The Zachys Guide to Working from Home

This is an unprecedented time. The seriousness of the situation can’t be overstated, and we hope you are all following the guidelines for social distancing. Now is also a time to shop from your local small businesses. We aren’t the smallest, but we’re far from the biggest. Your local restaurants need help too.

So, that said…

…here’s our step-by-step guide on what to drink at home, while social distancing. All of these wines are available from Zachys new same-day-delivery or curbside pick up. And local shipping is free for large purchases!

9AM
Tequila. Why wait?

10AM
Your first conference call. If you’re regretting the Tequila slip into something low in alcohol and slightly effervescent to wake you up, like Vinho Verde.

11AM
We were saddened to hear that the godfather of wine auctions, Michael Broadbent passed away a few days ago. Michael used to drink Madeira at 11am and call it “elevenses.” So, drink Madeira at 11am and convince yourself it’s classy even though you’re wearing yoga pants and haven’t showered in a week.

1PM
It’s lunch time! Your lunch today consists of 45 toilet paper rolls that you panic-bought. You’ll want something that pairs well, and you’ll also want a lot of it, because the first liter or so will get soaked up by your two-ply. We recommend large formats.

4PM
“It’s five o’clock somewhere” is what Don tells us. Treat yourself to the Don Zacharia special—a dry martini.

5PM
Now it’s actually five o’clock here, and you know what to do, have another.

7PM
It’s dinner time!

We beg you to order in, or at least buy a gift card. The past few weeks have been unprecedented in terms of devastation to the restaurant business. And you know what? Don’t buy wine from us. We want to sell you as much wine as possible, but these are our colleagues, and the SLA has said that restaurants in NYC can now sell to-go wine with food. So, buy wine from them.

10PM
You made it! Have some Champagne. Only 2 more months to go.

What We Drank Last Night, Alone

…or perhaps in a Virtual Wine Tasting, which is now a thing.

Zachys Senior Team is doing its best to keep the wine flowing, for our customers and in our own households. Here’s what we’re drinking and how you can partake!

Our fearless leader @ZachariaJeff says, “I kicked things off with 2002 Dugat Charmes and then moved into Japanese Whisky from Ichiro.” So Jeff wins for diversity.

Our Global Managing Director @jamie_pollack says, “made eggs for dinner once the baby went to bed because it’s quick and easy and I had a craving for it…plus a very spicy bloody mary …which turned into two. I use Tito’s, of course, with five counts of Worcestershire which I learned from Coop’s in NOLA many years ago…basically start pouring and do it twice as long as you think you should. Heck you can do that for the Vodka too. “

Our Head of Europe @christy_erickson is based in Paris, though her cocktail inclinations are still apparently in twee Brooklyn. She says, “Last night I reached for the hard liquor… it was either going to be that or an entire bottle of Cornas. I opted for the one with fewer calories and made a Queen of the Underworld cocktail with apple shrub (leftover from pickled apples – which, by the way, are a great accompaniment to any cheese plate!) and tequila, which we can get for you at Zachys. It’s is essentially a margarita with shrub substituting for triple sec. DM me for the full recipe.”

Director of Sales @sfilene says, “I made a grapefruit, rosemary and ginger shrub last weekend (inspired by @Christy_Erickson) and used it last night in my rendition of a salty dog, but instead of vodka I used some killer Mezcal I picked up when I was in Mexico called 400 Conejos. Threw some lime juice and club soda on top ‘cuz I’m fancy. Also, I have been drinking some Vincent Dancer Bourgogne Blanc 2015 and Langhe Rosso Roagna 2014, courtesy of Zachys!”

It’s all about Arietta chez Principal Auctioneer @fritzhatton who says, “The rest of a bottle of Arietta On The White Keys 2013 (cheese); Arietta On The White Keys 2015 (Caesar salad); Montepeloso Eneo 2015 (pizza), Arietta Merlot Hudson Vineyards 2012 (more pizza); Fichet Meursault Le Tesson 2017 (more cheese–our favorite—Soumantrain) all while continuing our Harry Potter movie marathon—Part Four.” Despite the sheer volume of Arietta, we assure you Fritz is social distancing.

