Bringing wine to a dinner party is always fraught with uncertainty. Will it go with the meal? Is it a good wine? Does the screw top cap look cheap? Wine can be stuffy and pretentious, but if you strip away some of the attitude it’s easy to enjoy. In choosing one for the GP100, we wanted something that was unique and appealed to our finer senses, but lacked the fussiness that sometimes accompanies the spirit. We also gave up our usual point-at-the-bottle-with-the-nicest-label method of choosing; instead, we worked with Lauren Friel, Wine Director at Oleana in Cambridge, MA. If you haven't heard of it, Oleana is widely considered one of Beantown's best restaurants, and Boston Magazine called Friel's wine program the best in the city. She happens to be an old friend of GP, and she turned us on to the 2012 Lily's Cuvée Chardonnay, a pétillant naturel sparkling wine from California’s Donkey & Goat winery, released in spring 2013.
Pétillant naturel -- pét-nat for short -- is a category of sparkling wines that share a common production method: they’re bottled during the primary fermentation, capturing the carbon dioxide that makes them sparkling. Champagne, by contrast, gets a dose of sugar or juice to induce a secondary fermentation. Sparkling wines are usually a bit less bubbly and sweeter than Champagne, but pét-nats are hard to pin down because so much depends on the preferences of the winemaker and because the wine can change significantly inside the bottle. Lily's Cuvée fits this description.
“It’s very much alive”, Jared Brandt, winemaker (along with his wife, Tracey) at Donkey & Goat Winery in Berkeley, CA, said. “If you drink it right when we release it, it’s going to be a lot sweeter and less bubbly than if you drink it today. If you wanted to speed it up you could put it in the sun and then cool it off right before you drink it.”
Jared and his wife Tracey make natural wines from red and white Rhône varietals, plus a Pinot noir and what they call an "atypical Chardonnay". Lily's Cuvée, which gets its Chardonnay grapes from one of their vineyards at the base of Anderson Valley, is their first pét-nat released outside of the tasting room. It’s made of 98% Chardonnay and 2% Roussanne, disgorged by hand and crowned with a beer bottle cap. Like a beer, there’s no cork popping and no need for a special occasion to drink it, except maybe a good day at the office or a funny joke you made in front of a beautiful woman -- and that’s just the way the Brandt wants it. Enjoyable and free-flowing, without pretense.
So how does it taste? Friel describes it as “spring in a bottle”, and Brandt agrees: “Really fresh. After it’s raining and snowing, that first day it’s green, and in New York all the lovely women are wearing dresses and the flowers are all blooming... that’s what the wine’s supposed to capture.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers