Dear Friends of Bergström Wines,
After 6 vintages of crafting gargantua, our 100% whole cluster, no-new-oak West coast Syrahs, it is my pleasure to introduce you to gargantua’s son: pantagruel!
Our pantagruel Syrah is born of my belief that Syrah deserves a place on the table, alongside Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, on a daily basis. This belief, and my lifelong love of Syrah, is instilled deep within me, and tracing that belief and that love to their roots brings me back to some of my earliest, and most formative wine memories.
As a 21-year old undergraduate student, with an overstuffed hiking backpack, sturdy new boots, and a Eurorail train pass, I boarded a 747 bound for Lyon, France. In addition to the backpack and boots, I was also armed with an acceptance letter to spend a year abroad, studying business law in France’s second largest city.
Once an ancient Roman crossroads, Lyon is now a culinary and cultural epicenter of France and Europe. Anywhere outside of Paris, in “La Province,” the rule is: you drink the local drink. In Lyon, the local drink just happens to have the most amazing diversity of any place in France. This is what I loved about this great vortex of a town. Here, the tables are peppered with four different varietals of local, and world-class wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, and Syrah.
Traveling north from the city of Lyon, you are immersed in the Beaujolais region, with its gentle rolling hills; home to Gamay. Further north, Beaujolais meets the Chardonnay-laced soils of the Maconnais, the hidden gem of the Côte Chalonnaise, and finally the famous terroirs of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or and Côte de Nuits, the birthplace of Pinot Noir.
Just to the south, the Rhône Valley winds its way down to the Mediterranean giving way to Provençal sights and smells. The steep slopes of the Rhône river are lined with famous, ancient appellations with names like: Côte Rotie, St. Joseph, Hermitage, Cornas, and many more. It is here that Syrah vines cling to sheer granite cliffs and terraces.
For the past 22 years, our family’s crest has been synonymous for quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, however, in 2013, I could no longer resist the siren call of Syrah. Therefore, I pitched my family and my wife a business proposal regarding a new label that focused solely on West Coast American Syrah, and that very vintage, gargantua was born.
The name “gargantua” comes from the Francois Rabelais series of satires concerning two beastly giants: Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. Rabelais was a famous Renaissance writer of humor, of song, and of the hedonistic. He was also a physician, a monk, a Greek scholar, and a humanist. His works would go on to inspire both Cervantes and Shakespeare. These works were imbued with social and political commentary on the royalty, classicism, and privilege of the age, wrapped up in grotesque, rough, and extravagant humor.
Caroline chose the name, as she knew this was my “beast within.” I believe everyone has an inner Gargantua., and mine is Syrah.
I hope you have had a chance to taste our gargantua Syrahs, produced from Washington, Oregon and California. These individualistic wines are meant to show the differences in terroir, much like you would find if you were to taste from north to south in the Rhône Valley. For example, Côte Rotie tastes different than St. Joseph, which also tastes different than Hermitage or Cornas. Site and terroir are everything, and my gargantua wines, much like our single vineyard Pinot Noirs, require and deserve time in the cellar to truly show their enormous potential.
The pantagruel Syrah represents the next logical step in my dealings with the beast, and takes me back to those nightly dinners in Lyon. It is a blend of our favorite Syrah barrels from all three west coast states that capture the epitome of Syrah’s regional drinkability and juicy savoriness. Think of pantagruel like you would our Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir or a Côtes du Rhône blend that is meant to be youthfully fruited, deliciously savory, and ready to deliver so much drinking pleasure for the table while you wait for the single-state Syrahs to age.
Our pantagruel is able to be served slightly cooler than cellar temperature and is perfect for the spring and summer months, where you may find yourselves grilling meats and vegetables outside, or enjoying casual picnic style fare. Personally, I find Syrah irresistible with pizza, grilled and roasted meats, game dishes or stews, simple charcuterie and cheese plates and anything seasoned with olives, rosemary, thyme, and other savory herbs.
P.S. I would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful artwork that adorns the bottles of both gargantua and pantagruel. They were painted for me by my very talented childhood friend Nat Meade, who now lives in Brooklyn. For gargantua, I asked him to paint me a triptych where each label showed a man whose shadow is of a beast and the color palate represented the wine characters from each of the three American West Coast states. I love what he came up with for pantagruel. I encourage you to check out his other creations on his website!
You may not know that a portion of all of our gargantua and pantagruel sales are donated to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation. Angelman Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system of children. Nat’s child was born with Angelman Syndrome. We felt that the serendipity of getting back together after so many years to collaborate on a great wine should have a philanthropic component that we can all participate in and feel good about. With each bottle of gargantua or pantagruel that you purchase, you are making a difference.