Slinging juice: my side hustle at Parlor Pizza


My good friend, chef Tim Labant, and I have ridden probably 15,000 miles together on our bikes the past few years. We’ve had some epic adventures. Tim is the chef/owner of Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a new American spot in Wilton that celebrated its eleventh anniversary this past spring. About three years ago, Tim decided he wanted to bring his fine dining skills to a more casual environment. He loves pizza (who doesn’t?), so he started developing his own dough recipe. He went to Pizza Expo in Las Vegas two years in a row, refining his recipe and researching ovens. As the restaurant was developing, he asked me to put together the wine list and I was only too happy to help.

Everything came together about five weeks ago when Parlor opened its doors. Tim’s dough uses two types of Italian (Caputo) flour and has a multiday fermentation and proofing. The pies get baked in a Pavesi oven that’s fire-truck red. The dough has a chewy mouthfeel that makes you not even want to talk, just indulge in another bite until the pie is gone. The sautéed mushroom with taleggio is one of my favorites; the white clam sees fresh littlenecks steamed open, shucked and then placed on a creamy reduction sauce. The salads and sides are not to miss either.

To complement this simple but tasty menu, we put together a wine list that has something for everyone–but it may not be the exact something people thought they wanted when they came in. For example, a guest came in recently and asked for “a glass of chardonnay.” When I pointed out that we don’t have one by the glass (but we do have the excellent Sandhi chardonnay by the bottle), I suggested an erbaluce from Luigi Ferrando, the celebrated (for his reds, mostly) producer from Carema in the north of Piedmont. I poured her a taste; she liked it and ordered a glass. Then another. So that was my mini triumph of the night, turning a generic “chardonnay” drinker into a two-glass erbaluce enthusiast.

The list has a smattering of fun wines over $100 and a bunch of crystal decanters. But sensitive to the value needs of a pizza place, the list also has ten wines by the the bottle under $30 and ten wines by the glass starting at $8. We have three wines on keg too (lower carbon footprint!) that we serve by the quartino. We have wines from Italy, France, New York, California, Spain and Austria on the list right now. We have orange wine and pet nat. We will rotate wines in and out and have some special pours too. The wine world is a big and exciting place right now and we are happy to show off some tasty portions of it.

Stop by and check it all out! Connecticut is beautiful, especially this time of year.
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Reboule du Rhone, second edition

The Reboule du Rhone is back for a second edition! The event last year feted winemakers and wines from the Northern Rhone with dinners and tastings, raising over $300,000 for the charity No Kid Hungry. Above is a quick montage of scenes from last year.

This year’s encore edition will include a series of singular dinners, November 15-17. The first dinner (at a private residence 50 floors up) highlights “legendary” vintages of the last 50 years, the second dinner has a focus on the “kings of Cornas,” and the third is a BYOB extravaganza. For those looking for a more budget-friendly event, it’s hard to outdo the value of walk-around tasting at 1 PM Saturday the 17th. Winemakers and leading sommeliers will pour over 100 wines from the region.

The event is the brainchild of Thomas Pastuszak and Dustin Wilson. Profits go entirely to No Kid Hungry.

List of winemakers after the jump. Read more…

2017 wine auction market seen through the crystal…wine glass


Sotheby’s released a glossy report on their 2017 wine auction year today: the house racked up $63.8 million at 21 auctions in London, New York, and Hong Kong. That was good enough for third on the list of 2017 wine auction houses–in all, the global wine auction market rose 12.7% to $381 million last year (WS had a summary piece back in January).

At Sotheby’s, as elsewhere, Burgundy rose and DRC dominated. Last fall, six bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Romanée Conti 1996, fetched $134,750, or $22,458 per bottle. Not too shabby for fermented grape juice! In total, $11.6 million worth of DRC sold at Sotheby’s auctions last year, making it the top wine for the fifth year in a row and more this year than Lafite, Pétrus, and Mouton combined (Bordeaux sales declined to less than 50% of total wines sold, by value). Whisky sales increased as some collectible consignments came up for sale. Asian buyers comprised 60% of wines sold by value.

Will DRC demand let up? It remains the most coveted wine at auction worldwide. Hopefully, someone out there actually pulls a cork from time to time to enjoy it in the glass, rather than on a balance sheet! (Above, evidence that this does happen from time to time.)

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Trump – Macron state dinner wines


Last night’s state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte was the first of Donald Trump’s term. Would the current occupant of the White House shatter wine protocols at state dinners? Would the teetotaler whose name adorns a Virginia winery serve his own wine?

The White House has a tradition of serving only American wines at state dinners. This president was not going to put waves in that particular chardonnay glass–MAGA and all that. The menu included a chardonnay and a pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the white from Domaine Serene and the red from Domaine Drouhin. The focus on Oregon is apt since it is an area that has attracted many French winemakers and makes many wines in a Burgundian style. The Drouhin family was the first French family to buy vineyard land in Oregon back in 1987. And perhaps because the White House Events usher who selects the wine likes symmetry, he put Domaine Serene on the menu as the family behind it bought a property in Burgundy in 2015.

The official announcement of the menu had some interesting verbiage, noting the vines at Domaine Serene were “a combination of French plants from Dijon.” The statement continues that the wine was “aged in 40 percent French oak barrels for more than 12 months”–what of the remaining 60%? The Domaine Serene site clarifies that the wine was aged in 40% *new* French oak barrels. That makes more sense. On the Domaine Drouhin “Laurène,” the state dinner site says that the wine was “fermented in French Oak barrels.” (Can you believe they found two wines made in America that were aged in French oak? :P) By contrast, the Domaine Drouhin site says that the wine was first “fermented with indigenous yeasts, and then placed into barrels (French oak, never more than 20% new).” Details!

