12 minutes reading time (2343 words)

Chateau Monestier La Tour, Rouge, 2012

This IS Bordeaux. Sure, you could pay a lot more and, sure, the wine would be more elegant, more finessed but it would be very diffiuclt to find a better bottle of Bordeaux for this shelf price. This Rouge 2012 is part of "Redefining Bordeaux."  This is an effort that Metro Wines totally supports. We have two of these extraordinary wines, this one and Pentimento by winemaker Michele D'Aprix. ( MOUNTAINX STORY BY KAT MC REYNOLDS ON MICHELE D'APRIX HERE!) What we can say about Chateau Monestier is, in a word, balance.  A blend of 65% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, this wine is, as with Pentimento, balanced.  You might think that "balance" is a throw away wine talk descriptor until you taste an unbalanced wine! It is this balance that makes the wine smooth so that the flavors are all smoothly there without jagged edges and starts that go nowhere. Read:

“REDEFINING BORDEAUX”…

Christopher Imports is a portfolio of wines made by people who follow the philosophy of Stéphane Derenoncourt and his team of associates (Julien, Simon, Frédéric, Romain & Héléne). 

I’ve been traveling around the U.S. with the wines lately, and have been very lucky to meet with people who share my interest and curiosity about wine, beer, fishing, fear of flying, and a million other things, and I’ve been asked/emailed a lot of questions – most of these are cut and paste directly out of emails from the people I’ve encountered. The most common was:

“why ‘redefining’ Bordeaux?’”

So let’s start there:

Q: What do you mean by “Redefining” Bordeaux… it’s the most well known and highly regarded wine producing region in the world.

A:  Yep.  It’s also considered one of the most unapproachable and unaffordable from the perspective of the average consumer, which I consider myself to be.   I just happen to make wine there, but my friends and peers don’t – and I can tell you that they’d never think to seek out a bottle of Bordeaux, unless it was already open at a party.

Q:  Why not?

A:  Because I really don’t think it’s the first thing that comes to their mind when grabbing a bottle at their local shop for Wednesday night’s dinner.  Not to mention there is so much wine produced there… who knows what is what…  Bordeaux has so much history and there’s so much pedigree involved, it’s a little daunting to step into that section of a store.  Or flip to the section on a wine list. I feel like its reputation, or rather the perception of its reputation among the younger, American wine drinkers could use a little dusting off.   So, “redefining”… “dusting off”… “Bordeaux really IS cool” – that’s all I mean by it.  Like, Give Bordeaux a chance, guys…especially the Right Bank satellites. That statement is certainly not meant to offend anyone. Obviously, my goal is to support their work. The people I work with are incredibly hard-working and humble.

Q:  And what about this “and other places soil still matters” comment?

A:  Yeah.. that was a little bit of a sarcastic dig, aimed directly at wine growers or makers who aren’t necessarily doing the right thing.   Specifically, it was in response to a single conversation I had with a pretty confident winemaker from California about a year ago.  I called this guy up, a very well known producer, to ask him about his soils.   When I asked him if he could tell me a little bit about the profiles he had in all of his different parcels, his answer was, “yeah, well we don’t really get into that out here”.    I couldn’t believe he said that.   I can tell you from personal work (and some painfully tedious research) experience that California gets into it. They know their soils, believe me.

It was kind of disappointing to hear someone so well known say something so careless, especially to another winemaker. So, soil matters.  And any true farmer, in any type of agriculture, will be happy to tell you what they’re growing on and how they take care of it. For example, check this guy out: Marcel Sabaté at Castellroig in Penedes, Spain.. I am completely enamored by his serious manner and inspired by his work. And of course the guys working with Stéphane, all whom know their clients’ soils inside and out.

The image I use on my own label for the wine I make in Montagne – St Emilion (Pentimento) is the soil’s profile.   Nothing’s more important.

Q:  Why did you pick Bordeaux?

A:  I didn’t really.  Not intentionally – at the time, I still thought I’d continue working and apprenticing around in different countries, but I happened to meet some great people and I loved the project, so that’s what I ended up doing. And I love it. I’ve still never been to Burgundy.

Q:  What made you stay?

A:  The people I met.  Stéphane Derenoncourt for one, but he makes wine all over the place so I could have done the “Derenoncourt” thing in at least 9 different countries.  But then I met Pierre Bernault – the owner of Chateau Beauséjour, and we came up with a really cool project and we work well together.  I love his property, and I like the work I get to do there.

Q:  What does Pentimento mean? It sounds Italian.

A:  I know.  It’s Latin.  It was the title of a memoir written by a very cool author back in the 70’s, Lillian Hellman.   She was a New Yorker too.  I think I wanted to make sure I chose a perfect name for the wine, and I liked how she used the meaning to title her book.   It really fit was I was trying to accomplish in a single word, so I used it for my wine.  Plus I like that there’s reference to her.   I like the era she lived and worked in; she said some pretty outrageous things for her day. And she lived with Dashiell Hammett.

As far as the wine itself, the project – my idea was to make something delicious from Bordeaux – which is definitely a good start, but also accessible (both in price and the way it drinks).   Something my friends and brothers would drink on a regular basis.   And as a result of this wine, I put together a little portfolio of others that I think fit my idea of really, really good, but value driven from a place people might shy away from because of its price tag.

Q:  Do you live there?

A:   Nope.  It’s a beautiful place, and I’m there when I need to be.  I can’t be there all the time, another reason behind the name. Pierre is there all the time. My primary residence is in New York City, which allows me to travel around the U.S. showing the portfolio and telling people about the Right Bank.  My family is on the east coast too.

Q:  Who’s “Christopher”?

