@ The Plaza w/ Mitch Hawkins from Hawk and Horse Vineyards…

Hidden in the hills of Lake County, CA lives 18 acres of a picturesque naturally wild vineyard of rolling hills that looks on to infinity. What once was overgrown and untamed land inhibited from growth is now a miraculous field of wildlife, greenery and vines.

I had the pleasure of meeting and having a lovely chat with the vineyard manager/partner, Mitch Hawkins, of this fascinating biodynamic vineyard, Hawk and Horse Vineyards.  We met at the Plaza Hotel in NYC where he was just getting back from the New York International Wine Competition tasting.  With his 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, a gold medalist at the 2011 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, in hand, he poured me a glass and took me through his remarkable story of getting to where he is today.

Coming from stopping at a few parties way back when with the likes of Santana and the Grateful Dead and bartending in San Francisco to now living on this beautiful vineyard (owned by renowned attorney, David Boies and fam), Mitch and his wife Tracey (Boies’ step-daughter) have created an oasis so special that can only be established with tender loving care, which is what makes his wine SO perfectly balanced and delicious.

The farming is done by hand mainly with the help of their small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle to create natural preparations which omit chemicals. “The cornerstone of our Bio-dynamic program is production of our own vineyard preparations. Cow dung is the key ingredient in our most important applications. This necessitated the addition of cattle to our ranching operation. After careful research, we selected the Scottish Highland breed. The Highland is an ancient breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. They are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book being established in 1884. These striking creatures are highly desirable animals and are noted for their ease in calving, high quality beef and superb hides. They are also known for their gentleness and intelligence as well as their distinctive and beautiful appearance. They add a sense of true loveliness and grace to the landscape” as Mitch describes in an excited and imaginary way.

They take pride in and treasure their old world practices and even take orders personally by offering their phone number on their website where either Mitch or Tracey will greet you hello and take your order. To add to the magic that happens at the ranch, his two lovely daughters Nina and Francesca Hawkins train in their indoor ring to compete in traditional rodeo’s in Northern, CA and beyond.

To end our lovely chat he exclaimed that they also make a stunning Port and I mentioned to him that I love a nice port paired with 80% dark chocolate! He told me to wait right there and went up to his hotel room and brought down a bottle of Latigo, a fortified wine produced in Port style, 2006 vintage.  This wine is of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fortified with varietal high-proof Brandy (he uses the best of the best).  How nice  and I can’t wait to try it!  What a lovely boutique-y type winery that produce bottles filled with extremely special and elegant red wines!!

Be sure to visit their website and purchase a delicious bottle of what they are most known for, Cabernet Sauvignon.  You will not be disappointed and will most definitely feel giddy and special when you sip on this wine! Spread the word!


Sunday Sips…

Sunday sipping on a gift from a dear friend, Chateau Clarke, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Listrac-Medoc, Bordeaux Cabernet Blend - 2003, an elegantly full-bodied, supple red wine to enjoy for a special occasion or to go with a great home cooked meal.  A very full and robust red with tastes of dark ripened fruit, smokey, full of tannins with a strong and long lasting finish.

Thoroughly enjoying this lovely wine on this fabulous Sunday with a nice Italian homemade meat lasagna and loving every bit of it.  Can’t wait to have it with extra dark chocolate for dessert later!

Want to impress your in-laws, woo your newly engaged friends, or gift as a ‘thank you’ for having received “Apple” tech support ;), gift this wine and the receiver truly feels special and will utterly enjoy this remarkable French wine…


Wine Essentials #5 – Nor. Cal.

It was a night of the top dogs, heavy hitters, powerhouses at Wine Essentials Class #5.  We ventured through Northern California, Washington State and Oregon, experiencing some of the deepest, darkest reds I have ever tasted, and boy were they elegant and delicious!  Fortunately, I will be in Sonoma this weekend to experience these lovely wines first hand!  Take a look into our journey but beware for the high levels of alcohol within the California region! TAXI!

