Editor’s note: We gave B&B Hospitality Group beverage director Kirk Peterson a $1 million budget and a month to—just kidding. We don’t have that kind of patience. We gave him a week and a hypothetical bottomless budget to sort the ripe from the hype. Here are the seven hottest cult wines we’ll be drinking just as soon as our Xpress West high-speed-rail stock splits.
Cult wines: Are they worth the effort and considerable expense to track down? The difficulty lies in separating the high quality and rare wines from the wannabees. Ratings scores, multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns and general public confusion obfuscate the issue, but with a little diligence, an insightful palate and a keen nose (for bullshit), your search will be rewarded.
Frank Cornelissen Magma. Made from old-vine nerello mascalese on the slopes of the perpetually erupting volcano of Mount Etna in Sicily, fermented in amphorae (large clay vessels that were much more popular 3,000 years ago) and crafted without additives or manipulation, Magma is one of the most unique wines in the world. With only 515 bottles of the inaugural vintage being produced and each label hand-painted, Magma remains a remarkable expression of terroir and stands at the pinnacle of natural winemaking. Available at Carnevino Italian Steakhouse for $360.
Harlan Estate. The ultimate cult California winery. Founded in 1984 by Bill Harlan, the estate is designed to be California’s answer to a Bordeaux “First Growth” and consistently produces one of the most sought after and expensive cabernet sauvignon-based wines in all of Napa Valley. Wine critic Jancis Robinson went so far as to describe the wine as “one of the 10 best wines of the 20th century.” Treat yourself to a bottle of the perfect 100-point scoring 2002 vintage at Delmonico Steakhouse for $2,495.
Jacques Selosse Champagne. Arguably one of the greatest champagnes in the world. Winemaker Anselme Selosse’s unorthodox approach and emphasis on fruit quality result in unsurpassed depth and texture that culminate in a truly magical drinking experience. Look for the profound Substance, a tremendous non-vintage blanc de blancs blend made in the solera method and comprised entirely of fruit sourced from Grand Cru vineyard of Avize. Available at Bouchon in the Venetian for $540.
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. A wine of monumental stature, considered by many to be the ultimate Barolo. Rich and powerful, with tremendous aging potential, Monfortino is widely regarded as the purest expression of the nebbiolo grape. Taste history in the making: The landmark 2002 vintage of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva is available in 1½-liter format at ItalianWineMerchants.com for $945.
Sine Qua Non Syrah. Roughly translated from Latin as “without which there is nothing,” Sine Qua Non’s Manfred Krankl makes the best and most desirable Californian syrah out of his Ventura County winery, which it has been said looks like “a Mad Max movie set.” Concentrated and assertive, and showcasing his penchant for whimsical names, Krankl’s 2009 The Thrill of Stamp Collecting syrah can be found at Cut in the Palazzo for $375.
Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Winemaker Emmanuel Raynaud shuns the traditional wisdom of the region, and coaxes the most elegant and regal wine from an appellation often renowned for its raw power. Made entirely from grenache, the wine displays remarkable poise and a seductive suppleness not found elsewhere. Enjoy a bottle of the 2001 vintage at Restaurant Guy Savoy for a mere $475.
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex. Although the iconoclastic Loire winemaker may have passed, having died in a plane crash in 2008, his wines and legacy remain. All of Didier’s wines possess an uncanny purity and clarity, but his Silex—taking its name from the flinty soils where the grapes grow—stands as one of the greatest sauvignon blancs in the world. Alluring and mineral, the wine is best described as exhilarating. Raise a glass to his legacy; the 2008 vintage is available at Sage in Aria for $208.