Monthly Archives: April 2015

New Yorkers: Wine on Wheels Charity Tasting Saturday, May 2, 2015

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Image by Lauren Mowery

Wine on Wheels 2015

Grand Tasting and Auction

May 2nd 2015, City Winery

4th Annual Charity Event to Benefit Wheeling Forward

This spring, Wheeling Forward , a charity focused on serving NYC’s disabled community brings together some of the greatest sommeliers and wines in the world inside one venue for its annual fundraiser Wine on Wheels . Currently in its fourth year, Wheeling Forward’s Wine on wheels invites oenophiles and novices alike to journey through over 150 wines poured by over 50 of the top sommeliers in the city lead by the co-founder Yannick Benjamin, a wheelchair bound seasoned industry professional and sommelier at the historic University Club.  New this year will be a series of engaging seminars hosted by GuildSomm featuring a focused look at individual wine regions, spirits and the technique of blind tasting.

Wine on Wheels will feature exciting wine producers from all over the world

Champagne Delamotte, Gourt de Mautens, Valentin Zusslin, Domaine Henri Milan, Domaine Andre & Mirelle Tissot, Mas Cotelou, Domaine des Hautes Terres, Chateau Yvonne, Emilian Gillet, Sentier Rose, Te Muna Road, Craggy Range, Domaine Marchand, Drouhin-Vaudon, Renato Ratti, Pol Roger Champagne, Faiveley, Olivier Leflaive, Hugel, JL Chave, Gunther Steinmetz, Francois et Vincent Jouard, Giamello, Gothic Winery, Smith Haut Lafitte, Giscours, Lynch Bages,  AIX, Herman J. Weimer, Flowers, Alfred Gratien Champagne, Red Tail Ridge, Domaine La Soumande, Chateau Grillet, Elena Wach, Domaine Fontboneau, Mas du Daumas and many more!

Further Information

For more information and to purchase tickets here or email: info@wheelingforward.org

A special thanks to the participating importers, distributors, partners & restaurants

Yannick Benjamin, Co-Founder

Yannick is a New York City-based sommelier and one of the co-founders of Wheeling Forward.  In 2003, a car accident left Yannick paralyzed but did not stop him from pursuing his dreams of going on to college and becoming a world class sommelier. Yannick is currently an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and has worked at Le Du’s Wines for over seven years.  Currently Yannick is a sommelier at the University Club and is working on his Master Sommelier certificate.

As a para-athlete, Yannick has competed in several marathons and races including the New York, Boston, and Chicago marathons. Yannick’s deep connections in the wine world have helped Wheeling Forward to build a broad base of supporters and inspired many sommeliers and wine distributors to give back to the community

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Christy Canterbury’s Path to Earning the Master of Wine

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Photo by Michael Seto

New York has long been a hotbed of successful women. Before Hillary, the state sent Geraldine Ferraro to receive the first female nomination by a major party for the White House. Edith Wharton explored social hypocrisy in her acclaimed books. Sonia “From the Bronx” Sotomayor sits on the bench of America’s highest court.

Manhattan is also the epicenter of America’s fine-wine industry, the ranks of which ambitious women have been slowly but steadily infiltrating. Formerly the province of Caucasian gentlemen (and not-so-chivalrous gents), several of the industry’s leading ladies derive from the unusually high pool of Masters of Wine living locally.

Don’t be fooled: “Unusually high” equates to fewer than ten, and that’s out of a mere 318 MWs in the world. Less than 10 percent of MW candidates sit for the rigorous exams, and significantly fewer pass — and eager grape-loving masochists must be accepted into the elite program in the first place. Chelsea resident Christy Canterbury is one of those rare stars in the wine-world firmament to earn the credentials. (For clarification, the Master of Wine program differs from the Master Sommelier, or MS. While there is overlap in studies, the MW focuses on wine business and industry, and the MS focuses on service to the consumer.)

When I met Canterbury, she strode in wearing an elegant tailored suit; we’d agreed to convene for a late-winter-morning chat over a Rwandan coffee over at the High Line Hotel Intelligentsia. Having completed my WSET Diploma, I wanted to inquire about her MW experience. Did I have the masochism gene in me to keep going? I hoped to find out.

