Craig Stapleton, former ambassador of the United States in France -from 2005 to 2009, was in Châteauneuf-du-Pape early March to meet the local wine-growers.
He and his friend Arthur Patterson were awaited at restaurant La Mère Germaine by Michel Blanc, Director of the Wine-Growers’ Association (Fédération des Syndicats de Producteurs), Amélie Barrot (Vignobles Mousset-Barrot), Baptiste Grangeon (Domaine de Cristia) and Dutch Châteauneuf-du-Pape expert Harry Karis, author of the comprehensive and authoritative “Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine book”.
Craig Stapleton is hardly a newcomer to Châteauneuf-du-Pape: in 2005, before he was to become Ambassador of the United States in Paris (under the Bush administration, during the Gulf War), he was inducted into the Echansonnerie des Papes, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine Guild. Why? Simply because he is a lover of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, which he discovered back in the times when he was a student at Harvard. “A long time before Robert Parker started talking about them”, he points out mischievously. “In fact, I like all French wines. I have a soft spot for grenache, but I am also fond of pinot noir.”
This explains why, during his once-yearly trip to France, he never fails to visit Burgundy and make a stop at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. And why, when he decided to invest in the Czech Republic –where he was Ambassador for 4 years just before arriving in France-, he and his two associates Benjamin Stapleton and Joroslay Springer chose to plant pinot noir. The former, an experienced wine-grower, is in charge of the 20 hectares of the Springer-Stapleton Winery, now one of the most famous wineries of the Czech Republic for the quality of its wines. “And our wines are served in the best restaurants and hotels of the country”.
Craig Stapleton is still in the business world, in the real estate business to be precise. He is also the owner of a baseball club, the Saint-Louis Cardinals. But he always finds the time to come to Châteauneuf-du-Pape where he has built lasting friendships with many wine-growers. And on 5 March, he came to visit some of them and taste the new vintage. “When I am here, I am happy to share a moment with them. And when I am back at home, in Connecticut, I’m just as happy to savour their wines.”