It’s not trivial to have a perfect wine cellar. I often think about exactly what constitutes a perfect cellar for the typical wine drinker who, with his wife, tends to run through a bottle of good wine daily or about 300 to 400 bottles a year (approximately 30 cases). Unless you drink wine with dinner and like a great, well-matured wine as often as possible, there is no reason to have a cellar. You can always pick up a bottle of good wine at the store when you need it.
One problem I often see is people over-buying for their own needs. This is particularly true of the high-tech millionaires who buy cases of everything they can get their hands on and end up with hundreds of cases stored, much of which should not be stored and will just deteriorate.
A wine cellar is a function of discipline. I like the 30-case cellar that takes into account lots of constant buying that day or that week to drink right away. You don’t collect 30 cases of wine without tasting 30 wines before you buy them (although buying certain wines untasted is not uncommon).The 30 “tasters” add up to one month of drinking wine and account for nearly three cases of wine per year. I might buy a case or half a case of about one wine out of five or 10 that I try.
That’s another 150 to 300 bottles of wine you reject for the case lot collection. You’ve shot nearly a year tasting wine to collect. The point being the wine cellar wines can only account for about one quarter of your yearly wine-drinking pleasure if you like tasting different things.
There are some people who find a good wine and drink dozens of cases of that wine. I personally find that approach boring, although safe and smart. Most wine connoisseurs are into variety, looking for the Holy Grail of wines: the perfect cheap wine.
The most trustworthy wine to collect is Bordeaux. It can keep for decades and tends to continually improve.
When you start to collect from other regions it’s very spotty and you have to know what you are doing. The great (and expensive) Burgundies can keep longer than many wines, as can some of the California Cabernets.
But for the most part it’s risky to keep a wine more than five years, and too many wines begin to lose their fruit within a couple of years after purchase. There is nothing more disappointing then opening an old case of wine and discovering that it’s over-the-hill and undrinkable. In a future column I’ll have specific cellar recommendations and other specifications.
Treat yourself at the end of a long day with a glass of something delicious.
Here’s to the art of wine night for one.
You’re home. You’ve dropped your bag. Your shoes are off. It’s time to relax, unwind and pour a glass of wine-one that’s just for you. From the ting of the glass when you set it on the counter to the hit of the first sip, you’re marking the end of a hard day’s work and the beginning of a night that’s all yours. And whether that means chasing a gym session with a refreshing glass of Riesling and a delicious dip or getting cozy on the couch with some popcorn, a juicy Cabernet and the latest episode of Scandal, know that you’re rewarding yourself in the smartest of ways: New research shows that wine lovers may be healthier than other drinkers. So enjoy-wine can do a body good.
YOU’RE MARKING THE BEGINNING OF A NIGHT THAT’S ALL YOURS.
Organic wines we love and the snacks to go with them
*****DRINK THIS*****EAT THIS*****DO THIS
WHITE*****A TO Z WINEWORKS RIESLING, $15 This fruit-forward white comes from an Oregon winery that has organic and biodynamic certifications.*****PEA HUMMUS Blend 1 cup peas, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup ricotta, 1 tbsp lemon juice and salt to taste in a food processor. Pair with endive spears for dipping.*****RELAX Unwind after work or the gym with a refreshing white and a no-fuss snack that’s as tasty as it is good for you. (Hot bath optional.)
In order to prepare your employees to handle wine effortlessly, you must conduct educational tasting sessions. An “educational tasting’ differs from a “social tasting’ in that its purpose is to equip your staff with new and useful information which will enable them to sell more wine. I have never yet seen a tasting of this type run properly in any restaurant. I say this because, most often, they are badly structured and are lacking in consistency. You must set up some ground rules and never lose sight of them. Discipline, once installed, will allow learning to follow.
Tasting sessions must be held regularly; preferably once a week. These sessions should never last more than 15 minutes; concentration must remain keen. They should occur just before your employee meals are to be served. This is because most employees won’t miss their meals and, in order for an educational wine tasting to be successful, the taster must experience hunger. When hungry, one’s senses are sharper than at any other time of the day. Tastings done after meals or after work serve little purpose because the taster is fatigued and not in the proper frame of mind for absorbing new information. Tasting done after work should be for incentive purposes only, or because they are absolutely necessary.
