Turning Tables: City Winery Comes to New York’s Grand Central Terminal

With Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning locations around the U.S., City Winery is an innovative and leading force for both urban wineries and U.S. hospitality. Now, it’s coming to a New York landmark, Grand Central Terminal. On Nov. 21, the City Winery team opened a new space, its 14th, in the transit hub’s Vanderbilt Hall West, featuring two restaurants, to-go options (including wine), live entertainment and, impressively, on-site winemaking. The space previously housed the Nordic-cuisine Great Northern Food Hall, which closed in 2020.

“I’ve actually never been more excited, on some level, for a launch of a concept,” City Winery founder and CEO Michael Dorf told Wine Spectator. “Not only do I think it makes good business sense, but if we’re somewhat successful—even if we’re marginally successfully—it’s going to raise the bar on how a small, little company can potentially affect how people [interact] with wine.”

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The 7,400-square-foot space boasts a 75-seat restaurant, Cornelius (set to open later this month), named for Grand Central Terminal’s founder, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Prepared by executive chef Zachary Bondy, the restaurant’s locally focused, farm-to-table menu will play off Continental-cuisine classics, with oysters Vanderbilt (a take on oysters Rockefeller, sourced from Long Island), salad Lyonnaise, duck confit, beef tartare and, appropriately, a “Wall-Dorf” salad with Hudson Valley apples. “‘Old farm to new table’ is basically our tag,” said Dorf, “It’s got a nod to the historic menus of yesteryear, but obviously with a more [modern twist].”

As with the other locations, the beverage program at Cornelius—and at the space’s two City Winery tasting bars—is primarily focused on City Winery wines from California and New York offered on tap and served by the glass. This includes wines made on site. “Wine, no matter what, is our focal point,” said Dorf. “People are going to walk into Grand Central Station off of 42nd street and they’re going to see a large fermenting tank.” Cornelius’ list will also spotlight producers in regions like Spain and France, as well those practicing eco-friendly techniques. The wine program is overseen by City Winery national beverage director Denise Prykanowski and the wine team from City Winery’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning New York flagship.

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For a more casual affair, diners can go to the now-open City Winery wine bar–restaurant for burgers, flatbreads, shareable plates and more, or to the grab-and-go spot, City Jams, for sandwiches, baked goods, snacks and to-go wine in glass growlers. (Another City Jams spot is located closer to Grand Central’s subway entrances.) Not only does this offer an easy option for guests catching trains, but it adds to the eatery’s sustainability, a key part of City Winery’s ethos; the eatery also gives guests a $5 credit for returning their growlers.

“To me, it’s almost got a historic connection to the way we operated as a consumer culture pre–oil energy and plastic,” Dorf noted. “This is what we did when Cornelius Vanderbilt built Grand Central.”

It wouldn’t be City Winery without live entertainment, and the space will deliver with ambient music for about 190 guests at a time. Dorf hopes the venue can put a spotlight on performers and buskers regularly working in New York train stations.

As for design, the City Winery space complements and recalls the elements of Grand Central Station. “We have, as a company, been very good about adaptive reuse of space,” Dorf explained, observing that City Winery’s Hudson Valley location is located within a historic knitting factory. “We’ve always gone into older buildings, respected the history—frankly, accentuated the history. You know, old brick or old beams.”—C.D.

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Delfina Returns to San Francisco

Delfina had been an icon of San Francisco’s dining scene for nearly 25 years before closing its dining room at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Through much of the pandemic, it served guests exclusively in its parklet, and locals wondered if the beloved Mission District Italian eatery would ever open its doors again.

After two-and-half years, it has fully reopened, perhaps even better than its first iteration. The former Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner received a facelift and reopened for service on Oct. 26, expanding its square footage by merging with its neighboring sister restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina. The new, open dining room seats 115 and melds modern decor with classic Italian touches, including light brown leather banquettes, mid-century–style pendant lights and red-tinged wood floors. A second dining room features a golden-domed ceiling with tiled floors.

“We’re beyond thrilled with the remodel,” said owners Craig and Annie Stoll in an email to Wine Spectator. “It accomplishes exactly what we set out to create: a sexy, modern and complete transformation of the restaurant, still channeling the fun and warm vibes. Seeing our first baby full of happy guests in a better-than-ever restaurant is incredibly gratifying after two and a half years of darkness,” they added.

Delfina brought back several signature dishes, including spaghetti Pomodoro and grilled Monterey Bay calamari with rice beans. In addition, the Stolls and executive chef John Arcudi have added new items, including house-made focaccia and a menu built around produce from the Stolls’ farm in Sonoma.

