Our buying team consists of world-renowned winemaker-consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, our winemaker Hélène Mingot, and our Co-founder and President Fonda Hopkins. With over 50 years of combined experience in growing, making, tasting and selling wine, this team has the experience, palate and connections necessary to source some of the top wine on the planet. Fonda is the ultimate decision-maker, but in making those decisions she relies heavily on Stéphane and Hélène’s discriminating palates, vineyard and cellar experience, and uncompromising standards. The team is assisted by several of Stéphane’s colleagues in Bordeaux, including Simon Blanchard, Julien Lavenu and Frederic Massie.
Stéphane Derenoncourt is a world-renowned winemaker and consultant, considered by many to be among France’s most sensitive vintners. Entirely self-taught, Stéphane learned about wine literally from the ground up. He came to Bordeaux in the early 1980's and immersed himself in viticulture, quickly developing a reputation for integrity and uncommon skill as he rose through the ranks. After a decade spent working in various vineyards in the Bordeaux, Stéphane brought an instinctive understanding of the soil, the vine and the fruit to his work in the cellar. His exceptional palate and focus on terroir have made him one of the most perceptive and successful winemakers working today. Today, Stéphane spends much of his time exploring terroir throughout the world, consulting for 60 properties in ten countries.
While Stéphane does not seek out media attention, it somehow seems to find him. His talent, ideals and resultant wines have brought him worldwide recognition, beginning with the premier of his most famous and highly sought after wine, La Mondotte, a St. Emillion gem which has earned "cult wine" status. Stéphane also works with acclaimed Grand Cru houses such as Château Pavie Macquin and Sanctus, as well as lesser known (but equally irresistible) properties like Clos de l'Oratiore, Château Bellevue, Château Le Pin Beausoleil, Alonso del Yerro "Maria", and his very own property, Domaine de l'A, in Castillon.
Above all, Stéphane Derenoncourt's philosophy is to respect nature and the unique identity of each wine. He states, "I work on phytotherapy, on how to cure the vine using homeopathy, which is something fairly close to biodynamic principles. I also work on the ecosystem, I am trying to find out what type of trees or bushes I could plant to attract the insects that are beneficial to vine growing. The final goal is to reach a balance that would allow the vine to regulate itself, with a minimum of human intervention."
Stéphane joined the Montesquieu team in early 2006 after meeting Fonda Hopkins in Bordeaux. In addition to tasting and screening many of the wines that Montesquieu has opportunity to source for its clients, Stéphane has leveraged his vast connections in the world of wine to open the door for Montesquieu to work with even more growers and producers of the highest caliber, some of whom we would otherwise not have known about or had access to. Additionally, Stéphane has been good enough to craft several small-batch Bordeaux wines exclusively for Montesquieu clients.
In partnership with Montesquieu, Stéphane recently released the inaugural vintage of his first-ever grapes-to-bottle American wine, 2006 Derenoncourt California. Sourced from small vineyards chosen by Stéphane for their cool microclimates, higher elevations and volcanic soils, these artisanal wines represent Stéphane’s commitment to exploring the potential of California terroir. For more information, visit www.derenoncourtcalifornia.com.
Selected press on Stéphane Derenoncourt:
- Right Bank Bordeaux 2004, Organic Wine Journal
- Stéphane Derenoncourt, Sommelier Journal
- All in a day's work, Decanter
- L'anti-Star, Bourgog Aujourd'hui
- Derenoncourt - the new Michel Rolland?, Jancis Robinson
- Personalities, Eleonora Scholes' Site
- Stéphane Derenoncourt A rebel prevails in Bordeaux, Wine Spectator
Raised in France’s famed Loire Valley, Hélène Mingot has been steeped from an early age in viticulture, oenology, and the wider agro-industrial processes. She earned a Master of Science degree at the School of Agriculture in Angers, with a Vine and Wine major. Following these studies, Hélène spent a year in Bordeaux working in a lab, testing new strains of yeast for wines and conducting research. She discovered that although she found the scientific aspect "educational," she realized that she preferred the actual winemaking over research. She set her sights on winemaking, and became one of only two people selected from the science arena to attend the Agronomy National School of Toulouse, where she received the French National Diploma of Oenology.
She then became a cellar master in Bordeaux, making wines such as Sauternes, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet blends for various châteaux. Early in her career, Hélène met renowned winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt, whose commitment to terroir expression and sensitive handling of vines and grapes has deeply influenced her own approach to vineyard-tending and winemaking. Her husband, David, is also a winemaker and hails from Italy, giving Hélène firsthand exposure to the rich Italian winemaking tradition and Italy's diverse wine regions.
Hélène now lives and works in Napa Valley as Montesquieu’s winemaker. She oversees every detail in the vineyards and in the cellar with an unbending commitment to making wines of great purity and complexity. Her ability to speak Italian, Spanish and, of course, fluent French and English helps her to manage Montesquieu’s numerous relationships with growers and producers both at home and abroad. Hélène also assists Stéphane Derenoncourt on his first winemaking project in California, Derenoncourt California (www.derenoncourtcalifornia.com).
For Fonda Hopkins, what began over 25 years ago as a part-time gig in wine sales evolved into her life’s passion – helping wine enthusiasts enliven their dinner tables and cellars with an experience of the wonder of wine and terroir from vineyards around the world. As Co-founder and President of Montesquieu, Fonda instills this same passion in Montesquieu’s brokers and clients by communicating with them her love for artisanal, expressive wines that evoke the unique character of their terroirs.
With the help of her business partner Frank Kryger, in 1991 Fonda founded the company that would become Montesquieu on a shoe-string budget supported by a good dose of enthusiasm. In 1992, the company moved to San Diego because of an opportunity to acquire the importer and distributor licenses necessary to extend the reach of the business. Over the next fifteen years, the company grew steadily, expanding its relationships with growers and producers, opening up numerous sales offices and reaching out to more and more clients.
Today, Montesquieu works with over 150 growers and producers across the globe, telling their stories and selling their wine to 15,000 active clients. Fonda considers it a privilege to get to know these producers and to help connect them with Montesquieu’s clients. Her goal is to bring brilliant wine to people who may not have the time to reach the far corners of the world themselves but want to experience the best a wine can offer.