A Night With the Noble Rot
This is not a normal wine tasting, suited older men smiling near dump buckets, quiet murmurs as people swirl their wine glasses around. It's the Saturday night after Tax Day and bespectacled Michael Daves is playing the hell out of his guitar in the corner, a bluegrass yelp dominating the din of the 50 or 60 people crowded into a Williamsburg loft.
Keith Wagstaff Sake consumption fosters a certain bond.
The event comes courtesy of The Noble Rot--not the fungus but the "traveling wine saloon." It's a bit like a supper club but with a focus on wine and wine education instead of food--although this time there is food, and some members of pioneering Brooklyn supper clubs Whisk & Ladle and A Razor, A Shiny Knife. Michael Cirino of the latter is joking loudly as he helps The Art of Eating In's Cathy Erway prepare small Asian bites with Studiofeast's Mike Lee. Cocktail whiz Mayur Subbarao (Mayahuel, Dram) is off to the side talking to Jean Georges pastry genius Johnny Iuzzini, who just got a few new tattoos. This month's event isn't exactly about wine--Monica Samuels from Southern Wine & Spirits has brought six different sakes to pour and talk about, thus the Japanese-inspired menu that includes soy-marinated yellowfin tuna with vinegared onions and minced pork with dashi-braised daikon.
The masterminds behind this all are Brian Quinn and Jonny Cigar. Their first event was a rooftop wine tasting where all of the selections, provided by Cabrini Wines, were priced normally at $10. Recently they held a champagne tasting in a luxury suite at the Waldorf Astoria, complete with formalwear and an indie harpist. The two actually had to sneak everything up in suitcases to avoid hospitality charges and discretely shuttle guests to the room without alerting hotel staff, perhaps the very first case of a guerrilla champagne tasting.
Keith Wagstaff Southern Wine & Spirits' Monica Samuels talks sake.
Quinn and Cigar instruct people according to the criteria set in Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World, a kind of oenophile's bible. The idea is to use social tools as opposed to instruction, asking people what they think they are tasting and have them discuss it with the person next to them instead of telling people what they should be tasting.
"We are very--I don't want to say Penn & Teller because Brian speaks more than that--but we have a very tongue-in-cheek way of doing things," says Cigar. "We try to be sarcastic, we try to joke. We try to avoid wine-speak, and we don't like to dictate to people what they're tasting."