Rosé-hued Summer in the Hamptons and Manhattan
Feasting at Chefs & Champagne, Yachting with Domaines Ott, and Mingling with the Cast of the Housewives of New York.
In early summer Domaines Ott, the Rolls-Royce of Provence rosés, brought a bit of the French Rivera joie de vivre to Manhattan with a rosé-soaked yachting excursion to the Statue of Liberty. A group of 20 lifestyle journalists—and one wine writer (me)—first sat down to Tropézien lunch (salade niçoise, chicken Provençal, lavender panna cotta) and then boarded the super-luxury Sea Ray L590 yacht to cruise the Hudson while sipping from magnums and jeroboams of Ott. Fourth generation Jean-Francois Ott was on hand to lead the toast to forever St. Tropez summer.
Domaines Ott’s iconic bowling ball shaped bottle is ubiquitous on the tables of the rich and famous in Cannes, St. Tropez, St. Barts, and all the French island nations, Mauritius and French Polynesia. Founded in 1896 after Marcel Ott replanted all the vines at the turn of the last century after phylloxera destroyed most of the rootstocks of France, Ott’s holdings evolved into three estates or domaines: Chateau de Selle (the original property planted on land once owned by the counts of Provence), Clos Mireille (near the coast on the Mediterranean), and Chateau Romasson (in the appellation of Bandol near Toulon). After more than a century of family ownership, Domaines Ott became part of Louis Roederer Champagne, purveyors of fine wines, in 2004. The three estates are now co-managed by cousins Christian and Jean-Francois Ott.
Rosé Champagne Flows at Art Southampton
People arrived in the Hamptons on Thursday to make the all-important Art Southampton Platinum VIP Preview. The party featured flowing Ruinart Rosé and lots of pretty Manhattanites who cut their work week short not to miss this opening night. An astounding 4,000 people attended to the opening night. Ruinart, an exquisite Champagne coming in the 18th century rounded bottle, is the oldest established Champagne house going back to 1729. Ruinart Rosé takes it Chardonnay grapes from premier cru vineyards in the Cote des Blancs and its Pinot Noir in the Montagne de Reims. With a high percentage of Chardonnay in its blend, it’s highly aromatic with cherry and red berry notes and a hint of spice.
Art Southampton is the premier art fair of the Hamptons, associated with Art Miami. The exhibitors came from all over America, with many galleries from London (Beetles & Huxley, Gladwell & Patterson, Hackelbury Fine Art, Cynthia Corbett); Paris (Mark Hachen, K&Y Gallery, Frederic Got, 55 Bellechasse); Seoul (Gallery Mark, Gallery Tableau, Gano Gallery) and Toronto (Hazelton Fine Art Galleries, Nikola Rukaj Gallery). Other cities represented---Amsterdam, Bogota, Basel, Barcelona, Brussels, Stuttgart, and Vienna---exhibited their top artists.
The art, mainly contemporary, attracted the top East End collectors and business was brisk. Photographer and friend, Jean-Philippe Kadzinski, reported selling his two large photographs in his Fire Escape series, which show scores of images of fire escapes which he photographed all over Manhattan.. Another friend running a Belgian gallery, Vogelsang in Brussels, exhibited the always provocative Kevin Berlin---always sporting a top hat and walking around with an entourage of beautiful women----whose works this year included painting of Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread in the style of Warhol celebrating everyday pantry products, and bronzes of seductive women’s torsos. Saturday night brought more art celebrations with The Parrish Art Museum Midsummer Party.
The New Luxury Rosé Hits the Hamptons
Of course rosé is everywhere in the Hamptons and certainly at all the best parties. Making its Hamptons debut this year is Chateau Saint-Maur, a Provence cru classé rosé with a luminescent salmon pink-hue and delicate white floral and fruit aromas.
Saint-Maur L’Excellence ($45), a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Rolle, was poured out of magnum at the Southampton Historical Museum sponsor’s party held at the lovely historical home of Averitt Buttry in its marvelous garden. It paired so well with the giant shrimp, one of many appetizers.
