Here is the first of our “friends & family” blog series, dedicated to all things we love. Each week, we will take you behind the scenes, while we develop our beverage program that will be featured in our wine & beer bar. This week’s contributing editor is Lauren Mowery, a longtime friend and foodie; who in my humble opinion has one of the best palates on the planet. Lauren helped develop the wine program for Gilt Taste and is a diploma candidate for the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust).
There are a couple of ways to drink good wine without spending a fortune, particularly, if you have a penchant for “platinum” appellations. You can try off-vintages, second labels from star producers, or check out what the stars’ neighbors are doing. Brendan Donovan and I spent a gorgeous fall afternoon pursuing the latter.
In light of the upcoming opening of Donovan’s Cellars bar and kitchen, our mission was two-fold: first, test drive some potentially beautiful Bordeaux bargains from the lesser known right-bank appellation of Saint-Foy; and second, see if any of these value-driven wines would make the cut for Brendan’s wine list.
Tracking down wines from Sainte-Foy may or may not be easy; that depends on whether your neighborhood liquor store stocks and sells more Yellowtail than Zind-Humbrecht. But fortunately for us denizens of New York City, Michele D’Aprix of Christopher Imports, a new player in the Bordeaux market, was in NYC that very afternoon. Michele has spent many years in the region building relationships with small producers whose wine she felt had soul and deserved a place in your glass—and ours—and Brendan and I had the opportunity to taste several from her portfolio, hand-delivered by Michele herself.
Chateau Beausejour in Montagne-Saint Emillon AOC
Sainte-Foy is southeast of Saint-Émilion, and sits due east of the appellation Entre-deux-Mers—between the seas, or in this case, rivers—of Bordeaux. The region misses the radar of most conventional wine snobs —good news for those of us looking for a polished diamond priced like a garnet.
We started with a 2009 blanc from Chateau Hostens-Picant—a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and a smattering of Muscadelle. This lemon-yellow hued darling beckoned with white flowers, candied citrus and anise on the nose. She was quite the flirt on the palate, seducing us with notes of ripe bosc pear and tangerine, orange and lemon zest, undertones of fresh cut herbs and minerals, and a creamy finish that left you wanting another kiss. She continued to evolve in the glass that afternoon and well into the next day in the half-bottle I took home; we concluded this would be a stellar addition to the Donovan Cellar’s list.
We poured through and pored over several more bottles, with the same conclusion—some fantastic values had been discovered. Another highlight included a 2005 rouge from the same Chateau Hostens-Picant—a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was full of black cherries, plums and blueberries, framed in cedar and threaded with baking spices and pipe tobacco.
The true showstopper, however, was Michele’s very own wine- her 2008 Pentimento, a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc made in the Montagne-St. Émilion AOC. We were floored that she made a wine this beautiful for her first vintage! Granted she has been studying and training in the field for years, and it was evident upon tasting, that this was not a novice bottling. The nose was brimming with cherries, raspberries, black plums and cinnamon stick. The palate was juicy and soft—she nailed the balance of acidity with smooth tannins, plush fruits, earthy notes, and warm nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice lingering on the finish. This was another wine that evolved in the bottle through to the next day; it definitely deserves a few hours of decanting before serving.
Merlot grapes Montagne-Saint Emillon AOC
The afternoon was a success. We discovered a new region—and winemaker—with fantastic quality-to-price ratio. But the day suddenly got even better—the charcuterie craftsman from upstate New York showed up with bags of bacon, sausage, and all things pork. Our eyes glazed over as visions of bacon danced in our heads. Then it occurred to us- Bacon and Bordeaux? Could we make a go of it? We were already drooling over the possibilities of Michele’s Pentimento with the Raspberry-Cardamom Bacon this pork Santa had gifted us. Stay tuned to find out what happens in Part Deux of our tasting: Bacon, Bordeaux and Pork-ly Delights.
Lauren Mowery, contributing writer for Donovan’s Cellar