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November 20, 2013 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Winetology Wednesday — The Interview: Antonio Galloni (Vinous Media)

Imagine this scene: in slow Wes Anderson-ion style, the camera pans across a fallow field that once gave way to gnarly old vines while a cloud of dust begins to circulate. The camera cuts to a man’s shoes: fine Italian leather. Then, pans up with a jolt to reveal: Antonio Galloni, hair slicked back, swirling a glass of wine, he takes a sip then spits and from where the juice lands, the vineyard springs back to life. Cue the music: “I Will Drink The Wine,” by Frank Sinatra.

 Vinous Antonio Galloni

Galloni’s vinous path led him from his graduate studies at MIT and a journal he founded called The Piedmont Report, focused on Italian wine, to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate where he reviewed the wines of California, Italy, Burgundy and Champagne. After Parker sold the magazine at the end of 2012, it was mere months before Galloni left his coveted position to begin anew, and founded Vinous Media, a website dedicated to enriching the wine connoisseur’s curiosity. I had the chance to speak with Galloni about Vinous and his upcoming event with Mario Batali at Del Posto:

Q: Assuming you believe something might inherently be lacking in the coverage of wine (given your leaving a prestigious post at W.A.), what is the impetus that prompted you to start Vinous and what do you hope it will do for the wine industry? What will it do for consumers?  

In my view, what is missing today is a sense of genuine excitement and interactivity. Wine lovers don’t want to be spoken to, as they have been in the past, they want to be spoken with. With this in mind, we launched Vinous, which represents our vision of a modern-day wine media platform that places consumers inside the conversation and encourages them to form their own opinions.

At Vinous we bring together professional reviews, the stories behind the wines and the perspectives of our readers in 39 countries using multimedia and leading-edge technology. We visit hundreds of wineries each year, allowing us to offer unparalleled, first-hand insight into the world of wine.

Simply put, our goal is to help readers find wines they like. If we are successful, people will find greater enjoyment in wine and as they do that, the industry will grow- something that benefits everyone.

Q. Do you think wine consumers are smarter than they were 10 years ago or with so many resources available are they ironically less knowledgeable? And if either more or less informed, what does the future hold?

AG: Consumers are definitely more informed than they were 10 years ago, and that is a good thing. At the same time, though, the world of wine has become much more complex as new, emerging regions have come onto the scene that weren’t that interesting 10 years ago, including parts of Southern Italy, France and Spain. In the US, Paso Robles and the Santa Lucia Highlands are both vibrant wine-producing regions that are just beginning to show what they are capable of.

The internet has brought with it incredible access to content in all fields, but paradoxically made it difficult, if not impossible, to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the future, people will become much more selective in terms of what they pay attention to, which means competition will root out those who can’t provide meaningful content.

Q. What do you think of the alternative dining culture in New York City? Are you seeing trends like the ones being set by UGE in other cities?

AG: Anything that creates excitement and brings people closer to food is a good thing, in my view. It’s always great to discover the newest and latest, but personally I am not a fan of trends. A restaurant that is able to thrive over years and decades while weathering the natural ups and downs that are a part of life is much more impressive.

Q.  Let’s talk about your upcoming event with Mario Batali. How do you know Batali? The dinner is $1,000 per person and is focused around white truffles. Why are you serving wines from Piemonte only and why specifically the 2004 vintage? 

Mario and I have done a number of dinners over the years. We share a huge passion for the wine and food of Italy, so working together is a natural fit. Late November is peak white truffle season, so that is what we wanted to focus on. Given that white truffles are from Piedmont, those wines are the natural match. I chose a number of top Barolos from the 2004, a very high-quality vintage I have adored since the beginning. It will be interesting to see how the wines have developed now that they are nearly 10 years old.

Q. Let’s talk avant-garde wine pairings and scenarios: 

Give me your ideal wine pairing with any of the songs from Frank Sinatra’s album “In The Wee Small Hours” and why?

AG: I have to choose Mood Indigo, a jazz classic, paired with a contemplative wine that unfolds gracefully over many hours. Barolo.

What’s a great wine to drink just before proposing marriage? Best to drink after a “No” response? After a “Yes” response?

AG: “Yes” – A great Champagne, naturally. Something racy and exuberant, like the 2002 Dom Perignon. “No” – Same wine choice. Different reasons. You have to treat yourself well in difficult times!

What wine would the Notorious B.I.G. drink if he was alive today?

AG: Fine aged white Burgundy.

Best wine pairing for bacon? 

