By Jonathan Cristaldi

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February 25, 2010 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Fine Wine and a Home Cooked Meal with Cathy Erway

In a room full of winos, Jonny Cigar and nobleman Paul Fawell emerge victorius (Photo By: Laura Huben)

It may be February 25th today, but let me tell you: we had an event last week, on February 16th, and it shocked the wine-world. The reverberations of our event will be felt for the next century, lingering like a wine with an infinite finish, in clandestine circles where handsomely dressed men whisper ideas of wine to beautiful, elegant women, in high heels sipping Sancerre.

Author of the recently published “The Art of Eating In,” Cathy Erway, joined us for an event we dubbed, “Fine Wine and A Home Cooked Meal.” (I really wanted to call it “The Day Your Dachshund Spoke To Me in French,” but this might have caused confusion). Erway’s book is based on her blog “Not Eating Out In New York,” and is an absolute delight, and must-read.

Cathy prepared an array of tasty bites while Damian from Cabrini, along with Ted Wilson, of Noble House Wines, helped us rock a killer set of wines:

  • Noble Rot “Cocktail” Hour served up NV Cavas Hill Oro Brut Reserva ($10)
  • Hearts of palm crostini paired with Florian Mollet 2008 Sancerre*, ($18)
  • French feta, arugula and pomegranate pitzas paired with Rosenere 2008 “Drei Dona” Blanc di Rosenere ($14)
  • Honey soy-braised pork belly and shiitake cabbage rolls paired with Tarrawarra Estate 2004 Pinot Noir ($55)
  • Chocolate-dipped fig pops with ginger paired with Noceto Michelotti 2008 Moscato d’Asti ($19)

Some background on why we chose the pairings: The Cava was bone-dry, like my humor. The hearts of palm are close in taste to asparagus and you need a wine that can match those vegetal notes–Sancere, with its green grassy notes does the trick. The Rosenere was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (which supplied more grassy notes, helping combat the arugula), Chardonnay (some oak to match the cheese) and some Malvasia for shits and giggles. Then there was the pork belly and with that we went with the Australian Pinot Noir, which had the acidic backbone to cut through the pork fat but the fruitiness and snootiness of cherry, plum, and truffle to pair well with the soy, honey, and shiitake. Hot damn! The Moscato, was simply magnificent and the right way to end this pairing extravaganza.

Hey, switching gears: just before writing this blog post, I returned from Sherry-Lehman with three bottles of Grgich Hills 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley and three French wines—can’t wait to uncork ’em.

Also, I was recently privy to this article in the SF Gate: I would urge you to read it, good reader, and be sure to let Ron know to read this blog. Also, tell him his friends are…and put this lightly…out of touch (then add): with Jonny’s blog. Then say: but seriously, they don’t get blogging. Then add: the way Jonny blogs. Give it five minutes and shout: I’m sick of all these individuals who think they can write about wine! Idiots! Morons! Fools! Then add: except for Jonny, because he’s a smart as a five-dollar jig.

Below, please enjoy photos from event. A special thanks to Nick Gray and to Elizabeth Stark for hosting our noble affair at their fantastically spacious apartment in Brooklyn. And if you don’t know Cathy Erway, get to know her buy seeking out “The Art of Eating In.”

Cathy Erway and a room full of Noble Rotters (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Cathy Erway reading from her book “Not Eating Out In New York” with Jonny Cigar looking on with approval (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Stardweller played a stary couple sets (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Noble House Wines (No pun intended) distributor, Ted Wilson (SVP), sampled the pork belly as Damian from Cabrini watched in shock and awe (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Brian Quinn featured in an ad for his upcoming film “Wine Country, Not God’s Country.” (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Pomegranate and Feta and Arugula Wow Wow – Thank you Cathy Erway! (Photo By: Laura Huben)

February 1, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Covenant Winemaker, Jeff Morgan

Update: Jeff Morgan, who is featured below was the subject of a recent New York Times article by Jordan Mackay. Click here to read the article.

