Sunday, February 27, 2011

‘The Black Swan’ Owns Indie Spirit Awards

Natalie Portman won the best actress award for "The Black Swan" at the 26th Film Independent Spirit Awards. The actress is favored to win the best actress Oscar for her role as a ballerina gone mad. Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Jameson.

THE big winner at yesterday's 26th Film Independent Spirit Awards was “Black Swan." About a ballerina who takes method acting one pirouette too far, the film won in all four categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actress for Natalie Portman.

The spirit awards, for those scratching heads, recognizes outstanding achievement in independent films (indies). Yes, “Black Swan,” is an indie project, though it stars an A-list actor; ditto for “Winter’s Bone,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “127 Hours.” All four films are also nominated for best picture Oscars. The 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony airs tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC.

The spirit awards program is a rather laidback, dressed-down affair, and host Joel McHale ("The Soup") was witty and unobtrusive. The drama unfolded in Santa Monica, Calif. and aired last night at 10 EST on IFC. Along with Champagne, lots of Jameson Irish Whiskey was consumed. In the spirit – to use a word – of full disclosure, Jameson is the sponsor of an independent filmmaker grant (

The Best Actor winner was “General Hospital’s” James Franco for “127 Hours,” based on an incredible, changing/altering episode in the life of mountain climber Aron Ralston.

Ben Stiller, nominated in best actor category for "Greenberg," at the 26th Film Independent Spirit Awards. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Jameson.

Major winners list:
Best Feature: “Black Swan”
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko, “The Kids Are All Right”
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman "Black Swan"
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Male Lead: James Franco, “127 Hours”
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, “Black Swan”
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, "Tiny Furniture"
Best First Feature: “Get Low” (recipient, director, Aaron Schneider, and producers David Gundlach and Dean Zanuck)
Best Documentary: “Exit Through The Gift Shop” (recipient, director Banksy)
Best Foreign Film: “The King’s Speech” (recipient director, Tom Hooper)
John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000): “Daddy Longlegs” (written and directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie and produced by Casey Neistat and Tom Scott)
Robert Altman Award: “Please Give” (recipients, director Nicole Holofcener, casting director Jeanne McCarthy and cast)
Someone To Watch Award: Mike Ott, “Littlerock"
Truer Than Fiction Award: Jeff Maimberg, “Marwencol”
Piaget Producers Award: Anish Savjani, “Meek’s Cutoff”

Visit http:// to learn more about the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sake Is Not Beer, Nor Is It Wine. Sake Is ...

The best place to get good sake is at a sake bar. Photo by Carlos Porto/


the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word “rice”?
OK. What’s the second thing? Third?

Well, sake might not make the top five. No wonder, actually. The sake that most people drink is the stock-staple stuff commonly found in many Japanese restaurants. Personally, I have nothing against the garden variety, but let’s be real. Fine wine it ain’t.

Most restaurants serve the Budweiser of sake. It’ll wash down tempura, sushi & bento box well enough, but that’s about it. Cut it with a little vodka, add julienned cucumber and call it a saketini if you must, but that’s the closet most get to swilling it by itself.

Poor sake. No wonder it has such a bland reputation in many parts of the West. Time to restore this liquid gem to its rightful place. Time to find a sake to drink for its own sake.

SAKE 101
But first of all, what is sake? Some have called it “rice wine,” and I, too, have done the same, until recently.

Before sake comes rice. Photo from USDA.

Sake is not a wine. Wine is produced from fruit. Sake, produced from a grain but not distilled, shares far more in common with beer (Hi, Bud!) than wine. But since I promised a sake feature for this wine column, let’s ignore that point. Or better yet, let me quote Rick Smith, proprietor of Sakaya, NYC’s first sake shop: “Brewed like beer; drinks like fine wine.”

Sake is what you get when you cross mineral water and milled rice with a mold spore, yeast and time. Doesn’t rock your boat? Check out the ingredients of beer or bourbon. Great things have come from less.

Vary the type of rice, refine its milling, alter the water, change the double-pasteurization techniques (or omit them altogether) and the character of the resulting brew takes on colors and richness of no fewer hues than that of wine.

A way to get to know sake (pictured is Nichiei, "Glory of the sun") intimately is through tastings. Photo from

The temptation, then, is to describe sakes as if they were wines: their nose, flavor comparisons to fruits or spices, types of finishes. And one can do this. (In fact, I will because that’s what happens when a wine taster writes about sake.) But in the East, sake is more often described as the balance of sweet to dry on one hand, and rich (or full) to light on the other. The highest quality sake is a harmony of disparate elements.

To expand your tastebuds beyond the Budweiser-like variety, skip the local Japanese restaurant and go to a sake bar. No doubt, the staff will mention the two main types: futsushu, or common sake, and Tokutei meishoshu or premium sake.

