Sommelier Thomas Pastuszak Is Making Some Fine Finger Lakes Dry Riesling

Vineyards overlooking Beautiful Seneca Lake in New York's Finger Lakes Region. Photo by Lisa Denning

Vineyards overlooking Beautiful Seneca Lake in New York's Finger Lakes Region. Photo by Lisa Denning

Thomas Pastuszak, Beverage Director of NYC's NoMad Restaurant (home of the best roast chicken in Manhattan!) believes that Riesling is a misunderstood wine, often assumed to be sweet when, in fact, it is made in many styles from dry to semi-sweet to sweet. While he personally enjoys all variations of a well-made Riesling, he takes particular pleasure in turning people on to the drier styles of these aromatic, mouthwatering white wines. 

Thomas, with his 2016 Empire Estate Dry Riesling. Photo: Lisa Denning

Thomas, with his 2016 Empire Estate Dry Riesling. Photo: Lisa Denning

"Oftentimes, I'll have a guest who comes in and says, 'I just want to have a glass of dry wine. Something not too expensive." Thomas told me during our recent video interview, "Maybe they won't pay it any attention, I'll come over and pour a dry Austrian Riesling or something from the Finger Lakes in a drier style, like Empire Estate. They'll taste it and they'll say something in the range of, "That's really good. What is it?" Then when I tell them that it's Riesling, a light has been shown, the doors are open, and they realize that Riesling can be made in a dry style. I think it's a misconception and often you just need to get the wine into people's glasses. You need to get them to taste it to realize what it can be."

Empire Estate is Thomas' own wine label, started in 2014 which produces two excellent dry Rieslings. Read the full interview at GrapeCollective.com. And, as a bonus, you'll find out if awesome hair helps to sell wine!!

 

Warm Up With Balcones Winter Whisky Cocktails

"Whisky is liquid sunshine" - George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

With the chill of winter sending shivers down our spines, we could all use a little more sunshine and if it comes in the form of whisky, so be it! Balcones Distilling, the award-winning craft distillery in Waco, Texas, has been one of The Wine Chef's favorite whisky producers for several years now. Started in 2008 by Chip Tate, the distillery was built by hand with only a few tools, the help of some friends and a dream to make legendary artisanal whisky. The Baby Blue, made from roasted blue corn, has the honor of being the first legal Texas whisky since the end of Prohibition. In 2016, Balcones was named Best Craft Whiskey Distillery by the readers of USA Today.

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The folks at Balcones Distillery were happy to share some of their favorite whisky cocktails to help keep us warm until the daffodils and tulips begin to bloom. As you sip these warming concoctions, I think you'll be in agreement with Mr. Shaw.  Cheers!

 

The Rumble Bee Airmail Cocktail

Honey highlights the richness of the Rumble whisky in this cocktail and helps to bring out the fig, plum, nectarine and grapefruit notes.  The bubbles add a refreshing effervescent quality.

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Ingredients (for one cocktail):

1.5 ounces Balcones Rumble whisky

0.75 ounces honey/water solution (1:1)

0.5 ounces lime juice

2 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling wine 

Shake and strain first four ingredients together and serve in a champagne flute or martini glass. Top with your favorite sparkling wine.

 

The Boulevardier

This drink highlights the orange citrus flavors found in the Texas Single Malt.

Ingredients (for one cocktail):

1.5 ounces Texas Single Malt whisky

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0.75 ounces Cynar artichoke amaro

0.75 ounces aperol

3 dashes orange bitters

3 dashes angostura bitters

Stir and strain above ingredients and serve up or on the rocks.  Garnish with an orange slice or twist.

 

The Chai Brimstone Old Fashioned

The Chai syrup provides a very pleasant, earthy base note to this drink. The dilution of the Brimstone helps to dial back the smoke element of the whisky and brings out more of the sweet characteristics in the spirit. Leaving the infusion longer will result in a deeper chai flavor.

