South Beach: Sumptuous Solar Vortex, spooning wine, cheating hours, Apron’s 11, Nerd Nation

South Beach: Sumptuous Solar Vortex

If you’ve had your fill of polar vortexes and tarry slush, point your GPS in the direction of Miami’s South Beach for the Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival, starting tomorrow.  This year’s line-up once again has more color than a Creuset catalog, its glistening gumbo featuring Rachael Ray, José Andrés, Josh Wesson, Masaharu Morimoto, Martha Stewart, Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, among many others.

south beach

Decadence is on the menu at my two South Beach seminars.  The first, “Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar,” I’m presenting with legendary festival founder and director Lee Brian Schrager and acclaimed food writer Adeena Sussman.  Its 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.

My other appearance is “Sparkling Sweets: An Ice Cream and Champagne Pairing Seminar” with ice cream maven and author Jeni Britton of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.  If the title doesn’t make you woozy with want, take a gander at Jeni’s tour de force menu for the South Beach fest:
Passion Fruit Sorbet/Lychee Sorbet
Apricot Sorbet/Chamomile Ice Cream
Whole Milk Yogurt/ Estate Vanilla Bean/Cloverton with Buttery Graham Gravel
Salty Caramel/Salty Goat’s Milk Chocolate/Hazelnut
Bitter Askinosie/ Chocolate and Dark Chocolate

Austin: No Longer a Crosswalk Criminal

With last year’s arrest warrant for jaywalking finally dismissed, I am now free to return to this year’s Austin FOOD & WINE Festival with unfettered mind, palate, and ankle.  Despite the warrant’s warning that “over 240 law enforcement agencies across Texas” were searching for me, the festival rocked harder than Belushi on “Jailhouse Rock”.

Kind reviews were issued by Bacchus and Beery, the Austin Eavesdropper, and Wes Marshall of the Austin Chronicle.

This year’s Austin festival promises to be equally engaging.  Learn more here.

The infamous warrant as well as commemorative t-shirts raffled off to attendees.

In Austin I’ll sign (almost) any body part.

Aspen: Gaucho Marks

Well before Carlos Danger lived down to our rock-bottom expectations of the modern politician, there was a similar sounding but better intentioned Latin-flavored figure: Gaucho Marks.  This was my persona at last year’s Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, my eighth-straight year presenting at this snow-tipped Strativarious of culinary experience.   True to my new identity, I taught “Argentina’s Top Malbecs,” as well as “Superstar Wine Values”   The wines, listed below, were all carefully selected by my Aspen panel:

Argentina’s Top Malbecs
1. Finca Las Nubes Rosé of Malbec
2. Luiga Bosca Malbec
3. Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Bella Vista
4. Alta Vista Malbec Luján de Cuyo Serenade
5. Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino
6. Val de Flores

Superstar Wine Values
1. Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace Réserve
2. Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini
3. Alamos Torrontés Salta
4. Prunotto Barbera d’Asti Fiulot
5. Tormaresca Puglia Nèprica
6. Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill Monastrell Alicante

This June I return to the Aspen Classic with two brand-new seminars: “Wine for IPO Millionaires” and “Sonoma Pinot Noir”.  Learn more about this year’s Classic here.

In the meantime, watch genConnect interview Gaucho Marks:

Mark Oldman At The 31st Food & Wine Classic | genConnect

Watch the Video

Cheating Hours

“Apron’s 11”:  with Boulud, Colicchio, Dhalfors, Dufresne, Galloni, and Greico.
During last year’s Aspen festival, I had the chance to chat with Daniel Boulud, who clued me into a memorable french idiom.  It seems that he had just filmed a cameo for a film called “5 à 7,” a title derived from the French expression for the time of day that one would cheat on a spouse.  It is remarkable, I thought, that the French are so tolerant of infidelity that they have allotted hours for it, even if the expression is somewhat in jest.  Had French President François Hollande simply followed tradition, rather than cavorting at all hours on his scooter, he might not have found himself in such deep merde.

Brave Drinking with Auction Winners

A few months ago I hosted a group of six auction winners who had bid generously for a wine tasting at my place through a Charitybuzz auction benefiting Food & Wine’s Grow for Good campaign and the Wholesome Wave Foundation.  Determined to pull out all of the stops, I enlisted bottles from my personal collection that would maximize our chances of drinking bravely.  The line-up spanned the world (New York, California, France, Italy and Hungary), wine types (bubbly, white, red, and dessert), bottle sizes (half-bottle to two 3-liters), blue chips (Patz & Hall) to cult wine (Scholium Project and Le Pergole Torte), recent releases to the delightfully mature (a 2005 Beaujolais cru Morgan in magnum), and finally a bottle I had acquired from Bernie Madoff’s actual stash (through the 2011 Morrell & Co. auction that benefited the victims of this odious scoundrel).  Along with the wine, we nibbled various fine cheeses, salumi, and bread from nearby Eataly.

