Monthly Archives: May 2010

Berlin Tasting comes to New York

This past Monday, over 75 wine buyers, writers and sommeliers gathered to participate in a remake of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, dubbed the Berlin Tasting.  The Judgment of Paris was a wine competition organized by a British wine merchant named Steven Spurrier, designed to pit top-quality French and American Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons against one another.  At the time, Spurrier only sold French wine.

The Paris tasting prompted these follow-up tastings: The San Francisco Tasting of 1978, The French Culinary Institute Tasting of 1986, The Wine Spectator Tasting of 1986 and The 30th Anniversary Paris Judgment Tasting, which took place simultaneously in both Napa and London.

Each time, American wines came out on top.  Back in 1976, this upset made the cover of Time magazine (the reporter, George M. Taber, was there Monday, too), while being ignored by the French press.  The 2008 movie, Bottle Shock, was inspired by this tasting as well.  Regardless of your opinion on subjectivity of taste and statistical interpretation, these events were a boon for new world wines.

Eduardo Chadwick, the President of Viña Errazuriz, wanted to see if this could work for Chilean wines and with the help of Spurrier, organized a tasting in Berlin in 2004, pitting his wine against top French and Italian wine.  These tastings were repeated year after year, from Brazil to Tokyo to Toronto to Copenhagen, finally arriving in New York this week.

The views from the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental aren't shabby. The panel sitting at the front includes Eduardo Chadwick, Steven Spurrier, Francisco Baettig (chief winemaker for Errazuriz) and the founder of Vintus, their American importer.

We were given 10 wines to taste blind, and asked to pick our top 3.

My notes. We knew there were French, American, Italian and Chilean wines and that they were all from the 2006 vintage. On a separate sheet of paper, we simply noted our top 3 selections. Our first pick was worth 3 points, our second worth 2 points and our third worth 1 point. The results were tallied while we were all still there.

The results from the group:

1. Kai by Errazuriz (87% Carmenère, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Shiraz)
2. Opus One
3. Château Haut-Brion
4. Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve by Errazuriz (82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Shiraz)
5. Château Lafite Rothschild
6. La Cumbre by Errazuriz (97% Shiraz, 3% Petit Verdot)
7. Seña by Errazuriz (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 10% Carmenère, 6% Cabernet Franc)
8. Stag’s Leap SLV
9. there was a tie here: Sassicaia and Viñedo Chadwick by Errazuriz (100% Cabernet Sauvignon)

My top pick was also the Kai.  My #2 was the Stag’s Leap and my #3 was the Seña.  Spurrier’s top pick was the Chadwick and his #2 was the Kai. 

Were some of these wines not ready to drink yet?  Sure.  You might also think to yourself, with 5 out of the 10 wines from Chile (from the same producer), how badly could they fare? 

All that being said, had you asked anyone on the way in, I highly doubt he or she would have anticipated that a Carmenère-based wine from Chile would beat out heavy-hitters from around the world.

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To hold you over

I have some posts in the works, including a nod to the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris, but until I can get it together, I thought this might hold you over.

One of my dear friends has been traveling in Central America – primarily Costa Rica – since January (I’m not jealous) and she started a blog.  She’s written a few posts about beverage, but my favorite is titled, “It’s not wine, it’s Clos“.


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This pear is always in season

Pear Sidecar: 2 oz. pear brandy, 1 oz. Cointreau, 1 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 1/4 oz. simple syrup and a dash of salt.

The Bartletts won’t be out until July, but FLD just released a pear brandy that will make drinks for all seasons. 

The sidecar above was created with the help of my friend Gene.  I had originally made a sidecar with Calvados, thinking the apple/pear combo would be tasty, but it was much too heavy for a spring drink. 

This pear brandy reminds me of just-baked cobbler, so for my next drink, I went to Tuaca (vanilla) and Velvet Falernum (clove and almond).

Pear Falernum? Pear Cobbler?

2 oz. pear brandy
1 oz. Tuaca
1 oz. Velvet Falernum
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake.  Strain into chilled highball glass with fresh ice and top with ginger ale and a cherry.

The ginger ale adds the necessary spice to round out the sweet pear and vanilla notes.  The cherry looks cool in the bottom of the glass and also corresponds to the cobbler theme.  Easy to make and even easier to drink.

I’m thrilled for this beautiful weather, but this pear brandy will provide fall/winter solace when mixed with quince, spiced rum, walnut liqueur, Oloroso Sherry and chocolate (not all at the same time, of course).  A smoky or salty rim would be a nice touch, too – think prosciutto or Parma ham.

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Thirsty tastes for

A few months back I tasted through some of our wines by the glass for a new-ish website called Brixr.  The idea is to to be able to hear about a wine from someone’s who’s tried it before you decide to buy it. 

I went through a few of our wines by the glass.  Most of them have changed by now (we do that a lot), but you might see them elsewhere around town (or by the bottle on our list).  Enjoy the slurping and spitting sounds.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Thirsty tastes for“, posted with vodpod


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White dog has its day in the NYT

In today’s Dining Section, Robert Simonson’s article, “Moonshine Finds New Craftsmen and Enthusiasts” discusses the current popularity of unaged whiskey aka white dog aka moonshine. 