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The restaurant also added a new Italian-inspired cocktail program, joining its concise-but-thoughtful wine list of around 60 wines. Curated by consulting wine director James Butler, the list is exclusively devoted to Italian and California selections and grounded in offerings from Piedmont and Tuscany.

“Delfina’s previous wine list was pretty deep, but we needed to recontextualize the inventory. We don’t know how people are spending during this post-pandemic period,” said Butler. Because of that, the wine list offers tons of value options, such as Piedmont’s Luca Ferraris Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato Sant’Eufemia 2021 ($48) or a magnum of Isole & Olena Chianti Classico 2015 for $100.

The wine menu is user-friendly, broken into categories such as “clean, lean and mineral” or “structured, elegant and bold,” with the idea of empowering diners. Butler noted it was tricky to inherit existing inventory and ensure it didn’t overshadow the new wines he was bringing on, so he is creating a reserve list of around 25 wines that will include older vintages.—A.R.

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Molyvos Reopens at New Hell’s Kitchen Location

For nearly 25 years, Best of Award of Excellence winner Molyvos delighted the hungry wanderers of Midtown Manhattan at its location on Seventh Avenue and 55th Street, just south of Carnegie Hall. When the restaurant closed during the pandemic, New York temporarily lost one of its most important advocates for Greek cuisine—and Greek wine. With its reopening, in the intimate 43rd Street space formerly occupied by seafood destination Esca, diners seeking Greek in Gotham can breathe easy.

The restaurant’s soft opening menu is divided into four parts: traditional spreads; a new section devoted to raw, chilled and marinated seafood; salads and appetizers (including meatballs and grilled octopus); and a smattering of classic entrees, among them dolmades (Napa cabbage stuffed with lamb, beef and pork), moussaka and roasted chicken. The menu will expand to include additional entrees and grilled selections, including a whole fish.

Longtime wine director Kamal Kouiri’s list features over 750 wines—all of them Greek—with 30 by-the-glass offerings and a cellar of nearly 10,000 bottles. Kouiri told Wine Spectator, “During my 21 years at Molyvos, I was able to collect and develop verticals [of] some amazing wines, highlighting the versatility of the indigenous grape varieties, the terroir [and the] savoir faire of amazing people.”

Start with a Greek spirit (the list boasts an entire page, full of rare finds) or a glass of retsina, the ancient style of white wine infused with pine resin. Greek wine aficionados will find plenty of familiar friends here—Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and more abound—plus unknown and unexpected finds from across the country, from northern Macedonia to southern Crete. Diners who prefer to stick with the familiar won’t be disappointed either; many of the wines are based on internationally popular grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. And while there are plenty of splurge-worthy bottles—perhaps one of the many mature magnums on offer?—the number of wines under $100, including many in the $50 to $75 range, is remarkable, as is the sweet wine selection.

Molyvos regulars may be pleasantly surprised by the new section devoted to natural and skin-contact wines, which joined the list during the move to Hell’s Kitchen. Kouiri reflected, “We believe that Greece, with its nearly 4,000 years of history of making wine, is actually synonymous with the thing we today call ‘natural wine.’ When Aristotle mentions in his writings the wine made from the grape Limnio 2,400 years ago, what he was referring to was most certainly a natural wine. Greece has seen a renaissance with respect to the ancient tradition of winemaking in recent years. We are happy to offer a selection of the best Greece has to offer at Molyvos.”

Molyvos is open for dinner daily from 5–11 p.m., with lunch offered on weekdays from 12–3 p.m.; brunch is planned for the near future.—K.M.

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Team Behind Houston’s Bludorn Opens Second Restaurant

Chef Aaron Bludorn opened Bludorn, in Houston, Texas, with fingers crossed in August 2020. At a time when the pandemic had forced many restaurants to close, he knew it was risky, but he didn’t go in expecting to fail. “We opened at a time when Houstonians were looking for hope,” said Bludorn, adding, “We thought it was a big gamble. But it was the right gamble at the right time.”

Two years later, Bludorn has succeeded, while earning a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list in 2022. Now Bludorn and his partners—wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn and general manager Cherif Mbjodi—are doubling down with the Nov. 18 debut of Navy Blue, a seafood-focused restaurant with French underpinnings in Houston’s Rice Village neighborhood.

The 7,100-square-foot space evokes an aquatic ambiance, with natural, oceanic tones throughout the 110-seat dining room, which features long tables separated by white oak partitions and plush banquettes. White-grey Japanese ceramic tile and steel driftwood punctuate the bar area. Behind the bar is a flex space that can be used for overflow seating or as a private dining area and features a mural by Austin artist Emily Eisenhardt.

