You have more than 200 wines in front of you, all of them incredible examples of their region and grape variety. And you only have two evenings to taste them. What do you do? Wine Spectator’s annual New York Wine Experience weekend is coming up Oct. 20-22, with two Grand Tastings where all the wines being poured have scored 90 points or higher. Even if you have a tasting agenda, it’s easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of the vintners and guests you encounter and, of course, the tempting wines in every aisle.
To help you decide how to spend the night (or two), we asked our senior editors and tasters to each pick five wines they think you shouldn’t miss (with a few extras snuck in). Whether you follow just one set of advice or everyone’s, or you blaze your own tasting trail, you’re sure to drink well!
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The Grand Tastings are a moveable feast, with so many great wines to taste you might feel overwhelmed, but they’re an experience you will long remember. Experienced guests know that the Bordeaux first growths are one of the places to start, since they draw big crowds; this year, you don’t want to miss out on Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2010, which scored a near-perfect 99 points.
I review Oregon wines and the 2019 Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley are incredible: I rated the vintage 97 on our 100-point scale. I’ll be leading a seminar on the 2019 vintage on Friday afternoon, and there are also about a half-dozen examples being poured at the Grand Tastings—all exceptional. Two worth seeking out: Evening Land Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills La Source Seven Springs Estate 2019 (95 points) and Résonance Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton Résonance Vineyard 2019 (96).
If, like me, you enjoy Rhône-style wines of elegance and balance—rather than those that are big, ripe and in your face—stop at the Tablas Creek table. They’ll be pouring their flagship red, Esprit de Tablas Adelaida District 2019 (91). Mourvédre dominates the blend, with Grenache, Syrah and a dash of Counoise for detail.
I typically end the evening with sparkling wine, to clear and brighten my palate. I won’t pass up the Pol Roger and Perrier-Jouët, but even Champagne buffs should check out California producer Roederer Estate, which will be pouring the Brut Rosé Anderson Valley L'Ermitage 2013 (94). An outstanding bubbly, it combines the structure of great Champagne with California’s fresh fruit.
Champagne to start. Always. Pound for pound, the Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne Réserve NV (91) is one of the top non-vintage brut cuvées in the game today. There’s no rule against starting with two glasses.
Of course I have to plug a Cabernet or two. Or three. If you haven’t been keeping tabs on Robert Mondavi Winery lately, now’s the time to check in. There’s an upward trajectory here, exemplified by the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville The Reserve To Kalon Vineyard (94). Another venerable Napa name that’s also dusting itself off and making a move is BV, where new winemaker Trevor Durling is onto something. The 2018 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Georges de Latour Private Reserve (92) is worth checking out. Diamond Creek fans know how rare the winery’s wines are. And yet the winery is bringing the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Three Vineyard Blend (96) to the party. Cab with age, and a fun experimental cuvée that’s never been released to distribution? Better move fast.
What better way to finish an evening of wine and fun than with a sip of something as luxurious as a great tawny Port? The Graham’s 30 Year Old (95) is rich and detailed, with a unique bitter/sweet interplay.
After 10 years with Wine Spectator, this will be my first time attending the New York Wine Experience. However, I’m no novice. I’ve been to the Grand Tour and know how quickly lines can form for popular or exciting wines, so game planning is key if you want to make it to all your favorites and leave time for new discoveries.
Generally, I like to start with bubbles, but when I saw that Ridge will be pouring its iconic Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains from 2002 (96), I knew I’d want to hit that table early on. Monte Bello’s ability to age gracefully always astounds me and, while I’ve been able to explore past vintages, I’ve never sampled the 2002.
Most know Cloudy Bay for its textbook juicy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but I was pleased to see they are pouring the 2017 Te Wāhi Pinot Noir (93), a blend of two contrasting Central Otago vineyards, yielding a powerful yet elegant Pinot.
Migrating to warmer locales, I’ve become increasingly interested in Spanish wines. So, what better winery to continue my explorations with than Torres and one of the newer wines in the family’s portfolio: the 2018 vintage of Mas de la Rosa Vinyes Velles Porrera, sourced from 80-year-old Garnacha and Cariñena vines located on a steep 4-acre vineyard in Priorat.
There are a lot of great Champagnes to choose from, but I home in on bottlings I’ve never tried before. Laurent Perrier’s Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée Nº25 (95) is one such example. Of course, each bottling is a new interpretation, and this blends three vintages (2008, 2007 and 2006); my colleague Alison Napjus describes it as a rich and concentrated version but still with a spine of racy acidity. Sounds like my kind of champers.
To cap things off, a visit to Viña Montes’ table to sample the 2015 Alpha M (95)—a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Chile’s Colchagua Valley—is in order. I’ll introduce Aurelio Montes as a wine star on Saturday morning, where he will also pour this wine.
