Roadtrip: Chicago to Orlando 2023

With Dani and Trish moving to Vancouver, we decided to sell our condo in Chicago. So Linda and I flew to Chicago to cat sit while the girls explored Vancouver for a week, then we loaded up a rental minivan with items we wanted from our condo and bid it farewell, as we headed out.

There were some stops Dani and I had missed on our previously shortened road trip, so we set out in completely the wrong direction, heading east through Iowa, then south to Kansas City. These stops turned out to be the highlight of our trip, so I’m glad we did so.

Here are a few notes and photos. You can find photos and reviews of all the restaurants on my blog at

June 3, 2023

Chicago, IL

La herradura mexican grill
540 N Cody Rd, Le Claire, IA, US

Picked at random, it’s in the cute touristy town of Le Claire, overlooking the river. It was pretty good.

Antique Archaeology
115 Davenport St, Le Claire, IA, US

This is the shop run by the people on the TV show American Pickers. Pretty much what you’d expect, plus a lot of American Pickers merch. Friendly staff.

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum
505 Sterling Dr, Walcott, IA, US

I’m not into cars or trucks, but this was a great spot, with hundreds of vehicles brought to life by interesting signs about their histories. Highly recommended.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
210 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA, US

Terrific museum! This really brought the man to life. I had no idea about all his great accomplishments because he got stuck being associated with the Depression. He did so much during his life. A must-see stop!

The Voyage Home Museum
361 E. 1st Street, Suite 2, Riverside, IA, US
The Voyage Home Museum

This seedy little store is worse than I expected, definitely not worth an hour detour.

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
60 Greene St, Riverside, IA, US

Just a photo stop in a town that cleverly linked themselves to the fanchise. Skip it.

Surety Hotel
206 6th Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Okay hotel in a very sketchy downtown.

801 Chophouse
801 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Good and popular steakhouse.

June 4, 2023

Betty’s Place
4766 State Hwy Pp, Holt, MO 64048

Yelp says it’s closed, but Google listed it, and it was a good dive diner. They have no phone service, so no credit cards, so maybe it is sort of closed. Still, the over-seventy after-church crowd packed the place!

Arabia Steamboat Museum
400 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO, US

This is a stunning museum about a steamboat that sank in 1852 and the team that unearthed it from 45 feet under a cornfield 150 years later. The entire cargo was perfectly preserved, and is on display. It’s a stunning glimpse into luxury goods of the time in brand-new condition. The presentation and flow of the museum is among the best I’ve seen. Well worth the trip to Kansas City.

The Raphael Hotel, Autograph Collection
325 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO, US

Fabulous service at this historic hotel. Every member of the staff was just so darned glad we were there! Best Autograph Hotel I’ve stayed at. Right on the “creek” in the center of Kansas City’s beautiful Plaza district.

Gram & Dun
600 Ward Pkwy, Kansas City, MO, US

Funky, almost Googie architecture and right on the “creek” through Kansas City’s Plaza district. Good small plates.

June 5, 2023

Aixios French Bistro
Kansas City, MO

Found at random, this French bistro is the real deal. Located on a charming upscale street across from the park.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
5235 Oak St, Kansas City, MO, US

Wow, I went for the toys, but it was the miniatures that blew me away. We could have spent all day here.

June 6, 2023

Rama Thai
1129 E Walnut St, Springfield, MO, US

Random stop for lunch. Located in a historic house that has likely been many things. Decent Thai food, friendly service.

Hotel Napoleon, Ascend Hotel Collection Member
179 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN, US

What a dump! I need to stop making reservations at Hilton affiliates. No bathroom door. That was a first. It had apparently broken and simply been removed. The towel hook fell off the wall. No bellman, no valet, no one at the front desk for ten minutes. Seedy neighborhood (well, it’s Memphis). Would recommend to my enemies.

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar
39 S Main St, Memphis, TN, US

We’d been here before so it’s why we stayed nearby. Interesting concept where everything comes in threes, whether wine, appetizers, or even entrees. As good as it was the first time. If you need to be in Memphis, eat here. We also walked to the nearby Peabody for a drink in the lobby. We stayed there before, but it’s not a great hotel. Dani and I stayed at an airbnb in Memphis in the suburban gayborhood, which is a much better approach.

June 7, 2023

Old Town Mexican Grill
116 Commercial Pkwy, Canton, MS, US

Okay Mexican food conveniently located next to a Love’s travel stop.

One11 Hotel
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

Probably the last new hotel to ever open in the French Quarter due to zoning, this is a very stylish remodel of a historic sugar warehouse. Neat room design.

Batture Bistro and Bar
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

The hotel’s cafe serves pre-prepared cold plates in the evening, and a continental breakfast. Okay if you’re staying there, but otherwise you can do better.

June 8, 2023

301 Royal St, New Orleans, LA, US

This corner cafe in the French Quarter offers something we haven’t seen anywhere else in New Orleans: a tasting sampler of all the standards. It was great to taste étouffée, red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya, side by side. My favorite was the étouffée, although the red beans and rice are also excellent. They also make a good shrimp Po’boy sandwich.

Restaurant R’evolution
777 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA, US

We had been impressed by this upscale restaurant on a visit quite a few years ago, and it continues to be outstanding. 10,000 bottle wine list!

June 9, 2023

DoubleTree by Hilton Tallahassee
101 S Adams St Fl 32301, Tallahassee, FL, US

Another Hilton-affiliated dump. The lobby looks like a cross between a bordello and a third-grade classroom decorating project. Dingy.

115 E Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL, US

Adjacent to the hotel, so convenient. The food was overwhelmed by an obnoxiously loud six-top next to us.

Date: June 10, 2023

Sensei Asian Bistro
Gainesville, FL

We were headed for a sports bar, but it was packed, so we went to this place next door, which was empty. It was empty because even at dinner it would be expensive, and at lunch that makes it outrageous. That said, it was good. Lots of fresh sashimi (although no soy sauce was served, which was a bit odd). The lobster fried rice was the best I’ve ever had. it was also $37.

Orlando, FL

Total distance traveled: 2,100 miles in 8 days.

Burgundy and Bordeaux at Capa


Our friends Ron and Bev are the only couple we know where no matter what old wine I pull from my cellar, they can match it. So when they invited us to try Capa at the new Four Seasons Hotel at Disney World, we jumped at the chance, and pulled some fantastic old wines to take along. Having met Capa’s sommelier, Jill Davis, a few weeks ago at a private party on Hilstone’s dock, we knew we were in for a treat, and we weren’t disappointed.

Oddly, this is the most austere Four Seasons I’ve been to, all hard surfaces and glaring lights. It’s the sort of place where the artwork is mostly square canvasses of one solid color.

Unfortunately, this austerity continues into the restaurants, including the flagship Capa on the 17th floor. What could be a real gem of a restaurant is defeated by an environment that sacrifices warmth for trendiness.

Certainly Capa has a lot to offer in the way of food. During a marathon evening of wine tasting we tried more than half the menu, and liked most of what we had.

The Hamachi Crudo, served with Clementines and a crunchy Horseradish topping was everyone’s favorite, and we had two orders and wanted more.

The Charcuterie Board was the best I’ve had. It includes Jamon Serrano, Cantimpalo, Lomo and we added some Iberico. The Lomo was particularly good.

The olive asortment included Arbequina, Gordal and Empeltre on the night we were there. Some were pitted, some not, and being served slightly warmed really increased their flavor profile.
The Shrimp coated with Chili were very pungent, a bit overwhelming with ours wines.

Patatas Bravas Potatoes looked like tater tots, but were amazingly fluffy, with a delicious Paprika and Black Garlic coating—some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, and small enough to not feel guilty.

I’m not a big Pork Belly fan, but this version had been seared extra crispy, and I ate all of the generous portion.

The Octopus was chewy and lacked the crisp char needed to make it interesting.

Veal Cheeks had a gamey aroma that was quite unappealing.

The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, and served with a sunny side up egg for dipping.

For entrees we tried the 8 ounce Filet and the 12 ounce New York Strip. Both were prime. The filet, having been marinated, had an exotic succulence. The strip boasted a great smokey flavor from the grill and dry aging. Both were pretty pricey, but worth it.

The Bernaise Sauce was unusually thin (and a scanty portion) but proved to be a delicious dipping sauce for the strip, and its thinness actually made it a better accompaniment. It had lots of traditional Bernaise flavor.

The best side dish was the diced Carrot and Celery Root served with Pesto. The Swiss Chard and the Wild Mushrooms were both unremarkable. Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Brown Butter were good, but not as good as they sound.

We also had an assorted dessert platter with ice creams, cakes, and some really good churros.

Service was up to the Four Seasons standard, with everyone extremely helpful and friendly.

It’s worth the hunt for an unlocked door so you can view the Disney fireworks from the terrace outside, which is a welcome escape from the boxy dining room and open kitchen.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Capa for the great food and wine service, but it’s not a place I’d pick for a cozy or romantic evening. With different seating, surfaces and lighting I’d be there every week.


Notes on the Wines

Capa is lucky to have Jill Davis as Sommelier. She is perhaps Central Florida’s most knowledgable sommelier. The wine list is superb, and excellently priced. On this evening we brought our own wines, and Jill provided superb wine service and insightful comments on all of them.

Jacques Selosse Initial (Ron)
Very crisp, only slight oxidation, lemon pith, brioche, green , 96

2002 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux Domaine Roulot
Closed nose, ashes, caramel, chalk, lanolin, dull, jelly bellies, 88 pts

1961 Chambertin Pierre Damoy (Ron)
Good fruit although thin, light color, slightly cloudy, cork fell in, coffee, 89 pts

1961 J. Thorin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru (Steve)
Fuel oil, acidic, iron, 86 pts

1961 Château Ausone (Ron)
Pleasant perfume, spice box, 91 pts

1961 Château Angélus (Steve)
Mineral nose, nice body, good fruit, 90 pts

1959 Echezeaux Pierre Ponnelle (Ron)
Deep color, great fruit, drinking 20 years younger, caramel, rosewood, caramel, raisins, cherry, baking spices, 97 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Elegant, traditional, dried rose nose, soy, espresso creme brûlée, great acid, earth, iron, youthful, 97 pts

1966 Château Latour Grand Vin (Ron)
Classic Bordeaux, not a lot of fruit left, 93 pts

1971 Château Latour Grand Vin (Steve)
Deep dark color, peppers, tannic fruit, dust, amazing complexity, very fruity, 94 pts

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Bordeaux character, smoke, straw, ripe fruit, tobacco, a good bottle of this, although I’ve had even better, 94 pts


Dock Party at Hillstone’s


Every year Ron hosts a dock party at Hillstone’s. It’s a great venue if the weather cooperates. Last year we froze our tushes off, but this year it was perfect: mid 80s with a constant breeze off the lake.


In attendance were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Linda, Andres, Paula, Carsten and Jill, the sommelier from the new Four Seasons resort.

Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone's
Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone’s

Hillstone’s has gone to a bizarre policy of only serving appetizers on the dock, even to private parties, even though they are serving the full menu to people 50 feet away from the dock. Fortunately the manager who came up with this asinine idea was fired yesterday, so maybe next year’s event will be a bit more flexible.

As always, the smoked salmon was a highlight. I’d never had the grilled artichoke before, which was also good. And at the end of the evening we talked them out of some steaks. I loved the Hawaiian Rib Eye. The accompanying Kale salad was the best I’ve had anywhere, with a subtle vinaigrette mixed in, and a few bits of peanut.

31 Wine line up
31 Wine line up

Everyone brought some great wines. My wine of the night was Ron’s 1959 Clos Vougeot, as evidenced by the number and breadth of my notes.


