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Archive for the ‘Potpourri’ Category

Sex, Wine?! and Rock-n-Roll

It’s not too often that one gets an opportunity to sit down to afternoon tapas, drink fabulous wine and hang out with a guy that once played bass guitar in front of 20,000 screaming rock fans night after night.

1,000+ empty wine bottles and 350 posts later, I find myself sitting across from a dude that played bass guitar for the 70’s supergroup Bad Company and thought – does it get any better than this?!    I grew up listening to Bad Company and playing air guitar to songs like “Can’t Get Enough,” “Rock Steady,” “Bad Company,” “Run With The Pack,” “Silver, Blue & Gold,” and so many other kickass songs;  so when Paul Cullen asked me if I’d care to join him for lunch, I said, Hell yeah!”

Over the course of lunch, Paul and I certainly talked a lot about his time in Bad Company, but I was curious to know how he caught the wine bug, and how his love of food, music and wine has turned his world into a Sonata.

WL365:  Paul, how does a kid born and raised in Buffalo, NY go from being a sports nut, just learning to play bass guitar, make the decision to become a full-time musician?

Paul Cullen: I was always into music…I was the guy everyone looked up to for what the cool new music was. I also had mind blower speakers in home stereo cabinets in my Ford Pinto with a Pioneer Super tuner 8-track.

WL365:  Naturally Paul, all of us once-mullet-sporting, air guitar heroes wanna know:  how in the world did you land such a sweet gig with the legendary rock band Bad Company?

Paul Cullen: After 9 years of playing bass on the road, I went back to Ft. Myers, FL and started up a band called Boys of Summer, which ended up being a very popular band in the area.  Songs played on 97 Rock radio station and we eventually opened up for Molly Hatchet, REO Speedwagon and other rock bands.  The guys from AC/DC and Bad Company lived there and used to come out to see us and sit in all the time. Well, the job came up for Bad Company and Cliff Williams, the bassist for AC/DC threw my name in the hat for the job. I went to London for the audition and got the gig the same day.

WL365:  How would you sum up your experience of living and breathing the life of a rock star?

Paul Cullen: It was dream-like…Playing with my idols growing up was amazing.  Hard to imagine if you haven’t been in that position.

WL365:  Most of us envision rockers with a bottle of Jack or a 1.75 liter bottle of rum clutched in their fist on the brink of collapse.  How did you find the passageway into wine?

Paul Cullen: Mick Ralphs, guitarist for Bad Company, turned me on to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a Rhone Red from France, and I have been a huge fan ever since.

WL365:  After leaving Bad Company it seems as if your own ‘winelife,’ as well as your career in music, really evolved.  What led you to the decision to become a solo artist; and, besides your love for wine, what motivated you or gave you the courage to release your first private label wines?

Paul Cullen: Being a bassist you have to depend on everyone else for a gig, and the only thing I had to compare playing bass was when I was with Bad Company:  I needed a new outlet to rejuvenate my music career.  I have always been interested in Latin jazzy nylon string guitar. I think it comes from my parents listening to Jose Feliciano and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 when I was young.  I figured I didn’t pick up bass until I was 20,  so I could pick up guitar when I was 46. :)

The private label was a combination of knowing that wine and music go hand in hand and from being successful as a wine representative for an Italian wine importer for 3 years. I figured, why sell some else’s wine when I could have my very own. I love the fact that I can make all the decisions on what I think is best for my company – other than getting my wife’s approval..ha-ha!  :)

WL365:  Congratulations on the release of your third solo CD, Eleven Sundays.  How did the title of the CD come about and what is the significance behind the number eleven and Sundays?

Paul Cullen:  It’s a culmination of songs I wrote on Sundays.  Eleven has been a favorite number of mine since my sports days. I always had #11. Plus, in numerology, the number 11 represents: Higher ideals, invention, refinement, congruency, balance, fulfillment and vision.

WL365:  You’re either crazy or extremely passionate about the things you love.  In addition to releasing a new solo CD, you’ve also released your first private label wines called Sonata.  Can you tell us a little bit about the wines?

Paul Cullen:  The wines come from The Sierra Foothills, east of Sacramento, CA.  Drytown Cellars is a family run vineyard that grows 14 different varietals, many from Italy.