AG: California Central Coast Syrah

Q. UGE readers are keen on clandestine happenings – do you have anything planned in the near future that warrants a “clandestine” description and if so, what can you hint at that won’t give away the vineyard (so-to-speak)?

AG, Tuscany in the City. An incredible day highlighting the great wines of Tuscany. We always so something special for our premium subscribers that is definitely clandestine. For Friday’s dinner we are doing a private tasting of Selosse lieux-dits Champagnes, which are incredibly rare.

This interview also appeared on The Bloggery at UndergroundEats.com on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

April 25, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Re-imaging the last meal aboard the R.M.S. Titanic

Dine Titanic. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

About 10 weeks ago, Chef Rob McCue (Hell’s Kitchen, Fox) and Chef Adam C. Banks (Roble & Co., Bravo TV) summoned me to John Allan’s, a gentleman’s den nestled amidst the towering cathedrals of midtown Manhattan.

There was a pool table, a comfy leather couch and far too many amber elixirs (neat) to go around the room. I hadn’t seen Chef McCue since this collaboration from September 2011. McCue introduced me to Chef Banks and spoke of an epic culinary adventure, that could potentially use my creative stamp. The centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was to be April 14th of this very year, 2012. To commemorate the night, he and Baks were planning to serve the very same meal those fateful first-class diners enjoyed before the inevitable demise of her majesty Titanic.

Interesting, I thought. But, why? What would be the purpose of re-creating a meal where the dishes themselves are by today’s standards, mildly interesting? What would the great people of this upstanding nation think, or how would they respond to a group of rogue culinary masterminds plotting to dish up the Titanic’s last meal? (I heard the voice of Jeff Morgan, a good winemaker friend whom I’ve turned to for advice in recent months, ask, “Was it Kosher?”)

The answer came to me after those burning amber waves of grain slowed my mental process down to the tune of a noble cause: Yes. Yes, we can I thought! Yes, we can recreate the last meal served aboard the Titanic, if… if…if and only if we dedicated ourselves to a far greater cause: to re-imagine the last meal as if it might have been served “today.

Let us imagine that the R.M.S. Titanic had passed the iceberg and sailed into New York; if she were still out roaming the seas today, carting passengers to and from the coasts of the world. We would pay homage to the Titanic by focusing on the jubilant moments during that final meal, before the threat of danger was prevalent and when nothing by exuberance and ecstasy filled the hearts of the souls aboard the ship. To be aboard the Titanic, meant to be sailing upon a vessel the entire world was curious about – a veritable Ark, that sadly betrayed its passengers. However, by tapping into the energy and excitement that surely permeated her walls during these exultant moments, we would memorialize the passengers and crew in uplifting fashion.

The menu, it was decided, would be composed of the very ingredients and components from the original First Class menu (copies survived in pockets of a few who escaped). Our twenty-first century version would condense 11 courses to 7, and elevate the cuisine to modern standards of culinary deliverance. The next eight weeks would prove to be a Titanic undertaking, indeed.

In my mind, the beginning of this journey was marked by what I believed to be the most important questions to ask: What wines will we serve – and why? No record exists of the wines that were paired with the many meals served. There are accounts from The White Star Line’s distributors of what had been purchased and what was on board: mainly French, Italian, German and Portuguese wines. Enter: the Galloni’s. That’s right, Antonio Galloni.

On our behalf, they reached out to a distributor whose wines fit the bill of what we were hoping to accomplish with respect to pairings. I’m incredibly thankful to the Galloni’s for having made an important introduction, and from there we began to assemble our wines. To help complete that task, enter: Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan.

The stunning, lovely, brilliant, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine (and lover of cocktails).

Jennifer is truly Master of the House (I’m singing Les Mis in my head) and her enthusiasm and support turned an evening of impressive wine pairings into an evening of brilliantly planned and thought-out pairings. Her goal was to help source wines from brands that existed in 1912 or before. Trying to source actual wines from 1912, and enough to pair each course for 80+ diners, was well out of our budgetary means and frankly unrealistic (we were this close (   ) to landing that $250,000 sponsorship from NASA – alas, another time). Jennifer’s approach made sense, and all our combined efforts produced this fabulous list of wines/courses:

First Course
Oysters a la Russe
Local Long Island Oysters, Tomato, Vodka, Horseradish
2009 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse (First Class)
2008 Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse Les Menetrieres. (VIPs)

Second Course
Consomme Olga
“Vesiga,” Celeriac Root, Vegetable Garni
2006 Alvear Fino (First & VIP Class)

