Michele D’Aprix fell in love with winemaking in the late ’90s. Now, armed with a University of California-Davis degree in enology and viticulture, years of hands-on winery experience and an attitude that mixes equal parts charisma and quick wit, D’Aprix makes the perfect American ambassador to France.
D’Aprix, currently the only female American winemaker in Bordeaux, met Chateau Beauséjour’s owner Pierre Bernault through a business network, and in 2008, he hired her as a winemaker.
“Pierre was definitely in need of an extra set of hands, and at that moment I was looking for somewhere to make my own wine,” she says. “Not having the €8 million handy to buy my own chateau yet, I figured I would start by working in one.”
By 2009, D’Aprix started her own wine importing company, and she now commutes between Bordeaux and New York City to balance production and importing roles. Xpress interviewed D’Aprix in anticipation of her Nov. 15 tasting at MetroWines.
Mountain Xpress: Does your status as the only American female winemaker in Bordeaux affect your day-to-day life in France?
Michele D’Aprix: Not many people make a big deal about it, which is the way I like it. I’m here to be the best winemaker I can be, and I just happen to be a woman. I am comfortable being judged by the quality of the work I do. Thankfully, being woman or man in this case, matters very little. It also doesn’t hurt that Michele is a man’s name too here in France, and my last name D’Aprix is French, so when I make appointments, occasionally the people I’m meeting for the first time are expecting a Frenchman. Surprise!
How is Bordeaux different than other wine-making regions and how is Chateau Beausejour unique within Bordeaux?
Bordeaux is known as a world class wine region. It’s the first terroir really. It has one of the oldest and most traditional styles of growing and making wine, to include the classification system on the Left Bank and that of St Emilion over here on the Right Bank. The clay and limestone here contributes a great deal to the elaboration of really structured red wines, and my grapes of favor are Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which is why I sought out work on the Right Bank, where these two beauties are best developed.
The thing that makes Chateau Beauséjour unique within Bordeaux is that we actually have the oldest Merlot and Cab Franc vines in the entire region of Bordeaux. They were planted in 1901, and are still growing and still producing fruit on the property.
We also have replanted 3 hectares with “babies” from the 1901 vines. It’s also the only property on the Right Bank that has a girl from upstate NY working on it. I love it here.
Asheville is hailed as Beer City USA. What keeps bringing a wine enthusiast like yourself to WNC?
Beer City, huh? Well it’s widely agreed among winemakers that it takes five beers to produce every bottle of wine, so Asheville has got me covered. Truthfully, I like the energy in Asheville. And the quality of the food scene here is a good theatre for my portfolio of value-driven Bordeaux. Not to mention, I come to NC as often as I can for two much more important reasons than wine or beer: Casmir D’Aprix (age 4) and Preston D’Aprix (age 1).
How can beer lovers start to appreciate wine if they don’t have much of a grape-discerning palate?
My mother always said you can’t say you don’t like something until you try it (but she was referring to the broccoli and peas I was feeding to the dog under the table). I think I’d encourage the beer crowd to open something young, unoaked, definitely something fresh, and have some snacks. That’s the best way to drink a bottle of wine anyway. Good company, good food, and a good bottle of wine is somewhat of a perfect balance to an evening for me.
Do you have any future projects or plans relating to Asheville?
I am coming to Asheville on Nov. 15 to hold a tasting at MetroWines. I am hoping all the wine lovers in town are reading this and planning to attend. If any can’t make it, keep an eye on my website, christopherimportsny.com, for upcoming event info regarding events in planning for later in the year. Thank you, Asheville. I look forward to pouring for you.
Michele D’Aprix will present her Bordeaux wines at a tasting on Saturday, Nov. 15, 4-6 p.m., at MetroWines, 169 Charlotte St. For more information, visit metrowinesasheville.com.