While many winemakers from California and France compete over who makes the best wine, a few vignerons are choosing to team up instead. Here are four notable collaborations—three involve mixing wine from both regions in one bottle, and the third is a California-style wine using grapes from France.
Détente and Deux Terres
Husband-and-wife team Joey and Jennifer Tensley of Santa Barbara County already produce two wines under private labels—Tensley, made by Joey, and Lea, made by Jennifer—but they recently added two trans-Atlantic bottlings. For Détente (French for relaxation and good relations), Joey worked with Owner and Winemaker Cécile Dusserre of Domaine de Montvac to create a Rhône-style blend using 50% Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah and 50% Domaine de Montvac Grenache from 80-year-old vines.
Jennifer worked with Roger Belland and daughter, Julie Belland, of Domaine Roger Belland to produce Deux Terres (French for two lands)—a blend of Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills and the Commes Premier Cru in Santenay. Despite the provenance, they cannot put a vintage on the bottle, and the label must read “Red Wine 50% France, 50% America.”
Domaine des Deux Mondes
Morgan Clendenen, owner and winemaker of Cold Heaven Cellars in Santa Barbara County, teamed up with winemaker Yves Cuilleron, of Cave Yves Cuilleron, to create Deux C and Saints and Sinners, under the Domaine des Deux Mondes brand. The bottlings are a blend of wine vinified from Clendenen’s Viognier grapes with Cuillerons grapes grown in Condrieu. It was during Clenendon’s first French harvest in 2004—“the single biggest eye-opener”—that she learned how different “the equipment, the vineyards and [the grapes’ appearance]” were in France. Yet despite these differences and the challenge of transporting expensive barrels of Condrieu, Clendenen says, “[I] enjoyed the learning experience and Yves has been a wonderful mentor…making me a better winemaker.”
Winemaker Manfred Krankl, of California’s cult winery Sine Qua Non, collaborated with Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer Clos Saint Jean Owners/brothers Pascal and Vincent Maurel and wine consultant Philippe Cambie, to create Chimère—a Rhône wine made in Krankl’s California style. The 2010 blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache was made and bottled in France and labeled and sold by Krankl. The 2011 will also be Mourvèdre-based, and there may be a California version in future years.