At other events Saint-Maur’s entry level rosé, Saint M ($25)---made from Mediterranean grape varieties Grenache, Tibouren, Cinsault and Syrah---is trying to give the ubiquitous (in the Hamptons) Whispering Angel by Chateau d’Esclans a run for its money. Chateau d’Esclans has also come out with another angel, Rock Angel ($30) which is available in big format bottles and seen often in the yachting community in Sag Harbor as well as in Cannes. Somehow my theory is that “Rock” will have a hard time surpassing sweeping success of “Whispering.”
The Itinerary on one Mid-July Weekend
For me a Hamptons’ weekend is definitely not for relaxing, it’s for mad whirl of socializing. Of course, I can’t do without long beach walks at Flying Point Beach or East Hampton Main Beach to refuel between parties. Here’s a little sketch of a particularly active five event weekend, all benefitting one charity or another.
Friday at 5PM: Friday evening kicked off with the East Hampton Antiques Show Benefit Preview Party sponsored in part by my magazine, HC&G. It’s a lovely event held outside at Mulford Farm on James Lane right in the town of East Hampton. Fifty dealers show their wares under small tents on the grounds. Bars, with all brands from the prestigious Palm Bay International portfolio, were set up throughout the property. Many people went pink with Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé from Provence.
From the Antiques Show, I was off to Dan’s Grill Hamptons under a big tent in Sayre Park on Snake Hollow Road. This event is always fun because there is a plot line to the evening: a grill-off pitting eight New York City chefs against eight Hamptons chefs. The competition is fierce and the meat is top-notch by Pat LaFrieda. I happily greeted some of my favorite NY chefs: Julian Medina of Toloache, Gabe Thompson of L’Apicio, Harold Moore of Commerce and (from Hamptons Bays) David Hersh of Rumba. Once again, the red wine was nowhere in sight (that was saved for the next night’s event, Dan’s Taste of Two Forks) but there was no lack of good things to drink at this beer and liquor fest. Everyone lined up at Blue Moon Brewing Company for their Belgian White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale. And name your preferred liquor--- whether Casamigos Tequila, Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Spice Rum or Tito’s Vodka---all there making cocktails. Wanting to go lower in alcohol in case of being the designated drive, I sipped Canti sparkling wine.
THE HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK
Saturday afternoon: Probably the most unusual benefit of the Hamptons summer was one where I felt as if I were an extra in a reality show. The cast of Housewives of New York along with Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger appeared at Jill (and Bobby) Zarin’s Southampton waterfront home---Jill’s third annual luncheon to benefit the Eric Trump and Samuel Waxman Foundations. It was like a chic carnival, a grand bazaar of shopping experiences and spa and personal improvement services. Some of the sights were hilarious like the woman with her mouth in a vise at the “beauty bar” having her teeth whitened. I expected to see a Botox and Bolli Bar (but alas, Botox and Champagne Bollinger were not sponsors). The whole scene was surreal as Countess Luanne De Lesseps and other cast members mingled and gossiped with their Hamptons fans. Men were not left out and settled into the “Man Cave” with “manscaping” services (men’s grooming products and shirt tailoring). Lisa Shaller-Goldberg, owner of Minnie Rose, gave away her luxurious caftans, shawls, and gold aviator sunglasses in the goodie bags. Women, mostly balancing on their 6” platform shoes and sporting tiny sun dresses, killed the pain of those impossibly high shoes with cocktails made with AVIV and Purity Vodka. Others went lighter on the alcohol and sipped lovely Long Island rosé from Bridge Lane in the North Fork.
Saturday early evening: The Longhouse Reserve benefit party, themed “On Gossamer Wings,” is one of the must-attend events of the summer. It’s held on the Longhouse Reserve property which unfolds its 16 dramatic acres of gardens, strewn with contemporary sculptures, and ponds on Hands Creek Road in East Hampton. It’s an enchanting place and this year made more surreal by the guests, who were asked to dress in the gossamer theme in shimmering white or billowing outfits.
The cocktail portion of the evening is held on the main lawns and in the museum, where there was also a silent auction. Paintings and sculptures by top artists---Laurie Anderson, Alice Aycock, Ross Bleckner, Dale Chihuly, Larry Rivers, Cindy Sherman and Takashi Soga among others---were there for the bidding. During the cocktail in the garden I mingled with a few notables---Florence Fabricant of the New York Times and architect Richard Meier---had a glass of Martini Prosecco and then was off to the next event. The crowd attending the dinner, held under a big white tent set overlooking the lily pond swelled to include many bold names among them Robert Wilson, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman and April Gornik. Artist and sculptor Kiki Smith was honored this year and the benefit raised $500,000.
