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May 21, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Wines of Brooklyn Winery Winemaker Conor McCormack

This is all you need to know about the winemaker at Williamsburg’s very own Brooklyn Winery:

“Making wine wasn’t on my radar until I saw a craigslist posting for a harvest intern in 2003 while hunting for a job post-college. It was serendipitous, but once I got into it, there was no stopping.”

Left to right: John Stires, Conor McCormack, Brian Leventhal

That quote comes from Conor McCormack’s bio on the Brooklyn Winery website. It’s nearly a verbatim-repeat-quote of what he told a group of about 40 of us this past Thursday, the 17th of May, 2012, just before we got into a four course wine and food pairing of Conor’s latest bottlings.

Prior to making his home here in the east, his wine-country experience is fruitful and spans stints from Napa to Washington State and looks like this: Crushpad SF, Rutherford Hill Winery, Brehm Vineyards, Audubon Cellars, and White Salmon Vineyards. Pretty fabulous places.

Conor’s serendipitous rendezvous with the art of making wine, now into it’s ninth year  and laden with cellar stellar experiences establishing his “vine-street-cred” should impress you – but honestly, stop reading this blasted blog and go to Brooklyn Winery and have a few glasses of his wine. Treat yourself to a marvelous sensory experience. And since you asked my opinion so kindly I’ll give it: try the Pinot NoirAhem. The Carneros Pinot Noir. Think about this: the fruit was picked in Carneros and shipped east, fermented and aged at Brooklyn Winery. When you nose this wine, it is so distinctly Carneros that it should take everything within to remember that after enjoying a glass you are in Brooklyn and have to get on the subway to go home, not in a car to drive north to Napa or south to San Francisco. The simple fact that Conor has been able to maintain the integrity a Pinot that is so distinctly of another place from fruit shipped across the country, fermented in Brooklyn and aged in used barrels, is a testament to his winemaking skill, cleanliness and philosophy.

The Brooklyn Winery has become a hub for amateur and serious wine enthusiasts excited to be near barrels and tanks and to taste wine made on-site. It’s also become a go-to for events – lots of events – especially weddings. Lots of weddings. And lots of weddings means lots of brides. Brides asking, pleading, demanding and suggesting that the space, the physical space (where tanks and barrels and winemaking equipment resides) be arranged and rearranged to fit the perfect vision of their impending marriage. And with weddings comes the wedding train and all its glory and pomp and circumstance a.k.a. a nightmare for a winemaker. I’m not suggesting that BK Winery entertains foolish requests, or that they rearrange the crucial areas where wine is racked and fermented, but when a winery is beholden to events, it is often the winemaker who must make sacrifices – sacrifices in quality control. Whatever Conor’s urban winery fate, he has managed to maintain the quality he knows his wines deserve and as a result is producing wines worthy of some serious attention.

The evening’s food pairings by Executive Chef David Colston looked like this:

Scallop Ceviche with Cantaloupe, Chorizo, Basil and Lemon Verbena. Paired with:

BKW Riesling (two glasses: one aged in stainless steel and one in neutral oak! Yes, neutral oak!)

Spicy Seafood Risotto with Monk Fish, Lobster, Squid and Heirloom Tomatoes. Paired with:

BKW Chardonnay aged in Stainless Steel.

Long Island Duck Breast with Mini Yorkshire Puddings and SPring Vegetables. Paired with:

Paired with BKW Pinot Noir - MY FAV and the one bottle I didn't grab a shot of. That's a glass of it. Aged in 20% French and 80% Neutral Oak.

Cheesecake with New Jersey Strawberries and Rhubarb. Paired with:

BKW Rose of Zinfandel, aged in Stainless Steel.

The good and loyal readers here at Winetology know that I don’t like to give descriptors of wine. (It’s not because I don’t have a certification and am incapable of using good wine descriptors, okay?) I find it to be a foolish thing, since no two noses or palates are the same. And you don’t need me to tell you what kind of Jolly Rancher I get out of the rose either (watermellon). Decide for yourself and imagine that these photos are scratch and sniff (just don’t send me a bill when you ruin your iPad). Or better yet, head to Brooklyn Winery and say to the winetender, “Winetender! Jonny says I want a glass of Conor McCormack’s Pinot Noir!” And when he gives you the Chardonnay, don’t make that face and tell him you don’t drink Chardonnay. Drink it, be surprised, and then order the Pinot.   By then, I’ll be sitting next to you draining my cup dry.

"A Wine & Food Pairing" at the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg.


