A typical bottle of wine is made from 100% grape juice. When made into wine, it is blended with other varieties of fruits, vegetables, and grains. This mixture is aged, fermented, and blended again until the desired effects are achieved. Basically the wine is created by taking raw ingredients and combining them for a desired effect.
The perfect guide to the wines of Julien Fayard, the second most important French wine producer after Champagne.Julien Fayard Wines. Born in Saint-Etienne, France, Julien has extensive and varied experience in the wine industry. His father grew grapes and the family has been in the wine business in France for generations. Julien made his first wine at the age of 16 and went on to work in Provence, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux (Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte – these two estates are closely linked to Napa Valley by their ownership).
Julien first visited California in 2000, then returned to France and returned to the Napa Valley for a short time in 2003, working as an intern harvester for Quintessa. At Quintessa he met the winemaker Philippe Melka for the first time. Julien then worked with Melka for 8 years at Atelier Melka, overseeing a number of projects including vineyard development, vineyard planting and custom winemaking, working with renowned wineries such as Lail, Gemstone and Dalla Valle Vineyards.
Julien released his first Napa Valley wine in 2007, a rosé under the Azur label. The Azur Rosé has undoubtedly set a new quality standard for California producers of this style of wine. Vinification was carried out from the outset using the Provencal method (direct pressing or maceration and extraction of the juice) and a number of other steps similar to those used to produce this wine in the Côte de Provence in France, including omitting malolactic fermentation. Additionally, and very unusually for Napa Valley, the grapes purchased for this wine were grown specifically to make rosé wine and were always harvested early to bring out the acidity and vibrancy of the fruit.
In 2012, a group of partners, including Julien, bought a 12-hectare estate in Coombsville, of which 4.5 hectares were already planted with grapes. Part of the estate, now called Covert Estate, sits on a hill with great views of much of Coombsville and the south, including San Pablo Bay in the distance. This hill was useful because it provided a geographical location for a wine cellar. The 12,000 square foot winery was completed in late 2015, in time for this year’s harvest, and serves as home to several small brands for which Julien and his team make wine.
The wines of Julien Fayard are very individual because his name appears on the label. He chooses fruit from top vineyards based on the quality of the site and the relationships he has developed with the winemakers over the years. Julien Fayard’s first vintage was compiled in 2016.
The 2019 Julien Fayard McGah Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc has a medium gold color with some citrus influence on the nose, including pomelo, grapefruit and notes of fresh cut grass. In the mouth, you can feel the sweetness of the oak and the ripe fruit. The texture is round, slightly creamy but not syrupy, nicely complemented by the acidity of the wine. This is a very expansive wine with layers and complexity. Aromas of honeycomb and lemon peel. A hint of desert spice lingers in the aftertaste. This wine was fermented in oak barrels and aged on lees with battonage.
Sauvignon Blanc is not normally associated with aging beyond the date of purchase, but Julien prepares his Sauvignon Blanc to age for several years. The 2016 Julien Fayard McGah Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc has a medium yellow color in the glass; it shows aromas of pineapple, hazelnut, honeycomb and a deep vanilla sweetness in the aromatics. There are also floral notes in this wine, including citrus and honeysuckle. The texture is round, but not necessarily creamy, and well balanced with acidity. The finish is crisp (not New Zealand acidity here, but high acidity) with lingering flavours of red apple, tangerine and a hint of lime. Very well balanced. Good shelf life up to 5 years after harvest.
In a departure from its usual focus on varietals, it has launched Pinot Noir Platt Vineyard; the vineyard is located in the hills west of Sebastopol (Sonoma Coast) in neighboring Sonoma County. The 2016 Julien Fayard Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir was fermented without stem; its bouquet has floral elements but also darker notes, including clove and cedar. It becomes slightly more flavorful as the wine develops. Very bright – its red fruit tones are immediately evident on the palate with notes of red cherry, cranberry and rhubarb. The end is elastic. Throughout his career, Julien has been involved in the production of red wines and he has carefully controlled the production process of this wine, right down to the diameter of the tubes used.
