Celebratory Summer Soirée: 5 Ultra-Fine Wines for a Glamorous Summer Evening
First published in SpaWeek on July 20, 2016
By Alyssa Jill Rapp
The world is littered with recommendations of “top 5 wines under $25,” “world-class rosés”, etc. I am personally a major fan of both categories. However, once in a while a special occasion such as a milestone birthday or anniversary, a closing of a major deal, etc. merits “putting on the ritz” in terms of your summer entertaining. When asked to organize a very special evening along these lines recently, I selected 5 world-class wines from locations as unsuspecting as the Leelenau Peninsula of Michigan and as obvious as the Volnay appellation in Burgundy, France for my wine list. These 5 selections are extraordinary when enjoyed as a 5-part food and wine pairing experience, but could also easily be enjoyed on a stand-alone basis. Cheers to your next celebratory summer soirée.
L. Mawby Vineyards Blanc de Blancs (“B.d.B”) NV Brut
(Leelenau Peninsula, Michigan)
In 1973, Larry Mawby planted his first vines in the Leelenau Peninsula of Northern Michigan. Today, L.Mawby Vineyards produces one of the leading sparkling wine from America outside of California.
In L. Mawby Vineyards’ own words, their non-vintage Blanc de Blancs (“B.d.B.”) Brut is pale gold in color and offers aromas of baked peaches, lavender honey, and lemon tart. Flavors of racy kumquat, pink grapefruit, and wet stone persist through the finish. A perfect summer evening apertif.
Recommended pairings: Risotto balls, cherry tomato & mozzarella skewers, or maybe quiche.
Aubert Wines 2009 Chardonnay
(Sonoma Coast, California)
According to Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., Mark Aubert started practicing his passion for winemaking in 1989 at Colgin Cellars. He developed his skills under the tutelage of famed winemaker Helen Turley, and ultimately took over for her as head winemaker at the iconic estate. In 1999, Marc and his wife Teresa founded their eponymous winery focusing on high quality pinot noir and chardonnay. With harvest locations throughout Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast, their wines allow the consumer to experience the many fantastic California terroirs. Mark’s passion for growing grapes and obsessive attention to detail have quickly pushed Aubert into the upper-echelon of limited-production, highly-allocated, cult California wineries.
Ultra-rich and deeply concentrated, the Aubert 2009 chardonnay is intense, persistent and graceful, with layers of ripe fig, honeydew melon, anise, sage and melted black licorice. Like most great wines, the Aubert chardonnay gets more complex and interesting with every sip.
Recommended pairings: Classical burrata cheese and heirloom tomato salad, or chopped romaine, bell-pepper, radish salad with green goddess dressing
Domaine Michel LaFarge 2011 Vendange Sélectionnées Volnay
According to Hart Davis Hart, “Volnay is an appellation in the Côte de Beaune known for its delicate yet aromatically intense reds. The vineyards of Volnay are perched atop the steeply sloping Chaignot hill, which is rich in limestone. This terroir imparts a distinctly feminine characteristic on the pinot noir produced in this renowned region.” The French often refer to the Volnay appellation as the lipstick imprint of a kiss.
Medium-bodied with firm tannins, the 2011 Vendanges Sélectionnées Volnay is supple and highly expressive with aromas of red cherry, coffee, chocolate and licorice. The intensity of the nose is matched by vibrant, dense warm red fruit flavors and powerful spice notes followed by a long, fine fruity finish.
Michel LaFarge is now in his 80s, so he and his son, Frédéric are together at the winemaking helm. To quote Berry Brothers & Rudd of England:
“Michel and Frédéric make use of their combined experience top produce some of the greatest Burgundywines in Volnay. There is nothing modern in their winemaking, though the meticulous care of their biodynamically farmed vineyards puts the domaine at the forefront of viticultural practices.
They have around 10 hectares of vines and own some of the very best sites in Volnay. The vines are mature but not excessively old and yields are low without being draconian. There is very little new oak used, and the current mix is 5% new oak, with the balance of 2-to 5-year-old wood. The wines are handled as seldom as possible, with only a couple of rackings, a light fining and rarely any filtration.
The Lafarge domaine is run very much by instinct and respect for the terroir, with no sense of imposition and with biodynamic techniques. The wines are allowed to speak for themselves and are wonderfully fragrant, complex and harmonious – the essence of great Volnay.”
Recommended pairing: Roast chicken with roasted root vegetables or (any) white fish prepared with shallots and cherry tomatoes in parchment paper.
Clos de la Tech Domaine Louis Louise 2009 (3L)
(Santa Cruz Mountains, California)
Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains just south of San Francisco, this uncompromising gravity flow facility was built by Cypress Semiconductor founder and former CEO T. J. Rodgers and his wife, Valeta Massey. Taking a page out of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (“DRC”)’s playbook in terms of label design, vineyard management, gravity-flow caves and overall strategy, Clos de La Tech strives to produce world-class pinot noir…and only pinot noir
In Clos de la Tech’s own words, the 2010 Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Pinot Noir is fleshy, rich and concentrated with a firm, tannic core- much more masculine expression of pinot noir than LaFarge’s Volnay. The nose offers ripe fruit notes that include cassis, plum jam and cherry. The palate is balanced and lightly oaky with traces of pepper, cedar and spice that carry through to the long finish. This 2010 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate pinot showcases the power and character of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Recommended pairing: Roast chicken with roasted root vegetables or filet mignon.
Kingston Family Vineyards “Lucero” Syrah 2014
(Casablanca Valley, Chile)
In 1918, Carl John Kingston came to Chile from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula looking for gold. Five generations later, his descendants still farm the family ranch in the Casablanca Valley. They are one of a handful of Chilean vineyards leveraging artisan winemaking and sustainable viticultural techniques to uncover the potential of cool climate pinot noir, Syrah, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.
In the Kingston family’s own words, Lucero is named for a star-like marking on a horse’s forehead and is “inspired by the stars still glistening in the early morning sky when we pick syrah at Kingston.” The Lucero Syrah is a blend of different parcels within the greater Kingston vineyard. The Lucero is dark and rich, mouthfilling and plush, although it will hold its own against more refined far. To quote the Kingston family, “it’s not shy about its charms.”
Recommended pairing: Good old fashioned grilled hamburger or grilled steak with creamed spinach and roast potatoes.