Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I want to wish all my readers and friends a very warm, loving, healthy and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blind Bubbly Tasting

I am a big fan of blind tasting. It's humbling, but also very educational. Your mind races as the different flavors flow over your palate, trying to catch ephemeral hints of this and that, trying to figure out exactly what it is you're tasting. It's certainly not as easy as it looks, as the brain has a tendency to project expectations when the eye catches a label, and without this visual confirmation you are left with nothing but your nose and your tongue to figure things out.

That said, blind tasting is fun when it's with friends, but nerve-wracking when you're judging or in a competition. Luckily, this past Friday the blind tasting was with friends, and just as luckily, it was a Champagne tasting.

The theme was Blind Bubblies Under $80, the rationale being that even with a recession most folks would be splurging slightly to celebrate the holidays and the New Year (and for some, the new President). I decided to organize this as a cocktail party, since this is the format in which most people would be drinking these wines at this time of year. All the bottles were wrapped in aluminum foil, and each one was numbered as it arrived.

I won't bore you with detailed descriptors of every single wine, as there were fifteen bottles of bubbly (count 'em, 15!). Even I, a lover of the bubbly, was out-bubbled by the end, and savored the splashes of still red and white wine that were offered by generous friends who had brought extra bottles along for the ride. Apparently, there really can be too much of a good thing. Who knew?

In any case, my favorite of the evening was a 1999 Champagne Vilmart Cuvée Rubis (90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay), a lovely salmon-colored Champagne that was full of sweet berries and balancing acidity. I think the only flaw, and I am being really anal here, was that it was a tad sweet. I still loved it, as did everyone else. Another favorite was the NV Pierre Moncuit Cuvée Delos, a lovely yeasty wine with nice balance, which to me offered one of the best quality-to-price ratios of the night (approximately $30 in NYC).

Other delicious wines included the 1992 Champagne Dom Perignon, which I am happy to say I nailed blind (well, not the year, but I did say it was a DP). It was quite yummy, still fresh with only some hints of ageing. The 1985 Veuve Clicquot Rosé tasted younger than it actually was, with fresh fruit and baked notes and just hints of the oxydation age gives Champagne.

The NV Champagne Henriot Souverain showed well too, but sadly the 1990 Philiponnat had seen better days. Also good were the NV Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Saint Anne, another great QPR wine I used to have as my house Champagne. My least favorites were the 2002 Huet Pétillant, a bubbly from the Loire that was too young and really angry at being poured, and the 2003 Giacosa Spumante Extra Brut, which I didn't care for at all.

All in all, it was an interesting tasting, many of the bubblies were well-made, some were more interesting than others, but almost all offered something for someone. Best of all, we had a great time and laughed until late in the evening. Then again, isn't that what wine is for?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Love New York- Sripraphai

There are always small, hidden, out of the way places that can make a trip to the boroughs really worth it. For Manhattanites, it's sometimes inconceivable that there's anything worthwhile outside the borders of our little island, but there you have it. It's a mind-blowing myopia for a city that calls itself the center of the world. Heck, most of us know more about the rest of the planet than we do our own backyard.

One of these little (not-so-hidden) treasures is the Thai restaurant Sripraphai. Located in the wildly mixed neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, this place offers some of the most authentic and inexpensive Thai food in the city. Its modern decor and inviting garden are perfect settings to concentrate on the intense flavors and colors of the dishes. Best of all, it's a short ride on the 7 line from Manhattan.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here are some pictures of the dishes we enjoyed recently. Careful, don't drool on your keyboards!


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I Love New York- Wine Bars

The mallification of New York continues apace, with Duane Reades, CVS (CVI?) and banks sprouting up on corners all about the city. What was once a vibrant metropolis filled with mom and pop stores which reflected their neighborhoods is rapidly becoming the Mall of America, a Las Vegas version of itself, cleaned and respectable, just as the tourists like it.

Yet, as I have posted before, there are still small pockets of originality and independance. The spirit of New York lives on, though it is now somewhat hidden and not blazing defiantly as it once did. It is to celebrate this spirit that I offer a few affordable Manhattan wine bar suggestions for the next time you get thirsty.

These aren't the cookie-cutter places that serve Sutter Home Chardonnay by the glass for $12 or pour more martinis in a night than bottles of wine. These places are proudly independent, resisting the lure of a quick turnover and offering warmth, richness and depth, something that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. These places are the real New York, where you will find real people trying to enjoy real experiences.

