The $125,000 ‘Shroom, 52 Key Wines, Drink like Millionaire, Sauced in City, More!

The $125,000 ‘Shroom


Not just any old ‘shroom, but two ‘shroom in one! At the recent World White Truffle Auction in Alba, Italy, I witnessed a massive, “twin truffle” auctioned off for 100,000 euro, then about $125,000 in US dollars, for what is essentially a big, divinely-scented mushroom. The tartufo bianco weighed a total of 1 kilogram and was purchased by a Hong Kong buyer via satellite. I later got a close up look at this sublime ‘shroom specimen and interviewed its keeper, Mauro Carbone, director of the National Center for the Study of Truffles. The charity auction coincided with the heart of truffle season in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy and the annual Alba Truffle Fair. Business Insider featured my video of it here. ‘Shroom on!

52 Wine Picks Over Four Festivals

Those who have attended my wine seminars know that I make my selections more carefully than a vegan at a churrascaria. Depending on the seminar theme, the wines will vary by price, country of origin, and style, but they all have one commonality: the tendency to induce goose bumps of pleasure. With midwinter wine rescue an urgency and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, several readers have inquired about my recent wine picks.  So for your shopping lists, below are 52 outstanding wines, all of which I painstakingly chose and recently presented at four major food and wine festivals:

Food Network South Beach Wine & Food: Birds and Bubbles

Those who have attended my wine seminars know that I make my selections more carefully than a vegan at a churrascaria. Depending on the seminar theme, the wines will vary by price, country of origin, and style, but they all have one commonality: the tendency to induce goose bumps of pleasure. With midwinter wine rescue an urgency and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, several readers have inquired about my recent wine picks.  So for your shopping lists, below are 52 outstanding wines, all of which I painstakingly chose and recently presented at four major food and wine festivals:

Seminar 1: “Fried and True: A Fried Chicken Seminar” (with festival founder/author Lee Brian Schrager and author Adeena Sussman)

1) Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Kamptaler Terrassen 2012
(Austria, with Asha Gomez’s Herb & Chili Fried Chicken with Spiced Maple Syrup)
2) Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé NV
(France, with Dale Talde’s Kung Pao Chicken Wings)
3) LVP Imported Red Sangria
(Spain, with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Seeded Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley & Caper Mayonnaise)
4) B.R. Cohn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2010
(California, with Vanessa Williams’ Fried Chicken)

This mouthwatering menu is based on recipes from Lee and Adeena’s new book, Fried and True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides.

Seminar 2: “Sparkling Sweets: An Ice Cream and Champagne Pairing Seminar” (with Jeni Britton, owner, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

1) Chateau Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Columbia Valley NV
(Washington State, with Passion Fruit Sorbet/Lychee Sorbet)
2) Prunotto Moscato d’Asti 2012
(Italy, with Apricot Sorbet/Chamomile Ice Cream)
3) Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec NV
(France, with Whole Milk Yogurt/Estate Vanilla Bean/Cloverton with Buttery Graham Gravel)
4) Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui 2012
(Italy, with Salty Caramel/Salty Goat’s Milk Chocolate/Hazelnut)
5) Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé NV
(France, with Bitter Askinosie/Chocolate and Dark Chocolate)

Austin Food & Wine: Outsmarting the Wine List

Seminar 1: “Outsmart the Wine List”

1) Cristalino Brut NV (Spain)
2) Boutari Assyrtiko Santorini 2013 (Greece)
3) Chapoutier Pays d’Oc Rosé Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2013 (France)
4) Louis Jadot Morgon Chateau des Jacques 2011 (France)
5) Spring Val Vyd K. Corkrum Cabernet Franc 2010 (Washington State)
6) Chapoutier Pinteivera Douro 2011 (Portugal)

Seminar 2: “Bubbly Worth Savoring”

1) Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs NV (California)
2) Argyle Brut NV (Oregon)
3) Ferrari Brut NV (Italy)
4) Gosset Grand Reserve Brut NV (France)
5) Taittinger Brut Rosé Champagne Prestige NV (France)
6) Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole 2011 (Italy)

Seminar 3: “Hunt for the Next Malbec”

1) Austin Hope Grenache 2011 (California)
2) Santa Ema Carmenere 2012 (Chile)
3) Tormaresca Primitivo Salento Torcicoda 2011 (Italy)
4) Planeta Sicilia La Segreta Red 2012 (Italy, Nero d’Avola grape)
5) Castano Monastrell 2012 (Spain)
6) Leonetti Merlot Walla Walla 2011 (Washington State)

The Austin Chronicle ran this kind review of my Austin seminars. Join me at this year’s Austin Food and Wine Festival, April 24-26.

Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic: Drinking Like an IPO Millionaire

At last year’s Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, I assumed the persona of an IPO millionaire to present an astonishing array of special occasion wines. A tech hoodie was of course obligatory, but instead of donning the drab Zuckerbergian variety, I found one with Rick James gilded swagger. Speaking of the Facebook cofounder, I actually had Zuck in mind when I hatched the “Wine for IPO Millionaires” concept and launched this video a few years ago.

I explain my getup and the seminar to the always-dazzling Sissy Biggers in this genConnect interview. Make no mistake: the outfit was lighthearted, but the six wines, selected by my Aspen tasting panel of discerning nonprofessionals) were serious, as in seriously iconic:

Seminar 1: “Wine for IPO Millionaires: Special Occasion Wine”

1) Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne 2004 (France)
2) Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011 (France)
3) Domaine Faiveley Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2011 (France)
4) Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 (California)
5) Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2009 (California)
6) Chateau Rieussec Sauternes Grand Cru 2006 (France)
Bonus: a few drops of Leacock’s Verdelho Madeira Solera 1872


Long before the festival commenced, Curbed named the seminar one of “Ten Don’t Miss Events at Aspen Food & Wine” and the New York Post named it one of two “hot picks” at the Classic. The Post also ran this preview.

The Aspen Daily News later ran this review and reported that the sold-out seminar was over-capacity by 70 thirsty souls. 5280 featured these fun quotes.

surprise guest at my seminar: the soignée
Margrit Mondavi, widow of Robert Mondavi

Seminar 2: “Top Sonoma Pinot Noir”

Pinot Envy Square

1) Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Estate 2011
2) DuMOL Russian River Valley 2011
3) Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors 2012
4) Patz & Hall Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2012
5) Radio-Coteau La Neblina Sonoma Coast 2012
6) Lynmar Russian River Valley Quail Hill Vineyard Summit 2012

 natural flag of Aspen: blue, white, and green

Tickets are on sale now for the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, this June 19th to 21st, which marks my 10th anniversary at the Classic.  Batten down the hatches: one of my topics will be “Wine for IPO Billionaires”.

Food Network New York Wine & Food: Sauced in the City 

Seminar 1: “Sauced In the City” (with Hugh Mangum, owner/chef, A Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, NYC) 

1) Codorníu “Anna de Codorniu” Cava Brut NV (Spain, aperitif)
2) Dopff & Irion, Gewürztraminer 2012 (France, with Smoked Pork Sausage)
3) J. Moreau & Fils, Chablis 2008 (France, with Smoked Smoked Scallop Sausage served with Pickled Sea Beans, Watercress and a Fall Mostarda)
4) Laurent-Perrier Champagne Rose NV (France with Smoked Tofu “Lardon” Frisée Salad with Miso-Bacon Fat Dressing
5) A to Z Pinot Noir 2012 (Oregon, with Smoked Lambs Neck with Quick Pickled Cucumbers, Pickled Chiles and Preserved Lemon Sauce)
6) Antinori Tignanello 2010 (Italy, with Smoked Short Rib with Butternut Squash and Rosemary Gremolata)
7) Inniskillin Vidal Icewine Oak Aged 2011 (Canada, with Sticky Toffee Pudding with Smoked Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Sea Salt Caramel)

Seminar 2: “Dirt Candy Delights: A Vegetarian Seminar”(with Amanda Cohen, owner/chef, Dirty Candy, NYC)

with Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen

1) Argyle Brut 2010 (Oregon, aperitif)
2) Planeta La Segreta Bianco Sicily 2013 (Italy, with Portobello Mousse with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms and Peach and Fennel Compote
3) Matarromera Melior Verdejo 2013 (Spain, with Tomato Tart with Smoked Feta)
4) Weingut Weixelbaum Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 2012 (Austria, with Celery Salad with Celery Pesto and Grilled Grapes)
5) Remy Pannier Chinon 2011 (France, with Mini Broccoli Hot Dogs with Broccoli Sauerkraut)
6) Prunotto Moscato d’Asti 2012 (Italy, with Popcorn Pudding)

Last Drop: Gustatory Delta Force

with Special Op Commanders Jacques Pépin,
Drew Nieporent, Danny Meyer, and Marc Murphy

Last Drop: On Real Men…


real men wear aprons and make fresh pasta

now has anyone seen that massive twin ‘shroom?

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