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  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 Auctioned for Record-Shattering Price (Wine Spectator)

    Rob Rosania, a New York real-estate developer and noted wine collector, raised his paddle and left it there. “150, 160, 170, 180, 200,” auctioneer Jamie Ritchie rattled off in rapid fire, as if he was counting. Those numbers were actually thousands of dollars, salvos in a bidding war between Rosania and an unidentified online bidder at Sothebys’ auction of wines from Burgundy legend Robert Drouhin’s personal cellar on Oct. 13. The prize at stake was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1945.

    At $558,000 (including the buyer’s premium and taxes), Rosania conceded. But he purchased the next lot, the second 750ml bottle of Romanée-Conti 1945 in the auction, for $496,000. The two lots both shattered the previous auction record for a single bottle, a jeroboam of Mouton-Rothschild 1945 that sold for $310,700 in 2007.

    “That’s why I was here,” Rosania told Wine Spectator after the session. “I thought it would go for $250,000 to $400,000.”

    Rosania also snagged the next lot, one bottle of Romanée-Conti 1943, for $68,200, including fees. The ’45s were more hotly contested for several reasons: Decimated by frost and hail, the 1945 growing season was hot overall, producing just 600 bottles of concentrated and long-lived wines. And Romanée-Conti’s vines had been planted prior to the devastation of Burgundy’s vines from phylloxera. The vines, still on their own roots, were pulled out after the 1945 harvest.

    Most important, the two bottles came from Drouhin’s personal collection. His family company Maison Joseph Drouhin distributed the wines of DRC from 1928 until 1964. The provenance was impeccable.

    In a little more than two hours, Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine knocked down $7.3 million in rare Burgundy. More than 90 percent of the sale was rare bottles of DRC, vintages 1937 to 1964, from the Drouhin cellar. Many lots sold at three to four times the high estimate, with several going for seven, eight, even 10 times the catalog price. Bidding was competitive, mostly by telephone and online clients.

    Robert Drouhin was impressed with the sale. “The estimate of many wines seemed low to me, knowing their quality and scarcity, whatever the motivation of the wine lovers or collectors,” he said. “But I was amazed.”

    “My first thought was for my father, Maurice Drouhin, who oriented Joseph Drouhin to the upper level of quality and created links with the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,” he added. “My second thought was for Burgundy in general, my family and Joseph Drouhin, the prestige which they will gain from it.”

    Nonetheless, he cautioned against the feverish demand for Burgundy. “For its first and grands crus, Burgundy is in a luxury world. Let us hope it will not disturb the mentality. Burgundy estates should not be a field for investments. I wish our terroir remains in the hands of families. Personally I have already ensured the transmission to my grandchildren and hopefully the family ethic.”

    This sale follows a record-breaking June auction in Geneva of the remaining bottles of Henri Jayer’s personal cellar. Both offered impeccable provenance, giving collectors around the globe the opportunity to bid on extremely rare, pristine bottles. Burgundy remains the king of wine auctions.

    Want to get the latest news on collectible wines and the auction market? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Collecting e-mail newsletter and get a new top-rated wine review, collecting Q&As and more, delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

  • West Coast Wineries Are Refusing Grape Orders and Farmers Are Unhappy (Wine Spectator)

    Wine grapegrowers in Northern California's Lake and Mendocino counties and Oregon's Rogue Valley are unhappy after some of the industry's bigger companies refused grapes from growers they had contracts with due to potential smoke taint as a result of summer wildfires. The companies say lab tests showed high levels of compounds that could lead to smoky flavors in wines, but the growers dispute that.

    In late August, Constellation Brands and Treasury Wine Estates rejected an estimated 1,200 tons of grapes from several Lake and Mendocino growers, just as harvest was getting underway. A few weeks later, Joe Wagner's Copper Cane Wines & Provisions refused 2,000 tons of grapes from 15 grapegrowers in Southern Oregon.

    “This was a tough decision to make,” Wagner told Wine Spectator. “Knowing that we need to maintain our good reputation with growers as well as with our brand, we made the call after discovering that it was more widespread than we thought.”

    Catching smoke

    Two wildfires ignited in Southern Oregon in mid-July. One is still burning, with 75 percent containment. Fires in Lake and Mendocino counties broke out at the end of July and took more than a month to contain.

    Wagner said his team initially took grape samples to test in labs, like many others, but found that the chemical analyses were all over the board. They then decided to ferment small lots from each vineyard, a tactic first used by the Australian Wine Research Institute. It was only then that they detected the impact of smoke. “If you're just testing the grapes, you're throwing money at the wind; you need to do ferments to see for sure,” said Wagner.

    Smoke taint occurs when grapes are exposed to smoke-filled air for an extended period of time. The longer the smoke hangs in the area, the more a residue builds on the grapes, which permeates the skins. The smoke compounds, volatile phenols including guaicol and 4-methylguiacol, then bond with the sugars. Grapes can be analyzed for the compounds, but results can be inconclusive. It's only after fermentation that the volatile compounds are released, which can make a wine taste smoky. Grapes are most susceptible between veraison (when the grapes' color darkens), and reds are more directly affected.

