July 19, 2006: Hilltops of Crete: New Island Wines from an Old Empire

It's pitch black, the bed is literally shaking and the roar is deafening. As soon as I remember where I am-Crete-I think, great, this is it. I'm going to die in an earthquake that will go down in the history books just like the one that ruined the Minoan cities back around 1450 BC.
It's not until morning when I wake up alive that I realize it was just a plane taking off from the nearby airport, where I flew in last night.
I've come to find out what's going on with Crete's wines, which used to be pretty uniformly brown and punishingly tannic. Recently I've tasted some good ones-fresh and filled with a combination of tart fruits and bittersweet spice that's fascinating and delicious-and yet made from the same sort of grapes as most of the island's reds-kotsifali and mandilaria.
The change reminds me of the transformation that occurred in the rest of the Greek wine scene about ten years ago, when the industry was just starting in earnest to make wines that could compete in the international marketplace. It was an exciting time that's resulted in some great new wines. I'm hoping I'll be able to trace a similar arc in quality here.

Read the full article at Wine & Spirits Magazine

February 21, 2006: Primi e Apertivi

There is always bread baking at Falai, a small oasis of whitewashed walls on New York City's battered Lower East Side. A quiet hum emanates from the open kitchen as a small hassle of chefs intently focuses on putting out plates; a waiter circulates with a basket of focaccia just out of the oven, handing small warm discs out like Halloween candy to delighted guests. Guests murmur excitedly-whether over the wine, the food or the day doesn't matter. Falai radiates happiness and warmth, and every time I go there I wonder, can I do this at home? I asked chef Iacopo Falai and his partner, sommelier Alberto Taddei, and this autumn they agreed to help me plan a holiday party.

Read the rest of the article at Wine & Spirits Magazine.

August 01, 2004: Small Plate Olympics

"Malagouzia is the next riesling," said Yiannis Voyatzis as we sat surrounded by mezedes, an array of different Greek dishes meant to be shared. Voyatzis, enologist at Boutari for nearly twenty years, laughed at the outrageousness of the statement - after all, there are only a small handful of wineries in Greece that make wines from that ancient Greek grape. But then we began to taste. Satin-textured with honey-soft fruit flavors and gentle floral notes, the malagouzia wrapped itself around every plate expertly. It picked up the sea-filled sweetness of the fat grilled shrimp; it tempered the spice in the peppery feta spread. It tangled with the tangy smoky sauce bathing the smooth, chewy snails, and its floral notes mingled with the saffron-sauced monkfish. This brought two things to mind: One, that there was far more to Greek food than spanakopita, staple of Greek diners across the States, and two, that Voyatzis might have a point. There are wines coming out of Greece right now that could take a place in the list of vinous greats: whites as versatile as riesling, as mineral-laden as Côte d'Or chardonnay and as fascinating as Loire-grown chenin, and reds that could compete with merlot for pure plummy hedonism, or offer pinot-like charms of spice and acidity. And now that these fine wines are pushing Retsina aside, it's time we update what we know about Greek food. It's not all greasy and cold; in fact, done right, it's one of the most varied cuisines in the world.

Read the rest of the article at Wine & Spirits magazine.

February 01, 2004: Sake in Translation

Finding a wine to match snapper isn't so hard - something bright, light and white fits the bill. But WD-50's snapper is more turf than surf, as it's coated with crushed juniper berries, a spice usually reserved for game, and perches on a throne of chestnut puree. Red wine would take the fish out of the dish; white wine doesn't feel right, so where to go from here? To sake, says sommelier Scott Mayger. Mayger keeps a constant supply of sake in his cellar, and he isn't the only one. The Japanese rice-based brew is showing up in restaurants all over the country, from downtown bôites to high-end French destinations, and for good reason. Though sake has had its share of false starts in the US, the bottles imported today are better than ever, and sommeliers are finding that sake can go where no wine dares to go - and plenty of places wine's welcome, too. I found after talking to dozens of restaurant people from coast to coast that there's excitement brewing around sake, the sort that astronomers might feel at the discovery of a new universe.

Read the rest of the article at Wine & Spirits magazine.

October 01, 2003: Lamb & Syrah: 4 perspectives from 3 continents

August 01, 2003: Pairing Pinot Gris

February 01, 2003: McLaren Vale - Dining on the wine trail

August 01, 2002: Out of Athens: A tour through the wine routes of the Peloponnesus

April 01, 2002: Foragers for flavor: American chefs' growing bond with local sources and the seasons

February 01, 2002: The Wizards of Oz

August 01, 2001: Athens in Astoria: Greek wine and food where the Aegean meets the East River

June 01, 2001: Out of the Salta Earth: Winegrowing in Argentina's far north