Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dinner with Bordeaux Wine Makers in New York City

Anyone who considers the French serious and stuffy had better rethink their assessment. At a Wine Families of Bordeaux Dinner at the Robert Smith Hotel, I laughed myself silly chatting with French winemakers over a lovely three course meal accompanied by some of their recently released wines. These men and women are delightful, open, and friendly. I heartily recommend drinking their wine and taking a trip to Bordeaux to visit them at their wine estates.

To my right at dinner was Didier Marcelis of Chateau Serilhan in Saint-Estephe. Smart, funny and an excellent English speaker, Didier provided an insider's view of the winemaking life in Bordeaux. At this point many of the estates in the Medoc are owned by individuals far flung around the globe. As he said, he is one of the "Last of the Mohicans," being a winemaker who still chooses to live in the area. For Didier and many others, making money is not the motivation to stay in this business. Indeed the love and pride that the winery owner feels for his or her wine are the strongest motivators. An example of this is a French expression used at Bordeaux's famous barrel sampling event, En Primeurs. When someone asks winemakers how people are judging their wines, they are asked, "How are you tasting?" not "How is your wine tasting?" According to Didier, this is not an accident of language; the identification with one's wine is very real.

I also had the pleasure of getting to know Jean-Daniel Debart of Chateau Cablanc. This animated and very amusing man has a comical Facebook page where he takes on the role of Docteur Cablanc. Judging from the winery brochure, the estate looks like a great visit for families, as there are arranged treasure hunts, games, and more.

I would be remiss if I did not also note that seated to my left was Jane Anson, Bordeaux correspondent for, and a very accomplished wine writer and keen observer of the Bordeaux wine scene. I had met Jane in Bordeaux two years ago and was pleased that she remembered me. Since then, we've had some internet interaction through blogs and Twitter, but nothing beats catching up in person.
The other wineries represented at the event were:

Chateau Paloumey
Chateau Beau Rivage
Chateau Brethous
Chateau du Cros
Chateau Gamage
Chateau Minvielle

The dinner marked the end of a week of events for the winemakers, who had come to New York to make contacts, find distributors, and expand their consumer base. To that end, the dinner was preceded by a free wine tasting, which was publicized widely to local members of Corkd, an interactive wine site that encourages members to share reviews of wine and interact on and offline. The winemakers also learned a thing or two about social media from Corkd staff, including CEO Lindsay Rongo.

It looked like the training paid off right away. By the end of the evening, winemakers were creating Twitter accounts, discussing ideas for blogs, and talking about their Facebook pages. Look for these intrepid winemakers both online and on the shelves of your local wine shop.