WL365: What can people expect when they try your Sonata Bianco and Rosso?

Paul Cullen:  Balance!!

WL365:  What is your definition of “balance,” as it relates to music and wine?

Paul Cullen:  Not one thing hits you in the face…a lot of quality aspects fill your mouth and nose.  Just like my music does to your ears. Nothing obtrusive …just sexy wine sippin’ sounds.

WL365:  Do you have any favorite musical artists?  What is your all-time favorite CD? 

Paul Cullen: Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live, David Gilmour’s On an Island, Jesse Cook and Sting.

WL365:  There’s one track from your first CD, Dreamdance with a very provocative song title that immediately caught my attention:  “Friends Don’t Kiss.”  What’s the song about?

Paul Cullen:  I knew this really cool girl for a long time and it was obvious that we were attracted to each other, but we were both in relationships.  After my relationship ended, we hooked up one night by chance.  After some passionate kisses I thought I was in. The next day she said we should just be friends and I said, “Friends Don’t Kiss like that!!”

 

WL365:  I’ve heard that you love to cook at home for family and friends.  Will you share a few of your favorite recipes that taste out–of-this-world delicious with your Bianco and Rosso wines?

Paul Cullen:
Grandma Tag’s Fast Sauce paired with Sonata Rosso.

Pan Seared Diver Scallops on Cheesy Polenta in a Tarragon Pancetta sauce paired with Sonata Bianco. 

WL365:  If you could have dinner with any living celebrity or well-known public figure while sipping on your wines, who would it be and what wine would you want to share?

Paul Cullen:  Chef Mario Batali…Both of my Sonata Wines with homemade pasta and gnocchi dishes my Grandma Tagliaferro taught me to make.

WL365:  Ok, last question Paul: Is there any chance that you might end our interview by performing your rendition of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games”?

Thanks Paul!  Please check out Paul Cullen’s new CD, Eleven Sundays and his delicious first private label wines called Sonata.

Editor’s Notes:

Paul’s wines can be purchased online through Boutique Wine Room.
A big thank you to our friend, Holly, for whipping up the scallops recipe for us!

You Want to be Where Everybody Knows Your Name…

Our troubles are all the same, right?!  It all starts around 6:00 AM with a sore back from sleeping on a WWE action figure all night; then as you make your way to the coffee maker while stepping over a pile of the kids’ clothes (that somehow couldn’t find its way to the hamper), you find your pet hovering over the kitchen sink trying to get some leftovers from some dishes you left from the night before.  You wrap up the morning with a 20 minute Q&A session with one of your kids while in your closet, half dressed, trying to make yourself look moderately presentable.  You’d love to stick around for more of this blissful morning glory, but it’s off to the workplace for even more fun and excitement.  The fun and laughs seem to never end, as this episode replays itself for 5 (long) straight days…  On day 5 you wake up in your typical haze, but then you stop and say to yourself, holy shit…it’s FRIDAY!!!!  You get so excited by the thought of it that you break out into a happy dance, a River Dance, and even the Cabbage Patch Dance!  You stir that pot of chocolate pudding like there’s no tomorrow, because it’s FRIDAY baby!!

Now that the weekend is here, what are you gonna do for fun?  Are you going to just stay home and watch SuperNanny, Kitchen Nightmares, or My Big Redneck Wedding??  For Pete’s sake – haven’t you been on your couch enough for one week??  :) Why not do something fun with a group of pals – like a wine tasting party?!  That’ll certainly kick start your weekend!

That’s what my friend, Holly, recently did – and so can YOU with just a little help!

There are lots of great ideas and themes to choose from when putting together a fun tasting. I thought that it might be a blast to do a unique, in-store wine tasting for my friend and her wine gang.  Now when I say “in-store wine tasting,” you’re probably envisioning a mini-bar or table set up off to the side of your favorite local wine shop.  You know…the free tastings that take place on most Friday evenings and/or Saturday afternoons at many wine shops across the US; but I’m not talking about that sort of “unique” in-store tasting in the least.  What I’m talking about is a truly private tasting for just you and your gang in the store’s wine cellar! 

