10 Life-Changing Wines from F&W's 2016 Sommeliers of the Year
Ten amazing wines to seek out or covet.
When we spoke to the amazing men and women we named as the 2016 Sommeliers of the Year, we asked them to tell us about the wines that made an impact on their lives. Unsurprisingly, they had a lot of bottles to talk about—too many to fit into one piece. But we couldn’t let their amazing picks go unmentioned. Once you’ve read our interviews with F&W's brilliant Sommeliers of the Year, check out these bonus bottles.
FLX Wienery and FLX Table, Geneva, New York
Fetzer Reserve Merlot
My parents brewed beer and we made cider, but wine was pretty much limited to the twice a year consumption of Andres or Totts. I remember distinctly when a friend of my parent’s visited and brought a bottle of Fetzer Reserve Merlot. That wine was pretty enlightening; there was more texture and weight and roundness than anything I’d had.
1978 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
While I was at Cornell, I was a teaching assistant for a bunch of wine courses and the 1978 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was one wine we poured and it was fantastic: complex and starting show that sweet soy, decaying leaf thing, but still with this voluptuousness. That wine for me sparked my passion for old wine, balanced wine and California.
Reed’s American Table, St. Louis, Missouri
Chartogne Taillet Cuvée Ste-Anne
This is what got me into grower Champagne. I did a tasting where somebody sat me down in front of quite a few glasses of wine and said, “just smell the first two.” One smelled like sweet tarts and sulfur and one smelled like rocks and flowers, that one was Chartogne Taille Cuvée Ste-Anne. And I was like, “Oh! So this is what Champagne from one specific site is all about!”
1959 Chateau Musar
When I was at the Texsomm conference in Dallas a couple years ago, there was a Musar retrospective. This was the first vintage that Serge Hochar, Musar’s winemaker who passed away last year, ever made. It really opened the eyes of all the people in that room to what wine with a historic perspective can achieve. Tasting the wine was amazing–very much alive and youthful at 53 years old–but it got better and better as Serge talked about Musar and its history and the history of Lebanese winemaking. This wine allows you to tell a story. I’ll always remember being able to taste Serge’s first vintage with Serge.
Animal/Son Of A Gun/Trois Mec/Petit Trois/Jon & Vinny's/Helen's, Los Angeles
Domaine Faury St. Joseph Rouge Vielles Vignes
When I first started buying wine for Animal, one of the more interesting areas for me was the northern Rhône–those Syrahs are so great with Animal's food. I’d had Chave Hermitage, which is so fancy and elegant, but I wanted to really know the region. I bought Faury’s old vine St. Joseph and poured it by the glass–it was too expensive to be pouring by the glass–but it changed my perspective, and my staff’s perspective, on what northern Rhône Syrah is: playful, peppery, bright.
Camerata, Houston, Texas
2008 Derey Freres Marsannay Rosé
I went to France to sing and to study with a teacher in Nice, and took a couple of weeks to travel around to taste wine. In Burgundy, in Marsannay, I tasted a bunch of rosé at a time when rosé was still kind of a new thing for me. I bought a bottle at Derey Freres and went back to my little hostel in Dijon with some cheese and bread–and I remember drinking that bottle and thinking, “This is life right here.”
2006 Avignonesi Grandi Annate Vino Nobile Riserva
In my first buying position, I took appointments with just about every distributor who came through. I was a sponge–it didn’t matter if the wine was going to work for the program, I wanted to learn what it tasted like. This bottle was one where my eyebrows went up, like “what is this!?” It was so unbelievably intense–it smelled like fresh violets and roses. I ended up opening a bottle when I proposed to my wife Sarah.
Café Spiaggia and Spiaggia, Chicago
1994 Chave Blanc
This family has been making wine since the 1400s! To experience a white with such texture and density and flavor is just mind blowing. Everyone’s talking about alcohol content and whether wines can really be balanced if they’re high in alcohol, but Jean Louis Chave doesn’t worry about that. No matter how high the alcohol, his wines never taste out of whack; they’re so well integrated. Nobody else’s wines taste like that; Chave is an exception. What is Hermitage Blanc supposed to taste like anyway? No one can make their wines as unctuous as he tends to.
Acquerello and 1760, San Francisco
1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cannubi
I sold a bottle of 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva to a regular at a point when I was young and my confidence spoke more loudly than my lack of experience. When I tasted it, this wine took me to a time and place. It smelled of the fall in a cold land: spices, tobacco, dried roses, balsamic, sweet red fruit, and just a bit of grippy tannin holding it together. It was everything an older Barolo should be.
2004 Raveneau Chablis Montée de Tonnerre
I tasted a lot of truly epic and iconic Burgundy while working at Michael Mina. While lots went over my head, one producer stood out: François Raveneau. His were the first white wines that really spoke to me. I remember Tony Cha (the wine director there) scolding me for selling too much of it and explaining to me how little wine is produced. (I had no idea because we probably had 30-40 selections on the list at the time). So when I found a lone bottle of 2004 Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre in a wine shop, I had to buy it. I had tasted many but had never gotten to drink a bottle by myself.
Check out all of the 2016 Sommeliers of the Year.