AMI Zoom Wine Group Graduation

An In-Person Tasting of Old and Rare Wines

Left to Right, Front to Back:
Martin Susan, Nic, Mindy,
Larry, Loren, Alan, Steve, Alex, Jim, Kathy, Martin, Linda
Liana, Joe, Tori, Scott, Loretta, Hunter, Kayla, Aaron

Ready to taste!
12010Château Pontet-CanetFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$22495
22005Château LascombesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux$10192
31995Dominus Estate Napanook VineyardUSA, California, Napa Valley$21693
41990Les Forts de LatourFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$27092
51982Château GloriaFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$14390
61970Château PavieFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru$14691
71966Château Léoville Las CasesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$23592
81959Vieux Château CertanFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol$52494
91924Château Langoa BartonFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$140
101976Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$18593
111957Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$184
122017Gérard Raphet Charmes-ChambertinFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru$13196
132005Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint GeorgesFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru$11092
141985Domaine des Lambrays Morey St. DenisFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis$99
151970Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe BouchardFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru$100
161953M. Doudet-Naudin Clos VougeotFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru$190
171949Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-BeauneFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune$238
Rhone Blends
182010Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-PapeFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$11493
192001Cuvée du Vatican Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve SixtineFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$4991
201988Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La ChapelleFrance, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage$19293
212013Caymus Cabernet SauvignonUSA, California, Napa Valley$13091
222013Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special SelectionUSA, California, Napa Valley$18394
232014Saxum Heart Stone VineyardUSA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles$11095
242001Château SuduirautFrance, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes$14495


Dinner Wines

Notes on the wines:

The group’s favorites were:

1959 Vieux Château Certan (8.5 votes)
1970 Château Pavie (5.5 votes)
2010 Château Pontet-Canet (5 votes)

1957 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve (10 votes)
1976 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (9 votes)

1949 Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-Beaune (11 votes)
1970 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe Bouchard (7 votes)
1953 M. Doudet-Naudin Clos Vougeot (6 votes)

I also really liked:

1924 Château Langoa Barton

Martin, Jim, and Steve

Zoom Wine Tasting Videos

(I only recorded sessions where someone couldn’t attend, so this is only about half of them.)

11/2/2020Vistamar and Crown Point
11/16/2020McManus and Roblar Petite Sirahs
11/18/2020Evans Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 and Crozes-Hermitage
2/1/2021Beckmen and Mollydooker
2/24/2021PETS Petite Sirah and Old Ghost Zinfandel
3/10/2021Clos du Bois Marlstone and Geodesy
3/15/2021Writer’s Block Zinfandel
3/17/20212018 Melville Donna’s Syrah and 2013 Jasper Hill Shiraz
3/23/2021Barbera – second half
3/24/2021Champagne and Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
3/29/2021Writer’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon
4/7/2021Pouilly Fuisse and Ann Albert Chardonnay
4/12/2021Writer’s Block Syrah
4/14/2021Albarino and Tablas Creek Blanc
4/19/2021Writer’s Block Petite Sirah and Romanian Wine
4/21/2021Onesta Cinsault Red and Rose
4/26/2021Writer’s Block and Red Schooner Voyage 2 Malbec
4/28/2021St. Joseph and Cote Rotie
5/5/2021Steele and Andrew Murray E11even Petite Verdot
5/5/2021Mercurey and Nuits-Saint-Georges
5/10/2021Stolpman Roussanne
5/12/2021New World vs Old World GSM – Beckmen and Beaucastel
5/17/2021Paolo Scavino Sorriso Langhe 2019
5/26/2021Katherine Goldschmidt and 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
6/1/2021District 7 Pinot Noir & 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny
6/2/2021Red Schooner by Caymus Voyage 8
6/7/20212013 Flying Goat Pinot Noir Clone 2A
6/9/2021Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
6/16/2021Louis Latour Macon-Villages
6/21/20212016 L’Orme de Rauzan Gassies Bordeaux
6/30/20212011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie
7/12/2021Two Jakes Cabernet Franc
7/14/2021Clime Barbera
7/26/2021Pedroncelli Petite Sirah
7/28/2021Broadside Merlot
8/16/2021Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon
8/18/20212018 Berringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
8/25/2021Para Maria (Stolpman) Red Blend 2019
9/1/20212018 Frisson Tourchet Red Blend and 1994 Don PX
9/8/2021Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec 2019 and 2011 Usseglio CDP
9/15/20212015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal
9/20/2021Broken Earth Grenache Rose & 1982 Chateau Greysac
9/27/20212017 Iron Horse Chardonnay & Hospices de Beaune 1er Cru
10/4/2021Beckmen Chenin Blanc and Block 6 Syrah
10/18/2021Corona de Aragón Garnacha and 2005 Morey-St-Denis
10/25/2021Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Ch. Lascombes
11/1/2021Ty Caton and Gard Cabernet Sauvignons
11/8/2021Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc & Mollydooker Enchanted Path
11/15/2021Spellbound Petite Sirah and 1971 Corton-Bressandes
11/22/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah & 1970 Ch. Cos d’Estournel
11/29/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot & 1980 Ch. Montelena CS
12/6/2021Amavi Syrah & Dr. Konstantine Frank Saperavi
12/13/2021Andrew Murray Alisos Syrah and 1993 Henri Bonneau Chateauneu-du-Pape

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 6

Mondays, beginning September 20 (except October 11) at 6:30pm

Hunter & Kayla
Jim & Kathy
Loren & Larry
Michael & Aurora
Mike & Susan
Mindy & Nic

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half-hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

September 20 Broken Earth Limited Release Grenache Rose 201911.67casemates
September 27Iron Horse Chardonnay 201716.67casemates
October 4Beckmen SYV Chenin Blanc 47yo Vines 202024.90beckmen
October 18Corona de Aragón Special Selection Cariñena Garnacha 20139.58casemates
October 25Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 201910.00casemates
November 1Ty Caton Winemaker’s Cuveé Cabernet Sauvignon 201720.00casemates
November 8Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, North Coast 201720.00tba
November 15Spellbound Petite Sirah 20176.25casemates
November 22Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah 201815.00casemates
November 29Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot 201815.00casemates
December 6Amavi Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah 201815.42casemates
December 13Andrew Murray Syrah Alisos Vineyard 201819.17casemates
Total of all wines $183.66

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 6

Alex & Loretta
Dani & Trish
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

June 162009 Latour Macon-Villages Chardonnay10.83casemates
June 232020 Melville Rose25.68melville—ros-p566.aspx
June 302011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie10.83casemates
July 72016 Castelli del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Riserva “Castelgreve”14.99wtso
July 142019 Clime Barbera Harde Vineyard El Dorado13.05lastbottle.com
July 212019 Poggio del Concone Toscana17.24lastbottle.com
July 282018 Broadside Merlot Margarita Vineyard, Paso Robles17.99B-21
August 182018 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley, Sonoma21.98B-21
August 25Stolpman Para Maria Red Blend12.09casemates
September 12018 Frisson Toucher Vineyards Proprietary Red26.94lastbottle.com
September 82019 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec21.60beckmen
September 152015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal44.99B-21


Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 5

An eclectic selection of worldwide regions and varietals for the adventurous palate.

Dani & Trish
Jim & Kathy
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mindy & Nick
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

May 10Stolpman Vineyards Roussanne14.99
May 17Paolo Scavino Sorriso13.04 liquor
May 24Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé7.49
May 31District 7 Estate Grown Pinot Noir7.91
June 7Flying Goat Cellars 2013 ‘Clone 2a’ Pinot Noir, Rio Vista Vyd, Sta. Rita Hills
41.82 olivos cafe
June 14Scott Harvey Mountain Selection Barbera12.49
June 21Château Rauzan-Gassies L’Orme de Rauzan-Gassies Haut-Médoc 201622.99
June 28Primodì Terre Siciliane Rosso Appassite 2017 by Barbanera13.99
July 12Two Jakes of Diamonds Roman Reserve Cabernet Franc16.67
July 19Calculated Risk Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 201814.99
July 26Pedroncelli Family Vineyards Petite Sirah13.99
August 16Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon35.00


Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 5


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

March 24Champagne André Chemin Tradition Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Brut NV 26.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 31Riesling Jean Biecher et Fils Rosacker Grand Cru Alsace 2018$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 7Pouilly-Fuissé White Burgundy P. de Marcilly 2019$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 14Albariño Rías Baixas Adegas Tollodouro Pontellón 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 21Cinsault Onesta 2012 or 2015$11.67Casemates
April 28Saint Joseph Domaine Guy Farge  Terroir de Granit Northern Rhône 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 5Château de Chamirey Mercurey 1er Cru Champs Martin 201829.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 12Beckman 2018 Barrel Select Cuvee$20.80 (actually should be $45)Beckman
May 19Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Château Roc de Boisseaux 2016$22.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 26Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016/2017$15.00Steve’s Cellar
June 2Red Schooner$30.00Martin’s Cellar
June 9Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (Litre) 2014,15,16$50.00Steve’s Cellar

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Red Schooner Voyage 8

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (1 liter) 2014, 2015, 2016

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 4 – Steele

This is a chance to try all the common (and some uncommon) varietals from a single producer who makes excellent wines with a light touch, so the varietal characteristics will come through very clearly. Retail on these wines was $238.