We’d met once before, at a dinner she hosted to extol the joys of reasonably priced vouvray (honestly, a revelation in bang for buck), but seeing her again reminded me of my first impression: How does she remain so slender and petite and flawlessly put together for a woman who eats, drinks, and travels on an endless loop for a living? (Trim traveling men prompt the same internal query.) One might divine Canterbury’s stylish sensibility as Parisian, but she is, in fact, Texas-born, hailing from the ironically “unpleasant” (as she put it) town of Mount Pleasant.

Despite harboring a childhood dream of pirouetting onstage professionally in satin toe shoes, she fled Texas for New York to work in finance and private equity. The 24/7 lifestyle left her dissatisfied, so she squeezed a few more hours out of her weekends to learn about wine while working at Vintage (the first all–New York–wine store in Soho that debuted and eventually closed, sadly about a decade ahead of its time). After gaining a modicum of “wine street cred,” she left her career to work on the business side at Italian Wine Merchants, and then parlayed that role into her first restaurant industry gig, running the $125 million beverage program at Smith & Wollensky.

The idea to pursue her Master of Wine came about organically. Canterbury is an insatiable student (she finished her undergrad program at SMU in three years, speaks fluent French and very good Spanish, and is working on her Italian), and she started with the WSET Intermediate, then Advanced, followed by the three-year Diploma program, which she completed in June 2003. “I decided immediately, being on a roll with my education, to continue,” she says. “I never wanted to be wrong or pretend that I knew what I was talking about if I didn’t, nor be unable to have a conversation at a higher technical level, should I want to.” Also, earning the rare MW would help distinguish her from the rest of the industry.

To Canterbury’s surprise, a series of employers (the MW takes years to complete) fought to dissuade rather than encourage her to pursue an education, despite its relevance to her job and the prestige it could bring to the company. “I had one boss tell me, ‘Good luck, you are crazy,’ and another employer flat-out refuse to allow me to attend the residential seminar because ‘the company was going through a difficult transition period.’ If I didn’t attend the mandatory week-long exam training, I couldn’t sit for the test. I ended up calling in sick for those days, and showed up Monday morning for work. We never discussed it again.”

While an employer’s lack of enthusiasm could be attributed to the anticipated distractions of an employee (although how many male somms or wine professionals going after their MS or MW are discouraged from doing so, I wonder?), Canterbury was shocked further by the institute’s lack of support.

“I was angry with the process for a number of reasons,” she says. “While I had a great cheering squad among my friends, nobody else was really helping me. I had several disengaged, bum mentors assigned to me. It was a lonely road at times.”

Aside from the week-long group seminar, hosted around the world in various locations once a year, the MW is, essentially, just an exam. No companion classes, syllabus, books, or coursework are offered to guide candidates toward success. It is the ultimate life test in discipline.

Canterbury eventually found other candidates in the city with whom she could study, taste, and prepare. Fortunately, they all passed — and they were all women. Canterbury rocked her theory exam on the second try, and her practical (blind wine-tasting) exam on the fourth.

I asked her whether she felt the long, expensive, frustrating road had been worth it. Candidates have been known to spend upwards of tens of thousands, even up to a hundred thousand dollars (although the $100K figure is an accounting I can’t make sense of) in self-study expenses.

“I had no idea how many doors this could open,” she says. “Even as a candidate just two years into the program, meeting MWs who were willing to help someone young in the wine industry was amazing. And being an MW has allowed me to work for myself. I honestly don’t know how I ever could have done it without it.”

Canterbury’s freelance work consists of speaking, judging, and writing about wine, and she appears at conferences for both trade and consumers. She remains miraculously poised, unwrinkled, and fit. “When I am on the road, I end up eating a lot of bread and crackers — or foie gras. So I work out a lot; I go on runs through the vineyards.”

Canterbury’s top three regions to watch:
Oregon “Due to growing outside investment, the wine quality is off the charts, and their pinot noir and riesling are stunning.”

Eastern Europe “Keep an eye on places like Croatia, even Romania. NYC restaurants are opening up their lists to these places, too.”

Greece “I love that Greek wines are becoming mainstream, and that assyrtiko is the new grüner veltliner.”

