Bordeaux Braves Yet Another NYC Blizzard

By Christopher Matthews

For the second year in a row, the annual NYC tasting of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux was affected by a blizzard — winter storm Jonas — this time the weekend preceding the January 25th tasting; last year’s was during! While most of the wines had arrived well before the storm, many chateau owners and reps were held up by horrendous travel delays, missing the event altogether. But in true New York spirit, the show went on, with industry volunteers pitching in for the pouring. And Jonas’ aftermath did little to dissuade the wine trade from attending the show, which focused on Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage.


Jonas at work

On the following day, the Wine Media Guild of New York (WMG) held its annual Bordeaux lunch, drafting off the Grand Cru tasting (the lunch had to be cancelled last year…due to the snow storm!), featuring the Chateaux of Malescot St. Exupery (Margaux), Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux), Phélan Ségur (St. Estephe) and Siran (Margaux).

Both events yielded valuable insights.  Continue reading

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Culinary Heirloom: The Cricket Tea Room Cook Book

By Christopher Matthews

It’s funny sometimes how the mind works, and how certain thoughts can lead to action.

The subject of this post — The Cricket Tea Room Cook Book — was co-authored by my Great-Great Aunt, Tona Webb Perry, and served as one of the guiding culinary references for my maternal grandmother, Mary Webb Smith (“Mom”) — an excellent southern cook in her own right — and her generation of female relatives and friends (the men weren’t cooking much back then!), as well as her descending lines. In fact, the cookbook, first published in 1938, was well-known throughout the South in its time, and had numerous editions. Growing up, I often heard it cited in conversations about favorite family dishes, from home-made rolls and desserts, to salmon croquettes. And, as I recently discovered, it’s collectible, and can be found online!


But this story actually starts with a piece of family art.

Continue reading

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Tuscan Value: the Maremma

By Christopher Matthews

Tuscan wines, like Chianti (in its many iterations), the esteemed Brunello di Montalcino and the “Super Tuscans” (such as Sassicaia and Antinori’s Tignanello), are well-known on these shores, at least among cognoscenti.

Less familiar, but sources of distinct value, are some of the Sangiovese-based wines of the Maremma, Tuscany’s southern coastal area along the Tyrrhenian Sea. This includes the municipalities of Scansano, as well as parts of Grosseto and Magliano. Within this region, two Denominazione stand out, Morellino di Scansano DOCG and Montecucco DOCG, a relatively new appellation which is practically unheard of here, but is producing some compelling wines.

Location of the Maremma

Location of the Maremma

For the first time ever, the producer consortia of these two adjacent Maremma wine districts recently conducted a joint tour of the US, showcasing their wares to the wine trade and media. On the New York City leg of this trip, over a dinner at Aroma Café and Winebar in the East Village, I had the opportunity to taste some wines from the region. Continue reading

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The Wine Media Guild Does…Cider!

WMG LogoBy Christopher Matthews

It may sound a bit like “man biting dog”, but at the Wine Media Guild of New York’s (WMG) recent October tasting/lunch, the focus was on…cider!

Justifiably so.

“Hard” (i.e. alcoholic) cider is one of the hottest beverage categories in the US, with sales having tripled from 2012 to 2014 alone. Wine producers have been urged to assess the current and future threat posed by cider to their markets, in particular by the artisanal cider revival, driven by smaller craft producers whose ciders offer compelling flavor profiles that can rival fine wines (at lower generally alcohol levels).

Sponsored by WMG members Alan Wax and Carlo DeVito (who also spoke), along with special guest speaker Daniel Pucci, the cider sommelier at Wassail Restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (highly recommendable!), who gave the low-down on the process — and styles — of cider-making, the event at Felidia in Manhattan featured a top-flight line-up of cider producers from across the US (New York, New Hampshire, Virginia and California), England and France. Continue reading

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2015 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition: Millbrook, Robibero Share Top Honor

By Christopher Matthews

hvwga_emblemStop the presses!

For the first time since the award was originated four years ago, Millbrook Vineyard and Winery, the Hudson Valley’s perennial wine flagship, was not the sole Hudson Valley Winery of the Year winner at the 2015 Hudson Valley Wine and Spirits Competition. The co-winner this year, by virtue of multiple medals, was Robibero Family Vineyards.

This was just one of many surprises and firsts. Continue reading

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Riesling’s New York Winning Streak Ends…

By Christopher Matthews

…but probably not for long.

Yet for the first time since 2008, and only the third time since 2000, Riesling was not the grape of the NY Governor’s Cup winner (i.e. the “Best in Show) at the New York Wine and Food Classic on August 11-12, 2015.

The winning wine was Ventosa Vineyards 2011 Lemberger, a peppery Austro-Germanic red grape (also known as Blaufränkisch), which does well in New York’s cool climates, especially in the Finger Lakes, where Ventosa is located (Seneca Lake). It was also voted Best Red Wine and Best Lemberger on its way to the ultimate award.

Ventosa Vineyards, Governor's Cup winner, 2015

Ventosa Vineyards, Governor’s Cup winner, 2015

This qualifies as an upset, given the traditional Riesling/white wine dominance of the Cup! Continue reading

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Unexpected Plums? Clafouti!

By Christopher Matthews

Our ancient red plum tree served as an early muse here at Upstate-Downtown. And we’ve received lots of plum goodness from it over the years. It has, unfortunately, fallen on hard times recently, a victim of “black knot” plum tree disease and (likely) old age (such trees aren’t eternal), making it essentially barren. In fact, I almost cut it down two years ago, but a late burst of new growth from the lower half of the tree put off what I considered would be an eventual coup de grace.

After a brutal winter last year, however, I was pleasantly surprised by a copious bloom this spring, albeit with no expectation of a plum harvest.

Our plum tree in bloom

Our plum tree in bloom

Continue reading

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