Andrew Green (left) and Aubert de Villaine (right).
Nearing a decade with Bacchus Management Group, the team behind Spruce, The Village Pub, and Pizza Antica, wine and spirits director and partner Andrew Green has spent his life seeking the top wines of the world. With a wine list featuring 1,300 bottles (and growing) at Spruce, it's apparent Andrew would travel to the ends of the earth to experience the finest wines. Luckily, he only had to go as far as New York where he was one of a few lucky wine directors invited to taste the 2005 release from the Burgundy Estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti--producers of some of the most sought-after wines in the world.
Often the perception is that sommeliers live very charmed lives. Once you get beyond the exciting part that the public sees, reality is countless hours staring at Excel spreadsheets and other far less glamorous tasks. Several of the sommeliers in our restaurants have come up with rather creative names for themselves--one refers to himself as a "wine sherpa," the other a "box jockey," obviously referring to the large number of deliveries that need to be received, inventoried, and put away.
Is it all worth it? Yes! A recent invitation to attend the only U.S. release tasting in New York City of the 2005 vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is one of those moments when a charmed opportunity comes across your plate and you just have to say yes. It wouldn't have mattered how important a figure one is--in another business they wouldn't have made it into the tasting.
The scene for this rare event was the Harold Pratt House on Manhattan's Upper East Side. A beautiful old mansion with gorgeous marble floors and vaulted ceilings with polished wainscoting going all the way to the top, and portraits of past New York City mayors covering the walls. One other sommelier from San Francisco made the trek with me, Master Sommelier Alan Murray from Masa's Restaurant, who also happens to be a dear friend. Alan has a great palate, and it is always rewarding to taste with him. The tasting was made up of all the top sommeliers and retailers from New York City, as well as a handful of others from around the country, and our host, the director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Aubert de Villaine.
Aubert de Villaine is the perfect ambassador for Domaine--he is refined and articulate, yet very unassuming. He treats his role as a representative of a property that is really a cultural icon in France. It is rumored that about ten years ago some Japanese businessmen tried to buy the property for over two billion dollars, and the French government said no before any discussion could commence. In a room full of wine bravado, you could have heard a pin drop when Aubert spoke. He was very soft-spoken and surprisingly brief in his words. I believe that he knew the wines would do the talking.
The wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are widely considered to be some of the best in the world; many consider this to be the best estate in the world. As far as chardonnay and pinot noir producers around the globe are concerned, the wines of the Domaine are used as a measuring stick by which all others are judged. The estate produced seven wines in 2005--six made from pinot noir and one from chardonnay. All of the wines come from Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy. Here is my impression of the wines:
Échézeaux: Pale pink ruby. Powerful nose that just explodes out of the glass. Aromas of allspice, forest floor, and sage. Supple on the palate. Probably the most expressive Échézeaux I have ever tried. Drink 2012-2035.
Grands-Échézeaux: Red pink ruby. Once again, the wine just explodes out of the glass. The aromatics are vibrant and opulent. The fruit profile is a little darker than the Échézeaux. The finish is long and structured with hints of graphite shavings. Drink 2013-2040.
Romanée-St.-Vivant: Dark purple ruby. Aromatically, probably the most feminine wine of the tasting. Nose is elegant and pretty; aromas of fresh-picked boysenberries with a subtle hint of evergreen. The palate is a different story though; the wine shows a very vibrant level of acidity with a massive mouth-filling finish. Drink 2014-2045.
Richebourg: Perfect red ruby. Richebourg is always a very spicy wine, and this is no exception. Aromas of fresh baking spices, this wine is dense and complex. Drink 2016-2050.
La Tâche: Purple red ruby. A very classic La Tâche nose with hints of leather, licorice, and fresh-milled cinnamon. This is a round, full, and incredibly structured wine; it just completely envelops the palate. As expected, the most powerful wine of the tasting. Drink 2020-2060.
Romanée-Conti: Opaque red ruby. Charming and refined. Shows all of the best characteristics of the other Grand Crus. Amazingly fleshy mid-palate, the finish lasts forever. As La Tâche is typically the most powerful wine, Romanée-Conti is once again the perfect expression of balance and complexity. There is no greater expression of pinot noir in the world than Romanée-Conti. Drink 2023-2060.
Montrachet: Vibrant yellow gold straw. Close to perfection. Aromas of fresh apples off the tree and wildflower honey. The oak is finely integrated. No botrytis. Explosive wine that just lays across your palate. Drink 2015-2035.
In a vintage that has proven to be outstanding in almost every wine region of Europe, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti produced a collection of "high energy" wines that exceeded my wildest expectations and left me speechless. These are wines to be cellared and appreciated much in the same way one appreciates the great artists of the world.