Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Gift

(aside from my Hi-Times gift card, thanks Alli and Cam!)

All-Clad® 12" (a.k.a. footlong!) Covered Skillet

Currently on SALE for $89.95 (normally $180.00)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

1998 Le Vieux Donjon CdP

If there's one thing I've learned from tasting older wines (over 5 years old), it's that they can't be rushed. This '98 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CdP), didn't begin it's ascent until an hour after opening. If you don't have the time or tools to decant, the best thing you can do it to keep pours small - maybe even pour more than one glass at a time per drinker.

This wine initially gave off a nose of apple, smoke, and game, then, after an hour or so, had this distinct scent of earth-candy, baking spices, and roses. The wine was highly concentrated, deep ruby, and primary notes of red and black fruits still graced the palate.

Daddy Like

We drank the '01, but this was the best label image I could find. A very balanced, sexy wine. Thanks for introducing this to me, John! Next time we need to grill some lamb chops to enjoy alongside!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Wow. I have not blogged in over a month. That's pretty lame in my book. If you don't mind, I'm going to back track a little and blog about the past 6 weeks. I'll time date it correctly, so it will appear as if i wrote the posts when they were happening, but for those who visit "Breathe Air & Drink Wine" regularly and feel abandoned, I sincerely apologize. I greatly appreciate you and, as always, thank you for reading. :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wine as Art

If you are considering dropping substantial $$ on a special bottle of wine, please consider this review before you choose a typical "100 point" trophy bottle.

In my eyes and, more importantly, according to my palate, this wine is truly unique. Giuseppe Quintarelli, famous for his Amarones, makes another wine called "Alzero." It's cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and a splash of merlot...and drinks like chocolate raspberry sauce. The tannin is so fine and alcohol is so integrated it will leave every tastebud reeling. Sweet, savory, and magical grape juice. The inspiration and discipline that goes into making a wine of this character and quality is humbling. Above is the label from the bottle I enjoyed with Michael at B&B in Las Vegas.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The New York Marathon

One of the female loves of my life, Melanie Bongiovanni, ran her first marathon yesterday. She was able to participate in New York's because she joined the Road Runners club and completed all of the qualifying races. Already a champion in my book (full-time pediatric nurse at NY Presbyterian hospital, student at NYU to become a nurse practitioner, loyal/loving daughter, sister, aunt, and friend), she took on training for the marathon. Her training regimen paid off tremendously. In her words, "she danced the whole way."

As a spectator, it was more emotional and exhilirating than I ever imagined. The runners' fierce energy and raw determination was contagious. We watched from the 18 mile mark. I thought this was going to be like tailgating and when Mel ran by we'd reach over the caution tape for a high five and go back to partying. Not even close. I was entranced, cheering at the top of my lungs for every runner with a name on his/her shirt. Each human that ran past flashed the inspirational thought though my brain: "He/she has run 18 miles and still has 8 more to go."

After two hours of rejoicing for strangers, we saw Mel coming. I had goosebumps covering my body and tears in my eyes. The only thing I could think to do was sneak into the race and run with her. We ran for a mile together. She was talking like we were sitting at a coffee shop. Unbelievable. Mel finished the marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes. After the race, she walked into the bar for the after party where her best friends and family were anticipating her arrival. As she walk towards our table, we got the whole place chanting "MEL-A-NIE! MEL-A-NIE!!!" It was a blast and an honor to celebrate the champion who is Melanie Bongiovanni.

(Side note: In the bar I was secretly thinking...this is almost better than a wedding! Mel gets to show up in a sports bra and running shorts at a dive bar and drink and dance with her favorite people. Pretty awesome, right?!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spring into Fall

My parents and I spent Saturday afternoon walking a new park, Manhattan High Line. It's a mile or so of abandoned, elevated railroad lines reinvented for pedestrians. It was unseasonally warm, about 70 degrees, so everyone was out taking in some much needed Vitamin D. While Central Park will always feel like home, I appreciated the new vibe the organic and modern elements gave to High Line. There's a simple elegance and industrial nature to the outdoor scuptures and attentively coreographed landscaping that's refreshing (and the wind coming off the Hudson).

