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Gordon Mott

Dream Cigar Spot

Posted: Aug 31, 2007 11:04am ET
Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you realize that it is the perfect location to have a cigar…and you didn’t have one with you? It happened to me last Saturday. Now, I didn’t have a cigar because it was a lunch at a restaurant in New York State, which means No Smoking, No Way. And, the forecast was for 100 degree temperatures, so I wasn’t eager to sweat it out outside just to smoke. And I wasn’t that far from home, so I knew if the urge hit the party, we could always retire to my house.

But as I entered the property, my first thought was, ‘What a perfect place to enjoy a cigar!”

The place is called Monteverde at Oldstone Manor, a newly renovated restaurant and spa with rooms that overlook the Hudson River just north of the town of Peekskill. The establishment had a long, and undistinguished, history up until about a year ago when an investor bought the property. He is now in the process of transforming it into a world-class destination with a top-notch restaurant. The lunch was great. The vistas were spectacular.

And, the next day, I called my friend who is the general manager there, Glen Vogt. Glen was formerly at Windows on the World, and, is one of the restaurant world’s great people. I asked him, “So what are you going to do about your cigar program? “He laughed, and said, “yeah, did you see the gazebo area, wouldn’t that be perfect?”

So we have a date. I’m going to bring some of my favorite cigars. He’ll supply the adult beverage, and we’ll sit on the lawn overlooking the Hudson talking about how best to capitalize on Monteverde’s unique allure to cigar smokers.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Have you ever had that reaction to a place? And, what did you do about it?
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Your Industry     

Posted: Aug 29, 2007 12:13pm ET
One of the great features of the cigar industry is how small it is. Yes, there are two very large publicly owned companies (Altadis and Swedish Match) that are big players, but the majority of the rest of the companies are family or individually owned. Some of the latter aren’t that small any more, but it is an industry where everyone who does business in it knows just about everybody else. Even the big companies are run by people who have spent their entire lives working with cigars, so it’s not like they are just anonymous suits; they have friendships that go back decades.

Now, the staff of Cigar Aficionado has the same kind of relationships. At RTDA, where myself and other editors of Cigar Aficionado were in attendance in August, it was impossible to walk down an aisle of booths without stopping to say hello to someone. The industry’s size also makes things possible like the annual Ashton dinners, which are held in a fine restaurant usually near the convention site.

Over the course of three nights, if you are an Ashton retailer, or a friend of the company, you get invited to partake in a wonderful evening of camaraderie, and in an expression of thanks to the retailers who support the brand all year long. There are usually more than  200 people at each of the three nights.

Robbie Levin is the owner of the Ashton brand, and of Holt’s in Philadelphia. He’s spent his entire life in the cigar business. And while it’s a huge expense to run these dinners every year (he won’t let on how much), he says it is truly is a way to say thanks to the retailers, who are the heart and soul of the cigar business. But he also showcases his salespeople; Chip Goldeen and Manny Ferrero are the evening’s MCs (Manny’s toasts are the stuff of legend), and there are always a lot of laughs. Manny also takes great pride in choosing the menus, and selecting the wines.
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Starry, Starry Night

Posted: Aug 26, 2007 11:07am ET
August 12th is always one of my favorite days of the year. It’s my daughter’s birthday. And, it is night for the annual Perseid meteor shower. Every year, I prepare her meal of choice: (fresh-made pesto on pasta, caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, and sweet corn from a farm stand.) And, after the birthday cake (this year, a Triple Mousse Majesty – all chocolate -- from the Black Dog Bakery in Martha’s Vineyard), we stay awake until the shower starts to pick up steam at about 1 a.m. Since it was her 18th this year, she invited some of her girlfriends to join her on the Vineyard, and we had a real party on a screened-in porch decorated with balloons and lanterns and a full spread on the tables. It was one of the last hurrahs before they all disappeared into their post-high school lives in college or gap years doing interesting things.


The girls headed to a nearby beach to view the celestial show, and my wife and I set up on the second floor veranda of our rental house, which has a huge sky panorama looking north and west. By the time all the festivities were over, and the kitchen cleaned up, it was 11 o’clock.

Let me just say in the all the years that I’ve been sky-watching, this August 12th was about the most perfect night I have ever experienced. The sky was dark except for the stars because of a new moon, and a cold front had moved through overnight Saturday which completely cleared the air. Even with the Northeast megalopolis sitting just to our West, the Milky Way was brilliant and the smallest orbiting satellite was visible sliding across the sky.

