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September 1, 2011 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

It was #CabernetDay with Cook With James and The Noble Rot

The Cabs we "sipped"

The Second Annual Social Media blitzkrieg, “#CabernetDay” hit Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, Tumblr pages and the whites of our teeth across this country on Thursday, September 1st. The Twitter Sphere was alive with consumers, wineries, brand ambassadors and people like James Stolich (Cook With James) and I touting and conversing about the king of all grapes: Cabernet. Briefly, you may be keen to know that Cab was not the king of grapes pre-phylloxera. That was Malbec. However Malbec didn’t graft well to the new American Rootstock being planted in France after Phylloxera, and so it settled into the role of tiny percentages in Bordeaux blends. Well, maybe there’ll be a #MalbecDay soon. We’ll have to ask Rick Bakas – the chap behind this global call to action.

We had a great time hosting an evening of 25 San Franciscans (some communists, some Philistines, and the rest naturalists). James dished out an incredible family-style meal, detailed below in the wine pairings we came up with. James is a hell of a cook and offers classes as well as fanciful dinners for small groups. I met James when he was one of the chaps cooking for the Michelin Guide Red Book release party at the Clift Hotel last October out here in SF. This time, James and I teamed up to host at his fabulous apartment in Ashbury Heights.

The Cabs we tasted/guzzled were:

  • 2007 “Alexis” Swanson Vineyards Cab Sauv (Oakville) $75
  • 2007 Kelly Fleming Cab Sauv (Calistoga) 100% Cab Sauv, 850 cases produced – $90
  • 2007 Mueller Family Vineyards Cab Sauv (Diamond Mtn), 100% Cab Sauv, 168 cases produced – $48
  • 2007 The Terraces Cab Sauv (Napa Valley) 95.23% Cab Sauv, 2.38% Malbec, 2.38% Petite Sirah, 465 cases produced –¬† $48
  • 2008 Taken Cab Sauv (Napa Valley) $30
  • 2005 Smith-Madrone Cab Sauv (Spring Mtn) 82% Cab Sauv, 9% Merlot, 9% Cab Franc – 1,459 cases produced – $45 (photo below)

Last but not least.

And what, good reader do you want to know about these cabs? Well, let me say this: we all enjoyed the different styles of these Cabs. Smith-Madrone was the most like a Bordeaux-style Cab and certainly has had more time to mellow into itself, with soft and round tannins. Taken had great acidity and paired nicely with James’s creamy burrata with Dirty Girl Farm tomatoes. Mueller was a treat on its own — the scotch drinkers Cab I call it. Alexis and the 5 Dot Ranch braised beef (one of James’ specialties) left us all on the floor, singing gospels songs to praise the pairing. Kelly Fleming was as enchanting as you might imagine the actual Kelly to be, and I can attest as I’ve met her and toured the Kelly Fleming caves dug into Mt. St. Helena. The Terraces sipped with¬†crostini of eggplant caponata transported us all to the high holy days of Rome. Why Rome? Why not?

Check out The Terraces fruit!

The Terraces

The Terraces

James is old pals with Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), and Craig graced our party with his presence. A delightful chap who I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with!

Craig Newmark (Craigslist) and Jonny Cigar on #CabernetDay 2011

And there was a surprise of the evening: JAQK Cellars. A delightful gal named Kelsey brought along a stylish cab of immense taste and weight. I loved the packaging and so would any fellow bootlegger/gambler. Check this stuff out:

JAQK Cellars "22 Black" - the bottles is a damn roulette wheel!!! And we tasted through a vertical: 2006, 07 08. The 2007 rocked us.

The rest of the photos can do the talking below. This week coming up on Winetology: my first experience hosting solo the Salon Tastings at Swanson Vineyards, updates on the launch of the Noble Rot Talks podcast, a recent trip to the Hill Family Estate farm and mucho vino moro.

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August 31, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Radio Silence: Broken

Two vines diverged in a yellow wood... and I... I took the one less trav....

