I will never forget the first time that I travelled to the Hamptons. It was a business trip (which actually lead to the creation of this great wee business of mine!) and it was glorious. You might ask; 'what business have you got in the Hamptons??' and the day earlier I had none. Then I visited and before you knew it, I did.
I'm not in Real Estate (can you tell?) nor am I in finance/the business of making others rich (note to the wise: the wine business is not one where you get rich quick) so what business did I have in the Hamptons? Wine. Yes, you did read that right! And no, I was not looking to open up a wine store there (though I was asked to consider it....and considering I still am). Instead my first trip there lead me to what is now one of my favourite wineries in the world: Channing Daughters Winery.
It is headed by the legendary James Christopher Tracey - the ever fantastic winemaker. Finances are sorted by his beautiful wife, the cellar door is headed by a small team of vinous superstars and moral is kept high by the pups!
Chris is a legend for a few reasons: 1) He makes over 40 wines covering a wide range of styles (rosé, orange, bubbles, and fortified), 2) He uses a wide range of grapes that not many would have ever heard in the US if he had never used them (namely Alpine and Austro-Hungarian grapes), 3) He is a winemaking prowess not often found, and 4) He is just a genuinely nice and passionate guy.
Literally tasting each and every one of his wines is a whole new experience. Individually riveting and together triumphant. I can't stress enough how much I love these wines. Where most wineries, especially in the new world, tend to have that aromatic stamp on all of their wines that they produce - be it a touch of oak or sulfur additions - each of Chris' wines are individual and brilliant in their own way. The only way you'd put them all together as being wines from one producer is by collating all the most crazy delicious wines in NY and bringing them together.
Although I have loved each and every one of the wines over the years, there was one that I was particularly excited to try the first trip I made out to the Hamptons back in 2015. There were two wines and they weren't yet finished - and completely brand new. A bit of an experiment in many respects. We had tasted a whole raft of things before these two bottles: Pinot Grigio to Sauvignon Blanc to Syrah/Dornfelder blend to Blaufrankisch and single varietal Petit Verdot to each and every one of his amazingly good Vermouths. This was all done in their great tasting room/cellar door.
Then he suggests we go down in to the cellar.... Well how can you turn that offer down? The element of mystique was in the air. We go down the stairs to the barely lit room filled with boxes cast astray over the floor and holes in the walls filled with bottles of wine just sitting and resting - waiting to be opened - begging to be opened! We turn a couple of corners and there they were. The new additions to the Channing Daughters family. Chris' new project was literally sitting there fizzing with excitement.
He had decided to make a couple of sparkling wines for the first time ever - a style of sparkling wine called Pet-Nats (Petillant Naturels). This style of wine doesn't undergo a secondary fermentation like a Methode Traditionelle wine will (the main style for Champagne and Champagne-like wines) but instead harnesses the yeasts leftover from the main fermentation to undergo a continued fermentation creating bubbles. The wines were initially fermented in tank but then bottled about 2/3s of the way through the fermentation, so in each bottle there was both wine and a small percentage of yeast left over. Those extra bit of yeasts finish off the fermentation to create a dry 'base wine' as well as a slight sparkle. The result is a fresh, lively, and fruity sparkling wine. Generally speaking it is only half the pressure of a Champagne so just lightly sparkling.
As this was just the beginning of his Pet-Nat phase he only made two: a rosato and a bianco. Both might I add were utterly delicious!! In 2016 he made a couple more including a rosso, then last year (which is what we have got stock of now - till it all runs out) he made 10!! Each are all very limited and NZ was only allowed a case of each - so you're going to have to get in quick for this sparkling magic!
Perhaps the best bubbles for that evening catch up with the girls over brunch or for a light glass of bubbles on the deck with the BBQ going in the background.