Senior International Specialist and auctioneer @CharlesAntin says, “my buddy over at Scar of the Sea is offering a discount of his wines to get through the quarantine, so I’m drinking a lot of that. We also have it in stock at Zachys. It’s some of the best juice being made in the Santa Barbara area. To be fair I also drank a 2015 Prunotto Barbaresco from Zachys, and I’m also drinking pretty much everything else I can get my hands on, too. “

Our colleague in Beijing, Austin Zhang, says, “I had a bottle of Chinese Chardonnay from Changli, where the modern Chinese wine industry produced the first bottle of white wine. Just got a book hot off the press on that story with all the details so it’s a tribute bottle to the forerunners in the industry! Ganbei from afar!” This is probably the one bottle of wine we actually don’t have in stock currently, so if you want to learn more email him AZhang@zachys.com.

Our head of Asia, Terrence Tangs, says “All of your secret recipes are making mine look so boring… I had some bubbles, Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs 2004, that I got from The Collection of a Northern European Gentleman. Part 2 of this collection is going live next Tues (Asia zCollections)!” Want to know more about the auction? Shoot Terrence an email.

Certified Cicerone Mike Moser, known to his fans as @ifeelfatnsassy, says, “Yesterday was as day for slowing things down. I’d started my sourdough baguettes the night before. The dough was shaped and starting to rise when I put beans in my InstaPot in the afternoon. After work, threw together a sausage, kale and white bean soup, dunking my freshly baked baguettes in the broth. The soup was rich, so we cut through it with Three Floyds Zombie Dust, a Citra-hopped American Pale Ale that is basically the midwest’s answer to the west coast’s Pliny the Elder: just enough malt backbone to support the gobs of grapefruit pith from the hops. At 6.66%, it’s not going to knock you out either – if this wasn’t my last can I would’ve been reaching for another. After checking in with family, it was time to settle in for whatever is left on Netflix to watch. The perfect pairing for mediocre, streaming fantasy shows? Papa’s Pilar 24. The “24” is not an age, per se, but rather the 24th iteration of a solera with rums sourced from Florida, Panama, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras, aged in Bourbon barrels, Port pipes and Sherry casks. This particular bottle comes from a hand-picked, first-fill Sherry cask and is sublime, like a bonfire on a Caribbean beach at dusk, but in my glass, in isolation, in Milwaukee… Particularly bittersweet for me since I was supposed to be on vacation this week in Bermuda.”

Lastly, we couldn’t raise CEO Don Zacharia over email to interview him properly, but if history is any predictor he’s drinking a dry martini on the porch.

Winemaker Spotlight: A Chat With Charles Philipponnat

While “social distancing” we hope to bring you some distracting reading material. This interview first appeared alongside a consignment of wines direct from Champagne Philipponnat.

In this episode: Charles Philipponnat of Champagne Philipponnat

If this interview gets you thirsty, click here to buy some Philipponnat!

Zachys: You come from a long lineage of great winemakers. Can you tell us about influences from your father and what you learned from him?

Charles Philipponnat: My father was a rather austere man, with a great sense of responsibility and probity. Like most winemakers from his generation (he was born in 1913) he did not view his job as an artist’s, but rather as a noble craft. Having worked in the vineyard with his grandfather when young, he knew that good viticulture is even more important than skillful blending, or rather that skillful blending requires good grapes. He also knew that the top grapes from which to make top wines for top blends come from top terroirs. There is no magic in blending: only fine work, fine selections of the individual elements, and knowledge of how they fit together, learnt across many years, since the wines need to age many years before they can truly be assessed, and before one can start accumulating experience.

He once gave me his simple view on how to make the greatest blend (he was responsible for making and blending Dom Pérignon from ‘49 through ‘76): “une pièce d’Ay, une pièce de Cramant, une pièce de Verzenay.” That’s more or less how I blend our cuvée “1522” today at Philipponnat… It was hardly a secret. Only a sturdy piece of advice.

He taught me that tradition is older and longer than any man’s life. So are our wines, which we design to survive us.

Zachys: What has Philipponnat done to preserve the terroir of its vineyards over such a long period of time? Specifically, Clos des Goisses was really the only single-site champagne until Krug’s Clos du Mesnil in ’79. What makes Clos des Goisses such a special vineyard in Champagne? How has the consumer landscape changed over the years?

