November 2008

The Spellbound Riesling 2006, California, is a lovely riesling that barely qualifies as such, legally, being a blend of 76 percent riesling, 12 percent chardonnay, 10 percent muscat and 2 percent “other dry white” grapes. Whatever the case, this model offers delightful scents of pear, peach and lychee with hints of spiced, baked apples and a note of riesling-like rubber eraser. It’s lively in the mouth, crisp and scintillating, with a touch of sweet stone-fruit ripeness on the entry that quickly goes vibrantly dry. Made all in stainless steel, the wine emphasizes freshness and clean minerality and delicious pear and apple flavors, while the finish delivers a tide of spice and earth and lime/grapefruit austerity. Very Good+ and at about $15 a Great Bargain. The cliche is to drink rieslings with either German or Alsatian fare or spicy Southeast Asian, and that’s certainly true, but this would be a terrific aperitif on Thanksgiving Day as well as accompanying the turkey dinner.

I love to watch LL cook; it’s such a gratifying blend of intuition and thoughtfulness.

Here’s what she did last night:

She took a handful of Brussels sprouts and trimmed them, unlatching the leaves. She diced the insides of the sprouts and then sliced and diced a very handsome leek from Whole Foods and sauteed the diced sprouts and leeks over low heat in olive oil and a little butter, allowing them almost to melt. Then — you understand that this happens very quickly, while the pasta is cooking — she dropping the Brussels sprouts leaves in the pan and let them soften slightly; not too much, because you want a bit of crunch. And then added a handful of diced “Prosciutto Piccante” from La Quercia in Norwalk, Iowa. (This is great stuff.) She gazed into the distance for a moment and said,”This needs something to lift it, something bright,” by which she meant not so much something flavorful as something acidic, so she chopped some multi-colored cherry tomatoes and put them in the sauce at the last second, so they wouldn’t cook much at all. That was it. The pasta was done, she served it and we sat down to eat, and it was terrific.

A few tastes, and LL said, “Put a grind of pepper on it,” so I did, and then she went into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil lightly infused with lemon. “A touch,” she said, “not too much.” And there it was, a perfectly balanced dish, encompassing a number of directions in texture and flavor.

So: what to serve with it? meditrina_bottle_351.jpg

I wanted a red wine but not something too heavy or too obvious and certainly not with much or any oak or tannin.

I chose the Meditrina (5), a non-vintage “American Red Wine” — thus the designation — produced by the venerable Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee, Oregon, long famous for its pinot noirs and pinot gris wines. In a stroke of genius and luck, Sokol Blosser introduced a non-vintage white wine, Evolution, about 12 years ago; the mad-cap blend of nine grapes has been a huge success, so how could a blended red wine be neglected? The answer was Meditrina, now in its fifth release, hence the (5).

This combination of 48 percent syrah, 27 percent pinot noir and 25 percent zinfandel is as charming as all get-out, and while I would normally consider the blending of pinot noir as a profanation of its virtues, the scheme works well here. Meditirina (5) is ripe, a little fleshy, bursting with black currant and black cherry scents and flavors imbued with smoke and baking spice. The texture is smooth and satiny, and after a few minutes in the glass, the dark-hued wine picks up elements of leather, underbrush and brambles, along with a touch of wild berry. Very drinkable, with a hint of the untamed about it. Very Good+. About $18.

You can see by the Meditrina label that this is a wine with a great deal of design concept and marketing dynamic behind it, replete with whimsical back-story and label text; the same is true of Evolution. And as much as I believe that most “fun” wines are not very much “fun” — what makes a wine “fun” anyway? — Meditrina and Evolution (which I will review in a post soon) transcend the somewhat heavy-handed promotional energy behind them. They’re actually nice wines.

I tasted these wines, imported by Kysela Pere et Fils of Winchester, Va., a couple of nights ago and was knocked out by the quality as well as the reasonable prices. Does anything else matter?