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Postcard: Paso Robles, California

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Paso Robles, California

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Postcard: Bush Vines of Adelaida Cellars in Paso Robles, California

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Bush Vines of Adelaida Cellars in Paso Robles, California

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Postcard: RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Virginia

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RdV Vineyards, Delaplane, Virginia

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What Happened on My Visit to Turkish Wine Country?

Sneak Peek: My piece on the clash between Turkey’s blossoming wine culture and the current government’s politics, debuts in Melbourne-based drinks journal Alquimie in one week. If you’re not a subscriber, order a copy of the fifth edition here. In addition to my article, the issue covers tequila’s smoky, rustic cousin mezcal, Rhone Valley Syrah, and a range of fun apéritifs. Gorgeous photography and fine writing guaranteed.

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Image by Lauren Mowery of Vinkara Winery near Ankara, Turkey

 

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Corsican Wine Takes Manhattan. Get Tix and Go!

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Image by Lauren Mowery of a photo taken by Aaron Zebrook the wine director at NYC’s Beatrice Inn

Last night, I attended “Being,” a collaborative wine and art exhibition in a brightly lit, white-walled gallery in Nolita, NYC thrown by Wines of Corsica. The event sought to transport wine enthusiasts to the French isle near Italy, a rugged, windswept place still raw and untouched in its beauty, but refined in its wines. Twelve producers brought their current lineup; guests noshed on cheese from Artisanal and perused photos of Corsica by Aaron Zebrook, the wine director at NYC’s Beatrice Inn, and art by Gabriela Bravo Clavello, a Mexican painter and industrial designer.

From what I tasted and the gorgeous photos I’ve seen (included the ones on display last night), Corsica is the most beautiful spot I’ve never visited, and I need to rectify that immediately. For now, we can at least drink the flavors of the island because 8 of the 12 producers at the show are in the NYC market. Several wineries noted in their tasting manual profiles that they are looking for representation. So, for any importers interested in Corsica, there are three more events slated for today through Saturday. For consumers, you can buy $30 tix here for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows.

I didn’t make it through all of the wines, but I found six of the seven I spent time with, impressive. The typical varieties of Corsica are the white grape Vermentinu, and reds Sciaccarellu (pronounced check-ar-ello), and Niellucciu (pronounced nell-oo-cho). The range of expressions squeezed out of Vermentinu was surprising. Textures changed depending on the location of the vineyard, and the winemaking styles, and even fruit profiles differed enough to make every Vermentinu a new discovery. Apple, pear, citrus, lemon-curd, herbs, white flowers, a stony mineral character, hay, and occasionally, an oily note, could be detected.

The medium-bodied reds were often a blend of the two grapes: one for color and fruit, the other for tannin, and showed dark red/black fruits, pepper spice, licorice, savory herbal notes, occasionally a meaty/ferrous quality, and varying degrees of acid structure, depending on the side of the island the grapes were grown.

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All images by Lauren Mowery

The surprise hits of the night were the rosés. Maybe I just long for this ghastly East Coast winter to choke and die, but sipping the refreshing, pale pink lovelies put visions of seafood on a warm, breezy beach in my head. The wines hit the perfect balance of delicate red fruits, orange citrus notes, and litheness and minerality on the palate, without  a single touch of sourness, bitterness, or sharpness of acid on the finish.  None. Corsican rosé should be stocked in your fridge all summer.

Overall, the producers I particularly liked were Domaine d’Alzipratu (no importer), Clos Teddi (The Vine Collective), Orenga de Gaffory (VOS Selections), and Yves Leccia (Kermit Lynch). The last producer, Yves Leccia, makes a stunning and unique white wine from the grape Biancu Gentile. Originally thought to be extinct, there now are only five producers in the world commercially making this wine. Flavor profile: Ginger spice, almond, ripe pear, lemon, and white flowers on the rich, aromatic nose, leading to a broad, waxy-textured palate almost reminiscent of a white Rhone grape. Really cool, really rare. Go find it.

Yves Leccia/Domaine d’e Croce, 2013 Biancu Gentile Blanc, I.G.P. Ile de Beaute (the French government, sticklers that they are, wouldn’t officially recognize the grape in the region’s appellations, hence the IGP.)

