The seemingly reserved façade of Michèle Aubèry-Laurent melts away quickly when she speaks about her wines. As a former nurse (who often favored natural remedies), she has come to treat her vines with the same care, conviction, and passion as she had for her former patients. She and her husband, Philippe, bottled their first vintage at Domaine Gramenon in 1990, in the northern stretches of the Southern Rhône, in the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation of Vinsobres, between Grignan and Nyons. Philippe was a talented vigneron—both creative and edgy—and he loved to push the envelope of the regulations imposed by the I.N.A.O. In 1999, in an unexpected twist of fate, he was killed in a tragic accident. Michèle was suddenly left on her own with their three children, vineyards, and a winery to deal with. Crushed but undaunted, Michèle stepped to the forefront, boldly picking up where Philippe left off. Over the years, Michèle has discovered her own creative voice in her new vocation; in so doing she has catapulted Domaine Gramenon into cult wine status. Today, she works twenty-six hectares with her talented son, Maxime François (a rising star in his own right), farming both young and very old vines alike. They employ organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyards, with a strong non-interventionist stance in the cellars. Maxime François has begun flexing his own creative muscle, bottling two cuvées at the domaine under his own name.
Domaine Gramenon is the authentic embodiment of the philosophies that the Laurents espouse. They do not merely champion organic farming, but they incorporate the concept of sustainability into their daily lives by growing their own food and raising their own animals. Though Michèle and Maxime continue to test the confines of the appellation, the cellars are unsurprisingly old-fashioned. The Laurents use gravity-fed cuves and age their wines in oak demi-muids and foudres. That they take such gutsy risks as bottling old-vine fruit with so little sulfur, without fining or filtration, only demonstrates the lengths they will go to in order to highlight the freshness, purity, and intoxicating aromas of their small, rare production.