Champagne sabre-ing aftermath
Champagne sabre-ing aftermath

Most of the wines were served blind, and Ron identified my 1993 CDP right down to the producer. Impressive!

My notes:


Jacques Selosse la cote Faron – Ron
Toast honey citrus light oxidation 94

Billecarte Salmon Sous Bois – Andres
Citrus 90

2002 Dom Perignon – Keith
Lemon vanilla 90

2005 Roulot Meursault Les Meix Cheval – Ron
Mineral slate butter lemon smoke 97

2003 Clos du Pappilon Baumard – Andres
Minerality outboard motor exhaust 93


1988 Ch Haut Brion 375ml – Steve
Slate, drinking older 93

1988 Ch la Grange – Steve
Herbaceous, chewy, red fruit, youthful, coffee, chocolate 95

2006 Araujo Eisele – Keith
Vanilla, big fruit, baking spices, 99

1959 Clos Vougeot Etroius – Ron
Metal, spice, lichen, brine, dirty martini, cigar, dark cherry, tannins, olive, caramel, bacon 99

1961 Corton Hospices de Beaune – Steve
Brown sugar, leather, bit o honey candy 95

1964 Clos Vougeot Gros Freres & Souer- Steve
Spicy, barbecue pork, 94


1985 Phelps insignia – Ron
Pepper, Burgundian, 94

1985 Caymus special selection – Ron
Caramel, pine needles 92

1985 Heitz Martha’s – Ron
Good fruit, mint, Girl Scout cookies 93

2007 Pagliaro – Keith
Big tannins, 90

81 Heitz Martha’s – Keith
Odd, green 90

2007 Pipparello – Keith
Young vanilla 93

08 Pontet Canert – Andres
Green, raspberries, 91

08 Ducru Beaucaillou – Andres
Vanilla, 92


08 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon – Andres
Tight tannic, dehydrated strawberries, 90

96 Montrose – Gary
Tight, green, very young, 93

96 Cos d’Estornel – Gary
Slightly corked, green vegetal, tight, 91

93 CDP Henri Bonneau – Steve
Recommended by Ron, complex, layered, mint, meat, 97

2003 Soldera – Keith
Cherry, vanilla, stewed tomato 92

2004 Madonna Piana – Keith
Fruit, vanilla 90

2004 Poggio al Vento – Keith
Vanilla, 90


1998 Valandraud – Ron
Smoke, Cabernet 96

1998 Pavie – Ron
Tight, Bordeaux-like, Cherry, vanilla, I guessed 2003 Pavie, 92

1998 Ch. L’Evangile – Ron
Classic Bordeaux 94

Champagne Larnandier-Bernier -Andres
Toast, balanced, butter, yeast 93

1992 DRC Romanee Saint Vivant – Ron
Floral, feminine, strawberry 96



For Christmas I gave Dani a VIP tour of Universal Orlando. She was sick after Christmas, so she flew back to town President’s Day weekend to do it.

These tours are limited to twelve people. A guide takes you around both parks, including through some backstage areas, and lets you skip the line at ten attractions. We actually got in fifteen attractions, and then stayed a bit longer to return to the Harry Potter area so we could ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions.

The attractions we visited were:

  • Despicable Me
  • Rip Ride and Rockit
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Spiderman
  • Hulk
  • Olivander’s
  • Hippogriff
  • Forbidden Journey
  • Dragon Challenge
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Grigotts
  • Men In Black
  • Simpsons
  • Horror Makeup
  • Mummy

IMG_6346_2 IMG_6348_2 IMG_6350_2 IMG_6359 IMG_6366 IMG_6367 IMG_6368 IMG_6370_2 IMG_6372 IMG_6374 IMG_6379 IMG_6383 IMG_6385 IMG_6390

Really Old Burgundies


You know you’re drinking some great Burgundies when the DRC shows up and it’s not even in the top ranks of the night’s wines! That’s what happened last night at the Chef’s Table at the Edgewater. Ron, Bev, Linda and I took over the back room for the evening for an amazing tasting of old Burgundies (and a couple of Bordeaux). The lineup had originally not included any DRC, but we added a couple bottles at the last minute, and decided to skip the originally planned ’71 Bonnes Mares.

When opening an old, nearly labeless Burgundy from the 20s it’s always a crapshoot, but tonight we came up a winner, as the first red wine of the night proved to be the Wine Of The Night, and one of the greatest Burgundies I’ve ever had. In fact, this was a night when the oldest bottles were fresher than some of the younger ones (although nothing was really young, as the most recent red was from 1979).

The wines were accompanied by a sampling of the small plates from The Tasting Room. Amazing service was provided by Taren, who also introduced us to her cocktail making skills and gave us a sample of her housemade bitters.

My notes:

Veuve Clicquot (Chef’s Table)
Very balanced 90 pts

2008 Chateau “Y” (Steve)
Butter, honeycomb wax, hint of botrytis, 93 pts

1923 Henri de Behegre Clos Vougeot (Steve)
Bacon, smoke, sweet, blackened sugar, Creme brûlée, candied crab apple, balsamic dressed mushrooms, dark buttered brown sugar toast, toasted nuts, burnt marshmallow, started to fade after 90 minutes, then a comeback, curry, 100+ pts

1934 Francois Martenot ( Dr. Barolet) Chambole-Musigny (Ron)
Sour cherry, orange rind, bug spray, minerality, high acid, iron, smoke, orange bitters, cedar sawdust, forest floor, held up 2 hrs+, 100 pts

[My previous note on the above wine from last year at Peperoncino:
Very light, orange rind, rust, spiced meat, sweet, coffee, candy, tobacco, cigarette smoke, red licorice ropes, cherry, pine needles, great fruit, mint, refreshing acidity, 100 pts]

1949 Charles Vienot Corton-Bressandes (Steve)
Young fruit, anise, cherry licorice, fennel, earth, pine needles, noodles in soy sauce, devolved into sewage/cheese smells after 30 minutes, 88 pts

1949 de Sylou Grands-Echezeaux (Ron)
Young fruit, chocolate, vanilla, gravel, forest floor, pine needle, high acid, 96 pts

1979 DRC Echezeaux (Steve)
Carmel, bacon fat, seemed a bit simple compared to the previous wines, 94 pts

1972 DRC Grand Echezeaux (Ron)
Mushroom, very closed, this wine didn’t really show up for work, flawed bottle? 86 pts

1978 Haut Brion (Ron)
Gravel, bright fruit, solid tannins, chocolate milk duds, coffee, it’s interesting that this year, originally so tannic, is now drinking great, 93 pts

1979 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Steve)
Wax, tight tannic, cotton candy, silky, 91 pts



The Revenge of Burgundy



A few weeks ago we got together with Ron and Bev for dinner at The Vineyard, with the shocking result that the Bordeaux outshone the Burgundy. This almost never happens. So when Ron invited us to join Rhett from B-21 at their home for dinner, I was ready for a rematch.

Dinner, which Ron and Bev threw together on the spur of the moment, was amazing. We started with tuna tartare, smoked salmon, and Ron’s famous balls (sweet red peppers stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in bacon). These all went really well with the Jacques Selosse.

We segued to the patio for Stone Crabs with mustard sauce. What a great match to the Aubert and what a perfect evening for stone crabs on the patio!

This is where the Burgundy kicked in, and the first two were the wines to be all night… until the end, when Ron did beat them, with another Burgundy, as you’ll see.

In the dining room we had a phenomenal baked sea bass, radicchio salad with a delicious Chardonnay vinegar, and then prime steaks from the Meat House. We finished off with Bev’s famous tira misu. (I don’t think I’ve had tira misu since the last time I had Bev’s because it’s never as good anywhere else!) The idea was to mimic a dinner at Eddie V’s, but every course surpassed it.

As for the wines… order was restored to the universe. The old Burgundies were absolutely superb, and eclipsed all of the other wines. The Bordeaux paled in comparison, although the Unico certainly was a great wine.

As dinner wound down, I didn’t think anything would top the two 1964 Leroy wines, but then Ron dared me to name something and he’d see if he had it in his cellar.

For years my go to wines at Bern’s were the now-depleted Pierre Ponnell Burgundies 50s and 60s, in particular the 1957 Morey Saint Denis Clos de la Roche. 1957 was a pretty good year in Burgundy, but I always wanted to try the 1953. Sure enough, Ron had it! Well, not only was it stellar, it was the Wine of the Night, beating the Leroys. I scored it 100 points.

And now Ron has even more bragging rights about his cellar, because where else in the state (country, world?) could someone just pull that wine from their cellar?!

We finished out by the fire pit with some Armagnac. Everything had been so wonderful even Linda was amazed to discover it was 2am!



Jacques Selosse Lieux Dite La Cote Faron  (Ron)

Creamy, Toast, great balance, green apple, kiwi fruit. Smooth, 94 pts

1990 Bollinger, disgorged 2001  (Ron)

Crisp, green, austere, acidic, bitter walnut, 90 pts

2008 Aubert Loren (Ron)

Butterscotch, cinnamon, toast, butter, very balanced and elegant, 95 pts

1964 Leroy Pommard Les Grande Epinots (Steve)

Earth, soy, forest floor, Asian spices, super balanced, crushed pine needles, 97 pts

1964 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Ron)

Intense chocolate coated cherries with kirsch liqueur, really long, 99 pts

1966 Ch Mouton Rothschild (Steve)

Black cherries, bell peppers, pine, really awkward at first, then opened up, gardenias, vanilla, Creme brûlée, dust, then quickly faded, 88 pts

1995 Rayas (Ron)

Cherry pie with caramelized cinnamon crust, fig newton cookie dough, 94 pts

1982 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Steve)

Fading fruit, still goof tannic structure, dust, cocoa, cherry, 84 pts

1983 Ch Cheval Blanc (Ron)

Bordeaux gravelly nose, black pepper, 90 pts

1970 Unico

Very, very young, mint, vanilla, not at all Spanish tasting, 100% Tempranillo, American oak, dill, cinnamon, caramelized sugar, buttered icing, 96 pts.

1947 Aloxe-Corton Bouchard (Ron)

Cherry, tobacco, bright, fresh, balanced, vanilla, elegant, woody, sweet, earthy, cotton candy, charred wood, 99 pts

1953 Pierre Ponnelle Morey Saint Denis Clos de la Roche  (Ron)

Young, perfectly integrated, cherries, earth, balance, vanilla, wood, mint, vanilla, cocoa, spice, butterscotch, charred wood, amazing sweet fruit. I named a producer, vineyard and vintage that I wanted to taste and Ron produced exactly that wine, and it was the Wine of the Night. 100 pts

50 Year Armagnac

Pleasant, but lacking the depth, balance and complexity of Laberdolive Bas Armagnac. 90 pts



Alexander Sage Oyen is a young composer of Broadway-style music. He first came to my attention when a few of Dani’s friends sang on his debut album, released shortly after his graduation for Dr. Phillips High School. Since then I’ve purchase two more of his albums, which include many excellent numbers that could easily come from a musical in the style of Songs for a New World or The Last Five Years.

Last year Dani, Linda and I attended a revue of his songs at The Abbey, and the year before that, Hunter and I saw a reading of his musical, Moneyshot! It’s about a girl who goes to Los Angeles to be an actress and ends up as a porn star.

That reading of the show had a number of good songs, but the plot and pacing didn’t quite work. I sent Alex a couple of pages of notes about it, and he sent me unreleased recordings of the score. So it was with great interest that I went last night to see the opening of the show at the Orlando Fringe Festival.