Keeping these sessions short makes them fun and not burdensome. You should demand mandatory attendance. Showing an employee exactly how his tips will increase as his wine sales increase should motivate him to attend. (more…)
MANY PEOPLE MAY not know Heathcote, but the region, nestled between the Goulburn Valley and Bendigo regions in Victoria, is famous as a premium shiraz-producing area.
Located on the north side of the Dividing Range, draining to the Murray River, the region is only an hour and a half north of Melbourne and is widely known and appreciated by Victorians, but almost unknown in New South Wales.
Famous for its red terra rossa pre-Cambrian soils that are about 550 million years old, the area if home to many vineyards, but not all are located on this magic ancient soil.
Like most people in the wine trade, I had been looking forward to the 22nd London International Wine and Spirit Fair for some time. It is the world’s largest professional wine tasting event and this year’s had been billed as the largest yet. With over 1,200 exhibitors from about 30 different countries, you could see why.
The May event has been held at the Olympia exhibition hall in Kensington, London. It has finally outgrown that venue and so, this year, has moved to the much larger premises of ExCeL in the regenerated London Docklands.
I soon realised that it would be impossible to go round all the exhibitions in one day. Instead I decided to choose a theme to work to: the minor wine-producing countries. (more…)
Alcohol has long been a discussion topic in the martial arts. After all, the adult beverage is a staple in many of the countries and cultures in which the arts were born.
Ethanol–the form of alcohol we drink–is the intoxicating ingredient of beer, wine, rice wine (sake) and hard liquor. In modern society, moderate consumption is defined as a woman having one drink a day or a man having one or two a day. For either gender, the body absorbs the alcohol more quickly than it does food. Why do we imbibe? Because drinking dulls our senses and subdues our higher cognitive functions.
NOW THAT WINE, especially French wine, is getting more expensive, other countries on other continents are trying to win a share of the profitable American market. They have been offering their products at bargain prices, hoping to steal away some of the affection we bestow upon our native American wines and on the French and Italian imports.
It will be an uphill struggle. What they forget is that France and Italy have worked hard and long at this game. French wines are still considered the most elegant of the lot, as well they should, considering the high standards maintained by the appellation-controlee system. (Of course, not all French wines are appellation-controlee. Fortunately for French prestige, few Americans have ever drunk that horrible coup de rouge or coup de blanc that the less-well-off in France have to swallow; compared to these truly awful potions, our jug wines are sheer bliss.)
Italy too has now achieved a firm position in the U.S. wine market; no other country has spent so much time and work on that project. For example, the Italian government maintains an enoteca, a wine display and tasting place, in the Italian Trade Commission in Manhattan. It also holds innumerable wine tastings; producers come and flog their wares very intelligently; wine journalists are taken to Italy all the time; and so on.
Now, as I say, some non-European countries are struggling to find a place in the American wine market, notably Australia, Chile, and Argentina. But, in my opinion, only the Australians are making the effort and spending the money it will take to succeed. In New York City, the Australian Trade Commission holds frequent wine tastings, and its wine specialists tell me that in the New York metropolitan area there are about forty Australian wines currently available. I honestly do not know how many of these are available throughout the country, but I would advise wine lovers to look around for them. (I write from the point of view of someone who is always looking out for bargains for the family’s daily drinking.) Australian wines are apt to be big and robust rather than elegant and delicate, but I have invariably found them to be good and carefully made, and the ones I have liked all sell for less than ten dollars a bottle.
