By Jonathan Cristaldi

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September 8, 2009 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

1982 Veuve Clicquot, 1978 Chateau Lafit-Rothschild, 1982 Mouton-Rothschild and a Wedding in the Last Reel

Let’s begin with some fancy photos and go from there.

1982 Veuve Clicquot, 1978 Chateau Lafit-Rothschild, 1982 Mouton-Rothschild (A happy family)

1982 Veuve Clicquot, 1978 Chateau Lafit-Rothschild, 1982 Mouton-Rothschild (A happy family)

1982 Veuve Clicquot

1982 Veuve Clicquot

1978 Lafite-Rothschild

1978 Lafite-Rothschild (Franzia = 6.6 bottles)

1982 Mouton Rothschild: Artist John Huston

1982 Mouton Rothschild: Artist John Huston | His watercolour for the Mouton Rothschild 1982 label is one of the last pictures he ever painted. Sensual, graceful, using deep, warm colours, it returns in representational style to the symbolic theme of the Ram, leaping in dionysiac joy, accompanied by its inseparable companions, the sun and the vine.

These three bottles were drank and loved, and loved again, and fondly thought of now, and will be thought of for time and time to come by a small group of terrific people.

The two 1982’s were enjoyed over one of the best dinners of my life at Gary Danko with Amanda, my fiancee (at the time), and Liz, her mother (now my mother-in-law!). Liz was saving these wines for a very special occasion and my marrying her daughter, fit the bill.

The 1982 Veuve Clicquot tasted of toasted hazelnuts and rich caramel and the bubbles were tiny, elegant, and continued to effervesce throughout all two hours of dinner. The 1982 Mouton Rothschild (artwork by John Huston) took a little while to open, and when it did, wow: “Old leather couch!” shouted Amanda, prompting me to wonder when she had tasted such a thing! and “Dark rich cherries so dark you can’t even see them in the whitest light,” I chimed in, gleeful. On my Connoisseur Rating System from -350 to Infinity, these wines easily earn: Infinity.

The 1982 vintage was one of the all-time best for Bordeaux (incidentally, a prediction by Robert M. Parker Jr., which leant immediate credibility to his Wine Advocate).

1978 Lafite-Rothschild. This Franzia (6.6 Bottles), was opened two days before the wedding at a golf club called Mayacama in Healdsburg, CA. Amanda’s father bought the bottle in 1990, saving it for her wedding day. When the head sommelier of Mayacama was opening the wine, I noticed he had a white napkin catching any dripping Premier Cru as they poured it into glasses. I joked that I wanted them to squeeze that napkin into my mouth when they finished, but this was no joking matter, and I was encouraged to return to my seat. I drank three glasses of the fine and feathered nectar, which tasted extraordinarily smooth and changed over the course of a couple hours before sadly flat-lining. Amanda’s dad felt it was fairly over the hill. My CRS Rating, based largely on the occasion moves this wine close to infinity, but just short a by a few digits: 99,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,998,999,999, 999,999,999,888,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,997.

Then, there was our wedding.

Vintner's Lawn - Meadowood

Vintner’s Lawn – Meadowood

Above is the picturesque site whereupon Amanda and I exchanged vows. The setting was unforgettable in every way—with beautiful weather, the best people in the world, a ceremony simple and elegant, and and extraordinary dinner with glasses toasting non-stop, full of either Cakebread 2008 Sauvignon Blanc or Duckhorn 2005 Merlot.

We spent the next week in Napa, visiting vineyards in the afternoon, and dining at many splendid restaurants in the evenings. The day after the wedding, post-brunch, when guests had all but gone back to their respective homes, I noticed a lot of sediment in the empty bottle of the 1978 Lafite-Rothschild. There was enough grape-matter to fill a rocks glass, and you can bet I thought of drinking it. Instead, I found an empty spot of dirt outside and carefully poured the mythical premier cru remnants into it, with fingers crossed that next year when I revisit the spot, my very own premier cru vines will have sprung forth and before long, I too will be bottling my own Lafite-Rothschild noble decadence. First vintage expected: 2012.

