Archive

for October, 2011

October 23, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Burning Man Pre-Decompression Dinner with Grub.ly (San Francisco)

There is a mansion with a gracious lawn, nestled a good distance from the road at the top of Lombard Street in San Francisco’s Russian Hill district. The mansion serves a dual purpose: it is home to “Neal” while the facade presents the perfect backdrop for many a photographic memory; groups of tourists, backpackers, brides-to-be, all gather at the beginning of the brick walkway leading to the house to have their photos etched into “1112” Lombard history.

1112

On the 8th of October in this the 2011th year, Tim West of Grub.ly and I, Jonny Cigar, hosted a “Burning Man Pre-Decompression Dinner” at 1112 Lombard.

A month after Burning Man, residents of the pop-up city all gather in groups to “Decompress” and so in the spirit of Decompression we hosted a pre-decompression party.

Coming off of a week of Harvest work I was exhausted, but truly excited for this event because the small gathering of 25 people brought together some of the bright stars of the culinary and technology industry, from TechCrunch to Google from Facebook to the Hub, Mashable, live-painting by artist Ian Ross and Tim’s group Grub.ly. Most everyone had met at Burning Man, by the way. And the conversations throughout the evening were, if I may be candid, some of the best conversations I’ve had since landing on the West Coast back in June. Refreshing is the word I would use and though that’s a touch cliche, it’s simply the truth. I was refreshed by conversation and the energies of the group.

Mr. Tim West cooks with great people at Grub.ly, particularly my new favorite French San Franciscanite: Olivier Pecquenard. Olivier is a chef at Facebook, but beyond Facebook he’s cooked at the best restaurants in the world. He made Oxtail sliders I shall ne’er forget.

The Beginnings of a Pre-Decompression Feast. In the background: red jump suit = Tim West.

I poured wines from Swanson Vineyards (2007 Merl0t, 2006 Sangiovese) and because it was also Yom Kippur we served Covenant Wines 2010 Red C Sauvignon Blanc.  Two superstars of the group, the Grables, entered with much pomp and circumstance and brought their own wine. Mark Snyder of Angels’ Share distributes the Grables tiny, tiny lot of about 47 cases of this and 32 cases of that, etc.

Grable Vineyards, made by Amy Grable. Yes, a rose of Cabernet Sauvignon. Amazing.

Self Appointed MW's choice cocktail: Bud Lite - thanks to Neal!

Dillon's Bruning Man attire.

We drank, we ate and told stories by the fire. Yes, there was a fire pit in the expansive back yard. The wines were a hit and I was glad to introduce everyone to Swanson and Covenant, as none had heard of the two before.

Since I’ve not attended Burning Man I can only imagine that the experiences of the individuals who do go are in many ways life-changing. It’s evident in their conversations and expressions, the things they can and cannot talk about with respect to the experience. Sincere and lasting bonds are formed in the desert – the fact that people of all walks of life come together to build a city in what seems to me to be a valley of ashes, is remarkable. The emotional attachment is strong and Tim was smart to provide an evening of pre-decompression because, it seems they needed it.

 

October 19, 2011 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

30 Minutes with Jacqueline Bahue (Girard Winery)

Jacqueline Bahue in the "Club House" aka Lab

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Jacqueline Bahue, an assistant winemaker at Girard Winery’s winery location in Sonoma. We walked amidst barrels and tanks, along the catwalks, and ended up in the “Club House,” which is really the lab where one may geek out on the science of wine, and is encouraged to do as such.

Girard Winery is known for making Chardonnay and Cabernet-based wines. They are also expanding their focus to Zinfandel and Petite Sirah grown on century-old vines that dot the Napa countryside. Their tasting room is in Yountville a stone’s throw from The French Laundry.

I’m a fan of all their red wines, which for me are bold and possess a generous mouth-feel with a lingering finish. Dark fruit aromatics will hypnotize you and before you can say anything you’re back in the hotel room with three cases by your side — but please wait to drink until you get home because who knows how they got to your hotel room and what kind of bottle shock they went through.

T’was wonderous of Jacqueline to spend time during harvest to talk to me about the finer things in life, so listen, enjoy and be elevated: click here to listen or download.

On July 14th, 2011, The Noble Rot and Stag Dining Group partnered to host the “Anti” Bastille Day Party with Jacqueline as our guest wine-start of honor.

On the Catwalks...

