Sunday, December 30, 2012
Not all traditions have to be longstanding, but it was some years ago that Ella and I started buying a round of Stilton each holiday season to drink with Port, and, at about the same time, becoming enamored with the history and artistry of Stilton spoons. We were able to find a couple of them, I remember, in the vintage cutlery cabinets of the gift shops of Edgartown and one or two elsewhere. If one has to buy something to excess, then it's probably more prudent that it be Stilton spoons and not classic motorcars or vacation villas and island houses. Yesterday, during a beautiful and somewhat-gentle snowstorm, we invited our neighbor, Steve Elliott, over for some wine, cheese, pear slices and a roaring fire to while away the afternoon before we each had to retrieve our snow shovels before darkness crept in. The Ports were a familiar one, Fonseca Bin No. 27 from the Fladgate Partnership, and one I hadn't poured before, a 2001 Vintage Cockburn's Quinta dos Canais. Both wines have some personal resonance with me, as I have frequently visited and tasted with the Bridges and the Guimaraens families who steer Fladgate in the Douro and, during this year's harvest, touring overland by 4WD the Quinta dos Canais estate with Rupert Symington, whose family purchased Cockburn's in 2010, long after the wine we were drinking was made. But yesterday we were all fast in the present, discussing Steve's and Ella's experiences as painters and mine as a writer as we merrily carved Stilton and switched back and forth between the two Ports as the snow continued falling. It's traditional.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Here's my article on California wine tourism just published in USA Today's Go/Escape travel magazine, on newstands the second week of December, and the lead page of an article on affordable Burgundies in the controlled circulation publication, Drinks magazine (go to www.drinksmag.com).
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Le Relais Saint-Jacques is a charming small Parisian hotel just up the hill from the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter on the Seine's Left Bank. Recently, I had just returned from a walk around Ile St-Louis and a satisfying lunch at Le Lutetia on the Quai Bourbon, then taken a brief nap in my room before returning downstairs to read in the hotel's Salon Louis XV, which I had completely to myself. Eventually, I noticed the beads of chilled water on the exterior of the zinc Champagne tub near the bar and, above these beads, the neck of a bottle of Roederer peeping down at me. It was time for a drink. Not sure if the bar was open, I stirred around and saw a bunch of slips near the resting Champagne. They were headed: "Honesty Bar." I was familiar with the concept of "honor bars," but had never seen one in a hotel and never heard one called an honesty bar. And so, I poured a tall flute of Roederer Brut Premier, noted my name and room number on the slip next to the nine euros mark, took up a small dish of crusted hazelnuts to munch on and contently continued reading, feeling honest and with my honor refreshingly restored.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Yesterday, a friend invited me to go with him to the Raiders-Raven football game at Baltimore's M&T Stadium. Before we took our seats on a bright, sunny afternoon, we decided to each have a barbecue sandwich and the first of a couple of draft beers. As we munched on the sloppy but delicious sandwiches, I was struck by how satisfying the cold Bud Lite was - crisp yet creamy and what the French would call "fresh" if they were dissecting one of their wines. It also took me back to when I first "learned" to drink beer years ago when I was attending Morris Harvey College in Charleston, WV. A commuter student, I had a steady ride home with Eddie Halstead, who was a couple of years older and much more world-wise than I. We would stop by Joe Christian's place along Elk River Road and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. Once I got past the "fills you up" phase when you wonder how can someone drink a full glass of this, I began savoring how refreshing beer was. I had the same feeling a few years later when Joe Milner and I would go drinking with our students at Mag's Ham Bun in Scottsdale when we both taught journalism at Arizona State. In those years, teachers and undergrads would party together without fear of permanment banishment from academe or being judged politically incorrect. Anyway, the cold Coors on tap was great to cut the dessert heat outside, even as we bemoaned the reactionary politics of the Coors family at that time. A boycott was discussed, but the idea was lost after the first pitcher. So as I finished my Bud yesterday and contemplated another, I thought about how, in our current beerophile stage we seek out lumbering, ponderous, monster beers from exotic ingredients, we ought to occasionally just relax and enjoy a simple, one-note draft beer the way wine lovers learned to relax and order a glass of refreshing Albarino. It might make a good slogan: "Bud Light - The Albarino of Draft Beers." Or perhaps not. (By the way, the Ravens obliterated the Raiders, 55-20.)
Friday, November 9, 2012
Monday, November 5, 2012
A belated posting of the opening pages of two recent publications - one on the New York restaurant scene for The Drinks Business and one on Toro wines for Sommelier Journal. Sorry, I can't post the whole articles, but let me know if you would like to see more.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Last week, I was sitting in the bar of Le Parc des Marechaux, a delightful small hotel in Auxerre, a French town known to many American winos because of its proximity to Chablis. A small group of writers was going to be having dinner later that evening with Chablis producer Jean-Francois Bordet at Eric Gallet's Le Bourgogne - which would turn out to be a great mix of wine, food and conversation - but I was in need of a tomato fix. If I had to give up either alcoholic drinks or all things tomato, it would be my gustatory Sophie's Choice. Fortunately, a Bloody Mary has both, and I saw my favorite savory concoction, which helps me hold on during these Euro reporting excursions, listed on the cocktail menu. I asked the young lady tending bar (I think she would be horrified if I referred to her as a "mixologist") if she knew how to make one. "Certainement," she replied and went behind the bar and immediately reached for her cocktail handbook - a bad sign. The drink came - minus ice and about as meager as the portions of milk that mothers feed their screaming babies sitting next to me on transatlantic flights. As I had expected, it was overdosed with lemon juice and Tabasco. Still, when you need a tomato fix, it wasn't too bad. But it does bring up a point - Europeans as a culture have never gotten the hang of a Bloody Mary, largely because they don't understand the psyche of a Bloody and, apparently, want to spare themselves of this rude intimacy. If you want to make a decent Bloody Mary, you have to understand that it's 90 percent about the tomato juice, which, in Europe, is often oxidized before you open the container. The spices are supposed to tease out the best in tomato juice, whereas the Euros seem to think you should overdose it with seasonings. Tomato juice, ice, vodka and salt and pepper alone can make a passable Bloody, so they should start there and gradually tinker with the amount of Tabasco, Worcestershire and citrus, if any, to add. I shudder to think what would happen if they got their hands on horseradish. So here's what I propose. One of those bartending societies or vodka producers should fund a charitable rescue organization - call it Mixologists without Borders (MWB) - and hold emergency Bloody Mary seminars in all European cities with more than 43 bars. BTW, I'm going the Beaune in a couple of weeks, so I would appreciate it if MWB would begin its humanitarian work in Burgundy.
