After writing and producing a movie and writing two books about Monet’s gardens, entrepreneur Aileen Bordman has added wine to the Monet’s Palate brand. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Dame Helen Rappel Bordman, Aileen is embracing the stewardship of Monet’s home and garden. The elder Ms. Bordman first became involved with Giverny in 1980 and she dedicated herself to the artist’s legacy until her death in April 2020.
Aileen Bordman’s journey to all things Monet begins with her mother, who founded the volunteer program at Monet’s Home and Garden at Giverny and helped to restore the home to its original state.A large part of it was restored with gifts from U.S. benefactors, especially the Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation.
After joining the efforts at Monet’s home in 1980, Helen Bordman led in developing and launching its expanded volunteer program. As the head and founder of the volunteer program she been responsible for selecting from an international pool of university students. The program, which now includes artists, photographers, gardeners, and historians draws from a pool of students attending a long list of universities and colleges. Since those early days Helen also helped raise millions of dollars to grow, maintain and operate Museum Claude Monet Giverny. Visitors who met Helen in the gardens would occasionally donate and do so to this day every year just because they were so inspired by her devotion.
Helen’s work was done entirely on a volunteer basis as an expression of her love of Monet and the culture and people of France. In addition, she felt it was so important to haveanAmerican connection to the museum. This was a bridge between America and France created in the same spirit of Monet who would always welcome American artists like Sargent and Butler to Giverny. Guests who enjoyed “Tea with Helen” in the garden include many diplomats and celebrities including Prince Charles, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Tony Bennett, Louis Jordan, James Mason, Steve Wynn, Hillary Clinton, Leslie Caron, Barbara Streisand, Kirk Douglas, Meryl Streep, Richard Chamberlain, Bette Midler, Pierce Brosnan, Tony Bennett, Michelle Obama and Queen Elizabeth.
In 2008, Helen was a lead player in the documentary film Monet’s Palate – A Gastronomic View From the Gardens of Giverny which included Roger Vergé, Alice Waters, Joachim Pissarro, Daniel Boulud and an introduction by Meryl Streep, who nominated Helen for the Chevalier Des Art et Lettres. Helen was knighted in 2017; Chef Jacques Torres bestowed the medal at a gathering in New York City.
Since Helen’s passing last year, her daughter Aileen is continuing her work. An entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, and photographer, she is the founder and President of Monet’s Palate, Inc., an integrated lifestyle brand. Aileen is the creator of the film, Monet’s Palate, which was originally a way her to pay homage to her mother’s work at Giverny and to connect with her family legacy. She is the author of two best-selling books, Monet’s Palate Cookbook and Everyday Monet; she did the photography for the latter, as well as for the Monet’s Garden calendar series. Considered one of the world’s foremost experts regarding Claude Monet’s art, gardens and lifestyle, Bordman has added wine to the Monet’s Palate offerings.
The brand is just launching now; a planned launch last year was delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. Wines are currently sourced from vineyards in IGP Cotes de Thau in Languedoc. Current offerings include Monet’s Palate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and rosé, with immediate plans to add Sauvignon Blanc. Bordman’s winery partners source and export wine from the Loire, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne, so there is room to grow Monet’s Palate Wine from within the existing supplier network. Monet’s Palate is imported by Indigo Brands and is sold in individual states by regional distributors. The goal for this year is to sell 500,000 bottles through retail and restaurant outlets.
We spoke with Aileen Bordman about Claude Monet, Monet’s Palate, and her new wine brand.
WWG: How did the Monet’s Palate wine brand come about?
In my effort to share the magical world of Claude Monet, educating the world about his passion for art and food was paramount. He was a “foodie” before that term was ever applied. I would imagine Monet at the elaborate luncheons and dinner parties he would hold and the menu and wines that were served. Food and wine are a great communicator of culture and art, Monet was an expert and joining these two are forms together.
As I sat one day at Monet’s dining room table, I imagined Isadora Duncan to left of me, and Cezanne to the right. I then took great delight in thinking about all the wonderful dishes Monet would serve. Cod fish in saffron sauce, traditional bouillabaisse and a very Normandy apple tart Tatin. In fact, Monet visited with the Tatin sisters at their Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, about 100 miles west of Paris. He persuaded them to share their buttery, caramel like apple tart without a crust. Of course, the wonderful cheeses of France including the buttery Camembert found in Normandy would round out the menu. Wines would be served throughout the meal. Monet was particularly fond of reds but enjoyed whites and rosés as well. We might now all be able to own a Monet painting, but now we can all a magnificent glass of Monet’s Palate wine.
WWG: It is obvious when looking at Monet’s work that he was a lover of food and dining. Was he also known to be a wine lover?
AB: Monet adored wine. Reds were his fondest, but all varieties met with his palate. He would travel the world to paint and dine and spent a good deal of time in southern France. I had the honor of interviewing Joachim Pissarro, the great-grandson of Camille Pissarro when I was filming for Monet’s Palate – A Gastronomic View from the Gardens of Giverny. Pissarro [was] another great impressionist artist and friend of Monet’s; [they] would often dine together. Consider the impressionists The Beatles of their time. Joachim on camera stated that the “birth of impressionism might not be Claude Monet’s cataracts.” After all that condition came later in Monet’s life. Joachim reasoned that, “Perhaps it was the amount of spirits the impressionist consumed that led to impressionism…the effect of drinking the wine they loved, and then running out to paint.”
World Wine Guys: Why did you transition from your work on Wall Street to create Monet’s Palate?
Aileen Bordman: Monet’s Palate is all about a passion born one spring day at the artist’s country home and gardens in Giverny, France. As I sat at Monet’s dining room table with my mother, Dame Helen Rappel Bordman, an American representative at Monet’s home since 1980, I had to sigh. Before me was a still life of flowers, a glass of golden Normandy apple cider, ripe Camembert cheese running from its shell, and a crusty baguette. The sweet scent of apples from the cider blended with the bouquet of flowers picked that very morning from the garden. It was an “Ah ha” moment. I understood that Monet surrounded himself with beauty and knew how to draw on it as a source of ideas. His home was another beckoning canvas.
What do Meryl Streep, Daniel Boulud, Alice Waters, Michel Richard, Auguste Escoffier, the “Water Lilies” paintings, the gardens of Giverny, Yorkshire pudding and Claude Monet have in common? The answer, Monet’s Palate, is both a film and the 21st-century answer to “a life well led.” It’s inspired by the world Monet created for himself decades before the term “lifestyle” or names like Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren or Williams-Sonoma