    Unfortunately, growers are at the mercy of contracts, which have stipulations for quality, including smoke taint. But because detecting taint is tricky, it leaves a lot of uncertainty.

    Many vineyard owners say they have sent their grapes in for analysis and found they measured below the threshold for what would be considered tainted. Some vineyard owners in Oregon are claiming that Copper Cane never conducted tests on their fruit and they were left high and dry come harvesttime. Copper Cane denies that and contends that they utilized their own labs as well as a third party for testing. (It hasn't helped Wagner's cause that he has been involved in a labeling fight with Oregon vintners and politicians.)

    Wagner said they worked as fast as they could to determine if grapes were suitable. “You had to give seven to 10 days for fermentation and then another seven to 10 for a return for analysis, and we let everyone know there was a problem at that point.” Wagner claimed that laboratory results were sent to all the growers and many understood the decision they had to make. “This is something we've never done before, but we still feel confident in our decision.”

    Sam Tannahill, co-founder of Oregon's A to Z Wineworks, is one of Oregon's largest purchasers of Rogue Valley grapes for his 375,000-case brand, and believes it's an unfortunate situation that is difficult to blame on anyone. “A winery doesn't want to expose themselves to liability or make bad wine, and the grower is upset because they feel like they've done nothing wrong,” Tannahill told Wine Spectator. “It's frustrating, because it's not an issue of poor vineyard management; it's outside the control of both winery and vineyard.”

    Tannahill noted that he has not refused any of his Rogue Valley fruit and that so far he has seen low levels of smoke-tainted grapes and believes most are isolated incidents. “It's foolish to say it's not there, but it's extremely variable, depending on the microclimate, timing and length of exposure,” said Tannahill.

    Debra Sommerfield, president of the Lake County Wine Grape Commission, echoed Tannahill's comments. “It's useful to understand that Lake County's 10,000 acres of vineyard lands are planted throughout a vast, diverse topography of mountains, ridges, hills and valleys, each with a range of elevations and distinct wind patterns.” Sommerfield noted that it's difficult to generalize the impact of smoke, but that growers are working together to make informed decisions.

    Brent Dodd, corporate communications manager for Treasury Wine Estates, told Wine Spectator, “Our viticulturist and winemakers are working through a third party, carefully evaluating grapes from regions effected by wildfires in 2018; if the grapes do not meet our quality standards then they will unfortunately be rejected, which is standard in the industry.” Dodd also said that they are in close communication with their growers to continue testing grapes as needed as harvest carries on.

    Banding together

    Lawmakers and winery owners in Oregon met last week to help mitigate the estimated $4 million in losses for Rogue Valley vintners. In response, Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery have purchased nearly 100 tons from Rogue Valley growers. Other wineries have purchased grapes or offered tank space to help crush the crop, so growers can make the wine and sell it in the bulk-wine market.

    The Lake County Winegrape Commission is spearheading a collaborative research project with the University of California at Davis, ETS Laboratories and other partners, including individual grapegrowers, to further understand the effects of smoke and look for options for future years.

    Tannahill hopes that incidents like these spur more conversations for the wine industry. “My hope is for there to eventually be federally imposed insurance to keep growers stable, and mitigate the loss for the winery in contract for the grapes.” He noted that vineyard insurance in Oregon is fairly uncommon because growers rarely get enough back from their losses.

    Wagner suggested that he'd be more than willing to pay an additional cost per ton to cover the expense of crop insurance for his growers, and hinted that Copper Cane is formulating a plan to offer relief to the affected growers. “We're farmers ourselves and we hope there's more crop insurance up there in the future,” said Wagner “We can't remake the past, but we know what we need to do in the future.”

    Tannahill believes the problem with smoke taint isn't going away any time soon. “This is about climate change, and about how forests are managed, and vineyards just happen to be near these areas,” said Tannahill. “There's been smoke all up and down the West Coast for several years, and our industry needs to take a serious look at how to deal with it so that it doesn't become endemic.”

    Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

  • Unfiltered: LeBron James Returns After Grueling 2-Week Wine Time-Out, Reveals He Lets Jr. Sip Wine like a European Kid (Wine Spectator)

    LeBron James recently took his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, and just a few months into his stint, he's apparently already bought into the hot yoga, green juice and #healthgoals lifestyle that's taken over the West Coast. According to the Los Angeles Times, the 33-year-old basketball star took a two-week hiatus from gluten, dairy, added and artificial sugars, and (gasp) wine, in hopes of boosting his health.

    If you know LeBron, you know this undertaking was no slam-dunk. One of the most well-known enophiles in the NBA, he rarely goes long without drinking—and occasionally sharing a taste on social media—his beloved vino. So how did the herculean task go for him?