Covenant Cab, Red C, Covenant Lavan Chardonnay

The mere sight of a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sends me to a happy place: an imaginary study, me seated in a plush, high-backed leather chair fit for a Senator, surrounded by dark mahogany wood and first edition books from all the greats—only one window, looking out onto a vineyard, a glass of Cab in one hand, a copy of Fitzgerald’s first edition Gatsby in the other. On the subject of magnificent and elegant California Cabernet, The Noble Rot recently hosted winemaker Jeff Morgan, whose Covenant Wines label we had the privilege of tasting, and sharing with around 50 friends, some old, some new at New York Vintners.

Morgan’s three wines we tasted were:

  • Covenant 2007 Cabernet (100% Cab Sauvignon)
  • 2007 Red C (100% Cab Sauvignon)
  • Covenant Lavan 2008 Chardonnay (100% Chardonnay)

Winemaker Jeff Morgan (Covenant Wines) – photo credit: Laura Huben

Back in August of 2009, I met Jeff at the Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, by the pool. I was carrying a book called Noble Rot by William Echikson, and Jeff called out: “How could the author have allowed the publisher to print a picture of a glass of red wine on a book mostly about France’s most celebrated Sauternes?” Needless to say, he was right. And, we got to talking.

Morgan who was carrying two samples of his wine, destined for the palate of David Green, a friend and consultant, delivered them to Mr. Green who was taking in the hot tub at Meadowood (apparently a good place to do business if you’re in the wine industry). Green tasted and the two talked and offered me a taste as well. And what I recall thinking was: if I made a wine this delicious, I’d carry samples around too, destined for myself whenever I wanted it.

I told Jeff about The Noble Rot’s recent Chardonnay event only to discover that David Ramey, who’s Chardonnay we poured and loved, was a good friend of Jeff’s, and Ramey had, in fact, taught Morgan a great deal about winemaking.

Old and New Noble Rotters listen to Jeff Morgan talk wine!

So, I was absolutely thrilled to host Jeff at New York Vintners and we had a terrific crowd. We served up a spread of cheeses, antipasti, bread, cured meats, baba ganoush, and some tasty braised beef prepared by A Razor, A Shiny Knife. Jeff led our guests through a lecture/dialogue dubbed, “Taste Like a Pro.”

The Covenant 2008 Lavan Chardonnay was poured first, as we discussed smelling and tasting wine. Jeff recalled an experience with an experienced Frenchman who, without swirling his wine, plunged his nose – nose first – way into the glass. Surprised, Jeff wondered what good that would do, and the Frenchman explained that the nose is a powerful, capable device and he wanted to see what it detected first without any aeration of the wine. You see, good reader, swirling increases the surface area of the wine making the nose-to-wine ratio that much smaller thus creating more opportunities for your sensory receptors to pick-up on something you hadn’t, perhaps, before. Our sense of smell, Jeff explained, is really an extension of what we taste. So we tasted, and delighted in Morgan’s Burgundian style Chardonnay, balanced between oak and citrus character as well as some tropical fruit notes.

The Red C, Robert M. Parker Jr. points out, is a play on words given that Covenant happens to be a kosher wine (Red C, get it? Look again: Red Sea. Got it?) and according to Parker, the “best on planet Earth.”  Red C is a plush, velvety wine showing dark berries notes and well-integrated oak flavor, a seamless wine, through and through.

Lastly, we sampled the Covenant 2007 Cabernet. The wine is Bordeaux-in-style, and before he could finish explaining what that meant, I was getting rowdy, given my constant desire for attention. I said that the wine tasted to me like all French wine, which I explained, taste like beef chili. “That’s interesting,” said Jeff, playing along. “What other kind of chili is there?” he asked. “Vegetarian Chili,” I shouted, then accused many people in the room of being vegetarians–all in good humor. The Covenant Cab was gorgeous–more refined blackberry character, earth tones and complexity–a wine certainly meant for aging.

