By Jonathan Cristaldi

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December 8, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Wine Library vs. Winetology


Good Wine-Samaritans, a letter to you on the fundamental differences between Winetology and Wine Library.

By now, you surely know about Mr. Vaynerchuck of Wine Library. Gary Vee is by all accounts, and there are many, good at what he does. What he does: he spreads the word about wine in his own wine-iscious way through his distinct personality That personality is aptly described by The New Oxford American Dictionary as: “showing or giving emphasis; expressing something forcibly and clearly.” This definition refers to the word emphatic. Mr. Vaynerchuk is emphatic in regards to wine.

Jonny Cigar, of Winetology, is more “showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.” In other words, wholehearted. Not only is Mr. Cigar, myself, wholehearted, he is “characterized by quick and inventive verbal humor,” or witty, and not only witty, but also, emphatically witty, or rather, confident and paramount in his humor, or rather precise and smart, simply put, brilliant. In other words, different? Sure. Now, good reader, I am humbled by your faithfulness to read the written word, the word of Jonny Cigar, here under the wine meanderings of Jonny Cigar. For it is here that you will learn to be your own judge, to trust your own palate, through the inquiries you make, at your own pace, without anyone punching you in the teeth with numbers or with ideas of what you ought to drink. Still, would I write about something you oughtn’t drink? Sure I would, because you deserve it.

Wine Regards,

Jonny Cigar

November 3, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Whisk&Ladle | Kammerspiel! | Or How I Learned To Love My Norwood

So, there was the month of October and it looked like this: (Insert photo of Christmas Tree). In fact, it looked nothing like that. But I can tell you for sure, Honest Reader, that I was busy with a good case of the fancy. Look, and in brief, enjoy:

I was head Sommelier for two events with the first round of wine-uh-mu-jigging for A Razor, A Shiny Knife’s fancy-dancy $325-per-person dinner at the super secret club (on 14th street and 8th avenue in an unsuspecting Brownstone) called Norwood. My good ‘n’ sour friend Markum Losingerum talked about me in this posting on his Wallace Steven’s insipid inspired blog. Below is a photo of the dining room at Norwood.



Later I joined Mark for an unforgettable evening in partnership with the Hapa Kitchen. As you can see by the happy people in the pictograph below, the evening was, as I said already, unforgettable, in every way. I poured wine and told people how to behave and how to have a good time. They listened and as a result I was asked to appear on Good Morning America, which is an absolute and predictable lie. Look at this fancy posting: here.

Photo by Cathy Erway of Hapa Kitchen. I poured these people wine all night long!

Photo by Cathy Erway of Hapa Kitchen. I poured these people wine all night long!

Please be seated. I’m about to explain KAMMERSPIEL!

This was a show that I performed on Friday, October 30th at Dixon Place in New York City. It was an amalgamation of theatrical spectacles, devices, ideas and themes that I have observed and scoffed at for quite some time. “Kammerspiel” was a German Theatrical movement of the early 1900s known for its minimalistic presentations. A bare stage, a couple characters. I borrowed that structure, and warped the wood-knots out of it and turned it into a show about Jonny Cigar and his love of Whisky. The subtitle was “(A parenthetical drama for the American Alcoholic).” There was no story, only glasses-half-full of life as seen through Jonny Cigar’s drooping eyes. Look: I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here on out.

Yes, my show was Sold Out and I've never had a review or given a thought to any press or anything like that. Eat your heart out all you theatrical gobble-dee-gooks.

Yes, my show was Sold Out and I’ve never had a review or given a thought to any press or anything like that. Eat your heart out all you theatrical gobble-dee-gooks.

Max Oglesbee at the piano - Max created original compositions and underscore for the entire show. He did an amazing job helping to set the tone: drunk.

Max Oglesbee at the piano – Max created original compositions and underscore for the entire show. He did an amazing job helping to set the tone: drunk.

Natalie Kim played the part of several different parts. Here, she slipped Jonny a powerfully theatrical rufie.

Natalie Kim played the part of several different parts. Here, she slipped Jonny a powerfully theatrical rufie.



We performed my own rendition of an excerpt from A Streetcar Named Desire. Tennessee Williams ate his heart out, baby.

We performed my own rendition of an excerpt from A Streetcar Named Desire. Tennessee Williams ate his heart out, baby.

Tiger, tiger!

Tiger, tiger!

