As we move into the middle of spring and the weather across the US (and northern hemisphere) begins to warm up, it is only natural for people’s wine tastes to change.
Rosé reasserts itself after a long winter’s nap and white varietals begin to fly off the shelf too. For those that prefer red wine, regardless of the weather or occasion or food pairing, it seems only natural to favor the softer, more delicate varietals, like Pinot Noir. But if you love Bordeaux varietals and simply will not be satiated with anything else when there’s juicy meats coming off the grill, you might find a nice Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley to be the perfect fit.
Blends, which typically include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (and to a lesser degree Petite Verdot and Malbec) can offer the ideal balance in a red wine and they pair nicely with grilled meats, barbecue and other stuff you might be cooking as the weather warms. Also, blends from the new world typically offer brighter fruit than their French counterparts which further helps them pair nicely with a variety of foods, including your Memorial Day smorgasburg of burgers and sausages and steaks.
I was lucky enough to recently try the 2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount ($90), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot sourced from the Gamble family’s vineyards in Oakville and St. Helena and it was delicious.
Greater than the sum of its parts, the final blend for the 2017 Paramount was drawn from fruit grown on nine different vineyard sites stretching the length and breadth of the Napa Valley. With the intention of allowing each variety to express its unique terroir and character, Winemaker Jim Close ferments each wine separately. At the core of this blend is Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from Gamble’s Knoll-top vineyard and St. Helena Cabernet Franc, which harmonizes with Oakville Merlot from just below Gamble’s Family Home vineyard and Petit Verdot grown on the slopes of Mount St. Helena.
Of course, high pedigree vineyard sites don’t magically make great wines. You need a great wine maker—which they have—as well as a keen understanding of how to farm the land and yield great fruit…responsibly. At the heart of the winery’s regenerative farming approach is owner Tom Gamble, a third-generation farmer, who purchased his first vineyard in 1981. Over 20 years later, he started Gamble Family Vineyards with the goal of celebrating the distinct Napa Valley terroir he had come to know and love. A strong believer that wine is a gift from the earth, Tom takes a holistic approach when caring for his vineyards and the surrounding land.
The 2017 Paramount is deftly balanced—bold yet approachable—with just enough oak and the kind of soft tannins you expect from a top tier Napa Valley blend. Dark fruits—raspberries, black currants, plum—explode out of the glass, giving way to mocha and vanilla notes on the long, long finish. This wine has just enough acidity to make it a wonderful food wine, yet is soft enough to enjoy on its own or casually with some hard cheeses and charcuterie.
Still prefer white wines this summer? Gamble also makes one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in Napa Valley. Their “Heartblock” Sauvignon Blanc ($90), while pricey for the white varietal, is a benchmark for quality Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley.
In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.” Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading →
Let’s face it. There is nothing quite like a high quality steak house. However, with so many to choose from around the country—including many of very average caliber—it can be difficult to find the best. Pursuitist has made it easy with this short list of the best places to go for a juicy, mouthwatering steak cooked to perfection by amazing culinary teams.
1. CUT – Beverly Hills
Wolfgang Puck is credited with redefining fine dining in America. Indeed, the award-winning Austrian-born chef and celebrated restaurateur has built a vast restaurant empire with locations around the world, beginning with his flagship Spago, which opened in 1982 (famous for its haute cuisine pizzas), and later Chinois and Postrio Bar & Grill, among many others. His trademark dishes have revolutionized the culinary industry.
In 2006, Puck opened CUT, a sleek, innovative and contemporary steakhouse complete with a lounge called Sidebar, located in the Richard Meier-designed Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills. After only one year in operation, the restaurant earned a coveted one star ranking from the Michelin Guide–no small accomplishment.
CUT continues to innovate at this stunning Four Seasons property. In 2016, the inviting CUT Lounge opened as the new bar and lounge experience formerly occupied by Sidebar. The ‘Rough Cuts’ menu offers the best bar snacks in the world, along with creative cocktails, in a relaxing and cosy environment. Try the New York Sirloin Steak Skewers, Maple Glazed Pork Belly, and the delicious Tempura Fanny Bay Oysters.
With its unique combination of service and design, the award-winning CUT Beverly Hills and the new CUT Lounge tops our list as the best steak and culinary destination in the US.
2. Smith & Wollensky – New York
Since its founding more than 30 years ago, The landmark Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York City has beef as its cornerstone, concept and reputation. Smith & Wollensky dry-ages and butchers its USDA Prime grade beef in-house to ensure unparalleled quality, tender texture, and outstanding flavor. On average, Smith & Wollensky is aging 7-12 tons of beef at any given time.
