Cigar Aficionado

A Great Wine Night

Wine dinners. How many of you have been to them? I assume quite a few of you are passionate about wine. If you love the connoisseurship side of cigars, there’s plenty of good reason to feel the same way about wine. It’s a handcrafted product that comes out of the earth, and is brought to you by people with a passion for taste and flavor, and there is a foundation of knowledge that you need to acquire to fully enjoy it. But how many of these dinners have you attended in which the wine or the food or both are disappointments? Sometimes it is the execution of the evening, sometimes it is the selection of wines, sometimes it is the choice of food. Whatever the problem, the successful wine dinner is harder to pull off than you might imagine.

I attended one last Friday night where there were no problems. Now, I must give full disclosure because I’m a member of the wine committee that helped organize the evening, but really, other than choose the night, we did nothing except show up and bring our friends. The committee has been charged with improving the wine program at my country club, and we’re now into our first full season.

The best thing we did was hire the right consultant. Glen Vogt, the former general manager of Windows on the World before it was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks and a walking encyclopedia of wine, has been putting new selections on the club’s list. For the dinner, he worked with the spring menu in our casual dining room, and decided to focus on Italian wines. The wines were not just your standard well-known Italian brands but a selection of interesting and unusual wines; they’ll all be on the club’s list this summer. There was a Prosecco to start, white wines from Alto Adige and Veneto, more white wines including an Arneis from Piedmont, and a spectacular Roscetto from Lazio that tasted like a great white Burgundy. The red wines included a Dolcetto d’Alba, a Chianti Classic Riserva, a super-Tuscan and a Barolo. It was all finished off by a wonderful sweet wine from the Veneto region.

The food started off with a cold mussel dish (the least successful one of the night), and then grilled salmon, shrimp and sweet pea risotto, spring lamb with a tomato and bacon gratin and a symphony of different chocolate treats for desert.

Glen Vogt presented each wine, and talked about not only the region where it came from, but the specific wineries and winemakers of each bottle. It was informative, and given the intimate size of the room (there were about 60 of us there), there was a lively exchange of questions and answers, and a lot of fun.

By the end of the night, we all felt like not only had we gotten a mini-education in Italian wines, but we all walked away with a favorite wine to order off the spring wine list.

I only had one parting thought. The next dinner in June will introduce the summer menu, and by then, it will be warm enough that we can walk outside and have cigars. That will turn a great evening into a perfect one.

"Gordon: I also just recently attended a wine party at my best friend's house in Yonkers, New York. He has a wonderful apartment that has a huge balcony overlooking the Hudson River with great views of the city and George Washington Bridge. He had quite a selection of Italian wines with the likes of reds: Chianti Reserva and whites: Pinot Grigio, also an Australian Shiraz, California Chardonnay and French Syrah. It turned out to be a beautiful evening where we smoked Cuban cigars and drank single-malt scotch in the balcony. I actually met a friend of his wife that owns a cigar bar and lounge named Havana House of Cigars in Middletown, NY. He also brought some of his own cigars that he makes and sells. If you are ever in the mood for great Italian and Florentine cuisine, then stop by Trattoria Toscana in the West Village, downtown Manhattan. I invite you, Dave, Jack, Marvin and James to have lunch or dinner at your leisure. When you call, just mention my name to Franco Fazzuoli, my father's partner. I am always there most nights' bartending as well after leaving the office." —April 8, 2008 20:40 PM