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April 14, 2015 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Champagne for Fools with Matthew Kaner

Pour it up, people: Champagne should be an all-the-time drink. But it’s especially appropriate this time of year, as everyone bops from holiday party to holiday party. Time to get some expert advice on the sparkly stuff, and Matthew Kaner, wine director and co-owner of Los Angeles’ Covell, has all the right answers. He debunked a few myths and threw out surprising insights, from the correct glassware (hint: it’s not a flute) to why popping a cork should be like passing gas…keep reading on

[This article first appeared on on December 12, 2014]


January 6, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Jonny Cigar’s Top 9 Wine Things of 2010

While the rest of the flogging community is intent on divulging their top wine picks of 2010, I would like to present to you, good readers, a list of the 9 Best Wine Things of 2010.

1. Murphy-Goode Winery’s “A Really Goode Job” contest (even though this happened in 2009, it still bothered me in 2010): However, an AMAZING turn of events occurred at 12:48pm ET today in researching any updates to this contest… the winner of the whole shebang, unbeknownst to moi, is a friend: Hardy Wallace. Please first, go watch this 60-second video: Now that you’ve seen Mr. Wallace, a little background is in store: I talked about Hardy in a recent post whereupon he joined us in San Francisco to pour his wines for an event that ranks number 9 in my list of Top 9 Wine Things of 2010. Hardy works at the NPA, or Natural Process Alliance. He’s a rowdy S.O.B. who has a mean sense of humor.

2. “A Luxurious Bubble Bath.” In March of 2010 this was an evening of covert-wine-induced operations. The Noble Rot hosted an all-champagne-get-dressed-to-the-nines event in one of New York’s finest hotels.  The gals were cool, the gents were mysterious and the bubbly was all-too-toasty. Cocktails rounded out the end of the night from a 600-square-foot marble-lined bathroom. Debauchery was eminent and the morning after, well… reminds me of my favorite Sinatra toast: “We feel sorry for people who don’t drink because when you get up in the morning that’s as good as you’re gonna feel for the rest of the day.”

Luxury Suite – Parlor (Pamela Martinez at the Harp) Photo by: Brian Quinn

3. Jon Bonne’s article on “The Wine Blog Wars” from March 18, 2010. Mr. Bonne lives a fruitful life in California writing for the SF Gate and Chronicle about all things wine, and Mr. Bonne discusses Stephen Tanzer’s blog Winophilia (which is Latin for: “a degenerative disease of the wine.”) Mr. Tanzer is quoted as blogging:

“We’re not armchair tasters who pretend to speak knowledgeably about regions we’ve never visited. We’re not amateur bloggers whose coverage of wine is limited to a handful of random samples we’ve just received, a trade tasting we’ve attended, or a press junket we’ve just been treated to. We live wine.”

He goes on to say what he is however: “We’re cellar rats, with long tails and a mean penchant for wine-coolers. You think putting ice in your wine is for your grandmother? Guess again, mac, because we know that Jesus turned water into wine and so they go hand-in-hand.” He also demonizes Disney Land and accuses a tainted cork of ruining a family vacation to the tropics.

4. Saignee’s “32 Days of Natural Wine.” That’s right, 32-fun-filled days with nothing but the au natural. Natural Wine! What is it? What does it mean? How will it stain my carpet? Where can you buy it? Will it sue you for damages down the road? Does it pair well with Organic Oats? Alice Feiring is perhaps the most prolific writer and advocate of Natural Wine. She is a force of natural nature and I highly recommend reading her: The Feiring Line.

5. Jeff Morgan, winemaker and author-extraordinaire released a new cookbook: Domaine Chandon Cookbook; Recipes from étoile Restaurant. He even blogged about it on Winophilia! Jeff and winemaker David Ramey took part in an event in San Francisco with The Noble Rot and we served the very bubbly he discusses in the blog with the very same Gougères. Highly recommended:

Carla Ramey, Jonny Cigar, Jeff Morgan, Jodie Morgan, David Ramey, Brian Quinn

6. Eric Asimov replied to an email I re-forwarded to him on December 9th, 2010. I was honored and grateful for the reply. One day, perhaps our paths will cross and if I am lucky he will say horrible things about me in The New York Times. One of my life-long goals is to accumulate more negative press than any other living soul. So far, I’ve only written negative reviews about my own shows and events, and while wildly interesting and sophisticatedly funny, they lack an objective opinion, it turns out.

7. Kammerspiel! Dubbed “Jonny Cigar’s chaotic vaudeville/collage” by Martin Denton of, who goes on to describe the show as “100% goof and 99.9% completely serious” and boy he wasn’t kiddin’. It took me 35 years to produce the show and we ran for three weeks in a space called Dixon Place off Chrystie Street in downtown Manhattan. So each of the six performances was worth 2,129 days of rehearsal and mental input. During the run back in February of 2010, I drank nothing but Glenmorangie, while wine took a back-seat to my raging fits of lunacy and intense bouts of poetry-immersion, where I’d lock myself in a room with a pack of Lucky Strikes, two wedges of Cabot Cloth-bound Cheddar and a bottle of Nectar D’Or for three weeks on end. That, my friends, is the secret recipe that results in “Stardom.” I would encourage the reading of Mr. Denton’s review, even though it seems to be positive in nature.


