john brecher

  1.  The Chemistry of Flavor – and How Dr. Allison Came to Study Canned Wine

    The Chemistry of Flavor – and How Dr. Allison Came to Study Canned Wine

    We recently met Rachel Allison, 34, who has a doctorate in wine flavor chemistry from Cornell University. A paper she co-authored there, about the formation of reductive, off aromas (rotten eggs) in canned wines, was selected 2024 Best Enology Paper by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. The organization will celebrate her and her co-authors at this year’s conference in June in Portland. She works in Manhattan at a large management consulting company. 

  2. Storybook Mountain: Fire Destroyed Its Wine Library. Then Something Good Happened

    Storybook Mountain: Fire Destroyed Its Wine Library. Then Something Good Happened

    We were at the final dinner of the 2024 Wine Writers Symposium in Napa recently when we met Jerry Seps, pioneering founder and winemaker of much-awarded Storybook Mountain Vineyards Winery, north of Calistoga. We thanked him for his work in ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, which has kept one of our favorite grapes and early loves in the public eye for decades.

  3. ‘Guess who got the wine in the divorce?’ Tales from OTBN 2024

    ‘Guess who got the wine in the divorce?’ Tales from OTBN 2024

    This is what OTBN is all about – life, friends, love and wines that tell stories, hold memories. We invented OTBN a quarter-century ago because all of us have wines that are so special to us and, in some cases, we can’t bear to open them because they are too precious. Our advice: Let those memories out. Any time is a great time to uncork those bottles, but we understand that sometimes we need support, and that’s what the OTBN community is all about.

  4. AI for Wine Suggestions? Thoughts From the Writers’ Symposium

    AI for Wine Suggestions? Thoughts From the Writers’ Symposium

    Where do you get advice on what wine to buy? There was a time, not long ago, when many people embraced a simple answer: “This got a 97!” Then numbers became so ubiquitous that they became meaningless, but, regardless, can wine really be reduced to ...

  5. Sustainable Valentines: The Matthiassons’ Cycle of Life

    Sustainable Valentines: The Matthiassons’ Cycle of Life

    MFEO isn’t an acronym we toss around lightly. To be perfectly honest, we’d never even heard of MFEO until we watched one of Dottie’s all-time favorite movies, “Sleepless in Seattle,” which was, to his ever-lasting regret, brought to her attention by John. She could watch it every night. The right people end up together because they were: Made For Each Other.

    Jill Klein Matthiasson and Steve Matthiasson, of Matthiasson Wines in Napa, were MFEO.

  6. A Ghost Bottle Appears Just in Time: It’s Open That Bottle Night!

    A Ghost Bottle Appears Just in Time: It’s Open That Bottle Night!

    We created OTBN in 1999 (a quarter-century ago) because readers kept asking us the same question: I have this one very special bottle of wine that has great memories for me; when should I open it? We realized everybody has that bottle and the only way we were ever going to pop the cork was to take a deep breath and do it together.

  7. Suddenly, We Were in Greece, or Maybe Napa: The Power of Wine to Transport

    Suddenly, We Were in Greece, or Maybe Napa: The Power of Wine to Transport

    Some of the best wine experiences are waiting for you at restaurants, and not just fancy ones with ginormous wine lists. We know that markups at too many places are outrageous. But if you are willing to take a little bit of a risk and seek the unknown, you could find a memorable bottle in that neighborhood joint where you don’t expect it, something you might never buy or even see at a store. This just happened to us.

    When John started college, a very long time ago, the first restaurant he went to was a Greek spot called Symposium, near the campus of Columbia University. His friend Lou suggested it. John’s family didn’t often go out to eat and, in any case, Jacksonville, Fla., was not a hotspot for Greek cuisine. Lou spoke Greek, so when they walked down a couple of steps to this informal, friendly place, they were treated like family.

    When we were dating in the 1970s, John took Dottie to Symposium during our first visit to New York. There’s artwork all over the walls and ceilings, sturdy wooden tables and reasonably priced Greek comfort food. We have been visiting Symposium ever since and it has not changed much. 

    We went a couple of weeks ago. The wine list, as always, was all-Greek. In the past, we’ve often had a carafe of the pleasant house wine because, really, how often do neighborhood places offer carafes of house wine anymore? But we looked at the short wine list this time and it seemed particularly interesting. One wine caught our eye: a rosé called APLA from Oenops Wines. Since we’d never seen it before, we decided to take the leap. It was $37, which is reasonable for a bottle of wine in a Manhattan restaurant. 

    When the clear bottle came, the wine looked very inviting, a light watermelon color. On the label’s side, in English and Greek, was a quotation attributed to Charlie Chaplin: “Simplicity is not a simple thing.” The label said the wine was made from Xinomavro, a well-known Greek grape; and two lesser-known others, Limniona and Mavroudi. It was 2022.

    (Dottie with Greek rosé)

    The waiter opened the bottle, gave us each a taste and then left it for us to pour. We were immediately taken. The wine was dry with a clarity and a fresh juiciness to it. The blend of unfamiliar grapes appealed to us as authentic, a different, mouth-watering experience. There was nothing obvious about it. It was almost ephemeral, certainly unusual in our experience with rosé. We both wondered if this would fit into today’s category of “natural” wines, though the label said nothing about that.

    After a few sips, Dottie, who has always had the better palate and nose, looked at John quizzically and said, “Tomato?” John said, “Oh my Gosh. Yes! Tomato! Thomas Keller!”

    That might seem a leap, but that’s how we talk about wine. Some years ago, we had a light tomato dish at the French Laundry in Napa – we can’t remember if it was a consommé or maybe even a sorbet. But it expanded our appreciation of how tomatoes could taste and smell, with an earthy elegance that seemed impossible to touch.

    ...

  8. Exciting Wines: They’re Waiting for You, but Where?

    Exciting Wines: They’re Waiting for You, but Where?

    You don’t want to be around us when we have a wine we consider exciting. We mean it. Over our half century together, we’ve tasted tens of thousands of wines. We still sample, or consume, many hundreds each year and we find something to like about many of them. But exciting? That’s different. That’s a wine we talk about with each sip in a way that no one else could understand, not just because we have our own language of wine but we have our own history. 

  9. Randall Grahm: Peter Pan Persevering at Popelouchum

    Randall Grahm: Peter Pan Persevering at Popelouchum

    We reached out to Randall Grahm the other day because we thought of him when we had a charming Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare at a seafood restaurant in East Williamsburg. Though Grahm in 2020 sold his Bonny Doon Vineyard, which helped put Rhône varietals, fine wines with screwcaps and labels listing ingredients in Americans’ wine glasses, we had not tried his latest creations, wines from his experimental Popelouchum Estate in San Juan Bautista, Calif.  

  10. Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers, Minus the Eye Rolls

    Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers, Minus the Eye Rolls

    We understand how difficult it is to choose a gift for your wine-loving friend or relative who already seems to have everything and likely knows and cares much more about wine than you do. That’s probably why catalogues, stores and online marketplaces are filled with, say, a 16-ounce insulated tumbler made to look like a prescription bottle for Pinot Grigio.

    Here are some ideas that should not leave your giftees rolling their eyes, many based on our own wine moments this year. In most cases, we start with something specific, but each is meant to be a starting point for your search. Some of these will require a bit of work, and possibly shipping, but that’s often true of great presents. 

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