February 15Steele Pinot Blanc 2018$14.00
February 22Writers Block Roussanne 2017$13.00
March 1Writers Block Counoise 2015$13.00
March 8Writers Block Pinot Noir 2017$13.00
March 15Writers Block Zinfandel 2016$13.00
March 22Shooting Star Barbera 2017$13.00
March 29Writers Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$13.00
April 5Writers Block Cabernet Franc 2017$13.00
April 12Writers Block Syrah 2015$13.00
April 19Writers Block Petite Sirah 2016$13.00
April 26Writers Block Malbec 2017$13.00
May 3Steele Petit Verdot 2015$25.00


Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 4


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

December 30Bordeaux Blanc Château Guichot 2019$11.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 6Sauvignon Blanc Loire Valley Francois de la Roche Touraine 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 13Pouilly Fuissé Domaine Sébastièn Giroux Les Raidillons 201729.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 20Pinot Noir Megan Anne Cellars Willamette Valley 2017$14.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 27Languedoc Domaine de Fabrègues Le Coeur 2016$13.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 3Gigondas Domaine du Grand Montmirail Le Côteau de Mon Rêve 2017 $22.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 10Barolo Boasso Margheria 2016$27.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 17Henry’s Drive Shiraz-Cabernet 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 24Petite Sirah Vinum Cellars PETS 2017$9.17Casemates
March 3Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tour Saint-Michel Cuvée du Lion 2017$29.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 10Clos du Bois Winery Marlstone Red Blend 2012$30.00Steve’s Cellar
March 17Syrah Melville Estate Donna’s 2018$40.00Melville

Right click to download full size spec sheets:—donnas—96-points-p552.aspx

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting November 23, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

November 23King Estate Viognier 2015 $8.50
November 30Au Contraire Russian River Valley Rosé 2017$10.58
December 7Bernard Reverdy et Fils Sancerre White 2019$17.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 14WineSmith Cellars Grenache 2017$17.67
December 21Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2015$23.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 28Mi Terruño Mendoza Argentina Malbec Reserve 2016$14.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 4Pascal et Alain Lorieux St Nicolas de Bourgueil Agnès Sorel 2018$19.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 11Andrew Murray Mixed Reds$20.16
January 18Melville Pinot Noir$35.00
January 25Melville Syrah$35.00
February 1Beckman Assorted Reds$35.00
February 8Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2016$30.00

Right click to view product specifications full size:

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting October 7, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

October 7Charles Bailly Crémant de Bourgogne Sparkling Brut N/V$13.99
see product sheet below
October 14Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2019 Château Paradis La Grande Terre$11.99
see product sheet below
October 21Mâcon-Fuissé White Burgundy Sébastièn Giroux Vers Chânes 2018$19.99
see product sheet below
October 28Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013$19.99
see product sheet below
November 4Cantina Valpantena Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
November 11Domaine de l’Espigouette Gigondas 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 18Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Domaine Belle Louis Belle 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 25Encantado Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
December 2Underground Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2016$19.99
see product sheet below
December 9Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2017$16.99
Wines Til Sold Out
December 16Château Vincens Prestige Cahors 2016$13.99
see product sheet below
December 23Los Haroldos Estate Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2019$12.99
see product sheet below

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 2

  • Alan
  • Hunter
  • Jim
  • Joe
  • Liana
  • Loren
  • Mike
  • Steve

August 31

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino, 2018 750ml

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino
Steve’s Selection

September 7

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia 750ml

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia
Liana’s Selection

September 14

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018 750ml

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018
Steve’s (and Mike’s) Selection

September 21

Nora Albarino 750ml

Nora Albarino
Mike’s Selection

September 28

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner's Reserve, 2019 750ml

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner’s Reserve, 2019
Jim’s Selection

October 5

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016 750ml

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016
Hunter’s Selection

October 12

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018 750ml

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018
Steve’s Selection

October 19

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016 375ml

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016
Steve’s Selection

October 26

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017 750ml

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017
Joe’s Selection

November 2

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017 750ml

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017
Loren’s Selection

November 9

Clos de los Siete, 2016 750ml

Clos de los Siete, 2016
Alan’s Selection

November 16

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017
Steve’s Selection

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 2

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting July 29, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines. I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds.

July 29

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas 750ml

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas $15.99
$15.99 each

August 5

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko 750ml

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko $11.99
$11.99 each

August 12

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz 750ml

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz $14.99
$14.99 each

August 19

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml $29.99
$29.99 each

August 26

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 750ml

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 $13.99
$13.99 each

September 2

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 750ml

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 $17.99
$17.99 each

September 9

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 $10.99
$10.99 each

September 16

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 750ml

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 $23.99
$23.99 each

September 23

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 750ml

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 $20.99
$20.99 each

September 30 – 3 Sherries Compared

Important! Do not taste any of these three before the tasting. They need to be tasted individually, and in order, as you will not be able to go back to the dry ones after tasting the sweet ones. All three of these can be recorked and served with food over the next month, so no need to pour a lot into a glass.

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry 750ml

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry $13.99
$13.99 each

Osborne Medium (Amontillado)Sherry 750ml

Osborne Medium (Amontillado) Sherry $13.99

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 750ml

Osborne Pedro Ximenez $29.99

Online Wine Tasting – Mondays

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting June 8, We’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds. If you want to give the red some time to breathe, pour a glass at lunchtime and then recork the bottle.

June 8, 2020

Campo Viejo Cava Rose 750ml

Campo Viejo Cava Rose $15.60

June 15, 2020

Bougrier 'V' Vouvray, 2018 750ml

Bougrier ‘V’ Vouvray, 2018 $14.63

June 22, 2020

Chateau Vivonne Bandol Rose, 2018 750ml

Chateau Vivonne Bandol Rose, 2018 $19.50

June 29, 2020

Dr Heidemanns Riesling QbA, 2018 750ml

Dr Heidemanns Riesling QbA, 2018 $9.75

July 6, 2020

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 750ml

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio $7.78

July 13, 2020

Hermes Assyrtiko 750ml

Hermes Assyrtiko $11.70

July 20, 2020

Le Pre Vaujour Chinon 750ml

Le Pre Vaujour Chinon $18.53

July 27, 2020

San Gregorio Las 75 Vendimias, 2017 750ml

San Gregorio Las 75 Vendimias, 2017 $16.58

August 3, 2020

Tarima Hill Monastrell Old Vines, 2015 750ml

Tarima Hill Monastrell Old Vines, 2015 $15.60

August 10, 2020

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese 750ml

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese $10.53

August 17, 2020

Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec, 2016 750ml

Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec, 2016 $24.38

August 24, 2020

K Vintners Syrah The Deal, 2015 750ml

K Vintners Syrah The Deal, 2015 $36.09

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesdays

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting May 6, every week I’ll do an online tasting with bottles of wine in cases I’ve distributed to eleven friends:


We’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines. I didn’t have enough case lots for everyone to always get identical wines, but they will be similar. I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds.

Week 1 – May 5

“Breezy and Fresh” is a meaningless descriptor, as the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation and oak.

Week 2 – May 12

This is a limited run bottling of primarily Cab and Merlot with smaller amounts of eight other red varietals which see a fair amount of new oak (mostly American). This wine is usually only sold out of the winery tasting room but a small amount was brought into Orlando.

Week 3 – May 19

California, Oregon, or Chile

Week 4 – May 26

This wine has gone through malolactic fermentation to make it buttery and was aged in oak, hence “reserve”.

Week 5 – June 3

California, Australia

Week 6 – June 10

France, California, New Zealand

Week 7 – June 17

100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine was aged 12 months in 20% new oak, a combination of French, American and Hungarian.

Week 8 – June 24

New Zealand, France

Week 9 – July 1

California, Chile, Chile

Week 10 – July 8

California, California, California, Washington State

Week 11 – July 15

All are Rioja from Spain

Week 12 – July 22

Classic Meritage Blend emulating French Bordeaux

Hong Kong’s Cat Cafe and Amber

Guest post by Dani.

Hong Kong 2017 – Day 4

We started our day with a leisurely breakfast upstairs and debated what we should do for the day. Yvonne warned us Sunday would be very crowded. Despite that, we briefly considered going up to The Peak, however it started to pour while we were still at breakfast so we thought better of that plan.

