IWM Holiday Grand Tasting 2019


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Italian Wine Merchants (IWM) is a wine shop that, not surprisingly, specializes in Italian wines. It’s located at 108 East 16th Street across from Union Square Park in Manhattan.

Unusual for a wine store, they have a small room and a dedicated kitchen in the back of the shop that they use as a venue where they host wine dinners and wine tastings.

On the weekend after Thanksgiving Day they hosted their Black Friday mini grand tasting. On this Saturday afternoon, it was a casual walk-around tasting of 32 Italian wines. I’ve been to a few tastings at this venue and I know they pour quality juice. It was a mostly a red wine list with a couple of sparking wines, a rosé and a handful of whites thrown in. They poured a good representation of Italian wines from the North to the South of the boot.

As usual they put out a nice spread of food with good bread and an excellent selection of charcuterie. The kitchen cooked up a couple of tasty pasta dishes as well.

It’s a popular event and the crowd became a little thick at times but I was able to sample as many wines as I wanted, everyone was in a festive mood. My favorites of the afternoon were a couple of Nebbiolo based wines, the 2015 Luigi Giordano Barbaresco Asili and the 2015 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia.

Wines poured:

NV Cima da Conegliano Prosecco Extra Dry 2011 Castello Bonomi Franciacorta Brut Cru Perdu
2018 Cornarea Roero Arneis 2015 Drago Collio Friulano
2018 De Concilus Falanghia 2018 Masut da Rive Maurus Chardonnay
2015 Per Luna Cerasuolo 2016 Hilberg-Pasquero Vareij
2016 Hilberg-Pasquero 29.5 Per Alessandra Barbera d’Alba 2016 San Giuliano Barbera Fiore di Marcorino
2015 San Giuliano Barbaresco 2017 Scarzello Langhe Nebbiolo
2013 Scarzello Barolo 2015 Luigi Giordano Barbaresco Asili
2015 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2013 Gaja Costa Russi
2017 Masut da Rive Maurus Pinot Noir 2018 Per Linda Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
2017 Schiena Vini Salento Enneoro Negroamaro 2017 Schiena Vini Impero Primitivo di Manduria

2017 De Conciliis Donnaluna Anglianico

2010 De Conciliis Naima
2017 Begali Valpolicella Classico 2012 Nicolis Amarone dell Valpolicella Classico
2008 Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso del Bepi 2014 La Corsa Settefinestre
2014 La Corsa Teroldego 2015 Trecciano Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva
2017 Collemattoni Rosso di Montalcino 2016 Le Mortelle Botrosecco Maremma
2011 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino

2012 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino Riserva



Matter of Taste New York 2019


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Matter of Taste is a global series of fine wine tastings hosted by wine critic Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate journal. The 2019 tour took them to Napa, Taipei and Zurich with the final Grand Tasting in New York City on Saturday, November 23rd.

The event was held at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, a 1920’s inspired Art Deco, movie palace themed event space located at 141 West 54th Street in midtown Manhattan.

At the Grand Tasting over 250 international wines with scores of 93+ from the Wine Advocate were poured in addition to several Master classes.

Along with the Wine Spectator’s Wine Experience, the Matter of Taste Grand Tasting is one of the premier wine tasting events available to the consumer. There were an amazing amount of high end wines from around the world in the room to sample. As much as I would loved to have tried them all that’s just not possible so I did what I usually do in these situations and picked a category to focus on. Bordeaux and Burgundy were lightly represented so I directed my attention to Napa Valley Cabernet, specifically Cabernet from labels I wasn’t familiar with. Many of the wineries with the unfamiliar labels I sampled are extremely small production wineries, in most instances only a handful to a few hundred cases produced a year. There were so many Napa Valley wineries on hand that after several hours I did not get to all of them. It was an excellent tasting.

Some of what I sampled: 


2016 Addax Cabernet Sauvignon “Tench Vineyard” (Napa Valley) Cloudy, dark red with a purple rim with dusty, chocolate fruit, nice balance.

2017 Alejandro Bulgeroni Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (Napa Valley) Black with a purple rim, violets and crushed black fruit on the nose, concentrated dusty dark fruit with a firm but long finish.

2017 Alejandro Bulgeroni Cabernet Sauvignon Lithology “Dr. Crane Vineyard” (Napa Valley) Opaque black, mineral and crushed black fruit on the nose, thick, chewy black fruit with a nice grip at the end.

2014 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Opaque dark purple, fresh herbs on the nose, juicy red fruit with big tannins at the end.

2016 B Cellers Cabernet Sauvignon “Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard” (Napa Valley) Dark red, purple rim, roast nuts on the nose, juicy and tight with big tannins.

