Chateau Rollat, based in Walla Walla, Washington, is the effort of Bowin Lindgren and his famous consulting winemaker, Christian Le Sommer. Lindgren moved to Washington State from the east coast, where he completed a successful career in pharmaceuticals, leaving that world to renew his family's position in the wine industry.
Chateau Rollat is named for Bowin's great grandfather, Edouard Rollat, one of the foremost wine authorities in New York at the turn of the 20th century. He was the Sommelier at Cafe Martin, one of New York City's finest restaurants at the time, and became a wine broker at the Vendome wine house after Prohibition. Bowin's family rejoins the wine industry after two generations.
More About Chateau Rollat Winery
Lindgren, an admirer of the wines made by Christian Le Sommer, invited him to consult on Lindgren's fledgling Chateau Rollat. Le Sommer consented, and has described the wines he intends to make as "the best possible expression of ripe Walla Walla fruit" (Seattle Times). Based on the first three releases from the winery, Cabernet driven Bordeaux blends seem to be high on their wine list.
About Christian Le Sommer
Christian LeSommer is one of the most famous winemakers in the world, and the mere mention of his name elicits attention and deep respect from wine industry members at the most exalted level. Among the wineries listed on Le Sommer's résumé are Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau LaTour, where he was general manager and wine master for more than a decade. He is now consulting manager for Domaines des Barons de Rothschild. He continues to manage their Los Vascos (Chile), Quinta do Carmo (Portugal), Caro (Argentina), and Rocca de Frassinello (Italy) programs. Le Sommer also consults for Le Pupille and Castellare di Castellina in Italy and three other wineries worldwide.
While Le Sommer is the consulting winemaker at Chateau Rollat, Dave Stephenson and Steve Brooks are the day to day winemakers, currently based at Justice Wylie's Va Piano Winery.
Vineyards and Winemaking
Chateau Rollat wines are made from fruit sourced at Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge Vineyards only. Blocks in the vineyards are at least seven years old, and are managed to produce small amounts of very ripe, small berried fruit. Small berries equal intense flavors. Crop size is limited to 2-25 tons an acre, more in line with Oregon's Pinot noir crops than the 7-10 tons per acre often seen in Walla Walla's red grape vineyards.
For Chateau Rollat, the 2005 vintage was "sensational", according to their website. The wines were "ripe, rich, and with wonderful tannin". The winemaker continues: "Everything we do is aimed at balance. We produce wines that are powerful, yet elegant and full of fruit".
A Bit More About Edouard Rollat
So who was this Edouard Rollat? According to the winery, Edouard Rollet arrived in the US in 1903 with his wife Sophie and their young daughter, Ida. Edouard was an imposing six feet two inches tall, a serious, stately man who almost always wore a suit and either a straw hat or a bowler. Sophie was soft spoken, elegant and graceful, wearing a swirl of her long flowing hair atop her head. They emigrated from central France and western Switzerland where the family had made wine for many generations.
Soon after arriving in NYC, Rollet obtained a job as cellar master for the famed Cafe Martin, rising to become Wine Steward/Sommelier. In 1920, Prohibition reduced the Cafe Martin wine cellar to an orange juice warehouse. Rollat continued working in wine by writing, teaching, and speaking about great wines and winemaking. In 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition, Rollat joined the Vendome wine house as its leading wine authority. He died in 1940.
Searching the web for info on Mr Rollat, I came across this clipping from the New York Times. Looks like he was cellar master at the very famous Cafe Martin in 1906, and he and his wife were expecting ($50 soon to come). A tiny window into a long ago world.