    “It made me want wine more,” he said.

    But huzzah, King James survived the task—and even took it a day into overtime: He celebrated the W and broke his dry spell with a bottle of 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva.

    Amarone makes the heart grow fonder.

    And it's possible he toasted this accomplishment with the people closest to him: his wife—and kids. At a Lakers practice on Tuesday, James told reporters that he lets his elder children, LeBron Jr., 14, and Bryce, 11, sip "whatever Dad and Mom's having," referring to wine.

    "I got very mature 14- and 11-year-olds. My 14- and 11-year-olds drink wine. That's how mature they are," he told press. "Put it on me, though, don't put it on Mom. Put it on Dad." (Three-year-old daughter Zhuri apparently still has some growing up to do.)

    Of course, while some might appreciate the four-time NBA MVP's very European approach to child-rearing, not everyone was going to champion it. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took to Twitter to respond to James' comments, writing, "We still have a long way to go to educate parents about dangers of underage drinking." In Ohio, the James' home court until recently, it is legal for parents to allow their children to have alcohol under their supervision. But in his new home of California, laws aren’t so lenient.

    There is one thing for certain, though: When the James offspring do get sips of vino—we know it's good vino.

    German Winemaker Loses, Finds, 3,500 Pounds of Grapes in Zany Riesling-Thieving Mix-Up

    Nikolaus Werlé in Forst woke up after one nacht to find someone had harvested 3,500 pounds (worth $9,200) of prime Riesling grapes off his vines. Thief-harvesting, sadly, is not terribly uncommon, but the incident at Werlé’s vineyard appeared all the more brazen because his plots are located right next to a supermarket parking lot on the outskirts of the village of Deidesheim, where any number of people might have spotted a mechanical harvester at work.

    "Quite a lot of our grapes got stolen and were missing for more then 10 days," the vintner told Unfiltered. But this case of missing Riesling has been solved. "A farmer from our neighborhood recognized that his harvester driver picked the wrong vineyard, got in touch with us, and agreed to replace the grapes from one of his vineyards," said Werlé. "So at the end it was just a mistake," and everything got, well … sorted.

    British Wine Merchant Shares Letter of Regret from 'Titanic' Company for Losing Wine in Unfortunate Iceberg Incident

    There are plenty of understandable excuses for why a wine shipment doesn't make it to its destination. (Like, "vandals poured it all out onto the ground.") But none might be as outrageous—or tragic, just in general—as the tale of the 69 cases of still wine, Champagne and spirits that sank with the Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

    Courtesy Berry Bros. & Rudd
    Troubled waters

    Berry Bros. & Rudd, a historic British wine and spirits merchant, recently found and resurfaced a letter of apology for lost wine cargo it received from the Titanic's parent company, White Star Line, the day after the ship's sinking (the day after!), and posted the missive on its Instagram page.

    "Dear Sirs," the letter reads. "Referring to your shipment by this steamer it is with great regret that we have to inform you that the 'Titanic' foundered at 2:20 a.m. 15th instant, after colliding with an iceberg, and is a total loss."

    A copy of the letter has been displayed in Berry Bros. & Rudd's flagship shop in London ever since the original was rediscovered 20 years ago, when a retiring employee found it while cleaning out his desk, according to Edward Rudd, third-generation family member and the company’s financial planning director. The original, usually stashed away in a safe, was given its 15 minutes of Instafame thanks to some archival work.

    “One of the many wonderful things about being part of a 320-year-old business is the bountiful archives, detailing the heritage and history of Berry Bros. & Rudd," Rudd told Unfiltered. Let's hope there are some happier memories to toast in those archives as well.

    Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.

  • Perfect Match Recipe: Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Beaujolais (Wine Spectator)

    “Roast chicken is a real emotional thing for people,” says chef Andy Little. “One of my favorite things to eat at home is whole roast chicken.”

    Little’s accessible recipe for a classic whole chicken—oven-roasted to crispy, golden goodness—goes on the plate with smashed potatoes and a kale salad dressed in a grilled-scallion vinaigrette that’s quick to prepare but feels restaurant-worthy with its combination of herbaceous, smoky and creamy elements.

    At his restaurant, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning Josephine, in Nashville, Tenn., Little’s deep-fried take on whole roast chicken has become a show-stopping signature menu item. It falls somewhere between the Amish farm chicken of Little’s youth in central Pennsylvania and the fried hot chicken that proliferates in Music City. He says that the dish resulted from his thinking, “Well, I wonder what would happen if I just dropped that whole thing in the deep fryer.”

    Josephine’s mash-up of Southern and Pennsylvania Dutch culinary traditions is not as quirky as it may seem. “The cuisine of the American South, especially the noncoastal American South, and the cuisine of central Pennsylvania are very similar,” Little explains. “Both of them celebrate their agrarian roots, so you’re going to find food that has jumped off of the farm and onto restaurant menus using the whole animal.” The subsistence cultures of Amish country and Appalachia, he observes, are about “being very frugal with the abundance that you have.”