-Bar Veloce
Though there are now several of these about town, the East Village location was one of the first real wine bars in the city, with a unique and interesting selection of Italian wines from all over the Boot. The food is very good too (try the paninis and anything with Nutella in it, really), but it's more bar food than a restaurant experience. Just be ready to snuggle with your date and your neighbor as the original is tiny. Really, really tiny.

-Bar Solex
This French wine bar was opened by the folks who brought you Bar Veloce. Another sleek, minimalist wine bar, this one carries mainly high-quality, low-cost French wines. Again, the selection comes from all over the Hexagon (what the French call France due to its relatively hexagonal shape), and has some unique bottles that you won't find elsewhere in the city. These wines showcase the various terroirs that the country can offer. The food is mainly bar food, with some good French pizzas (yes, you read that correctly, they do personal pizzas in the South of France that rival anything in Italy).

-Pata Negra
Now we move on to Spain, which is nicely represented by this tiny, warm and inviting tapas bar in the East Village. With brick-lined walls and only a few tables, Mateo the friendly owner makes you really feel at home. That would be true, of course, if your home had a Spanish Pata Negra ham in the kitchen (and if it does, please feel free to invite me over) as this place does. If you love the pig (and I certainly do!), then this is the place for you. And it's more than likely that you'll catch me here, gorging on some Jamon Iberico and a glass of Rioja.

-Turks and Frogs
The people who run this eccentrically-named wine bar are Turkish, but focus mainly on French wines. Thus, the name. Tiny and inviting, these wine bars (there are 2 locations currently) are refuges, soothing enclaves in which to enjoy a nice glass from an interesting bottle.

-Demare Bistrot
Previously known as Bandol Wine Bar, Demare Bistrot is a warm and welcoming spot in the affordable-gastronomic wasteland known as the Upper East Side. While its neighbors charge astronomical prices for pathetic plonk and over-worked food, Demare has continued to serve well-chosen wines and well-made, solid meals at reasonable prices. Pamela, the owner, greets everyone personally, and ensures that you have a lovely experience.

All these places represent the old spirit of New York in the context of wine bars. There are countless other "wine bars" in the city, but these really offer unique experiences that the others couldn't even imagine. So the next time you're in their areas, stop in and say hello. You might just see me at the bar.

And feel free to post your own finds, I know I missed a few.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving in Florida

The pre-Thanksgiving lunch

Well, another holiday has passed us by. I hope everyone had a lovely time with friends, family, and the Big Bird.

But I have to admit something: I hate turkey. I really do. Luckily, since I am the one who cooks on Thanksgiving, I get to choose what we're eating. One year it was leg of lamb, but the family complained that it wasn't "Thanksgiving-y" enough, whatever that means. So I relented the following year and made Cornish Game Hens. However, it's nearly impossible to get good quality ingredients where my family is in Florida, so we ended up with Tyson birds. While they were moist and juicy, their flavor was, to put it mildly, vile. Every single bird had a nasty metallic taste to it. This alone should be proof that you must avoid industrially-produced foods at all costs.

So this year, in keeping with the holiday's avian theme, I wandered to the Whole Foods near my mother's place. I was looking for a bird, any bird, beside chicken, turkey, or Cornish Game Hens. To my delight, I found some whole organic ducks, which would satisfy my blood-lust for fatty meat and my family's desire for a bird of some kind.

The Beast awaits its fate

Following a recipe I'd had for a while, I rubbed it with salt, pepper and some herbs, then into the oven it went.

My mother made a lovely ratatouille with the few fresh vegetables she could find in the area. Which meant not too many but just enough for it to taste delicious and look great.

Flipping the bird

After 45 minutes, I turned Daffy over onto his back to let his sinfully delicious fat drain through the whole body, bathing the meat in it.

The duck is done!

Lunch rolled around while we cooked, so I grabbed a bottle of the 2005 A&P De Villaine Côte Chalonnaise La Digoine. I had stashed a few bottles here on my last visit, and good thing too: the store I bought it from had gone out of business! This wine was lovely, with crisp dark cherries balanced by earthy notes on a really silken frame. Just delicious. Happily I have one left for my next trip.

The next day, I grabbed the left-over duck meat, tossed it with some salad and olive oil, and popped a special bottle I'd been saving for our last day: a NV Feuillate Rose Champagne. Gorgeous, creamy cherries and toasty notes filled your mouth, dancing around the little bubbles, with some beautiful acidity to firm things up.

