Aspen Meets Red Pleather, 1982 Wine, St. Regis Service, Taters, #NYCWFF

Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, how you enthrall with crystalline skies, storybook mountains, megawatt culinarians, and kaleidoscopic memories, culminating this year in a concert by Elvis Costello and delectable morsels by chefs Michel Nischan and Mario Batali.


June marked my seventh straight appearance at the Classic, where I taught four times, covering “Standout Sparklers,” “Outsmart the Wine List,” and ”Classique C’est Chic: Modern French Cuisine,” the last being a Lexus-sponsored seminar I presented with Michelin three-star chef Christopher Kostow. At the bottom of this page I list my seminar wines, all chosen with care by a tasting panel of friends that I assemble each year.

This being the Classic’s 30th birthday, I wanted to do something special for my always fired-up audiences. In addition to distributing custom “30 Years Never Tasted So Good” buttons, I shipped to Aspen a bit of 30-year old wine – i.e., 1982 vintage — from my personal stash. For my bubbles seminar I brought bottles of Joseph Perrier Champagne Brut Royale 1982, which I had sourced at a London wine shop, which is where you’d expect to find it given the English propensity towards Champagne with the hazelnut quality that comes with bottle age. For my wine list seminar I served bottles of Chateau La Croix 1982, a still-lush red Bordeaux which I had discovered through a Hart Davis Hart auction. Adding to these bonus bottles were magnums of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1982, secured through Jordan Winery’s fabulous Lisa Mattson.


In addition to marking the Aspen Classic’s 30th anniversary, 1982 is itself one of the most important vintages of modern wine. It signaled the beginning of a new era of quality winemaking in Bordeaux, as identified at the time by Robert Parker, who rocketed his reputation as wine critic by praising the vintage unequivocally. His enthusiasm and the overall excitement surrounding the vintage inspired legions of new oenophiles, so much so that the New York Times’ Frank Prial wrote that “the vintage changed that the way the world thinks of fine wine in general and of Bordeaux wine in particular”.  Wine Spectator’s James Laube has added that that this “breakout vintage” also marked when California wine started coming into its own, an observation well-supported by the still-bright, velvety ’82 Jordan Cabernet.

With 1982 a milestone for both the Classic and for wine generally, I knew I had to find a way of further celebrating its importance. So I resolved to assume my teaching duties dressed as a music star from that year. Michael Jackson? Too obvious. Tommy Tutone? Too mysterious. Hall & Oates? Too numerous. I finally concluded that there was only one way to rock, and that was as arena-rocker Mike Reno, of Loverboy and “Working for the Weekend” fame, a bastion of head-banded machismo and red-pleathered ridiculosity.

Speaking of the latter, the “Charades”-brand pleather pants I bought in New York lasted only one seminar before becoming prematurely threadbare in all the wrong places. So with multiple seminars ahead of me but the lower half my 80’s-ensemble out of commission, I scrambled to the Internet to find another pair of these terrible trousers.

Finally locating them at one Costume Alibi in Bloomington, Indiana, I got on the horn and begged the saleswoman there to overnight me two pairs (one for immediate use and one in case of a repeat ripping). Hearing the alarm in my voice, she assured me that she would walk them over to the shipping department herself. As I revealed to her the name and address of my hotel, I could only imagine what she was thinking: a panicked guy calls her to have two pair of tomato-red pleather pants FedExed to the St. Regis in Aspen.

“Billy,” she must have snickered to a colleague, “Looks like we got another one of those Eyes Wide Shut-type orders”.

You can learn more pleathery details about my seminars here:
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
Aspen Times
Fox News (National)
5280: Denver Magazine
Aspen Daily News
Denver Westward
GenConnect (with Richard Betts and John Terlato)

On the subject of the St. Regis, I can’t say enough about this magnificent hotel and its helpful staff. And I do mean helpful. On my second night, just as I was descending into hibernatory, Ambien-induced slumber, I found myself dialing room service for a hamburger and tater tots. Half asleep or not, who can resist a midnight trough of high-end tater tots when it is only a few phone buttons away?

