Reflections & Top Wine Picks from 2017

As we close the books on 2017, postulate the projections and determine our resolve for 2018, it is easy to jump headlong into our new routine. Sometimes we get so excited about what is to come, or bogged down in fixing what we could have done better, that we do not take the time to reflect on our progress. 2017 was an exciting year for Advintage. We like to use the expression that obstacles are launch ramps. Last year we launched. Our teams in the office, warehouse and on the streets came together unified by the mission of making Advintage a place where all can thrive; employees, supplier partners and customers alike. 

From the jump, the dynamics of Advintage and the portfolio have mirrored our rapidly changing markets. We analyze market trends and have responded with alternative packaging, cans and kegs, watched the maturity of the natural wine movement, dug deeper into the estate and domaine producers, expanded our grower bubbles and introduced an array of value-priced wines second to none.

Recently,  I reached out to a handful of our sales people and asked them to select a wine from last year that aroused them, provoked excitement or discovery. I tried to pick a wine myself and realized what a challenge this was. After all, in 2017 we introduced the remarkably pure champagne of Vadin-Plateau, the astounding chenin and cab franc of Guiberteau and the mind-bending Mas del Serral. We got zapped by the electricity of Miani. Cristiano Garella thrilled us with the alpine world of nebbiolo in the Alto Piemonte. Cristom went to another level that I didn't know was possible. Eric Sussman chiseled Radio-Coteau's terroirs to their glowing essence. Benjamin Leroux's soul shown through in even his Bourgogne level wines. Zev Rovine demonstrated that natural wine, while natty, doesn't have to mean dirty. In 2017, we forged deeper relationships with Fish from Habit and Barnaby from Teutonic. We introduced leaders of the new chool in Mike Roth's Lo-Fi and Sam Bilbro's Idlewild. That is just a scratch. Ask me to pick one wine...please no! But then a magestic neigh reverberated and in my minds eye, a unicorn emerged from a dank 16th century cave, prancing through a rainbow. I'm sorry, I know this is a tease, a rare bird that I hope you get an opportunity to experience...Telmo Rodriguez's pinnacle of tradition, Las Beatas. . (James Suckling Telmo Rodriguiz las Beatas Vyrd)  So I guess if I had to pick one wine that evoked the same “ah ha” moment that brought most of us to this industry, that would be mine from last year.

Yeah, we bum rushed the show in 2017. Just wait till you see what we have in store for 2018!

Check out the selections and comments from some of our team:

Sandro Fay Tei, Valtellina DOC, Italy 2015
Sandro Fay Tei was a bell ringer for me. The wine is simply delicious. It has such a naked natural beauty about it. Zero make up needed here. I love wines that are naturally sexy without make up. Chiavennasca is the local clone of Nebbiolo grown in Valtellina. This cold high attitude mountain appellation is ideal for preserving the freshness and aromatics of Chiavennasca. The soils are sandy and this allows heat retention to help achieve phenolic ripeness despite the cold mountain weather. Nose smells like wild flowers and fresh herbs. Tastes like wild mountain strawberries. So easy to drink make sure you have a second bottle close or you will be left salivating from the acidity when the first bottles disappears before you finish your chicken parm! –Henri Gabriel, Chief Juice Pusher

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Kanzler Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California 2015
Kanzler Pinot Noir,  I tasted it after an early morning drive from Napa to Sonoma. It was everything I want in a PInot Noir, really pretty red fruit, followed by a layer of minerality  with a really beautiful finish. -Tiger, Hilton Head Sales Manager

Boniperti ‘Favolalunga’, Colline Novaresi Vespolina DOC, Italy 2015 (NC Only)
Lots of great ones for me, some already mentioned. Will go with Gilberto Boniperti's Vespolina ’15. New grape, region and producer for me. Seems to be related to Nebbiolo and apparently the name, Vespolina, is a reference to the wasps that come and start to feed off the grapes when they are ready for harvest. Cinnamon, black pepper, cedar, pomegranate, blood orange, mid-weight, really fresh and crushable. Grown up in the hills of the Piedmont by a small producer that does everything by hand from his own vineyards. –Ian Spotz, RDU Sales Manager

Tissot Trousseau en Amphore , Jura France 2015 (SC Only)
I’ve had 4 bottles of this wine in 2017. I remember almost every sip of every bottle. It’s haunting. 100% BioD certified Trousseau vinified in clay amphora from the Jura’s leading man, Stephane Tissot. Dried cherries and red currants smashed over the head by notes of cloves, cinnamon, and rose petals. With an alluring texture that won’t quit. It’s Barolo on HGH. It’s Burgundy on acid. Ahhh. It doesn’t make sense and I always want more. –Damian Valvo, Charleston Sales Manager