2016 Bevan Proprietary Red “Double E Tench Vineyard” (Napa Valley) Dark red, purple rim, crushed red fruit and tobacco on the nose, tight with dusty tannis.

2016 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Opaque dark red, crushed black fruit and licorice on the nose, chunky, dusty with mint notes on the crisp tannins.

2016 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon “Darius II” (Napa Valley) Dark red, purple rim, dark chocolate on the nose with chewy and chunky black fruit.

2015 Gallica Cabernet Franc (Napa Valley) Black with a purple rim, dark chocolate on the nose with a dusty, dark chocolate finish on the firm tannins.

2015 Hertelendy Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Dark red, purple rim, closed nose of dusty fruit with chewy, dark fruit, long finish.

2014 Hertelendy Signature Mountain Blend (Napa Valley) Dark red, purple rim, closed nose of black cherry and oak, chewy red fruit with silky, lip smacking tannins at the end.

2016 Lail Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “J. Daniels Cuvée” (Napa Valley) Black, purple rim, dried herbs on the nose, tight and concentrated cigar box fruit, firm, silky finish.

2015 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon “Monte Rosso” (Sonoma) Dark red, purple rim, crushed red fruit and green herbs on the nose, juicy, dusty fruit with silky tannins at the end.

2016 Mathew Bruno Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford (Napa Valley) Dark purple, purple rim, dried leaf and black pepper on the nose with red cherry, tight fruit.

2016 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder (Napa Valley) Dark black in color, crushed black cherry on the nose with juicy black fruit and firm tannins.

2016 Mt. Brave Merlot Mt. Veeder (Napa Valley) Dark purple, pickle juice on the nose, tight with big tannins.

2014 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mt. (Napa Valley) Dark red to black with a purple rim, sour pickle on the nose, juicy with firm tannins.  

2010 Shadowbox Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Cloudy dark brick, tar and graphite on the nose, chunky with dried leaf and leather fruit,  nice balance.

2012 Signorello Estate Proprietary Red “Padrone” (Napa Valley) Opaque dark red to black, crushed dusty red fruit on the nose, tight dark chocolate fruit with crisp acids.

2016 Signorello Estate Proprietary Red “Padrone” (Napa Valley) Opaque dark red, purple rim, toasty nose, concentrated with gun metal notes on the fruit.

2012 Sloan Estate Asterisk (Napa Valley) Decanted. Opaque dark red, brick rim, cooked fruit and black cherry on the nose, dusty black fruit, good balance and a long finish.

2015 Sloan Estate Proprietary Red (Napa Valley) Opaque black, brick rim, bell pepper and rosemary notes on the nose, chewy dark chocolate fruit, long finish.

2017 Tor Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon (Napa Valley) Black, purple rim, dusty forest floor notes on the nose, juicy, concentrated black fruit, firm finish.

2017 Tor Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch (Napa Valley) Black, purple rim, black plums on the nose, thick, juicy with dried herb notes on the fruit ending with lip smacking tannins. 

2015 Vangone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Black, purple rim, black plum on the nose, chewy, concentrated fruit with dark leather notes, good balance.

2016 Vangone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) Black, purple rim, toasty roast nuts on the nose, chunky, with a firm grip on the long finish.


2014 Vega Sicilia “Valbuena” (Castilla Leon) Dark red, biscotti notes on the nose, juicy red fruit with some earth on the moderate finish.

2009 Vega Sicilia “Unico” (Castilla Leon) Dark brick, fresh herbs on the nose, green herbs on the tight finish with big tannins.

2015 Penfolds “Grange” (Barossa) Opaque black, pretty perfume of earth and crushed black fruit, concentrated, tight fruit, dusty finish with a nice grip.

2006 Ducru Beaucaillou (St-Julien) Brick in color, plum and tar on the nose, very tight with dried leaf notes on the finish.

Master Class

Inside Barbaresco: A Spotlight On Produttori del Barbaresco

I was able to attend this seminar of a vertical tasting of the wines from Produttori del Barbaresco. The Produtori is a cooperative of 50 members and small growers in the Barbaresco zone of Piedmont, Italy. It’s one of the better consortium and are know for making quality wines. They are also know for bottling wines from several of the Cru vineyards in Barbaresco so it’s possible to have a horizontal tasting of Barbaresco from different vineyards. On this day I wasn’t feeling it. It might be that I had spent an hour before the seminar drinking fruit forward California Cabernet but most of the wines I sampled here had thin fruit and high acids. The only one that was appreciable was the oldest wine, the 1982 Rabaja. Still, a vertical tasting is always exciting.

