Getting Musty with Wine Steward Michel-Ange Lafleur

Michel-Ange Lafleur looks like he was born in a barrel of syrah must. At North Miami’s Total Wine & More, the 25-year-old wine steward glides through the names of multisyllabic French producers and German wine styles with rock star charm. And he has groupies.

“You’re the best, Michel,” said a sweater-tied-around-neck White man as he pushed a cart filled with white Burgundy bottles to the check-out line. 

“I’m amazed at how clients react when they ask me for a pedestrian California Chardonnay, and I refer them to a Puligny-Montrachet,” said Lafleur as he flipped a bottle in the air. 

“After they get a taste, they can’t get enough of that sh*t,” said Lafleur.

Lafleur started his wine career at the age of 20 at Laurenzo's Italian Center, where he studied wine labels, read wine chemistry books, tasted wines, and learned how to dissect a bottle’s nuances.

After a couple years Lafleur became an Assistant Manager at Aventura’s Cellars Wine & Spirits Warehouse, but after realizing there was no room for growth, he accepted a wine sales position at Total Wine & More, where he is one of the top-selling wine sellers. He is also attending Florida International University where he is majoring in Hospitality Management while taking wine technology courses.

I recently hooked up with Lafleur to taste the 2006 Black Coyote Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle he entrusted to me a year ago right before a motorcycle accident from which he has made a miraculous recovery. Black Coyote Chateau Winery is owned by Dr. Ernest Bates, one of few African-American winery owners, so we were excited about tasting this bottle. Here are some tasting notes:

ML: Uh oh

EBONY: Oh sh*t. The nose is super dull. It’s musty but not in a good way.

ML: Yeah. It’s flabby. I was expecting so much more.

EBONY: It’s hollow. There is some vanilla on the palate, but there’s no gumption, as we, Jamaicans like to say. It tastes like flavored rain water.

ML (laughing): At first, I thought you didn’t store this properly.

EBONY (insulted): What?

ML: Are you going to really put this in the article?

We let the wine linger in the glass for about an hour and while it did get tastier, it was a major disappointment for $60.

Here are Lafleur’s Father’s Day recommendations for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers:

2009 Les Piliers Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

ML: This wine is very herbaceous with sufficient tannins, and it’s backed up by plum, cassis and truffles.

2009 Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon Colombia Valley ($17-$20)

ML: This is like a St. Estephe or Pauillac. For the price it offers a surprisingly long finish.

2008 Moone Tsai Cor Leonis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($170- $180)

ML: For those who love Caymus, this is a punchier version of that style.

Dinkinish O’Connor is an award-winning writer. Her food sojourns have taken her everywhere from the shanty town bistros of Kingston to the gnarly vineyards of Bordeaux. She has written for Wine Spectator, Condé Nast Traveler, The Miami Herald and other publications. Dinkinish received her sommelier certification and hosts innovative wine tastings. To see what’s happening in Dinkinish’s sumptuous, little world, check out, “Gourmet Squatter,” a blog that explores how to sip high on a low budget.