Charles Philipponnat: Terroirs did not need to be preserved from modern woes until recently. The only threat was lack of profitability and the temptation of abandonment, especially in the 1920s and ‘30s after the phylloxera invasion, which coincided with two wars and the great depression. When my grand uncle bought Clos des Goisses in 1935 and became his cousin’s successor, he rebuilt the walls at the bottom, consolidated more retaining walls inside the vineyard, and created new stairways, which also served to evacuate excess rain water. They’re still standing, but require constant maintenance and repair. He replanted the vineyard, because it was in quite a sad state at the time, in part after 1935, and again in the ‘60s. He also bought all the small plots that belonged to other owners and made it a “monopoly” as Burgundians would call it. The vines in our oldest plot today “Les Grands Cintres” is from the ‘60s.

The modern menace is bad viticulture, mainly what I would call “disrespect for the soil” under the form of chemical amendment and chemical herbicides. In Champagne (never in Clos des Goisses) the use of garbage compost, which has fortunately been banned for 2 decades had also been a source of long term pollution of the terroirs. Preserving the terroir, in my mind, simply means to endeavor to pass it on to next generation in as natural and clean a condition as it was originally, when all human interventions were natural and rapidly biodegradable.

However a vineyard is not precisely a piece of wild nature, since it involves a lot of work, and since the vines need to be nourished, protected from diseases and weeds, and trained to produce fruit, not just vegetal growth. But it can be done with respect : by ploughing rather than using herbicides, by using only organic fertilizers, etc. I view it as gardening. A vineyard is a garden and should be tended like your own garden if you were to feed your children its fruit.

Zachys: 1952 Clos de Goisses is a truly rare piece of history. Have you tried it yourself? Tell us about what was going on at Philipponnat in ’52, and a bit about the vintage. Does Philipponnat consciously make age-worthy champagne?

Charles Philipponnat: I’ve had 1952 on several occasions, and what has always struck other tasters and me, is its incredible freshness considering it’s more than 60 years old. I also controlled and tasted personally each single bottle and magnum when we disgorged them a few years ago in order to change the corks. 1952 is certainly the best Clos des Goisses vintage of the 1950’s and is more than a historical piece of emotion, it is truly a great vintage, still showing ripe fruit, rosewood, light cigar smoke…

Zachys: What is your favorite food pairing with Champagne? A memorable meal that paired well with Clos des Goisses?

Charles Philipponnat: Ripe, intense yet mineral Champagnes like Clos des Goisses have two great loves : meat “fonds” (reduced stock) and mushrooms, especially black mushrooms (trumpets, morels, truffles…). One should remember that these wines spend a decade or more on the lees in the bottles, and that the lees are yeasts, which are mushrooms.

One of my most vivid memories, with Clos des Goisses 1989, was at the “Chiberta” restaurant in Paris : a brioche encrusted whole truffle, with thick veal “fond” inside the crust soaking the truffle… More recently, I have been enthralled by a wonderful grouse with cèpes at Guy Savoy’s new restaurant inside Hôtel de la Monnaie, also in Paris, with Clos des Goisses 2001 and Grand Blanc 1983. 

Zachys: What inspired you to create wines from Le Leon and Mareuil-sur-Ay?  What makes champagnes from these sites different?

 Charles Philipponnat: Our Champagnes have always been built around the Pinot Noir grape, but were blended with some Chardonnay, for more elegance and lightness, since Pinot Noir can become heavy when made in an oxidative way. In 2006 we thought it was time to show what we can do with our best Pinot Noirs from our best own vineyards, and what the core elements of our Pinot Noir blends taste like. We therefore selected some of our best wines from Ay (Le Léon), Mareuil-sur-Ay, and Clos des Goisses (Petits Cintres and Grands Cintres) and bottled them as single vineyard or single growth Champagnes. These terroirs all have in common to be south facing and very chalky. Les Cintres is the heart of Clos des Goisses. Ay “Le Léon” has the highest free calcar and usually yields rather spicy, peppery wines. Mareuil, with a touch of clay in the topsoil, is rounder, yet quite pure and mineral as well. More precision in our winemaking since the early 2000s rendered making such wines possible, especially fermentation in newer oak barrels and avoiding malolactic fermentation while, as always, using only the first pressing.

 Zachys: I’m always surprised that still today not everyone knows that Champagne ages and matures in the bottle. What would you say to people who’ve never tasted completely mature Champagne? What happens to a Clos des Goisses when it’s 60 years old?