Tastings (wines I liked bolded)

Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris, Benton-Lane 2009 – Retails $16 (Alc. 13%)

  • Notes: Smells of bright young and fruity apple; tastes very light, clean apple-y with a very nice acidic balance to it.  A very simple wine
  • Pairings: A great wine for this warm weather!  Use as an aperitif wine or enjoy with clams and oysters

Santa Ynez, Viognier, Zaca Mesa 2008- Retails $26

  • Notes: Smells of fresh grapefruit, ripe/heavy stone fruit; Bitter and spicy in taste with little acidity, a bit peppery with a long lasting woody finish
  • Pairings: Pair with a roasted chicken with herbs or great with brie and an assortment of medium aged cheeses

Columbia Valley, Reisling, ‘Eroica’, Dr. Loosen, Chateau Ste. – Retails $23 (Alc. 12%)

  • Notes: Young green grape, fragrant with a hint of petroleum in smell; tastes light, sweet/sour with a fresh and fruity hint and strong acidity
  • Pairings: Great for an afternoon with cheese and grapes; spicy fish apps

Napa, Chardonnay, Grgich Hills Estate 2007 – Retails $40

  • Notes: Oaky with smoky vanilla and apple in smell; apple-y, pear, wood with calm acidity in taste.  A very elegantly balanced wine
  • Pairings: Roasted chicken or grilled shell fish

Chalk Hill (Russian River), Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill Winery 2007 - Retails $27 (Alc. 14.5%)

  • Notes: Smells of ripe/sweet pineapple; Tastes very heavy and ripe in fruits, long lasting fruit finish
  • Pairings: Great with fish w/ butter and herb sauce; roasted chicken

Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Argyle 2008- Retails $24

  • Notes: Smells of light red fruits, strawberry and bright fruit; Tastes of bright cherry, little acidity a bit of tannin, strong taste but fades fast
  • Pairings: A lovely cob with a salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette on a sunny afternoon

Carneros, Pinot Noir, Acacia 2008 – Retails $22 (Pinot Noir, 2% Syrah) (Alc. 14.4%)

  • Notes: Smells of cherry, jammy, rich/dark fruits; tastes of rich wood, tannin, spicy, peppery and a little cedar
  • Pairings: Great with Duck!

Monterey County, ‘Le Mistral’, Joseph Phelps 2006 – Retails $40 (Alc. 15%)

  • Notes: Smelly of deep fruits and plums; Spicy plumy, dark fruit with light finish in taste.  A balanced wine
  • Pairings: Great with a stew, Pork Roast or lamb

Russian RIver, Zinfandel, Dolinsek Ranch, Mara 2005 – Retails $40 (Alc. 16.4%)

  • Notes: Ripe in fruit smelling; tastes of sweet/heavy fruit, blackberries, raisins, long lasting dark fruit finish
  • Pairings: Hard to pair with food but would be great with a BBQ or a nice dessert like cheesecake – nothing too sweet

Oakville (Napa), Merlot, Swanson 2006 – Retails $21 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)

  • Notes: Smells of dark plums.berries, wood in background; tastes of dark elegant plums, candy tannin, very supple and elegant wine
  • Pairings: Pair with a steak and light sauce or heavy spaghetti bolognese
Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘Georges de Latour Private Reserve’, Beaulieu Vineyard 2007 - Retails $106 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) – 14.8% Ac.
  • Notes: Smells of concentrated berries, very jammy; a powerhouse wine that tastes of dense berries, cedar, and strong tannins
  • Pairings: Great with steak

Best Sangria in NYC

As I was enjoying a nice glass of red sangria with my closest girlfriends last night I was thinking it would be nice to compile a comprehesive list of all of the best Sangria places in NYC.  It is getting warmer, spring is here and summer is just hours away, who doesn’t like to sit outside and enjoy a refreshing glass of ice cold sangria filled with luscious fruit!  But before getting into it.. here is a great recipe to use for your next summer bbq!

