EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSÉ
Written by Chloe Gellar
As summer slowly begins its fade into fall, I find myself reaching for rosé to bridge the gap between light, crisp summer sipping white wines and heartier fireside reds. But if you ask Élan Fayard, co-founder of Azur Wines in the Napa Valley, she'll say that rosé is seasonless. "It's a fun wine that always has its place on the table," she said.
A Bay Area native and a Francophile from an early age, Élan spent her sophomore year studying abroad in Angers, France. Her passion for food, wine, and the written word took her on a post-college journey to Oregon's Willamette Valley and then back to France, where she worked and studied in Bordeaux and Provence. Along the way, she met winemaker Julien Fayard, who hails from a French wine-producing family, and together they devised a plan for making French-inspired and terroir-driven wine in California. "Napa is the Bordeaux of the USA," explained Élan. "It was our goal to produce the best wines possible, and we sought out sunlight and a great place to live. Napa footed the bill."
Julien's family has been making rosé in Provence for more than five decades. Upon their return to the United States fifteen years ago, both Julien and Élan were discouraged by a dearth of good rosé. In fact, the words "quality" and "rosé" were rarely, if ever used in the same sentence. Seeking to define their niche in the Napa Valley, they started a pioneering crusade to change rosé's image, one sip at a time. Julien worked with local growers to select and harvest grapes for dedicated rosé wine production. With the release of their first 50 cases, Azur quickly made a name for itself as the first winery in the United States dedicated to an authentic Provençale technique for rosé wine production.
The name the Fayard's chose for their winery—Azur— pays homage to the time they spent living in Southern France and underscores that their wines are produced in the French style. Élan said the first three years in business were the hardest, as they worked to inform miseducated consumers that rosé isn't white Zinfandel.
Today, Azur has two labels. Azur, which encompasses a rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, a Proprietary Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Reserve. Ideal for avid collectors, their Empreinte label is a single vineyard designee only available through allocation as production is limited to 100 cases or less.
In 2018 the winery opened The Green Room, its first tasting room. Outfitted in reclaimed wood and touches of sumptuous green velvet, a floor-to-ceiling window in the intimate space provides a full view into the crush pad.
While Élan admits to missing some of the aspects unique to living in France, she does enjoy the wine and food culture in Napa. "It's an invigorating place to live where nearly everyone in this industry is here by choice. That may not seem like much, but almost every person you meet is following their passion."
Open daily from 11am-6pm, The Green Room at Azur located at 190 Camino Oruga #9 in Napa, California.
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