August 19, 2010 1 comment Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (events): Los Angeles and San Francisco


KCRW-AM (The NPR affiliate in L.A. produced this segment on our little dinner party on Willshire Blvd.

The piece, hosted by Eddie Lin aired on Good Food, and here is a link to Eddie’s blog Deep End Dining.)


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

Take One: Los Angeles

The humid and sweltering New York City morning of August 5th gave way to stale and moist air as I left my apartment at 4:30am ET and headed to the airport. Our plane touched down in L.A. at 10:30am PST and the humidity was gone and the temperature hovered around 67 degrees. On a mission with A Razor, A Shiny Knife, to host a night of remarkable culinary feats, later we would head north to San Francisco to host a Noble Rot event as well.

Our themed dinners, “Two Perspectives: Modern Meets Establishment,” were heartily embraced by local media and we were privy to a series of preview articles in Zagat, Daily Candy, Urban Daddy, Thrillist, Grubstreet, and Eater.

In L.A. we were hold up in West Hollywood, and luckily, everything we needed was just a 10-15 minute drive away. We prepped all day Thursday and Friday, waking at the wee hours and traversing the city for Ultratext, Liquid nitrogen and tacos. The L.A. Times dished up quite an article about Saturday’s event.

The venue: 5900 Wilshire Boulevard (the former Variety Building). We hosted a cocktail hour on the rooftop, 33 stories up, overlooking the tar pits and then shuttled guests back down to the lobby for a meal of duck fat, rare short ribs (sous-vide), black truffles, chocolate, cheese frozen in liquid nitrogen and more. The wines we paired were produced by Garagiste and Estate-winemaker Anthony Yount who makes these tasty wines, accompanied here by notes from Anthony, embellished upon by yours truly:

2009 Kinero Alice – 100% Grenache Blanc

This porch-pounder screams, “Get off my lawn before I put up an electric fence to keep you and your damn dogs off my property!”
Conveniently Egotistically packaged in 500ml bottles, you may not even need the glass with this wine. Aromatics of stone fruit, lemon peel and wet sand lead into an explosive palate of green apple and citrus. The lively finish is driven by a 2010 Tesla at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds. (Did I mention that Tesla donated a car (for the evening) to one lucky guest for the L.A. event?)

2009 Kinero Rustler – 100% Roussanne, James Berry Vineyard

In contrast to Alice, this is a whimsical white wine. Aged in equal parts new French oak, new Hungarian oak, and stainless steel – it is full bodied, with hips like white elephants, yet still balanced on one leg while hoola-hoops encircle its tusks. Rose petal, honeysuckle, Neil Diamond, and sage pioneer juicy flavors of orange marmalade, Vermont autumnal scenery, brioche and citrus sorbet or walks along the Seine. The finish is textured, zesty and long-forgotten by days of yore.

2007 Denner Dirt Worshipper – 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier – Denner Vineyard

This wine has post-traumatic coital aromatics – so much so that if you weren’t involved with what proceeded it, you may not like it. However, since you were, you’re probably going to need a cigar (or a pellet gun)… On the nose there are vibrant memories of driving the autobon, boysenberry and pomegranate in your hair as ideas of sandalwood and white pepper, and birkenstock indulge your senses. The core of intense black fruit on the palate is framed by an elegant label of a vine digging deep into the dirt.


Take Two: San Francisco

Cirino and I drove north along the 5, to San Francisco, for an event called “Garagiste Meets Establishment: A Tale of Two Winemakers.” We were quite fortunate to have two highly lauded and talented winemakers join us for the event and show their wines: Jeff Morgan and David Ramey.

According to Wine Spectator magazine, David Ramey is one of a handful of winemakers who have essentially created the modern-day era of winemaking in America through an effective blend of Old World and New World tradition. Ramey was among the first modern winemakers to promote natural yeast fermentations and unfiltered wines—long before it was a trend. His eponymously named winery is located in Healdsburg in Sonoma County where he produces highly sought-after wines. Jeff Morgan is the only commercial winemaker in the United States who is also a professional wine and food writer. The former West Coast Editor of Wine Spectator, he now makes his own Covenant and RED C Wines in Napa Valley. Unlike Ramey, however, he doesn’t own his own winery. Instead, he operates as a “garagiste,” making do as best he can in other winemakers’ digs. That said, both Ramey and Morgan make wines that consistently garner some of the highest scores and rave reviews from pundits like Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

Our event featured one white and two reds from each winemaker, in addition to some incredibly delicious bubbly provided by Domaine Chandon, as an homage to Morgan’s latest cookbook: Domaine Chandon Cookbook; Recipes From Étoile Restaurant. The Napa Valley-based restaurant just received its first Michelin star; and to celebrate we paired gougeres from the cookbook with Chandon bubbly as guests arrived.

