March 20, 2022 by Arden Montgomery
Meet the Maker: Jean René de Fleurieu of Château de Montfrin
“From the peaks of Pic st Loup to the summits of Mont Ventoux, I have always loved this country, my land of freedom, the great house and my village.” Jean René de Fleurieu
The Château de Montfrin has been an important site for centuries, and always played host to travelers and statesmen including Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint-Louis, Louis XIII, and Molière. It has been in winemaker and owner Jean René de Fleurieu’s family since the mid-1800’s, and he still resides there to this day. Today the château is surrounded by 200 hectares of vineyards and olive orchards which are all farmed organically, an ode to good health that Jean René is so passionate about. His passion for good ingredients shows in the finished product; delicious Rhone blends for any occasion.
The vines grow in a hallowed farmland made up of contrasting terrain. From the vast silty soils of the plains along the majestic Rhone to the sunny hillsides of its banks and the stony plateaus of its now abandoned river beds. Most of the plots are irrigated to allow the vine to resist the increasing draughts in the area. Some of the wine is hand harvested allowing for carbonic maceration bestowing a distinctive characteristic to some of our wines. The style of the estate is defined by wines which are lively and elegant, the use of little or no wood, with emphasis on the fruit and the terroir.
Here’s a look back at a trip to the property back in 2020, written by Margaux…
As I sat in Jene Renes kitchen watching shavings of fresh truffle he had picked up in town top my plate, I tried desperately to relax my wide-eyed grin and mimic his effortlessly cool demeanor. The plate of truffle pasta was mixed with his own estate-grown olive oil, pecorino cheese and finished off with some fresh-ground pepper. When he finished plating the pasta, he opened up a bottle of his estate-grown wine for us to enjoy with lunch. At that moment, as we clinked our bistro glasses together and Jene Rene murmured “bon appetit,” I couldn’t help but find irony in the name of his wine, “A la Reverie” or “In a Dream State.” His cool demeanor now seemed ethereal as he stroked his gray beard.
In January of 2020, Lexi and I had the opportunity to travel to Burgundy and attend a trade tasting with one of our partners, Paris Wine Company. Following a few days in Burgundy, we headed down to the Southern Rhone Valley to visit a new producer we were considering working with. Following a tour of the Domaine des Captives (vineyards and winery) and Moulin des Ombres (olive orchard and mill), we arrived at Château de Montfrin. The Château has been an important site for centuries, and played host to travelers and statesmen including Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint-Louis, Louis XIII, and Molière. It was built in the mid-1800’s and was acquired by Jene Renes’ grandfather in 1925 in an effort to swoon his later wife. During WWII the family Chateau was occupied by the Third Reich while Jene René’s father was fighting Nazi’s in Northern Africa and his mother fled to Marseille where she helped Allied planes get in and out of France. She was eventually caught and thrown into a concentration camp in Germany. In 1944, just before the end of the war, the allies bombed the Chateau, rubble you can still see today as you pull on to the property.
After the war, Jene Renés parents reunited and he was born shortly after. He lived most of his life back and forth between Montfrin and Paris. Jean Rene started his career in fashion and married fashion designer, Agnes B, whom he shares two daughters with. About 25 years ago, after a few years of owning an art gallery in Paris and producing some films, he moved back to Montfrin. Up until that time, since the property was primarily a second home, the grapes and olives produced were being tended to and sold to co-ops. However, when Jean Rene moved there full-time, the serial entrepreneur and renaissance man couldn’t help but start his own project. Today the château is surrounded by almost 500 acres of vineyards and olive orchards which are all farmed organically, an ode to good health that Jean René is so passionate about. His passion for good ingredients is evident in everything he does, from homemade pasta to mouth-watering Rhone blends.
Jene-Rene produces wine he likes to drink. He farms organically and makes his wine ethically because “he doesn’t want to poison his family and friends with wine like that.” He thinks everyone in the Southern Rhone should be farming organically. Due to the topography, climate and soil, it is easy to do there. The estates’ nearly 250 acres of vineyards produce wines from different appellations, Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône villages, Les Costières de Nîmes and Les Coteaux du Pont du Gard. The vines are grown in silty soils of the plains along the majestic Rhone to the sunny hillsides of its banks and the stony plateaus of its now abandoned river beds. The style of the estate is defined by wines that are lively and elegant, the use of little or no wood, with emphasis on the fruit and the terroir.
Following our lunch, we returned to Jene-Rene’s library and office to sit by the fire and finish off the Ruinart Champagne. We chatted about wine, life and art as he explained the photographs, paintings and poems that lined the walls of the room. Every piece had meaning. And as I took a step back and reevaluated the charmfully cluttered room, I saw the invisible thread that thoughtfully connected every piece as an homage to his life and the way he chooses to live. On the side of his winery reads, “Tous nos vivons sous un ciel de légende et l’oublions a chaque instant” or “we all live under a legendary sky and forget it every moment.” It serves as a gentle reminder to slow down and appreciate all that is wonderful in life. Friends, family, love, art, and of course, wine.
Paumiste is part of a project that we started at Argaux called ‘Gaux Play Après’. In the world of food & wine, it can be daunting to dive in. It’s an industry that can often be intimidating and elitist. It can also be an industry that can facilitate an unhealthy lifestyle if you dive too deep.. We wanted a collection of approachable wines in both profile and cost for the consumer, that encouraged people to get outside to promote balance and a healthy, well rounded lifestyle. Cue our partnership with Château de Montfrin on this rose. We had toured these vineyard sites, toured the winery, and were already buying incredible wines from them. Given that they are farming organically, and we already knew the quality that was going into every bottle, it was a no brainer to team up for this project.
Paumiste Rose: This rosé is 60% Syrah and 40% Carignan. It has a beautiful watermelon hue and displays aromas of freshly cut strawberries, white peach, grapefruit and lavender. It’s light and dry on the palate with tart citrus notes, pomegranate, and dried herbs taking hold of the finish. Enjoy this with fresh salads, chips and guacamole or lobster rolls.
After we had collectively decided that we wanted this wine to be tennis focused, Arden knew right away who to call about designing this label. Leslie Randall, founder of The Luxury Shrink, and Arden grew up together in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Leslie is a designer who spent almost a decade in New York designing embellishments, patterns & graphics for Oscar de la Renta and Kate Spade New York. In 2019 Leslie relocated to Saint Paul, MN & established The Luxury Shrink, a one stop shop for Leslie’s curated services in artwork, branding, & styling. We not only love her designs, but also love that we were able to work with a fellow female owned business on this. We worked with her to create the effortless, chic label that we have on the wine bottle today.
Here are some additional fun facts about the winery:
- Benjamin Béguin has been by Jean-René’s side making wine and olive oil for the estate for over twenty years. He has since become a managing partner in the winery, and today he oversees all winemaking and olive oil production.
- Located in-between the provinces of Languedoc and Provence as well as the rivers Rhône and Gard, Montfrin, from the latin Mons Fremens, translates as « mountain of wild animals », an escape for the animals fleeing the rising ragins floods from the rivers below.
- Jean-René is also an acclaimed clothing designer, filmmaker, and art gallery owner