I’m lucky to live near several outstanding independently owned wine shops where the owners are truly passionate about their business and provide customers with superb selections and individualized customer service.  One of those great little gems is Peco’s Liquors.

I’ve recently gotten to know Edward Mulvihill of Peco’s.  Ed grew up in the family business and he’s now the store’s Director of Sales & Marketing.  When I first met Ed, I had no clue that Peco’s even had a wine cellar – even though I’d shopped at this establishment for the past 12 years.  Since seeing the old cellar for the very first time a few months ago, Ed and the Peco’s staff have done an amazing job renovating it. They’ve created an intimate atmosphere that is perfect for entertaining and sharing good cheer with 12-20 fellow wine lovers.  I was quite eager to share the cellar with some of the locals, so I asked Ed if he’d be willing to host a private soiree and he graciously agreed to my request.  So now that I scored a swanky venue for Holly’s wine tasting party, I needed some great wines to serve up.  I worked with both Edward Mulvihill and Alex Calla, who is the store’s wine specialist, to come up with a tasting flight that we hoped would receive high praise from our party host Holly and her 20 thirsty guests.

Here’s the line-up that we decided on:

When Alex, Ed and I were trying to come up with the tasting flight, we wanted the line-up to be a little bit off the beaten path, yet not totally out in left field.  We were also aiming to introduce the group to several new wines that would be perfect for everyday drinking (under $20) and that would also pair well with a variety of recipe ideas. 

So what did our thirsty guests think about these wines?

Well, based on the responses and written feedback that I received from our evening’s host and her guests – there were a few that hit the bull’s-eye and a few that missed the target.

Here were the ones that hit the mark and received the most accolades from the group:

Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago NV (Veneto, Italy) - This crisp Italian Sparkler was such a big hit that folks were lining up for more even after the tasting had ended.

2006 Trapiche Broquel Bonarda (Mendoza, Argentina) – Guests raved about this wine’s beautiful aroma, great body and impressive, big and full flavors.

2009 Bodega Septima Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – This was another winner from Argentina with the guests.  Lots of folks commented on the richness of this wine and many expressed that its flavors were very complex.

Unfortunately, one wine that totally struck out was the 2009 Alamos Torrontés (Salta, Argentina).  Many in the group had never tried an Argentine Torrontés before, so we had hoped that the Alamos would be a nice entry into this category to leave a positive, lasting impression on our guests.  Sadly, those lasting impressions were of “armpits,” “feet,” and “grandma’s basement.”  I’m not quite sure if the last comment was a term of endearment or not.  :)

The wine with the most mixed reviews was the 2008 Penley Estate Sparkling Pinot Noir (Coonawarra, Australia).  Many did enjoy the smell of this wine:  bursts of strawberries, raspberries, and light spice.  And there were a few people that embraced this less traditional rendition; describing it as “FUN,” “Surprising,” and “Awesome!”  However, the majority of the tasters thought the sparkling nature of this wine was a little odd and too different from what they’re accustomed to from a traditional Pinot Noir.

Finally, the 2006 Henry Estate Pinot Noir (Umpqua, Oregon) – which was the most expensive wine of the bunch – also received a few mixed reviews from the tasting group.  Some said, “it’s very earthy,” “reminds me of the woods,” “flat taste,” while others said, “amazing,” “very smooth,” and “very good.”

Oh well, you know the old saying, “You win some and you lose some…”  But at the end of the night, everyone goes home happy, feelin’ good, and ready for the rest of the weekend!  :)

Very special thanks to Peco ‘s Liquors, Ed, Alex and Josh for a great evening! (Peco’s FaceBook Page)

I’d also like to thank my good friend Holly for bringing the incredibly delicious cheese selection and a great group of wine lovers to party with!

Saludos From Chile

During a very special Winemaker’s Lunch at New York’s Lambs Club, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Marcelo Gallardo, Chief Winemaker at Chile’s Los Vascos, on his very first trip to the United States. 

Beaming with an infectious smile and a gregarious personality as big as the Big Apple, Marcelo seemed right at home as he shared his exquisite wines and his approach to wine-making with the large, diverse crowd that was on hand for this special event. 

