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Christophe Lambert and Eric Beaumard - Interview

Les Garrigues de Beaumard-Lambert: A Remarkable Wine Pairing

Wine label of Les Garrigues d'Eric Beaumard et Christophe Lambert

We are supportive of teamwork and here is a perfect example. Take an insolite and versatile actor; add a devoted expert sommelier and you get an interesting wine at a great price. You may remember Christophe from his roles in "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes," the "Highlander" series, "Subway" and many other films. He not only incarnates a multitude of characters in his movies but also fully enjoys life and has a passion for food, wine and travel (just like us). Eric is a conscientious man and has a total passion for wines; he was vice champion sommelier of the world in 1998. In his new career as director of Paris' prestigious George V restaurant Le Cinq, he is able to fully express himself and share his passion with a splendid staff. From a two-part interview held in Los Angeles and Paris, we transcribe for you this fascinating story.

Part I: Christophe Lambert

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.] Why a wine project all of a sudden?

Christophe 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 vineyards.

G: How do you divide tour time between the movie business and the wine business?

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 playing.

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.

Part II: Eric Beaumard

Eric Beaumard

Eric 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 for wine. What's your first experience with wine? Why wine?

Eric 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 help?

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

(Updated: 05/23/13 BH)


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