The Secret Way to Win an Award

It’s a strange thing to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award you do not think you will win. This occurred to me on the empty Saturday night flight from New York to Louisville for the annual conference and awards ceremony of the IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, whose imprimatur is among the most prestigious in all of food media.

In fact, when I was choosing the publishing house for my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre, Regan Arts’ swashbuckling publisher Judith Regan exulted in another of her books, Zachary Golper’s gorgeous paean to artisanal bread, Bien Cuit, garnering an IACP nomination. It did not win, but I was mighty impressed, though such recognition then seemed like some faraway peak that I would never scale.

Then in March, a forwarded tweet caught me off guard, informing me that How to Drink Like a Billionaire had been named a finalist for the 2017 IACP Cookbook Award in the wine, beer, & spirits category. This was the second stunner of the winter, as weeks before Billionaire had won the Gourmand World Book Award for best drinks education book in the U.S. and was then shortlisted in that category for “best in the world,” to be decided in China later this month.

I was infinitely grateful for these votes of confidence, but hesitant to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award I figured I was unlikely to win. In my warped view, the quickest way to guarantee a loss would be to make the public and strenuous effort of actually traversing the 750 miles to the ceremony. It somehow seemed a bit presumptuous and anti-karmic, like preordering Dom Pérignon or preparing a victory speech.

But then, I reasoned, I might never get to go to another ceremony at which I am actually nominated for something. And it was such an honor to be named an IACP finalist that traveling there was worth suffering the potential jinx. So I convinced myself to book a hotel room, hop a plane, and, the night before, take myself to the bar of a dark, clubby Louisville landmark called Jack Fry’s. There I distracted myself with sublime shrimp and grits, a juicy burger, local Willett Distillery bourbon whisky, and a fine view of the bar’s vintage photographs of native son Muhammad Ali.

The ceremony the next day was at the Louisville Palace, a resplendent old theater with Spanish Baroque architecture and lush colors that seemed lifted from an Eggleston Kodachrome. As the program progressed, co-host and The Chew personality Carla Hall summoned to stage a veritable conga line of food media luminaries, including the New York Times’ Sam Sifton, who happened to be seated across the aisle from me, Spanish super chef José Andrés, and Deep Run Roots’ Vivian Howard. At some point during this time, while sitting alone in the dark of the audience, I had kicked off my constricting wingtips, confident in the assumption that I would not be called to the stage.

And then, I was. When they called my name, I stomped into my still-tied shoes and shuffled on to the stage in these makeshift slippers. I had no acceptance speech prepared, of course, so my remarks were mercifully brief, but I did start by pulling out a piece of paper and pretending to read from a prepared speech.

IACP Cookbook Winner

“My thanks to the members of the IACP…the International Association of Police Chiefs,” I began. (A Google search the night before had revealed to me that this was the other famous IACP.) Knowing laughter ensued, and I soon exited stage right.

Looking back now, I think that having my shoes off must have clinched the victory. It neutralized the jinx.

The lesson is clear – the next time you are nominated for an Oscar or an Obie or a turn as PTA treasurer, if you are going to risk showing your face at the announcement, there is a way to spin the wheel of Fortuna in your favor: slip off your damn shoes.

Mother’s & Father’s Day, Graduation

Speaking of How to Drink Like a Billionaire, I might be biased, but I think it would be an ideal Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduation gift.  A full-color hardcover brimming with original illustrations and photographs, Billionaire contains 120 snackable chapters that empower readers to approach wine with a billionaire’s unapologetic confidence and discernment. Named a “book you should read now” (Julia Vitale, Vanity Fair), the “ultimate guide from the best in the business” (Dane Neal, WGN Radio), “one of the most approachable and essential wine books to date” (Lauren Glendenning, Aspen Times), it has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times, Maxim, and on Bloomberg TV.

So please consider the book for those in your life who are inclined to wine or those who should be. In fact, I’ll take off my shoes in hopes that you do.

Austin Down, Aspen Bound

Last weekend was another wonderful spin in that sizzling city of music and flavor, Austin, Texas, where I had two sold-out events and a book signing at the wonderful Austin Food & Wine Festival. Here is the wine line-up for both:

1) Piper Heidsieck “Rare” 2002
2) Pahlmeyer Chardonnay 2013
3) Belle Glos Pinot Noir Las Alturas 2015
4) Chateau Gruaud Larose 2012
5) Masi Amarone “Costasera” 2011
6) Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2007


1) Schramsberg Brut Rosé California Mirabelle NV
2) Trefethen Riesling 2015
3) William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux
4) Infinite Monkey Theorem Red NV (in cans)
5) Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2014
6) Osbourne Pedro Ximénez Sherry NV

Catch me next month at the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, which is my 12th straight year appearing at this fantasyland of feasting. I am doing a book signing and a full five appearances, including three focusing on the best modestly-priced wine (“You Say $20, I Say $200”) and two exploring the most delicious special occasion bottles (“Wine for Zillionaires”).

It’s Raining La Tâche: Five Vintages of DRC La Tache (i.e., Wine Porn Par Excellence)


Last week in sunny Palo Alto, it was cloudy with a chance of rain. And rain it did, in the form of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache, with five vintages of impeccable provenance from a collector whose proclivity to sharing is unmatched. Let’s get to the report (cue 70’s porn music):

1990 La Tache: The nose was a heady mélange of ripe, sweet red fruit permeated with notes of mushrooms, truffles, and La Tache’s unmistakable perfume of Asian spices. The rich-but-not-heavy taste penetrated every pore and lingered forever on the kaleidoscopic finish; you don’t need wine expertise to sense how sexy and astonishingly intense this wine is. Having been fortunate to canoodle with the 1990 several times over the years, I found this to be its best, most expressive showing.

