In the green rolling hills of Entre-Deux-Mers—between the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers—Stéphane Dupuch has been working the 35-hectare family estate since 1997. Stéphane is part of a visionary family who has brought new energy to the appellation. When his father, Gilles, took the reins in 1982, the estate was a sideline business to an insurance brokerage. Thanks to his duel vocations, Gilles never fell into the trap which many of their neighbors who produce white Bordeaux have, namely rapid expansion, over-mechanization and sparsely planted young vines. While their neighbors wonder why the Dupuchs have kept a dozen cattle grazing on AOC land instead of planting that land to vines, Château Sainte-Marie takes the path-less-traveled through their advocacy of denser vine plantings, lower yields and sustainable farming. Although Gilles has recently retired, his legacy lives on through Stéphane, who produces some of the finest grapes from some of the highest altitudes within the Gironde. Stéphane has certainly made his own commitment to the family terroirs by initiating the slow conversion of the estate to organic and biodynamic farming.
The vineyards of Château Sainte-Marie sprawl primarily over two hills with excellent sun exposure. Planted mostly to Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillion, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle in whites, and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot in reds, the vineyards are planted by séléction massale on gravel, clay, and chalk, and range in age from 10 to 100 years old. Grapes are hand-picked (virtually unheard of in the area) and pressed gently. The rest is very simple: whites go through an 8- to 12-hour skin maceration to draw out the aromatics, and reds are made traditionally—de-stemmed and crushed—with cool fermentations, stainless steel aging, and very light fining and filtering. Theirs are classic, artisanally crafted wines of great complexity and easy approachability.