In keeping with our theme, Jeff Morgan represented the “Garragiste” winemaker and David Ramey was our “Traditional” or “Establishment” winemaker. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each style of winemaking: difficulties and control, style and preference. The wines we poured are listed below along with notes from the winemakers.

Jeff Morgan’s Wines:

Lavan Chardonnay (2008)

Fermented and aged in twelve French oak barrels, the wine is richly textured yet blessed with bright acidity for balance and potential biblical war-related uprisings; it’s also layered with lovely pear, fig, citrus, toast and mineral notes. It was not filtered or fined.

Red C Cabernet (2007)

100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, the blend includes some of the barrels from Covenant that don’t make it into our premier bottling, but that still show excellent character and finesse.

Convenant Cabernet (2007)

Made from grapes grown on a 3-acre parcel of the historic Larkmead Vineyard in Napa Valley, just north of St. Helena. It is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, made exclusively from the free-run wine after fermentation and aged only in French oak barrels for approximately 18 to 20 months. It is an age worthy wine fit for the cellar, but also is blessed with soft, plush tannins that make it easy to drink upon release.

David Ramey’s Wines:

Russian River Chardonnay (2008)

Small lots Chardonnay grapes from: 38% Martinelli Vineyards, 35% from four different Dutton ranches, 15% from Rochioli Vineyards, 9% from the King Vineyard off Piner Road, and 3% from Green Pastures Vineyard (a 40-year-old Wente vineyard back Felta Creek Road). Goldridge loam and gravelly soils give a crisper mouthfeel to this Russian River chard, compared with Carneros counterparts.

Claret, Napa Valley (2006)

This is Ramey’s entry-level Cabernet blend, and this vintage is composed of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 3% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Perfect for the time you stopped wearing Adidas sneakers everywhere and bought your first pair of loafers. Moving on up…

Annum, Napa Valley (2006)

A new release, this represents Ramey’s version of a “winemaker’s wine.” Having spent so much time working in Bordeaux and visiting Burgundy, the Loire and the Rhone, Ramey contends, “I’m deeply steeped in French winemaking traditions, including their orientation toward the growing site or region. Thus, all our wines are either vineyard designates or regional blends.” Annum is an appellation wine, it is the one blend they can make each year that allows them to select from a range of vineyards to make the best blend possible that vintage. This inaugural release is 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% each Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The vineyards chosen include the J. Davies Vineyard on the Schramsberg Estate (61%), the Larkmead Vineyard (34%), and Somerston Vineyard (5%). Get on board!


We are so grateful to Jeff and David for spending time with The Noble Rot.

Special thanks to Noe Veneable whose beautiful voice and elegant performance lent just the right vibe to the evening. Noe performed on the third floor with views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background as she strummed her guitar to the quiet and anticipatory ears of an audience hanging on her lyrics.

Thanks to everyone in California that made our event possible, especially to our host for offering her home in the Presidio.

Saturday, August 14th saw the Noble Rot collaborate with a razor, a shiny knife on a dinner event, which was held at the same location. Brian Quinn’s flickr page will show you pictures of that event.

June 7, 2010 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): WAR: The Noble Rot vs. New Zealand

One of the Man O’ War vineyards on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

It was a Friday, June the 4th, when The Noble Rot waged war on New Zealand. Armed with five courses of food, our course of attack was to pair them with five wines that originate from Waiheke Island, a small piece of pristine land situated in the north-east of New Zealand. The idea was to showcase wines exhibiting characteristics from “micro-terroir” sites. Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, Man O’ War Vineyards is spread across 4,500 acres of rugged coastal farm-land. Their location and varying terrain results in pockets of different soils, temperature, and elevation (a.k.a. “micro-terroirs”) and with 150 acres of vines planted, Man O’ War Vineyards boasts multiple grape varieties and a dedication to the “Old World” style (circa the Jackson-Five).

