Eat, Drink & Explore the World of Wine & Food with Melanie & David
Melanie Young is Co-Host of The Connected Table Live & The Connected Table SIPS. She writes about wine, spirits, food, travel and health. She is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier and the Wine Media Guild. She also blogs at www.melanieyoung.com
Sommelier, Winemaker, Designer, Entrepreneur: André Hueston Mack has always had a flair for success. Recognized as one of the country’s top sommeliers and owner of his successful wine brand, Maison Noir, Mack has made his mark in the world of wine in a way few have: encyclopedic knowledge paired with an unbridled passion for championing quality wines through creative presentations.
Mack took the plunge in the world of wine in the early 2000s, leaving behind a career at Citicorp. He become a passionate student of wine, studying and seizing every opportunity to learn and taste. He spent his formative days in San Antonio, Texas, working as a sommelier at The Palm and head sommelier at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood.
At age 30 Mack was awarded the prestigious title of Best Young Sommelier in America by La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. He was the first African American sommelier to earn this honor. This recognition led his to a job as sommelier for Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. He went to be become head sommelier at Per Se in New York City, where he oversaw a 1500-selection wine list and consulted with Chef Keller on menu and pairings.
Mack always had a dream to produce wines under his own label. In 2007 that dream became reality with the launch of Maison Noir Wines. Created in cooperation with select growers and winemakers in Oregon handpicked by Mack, the wines of Maison Noir are the end-product of Mack’s dedication to bring joy – and a bit of whimsy – to the world of wine. To that end, he oversees the production and also designs the labels and packaging with eye-popping black and white imagery and names like Oregogne Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot), P-Oui Pinot Noir, Bottoms Up White, and Horseshoes and Handgrenades, a red blend. Wines are available in both stores and restaurants and on his website at www.maisonnoirwines.com
Mack also owns & Sons Ham Bar in In Brooklyn, NY. The intimate neighborhood ham bar celebrates the culture of American charcuterie, from cured sausages and country ham to pâtes, and features a small wine list of celebrated vintages from the 1960s-1990s. There is an adjacent retail outlet selling assorted hams and cheeses. www.andsonsnyc.com
A talented graphic designer, his line of tee shirts are inspired by -his description- “Wine Lifestyle/Street Culture” of the punk and hip-hop scenes, while reminiscent of independent skateboard company apparel of the 1990s.” He is author and designer of Small Thyme Cooks, a culinary activity coloring book whose sales benefit the Charlie Trotter Foundation, and the thoroughly enjoyable Mack memoir by bottle, 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep’s Guide to Life-Changing Wines (Harry Abrams)
“Black Sheep” is the nickname Mack’s Per Se colleagues gave him when he was still one of a few African American sommeliers in the industry. As we researched different meaning for this reference, we came to this conclusion: Mack is, indeed, a renegade and a rare breed: a man of integrity and individuality who has made an indelible mark in the world of wine despite all odds.
Listen here to our conversation with André Hueston Mack’s story on The Connected Table LIVE
“Ma’am, what’s your preferred rice?” the woman on the other end of the phone call asked? Confused by the question, my food-centric mind drifted to forbidden black rice or jasmine rice, my two favorites. I asked her to repeat the question. After all, my call was to schedule COVID-19 tests for David and myself. Why would rice matter? Third attempt to clarify the question, she asks, “Are you Caucasian or black?” OK, she’s asking about our race, not rice.
I may be a native southerner, but deep south cotton mouth is thicker than my ears are used to. “Bald peanuts” are boiled peanuts, and you pick up “ersters” and “shrump” from local seafood shacks. That’s life here in the Florida’s Panhandle known as “the Forgotten Coast,” where we are “rat now’ (a.k.a. right now). Apalachicola, Eastpoint and St. George’s Island are hours from resort development and crowded beaches further west on the Emerald Coast, and locals want it to stay that way. “Don’t tell people about us,” they write in a private Facebook group.
