Wine Wonderland

France and Napa and Italy- oh my! All the big guns were out at the 2009 New York Wine Experience event hosted by the Wine Spectator last weekend. It is an affair I look forward to every year and was thrilled I was able to attend again! On Friday night, I made my way over to the Times Square giant--Marriott Marquis, to peruse around the “Critics’ Choice” Grand Tasting session. I was met at the top of the escalator by my drinking buddy for the evening, Ira Norof, the Wine Educator for Southern Wine & Spirits as well as the new president of the Society of Wine Educators. I met Ira several years ago during my time with Southern Wines & Spirits, he was a great mentor of wine to me, and continues to be to this day! So with glass in hand we sought out to taste some of the great wines of the night—some in which I have only heard mythical stories about and didn’t know actually existed i.e. cult wines. The event spanned over 2 floors and took up 2 large ballrooms in the hotel---it was virtually an oenophiles wet dream! Every wine featured was a top-scoring wine (90 points or above), and personally being poured by the best winemakers, vintners and wine personalities from around the world.

We opted to start on far left of the 5th floor with a bit of bubbly, before diving into the coveted reds. Our first stop was Pol Roger, where we tried the Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Extra Cuvée de Reserve 1999. It was a nice palate teaser, but not my favorite sparkler of the night. Next we moved onto the Louis Roederer Brut Cristal 2002, although this is a fabulous wine, a small part of me wanted to bust into a Notorious B.I.G. song---but I refrained! We then tried the Krug Brut Grande Cuvée, a well crafted wine made from a blend of several vintages. Having to get my California fix early on, I moved over to the Schramsberg table for a glass of the J. Schram North Coast 2001, a rich and dry sparkling wine. Saving the best for last, we tried the Brut Dom Pérignon 2000, my favorite of the bunch. It showed beautifully and resembled all the details of what a fine Champagne should be.

After the Champagne we cruised around the event to try a few of the standout whites before turning our palates over to the reds, these were my favorites:

· 2007 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne: Elegant, crisp and delicious! I even got to meet Louis Latour Jr., very nice guy.

· 2005 Robert Talbott Estate Cuvée Audrey Chardonnay: Clean wine with mineral notes from the Central Coast of CA. The owner Robert told us some pretty crazy stories about Cyotees in the vineyard.

· 2007 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Chateau du Nozay: a true showing of a Sancerre- yum!

· 2004 Hugel Riesling Alsace Jubilée: A refreshing wine without the “syrupy” sweetness that most Rieslings tend to have.

With 2 hours left of the Grand Tasting, we were ready to let loose on the reds. The only problem was, that there were so many amazing wines to choose from we had no idea where to begin---but somehow we managed to navigate and find our way through to purple teeth heaven! Here’s the golden list of what we tasted in alpha order (and just to give you a scope of the size of the event, we only tasted about a ¼ of the wines that were there). Each wine we tasted was fabulous--I’m a very lucky girl indeed:

· 2006 Alta Vista Alto, Mendoza
· 2004 Bergstrom Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills Oregon
· 2005 BOND Vecina, Napa Valley
· 2003 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection, Napa Valley
· 2005 Chimney Rock Cabernet, Stags Leap District
· 2006 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve, Willamette Valley Oregon
· 2006 Dominus Napa Valley
· 2007 DuMOL Pinot Noir Finn, Russian River Valley
· 2006 Castello di Fonterutoli Toscana Siepi, Italy
· 2006 O. Fournier Malbec Alfa Crux, Uco Valley
· 2004 Gaja Langhe Sperss, Italy
· 2006 Gemstone Cabernet Sauvignon Ten, Yountville
· 1999 Chateau Gruaud-Larose St.-Julien
· 2006 HALL Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
· 2005 Harlan Estate Napa Valley
· 2007 Kistler “Cuvee Natalie” Pinot Noir , Sonoma Coast
· 2006 Chateau Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien
· 2001 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru
· 2004 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Toscana Masseto, Italy
· 2005 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac
· 2005 Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga
· 2006 Numanthia Termes Toro Termanthia
· 2006 Opus One Napa Valley
· 2006 Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore
· 2007 Alvaro Palacios Priorate L’Ermita
· 2005 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
· 2006 Quintessa Rutherford
· 1989 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains
· 2004 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri-Sassicaia, Sassicaia
· 2005 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, Stags Leap District
· 2006 Two Hand Ares, Barossa Valley Australia
· 1999 Vega Sicilia Gran Reserva Unico, Ribera del Duero

In addition to the Grand Tasting I also attended a few seminars on Saturday, for my recap of the Four Chefs Food & Wine Paring seminar (with Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril and Charlie Trotter) visit the Examiner.com


Creative Southeast-Asian Bites in Brooklyn

Last week, a friend took me to Umi Nom for dinner- Chef King Phojanakong’s, of the popular Kuma Inn on the Lower East Side, new Southeast-Asian joint that dishes out a variety of interesting and flavorful small plates. The 50-seat restaurant in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, is a narrow, brick and dark wood lined space that was once a former Laundromat.