1996 La Tache: If the 1990 was a buxom Burgundy-born pin-up, then the 1996 was Tippi Hedren — elegance and mystery, with a smoldering sex appeal that shows itself only when it decides it is ready. After about a half hour in the glass, it opened up to reveal layers of red fruit, soy sauce, and mint joined by seductive, powdery tannins which coat the tongue like the finest velvet.

1999 La Tache: Although Burgundy specialists regard the 1999 as near “perfect”, this bottle was a bit more reserved than expected and its muscular tannins and tart acidity were a bit too insistent. But the makings are there for future greatness, with its foundation of ripe plum, spice, and that know-it-when-you-smell-it earthiness the French call sous bois (“under brush” or “forest floor”).

2001 La Tache: The great surprise of the night: undeniably gorgeous, with a perfume of rose petals and minerals, with every structural element — acidity, tannin, fruit concentration, and alcohol — in balletic equipoise. The 2001 demonstrates how a top winery can make a masterpiece even in a relatively disappointing vintage year.

2002 La Tache: Started with an odd, flowers-and-cedar scent and sharp acidity, a woody dissonance that suggested spoilage. It was even more disjointed after an hour. Oxidized bottle.

2005 La Tache: A rare specimen of beauty, its dense black fruit showing hints of exotic spice coupled with a pleasing whiff of earth and beef bouillon. Its finish lingers like long, high clouds across a summer sky. But it is still young and tightly wound, with noticeable tannins. All signs point to a legend in the making that will get more nuanced and silky in the years and decades to come.

1990_La Tache

Valentine’s Day Wines Under $25 (for Self-Seduction)

Valentine’s Day Wines Under $25 (for Self-Seduction)

Valentine’s Day is here, and whether you will be with your loved one or plan to seduce yourself, you’ve got to have appropriate juice on hand. Your local wine store is sure to have these moderately-priced picks.
valentine's day wines
A visit to Williams-Sonoma’s San Francisco headquarters the other week involved the perfect exercise in finding moderately priced yet maximally alluring V-Day-ready bottles. In preparation for a presentation I was giving to WS staff, Williams Sonoma’s Director of Culinary Amanda Haas asked me to join her at local supermarket and select seven Valentines Day-worthy wines – all under $25 – in under 20 minutes. We were all pleased with how these Valentine’s Day wines turned out, and here they are for you:

Roederer Estate Brut NV ($19-$22) – A perennial overachiever, owned by the same parent company that makes Cristal.

St. Supéry Oak-Free Chardonnay 2015 ($20-$25) – A stunner with oysters, which are of course known to be a potent aphrodisiac. Medium bodied and lemony bright.

Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2014 ($20-$25) –  I call Pinot the Juicy Berry Kiss and this version is no exception, with its strawberry-and-flowers perfume, medium body, and crisp acidity.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier White Blend 2015 ($11-$15) – A sexy duality: smells sweet, tastes dry. A secret love of wine pros. Viognier puts you in the mood for romance.

Minuty M Rosé Cotes de Provence 2015 ($10-$15) – Gorgeous raspberry fruit with a lemony lift. And its bottle is curved like Sophia Lauren.

Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 ($20-$25) – If a smooth, plummy Spanish red weren’t sexy enough, the gold fishnet adorning the bottle creates glamour and intrigue.

Prieuré d’ Arche Sauternes 2008 ($15-$20) – For drizzling on your pancakes, then on your lover.

For more on affordable wine alternatives and the best wines to bring to a date or party, check out my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire.  Leave an Amazon review in the month of February (and notify and we will send you some Oldman schwag!

Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen is the Perfect Place to Teach Champagne Sabering

For a Facebook Live event with Williams-Sonoma last week, Mark Oldman teaches Amanda Haas, Williams-Sonoma’s Director of Culinary, how to saber a bottle of champagne like a total pro. Located at the Williams-Sonoma test kitchen in Northern California, the beautiful space offered the perfect setting for a little saber-training session.  You’ve got to see the video to believe it – Amanda is a natural!

Missed the Live video? You can still get your wine questions answered by leaving a comment!

Williams-Sonoma sabering wine mark oldman

An Homage to (and the Perfect Wine Pairing for) Joe’s Stone Crab

As a late birthday present this week, I received a box of stone crabs from Joe’s, the legendary Miami restaurant which has its own fleet of boats to source the world’s best sweet, meaty crustaceans.

What wine was grand enough for this epic and luxurious crab feast?  I splurged on a similarly decadent 2002 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, a white Burgundy of creamy texture and intense concentration, with notes of apples and peaches and a stony tang.

One need not resort to a wine of this dizzying specialness to flatter the butter-and-saline magic of stone crabs.  Equally compelling would have been a high-quality California Chardonnay, an Albariño from Spain, or richer-style Champagne or sparkling wine.

The meal: Joe’s stone crab claws, clarified butter, Joe’s mustard sauce, creamed spinach, hash browns, and key lime pie.

wine pairing stone crabs

Hungry for your own? You can order in from Joe’s here on their website.

For more on wine pairing, check out my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire!