A Week of Wine & Wanderlust With VINTUS

By Isabel O’Cathey, Account Manager, IMI Agency | May 30, 2024


 

In mid-May a collective of national on and off premise buyers, distributor partners, a wine Somm and IMI Agency Account Manager/Director were hosted by industry-renowned supplier partners, VINTUS.

This was the company’s inaugural excursion to a map of both new and long-standing wine producers within the portfolio since 2020. A ‘simple’ training and education invitation to France and Spain is commonplace in our industry. With that said, we can comfortably speak on behalf of our group that we were shocked, awed, surprised, and delighted as to how exceptional and rare the terroirs and winemakers were that we visited. The eight-day journey, dubbed “a week in the rain shadow of the Pyrenees” by our group, was filled with extraordinary wine, new friendships and a lifetime of education that will impact our oenology knowledge forever.

SUNDAY – Arrival in Barcelona

Day 1 was sunshine and a self-guided tour of the city of Barcelona. Walking past the Basílica de la Sagrada Família and through the city parks filled with Catalonians having picnics and street artists performing. An al fresco group dinner with our new industry friends that evening was filled with patatas bravas, jamón, paella and pours of Rioja, Ribero del Duero, Albariño and Verdejo.

 

MONDAY – Visit Ferrer Bobet & Group Dinner with Juve & Camps

Ferrer Bobet was the introductory visit for the VINTUS Team since the winery joined their portfolio. Additions made to the portfolio in and after 2020 halted all possible T&E visits giving our eager group the first look at this massive, new-age winery set in the rain shadow of the Pyrenees otherwise known as Priorat. With the likeness of Bruce Wayne’s Bat Cave, Ferrer Bobet is one of the smallest but most important producers in Priorat. Raül Bobet walked us through the Llicorella soil of the sloped terroir. An engineer by trade, Raül carefully curated his tastings to not only focus on the unique major grapes of the appellation, Carignan and Garnacha, but to understand the dedication and respect to producing wines that reflect the profound mineral essence of Priorat. We learned the respect to the first press is so deep that it takes 3 vines to get 1 bottle of Ferrer Bobet wine.

Dinner that evening was a literal lavish explosion of whole fish on fire, filet, shrimp, oysters and of course, more jamón. We were hosted by the Juvé & Camps team and 4th generation, 1st female CEO of the family, Meritxell Juvé, or “Txell” to friends as we were now.

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TUESDAY – Visit Juvé & Camps in Penedes & a Train Ride to Avignon

Juvé & Camps is an indisputable leader of Spanish premium sparkling wines. This family-owned, 100% estate-based producer is revered in Spain for its painstaking focus on quality and sustainability, and its significant role within the country’s conversation on fine wine in general. This was another first for VINTUS to be able to host industry buyers at Juvé & Camps since their partnership began.

After a visit to the caves of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia we took a drive through the vineyards of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada vines. Our winery guides Pepe, Catarena, Quim and Roger briefly halted our group at the property’s cathedral because of the rain where just outside, we tasted Costalara and Barrueco from Pagos Anguix and did a rain dance together in celebration of the downpour – vital to the vineyard’s sparkling growth and much celebrated throughout our day at Juvé & Camps. Other notable tastings available in the US market included Reserva de la Familia and the Gran Juvé – a must add for any sparkling wine menu!

Having enjoyed the vineyard tour and tasting for some extra time given the weather,  we sped through a beautiful tapas meal of a dozen plus menu items with Txell and her father Joan Juvé and raced to the train from Barcelona to Avignon with just moments to spare!

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WEDNESDAY – “Un jour” at Château d’Estoublon in Provence

Château d’Estoublon (originally built in 1489) is located on the southern slopes of the Alpilles, in the heart of Provence, where their orchards and vineyards have been classified A.O.P. Les Baux de Provence since 1995. With 212 acres of olive trees and 47 acres of vineyards, Chateau d’Estoublon is rightly considered to be one of the most outstanding sites in the region.

A wine tasting with the star of the Chateau’s vineyards, Roseblood rosé which hits the US market in June 2024, was followed by an exquisite olive oil tasting and a beautiful lunch on site at the restaurant La Table d’Estoublon.

Not to miss an opportunity to swim at a Chateau in Provence and sip rosé, the group enjoyed a leisurely afternoon and ended the evening with a dinner with technical director, Victor Joyeux, who recently joined the team after his tenure at Cloudy Bay in Martinborough, New Zealand.