Update 2014: no vines yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

August 12, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Chardonnay $#!@ Storm


It was indeed, a noble rot this Tuesday last in the year of this the two-thousands and some nine. Chardonnay with its golden hew and hubris never humbled by my loud and incessant whaling, and I don’t mean Moby D! It was joyously a $#!@ storm. Listen: We tasted six different Chardonnays:

  1. Parigot & Ruchard NV Blanc de Blancs | Sparkling | CRS Rating: 6,788,450,320
  2. Shoofly 2007 Chardonnay ‘Chook Raffle’ | Steel aged new world | CRS Rating: 9,567,450
  3. Gilbert Picq 2008 Chablis | Simple French | CRS Rating: 734
  4. Boccata 2007 Chardonnay | American dry | CRS Rating: -13
  5. David Ramey 2006 Chardonnay ‘Hyde Vineyard’ | American refined | CRS Rating: 10,345,657,112,390,476
  6. Mar Colin 2005 Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Encignieres’ | French refined CRS Rating: 89,994,936,945,900,995,333,234,009,002,884

Jesse Warner-Levine of New York Vintners poured with a mighty vibrato while arousing total enthusiasm for the wines served, and offered subtle but subjective insight into selecting wines “on your own.” I read the Great Gatsby start to finish and gave a lesson in blending wine. I found an open bottle of red under a kitchen sink and with the Chablis of the evening, blended in a marvelously stainless steel blender, my own Grand Cru. No one but Jesse would try it with me, and we both found the nose to be moldy and unsanitary while I found some fresh cut grass.

I am a firm believer that most who, until last evening shunned Chardonnay, now are willing to embrace its succulent, sometimes subtle sometimes boisterous bouquet of caramels, hazelnuts, asparagus, fresh churned butter, and all the colors under the rainbow. The delights of the evening were the Parigot, the Ramey, and the Encignieres. I however preferred the flask of whisky, tucked casually into my inside jacket pocket.

We did falter however in not discussing Malolactic Fermentation, and that is Brian Quinn’s fault, I’m sure.

Malolactic fermentation tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel. It has been said that malic acid tastes of green apples – indeed, malic comes from the Latin word for apple (mālum) and is present in apple juice – and this can be tasted in the wine. By contrast, lactic acid is richer, even unctuous, and more buttery tasting – corresponding to its presence in milk, as reflected in the word lactic being derived from the Latin word for milk (lac), and it is present in sour milk. To read more about MF, check out the Wikipedia Entry cuz it’s not half bad, but don’t trust everything Mr. Wiki tells you.

Blues/alt-country singer/guitarist, Osei Essed & Will Orzo of THE WOES jammed the winos into stringy accordianopic heaven.

Please enjoy these tasty pictures below where you’ll see the ABC-crowd-mentality slip quietly into the darkness of the night.


Jonny Cigar | Master of Ceremonies



More Winos

More Winos

Osei & Will (of the WOES)

Osei & Will (of the WOES)



Jesse Warner-Levine - Talking To France

Jesse Warner-Levine – Talking To France

Brian Quinn and A Lovely Lady in Red

Brian Quinn and A Lovely Lady in Red

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August 2, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): The Best $10-Wines Your $10-Bills Can Buy


Photo by Terry Girard

After all this wine-uh-muh-jigging, I decided to do something about it: Contrary to your hopes, it was not an intervention. Instead, I called Brian Quinn and told him that we were starting a wine club. I told him that this club was going to be a secret (“Underground,” is what I said). I kept winking at him and smirking as if he’d know what I was getting at, however since we were talking on the phone, he took the silence to mean that his iPhone gave out again, and hung up.

The idea of the club is simple: I love wine, you love wine, we all love wine – BUT – we don’t know all that much about it (present company more than included). So, I sat down one fine afternoon and made a plan:

The Plan:

Start hosting events as a wine club called “the noble rot” and incorporate a live musical and theatrical element with the hope that some knowledge is gained through overt and systematic stimulation.

So we gave definition to the club:

the noble rot | ðē; ðə ˈnōbəl rät |

1 a wine club.
2 a moveable feast.
3 a place to learn about wine (esp. while drinking wine).
4 informal performances.

5 mix socially with others.

And then we got corking:

Our first event, featuring The Best $10-wines your $10-bills Can Buy from California to New Zealand, will take place on a ROOF in Williamsburg on Saturday, July 25th. Here’s what you can expect:

Beginning at 7:00pm, we will serve a delicious wine as you stroll about le grande rooftop and take in sweeping city views. While indulging in hors d’oeuvres, information on the featured wines we will be offered up as a potential for learning. Either way, we’ll be drinking throughout the evening.

