Palindromes.

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July 14th, 2018 marks the end of my palindromic last year (71417 & 33 years old!) and the entrance into a year of progression (3 ->4). Ever since turning 30, the years seems to have morphed into a bipolar sort of frenzy, vacillating from uber exciting (marriage, moving back to America, traveling, passing MW stage 1 assessments) to those decidedly less so (divorce, disease, death). I guess that’s just getting old, so let’s revel for a moment in the glory that was my 34th birthday.

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Truffles from Kati

Every good New Yorker know that birthdays deserve a little Milk bar. Whether in cake, crack pie, or truffle ball format, there truly is no way better to fight the ravages of time, that with sugar and sprinkles. Think about it.

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Cookies from Mom

Birthday surprises from Mom remind me what a joy it is to be home. Not just for the raspberry filled goodness, although surely that counts for something, but for the fact we can call each other from the same time zone, send each other surprises from our favorite local spots for guaranteed smiles, and celebrate milestones together. In person (but not until Wednesday).

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2008 from Icy

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which meant I had to work. Lucky for me, work is one of my absolute favorite places, and also very convenient for people to pop in. We kicked it off with Icy, her husband Mick and friends Sabrina and Keke for some amazing Champagne, complete with sabrage (sword compliments of Brando). Also, you should note 2008 is one of those vintages in Champagne where everything is great. EVERYTHING. Go out and buy all you can.

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2003 from Keke

This wine has made an appearance in my life several times over the past couple of months. It’s always a pleasure.

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Unfortunately the 2000 Chevalier Montrachet was hit by the premox fairy, but a prescient Jang was ready with a 2008 Puligny 1er Cru (which one B??) that was singing – laser sharp, driven, and absolutely delicious.

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Regulars -> friends. Caitlin, Nancy and Anthony sipped on a tasting inspired by friends -> Macari rose and Sartarelli Verdicchio. IMG_3373

Brittany brought by this tasty Lauer sparkling Riesling. It was amazing for how varietally true it showed with all the hallmarks of Riesling, petrol, acid, honey. PLUS bubbles. IMG_3378

Sabrage! Mick, Anny, and Brittany’s first time slicing away at the neck of a bottle.IMG_3383

Krug Rose is awesome. Despite an afternoon of incredible bubbles and wine, it was time to amp it up for dinner.IMG_3393

Brian miraculously found one of the very few remaining bottles of 1984, and even more incredibly, it was amazing! ’84 Bordeaux Blanc is proving some of the most delicious bottles from this generally horrible vintage. Several years back an ’84 Haut Brion blanc wowed me, and this was no different. IMG_3398

Peking Duck House twice in one week, and even better on the second time. Go for duck pancakes, fish soup, and the amazing Chinese mezze (???) platter.

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And bring Raveneau from 2001. You won’t be disappointed. IMG_3402

HBD. Brandon, Jenn, Theo, Winston, Andrew, Brian, Keke, Brittany, me (three of us from the disastrous ’84 vintage, but managing smiles thanks to Brian!).IMG_3406

Winston brought one of his favorites, Cauyse. Washington syrah loaded with black pepper but also sweet black boysenberry fruit – this is such a distinct and delicious wine – and was perfect with the hoisin sauced duck.IMG_3416

And then things got both literally and figuratively a little blurry. 9 hours of drinking awesome wine didn’t feel quite enough, so we popped over to La Compagnie to carry on the Bastille Day celebrations. IMG_3420

Champagne and Grand Cru Musigny? Sure. In the soft dim glow brought about by a bevy of bottles, we all conceited how happy we are that 2004 red Burgundy has the reputation is does (read: ladybugs). Just a sip of this 2004 Drouhin proved reputation be damned! And at a fraction of the price of its more exalted brother 2005, it should be noted. IMG_3429

As it began, so shall it end, with a little Milkbar.

Perhaps the palindrome of life keeps chugging along, or perhaps I just eat too much cake. I guess we’ll never know.

 

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NYC Marathon 2018

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Happy birthday to me! I woke up to 34 with a 10 mile run, perhaps my longest in two years, in preparation for the New York City Marathon (Nov 2018). I’ve long considered myself an avid runner. From 5 and 10ks to my first 10 miler in my early 20s,

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to trail running through my years in Hong Kong.

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Despite one night trail race that clocked in at 26 miles,

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I’ve never run a proper marathon (there was a whole lot of walking going on…). So when my best friend suggested running with the Robin Hood Foundation, I had my in.