The complete portfolio, with suggested retail prices, is available at

My first note on El Ganador Malbec 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, is “Wonderful!” For the price the sense of character is amazing. Six months in American oak give the wine a sheen of spice and an edge of brambles that bolster vivid black currant and black plum flavors infused with violets, lavender and bitter chocolate. The wine is boundlessly earthy and minerally, with a burgeoning aspect of underbrush and dried porcini. The texture is dense and chewy and vibrant with acid. Very Good+ and at about $11 a Great Bargain.
Here’s another Great Bargain. The Maipe Bonarda 2008, also from the Mendoza region of Argentina, is a bristly melange of earth and minerals, briers and brambles and intense and concentrated black currant, blueberry and plum flavors, all woven with smoke and rollicking spice. Yes, it’s a robust and rustic wine and certainly requires hearty fare, but it offers tremendous personality and appeal. The bonarda grapes presents one of those mysteries of which the rarefied world of grape DNA analysis is so fond. The bonarda of Argentina is probably not the bonarda of Piedmont and Lombardy, and it may be related to the charbono grape, now alas seen so seldom in California, and hence of distant cousinage to dolcetto, which brings us back to Piedmont. Or not. Anyway this bottle I rate Very Good. It sells for about $11.
First note on the Thorne Clark Pinot Grigio 2007, Eden Valley, Australia: “Oh, that’s great!” This wine used to be labeled “pinot gris” (the illustration here is a label of a previous vintage), but Americans will reach much faster for a wine labeled “pinot grigio,” hence the name change. Anyway, this is a pinot grigio of detail and dimension not often found in pinot grigios from northeastern Italy, the grape’s home base, or anywhere else; it’s elegant and moderately lush, crisp and vibrant, packed with stone fruit, quince and lemon balm flavors permeated by dried spice and limestone, with hints of almond blossom in the nose. The texture is firm, resonant and silky. Drink through 2010. Excellent. About $15, a Terrific Value.
Ambition, in winemaking, often means using oak in amounts really unnecessary for the quality of the grapes and the intention of the wine. That fate befalls the Cueva de las Manos Malbec Reserve 2007, Lujon de Cuyo, Mendoza. This is a stylish wine that’s too toasty with oak and too New Worldish for my palate; yes, I understand that South America in part of the so-called New World, but still. Anyway, there’s a lot of fruit here, too, dark and spicy, and layers of clean earth and minerals and a firm, progressively more tannic structure. So, many will find the wine attractive, but, again, for my taste there’s too much wood influence. (The regimen is 12 months in oak, half French and half American.) Perhaps the wine will be more balanced after 2010. Very good. About $15-$16.
The Adegas Valmiñor Albariño 2006, from Spain’s Rias Baixas region, is clean, brisk and sprightly (or maybe spritely), bursting with notes of peach, pear and melon, almond and almond blossom with a hint of orange blossom. It hits the palate with a refreshing tide of crisp vibrancy and liveliness, while flavors of pear (slightly roasted), lime and limestone make it delicious. A delightful wine with satisfying weight and presence. Drink through the end of 2009. Very good+. About $20.
Domaine Grand Veneur is a label from Alain Jaume et Fils, a family that under its name produces a variety of Southern Rhone wines, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Look, though, for the Grand Veneur Les Champauvins Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2006. A blend of 70 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvèdre, this is a wine of amazing density and intensity. Here’s everything you want from such a wine: deep and dark black fruit flavors; smoke and leather; earth and minerals; crushed violets and lavender and dried spice; a resolute structure composed of vibrant acid, firm oak and slightly grainy tannins, lots of tannins, in fact, giving the finish an edge of austerity. Drink this with braised meat dishes through 2012 or ’13. Excellent and Great Value. About $20-$22.

What can I do with this “press release” I received by email today except to reproduce it here the way it was sent to me? Perhaps no comment is necessary. Well, one comment: I promise that whoever wrote this “press release” really did spell “muddle” as “muttle.” And one more comment, actually a question: Can “Platinum Bruno’s Martini” actually cost $38? And notice that it’s no longer sufficient to be well-dressed; “chic attire” is requested.

From: Katherine Rothman []
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 10:57 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: three unique and sexy drinks from from Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club

For More Information
Please Contact:Katherine Rothman

At KMR Communications, Inc

***If you would like to run this as a contest, we are happy to offer two readers one certificate for any of the drinks below.