Sake unlike, wine, is popularly drank from cups. Photo by Brian Lary/

You will learn at the sake bar that premium sakes are divided into sub grades, depending upon the extent to which the rice has been milled and whether additional alcohol has been added (Ginjo, Honjozo, Junmai, Junmai Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo). They will pour samples of the various styles, from bone dry to strongly sweet and in between. Your tastebuds will be ever so grateful.

Nevertheless, there will always be iconoclasts who would rather not sit through a mini-seminar, no matter how fun or short. Fine. Create your own sake-tasting party. In New York City? Definitely drop by the exquisite Sakaya, featuring premium sakes. Rather order from home? Try Circle Japan Get a few of your friends together, snare some nori (delicious prepared seaweed sheets), fire up the rice cooker and try, for example, three very different sakes to be served slightly chilled:

Renaissance Kanazawa is ideal as an after-dinner drink. Photo from

Nichiei “Glory of the sun”
(Junmai Daiginjo)
Imagine a sake that evokes a pinot grigio swirled with a licorice stick. Full-flavored and slightly sweet, the combination is smooth.

Light, sweet, with a slight aftertaste of lychee, Renaissance Kanazawa is a perfect after dinner drink (digestif).

Ichinokura “Nigori”
(Specialty: Seasonal)
As the first rice harvest’s first batch of brew, Ichinokura is Beaujolais Nouveau’s elegant Japanese cousin. Being “Nigori” or unfiltered, it looks as cloudy as ouzo-and-water. But there’s no licorice taste in this exquisite brew; its flavor resembles a hearty pear cider with a slight “zing” on the tongue. Note: because this sake is also unpasteurized and therefore does not store well, it is available for only a few months every year. Contact Sakaya directly for purchasing information.

Serving & Storing Tips
Sake can be served either chilled or warmed. Warming tends to smooth out its flavor. To savor the brew at its fullest, try it chilled first. Always refrigerate after opening.

Next: The Vulcan Wines of Sardinia

Monday, February 21, 2011

'When I Come to Die' Will I Meet my Maker?

Chris Chalk as a man awaiting his executioner, not realizing the miracle ahead in “When I Come to Die.” Photos by Erin Baiano.


NATHAN Louis Jackson
is the author of last year’s moving “Broke-o-logy,” among other works. His new play “When I Come to Die,” has elements of interesting mystery but also some major flaws.

In “When I Come to Die,” Damon Robinson (Chris Chalk), having inexplicably survived a lethal injection, is back in his cell again awaiting death. His next-door neighbor on death row, James “Roach” Teagle (David Patrick Kelly), is preparing his last words while he waits.

Convinced that he is alive because someone screwed up at his execution, Damon goes to the prison chaplain, Adrian Crouse (Neal Huff) for an explanation. “In my business," the priest tells him, “we call it something else.” Father Crouse suggests that Damon can use the temporary reprieve to make a difference.

Siblings Damon (Chris Chalk) and Chantal (Amanda Mason Warren) have an extraordinary family reunion in "When I come to Die."

Damon begins by making a list of demands, and abandons that in favor of leading his fellow inmates in shouting, a stunt that is interpreted by the guards as a riot. Once he is released from solitary, Damon discloses to Father Crouse that he finds solace in the “contact” he gets from the letters he keeps under his bunk.

The connections he sought were never made since the letters are all ones that his father had returned to him unread. He reads these letters meant for his sister and brothers to himself in his cell.

CC in an unblinking performance is alternately sympathetic and belligerent. Radiant and inspiring as Damon’s estranged sister, Chantel, is Amanda Mason Warren. She is at once hopeful and hopeless, as she meets her brother for the first time since she was a little girl.

Michael Balderrama as Officer Cooper and Chris Chalk as deathrow inmate Damon Robinson in “When I Come to Die.”

Still, “When I Come to Die” – produced by Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 and in a workshop-like setting at the Duke Theatre through 26 Feb. – shows its weakness in its poor character development.

It is unfortunate that NLJ’s murderers are not simply not-monsters as Roach says, but that they are nearly lovable. The crimes that they committed are a slow reveal and when exposed tend toward cliché.

NLJ is too much of a realist to make the most of the subtexts in “When I Come to Die.” Is Damon’s survival, owing to divine intervention? Can he make use of his second chance? “When I Come to Die” only winks at the possibility of a miracle, and barely hints at redemption.

Visit to learn more about “When I Come to Die.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 8 NYFW: Going Out With L.A.M.B., Lions

The "I love convertibles" dress, left, from the Joanna Mastroianni Fall 2011 collection. Photo by Paul Warner/Getty Images

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 8:
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Bill Blass, Calvin Klein Collection, Elene Cassis, Isaac Mizrahi, Ivana Helsinki, Joanna Mastroianni, Julian Louie, L.A.M.B., Lublu Kira Plastinina, L'Wren Scott, Malan Breton, Naeem Khan, Ralph Lauren, Son Jung Wan, Stephen Burrows

An off-the-shoulder Kimono-style jacket from the Fall 2011 collection of Malan Breton. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

THE last day of Fashion Week. By Day 3, those on their grind can’t wait until it comes, yet when it does nostalgia begins to set in.

