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A Restaurant Star in the City of Stars

City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants
It’s love

– Lyrics from “La La Land”

My last big trip to La La Land involved supplying George Duboeuf Poully-Fuisse to P Diddy’s Fourth of July White Party in Beverly Hills in 2009. White wine for a white party hosted by a hip hop/rap music mogul. It was hotter than Hades, and there was no shade for the wine bars or gift bags.  P Diddy may be a music impressario, but his stiletto-shod, mini-dress clad event production team didn’t have a tent or proper refrigeration for the wines which suffered in the heat. I worked like a crazy person to salvage the wine and to nab this “money shot” for Duboeuf.  “Diddy” refused to be photographed holding any alcohol other than his Ciroc Vodka. Still, this photo made them happy,

At P Diddy”s White Party July 2009 with Nicolas Ronteix and Barbara Scalera, both at the time working for Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.
Thank goodness for fabulous ladies Leslie Sbrocco (l) Natalie Bovis (c) and Rachel Burkons (c) with Barbara Scalera (r) who were part of our small entourage.
Thank goodness for fabulous ladies Leslie Sbrocco (l) Natalie Bovis (c) and Rachel Burkons (c) with Barbara Scalera (r) who were part of our small entourage.

City of (Restaurant) Stars

Even though Los Angeles is filled with talented chefs and restaurateurs, it’s a New Yorker, Bobby Flay, who’s the first chef to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We haven’t visited Los Angeles for awhile (since the crazy Diddy-do), so it was nice to run into Piero Selvaggio at VINO 2017 and invite him on the show. Piero is a polished Gucci loafer in a sea of sand-crusted flip flops. I like to say Los Angeles is Silicone Valley, where fat is OK for the lips but not for the hips. But back to Piero….

Restaurateur Piero Selvaggio is trim, tan and permanently youthful looking. He has that healthy La La Land glow which New York restaurateurs never seem to have. Maybe it’s the sun and surf; maybe it’s not dealing with the headaches of onerous New York landlords. Or maybe it’s his Sicilian heritage and being brought up on a Mediterranean diet. Piero is one of those amazing restaurateurs who’ve endured economic ups and downs, changes in trends and tastes and even an earthquake which destroyed his award winning wine cellar. And he still looks like a star!

Is red wine the Fountain of Youth? The ever youthful Piero Selvaggio.

Piero opened his Santa Monica restaurant, Valentino, after graduating in college in 1972. I was still in high school; “Italian food” meant Pasquale’s Pizza parlor and Chef Boyardee in Chattanooga. That was 45 years ago!

I can’t imagine how many Valentine’s Day marriage proposals, wedding anniversaries, or movie deals have been celebrated at Valentino over 45 years. Valentino has won just about every award that matters, especially in wine and service. It is a star among restaurants in the City of Stars.

Star like ravioli from Valentino Ristorante

When we scheduled Piero for our February 15th show he said to me in an email, “We are…the old warriors of the Industry…”  No, Piero, we are the enduring ones whose lights are constant and never dim, and who always remain fabulous!

Virginie Saveyrs, Owner, Avignonesi

A Corner of Italy- Nobile Di Montepulciano’s Avignonesi

That same summer of Diddy took me (with David) to Tuscany and the Veneto for the Trip of a Lifetime: two weeks touring four wine regions, all for work on a project called Italian Wine Masters which we launched in the USA.

During that trip I discovered and fell in love with Nobile di Montepulciano wines. I remember our visit to Avignonesi and its owner, a gracious woman who hosted us, Virginie Saverys. I ran into Virginie last Fall at the StarChefs International Chefs Congress, and we caught up after so many years.

A lawyer by profession who was born in Ghent, Belgium, Virginie invested in Avignonesi in 20017 and acquired the winery in full in 2009 after retiring from practicing law. Virginie is a strong believer in organic products and homeopathic medicine and has worked to convert the winery to sustainable farming methods. Today, Avignonesi comprised of eight vineyards within the Montepulciano region.

Here’s our show with Virginie Saverys and Piero Selvaggio:

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David Ransom Drink Eat Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Love, Italian Style

When it comes to passion, the Italians are brimming with it. Oh, the French are incredibly romantic, and the Greeks will tell you they created passion (as well as comedy, tragedy and democracy). But Italian passione just seems to overflow with abbondanza.

