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In the Cellar: with Phillip Dunn of Spago

Michalene Busico and Dan Fredman
AUGUST 01, 2014

Pop Art

Late last year, Phillip Dunn took charge of one of the best restaurant wine cellars in the country: the 30,000-bottle collection of Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills flagship, Spago. Dunn, who previously was a sommelier at Canlis in Seattle, has a global selection at his fingertips, and is as apt to reach for an Austrian Blaufränkisch as a Napa Cabernet. But he is particularly ardent about grower Champagnes, and he is expanding the sparkling list to 120 selections, with 10 by the glass and many in magnums. His personal taste leans toward Chardonnay-based bottles: “I like the elegance,” he says. “They tend to be more nutty and brioche in  character, and the minerality of the grapes grown on those chalky soils is more expressive.” His top five Champagnes for collectors also show a preference for a minimalistic approach to winemaking, with low dosage, biodynamic methods, and a general hands-off technique. This is winemaking on the edge, and these bottles demonstrate the reward of risking it all for greatness. But he is particularly ardent about grower Champagnes, and he is expanding the sparkling list to 120 selections, with 10 by the glass and many in magnums. His personal taste leans toward Chardonnay-based bottles: “I like the elegance,” he says. “They tend to be more nutty and brioche in character, and the minerality of the grapes grown on those chalky soils is more expressive.” His top five Champagnes for collectors also show a preference for a minimalistic approach to winemaking, with low dosage, biodynamic methods, and a general hands-off technique. This is winemaking on the edge, and these bottles demonstrate the reward of risking it all for greatness. —Michalene Busico


Champagne's New Transparency 

Twenty years ago, Champagne cognoscenti had to shine a flashlight through a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée to read numbers on the back of the label telling when it was disgorged. In the spring, Krug introduced an app for that: Simply scan a code on the back label of any bottle to learn the disgorgement date, as well as the blend of vintages, the percentage of Pinot Noir versus Chardonnay, how long the wine was barrel-fermented and aged, and much more. Krug is part of a new digital floodgate of information for Champagne connoisseurs and novices. Louis Roederer’s app offers comprehensive information on the latest release of Cristal, while Ruinart’s app adds a virtual reality tour of its caves. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte’s app even allows users to pop the cork and pour—virtually, of course. —Dan Fredman

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