One almost wants to start over again. Note the almost, for by the end the eyes cannot take another sheath of chiffon, tuft of fur, passel of folds …

Last day was interesting for several reasons. A young cat, Malan Breton, and an old lion, Ralph Lauren, opened the proceedings. Both took inspiration from the east – Japan for the former, China for the latter.

A get-up from the "Ragga Muffin Girls" section of the Fall 2011 L.A.M.B. collection. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

What of that huge gap between shows in the tents? It was five hours! When was the last time there was that long a stretch between shows? This observation brings up the matter of more designers choosing to show outside of the tents. Like Day 5, last day marked the appearance of a number of big guns.

The aforementioned RL and Calvin Klein Collection were among them. By now the fashion set is accustomed to this duo showing off site, but not so much Isaac Mizrahi and Joanna Mastroianni. And, and is it not time for Bill Blass to return to the fold? These notable absences account for the time gap. Of course, no designer with a yard of business sense wants to show when the major tastemakers, buyers and media are elsewhere. One hopes this can be rectified by September.

The little black dress was one of a few surprising looks from the Fall 2011 Ivana Helsinki collection. Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, the tents survived the gap, and Elene Cassis got the party restarted with a competent show that paid homage to the New York City skyline. Naeem Khan followed with more than one or two showstopping dresses and gowns. The two most surprising shows were L.A.M.B. for its showmanship, and Ivana Helsinki who seemed to be quite a different designer – and that’s a good thing – from the one who brought Fashion Week to a close in September.

More from Day 8 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 7 NYFW: Milestones & Super Mod Pedigrees

The introduction of the Michael Kors Fall 2011 collection marks an important occasion for the label. Photos from Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 7
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Adrienne Vittadini, Alleegri, Anna Sui, Christian Cota, Douglas Hannant, Elie Tahari, Herchcovitch; Alexandre, Michael Kors, Milly by Michelle Smith, Nanette Lepoe, Odd Molly, Vacca, Yigal Azrouël

ELEGANCE& glamour, Michael Douglas&Catherine Zeta-Jones,
pragmatism&decadence, Bette Midler& Anjelica Huston, b&w. When celebrating 30 it is important to have just the right mix.

A model – guess who – in an ensemble from the Adrienne Vittadini Fall 2011 capsule collection.

Michael Kors the brand – not the man – welcomed the milestone in high-gloss style yesterday with celebrities galore and frocks a-many. Seemingly, the designer went through three decades of lookbooks to craft the aesthetic for Fall 2001, which he describes in any number of words/phrases, from athleticism to sharp tailoring.

Meanwhile, at Adrienne Vittadini another type of celebration was ongoing. At the center of the festivities were modern muses in pieces that showcase the American contribution to the fashion conversation. The “mannequins,” who are never supposed to outshine the clothes, did so. Here is an instance, though, where an exception was acceptable and appropriate.

More from Michael Kors, Adrienne Vittadini and Day 7 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 6 NYFW: Fasten ... Seatbelts; Going Places

The Trias Fall 2011 collection is more Zen than it has been in the past. Photo from Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 6
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): A Détacher, Badgley Mischka, Bibhu Mohapatra, Bodkin, Dennis Basso, Diesel Black Gold, Frank Tell, Karen Walker, Halston, Hervé Léger by Max Azria, J. Mendel, Jen Kao, Juan Carlos Obando, Kelly Wearstler, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mackage, Narciso Rodriguez, Rachel Roy, RAD by Rad Hourani, Rodarte, Sergio Davila, Sophie Theallet, Tibi, TRIAS, Vera Wang

year ago when Joaquín Trías made his debut at Fashion Week, on the last day no less, he showed one of the best collections of the week. The fabrics were of the finest silk organzas and so forth. He sent out gorgeous blouses and exquisite funnel skirts.

Alas, while the latter were simply breathtaking, they constricted the movement of the models. Some were practically hobbling down the runway. Asked about it after the show, Trias seemed to shrug and say, "But aren't they simply beautiful." In fact, he said something along the lines of if a woman is at a cocktail party, for instance, she would not need to move around too much. The architect clearly had opted for form over function.

That was then, this is now. For Fall 2011, JT is less rigid – more relaxed and down to earth. The designer is striving for a balance between both beauty and accessibility.

