By Drew Tschappat

My house is filled with empty wine bottles – not because I’m too lazy to take out the recycling, but because to me, each bottle is a memory. Each represents an experience that’s been had. I remember who I was with, what the occasion was, and most importantly, what the wine tasted like!

When I think of my “year in review,” I view it through the bowl of a wine glass. Here are my top 5 favorite bottles I tried from Baytowne:

5. 2020 Seehof Morstein Kabinett Riesling, Mosel, Germany ($20)

A bottle that literally may have saved my life. In the Hudson Valley during June: Temperature: 107 degrees. Humidity: 5000%. My friend Chris has convinced me to wear a 3-piece suit in the outdoor heat to “look like a sommelier.” I quickly near death. Luckily Stephen Bitterholf hands me a glass of the Seehof Morstein Riesling. Electrically crisp and refreshing with a delicious bit of mid-palate sugar. It goes down like water and somehow I don’t quite die of heatstroke.

4. Lilbert Blanc de Blanc, Cramant Grand Cru, Champagne, France ($72)

A chilly mid-February day. A bottle of the Lilbert Blanc de Blanc sits in a snowbank. Ice cold and delicious – one of the sharpest, crispest champagnes out there might have seemed counter-intuitive for the weather, but it was the perfect accompaniment to going down a hill at 50 mph during our 1st Annual Bubbles and Bobsledding event!

3. 2019 Ott Reid Stein Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria ($25)

From the famed Reid Stein vineyard – considered one of the best single vineyard sites in all of Austria – Ott delivered a ripe Gruner that not-so-secretly wanted to be Riesling. Apricot, peach, honeysuckle white flower with a touch of beeswax and some of that great Gruner spice. Great to have while getting to know new friends and having the single best slice of cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life.

2. Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique Cider, Maine, France ($14)

Okay, Pear Cidre isn’t wine, but this was still one of my favorite bottles. Bordelet creates hedonistic magic with his cider. Rich flavor, refreshing acidity, slutty sweetness. This cider somehow drew a balance between opulence and austerity. Paired (peared?) with poached-pear braised chicken and sweet potatoes in a Belle de Brillet cognac reduction… one of the most memorable pearings (sorry - couldn’t help it) of the year.

1. Ullysse Collin ‘Les Maillons’ Blanc de Noirs, Cote de Sezanne, Champagne, France ($110)

To the most special bottle of the year. Ulysse Collin is becoming one of Champagne’s most sought-after producers, his bottles are becoming more and more difficult to track down. The Les Maillons showcases the raw power of pinot noir while still remaining light on its feet. Dried purple flower, bright red fruit, spiced biscuits. Deep, complex, and well structured. Worth every penny.

The Champagne we popped to welcome my son into the world!