One of the privileges of being in the wine trade is to have a first, second and sometimes third look at wines before they become available at retail or placed on restaurant wine list. The world’s top wine regions and producers are very generous in offering their time and samples of wines to the trade and press. The opportunities to pre-taste before the wines are released from the wine cellars normally requires boarding a plane and travelling to Montalcino, Chianti, Piemonte, Burgundy or Bordeaux. However, once a year certain entities that make a huge effort to gather up a cross section of their wines and bring them to the U.S. for a pre-arrival tasting. The Henriot Company (as in Henriot Champagne)—owner of the great Burgundy houses of Bouchard Père et Fils, Grands Vins de Bourgogne Depuis 1731 and William Fèvre, Grands Vin de Chablis—annually comes to New York in February with pre-release samplings of their estates wines. This tasting featured the 2012 pre-arrival offering.
William Fèvre, one of the great producers of Chablis, possesses some of the most exceptional vineyards in the appellation of Chablis, including more than 115 acres of prime vineyard real estate with 30 acres of Premier Cru and nearly 38 acres of Grand cru. These top vineyard sites sit on soils that are mixed with marl and clay-rich lime with the famous Kimmeridgian subsoil of oyster fossils that is rich in minerals. The five different wines that I sampled were outstanding in quality. Chablis lovers will be in for a treat when these wines arrive to the market. We sample three Premier Crus: Montmains, Fourchaume and Vaulorent. All three were lively, lovely exuberant freshness and were long on mineral and citrus aromas and flavors. Stepping up a notch to the Grand Crus, Bougros and Les Clos had all the characteristics of the Premier Crus but with more intensity, concentration and complexity. To quote the winemaker of William Fèvre, “2012 is a promising vintage: the perfect balance concentration and freshness, which leads to predict that the wines will have a long aging potential.”
Bouchard Père et Fils offered a sampling of more than fifteen wines from the 2012 vintage: whites from the Côte de Beaune featuring Beaune Clos Saint-Landry, Meursault les Clous and Genevrières, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, and two grand Crus from Chevalier-Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne. These 2012 Chardonnays, derived from very small and concentrated berries, are rich, expressive, with good freshness. The Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne were particularly majestic, as one would expect, exhibiting great precision.
The Bouchard Père et Fils 2012 reds came from both the Côte de Beaune and Côte de nuits. As with the Chardonnays, the Pinot Noirs came from healthy, very small concentrated berries. To quote the winemaker, “Considering the berries’ concentration we immediately realized that we were confronted with a scarce vintage of great quality and perfect balance. Our wines at the moment are rich and concentrated, with good tension and ripe tannins.” Some of the highlights were the le Corton grand Cru, the forever fabulous Beaune Grèves vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot, Gevrey Chambertin, Aloxe-Corton and Savigny-Les-Beaune.
Overall, I was impressed with the quality of 2012. With the scarcity of quantity I suggest to buy quickly when the wines arrive to the marketplace. The laws of supply and demand always reign supreme, but rarely more so than when you’re talking about the elite wines of Burgundy.
The Super-Tuscan category of wines is an IWM staff favorite and one of the most recognized among IWM clients. The popularity of these wines is rightfully deserved. Created by the iconic Tenuta San Guido estate, these wines utilize international varietals to make their own unique Bordeaux-style blends. Sometimes these blends incorporate the star red grape of Tuscany, Sangiovese, and some producers will even use grapes like Syrah in their blends. Whatever the composition of the wines, the Super Tuscan movement has progressed with great success because consumers know and recognize the varietals involved, which is not always the case with Italian wines.
People who enjoy “big” wines love Super Tuscans, even those who enjoy New World style wines (i.e. California Cabernets). They are structured, full-bodied, and robust with the best examples being incredibly age-worthy. The aromas and flavors you get are very different from their Bordeaux counterparts though, especially when Sangiovese is thrown in the mix. Sangiovese adds a perceptible juiciness, while simultaneously bolstering acidity, to create truly delicious wine. It’s hard to characterize Super Tuscans as a group because so many producers like to craft their own blends and some of the most famous, most collectible Super Tuscans are mono-varietals. The following wines are two of my Super-Tuscan favorites, one incorporates Sangiovese and the other is a straight Bordeaux blend. Neither will break the bank, and, in my opinion, both wines over-deliver in quality.
This is a discreet Super Tuscan and I couldn’t be happier about it. What I mean is that Grattamacco is one of the original Super Tuscans (they are neighbors with Sassicaia) but it’s nowhere near as common. For example, in good vintages Sassicaia will easily produce 10,000+ cases while annual production for Grattamacco is around 4,000-5,000 cases annually. So not only is Grattamacco difficult to come by, but also the fact that this wine has stayed under $100 is awesome. Good structure, juicy acidity, with aromas of blue and red fruits that carry over on the palate. With a little bit of air this Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese blend is ready to go and possesses that fantastic balance of power and elegance. This is truly one of my favorites and it’s a pleasure to be able to offer it here at IWM.