Smith & Wollensky is best known for its USDA Prime, dry aged steaks, but the prime rib is mouthwatering as well. The menu offers many options beyond the signature exemplary steaks. Guests can select from a variety of market-fresh seafood, poultry, and lamb. also, such as the shellfish bouquet. Meu standouts include the shellfish bouquet, creamed spinach, hashed browns and the coconut cake. The restaurant’s Great American Wine List offers over 550 selections from all across the country with a special section devoted to Undiscovered Gems, which are lesser-known wines of outstanding quality.
3. The Prime Rib – Washington, D.C.
The Prime Rib was founded in 1965 in Baltimore, Md. by famed restaurateur Buzz Beler and his brother, Nick. The restaurant was designed to evoke the elegant supper clubs of 1940’s Manhattan. The restaurant is a throw-back to the good old days with its tuxedoed waitstaff, live music nightly, and convivial and romantic atmosphere. The restaurant, which is beautifully decorated with fine art and fresh flowers, is famous for its thick chops, fresh seafood and the plethora of delicious side dishes from which to choose. Its wine list is equally as extensive.
The Prime Rib opened its second location in 1976 in Washington, D.C.The restaurant has become a power meeting spot for the who’s who of Washington elite. The restaurant’s third location was opened in Philadelphia in the city’s historic Warwick Hotel in 1997.
Peter Luger Steak House is a bonafied New York institution, has served the finest of steaks. For 26 consecutive years, Peter Luger has been the number one steak house in New York, according to Zagat’s, and its customers have included a host of celebrities, from Alfred Hitchcock to James Cagney and Robert De Niro.
Peter Luger Steak House offers only the finest USDA Prime meat available. The selection process is crucial and is done only by members of the family who visit the wholesale markets on a daily basis. Just as famous as its steaks are Peter Luger’s side dishes. Be sure to order the sliced tomato topped with Luger’s own sauce, creamed spinach, onion rings and the special German fried potatoes. The Peter Luger Steak House Old Fashioned Sauce is delicious and available for purchase. Keep in mind that most of Peter Luger’s dishes are large enough to serve several people.
Executive Chef, John Schenk, is renowned for his culinary skills and is often seen on The Today Show among other national news programs. Schenk keeps the menu fresh at the eclectic restaurant offers an innovative menu featuring select cuts of beef that are charred to perfection accompanied by decadent sides, an extensive wine list and delectable desserts. Be sure to try its signature New York Strip Steak accompanied by the restaurant’s delicious creamed spinach with black truffles followed up by its famous 24-layer chocolate cake.
The restaurant’s name is a double entendre that relates to both the delectable strip steaks as well as its seductive, yet sophisticated decor. The interior was designed by David Rockwell and offers a clubby yet striking atmosphere with deep red leather booths. The walls are adorned with black and white images of women that pays hommage to the female form. The collection was photographed by Studio Manasse in Vienna in the early 1900’s.
This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission.
At one point there were many juleps. It was a whole class of fruity drinks, with offshoots, cousins, and icy branches. The word itself descends from the Arabic julab, which means rosewater, and has come to refer to seasoned water, fruity water, or boozy-fruity-water. Continue reading →
Belles and beaus are readying their bells and bows for the premier event of the South: the Kentucky Derby. And amid the horses and hoop skirts, that oh-so-Southern cocktail, the mint julep itself, is poised to make its annual gallop through the world consciousness. A genteel concoction of sugar, water, ice and mint; founded upon that most Southern of spirits, bourbon; the mint julep is to the South what the martini is to the North. (See Our Tips for Perfecting the Mint Julep and Drinking It in Style). Continue reading →
If you’ve lived in California then you probably know how much the Pacific Ocean affects the air temperature. Coastal towns and cities can experience temperatures that are routinely 15-20 degrees cooler than locations just a few miles inland, and this juxtaposition is at its starkest in the summer. [Top Photo: Cathleen Evangelista]
When someone brings up “The South,” it’s a safe bet they won’t mention Miami’s South Beach neighborhood. It’s true that geographically speaking, Florida is the most Southern state in the Continental U.S. and Miami the most Southern metropolitan city. However South Beach is more likely to conjure up cultural associations with places like NYC or LA. Yet, this is where you will find one of the country’s most successful new restaurants that has taken Southern cuisine to task. Yardbird. Continue reading →
Not all food and wine traditions—like grilling certain meats, decanting certain wines, or “popping” the cork off of a champagne bottle—results in a better product. Champagne is supposed to open with a bang, right? Not necessarily. In fact a huge celebratory “pop!” is actually a sign that it was opened by an amateur. Experts contend that a bottle of champagne opened with skill will make only a very small popping sound, or perhaps none at all.
