The traditional concept of a wine shop, complete with staid racks organized by price, shelf talkers highlighting point scores from various publications and intimidating salespeople, is thankfully a thing of the past. Today, wine shoppers want a little story and to have the bottles hand-delivered by FedEx to their welcome mats.
Over the past 10 years, Max Kogod has worked for seminal wineries in Burgundy, Napa and Sonoma and at one of NYC’s best wine shops, Crush. Last year, he opened his own online wine store, Kogod Wine Merchant, where small-production, traditionally made wines from France, Piedmont, Tuscany, Germany’s Mosel region and California make up the bulk of the selection.
“Burgundy is the backbone of the wine shop. It’s been a love affair of mine for many years. I lived there for all of 2012 and was very fortunate to taste with a lot of really great folks and get a better awareness of smaller producers that I hadn’t heard of before.”
While Kogod keeps the wines at a consistent cellar temp of 55 degrees F, he’s also based in the eternal summer city of Encinitas, Calif., which means he’s completely dialed in to the sorts of wines necessary to keep on hand in the coming months, i.e. super crisp riesling, pedigreed rosé and remarkable Burgundy values. These are the six wines he recommends you stock up on for the summer season.
“This is the ultimate lambrusco. Some of them can be a little lighter, some darker and earthier, but this has really juicy, plump fruit with nice streaks of minerality and a little hint of bitterness that makes you continue to reach for it again and again. So many times when I pour this for someone for the first time, they look at it and smell it and they think it’s going to be something really sweet, and it’s definitely juicy, but it really dries out on the finish. It’s the ultimate pairing for cured meats and salumi, and it certainly goes great with pizza.” $20
“I was fortunate enough to visit this estate in the summer of 2012. This is the best case scenario: You have two icons of Burgundy, the Seysses family from Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, and they buy this property together in Provence in the ’80s. They picked a really great appellation—it’s higher altitude, so unlike a lot of Provence that’s down in the lowlands, it’s pretty high up in the hills, so they get really great acidity from the cool nights.
Their goal is to really make value-driven rosé that’s made free of additives and is honest. Some rosé drinkers like wines that are softer and broader, while other people want really strict mineral-driven rosés. And this appeals to everybody—it has a little bit of everything.” $16
3. 2013 Stein Blue Slate Riesling Trocken
“This wine is very small production and brought in by a relatively new importer called Vom Boden. It’s a very complex wine, and at less than $25 a bottle, it’s probably the best-value riesling I’ve come across. Ulli Stein, the winemaker, dedicates a ton of time and hard work in the vineyards. His old vines are on incredibly steep sites that have to be worked exclusively by hand. And it’s fermented totally dry, so this is not a sweet riesling but has a lot of depth and concentration.
Often, when you see rieslings at this price point, you’re in the kinda crisp and easy-drinking realm, but this really is a wine that you’ll notice—even a couple of days after you’ve opened it up—develops all these secondary characteristics. This is good for the summertime because it’s just mouthwatering refreshing, you never get tired of drinking it. It’s a wine that you can easily go back for over and over, and the bottle’s usually empty before you can believe it. And it’s low alcohol, so you can share a bottle or drink a whole bottle and feel pretty good.” $22
“So many times, we think Napa and we think over-the-top rich, chocolatey cabernet sauvignon, but this isn’t that. It’s a blend of aglianico, barbera and Montepulciano, but the way Steve Matthiasson works is he really looks to preserve freshness. So we get all of these dark and brambly flavors, but they’re held in check with acidity and a light touch—it’s not a heavyweight wine. It’s lower in alcohol, very easy to drink and comes in a one-liter bottle, so it’s one to have on a Sunday.
Steve Matthiasson is famous for knowing great sources of grapes and being aware of all the hidden gem vineyards that exist in California. So if there’s anybody to trust sourcing rare or off-the-beaten-path grape varieties, Steve would be the guy.” $19
5. 2013 Rémi Jobard Bourgogne Blanc
“For me, this is one of the great chardonnay values in Burgundy; it’s essentially a Meursault level wine at a Bourgogne blanc level price. Many of these vines are located in Meursault (it could be labeled as such), and some of the parcels are even adjoining or adjacent to premier cru vineyards. Rémi Jobard really does great work with keeping the freshness and verve in his wines. He does some of the longest fermentations in Burgundy—he takes his barrels outside to slowly ferment in cold temperatures and uses Stockinger barrels from Austria, which are much larger than the traditional French barriques, so there’s very minimal new oak imparted to the wine.
The wines also spend some time in stainless steel before bottling, so they have the rich, nutty, hazelnut quality that develops in Meursault but with a sleek mineral-driven frame that keeps things incredibly fresh. As much as we want to have sleek, crisp rieslings poolside, there a lot of dishes where we want a white that can stand up to something with a little more weight to it and richness. I think white Burgundy is a great place to go. It’s never going to fatigue, especially in this style.” $28
“Rollin is one of my favorite producers. It’s a great estate, and this is a wine that sells out on pre-arrival every year. I took a very large order because I love this vintage especially. Pernand-Vergelesses is a really interesting village. Its exposition means it doesn’t have the same heat and direct sunlight as villages next door, like Aloxe Corton, can have. The reds are always sleek with crisp red fruit and definitely more mineral-driven in style than some of the other more famous villages. The 2012 vintage was excellent but produced smaller berries.
Soft tannins are a hallmark of the vintage, so there’s a lushness to the wines, juxtaposed with crunchy red fruits, more in the cranberry, raspberry, Bing cherry category, which together create a really exciting wine. On a summer day, when the temperatures are high, this is something in the red Burgundy category that really delivers.” $35