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May 21, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Wines of Brooklyn Winery Winemaker Conor McCormack

This is all you need to know about the winemaker at Williamsburg’s very own Brooklyn Winery:

“Making wine wasn’t on my radar until I saw a craigslist posting for a harvest intern in 2003 while hunting for a job post-college. It was serendipitous, but once I got into it, there was no stopping.”

Left to right: John Stires, Conor McCormack, Brian Leventhal

That quote comes from Conor McCormack’s bio on the Brooklyn Winery website. It’s nearly a verbatim-repeat-quote of what he told a group of about 40 of us this past Thursday, the 17th of May, 2012, just before we got into a four course wine and food pairing of Conor’s latest bottlings.

Prior to making his home here in the east, his wine-country experience is fruitful and spans stints from Napa to Washington State and looks like this: Crushpad SF, Rutherford Hill Winery, Brehm Vineyards, Audubon Cellars, and White Salmon Vineyards. Pretty fabulous places.

Conor’s serendipitous rendezvous with the art of making wine, now into it’s ninth year  and laden with cellar stellar experiences establishing his “vine-street-cred” should impress you – but honestly, stop reading this blasted blog and go to Brooklyn Winery and have a few glasses of his wine. Treat yourself to a marvelous sensory experience. And since you asked my opinion so kindly I’ll give it: try the Pinot NoirAhem. The Carneros Pinot Noir. Think about this: the fruit was picked in Carneros and shipped east, fermented and aged at Brooklyn Winery. When you nose this wine, it is so distinctly Carneros that it should take everything within to remember that after enjoying a glass you are in Brooklyn and have to get on the subway to go home, not in a car to drive north to Napa or south to San Francisco. The simple fact that Conor has been able to maintain the integrity a Pinot that is so distinctly of another place from fruit shipped across the country, fermented in Brooklyn and aged in used barrels, is a testament to his winemaking skill, cleanliness and philosophy.

The Brooklyn Winery has become a hub for amateur and serious wine enthusiasts excited to be near barrels and tanks and to taste wine made on-site. It’s also become a go-to for events – lots of events – especially weddings. Lots of weddings. And lots of weddings means lots of brides. Brides asking, pleading, demanding and suggesting that the space, the physical space (where tanks and barrels and winemaking equipment resides) be arranged and rearranged to fit the perfect vision of their impending marriage. And with weddings comes the wedding train and all its glory and pomp and circumstance a.k.a. a nightmare for a winemaker. I’m not suggesting that BK Winery entertains foolish requests, or that they rearrange the crucial areas where wine is racked and fermented, but when a winery is beholden to events, it is often the winemaker who must make sacrifices – sacrifices in quality control. Whatever Conor’s urban winery fate, he has managed to maintain the quality he knows his wines deserve and as a result is producing wines worthy of some serious attention.

The evening’s food pairings by Executive Chef David Colston looked like this:

Scallop Ceviche with Cantaloupe, Chorizo, Basil and Lemon Verbena. Paired with:

BKW Riesling (two glasses: one aged in stainless steel and one in neutral oak! Yes, neutral oak!)

Spicy Seafood Risotto with Monk Fish, Lobster, Squid and Heirloom Tomatoes. Paired with:

BKW Chardonnay aged in Stainless Steel.

Long Island Duck Breast with Mini Yorkshire Puddings and SPring Vegetables. Paired with:

Paired with BKW Pinot Noir - MY FAV and the one bottle I didn't grab a shot of. That's a glass of it. Aged in 20% French and 80% Neutral Oak.

Cheesecake with New Jersey Strawberries and Rhubarb. Paired with:

BKW Rose of Zinfandel, aged in Stainless Steel.

The good and loyal readers here at Winetology know that I don’t like to give descriptors of wine. (It’s not because I don’t have a certification and am incapable of using good wine descriptors, okay?) I find it to be a foolish thing, since no two noses or palates are the same. And you don’t need me to tell you what kind of Jolly Rancher I get out of the rose either (watermellon). Decide for yourself and imagine that these photos are scratch and sniff (just don’t send me a bill when you ruin your iPad). Or better yet, head to Brooklyn Winery and say to the winetender, “Winetender! Jonny says I want a glass of Conor McCormack’s Pinot Noir!” And when he gives you the Chardonnay, don’t make that face and tell him you don’t drink Chardonnay. Drink it, be surprised, and then order the Pinot.   By then, I’ll be sitting next to you draining my cup dry.