Ingredients (for one cocktail):

0.25 ounces Chai Tea Syrup (see below)

2 ounces Brimstone whisky

2 dashes angostura bitters

Stir and serve over the rocks. Garnish with an orange slice or twist.

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Chai tea syrup

1 quart water

6 chai tea bags

4 cups sugar

Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat.  Add 6 chai tea bags and infuse for approximately 15 minutes, or longer for a deeper chai flavor.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.

 

Barbara's Paper Airplane

This recipe was given to me by a friend who makes a pitcher of it to keep handy in the fridge all week long!  The addition of blood orange juice is a fresh spin on a classic cocktail.

Ingredients (makes 2 cocktails):

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1½ ounces Balcones Baby Blue corn whisky

1½ ounces amaro (preferably Nonino)

1½ ounces aperol

1½ ounces fresh lemon juice, strained

1½ ounces fresh blood orange juice

Combine whiskey, amaro, aperol, lemon and blood orange juices in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is frosty, about 20 seconds. Strain into 2 glasses and serve straight up or on the rocks.  Or, to make a 30 ounce pitcher, multiply the ingredients by 4.  Stir and pour into glasses, with our without ice.

Millésima Blog Awards 2018

(Video Interview from my last night in Bordeaux, above).

Many thanks again to all of you — subscribers and readers of my blog — who voted for me on Facebook when I was one of 18 finalists for the Millésima Blog Awards earlier this year.  The 2018 edition of the contest is now accepting applications and, if you or someone you know is a wine blogger (or videographer or wine vlogger), my advice is, "go for it"!  

My trip to Bordeaux with five other bloggers was like a fairy tale come true!  After checking into the InterContinental Bordeaux, a five-star Michelin hotel, our first couple of days included a thorough exploration of the history, culture, food and wine of the city of Bordeaux.  Our last night  was spent amongst thousands of impressive wine bottles in the 200 year-old cellars of Millésima — yes, I brought a shawl and a warm sweater!  The evening began with a fun (and humbling) blind-tasting game before a Champagne reception and awards ceremony dinner with some more games, an all-around great evening. 

The next day started with a walk-around tasting of the 2016 “en primeur” wines, organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB).  We met several winemakers who were pouring young wines that had just been taken from their barrels that morning.  We then headed off on a three-day excursion to the wine region of Médoc during which we were treated to a whirlwind tour of several world-renowned Châteaux — Mouton Rothschild,  Margaux, Montrose, Phélan Segur to name a few — tasting some of the best wine (and food) in the world.  I almost fainted from excitement when I saw the beautiful castle we would be staying in, Pichon Baron.  

After three busy days in the left bank, we travelled to the famous areas of the right bank, Pomerol and the quaint village of Saint-Émilion, before spending the night in the charming village of Sauternes.  After all, what trip to Bordeaux would be complete without a vertical tasting of Château Suduiraut's exceptional sweet wines with Pierre Montégut, the man who makes them?!  

It was back to Château Pichon Baron to meet up with the Millésima and Pichon Baron teams again for a special farewell gala dinner and wine tasting.  Christian Seely, General Manager of the AXA Millésimes Group, the wine division of the French Insurance company AXA, hosted a memorable wine-tasting and dinner.  Everywhere along the way we learned a lot, had fun and made lifelong friends.

Read more about Millésima and the Blog Awards in my  interview with Fabrice Bernard, CEO of Millésima, on GrapeCollective.com.  

And remember, you could be a part of the next group of MBA ambassadors!