The last lunch

This went quite nicely while sitting on the terrace, overlooking swaying palms, with a soft breeze playing over us. You know, Florida's not that bad after all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the Big Bird!

I will be with family in Florida, cooking the Big Dinner, and serving Champagne and Burgundy alongside it. If my wines were in this market I'd serve the Felines Jourdan Picpoul, as I think it's both aromatic and crisp enough to hold up to all the different flavors. Then again, I am biased, after all.

Cheers and Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Week In Paris

Morning in Paris

Yeah, there are worse places to spend a week than in Paris.

I decided to treat myself to a week in Paris, where I could do some business and also celebrate my birthday. To put it mildly, I have my priorities straight, thank you very much.

I left Macon very early on a Saturday morning, taking the TGV from the quaint little town to the capital. To my surprise, the train was packed to the gills, though everyone was asleep due to the early hour. Rocketing through the fog-shrouded French countryside felt like flying, with nothing but clouds and sun outside the windows and that shallow rocking motion high-speed trains get. What a civilized way to travel!

Upon arrival, my first order of business, of course, was to eat breakfast (espresso and croissant, delicious) then head over to Caves Augé to meet some friends for a tasting of Burgundy producers. The tasting was a lot of fun, we met some great winemakers, tasted some very good wines (especially Marechal and Pacalet), and tasted some not so good wines (nope, won't bad-mouth them). Best of all was hanging outside on the street while tasting, and popping over to a table where some fresh jambon persillé and some paté de campagne were being served. Yum!

We then ran over to Willy's Wine Bar for lunch. A stop at Willy's is de rigueur for me on every trip to Paris. It's a great deal for lunch (20 Euros if I recall correctly), and the wine list is fantastic. We shared a bottle of 2002 Anne Gros Clos de Vougeot "Musigni" which was nice but took forever to open and reveal itself. The best glass, as usual, was the last. Of course.

It was quickly decided that we were still thirsty, so we headed over to Caves Legrand Filles et Fils, across the street. Their wine bar has some interesting selections and the store itself has some deals (sometimes, you need to really do some hunting however).

For some reason, I can't quite recall what I ended up doing for dinner...

The following morning I woke up early and decided that the apartment I rented needed some food, so I hopped on one of the municipal bikes (Velib) scattered throughout the city and headed over to the Boulevard Raspail Organic Market. If I may say so myself, I was quite dashing, with my leather jacket and scarf, speeding through the sleepy streets of Paris on this cold fall morning.

That is, until I hit the streets still paved with cobblestones.

I won't need to worry about having kids after those. Ouch. Those bikes weigh a ton, and have no shocks, so you ladies need to use your imagination, but all the men reading this just winced.

Lesson #1= avoid the cobblestoned streets.

In any case, I piled all the fresh produce (eggs, herbs, salad, etc...) into the little basket at the front of the bike and headed back to my apartment. Problem was that the place I rented was in the 9th, near Place Clichy, which is at the top of a hill. Boulevard Raspail is all the way at the bottom, and across the Seine.

Lesson #2= make sure you have the energy to bike a heavy, steel bike up steep hills before attempting to look cool biking through the City of Light.

After this abuse, I made it back home and prepared a lovely omelette aux fines herbes the way it's supposed to be: runny and gooey and freakishly delicious. There's something about eggs in Europe, they're denser and so much more flavorful than the eggs we get in the US, even from farmer's markets.

My friends Sharon and Arnaud invited me to dinner for my birthday, and much good, no, fantastic wine was consumed over a lovely meal. Highlights included a NV Ruinart Rosé from magnum (WOW), a 2000 Armand Rousseau Ruchottes Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes that was swoonfully good (yes, I just invented that word, deal with it) and a mind-blowingly good 1993 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru "Champgains".

Over the course of the week I found a few new wine bars and restaurants that I will add to my revised Wine Geek's Guide to Paris (look on the right-hand side of the blog, link is right there). I also cooked myself some lovely meals and discovered a neighborhood I didn't know very well but ended up really liking.

