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May 25, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

When In The Months of Summer, There Was Yellow Tail


May of 2002: I would arrive in Brooklyn and would remain there until August of the same year. I would stay in a duplex apartment on the west side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Carroll Gardens. There would be a backyard with a patio table and chairs set for many nights of talking and many parties that would end with the first rays of sunlight, pealing back the thin veil of night, breaking dawn.

There in the backyard from cracks in the concrete slab covering the earth would emerge a vine of green grapes growing haphazardly upon the fence bordering a gas station next door. We would not eat those grapes. We would instead, drink the juice of a grape that grew in a distant land where the inhabitants of that land spoke the same words I grew up speaking, and yet were we to meet, there would be no chance of understanding one-another. The people that I speak of are: Australian.

The grapes that I would ingest were theirs—grown in rich soil in fields adjacent to mountains, grapes unhindered by concrete, unaffected by gasoline-rich soil, grapes whose sole purpose was to stain the whitest teeth rouge in the thick of hot summer nights in the year 2002 in a backyard in Brooklyn.

This from on Yellow Tail:

“Almost a third of the grapes used for Yellow Tail are grown right in the Casella family’s own vineyards–almost 540 acres of vines in the Riverina region of Australia. Following the great Australian wine-making tradition, Casella also sources fruit from other superb growing areas throughout South Eastern Australia. A perfect accompaniment to this wine would be rich rare char-grilled beef and asparagus or a rich confit de canard to bring out its juicy palate.”

Here’s my version of this rather glowing review:

“Almost ten tenths of the grapes used for Yellow Tail are grown right in the Casella Family’s own backyard where their nearly 540 acres of vines grow in soil polluted by a faulty septic system. Following the great Australian Depression, Casella sourced its fruit from the bottoms of emigrant worker’s feet who were working better vineyards nearby. A perfect accompaniment to this wine would be rich peoples’ servants’ left-overs of street-grilled grade-C beef and grilled-asparagus that’s been sitting in the trash can since last year’s Memorial Day BBQ or a rich confit de confit to bring out its teeth disintegrating ADA approved juicy palate.”

But I did not know that then… My good friend James, a hot-blooded Sicilian famous for spending two months alone in the mountains of Hawaii, had invited me to take a vacant room for the summer.

James was working as a bell boy at 60 Thompson, a poshy hotel in Soho that stationed two bell men twenty yards away from the hotel in two directions asking people who were, “less attractive,” if they wouldn’t mind, “taking another street.” In the evenings, James would return to Rapelye Street with a wad of cash tips (never less than $200) and a magnum of Yellow Tail Shiraz. I was required to remain awake and attentive to his stories until the last drop of YT, at which point I was to scour the house for other possible sources of alcoholic intake. That said, it is without exaggeration that in the summer of 2002, I alone consumed roughly half a magnum a night for almost 90-straight days. That’s, 67.5 Liters, or 90 750ml-bottles, or 7.5 cases, or four times the average amount of wine drank by Americans in a typical-non-depression year, or to put it one other way: 17.8 gallons in one summer—enough liquid to put out a small house fire.

The result: I was unable to drink red wine for two straight years after that summer. The minor miracle is that I came out on top: no cavities.


May 7, 2009 Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

From Brooklyn to Spain: How an East Village Tapas Bar Stained My Teeth Rioja

Pata Negra

A bit of plotting and planning led to the first of what I hope will be a series of wine-events in partnership with Cabrini Wines. Damian, Cabrini’s wine director, invited us to an event at Pata Negra, a tapas bar in New York City on 12th Street between First and Second Ave, specializing in Jambon. (I brought along Amanda, my “fiancée” who doesn’t eat red meet or pork, but who may have tasted some prosciutto when I was not looking). Ramon A. Del Monte of Tempranillo hosted and poured for us a great deal of Spanish wine and I have many thanks to impart to the Spanish D.O.C. (Denominacion de Origen Calficada) for all they did to us.

