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Martine Saunier: Rock Star of the Wine World

This is a picture of Martine Saunier, San Francisco's premier wine maven. Last week she held her annual portfolio tasting at the Presidio's Golden Gate Club. In a time when restaurants aren't buying much wine, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of wine professionals in attendance was testament to the quality of her lineup of wines and her rock star status. Martine, who just turned 75 a few months ago, just keeps going and, if anything, getting better. (You think Mick Jagger has energy, just try keeping up with Martine.)

Her portfolio is a mix of French wines with a few finds from places like Spain, Portugal, Oregon and Austria. She holds on to heavyweights like Leroy, Mortet, Perrot-Minot and Rouget from Burgundy and Rayas and Pegau from the Rhone. But at the same time, she continues to make amazing finds, such the houses of Gonet-Medeville and Coquillette from Champagne—two amazing producers that you'll be seeing all around town (try the by-the-glass list at Jardiniére).

Five years ago, I included Martine in an SF Chronicle story about local importers, writing that "Martine's Wines in Novato was one of the first companies to bring in high-end Burgundy and Rhone wines starting in the 1960s and '70s. Saunier . . .  was the rare woman to break into the business. Her importations of top Burgundy producers like Henri Jayer, Domaine Leroy and others helped set the groundwork for the advent of Pinot Noir in this country, again seducing young winemakers with beautiful wines, in the process exposing them to a vision of what exceptional Pinot Noir could be."

As it has been for decades, if today you see the label "Imported by Martine's Wines, Novato, Ca" on the back of a bottle of wine, chances are it's going to be an excellent choice.