Somm Secrets to Drinking French Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 06-05-2014

Domaine La Bastide Corbières Blanc. (Credit: Aleksandra Sasha Arutyunova.)

Three sommeliers from Michelin-Star restaurants may not seem like the most likely trio to offer practical advice about drinking affordable French wine in New York City.

However, Bernie Sun, the beverage director at Jean-Georges Management; John Ragan, the wine director at Union Square Hospitality Group; and Pascaline Lepeltier, the beverage director at Rouge Tomate, recently joined Ray Isle of Food & Wine to do just that during a lively discussion at New York’s French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF).

The conversation was honest. Heard in the room, “Natural wines are overplayed. It’s an acquired taste and for me, I just never acquired that taste.” And quite informal. “When I plan a pairing, I put everything in my mouth – food and wine – and I just mush it around… I realize that’s not normal…”

Throughout the fun back-and-forth, we arrived at several useful tips to keep in mind when seeking out French wines:

Drink Corbières. And other “optional wines.”

If you look at the wine list and find a listing that’s a little unexpected — something that’s not from Bordeaux or Burgundy — take a closer look. “It should make you think: the somm doesn’t have to have this wine on the list,” says John Ragan, “The somm wants to have it on the list for a reason.”

These “optional wines” are good cues that you may get a good value or something interesting. For example, we tasted a Domaine La Bastide Corbières Blanc 2011 (SRP: $15.50). It’s a wine from a lesser-known region in the Languedoc-Roussillon and grown in an area that’s dominated by red wines (almost 95%). It was fresh and balanced with notes of sweet apple and lime blossom and really nice acidity.

For more on embracing the unknown at restaurants, check out David’s recent post on the topic.

Don’t be afraid of the cheapest wines.

These somms are tasting a lot of wine to select what will appear on their list; Bernie had tasted 75 wines earlier in the day. If a sommelier is tasting through, say 500 wines per month, many of which are in the $15 range, even the cheapest wine has been through a competitive, selective process to make the cut.

“People never take the cheap wine!” says Pascaline, “But the lowest-priced wines on my list are some of my best values.”

John agrees, “At lower price points, usually it’s not a money play, it’s a passion play. Something we really love.”

So try the “cheap” wine. It’s not a huge risk and you may find a new lifelong friend. Read the rest of this entry »

PSA: Ripple and Pearl & Ash Team Up

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 05-29-2014

pearl ashrippleIt’s cliché to praise Patrick Cappiello’s wine program at Pearl & Ash in New York. But if an oenophile had carte blanche to create the restaurant of her dreams, she’d save herself a lot of time by simply replicating the Bowery hotspot. 

As Pete Wells wrote in the opening paragraph of his glowing New York Times review, “Going to Pearl & Ash without opening a bottle or two is like buying a chocolate bar and not unwrapping it. Since it opened in February, the restaurant has become the city’s most exciting place to drink wine.”

After visiting last June, I was floored. I’ve since been back twice, and the food program is as impressive as the wine program. In fact, when I last dined there, I had eaten at Per Se the previous evening. And plate for plate, the food was on par with everything I’d had at the Thomas Keller hot spot.

The chef at Pearl & Ash, Richard Kuo, is a superstar.  And next Wednesday (June 4), he’s coming to DC to team up with Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple to craft a 9-course wine dinner.

Ripple is the closest thing D.C. has to Pearl & Ash. The extensive wine list is geeky yet approachable and the markups are reasonable. Like Cappiello, Ripple’s wine director, Danny Fisher, even sabers an occasional bottle of Champagne.

And Ripple’s chef, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, is absolutely amazing. This February, she was named a semifinalist in the James Beard Award’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year.” In mid-March, Food & Wine listed Meek-Bradley as one of just ten contenders for the mid-Atlantic’s best new chef. One week later, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington nominated her for a major award. She rocks.

Be sure to reserve your spot soon before all the seats fill up!

Rhone Rangers DC: Free VIP Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 05-20-2014

rhone_rangers_bannerIt’s no secret that I love America’s Rhone-style wines. So I’m thrilled that the Rhone Rangers will be visiting DC on Wednesday, June 4! They’ll be visiting the Long View Gallery at 1234 9th St NW

Terroirist is able to offer TWO VIP TICKETS to the Grand Tasting. From 5:30pm till 9:00pm, attendees will have the chance to taste more than 80 wines from Rhone Rangers member wineries. A selection of appetizers will also be available.

VIP tickets are $90 in advance. General Admission tickets, which cover the tasting from 7:00pm till 9:00pm, are $55 in advance. For a $10 discount, use the promo codeterroirist.”