Well, sorry folks, but we like to share stories about interesting places and support local businesses. We happen to have a mutual passion for oysters. Here in Oyster City (a.k.a. Apalachicola) we enjoy a daily dozen slurp washed down with a cold Oyster City Brewing Company “Mangrove” IPA in the afternoons. (and recently Paumanok Chenin Blanc)!
This week on The Connected Table LIVE we visited with Jeff Tilley, co-owner with his son, Reid Tilley, of Oyster Boss in Sopchoppy, Florida. Oyster Boss sells to restaurants, and the Sopchoppy retail outlet caters to drop ins and now has a growing ecommerce business launched during the pandemic. www.oysterboss.com
Apalachicola oysters have long been prized by bivalve fans, from chefs to consumers, but Tilley shared with us the challenges facing the industry as a result in changes in the water quality, resource mismanagement and the global sea level rise, among other reasons. Most are the result of human intervention. Pollution, runoff and waste disposal are all taking a toll on Florida’s coastal water system. Climate change is also a factor. The area has been impacted by drought and by Hurricane Michael, a category five that slammed the Panhandle in 2018. Much of the eye hit further west around Mexico Beach and Panama City, but we still saw some storm damage in Port St. Joe.
Last year The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to shut down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay through 2025, severely impacting an industry crucial to this region’s economy. Apalachicola Bay historically produced 90% of Florida’s oysters and 10% of the nation’s supply. Many restaurants rely on farmed oysters from Florida and Texas, although you can still find wild-caught from other regions of Florida.
Oyster Boss sources its farmed oysters from Alligator Point in Franklin County, where the water has a higher salinity resulting in a buttery, mild, salty oyster. Further south in northwest central Florida near Yankeetown (Levy County) Oyster Boss sources wild -caught oysters, that are plump, succulent and briney. Tilley brought us bags of both to sample, gave us a lesson on shucking and provided us with some education on the reproductive system of oysters.
Tilley is also a red mullet fan. These fish like to jump in the water, although we still have not tasted. He started the Facebook group, Wet Net Mullet Group, now with 12,000 members. “There is a lot of seafood power in this group,” he shared.
Shucking prowess is akin to having good knife skills. And the right knife. Tilley uses a knife called “Toadfish” which Oyster Boss sells. You need a sturdy grip and a glove. Find the “lip” of the oyster, insert the blade and start moving it back and forth until the shell starts to open slightly. Then, insert deeper. It can take some arm muscle and definitely nimble wrist action.
If you love pristine places to visit, care about sustainable aquaculture and are oyster lovers like we are, you’ll enjoy our conversation with Jeff Tilley. Listen here:
Women comprise 70% of the U.S. hospitality workforce and as many as 90% of female restaurant employees report some form of sexual harassment. Late last year, the nonprofit, One Fair Wage, Issued a report which based on surveying 1,675 restaurant service workers. 41% said they had experienced more harassment since the start of the pandemic.
Offering actionable solutions, Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) recently united hospitality leaders and advocates to present helpful information and resources through a free live webinar “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Harassment in the Hospitality Industry,” sponsored by the Institute of Culinary Education.
“Our organization is against the normalization of such unconscionable behavior and we are determined to offer supportive solutions,” said LDNY Co-President Jen O’Flanagan of FeastPR. Her LDNY Co-President Jenifer Lang, the former Managing Director of Café des Artistes, added “Harassment is insidious and needs to be attacked from every angle. Our goal is to empower the victims to defend themselves: legally, physically, and professionally.”
The Connected Table Live Host Melanie Young, an LDNY member and chapter past-president, assembled a panel of six industry experts in human resources, labor relations law, wage discrimination, self-defense and behavioral therapy for an in-depth conversation.
“The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that more than 14% of sexual harassment charges came from the food and hospitality Industries. In 2019 employers paid out a record $68.2 million to employees alleging sexual harassment. When selecting panelists, I wanted a diverse group of experts to provide solutions, support and best practices to help both workers and employers.” said Young.
