Here’s a Cinderella story about passion, friendship, hard work, and good fortune. This tale begins with my first visit to Bordeaux. To say it was eventful would be a massive understatement. For a Bordeaux enthusiast to visit the region for the very first time and basically hit ALL of the most famous chateaux and taste their wines was about as memorable as it gets! As we wound down our final day, I was awash in gratitude for all I had experienced. Aha! I was in store for one more memorable event. After a wrong turn or two, and then some right turns, I parked the car at Tertre Roteboeuf. We walked down into the cellar, and I was introduced to François Mitjavile.
Pouring for the dozen or so tasters also there in the cellar, François paused and welcomed us. As he shook my hand he inquired if it was indeed my very first time to Tertre Roteboeuf. I nodded my head in agreement and with that he declared that I must see his vineyard, and at once! He excused himself to the others, and led me outside. After viewing and hearing in detail about his prized terroir, we rejoined the group and began tasting his exquisite wines. I met some wonderful people in his cellar including his son Loulou, as he is affectionately known. What a way to close out the final tasting of my first trip to Bordeaux!
The next time I visited Bordeaux, I emailed François to see if I could taste his wines at the end of one of the days that I would be in St. Emilion. He responded with a dinner invitation. Figuring that during the hectic En Primeurs week, “dinner” would be a large gathering, I prepared myself for a party. I was wrong. I got to my appointment on time, tasted the wines as usual, and was then instructed by François to wait in his sitting room for the day’s tastings to conclude. Two hours is a long time to wait, but I’ll just say two hours in François’ sitting room can fly by. His collection of books is incredible! Books on any subject, you name it. Architecture, mythology, music, dance, all the arts for that matter. Biographies, science, astronomy, history; I could go on, but you get it. So the two hours flew by. François then arrived with coat and scarf and declared, “Now we go for a walk before dinner.” On the walk, he regaled me with stories about his village, the surrounding vineyards, and some ancient folklore. After explaining to me the procedure for obtaining burial space at the local cemetery, I felt like the next thing he was going to say would be, “And when I’m gone, all this will be yours.” Of course that wasn’t about to happen, but such was the tone of our conversation. Dinner was for three: François, his wife Miloute, and myself. It was wonderful. Great food, great wine, and great conversation covering almost as many topics that lay in his sitting room. I left with the most wonderful impression of this passionate, hard working winemaker who makes some of Bordeaux’s most sought after wines.
The following year, I arranged a visit to his property out in Cotes de Bourg, Roc de Cambes. I have always found these wines to be similar to those of Tertre Roteboeuf in style, though different due to terroir and varietal make up. It’s a great wine in its own right, and also a more affordable way to taste Francois’ wine without paying the price of Tertre Roteboeuf. After having had lunch at Domaine l’Aurage with Loulou and his wife Caroline, Loulou and I hopped in his SUV and headed west. Bourg is quite a ways from Castillon, and I enjoyed the informative conversation we shared on the drive. Once we arrived in Bourg, we visited the estate and its surrounding vineyards. When I asked if a neighboring vineyard belonged to them, Loulou was quick to point out that the vines were pruned differently than the Mitjavile way, so of course not. The cellar was undergoing a renovation when I visited, so I snapped this photo outside the gates. All in all, it was an entertaining and educational way to spend one of my few “days off” in Bordeaux.
Fast forward to summer 2014. The chair of a local wine appreciation society came into our shop looking for 2009 and/or 2010 red Bordeaux, I had a couple of ideas as to where to point him. It seems this society chooses a different region/grape/style and conducts a taste-off throughout the year. They held 6 tastings of 7-10 wines and each tasting’s winner would be entered in one final blind tasting. There were some great wines tasted, and the 2009 Roc de Cambes came in a very close second place. What came first? The 2010 Roc de Cambes, of course. When I gave François the good news, he was grateful for those tasters who voted for his wines, but also mentioned that Roc de Cambes was a deserved winner. That’s what passion and hard work will do for you.
So that’s the Cinderella story about impressing a well established Bay Area wine appreciation society, and providing them with not just their winning wine, but the runner up as well! As we continue to import these award winning wines, the 2011 Roc de Cambes is now here in our shop and ready for you all to try. Who knows what good fortune it may bring.
I continue to visit François at Tertre Roteboeuf each year, and I highly value his synopsis of the latest harvest and vintage. This past year, I had lunch there, and one of the wines they served me was the 2011 Roc de Cambes. It was fantastic!!! – Peter Zavialoff
2011 Chateau Roc de Cambes Cotes de Bourg
From The Wine Advocate: “The 2011 has a wonderful, pastille-like bouquet with unerring intensity, with a Burgundy, Vosne-Romanee-type mineralite. The palate is very pure with filigree tannins, a crystalline composition with wonderful balanced and precision on the finish. This is a stunning Roc de Cambes that makes you wonder why they bothered back in 1855. Tasted March 2012. 91-93 points” – Neal Martin
*(Top picture from candbscene.net, middle picture from wine.com.tw)