nut-wishing6So Friday was my birthday. Paul took me out to a lovely dinner at Allegretti in the Flatiron District, where we drank a slightly disappointing Bandol. I’ve put it behind me, however, and am now thinking about my wine wishes for the year ahead. The imploring/cautiously hopeful expression here on Nutleigh, the original WineMutt (please note bottle of wine in the background) seemed appropriate. So, in no particular order, my three wine wishes:

1. More northern Rhone. I say I love this region, and I really do, but I don’t drink enough of it. Prices are high and availability is scarce, but I will not let that scare me off. (Speaking of Rhone, how fun would it have been to be cast in this reality series?)

2. Less alcohol. A 14.5% Pinot Noir? Syrah at 16%? At that point, I’d rather be drinking booze.

3. More Jancis! Seriously, my love and admiration for this woman borders on obsession. I met her at a book signing a few years ago, and I’m determined to see her again in person sometime in the next 12 months.



Cheverny Domaine du Moulin

Cheverny Domaine du Moulin

People who don’t know a lot about wine often tell me that they choose wines by the label. They say it with some embarrassment, but I don’t think they have anything to be ashamed of — particularly if they’re talking about the back label. I picked up this wine, a $15 Loire red, simply on the basis of the importer sticker on the rear of the bottle. Yes, I suppose I should have taken a picture of it, but I came up with the idea for this post a few days after I drank the wine. You’ll have to trust me that it says Savio Soares Selections. I met Savio Soares a few months ago at my wine store, Heights Chateau, and he is the model of the cheery, passionate wine importer.  I was happy to put fifteen bucks in the guy’s pocket, and it was a good call — imagine Beaujolais crossed with red zinger tea, and you get the idea. So the next time you find a bottle of (imported) wine you like, make sure to take a look at the back label. Kermit Lynch and Thierry Thiese are two great importers, but do some research and find your own faves.


Well, not really — I just couldn’t resist headline. I got a snapshot of this terrible T-shirt — truly, there are few things tackier than wine tchotchkes — Cat a food show on Sat. I scored the tickets from a colleague (a $95 face value for the low low price of…free) and thought what better way to spend an extremely rainy Saturday afternoon than sampling bad crab cakes and flavored vodkas? Carrie was kind enough to make the hike over to 55th and 12th with me. There were a lot of low lights (the crab cakes were truly very, very bad) but there were at least two things we really enjoyed.


1. Run, don’t walk to to Carrie was crazy for the spicy hot pecan and I loved the hazelnut almond, but really they were all delicious. They’re not really peanut butter substitutes as much as condiments or sauces. Marilyn (a lovely woman from Seattle) suggested the spreading them on fish before broiling, stirring them into rice, or, in the case of the cinnamon walnut pecan, heating it gently and putting it on pancakes or ice cream. 

2. The Fine Water bar. I had read about water sommeliers and all sorts of H2O-related craziness, but this was the first time I had actually seen it up close. In the middle of the convention floor there was a glowing, very luxe-looking fine water bar. (The fohncy back lighting helps to explain the crappiness of the pictures in the gallery below.) A very nice Danish man tasted us through 3 bottled waters that came from rain water. One from Brazil, another from Tasmania, another from Greenland. The Tasmanian water had an aftertaste that he compared to “blowing up an air mattress” which was pretty much dead on. Only after some prodding did our Danish friend reveal that he, too, had launched his own water, Iskilde. (Which means “ice spring.” I think.) He tasted us on the still and sparkling versions. Carrie and I were really struggling to find the right vocabulary. Clean? Pure? Neutral? Not like an air mattress? The whole thing was slightly surreal. Our Dane seemed amused by our amusement, though, and a good time was had by all.

