Chefs and Winemakers Talk at Brooklyn’s iCi
Two topics bookended the evening’s discussion at a recent de Montille and Deux Montille wine dinner at Brooklyn’s iCi restaurant: global warming and the subjectivity of organics. The discussion began with global warming and its effects on grape vines and wine styles, but by the end of the evening, the conversation grew much more complicated. Winemaker Etienne de Montille, who farms organically and expects to be certified biodynamic within a few years; the owner of iCi, which focuses on local and seasonal and green food; a chef from Savoy, a restaurant with views similar to those of iCi; and the owner of a Brooklyn wine store specializing in small production wines all made impassioned and cogent points in discussing whether or not it is better to buy a local product, which is more green from a climate change perspective, or an organic product, which is ostensibly safer for consumption, that had to travel a few thousand miles. This discussion inevitably brought up the sad truth that many consumers have lost faith in the USDA “organic” label (whereas in Europe “organic” certifications are held in higher esteem due to strict, on-going soil sampling and other testing). It was an amazingly dense and layered discussion.
The consensus was that caring consumers need to learn about their food and wine sources to make informed purchases. Tags like “organic,” “sustainable,” “local” and “imported” leave much grey area that begs for interpretation. Therefore, when we caring consumers hear about, learn of, or stumble onto good food and wine, we must all spread the word – to our benefit today and for future generation’s benefits tomorrow! At IWM, we spread the word by sharing our insights on the producers we personally know and support and hope you will pass on the joys of wine you discover with us to your friends and family.
Any conclusions on the most effective wine enclosure?
About two weeks ago, my roommate’s father attempted to open a bottle of wine with his rabbit corkscrew, only to discover upon breaking his rabbit that the bottle was sealed with a glass stopper, rather than a cork. I was unable to provide any further insight into this novelty, and I’ve been interested in discovering more ever since.
My first step was to Google “glass cork wine bottle.” It was a search that produced little more than images of decorative bottle stoppers and sponsored links for items available at Target and EBay. With the addition of a few plus signs to my search, I inevitably found articles that weighed all of the pros and cons of the myriad wine bottle stoppers currently utilized by wineries around the world, and I discovered conflicting conclusions abound.
I further explored the issue. The wine bottle stopper serves basic, but necessary functions: to prevent the contents from spilling, to keep oxygen from entering, keep other toxins out, minimize costs in some cases, and to preserve freshness. Selection of the type of stopper is likely based on function, form, its level of environmental responsibility, and aesthetics, to a certain degree.
Last night after work, I went out in search of a bottle of wine with a glass stopper—not only to quell my curiosity over how exactly a glass stopper works, but also to see how the wine keeps through a few days of re-stoppering with the glass stopper. I found myself a bottle of Sicilian Nero d’Avola and I was surprised to find that not only did the bottle have a glass stopper, but also a metal cap and foil on top of that. I carefully opened the wine and enjoyed a glass along with my baked potato and an episode of Mad Men. I have yet to decide if this bottle-stopping method is efficient in sealing the bottle, but I did enjoy the wine.
Although I would like to think my only concern about wine stoppers of wine should be whether or not it preserved the wine’s integrity, I can’t help but think that given the choice I would choose a bottle with a traditional cork over a screw top any day of the week. The question is: what is, in fact, the most effective way to seal a bottle of wine?
A Generous Evening
John Lee Hooker did it with Jack, George Thorogood prefers Johnnie Walker, and Eddie Vedder currently goes with West Coast reds. On the evening of the benefit for the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, Steve Winwood chose a glass of wine to accompany his live performance. I’ve always taken interest in people’s preferred choice of beverage; as a kid, if someone was drinking chocolate milk I had to ask Hershey or Nestles; this question graduated to Coke or Pepsi in high school, Dockstreet or Yuengling in college, and just a few days ago it was Don Julio 1942 Anejo or El Tesoro’s Paradiso. On the night of the benefit, it was nice to see the rock prodigy behind Traffic and Blind Faith have a half-filled glass of red rest beside his signature Hammond B3 Organ, as opposed to the more traditional bottle of Bud that adorns the stage of so many performers. (Though that being said—and despite being in the wine trade—I can attest that an ice cold Bud longneck served alongside seasoned crawfish on a hot New Orleans summer day has few pairing rivalries.)
But on this evening, it wasn’t a question of which beer or wine, it was about the music and, even more important, the Waxman Foundation’s efforts. Being able to participate in events like this one is certainly one of the rewarding aspects of my job, and over the past seven years we have contributed to hundreds of causes, raising millions of dollars benefitting displaced victims of Katrina to participating in the fight against cancer. And while our blue chip donation packages, which ranged from White Truffle Dinners to Wine Adventures to Italy with Sergio, are consistent attractions, we are always looking for something new to catch the fancy of enthusiasts to provide them with an excuse to give generously to the cause. This year, I went outside Italy and into our Cellar Management Division in search of creating the perfect Starter Collection. My goal was to fill a 54-bottle Viking Wine Fridge with stand-out wines from around the world. I couldn’t resist including the obscure to the historic: Chateau Musar’s Rouge; Chateau Montrose; Huet L’Echansonne Vouvray Moelleux Clos Bourg 1er Trie 1990; Mastroberardino—and that’s just the first four wines. I’m proud to say this collection raised $20,000, along with another $80,000 in other packaged donations from the team of IWM, Sergio Esposito, and Michael Nierenberg.