We lounged for awhile on wood plank chaises. They had railroad wheels connecting them to the old track so they could be wheeled apart or together. The little Hutnick family fit on two setup side by side to indulge in people and cloud watching. Our walking tour of the neighborhood ended at 14th and 9th with afternoon snacks and coffee at Pastis. We were sitting at a table outside and suddenly heard my sister. She was walking by Pastis talking on the phone, "I think I see my mom, no...that's my family!!". If we had planned it, it'd have never worked. But we didn't and there we were, the whole family together on a Saturday in the city. Lauren telling stories. All of us laughing. Another New York moment to confirm my belief to expect the unexpected there. Manhattan MAGIC

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween & the City

If you have never experienced Halloween in New York, you're missing out. It's bigger than New Year's because it's a New Yorker's holiday, not a tourist's. The city goes off. The parade shuts down lower Manhattan. And if you're a tired 26 year old female sans costume, just finishing up family day in the city, here's my advice:

Grab a pint of your favorite frozen confection and cuddle up on your best friend's couch to watch Annie Hall. Especially if it's pouring rain. Happy Hutnick. Happy Halloween. :)

Josie's Midtown

This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. If there was one in Newport Beach, I would be there at least twice a week. Everthing is organic. They use no dairy in preparation unless noted in the dish's description. It's the only restaurant I enjoy "family style" dining, because I know I can digest everything so I do want to share and try new dishes.

I have not been in five years because when I go back to the city I usually stay on the Upper East side or Central Park West. But this trip my parents needed to have dinner at a restaurant close to Grand Central*, so they could get the train back to Connecticut and be tucked in at a decent dinner at Josie's was ON.

It all came back to me. Fast. The sweet potato spread. The fresh foccacia and multi-grain bread. The ginger grilled calamari with golden pineapple and red pepper salsa (dish featured in photo). I actually wanted to get two entrees that's how happy and hungry I got just reading the menu. My "usual" when I first discovered Josie's was the warm macadamia crusted chicken breast with orzo and salad. This time I GOT CRAZY and tried something new...the seared tuna entree. It pretty much evaporated off my plate. My parents shared their dishes with me and they too were outstanding (filet mignon medallions with truffle mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and asparagus - all butter and cream free - and shrimp "un-fried" brown rice with tons of veggies and delicious seasonings).

If I ever have the luxury employing a personal chef, Josie's is the first place I will call. A girl can dream, right?!

*Josie's is a stone's throw from GCT on 3rd Ave. and 37th


Last night I met my friend at a restaurant called Cru. According to a few websites, they're famous for their wine list. Well, I had no idea what I was in for. I instantly dove into the twenty pages (maybe 30!) of Burgundies in attempt to pick a bottle for the night. The sommelier there was patient, helpful, and cool - like we wanted to invite him to the club with us cool. After a few too many minutes of shop talk with the somm, leaving my friend to nurse his cocktail, it was time to pull the trigger. I went for the prize vintage and producer. MAJOR value. A 1993 Roumier, Chambolle Musigny for under $300 (at a restaurant). So a village wine, generic AOC classification, but I was fine with that. A '93 premier or grand cru would have quickly launched us to four figure liquid assets.

The food at Cru was a bit of an afterthought. My attention was captivated by our Krug aperitif and the anticipation of the wine. After it was decanted and tasted, conversation and flavors unfolded and evolved on our palates in sync. Couldn't have been a better night...well, maybe if we splurged for a Richeborg :)

(Side note: Cru's address is 24 5th Ave (btw 9th and 10th Street). There is another Cru that sometimes shows up on a Google maps search way way west on 11th Street, where I arrived on time for dinner only to find out I had walked 10 mins in boots to the wrong place. This isn't the first time Karoline and I have failed navigationally. We should know to be more careful by now...)

Friday, October 30, 2009


Another night in New York. It's Friday, time to go big or go home. Which means two things to me...

1. Burgundy
2. New dress

Tomoe Sushi

One of my best friends lives in Greenwich Village and this trip to New York I stayed with her. She always raves about this hole in the wall sushi place near Washington Square Park, but we've never been able to power through our low blood sugar while waiting for a table. (Especially when Otto is around the corner from her apartment.)

