It must not have been an easy ride, but Nicole did it. Gone from an unknown young woman in a decidedly man’s world (Beaujolais of yesteryear) to the sage, ever-cheerful vigneronne the locals like to call “La Patronne de la Côte” (“The Boss of the Côte”). While nobody threw any spokes in the wheel when she began, most did look on with a bit of condescending amusement, waiting for what they believed would be her inevitable failure. And while many wondered in disbelief how a woman could possibly drive a tractor, much less make a decent wine, one man never had a doubt and offered nothing but unwavering support: Nicole’s father, Raymond. It was he who took her out as a young child to work in the family vineyard, who taught her at an early age how to taste and appreciate fine Beaujolais. Although it was neither imposed on nor planned for Nicole to take over the family vines and winery, once Raymond began to age and fell ill, she decided to step in for good, some forty years ago. Small in stature, strong in presence, she forged ahead and by 1980 was alone on the domaine and running the show entirely on her own. Since then, Nicole has been one of those rare growers who basically do a single wine but do it really, really well. Her vineyards are all in a big block, right behind her house on the volcanic slope of Mont Brouilly, from which she fills five large casks each year of bright purple, heavenly scented, juicy Côte-de-Brouilly. Year in and year out, it is tremendously reliable, fun, and age-worthy. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. As you know, we have some heavy hitters and big stars in our Beaujolais portfolio, with earth-shatteringly great wines. And yet, when it comes time to put in Kermit’s orders for his personal drinking cellar here in France (where he could just as easily order many of the hippest, hottest wines of the moment), more often than not he simply requests a few cases of Nicole’s Côte-de-Brouilly. Upon arriving in France recently, Kermit checked in on what he’d ordered for his cellar so far. “Have I ordered the last vintage from Chanrion yet?” he asked. “Hardly anyone outside of her little village has heard of her, but she’s as good as anyone.”
It has been quite a forty-year trip—and it’s far from over. I raise my glass to forty more!
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