I haven’t always had a cigar on shooting star night, but this year, I yearned for a great smoke. I rummaged through my travel humidor, knowing what I was looking for—A Don Carlos Lancero. I lit it up, and poured myself another glass of a 2005 red Burgundy, and laid my head back on the lounger to gaze at the stars. My wife sipped on her own glass of wine, laying back on the deck on a single Aerobed. Given the cool but blessedly light ocean breezes off of the Vineyard Sound, we were bundled up against the midnight chill. The wind was light enough that the aroma of my cigar lingered on the deck.

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Starry, Starry Night

Posted: Aug 23, 2007 4:35pm ET
August 12th is always one of my favorite days of the year. It’s my daughter’s birthday. And, it is night for the annual Perseid meteor shower. Every year, I prepare her meal of choice: (fresh-made pesto on pasta, caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, and sweet corn from a farm stand.) And, after the birthday cake (this year, a Triple Mousse Majesty – all chocolate -- from the Black Dog Bakery in Martha’s Vineyard), we stay awake until the shower starts to pick up steam at about 1 a.m. Since it was her 18th this year, she invited some of her girlfriends to join her on the Vineyard, and we had a real party on a screened-in porch decorated with balloons and lanterns and a full spread on the tables. It was one of the last hurrahs before they all disappeared into their post-high school lives in college or gap years doing interesting things.

The girls headed to a nearby beach to view the celestial show, and my wife and I set up on the second floor veranda of our rental house, which has a huge sky panorama looking north and west. By the time all the festivities were over, and the kitchen cleaned up, it was 11 o’clock.

Let me just say in the all the years that I’ve been sky-watching, this August 12th was about the most perfect night I have ever experienced. The sky was dark except for the stars because of a new moon, and a cold front had moved through overnight Saturday which completely cleared the air. Even with the Northeast megalopolis sitting just to our West, the Milky Way was brilliant and the smallest orbiting satellite was visible sliding across the sky.

I haven’t always had a cigar on shooting star night, but this year, I yearned for a great smoke. I rummaged through my travel humidor, knowing what I was looking for—A Don Carlos Lancero. I lit it up, and poured myself another glass of a 2005 red Burgundy, and laid my head back on the lounger to gaze at the stars. My wife sipped on her own glass of wine, laying back on the deck on a single Aerobed. Given the cool but blessedly light ocean breezes off of the Vineyard Sound, we were bundled up against the midnight chill. The wind was light enough that the aroma of my cigar lingered on the deck.
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The Cigar Tax's Silver Lining

Posted: Aug 23, 2007 9:28am ET
Within a few weeks, cigar smokers of America will know whether or not they are going to get socked with a huge new tax on their favorite product. The subject was on everybody’s mind at the RTDA trade show in early August in Houston. Everywhere you turned, small groups of manufacturers were huddled together in serious conversation, trying to strategize about the best ways to tackle the problem, and get legislators in Washington to listen to their plight.

The good news, from my point of view anyway, is that for the first time, individual manufacturers and retailers were seizing the initiative to work on a common problem. The Cigar Association of America has always done a stellar job of lobbying and protecting the industry’s interest, but again, from my point of view, the organization often had to pressure their individual members to join in the fight of the moment.

There’s no reluctance anymore. You heard words like disaster, catastrophe, killer, all lumped together in conversation about the new tax. And the realization that this could be a huge hit on the industry really did get everyone motivated.

There seems to be a drive for the cigar industry to remain unified in this fight. And that’s got to be good for the entire industry, and for all cigar smokers today. If your retailer has been pushing you to write your congressman, now is the time to do it. Many of you have probably even seen some local  events where your congressman  will be in attendance; they are on recess right now. Seek them out. They need to hear face to face that cigar smokers should not be asked to shoulder an unfair proportion of this new tax. The more our voices are heard, the better the final result with be for us.

Now is the time.
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Back in the Saddle

Posted: Aug 21, 2007 12:32pm ET
Whew.  I’m back at work after an extended break, which included four days in the middle of my vacation getting to and from and attending  the RTDA convention. There were also 10 days on Martha’s Vineyard, and three days getting my daughter off to college in Ohio. I’ll need another three weeks to recover from the latter event. Giving you my calendar for the last three weeks is a preamble to letting you know that I have bunch of blogs coming about cigars I smoked, people I saw, thoughts I have about the cigar industry and a few anecdotes about cigars in general. I’m going to start with one of those stories.