ONE OF THE greatest changes I’ve seen during my lifetime concerns American attitudes toward food, drink, and health. (And, like everything else American, these changes will, before too long, affect the attitudes of the rest of the world.) Here in New York, at least, food and health have become sheer obsessions. People, even those who have other interests, will invariably talk about food, and food again, and what it does to them. “In” restaurants multiply like mushrooms after a rainstorm; the average lifetime of such restaurants, as the owner of one told me, it two years or less, or the time it takes to get at least one’s investment back. Meanwhile, customers come not to eat, but to see and to be part of the scene, the same person told me, so why should owners bother unduly about the food–meaning, why bother at all? Food and health are to our time what sex and politics were to the Sixties. Small wonder that there is little time, if any, left for canoodling or for the wish to improve the world; however ill guided that wish may have been, at least it did consider somebody besides oneself.
I’m working on a menu cookbook, and have seen some 1,500 or so menus from restaurants all across the country. I was surprised to see that the true food manias–distinguished by exotic and frequently unsuitable food combinations, and by the desperate striving to be different, to the point of the outlandish–are basically New York and California phenomena. The big cities between the coasts all have their one, two, or several trendy eating places, but what most folks eat remains what it was before raspberry vinegar and nouvelle regional hit, although I agree that more fish and chicken are being consumed as compared to red meats. But what is different across the land is the physical getup of the menus. My, how splendid they have become, with lots of special categories, such as Lite Eating, Vitamin-Packed, and so on, to make you think you’re getting something more unusual than you really are.
As with clothes, there are different styles of menus, but the one thing they all have in common is the size.Menus nowadays resemble fashion models in being tall and on the stark, minimalist side, rather than displaying old-fashioned cuteness. White backgrounds are in, possibly because white paper is less expensive, and some menus are printed on laminated paper. Almost all menus explain what the dishes they mention consist of–a necessary feature considering the fancy names under which these dishes appear. For instance, Manhattan’s very fancy Maurice gives you, for $27, “Le saumon frais marine au soja cuit a la vapeur et sa julienne de legumes,” or, as printed in English below, “Steamed salmon marinated in soya sauce.” It surprised me how carelessly many menus are proofread, especially those of some rather trendy and expensive New York Italian restaurants such as La Colonna, where I found four out of ten Italian dishes misspelt: this in a trendy and expensive Italian restaurant that prides itself on being Italian! What’s more, I am constantly inundated with publicity releases about resaturants: Public-relations firms send them out, loudly and shamelessly praising their clients, and offering food writers free meals. Pfui!
In the wine world, meanwhile, the latest discovery is that wine and food are supposed to go together. California especially has latched on to the fact that the big bruisers, those overpowering brews the producers have been praising to the skies as “big,” “complex,” et cetera, are impossible to drink in a normal manner, that is, while eating. But now the cry for wine with food is up, as witness Julia Child’s commercials for the California grape growers (though in all honesty I must say that Julia Child has always taken it for granted that people drink wine when they eat, as part of the meal). Wine publicists and wine writers are stressing the fact, and courses are given and books are written on how to match food and wine, which creates problems for the people who can afford the expensive California wines but who don’t want to drink–or, for that matter, eat–because they want to stay thin and healthy. All this from a well-known food and wine advocate, who also pointed out to me the eating habits of America’s power brokers. Power, he said, eats grilled fish and drinks mineral water–else there would be no Lite Eating, and Time magazine would not find it necessary to have mineral waters rated by food expert Mimi Sheraton.
LIKE EVERYBODY who drinks wine with every meal (except breakfast, I hasten to add, lest you get the wrong idea about our way of living), I am forever on the lookout for wines that are good and inexpensive–in that order. However, constant thrift makes possible the occasional splurge; so today I shall write about wines that are good though not cheap. Among them is a dry Johannisberg Riesling the equal of any wine of its kind from the Moselle region in Germany, home of the very best Rieslings. The wine comes from the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, and it is made by Hermann Wiener, who also produces Chardonnay, champagne made in the traditional French way, and some lateharvest Johannisberg Riesling that tastes very different and is sweeter than the first one I mentioned.