"A Wine & Food Pairing" at the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg.

 

May 17, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Stone The Crows – from Winemaker Thomas R. Brown

       

Let us say that I’m a “friend of the farmer” behind Stone The Crows. And let us say that the “farmer” is a country gentleman who enlisted the Food & Wine magazine 2010 Winemaker of the Year, Mr. Thomas Rivers Brown to make this new Napa Valley boutique production Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thomas studied under Ehren Jordan (winemaker at Turley and Failla) and who by all accounts from Hardy Wallace, is a bonafide genius maker of fermented juice.

They key is pedigree. And then there’s this:

Three Twins Vineyard (photo courtesy of Stone The Crows website).

Tell me what kind of grapes wouldn’t be happy growing here? The Three Twins vineyard comprises five acres of vines planted on fairly steep hillsides way up Conn Valley road in St. Helena, CA. Underneath the cloud cover in the distance is Lake Hennessey, first cousin to Lake Berryessa. From these vines, comes forth a plush, elegant Napa valley Cabernet that over-delivers.

2009 Stone The Crows (Napa Valley)

Recently, I took the liberty of bringing along a bottle to a blind tasting that included some notable and well-established NYC noses (aka sommeliers). Here is a smattering of what the group thought:

  • Wine is 4-7 years old
  • Surprised by smooth, plush tannin
  • Bright cherry aromas
  • Surely an Old World wine

Et Voila! I revealed the wine and with the 2009 vintage clocking in at a mere 35 cases, as indicated on the bottle, excitement was had by all, especially in discovering that the wine was a young Napa Cab grown from vines neighboring a heavy-hitter like Continuum.

Stefan Blicker of BPwine.com and Wine Berserkers was equally impressed and you can read his review here.

225 cases will be made from the 2010 vintage and production is expected to reach a mere 500-600 cases in 2012. That being said, now is the time to find yourself on the list, especially if you’ve left your heart just north of San Francisco where some of the world’s most surprising, delightful and elegant boutique production wines are coming into fruition. And as the Three Twins Vineyard matures, this wine will grow in complexity – there’s already a good balance of minerality and fruit – it’s a feel-good wine that should accompany you out to dinner where corkage is reasonable and think: spectacular views, balcony-sipping, the feeling you have when you’ve just come from a round of croquet or decided to take Friday off (again). Yes, you just might do that – don’t forget your corkscrew. And don’t forget to visit the website and sign up on the list before it’s too late (retail price is TBA): www.stonethecrowswine.com.

Twas indeed a blind tasting

 

May 8, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Edible Manhattan and Brooklyn present UNCORKED (at BAM)

Hands down, thumbs up for the best wine event in New York City: Edible Uncorked 2012.

Check out this time-lapse shot of the entire event by Max Flatow Photography:

I was there pouring for Millbrook Winery & Vineyards and can safely say that Millbrook’s New York State and Hudson Valley Region Chardonnay consistently impressed the fine guests that tasted them. Many an amateur connoisseur approached me asking what I was pouring. When I said “Chardonnay” their faces contorted. It was at that very moment, that I grabbed their glass and forced demanded suggested that they try it. Heck, even smell it – and dump it out if it still “freaks you out.”

Well, the result time and time again was, “Oh… that ain’t bad! In fact, I kinda like it.” Yes, Mr and Mrs wine drinker! Yes – you like it! Chardonnay! Made in a Burgundian style with wood tannin nicely integrated into an absolutely aromatic and plush white wine from the Hudson Valley, a mere 90 minutes north of New York City.

“There you have it!” I would shout and point toward the heavens! And as people looked up, I would steal a sip myself from the bottle from my own glass.

This is a video I produced from last year’s festival – it was intended to get people in a wine mood!

May 4, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

#LanguedocDay 2012 with The Noble Rot

#LanguedocDay 2012 in NYC

Thursday, May 3, 2012 marked #LanguedocDay. We celebrated by exploring several different Languedoc wines (pictured below) and geeking out on the Languedoc region thanks to Approach Guides Wine app. In the house was David and Jennifer Raezer who created the app – so we had a great time chatting and sipping it up with them. On the left coast Rick Bakas and Forkly app were tearing it up at 1313 Main, a winebar in downtown Napa. From coast to coast we produced a lot of tweets, instragrams, pinterest and facebook posts. Thanks to these fabulous tweeters who socialized the night away:

@leitihsu @studiofeast @agwine @forgetburgundy @youcanteatbread @SuzieKukic @stunwin @deannadong @noraleah @ruleslawyer @RickBakas @WholeFoods @Forkly

@1313Main: “World Headquarters” for #LanguedocDay yesterday: 102,000,000 impressions.