Instead, we decided to relax and hang out in the room for a bit before venturing out for lunch.

Originally, I was interested in visiting a rabbit cafe, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cafe where you can hang out with rabbits. But a quick Google search revealed they were currently engaged in a legal battle over their lack of having a food license. So we scrapped that plan too.

Finally, we settled on The Cat Store, a cat cafe located near a part of town called Times Square. The rain stopped around lunchtime, so we grabbed a cab and headed out. The cab driver said that since it was Sunday some of the streets around our destination were closed to vehicular traffic, but that he could drop us of nearby and point us in the right direction.

The drive took us east into Wan Chai, which didn’t seem dramatically different from Central. The Times Square area was quite busy with tourists and locals alike, but the cab got us within spitting distance.

The Times Square neighborhood was fascinating. It was different than any city we’ve been to because, block by block, it fluctuated between high-end designer stores in sleek modern buildings and much more modest (even decrepit) buildings with a mix of commercial and residential.

The address of the cat cafe led us to a six-story building in the middle of a short block. Having learned our lesson at Yum Cha, we realized the address was on the 3rd floor, though it was strange that the building seemed to be mostly apartments.

The entryway to the building, the hallway, and elevator did not inspire much confidence. They were somewhat less than glamorous. Seedy is the word that came to mind.

But we persevered and found the door to the cat cafe, which turned out to be a charming little shop. It was cozy, tidy, and packed with people. All the tables were taken but the hostess said we could come back in about an hour and a half and she’d reserve us a table.

To kill time, we wandered around the shops nearby for a while, ultimately ending up in a mall across the street. We could actually see the cat cafe’s window from over there, so when it looked like there were empty tables we repeated the journey through the world’s strangest elevators and returned to get our dose of fur therapy.

We only saw one cat curled up asleep when we arrived. Understandably, the cafe has signage requesting that patrons refrain from bothering sleeping or eating kitties. Patience was required.

We ordered some food; again the criterion was cute things shaped like cats. I chose garlic toasts, toast with chocolate sauce and sweetened condensed milk, and cat-shaped butter cookies. I mean this as a compliment, but Mom grills leftover hot dog buns in butter and the garlic toasts bore a remarkable resemblance to that. The butter cookies were excellent.

Dad had homemade caramel ice cream with apple and graham cracker dust. Mom had a smoked salmon pizza (with corn?!).

While we waited for the cat to wake up, we enjoyed going through the literature on the table. All but one of the cats were rescues, and in case you’d never seen a cat before, there was a handy-dandy guide about how to pet them.

Most of the other patrons were families there with their daughters, so we fit right in. Of course, the other girls were all about 6 years old, but so what?

At long last, a cat emerged from slumber and joined the party. His name was JJ and he liked to talk. He had a raspy little mew and though he complained a lot was very patient with the little girls (including me).

His activity spurred lunchtime and the opening cans woke two other cats. The cats are permitted in the kitchen, which horrified one table of guests, but I figure there’s been at least one cat in the kitchen at home my whole life and it hasn’t killed me yet. Plus I got to pet kitties.

We headed back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. Though it wasn’t raining anymore, the clouds continued to whiz by. I took the opportunity to film some time lapse of Victoria Harbour.

After a couple hours we dressed for dinner and headed to Amber, which was recently ranked the 24th best restaurant in the world. It lived up to the hype!

Our table was lovely, nestled in the back corner of the restaurant with plenty of elbow room.

The food was exquisite and the wine pairing was incredibly educational. It included six wines, all from Burgundy.

The only problem is I never finish a wine pairing, and apparently in this culture leaving wine on the table is even worse than leaving food on your plate. But since all six glasses totaled up to more than a bottle of wine, I would have been on the floor if I tried to drink it all. Other than the worried looks that caused the staff, it was a lovely meal and managed to top L’Atelier (which I wasn’t sure was possible).

Not Corn

We’ve had the pleasure of dining at Oriole several times this year, and each time they knock it out of the park. Last night was no exception, with several new things including a wonderful kimchi and pork belly bite. But the star of the show was this dessert, pictured above.

That is not corn.

Pastry Chef Genie Kwon had a mold of a baby ear of corn made. They fill it with sweet corn mousse and using liquid nitrogen remove the resulting model and brush on miso for texture. The “husk” is a thin wafer of pretzel, and the green part is jalapeno skin. Best of all, it is delicious!

Of course, the thing that makes Oriole special isn’t just the food, it’s the welcoming attitude of everyone who works there, including owners Chef Noah Sandoval and Cara Sandoval, Sommelier Aaron McManus, and all the chefs and servers. Dining at Oriole is like being welcomed into someone’s family.

Aaron’s wine pairings are the best I’ve encountered, focusing on Old World quality wines that perfectly match each course. But one of the highlights is a fascinating cocktail made from Madeira and Vermouth. It’s a refreshing balance of sweet and bitter, and complex yet refreshing. And since it contains Madeira, it goes with almost anything.

Aaron kindly provided the recipe, and I’m going to make it for our Christmas party:

The original recipe replaces the last two vermouths with Noilly Prat Ambre, which Aaron can no longer get, but I found some in London and ordered it, so my recipe will be:

Oriole Madeira and Vermouth Cocktail

  • 2 parts Rare Wine Company Charleston Sercial Madeira
  • 3 parts Cocchi Americano Bianco
  • 3 parts Noilly Prat Ambre
  • Splash of Club Soda
  • Serve over ice

Comprehensive Bordeaux Tasting: 1989/1990

Comprehensive tasting of 1989 and 1990 Bordeaux
Comprehensive tasting of 1989 and 1990 Bordeaux

Every year, in preparation for their annual Bordeaux auction, Hart Davis Hart hosts a comprehensive Bordeaux tasting that offers an opportunity to taste two different vintages of nearly all the first and second growth Bordeaux, side by side.

This year’s vintages were particularly interesting, being of the same era but from very different years. 1989 produced tannic somewhat off balance wines for many wineries, while it was easy to make good wine in 1990. But in a couple of cases the 1989 turned out better than the 1990.

As in past years, among the first growths Cheval Blanc was at the top of my ratings, and Margaux at the bottom. Pamer, right next to Margaux, was significantly better than Margaux, especially in 1989, even though it is a second growth.

Here are my ratings of the forty wines:

89 Montrose 94 (remarkable balance for an 89)
90 Montrose 95

89 Cos d’Estournel 85 (bitter chocolate)
90 Cos d’Estournel 86

89 Lafite Rothschild 94
90 Lafite Rothschild 96

89 Mouton Rothschild 97
90 Mouton Rothschild 99

89 Latour 89
90 Latour 91

89 Lynch Bages 84 (pruny, overripe)
90 Lynch Bages 92

89 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 88
90 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 89

89 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93
90 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93-

89 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 90
90 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 91

89 Ducru-Beaucaillou 89
90 Ducru-Beaucaillou 90

89 Gruaud Larose 87
90 Gruaud Larose 83 (burnt rubber, truly awful)

89 Leoville Poyferre 85
90 Leoville Poyferre 86

89 Leoville Las Cases 88
90 Leoville Las Cases 89

89 Margaux 87
90 Margaux 89

89 Palmer 93+
90 Palmer 90

89 Haut-Brion 93
90 Haut-Brion 95

89 La Mission Haut-Brion 90
90 La Mission Haut-Brion 91

89 Angelus 91
90 Angelus 91 (these two were nearly identical)

89 Cheval Blanc 97
90 Cheval Blanc 99+

89 Troplong-Mondot 89
90 Troplong-Mondot 90

Only about half the wines are available at retail:


Dominus Dominates at V&A

The line up.

Chef Scott Hunnel drops by for a visit.

Chef Aimee was generous with the caviar on two courses.

Pretty presentation.

The “eyebrow” chocolate always creeps me out.

The course we never eat. James used to work at Eddie V’s.


It had been quite a while since we’d been to the Chef’s Table at Victoria and Albert’s, because Disney changed the reservation process to favor hotel guests, so it was fun join Ron and Bev there for dinner and wines last night. The room has been remodeled since our last visit, with nicer cabinetry and lighting. Most of the food was the same as our last visit to the Victoria Room, but there was a new veal dish served under a smoke-filled glass that was our favorite.

Chef Aimee is now running the kitchen, and several other chefs have also been promoted, and stopped by the table to introduce their dishes. Scott Hunnel dropped in to say hello. He’s now in charge of all 14 of the resort’s food outlets. Israel Perez provided the wine service.

The wines were poured in flights of two. The biggest surprise was how shut down the 1986 first growth Bordeaux were. This was the most expensive flight on the table, and the least interesting. I don’t know if they are just going through a “dumb” stage, or if this vinatge is over. There was still plenty of tannin, that’s for sure. But neither wine offered even a hint of fruit or other depth.

