François Pinon (1951-2021)
<p><strong>Please check back as we will update this section with tributes from all of us at LDM. </strong></p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/57/52/575285be38d481ce59cd5d971db988fb.jpg" /></p> <p><strong><u>Words from Jules Dressner:</u></strong></p> <p>How to describe François Pinon? From looks alone, you could gather through his trademark ascot, hat, thick glasses and bushy beard that there was an intellectual there. And that was true: prior to returning to his family estate, François was a young professor and later a child psychologist and psychoanalyst. Maybe to the passerby, his look might have come off as reserved and private, the type of guy who takes everything too seriously and never cracks a smile. But all it took was a few moments sitting and talking with him, seeing the beginning of his mischievous grin form after making a dry joke, his wonderful sense of humor coming to light: you knew you were in the midst of someone special. His intelligence was unquestionable but never intimidating, his opinions strong and always well thought out. If you paid attention, he could be the funniest person in the room. But what I’ll miss most was François’ emanating warmth and kindness. </p> <p>So many memories came flooding back last night as I ate my simple dinner (a soup and a glass of Touraine Pinot Noir, very <em>paysan</em> though lacking bread), both from France and his numerous visits to the USA, a tradition I know he relished. In no particular order: François walking us through his hailed vines in summer 2013. Telling us about a downed World War 2 aircraft in one of his parcels. Joe Dougherty guessing the 1953 vintage blind during a winter tasting (I’ll never forget the surprised but satisfied smile on François’ face). François picking up my girlfriend at the Tours train station because her flight had been delayed. Us “Home Alone-ing” him by leaving the hotel without him on an early train ride during one of the US March tours (Seattle?). My interview with him while drinking beer from a keg on a bus from LA to SF in 2011. The beginnings of his son Julien joining the estate, their first trip together to the US in March. The trove of old Pinon bottles we get to enjoy every summer in Saint-Gengoux…</p> <p>A colloquial French term I often use with my mother is <i>vieux de la vieille</i>. It’s essentially a way of saying “old school” and usually in reference to the vignerons we’ve been working with since the early 1990’s. Louis/Dressner Selections is almost as old as I am; in its 30+ years of existence we’ve managed to retain a sizable amount of <i>vieux de la vieille</i> relationships, putting me in the unique position of knowing many of these vignerons since I was a little kid (and vice versa). They’ve seen me grow up, go from a punk kid dragged to their vineyards to a young man curious about their work and ultimately brought into the fold. In many ways, they’ve become relatives of sorts, part of an extended family. </p> <p>François was one of my inspirations for joining LDM. Long before I had any interest in terroir, vintages, regions or wine for that matter, I was inspired by the peace of mind I perceived in vignerons like François, Catherine Roussel and Marc Ollivier. Here were these peasants, a term most would consider derogative, smiling, happy, laughing, satisfied despite their work in the vines, simple country homes and humble way of life. I’d also observe the relationship my parents had with them, the satisfaction and genuine joy in reuniting over bottles and a meal. I may have been a punk kid bored to tears, but I was paying attention. François was a link, an affirmation to our improbable history with France, to peasants, to the humanity we find in those places.</p> <p>When Julien’s friend Maxime Robin <a href="https://www.larvf.com/,vin-naturel-etas-unis-la-releve-de-l-importateur-louis-dressner-est-assuree,10337,4250301.asp">profiled me in 2013 for la Revue des Vins de France</a>, François’s kind quotes on LDM and my joining the business really meant the world; I’d just moved back to NYC, it hadn’t been that long since Joe had passed and hearing that the <em>vieux de la vieille</em> had my back gave me the confidence I needed back then. On the phone with Julien, he told me they spoke about us often and that François felt he’d learned a lot from us. Well, the feeling is reciprocal. </p> <p>One memory that really marked me was a summer night (probably 2016) having dinner at the Lemasson with Denyse. Olivier pulled out a bottle of François’ Vouvray. For some reason I was a bit shocked; Olivier is on the more militant side with his own winemaking and I’d falsely assumed that a wine like François’ would be of no interest to him. But he told me they’d become friends over the years on the USA trips and yearly Valaire tastings and now regularly exchanged bottles. We didn’t talk much about it past that but it was clear everyone enjoyed the wine. On a deeper level it affirmed that our work, despite it crossing many boundaries and work philosophies, was always grounded in this love of people and relationships. I am so happy that François became close to many of the other vignerons we work with and introduced him to.