The White House Events usher also has a predilection for pairing off-dry sparking wine with ice cream. So he subjected the diners to an off-dry sparkling wine with dessert. Hopefully, someone can have a summit with him to lay down all off-dry sparklers with dessert!

Also, check out how Trump is holding his wine glass–eegad, someone alert Robert Mueller of this wine crime!

Full menu after the jump. Read more…

China targets US wine in tariff showdown

American wine has just gotten a dubious distinction: it features on a list of 128 items that may be subject to new Chinese tariffs. (spelling tip: tariffs ends in “FFS”!)

Saber rattling in trade between the US and China is escalating. The Trump administration announced $50 billion in tariffs on Wednesday and China responded yesterday with a more modest $3 billion. Of course, the two sides could be posturing and may come to an agreement before the tariffs hit the fan.

At any rate, wine featured on the list of items that would be hit with a 15% tariff into China. The US exports $79 million of wine to China, which seems like a drop in the Slavonian oak barrel of world trade. (Pretty small beer…) So even though it might sting in California, it is something of a backhanded compliment to US wine that it is seen as symbolically significant.

The US wine market is large and thirsty: by far the majority of wine produced in America gets consumed in America. California wine sold at retail fetched $35 billion in 2016. Beyond that, about a third of the wines consumed in the US are imported into what is a $60 billion market.

China is also a large and growing market for wine. As small as the US exports are to China, they were up a very healthy 47%. Australia, by contrast, with its small domestic market, has aggressively provided wine to the Chinese market. A new free trade agreement between the two countries means that Australian wine will have no tariff next year. France remains the largest source of foreign wine to China both in terms of value and volume.

Reboule du Rhone


About five years ago, Dustin Wilson became the wine director at Eleven Madison Park and Thomas Pastuszak became the wine director at NoMad. At a similar point in their careers at restaurants in the same group, the two bonded over their many shared interests, one of which was a love of the wines of the Northern Rhone.

Last year, when they were visiting cellars in the region together, they hatched the idea to have a weekend celebration of Northern Rhone wines in New York City. Thus Reboule du Rhone was born with the first weekend of events slated for November 17-19. Pastuszak says that some of the dozen producers invited have never been to New York before. Part of their motivation was to give “the sommelier community a chance to get in front of these heralded producers,” he says.

“We get really excited to serve these wines and drink these wines. But the region is somewhat under the radar. So it is exciting to give them wider exposure,” Wilson says.

With other weekend fetes on the New York City calendar of Burgundy, Champagne, and others, there was an opening for a Northern Rhone event. “For us, we felt it was only a matter of time until somebody jumped on this. We’ve hit a point in our career where we are very well positioned and the timing was right for us to do it.

One further way to stand out is that fully 100% of the net proceeds will go to charity. The nonprofit they are working with is No Kid Hungry, an organization that works to improve childhood nutrition that has worked frequently with chefs and the restaurant community.

The flagship event is the Reboule, a $600/head BYOB dinner bacchanal with winemakers who will be bringing back-vintages from their cellars. Participating chefs include Daniel Humm of EMP and Abram Bissel of The Modern. But perhaps the best value is the walk-around afternoon tastings where the winemakers will be pouring their current releases.

The best wines from the Northern Rhone, syrah’s ancestral homeland, represent something of a Lorelei to me, with their alluring, savory call of black olives and herbs. The producers here a veritable murderer’s row of producers from the region. So it’s hard to imagine what the Reboule will do for an encore. But that’s a problem for next year.

Participating winemakers
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Helping the wildfire recovery

wildfire_recovery

The wine country fires caused a lot of damage, that we know. But as the fires come under control and some residents return to their greatly altered lives after mandatory evacuations, we are starting to get a handle on the extent of what happened. Here is a sad list of 22 wineries damaged by the fires in both Sonoma and Napa. And there’s speculation that undocumented immigrant workers, vital to the system of wine making, may not return since they do not qualify for disaster aid and much of the low-cost housing was damaged.

Sadly, there have been reports of price gouging as well as insurance payouts being insufficient to cover some damage. One estimate put the total at $3 – $6 billion.

Clearly, the regions need a lot of help. As wine consumers, the most obvious thing we can do is to buy wine from the affected areas. There are a variety of local charities to contribute too as well. And in the past few days, sommeliers and winemakers have organized a charity tastings to raise funds to aid the wildfire recovery effort. The first will be locally in Healdsburg, also in SF and NYC. I expect these will be very well attended.
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Fires savage Napa and Sonoma

On Sunday night, a fire got out of control somewhere north of the Bay. Seasonally dry conditions had left the area like a tinderbox. So when whipping winds of up to 70 mph hit the initial flames, they spread, well, like wildfire. Tragically, the blaze has now prompted the evacuation of 20,000 people, burned over 1,500 homes, incinerated 73,000 acres and left 11 people dead.

Santa Rosa in Sonoma has been hit particularly hard. The flames have also jumped to Napa and Mendocino counties.

The NYT has some shocking photos from before and after. SFgate has coverage too–the video with the homes crackling as they burn really pulls on the heart strings. And this video driving down a street after the Tubbs fire is haunting. And these photosEsther Mobley of the SF Chronicle has been tweeting tons of updates.

The vintage 2017 may be tough in many parts of the wine world, but this is by far the worst.


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