The first thing I noticed on the poster was that the book had been rewritten by a different author, so I expected a different approach to the story. Indeed, that was the case. The previous slow start, prior to going to LA, was completely cut, as was a drawn out chase scene in the ending (which would never have worked onstage).

The middle part was less changed, although the plot is advanced more through songs and less through dialogue, a good move. The show still has two fundamental problems, though.

The first problem is that it revolves around a love story between the lead and a guy she meets on her first day in LA and moves in with. Their relationship is never developed, and just doesn’t ring true. In fact, since his part has been pared down and his roommate’s part bolstered, I kept expecting her to fall for the roommate instead.

The second problem is that this is a show about a girl who becomes a porn star, but to avoid any nudity (not a requirement of the Fringe, but appropriate for a show rated PG13) her entire career has been skipped. She goes for an interview, and then, except for a couple of arguments, we skip forward five years and she’s thinking of quitting. This simply doesn’t work. We don’t see why she likes the job at first, why she grows tired of it, or why it causes the arguments. And since the arguments are about a relationship that never developed, it leaves the whole thing looking for a convincing story line.

That said, Alex’s music is excellent. I noted many of the songs had changed. I wish he’d left in a couple of the catchier ones, but there were also some good new ones.

The talent was top notch. All three leads were excellent singers and actors, and the choreography and pacing were terrific. Clever use of rolling chairs, tables and couches made for lightning fast set changes.

Music was prerecorded, and very well produced, and the main cast members had fairly good radio mics. At times it was hard to hear the ten or so person chorus.

Four lighting towers topped with robotic lights provided a stunning light show during the overture. I wish this had been saved for a big finale, because the show sort of trails off at the end. It could have used that final boost and a bigger production number to finish off, but that’s going to depend on yet another try at finding a compelling story.

It’s really impressive how quickly they load in these shows, as Fringe has the same theater scheduled back to back to back.

The audience was large and appreciative. Given the care with which this production was put together, I’m sure this is one of this year’s top Fringe shows.

The Night Bordeaux Beat Burgundy


Long, long ago, when I first became interested in wine, there was a general perception that Bordeaux wines were better than Burgundy, particularly when they were aged. Over the decades that I’ve been tasting wines, I’ve come to the conclusion that’s almost always not the case. It’s true that some Burgundies lose their fruit over time, but 1 in 100 bottles of Burgundy that is aged for several decades turns into something magical that I’ve never encountered in a Bordeaux.

But last night things were different. For the first time in so long none of us could remember it last occurring, the Bordeauxs were clearly better than the Burgundies. We had selected terrific vintages for both categories. Our Bordeauxs were from the famous 1945 vintage, regarded as the best in the century. And our Burgundies were from 1949, an almost equally prestigious year. But the Bordeauxs clearly were hitting on all cylinders last night.

Because we knew it would be a late evening, Linda and I checked into the Ritz-Carlton. They unexpectedly upgraded us to a suite. I wish we had known in advance, as we could’ve checked in earlier and taken advantage of the gorgeous room and view. But Linda had a cold anyway, so we took it easy and joined our friends Ron and Bev at the Vineyard at 7pm.




The Vineyard does an interesting balancing act, not really a fancy restaurant, but not casual dining, either. We love the fact that the chef enjoys going off-menu to create whatever comes to mind, and that our server, James, really enjoys coming up with interesting food and wine pairings.


Dinner was the usual five hour plus extravaganza. Outstanding courses included the best ceviche I’ve ever had, accompanied by a brilliant fennel and mango salad, excellent fried green tomatoes (high praise from me, indeed), smoked salmon, parsnip ravioli, Caesar salad, all four fish from the menu, and a duo of filet mignon and rib eye. The chef basically knocked it out of the park. And then at the end of the meal we were presented with an embarrassingly low bill.


The sad thing is that this restaurant is closing next month, which was one of the reasons for our visit. It’s a shame, because they’re replacing it with something low brow, and it’s hardly necessary–the room was nearly full most of the night.


As for the wines, my favorites were very surprising. My top rated wine of the night was actually the Comtes Champagne we bought from the restaurant’s list. It was fabulously creamy, and priced barely above retail. I also liked Ron’s Laville Haut Brion Blanc.

Turning to the reds, the Burgundies just didn’t show up for work. They weren’t flawed, just not exciting. I’d even had Ron’s wine before and left a stellar note on Cellar Tracker, but this bottle was not a kindred spirit.


Of the Bordeauxs, everything was pretty close and all the wines were true to their heritage. My notes follow.


2004 Comtes Champagne (from the list) $175

Cream, yeast, great balance, long toasty finish, 96 pts

2005 Laville Haut Brion
Caramel candy, wax, lanolin, butter, ash, floral, super balanced, long, 97 pts

1945 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien (Steve)
Low fill, Wax, sweet raspberry fruit, chewy, fresh, 96 pts

1945 Leoville Poyferre St. Julien (Ron)
Very dark, tart blackberry, wood, coffee, young, 93 pts

1949 L’Heritier-Guyot Clos Vougeot (Steve)
Ruby, really fresh, fennel, 91 pts

1949 Liger Belair Charmes Chambertin (Ron)
Slightly musty, citrus, 86 pts

1966 Château Mouton Rothschild Pauillac (Steve)
Young, bright, coffee, green peppers, lead pencil, classic Bordeaux, 92 pts

1966 Cheval Blanc (Ron)
Herbaceous, tight, anise, mint, chocolate, black cherry, 93 pts

1976 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Steve)
Red fruits, 91 pts

1978 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Ron)
Coffee, coffee, coffee, big fruit, vanilla, long, 95 pts

2001 Ch Suiduraut (Steve)
Great acidity and balance, great botrytis nose, raisins, long vanilla finish, figs, cream 94 pts




Great Old Wines at The Chef’s Table


We convened in the private room at The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater for a tasting. I have been trying for a couple of years to get Kevin Buckler of Adobe Road to schedule an extra day when he is in town so that I could introduce him to the magic of old wines. Kevin has an extensive cellar focusing on modern California wines, while Ron and I have cellars full of old French wines. So this was the day.

In attendance were Ron and Bev Siegel, Kevin and his friend Henry Wolfond, John and Debbie Henline, Martin Chaney, Linda and I.

We’d never done an event like this at The Chef’s Table, because they lacked the glasses. I solved that problem by giving them 62 Riedel Ouverture series, which worked well for both Burgundy and Bordeaux. Now we’ll have glasses there for future events.

The Chef’s Table staff, and especially our server Teran did a fabulous job. She is quite interested in wine and had researched the background on the wines, which was really neat.

Rather than our normal tasting followed by dinner, I had pre-matched the wines to food. Every course was great, and perfectly paced for our almost 5-hour dinner.

It was fun to introduce a couple of virgins to the complexity of old wines, and I think it’s safe to say they were stunned by the freshness and appeal, especially of the old Burgundies. As usual, serving the Burgundies first took the bloom off the Bordeauxs, but overall every bottle was in great shape and had something to offer.

The menu, followed by my wine notes:

  • Salmon Tartar
  • House Made Smoked Fish Dip
  • Pan Seared Scallops
  • Combination Cheese and Butcher Plate
  • Mushroom Torte
  • Eggroll / Crawfish Fritter
  • Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • Boudain Ball / Chicken Liver
  •  Beef Filet with passed sides: Chef’s Mac & Cheese, Duck Fat Fries
  •  Combination Dessert Plate



Jacques Selosse Substance (Steve)

Complex oxidative nose with secondary fruit flavors that develop after several minutes. This wine evolved for two hours in the glass. This Champagne is made with a Solera process, where older years are added in to new vintages. 95 pts

2008 Chateau “Y”(Steve)

Candle wax, lime, cotton candy, anise, butter. This was a bit of a disappointment as it never opened up as much as usual. 92 pts

2010 Aubert Chardonnay Reuling Vineyard (Steve)

No contest, this wine blew away the “Y”. Wood, spice, caramel, butter, good acid. A great match to the salmon. 94 pts

1953 Romanee Saint Vivant, Bouchard Aine & Fils (Ron)

Smoke, bacon fat, charred log, fresh cherries, fabulous. My (and most people’s, I think) Wine of the Night. 96 pts

1955 Louis Latour Romanée St. Vivant Les Quatre Journaux (Steve)

Iron, good fruit on the palate, earthy finish. 95 pts

1959 Corton, Charles Vienot (Ron)

extremely youthful, pine, dust, wood. 96 pts

1964 Maison Leroy Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru (Steve)

Refined, youthful, mint, dried roses. 94 pts

1997 Chambertin Domaine Armand Rousseau (Henry)

Delicate, refined, great potential, it was easy to see how this could turn into one of those great old Burgundies some day. 92+ pts

2001 Adobe Road Pinot Noir (Kevin)

A great Burgundian wine, the first released vintage from Adobe Road. Wow, I wish they still made their pinot in this style! The wine fit right into the Burgundy flight. 92 pts

1961 Château Montrose (Ron)

Great color, latex, smoke. 92 pts

1961 Château Lynch-Bages (Steve)

Great color, briny, spice box, red fruit, extraordinary balance. 92 pts

1966 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Ron)

Youthful, minerals, forest fire, sea brine, good acid, gravel. Not showing as well as several recent bottles of the same wine. 93 pts

1970 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Steve)

Much headier than the ’66, young, red fruit, balanced. I hadn’t had this vintage of this wine before, nice one. 92 pts

1990 Ch. Cos d’Estournel (Henry)

Huge, structured, balanced, round, charred meat. This wine didn’t fit in this flight, but it will be great some day. 94 pts

1969 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (Steve)

This was supposed to be a 1968, but turned out to be a 1969. Fortunately the vintages are extremely similar, although this was not an exciting bottle. Waxy, youthful but with a slightly bitter finish. 89 pts

1971 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (John)

I think I’ve only had this vintage once before. Waxy, young, tight, green. This just wasn’t a Georges de la Tour night! 88 pts

1974 Simi Alexander Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Ron)

A very serviceable old California Cab with good fruit and balance, nothing remarkable. 91 pts

1975 Angelo Papagni Alicante Bouschet (Martin)

I think there was a lot of disagreement about this wine, but it has always blown me away, and continues to do so. Dark, unctuous, very fresh and young. Linda called it cough syrup, I thought melted chocolate. I wish I still had some of this! 95 pts

1985 Silverado Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon (John)

Wood, smooth, youthful, balanced. Holding up much better than other old Silverado I’ve had. Of course, this was a great year. 93 pts

1988 Stags Leap Napa Valley Petite Syrah (Martin)

Smoke, almost no petite syrah character. This is the wine we’d slip into a cab tasting to fool everyone, and it would win. I wish they still made it in this almost Bordeaux-like style. 93 pts

2004 Penfolds Grange (Steve)

Smoke, huge. I decanted this 3 hours before we poured, and it was almost ready to drink. This vintage is much more accessible than most Grange. 96 pts.

2008 B20 Sine Qua Non Syrah (Ron)

Blueberries, dense, still needs years. Like the Grange, this has 3 hours in a decanter, but still wasn’t ready. 97+ pts

1998 Adobe Road Cabernet Sauvignon (Unreleased) (Kevin)

What a treat to try this unreleased wine made from Silver Oak fruit and done in half French half American oak! dusty, balanced, smooth. 93 pts

Adobe Road Mystery Bottle (Kevin)

This unlabelled bottle was probably 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Another stellar effort. surprising sense of residual sugar, perhaps just a sign of how much fruit is still in it. 93 pts

2002 Adobe Road Zinfandel (Kevin)

Pasalaqua vineyard. Smoked meat, holding its fruit really well for an old Zin. 92 pts

2005 Adobe Road Zinfandel (Kevin)

Winner of the Sonoma Harvest Fair. This is a terrific wine. 94 pts

1968 D’Oliveiras Madeira Boal Reserva (Steve)

Too bad this came at the end of a long evening; it’s spectacular, and would have matched every dish we had. Sometime I’m going to take this to the Chef’s Table and nurse it all night. Burnt sugar, caramel, citrus on the palate, great acidity. 98 pts


Ron’s Birthday at Scratch



Ron Siegel celebrated his (ahem) 60th birthday at Scratch. It’s the new restaurant on Fairbanks in Winter Park, next to All Fired Up. The place is owned by three young restaurateurs who have done an amazing job of designing the space and creating an exciting environment for superb food.



