I’m not talking about the get-your-friends-together, open-some-funky-wines, drink-and-discuss-while-you-nibble-on-charcuterie kind of DIY tasting, but rather the put-on-a-blazer, go-to-a-convention-center, taste, spit, and shmooz-your-way-around-the-room industry events. Many of my non-wine friends jealously yearn to attend, but my colleagues and I are all too familiar with the manic chaos that generally comes with the territory.
Last night I had the pleasure of being welcomed back to New York from France with something incredibly rare- from France. A few friends came to Rothmann’s for dinner with a bottle or three to wash down a porterhouse. The first two wines were classic left bank Bordeaux, ’82 Talbot and ’88 Leoville Las Cases.
Both wines from St.-Julien showed well, the Talbot at or very close to it’s peak with cedar and tobacco and still a bit of cherry on the finish. Drink it now. Followed by the Leoville Las Cases, seeming like a wine half it’s age rich and opulent, black fruit, cedar, mint, minerality and well integrated oak. I would wait on this for awhile. One of the best examples of ’88 on the left bank from the best producer in St.-Julien.
After they had finished the steak, they moved outside to investigate the half bottle that had been chilling on ice behind the bar. We sat out on 54th street as the cement heat and humidity had become bearable after ten o’clock. I poured four glasses of the Jean-Louis Grippat Hermitage Vin de Paille Blanc 1995, Apricot, cinnamon toast, candied orange peel, cardamon and almond butter on the nose, acidity highlighting the fruit and balance on the palate. Long finish and gorgeous power and balance from a well kept bottle of a stellar vintage in the Northern Rhone Valley. I would assume this is 100% Marsanne since this is what was contained in their vineyards… I was told that 200 half bottles were produced of this wine in the 1995 vintage, although I have seen a quote that “900 half bottles are produced for us, en famille” in reference to the wine in question, not the 1995 vintage- it is conceivable that the production would differ from vintage to vintage.
Last month we left the city for the weekend to gorge ourselves on the best wines made in New York State. My girlfriend Amanda and I had been invited to spend some time in the Finger Lakes, starting with a vertical tasting of Hermann J Wiemer Rieslings from ’99-’08 hosted by the winemaker, Fred Merwarth and Oskar Bynke the estate manager. Fred has been at the winery for nine years gradually taking over full winemaking responsibilities and Oskar worked there as an intern for two years after working in the wine industry in NYC. Hermann was looking to retire and lacking any natural heirs struck a favorable deal a few years ago to have the winery sold/passed down to his vigneron protege and his impish former intern. These are not the most well known wines of the region necessarily (that is changing) but they are far and away the benchmark and are almost solely responsible for the legitimacy of the Finger Lakes AVA.
The winery was established in 1979 on the west side of Seneca Lake. There are seven lakes in region which are long, narrow and incredibly deep. This is the reason the vines can survive the harsh NY winters in that the depth of the lake actually prevents it from freezing and protects the the area up to just over a mile from it’s shore.
Last week I had a table of six collectors come in for dinner with some Rhone wines to burn. I have a deal with them (and some other groups) that I think is very advantageous for all. Waive the corkage fee, I decant and serve all the wines and taste as well. Usually difficult in the middle of service to taste, oversee the wine service in the rest of the dining room and still take some notes but it was only six wines, so I had time to go back to my glasses resting on top of the notebook near the kitchen as needed. This was the group that brought a vertical of Screaming Eagle one night a couple of years ago and a Dal Forno dinner last year so when I get the phone call for a reservation my curiosity is piqued, knowing the theme will change every time.
The wine list at Daniel evokes Spaulding Gray’s Monster in a Box. More DRC than you could buy with all the bailout bonuses in New York, leather bound with a fighting weight of about three pounds this is one to peruse at the bar or online a few days before a romantic or otherwise strategic meal. Because with lists like these you go back and forth, get lost in Alsace, resurface for conversation after eight minutes spent in Bordeaux and then wander about the rest of the world until they lay an amuse bouche in front of you that would easily pass for a $20 app at many other much less heralded dining rooms.
Last week there was a plane in the Hudson River. In the water exactly a mile and a half west of us. It was on the TV’s behind the bar. My friend Mike, one of the other managers, saw it go down from his window on the west side before he walked to work. We all agreed it was amazing and got ready for what we hoped would be a busy dinner.
Almost. Thursday is typically our busiest night in the heart of the midtown financial district but the news in this area has been dominated by dominoes of falling institutions- remember when Bear Stearns collapsed and the next few weeks L’il Lehmann Bros. was being praised for leading the way in doing the right thing? Way to go braahhs. So we had a so-so Thursday. I didn’t think about the plane the rest of the night.