December 7th is always a strange day. On the one hand, I think of Pearl Harbor, the day that will live in infamy and how the USA got into World War II and all that that meant and all the lives that were lost on this day.
On the other, I think of my adopted city of Milan which celebrates its patron saint on this day, Sant’Ambrogio. I lived in Milan for about 10 years so I got very used to its people, their culture and habits. In fact, I feel like I too should be having a long holiday weekend taking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off as my friends in Italy are doing at this time.
December 7th is also the start of Opera season in Milan at La Scala. It is also the opening of the ski season. I spent many a year skiing at a friend’s home in France. Those were the days….
As I sit in my office in New York, I do feel that Christmas has come to town. I guess it’s the cold and the flurries we saw yesterday. Thoughts of holidays and good will or something similar come to mind. I of course, like to celebrate with a drink of sparkling wine.
I hope to toast Milan, our fallen heroes and such with a glass of Franciacorta. While not made in Milan, it is made in Lombardy in an area near the city of Brescia. I did a long interview some months ago with Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, a Franciacorta producer on this blog. Oddly enough, having nothing to do with me, the shop I work in once a week, Maslow6 in Tribeca sells the Brut from this lovely producer.
Franciacorta wines are not inexpensive compared to Prosecco but I think they are more similar to Champagne than their friendly cousin from the Veneto. Firstly, they are made using the traditional method, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Secondly, most Franciacorta wines rest on their lees for 3 years, some for 5 years. This long lees aging yields nutty and delicious wines but they are also more costly. It’s a style I like and recommend trying at least once this holiday season.
I’m on the Vinitaly train and tomorrow we are going to Philadelphia. It’s the first time they have held an event in Philadelphia. I’m excited to see some old friends and to meet some new ones. I’m hoping to meet Scott McDuff of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail, a great wine blog. I’m also hoping to see Brian Freedman. I’m sorry that Eric V. Orange of LocalWineEvents.com will be absent on account of an injury. I’ll toast to you EVO!
The event will surely be different than the one at Eataly yesterday and I think producers will find the juxtaposition of the Union League and Eataly an interesting mix.
Today I took 60 producers to see Astor Wines, Total Wine and the Wine Library.
It was very useful for producers I believe to see different types of stores, who used ratings, who shuns them, what price points work and how stores are set up. I think there was a lot of surprise among small producers to see a supermarket of wine like Total Wine. I know I am overwhelmed in a store like that too.
Onward to Pennsylvania and a control state. I look forward to further investigations. Soon or later though, I would like to taste some wine ….
I tried this Nine Barrels Merlot from Shinn Estate Vineyards on Long Island last week at Maslow 6. It was a delicious and quite a surprise for me. Old world in style with elegant subtle tannins and nice fruit without being overdone. Restrained or well knit as a blogger I was reading recently described a wine on Bigger Than Your Head. I like that expression and I think it is an apt description of this wine as well. Anthony Nappa, the winemaker at Shinn has really done wonders with the fruit and I look forward to trying the 2007 Vintage. I tried a 2006.
I haven’t visited the Shinn Estates Vineyard in Mattituck but it looks beautiful. They also have a Bed & Breakfast it seems so it could be a lovely weekend trip. I love that part of Long Island. For many years my family had a home on the North Fork but I only really discovered the South Fork in 2004. I like some of the wines from Long Island but I often find them thin and very pricey. This one was among the best that I have tried although I am also partial to many from Channing Daughters on the North Fork.
I’m in a New York state of mind this week of 9/11. I also had the good fortune to see Nadal at the US Open in the Finals. It was my first time at the Open and what a thrill. My next post may have to be about Spanish wines in his honor.
I was on my way out on Thursday when an email caught my eye in my inbox – Pete Seeger will be playing at City Winery to support relief efforts in the Gulf by the Gulf Restoration Network the email said. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Everyone knows who Pete Seeger is and what a wonderful, giving and inspiring man he is at 91.