Earlier that day, from 10:30am till noon, I’ll be leading a panel discussion exploring “The State of the American Rhone Nation.” The discussion will feature a tasting of eight different wines. If you can sneak away from your desk, please join! Tickets are just $35.

To have a chance to win a FREE PAIR OF VIP TICKETS (a $180 value!), just leave a comment naming your FAVORITE American Rhone-style wine. For an extra entry, tweet to me (@terroiristblog) and the Rhone Rangers (@RhoneRangers) with your favorite American Rhone-style wine, using the hashtag #RRWADC.

The contest ends Tuesday, May 27, at midnight ET. Good luck!

Heart’s Delight – Discount Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-23-2014

heart's delightHere at Terroirist, we’re big supporters of Heart’s Delight, a four-day celebration in Washington, DC that brings together winemakers, celebrity chefs, gourmands, and wine enthusiasts to raise money for the American Heart Association.

The week culminates with a Grand Tasting Reception and Auction on Saturday, May 3rd.

Guests will enjoy wine from a host of outstanding producers. For fortification, attendees will be able to munch on delicious bites from exceptional chefs such as Chicago’s Graham Elliot, San Francisco’s Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions, and local favorites like R.J. Cooper of ROGUE 24 and Michael Friedman of The Red Hen.

During the reception, guests can peruse the many wonderful silent auction items available for bidding. Later in the evening, a live auction will feature a number of impressive trips, experiences and of course, wine!

This year, Terroirist is very excited to be able to offer our readers tickets to the Saturday event for 50% OFF the regular price! Just go to the web site for Saturday tickets, enter the discount code TERROIRIST, and at checkout your price for the Tasting Reception & Auctions will be $125 instead of $250.*

So, if you live in the Metro Washington area — or want to make a weekend trip! — please consider buying a ticket and joining us for what promises to be another fantastic year of Heart’s Delight. We hope to see you there!

*Discount only applies to the Tasting Reception & Auctions ticket, not the other portion’s of Saturday’s event lineup. If you purchase a ticket at $125, it will not be tax deductible. You can purchase a full price ticket for $250 and $125 of the cost may be tax deductible. Consult a tax professional for guidance.

In Vino Veritas: A St. John’s Fundraiser

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-07-2014

St. John's College.

St. John’s College.

St. John’s College in Annapolis is best known for its commitment to the “great books” curriculum. But it should also be known for its impact on America’s wine industry.

Warren Winiarski, who played a pivotal role in the transformation of American wine, is an alumnus. Last summer, Jon Bonné credited Winiarski for birthing “an informal St. John’s mafia” in Napa, noting that the legendary vintner hired Abe Schoener and played a huge role in convincing Alex Kongsgaard to attend the school.

In 2011, The Friends of St. John’s College and Annapolis’ Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits launched a wine-centered fundraiser — In Vino Veritas — to raise scholarship money for the school. This year’s event takes place on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26.

On Friday night, I’ll be moderating a discussion and tasting with an all-star lineup of SJ alumni. It features Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project; Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars; Zach Rasmuson of Goldeneye; August Deimel of Keuka Spring Vineyards; Paul Speck of Henry of Pelham; and Rory Williams of Calder Wine Company.

We’ll be exploring the concept of “honesty” in wine in seminar entitled “Transparency, Truth, and Terroir.” It should be a blast, so if you’re looking for a fun weekend in Annapolis, please join!

Expensive Competition at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 03-03-2014

Photo Credit: Coline Rohart – Consulate General of France in NYC

Contenders show their responses at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup in NYC. Photo Credit: Coline Rohart, Consulate General of France.

With over 40 teams competing, the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup is one of the largest amateur wine competitions in the world. The event itself is a rather smart marketing ploy run by the Commanderie du Bontemps, “one of the oldest and largest wine brotherhoods in France.”

The competition pits teams of three students from top graduate schools against one another in major cities, then brings the regional winners together to vie in the Final Cup held at Château Lafite Rothschild in June. Contenders prepare for the Bordeaux battle by memorizing all things 1855 Classification, studying current events in Bordeaux, and tasting various classified and unclassified wines from the Left Bank . This year’s U.S. winners were the teams from Yale Law School and NYU Stern Business School.

While the concept itself is a pompous ordeal – I participated last year and was all too aware of the pretension – an event that encourages deliberate study of a wine region and inspires a new generation to explore it deserves support.

That said, I take a couple issues with the LBBC.

First, the Commanderie cloaks the logic behind its scoring system. Participants have no idea how questions are weighted or how the blind tasting portion is scored. This is a problem, especially for a region that’s already viewed as cryptic and aloof.