Hermann Wiener is a tall, handsome bachelor, who was born about forty years ago in the Moselle region of West Germany of a family that has been in the wine-making business for over three hundred years. He established his vineyard on Seneca Lake in the early 1970s, and quickly became the leading maker of white wines in New York State. How did he do it? By using only vinifera grapes, vinifera being the variety of grape grown in Europe–in short, the variety used in any wine worth drinking. (The best wines in the world, including those of California, Oregon, and Washington, are made from vinifera grapes.) Growing vinifera can be tricky when the climate is not all it should be. Most Upstate New York winemakers did not believe that vinifera could withstand the region’s cruel, long winters. But Wiener proved them wrong: thanks to his special care, his vinifera grapevines survived the cold. He then started a nursery of vinifera cuttings that became known for its excellence throughout the United States. Wiener ships out about half a million cuttings every year to vineyards all over the country.
On the steep hills overlooking bucolic Keuka Lake stands a rather elegant barn, which houses the winery offices and the technical wine-making operations. Hermann was then redoing an old square house nearby, where he now lives; when I was there, he still had his quarters on the second floor of the wine barn. Here Wiener makes his fabulous white wines, which sell for $10 to $12 a bottle. If you like the true taste of Chardonnay and Riesling, the Wiener wines will make you as happy as their finest European counterparts can. (more…)
It still surprises me, although it shouldn’t by now, to see South African wines openly offered on American wine lists and displayed on the shelves of American liquor stores. My one visit to South Africa, 17 years ago, was during the boycott period, and there was no hope of finding here any of the wines you had enjoyed there, unless you could hook up with an expatriate who knew the ropes and who was importing for his “personal” use.
Of course that was not the case in Europe, where the particular form of posturing that fueled the boycott never caught on. Knowing how snooty the French can be about their own products, but especially their wine, I was astonished to be told that they imported lots of South African May wine. The kick: because South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, its May wine is produced in November. The French, being French, wouldn’t drink it if they didn’t truly like it; but the cachet of drinking May wine in a grey drizzly Paris autumn is admittedly part of the point.
My acquaintance with South African wine, apart from in the glass, came during a visit to Stellenbosch, a lovely university town an hour’s drive east of Capetown. At that time, in 1988, apartheid had started to break down, although the laws had not yet been changed. There were intelligent, experienced men of good will who hoped-although white Conservatives said they were naive, and many blacks said they were just trying to hold onto power-that a constitutional solution could be arrived at that would avoid the horrors that had played out in Zimbabwe and Kenya. At the local level, many white employers were consciously seeking to tap the theretofore undeveloped talents of their black and colored employees. These employers too were accused of naivete–in thinking they could change some things without bringing down the whole system–and they were also accused of putting short-term financial gains ahead of principle. I had the impression that the first charge was partly true–that is, that it may have been naive to hope that the good things in the old South Africa could be saved while ditching the indefensible. But as to the second charge, many of these employers were putting a different principle–duty toward the human beings under their supervision–ahead of short-term financial interest…
LONG TIME AGO, I attended an unforgettable tasting of rare old German wines: unforgettable both for the wines themselves and for–rarity of rarities–the absence of commercial overtones about the occasion, although the man who put it on is a wine merchant.
This was a follow-up to an earlier tasting, four or five years ago, of a similar group of irreplaceable German wines, which their owner wanted to share with a number of friends. The wines in question were Beerenauslesen, Trockenbeerenauslesen, Spatlesen, and the comparatively simple Auslesen. These terms, in German winemaking, refer to wines made from grapes at specific degrees of over-ripeness; they are hand-picked by the bunch, or even by the single grape. The wines are fabulously expensive, made to be enjoyed by themselves rather than as accompaniments to food. Owing to the northern climates in which the vines grow, in the steep Moselle and Rhine regions of Germany, the best of the wines are made in very small quantities and limited vintages–and once drunk, they are gone forever.
The man who put on the tasting is Peter M. F. Sichel, the American head of a German wine firm that recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. The family is rather like that of the banking Rothschilds; from, in this case, their ancestral Rhineland they spread over Europe and prospered in the wine business. The Sichel family is also given to the promotion of culture and to good works, alongside a well-devel-oped sense for profitable business.
