A cook by training, François Villard developed a passion for wine at the age of 20. Not knowing how to integrate the world of wine, he completed a year of Professional Brevet in sommellerie at Tain l'Hermitage. The meetings were decisive and gave him the desire to become a winegrower. Subsequently, he enrolled in Davayé, with a view to obtaining the Professional Agricultural Certificate, option in viticulture and oenology.
At the same time, he began to acquire his first wasteland in the town of St Michel in the Condrieu appellation. The first vine was planted in the spring of 1989, as soon as it obtained its patent. The first Condrieu was produced in 1991 and the first 400 bottles were released in the fall of 1992.
While his first vinifications took place in Verlieu, in a cellar behind Yves Cuilleron's, he decided to build his own building in 1996 in St Michel Sur Rhône. It was also on this date that he embarked on the adventure of reviving the Seyssuel vineyard with his colleagues Yves Cuilleron and Pierre Gaillard.
The estate now has more than 40 hectares of vines, supplemented with a few purchases of grapes and produces around 400,000 bottles a year. All the work in the vineyard is done entirely manually and the estate has been in organic conversation on the Ecocert label since August 2019.
The attention paid to the vines and the care taken to preserve these specific terroirs are constant and accompany the cultivation throughout the year. The harvest is decided plot by plot so that each bunch is harvested with perfect maturity.
Spanning the longest stretch of river in the northern Rhône—from Condrieu in the north, to Cornas in the south—the heart of St.-Joseph lies directly across the Rhône River from Hermitage. While its soils are basically the same as Hermitage: granite, supplemented by sand and gravel, its east facing slope receives less sunlight than Hermitage, which causes less overall berry ripening on its Syrah vines. However, some of the best of them can rival any fine expression of Hermitage, Cote-Rotie or Cornas with concentrated black fruits, dark spices, crushed rock and violets. A general advantage of the region is that its Syrahs typically don’t need as much time in the bottle compared to a Cote-Rotie or Hermitage and are much easier on the bank account!
A textbook St.-Joseph red is firm with a core of minerality that is enhanced by savory and peppery qualities. Aromas and flavors of smoke, olives, herbs, and violets are common; its wines are dense in red and black fruit.
St.-Joseph is also a source of fine northern Rhône white wine. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grow well here and can be blended or made into single varietal wines. St.-Joseph whites are full and silky with citrus, pear and pineapple flavors and a rich bouquet reminiscent of honeysuckle, toasted nuts, spice and caramel.
One of the star whites of the Rhône Valley and ubiquitous throughout southern France, historically vignerons have favored Marsanne for its hardy and productive vines. It can make a fruity and delicious single varietal wine as well as a serious, full-bodied version with amazing aging potential. The best examples of Marsanne come from the northern Rhone appellations where it is also blended with Roussanne. Sommelier Secret—Some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the entire world exist not in France but in Australia, in the Victoria region. Settlers planted it in the mid to late 1800s, calling it “white Hermitage.”