Saturday night: From the Longhouse Reserve I proceeded back to Sayre Park to the same big tent to attend Dan’s Taste of Two Forks. Unlike the night before at Grill Hamptons, this event is all about the North Fork wineries showing their latest vintages. Not able to pull myself away from the enchanted garden at the Longhouse Reserve, I arrived to this party a bit late and the unimaginable happened: all the rosé had run out. Only a rosé sparkling was left, the excellent Lieb Cellars Sparkling Rosé. Made from Pinot Noir, it has notes of peach and raspberry and is beautifully balanced with a refreshing acidity.
Women come from all over the Hamptons and pay a hefty admission price to attend Super Saturday, where they can buy top designer items at a fraction of the price. Billed as “The World’s Most Famous Garage Sale” with merchandise from 150 designers and brands, this year, in its 16th installment, the event raised $3.4 million to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
Hungry shoppers meander through the booths of Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, Milly, Marc Jacobs and many more and grab items without trying them on. At the end of their shopping session they bring all their sales slips to a cashier and then ricochet from booth to booth retrieving all their packages. It’s quite a sight watching women leave hauling twenty shopping bags. For VIP ticket holders here’s a fancy kick-off luncheon under a whimsically decorated tent. There is an open bar throughout the event which offered a charming bubbly, Mumm Napa. This year the popular side attractions were booths for hand massages, for psychic readings and for making your own floral crown with B Floral. At certain hours all prices go down by 20% and towards the end merchandize is practically a give-away. A male friend literally bought out the entire remaining shirts and pants at Brooks Brothers booth when the price dipped to $10 per item.
Chefs and Champagne Feast
As readers of Liquid Liaisons know by now, I hotly anticipate the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs and Champagne benefit each July and this year marked its 25th anniversary. Over a thousand guests attended the extravagant affair, which is always held under an enormous white tent at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack. The chef and cookbook author Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s award-winning lifestyle series The Chew, was celebrated and she was charged with ceremonially pouring the final bottle of Taittinger into the top coupe glass of a massive Champagne fountain.
The exclusive Champagne sponsor this year was Taittinger, one of the last eponymous Champagne houses still owned by the original family. The wonderfully balanced and refreshing, Taittinger Brut La Francais, was served the whole evening. And for the lucky few who ventured outside of the tent to a little display that looked like an ice cream cart pulled by an antique bicycle, there was a surprise of the vintage Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs 2005, the house’s prestige cuvée which is elegant and rich with citrus, apple, ginger and mineral notes.
I discussed the house style of Taittinger with new brand ambassador, Nicolas Delion. “Brut La Francais has a high proportion of Chardonnay, which gives it lightness and elegance,” Nicolas said. “It’s an extremely rich blend with over 35 crus from all over Champagne region.” And of the 10-year aged Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs----which was the very first Blanc de Blancs created in 1952 by Francois Taittinger and his friend, Rudy Kopf, who founded Kobrand---Nicolas said it was meant to highlight what you can do with Chardonnay from Grand Crus classified vineyards in Côte des Blancs.
CHAMPAGNE FOUNTAIN AT CHEFS AND CHAMPAGNE
Navigating this feast from major chefs is an exercise in pacing. I first survey the offerings before randomly indulging and filling up without a plan. I always work from shellfish to meat. Oysters were a plenty. First to chef Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport for his oysters with soy mignonette. Then chef Jamie Leeds, one of Washington’s top chefs, of Hank’s Oyster Bar in D.C. for her grilled proprietary oysters from her own oyster beds. That taste of a grilled oyster turned out to be my favorite of the night. And onward for a local scallop with black garlic and white soy from chef Todd Mitgang of South Edison in Montauk. Final sea offering, octopus with yellow eye beans from Marc Anthony Bynum of Hush Bistro in Farmingdale. I moved onto poultry with the smoked duck breast with white miso from Jason Weiner of Almond in Bridgehampton. When I spotted chef George Mendes, still glowing from his newly reviewed, Portuguese-influenced Lupulo, I rushed over to try his Bifanas (pork cutlets with piri piri sauce). There were bites in between but the desserts were calling and I chose the delectable black cherry-almond milk panna cotta from chef Matthew Lodes of Rose Bakery.
