Pierre Peters champagne with Rodolphe Peters

One winery I wanted to be sure to visit when I was in Champagne last month was Pierre Péters. I have always tremendously enjoyed the racy wines in the US and Rodolphe Péters not only commands a lot of respect in the wine world for his Champagnes but I had heard he had a new (sparkling) wine project in California I wanted to learn more about. Despite wanting to find it, I drove right by the winery in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger–there’s no sign and it looked like a construction site.

Rodolphe Péters, who has made the wine since taking over from his father in 2007, met me and apologized for the mess. He said the project was taking longer than expected (which renovation hasn’t?). Rodolphe is a sixth generation farmer and a fourth generation winemaker. The estate is a renowned producer of blanc de blancs Champagne from their 19.98 hectares, which contain 65 parcels on the thin topsoil and chalky subsoil of the famed Cote des Blancs area. Only his grand cru wines are available in the US market (While he does make wine that is not grand cru, that stays in the French domestic market and the US receives only grand cru wines.

Rodolphe graduated as an enologist in 1992 but didn’t dive right in to Read more…

Exciting times for Spanish wine – a story over on SevenFifty

ricardo perez
Spain makes a lot of wine. Overall, it’s the third biggest producer in the world. One problem the country has is that many of the country’s wines sell at low prices–don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some pricey ones too. Another problem is that as wine enthusiasts and producers around the world rejoice in delving into fiendish detail about vineyards, some of Spain’s region’s can keep an administrative lid on the terroir.

I examine how some producers such as Ricardo Pérez Palacios (above) and Raúl Pérez in Bierzo and Telmo Rodriguez in Rioja are doing to unlock the terroir in their regions. This process not only ties into what’s happening in the larger wine world, it can also serve as a way to raise the price of grapes, land and wine.

These are exciting developments. I sought to capture them in an article at SevenFifty daily, published today. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

“Why Spanish Producers Are Seeking Burgundy-Style Classifications” [SevenFifty Daily]

Three questions with…Evelyne de Pontbriand of Domaine du Closel

On the sidelines of her NY distributor’s recent tasting, I grabbed a quick three minutes with the supremely lovely Evelyne de Pontbriand. She is the third consecutive woman in her family to run the estate Domaine du Closel located at the Chateau des Vaults in the Loire region of Savennières.

Aging Savennières: underrated or overrated?
I think it is quite underrated. I have a whole collection of old Savennières, unfortunately not older than 50 years old but they are fantastic. I did a big tasting a couple of years ago for the 50th anniversary of the appellation with 50 vintages. it was really very interesting. I think they get another dimension when they age and they are more and more, very interesting food wines.

Botrytis: underrated or overrated?
I think botrytis is…hmm, that’s difficult. I don’t think people really know what it means. I think it might be overrated. Now that we are harvesting with no or very little botrytis, the wines are very pure and they really reflect the terroir more. And that is really our aim.

Chenin blanc: underrated or overrated?
Definitely underrated! It is a fantastic grape. Its versatility is really interesting. You have incredible sweet chenin blanc or very dry chenin blanc. You don’t really recognize the grape because it expresses the terroir, which is what I think is most interesting whether in Savennières or Vouvray or Swartland, it is going to taste very different. It always has this freshness because of its acidity.

So, maybe I need to rephrase: great grape, or the greatest grape?
Ha, I think the greatest grape of the future! It can face climate change because it has so much natural acidity so it doesn’t become flat. We are dong a big congress in July and this will be one of the questions.

(search for Domaine du Closel at retail)

Wine spills onto the docket at the Supreme Court


On Wednesday, the eyes of wine geeks and those in the wine industry will turn to the the Supreme Court. Wine will be on the docket, and, as you might expect, reds and whites do not map on to a political right and left. A love of wine is non-partisan even though no justice has ever proclaimed “I love wine” during confirmation hearings (only beer gets this kind of admiration!). At stake on Wednesday is whether wine shops can ship across state lines.

The biggest wine case the Supreme Court ever decided was Granholm v Heald in 2005. In their decision, the majority ruled that states could not discriminate between out-of-state wineries and in-state wineries—either they had to open up to shipping from all wineries or close the whole thing down. Fortunately for wine enthusiasts, almost all state chose to open up so consumers across the country now at least have the right to order wine from wineries.

But it has remained an open legal question whether this freedom for wineries to ship also applies to wine shops. In fact, Read more…

Slinging juice: my side hustle at Parlor Pizza


My good friend, chef Tim Labant, and I have ridden probably 15,000 miles together on our bikes the past few years. We’ve had some epic adventures. Tim is the chef/owner of Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a new American spot in Wilton that celebrated its eleventh anniversary this past spring. About three years ago, Tim decided he wanted to bring his fine dining skills to a more casual environment. He loves pizza (who doesn’t?), so he started developing his own dough recipe. He went to Pizza Expo in Las Vegas two years in a row, refining his recipe and researching ovens. As the restaurant was developing, he asked me to put together the wine list and I was only too happy to help.

Everything came together about five weeks ago when Parlor opened its doors. Tim’s dough uses two types of Italian (Caputo) flour and has a multiday fermentation and proofing. The pies get baked in a Pavesi oven that’s fire-truck red. The dough has a chewy mouthfeel that makes you not even want to talk, just indulge in another bite until the pie is gone. The sautéed mushroom with taleggio is one of my favorites; the white clam sees fresh littlenecks steamed open, shucked and then placed on a creamy reduction sauce. The salads and sides are not to miss either.

