Fonda Hopkins is Founder & CEO of Montesquieu Winery located in San Diego, CA. Founded in 1991, Montesquieu partners with award winning winemakers around the globe to offer limited production, fine wines to their clients.
The company has now been serving the wine community for over 25 years and has long been a wine industry pioneer in the direct-to-consumer business model.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the wine business and how did Montesquieu get it’s start?
It was more luck than wisdom, really! I was living in Chicago and answered an ad in the Reader for part-time work (as a wine broker) while I was still in school. One thing led to another and five years in, after rising through the ranks and still feeling stifled, I left and co-founded what would later become Montesquieu. I was 26 and it was a big risk!
My understanding is your palate makes the final call on which wines your company ultimately offers – tell me a bit about your credentials and areas of expertise?
Well, I’m always learning so I don’t think of myself as an expert, yet! It’s a team effort really, I rely a lot on the guidance of the many winemakers we work with who have all taught me so much. That said, I have been told that I’m pretty demanding when it comes to our selections. I really value compelling and deep aromatics, complex flavor profiles with layers of fruit and terroir, and a solid structure with good texture. Balance is always a top priority and a finish that goes on and on will always get my attention!
Over the years you’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best winemakers in the world. Who are a few of the winemakers that stand out?
We’ve been fortunate to work with so many talented winemakers over the years. Building relationships with our winemakers and collaborating with them on our offerings has been the most rewarding part of my career. I can say I’ve definitely learned the most from Stephane Derenoncourt. Our 2009 Derenoncourt Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon landed us on the front cover of Wine Spectator magazine. Helene Mingot worked on it with us and really helped me understand Stephane (chuckle)! Another would be Camille Benitah. Camille’s Merus Cabernet became a cult classic, and she’s collaborated with us on some of our best offerings. Michel Rolland and Federico Benegas in Argentina are over the top; there is real magic and majesty in their wines. Martha McClellan from Sloan, Harlan, Vineyard 7&8, and others has become a dear friend… Man, I could go on and on – I’m so lucky! Our partnerships with these winemakers is ultimately why we’ve been successful and our clients love our wines so much. You can find out more about our winemakers on our website.
What’s unique about Montesquieu’s wines? Why do your clients choose to purchase wines from your company?
Our business model is pretty unique – we’re not a single location vineyard, we’re not a retail store, and we’re not a wine club. We’re able to source wine globally, and we essentially cut out the middleman which means we can offer our clients really high-end wines at a very reasonable price. On top of that, our clients tend to be very busy, successful people. Our team of wine advisors comes to know each client’s unique tastes, and wines they love are delivered right to their doorstep. In that way we make buying wines that you’ll love and that will impress your guests really, really easy. Last but not least all of our offerings are small batch, limited production wines that you can’t buy anywhere else. As a result, our clients are able to fill their cellars with wines that are truly unique. What’s more fun than that?
Montesquieu has developed a close partnership with Wine to Water, a charity that provides clean drinking water globally. Tell us about the nature of that relationship.
We’ve developed a close relationship with Wine to Water over the years, and very much support their mission to bringing clean drinking water to underdeveloped communities. We’ve created several offerings specifically to support their mission, typically selling bottles with the proceeds directly benefiting the charity. Over the years we’ve raised $250,000+ to support their efforts and I hope to double that by 2020.
They do really amazing work and it’s a honor to be able to assist in the “reverse miracle” of today’s world, helping give access to clean water to the 780 million people who don’t have it. It just seems so basic, how can we not help?
Montesquieu Wines typically offers 6-8 different small batch, limited production wines at any point in time. You can explore their existing offerings at montesquieu.com.