Over the course of our lunch together and in between presentations, Marcelo and I chatted a bit about food, music, sports and most certainly, wine.  What a worthwhile afternoon it was:  the food and wines were quite good, but having an opportunity to meet someone with such a zeal for his life’s work was an inspiration!  With that said, I’m so happy to share with you some of the things I learned about Marcelo Gallardo.  

WL365:  Will you please tell WL365 readers a little something about yourself? 

MG:  I was born in San Felipe, a city in the fifth region on Chile about 90 Km from Santiago.  I’ve been planning to make wine since I was a boy. I used to help my grandfather and then later my father to make sweet wine every year.

Nick Wass - AP Photo

WL365:  A lot of well-known public figures become passionate about wine and have made their way into the wine industry.  If someone were to Google search, “Marcelo Gallardo, the first page displays results for the outstanding Argentine midfielder soccer star.  Just to be clear, are you in fact – El Muñeco (the doll)?  Are you related in any way to El Muñeco? 

MG: No I’m not the Muñeco and I’m not related to him either. It’s just a coincidence, although sometimes I’m a sweet doll. :)  

WL365:  What was it that made you want to become a winemaker?  How did you get the winemaking “bug” in your blood? 

MG: I first wanted to become a winemaker because of my father’s influence. After tasting the wine the doors opened. Once the doors of wine are open, it is only to enter. 

WL365:  How much wine and what types of wine does Los Vascos produce? 

MG: Los Vascos is the largest vineyard in the Caneten Valley of Colchagua.  We produce six different wines: Le Dix, Grand Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Rose.  

WL365:  There is definitely a style and respectful approach to all of your wines.  What do you attempt to showcase or bring out in each wine? 

MG: We want to represent the terroir of the country but at same time we have a French influence. 

WL365:  Is there a grape or grapes that you especially like to work with? 

MG: Yes.  There are two grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. 

 

WL365:  With so much competition in the under $20 wine market, do you feel your wines would appeal more to individuals that prefer an Old World Style or New World Style of wine?  And how would you describe your wines to someone unfamiliar with Los Vascos? 

MG: I think that people who buy Chilean wine want wine that is ready to drink, fruity with soft tannins and well balanced. Los Vascos has these characteristics plus elegance. 

WL365:  Many WL365 readers may not be familiar with the Chilean Los Vascos brand and its connection to the famous French Rothschild name.  Will you explain that connection for readers? 

MG: Los Vascos is a very old winery, but it was bought by the Rothschild (Chateau Lafite) family in 1988, after that came a modernization of the winery that made us who we are today. 

WL365:  When you are not drinking your own wines, what other wine(s) do you enjoy drinking? 

MG: I like to drink mainly garage wines and small projects. 

WL365:  How are things overall in Chile today since the February 27, 2010 earthquake, and what effects did the earthquake have on your operations at Los Vascos? 

MG: In Chile we are in the rebuilding process, and in Los Vascos the production is still doing well and we are almost normal for the next vintage. 

WL365:  It’s my understanding that outside of wine you have a great love for music.  Do you play any musical instruments?  Do you have a type of music that you most enjoy listening to either a home or while making wine? 

MG: I like many artistic expressions especially music and I love Jazz. 

WL365:  Who is your favorite musical artist and which of their CDs is your all-time favorite? 

MG: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

WL365:  I’ve heard that you and your wife love to cook at home for family and friends.  Will you share a few of your favorite Chilean recipes that are out–of-this-world delicious, and what Los Vascos wine would you pair each dish with? 

MG: Ceviche with Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc. 

 

CEVICHE 

1 cup of (sushi-grade) salmon sliced in small squares
1 cup of (sushi-grade) sea bass sliced in small squares
2 cups of purple onions sliced in Julienne
Green chili pepper
Salt
Pepper
1 cup of fresh lime juice
Fresh Cilantro
1 red pepper sliced in Brunoise   

Put the green chili pepper, purple onion, a little touch of sugar, red peppers, lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Let it macerate for a while, then drain the juice and save the juice. With the stored juice, scrape a green chili pepper to impregnate the taste and add cilantro and the fish. Let it settle for a while and then mix the fish with rest of the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper and serve in cold cup. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I wasn’t able to get sea bass, so I substituted red snapper.

