Friday, October 8, 2010

The Cheer in Review

"Do something you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life". I'm not sure who exactly came up with this quote, but I could not agree more. What I love most about being a restaurant professional is that there are no two days the same. As a wine guy, I feel that there are no two bottles the same. The combination of the two are an endless journey of unique and often times obscure experiences. Here are just a few:

March Restaurant, 2000

A delightful couple orders a bottle of 1982 Pichon Lalande for the low low price of 582 dollars. The gentleman was promptly tasted on the wine to assess its quality. Everyone agreed that the wine was sound and ready to be enjoyed. At the end of their meal, upon paying the check, the couple had again requested to view the wine list. A serious red flag for any Sommelier.

As it turns out, the 582 dollar bottle was viewed as an $82 dollar bottle. Mistaking the number 5 for a dollar sign. Apparently my mans eyesight had started to take a turn for the worse in his later years, though his wife's sense of humor was well intact. I don't think I have ever seen anyone laugh so hard before. Now, I could feel bad about this but there was very little I could do at this point. Even though they enjoyed such a great bottle with the notion that it was worth $82 bucks, what they ended up with is a story that is priceless and I'm sure gets told at least once a year ever since. Money well spent.

-1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtess de Lalande, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

BLT Steak, 2006

While I don't often get star struck, there are a few occasions where you really cant help but feel the presence of an icon while in your dining room. On this particular evening it was my friend Robert Kamen of Kamen Winery in Sonoma County that arrived with his guests Harrison Ford and Keenu Reaves for a memorable evening. Robert's success in writing screenplays (Karate Kid, The Fifth Element, Transporter etc..) have paved the way for his passion in wine making. After a good time, copious amounts of wine, we proceeded to enjoy a bottle of fine ice wine all the while Harrison impressively had created a turban out of his button down shirt. Would you expect anything less from Indy?

-2004 Kamen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California

-2003 Inniskillin, Rose of Cabernet Franc Icewine, Niagra, Canada

Apiary Restaurant December 2009

This holiday season a young man had approached me at Apiary inquiring about a pork belly dish Chef Scott Bryan had put together for our winter menu. "Crisp pork belly served with a slow poached egg over stewed lentils topped with pecorino cheese". This was to be a gift for his girlfriends father in Wisconsin this year to obtain some serious brownie points as he is a dedicated Scott Bryan fan. When asked how he was going to get such a delicate dish all the way to Wisconsin, the answer was to freeze it. I'm really not sure how well that dish travels, so I had suggested maybe he get the dish with the poached egg left off and self prepare it at the final destination. While I don't know how well the integrity of the dish held up, I suppose its the thought that counts here.

Though wine had only been suggested for this dish, It was a high acid white wine from the Kamptal region of Austria paired to cut the richness of the pork belly and egg yolk yet play well with the stewed lentils and cheese.

-2007 Loimer, Gruner Veltliner, Smaragd, Kamptal, Austria

Side Note: Every monday night at Apiary in NYC we host a BYO- No Corkage Night and While my wine list gets little or no play, the wines that show up prove to be an outstanding experience in palate tuning and education.

Never a dull moment in the food and wine industry. Whats even better, is that anybody that makes a point of sorounding themselves with a bottle of wine, good food, or good company has generally got a great demeanor and is a lot of fun to be around. Drink well...


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Size Matters

Ok, I know what you are thinking but you have plenty of time to get your head back in the gutter after having enjoyed some of these large format bottlings.

Let's start by listing the most popular sizes:
-Split: 187ml (1/4 bottle)
-Half Bottle: 375ml
-Standard: 750ml
-Magnum: 1.5L (2 bottles)
-*Jeroboam or Double Magnum: 3L (4 bottles)
-*Rehoboam: 4.5L (6 bottles)
-Methuselah or Imperial: 6L (8 bottles)
-Salmanzar: 9L (12 bottles)
-Balthazar: 12L (16 bottles)
-Nebuchanezzar: 15L (20 bottles)
-Melchoir: 18L (24 bottles)

*it should be noted that some of these bottlings are only meant for Champagne and a Jeroboam for still wine is 4.5L (6 bottles)

You may have noticed that the names given to these bottlings are mostly biblical. It's no wonder as wine has played a huge role in many religions. Here are some of the meanings:

-Jeroboam: "First King of The Kingdom"

-Methuselah: "Oldest Man"

-Salmanzar: "Assyrian King"

-Balthazar: "One of The Wise Men", or the famed french bistro in Manhattan

-Nebuchadnezzar: "King of Babylon", and also the name given to Morpheus's ship in "The Matrix"

I think it is also important to say that with large format bottles comes more age ability since wine preserves wine. For instance, when you compare a half bottle of wine to a magnum you will notice a much higher percentage of wine on the surface area of the half bottle thus leaving it more susceptible to the elements that damage or accelerate the maturation process IE: light, temperature fluctuation, and oxygen.

Larger bottles also have a way of making a very dramatic statement. Nothing says "special occasion" like a jeroboam of wine with dinner. They also make for great aesthetics in any wine cellar. Often times the production of larger bottles are limited and prove to be great collectibles. I had the pleasure of recently enjoying an Imperial of Silver Oak from 1992 autographed by the late Justin Meyer (winemaker). One of only 200 bottles produced. To this day, It's the best Silver Oak I have ever tasted. If I had to speculate in terms of youth, I would say that it would be the equivalent of enjoying that same wine from a standard bottle back in 1999.

While it is proven that wines do age at a slower pace due to the decreased air to wine ratio for larger bottles, it does not mean that bigger is always better. In fact, often times larger bottlings of champagne are filled by pouring individual standard bottles until it is filled, thus making the wine more for novelty and not particularly age-worthy.

If less than 5% of the world's wines are meant to be aged, my advice would be to invest in some of the more age-worthy appellations when looking to purchase large format bottles. I personally enjoy collecting large format Bordeaux over any other region.

Eat, Breathe, Drink Wine...