Make Your Own Sangria (Courtesy of Mr. Bobby Flay from Food Network)

2 bottles red Spanish table wine
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup simple syrup, or more to taste (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves, cooled)
Orange slices
Apple slices
Pomegranate seeds
Mix all ingredients together and let stand in a
tightly sealed container or pitcher for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Best Sangria in NYC:

Calle Ocho (446 Columbus Ave) – All you can drink Sanrgria special with brunch on the weekends.  Over 10 different types to choose from… Delish but beware, you may have to cancel all plans for the rest of the day!

Pipa Tapas Bar (38 East 19th Street) – Beautiful chandeliers surround you while you sip on your glass or pitcher of red or white Sangria with friends – Gets rowdy! They chop their fruit up to be bite size which I like.

Flor De Sol (361 Greenwich Street) - Monday nights $10 sangria; they offer amazing Sangria options – Red, White, Champagne, White with Strawberries, and if you need a real pick me up, White w/ Banana and Red Bull!

El Charro (4 Charles St.) – An extremely authentic experience with great pitchers of Sangria

Oliva (161 E Houston St between East Houston St & Chrystie St) – Wednesday’s Happy Hour 5:30 – 8pm.  They pour and pour and pour all night long while listening to a live Jazz band!

Boqueria (two locations; Flatiron & Soho) – Amazing Sangria!  Also have a great sherry selection!

Alta (64 West 10th Street) – Must try Alta’s ‘non-traditional’ Sangria.. “What makes it so good? We could tell you, but we’d have to kill you…”

Las Ramblas (170 West 4th Street) – You can enjoy either in a chilled glass or by the pitcher with lots of great LARGE fruit!  Delish.


Yet another amazing ‘wine’ find while flipping through my daily WWD!

This concept sparked my interest when I was putting together my Boston Red Sox Charity Wine post as I would love to see more of this, especially in a time where natural disasters are happening more frequently and concurrently.  Since wine and spirits are essentially ‘recession proof’ why not have wine labels partner with a charity to raise money for a good cause since everyone is going to purchase it anyway. How about sipping on a fine wine while doing good simultaneously.  Brilliant, and I hope someday this will evolve into an omnipresent initiative within wine and distribution companies…  Can’t wait to see their facebook campaign!

   to each, their own: seven individualistic wines

Soles4Souls Partners With Wine Company

Soles4Souls has a new partner.

The nonprofit has partnered with FlipFlop Wines — launched earlier this year by Underdog Wine Merchants — and for every bottle sold, $1 is donated to the shoe charity.

“The sell-throughs have been phenomenal,” said Soles4Souls founder and CEO Wayne Elsey.

For fall, the wine brand will launch a “Flipping Good” Facebook campaign and offer a sweepstakes for the holiday season. Winners will have the opportunity to go on a distribution trip with Soles4Souls.

The wine sells across the U.S. for $7 MSRP and will feature the Soles4Souls logo. The company is aiming to sell between 20,000 and 50,000 cases, according to David Georges, vintner for FlipFlop Wines.

“We wanted to include a do-good project [with the launch], so this was the perfect opportunity and timing,” said Georges. “Bloggers have been crazy about the partnership, and it’s hard to keep the wine on the shelves.”

According to Elsey, Soles4Souls may also have other deals in the works, including with a car company, although he wouldn’t release further details.

“One of our many strategic alliances is we’re looking at expanding our non-endemic partners,” he said.


Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. The charity distributes these shoes to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 14 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently donating one pair every 7 seconds.) The shoes have been distributed to people in over 127 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. Soles4Souls has been featured in Runner’s World, Ladies’ Home Journal, National Geographic’s Green Guide, and The New York Times. It has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, BBC, CNN and thousands of regional news outlets across North America. Soles4Souls is a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS and donating parties are eligible for tax advantages. Anyone can join our cause, and we need your help.

