Pro Version | USD Change Currency | Help | Mobile Site

Jacques Lardière's Oregon Adventure

Jacques Lardière is enjoying the challenge of growing wine in pastures new
© Katherine Cole | Jacques Lardière is enjoying the challenge of growing wine in pastures new
In 2012, Jacques Lardière retired after 42 years as technical director of prominent Burgundy producer Maison Louis Jadot. However, the wild-haired and outspoken oenologist came out of retirement after Jadot purchased Resonance Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Katherine Cole caught up with Lardière as the Jadot team prepared for their first Oregon harvest.

Where did you grow up?

On the western side of France, in the Vendée department, between Nantes and La Rochelle. We were five children altogether, three boys and two girls. I was second youngest, between the two girls.

Was anyone else in your family a winemaker?

No, absolutely not. But my maternal grandfather was a wine merchant in the little city of Montaigu; it’s a bit like Carlton [Oregon], maybe a little bit bigger. My mother worked with her father. They bought wine in big 600- or 300-hectoliter barrels and distributed it. We recycled bottles, using a machine to wash them so we could reuse them.

We sold a lot of what we called 'la fillette,' or half-liter bottles. For two people, it’s a good size. In France they started 15 years ago to reintroduce this size. Sometimes you hesitate because two [75-cl] bottles is a lot, but two fillettes is perfect.

At the start of your career, you studied in Nantes and apprenticed under the legendary Beaujolais producer Jules Chauvet. What did you learn from him?

At the end of my studies, I had to produce what we call in France a mémoire [thesis]. I chose malolactic bacteria. I sent a letter to Jules Chauvet, who worked at a winery in Beaujolais with yeast, and he said, 'You are welcome to come.' I made my first harvest with him in 1967. I did it more to see how the malolactic bacteria worked, where and when the bacteria arrived.

He used natural yeast and tried to use less sulfur, fewer products. And he followed a fermentation for gamay that was a bit different: a lot of people know Jules Chauvet now not so much for his work with bacteria and yeast, but more for carbonic maceration.

When you retired, everyone thought you were done making wine. Now you have started a new chapter.

It was not exactly like that. What I wanted, when I retired from Jadot, was to pass my role on to the next generation. I was 65; I had worked for Jadot since 1970. It was important for the team to take charge. I am free for something different now, so I followed the vineyards.

For Lardière, Jadot's Williamette Valley vineyard is "exactly what we like: it is not too big."
© Louis Jadot | For Lardière, Jadot's Williamette Valley vineyard is "exactly what we like: it is not too big."

Jadot has many properties in France, but has never ventured overseas before. In August, the company announced it had purchased property in Oregon. Why?

We have a lot of friends in Oregon from a long time ago. We have tasted a lot of pinot and chardonnay from here, and even gamay! Since we have the best pinot and chardonnay in Burgundy, we know that the Willamette Valley is a very interesting place for these varieties. 

Of course, we also had this opportunity because I am more free. I am retired from Jadot. We came and visited and saw that this vineyard is exactly what we like: it is not too big. And we tasted some wines made by some different winemakers from this site. We got a feeling for the place. And we said, 'Yes. Bingo.'

Resonance Vineyard will offer your first opportunity to work with vines that are on their own roots. How do you feel about that?

For me it is very exciting, because they are something we used to have in Burgundy and don’t [have] anymore. But I am not sure that because it is ungrafted, there will be a great difference. That will be very interesting for me to understand. I don’t know yet. I need to have full vats of grapes fermenting.

Do you intend to practise biodynamic viticulture here in Oregon?

I think we will come back to biodynamie here, but we have to look and understand first. It will take two or three vintages for that. In Beaune, yes, we produce 20 or 25 hectares (49 to 61 acres) that are biodynamic.

And will you build a winery?

Of course. We don’t know where yet. You see, we just arrived. We have to understand the place.

L-R: The last day of the 2013 harvest at Resonance Vineyard; fermenting pinot noir grapes
© Louis Jadot | L-R: The last day of the 2013 harvest at Resonance Vineyard; fermenting pinot noir grapes

What was, in your opinion, the best vintage ever in Burgundy?

That is a really difficult question. It is still too early to say. Only with time can you make a big connection between the vintage and the place. It takes a minimum of 30 or 40 years.

Just for example, when I arrived at Jadot in 1970 we had a very nice quantity of Corton-Charlemagne ’59. We often served the ’59 and it was absolutely great, great, great, until 10 years ago. But now, the 1928 is absolutely glorious! No one would have believed it. No one spoke well about the ’28 at the time, it was, 'Oh, the ’29 is great.' We have a lot of examples like that.

What makes a grand cru site unique, in your opinion?