This summit of female hospitality leaders identified several key steps to address this pervasive problem:
Legalize Fair Wages
Research by One Fair Wage, a national coalition, campaign and organization focused on the service sector, found the restaurant industry to be one of the largest and fastest growing industries, yet it has the absolute lowest wages of any industry in the United States, with 43 states paying only $2.13 an hour. “Female workers are overwhelmingly dependent on the whims and biases of customers and whether customers are pleased with their service,” stated Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage. “’Pleased with their service’ has translated to physical and behavioral biases, core issues that enable sexual harassment. This became even clearer and more blatant during the pandemic.”
Conversely, according to Jayaraman, the seven states that honor a full minimum wage in the hospitality sector (California Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska) have one half the rate of sexual harassment claims and better business with higher restaurant industry sales, higher job growth, and higher rates of tipping. “We have accepted and normalized the sexual harassment in this industry, which cannot continue. We need everybody to help push for elimination of the subminimum wage,” said Jayaraman.
Create Transparent, Supportive Culture
Theodora Lee, shareholder of Littler Mendelson P.C., labor law specialists, and owner of Theopolis Vineyards, advocated for every employee within the workplace to be made familiar with agencies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and their local branch of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), where they can file a sexual harassment complaint without the need to hire a lawyer. “Because of long tradition, employees don’t know they can take action. There are laws on the books,” says Lee.
Only 10% of sexual harassment is reported, which “exposes this overall resistance that people have, this fear that prevents them from reporting,” said Taryn Abrahams, MFT, SHRM-CP Founder/CEO, Empower Behavioral Services, LLC. She encouraged companies to create a transparent culture with clear decision-making and bold communications that includes scripts and training to intervene, if they choose to.
Ashley Oberdorff, PHR, Director, Empowered Hospitality, emphasized the importance of all restaurants—large corporations or “mom-and-pop”—having a human resources department, either in house or outsourced. She also explained how critical it is to ensure that policies are up to date and to address sexual harassment in employee handbooks, with an acknowledgement form for employees. “It’s so important to act and not put it off,” recommends Oberdorff. “Make sure everything is documented. Find out the facts and go from there.”
Better Workplace Training
“There is a real need to create better, more effective training around this topic. The missing piece is the importance of arming people with the skills to be able to intervene if they choose to,” said Abrahams.
“In hospitality, people by nature have great relational skills, can read someone’s face or body language and tell whether or not someone is happy with their meal. We build on those same skills to give people the skills and practice they need to be more comfortable intervening [in harassment],” said Lauren R. Taylor, director, Safe Bars and Defend Yourself. The Safe Bars program recently formalized training for people who work in bars and restaurants to quickly identify sexual harassment and safely prevent it through strategies like bystander intervention.
Effective bystander invention training includes different tools to address sexual harassment based on an individual’s comfort level. “It creates awareness and a sense of collective responsibility, because the reality is that most victims don’t speak up. It also gives victims a sense of empowerment,” said Abrahams.
Step Up as a Mentor
The webinar’s title, “Breaking the Silence,” was inspired by panelist, Alpana Singh‘s blog post, “The True Cost of Silence.” In it. Singh shares an emotional coming to terms for remaining silent over the years as she and other female members of the Court of Sommeliers experience harassment by its male members.
“To me, from walking away from that title [Court of Master Sommelier], I can speak for those who can’t speak. You don’t have to take it; let me take it for you so you don’t have to. I couldn’t do that 15 years ago, but I can now,” noted Singh, sommelier, restaurateur, host of the Emmy-Award winning PBS-TV Show, Check, Please! Professional organizations such as Les Dames d’Escoffier New York and social media groups such as Women in Hospitality are also forums for resource references, support and solidarity. “The moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice–you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you could have done something, and you did nothing.”
Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) is an unparalleled collective of forward-thinking and successful female leaders in all sectors of the food, beverage and hospitality industries. Located in the most dynamic and competitive city in the world, Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) is the founding and largest chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI), an experienced 501c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to advance and support aspiring professional women in food and beverage, as well as to champion critical industry issues. LDNY’s vision is guided by three objectives: Education, Advocacy and Philanthropy.