For the Cellar:
This estate is part of the prestigious Antinori empire. I had the 2009 Guado al Tasso before I tried this 2008 and I was blown away by both. The 2009 Guado al Tasso, like the 2009 Grattamacco, was surprisingly accessible with a little bit of air. The 2008 Guado al Tasso however, has a long life ahead, improving over the next 3-5 years and drinking well for a decade. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot will easily give some premiere chateaux a run for their money, while adding a bit of that Tuscan flare. Those of you Bordeaux fanatics out there should seriously consider picking up one of these and trying it; I’d be surprised if you weren’t delighted. With the prices of Bordeaux these days, this Super Tuscan is a smart alternative.
Wedding planning season is fast upon us and we at IWM are gearing up to host rehearsal dinners and receptions. I love wedding season, not only because it lets me stretch my muscles as IWM’s event director but also because I get to work with so many different people, from planners to the couple themselves, to special cake makers and florists. I’ve always thought our spaces are terribly romantic, and it warms my heart when we get to use them to send a newly married couple on their way.
IWM offers an ideal space to host rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions or even small weddings; even more exciting, the customized menus with dishes prepared by our own in-house chef and our personalized service are unparalleled. I don’t mean to sound as if I’m not humble, but after hosting a rather large reception last December, we still are receiving compliments on the dinner we served. Some guests even claimed that it was the best wedding reception meal they had ever had. While I wasn’t there to experience it (I had flown to Ohio to be in another wedding party that day!), I was part of the floor planning and can imagine how beautifully we transformed IWM into a garden of lilies.
We’ve also hosted multiple wedding rehearsals recently and look forward to more soon. What better way to enjoy family before your big day than to share food and beautiful wine? IWM’s founder, Sergio Esposito, always says that wine brings people together, and I’m not sure that this is ever more true than at a wedding reception.
Our structure for these special evenings is just the same as any other event: we offer our world-class 18-dish, five-course tasting menu and expertly paired wines. While we don’t provide flowers for you, there are a number or highly skilled florists we recommend who are used to working with our space. We are also happy to accept wedding cake deliveries from your favorite baker! I look forward to planning many, many receptions over the coming months. IWM loves a great party, and few parties are as memorable as an IWM wedding reception!
Next week from Wednesday March 12 through March 16, the American homage celebration to the greatness of Burgundy wine called La Paulée de San Francisco will take place. Attended by Burgundy’s top winemakers, as well as critics, connoisseurs, and curious wine lovers, La Paulée is not only one of the great wine venues in America, but it also showcases the white and red wines of Burgundy at a sharply focused level. Four days of morning-to-night wine tastings, including a one-of-a-kind verticals, seminars, panel discussions, lunches, dinners and a grand gala to finish off the weekend. I’ve been lucky enough to participate as a guest sommelier almost every year since La Paulée first took place in New York in 2000, and this year is no exception. My picks today reflect my excitement and desire to share great Burgundy from IWM’s amazing, deep selection that rests in our temperature-controlled cellars: Domaine Lignier Michelot Bourgogne Rouge 2011 and Latour Giraud Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Canet 2011.
The classy, light crimson Domaine Lignier Michelot Bourgogne Rouge 2011 comes from vineyards with vines that average 40 years of age. The nose evokes spring flowers with lovely red fruit aromas like cherry and framboise and hints of spice. On the palate, it is generous with a lovely texture and the wine’s red fruits shine with ripeness. This is a wine for now that will bring great pleasure for your everyday drinking.
Bright straw colored in its youth, Domaine Latour Giraud Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Canet 2011 is one of the great white wines of Burgundy. Evoking complexity and concentration, its nose offers subtle aromas of apple, pear, spice, mineral and white flowers. This full-bodied wine enters the mouth with power, grace and finesse, showing layers of citrus and stone fruits, complemented by refreshing, mouth-watering acidity. This is a wine for the ages, and as delicious as it is right now, this wine to receive the full benefit and rewards needs 3-5 years of cellaring. A true treasure of Puligny-Montrachet and a must-have for serious Burgundy collectors.
If you are looking for a Pinot Grigio that defies the notion of that typical floral and citrusy Italian white wine, then look no further than the Movia’s 2008 Pinot Grigio. What sets the Movia Pinot Grigio apart from the rest is the incredible range of flavors you get from the nose to the palate. This range makes the wine more akin to its Alsatian counterpart, Pinot Gris, than to the Pinot Grigio you think you know. If you want a unique go-to white with a little something different, this is it.
On first inspection, right out of the bottle, the wine shows a golden hue, considerably darker than your average Pinot Grigio. The nose offers an immense bouquet of honey, flowers and beautiful nuttiness. Taking a sip, you get a continuation of hazelnut, joined by apricot kernel and a honeyed spiciness that rounds everything out really nicely. It’s that nutty quality that makes Movia’s Pinot Grigio stand out and gives you that something extra that maker Ales Kristancic strives to capture in his wines.
With six years of age, the Movia 2008 Pinot Grigio comes from handpicked biodynamically grown grapes that ferment on natural yeasts, and the estate uses no sulfur in vinification, allowing the wine to naturally stabilize. Unlike some Pinot Grigios, Movia’s wine can stand up to stronger food flavors. I served this bottle to a group of friends this past weekend as an accompaniment to a meal of seared salmon served with sesame noodles. The nuttiness of the wine brought out the intensity in the sesame and vice versa.
This Pinot Grigio is a real accomplishment in the world of Italian white wines. In a land where red wine can easily dominate, Movia Pinot Grigio holds its own. At $30 a bottle, it’s a steal considering all the layers of aroma, flavor and intensity.
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