My favorite cigar moment of the last month was on Martha’s Vineyard, and it wasn’t even a cigar that I was smoking. A good friend of mine, who shall remain anonymous to protect his privacy, owns one of the greatest pieces of real estate in the United States. He had been a long-time cigar smoker, but he had quit for a few years. He had told me last year that he had started smoking the occasional cigar, but I figured it was for celebratory events. 

My family and I were invited to share the man’s beach on our first weekend in Martha’s Vineyard, but he warned me that he was going to be busy with a meeting so just head on down to the beach. I was sitting there on a one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on the island when I caught the unmistakable aroma of a fine, handrolled cigar. I stood up and started looking around and there was no one on the beach for more than half a mile in either direction. I turned around and scanned the top of the cliffs that tower about 50 feet above the beach. There, sitting in a three-seat glider, was my friend puffing away on a cigar with the intermittent cloud of smoke coming out over the Cliffside. His gaze was fixed on the view out over the ocean, lost in a private moment of reverie.

I gave him a few more minutes of privacy, then I climbed up the wooden stairs to his perch, and spoke briefly with him. He waxed poetically about his cigar, which I had commented on, and he admitted that he had started smoking again. I didn’t ask how frequently,  but he had another one lit when we finally left the beach a couple of hours later.
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My Greatest Cigars

Posted: Jul 27, 2007 11:41am ET

My recent vacation in the Canadian Rockies reminded me of another of the greatest cigars I have ever smoked.

It was in 2000, and I was at Lake O'Hara for the first time. My wife and I stayed in the main lodge building, which has about a dozen rooms and communal baths on a second floor that looks out on the main floor where there is a fireplace, a sitting area and the dining room. On the outside of the building there are a couple of porches, one of them right at the entrance.

I had traveled there with a 1492, one of the greatest cigars ever produced in Cuba to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the island's discovery by Christopher Columbus. It was a small corona sized cigar, and it was only sold in humidors that contained 50 cigars. My boss, Marvin R. Shanken, had given me one from one of the humidors that he purchased.

The weather wasn't great that year with a lot of cold weather, and there were thick patches of snow still on the hiking trails and covering the surrounding mountains. Finally, near the end of the five days of hiking, I bundled up in my fleece and a windbreaker and, after dinner, moved out to the porch. I lit up the 1492 and was immediately struck by what a powerful, yet well balanced smoke I had in my hands. It was filled with the pungent, earthy flavors that used to always mark a great Cuban cigar. That's about all I remember about the cigar. I smoked more than half of it, but then the chill began to win out, and I went back inside the lodge building to sit by the fire.

But I will always remember that 1492.

Does anyone else have memories of their greatest cigars?

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A Summer Night Saved

Posted: Jul 24, 2007 4:37pm ET
Dinner was raucous, a gathering of friends on a terrace overlooking the 18th green at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. We were all enjoying a great buffet dinner. A beautiful California Chardonnay from Grgich Hills and an excellent Merlot from Franciscan graced the table, and the bottles needed to be replaced more than once. From a couple of nearby tables, I could smell the sweet aroma of cigars. At least four or five people had lit up after dinner, and I knew it was going to be one of those nights for me too.

But I suddenly realized that the bag room was closed for the night, and my cigars for the day were in my golf bag. I ran up to the pro shop, and luckily, two assistant pros were still inside. They had stayed late (it was already after 9 o’clock on a Sunday night) to work on a big outing that was scheduled for the next day. I banged politely on the door, and sheepishly asked if one of them could let me into the storage room to get my cigars. They both smiled, and in short order, I had my cigars and headed back to the terrace.

The sunset was turning the sky into a vivid palette of pinks and purples, laced with some low dark clouds sitting over the Hudson River. A fireworks display from a community fair in a nearby village had a strobe-like effect on horizon. The air was still warm, and there was just a hint of a breeze. I offered the cigars to my friends. 

We quickly lit up, and we all sat there past 10:30 smoking, laughing and enjoying the last wisps of the fading sun out over the Hudson.  Even though I was smoking a lancero, I kept at it until the cigar was ready to burn my knuckles.

