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The Legendary Martine Saunier

The Legendary Martine Saunier

© A Year In Champagne Productions

The groundbreaking importer reveals to Elin McCoy how she purchased Château Rayas for $2.50 a bottle and helped Henri Jayer to sell his wines.

On a warm evening last summer at the International Pinot Noir Celebration’s grand dinner in McMinnville, Oregon, importer Martine Saunier, slim and chic in a white tunic, was pouring wines from the stellar portfolio she started building back in 1979. As I sipped a dazzling 1989 Domaine Leroy Clos de la Roche, I thought of how much she has shaped the landscape of French wine in America in the past 35 years.

Two months later, over lunch in New York, I finally hear the whole story of how this petite French woman became one of America’s pioneer importers.

“I grew up in Paris, but I spent every summer of my childhood in southern Burgundy,” she says. “My aunt had a house and vineyard near Mâcon and I loved everything about winemaking.”

She learned about fermentation at a young age and when her parents took her to restaurants she would cry until they put a few drops of wine into her glass of water…..



Old Vines Grown in Sand make California’s New Must-Have Bottles


September 24, 2014 — Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua is the Indiana Jones of lost vineyards, wandering rural California in a beat-up Subaru, hunting gnarled old vines and forgotten grapes.

His Sandlands wines come from disparate vine plantings in the sandy soils of little-known outlier regions, like Contra Costa County east of San Francisco. Here century-old carignane grows in Delhi blow sand that’s 40 feet deep. (That, he explains, is decomposed granite deposited by wind and water.)

What’s the big deal about sand? Passalacqua believes it gives the wines unexpected dimensions.

The Sandlands project is one of the more exciting California wine debuts of recent years, and the few hundred cases sold out fast to insiders and sommeliers. You can still get on the mailing list for his 2012s, to be released in mid October. And you have to be quick — only ‘members’ (those on the mailing list) will have the chance to snag one of the limited allocations….


Exclusive Club Marries Wine and Business for High-End Networkers


August 19, 2014 — How does one rescue 300 stranded workers from North Sea oil platforms in a snowstorm? William Amelio, chief executive officer of Canada-based CHC Helicopter knows — and earlier this year he used the answer to talk about leadership in front of 30 members of a new club, the International Business and Wine Society.

At the industrial-chic Bouley Test Kitchen loft in downtown New York, the diners plied Amelio with questions, then succumbed to a serious tasting of Chateau Palmer’s silky-textured red Bordeaux with winemaker Thomas Duroux.

In the background, Michelin-starred chefs David Bouley and Anita Lo whipped up the evening’s six-course menu.

The Society hosts monthly dinners where club members talk about business, get an exclusive themed wine tutorial, and chow down on imaginative cuisine. Founder Omar Khan, senior partner of global consulting firm Sensei International, is betting this unique mix is what today’s high-powered networkers want. His goal is to launch 15 to 20 for-profit Business & Wine Society clubs, with 100 to 200 members each, in the world’s key cities.

Launched last September in New York, the Society opened in Hong Kong in February and expects to expand into London by the end of the year.

Is it worth the $5,000 membership fee?….



from The World of Fine Wine:

An Autobiography by the Glass

An autobiography by the glass 2

September 12, 2014 — Wine journalists all know the kind of in-depth retrospective tastings winemakers usually put on for the press — verticals showing how a single wine plays out over a span of vintages.

More interesting to me is the evolution of a winemaker, from his early formation (as the French call it) to the path he ultimately adopts in his own vineyard and winery.

At a tasting hosted in June at New York’s Per Se restaurant by Ted Lemon, founder of Sonoma winery Littorai, the selection of bottlings amounted to his autobiography in 34 glasses of wine, from a 1980 Domaine Dujac Echézeaux he helped make as an apprentice in Burgundy to the most recent Littorai release, a 2013 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir.

Lemon likes to say: “Winemakers should leave behind in the bottle no trace of their failings, but only the pure expression of the places where they have been….”


Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week:  2013 Château de Trinquevedel Rosé


9.1.14 -When the weather is steamy hot, no wine is more refreshing than a chilled rosé. This 2013 Château de Trinquevedel, with its complex spice and cherry flavors with hints of refreshing grapefruit, will be delicious after Labor Day, too.

In the past few years, the meaning of rosé has changed from cotton candy sweetish plonk to a powerful symbol of summer in the U.S. Pink wine has become the sophisticated beach and patio drink, a fashionable accessory to the good life. Too bad so few people drink it during the rest of the year. Yes, I’m a fan of the seasonal approach to wine, but just because pale pink wine is gulpable and refreshingin July and August doesn’t mean we should drop it like a beach towel when we get back from our vacations….

© 2002-2014 Elin McCoy. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of images or texts in this site without written permission.

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