We're surrounded by wine in NY - spoilt for choice actually; it's a city of 8 million people - with a galaxy of wine shops and restaurants to choose from, so how do we decide? Price? Recommendation? Reputation of the maker/area? There are so many choices, but when you cancel out the mass produced wines (you know, the ones you see on billboards and wrapped around the side of a bus) there are small gems to be found, bottled evidence of the efforts of passionate people who love what they do. Each of these small producer wines that make their way to our tables represents a diversity of landscapes from lands unlike Manhattan. These wines are a tapestry of flavors, moments that enrich our meals and enlighten us to a different place, unique to farms, tilled soil and vineyard friendly climates- or as the French would say, "Terroir".
Lunch with Greg Gauthier, Bouchaine's Vice President, of Wine Production and Sales, was just that kind of transcontinental moment. He's a UC Davis educated, Carneros Cowboy with a palate. As I walked in, I found him standing in the hotel lobby with his bags packed, and a bottle of `10 Pinot Noir in one hand, and `11 Estate Chardonnay in the other - like I said... spoilt for choice.
Just when you think you know Napa, someone like Greg comes around and throws you a curve ball in the game of wine. I hadn't really thought a lot about the sub regions of Napa, and I was surprised to read that Carneros "Where the San Francisco Bay meets Napa and Sonoma" produces wines I have really enjoyed in the past (at the time I just though "ahhh- Napa") Gloria Ferrer- Sonoma Brut , and Saintsbury to name a couple, now I'll put this Pinot Noir at the top of the list. It was a perfect pour for the rich intimacy of the Polo Steak House, in Garden City, NY. Look for it on restaurant lists - you won't be sorry.
For romantic souls, wine alone can tell the story of a vineyard in the bottle, but for people like me, it's great to hear Greg talk about the colorful history of Bouchaine. As I sipped the classically styled, (a delightful 13.8% ETOH), complex, earthy Pinot Noir with a hint of tangerine, I listened to Greg talk about his coming to Bouchaine over a decade ago . We paused momentarily so I could taste a slice of seared tuna from his lunch, with the Pinot. I smiled and thought of Robin Pfeiffer, who taught me that "wine wants to be married", the right wine enhances food and can make a good meal, great. I sipped the Pinot as I nibbled away at the layers of my Cobb salad, - it's true, although wine by nature is a brief and polygamous partner, it opened up the flavors of the salad's grilled chicken, balanced the smoke of the bacon, and then melded smoothly with the blue cheese, heightening the meal's layers of distinct, delicious flavors and textures.
Greg told me about their wine making process - tasting, blending, tasting, waiting, tasting and then tasting again, to get the flavor "just right". There is a lot of talent at Bouchaine,and along with the owners Gerret and Tatiana Copeland, everyone is part of the process, General Manager & Winemaker Michael Richmond, Greg, and the newest addition to the team, second generation Associate Winemaker Andrew Brooks. Their work and dedication is paying off. This `10 Carneros Pinot is from a 9,798 case production - one of their largest lots; With a total case production of 20,000 each year, Bouchaine is an artisanal vineyard, making about 15 wines; including other specialty Pinot Noirs, and ranging to the Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, with some interesting varietals in between, including Las Brisas Vineyard Riesling, Pinot Gris, a late harvest Bouche d’or Chardonnay dessert wine, and an exotic Pinot Meunier to name a few.
The staff at Bouchaine is working with cooking schools to educate nascent chefs in the layers of flavor that can be found in a single varietal wine, the 20 micro-climates that make each lot of their 80 acres subtly unique, and the blending process. As I swirled my glass, and held it up to the light, to see the the vibrant garnet edges of the wine, Greg shared Bouchain's history as the oldest continuously operating winery in Carneros - originally planted by a Missouri farmer, Boon Fly in the late 1880's, it's a labor of love that Gerret and Tatiana Copeland have fostered since 1993, They've got deep rootstock behind them, and a bright future ahead. Bouchaine is a shining star in the New York galaxy of wine.