for February, 2011

February 21, 2011 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

White House Wines: A Glass For The President

Thomas Jefferson bottles. Photo copywright of William Koch. Sourced from:

In 1787 President Thomas Jefferson, then Minister to France, traveled to France and northern Italy. Jefferson was on a mission of diplomacy and also had a personal obligation to fulfill. Destination: Bordeaux.

“Jefferson drank France in with guzzling intemperance,” writes Benjamin Wallace in The Billionaire’s Vinegar – a book so incredibly fascinating and thorough in its investigation into the Jefferson bottles sold at auction in 1985 that you’ll want to read it through in one sitting.

Jefferson took extensive notes on the vineyards he visited, the vintages, the climate, etc., and when it came to wine, delineated quality with five categories:

  • Sweet
  • Acid
  • Dry
  • Silky
  • Astringent

Wallace states that Jefferson’s 1787 writings were incredibly important as his inquiries and note-taking positioned him as the, “greatest wine connoisseur writing in any language at the time.” And who might be the modern day equivalent? Perhaps: Michael Broadbent, Robert Parker, Jonny Cigar, Hugh Hefner Johnson.

“Before leaving France in 1789,” writes Wallace, “Jefferson shipped Sauternes, Burgundy, and still Champagne to New York for the cellars of newly elected President George Washington. As secretary of state, Jefferson placed another large order for Washington, Madison and Monroe – on what wines to serve at state dinners. When Monroe was elected, Jefferson’s congratulatory letter spent three sentences on the election and the remainder on what wines the White House cellar should stock.”

The chapter further explains that Jefferson even lobbied for lower tariffs, “not only for selfish reasons, but ostensibly because he believed in its healthful and even moderation qualities.” Apparently he drank “three to four and a half glasses of wine a day.” And thanks to this prohibition-era chart below we know that wine strengthens, nourishes and raises cheerfulness…

Dr. Benjamin Rush’s “Moral and Physical Thermometer.” From An Inquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors (Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1790). Photo of page 15 from “From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America” by Richard Mendelson.

And I feel I can relate to the man, for he was intent on convincing Americans “one palate at a time” to transition from the abuses of spirits (whiskey especially) to drinking the pleasant, sophisticated wines he had come to love. The famous Jefferson quote rings i’th’ear: “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap, and non sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.”

And so, what were the Presidents drinking (thanks to Jefferson)? Nothing but the best:

  • Chateau d’Yquem
  • Mouton
  • Lafite
  • Haut-Brion
  • Latour
  • Margaux
  • Many a Burgundy and many a bottle of Champagne

So good reader, today on President’s Day, you are encouraged to strengthen your senses, nourish your blood and be cheerful, while indulging in a wine worthy of a President. I’ll be drinking the 1982 Mouton-Rothschild that’s been sitting in my imaginary-future wine cellar deep within the mountain of St. Helena, CA. Oh how lovely it will taste, I assume.

Self-Elected President-Elect,

Jonny Cigar

February 14, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Happy Fu#%ing Vallentine’s Day

Aprille Goodman, Brian Quinn, Jonny Cigar.  The Noble Rot’s “Happy Fu#%ing Valentine’s Day!” Photo by Laura Huben.

“My funny valentine… sweet comic valentine… you make me smile with your heart…”

Indeed, good and lovely winos. In the spirit of love and wine, The Noble Rot hosted an event last night (Sunday) that made our guests smile with not only their hearts, but also with the wonders of wine, chocolate and 34-hour short ribs.

In Williamsburg, Brooklyn we teamed up with the dynamic artisanal choco-fiend Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw along with Mike Lee of supper club Studiofeast to bring the perfect combination of food and dessert to an evening fueled by natural wines provided and presented by Pamela Govinda of The Natural Wine Company. Songstress Aprille Goodman sang her heart out and melted the room and some of the chocolate. Masseuse and Holistic Health Councilor Jessica Shepard shed tension with her holistic bodywork on willing guests, and believe me, all were willing… That’s right, we had a masseuse.


