Our Sommelier's Picks for December
Why do we drink wine? I ask myself this question quite a bit. As we are often isolated during this pandemic, wine's role as a social connector and uniting force between groups isn't as strong. Gathering for a big Champagne toast or drinking that three-liter bottle lingering in your cellar is difficult when you can't have a large gathering. It's almost hard to remember a time we could make new friends over a glass of wine in a restaurant or at a party. But I still believe that wine can connect. It connects us via zoom calls for distant office parties. It connects us more directly to a vineyard and a vintage. This is the travel we can accomplish more easily when we're isolated: the kind that uses your nose and palate to drop you right in the middle of Vosne-Romanée during the harvest three years ago, the October morning fog blanketing the Route des Grands Crus at the bottom of the slope. It can take us to Australia in February, when red grapes are in veraison, just starting to take on color. Or to Napa Valley in springtime, with morning dew on the ground and hawks circling overhead. That's why we drink wine. That wine glass is a portal to another place and it gives us a window in, if only for a moment. We've chosen a couple of portals this month that are great examples of their regions and great ways to travel.
Jackson's Somm Picks
I adore the wines of Benjamin Leroux. They're finely crafted Burgundy–clean, bright and balanced. These are not wines that take years and years of cellaring to be ready to drink. Leroux's winemaking background was pretty stellar, after all. He shepherded the wines for years at the famed Domaine Comtes Armand, even as he was starting his own wine label. He was the first in his family, and has already been lauded for the purity and concentration of his wines. This Vosne-Romanée is a great example of Côtes de Nuits village fruit, and it carries that beautiful hard spice quality so typical to Vosne wines. These wines have a silkier finish than his Gevrey bottlings, which are also very worth your while.
The Yarra Valley is one of the most important places in the world of wine right now, and many producers are showing just how good their wines can be against the rest of the world. The Quintet is a Bordeaux-style blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon, which is interesting considering what the Yarra Valley has mostly become known for are their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. It follows that this is not a big, alcoholic bruiser of a Cabernet-based wine. Instead, owing to the brisk climate in the Yarra Valley, it's an elegant and lithe wine that still brims with powerful fruit and firm tannins. Mount Mary Quintet is one of a small handful of wines that have been rated as Exceptional in Langton's Classification of Australian Wines, truly a star-studded cast. Let this special wine from Mount Mary convince you of the quality of the Yarra Valley.
Voerzio's wines are Barolo for the Barolo lovers, but most especially the impatient ones. Young Barolo is often edgy, difficult, and too wound up to enjoy properly. It can feel like licking sandpaper, what with tannin levels akin to bitter chocolate and oversteeped black tea. With wines like Voerzio's, in a vintage friendly to their style of winemaking, you can enjoy your Barolo youthful and buoyant. The 2011 was a warm and soft vintage, and this one is really nice for Voerzio. Big black cherry fruit, aromatic herbs and flowers, and a savory finish. These are exemplary Barolos with tons of concentration and texture. This one is ready to drink now.
René Rostaing is consistently one of the world's greatest Syrah producers. Having land in Côte-Rôtie is a privilege, and being a nephew of the great Marius Gentaz afforded René access to some of the best vines in the whole appellation. René's son Pierre currently produces the wines at the estate, making magical Syrah that is at once polished and sauvage. These wines have endless aromatic depth, and at five to ten years of age they really begin to showcase their quality. Black pepper, roasted meat and green olive notes jump out of the glass, enrobed in fresh black fruit.
Cain is a Napa Valley legend. Starting in 1982, they've been producing laudable, age worthy wines for decades. Like the Mount Mary blend mentioned above, the Cain Five is a Bordeaux blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon, but softened by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It'll hold up over time and increase in aromatics and lift. These aren't the biggest sledgehammers in Napa red blends. They are finely poised between earth and fruit, and are absolutely worth checking out.
Thank you for checking out our December picks. We hope you can continue to appreciate wine as a window into a place and a time, because really that's why it's worth drinking in the first place. We here at Westgarth wish you Happy Holidays and a safe and hopeful New Year!