Charles Philipponnat: Forget about the bubbles! They were and still are there to prevent oxygen from entering the bottle. Rather, pay attention to the wine, as if it were a great white Burgundy, with more liveliness owing to lesser oxidation, higher acidity and some effervescence. Clos des Goisses is famed for ageing gracefully, in a very fresh way, in spite of its high ripeness. That is due to the fact that it grows on pure chalk, with very little top soil because the steep slope is easily eroded. The very primary aromas of red and citric fruit have usually been evolved into more candied notes of jam and honey. Flowery aromas have often transformed into notes of dried rose petals and incense. Deep tertiary aromas have developed and may range according to the vintage from dark chocolate to truffles, smoke, toast, etc.

Virtual Wine Tastings Are Now A Thing

5 Tips for Holding a Virtual Wine Tasting

Wine is about coming together; social distancing is about staying apart.

During these unprecedented times, an invitation to a Zoom meeting is no longer a reason to roll your eyes—more often than not it’s a quarantined friend who’d just like a drinking buddy. The “virtual tasting,” a concept we would have mocked mercilessly a few weeks ago, is now a thing—a thing we very much look forward to. Some of us on staff (not naming names) have four lined up for this week alone.

It’s actually a great way, if a bit goofy, to connect with friends just like you used to (over a glass or three).

Here are a few tips we’ve learned as we’ve become the undisputed experts of virtual tastings in the past 2 weeks.

  1. Dress Up

I don’t mean in, like, a Halloween costume. Though I’m not saying don’t put on a Halloween costume, because actually that could be really cool. But if you’re treating quarantine as an opportunity to test the structural fortitude of yoga pants, then we recommend this simple tip: dress for your virtual wine tasting exactly as you would for an IRL wine tasting or wine dinner. It’s not hard, we know you can walk to your closet. Not only will your companions appreciate it, it will make you feel better, promise.

2. Pick a Theme

Not unlike an IRL wine tasting or dinner, a theme can add some structure and an educational component to what you’re doing. If you’re all just drinking random bottles, and then there’s Johnnie with a martini and Bill with a beer, what you’re doing is a “virtual happy hour,” which is something totally different. One thing we’re lacking in the world right now is order, so try to put some into your life with a theme. Of course, the theme has to be one that people can participate in with only the wine in their homes. It could be broad, such as Burgundy, or specific, such as a Leflaive Pucelles vertical. Or it could be a bit tongue in cheek—“international disaster” vintages, such as 2008 (for the financial crisis) is a popular one during these trying and tricky times.

2a. We Can Supply the Wine

This may be frowned upon in the listicle world, but we’re going to do a 2a. If you don’t have a group of friends with the right wines for a theme, just create one. Zachys, and all retailers and wineries, were deemed “essential businesses.” What this means is that we can ship you your wine, or you can pick it up curbside without going in the store. This is an absolutely essential time to “shop small” and support who you can. If you contact Zachys, we can send you and each of your friends a mixed case of the same wines. We also have special sales and shipping going on right now.

Same is true for auction. We’re moving full steam ahead with our next live and online auctions and we’re ready to help you select lots that will be perfect for virtual tastings.

4. Don’t Invite Everyone You Know

Since no one is busy, no one has to travel, and the space is infinitely large, there’s an inclination to invite everyone you know to a virtual wine tasting. Don’t do it. It is chaos, and that’s not what you need in your life right now. Try to keep it to the same number of people you’d have at, say, a dinner—six or eight. Also, don’t invite 8 random people who have never met each other. This is the time to reconnect with folks, but you want to be comfortable chatting with people from the get go.

5. Write it Up

Take notes. Circulate them after the tasting. Discuss more. Even though you maybe didn’t taste what your neighbor did, hopefully their euphoria over that Cos d’Estournel 1986 sparked your interest enough to go buy a case from your friendly neighborhood auction house.

云喝酒

OK folks, this one’s in Chinese. Happy reading to our clientele in the far east!

我一直以为,在公司博客写的第一篇文章将会是非常学术性的严肃讨论,比如白葡萄酒的提前氧化、醒酒的时间和方式等等。我思考了好几天,始终想不到最合适的题目。但没想到周一晚上与同事们的视频会给了我灵感:云喝酒!

我很想写一个《百年孤独》风格的开头,但是恐怕多年以后我们回看今天,可能也还是很难定义这一切的原点时刻。但是至少我们可以说,从2020年1月1日的0时0分开始,地球上全人类的生活都逐渐被影响到了。新冠病毒引发的一系列蝴蝶效应,一点一点改变了一切。自从我1月10日回到北京的家里,已经足足有两个多月没有去过市中心,日常生活轨迹仅限于附近的公园和超市。因为疫情所需的隔离,餐饮业都改行做起了外卖。我真的怀念死了米其林和黑珍珠餐厅里的那些美食,以及跟朋友们一起饮酒的欢乐时光。但是欢乐是无法被剥夺的。第一个想出云喝酒这个点子的人,简直就是个天才!