Phojanakong’s, Filipino and Thai background influence the menu with dishes such as salt and pepper lollipop chicken wings with anaheim peppers, wok roasted manila clams with a spicy black bean sauce, fried spring rolls of shrimp, pork & glass noodles, and griddled beef patties in a pork bun with house pickles.

Along with a rice and noodle selections, Umi Nom also offers up a variety of vegetarian friendly dishes like; the crimini mushroom tofu skewers, panko crusted vegetables with a soy vinegar dipping sauce, and Asian market greens: sautéed with garlic. The name, Umi Nom means “to drink” so it is only natural that they will specialize in sakes by the glass and the bottle, including aged sakes, as well as nice wine and beer list, but unfortunately for us, the liquor license is still pending approval, so we were sent down the street to the local wine store to pick up a bottle where they then served our wine sans corkage fee. After dinner we managed to save a little room for dessert, we tried the warm Thai chili chocolate cake-which had the perfect amount of spice to rich chocolate flavor, making a great conclusion to the meal. Overall, I thought the restaurant was great and am excited that I had the chance to venture outside of Manhattan to explore one of Brooklyn’s hip new dining spots!

Good Food+Good Company=Good Times at Umi Nom!

433 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11205 (nr. Classon Ave.)

Note: This restaurant is cash only

Umi Nom on Urbanspoon


What to Drink with Dinner: Eclectic Wines for fall

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure to attend various wine events, visit different wine regions and sample some truly amazing bottles! Since I tasted so many great wines, I thought I would share my notes and let you in on my favorites. These wines offer up the perfect pairing for the cool nights and hearty foods of the fall season.

Typically like to start all events with a glass of bubbly, so I thought the Lanson Black Label Champagne would be fitting to begin with! This non-vintage wine was balanced with notes of floral, honey, citrus and plum. The light effervescence resembled tiny ballet dancers tip-toeing on my tongue in an orchestrated manner. It is a blend of 35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier. It would pair great with a delicate quiche or a buttery Halibut. I was introduced to this Champagne at the 2009 New York Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting, where it stood out amongst the sea of beverages and definitely sparked (or should I say sparkled) my interest! And with renowned French chef Alain Ducasse backing them as their global ambassador, I think they are worth checking out!

If you haven’t tried Grüner Veltliner, I urge you to try this crisp white wine from Austria. It is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, very food friendly and frankly is pretty fun to say! I recently tried the 2007 Loimer Grüner Veltliner Langelois Terrassen and was pleasantly surprised! It was a refreshing wine layered with notes of apricot, grass, vanilla, lemon, honey and damp stone with balanced acids. Since this wine has nice minerality and high acids, it works really well with green vegetables which are often hard to pair with. Try it with roasted Brussels Sprouts or Artichoke Gratin!

Pinot Noir has come a long way since the “Sideways” movement, but I often have a hard time finding a really great bottle. So when I stumbled upon the 2007 Antica Terra Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, I made a note to remember this delicious wine! It has aromas of cherry, chocolate, espresso, lavender, mint and leather. It is elegant and velvety with smooth tannins and great acidity! Winemaker Maggie Harrison has her work cut out for her as the vineyard is planted on a rugged parcel of land that is almost solid rock on a sloping hillside, a very unique property! But as they say in the movie Sideways, “Pinot Noir is a hard grape to grow; it’s thin-skinned, temperamental and ripens early. It needs constant care and attention, only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression,” so Maggie must know what she is doing, because this wine is at the top of my list! This wine would be great for a Thanksgiving turkey and all the accoutrements.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to spend some time in South America, from the mountains of Peru to the beaches of Uruguay to the wonderful wine country in Argentina. I absolutely fell in love with Mendoza and the beautiful wines they are producing down there. The indigenous grapes in Argentina are; Torrentes (White wine) and Malbec (Red wine) which are both interesting wines. After a week of touring around and trying several different Malbec’s, I was feeling pretty good about this wine. I had a hard time choosing my favorite, but I think it the 2006 Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Reserva was quite exquisite. It had a deep red color with shades of violet, and aromas of cherry, cinnamon, chocolate and anise with toasty notes from the French oak barrel. A perfect pair with a Grilled Ribeye Steak or Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb.