When I awoke the next morning, beside me on the bed was the room service tray — fancy flower undisturbed, aluminum lids untouched. As I dug into the mound of cold taters, I vaguely remembered ordering the meal, but had no recollection of opening my door to room service. In fact, I realized, I was long asleep by the time the taters and their transporter must have arrived.

The mystery of how the tray got into my room and onto my bed was solved at lunchtime, when I called in another meal before teaching my afternoon seminar. The room service lady, a Susan Saradonian type with a Stalag 17 accent, smiled knowingly and explained: “I got a kick out of delivering to you last night. I didn’t know whether to tuck you in or not.”

Really? Hey now. Part of me felt embarrassed, but the better part was, I must admit, intrigued.

No matter what happened, we might just say that this episode brings new meaning to the idea of “service at the St. Regis”.

Sartorial Sultan

I had the good fortune to share the ride back to New York with a grouping of gastro greats, including Drew Nieporent, Jonathan Waxman (whose roast chicken remains the Platonic ideal), Michel and Lori Nischan, and Marcus Samuelsson. Earlier in the weekend Marcus had tweeted a photo of us each dressed in our Aspen finery, which was a special honor given Marcus’ status as the sartorial sultan of celebrity cheffage.

If you haven’t yet dug into Marcus recently-published memoir, “Yes, Chef,” it is a riveting read which reveals, in Aquavit-clear prose, what it takes for an Ethopian-born, Swedish-raised chef to become a world-class restaurateur and brand.

NYCWFF: Wine, BBQ, and You

Good taste takes New York by storm in just a few weeks with the fifth-annual Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival. I’m co-teaching “Pickles and Marinades-the Korean Way” with Roy Choi, the LA-based impresario of Korean-inspired delectables; check out this video I did about two years ago from one of Roy’s famous Kogi trucks. And speaking of pioneering BBQ, I’m also teaming with Blue Smoke executive chef Kenny Callighan for a seminar that pairs wine with the restaurant’s spectacular grilled goodness. Both seminars are nearly sold out, so don’t hesitate to grab the remaining spots here.

Appendix: Wines from My Aspen Seminars

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée Green Valley of Russian River Valley 2007 (California)
Sumarocca Cava Brut Reserva NV (Spain)
Giulia Ferrari 2001 (Italy)
Movia Puro Brut Rose 2002 (Slovenia)
J Brut Rosé Brut NV (California)
Donelli Lambrusco Reggiano Amabile NV (Italy)

Les Crêtes ‘Neblu’ Spumante Brut NV (Italy)
Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2010 (Italy)
Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec Rosé 2010 (Argentina)
Georges Duboeuf Morgon Jean Descombes 2010 (France)
J. Hofstätter Lagrein Alto Adige 2010 (italy)
Duorum Douro 2008 (Portugal)

(All from M. Chapoutier, Rhone, France; selections made by Anthony Giglio)
Crozes-Hermitage Blanc “La Petite Ruche” 2010
Hermitage Rouge “Monier De La Sizeranne” 2007
Banyuls, Vin Doux Naturel Rouge 2009

Aspen Food & Wine Classic: The Fantasy Island of Gastronomy

Aspen Food & Wine Classic: The Fantasy Island of Gastronomy – The small plane swoops over a carpet of verdant hillocks, touches down, and deposits its passengers into a land of sun, magic, and enchantment.  A return to Fantasy Island?  Not unless Mr. Roarke is the debonair Jacques Pépin, the canopy-topped island wagon has been replaced by roving Lexus sedans, and Tattoo’s bell tower has morphed into white event tents.

