About Town

A Young Socialite's First Wine Tasting
By Maximilian M. Heusler

So it has taken me twenty five and a half years to attend my first real vino tasting which took place on September Ninth. The event, the fifteenth annual Winebow Vinter's Harvest wine, food and spirit tasting at The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea is one of the largest in New York. Thanks to my friend Gianluca, an owner of a prominent Upper East Side liquor store I was able to gain admission masquerading as an employee (wink, wink).

For those of you who do not really know what a tasting is, let me explain. A wine tasting is when a company holds an event in which all the wines and liquors they import get their own tasting booths. This is obviously not just for the greater good of humanity but rather to sell the spirits to liquor stores owners, restaurants, bars and private collectors. It is not rare to see famous chefs, eatery owners or celebrities at a tasting. I love liquor, wine, moonshine and even rubbing alcohol if it comes down to that so it is needless to say I was excited.

We started off by hitting the eighty-seven tables of wine. Countries from all over the globe were represented so I was able to sample wines from nations like Australia, South Africa, Germany, France, The United States, Argentina, Chile and of course my personal favorite Italy. All most everyone at tastings spits the wine into buckets after they swirl, smell and swish, because while having to make business decisions, they cannot become too inebriated. However, I am one to always smash through the status quo and certainly received some interesting looks when I swallowed and swallowed and swallowed and swallowed until vertigo crept into my frontal lobes and I was forced to spit. There were some wines I was notably inspired by and will make mention of.

Adelsheim Vineyards is made up of seven sites on the Chehalem Mountain in Oregon. I sampled their Pinot Noir-Oregon which the company rep. told me was being using by Adelsheim to showcase the fresh fruit quality of Oregon Pinot Noir. It is a six-vineyard blend that is redolent of raspberries, blackberries and background hints of chocolate. This is a perfect pre-dinner wine and would be exquisite served alongside raw shellfish or hummus with toast points.

Tyrrell's from Australia is a one hundred percent family owned company with vineyards in four prominent growing regions including the famous McLaren Vale. Tyrell's specialty is high quality wine at respectable prices. I sampled everything that they featured but found a decisive victor in their Chardonnay-Vat 47, which comes from grapes grown on the sandy soils of Tyrrell's Hunter Valley vineyard. Tyrrell was the first to commercially produce Chardonnay in Australia in 1971. While the palate of this particular Chardonnay is full bodied the wine retains a light elegance with a seamless balance of maple and acid. The lingering tones are of fresh fruit and vanilla oak.

Before I continue I think it is necessary to describe the whimsical, colorful, zany crowd that makes up such a regal event. There were plenty of beautiful bitchy looking women walking around flirting in undertones that I have never experienced i.e. the swirl of a wine glass, a lustful look while swallowing or perhaps an unassuming nudge and bump at the spit bowl. There were two women I was extremely interested in but got freaked out by when I observed similar tattoos on their legs! Was it a weird, wine world thing? Yes, I suppose so. Then there was a woman with a huge wart on her cheek who went to every table and asked the reps for wine and champagne caps, incidentally she was a bottle cap collector similar to Bert of Sesame Street fame. I wanted to point this out to her but feared she would resent the comparison to a triangular shaped, yellow puppet with sexual hang ups. Then there are the men who take the art of wine tasting a little too seriously for my blood, you know the ones with seersucker blazers and bowties. They treat the proper procedure like a grammar lesson, insisting with icy stares that you swirl and sniff the right way, sorry guys, I might have to work on that.

While trying to move closer to an Italian peasant like woman who was extremely sexy in a bizarre witch like way, I stumbled upon, the Monti vineyard table from Abruzzo. Their estate, I learned, is located about one hundred miles east of Rome, a perfect climate for wine production due to a mix of Southern sun and Adriatic winds. Every Monti wine undergoes complete malolactic fermentation and is unfiltered. The red wines age in Slavonian wood and is the barrel aging, not that of the bottle that is key to the wine's greatness. I sampled their "Pignotto" DOCG. After the grapes for this wine were pressed, the must was left in contact with the skin for twenty one days during which time the cap was punched down multiple times daily. After fermentation the wine was aged in Allier baroque for fourteen months. This wine exhibits a surreal purple color and extraction of the fruit reflects in notes of dark cherry, oak, and jam. It tastes of plum, anise and buttery leather.

Whether spitting or swallowing (no this is not a lurid sex debate) all day, you're sure to get hungry and in be in need of taste bud change of pace. I must say I was very happy with array of snacks offered at the tasting. There was caviar (which I was not in the mood for) around seven different types of olive oils to try with Foccaccia breads, vegetable crudités, toast bites with salmon mousse and pate, assorted goat's and sheep's milk cheeses, olive tappanede, the best hummus I have ever had and a little gelato right out of the freezer to grab on your way out.

After letting some much needed carbohydrates absorb all the liquor I had drank, I decided it was time to put up or shut up and hit the big boy tables, the spirit section. At this point your narrator was beaten and bruised, battered but not yet defeated. I had tasted about eighty wines and had only started to spit out at about the sixtieth, to keep some composure.

I started off with Craft Distillers of California, who are noted for their trendy Hangar One vodkas. I told the rep. that I wanted to taste them all in a sequence that he saw as most fit. We started with the plain variety which is a good clean vodka not much unlike a Grey Goose or Belvedere. We followed with the Mandarin Blossom variety which was not bad considering I cannot stand orange flavored liquor. Third was Citron "Buddha's Hand" which uses the oldest citrus known to the west in substitute of ordinary lemon and in turn creates luscious, uniquely flavored vodka. Next came Fraser Lake Raspberry which was colored red. Fraser Lake is a limited edition vodka that is absolutely delicious and could take the Cosmopolitan cocktail to an entirely new level. The last vodka, the Kaffir Lime, was my favorite. I love almost any food or potable flavored with lime and this was no exception. Just put me on my building's roof with a bottle of this vodka, some tonic, ice, and my laptop and I'm in a literary heaven.

Next came the Nardini Grappa table. If you're not familiar with grappa you should make it a priority because simply stated, Grappa kicks ass and makes you look refined, as well. Grappa is the Italian version of brandy and is made by using all the parts of the grape that are discarded in the winemaking process. All of Nardini's Grappas are amazing in both taste and balance but the blue ribbon winner out of the Nardini camp is a liqueur called Amaro. Amaro is flavored with bitter orange, the roots of a yellow flowered European gentian and peppermint. It is delicious and if our creator enjoys an after dinner drink I have to imagine this is the bottle that he or she reaches for. I can't say anymore, just go and buy a liter, thank me later.

Finally, we sampled some port, rum, scotch and cachaca before I had my fill. As I walked out I grabbed a little cup of hazelnut gelato and stumbled to the coat check to retrieve my messenger bag. Drunk? Yes, A little wiser? Absolutely and anxious to attend many more tastings in order to evolve into one of the afore mentioned wine snobs I berated. After all, I'm already pretty good at being a dick.

If you'd like to buy any of the wines and spirits mentioned in this column please go to In VinoVeritas wine and liquor boutique on 1375 1st Avenue or just call (212)288-0100 if you live in the area for a fast and friendly delivery.

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