Underdog Wine Merchants

Underdog Wine & Spirits, an unleashed unit of The Wine Group, is the champion of emerging brands for the new millennium: the “underdogs” of the sometimes stuffy wine and spirits world. We work with domestic and international producers to craft unique adult beverages that are a breed apart. The home of Cupcake, Fish Eye, flipflop, Big House and Octavin Home Wine Bar, our portfolio includes many of today’s most dynamic growth brands

For My Boston Wine Lovers….

Provided by GiltCity BOSTON

City Wine Tours

50% Off North End or Harvard Square Tasting Tour
A ticket for one to a Harvard Square or North End wine tour includes:

• Wine tastings in top restaurants, hotels and wine shops, where members will taste four to six different wines
• VIP settings and special offers for dining and shopping after the tour or later in the year
• Lessons from City Wine Tours Wine Ambassadors who will give lessons on pairing and buying, and an overview of wine history

Tours are every Saturday from 3–5 PM. Offer must be scheduled and redeemed by September 1, 2011.


Upcoming Wine Events in NYC…


UWS – Long Island Take on the World: A Wine & Cheese Tasting (May 21st): Enjoy  a wine and cheese tasting featuring your ‘neighboring’ wines of Long Island and pair them with lovely cheeses.  Even is from 1pm – 2:30 at Compass, 208 W. 70th Street – DEAL: 2 tickets for $60!

NOLITA -  Jo’s (May 23rd)  in Nolita will be serving a special dinner with the people from Bix Wine shop, Bayfield Importing, and winemaker Albert Bichot. The six-course meal is $65 with wine pairings. Call (212) 966-9640 to make a reservation. [EaterWire]

TRIBECA - Taste of Tribeca (May 21st) An outdoor culinary festival featuring signature dishes from renowned Tribeca chefs, a family-friendly Kids’ Zone with Looney Lenny, a comprehensive wine tour and live entertainment provided exclusively by City Winery. There will also be locally-brewed beverages for sale, such as Waa-tah, NY Spring, Plan Tea, Fizzy Lizzy, VBLast, and Gus Soda.  The Festival takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Duane Street (between Greenwich and Hudson).  Taste of Tribeca brings together top talent and some of the most sought after destinations, including the Harrison, Bouley, Tribeca Grill, Blaue Gans, Landmarc, newcomer Plein Sud, the Odeon and Nobu.  All proceeds from the event will ensure the continuation of arts and enrichment programs at local public schools PS 150 and PS 234. One ticket provides six tastes from any of the restaurants taking part. For ticket options - http://www.tasteoftribeca.com/content/tickets

SOHO - Lure Fishbar (June 1st) is hosting an oyster tasting with chef Josh Capon and wine director Natalie Tapken. For $75, you get to sample 15 oysters plus snacks and dessert, with wine pairings. Call (212) 431-7676 to snag a seat. [EaterWire]

FLATIRON - From GILTCITY NYC, enjoy 40% off a multi-course Italian dinner for two at Brio Downtown for $90.  Offer includes, two antipasti, two entrees, two desserts, and four glasses of WINE.  Redeemable on at the downtown location and must be redeemed by August 18th.  Hurry up and buy and use this awesome offer! **Provided you create an account.

CHELSEANY Wine Salon presents “Natural Wine: A Salon” (May 23rd) Focuses on Natural Wine, a topic that is both incredibly hot and invariably misunderstood. Organic… sustainably farmed… biodynamic… what makes wine “green,” and how should it taste? The Metropolitan Room will swing from caberet than Cabernet as a dozen delicious “natural”ly-tagged wines from will be served with artisan cheeses, charcuterie and bread. Sip, nibble, discuss, repeat. A variety of panelists will be present to guide and provide their expertise!  New York Wine Salon Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, starting at 9:00 pm. Tickets re $45; 9:00 start. (Localwineevents.com)


Nice Matin.. Where It All Started…

Apologies on the lack of posts but work has been SUPER busy, however, of course a good thing and nothing a glass of French Bordeaux can’t fix!  However, I took a quick breather today to get my ‘wine news’ fix and stumbled upon a totally relevant topic that correlates to where it all started, my first job!

