Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Francois Lurton Carries On With The Lurton Saga

The Scarborough Bluffs stood tall against the wide expanse of Lake Ontario making the people near the shore below them looked like miniature creations in an artist’s painting.
A flock of Canada Geese flew in formation above the waves—almost parallel to the green and wooded grounds of the Toronto Hunt.  
Inside one of the many private rooms of this historic club, wine magnate, Francois Lurton quietly viewed the geese in formation above Lake Ontario as they made their way across the horizon.   
“It is rare to see those birds flying at eye level over the water!” M. Lurton pensively remarked as he looked out toward the flock flying almost at the edge of the Bluffs’ surface! 
The locale of the Toronto Hunt with its green expanse of perfectly trimmed lawn, golf course and expansive woods along with the historic Hunt building itself had the air of a Raymond Chandler novel that befitted the garden event about to take place. The rays of the Sun filtering through the majestic window of the southern facing interview room accentuated the feeling.
As the Sun nurtures wine, wine runs in the blood of the Lurton family. While Francois Lurton is a fourth generation of a huge family engaged in wine since 1897, his heritage can be traced back to the 17th Century St. Emilion, where the Recapet family began planting vines.
The marriage of great grandfather Leonce Recapet (B. 1858) to the daughter of a vineyard owner/grower/winemaker in 1894 and subsequent investment in Bordeaux wineries actually began the Lurton legacy.
Leonce’s daughter Denise later married Francois Lurton who assisted Leonce until Leonce’s death in 1943.  She and Francois had four children: Andre, Lucien, Simone and Dominique. The family estates were divided among the four children in 1953.  Francois died in 1971.  
One of Andre’s seven children is the present Francois Lurton (B. 1958).
The 20 properties which consist of roughly 1500 hectares are presently divided among the very large Lurton family. Each operates independently from the others but communication is always present among them. 
Francois himself presently owns some 400 hectares of vineyards throughout the World in Argentina, Chile, France, Spain and
Prior to this he worked for his father for a decade before partnering with brother Jacques from 1988 to 2008.
I noticed that another flock of Canada Geese winged its way across the horizon that, once again, caught Francois’s gaze. In a way he so much reminded me much of his father Andre who passed away just recently in May, 2019.
“I met your father at a tasting of his Château La Louvière. I mentioned.  “I asked him how one would taste the longevity of wine. Your father answered that by telling me to sip the wine, savour it and then either spit or swallow. He then told me to count the seconds----the more seconds the longer the wine can last----each second being equal to one year of development!”  I never forgot the lesson.
 Francois smiled a laugh saying “I have never heard of that one before!”
He definitely had his father’s smile and charming personality! His father’s inventive passion was also there!
Francois’s practice in viticulture and wine making was discussed. The big things in wine these days were the terms “organic” and following close to it are the terms “biodynamic” and “natural”.
“I am certified biodynamic in Chile. Here we follow the all the principles including the “moon calendar”. We consider everything with biodynamic farming and the results are excellent. Biodynamic reduces the stress on the vines and heightens the quality of the grapes.”
Francois went on to compare biodynamic farming with “organic farming. 
“The result of organic farming does not produce better grapes than conventional methods and in fact makes them more expensive but it does make the land more sustainable and is better for the environment. We are certified organic everywhere. Biodynamics, on the other hand, produce better quality vines and wines because it dramatically reduces the stress on the land and thus, also the wines.”
When it came to “natural wines” he has reduced the “manipulative” part of winemaking by drastically if not totally reducing his use of sulfur and other chemicals from use on the vines and grapes!
However there is a limit to Lurton’s belief in the biodynamic process in that he is not sold on the Moon’s effects on farming but the increase in quality has encouraged him to include biodynamic principles in his properties around the World.  
“If you want something to be strong you must feed it and care for all things around it!”
Philosophy is good as long as it works and the only way to find out if Francois Lurton’s viticulture and wine making philosophy is working is to taste the wine and see if it good!
By now the flock of Canada Geese had descended to the water and our attention turned from the water and wine philosophy to the process of enjoying a luncheon featuring wines from Francois Lurton’s properties and fine cuisine from the Hunt Club.
Held on the grounds amidst the grandiose club greenery and Lake Ontario background, the setting was classic.
The menu was also a classic wine/food pairing:
Les Fumees Blanches Sauvignon Blanc (LCBO #472555, $13.95) France
 It was an extremely well made and versatile wine that could have easily been used with the first course of the luncheon.  The nose had nuances of citrus grapefruit, lime as well as herbal grass and a hint of smoke. The palate was medium in body, well balanced, with steel and crisp freshness. 
Bodega Piedra Negra Alta Collecion Pinot Gris (LCBO # 556746, $14.00)
First course:
Paired with Grilled Asparagus, baby arugula, heirloom tomato, shaved manchego, citrus dressing
Lemon green in colour, this wine has a nose of pear, citrus, green tea and herbal nuances. The palate is medium on body, fruity and smooth with a fresh and lasting finish.
Gran Lurton Blanco $33.00*
Second Course:
Paired with Seared Calamari, olives, grilled potato, capers, shishido peppers, micro basil and brown butter
This blend of 80% Tockij (Tokay), 10% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Gris, 5% Viognier has a greenish tinge to it and a nose of herbal citrus, peach, cantaloupe, vanilla oak and nuts. On the palate it is creamy smooth with a lasting almost butter almond finish.      
Hermanos Lurton Do Toro, $33.00* (Spain)
Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol   $3300*(Chile)
Third Course:
Both wines paired with Lamb Barbacoa a charred spring lamb rack, navy bean salad, black cherry reduction
The Toro is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. This is a red wine with a nose that is rich with ripe cherry with a spattering of vanilla oak. It evolves if left in glass to produce caramel and some chocolate. The palate is equally rich and full leaving a long, anise finish.
The Hacienda Araucano is a blend of 40.5% Carmenere, 30.3% Syrah, 17.1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12.1% Cabernet Franc. It has a very deep red colour with a nose of dark fruit, dark chocolate, vanilla and burning leaves/tobacco. It keeps evolving as one recognizes one description to another. It is full and fresh on the palate with pepper and anise on long finish.       
Macadamia Key Lime Pie with coconut cream
Towards the end of the luncheon I had one more question to pose to M. Lurton. “What lies for the future?”
He looked back and paused.
The pause was long enough for me to remember that he recently went full circle to honour the memory of his great-grandfather by developing a gin from Leonce’s favourite grape Sauvignon Blanc and also launched an Extra Dry vermouth named “Leonce”!
He said, “Wherever the train takes me!”   
The Canada Geese rose once again into the sky and flew across the horizon!

(Note: The Gran Lurton, Hermanos Toro and Hacienda Clos de Lolol are available through:  The following Lurton wines are available through Trajectory Beverage Partners 905-849-4346)