August 2, 2015 NEWSLETTER
Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney in "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003)
IN THIS ISSUE
WALKIN' IN MEMPHIS
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
TASTING TWO JORDANS
By Geoff Kalish
WALKIN' IN MEMPHIS
By John Mariani
Hernando De Soto Bridge. Photo: Jack Kenner
the past five years Southern cities like
Charleston, Greenville, Raleigh,
Nashville, Savannah and Richmond have enjoyed
remarkable economic comebacks and garnered
enviable interest among tourists and the travel
despite a wealth of attractions, Memphis has
lagged behind other Southern cities
in creating any sense of evolution and
Memphis even lost its beloved namesake
historical monument--the World War II B-17
bomber named “Memphis Belle.”
Having not visited Memphis in
at least a decade, I returned this summer to sense
that the city is really on the verge of a cultural
and tourist boom that goes way beyond the
requisite pilgrimage to Elvis Presley’s cheesy
Graceland home (right). Which
is why I’m planning on writing three articles on
the city; there’s a lot to crow about now, and the
city fathers seem to have a lot of momentum going.
For a century now Memphis has been known as the home of the Delta blues, of which I shall say more in my next article, although the stretch of Beale Street famous for its blues history has still yet to return to the kind of vitality it should have.
I checked into the beautiful and majestic Peabody Hotel, which like most landmarks these days was once in danger of being torn down. Instead it is as polished and stately as ever, its rooms renovated with all the most modern amenities (left). And, as it has twice a day since 1940, it still holds the beloved march of the Peabody ducks (below), whereby the waddling fowl, led by a red-coated, gold-braided duckmaster, march from their rooftop domicile down an elevator, over a red carpet and into the lobby's magnificent marble fountain; they then retrace their steps, and the hotel swells with applauding onlookers. (I'll be reviewing the restaurant here, Chez Philippe in two weeks.)
Walking around downtown, I saw the clear evidence of reclamation of once-derelict buildings, not least The Chisca Hotel, opened in 1913 and now in the process of a multi-million-dollar rehab as an apartment building. Its enduring claim to fame was that there, on July 7, 1954, WHBQ disc jockey Dewey “Daddy-O” Phillips played Elvis Presley’s first record, "That's All Right, Mama."
The grand old Orpheum Theater, dating to 1907 as a vaudeville house then later as a movie theater, was saved from demolition and, since 1977, has served as host to touring Broadway shows and concerts by top performers like Tony Bennett and Harry Connick Jr.
The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (founded 1916) has an admirable collection of Italian Renaissance and Baroque, French Impressionists and 20th century artists (left). Near the Peabody Hotel there is also the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art (1988), sometimes called "The Jade Museum" for its extensive collection of Asian jade art. The Dixon Gallery and Gardens (1976), on 17 acres of landscaped gardens, focuses on French and American impressionism, including Monet, Dégas, Cassatt and Rodin. In addition, there are a Children's Museum of Memphis and an eminent science museum called the Pink Palace, with a replica of the original 1916 Piggly Wiggly store, America’s first self-service grocery.
Beginning in the 1960s, Memphis became a crucible for Black-American civil rights, and in 1968 a city sanitation workers' strike met with resistance by the city officials, which attracted Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to the cause. It was at the Lorraine Motel that he was assassinated by a sniper on April 4, 1968, one day after delivering his magnificent “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the city’s Mason Temple.
The very room (right)--untouched and preserved--wherein King had breakfast before being shot is in the motel, which is now attached to one of the finest museums of any kind in the United States: The National Civil Rights Museum. It is an extraordinary example of what a history museum should be--an experience as well as an education--from the claustrophobic room that shows the horrors of shipping African slaves to America to the shocking, unrestored bus bombed and set aflame (below) during the Freedom Rides of 1961. There’s also the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back, and footage of the disgraceful abuse heaped by white citizens on the lunch-counter sit-ins.