Here is how to open a champagne bottle like a pro:
Chill thoroughly – Properly chilled champagne will fizz and/or froth over less Towel dry the bottle – if there’s condensation to ensure a good grip and prevent slippage Cut the foil – using a knife, only tearing with fingers after you’ve scored the foil. Tilt and aim – Tilt the bottle to 45 degrees and aim it away from yourself, others, and anything breakable (like windows) Hold the cork down – with one hand while twisting open the wire cage with the other Twist the bottle – with one hand while continuing to hold the cork down with the other Listen – for the sound of air escaping to signal that the bottle is open. There may also be a small cloud of gas.
The pop can be fun when among friends in a party atmosphere but if opened gently and quietly the champagne will have more bubbles and taste better. As the old saying goes “The ear’s gain is the palate’s loss.”
Once you’ve successfully opened the champagne the next step is pouring it. For the best results make sure the bubbly has been chilled to the proper temperature, 46º F – 57º F depending on age, and then further preserve the bubbles by using a ‘beer-like’ technique and pouring the liquid down the side of a tilted champagne flute.
This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission.
Learn how to make perfect, restaurant quality steaks at home. Restaurant chef secrets are revealed in this how-to segment that teaches you how to make the best steaks. Featuring Lobel’s Steaks of NYC and wine from Robert Mondavi of Napa Valley, enjoy an easy culinary creation for a gourmet meal at home.
Ingredients: Steaks – Lobel’s American Wagyu Ribeye Steaks Recommended Sea Salt Fresh Pepper Olive Oil Wine – Robert Mondavi 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Recommended
Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Step 2: Open a bottle of wine.
Step 3: Let the steaks come to room temperature.
Step 4: Lightly brush the steaks with olive oil on both sides.
Step 5: Sprinkle steaks with sea salt and cover with fresh ground pepper.
Step 6: Turn burner on high heat. Pre-heat dry pan for 2 minutes. Place steaks in pan.
Step 7: Don’t flip-flop the steaks. With tongs, check to see if a crust is forming after a few minutes. If so, turn the steaks over once and repeat the process.
Step 8: Place the pan containing the steaks into the oven. Enjoy more wine.
Step 9: After two minutes, take the pan out of the oven. Check the steaks with a meat thermometer. Desired temperature for medium rare is 125 degrees F.
Step 10: Take the steaks out of the pan. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes so the juices settle before eating. Plate, garnish and and enjoy your steak.
About Lobel’s Steaks: For five generations, the Lobels have been purveyors of fine meats dedicated to the highest standards of quality and personal service. These standards have made their butcher shop an institution in New York City, where the family’s Upper East Side store enjoys a devoted clientele comprised of celebrities, prominent business executives, and others who value the highest quality prime meats and attentive service. Learn more at: http://www.lobels.com
About Robert Mondavi Winery: The Robert Mondavi Winery is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the wine industry. From the introduction of cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks and the use of French oak barrels in the late 1960’s, to collaboration with NASA using aerial imaging to understand the health and vigor of the vines in the 1990’s, the Robert Mondavi Winery has always been at the forefront of wine industry technology. Their innovations, such as gentle winemaking techniques to increase wine quality and natural farming to protect people and the environment, have led to fundamental changes in the industry’s approach to winegrowing. Learn more more at: http://www.robertmondavi.com/
The rows of Cabernet Sauvignon stretch as far as the eye can see. This is my first visit to California’s Napa Valley and like most first-time visitors, I am hopping from one storied winery to another, packing in as many tastings as I can in two days. But Napa isn’t just about wine. Continue reading →
As one of America’s most outstanding female chefs, Stephanie Izard knows how to inspire, captivate, and cook up a storm. The first woman to win on TV’s “Top Chef,” she’s also the chef and owner of the acclaimed Girl & the Goat restaurant in Chicago specializing in nose-to-tail whole animal cooking. Continue reading →
Located high in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range in the heart of the Rockies resides a small chocolatier company—with huge arms —that produces some of world’s best chocolate. Meaning “by hand” and “they love” in Italian, Amano prides itself on sourcing only the world’s very best cacao beans and ingredients. Continue reading →
When you think of all the restaurants in the theatre district, there surprisingly aren’t that many kid friendly restaurants in Times Square, or at least not the kind we typically like. There are a lot of upscale and fine dining restaurants in Mid-town, and then there are a lot of big chains and theme-style restaurants. But if you’re like us and don’t want to head to Applebee’s or Olive Garden, and certainly aren’t taking your wild childs with you to fancy Le Bernardin, what are you left with? There is a lot of sifting to be done in the mighty Times Square area to find the right place to eat for you and your family.