2013 Riserva Asili 2013 Riserva Montefico
2013 Riserva Montestefano 2007 Riserva Asili
2007 Riserva Montefico 2007 Riserva Montestefano
2005 Riserva Asili 2005 Riserva Montefico
2005 Riserva Montestefano 2001 Riserva Montestefano
1996 Riserva Montestefano 1982 Riserva Rabaja



NYC Autumn Whisky Fest 2019


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On November 16th I attended the New York Whisky Festival. This was one of the many spirit-centric festivals that are taking place around the New York area at this time of year.

The festival was held at The Tunnel at 269 11th Avenue on the West side of Manhattan. It’s a former indoor rail terminal that has been used as a nightclub, event venue and commercial space.

There are many such festivals held around this time of year and like most things some are better than others. Some of the festivals are geared toward the experienced drinker who are looking to experience some high end and esoteric spirits while other festivals are geared more to the novice drinkers that are looking for more of a party with some spirits thrown in. The latter tend to showcase 2nd tier or unknown labels for the spirits. This festival was more of the latter than the former. In my opinion, the most interesting whisky at the event were the single malt French whisky from Rozelieures, while solid stalwarts such as Taconic Distillery, Koval and Slaughter House were on hand to pour some quality spirits. I attended the afternoon session and the crowd on hand were enjoying themselves.

Some of what I sampled:


Rozelieures  Single Malt French Whiskey Springbrook Rye, Bourbon
Slaughter House, Straight Edge, Whipsaw Catoctin Creek Bourbon, Roundstone Rye
Glen Grant Single Malt Scotch 12yr, 15yr, 18yr Taconic Distillery Founders Rye, Cask Strength Rye, Barrel Strength Bourbon 
Koval  Oat, Millet, Bourbon, Single Barrel Duke Bourbon, Founders Reserve
Uncle Nearest 1856, 1884 Whisky Coppersea Rye, Straight Whisky
J. Riddle Peated Bourbon American Craft Distillers 1420 Bourbon
Town Branch Single Malt Whisky, Bourbon Black Button Distillery Bourbon
Catcher’s Rye Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whisky



CiderFeast Brooklyn 2019


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On Saturday afternoon, November 9th I attended the CiderFeast cider tasting festival which was one of the many cider-centric events held during the New York City Cider Week November 8-17.

The event was hosted by the folks at Food Karma Project and NYC based restauranteur, Jimmy Carbone which hold events throughout the year including the Pig Island BBQ fest in September.

The event which was held at Biba of Williamsburg, a waterfront pub/beer garden serving Polish and American food located at 110 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn.

The tasting showcased over 15 national and international cider producers with many from New York State. Also on hand were small bites including some very tasty “prosciutto” from Kentucky and live music by the JP Bowersock Band.

Hard Cider was once the primary alcoholic beverage and a staple of the early American diet in this country especially during the Colonial period in which according to Rebelseed.com, the early colonists drank about 35 gallons of cider a year.  Prohibition brought that all to an end.

There has been a resurgence of cider making in the United States with sales in 2014 at $2 billion and New York State is the 2nd largest grower of apples in the United States with about a billion pounds grown a year. The 2013 Farm Cideries’ Law made it easier to obtain a cidery license and gave tax incentives to cideries that exclusively use New York State crops. This has helped fuel substantial growth in the local industry.

At the event the local hipsters were able to sample a mix of the mass produced ciders alongside small artisanal producers who experiment with different types of yeast, aging vessels, apples and so forth. Even the big time producers such as Angry Orchard have a division that make unusual (and unusually named) small production ciders.


Some of what I sampled:


Angry Orchid: Thick as Thieves, Super Natural, Extra Terrestrial

Wayside Cider: The Catskill, The Skinny, The Half Wild, The Wild Select

Descendant Cider Co.: Dry hopped

Abandoned Cider Co.: Classic, Hopped, Barrel Aged

Downeast Cider House: Original Blend, Winter Blend

Urban Farm Fermentory: Super Dry, Hopped, Blueberry

Ommegang Project Cider: Dry, Rosé

Kings Highway: Singapore Sling, Gingersnap, Guavalicious

Original Sin: McIntosh

Aval: Classic, Rosé

Romilly Cidre: Extra Dry, Demi-Sec, Doux

Asturias Cider: Sparkling

Barrika: Basque Cider



New York Irish Whiskey Festival


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On November 2nd I attended the first annual New York Irish Whiskey Festival. It’s America’s first Irish Whiskey Festival and promised 25+ brands to try plus live music and “Irish Grub”.

It’s was hosted by the team behind The Dead Rabbit which has been named the best bar in the world. They decided that Irish Whiskey should have its own festival to showcase what Irish Whiskey can be.

The history of Irish Whiskey sales have gone up and down and back up again. Before Prohibition it had been the largest selling type of whiskey in the U.S. which was its largest market but politics in Europe and the enactment of the Volstead Act caused the Irish Whiskey industry to fall off a cliff. It has seen a resurgence in popularity going from US sales of $74 million in 2003 to $1billion in 2018.