A:  My little brother.  I have 2 brothers:  Rexford and Christopher, and they are the perfect example of the type of people I want drinking anything I make or include in the portfolio.  They are hard working and thirsty, and don’t want to pay $900 for a bottle of good wine from Bordeaux.    I wasn’t brought up like that, and if I had $900 to spare I wouldn’t spend it on a bottle of wine either.

Q:  What other wines do you work with?

A:  They’re all on the Portfolio page on the website…it’s a small, but growing list with a very strict criteria…

Q:  What criteria?

A:  The list is short, but the most important thing on it is NO ASCOTS.

Q:  Aren’t soils the most important?

A:  They are, and thank you for paying attention…   But it’s Bordeaux, so that’s a given.   And they’re pretty much all under the viticultural direction of Stéphane, so being made responsibly, by good people, taste good, etc – are also givens.   I just have my own little set of rules, ones I’ve arrived at by experience and not everyone nor every wine fits in my program.   I work over there, but I’m a New Yorker – and I think I have a pretty good idea of what people are looking for here.  I know what my friends drink, and what they expect for their money.  And I have a VERY good idea now, at this point, regarding the type of people I want to represent. I couldn’t be more proud to be in the company of winemakers Caroline Gaullier (La Bienfaisance) and Christophe Quebec (Le Ringue).

Q:  How often do you drink your own wine?

A:  All the time, among others.    A friend of mine in NYC has a really cool portfolio of wines from Spain, and I don’t think there’s a wine in that book I wouldn’t drink – I actually was invited to make a little wine with some of his amigos from Montsant last year.   (It’s called “Invitado”).   And also those made by my friend, Kenny Likitprakong, who makes wine in California.  His wines are ridiculous, so good.

Q:  Do you see a time frame on this project – is it something you’ll do every year?

A:  I would like to.  Considering all of the other variables that come into play, to be able to say that confidently, with respect to the things I can’t control, yes.

Q:  Are you single?

A:  That’s funny… Yes.

Q:  Any kids?

A:  Not yet.

Q:  What do you spend your free time doing in NY?

A:  There’s not much of that lately, but I read a lot, and hang around with my friends.  Nothing fancy.  Play a little Bingo from time to time.

Q:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A:  Not sure, but hopefully somewhere I can make daily use of a fishing pole

About Chateau Monestier La Tour: 

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Château Monestier La Tour is located just outside of Bordeaux, in the Bergerac A.O.C. — another place where soil still matters. Here, calcareous source rock, that was once marine, produces brown soil containing calcareous pebbles. Translation: These are the same soils as those found in the wine-growing areas of the east Gironde, such as Saint-Émilion, Côtes de Castillon, Côtes de Franc—very good regions in their own right, but all a little more pricey than the humble Bergerac. The soils are not very fertile, which assists in getting the vine to struggle. The soils are also acidic, which helps maintain the balance and freshness between the bright fruit and minerality one seeks when making wines to drink young.

The château’s origins date back to the 13th century, when the ancient militia, La Capitainerie, was founded to guard the valley. The château was partly destroyed during the One Hundred Years War, but the owners eagerly rebuilt it throughout its long history. Today, remains of the 13th century mingle with elements from the Renaissance period. The façade was rebuilt in the 17th century and the tower (depicted on the front label) in the 19th century. 

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Stephane Derenoncourt was the consulting vigneron for this wine. About Stphane: 

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Stéphane Derenoncourt is an entirely self-taught, French vigneron who consults for numerous estates in Bordeaux as well as several others throughout the world. His career in viticulture began in Fronsac (a small AOC northwest of St. Emilion on the Right Bank of Bordeaux) in the early 1980′s. After working several harvests in various vineyards in the region, he was hired as a cellar hand at Château La Fleur Cailleau. In 1990 he was brought on as the winemaker at Château Pavie-Macquin (which would later become his first consult) and then in 1996 as the winemaker to the estates of Stephan von Neipperg, which include Château Canon-la GaffeliEre and La Mondott. A year later he began consulting for other properties, and in 1999 established his own consultancy company, Vigneron Consultants.

Stéphane has a very insightful methodology to wine growing and winemaking. His approach begins with observation of, and a profound respect for nature: the incorporation of a location’s natural ecosystem with its vine production. His philosophy maintains that a property’s indigenous attributes -such as its soil profile (physical, biological and chemical properties), its micro and meso-climates, and the vine physiology – should be made use of naturally and organically (and often, biodynamically) in order to best express fruit quality that is true to the site on which it grows.

 

His work, therefore, is defined as drawing out the desired optimal expression of the terroir.

 

Intervention is made at each vineyard site using rootstock and clone selection, different combinations of composts and natural cereals, and the manipulation of vine rigor. In the cellar, very little intervention is needed at all other than to maintain a clean environment, a gentle management of fermentation via temperature control and extraction, blending, and determining the length of time the wine will spend in barrels.

 

The needs of each property are assessed individually in order to help them evolve positively and sustainably – these practices also ensure healthy soils for the future. The properties with which Stéphane works are just as diverse as the soils on which they’re planted: they are of all sizes, all reputations and produce vastly different types and styles of wine. Having begun his consultancy with small properties in Bordeaux, his interest in working with unique projects has lead him to other wine growing regions in countries all over the world which include Syria, Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Turkey, the United States and most recently, India. He and his team currently consult for over 92 properties worldwide.

 

Vignerons Consultants (recently renamed: Derenoncourt Consultants) has grown with the addition of 4 very talented associates: Simon Blanchard, Julien Lavenu, Frédéric Massie and Romain Bocchio, all whom collaborate on each vineyard site with intense focus and expertise. Stéphane and his wife Christine are the proprietors of Domaine de L’A located in Côtes de Castillon, where they have lived with their children since 1999.

 

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