for September, 2009

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

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.