Sunday, January 24, 2010

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Exotic Wines for 2010!

Wine, oh wine… Having a wine aficionado husband and getting to learn everything from him has been a fun and inebriating task for the past seven years. The world of wine is huge and there are so many ways to understand bits and pieces of it, including tasting, taking notes, talking to experts, going to wine events, meeting the winemakers, visiting the wineries….all so much fun!



Most wine connoisseurs and just regular wine lovers agree, the best way to learn about wine is by drinking it! Lately, I found myself obsessed with sampling unique wines from exotic places. I do still totally love the classics from regions like Bordeaux or Burgundy in France, Tuscany in Italy or Napa in California. Can you guess that I am a red wine lover (I have a weakness for bold cabernets)! I can always appreciate a good white (not to mention Champagne which totally gets me head-over-heels). Since we are just starting a new year, I thought it’d be fun to mention some cool and unique wines from remote places that people can try for a change. You can make it a goal to sample something new and exotic once a month, while still enjoying your favorite wines.

First of all, how about some Middle Eastern selections? You weren’t expecting that! Did you know that the first wine ever produced comes from that side of the world? Iran and Egypt first created wine, and we are talking 6,000 BC!! Fast forwarding a few thousand years, I have discovered some very mysterious wines from Lebanon, which are spicy and enticing, like Château Ksara 2001, a Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot blend or the complex and rich Château Kefraya 2001 which mixes Cabernet, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre, both of these Lebanese gems go very well with a beef stew or with kafta kebab and grilled vegetables. I also am really into an Israeli wine, the delicious 2003 Red Wine Yatir Forest. Archaeologists have actually found some artifacts in the area that trace wine production back some 2,500 years! Also from Israel, a decadent and luxurious dessert wine from the Golan Heights Winery: the 2005 Gewürztraminer Heights Wine Harvest (Yarden) will please even the most demanding palate (and makes a fabulous combination when paired with cheese)!


The legendary Chateau Ksara label

If you are craving a white wine that is sweet and delicious, I recommend the 2008 Apátsági Pannonhalmi Tricollis from Hungary -- an exotic and accomplished blend of three grapes, Welschriesling, Riesling and Gewürztraminer (try it with warm apple tart, this will be to die for). If your taste runs to something dryer, crisper and refreshing, check out a fabulous Croatian 2008 Toljanić Žlahtina Krk (this one goes amazingly well with a good foie gras). There is a lot of gossip among those who truly know wine that the Central Europe Region is going to be the next big thing. Except for the most edgy wine experts, this area is totally undiscovered, underrated and underappreciated now, but within the next five years, many good wines from Central Europe will steal the scene! Remember you heard it here first. Be a pioneer now! Although the sweet Hungarian wines have been on the radar for a while, the Croatian and Slovenian ones are still rare commodities. Try them now, and if you like them, buy a case, or two!


2008 Toljanić Žlahtina Krk (I dare you to pronounce it correctly!)

If you are in the mood for something big and powerful, let’s look at South Africa, which I so am addicted to! The 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Franschhoek is impressive, smoky and strong and can be absolutely divine if enjoyed with duck no matter the preparation whereas the Meerlust Rubicon 2001 is an intense and youthful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with cassis, black cherry and blackcurrant on the nose pair this with mushroom risotto or a grilled rack of lamb. This is a good thing! I had the wonderful opportunity to visit these wineries a few years ago, and was taken by the natural beauty of the vineyard and the fascinating Cape Dutch architecture (very unique style of South Africa). The winemakers were very dedicated to a superior product and experience, and made our visit a complete delight. I want to go back again so badly. For something not as robust, but still exciting and full of flavor, I can only think of New Zealand’s Felton Road 2007 Pinot Noir, velvety and spicy at the same time. A true gem! Serve this one with hors d’oeuvres (particularly those made with salmon) for a great start. Although Felton Roads doesn’t come cheaply, they are still competitive in the marketplace and can beat a bunch of well-established Pinots that I have tried throughout the years.


My beloved Meerlust Rubicon

I don’t think wine can get more exotic than this. These are finds that will definitely augment your wine repertoire and will inspire you to try something new and off the beaten-path. Some of the wines that I mention here come from wineries that are really established (although remote and not that promoted in the U.S.) but I can always find them for you. I admire all of these wines and feel certain that any one of them will add variety and a sense of adventure to your cellar, your dinner table or cocktail hour. And, they will help you appraise classic wine from a different perspective. So go ahead, have fun with these or let me know if you want to take bigger risks, I’m happy to show you how!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

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UPDATING YOUR DÉCOR FOR 2010: FUN TIPS AND IDEAS

With the arrival of the New Year, we’re all sick of looking at the same thing in our homes, and want to start the new year off in a fresh and exciting way. But without a lot of hassle and expense!