This panorama captures almost the entire space, which is less than 20 feet wide.



They actually closed the restaurant for our party of 14. Our timing was great, because we arrived at 5pm, just before the thunderstorms, and left at 10pm, just after them. Some of the others were still there partying until well past midnight. Scratch is open until 2am.



Ron, Keith and I provided most of the wines. We didn’t try to match the food, we were just looking for great wines.


Every course was great, but my favorite was the rib eye, which was unlike any I’d had. It was served with bone marrow, which I’d never had like this. A bit of the bone marrow on each bite of rib eye was amazing. Easily the best beef I’ve ever tasted.

Also great was the coq au vin, which had an incredibly flavorful bone marrow reduction and amazing shallot puree.


Thanks to Ron for hosting this wonderful celebration, and for all the great wines. I’ve listed them below, although there were many more after we left, I’m sure.

1990 Pol Roget (for the millennium) (Ron)
Caramel, toast, lovely. 93 pts

1989 Jose Michelle (Ron)
Very crisp and dry, too dry for me. 90 pts

1992 Haut Brion Blanc (Ron)
Honey color, caramel, burnt orange, cinnamon, wax, sweet burnt marshmallow, lemon peel, I love this, and hadn’t had this vintage before. Keith felt it was oxidative, which is probably true, but one of the things I love about old HBB. Certainly unidentifiable as sauvignon blanc. 92 pts

2008 Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour (Keith)
Extremely floral, acacia, soft buttery finish, fairly simple, would hav egone well with the scallop, but didn’t match the ceviche. 90 pts

1961 Clos Vougeot Grivelet (Steve)
Tamarind, earthy, rich, medium garnet, orange peel, still good tannins, very appealing considering this was only a so-so year in Burgundy. 93 pts

1949 Clos Vougeot (Ron)
Mineral, sawdust, iron, blood, sweet finish, oranges, charred wood, this took a while to come around, but turned out to be great. 94 pts

1995 Corton Renauds (Keith)
Seashore, cherry, short, 88 pts

1970 DRC La Tache (Ron)
Good color, surprisingly tannic, vanilla, citrus, fairly simple, a good wine, but not a great quality to price ratio. 91 pts

1961 Ch Lynch Bages (Steve)
Very, very young, bright red cherries, vanilla, blockbuster, glad I have several more. 98 pts

1978 Ch Haut Brion (Ron)
Chalk, peppers, gravel, dust, slightly musty, I think this bottle was slightly off. 92 pts

1989 Ch Cheval Blanc (Keith)
Really balanced, vanilla, cherry, tannic, mint, black pepper, great aging potential, tobacco, I love Cheval, and this is the best (and youngest) one I’ve had in a while. 96 pts +

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Perfect bottle, gravel, sweet cherry, long mint, cinnamon, smoky wood, This wine, poorly rated by Parker, is almost always my wine of the night. 99 pts

1983 Ch Margaux (Ron)
Seashells, briny, tannic, talcum powder, chocolate coated cherries, wood, this is why I don’t collect Margaux any more. 92 pts

1994 Ch Pavie Macquin (Gary)
Nicely balanced, dust, chocolate, tannin, youthful, good food wine, good with beef. 90 pts

1982 Ch L’Evangile (Keith)
Tar, extremely chewy, long tannic cherry finish, mint, herbs, pine forest floor, mushrooms, this is one of Keith’s favorite wines, and I can see why. This is the best 1982 I’ve had. 99 pts

1968 Grange (Ron)
Burnt mesquite, wormwood, young, probably still not ready, tannic, long, did I mention tannic, powerhouse that make be at its peak in another 50 years. 95 pts

1970 Lynch Bages (magnum) (Ron)
Bright red fruits, succulent, tart finish, pleasant, but a shadow of the 1961, 92 pts

1993 Ch Pajzos Esszencia (Steve)
I opened this because we needed to leave and I wanted to taste it, so I left the bottle for everyone else. I hope they enjoyed it. A Robert Parker 100 pointer with a reason. Phenolic, citrus, syrupy consistency but amazing acidity to offset it, dried fruits, pear, apricot, smoke, apple, caramel, kumquat, greatest dessert wine I’ve ever had, including Yquem. 100  pts


2011 Bordeaux

Last year we attended the 2010 Bordeaux tasting at the Rosen Shingle Creek, and it was a terrific event, so we were looking forward to this year’s version. Quite a few of our friends also attended, so there were 15 of us in all. That was actually a fairly large percentage of the total attendance of 150-200, which seemed to be down from last year, perhaps because ABC provided no way to buy the tickets online.

The event was held in one of the large conference spaces at the Rosen. We’d planned to have some sushi before hand, but a large sales convention had taken over nearly all the restaurants. We ended up at the bar of A Land Remembered for a tuna appetizer.

At the event we quickly learned why 2011 is not regarded as a great year in Bordeaux. The wines were mostly tannic but green, short, off balance, and thin. Certainly nothing like the 2009s and 2010s. Interestingly, though, the better producers managed to make significantly better wines than the lesser ones. While this isn’t surprising, the stratification was noteworthy, with almost no wines in the middle. Each wine seemed to be either completely unappealing or very good, with almost none falling in between.

It only took about an hour to try most of the promising wines, although we skipped a few whites and the Sauternes. As was the case last year, the obscure Château St. Pierre was probably the best buy.

The food last year was plentiful, but this year is seemed either more limited or simply delayed, and the attendees fell on it like hungry wolves. With long lines for the hot food we decided to leave and go to Calla Bella, the hotel’s Italian restaurant. We had a fairly uninspired meal there last year, but this year, sitting at the presentation bar that faces the kitchen we had excellent food and service. The Marguerita flatbread was authentically Italian, the Chilean sea bass was done with a deft touch, and the mushroom side was great.

If they do the event again next year I will definitely go, but I suspect similar results for the 2012 vintage.

Here are my notes on the wines:


Château d’Aiguilhe

Tight 88


Château Branaire Ducru

Tannic, some potential 89


Château Brane Cantenac

Really tannic 88


Brane Baron

Balanced 90


Château Camensac

Drinkable vanilla 88


Château Canon La Gaffelière

Green 89


Château Cantemerle

Very green 86


Château Cantenac Brown

Tannic 88


Château Carbonnieux

White: SB nose, astringent 85

Red: balanced 88


Château Chasse Spleen

Very rough 86


Château Clinet

Great structure 95



Smooth but short 89


Clos de L’Oratoire

Tight, thin 87



Short 86



Tannic 87


Château Gloria

Great coffee nose 91


Château Grand Puy Lacoste

Balanced 90


Lacoste Borie

Tannin mint 87


Château Haut Batailley

Very drinkable 92


Château Haut Bages Libéral

Green bitter 84


Château Lafon Rochet

Tannic green 85


Château LaPointe

Varietal balanced 94


De LaPointe

Merlot 89


La Tour Carnet

Good structure 90


Château Langoa Barton

Rough 85


Château Léoville Barton

Smooth 87


Château Léoville Poyferré

Mint, nice balance 95


Château Lynch Bages

Tannic 89


Echo de Lynch Bages

Drinkable 85


Clos Marsalette

Smooth 89


Phelan Segur

Awkward 87


Château Pichon Longueville Baron

Good structure 94


Château Suduiraut


Pape Clement

Great structure 95



Dense, chocolate, coffee, Pauillac 93


Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Coffee gravel smooth 95


Château St. Pierre

Beautiful coffee nose, great structure 94


Château Talbot

Great balance 95


10 Million Words


From the time Dani was a baby until she went off to college, I read to her every night. As the years passed, our reading material became a lot more sophisticated, but we never tired of the routine. Here are the books (that I can remember) that we enjoyed over the years.

The Shy Little Horse and hundreds of other stories
But Not the Hippopotamus and hundreds of other picture books
Pony Pals (many)
RL Stein books (Many)
The Cat in the Hat
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (many times)
To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street
Yertle the Turtle
Horton Hears a Who
Horton Hatches the Egg
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Lorax
Madeleine (and its sequels)
Howliday Inn
Alice in Wonderland
Tom Sawyer (twice)
Huckleberry Finn
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Silent Storm
Walk Two Moons
The Cave
The Princess Bride
The Dragon In the Cliff
A Bone From a Dry Sea
Letters From Felix
The Princess and the Goblin
Where the Wild Things Are
The Wind In the Willows
The Willows In Winter
Peter Pan
Peter Pan in Scarlet
The Lion’s Paw
The Phantom Toll Booth
SOS Titanic
Night Tree
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (about ten times)
Wolf Story (many times)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Last Battle
The Indian In the Cupboard
The Return of the Indian
The Secret of the Indian
The Mystery of the Cupboard
The Key to the Indian
The Westing Game
Chasing Redbird
Sarah Plain and Tall
Dealing with Dragons (and its sequels)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Island of the Blue Dolphins
A Cricket In Times Square (and its sequels)
The Wheel on the School
Mary Poppins (the original novel)
101 Dalmatians (the original novel)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the original novel)
Misty of Chincoteague (and its sequels)
Hank, The Cowdog (and many sequels)
A Night to Remember
Back to Titanic
Back to Lincoln
Back to Paul Revere
Goodnight Moon
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Wizard of Oz
Green Eggs and Ham
The Polar Express
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
The Napping House
The Little Engine That Could
Curious George
Arthur series (many books)
Berenstein Bears series (many books)
Clifford series (many books)
Linnea in Monet’s Garden
The Boxcar Children series (many books)
Charlotte’s Web
A Wrinkle In Time
The Secret Garden
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (and its sequels)
The Trumpet of the Swan
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Stuart Little
The Borrowers series (many books)
The Pearl
Walker of Time
Tag Against Time
Walker’s Journey Home
She Flew No Flags
Watership Down
The Call of the Wild
White Fang
The Shipping News
The Crystal Cave
The Hollow Hills
The Old Man and the Sea
To Have and Have Not
Myst: The Book of Atrus
Myst: The Book of Ti’Ana
Myst: The Book of D’ni
On a Pale Horse
Bearing an Hourglass
With a Tangled Skein
Wielding a Red Sword
Being a Green Mother
For Love of Evil
And Eternity
Perry Mason (several)
Shutter Island
Void Moon
Chasing the Dime
Harry Bosch novels (four or so)
The Doomsday Book
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Lincoln’s Dream
Three Men in a Boat
Three Men on the Bummel
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Mirror of her Dreams
A Man Rides Through
The Lincoln Hunters
Harry Potter And the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Black Dahlia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Valley of Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
Empire Falls
Straight Man
Nobody’s Fool
Bridge of Sighs
The Seventh Scroll
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Round Ireland with a Fridge
Ring of Diamonds
A Matter of Justice
Everything In Its Path
Cider House Rules
The World According to Garp
Snow Falling on Cedars
East of the Mountains
The Blind Assassin
Oryx and Crake

And Many, Many More

France Conquers Italy

Not since the days of Napoleon has it been so clear who ruled Europe.