While I was strolling around at a wine event in NYC a few weeks ago, I came across an interesting wine that I have never heard of: Charbono. I was curious so I went in for a taste of the 2007 Summers Estate Napa Valley Charbono. It was great! It was a medium bodied wine that had earthy aromas with hints of blueberry and dried fruit. Owner Jim Summers explained that it is a rare varietal thought to have originated between the borders of Southeastern France and Northwestern Italy, brought over by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It was mistaken for Barbera (even bottled by Inglenook Winery and labeled Barbera) but after DNA testing by UC Davis, they proved it was the Charbono varietal. Today it’s only found growing in about 80 acres of California, half of that in Calistoga (North Napa County), where the grape thrives best. This wine would be great with Mushroom Ravioli or Duck confit!

During a visit with my friends from Wines from Spain, I was introduced to an interesting and special grape called Vidadillo do Almonacid, also known as Crepiello, from the Cariñena region of Spain. Bodegas y Viñedos Pablo winery took a chance on this nearly extinct grape and started producing a truly lovely unfiltered wine called Pulchrum, which ages for 16 months in French and American oak before bottling. This medium body wine has notes of red fruit, balsamic, violet, licorice, vanilla and mocha. The tannins are fine grained, yet persistent through the finish. A great pair for an aged Manchego cheese or a Pork Tenderloin.

The last wine I am going to share with you is from Paso Robles, close to where I went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Russell From, also a Cal Poly Alum, started Herman Story Wines a few years ago and is making some kick-ass juice! The 2007 “Nuts & Bolts” Syrah is a full-bodied, deep, chewy wine with aromas of chocolate, blackberry, tobacco and floral notes. Would go great with a Juicy Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger or a messy Tri-Tip Sandwich.

I hope this comes in handy when pairing dishes this holiday season! Also, I just got word that I will be the new Manhattan Wine & Food Pairing Expert on Examiner.com, so please check me out when you get a chance: http://www.examiner.com/x-26954-Manhattan-Wine-Pairing-Examiner

From Grape to Glass, Happy Drinking!


"Shaking" it up at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

I can officially say that I’ve finally been to the New York Public Library…my mom would be so proud (as she is a Librarian)! Unfortunately it wasn’t for studious reasons, but rather to imbibe in some amazing cocktails at the premiere preview gala of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic! New York City’s first ever multi-day event celebrating the history, contemporary culture, and artful craft of the cocktail from event visionary Lesley Townsend.

As I walked up the candle lit stone steps in my new little cocktail frock, I was in awe….it was such a beautiful setting! At the door, I was greeted by the fabulous Hanna Lee (of Hanna Lee Communications), where she handed me the “roadmap” of the evening’s festivities and set me loose in the cocktail kingdom. I glanced around the marble floored room and noticed there were twelve individual bars serving up different iconic “New York” cocktails made by some of the great mixologists of our time: Dale DeGroff, Steve Olsen, Dave Wondrich, Charlotte Voisey and many more…hum, where to start, they all looked so good!

On my way to the first bar of the night, I swayed to the engaging music that was playing compliments of big jazz band, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks; they were great and provided a lovely backdrop, I actually felt like I was in another era!

The first drink I tried actually turned out to be one of my favorites from the evening—the Morehouse Mollifier, which was made with Ketel One Vodka, Grand Marnier, Lime Juice, and Orange Flower Water—shook with ice and strained into a martini glass. It was delicious, with the right amount of tart to sweetness! I later learned that the cocktail recipe was from Ward Morehouse, a columnist for New York World-Telegram and Sun, which he adapted from the cocktail book "Bottoms Up" by Ted Saucier (1951, New York). Just thought I would throw some “book” knowledge in since it was at the Library!!!

On my way to the next stop of the night, I passed by the over-the-top buffet of food…it was actually incredible! The long table was set with bites from Top NYC chefs that featured foods such as the giant Turkey Drumstick, Suckling Pig, Deviled Eggs, Marinated Squash Salad, Boudin Blanc, artisanal cheeses, as well as a separate oyster bar to boot! I took a few nibbles and then proceeded to the closest bar. Over the night I worked my way around the space (upstairs and downstairs) sampling several different cocktails while making some new friends.

Beside the Morehouse Mollifier, a found a few more favorites in the bunch, like the Floradora made with Hendrick’s Gin, Raspberry Syrup, Lime Juice, and Ginger Beer- it was amazing, refreshing with a bit of spice from the ginger beer! And the Liberty Cocktail made with Zacapa Rum, Applejack Bonde, and Demerara sugar syrup, garnished with an Orange twist, was a nice nightcap!

After a few hours of sipping, chatting, and nibbling everyone seemed to migrate to the dance floor, where we boogied the night away until the event concluded. All and all it was a fantastic night, and I actually “learned” a lot about the cocktail culture from the past few centuries and even felt a bit smarter…maybe in part by osmosis from being in the New York Public Library!!! Either way I am looking forward to the next installment of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic this spring!

For more information on the event, and for details about future events, please visit: http://manhattancocktailclassic.com/