“ORGANIC” – What does that exactly mean as far as Wine and Spirits?

1 Oct

Let’s first understand the definition of “ORGANIC” for food and beverages in general. So we go to Wikipedia’s vast knowledge.

According to the following link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food

“Organic foods are foods produced by organic farming. While the standards differ worldwide, organic farming in general features cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not allowed, although certain approved pesticides may be used. In general, organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.”

To learn more details on ORGANIC food – click the link.

Organic wine and spirits? Most would assume “organic” to be healthful… So making decision to “drink adult beverages” that are may seem a bit of an oxymoron to some – but wine and spirits are made from the earth’s bounty – so let’s just keep the idea as a “healthy choice”.

A growing number of distillers are making products using renewable resources, or ingredients that aren’t subjected to conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The end result—more mindful drinking – not necessarily “healthful” drinking. Although, it still out there that a glass of wine preserves your memories, helps your heart and generally aids in your well-being. So why not make it a glass of “organic” wine – double bonus!

Organic versions of most wine and spirit are out there on the shelves of all liquor stores. Wines have truly shined in this market, with Vodka being the most involved spirit, and strong showings among Tequila, gin, Cognac and a broad range of liqueurs.

If purchasing or consuming organic spirits matters to you, don’t let a lack of USDA or other certification deter you, advises Bianca Miraglia, who produces the Brooklyn, NY-based Uncouth Vermouth line, a lineup of excellent, small-batch vermouths. She often seeks out organic herbs, spices and other flavorings for her artisan bottlings.

“Not everyone can afford ‘organic’ certi-fication,” she warns. “For many, it’s about the spirit of the practices.”

Another interesting side note: many (but not all) of the spirits that self-identify as “organic” provide a list of ingredients, often flagging the grains and botanicals, etc. that are organic. This is an anomaly as ingredients are almost never listed on spirits labels. I guess if you’ve got it – flaunt it!

Our sources for information are:



organic-logo (1)

Saratoga Weeks 4-7 Seen at the Track continued

18 Sep
Week #4
My cousin Jerry and his son Jake…New friend Tom returns, buys two horses at the sales, one because he looked at Tom…Saratoga resident Bill Parcells went 85G at the sales for a yearling…Andrew returns without Amy… The 64 Hours of Fun Crowd – Ken, Allen,and Mark for 3 days…Johnny-Boy with Marcie, many times from their stay at the Sagamore in Bolton Landing…

Week 5
Mark Amorese returns as a house guest. We had a wonderful dinner at Three Vines and he delivered the cigar of the meet…Rick West of Honeoye Falls with Carol and friends…Return visits from John Matarazzo, Marty Quinn, and Bob Zimmer (this time with two Toms)…

Week 6
Vince and Michael Luccitelli, they would have a group at Three Vines that included Howe School Seven members Mike Caruso and Bob Campolieto…Steve Tiarget and Tom Jamieson, Al Adelson with The Laz brotherss. Al would later drop by the house and leave us some high end cured meats. Ken Hefner, Don (Nate) Lang, Jim Curry, Danny Caf, and house guests Jackie and Jeff Rubinstein. The Rubinsteins brought Sylvester “Kitty City” which he has been a resident of since their departure. Paul and Donna Notar along with their boys…

Week Seven
Judge Bill Kocher with wife Mary, friends Carol and Mickey, later at the Parting Glass….John Feldman…TJ and Dave Jamieson with Bob Whale…Dennis Carroll and Paul Feldman…. Rubinsteins again this time with college grads…John Matarazzo, Scott and Connie Durgan, Zimmer family…Cafarelli family…Saratoga neighbors Paula and Al Carter… Joey D and Tina…

Thanx to all for stopping by my table. Already looking forward to 2016!

Saratoga Visitors

1 Sep

First Four Days
I wasn’t the only one to be happy to be in Saratoga. My cat Sylvester brought me three mice his first night in town…Seen at the track were five Luccitelli’s from Boston, who came to Saratoga in three cars…Marty Quinn with paddock passes, thank you very much…Tablecloth Tony everyday at 7 AM…Joey D and SO Tina..Then Joey D and daughter #2 Gabby…Chris Kelsey visiting Ogre and Tony…Three Zinicola’s, completing the Vinnie East (Luccitelli) and Vinnie West (Zinicola) double…Johnny-Boy who grabbed a day before returning to Florida…John was the fifth member of the “Howe School Seven” to attend…And that was just the first four days…

Week #2
Bob Zimmer and Tom Miller…Phil DiMaria and Phil Valenti, the latter making a score and treating us to dinner at Three Vines Bistro…Johnny Matarazzo ventured over from his plush job at Saratoga Racino…Neighborhood pal Bill Carroll with cigars, thank you very much…Jerome Fitzgibbon with Rochester liquor friends Mike and Kelly Drabek…Jerome spent a few bucks at the sales and introduced me to Tom Ferreri, horse owner and attorney from Louisville. Tom knows former NBA’er Felton Spencer, also from Louisville, who I met in the Orleans sportsbook in Vegas. Small world…Amy Luccitelli and several attractive friends…Ed Woisin who abandoned me once he got his free cooler bags…

