The Rhône Valley is world renowned for its rich and incredible wines: Côte Rôtie, Saint Joseph, Crozes Hermitage and the very limited and prestigious Hermitage. Many small, independent and family-operated domains sit on this small but very reputable land. In the last five years, there’s been a serious push to develop wine tourism in the region and international sales to get the recognition this wine-producing region so deserves.
One of these domains is the Michelas St Jemms vineyard, a family-owned, second-generation winery, located in the town of Mercurol, on the lands of the Crozes Hermitage wine designation.
The vineyard was founded in 1961 by Robert and Yvette Michelas and in 1988, their four children, Sylvie, Florence, Corinne and later Sébastien took over the estate. Michelas St Jemms produces four types of wines over 50 hectares of land, parceled through the Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Cornas designated lands.In the last three years, the family has worked effortlessly to modernize the vineyard and lay a foundation for its next chapter: developing its offering abroad and taking part in the wine tourism market that is flourishing in France.
The entire estate was redone: the tasting cellar is modern, well lit, yet cozy and comfortable. The immense room where orders are stored now also serves as a reception hall, as well as a gallery space for local artists. The use of new techniques or materials for vinification is apparent in the laboratory area of the estate. During my visit with Sylvie Michelas who’s in charge of Sales and Communication, we came across her two sisters, Florence and Corinne labeling the soon-to-be-shipped bottles. This is clearly a family-owned, but more importantly operated business. Each sibling has a specific role. Sébastien is in charge of the vines and wine-making and his sisters of the bottling and quality control of the production. Is it a small business? Yes, for sure. But it’s an estate where you sense that there is incredible knowledge and passion, acquired over the years of hands-on work in the vineyard, and an openness to change that is exemplary and refreshing.
The family understands that there’s a market for wine tourism and they fully plan on jumping on the bandwagon. They offer excursions in the vines by Segway and a selection of wine-tasting sessions at the domain, whether you’d like an introductory tasting class or a deeper more complex wine tasting session. I particularly like the idea of their “Dégustation plaisir” where you will savor dishes in perfect harmony with the wines. (I am often hesitant when buying a bottle wine, for fear that it won’t compliment my dish ands this type of atelier is a perfect way to acquire this oh so important knowledge.) But they do insist that what pushed them to develop such services is the interaction they have with people, another way to share their passion.
The attention to detail, such as the beautiful wine bottle installation in the tasting session room or the dining area creates an inviting space. In my humble opinion, the development of this vineyard is a sure thing. With openness and a will to develop their visibility abroad, they’ve hired Laurent Gomez, who’s in charge of international sales.
Tomorrow, we sit down with Sylvie Michelas and Laurent Gomez to fully understand the depth and complexities of the Michelas St Jemms wines and get a sense of their understanding of the French wine market as it stands, particularly as an independent winemaker.