Now, back in New York, I am re-energized for work and looking forward to showing more of my wines as business grows, even as I long for and miss Paris. Sigh...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Night in Macon

The town of Pouilly Fuissé

I left Avignon for Macon, in southern Burgundy, with a heavy heart and a somewhat heavier head (more like a pounding head to be honest). My winemaker, Didier Tripoz, of Domaine Cathérine et Didier Tripoz, picked me up at the tiny train station. I represent their monopole wine, the Clos des Tournons, a walled enclave of old vines (between 30 and 65 years of age). This makes for a lovely, unoaked and full-flavored yet light on its feet Chardonnay that is just making its appearance in the US.

The moment I saw the vine-covered hillsides, I knew I was home: Burgundy! Even though I was an hour south of Beaune, the regional capital, it felt like I was back where I belonged. The vines’ leaves were turning yellowish with the changing of the seasons, making for a beautiful undulating golden carpet. Absolutely glorious.

A rocky spur overlooking vineyards

We dropped my stuff off at the crappy hotel I was staying in (never, ever, ever, stay in a Balladins motel, it’s downright scary: the bathroom was a solid piece of plastic, so I could take a shower while taking care of business while brushing my teeth – a nightmare of efficiency taken to the extreme), then proceeded to head right into the vineyards. Didier drove us through a beautiful vista of steeply rolling hills covered in those golden leaves, with rocky outcroppings popping up at odd intervals, all lined by centuries-, if not often millennia-old, stone walls. God I love this part of the world. There really is something magical about this region, something timeless that just really stirs the soul.

Didier challenges me to a race up the hill

We visited a new plot that Didier had just bought in the Pouilly Fuissé appelation, angled so steeply that going up was a chore but coming down was an adventure. I swear, this thing must have been at a 45° slope! There, we were joined by his assistant winemaker David, who had helped out with this year’s harvest. After stints in New Zealand and several other wineries, David has settled in as Didier’s helper going forward. He’s really ambitious and eager to increase the quality of the wines, which is always a good thing.

Looking up the slope

Looking down the slope

Lost in a sea of Chardonnay

After driving around the perimeter of the Clos des Tournons , we came to the winery, which is basically an addition to the house’s garage. We began tasting the 2008s from tanks, and I was thrilled to see that this year's Clos des Tournons would be another success, with beautiful fruit backed up by almost stinging acidity and a lovely, rich mouthfeel. We also tasted the Pouilly Fuissé, which holds much promise as well. We made our way through all the wines, from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir as well as Gamay (the grape used in Beaujolais but used here to make red Macon, very rare). Quite nice if I may say so myself.

Didier pours from the tank

After the winery visit, we retreated to the tasting room, where some 2007s were opened for my perusal. I was pleased to see that Didier hasn’t lost his touch, his wines were just as beautiful as I recalled. Then, as his wife Cathérine announced that dinner would be ready soon, he poured me something else, something intriguing, something quite surprising. “This is for our aperitif,” he explained.

Now, I’m a sucker for Champagne, I just love the stuff. I am not a fan of Crémants or other bubbly wines, in general. So I was wary about this.

The wine he was pouring looked like Champagne, a golden liquid with surprisingly tiny, elegant bubbles, it smelled like a Blanc de Blancs, on the palate it was richer, with bracing acidity, yet it wasn’t Champagne: it was his Crémant de Bourgogne. I almost fell off my chair. This was stunning. This was amazing. This was unbelievably delicious.

Using the traditional Méthode Champenoise, Didier makes a sparkling wine from Chardonnay without adding back the liqueur d’expedition, or the base wine plus sugar that most sparkling makers add back to make the wine richer and balance its high acidity. In this case, he doesn’t add it back because, being further south than Champagne, his grapes achieve a higher level of ripeness: in other words, they don’t need the sugar, some of theirs survives the first fermentation.

The result is unbelievable, at least for a Crémant. This is something I’ll be happy to show to my clients very soon.

Dinner was a long, leisurely affair with Didier, Cathérine, their son and David. We laughed a lot and chatted about the upcoming elections (I swear the French were more obsessed with it than we were). Finally, I retired to my crappy motel and tried, unsuccessfully, to fall asleep.

I had an early morning TGV to catch: I was heading to Paris. Yay!

Next: A week in Paris.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The United States of America

Note: I am taking a small break from reporting about my last trip to France to say a few words about this election.

I have never been prouder to be an American.

The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is an amazing event. No matter who you voted for, no matter what you think of him as a person or as a politician, you have to admit that this is a singular, momentous occasion for this nation: an African-American man will be the 44th President of the United States. Whether you're happy or not that he won, you have to admire how far this country has come.