Platinum Martini



muttle four slices of orange in a Boston shaker add two ounces patron platinum tequila image001.jpg

3/4 oz peach schnapps


served up op in a double martini glass (chilled)

2) This cocktail is collaboration between Bruno Jamais and Sommelier Benjamin Maury. Bruno wanted a signature cocktail using his favorite liquor, patron platinum. He wanted something strong yet smooth. Bruno liked the way orange flavor is often used to complement tequila using liqueurs such as Cointreau or triple sec but to refine the taste Maury suggested that they use fresh orange instead. The peach schnapps was then added, blending perfectly with the orange while adding a hint of sweetness. . Initially this drink was to be served in a rocks glass over crushed ice following the tradition of the caipirinia but in keeping true to New York style they decided serve it up. Thus, creating the “Platinum Bruno’s Martini.”

Crème Brûlée Martini, traps that seductive dessert in a glass and, when topped with that grid of caramel, gently set across the image002.jpgrim, makes a spectacular presentation that leads to an equally spectacular taste.

Then, there’s the Sexy Back, which Maury says was inspired by all the lovely ladies (and their backs) that walk up to his bar. In this one a mix of citrus vodka, creme de cassis and sour mix are topped with a little Champagne for a complex, effervescent cocktail. Stop by next time you’re on the Upper East Side and try one for yourself.

Ph: 212 396-3444

Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club brings the French Riviera to the upper east side. Where else can one dine in style until 3am with delectable cuisine such as chocolate soufflé and Foie Gras? The service and décor are equally impressive. The restaurant received the “Best Interior Design” award by Hospitality Design Magazine. There is also live entertainment on Monday nights with the best of jazz and soul. On a cold winter’s night, allow debonair owner Bruno Jamais to make you feel at home and beat the doldrums of winter. With Chef Hok Chin at the kitchen’s helm the cuisine is sure to delight even the most discerning palates. Bruno Jamais and Chef Hok Chin have created a unique menu that has an Asian influence without losing its French integrity. Bruno Jamais is also the perfect place to book your private party and can accommodate up to 200 diners for a buffet dinner or 70 people for a sit down dinner. For those upper east siders who are tired of trekking downtime for an evening of fun, this exclusive venue has it all. If you are looking to see stars, celebrity patrons have included: Billy Baldwin, Joan Rivers, Cindy Adams, Chazz Palminteri and even former President Bill Clinton. Reservations are suggested and chic attire is requested. BRUNO JAMAIS RESTAURANT CLUB — The restaurant received the “Best Restaurant Design” Award by Hospitality Design Magazine for 2004.



What’s interesting to me, or, you know, like tragic, is that websites like and mention these cocktails completely uncritically and even use the language of this “press release,” which has been making the rounds, I discovered, for at least a year. No wonder “journalists” get a bad name.

According to a bulletin I received from My Foodservice News (, matters look pretty dire for the restaurant business in America. Under the headline, “Restaurant Performance Index Fell to Record Low,” the National Restaurant Association announced that in every category, including current situation, expectation and capital expenditure, the month of September was one of the worst in the history of record-keeping for the industry. Statistics have not been issued yet for October, another month of implosion for the world’s financial institutions, as well as my 401k, but the current report indicated that restaurateurs are extremely pessimistic about the prospects for the next six months.

But in the same newsletter, a piece by Mike Steinberger, who writes about wine for, trumpets “Good News about the Recession!” Whoa, what good news is this? That restaurants may begin cutting prices for the wines on their lists. “Extortionate markups do send a regrettable message,” says Steinberger, “but it is nothing that a deep recession can’t cure. In the current economic climate, gouging on wine is not just unsporting but suicidal. Restaurants looking for strategies to survive the downturn ought to begin by cutting the prices on their wines.”

Gosh, Mr. and Mrs. America, don’t you feel better already about your pensions going down the tubes? What else will a deep recession cure? Obesity? Drug addiction? This is like the crew of the Titanic telling passengers, “Yes, the ship is going down, but, look, we’re waiving the shuffleboard fees!” The remedy for outrageous wine prices in restaurants is to stop eating out.