Have any of you had a special night this summer when your cigar transformed the evening into something special?



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Cigars at The Post Hotel

Posted: Jul 13, 2007 3:12pm ET
Andre Schwarz is worried. He’s sitting at the table with me, my wife and daughter in the dining room of his award-winning restaurant and hotel and talking about what’s heading toward him at The Post Hotel. If you’ve been to Lake Louise, Alberta in Canada, then you can’t miss the hotel; it sits just to right of the main intersection at the Samson Mall, just off the exit of the Trans-Canada highway. Its red metal roofs beckon travelers, and with their steep smooth slopes remind everyone that while the place is beautiful in the summer, there’s a ton of snow in the wintertime that creates world class skiing.

That’s why Andre and his brother George came to Lake Louise back in the 70s. They were skiers, and once they arrived from Switzerland, they basically never left. It’s a long story, but they took over what amounted to an aging motel, and transformed it into the Relais et Chateau property that it is today—in other words, it is among the best hotels in the world. The brothers also bought into the idea that great food and wine attract a great crowd, and they have devoted a lot of their investments, and personal passions, to the dining room and the wine cellar. The wine list has received the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, and it is filled with gems. At the recommendation of the sommelier, my family and I drank a 1998 Clos Vougeot, from the Domaine Gros Frere; it was fabulous. The kitchen focuses on classis dishes with some modern touches, and it excels. For us, those elements of the good life also happen to make The Post a perfect bookend to the week we spent mountain climbing in early July at a nearby mountain valley lodge in Lake O’Hara.

So why was Andre worried? He has one of the nicest cigar-smoking lounges anywhere in North America. It’s just off the main dining room with nice leather chairs, wood paneling and a full range of great spirits, from Cognacs and single malt Scotches to fine Rums. Here are some highlights from his cigar list. The prices are all in Canadian dollars, which once upon a time actually meant somewhere between a 20 and 30 percent discount for Americans; alas, the Canadian dollar is trading at about 95 cents on the U.S. dollar today. But he has Bolivar Royal Coronas at $23, Cohiba Esplendidos, $48, Montecristo No. 1s, $28, El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme, $23 and San Cristobal de la Habana el Morros, $34. If you need any help deciding on a choice, he lists the Cigar Aficionado ratings of the cigars that we’ve tasted.
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In The Rockies

Posted: Jul 10, 2007 10:29am ET
The sweet strains of Beatles songs echoed across the green-blue, glacier waters of the lake. High above, the setting sun struck the tops of Mt. Lefroy, Mt. Victoria and Mt. Huber, the light turning their snow covered peaks a faint orange.

Tig and Tony, two baby boomer-aged Canadians, playing guitar, singing golden oldies and drinking Scotch, were holding forth on the balcony of their rustic cabin overlooking Lake O’Hara in the high Canadian Rockies. We and our wives were singing along, all of us in shirt sleeves, which at 6,500 feet in backcountry during the first week of July is pretty rare. I lit up a Don Carlos Lanceros, and leaned back against the cabin wall, letting the smoke drift through the pines and off into the woods. One word kept popping into my head: bliss.

My wife and I have visited Lake O’Hara a number of times; she was on her fifth visit and it was my fourth time. We enticed our 17-year-old daughter along this year as a pre-college celebration trip, and an agreement to spend a day rock-climbing with a guide. Others better versed in the world of mountain valleys simply call it one of the most beautiful Alpine settings anywhere in the world. We go there partly to get away—no phones, no TV, day-old newspapers and access to the area limited by Parks Canada—and partly to explore the half dozen valleys and plateaus that are accessible from the main lodge on the lake, and sit below some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the Rockies.

We hit the jackpot on the weather. The Canadian Rockies recorded record snowfalls in the winter of 2006/2007, and many trails at the higher elevations were still snow covered last week when we arrived, and some of the high mountain lakes were still frozen. We spent the first three days exploring our favorite trails, “punching” through deep snow in several instances, but finding that the snowmelt was well underway. We were comfortable with our higher climbs, but we did push our daughter out beyond her comfort level several times, once on a steeply angled scree slope (one step up usually means a step sliding back on small loose rocks) and once on a expansive field of slate chunks leading up to a ridge looming as a barrier above our heads. There were long walks through mountain forests, and then climbs to plateaus where the vistas back toward Lake O’Hara and the mountains surrounding it were breathtaking.
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