Here are 8 great kid friendly restaurants in Times Square to help you plan a pre- or post- theatre meal if you’re visiting the city or seeing a show.
This always-popular Italian is a NYC institution and is great for big groups. It’s all about family-style sharing, so bring your appetite along with friends and the kids, and get down to business. Antipasto platters, garlic bread, any pasta you desire and their delicious chicken parm will leave you fully satiated and ready to take on a Broadway show! 200 West 44th Street, New York 10036/ 212.221.3800
Times Square would certainly not be complete without a Shake Shack! Considered by many to be the best “fast” burger in the city, eating at this Danny Myer chain is a win-win for kids and adults alike. Apart from their mouth-watering burgers and fries, their shakes are insanely good as well, especially the caramel and malted vanilla flavors. 691 8th Avenue, New York 10036/ 646.435.0135
For years Virgil’s has been a well-known NYC BBQ joint. And after dealing with the masses of Times Square you just might be in a little need of some comfort food! Think pulled pork, bbq chicken, hush puppies and mac ‘n cheese. Make sure to book a res, and come hungry. 152 West 44th Street, New York 10036/ 212.921.9494
Who knew that this lively Cuban night spot had a kids menu? I certainly didn’t – last time I was there was over mojitos before a Dead show! But they do, and with lots of games to keep the young ones occupied. My older daughter had chicken fingers while my younger one had a heaping plate of rice and beans, followed by brownies and chocolate filled empanadas with whipped cream and ice cream. It’s their new favorite place to eat before a show. 151 West 46thStreet, New York 10036/ 212.398.7440
If you’re looking for pizza, try this low-key family-run restaurant. A bit of a hole in the wall, but Broadway posters all around make it fun. And sometimes a slice of pizza is just what you need. Pastas and other dishes on the menu as well. 311 West 48th Street, New York 10036/ 212.245.4343
This famed Brooklyn restaurant – serving the “best cheesecake in New York” – has an outpost in Times Square and has a full menu beyond cheesecake, including things like wings, hummus, potato pancakes, salads and soups. And my favorite kind too – split pea soup. 1515 Broadway, New York 10019/ 212.302.2000
Ok, so the food may be overpriced for what it is – diner food – but how can one resist the singing waiters at this swinging retro 1950’s style diner? Known as the Stardusters, the singing wait staff, many who continue onto Broadway, are sure to entertain the kids and keep them at bay – half the battle while eating out as a family. People come back to this hopping diner again and again for a reason – it’s just so much fun. 1650 Broadway, New York 10019/ 212.956.5151
For a more upscale experience, but not necessarily so that you can’t bring the kids, try this popular Italian restaurant. With items such as lasagna and spaghetti on the menu, as well as paillard and pan-seared salmon, there’s something for everyone. A nice little retreat from the Times Square chaos outside.
35 West 46th Street, New York, 10036/ 212.397.7597
Some say that Coq au Vin dates all the way back to the times of Julius Caesar, whereas others are quick to point out that the earliest known recipe was found in a cookbook from the 1860s. This classic dish—often served during the colder months—is the very definition of French comfort food. Continue reading →
Bordeaux style blends from Napa Valley have always been a favorite of mine. Whether it’s a left bank style (heavier on the Cabernet Sauvignon), a right bank style (heavier on the Merlot and Cab Franc) or somewhere in the middle, the concept of blending varietals together to make a more rounded, complex wine has been around for a long time. The French championed the style a couple centuries ago in Bordeaux—more out of necessity than preference, since their climate does not always yield ripe enough fruit. Thus blending was needed to smooth out the edges and soften the tannins. Napa’s trailblazer vintners were initially reticent to blend because they did not want to copy the French—nor did they need to. Thanks to its warm climate and consistently sunny days during most of the growing season, a lack of ripeness is rarely a problem in Napa. But the practice eventually took hold nonetheless. Joseph Phelps is considered by many to be the first winery in Napa Valley to practice the technique, back in the 1970’s. Their flagship wine “Insignia,” considered the first Bordeaux-style blend in Napa, remains one of my favorite wines.
Of course, many producers in Napa Valley still prefer to make 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and excel at it. Caymus Special Selection and Shafer Hillside Select are two of the most revered Napa cabs on the market, with international name recognition and cult-like status. Thanks in part to ideal vineyards plots, perfect soil and a long growing season—these producers can make world-class red wines that consist of 100% Cabernet, yet with decidedly soft, plush tannins and layers of complexity that might easily be mistaken for a blend. While most Napa wineries tend to concentrate and excel at one or the other, a few excel at both.