To me, the molecular potential and the potential of the flavor are the same. The more mother rock, the more soil you have on top. In some places, you have a connection with the elevation, and in others, you have friction, the dynamic of the earth. This means that your mother rocks become more warm. This warmth comes from the nucleus of the earth. If you have movement like that, and you have friction, you introduce a static electricity. The more activity from the ground, the better the result on the top is.

Do you mean to say that wines are better in seismic zones?

Yes, if the rock is warm and you have this activity, it is good. And if the ground is old, you have more facility for the mother rocks to be digested by micro-organisms – which is key. When I pass away, everything will disappear but my bones. We are all mineral. That is why it is important, when we taste wine, to always be connected to the minerality. 

Naturally, different places have more mineralization than others. Resonance Vineyard is very interesting, because it is an old place; the rock is maybe 45 million years old. The stone, if you take it and work it in your hands, it is friable. It was very good news when we came to visit last April and saw that.

What was the highlight of your career?

Maybe in 1985, when we become proprietors in Côte de Nuits-Villages, we had our first chance to ferment many grand and premier crus during a recognized vintage for both white and red wines. In our cellar, we had maybe 150 700-liter casks, from 80 or 85 climats. We made all these wines in the same way – to understand the range from village to grand cru. We saw the differences so clearly because the process was the same. 

What has been your low point?

When I said at the end of the 1970s that there are more than 2,500 flavors in pinot noir and chardonnay, people said, 'Jacques, you are completely crazy.' I said that flavor is not one molecule. And now scientists say that we have 4,000 flavor molecules.

What makes you happy?

I think the best is when your vats are fermenting, and you are waiting and tasting, and you understand that what must happen, is happening. You have faith. For me, wine is both an aesthetic beverage and a medicinal beverage – the best food that can exist in the world. 

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I see the work on my face. And time is time, everyone knows that. But I feel so young in my mind. The question is whether to do a lot more, or understand that it is time to stop and meditate. I am accepting of the rules and when my time arrives, I hope to be ready, but I am still full of life every day!

What brings you the greatest pleasure? 

(He laughs.) That is a crazy question. I have an answer, but I will not answer it. I will not be truthful.


Signup for our Free Weekly Newsletter

Write Comment

Recent Stories

Sherry-Lehmann's store on Park Avenue

Bordeaux Needs to "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" Says Sherry-Lehmann CEO

Bordeaux producers risk falling out of step with consumers, warns one of New York's top wine retailers.

Q&A: Elena Pantaleoni, the Leading Lady of "Natural Resistance"

The owner of La Stoppa winery is a respected leader in Italy’s natural wine movement. She features in “Mondovino” filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter’s new documentary, “Natural Resistance.”

Meet Tokaj Disznóko's László Mészarós

The managing director of Tokaj’s Disznókő estate, talks about changes in the wind for Hungary's famous sweet wines.

Sexual Fantasies in the ABC Cellar with Jim Clendenen

Jim Clendenen, the owner of Au Bon Climat (ABC) has been called “the most iconic American wine personality since Robert Mondavi." He tells Katherine Cole that his honesty and lack of "self-filter" gets him in trouble.

The Oz Clarke Interview

From Shakespearean actor to one the world’s best-loved wine personalities.

Alfred Tesseron: The Progressive Leader of Pontet-Canet

In his 20 years at the helm of Pauillac estate Château Pontet-Canet, Tesseron has introduced unconventional methods including green harvesting, biodynamics and now amphora. He reveals the ups and downs of his career.

Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle: From Grand Marnier to Grand Designs in Chile

The Grand Marnier heiress behind Chile's first-ever Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.

The Mugnier Interview: The Master of Musigny

What keeps Burgundy's Frédéric Mugnier awake at night?

The Next Generation at Domaine Chevrot

Pablo Chevrot returned to the Côte de Beaune village where he grew up to take over the reins at the family domaine in 2002. He has since converted to organics but it's not been easy, he explains.

The Interview: Life is a Cabaret For Jean-Charles Boisset

From French Rabbit Tetrapaks to grands crus Burgundy, the Boisset empire marches on, with a self-confessed dreamer at the helm.

Q&A: Moët & Chandon's Benoît Gouez

Why one of Champagne's leading producers has taken a step away from a "house style" for its vintage wines.

The DRC Interview: Aubert de Villaine

"Burgundy has always been, and will always be, a liability because it is not easy to understand."

Being Burgundian With Bruno Clair

Domaine Bruno Clair was born out of the old Clair-Daü estate, which was dismantled in the mid-1980s after difficulties over inheritance. Clair stepped into the breach.

The Force Behind Deutz Champagne

Fabrice Rosset is the heavy who rescued Champagne Deutz, built Louis Roederer’s import arm, and jazzed up the Rhône’s Delas Frêres brand. He opens up to Katherine Cole.

Hugh Johnson on His Life in Wine

After a long career in traditional publishing, the best-selling writer is now a Twitter devotee.

Site Map About Contact Business Advertising Social