Black-eyed peas and Champagne for New Year’s day

On New Year’s day, Tracie P cooked up some black-eyed peas with the ham bone reserved from the spiral ham Mrs. B had served on Christmas day. Her buttermilk cornbread (baked in her grandmother’s cast-iron skillet) was unbelievably delicious, especially when used to sop up the bean liquor (as it is called in the south, i.e., the beans’s cooking liquid). Neapolitan-style cabbage braised with onions gave the combined flavors just the right twang of sweet and sour.

And the perfect pairing for those creamy beans? Henriot NV Blanc Souverain, 100% Chardonnay. Ubi major, minor cessat: I am always one to agree with Ed McCarthy when notes that Chardonnay finds one of its greatest expressions in Champagne. This wine was an ideal pairing for the flavors of our New Year’s day meal: its acidity and white stone fruit flavors combined with its elegant fizziness were wonderfully refreshing against the richness of the cornbread, the dolce amaro of the cabbage, and the texture of the legumes.

Black-eyed peas for New Year’s is now a three-year-old tradition at our house and de rigueur in the south. I loved Jessica Harris’s NY Times op-ed on its origins as a New Year’s dish.

What did ya’ll eat on New Year’s day?

Ed McCarthy’s insights into Valentini, one of the absolutely best wines I’ve had in 2010

Above: One of the absolutely best wines I had this year was the 1999 Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, which I drank at the Orange Wine dinner we held at Vino Vino in Austin in April.

Ever since my friend and ex-boss Nicola Marzovilla became an importer of Edoardo Valentini wines earlier this year, this legendary winery has entered into a renaissance in the consciousness of American lovers of fine wine.

Eric did this excellent post on a portfolio tasting of the wines that took place a few weeks ago in NYC and last week, another of the wine writers whom I admire greatly, the inimitable Ed McCarthy, wrote this fantastic profile and remembrance of Valentini, his wines, and the winery (his notes on the different clones of Trebbiano are a must read for anyone interested in Italian wine).

Also worth checking out: this round-up, by my blogging colleague and friend James Taylor, of past literature on Valentini.

When I had dinner with Nicola in NYC last month, I grilled him about his recent visit to the property in Abruzzo. He was reluctant to give up the goods but he ultimately revealed some of the winery’s secrets. But you’ll have to pour me a glass to get them out of me!

“Xinomavro is a punch in the face to globalisation. We don’t need Cabernet in Greece!”

No, it’s not a crown of grape vines. It’s a sample of basket-trained vines from Santorini that was passed around at the New Wines of Greece seminar I attended this morning in New York.

The highlight of the tasting came for me at the end of the morning seminar when Master of Wine Kostantinos Lazarkis (below, left) told the crowd of wine professionals, referring to the “diva” indigenous red grape of Greece, as he called it, “”Xinomavro is a punch in the face to globalisation. We don’t need Cabernet in Greece!”


Getting to chat and taste with Kostantinos was a wonderful treat and it’s always great to taste with two of my favorite people in the wine writing world — who make ANY room feel glamorous — Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan and the inimitable Ed McCarthy (with Kostantinos, above). In the Xinomavro flight, Ed picked the two ringers blind: Nebbiolo from Piedmont and Sangiovese from Montalcino. There’s no two ways about it: the dude is a stud.

I’ve only been in New York for a morning and I’ve already tasted some amazing wines and met some amazingly interesting people. And the day is young!

Stay tuned…

Colorado Day 6: Aspen, under the big top

Thanks everyone for checking in this week. When I get back to California, I’ll post on some of the tastings I attended. In the meantime, here are some images from opening day at the 2008 Aspen Food & Wine Classic…

The first session of tasting seminars at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Under the big top: a view of one of the main tents at the festival.

Martin Foradori (owner Hofstätter) and New York restaurateur Danny Meyer share a laugh after Danny led tasters in a chorus of “Alto Adige” to the tune of Mel Brook’s “High Anxiety.”

Ran into Ed McCarthy and Mary Mulligan, the first couple of the U.S. food and wine scene.

Celeb sommelier Richard Betts wanted me to try his new Mojito at the bar at the storied Little Nell hotel.

Drank 1996 Jacquesson for lunch.

My friend Aldo Sohmthe best sommelier in the world — poured me some great Rieslings.

1988 Massolino Vigna Rionda Barolo was fantastic. Note the clear, brick color of the wine, a standout for me on this trip.

Evening found me in the home of collector. The views in Aspen are amazing.