Pete Seeger at City Winery
I was so touched and pleased to be able to see and hear him and to sing along to his songs. He played “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “If I Had A Hammer” and a new song that he’s just written about the spill. “Drill Baby Drill…Spill Baby Spill”, written in response to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. I couldn’t believe my good fortune so a big thanks to City Winery. My parents were and are avid fans of Pete Seeger from the days of the Hootenannies many years ago. I went to sleep listening to Peter, Paul and Mary sing “If I Had A Hammer” for the first 5 years of my life I think. I loved that record. Seeger is just so great in so many ways I can’t begin to express them here. His work on the Hudson River with his sloop the Clearwater, for example, has changed life for all New Yorkers who use the River. What an accomplishment. Yes, he wasn’t alone but his fortitude has inspired so many people. Including, my favorite singer—-Bruce Springsteen. I love his album called the “Seeger Sessions” when he plays a tribute to Pete Seeger and his music.
Proceeds from the event went to the Gulf Restoration Network and Global Green, . Both non-profits support workers and fisherman along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle. They showed a video of many of the Fisherman who have lost their livelihoods. It was heartbreaking. I hope every donates something. City Winery is also holding concerts tonight and tomorrow to benefit the Gulf.
There were so many fabulous musicians singing last night that they are too many to mention, one really struck me though, Julie Gold. She wrote a song I love but haven’t thought of in maybe 20 years “From a Distance.”
. This version is by Nancy Griffith.
Three Cape Ladies
While listening to these artists sing for the Gulf, I slowly sipped a nice South African Wine called Three Cape Ladies.. The wine was from Warwick Estate. This family owned winery is well known for the Bordeaux style blends. This wine was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinotage. I’m fond of blends from South Africa as any readers of this blog know. All in all, it was one of those memorable evenings that make you smile. I hope they raised a lot of money. The house was packed so that’s a good start. If you are in New York City this evening with no plans, head on over to City Winery to support a good cause.
After many years of saying I was going to work part time in a wine shop, I’m finally doing it. The idea is to learn the business and understand it from the retailer’s point of view rather than the journalist e/o public relations idea of sales. I also get to meet more people in the trade and to really understand the workings of the “business.” I have a renewed appreciation for just how hard it is to sell wine both as a retailer and as an importer. Often people who work in PR or are journalists are accused of not knowing much about the business side, of waxing poetic about indigenous varieties and wines that are made for the very few.
Alain, Keri, Francois and Mollie B.
I’m finding that working retail is much more of an education than I might have thought. I’m learning things about people’s true reticence when buying wine and just how few know what they want to drink and why. I’ve also discovered that people use wine stores as therapy, not retail therapy but just to come and chat. Maybe its the proximity of alcohol or my short dress and winning smile but I doubt it .
I’ve found that customers ask for a wine they can cook with much more often than I would have thought even in a beautiful upscale shop like Maslow. In Italy, people use wine to cook with that they have generally had the day before or the ones that come in cartons, like Tavarnelle.
I always suggest something neutral and that they also might enjoy drinking. Many people come with an idea of how much they want to spend and that’s their primary focus yet they are open to trying new things if the price is right.
Maslow 6, the store that I am working in is owned by Keri Jackson Kunzle. Keri is a friend and has many wines that I really like and buy on a regular basis. She also does tastings everyday which I think is a great way to have both your staff and customers get to know your wines. Keri’s been very lovely to let me see what goes on in the “real” world . The idea is that one day I shall own part of a wine store. I thought it would be appropriate to know what I would be getting into before starting out.
I discovered that lifting heavy boxes of wine is my primary constraint, I’ve got to get back to the gym. My cute red heels were the wrong choice for today’s load but I guess it’s all a work in progress.
a) Many people love to be guided so that educating your wine staff should be key to all wine stores owners.
b) Regular tastings and a welcoming atmosphere make people return to the store early and often.
c) Tribeca is a whole world unto itself.
More musing on wine stores at a later date.