So, it’s been a pleasure to indulge our passion for Italian wine which has been flowing steadily since January starting with Benvenuto Brunello and continuing this week with VINO2017 and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri. David heads to Tuscany for the annual Anteprima while I spend Valentine’s Day solo with perhaps a plate of pasta with parmigiano, a little red wine and my Maltese dog Sazerac.

Movie: “Lady and the Tramp”

We’re passionate about Italian white truffles, creamy burrata with fresh tomatoes, nutty parmigiano on anything and especially shaved over roasted Italian vegetables served with branzino poached in olive oil and lemon. David loves pici. I like gnocchi. We both love the diversity of wines and never cease to stop exploring and trying regions and producers we are less familiar with.  Most recently is was Le Marche with this interview with Emiliano Bernardi of Colonnara Winery on The Connected Table SIPS.

Continuing the Italian wine trail, our February 15 will begin with Virginia Saverys of Avignonesi Winery and continue with a guest from Anteprima.


David talks about his career in wine and his passion for Italian wine on The Connected Table LIVE! February 8.

 “Vino Italiano”, co-authored by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch, is one of our go- to reference books for Italian wines. We’ve known David for years, from his days as Senior Editor for Wine & Spirits Magazine to his incarnation as a sought after sommelier at restaurants like Babbo in New York City and Quince in San Francisco. We’ve enjoyed reading his articles in magazines like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and GQ.  We didn’t have the chance to check out his wine tavern, St. Vincent, and were excited to read recently that he’s become editorial director at the e-commerce site, SommSelect.

David Lynch at VINO 2017

On February 6, David moderated a panel at VINO 2017 on Trends and Opportunities in the US Market for Italian Wines. Some of the information revealed from a survey of wine consumers under age 40 on why they choose wine was not terribly surprising. More reinforcing. This infographic depicts what comes to mind when this group achaten-suisse.com thinks of Italian wine.

 

We bring you the dynamic people who work front and center and behind the scenes in food, wine, spirits and hospitality. Listen anytime on iHeart.com and the iHeart and live Wednesdays, 2pm EST onW4CY.com.

 

 

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David Ransom Drink Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Kenwood Winemaker Pat Henderson on the Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Recently we met with Pat Henderson, Chief Winemaker at  Kenwood Vineyards in Sonoma to taste through some vintages of the Artist Series, the winery’s portfolio of carefully blended Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the very best vineyards in Sonoma County. Every picture tells a story as does the vintage in the bottle. Pat shared anecdotes and aging information with equal finesse as we sipped.

 

Selections from Kenwood’s Artist Series

A veteran of more than 30 vintages, Pat worked at five wineries including a summer with Kenwood Vineyards as enologist in 1983. After earning his degree in viticulture and enology, he worked in both the Napa and Sonoma valleys before taking his first position as head winemaker in Washington State. Pat rejoined the Kenwood team in 2003 where under the mentorship of Mike Lee, the original Kenwood winemaker, he learned the art of small-lot winemaking. In 2015 Pat became chief winemaker.

Winemaker Pat Henderson, Kenwood Vineyards

Pat Henderson- February 8, The Connected Table LIVE W4CY.com and iHeart.Com

 

Join Melanie and David on The Connected Table LIVE! Wednesdays, 2pm ET on W4CY.com and anytime on iHeart
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David Ransom Drink Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Wine Wonders from Down Under: Moollydooker and Bird in Hand

In 1989 I left my corporate agency job and went on a solo “walkabout” of sorts to Australia. It took 30,000 frequent flyer miles and 30 hours to land in Sydney where I stayed at a friend of a friend’s apartment near Bondi Beach. I spent the next six weeks hopscotching Australia on a cheap “kangaroo fare.”