Abraham Danz thought it was wrong of me to choke Natalie to death. He probably didn't realize it was only fake choking.

Abraham Danz thought it was wrong of me to choke Natalie to death. He probably didn’t realize it was only fake choking.

Part Deux

Part Deux

Ariane Mnouchkine eat your French Heart out! Part Deux was a lengthy Monologue inspired by an actor friend of mine named Jim. I was pushed around the stage while I stood still delivering words with golden hues...

Ariane Mnouchkine eat your French Heart out! Part Deux was a lengthy Monologue inspired by an actor friend of mine named Jim. I was pushed around the stage while I stood still delivering words with golden hues…

My kingdom for a fan.

My kingdom for a fan.

I better see you there next time...

I better see you there next time…

The bubbly in the pictographs was brought to us from our good friend Damian at Cabrini Wines. All photos courtesy of Brian Quinn.

October 5, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Harvest Party

We reaped a Harvest, indeed.

Photo by Brian Quinn (of The Noble Rot)

Photo by Brian Quinn.

At 2pm EST there was a 20 percent chance of rain predicted, and in NYC 20 percent typically means: I doubt it. Right around 3pm EST, torrential down-pours engulfed the five borrows. By 6pm it was sunny, again. However, we had already made the call to switch locations from an impeccable rooftop in DUMBO, to a secret loft location in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

And we celebrated Harvest like it was 1999. For you see, good wine-reader, the Napa Valley is in the throes of Harvesting their grapey cash-crops. In honor and celebration of their work, we drank excellent examples of California wine from fairly recent vintages. The lineup looked like this:

  • 2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc
  • 2006 Calera Pinot Noir (Central Coast)
  • 2005 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2007 Robert Foley Charbono
  • 2004 Girard Winery “Artistry” Bordeaux Blend

Grapes were strung about the loft and were to be harvested, however the good host, myself, Jonny Cigar, was indulging in the tasting with perhaps more gusto than was necessary, and hence was in no shape to harvest the lot (read: not enough spitting, too much sipping and it would have been a bad idea. Therescore, and unfortunately, my Dumbo Cuvee crop was lost and I’ll have to wait until next year to bottle. Good mannered Noble Rot counter-part Brian Quinn kept the evening in order, but also had his fill.

Playing fantastic blue-grassy inspired music throughout the eve were the Wylie Toms pictured below: Owen (Piano/Banjo/Vocals), Adam (Saxophone/Clarinet), Evan (Guitar/Singing) and Carly (Singing):

The Wylie Toms

The Wylie Toms (

Being harvest time (and coincidentally the Korean Thanksgiving) we provided the most-ever-delectable sandwiches: Seasoned turkey betwixt baguettes from Blue Ribbon Bakery smothered in a butternut-and-orange-rind squash puree, replete with caramelized shallots reduced in a scrumptious red-wine reduction (by Danielle Florio of The Whisk & Ladle Supper Club – check out her blog: saucylittledish) and the tastiest mouth-watering Chocolate-Pumpkin Brownies, and Mexican Wedding Cookies by Amanda Wells of SweetWells.

So look, okay, the evening was great. I presented a Harvest Play, with Brian Quinn playing the role of President Nixon (relevant to the Schramsberg story) and I played myself. People ate turkey and brownies and cookies and drank some power-house California wines… so let’s talk about the wines. Our good friend, Jesse Salazar, of Union Square Wines consulted with me on the wines to serve.

The Schramsberg was my favorite. I rate wines through my Connoisseur Rating System (CRS) from -350 to Infiinity. The 2005 vintage produces delicate bubbles prompting me to consider a new bubble-bath formula that effervesces and makes you feel tipsy after your bath. CRS Rating: 18,456,777,444,444,345,543,123,321,678,000.

The Calera was the crowd-pleaser. The winemaker, Josh Jensen, worked at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, among other impressive places in and around Burgundy and had found some limestone in the Central Coast—which is where the Pinot grapes that produced this wine are grown within. CRS Rating: A bunch of 9’s strung together.

Mighty Rombauer was mighty tannic, and we all agreed this wine would be amazing in five more years. Lots of fruit like: Pumpkin and Rosemary, Shallots and Butternut Squash, Powdered sugar, and—–wait—-that was my mouthful of turkey, brownie and cookie. Let’s call it a blend CRS Rating: Five 10 Millions.