Perhaps less surprising was that the 1991 Dominus was the Wine of the Night. My last two bottles were corked, so it was a relief to revisit an old friend.


  • Cauliflower Panna Cotta with American Caviar
  • Roulade of Smoked Salmon and Alaskan King Crab
  • Alaskan Sablefish with Baby Bok Choy
  • New Zealand Langoustine with Nage Crema
  • Smoked Rohan Duck with Peaches and Celery Root
  • Marcho Farms Veal “En Croute”
  • Australian Kobe-Style Beef* with Roasted Garlic Potatoes
  • Selection of Cheese from the Market
  • Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Wild Strawberries
  • Peruvian Chocolate Crunch
  • Friandises

The Wines

2005 Compte (off the V&A wine list)
Green, creamy
92 pts

2000 Château Haut-Brion Blanc (Steve)
Wax, butter, evergreen, peppermint candy, honey
94 pts

2013  Pierre Yves Colin Morey Meursault Charmes (Ron)
Granite, lime, shell
92 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Exotic Asian spice nose, light bodied, long finish
94 pts

1969 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Ron)
Somewhat soapy nose
92 pts

1986 Château Mouton Rothschild (Steve)
Closed, tight
92 pts

1986 Chateau Lafite (Ron)
Lead pencil, mint
94 pts

1966 La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Really elegant, wood, soy, tobacco, dusty, menthol
96 pts

1991 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard (Steve)
Licorice, coffee, great structure, coffee finish, open for business but with years to go
98 pts

1997 Chateau d’Yquem (Ron)
apricot, honey, not quite enough acid or secondary aromas
92 pts

Summer Champagne Crush


This trip to Chicago was organized around two events, the first of which was the Hart David Hart Annual Summer Champagne Tasting. It was held at The Ivy, a popular wedding venue in River North.

I guess the original intent was to have the tasting in the courtyard, which would have been quite pleasant. Unfortunately, Chicago weather didn’t cooperate, and the temperature was in the mid-nineties. As a result, the ill-advised decision was made to hold the event inside, in a rabbit warren of small spaces. The air conditioning–what little there was–simply couldn’t handle the task, and the rooms were soon over a hundred degrees. Even on ice, the Champagne couldn’t be kept cold. And the spaces were so small that it became impossible to even squeeze from one room to the next. A thoroughly unpleasant event.

Dani and I resolved to quickly try only the most noteworthy offerings and beat a swift retreat. My notes are limited to only numerical ratings, because any comments about blends or production were lost to the din of too many people in too small a space. We were in and out in about 30 minutes.

The event did reinforce my preference for yeasty vintage Champagnes with moderate acid levels and some pinot noir in the blend. Surprisingly, the Taittinger wines ended up being our favorite group.

The wines we tasted:

(this first batch was particularly warm)
NV Krug, Rosé ($240) 96 pts
2008 Moet & Chandon, Grand Vintage Rose ($85) 90 pts
2004 Dom Pérignon Rose ($320) 92 pts
1998 Dom Pérignon Brut, P2 ($275) 98 pts

2004 Dom Ruinart, Brut Blanc de Blancs ($155) 87 pts
2006 Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame Brut ($160) 91 pts

NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Reserve (magnum $100) 89 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Sous Bois ($70) 91 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rosé (magnum $160) 90 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Blanc de Blancs Brut ($165) 94 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Extra Brut ($70) 88 pts

NV Taittinger, La Francaise Brut ($55) 92 pts
NV Taittinger, Brut Cuvee Prestige Rose ($75) 97 pts
NV Taittinger, Prélude Grands Crus ($80) 95 pts
NV Taittinger, Les Folies de la Marquetterie (pinot noir) ($80) 96 pts
2006 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (4165) 99 pts

Wines we couldn’t get to:

1995 Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires
2000 Charles Heidsieck, Brut
2000 Maurice Vessell, Brut Grand Cru, Millésime
2002 Piper-Heidsieck, Brut Cuvée Rare
2004 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
2005 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses
2006 Piper-Heidsieck, Brut
2009 Thierry Fluteau, Cuvée Prestige, Côte des Bar
NV André Clouet, Grand Réserve Brut Grand Cru
NV Armand de Brignac, Brut Gold
NV Bollinger, Rosé
NV Canard-Duchêne Charles VIII, Blanc de Noirs
NV Charles Heidsieck, Brut Réserve
NV Michel Arnould Brut Réserve, Grand Cru
NV Paul Bara, Brut Réserve Grand Cru
NV Paul Déthune, Bru Rosé Grand Cru
NV Pierre Gimonet & Fils, Blanc de Blancs Brut, 1er Cru
NV Piper-Heidsieck, Brut
NV R. Pouillon & Fils, Blanc de Blancs Brut
NV Ruinart, Brut Blanc de Blancs
NV Thiénot, Rosé

Delicious Disney at Golden Oak







For the first time in a long time we attended a Disney dining event, and it far surpassed our expectations. Usually these events tend to be rather corporate, and it’s been a long time since we felt like they were worth the money. But at $199pp all inclusive this one couldn’t possibly have been profitable. There were nearly as many staff as guests, and the ingredients and wines were top notch.

We attended the event chiefly because it was at the private club at Golden Oak, in Markham’s restaurant, and that was the only way to check it out. The chefs and staff from Markham’s and a huge part of the culinary and serving staff at California Grill put on a spectacular dinner.

The accompanying wines represented the single best wine pairings I’ve ever encountered. For example, the orange and vanilla flavors of the poached lobster salad and its dressing were absolutely mirrored by orange and vanilla flavors in the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc. (I’ve jotted the retail prices of the wines next to them on the menu.)

Not shown on the menu were the passed hors d’oeuvres , sushi buffet, and a starter chardonnay from Stag’s Leap.

As a parting gift we received chopsticks in wooden boxes personalized by the chefs.

We were seated with a lovely couple from Winter Haven. It was pretty clear that the seating wasn’t random. Each party was escorted in individually, and since everyone there was an invited regular at V&A or California Grill or other Disney events, we had been matched to table mates of similar ages and interests. Well done.

Truly a lovely evening.

Another Kabooki Sushi Stunner

IMG_2198“I can’t believe we’re in Orlando.” That’s what Ron, Bev, Linda and I kept repeating throughout the ten-course omakase prepared last night by Chef Henry Moso.

Yelp informed me it was my 30th visit. Out of perhaps 200 courses spread over those visits I’ll wager that 150 were unique. And last night’s courses were the best of all. Definitely one of the top ten meals I’ve ever had.

I’ll let the menu and photos speak for themselves. My wine notes follow.













The Wines


1998 Dom Perignon P2
Lilac, ash, lavender, creamy, slightly sweet finish, 95 pts

The 1998 Dom Perignon P2 is a second release, made from disgorging the original bottling and rebottling it. It is incredibly over-packaged, in an aluminum sliding drawer box. Fortunately its quality lived up to the packaging!


Jacques Selosse Brut Rose
Burnt orange, angostura bitters, yeast, really crisp, oxidative nose, slightly bitter finish, 97 pts

The wine of the night (of course) was a Jacques Selosse. I hadn’t had the rose before, and it was really aromatic and perfect with the food.


1992 Blanc de Lynch Bages
Seemingly fresh but lacking fruit, waxy, caramel, over the hill, 86 pts

2011 Maison L’Oree Meursault 1er Cru
Petrol, lemon lime, crushed rock, good balance, toast, ash, matchstick, 94 pts

2008 le Clerc Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers
Wood, petrol, savage, good fruit, balanced, 94 pts

1978 Santenay
Light bodied, citrus, strawberry, 90 pts

2001 Usseglio CDP Reserve des deux freres
Very earthy, Bret, barnyard, rustic, chewy, 95 pts

1989 Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets
Tight, restrained citrus, 90 pts

Alcorn Tours Guide to Chicago

Refer to this map:


Chicago is on the west shore of Lake Michigan. Much of the area along the lake is various parks, from Lincoln Park on the North to Millennium and Grant Parks on the south.

The downtown area is mostly high-rise businesses and is comprised of the one square mile of the Loop (so named because it is encircled by the Elevated train tracks). The Loop is bounded on the North and West by the Chicago River. North of the river is the one square mile River North, which is where a lot of the clubs, restaurants and residences are.

The East boundary of the Loop and River North is Michigan Avenue, and the part from the River northward is called the Magnificent Mile, because it’s where all the fancy stores are.  This is Tourist Central.


The easiest and cheapest way to get from Orlando to Chicago is Southwest non-stop to Midway. Midway is a bit easier to navigate than O’Hare because it is smaller.

Uber works really well in Chicago, and is really cheap. But if you’re feeling adventurous it’s even cheaper to take the El, which is always $2.50. The El is the train system around Chicago. The different lines have colors. The blue line goes to O’Hare, the Orange line goes to Midway. The red line goes North/South and the Green line goes to the west. (The Red line is actually underground in downtown, like the tube in London.) Nearly everything converges on The Loop.

