One of just 250 Master Sommeliers in the world, Brett Zimmerman is a true local treasure. As the owner of Boulder Wine Merchant and founder of Boulder Burgundy Festival, he is always eager to share his passion for wine with the Boulder community. In this interview, he shares a little bit of history about his career as a Master Sommelier and some advice for those who want to explore wines this holiday season.
What was one of the most exciting wine tasting moments of your career? How has that experience influenced your business today?
When I first arrived to Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago as a young sommelier, I was able to taste some amazing wines from guests that ordered rare and expensive wines. One of the first and most memorable experiences I encountered there was a two top that ordered and shared some of their 1989 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru and 1961 Château Haut Brion, Graves. Both of these wines are life changing wines in their own way. However, the 1961 was my first exposure to just how great the best vintages from top producers can be in Bordeaux, especially with age. The wine was dark, powerful, and layered like nothing I had ever tasted. The only downfall was having to go back to work after the taste.
What food/wine pairing suggestions do you have to offer this year’s holiday hosts?
I like to keep things simple, but try things you don’t always have during other times of the year. Try something from Alsace, Jura, or Loire in France, or perhaps explore some of the exciting new producers of Spain with both white and red wines that will dazzle any palate. Champagne is always a staple for me during the holidays – it is festive and goes with all foods. Finally, don’t forget something fortified or late harvest. Port, Banyuls, Maury, and Sherry all go beautifully with a variety of desserts. There are also some great late harvest options from Germany, Loire Valley, Sauternes, and Hungary to name a few.
What are some of your favorite wines for the 2019 holiday season?
I am loving the 2017 White Burgundy wines right now – they are so expressive and delicious, but also capable of aging. There are some amazing wines coming from outside of Madrid. Producers like Comando G are putting out unbelievable Grenache based wines with elegance and finesse from old bush vines planted on decomposed granite soils. I think there are some great Sangiovese wines produced from Tuscany in 2016 – Rosso di Montalcino or Chianti Classico are both winners in this vintage. Finally, 2008 Vintage Champagne is not to be missed… stunning.
What do you recommend for hosts who are putting together fruit and cheese trays? Do you have any favorite local cheeses we should keep in mind?
Go with the cheeses that you like and find unique wines to pair with them. I personally enjoy some the Vermont Shepard Invierno (or “winter” in Spanish), a semi-hard, natural rind cheese that is aged 5-6 months from a combination of sheep and cows milk. The Invierno is rich and creamy, with a touch of earthy mushroom flavor that is ideal with a delicious full-flavored White Burgundy.
What wine tips or cautionary tales do you have to share with this year’s party hosts?
Preparing ahead of time is always key with executing a great holiday meal. You can plan a menu and even print the menus for your guests to give them a little something to take with them following the meal. If you will be serving some special wines, this is a nice way for people to recall what they had after the dinner. With regard to wine, serve the wines at the proper temperature – reds around 56-58° to start. Lighter white wines can be served right from the refrigerator, but fuller white wines should be 48-52° for best results.
Are you offering any wine gift baskets or similar gift ideas this year?
We have outstanding wine gift baskets that we can present in wine crates with ribbons, tasting notes, and anything special the guest would like included. Don’t forget to include the tasty olive oils, chocolates, and specialty foods we have available to round out the basket with a special touch.
For those who are searching for a gift for the wine lover in their life, what do you recommend?
Go with something classic and from a great producer. You can never go wrong with Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Champagne.
Many of our readers will be dining out this holiday season. What advice do you have for choosing the perfect bottle for your table? Under what conditions would you send a bottle back?
If you are not familiar with the wine list at the restaurant, ask the sommelier. Let them bring something fun to the table and perhaps something you have never tried. I would only send the bottle back if it was flawed, but I would be polite and ask the sommelier for a second opinion.
Is Boulder Wine Merchant hosting any holiday events that our readers should be aware of?
We will be featuring our normal Wine Wednesday tastings as well as a few special tastings that can be found on our website or in our newsletter. We will find some holiday appropriate products and themes for these fun events.