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April 25, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Re-imaging the last meal aboard the R.M.S. Titanic

Dine Titanic. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

About 10 weeks ago, Chef Rob McCue (Hell’s Kitchen, Fox) and Chef Adam C. Banks (Roble & Co., Bravo TV) summoned me to John Allan’s, a gentleman’s den nestled amidst the towering cathedrals of midtown Manhattan.

There was a pool table, a comfy leather couch and far too many amber elixirs (neat) to go around the room. I hadn’t seen Chef McCue since this collaboration from September 2011. McCue introduced me to Chef Banks and spoke of an epic culinary adventure, that could potentially use my creative stamp. The centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was to be April 14th of this very year, 2012. To commemorate the night, he and Baks were planning to serve the very same meal those fateful first-class diners enjoyed before the inevitable demise of her majesty Titanic.

Interesting, I thought. But, why? What would be the purpose of re-creating a meal where the dishes themselves are by today’s standards, mildly interesting? What would the great people of this upstanding nation think, or how would they respond to a group of rogue culinary masterminds plotting to dish up the Titanic’s last meal? (I heard the voice of Jeff Morgan, a good winemaker friend whom I’ve turned to for advice in recent months, ask, “Was it Kosher?”)

The answer came to me after those burning amber waves of grain slowed my mental process down to the tune of a noble cause: Yes. Yes, we can I thought! Yes, we can recreate the last meal served aboard the Titanic, if… if…if and only if we dedicated ourselves to a far greater cause: to re-imagine the last meal as if it might have been served “today.

Let us imagine that the R.M.S. Titanic had passed the iceberg and sailed into New York; if she were still out roaming the seas today, carting passengers to and from the coasts of the world. We would pay homage to the Titanic by focusing on the jubilant moments during that final meal, before the threat of danger was prevalent and when nothing by exuberance and ecstasy filled the hearts of the souls aboard the ship. To be aboard the Titanic, meant to be sailing upon a vessel the entire world was curious about – a veritable Ark, that sadly betrayed its passengers. However, by tapping into the energy and excitement that surely permeated her walls during these exultant moments, we would memorialize the passengers and crew in uplifting fashion.

The menu, it was decided, would be composed of the very ingredients and components from the original First Class menu (copies survived in pockets of a few who escaped). Our twenty-first century version would condense 11 courses to 7, and elevate the cuisine to modern standards of culinary deliverance. The next eight weeks would prove to be a Titanic undertaking, indeed.

In my mind, the beginning of this journey was marked by what I believed to be the most important questions to ask: What wines will we serve – and why? No record exists of the wines that were paired with the many meals served. There are accounts from The White Star Line’s distributors of what had been purchased and what was on board: mainly French, Italian, German and Portuguese wines. Enter: the Galloni’s. That’s right, Antonio Galloni.

On our behalf, they reached out to a distributor whose wines fit the bill of what we were hoping to accomplish with respect to pairings. I’m incredibly thankful to the Galloni’s for having made an important introduction, and from there we began to assemble our wines. To help complete that task, enter: Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan.

The stunning, lovely, brilliant, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine (and lover of cocktails).

Jennifer is truly Master of the House (I’m singing Les Mis in my head) and her enthusiasm and support turned an evening of impressive wine pairings into an evening of brilliantly planned and thought-out pairings. Her goal was to help source wines from brands that existed in 1912 or before. Trying to source actual wines from 1912, and enough to pair each course for 80+ diners, was well out of our budgetary means and frankly unrealistic (we were this close (   ) to landing that $250,000 sponsorship from NASA – alas, another time). Jennifer’s approach made sense, and all our combined efforts produced this fabulous list of wines/courses:

First Course
Oysters a la Russe
Local Long Island Oysters, Tomato, Vodka, Horseradish
2009 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse (First Class)
2008 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse Les Menetrieres. (VIPs)

Second Course
Consomme Olga
“Vesiga,” Celeriac Root, Vegetable Garni
2006 Alvear Fino (First & VIP Class)