More from Trias and Day 6 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 5 NYFW: Luxury, Whimsy & Rock 'n' Roll

Rust abstract print organza gown from the Fall 2011 Carolina Herrera collection. Photo from Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 5
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Alice + Olivia, Betsey Johnson, Carlos Miele, Carolina Herrera, Chado Ralph Rucci, Callula Lilibelle, Chris Benz, Creatures of the Wind, Donna Karan New York, Guishem, Jenny Packham, Marc Jacobs, Monique Lhuillier, Pamella Roland, Sachin + Babi, The Row, Theyskens' Theory, Tracy Reese, Zero + Maria Cornejo

name behind one of the strongest collections on one of the best days of Fashion Week is Carolina Herrera. One word that fairly describes the collection is luxurious. This is true of everything from the dark gray wool flannel A-line skirt/black turtleneck w/wing cuffs combo for day to the rust abstract print organza gown for evening. Clever touches such as exaggerated cuffs on the aforementioned turtleneck and superior fabrics set the tone.

More from Carolina Herrrera and Day 5 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 4 NYFW: He's Gotta Be Him

For Fall 2011, Custo Barcelona started with some simple things, overalls/jumpsuit below, before reverting to form with more elaborate creations, left. Photos from Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 4
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Behnaz Sarafpour, Bensoni, Calvin Klein Collection Men’s, Carmen Marc Valvo, Cushnie et Ochs, Custo Barcelona, Cynthia Steffe, Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, DKNY, Duro Olowu, Gregory Parkinson, Lela Rose, Malandrino, Max Azria, Moncler Grenoble, Preen, Romas by Linda Rowe Thomas, Thakoon, Timo Weiland, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Victoria Beckham, VPL, Y-3, Zang Toi


The little boy was walking down a path and he came across a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake was getting old.

He asked, "Please little boy, can you take me to the top of the mountain? I hope to see the sunset one last time before I die."

The little boy answered, "No, Mr. Rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you'll bite me and I'll die."

The rattlesnake said, "No, I promise. I won't bite you. Just please take me up to the mountain, " goes the familiar story of “The Little Boy and The Rattlesnake.”

It continues “… Just before he laid the rattlesnake down, the rattlesnake turned and bit him in the chest. The little boy cried out and threw the snake upon the ground. "Mr. Snake, why did you do that? Now I will surely die!"

The rattlesnake looked up at him and grinned, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Of course, the moral of the story is that creatures don’t change their nature. This also applies to some humans, including one Custo Dalmau, the creative juggernaut behind Custo Barcelona. As he says in his program notes, “Clean … but not really.”

Indeed, one wondered what is was all about as the first looks were chaste by CB standards (for men, a brownish jumpsuit in distressed leather or wool over wool-based graphic jacquard). Then a shift was noticeable by the time of the arrival of the mini-tent dress with dropped waist and cap sleeves. The shoulder of the sleeve is a landscape of alternating gray baby fringe and a green/brown/yellow riptide-like pattern.

The same riptide pattern appears on the ruched waist band, as well as a section of the skirt part of the dress where it shares space with both a stripe and floral pattern dominated by purple, black and seafoam green. This latter pattern is repeated in a more muted color palette on one of four sections of the top. All are laid under cording that resembles a chainlink fence. Finally, there are tights/leggings and shoes in complimentary colors. Clearly, words cannot do it justice. It is a massive amount for the eye to take in, yet it does not cause eye fatigue. The dress is a little work of art.

Diane von Furstenberg pays tribute to American Legends in her Fall 2011 collection. For her efforts she gets a mention for "Best Interpretation of a Vision." Stay tuned for the deets.

Really, there was no point in pretending, “the true essence of Custo Barcelona emerged in an explosive way: colors, prints and graphics takes over splashing it all. (Stay tuned for the video:

A snake is a snake and Custo Barcelona is Custo Barcelona. Like a thrillseeker – CD goes as close to the edge as possible, then pulls himself back at the last minute before he plunges to his death (The bell-shaped, long-sleeved, jewel-neck aqua-multi dress with fringe on right shoulder, left side and on either side at the hem; with it, matching tights and red-fringe boots.

He’s working a lot with wool this season and doing very well indeed, using it as fringe and distressing it; making it look like other fabrics such as organza and jacquard (animal-print leggings and matching top).

Not everyone has the gift to throw five to seven patterns/textures together and maintain his/her equilibrium. Somehow, CD manages to pull off this hat trick season after season and it always seems fresh and relevant. And it is not solely that he can juggle these seven balls at a time. It is the results he achieves, which can be breathtakingly beautiful or “uber-naturally” hip. Or just leave one speechless ... for better or for worse.

Custo, to thyself stay true.

BEST PRESENTATION FORMAT – Yesterday, Tory Burch broke out of the box – literally by democratizing the runway-viewing experience. In September when Fashion Week debuted at Lincoln Center, there were several changes, including the introduction of an intimate venue called “The Box.”

Tory Burch showed ensembles from her Fall 2011 collection in a surprising format.

It offers fashion seekers an opportunity to get up close and personal with the clothes and the models. There are no seats in The Box. One and all get an equal view if they are assertive enough to make elbow room for themselves next to the photographers and others snapping photos.