Nerd Nation

In October I was invited to teach wine to Stanford University’s senior class, a terrifically bright and generous group.  The senior class presidents presented me with a coveted “Nerd Nation” t-shirt, which I shall treasure.On the subject of Nerd Nation, I did a video this January from the 100th Rose Bowl to discuss the wine equivalent of that name:

Wine for a Nerd Nation – Episode 79 – Drink Bravely w/ Mark Oldman (Stanford & Jura at Rose Bowl)

Watch the Video


Word is getting out about Coravin, the device that allows one to taste wine without pulling the cork.  According to last week’s Wall Street Journal, the Peninsula New York Hotel is going as far as making its entire list available to taste through Coravin.  Here I demonstrate Coravin on the day of its launch:

How to Taste A Wine Without Pulling the Cork (Coravin) – Episode 75 – Drink Bravely with Mark Oldman

Watch the Video

Last Drops

Glass Christmas tree.

Romance on Valentine’s Day: have you spooned your wine?

Three Wine Books that Ably Bridge the Abyss

Three Wine Books that Ably Bridge the Abyss

During an appearance on Martha Stewart Radio two years ago, then-host Mario Bosquez taught me an expression that has continued to resonate.  When I told him that I was hopelessly immersed in writing my most recent wine books, he, an author himself, issued a knowing chuckle:

“Ah, yes, you’ve fallen into the page.”

Exactly, I thought.  That’s the perfect way to describe the inevitable and socially compromising black hole that envelops many authors during the writing process.  It is a self-inflicted Hanoi Hilton of creative exertion requiring the stamina of an English Channel breaststroker and the ability to stave off the delirium of so many hours laboring alone, the kind of bleary-eyed desperation portrayed memorably by Taxi’s Alex Reger’s in his stint as a security guard.

It is doubly difficult writing a wine book, because friends and family assume that focusing on such a glorious subject must make the process pleasurable, if not downright sozzling.  Not so, I say, writing on wine is more like pulling endless an all-nighter in the basement office of a vacation resort: it doesn’t matter how close you are to the beach, you are there to toil.

And toil it is, if you want to add something fresh to the oceanic body of wine writing.  Because the complexities of wine can be difficult to distill, a good wine book requires extra thinking and contouring on the part of its writer, laboring to find just the right combination of words, tone and structure.  Like a mountain guide, a wine writer’s mission should be to smooth out the experience for those who follow, sweating out the details and potential perils before the journey ever begins for his audience.  You fall into page, so you’re readers don’t have to.

The following are three recently-released wine books, each different in approach, but all admirable for their ability to bridge the abyss of wine complexity:

The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg (Little, Brown, $35)

Authors, sybarites, and culinary chroniclers, Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg produce another masterful and boundlessly useful tome.  Powered by dozens of interviews with top sommeliers around the world, the book provides encyclopedic coverage of over 200 wines types, each described in terms of the wine’s essential flavor components.  Four-color and sleekly designed, it is supercharged with nuggets advice, tips, and original features such as a time-line of historical wine events.  It is a must-have for the novices, connoisseurs, and restaurant professionals.

Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines (Berkley Publishing Group, $24)

Canadian wine star Natalie MacLean’s fine and self-deprecating prose reaffirms my penchant for all things Canadian.  Her new book details her adventures in locations both far-flung and within the Great White North, stalking value wines and winding up in helicopters over the Niagara Peninsula and in a car zooming down the Autobahn.  The reader gets to ride shotgun with her and learn about Malbec, German Riesling, South African wine and other key wine values.  Her chapter-ending “Field Notes from a Cheapskate” provide a satisfying summary of these types.  A must for those seeking to learn about affordable wine through the entertaining adventures of a vital, charismatic wine expert.

Bouquet by G.B. Stern (, $85)

The eternal, gnawing question for me is what book to get a wine aficionado that she already doesn’t own or know about. Problem solved: Bouquet is a small-batch, re-release of a charming 1927 travel adventure of the author, her husband, and another couple who tour Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, and other wine regions of France.  During their romp we learn that the many of the questions seizing wine lovers today — Old World vs. New World, Burgundy vs. Bordeaux — were just as germane some 85 years ago.  The book’s fondle-worthy, cloth-bound cover and eggshell finish text will have you breathing in its pages like they were a fine Volnay – and think back to a simpler, more refined era of publishing.