In early October, some of the team were warmly welcomed to Domaine Jean-Luc Colombo, a family-run estate managed by Jean-Luc, his wife Anne and their daughter Laure with passion, dedication and joy. On the first night, they hosted a dinner in their house, perched at the top of the Cornas hills amongst the vines, where they live with Nash and Fitou, their two golden retrievers who participate in the maintenance of the vineyards and gardens by chasing away the rabbits, foxes and other wild animals. Jean-Luc, a natural host, with his charisma and top-notch French gastronomic heritage, served us a mushroom dish with a dollop of butter from the world’s largest butter tower, followed by delicious steaks cooked au feu de bois in their wonderful fireplace, and finally a wheel of the most delicious L’Etivaz cheese and sublime tartes au pomme/ poire. These were of course paired with their delicious wines, notably their Cornas La Louvée 2010 and Cornas Les Ruchets 2011.

The next day, we had a sales & marketing conference followed by a tour of the beautiful and, at times, steep St. Peray and Cornas vineyards, where they have three single-vineyard Cornas; Les Ruchets , La Louvée and Vallon de L’Aigle and one multi-vineyard selection for Terres Brûlées. Saint Peray is the southernmost appellation of the Northern Rhone and enjoys the climatic influences of two regions (the Mediterranean and the Continental climates). They have adopted sustainable and organic practices in their vineyards, with zero use of pesticides and a focus on preserving wildlife and flora and the encouragement of natural biodiversity. Additionally, irrigation is banned in the Cornas AOP area, which forces the vines to create deeper root systems. Laure Colombo in 2012 launched the organic certification process for their estate (officially called ECOCERT in Europe), which has been effective since the 2015 vintage.

Surprises were what made this trip all the more special. The first surprise was an electric bike tour of the vineyards, a great way to discover the area and the fantastic views of the Rhone valley. The next, being a Bond-themed dinner in the Jean-Luc Colombo winery to celebrate the recently launched No Time to Die film!

The trip ended with a trip down south to the beautiful Blue Coast, home to their La Dame de Rouet, Collines de Laure, Anthénors and Picpoul de Pinet wines, and where Jean-Luc was born. La Dame de Rouet was actually named after Notre Dame du Rouet, a beautiful chapel we visited, facing the Mediterranean sea. Near the Gulf of Marseille, in the limestone hills facing the Mediterranean Sea, Jean-Luc purchased parcels of land from various proprietors, which allowed him to create a new vineyard which he planted in 2009. This “Anthénors” vineyard is in an area called “Vallon de Champs Fleuri” in the middle of a pine forest, surrounded by cypress and olive trees. We were lucky enough to see their ongoing project down there – including the new winery and expansion of the outdoor terrace.

It was an extremely informative, fun and unforgettable trip, defined by the power of teamwork! Thank you to the team at Jean-Luc Colombo for hosting us ever so well!