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June 15, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Jonny on Selling New York (HGTV)

JC on Selling New York (HGTV)

I had the privilege of hosting an exclusive wine tasting in Emeril Lagasse’s townhouse for the Kleier’s – the stars of Selling New York on HGTV. (See a little mention on Curbed!) See some screen shots below that I grabbed from my fancy flat-screen TV!

I wanted to feature two of my favorite wines, both of which happen to pair perfectly with Emeril’s house and style.

2007 Swanson Vineyards “Alexis” Cabernet Sauvignon. The Swanson’s hail from New Orleans – sixth generations of New Orlenians! Hence an absolute perfect pairing given Emeri’s creole cooking heritage. The wine is made by Chris Phelps who hails from Dominus and Caymus and got his start making wine under Christian Moiex at Chateau Petrus. Bam!

2009 Robert Foley Vineyards Merlot. This is a wine that tastes as good as Emeril’s townhouse looks. The multi-story UES house is laden with marble floors and elegant moldings, perfectly accentuated furniture, spiral staircase, beautifully designed kitchens — on and on – this wine had the guests feeling like they were the proud owners of such an exclusive and amazing property. Now, that’s terroir! Bam!

JC on Selling New York

Swanson and Robert Foley Vineyards on Selling New York (HGTV)

JC in Emeril Lagasse’s Kitchen on Selling New York

Swanson on Selling New York

Robert Foley Vineyards on Selling New York (HGTV)

Box ‘O Robert Foley Vineyards during setup for Selling New York

JC setting up for Selling New York

SellingNewYork JC Pouring (unmistakeable vest!)


May 8, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Edible Manhattan and Brooklyn present UNCORKED (at BAM)

Hands down, thumbs up for the best wine event in New York City: Edible Uncorked 2012.

Check out this time-lapse shot of the entire event by Max Flatow Photography:

I was there pouring for Millbrook Winery & Vineyards and can safely say that Millbrook’s New York State and Hudson Valley Region Chardonnay consistently impressed the fine guests that tasted them. Many an amateur connoisseur approached me asking what I was pouring. When I said “Chardonnay” their faces contorted. It was at that very moment, that I grabbed their glass and forced demanded suggested that they try it. Heck, even smell it – and dump it out if it still “freaks you out.”

Well, the result time and time again was, “Oh… that ain’t bad! In fact, I kinda like it.” Yes, Mr and Mrs wine drinker! Yes – you like it! Chardonnay! Made in a Burgundian style with wood tannin nicely integrated into an absolutely aromatic and plush white wine from the Hudson Valley, a mere 90 minutes north of New York City.

“There you have it!” I would shout and point toward the heavens! And as people looked up, I would steal a sip myself from the bottle from my own glass.

This is a video I produced from last year’s festival – it was intended to get people in a wine mood!

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.


February 19, 2012 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Fine & Raw + Um Segredo + Tempranillo = A Noble First

Photo Courtesy of Underground Eats

What’s in a Supper Club? If you ask The Whisk & Ladle Supper Club, they’ll tell you that they coined the name. In fact, so told me one of the W&L hosts, and I am paraphrasing: No one was using the words “Supper Club” before we began hosting our dinners. If you ask other New York-based dining groups, they’ll think nothing on it and if you ask Grub Street to describe a Supper Club, they won’t define what it is but they’ll tell you that the Health Department is too busy to even consider what a “Supper Club” is up to.

What about Dinner Theatre? Good question! Most certainly not the same thing, though I’ve collaborated in the past with a supper club that promises an, “educational, social and theatrical culinary” experience to unsuspecting attendees.

Most surprising of all is the WikiPedia entry, which only mentions super clubs in the U.S. as a footnote to a happening in Latin America, look:

“In Latin America, Supper Club typically denote underground restaurants, where they’re known as either a paladar or a restaurante de puertas cerradas (locked door restaurant). While technically illegal, they’re built into the culture, and often have higher standards than many licensed establishments. They are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.”

The New York Times has hailed supper clubs as “Anti-Restaurant[s]” and the term underground is used in conjunction with culinary happenings at such a frequency that all history of the “underground railroad” I fear, may well be re-written and confused for a big dinner party.

Q: Alright, JC, what’s the point?

A:  Great question kind Hipster in the back! First a photo, then my response:

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fine & Raw Chocolate piercing vanilla bean ice cream.

On Sunday February 12th I hosted an event that was indeed a first (for The Noble Rot). Since The Noble Rot’s inception in 2009 I have boasted of our Anti-Supper Club format where there ‘ain’t no sittin’ down.’ The focus has been on wine and the food is there to compliment the wines. The food has always been passed and like a politician kept afloat by a superPAC, I promised we’d never repeal our credo! We’d never sit down! And last Sunday, I flip-flopped. I’m also announcing my candidacy for President of the Unite States of Foursquare and Seven Years Ago When There Wasn’t No Damn Foursquare.

Fine & Raw limited ed. scotch bonbon. Photo courtesy of Underground Eats.

This story of Love, and the Occupying of it (title of the event was “Occupy the Things u Love”), begins last year when David Santos, Chef of Um Segredo a Portugese-influenced Roosevelt Island based supper club, contacted me about a collaboration.

ME: “You’re Spanish right?”
DAVID: “No, I’m Portugese”
ME: “I’ll never go to Roosevelt Island.”
DAVID: “You should, it’s pretty amazing. My apartment is so big it feels like a house in suburbia.”
ME: “So we’ll do a Spanish-inspired Valentine’s Day dinner in Williamsburg. Sound good?”
DAVID: “Sure.”