First stop: Champagne. Recently, I had the opportunity to taste the 2008 Rare Brut with my colleague, Alison Napjus, and immediately understood why she awarded this stunning cuvée 97 points. Since Piper-Heidsieck debuted Rare in 1976, this bottling has only been made in 11 vintages, so it’s a unique treat indeed.
Speaking of rare birds, the white variety Sylvaner is one that even those of us who taste wine for a living don’t frequently encounter. Most come from Germany, a country that doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves from American wine drinkers, IMHO. This year, Hans Wirsching, a fantastic producer from the Franken region, will be pouring the estate’s 90-point 2019 Silvaner Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg GG (the “GG” means a wine is dry and from a grand cru vineyard), which has a fascinating combination of concentration and austere minerality.
White wines from the Rhône are overshadowed by the reds, but they are some of my favorites from the region. I’ll be making multiple stops by M. Chapoutier to savor the 2011 Ermitage White de l’Orée (96), an older vintage that showcases just how ageworthy these ethereal wines can be. Then over to Domaine Ferrando, where the brilliant Isabel Ferrando will be pouring her silky, densely packed 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis (94). (As of the 2020, the label will be joined with her Domaine St.-Préfert and renamed Famille Isabel Ferrando.)
Finally, I’ll be closing out the night at the Taylor Fladgate table with a glass of the 30 Year Old Tawny Port (95). One of the oldest Port houses, Taylor Fladgate is also one of the few still producing a 30-year-old blend. Fans of sweet-and-savory will fall hard: Think salted liquid toffee poured over roasted hazelnuts, dates and ginger.
At last year’s New York Wine Experience, I had a good time after so many Zoom tasting events, but this year I feel even more ready to get back to socializing (and spitting in front of other people). Here’s what is on my must-do list.
Looking at my own tasting beats, Australia has put forth a strong showing of wines this year, and I will be among the first in line to try the Leeuwin Chardonnay Margaret River Art Series 2018 (97)—a stunning, distinctive expression of Chardonnay and a great way to start off the evening. Year after year, this wine is simply one of the best I try in my blind tastings, and I try to get a chance to really enjoy it as often as I can.
There’s a modest revival happening around Cabernet-Shiraz bottlings, and I’m all for it: Uniquely Australian, these blends mix power and elegance. I’ll be checking in on Yalumba’s Cabernet-Shiraz South Australia The Caley 2016 (95), especially since I heard that head winemaker Louisa Rose will be there to pour the wine personally. Louisa is a gem, and one of the most knowledgeable Aussie winemakers out there. Don’t miss a chance to meet her.
I’m always happy to send people to check out Mollydooker: The founders’ son Luke Marquis is often out in front of the table, entertaining people with stories about the wines. And Luke is the “boy” after whom the Shiraz McLaren Vale Blue Eyed Boy 2020 (93) is named. The wines are bold, ripe, fun to drink and memorable. Remember to get your left hand ready to shake, as Mollydooker is a slang term for “lefthanded.”
New Zealand is also one of my beats, and I encourage everyone to check out the Kiwi offerings being poured this year. In particular, consider the Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2021 (91). Astrolabe is a small, family-owned operation headed by Simon and Jane Waghorn. Simon is a very talented winemaker, one of the leaders in the region. This wine is certainly a step above the Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs you might be familiar with—even more expressive, aromatic and succulent. My mouth is watering thinking about it! And Loveblock will be there for the first time, with its Pinot Noir Central Otago 2020 (93). Erica and Kim Crawford have put their heart into their vineyards and this label, and the Loveblock wines are really exciting. The best Central Otago Pinot Noirs can be hard to find in the United States, but here’s a chance to try all that fleshy black cherry goodness and see how fresh and vibrant these wines are.
One of my favorite memories from this year was interviewing Michael Browne on our Straight Talk series. One of the co-founders of Kosta Browne Winery, he and his wife Sarah will be pouring their Cirq Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2018 (93)—a stunning wine I’m looking forward to revisiting. (The Brownes also makes terrific Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs under the regional label Chev.) I also had fun attending a 10th anniversary celebration for The Calling with Jim Nantz and Peter Deutsch. They have a great story about how they met and decided to make wine together to honor their fathers. I’m curious how their Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Patriarch Single Vineyard Series 2017 (92) will show with some bottle age.
Finally, the New York Wine Experience always makes me miss my family back home. My niece Ella’s birthday celebration usually falls on the same weekend, so if I can’t share some cake and ice cream with the coolest 10-year-old on the planet, I look for ways to celebrate with the family from afar. Our family has a happy memory around a bottle of Chappellet, which gives me a great reason to taste the Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Pritchard Hill 2019 (94), send them a photo and remind them I love them.