Not only is this article an amazing write up on Nice Matin’s evolution in it’s most sensational and thorough wine cellar in all of the Upper West Side, this also was the landmark where I received my first job offering right out of college!  I believe at the time I was sipping on a vodka soda with a lime, and with hands shaking with nervousness, met with my now CEO of my company and was formally offered a job to be his assistant.  Of course, I probably guzzled more of those afterwards in excitement but little did I know I would transition from the custom cocktail drinker to a savvy wine drinker that wants to swirl, smell and sip before getting a full glass!  Maybe that’s what NYC does to you, makes you more picky – which it’s ok to be!

Now this restaurant is making a new name for itself by way of it’s always contemporary and inspiring wine list!

My how mature I have become.. once a vodka soda girl, now a wine junky that can’t get enough!  Just kidding, but I still LOVE IT!

Enjoy and Salud!

From NY Time’s – THE POUR

At Nice Matin, a Wine List That Hits All the Marks


AS exciting as it feels to pick up a wine list already well known for its great bottles, it’s even more electrifying to have few expectations and to be knocked back in goggle-eyed surprise.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Aviram Turgeman, Nice Matin’s beverage director, in the restaurant’s wine cellar. Nice Matin bought the cellar of Chanterelle after that restaurant shut down.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Two bottles more than 40 years old.

I suppose it was adrenaline that surged when I recently set eyes on the list at Nice Matin, a Provençal restaurant on the Upper West Side. There I was, expecting a standard-issue list. Instead, I was handed a leather-bound book, almost 60 pages’ worth with 2,000 selections, packed not only with trophy bottles like 19th-century first-growth Bordeaux, well-aged grand cru Burgundies and tête de cuvée Champagnes, but also wonderful selections in the neighborhood-friendly $50 and under range.

Here was a list to satisfy anybody, whether you want California fruit bombs or old-school Napa cabernets, grower Champagnes or a good selection of half bottles, reds from Lebanon or (who knew?) a 38-year-old cabernet franc from Brazil.

It’s been a most unlikely journey for Nice Matin. When it opened in 2003, William Grimes gave it two stars in The New York Times, noting “an evenhanded international list of 140 wines that could use more from the South of France.” Since then, the restaurant has settled into comfortable middle age, serving a loyal clientele from the neighborhood as well as travelers staying at the Lucerne Hotel, which shares the building. But the wine list has gone stratospheric.

What other way to explain such treasures as a 2008 Pouilly-Fumé Silex from Didier Dagueneau for $120, about the price you might pay retail? Or a 1983 Cos d’Estournel, a top St.-Estèphe almost 30 years old, for $225? Perhaps, like me, you are a fan of good aged Graves, as we persist in calling white Bordeaux from Pessac-Léognan? You won’t find a better deal than a Domaine de Chevalier 2000 for $170, unless you continue down the list and spot the 2001 Laville Haut-Brion for $220.

Nice Matin won’t rival a wine destination like Veritas for vertical depth of great wines and old vintages, but in what casual neighborhood restaurant will you find La Mission Haut Brion 1970, a very good vintage, for $330, a 1998 Brunello di Montalcino from Soldera for $350 or a 1961 Barolo from Giacomo Conterno, a truly great wine, for $500?

Of course, if you want good value and money is no object, I would be tempted by the 1944 Lafite-Rothschild, harvested just months after D-Day, for $1,600, or the legendary 1865 Latour, from the year Lincoln died and before phylloxera devastated the vines of Europe. What’s $14,000 compared with history?

Outside of the fantasy realm, I, like most people, would gravitate to great affordable bottles, and this is where Nice Matin really comes through. A fresh, lively 2009 Valpolicella from Vaona, one of my favorite producers, is just $36, while a chalky, unusual white 2008 Coenobium, made by nuns at the Monastero Suore Cistercensi in Lazio, is $42. How often do you find a 10-year-old Burgundy for $77, like a 2001 premier cru Savigny-lès-Beaune, from Chandon de Briailles?