Week #3
Mark Amorese (scotch, cigar) with Carla and Tom from St. Petersburg, one of Mark’s four visits to the Spa…Honeoye Falls resident Tom Jamieson…More Jerome and friends…Bill and Gina Hurley who brought lunch to the track and then Gina threw together dinner for six at home. Very impressive and thank you…Stan Lehman popped in with novice John Erb. Hope to see them both on our annual September “EX” travaganza…And then the Rabbit Room girls made an appearance. Hours late of course but six beauties from Honeoye Falls who spent two nights at the house. Hours of conversation, gallons of drinks, pounds of food, and cartons of cigarettes. Meals at Henry Street Tap Room and the Horseshoe. Taking Maria to the airport I crossed paths with three returning from their night out. It was nearly 5 AM. Thanx for all the goodies, including Tam’s cigar…After that week one dark day wasn’t enough for recuperation…

No No

Saratoga NY

VODKA – is it taste, ingredients, or who you are trying to impress? How do YOU choose? – Cont….

18 Aug


You know the feeling – you walk into a dimly lit, hip bistro or the newest nightclub. You’ve got your trendy threads on, you’re looking the part! James Bond or Marilyn have nothing on you! Your game is on! You slink up to the bar and order… A beer – NO!….  A screwdriver – NO!….. An extra dry, dirty martini, neat, shaken – not stirred – YES! You are so cool!

The enticing bartender asks you, “Which vodka would you like?” Looking distinguished, you look her in the eyes with that twinkle of an educated mixologist, and say “Ketel One, please.” Because you are trying to look oh so well off and nothing looks wealthier than old money – or an old vodka that has been distilling the same spirits for 325 years old – but you really didn’t know that. You saw some other cool dude order it so you figure that is the right choice! Or maybe you say, “Tito’s” because it is gluten free and made from 100% corn – but you really didn’t know that either, the stunning bartender suggested Tito’s so you went with it!

Now you are in the liquor store choosing vodka for your home bar. What to do, what to do? So, you purchase the SKYY because you love the bottle! Or the Absolut because it looks good on your shelf. Or maybe the CÎroc because you know Sean “Diddy” Combs was somehow involved! (He is actually a partner with Diagoe’s Cîroc). It is all a bunch of “stuff” vodka marketers have put into your thoughts!

Just like the car you drive, we feel the vodka we drink or purchase says something about our character. Marketing departments push these notions to their limits and encourage this behavior! I guess that is what marketing is all about – making the consumer feel good about their purchase and as knowledgeable as they sip their cocktail. Everyone wants a VIP experience!

Taking this “blank canvas”, many brands have created flavors enabling any at-home mixologist to become a bartender “hack”! You can creating the most exotic cocktails by just mixing a curiously flavored vodka with Schwepps Club Soda and a fruity slice of something or other! Voila – you are a cocktail aficionado!

Pineapple, Vanilla, Chocolate Truffles, Mangos & Melons, Cynamon, Karamel (spell it odd and suddenly it is exotic!), Cytron, Expresso, Double Expresso, Bizon Grass, Apple Cider, Grapefruit & Jalapeno (really!), Cucumber, Tomato, Lemon, Cookie Dough, Rainbow Sherbet Salted Carmel, Pistachio, PBJ – Doritos doesn’t even have that many flavors! And… These are only some of the favors!

Rice, Rye (Sobieski and Belvedere swear by 100% Dankowski Rye), Wheat (Absolut’s Elyx is based on “single-estate wheat” from a Råbelöf Castle that has been producing that wheat since the 1400s. Then you have Potato, Barley, Quinoa (yes, I said quinoa!), fruits, vegetables, “untouched” water from Finland, pure water from “deep beneath Idaho’s Snake River, water from an Alaskan Glacier – all different, all in the making of vodka. Devotion says it uses non-GMO corn (non-genetically modified); Chopin released a trio of single-ingredient vodkas using potato, rye and wheat. Vodka is the easiest and most efficient to produce of all the spirits. There are no standards dictating what the base ingredient must be in distilling vodka. There is no aging involved, so it can go right from the still to the bottle enabling distilleries to generate revenue right from the get go.

ORGANIC – what exactly does that mean with vodka? To be Certified Organic, the grain or product used must come from “healthy soil, free of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals.”

Wikipedia says:

  • avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives), genetic modification, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge;
  • use of farmland that has been free from prohibited chemical inputs for a number of years (often, three or more);
  • for livestock, adhering to specific requirements for feed, housing, and breeding;
  • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
  • under going periodic on-site inspections.