Of course, the best thing about the event is socializing while walking and dining from chef’s station to station--- preferable to being trapped at a sit-down dinner. I had a ball conversing with many of my favorite people. Jennifer Gould Keil of the New York Post, like me, was socializing madly and taking it all in. I greeted Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation, who loves this scholarship benefit and exudes the greatest enthusiasm. I spoke at length with Jean-Luc Le Du who has a namesake Manhattan wine shop at 600 Washington Street---specializing in small producer wines, many quite obscure----and who, in 2003 when he was head sommelier at Restaurant Daniel, won a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service.” Of course I had my yearly sighting of my periodontist, Nick Toscano, once the White House dentist who treated Hillary Clinton. The idea that I am Six Degrees of Separation from potentially the next President thrills me no end. I spoke at length with winemaker, Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate and congratulated him on getting a slew of scores over 90 points (even a few 94s) from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate for his marvelous wines. The reviewer Mark Squires especially loved the 2012 Wölffer Estate Descencia Botrytis Chardonnay and the Diosa Late Harvest as well as the Christian’s Cuvee Merlot 2012.
The after-party went on for over an hour at a contiguous smaller tent and I went on to another whole series of conversations, this time with the chefs, and more flutes of Taittinger. You always know it is a great party when the Champagne doesn’t run out. The goodie bags as always were full of items---coffee, olive oil, pasta, a giant bottle of Roland Sriracha Chili Sauce--- once again stuffed for two afternoons by handsome Remy Ros, the 13-year old son of Yvon Ros of James Beard Foundation. “It was Remy’s 14 hours of community service,” said Yvon proudly. Another great evening under the white tents.
From Tribeca to Scaling the Heights
This June I tasted a rosé that resembled the best I’ve sampled from Provence. This rosé is not from the Mediterranean coast but instead from Israel’s Galilee Heights at 2200 feet above sea level and 23 miles from the Lebanon border. The new wine, Cuvée Eva Rosé from the Côtes de Galilee Village, was made by a pioneering vigneron, Jacques Capsouto, who planted Mediterranean varietals instead of Israel’s usual international varietals: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Cuvée Eva ($20), named after Jacques’ mother, displays a very light pink hue, and is 62% Cinsault, 20% Grenache Noir and 18% Mouvedre.
But this story has so much more heart and soul than just other wine brand being released into the world. Jacques Capsouto, who for 33 years owned Capsouto Frères, a pioneering restaurateur in the Tribeca neighborhood, is an inspiring figure who’s overcome adversity and bounced back. Capsouto Frères, a landmark restaurant and wine destination at the corner of Watts and Washington, first was hit by the devastation of 9/11 and Jacques and his brother Albert worked tirelessly to rebuilt and revive the Tribeca community. Then Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2002 and the restaurant along with the extensive wine collection was badly damaged and never reopened.
Now for his bounce-back act, Jacques Capsouto, 70, who has always been a Zionist, invested in vineyards in a remote part of Israel. He first surveyed the terroir and found a prime site facing south in the Galilee Heights at the top of the hill with limestone and chalk soils. He hired a top winemaking consultant, Jean-Luc Colombo, and then a winemaker, coincidentally named, Eran Israeli.
There are special considerations for growing grapes in Israel especially if you want to make kosher wine (which Jacques decided to do). The grapes, the juice and the wine all have to be handled by religious figures from the get go. The harvest is done under the supervision of a rabbi. Grapes can’t be picked on Friday or Saturday under Jewish religious laws. Then Jacques complicated it further and hired pickers from a Druze village and again he had to delay picking to respect their religion. During the harvest of 2014, they could not pick on Oct 3 and 4th, a Druze religious holiday.
At the end of June, the wine arrived in the States and it is already on the wine list at many of the top Tribeca restaurants. Other city restaurant groups have committed and soon the wine will be available throughout Manhattan. Jacques has already released a lovely Rhône white wine, Cuvée Eva White, with a predominance of Grenache Blanc in the blend resembling a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He’s soon to release a reserve white, Cuvée Albert, made from Clairette, Roussanne and Marsanne and named for his late brother. And in September the first red, Cuvée Samuel, named for his grandfather, will arrive. The reinvention of Jacques Capsouto from restaurateur to wine producer is taking hold.