New York wine bars may be a dime a dozen but everyone has their own personal favorites. I went to visit a few of mine this weekend and shared the experience with friends.
I had visitors in town and led them on a long tour of New York. We went on the Circle Line – the long tour, watched fire works, walked on the rivers, walked across the Brooklyn bridge and on the promenade as well as all around the city. Of course, I also ate and drank a lot, in other words, a holiday.
Among my travels were visits to a couple of wine bars/restaurants that I want to mention. One in the East Village is called Via della Pace. I am not sure if it is related to the beautiful bar of the same name in Rome on Via della Pace but I imagine it is. I had a lovely Dolcetto.
Another bar I really love is Bar Jamon. A friend is a long time member of the staff at the bar so perhaps it is just nice to be in a place where you know someone but I think the exquisite Pata Negra also has something to do with it. I drank too much Rose’ made from the Tempranillo grape. The wine was called Quinta Clarisa and is made by Belondrade y Lurton. The entire experience was appealing and shall be repeated shortly.
If like me you are sometimes stranded in New York on a staycation, take advantage of these two spots that can bring you close to the Mediterranean without taxing your wallet too much. I bet you won’t be disappointed.
If, instead you want to bring some Spanish wine home, I discovered that PJ Wine in Inwood has a huge and inexpensive selection.
Pörlapà is apparently an expression in the dialect of Asti (Astigiano) which means something akin to oh wow! That’s how I felt about this Barbera d’Asti D.O.C. Superiore 2004 from Boeri Alfonso S.S. which I first tasted at the Newport Mansions Tasting back in September 2008. At the time I was struck by this rich, deep ruby colored wine which had delicious black fruit, spice and oak notes.
At wine tastings, you always end up sharing wine with your neighbors. My neighbors were Michele and Roberto from Banfi Vintners who are always wonderful and kind and Alex from Cape Cod Wholesale Wine & Spirits in Orleans. I fell in love with this Barbera d’Asti at the time and tonight tried a bottle for the second time. Pörlapà was my reaction this time around as well.
The wine spends some 18 months in barriques and a long period of time in the bottle before being sold into the market. Boeri wines usually spend about three years in the cellar. The winery is a family run outfit and has 10 hectares of vineyards. Some traditionalists may not favor this use of oak but I thought it gave the Barbera the tannins that it needed. Barbera has good acidity but is low in tannins. While I certainly enjoy the more traditional styles, I also liked this modern version. Thanks Alex!
As most of us know, wine stores and wholesalers have joined together to protest Governor Paterson’s proposal, first outlined on December 16, to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores throughout New York State. Dr.Vino wrote a long post about this n December and many local publications have been following the story. I was struck yesterday by a large poster I saw in the window of In Vino Veritas on First Avenue and 73rd Street, a wine store that I like run by two helpful and knowledgeable brothers.
While we (consumers) may save money, I for one would regret the closing of many wine shops and small importers who won’t be able to compete against the larger chains. Wine will certainly be sold at a more affordable price but I love the experience of discovering a new small wine shop and speaking with the owner. Terry Hughes of Mondosapore and Domenico Selections rightly noted that the wines sold in grocery stores may not be of the same quality and thus he wasn’t up in arms about the proposal.
The poster outlines two arguments against the proposal: jobs will be lost in New York State and underage drinking will increase because controls will be less severe in large supermarket chains. A website has been created outlining the views of those who are against the proposal. It’s called Last Main Street Store and clearly lays out the argument against the proposal. I wonder if the new monies from Obama’s Stimulus package will offset this proposal. April 2009 is the cutoff date. Protests are sure to mount. I am sure we will begin to see posters all over town but this was the first one that I have seen.
