In The Eyes’ of Sommeliers

The holidays are upon us and I always feel that I attack my cellar most between November and February. Maybe it is because it is too cold to do much, so it better to be inside with friends (or myself) and enjoy wines that I love. In future posts I will be delving into the upcoming Barolo/Barbaresco vintage and the latest trends in the auction market relative to Burgundian wines. Today’s post, however is about enjoyment.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to ask some of my colleagues around the United States what they are keen on and what wines are surprising to them. I was curious to hear what some of the top sommeliers around the United States are drinking now and which they’re adding to their own cellars. Here are their answers:

Sarah Clarke has been the wine director for the “Mozza-plex” (Pizzeria Mozza/Osteria Mozza/Che Spacca) in Los Angeles for the past six years. Her career has spanned some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Her deep passion for wine is infectious and when she is keen on something, I have always listened and always enjoyed. Sarah’s top three wines for 2019 so far are: 1) Keller, Grosses Gewächs, Kirchspiel 2016 2) René & Vincent Dauvissat, La Forest 1er Cru Chablis 2014 & 3) Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2012. Discovering “off-vintages”(referencing vintages that either the press poo-poo’d or were perceived as extremely challenging by the producers) is a special interest of Sarah’s too.

Sarah writes, “2014 was not a vintage heralded by the press in Italy (especially in Tuscany) but I have been very excited by the wines I have tasted.” She mentions that in 2014 she loved the freshness found in the wines and the elevated acidity levels making the wines more age-worthy that most will think. She specifically called out the 2014 Rosso di Montalcino from Salvioni, one of the most import estates of the region. Here she says, “Most of the fruit from the estate when into their Rosso which gives you an excellent wine for the price.”

Mariarosa Tartaglione, wine director for the Michelin started restaurant, Ai Fiori in Manhattan, is madly in love with all things Italian and her selections reflect that choice. In asking her about her selections she felt that right now Italy is producing wines at such a high level that it would be good to get in on the “ground floor”. Her top pick for 2019 is the Quintodecimo, Vigna Quintodecimo, Taurasi Riserva 2014 from Campania.

I can vouch for her that this is an amazing wine from a region that is roaring back and should be considered by all wine aficionados. Again, 2014 is talked about by a sommelier. Here Mariarosa is very excited about Produttori del Barbaresco. In 2014 the estate found that the vintage provided amazing quality to their Cru sites and Mariarosa believes that the “Ovello” Riserva Barbaresco 2014 is a MUST for anyone who loves Nebbiolo.

Sam Stoppelmoor, General Manager of the hottest wine bar in New York, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels keeps the focus on France, Italy and Germany for his selections. He starts off with one of the hardest to find wines on earth: Arnaud Ente Goutte d’Or Meursault 2016. Sam says, “This is not only one of the best wines I’ve had in 2016 but in my life.” He bookends this monolithic wine with the Keller, Grosses Gewächs, Abts E 2016 and the Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014. Having recently been to Compangnie I was excited to see his pick for an “off-vintage”.

Sam states that right now he is very excited about 2007 red Burgundy, especially the Domaine Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Geroges 1er Cru. He feels that, though a warm vintage, the 2007’s are offering a lot of solid fruit right now and a high level of drinkability. Sam believes these three regions and vintages are offering the best drinkability right now: 2010 Riesling form the Rheinhessen, Germany, 1998 Barolo (I 100% agree) & 2014 White Burgundy. He feels that each of these shows the region in its best light today.

Finally, Michael Acheson GM/Head buyer at Citarella’s new wine shop in Hudson Yards, is again keeping with the trend of France and Italy. His top three choices for 2019 are: Hubert Lignier “Clos de la Roche” 2014, which he says “I don’t particularly feel the need to defend this choice. You can enjoy your Rousseau and I’ll happily sit in the corner with my Lignier, content with my little treasure.”

If I found him in his corner, I’d politely ask him to share. He is also very much excited about the pending release of the 2014 Giacomo Conterno “Monforitno” Barolo Riserva. He visited the estate two years ago and the wine has been burned into his mind, “…we tasted it from out of cask two years ago and it totally nuked’ me. I’m betting big on this wine.” In 2014 Roberto Conterno will ONLY release a “Monfortino” bottling of Barolo from his estate…a powerful statement in a vintage “deemed” not good.

It is always interesting to see what the wine world is gravitating to and it seems that the classics are still the draw for these top professionals. Having tasted a lot of the wines in barrel and now in bottle of the 2014 vintage from Tuscany and Piedmont, I too can vouch for the fact that these wines are very beautiful and deserve more attention.

Have a Happy belated Thanksgiving. I’m off to the Langhe to explore the cellars of Barolo and Barbaresco shortly and will report back with vintage report and what to expect from what in the barrel. If you wish to follow along, please follow me on Instagram @drinkeatlove

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