Where Our Sommeliers Go Wine Tasting
These Four Seasons professionals have planned your perfect tour, from Vancouver to Tuscany.
We asked Four Seasons sommeliers to reveal their go-to vineyards for wine tasting, including which bottles to uncork where. From an urban winery in San Francisco to a Portuguese vineyard kick-started by a nonagenarian winemaker, here are their favourite – and often unexpected – picks.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
“There’s no need to travel far for good wines when you’re in San Francisco,” says Michael Baldonado, sommelier and MKT Bar Manager at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. “There are great wineries right here in the city, where you least expect them.” One of his choices: Oro En Paz, a winery on Treasure Island whose name, which means “gold in peace,” is part of San Francisco’s motto.
“The winery is truly local, sourcing fruit from family-run vineyards in Contra Costa, Sonoma and Lake counties,” Baldonado says. “My favourite of their wines is the Del Barba Vineyard Carignan 2014. It’s crafted from grapes from fifth-generation, 120-year-old vines and has a delicate finish with light tannins.” The meal he would pair it with is equally unexpected: a carnitas burrito from El Farolito in the Mission district: “The richness of the pork and brightness of the tomatoes make for a magical pairing, best enjoyed at Dolores Park with friends and sunshine.”
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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
“I worked at Foxtrot Vineyards for three years,” says Adam Mayhew, sommelier at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. “It’s one of my favourite Canadian wineries because it overlooks Lake Okanagan, and all the tasting is done in the cellar with the owners of the place.” His go-to choice there: Foxtrot Pinot Noir. “It’s opened the door for high-quality Pinot Noir to escape British Columbia and be compared to some of the best in the world,” Mayhew says. “Pair it with your classic Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, cranberry sauce, yams, the works.”
Another of his vineyards of choice? The amusingly named Misconduct Wine Co. “Their Suspect Series Cabernet/Syrah blend has a nice balance of fruit and structure that’s not overpowering,” Mayhew says. “I like to drink it with a dinner of barbecued ribs.”
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“At the age of 92, Baron Bodo von Bruemmer came to Lisbon to produce wines at Casal de Santa Maria,” says Gabriela Marques, sommelier at Four Seasons Hotel Lisbon’s Varanda restaurant. “He recently passed at age 106, having produced some of the most amazing wines of Lisbon – including mineral Malvasia of Colares, which pairs perfectly with our coastal seafood.”
Marques recommends that guests who are visiting in autumn work with the Concierge to visit the seventh-generation, 650-hectare José Maria da Fonseca estate during Vindimas, the festive harvest time when the grapes are picked. “The day trip takes you behind the scenes of the family’s winemaking culture,” Marques says. She’s quick to note that although Portugal is often considered an emerging wine region, it has been making wine since the days of the Roman Empire. “Hundreds of indigenous grape varieties grow here – like Baga, Alfrocheiro and Fernão Pires,” she says, “many of which are blended, as is the Old World way.”
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Gabriele del Carlo has been obsessed with wine since he was 18, working in the legendary wine cellar of Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy. Now head sommelier at the Michelin-starred Le George restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, Del Carlo loves showing guests around the Hotel’s 50,000-bottle-deep wine cellar. “It’s 45 feet below ground and a perfect playground for any wine lover,” he says.
His favourite tipples include Mersault Charmes 2012, paired with Burgundy-style snails: “The herbal touch and intensity of the Chardonnay will perfectly balance the heavy flavours of garlic and parsley.” Del Carlo also recommends drinking Champagne in Champagne – and adores the behind-the-scenes tour at Krug vineyards. “Reims is just an hour and a half from Paris by train,” he says, “and there’s nothing more enchanting than sipping a glass of Champagne facing the imposing circa 1211 Reims cathedral.”
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Rome-born Walter Meccia’s obsession with wine began when he was just 15 and not even allowed to drink it yet. “I had a professor at my hôtellerie high school who was an expert and made me start to love wine even though I’d never tasted it,” says Meccia, sommelier at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. “The opening of a new bottle was like a ritual, the sound of bubbles falling in the glass a melody.” He became a professional sommelier at age 18. Among his favourite wineries: Castello di Ama, which was founded in the 1970s in a 12th-century town in the Chianti hills.
“They were among the first to plant Merlot grapes in Chianti, and it’s an amazing place to visit because they’re passionate about contemporary art, too,” Meccia says. (Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and Hiroshi Sugimoto have all had their work featured on the estate.) “Be sure to have lunch or dinner in their recently opened restaurant, where real Tuscan food is prepared by cooks that once made meals for the family.” Don’t miss a glass – or a case – of their L’Apparita wine. “It was Tuscany’s first pure Merlot and has had a cult following since its first vintage, in 1985.” Back at the Hotel, try the Spa’s Chianti Relax Massage – Chianti oil mixed with rosemary and sage is reported to revitalize your skin and circulation, and certainly your mood.