Want to hear more? Listen to our conversations on this topic and more with panelists Saru Jayaraman, One Fair Wage, and Sommelier/Restaurateur Alpana Singh on The Connected Table LIVE.
Grand Cru wines are the cream of the crop in regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but here’s a tip: Alsace also makes outstanding grand cru wines, and they deliver exceptional quality for value.
We visited with Georges Lorentz, seventh generation of family-run Domaine Gustave Lorentz and winery president. Established in 1836, Gustave Lorentz is located in the heart of Alsace’s Grand Cru wine country near Altenberg de Bergheim. The winery is the essence of Alsace: historic, decidedly French and welcoming to visitors.
While we were familiar with the fact that 90 percent of Alsace wine production is white, we learned a few key points during our discussion with Lorentz:
Alsace has a unique micro-climate
Located in northeast France bordering Germany and Switzerland, Alsace is a small region with big secret Lorentz shared with us: “Alsace is protected by the Vosges Mountains and has a unique micro-climate that delivers drier and warmer temperatures, ideal growing conditions. In fact, Colmar is considered the second driest town in France.” Most producers practice organic and biodynamic farming. Gustave Lorentz has farmed organically since 2012.
Alsace Grand Cru wines are a rare find
While Alsace produces seven grape varieties, only Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat are permitted in the Grand Cru regions of Kanzlerberg and Altenberg de Bergheim near Gustave Lorentz. Here, vineyard plots are small, with concentrated plantings and lower yields in soils that are mainly clay and limestone, producing exceptional grapes. The wines deliver more complexity and can age well. Lorentz told us, “Alsace Grand Cru wines represent only five percent of production, so they are a rare find and exceptional value.” Most average $35/45/bottle.
Alsace Is a top sparkling wine region
Alsace is the oldest and largest producer of crémant, sparkling wines made in the traditional method. One can find crémants made from blends of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is also permitted to make Crémantd’Alsace. These wines are elegant and refined, delivering great value as well, averaging $30 bottle.
Alsace vs. Germany- Styles
Historically, Alsace has bounced between French and German occupation. However, the heritage, culture, and wines are very much French, as Lorentz explained: “Both Alsace and Germany used the same seven different grape varieties; but Alsace’s vinification style is decidedly French. Germans tend to enjoy drinking wine outside their meals so vinify their wines accordingly, making wines lighter in body, alcohol and style, and also sweeter with less acidity. Conversely, Alsace wines a made to enjoy with food and therefore made with more body, higher alcohol and also drier with better acidity.”
We were impressed with the finesse of the Gustave Lorentz wines we tasted:
Riesling Reserve2017, 100% Riesling with white floral and citrus notes, fresh acidity and a hint of minerality. The finish is dry and fresh. A nice aperitif wine or paired with seafood, white meat chicken or a classic Alsace Choucroute (pork and sauerkraut).
12.3% ABV SRP $21
Pinot Gris 2018, 100% Pinot Gris, that, while white, shows more like a red wine in structure. Creamy texture and underlying yet distinct backbone of acidity, it shows notes of pear and quince with a subdued smokiness in the finish. A beautiful wine that pairs well with roasted chicken, venison, or cheeses like Comté or Parmesan. 13.5% ABV, SRP $24.
Crémant d’Alsace Brut, 34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinot Noir. Made in the méthode traditionnelle to bring a refinement to the bubbles. Zesty and crisp with notes of lemon rind and a hint of red berry. Made our mouths water for a plate of smoked gouda and country ham, or a plate of grilled shrimp. 12% ABV, SRP $26
Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, a 100% Pinot Noir made in the méthode traditionnelle. Pale salmon pink in color, this crémant is lovely to look at as well as to sip. Fresh and fruity with flavors of wild strawberry and raspberry, softer palate and more roundness. 12 % ABV SRP $25 Enjoy with a heartier dish like roast pork, pasta with tomato sauce or to complement a light fruit dessert. 12% ABV, SRP $25
The Beaujolais region in France has been designated a “Paie d’art et d’histoire,” recognizing its centuries-old heritage, picturesque villages, historic sights and many wine estates. Nearly 200 wineries are open to the public.