To complement this simple but tasty menu, we put together a wine list that has something for everyone–but it may not be the exact something people thought they wanted when they came in. For example, a guest came in recently and asked for “a glass of chardonnay.” When I pointed out that we don’t have one by the glass (but we do have the excellent Sandhi chardonnay by the bottle), I suggested an erbaluce from Luigi Ferrando, the celebrated (for his reds, mostly) producer from Carema in the north of Piedmont. I poured her a taste; she liked it and ordered a glass. Then another. So that was my mini triumph of the night, turning a generic “chardonnay” drinker into a two-glass erbaluce enthusiast.

The list has a smattering of fun wines over $100 and a bunch of crystal decanters. But sensitive to the value needs of a pizza place, the list also has ten wines by the the bottle under $30 and ten wines by the glass starting at $8. We have three wines on keg too (lower carbon footprint!) that we serve by the quartino. We have wines from Italy, France, New York, California, Spain and Austria on the list right now. We have orange wine and pet nat. We will rotate wines in and out and have some special pours too. The wine world is a big and exciting place right now and we are happy to show off some tasty portions of it.

Stop by and check it all out! Connecticut is beautiful, especially this time of year.
Read more…

Reboule du Rhone, second edition

The Reboule du Rhone is back for a second edition! The event last year feted winemakers and wines from the Northern Rhone with dinners and tastings, raising over $300,000 for the charity No Kid Hungry. Above is a quick montage of scenes from last year.

This year’s encore edition will include a series of singular dinners, November 15-17. The first dinner (at a private residence 50 floors up) highlights “legendary” vintages of the last 50 years, the second dinner has a focus on the “kings of Cornas,” and the third is a BYOB extravaganza. For those looking for a more budget-friendly event, it’s hard to outdo the value of walk-around tasting at 1 PM Saturday the 17th. Winemakers and leading sommeliers will pour over 100 wines from the region.

The event is the brainchild of Thomas Pastuszak and Dustin Wilson. Profits go entirely to No Kid Hungry.

List of winemakers after the jump. Read more…

2017 wine auction market seen through the crystal…wine glass


Sotheby’s released a glossy report on their 2017 wine auction year today: the house racked up $63.8 million at 21 auctions in London, New York, and Hong Kong. That was good enough for third on the list of 2017 wine auction houses–in all, the global wine auction market rose 12.7% to $381 million last year (WS had a summary piece back in January).

At Sotheby’s, as elsewhere, Burgundy rose and DRC dominated. Last fall, six bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Romanée Conti 1996, fetched $134,750, or $22,458 per bottle. Not too shabby for fermented grape juice! In total, $11.6 million worth of DRC sold at Sotheby’s auctions last year, making it the top wine for the fifth year in a row and more this year than Lafite, Pétrus, and Mouton combined (Bordeaux sales declined to less than 50% of total wines sold, by value). Whisky sales increased as some collectible consignments came up for sale. Asian buyers comprised 60% of wines sold by value.

Will DRC demand let up? It remains the most coveted wine at auction worldwide. Hopefully, someone out there actually pulls a cork from time to time to enjoy it in the glass, rather than on a balance sheet! (Above, evidence that this does happen from time to time.)

Read more…

Trump – Macron state dinner wines


Last night’s state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte was the first of Donald Trump’s term. Would the current occupant of the White House shatter wine protocols at state dinners? Would the teetotaler whose name adorns a Virginia winery serve his own wine?

The White House has a tradition of serving only American wines at state dinners. This president was not going to put waves in that particular chardonnay glass–MAGA and all that. The menu included a chardonnay and a pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the white from Domaine Serene and the red from Domaine Drouhin. The focus on Oregon is apt since it is an area that has attracted many French winemakers and makes many wines in a Burgundian style. The Drouhin family was the first French family to buy vineyard land in Oregon back in 1987. And perhaps because the White House Events usher who selects the wine likes symmetry, he put Domaine Serene on the menu as the family behind it bought a property in Burgundy in 2015.

The official announcement of the menu had some interesting verbiage, noting the vines at Domaine Serene were “a combination of French plants from Dijon.” The statement continues that the wine was “aged in 40 percent French oak barrels for more than 12 months”–what of the remaining 60%? The Domaine Serene site clarifies that the wine was aged in 40% *new* French oak barrels. That makes more sense. On the Domaine Drouhin “Laurène,” the state dinner site says that the wine was “fermented in French Oak barrels.” (Can you believe they found two wines made in America that were aged in French oak? :P) By contrast, the Domaine Drouhin site says that the wine was first “fermented with indigenous yeasts, and then placed into barrels (French oak, never more than 20% new).” Details!

The White House Events usher also has a predilection for pairing off-dry sparking wine with ice cream. So he subjected the diners to an off-dry sparkling wine with dessert. Hopefully, someone can have a summit with him to lay down all off-dry sparklers with dessert!

Also, check out how Trump is holding his wine glass–eegad, someone alert Robert Mueller of this wine crime!

Full menu after the jump. Read more…


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