Tag Archives: wine

The True Tasting Room Experience – A Summer of Wine and Work at Paumanok Vineyards

30 May

The other day I posted a remembrance of my experiences behind the bar. I had meant to talk about a day in the tasting room at Paumanok Vineyards, as I came back to lend a hand over Memorial Day weekend. But somehow the post morphed into a mini-memoir about my time pouring drinks in a biker bar and I didn’t really do enough justice to the original intention.

So….for your reading pleasure, a true taste of The Tasting Room Experience. This is an article that was published in 2007, in Spanish, in Puerto Rico’s Le Connoisseur magazine for which I was a contributor for much of the magazine’s ten-year or so life. It recounts my experience s in the tasting room — what I learned and the fun we had. And explains why I am in that picture with Hillary Clinton. This article has never been published in English before! Please remember…it is  an article published in 2007 recounting the summer of 2005. Some of the information may have changed slightly in the ensuing years!

Salim Massoud serving up on a busy day in 2007

Salim Massoud serving up on a busy day in 2007

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Success from the Cellar: The Paumanok 2001 Grand Vintage Reds

21 Aug

In 2005, I spent a glorious summer pouring wine and learning about vid and vino in the tasting room of Paumanok Vineyards http://www.paumanok.com/in Aquebogue, here on the North Fork of Long Island, where wine has become an incredibly important industry over the last 30 years or so.

That year, the 2001 Grand Vintage collection was among the reds we were pouring and selling. One of the things I said, over and over to tasting room visitors was: “These wines are meant to drink now or ten years from now.” I took myself seriously and not only did I drink loads of it “now,” I also bought a number of bottles to store in the basement.

The Bordeaux-style blend – Assemblage – was then a favorite. Over last Christmas, both my father and I opened bottles of it. It was so luscious that I felt the time to open the lot had come, before the lovely tannins and fruit faded.

That was a very significant summer for me and the relationships that I began then are still strong and warm and growing now. What better way to express that to friends then to ask them to share and see what those bottles — a merlot, a cabernet franc and the Assemblage — held inside?

I took a few days off from blogging —  indeed, from cooking! — to visit friends in Greenport, in the wine country. We were staying with my dear friend, Deborah Rivera Pittorino, owner of The Greenporter Hotel http://greenporterhotel.com/and chef-owner of its restaurant-wine bar La Cuvee. So she was in, as was my colleague from the tasting room days at Paumanok, Karen Ward Kankel (now doing the sales for the vineyard offsite) and Salim Massoud, one of the sons of the founding family of the vineyard. Later some of the La Cuvee folks, Laura and Werner also joined us.

All the bottles were in good shape — they had been stored on their sides in a relatively cool basement. There was quite a bit of sediment in the Assemblage and cab; not so much in the merlot — the only one we did not decant. We sat on La Cuvée’s outdoor patio and amidst some very good nibbles (oh, lord, the duck spring rolls and plum sauce…) and got to the fun part.

I am not a wine critic, so I will not attempt that now, especially because it is days later and I have no notes to speak of. This was more about enjoyment and fun and conversation. In short, all the wines had developed beautifully; the merlot was still rounded and fruity, the Assemblage was still complex and rich (and still my favorite!) and the cab had very good structure and a fine finish. A pro would have much more to say, but hey, they tasted like that delicious and magnificent  summer of 2005. We savored them and exchanged memories and laughs and didn’t rush. And most importantly, by sharing I was able to demonstrate to my friends how much I value their friendship.

So, if you’ve got any of the Paumanok Grand Vintage wines from 2001, by all means, go ahead and open them (not right this minute necessarily, but they are at a particularly good point in their development and I don’t know how long that will last).

But the whole experience reminded me also, that sometimes it makes more sense to use the fancy crystal, wear the fabulous jewelry, put on the silky lingerie, open the treasured bottle of wine. Why store the good stuff, when you could be enjoying it and creating new memories and experiences and relationships?

So, that’s what I’ve been doing over the last few days…more recipes to come…

Red Wine and Box Brownies Re-Thunk

5 Dec

On Friday night, I was cool for the first time in a very long time.

On Saturday I landed back on earth with a resounding THUNK.

Seminal post-punk eighties band Killing Joke was playing Irving Plaza and I happen to be a buddy of its drummer, Paul Ferguson and his wife, Olga.

So my folks stepped in with babysitting and I actually got on a train by myself to Manhattan and did the whole VIP- backstage thing at the incredibly hard-driving concert with friends and didn’t get home until around 3 am! Fortunately I had chosen Guinness as my stick-to beverage and so on Saturday, despite having onlyabout 3.5 hours of sleep, I was doing relatively well.

Maqui, Natalia and Paul backstage - while I was still cool

Then, as we were preparing to go to a birthday party on Saturday evening, there was an awful scream from the living room. Mommy ears told me immediately that this was not your run-of-the-mill attention-getting moaning over a one of those minor bumps that occur 17 times a day to an active boy-toddler.

And yes indeed, Leandro had slipped, banged his chin and bit his tongue. Hard. 

So we spent the rest of the evening – from 8:30 to about 11 p.m. at the emergency room, mopping up blood and spit and getting him stitched up. He’ll be okay, despite the sad fact that I cannot remove the hurt and suffer it for him. Heavy sigh.

Where this intersects with food is that part of the interrupted party prep was baking some brownies to take. I am not much of a baker (Following directions and doing things with precision are not my talents) and every brownie recipe I have seen looks daunting. So Leandro and I ripped open a packet of Ghirardelli’s Triple Chocolate stirred it around with an egg, some oil and water and popped it in the oven. We pulled it out just before leaving for the hospital.

Now, my wine-snob self would’ve told you that chocolate and red wine isn’t a good flavor combination at all. That chocolate robs the wine of all the sugar on the palate and ruins the wine’s balance and flavor.

But, after a long night in emergency trying to calm a hurting toddler who means more to me than anything else in the world…I’m tired and drained and worried and finally relaxing because he is asleep and resting…give me the damn brownies and pour me another glass of red – what an exactly, precisely, perfectly harmonious combination indeed!

I hope Leandro will recover soon enough to have some brownies too!

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