The official Beaujolais Wine Route covers roughly 85 miles. To the south are the larger regions of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. Moving north you’ll find the 10 smaller crus. Like the wines themselves, each appellation has a unique character based on its climate, altitude and diversity of soils which include an indigenous pink granite, clay, schist and limestone.
Here’s a snapshot, of the Beaujolais Wine Route:
Comprised of 72 villages, AOC Beaujolais, the southernmost appellation, is three times larger than neighboring Beaujolais-Villages, to the east. While reds made from the Gamay grape dominate, one can experience vibrant rosés and white wines made with Chardonnay. Whites from the Beaujolais appellation can carry hints of peach and apricots ,while Beaujolais Villages whites can have aromas of pear, fresh almond and tropical fruit and a touch of almond and vanilla.
Here are some fun facts about these two areas: In AOC Beaujolais, Les Pierres Dorées, which translates to “golden stones,” refers to a cluster of picturesque villages dotted with large golden stones that can be quite spectacular in the sunlight. In fact, this area has earned the nickname “Little Tuscany,” thanks to its steep hills and gorgeous landscape. One example is the hilltop town of Oingt ( oh-engt), which is named one of the most beautiful villages in France.
For a nice introduction to the region, visit the historical capital of Beaujeu (BO-JU), located in Beaujolais-Villages. The Beaujolais Museum has information on the region’s viticultural history.
Venturing northward lie the 10 Beaujolais crus. Cru wine styles change thanks to geology and climate. One can try Beaujolais wines that are softer like Brouilly, Fleurie and Chenas to more supple and structured like Julienas, Morgon and Moulin A Vent.
Brouilly and Côte-de-Brouilly are the southernmost crus. Brouilly wines are more fruity- plummy with some minerality. Côte de Brouilly wines are slightly fuller bodied. This is due to soils and elevation. This area has a mixture of four soil types: pink granite (unique to Beaujolais), limestone marl, river rocks and clay.
Mount Brouilly straddles the two AOCs -Brouilly at the base and Côte-de-Brouilly on the mountain slopes where vineyards grow in rocky, volcanic soils, some dating to Roman time. At the summit of Mt Brouilly is Notre- Dame- aux Rayzin (The Chapel of Our Lady of the Grapes). It was built in 1857 to protect the vineyards.
Venturing north, Régnié is a small cru spread over just one square mile with pink granite, mineral-rich terrain. Grapes are grown on hillside around 1,150 feet above sea level. Régnié produces aromatic wines with notes of raspberry, red currant, blackberry and a touch of spice.
Morgon is the second largest Cru after Brouilly with 250 producers in 4.5 square miles. It is named after the local hamlet of Morgon. The soil in Morgon is rich in iron oxide with traces of manganese and volcanic rock. Morgon wines are fuller-bodied with a deep garnet color and favors of ripe cherry, peach, apricot and plum.
Chiroubles has been called “the most Beaujolais of all the crus.” This region has a higher altitude, 1,475 above sea level and cooler temperatures Wines are ruby red with light floral votes of violet and peony.
Fleurie, a northern cru, covers just three-square miles. The soil here is almost entirely made up of the pinkish granite unique to this part of Beaujolais. Fleurie produces softer, aromatic wines with floral and fruity essences of iris, violet, rose, red fruit and peach.
The highest rated of all the Beaujolais crus, Moulin-à-Vent is ruby to dark garnet in color with lush floral and fruit aromas. It’s a wine that evolves and becomes more complex with age, delivering more earthiness and spice. Moulin a Vent means windmill, a nod to the giant windmill located in the town of Romaneche-Thorins
Chenas in a small cru located in a mountainous area that was once a dense forest before King Phillippe V ordered the trees be repaved with vines. Chenas is considered one of the finest crus, whose garnet-ruby red wines can be aged for a few years. Chenas wines were a favorite of King Louis XIII.