This year’s Aspen Food & Wine Classic – the closest there is to a Fantasy Island of Gastronomy – lived up to this billing, offering a fantastical array of celebrity chef demonstrations, haute sips, and unexpected indulgences. Where else do you find the country’s newly-named Best New Chefs ladling up their signature treats (Stephanie Izard’s sublime goat stew among them), José Andrés merrily presiding over a spit-roasted pig at his party, or cowboy chef Tim Love serving up steak for a late-morning breakfast?

aspen food


This year marked my fifth Aspen and, appropriately enough, found me doing five appearances.  Two of them were as a contestant in the first-ever Iron Sommelier challenge, a light-hearted food-and-wine pairing competition dreamed up by wine czar and Best Cellars founder Joshua Wesson.  Josh asked us to dress as a superhero, so I packed a loaded ‘stache and reprised my alter-ego, “Mark Diggler,” whose first appearance was in this Drink Bravely video about Valentine’s Day wine.  Along with Josh, my fellow contestants, master sommelier Laura Pasquale of importer Palm Bay International and the Little Nell’s Vilma Mazaite, were formidable competition; Vilma emerged victorious, as detailed in this cover story in the Aspen Times.

Then it was on to teach my other seminars, “Beat the Heat: Wine with Spicy Food” and “How to Drink Wine Like a Pro,” both packed to the rafters with spirited grape nuts.  Always looking to give my audiences a special experience, I ended each seminar with a taste from bottles I won at the auction of Bernie Madoff’s wine collection, which Morrell & Co. had conducted in May, the proceeds going to Madoff’s victims.  Despite news reports that Madoff’s collection was third-rate and overpriced, I had discovered a few enticing and relatively affordable lots: 2005 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc and 1997 Antinori Guado al Tasso, both affixed with nifty seizure tags from the U.S Marshall’s Office.  And, anyway, when else do you get to drink the historical equivalent of Al Capone’s gun – and share it with 150 of your closest drinking buddies?  Knowing that every good experience needs a t-shirt, or some sort keepsake to flaunt, I had special cards made that certified that the card holder “actually tasted Bernie Madoff’s wine” and that they “now, unequivocally and forevermore, drink bravely.”

I also attempted the wine educator’s equivalent of walking a high-wire and sabered a bottle of Champagne at each seminar.  As demonstrated in this video, the art of saberage shouldn’t be attempted at home, or perhaps anywhere, if one is interested in preserving life and limb.  Thankfully, the bottles sheared open as intended, a few unsuccessful attempts notwithstanding, and one of the Classic’s ace volunteers, Grafton Smith, happened be a pro photographer and was there to capture the knifework you see at the top.

For me there’s no better feeling than leaving audiences educated, entertained, and – if the stars align — exhilarated.  I’m grateful for the generous media reviews in the Aspen Business Journal, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, in Kelly Hayes’ column in the Aspen Times, NBC’s The Feast, and the Denver Westward.

The following is a run-down of the wines I presented at Aspen Food & Wine, all chosen for their ability to achieve the kind of fulfillment for which even Mr. Roarke would noddingly approve:


2010 Flora Springs “Soliloquy” Sauvignon Blanc
2008 BenMarco “Espresivio” Malbec Blend


NV Bollinger Champagne Brut Speciale
2010 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes
2010 Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley Riesling
2009 J. Hofstatter Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof
2009 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir Cheviot Hills
2007 Terra Andina Carmenère Central Valley
Bonus: 2005 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc (from Bernie Madoff’s collection)


NV Brut Rosé Nature Champagne Zero
2009 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko
2010 Scholium Project Rhododactylos
2008 Faiveley Mercurey “Clos des Myglands”
1995 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino (in magnum)
NV The Chook Sparkling Shiraz
Bonus: 1997 Antinori’s Guado al Tasso (from Bernie Madoff’s collection)

aspen food & wine
Mustachioed at Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Torrontes: "Smells like Flaah-werhz"

“Smells like flaah-werhz” is Mark’s catchphrase — inspired by his friend Adrian — to describe the characteristically floral Argentine white, Torrontés.  Despite its nose “fit for FTD,” Torrontés is dry, light, and restrainedly alcoholic, making it ideal with spicy food, including the delectable Korean-Mexican eats Mark locates at a roving Kogi taco truck in Los Angeles.  View the video.

Los Angeles’ famous, roving Kogi taco truck