Second, graduate students rarely have the resources to purchase pricey, classified growth Bordeaux. Rumors are circulating about how teams in other countries are being heavily sponsored and showered with classified growth wines. Securing similar support has been a struggle for teams in the United States.

Photo Credit: Coline Rohart – Consulate General of France in NYC

The Yale Law School team at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup. Photo Credit: Coline Rohart.

I recently had a chance to talk to the winning team at Yale Law School, which is comprised of Laura Femino, Joseph Pomianowski, Webb Lyons, and Albert Pak. The group hopes that they can bring more awareness (and sponsorship) to the competition moving forward. In listening to them, I was  surprised at how much support they’ve already received. Kudos to the group for hustling and making it happen.

They were able to get a sponsorship last year from Sotheby’s Wine and they’ve retained their coach from Sotheby’s, Nicholas Jackson. Nick competed in the event a few years ago and was keen to “live vicariously through them” and help them train. Lisa Granik, a Yale alum and MW, has also been a critical mentor for the group. And finally, Mory’s, the Yale Club in New Haven, generously provided space and wine glasses for the team tastings.

When I asked specifically how the team financed tastings and how much they spent on wines. They said they “try to keep tastings to between $10-20 per person, so that no one is excluded for financial reasons.” They’ll attempt to split a bottle among 20 people with 1-ounce pours if necessary, which makes tasting the expensive wines a bit more feasible. However, getting 20 people together regularly is a challenge and often they’ll end up with just 10 people and only taste three wines at a time.

They work with their own limited budgets and the wine tastings that visiting Chateaux hold for students on campus. Of course, for the Yale team, the Sotheby’s sponsorship was also key to sourcing hard-to-find and finance wines, in addition to frequenting other New Haven wine shops.

When I asked  team members how they think their preparation stacks up to other competing schools, they were a bit envious of their British counterparts. “Our impression is that the teams from England have a real edge in their access to College wine cellars, and a more storied tradition to their teams, but we’re not complaining. We still like our chances.”

 

UPDATE (07/07/2014): Two months after posting this article, the Commanderie has since released a document, which explains how the competition is scored, to all schools participating in the LBBC. Great news.

Jon Bonné Comes To NYC & DC!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 01-15-2014

“Slowly, I encountered other winemakers with similar beliefs. I found people who remained committed to restrained, compelling wines that spoke clearly of their origins — and who shared my frustration with California’s modern style.

Jon Bonné“Some… had been toiling for decades; others were upstarts with the same energy and ambition as the pioneers from previous generations. Eventually, the brushstrokes began to turn into something recognizable: the seeds of a new movement, a new California wine in the making.”

These words appear in the introduction to The New California Wine, the just-released book from Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle.

To say I’m excited about Jon’s book would be an understatement. The wines that fill the pages are both compelling and delicious – and all the producers he highlights deserve the attention. This weekend, wine geeks on the east coast are in for quite a treat as Jon is visiting both New York and DC.

On Saturday, Jon will discuss his book with Abe Schoener at Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn. Buy tickets here. I’ll be at this event – so if you go, come say hello!

That evening, Jon will visit Terroir in Murray Hill to discuss his book with superstar Paul Grieco. While the event is sold out, the waitlist is open.

On Sunday, Jon will visit Washington, DC! Together with Cordial Wine at Union Market, Jon will discuss his book with Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post. Just a few tickets are left, so get on it!

That evening, Jon is hosting an intimate wine dinner at Plume, one of DC’s top restaurants. To snag a seat, call 202-448-2300.

Three Discoveries about Italian Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Education, Wine Events | Posted on 08-26-2013

Refosco Pairing from Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Italian Culinary Experience

Refosco Pairing from Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Italian Culinary Experience

Learning about Italian wine is really hard. I frequently find myself at Italian wine bars or restaurants with friends, who are all looking at me to pick out a wine. Meanwhile, I look at the menu and curse/pray/beg for help.

So, I take every chance I get to taste more Italian wines, especially when the tasting includes mysterious indigenous grapes. To that end, I recently attended the Italian Culinary Experience here in NYC.

The Italian Culinary Experience is a delectable series of events, each of which highlights a different region of Italy, its wines, and carefully paired dishes from a restaurant partner. The concept, launched by the Italian powerhouse Zonin, started in Miami and has now been repeated three times in New York. Restaurant participants in NYC have included Le Cirque, SD26, and Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar. Other partners include Delverde Pasta, a company that makes insanely tasty pappardelle and bucatini.