Perhaps the best worst thing to happen to us was our discovery, 10 minutes before we had to leave, that we were right next door to NY’s famed chocolate show. We did some serious damage–Carrie swooned over some chocolate peanut butter from the Peanut Butter Co, and these peeps stole my heart, particularly the coffee bean and salt varieties. Any more than 10 minutes there, and who knows what could have happened…

My election day post touched sort of tangentially on something I think about a lot — how much does the power of suggestion affect how we taste and think about wines? Sometimes I worry that I’m just too suggestible. It could be the comment of a tasting partner (“you’re getting kiwi? well, now that you mention it, so am I!”) or else just the romance of a nice backstory of the winemaker or the vineyard. This lack of analytical rigor is one of my deep, dark winetasting self-doubts, so I was relieved to see two of my absolute favorites, Jancis Robinson and Gary Vaynerchuk, admit that they too are prone to this kind of thing. (It’s about 15 minutes in, when they’re tasting the Assyrtiko). It’s still a tendency I need to tame, but it’s nice to know that I’m in good company!


Eliseo Silva 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

Eliseo Silva 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

Swing states, senate seats, concession speeches…let’s get down to the real issue: what wine tastes best with a big serving of CNN election coverage and take out hamburgers? (Sadly, I am drinking at home rather than at Bene’s blowout election fest because I have work to do tonight.)


I’m going for an Eliseo Silva 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley ($12.99). The price is right, it comes with a good recommendation from the nice folks at Heights Chateau, and I’ve been having a big Cab craving lately.

The nose has some great cherry, dusty earth, and cinnamon notes with a slight green undercurrent. The wine isn’t going to rock your world, but it has some nice bright acidity and soft fruit — definitely an overperformer for 13 bucks.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m swayed by what’s on the bottle rather than what’s in it. I’m a sucker for good American success story, and really what could be better than this:

“Arriving in Washington State from Mexico at the age of 14 and the second youngest of 20 children, Eliseo, through perseverance and diligence has risen to become the Vineyard Manager for the Tagaris Winery…[the vineyard’s] outstanding reputation is a direct result of Eliseo’s contributions and of others like him.”

Congrats, America — happy election night.

I was checking out to follow up on my favorite wine story of the week — wine impressario Bruno Magrez trying to bribe journalists with free Cartier watches — when I stumbled across this much, much juicier piece of news. Apparently Acker Merrall & Condit, a former employer of mine for a very brief time, is being sued by billionaire William Koch for fraud. According to Koch, at least five of the bottles he purchased from them at auction are conterfeit.  Acker, for its part, says that if it sold counterfeit wines, it did so unknowingly. 

In the name of not badmouthing former employers (very unbloglike of me) I’ll try to show some restraint here and refrain from comment.

  • Check out Lenn’s site for my latest posting on our recent European grab bag tasting. 
  • I’ve lived more or less across the street from Zap Wines for almost three years but only walked in for the first time a few weeks ago. It never seemed that promising. (See here for yourself.) But damned if it isn’t one of the most remarkable wine stores I’ve ever seen. For starters, all the price and name tags are handwritten and almost impossible to read. Second of all, the selection is truly remarkable. Aged Austrian Rieslings from the Wachau — on a 10% off sale rack, no less — Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, a pretty obscure Italian red from Le Marche that I can’t even find in the bible, aka the Oxford Companion, and tonight’s purchase, a 1995 Viña Gravonia from López de Heredia. López de Heredia put the “old” in “old school.” These are seriously aged wines — including the whites, and, unbelievably, the rosés — that make zero concession to current preferences for fruit-forward, fresh wines. The Viña Gravonia is an intentionally oxidized white with a more than passing resemblance to sherry. It’s nutty, savory, and more than a little bit bizarre. I think every curious drinker should try wines like this on occasion. We like foods that are on the border of delicious and off-putting (stinky cheeses, truffles, oysters, etc, etc) but we’re rarely as adventurous with our wines. 
  • There was a semi puff piece in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the Antinoris, Italy’s first family of winemaking. Interesting timing, considering the recent investigation into possibly fraudulent Brunello di Montalcino coming from Antinori and other major producers.