Master Wines: from England to France to NYC to Denver

This week, friends we introduce you to the Master family and their company, Master Wines. The Master family’s history is honestly impressive, and it’s recent notoriety is tied to Charlie Master. But the Master family has had quite a bit to do with food and wine not just in Denver, but in the U.S., starting in NYC restaurants, moving on to Jordan Winery and, from there, having a heavy influence on Rosé! The family was pushing Rosé, and pushing it here in Denver, way before it was even popular in Sommelier crowds. 

Let’s back up a little, though. The Master history we’re concerned with begins with Mel and Janie. The two are from England and are both now U.S. citizens. Mel has been in the wine business for decades ever since leaving school. Fun fact: he and Janie met when they were only twelve and thirteen (she played the piano and he played the guitar!). As they grew up together, they shared a passion for food and wine. They married at 19 and 20.

The couple left England to live in France in 1970, started a company called Master Wines and began selling little known French wines in the United States. Mel was a pioneer in bringing great wine values to the U.S. from France. In addition to promoting small estates from the South of France and pioneering the wines from the Rhône Valley, Mel was also the person who introduced and promoted the wines of Georges Duboeuf in the U.S.

The two fell in love with the wines of the Côtes du Rhône while living in France, and Mel in particular was so enamored he coauthored the first major work on the wines of the Côtes du Rhône, published by Faber and Faber and coauthored by John Livingstone Learmonth. In time, Mel was seen as one of the foremost authorities on the wines from the Rhône and Southern France.

In 1980 Mel and Janie left France and took on the task of opening and setting up all the marketing and PR for the new Jordan Winery in Sonoma County, California. Mel has been credited with the initial marketing success of Jordan and was involved with all aspects of the winery from production to sales and marketing.

After the success of Jordan, Mel and Janie left California for New York and got together with friend Jonathan Waxman (who was the first chef for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California) and opened Jams (Jonathan and Melvyn’s). It was one of the hottest and most successful restaurants of New York in the 1980s and the first California-style restaurant. Mel and Jonathan also opened Buds and Hulots in New York and later Jams in London. They sold the restaurants in the late 1980s and Mel and Janie returned to France.

Ready for another change, Mel started work again in the wine business in 1992 and introduced a line of varietal wines from the Languedoc district of the South of France into the U.S. market under the label Les Jamelles. He was the first person to start promoting and selling single varietal wines from France. He sold Les Jamelles in early 1996 and two years later began Tortoise Creek.

Mel’s Bar and Grill in Denver

Where our story gets even more interesting, though, is when it takes a fun Denver turn. In early 1995, Mel, Janie and their son Charles (Charlie) opened Mel’s Bar and Grill in Denver. The restaurant was named by Esquire magazine as one of the top 25 new restaurants in the USA, and it was also featured in a five-page article in the February 1998 issue of Food and Wine magazine. Mel’s was also acclaimed in Gourmet, Bon Appetite and other national publications.

Charlie Master was educated in France, England and the U.S. After leaving school he went to work at the famous Bordeaux wine estate, Château Prieuré-Lichine in Margaux, to learn all the aspects of the wine trade. He also worked very closely with his father in helping to develop the family wine brand “Les Jamelles,” a brand which later went on to become one of the most successful wine brands of Southern France.

After leaving Bordeaux, Charlie started his own wine brokerage business in France. After two successful years, he sold the business and moved back to the U.S. to follow his other great passion, food. He helped manage the famous Caribou Club in Aspen before leaving to open Brix, a restaurant and wine bar in Denver. After three very successful years, he was persuaded by his father to return to his first love of wine and the family business, Master Wines. Today, Charlie is the National Sales Director for Master Wines and lives in Denver, Colorado with his daughter, Anabel.

Mel and Janie, together with their son Charlie, now spend their time sourcing and promoting the family wines of Tortoise Creek, Tiamo, Le Charmel, Exem and Mont Gravet.

We know you’re ready for these wines!