The sounds, the songs, the screams are all there, including a recording of the phone conversation between King and President Lyndon Johnson over passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the joy of great achievements, too. I was devastated by a very small part of the exhibits: a little glass box of two children’s dolls (below)--one white, one black--used in a psychological experiment in which little black children were asked to choose which one they preferred. Many chose the white doll, because it was “prettier” and the black doll “ugly.”
This and so much, much more distinguishes this museum, but when you climb to the second floor of the old Lorraine Motel and see King’s unmade bed (above) and breakfast dishes, then look out on the balcony across to where James Earl Ray fired his rifle, your heart stops. The National Civil Rights Museum is one every American and every foreign tourist should visit if the struggle for human rights is ever to be understood. It is a testament to bravery and the human spirit of both blacks and whites and shows how far and honestly Memphis has come, even if it took much too long.
In contrast to the solemnity of the museum, the brand new Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid is a mind-boggling form of imaginative architecture, hotel design, entertainment and commercial fantasy à la Las Vegas. What began as a disaster has been transformed into the city’s newest grand attraction. Back in 1991 this huge, imposing Pyramid (supposedly the world’s sixth largest) was a sports arena, later host to the Memphis Grizzlies, who moved in 2004 to FedEx Forum, leaving the vast space empty and something of an embarrassing eyesore on the river.
decade later did Johnny Morris, owner of Bass Pro
the vacant hulk as an opportunity to create
something never done before. Pouring $190 million
into the project, Morris brought the
forest inside, along with interior
rivers, fake cypress
trees, stuffed wild animals, real fish, and the world's tallest
freestanding, 32-story-high, neon-lighted elevator
with observation deck (below). He also added floors of
retail space and a spectacular hotel called the Big Cypress Lodge
(there's another similar lodge in the Ozarks)
where I spent one night in a room that mimicked a
great Western camp cabin, replete with deer heads
and water fowl (right).
House rooms are located among
the cypresses while Duck Cabins are appointed like
hunting cabins. The
Governor’s Suite has a full kitchen.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
Seventh Avenue) 212-727-7463
don’t usually use the word “charming” to describe
an American steakhouse, because most of them fall
into one of three categories: the hyper-masculine,
barebones place with grumpy, robotic waiters; the
huge western saloon with steer’s heads and several
TV screens above the bar; and the
new swanky Vegas-type restaurant with shapely
hostesses and outrageous cocktail tabs.
Open for dinner nightly and brunch on weekends.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
TASTING TWO JORDANS
By Geoff Kalish
While separated by more than
10,000 miles in distance, there’s a number of
similarities between the Jordan wineries of
California and South Africa (which, so as not to
confuse consumers and by mutual agreement, is sold
under the “Jardin” label in the US). Both produce
highly acclaimed, sensibly priced Cabernet
Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and, importantly, since
their inceptions, the same winemakers--Rob Davis
in California and Gary and Kathy Jordan in South
were all trained at UC Davis)--have fashioned
To gain more insight into their similarities and
differences recent visits were made to each
facility with a sampling of multiple vintages of
their Cabernets and Chardonnays as well as
conducting a comparative tasting of a dozen
vintages of California’s Jordan Cabernet and the
most recently released of Jardin Cabernet. The
results of my
& Winery, Alexander
Tom Jordan made his money in oil in Colorado and
in the late 1960’s, and in the early 1970s
traveled through France with his wife to try to
buy a château producing top-quality wine. Unable
to find what he wanted, he built a château in
Alexander Valley (the valley between Sonoma and
hired a young winemaker, Rob Davis, and contracted
for the consulting services of renowned enologist André
Tchelistcheff (creator of the iconic Napa Valley
Beaulieu Vineyard “Georges de Latour Private
Sampled at the Winery
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (85% French oak) – Nose of blackberries and cassis, with somewhat muted taste of cherries and herbs and softer finish than the 2012.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon barrel sample (100% French oak) – Perfumed bouquet of ripe black currants and plums and rich taste of dark, plummy fruit and anise with plenty of tannin in finish.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
In 1982 Gary Jordan’s parents, Ted and Sheelagh,
purchased a 360-acre property with a 300-year
history of viticulture and replanted it with an
eye to growing classic varietals in the best soil
and microclimate for the particular types of
grapes. In 1992, after attending UC Davis School
of Enology, Gary, a geologist, and Kathy (below), an
economist, began making wine at the estate,
growing from 6,000 cases annually to its current
production of 65,000 cases a year. Of note, the
vineyards face north, south, east and west, with
scenic views from an altitude of 1,900 feet of
Table Mountain and False Bay and they enjoy a
Mediterranean climate because of influence from
both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Deep ruby color, with a
bouquet and taste of ripe blackberries and a hint
of vanilla in the smooth finish.
