Sunday, October 25, 2009

New York Wine Experience

Manhattan – Marriott Marquis

Sponsored by Wine Spectator and benefits the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation which awards grants to students pursuing careers in the wine industry.

The 2009 Critic’s Choice Grand Tasting International Wine Tasting had 256 wineries for tasting and they all scored over 90 points in Wine Spectator.

You rarely have the opportunity to taste the best wines in the world side by side. This really gives you the opportunity to fine-tune what you really like and come up with some new favorites.

Do you really like the big French Bordeaux or the California Cab and blends? For me that is a tough choice – my taste buds are all California, but I really appreciate the French wines which are amazing when you get to taste an older vintage. This was evident when my old boss opened up a 1968 Chateau de Beaucastel – that goes in my all time top 10.

And when you get to sample fines wines like this – you’ll know you already like them if you decide to spurge at dinner

Here’s my Top 15 favorites in order of preference from Friday night, October 23:

1) Harlan Estate ’05 Napa Valley blend of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Two words ‘ Wow Wow
2) Chateau Mouton Rothchild Pauillac 2005
3) Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley 2006
4) Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 2003
5) Beringer ’95 Napa Valley Cabernet – This has an old style French taste – amazing.
6) Chateau Latour ’95 Pauillac
7) Chateau de Beaucastel ’07 Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Nice now but will be amazing in about 5 or more years.
8) Paul Hobbs ’06 Oakville Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet
9) Dalla Valle – ’06 Napa Cabernet – this is special and very limited – want to revisit in 3 years.
10) Pahlmeyer Napa Valley 2006
11) Chateau Margaux – Grand Cru Classe 2001 – one of my favorites
12) Staglin Family Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2006
13) Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1998
14) Chateau Palmer Margaux 1999
15) Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Cristal 2002

California Faves
Shafer Stags Leap District Napa Cab Hillside Select 2005
Caymus ’03 Napa Cab – Special Select – always one of my favorites – never turn down the opportunity to drink this!
Cliff Lede “Poetry” Stags Leap Napa Cab 2005
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2006
Hall ’06 Napa Cab – Kathryn was on hand and looks as good as the wine tastes
Bond ’05 Napa Cabernet – very nice.
Dominus Estate ’06 Napa Valley
Diamond Creek ’04 Napa Valley Volcanic Hill
Etude ’05 Napa Cab
Snodew Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2006
Robert Mondavi Cab Napa Valley Reserve 2006
Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon St Helena Family Estate Grown 2006
Far Niente ’02 Napa Cab
Opus One Napa Valley 2006
Ferrari-Carano Tresor 2006 Sonoma Cab blend
DuMol ’07 Russian River Pinot Noir
Duckhorn ’05 Napa Cab
Heitz Wine Cellars – ’04 Napa Cab
Dolce Late Harvest Napa Valley 203
Lewis Cellars 2006 Napa Valley Reserve Cab
Pride Mountain Sonona-Napa Counties Reserve Cabernet 2005
Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Annum 2006
Rubicon Estate 2006
Silver Oak ’05 Alexander Valley bonus taste of Twomey Pinot Noir
Stags Leap SLV Napa Valley Cabernet 2000
Twomey – Pinot Noir bonus taste at the Silver Oak table – absolutely amazing!
Chateau St. Jean – ’01 Cinq Cepages Sonoma Cab – Big fan of this wine and winery on Hwy 12 in Sonoma – they make great Chardonnays too.

Chateau Haut-Brion 2003
Perrier Jouet Brut Champagne Fleur bottle 1999
Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne ‘07
Chateau La Fleur – Petrus 2005
Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1999
E. Guigal Cote-Rotie 2005
Chateau La Mission Haut – Brion 2003
Krug Brut Champagne

Cloudy Bay ’08 Sauv Blanc – great wine, but I really like their Chard better – my taste.
DeLille Cellars – ’05 Red Mountain Cabernet – one of the best from Washington.
Dow’s Port ’07 Vintage Port
Gaja SPERSS – 2004 blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera
Graham’s Port
Penfolds Shiraz RWT 2006 which I can remember Real World Taste

Ron Parker attended the event with me and we both tasted over 50 wines. The big sushi dinner before the event followed by turkey burgers and kareoke at Mr Biggs helped.

And the best part a lot of the entry fee is tax deductible.

Can't wait until the next one...


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Family Winemakers at Ft Mason in SF

Here are the details on one of my favorite events to attend and its all California wine!

