F&W's 2017 Sommeliers of the Year
Chad Walsh, left, of Agern (NYC)
Guided by the as-local-as-possible sensibility of chef Gunnar Gíslason’s kitchen, Walsh has used his expansive knowledge of US wines to create an ambitious, all-American list. His choices balance classic producers with proven track records against some of the most exciting upstarts in the wine world.
Walsh's 3 Picks for Spring 2015 Bow & Arrow Rhinestones ($23)“I’ve known about Bow & Arrow for a little while, but last summer I got to visit the winery and was really impressed. Scott Frank makes great Pinot Noir [his wife, Dana, co-owns Portland’s Dame restaurant, p. 80], but he also sees Oregon’s potential beyond that. This red, a crisp Pinot-Gamay blend, reminds me of a top Cheverny from the Loire Valley.”2015 Forlorn Hope Chenin Blanc ($32)“I’ve always loved quirky California vintner Matthew Rorick’s wines. He finally bought his own property in Calaveras County not too long ago, and though he had to rip out most of the vines that were there, he kept all the Chenin. I’m superexcited about this wine. It’s definitely in a leaner style but still has the waxy, lanolin character that defines Chenin Blanc.”2013 Under the Wire Alder Springs Vineyard Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé ($50)“We’re finally getting US producers who are making sparkling wines with the same single-vineyard and -vintage approach as grower Champagnes. This wine clearly isn’t Champagne—it has a very different mineral character—but it has the same depth of personality as wines from my favorite French growers.”Caleb Ganzer, right, of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels (NYC)Ganzer creates a space where guests who aren’t “wine people” can drink stellar wines casually, by the glass. His background in fine dining comes through in his attentive service (rare in wine bars), while his more playful side comes out in regular wine-themed parties and Compagnie’s “guess-the-wine, win-a-bottle” game.Ganzer's 3 Picks for Spring2014 Do Ferreiro Albariño ($29)“This is one of those wines you really don’t want to find in front of you at a blind tasting because it doesn’t actually taste like what it is. But then, you do want it because it’s just delicious—very minerally, very chalky, very fresh. To me, it drinks much more like Chablis than Albariño; it’s more stony, less citrus-driven.”2014 Franz Hirtzberger Rotes Tor Federspiel Grüner Veltliner ($35)“I like Grüners that are a little bit richer, and Hirtzberger always coaxes a lot out of the grape while also keeping the variety’s distinctive green spiciness. Spring is also a great time for Federspiels, a type of Grüner that’s harvested earlier and is usually less expensive, too.”2016 Jauma Chenin Blanc Pet Nat ($45)“This is such a fun wine: It captures the cool essence of what New World Chenin Blanc can be, particularly in this bright citrus note that almost recalls SweeTarts. I was in Australia recently and got to stop at the winery, way out in the middle of nowhere in the Adelaide Hills region. It’s super-rustic.”
Arthur Hon of Sepia (Chicago)
Hon’s curiosity leads him to classic regions, but specifically to lesser-known producers and styles that go against traditional expectations. He’s a perpetual student, and his wine program evolves constantly—lately taking him toward sake and an incredible selection of well-priced older vintages.
Hon's 3 Picks for Spring 2014 Wieninger Nussberg Gemischter Satz ($40)“Gemischter Satz is a Viennese blend of grapes that’s usually drunk young. But Nussberg happens to be one of the best vineyards in the city of Vienna, and, as a result, this is a bottle that can be aged, too. It’s spicy and nutty, with some additional structure from the old vines.”2001 Diez-Caballero Vendimia Seleccionada ($45)“Rioja is one region where the wines are still affordable even when they’re 10 or 20 years old. Victoria Cañas, the winery’s owner, made a real impact on me when we met a few years back. She doesn’t speak English at all, and I don’t speak Spanish, but I was so in love with her wines that we just clicked.”2013 Bolney Wine Estate Blanc de Blancs ($55)“I recently came across this delightful English bubbly. It’s almost like drinking a beautiful Chablis with effervescence, quite surprising and quite delicious. And it’s a perfect springtime wine, texture-wise and weight-wise; it’s just airy and light enough.”
Kathryn Coker of Rustic Canyon Restaurant Group (Santa Monica, CA)
Coker gives each of the five restaurants in the Rustic Canyon group its own wine identity: exceptionally drinkable Champagnes and dry rosés for her wine bar Esters; boundary-pushing California choices to pair with Rustic Canyon’s market-inspired dishes.
Coker's 3 Picks for Spring NV Château de Brézé Crémant de Loire Rosé ($23)“This is my favorite bottle of pink bubbles right now: crisp, clean, with really bright acidity. Normally I don’t love Cabernet Franc’s leafy spice in sparkling wine, but in this case, I’m crazy about it. And if I’m outside on the patio or having lunch near the beach? This is exactly what I’m looking for. Done!”2015 Eva Fricke Rheingau Riesling Trocken ($23)“Spring is all about that moment when our local market is bursting with peas and radishes, and also fresh goat cheese. Sometimes fresh produce like that doesn’t go perfectly with wine, but it will with this dry Riesling. Also, this wine gets better once it’s open. It will be awesome the next day, too.”2014 Pian dell’Orino Rosso di Montalcino ($40)“Three years ago, I went to Italy in May and made a visit to Pian dell’Orino in Montalcino. We’ve always had their Brunello at Esters, but I tasted the more affordable Rosso di Montalcino, and it was just gorgeous—delicate and light, but with enough oomph for roast chicken or pork.”
