No Next of Kyn

The reason I missed out the latest Sine Qua Non offer: I was sipping bubbly and getting a Minx mani when the email landed in my inbox.

The offer was sent to both the SQN mailing list and waiting list, with the first 300 respondents being rewarded an allocation. The rest of us suckers, regardless of how long we’ve been on the mailing list (me: day 1–I created it), or how many thousands of dollars we’ve spent (say the college education of one of MK’s kids) are out of luck.

Upset? Yes. But damn, those nails look good. And the toes are a lovely Rhone-ish red.

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Pillow Talk

Expensive Wine

He said: 95% of the wine that I have had retails for under $30 a bottle. Most of the time that I buy expensive wine ($100+) it is as a gift for someone else. For whatever reason, I have trepidation about opening/drinking expensive bottles. I always think that it should saved for a special occasion; but just what is that occasion? Even the $100 bottle of Williams Selyem that I bought for Her (and We were supposed to drink on my birthday) is still cellared. When I go to Her house I marvel at the amount of Sine Qua Non (and many other expensive bottles) that she has. And more SQN seems to arrive frequently. How many bottles of SQN do you have? 50?

She said: No, no. Way more than that.

He said: Yeah, I know it’s a lot. But really, I’m not even remotely tempted to drink it, even though I know how good it is. The fact that it is rare and expensive is truly intriguing, but I would have a fair amount of anxiety opening any of the bottles. Which is weird. It’s like people who bought Star Wars action figures and didn’t take them out of the package because they knew they would increase in value; something that was meant to be played with can’t even be touched. I feel the same way about expensive wine, it’s not meant to be drunk. When our friend Harrison opened a bottle of SQN recently at a dinner party, my first thought was, “are you sure?” I was, of course, happy she did open it and it was the best wine I’ve ever tasted, but, that’s a lot of $$$, and one less bottle of something rare that is meant to be collected. I guess it makes Her collection worth more.

She said: It really was a treat when Harrison opened the “Just for the Love of It.” But then again, why should We consider it such a sacred thing? Wine is for drinking, and what better way to enjoy a bottle (whether it be expensive or not) with dear friends over an amazing meal? That said, the wine was totally spectacular and I felt serious and contemplative over the first few sips, knowing that it was a rarity to taste the wine. (Which I have before, by the way. And still own bottles of.)

I have to say that there are moments when I feel embarrassed about having a wine collection…especially one with so much of Manfred’s wine in it. It feels overly-extravagant. Then again, the wines are truly outstanding. And my love of the wines vintage after vintage is very much tied up in my relationship with Manfred. When I first started getting SQN (his first vintages) I popped open the bottles all the time. And probably at the wrong time–like at 1:30 a.m. when the house party was going strong and empty bottles were piling up. Makes me shake my head at myself. Then again, those were great moments.

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List w/o Commentary: Dinner at Harrison’s house last night

Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Vineyards

Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, Lucien Albrecht
Quincy, Adele Rouze 2008
Rosé, Columbia Valley, Charles and Charles 2009
aged goat cheese
French butter with fleur de sel
jamon serrano

Just for the Love of It, Sine Qua Non 2002
Syrah, lillian 2006
mussels in white wine with snip yourself fresh herbs
baby romaine with anchovy viaigrette
leg of lamb with rosemary, marjoram and lavender
roasted beets, potatoes, and baby carrots

The Balvenie 12 year old

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What I learned from a stolen Wine Spectator

(photograph from CoolHunting, featuring artist
Gonzalo Lebrija )

Last week we took part in several Art Los Angeles Contemporary events (see His entry yesterday). Like most of these festivals ALAC was not just about the art, there were also several fun and boozy parties. A highlight was a reception at RH bar in the Andaz Hotel on the Sunset Strip. The bar is cleverly named after the hotel’s old nickname: Riot Hyatt. Lots of rock stars have done rock starry things there over the years.

The RH party was for Guadalajara-based artist Gonzalo Lebrija who created a terrific, visually stunning project with Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND). Two of Lebrija’s films, collected under the title The Distance Between You and Me (2009), were played every four minutes on two hi-res Videotrons across the street and visible from the bar.

While lounging in the corner banquette amongst fancy art people (such eclectic choices of neckware and shoes), we sipped the specially created cocktail. It was very tasty and went down a bit too easy, a kind of Cuba Libre with rum, coke, soda water, and lime. We also got a few glimpses of the art. (This is the problem with openings…the work becomes secondary. But our gym is close by so we have since seen it several times. The piece is still running and well worth the treacherous traffic on Sunset to see.)

Our prime seat was near the door (it’s always fun to see who’s coming and going) and a table that had a couple of stacks of magazines on them. Expecting it to be some art periodical, I snagged one on the way out. Turns out it was the latest issue of Wine Spectator.