Located in the Stag’s Leap district of Napa Valley, Cliff Lede Vineyards is one of these producers that has mastered both. They make blends—namely their “Claret” and “High Fidelity” labels. And they make Cabernet—though depending on the label and the vintage it could be anywhere from 85% to 100% Cabernet, give or take a few percentage points. All of their wines, even their Sauvignon Blanc, are extraordinary in my opinion. Before I delve more into their wines, let’s take a quick look at the winery itself and it’s rather short, yet successful history in Napa Valley.
Cliff Lede Vineyards was established in 2002 by Canadian born Bordeaux enthusiast, Cliff Lede, following the acquisition of a sixty acre estate in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. With a focus on producing wines from estate vineyards, Lede tapped David Abreu, considered the best viticulturist in Napa Valley, to replant the vineyards. Lede decided to name each vineyard block after some of his favorite rock songs and albums—from “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” creating what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.” In 2005, a state of the art, 25,000 square foot winery and cave system was etched into a hillside overlooking the estate vineyards. Winemaker Christopher Tynan crafts Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, with the flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the steep eastern hillside portion of the estate.
Stag’s Leap District
Ok, so what makes these wines special? After all, Napa Valley is home to a lot of great producers. For me, it’s the balance, complexity and polish of their wines. And while winemaker Christopher Tynan deserves a lot of credit, even he would probably agree that the vineyard plots Cliff Lede lays claim to in the Stag’s Leap District play a major role in the final product. There are 16 AVAs in total in Napa Valley and each one has different characteristics. Yet, while the differentiating characteristics of these AVAs can be debated, it is hard to argue against the notion that Stag’s Leap District Cabernets have distinctively softer, silkier tannins than their neighboring AVAs. This is what SLD Cabernets are known for. Power and elegance.
Situated in southeastern Napa Valley, along the Silverado Trail, about five miles north of the city of Napa, the Stags Leap District is only about a mile wide and three miles in length. This makes it is one of the smallest AVAs in Napa Valley. And given its southern location in Napa Valley, it is also one of the cooler AVAs, resulting in a more subdued style of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Often referred to as a “valley within a valley,” the district is bounded on the east by the towering Stags Leap Palisades, to the west by the rolling hills and Napa River, to the north by the Yountville Cross Road, and to the south by low-lying flatlands. These landscape features lend the district its clear physical identity while a unique set of topographical characteristics make it ideal climate for growing Cabernet.
Says the Stag’s Leap District Winegrowers Association, “The rock facades of the palisades reflect the heat of the sun onto the vineyards below, causing temperatures to rise more quickly than in neighboring vineyards. As afternoon draws to a close, the hills funnel the cool, marine air flowing north from the San Pablo Bay through the Stags Leap District corridor. The cooling effect of this breeze, coupled with nighttime air drainage off the mountains and hills, means lower nighttime temperatures. This allows the grapes to achieve an excellent balance of acid and sugar and also minimizes the threat of frost. The end result is a longer growing season of warm days and cool nights—perfect for late-maturing varietals such as Cabernet.”
Cliff Lede currently produces a total of 10 Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blends. While all of them are muscular enough to stand up to a steak or lamb chops in the heart of winter they are also very elegant wines that can be enjoyed anytime of year with a wide array of cuisines. Below are my notes for the three wines I tried.
2017 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District
The fruit for this Cabernet (88% Cabernet Sauvignon,5% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) was sourced from the hillside terraces of Cliff Lede’s Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard estate which surrounds the winery, and a few neighboring vineyards in the Stags Leap District. The wine is composed of small lots from their best blocks, representing a diverse range of carefully selected clones and rootstocks. This wine is also rich in soil diversity ranging from Poetry’s volcanic origins, to the ancient riverbed alluvial soils of Twin Peaks, further contributing to the wine’s complexity. Great wines are indeed “made in the vineyard.”
The 2017 Stags Leap Cabernet has vibrant aromas of crushed flowers and dark fruits (blackberry, dark cherries) intertwined with chocolate, spice box and cassis. The wine has tremendous depth and layers of flavors that build into a long opulent finish that is framed with great minerality and loamy soil that personifies the SLD terrior.
2017 Dancing Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District (Rockpile Vineyard)
89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, and 1% Malbec. The fruit for this one is sourced from Lede’s Poetry and Twin Peaks Vineyards. The Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in shallow volcanic soil and farmed to low yields, resulting in good structure with plush tannins and tremendous concentration.
