I have decided to leave St. Louis on an extended journey through wine country on the West Coast. The expedition will begin in the middle of April and you can follow it here as I will be writing extensively about the experience.
Thank you to every member of the St. Louis wine industry. Our conversations over the wines we’ve tasted together have provided unforgettable experiences and have nurtured my understanding. Thanks in particular to those I have studied with in tasting groups. Keep up the good work!
I am proud to have served wonderful customers at Cafe Napoli, Remy’s and The Wine Merchant. I thank you for your patronage and for the opportunity to help you choose your wines. Extra thanks to those who attended my classes.
I do not know the outcome of this journey – it may well end with a return home. If that is the case, then I will have settled in a vibrant wine community.
Thank you all.
In St. Louis we are incredibly fortunate to have the 33 Wine Bar, an eight-year-old institution tucked into Lafayette Square. It is minimalist – no TV, no smoking, no sign to proclaim its existence. What it does contain is our city’s best wine list at very fair prices, a wonderful patio and an exceedingly knowledgable staff of three who I let choose my wine (a responsibility that I do not often relent).
As of today, the founder and owner of 33, Jake Hafner, has taken the first step to moving on from the building that was his life for those eight years. The business is truly a reflection of his personality – subtle, stylish and full of substance. It is a haven for those who relish the complexity of wine, both on the label and in the glass, but have not lost sight of its hedonism.
I heard the news late last night and stopped by 33 this evening after leaving work in a snow storm. I felt the need to congratulate Jake, and to thank him as well. The man has hardly had a day off in the last eight years, let alone a vacation. I am truly indebted to him for the wonderful memories I have accumulated there thus far. I also had to get one more recommendation from him. I came away with a 2001 Helmut Mathern Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese (which is the greatest name for a vineyard this side of Naylor Dry Hole in California) for $27.
My other intention was to meet the new proprietor of the business, Jeff Stettner, who is a close friend of Jake’s. He was in the industry in California before moving to St. Louis four years ago. It sounds as though he has exciting developments in store, and I came away with the impression that the business and its integrity are in good hands. I look forward his recommendations and hospitality.
For those of you who have enjoyed a glass or three at 33, raise your next to Jake.
It seems that the VIP reserve room list that was provided on the official website was actually a list of the wines that would be poured at the new Premier Event on Friday night. The two wines that I had me most excited, Clos Apalta and Dom Ruinart, were not to be found. The Krug was also absent from the floor. The other two I mentioned, the Long Shadows Project and the Josmeyer, were wonderful.
This will be my fourth year attending the St. Louis Food and Wine Expo at the Chase Park Plaza, which is presented by Schnuck’s. It is our city’s premier event for the wine drinking public. Though boutique producers are largely absent from the event, there are hundreds of good wines to try. Paying double the admission price gives you access to the VIP reserve room with an impressive lineup. I am particularly looking forward to the Dom Ruinart and Clos Apalta. Others to look for are the Long Shadows Project, Josmeyer and Krug (of course!).
The incredible variety of wine makes it an impossible subject to truly master. There are some great wines that are made in too small of numbers for more than a few people to enjoy. Domaine Romanée-Conti, which is pictured above, is an example, but rarity does not always mean that the wine will be $5,000 per bottle.
For those of us in the St. Louis market, our boutique winery is called Nicholson-Jones out of California. The wines are made by Julien Fayre, who will be in The Wine Merchant this Saturday, along with the owner Cal Nicholson. Cal is from St. Louis, which is the only market where the wines are available.
My common complaint about a wine from California is the overripe fruit, the excessive alcohol content and the dominance of oak masquerading as complexity. This is not the case with the wines of Nicholson-Jones which are very well balanced and nuanced.
The winery’s second label is called Cellar Arts. These wines are all below $50 and they make many of the more expensive wines from California look silly. The Cellar Arts Cuvée at $40 is the best example. This Cabernet-based blend is soft and complex, with dark-skinned berry and tree-fruits like cassis and plum.
On Saturday we will also feature the Cellar Arts Rutherford Reserve. The fruit is from a famous vineyard in the Rutherford AVA, but Cal is not allowed to release the name of the source. He brought a bottle by for us to preview last night. It is rich, but not syrupy. The quality is shocking for $50.
The powerful Nicholson-Jones Cabernet will also be on display. The structure of the wine tells me that it will be able to keep in bottle for many years. I’ve already got my bottle laying down.