This man pours wines in the foothills of The Smoky Mountains. (beall + thomas photography)
I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, and we trade stories about travel and winemakers and terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food pairings and cost. We recommend wines to one another, and we drink, and we learn a lot. In Wine Talk, I will introduce you to some of my friends and acquaintances — individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste and learn about it. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well.
In 2007, I spent three magical days at Blackberry Farm, a beautiful resort nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. I ate well, I met some interesting people who were (and are) doing great things in the food and wine world, and I relaxed. The resort has a great wine program, and since my Blackberry stay I have kept up with the happenings there. I have also kept up with some of the people who work at the Farm, including Andy Chabot, Blackberry’s sommelier and director of food and beverage. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has done some time in a kitchen (The Little Nell) and oversees about 166,000 bottles of wine in the Walland, Tennessee-based Blackberry Farm.
Tell me about three wines that are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each?
The 2011 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne “Le Trois Sources” Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one. I love this vintage right now for Chateauneuf wines. They are bright, fresh, energetic and really drinkable. They accompany lots of foods as well. (Grenache is almost like a magic silver bullet when it comes to food and wine pairings. More so than Pinot Noir, which I find to be a bit trickier.) You can find it for about $50 in wine shops.
Then there’s Wind Gap Sceales Grenache 2013 ($36 from Wind Gap and usually around $60 in a restaurant). I really can’t stop drinking this wine. Like the one above above, it goes with tons of different flavors, especially as we get into the autumn season, in which the black pepper spiciness of Grenache does so well. You’d be hard pressed to find another Grenache in the U.S. that was this expressive while being light and elegant.
Finally, Domaine Morey-Coffinet, Bourgogne Blanc, 2013 ($30 to $40 retail and $50 to $70 in a restaurant). This is for that part of me that would drink high-end white burgundy every day if my budget would allow. Luckily, this particular wine drinks like a much higher-level white Burgundy. There’s sadly not too much of this wine made.
Let’s say that cost is no consideration. What’s the one bottle you would add to your personal collection?
Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru, 1999. I assume there are still a few bottles of this in existence. I have been lucky enough to try Henri’s wines on a few occasions. These tastes have always stunned me. The wines are so approachable and delicious on the surface, but also stunningly complex. A very rare combination.
What is your favorite grape?
Grenache wins out (but just) over Pinot Noir for me. Why? Because Grenache does what Pinot Noir promises to do. Grenache pairs with nearly everything and also is great with nothing. Grenache can be light and refreshing to Zinfandel-like rich and everything in between. It’s the middle child of grapes (it gets along with everything).
How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary or other red-letter day?
Always a tricky question, since the wines that are right now on the market are not from this year. But to celebrate a 10-year anniversary from the 2015 vintage, I would search out a 2015 Vosne Romanee from a top producer (Emmanuel Rouget?). It will be great in 10 years.
What is the one thing you wish everyone would remember when buying and drinking wine?
Wine is supposed to be fun.
Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?
Any place where I can sit still and let the world go by. My back porch is my number one choice.
What was your “wine eureka moment” — the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever
I realized early on (when I was a cook at the Little Nell) that the wine people seemed to be having more fun than I was having in the kitchen. Tasting wine, dressing up, traveling … I switched career paths and haven’t regretted it yet!
What has been the strangest moment/incident you have experienced in your career?
In the theme of wine being fun, I was teaching a couple how to saber Champagne before their wedding. I gave them some practice bottles of cava to practice with and the glass of those bottles was not up to the task of being sabered. The bottle exploded all over both of them, but nobody was hurt and they both thought it was pretty funny.
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