Colleen Fleming spent years cooking in Napa restaurants (Roux and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen), then worked for her family’s winery Kelly Fleming Wines selling their cult estate Cabernets. Aubrey Bailey also cooked in Napa restaurants (Redd and Julia’s Kitchen), then worked her way up from food runner to sommelier at a place that goes by the name of The French Laundry.
In July of 2014, they teamed up to open Cadet Wine and Beer Bar, which has garnered much praise.
Fleming and Bailey are incredibly bright and motivated young upstarts from the Napa Valley—two powerful women with a keen entrepreneurial drive to highlight and elevate wine in the heart of Napa, in the best way they know how. When you own a bar and work it every night, as they do, you tell stories, inspire and help shape people’s drinking habits.
Ladies: meet Colleen and Aubrey and let them inspire your wine drinking endeavors in 2015:
1. Change your approach to buying wine in a wine shop.
Tip 1: Don’t be shy. Use the wine shop clerks! That’s what they are there for. Get as many recommendations and help from them as you have time to chat about.
Tip 2: Stick to the smaller wine shops that are independently owned. These shops are usually stocked with wines the owners are excited about—especially wines from producers and winemakers they know personally.
Tip 3: Be adventurous and go outside your comfort zone. Never had a wine from Hungary? Buy a couple bottles. You’ll impress your friends.
2. You’re both big fans of bubbly. What’s trending right now?
We are pumped about grower Champagne and so are many in the industry. These are usually smaller production Champagnes and a bit harder to find. Good Champagne won’t ever be cheap but if you can find grower Champagne at a fair price, fill your fridge with it! It’s often a way better product—and better price—than some commercially made Champagnes. Our friends at Paris Wine Company introduced us to Champagne Piollot, farmed by Roland Piollot and Dominique Moreau. They farm organically and make a really expressive, crisp style of Champagne. Our favorite is the Cuvée de Réserve Non-Dosé (you can find it for $32–$40).
3. Which side of the Champagne flute debate do you fall on? To continue drinking or not drinking bubbly out of a flute?
No more flutes! Champagne is wine and should be enjoyed the same way any other wine would be. Use white wine glasses instead. Give the flutes to your grandma. Look for Riedel’s Veritas Champagne glass, or something of similar shape and size.
4. Fill in the blank: If you have never tried wines from __________, this is the year to do it.
Wines from Corsica offer an amazing heritage of indigenous varieties that most people have never heard of—grapes like Nielluccio and Sciacarello, which produce lovely, perfumey red wines. The soils are incredible. Very chalky and full of shellfish fossils that contribute great complexity to the wines and an unmistakable saline and mineral quality. We’re excited about the Kermit Lynch import Domaine Comte Abbatucci. The estate is run by the fanatic biodynamic producer Jean Charles Abbatucci, who farms his native Corsican varieties himself. Try his Domaine Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Faustine Vieilles Vignes Rouge, Corsica, France ($29–$39).
5. Going wine tasting is the best way to really learn about a region and to discover new wines. This year a must-visit is __________?
The Russian River Valley is as old-school of a wine country as exists out there. Windy roads, down-to earth tasting rooms, winery dogs. In short: real wines. Some of the best wine experiences we’ve had were visiting Joseph Swan and Porter Creek in the Russian River Valley. It’s a completely different experience than tasting in Napa Valley. You get to meet the cellar crew and winemakers because the cellar crew and winemakers are the only employees and they pour your wine while they are working. No elaborate water fountains or fancy tastings rooms here. Don’t get us wrong: It’s great to visit the fancy wineries. But for a more authentic experience, go to the Russian River Valley, get your boots dirty and meet the people that make the wine!
6. For dinner parties and summertime pool parties, what would you recommend as a good go-to, new-discovery wine for 2015?