Every brand has its unique marketing campaign. 360’s “Close the Loop” program using swing-top bottles which are reusable. They have reused 50,000 swing-tops and donated $1 for each to Global Green USA, Svedka’s “Limited Party Edition” with their “stars and stripes” bottles each summer. Stoli has been aggressive on marketing front becoming a leader in supporting LGBT events and issues. Absolut’s new Absolut Nights campaign with their limited edition illuminated Absolut Spark Bottles that literally light up from the top and illuminate the faux cut crystal bottle.

When it comes down to the final decision – what to drink, what to purchase – it is a personal affair. Like many other products that carry an aurora of luxury, style and class – drink a quality vodka for its own sake. Please your own sense of flavor and fun. The marketing campaign by Diageo’s Smirnoff which taps into the vodka “attitude” with the line, “Exclusively for Everyone” pokes fun at the pretention-ness of some high-end vodkas. There is a time and a place for them all.

Hey – what about Mr. Boston!


VODKA – is it taste, ingredients, or who you are trying to impress? How do YOU choose? (VOL 1)

7 Aug

The Vodka market has grown into a huge array of choices. Unusual flavors, healthy varieties, the “Russian-ness”, the image factor…. With so many possible brands and varietals, each has needed to come up with their own distinctive marketing to standing out. When making a decision to purchase or choosing which to put into your martini – what do you think about?

In the article titled “Vodka” in Beveragemedia – Upstate Edition July 2015, they start the piece with “Despite the spirit’s decidedly Eastern European origins, the story of vodka in the United States is like a metaphor for the American Dream: essentially making something out of nothing. The ‘nothing’ in question is the notion that vodka is, by definition, a neutral spirit without color, flavor or odor. It’s the ultimate blank canvas; its value is derived from savvy marketing and being able to tell a good brand story.”

Sleek packaging, unusual flavor combinations, unique base ingredient, unique marketing, individual distilling methods, even a perfect stalk of prairie grass, gives each brand their distinctive twist.

In VOL 2 I will go into details about ICONS & LUXURY, FLAVORS, INGREDIENTS, and my conclusion on the topic! I will post this later next week….

Cya in Saratoga!

Lobster Ravioli

17 Jul
I was  never a big fan of lobster ravioli until I had it with vodka cream sauce about five years ago at Joe’s Mendon House. (Now, The Mendon House) Then I couldn’t get enough of it. I was a regular customer at The Ravioli Store in Rochester. My wife perfected the vodka cream sauce. My waistline suffered.

Since then, I have been on the lookout for that specific dish. Sometimes a restaurant may have the two key ingredients ready, but not as one dish. It doesn’t hurt to ask. My three favorite places for lobster ravioli in a vodka cream sauce are:

The Rabbit Room in Honeoye Falls. Sometimes served as an appetizer, not always on the menu. One of the best restaurants I have dined in, and that includes great food cities like New Orleans, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Fortunately for me it is two miles from my home. Unfortunately for me they are only open in Thursday nights for retail customers.

Il Posto in Canandaigua. Not always on the menu but a terrific rendition when available. Il Posto has only eleven tables so make a reservation. They also occasionally serve the best Beef Wellington I have ever tasted.

Three Vines Bistro in Saratoga Springs. Only open four weeks and already a favorite. I look forward to tasting some of the other creative Italian dishes on their menu.

Honorable mention to the restaurant within the Edison Golf Club in Rexford, NY. They had a corn ravioli served in a mushroom and wine sauce with generous portions of lobster meat on top of the ravioli.

I would be interested in your favorite ravioli restaurant. Enjoy the rest of your summer and if you get near Saratoga Racetrack, give me a shout.

Joey No No

The Return of the Cocktail Culture

29 May

No question cocktails are cool again. My question is why? Is it simply a cyclical thing or is there more to it? A customer suggested the popularity of the cable television show “Mad Men” which featured a cocktail seemingly every five minutes had something to do with it. And it does seem there are more spirits being consumed on other shows.

Or is the marketing and advertising done by the liquor companies taking a foothold? There are more television ads for liquor than ever before.

I am going to ponder this a little more while I have a Manhattan:

James Bond – Shaken, not stirred – the VESPAR MARTINI

Casablanca – FRENCH 75 (for us older folks)

Sex and the City – COSMOPOLITAN

Cocktail (the movie) – RED EYE

Mad Men – OLD FASHION – although there was a lot of Martinis on the wet bar


The Blues Brothers – ORANGE WHIP

Bonfire of the Vanities – SIDE CAR

Bridget Jones’s Diary – CHARDONNAY



Silence of the Lambs – CHIANTI

Some Like it Hot – MANHATTAN

Lost in Translation – SUNTORY WHISKEY

QUOTE: I’ll stick with gin. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.

– – – – M*A*S*H, (spoken by Hawkeye), Ceasefire (1973).

Moscow Mule – where did these cocktails originate from and why is everyone so nuts about them? Here is the story behind Moscow Mule! John Martain, corporate head of Smirnoff, explains it – you have to hear this!






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