‘Le Charmel,’ Cotes du Provence, France, Rosé :: $14 sale $12

Le Charmel Côtes de Provence Rosé is an estate wine produced near Bandol along the Mediterranean coast. The grapes are cultivated on picturesque Provencal hillsides with clay and limestone soils. The are manually picked, hand-sorted and fully de-stemmed on site. The nose has beautiful aromas of raspberries and wild flowers, and the palate is wonderfully bright and fresh with notes of strawberry and pear. Rosé is the perfect all occasion wine. It is especially perfect as an aperitif, with all seafood dishes, salads, charcuterie and goat cheese.

‘Le Charmel’, Languedoc-Rousillon France, France, Pinot Noir :: $14 sale $12

Le Charmel Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir comes from vineyards planted in Limoux, one of the coolest parts of Languedoc at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in the South of France. The milder temperatures, rainfalls and the rocky soils consisting of clay and limestone create a unique terroir. 10-year-old vines are pruned using the “cordon de Royat” and “Guyot” methods so as to expose the fruits and foliage to the sun. The low yields of 6.5 tons contribute to a nice concentration of the wine. This wine shows deep in color, with ruby tints. It has scents of red and black berries mixed with floral notes, together with hints of delicate spices and vanilla. On the palate, it displays aromas of crushed black fruits such as raspberries, blackcurrants, cherries and black-cherry jam. This wine is complex, rich and long with well integrated tannins. This is a gorgeous food wine and works well with roast meats, tuna and cheeses.

Tortoise Creek ‘Le Charmel’, Lodi, California, Chardonnay :: $14 sale $12

This “Jam’s Blend” Chardonnay boasts bright, fresh aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, apple and white flowers. Its creamy texture is supported by fresh acidity and along, clean finish. Ideal as an aperitif or with poultry, salads, cream-based pastas and softer cheeses.

Montegravet, Cotes de Gascoigne France, Carignan :: $13 sale $11

This delicious red wine is produced from old Carignan vines grown in vineyards high in the hills of the Herault region of the Languedoc in the South West part of France. The calcareous soil with a sandstone base rich in nutrients and minerals that is found in this part of France is ideal for the Carignan grape. This is the sister wine to the wonderfully crisp and fresh white Mont Gravet that is made from the Colombard grape and grown in the Gascony region of France. For this vintage, it was a very dry start to the year with drought issues in the vineyard, followed by lots of rain from June onwards. However, the vintage is a good one and the reds are showing very elegant and smooth. Deep, dark color and lovely aromas of blackberries and figs. The wine is full bodied and rich in flavor but elegant with a long fruit forward finish. Perfect for barbecue or any grilled meats. Also wonderful with all cheeses.

These prices are good through Tuesday, April 4.

Master Wines

It’s that time again, friends: Wine Share Saturday at Pearl Wine Company! Curious as to what the wine share is? At Pearl Wine Company we believe in real wine made by real people. Each month we hand select wines authentic wines made at family-owned wineries. When you pick up your share, you’ll not only be receiving wine, you’ll receive the profile and story of each featured winery. For levels, choose either our Table Wine, Banquet or Connoisseur Wine Share monthly collections. Pick up your box the first Saturday of each month. Selections rotate with the seasons.

Evan from Colorado Wine Merchants will be pouring this Saturday’s Wine Share Tasting. We’ll taste two wines blind, and we’ll vote for one of those for the next wine share. Come prepared to also sample two wines from the store.

TABLE WINE $55 – four bottles

At PWC we refer to our everyday drinking wine as Tuesday Night Wine or Table Wine. Think of it as that bottle that you can pop open and enjoy with pizza, a burger or on its own! This section is a rotating selection of wines that are on our table any given month.

THE BANQUET $95 – six bottles

Our Banquet is comprised of six bottles and will include four table wine bottles and two bottles you might plan a dinner around, open for some guests or even lay down for that right occasion!

We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it! Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.