TB’s show was in a runway venue called The Studio, which has a three-tiered seating structure. Out came the seats and the result was a spectator sport in true fashion: Anybody viewing the TB show would do so standing, not sitting. Several models lined up on either side of the runway entrance, then took their turn walking the plank.

After the finale when models walk single file down the runway before the designer comes out to greet the crowd, the lights went down for a few seconds before coming up again. This marked the start of the show all over again and again and again. Yes, a continuous loop for an hour, allowing far more of TB's followers and anybody who happened into the venue to see the designer’s collection.

In the loop was plenty of plaid and hip-hugging flared pants. A luxurious red velvet pantsuit was a standout.

And no one seemed to mind that s/he had to stand up. – Written and reported by Francesca Simon

In his Fall 2011 collection, Derek Lam decided to go with wonderful warm colors and lightweight fabrics, blurring the notion of seasonal clothing. Taking the lead from dance and from master choreographer, George Balanchine, DK proved what Balanchine knew: “There are no new steps, only new combinations.”

Vibrant reds, smoky and pale blues and deep burgundy – combined with the standard winter color palette of gray, ivory, navy and beige – gave DK, in his own words, “Some new steps. And new combinations.”

A Shetland coat from the Derek Lam Fall 2011 collection.
This was translated into fluid winter ensembles relieved of bulk, resulting in sleek, tailored ensembles.

Using red stretch double-faced wool, DK crafted Shetland coats and brought into being a glamorous gown with a casual flair. A red lambskin leather jacket paired with a gray wool stretch flannel trouser was definitely packing heat.

Those with an affinity for the weight of winter clothing and textural intrigue will be delighted by the black, natural and wine chintz tweed used to whip up a coat and a classic tweed trouser. – Written and reported by Francesca Simon

Cheers – Max Azria added energy to earth tones with bright shades of orange and tantalizing teal. – FS

Jeers – While the overall collection is lovely, the black ruffle dress made even the very slim Xiao, look fat. The concept doesn’t live up to the execution and the end result is a silhouette that is unflattering to the female figure! – FS

The Cynthia Steffe ruffle dress isn't one of the brighter spots in her Fall 2011 collection.

BEST ENCOUNTER – He stands tall at the Lela Rose show. His lean physique is perfectly fit for his black suit. He isn’t a model, but he could be one were it another time and another place. What sets him apart from the crowd is the tall, black hat and the long, black curls cascading down the side of his face.

Mortcha Rosenfeld is a Hasidic Jew, designer and co-founder of Claideur, an international fashion company that specializes in both Hasidic wear and secular fashion. His offices are in Boro Park, Brooklyn. “It’s my first time at Fashion Week since I’ve been in the business the past 15 years,” he discloses.

“It’s time for the unveiling,” pipes in his companion and co-founder, Yumi Schon. He is significantly shorter but just as fashionably dressed in Hasidic garb.

MR and YS have a cameraman in tow to chronicle their Fashion Week
journey. And although they had been crushed in the back of the standing-room only section of the Studio, they made their way to the front row as the crowd streamed out. Their cameraman began shooting, and their fashion week history was in the making.

Wondering how the have been faring in the hard-drinking, drunk-dancing environment of Fashion Week festivities, I ask how they maintain their spiritual center. “It’s work. I don’t get into the material aspect of it,” says MR without a trace of irony … material aspect

Don’t be surprised if next season there are whirling dervishes on the scene – it's Fashion Week after all. – Written and reported by Francesca Simon

More from Day 4 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

It's 'Rain'ing Again ... on Broadway

“RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles On Broadway” is back in New York, this time at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre through 27 Feb. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles On Broadway” closed at the Neil Simon Theatre, took a little break and then reopened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. It's on until 27 Feb.

The show stars the original creators of Rain, including Joey Curatolo (vocals, bass, guitar, piano), Joe Bithorn (vocals, lead guitar, guitar synthesizer), Ralph Castelli (vocals, drums, percussion) and Steve Landes (vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica), all of whom performed in touring productions of the Broadway production of Beatlemania, along with the rotating group of musicians.

Visit for a perspective on the nostalgic show. – Tamara Beck

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 3 NYFW: A Masterful Redux for the Age

A silk print dress from the Vivienne Tam Fall 2011 collection. Photos by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 3
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): ADAM, Alexander Wang, Altuzarra, Binetti, Band of Outsiders, Charlotte Ronson, Daryl K, Edun, Elise Øverland, General Idea, G-Star, Jill Stuart, Kimberly Ovitz, Libertine, Maisonette 1977, Mandy Coon, Mik Cire, Prabal Gurung, Suno, United Bamboo, Toni Francesc, Vivienne Tam


Enter the dragon. Vivienne Tam drew on the drama of the ancient Chinese theater, mythology and symbolism to create a modern-day feast. The dragon, long a symbol of good luck in the Chinese tradition, took centerstage for a show that was smooth, seamless and without a single stitch out of place.

The art of ancient culture was masterfully replicated in fashion from the motifs of stylized wind, fire and clouds to create intricate visuals that were interwoven with deft design.

