The Somm Set by Benchmark Wine Group


We're so excited to introduce you to our newest series, The Somm Set.

Each month we'll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves. We're kicking off this series with Master Sommelier Alexander LaPratt!

Read Our Full Interview With Alexander LaPratt On Our Blog
Alexander LaPratt on Champagne- The Region That Offers It All
Alexander LaPratt Raves Over BOND
Cote-Rotie's Best From MS Alexander LaPratt


This week from Alexander LaPratt:

Life’s simple pleasures.

As life becomes more stressful and unpredictable, I’ve found that focusing on simple pleasures has brought a sense of peace, enjoyment, and Zen to my quality of living. I was taking these everyday miracles for granted in my rush to move on to the next task of my daily bustle.

Simple things like trying to catch all the sunsets as if they were my favorite TV show at 7 pm, watching the light dance amongst the clouds in purples, pinks, oranges, and reds. Stunning. Or waves on a windy day, their white peaks licking the shoreline, crest after crest rolling in. The simple inimitable sound that is so soothing to the senses. Or even a crisp breeze on my face, just cold enough to remind me that I’m alive.

We’re slowly moving into Fall here in New York. It’s a short season, to be sure; it seems we only get a couple of weeks, and then it jumps right into Winter snow. Don’t get me wrong- we still have 3-4 weeks of Summer left. Yet, after enough cloudy and rainy days with temperatures in the mid-’60s, I can’t help but think of my favorite season with its kaleidoscope of colors brushed across the trees and the complex scents of secondary aromas floating through the air. Like the seasons, my tastes begin to shift and search out food & wine with more heartiness, more rusticity, and more developed notes. Fall transports me to one of my favorite places: Tuscany, and along with it, one of my favorite wines: Brunello di Montalcino.

Brunello, slang for “little brown one,” is a clonal variation of Sangiovese. It was first isolated by Clementi Biondi-Santi, and he produced his first vintage in 1865 as a single varietal expression of Brunello. He isolated this particular clone (Sangiovese Grosso) for its thicker skin, which increases the skin to juice ration, which allows the wine to soak up more color, tannin, structure, and phenolic compounds (responsible for aromas & flavors). He had such success with the few vintages he produced 1888, 1891, 1925, and 1945. After the war, other producers began to expand the plantings with the concentration being around, frozen in time in the quaintest way, the hilltop town of Montalcino.

The classic style presents with a garnet red colored rim, a ruby center, and aromas of dried rose petals, tobacco, tree bark, tart cherries, pomegranate, orange peel, and cedar. In the mouth, the tart red fruit flavors spread across the palate along with secondaries like cured meat, dried mushrooms, sanguine, iron, dried thyme, leather, black pepper, aged balsamic, tar and then is rounded out by old oak treatment with a hint of cedar and cigar box. The tannins are grippy, and the finish is long, and the wine is meant for food. My mouth is watering as I’m thinking about what to eat with them. Maybe cinghiale (wild boar) braised over pappardelle pasta, tomato sauce, and topped with the local Pecorino di Toscana? Or if that doesn’t get you excited, then perhaps a creamy Tuscan Porcini risotto topped with shaved white truffles, which can be found growing wild in the Fall in the towns of Mugello and San Miniato.

Below are a couple Brunello’s that really stand out for me, both of which have a perfumed elegance that put them, in many ways, more at home with a flight of Burgundy or Barolo. These wines are not to be missed, especially if you haven’t had the pleasure before!

Near the top would need to be Diego Molinari’s Cerbaiona Estate. The wines are pure, classic, and simply made with integrity. They also happen to be super delicious! Organically grown, low yields, hand-harvested, no new oak, and nothing added or taken away. As simple as it gets, but I suppose you can keep it simple when it tastes this good!

Read more on Alexander's recommendations here.


Alexander LaPratt

Master Sommelier


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Benchmark Wine Group

445 Devlin Road
Napa, CA 94558

Phone: 707.255.3500
Fax: 707.255.3503
SMS: 707.200.4049


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