For restaurant wine prices to go down, prices on wines all the way from the producer to the broker and supplier to the wholesaler to the retail outlet, whether a store or a restaurant, will have to come down, and I see no sign of that happening. Coincidentally, the same day that I received this report from My Foodservice News, there dropped into my inbox an email newsletter from the venerable and honorable Burgundy Wine Company in New York, touting the 2006 releases from Domaine Leflaive. Admittedly, Leflaive is a high-class operation and the wines are superb, but $58 for a Bourgogne Blanc? $106 for a village Puligny-Montrachet? $148 to $290 for Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru wines? Here’s a product that seems recession-proof if you possess sufficient fiduciary prowess to indulge.

Made from grapes traditionally used for Port, the Churchill Estates Douro 2005 is a dry table wine wine that’s lovely and robust simultaneously. Composed of 60 percent tinta roriz grapes and 40 percent touriga nacional, and aged 12 months in new and old French oak casks, this dark ruby-colored wine offers ripe, intense and spicy aromas of black currant, black cherry and plum that are fleshy, meaty and earthy. The wine is solid and firm, vibrant and resonant, and its soft, polished tannins slide across the palate like Mel Tormé whispering vowels into a smoky room. The black fruit flavors are luscious without being over-ripe, kept a little strict by the influence of acid and spicy wood, all this wrapped around a core of fruit cake and bitter chocolate. The finish gathers force with elements of briers and brambles, turning a bit autumnal and austere. This is a very impressive and appealing wine for drinking from now through 2011 or ’12 with hearty braised or grilled meat dishes. Excellent. About $24.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.

We discovered New Amsterdam gin one evening sitting in a bar, and, glancing at the array of glittering bottles on the shelves, saw something new. “That’s New Amsterdam,” the bartender told us, and we asked him to make two martinis, new-amsterdam-gin.jpgone with olives and one with a twist. Examining the bottle to see where the product was made, I was surprised that the label was so reticent. We’re in an age where spirits, especially gin and vodka, trumpet their origins, their purity, their sustainable character. Not so in this case, but when I read the magic word “Modesto” the revelation came. “Holy moly,” I exclaimed to LL, “Gallo makes this gin.”

New Amsterdam is an intensely fragrant and citrusy gin, and I have to disagree with several other bloggers and assert that 1. New Amsterdam makes a delicious martini, and 2. it makes a martini that should be garnished with an olive instead of a twist because the lemon oil can be rather aggressive with a product already dominated by the citrus element.

For the record, our favorite gins are Tanqueray, Junipero and Hendricks. The first two are traditional, austere, chastening and pure, the latter more winsome and floral, a summertime gin.

Anyway, acquiring a bottle of New Amsterdam for home use and sniffing and sipping it straight from the freezer, we discovered that it’s a gin with myriad immediate pleasures.

First greeting the nose are whiffs of cedar, juniper and cloves. There’s a quick and seamless segue to pungent scents of orange rind and burnt orange that remain steadfast but open to emit touches of white pepper, licorice and a chilly note of peppermint.
Only as the gin gradually warms in the glass does it offer a floral aspect, like some shy and astringent Alpine flower.

This sense of layered sensual appeal fades a bit in the mouth as the alcohol takes over, but New Amsterdam has a satiny texture that carries spicy juniper and general citrus flavors smoothly across the tongue and down the throat.

A great gin? New Amsterdam is no Junipero, which is made in small quantities in San Francisco by the Anchor Brewing Company and is, to my sensibility, among the greatest gins in the world; one would not call New Amsterdam beautiful or profound. Yet it’s a satisfying gin, one that’s beguiling and almost carefree; the word “fun” comes to mind, a quality that I’m certain the designers and marketers of this gin hoped for. And it sells for $14 for a 750 ml bottle, which is half or a third of what the great gins cost.

The day had been filled with toil and travail, but I was determined not to miss a tasting of Rhone wines from the Perrin brothers, owners of Chateau Beaucastel, one of the best properties in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The estate goes back at least to the middle of the 16th Century, though the Perrin family came into possession after 1909, when Pierre Tramier bought the property and passed it to his son-in-law Pierre Perrin.