8. Cathy Erway published: The Art of Eating In (Penguin Press) She’s simply a wonderful, terrific, outstanding gal who cooks up a mean dish O yum. Her book is the tale of her experience over the course of two years, cooking every meal—no take out, no restaurants. See this tasty YouTube video.

9. 2010 Michelin Guide release parties in New York City and San Francisco. Wine menu procured by The Noble Rot. I’d like to direct you to Heritage Radio Networks’ Snacky Tunes episode number 51, and be sure to also check out episode number 54.

Brian Quinn, Jonny Cigar, Jean-Luc Naret (Michelin)

March 29, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): A Luxurious “Bubble” Bath

Luxury Suite – Parlor (Pamela Martinez at the Harp) Photo by: Brian Quinn

There is but one word to describe this most recent Noble Rot soiree: CHAMPAGNE. Where better to explore the drink of high ceremony than amidst a setting befitting princes, presidents and kings? Indeed, The Noble Rot recently commandeered a luxury suite in one of New York City’s finest hotels. We sipped seven different sparkling wines and champagne before turning to a cocktail hour with one of our good friends from Little Branch, Vito, who whipped up French 75’s (champagne, gin, lemon, simple syrup) and Royal Gold Rush’s (Champagne, bourbon, lemon, honey syrup).

The menu:

  1. Kluge (a sparkler from Virgina)
  2. Benoit Lahaye Champagne Brut Rose de Maceration
  3. Crémant de Bourgogne “Extra Brut”, Clotilde Davenne – NV
  4. Crémant d’Alsace Brut Reserve, Baur – NV
  5. Touraine Rosé Sparkling “Méthode Traditionelle”, Sarl – NV
  6. Ayala Champagne Zero Dosage Brut Nature (NV)
  7. Charles Gardet Champagne Selected Reserve NV

Pamela Martinez performed on her harp. And here’s what it all looked like:

The lovely Ladies and dapper Gentlemen have arrived. Photo by Brian Quinn.

Amanda Wells in and on the fringe (taking photo). Photo by Laura Huben.

“That’s right, I called security. They’ll be taking Mr. Cigar back to Brooklyn any minute now.” Photo by Laura Huben.

Bubble Bath in the Marbled Bath. Photo by Nora Leah.

Bubbles in the glass. Photo by Nora Leah.

Jonny Cigar is pouring his heart out. Photo by Brian Quinn.

This bedroom couldn’t be happier. Photo by Brian Quinn.

Pamela Martinez sings a cappella – beautiful! Photo by Nora Leah.

A little harp music. Photo by Brian Quinn.

Back to the music of the bubbly as Brian Quinn pours. Photo by Amanda Wells.

The Magnificent Nick Gray. Photo by Laura Huben.

Jonny sits at his desk to write a letter. Photo by Amanda Wells.

Take a look at those feathers. Photo by Amanda Wells.

Within the foyer. Photo by Laura Huben.

Mayur, Lucina, Nora dressed to kill (in the bedroom). Photo by Laura Huben.

Jonny Cigar opens the last bottle of Champagne for the evening. Photo by Brian Quinn.

Cocktail Hour is underway, in the Marbeled Bath with Vito making magic. Photo by Nora Leah.

Cats in the Boudoir. Photo taken with Nora Leah’s camera.

2:00am. Photo by Brian Quinn.

Jonny Cigar and Brian Quinn, blurred by the blazing fire. Photo by Amanda Wells.


October 5, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Harvest Party

We reaped a Harvest, indeed.

Photo by Brian Quinn (of The Noble Rot)

Photo by Brian Quinn.

At 2pm EST there was a 20 percent chance of rain predicted, and in NYC 20 percent typically means: I doubt it. Right around 3pm EST, torrential down-pours engulfed the five borrows. By 6pm it was sunny, again. However, we had already made the call to switch locations from an impeccable rooftop in DUMBO, to a secret loft location in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

And we celebrated Harvest like it was 1999. For you see, good wine-reader, the Napa Valley is in the throes of Harvesting their grapey cash-crops. In honor and celebration of their work, we drank excellent examples of California wine from fairly recent vintages. The lineup looked like this:

  • 2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc
  • 2006 Calera Pinot Noir (Central Coast)
  • 2005 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2007 Robert Foley Charbono
  • 2004 Girard Winery “Artistry” Bordeaux Blend

Grapes were strung about the loft and were to be harvested, however the good host, myself, Jonny Cigar, was indulging in the tasting with perhaps more gusto than was necessary, and hence was in no shape to harvest the lot (read: not enough spitting, too much sipping and it would have been a bad idea. Therescore, and unfortunately, my Dumbo Cuvee crop was lost and I’ll have to wait until next year to bottle. Good mannered Noble Rot counter-part Brian Quinn kept the evening in order, but also had his fill.