I learned how to play a didgeridoo in Alice Springs, hitched a ride on a prop plane with the Outback mailman to deliver parcels, climbed Ayers Rock in the wrong footwear, took my first hot air balloon ride over some dusty dunes sprinkled with cheap sparkling wine, slept in a tent on a cattle station, snorkeled The Great Barrier Reef, sailed on an old brigantine through the Whitsunday Islands, gazed at the Southern Cross camping out on the deck of the boat and drank a lot of beer with assorted Aussie cowboys and sailors. My last stop was a drive to the Hunter Valley wine region where I tasted my first Australian Shiraz. I remember thinking, “This is what the earth must taste like if I licked the dirt.” It was a new sensation for someone who was brought up drinking Bordeaux and Chateauneuf- du-Pape thanks to my father, Chattanooga’s “Wine Professor.”

 

Climbing Ayers Rock: Good idea. Climbing Ayers Rock in the wrong footwear: Bad idea!

I never made it to Western Australia or the south which will be our next trip with a focus on wine and beach combing. And, despite over 30 years working in wine and food, my tasting experiences with Australian wines have been pretty limited, and some of the wines I have tasted were challenging to my palate.

Lettie Teague wrote an article on the resurgence of Australian wines in the January 25th edition of the Wall Street Journal saying “Wines regularly slip in and out of fashion, but few have fallen as far as the wines of Australia did over the past decade. Once among the world’s most sought-after bottles, they are now some of the hardest to sell. Recently, however, there have been signs of a small but steady recovery, thanks to some intrepid retailers, sommeliers, importers and, of course, the winemakers themselves.
Here is a link: WSJ

 

It was a treat to meet Sparky Marquis, founder of Mollydooker Wines, at Wine Spectator‘s New York Wine Experience last Fall. Sparky’s story is one of love, loss, recovery, reconnecting with what brings you joy and, ultimately, some very high scores. Mollydooker wines have some interesting (Aussie) rules like the Mollydooker Fruit Weight and the trademarked Mollydooker Shake. We read up, shook it up and tasted through the wines at a dinner party on Saturday. When Sparky’s brochures says they want to make wines with a WOW Factor he meant it! I had a week’s serving of fruit in one evening. And truly click here amazing fruit it was!

Sarah and Sparky Marquis

Sparky and Sarah met in wine college, fell in love and now run the iconic Mollydooker Wines. The word “mollydooker” means left-handed in Australia which both Sparky and Sarah are.  All of Mollydooker’s wine labels tell a story. The Boxer is actually and throwback (throwdown?) to Southern Wine & Spirits’ Mel Dick. The Violinist was named after Sarah, who was a young. Gigglepot was named after daughter, Holly, and Blue Eyed Boy named after son, Luke. As for the multi-award winning Carnival of Love…well, figure it out! And the top tier wine, Velvet Glove…well, it’s a knockout!

 

 

Nearby Adelaide Hills may seem geographically close but it is a world apart in terms of terroir with a more cool climate focus.  Bird in Hand Winery is named after the old Bird in Hand goldmine situated on Bird in Hand road. This region was littered with gold mines that were in operation through the 1800’s but nearly all were closed down by the early 1900s. Within 10 kilometres of property the gold mines ‘Two in the Bush’ and ‘Nest Egg’ were also in operation.

 

Bird in Hand winery is located on the site of old gold mines with the same name.

Kym Milne, MW, Bird in Hand Winery,was named Winemaker of the Year by Winestate Magazine in 2014, and the second Australian to pass the Master of Wine test.  An Australian native, Kym worked at Villa Maria Winery in New Zealand and overseas in Europe before joining Bird in Hand as Chief Winemaker.

Bird in Hand's Kym Milne is the second Australian to be named Master of Wine
Bird in Hand’s Kym Milne is the second Australian to be named Master of Wine

The wines are the antithesis of traditional Australian fruit bombs, elegant and austere in an appropriate minimalist style. Kym uses French varietal clones and French oak. Tasting the Bird inHand Chardonnay and its luxury level Nest Egg Chardonnay, we could have been tasting a fine French Burgundy with out eyes closed.  The Shiraz was more silky satin than deep velvet. What we learned from tasting both Mollydooker’s and Bird in Hand’s wines is that wine making in Australia should never be typecast to one style, and luxury labels deliver an exceptional tasting experience.  Bird in Hand Wines were recently introduced to the United States by HP Selections.

 

Listen to our February 1st show with Sparky Marquis, Mollydooker Wines,  and Kym Milne, Bird in Hand Winery, anytime, anywhere at this iHeart.com link. Click image to listen and share.