不管你是用微信还是Zoom,或者谷歌的Hangout,云喝酒太简单了。开瓶,倒酒,打开手机或电脑里的程序,经过几分钟尴尬的傻笑或开场白,剩下的就交给酒精自由发挥吧。你甚至都不需要勃艮第或者巴罗洛这样的主题,随便开一瓶任何你想喝的酒,就可以与镜头另一边的朋友们一起分享。

对于那些因为社交恐惧症而羞于出镜的朋友,你并不需要在淘宝上订购“主播镜”或者打开手机的美颜功能。你会跟谁云喝酒啊?一定是等不及疫情结束就想见到的人。好吧,如果是暗恋或者暧昧对象,那可真的要花心思打扮一番。但是我想在这之前,至少也要跟“不洗头之交”们先来几轮,听听她/他们的馊主意吧?

从农历年到现在的短短两个月,我消耗了远大于之前任何一年全年的酒精消费量。因此虽然在家中闷了足足两个月,并且睡醒就是全球疫情的吓人数字,我的心情在日出或风吹后马上迅速晴天。作为一个酒鬼,跟朋友们天涯共此时的会饮让我快乐,忘却暂时的烦恼。我此刻特别能理解《兰亭集序》里所说的那种古往今来若合一契的兴感之由,这种暂得于己的快乐,确实超越了时间。

到此刻为止,我们已经在十天之内见证了3次美股熔断,投资天才巴菲特在此之前也只不过经历了一次。甚至在我写作的当下我都一直在紧盯大盘,以防需要更新前半句话的数字。任何预言似乎已经完全失效。所以我不想谈论等到一切重启之后,名庄酒的市场到底走向何方,即使在前几天的拍卖上,勃艮第的价格又创新高。但可以确定的是,新冠病毒已经并且将会对全球经济造成重大的打击,最终影响到我们每一个人。不过疫情解除之后的报复性消费,从云喝酒已经可见一斑:至少到现在,我早就跟全国各地的朋友们约好了大杀四方的美食和美酒之旅。生活要继续,酒还要喝!

不过看起来,全世界的酒鬼都是一样的。纽约市政府为了对抗疫情,关停了所有非必要的店铺。但是我们纽约的零售店被认为是“必要Essential”的而被要求继续营业。这下可辛苦了纽约零售团队,为了酒鬼们的福祉而要坚持营业。这也算在抗击新冠病毒疫情的第一线了吧?

话说回来,美国同事管这个叫“虚拟喝酒Virtual Drinking”,这怎么能算是虚拟呢?杯子里酒的存在是绝对的,更遑论虽然一起云喝酒的朋友们无法切实感受你正在喝的酒,但是那种诚挚的感情一定真真切切地通过镜头传递到了另一边,甚至比杯子里的酒还要真实!

一起来云喝酒吧!干杯!

What We’re Drinking: 1999 Grands Crus

Fritz Hatton takes us back to a “pre social distancing” time just a few months ago for an amazing 1999 dinner in Houston.

It’s amazing how many wine collectors coalesce quickly these days around a common theme.   Hosting a BYOB?  Let’s do red Burgundy.  Vintage?  1999.  And so it was for Zachys Wine Global Managing Director Jamie Pollack and me when we traveled to Houston for dinner with a group of collector friends at Potente.  We flew through a short flight of white Burgundies, slowed only by a mesmerizing bottle of Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 1999, which blew us away with its intense aromas of lemon and lime zest, brilliant minerality, focus, and extraordinary length.  No premox here.   

Then on to a flight of wines from the commune of Chambolle-Musigny.  The star for me was the Amoureuses from Roumier with its fabulous and deeply fruited aromas of black cherry, and firm, dense flavors—still moderately tannic, and wanting even more time in bottle.   It outshone both the Musigny Vogüé—still very tight but letting red cherry peek through its formidable defenses, and the Musigny Drouhin, which was the opposite, with ripe, almost superripe aromas, and soft, round generous flavors.  On the alcoholic side but (or therefore?) very pleasant to drink. 