You buy a card that operates the turnstiles. You can get one and put money on it at major stations. The same card works for the buses. Google or Apple maps work well with the El

From the either airport to downtown is under an hour on the El, sometimes less on Uber (but not always).

Separate from the El is the Metra, the train that runs north to Wisconsin, but is not useful for local transportation.

There are also horse drawn carriages in the tourist area along the Magnificent Mile.

Things to Do

City Pass Chicago

If you plan to do several things, the City Pass combination ticket is the best deal. It includes:

Shedd Aquarium – VIP ENTRY

*Skydeck Chicago – FAST PASS

*The Field Museum – VIP ENTRY

*Museum of Science and Industry – VIP ENTRY   OR   360 CHICAGO – EXPRESS ENTRY

*Art Institute of Chicago – FAST PASS   OR   Adler Planetarium – VIP ENTRY

I put an asterisk on the best choices.

Museum of Science and Industry

This is a great museum in a huge building that is the only survivor from the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair where the original Ferris Wheel debuted. That world’s fair was one square mile, and had 700,000 visitors on its closing day alone!

Must see things at the museum are the Coal Mine ride and the German U-Boat On-Board tour. These have specific admission times you select when you get your tickets. Allow at least 4 hours minimum.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Huge, HUGE art museum with an amazing impressionist collection by Renoir, Monet, Van Goghs, plus A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and Nighthawks. Even if you think you don’t know what those are, you do.

You can not even walk this whole museum in 8 hours, so be selective!

Field Museum

Dinosaurs, and all that natural history stuff. And did I mention DINOSAURS?

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

There are a number of Chicago River boat tours and even a number that focus on the city’s architecture, but this is the best one, because it has a docent from the Architecture Foundation doing the commentary. Even if you’re not that interested in architecture, it’s a great way to see the city and the river, all the way from Lake Michigan past the Sears Tower.

Chicago Loop Bridges

A retired engineer and bridge enthusiast conducts these very personal walking tours of all the different types of drawbridges along the Chicago River, and you get to go into one of the control towers that is now a museum. This is often a private tour.

If you don’t want to take the tour, you can just visit the museum:

Sears Tower (no one calls it Willis Tower)

Our condo is pretty tall, but this building is more than twice as tall. The tour, displays and glass floor of the skyjack are very popular attractions.

Lincoln Park Zoo

This is quite a pleasant zoo, and it also has a great restaurant in the park nearby, North Pond, which has a Michelin star (reservations essential).

Navy Pier

There’s a new Ferris Wheel on the pier that gives quite a view of the skyline and lakeshore. This is also where lake cruises depart from. The dinner cruise is nice although the food is nothing special. During the summer there are Disney-quality fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday.

John Hancock Tower

There a great view here because the building is on the Magnificent mile at the lake shore. However you don’t need to pay for 360 Chicago. You can see the same view by having a drink at the Signature Lounge.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

This mansion from the guided age is right in River North, and is the best preserved historic home I have ever been in. Elaborate marble, woodwork and tiffany glass look like they were installed yesterday. They host changing exhibits, too. When we went there was a collection of original cartoon artwork from 100 year old issues of Puck magazine.

Chicago Theatre

The opulent Chicago Theatre used to be a movie palace, but now hosts major musical and comedy performers. During the day they offer great tours of the building, with lots of fascinating history.

Randolph Street is Chicago’s theatre district, where many shows open before going to Broadway, and where the touring productions come. The major theaters are the Oriental, the Cadillac, and the Goodman. To the north is Steppenwolf, and on Navy pier is the Shakespeare Theatre. There are also dozens of smaller theatres.

Museum of Broadcast Communications

This conveniently located museum will bring back memories of old TV programs, and has a comprehensive collection of radio history. It’s best for adults; there’s not much of interest for little kids.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

About 30 minutes to the west of Chicago is Oak Park, where Frank Lloyd write built his own home and studio. It’s very extensive, and the tour shows how his work evolved over time. Be sure to book your tour in advance. There’s also a walking tour of the homes he designed in the surrounding neighborhood, but since you can’t go in those I would skip it. You can Uber for about $30 each way, or take the Green line and be there in 20 minutes or less.

Mars Cheese Castle

If you’re headed to Wisconsin, there’s no place quite like this.

Indiana Wineries

If you have a car, it’s an hour drive to Indiana Wineries. Butler makes good wine from local grapes, and Shady Creek makes good wine from California grapes. Do not go to Anderson’s Orchards and Winery.

Tastebud Food Tours

A local entrepreneur runs some very good food oriented walking tours. I took one where the guide stayed in character as a socialite from the days of the 1893 World’s Fair. We visited a half dozen historic stops and had foods that were invented there. They also do brewery and distillery tours.

Live Music & Bars

Many, many places up and down Hubbard have live music.

Andy’s Jazz Club

Good food and drinks, $14 or $20 cover for live jazz. Shows at 5pm, 7pm, and 9:30-1am.

City Winery

This restaurant and live music venue is also really into wine, and serves everything in Riedel stemware. The food is good, and they have different acts every night. During the summer there is also a casual outdoor version right on the Riverwalk.

Untitled Supper Club

500 Scotches, great cocktails, good food, and live music are all on offer in different rooms of this speakeasy-themed restaurant and bar.

Three Dots and a Dash

This is the best Tiki Bar you will ever go to. It’s not really on Clark. Enter the alley on Hubbard and follow the neon light to the door. Reservations essential. Even neater is the tiny Bamboo Room within Three Dots and a Dash. A separate, prepaid reservation is needed here. For fifty dollars you get several custom-made tiki drinks, or can have a rum tasting. Ask to sit at the bar so you can talk with the bartender as he makes your drinks.


Chicago has a dozen Michelin-starred restaurants, but mostly I have ignored those, because they take months of planning to get into. These are some favorites by category.

Things to NOT eat in Chicago:

Deep dish pizza. You can get the same stuff at Giordano’s. When the Chicago magazine ratings come out, none of the top pizzas are deep dish.

Chicago-style hot dogs. It’s nothing special, just on a poppy seed bun with a pickle, tomato, and pepper. There are gourmet dogs in town that are better.

Mexican food. Some people like Rick Bayless’ Michelin-starred Topolobampo, or his adjacent Frontera Grill or Xoco, but I’m not impressed. Chicago really doesn’t have a great Mexican restaurant.

Best Restaurant in Town (and the country) – Oriole

The secret is out (two Michelin stars in the first 7 months) but the best place in town is Oriole. Reservations well in advance are essential. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a warehouse and you are entering off an alley.

French – Mon Ami Gabi

Traditional French Bistro food, perfectly done.

New American – Cafe des Architects

In the Sofitel. The trick here is to put yourself in Chef’s hands and get the tasting menu. Amazing presentations, great price for the quality.  Best to go here on a weeknight when the chef is bored.

Eclectic – Girl and the Goat

Stephanie Izzard’s flagship is always packed, but they hold some tables for people who didn’t get reservations two months in advance. Go at 4pm and have a drink in the bar.

Hamburger – Au Cheval

The most famous hamburger in America is at Au Cheval, but good luck getting in. There are a few spinoffs called Small Cheval that are more accessible. But you can also get Au Cheval’s hamburger at a salad place(!) See below.

Salad – 3 Greens Market

This place has an enormous and fresh collection of salad bars, but they also serve Dillman’s famous pastrami sandwiches from another restaurant’s recipe, and the burger made famous at Au Cheval and voted best in the country. So something for everyone!

Sushi and Cocktails – Kumiko

Created by the folks behind the amazing Oriole, Kumiko was selected by Time magazine as one of the best 200 PLACES in the world–not just restaurants. Craft cocktails and creative Asian food. Best to try to reserve a seat at the bar. Even more exclusive is the downstairs Kikko with an omakase served at a small bar.

Pizza – Coalfire

The best pizza in Chicago is not Chicago Pizza, it’s Coalfire’s Pepperoni & Whipped Ricotta.

If you just want a slice, closer by, you can get one for $4 at Dough Bros.Try the spicy Roland.

Barbecue – Chicago q

Chicago q is not a joint, it’s actually a nice restaurant  I’m not a fan of Midwestern barbecue sauces, I like a Southern style, which is more like wha they offer here. Try the barbecue sampler appetizer to see what you like; it comes with four sauces. They also have about 100 whiskeys and bourbons, and tasting flights of the same.

Indian Chinese – Vermillion

This place is marching to their own drummer. It’s gourmet Indian unlike any you’ve had.  The service is amiable but very whacked – just hang in there for the food.

Steak – Gibson’s Italia

There is almost a steakhouse in every block of River North. One of the most famous is Gibson’s, but this is a new location with a dramatic view of the river. Despite the name, it’s really about steaks, not Italian food.