Brent Braun of Castagna (Portland, OR)
Former musician Braun deftly integrates bottles from Oregon’s evolving wine scene with standouts from star producers in classic regions. His thoughtful approach to wine also shows in his extensive pairings for chef Justin Woodward’s ever-changing 24-course tasting menus.
Braun's 3 Picks for Spring 2015 Weiser-Künstler Riesling ($20)“I’m always drinking Riesling, and Mosel producer Weiser-Künstler is truly one of my favorites from that whole region. For only 20 bucks a bottle, the winery’s estate Riesling is amazing. Every. Single. Year. It’s got acidity and zest, and to me it also captures that green freshness of changing seasons.”2015 Gamine Grenache Petillant-No Dose ($30)“Kate Norris is one half of Oregon’s Division Winemaking Company, but she also does a few other fun side projects, like this sparkling wine. Grenache sounds like a horrible idea for good sparkling, but in this case the wine’s really beautiful: around 11 percent alcohol, fresh, salty, lemony—just clean and refreshing.”2015 Maxime Magnon Métisse ($32)“Maxime Magnon is in France’s rustic Corbières region. He’s a young guy, and very much represents the future of that area and of southern French wine overall. Technically, Métisse is a rosé, but it has a lot more gumption than most. It’s more like a light red—and chilled light reds in springtime are the best.”
Steven Dilley of Bufalina and Bufalina Due (Austin)
Dilley’s approach reflects someone who fell in love with wine first, and then got into the restaurant business because of it. Maybe that’s why he feels there’s no reason his pizza places shouldn’t be home to truly great wines, up to and including grand cru Burgundies.
Dilley's 3 Picks for Spring 2015 Domaine de la Pépière Clos des Briords Muscadet ($20)“This white wine has to be one of the best on the planet, which is why it’s been on our list since the day we opened. There’s a lot of bad Muscadet around, so it’s great to find one like this, from old vines that have been handled really well. You get some richness from the lees contact, amazing minerality and it pairs well with everything.”2014 Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Vouvray Sec ($35)“Bluebonnets are in bloom everywhere in central Texas in the spring, and it’s really pretty outside—it’s the last chance for picnics before the summer hits. This Chenin has a waxy, honeyed richness and intense acidity, plus it drinks well as it warms up. So if you’re on a picnic on a sunny day, even your last glass of this is going to taste great.”2011 Domaine Valette Mâcon-Chaintré ($39)“When I find a white Burgundy like this one, I put it on my list so that when someone wants to come in and drink Burgundy, they can do so relatively reasonably. The grapes are harvested ripe, so it’s a bigger wine than I typically like, but somehow the producer maintains an amazing acidity that keeps the wine incredibly alive.”
Erin Rolek of The Bachelor Farmer (Minneapolis)
Rolek hunts for new discoveries in a city that’s just beginning to have a thrilling wine scene. Her 100-plus-bottle list hews to cool-climate wines that fit chef Paul Berglund’s cool-region cooking—it’s local on a philosophical rather than strictly geographic level.
Rolek's 3 Picks for Spring La Cigarrera Manzanilla ($13 for a half-bottle)“My fridge door is filled with bottles of manzanilla sherry throughout the spring. For me, it kick-starts that return-of-sunshine feeling, and it gets me excited for all the outdoor dinners I have ahead. This one, La Cigarrera, is affordable, fresh and layered, and it has tons of that classic manzanilla salinity.”2015 Dupont Cidre Bouché in magnum ($30)“I love to bring magnums of Dupont cider to barbecues in the springtime. The producer is in Normandy and makes Calvados as well. For the cider, the cidery uses more than a dozen different apple varieties. It’s also low in alcohol, and a little funky and weird (in a good way) with these lovely notes of baked and fresh apples.”2015 Meyer-Näkel Rosé ($32)“Meyer-Näkel’s rosé, from Germany’s Ahr region, is one of the best Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder, as the Germans call it) rosés out there. It’s in a richer style, with lots of juicy watermelon flavor and plenty of great acidity. The estate is family-run, too, which is cool: The father makes the wine, and his two daughters help run the place.”
Jim Rollston of Manresa (Los Gatos, CA)
This recently anointed Master Sommelier has taken the wine program at chef David Kinch’s justly famed restaurant to a new level, adding tremendous depth in vintages and producers from the world’s best regions.
Rollston's 3 Picks for Spring 2015 Anna Maria Abbona Sorì dij But Dogliani Dolcetto ($18)“Abbona makes two Dolcettos, but my favorite is the less expensive of them because it’s brilliantly fresh. It has that mix of dried fruit, fresh fruit, acidity and angularity that wines from Italy do so well. Nebbiolo, from the same area, is one of the world’s greatest grapes, but I drink far more Dolcetto…of course, the $18 price tag doesn’t hurt.”2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett Riesling ($32)“Schaefer is my favorite producer in the Mosel. His wine from Himmelreich has an energy, life and delicacy that all say spring to me. My wife doesn’t like sweeter wines, so I always get to drink the whole bottle. And now that the weather’s warm, I’ll be sitting out on my deck with a glass of this most nights.”2015 Prager Hinter der Burg Federspiel Grüner Veltliner ($35)“As the kitchen turns to spring at Manresa, we’ll see a lot of asparagus and favas and vegetables on the menu, which always makes me think of Grüner Veltliner. Toni Bodenstein at Prager is just an amazing winemaker, and the ’15s are fantastic. This lighter-style, vibrant Federspiel bottling is essentially my definition of a springtime wine.”