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The Robin Hood Foundation, in addition to throwing epic parties, is the largest non-profit in New York combatting poverty. We all see homeless people on a daily basis, but what we don’t see are all of the people saved from the streets. People with shelters, hot meals, and chances for themselves and their children at an education and careers.  Behind the scenes is where we can all make a big difference. Every dollar raised by RHF goes directly to these programs. All operating costs are 100% paid by the Board of Directors, meaning each donation makes a big and direct impact. This is one of the smartest, most efficiently run and highly scrutinized organizations in New York, so it’s time we all get involved.

I have set a personal goal of $5,000, but am pretty confident that with your help we can double it. For my birthday this year, please make a donation (anything!) for this amazing cause.

You can contribute online here:

LAUREN’S CROWD FUND PAGE

Or stop by Tribeca Wine Merchants @ 40 Hudson Street, New York, to make an in person donation. We’ll be sabering and sipping Champagne all day, so come on by.

Thank you and keep an eye out for upcoming fundraising events (ie wine tasting), updates, and other fishguts news (for the Jangbots). Wish me luck!!

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Cheers!

A Few Thoughts on ZA

Over the past two weeks I have gotten a small glimpse into the awesomeness that is South Africa. I keep repeating “this is so beautiful, this is stunning,” but it doesn’t seem to do justice to how spectacularly  beautiful this country is. From the beaches to the mountains, and even up into the expansive desert, South Africa is simply gorgeous.

Yesterday I spent the better part of the day driving from Stellenbosch to Franschoek (1 hour) to Elgin (1+ hour) back to Stellenbosch (1 hour), most of which was through rocky mountains meaning zero radio. This left plenty of time to sit and marinate in my experiences, when not white knuckling over the steep monkey ridden mountain passes at least. Let’s just pause for a minute and give a little shout out for my left side, stick, monster truck driving skills. Shout.

Here are my overall impressions of this absolutely miraculous and stupidly beautiful country:

  1. Wine is a LONG established commodity here. It is grown well, it is made well, it is sold…well, it is sold. This isn’t new terroir, these are not new varieties (really), and there is a well established tradition of winemaking. We all know vines were planted here back in the 1600s, but neglect to appreciate that even despite apartheid and a checkered past, wine has always been in the fabric of this country.
  2. There’s a new generation coming up! These guys want to do something different, something that speaks to place and climate, and speaks to the world at large. The bulk days, while still paying many of the bills, won’t sustain just on their own. Quality will reign! Now it’s an issue to do something about the leaf roll problem and insane interest rates (9.25%) so these guys have a fighting chance

    Mick Craven of Craven Wines
  3. South Africans like to ice their whites, but don’t seem so keen on ice buckets. Strange, no?

    My silent protest of leaving the ice in the bucket, where it belongs
  4. Along those lines, WHITE cars! Any and everywhere!

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  5. This is a welcoming, gracious and curious culture. Politics play a very tangible part in every single person’s life, and recent changes have inspired hope for the future. There’s a feeling of optimism – cautious optimism – with (hopefully) big and bright things on the horizon. If this recent water crisis has showed anything, it’s that this is one country who can work together. “Day Zero” was originally projected for February, yet has been pushed to July thanks to the efforts of everyone! 

If you haven’t been, go. The flight is easy -> 15 hours direct to Johannesburg followed by a quick – and again – beautiful 2 hour hopper to Cape Town. And from there it’s a spectacularly beautiful drive anywhere. Do it.

Speaking of, 17 hours to go back to NY. See you on the other side.

The Beginning.

Airports have become my blog hub, so lucky for you, over the next few months you have a barrage of posts coming at ya. Instead of trying to catch up on an entire month, here’s a look at the last week:

Rieslingfeier. All Riesling (except 1 Sauv Blanc) with a ton of surprises! Donnhoff, Trimbach, Lauer (awesome).  I wish I had my notebook, because my favorites of the day were actually all producers I didn’t know before. 2016 is back to classic.

Highlights include ridiculous cornmeal crusted jam tart breakfast with Sarah, catching up with Abe and Ellie, and some super special pours of 70s and 80s German Rieslings.

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Abe, one of my very favorite people, is back and town. As such, let the LES feasting commence.

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After some local sashimi, a seared scallop, and a panoply of wine… prawns.

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My wine of the night, and a favorite I have enjoyed many times on this very Essex Street, Produttori del Barbaresco. Solid.

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Sunday rice. Entertaining was on my mind, but instead this deliciousity was just tossed in the freezer as I was laid up on the couch with the beginnings of a cold. A cancelled dinner and 11 hour sleep later, and….