The last few days have been very exciting. I think that we have jumped the council’s final hurdle and have permission to build an extension on our house. I have an irrational urge to hand money to the first builder who we can persuade to talk to us.
Despite protracted discussions over plans for the past year, it was only last month that it dawned on us that this was our golden opportunity to build a wine cellar. For years we’ve stored our personal wine in ‘wine cabinets’. These cabinets are rather like big fridges, and are supposed to keep wine at the right temperature and humidity so that it will age in an optimal way. It’s been great to have these and it has been a pleasure to experience how wines change as they age, but there are one or two drawbacks.
The first, obviously, is that garages are supposed to be for cars, not cabinets. We realised that if we could have a cellar, we would have all of our space back. The other main drawback of cabinets is capacity. Once you start buying wine to age, there will always be more temptation out there. If you buy wines by the case, space is quickly used up. It’s said that you should always go for twice the wine storage capacity that you think you’ll need.
From the auction block at Sotheby’s straight to the boulevards of Las Vegas, the new Wine Cellar at the Rio is giving Glitter Gulch an authentic, even historic, taste of the grape.
Where else can one find an 1800 Madeira that was grown, bottled and labeled by Thomas Jefferson? The Wine Cellar made and sold history last July 4, charging $100 a taste from a $23,000 bottle. There are also the 1,800 bottles of champagnes, clarets and dessert wines formerly owned by renowned musical producer Andrew Lloyd Webber that were purchased by the cellar for a whopping $400,000 and sell to the public in gift sets for $999. This does not include the world’s only complete collection of Chateau d’Yquem wines, encompassing every vintage between 1859 and 1989, which came at a cool $2 million and can be purchased up to $100,000 a bottle.
People come to the Wine Cellar, located at Rio’s new Masquerade Village, just to ogle. The $8 million venue, attached to the new Napa restaurant, has become quite an attraction, with presentations of rare Margaux vintages, celebrity-owned collections or vineyard offerings (such as those from Francis Ford Coppola, who owns a vineyard in the Napa Valley), and customized vintages that sell for $2,450 a case.
Some guests call it the “liquid museum,” but at the Rio’s Wine Cellar, under the direction of master sommelier Barry Larvin, everything is for sale, either by the bottle, the glass or the sip.
“Everything here will be drunk or sold,” says Larvin, who came to Las Vegas from a similar position in London: He previously held the job of top steward for the Ritz-Carlton. “We opened a 1921 Chateau d’Yquem the other day,” he says. “A lot of people are intrigued by what a 1921 wine would taste like. We know most people can’t afford a 1949 bottle of Mouton Rothschild for $2,900 a bottle, but they can afford it for $100 a glass.”
Some people like to show off their vast collections of wine, hiring Pritzker Prize-winning architects to design facsimiles of dungeons or ship’s keeps to display their vinous wealth. Then there are those who store at Horse Ridge Cellars.
It’s site of wine. When you drive past, you see an exceptional barn. But step through the barn door and you encounter a blast wall and a 12-ton steel bank vault door. Step through that and you behold a 10,000-square-foot reinforced concrete underground bunker with 18-inch walls. Oh, and you see wine. More than 30,000 cases, worth millions and millions of dollars.
The cases are stacked to the nine-foot ceiling and recede down long aisles. Much of the wine is merely–merely!–excellent, high-end juice being laid down and stored while it accrues value and maturity. But there are supreme rarities here too: older, butterscotch-hued Yquems; DRC in large formats; bottles of 19th-century Lafite…
Colgin’s favorite corkscrew is the Chateau Laguiole Passier ($229). For an elegant dinner, she sets the table with William Yeoward Crystal (williamyeowardcrystal.com). For wine tastings, she likes to use Riedel Vinum Extreme glassware (riedel.com); for tasting young wines, Eisch glassware (eisch.com); Whynter Wine Cooler Reviews (Whynter Wine Coolers). Her favorite reference books include The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia (DK Publishing), by Tom Stevenson, and The Wine Bible (Workman), by Karen MacNeil.