Friday, October 19, 2012
In the current issue of Town & Country is an article I wrote on why so many wine people are brandishing their corkscrews over what is a natural wine and whether they are intrinsically bad, good or somewhere in between. It's complicated.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
On Friday, I traveled to Foxborough to interview CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz and wine importer and distributor Peter Deutsch about their new joint venture - the establishing of a new Sonoma-based brand of wines named "The Calling." We sampled the first releases, a Dutton Ranch Charbonnay and a Rio Lago Cabernet, and discussed what they've been thinking since they met by chance - or was it chance? - at a Greenwich restaurant a few short years ago. Read the full story next week in The Daily Meal.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
We are just launching The Brandywine Book of the Seasons, have sold a couple of hundred copies pre-launch and are now stocking it in northern Delaware and Chester County, PA, shops and stores as we write. You can buy it locally at 9th Street Books, Centreville Cafe, Janssen's Market, Va La Vineyards, Willowdale Shop, Hagley Museum, Winterthur Museum, Chester County Books, Market at Capers & Lemons, Apropos in Greenville - and more to come soon. Signings set up for Darden Bistro at U of D (Oct. 11), Fair Hill Inn (dinner, Oct. 19), Va La Vineyards (Sunday afternoon, Oct. 21) and Janssen's (Oct. 24). Check with these venues for details. Live out of town? Order through your bookstore.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Friday, September 7, 2012
Two new articles of mine have just been published - one on <b>Australian Rieslings in the Aug. 31 edition of Sommelier Journal and one on personal custom crushes in the October issue of Wine Enthusiast. The lead of the Australian Riesling article begins below:
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Drinks magazine is a quarterly that I've had the opportunity to write for the past several years. Part of the content is general, part is customized for the wine store that distributes it - and there are several across the country that do. There is no newstand distrbution. Below is my story on Rhone wines in the Fall 2012 issue.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
There are two new articles of mine in the July 15 issue of Sommelier Journal. The first is an interview with Emmanuel Cruse of Chateau d'Issan, who is head of both the Commanderie du Bontemps and the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux. The second is a profile of the Gimblett Gravels growing region in New Zealand - until 150 years ago a natural fish farm as the bed of a flowing river. The opening page of each is below, but for more information, please go to www.sommelierjournal.com.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Leslie Kedash, our designer for the Brandywine Book of the Seasons, Ella and I spent Wednesday and Thursday checking out the page proofs for color and clarity as they flew off the presses at Offset Impressions in Reading. Next week - the cover printing and a final trip to the bindery. Available in late September in bookstores and gift shops.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Brandywine Region, whose centerpiece is the lovely and bucolic Brandywine River, encompasses northern Delaware and much of Chester County, Pennsylvania. It is a region rich in history, natural beauty and a wealth of interesting and creative people who grow produce, shape artisan foods, make fine wines, open restaurants that serve truly great locally based foods, raise horses, paint and sculpt, and in general make the Brandywine a great place to live or visit. The Brandywine Book of the Seasons opens the door to this region and its people who share with us their stories and their foods through a wealth of recipes, both plain and fancy. The book goes to press tomorrow - August 22. Wish us a speedy run. Books available in September.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
This September, Ella and I will publish a new book - The Brandywine Book of the Seasons. It's a cookbook with a story, or, rather, several stories, for it combines tales and 45 recipes from some of the best chefs in our area of southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware as well as those of our friends who make wine, bake bread, herd sheep, age cheeses, grow vegetables and are dyed-in-the-linen foodies. The book is in living color with dozens of Ella's best shots, printed on 140 pages of quality stock - a perfect holiday gift for families and friends. Beginning October 1, the books can be ordered in bookstores and online via Partners East distributors, or you can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We believe you can tell a book by its cover - and here's ours:
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Magazyn Wino is considered Poland's best wine journal, and I met one of its editors during a wine trip in Burgundy earlier this year. One thing led to another, and soon I was writing an article for the publication about the April tasting of 2011 Bordeaux barrel samples. Managing editor Pawel Bravo did the translation.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I love writing for the Web - reviewing new wine releases for The Daily Meal, posting wine and food essays to my iSante' blog, being managing editor and lead writer for Sommelier News - but magazines remain my first love. So I was very pleased when I returned home from a 10-day reporting trip to Portugal and Bordeaux to discover two new issues of magazines I write for had arrived on my desk. Not only did I have articles in them, the pieces proved to also have cover appeal. Writer's Digest had a cover blurb on my "Learn to Be Creative on Demand" article, while the beautifully designed regional magazine, The Hunt, featured my piece on "Garden-to- Glass Drinks" as the cover illustration. (Inside, there is an additional story on shad returning - almost - to the Brandywine River.) Both covers are copied below, plus I've added the first page of my "Learn to Be Creative" article to possibly entice you to go out and buy a copy at your local newstand.