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I met with a wine legend. Mounir Saouma started micro-negociant Lucien Le Moine a decade plus ago, and has henceforth become one of the most in demand winemakers of our time. These wines are ultra concentrated, deeply structured, and most importantly, worthy of massive cellaring. Not only were his wines incredible (HELLO Chambolle Baudes), but Mounir was a wealth of generous and illuminating knowledge.

Drink LLM.

Drink Rotem & Mounir Chateauneuf du Pape. —> especially here!! Burgundy meets Rhone, meets Rayas, meets I just want to drink you all night long.

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Megan sent us cookies!! I’m averaging 3 a day. IMG_0175

One of the greatest things about Tribeca is that it is, in fact, a neighborhood. Friday nights consisted of loft tours and ice sculptures in the park, all sponsored by the neighborhood. See me, Megan (the cookie monger) and Dapper Duanedog excited for an early spring.

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And it’s also full of lessons and inspiration. When I grow up, I’m going to have a loft. Full stop.

Off to Lisbon. Salud!

 

 

Done did, 2017 Style 

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The difference a year makes. Above, my last run of 2016….

My last run of 2017, a decidedly different view. Ah, Brooklyn….


As I’m going back through my old wine notebooks, scouring for examples for my pending Master of Wine exam, I’m realizing how much has happened in this seemingly very fast and short year. How is it possible it was already two months ago I was emailing Colin, who holds a PHD in yeast, about the significance of yeast choice on texture!? (#spoiler: it doesn’t!).

One full calendar back in the home of the free and brave. It doesn’t feel possible, so let’s have a wee look back at the ________ (adjective TBD) year of 2017.

Countries traveled: 4  -> Austria, France, Italy, & Lebanon

New Cities traveled:  10 -> Rust, Champagne, Piedmont, Miami,  Wintergreen, San Francisco, Bluemont, Beirut, Bekaa, Betroun

Upon looking at last year’s forecast for this year, I realize it has been a relative success, 2017 will be a year of fulfillment. My goals are clear, the deadlines are hard, and although I’m still slightly paralyzed by the massiveness of what lays ahead, I know it just takes a bunch of baby steps put together. Let the baby steps commence. Baby steps stepped, and I ended up quite pleased with the results of my first MW test.

Other 2017 achievements include a really positive year at Tribeca Wine Merchants. I landed my first $100,000+ sale, attended incredible dinners, including a black tie affair at Daniel, met a bunch of celebrities, and more than anything, totally enjoy every one of my colleagues.


Personally, I kept my running up, although a bit more tame than in years passed, saw my family often, and dated a pretty amazing man for a few months. I probably didn’t read as many books as I’d like, or do as much yoga, but you have got to keep some things to work on, hey?

GOALS 2018:

Priority numero uno: SMASH the Master of Wine Stage 2 assessments. I want to walk out feeling like I nailed 90% of the wines, had amazing knowledge and examples for all of the essays, and am able to enjoy a stress free post-test weekend with my family in Napa.

2) Amp up the running just a smidge – 3-5 mile runs up to 4-6 mile runs + 1 long per week – plus more yoga. My roommate is a yoga teacher and has amazing Tuesday / Thursday early classes, so I need to get better about getting out of bed and into warrior 1.

3) Move into my own, (semi)permanent apartment. As nice as it’s been having people to come home to, I need my own space, with my own stuff, in my own chosen location. Semi, because if #4 goes to plan, I’ll be moving into a much bigger apartment with a pool in no time.

4) Get married. Ok, maybe not in 2018, but let’s get that ball rolling…

5) There are lots of exciting things coming up at work. So here’s to all of the new initiatives starting strong.

I Eat, They Cook.

Perhaps it’s the holidays, or perhaps I just have epicurean-ly talented friends, but this week has been all about the home cooked meal.

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My new colleague Derrick (@dpaezwine) is, in fact, a chef. The next time you need to hire, I suggest you look to a chef. Not only is he super friendly, organized, and hardworking, but at least once a week he brings in some gem, like the one above. Kale crostini with walnuts, pickled onions, and a homemade chili paste from chilis brought back from Korea.

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Friday, Robin and Kaj invited me over for a dinner party catch up. They live a mere 5 or so blocks up the street from me, and have this amazing studio in a converted sugar factory. They decided a year ago to lived in various spots around New York for a month at a time, via Airbnb, before deciding on which neighborhood they ultimately wanted to live in. Although Bed Stuy wasn’t choice numero uno, once here they knew they’d found home.