One of a number of jackets from the Fall 2011 Vivienne Tam collection inspired the Chinese opera.

“My starting point is the elaborate costumes of the Kun [600 year-old Chinese opera],” VT explains in the run of show. “The sculptural shapes of the opera are translated, turned into everyday wear in tweed, wool, for both day or night … Silhouettes include the graceful water sleeve, an opera-cape shoulder, reminiscent of a pagoda.”

The pagoda, an architectural icon of the Orient, is used as a foundational structure for a series of coats, jackets and vests. The tiered tower structure, common in temples in China, Japan, Korea, Nepal and other parts of Asia were realized in peaked shoulders and carved-out collars. They had a sculptural quality and were constructed with blue and black tweed.

The statue of royalty was translated into a modern expression with rich silk serving as the medium for “Emperor Robe” creations on print silk dresses with subtle dragon-face and cloud designs.

The artistry of the collection was epitomized by the “Black Imperial” multi-fabric slash patchwork sheath, an intricate multi-dimensional piece with silk appliqués on what looks like a wool foundation.

The “Black Dragon” theme played out in beautiful embroidered tank dresses emblazoned with sparkling crystals, projecting light out of the darkness of the black fabrics.

And the mention for best use of color goes to ... Toni Francesc. Stay tuned for more deets.

The interplay of the yin and yang – an ancient Chinese symbol of a circle that is half black and half white – the balance of light and darkness, the feminine and masculine was present throughout the collection. One of the best expressions of this is through a cream wool blanket coat with dragon and cloud appliqués and a removable high black fur collar.

VT’s adaptation of the bright colors of the opera costumes of another era to today’s aesthetic was brilliantly manifested in the “Black Dragon” embroidery tank dress. It is embellished with jet crystals and intricate black embroidery highlighted by a blazing red fabric base underneath. A “Red Dao Ma Dan Warrior Woman” is a sequined, print wedding dress with a blend of red and blue fringe. Both were rich and hip!

The designer has immortalized a centuries-old tradition in a fashion that is sexy, exciting, intriguing, wearable and empowering for 21st century women.

BEST SOUNDTRACK/COLLECTION COMBO – On the box was a melange of house, techno-house, club mix and rap. The joint was jumpin’, and some folks would have been jumpin’ off, except that this was a fashion show, not a disco.

These were the types of jams befitting the urban street and club wear w/significant edge and massive cool that is G-Star Raw. This won’t play in Peoria nor does it want to play there. Gotta admire a guy turned out in a NY Raw new Charlie pant. For squares, these beltless pants are held up by a cord attached to the jacket you'd be wearing if you had a clue. Over the jacket is a Logan gilet. From the back the pants look like overalls. And, yes, to the untrained eye slightly geeky. Trust, they are not. They may be held up by a string but they have swagger. So, too, does the heather gray NY Raw foxton overall for girls. It slouches around the waist and rear, rather than hugging any parts too tightly. From the second row it looked comfortable, and nothing about it had the air of tartness.

A frontier dress from the Fall 2011 G-Raw collection.

Speaking of air, there is the frontier dress. Ah, the frontier – brings to mind flowers, grass, open spaces and some barren ground. At G-Star Raw a frontier dress can be blue or black leather. It is an A-line affair with an empire waist and Nehru-like collar. Designer Pierre Morisset discarded the prints and retained the shape. The result is a frock that a p.r. maven or art curator might wear.

Memories of Nicholas K bubbled up during the G-Star Raw show. Where the former is more laidback and relaxed, the latter tends toward controlled mania. Both are urban to the core but appeal to different sensibilities. Think of Nicholas K as Los Angeles and G-Raw as New York. Or Nicholas K as Superman and G-Raw as Batman. A picture begins to form, no?

If not, just feel the music. – By Yours Truly, Vevlyn Wright

More from Day 3 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 2 NYFW: Bang, Bang '... Is Futile'

The silver fox fur opened the Farah Angsana Fall 2011 show to reveal a little suprise underneath. Photo by Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 2
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Costello Tagliapietra, Cynthia Rowley, Doo.Ri, Jason Wu, Jeremy Laing, NAHM, Nicole Miller, Peter Som, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Minkoff, Rebecca Taylor, Ruffian, Tess Giberson, The Lake & Stars, Threeasfour, Perry Ellis, Farah Angsana, Norman Ambrose, Joy Cioci, Academy of Art University, Venexiana


With “Bang, Bang” playing in the background Farah Angsana came out shooting. FA is a fur girl and she came with no apologies for putting on the glamour by immortalizing our furry friends. The first on the runway was a Silver Fox formed into a stunning coat. The model snuggled it tight around her. When she reached the foot of the runway she ripped it open to reveal a black silk embellished lace tulle corset. After that, it was on!

