Thursday, July 01, 2021

By the Bottle: Christy Canterbury, MW

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Photograph by Michael Seto

I first encountered Christy Canterbury at a wine symposium in Texas, where she originally hails from. She now makes her home in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood with her husband Kirk Tashjian. Christy was the 7th woman in the US to earn the MW (Master of Wine) title. If Christy were a Texas tornado, she’d be at least an F3 - Christy is a force of nature!

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Pierre Gimonnet 2012 Champagne Oger Grand Cru Special Club

F.X. Pichler 2005 Durnsteiner Kellerberg Riesling

Pierre Matrot 2010 Meursault Perrieres 

Domaine de Montille 2002 Volnay La Carelle Sous La Chapelle

Bruno Giacosa 1998 Barbaresco Gallina

Château d'Yquem 1996

My husband and I are having over friends this weekend for the first time since right before COVID hit, and we're in a mood to splurge!


What’s the last great wine you drank?

That's easy! Last week I had the Tio Pepe Quatros Palmas Amontillado (2020 Bottling). It was exhilarating in complexity and only four casks remain of this "museum solera". Definitely history in a glass.


Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time?

No, becoming a Master of Wine means knowing the classics by heart. One of the classics I drink the least and miss the most because it is hard to find in the US is great, aged Hunter Valley Semillon.


Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

Generally anything that involves eating outdoors and with a good view is a favorite for me, especially when it kicks off with Champagne. Throw in a sunset, and that's pretty close to perfection for me.


What’s your favorite wine no one else has heard of?

Not that no one has heard of it, but certainly not that many have: Armenian Areni Noir, especially from Zorah, Yacoubian-Hobbs or Zulal.


What wine should everybody drink before the age of 21?

A great wine that makes them curious about high quality wines rather than just any wines. By high quality, I don't mean that it has to be expensive but rather just a very good wine that is harmonious and delicious.


What wine should nobody drink until the age of 40?

Why wait? Life is too short!


Who in wine — winemakers, winery owners, writers, retailers, collectors — active today do you admire most?

This is hard because there are so many people doing impressive work in the wine world. So, here's a wee selection.

Didier Seguier at Domaine William Fèvre: his ability to make nuanced Chablis from so many appellations at such a high level is astounding. Also, his commitment to the domaine's vineyards and his contract growers is exceptional. He is constantly in contact with those tending the vines, actually going out to the vines frequently.

Johnny Saadé and his sons Sandro and Karim at Château Bargylus (Syria) and Château Marsyas (Lebanon): Their adventures of making Syrian wines is absolutely remarkable.

Diana Snowden-Seysses at Domaine Dujac and Snowden Vineyards: Diana's concern for the environment has led her to investigate so many ways to be proactive about saving the planet through winemaking, and she's even trying to work with other local producers in Burgundy to make significant changes via carbon emission capture. That's not easy in a region that is set in its ways, especially as an American woman.

Aimee Keushgarian at Zulal: her drive to find and resuscitate Armenian grapes and figure out how best to vinify them on their own (they are usually grown in field blends) when there is only one harvest a year requires incredible tenacity.

Tim Atkin MW, Journalist: Tim is a gifted writer who consistently writes engaging, intellectual material. He defies the usual, tired standards of wine writing and is a true journalist.


Do you count any wine as guilty pleasures?

I wouldn't count a specific wine as a guilty pleasure, but I do count the occasional extra glass at the end of a long dinner as one. I count it as less guilty if it is something exceptional or hard to find! (There's always a justification, no?)


Has a wine ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

On the second date with my now-husband, he bravely picked up the wine list to chose a wine...but he also asked what wine I would chose. I hadn't looked at the list but as he was looking at an all-Italian list in New York City, I suggested that if there was a Rosso di Montalcino on it for about $70 that it might work, depending on the producer. I scored big points as it turns out that he loves the wines of Montalcino, and there happened to be a bottle within a few dollars of the price I suggested. He still tells people that story.


What moves you most in a wine?

When you open a bottle at just the right moment and harmony is singing. Even with excellent wines, there are more lucky moments. That's special...but also elusive.


Which styles do you especially enjoy drinking?

I like structurally balanced wines. They can be balanced at 7.5% abv and at 15% abv, but they need to be balanced. Obviously, balance extends beyond abv. I don't like gangly wines. I drink primarily European wines, but I love Oregon and New Zealand wines, too. Pinot Noir (especially from Burgundy, Oregon and Canterbury New Zealand (of course!) and Grüner Veltliner are my favorite grapes.


How do you organize your wines?

I have a small wine fridge for current drinking and samples and a large one (180 bottles) for longer terms. They are always full. I also always keep about ten or so ready-to drink whites and a bottle of bubbly in the refrigerator. When we put away groceries, my husband loves to ask what we're throwing out so that we don't have to remove any wine. Tee hee.


What wine might people be surprised to find in your racks?

There's is usually a Texan wine or two. I'm originally from Texas, and I'm amazed by what the state does with Tempranillo and Rhône white grapes, the latter especially from the Panhandle.


What’s the best wine you’ve ever received as a gift?

My dear friend Jean Reilly MW once brought me a birth-year Terrantez from Madeira, which is my favorite fortified wine. It was totally unexpected and extraordinarily delicious. Plus Terrantez is pretty rare.


How have your drinking tastes changed over time?

I drink fewer Rhône reds, which are the wines that made me fall in love with wine. It's not that I don't still love and buy them. I do! However, I eat much lighter these days (less red meat and less fat) and even eat a few veggie-only meals a few times a week, so I find fewer pairings for them. It's a little frustrating as I have oodles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape - in particular - waiting to be enjoyed. In fact, I drink a lot more Rhône whites than I do the reds these days. I love how aromatically dazzling the whites are.


You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three people from the wine world, dead or alive, do you invite?

Robert Mondavi - I never got to meet him though I met Margrit, his wife, several times. (She was a firecracker) I'd love to meet the man that married such an impressive woman AND had the vision to invest in Napa Valley.

Thomas Volney Munson - Did he even drink wine? He certainly saved wine as we know it by recommending rootstocks.

Barbe-Nicole Clicquot - What a "Grande Dame", indeed, who knew how to think outside the box and get things done.


What do you plan to drink next?

Tonight, we're making eggplant parm, so I'd usually pull one of my many, many bottles of Chianti Classico or a Le Pupille Morellino Riserva or Poggio Valente, but I'm thinking Sicilian or Sardinian tonight. Maybe a Gulfi Nerobufaleffj or a Vigne Surrau Surrau.

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