On the Trail

DOMAINE CLOS DE LA BONNETTE

The Domaine of Clos de la Bonnette was purchased in 1992 by wife and husband team, Isabelle Guiller and Henri Montabonnet. Isabelle had her eye on this abandoned vineyard site for many years before they moved forward; the main reason being the site had remained unoccupied because the hillsides were in complete disarray, as many of the stone retaining walls had collapsed over the decades due to neglect. Restoring this property could only be done as a labor of love, not a commercial venture. Henri did most of the restoration himself, rebuilding the walls by hand.  This work is usually handled by specialists but Henri is quite the tinkerer and taught himself how to do it.  While he worked on rebuilding the walls, Isabelle took on the task of cultivating the indigenous flora around the property making it more biodiverse. After years of restoration, they were finally replanted in 1999. Because of the location of the vineyard, Henri and Isabelle have no direct contact with their neighbors. They are surrounded by a forest, a creek, and another hillside of ruins. This natural barrier allows them to more easily produce organically, a process by which they have farmed since they began replanting.  It took another decade but they finally now have 1.5 hectares under vine—just over three acres and definitely not a commercial venture. In Condrieu, there are only a few organically certified vineyards in the whole of the appellation and Clos de la Bonnette is the only estate to produce all of their vineyards organically. The quality of the fruit is so high that Marcel Guigal wanted to purchase their fruit and put them under contract.  Thankfully, they politely declined. 

Condrieu is located just to the south of Cote-Rotie in the northern part of the Rhone Valley. It is a particularly small region that solely produces Viognier; but not just any viognier. Simply put, these are the best viogniers in the world and Condrieu is the benchmark by which all other viognier is measured.  Located on the west side of the Rhone River, most of the appellation’s 160+ hectares are grown on the steep granite hillsides for which much of the northern Rhone has become famous. The hillsides are terraced meaning the earth is held back by stacked stone walls, many of which were built when the Romans then occupied the region. Many of these original walls still exist today.