for March, 2012

March 28, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

City friends: It’s time to play winemaker.

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery - Hudson Valley, New York State

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery is a mere stone’s throw from the former farm-land of good old New York City. They are the pioneer grape grower of the Hudson Valley, begat by John S. Dyson in 1985, who also happened to coin the I “Heart” New York campaign we see so commonly attached to car bumpers. At Millbrook it is attached to wine glasses:

Tasting glasses at Millbrook

John was an agricultural genius, and as dairy farms were suffering in the 80’s, John saw the potential to turn the Hudson Valley into a premier farm region known for much more than its dairy farming. Enter: Millbrook Winery.

I recently had the opportunity to visit and taste through Millbrook’s entire portfolio. I was absolutely thrilled by their Chardonnays – which are vibrant, crisp and have a classic cool-climate Chardonnay nose. And their New York State Pinot Noir is alone worth a trip. Speaking of…

We all know just how lovely New York City is during the hot summer months. And if trips to Coney Island and Jones Beach are getting old, how about hop on the Metro North to Poughkeepsie (for those of us without cars) and let a shuttle bus drive you through green mountains toward a winery where you could taste wine, have lunch at the vineyard grill or better yet – cultivate your own vines from bud-break to harvest and take home a case of wine while you’re at it.

Inside Hook has the scoop on a Wine Growing Boot Camp Millbrook is offering — periodic Saturdays from April to July, harvest in October and a final trip in 2013 to bottle.

Winemaker is John Graziano who’ll take you under his wing – and with 25 years of winemaking and growing experience at Millbrook, you could say he is pretty much one with the vines up there. Tell em, “Jonny sent me,” and they’ll put you to work.

Love to see these kinds of displays in the winery.

View of the tasting room.

By the way: Millbrook is part the estate properties also in possession of Williams-Selyem and hence, a good deal of it is available at Millbrook, which is really kind of amazing.

My visit was during one of the only snowy weekends. Was exciting to be amidst vines even though I could see my breath.


March 17, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Hunt for Wines of 1912 & My Personal Let-Down

Day 23, Day 24? I’m not sure anymore. I had committed to 40 Days of Writing. 40 Days of writing the truest sentences about wine, I could muster.

My last post included days 9, 10 and 11, and shows a photograph of my late night note-taking at The Richardson in Brooklyn about the “Titanic” dinner event I’m collaborating on for April 14. There’s a wine-story here, but first, permit me this:

Since that night, it would not be incorrect to say that I’ve been a bit under water with this project. In an effort to pay homage to the spirit of the Titanic, my hope is to create a window into what it might have been like to be a diner aboard the very vessel the world was all-too-gaga over; so the aim is to re-imagine the moments during the last meal when exuberance, ecstasy and the thought of getting into New York a day early, all that…was in the hearts and minds of the passengers.

I offered to call the event 41°North, 49°West – the coordinates where the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank. This was accepted by “Team Titanic” as I’ve come to call them: and though we are a team, I am the Visionary. I am the lone visionary out to sea.

And I have a vision: I have a belief. I believe that if we all believe in the power of persuasion – the power of the imagination – I believe we can spend one evening changing the course of history. I believe we can imagine a world in which perhaps, tragedy is non-existent. This event is for me, the Anti-Tragedy of this century, and I intend to make good  on delivering this vision to the 80 diners who attend.

But to the point: I have failed in my promise to write every day, one true thing about wine. Now… no one is going to fire me. I’m not going to be stripped of medals I never won and if people stop asking for my autograph, it’ll likely be because they never asked for it in the first place. However folk: that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve let myself down.

Matthew Homyak of the Stag Dining Group (based in San Francisco) recently shared this video, of Ira Glass talking about perseverance in storytelling. In it, Ira talks about let-down and persistence as the vehicles for success. And with successful storytellers, there is a common denominator: work, work, work, to the point of breaking and indulging in the ever-elusive necessity to create something better than was just created.

Have I worked as hard as I could? I don’t know. But what constitutes “hard work”? Writing is hard work and not always fun. Sometimes it’s fun. I had a good deal of fun writing “Farm!” a new Jonny Cigar spectacle, however after re-reading it recently, I know it needs a lot of work and that – I’m not looking forward to.

I haven’t solutions to my circumstance, so for now let’s turn to 1912.

In our efforts to re-imagine the last meal aboard the Titanic, our hope is not to replicate the 1912 experience. Rather, we plan to present this meal as it would be presented in 2012. Our only rule was that the wines poured should come from wineries that have been in existence since 1912 or before and were likely poured – very likely poured – in the Jacobean dining room (the name given the first-class dining hall).

And we’ve been successful thanks to a very special wine consultant, who I shall introduce in a separate post. She is a Master of Wine and I am honored, flattered and thrilled that she is working with us to source these wines — the real benefactors will be the diners, which is after all the idea.

The Truest Sentence I Can Write About Wine today is one of familiarity: In wine there is truth.