    At home, the humble roast chicken can sometimes prove finicky. Either the skin is well-burnished and crispy but the interior is unpleasantly dry, or the meat is tender but the skin offputtingly wiggly. Little suggests cutting yourself some slack and taking the long view. “If I make something once and it doesn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to, I’m going to try it again, and I’ll probably try it three or four, maybe five times,” he says. “Continue to get in the kitchen and cook, and if you’re dead set on, ‘I’m going to make this great roast chicken recipe,’ then persevere a little bit.”

    After all, you gotta eat. “Thankfully, we’re supposed to eat three times a day,” Little says, “so that’s three opportunities—if you’re into chicken for breakfast.”

    For example, if the meat isn’t done to your liking when cooked to the called-for 175 F, try following visual cues instead, cooking only until the juices run clear when a leg joint is pierced with a small knife. You might pursue an even crispier skin, rubbing the inside of the skin with butter or taking your blow-dryer to the outside. Maybe you’ll discover you’re a fan of trussing the bird with twine for even cooking, or maybe that’s not your thing.

    If you want to get a little more ambitious, slice a couple lemons, heads of garlic and onions in half crosswise, then stuff a few into the chicken’s cavity and place the rest cut-side down in the roasting pan. Throw in a carrot or two if you like. The resulting pan juices will be even more richly nuanced, plus you’ll have additional veggies to serve alongside.

    “Hopefully, I’m able to provide a great jumping-off point,” Little says. Ultimately, though, it’s all about finding your own perfect chicken.

    Pairing Tip: Why Cru Beaujolais Works with This Dish

    [videoPlayerTag videoId="5847012918001"]

    Visit our YouTube channel to watch a version of this Perfect Match video with closed captions.

    For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Andy Little’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Roast Chicken With Beaujolais," in the Nov. 30, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, members can find other recently rated Beaujolais in our Wine Ratings Search.

    Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes, Kale and Grilled-Scallion Vinaigrette

    • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed
    • 2 cups olive oil, plus more for cooking
    • Salt and pepper
    • One 3 1/2– to 4-pound whole chicken, preferably organic and/or local, giblets removed
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
    • 2 to 3 bunches kale (about 10 ounces), stems removed, washed and cut into strips
    • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes

    1. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. In a large bowl, toss scallions with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook scallions, using tongs to turn, until soft and well-charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly.

    2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Coat the skin with olive oil and season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly with kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast-side up in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet and insert a probe thermometer between the leg and thigh joint. Transfer to the oven and roast until the thermometer reads 175 F, about 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a meat board. Tent loosely with foil. Let rest for about 15 minutes.

    3. While the chicken is roasting, combine the mustard, egg yolk, vinegar and grilled scallions in a blender and blend on high until well-combined. Slowly stream in 2 cups olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    4. Dry the kale thoroughly and dress with the grilled-scallion vinaigrette (you will have some left over). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    5. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and submerge in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once the potatoes have cooled, smash them flat with the side of a chef’s knife.

    6. Coat a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the potatoes and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    7. When ready to serve, remove the twine from the chicken. Remove the legs, and separate each thigh from each drumstick. Cut along the inside of the breastbone on either side to remove the breast meat, and slice. Remove the wings. Serve with the kale salad and potatoes alongside. Serves 2 to 4.

  • Restaurant Spotlight: Épure (Wine Spectator)

    Hong Kong’s Épure presents contemporary French cuisine in an opulent yet intimate 50-seat dining room. -la-carte items are available, but chef Nicolas Boutin’s three tasting menus are the main draw. There’s a four-course menu with themes like caviar or truffle (prices vary based on the showcased ingredient), a six-course menu for $190 and an eight-course menu for $240, with optional wine pairings. Most dishes change seasonally, but luxurious French-favored ingredients like lobster, saffron and foie gras are the common thread. The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list is managed by wine director Sebastien Allano, who’s garnered experience in restaurants such as Grand Award winners Tour d'Argent in Paris and Daniel in New York. The program focuses on France, excelling in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and also boasts strong collections of labels from California, Italy and Australia. Standouts among the 1,290 selections include verticals of nearly all Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s grand cru vineyards and more than 50 vintages of Château Mouton-Rothschild going back to the late 1800s.

  • Turning Tables: Inside the Sprawling New Location of Grand Award–Winning Wally's (Wine Spectator)

    Wally's Opens Restaurant and Store in Santa Monica

    On Oct. 6, Grand Award–winning restaurant and wine shop Wally's Beverly Hills opened a new location in Santa Monica, Calif. Owner Christian Navarro told Wine Spectator this is the first step in expanding his restaurant-retail hybrid, which proved a "grand-slam home-run success" in Beverly Hills, he said. "We have a deep-rooted loyal client base, it's just us being able to touch them on a day-to-day basis," Navarro said.