Many years ago when we had free time, we both traveled a bunch and discovered two of the greatest and best valued white wines out there: the ever crowd-pleasing Albariños from Rías Baixas in Spain and Assyrtikos from Santorini in Greece. Both of these white wines almost always outshine more expensive (and popular name-brand) wines, make everyone happy, pair really well with most foods and are great values. Adega Pedralonga Albarino from Rias Biaxas is a great producer to look out for as is Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini. Both retail for around $20. These wines taste like how you would imagine the Grecian and Spanish Mediterranean coast would taste if you could bottle that sweet, vibrant air. Both of these whites possess an incredible mineral edge and salty ocean flavors that pair well with seafood and fresh vegetables. Drink these wines; drink them often.
7. There’s that one bottle you opened, but only finished half of it. Time to invest in __________ to store wine you didn’t finish the night before.
There are usually not leftover bottles if we’re involved. But if something happens to make it to the next day, we like to gas the bottles and store them in a cool place—ideally a cellar or wine storage fridge, but not as cold as your kitchen refrigerator. Sometimes bottles benefit with a little oxygen in the bottle, especially sturdy young California red wines. For home use, we recommend investing in a can of inert gas, a.k.a. wine preservation can. You can find these at any good wine shop and they are only about $10–$15. Just a little spray before you cork the wine will really help preserve it until the next day.
8. If you’re invited to a bridal or baby shower this year, what’s the best wine to bring?
We try to steer clear of any themed wines that have the word “bride” anywhere on the label. The shower showstopper is going to be a magnum of Champagne, period. It’s a dumb saying, but darnit it’s true: “Magnums show you care.” No matter the situation when a magnum shows up at a party, you’re instantly the most popular person. Jacquart Veuve Fourny or R.H Coutier Grand Cru Brut all make exceptional champagnes, often available in magnum format (both retail for around $40 for a 750ml bottle).
9. If you haven’t read __________, it’s the book about wine to read this year.
Sherry is a classy drink and everyone should be drinking more of it. So, to inspire you, pick up a copy of Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret by Talia Baiocchi. Talia lays out the history and allure of sherry—and there’s nothing in the world that tastes quite like it. To a beginner, it can probably be sort of beguiling. But give it some time and practice and this could very easily become your favorite beverage. Sherry is great, sipped on its own, slightly chilled, but also makes amazing cocktails. It can be aged, it can be drunk right now. Ladies like Talia are really leading the sherry craze, and we think it’s about time people paid attention. Our favorite way to enjoy sherry is as an aperitif. Fino sherry is the driest of all sherry, best consumed young and served with light snacks, like almonds and anchovies. It really opens up the palate, and prepares you for a good meal of eating and drinking.
10. Winemaker shout-out: Tell us about a female winemaker who inspires you?
Fleming: “Elisabetta Foradori is an amazing wine producer in the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy. She took over her family’s estate after her father passed away early and has worked tirelessly to bring the estate up to what it is today. She is credited with resurrecting the red variety Teroldego, and in our opinion makes the best version of it. My favorite is her salty-savory Foradori Manzoni Bianco Fontanasanta which is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco and retails for around $32.”
Bailey: “Megan Glaab, based in California, is a huge inspiration. She makes wine with her husband under the Ryme label and also makes wine with master sommelier Geoff Kruth under the Lost & Found label. She falls under the ‘’new’’ California wine category because she’s new to the wine world. She’s hard working, focused and making honest wines of great depth and pleasure. Wines made for the table, both in price point and in drinkability, which can sometimes be hard to find in California. On top of making awesome wines she is a mother of two little tots and a wife. She’s so sweet and humble too—that makes it easy to want to drink her wines as well. We love her Lost & Found Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley ($48).”
Jonathan Cristaldi was dubbed a “Wine Prophet” by Time Out New York for his unconventional creativity as host, entertainer and educator of winos while running The Noble Rot. In 2011, Cristaldi slaved away in a cellar in Napa. Today, he is legit WSET Advanced Certified, writing about wine and spirits.