The FINALE: White silk crystal encrusted gown with feathers, organza ruffles and silver fox stole from the Fall 2011 Farah Angsana collection. Photo by Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images.

To the tune of pumped-up house music came a series of showstopping mini- cocktail dresses. She brought a bit of mystery by masking one model who slinked down the runway in a black silk charmeuse dresse with a plunging back and beaded sleeves. The minis bring to mind the 60s when fur was chic and no one felt ashamed for wearing a fox.

While the first run was for the young with long legs and narrow thighs, the next moved into classic cuts for the older woman and more voluptuous frames. An intriguing black silk, wool and cashmere coat with a sassy cape back was no doubt designed for the confident woman who has come of age. A gorgeous one-sleeved crystal black embellished cocktail dress was perfect for the women who may not like her thighs but who takes pride in Michelle Obama-esque arms!

Another stunner was a blue silk, wool gown with a jet-bead cap sleeve bolero. This is a winning look for the woman who may have arm sag. For those with good back sides and no oblique fat is a backless teal silk chiffon satin hand-draped gown. Last but not least is an aubergine silk chiffon satin halter neckline gown with a beaded waistline. It has added texture and the illusion of length for the short-waisted set ...

And the mention for best makeup goes to ... Tune back in later for the deets. Photo by David Vincent Glackin.

“In my house! In my house! In my house!” exclaimed a soulful voice to a bass dance beat. It was evident now that FS meant business. The silver fox returned reincarnated as a stole, wrapped around a white silk crystal encrusted gown with feather and organza ruffles aka The Finale. After gasps of pleasure came only a rumbling of applause until the lady herself emerged to receive her due glory – in her house!

BEST MODEL CASTING – Mennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!! God bless Perry Ellis creative director John Crocco for putting on the runway broad-shouldered, “meat-on-thighs” with at least a suggestion of backside. Why such enthusiasm? It is born of the aftermath of memories from the Duckie Brown show yesterday. Designers Daniel Silver and Steven Cox showed fabulous eight-pleated trousers but the models were too skinny to do the duds justice. PE’s pack could have pulled off DB’s threads in grand man fashion.

Perry Ellis was American style at its best: Exuberant, accessible, laidback and easygoing. NY Giants offensive tackle William Beatty was on the front row for the parade of outerwear ensembles that started the show. Strutting to the strains of Neil Young “Hey, Hey My My,” the “all-American” boys made their way down the runway with natural athletic grace in parkas, peacoats, trenches and toggles.

On show, too, were the hues of the classic fall palette: gray, green, beige and winter white. Even here, the models were a good fit – at least their names were. “Arthur” stood apart in a wool-plaid cropped peacoat, followed by “Jacob” in a chintzed-wool tuxedo coat atop a charcoal cotton houndstooth cardigan. “Chad” was turned out in an alpaca herringbone country trench coat with a Shitake-colored lambswool turtle neck.

Broad-shouldered “Florian” filled out the fine-gauge stripe polo nicely, as well as the shitake lambswool turtleneck and camel wool herringbone striped trousers. “Sean O.” scored points in the colorblocked shearling Eisenhower with a camel cotton and wool-textured shawl collar, plus vanilla wool Prince of Wales trousers. And he brought sexy back by baring his chest in a cotton-braided cable coat. Well, he didn’t actually bare his chest, but there was no shirt underneath and a number of women took note.

An ensemble from the Fall 2011 Perris Ellis collection. Photo by Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images.

In a brilliant marketing move and a first for the label, Perry Ellis made 10 looks available for sale immediately after the show on its Facebook Fanpage. There’s a catch though: shoppers must first “friend” Perry Ellis.

At the finale, these tall, smooth-walking, full-bodied specimen returned to the runway en masse sans shoes wearing Perry Ellis-emblazoned sweatshirts and longjohns. Man! ... – Written and reported by Francesca Simon

– Kudos to Frank Rizzieri ( for coiffing those full, thick heads of hair at Perry Ellis and buffing the ones that sported the close cuts, as well as “bald is best.” – Written and reported by Francesca Simon

Here’s the scene: Yours Truly making haste in to the Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center to discard coat and find spot in media pit to put finishes touches on Day 1 coverage for her gentle readers. Southern Belle that she is, she cannot possibly darken the doors of the tent without even a cursory hello to the attentive guards. What ensues:

Yours Truly: (To the guard, her Fashion Week protector and friend): Morning.
Guard: (Without skipping a beat) Yes, it is.

True that. – By Yours Truly, Vevlyn Wright

BEST SPECTACLE – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? No, none of the above. It/He is a spawn of The Borg (“Star Trek: The Next Generation"). His mission is to come to earth to assimilate the fashion world. (Check out that guitar purse. Smashing!)

Eleven of Twenty is on mission at Fashion Week. Photo by David Vincent Glackin.