Keith Edwards organized an extraordinarily informative tasting designed to compare ten Italian merlots with ten Bordeaux wines consisting of at least 75% merlot. In attendance were Keith, Parlo, Ron, Bev, Andres, Paula, Russell, Linda and I.

What a great location K Restaurant was! The appetizers before the event were also the best we’ve had, and included deviled eggs, crab hors d’ouvres, and some great cheeses.


Blind Tasting

Wines were served double blind through a complex mechanism that guaranteed each flight would have one Italian and one French wine. Keith provided a wonderful tasting booklet for our notes.

The flights turned out to be:

Flight 1

1998 L’Evangile 250 (Andres) 92 pts

1998 Le Macchiole’s Messorio (Bolgheri, Tuscany) $238 (Keith) 91 pts

Flight 2

2006 Bellevue Mondotte $70 (Russell) 88 pts

2004 Petrolo Galatrona (Arezzo, Tuscany) $264 (Keith) 93 pts

Flight 3

1996 Tua Rita Redigaffi (Suvereto, Tuscany) $259 (Keith) 84 pts

1998 Valandraud $160 (Ron) 92 pts

Flight 4

2000 Clos L’Eglise $140 (Ron) 92 pts

1995 Castello di Ama L’Apparita (Chianti Classico, Tuscany) $254 (Keith) 88 pts

Flight 5

1994 Chateau Angelus $170 (Ron) 92 pts

2004 San Giusto a Rentennano La Ricolma (Chianti Classico, Tuscany) $115 (Keith) 83 pts

Flight 6

1997 Lamaione (keith) 92 pts

1957 Petrus $462 (Steve) 96 pts

Flight 7

1993 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto (Bolgheri, Tuscany) $234 (Keith) 94 pts

1996 La Mondotte $185 (Russell) 93 pts

Flight 8

2006 Petra’s Quercegobbe Merlot (Suvereto, Tuscany) $54 (Keith) 91 pts

1998 Chateau Pavie $200 (Ron) 92 pts

Flight 9/10 (combined because otherwise the last flight would be obvious)

1997 Gravner Rujno $179 (Keith) 86 pts

1995 Clinet (Keith) (Badly Corked)

1996 Clos Fourtet (Andres) 84 pts

2001 Miani Colli Orientali $250 (Ron) 83 pts


Observations on the Blind Tasting

  • With only one exception, the French wine was better than the Italian wine.
  • In almost every case it was obvious which country the wine came from.
  • The Italian wines were, with the exception of the Masseto, quite disappointing.
  • The last four wines were close to undrinkable.
  • The Petrus obviously didn’t belong in a blind tasting with these, but it was excellent. I was very worried because it was an off vintage, and had been open two hours before we got to it, but in fact it held up for five hours. I guess there’s a reason Petrus is so expensive.
  • The other wine that stood out was the 2000 Clos L’Eglise, which has an extraordinary candy shop nose. It turned out this wine was 30% Cabernet Franc, so it was disqualified as a merlot, but it was definitely the best contemporary wine.
  • Except for the Petrus, and perhaps the Clos L’Eglise, the good wines were all too young to drink.
  • It’s easy to generalize and say French wines are better than Italian (which may well be the case) but it’s important to remember this was a merlot tasting, and Pomerol merlots are among the best French wines, while one wonders if they should be growing merlot in Italy at all.



After the formal tasting, we segued into dinner, which was excellent. Shrimp on spicy grits, heirloom tomatoes, duck confit with goat cheese and a crispy crusted fish over corn were the standouts.

The wines poured during dinner were, in general, much better than the tasting wines. My notes:

95 Klaus Riesling Schloss Schonborn (Keith)

An incredible match with shrimp on spicy grits, not too sweet, 94 pts


2001 Ch Chevalier Blanc (Keith) 

Nutty, lucious, waxy, 94 pts


1982 Savigny Les Beaune Lavieres Robert Ampeau (Steve) 

Refined, thin, dried flowers, rust, 90 pts


2009 Gavi di Gavi il Monterotondo Il Gabbiano white (Andres)

Balanced, good food wine, 88 pts


1968 Vina Valoria Rioja (Steve)

Dill, balanced, youthful, cherry, Burgundian, Andres loved this, chocolate coated dill pickles, just kept getting better in the glass, 95 pts


62 Chambolle Musigny J Henri Remy (Ron)

Rust, Cherries, meat, charred cedar plank, animal fat, herbs, 98 pts


1990 Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet (Keith)

Vanilla, sweet, balanced, chocolate covered cherries, animal fat, 100 point Parker wine, 96 pts


1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)

Tobacco, gravel, the sea, gun metal, sweet, always Paula’s favorite wine, 99 pts


That was all the fun Linda could take, so we said our goodbyes and left the group to ponder dessert and, no doubt, more wine!


Wine Lunch on Hillstone’s Dock


Ron arranged this lovely Saturday afternoon event for a fairly large group. The weather was cool and blustery, but plastic panels kept out most of the wind, and it was a delightful  venue, with great service by Laura and delicious food by Hillstone (formerly Houston’s)

In attendance were Ron, Bev, Linda, Keith, Parlo, Andres, Gary, Trish, Carsten (Luma), John (Augustan Wines), Richard, and Noel

NV Shramsberg Rose (Hillstone)
Strawberries, good balance, 88

NV Bouzy Camille Saves (John)
Yeast, toast, 90

93 Haut Brion (Linda)
Chalk, candle wax, lanolin, lemon, honey, vanilla bean, 96

07 Sancerre cuvée les deserts Philippe Auchere (Keith)
Lemon, ash, 90

34 Volnay Champans Boisseaux-Estivant (Steve)
Rust, copper, cinnamon, blood orange peel, a bit thin, sandalwood, smoked meat, red apple peel, 93

1958 Barolo Antichi Vignetti Propri (Keith)
Sea air, iodine, miss, wet pennies, sweet finish, 93

1990 Echezeaux grand cru virile-Vignes Mongeard Muneret (Ron)
Classic mature burg, tons of fruit, cherries, smoke, wood, roses, 95

71 Volnay Nicolas Potel (Ron)
Light in color, pinot nose, smoke, wood, lemon curd, Key lime pie, mint, 94

59 Ch Grand Puy Ducasse Puillac (Steve)
Youthful, fruity, classic Bordeaux, iron, wood, glad I have 3 bottles left, 93

67 Ch L’Evangile Pomerol (Keith)
Fresh, fruity, sandalwood, candle wax, coffee liqueur, cotton candy, bubble gum, astonishingly good for a 1967, 93

83 Ch Lynch Bages (Ron)
Big, tannic, chewy, cherry, tobacco, cedar, pencil lead,  similar to La Mission Hair Brion, but perhaps a bit awkward, 92

83 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
Fruity, good for ten more years, baking spice, cherries, iron, wax, 93

82 Ch Trotanoy Pomerol (Ron)
Youthful, iron, vanilla, mint, 96

2007 Pierre Usseglio Cuvée de mon Aieul CDP (Ron)
Chocolate, raspberry, sweet fruit finish, cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, 97

2009 Delas Les Bessardes Hermitage (Ron)
Meat, smoke, bacon, vanilla, must less sweet finish than the CDP 99

(Both of these last two Rhones were Robert Parker 100 pointers)


Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salad

For my birthday, Linda fixed this recipe which she modified from a version at

She also made a tuna tartare, avocado and cucumber vorspeisenringe.

We enjoyed all three on the veranda and then went in the spa. Ah, Orlando in the dead of winter.


Citrus Salad:

  • 2 large oranges
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Vegetable or canola oil, for oiling the grill
  • 4 (4 to 5-ounce) center cut salmon fillets, skinned, each about 3-inches square
  • 2 tablespoons amber agave nectar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the salsa: Peel and trim the ends from each orange. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, mint, red peppers, orange zest, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Toss lightly and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

For the salmon: Put a grill rack on charcoal grill. Brush the grilling rack with vegetable oil to keep the salmon from sticking. Brush the salmon on both sides with the agave nectar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the citrus salad on the side as an accompaniment.

Per Serving: Calories 497; Total Fat 33 grams; Saturated Fat 6 grams; Protein 30 grams; Total Carbohydrate 19 grams; Sugar: 15 grams; Fiber 3 grams; Cholesterol 78 milligrams; Sodium 457 milligrams

Stellar Old Wines at Luma

Ron organized a great event in the downstairs room at Luma. Although the food wasn’t quite as good as our spectacular dinner there last month, the wines were stellar, spanning the great years, from 1947 (all time best Burgundy year) to 2000 (a DRC Ron pulled out at the last minute).

In attendance were Ron, Bev, Linda, Barbara (from Pepperoncino), Keith, Parlo, Andres, Paula, and Russell. Thanks for the great wines, everyone!

The Wines

1996 Roederer Cristal (Ron)
Vanilla, yeast
97 pts

NV Jacques Selosse (Ron)
Good acid
95 pts

75 Ch Palmer (Russell)
Medium body, underlying fruit, clay, wood finish, caramel, mint
90 pts

93 Haut Brion Blanc (Ron)
Semolina nose, perfect balance, fatty, lichee nut, white pepper, wax, limestone, pineapple, tropical, lush, buttery
99 pts

04 Corton Charlemagne Bouchard (Keith)
Lemon grass, key lime peel, ash, dusty, white asparagus, high acid, sea shell
90 pts

1947 Casa de Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon
Recorked 1982 at Sebastiani Vineyards from the personal cellar of August Sebastiani
Good fruit and acid, youthful, bacon, wood, youthful
93 pts

71 -Nuits St Georges Arguillieres Remoissenet (Keith)
Mushrooms, fruit, balance
93 pts

64 Chambolle Musigny Remoissenet (Keith)
A bit of corkiness increased with air
88 pts

71 Corton Remoissenet (Steve)
Toasted marshmallows, great fruit, great structure
95 pts

47 Chambertin Clos de Beze Remoissenet (Ron)
Gun oil, spice, very young, earthy, smoke, horse stable
99 pts

47 Romanee Saint Vivant Drapier (Steve)
Cinammon, raspberry, cream, great balance
98 pts

61 Bonne Mares Hudeolet (Ron)
Earthy, good fruit, wood
97 pts

66 Ch Loeoville Poyfere (Keith)
Dust, youthful, mint, a bit short
88 pts

66 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Not typical LMHB, gun oil, peat, mushroom
86 pts

66 Ch Canon La Gaffeliere (Keith)
Candy nose, sweet caramel. pastry, cream, young fruit, tannin, died quickly
89 pts

62 Ch Haut Brion (Steve)
Classic Graves, elegant
92 pts

71 Ch Haut Brion (Steve)
Butter, Classic Graves, tight, coffee, smoke
93 pts

90 Ch Haut Brion (Ron)
Very young, cucumber, peppercorn
94 pts

94 Petrus (Andres)
Mouth filling, balanced, red fruits, wood
92 pts

82 Lynch Bages (Russell)
Coffee, chewy, big fruit, young, mint, chocolate, tannic
94 pts

89 Lynch Bages (Keith)
Chewy, mint, tannic monster, chocolate, chlorine, needs many years
92 pts

2001 Ch Climens (Ron)
A bit dull, peppery, petrol, considering this is a 100 pt wine, rather surprising
90 pts

2001 Ch Riussec (Ron)
Botrytis, acidic, slightly off balance
91 pts

2000 Echezeaux DRC (Ron)
Smoke, leather, cherries, tobacco, raw blood sausage, iron, needs many years
92 -> 96? pts


Epcot’s 30th Anniversary

Jim, Martin, Jeremy and I visited Epcot to celebrate the 30th anniversary on October 1, 2012. The park was crowded, but not insanely so. There were lots of people there wearing vintage Epcot shirts, so it was rewarding to see the fans turning out to support their park.

