I met “Crazy” Richard Luftig in the fall of 1999 just as I was leaving the city and opening Restaurant Nicholas. He was the Wine Director of Felida at the time; he gave me a dizzying dissertation on the subtleties of the Chianti sub zones while I ate lunch at the bar.
To be fair, I never call him Crazy Richard; that credit goes to some of my friends on the distribution side of the business because Richard drives them absolutely crazy. There are very few people in this business as uncompromising and passionate as Richard when it comes to choosing wine for any of the great wine programs that he as run over the last 20 years. Considering his discriminating palate and the impossibly high standard he has always set for wine, I was understandably excited when he first told me about his idea of actually making wine himself. His project, Pied à Terre, is the realization of his dream and the culmination of his considerable experience as a professional wine buyer in New York City.
Like you’ve heard me say in these pages over and over again, it’s nearly impossible to find affordable, high quality Cabernet from California. While there were, and still are, a lot of inexpensive wines from California on the market, we’ve both found it incredibly difficult to find high-quality, soulful and truly balanced ones. Thanks to Rich, we can now add Pied à Terre to our very short list of affordable California Cabs because great wines doesn’t have to cost $500 per bottle. Not a crazy idea…
We ran the Pied à Terre 2015 last year with great success and with a long list of reorder requests that we can finally honor, reach out to Melissa if you want to reload. But today I am happy to be one of the first to talk about a new expression of Cabernet that is sure to be just as popular as the original. 2018 is the inaugural vintage of what Richard is calling Love on Mars. It’s a richer, more opulent style of Cabernet that seemed perfect as a natural homage to the genius of David Bowie, a personal favorite of Richard’s. In his words, it’s a glam-rock Cabernet!
2018 was an epic vintage. It was the first “normal” vintage in many years with none of the climatic difficulties complicating other years in the last decade. Cooler temperatures and moderate weather led to a long growing season, allowing grapes to ripen smoothly. This long growing season produced wines with great structure and concentration without being overripe. Both quality and quantity match classic vintages like 2007, ’10 and ’13
Love on Mars is a micro-selection of barrels of premium Cabernet Sauvignon that aged differently than the others at Pied à Terre. After exhaustive sampling and blending, Richard found 10 barrels that developed a bit quicker and more opulently than the others. It is one of the mysteries of winemaking: same wine, same barrels, same everything…different wine.