“I think it’s great that more women are collecting wine,” says American winemaker Ann Barry Colgin as she points to the adjoining wine cellars that house her own handcrafted reds as well as the 13,500-bottle collection she shares with her husband and business partner, Joe Wender, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. “Back when I was a wine auctioneer at Sotheby’s,” says Colgin, “men dominated in the bidding and the buying, but that’s changing.” Still, she admits there’s a difference in how the sexes approach buying wine, as in most things. “Women are more practical about it, thinking, ‘How much wine am I actually going to drink?’ while men are just so competitive,” Colgin says with a teasing nod toward Wender, who describes himself as an “obsessive wine collector.” As for the 600-square-foot cellar space in their residence at the Colgin winery, in St. Helena, California, Colgin says: “We wanted to create a timeless, old-world feeling while maximizing the space. We’re very proud of it, and we often show it off to guests.” To create the two contiguous cellars, Colgin and Wender worked with the Los Angeles-based interior-design firm Hendrix Allardyce (310-659-8721; hendrixallardyce.com) and the Sausalito-based winecellar designer Thomas E. Warner. “Wine is a huge part of our lives, and we love to share it with friends and family,” says Colgin. Having so many bottles gives them the spontaneity they crave. “We never know what we’re going to want to drink,” she says. “We may want to pour a Colgin, or we might decide it’s a perfect evening for a good northern Rhone.”
In a valley noted for its computer industry, a wine connoisseur may discover it difficult to find someone to discuss fine wines with or to locate a retail store that specializes in rare and California premium wines. Joseph George Distributors in Santa Clara can provide answers to both problems.
The more than 50-year-old company, which a few years ago had sales of $75 million and employed 320 people, today consists of only three people: Bert George, vice president; his father, Glenn George, president; and Mary Beaman, the secretary. Three months ago it moved from being solely a wine wholesaler and obtained a retail license to sell premium California wines. Bert George handles the retail side of the business.
JGD differs from other wine wholesalers because is it the only distributor in the valley that both wholesales and retails wine. Bert George said that some of JGD’s wholesale customers are its retail competitors.
The company deals in the more expensive lines of wines, with its least expensive bottle selling for about $9, said Bert George. The company sells the more costly varieties because–unlike those who market the less expensive wines–it doesn’t have to compete with local grocery, liquor and wholesale stores. And, unlike some, JGD does not run “specials” on its wines. Once the wines are priced, they are not reduced.
Wine is Alan Manley’s business. A former restaurant owner, he now operates Colorado Cellar Consulting, a business that designs, builds and manages wine cellars for homes, bars and restaurants around the state. Now, Manley is branching out. His company has launched a retail Web site, coloradocellarconsulting.com, which sells a variety of wines — from the very affordable to the very expensive.
Manley prides himself on being able to find wines to suit every budget and taste. He recently took time to tell CSBJ about himself and his company. Company: Colorado Cellar Consulting Position: President Hometown: Chappaqua, N.Y., and Pontresina, Switzerland How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: 24 years Education: Bachelor’s degrees in geology, economics and philosophy from Colorado College. A few words about your company: We design, build, fill and manage wine cellars. Recent accomplishments: Launching a Web-based retail wine store. Biggest career break: I opened and owned Primitivo, a four-diamond restaurant in Colorado Springs. This gave me a lot of credibility in the wine-drinking community.
The toughest part of your job:
1. Employee reviews. I want to be critical but fair. It’s a fine balance.
2. Telling a prospective customer that he or she cannot have all of my allocation of an impossible-to-get, insanely expensive wine — I have other collectors who want this wine as well, and have purchased it for ages.
The way Ted Sonnenschein bought The Wine Cellar is similar to the way he runs the restaurant.
“I probably did everything the way it shouldn’t be done,” Sonnenschein recalls. “We just looked at the place, liked it, bought it, enlarged it. We didn’t do market research or a survey on banquets. We knew when we bought it that it would be work. Having a good feeling is as good as doing a survey.”