Jerrod Zifchak, Navy Blue’s executive chef, began his career at Grand Award-winning Le Bernardin before working under Bludorn at New York’s now-shuttered Café Boulud, then assuming the executive chef role there after Bludorn’s departure in 2019. Classically French–trained and an avid fisherman, Zifchak is tailor-made for the toque at Navy Blue, where the menu capitalizes on Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Navy Blue—a name that nods to the ocean, but is also a tribute to Bludorn’s father, a naval aviator whose call sign was “Blue”—borrows from a classic steakhouse format; diners can order fish à la carte and choose accompanying sides, such as potato purée, broccoli rabe or French fries with cod roe mayonnaise. A handful of pasta dishes, soups, salads and large plates round out the menu.

One of Bludorn’s culinary hallmarks is threading the needle of what is expected with a dish while placing his stamp on it. “The more straightforward I am, the more playful I can be,” he said. Diners can expect classic dishes with a twist, such as crab cakes with celeriac rémoulade and bottarga, or spaghetti vongole with Manila clams, sea urchin and seaweed. Swordfish stands in for steak, prepared with green peppercorn sauce.

Adopting from Bludorn restaurant, where diners love ordering oysters every way (raw, fried and poached, with additional accompaniments), Navy Blue features a similar concept. Again, oysters are offered three ways, as well as shrimp (cocktail, fried, BBQ) and clams (casino, fried, steamed). That model is carried over to the main fish, with whole Dover sole served either almondine, Oscar or Provençal, and to a whole lobster, either boiled, grilled or Thermador.

Navy Blue’s beverage program emphasizes cocktails, including modern takes on classics and customizable martinis. Bludorn wine director Molly Austad started with around 160 bottlings, including 20 by the glass. The list focuses heavily on white Burgundy—including bottlings from producers such as Benjamin Leroux, Marc Morey and Michel Niellon—with an abundance of whites from European coastal and island regions. “Our selections are mainly based on wines traditionally paired with seafood from all over the world,” said Austad. “We have a fun selection from Greece, the Canary Islands, Sicily and beyond.” For reds, the focus is on lighter-bodied wines that can complement the seafood. “We have Pinot Noir from California and Oregon, as well as a Trousseau from Santa Barbara and an old-vine Grenache from Australia.”—A.R.

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Tony Parker Doubles Down in Southern France

Tony Parker isn’t content to merely collect and enjoy wine, he also wants to make it. The French-American NBA star has been busily investing in projects throughout France since retiring from the San Antonio Spurs in 2019 at the age of 37. On the heels of his 2022 partnership with Château La Mascaronne in Provence and Champagne Jeeper, Parker just announced his purchase of Château St.-Laurent in the Rhône Valley.

“I always knew I wanted to invest in wine, but I wanted to wait until I retired,” Parker told Wine Spectator. “And I’ve always loved the Rhône Valley. Almost all my investments in France are between Lyon and Monaco, through the Alps with my ski resort, and Avignon and Provence with La Mascaronne.” (In 2019, he co-purchased two ski resorts in the southern French Alps).

Situated in southeastern France along the Rhône river in the Côtes du Ventoux appellation, Château St.-Laurent dates back to the 14th century when the papacy relocated from Rome to Avignon. In fact, the property features a six-mile underground passageway that connects the estate to the medieval Palais des Papes, or Popes’ Palace, in the heart of the city.

The 100 acres of vineyard holdings were an equal draw for Parker, who grew up in France in a household where wine was always on the table. “At Château St.-Laurent, we’re lucky to have many plots of very old vines, many up to 80 years old,” he said. Parker is committed to organic viticulture and has begun the process of converting the estate’s farming. Established Rhône vintner Guillaume Valli is in charge of crafting the wines. The limited 3,000-bottle release of his first vintage—a 2022 red blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah—will be available in November 2023.

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While Parker has partnered with others in the past, such as French entrepreneur and Château La Mascaronne owner Michel Reybier, he is going solo on this particular project. “On this Château St.-Laurent adventure, I’m all by myself,” he said.

He has, however, teamed up with fellow NBA star Carmelo Anthony’s Club dVIN for his first release. The NFT wine club will offer 500 tokens for sale this month, each of which give buyers access to six bottles of Château St.-Laurent’s future vintages as well as opportunities to stay at the château. Parker is renovating the 22-room château with the goal of making it “one of the most incredible reception venues in the south of France available for private use,” he said.

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Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune Charity Auction Hits a $32 Million Record

The 162nd Hospices de Beaune auction raised a total of $32 million last week, a record for any wine auction conducted by Sotheby’s and the highest total in the charity event’s long history. “It was a fantastic sale with lots of enthusiastic bidding,” Jamie Ritchie, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits, told Wine Spectator.

Proceeds from the annual event support the upkeep of the Hospices Civils de Beaune’s hospitals. One reason for the record total was the high number of lots—802 barrels, divided into 620 red wine lots and 182 white, the highest number of lots since 828 barrels in 2018. That’s also more than double those in last year’s sale, and Ritchie noted that the average price per lot was up by 12 percent, a sign of optimism toward Burgundy’s 2022 vintage.