This wine announces itself a bit more on the nose than the Stag’s Leap Cabernet, wafting with a bouquet of dark berry fruits, lavender and cocoa. Wonderfully complex with minerals and slate/graphite on the finish.
2017 Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District
The Poetry Vineyard, carved into a steep west-facing hillside, reaches from the highest elevations of the Stags Leap District appellation to the valley floor. This vineyard, designed by David Abreu specifically for Cabernet, draws its uniqueness from shallow, volcanic soils atop fractured shale. Due to the stressful nature of the site, planted with high vine density and farmed to very low yields, the vines develop slowly and produce small flavorful berries.
A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot the bouquet on this one is loaded with black currants, crushed flowers, stone and cherry liquor. On the palate it has a complex medley of spices, tobacco, licorice, currant, dark cherries and even hoisin. The long finish includes cigar, dried cherries and warm slate.
“Thanksgiving wines” has become an annual piece for me. I enjoy coming up with a list of food friendly wines that pair nicely with turkey and gravy and stuffing and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole (insert traditional sides) because, quite frankly, not many do. My general rule is, don’t overthink it…and stick to white wines.
What do I mean by don’t overthink it? When you have family and friends over (though this year may be different) and you are in charge of the wines it’s perfectly normal to want to offer some different choices, including something that may not be on your guest’s radar. Albarino or Riesling for example. But do these wines really match well with turkey? Not in my book. Sometimes the obvious choice is the best. Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? Not Stonewall Jackson.
So what is the obvious choice? I always favor American Chardonnay. Why? Well, first off, because it’s American. This is our holiday after all. Yet ironically, it pairs nicely with Thanksgiving cuisine. Why do I say ironically? Because I don’t think Chardonnay pairs all that well with much. And yet it pairs well with a meal that doesn’t pair well with much. Go figure. But there are other reliable choices other than Chardonnay. Plenty in fact. Here is is my 2020 lineup:
Simply put, this is one of the best chardonnays I have tried in a long time. And being 2020, of course I tried it on a virtual wine tasting session via zoom call. A wine writer on the call made what I thought was a very astute comment about this wine, saying that it had a “lean mid-palate.” But he meant it in a complimentary way. And I knew right away what he meant. In addition to the wonderful stone fruits, lemon curd and limestone minerality that this wines exhibits, the lean mid-palate creates a sense of even-flow and gracefulness that allows the fruit to fully shine as the wine slowly unleashes all its splendor right up through the long finish. This is a wine you can certainly enjoy on its own but it is a food wine through and through. It’s California fruit meets Burgundian acidity and minerality. It’s opulent yet practices restraint. It’s a Chardonnay that people who aren’t particularly fond of Chardonnay will still like.
Ram’s Gate “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay 2018 ($70)
Usually when I think of famous vineyards in Napa and Sonoma I think of vineyards planted for Cabernet. There are many. But Chardonnay has a few too. And the Hyde Vineyard in Carneros—who’s soils its namesake Hyde family has been working since the late ’70s—is one of them. The cool Carneros winds here lead to slow and steady ripening allowing for complex and exquisite flavor development, with more of a Burgundian framework. The Ram’s Gate Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay is no exception.
A medley of the two clones—Robert Young and Musqué—produce a mineral-driven, austerely elegant chardonnay (similar to the Gary Farrell Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay in this sense) with white peach, apricot and lemon zest. Partial malolactic gives lovely texture in the mid-palate while the chalky soils drive saline and minerals on the finish.
Says winemaker Joe Nielson, “Hyde Vineyard is one of those cherished places in California where heritage, hard work and terroir come together to produce a wine that has incredible depth, richness and precision—hallmarks of not just a complex wine, but a delicious addition to your favorite meals.”
Gamble Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2019 ($28)
Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes to people’s surprise, actually thrives in Napa Valley (the chardonnay on the tasting list at a Napa Valley winery is likely from Carneros or Sonoma and not from their actual estate). Yet for a long time, it played the role of warm up wine—a palate cleanser or amuse bouche—before the featured wines. Not anymore. Across the board, vintners are no longer making Sauvignon Blanc for a little extra cash flow. They are investing it in big time—from farming, to specific clones, to barrels and concrete eggs.
One such producer is Gamble Family Vineyards. While their “Heart Block” is a benchmark for Napa Valley Sauvignon block (and commands a $95 price tag) their regular Sauvignon Blanc at a more palatable $28 is a wonderful wine, composed of four distinct Sauvignon Blanc clones:, Sauvignon Musque and 530, which originate from the Loire region, and Preston and 316, which originate from Bordeaux.
