Though not staunchly organic, we can’t deny the quality of our favorite Domaine Treloar red—Motus, a mourvedre dominated wine aged for two years in American oak. What is mourvedre you might wonder? Only the royal grape of Catalonia, known for its spices unequaled in other regional varieties. We suppose this is one of the reasons Jonathan Hesford (grower-vintner-owner) at Domaine Treloar chooses to work with it. The domaine’s Motus is a rare bottle that lets mourvedre reign rather than merging it to refine a blend. The effect is wild and leathery, some might say rustic, altogether different from many of the fruit forward reds we know so well in the region.
Mourvedre is a late ripening, thick skinned grape that needs very specific conditions to reach full maturity. It does well in warm climates, even better on slopes with good Mediterranean exposure. But not too high up. For example, you won’t find any mourvedre growing in the nearby Lesquerde appellation. Though only a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean, Lesquerde is too high and too far from the sea’s effects for mourvedre vines to thrive. Where you will find mourvedre is in Domain Treloar’s neck of the region, between the Aspres Mountains and Roussillon Plain in the outlying area of the town of Thuir, more specifically the village of Trouillas (our Aspres and Alberes tour pedals right through and our Peaks to Plage itinerary stops at Treloar).
Domaine Treloar is a small family-owned operation that follows the Sustainable Viticulture Program—farming that avoids the use of chemical fertilizers and minimizes the amount of spraying by disease monitoring and avoidance of broad-spectrum chemicals. Jonathan says maintaining a living soil is the key. Which means avoiding herbicides, applying only organic fertilizers and plowing only at certain times of the year.
It’s true, we’d prefer there be no spraying at all, but we like that Treloar is a vigneron indépendant, producers who grow, make and bottle their wine on premises. We also like that they work with traditional regional grape varieties. Another of our favorites is their wild fermented white, La Terre Promise, made from macabeu, grenache gris and white carignan grapes (all very old regional varieties).
And then the story behind the domain is equally appealing—one of a new start for a family hellbent on a different kind of life. Englishman Jonathan and his New Zealander wife Rachel Treloar met in London, moved to New York and then veered down a different path entire. In their own words:
We met while working together in London. After a whirlwind romance we got married and moved to New York where we spent 3 exciting years and had our first child, Lydia, in 2000.
On 11 September 2001, we were living one block away from the World Trade Center. After watching both planes crash into the building, we left our home with what we could carry. In the aftermath of that disaster, we lost our home, my job and our right to live in the States. The experience made us think about what really mattered in our life. We wanted a different environment for our children. We wanted to have more control over our direction and to spend our time working at something that truly motivated us.
Owning a vineyard is an idea that many wine lovers dream about, but we wanted to do it right. I took a short course at Plumpton College in the UK and then volunteered at Halfpenny Green Vineyards in Staffordshire for 6 months to get my hands dirty and make sure I was really suited to the work. I loved it!
We then chose to go to New Zealand for 3 years to study viticulture and winemaking, and to work for other high quality vineyards. During our time there, we had our second daughter, Issy, in 2004.
Even though we enjoyed life in New Zealand, we decided to return to Europe to start our own business. Excited by the great wines being made by other pioneering producers, we decided upon the Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France.
In April 2005, I spent a month travelling around the region, speaking to other winemakers and looking at the landscape, soils, towns and villages. We decided that the Roussillon came top of our list. In September 2005 we moved our children to France and started looking for the ideal spot. The requirements were very specific and we were lucky to find a property that met all our desires – even if it needed a huge amount of work.
In January 2006 we bought an ancient winery and several parcels of mature vines around the village of Trouillas in the Aspres region of the Roussillon in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Encouraged by the flavour and reputation of close neighbours such as Domaine Vaquer, La Cazenove, Chateau Mosse and Domaine Ferrer-Ribiere, as well as the generally high quality of the cooperatives, we felt this area most suited our dreams. We started work pruning our vines, renovating the winery and building our home within the cave itself.
So are we living the dream? I suppose it appears that way to outsiders, but running a wine producing estate on your own is not a cushy job. It is a huge amount of work and leaves little time for leisure. However, it is varied, healthy and fulfilling. We wouldn’t swap it for our old lives.
- March 26, 2014