(article written 2005)
It was a special day at the Tampa’s Pelagia Trattoria, inside the Rennaissance Hotel recently. The occasion? A special luncheon for Monsieur Bruno Lafon of Magalas, France when he came to introduce the Trattoria’s first private label Domaine Magellan French wines. While the vintner introduced the new rouge and a blanc, Chef Fabrizio Schenardi introduced and sent around dishes from his new menu.
Lafon is a sensitive, astute Frenchman, soft-spoken with a friendly glint in his eye. Bespeckled with distinguishing horizontal, oblong, rimless glasses, he speaks passionately about his Domaine Magellan wines. “It is important, we do not age them in oak for the entire process. We start with oak then transfer the wine to concrete containers for the rest of the aging,” he explains.
Bruno Lafon is from a famous winemaking Burgundian family who has made top-of-the-line wines for many years. In 1998, he and his sister-in-law Sylvie Legros, after much searching, decided to purchase the estate of Domaine Magellan, in the south of France, in region of Languedoc, Roussillon, in the village of Magales. It was a long search and a large undertaking.
Domaine Magellan is composed of 4200 acres across two large hills. In the distance the countryside view sweeps the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenean Mountains and the Black Mountains. The estate, founded in the end of the 19th century, was very famous during the 60s and 70s because of the efforts of a Paul Granier, one of the pioneers who built up the new Languedoc wine region. His early death in the beginning of the 1980s stopped the development of the estate, and twenty years later, nearly everything was in ruin except the vines themselves.
The region consists of two very different and favorable terroirs: one was clay with rolled pebbles, while the other was mostly sandstone. Everyone told Bruno to pull up the vines … because they would never make good wine. Lafon was determined to keep the vines, convinced that the terroir was good and with close care and careful management, he could turn the vineyards around. Part of his plan was to use no grass-killers and a minimum of pesticides. He would apply some of his family’s Burgundian techniques reserved for Pinot Noir. Bruno Lafon’s efforts were rewarded!
Michael Vaughan, in National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits, after many tastings reported in October of 2004, during his careful search for an affordable big, juicy red from the Midi region of France reported, “Domaine Magellan 2000 Les Collines is the tastiest value.”
It’s not all work, however, for the resourceful vintner. He also belongs to the Turn of the Wine Growers, a cycling group of about fifteen vintners with a common passion for good wine. Each May the excursion cyclists roll out into the open country bringing their bicycles and their wines which are tasted affectionately at three dinners during the Turn. The membership of the Turn of the Vine growers is not come by lightly and the qualification process can take some time. All the members sport splendid yellow jerseys emblazoned with a cartoon by French cartoonist, Robert Blachon … and “Tour des Vignerons!”
At the present time, the new Domaine Magellan private label wines for Renaissance’s PELAGIA TRATORIA are the first private label imported wines for any Marriott property. The wine will retail at $35 per bottle; $8.75 per glass.
Pelagia Vin Rouge:
Cabernet 33%, Merlot 33%, Syrah 33%, Grenache 1%
Pelagia Vin Blanc:
Chardonnay 70%, Grenache Blanc 15%, Bourboulenc 13%, Muscat 2%.
All Renaissance so-called street restaurants are signature dining establishments with entrances separate from the hotel, so each can maintain its individual identity.