Why Not Wednesday – Château de Montfaucon
We have a truly rare and esteemed winery to share with you this week, friends, one which is saturated in history. This week we take you to the heart of French wine country and French wine history. Just across the Rhône river from the esteemed vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape lies Château de Montfaucon, our week’s winemaker. The estate is growing and is owned and operated by Rodolphe de Pins, a UC Davis graduate and former member of the winemaking staff at Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe.
We promised history, so here goes! As with all historically important locales, placement is everything. Château de Montfaucon is situated by the Rhône River which is and always has been of great strategic importance. The river connects Switzerland to France, and often served as a boundary between kingdoms. Additionally, the region is situated north of Avignon, within short range of Switzerland and Italy. This is a region of France fought over for centuries and which was, at any given time, controlled by the king or the church or the Popes in the Middle Ages.
As for the site itself, the oldest part of the towers at the castle can be dated back to the 11th century. In 1420 the castle was owned by the Laudun family, a family which earned distinction when given title Baron to Montfaucon by the French king. Religious wars over the next few centuries resulted in the destruction of various portions of the castle.
In 1766 Joseph Gabriel de Pertuis became the owner and Baron de Montfaucon, and he is a direct forefather of the owner today, Rodolphe de Pins. Joseph Gabriel’s son Eugene, also mayor of Avignon and a member of parliament, married a Scottish lady, thus the reason for the Schottish style which some may recognize in the restored castle. The lady’s son, Baron Louis, restored the castle in the 1880s.
Between 1910 and 1970, the estate was managed by a woman, Comtesse Madelaine, who married de Pins and then became Comtesse de Pins of Montfaucon. Until 1995, wine production was delivered to a nearby cooperative, but the next generation which took over had some experience with winemaking. In 1995, when Rodolphe de Pins took the reins, the domain covered 18 hectares. New plantings and the purchase of older vineyards have increased the holdings of vineyards to 45 hectares.
The vineyards are cultivated by organic methods, though they winery is not organically certified. The philosophy behind the work is described by Rodolphe de Pins:
“The spirit I search for in Montfaucon wines is elegance and finesse. I like wines that are complex but also enjoyable and easy to drink; like the wines of Burgundy, but working with the Southern Rhône varietals and climate. All my work is to find harmony and balance in the wine.”
Montfaucon crafts their Côtes du Rhône to express the intense fruit characteristics of the appellation, blending to achieve harmony and balance. The estate’s ancient cellar is still in use and is where Rodolphe barrel ages his top reds.
Rodolphe de Pins: “One of the strengths of Montfaucon is the diversity of soils and exposure (mainly calcareous pebbelstone on silty sandy soil with a touch of clay) combined with a large selection of Rhône grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise, Viognier, Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul). This diversity is an essential component of the quality, and helps gain an insight into the complexity of Montfaucon wines.
“Two millennia of wine history in the Southern Rhône Valley has naturally created a selection of grape varietals well adapted to the region and its terroir: soil, landscape and climate. I am very attached to the idea that we must conserve this natural heritage that is a true asset to our region. This evolution leads to well balanced and harmonious wines with a true identity of Rhône.”
Rodolphe de Pins: “I have a natural approach to viticulture and to winemaking; the grape is a fruit, thus the final product should always express the flavors of the fruit. We follow the principals of sustainable agriculture, but in essence our work is organic agriculture: no insecticides are applied and we only use natural fertilizers (blend of sheep manure and marc compost). We leave the native grasses to grow on the vineyards and control its growth by mowing regularly and plowing when needed (if the season is too dry). This is a way to keep the soil as whole as possible and to maintain our low yields.”
The week’s wines:
Chateau de Montfaucon, Rhone Valley France
Viognier :: $20 sale $16
“A winemaker’s chicken,” is what Rudolph des Pins affectionately calls Viognier. Chicken might be the most underrated yet most difficult to prepare very well. When a chef can master chicken, it shows. In the same way, Viognier is quite finicky and particular. One must pick it at precisely the right time, or else… This wine has incredible balance, beauty and delicacy, showing florals and stone fruit above all else.
2013 Comtesse Madeleine, Rhone Valley, France
Lirac Blanc :: $24 sale $20
A stunning display of cooperation here as Marsanne leads Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. This is a class blend from the Southern Rhone, and a real delight on the palate. Notes of marzipan and cream meet orchard fruit. An ideal match got halibut, risotto and soft cheeses.
2014 Chateau de Montfaucon, Rhone Valley, France
Cotes de Rhone :: $14 sale $12
Quite possibly the most complex Cotes du Rhone for the money, this red blend sees a variety of grapes, vine age and a smattering of soils–from sand to limestone to the classic ‘galet’ river stones this region is famous for having. The result is a very layered experience of aromatics and flavors–from red to black fruits, herbal savory dried notes and incredible texture. Make Tuesday night a little more exciting.
2014 Chateau de Montfaucon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France
Blend :: $42 sale $36
The “king” of regions, Chateauneuf du Pape is heralded the most complex Grenache-based region, with wines that were written of centuries ago for their strength and longevity. Rudolphe is teasing out the more elegant side of this area – using Burgundy as his guiding light. When one can achieve the tightrope between volume of voice with murmurs of nuance, there is a greater story to be told…
For this Saturday’s tasting we are happy to host Colorado Cider Company, an outfit started in 2011 which is already winning awards and getting serious notice. They offer three brews and have plans to expand.
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.