Nine Yards Chardonnay – rich bouquet and taste of
citrus and pineapples, with hints of butterscotch
in the finish. Older vintages of this wine showed
a more pronounced, complex flavor of butterscotch,
ripe apples and herbs.
Cobbler’s Hill (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42%
Merlot) – had a bouquet and taste of cassis and
cherries with notes of chocolate in the finish.
2009 Prospector’s Syrah - showed a fragrant bouquet and taste of plums and berries with a soft fruity finish.
Comparative Tasting (July 5, 2015)
This tasting included 12 vintages of Jordan
Cabernet, including the most recently released
vintage (2011- $54) and the most recently released
vintage of Jardin Cabernet (2011- $16), and as
comparators two vintages (1990 and 2000) of
Château Pavillon Rouge (“the 2nd wine of Chateau
Margaux). We also tasted the most recently
released vintage (2013) of Jordan ($34) and Jardin
($17) Chardonnays. There were 17 tasters, ranging
from knowledgeable consumers to wine writers.
Wines were not tasted blind and scored 1-100.
Also, there was a spectrum of fare offered,
including phyllo shells filled with smoked salmon
spread, slices of seared tuna, a variety of sushi,
an assortment of cheeses, sliced filet mignon on
toasted baguettes, and tuna, turkey and vegetarian
wraps. The results were determined by dividing the
total scores by the number of tasters.
1. (92 Score): 2005 Jordan Cabernet/2000 Ch. Pavillon Rouge
2. (91 Score): 1990 Chateau Pavillon Rouge
3. (90 Score): 2011 Jordan Cabernet/2001 Jordan Cabernet
4. (89 Score): 1992 Jordan Cabernet/2011 Jardin Cabernet
5. (88 Score) 1981 Jordan Cabernet/1987 Jordan Cabernet
6. (87 Score): 1985 Jordan Cabernet/;1983 Jordan Cabernet/1991 Jordan Cabernet
7. (86 Score) 1986 Jordan Cabernet/1984 Jordan Cabernet
8. (79 Score) 1989 Jordan Cabernet
2013 Jordan (89 Score)
2013 Jardin (86 Score)
Wine & Food Combinations
Of note, as expected, both Chardonnays paired perfectly with the sushi, sliced tuna and all the cheeses--except the Italian truffle-laced variety, which overwhelmed the wine. All other fare mated well with the Cabernets, especially the sliced steak with the older vintages.
A French con artist Gilberte
Van Erpe, 74, has been
sentenced to three years in prison for running a
pyramid scheme in which she tricked unwitting 5,500
customers into making “magic cheese,” using a dairy
product that was allegedly the secret ingredient found
in high-end cosmetics. The $415 kits came with sieves,
filters, and a powder to be mixed with milk to create
“a small cheese pat,” then sold to cosmetics
companies for a fortune. The scheme brought Van Erpe
more than 14.5 million euros. The cheese was
never actually sold, and tons of it were eventually
found stored in a warehouse, abandoned and rotting.
THE PULP FICTION SCHOOL
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