We went on quite a few attractions, resulting in mixed feelings.

We started in Seas, which wasn’t there 30 years ago. Certainly the Nemo ride and Turtle Talk are big improvements over the original Seas Pavilion.

Next up was Land. The boat ride is probably the most unchanged of all Epcot attractions, and reminds us that originally the idea of Futureworld was to educate. We skipped Soarin’, which was already pretty much sold out for the day, and which I despise. Its popularity baffles me, and I miss Kitchen Kabaret.

Then we went on Imagination, where Jim and I spent so much time. The original ride is completely gone, and its replacement was so bad it lasted less than two years. The current version merely sucks. Depressing.

The food and wine festival just started, so we drowned our sorrow in some wine, beer and cheese soup (not mixed).

The film in Canada is good, an nice improvement on the original. It’s now hosted by Martin Short, and seems a bit more heartfelt. They were smart in retaining the original song, which has been nicely re-recorded.

We tried to attend a 30th anniversary rededication at American Gardens, but after the seventh mariachi song we were driven out. What was that all about?

Before going on Norway, we decided to go on Mexico, because it makes Norway look good. And before going on Mexico we decided to have tequila, because it makes Mexico look good. Should have had more, not good enough.

Then it was back to American Adventure. I was delighted to see the show has been perfectly maintained. In fact, it’s only the second time I can ever remember seeing all the effects work. It was terrific, and the crowd was very enthusiastic. It’s bittersweet to see Steve Jobs in the film montage.

Then we met Linda at Tokyo Dining for a leisurely dinner. Linda had been to a private lunch at American Adventure, which she said was quite nice.

After dinner we met up with the WDW Celebrations group, which was having a private dessert party. It was rewarding to discover how many of the 150 or so members had read my book, and I wished David Green, my co-author could have been there to share the round of applause when I was introduced. After chatting with a couple of fans we headed to the Isla in Italy for a special Illuminations show that included a segment in honor of the 30th anniversary.

It was nice to see Disney making a big deal out of Epcot for this anniversary, as they had ignored it in previous years. The park still looks great, even if some old favorites are gone. Hopefully they’ve learned a lesson from DCA, and we’ll see a return to quality in future attractions.


Ron and Bev hosted a dinner at Luma for Allan Frischman, in town from Hart Davis Hart. Also in attendance were Keith and Parlo, and Andres and Paula. Linda had early construction site meetings all week and couldn’t attend.

Because the downstairs was booked, we met in a narrow private room in the corner near the kitchen. It’s separated from the restaurant by a beaded curtain, and was perfect for our party of eight.

Chef Derek really hit it out of the park, with the best food I’ve had at Luma. They should put some of this stuff on the menu. Highlights were the ceviche, pork belly, flounder and filet.

My raw notes:

NV Jacques Selosse Champagne (Ron)
Caramel, Creme brûlée 98

1982 Dom Perignon (Andres)
Nutty, burnt sugar, 97

2006 Ch Grillet (Keith)
Grilled pineapple, butter, spicy oak, smoke, nice acidity, 95

Chick pea soup

2001 Leflaive Batard Montrachet (Ron)
Huge floral nose, passion fruit, resin, pear, chalk, butter, 94

Snapper ceviche

1947 Lafleur Petrus (Ron)
Port-like, pickled vegetables, cherry peppers, a bit sweet on the finish, 95

1959 Château Grand-Puy Ducasse (Steve)
Camphor, slightly corky, lean, gravel, curry, spices, 92

1982 Ch Montrose (Keith)
Mint, tight, 94

1982 Ch Leoville Las Cases (Keith)
Chalk, tannin, corked, no score

1986 Lafleur (Ron)
Big, tannic, tight, a bit short, 94

Deep fried pork belly, soft boiled egg, pickled artichoke – amazing dish

1961 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection
Balsamic, redwood, soy, 92

1985 Heitz Martha’s (Keith)
Big, tannic, meaty, dust, sweet, eucalyptus, 95

Arugula goat cheese and fig salad.

1947 Château Drapier & Fils Richebourg Chevalier d’Or (Steve)
Mint Forrest, sweet fruit, forest floor, damp earth, mushroom, spicy, sweet, cherry, beef bourgignon, cigar, 99

1964 Leroy GE (Ron)
Very youthful, iron, bright cherry fruit, hay, good acid, 97

2007 Bonnes Mares Comtes Vogue (Allan)
Bright cherry, warty, balanced, nice, vanilla, 90

Sweet potato ravioli (agnolotti), cauliflower

Crispy flounder on forbidden rice

1995 Rayas ( Ron)
High alcohol, huge fruit, really young, cigar, cedar, acidic, vanilla,  cinammon, iodine, sea shells 96

1995 Ch Beaucastel CDP (Keith)
Barnyard, earthy, manure, extremely tannic, high alcohol, 88

Thin sliced filet mignon on truffle mashed potato

2001 CDP Tardieu-Laurent (Andres)
Big, sweet, cigars, smooth, tannic, smoke, long, 95

1968 d’Oliveiras Boal Madeira
Perfect balance, citrus, brown sugar, caramel, 95

Peterbrook chocolate mousse

2001 Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Sparkling Rose (Andres)
Yeast, raspberries, peppery, very effervescent, great acid, 92

1990 Ch Suidiraut (Ron)
Phenolic, soft, medium dark color, a bit off balance, recorked in 2005 (why?) 86

White Christmas in June at Luma

Our wine group met in the private room downstairs at Luma for our first ever white wine tasting. The wines were divided into flights of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and–after dinner–Sauternes. It was fun tho have some great white wines for a change, as these are wines that are ridiculously expensive unless you’re sharing them with a group. It was quite instructional, especially the Haut Brion and Yquem verticals. As it turned out, it also encouraged the group to bring some excellent reds for dinner, and we assembled these into many impromptu flights of related wines.

Luma’s food was top notch, with nearly all of the courses being home runs except a rather limp sous vide quail (I wish that cooking style, which is basically poaching in a boiling bag, would go out of style), and so-so ribeye. The lemon verbena creme brulee was the best creme brulee I’ve ever tasted.

My wine notes:


2002 Freemark Abbey Gravel Bench Chardonnay, from Andy.
We all loved this very Burgundian California chard. Minerals, oak, gravel, butter with fruit and ash in the finish. 94 pts.

NV Leroy Duval Champagne, from John.
Toasty, nice fruit, 89pts.

NV Ruinart Champagne, from Ron.
Toast, greeen peel, crisp finish, 90 pts.

White Burgundy

1962 Corton Charlemagne, Patriarche, $180.
Although the oldest wine in the flight, this beauty was light straw color and incredibly youthful. 50 years? More like 5! Lemon, ash, a woodsy nose unfortunately developed, probably from a bad cork, tart mineral and lemon finish, very fresh, 91pts.

1971 Chassagne-Montrachet, A. Ramonet, $180.
Amber color, bizarre tomato, bacon and apricot nose, acidic, creamy finish, and awkward wine, 88pts.

1976 Chassagne Montrachet, Les Chenevottes, A. Lichine, $180.
Lovely light straw color, clean vanilla nose, ash on the tongue, tasting very young, the group’s favorite, 92pts.

1969 Chevalier-Montrachet, G. Deleger, $180.
Quite amber, floral, alcohol, geranium, heavy and a bit clumsy, 86 pts.

1969 Puligny Montrachet, Clavoillon, Domaine Leflaive, $180
Astonishingly youthful, bright straw color, ash, minerals a hint of bug spray, clean on the palate with a good balance between acid and fruit, flinty finish, the group’s second favorite and my favorite, 94pts.

White Bordeaux

1978 Ch Haut Brion Blanc, $295.
Amber, closed, honey, weeds, bug spray, dust, intense lemon on the palate, rich caramel finish, improved with 30 minutes of air, 92+pts.

1983 Ch Haut Brion Blanc, $295.
Spicy, candy, oily, very balanced, good acid, vanilla finish, 95pts.

2000 Ch Haut Brion Blanc, $485.
Green, flinty, young, licorice, soft, creamy, lemon finish, 96 pts.

2001 Ch Haut Brion Blanc, $375.
Balanced, creamy, vanilla, apricot, vanilla ice cream, honey, the group’s favorite, 98pts.

Lighter Reds

1981 Drouhin Grands-Echezeaux, Ron
Black olives, cherry beer, peat, balanced, smokey, 95 pts.

2003 Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape, Ron
Meat, berries, dust, spice box, cherries, jam, vanilla, a great CDP, 98pts.

2000 Barbaresco, Marc de Grazia, Dick
Cherries, dried fruit, tar, tannic, 95pts.

1983 Hermitage La Chapelle, Jaboulet, Steve
Saddle leather, smoke, dried flowers, 95pts.

1993 Fess Parker Pinot Noir, commemorative Davie Crocket magnum, Andy
Smoke, sweet finish, a really nice pinot, 92pts.

Red Bordeaux

 1983 Ch Gruaud Larose, Ron
Classic Bordeaux nose, nice fruit balance, 92pts.

1986 Ch Gruaud Larose, Steve
Similar to the 1983, but with slightly more structure, 93pts.

1981 Ch. Palmer, John
Flawed bottle.

California Reds

 1981 BV Georges de la Tour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, John
Waxy, fading a bit, but with traditional GDLT notes. You can tell this was just on the cusp of the winery’s decline, 90pts.

1995 Heitz Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Andy
A remarkable Bella Oaks, lots of coffee in the nose, and a sweet balanced finish, 93pts.

2004 Robert Young Cabernet Sauvignon, Andy
A pleasant wine with a simple sawdust finish, 88pts.

1997 Grace Vineyard 29, Ron
Extremely Bordeaux like, especially the nose, 94pts.

1991 Dominus, Ron
Still the greatest wine ever made in California! 99pts.


1999 Ch d’Yquem, tenth, $85.
The best match for the lemon verbena creme brulee, but the most out of balance of the three, 97pts.

2000 Ch d’Yquem, tenth, $213.
Smooth and balanced, softer than the 1999, 98pts.

2001 Ch d’Yquem, tenth, $300.
Definitely the best of the three, the most complex and intense botrytis aromas, but is one or two points worth the premium? 99pts.


(1929) Tesseron XO Selection Lot 29, $320.
Complex floral, figs, fennel, candy, vanilla, mint, balanced with a long caramel finish. The only Cognac ever rated 100pts by Robert Parker. 98pts.






Photo by Dani Alcorn

Early Friday morning a pathetic person put a hose through the mailbox slot in the door and flooded a section of our office. Much of the staff was out Friday for an off-site training with fourteen enthusiastic customers, but those in the office spent the day moving things to higher ground so the water remediation company could start drying things out. The damage will probably run $20,000.

In a world where security cameras and cell phone towers track our every move, why would someone risk prison time and a permanent stigma to do such a thing? Alcohol–the courage of the weak–was probably involved. But the real answer is low self-esteem. To a person whose entire worth derives from the approval of others, such an act may temporarily make them feel more powerful. But in the light of day it’s rather pathetic. People ask me if I’m mad, but all I can really feel is pity.

The morning’s incident was overshadowed by the afternoon, when we had to say goodbye to our longtime pet, Peaches. For more than ten years she has lived with feline immune deficiency syndrome, the kitty version of AIDS. That’s about nine years more than the original vet gave her. And she’s done very well up until the last couple of months, when a slow, and then steep, decline set in. By Friday she couldn’t really move.

Peaches has always been inseparable from Linda, and they spent the afternoon together. Then the kind people from the mobile vet came and she quietly passed on. I buried her near the tree full of squirrels she loved to watch. It was a sad end to a sad day, but it put into perspective those things that are important, and those that are not.