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Robin was my IPO wine rep, but we became fast friends over Austrian wines and travel talk. Over the summer she and Kaj decided they wanted to get married, so they booked a flight to Norway and got hitched on the top of a mountain. And it’s been happily ever after since.

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Friday I found out girl can cook. Rosemary butter chicken, roast carrots, and a Brussels sprout potato hash, with amazing friends new and old, and delicious Voge Cornas, Isole e Olena Chianti, and various other deliciousities. IMG_7277

A 1 am evening didn’t deter my 7 am run luckily, for Saturday the feast continued on. This time at Chez Sarah.

Sarah has the apartment I want when I grow up (or this June, whichever comes first), complete with plate warmers (pictured below).
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Nick, Sarah and I began with some fino sherry and Champagne. I thought I had pulled the Bereche Tradition NV out of the fridge, but accidentally grabbed the Beaux Regards Blanc de Blancs – a 50% more expensive wine. Perhaps that’s some staying-in karma. This is now the second time I’ve served it blind, and both times everyone thought it was a Blanc de Noirs. Interesting, but also incredibly delicious, fresh if not austere, and a superb example of modern Champagne. IMG_7287

Sarah whipped up a little veal, butter shallots, mushroom and potato hash. Although not entirely successful with the veggies/butter, Dauvissat Chablis Vaillons 1er Cru 2013 was still very much enjoyed in all of its malo-y, minerally, freshness. Strangely enough, the last time I had the Bereche BdB we also had Dauvissat Chablis.

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We wrapped up with a fresh-out-of-the-oven pear tart and a spicy Vajra Barolo Chinato.

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On my way in from my snowy run this am, I remembered that Sarah had sent us each home with a piece of tart for breakfast. This is a solid move that will make you friends for life, and one I am stealing should I decide ever to host a dinner party.  But first, I need a table. #gottahavegoals

Moar Lebs: Chateau Musar

There’s a reason Chateau Musar has the greatest and furthest reaching reputation of all the wines of Lebanon; it’s great stuff.  This was our first stop on our 3 day intensive tour, and it really set the benchmark for what’s achievable in these arid soils.

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We began with a tour through the winery, which avoided any destruction in the civil war, the cellars, and finally to the tasting room where we had a really exceptional tasting to get a clear picture of how and why Musar is what it is.

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The United Nations of tasters.

We started with the whites. First an Obeidy, reminiscent of Chardonnay, Chasselas, then a Mizwah which is closer to a Semllion. Then Chateau Musar Blanc 2008,  which is a blend of these indigenous varietals Mizwah (1/3) and Obeidy (2/3). My notes read beeswax, honey, lanolin, super savory with herbal notes. Low acid, but super delicious -> built with pork ramen in mind! This is winter white. Then 1994 Blanc – amber, VA nose with honey. Higher acid, round and glycerol, complex.  Awesome.

Then we went on to have an exceptional tasting of every varietal grown here, individually vinified from the 2016 vintage, before tasting 4 vintages of Chateau Musar Rouge. All before 9 am. #winejobs

  1. Cinsault: this is the grape the winemakers have the highest hopes for in Lebanon, and the one I find the most successful overall. Jubee purple fruit, slight herbal tinge, fine grained powerful tannins
  2. Syrah: very acidic with powdery tannins- thick skins here! Floral and dense with fruit
  3. Grenache: pretty red fruit, high alc, super pleasant with loose tannins
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon: reductive, herbal thread, big chunky tannins all around the edge of the mouth
  5. Carignan: Another favorite of mine, cool. chunky tannins, purity of fruit. punchy alcohol (14%), warm and creamy – loving this

 

Chateau Musar 2003: volatile acidity lift, oxidative tomato, sweet spice and some play-doh saltiness (a hallmark of Lebanese wines for me). Concentrated and well built. 

Chateau Musar 1998: reminiscent of a Bordeaux nose with cigar box for days. Some VA, but more harmonious than 03, textured, powerful, and one to continue to age. Long. 

Chateau Musar 1974 (corked): this was weird and unclear why they served it. Perhaps to make ’64 look better?

Chateau Musar 1964: sugar, sweet spice, and light cigar box. “Wild wine.” – Serge. Beautiful, elegant, harmonious, still with a fruit core and strong tannins. A lady in body, but savage with umami and power. 

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While Marc is in New York, I’m purple teething it up with Donald and Gaston Hochar.