The Pièce des Présidents, a unique barrel designated to support one or more charities, set a record sale price of more than $837,000. It was purchased jointly by Maison Joseph Drouhin and Maison Louis Latour, with an additional $113,000 contributed by the Fédération des Négociants-Éleveurs de Grande Bourgogne (a federation of Burgundy wine merchants). The lot was in honor of Louis-Fabrice Latour, who died this past September, and Romane Drouhin, daughter of Frédéric Drouhin, who passed away in 2020.

The Pièce des Présidents, a Corton 2022 made by Hospices de Beaune manager Ludivine Griveau, incorporated grapes from three of the foundation’s parcels: Corton-Bressandes, Corton Renardes and Corton Chaumes. The wine will age in a custom 228-liter barrel made by the Maison Latour cooperage, in collaboration with the Hospices de Beaune.

The proceeds from this special lot will benefit the Princesse Margot Association, which supports children with cancer, and the World Vision organization, whose mission is to aid impoverished children.

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‘Straight Talk’ Podcast Episode 3 Spotlights Champagne for the Holidays

Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth is poppin’ off in episode 3 of Straight Talk—with a Champagne spectacular! He’s joined by Wine Spectator‘s lead taster for Champagne, Alison Napjus, and a wide-ranging lineup of sparkling wine stars: Roederer’s Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon talks Cristal and climate change, Alexandre Chartogne takes us inside the “grower Champagne” movement, and we talk business with the importer of Bollinger Champagne. Plus, Dr. Vinny explains bruts and more.

Wine Spectator’s Straight Talk podcast is available exclusively—and for free—at WineSpectator.com/podcast. Hosted by senior editor and special projects director James Molesworth, each episode spotlights subjects featured in the most recent issues of Wine Spectator magazine, with episode 3 taking its cue from the Dec. 15, 2022, issue cover story.

Episode 3 of Straight Talk also features a visit from Wine Spectator‘s mysterious and beloved wine advice expert Dr. Vinny (senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec), joined by podcast director Robert Taylor. Listeners can email their questions and comments to StraightTalk@WineSpectator.com,

The next episode of Straight Talk will spotlight the Dec. 31, 2022, issue, celebrating Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 Wines of the Year—only at WineSpectator.com/podcast.

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Antinori’s Piedmont Estate Prunotto Buys Vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba

Antinori, one of the top names in Italian wine, has added a key vineyard asset to its Prunotto winery in Piedmont, purchasing 8.4 acres in the Cerretta MGA (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva—Piedmont’s system of classified vinegrowing places) of Serralunga d’Alba for $9 million. The deal, signed on November 7, increases Prunotto’s estate-owned vineyards and parcels under long-term lease to 193 acres, including 32 acres in Barolo and 13 acres in Barbaresco.

“We already had a small production of Cerretta since 2017, as we had an agreement with a local grower, and based on that we decided to invest further in this subappellation because we were really impressed by the style [of Barolo] from the place,” Antinori CEO Renzo Cotarella told Wine Spectator. “We were very fortunate to find some vineyards to buy.” The first wines made from the new parcels will be from the 2022 harvest.

Comprising nearly 100 acres, Cerretta is one of the largest MGAs in Serralunga, with several top producers owning vines there, including Giacomo Conterno, Elio Altare, Azelia, Luigi Baudana and Schiavenza.

The latest acquisition reinforces Prunotto’s focus on single-vineyard wines, adding to its crus Barolo Bussia Vigna Colonnello Riserva, Barbaresco Bric Turot (Montaribaldi MGA), Barbaresco Secondine, Nizza Costamiòle and Barbera d’Alba Pian Romualdo.

Prunotto was founded in the 1920s by Alfredo Prunotto. When he retired in 1956, he sold Prunotto to his friend Beppe Colla. With the help of his brother Tino, Colla began to produce wines from single vineyards in the Barolo and Barbaresco appellations. Antinori began distributing the wines of Prunotto in 1989 and took full control of the company in 1994.

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Study Finds Heavy or Binge Drinking by Younger Adults a Key Factor in Alcohol-Related Deaths

While numerous studies have linked moderate wine consumption to improved health outcomes, medical professionals agree that high alcohol intake, especially binge drinking, has negative consequences, including accidents, violence and longterm health problems. New research attempts to quantify just how serious those consequences can be, especially for young adults, who are at the highest risk of alcohol-related premature death.

The researchers argue that alcohol played a role in an estimated one in eight deaths among the overall study cohort and was at least partly responsible for one in five deaths in people aged 20 to 49. The study also found that men are at a higher risk of alcohol-related death than women.