Victoria & Albert’s Dining Room

We usually go to the chef’s table or eat in the Victoria Room at V&A, but Ron invited us on the spur of the moment to bring some nice wines to Victoria and Albert’s for dinner, and only the dining room was available. As it turned out, the venue was terrific. Israel provided the same wine service we’d get at the Chef’s Table, and Anita was our server. Chef Scott came up with an eleven course menu that was mostly new to us, and every item was a home run. He also indicated that there won’t be many repeats when we return next weekend for the chef’s table, so that will be interesting.

One of the reasons for the event was so that Ron and Bev could use an overnight stay they bought at a charity auction. But the other reason was to get together and enjoy the “other” Burgundy. By “other,” I’m referring to the remaining wine from a pair Ron bought from a store a number of years ago. The first, an 1899 Clos Vougeot, was the greatest wine I ever tasted. Its mate, an 1893 Corton, was a wine we’d long anticipated sharing. I did my best to match it, with a 1929 Bonnes Mares, but there was no stopping the Corton. It has been elevated to my new bench mark for best wine ever. You can tell from my notes that there was no stopping it. For three hours it evolved in the glass.

Of course, we still haven’t learned our lesson to serve the Burgundies after everything else, and some otherwise great wines, like my 1959 Lynch Bages, paled in comparison. Oh well, a good problem to have.

It was a great evening, and I’m sure we’ll repeat this approach, since the dining room worked out so well. What a terrific restaurant.

2006 Leroy Duval Champagne (purchased from the wine list)
Beautiful bottle, a bit of toast, green fruits, 93 pts

2007 Lynch Bages Blanc (purchased from the wine list)
Sauvignon blanc nose, soft on the palate, flinty, lemon, chalk, soapy floral finish, 92 pts

1939 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve (Steve)
Medium garnet, delicate old fruit, varnish, medium bodied, sawdust, leather, gained in weight with some air, 90 pts

1893 Corton (Ron)
Lemon, vanilla, caramel, ash, Twix bar, fig newton, full of fruit on the palate, charred green wood, like drinking caramel sauce, soy sauce, floral, cherry, orange rind, very long, amazingly youthful, perfect balance, bacon, 100 pts

1929 Boisseaux-Estivant Bonnes Mares (Steve)
Iron, chocolate covered cherries, dust, huge fruit, blackberry, beef blood, drinking like a 1980, 98 pts

1955 Château Lynch-Bages (Ron)
Corked, excellent fruit very youthful, no score

1959 Château Lynch-Bages (Steve)
Very young, extremely balanced, meat, vanilla, coffee, meat, tobacco, cigar box, short, 92 pts

1978 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Ron)
Very pronounced Cabernet Sauvignon character, peppers, coffee, chocolate, mint, vanilla, red fruits, cherry, 95 pts

1990 Ch. Suidurat (Ron)
Balanced, honey, great match to the apple dessert, 93 pts

Lunch at Capital Grille

A typical 5-1/2 hour lunch with Ron & Bev at Capital Grille. Also in attendance: Andres, Paula (for 20 minutes!), Keith, Parlo, and Carter. Thanks to Ron for setting this up, and to everyone who brought phenomenal wines. A great afternoon!

The wines:

96 Krug (Ron)
Green apple, bread, cinammon raisin buttered toast, really long, 99 pts

87 Fiorano Boncompagni Ludovisi (Keith)
Nutty, dried honey, maderized, 90 pts

2003 Georg Breuer Berg Schlossberg Rheingau
Petrol, almonds, dry, good acid, orange peel, 92 pts

2007 Ch “Y” (Keith)
Floral, minerals, spices, super complex, pumpkin, fat, menthol, cocoanut, super balanced, 99 pts

2002 Corton-Charlemagne Bouchard Pere & Fils (Ron)
Apricot, candy, floral, mineral, lemon custard 94 pts

1998 Vietti Barolo Rocche (Andres)
Pine needles, chewy, tar, tannin, 91 pts

89 Ch Bahans-Haut Brion (Steve)
Classic graves nose, chocolate, tobacco, coffee, 94 pts

69 Romanee St Vivant Domaine Marry-Monge (Ron)
Dried cherries, brush, wood 97 pts

69 Leroy Echezeaux )Steve)
Raspberry, cloudy- shaken up, tomato, shipwreck, 92 pts

89 Ch Lynch Bages (Keith)
Tight, huge, chewy, tar, long, mint, not ready, 94 pts

86 Ch LaFleur (Ron)
Double decanted 7 hours
Tight, tannic, closed, 96 pts

98 L’Ermita Priorat (Keith)
Chewy, ripe, good acid, meat, 95 pts

83 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Emidio Pepe (Andres)
Sweet and sour cherries, balanced, vanilla, citrus, 95 pts

66 La Mission Haut Brion ( Ron)
Huge, dust, very ripe, fresh, tar, sweet, charcoal, inky, smoke, black fruits, 99 pts

2001 Solaia (Keith)
Dusty, very tannic, chocolate, black fruits, mint, 93 pts

83 Diedesfelder Pfaffengrund Auslese (Steve)
Fairly sweet, orange rind, spearmint, minerals, medicinal, 93 pts

1995 Ch d’Yquem (Ron)
Figs, balanced, candy, 97 pts

2004 Jos Christoffel Jr Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling
Musty petrol, 88 pts

An Evening with the Sommelier

Last night was the bi-monthly Vine and Dine at the Rosen Everglades restaurant. Linda, Matin, Dani and I attended.

This is always a fun event because of the dedicated staff. I think Chef Fred enjoys getting to try some different things, and always come up with one or two home runs. This time it was the cheese and dessert course.

The wines were better than usual, and the event was moderated by DLynn Proctor, an interesting guy whose progress toward the Master Sommelier title is chronicled in an upcoming indie movie called SOMM. We had a nice chat, and I think he’d enjoy attending one of our non-Syndicate events.

This was Dani’s first chance to attend a vine and dine event with us since turning 21, and we all had a good time. She even won the raffle, and took home a bottle of Beringer 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, which she’s asked me to put in the cellar for her. Unlike the Knight’s Valley, this one definitely needs some time.

The menu:

Welcome Reception

Penfolds “Thomas Hyland” Riesling Adelaide 2008
(Rated 90 pts Wine Spectator & Top 100 Best Values) .

First Course

Heirloom Beets, Goat Cheese and MicroGreens Pistachio Vinaigrette
Matua “Paretei” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand 2008
(Rated 92 pts Wine Spectator)

Second Course

Seared Sea Scallop, Celery Root Cream and Candied Grapes
Chateau St. Jean “Belle Terre” Chardonnay, Alexander Valley 2009
(Rated 91 pts The Wine Advocate & Margo Van Staaveren, voted 2008 Winemaker of the year by Wine Enthusiast)

Third Course

Elder Blossom Sorbet

Fourth Course

Filet of Beef with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Cipollini Onion Ragout
Smoked Tomato Grits and Grilled White Asparagus
Paired with two wines to contrast Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa & Sonoma:
Beringer “Knights Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma 2009
(Rated 91 pts The Wine Advocate)
Beringer “Napa” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2009
(New Release not yet rated. Past wines scores in the 90’s)

Fifth Course

Penfolds “Club” Tawny, SE Australia
Paired with Duo Dessert plate to contrast one wine with two different food pairings:
Artisan Cheeses & Engadiner Nut Torte with Chocolate Truffle


Aged Rioja

Keith Edwards organized a stellar tasting of old Spanish Riojas. The event was held at the Bull & Bear restaurant at the Waldof Astoria. Attendees included Keith and his wife Parlo, Russell Edghill, Ron and Bev Siegel, Linda and I, plus industry guests Dhane Chesson from Vibrant Rioja, and Master Sommelier Andrew MacNamara.

Keith is quite the scholar, and he prepared an amazing booklet to accompany the event, with notes on Rioja and pictures of the wine labels. The wines came from Keith, Ron’s cellar, and I contributed the oldest wine, a 1925 Marques de Riscal.

Andrew moderated his event, and poured the wines in reverse chronological order, an approach that I have also been gravitating to of late.

This was an eye-opening tasting, because Rioja wasn’t really on my radar, and I was shocked to find that after 20 years or so it has much in common with our old favorite, BV Georges de la Tour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that was only interesting prior to the 1980 vintage. This is curious, since Rioja is mostly Tempranillo, but it is probably due to the American oak barrels and a certain amount of oxidation.

What a great discovery, because it now means we have a whole new category of interesting, old, and fairly affordable wines to look for!


The Rioja was poured in three flights. Linda observed that, unlike in other areas, there seemed to be no relation between price and quality.

The first two flights were interesting, but the third flight was stellar! I believe my rankings were almost identical to Ron’s ad there was surprising consensus amongst the group.

My notes:

Flight 1:

2001 Vina Ardanza $50?

Stewed vegetables, dill (the result of the oak), spices, 88 points

1999 CVNE Imperial $50.97

Stewed, dill, 89 pts

1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 $49.98

Extreme dill pickle, pepper, 90 pts

1991 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva 79.50

Balanced, wood, higher acid than the 1981, but similar BV style, 94 pts

1985 Bodegas Montecillo Vina Monty Gran Reserva $50


1982 Muga Gran Reserva Rioja $159

Oak, figs, gravel, 89 pts

1981 Bodegas Montecillo Vina Monty Gran Reserva $50

Very reminiscent of BV, slightly light on fruit, 92 pts

Flight 2:

1978 Marques de Caceres Rioja Gran Reserva (Ron) $50

Sweet, balanced, woody finish, almost too clean, 100% French oak, 89 pts

1978 Castillo Ygay $214.20

Caramel, raisins, volatile acidity, 87 pts

1976 Lopez de Heredia Vino Bosconia (Ron) $120

Big mint, graphite, 91 pts

1973 la Rioja Alta Gran Reserva Cuvee Centenario (Ron) $125

sweet, balanced, coffee, 92 pts

1976 Muga Gran Reserva $199.99

Dust, raisins, coffee, 89 pts

1970 Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia $191.22

Good acid but rough wood, 87 pts

1970 Faustino I Gran Reserva $104.54

Dates, 90 pts

Flight 3:

1968 Vina Valoria Rioja (Ron) $100

Chocolate, cherry, candy, caramel, mint, very balanced, 95pts

1968 Lopez de Heredia Vino Bosconia $416.49

Smoked meat, oak, gun oil, mint, floral, oak, 97pts

1964 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva $168

Smoke, sweet, creamy, chocolate, 94pts

1964 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 $257

Sweet, smoke, balanced, dust, cooking spices, 95pts

1961 Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia (Ron) $150

Tart cherry, vanilla, perfume, outclassed, 89pts

1925 Marques de Riscal (Steve) $252

Perfect color, youthful, great fruit, waxy, balanced, chocolate covered brandy marinated cherries, charcuterie meats, smoke, dust, balsamic, candy finish, held up in the glass for 3 hours, a remarkable wine, 99pts

For a detailed analysis of the wines, visit Keith Edward’s blog.


Following the formal tasting, a terrific dinner was served by Arnaud, including:

 Steak Tartare

Best version I’ve ever had, served with an herbal sauce, and minced perfectly, with a wonderful crunchy/salty component as well. A new invention of the restaurant, and a great dish.

Corn Soup

With caviar and truffle. Creamy and wonderfully complex.

Escargot and Mushroom Gnocchi

Served in a rich and delicious buttery flan. I don’t even like gnocchi, and this was great.

Steak and Filet of Sole

This was actually the weakest course! The steak had that gamey, stringy texture from dry aging that I don’t like, and the fish was extremely salty, probably the result of a mistake.