Do we still have racial problems? Absolutely. Is there still much work to be done? Absolutely. And of course let's not forget the economic mess our "Masters of the Universe" drove us into, or the wasteful war in Iraq and the forgotten war in Afghanistan. There's lots of things to fix after 8 years of incompetence and corruption.

But Barack Obama's election reminds us, and the world (which, let's face it, has been watching with baited breath) that the United States of America is not just a country but an idea and an ideal. We might have gotten horribly distracted from it for the past eight years, but this election tells us that the ideal survives and thrives. It is one of hope, freedom, and the absolute faith in a person's ability to thrive and rise to the top with hard work and dedication.

Whatever his policies and views, Barack Obama's victory shows that we as a nation are willing to give anyone a chance. No matter the color of their skin.

I have never been prouder to be an American.

Of course, to celebrate, I popped a French Champagne, but I do have to be faithful to part of my heritage, non?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Day in Avignon

I found myself in the ancient walled city of Avignon, in the Rhône Valley, where I was to meet up with one of my winemakers, Jean-Marie Popelin of Château Haut-Musiel, for lunch. I love this city, it’s beautiful, full of energy and history and winding, medieval streets. You really expect a knight on horseback to come clip-clopping by at any moment.

From 1309 to 1423 the Catholic Popes set up shop here due to infighting in Rome, building a massive Gothic fortification with huge, imposing walls that overlooks the whole city. Today it’s a tourist destination, but for nearly a century and a quarter it was the seat of a powerful regional state. This period in history is known as the Avignon Papacy, and more information can be found here:

The Popes' Palace

Anyway, I had no dealings with the Church, instead heading for a small wine bar for some sinful consumption. Jean-Marie met me at a lovely, tiny and modern place called Vinoe & Co, near Avignon’s main market, Les Halles. I loved their Seven Delicious Sins list, which you can see on their website in French but which I took the liberty of translating:

Pride of Cabernet
We have the pride of only drinking the greatest Cabs

The Gluttony of Riesling
Tart candy which hides a honeyed heart

The Envy of Chardonnay
We only want to wallow in its purest expressions

The Greed of Mourvèdre
For all the decanters in the world

The Wrath of Gamay
Gamay isn’t for the kids anymore

The Lust for Syrah
Like that for a black diamond

The Sloth of Grenache
Ever really feel like working after a great Grenache?

I perused the menu and was shocked: there were some seriously ambitious dishes here. And when I saw the wine list, I nearly fell over. There were many highly-regarded wines at ridiculous prices (and I am taking into account the exchange rate).

Now, I like Jean-Marie. He’s young, ambitious, really proud that his wines are making an entrance into NYC and New Jersey, and best of all, like me, a bon vivant. He took the wine list from my hands without asking (a cardinal sin if ever there was one) and flipped through a few pages, finally stopping, looking up with a wicked little smile, and asking “Do you like Châteauneuf?” Do I? Hell yeah! “I love the classical ones like Clos des Papes,” I responded, to which he laughed. “I was going to suggest that!” What can I say, great minds think alike.

The 1998 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf des Papes was poured right from the cellar, still cool. Quite nice at first, this really came out of its shell with some air, putting on weight and gaining confidence in itself, big and fruity and meaty yet balanced, growing before our very palates and becoming slightly darker in color. It went amazingly well with my excellent main dish, braised pork cheeks on a bed of pasta. Clearly, this business is not for those faint of palate or vegetarian by nature…

We had a nice time discussing business, after which I was off to a few more meetings. But once Jean-Marie found I would be alone for dinner, he insisted on joining me at a local wine bar with a nice, eclectic list and some great food.

We met up at AOC (no website that I could find, sorry) that night at 8:30pm, and ended up chatting and talking with the owners and other folks until the wee hours of the morning. We tasted some great wines but I don’t recall the names, and we ate some great, light food (like paté, rillettes, saucisson, lots and lots more saucissons of different types, and of course tons of cheese). I can seriously recommend this place, off a small pedestrian street in the heart of Avignon. The welcome was warm, the décor unpretentious, and I am ready to go back. Right now.

Vinoe & Co
Tel. 04 90 86 31 29

AOC Wine Bar
5, Rue Tremoulet,
84000 Avignon
Tel : 04 90 25 21 04 - Fax : 04 90 25 21 04

Next: One night in Macon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Days in the Languedoc

Only happy Picpoul grapes here!

