“For me, a great red Burgundy has to be flawless, with firm structure, rich
berry flavors, clean without filtration. It’s not a heavy wine, but a haunting
- Martine Saunier, Founder/Owner
Martine was born in Paris. Although she lived and attended school there, she spent every summer vacation at her Aunt's home in Prissé, near Mâcon. Her Aunt owned a winery with approximately 10 acres of vineyards planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winemaker lived in the farm next door with his wife and children. The pinnacle of the summer vacation was the harvest in mid-September. At the age of ten, Martine was fascinated with the preparation of the cellar, the winepress, the fermenting vats and, of course, being part of the harvesting team. The crushing of the grapes, malolactic fermentation, chaptalisation, bottling, etc. were all part of her childhood life.
When Martine moved to the United States in 1964, she started to look for some local California wines. Somewhat dismayed by the absence of many of her favorite wines, she started making buying trips to France. In 1965, she drove to Beaulieu Vineyards, knocked on the door, and was lucky enough to meet the great André Tchelistcheff. He told her in his good French that if she wanted good Pinot Noir, she had to go to Burgundy to get it! The seed was planted in her mind...
A few years later, Martine was offered the job of selecting wines for an importer/distributor in San Francisco and in the spring of 1969, she flew to France, bought a small VW bug and started her tour and career! At first, she kept close to familiar sources, namely Beaujolais, Mâcon and Pouilly-Fuissé, but eventually she ventured into the Côtes-du-Rhône on the lookout for some Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Martine recalls her first trip: “I had lunch in a small Hotel “Le Luberon,” in Senas and the owners, Juliette and Louis Guigue, recommended a Château-de-Fonsalette blanc which was truly delicious. At promptly 2 p.m., I left the restaurant and headed for Château Rayas. Monsieur Louis Reynaud was taking his daily sieste. I waited two hours under the trees and finally tasted the best wines I ever had in my life: the Château Rayas 1959 and 1961. I bought 50 cases at 12,50 Francs a bottle—very expensive at the time. Upon my return to San Francisco, my distributor had a fit.” “Too expensive! Don't you know that a Châteauneuf-du-Pape sells retail for $2.50?”
Undaunted, she created a mailing list of friends and associates and sent out her first price list and wine descriptions. The wines sold rapidly, and for five years she remained the company’s special selection wine buyer. She was traveling to France every year and discovered and stocked some extraordinary wines.
Martine is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier and was formerly on the national board of AIWF. She is also a Chevalier du Tastevin. In addition, she has been decorated twice by the French Government with the title of Officier du Mérite Agricole.
“My life has never been dull,” says Martine. “I am still discovering new wineries that will hopefully adopt my philosophy that quality is a must, at all cost! The last thirty years have been part of a grand adventure from which I garnered much experience and I consider myself very privileged.”