“Living in the heart of Napa Valley (Appellation St. Helena, in fact), I feel so lucky to ply my wine trade in one of the wine world’s many nirvanas”, says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. “Still, as with all of you, I’m sure the travel restrictions of the last year have piqued my wanderlust to get back out into the broader wine world.
I’ve been lucky over the years of my career to visit nearly every great wine region (I still need to hit Hungary, Sicily, Greece, and up-and-comers like Uruguay!). When it’s your job to select wines for an airline or hospitality entity, your “business trips” look like a dream vacation to wine lovers, not in the trade. Have you heard the expression, “Work at what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well, I agree. And reflecting longingly on many a past “work” trip inspired my offers for this month.
To kick it off, I’m highlighting Champagne and Bordeaux, and I’ll tell you why. First, Champagne: it was the first wine region I ever visited – yes, I started strong! The back story: I had been working on Wall Street for Morgan Stanley as a financial analyst and been given a plum offer of a year in the London office. Nights and weekends, I’d pour and empty spit buckets for now-Master of Wine Mary Ewing Mulligan’s International Wine Center school so that I could attend the classes for free. One of those events, a Krug Champagne master class, captivated me so deeply that the next day, I went to my boss at Morgan Stanley and said instead of taking the year in London, I was quitting to try to make a living in the wine business. Instead of ripping me a new one, he said, “I wish I’d had the guts when I was your age.” It turns out he was an uber-wine collector and investor in posh Manhattan restaurants like Mondrian (Chef Tom Colicchio’s first big-deal restaurant).
In filming my Local Flavor show for Delta Air Lines, I’ve had the chance to interview Richard Geoffroy of Dom Perignon, Maggie Henriquez of Krug, Frederic Panaiotis of Ruinart, and Dominique de Marville of Veuve Clicquot—so here’s to them, and you, in this offer. Speaking of Veuve Clicquot, have you ever met any members of the Cercle des Amis de la Veuve (Friends of the Widow Circle)? Well, now you have (me)–haha! I’m highlighting their rose in this offer alongside Ruinart’s rose because it’s really lovely if a bit of a sleeper. And of course, you already know, Krug was the wine that lured me off Wall Street!
Fast-forward to today, and we are all still drinking those wines, but also talking about grower Champagnes and how they show us a different side of the inimitable Champagne terroir. The grower approach highlights the incredible diversity of Champagne’s top crus, brought to the fore by precision farming, often out-of-the-box approaches to blending, and fearlessness to show vintage variations. As such, I’m very excited to host this month’s virtual tasting featuring some bespoke bottlings from the boutique importer of Club Tresors (Treasures) members, Grace Under Pressure, based in Napa. The club is an alliance of growers who estate bottle their Champagnes from top crus that they own and farm. Please check out their bottlings featured in this offer, and be sure to join us for the virtual tasting on April 17 to taste along. Early Mother’s Day present! (As a mom of 3, may I impress upon you the preeminent importance of this holiday!)
That same year after visiting Champagne, I remained in Europe for six months visiting every wine region I could get to with a Eurail Pass or other public transportation. I ended up in Bordeaux to work a harvest at Chateau Palmer and have counted the Sichel family, particularly James, as friends ever since. While I was there, Jean-Michel Cazes himself, of Chateau Lynch-Bages, took me around even though I was nobody, and the Cathiards of Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte received me personally. I couldn’t have imagined that years later I’d be back as a Master Sommelier and TV show host of Simply Wine with Andrea, to film at the likes of Chateaux Mouton-Rothschild and Yquem or tasting with the next generation of Cazes, Jean-Charles, to select wines for Delta Air Lines. Stateside, I’ve been lucky to have James Sichel visit our home in Napa Valley and conduct a Bordeaux Master Class for the local elite sommeliers, and we’re cooking up another one as soon as we can all safely return to the skies to re-connect with our global wine tribe.
Bordeaux is a great wine to drink in April, to toast what would traditionally be en primeurs month when the latest vintage is introduced to the trade for sale as futures, amid much revelry and excitement. Since we can’t be there, how about your own Bordeaux spring dinner, as it’s the perfect season for the classic red Bordeaux partner—carre d’agneau, or rack of lamb. Start off with a bottle of Forget-Chemin Brut Special Club Rose with a little caviar and traditional garnishes. Then, Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc (stands right with Haut-Brion Blanc at a fraction of the price) with poached or grilled spring asparagus and hollandaise sauce. Next, it’s Chateau Palmer or another great red Bordeaux with your rack of lamb in its jus and some buttery pommes puree or rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes if you prefer it Napa-rustic as we do. Finish off with another classic match: Roquefort cheese with Chateau Coutet Barsac, which SOOO punches above its weight in the Sauternes category. This is going to be one yummy month, mes amis!
See you on the 17th for Special Club Champagne AND join me for my Great Wines of the World Bordeaux virtual deep dive class—more info here. It’ll be like we really are in France!”
Want to learn more? Andrea Robinson will be featured throughout the month of April 2021. Check out this week’s recommendations here!
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