Italian – RPM Italian

Run by Lettuce Entertainment, a very successful restaurant operator in Chicago, with dozens of great restaurants. Avoid the Michelin-starred Spiaggia.

Popcorn – Garrett’s

Famous for its Chicago Mix, which is half caramel popcorn, half cheddar cheese popcorn. It’s better than it sounds. There’s always a line, but it moves fairly fast.The one on Randolph in the Loop doesn’t usually have a lone.

Donuts – Stan’s

Chicago has some great donut places – Glazed & Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, and Firecakes. But my favorite is Stan’s (six locations), an import from Westwood Village in Los Angeles. You want an old fashioned buttermilk. (At Glazed and Infused you want a maple bacon; you enter through the Davanti Enoteca restaurant.)


Best Hotels in Chicago


Four Seasons

Ritz Carlton


Convenient Moderate Hotels

The Intercontinental

The Gwen

The Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile






Convenient Cheap Hotels

Hilton Garden Inn


Homewood Suites

Hampton Inn

Burgs at Berns


Thanks to Ron for setting up a nice weekend including dinner at Berns and lunch at Restaurant BT. Ron worked with sommelier Brad Dixon to come up with some great wines at great prices. They were mostly selected from vintages without huge reputations, but producers that make great wines consistently. The wines included the only magnum of DRC that I (and I think Ron) had ever had.

We pre-gamed in Ron and Bev’s suite with the 2000 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc by Taittinger, which features a lovely toasty nose and lemon curd finish.


At Berns Brad started us with a 2005 Meursault JF Coche-Dury. A lot of the 2005s have premox problems, but not this one which offered abundant fruit, with a nice thread of minerality and butter to balance it. The predominant nose was lavender with a bit of wax.

Our first red Burgundy was a 1978 La Romanee Bouchard Pere & Fils. This was all about bacon and smoke, later developing some coffee. The wine has great structure and is drinking very young. It was Ron and my Wine of the Night.young coffee

We tried a 1953 Volnay-Santenay from Pierre Ponnelle, which was a great year and great producer, but not estate grown. As Brad had warned, it was a bit over the hill, although Linda liked its oxidized character. Initially closed, it opened up eventually, but was tired. The finish was surprisingly sweet. but very sweet on the palate

The big boy of the night was 1983 Grands-Echezeaux Domaine de la Romanee Conti from Magnum. Immediately upon pouring it was very bright, almost to the point of being spritzy. Lots of young baking spices, a hint of something green, maybe pickled asparagus. Later on rhubarb. On the palate it was very fruity, and eventually began to finish with smoke and bacon. It was an excellent wine, and a magnum at $1300 was a solid buy, but the retail is several times that, and would not be worth it.

Where can you go after that? A different valley, for sure. 1975 Côte-Rotie La Mouline was a stunning Rhone that offered excellent structure and very fresh fruit.


For dessert, Brad produced a really interesting 1927 Bastardo Leacock’s Madeira. Bastardo is one of the mixing grapes that used to be used in Madeira, but it is now almost extinct, and it was only twice ever bottled by itself. One of those times was this wine, which had a great spearmint nose, and was slightly drier than a Bual. The wine had great acid and a long, clean finish with a touch of caramel and orange peel, hazelnut. It was very bright.


We also drained two other Madeiras that very nice, and it gave us the opportunity to compare the sweetness levels of Verdelho and Sercial.

1937 d’Oliveiras Sercial Madeira was quite dry, and not quite as complex as 1912 D’Oliveras Verdelho Madeira. This is my favorite sweetness level of Madeira, as it goes with almost any food. It was almost as complex as the Bastardo.


Brad set Bev up with a flight of Armagnac. The first was everyone’s favorite, a 1960 Vieil Armagnac, a producer none of us had heard of. The other two were both from Francis Darroze, a 1962 and 1963, but both seemed a bit harsh.

We finished with deconstructed Macadamia nut sundaes.


Thanks to Ron for setting up a great evening, and to Brad for his generosity with the wines!

Riedel Stemware Seminar


A few years ago Linda and I attended a Riedel stemware seminar while on a Celebrity cruise. The premise of the seminar was that different shaped glasses make wines taste different.

We went in very skeptical but came out completely believers. So much so, in fact, that I ordered four sets of the glasses and have conducted the same seminar for my co-workers and members of my wine group. Everyone who has ever gone through it has been amazed at the effect that even small changes in the shape of the glass can make.

So when I heard that Riedel was conducting a seminar just a block from our Chicago condo I had to sign up for it again. Why? Becuase for $90 you get four excellent wines, and can keep the glasses they’re served in!


Dani and I attended last night, and even though the venue was less than ideal for wine tasting (outdoors, noisy band nearby) it was still impressive. We also discovered a few new things I hadn’t heard in the previous seminar:

  1. The wine smells different depending upon where in the glass you place your nose. This was particularly apparent with the sauvignon blanc, which smelled like grapefruit on either side and like yeast down in the center.
  2. The glasses are dishwasher safe, but don’t use soap, as a hot glass absorbs the soap and becomes cloudy when it cools. Because of their height, you need to put them on the bottom rack.
  3. The Riedel decanter that looks like a coiled cobra has an interesting property: if you turn it around at an angle once before you pour, it dispenses exactly one glass of wine.

Although The City Winery Riverwalk was packed last night, the seminar was undersubscribed, and they backfilled with random bystanders (who didn’t get to keep their glasses). This was a tactical error, because these folks weren’t really interested in the seminar, and yacked through what was already a difficult listening environment. However we did meet an interesting guy and his son who sat next to us, and talked with them at length afterward.

The wines selected for last night’s event were all superb, especially the chardonnay and pinot noir. They were chosen for their intense varietal character and winemaking style, and I would be happy to have any of them again:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
  • Beringer Luminus Chardonnay
  • Etude Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Florida International Wine Competition 2016





This was my 25th year judging wines at the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. It was a strange event this year. Now held before the fair begins, it’s always a bit creepy going to the abandoned fairground.

Various factors, mostly organizational, have caused the number of entries to dwindle from a high of 1800 to less than 400 this year. And last minute conflicts and miscommunication reduced the judges panel this year to only 8, down from a high of 21.

Still it’s aways a fun event, and although California wines were almost absent from the slate this year, New York wines made an excellent showing, with a single New York Winery taking two of the top five prizes.

Jeanne Burgess from San Sebastian and Lakeridge swept the Florida categories. Go Jeanne!

Steve’s Birthday Food and Wine Festival


For my 60th birthday, everyone at Alcorn McBride got together and secretly planned a spectacular progressive lunch. Each person decorated their office to match one of my interests, and prepared one of my favorite foods. And Martin matched them all with wines. Needless to say, after 17 offices, we were all having a pretty great time, and the celebrating went on into the evening. Thanks everyone, for a very memorable birthday!

IMG_1134Best to take cover when Mike is opening the Champagne.

IMG_1138We started with a Champagne reception in the Sales area.

IMG_0211They gave me a Champagne sword. I decided it would be smarter not to test it.

IMG_2293Who would have imagined that Jim would do bacon? This was actually the most amazing wine pairing of the day, an Alsatian white.

IMG_1086 Dmitri did Hawaiian shorts and tira misu.

Adam did Asian food.

IMG_1123Hunter did “Things Steve Hates,” including Chick-Fil-A and wine coolers!

IMG_1090Martin’s theme was Burgundy, and of course he had the best wine.

IMG_1091Joy’s Star Trek theme featured exotic Klingon food and wine.

Devin did Kitty Kat Nap Salad from Yellow Dog Eats

IMG_1097Loren’s theme was writing, and her food was PB&J (and her wine was sweet and tasty).

IMG_1099Alex made lamb burgers from Australia.

IMG_1110Alan’s theme was Tesla, complete with his own home-made Jacob’s ladder and home-made chili from a wild boar that he single handedly wrestled to the ground.

IMG_1179Kara was one of the main organizers, and was constantly on the move, which may or may not explain why she is blurry here.

IMG_1102Justin’s theme was Epcot, of course.

IMG_1116Scott’s theme was Wicked. Only one witch died to make this green cocktail.

IMG_1119Joseph is our beer expert, and he picked a delicious stour and porter, and made beer floats!

IMG_1106JR did Smoke House garlic bread using my recipe, and it turned out better than I’ve ever done. I’m jealous.

IMG_1171Alex provided hats and took advantage of this one to give himself a Steve-inspired pony tail.

IMG_1165Will tries on one of the hats provided by the warehouse. It may be a bit small on him.

IMG_1182Chris models another of the hats from the warehouse crew.

IMG_1121Mike’s office was ballroom dance themed, with pate and Champagne.

Thanks for a fabulous birthday, everyone! It was unforgettable!