Beyond winemaking, Jeff regaled the audience with stories of his many careers: He played the saxophone and was the band-leader for a time at the famed Monte Carlo, then was the West-Coast editor of Wine Spectator and now winemaker and author of several fabulous cookbooks (like The Working Parents Cookbook and The Plumpjack Cookbook).

We are grateful to Jeff and his partner Leslie Rudd, who we hope will join us as well for a future event. This event was really the epitome of what The Noble Rot aims to do:: equip amateur enthusiasts with weapons of mass destruction! No, no, no…wait. That should read: enable our guests to learn how to taste and how to judge a wine by their own standards while having a damn good time doing it. Live music for the evening was provided by Ray Charles. No joke. You’ll just have to ask someone who was there for those details. Please enjoy these tasty photos below and we hope to see you at a Noble Rot event soon.

Definitely visit Jeff’s website:

Brian Quinn and Laura Huben – photo credit: Laura Huben

Spread provided by New York Vintners – photo credit: Laura Huben

Jonny Cigar pours his heart out – photo credit: Brian Quinn

Noble Rotters from left to right: Jonathan, Catherine, Angelina and Brooke – photo credit: Laura Huben

The Noble Rot would like to thank The Daily Candy for listing us in their “What-to-do-This-Weekend” edition! And we also received a little write up on NY Barfly. We are nobly humbled.

January 25, 2010 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Union Square Wines and Their Wine-Tasting Extravaganzas

Jonny with Dan Aykroyd at USQ

This is an old image from 2009 of Mr. Dan Aykroyd and myself, at one of the many wine tastings held weekly at Union Square Wines (USQ) in Union Square, NYC.

At another USQ wine event, Kermit Lynch was on-site with a wide selection of his favorite wines. Lynch himself was full of witty charm and conversation. The man has done for wine what Billy Graham has done for Christianity. His book, “Adventures on the Wine Route” presents a marvelous, insightful journey into the cellars of winemakers across France’s wine regions—a must read for anyone even remotely interested in wine.

At a recent “mega-tasting,” the following wines were offered: Scholium Project, Domaine Ostertag, Robert Foley, and Shelter, as well warming reds from Hestan, Orin Swift, Charles Cimicky, Anthill Farms, Catena, and Di Majo Norante, as well as a few more.

The benefit of attending such an event is simple: try before you buy—and the tastings have been free. I recommend joining the USQ mailing list, and I hope to see you there! More info:

January 15, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Why Wine and Complain?

In fact, faithful wino, opportunity knocked—or rather, it Googled.

No, there is no wine to speak of in this post, however I felt it necessary to add a post titled, “Why Wine and Complain?” for the simple fact that I’ve wanted to for some time. A quick Google search yields thrilling revelations: no one else in the entire Googlesphere has typed these words, in this order, intentionally. If you plug, with quotation marks, exactly as so into Google’s search bar: “Why Wine and Complain,” only one entry appears. See here. The good chap who wrote this blog entry was upset with his family and was nowhere near a bottle or glass of wine. He was looking for a different kind of wine. One that looks like this: whine.

Ya know, it’s funny. A lot of people want to spell my name with an “h” and I try to stop them whenever possible: the laundry mat, the bank, Western Union, the old pool hall, the OTB, the firehouse. Finally, I said to myself, “Johnny, why whine and complain?” And then I said to myself, “Jonny, wy wine and complain?” See wat I mean?

December 17, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): ITALY!

The Noble Rot wine event

Photo by Marcin JM

Zach “the shark” Berntein once said, “Now is the time for a nice Italian Meal.” And he was right.

Recently, The Noble Rot hosted an Italian wine tasting event in Johnny Iuzzini’s Williamsburg loft (the same Iuzzini badass chef).

Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine (currently). But just 25 years ago Italy was making wines to eat, not to drink (look: you can’t believe everything on this blog). Well, either way, we explored Tuscany, Abruzzo, Sicily, and the Veneto. The wines we drank:

  • Masciarelli Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2008
  • Notorius Nero D`Avola 2007
  • Villa Pillo Borgoforte Toscana IGT 2007 (Super Tuscan)
  • Federico Giuntini A Masseti Selvapiana Rsv Bucer 2004 (Chianti Ruffina Riserva)
  • Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2003
  • Musella Amarone Riserva 2005

We talked Sangiovese and how the grape derived its name from the Latin “Sanguis Jovis” or “The Blood of Jove” and by Jove, I think we got it: Sangiovese is used in wines from Chianti (where the blend must be 85% Sangiovese to be considered Chianti), Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Morellino De Scansano, Brunello, Rosso Di Montalcino and in many Super Tuscans.

And we did take some talk breaks to listen to the non-Italian, French-flare-phenominally talented Marni Rice as she played for us a number of original pieces upon the accordion, hurling us back into the streets of early Paris with Parisians hurrying about with half-eaten baguettes.

But let’s talk, good patriot, about the wine itself: I must rate this wine according to the Connoisseur Rating System (CRS) that I devised one-fine-day walking along the California shoreline.

The Masciarelli: I give this wine a CRS Rating of: 4,000,001 | For you see, the Trebbiano grape is a delight and whoever thinks Pinot Grigio is an indigenous Italian grape, ought to have their Pinto Gris shot off. Look for other Italian white-varietal-bottlings such as: Gavi, Caricante, Insolia, Grecanico, and taste Italy the way it was meant to be tasted, a forkfull of Carbonara in one hand and the Italian flag in the other! Stop buying Pinot Grigio because it’s the only grape you can almost pronounce.

The Notorius Nero D’Avola: I give this wine a CRS Rating of: 7,835 | It was fine, ya know?

The Villo Pillo receives a CRS Rating of: two french hens and a partridge in a pair tree + 5,000,000,000 | this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese was nice and reminded me of acceptable conversations between distant yet familiar relatives.

The Selvapiana garners a CRS Rating of: 87,456,500,000,000,325,532,235,111,111,111,901 | Yum land! This tasty Chianti Ruffina Riserva came from vines planted in 1968 (just before the Paris riots!) and it was plush!

Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico receives and honorable CRS Rating of: 10 x 3 million | Here’s the deal: this was an atrocious year (2003), however this producer came out on top. The wine did taste burnt, and I imagined Italians crisping under a hot sun in the thick of July without any suntan lotion in sight and the aroma of Agua Lavanda coursing through the countryside. Nevertheless, it put up a good fight.

The Musella Amarone Riserva takes the cake with a CRS Rating of: 100,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,888,888,777,777,666,666,333,021 | And with good reason. With 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Oseleta Perlar aged three years in oak and one year in the bottle the end result is goodness gracious. This Amarone is not as raisin-y as typical Amarones can be, and I missed that, but it was powerful and fruity, and full bodied with a mid-section like a hippo and legs like an Ostrich. And I cooked up that hippo, lemme tell ya.

All in all, we learned a lot about Italy and everyone was granted honorary citizenship. I have to THANK Marcin JM for his fantastic photographs as he captured a wave of Italian-inspired pride, with pristine images and an eye on the prize (prosciutto?) As a big Italian family, we went and ordered a big Italian Meal: pizza from Fornino. I give the pizza a CRS Rating of: fugazzzzzzi!

Some photos from the event taken by Marcin JM:

The Wines We Done Served

The Wines We Done Served | Photo by Marcin JM

Swirl! | Photo by Marcin JM

Swirl! | Photo by Marcin JM

Italy! | Photo by Marcin JM

Italy! | Photo by Marcin JM

Brian Quinn Truffle Butter Crostini | Photo by Marcin JM

Brian Quinn Truffle Butter Crostini | Photo by Marcin JM

Brian Quinn! | Photo by Marcin JM

Brian Quinn! | Photo by Marcin JM

Jonny Cigar | Photo by Marcin JM

Jonny Cigar | Photo by Marcin JM

Trish and Lucinda | Photo by Marcin JM

Trish and Lucinda | Photo by Marcin JM

Nora | Photo by Marcin JM

Nora | Photo by Marcin JM

Marcy | Photo by Marcin JM

Marcy | Photo by Marcin JM

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