Okay: so, in a loft space on Bond Street in Manhattan, graciously offered up by a friend and vinophile, we tasted through these six wines:

  • Man O’ War Pinot Gris ($16) to wet the palate
  • Man O’ War Sauvignon Blanc ($16), paired with Raspberry, Trout Roe, Lime, Coriander
  • Man O’ War Valhalla Chardonnay ($20), paired with Confit Tuna pickled compressed fennel, arugula,
  • Man O’ War White Label Bordeaux Blend ($19), paired with Braise Oxtail Ragu, fennel tagliatelle with crème fraiche
  • Man O’ War White Label Syrah ($19), paired with Lavender Smoked Lamb Loin, Sautéed brussel sprout leaves
  • Man O’ War Black Label Syrah “Dreadnought,” ($33) paired with Blue cheese, strawberry black pepper jam, dark chocolate and toast

In solidarity we marched upon the Man O’ War with shouts of joy and threats of cork taint as our guests reveled in the delights of this wine. Joining us from the vineyard was Bronwyn Skuse, Ambassador to MO’W. Bronwyn tactfully handled all of my accusations and exclamations: “This wine is in the New World! (Crowd cheers!) But this wine is made in the Old World Style! (Crowd Cheers!) What do you say to that?!”

Bronwyn: I say you are correct! (Crowd Boos!)

JC: Shut up! Shut up! (Suddenly pies are thrown across the room and into all our faces).

New Zealand is a land The Noble Rot had yet to conquer, and the wines we tasted were to our surprise, elegant and refined. The three white varietal-offerings were bright, crisp and simply mouth-watering, particularly the Pinot Gris—say, you’ve just returned from working the hay-fields (like I do most weekends). You’re parched. You reach for a glass of water, but there’s no “bouquet.” And situated amidst bails of freshly packed hay, you see an ice cold bottle of Waiheke Island Pinot Gris. No corkscrew necessary–it’s got a twist top–and you pour the bright liquid vino down, down, down…returning home from the fields, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Valhalla Chardonnay awaits. The SB is typical of New Zealnd, less grassy, more fruit-forward, and is best sipped while surfing. The Valhalla says, “I was made in the Burgundian style,” and you shout, “Lies!” The sun sets, and we turn our heads to the reds and scene in New York City.

Scene: A dinner party on the UES. The players: MOW White Label Bordeaux (a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv), MOW White Label Syrah, and Dreadnought (grown on one mother of a steep hillside). The Bordeaux blend delights each guest, dredging up fond child-hood memories of Fruit-By-The-Foot and late night bike-rides in parking lots. The Syrahs go at it, as if players in a Shakespearean play from before Shakespeare’s time. Dreadnought, smooth and peppery declares its love for you, while the White Label Syrah teases and plays hard-to-get. End scene.

Damian Gutierrez of was on-hand to help pour, waltzed with me to “Che Syrah, Syrah, Whatever Will Be, Will Be” (played so fantastically by our musical guest Miwa Gemini) and offered discounts on purchases of the wines to those in attendance. Brian Quinn offered up one well-timed and humorous joke by nights end, then disappeared into the ether. In the kitchen, were three superstars who perfectly executed the menu, designed by A Razor, A Shiny Knife: Eugene Edele, a personal-chef-extraordinaire (who is available for your dinner party needs, so if you might be interested, send us an email to and we’ll put you in touch), Christine Wells, student at the French Culinary Institute who destroyed minds with her perfectionist attention to detail in the kitchen, and Mike Lee of Studiofeast, who showed up because he “works nearby” and wanted to get dirty serving it up. An amazing team, and we are grateful to them as well as to Bronwyn, Damian, to our friend Andrew who lets us light his apartment on fire, and to Keith Regelmann for loading a 4GB camera up with photos of the event. Please enjoy his handiwork, and know that color photos are coming… so check back in tomorrow for that:

Mike Lee, Christine Wells, Eugene Edele in the Kitchen- photo by Brian Quinn

Bronwyn Skuse, Ambassador to Man O’ War – photo by Keith Regelmann

Man O’ War – Syrah – photo by Keith Regelmann

Our friend Katarina taking matters into her own hands! – photo by Keith Regelmann

Jonny Cigar talking “Micro-Terroir” to the winos – photo by Keith Regelmann

Can you spot our friend Angelina? – photo by Keith Regelmann

Damian pours – photo by Keith Regelmann

Eugene, Mike, Christine, plating away – photo by Keith Regelmann

An attentive crowd – photo by Keith Regelmann

In battle, Jonny attempts to steal a bottle of Man O’ War while Brian who bet on Bronwyn to overcome watches in horror – photo by Keith Regelmann

Our friends Travis and Josh sipping the eau-de-vino – photo by Keith Regelmann

Miwa Gemini and band! – Photo by Brian Quinn

Oh, Valhalla, milady, Valhalla (Chardonnay) – Photo by Brian Quinn