Sonnenschein is convinced that good feelings about The Wine Cellar are what bring customers back, not slick commercial techniques. There are no glitzy ads, nothing resembling high-pressure hype and promotion about The Wine Cellar. That’s not Sonnenschein’s style. He takes the indirect approach, combining well-trained waiters, a quality menu, and an atmosphere drenched with wine to provide his patrons with memorable dining experience.
Sonnenschein is majority owner of The Wine Cellar, located in North Redington Beach, near St. Petersburg, Florida. The community is sedate, and so is The Wine Cellar location across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in an area far removed from anything resembling industry. Second-home condominiums, time-sharing resorts, motels and restaurants are Sonnenschein’s neighbors.
Despite an out-of-the-way location, The Wine Cellar grosses $3 million a year, $270,000 of which, or nine percent, comes from wine sales.
Poached lobster with white peach, samphire, pink garlic and fresh almonds to start, followed by a ravioli of white bean puree with salt cod and calamari. And seabass with a lemon verbena pesto crust and confit tomato and fennel.
A Macon Solutre-Pouilly 2010 from Nadine Ferrand (100% chardonnay) and Nuits Saint Georges 2009 Prieure Roch.
A fine choice
I almost always start the Sommelier’s Table with a female-produced wine (Nadine Ferrand) and we are known for having one of the greatest collections of Prieure Roch wine in the world, supplied to us by Wine Source.
Describe the Sommelier’s Table
It’s a new take on private dining which cannot be found elsewhere as it is truly one of a kind and custom-made for each guest. The table is in a specially created room in the hotel’s wine cellar so guests can eat surrounded by rare wines, such as a Chateau Latour grand cru classe from 1959 or a 1964 Petrus.
Sounds interesting …
It was Helene Darroze’s [head chef at Helene Darroze at The Connaught] idea. She considers wine to be a bit more important than other chefs do. Today wine is the add-on in a restaurant–I wish it wasn’t quite so much–so the Sommelier’s Table places as much emphasis on wine as food.
What wines do you serve?
It depends on the guest and the food. Guests often come in beforehand and tell me what the occasion is and what they like. so if it’s for a birthday I will pick suitable vintages.
A rain-soaked golfer is trying to calm his nerves in the country club restaurant with a glass of wine after a sudden downburst brought his tournament to an early end.
His first sip is bitter; the wine is spoiled.
Driving home, he spots a tanning salon and derides to dry out. Unfortunately, he falls asleep in the tanning booth while the operator takes a long lunch. Scorched and enraged he walks stiff-legged to a pay phone next door to call his lawyer.
The electrical current running through the phone somehow short-circuits and the hapless golfer receives a jolt.
A bad day?
Not so bad for the country club, restaurant, tanning salon and telephone owner. Their insurance agents and brokers have made sure they are covered for such mishaps.
The book: “The Dual Autobiography” by Will and Aurial Durant
A customer’s disparaging remarks introduced Roger Gentile to the love of his life and launched him on a life-long quest for wine knowledge.
“This guy walked into (my father’s) King Avenue carryout, I was about 21,” says Gentile, “and he asked if we had a good Chablis. I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and pointed to a bottle of Gallo Chablis Blanc. He berated me. Made fun of me horribly. From that moment, I started buying every wine book I could find.”
It isn’t just the wine books, however, that have helped Gentile turn his dad’s shop into a well-respected wine and beer specialty business with stores at 1565 King Avenue and at the Flag Center near Westerville. Together, the two stores employ 12 people.
Cellaring wine can be a highly satisfying hobby for the wine lover. By stowing away even a few bottles – and following a few simple rules – you will, in time, enjoy complex, balanced and interesting wines that will have real significance to you. The process should also deepen your knowledge of wine and its potential.
The most important thing to remember when planning a cellar is that not all wines can age. The second point, an obvious yet crucial one, is to only include wines that you enjoy once they have been matured. So wine selection is crucial to the success of your cellar.
From a chemistry perspective, wine is a highly complex beverage, and over time many reactions occur that change its colour, aroma, taste and texture. White wines deepen in colour with age whereas reds get lighter. Whites normally get richer whereas reds get softer.