A nice assortment of cheesecake, creme brulee, and a couple others.

Other Wines

Of course 20 Riojas was just the formal tasting. Then there were the wines passed at dinner!

Jacques Sellose Champagne (Ron)

Superb as always, toasty, perfect, 96pts

Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne 2002 (Keith)

Creamy, citrus, crisp, 94pts

2009 Adobe Road Sauvignon Blanc (Steve)

Served blind, and caused quite a discussion. Unidentifiable as SB, but great. 95pts

1999 Domaine Francois Raveneau Butteaux, Chablis Premier Cru (Ron)

Sublime Chablis, creamy and smooth, complex, toasty, 98pts

1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 (Dhane)

From magnum. Tart, off balance, high acid, salty, musty, 86pts

1978 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Médoc (Russell)

Superb Bordeaux at its peak, like driving down a dusty road in a bell pepper field, 95pts

1959 Nuits St. Georges, Naudin (Ron)

A superb old Burgundy that I wish had been served before dinner, as it got a bit lost in the shuffle. Burnt orange rinds. 95pts

Pommard Les Rugiens, Montille (Keith)

Potentially a great bottle, and the nose was good, but sadly undrinkable.

1999 Barolo, Rinaldi (Keith)

Caramel, spice, sweet chocolate, floral, cigar, nuts, 92pts

2000 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee da Capo (Ron)

100 point Parker wine. Smoke, meat, cherries, 95pts

 2004 Grange (Keith)

Another wine that sadly got lost in the shuffle. I wish this had been served with the meat, but it came after dinner and was immediately faced with sweet wines. Tarry, figs, tannic, drinking very young but more accessible than most young Grange, 94pts

1971 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva (Andrew)

A remarkable dessert wine, with huge acid to offset its sweetness, and wonderful complexity. Drinking very young. Grape jam, figs, raisins, very balanced, 97pts

1999 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume, France, Loire (Andres)

A Sauternes-like wine from the Loire. Great botrytis and apricot nose, but off balance, 89pts

1927 Alvear Solera (Steve)

Rather simple and cloying after the 1971 PX, 89pts

1989 Angelus (Ron)

A massive wine, not within 20 years of being drinkable. Inky, chewy, tar and tannins. Impossible to score at this point.

Wow, what a great evening! Thanks to Keith for setting it up, and to everyone for their thoughtful comments throughout the tasting.

The Table

The Table is a unique restaurant in the Dellagio complex on Sandlake Road. The Table offers up to 18 guests seating at a single table, similar to a dinner party. The experience begins at 7:00 p.m. with wine and passed hors d’oeuvres. That’s followed by a five course dinner with wine pairings. The cost is $100 per person, including tax and gratuity.

The table is owned and operated by Loren and Tyler Brassil, chefs who are also culinary instructors. You eat whatever they decide to serve. They claim to never prepare the same dish twice, and they use almost exclusively local foods. In fact, they almost never order food. Instead, local providers deliver organic produce and proteins and they work with what is available. For example, a local farm delivers a box of greens, a local dairy provides heavy cream with twice the fat content of normal heavy cream, and so on.

The Table is normally only open Friday and Saturday nights, but Martin and I attended a special event on Tuesday, hosted by Foxen Winery, a top-end producer from Santa Maria Valley, one of my favorite wine areas.

The meal was quite spectacular. You can read the menu in the picture of dessert.

The food perfectly matched an impressive array of wines, presented by Winery owner Jenny Dore. The top end Foxen wines are in such short supply that the leftover bottles were sold at the end of the meal (Martin and I bought the rest of the Bien Nacido Pinot Noir), and I asked to be put on the waiting list for Foxen’s Anchor Club.

Adobe Road at Luma

Luma and Adobe Road put on what was perhaps the best food and wine pairing dinner I’ve ever attended. It was held in the private room in the basement, which had been cleared out to accommodate more than 30 guests at a single, large table (a collection of smaller tables “Tetrissed” together, according to our waiter).

The event was hosted by the very personable Kevin Buckler, a race car driver (and now manager of a racing company with 23 drivers). I had assumed Kevin just owned the winery as a trophy, but he’s actually very involved in all aspects of the operation, and determines the styles of the wines. He has some opinions about styles that are not in sync with the mainstream, but I completely agree with him. For example, he uses year old Chardonnay barrels on his Sauvignon Blanc, which produces a wine much more like an elegant white Bordeaux (think Laville Haut Brion) but with some new world fruit including citrus and pear.

We were stunned by how good the food was. It was like Luma had turned into a completely different restaurant. Apparently Chef Bernard devised the menu, but wasn’t there to prepare it. Whoever did it was very talented. And I’ve never had better food and wine matches, especially the first two courses. Martin and I brought some old Adobe Road from our sellers, which Kevin and those seated near us enjoyed comparing to the new vintages.

Great winery, great restaurant, and a great event for $140 a head, that’s for sure!

Stone Crab

2009 Adobe Road Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc
Pear, citrus, 1 year old chardonnay barrels, vanilla, Ash, like a tropical Laville Haut Brion blanc, 92 pts

Rabbit Sausage

2008 Adobe Road Sonoma Chardonnay
Spice, vanilla, perfect balance, buttered toast, longest Chardonnay I’ve ever had, 95 pts

Smoked Salmon

2007 Adobe Road Sonoma Pinot Noir
Dust, dried cherries, black fruits 89 pts

Duck Confit

NV Adobe Road Red Line
Zin and Cab blend, bright berry fruit, hint of cinammon 85 pts

Braised Short-Rib Ravioli

2007 Adobe Road Knights Valley Babarian Lion Cabernet Sauvignon
Slight hint of geranium (sorbate), Great melted mint chocolate finish 91

2003 Adobe Road Cabernet Sauvignon (brought by Steve)
Meaty, mint, meat, terrific structure 95

2004 Adobe Road Cabernet Sauvignon (Martin)
Road tar, less tannic than 2003, Bordeaux like, gamy 93

Chocolate Mint Ganache

2007 Adobe Road Dry Creek Kemp Vineyard Syrah
Vanilla, game, berries, cinammon 90 pts

2008 Adobe Road Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon
Balanced, peppery, vanilla, spices, surprisingly light and drinkable 90 pts

Scott Joseph’s Supper Club at Taps Wine, Beer and Eatery

Scott Joseph’s Supper Club is a group that meets at different restaurants around town. It’s usually a fairly upscale wine and dine experience, so I was a bit surprised when this event was posted at a wine and beer bar. But the intriguing thing was the format: five courses, each paired with a wine and beer. I thought it would be interesting to see which matched each course best, and indeed it was.

Most wine events start out with everyone attentive, and then devolve into chaos, where the participants can’t hear the moderators over the chatter in the room. This didn’t happen at Taps, due to the fact that the room was already in chaos at the start of the event! Fortunately, the servers were able to clue us in to what we were eating and drinking, because otherwise we would have had no idea! Still, it was a fun and entertaining event, and we enjoyed Chet and Loren and Martin’s company. I think this was the first event like this that Chet had been to, and he was a good sport about some new dining experiences.

The wines, beers and courses were:

Paco & Lola Albarino
Blue Point Toasted Lager
Bruschetta trio

Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay
Radeberger Pilsner
Tuna tartare

La Crema Pinot Noir
Xingu Black Beer
Cheese Quesadilla

Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon
Tommyknocker Maple Brown Beer
Italian sausage slider

Frontera Moscato
Magic Hat #9
Apricot Bread Pudding

The wines and beers were all good products, except for the Moscato, which was too low in acid to bother with. In each case I preferred the wine, but didn’t think it was well-selected to match the food. So all five times I found myself drinking the beer with the food. The last course was a particularly challenging match, and although I didn’t like the beer by itself, the match was masterful.

Several of us liked the black beer the best, although I would have liked something even closer to stout. Surprisingly, Linda–who isn’t a beer drinker at all–liked the yellow beers, particularly the first lager.

All in all, an interesting and fun (if noisy) experience.

2012 Central Florida Scottish Highland Games

Linda and I volunteered to help out at the 2012 Central Florida Scottish Highland Games. This was my second year, Linda’s first. Last year I staffed the will call table and scanned pre-printed online tickets. This year we worked the ticket booth at the lower gate, both selling tickets and scanning those who had purchased online.

It was a brisk morning, only 45 degrees when we started, but the kilted participants didn’t seem to mind. After a while Emilio joined us, but there wasn’t really enough for two people to do, let alone three. Traffic arrived in waves, with most participants on site by 10 am; then things slowed down until we went off shift at noon.

Linda and I strolled around the grounds of the festival, which is mostly about clan tents, bag-pipe marching, and a live performance stage. There’s a tent that sells beer, and the clan tents usually have whiskey, so sobriety is not a feature, although at noon everyone still seemed sober.

The games mostly consist of throwing heavy objects. Some, such as hurling, seem particularly dangerous, since there’s nothing preventing an errant hurl into the crowd. We gave it a wide berth, and went to find some lunch. There were a broad selection of traditional Scottish foods, such as haggis, gyros and tacos. We settled on chicken-on-a-stick, which was good last year, but a bit undercooked this year, perhaps due to the cold.

Then we headed home to warm up!

Sushi Pop

At last! There’s a sophisticated and trendy restaurant in Orlando. Sushi Pop in Oviedo combines highly creative sushi with a touch of molecular gastronomy and an anime-inspired decor to create a top notch experience worthy of New York City. Highlights were:

  • Edamame with garlic salt
  • Ceviche roll (hamachi with avocado, tempura shallots and chipotle lime sauce topped with flounder, siracha hot sauce, micro cilantro, Hawaiian pink salt and wedge of lime)
  • Hot Mess roll (smoked salmon, avocado and tempura flakes with maple soy, topped with baked tuna, salmon, yellowtail, flounder, spicy mayo, smelt roe, scallions and rendered bacon)
  • Hamachi Kama (grilled yellowtail collar glazed with sweet soy, topped with toasted garlic, scallions, lime wedge and ponzu dipping sauce)
  • It’s No Yolk (fresh cubed salmon tossed with lime juice, olive oil, shallots, thai basil with sunny side egg of sweet coconut milk and mango puree, served with seaweed rice cracker)
  • Maple ice cream with candied bacon

The seating is a combination of tables, couch-like booths and bar stools. Servers wear individual quirky costumes. Anime plays on flat screens, and the wall art is manga. Reservations are a must, as the place was packed, inside and out, during our three-hour gastronomic tour. Highly Recommended.

Thirst of the Nation

Last night Linda and I went to a charity fundraiser, Taste of the Nation, at the Marriott World Center. Similar events are held in cities around the country. It’s one of those events where a few dozen restaurants and wineries set up tables in a convention center and donate their food and wine, while donors eat, drink and bid on silent auction items to raise money. (Let’s set aside the irony of doing this to stop childhood hunger.)

I can’t speak too harshly of this event, because it was for charity, and because the restaurants and especially Marriott put a tremendous effort into it. And the food was fantastic. I’ve been to dozens of such events, and this was the best food I’ve encountered.

The problem was the wine. There almost wasn’t any. Or anything else to drink, for that matter. With hundreds of guests, I doubt there were a dozen bottles on offer. In fact there was such a shortage of beverages that soon lines formed at the Nestle water products table!

This had a secondary disastrous effect, because the silent auction is, let’s face it, fueled by intoxication. And with the auction ending at 9:30, but the VIP spenders arriving at 6:00, I doubt there were many left to bid. I can’t say for sure, because we left after sixty minutes and went to the Vineyard Grill at the Ritz Carlton. For a bottle of wine.