</p> <p>If COVID hadn’t happened we’d be in the Loire today, fully expecting to visit or see François at one point or another, taste the new wines and catch up. I’d originally planned to spend an extensive part of my summer touring the Loire, a daunting feat last accomplished in 2016. While we’ve all had to accept the disruptions in our lives, I was fully expecting to see everyone again. So this hurts bad. </p> <p>Through the pain I am finding solace in remembering François’ warmth, something he seemed to have in never ending supply. I don’t know if this is unique to me, but most people I’ve known since early childhood have always looked exactly the same as years went by, bringing me great comfort in their familiarity. I know that’s a distortion of reality (pictures posted on social media confirm François once had brown in his beard), but this is perhaps what we (I?) do to remember and immortalize. François will always be the ascot, the hat, the white beard, that mischievous grin, the warmth, the kindness, the years of collaboration and friendship. </p> <p>François, you will be greatly missed and never forgotten. </p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/33/04/3304e33d2eadf89b47ad68beb4eb839a.jpg" /></p> <p><u><strong>Words from Josefa Concannon:</strong></u></p> <p>I was traveling to Europe for the first time on my own in 2007, the ink barely dry on my divorce papers; and was headed to France on what was the first of many LDM trips to The Loire Valley. I was working for Maverick Wines as the American Portfolio Manager, so this trip was on my dime. The keeper of the purse strings at the time thought that this was not an allowable expense, but I insisted on going and Joe welcomed me.</p> <p>Our visit to Pinon was memorable for many reasons - the visit in the cellar tasting the new wines, followed by a convivial and delicious dinner prepared by his wife, Odile, was a day and evening full of laughter and great memories. It was even more special because they graciously opened up their home to a stranger and I got to spend the night. I was given one of the girl’s old rooms with a lilliputian bed, which was perfect for a person of my short stature and for a cold January night. At that time, my French was no better than it was when I got out of college but breakfast the next morning was where my friendship with François was permanently cemented. I had a copy of The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan that I had just finished reading and offered to leave it with him, but he said he had already read the French translation and managed to pull a copy our from one of the many bookshelves in the house. Our conversation, strained a bit by the language barrier, evolved around the vine and how its evolution was also part of this greater conversation of man and our relationship to nature.</p> <p>Later that week, at the Salon in Angers, I showed up at his booth with Joe, and we tasted through the new wines again, and this time, he was showing a bottle of 1964, perhaps as an example of the age-worthiness of the wines or maybe he was offering it to clients as a cellar release, I am not sure. I mentioned that I was thrilled to be tasting a birth year wine, probably for the first time in my life. I have to think that he never forgot this because I recall tasting this wine with him on numerous occasions after this. Always when we visited him at the estate and once, back in 2008 or 2009, at the home of our late friend, Joe Dougherty. The last time we shared old wine with him was two years ago in his cellar, where he once again pulled out a<br /> bottle of 1964. Its brilliance was only eclipsed by the next bottle, a 1945, the first vintage that his father Claude had made - a storied vintage because so many vigneron in Vouvray, a region hit hard and at the front lines of many battles during WWII, managed to coax out a beautiful vintage from vines that that had not been properly tended for a few years. </p> <p>From drinking old wines at the estate, to the many years of tastings and travel together, I hold my memories of François dear. As many others have said, François was more than just a vigneron. His kindness and gentle manner, his sense of humor and playfulness, and most of all his humanity make this such a painful loss for me. And to Julien, Suzanne, and Lucie – sending you much love and light. May his memory be for a blessing and may our words bring you some comfort in knowing how much the rest of our little wine world held him in such high regard.</p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/bd/fc/bdfc233b2768a7171d87cc27573d4c76.png" /><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/e7/16/e716212bdc666590c531a0204975feeb.jpg" /></p> <p><u><strong>Words from Carl Moberg:</strong></u></p> <p>The first time I had a bottle of wine from François Pinon was many years ago. It was the nascency of what would become my love-affair with the wines of the Loire Valley. I had tasted Vouvray before, but something about this bottling of Silex Noir made me take notice. When looking back on my tasting notes, I had avoided all the silly flowery language I was prone to at that time and just wrote “Astounding.”</p> <p>It would be years later when I would meet François for the first time at a Louis/Dressner event in Chicago. After tasting at a few other tables I noticed that there was no one at François’s table and I immediately made my way over. Tasting through the full range of the wines was obviously a delight. However, it was getting a chance to chat uninterrupted with François that was so enjoyable. He was patient and humorous in answering the absurd number of questions I had about the winemaking process and just exuded warmth and knowledge.</p> <p>Last year when we visited the Pinon estate, it was my first opportunity to tour the house and cellar. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to walk in the vines because it was a typical January afternoon in the Loire, cold and rainy. It was wonderful to see the pride François took in his son Julien, who was leading the tour, while François stood back and occasionally chimed in with support. After the tour he switched into consummate host and plied us with old vintages and put out a stunning spread of food capped off by a lovely galette des rois. Upon saying our goodbyes, I awkwardly messed up la bise and François just laughed it off. His graciousness and kindness indelibly impressed upon me. He will be greatly missed.</p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/4c/cf/4ccf5d97a495c8b7089a02d73d32bae4.jpg" /></p> <p><u><strong>Words from David Lillie:</strong></u></p> <p><a href="https://www.chambersstwines.com/Articles/12946/francois-pinon-a-dear-friend-has-passed-away">Please follow this link to read David Lillie's tribute to François</a>. It was David who discovered the wines in the late 1980's and introduced us to the estate. </p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/cd/b5/cdb58ab20e0bb384321c543e32d04643.jpg" />Photo courtesy of Isaac Rosenthal. </p> <p><u><strong>Words from Kevin McKenna:</strong></u></p> <p>We almost lost François Pinon once. It was on my very first trip with Joe and Denyse to France in the summer and the Loire Valley. Joe had made up his mind to stop working with François with whom he and Denyse had been importing for just a few years. The reasoning was if we couldn’t work with Huet or Foreau why struggle with a Vouvray? I was a bit disappointed because I liked the wines and saw potential for them. And I was already Chenin lover. But I was new and a bit green and didn’t express my hesitation.</p> <p>We didn’t have time on this trip to go over to Vouvray, so Joe set up a meeting in Azay-Le-Rideau after our visit to a producer with whom we were working at the time. We sat at an outdoor cafe at the marked hour, and arrived a very unassuming man with a gentle manner, an ascot and a tweed flat cap - <i>l’air Anglais.</i> The conversation started, continued for an hour and by the end we were happily continuing representing François’s wines. François had in a very well-reasoned way convinced Joe that he was worth sticking with even though he had no expectations to become the next Pinguet or a Foreau. He was on the backside of Vouvray - in the Vallée de Cousse in Vernou - the top vineyard sites were in the front line <i>côte </i>in Vouvray. But his intention was to make the absolute best wines he could with the material he had, which was certainly not sub-par. His professed intention to take the harder route to making a true expression of his terroir and, in fact, his charm won the day.</p> <p>The following years solidified our relationship and François’s abilities as a first-rate winemaker with the skill, intelligence and curiosity to make very enjoyable, classic Chenins from clay and silex based limestones of Vouvray. As François came to identify and differentiate his terroirs by bottling, he taught me much about soil and its effect on Chenin Blanc. His learning curve was always a shared experience. In the meantime, François had converted to organic, changed the pruning, and was presented with some very good vintages in the mid-nineties. A perfect storm for enhancing his reputation first in the US and then also in France and Europe. </p> <p>On his many trips to the US on our tour and beyond, François was always in demand and received with great warmth and encouragement. On our many visits to his vineyards and cellar, François was a great source of knowledge and an unrelenting searcher in evaluating the work in the vines and in the cellar. In adverse circumstances like the spring flooding of 2008 or the hailstorms of 2013, not to mention the constant threats of late spring frosts, François stoically and pragmatically faced the consequences and still always managed to keep any trace of the adversity out of his wines. Furthermore, he was always a willing and generous host for hosting our group (which could hover or exceed 20 persons) in his home, at his table. His late wife, Odile, was a deft hand at curative soups for a tasting-weary crowd. Old vintages were always uncorked (a rare place where I was able to taste wine from my birth year - and not just once!) And the apple tart that Claude, his retired father, always gifted us became legendary and of blue-ribbon regard among those lucky enough to experience it. </p> <p>Now, personally, I am greatly saddened at the loss of one of the most even, modest and easiest of winemakers of unmistakeable talent. It was always a great pleasure to be in the company of him and his family - Suzanne when she would come to the US with him, and then Julien who has been working with his dad for about 5 years now. François is on of the orginals of our portfolio and gave so much knowledge to our company about soil, Chenin blanc, vine husbandry and acidity - the only of our Chenin producers to meticulously each year share the analysis of each wines - most importantly residual sugar, total acidity and ph. He was also always forthcoming about his use of sulfur and has since early days strove to keep the content at minimal levels. His trademark graphic incorporates the idea of a bud or seedling just as it is bursting forth; to me that symbol also represents the man, M. Pinon, who found that the earth and closeness to its force was the path to remarkable wine. Goodbye, dear friend, teacher, most noble man.</p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/93/07/9307bed9e7c4026c97c3673f649a13cd.jpg" /></p> <p><u><strong>Words from Denyse Louis:</strong></u></p> <p>François dressed like a <i>gentleman farmer</i>. And he was a real gentleman, but above all a farmer. He was elegant, distinguished, erudite, never pedantic or judgmental, passionate about his land and his work and he spoke impeccable French (something important to me; I believe people from Touraine and Anjou speak the best French in the country). He was a calm presence, serious and meticulous in his work and his words. But all one had to do was to look at his very blue eyes to discover a mischievous sparkle, true to his great sense of humor and gentleness.