Monsieur Foley. His wines exude these chocolate and dark black cherry aromas and flavors, and one hopes it will never end. In fact, I still detect hints of it in the recesses of my mouth—talk about a finish, it’s still going days later. CRS Rating: Honorary Infinity (Because I like the label so much).

And then… this “little” bottle of delightfulness:

2004 Girard "Artistry" - signed by the winemaker

2004 Girard “Artistry” – signed by winemaker Marco DiGiulio

This three-liter Jeroboam (double-magnum) was the highlight of the night. Very exciting pour action, as I demanded everyone line up and come to me for a taste rather than my going to them as had been the case throughout the evening.

When everyone in the room had the Girard elixir in their glass we practiced our final Kevin Zraly inspired “60 Second Wine Expert” experience: First, sip the wine, swallow to remove any other tastes. Then smell the wine three times. Then, take a good mouthful and swirl around for 3-5 seconds, swallow and think about the wine for 60 seconds. “Shut up!” I exclaimed, “Think about what you’re experiencing.”

And surely we were all experiencing a spicy, fruity, elegantly smooth Bordeaux blend that did indeed take us out with a bang. The wine changed in the glass after some time, opened up to reveal a plethora of flavors. I had visited Girard’s tasting room in Yountville back in early September and the wonderful Erin Luby, who runs ship at the tasting room, worked with me on selecting a big bottle that would certainly make a show for this event. Luckily, the day she shipped the wine, winemaker Marco DiGiulio was present and signed the bottle. Opening a bottle that size was a first for most everyone in the room. It’s the final bout of rapid-fire fireworks at the end of every skylit fireworks celebration, and helped end our Harvest Party with enough of its nectar to go around the room a couple times.

We at the Noble Rot wish we could be in Napa harvesting alongside the men and women who make this country grape. The evening can be summed up by resident Whisk & Ladle bartender, Nick Bennett, who said: “Dude, I’m telling my mom about this.” And I hope he does. I hope everyone tells their mom about the Noble Rot, because we don’t fool around. You like to fool around? Call us and we’ll tell you all about how we don’t fool around. In fact, we don’t fool around so much that we pretty much only fool around. The Noble Rot. It’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone about this, except for your moms and your friends and everyone you may or may not know.

Fun links:

Host - Jonny Cigar

Host – Jonny Cigar

Danielle and a few remaining Turkey's......

Danielle and a few remaining Turkey’s……

Christine, Amanda Wells (SweetWells), Paul

Christine, Amanda Wells (SweetWells), Paul

September 28, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Ma(i)sonry, Pride Mountain, Cheers! St. Helena

We begin this post with a Wine Poem:


I dreamed of a man standing

In the hallway with a corkscrew

Who was going to open up all the wine

I don’t own and I begged him not to do it

but he didn’t listen and then there was grape juice

all over the kitchen floor and all I could hear was the sound

the WinedOWirl makes — guttural and gurgling.

That was interesting, huh? Now we move on to bigger and better things that look like vineyards, stone buildings, and parties—-feast your eyes on this photo below!


Jonny C & Thys-Jan Tepper at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville, CA

This from Ma(i)sonry’s website:

Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley offers a unique lifestyle experience in wine country. Originally built in 1904 as a private residence, the manor is one of three stone buildings in Yountville, and one of only two listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The setting is reminiscent of a home or a private club, framing a highly edited collection of furnishings and artwork. The furnishings, ranging from 16th century to mid-twentieth century, are paired with contemporary works crafted by today’s top designers. The collections of art on display include Napa Valley favorites, the best in the Bay Area as well as some of the most respected names worldwide, all of which will be available for purchase.

I can vouch for this – I was made to feel like a Lord of the manor, and so will you, should this mark a stop along your Napa Valley tour.

I first learned of Ma(i)sonry one eve, dining at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, CA, just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. Moved to the bar, awaiting our table, Amanda and I struck up conversation with a lovely couple, Thys-Jan, or “Tie,” and Erin. Tie was just starting at Ma(i)sonry and we had a great time chatting about the new venture and how much he and Erin love living in Napa.

Interestingly, that night at Cavallo Point, we had ordered a Robert Foley 2005 Merlot off the list, but the Sommelier had just sold the last bottle. He assured is however that there was another wine that would satisfy our palates. The label, when presented, showed a simple, elegant white backdrop with a flock of birds swooping up and off into the green glass of the bottle, and with that, we were introduced to Blackbird.