Celebrate Wine With Family Winemakers Of California Festival Pavilion
Wine lovers have reason to rejoice this summer when Fort Mason Center hosts a distinctive celebration of viticulture. August sees the return of the Family Winemakers event.
Attend any Family Winemakers tasting event and you'll see happy faces above glasses of red and white wines produced in small lots by independently owned wineries, many run by multigenerational families. The reason for all the smiles is that the wines are quite good and the atmosphere is very welcoming as wine enthusiasts gather to celebrate another year of the vines.
Family Winemakers is an association of more than 700 small wine producers, vineyards, and wine industry suppliers throughout California. Many of the members participate in the annual tasting events, sharing samples of their best varietals with members of the wine trade, the media, and the public.
The Family Winemakers tasting event is open to the public on Sunday, August 23, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. and has additional tasting hours and dates for the trade on Sunday and Monday, August 24. For more information on admission and the wineries, visit or call (916) 498-7500.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Magnificat Birthday Weekend

It was nice for Franciscan to schedule their Magnificat release party on my birthday, so I put together a nice balance of fun for a long weekend in Northern California.

Starting off day 1 of my birthday weekend with a round at Pebble Beach on Thursday - its an up and down round, but par a bunch of holes.

Stop by Petar's in Lafayette to see my friend - Dave that is still performing there after all these years. They did a nice remodel on the restaurant. But the St. Mary's crowd has taken over.

Friday morning its a round of golf at Pittsburg's Delta View - front nine was a little shaky but play 5 over on the back nine. My buddy Gary beats my score by 10.

For my birthday - Gary brings over a bottle of Joseph Phelps Bachus - 2004, we pay the corkage at Grissini's and have a great Italian dinner.

Now its time to still check Friday wine tasting at Wine Thieves ( Jim and Ben are there, but the tasting doesn't come close to the Bachus we had earlier. I purchase a mixed case to fill some gaps in my current collection.

Saturday making a change by having a big breakfast for a change before heading up to Napa.

1st stop in Napa - Robert Sinsky on Silverado Trail. Love their Cabernet Franc and their Marcein red blend.

I have worn out my Joseph Phelps vest - so a quick stop to buy a new one, but what the heck - let's taste some wine too. Chardonnay, Pinot and a Merlot was on the tasting which they hadn't made since 2002. Normally the Merlot is reserved to blending in the Insignia. They were also pouring the 2006 Cabernet and of course Insignia. As a bonus we get a taste of 2005 Bachus.

Now its time to head over the Franciscan - we zip over on Zinfandel lane back to Hwy 29 and we make it on time. There was a private tasting with Janet Myers which I scored by being one of the 1st to register for the Magnificat tasting. Which is their Meritage blend.
Janet speaks to us about oak and its effect on wine. We get to try the recent vintage of Cabernet that is in Light, Medium and Heavy toast. Most of us like Medium toast the best. But we also mix all three to create own blend before heading into the library for the 2006 Release.
They are pouring 5 different vintages of Magnificat today. I like to drink Newer to Older, but speaking with Janet Myers she like to do the opposite. For me my taste buds have to warm old to the older vintages. Janet said the fruit in the newer vintages can over power the older vintages.
I start with the 2006 - still a little tight for me today, but then I decide to take her advice and jump over the 2001 and its amazing and better yet one of my favorite wine hosts is working the room with the '01 - Tom...who years ago we called Bob all day before realizing the mistake. He's a midwest guy and normally only works on Sunday. He's one of the best in Napa.
I jump over the 2003 which was in little 375 ml bottles and learn that the wine ages faster in smaller bottles. The '03 is fantastic too. Back into the limited access and there is music - two woman playing violins, great food - the Kobe beef sticks and the Salmon are very tasting with Franciscan's blend. The last vintage I taste is the 2004. Very nice, but you can't beat the 2001.
But then we find out that a wine club member brought in a 1989 had to go into the 2006 room and say; "I heard a rumor..." Gary and I get the last two tastes of the '89 from the decanter. It has been well cellared, the cork looks good and how many times do you ever get to taste a 2o year old Napa blend. But now that's gone it back to see Tom with the 2001 and I camp out there for the remainder of the afternoon. Normally I like wine 3-5 years old, but the '01 is perfect with an amazing finish.

We were going to stop at Auberge for a burger, but we had some much food at Franciscan we head back to the East Bay.

It's Saturday night, but I'm too tired to head out.

Maybe golf in the morning.

It's been a great birthday - year 49 is off to a good start.


