Ask a Sommelier: Winemakers to Watch
Want to mix up your wine-drinking routine and discover some exciting new producers? The folks who taste wine for a living are a good source for advice: while they're working on curating restaurant wine lists, sommeliers keep track of interesting new winemakers and cool experiments from folks who've been at it awhile.
We asked 17 somms from around the country about the wineries they're most excited about right now—wineries to watch and new bottles to seek out, both in the US and internationally.
Here's what they had to say.
"To keep it very local, I'm always excited to see what Channing Daughters on Long Island is doing. They make a ton of wines from native Italian varieties, and are always trying new things. I love their sense of experimentation and exploration. There's something very exciting about people who are wanting and willing to try something new. I think in the coming years we will start to see more delicious NY wines and give them the credit that is due. I'm also very focused on Penedes, Spain these days. There are a few producers making sparkling wines in Spain that I think are really special. Among them: Raventos i Blanc, Gramona, Recaredo, and Castellroig are making longer aged, precise, elegant cavas that are truly world class wines. I hope people will start to recognize the greatness in this region and see that it is more than a less expensive alternative to Champagne."—Caitlin Doonan (Toro NYC)
"I'm a huge fan of Champagne, and I was recently introduced to the small-producer Champagne Savart, in the less-known village of Ecueil, France; this estate is making some really exciting, energetic and finessed Champagne in a very natural style that really brings forward a ton of character in the glass. While you can find a lot of great Champagne on the shelves, this is a boutique producer to keep your eyes on, as the wines get better and better every vintage."—Thomas Pastuszak (NoMad)
"I am a big fan of Luca Fedrigo at L'Arco in Valpolicella. He is one of only a relative handful of Amarone producers that are growing all of their own fruit, and his style is pretty distinct from the two most famous names of the appellation, Quintarelli and Dal Forno. His is more nuanced and subtle (it is also a fraction of the price). He worked under Quintarelli from the age of 14 until he was 19, at which point he started L'Arco. I don't know what I was doing when I was 19 but I'm certain it was far less cool. Lots of N64 Goldeneye, I think."—Steven Grubbs (Empire State South and 5 & 10)
"Fanny Sabre in Burgundy has both reds and whites that please every palate and is a pioneer for female winemakers in Burgundy. She basically took over her late father's wine endeavors and sought after apprenticeships to keep making great wine. Chris Pittenger of Gros Ventre and Skinner wines, the former is a series of elegant and refined California pinot noirs and the latter another great homage to just how great domestic Rhône varietals can be. Another great winemaker is Ian Brand for La Marea and Le P'tit Paysan in San Benito, California. Again, fostering some of the best domestic Rhône varietals; but also with some great experiences dabbling in the 'unknown', not just chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, etc."—Jaime Kaloustian (Dovetail)
"Domestically I am very excited about Jolie Laide wines. The winemaker works in the cellar with Wind Gap, makes amazing syrah that you will think is straight from the Rhone. The star is the Trousseau Gris though, I think he finally has the recipe for the perfect amount of skin contact. Internationally it seems like I get excited about a new Champagne producer every day. Recently Savart and Brochet have been my obsessions, and the prices are amazing. Also keep an eye out for Cascina Fontana Barolos, perfect mix of elegance and power."—Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)
"There are a few domestic wineries that I will always try new releases from because I either trust the winemakers or the fruit they are using. My top domestic wineries are Forlorn Hope, Copain, Peay, and HdV from North Coast, Lieu Dit from Santa Barbara, plus Antica Terra and Adelsheim up in Willamette Valley. Some of these producers, like Forlorn Hope, Copain, and Antica Terra, have a wonderful balance between experimental and elegance, where Peay, HdV, and Adelsheim bring elegance and definition to the New Classics of American wine. Also, I'm SUPER stoked for Sommelier-made wine (Lieu Dit!) and the new era of Pinot Noir from HdV, which is long overdue."—Cara Patricia (Saison / Bright Wine Fund)
"On the domestic front, Smith Madrone and Arnot-Roberts in California are very high on my list right now, along with Bow & Arrow out of Oregon and a handful of Finger Lakes wineries like Heart & Hands as well. Internationally, Moric is making killer Austrian reds; tiny producer Ruge is giving Prosecco a new and natural glow; and all wines from Gahier in the Jura seem to be gems."—Juliette Pope (Gramercy Tavern)
"Teutonic Wine Company out of Oregon is making the most wonderful German style wines arguably in the United States. The husband and wife team with the best names ever, Olga and Barnaby, fell in love with Mosel buying wine for a Portland restaurant years ago. Barnaby has just the right amount of skill and bravery to execute some truly wonderful wines. His white wine is dry, snappy, full of crisp fruit flavors, and low in alcohol, making it the perfect summer wine to sip on while hanging out in the sun. His red wines, which he calls, 'white wine in disguise' are a bit harder to find, but worth looking for. While making a few different Pinot Noirs, he also makes a Pinot Meunier which is just different enough to keep things exciting when you grow a little tired of Oregon's flagship grape."—Jeremy Wilson (Ned Ludd)
