The premise of Desert Island Wines is this: You’ve just been shipwrecked on a desert island and there’s no rescue in sight. Worse, the only food the ship was carrying was a lifetime supply of canned soup and spaghetti. But when you boarded the ship, you brought along three cases of wine and — luckily! — they have all washed ashore safely. You chose to take one inexpensive wine, one luxury wine, and another wine in between. These are the wines you’ll be drinking until you’re rescued. Which is going to be a loooong time coming. Choose well.
Stranded on a hot desert island, Jermaine Stone, creator of the podcast “Wine and Hip Hop,” would all but lose his mind if there was no quality wine in sight. Considering that Stone was often privy to the finest wine during his years-long stint as an auction hand at esteemed auction houses like Zachys and Wally’s Wine & Spirits, it’s a fitting concern.
He now heads his own empire, Cru Luv Wine, a New York-based wine branding and marketing firm that intermingles the worlds of hip hop and wine, much as his popular podcast and its newest video format, “The Original Wine & Hip Hop” does. And while his work continues to afford him the chance to try an array of bottles from all around the world, it’s rare, luxury bottles that capture the Bronx native’s heart. So naturally, if he has to be stuck on a desert island, he’d prefer plenty of it to spare.
A high-class Chardonnay for remembering better days
Stone’s first and most expensive pick comes in the form of an elegant Chardonnay from Burgundy: Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Grand Cru 1997, to be exact, which can cost as much as $12,000 at auction — that is, if you can even find it. The more readily available 2019 vintage runs about $175 a pop.
“I had that wine on an episode of ‘Wine and Hip Hop TV,’ and it’s just a delicious white Burgundy,” Stone says, referring to his interview with the legendary music producer Easy Mo Bee, who worked with the late Notorious B.I.G.
“If I could only have one expensive wine, it would definitely have to be a Burgundy,” Stone continues.
The grapes for the 1997 vintage come from vines planted in 1960. They underwent a very gentle pressing style, referred to as pneumatic pressing, followed by a 24-hour resting period. The juice spent 12 months in new oak, and another six months in once-used oak, before bottling.
The Leflaive family has occupied the French region of Puligny-Montrachet since 1717. However, the domaine didn’t come to be until the early 1900s when Joseph Leflaive bought several vineyards and houses throughout the area. One of Burgundy’s pioneering biodynamic wineries, the domaine has remained in the hands of the Leflaive family, now headed up by fourth-generation winemaker Brice de La Morandière, Leflaive’s great-grandson.
“The ’97 Leflaive is a special bottle, and it always brings me back to a special time,” Stone says, adding, “If I’m on a desert island, I’m going to want something to bring me back to humanity every once in a while.”
The not-so-expensive wine Stone would choose to drink for the duration of his life on a desert island is relatively opulent. “Hip hop likes luxury, and wine is so similar. Not all wine is expensive, but it has this luxurious imagery that comes with it,” he says.
Licataa Vino Spumante Demi-Sec Rosso NV, the affordable luxury Lambrusco created by rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon the Chef, is a perfect example of the flair and finesse that both hip hop and wine exude. A longtime lover of wine, the Staten Island native, Raekwon, partnered with the famous Cantine Ceci, an Italian winery that has produced superior Lambrusco in the lower part of the Po Valley, just outside of Parma, Italy, since the late 1930s.
This particular luscious, red sparkling tastes every bit of a fine wine but with a more reasonable price tag of $25.
“This wine would go really well with the cans of spaghetti,” Stone says. “Sparkling Lambrusco has great balance, and the flavors will help with that sauce.”
The old faithful
Stone often turns to a bottle of Savart L’Ouverture Brut Champagne NV to get through a hectic day in New York. He’d definitely need a lifetime supply of the Pinot Noir-based sparkling from the premier cru village of Écueil in Champagne, which runs for about $58.
“It’s so well done,” Stone says. “It’s a grower Champagne, so it’s made with extra love. Every time I drink this wine, it connects with me a little bit differently. You can tell that they put their hands in this and got dirty. It’s a great, well-made Champagne.”
While Savart has existed since René Savart first bought vines in Écueil in 1947, his grandson and third-generation winemaker, Frédéric Savart, helped not only the brand gain worldwide recognition but the region as well. Under Frédéric Savart’s watch, the winery also began using biodynamic farming practices in the vineyard and in the cellar.
This is the entry bottle in Savart’s roster of Champagnes. Half of the juice for L’Ouverture ferments in neutral oak while the other half undergoes fermentation in stainless steel. The wine is only partially subjected to malolactic fermentation, a part of the winemaking process that reduces acidity in wine while simultaneously releasing some carbon dioxide, which helps tart wines achieve a softer, creamier texture.
L’Ouverture is a favorite of Stone’s and has been since his days as an auctioneer. During a charity auction, hosted by wine industry legend, Daniel Johnnes, wine director for the Dinex Group, Stone first met Frédéric Savart and tried the Champagne, and he’s loved it ever since.
“Every time I have it, it’s consistently great. Sometimes you’re just moved by a certain wine, and that’s one that always moves me.”
Surviving on a desert island would be a challenge for any human being, but having the bottles that bring back memories of home could make getting through the day a little bit easier.
A sparkling, ruby red Lambrusco, this wine is the lovechild of Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon the Chef and Cantine Ceci, an Italian winery that produces superior Lambrusco in the lower part of the Po Valley, just outside of Parma, Italy. The winery has been a Lambrusco leader since Otello Ceci founded it in 1938. His sons, Bruno and Giovanni Ceci, took control of the winery in 1960 and have largely been credited with expanding not only the company’s reach, but Lambrusco as a whole.
From the premier cru village of Écueil in Champagne comes this Pinot Noir-based sparkling, a favorite of Stone’s produced by third-generation winemaker Frédéric Savart. L’Ouverture is considered a grower Champagne, meaning the sparkling wines are made in France’s Champagne region by families who cultivate and manage grapes on their own land — in this case, about nine acres owned by the Savart family. This bottle is one of eight styles of bubbly made by the winery, which produces about 2,500 cases of wine per year.
Domaine Leflaive, one of Burgundy’s pioneering biodynamic wineries, is known for producing superior Chardonnays in the French region of Puligny-Montrachet. The Leflaive family’s roots in the Côte de Beaune commune of Burgundy extend as far back as 1717; however, the domaine wasn’t established until the early 1900s, after Joseph Leflaive began purchasing vineyards in the area. Today the winery owns and manages nearly 60 acres of land across Puligny-Montrachet. Stone’s dream bottle is the 1997 vintage, which, at $12,000, is out of the reach of most people. At $175, the 2019 seems like a steal in comparison.