Truchard Vineyards Roussanne 2018 ($28)
This white varietal has been traditionally associated with the Northern Rhône, where it is blended with Marsanne to make white Hermitage wines. Like a lot of varietals that originated in France, it can also thrive in California, provided the right soils and microclimates are present. Carneros has exactly this, with cool (enough) temps, volcanic rock and ash soils and gently sloping vineyards—like it’s Northern Rhône brethren.
Floral aromas of pineapple, honeysuckle, and jasmine, with highlights of brioche and vanilla. The mouth is crisp, with clean flavors of fresh pear, honeydew melon, and lychee. Bright acidity provides a lengthy finish of citrus, mineral, and spice.
Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc Los Carneros 2016 ($92 1.5 L Magnum)
This one might seem like a bit of a wild card. And yes, it’s only available in 1.5L Magnum format (and .375L split) but that shouldn’t be a problem for a Thanksgiving feast. I say wildcard, because at first glance a Pinot Blanc may seem a bit light for your average Thanksgiving meal. On the contrary, Pinot Blancs from California tend to be a bit “bigger” than those from Alsace or Italy. And not everyone’s turkey lunch or dinner is dominated by heavy gravy and buttery mashed potatoes. If your Thanksgiving meal is on the lighter side, this could be a perfect match.
Truthfully, when it comes to white wine, Robert Sinskey is more known for their “Abraxas” white blend, which includes Pinot Blanc but also Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtz. I like the straight Pinot Blanc more though. It has been one of my favorite white wines from the sunshine state since I first tried it about 15 years ago.
The bouquet on this wine never disappoints. Aromas of fresh cut flowers, honeydew melon and even a little allspice jump out of the glass. Stone fruits (peach and apricot) and Meyer lemon are joined with white pepper and crème brule on the long finish—framed by great minerality.
Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading →
Don’t let summer pass you by without hitting the beaches in Montauk for a weekend getaway. As the summer playground for well-heeled New Yorkers, this year some of the top chefs have taken up residence in the East End. Here are some of our favorite dining spots:
BEACH HOUSE GRILL @ Montauk Beach House
New executive chef Salvatore Olivella is causing a stir at the Montauk Beach House with his specialty, Roman Style Pizza, as well as some delicious summer grilled dishes. Guests will appreciate the sophisticated take on delectables like the Thin Crust Focaccia and Whipped Ricotta, Tuna Tartare with Mango Guacamole, and Hawaiian Style Short Ribs. If pizza is what your palate needs, try the Pizza Truffata with caramelized onions, mixed Italian cheese, and fresh truffles or Pizza Diavola with fresh mozzarella, Brooklyn pepperoni, spicy honey, and red pepper flakes. Don’t miss Wednesday pizza happy hour with half-price pies! Pair with cocktails like the Mezcalita Cocktail (Illegal Mezcal, Ancho Reyes, agave, fresh lime juice, and a chili salt rim0, Montauk Make Out (Don Papa Rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, and fresh-squeezed orange juice), Frose, and a selection of MTK Brewery beers, wine, and Spiked Seltzers. For more information visit www.thembh.com | IG: thembh
Ruschmeyer’s has been a staple in Montauk, and this year the iconic restaurant and hotel have over 10,000 square feet of social distancing dining space. The dining area has 27 tables spaced 15-feet apart ensuring that current social-distancing guidelines are enforced. The Mediterranean-inspired menu by Executive Chef Giuseppe Lentini and Enzo Lentini of Ruschmeyer’s is included fresh Montauk Calamari, Shrimp Cocktail, fresh local oysters, artisanal pasta and the only loaded lobster roll in Montauk. A wood-burning oven provides Neapolitan pizza, topped with their in-house made mozzarella.
Join Ruschmeyer’s for some amazing weekday specials:
Tuesday’s – Taco Tuesday- Buy one get one free margarita from 5-10:30PM
Wednesday’s – Italian Family Style Dinner- $19.95/person, enjoy spaghetti and meatballs and a complimentary bottle of rosé for the table
Thursday’s – Family Style Steak Night- Includes steak and appetizers served family-style for $50/person
Sunday’s – Lobster Bake – Including 2-pound lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, fresh corn and potatoes for $75/person
Solé East is offering breakfast, lunch, dinner & a tapas-style poolside menu under the direction of self-taught Executive Chef Adam Pitré. With a focus on seasonal cuisine, the menu features fresh, natural ingredients and sourced organic meats, locally farmed vegetables, and fresh catch from the Montauk local fishermen. Reservations can be made on Open Table. For more information please visit www.soleast.com | IG: soleeastmontauk
Looking to throw a derby party with mint juleps that people will actually remember? We have simple advice–go big or go home. Don’t buy any old whiskey, don’t cut corners on the ingredients and don’t serve Kentucky’s favorite cocktail in solo cups. These tweaks to your usual routine will have your guests looking forward to next year’s shindig.
