2003, Champagne Drappier Millesime d’Exception, Cuvee Canicule
Drappier is one of the oldest Champagne producers in the region. The cellars they use to ferment and age their graceful wines have been in activity since 1152. Despite, or maybe because of, this long tradition, this small producer is famous for making controversial choices throughout its history. In the fifties, they planted Pinot Noir in their vineyards decades before it became standard in the region, and were picked on for it. Today they release low to no sulfur cuvees when most big champagne houses are happy to sulfur their wines beyond recognition. A fun fact: Drappier was Charles de Gaulle’s home champagne; he served it to private guests and enjoyed it before dinner. To honor this relationship Drappier releases, on exceptional years, a cuvee General de Gaulle, which has a portrait of the French president on its label. It’s great wine – but let’s be honest, the kitsch value is huge here!
This is Drappier’s Millesime d’Exception bottling – Exceptional Vintage. The house only chooses to release this bottling on years which show enough personality to be released as standalone wines rather than being blended (which is the standard procedure for most champagnes). And god knows 2003 had a personality. As you can tell by the label, which says ‘Millesime canicule’ – heatwave vintage – 2003 was the hottest year in Western Europe since the 19th century, and harvest in Champagne happened absurdly early (August 21st) for the usually late-ripening region. The idea for Drappier here was to release a wine that would express the exceptionnal heat of this vintage, while still making an elegant and balance wine.
We have to say that this is a resounding success! The solar vintage shines through here, and this Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend will delight lovers of juicy, deeply fruited California whites. There is a ton of richness, which comes from the vintage but also from the wine having spent quite a bit of time in oak before bottling. This is definitely Champagne for the table, and would do wonders with a richer fish dish, or poultry with cream and mushrooms. $49.50
Fog’s End “Hand Craft Your Own Rye”
In case you can’t tell from the quaint, not super market friendly name, Fog’s end is a very tiny distilling operation, from California. Craig Pakish the owner of Fog’s End, has been legally brewing since 2009, after retiring from 24 years working for the Monterey County Sheriff. He’s not much of a publicist, but he sure is a hell of a distiller. Or as he puts it himself: “Making it is a hobby, selling it is work.”
One of Pakish’s highly regarded experiments in micro-distillation is this UFO of a rye – more like a DIY rye, we would say. Here’s how it works: the bottle of this gorgeously tropical, unoaked, straight from the copper pot still rye comes with a side of charred oak. A stick of it, narrow enough to fit through the neck of the bottle. Open your bottle, taste the rye as is, maybe make a cocktail with it. Then put the stick in, and watch as it imparts both color and flavor to your rye. The colour darkens after a few weeks, the finish becomes smoother and spicier after a few months. What will happen if you manage to hold on to this for a few years? We suggest getting one bottle for the short term, to drink over six months or one year. And another one to stash in your basement, and keep it there for as long as you can.
2008 Right Coast Red, Lieb Cellar, Long Island, Bordeaux Blend.
Mark and Kathy Lieb have been farming vines on the North Fork of Long Island since the early 90s – their land is now entirely converted to organic farming, bringing impeccably farmed fruit to their winery year in and year out. This is a blend where Merlot dominates Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with a little bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot added. The blend helps navigate Long Island’s capricious and cooler weather and produces a stunning cooler climate wine. This is all about elegance and finesse, rather than made in a straightforward ultra-ripe and jammy style. Though this will be delicious right off the blocks, why don’t you give this wine the fancy Bordeaux treatment? Let it age for a couple of years. Get your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb for you, and throw it on the grill with all the spices you’re in the mood for. Pour right coast red – you’ve got yourself a great night. $30.75