Aside from leaving these events totally stuffed and maybe a little buzzed, I also left with a few discoveries, shared below:

1) Prosecco is made a few times a year. Unlike most wines that are made and released annually, the grapes harvested for Zonin Prosecco are kept as a must and then put into stainless steel tanks to undergo fermentation in the Charmat method 2-3 times per year. This progressive and ongoing release is done in an effort to maintain the freshness of the wine. Does anyone know if this is common with other Prosecco producers?

2) Refosco is great! So, I tried Refosco for the first time. Did everyone else already know about it? And just not tell me? Since tasting, I keep seeing Refosco pop up in wine coverage, especially about the one produced at Napa’s Matthiasson.

Anyway, when the wine was first poured in our glasses, my friend, Seema, and I were trying to place it. She guessed Sangiovese. I got more plummy, rich fruits and guessed a Sangiovese + Merlot. Humbled and way wrong. The wine was the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2011 by Tenuta Ca’Bolani from the Friuli region. It was a rich violet ruby color with overwhelming notes of wild berries, sweet spices, and black stone fruit. I’ll continue seeking this varietal out.

photo 2-23) Inzolia exists. There are so many white grapes from Italy. Profound thought of the day.

Inzolia is from Sicily, but I didn’t get the fresh minerality I often get from other Sicilian wines. Perhaps it was masked by the 3-4 months this wine had spent on the lees? The most prominent and interesting characteristics were tropical and citrusy, a blend of round & rich with tartness. Medium-low acidity. I thought this wine was OK, but with the breadth of Italian whites (yes, my profound thought of the day again), I’ll definitely keep exploring.

Heart’s Delight 2013 in Washington, DC

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist, Wine Events | Posted on 05-15-2013

Not many causes are as unequivocally good as the American Heart Association. Combine this great organization with the generosity of wine producers, wine lovers, and numerous other partners in the DC community, and you have Heart’s Delight, a five-day, wine-centric fundraiser in the nation’s capital.

This event, which started in 1999, raised a net $985,000 this year and aims to hit $1 million by the end of June. All funds go directly to the American Heart Association.

A few Terroirists, including David, Scott, Winn, and me, had the opportunity to attend several of the functions this year and they were really special with exquisite wine, delicious food, and enthusiastic participants. If you haven’t had a chance to get involved in Heart’s Delight before, I highly encourage you to do so. More information can be found on the Heart’s Delight website and Facebook page.

See below the fold for a few highlights from the event: Read the rest of this entry »

Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction: Discount Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-26-2013

Photo courtesy of Heart's Delight on Facebook

Here at Terroirist, we are big supporters of the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction, Washington, DC’s premiere wine and food event that we wrote about last year.

To refresh you, Heart’s Delight is a four-day celebration bringing together winemakers, celebrity chefs, gourmands, and wine enthusiasts to raise money for the American Heart Association.

The week culminates with a Grand Tasting Reception and Auction on Saturday, May 4th. Guests will enjoy wine from outstanding producers such as Château Pontet-Canet and Château Léoville Poyferré from Bordeaux, Chile’s Concha y Toro, and Argentina’s Bodegas Catena Zapata. From closer to home, local brewery DC Brau Brewing Company will be pouring its well-regarded craft beers.

For fortification, attendees will be able to munch on delicious bites from exceptional chefs such as Chicago’s Graham Elliot, New York’s Gabrielle Hamilton of PRUNE, and local favorites like Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern.

During the reception, guests can peruse the many wonderful silent auction items available for bidding, including bottles of Krug Champagne, a case of Château Cos d’Estournel, several great trips and many restaurant packages. Later in the evening, a live auction will feature even more impressive trip packages, experiences and of course, wine! Some of the best lots include a VIP dinner at New York’s Gramercy Tavern including 18 vintages of La Mission Haut Brion going back to 1948, two cases of high-scoring 2010 Bordeaux, and an insider’s trip to Italy, including VIP tastings in Tuscany.

This year, Terroirist is very excited to be able to offer our readers tickets to the Saturday event for 50% OFF the regular price! Just go to the web site for Saturday tickets, enter the discount code TERROIRIST, and at checkout your price for the Tasting Reception & Auctions will be $125 instead of $250.*

So, if you live in the Metro Washington area — or want to make a weekend trip! — please consider buying a ticket and joining us for what promises to be another fantastic year of Heart’s Delight. We hope to see you there!

*Discount only applies to the Tasting Reception & Auctions ticket, not the other portion’s of Saturday’s event lineup. If you purchase a ticket at $125, it will not be tax deductible. You can purchase a full price ticket for $250 and $125 of the cost may be tax deductible. Consult a tax professional for guidance.