    The Santa Monica space is 50 percent larger than the one in Beverly Hills, allowing for a wine list of 4,500 to 5,000 selections. There's an impressive 130 wines available by the glass across a broad range of price points, from $13 to several hundred dollars for Coravin pours. The by-the-bottle selections go deep into Burgundy with many prestigious producers and verticals, as well as Bordeaux, California, Italy, Champagne and the Rhône Valley, among other strengths. Both locations' wine programs are managed by wine director Matthew Turner.

    Executive chef David Féau is serving a similar menu to that of the Beverly Hills location, while taking advantage of this outpost's robata-style grill, rotisserie station and wood-burning pizza oven. In addition to the full-service restaurant, Wally's signature retail offerings of charcuterie, cheese, truffles and other edible gourmet items are available.

    The opening comes two months after the closure of the original Wally's Wine & Spirits retail shop in Westwood, Calif., which opened in 1968. Navarro and his partners are looking to bring Wally's to several cities around the globe, such as New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Miami and Las Vegas.—J.H.

    Grand Award–Winning Saison Gets a Casual Spinoff

    Bonjwing Lee
    Like its sister restaurant Saison, Angler will be committed to a sustainable menu.

    The team behind Grand Award winner Saison opened Angler in San Francisco in September. Led by co-owner and chef Joshua Skenes, the casual spinoff to Saison serves à la carte, family-style, seafood-focused fare.

    The wine program is spearheaded by co-owner and wine director Mark Bright and head sommelier Morgan Harris. Like Saison, Angler's 1,800-selection wine list highlights Burgundy, as well as the Northern Rhône. "Syrah is one of those grapes that unfortunately doesn't have the reputation or the prestige of Cabernet or Pinot Noir, and I think it should," Bright told Wine Spectator. The team plans to grow the wine list to 4,000 selections.—B.G.

    Redd, California Wine Country Favorite, Closes

    Redd, a pioneering restaurant in Napa Valley, closed Oct. 7 after operating for 13 years in Yountville, Calif. Chef Richard Reddington opened Redd in 2005, and it quickly earned the patronage of local vintners and visitors alike for its wine-friendly comfort food.

    Reddington drew from his French training in kitchens such as Best of Award of Excellence winner Auberge du Soleil Restaurant in Rutherford, Calif., as well as from global cuisines, Asian styles in particular.

    Redd had a wine list of more than 500 selections, mostly from California and France. The restaurant earned an Award of Excellence in 2006, eventually getting promoted to a Best of Award of Excellence, which it held until 2010. Reddington will continue operating his nearby pizzeria, Redd Wood.—J.H.

    Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at wsrestaurantawards.

  • Man Accused of $1.2 Million Wine Theft from Goldman Sachs CEO Dies in Apparent Suicide (Wine Spectator)

    The former personal assistant accused of stealing wines valued at $1.2 million from Goldman Sachs executive David Solomon, his then boss, apparently leapt to his death on the afternoon he was supposed to appear in court for his crimes. On Oct. 9 at around 2:30 p.m., as lawyers gathered in downtown Manhattan's Thurgood Marshall Courthouse to discuss his case, Nicolas De-Meyer fell from the 33rd floor of the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and a representative from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) confirmed to Wine Spectator that authorities are investigating the case as a suicide.

    De-Meyer, 41, worked for Solomon for eight years, during which time the former personal assistant allegedly stole and resold hundreds of bottles of wine from Solomon's personal collection, including seven bottles ofDomaine de la Romanée-Conti worth around $133,000. According to a sworn statement from Solomon's now–ex-wife, Mary Solomon, De-Meyer admitted to the theft in November 2016 and then immediately left the country. Upon his return to the U.S. in January of this year, he was arrested and charged withone count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

    According to court records, De-Meyer's court date had been repeatedly postponed in order to discuss a potential plea deal. His legal team was expected to finally submit a plea at Tuesday's hearing. Sabrina Shroff, the defense lawyer representing De-Meyer in court, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Though the NYPD's records state that De-Meyer lived in an apartment building just south of New York's Central Park, he had most recently been living with his mother, Jane Rettig, in Findlay, Ohio. Court records show that De-Meyer had been declared indigent, and that the court had ordered the United States Marshals Service to pay for his travel from Ohio to the hearing in New York and back. He was expected to return home on Tuesday, after his scheduled appearance.

    Solomon, who was recently promoted from co-president to CEO of Goldman Sachs, released a statement regarding the death of his former employee. "Mary and I are deeply saddened to hear that Nicolas took his own life," he said. "He was close to our family for several years, and we are all heartbroken to hear of his tragic end."

    If you are thinking about suicide, please call the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433 or theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

    Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

  • Questions Surrounding Blind-Tasting Exam Leave 23 New Master Sommeliers in Limbo (Wine Spectator)

    This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 10.