"I'm really excited about the small grower movement that is happening world wide. Additionally it's great to see the majority of them working the land with organic farming practices. A few of my favorites: domestically, Bedrock, Massican, Dirty & Rowdy, and Domaine de la Cote. In Italy: Panevino and Lamoresca. In France: Clos du Tue-Boeuf and La Grande Coline."—Patrick Cappiello (Pearl & Ash)
"I'm a huge fan of the Santa Rita Hills and the surrounding area. Arguably the best 'Grand Cru' in California. The marine-based soils and ocean influence provide owner/winemaker Justin Willett at Tyler Winery a site for world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. When it comes to international producers that get me going, I am really enjoying the wines from Domaine Comte Abbatucci in Corsica. Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a direct descendent of a General who was comrades in arms with Napoleon is producing bio-dynamic wine from indigenous varieties."—Chris Nelson (Union Square Cafe)
"So many possible wineries to talk about here. I'm very excited about the Chablis line-up by Gérard Duplessis. The wines are alive and profound—extremely mineral and focused, classic in style and executed with impressive precision. I also love their farming practices (organic) and the fact that they're still an excellent value. Also in France: Domaine du Pélican is brand-new to the USA (and everywhere, for that matter). It's Guillaume d'Angerville's foray into the Jura. He purchased an estate a few years ago after blind tasting Stephan Tissot's "Les Bruyères" Chardonnay. The inaugural vintage, 2012, is just hitting the market and the wines are stellar. In California, I'm loving Arbe Garbe, Martian, Clos Saron and Tribute to Grace. In Italy, the Panevino wines—especially C.C.P (from Sardinia) and Lamoresco (Sicily). I am also currently enjoying the Mooruduc Estate Chardonnay from Victoria, Australia. And Bow & Arrow in Oregon!"—Jordan Salcito (Momofuku)
"I am seeing some exciting, risk-taking producers in Washington. Two Vintners is an relatively new project from Morgan Lee of Covington Cellars. His May's Discovery Syrah from Horse Heaven Hills is stunning. He's doing native yeast, whole-cluster fermentations in large neutral oak. This is vineyard-driven, pure syrah, and I'm positive it's the way forward for the grape and for winemaking in Washington. We're also seeing a shift from big brands and winery manipulation to a focus on site and soil in Washington. Globally, I'm hyped about Equipo Navazos and their exploration of individual Sherry casks. Wines from Galicia are also blowing my mind. Godello is Spain's answer to White Burgundy."—Jackson Rohrbaugh (Aragona)
"Domestic: Eminence Road, Hermann J. Wiemer, Bloomer Creek and Channing Daughters in New York; Broc Cellars, Ryme Cellars and Jolie-Laide in California; Chateau Grand Traverse in Michigan; Kelly Fox in Oregon. International: Rudi Pichler, Wallner, Hirsch, Loimer (Austria), D. Ventura, Bodegas Grant, Equipo Navazos, Laureano Serres, Vevi (Spain), Willi Schaefer, Clemens-Busch, Immich-Batterieberg (Germany), Massa Vecchia, Bisson, Panevino (Italy), Jean-Yves Péron, Thierry Puzelat, Fred Cossard, Charles Dufour, Chartogne-Taillet, Chateau Bellevue, St.-Croix (France)...."—Jeremy Quinn (Webster's Wine Bar, The Bluebird, Telegraph)
"Brianne Day of Day Wines recently released her first wine, an Eola-Amity Hills 2012 Pinot noir, and I'm super excited to see what she puts out next, continuing with Pinot noir and playing with Chardonnay and Rhone varietals. There are many other local producers making classic, beautiful wines but also not being afraid to take risks and explore different styles of wine making. Jasper Sisco and Holden Wines are at the top of my list of 'up and coming.'"—Christopher Sky Westmoreland (Levant)
"One domestic producer I rarely encounter and absolutely flies under the radar is Flying Goat Cellars out of Central Coast, CA. Their upper tier bottlings of Pinot Noir are fantastic, and are worth snapping up before the stock is gone. They show more complex earth notes than the usual fruit driven affairs out of the area. Internationally, I've been excited about Pernot-Bélicard's Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet wines. Philippe Pernot is at the helm, grandson of the legendary Paul Pernot. He's achieving a level of purity and balance in the wines usually seen in much more expensive bottles. Definitely a producer to keep an eye on."—Evan Hufford (Saison)
"Sicilian wines, from the Mount Etna's high elevation volcanic soil are now my favorite pour, for both my guests and me. I love the work of Salvo Foti, a great enologist that strongly supported the indigenous varieties from Mt. Etna and finally his 20 plus year of preaching are paying back. I'm also excited to see the work of another great winemaker, this time in Friuli. I have a great respect for i Clivi's wines—Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo and Tocai Friulano at one of the highest purity level I have encountered. They operate as a natural and organic producer, even if they don't really advertise their wines as such."—Andrea Scuto (Trattoria Amici at The Americana at Brand)
"I think that some of the most exciting wineries to watch right now and pour for our guests are the wineries that aren't necessarily doing anything new, but rather our guests are just unfamiliar with them. I've enjoyed pouring Foillard cru Beaujolais for guests that are generally Pinot Noir drinkers, and then to shake it up, follow that with Gamay from RPM, Rajar Parr's project with Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Roberts of Arnot-Roberts. A perfect combination of tradition and innovation. Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington, is doing fantastic work with Syrah and Riesling, two favorite varieties at Camerata, and their Funkadelic Syrah from the Rocks vineyard is killer. For more Riesling, Peter Lauer out of the Saar is making awesome, mineral driven laser-like wines."—David Keck (Camerata at Paulie's)