Feels like August, but could be September. I’ve lost track. Hard to tell, what with the oddities in temperature. The grapes are still trying to ripen – the longest Veraison in a long time, is what they say. Time falls away from me out here; the remnants lie in heaps of torn vegetation like tiny monuments in between blocks of grape vines. You look up and the sky is blue again. You like down and the earth is red, or brown, or white. I’m never too hot, I’m never too cold.

The simple truth is that in a twenty-four hour period there are not enough hours to keep up with the demands of this world. And it’s fun, I think, to be realistic and place blame. A lot of people like to say that you can’t blame others, that you’ve got to blame yourself! We’re a culture of responsibility-takers. “I take responsibility,” we all [like to] say. What a bunch of idiotic rhetoric. So I’m placing blame… but I’m gonna be vague about it and say simply that I’ve been distracted – here in the golden state of California, amidst the vineyards of the valley, because of a programed mentality and not a human mentality. I’ve been backed into corners, my creativity depleted, my existence stifled.

I was supposed to write about wine, write about my everyday experiences out here in the vast western landscape, amidst the grapes and the receding mountain-scapes. I’ve let it go. Am I sorry for it? Only if readers grew bored and skidded elsewhere among the internet-O-rama-sphere. If this was 1861, and I was chronicling my experiences, you’d have to wait a damn long time for me to come back and tell you about everything. Well, look, I’ve made it back into town, my horse is near-death and I’ve been livin on wastewater. That’s life, ya know? So let’s get on with it.


Wine, I used to think was something you bought in a wine store, to be enjoyed with dinner, or on its own, glass after glass. Living in the Napa Valley for three months now, I’ve drunk more wine than ever before and paid for less of it than I ever imagined. There’s a barter system here. There’s also a “thank you” system and thanks comes in the form of many bottles O vino. Then, of course, there is the lucky luxury of happening upon the right situation. I think this bottle of wine fits that category:

"Is this the gold I came diggin' for?" - Jonny Cigar, September 31, 2011

I said I came out here to dig for gold, but no one told me I could find it in a bottle of Vin Gris. And with the price of gold at the moment ($1800 an ounce), I was a fool to drink this. Well, it wasn’t mine to begin with. It was a Sunday afternoon and down a dead-end drive in the town of St. Helena, CA, I met with new-found friends Josh Phelps and Ross Bentley. Ross makes wine with Jayson Woodbridge of Hundred Acre. Josh makes wine with his good friend Carlo Trinchero – they call their operation TAKEN Wine Company. We were playing a bocce-like game, but with bean-bags and wooden planks with a singular hole in the center. Rather than set the ball near the polina, the object of this game was to sink the bean-bags in the hole. First team to 21 points wins. We had a hell of time and drank a good deal of wine. Josh brought out a bottle of cider – 50 cases produced – for personal consumption, and why? Because it was fucking tasty and a friend had the apples and another friend had room to ferment. There may have even been a dosage involved, but who is keeping track?

But let me tell you what happened next:

Cathy Erway called to say that she’s in San Francisco and living on a boat, and we should put something together. Dinner on a boat. Okay. And we did. And I called Josh and told him we need his wine for this and I secured a case of his white wine, called AVAILABLE. A tasty blend of Sauv Blanc and Muscat. 10 of us drank the entire case. Cathy wrote about it here. And these are photos to prove it:

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And sounds to support: boatOrama

So then, my friend(s) it was the end of August. And that means the anniversary of the day when I promised to live with a lady until forever. We celebrated by lunching it at the due-michelin starred Cyrus in Healdsburg. That looked like this:

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Now moving forward — The podcast series will launch near the end of September. I have some great interviews to share – and the show Noble Rot Talks, will be quite fun, I assure yee. Also, my “Harvest” activities will include work at Swanson Vineyards and Alpha Omega. More on that later this week. Tomorrow is #CabernetDay and I’m hosting an event with James Stolich of Cook With James.