Part I: Christophe Lambert
Christophe lives in an imaginary world, he is very creative and has undertaken
an array of projects in the food and wine world. He has a food-packaging
plant, a water spring and is now involved in the wine business. A true
citizen of the world, he was born in the U.S. to a French mother and
English diplomat father. He sometimes lives in Paris, sometimes in Los
Angeles and most often in airports. [He loves Geneva's airport because
of the small town feel but in fact it is a major international pod and
is super clean; the worst, he feels, are Atlanta and Miami.]
Gayot.com: Why a wine project all of a sudden?
Lambert: The winery was presented to me by a banker who also introduced
me to Eric Beaumard. I was looking for a wine product to complement
the food-packaging operation and the winery needed a lot of work. We
use a part of the vineyard for our dedicated production and the owners
of la Grand'Ribe still produce over 20,000 cases while Les Garrigues
tops out at 4,000 cases.
G: Tell me about the style you are looking for.
CL: The wine is entirely made by Eric but I stay very involved. I chose
him for his technical background but he is very passionate and loves
Rhône varietals; this is the perfect project for him. He studied so
much for so long, going around the world for the Competition Internationale
des Sommeliers, I totally admire him. I love wines, and will always
love them. Think how different a simple steak tastes with wine rather
than with a glass of water.
G: Do you consider your winemaking a hobby or a business?
CL: I take it seriously; the first release went fast, both the red and
the white. I would love to expand and send up to 3,000 cases to the
U.S. but there is simply not enough production, and we don't even have
a distributor. Also we are considering other partnerships with other
G: How do you divide tour time between the movie business and the wine
CL: I am so lucky to have great partners for my businesses. Roanne Gastronomie
multiplied revenues by eight and I bought a water distribution company.
And then there are projects, like a chain of fast-food restaurants.
I can safely say that I split my time into 50 per cent movie business
and 50 per cent food business. On average I do two movies a year. I always
wanted to become an actor because you can be twelve different persons.
I started that career in France and "Greystoke" launched it in the U.S.
G: Do you have a hand in cultivating and harvesting the grapes?
CL: When on site, I love to barrel test and check out the various stages
of evolution. To be honest with you, I was worried the first time we
took a barrel sample and then things got better. But Eric takes over
from here. Sometimes I produce a film if I worked on the script, but
clipping vines, no.
G: Is there anything in common with the movie and wine businesses?
CL: We all know many actors drink wine. But to be serious, the creative
aspect is a common denominator. Once Les Garrigues project is on its
way we could start another project with another winery; in short, role
G: Would you consider making a movie about this?
CL: Not sure ... no, not really. It does not fit with my movie style, now
that I think about it. I went to visit many vineyards in Bordeaux but
I never found the right one at the right price. What is going at la
Grand'Ribe is that the vines are happy, thanks to the Sahucs and their
lifelong devotion to raising the plants. Most careers are good when
you are passionate; the Sahucs are passionate and I am passionate about
acting. They are completely different paths.
G: Are you tired of traveling at the end of the year?
CL: No, I love to travel. I could live in a plane. I used to have one
but in fact it is not practical. So I no longer have one. I play tennis,
SCUBA dive and ski a lot. Still, I have a dream: to fly aerobatic maneuvers.
I like to transform the mechanics of cars; for example, I buy a standard
automobile and soup it up. And yes, I buy and taste a lot of wine.
II: Eric Beaumard
is a jovial man, and a sort of survivor. He nearly died in a road accident
and was in a coma but came back with a damaged right arm. We find him
to be very brave and able to latch on to many facets of the good life,
or a much more down-to-earth life than his acting partner anyway. He
goes to work every day at Le Cinq and loves his wife and daughter — and
wine. After his accident his career in the kitchen transformed itself
to a career on the floor of a restaurant and there grew his passion
Gayot.com: What's your first experience with wine? Why wine?
Beaumard: I was a cook but after the accident I could not use my
right arm so I followed the wine line and now I am where I am and just
love it. As well, I stay very close to food and love to work with the
chef and his creations. I don't mean to brag, but this job has become
child's play, not that it is so easy but more because I love it.
G: Had you made wine prior to Les Garrigues?
EB: No, this is my first attempt at making wine. A banking relationship
matched me up at the time Christophe was looking at wine to go with
his food-packaging project. I had expressed my desire to help or consult
and it grew from there.
G: You have studied the wine topic for a long time. You are a recognized
master. What tips do you have to help the ab initio get started
in wine appreciation?
EB: Jean Lenoir's master kit, Le
Nez du Vin, helps at first to recognize all the aromas. With it
you can acquire a canvas and keep it in mind for future reference. But
you must keep tasting and never stop or will you lose it. Nothing is
acquired; you have to practice and practice all the time, just like
any sport if you want to stay on top.
G: Are there any projects with other wineries?
EB: Not really; with la Grand'Ribe, the situation is the Sahucs have no
kids, so we are not sure about the transition. The Domaine might be
sold to an investor and we can hope to continue to improve the quality
of the juice.
G: Do you have a preference in color?
EB: Well, I will drink a Meursault or a Pommard any day. I like red and
especially Rhône varietals. They offer the best value. In France now,
the prices of Bordeaux Grands Crus are astronomical so you can still
drink and be happy by carefully selecting something from the Rhône.
G: Where are you going with the wine? What style vs. the Sahucs
are you shooting for?
EB: So far we produce slightly over 400 cases of our white blend (Roussanne,
Marsanne and Viognier) and 3,750 of the red blend (Grenache, Syrah,
Carignan and Mourvedre). We are so fortunate with the old vines we have
trimmed to our specification, and are developing more fruit concentration.
Down the road we may look around Gigondas for other contracts and a
more sophisticated style.
G: What is your take on export sales?
EB: Good question. What to do? Not so easy with the limitations we have
but I want to develop sales and start to export to the U.S. Can you
G: Sure. How often do you go to the Domain? Do you direct the pruning and
other vineyard management?
EB: Yes, I can say I stay very involved and stay close to the vineyard.
Of course, I am not [always] there so I rely on Jérôme
Burateru, cellar master, to control my inputs. We have worked in perfect
harmony and he has supported all my ideas. It is truly a great relationship,
which led to so many improvements. I specify how the vines should be
trimmed and aim at determined yields for fruit concentration.
G: Tell me about the prices.
EB: We started selling between 20 and 25FF and have now raised it to 35FF
(€5.35) which is a great value. You would be hard-pressed to find
anything of this quality at even twice the price in the U.S.
G: Before we part ways, can you give us a quick take on wine
today: France vs. the New World.
EB: Ok, let's keep it very simple. Chilean wines can be very good and deliver
a great value, many Bordeaux wines are so bad at any price, the Grands
Crus in France have no problems. There is good and bad everywhere, just
keep on tasting.
G: Merci beaucoup et bonne continuation.
Read our winery profile of Les Garrigues de Beaumard-Lambert