What is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? It’s a question Julien has asked himself and others over the years. And that can be an impossible question to answer because of the myriad factors that are constantly changing. But for Julien, the wines must exude freshness and stability in the bottle, showcase Napa Valley fruit – ripeness and texture – but at the same time be influenced by his French convictions.
The 2018 Julien Fayard Cabernet Sauvignon Classic was produced with more valley fruit than the Reserve variety. This wine shows elegance, including floral notes on the nose (violets), blueberries, blackberries, plums, and notes of cedar and baking spices emerge as the wine opens. What sets this wine apart is its liveliness on the palate – a pleasant mix of red and dark fruit with excellent acidity. Aged with plums and blackberries. At the time of tasting, the tannins were slightly dense, present and noticeable with medium grip. I’d love to try that in 10 years.
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 Julien Fayard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve has enticing aromas of chocolate, dust, mocha and lots of dark fruit. The aromatic intrigue adds a touch of shishito pepper as the wine unfolds, and even a thread of red fruit appears deeper in the aroma. The palate shows a generous amount of black fruit with a darker finish and hints of dried tobacco leaves. Dense, with earthy, chalky, slightly dry tannins, complemented by dark cedar on the finish. Retains a powerful structure and fruit for some time.
The classic wine and the reserve wine have their own style and place; Julien strives to be consistent in the production of both wines each year. And both wines are offered at a very reasonable price/quality ratio. You should take the time to look for these two books.
The 2016 Julien Fayard Martinez Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Clone 4 and Clone 7 from the same block of vines) is located on the slopes overlooking Napa Valley on Pritchard Hill, near Nine Suns Winery. A particularity of this vineyard is the depth of the soil with clay and ferruginous earth. This wine has a surprisingly deep, dark color; one of the characteristics of Julien’s wines is their high phenolic content and their ability to extract. It has a beautiful aroma with blackberries, game and a subtle sweetness of oak. The oak complements the aromas very well. As you continue to inhale, the aromas of graham cracker and clove become apparent. This wine has a powerful structure and needs time to develop, but when it does, the integration of all its components comes through very well. Long on the palate, with slightly dense, chewy, chalky tannins that are round at first but quickly become more complex, notes of cedar and tobacco leaves and a lingering burst of fruit (red berries). Tasted almost 5 years after harvest, this wine has a lot of vitality.
Sleeping Lady Vineyard is located at the bottom of the valley on the west side of Route 29, just a short drive south of Yountville. It is owned by the Bettinelli family, longtime Napa Valley farmers, and Brion and Rhonda Wise (BRION wineries, B Wise). The vineyards were originally planted by Larry Bettinelli (Napa Valley’s top grape producer in 2016). The vineyard is named for a feature in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains west of the property that somewhat resembles a sleeping woman. We were told that this feature is easier to see from the air than from the ground.
The total area is 110 hectares, of which 52 hectares are planted with vines; the vineyard is mainly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (95%), the rest is planted with Cabernet Franc. The vines grow in alluvial deposits with gravel under the topsoil. Many top-end producers source grapes from this vineyard, including Julien, who only discovered the place a few years ago when he decided to buy some of the grapes. One of the best parts of this vineyard is on the west side, on gently rolling soils, right on the edge of the Mayacamas Mountains.
The 2016 Julien Fayard Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark ruby color, a fresh and lively aroma of black fruit with notes of black fig, blackberries and floral notes (lavender). The palate shows the density of black fruit and structure. Juicy, multi-layered and complex, with lots of fruit. This wine is still very young – it is heady and full of energy, finishing with firm, solid tannins. Offers great power and freshness at the same time – the two elements of a fascinating wine.
The design of the label is simple but striking. Julien’s cousin Lionel and his wife Carine work for Fayard Design, based in Var, France. They managed to creatively combine visual elegance with the display of wine sites. Each label is different – they all feature Google maps in the background, with blocks of vineyards highlighted in gold.