Three heavyweights stepped forth to represent Vosne-Romanée.  The top wine of this flight was the Romanée-St. Vivant Domaine Leroy.  The wine was stunningly dense and right away begged for more time, but I would have none of it.   Ripe and yes, alcoholic (ok, enough of that it’s wine after all) and amazingly expansive with that immediately recognizable aromatic cherry-candy “lift” (select your own word here) courtesy of well macerated stems.   It never had a chance in my glass.  The Vosne-Romanée Les Beaumonts Domaine Leroy had a similar profile, though not as dense.  Great wine.   Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (or rather a most generous collector) sent Richebourg on to the field.  On this occasion the aromas were stemmy and slightly green, with hints of dried licorice (I know it as Necco candy), and lots of unresolved tannins.  I suspect that the incredible density and ripeness of the two Leroys cast a shadow over this wine. 

We arrived at the battle of Les Chambertins.   No battle really but more of a family beauty contest as three of the wines were from Rousseau—the usual suspects, Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, and Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques.  The two Chambertins always invite comparison and contrast.  Fortunately they are too damned good to provoke an argument—I’ll take either the Rolls or the Bentley.  The wine that seduces me first is usually the Chambertin.  This example was, to put it mildly, outrageously gorgeous.   The range of aromas, from deep bass notes to the high tones imparted by very ripe black cherries and orange mandarin liqueur, was jaw-inspiring.  The hint of citrus animated the otherwise incredibly rich flavors.  Dense extract powered the fruit character right to the end of an almost interminable finish.   Too many stars to count here.  But wait, wait, it’s not over.  The Clos de Bèze too was absolutely beautiful from the start, with a brighter character than the Chambertin, rich and lively on the palate, with a long, ripe cherry citrus finish.  But more than that.  The wine showed a level of excitement and energy that made me reconsider.   Sit back and relax or on the edge of the seat?  In road terms, touring suspension or sport suspension?  A majority of our group preferred the Bèze.  In the end, I fell back into the arms of the Chambertin.

We down shifted from there.  That’s not altogether fair to Clos St. Jacques Rousseau, which on its own would have been an amazing wine.  A fine Charmes-Chambertin Domaine Dugat followed, characteristically, for this producer, dense, tannic, firm, and rich, with lovely aromas.  Then on to Corton Clos des Cortons and and Clos de la Roche Amiot.

That’s not everything, but full enough disclosure for now.  Anyone have any more 1999s?

From the President’s Desk: COVID-19 and Zachys

During this period of great uncertainty, sometimes it’s reassuring to know that we can still rely on certain things.

Zachys is open for business and we hope to remain so to help serve you, while we recognize and take precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.   While most of our office staff is working remotely, we are still able to serve clients’ needs as usual.

If you have questions about an existing order, want to place a new order, are interested in consigning wine for auction, or need wine storage, our Client Services team is available to help.

You can reach us at 866-647-9075 or by email at clientservices@zachys.com.  

Our warehouse and shipping teams are staffed, and our retail store in Scarsdale is open for business – and we have introduced curbside pickup there for your convenience. Just give us a call and we will have your order ready for pickup in less than ½ hour.

Should we be asked to close the store by local or state officials, we will certainly do so and send out an additional update. The safety of our clients and staff is our highest priority.  

Thank you for your continued patronage during this challenging period.

Jeff Zacharia
President

Andrew McMurray
Vice President

What We’re Drinking (La Paulée Edition): Domaine Roumier

A Special Evening with Christophe Roumier

by Rob Caine

It is always a very special experience to taste with Christophe Roumier, a pleasure I have enjoyed on several occasions over the past three decades.  Not only are the wines superb, but Christophe’s commentary is always truly educational.

My first experience at Domaine Roumier was in the early 1990s, a tasting arranged by Christophe’s sister Anne (married to Dominique Lafon at the time).  The hallmark of Roumier wines is, for me, their purity and faithfulness to terroir.  Each wine perfectly exemplifies its vineyard origin.

Most recently, in November, 2019, I returned to Domaine Roumier to taste the 2018s in barrel and was, as always, dazzled by the entire range.  This was my first opportunity to taste the very elusive Echézeaux, along with the rest of the range. I was the fortunate guest my friend, the British collector extraordinaire Jordi Orriols-Gil, and we alone shared much of a wonderful morning with Christophe. It is always revelatory to observe his candor when discussing his own wines. Like all of us, he is happier with some than others. That being stated, with Roumier wines, we are generally distinguishing between shades of perfection!

