Jon Newman Wine Dinner at Morton’s Recap

newmanwines_smThis post is mostly for folks who attended the Jon Newman Wine Dinner at Morton’s in Philadelphia last night. I’ll recap the wines we drank, but also talk a bit about Newman’s talk and the guest author Jeffrey A. Cohen.

Here are the wines: (or search for the tag newmanmortons2010)

Rigol 1897 Brut, Cava, Spain

Kingsford Manor Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Kingsford Manor Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Mockingbird Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

All of these wines are current selections from Newman Wine and Spirits and so good QPR (quality/price ratio) wines. That’s Newman’s style; he’d rather “impress someone with an $11 bottle of quality wine” than a more expensive wine.  That fits right in with my wine buying/drinking philosophy.

Jon stayed apolitical in his talk, but did poo poo the PA Liquor Control Board (where he used to be chairman) for not allowing direct shipments in state.

He was a little sceptical of the rave reviews of the 2009 Bordeaux, wondering over the fact that Robert Parker and others have declared three different vintages this decade (2000, 2005, and now 2009) as “the best ever”. Are they really getting better and better at making wine over there. Perhaps. Jon talked about how he asked a wine maker over there (he might have pointed someone out by name, but I forget) why people are willing to spend $800-$1000 for a single bottle of first growth Bordeaux. The answer was basically that that wine is a status symbol… a way for rich folks to impress.

Meanwhile, Jon is focused on those $10-$20 bottles of wine.

He talked about the surplus of good wine that is available, in California in particular, and how the bad economy has lead to folks “trading down” to lower price points. People who used to buy $30-40 bottles are buying in the $20 price range. He said that consumers who step down like this, tend to stay there once they realize they can find good wine at those prices.

Especially in this market, there are great wines out there at lower prices. If you expand your options to regions like Spain, South Africa, and South America, you can especially find some good values. And if you get in the loop with folks like Jon or other services like Cinderealla Wine and Wines Til Sold Out, you can really get some great deals.

Another thing I love about Jon’s view on wine is that he’s all about “what can I drink now”? He said at the PALCB, they would survey customers about how long they stored the wine they were buying. The average response was not 1 year, 1 month, 1 week, or even 1 day… but 2 hours. I myself have probably held less than 10 bottles of wine for longer than a couple months. All of those wines were either gifted wines out of our price range or otherwise sentimental wine that we were saving for special occasions. It’s mostly in and out in our wine fridge. So reviews and buyers like Jon who focus on “what can I drink now” are valuable to drinkers like me.

Finally, I wanted to turn you all onto Jeffrey A. Cohen, a former Philadelphia trial lawyer and entrepreneur who’s writing fiction full time now. He’s a funny mafioso looking dude, a childhood friend of Newman’s, who introduced his debut book The Killing of Mindi Quintana at the dinner. It’s a story of a lawyer turned vigilante against one of his own clients. We all got copies of the book at the dinner last night, and I’m looking forward to reading this as soon as I get a chance.

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