<br /> <br /> Every visit in Vallée de Cousse was a pleasure. There was always something new to learn from him, but mainly we enjoyed the warmth of his and Odile's welcome, the meals shared, the tastings in the small cellar dug into the hill, the beautiful garden with its fig and lemon trees, the flowers Odile so lovingly tended.<br /> <br /> François loved to come to the US: he felt invigorated and refreshed by the welcome he would get from "his Americans", the youth and enthusiasm of the tasters, how lively and fun the tastings and everything around them were. It was such a contrast to the rather staid, and much older customers he would meet in Europe that he went home with more optimism and determination to make his best wines possible.</p> <p>During these numerous trips, he quickly became a regular member of our gang of winemakers and started long lasting friendships with most. When we left him behind at our hotel in Seattle, en route to Portland, he made it to the station at the last minute and had to endure endless teasing from his colleagues. He took with his usual humor: after all, he had enjoyed a solid breakfast and wasn't sorry for it.<br /> <br /> It was impossible not to love him, we hear from his fellow winemakers. Our thoughts go to Suzanne and Lucie, his daughters, his father Claude and his companion Isabelle, with sorrow and affection. We know Julien will carry on the work with the same dedication, which he has already demonstrated. We look forward to many vintages of his in the future.<br /> <br /> Thank you, François, for your wines and your friendship over so many years.</p> <p><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/bd/c9/bdc9a9604b6d43ad8a95e08c79e6778c.jpg" /><img src="https://louisdressner.com/uploads/images/article//736/0b/ee/0bee9122a38a4b3ae14ec32e2af1f13b.jpg" />Photo courtesy of Isaac Rosenthal. </p>
How does The New Website Work?
This is very exciting stuff!
<p><u><strong>Desktop vs Mobile:</strong></u></p> <p>We know it's 2020 and people use their phones a lot. So we've worked hard on ensuring the site functions well on mobile (especially compared to what it once was). Having said that, desktop is the recommended way of perusing the site.</p> <p><u><strong>Glossary:</strong></u></p> <p>At its core, this has always been a website written for wine professionals *attempting* to glean information on the wines we import (and hopefully see a picture of the vigneron's dog). Since the language can be so technical, we've added an <glossary term="glossary" title="1427">interactive glossary</glossary> to the text for those unfamiliar with the baffllingly complex world of wine terminology. Even if you're a seasoned pro, it will frankly teach you a thing or two. And if you'd rather read the content without the glossary, simply head to the main menu bar and turn it off. </p> <p> <u><strong>Our Wines Section: </strong></u></p> <p>In the new "Our Wines" section, we've offered a variety of filter categories for you to explore and discover all the cuvées we import. These filters can be combined together to narrow down results. If you hit a wall, simply erase one of the filters or clear all filters. </p> <p><u><strong>Actual Information About the Wines:</strong></u></p> <p>Speaking of the wines, the number one complaint we would get from customers was the lack of technical information on the wines themselves. It's not a coincidence that we spend the vast majority of our energy focusing on the people behind the wines and their dogs; it's what we dig about what we do.</p> <p>Having said that, 95% of the wines we import now have EXTREMELY detailed technical information, dare I say the most technical anywhere on the internet. Please enjoy now while they are up to date, knowing that half of these will probably be totally wrong by next vintage. </p> <p><u><strong>Search:</strong></u></p> <p>If you know what producer or wine you are searching for, the search should quickly autofill what you need. Go ahead, give it a whirl.</p> <p><strong><u>Hyperlinks:</u></strong></p> <p>Everything on the website has a hyperlink now. This means you can easily share a specific producer page, article, wine or filter combination with anyone. </p> <p><u><strong>Copy/Paste:</strong></u></p> <p>If you need to copy/paste anything, the glossary needs to be turned off for the text to paste correctly. Also, if you are going to straight up use our writing verbatim, PLEASE credit us when doing so. Seems obvious but we see it happen all the time. </p> <p><u><strong>A Shit-Ton of Written Content:</strong></u></p> <p>The articles themselves can often be very long, and for this reason we developed a Propriety Pop Up System™ where you can easily scroll through various articles/wines and "pop out" to efficiently look at the rest of the content.</p> <p>We've tried our best to pack as many dog pictures as possible in there, but the digital ink has been spilled: the cumulation of decades' worth of writings from Joe, Denyse, Kevin and Jules is here for you to read. A huge part of the work with this new website was to find better ways to condense and extract essential information you need without getting lost in all that BORING text. </p> <p>We still think you should check it out. Don't worry, there are plenty of pictures. And you might even find the writing interesting. Or funny. Or both. </p>