Only in pink!
Given Julien’s experience with rosé, it was only a matter of time before he would create another brand of rosé. Production, mainly bottled for distribution, is about 2,000 cases per year.
2020 is just pink! This California rosé has a pale to medium copper color; the aroma is fresh, with lots of fruit, including raspberries and wild strawberries. Also notes of citrus, lime and spicy lemon that transfer to the palate. A little creamy. From start to finish, even as the wine begins to warm to room temperature, it is full of vibrancy. It’s made to be enjoyed like this, or perhaps paired with lighter seafood – we think it’s best with sashimi at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, or Thai freshwater prawns with spicy nam phriks, enjoyed on a rooftop terrace in Bangkok, overlooking the sunset on the horizon and the glistening Chao Phraya River.
Superior; 1% of all gross profits from the sale of this wine will be donated to an organization called 1% for the Planet – funds from participating companies will be distributed to organizations that protect the environment worldwide. Also sold in barrels for serious rosé lovers and restaurants.
The Green Room
In early 2019, Julien opened The Green Room restaurant in an industrial park in south Napa. This tasting room was formerly used by Holman Cellars and, after some improvements, is now used for private tastings by appointment. The winery produces the Julien Fayard brand, as well as wines for selected clients and some other own brands.
The idea behind this title is twofold: A green room is a space where actors or others who must appear on live television or other shows can relax and calm their nerves. The term green room is also used in surfer jargon and means being in the depths of a wave as it rolls for the crest. The aptly named space is a quiet, intimate space outside the basement, but close enough for visitors to see through the adjacent windows. And the name is linked to another of Julien’s passions – surfing: The various surfboards that adorn the ceiling of the basement are not to be missed.
The production of each wine is up to 300 cases. The wines have limited distribution in Arizona, California, Illinois, Florida and Texas. For more information or to join the mailing list, go to: www.fayardwines.com.
Château Sainte Marguerite
Château Sainte Marguerite, located in the south of France, in the tiny municipality of La Lond-les-Maures on the French Riviera, was founded in 1929 by André Chevillon. Julien’s uncle, Jean Pierre Fayard, and his wife Brigitte bought the château in 1977 after Jean Pierre’s family sold their packaging business (including greenhouses). Without any formal training in viticulture, Jean Pierre’s grandfather operated a vineyard near Montpellier.
The previous owner, André Chevillon, was a classical piano teacher and performing musician who had no heirs other than his wife at his death. After her death, she became the owner of the property and donated it to the Fondation de France in 1975; it had been for sale for several years before Jean Pierre bought it. He recalls that the value of the property had dropped by half when he bought it. Since then, the situation has changed: vineyard land is now expensive and increasingly so in Provence, where only 40,000 hectares are available for grape growing.
The children of Jean-Pierre and Brigitte are also active in the business.
At the time of our visit, Château Saint-Marguerite owned five separate estates in four communities, including La Lond-les-Maures, Guyer, Pierrefeux and La Croix. In addition to the main plot where the winery is located, there are two other plots on the property that are used for selective vinification and two plots are pure vineyards. About 153 hectares are planted with vines. The soil varies from place to place and includes slate, volcanic rock (some parts of their vineyards are rich in red iron with lots of stones), limestone, clay and quartz. And some areas have different types of soil and rock.
Two notable estates are Château Hermitage Saint-Martin (records show that the vineyards originally planted on this site date back to the 12th century. This property was still connected to the local monks during the Second World War. This vineyard with very red and stony soil is located at the foot of the chaparral and wooded mountains near the village of Cuers. And Château La Jeannette, a beautiful oasis of vineyards at the foot of the Massif des Maures. The soils are reddish, fairly homogeneous, with slate and quartz, partly of volcanic origin. This property is well fenced to keep wild boar out.
Since 1955, Château Sainte-Marguerite is one of the 18 prestigious crus classés of Provence. And since 2003, the winery has been certified by ECOCERT as a fully organic farm.