Notably, the research does not contradict longstanding findings about the benefits of modest wine drinking.

The study, a collaboration between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, was published in JAMA Network Open this month. The authors concluded that over 140,000 deaths each year, or about five percent of total annual deaths in the U.S., can be wholly or partially linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

Of those alcohol-related deaths, nearly 45,000 occurred in people under the age of 50. Since adults aged 20 to 64 accounted for approximately two-thirds of all alcohol-related deaths, the researchers decided to focus their analysis on that cohort—a notable decision, considering that other research has shown people aged 65 and up are most likely to reap alcohol’s health benefits.

Using data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which gathers health information via telephone surveys, researchers analyzed the drinking habits of over two million people between 2015 and 2019. By comparing drinking patterns with the rates of 58 causes of death where alcohol might play a role (including liver disease, cancer, accidents, violence and more), the researchers calculated the number of deaths that were completely or partially linked to excessive alcohol use.

“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death, yet it remains under-recognized as a public health problem, and effective strategies to prevent [it] are underutilized,” Dr. Marissa Esser, head of the CDC’s alcohol program and lead author of the study, told Wine Spectator.

The study’s main finding is that young people are at elevated risk of death due to acute causes, mostly related to binge drinking. These findings echo a recent study that found young adults are more susceptible to alcohol-related accidents, including car crashes and interpersonal violence, while older adults are more likely to reap alcohol’s protective health benefits.

For the youngest cohort in the CDC study, those aged 20 to 34, alcohol-related deaths accounted for over 25 percent of total deaths. Among deaths where alcohol played a role, the top three causes—other poisonings (deaths involving high blood alcohol content and another substance in addition to alcohol), motor vehicle traffic crashes and homicide—accounted for nearly 72 percent.

The study also found that as people get older, their risk of alcohol-related death decreases. While alcohol played a role in 25.4 percent of deaths among people aged 20 to 34 and 17.5 percent among those aged 35 to 49, it was linked to 9.5 percent of deaths among those aged 50 to 64.

While the study’s findings are serious, they don’t negate evidence of the benefits of moderate wine drinking. The study was concerned with excessive alcohol consumption (eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks for men) and binge drinking (four or more drinks in one sitting for women, and five or more for men). For wine, one drink was classified as a 5-ounce glass of wine with 12 percent alcohol by volume.

The study did not differentiate between types of alcohol consumed. According to Esser, “Regardless of the type of alcohol consumed, the risk of getting cancer and several other chronic diseases (such as liver disease or hypertension) is higher with increasing amounts of alcohol consumed.” The study also relied on questionnaires about drinking habits, which are not always accurate. 

What does the study mean for those who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle while maximizing their vinous pleasure? Esser counsels that “to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, it is  recommended that adults of legal drinking age choose not to drink, or drink in moderation by limiting intake to  two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.”

Want to learn more about how wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle? Sign up for Wine Spectator‘s free Wine & Healthy Living e-mail newsletter and get the latest health news, feel-good recipes, wellness tips and more delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

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The New York Wine Experience: Bringing People Back Together

“Wine is about enjoyment,” observed Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, co-owner of Château Mouton-Rothschild, while speaking to more than 1,000 guests at the 2022 New York Wine Experience as they enjoyed a vertical tasting of wines from his family’s famed first-growth. “It’s a people business. Don’t forget about that.”

It was impossible to forget how much wine is a people business at the 41st iteration of Wine Spectator’s annual gathering of wine lovers, winemakers, sommeliers, chefs and more. This was the first truly post-pandemic Wine Experience. The 2020 event was canceled, and while the 2021 event brought people back to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, attendance was limited to reduce crowd size, and U.S. travel restrictions prevented many foreign vintners from attending.

With those barriers now gone, veteran attendees were elated to be back together with their vinous extended family, from fellow winemakers representing different regions to longtime loyal customers. Over three days, from Oct. 20–22, people gathered for two evening Grand Tastings of more than 250 wines, two packed days of tasting seminars highlighting regions and wine stars, two lunches hosted by vintners from Napa and Chile and a closing Champagne reception offering dishes from some of New York City’s greatest restaurants.

And there was plenty of wine to go around: In all, 331 different wines were poured from 14,268 bottles into 65,306 glasses. Because what better way to bring people together than a whole lot of wine?

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A Giant Family Reunion

“We are happy to be back after two years away,” said Albéric Bichot, president of Burgundy’s Albert Bichot winery, as he poured his grand cru Chablis for guests attending the opening night of the Grand Tastings. “This year there are more people and a great energy. You can tell these people are happy to be alive.”