I cannot emphasize enough the startling and stunning purity and intensity of these wines, even at the lower end of the scale in the “Perrin Reserve” red and white wines that sell for $14 and under. The wines carry profound influences of clean earth and minerality, and they typically display wild notes of mulberry and roses that make them immediately and mysteriously seductive.

Many people at this tasting event expressed their dislike of the wines, principally, I think, for their deep earthy qualities found in notes of moss and loam, damp leaves, briers and brambles. For me, that character gives the wines unassailable and irresistible authenticity. A friend of mine at the tasting said that just sniffing the reds make him instantly exclaim, “Lamb shanks!” And he was right; these wines deserve the most flavorful of roasted and braised red meat dishes, such as we cook and devour to get through the chilly days ahead.


The Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2006 is a blend of 50 percent grenache blanc, 20 percent bourboulenc and 10 percent each marsanne, roussanne and viognier. Mix it up, shake it up, whatever, but this is a gorgeous wine and an Astonishing Bargain for the price. Winsome aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, yellow fruit, lanolin and dried spice are enlivened by penetrating minerality, a factor that courses through the stone fruit and citrus flavors along with energizing acidity. The texture is a seductive combination of moderate, slightly powdery lushness and nervy crispness that keeps you coming back for more. Drink now through 2010 or ’11. Buy this one by the case. Very good+. About $14, though often discounted to $10 or $11.
The 2006 version of the Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone offers earthy notes of wet moss and roots overlain by crushed violets, rose hips and mulberries woven with wood smoke. Have mercy! It’s very intense in the mouth, quite earthy and minerally and featuring ripe and spicy black and blue fruit flavors buttressed by vibrant acid and robust tannins that lend some austerity to the finish. Amazing Character for the price. The rendition of 2005 is mossy and brambly, deeply earthy and spicy and floral, bursting with cassis, black raspberry and mulberry flavors inextricable from the wine’s minerally, foresty nature. The blend on these wines is 60 percent grenache and 20 percent each syrah and mourvedre. Drink the 2006 from now through 2011 or ’12; same with the 2005. Again, these are wines to buy by the case. Very Good+ for both. About $14 but often seen for $10 or $11.

Cotes du Rhone wines dominate the Southern Rhone Valley in three large vineyard regions, the largest northeast of Chateauneuf-du-Pape on the Rhone’s east bank, the other, smaller, two northwest and southwest of Chateauneuf on the west bank. Cotes du Rhones are also made in a small isolated area where the Drome river runs into the Rhone and further north, in an even smaller area around Cote Rotie. Syrah is the primary grape in the north, grenache in the south. Cotes du Rhone-Villages implies higher quality, in that the grapes come from a number of villages where yields are lower and grape selection theoretically stricter. If the wine derives from a particular village instead of the general appellation, the name of the village may be designated on the label. Over the past few years, several of the villages demonstrated qualities distinctive enough to receive their own appellation status.

So, the seductive and substantial Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone-Villages Rouge 2005 is powered by bright acid, a scintillating mineral element and dense, smoky, spicy wood qualities. Juicy blackberry, black currant and black plum flavors, with a hint of mulberry, are dusted with violets and lavender, new leather, briers and brambles. The finish is earthy, spicy and a bit austere. Drink now through 2010 or ’11. Very good. About $16, but often found for $13 or $14.
The village of Vinsorbes received its own appellation designation in 2005. Perrin’s Vinsorbes “Le Cornuds” 2006 is a half-and-half blend of syrah and grenache. The aromas are overwhelmingly smoky, floral and foresty; I mean, you could swim in this bouquet. The acid is like a bright flashing blade etching the depths of spiced and macerated black and red fruit flavors that are clearly and cleanly drawn, and if we sustain this artistic metaphor, then oak and tannin are like a shadowy wash that flows across the wine and darkens it everywhere. The finish is huge, woodsy, earthy, dry and a little austere. Match this with venison marinated in red wine and juniper, lamb shanks or braised short ribs. Best from 2009 — oops, that’s coming right up! — through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $19 to $24.
From a different vineyard in the appellation, Perrin’s Vinsorbes “Le Hauts de Julien” 2004, Cotes du Rhone-Villages, makes a different effect; it has also had two more years to develop its blend of half syrah, half grenache. It’s earthy and funky all right, but with surprising overtones of mint and eucalyptus that highlight very ripe black currant and plum scents and flavors along with hints of mulberry and red currant. With a full complement of leather and moss, briers and brambles, the wine is very dry and more austere than its younger cousin. Drink through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+. About $19 to $24.

