Famed French winemaker stays dedicated to craft from SF home 

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
When you think of French winemakers, pastoral settings or palatial chateaux might come to mind, but arguably one of France’s best winemakers, Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac, lives right here in San Francisco.

Famous for being not only the most revered property in the Languedoc region of France, but also one of the first to work organically (since the beginning, chemicals have been avoided at all cost), Mas de Daumas Gassac was an old farm when Guibert’s parents purchased the property in 1969. Outside of about an acre of clairette, a southern French white variety, the land was planted for grain. Upon learning that the land was ideal for wine grapes, the Guibert family planted cabernet sauvignon, which they felt would be ideal for their terroir.

The first red was released in 1978 and the Gassac white was born in 1986.

During this time, the famed enologist Emile Peynaud consulted, preaching “finesse, complexity and balance.” While winemaking fashion has changed over the years, Mas de Daumas Gassac has never strayed from these principles, including judicious use of wood. Guibert puts it well by saying, “Oak is a way to prepare and integrate the wine, not to give it makeup.” Since taking over in 2007, he has continued the path set by Peynaud and his father. “It’s all about balance and low alcohol,” Guibert said.

After spending seven years in New Zealand, where he operated a wine importation company, Guibert joined his father in 1999. In 2003, he met his wife, Muffy, at the New York Wine Experience. A Bay Area native, she was the sales director for Gary Farrell along the Russian River. The couple were married in 2004 and have made San Francisco their primary residence.

The family, which now includes three children, spends its summers at the winery in Herault. Guibert stays there until the end of harvest, returning in time to enjoy the local autumn weather. Some might say this sounds like a dream job, while others might find it a bit inconvenient. But for Guibert, who loves San Francisco because it is both eclectic and close to nature, there are also practical business reasons to be stationed here.

The winery decided to stop working with a singular national importer in 2005.

It currently has 19 different importers and distributors in 34 states. This cuts out a tier in the distribution system, he says, but also requires being more directly involved in the market, which is much easier to do when an ocean is not involved.

Though labeled as vin de pays since cabernet sauvignon is not permitted in the appellation d’origine controlee, Mas de Daumas Gassac is considered legendary, as the wines age as well as many a Bordeaux. This makes both the red and the white — a blend of viognier, chardonnay, petit manseng and chenin blanc — a relative bargain for about $45.

The Guibert family purchased more land in 1991 and launched the Moulin de Gassac line. The Guilhem Blanc Rose and Rouge, which at about $11 a bottle are unbeatable for the price, are not too hard to find in the Bay Area, and with spring just a few days away, I highly recommend stocking up.

Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.

About The Author

Pamela S. Busch

Pamela Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com.
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