Luscious. Smooth. Divinely fruity. Smelled like a stack of a billion dollar bills and was the color of every perfectly cooked steak from here to around the world and back again. I wanted to guzzle it, and did, and made Amanda drive home.

At the time Ma(i)sonry was just getting off the ground and apart from their antique art items, they were setting themselves up as a tasting haven and had one proprietary wine, which just happened to be Blackbird! A prescient warning of good things to come? How could it be that of all the wines in all the world (at least all of all the wines on Cavallo’s wine list), we were served the very wine that is practically unavailable outside of Ma(i)sonry? The very new establishment where Tie would be wielding antique swords and skulls from the Ma(i)sonry manor in Yountville?

Ma(i)sonry is a playground of potential purchases. Everything is for sale—from the chairs to the tables where you sit to taste wine to the wine as well. And believe me, one glass of Blackbird merlot and you’ll think you’re Edgar Allen Poe (and luckily there is a bust of the man for sale).

The wine offerings at Ma(i)sonry currently include: The Brown Estate, Husic Vineyards, Lail Vineyards, Pedras Wine Company, Renteria Wines, and Tor Kenwood Family Wines. Tasting flights are $35 per person.

I would highly recommend a visit and then a casual stroll down the street to the French Laundry Garden where you can, when no one is watching, pick some herbs, and imagine how much you would have spent on the very green in your hand had you dined inside the little stone temple that is French and is full of French (Culinary) Laundry.


I’d promised I’d speak of Pride Mountain Vineyards as well and Cheers! St. Helena, and I will in brief: Pride was fantastic and my hero wine-maker Robert Foley reigned supreme leader of Pride for a long time. The land straddles the Sonoma and Napa county line and I learned that wine produced from grapes growing on one side of the county line is taxed differently than wine coming from grapes grown on the other. Beyond that, I’m convinced that a scene from Bottle Shock was filmed on location there.

Cheers! St. Helena is a wild event that happens the first Friday of every month in the town of St. Helena. They close off the streets and bands show up and nearly 75 wineries pour their wines to consumers who have purchased passes.

Pride Mountain Tasting Room - Wines on Display

Pride Mountain Tasting Room – Wines on Display

Pide's Caves - rows upon rows of silver-dollar winecakes!

Pride’s Caves – rows upon rows of silver-dollar winecakes!

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

Gawking Upon A Rooftop | Bowery Mission Benefit | The Noble Rot

It was on a Thursday evening past–September 17th–upon the Gawker Media rooftop, that we, the noble rot, partnered with The Bowery Mission’s Young Philanthropists to host a benefit party for the Mission.

Gawker Media Rooftop

Gawker Media Rooftop

Gawker Media Rooftop

Gawker Media Rooftop

Joel Beaver's LES Hot Club

Joel Beaver’s LES Hot Club

What happened? I’ll tell you what happened: We raised a handsome some of dough, indulged in pizza, hot dogs, waffles, and of course–wine. Red wine, white wine, wine wine and wine. There was swing jazz music all day and all night provided by Joel Beaver’s LES Hot Club inclusive of a young prodigy on the violin, one Jonathan Russell. We extended a sincere thanks to Stacey Stecko of the Mission and our old friend Damian from Cabrini for organizing the winelikes of winewonders. Ramon Del Monte, from Tempranillo, was on hand as well, pouring and educating guests on the delights of Rioja.

Unlike our proprietary events, I was not hosting, but rather Mr. James Macklin, spokesperson for the Bowery Mission, presented a short video that told his story of how the Bowery changed his life, and continues to help those in need–those forced to live on the streets. As the evening progressed, I regaled guests with rapturous tales from a recent trip to Napa Valley. I talked of time well-spent mining for gold and how if you save enough sediment from enough wine over the years, it would be possible to sift out flakes of gold and eventually put together a full “bar du gold” worth at least one bavillion dollars. Yes, I said bavillion (it happened).

“Look at the bright side,” said the Tempranillo grape to the Cabernet grape.

“I only walk on the sunny side of the street,” said the Cabernet grape.

Below are links to all parties involved:

Bowery Mission Young Philanthropists

LES Hot Club


Those wild Gawker kids

Brian Quinn, secret underground wine club (the noble rot) | James Macklin of the Bower Mission

Jonny Cigar | the noble rot (shhh) and James Macklin

Of Wine and Donations

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