Saturday, December 10, 2016



Story and Photo Gallery by Dwight Casimere

Dwight Casimere with Violet Grgich at David Burkes Kitchen Treehouse bar and terrace in SoHo

NEW YORK--Violet Grgich, proprietor of Grgich Hills Estate of Napa Valley and daughter of winemaking legend Mike Grgich, is recounting the colorful life and career of her history-making father as no one else can in the chic Treehouse bar and dining room at David Burke's Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo.  What, for her father, began as a journey, fleeing the Nazis from a tiny village in his native Croatia, to creating a wine that won the 1976 Paris Tasting, founding a world-famous winery in the Napa Valley, which is now in its 40th anniversary year, to having that championship wine enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute as one of 101 Objects That Made America, is a story she never tires of telling.

Violet Grgich and her 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay, her father, Mike Grgich, is known as "The King of Chardonnay"

"When my father was growing up in the tiny village of Desne in Croatia, " Violet Grgich began, "he never imagined that the wine he crafted would appear in the same museum as the Declaration of Independence or that he would have a winery in one of the premier wine growing regions of the world. His achievements far exceeded even his own American Dream. In every way, my father's journey is inspiring and empowering, " she said movingly.

Grgich kept her comments brief and to the point because her main objective was to have the assembled 20 or so invited wine journalists and special guests dive into a wine pairing luncheon choreographed by David Burke's stellar culinary staff. The opening salvo was, of course, Grgich Hills 2014 Fume' Blanc, the wine which Mike Grgich originally created for winemaking icon Robert Mondavi. The wine popularized Napa Valley wine in a way that it had never been before. Paired with a Root Vegetable Salad composed of fennel, smoke and white truffle, the wine's characteristic smoky flavor and full-mouthed texture and flavors of juicy tropical fruit and lemongrass was enhanced by 6 months on the lees in neutral barrels and aging in a combination of neutral casks and large oak barrels, which gives the wine smoothness and roundness of character.

Composed salad of root vegetables, fennel, smoke and white truffle was paired with Grgich Hills 2014 Napa Valley Fume Blanc

The centerpiece of the afternoon was, of course, the 40th Anniversary 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay, accompanied by a Za'Atar Spiced Cornish Hen with roasted pork belly, spinach and yogurt, a Mediterranean spin on a lunchtime staple. The pairing emphasized the complex fruit flavors of ripe peach, backed by flavors of mango and tropical fruit, with a note of minerality. A pleasant natural acidity brought about by the fact that the wine is not allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation, and the grapes are farmed naturally and are certified organic. The fresh tastes and aromas linger long on the palate and brought out the sunny array of spices used in the dish.

Za'atar Spiced Cornish Hen with 2014 Grgich Hills Chardonnay, 40th Anniversary

House Made Rigatoni appeared next accompanied by Grgich Hill's robust 2012 Napa Valley Merlot.
With a red wine game ragout, duck egg, roasted mushrooms and parsley gremolata, this was an ideal flavor pairing. It mined the ripe plum and slightly earthy notes of the wine, with hints of black dirt and freshly unearthed truffles. For lovers of game meat, this was a rewarding taste excursion.

House Made Rigatoni with Duck Egg and Red Wine Game Ragout is paired with 2012 Merlot

2013 Violetta Late Harvest, named for the proprietor herself,  was every bit the classically-produced late harvest wine brought about by the "noble rot," Botrytis cinerea. The thick, rich juice from these shriveled berries that barely yield a drop of highly concentrated juice bring forth a wine rich in flavors and aromas of ripe pear, Mandarin orange and honeysuckle. The wine paired perfectly with the dessert of Mascarpone Mousse, with graham crumble, green apple sorbet and violetta honey reduction made from the wine.

 Grgich Hills 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is poured
The dessert of Mascarpone Mousse is paired with 2013 Violetta Late Harvest

There is  nothing more sublime than the melding of chocolate with a terrific red wine. In this case, Grgich Hills 2012 Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, served as the dessert wine.