Arrving to the En Primeur tasting in Bordeaux

Arrving to the En Primeur tasting in Bordeaux

The InterContinental Hotel, Bordeaux City

The InterContinental Hotel, Bordeaux City

The MBA Blog Awards 2017 winners, Jeff Burrows, Me, Daniel Ercsey, Chiara Bassi, Rob Frisch, Ágnes Németh

The MBA Blog Awards 2017 winners, Jeff Burrows, Me, Daniel Ercsey, Chiara Bassi, Rob Frisch, Ágnes Németh

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At Chateau Beychevelle

At Chateau Beychevelle

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Château Pichon Baron

Château Pichon Baron

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The cellars of Pichon Baron

The cellars of Pichon Baron

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View from my room at Chateau Pichon Baron

View from my room at Chateau Pichon Baron

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In Sauternes at Chateau Suduiraut

In Sauternes at Chateau Suduiraut

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With Pierre Montégut , technical Director of Chateau Suduiraut

With Pierre Montégut , technical Director of Chateau Suduiraut

At Chateau Talbot in St. Julien

At Chateau Talbot in St. Julien

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Tasting with Veronique Dausse at Chateau Phélan Ségur, Saint Estephe

Tasting with Veronique Dausse at Chateau Phélan Ségur, Saint Estephe

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At Pichon Baron

At Pichon Baron

Morning run in Pauillac

Morning run in Pauillac

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Entrance To Château Latour

Entrance To Château Latour

Lovely lunch in Pomerol with Diana Berrouet, winemaker, Chateau Petit-Village

Lovely lunch in Pomerol with Diana Berrouet, winemaker, Chateau Petit-Village

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Read more about my adventures in Bordeaux by clicking here and my lunch at Château Margaux by clicking here.

The Meunier Institute Shines The Spotlight On Pinot Meunier

Fanny and I were having fun talking about the Institute's passion for Pinot Meunier.

Fanny and I were having fun talking about the Institute's passion for Pinot Meunier.

Interesting things happen when people band together over a shared passion, especially when they’re on a mission to break tradition. In Champagne, the two year old Meunier Institute, created by a group of nine progressive winemakers, is trying to shake things up.  They are tirelessly promoting the Pinot Meunier grape which usually plays a supporting role to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in traditional Champagne blends. The members of the Institute believe that Meunier has what it takes to play the leading part.

Read more about this versatile grape at GrapeCollective.com where I interviewed one of the Institute's members, Fanny Heucq of Champagne Heucq Père et Fils. 

Pascal Jolivet

A few years ago, on a cold winter morning in Manhattan, a man walked into the wine shop l was working at and introduced himself as the producer of one of my favorite Loire Valley wines, Pascal Jolivet. It was great to finally put the face behind a bottle I had been selling (with pleasure!) for years. We got to chatting about wine and travel and life in general. l then mentioned to him that my colleague James, who had the day off that day, was soon getting married at a beautiful château in the Loire Valley to a French woman he had met while on vacation the year before. By the end of our conversation, Pascal had offered to send six magnums of his delicious white Sancerre as a wedding gift to James and his bride-to-be. Don’t you just love when serendipitous things like that happen?

l caught up with Pascal recently by email to talk about life (again!) and his natural approach to winemaking. Read the full article and interview at Grape Collective.   

Cheers! 

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Why You Should Have Sauternes In Your Fridge And In Your Pocket!

When I first met Bérénice Lurton, owner of the historic Château Climens in Barsac, Sauternes, she mentioned something funny that I often think of as I'm running around on my busy days in New York City. She told me that, every so often, when she's feeling famished in between appointments with no time to stop and eat, she takes one little sip of her Sauternes. And this one little taste, besides leaving lingering flavors of vanilla, apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple, honey and mint on her palate (just like a real fruit salad!), abates the hunger and she can continue on her busy day until it's time for the next meal. So, you know what? Sauternes in the fridge isn't the only way to go. Maybe you need to carry some in your pocket as well.  Cheers!!

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Getting ready for "lights, camera, action" with Bérénice Lurton (at left) and Christopher Barnes of Grape Collective (at right).

Château Climens produces one of the finest sweet wines in the world. Read the article and interview with Bérénice at www.grapecollective.com.

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Who would believe that the moldy grapes above would make such beautiful wines below?!

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As a Sauterne ages, its color changes from light gold to a deep amber color.  Notice the difference between the 2005 on the left and the 1997 on the right — eight years makes a big difference!

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