Travel is a test of great wine. I learned that early on, when flying home from my latest trip with prized bottles stashed in the overhead compartment. More often than not, friends who drank these discoveries were kindly indifferent. At first, I thought they were just annoyed not to have been to Barcelona or Beaune. But then I began to see a pattern emerge.
Long ago, wines that travelled well separated themselves from the local plonk, which can often taste delicious where it’s grown, but earns its name when roughed up by a long journey. It only occurred to me much later, however, that it is foreigners who identify great wines—for that reason. Locals happily drink what’s grown nearby, and it tastes great to them. It was the merchants who, based on the prices wines fetched in the international market, set up the vinous hierarchy of Bordeaux. Perhaps it was the pilgrims, traveling with a flask from a monastery in Vosne-Romanée, who began to treasure it more than the wines of others along the way.
As a New Yorker, I’ve been a little anxious and completely fascinated to watch San Franciscans tasting Finger Lakes wines at our annual Top 100 event. In fact, we taste all the Finger Lakes wines for the magazine in our West Coast office, and many of the panelists’ takes on the wines are quite different from my own local perspective. Patrick Comiskey, who lives in Los Angeles, reviews Finger Lakes wines for the magazine; he’s been itching to spend some time there, particularly to learn more about the cabernet franc he’s been tasting. When he began to plan a trip this past summer, I gave him some tips from the Sommelier Scavenger Hunt we organized the year before.
Our sommelier team, led by Matthew Kaner, another Angeleno, focused on riesling, but had been jazzed by a lot of the red wines they tasted along the way. This past summer, Patrick spent time in the vineyards that account for Bloomer Creek, or Ravines or Eminence Road Farm’s delicious francs. In his story for this issue, he reports from a West Coast perspective—his article isn’t about cheering for the home team. If you’re coming to New York, you can check these wines out for yourself at The NoMad, where Thomas Pastuszak features one of the most extensive Finger Lakes lists in New York City, or at Gramercy Tavern with Juliette Pope, who has been featuring local greats for years. Those restaurants are just two of the W&S NYC 50, our editors’ favorite places to eat and drink around town.
It’s remarkable that there are still, in 2016, world-class wines to discover. And it warms my heart that some of these are growing in my own backyard. More are pouring into our country from around the world—vetted along the way by many of the sommeliers who respond to our Annual Restaurant Poll—and exciting them when they find the latest wine that travels well.
photo by Kelly Puleio
This story appears in the print issue of April 2016.
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