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August 2008


WINE & SPIRITS

Family Affair
by Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

PETER TROILO'S WINE SHOP IS ALL IN THE FAMILY

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Wine passions can be very personal, but once in a while you meet a kindred spirit who seems to share every one of your particular tastes. You learn that you're both crazy about Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace, Zonin Prosecco and every permutation of French Champagne. Together you swoon over Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne and Nicolas Feuillatte's Palme d'Or. The synergy is uncanny. You share a favorite Napa red: Beaulieu Vineyards' Georges de Latour. You're both anxious to get your hands on Grgich Hills' new library selection of Rutherford dust cabs. You're both enamored of the biodynamic movement in wine. Is it love at first sip?

So it goes as I first meet Peter Troilo, owner of Nicholas Roberts Fine Wine Merchants on Darien's Boston Post Road. We stand together in his shop talking favorite bottles. With its yellow tin ceiling, antique chandeliers and stucco walls, the boutique might as well have been transplanted from Aix-en-Provence. And what of Provence rose? Troilo reaches for a bottle, Chateau Minuty, which just happens to be my favorite too.

Troilo leads me around his brick-hued shop, each bottle upright with an air of handpicked importance. "I look towards many limited production wines, esoteric labels, distinctive handcrafted wines from small producers," he proudly explains. We stroll over to the Spanish section. "Spain makes incredible wines at reasonable prices," he says, picking up a Museum Crianza 2002 from Cigales in Castilla y Leon "a hot region now." "In Spain you can find soft, elegant, graceful wines with low alcohol." We discuss some of the country's best producers. Marques de Grinon, the maverick who added cabernet sauvignon to his tempranillo grapes, makes some fabulous wine, we concur. And let's not even get started on Rioja-based CUNE. I get him revved up, describing their 1939 white that I had the recent good fortune of tasting. I'm hoping he'll take the hint and pop an old vintage himself-but alas, he's all talk.

"I don't meet many Italian wines I don't like," says Troilo. He walks me through some of his favorites-Il Castelvecchio from Tuscany and Barolos from Ceretto. I tell him how enamored I am of Livio Felluga wines from Friuli. He guides me to a handmade label on a bottle from Paolo Bea, his favorite producer from Umbria. (Is Troilo married? No ring on the finger).

Troilo, newly energized after attending Oregon Pinot Camp, is most excited about Oregon pinot noirs. While the 2005 Burgundy vintage is almost unattainable pricewise, he explains, top Oregon pinots—Van Duzer, Ponzi, WillaKenzie—remain a great value.

He casually mentions that East Coast clients have been ordering plenty of Oregon pinot through the web arm of his family business-but online shoppers in Sonoma are still snapping up his small production Burgundies. That's how I learn that beyond the shop's Lilliputian 700 public square feet in Darien lies an enormous behind-the-scenes Internet operation that has put Nicholas Roberts on the national map. After Fairfield County, California's Sonoma Valley is the shop's biggest client.

Troilo is fired up about the two wine clubs he operates-including a high-end club open only to 60 members-and his sideline advising local collectors on stocking newly-acquired wine cellars. "People build a cellar, and they want it filled up immediately," he says. "There are too many important wines coming out in a two-year span to just buy everything all at once. They should enjoy the process of collecting."

So how did this unique wine business get started? In 1990, his father, Nicholas, bought the venerable shop as a college graduation present for his older son, Robert. Father and son ran the operation together before passing the baton to younger son Peter, who joined the family affair eight years back, with Robert (a French Culinary Institute trained chef) shifting into the culinary arm of the Troilo family business (they run a catering service and restaurant in Norwalk).

And what of the Nicholas behind the company name? "I am the third wheel," says dad Nick. "I look over my boys' books, they run the show." Actually papa Nick is actively doing his own thing. His nonprofit organization, Turning Wine into Water, funnels money from the many wine events he arranges towards a charity that builds water wells in Zambia. Clean water is a great thing. In fact, that day at his shop, overflowing with my favorite wine treasures, all I got to drink was water!

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