TITLE: Malbec and Malbec Create a Respite Unlike Any Other…

Malbec and Malbec = Denis and May-Britt Malbec, the foremost wine making team, with a very unique background and amazing credentials.

Respite = Respite Winery, the Alexander Valley, artisan treasure.

Bringing the title together:

I first met Malbec and Malbec at the recent Charles Reichel family’s brand launch party for their Respite wine. Jose and I have been friends with the Reichels dating back to my Belvedere Winery days in the early 1990s. Corinne Reichel was  marketing director, while I was communications coordinator. Her husband Charles was managing their Alexander Valley ranch and vineyards. Their children, Sarah (now married to Monoo Prasad), Valerie (now married to Dan Moberg), and Leland were all at different educational levels.

[L to R: Charles Reichel, Denis Malbec, May-Britt Malbec]

At work, Corinne recognized my dedication and determination; and before I knew what had happened, my job had morphed into a district sales manager traveling the United States and Puerto Rico. (I’ve only missed about 10 states, having been to all the others.)  Corrine scheduled for me to go everywhere for sales, marketing and wine events, while still pulling off all my communications coordinator duties. We were on a serious roll under her direction.

Meanwhile, Corinne was also heavily on the road, while her family was farming their Alexander Valley property, most especially engaging son Leland  in all things viticulture. Today, Leland has a degree in viticulture from Cal Poly, and is currently a viticulturist for Constellation, as well as working with his family.

I’ve written earlier about a picnic we had mountainside at their vineyards: Reichel Vineyards in Alexander Valley ~ High as a Kite.

This property is a 20 acre south-facing vineyard, located northeast of Cloverdale in the Alexander Valley Appellation. It ranges from 2,300 to 2,500 feet in elevation; and is part of a 400 acre ranch, that was originally purchased in 1948 by Corinne’s grandfather.

A Family Affair:

Now, the Reichels have joined the ranks of so many others growing grapes who want the pleasures (and work) that are associated with owning one’s own brand: Respite. I should say that by day, Charles is a CPA who owns his own firm in Healdsburg, Reichel CPA. Daughter Valerie and her husband Dan Moberg (pictured above pouring the family wine has an extensive background in wine sales) own Vintelligent Marketing.

Winemakers to Actualize the Dream:

The family has all the elements for success; and, in order to showcase the full potential of their grapes’ worth, they hired Malbec and Malbec. Winemakers from Bordeaux and St. Helena, California, with dual residences, this is an unusually talented wine making team, for which there is no quickly recognizable parallel that easily comes to mind.

This vibrant, husband and wife couple is Denis and May-Britt Malbec. Briefly:

  • Having been born and raised at Latour, Denis has deep viticultural and wine making roots with Château Latour of Pauillac.
  • May-Britt is a European Master Sommelier, who has won the Prince Henri-Melchior de Polignac award, for best sommelier in the Nordic countries.

Denis Malbec

For Denis, being born at Latour allowed him to daily walk in between the barrels and bike through the vineyards. This was his neighborhood. As a result, he inherently learned vineyard and winery management with his father, Jean-Noel Malbec. Jean-Noel was also born at Latour, working there for 47 years. His tenure was from 1947 to 1994. Jean-Noel was cellar master from 1969 to 1994.

Denis’ grand father, Camille Malbec, worked in the vineyard from the 1920s  until the end of the 1970s. Denis spent his childhood in the gardens of Latour with his grandfather. It is his grandfather whom Denis credits as being the influential person that connected him to the earth’s bounty. He also developed a profound joi de vivre for nature at Latour, where he daily enjoyed the gardens, vineyards, and exploring the majesty of the Gironde River, with only 328 yards from vineyards to the riverbank. As a child, Denis was closely connected to nature: birds, fish, animals, dogs, and the air.

Leaving home to find his destiny, Denis first studied viticulture and enology in Bordeaux and later in Reims, Champagne. He completed his studies with a “Tour de France” of the vineyards with internships:

  • Château Haut-Brion – 1988
  • Château Lagrange – 1988
  • Pugnac Cooperative – 1989
  • Côte de Bourg, Léon Viollant – 1990
  • Owner and wine merchant in Côte de Beaune, Duval Leroy – 1990 & 1991
  • Côte des Blancs in Champagne
  • Calvet – 1992, negociant in Bordeaux
  • Started at Château Latour as one of the cellar workers in 1993
  • Took the position as Enologist and Cellar Master at Château Latour in 1994, making the vintages from 1994 to 1999

May-Britt Malbec

May-Britt began her career in wine as a sommelier in Sweden, land of her origin. Here she  worked in many of Stockholm’s top restaurants. She then started her own restaurant, “Le Bateau,” on the Royal Star, a yacht built in 1964 for King Frederic of Denmark.

In 1992, she won the Prince Henri-Melchior de Polignac award, for best sommelier in the Nordic countries, with Serena Sutcliffe as foreman of the jury. It enabled her to become part of important juries; such as, “Le Mondial” for the best sommelier in the world, as well as the Trophée Ruinart for the best European sommelier.

May-Britt moved to France in 1995 to take care of public relations at the well-respected Château Latour in Pauillac. At Latour she met Denis Malbec, who was the cellar master and enologist.

In 2000, they decided to leave the property and start their own wine consulting company. This would allow the couple to express their knowledge and philosophy of wine in a personal, more diversified way.

Today they consult for eight artisan wineries in and around  Napa Valley (including Respite), as well as a few châteaux in Bordeaux. They have been in the wine business for 15 years.

It’s their energy and expertise, along with the Reichel family’s passion and commitment, that gives us all a taste of Respite, unlike any other we’ve ever known… A gorgeous Bordeaux style wine from high atop Alexander Valley.

When I tasted the 2006 Respite Alexander Valley, Reichel Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, I realized that I was tasting a very special wine.

All of the elements mentioned above ~ this is what it takes to make a family wine ~ plus the luscious, blackberry, mouth-filling fruit notes from these pampered Cab grapes~ give forth an exceptional experience.

At $48.00 per bottle, this wine just rocks my palate.