Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are These Wines Rated?

That must be the single most reviled question I have ever heard at a tasting. Granted, it's only happened twice, but WOW does it piss me off. Really? You need to rely on some shmuck to tell you what you like? Do you really doubt yourself that much? Frankly, I think you also like giving me all your money without asking questions.

Actually, now that I'm breathing again, I should acknowledge that wine is an intimdidating subject when you first start. I'll admit to perusing the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker for clues as to what to drink when I first got into wine. But, and this is VERY important, I quickly learned what I liked and did NOT like in relation to those critics. I knew enough about myself to quickly realize that for some wines my palate lined up and for others it completely disagreed (pretty much most things when it came to Parker, truth be told). And yes, I know, we all need to start somewhere.

But, and this is a VERY big BUT, do NOT come to my tasting and ask me "are these wines rated?" while holding a ream of printed out reviews. I have never asked my distributors to send samples to any of the critics (even though I will admit I do love reading Josh Reynolds and Steve Tanzer), so unless they buy them on their own they're not tasting anything I represent. And, frankly, I don't care if they do. I know these wines are good and well-made. If you taste them, you are free to agree or disagree. The most important thing is to TRUST YOUR PALATE.

Here, let me repeat that: TRUST YOUR PALATE.

Seriously, these critics do have a place in the wine business, for they can guide and shepherd you along the winding vinous road of discovery. They can show you new regions and new wines you'd never find without them. At the end of the day, however, YOU are the one drinking the bottle, YOU are the one judging it on that day and in that place, YOU are the one deciding whether it's good or not.

So don't go to tastings and ask the wine rep there if they're rated. Taste the wine, close your eyes, let it sit on your tongue while you breathe over it, let all the long-chain molecules waft through your sinus passages and over your palate, and either swallow or spit, your choice. But make your own decision.

Now excuse me while I go punch a wall.

Monday, January 11, 2010


The year has gotten off to a crazy start: tons of work, lots of work-withs and, of course, tastings, where I'll be pouring my wines in the New York City area. That's the fun part, where I get to meet fellow wine-lovers or even plain civilians who are curious, but afraid of wine. I really love these events, there's something about interacting with the general public that's always so much fun. There's nothing I like more than that look of "Oh, wow, that's yummy, and it's how much?" Happily, this is a pretty regular occurence at the price point of the wines I represent.

So here's the upcoming tasting schedule:

-Thursday January 14th, 5-8pm at Drink, at 69th and 2nd Avenue. I'll be pouring the delightful Jean-Pascal Aubron Muscadet and the fantastic Clos Bagatelle St Chinian Tradition.

-Saturday January 16th, 12-4pm at The Wine Library, in Springfield, NJ. There I'll be showing four, you read that right, FOUR of my wines: Catherine et Didier Tripoz' Macon les Charnay Clos des Tournons (from old-vine Chardonnay planted on a steep and enclosed vineyard), the aforementioned Clos Bagatelle St Chinian, Chateau Gigognan's Cotes du Rhone Village Bois des Moines and the Chateau La Bouscade Minervois les Septs Vents. If last time was any indicator, this should be more like a party than a tasting.

So I hope you stop by and say hello, or at the very least try some small-production, authentic wines that taste more expensive than they actually are.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Akemashite Omedeto

Me on New Year's Day

That's Happy New Year in Japanese, in case you were wondering. This past decade has been, how should I put it...? The word turbulent comes to mind, both personally and professionally. Let's just say I am happy to put 2009 and the Naughty Aughties behind me. So it was in this spirit of cleansing and renewing that I accepted an invitation to a Japanese New Year's Day dinner.

In contrast to most formal Japanese dinners, this was more free-flowing and relaxed, with far fewer rituals than usual. In fact, aside from when to put the noodles into the broth, there were almost no rules. And on a cold, snowy New Year's Day 2010, this was just what the doctor ordered.

The fresh ingredients, resonating of the season, were laid out in a colorful display that lit up the room with the light of a new year. Various mushrooms, chrysanthemum leaves, lotus root, lettuce and carrots were both earthy and vivid, both to see and to taste.

Japanese onions and fresh tofu were pleasant counterpoints to each other, each maintaining its own identity yet adding a little bit of themselves to the broth.


The richest part of the meal was some paper-thin slices of well-marbled beef, which cooked through almost instantly once placed in the wok. These remained true to themselves, yet like the vegetables, added a little to the cooking liquid to make a whole that was greater than its parts.

The main part of this meal was the broth itself, which slowly absorbed the flavors of the various ingredients.

Once we were finished with the veggies and meat, the fresh udon noodles were placed in the boiling, flavor-infused broth.

Small bowls with sauce and scallions would greet the noodles once done.

With pure generosity, the richness of the liquid was transferred to the noodles, even as more ingredients were added. In typical Japanese fashion, a single star-shaped carrot was placed in the center while it cooked to offer a bright counterpoint to the earthy colors.

Finally, this long, cleansing meal ended with a single, perfect Japanese orange.

In a bow to the Western sensibilities (and sweet teeth - not mine, I swear I didn't steal the missing one) in the room, French macarons were offered as an addendum to the fruit.

What a way to greet the new year! Instead of the usual NYC brunch that was heavy and leaden, this was a light, cleansing meal. It was a wonderful metaphor for starting anew and with a clean slate, open to all the possibilities the new year could offer.

Thank you for letting me ramble on these past few years, watching as I follow my passion and plunge headfirst into the wine business. Without your support I would never have been able to do this. So it is with utter sincerity that I say:
Akemashite Omedeto! Happy New Year! Bonne Année! Felíz año nuevo!