Playing fantastic blue-grassy inspired music throughout the eve were the Wylie Toms pictured below: Owen (Piano/Banjo/Vocals), Adam (Saxophone/Clarinet), Evan (Guitar/Singing) and Carly (Singing):

The Wylie Toms

The Wylie Toms (

Being harvest time (and coincidentally the Korean Thanksgiving) we provided the most-ever-delectable sandwiches: Seasoned turkey betwixt baguettes from Blue Ribbon Bakery smothered in a butternut-and-orange-rind squash puree, replete with caramelized shallots reduced in a scrumptious red-wine reduction (by Danielle Florio of The Whisk & Ladle Supper Club – check out her blog: saucylittledish) and the tastiest mouth-watering Chocolate-Pumpkin Brownies, and Mexican Wedding Cookies by Amanda Wells of SweetWells.

So look, okay, the evening was great. I presented a Harvest Play, with Brian Quinn playing the role of President Nixon (relevant to the Schramsberg story) and I played myself. People ate turkey and brownies and cookies and drank some power-house California wines… so let’s talk about the wines. Our good friend, Jesse Salazar, of Union Square Wines consulted with me on the wines to serve.

The Schramsberg was my favorite. I rate wines through my Connoisseur Rating System (CRS) from -350 to Infiinity. The 2005 vintage produces delicate bubbles prompting me to consider a new bubble-bath formula that effervesces and makes you feel tipsy after your bath. CRS Rating: 18,456,777,444,444,345,543,123,321,678,000.

The Calera was the crowd-pleaser. The winemaker, Josh Jensen, worked at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, among other impressive places in and around Burgundy and had found some limestone in the Central Coast—which is where the Pinot grapes that produced this wine are grown within. CRS Rating: A bunch of 9’s strung together.

Mighty Rombauer was mighty tannic, and we all agreed this wine would be amazing in five more years. Lots of fruit like: Pumpkin and Rosemary, Shallots and Butternut Squash, Powdered sugar, and—–wait—-that was my mouthful of turkey, brownie and cookie. Let’s call it a blend CRS Rating: Five 10 Millions.

Monsieur Foley. His wines exude these chocolate and dark black cherry aromas and flavors, and one hopes it will never end. In fact, I still detect hints of it in the recesses of my mouth—talk about a finish, it’s still going days later. CRS Rating: Honorary Infinity (Because I like the label so much).

And then… this “little” bottle of delightfulness:

2004 Girard "Artistry" - signed by the winemaker

2004 Girard “Artistry” – signed by winemaker Marco DiGiulio

This three-liter Jeroboam (double-magnum) was the highlight of the night. Very exciting pour action, as I demanded everyone line up and come to me for a taste rather than my going to them as had been the case throughout the evening.

When everyone in the room had the Girard elixir in their glass we practiced our final Kevin Zraly inspired “60 Second Wine Expert” experience: First, sip the wine, swallow to remove any other tastes. Then smell the wine three times. Then, take a good mouthful and swirl around for 3-5 seconds, swallow and think about the wine for 60 seconds. “Shut up!” I exclaimed, “Think about what you’re experiencing.”

And surely we were all experiencing a spicy, fruity, elegantly smooth Bordeaux blend that did indeed take us out with a bang. The wine changed in the glass after some time, opened up to reveal a plethora of flavors. I had visited Girard’s tasting room in Yountville back in early September and the wonderful Erin Luby, who runs ship at the tasting room, worked with me on selecting a big bottle that would certainly make a show for this event. Luckily, the day she shipped the wine, winemaker Marco DiGiulio was present and signed the bottle. Opening a bottle that size was a first for most everyone in the room. It’s the final bout of rapid-fire fireworks at the end of every skylit fireworks celebration, and helped end our Harvest Party with enough of its nectar to go around the room a couple times.

We at the Noble Rot wish we could be in Napa harvesting alongside the men and women who make this country grape. The evening can be summed up by resident Whisk & Ladle bartender, Nick Bennett, who said: “Dude, I’m telling my mom about this.” And I hope he does. I hope everyone tells their mom about the Noble Rot, because we don’t fool around. You like to fool around? Call us and we’ll tell you all about how we don’t fool around. In fact, we don’t fool around so much that we pretty much only fool around. The Noble Rot. It’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone about this, except for your moms and your friends and everyone you may or may not know.

Fun links:

Host - Jonny Cigar

Host – Jonny Cigar

Danielle and a few remaining Turkey's......

Danielle and a few remaining Turkey’s……

Christine, Amanda Wells (SweetWells), Paul

Christine, Amanda Wells (SweetWells), Paul