    The Master Sommelier certification, which has become a symbol of high achievement in the restaurant and hospitality industries, became embroiled in intrigue and heartbreak Oct. 9. The board of directors for the organization that administers the test in the U.S., the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, announced it would be voiding the results of its 2018 deductive blind-tasting exam, which was held in September. Chairman Devon Broglie announced in an email to organization members that the board had received "a report from outside legal counsel" Oct. 5 that a Master Sommelier had improperly disclosed information about the wines in the blind tasting.

    The board chose, in a unanimous vote, to invalidate the Master Sommelier title for all 23 diploma recipients who had passed the tasting portion in 2018. "We reached this decision after many hours of careful consideration of the evidence and discussion on the impact on the Court and individual members," wrote Broglie in the initial announcement. The Court also announced that it had begun proceedings to strip membership from the offending Master Sommelier and bar that person from all organization events.

    The following day, Oct. 10, the board decided that all 54 candidates who sat for the exam would be given the chance to retest on one of three dates later this year or next year, with the $995 exam fee waived and “appropriate travel cost assistance” provided. “Yesterday was a tough day for everyone in the Court of Master Sommeliers, but especially for those who passed the voided tasting examination in September. There are no words I can say that will take away the disappointment and anger that our candidates are feeling today,” said Broglie. “I can only imagine how hard it hit everyone to learn that something they worked so hard for was tainted by the actions of a single individual.”

    The decision sent waves through the wine and restaurant industries. The candidates who have now had their degrees invalidated had, in many cases, spent years on the path to certification—most candidates retake the test several times before passing. Some now felt uncertainty about job prospects and responsibilities tied to their exam successes.

    "As a member of the first class in the Court's illustrious history to be named, and subsequently, have an asterisk drawn next to the title we sacrificed so much to obtain, I offer a very earnest and valid question: What now? … What do I say to my employer who extended new benefits and responsibilities?" wrote Christopher Ramelb, one of the candidates and an employee of Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, on the online message board for wine-education organization GuildSomm. "I feel so stupid and lost, as if the years of preparation and discipline, the stress of performing, and the jubilation of finally doing so, have been for nothing."

    Candidates often train with each other in small groups or with established Master Sommeliers to hone their skills, building strong relationships. “I have encountered some of these folks professionally over the years for a long, long time," said Master Sommelier Emily Wines, a former board member. "I have multiple candidates who I've done blind-tasting practice with, one of whom I met with once a month for the last year. It's pretty devastating to see somebody go through what is the happiest moment of their professional life turn into something like this.”

    The Court aims to raise sommelier wine-service standards by conducting education programs and administering certification exams, typically to members of the beverage service industry. There are four levels of difficulty—Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master Sommelier. Currently, 249 hold the title of Master.

    Master Sommelier candidates must pass three segments of the test, each of which is administered only once a year: a 50-minute verbal theory exam, a practical exam involving a mock wine service, and finally, the segment that is arguably toughest to prepare for, a blind tasting of six wines in 25 minutes, in which the tasters try to identify grape, place of origin and vintage of wine. This is the portion that the board says was compromised at last month's exam when information about the wines was leaked. The board did not provide the identity of the culprit or indicate which, or how many, candidates received the information.

    Shock and frustration

    The reaction from many in the wine community was one of surprise, anger and sadness. "My heart goes out to any candidates who were negatively affected by any unethical actions related to this most unfortunate situation," said Andy Myers, wine director of chef José Andres' ThinkFoodGroup, who earned his Master Sommelier certification in 2014. "I have the utmost faith in the Court and its leadership and trust they will address the situation in the most fair and professional manner."

    "It's shocking to think that anyone that has these credentials would have done something like that," said Alex LaPratt, partner and wine director of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y., who became a Master Sommelier in 2014.

    A 24th 2018 Master Sommelier recipient, Morgan Harris of San Francisco, had previously passed the tasting portion and thus kept his diploma. But he spoke of the frustration his would-be classmates faced. “Inevitably, it is unlikely that all of those people who sat it honestly would pass again. It took me four years to pass [the] tasting," said Harris. "And it’s just so heartbreaking and devastating on so many levels, because it’s just one or two dishonest people ruining stuff for a lot of other people."

    Other wine professionals outside the Court felt the breach and its handling shed light on issues with the exam process and the organization. "I think it needs to be a more transparent process," said Max Coane, wine director of Prime Cellars in San Francisco and former head sommelier at Grand Award winner Saison.

    "I am confident we will implement processes to maintain the integrity and rigor of our examination process moving forward," wrote Broglie. "And we will be a stronger organization as a result."

    —With reporting by Lexi Williams

    Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

  • Rare Wine Auctions Show No Signs of Slowing (Wine Spectator)

    Summer is often a quiet time in the wine-auction market, but September brings exciting opportunities, and collectors took advantage last month, adding impressive rare wines to their cellars by pushing winning bids toward or above presale high estimates set by auction houses.