On the heels of my recent tasting experience in Chambolle-Musigny, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the Roumier dinner at La Paulée de New York on March 5, 2020.  Some of the wines were sourced from Domaine Roumier, of course, along with several bottles from Jordi’s collection. The venue was a beautiful private dining room at Legacy Records, with the wines accompanied by Chef Ryan Hardy’s truly creative (and delicious!) cuisine.

The evening started auspiciously, with a flight of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru Clos de la Bussière, a vineyard owned in its entirety by Roumier since 1953.  All the wines showed well, with the 2006 the surprise “winner” – on the basis of its superb nose. 

We escalated quickly to the Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, a signature of the Domaine, with a wonderful flight of the 2007, 2002 and 1999.  The 2007 was pleasant enough, but the other two were simply stellar.  The nose of the 2002 was flamboyant, and the pleasure carried all the way through its superb concentration on the palate to the extremely long finish.  For me, it was the “wine of the night.”  Extended consideration was given to the 1999, by Christophe and all the other attendees.  Its nose was more subdued, although all the elements are in place for eventual greatness. Time will tell.

The next flight of Bonnes – Mares — 1991, 1990 and 1988 Vieilles Vignes – was meant to showcase some of the Domaine’s all-time greats.  In this case, the 1990 stole the show, with my summary note calling the wine “the complete package.”  The rare Bonnes-Mares Vieilles Vignes – made only once in 1988 – was sadly corked from magnum.  A huge disappointment considering Zachys sold a six-pack of this wine in 2016 for over $90,000. My previous experiences with this wine have been exciting but, alas, tonight was not the night.  Christophe shared the tale of how he had created a cuvée from the oldest vines in both the terres rouges (red soils) and terres blanches (white soils) portions of the Bonnes-Mares holdings, not necessarily with his father’s enthusiastic endorsement. However, when the final result was tasted, three barrels of this superb combination were bottled.

The 1985 Bonnes-Mares followed, and was terrific.  With its sweet nose typical of the 1985 vintage, it provided a wonderful drinking experience. That being stated, it has reached (or perhaps slightly exceeded) its prime drinking window. 

Onward to the rare 1988 Musigny from magnum – slightly corked but still very drinkable. The elegance of the vineyard showed easily, and provided an interesting contrast with the much more powerful Bonnes-Mares.

And, finally, the epitome of elegance – a stellar flight of Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses – the 1986, 1985 and 1978. The 1986 was interesting in that its aromatics were a bit earthy at first, but improved dramatically in the glass.  By the end of the evening, it was shining.

To drink the 1985 and 1978 Amoureuses side-by-side is a truly rare and special experience.  Both were stunning, showcasing the elegance of the vineyard combined with beautiful concentration, culminating in a supremely long finish.  I slightly preferred the 1978, but the qualitative difference was minimal.

Christophe’s modesty, warmth and candor elevated a very special evening to new heights.  My sincere thanks to Christophe, La Paulée de New York and Zachys Wine Auctions for this superb experience.

Let’s Talk About: Château d’Yquem

Few wineries enjoy the same long-standing and hallowed reputation as Château d’Yquem, which has been considered something special since the middle ages. The vineyard has been producing late-harvest wine since at least the late 1500s, and in 1855 that history of winemaking showed. In 1855 the Gironde Chamber of Commerce, at the behest of French Emperor Napoleon III, had the Wine Brokers’ Union develop a classification of all the best wine producers of Bordeaux. One of the classifications devised was for the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. The best producers either fell into the “First Growth” or “Second Growth” category but Château  d’Yquem ranked so highly that it was put at the top of the chart in its own category: “Premier Cru Superieur.”

So what puts this producer in a class of its own? Well, the vineyard is located in Bordeaux within the Sauternes district, which sits just to the west of the town of Langon. The 290 acres of Semillon (~75%) and Sauvignon Blanc (~25%) vines are perched upon the highest hill in the area, which provides the perfect site for production of the Château’s famous dessert wine. The warm, dry topsoil littered with pebbles and gravel sits atop rich clay subsoils, which retain water for the vines. The elevation provides excellent natural drainage in conjunction with the coarse topsoil, to eliminate excess moisture, since the development of botrytis requires just the right of amount of moisture.