Sommelier Recommendations


Ron has received many recommendations of “off the radar” wines from Sommeliers, mostly in the New York restaurant scene, and decided to organize an event to try them out. He had the wines shipped in and organized a wonderful tasting at the Capital Grille, to which he invited Orlando area somms and wine people.

The wines were presented mostly in flights of three, and by an odd chance the group’s favorites in almost every flight was the third wine!

Ron also added five of his favorite wines, all of which were, in fact better than any of the recommended wines.

My favorites were the 2011 Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc (a Vermentinu from Corsica!) and the 2012 Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie.

Afterward we started bringing out older gems during a late, late lunch. I left around 4pm, and they were just getting started!


Bereche & Fils Champagne
Clean, high acid, chalk lime
90 pts

Georges Laval Champagne
Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, crushed by foot
Ash, beef broth
88 pts

Chartogne-Taillet Champagne 2008
Pinot meunier
Yeasty, mouth filling, long, toasty
93 pts


Jeanne Francois Ganevat Chardonnay Le Montceau 2013
Green, short, very light
87 pts

Claire Naudin Aligote ‘Le Clou 34’ 2013
Very floral nose like a southeastern wine, heavy
90 pts

Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc 2011
Vermentinu from Corsica
Vanilla, oak, marvelous complexity, rich, buttery, spicy finish
94 pts


Ch Simone Palette Blanc 2010
Petroleum, waxy, slightly oxidative in the mouth, short
90 pts

Moreau-Naudet Chablis ‘Forets’ 1er Cru 2012
Flinty, crisp, spicy, acidic
88 pts

Stephane Cossais Montlouis Sur Loire ‘Le Volagre’ 2008
Chenin Blanc
Lush, balanced, toasty
92 pts


Claire Naudin Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune ‘Orchis Mascula’ 2011
Beautiful red fruit Burgundian nose, light bodied, cherries, very drinkable, do not age
90 pts

Chateau de Fosse-Seche ‘Reserve du Pigeonnier’ 2004
Cab Franc
Slightly cheese nose, pimiento, metallic, balanced, dust, tight
86 pts

Domaine du Collier Saumur ‘La Ripaille’ Rouge 2011
Cab Franc
Vanilla, a bit tannic, short
87 pts


Castello Conti Boca ‘Il Rosso Delle Donne’ 2010
Vanilla, sour cherries
92 pts

Domaine Faury Saint Joseph 2013
Syrah Rhone
Vanilla, silky, balanced, slightly thin finish
92 pts

Ganon Saint Joseph 2012
Syrah Rhone
Rotisserie Meat, fruit, black olive, vanilla, earthy, mint
95 pts


Jean Michel Stephan Côte Rotie 2012
Smoked meat, silky, tannic
95 pts

Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie 2012
Dusty nose, bell pepper, silky
96 pts

Gangloff Côte Rotie La Serene 2000
Bologna, somewhat off balance, like the nose  much better than the taste
91 pts

Balthazar Chaillot Cornas 2012
Smoked meat, awkward
89 pts


Clos de la Roche Grand Cru George Linier 1985 (Steve)
Youthful, complex, leather, cherries, very balanced
95 pts

Echezeaux Mongeard-Mugneret 1985
A bit thin, iodine
89 pts

Baron Pichon Longville 1975 (Steve)
Extremely youthful, big fruit, tobacco, umami, gravel
94 pts

Borgogno Barolo 1982
Minty, vanilla, youthful, elegant wine
93 pts

La Mission Haut Brion 1966
Roses, gun metal, cedar, gingerbread, iron, cardboard, still extremely fruity, a particularly fresh bottle
95 pts


Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando – Linda’s Road Trip Blog

I flew up to Chicago on Friday to spend some time with Steve and Dani. The weather is very strange this time of year – we had lunch outside yesterday and it went from very sunny to threatening to rain with the temp varying by 20 degrees all in the course of one meal!

IMG_7764Our view of the Wrigley Building.

Yesterday we went on a tour of the Chicago Theater which is about to celebrate its 95th birthday. It was originally built as a movie palace – outside of stunning architecture its claim to fame was air conditioning when it opened. Since films were silent then it has a massive pipe organ – the largest pipe was built of wood and was just over 33 feet long! The organ console has “special effects” buttons built in for car horns, sirens, etc. to accompany the silent films. The theater sat over 3500 folks and was actually a medium sized theater for the chain that it was a part of. When it opened there were well over 100 ushers employed all of whom had “to be well brought up young men of good character with a minimum of a high school education”. They also had to be 5’7″ tall and 135 lbs. to fit into the standard uniforms. Similar to our Disney operator signaling systems today, there were elaborate button and light panels all through this massive building so the ushers could communicate where empty seats were. Very impressive for its day!

I finished a cross stitch that I have been working on for 4 years this afternoon so we are going to take it to a framer tomorrow morning before we leave Chicago.


Our first road trip stop is in St. Louis. We are staying in a Four Seasons with a lovely view of the arch which unfortunately is closed due to urban renewal around its base. Also unfortunate is that the view of everything around the arch is a collection of decaying riverfront factories with black walls and smokestacks – no wonder they built the arch so high – perhaps the goal was to be able to see into another state!

Strangely adjacent to this nice hotel is a new casino which is quite lovely but filled with the dregs of humanity – dedicated gambler that I am even I was scared off and retreated back to the room.

Memphis was much nicer than St. Louis. We stayed at the original Peabody – what a wonderful blast from the past! And best of all the ducks are still there. It was so fun – the Duck Master comes out (sort of like a Ring Master) all dressed up in a fancy red coat and after a spiel to the crowd (of several hundred) he ceremoniously lowers red carpeted duck sized stairs and escorts the ducks to the elevator for the ride to their duck palace on the roof. In Orlando, once released from their fountain the ducks broke the land speed record to escape the lobby full of children; the Memphis ducks seem to have much more decorum and walked down the aisle with a majesty that would have befitted the Queen of England.

We ate at a restaurant called Flights. They had wine flights of course but also had food flights as well – so for example they had a salad flight consisting of (3) salads – thank goodness we just ordered one – portions were huge – I forget this is the South and all. Along those lines it is kind of telling how many billboards there are for cardiac care!

In the morning we took a quick drive down Beale Street just to check that off the list (they were still cleaning up from last night’s partying). It’s not quite as romantic at 8:30 AM!

I took my turn at driving today as we continued down I-55 through Mississippi – what a great drive! I have spent so much time driving in Florida with idiots that I had forgotten what it was like to share the road with folks who know what they are doing. And best of all there are virtually no towns en route, so there aren’t any cops either. Everyone has agreed to go 80 MPH and it’s an overall dandy arrangement. I was driving Steve’s stretch Lexus which is SO comfortable – the only bad thing is there is absolutely no feedback as to how fast you are going – I caught myself doing 90 at one point!

IMG_0370New Orlean’s French Quarter defies description – you have seen the pictures of course but the ambiance is kind of like the seedier part of Las Vegas mixed with the funkiness of San Fransisco’s water front with a dollop of New York street life thrown in for good measure. Walking the streets is kind of like driving in Florida – you have to assume you are going to be cut off at every pass – folks start to drink around 11 AM and it is legal to carry drinks with you on the street – so it’s a happy but directionally and balance wise challenged crowd. Bourbon Street is sort of like an exercise in natural selection – the street itself is closed to traffic but the cross streets are not – you get the picture.

Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street – a very different vibe. There are still many tourist shops here but there are some fine antique stores as well. We spent an hour in one that was more like a museum with price tags. It was not uncommon to find prices around $75K and there was a painting that had been sourced from the Vatican that was close to $1M. And heaven knows what they had hidden in the back! The place was huge and among other treasure they had a collection of precision world clocks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Commander’s Palace turned out to be a dud – incredibly high wine prices, a fairly limited menu and fractured service – oh well.

Last night however we went to and absolutely fabulous new restaurant (R’evolution). Great wine list and the food was outstanding. Steve and Dani had a 1907 Madiera to finish off the meal – perfect in every way!

Halloween in New Orleans is… well let’s just say it ain’t Disney style.

On Bourbon Street one passes cigar puffing men in red tutu’s and matching bustier’s with a lot of muscles and an overall bad attitude. The young ladies in similar attire go down the street without comment. The young ladies (?) hooking for the strip clubs hang out with mostly bare tops covered perhaps by black paint at the most. They are about 15′ away from young boys tap dancing on the street in violation of every child labor law I have ever heard of. We saw a very dapper pair of elderly men (clearly well monied) with impeccable suit jackets, killer shoes and no pants save for very colorful boxer shorts. Then there was the black robed young woman with a large live snake draped around her neck. And the crazy guy naked but for black Speedo who was bragging about being both drunk and high on cocaine… And everyone else is just pretty much 3 sheets to the wind. Several schmucks had fallen by the road and were sleeping it off on the sidewalk. And this was about 5 PM last night. So what I could not get my head around was about this same time a NOLA police car was driving down the road – could not fathom what infraction they were going to go for first? These folks have taken live and let live to a whole new level!

