Tag Archives: L’Espalier

Day 20 Gifts – L’Espalier & Jordan Vineyard

Day 20 takes us to one of my favorite Boston restaurants, L’Espalier…I was so happy to have Sommelier Kate Moore (a fellow BC grad) as a guest on Episode 24. L’Espalier is in the heart of the Back Bay, adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Under Chef, Proprietor, Author and now Farmer Frank McClelland’s stewardship, L’Espalier has consistently been rated at the top of national and local best restaurant lists (Zagat, Boston Magazine, Frommer’s Travel Guide, Wine Spectator, among them), serving sophisticated and modern New England-French cuisine, with an emphasis on artisanal and New England ingredients.

A great gift would be a gift card to L’Espalier (prices vary), so that the giftee can go to lunch, dinner or to one of Kate’s “Top Shelf” Cocktail classes…add to that a copy of Chef  McClelland’s “Wine Mondays”, which features 130 recipes organized into four-course pairing menus by season, with accompanying wine notes and suggestions. All of the recipes come from the popular Wine Mondays program at L’Espalier—a weekly event created to make food and wine pairing accessible, fun, and affordable. ($24.95)


To that, add a gift set of wine from Jordan Vineyards. I’ve long been a Jordan fan, and was thrilled to have CEO John Jordan as my guest on Episode 26. Since their inaugural 1976 vintage, Jordan wines have been renowned for their consistency and elegance. Tucked into the hills in Alexander Valley, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, they are dedicated to winemaking, hospitality and the joys of the table.

A beautiful wooden box set of the 2008 Jordan Chardonnay & 2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon would delight any wine lover on your list ($90). Include a beautiful Riedel Vinum Engraved Chardonnay ($24) or Bordeaux ($29) wine glass, so they can enjoy their gift in style.

Find out more at www.jordanwinery.com




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Lunch with Shirley Roy of Roy Estate Wines

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be invited to lunch with Shirley Roy, owner of Roy Estate Wines. We met at L’Espalier in Boston’s Back Bay, and spent the next two hours discussing her wines, winery and the dream she and her late husband Charles shared of building. Shirley is a lovely woman, passionate about her wine, traveling around the country to tell the Roy Estate story. Her husband and partner Charles tragically passed away earlier this year, as a result of complications from surgery.

Charles Roy was originally from Massachusetts, a civil engineer and an architect. Shirley was born on Long Island, grew up in New Jersey, and was an accountant as well as a student of fine food and wine. Together, they owned and operated executive suite businesses in New Jersey and Norfolk, Virginia. During the 1980’s and 90’s they made many business trips to San Francisco and Northern California. They fell in love with Napa Valley and in 1999 purchased pro golfer Johnny Miller’s estate in Napa Valley property, which is nestled in Soda Canyon just south of the Stags Leap district.

The Roys planted five acres on flat land while awaiting a decision about how much and where they could plant the rest of their vines. In November of 2000, they were informed that Helen Turley was looking for a winemaking project of that size, and they began working on their dream. They ripped up the original five acres of vines, re-planting twice as many vines knowing they would only come away with half of the fruit. The seventeen acre vineyard, planted in 2001 and 2002 by Pina Vineyard Management under the direction of Helen Turley, is divided into seventeen blocks: twelve blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, four blocks of Merlot and one block of Petit Verdot.  The three varietals are planted with four rootstocks and nine clones and the spacing is six feet by three feet, which equals 2,430 vines per acre.  The vineyard has elaborate irrigation systems, allowing them to farm vine by vine.

The 17 acre vineyard produces wines that are all estate grown – according to Shirley, it’s not about making 2,000 cases a year, it’s about making the best wine possible. In 2001, they planted Cabernet and Petit Verdot which produces their first vintage in 2004. Helen Turley left the project in 2005, which resulted in winemaker Philippe Melka coming onboard. He is one of the world’s most respected winemakers, who is best known for ‘finding the voice of the vineyard through its terroir,’ as he puts it.  Philippe was born and raised in the Bordeaux region and graduated from the University of Bordeaux with a degree in geology in 1989 and then earned a second degree in enology in 1991, specializing in agronomy and vineyard soils.  He began his career working at wineries in France (Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Petrus), Italy (Badia a Coltibuono), Australia (Chittering Estate) and California (Dominus and Ridge) before settling in the Napa Valley in 1994. Named ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by Food & Wine Magazine in 2005 and The San Francisco Chronicle in 2003, Melka explains, “my style is to show the site through the wine, to respect the grape as much as I can.  So every single wine I make will be very different, because every one has a unique site.  We should emphasize the estate much more than the winemaker.  You have to minimize the technique as much as you can.”

