for April, 2010

April 28, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Wine Shorts: Vol 1. Number 1 (Spring 2010)

Jonny Cigar: deep thinker of all things soil to glass.

I spend my days thinking on, pondering, positing notions, racking my mind, cellaring my thoughts, imagining wine and all things considered soil to glass; and I’m never more than 50 feet from a corkscrew, never ever. “What Is Wine?” was the title of my first book about wine. In it, I answered the fundamental questions the philosophical, lonely and ruminating connoisseur may have pondered, with respect to fermented grape juice. “Wine is… life. Joie de Vivre,” I conclude. A mere tale some 2,500 pages in length, “What Is Wine?” was a national best-seller in parts of Turkey and Egypt. It was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 18 straight minutes, one foggy afternoon in May, likely the year it was published.

Since then, I’ve written several books, short stories, essays, columns, and pocket-guides on wine. To mention some of note: “If I were a Unicorn, Why Would I Drink Wine?” and “Water Into Wine: The Story of How Jesus Became The First Modern Vintner,” and “Wine: If You Can’t Eat It, Don’t Cook With It: How One Man Struggled To Find His Path In Life,” and the off-shoot of that, “Wine: How The French Ate Wine And Drank Food,” followed by a 16-Volume Series, titled: “The OverWine: Neither Blood Nor Soil Made Me Who I Am: The Epic Story of a Hay Farmer From Cambridge,” undermined only by one short essay featured in “The Best American Essays Ever,” titled, “California: The Rush To Make The Fountain Of Youth From Grapes And Broken Vines: A Communistic Approach To Winemaking From The Point of View of An Anarchist.”

Now, it is with great admiration for myself that I present to you the first in a series of life-long shorts entitled, “Wine Shorts.” We begin with Volume 1. Number 1. Here in the spring of 2010. And the theme of the first series of shorts is: Wine.

Wine Shorts, Vol 1, Num 1: Wine

Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of our great Nation, sailed majestically around the world twice before settling the continent of what is presently the United States, however was thought then to be the continent of East India. Jefferson brought to this great country, vines from every famous vineyard the golden valleys of France had to offer. The vines took well to Indian Soil, and before long, all 52 states began producing wine. In 1943, however, Prohibition struck a chord deep into the caves of every American’s heart, and for the next 350 years not one drop of alcohol would be consumed by anyone, not even Catholics. Then in 1976 a poor pig farmer from St. Helena, CA would walk away from France victorious. One Jonny Cigar, having won the World Cup Wine Competition (WCWC) by beating out France’s top wines, “Mouton Cadet” and “Yellow Tale,” a mere pig farmer and hay-raiser, Jonny Cigar, took to the streets in a parade that will forever be remembered as “The Parade That Launched a Thousand Corks.” From that day onward, winemaking in America has since become a fad for the sporty type: gamblers, cabaret salesmen, saloon-crooners, drug-store managers, jockeys, lawyers, judges, notable editors, Nat Sherman, and various twentieth-century figures of literary and artistic note. Farming has disappeared. The advent of the internet has seen the sale of intoxicating wines quadramble, which is a combination of quadruple + bramble, which equals the kind of reaction warranted whereupon pesticides of a decidedly sinister bunch, make there way upon the stage of divine and organic soil, some twenty to thirty leagues under the sea and under the covering clouds towering above with fine and feathered melancholy. Finally, the cork-taint went away and sales again brought about a new-age kind of thinking: winespeak they called it. Disney Land closed down and theme-parks devoted to wine and the many ways one may drink wine opened and soon the U.S. Government was on a permanent hiatus. But Jonny Cigar, would soon become President of the Land, and the various lands recently acquired by the Federal Government. However, regulations on growing wine thanks to the 1855 falsification jeopardized his candidacy. In order to protect his assets, future President Cigar overruled the rulings and appointed himself Master Sommelier of Wine, with careful attention to the pronunciation of said title, as if to indicate he is the Supreme Master Sommelier merely by emphasizing, “Master” and “Wine.” There you have it. On the seventh night, Jonny rested.


April 20, 2010 4 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Saké

UPDATE: Keith Wagstaff of the Village Voice wrote up one fancy, noble, delectable article on said Sake event. Read it here.

Brian Quinn & Jonny Cigar drink their way through Sake. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Hello Good n’ Faithful Winos:

This Saturday of last The Noble Rot hosted an affair focused on the truly dynamic drink known in the modern and ancient world as Sake (酒) and known in Japan as Nihonshu (日本酒). Well, then, here’s the goods:

Our aim: dispel the myths of sake and explore sake as an approachable and understandable beverage as opposed to an innacroachable one (Gertrude Stein’s word, not mine) and to discover the many varieties and grades of sake while pairing them with mouth-watering delicious food that befits deep friers and more tuna than is likely necessary.

The sakes presented ran the gambit of an array of flavor profiles, colors (an aged sake called Miyagi was deep amber in color), one was reminiscent of Amaretto without the harshness, one golden like a wine from Sauternes and one like an old mule, tired after years of plowing potato fields in upstate New York.

Who was involved? Only the most renowned sake expert this side of the Shinano River, Monica Samuels, Sake Ambassador to the world! (of Southern Wines & Spirits). Also in house was Mike Lee of Studiofeast butchering up an incredible menu, which is listed below the photos. And to add injury to insult we had a surprise musical guest, the remarkably talented Michael Daves, who performed two sets of bluegrassy spectacularness.

