Sommelier Roundtable: Desert Island Wine Picks

Eight wine experts from Restaurant Award winners share the bottles they could never live without

Sommelier Roundtable: Desert Island Wine Picks
Though it's sort of like picking a favorite child, we pushed eight sommeliers from Restaurant Award winners to choose just three of their top favorite bottles. (Saowakhon Brown/Getty Images)
Oct 22, 2021

High-level sommeliers have the remarkable ability to select the perfect bottle for a guest or pair wine seamlessly with a dish. If you think that sounds challenging, how about selecting just three bottles to drink for the rest of your life?

We posed this playful but challenging hypothetical to eight wine experts from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners: If you were stuck on a desert island, what would be your three picks? Some got practical (lower-acid wines for everyday drinking), some got creative (pairings for coconuts and seafood) and some combined the two. While they hopefully won’t find themselves stranded anytime soon, here’s what the somms say they’d have on hand.

Wine Spectator: If you were stranded on a desert island and could pick three wines to bring with you to drink for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Marcello Cancelli, wine director at Boka Restaurant Group in Chicago, which includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Swift & Sons

These would have to have ageability, so I'd have a white Burgundy with lower acidity since I'd be drinking daily; say, Chateau Fuissé from the great Vincent family. Then a red Burgundy, for those colder windy island nights, Leroy grand cru. Actually, any premier to grand cru would do. Finish up with a Margaux [from Bordeaux], the château itself. A little softer than Latour, so I can really enjoy it with all that seafood.

Astrid Young, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Merrill House in Picton, Ontario, Canada

Failla Chardonnay Napa Valley Hudson Vineyard. I crave this wine. I love Chardonnay in general, but [winemaker] Ehren Jordan’s Chardonnay is superlative—never too much or too little. And the expression of Hudson Vineyard fruit, to me, is so elegant and perfect. If anyone ever tells me “I don’t like Chardonnay,” this is the one that I use to change their minds.

Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard—OK, anything from the Pisoni [family] and anything Santa Lucia Highlands, but this one is always a go-to. Just the right amount of everything—ripeness, fruit, texture and meticulous winemaking from the Pisoni crew. It’s my happy place.

Domaine Leroy Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes. Impressive is an understatement. I’ve been lucky enough to taste horizontal vintages from comparable [Burgundy] producers (including DRC) and Leroy always stands out for me. Terroir-driven, incredibly concentrated, never overdone. And hey, it’s a desert island, so sky’s the limit, right?

I’m going to give a bonus wine, because you need a bubbly on a desert island and I can’t eliminate any of the others. Actually it was challenging to choose just one, but for everyday purposes, I’m going to keep it simple: Pol Roger White Foil NV. As marvelous for breakfast as it is at midnight: clean, crisp, soft, absolutely joyful.

Zachary Kameron, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Peak in New York, N.Y.

That is a tough question, but here’s what I would do. For Champagne, Krug Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Clos du Mesnil 1998. I am a huge Blanc de Blancs fan and if I can only drink one, it might as well be the best. For a white, Burgundy’s Domaine Leflaive Meursault Sous Le Dos d'Ane of any vintage; I will need something to go with all of that seafood and coconut. For a red [also from Burgundy], 1996 Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée St.-Vivant. This wine brought me to tears the first time I tried it and every time since. It is as beautiful as a wine gets.

Sabrina Schatz, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Washington Inn in Cape May, N.J.

Bollinger Champagne, because I love it and I don’t need food to drink it. I do enjoy Champagne aged in oak especially. I actually just visited the winery in Aÿ yesterday and that tasting confirmed my answer!

Christian Moreau Chablis Les Clos, because if I’m on a desert island, chances are there will be lots of fresh fish and hopefully oysters, so Chablis is the way to go and especially Le Clos from Christian Moreau! I’ll be happy with any wine from this winery.

And Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques, another special [Burgundy]. It is so exquisite, delicate and fascinating. I want to drink it all the time but I can’t, and since it’s my desert island, there will be Rousseau. I am just OK at blind tasting, and the owner of the Washington Inn [gave me a blind tasting of it] and I got it! Once you taste it, you can’t forget it!

Ali Yakich, wine director at Grand Award winner Flagstaff House Restaurant in Boulder, Colo.

Tough choice! One would be 1999 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault white Burgundy—magic. I also would pick 2002 Fattoria San Lorenzo Il San Lorenzo Bianco Marche IGT; so amazing, nutty, interesting and complex. Lastly, Spain’s Bodegas Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5.°, any vintage, honestly. Beautiful, big and gorgeous.

Johan Henrik Kirketerp-Møller, wine director, co-owner and general manager at Restaurant Palægade in Copenhagen, Denmark

My personal preferences change all the time, but if I had to choose today, it would be the following: 2019 Luis Seabra Xisto Cru Branco, a crisp white wine, made of a local field blend from the Douro's highly located vineyards; 2014 Philippe Pacalet Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaut St.-Jacques, one of my favorite producers making red Burgundy. And 1992 D'Oliveira Boal Madeira, a wine that I could drink a glass of anytime, every day.

Todd Chatterton, food and beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner the Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, N.C.

Without a doubt, Domaine Tempier rosé would be No. 1—it’s a desert island, after all. Then Champagne Agrapart (any bottling!). Then lastly, Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Malvasia Madeira. I definitely enjoy variety.

Martien Marcelissen, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Oonivoo in Uden, Netherlands

I would definitely go for C. Von Schubert Riesling Kabinett Mosel Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg from Mosel, Germany, Brunello di Montalcino from Romitorio in Tuscany, Italy, and Palladius of the Sadie Family in Swartland, South Africa. Those are, to me, examples of truly authentic wines.

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