The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 states that Irish Whiskey must be triple distilled and aged exclusively on the island of Ireland at no higher than a ABV of 94.8% and must be aged a minimum of three years in wood. They are generally unpeated. The four types of whiskey are single malted, single pot still, single grain and blended whiskey.

I was looking forward to attending this tasting because most of my experience with Irish Whiskey has been with the Jameson and Bushmills that are available at every bar in town and I wanted to try new brands and whiskey styles.

There are no rules for what type of wood the whiskey is permitted to be aged in so to be globally competitive, the Irish Whiskey industry has been experimenting with aging in different types of barrels and wood. That includes casks that were used for Madeira, Sherry, Bourbon and Rum to name a few and types of oak such as American, French, Slovenian, Irish and even Japanese oak (Glendalough 13yr single malt). Many are aged in one type of barrel and finished in others. This in addition to the pot still whiskeys which are uniquely Irish.  

Many of the producers on hand make several whiskey, from a basic blend to the aged single malts to whiskeys aged in the different casks. I found most of those in the middle categories as the most interesting. In general many of the whiskey I sampled were very smooth with a lot of nuances going on in the glass, in other words, good sipping whiskey.

The event was held at Pier A Harbor House at 22 Battery Place in lower Manhattan. It’s a restaurant and event space inspired by the old oyster houses of New York with an expansive view of New York harbor.


Brands that I sampled:

Proper Twelve Egan’s
Lambray Glendalough
Tullamore Dew Pearse
Teeling Samual Gelstone’s
The Dead Rabbit Knappogue Castle
Sexton Bushmills
Roe & Co West Cork
Clonakilty The Pogues



Raw Wine New York 2019


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The Raw Wine artisan wine fair was held on October 27-28. It was the New York City stop on a 2019 tour that has taken and will take the fair to Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal and Berlin.

The Fair showcased low intervention, organic, biodynamic and natural wine growers and makers and afforded the opportunity for consumers and members of the trade to sample the wines and to speak to the people involved.

The mission statement of the fair states that “Raw Wine celebrates wines with emotion. Wines that have a humanlike, or living presence. They are also wines that are an authentic expression of a place”.

The Fair was held at the Knockdown Center located at 52-19 Flushing Avenue in Maspeth, Queens. This is a new venue for the event and the first time I have been to this venue. It’s a former factory and is a huge, brick fortress that’s almost a football field long that on the Sunday afternoon I attended, was crammed with tables of wineries pouring their wines. There were a massive selection of wines to try.

There were representatives of wine producing countries from the old and the new world including the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Georgia, Australia and Chile.

For the most part these are small production wineries with labels that I didn’t recognize with the exception of a couple of California producers. All styles of wine were represented including still, sparkling, pet-nats and orange wines. There was also a small selection of beer, cider and spirits.

These are niche wines that have gained more traction the last several years. According to BeverageDaily.com, the organic wine market represents 3.6% of global consumption but that number has doubled in the last five years. I can say that they have improved much for these types of wine from decades past. Still, many of the wines had the pungent aromas that these wines are known to have.



Wine Experience Grand Award Banquet 2019


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The 39th annual Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience was held on October 17-19 at the Marriot Marquis hotel in Times Square, Manhattan.

The premier consumer wine event of the year hosted several wine seminars, and a couple of critics’ choice grand tastings.

The finale of the Wine Experience was the Grand Award Banquet held on Saturday evening in which presentations were made to the 2019 Grand Award winners and to the recipient of the Distinguished Service award.

The eight grand award recipients for 2019 came from the United States, Mexico, Austria and France and the Distinguished Service Award was presented to Georg Riedel, proprietor of his family’s Austrian glass firm.

This year’s live entertainment was provided by one of the most popular bands in musical history, The Beach Boys.

Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year was the 2015 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia.

It was a sit-down, formal dinner preceded by a Champagne cocktail hour.


Champagne Reception

Barons de Rothschild Brut

Bollinger Special Cuvee

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Henriot Brut Souverain

Louis Roederer Brut Nature

Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee

Tattinger La Francaise



Cream of parsnip, walnut and pear en croute served with fall mixed greens, shaved baby carrots, beets, radish, ricotta salata and red currents in a Champagne vinaigrette.

2017 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

Medium gold with a honeyed nose, juicy tropical fruit with a nice balance. Big, old school Cali Chard.


Herb crusted filet of beef with slow roasted beef croquette, potato gratin, cipollini onions and baby carrots with a red wine reduction.

2015 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Lot No. 1 (Napa Valley)

Dark red to black, crushed black fruit and dried herbs on the nose with juicy fruit with dust and mint notes with silky, lip smacking tannins at the end. Another fruit forward Cali style of wine.