Over the weekend, I had the occasion to go into a few wine stores and wine bars. One that impressed me was Vino Vino in Tribeca. The owner was extremely knowledgeable and very down to earth. He had some interesting items including a Dornfelder from Germany which apparently sold very well for the Thanksgiving holiday. Dornfelder is a red varietal which can be dry or semi sweet and has luscious red fruit notes. It was created in 1955 by August Herold in Weinsberg, part of the Württemberg region. The grape is a cross between the Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe grape varieties. These two are also crosses made by Herold earlier in the century. Helfensteiner is a cross between Frühburgunder and Trollinger while Heroldrebe is a cross between Blauer Portugieser and Lemberger by Herold. For more information on Dornfelder, Appellation America is very helpful. The wine in question is called Latitude 50 2006 by Nektar and has a small but intense following in New York it seems from internet searches. I would not have thought of that pairing necessarily. The store has mostly small production wines from single vineyards. A nice range of Italian, French, German, Austrian and American wines were available. While not inexpensive, the store seemed in line with most of the other wine shops I have been to this year in NYC. One lovely aspect of Vino Vino is that there is a wine bar next door where you can have small plates and try out some of the wines before investing in a full bottle. A pretty nice opportunity and a rare one.
Monday is recipe day on my blog. Here’s one from Jean Louis Douzamy, a French friend in Milan. Like many Frenchmen, Jean is extremely precise and enamored of all things that are healthy. This recipe seemed appropriate as a follow up to the heavy Thanksgiving Feast. Enjoy.
75 grams ofi semolina for cous cous (if you can find Bourghoul, that’s even better)
3 or 4 scallions or small onions
3 or 4 large tomatoes (about two kilos)
300 grams of parsley (don’t get the frozen kind)
Fresh mint (a bunch-once again, do not get the frozen kind)
3 or 4 lemons (not the kind in the plastic bottle)
Olive oil ( 6 or 7 tablespoons of the good kind)
Wash the cous cous (just a thin film of water, less than 1/2 a glass…)
Finely chop all of the ingredients (especially mint and parseley, not the tomatoes) mix everything with cous cous, add oil and lemon juice (if you want to be chic, grate a touch of the lemon rind into the mix)
Add salt and pepper
Leave in the refrigerator for one hour or more
Present the dish with a lettuce leaf or a white cabbage leaf on top.
I have been absent for a few days from this blog as I needed to recover from the feast on Thanksgiving. A wonderful time was had by all and much Italian wine was consumed. A lovely Madeira was added into the mix for dessert thanks to a friend from Broadbent Selections. I have been trying to tango as much as possible to combat the aftermath of Thanksgiving. Tango in New York City and many other cities around the world is a scene unto itself. There are numerous schools, teachers and styles – somewhat like wine. Some of the dances are fast, some slow and the music can be intoxicating when well done and the stars are perfectly aligned. I love the Tango and have been dancing for about four years. I am not entirely obsessed by it as many people are but it is enticing in a way that only a few things can be.
Every night of the week, you can go to a “Milonga” and dance the night away for a limited fee, $10-$15. Many places offer free beginner and intermediate classes generally starting at 700pm. For tango venues in New York City, this is a great “non-partisan” tango calendar put together by Richard Lipkin, a local tanguero. Tango Reporter, is a monthly Argentinian magazine that has a national calendar, articles on the tango, songs, poetry, travel notes and Spanish language tips. Unfortunately, I have never had a truly memorable glass of wine when out dancing, despite consistent and constant attempts on my part. I love Argentinian wines and find this situation frustrating. Happily, that is not the case when one goes into a local wine bar or wine store. You can find great Argentinian wines all over. Later in the week I will write about my trip to Mendoza last year. I was lucky enough to try many fabulous wines and meet some interesting winemakers.
This is a photo of La Boca, the area where Tango first began. The story goes that tango started out as a dance between men while they were on line waiting to “visit” the local women. Upper class Argentinians would never dance the tango in the early days. It was considered vulgar. My first amazing maestro in Italy, Alejandro Ferrante, told me that while non-Argentinians think that they all dance the tango, the truth is that 95% of Argentinians drink Mate’, a local herb while only 5% dance tango. That may be but those 5% have spread the gospel and many people, myself included, are very thankful.