    In the third quarter of 2018, global sales of fine and rare wine at auction totaled $70.4 million, up a whopping 31 percent over 2017’s third-quarter total of $53.7 million. U.S. sales totaled $36.1 million, up 19.1 percent. Hong Kong sales rose 49 percent, to $26.3 million, and London sales increased by 40 percent to $8 million. As in the previous two quarters, pristine single-owner cellars and winery-direct consignments generated much of the heated bidding.

    This was a quarter for collectors with deep pockets. The average price per lot was $4,525 in the U.S., $8,789 in Hong Kong and $3,022 in London. And in an interesting twist, Bordeaux appears to be staging a comeback with collectors, after several years in the doldrums.

    Below, we analyze recent U.S. commercial auctions and offer a preview of fourth-quarter sales.

    Acker Merrall & Condit

    Acker Merrall & Condit’s first September sale, held in New York, brought in $7.2 million against a presale high estimate of $7.3 million. It was 96 percent sold. “Burgundy didn’t take a vacation this summer,” quipped Acker Merrall and Condit CEO John Kapon, in a statement. All 25 of his sale's top lots hailed from the French region.

    Foremost among the featured consignments was a colossal 300-plus lot collection from West Coast entrepreneur Wilf Jaeger, a collector of 30 years, which exceeded its high estimate of $2 million. The showstopper was a 45-bottle offering of Armand Rousseau Chambertin, spanning the 1964 to 2014 vintages, which sold for $124,000. A case of Domaine Leroy Richebourg 2009 sailed over its presale high estimate of $48,000 to fetch $62,000. A single bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Les Vaucrains 1865 sold for $10,540, more than double its high estimate. So much for historical curiosities.

    A jeroboam of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1991 from another anticipated collection, dubbed the French Connection, sold above estimate for $44,640. Two magnums of Domaine Dujac Bonnes-Mares 1985 also exceeded estimates, selling for $37,200. Six bottles of Armand Rousseau Chambertin 1999 fetched $32,240, above the high estimate.


    Nearly 1,900 lots brought $9.8 million at Zachys’ first New York auction of the fall season. It was 95.8 percent sold. The sale consisted of several highly curated consignments, the most notable of which was a 309-lot collection of Richard and Susan Rogel, offered by the University of Michigan to benefit the Rogel Cancer Center. Their collection brought $3.4 million.

    Six bottles of their DRC Romanée-Conti 1966 were snapped up for a record $111,150. Four magnums of DRC La Tâche 1971 sold for $104,975 and six magnums of Pétrus 1982 commanded $67,925. Five bottles of Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Les Brulées 1978 sold above estimate for $35,520

    Highlights from other collections included four magnums of Château Palmer 1961 that sold above estimate for $67,925. Six magnums of Dujac Clos St.-Denis 1999 also sold above estimate for $44,460, as did six bottles of Château Cheval-Blanc 1948 that fetched $24,700. A three-bottle lot of E. Guigal Côte-Rotie La Mouline 1976 sold at the top of its estimate for $13,585.

    Hart Davis Hart

    Hart Davis Hart (HDH) kicked off its fall season with a massive three-day, 3,314-lot auction which sold over estimate and brought $16.7 million, the firm’s largest total ever. The sale was 100 percent sold.

    Not surprisingly, choice Burgundies dominated. A small but exceedingly valuable collection realized a total of $3.9 million against presale estimates of $2.5 million to $3.8 million, with over 43 percent of lots selling above their high estimate. The consignment featured six magnums of DRC Montrachet 1996 that fetched $113,525 (above the $90,000 high estimate), six magnums of Armand Rousseau Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 1991 which sailed above its $65,000 high estimate to bring $107,550, and a case of Domaine Leroy Musigny 1991 that also sold for $107,550 against a top estimate of $90,000.

    Bordeaux prices have been somewhat soft as of late, but a 909-lot consignment of first-growth Bordeaux met with resounding success, bringing in $4.3 million against presale estimates of $2.8 million to $4.2 million. “We predicted a strong sale and in fact we took a record number of bids,” CEO Paul Hart told Wine Spectator via email. “The depth of bidding and high hammer prices confirms the excitement around Bordeaux, particularly large-format bottles. A few examples were five jeroboam lots of Château Lafite Rothschild 1986 that each sold for $11,352 each against a top estimate of $7,500. Six magnums of Château Margaux 1990 brought in $7,767 against an estimate of $4,500 and a single magnum of Château Haut-Brion 1929 sold for $10,157, well above the top estimate of $6,000.”


    Is Bordeaux enjoying a comeback? According to Frank Martell, director of fine wine at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif., it is. The five most expensive wines at his small Sept. 15 auction (742 lots, with an aggregate of $1.5 million) all hailed from Pétrus. A dozen bottles from the 2000 vintage brought $51,660 against a top estimate of $47,500. A case of the 1990 sold for $44,280, and 12 bottles of the 1998 fetched $38,130, both above estimate.