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THURSDAY – Le Mistral of Châteauneuf-du-Pape et le slopes of Côtes du Rhône

Our morning with winemaker Ralph Garcin assisted by Justine Poncet at Château de Nalys explored the terroirs of the infamous Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Dating back to the 16th century, Nalys is one of the oldest estates in the region. Made up of three adjoining vineyard parcels, Nalys contains all 13 grape varieties across 125+ contiguous acres within 3 of the absolute best vineyards in the appellation.

Convinced of its exceptional quality, legendary Rhône winemakers Marcel and Philippe Guigal acquired Château de Nalys in 2017. The land seemed destined for the Guigals after they discovered it was already planted with 26% Syrah and 18% white grapes, two hallmarks of the Guigal name. Our group tasted through the Grand Vin, Vin Blanc, Saintes Pierres de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Saintes Pierres de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.

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We enjoyed lunch from the chef on site under the beautiful umbrella of sunshine at Nalys and were soon off to Côtes du Rhône to meet Philippe Guigal for a tour and hike of the precious LaLa’s! The Guigal family have a shining reputation amongst wine lovers across the world. This reputation stems from their enormous efforts in developing the Côte Brune and the Côte Blonde. Here, the LA-LA-LA cuvées reign supreme and make many a wine lover weak in the knees. The name represents the merging of three grand parcels: La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque. We literally slid our way through the LaLa’s (the mud on our pants is proof), took a quick tour of the Guigal’s Château d’Ampius cooperage and grounds (a fortress originally built in the 14th century) and checked into our hotel with a front row view of the mighty mighty Rhône River.

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FRIDAY – Private 24 Wine Tasting With Philippe Guigal and Château de la Chaize in Beaujolais

Guigal’s vineyards include overwhelmingly the finest collection of holdings in Côte-Rôtie, the finest sites of both Condrieu and Saint-Joseph, four exquisite parcels in Hermitage, and some of the finest vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage. The Guigals are so precise with their winemaking that they also produce each oak barrel by hand on-site.

We discovered first-hand that the more you hear about the Guigals, the more astounding their story becomes. We learned Philippe and his father had already tasted 80 first presses from the Northern and Southern Rhone that very morning before our 9 am arrival. We saw proof in his pallet from the jump with the fated red wine tongue! Of the 80 tastings (from the finest 10% that negociants brought in), none were selected to move forward with blending that day.

Bundling up in our warmest clothes, we headed for a guided tour of the caves and barrel rooms finished by a tasting of 24 wines with Philippe. Listening to the process, the strategy and tasting each wine with this consummate professional made it easy to understand how the Guigals have become the most lauded and admired producer in the world for the Rhône appellation.

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Our final winery visit to complete the expansive trip was to Beaujolais where we would gain more understanding of the noble grape, Gamay, at Château de la Chaize, another new addition to VINTUS portfolio. Our group was greeted by Commercial Director, Stéphane Charreyron, and winemaker, Boris Gruy, with his uncle and owner of the estate, Christophe Gruy. Following its sale and a $100 million investment, Château de la Chaize is re-emerging as a qualitative halo and reference for all of Beaujolais. This family-owned wine producing estate since 1676 is also classified as a French national heritage site due to its magnificent garden by André Le Nôtre, gardener to King Louis XIV of France who designed the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, as well as a historic winery built in 1771 that includes an impressive 354-foot long cellar.

This last Chateau visit was met with some traditional US ‘southern hospitality’ as Boris grilled sausages and vegetables for the group. This meal gave the group a chance to enjoy a leisurely ‘picnic-style’ dinner paired with Brouilly and Fleurie to delight in our last splendor of the French countryside. This trip to Château de la Chaize defined the need to put Beaujolais back on the map on US wine menus.

SATURDAY – A Final Day in Lyon & Farewells

Our final day was spent in France’s “second city” of Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France where we spent several hours on a food tour highlighting local cuisine to satisfy even the most discerning palates. The evening and week together finished with a stellar dinner at Restaurant Gastronomique, a Michelin star restaurant led by Chef Christian Têtedoie.

Our friends at VINTUS executed flawlessly on every aspect of this journey and provided us with lifelong appreciation for the regions visited and winemakers’ wisdom and terroirs traveled. New bonds were forged among our circle of industry insiders, all sharing a common thread of seeking greater knowledge, fueled by passion and excitement about what we do for a living.

Special Thanks

An incredibly special thank you to our friends and hosts at VINTUS for an extraordinary week that will forever be cherished. Tristan Dyer-Kindy, Meagan Reister, Anthony Cohen and John Barton.