Exquisite Wines You Have to Try from Around The World
There are many terrific reasons to collect wine: investment, showcase, commemoration, hobby. Some collect it simply because they enjoy good wine and want to have unfettered access to exceptional bottles. Others collect as an investment because there truly is value in some great bottles from around the world. And others collect because … it’s fun. Whether your cellar consists of a handful of special vintages or cases of futures, there is always room for a few more excellent bottles of wine. But as days lengthen and grow warmer, we think more about enjoying wine in the sunshine rather than stashing it away for a special occasion. Here are some out-of-this-world finds worth drinking right now. Destination Cellars Estate Sommelier Sean Q. Meyer specializes in hand-tailoring experiences for wine lovers seeking exclusive and personalized access to prestigious properties and vineyards around the world.
One of my favorite spring ingredients is the morel mushroom. And my favorite grape to drink with morels is Pinot Noir. There is something perfect about the way Pinot fruit and earthiness work with the mushroom. One of our favorite producers of Pinot Noir in California is the small production, little-known Arista winery, founded in 2002 by the McWilliams family. It is in every way a family-run operation, from the founders whose vision made it possible to their sons who manage the day-to-day operations.
The founding family enjoys sharing their story firsthand with visitors, and you will simply not find a family more passionate about its craft. But the wines speak for themselves. They show profound elegance, complexity and the ability to cellar for several years: three things not always common to California grapes. Arista’s fruit comes from the Bacigalupi Vineyard, which lays claim to its own share of history. It’s the same vineyard that produced the Chardonnay grapes for the famous 1973 Chateau Montelena, which won top prize for white wines tasted at the 1976 “Judgement of Paris.” And some of those vines still grow alongside the Pinot Noir grapes that make this wine. But history or no, it’s an exceptional label and an excellent wine.
Grüner Veltliner is a great wine for spring and summer. There is a spectacular balance of fruity and savory essences, framed beautifully by the natural acidity of the grape. Fruit flavors such as green apple, pear, lime and white peach are interwoven with fresh notes of white pepper, daikon, watercress and tarragon. This dichotomy of flavors provides a tremendous amount of versatility for food and wine pairing. Grüner can often be the perfect wine for all of your challenging pairings such as asparagus, lentils and artichokes. It also pairs well with spring onions, chives, ramps and green garlic.
In the Wachau, the ripeness of grapes and potential alcohol is named on the label using local terms. Steinfeder (a kind of local grass) is the least ripe and lowest in alcohol. Federspiel (a falconer’s tool) rates right in the middle. And Smaragd (an emerald-colored lizard found in the vineyards) is the ripest with the highest alcohol. Hitzberger was one of the first estates to take a “no compromises” approach to quality. In fact, many consider them to be nearly singlehandedly responsible for the incredible spike in quality throughout the region. Sauvignon Blanc is, in my opinion, at its best in the Loire Valley of France. The racy acidity, bright lemon and lime flavors, and profound minerality make it a must-have as either an aperitif or as a first-course wine at any spring feast.
The Vacheron family has had an extraordinary impact on Sancerre from the turn of the 20th century. Currently, Jean-Laurent (the fourth generation to tend the estate) handles the majority of the operations. The winery was certified organic in 2003 and converted to biodynamic agriculture in 2004. Due to the extra care in the vineyard, the wines excel at communicating a sense of place. There is a focus and intensity to these wines, which makes them among the best.
This time of year always carries a certain amount of excitement and anticipation for those in the wine trade. In April, all of the Chateaux in Bordeaux open up their doors to the sommeliers, wine writers, importers, distributors and retailers to show how the wines of the current vintage are developing. The event is known as En Primeur, and most of the production in Bordeaux is sold this way.
Consumers are also able to make a commitment to futures and pay for their wines now and take delivery when they are finished, roughly two years following the purchase. In great vintages this can be a good gamble, as the pricing for futures is often well under the price of the released wine. Most years we attend and often bring groups with us. The stories from these trips are always exciting and sometimes amusing.
Last year, when visiting Smith-Haut-Lafitte, we were hosted by one of the owners, Florence Cathiard. To say she is a woman of profound charm and grace would be an understatement. As her guests, we were shown every nook and cranny of the beautiful estate. As the tour concluded, she brought us to a room where, with a click of a handheld remote, the floor opened to reveal the stairs to a cellar full of wines dating back more than 100 years, beautifully chosen artwork and cool jazz softly playing on an audiophile-grade system.
The tour of the cellar was absolutely magical. As it was time to go to our tasting and dinner, we started leaving the cellar. With nearly everyone out, the doors began to close, seemingly of their own accord, trapping three from our group in the underground cellar. The lights and music were set to automatically shut off when the doors shut, keeping our guests quite literally in the dark. A look of panic crossed our host’s face. Something was wrong with the doors and they would not open. Rather than cries of panic, we heard calls for a corkscrew from our trapped compatriots.
After some fiddling with the controls and the hydraulics, the doors opened and our companions were free once again. After our little ordeal, we were escorted to a dining room at the Chateau and served a delightful meal paired with their wines. Of all of the places we visited, I am certain that our new friends will never forget their visit to Smith-Haut-Lafitte and the great comedy of being trapped in a room full of extraordinary wines.