Upon a late arrival last night, the sushi stars were aligned. By the time we arrived at Tomoe it was almost 10 and we got a table immediately. The place was cozy. The sake list was written on the wall. The conversations of the tables sandwiching us composed the soundtrack for our meal. I was back in New York and couldn't be happier. And then, the food came.

An assortment of some of the freshest looking, and, more importantly, tasting sushi I've had. I picked up a piece of yellowtail sushi, the fish gently hugging the fresh rice, and feared I would crush it. I didn't think raw fish and rice could ever feel like it was melting in your mouth. I stand corrected. Thanks Tomoe!

(Side note: They will substitute white rice in cut rolls with brown rice, but not sushi. And if you go the sashimi route, I think you're making a big mistake. There is an epic texture experience you will appreciate if you have tasted sushi anywhere else.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Viognier Rhymes With Sunday

What do you do on the perfect fall afternoon in Corona Del Mar?

1. Plant yourself with a friend on the Gulfstream patio (...may want to bring your own stems if you're sensitive to glassware)

2. Pop a bottle of chilled white wine and a red, pouring no more than two ounces at a time

3. Snack on peel-n-eat shrimp, ahi with ponzu, and roasted beets with fresh oranges, mint, and walnuts

4. Meet their cool GM, Natalia, and friendly server, Cindy, and invite them to taste the wines

5. Talk about why French wine rocks your world

6. Share a tale or two from the past week

7. Talk about candidates (white and red) for next Sunday afternoon

8. Make it home in time for a lovely fall sunset

(I had the pleasure of enjoying the first 2 last Sunday and the last 2 yesterday)

Bonneau du Martray (chardonnay)
2006, 13.5% abv
A BIG Sunday wine. Excellent balance and precision. Commanding nose and palate. More oak and butter on the nose than I anticipated. Stimulating minerality and acidity. Citrus and green apple notes. Lemon meringue too. Grand Cru finish that just can't be beat.

Janasse, Vieilles Vignes (grenache)
Chateauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhone, FR
2003, 14.5% abv
Another BIG Sunday wine that pulled a 180 on us after the militant Charlie. We jumped to liquid dark fruits - silky raspberry, blackberry, and boysenberry. Creamy texture and bakery (and a touch of savory) spices coast along the palate. Opaque purple color. Zero green. Ultra fine tannin. A dichotomy of innocent fruit purity and sinful decadence.

Mathilde et Yves Gangloff (viognier)
Condrieu, Northern Rhone, FR
2005, 15% abv
Integrated alcohol. Beautiful summer sipping wine. Developed aromatic nose with notes of honey and white flowers. Smoothe medium body white. Fun flavors of key lime, peaches, and cream soda.

Vincent Giradin (pinot noir)
Bonnes Marres Grand Cru,
Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, FR
Guttural, authenic, disciplined. Subtle fruit, more secondary and tertiary notes of spice, herbs, and tea. In no way aggressive on the palate though. A very sophisticated Bonnes Mare. Like a New York woman who always wear black couture with no visible label. Witty too. Maybe I'll be her one day ;)

Who Says

I really dig this song and music video by John Mayer. It captures "those nights" in the city so well. Can't wait to return in a few days!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Paraiso's Pinot Noir

P A R A I S O pinot noir
Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County
2007, 14.3% abv

I bought this wine about six months ago - a rec from Todd at Hi-Time (Costa Mesa). It's a nice value pinot that cost about $15. The wine displays nice red fruits, tea, and autumnal notes. No stemy quality, which is common is less expensive pinots, and the alcohol blows off after a few minutes. Light and flirty. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1997 Salon

What a treat it was to taste this beautiful champagne. Its distinguished texture and silencing complexity leave me with only brief copy and an image for you from their website:


I love this image and greatly anticipate my first taste tonight at the Wally's Delamotte & Salon tasting. Check out the link to watch the video about '97 Salon:

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Love Pumpkins

They're easy to arrange. Decorating with them brings up zero color scheme challenges. They don't need watering. Pumpkins just chill on your front porch all day looking really cute. And mini pumpkins...cmon... :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

World Buckets (Old & New)

Rule of Thumb:

Old World wines come from the "classic wine making regions" aka Europe. New World wines come from "not Europe" aka anywhere else in the world wine is made.

