The War on Terroir: On The Urge to Splurge

Vietti Barolo Castiglione

We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.


By Ben Hammer

There’s always a reason to go beyond your comfort zone and buy a lot more wine for that special occasion. Old friend in town? Promotion? Milestone? Closing that big business deal? Or asking your future spouse’s parents for their blessing? Wine has been used as a sacrament for millenia to separate the holy and monumental from the mundane. So we asked a handful of our favorite oenophiles about their favorite picks for a splurge selection.

Here’s one of my own picks:

Vietti Barolo di Castiglione Falletto 2010, Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. One of the grand-daddies of Italian barolos, Vietti is hands-down always a top pick for a moderately priced wine. This bottle goes for about $50 and is an unfiltered treat from a label that makes about 5,000-6,500 cases a year. Give it some time to breathe and open up. Decanting could be a good idea. Would go very well with a lamb ragu. And the bottle and label is beautiful, a work of art.


Warren Leonard, Weygandt Wines, DC:

Grower Champagne hands down. They know their terroir, grow their own grapes and many are in the extra brut and brut nature level so relying on the grapes, not dosage.


Erik Hope, former professional chef at Gerard’s and Cashion’s in DC:

d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz. Apart from sentimental value, I think it embodies what a great Australian Shiraz should be. Earthy, lots of dark fruit, great structure. And consistent from vintage to vintage.


Na Lee, Director of Special Events, Bordeau LLC, Table Restaurant, 42 Degree Catering, DC:

’94 Dalla Valle Maya or most any Harlan Estates. Closest you can come to meeting a God figure in a bottle of grape juice.


Jon-Christopher Bua, former Clinton Administration communications official:

Cote Rotie La Mordoree via ‘Chapoutier’ 95, 98, 2005 or 2006. Enjoy.


Chris Wilson, Oya restaurant, Penn Quarter in DC:

For something interesting and unusual, a rock-star splurge – Caduceus Cellars “Judith” a red blend. From Arizona. Super-small production. Made by Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool.


John Lonergan, Managing Director, Mercury in DC:

Pommard region in Burgundy. Or Cote Rotie in the Rhone Valley. Chapoutier. Or “Brune et Blonde” from Guigal in Pommard. Jean Perrin.


What’s your favorite pick for a splurge, and where is the best store or restaurant to do it? Email me at to let me know.