A quest for perfection in California’s Wine Country

By Shelley Pittman:

Louis Roederer

When he inherited the Champagne House in 1833, the cognoscente Louis Roederer implemented his visionary approach to cultivating his vines, aiming to master each stage of the wines creation. While other Houses purchased their grapes from outside sources, Louis Roederer put his efforts in his own vineyards and methodically acquired the finest land for expansion of his guiding principle that all great wine depends on the quality of the soil, a passion for tradition and a astute vision of the future. With this less than traditional approach, the fame and reputation of the House of Louis Roederer was established. His heir, Louis Roederer ll adopted his father’s unique approach to the production of champagne, astute estate management, and instinctive audacity.

In the early 1900’s, many Europeans were busy making their move to California’s temperate climate, vast lands opportunities, and almost identical, soil conditions. Each bringing their own prized family root stocks, purchasing land and started California’s Wine Country. Andre Tchelistcheff was hired by Georges de Latour, moved to California from France and joined Beaulieu Vineyards in 1938, Bernard Portet was better known for his work at Chateau Lafite Rothschild , the famous First Growth chateau in Pauillac , created Clos du Val in the early 1970’s, the historic partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild thatcreated Opus One in 1979 also broke new ground. Still, to this day, the European influence is reflective of traditional wine making practices and techniques of Europe. All eyes were on California’s budding opportunity.

Jean-Claude Rouzaud, then president of Champagne Louis Roederer and fifth generation descendant of the founder, began his search for creating a sparkling wine estate in California. Rouzaud, who has since handed down the family tradition and position to son Frederic Rouzaud, believed that estate-owned vineyards were essential to ensure top quality wine, and had researched California for ideal growing conditions throughout the course of several years.

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In 1982, France’s Champagne Louis Roederers quest for perfection, which places research and respect for the terroir on an equal footing, perfectly reflects Louis Roederer’s philosophy, was completed and they established this California outpost of 580-acres in the cool, fog enriched Anderson Valley. Today winemaker, Arnaud Weyrich, produces this rich and aromatic Chardonnay or Pinot Noir dominated blend entirely from estate fruit. Arnuald has a veritable passion: it is based on a vision of wine that consists of a ‘tailor-made’ viticulture, which includes the principles of biodynamic cultivation on 24 acres to date and applying the two hundred year old tradition of Methode Champenoise technique to create a crisp acidity level with layered aromatics.”.

“There is the careful selection of approximately 15 percent of the best wine of every vintage to be set aside and aged in large wood casks for four years on average,” Weyrich explained. “When time comes to create the blend for the second fermentation in the bottle (Methode Champenoise), only the casks making the best match are selected — the ones that bring complexity, length and smoothness without sacrificing purity.”

From the distinctive stone and wrought iron gated entrance surrounded by their rolling hill vineyards, to the tasting room with its ornately high ceilings, French fabrics and 250-year-old floor tiles from Bordeaux, the scene is not unlike it’s sister house in France. At their handcrafted tasting bar, a French made flute is filled with sparkling wine showcasing their selection of Brut, Brut Rosé, L’Ermitage Brut and L’Ermitage Rosé. In 1991upon request from the White House, Roederer did make a special sparkling wine to be serve at various Presidential dinners, an extra-dry Brut was created and received the nick name the ‘White House Cuvee’. Unfortunately, you can only taste this creation at the White House.
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The cognoscente Louis Roederer implemented his visionary approach mastering each stage of the wines creation in France, and has, once again, achieved his quest for perfection in California’s Wine Country.

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Shelley Pittman
www.a-toast-to-life.com

Louis Roederer