It was late autumn 2016 and the wine list at Gramercy Tavern was in transition. Juliette Pope had recently left, after more than a decade as wine director at one of the top dining rooms in New York. Justin Timsit, who had earned a place among our Best New Sommeliers that year, had just stepped into the role. Curious to see what changes he might have made, I headed there for dinner with a friend.
The list had changed considerably, skewing toward more expensive Burgundies, and we took our time deciding what to drink, calling Timsit over for his advice. When I pointed to an Egly-Ouriet Ambonnay Rouge—a still pinot noir from Champagne—he beamed, and insisted that we try it.
If it was on Pope’s list, I hadn’t noticed, as there were always lots of new discoveries—and I’d usually go for the more affordable ones. But I am forever grateful that Timsit led me to that pinot noir from Champagne, as it filled our evening with wonder and, later, led me to investigate what is happening with Coteaux Champenois. In Champagne, I found a handful of producers bemused at my interest, for they continue to make their money on sparkling wines. But these rare pinot noirs are wines close to their hearts. They were happy to share some older vintages with justifiable pride in the way the wines develop with age. My report appears on page 32.
And this year’s crop of Best New Sommeliers appears on page 14. These five young talents all share the adventurous spirit that led Timsit to champion an Ambonnay Rouge; it’s one of the factors that inspired their colleagues to nominate them. We look forward to dining with all five of our Best New Sommeliers this coming year and hope you will take the opportunity to meet them as well, allowing them to lead you to something delicious.
Many of our favorite sommeliers will be joining us at our Top 100 event this October in San Francisco, along with wine makers, buyers, collectors…and chefs from our SF50 (page 20). We’ve invited those chefs to serve something delicious to accompany the wines poured by our Top 100 Wineries of 2019. We hope to see you on October 10!
photo of Compline by Emma K. Morris