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

Ixtapa Festival, Grill Girl, Facebook Wine

Ixtapa Festival, Grill Girl, Facebook Wine

The Guac Atop Ixtapa


The recent Food & Wine Festival in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo was a technicolor caravan of spirited gastronomy.  You can read all about it, including the much-loved appearances by my fellow speakers Michael Symon and Marcus Samuelsson, in this excellent recap at Eater National.  While the setting was Monaco-travel-poster beautiful, I couldn’t exactly pass the time slurping guava in a hammock on the beach.  When I wasn’t teaching one of my four seminars, I mostly was preparing for them.  Successful presentations, like good writing, require dogged, sweaty effort.  There’s just no way around it, no short cut when you want your audience to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. This still doesn’t justify why I didn’t take the time to enjoy the infinity pool conveniently located in my hotel suite’s outdoor living room.  You read that right: pool-in-living-room.  I was stationed at La Casa Que Canta, a hotel so dreamy that it figured into the Meg Ryan flick When a Man Loves a Woman.  Being by myself in this secluded cradle of romance, I was essentially on a honeymoon of one.  Twisted minds might wonder: well, then, did you at least get lucky with yourself?  I ain’t saying.  But I can tell you that I relished the hotel’s superb room service, which brought the resplendent hillock of guacamole you see in this glamour shot.


Lil’ Mule



Our driver for the weekend, Ricoberto Perez, was one of my favorite memories.  A sweet, unassuming man, he was quite knowledgeable about the area, tempting us with stories of a local “tamale lady” who sold her magnificent cornmeal creations at certain hours of the night.  Rico was also a bit drowsy, partial to catnaps in his van’s back seat when he wasn’t driving us.  When someone in our group asked him about his hobbies, his answer was matter-of-fact: “I like to exercise.  You know, stay in shape.”  Only later in the trip did he casually mention that he was participating in the next day’s Ixtapa Triathlon Pan American Cup, the kind of competition that I thought was solely the province of Oakley-wearing ectomorphs.  Our group was floored.  Calling his bluff, I demanded, playfully, to see his official gear.  He produced his wetsuit, complete with its sponsorship patches from local eateries. The surprise we experienced reminded me of the scene in Romancing the Stone when a local tells Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner that his only vehicle to escape town is a “lil’ mule”.  “Lil’ Mule,’ you might remember, turns out to be the nickname for his roaring, jacked-up Ford Bronco.  Looks can be deceiving.

Night Decanting


Another highlight was getting to know Mexican wine, a rara avis that is almost never seen on American shelves.  A lot of it is very good, but unlike Argentina’s Malbec or New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc, Mexico has yet to find a signature grape.  Instead, the country’s increasingly sophisticated winemakers use a broad array of grape types, including a preponderance of Spanish and French varieties, almost all of which are grown in ocean-cooled microclimates of the northern Baja peninsula.  If you’re interested in sampling some Mexican wine, good examples can be ordered through the Baja Wines website.  If you do, no one can ever accuse you of failing to drink bravely. One of my favorite wines was Vino de Piedra, a red that Food & Wine’s Jay Meyer ordered as our group gathered to have a nightcap on the Viceroy Zihuatanejo’s beautiful beachfront.  The waiter decanted the wine right there – on the beach, at midnight, into a fantastically long-necked decanter – creating what deserves to become a new trend among oenophiles: nighttime beach decanting.

Massage Diaper

After finishing my fourth and final seminar, I returned to my hotel and celebrated with a massage, which commenced in a way that was anything but relaxing.  Before the masseuse exited the room, she pointed me to a surgical-blue shower cap sitting on the massage table. They must use some strong oils here if you have to keep your head covered, I reasoned, while attempting to stretch the fabric over my head — that is, until I noticed it had two holes in it. That can’t be a shower cap, I finally realized; it has holes for your legs.  I imagined that it must be some sort of protective diaper required by the Mexican massage authorities. The question remains: who in this equation is being protected? I tried to pull it on and was to alarmed to see that there was way too little fabric in front, and way too much in back – not, unfortunately, for anatomical reasons but because I had it on backwards.  As I struggled to turn it around, my get-undressed time must have expired because the masseuse started knocking.  With the language barrier, she didn’t know to recoil from my panicked “no’s!”.  It wasn’t exactly one of my finer moments as she got an eyeful of me, a pasty blur hopping on one foot with this blasted shower cap twisted around a leg.

Saving Face

On to less humiliating subjects, Inside Food & Beverage has just issued this generous review of Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine.  Don’t forget: the book makes for an excellent gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or, er, Bastille Day, and can be ordered at Amazon for the price of a (good) tequila shot.

With Grill Girl on Martha Stewart Radio

Last week it was electric, as always, hanging out with the lovely and talented chef-extraordinaire Elizabeth Karmel (a.k.a. “Grill Girl“) on Martha Stewart Living Radio. We talked about wine for Easter, including the joys of rosé and Albarino. I also mentioned to her that after watching Stanford Basketball recent triumph in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at Madison Square Garden, her Hill Country BBQ was the perfect choice for a celebratory barbecue feast with friends.


Facebook wine

Are you a Facebook (or Instagram) millionaire?  Or do you just want to drink like one?  Watch this.

Last Drop

Teaching tequila is its own martial art. (Photo courtesy of


 Ixtapa Festival, Grill Girl, Facebook Wine