After more than two years of construction, under the direction of architect Pascal Flajols, a modern basement, a spacious tank room, reception facilities and offices for staff opened in 2020, replacing the site’s former basement. Participation is by appointment or personal appearance. The park of the castle is beautiful. A long access road crosses the vineyards and leads to the cellar, from where you have a beautiful view of the vineyards.
Visitors to the winery can also enjoy the beautiful French Riviera nearby, including a 50-90 minute drive to Saint-Tropez (depending on the route chosen and amount of transportation).
Château La Jeannette
Château Sainte Marguerite Icon Cuvee is primarily a blend of Grenache and Cinsault with a slight addition of Vermentino for freshness and complexity. Bright copper colour. The bouquet is bright and lively, with aromas of sweet honeysuckle and strawberry. On the palate, the strawberry aromas are evident; it has a rounded texture while also having a lively acidity. Very well balanced. Aromas of green apple and kiwi, but the wine is not acidic. A delicious aftertaste.
The Chateau Sainte Marguerite Fantastique is a selection of tanks each year, including three varieties: Cinsault, Grenache and Vermentino (a variety also called Rolle and widely grown in Provence). Each year, in December, the winemaking team assigns each barrel a grade from 1 to 3+ to indicate quality. Only barrels with wines of 3+ are used for this blend of white grape varieties. Chateau Sainte Marguerite 2020 Fantastique is pale yellow in color, with a variety of citrus aromas including lemon, lime and more pronounced grapefruit notes. As the wine develops, notes of lychee appear. The palate immediately reveals richness, complemented by a round texture. Very well laminated.
Château Sainte Marguerite iKon White (Vermentino) 2020 Wine from their domain Saint Martin. Their Vermentino is fermented and aged in barrels in a combination of two vats, Boutes and Ermitage. The drums rest on rubber rollers that physically rotate during aging (at the push of a button, without physical circulation of the sludge). This wine has a wide range of flavors, including peach, nectarine and apricot. Over time, the bouquet opens up with citrus flowers and the sweetness of honeysuckle deeper into the aroma. Very balanced, with layers of fruit like honeydew melon, golden apple and a hint of apricot. The palate is round but not syrupy; plenty of acidity in this fine wine.
The white wine Château Sainte Marguerite Symphonie 2020 is a barrel selection of their finest Vermentino. Pale to medium golden color; has a sweet aroma of honeysuckle, peach and nectarine. Notes of vanilla. Floral. An elegant bouquet. The palate has a nice texture – slightly rounded and creamy. Aromas of citrus and red apple. A bright and lively finish. This wine is bottled twice a year: once around March, then in May.
The 2019 Château Sainte Marguerite Symphonie (Syrah + Grenache) is a medium ruby-colored blend with meaty, juicy aromas and a slightly spicy flavor with some black spice, including white pepper. The plum flavors come through on the palate and the mouthfeel remains pleasantly tart. Brilliant, this wine is addictive. Fresh display. The tannins are still taught, but finer in texture. The finish is slightly spicy, with notes of cedar and pepper.
The 2018 Château Sainte Marguerite iKon Red is a blend of Syrah and Grenache. Dark ruby colour – the bouquet takes the fleshy character to another level. Syrah dominates as a young wine, but according to Jean Pierre, the influence of Grenache should increase with time. Full of aromatic complexity. Sweaty saddle leather, dark spices, pepper notes. Spicy. It is a rich manifestation, especially on the palate, almost bloody, juicy – even reminiscent of rusty iron. Think of an old railroad spike rusting in the sun. Spicy in the aftertaste with pepper tones, but not sharp. The tannins are medium-bodied and well integrated. Pronounced fruity and acidic notes are evident from start to finish. Quite an age. It is an extremely memorable wine, both in terms of character and complexity, that deserves to be discovered.
All wines are registered as vegan by the Vegan Society (look for the little green sunflower logo on each bottle). The total annual production is about 1 million bottles, of which more than 60% is rosé wine. For more information, please visit: www.chateausaintemarguerite.com
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