Moving northwest in Beaujolais, Juliénas produces earthier wines with a deep ruby red color and strawberry, violet, red currant and peony characteristics. Juliénas are powerful wines with essences of vanilla and cinnamon laced into the red fruits. The name, Julienas is taken from Julius Caesar; many vines here date to the Gallo-Roman period.
Beaujolais’s northernmost cru is called Saint-Amour. Wines can range from soft, fruit and floral to spicier, with notes of cherry kirsch. Saint-Amour is known as the most romantic Beaujolais. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of Saint-Amour sales occur in February around Valentine’s Day.
Now that we took you on a snapshot tour, we hope you are ready to taste. For more information on Beaujolais and its wines visit www.beaujolais.com
We’re fans of Virginia wines and the region itself and made our third visit to explore the state in October. The weather was perfect and fall foliage was just starting. We spent three nights staying at the 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, located in Central Virginia’s Monticello AVA.
This was our first visit to Barboursville, and we produced a live show with general manager and winemaker, Luca Paschina, who shared the estate’s history over a dinner he prepared for us with a selection on Barboursville’s wines.
Barboursville’s America-Italy Connection
Barboursville was the 19th century estate of Virginia’s Governor, James Barbour, a colleague and good friend of Thomas Jefferson. The two were practically neighbors- in rural Virginia that can mean several miles away which many may still say is “up the road a ways.” Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, is about a 20- minute drive near Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.
Historically, Barboursville was a farming estate for sheep. Like many centuries-old farms, it changed hands over time. In 1976 Italian vintner, Gianni Zonin, acquired the estate to create Barboursville Vineyards, the only winery for the Zonin family outside Italy. This was a bold move for the Zonins, whose family dates back seven generations, and it marked a major milestone in then-sleepy Virginia wine history. The Zonins happen to be the largest privately family-run wine company in Italy. By selecting Virginia over locales like Napa and New York’s Finger Lakes to start a U.S. winery, the Zonins made quite a splash in the wine news world.
Luca Paschina has served as general manager and winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards since 1990. Paschina is from a Piemontese winemaking family and is doing some amazing things with Italian varietals in this area of Central Virginia, notably Fiano, Vermentino and Nebbiolo. Barboursville’s selections also include Viognier and Cabernet Franc, which both flourish in this area. Most well-known of the estate’s wines is Octagon, Barboursville’s signature Bordeaux style blend.
There is also an onsite grape drying facility to make passito.
The inn itself also offers some smaller houses. When we were there it was quiet aside from two or three other couples staying on-site. However, the tasting rooms, inside and out, were busy with day trippers enjoying wines and a light lunch from the on-site Palladio restaurant. The tasting room team did a great job managing safe social distancing. Throughout our Virginia winery visits, everyone was incredibly careful about this.
Paschina noted that the tasting room is open every day except three holidays, and one can visit the property and the ruins of Barbour’s house, which was designed by Jefferson. Sadly, the house was destroyed in a Christmas Day fire in 1884. The estate also has some stunning gardens and a patio to relax with a glass or two of wine and gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
On our final day at Barboursville, harvest ended as we were saying our goodbyes. Vineyard manager, Fernando Franco made the final “victory lap” through the vineyards and up to the tasting patio in the big blue harvester. Out came the cameras and a bottle of Barboursville sparkling wine which Franco sabered. Glasses were raised in celebration to toast the end of a harvest that, many local vintners admitted to us, has its challenges thanks to a frost in May which had everyone scrambling to protect the buds. Paschina made a speech and thanked his team for their hard work. What a special moment to capture and savor in the vineyards among friends!
The Connected Table Live at Barboursville with Luca Paschina.
Here are the show notes and link. You can also hear it anytime on your favorite podcast platform.
Photos not provided by Barboursville Vineyards were taken by The Connected Table.