The Somm Set by Benchmark Wine Group






Michael Kennedy

Welcome 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!


This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Michael Kennedy. Join us as we explore everything from his passion for wine, favorite wine and food pairing, and his newest endeavors.


Great Bordeaux Château
The Somm Set Home
 

This week from Michael Kennedy:

Hello again! I hope you enjoyed our offer last week on the under-the-radar Second Wines from Iconic Châteaux in Bordeaux. This week, I have a new offer - and one that is near & dear to my heart: “Friends & Family.” 

When I was the Head Sommelier for Chef Eric Ripert’s Blue, we had arranged the wine list into regions… but the first page was “Friends & Family.” This section was special, as it listed the wines from our closest friends in the industry. It was a place where we could highlight the life’s work of those in the industry we had come to know as family. 

Today’s offering is all about that - highlighting the best of our friends. Since the Benchmark Wine Group Cellar is one of the best in the world, inevitably, I couldn’t include all of our friends’ wines, but I picked some that really stood out. 

In Italy, you will see two producers that I love: Altesino Brunello & Fattoria di Fèlsina - one is made by our winemaker in Italy, the other’s vineyard is managed by our vineyard manager. 

In France, you will find some iconic estates. Some are our neighbors for my wines from Component in Bordeaux; others are made by the incredible consultant Eric Boissenot, who was kind in giving us advice on our own vineyard selections in the early days of our winemaking journey in his backyard. Still again, there is an incredible library selection from Château Lynch-Bages, whose team was also instrumental in our Bordeaux project.

In Napa & the New World, you will find wines from people who have become close friends, mentors and just make great wine that lifts up the whole region. 

In summary, the wines I have listed below all have one thing in common: Trust. I trust that because of the amazing people steering their production; the wines are nothing short of brilliant. Read on to learn about each friend & why they are special. 

Italy

In early 2020, my partners and I had an opportunity to take over an incredible estate outside of Siena in Tuscany and create a wine that embodied our land: La Caccia di San Giovanni. When it came to meeting the team that had made the first vintages, we were, of course, nervous… until we found out who they were: Paolo Caciorgna & Francesco Baffetti. Both are incredible men who have accomplished much in the wine world. Paolo is a renowned Enologist and works on quite a few incredible wines, one of my favorites being Altesino from Montalcino. Francesco is young but highly respected in Tuscany, with his vineyard management company working with some of the great estates in the region. One of these estates to me, is an absolute icon in Chianti Classico: Fattoria di Fèlsina. These men we trust to the core - because they make great wine, of course, but more importantly because they are great internally. 

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino

Altesino has long been renown in Tuscany. Altesino became the first Montalcino estate to introduce the concept of cru wines, made with a special selection of grapes from a single vineyard. Its Montosoli Brunello, named after the prestigious vineyard, was the first of these wines and is still considered among the region's finest. Altesino also pioneered the concept of Brunello futures (wine purchased before its release) with its 1985 vintage. This commitment to innovation led to many modern wines in the estates' portfolio, including Alte d'Altesi, Palazzo Altesi, and Rosso di Altesino. Elegance, finesse, and a fruitier, richer style are the trademarks of Altesino's wines and have earned the estate a position among the very top producers of Brunello. This achievement is even more impressive, considering Brunello is perhaps the most recognized Italian appellation. 

Fattoria di Fèlsina

Fattoria di Fèlsina has long been one of the great names in Tuscany. Based in the Chianti Classico region, Fèlsina produces one of the finest ranges of age-worthy and complex Chianti bottlings in all of Italy. Unlike many of their neighbors, Fèlsina has never succumbed to the temptation to produce "new age" wines from their fine Chianti vineyards and continues to grow Sangiovese solely here, rather than dabble with international-styled blends that include Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

France

In France, I work solely in Bordeaux, and many of our closest friendships in France lie within this region. The wine community there is small, and the people within, wonderful. One of the most amazing experiences of my life was when we set out to begin our project of single-vineyard, single-variety wines in the region. When trying to figure out which single vineyards we would be working with, we had an amazing sit-down with three gentlemen: Stephen Bolger from VINIV and Château Lynch-Bages, Daniel LLose who is the longtime head of winemaking for Château Lynch-Bages and Eric Boissenot, the consultant to incredible estates like Mouton, Margaux, Lafite, and Latour. At this tasting, these three gentlemen helped me understand the soul of the micro-regions within, tasted me on barrel samples from single lieu-dits, and helped us get to a decision. I will never forget the generosity and guidance. Below are some of the wines they create… along with some iconic Barsac wines from my friend, Bérénice Lurton, proprietor of one of the great sweet wine estates: Château Climens. 