And what better way to celebrate than to sample new wines and meet new people? The Grand Tastings featured winery owners and winemakers at more than 250 booths who poured some of their best wines—all rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator editors. They also chatted with guests, allowing consumers the chance to meet the people behind their favorite wines and allowing vintners to get to know some of their best existing or potential customers. Offerings ranged across numerous grape varieties and multiple regions around the world, giving people a chance to taste favorites and learn about wines they had never tried before.

The following morning, the seminars kicked off in style: Magnums of Cristal were the first bottles to be served, as senior editor Alison Napjus hosted a panel of Champagne’s top producers discussing and sharing prized cuvées from the 2008 vintage. Before the bubbly was even poured, the proper mood was set with a showing of Steve Jacobson’s “Cabernet Tonight” video, an exuberant tribute to all things wine and the winner of Wine Spectator’s 2022 Video Contest. Editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken also gave a Distinguished Service Award to former executive editor Thomas Matthews for his years of service to the magazine and wine.

As the seminars continued, vintners shared their decades of knowledge, explaining the incredible variety and nuance of what the wine world offers. Four winemakers from Oregon discussed how their particular terroirs, which are just beginning to be understood, shaped their 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. A panel of Chianti Classico’s biggest stars spoke with obvious pride of how their historic Italian region has reclaimed its mantel of greatness after decades of hard work in the vineyards and cellars.

Three California Chardonnay legends—Paul Hobbs, David Ramey and Mark Aubert—shared several of their wines and laughed as they explained their different approaches, showing that there is more than one path to greatness. And Sereys de Rothschild and estates manager Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy took guests on a vinous tour of Mouton-Rothschild, serving the 2016, 2006, 1996 and 1986 vintages. Ten vintners—the producers behind the Top 10 Wines of 2021—shared their stories, with the man behind the 2021 Wine of the Year, Christian Moueix, sharing that wine, Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2018, along with three other vintages to cap off the seminars.

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And then there were the wine stars—vintners selected to highlight their contributions to the industry and their personal stories. Franco Conterno spoke of his family’s journey at Barolo’s Aldo Conterno winery. Aurelio Montes discussed the special terroirs he has explored within Chile and how that work helped the country’s wines evolve. Josh Scott explained how his parents grew their small family winery in New Zealand into an outstanding producer of Sauvignon Blanc, and Hollywood screenwriter Robert Kamen explained how a guy from the Bronx started writing movies while developing a 300-acre wine estate on top of a Sonoma mountain.

Passion in a Glass

What makes these seminars so special is not just the wine, but also the heartfelt stories. Florent Latour shared two beautiful Burgundies from Maison Louis Latour in place of his brother Louis-Fabrice Latour, who passed away in September. “It is a fitting tribute to a wonderful man with a big heart who left us too soon,” said senior editor Bruce Sanderson of the seminar.

Pingus founder Peter Sisseck talked about his dedication to saving small, old-vine plots in the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero, while Christian Seely, who manages Quinta do Noval in Portugal’s Douro Valley, spoke of his personal passion for a four-acre parcel of the estate: the Nacional vineyard, planted with ungrafted vines, many nearly a century old. Though the 2011 Nacional could last for decades more, he said, “We might as well drink these wines while we can.”

Some culinary heavyweights shared their passion for good food and affection for each other in the annual Chefs’ Challenge, a wine-and-food pairing exercise starring chefs José Andrés, Eric Ripert and Emeril Lagasse and restaurateur Danny Meyer this year. Meyer received an unexpected serving himself when Shanken made a surprise announcement that the Union Square Hospitality founder earned the 2022 Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his contributions to American dining and his charitable works.

At its heart, the Wine Experience is about giving back. The event would not be possible without the incredible generosity of vintners who donate all the passion-inducing wines of the weekend. All net proceeds from the event go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries.

Foundation beneficiaries have included students at Napa Valley College, the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture & Enology, The Roots Foundation, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Culinary Institute of America, among others.

As this year’s Wine Experience wound down, guests gathered for a Champagne reception featuring multiple top cuvées, as well as five Whisky Advocate Whiskies of the Year and small plates from seven Grand Award–winning restaurants in New York. It was one final chance to chat with friends, new and old, about the old wines and new memories they experienced over a packed three days. As Christian Moueix explained during his Dominus seminar: “We taste the wines together, and we become friends. You have brought us together, and that, after all, is what wine is about.”

The Wine Experience will return to New York Oct. 19–21, 2023.

—With reporting by Kenny Martin and Collin Dreizen

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Exclusive: Heitz Owner Gaylon Lawrence Buys Bordeaux’s Château Lascombes

Gaylon Lawrence’s wine ambitions extend beyond Napa Valley, apparently. Lawrence Family Wine Estates, the wine company founded by the Tennessee billionaire and managed by Carlton McCoy, has purchased a majority stake in Château Lascombes, a second-growth estate in Bordeaux’s Margaux appellation. The deal is Lawrence Wine Estates’ first acquisition in Europe, joining a portfolio which includes Napa wineries Heitz Cellar, Burgess Cellars, Ink Grade and Stony Hill Vineyard.

