No one would have blamed Isabel Ferrando if she had decided to back out. In early September of 2002, Ferrando was due to sign a contract to buy Domaine St.-Préfert, a winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But just two days before the signing, a massive storm dumped 16 inches of rain on the region in fewer than 32 hours, destroying roads, knocking out electricity and flooding vineyards. The storm killed more than 30 people in the south of France and inflicted 1.3 billion euros worth of damage. It also destroyed much of Châteauneuf's 2002 vintage, on the vine. Yet Ferrando, undeterred by what some would have considered a bad omen, showed up at the bank the day after the storm to complete the paperwork and shake hands with the seller. She was not a winemaker-her wine experience consisted of two years of viticulture school and one internship. She had little money. With the backing of her future husband, Germain Giraud, a successful business owner and politician, she was able to take out a loan in order to pay the 2.6 million euros being asked for 33 acres of vines, a cellar and three small houses. After she signed, Giraud teased, "If you don't lose money, it will be OK." Wine Spectator's Mitch Frank explains.
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