Château Climens

100% Sémillon, farmed biodynamically, made by one of my favorite women in Bordeaux, Bérénice Lurton. If you aren’t familiar with Climens, they make what most sommeliers consider to be the contender to Château d’Yquem

Château Lafite Rothschild

Certainly, most reading these are well aware of the incredible estate at this Château. Known for elegance, these wines are carefully crafted from their large holdings - and are ruthlessly consistent. Stunning in every way.

Château Margaux

The centuries-old icon from Margaux, this estate produces some of the finest wines in the Médoc. Not much more is needed to say!

Château Lynch Bages

Lynch-Bages needs no introduction. Daniel LLose has faithfully guided this estate since the early 1970s as Technical Director and has established a reputation for power and elegance in the Pauillac commune. Most sommeliers consider this a “super Fifth Growth” often respected on the same level as most second growths, and in incredible vintages, on par with some First Growths. 

Château Pavie

Pavie neighbors two of our tiny lieu-dits in Bordeaux, literally vine to vine. The wines from this esteemed estate are planted on a vineyard site that was as far back as we can research, originally planted around 200 AD. That’s a lot of history on this amazing piece of terroir. 

United States

The amount of friends we have here seems to be limitless - simply because it is such an inclusive industry. But, I dug through the Benchmark Cellar to find some of our favorites from our dear friends. 

Caldwell Vineyard

There are few legends in Napa Valley as well-known as John Caldwell. His stories of how he smuggled vines from France through Canada, his incredibly big personality, his book on grapevine clones… he’s a person not to miss when visiting the valley. On top of this, we make our Napa wines at his incredible estate. He has become a close friend and mentor to myself and my winemaking partner, Marc Gagnon. Below are some of the unique and wonderful wines from John & Joy’s estate. 

Bryant Family Vineyard

This stunning estate lies on the hills above Lake Hennessy on Pritchard Hill. The terroir is amazing, and the wines coming from this special land have such a unique character. When I was the sommelier for Ritz-Carlton, the family extended such amazing hospitality, and I have never forgotten this generosity. The same generosity seems to be reflected in their wines. 

Lingua Franca

Well, I have to say that although not much is available through Benchmark, this is one of my all-time favorite estates in Oregon. Larry Stone and Thomas Savre have become great friends, and the wines they create are nothing short of future legends. Although we personally make wines from this same vineyard for State of Mind, the wines from Lingua Franca are absolutely stunning - in a style that reflects both Larry’s amazing career as a Master Sommelier and Thomas’ history working with estates like DRC & Dujac. 

Lail Vineyards

Robin Lail is one of my favorite people in the valley - and for many reasons. Not only is her family one of the founding families of Napa, but her story intertwines with almost every significant event in modern valley history. Her great uncle founded Inglenook, she worked with Robert Mondavi, helped found Dominus, Meadowood, and so much more. Her current family winery is called Lail, and it sits on Howell Mountain. The wines are nothing short of stunning. In another story sometime, I’ll tell you about the time she generously welcomed me to her home and shared stories about life, wine and one of the two of us cried (me). If you love Napa wines and haven’t tried these, you are missing out.


Check out all the wines mentioned below!


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Altesino
2012
10 In Stock
750ml
JS97
WE97
WA95
WS95
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Bryant Family Vineyards
2010
7 In Stock
750ml
V97
WA95–97
CT95
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2015
7 In Stock
750ml
JS98
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2000
10 Pre-Arrival
750ml
BN
WA95
CT94

Wines due to arrive late June 2024

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2002
2 Pre-Arrival
750ml
BN
WCI98
WA93
WS90

Wines due to arrive late June 2024

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2002
5 Pre-Arrival
750ml
VTS
WCI98
WA93
WS90

Wines due to arrive late June 2024

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Caldwell Cellars
2017
4 In Stock
750ml
This product is a part of The Navigator Cellar
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2014
5 In Stock
750ml
CT92
This product is a part of The Navigator Cellar
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2014
5 In Stock
750ml
NC
CT92
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2015
1 In Stock
750ml
CT93
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Lafite Rothschild
1998
12 In Stock
750ml
OWC
WA96
WS95
W&S94
D94
CT94

To request an OWC, please inquire.

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2005
5 In Stock
750ml
JS100
WA96
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2009
3 In Stock
750ml
JS100
WA+99
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2009
18 Pre-Arrival
750ml
OWC
JS100
WA+99

Ex-Chateau Release. To request a 6 pack OWC, please inquire.

Due to arrive Jul-Aug 2024

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2009
1 Pre-Arrival
750ml
WA97

Wines due to arrive 3-4 months after purchase.

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Lail Vineyards
2015
4 In Stock
750ml
CT94
WA98
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2007
3 In Stock
750ml
WA96
V94
This product is a part of The Advocate Cellar
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Lingua Franca
2017
1 In Stock
750ml
V94
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Benchmark Wine Group

445 Devlin Road
Napa, CA 94558

Phone: 707.255.3500
Fax: 707.255.3503
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