It’s not about redecorating your space, which can be so much work and so much money, but about shifting things around, putting away accessories that are over for you (for the moment), but are worth saving for the next redo! In my own home, for example, I have learned that I don’t need to display everything that I have (thank God for storage space!) and that buying a few new pieces and changing some pillows or adding a throw in a different color can create a fun and energetic vibe. That’s also why I like accessories and small side tables, because they are easy to move around and can add extra warmth plus added surface for a drink. Or a few coffee table books that cost so little (if you don’t already have them) and become an interesting conversation piece or focal point. I have a couple of quick ideas that I’d like to share. If you take action and use one or two of the tips that I mention below, you’ll get a refreshed space in no time!


Look at how the side table brings together the chairs in an extra seating space created by Thom Filicia

I love to mix pieces from different eras, creating harmony by matching colors or materials. Having a coherent space is one of the first goals someone should have in mind when thinking about updating a space that may not feel 100% inviting. What that means is, is it comfortable? Does it look good? Does it work with your lifestyle? We all have dreams about how we think we’d like to live, but once it is done, are we happy? I’m all for interesting statement pieces that can be mixed and matched. Some of the most fun and versatile pieces: side tables, stools or even accessories made of wood and/or other materials like stone, or plastic, or resin. And never underestimate a bright dose of color. Be daring! There is no doubt that accessories do make a place look lively, warmer, more dramatic, and they are easy, too. I love to attend the upcoming Armory Antiques Show http://www.winterantiquesshow.com/ in New York City . It is always full of treasures and unique pieces that can be the most important element of a room for years! Or until you get bored with it and want to switch it out again!


Colorful pillows add a fresh punch of energy to this room by Jonathan Berger

I’m also a big believer in finding hidden treasures in thrift shops, flea markets and estate sales all over New York. Go early in the morning and find the best stuff, go late during the day and negotiate the best bargains! My ultimate advice is: if you find something you love, GET IT! Chances are it’ll not be there when you come back. I’m still crying over a perfect pair of Scandinavian chairs with a woven sling seat that I found in a thrift shop in Chelsea and when I made my mind about them a few hours after the find, they were GONE! I’m still getting over that one.

Everything in John Derian's apartment comes from a flea market or a thrift shop



The big mix of old and new in gallerist Marianne Boesky's apartment

Big bold lighting fixtures are an easy way to create drama in any room. Of course, the bigger the fixture, the bigger the drama, but don’t be fooled by proportions and make sure that your ceiling can actually hold the weight of that gorgeous hanging lamp, and that it won’t make the rest of the room look tiny and cluttered. It’s sometime overlooked that many of the new constructions in Manhattan (and some of the old too!) don’t have the adequate ceiling structure to actually hold the weight of a big, fabulous, sparkling chandelier. So check that out before making a costly mistake.

Speaking of chandeliers, Coming up (at Guernsey's in Long Island) in the next few days is the auction of all the entire contents of the iconic Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park. While most of the pieces are way over the top for me and lots of people, some of the lighting is absolutely gorgeous. So if you want a cool piece of history and a dramatic lighting statement, check it out: http://www.guernseys.com/auctions/tavern/index.html



The fab chandelier makes this dining room by Alex Papachristidis SO interesting!

Accessories, pillows, throws, mirrors, trays, candleholders and whatever rare and unique artifact and objet I can get my hands on are perfect for updating the look in any room. For this, I really make the city, the internet and everything else in the universe, my playground. I never underestimate any source, big or small and I thoroughly check that what I’m getting is not only an amazing deal but also that it will work with what I already have. Hello, sample sales and showroom floor sales, where something that was once out of reach can suddenly be affordable!

Colorful accessories that totally change the look in this Alex Papachristidis foyer

For another dramatic change, try wallpaper. Yes! WALLPAPER! I know, I know, it sounds risky, but it can be so uplifting and so much fun when installed in the right place. And, you don’t need to buy expensive art or accessories, wallpaper alone does wonders! If you are totally risk-averse, start with a very small space such as a foyer or a bathroom. If you are super, super scared of wallpaper but still willing to give it a shot, take a look at the Extra Fine Arrowroot options or the Manila Hemp in warm colors from Philippe Jeffries http://www.phillipjeffries.com/browse/collections/83-grass_source.html But if you are happy to go all the way, I have been drooling over the Fornasetti collection for Cole & Son http://www.cole-and-son.com/collection_detail.asp?CollectionID=104


Wallpaper conveys a different vibe in this bedroom by Steven Gambrel

So go ahead, give it a shot! And if you need any help locating items, or just need a little moral support, get in touch and I’ll do my best!