Thursday, June 11, 2009



6/27 B-52s
7/4 Preservation Hall Jazz Band with fireworks
7/11 Ozomatli
7/18 Natalie Cole with Napa Valley Symphony
7/25 KC & Sunshine Band
8/1 Smokey Robinson


coming up on 7/18

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NY Summer Hot Spots

The Pony - American Beer Bar 44th & 10th Ave in Hells Kitchen. Rotating american beers on tap. Sister restaurant to Lansdowne Road. Another reason to party in the old neighborhood. Say Hi! to Dan for me! And keep track of your beer tasting - free shirt after 100 beers (not in one setting please)

Just opened NY's Largest Beer Garden "Studio Square" huge outdoor space and grill 20 beers on tap. 35-33 36th Street, LIC, NY

McGarry's Pub grand opening of Summer Beer Garden with $20 mix buckets of Mexican beers. Weekend brunch $11.95 417 9th Ave 212-810-2115

Hoboken Bar & Grill: On Washington - over 60 beers - taste them all and you make their hall of fame. Fantastic Food and outdoor seating. Yours truly 1st member of beer club...but still have some beers to consume.

Dog's Ear Bar: On Hudson in SoHo - new restaurant and bar opened right next door to our new CBS studios. They must have known about us moving down...nothing on tap yet, but good beer selection. Excellent Bacon Cheeseburger, Cobb Salad, Salmon, Fish & Chips and more. Very nice setting.

Water Taxi Beaches: they're expanding with one on Governor's Island (7/4 opening) and South Street Seaport at the north end of Pier 17 - opening May 10. Great concept and a lot of fun. Bring the beach to the city!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Summer Events in Napa

Napa Valley Festival Del Sole - July 17-25 Music fine wine art and more at spectacular Napa Wineries

Ravenswood Release Party - Saturday Aug 29 The home of No Wimpy Wines is releasing the 2007 Vineyard-Designate wines. Single vineyard Zins. Ravenswood also offers Morning Tour & Tastings at 10:30 - see who says it has to be noon? Or Afternoon Vineyard Wine & Cheese Tour at 3pm. Weds 5:30 - 7:30 - after hours with Uncle Bob - Ravenswood wines with snacks and Bob!

More events as they come in...put them on my blog so I can find them again.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Taste of Hope Wine Dinner

April 16, 2009

Tribeca-Manhattan, NY. - The Hope’s 3rd Annual "Taste of Hope" Dinner and Wine auction to support City of Hope was a huge success last week. Raising a record breaking $225,000 at the event that was easily the heaviest gathering of the entire music and radio business in years with LA Reid, Steve Bartels, Richard Palmese and a couple of former NY Knicks John Starks and Allan Houston were in attendance. Learn about last year's event >>

As a table wine sponsor I lined up what turned to be an amazing evening for everyone at table #16. This was evident when we made a lot of new friend when they heard what we were drinking;

Starting with a nice Champagne Toast from Chad Brown (who hired me in NYC).
We get into Califorinia' Greatest Hits:

1) Champagne Toast - Bollinger Champagne (not from Cali...)

2) Cakebread Cellars – Chardonnay 200 Napa Valley

3) Cakebread Cellars – Chardonnay Reserve 2005 Carneros Napa
Drink now -2011. Consistently scores 90+ pts in WS.

4) Duckhorn – Merlot 2006 Napa Valley
One of the Napa’s biggest Merlots. Drink now – 2009. 90 pts in WS.

A Salute to Robert Mondavi and his Napa Cabs scoring over 90 pts in 2000’s and 1990’s
VERTICAL TASTING – Different Vintages of same wine *bonus taste

*) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa Valley
Best from now – 2018 92 pts in WS.

6) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Napa Valley
Best from 2008 – 2018 95 pts in WS. Very Nice

7) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Napa Valley
Best from 2005 – 2012. 94 pts in WS. This was fantastic too!

*) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Napa Valley. Best from now – 2011. 90-92 pts in Parker recent tastes& 90pts in WS. Although no considered a great year for Napa this was very nice for 2000 vintage.

9) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Napa Valley
Best from now-2012 94 pts in WS. This was spectactular!

10) Robert Mondavi – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 Napa Valley
Drink now - 2011. 95 pts in WS. This wine has held up well and maybe one of the finest expressions of a big Napa Cab - Thanks Bob!

(Merit + Heritage) Red Meritage Wines must be a blend of at least two of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab-Franc, Malbec or Petit Verdot. No single grape may make up more than 90%. The price point doubles in each of these bottles. ($60, $125, $240) And people were surprised that Trilogy at that price point holds it own!

11) Flora Springs - Trilogy - 2003!

12) Rubicon Estate - 2002 Rutherford, Napa Valley
A Bordeaux expression in Napa. Co-owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Drink now - 2012. 91 pts in WS.

13) Joseph Phelps – Insignia 2001 Napa Valley
Meritage blend (Cab , Petit Verdot and Malbec. A more recent vintage of Insignia finished #1 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list and the price skyrocketed! Drink now - 2012. 94 pts in WS.

Here's what a typical table looks like...some of the finest wine assembled...

