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Posts Filed Under Wined Down (Playboy.com)

Churchill’s Vintage Port Recent (And Not So Recent) Releases

“You can beat the sh*t out of something, and all you get is powdered sh*t!”
– Johnny Graham

As part of some prep work for recently-published Playboy Port Primer (For Your Holiday Port-ing Pleasure), in November I was a guest of importer Frederick Wildman for a lunch/tasting and dinner/tasting with Johnny Graham, the force behind relative Port newcomer Churchill’s.

The F-W folks didn’t actually know that I was sort-of on assignment for my Port Primer, but it turned out that Johnny Graham – to whom I now owe a return on a much-needed pre-dinner beer that he bought me en route to the evening event – had so much Port worth talking about that I wanted to highlight him here. I think I also owe him a beer for providing the above quote, which slipped out when we were tasting through some of the Churchill’s lineup at F-W headquarters before our dinner, while we were discussing wines that exude finesse as well as natural concentration, versus those that simply display an overly-extracted sense of concentration (for an example of the former, try Churchill’s elegantly understated Ten Year Tawny Port, which I likened to Sancerre – seriously – in terms of its prettiness).

Anyway, the highlight of the visit was a trip to NYC’s Hearth restaurant, where I finally got to see/taste what all the (well-deserved) fuss was about when it comes to Paul Grieco (and his massive soul patch), who did an admirable job pairing an entire multi-course meal to vintage Port selections from Churchill’s (not an easy feat, even if the wines are quite good, since they’re also quite demanding, and in some cases quite sweet – in short, a culinary mine field).

Graham’s family Port biz started in the 1800s, and he told me that he was “fortunate, in my youth, I was able to taste vintages like the 1908s; Vintage Port can age 20, 50 years or more, and there just aren’t many wines that can do that.” To that end, given the sh*tload of non-sh*tty wines we tasted that evening, I hope you’ll forgive me the  list-and-review style format post, but I thought it worthwhile to give you the scoop on several past vintages of Churchill’s Vintages… including a sneak-peak at the yet-to-be-released 2011…

Read the rest of this stuff »

Wined Down: Does Wine Have A Place In Football Tailgating?

Vinted on December 12, 2012 binned in Wined Down (Playboy.com)

My vote is “YES.”  It is possible, people – it’s just a bit tricky and, like going up against the better NFL defenses, requires careful planning. Wine can work at a tailgate party. I’m trying to stay interested this season, despite the Steelers’ lagging playoff run hopes. And yes, I realize that we lost to the Browns this season. Still trying to deal with that one…

Anyway… wine + tailgate requires a strategy because, as anyone who has ever braved freezing cold stadium parking lots can attest, beer has an all but complete lock on tailgating festivities. I happen to love beer, but I don’t think that should mean that wine never sees the fun of a good tailgate. To get an insider perspective on all of this, I recently got some time in with former NFL rookie sensation Rick Mirer during wich we talked wine, football, and the tailgate for my latest Wined Down column for Playboy.com.

Why talk to Mirer? He is uniquely positioned at the intersection of wine and American football; after he left his journeyman career in the NFL, he started up a Napa wine label and a charitable foundation for children’s health and education. He seems to be a pretty nice guy; at least he didn’t hang up the phone when I told him I was a die-hard Steelers fan (“hey, I appreciate loyalty,” he told me when I asked him if my cheering for an NFL team that was one of his staunchest rivals was a deal-breaker for our conversation). And yes, I know we lost to the Browns this season, okay?!??

Anyway… For the record, Mirror makes a fairly complex and hefty Cabernet Sauvignon (I enjoyed the 2008, but its rich, dense and chocolaty style is better encountered at the steakhouse than on the back of an SUV outfitted for a tailgate party); their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc won’t be mistaken for Sancerre anytime soon, but does the Napa SB thing pretty well, and has a nice acidic line to carry the low-hanging, ripe tropical fruits.

Personally, I’ve had success with both inexpensive and pricier screw-capped wines at the tailgate (cork extraction – and corked wines! – are both generally a bit of a buzz kill in the parking lot) as well as with Tawny Port (paired with stogies) in post-victory, wait-for-the-cars-to-thin-out environs.

How about you? Have you pulled off wine successfully at a tailgate party? Or should we all just stick with beer and forget about it? Shout it out in the comments!

Cheers!

Wined Down: Turkey Day Wine, Minus The Heartburn

Vinted on November 22, 2012 binned in Wined Down (Playboy.com)

As long-time 1WD readers already know, I’m not much for specific holiday wine pairings. Generally speaking, general guidelines will serve you better than trying to force a specific wine into a situation for which it might not be properly equipped – and no food-&-wine pairing situation is fraught with more potential culinary landmines than the Thanksgiving Table!

I’ve no more to add to those general guidelines than what I posted regarding the Turkey Day wine pairing action plan last year, however I also have a new boss this year (Playboy.com). And that boss knows that people actually like the holiday wine pairing thing, and so it’s my job to try and make that scenario an interesting read.

And so today I give you a humorous take on the old Thanksgiving food & wine pairing spiel, Playboy.com style; with tongue planted firmly in cheek there (not that cheek, you perv!), as it swishes some high-acid wines to wash down all that turkey, stuffing and sweet potato casserole. Enjoy!

Oh, and one more thing – the thing for which I’m most thankful today? YOU, the 1WD readership. Actually, I’m thankful for you every day, not just today… ok, whatever, you know what I mean! You people seriously RAWK IT and have made this little corner of the Internet the special place that it is.

Cheers – and have a safe, engorging Turkey Day!

Winding Down With Francis Ford Coppola

Vinted on November 14, 2012 binned in Wined Down (Playboy.com)

“You have a tall task — on two fronts.”

Those were the words my friend and consigliere Jeff Lefevere (who has got to be the most talented blogger currently not blogging) had for me when I asked him for advice in interviewing movie icon Francis Ford Coppola about his Sonoma wine endeavors.

Coppola is near icon, and has been oft-interviewed,” Jeff pointed out, before quickly adding, “More importantly, how do you talk a little wine without coming off sounding like a shill who is reading from the press release?”

That last part is something that plagues writers covering any area. Even if you pull out all of the stops and interviewing chops, some people will simply give you charming marketing spiel, the equivalent of the stuff you could get from their website About pages only in certified from-the-horse’s-mouth quotation form.

So for my Wined Down / Playboy.com interview with Coppola, I decided to take Jeff’s advice and try to get inside of Coppola’s head a little bit, even going so far as to link our conversation back to a PB interview that he did around forty years ago (for more on that one, see Playboy’s 50 Years of the Playboy Interview collection). I suppose it worked to some extent, since in the course of it he reveals that he’s working on a new screenplay, and even the publicists on his side didn’t know about that. More likely I just got lucky.

Anyway… we talk wine, of course, focusing on his work in Sonoma (look, Coppola’s Rubicon/Inglenook stuff is an awesome story line, but as Jeff insightfully pointed out, it’s been oft-told), his love of Bordeaux, how he looks back on previous interviews and the iconic characters that he’s created, and whether or not he was trying to tell the wine cognoscenti to f*ck off by moving his movie memorabilia and shop out of Napa.

Okay, this is the part where you head over to PB and check it out!

Cheers!

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