IMG_0471So what I neglected to mention is the music. Music oozes from every pore of the French Quarter – they seem to be be born knowing how to play an instrument. There is nothing repetitive about it – every performance is improvised – as opposed to soul music this is music from the soul – amazing! There was a street band led by an older black lady clarinet player – the best I have ever heard! Her name is Doreen Ketchens; here is one link on YouTube but you can find others as well:

There was also a band that played in a lounge in our hotel. The room was about the same size as lounges on cruise ships and I always felt a slight rocking sensation (but it might have been the champagne…).

IMG_0529Yesterday we had had enough of the city and drove about an hour out of town to a riverfront plantation, Oak Alley. It was a rainy day so it was very uncrowded and it was a little easier to get a sense of what it must have really been like. It is named Oak Alley because an unknown Frenchman planted an avenue of oak trees 80 feet apart in the early 1700’s. He never lived to see them in their full majesty but now they have grown together and form a magnificent arch leading to the river. They funnel any breeze and in the early 1800’s a wealthy French officer built a magnificent home at the end of the Alley for his bride (who sounds like she was actually a pill but whatever.)

The plantation grew sugar cane and employed about 100 slaves. There was an inventory of them from the mid 1800’s and their values ranged from $25 for a very sickly older person to $1500 for a skilled self taught botanist. Morality aside, just from an economic standpoint most of them were not given sufficient food/clothing to survive adequately – they had to supplement their incomes/food by raising crops and animals in their “spare” time; seems a pennywise approach to treating your work force.



So then it was off to Biloxi and the Beau Rivage. It is kind of sad – sort of a southern Las Vegas built on the cheap for senior citizens who have never gotten the chance to travel anywhere else. The only fun fact is for inexplicable reasons it is mandated that the casinos themselves have to be built on barges. So the hotels are built on the water’s edge and the barges are seamlessly attached to them – you can’t detect the seam from the inside. And no, I cannot figure out how they deal with the tides and it’s bugging me…

IMG_0550Last night we had a lovely dinner in a steak house on the top of another hotel – they had a very nice wine list and also were having a 50% off special on the wine – no limits! Had some really good Burgundy at below retail – yeah! And I even won $15 at the casino last night.

Eating habits in the South – no wonder insurance rates are so high! It is just kind of sad. We went to a sushi restaurant in Biloxi and out of 40 rolls only 3 or 4 of them did not feature tempura battered something or overall deep fried or both. Yuk! Amazingly their sashimi preparations were spot on.


En route to the Panhandle I was amazed by the sophistication of Mobile, Alabama – beautiful waterfront convention center and great local restaurants.



Our final stop before Orlando was in Destin, Florida, at a kind of funky pseudo bed and breakfast with a killer Gulf view.

IMG_0573 I am going to sleep with the doors open and the waves lapping outside.


Linda’s Birthday at V&A


For Linda’s birthday we invited Ron and Bev to join us at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian.

We’ve been going to this restaurant every Christmas Eve for twenty years, and we should really try to get there more often, as everyone treats us like family there. Plus, it’s the closest restaurant to our house, and was recently voted #6 in the country by Trip Advisor.

The restaurant has recently changed from two seatings per night to one, which makes it nice, because you have your table for the night. Given that it’s always sold out, it was nice of Israel, the manager, to find so much space for our wines.

When Linda and I go we usually have the wonderful wine pairing, but this was a special night, so Ron and I coordinated to bring some spectacular old French Wines.


I feel like the restaurant, which was always great, has really upped their game during our last few visits. This meal began with four of the best courses I’ve had anywhere.

IMG_0114We love the Osetra caviar, and Chef Scott Hunnell’s cauliflower panacotta provides an amazing base for it. Israel poured a Champagne from their list that was a great match.
The Alaskan salmon rolled around crab and topped with caviar was also a wonderful new dish that went perfectly with our Aubert chardonnay.
The sable fish with soy  and mushroom really went well with the Burgundies we were starting on.
And this new langoustine dish had us going back to the Aubert to match its butteriness. Wow, four great dishes.
The chicken and pork dishes that followed were good matches to the rest of our Burgundies, if not quite at the same stellar level.
And the Australia Wagu worked well with the Bordeaux.
We had our favorite server, Anita, who we’ve missed on our last few visits.

Our first dessert included their sour cream ice cream, which everyone  knows is my favorite! There was also a chocolate dessert, but we just asked them to box that and brought it home for Chastity.

By the end of the evening we were the last table, and we had a chance to chat with many of our friends from the staff. A final surprise when we got home: Israel had placed a birthday gift in my wine bag for Linda, a gorgeous Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru! What a wonderful night with old friends.


Wine Notes

This was one of the best flights of six red wines I’ve ever had, with every wine showing beautifully. My favorite of the night drifted back and forth several times, but I finally settled on the 1959, which after three hours had an almost infinitely complex nose.

2010 Aubert Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard (Steve) 94 pts

Honey, spice, butter, toast

1961 Pierre Ponnelle Echezeaux (Ron) 96 pts

Cherry, young, Asian spice

1959 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Steve) 98 pts

Green leaves, brioche, red fruit, mushroom, iron, curry, spearmint, really evolved over 3 hours

1978 DRC Romanee St. Vivant (Ron) 94 pts

Dates, cherry, bread

1997 Leroy Romanee St. Vivant (Steve) 94 pts

Wood, sour cherry, floral, violet, spice

1982 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) 95 pts

Dust, wax, plums, black fruits, smoke

1982 Ch Haut Brion (Steve) 94 pts

Roses, wax, herbs, wet gravel, red fruits

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical

Ron organized this four decade tasting of one of California’s first great flagship wines. We met at Eddie V’s and began with three flights representing the 70s, 80s and the 90s/2000s.

I was struck by the distinct stylistic difference between the flights. The 70s represented old school California winemaking, while the 80s showed a distinct Bordeaux influence, and the wines from the 90s/2000s reflected a significant leap in overall winemaking technique.

Although I scored the wines throughout the evening, all of the wines were of such consistent quality that the scores aren’t really meaningful. The Ridge wines improved through the three flights. The group’s favorites were the 72, 74, 81, 91 and 96, while the 2007 was felt to have long term potential.

Following the formal tasting the attendees poured an additional dozen wines. These wines, all French, were consistantly of stunning quality, all rating well into the 90s. Many of these wines were poured blind.

The most impressive moment of the night was when Ron identified the appellation, year, and producer of the 1999 Cote Rotie. That definitely earned a round of applause!

My notes:


Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Flight 1

1972 – wood, some, good fruit, wax

1973 – a bit maderized, caramel

1974 – tight, acidic, wax, wood, dill, slightly short, still has some years

1975 – corked

1977 – good fruit, simple, balanced

(Raymond 1974 CS added for contrast – fruit, vanilla, probably what happens to a fruit bomb after 40 years)

Flight 2

1981 – big fruit, blackberry, smoke, tobacco

1984 – coffee, dill

1985 – acidic, good fruit, slightly off balance, dill

1987 – vegetal, dill, slightly off balance

Flight 3

1991 – big fruit, vanilla, dill, some, coffee, the most complex of all

1992 – good fruit, a bit vegetal

1996 – game, tobacco, gun oil, Bordeaux like

1997 – big sweet nose, tannic, very ripe

2007 – big fruit, vanilla, seems balanced


Dinner Wines

1971 Corton alexis Lichine (Steve) – light color, lilacs, strawberry, cedar, delicate, balanced, nice fruit finish

2006 Dominus (Andres) – black cherry nose, very tannic, ripe prunes, vegetal, much too young

1978 Antonin Rodet Richebourg (Ron) – burn wood, vanilla, fresh fruit, herbs, Fig Newton

1999 Cote Rotie Le Grandes Places Jean-Michel Gerin (Steve) – Bacon fat, olives, superb. Blind identified exactly by Ron!

1966 Ch. La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) – fully mature Bordeaux, very balanced, tobacco

2003 Ch.Cos d’Estournel (Gary) Dense, coffee, chocolate, very tannic, gravel

2005 Ch. Las Combes (Martin) – Great fruite, balanced, vanilla, tannic

2010 Ch. Pontet Canet (Steve) – Surprisingly accessible for its age, huge fruite, vanilla, slate, stones

2009 Ch. Gazin (Andres) – Big, silky, fruitier than the 2010. Blind identified as a 2009 Pomerol by Steve

2010 Cardinale (Brian) – Superb steak wine, black cherry, baking spice really smooth and balanced. My favorite

2001 Ch. Rayas (Ron) – Light, elegant, fully mature. Misidentified as Burgundy (again!)