In January of this year, Martine’s Wines Vice President Kate Laughlin traveled to Burgundy to meet with some of our producers, including our newest addition to the portfolio–Domaine Gouffier. Here, Kate shares “sur le zinc” her account of the team’s visit with Frédéric Gueugneau and Benoît Pagot at the domaine in Fontaines.
We arrived to Domaine Gouffier on a misty-cold morning and after a few wrong turns around the commune of Fontaines. For once, I hadn’t done my homework–any homework–and had no idea what I was walking into. I hadn’t googled the domaine, hadn’t asked Greg to give me an overview of the wines, hadn’t seen or tasted the samples when they arrived at the office back in California. How rare it is today to arrive in a new place without any image or preconception already in your mind! An accidental luxury, as it turned out.
We drove through the tall gate, into the gravel courtyard of a peeling village farmhouse and the style and feeling of the place hooked me from the first moment.
Frédéric Gueugneau greeted us and led us into the barn. In a black puffy jacket, svelte jeans and stylish high-top sneakers, he would have been at home on the streets of Paris. In front of the well-worn wooden press, he told us (in English!) the story. Here, the Saint-Rapt, Baudron and Gouffier families have run the farm for generations. When Jerome Gouffier became ill, Frédéric kept in touch with the family, eventually leaving his career as an attorney and a stint at La Chablisienne to return to his native Fontaines and the place he had worked in his youth alongside Jerome. Today, Frédéric and oenologist Benoît Pagot are transforming and restoring the vineyards and the domaine with organic practices. Frédéric was serious and determined, yet kind and humble as he spoke.
Across the chilly courtyard, we ducked into a long stone bunker where the red wines rested in Doreau barrels on their fine lees. It looked like the kind of bygone place where Napoleon would have stored rations and supplies for his troops. Oh wait. It was.
To taste, we warmed up in the house. Today, the two-story home serves only for tasting and meeting rooms. The place oozed with layers of vintage patterns, quirky art, various displays and the shabby French chic that can only be achieved over many decades and that we’re all dying to instantly replicate. At some point, Frederic plans to restore and move into the house with his family. I kinda hope he keeps the wallpaper.
On to the wines. Greg can do them far more technical justice, and I’m sure he will. For my part, these wines are the full package: fresh, delicious, pleasurable–wines that I want to open and share at the dinner table. Frédéric and his team are infusing the lesser exalted Mercurey and Rully with a new breath of quality, resources and attention to detail to make wines that are approachable and affordable but with all the tradition and style of Burgundy.
In a way, it’s the same thing we are doing with our company: taking over something with a long history, preserving what we can while finding new ways forward. We’re living in someone else’s house and, slowly, over time, making it our own. It’s still called Domaine Gouffier. It’s still called Martine’s Wines.
What a thrill to discover Domaine Gouffier and this story in the Côte Chalonnaise. We can’t wait to enjoy these wines with you.