“We are honored to become the new stewards of such a historic estate,” said Lawrence. “This château has some of the greatest vineyards in Margaux and our family looks forward to caring for Château Lascombes for many generations to come.” The deal includes about 300 acres of vineyards in Margaux and 24 acres in Haut-Médoc. Annual production is about 20,000 cases. The purchase price was not disclosed.

In 1681, Jean de Lascombes bought the Segonnes estate in Margaux. Its most famous owner, who acquired the château in 1952, may have been the late wine importer Alexis Lichine, credited with building interest in French fine wine in America. Insurance firm Mutuelle d’Assurance du Corps de Santé Français (MACSF) purchased the estate in 2011 for $280 million. MACSF will continue to be involved as a minority partner. Winemaker Delphine Barboux will remain on staff.

“Château Lascombes is the largest estate in Margaux,” said McCoy, the Master Sommelier (and host of the television series Nomad) who is managing partner for Lawrence Family Wine Estates. “With such exceptional vineyard holdings we are confident that we can craft some of the most exceptional wines in the region and we have full confidence that Delphine Barboux can achieve this. Château Lascombes is a special place, and we will spare no expense to ensure that we bring it to its full potential.”

Lawrence owns one of the largest farming empires in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of acres of cotton, rice, corn and citrus stretching across parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois and Florida. He owns eight regional banks in the South as well as large real-estate ventures in his hometown of Nashville and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He grabbed the wine world’s attention in 2018 when he purchased the historic Heitz Cellar in Napa. Since then, he has bought or launched several other boutique wineries and founded an import/distribution firm called Demeine Estates.

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/ns_gaylon102822_1600.jpg] [credit=(Aaron Wojack)] [alt=Carlton McCoy and Gaylon Lawrence] [end: article-img-container]

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A Token of Love: Thomas Matthews Earns Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award

The celebrations started early on the first morning of Wine Spectator’s 2022 New York Wine Experience at the New York Marriott Marquis. Editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken took the podium to announce the first of two 2022 Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award winners, for “my beloved friend Thomas Matthews.”

Matthews, who joined the publication full-time in 1988 and served as its executive editor for 20 years, grew Wine Spectator’s readership to more than 3 million wine lovers, making it the world’s most-read wine publication. He was also the magazine’s longtime lead taster for the wines of Spain, championing the country’s wines as they earned their place on the world stage. Matthews also helped grow the Wine Experience itself as its longtime lead host, and helped build the event’s charity beneficiary, the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries.

”I looked at the list of [past Distinguished Service Award winners],” said Shanken. “Ernest & Julio Gallo … Robert Mondavi … André Tchelistcheff … Eric de Rothschild … Angelo Gaja … Julia Child … Paul Draper … Francis Ford Coppola … Emeril Lagasse … Chuck Wagner … Wolfgang Puck … Helen Turley … Peter Michael … Bill Harlan … José Andrés … giants who were responsible for helping us get where we are.”

Announcing the newest Distinguished Service Award winner to the sold-out crowd, Shanken shared that he met Matthews for the first time in a Paris hotel room. Shanken offered him a job, and Matthews joined Wine Spectator’s London office full-time in 1988; a year later he was promoted to the magazine’s New York bureau.

Shanken recalled his search for a new executive editor in 1999. “I had three people in mind. Tom was not one of them.”

“Tom wrote me a letter, asking me to consider him,” Shanken continued. “He wasn’t even on the list! [But] I thought about what I needed, what I wanted to lead the next several decades of the magazine. Tom fit the bill. People were shocked. It’s one of the greatest decisions of my life. … We all owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Matthews took the stage to an extended standing ovation. “Let’s get one thing straight: I am not a Distinguished Service Award kind of guy,” he laughed.

“[Past winners like] Robert Mondavi—they made the wine industry what it is,” Matthews said to Shanken and the audience. “I have been privileged to be an observer and a supporter of the wine industry, but I thank you as a token of our friendship, and our love.”

“I remember the first time I met Marvin … I imagine most people probably do remember the first time they met Marvin!” Matthews joked.

“I was heartily impressed by the suite at the Hotel Crillon, and the bottle of Dom Pérignon in the ice bucket. Marvin had a vision. He told me that one day Wine Spectator would be the most successful and widely read wine publication in the world. … It was a newsprint tabloid [back then]. It was energetic and ambitious, but it was pretty far from world-renowned. Somehow we persuaded each other, and I took the job.”

