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September 27, 2023

An Evening at Pascaline Lepeltier’s Chambers Restaurant

Developing a broad wine list is easy; developing a well-curated wine list is a feat.  Pascaline Lepeltier’s Chambers manages to do both, having an immaculately well-sourced book of wines from all over the world, with a particular focus on natural wines and wines of France.  The list features both old wines and young wines, wines of traditionalists and wines of the avant-garde, and importantly, wines of all price points—including a striking number of bottles under $100, and many under $50.

If you are not familiar with her, Pascaline Lepeltier is a French ex-pat and decorated Master Sommelier, having earned the title of Best Sommelier in France and placing fourth in the Best Sommelier in the World competition earlier this year.  You may have also seen her in 2018’s SOMM III.  In 2022, Pascaline and her partners opened Chambers, which touts itself as a wine-focused, farm-to-table restaurant in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood.

Upon entering Chambers, one is greeted with a lively, convivial atmosphere.  Light wood accents and a neutral color palette make the space feel warm and welcoming.  Track lights above provide ample illumination for each table, while also creating a dimmer, moodier atmosphere in the more secluded areas.  The design feels intentional and well thought out.

During my recent visit, I had a fantastic experience.  The meal started with a glass of Fernando de Castilla’s Fino Sherry.  Its bright notes of citrus, almonds, and salinity paired perfectly with our starters, which included a lovely squid dish and a fluke crudo.  

After that, Pascaline stopped by the table to see what we might like to drink with our main course—you’ll frequently see her on the floor, checking that each table’s beverage needs are being met.  Knowing that I could not be in better hands, I asked her to bring by whatever was interesting and drinking well that night.  Of course, Pascaline did not disappoint.  She presented us with a bottle of Roc D’Anglade 2013 Vin de Pays Rouge.

Roc D’Anglage’s Vin de Pays Rouge is a Carignan-dominant blend, rounded out by Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault.  A decade on, the 2013 was drinking wonderfully.  Its tannins were just beginning to mellow while still providing pleasant structure and texture.  Red plum, cherry, orange peel, dried violets, olive, and tree moss all melded together nicely with the wine’s modest 13% alcohol and balanced acidity, creating a delicately complex and elegant wine.  It sang next to my pork loin, crispy potatoes, and peppers.  

Food allergies make desserts a difficult proposition for me, so I opted for a liquid treat to end the meal:  Domaine d’Aurensan’s 1990 Armagnac.  With a sweet vanilla note more reminiscent of Cognac and the spicy complexity typical of great Armagnac, it provided the perfect finale to the meal.  If you prefer a more traditional dessert instead of (or alongside!) a liquid treat, my wife said that the mascarpone was out of this world.

Be sure you don’t miss out on this gem of a restaurant when you next  find yourself in New York City!
Posted by John McDermott at 5:09 PM

September 13, 2023

Welcoming Andrew Holod to Wine Review Online

Editor's Note:  Although I posted this blog in mid-September when Andrew Holod's first reviews appeared on this site, it might have been missed by those who will see his first column, published today.  This will let you know more about Andrew, just as his column will whet your appetite for future articles from him.  ~Michael Franz

*          *          *

Along with my colleagues at Wine Review Online, I’m delighted to welcome Andrew Holod to our ranks.  He’s starting up this week with a set of reviews, and you’ll find his recommendations virtually every Wednesday going forward on the WRO “Reviews” page.  Andrew will also begin contributing columns toward the end of next month.

Andrew is an American-born child of immigrants from Ukraine.  He was raised in the exceptionally diverse suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was exposed to a broad range of cultures and many different foods, many of which were grown in his family’s garden.

While living in Munich, Germany for more than two years while in primary school, Andrew did a lot of foraging for pine and beech nuts and developed a prodigious appetite for local specialties based on roasted pork. Upon returning to the USA, his pediatrician found his resulting blood cholesterol levels somewhat disturbing, but no lasting damage was done and his culinary career was off to a flying start.

University studies at Virginia Tech resulted in a BS degree in Industrial Design after extensive work with wood and plastics while also machining metal, photographing, welding, printing, and engaging in computer-aided design.  Studies also included literature, the philosophy of art and “most importantly”—as Andrew told me—wine.

The wine course was conducted by Bruce Zoecklein, Ph.D., who I’ve known for many years and who is very highly respected all over the world of wine (his formal position prior to shifting into Emeritus status was, “Professor and Head, Enology-Grape Chemistry Group” at Virginia Tech). The course was based on the famous U.C. Davis University Wine Course, and for Andrew, as he explained to me, it “ignited a desire to understand why a wine tastes as it does…because of vine training, terroir, winemaking techniques, or some combination of these factors?”

After graduation, Andrew pursued these interests while working for eight years in wine retailing in McLean, Virginia and Gaithersburg, Maryland, sometimes tasting as many as 100 wines per week in his role as Assistant Manager.  He also ran tasting classes at the Gaithersburg location, during which time he was accepted into the WSET program (at age 24) with a view to sitting for the Master of Wine exam as WSET was just taking root in the USA.  

After three years of study, Andrew stepped away from that course of study but not from striving to understand wine, and incorporating a more hands-on dimension to his striving.  He worked a harvest for two weeks with Sashi Moorman at Stolpman Vineyards in Santa Barbara and then another week at Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and was also invited to participate in Oregon Pinot Camp and Master Napa Valley.

Andrew also worked a harvest for 10 days in Valencia, Spain, but his engagement with Spanish wines ran much deeper than that.  He worked for nearly 15 years with Aurelio Cabestrero and his company, Grapes of Spain, in multiple capacities including Marketing Manager and then Sales Manager.  As regular readers of Wine Review Online are already aware from years of reviews I’ve published on this site, I respect Cabestrero at the highest level of USA-based importers, and Grapes of Spain is among the most carefully curated portfolios of wines imported to our shores from any country in the world.  It was when Andrew was working in this capacity that he and I first met, and also when he immersed himself directly in Spanish regions including Ourense, Rías Baixas, Bierzo, Toro, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, they Pays Basque, Valencia, Alicante, Valdepeñas, La Mancha, Navarra and Jerez.

His travels and work experience are remarkably extensive.  On the travel front, and citing France just for example, he’s conducted site visits in Alsace, Burgundy, Minervois, Corbieres, Saumur and Vouvray.  Currently he works as Assistant Wine Manager in Schneider’s of Capitol Hill in D.C. and at cellar.com, its online portal.  Schneider’s was established in 1949 and is an institution in D.C.—which is saying something in a city famed for its institutions.

Please take a few minutes to look over this week’s WRO's “Reviews” page to get a sense of Andrew’s wine aesthetic and means of conveying his critical appreciation to readers.  We are confident that you’ll like what you see and enjoy what you taste on his recommendations.  Stay tuned during the weeks ahead as his reviews and columns roll out—we are delighted to welcome him aboard, and you’ll be thankful for his guidance along your own voyage in wine.

Posted by Michael Franz at 7:42 PM