The term “shoulder season” is most commonly used in the travel business, referring to a period of time between the high and low seasons of a vacation destination. In the wine world, a similar transitional period exists when the changing of the seasons can cause our preference in wine to change. Continue reading →
Classic, old fashioned cocktails are back in vogue. And their simplicity is what makes them so timeless—and good. Don’t overthink your mixology psychology this summer. Impress your guests with these easy to make, refreshing, summer classics.
If you read my article on Ehlers’ Rosé—made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—then you may recall my affection for new world rosés. Yes, the classic Provence style, driven primarily by Grenache and Cinsault (Syrah and Mouvedre to a lesser degree), will likely reign supreme for a long time—both in terms of market cap and perceived authenticity (what a rosé should taste like in most people’s mind). And in the dog days of summer this style of rosé is usually what I look for too. But rosé as a segment of the wine market is unique in its sheer size and endless possibilities. Remember, you can make rosé out of almost any red varietal—from a single varietal or a blend of several. This is why the number of rosés on the shelf of your local wine merchant has probably grown over the years. They are everywhere and constantly evolving.
One varietal that has proven to work well for rosé is Pinot Noir. However—and this is key—it depends on the region. You don’t see many rosés coming out of the Côte-d’Or in Burgundy, for example. Yet this region is world famous for Pinot Noir. So why so few rosés? Rosé needs very ripe, bright fruit to achieve the kind of flavor profile that people have become accustom to—in my opinion. That’s not to say some earthiness is not also a key factor in making quality rosé. Provence has both, but it’s the warm climate in the south of France that is paramount. When I think of wine regions of the world that have the kind of soil to grow world-class Pinot Noir but also have plenty of sunshine, California and Oregon come to mind above all other regions. Particularly California.
Inman Family Wines
Established in 2000 with the planting of their Olivet Grange Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley, Inman Family Wines is the result of Kathleen Inman’s love of Pinot Noir and the soil that produces it. Since her first small vintage in 2002, she has been an ardent supporter of non-interventionalist winemaking practices, ignoring the critically acclaimed riper-style and leading the movement towards more subtle, nuanced wines with a sense of place.
The 2019 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV Estate
The 2019 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV Estate is no exception to these practices and reflects the winery’s success with “intentional” or “direct-to-press” rosés. Some rosés are made as a by-product of red wine by bleeding off some of the juice early in the production process to create a higher ratio of skin to juice, which concentrates the resulting wine. Whereas rosés made “intentionally,” rather than simply by drawing off the free run juice, tend to have greater complexity and structure because the entire grape is used.
As you might expect this wine has flavors of a classic rosé as well as the alluring, delicate flavors of a premium Russian river Pinot Noir. Strawberries and raspberries intermingle with stone fruits (peach and apricot)—held up with great minerality. This wine is indeed a result of the “direct-to-press” approach with good complexity and layers of flavor that last a while on the finish.
Don’t wait till Memorial Day to load up on your favorite rosé—many won’t still be around!
Most people, when they think of rosé, think of the enjoyment it can bring on a hot summer day. Personally I love the salmon colored elixir anytime of year though warm summer weekends certainly lend themselves the most. Continue reading →
How do you make a million dollars in the wine business? You start with five million. That’s an old saying in the wine business—and probably a dozen other businesses that people dream of making a living in (the restaurant and hospitality businesses to name a couple). Continue reading →
Like many delicious aperitifs, digestifs, liqueurs, and other items in bottles, Lillet was underutilized for many years. In those somewhat barren times (and here I’m talking about, oh, the early 1960s through about the turn of the century) many of the more intriguing mixtures fell a bit off the cocktail map. Continue reading →
San Francisco is one of the country’s best dining destinations for endless ethnic tastes, progressive Californian cuisine and mad Michelin-star skills. Just a few miles south of San Francisco, the talented culinary team at Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay had a thought: Continue reading →
One of Italy’s most refreshing and food-friendly wines, Lambrusco is an effervescent red wine from Italy that has taken some time to catch on in the U.S. but is finally starting to creep out of obscurity. Continue reading →
Move over Maine lobsters. An even more revered, more sought after New England shellfish has stolen the culinary spotlight for a few fleeting months. Fresh-caught Nantucket Bay scallops – arguably the best and most coveted seafood in America – are now arriving at select restaurants and seafood shops throughout the country, and they won’t be here for long. Continue reading →