Jacqueline barrel sampled me on every single barrel. Only took us seven hours. (I'm lying, ya know?)

So she actually wrote her name across the barrel with a barrel smith coaching her along the way. #classy.

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

A Visit to Robert Biale Vineyards

"Watch for Black Chicken" a Biale code-word relic from the days of Prohibition. Photo sourced from Robert Biale Vineyards website. http://www.roberbialevineyards.com

I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Biale, Steve Hall (winemaker) and Bob’s mother, Clementina for our second program of Noble Rot Talks. To listen, subscribe to our podcast or download an MP3 to listen at your leisure, click here.

Robert Biale Vineyards is at 4038 Big Ranch Road in Napa, California. The winery is famous for its Zinfandels, and Bob tells a great story about the “Black Chicken” operation his dad was involved in during that ridiculous national experiment of Prohibition. I will say, however that Ken Burns’ first episode shed some interesting light on why we enacted Prohibition — the alcohol abuse was so rampant that many families (many mothers) were in total support. That… I can understand. And our country was much smaller in the earlier part of the 20th century than it is today and that’s a very real factor to consider.

Neverthemore, just as the sun has shone down on this land in previous decades and centuries, the day I interviewed Bob, Steve and Clementina (who was an unexpected but absolutely delightful guest!) the sun was shining bright as you can see here:

Robert Biale Vineyards - tasting patio.

We walked through the crush pad and eventually settled down on a porch overlooking the vineyards. Bob and I chatted about the history of Napa and how at one time Prune trees and Walnut trees could be seen as far as the eye could grasp – not vineyards. We also talked about the labor and incredible struggles many immigrants went through working to build the valley into what it is today. His father, Aldo Biale, is one of those individuals. At age 14, Aldo’s father passed away and he had the responsibility of taking care of a family. Age 14! And Clementina and Bob recount a story in the podcast of how Aldo turned a tough situation into a profitable opportunity. And once you know the story behind the wine, go, good wino and seek out a bottle and think of Aldo and the Biale’s – think of sunny Napa and do it over good Italian cuisine.

Robery Biale Vineyards crushpad - lookee them stainless steel!

Biale Wines! Zinfandel and then two delectable looking wines that the family had opened and drank the night before with dinner. Look at the sediment in the middle bottle! Wild. Clementina said they all tasted, "very nice."

Reverse side of "Bravo Aldo!" talking about Aldo's Vineyard.

October 13, 2011 1 comment Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Green Light/End of Dock -{JC}- C.I.A./Edge of Mayacamas

Green Light/End of Dock -{JC}- C.I.A./Edge of Mayacams

“As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

As I sat this morning brooding on the old, unknown landscapes of the Napa Valley, I thought of my own wonder when I first picked out the C.I.A. at the edge of the Mayacamas Mountains, in view just miles away from where I am staying. I have come a long way to this green valley, and my expectations of what I would find and what I would take back with me to New York seemed so close that I could hardly fail to grasp them.

"Every morning I wake to look across the valley and I see The Culinary Institute of America."

I have less than three weeks left in St. Helena, CA before returning to Brooklyn. My arrival date of June 8th to the west coast seems all at once, a distant day in years gone by and nothing so much as the day before yesterday.

If Gatsby could put all his dreams into one Daisy, I too could fit all of my dreams into one Valley. Gatsby, however, was too late chasing a life that had already left him behind. All the pomp and circumstance in the world would not make Daisy his. This Valley, however, is still young. At the same time, wine country is full of the old ways of doing things. I run into Meyer Wolfsheims everywhere I go: “You’re very polite, but I belong to another generation,” is what Meyer says to Gatbsy and Nick before parting ways. And there is much truth in this statement with respect to the class dichotomies that are evident in Napa Valley.

I’m not quite ready to put into words what I’ve learned here, but I can tell you that I’ve stopped swimming in pools…

Every morning I look across the valley and see The Culinary Institute of America. I never imagined that my life’s work would revolve around the activities of the dinner table: Wine and Food. The C.I.A. for the longest time was a representation of the very “vast obscurity” that would be Gatsby’s demise, however lately and in my case it has come to represent that, “one fine morning—-” and many more to come.

C.I.A.

For now, the season changes and the onset of Fall begins its careful re-touching of the valley, dotting each leaf one at a time a brilliant crimson or mauve or golden hue, the greens fading into obscurity.

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