”And today Wine Spectator is the most widely read and successful wine publication in the world,” Matthews said. “It was a great ride.”

Matthews also credited a partner who’d matched him “stride for stride” and without whom he said his job wouldn’t have been possible: his wife, Sara Matthews, an accomplished photographer whose work has been exhibited on three continents.

”I worked for Marvin for 34 years. He’s demanding. He’s challenging. He’s inspiring,” concluded Matthews. “It was not very long before I respected him. A little bit later I realized how much I admired him.”

”Today, I can say how much I love you,” Matthews addressed Shanken, who affirmed, “Tom and I will remain friends forever.”

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2022 Grand Tastings: The World’s Best Wine Reunion

On a night when more than 250 of the world’s best wines were being served to a packed house, somehow the wines were not the biggest attraction in the room. On the opening night of the 2022 New York Wine Experience, it was the people.

“It’s just fantastic to be back,” said Christian Seely, managing director of an impressive international roster of wineries from Portugal to Bordeaux to Napa. “Not only to see the greatest wine producers in the world, but to see the greatest wine consumers in the world.”

Seely and his colleagues were pouring for close to 2,000 of those consumers on Oct. 20 at the first of two Grand Tastings, kicking off three days of wine, food, seminars and fun at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This year’s event promised a chance to reconnect with those who share a passion for all things vinous.

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtmargauxpouring102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos pouring Château Margaux 2011 for a guest at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 Wine Experience, and while the event was held in 2021, pandemic restrictions limited crowd sizes and prevented most European vintners from attending. For them, this was their first Wine Experience since 2019, and a big relief.

“It’s always a great event. It’s great to be back,” said Damien Barton Sartorius of Château Léoville Barton. “I’m like a child in a candy store.”

The problem for many attendees? Which candy to try first. For bubbly lovers, there were more than a dozen choices, starting with Pol Roger’s Brut Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2013. Right next door, Schramsberg Rosé North Coast J. Schram 2013 offered a California counterpart.

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtbichotguests102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= From left, Burgundy vintner Albéric Bichot with Ian Scudder, Emily Buse and Lucas Robinson at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

White wine lovers could enjoy the vibrant Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough Te Muna 2021 from New Zealand or the elegant Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte 2017 from Italy or the complex M. Chapoutier Ermitage White de l’Orée 2011 from France. The next row over offered pristine Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Burgundy and New Zealand.

Looking to understand Cabernet Sauvignon better? Napa’s Favia was pouring its Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville 2019 right across from where Château Lynch Bages was pouring its Pauillac 2018. What about Sangiovese? One section of tables offered outstanding examples from Chianti’s Castello di Volpaia and Fontodi and Montalcino’s Altesino and Biondi Santi. Or you could try Renato Ratti’s Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015 and then move to Gaja’s Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn 2015. There were dozens of other options from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Australia and more.

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtbankehartfords102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Jackson Family CEO Barbara Banke, Hartford Family Winery president Hailey Hartford Murray, husband Max Murray (left) and brother MacLean Hartford (right) at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

But time and time again, as people move through the two packed ballrooms, sampling wines, they also met new people, learned about the wineries and made new friends. Winemakers took advantage to try wines they have never tasted before and to share ideas and forge connections.

“It’s also nice to see all your producer friends that you haven’t seen in a long time,” said Jason Jardine, winemaker at Sonoma’s Hanzell Farm & Vineyards. “These events really help bring people together.”

The Wine Experience would not be possible without the incredible generosity of vintners who donate all the passion-inducing wines of the weekend. All net proceeds from the event go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries.

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtharlans102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= BOND co-owner Deborah Harlan and daughter Amanda at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

Foundation beneficiaries have included students at Napa Valley College, the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture & Enology, The Roots Foundation, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Culinary Institute of America, among others.

As the first event of the 2022 Wine Experience concluded, the feeling of joy at being back together was palpable. “Everyone is talking about how wonderful it is to be back in the room,” said Randy Ullom of Jackson Family Wines.

Grand Tasting Photo Gallery

Photos by Daphne Youree

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtaubert102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Aubert Wines estate director Philip Gift and Mark Aubert at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtantinoris102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Antinori co-owners and sisters Albiera and Alessia at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtchuckwagner102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Caymus owner Chuck Wagner (right) with guest at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtlaurentperrierb102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gttavares102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= Portuguese winemaker Sandra Tavares de Silva at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

[article-img-container][src=2022-10/nywe22_gtguestsfamily102022_1600.jpg] [credit= (Daphne Youree)] [alt= A group of guests, some repeat attendees and some first-time visitors, enjoying themselves at the 2022 New York Wine Experience][end: article-img-container]

Check back for more photos and event coverage after the New York Wine Experience concludes!

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