Break It Down:

Old World: 
France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain

New World: 
Latin America, Australia, America, South Africa, and New Zealand

I love using maps when I'm studying wine. It helps me remember things. I also tend to write all over them. When I read about a wine growing region like the Mosel in Germany, I can write a bunch of things on the map next to "Mosel" like Old World, cool climate, riesling, and some top wine makers/producers (names I could recognize in the future on wine lists or at tastings). Or if I was working on a California map, for Paso Robles I'd note that it's considered part of the Central Coast and is recognized for its rhone blends and zinfandels.

Here is an example of a world wine map for this high level New/Old World exercise. When you start learning about specific regions, just work with regional maps!

Wine Math

One simple equation:


What can we learn from this?

"Riper" grapes have juice with higher sugar levels. If the juice is fully fermented (all sugar converts to alcohol) to make a dry wine, the wine will have a higher percentage of alcohol.

Sometimes the wine is not fully fermented (riesling for example) and will have a lower alcohol level and, what's called, residual sugar. These wines will taste a bit sweet.

Book/Wine Club

This could be a really fun thing to start with a group of friends who want to learn about wine or just plain like it. You could pick a chapter from a wine book to read and then meet to talk about it. Coordinate to bring different wines discussed in the text and then try them together.

Here are the books that won't put you to sleep and teach you a great deal about wine:

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil

Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine by Mark Oldman

Wine Education

I taught a wine class at the Wine Lab earlier this year. I'm going to start posting some educational nuggets on the blog. I'll try to keep the posts short and sweet and hopefully you can learn something you never knew about wine! There's still a ton I'm learning :)

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2005

I had the treat of drinking this young rhone with a friend over three hours. It's taken me some time to write about it, but now I'm ready so here's my review:

The wine started very tight. The alcohol and tart notes pushed everyone else out of the way. The wine carried its density elegantly. After a half hour or hour decanted the wine began to catch its breath. The nose evolved to show off more fruits (dried and ripe) and a hint of smoke and bacon. Very satisfying palate journey and finish. I recommend buying this wine and decanting two hours before serving. The wine will also age well, so you may choose to cellar. Whenever you decide to open this wine, it will be a quite a different experience for those used to drinking New World rhone blends.

Here is Wine Spectator's review and rating:

(Wine Spectator 96 & TOP 100 2008)
"One of the largest estates in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, this property is owned and run by the Perrin family. In 2005, they produced their best regular cuvée since 1989 (Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 1991). The Beaucastel vineyard produces dense and explosive wines from a collage of 13 different grapes, most notably Grenache and Mourvèdre. Each is fermented separately in concrete or wooden vats. The third year of drought, 2005 only intensified the concentration and structure of this ageworthy red."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I've started telling people it is my dream to be a wine writer. They suggest I find a magazine to write for or try to get featured in a local periodical. Game on.

Monday, October 5, 2009

An '05 Burgundy Sunday Afternoon

Opened this delicate Domaine A.-F. Gros Vosne-Romanee with a new friend halfway into the party yesterday. Having just tasted some rich red blends and cabs, it was quite a challenge for the subtleties of this wine to capture the attention they deserve. Typical of the varietal (pinot noir) and Burgundian wine making practices, the beauty of this wine is that nothing jumps out at you. It's soft on the palate, humbly carries complex aromas and flavors, and - especially the 2005 vintage - strikes heart-stopping balance. Given my slightly abused taste buds, I still managed to tune into the delicate dried raspberry, field strawberry, tart red cherry, rose water, and tea notes. Now I need to introduce my friend to one of the Gros Richebourgs... :)

Party Time

Last night Wine Gallery celebrated their 10th anniversary with an afternoon bbq and wine tasting. They brought out the best for us from cult cabs to grilled tri-tip and everyone had a blast. I got to taste through most of the whites (the Alsace Grand Cru riesling won) but really slowed down when it came to the reds because I got distracted by a bottle of Burgundy upstairs halfway through the affair (2005 A.-F. Gros Vosne-Romanee tends to do that). The reds I did have a chance to taste were excellent though. Here's my shortlist of gems:

Pinot Noir, Domaine Serene's "Yamill Cuvee"
Willamettte, Oregon, 2006
delicate red fruits, integrated alcohol, confirmed the loved i had for this producer's wines after their anniversary dinner at Delmonico in Las Vegas this past spring