I next found myself in the far South of France, only an hour’s drive from the Spanish border, where the sky is bright blue and the sun’s dappled light inspires artists, philosophers, and writers. Except that when I got there it was cool, grey and rainy. Just my luck…

I was picked up at the Béziers train station by my Picpoul de Pinet producer, Claude Jourdan. Her wine, Félines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet, is doing great in NYC and so I was looking forward to seeing her, meeting her new assistant winemaker Sandy, and of course tasting through some wines! There were some other meetings planned, and I was hoping to find 1-2 more wines to add to the portfolio. Claude had graciously gathered a few samples of local wines she thought might be suitable for us to taste the following day.

After a nice and relatively quiet dinner in Mèze (where we were serenaded by the town drunk who wobbled over on his scooter), a tiny fishing town on the shores of the Étang de Thau (Bay of Thau, which empties into the Mediterranean), I woke up well-rested and ready to start the day. Claude picked me up and we wandered to the water’s edge. Chardonnay vines are planted within 3 meters (whoops, 10 feet, sorry, I am feeling very Euro right now so am counting in meters and grams) of the shore, leading to some vine deaths from the salty air. However, the cool and humid air that comes rolling in off the Bay balances out the brutal summer heat in the region, which explains why her Chards are crisp and lighter on their feet than most Chards from the region.

Chardonnay rows

We drove from parcel to parcel, passing through vineyards of various ages (I’d never seen very old Picpoul vines), and taking note of the different soil structures (see the picture for a real clear example of this). At one point our path was intersected by the 2,100-year old Via Domitia, a Roman highway that was old when the Empire paved it (supposedly, it was the route that Hannibal took to invade Europe). How cool is that? And somewhat humbling too: I seriously doubt that our modern blacktop highways will last that long…

Old vine Picpoul

Different soils (rocky clay at bottom, ferrous at top)

Chariot races this way

Looking north on the Via Domitia

Looking South on the Via Domitia

Cross-section of the Via

Panel explaining the construction of the Via

We found ourselves at the winery, where Sandy, Claude’s new assistant winemaker, had organized a little tasting of the just-fermented 2008s. They were good but tough to analyze, some hadn’t quite finished the fermentation and had some residual sugar. Still, the quality was evident, 2008 should be another great year for Claude, despite a rather reduced crop. Then we wandered over to the fermentation tanks, tasting various plots of Picpoul to see the differences. All were searingly acidic, as can be expected, but they’ll sit on their lees for at least 3 months before being bottled. Some were rounder than others, and some more aromatic than others, quite a fascinating thing to see first-hand. Or rather first-palate.

The 2008s await

Freshly fermented Picpoul anyone?

At dinner we were joined by Claude’s friend Christine, who brought her own wines to the table. She makes wines in the Saint Chinian appellation, in the Minervois, concentrating on hearty reds that reminded me of the Rhône without that area’s prices. I liked her wines a lot, and I might try to represent them. Something to consider, I’ll be sure to keep you posted…

The next day was spent in meetings all over the Languedoc, which would be great if the sun had been out and the air warm and I could brag to my friends and family who were left shivering in the cold NYC autumn. Except that it was drearily cool and humid there too. Such are the risks of this business, I suppose. I did have a fantastic lunch in a small town, a confit de canard (duck confit) so meltingly good (literally) I was left swooning in pleasure, if not waddling like a duck after.

Dinner that night was in Montpellier with two of my winemakers, and I insisted on revisiting an old friend: l’Atypique, where I’d spent 4 fun-filled and wine-soaked evenings during ViniSud. Amazingly, Marco recognized me almost from the get-go, and away we went!

Marco in action

He started us with a fresh gazpacho that puts to shame much of what is served in most New York Mexican restaurants. Next came some perfectly cooked lamb chops in an herbal mustard sauce, accompanied by a plate of deliriously fresh pommes frites. Claude and I ended up fighting over the crunchy bits, chasing them around the platter with our forks. We shared a bottle of Cab Franc from the Languedoc that was nice if a bit modern in style, then he offered us some prune liqueur to digest things… Delicious but WOW. My head’s still spinning.

I was happy with my stay here, as I may have found a few new wineries making great juice to add to the portfolio. Better yet I saw some old friends and made some new ones, and of course had a great time doing business.

Next: A day in Avignon.