Looking back on the evening, I remember the amazing music, the fantastic vibe, and the incredible generosity. I feel great about the wines I put together for that generous cause, and I feel fantastic about how the Waxman Foundation will put the money to developing the most promising cures and treatment for various types of cancer.
Thank you Winwood, Waxman, and Wine, for a memorable and rewarding experience.
Every Bottle Tells a Story
I often find myself wondering, if wines could talk who they would be?
There is nothing more enjoyable to me then scanning a wine shop alone. I find myself in my own little world similar to the film Toy Story. The bottles come to life; they talk to me. They tell me stories. They teach me the lessons. Each bottle, like a dancing orphan in Oliver! or Annie, yearns for my attention.
This morning a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano stood tall and saluted me as if I were a fifteenth-century king for whom he was trying impress. With his arm perfectly apex he greeted me. “Boun giorno, signor,” he said and bowed deeply.
At the same time his next-door neighbor, a Rosso di Montalcino, was trying to grab my attention by doing cartwheels. Like a little child wanting to be picked first, this juvenile Rosso continued to jump up and down with his hand waving at me. The Vino Nobile lashing out at the boy, “Basta child! You’re too young,” he admonished.
“Now sir,” he said to me in a solid yet graceful voice, “please come with me. I’m certainly the most perfectly fit wine for a gentleman such as yourself.” I pondered for a moment. Should I take this noble character up on his offer to taste a piece of history or ought I play with the youthful Rosso? The Rosso exclaimed in his squeaky voice, “I’m younger, more fun and can show you a good time right away.” He continued, “I’m uncomplicated. I’m fresh! I’m the fun Sangiovese!”
“But sir,” the Vino Nobile reasoned “I have been the favorite of Kings for centuries.” He lost self-control and cried out, “I have been forgotten!” I found myself feeling sorry for this legendary character. I turn to the joyful Rosso, patted him on the head and promised him that we will play another day.
I opened the statesmen-like bottle, and Signor Nobile told me of his history. With each sip he reminded me that he was once the favorite of Popes, Kings and even some American presidents like Thomas Jefferson. He told me about being immortalized in the play Bacchus and how the great Italian Poet Francesco Redi called him the “king of all wines” and “fit for nobility.” Throughout his tutorial I stare at him and find my eyes lost in his beautiful garnet red color. I cannot help to admire his aroma of violets, dark cherries, and black fruit. He’s one manly, but supple, wine.
At the end of our visitation, I let Signor Nobile know I appreciate his history and will do my best to remind others of his once forgotten greatness. We embraced each other with a traditional kiss on each cheek and a final Salute. As he turned away to the beaten Tuscan path and faded away into the hills, I was left with a smile on my face. With every bottle I taste I go on a journey; every bottle tells a story. Wine is more than a drink. It is a history lesson, a science, art, imagination and a beautiful story; it’s a person.
Thwarting Chaos, One Letter at a Time
I’m a writer, teacher of writing, college professor, and the editor of this blog. I’ve been writing for IWM and for Sergio Esposito for almost two years, and I have a confession: I can’t spell. My spelling makes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s look like H.L. Mencken’s, which is to say pretty egregious indeed. My inability to spell is a deep-seated failure, a source of some embarrassment, and an ongoing shame. I’ve never had much interest in spelling; putting the letters in the correct order has always taken a distant second place to arranging words in aesthetically pleasing and emotionally true syntax.
I can’t spell in English, and I can spell even less well in Italian, French or Food. I therefore have a tremendous and involuntary response of compassion for the poor beleaguered White House menu writer who completely botched the menu for the Obama’s most recent—and first—state dinner last Tuesday night.
As the New York Times reported in its blog The Caucus, the Obamas went all-out to thrill their guests with a newly hired star chef, a tasty menu and a series of carefully chosen complementary wines. Anahad O’Connor reports, “one person the White House apparently neglected to hire was a spell checker. The special dinner menu — a lavish mélange of Indian and American favorites as well as several excellent wines — was rife with typos.” (You can read the full story here, and you can also find it all over the web—so horrified were journalists and copy editors everywhere.)
Reading that the menu misspelled “Grenache” as “Granache,” divided “chickpeas” into two words, and violently excised an “l” from “Willamette,” the hyphen from “Thibaut-Janisson” and the accent from “geleé,” I felt a profound sense of kinship. Nothing has made me as acutely aware of my spelling deficiencies like having to bang out “Sassicaia,” “Grattamacco,” and “Friuli-Venezia Giulia” on a regular basis. About the only thing that gives me a more consistent horrorsloth of humiliation than having to look up those words each and every time I type them is attempting to say them aloud. Uttering “Castello dei Rampolla’s Vigna d’Alceo” or “Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis” is tantamount to slipping on a Hawaiian shirt so badly does my pronunciation brand me an ugly American.
And yet while I feel a great tenderness for the individual who made the errors on the White House menu, and while that tenderness radiates out to the humming committee who approved it, the hard-nosed editor can’t quite condone it. If the White House can’t spell the menu for their first state dinner correctly, what hope is there for us hoi polloi? We might as well serve a red wine with shrimp curry or call a varietal a variety. It would be complete gastronomic chaos. And no one wants that, however correctly spelled.« go back — keep looking »