    “The Bordeaux market has certainly seen a swell in attention as the Burgundy market continues to price itself beyond the reach of many longstanding Burgundy lovers,” said Martell, via email. “This is the first time in my career that Pétrus appears to be a relative bargain, even to trophy hunters, but the shift in the market will soon be widespread. Mature Bordeaux currently offers a disproportionately high level of quality compared to other comparable wines."

    Fourth-Quarter Preview

    Acker Merrall & Condit hosts New York City sales on Oct. 12, Nov. 17 and Dec. 2.

    Christie’s hosts a New York sale on Dec. 7 and 8.

    Hart Davis Hart hosts a Chicago sale Nov. 9–12, focused on Bordeaux, and another sale Dec. 12.

    Sotheby’s New York will be hosting a sale on Oct. 12 and 13 featuring a 750ml bottle of The Macallan 1926 60-year-old whisky with a Sir Peter Blake–designed label. It may fetch a record $1.2 million, as well as an historic collection of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from the personal cellar of Burgundy's Robert Drouhin. Sotheby's has another sale on Nov. 17.

    Zachys will host a New York sale on Oct. 20 titled “The Vault III,” offering a selection of large-format Bordeaux and an extensive array of premium Burgundies.

    Want to get the latest news on collectible wines and the auction market? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Collecting e-mail newsletter and get a new top-rated wine review, collecting Q&As and more, delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

  • 8 & $20 Recipe: Pork Chops with Roasted Beets and Beet Greens (Wine Spectator)

    Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

    I love it when you can get multiple uses out of one ingredient—extra bang for the buck! This recipe for sweet, juicy, spiced pork chops extends the use of two different ingredients: beets for a nutrient-packed side and bacon for added depth of flavor.

    Beets, it may surprise you to learn, are members of the same species as leafy chard, so the greens can be prepared in much the same way. Their light bitterness provides a counterpoint to the sweeter root. (I used a mix of golden and red beets here.) Look for beets with leaves still attached that are in good condition, but if you can only find beets with the leaves removed or the greens look less than appetizing, simply substitute chard. Greens such as kale and spinach will also work as well, but for some, you may not need to trim the stems and fleshy ribs from the leafy part and cook them first.

    Bacon gives the dish a decadent touch. Crisp up strips in a pan to make bacon bits, and you’ll have the fat left over to cook the greens in. (If you're aiming to make your meal on the healthier side, swap in another cooking oil or omit the bacon completely.) Goat cheese and toasted pecan pieces provide final embellishments for this autumnal dish.

    A lightly spiced, fruit-forward red wine seemed ideal for this recipe. I decided to try a California Pinot Noir, a classic match for pork, and a more robust Monastrell (Mourvèdre) from Spain’s Alicante region. The Monastrell was rich and ripe, with dark plum and blackberry notes, but the tannins, while smooth, were a bit heavy for light pork meat.

    The Pinot Noir was also ripe and lightly spiced, but it showcased red berry and cherry fruit. Lighter in body than the Monastrell, the wine’s weight and subtler tannins were ultimately a better fit for the pork chops.

    Pork Chops with Roasted Beets and Beet Greens

    Pair with a medium-bodied red such as Rickshaw Pinot Noir California 2014 (87 points, $15). Additional Wine Spectator suggestions from recently rated releases: The Crusher Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15), Edna Valley Pinot Noir Central Coast 2016 (87, $17) and Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15).

    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cooking time: 40 to 55 minutes
    Total time: 60 to 75 minutes
    Approximate food costs: $22

    • 3 bunches, or about 9 medium to large, beets (such as a mix of red and golden) with greens, scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly
    • 2 tablespoons cooking oil, such as canola
    • 4 slices of bacon
    • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
    • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1 shallot, diced
    • 1/8 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)
    • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
    • Salt
    • Pepper

    1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Separate the beets, stems and leaves. (Check that the stems and leaves are free of grit and rinse again, if needed.) Peel the beets and cut them into small wedges. Slice the stems into small pieces and the leaves into shreds, keeping them separate.

    2. Place beets in a roasting pan. Lightly drizzle beets with cooking oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Loosely cover pan with foil. Place the beets in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once midway through, for beets that are fork-tender, and up to 45 minutes for beets that are more candied and browned.

    3. Once the beets have been in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, add bacon to a cold pan and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp, flipping once. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, crumble bacon into pieces and set aside. Reserve a couple tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. (If there is additional bacon fat left over, save it for another use.)

    4. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 teaspoon allspice. Add chops to the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side, until golden-brown. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer pork chops to a platter and set aside.

    5. Deglaze the pan with apple cider vinegar, scraping up any brown bits. (If there are blackened bits in the pan, wipe out before adding the vinegar.) Add the shallots and the beet stems to the pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the stems start to soften. Add the leaves and sauté until the leaves are wilted and tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove pan from heat.

    6. Serve the chops with greens and beet wedges. Garnish with the bacon crumble, pecan pieces and goat cheese. Serves 4.

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