The evening began around 7:00pm and ended in a flurry of cab-rides from one place to another and while my umbrella is lost forever to the world of “Things Lost in NYC Cabs for $100 Alex” my notes survived and they are preserved with nutritious sulfites for you below.

2007 Botani | White | Dry-Muscatel | from Malaga in the south of Spain
CRS Score: 93,678,905,345,777,655,989 | Notes: T.G., D.F.S., pretended to be sweet but was dry!

2007 Solnia
| Red | Rioja | young-house red 100% Tempranillo
CRS Score: 130,670 | Notes: Berry-forward-Vanilla hinting Vanilla and Bath&Body fruity body creams purchased mostly by teenagers.

2004 Allende | Red | Rioja | 100% Tempranillo
CRS Score: 6,789,455 | Notes: Agesd in “Allier” French Oak barrels for 18 mos and then bottle aged for 12-24 mos.

LEARN: There are two kinds of French oak 1) Allier 2) Bordelaise (according to Ramon these are the only two types of French oak that are used for barrel aging. We at Winetology will run a fact check from our facilities located around the world in undisclosed locations.)

2005 San Vincente
| Red | Rioja | | 100% Tempranillo
CRS Score: 8,467,325,995 | Notes: R.C.C., D.G., R.L., B.B.B.B., Smooth and sensual, hints of coy, and having stopped here would not have needed Advil™ the next day.

2004 Muga | “The Viagra of Wine” | Blend: 75% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, and 10% Graciano
CRS Score: 9,999,999,999,999,999,543,999,999,250 | Notes: So smooth, so creamy, so damn good, like butter and blood sausage on French toasted brioche, and my notes at this point are fairly illegible. I’m not sure what “Cali hung frenc wood make their own rappers” means. But it must mean, “Wow.” And at around $36 a bottle, this is a steal.

2005 Finca Sandoval | red, I think | 76% Syrah 11% Bobal 13 % Mourvedre | East Central Spain | Unfiltered (as were most of the wines poured)
CRS Score: about 999,999,250 less than Muga | Notes: ???

2006 Malaga | White | 100% Muscatel
CRS Score: N/A | Notes: Impossible. (Can’t score something I don’t remember ☺)

April 24, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Le Cupole Trinoro 2005 Rosso, Tuscany

O2JFa3rEgmoxuaeeMYcoSCJho1_500Tasting the 2005 Le Cupole Trinoro was, as they say in the deep North of Italy, Multo Benissimissimo!

A quick google search (which tried in vain to auto-correct for “La Coupole,” one of old Hemingway’s hubs) yielded these tasting notes:

Medium ruby in color. Smooth, supple nose of dried currants and plums. Lovely, velvety mouth feel, with sweet, dark, concentrated notes of baked stone fruit and caramel. Gentle, refined tannins, with a moderate, modern finish. Became sweeter and even more caramelly over the course of two hours.

A terrific mid-grade wine, a poster child Super Tuscan. International-style and ready to drink now, but also true to its Italian roots, with plenty of structure. A lot of versatility too: this could flatter a pasta or meat dish, but it could step up and be the star as well. Easy to drink, but wine nerds will love it too.

CRS Rating: 5,500,800,950

My take: Medium to mid-sized ruby-red-indigo. Dried apricots, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, strawberry, carbon monoxide currants and figish datish plumsimmon (cross between plum and persimmon). Lovely, velvety, liquidy mouth feel, with sweet&sour, darkish grey concentrated notes of baked stones, shoelaces, down, iron railings, chewed gum, french vocabulary, paperweight, fruit and vanilla-caramel. Gentile, refined tannins, with a moderate, modern afterthought such as: Did I forget to pay my student loans again this month? Equally impressive bouquet that inspired a new Neil Diamond.

April 24, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Wine Connoisseur and the Wine Connoisseur’s Rating System


In wine there is the Connoisseur.

