the flavor of the wine just so subtly. We looked at the hundred-year-old vines and inspected the gadgets that they use to attract insects to the fields.
Again, originality is waiting for you: while the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most fragmented in France, the 20 hectares on which extends the area of the la Font du Loup are of integrally. This geographical configuration provides a nice unit to the range of flavors that are making wines of the castle. When their singular finesse that never ceases to amaze, vintage after vintage, it is due to a soil composed mostly of sand or pebbles here usually reign supreme. Indeed, from a technical point of view, the sand is not normally conducive to the development of the vine because it holds water poorly. But in the Font du Loup, in addition to the famous spring that was off the wolves of Mont Ventoux, there is a major water table only 50 meters underground. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and other well never thirst, or rather jute enough to refine their perfumes. Finally, the North-east orientation, altitude of about 110 meters and the Mistral make the area one of the coolest appellation places with slow ripening of the grapes.
We then wandered through the cellar and bottling area, and Anne-Charlotte lovingly described all of their processes and the upcoming improvements that they are planning. I was interested to learn about the exporting part of the business (to China), and it was fun to hear some of her stories about the sales calls to that part of the world.
Anne-Charlotte was very generous with her knowledge and in describing their particular story in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s not a typical one, and she wanted us to know every detail so that when we later tasted the wines, it would all make sense. In the end, what made the most sense to me is that the wines are absolutely wonderful, and you really can taste where they come from, and feel the story and the people that are behind them. These are the details that will keep me wanting more.
After our tour, we proceeded to a wine tasting where we sampled each of the wines that Anne-Charlotte is making, both in the bottle and as barrel samples. She also opened a magnum, one of only a small few that she had been saving for a special occasion like this. As the sun started to go down, we packed up the cars and followed Anne-Charlotte to her home.
What a warm welcome we received! Her three lovely children and her fun (and very funny) husband, Laurent came out to greet us, and they all made us feel right at home. We started with some Champagne and nibbles with friends Stephan and Sandra, and when it was time for dinner, we gathered around the very large table (I’ve noticed that in France many people have tables that seat at least 12) to a feast of “raclette”.
A selection of cheeses were beautifully presented along with sliced hams, bacon, salumi, and perfectly boiled potatoes filled the table. As you can see in the picture below, you place the meat on the top grill to cook, while the cheese melts under the broiler below it. It took a few tries to get the hang of it, and new flavor sensations were created – especially by John with his unique concoctions. Such decadence! Such laughter! Many oohs and ahs. It was a delightful evening. One that I will fondly remember for a very long time!