Raise Your Glass…

The ultimate vintages according to one master sommelier


These are the places that you absolutely must see before the end of your life. When I travel on vacation with my family, I am always thinking of those places: far o° , exotic locales that hold mystery, history, awe-inspiring landscapes or monuments unlike anything or any other place else in the world. Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramids, the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal come to mind. But my bucket list is not limited to just places to see—it also includes wines to drink.

Every wine lover I know has a list of wines that they have read about, seen pictures of, or heard legends of that inspire their thirst and ignite desire. All of these wines are from pedigreed producers with long and storied histories. They are never “one-offs.” They are the result of the confluence of truly great vineyards, noble grape varieties, passionate winemakers and a remarkable growing season.

And being such legendary wines, they are always very dear. No one can go back in time and make more of these treasures, so to find them can become full-blown quests. They are often locked in the deep, cold cellars of the producers themselves, or in the trophy collections of collectors and connoisseurs. I count myself extremely fortunate to have had many wines that would fill the bucket lists of many wine lovers, and yet, there are still others that I have yet to taste.

The following wines are extremely special to me (I will try to be brief in description and number, lest I write a book). They were knee-bending, mind-enhancing and palate-arousing experiences that I will never ever forget. If you ever have the opportunity to drink them, you would be a fool to pass them up.

Champagne is one of my true loves and I have had some fabulous wines, but for me, 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil is at the top of the list. Simply mind-blowing, it is the first vintage of this single vineyard Blanc de Blanc. The vines were only 5 years old at this point and even the Krug family rejoiced to see just how special the wine was.

Burgundy is first in my heart, so it is truly difficult to narrow down the selections. There is no doubt in my mind that the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is the head of the class and as such, represents my greatest experiences in Burgundy. 1978 Romanee-Conti was a singular experience. This wine was still youthful, but it exhibited the amazing ability to not only give loads of pleasure but to also capture the essence of the vineyard. Its texture was pure silk with an aroma so intoxicating I can smell it to this day. And how could I forget about the 2001 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne? I cannot remember a better White Burgundy. With all due respect to Montrachet, I find Coche’s Corton Charlemagne has an added dimension and stoniness that speaks to my palate. Bordeaux is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to a bucket list. 1947 Cheval Blanc and 1961 Petrus are both in the Pantheon of great wines but my “sleeper” is 1982 Lafleur. Just across the street from Petrus this small property of four hectares produces one of the most quintessentially beautiful wines in the world from Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

And for one of the purest examples of the French “terroir” you must find the 2001 Raveneau Clos. This is what I imagine is the purest shade of white in wine—pure as snow but loud as a blizzard. 1967 Chateau d’Yquem is the greatest sweet wine to cross my lips. The waves of complexity are endless, and yet, it somehow never tires my palate with its succulent sweetness and perfect balance.

But there is more to the list than just French labels. 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A along with 1962 Penfolds Grange Hermitage are the twin peaks of Australia. They both tower above anything else from Down Under. 1978 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva “Monfortino” causes me to grasp for words to describe it. It is traditional but progressive at the same time; timeless because it represents the best of Nebbiolo. In addition, 1985 Sassicaia would give any First Growth Bordeaux more than a run for its money. It shines with hedonistic levels of flavor and presents itself with a regal quality.

I will keep adding to this list over the coming years while at the same time crossing off the ones that I have yet to drink. But we never know how much time we are allotted, so between the trips to the Galapagos, sky diving and swimming with sharks, make sure you leave nothing on your bucket list.

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