The year was one in the very early 1990’s, I believe 1991 or ’92, and it was a typical New Orleans’ day; cloud covered, so humid one could barely breathe, and with the sounds of “Uptown N’awlins” reverberating through my head. I was living in New Orleans for a short period in my professional life, working my “internship” as Cadieu liked to call it at one of the most diverse and well stocked import stores in the United States, Martin Wine Cellar. I had secured a position there after being in Burgundy and my relationship with the “wine-manager” at that time was, well, strained. It had not been his decision to hire me, you see, and this was a man of pure ego. I had been placed beside the Silver Fox at the decision of his superior, and my time at this bastion of Burgundy – and every other great wine of France – would be limited.
I was stationed in the customer service booth, a raised platform located in the rear of the wine department, that resembled a boxing ring complete with four corners housing independent computers for 4 salesmen to work. Customers could walk up to this ominous “counter”, size up the 4 salesmen and decide with whom they would engage. The counter was raised, mind you, about 3 feet off the ground, so anonymity was quite the norm for the seasoned salesman here at Martin’s; if you were not one of the “Old Boy’s” regulars, you would certainly find his face buried in a computer screen.
I recall a tale of just one instance of attempted anonymity. The man’s name was Carl, and he became one of my greatest clients, remaining as a client over the course of nearly 2 decades; continuing as a client when I opened my own shop in Texas – his brother-in-law is my greatest client, and a true friend, to this very day. Tragically, Carl is no longer with us, and I miss him as I think about our times together.
The Silver Fox was busily working on a Burgundy order one day as Carl approached the customer service booth. Not one for niceties, the Silver Fox remained buried as Carl decided, unwavering, to request the availability of a certain wine. “Have you any Martinelli”, Carl requested to the turned-down head covered with pre-matured grayness. Without speaking a word, the Silver Fox rose, walked to the dried foods aisle (Martin’s also carries lots of food items) and returned with a jar of jelly. Carl, needless to say, only dealt with me on subsequent visits.
Returning to that blistering, liquid-air filled day back in the early 1990’s, I recall another day in the booth at old man Martin’s place. I was busy printing the month’s point of sale pieces, having been shouldered with that burden thanks to a discovery by the Silver Fox that I was quick with the written wit, when I heard this tiny voice, complete with an accent I believed to be of either Boston or New York decent. I looked up, but at first glance, to my surprise, there was no one around.
Becky Wasserman, one of this country’s most prominent and singular people of wine was before me, all 5 feet of her. I could not see her tightly curly black and barely graying hair – barely graying in those days – as she was literally hidden behind the customer service booth. I glanced around a bit and there she was. She had a smile that could make you grin, no matter your mood, and when she introduced herself I think I actually blushed; I know for certain I said something unintelligible, for she gave me that look that let me know I had. The Silver Fox swooped in and my 1 chance to impress one of my great idols was gone.
Our tasting that night included an opportunity to literally rub shoulders with, and taste the wines of, THE greatest wine makers that Burgundy has to offer. There was also in attendance the great Clive Coates, a man that can absolutely capture and dominate a room with his encyclopedic knowledge of Burgundy and her terroirs and wines. I tasted the wines of Lafarge, his steel blue eyes watching my movements for signs of accurate evaluation of his work. There was the young and attention gathering Pascal from Comte Armand with his massive, palate attacking wines, quite the opposite of Lafarge’s and I remember thinking I was in a place too good to be true.
Wasserman’s wines have a way of staying with a person, of remaining on one’s palate and in one’s vinous memory for as long as one consumes the wines of Burgundy. These wines, these Wasserman selections, are wonderfully pure, with beautiful fruit and an underlying sense of place and time that absolutely belongs in the wines of Burgundy. You taste these wines and immediately understand the pursuit of great Burgundy; you understand why so many who truly love the greatest wines of this 35 mile stretch of land will spend countless years and dollars in search of the few stars.
I come to you now with not only this history of mine but also with some of Becky’s latest new arrivals. These are her 2006s, from a family called Lamy, a family based in the sleepy little town on the other side of the hill from Chassagne Montrachet. These white Saint-Aubins will challenge many a top white Chassagne while their red Chassagne has never had a competitor for my long-trained palate. Their red Saint-Aubin? A 1er Cru tasted just weeks ago, the one I bring to you today, included tasting notes that more often find their way into Volnay reviews!
For you interested in beginning this Wasserman discovery, or for those who have followed with me for many years these wonderful wines of hers, I invite you to expose your palate to these exciting wines from Lamy.
These 2006s are just fabulous!
Current releases from Hubert Lamy:
2006 Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
2006 Saint Aubin 1er Cru Les Castets Rouge
2006 Chassagne Montrachet Vieilles Vignes La Goujonne Rouge
for pricing and availability, please contact the shop: 713-524-9144, or just email me back…