As I sat down to write my annual hack of the Wine Experience Grand Tastings, I thought it might be a neat trick to tweak the theme from "Millennials' wine guide" to "Millennial wines guide" and spotlight only bottles born before circa 1996. But if we've learned anything from the Narrative this year, Millennials no longer care about wine, nor does anyone really care about Millennials.
And besides, this year's Grand Tastings, on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 17 and 18, are stacked with great wines young, adolescent and old: Penfolds Grange 2014, Aldo Conterno Granbussia Riserva 2008, Dow 1994 and 2009s from Haut-Brion, Mouton, Cheval-Blanc, Cos-d'Estournel, Palmer and Pichon Lalande. Yet more marquee bottles come from Harlan, Eisele, Shafer, Almaviva, Masseto, Dal Forno, Piper-Heidsieck, Krug and Vega Sicilia.
This is top-shelf, best-in-class stuff from some of the greatest to ever do it. So this year, I want to doff my cap to the NYWE first-timers and other upstarts bringing new wines from less-traveled roads—hungry contenders who have dared to come hang with the greats on the big stage.
From California, we've got a modest gaggle of self-made, still-young(-ish) winemakers, but I'll spotlight two here. Joey Tensley is representing Santa Barbara Rhônes; the Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard 2017 comes from one of those vineyards so cantankerous to reach and laborious to ply it comes as little surprise that it was owned by a surgeon before Tensley bought it. But there's no denying the wine.
Orin Swift impresario Dave Phinney has been here before, but he's packing the second vintage of a stylish new bottling this year. When Phinney sold his gangbusters Zin blend The Prisoner to Huneeus Vintners in 2010, he agreed to a non-compete: No Phinney Zin for eight years. But life comes at you fast: Phinney went on to achieve even more ambitious sales, and eventually the Zin baron released Eight Years in the Desert as a triumphant return to the grape, with a series of noirish teaser films and label designs.
Elsewhere, the ambivalently Spanish region of Catalonia has had its own growing pains, but its wines are generating excitement, too. Priorat has pride of place there—look for the Scala Dei Garnatxa Masdeu 2014 and Torres Cos Perpetual 2013—but the sparklers and whites are finally breaking out.
From the family that is credited with inventing Cava, the Raventós i Blanc Brut Nature Vino Espumoso Textures de Pedra 2013 is an odd bubbly beauty: A blend of three ancient red grapes, made into a blanc de noirs. Meanwhile, NYWE newbie Edetària is showing another blanca, the Edetària White Selecció Vinyes Velles 2016, a Garnatxa Blanca from the Terra Alta appellation, which claims 30% of the world's Grenache Blanc lives there. This is a white with personality from a family determined to put this remote region and its unlikely starring grape on the map.
And speaking of grapes you don't often see in polite society, Germany's Hans Wirsching will be slinging Silvaner, which the winery claims has never before been experienced at the Wine Experience. This is, after all, perhaps best known as a co-conspirator grape in Liebfraumilch, and drinkers of a certain age cringe to remember their precarious tangoes with the unsparing Blue Nun. But the Wirsching bottle is a 2016 from one of the uber-vineyards of the Franken region. Don't forget to snap a bottle shot: Franken is one of just a few wine regions to still use the stout, flask-shaped bocksbeutel, which some scholars believe takes its name from part of a male farm animal's anatomy it supposedly resembles. (Others think it's from an old word for "backpack.") Talk amongst yourselves, or don't!
Finally, don't miss the other statement bottle in the building: Rosé in mags from Château Miraval. Yes, the rosé pleasure palace where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie married has outlasted the union itself, but little Miraval is growing up under the partial custody of the Rhône's Perrin family. Earlier this year, winemaker Marc Perrin gave us a peek into the new winery-within-a-winery at Miraval, where he makes the new prestige cuvée Muse de Miraval. The magnum-only bottling fetched a record price for still rosé at auction in May, and now the same wine is making it to the Marriott. The perfect last pour before you swan out into the glimmering heart of Manhattan after dark that is, uh, Times Square.