The evening begat with a rough start. Guests were forced into drinking sparkling rosé cave, while simultaneously indulging in strawberries and cheeses. We hosted The Noble Rot Talks, a series of interviews with our guest experts and artisans. The idea: through intimidation and embarrassment we reveal the necessary facts and realities of our idealistic collaborations. Mike Lee along with Derrick Yeun and Soomin Baik cooked up an incredible meal, which Mike Lee describes in his interview below. The chocolates, described by Sklaar, were exceptional and as Fine & Raw prepares their chocolate sans sugar, we were instead high on a coconut oil.

Check out this incredible sped up video of the event, by Studiofeast.

The Natural Wine Company provided very interesting an exciting wines and I’ve listed and scored them here on the Jonny Cigar Connoisseur Rating System (CRS):

*German Gilabert Cava Rosat (Sparkling Rose) CRS Rating: 450,000. Notes: Easy. Love the color: Ruby. Love the taste. Love, love, love.

*Binner Savuers Field Blend 2008 (Still White) CRS Rating: 56,456,700. Notes: Lees! Unfined, unfiltered heaven. Nose like you wouldn’t believe.

*Descendientes de Jose Paliacios Petalos 2008 (Still Red) CRS Rating: 47,983,234. Notes: Like a pinot but not screaming for attention. Clean. Well-mannered.

*Hochar 2003 of Chateau Musar (Still Red) CRS Rating: 23,498. Notes: You gotta love Bret to love this wine, but it is certainly integrated well. Very well. And it’s from Lebanon where they’ve been making wine since the bible has been churning out stories. Very interesting and worth a try because you may love the horse out of it.

*Schola Sarmenti Roccamora 2007 (Still Red) CRS Rating: Honorary Infinity. Notes: Why a perfect score? It’s fresh, indulgent, talks back but speaks in lyrical poetry. Tastes like chocolate and then like berries and turns you into a better writer than Hemingway. And the best part: $14.99. Beat that Opus One.

For your audio listening pleasure …THE NOBLE ROT TALKS/ INTERVIEWS:


Jonny Cigar Intro and reading from Les Fleurs Du Mal (2:34)

Pam Govinda of The Natural Wine Company (4:54)

Pamela Govinda (photo not from the event, as Pam somehow eluded our camera all evening! A real pro.) Photo courtesy of Pam’s Facebook page. The Natural Wine Company: “Great Wine. Minimally messed with.”

Pam discusses the evening’s wines (7:12)

Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw (4:07)

Jonny talks with Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw. Fine & Raw: “We’re particularly fond of creatively intoxicating your palate by crafting raw cacao with other raw discoveries.”

Mike Lee of Studiofeast (3:09)

Jonny talks with Mike Lee of Studiofeast. Photo by Studiofeast. Studiofeast: “is an invitation only culinary collective that focuses on creating new gastronomic experiences. Our events are a platform for new ideas in dining and we express ourselves through our food and social gatherings.”


February 10, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Eats + Apps

Eats + Apps logo by Brian Quinn, improved by Jonny Cigar

The Noble Rot collaborated with Food + Tech Connect (Danielle Gould) as well as with Emily Cavalier (Mouth of the Border) to organize a Social Media Week event called “EATS + APPS.”

This critically acclaimed event was held at 4food – a new food concept that utilizes an interactive ordering system that lets diners create over 140 million combinations of burgers & fillings, save them for future ordering and then share their creation with their friends and networks via social media. Rev, self-proclaimed “World’s Most Socially Connected Burger Blogger” wrote about the event here. Some of the most awesomest food apps and one wine app (Snooth) was present. Jordan Winery graciously donated their 2006 Cabernat Sauvignon and Chardonnay for the event and so I was able to talk about one of my favorite places: The Alexander Valley.