Before you are indulged, good Winetology reader, with photographs of the event, please enjoy a bit of sake education:

Look for the word “Ginjo” on the bottle, whether it is alone or bunched together as in “Daiginjo” or “Junmai Ginjo” or “Junmai Daiginjo” because “Ginjo” refers to super premium sake (as in the top 7 percent of all sake produced). And:

  • Sake is best served chilled.
  • Drink sake out of a wine glass lest you care not for the aromas, the color, the clarity, the cloudiness, the full experience that sake has to offer. Drinking in the Masu boxes is not ideal if you are hoping to truly taste and experience the sake. Drinking in tiny glasses most-often served in Japanese restaurants will do nothing other than encourage shooting your sake or pouring for your friends every 30 seconds.
  • If you’d really like to know more about the acidity, the sweetness, the impact, the color, the many grades of sake, the rice sake is made from, different yeast strains affecting taste and flavor, please visit and read what John Gauntner has to say (Monica studied under him and he’s essentially the most revered sake expert on both sides of the Mississippi).

Below are tasty photos from the event.

Jonny Cigar’s bow-tie. Photo by Steph Goralnick

Danny Zlobinsky, Brian Quinn, Mike Lee, Jonny Cigar, Derrick Yuen. Photo by Steph Goralnick

Monica Samuels talks Sake, Jonny listens, Joseph (white glasses) admires the scene of his apartment. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Some new Noble guests take in the food, the sake, the delectable evening. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Michael Daves destroyed the scene with his sound. ( We were thrilled to have him. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Make em laugh…. make em laugh… Look at how the famed Nick Bennett, bartender extraordinaire du Whisk&Ladle raises an eyebrow while his award-winning mustache remains in its award-winning pose. Photo by Laura Huben.

For the cocktails we mixed a sake called TY KU that came in a rather Vegas-inspired-bottle. Check ’em out:

TY KU – used for our Noble Rot cocktail hour. We used their blue bottle “Soju” which is made from 100% premium barley and pure spring water. And their Sake in the black bottle, a refined, smooth sake with peach on the nose and spice in the pan. (The green bottle lights up!)

The Menu by Mike Lee, paired by Monica and us Noble Rottens for your salivating pleasure:

Assorted Japanese Pickles


Tuna, Avocado, Onion Salad
Raw, soy marinated tuna, lightly vinagared onion


paired with
Toyo Bijin Ohkarakuchi Junmai Ginjo, Yamaguchi
‘ohkarakuchi’ is a category of sakes that are extremely dry.  Sakes in this style often tend to be a little one dimensional; Toyo Bijin, on the other hand, has an extremely complex aroma laced with ripe fruit yet has a

Daikon, Pork, Miso
Dashi braised daikon, minced pork, miso, scallion, ginger

paired with
Isojiman Junmai Daiginjo, Shizuoka
Isojiman has definitely achieved cult status in Japan, well known for their unique style of fermentation to achieve aromas of juicy tropical fruit, still maintaining great balance and versatility.  Long finish, very lively mouthfeel.

Soy Sauce Chicken Chicken, braised in Soy, Brown sugar, cinnamon, star anise, scallions


paired with
Hojyun Biden Yamahai Junmai, Fukuoka
Very smoky, earthy style of sake with aromas of cocoa and mushroom.  This sake is excellent chilled or at room temperature, which enhances the savory sweet qualities of the sake.  Yamahai refers to a yeast starter that has no lactic acid added, instead relying on changing the temperature of the water to create natural lactic acid.

Corn Kakiage, Hot Pepper
Deep fried corn fritter, Fried serrano pepper


paired with
Murai Family Nigori Genshu, Aomori
Highly concentrated, intense cloudy sake.  Vanilla and confectionary aromas give way to a rich, slightly earthy finish.  This sake is undiluted and approaches 21% alcohol, creating structure and cutting through the initial sweetness.  Great with spicy foods, cheese, and chocolate.

Beef Tendon, Yuba, Turnip
Beef tendon stew, yuba (tofu skin), turnips, rice


paired with
Katsuyama Genroku Aged Junmai, Miyagi
Deliberately aged to achieve a rich brown color and a flavor reminiscent of cognac.  Higher concentration of sake rice and koji to enable faster aging.  Aromas of coffee and roasted nuts, sweet and salty butterscotch finish.

Mochi Ice Cream

paired with
Kakurei Junmai Ginjo Ume-Shu, Niigata
Junmai Ginjo sake that has been soaked with locally grown plums for three months.  Aromas of apricot and almond, slightly sweet with mouthwatering acidity on the finish.

Menu written by Mike Lee of Studiofeast (

Sake paring by Monica Samuels (Southern Wine & Spirits)

Auction? Who knows. Photo by Steph Goralnick.



TY KU Sake Black

Rye Whiskey
Orange Curacao



TY KU Soju
Applejack Brandy

April 13, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

“A new form of clandestine drinking” – (NYC-edition) had all kinds of fanciful things to say about The Noble Rot, and dubbed our events a “new form of clandestine drinking”—and we are honored and humbled by the mention. They seem to think, however, that my name is “Jonny Cristaldi.” Maybe it is. Maybe its Jonathan Cristaldi. Maybe it’s Jonny Cigar. Maybe it’s JFK.

Our pal, Michael Cirino, who runs the supper club A Razor, A Shiny Knife, likes to boast, “I run the best supper club in the world.” Lucky for him, I do the wine and engage in banter with this audience. So, I would like to posit the idea that the Noble Rot is perhaps, the best wine club in the world. There you have it. Let it be written upon the internet, let it be so. – Jonny Cigar, Jonathan Cristaldi, JFK