By Rose Murray Brown MW
“There is not just one château at Château de Pommard – but two”, says Michael Baum, the new owner of this prestigious Burgundian domaine in the Cote de Beaune.
The first château, with its stunning pink façade with limestone from the nearby Chassagne Montrachet quarry, was built in 1726 by the captain of Pommard, Vivant Micault, who was secretary to Louis XV.
After the 1789 French revolution the then owners, the Mareys, were unable to buy back the original château - so in 1802 Nicolas-Joseph Marey built another one - a second named Château Marey-Monge.
In 2014, San Franciscan Silicon Valley software tycoon Michael Baum (pictured), best known as founder of tech giant Splunk, became the fifth owner of Chateau de Pommard. He is the first American to own a wine-producing château in Burgundy.
Baum moved from US to live in France with his family (who now call themselves Famille Carabello-Baum). He has spent the last seven years diligently restoring both properties, with plans to open the renovated châteaux next year as a 28-suite five star hotel and conference centre – clearly focusing on high-end wine tourism.
What makes Château de Pommard so special for the wine lover is not just its beautiful buildings - but it has a very interesting historic vineyard.
Clos Marey-Monge, named after the second château, is a 20 hectare walled ‘clos’. Surrounded on all sides by 2 km-long two-metre stone wall as is typical in Burgundy – it is in fact the largest privately-owned clos in Burgundy.
“Its other claim to fame is that it supplied the first clone of Pinot Noir taken by Robert Mondavi to Napa in the 1970s”, says Baum.
The clos is protected as one of the world heritage climats of Burgundy by UNESCO. The different micro-climates and soils form seven distinct terroir plots with limestone, iron-rich clay and alluvium ideal for Pinot Noir. It is on top of the Avant-Dheune valley dejection cone - and its tiny 0.53 hectare Simone terroir is considered to be particularly special.
Simone holds the world record for the highest measured internal surface density (1 gram of clay to 736 square metres even bigger than at Château Petrus).
For centuries all the wines from these seven plots have been blended together, but the previous owner the Guiraud family began bottling special plots separately in 2010.
Baum has not only been restoring the vineyards to their former glory – he has been converting the vineyards to organic and biodynamic. In 2019 Clos Marey-Monge gained organic certification and four years ago they began the biodynamic conversion starting with the famous Simone plot – with biodynamic certification due in 2021.
“We want to put nature first with a hands-off approach – we have seen an increased presence of wildlife amongst the vines which is encouraging”, says Baum. “To reduce compacting of soils, we also use three horses to plough”. Pictured is Manu, the vineyard horse manager.
Château de Pommard now makes 30 cuvees. 50% from the vineyards owned by the Baum-Carabello family and 50% from bought in grapes from growers. All wines produced come from Cote d’Or and Cote Chalonnaise – nothing from Chablis and Maconnais yet.
The last seven years have certainly not been without its challenges for Baum, with Covid restricting visitors and delaying renovations.
Added to that they had 40-50% frost damage in April this year. “We had two weeks of warm weather, followed by very cold with 8 or 9 nights below freezing. Luckily we were not impacted as much as those higher up on the hills”, he says.
I tasted three of Château de Pommard’s 15 new cuvees from the 2019 vintage with Baum and his winemaker Emanuelle Sala. Sala, who was born in Burgundy, has worked at the chateau since 2007, having trained at Dijon oenology & viticultural school, and he clearly knows the terroir well.
“In Burgundy, years ending with '9' are recognised for being exceptional – and 2019 is no exception”, says Sala. “Rich and mature with a pleasant freshness, our 2019 wines are definitely in line with these symbolic vintages”.
With such a great vintage, these 2019’s make a great introduction to the Château de Pommard range demonstrating some very smart winemaking. Baum’s fortune has certainly raised the standard of this historic gem :
MEURSAULT 2019 Ch de Pommard (£53 bt)
Limestone soils; 300m altitude; harvested 16 September 2019; very long wild yeast fermentation lasting 5 months; full malolactic fermentation; 16 months in 25% new French oak (3 different barrel makers); fining & light filtration; 3600 bottles produced
Floral lifted aromas, deep citric core with fine acid balance, light spice, rich intense long flavours with subtle oak notes from their use of lightly toasted oak. This is good old school Meursault – very approachable now – will last 10 years (14% alcohol).
CORTON CHARLEMAGNE 2019 Ch de Pommard (£129 bt)
Limestone & marl soils; 280-330m altitude (not from chateau vineyards); harvested 20 September 2019; wild yeast fermentation; 16 months in 25% new French oak; 1470 bottles produced
Still quite closed - will need time to blossom. Nose has distinct white pepper and tight flinty aromas, powerful taut palate, good balance of dense citric fruit and acidity with a long lingering length – and long life ahead. Give it 5 years to shine – it should last 15 years (14% alcohol).
NUITS ST GEORGES 2019 Ch de Pommard (£44 bt)
Made from 70-75 year old vines; harvested 23 September 2019; 60% whole cluster fermentation; pumpover 2-3 times by week; pigeage with feet just as fermentation is finishing; 16 months in 20% new with majority 2nd & 3rd yr barrels; 3000 bottles produced
Very attractive open nose with floral rose-petal and red berry perfume, rich cherry-fruited palate, rounded, silky texture with lots of rich tannins. Very appealing approachable example of Nuits St Georges which should drink well for another 10 years (14% alcohol).
All above wines available from www.chateaudepommard.com
Join Rose Murray Brown MW’s ‘Meet the Rhone Winemaker Bastien Tardieu of Maison Tardieu-Laurent’ virtual tasting in association with Raeburn Fine Wines on Friday 28 May 2021 www.rosemurraybrown.com