It was his idea to concentrate on only two wines: a Proprietary Red blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon. At lunch, we tasted the ’06 blend, which is 82% Cabernet, 15% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. It is 100% barrel fermented in new French Oak and received a 94 from Robert Parker for the ’04 vintage, and a 95 for the ’05. It retails for $110/bottle, and 1100 cases were produced. It had a soft mouth feel that combined a velvety texture with incredible integrated tannins. It was fresh, light on its feet for a big wine, and a beautiful soft finish.

The second wine we tasted was the ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was 93% Cabernet and 7 %Petit Verdot, also 100 percent barrel fermented in new French Oak. It released aromas of dried herbs, espresso beans and chocolate, and hints of black cherry, blackberry, and mocha on the palate – there was great depth and complexity to the wine. This wine spent an additional 6 months in the barrel for a total of 24 months aging. It retails for $150/bottle, and only 440 cases were produced.
The annual FOOD & WINE book, “wine guide 2010” highlights ROY Estate’s 2006 Proprietary Red blend. It was among just four other (Bond, Harlan, Insignia & Pahlmeyer) Napa Bordeaux style wines to receive the highest rating of 4 stars.

“Philippe Melka, a terroir-obsessed Bordeaux native, has composed a wine that expresses both Old World elegance and New World concentration.  Aromas of red and black currants, cocoa and pepper give way to a palate of dark fruit, earth and oak. 

The Roy Estate wines are currently available in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Chicago, California, Nevada and Hawaii, in both on and off premise accounts.

Tours and tastings are by appointment only – please visit www.royestate.com for more information.

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“Top Shelf” at L’Espalier – Cocktails inspired by The Great Gatsby

I am extremely fortunate that as a member of the wine & spirits industry media, I get invited to a lot of fantastic food, wine and cocktail events as part of my job. The other night, I got to go to an event that I have wanted to attend for quite some time, but scheduling conflicts prevented me. That’s why I cleared the decks when I found out that the fabulous Kate Moore, sommelier at Boston’s infamous L’Espalier, was hosting one of her “Top Shelf” cocktail events last Thursday.

If you’re not familiar, L’Espalier is often credited with being the first independently owned restaurant to bring haute cuisine to Boston, and doing so with a trailblazing commitment to using local, fresh ingredients from New England. Located on Boylston Street when it opened in 1978, L’Espalier moved to a historic Back Bay townhouse in 1982, only to return to Boylston Street in 2008 where it currently resides adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Under Chef, Proprietor, Author and now Farmer Frank McClelland’s stewardship, L’Espalier has consistently been rated at the top of national and local best restaurant lists (Zagat, Boston Magazine, Frommer’s Travel Guide, Wine Spectator, among them). The restaurant has received numerous accolades including the “Distinguished Restaurant Award” from Mimi Sheraton, as well as being the first New England restaurant to receive four stars from The Boston Globe food critic, Alison Arnett. In 1996, Nation’s Restaurant News bestowed L’Espalier with its highest honor, inducting the restaurant into its “Fine Dining Hall of Fame.”  L’Espalier is the only independent restaurant in New England to receive eleven consecutive AAA Five Diamond Awards (the only Boston restaurant with this distinction) and also has earned twelve consecutive Mobil (now Forbes) Four-Star awards.  

Sommelier Kate Moore, who is amazingly elegant, well-spoken, knowledgeable and fun, has been conducting her “Top Shelf” cocktail classes for some time. She has devised many themes for these “Top Shelf” Classes – the last one was a “Mad Men/Rat Pack” theme, while the one I attended was “The Great Gatsby, Cocktails from the 1920’s”.

