Taste History at TEW
This past Tuesday we uncorked some amazing bottles for our Taste History event, because as every buyer knows, it’s OND. October-November-December, when spirits are high and hearts and wallets are open. We splurge on our loved ones and ourselves. We dine and wine and welcome opportunities to share bottles of Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 2002, Passopisciaro Contrada Porcaria 2011, Amiot-Servelle Chambolle-Musigny 2013, Vineyard 29 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Aida Estate 2012 and Eric Artiguelongue Armagnac 1974. However, since every buyer has a different aesthetic and approach, we spoke to a few friends to learn more about how they stock the cellar and shelves as the holiday season nears.
Sam Ehrlich of Blue Ribbon
“The dual challenges at this time of year are keeping certain things in stock, those sweet spot wines that restaurants turn over even when they’re not pouring it by-the-glass. Storage is always an issue for us. Balancing that with making space for prime time hot ticket items that you need to have at this time of year, but don’t want to get stuck with on New Year’s Day, that’s always the biggest issue for me – How to keep everybody happy, when everybody is at the restaurant. Everybody comes to Blue Ribbon, and making all of those people happy week-after-week for 11 weeks of insanity is challenging.
We have the benefit of a big industry crowd, which means that there are always people looking for things that are a little bit more off the beaten path, which does make it a little easier. A lot of professionals. A lot of reps, a lot of sommeliers, waiters, chefs, etc. They’re always people who are willing to ask for something different.
I think that if there’s a single producer that speaks to all of those demographics, it’s Steve Matthiasson. They’re cool-kid wines, but ordinary restaurant-goers love them because they’re just flat out delicious, and the price points really span pretty wide. And the restaurant kids love those wines. Honestly, he hits every spot.”
Stephen Fahy of The Wine Library
“Essentially, regardless of where you are, any wine seller will be looking to have the kind of product for every person you’ve ever met in the previous 12 months, because they all come back in force in October, November and December. And it’s your essentially one shot at making not only the numbers for the year, but also for making the most important customers that you’ve had ecstatic about having to come back out. The worst thing that can happen is if a customer you haven’t seen in six months, physically comes to the store or online, and you don’t have the product. You don’t have a second chance to make them happy. And not only recognizable names, but also your Super Tuscans, California Cabs and Bordeaux, and other things that we buyers get excited about and can convey to them and in the process sell them something that can make the store strong and the customer happy.
So you start looking at the kinds of product and also the price points to make the store strong. It’s not just expensive wines, it’s wines at every price point. Not everyone is coming in to spend $200 on a bottle of wine.
[With this tasting being] very focused on premium level wines, you can use the obvious cabs that people know about as a launching pad for other things that we want to show them. Other things like Matthiasson. Up-and-coming producers. As a wine buyer it can translate to selling them and getting them excited to find out what the new hot thing is. Well,” he paused and swept his arm along the table of Domestic Wines. “This is the new hot thing. Obviously the domestic portfolio is great. The Burgundies are great. Everything in this room is actually really, really strong. The Italian. The Spanish. These are premium properties that are reference points for those appellations. This is a really great cross section of product.”
Holly Kleinman of Down the Rabbit Hole in Sayville
“I get people that come in towards the holidays who have the ability to carry smaller lots, smaller vintages, family-owned vineyards, little tiny parcels, organic and biodynamically grown wines. So when they you call up and say, ‘Well I can give you only six bottles because we produced only a barrel of this’…people love it!
It’s the idea that you’ve got cool, different things that are made with less intervention both out in the vineyard and in the cellar; it falls into line with a lot of people.
So this is a great opportunity to taste through some of the more unique or higher-end wines that I don’t normally get my hands on, wines that during the holidays people are really looking for because when else do you really want to celebrate with your family and friends?
I’m loving the Tenuta di Trinoro Toscana wines. They’re fabulous. Some of the French wines that I tried are off the wall. You have a fabulous Left Bank line-up. Sinskey is so fabulous. I just tasted through the California line-up and I’m loving some of the more natural approachable versions, as opposed to the over-extracted heavy wines. You get such finesse with some of these wines. They’re gorgeous. And I also loved the ZD Cab.”
Carl Giovannocci, Village Wine & Spirits
This time of year I always look to introduce new things because we always have new foot traffic. People are willing to spend money, so I try to find things they ordinarily wouldn’t buy on a regular basis. It’s a good time to get them to listen to the story, to look for something different and then purchase it. So I come to these higher end tastings looking to fill those niches in that I don’t necessarily have most of the year.
I’ll have at least one representation, say one Chassagne-Montrachet, but this time of year I’ll maybe grab another one or two to give more choice and representation.
Danny Kreitzman Fat Cat Wines in Carrol Gardens
I’m looking for more higher-end wines because of Thanksgiving, more higher end whites, hopefully Burgundies.
I came here looking for more recognizable appellations like Meursault that people like to buy during the holidays. My customer base is definitely buying more esoteric things, but at this time of year they’re maybe going to a Thanksgiving dinner where maybe they went to bring something that everyone will know.
I came here looking for some Burgundies but I fell in love with the Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico [Riserva Sa’etta 2011], which is totally amazing. It’s drinking really, really nicely. And then this Tensely Syrah is pretty amazing too. I definitely didn’t come for any American wines but will probably end up ordering one.