Of these current releases, I found the 100 percent syrah Perrin Rasteau “L’Andeol” 2006 the most daunting, the least ready to drink. It’s a sizable wine, deep and dense and intense, earthy and minerally, bursting with notes of smoke and crushed tobacco, briers and brambles and foresty elements, all coalescing in a dry, austere, rugged finish. I wouldn’t touch this until 2010 and then drink through 2015 or ’16. Very Good+.
Vacqueyras received its liberation from Cotes du Rhone-Village status in 1990. Perrin’s Vacqueyras “Les Christins” 2006 is a blend of 75 percent grenache and 25 percent syrah. It’s a robust and exuberant wine, melding a highly perfumed nose from roses and lavender, spiced and macerated black currants, plums and raspberries; that fruit profile continues in the mouth, where flavors are quite intense and concentrated, deepened and darkened by profound elements of earth and minerals and sturdy tannins. This could use another year and then should drink splendidly, with hearty fare, through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $28-$33.
Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge 2005 may be a Cotes du Rhone, but in intention, accomplishment and price, it serves as the cadet version of Chateau Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A blend of 30 percent each grenache and mourvedre and 20 percent each syrah and cinsault, the wine ages six months in the large oak casks called foudres. Over earthy elements of ash, damp loam and moss are high notes of that exhilarating mulberry and roses character that seems so distinctive to these wines. This is another large-framed and deeply founded effort, ripe and luscious but dry and resonant and ringing with vibrant acid, while being freighted with dense chewy tannins and profound mineral qualities. Try from 2009 or ’10 through 2015 to ’17. Excellent. About $30 to $35.
If you can’t afford the “official” Chateau Beaucastel 2005 — don’t worry, nor can I — try the Perrin et Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Sinards” 2005. This blend of 70 percent grenache and 15 percent each syrah and mourvedre is made from younger vines at the property plus grapes from a leased seven-acre vineyard nearby. Profound and entrancing at the same time, Les Sinards 2005 is robust and ruggedly constructed but boundlessly fragrant and floral; reams of ripe, spicy and juicy blackberry, black currant and plum flavors are bolstered by a seamless amalgam of vibrant acid, dense and polished oak and tannin and a towering mineral element that feels almost iron-like on the finish. A lovely and serious expression of the genre. Drink now, with full-flavored dishes, through 2017 to ’20. Excellent. Prices range across the scale for this wine, from $35 (and lower) in some parts of the country up to $47 in my neck o’ the woods.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is traditionally the most blended of wines composed from diverse grapes, yet many producers in the region have lately turned to making their wines mainly from grenache, often from 75 to 95 percent, with the rest syrah and mourvedre.
Chateau Beaucastel, however, remains steadfast to its heritage. Chateau Beaucastel 2005, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, beaucastel.JPG incorporates 30 percent each mourvedre and grenache, 10 percent syrah, five percent each muscardin, vaccarose and cinsault, and 15 percent of the seven other, minor grape varieties allowed in the wine.

The result, in an exceptional year, is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape of exceptional openness and generosity yet one that projects fathomless depths of tannin and minerality. The aromas are heady, dazzling, a delirious wreathing of smoke, ash and moss, spiced and macerated currants and plums, rose hips and brambles; you could dab it behind your ears and motorcycle gangs would follow you anywhere. In the mouth, the wine is truly profound, incredible in scope and dimension without being forbidding, solid and brooding without being truculent. Naturally it gets deeper and earthier as the moments pass, until the finish looms like a
monument of Olympian austerity. Try from 2012 or ’13 through 2020 to ’25. Exceptional. About $85 to $125.

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