On Jean Rémy’s suggestion, my long 8-hour drive through the French countryside would be ideally broken up with a stop in Tain L’Hermitage, a small riverside town in the Northern Rhône Valley, and a visit to the fabled Hermitage hillside, the birthplace of the Syrah grape. Being a relative newcomer to the world of wine, I was not quite prepared for what I would experience - and ultimately what would be created. I arrived at Cave de Tain, one of France’s leading wine co-operatives, to be met by David, a wiry, charismatic and high energy wine professional and one of Jean Rémy’s closest friends. They had shared many globetrotting wine adventures in addition to David bestowing on Jean Rémy the honor of becoming godfather to his two children.
I was grateful and touched to be provided such a warm introduction by Jean Rémy and met David late in the afternoon for a quick tour of the winery. With the steep and imposing Hermitage hill behind us, we tasted a range of beautiful wines together, and he artfully talked me through the myriad of characteristics that makes Hermitage wines so special. More than anything, the diversity and unique nature of the terroir stuck in my head with the bold and complex impressions it fostered.
Since it was an impromptu visit, I had booked a last minute Airbnb in a converted barn, which was just around the corner from David’s home. Without hesitation, he invited me home to meet his wife and children. Like Jean Rémy often says, “We are family,” and it felt like I was instantly part of theirs. David ensured we shared a memorable evening, jumping from one venue to another, drinking amazing wines and enjoying a delectable meal that lasted late into the evening. We talked candidly about life, wine, travel, friendship, and created an instant bond forged by wines that had been made here for generations.
The following morning, on my way to Provence, I stopped by Cave de Tain to give David a bottle of Out East Rosé as a token of my appreciation. This gesture was thoughtfully reciprocated with a bottle of Hermitage Grand Classique 2015, which we agreed to wait 10 years to open together. As we sat in the conference room presented with incredible views of the Hermitage hillside, David shared an idea. He explained to me his Hermitage Masterclass, a journey of intricate winemaking which presents 5 terroir-specific wines, culminating in the presentation of Gambert de Loche Hermitage, an expertly blended wine greater than the sum of its parts. We should do this in New York City, David suggested, and I concurred - what better way to share our incredible experience than with the friends and family who had helped us build Out East over the past 2 years. To me, it would be a culmination of the entire reason Cori-Lee Seaberg, my Co-Founder and I started the company - a passion for wine, travel, friendship and philanthropy.
When I returned to New York City, we immediately started working on a guest list, venue selection, and months of planning to host David and his Hermitage Masterclass. In early February, just a few weeks before the world would shut down, the evening was upon us. An intimate wine tasting event was held in the private dining room at David Burke Tavern on the Upper East Side. A packed room of 30 people shared a special evening together, enjoying incredible wines and conversation. David invited a few of his friends too, including Wine Enthusiast Founder & Chairman Adam Strum, while Jean Rémy flew in from Napa to present Champagne À L’EST. Unbeknownst to us, David was also accompanied by the President of Cave de Tain, Xavier Gomart, to round out an incredible and enthusiastic global group.
It was a special privilege for me to present our wines alongside Jean Rémy and David and host the team from Cave de Tain. It was one of those memorable nights where everything was in sync. At the end of the evening, David and Xavier excitedly approached Cori and me with a proposal. An offer to produce Out East Hermitage, a first ever for an American wine company, and a first-time partnership in Cave de Tain’s almost 100-year history. For a young wine company, this was an unbelievable compliment and opportunity. The fact that they had faith in us to tell their story through our contemporary lens was both daunting and exciting. Little did we know that the partnership would evolve during such a challenging time for all of us.
As the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed, the 23 hours a day I spent inside of my apartment was made bearable by weekly zoom calls and meetings with design, production and operations teams across the globe, from New York City and France to South Africa, where Bianca, our talented designer worked tirelessly to create a design with 2 functions: capture the craftsmanship and heritage of Hermitage wines and at the same time, present a modern, sleek and elegant wine viewed through our lens as a lifestyle-inspired brand.
The countless hours on the phone and WhatsApp exchanges with David grew into a true friendship as we learned to work together and communicate in a challenging environment. Even more so, it grew into a deep personal connection that helped me survive those lonely times during lockdown. And when my parent’s house was ravaged by Hurricane Sally, David was there to listen and share a laugh amongst tears. He had become a true friend, mentor and partner.
For six months we worked tirelessly together to design and produce Out East Hermitage 2017, a limited edition run of 1,000 individually numbered bottles. And on December 10, we officially announced our 3rd wine, and presented it virtually to the world. It was a bittersweet evening, not to be able to share this experience with friends and family who had helped contribute to this amazing partnership. There were no celebratory dinners, no launch events. But there was a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in what we had created together.
To be able to hold bottle No. 41 of Out East Hermitage, and drink a glass of this incredible wine, gave me the understanding why wine is so special. It’s not just the juice. It’s everything else that goes into it. It’s the beauty and uncertainty of mother nature. It’s generations of savior faire and craftsmanship. It’s the nuance and complexity of the wine - and how life mirrors this so poignantly. It’s this bittersweet essence that makes great wines even greater. And allows us to be thankful for what we have, especially in these trying times.
A few after the launch, David shared an email sent to him from Xavier:
Magnifique David. Efficace et Beau. Transmittez leurs mes felicitations et mes chaleureuses salutations. Xavier
Magnificent David. Elegant and Beautiful. Send them my congratulations and warmest wishes.
This is what makes the story of Out East Hermitage so special:
Wine, travel and friendship.
- Patrick Mitchell - Co-Founder, Out East
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