Third Course
Butter Poached Wild Salmon
Cucumber, Mousseline Sauce, Salmon Skin
2010 Dopff & Irion (First & VIP Class)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignon Lili
Potatoes Anna, Artichoke, Foie Gras, Black Truffle
2007 Chateau Manon La Lagune. (First Class)
2005 Chateau Millon Saint Emilion Grand Cru (VIPs)

Fifth Course
Punch Romaine
Ginger Oil, Rum, Champagne, Frothed Egg White

Sixth Course
Squab & Watercress
Asparagus, Squab Reduction
2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune (First Class)
2009 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin (VIPs)

Dessert Course
Mock Waldorf Pudding, Suspended Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Eclairs
Taylor Fladgate 10 year old tawny (First Class)
Taylor Fladgate 40 year old Tawny (VIPs)

***

Louis XIII de Remy Martin (VIP Class only)

Louis XIII de Remy Martin. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

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And what is stellar wine without a stellar wine-pouring team? I assembled a group of some of New York’s finest Somms and impresarios, who together bedazzled our guests with their wine-speak and exemplary service. They shall be named:

Morgan Harris, Sommelier Captain
Tanner Walle, Sommelier
Katarina Maloney, Sommelier
Leiti Hsu, Sommelier
Ramon Del Monte, Sommelier

Mayur Subbarao (Bittermens, EVOE)

Tanner Walle, Morgan Harris, Leiti Hsu. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Look at Katarina Maloney pour! Absolutely stunning! MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Ramon Del Monte (far right) pouring Laurent-Perrier. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Mayur Subbarao. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Without the support of these upstanding libationists, I would not have been able to focus on my most important and immediate task at hand: to prevent the Titanic from sinking.

In his book, From Time to Time, author Jack Finney reveals the story of a government agency dubbed, The Project, in which Einstein’s theories of time, space and travel are employed to transport members of The Project back in time. The Project’s process of transporting a person back in time is rooted in deep mediation practices, imagery and the presence of a “gateway,” a place that exists in the present and in the past. Some examples are the Statue of Liberty, The Dakota, certain areas of Central Park, etc. For one to be successful in traveling back to another time, one must be present in one of these gateways and in practice, settle into a state of mental deceleration. That is: to let the present move ahead and let the past catch up. Through self-hypnosis and meditation, one has the ability to latch onto “threads” of the past, according to Finney, and connect to and exist in another time.

The evening of April 14, 2012 – the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic – presented a gateway and the potential to change history in a serious way – I set out to do just that. To help in my righteous quest, to assist me in dreaming the impossible dream, was the Captain of the R.M.S. Titanic and the Jotta Girl, a character from Finney’s book:

Abe Danz, Captain RMS Titanic, Caitlin Bebb aka the Jotta Girl. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

Jonny warning the Jotta Girl not to interfere with his plans to warn the captain of the ice bergs. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

In the words of Neil Diamond, “I’ve got an emptiness deep inside and I tried: but it won’t let me go.” And so, to help me “let go,” came the generous support of one of my best, best friends in the world: an amber wave of grain, a mountainous glass of majesty, the color of a California sunset, a libation that has been in existence since the 1800s, well-sipped over the evening to help settle me in under the influence of a decelerated state of mind, ole faithful: Glenmorangie.

Can you feel that 1912 in the air?!?!?! I felt it. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

Finally, underscoring the evening – the journey that is – was perhaps the finest addition to the entire Dine Titanic fete: Chrome Canyon featuring  Icky Doom of Shad[]wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello). The account of the musicians playing as the ship sank is essentially common knowledge – and the moment is memorialized in James Cameron’s leviathan of a movie. Instead of a string trio or quartet, eerie sounds, ethereal sounds, sampled air, ocean and bits of “Nearer My God To Thee” were sampled into hypnotic, persistent, dark undercurrents of depth-inducing sounds. They looked like this:

wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello).  MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO”]

Chrome Canyon. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

And with that, good reader, good wino, good foodist, good friends, I leave you to a short documentary of my experience and a rhetorical question: what do you recall about the Titanic? Is it possible that some of you now have a memory of her docking in New York City in 1912?

For links to Press and more photos visit: DineTitanic.com

Wine Evangelist Jonathan Cristaldi (Jonny Cigar), Chef Rob McCue, Chef Adam C. Banks. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

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