Third Course
Butter Poached Wild Salmon
Cucumber, Mousseline Sauce, Salmon Skin
2010 Dopff & Irion (First & VIP Class)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignon Lili
Potatoes Anna, Artichoke, Foie Gras, Black Truffle
2007 Chateau Manon La Lagune. (First Class)
2005 Chateau Millon Saint Emilion Grand Cru (VIPs)

Fifth Course
Punch Romaine
Ginger Oil, Rum, Champagne, Frothed Egg White

Sixth Course
Squab & Watercress
Asparagus, Squab Reduction
2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune (First Class)
2009 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin (VIPs)

Dessert Course
Mock Waldorf Pudding, Suspended Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Eclairs
Taylor Fladgate 10 year old tawny (First Class)
Taylor Fladgate 40 year old Tawny (VIPs)

***

Louis XIII de Remy Martin (VIP Class only)

Louis XIII de Remy Martin. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

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And what is stellar wine without a stellar wine-pouring team? I assembled a group of some of New York’s finest Somms and impresarios, who together bedazzled our guests with their wine-speak and exemplary service. They shall be named:

Morgan Harris, Sommelier Captain
Tanner Walle, Sommelier
Katarina Maloney, Sommelier
Leiti Hsu, Sommelier
Ramon Del Monte, Sommelier

Mayur Subbarao (Bittermens, EVOE)

Tanner Walle, Morgan Harris, Leiti Hsu. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Look at Katarina Maloney pour! Absolutely stunning! MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Ramon Del Monte (far right) pouring Laurent-Perrier. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Mayur Subbarao. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO.

Without the support of these upstanding libationists, I would not have been able to focus on my most important and immediate task at hand: to prevent the Titanic from sinking.

In his book, From Time to Time, author Jack Finney reveals the story of a government agency dubbed, The Project, in which Einstein’s theories of time, space and travel are employed to transport members of The Project back in time. The Project’s process of transporting a person back in time is rooted in deep mediation practices, imagery and the presence of a “gateway,” a place that exists in the present and in the past. Some examples are the Statue of Liberty, The Dakota, certain areas of Central Park, etc. For one to be successful in traveling back to another time, one must be present in one of these gateways and in practice, settle into a state of mental deceleration. That is: to let the present move ahead and let the past catch up. Through self-hypnosis and meditation, one has the ability to latch onto “threads” of the past, according to Finney, and connect to and exist in another time.

The evening of April 14, 2012 – the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic – presented a gateway and the potential to change history in a serious way – I set out to do just that. To help in my righteous quest, to assist me in dreaming the impossible dream, was the Captain of the R.M.S. Titanic and the Jotta Girl, a character from Finney’s book:

Abe Danz, Captain RMS Titanic, Caitlin Bebb aka the Jotta Girl. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

Jonny warning the Jotta Girl not to interfere with his plans to warn the captain of the ice bergs. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO. Effects by Time Travel.

In the words of Neil Diamond, “I’ve got an emptiness deep inside and I tried: but it won’t let me go.” And so, to help me “let go,” came the generous support of one of my best, best friends in the world: an amber wave of grain, a mountainous glass of majesty, the color of a California sunset, a libation that has been in existence since the 1800s, well-sipped over the evening to help settle me in under the influence of a decelerated state of mind, ole faithful: Glenmorangie.

Can you feel that 1912 in the air?!?!?! I felt it. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

Finally, underscoring the evening – the journey that is – was perhaps the finest addition to the entire Dine Titanic fete: Chrome Canyon featuring  Icky Doom of Shad[]wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello). The account of the musicians playing as the ship sank is essentially common knowledge – and the moment is memorialized in James Cameron’s leviathan of a movie. Instead of a string trio or quartet, eerie sounds, ethereal sounds, sampled air, ocean and bits of “Nearer My God To Thee” were sampled into hypnotic, persistent, dark undercurrents of depth-inducing sounds. They looked like this:

wb[]x (computer) and Megan Sears (cello).  MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO”]

Chrome Canyon. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO

And with that, good reader, good wino, good foodist, good friends, I leave you to a short documentary of my experience and a rhetorical question: what do you recall about the Titanic? Is it possible that some of you now have a memory of her docking in New York City in 1912?

For links to Press and more photos visit: DineTitanic.com

Wine Evangelist Jonathan Cristaldi (Jonny Cigar), Chef Rob McCue, Chef Adam C. Banks. MARCIN JM ©DIAMOND SHOT STUDIO