For the Connoisseur there is the Rating System.

Together they are: the C.R.S. (Connoisseur Rating System)

Manifesto on the C.R.S.

In defining the wine Connoisseur we must identify the Connoisseur’s basic needs:

  • Wine
  • Wine glasses
  • Wine vocabulary

We may now define the Connoisseur. The Connoisseur is a seeker of wine, the end-product of a long labor of liquid love, who is in possession of state-of-the-art drinking stemware and replete with a barrage of descriptive words, ideas, places, and metaphysics often employing a heinous juxtaposition of any and all devices.

In defining the Rating System we must understand these basic principles:

  • Color
  • Fruit
  • Minerality
  • Acidity
  • Alcohol
  • Body
  • Words, words, words

We may now define the Rating System which will be employed herein throughout: The Rating System will henceforth be referred to as the C.R.S. (Connoisseur Rating System). To accurately determine whether a wine will be rated with the CRS system, please look for these words in this order: “CRS Rating.” The CRS Rating system, or CRS Point System, otherwise known as the CRS Wine Buying Criteria, occasionally referred to as the CRS Point System and Rating Guide will employ the use of descriptors and non-descriptors, vocabulary and imperatives, imagery and metaphor with the following numerical point scale:

Wines will be rated, or scored on a scale from -350 to Infinity, where “-350” represents the score of a liquid unfit to be deemed a “wine” or even a “liquid” for that matter. A score of “Infinity” shall represent a wine of outstanding character having scored rather well in all matters of the CRS Rating system.

Descriptors shall be employed with occasional abbreviations, e.g., D.B.O. (Dense Blueberry Overtones) and G.T.T. (Graphically Textured Tannin) as well as H.O.C.F. (Hint Of Carbon Footprint).

Recap of the CRS Rating System:

  • Wines scored from: -350 to Infinity
  • Wines descriptors: Full and Abbreviated words
  • Suggestions for Drinking or Storing: O.K. (Drink Now), N.O.K (Drink Later), X.X.X. (Do Not Drink Ever)

As we continue this journey together, Wine Connoisseur-to-Wine Connoisseur I look forward to drinking, delighting, and helping you choose the wine that is right for you or for someone you may or may not know.

April 20, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echézeaux


It’s official: I’ve purchased my first case of wine! Not all at once, but in two parts. Part one was the Robert Foley wines, which provided an education in caring for glassware (see previous post) and part two arrived just a few days ago and included:

1 bottle of Jayer-Gilles Echezeaux du Dessus Grand Cru-2004
3 bottles of Vini Menhir N° 0 Negroamaro-2006
1 bottle of Woodhouse Darighe-2001
1 bottle of Tenuta di Trinoro le Cupole Toscana Rosso-2005

Damian, the wine director at Cabrini, told me not to drink the Jayer-Gilles until 2014, however I have reasoned out a fabulously reasonable excuse for drinking it now. To all those connoisseurs who feel the necessity to hold onto wine, listen up:

The year 2004 ran its cycle five years ago. This wine is five years old, therefore. Therefore, like a child, a wine of five will act similarly to a child of say 10, 11, or even 12 years of age. The child will not be driving or holding down a job at this stage. The child will certainly begin to ripen at age 10, however at age 5 the child is fairly ripe and saucy. And, you’ll often hear that a wine will “mellow with age” or will “soften with age” and I must ask, is a “mellow, soft” wine truly what the connoisseur is after? While all of this may seem utterly obtuse, and it is, I nevertheless plan to drink the wine and feel I’ve proven my point—whatever point that may or may not be.

[Suddenly, mad, like one who has just drunk of the elixir of truth]

I am nearly ravenous! Therefore a manifesto is in need of manifesting! What is the “wine connoisseur” and how shall he judge his wines?? Let us establish a radical system of rating wine; one we can all understand, all of us, and let us insure all our noses for a million dollars! Onward…

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