MG: Lamb chumps and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes with Los Vascos “Grand Reserve.” 

 

You take young lamb chumps and marinate them with a little bit of fresh squeezed oranges [Juice], pepper, sea salt, and a small garlic piece for 2 hours, then you take an oven dish and put olive oil in it and fill it with ring shaped chopped onions, then you put the chumps over this layer with the marinating juices, and cook it on a low fire [325°F] for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes you slightly season the lamb with red wine and drops soy sauce and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes on a higher temperature [425°F]. Then you take it out of the over when you feel with a fork that the meat is crunchy. 

Potatoes: 

Boil the young skinned potatoes and when they are almost cooked take them out of the water and let them drain. Then take a skillet and add olive oil, butter, rosemary and the potatoes and cook it for about 3 minutes. Then you put the skillet into the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then you put the lamb chump in a plate with the onions and juices and you put the potatoes on the side. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I used a lot of minced garlic in my marinade.
  • I kept the skins on and skipped the skillet step for the potatoes.  I just mixed the potatoes with olive oil and rosemary before the final roasting.

The food and wine pairings provided by Mr. Gallardo and his wife were out-of-this-world DELICIOSO!!  A Must Try!! 

WL365:  Ok, last question Marcelo:  If you could have a conversation with any living celebrity or well-known public figure while sipping on one of your wines, who would it be and which wine would you share? 

Kevin Parry/WireImage.com

MG:  I would like share bottle of Le Dix with Quentin Tarantino, because I like his special language in his movies.  Le Dix is like an explosion but at the same time is very subtle… same time in color and same time in black and white.

Week #17: Who Are You Callin’ Sugar?

It’s crunch time in this 2010 NFL season:  playoff scenarios and mathematical probabilities are being hashed out; fantasy football leagues & pools are buzzing with excitement; and football analysts and armchair quarterbacks are all starting to voice their opinions on which teams will win and which teams will bite the dust and pack up their lockers until next season. 

For this last remaining week in the regular season, I’ve decided to make a very gusty off-the-field move that could unleash a throng of challenge flags or incite someone to douse me with a cooler full of Gatorade for suggesting such a ‘Flowery’ final regular-season food & wine pairing. 

Preparation for week #17 from the WineLife365 Playbook: 

You’ll need a smoker, some prime cuts of meat, and wait for it…Rosé wine.  Yes – ‘Pink’ wine! 

Most guys wouldn’t have a problem with this Pink lying on the dining room table directly in front of them, or watching the cool Cirque du Soleil thing while casually sipping on a “manly wine” like say – Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America

However, having this Pink directly in front of them seems to spark a whole different set of intense, if not adverse, reactions. 

What a complete and utter shame to judge a wine on its color! 

Why?  Because the classic, real pink stuff, like this French 2009 Reserve Grand Veneur, Côtes du Rhône Rosé (MSRP: $14, Sample) is absolutely marvelous with a variety (and I mean variety!) of “manly” kinds of food like: 

  • BBQ Chicken
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches topped with Cole Slaw
  • Chinese takeout
  • Pizza
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Doritos and Potato Chips
  • And lots of other somewhat salty and spicy foods!

Putting it all out on the line this Sunday…   

If you’re ready to give it all you’ve got this last Sunday in the regular season, here’s your NFL ticket to-do list: 

1.) Go out and get yourself a massive smoker.  Heck, take up a collection from all of your buddies if you need to, because it’s so worth it! 

2.) Assemble and season your smoker prior to Sunday morning.   

3.) Season your ribs, chicken, fish, ham, pork, turkey… or anything else you want to smoke! 

4.) Wake up early Sunday morning, put on your game jersey (and some pants!), throw some hickory or mesquite wood into your smoker, put whatever meat(s) you’ve chosen to smoke and fire-up the smoker…then go sit on your couch! 

Once the meat is done, pair your smoked fare with a deliciously floral, herbaceous, strawberry and watermelon packed pink beauty, such as the 2009 Reserve Grand Veneur, Côtes du Rhône Rosé – it’s a game winning touchdown!

 

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