The Naughty And Nice In The Wine World

The 2009 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon was named top Cabernet of the Year by ‘Wine Enthusiast’. Photo from Roberto Viernes

Merry Christmas!

I appointed myself Santa’s personal wine assistant. And as such I was able to take a look at the wine industry’s Naughty and Nice list. You will be surprised to which list each of the following is placed on.

Nice List:

1) Eric Railsback and Justin Willett of Lieu Dit Winery. Combine an old-world-wine-craving top sommelier and one of California’s rising star winemakers with old-vine California vineyards to create truly old world-style wines in the new world, and you get these absolutely delicious wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc at Lieu Dit Winery. I would be fooled in blind tastings that these wines were not from the old world. They are ringers for Sancerre, Vouvray and Chinon. Despite everyone saying it can’t be done, they are doing it! You have to taste them to believe it.

2) Alexandre Chartogne of Chartogne-Taillet Champagne. Alexandre makes some absolutely delicious Champagnes from a village called Merfy. You haven’t heard of it? Ninety percent of people in Champagne haven’t either. It is a village on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims, a place Champagne houses pay very little attention to, as the vineyard land there is seen as lowly and not worth the time. But from his small parcel of land, Alexandre crafts gorgeous Champagnes that would make most of the bigger houses blush. Bravo for your tenacity and courage!

3) Mike Officer of Carlisle Winery. Mike is not only one of California’s best Zinfandel and Syrah producers, he is savior to old vines. Many of the vineyards that Mike handles are centenarian, and as such have varieties that are almost nonexistent on the official registry of grapes grown in California. If it weren’t for his effort to use the tiny production of these ancient vines, the vineyards would already be gone and turned into housing or hotels. Names like Papas Block, Bacchi, Papera and Montafi would be lost. Their production is minute but worth every bit of the search.

4) Kermit Lynch of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants is perhaps the greatest wine importer of our time. When someone asks me how a particular French Appellation or Italian DOC should taste, I most often recommend one of Kermit’s imports. And he continues his lineage of great discoveries, such as Domaine de Cherisey in Burgundy, Domaine Gramenon in the Cotes du Rhone and La Viarte in Friuli. None of these producers are “new,” but they are new to the U.S. and Hawaii, thanks to the pioneering spirit of Kermit Lynch. Did I mention he has produced his third music album as well?

Naughty List:

1) Andrea di Gisi: former employee of the Casse Basse winery, producer of some of the greatest Brunello di Montalcino made by Gianfranco Soldera. According to Wine Searcher, di Gisi is accused of draining more than 60,000 liters of wine from the Casse Basse cellars that amounted to wiping out all of the vintages of the winery from 2007 to 2012 as an act of revenge.

2) Transportation Authorities in the RheinlandPfalz region of Germany, which is continuing to build a bridge over some of the finest vineyards from Zeltingen to Bernkastel, destroying some of the Mosel’s as well as the country’s finest vinous heritage for generations to come. I hope the riders enjoy the view.

Recommendations: J. Lassalle Brut Rose ($55) Think of what you enjoy about Champagne, then add a tinge of pink to it. That’s what you find here. It is simply luxurious, delicious and satisfying. Isn’t that what Champagne is all about? 2009 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon ($59) So what if Wine Enthusiast named it its TOP Cabernet of the Year. I don’t care. I just remember bringing it to a wine party and I kept going back to it time and again going, “Wow, this is damn good!”