And, having taken Mr. Grimes’s point to heart, Nice Matin now fulfills its Provençal promise with perhaps the best list of Bandols and Provençal wines in New York. I would try the excellent, structured ’09 Pradeaux rosé for $52, or, with a selection of 14 vintages, a Bandol red from Château Vannières, like the 2002 for $80.

Great lists don’t just happen overnight. Not long after it opened, Nice Matin made a concerted decision to improve its wine offerings, beginning in 2004 when it bought 25 mixed cases of Bordeaux, Burgundy and German riesling that had once belonged to President John F. Kennedy.

Since then, Nice Matin has bought the cellar of Chanterelle after that restaurant shut down, and part of Country’s after it closed. Meanwhile, the beverage director, Aviram Turgeman, with his associate, Gabriel Richter, prowls through a network of collectors and winery owners, seeking mature older vintages to add to the list.

“I really want people to come and enjoy grand cru Burgundies and first-growth Bordeaux and not break the wallet,” Mr. Turgeman said. “I also want to highlight wines in the $30 and $40 range, because we are a neighborhood restaurant.”

Acquisitions require capital, and Nice Matin, more than many neighborhood restaurants, has resources. Along with other spots, including Café d’Alsace on the Upper East Side, L’Express in the Flatiron district and Marseille in Hell’s Kitchen, Nice Matin is part of theTour de France restaurant group, whose owner, Simon Oren, resolutely supports Mr. Turgeman’s efforts.

“I love wine, I believe in wine, I really, really admire wine,” Mr. Oren said. While he features wine at all his restaurants (and beer at Café d’Alsace), Nice Matin is the group’s vinous flagship.

Lest anyone think Nice Matin is concerned only with trophy bottles, one regular, Carl Schecter, a portfolio manager at a hedge fund who lives nearby, recalled eating at the bar recently. With his three courses, Mr. Turgeman paired a Greek white from Mount Olympus (“Delicious!” Mr. Schecter said), a riesling from Alsace and a Greek red.

“It’s like a wine school, if you want it to be,” Mr. Schecter said.

The annals are replete with stories of great wine lists picked clean after word gets out. But Mr. Oren is confident the Nice Matin list will endure.

“We have good inventory, and we know quite a few people with cellars who are happy to sell to us,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to maintain the list for at least five years.”

Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio….

Grapes for thought – Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio – your wine education for the day…

I think they are somewhat similar in taste and just pronounced differently but of course there always has to be something that stands out with each wine.. That’s why this industry is so cherishing, it’s ever evolving and continues to challenge your taste buds….

Happy reading from the WSJ.com!

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio?

What’s the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? On a basic level, nothing: The same kind of grape is used to make both wines. But on the palate, there lies a world of difference.

Here’s the lowdown on this versatile grape:

Around the world: The Pinot Gris grape is mostly associated with white wine from Alsace, a French region that borders Germany. In northern Italy, the same grape is known as Pinot Grigio. But the varietal is also grown in cool-climate areas in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Sometimes big, sometimes light: Pinot Gris grapes ripen with plenty of sugar, which means that the wines tend to be either on the sweet side or, if the sugar is left to ferment for a drier wine, relatively high in alcohol. But the wines produced from this grape vary in taste, depending on the region in which they are grown. The wines from Alsace are rich, slightly oily on the mouth and full of flavor. The wines from Italy, where the grapes are harvested before they fully mature, are light-bodied and crisp.

Pinot Gris and Grigio wines from the New World tend to split between the two styles, and the way a maker labels a bottle can be a signal. For example, a wine labeled Pinot Gris from California will be more full-bodied than a wine called Pinot Grigio from New Zealand, which likely will be brighter and more acidic.

Follow the menu: Salads, mild fish and shellfish are great matches for the lighter Pinot Grigio, and like other crisp whites, it goes especially well with goat cheese. Oilier fish and roasted chicken are good pairs for the heavier-style Pinot Gris. Either way, serve slightly chilled.

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