Our esteemed sommelier and friend, Damian Gutierrez, from Cabrini Wines (, will prove to be our knowledgeable guide, while I do my best to make wise-cracks.

Nearing 7:30pm, the evening will commence with a special, never-before heard monologue from Jonny Cigar, replete with built-in-applause (just in case).

Pouring, tasting, and talking will ensue – and if some of the chatter is wine-chatter, we’ll all be better for it. We will focus on five different wines from around the world, with generous pours, leaving just enough room in the glass to swirl. In addition, during various wine tasting intervals, Mr. Cigar will show three short films of his own device, all shot recently in France.



And blamo! Fun times were had by all 50 people who showed up over the course of two to three hours. We learned that $10-wines can be amazing if you know where to look. We were even joined by two owners of O.C.D., one of the wines we served, Melissa Monti Saunders and her husband Dan ( And later, Ramon A. Del Monte of Tempranillo, joined us and contributed a rare champagne from Muga, that until this past year has never been released to the public, and may never again (they simply had too much left over to drink themselves!)

Well, we’re on our way to event number two: Chardonnay $#!@ Storm – hoping to dispel the bad wrap Chardonnay has received over the years since California turned it into a malolactic butter bomb (A.B.C. Anything But Chardonnay)… there’s more to this white nectar of the white wine nectary wine.

Served at the July 25th event:

  • Cavas Hill Brut Reserva Rosado
  • Ocd (Otto’s Constant Dream) Sauvignon Blanc
  • Felix Lorenzo Cachazo Mania Verdejo-Viura
  • Bodegas Borsao Monte Oton Garnacha
  • Patrick Lesec Petite Crau

If you are looking to adopt any of these bottles for your own personal enjoyment, you can talk to our friend Damian, whose 2-6 ounce pour is now legendary in various Brooklyn neighborhoods, and he can help make that dream come true. ( ships free all over NYC) so hit him up:


Photo by Terry Girard

June 15, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Le Grenier à Sel, One Michelin Star in Nancy, France


Indeed you are correct faithful reader, this is not a food blog, and yet below you will find a menu and above you dost see photographs of nothing but food, save for one pitcher of darkened, and tasty, decanting Chateau Corbin 2003 St. Emilion. Blame not the cruel world, but allow this, and perchance other departures, as I round my way through France and her haute cuisine.

I am in Nancy, France, a small city between Alsace and Champagne bordering the River Meurhe. Very small. I am able to run across it in 30 minutes. Run to where, you wonder? Run to and from the Beaucoup de Caves à Vins, Madames et Monsieurs.

On Thursday eve in this merry month of June the 9th, of a year in which there are two thousands and one nine, myself and a woman of fine upbringing did dine at the One Michelin Star gourmet extravaganza that goes by the name Le Grenier à Sel.

To accompany our wildly delectable meal we chose the Chateau Corbin 2003 St. Emilion, Grand Cru Classé. Chef de Cuisine Patrick Frechin simply shattered our notions of what it means to “cook” by throwing, rather Frenchly, in our faces, Food Nouveau! Rather what I mean is: the presentation, care, and genius behind this last eve of dining, traveled in excess, far beyond my expectations and culinary comprehension. The menu is below for your perusing pleasure. See if you can match the pictures with the descriptions.

The Corbin was great. At first, it was tight, not exhibiting much of anything, but after an hour we were trying hard not to guzzle it or dab it about our face and neck, it, with its delicious Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.

At the end of the evening, we were the last remaining diners, and Monsieur Frechin and his wife spent twenty minutes chatting with us as we waited for our cab – incredibly humble and sincere people (never been to New York, but think they will eventually). Such an interesting conclusion to an evening where looming monuments of cuisine seemed to be towering over us as we wished each other bonne soirée.

Menu Dégustation
Mises en bouche

Duo de foie gras de canard et melon confit aux épices
Huile vanille et poivre noir

Tronçon de lotte cuit à basse température
A l’huile de noisette et sucs de carottes

Fraîcheur persil plat et poivre vert,
Tuile au sel de Guérande

Médaillon de mignon de veau « retour des bois »
Asperges de bûcheron, ail des ours

Sablé à la rhubarbe pochée
Sorbet fraises

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.


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