"What should we taste at the New York Wine Experience Grand Tastings, Oct. 18 and 19, at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square?" is definitely an actual thing that the digital editorial team at Wine Spectator is asking itself, and is definitely not at all a flimsy premise for a promotional event-preview blog. Here now is the true-to-life chat between our own hipster Millennial beat reporters, Ben O’Donnell and Emma Balter, reprinted verbatim as it appeared in real time.
Ben: I don’t know about you, Emma, but when I’m celebrating, I gotta have my Champagne, the sparkling wine that only comes from the Champagne region of France! I recommend starting your night like debonair 19th-century bon vivant Champagne Charlie Heidsieck, clinking glasses of his house’s all-Chardonnay Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Blanc des Millénaires 1995 with your new friends of fabulosity and discernment. You will, of course, know who they are and where that wine is once you’ve downloaded the nifty app we made for Wine Experience-goers.
And then for something a little different, find the Drappier Brut Nature Rosé Pinot Noir Champagne André & Michel NV, which checks boxes for all the hotness in Champagne circles: It’s made by a boutique family-owned house, it’s a rosé de saignée and it’s zero dosage—no sugar added, making this super-dry and crisp.
Emma: While you're off drinking Champagne with your pinkie in the air, I'll be keeping it 100 in a different corner of the bubbly section. If you read my recent blog post, you'll know that there is high-quality sparkling wine being made in Italy—and no, I don’t mean Prosecco. Areas like Trento and Franciacorta are crafting premium metodo classico bottlings that are well worth seeking out. Head to Ferrari’s booth to try their Trento Extra Brut Trento Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore 2005. And while you’re there, another overachiever to look out for is the Brut Nature Vino Espumoso de la Finca 2013 from Raventós i Blanc, a winery in Spain’s western Catalonia region that left the Cava D.O. to strive for bubbly excellence on its own terms; the wine tends more toward a Champagne style than most Cava.
Ben: As you know, Emma, my mantra, #lifegoal and something I definitely just say all the time is, "Nothing but Chardonnay!" I guess I’m pretty much one of the "bad moms" from the beloved comedy hits Bad Moms and Bad Moms 2: A Bad Moms Christmas.
When it comes to blanc, there’s no place like Montrachet, and Joseph Drouhin offers a 2015 from the 6.7-acre Marquis de Laguiche parcel of Burgundy’s grandest Chardonnay cru. On the California side, Wine Spectator’s Mr. July, Mark Aubert, is sharing one of his Sonoma standouts, a 2014 from the Eastside Vineyard in Russian River Valley. Fellow Chard star Kistler is also pouring a single-vineyard Sonoman, a 2012 from Stone Flat Vineyard in Carneros. And while Mount Eden needs no introduction, they’re showing off a decade-old wine to prove California Chardonnay can age. Really, what can’t it do?
Emma: Can it take Venmo …? I mean, sure, I like Chardonnay. But have you been drinking wine at all since 1998? There’s a wealth of white wines out there that are giving Chardonnay a run for its money—"Anything But Chardonnay" happened for a reason. As it turns out, there’s going to be a whole northern Italian contingent at the Wine Experience: Bastianich Venezia-Giulia Plus 2009 (100 percent Friulano), Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte 2015 (a Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon and Friulano blend), Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca 2015, Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Alto Adige Terlano Quarz 2016, Nals Margreid Pinot Bianco Alto Adige Sirmian 2016 … but if you want to ease into it, the Jermann Venezia-Giulia Vintage Tunina 2014 has Chardonnay in its blend, enhanced by Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana and Picolit—you can borrow my copy of Wine Grapes (a useful tome for the grape-curious by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz). Also consider broadening your horizons with the Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Epanomi Single Vineyard 2016 from Greece and the Laurenz Five Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Charming Reserve 2016 from Austria.
Ben: But let’s not forget we also have the opportunity to try some classic old stuff that has aged for more than like 5 minutes, Emma!
The oldest wines at the Grand Tastings are rare birds even within their categories: Blandy’s Terrantez Madeira 1980 is made with the Terrantez grape that nearly went extinct on the island. Colheita is not a grape but a style: single-vintage tawny Port, which has the distinction of being our only fortysomething in the room, with the Kopke Port Colheita 1978. So these wines are definitely snowflakes—but at 1978 and ‘80, are they Millennials?
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars brings its Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Fay 1993, which has aged every bit as well as its vintage contemporary, Ace of Base album The Sign; if you haven’t tried mature Napa Cabernet of the old school, this one will, you know, open up your eyes. The natural companion here would be sturdy aged Cabernet-based Bordeaux. You’re in luck: Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien 2003 is at the booth next door.
Emma: You almost lost me to a deep slumber there, but I always perk up at the mention of LLC. While I enjoy the weird stuff, I must admit that when my hipster Millennial friends aren’t looking, I’m somewhat of a high-end Bordeaux hound (please don’t out—or @—me!). The who’s who of the 1855 Classification (and the other ones) is present at the Grand Tastings. Four of the five first-growths will be pouring some underdog/overlooked vintages. Head to the big-shot aisles for a taste of the 2008 vintage from châteaus Margaux and Lafite Rothschild, the 2003 Mouton-Rothschild and the 2011 Haut-Brion (whose team will lead a seminar on Saturday of four vintages of the grand vin, plus others). For a sip of some pretty extra classic-scoring vintages in Bordeaux, enjoy a comparative tasting of 2005s from Canon-La Gaffelière, Pichon Longueville Lalande and Montrose, and of 2010s from Cos-d’Estournel, Pavie and Pichon Baron. And once you’ve hit the buffet, don’t forget to try my favorite Wine Experience pairing (sorry, chefs): cake pop with Château d’Yquem.
Ben: Bordeaux is stacked with all-star wines, no doubt, Emma. But we’ve got some homegrown celebrities here too. And not just wine celebrities: celebrity wine celebrities!
Pro golfer Cristie Kerr teamed up with winemaker Helen Keplinger to start Kerr Cellars in 2013, now making California champions like the Kerr Reserve Napa Valley 2013, a Cabernet-Merlot blend. And sportscaster Jim Nantz gets in the zone with The Calling Chardonnay Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch 2015.
LeBron James is not a winemaker, but he’s been known to slam Mayacamas and Macauley with his old friends the Cleveland Caberniers and go hard in the Quintarelli. But one bottle shows up most among @KingJames’ Instagram #VinoChronicles: mighty Sassicaia. Try the 2014. On the subject of Cabernet sustenance, Mariah Carey sings on her new song "GTFO" she "might as well down this Caymus bottle"—so you might as well GTF some Caymus Special Selection 2008 as well.
If I know Wine Spectator readers, though, there may be no greater god among men than the Superman of Super Values, the Hulk of Bulk, the Man with the Margin Cap of Steel: the Guy Who Founded Costco. Yep, Jim Sinegal is a vintner (with his son, David), and his Sinegal Estate Napa Cabernet 2015 is here. For those who worship at a more traditional altar, though, we do have the Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus 2012.
Emma: As long as we’re name-dropping, I’d be remiss if I didn’t display a little home-state pride here. Check out Forge, our lone delegate from Upstate New York (via France), pouring their Riesling Finger Lakes Dry Les Alliés 2016. The new-ish winery has consistently made some of the highest-scoring wines in the Empire State, and that’s something to be proud of. We hope, dear reader, you’ll enjoy some of New York’s many other offerings during your stay, like our seizure-simulating Times Square light shows, pizza rats, values, great public transportation, space per capita, street hot dogs, Broadway shows you can’t get tickets to and …
Emma and Ben: … live from the Marriott Marquis, it’s the Wine Experience!