Cab blend, Rudd's "Crossroads"
California, Napa Valley, Oakville, 2006
delicious wine good for drinking young, it's nice balance of rich dark fruits, good acidity, and silky tannin deserve its retail price of around $60

Cabernet Sauvignon, Round Pond
California, Napa Valley, Rutherford, 2005
prefer the Rudd over this but still noteworthy if you can find a deal on it (retails for about $65)

Cab blend, Turnbull's "Black Label" (reserve cab)
California, Napa Valley, 2006
like a slice of flourless chocolate cake...dense, decadent, but not too sweet

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Privilege To Drive

I am working on regaining the privilege to drive in the state of California in mid November (I'm confident you can do the math here.) After functioning for four and a half months without a license, I have a fierce new appreciation for laws and social responsibility. Plus, an awareness of the luxury of exercising logical forensics to make an exception to policy. I have waited in line for hours. I have paid temporally and financially. I have never been a more humiliated, and, of course, humbled. I'm now more patient. More respectful. (Sorry for all of the "I"s.) And I'm thankful this happened. It is easy to go through life and never experience what I did. Respect your fellow humans and the law. If you don't, the clock is ticking. Think it is only fair to finally share this.

Today I Found Out

at the ACS Discovery Shop that my friend with cancer was told she had six months to live December '08. Given this diagnosis, I think my previous post is an even greater testament to the power of her spirit. I've heard many similar stories and I feel lucky to be in the company of a survivor firsthand. She came in again today to volunteer and my goodbye to her was "See you next Wednesday!"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Have A Friend With Cancer

I met her at work and she is going through chemo right now. The radiation treatments are awful and she still manages to come into volunteer at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop (it's a second hand (donation only) retail store in Corona Del Mar that donates 75% of revenue to ACS.) She came into today with a wristguard on because the radiation is now giving her carpal tunnel. 

Everyone is sensitive to her weak immune system and low energy, but she still wants to help out so we find her small jobs. I'm amazed and overwhelmed by her passion for life and activity. She is past pain. And I think just wants to be treated like a capable human being and not a sick person. She will live longer, or, even better, beat cancer because of this. A truly inspiring woman.

Learn how to volunteer for the American Cancer Society in your neighborhood:

"Her Eyes"

I heard this song by Pat Monahan today in the car and liked this little line.

She's old enough to know,
and young enough not to say no.

Lately, I miss that "young enough not to say no" feeling. Feel me?

drybar ~ a blow dry bar

My sister-in-law, Alli Webb, is opening a blow dry bar in LA - Brentwood, specifically - in January. I'm beyond excited for her and completely in love with the concept (even though I have superthin hair that air drys in 5 minutes and doesn't take a curl...a.k.a. not an ideal drybar client). She will have a sexy teaser website up soon and has started a blog if you want to follow her journey of being an entrepreneur, in addition to Grant and Kit's mom and a rockstar wife, sister, and friend. Here's the link. Please cheer her on with me!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Boom Boom Pow

Love the Black Eyed Peas version? I did too, until I heard this one by the Maccabees (thanks Shwan!)

If Only

we all looked as cute as my nephew, Kit, on the bowl.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Apologize

for the lack of posts recently. I have been home for an overdue visit to friends and family in New York and Connecticut, reading to try to improve on my writing, working on launching two new companies (that, unfortunately, have nothing to do with wine) before Feb '09, and finally attending to things that I've neglected over months when I've prioritized blogging, wine tasting, traveling, and mulling over life questions on long walks by the ocean. Bottom line is that not too much wine sipping and exploring is going on at the moment...I'm just happy if I can squeeze in a Leffe and a twenty minute walk around sunset time.

The purpose of this blog has always been to add value (wine knowledge, recommendations, philosophical exercises, etc.) to the lives of my readers through its content. I hope to resume posts in this nature in the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience. XO

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cry Freedom

Below is the last of the lyrics and a link to the song "Cry Freedom" 
performed by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at Luther College.

Hands and feet are all alike
But gold between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
But fear between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
Hear what I say
Hear what I say
Oh, so be it

How can I turn away
Brother/Sister go dancing
Through my head
Human as to human
The future is no place
To place your better days