For those who may not know, botyris is short for the fungus strain Botrytis cinerea. The fungus is more commonly referred as “Noble Rot” in the winemaking world as it plays a key function in the development of sweet wines like those from the Sauternes region. The spores in this form develop in environments that alternate between moist and dry; too dry a climate – no fungus develops, but too moist a climate – the fungus develops into its destructive grey rot form. The fungus afflicts the grapes while they’re still on the vine, feeding on the water within the grapes. The grapes in turn are desiccated and have their sugars and flavor compounds concentrated.

Once individual grapes exhibit the right level of botrytis affliction, they’re handpicked by the harvesters and used for the wine. Naturally, the specific requirements of the grapes keep the yield low; to put that in perspective, each vine yields about one glass of wine, compared to what is normally five bottles! Furthermore, if there’s a bad harvest, the grapes are anonymously sold off and no wine is made! Assuming all goes well though, the grapes are pressed multiple times and the juice put into new French oak barrels. However, each barrel only holds wine from a specific parcel of the vineyard, from a specific harvesting pass. The wine matures in the barrel for about three years, at which point the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are blended into the final product. While d’Yquem’s winemaking process is lengthy (and particular), the resulting wine speaks for itself: a golden, honey-like nectar rich with stonefruit, nuttiness, flowers, vanilla and other oak spice aromas.

Every great cellar has Yquem in it. In fact, we wrote a bit about just why you need it in your cellar. At auction, you can find younger bottles at a steal because, while delicious in its youth, the wine doesn’t usually reach full maturity until about 35-50 years post-vintage, where it’s darkened and developed characters of caramel and baked fruit; such are the bottles from the 19th and early 20th century. The best more recent years to look out for at retail or, more likely, at auction are: early 1970’s, early and late 1980’s, mid to late 1990’s, 2001, ’03, ’05, ’07, ’09, ’10, and ’15.

No Signs of Market Volatility as Zachys Auction Realizes $9,900,000 and 98% Sold

On March 5 & 6 at Le Bernardin Privé in New York City, the annual Zachys auction “in celebration of La Paulée” saw bidders from around the world compete for $9,900,000 in wine sold over the course of two sold-out days.

First let’s discuss the Nebuchadnezzar in the room: in the weeks preceding the auction, a global pandemic scare has created massive volatility in the world’s financial markets. Despite fears, Zachys international clientele clamored for Burgundy, Burgundy, and more Burgundy. Collectors from United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Switzerland, China, Germany, Denmark, HK, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, UK, and all over the United States won fine & rare wines from the world over. A full 38% of the auction sold to collectors in Asia.

What’s more, the auction was one of the busiest Zachys has ever had with well over 100 in attendance each day. The Burgundy flowed freely as collectors who had flown in from around the world for the auction enjoyed the “la Paulée spirit.” The auction was so busy that over 10 cases of rare wine were consumed and Le Bernardin ran out of fluke crudo.

It will come as no surprise that the top lots of the auction were all Burgundy. In fact, the top 21 lots were Burgundy, and 22 was a legend in its own right: an 1803 Lafite ($44,640) with amazing provenance. The top lot of the auction was a 1990 DRC Assortment ($80,600) followed by a ton of DRC, primarily Romanée-Conti. The only non-DRC to crack the top 21 was a 12-bottle lot of 2009 Liger-Belair La Romanée, which sold for $62,000, a WORLD RECORD for a case of the wine. The top ten lots in the auction were comprised of a mere 33 bottles and realized $591,480 for an average bottle price of nearly $18,000.

On a per-bottle basis, the top wines of the day were the WORLD RECORD 1803 Lafite ($44,640), the WORLD RECORD two bottles of 1822 Lafite ($32,240 and $23,560), an AMERICAN RECORD for an imperial of 1989 Haut-Brion ($27,280), an imperial of 2000 Mouton ($21,080) and an 1870 Lafite. At $21,080 the 1870 Lafite sold for the highest price ever, with the exception of bottles consigned directly from the Chateau’s cellars including the recent Zachys 150th Anniversary auction.

Jeff Zacharia, President of Zachys and chef chanteur, comments, “What a thrill to be a part of the biggest wine week in the world! The international bidders and sheer number of people who decided to join us for the auction is a testament to the work of the #1 team in the world, and of course the global desire for rare wine! We’re barely over the week and we’re already looking forward to being back at it again in May. Oh, and also, in case you missed it: la la, la la, la la la la lay la, la la la, la la la, la la la.