I posted a brief synopsis of the event on Unscrewed two days ago:

Wines of Corsica Presents “Being” at Openhouse Mulberry Gallery (201 Mulberry Street), April 9 through 11
Transport yourself out of Manhattan and onto the rustic and beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica with “Being,” a one-of-a-kind, artistic event series dedicated to the dreamy French isle’s finest export — wine. Attendees will sample an array of local vins while viewing depictions of daily life through the eyes of two artists.

For three days — Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, April 11, from 7 to 11 p.m. — nine Corsican producers will be on hand to discuss their wines, walk patrons through the process of winemaking, and describe the various grapes commonly grown on the island.

The visual component to the tasting was conceived by Aaron Zebrook, a photographer and the wine director at NYC’s Beatrice Inn, and Gabriela Bravo Clavello, a Mexican painter and industrial designer. Both artists spent ten days on the island during the harvest season in order to capture the essence of Corsica, from the wine culture and the natural surroundings to the people who call it home. Bravo Clavello creatively incorporates organic elements into her paintings by using Corsican soil, vines, and rocks. Zebrook will present his inspiring photographs.

Tickets for “Being” are $30 and include the wine tasting, cheeses by Artisanal, and the art show.

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If You Live in NYC, Here are April’s Best Wine Tastings

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Spring makes her stunning debut not with the blustery, wet weather forecasted for this week, but with a knockout lineup of wine tastings from three stellar regions: Willamette, Oregon; Corsica, France; and Portugal. Rather wine than sun, right? Here’s where to taste this month.

Wines of Corsica Presents “Being” at Openhouse Mulberry Gallery (201 Mulberry Street), April 9 through 11
Transport yourself out of Manhattan and on to the rustic and beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica with “Being,” a one-of-a-kind, artistic event series dedicated to the dreamy French Isle’s finest export — wine. Attendees will sample an array of local vins while viewing depictions of daily life through the eyes of two artists.

For three days — Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, April 11, from 7 to 11 p.m., nine Corsican producers will be on hand to discuss their wines, walk patrons through the process of winemaking, and describe the various grapes commonly grown on the island.

The visual component to the tasting was conceived by Aaron Zebrook, a photographer and the wine director at NYC’s Beatrice Inn, and Gabriela Bravo Clavello, a Mexican painter and industrial designer. Both artists spent ten days on the island during the harvest season in order to capture the essence of Corsica, from the wine culture and the natural surroundings to the people who call it home. Bravo Clavello creatively incorporates organic elements into her paintings by using Corsican soil, vines, and rocks. Zebrook will present his inspiring photographs.

Tickets for “Being” are $30 and include the wine tasting, cheeses by Artisanal, and the art show.

Oregon “Pinot in the City” at City Winery (155 Varick Street, 212-608-0555), April 14
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Willamette Valley’s first pinot noir plantings. Pioneering winemakers, compelled by a vision to create an American “Burgundy,” riskily staked their hopes on a finicky grape in a wet and cool-weather-plagued valley. But the gamble paid off, propelling Oregon into the global spotlight for its delicate, nuanced, often achingly honest Pinots, and the region never lost its soul to corporate, moneyed interests in the process. Many farms and wineries are still small, family-owned operations.

Fifty of Willamette’s top wineries will showcase their favorite selections, including the Valley’s signature pinot noir and pinot gris, along with chardonnay and riesling. Familiar names include Penner-Ash, Erath, Ponzi, Drouhin, Adelsheim, and Domaine Serene. Hors d’oeuvres from City Winery will top off the evening.

Purchase tickets in advance for $75.

Wines of Portugal Progressive Tasting at Lobster Place (75 Ninth Avenue), April 16
Spend a joyous evening drinking Portuguese wine while noshing on small bites at Chelsea Market’s Lobster Place to offset the depression-inducing deluge of April showers slated for the month.

Organizers of this maiden event hope to introduce patrons to the incredible range of Portugal’s wine and regions, from the dry reds of Bairrada, to the crisp whites of Vinho Verde, to the elegant expressions of the Dão, and the rich and concentrated wines from Alentejo and the Douro. Guests will progress from station to station sampling regional offerings paired purposefully with appetizers from Lobster Place and Dickson’s Farmstand Meats.

The event takes place on April 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $60.

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