WOW. What a night. Michele D'Aprix is not just a great winemaker but a natural comedienne! About 35 participants came out to welcome Michele. We learned. We laughed. We left knowing all about Bordeaux.
You know from previous posts that Michele was studying chemistry and bartending in Boston. I would not say that she is an accidental winemaker but there are some elements of chance in her story. She took that chemistry degree and what was becoming an interest in wine to University of California Davis.
Her interest strengthened and before long she had realized that her future would be to channel her chemistry background into oenology. While working down the wine road at UC Davis, Michele was told that the only way to really become a winemaker is to just DO IT. That means you need internships.
OK. Michele landed an internship in Burgundy. It was going fine but she found herself interested in getting dirty with grapes beyond Pinot Noir. So, while building her vineyard and winemaking skills in Burgundy, she heard about an opportunity in Bordeaux. Truth be told, Michele thought it would be a hard road to hoe in Bordeaux, a small, shall we say, very traditional (read male dominated) community. But she wrote to the Chateau anyway. "This was like writing to Bruce Springstein and saying I just bought a guitar, could you give me lessons?" But the answer is already No if you don't try. Right? The Chateau said YES! Come on down.
Michele said that they, like so many others in France, thought she would be a boy. Her last name is French and Michele is often a boy's calling card. Michele lives in NYC except during the harvest in Bordeaux and trips around the country to showcase her magic. And much of her family lives in Raleigh.
The master of the house at the Chateau was not a winemaker but rather a a made it rich Microsoft guy who thought it would be fun to own a winery. That said, Michele pretty much had the run of the place from the get go.
So, Michele is working the vineyards and stirring the pot. It was (and is) hot in the vineyards and the cellar. Microsoft guy served lunch everyday but it was usually heavy dishes like cassoulet paired with big red wines. It is Bordeaux after all. But it is also hot.
Michele wanted to lighten the lunch load with a crisp white wine. She found an extra tank at the Chateau and commenced to bringing the light to the table. The winery across the street was growing Sauvignon Blanc (SB) and Michele took the extra grapes. Bonanza! Michele was the recipient of more grapes than the tank could hold. About 5% of space was left between the grapes and the lid. Not good. If the tank is not fully filled with grapes, air fills the gap and the wine can become oxidized.
OK. Regroup. Michele added 5% of the white varietal Semillon. This addition of Semillon to the SB turns the wine into White Bordeaux. The wine is good. All the spark of SB but with a smoothness from the Semillon. Pierre Angulaire White Bordeaux was born but was still just a table wine at the Chateau. And there are still lots of homeless SB grapes across the street.
More tanks, Michele thought. With all the easily accessible SB grapes and the initial success with white, Michele sought out more available tanks. She found some at a winery down the road. The winemakers that tasted the blend loved it and urged Michele to bottle it for sale. Now Pierre Angulaire hits the market!
But Michele is devoted to red wine, and while she produces an excellent White and Red Rhones as well as Rose, Bordeaux is still her passion. She bottles "Pentimento," a blend of 75% merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.