Today I finally got around to flipping through it’s pages. I was a subscriber to the magazine for several years when I was in the business, but haven’t looked at an issue in years. This is what I learned:

I’ve bought some really, really good wine (thank you for doing my shopping rationalizing for me). The Sine Qua Non mailing list has not let me down, according to WS. The latest offerings are on their “Spectator Selections” and “Collectible” lists. And I can wait until 2018 to drink them. Although I am very pleased my investment in “The 17th Nail In My Cranium” (that Manfred, such a quirky wine namer) is a 98 point wine, I’m not so keen on the mag’s choice to use a label graphic twice in the same issue. Lazy design.

Emril Lagasse is getting fat. I rarely watch the Food Network and I haven’t seen him in person in years, so Lagasse’s largess seems pretty dramatic. Getting to Mario Batali-sized. But probably doesn’t look as cute on a Vespa, though. (We had dinner next to Mario at Casa Mono in NYC last week…and the Vespa was parked out front, like a stage prop.) The chef’s physique does not stop WS from featuring his mug in a couple of it’s own ads.

“Minerality” is a controversial, but useful descriptor. The magazine first defends the term and then twenty-odd pages later declares it’s superiority in wine flavors. Senior Editor James Molesworth dedicates his column to the term: “In Defense of Minerality,” and in the “Value Diaries” feature Bruce Sanderson’s headline reads “Mining Elegance and Minerality.” Later, in a separate piece, Molesworth describes Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley as being “backed by fresh minerality.” I don’t disagree with Molesworth; I am a huge fan of the wet stone, flinty, loamy flavors (what I think of as minerality) in whites, especially those from the Loire, and in the more austere type of pinot noirs.

James Laube is indecisive and doesn’t play favorites. Unlike Molesworth’s more selective choices in his “Value Diaries” entry, Laube is all over the place. And frankly, I like this. When it comes to buying, anything and everything goes. Example: “I often hunt for Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah or Rhône blends that include Syrah, Grenache or Mourvedre. For whites I’ll look mostly for Sauvignon Blanc, and Rhône blends that use Marsanne, Roussanne, or Viognier.” But not to leave the other varietals out, he goes on to mention Languedoc, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Spanish “reds and whites,” German Rieslings and Austrian whites. Bottom line: try almost everything.

WS has a crush on Rjat Parr. Senior Editor James Laube paraphrases Parr and gives his credentials:  “wine director at RN74, Michael Mina’s hot new spot in San Francisco…” A few pages later fellow Senior Editor Molesworth quotes him in his “year in review” article, noting Parr is “wine director for the Michael Mina group of restaurants.” The funny thing about this one is that I really think every issue of WS I’ve casually browsed through or seriously read in the last dozen years quotes or features Parr. And I’m not saying he’s not qualified…he absolutely is. But so are many, many other people.

Parr is not alone in getting some love: WS has a crush on retailer Sherry Lehman. The mag quotes a store bigwig and/or quotes their prices in three different articles. This attention does not appear to be advertising driven, apparently because there weren’t any Sherry Lehman ads, but the president is pissed at The New York Times for starting it’s own wine club: “We’re a large advertiser in the Times, and they’ve decided to go into competition with us…We are not thoroughly pleased with this.” Ads in WS suddenly appear?

Speaking of advertising: Big brand wine ads suck. They are shockingly bad for what I assume is a pretty large budget. Cliché use of type, tacky drop shadows, messy layouts, use of an ubiquitous bottle shot: the similarities between the ads define them more than their differences. Fine stemware maker Reidel is equally terrible. A snobby, low-fi version of the Mad Men/007 vector graphic with some type thoughtlessly thrown on it. “Kerning” and “tracking” seem not to be words in the designer’s vocabulary.

I had a lot of fun perusing the issue (obvs). I’m not going to become a subscriber, but next time I’m back at the Riot Hyatt (which is likely to be soon), I’m stealing another copy.

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Note to Sine Qua Non: Next Time Provide Tools


What a lovely package arrived in the mail today.

But…what’s this. Screws?

Hey there, wait a minute, Mr. Postman: how am I supposed to open this big box of wine?

It’s oh-so-pretty with it’s stars and fancy gothic type. And look, look– it comes with a rusty nail. Be careful. Don’t step on the box while barefoot: tetanus shot.

Must open, see pretty bottles.

But…where’s the screwdriver? Mine is buried behind my shoes or who knows where.

Open, open, open.

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Accumulating (and Drinking) Trophies


Although we’ve been concentrating here on accessible, reasonably priced wines I still buy the opposite…because I love these rare liquid jewels. And because I have to.

The last release letter for Sine Qua Non warned: “If you indeed want to continue to hang with us in the little SQN family, please fill out the enclosed order form and return it to us, along with your check or money order – no later than September 22…After that, odds are…we’ll have no choice but to label you as one who lost out…last go around we managed to add 4 new people to our active mailing list.”

If you know SQN, you know they are scarce and cost the equivalent of a mortgage payment. As Manfred once remarked to me about another cult-wine’s pricing (back in the day when SQN had only released a couple of vintages and was still developing their mailing list) “Not shy.”

I wrote this same phrase on the order form I FedEx-ed to them on the very last possible day. And I so look forward to receiving them in the Spring.

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