The setting for our event was a private dining room on the first floor – intimate enough for the ten guests of the evening. There were four couples, another guest and myself around the table. Kate says that they have Top Shelf events with dozens of guests in attendance, which may be held in the Salon or Library.

Kate began by pouring us each a glass of Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine as we waited for everyone to arrive. Introductions were made, and it turned out that although we had all been to L’Espalier many times, this was everyone’s first “Top Shelf”.

Once everyone was settled, Kate began by explaining that the 1920’s was her favorite period – she loved “The Great Gatsby”, the Prohibition era, and the “decadence and debauchery” that was associated with it. She asked why we had all chosen to attend this particular class, and the answers ranged from wanting to know more about the cocktails of that era to being fans of “The Great Gatsby”.

The first cocktail she served was a “Clover Club”, which had been created at an all men’s club in Pennsylvania called The Belvedere. It consisted of Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon juice, house-made raspberry & mint syrup and a frothed egg white. As we sipped on the delicious and beautiful cocktail, Kate shared that she collected hats and flapper outfits, and looked at the era as one of “relaxation” between the two stressful periods of WWI and the Great Depression. A waiter walked around with an assortment of fresh bread, foccacia and pretzel rolls, and then with some delicious small bites, which were paired with each cocktail. To go with the Clover Club, the Chef had prepared a house-made caraway bagel bite with smoke salmon and crème fraiche, which was delicious.

 The second cocktail of the night was a “Jack Rose”, consisting of Applejack, fresh cider, brown sugar simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon. This was paired with an amazing wild mushroom risotto that had been topped with a garlic chip and shavings of summer truffle. The inspiration for the “Jack Rose” came from the character of the same name in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, which was published in 1926.

The ten guests chatted as we enjoyed the cocktails and small bites. Kate had some great music playing in the background, vintage cocktail shakers to make the drinks, and took the time to walk around discussing some of the finer points of the drinks and their history to the mixology fans in the room.

Next up was the “Brandy Daisy”, which was my favorite cocktail of the evening. Kate mixed brandy (a VSOP), yellow chartreuse, fresh lemon juice and a splash of seltzer. Named after the heroine of the book, Daisy Buchanan, the cocktail was delicious, revealing different layers of complexity with each sip. It had a beautiful aroma on the nose, surprising one guest, as he thought that was “more of a wine thing than a cocktail thing”. The Daisy Buchanan was paired with perfect crescent shaped veal and pork dumplings, accompanied by a honey soy glaze for dipping. The conversation turned to how Kate makes her cocktails – hard shakes, gentle stirs, house-made syrups and finding inspiration in the ingredients she comes across in the L’Espalier kitchen each night. She also mentioned that she had just returned from New York City the night before, where she participated in (and came in second!) the Star Chefs “Sommelier Smackdown”.

Then, in a stroke of brilliance, Kate passed around her copy of “The Great Gatsby”, instructing us to randomly open the book and read from that page. As we each took a turn, it was quite interesting to see how many references there were to cocktails and “old sport”.  It was fun, rather than reminding us of being in a high school English class, and helped to bring more 1920’s flavor to the evening.

The last cocktail of the night was “Kate’s Bootlegger”, a delicious combination of dark rum, clement rhum, pineapple, mango and coconut water. It was beautifully paired with lamb samosa and a curried mint cream – a perfect way to end the evening.

Kate is equally passionate and knowledgeable about wine and food, and is currently working towards her Master Sommelier certificate. She also takes much enjoyment in (and is very talented at) creating or re-creating classic cocktails, pairing them with the perfect food, and sharing them with both old and new friends alike.

Her upcoming October & November “Top Shelf” theme is “Top Shelf, Top Chef”, which will include cocktails inspired by these iconic chefs:

October 7: Alice Waters, Chez Panisse
October 21: Anthony Bourdain, Les Halles
November 4: Jacques Pepin & Pierre Franey
November 18: Ferran Adria, El Bulli

You can find out more information about L’Espalier and “Top Shelf” classes, as well as make reservations on their website www.lespalier.com. Cheers!

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Filed under Chefs, Cocktails, Drinks, Restaurants, Sommeliers, Spirits, Wine