2012 Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon and Dark Chocolate with Red Wine Ganache

 With its rich, full bodied flavors of black berries, licorice, and hints of allspice and juniper berries, this wine showed its pedigree as having been produced from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Napa Valley. Dark Chocolate accompanied by a red wine ganache and cocoa nibs, made for the perfect flavor combination and an ovation-worthy finale.

Photo Gallery/Dwight Casimere

Views of the Treehouse Bar and Terrace at David Burkes Kitchen in SoHo

Friday, December 9, 2016

Champagne Taittinger and Calvisius Caviar-Ring in the Christmas Spirit and a Bright, Happy New Year!

by Dwight Casimere

 Dwight Casimere with Vitalie Taittinger-
 Champagne Taittinger and (below) Calvisius Caviar

The challenges, trials and tribulations and yes  occasional joys, of 2016 are almost at an end. Time to treat you and your loved ones to something really special. Kick back, relax and expand your taste buds to absorb the unique combination of flavors created by the combination of Champagne Taittinger and Calvisius Caviar. 

The unctuous flavor combination of champagne and caviar is unparalleled, particularly when both are of such extremely high quality and compatibility. 

Here are some combinations that will take you to the brink of ecstasy:

Champagne Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV-$59.99
Calvisius Caviar Tradition Prestige  28 grams, $74.99

Brut La Francaise is a kaleidoscope of flavors from bright orchard fruit of pears, white peaches and a hint of tangerine and white flowers to a touch of light toasty brioche and nutmeg. There's a touch of white stones and and chalky minerals that make it a perfect foil of Calvisius Caviar Tradition Prestige. Made from White Pacific Sturgeon, this caviar has a taste that is both delicate and elegant, making it a perfect match to the champagne. The taste is slightly nutty with a medium firm texture. There's a buttery creaminess about it that lingers perfectly in the mouth with the flavor and texture of the champagne. With hints of sea foam, it has a long clean finish, which makes for a satisfying and lingering taste experience.

Champagne Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus NV  $94.99
Calvisius Caviar Oscietra Classic       28 grams, $119.99

Oscietra Classic is also known as Russian Sturgeon, the same as the ancient species from the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, that are the bedrocks of fine caviar. There's nothing to compare to the taste and texture; firm with a rich nutty and creamy delicate flavor, with a hint of the sea, it melds perfectly with the hints of stone fruit and doughy brioche aromas that makes Taittinger Prelude and experience like that of Dancing with the Stars!

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006  $198.99

Calvisius Caviar Siberian  28 grams, $69.99

This is truly the symbiotic melding of two classics; the Blanc de
 Blancs has an acidity that cuts through the richness of the Siberian Caviar, thus creating a flavor sensation. The champagne is brilliant with the tingle of Chardonnay, which goes right to the heart of the mouth filling creaminess of the caviar pearls. As they roll across the tongue, the ethereal complexity of the nature champagne cuts through the saltiness and sea breeze of the caviar  to create an harmonious blend of flavors. This is, by far, the most rewarding of the all of the flavor combinations. 

Master Sommelier  Chantelle Pabros, Vitalie Taittinger and Calvisius Ambassador John Knierim

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose 2006  $261.99
Calvisiu Caviar Oscietra Royal   28 grams, $139.99 

Here, we have reached the pinnacle of flavor, with the combination of gleaming red fruit; think ripe strawberries, raspberries and notes of caramelized honey or light brown sugar that literally blanket the mouth in richm lingering flavors. Combine this with the special flavor and firm texture of the dark brown caviar with flecks of golden amber and a velvety texture, and you have the makings of a true classic. It doesn't get much better than this at any price. Flavors of ripe Bosque pears, hazelnut and creamy Irish Gold butter combine with a bright, refreshing finish to make this an experience of pure luxury. What a perfect way to top off the Holiday experience and ring in a bright and shiny New Year!