Bottled fresh from the still, without a kiss of oak, these tasty whiskies are starting to get the attention they deserve. 

There are two paragraphs in particular that I’d like to draw your attention to:

“Most are the work of young micro-distilleries like Death’s Door, in Wisconsin; Finger Lakes Distilling, in upstate New York; Tuthilltown, in the Hudson Valley; the Copper Fox Distillery, in northern Virginia; and House Spirits, in Portland, Ore.”


“Ehren Ashkenazi, beverage director at the Modern, uses it for Devil in White, a spin on the Manhattan, and Jim Meehan, of PDT, pairs Finger Lake Distilling’s Glen Thunder corn whiskey with sake and Galliano L’Autentico in his Brewer’s Breakfast.”

Here’s Jim’s Brewer’s Breakfast recipe:

2 ounces sake, like Masumi Arabashiri
1 ounce unaged whiskey (Glen Thunder!)
1/4 ounce Galliano, or Galliano L’Autentico if available

Honey Nut Cheerios, for garnish.

Stir in shaker with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with Honey Nut Cheerios on a cocktail pick.

Take that, Tony the Tiger. 

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Outstanding wine service award

Always held the first weekend in May, The James Beard Foundation Awards started in 1990 and are considered by many to be the “Oscars of food”. 

I wanted to give a shout-out to Bernie, who just won The Outstanding Wine Service Award for Jean Georges restaurant. 

The criteria states: A restaurant that displays and encourages excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, a knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine. Candidates must have been in operation for at least 5 years.

I first met Bernie in 2002, while I was working at Tribeca Grill and he was at Montrachet.  The excitement he had (and still has) for wine has been an inspiration for me.

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Rot the root

I’m studying for a wine exam and came across this chart on viral, bacterial and fungal diseases of the vine on The Society of Wine Educators Wine Academy site.  Chances are this might be more than you want to know about what can go wrong out in the field, but I’m finding it quite handy.

Viral Diseases Description
Leaf Roll A viral infection that is responsible for the lovely gold and red leaves in the vineyard come autumn. This colorful display is coupled with the downward rolling of the leaf blade, hence the name, leaf roll. Pigments that were to develop in the grape end up staying in the leaf, thereby delaying ripening. Crop yield is also affected. The only known remedy is vine removal. The disease is spread by insect vector (often mealy bugs) or by propagating new vines from clippings that are infected with the virus.
Fan Leaf A viral infection that is responsible for unusual growth patterns in the vine: short internodes, abnormal branching, malformed leaves that look like fans, small clusters, poor fruit set and shot berries. A vine infected with Fan Leaf has a truncated life span. Fan leaf is spread by insect vector (generally nematodes) or by propagating new vines from clippings that are infected with the virus.
Bacterial Diseases Description
Pierce’s Disease A bacterial affliction that results in premature leaf fall and eventual vine death. First, large dead areas appear on the leaves and expand until the entire leaf falls from the vine. Robbed of a way to manufacture nutrients, the vine eventually dies. The disease is spread by insect vectors like leafhoppers. Disease pressure is highest in the southern United States with outbreaks occurring wherever vineyards border streams or wetlands with marsh grasses. Recently, however, Pierce’s Disease has begun to spread north from Mexico on a new vector, the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter, and is now threatening vineyards previously thought to be safe from the disease.
Crown Gall A bacterial affliction that causes large tumors or growths to appear on the trunk of the vine. These tumors girdle the vine, strangling the portions above it so that the vine withers and dies.
Fungal Diseases Description
Black Measles
A fungus that thrives in warm climates and can kill a vine suddenly when hot weather arrives. Typically, leaves fall off and berries develop spots.
Eutypa Dieback/
Dead Arm
A fungus that stunts vine shoots and cups leaves by releasing a toxin into the plant. The affected cane or canes eventually die, hence the name, “dead arm”. This fungus is common to Mediterranean climates and is believed to enter the vine through pruning wounds.
Powdery Mildew/
A mildew native to North America that attacks the entire vine with white cobweb-like filaments. If an infection takes place before flowering, yields are reduced. If the clusters are infected by oidium, they will not reach full size or achieve maximum pigment development and the fruit will have undesirable flavors. Although native American vines are immune, Vitis vinifera is highly vulnerable to it.
Downy Mildew/
A mildew native to North America that attacks the green portions of the plant. In its beginning stage, a vine leaf looks as if it has oil spots. Then, spores germinate and spread outward in white, cottony filaments. A severe infection will cause the vine to lose its leaves, effectively delaying ripening. Threat of Downy Mildew is highest in warm, humid weather, but a copper-sulfate spray known as “Bordeaux Mixture” is effective in preventing an outbreak or curtailing an existing one.
Botrytis Cinerea A mold of many synonyms…Edelfaule, Pourritre Noble, Noble Rot, Botrytis attacks healthy white grapes, concentrates their sugars and adds a honeyed note to their flavor profile. Botrytis is responsible for creating some of the finest sweet wines in the world. The fungus germinates and spreads when humidity is at least 90 percent and the weather is warm (59-68° F). These moist, warm conditions must be followed by dry, warm conditions or Botrytis will quickly degenerate into Gray Rot, a rot which will ruin the fruit.

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