Where's all the food?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail 2009

Altoona, Pa - I met up with my parents and good friends Ken, Cheryl, Carl, and Michelle hopped aboard the bus for a tour of the six wineries in the Susquehanna Heartland.
The wineries are all spread out, so we only made it to four.

The Juniata and Susquehanna River Valleys are beautiful even though spring has not arrived yet. Note - The Susquehanna River which actually starts in upstate NY is one of the largest fresh water sources of the Chesapeake Bay. OK enough water trivia…

1st stop was Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery – close to State College home to Joe Pa and Penn State. Starting with the Reserve Chardonnay - $18.99 very clear and has seen very little oak – which is the trend lately to show case more fruit flavors. On to the Reds…Montage $15.99 their version of a Meritage blend. Cabernet Franc $13.99 my fave for this winery and a new grape which I unfamiliar – Chambourcin $11.99. Had the aroma of a Pinot Noir. That’s it for their dry winers – the local favorite is one called Tailgate Red which comes in 1.5 Liter bottled perfect for tailgating at Penn State.
My purchase here was a sweet/sour mustard.

For a point of reference I brought a long a bottle of NY wine –Bedell Taste blend and a & Washington Wine – Northstar Merlot. BTW – no comparison to PA.
According to the arrow Ken seems to think there's a bigger attraction than the wine...

15 minutes later we made it to our 2nd stop Brookmere Winery located in a stone & wood bank barn in the beautiful Kishacoquilla’s “Seven Mountains” Valley.
Start with a Niagara Spumante that’s very tasty, then on to the a nice collection of reds.
Here’s the Chambourcin again $11.00 – dead ringer for Pinot. Autumn Red $10.00 thin, but pleasant. Cabernet Franc $13.50, then 1st red to catch my attention – Carmine full flavor with a nice pepper finish. Than another surprise Alexander Red – blend of their Chambourcin & Cab Franc – very nice at $15.50. The Cabernet Sauvignon was just OK and they had a crazy red called Red Foxx that is sweet & spicy at same time – think hot & sour soup – it was interesting. But the big winner with our group where the fruit wines like “Tears of the Goose”, “Frog Hollow” and their #1 wine is called “Berries Gone Wild” Ken and I realized we’re not in Napa and start to embrace these fruit bomps.

Ken and my Dad get into the spirit at Shade Mt. while Brian & Cheryl pose out front.

It’s a longer trip on Rt. 522 to Shade Mountain Winery in Middleberg, PA and somehow a bigger bus has beat us to this winery. Shade Mountain has a nice beautiful deck overlooking 60 acres of vineyards and there are 43 wines to sample – YES 43 at one winery.
Starting with the Reds; Merlot-Dry $10.99 ok but a little chalky finish, Pinot Noir $10.99 not bad but is lacking structure. Sangiovese $9.95 was very pleasant as was the Cab Franc and Cab Sauv both $11.99. Unlike the other wineries no limit on how many you wanted to try here…so Porque No! (so why not?)
Bad Moose Mead – sweet honey wine – that oddly enough was very tasty. Six Dwarf’s Mint Wine – where are my Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies to complement this wine…and by the way – only 6 dwarfs, because one took off with Snow White.
They have a whole bunch of Fruit Wines: Plum, Cranberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Blueberry and Smokehouse Apple – very nice.

After 3 wineries somehow I'm the only one who can still read a map...and our driver isn't drinking? The bus driver get us to our 4th winery on the other side of the Susquehanna River - Spyglass Ridge Winery near Sunbury.
There is a live band and damn that huge bus beat us here too, but there are over 20 wines to sample and there is a good food spread.
2005 Chardonnay – pleasant – aged in PA American Oak for 18 months. 2004 Chambourcin – 28 months in oak and is more hearty than the other Chambourcin wines of the day. 2005 Cab Franc Reserve – where they mix in 5% of Chambersin and this wine is almost sold out.
The most requested wine here is one called “Tam’s Red” deep and rich in color with cherry notes – perfect with dark chocolate and only $10.00
Some of the fruit wines were “Tommy Appleseed” which tasted like biting into an apple and “Sour Cherry” a wine they describe like tasting like summer and I agree this would be refreshing on a hot August day.

We ran out of time to visit the other two on the trail.

Just south of Spyglass is Benigna’s Creek Winery in Klingerstown.

And farther downriver is Hunters Valley Winery that has been in operation for over 20 years and has just moved into a new building that has breathtaking views of the Susquehanna River. Sit on the porch and watch the Millersburg Ferry cross the river in the summer…good plan.

Ok so it wasn’t Napa, Sonoma, Woodinville or Santa Ynez valley, but with good friends and my parents it was time well spent.
Little did I know there were wineries so close to our family cottage and I’ve been wasting all my time fishing…


For more info visit: