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.
The Somm Set Home
This week from Michael Kennedy:
My name is Michael Kennedy - and I am super excited to have the opportunity to share my picks from the incredible cellar at Benchmark Wine Group this month. I started as a Sommelier at a pretty young age, worked with some of the most incredible and inspiring people, and learned so much along the way. When it came to starting our first winery, I thought I knew a lot… The more I learned, the more I realized there’s never going to be an end to this journey in wine.
My wife Rachel and I now have four wineries - making wine in Napa, Oregon, Tuscany, and Bordeaux. Each step of the way, I’m humbled by what I don’t know. It is a constant learning experience, but this month I get to share some of what I’ve learned - mostly through the generosity of the people along my path.
One of the many humbling moments (trust me, many) was when I first got into wine. I had been given a bottle of 2005 Carraudes de Lafite, the second wine of Château Lafite Rothschild. I knew exactly who I wanted to share it with, a friend’s generous dad sharing his great wines with me - I could finally share something special with him. I read everything I could find on the wine, the vintage, the Château, etc. When we opened it, I unleashed my findings for ten minutes straight. My friend’s dad was kind and gracious (merciful, really) and listened to everything I said. When I inevitably ran out of things to say, he sat back, quietly spent some time with his nose in the glass, and said, “This reminds me of the ’96 right now, but when I opened it a couple of years ago, it seemed more like the ’95. It’s been interesting watching the second wines from Lafite over the last decade; I used to buy these for $20 a bottle….” I’m sure he said more, but I - at that moment - realized a valuable lesson. You cannot read experience - you have to experience experience, especially in wine.
So, today, 12 years later - I want to start where I left off with him, on the great second wines of Bordeaux Châteaux. I hope these can help you experience the terroir and artistic signature of each estate. I hope you share them with someone special - we need to do that more!
The Left Bank
We all know the great First Growths by name and legend, and most Bordeaux lovers know some of the other Classed Growths, but rarely do we experience them in the “wild.” When I was the Head Sommelier for Chef Eric Ripert, I often came to Benchmark Wine Group to find gems that were overlooked but excellent. I found many of our tasting menu wines in the second wine category of the Médoc. They express such excellence, drink younger, and can be much more affordable (relative to the first wines). Below are my favorites from the cellar.
Clos du Marquis from Château Léoville Las Cases - Technically not a second wine, however an adjacent wine from the Château holdings in Saint-Julien.
Les Forts de Latour from Château Latour - One of my all-time favorite second wines (and often found on my pairings at Blue by Eric Ripert)
The Right Bank
The Right Bank seems to be my obsession in Bordeaux. The limestone, clay, sand, and hillsides are perfect for Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In fact, when we set out to find some special lieu-dits from which to make wine in Bordeaux, the Right Bank won our hearts even further. Below are the great second wines of my favorite estates.
Check out all the wines mentioned below!