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I have a lot of picks for various reasons but narrowed it down to this Champagne that just caught me by surprise and was my “wow” wine of 2017. Champagne Vadin-Plateau, Champagne 1er Cru Extra Brut Cuvée Renaissance - This was a wine I tasted with the 828 team at a lunch meeting. I did not know a lot of background  prior to tasting and was blown away with its complexity, brightness and minerality. In addition to it being straight up delicious, it is one of the oldest estates in Champagne now led by Yann Vadin, the ninth generation .  It’s very unique in that it is a 100% Pinot Meunier, farmed organically/biodynamically (which seems rare in Champagne), minimal intervention in winemaking, and the vineyards are horse plowed! This is a beautiful Champagne at a very affordable price. –Anne Kaufman, Asheville Sales Manager

Julien Sunier Morgon, Beaujolais France 2016
My first taste of Julien's wines was only a year(+) ago with the ‘15 vintage. I remember being so excited for the ‘16’s to arrive and once they did, they did not disappoint. Gamay, in general, is a grape that I can drink year round - slightly chilled in the summer or let the spices warm you in the winter. They are wonderful to drink young or can be held onto for a number of years. Julien’s passion for the grape, where it’s grown and how it’s made really translates in the bottle. He believes in organic viticulture and natural winemaking so that one can taste the unique terroir of Morgon. Bright and bold, this wine has soul. Limited in production, so we are lucky he makes one from Fleurie & Regnie as well! –Parris Benight, Charleston Sales

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One of my favorite new discoveries of 2017 is the Berioles St Pourcain Tresaille, Loire France 2016. I had never tried the lesser-known, ancient varietal of Tressaillier and then to learn of Odile and Olivier Teissedre’s quest to “save the grape” by purchasing the “Clos des Berioles” vineyard, a vineyard originally planted in 1809, just to keep the vines from being replanted to more mainstream varietals, I thought, well, this must be worth checking out!  And it is lovely!  Mineral-driven, notes of citrus, but with enough weight to have it be a white that is enjoyable in the cooler months as well as the warmer ones.  The biggest surprise, however, has been how well consumers have responded.  I’ve watched every bottle walk out the door any time I’ve done a tasting with it and have been impressed by fans of the wine returning to their local shops for more.  Odile and Oliver knew what they were doing, to step up and save these grapes, and I am not alone being grateful that they did! – Ariel Tetterton, NC Sales Manager

Wine of Year

Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc, France 2016
There’s a popular axiom among fine wine enthusiasts that ‘all roads lead to Burgundy’. While I tend to agree, great Burgundy has grown prohibitively expensive. That said, every now and then, I’ll stumble across something (relatively) affordable that blows me away. Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc was one of those somethings...

The Pataille family’s history of winemaking gradually ceased in the 1930’s, when World War I made it near unimaginable to tend the vines. Neither Sylvain’s father nor grandfather were vignerons, though they never surrendered the family’s modest 0.2 hectares of Aligoté, Gamay, and Chardonnay. After three generations, the free-spirited Sylvain began his viticultural studies in Beaune at the age of 14, followed by oenology courses at the University of Bordeaux. After years of post-graduate consultation for several of France’s most distinguished Estates (in both Burgundy and Bordeaux), he felt the need to create. Since his first vintage in 1999, he’s maintained a steadfast biodynamic position.

There are no Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards in Marsannay, and it wasn’t until 1987 that Marsannay’s vineyards were even granted AOC status. The visionary Sylvain and several of his contemporaries are leading an arduous, prolonged charge for multiple lieu-dit Premier Cru designations. This wine represents what I love about great Burgundy; quirky characters making brilliant wines that occasionally fall under-the-radar. Lucky us. That’s why Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc was the most compelling wine I tasted last year. Believe the hype...- Drew Summers, Asheville Sales

Runner-Ups
Bedrock ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel
Domaine De La Begude Rouge
Artadi Viñas de Laguardia
Teutonic ‘Bergspitze’ Whole Cluster
P. Piuze ‘Découverte’
M. Deiss Alsace Blanc
J. Sunier ‘Fleurie’

Hey bro-
Thought really hard on this and certainly considered many wines but there is one wine this year that didn’t just WOW me once, nor twice but 3 times!

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Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa California 2013

Day One: The wine showed extremely well and was everything a Classic Howell Mountain Cabernet should and can be. An incredibly well-structured wine with beautiful dark fruit, both robust and pure with Old World charm. We poured a Magnum at the Columbia Seminar which was Straight Baller Status... Had to sneak the bottle out the back door to secure some juice to treat a few other customers that couldn’t make it.
Day Two: The wine just continued to develop so extremely well and the purity of the fruit was ridiculous. Was tough to keep one more day but I just had a feeling there was still more to be discovered with a little more time.
Day Three: JACKPOT BABY! Brought the last few ounces of the wine to Sage Valley, which turned out to be one of my best Sales Moves of the year. Was able to meet with both my buyers , as well as the President of the Club and the wine was absolutely SINGING! Definitely one of the purest Cabernets I have ever tasted and I thought the wine showed best on Day 3. Not too many Napa Cabernets could do that.

The 2013 Dunn Howell Mountain Cab took me to a place a Napa Cab hadn’t in some time and I’m so grateful to represent such an amazing producer as Dunn Family Vineyards. – Judah Cannon, Westside SC Sales Manager

Cheers to 2018!