On a recent trip to San Francisco, we noticed an attractive, stylishly-dressed woman seated at a table near us. She was speaking in French and we were almost positive we’d met her, but couldn’t recall when or where. (Seems to happen more and more frequently these days…)
Later, outside the restaurant, we bumped into her again and began chatting. She was none other than Martine Saunier, the acclaimed wine importer and, more recently, a filmmaker. Her trilogy on wine — A Year in Burgundy, A Year in Champagne, A Year in Port — has won critical praise. And we’re big fans of the films…no wonder she looked familiar!
We asked Martine if she’d share her story and experiences in producing the films. She graciously agreed and the result is this interview.
For almost 40 years, Martine Saunier’s import operation has been a prominent source for French wines, particularly on the West Coast, where she’s based. An ardent lover of wine, Martine grew up in Paris, but spent school vacations with her aunt, who owned a vineyard in Prissé, near Mâcon. She quickly became familiar with grape harvesting, fermentation and all things wine.
When Martine arrived in the U.S. — to marry an American doctor — she desperately missed the wines that she’d always known. In 1965, she took a now famous drive to Beaulieu Vineyards. There she happened to meet the legendary André Tchelistcheff, who told her that the only place to find a good Pinot Noir was Burgundy. Martine took him at his word, went back to France and began looking for wines to bring to the States. Vineyards in Beaujolais, Mâcon and Pouilly-Fuissé were early sources. Later she made excellent contacts within the Côtes-du-Rhône.