Mark, a Noble friend on the left. Chef David Santos on the right. Photo courtesy of Underground Eats.

That’s not exactly how it went, but pretty close. Daniel Sklaar, the ChocoFiend of Fine & Raw Chocolates, offered his loft as the base of operations. I was sold when he used the words”scotch” and “bonbon” in the same sentence. It wasn’t clear to me that he had made a scotch-infused bonbon, but that didn’t matter, I simply love word associations. Turned out he did make a limited edition bonbon and we were to give it out as a parting gift to the lucky 25 guests who made it on the list to attend.

You should only buy chocolates from a man dressed as impeccably as Sklaar (he doned this suit as a personal homage to yours truly).

Ramon Del Monte from Tempranillo, Inc. and I had been talking about the necessity of collaborating again and so he came on board the love train. Whenever we serve wines from Jorge Ordenez, the flagship brand of Tempranillo, the quality and consistency of deliciousness is always overwhelming. We tasted through five wines and ya know, I’m now hooked on every one. At the end of this post there are photos of the food and the wines we paired with each dish.

Ladies & Gents & Lovebirds: Ramon Del Monte.

Carla Rhodes, a “rock n’ roll” ventriloquist to the stars brought out her turn-of-the-century friendly, singing, womanizing compatriot: Cecil. Guests were clamoring for more of Carla’s musical numbers and Cecil’s harsh criticism. At one point, he told Carla that she looked like “Shirley Temple on speed,” and multiple times threatened to harm everyone in the house.  The act was just what Valentine’s Day ordered. Look her up.

Carla Rhodes and Cecil. Photo courtesy of Underground Eats.

We poured five Jorge Ordonez wines, sourced from the Wine Exchange in Brooklyn:

  • Bubbles: Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive 2006 ($15) Brilliant value cava
  • Paired with Crudo: Marques De Gelida Xarello 2010 ($10)
  • Paired with Monkfish: La Cana Albarino 2009 ($17)
  • Paired with Pasta: Cepa 21 2007 ($25) ** my personal favorite of the night
  • Paired with Squab: Avanthia Cuvee Mosterio 2010 ($22) ** will get even better with age, this was young.
  • Paired with Dessert for the Gents: Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Anada 2008 ($23)
  • Paired with Dessert for the Gals: Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 NV ($25) ** go to Tinto Fino in Manhattan for this and other sherries/ports. The place will astound you!

So, there you have it: we hosted a sit-down meal for 25. And all were a lovely bunch. Some “regulars” were there (you know who you are) and some new faces who had been trying to make an event happen for a long time. Chef Santos’ professionalism, his composure in the kitchen and ability to handle prepping, cooking, plating 25 portions for a five-course meal while washing dishes in between, keeping conversation light and fun, never breaking a sweat — is unparalleled in this “supper club” scene (in NYC). In fact, I’ll make a bold statement: every single supper club in New York City could take lessons in composure (and portion-size) from David. I told him so and I meant it: I’d work with him again anytime he so desired.

As we round the bend on this one, a tall order is in hand: to define supper club. Luckily, we’re not going to fill that tall order here today. Instead, we’ll just say that the experience of social dining may provide a very hearty rival to the restaurant scene as supper clubs develop and become adults. To boot, two gents from Underground Eats attended our V-Day extravaganza and truly captured the flow of the evening in a well-written and enjoyable blog post. They’re mission to become a source for access to our clandestine dining world may be the start of the growing up process. They’ve provided some photos for this post! Seek them out and perhaps you’ll be the fine owner of the only business card to rival the luxurious design of a Bentley (which they possess).

I’ve a bit of big news to break out as well, which involves an announcement about, “Jonny Cigar,” an idea of the title “sommelier,” a commitment to new dining and wining experiences, and a new business that combines a bit of public relations, a dash of marketing to be stirred with consulting. Details and more coming to an inbox near you in the very near coming weeks. So if you’re not on the Noble Rot mailing list, get on board.

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February 8, 2012 1 comment Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Rise of Kosher Wine: Kosher Food & Wine Experience 2012

The tasting season is upon us here in ole’ New York. And while there are plenty of opportunities to taste a array of wines from around the world, there is one opportunity to discover a rising class of wines that are making palates perform double-takes: kosher.

On Monday, February 13th, head to Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers to take part in the 2012 Kosher Food & Wine Experience (KFWE). The lineup of vintners may have you stroking your corkscrews, murmuring, “I didn’t know they made a kosher wine!” The likes of Laurent-Perrier, Rothschild, and Goose Bay will be pouring and unsurprisingly you’ll be able to taste through the Baron Herzog wines, but may indeed be surprised by the latest vintages.

In Napa, some of the valley’s most coveted and expensive fruit is making its way into wine bottles that are kosher, and the result is a kosher wine renaissance. I dare say you may already be hooked on one of these wines and not even know it’s kosher! Go then, good connoisseur and see for yourself, for I will make a prediction: the next cult wine to take the cult wine-seekers by storm may be a kosher one.

And note: good wino, for you may have heard of manischewitz. Well, wine does not have to be manischewitz to be a kosher wine. To make manischewitz-type wines, the wine is typically “boiled,” which then classifies it mevushal.

And if you’re looking for a really fantastic explanation of what makes a wine kosher vs what makes a wine mevushal, read what Covenant Wines wine maker Jeff Morgan has to say about it. He’ll be at the KFWE pouring on Monday, so say hello but don’t tell him I sent you because I’m Sicilian. The tastings begin at 6:30pm!


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