Perhaps, he can start by programming into Rebecca Taylor a little more imagination with embellishments, fabrics and cuts. Her color control centers seem to be functioning properly, but much else is on the blink. Then, he can place hands on the other Rebecca, Minkoff, to implant a chip into her memory bank that can be activated when she next casts models. The recording will say: “You will not choose models whose hip bones/rib cage are visible through your sleek, little leggings and bold tunics” … Resistance is futile, ladies.

What shall we call him? Yes – Eleven of Twenty. He appeared out of the clear blue sometime yesterday at the tents at Lincoln Center. Think his spacecaft detected the "boom, boom, boom" streaming out of the tents? Or was he tipped off that the second day of Fashion Week might be a bit problematic on the creative side with few exceptions (Norman Ambrose, Byron Lars)?

As one suspected all along, fashion attracts all manner of life forms from strange new and bold, other worlds. – By Yours Truly, Vevlyn Wright

More from Day 2 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 1 NYFW: Not Boring. It's Beautiful!

Knit turtleneck and satin-faced organza tulip skirt from the Christian Siriano Fall 2011 collection. Photos by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

HEAD’S UP: It’s now a tradition at VEVLYN’S PEN. The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. This go round Yours Truly has a wingwoman in the person of Dame Francesca Simon. Even with two of us, though, we really, really can’t be everywhere. But we will be where something is happening and will keep you in the loop. Drum roll, please …

Day 1
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Nicholas K, Porter Grey, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Richard Chai, Duckie Brown, Luca Luca, Mara Hoffman, Tadashi Shoji, Eva Minge, Christian Siriano, W Hotels Global Glam, Irina Shabayeva


– Perusing the Christian Siriano run of show – the program that gives descriptions of the pieces in a designer’s collection, as well as credits and sometimes his/her inspiration – I counted the word “black” 37 times. I was not pleased! It was one of the last shows of the night of the first day of an eight-day fashion frenzy. I was already about to “black out” from lack of food and a deep need for sleep. This would surely do it, I thought. Boy was I wrong!

The show was sheer pleasure – literally. Weaving tweed and knit into an interesting interplay of textures, CS commenced with classically detailed jackets – from doubled-breasted to blazer to zippered. Atop sheer chiffon asymmetrical skirts, the jackets worked magic. And thus began an interplay of the light and shadow within the black.

For Fall 2011, Christian Siriano likes heavy jackets over light, sheer skirts.

CS achieved a balance of repose and restlessness by interspersing heavy jackets with shawl, exaggerated batwing and asymmetrical collars paired with flirty, ruffle-bottomed, billowing skirts. Occasionally, he played it straight, bringing the classic men’s trousers into feminine space; sometimes cuffing them, other times giving them wide legs with oversized cuffs. Trouser fabrics veered from wool to silk crepe and were paired with luxurious cashmere.

The black theme continued with a parade of beautiful, feminine ladies in black. A billowing satin-faced organza tulip skirt. A boucle backless trumpet gown. A silk organza draped cocktail dress. But the textures, weight, movement, and moments accentuated their different shades. It was a sea of black, and a lovely sea it was.

When the color came – in mauve and moss – so satisfactory was the black that the former didn’t make much of an impact. The silk chiffon short sleeve blouse and silk organza ruffled ball gown skirt was the last piece in the show – the skirt looked like a chenille blanket – was the only let down. It was quickly forgotten, though, as raucous applause awaited the man of the hour.

“ … The art of birds dancing in rhythmic harmony, branches and moss intertwining, light and shadows reflected in water — all these works of nature together emoting a spiritual transcendence, balance and tranquility ...”

With the words of Xiao Lei as his guiding message, Tadashi Shojo hit the mark on his mission to combine a sense of transcendence with the beauty of nature. He set the tone for this Far East-inspired ideal with ethereal music that was relaxing and sensual.

One of the more down-to-earth creations from the Tadashi Shoji Fall 2011 collection.

Emerging from a painted background of blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds, TS’ models, translucent in a pale makeup and straight hair, were almost angelic.

They breezed down the runway in wool jersey and lace creations trimmed in feathers, evoking the imagery of birds. TS’ extensive use of chiffon in vibrant colors of sun and sea, green fields of purple flowers and garden beds of begonias indeed brought a feeling of transcendence. Hand-cut organza floral designs added dimension to diaphanous gowns.

While TS’ vision exists in a realm up in and near the clouds, he managed to also beam it down to earth – if only briefly – bringing to his aesthetic a retail aspect. He worked with stretch wool jersey and silk crepe to create a body of dresses — one-shoulder, off shoulder, and halter — and ensembles with which the average consumer can identify. Of note was a washed silk crepe halter top paired with a black-draped pencil skirt.

A stunning, strapless blue-fringe dress was body-hugging, yet free-flowing with the fringe implying a rippling water effect. In this little affair, one can easily imagine a girl or woman about town dancing the night away in the arms of a mysterious strange or on a warm spring night sipping Champagne on the rooftop of some urban oasis. Ahhh, fantasy and fashion! - By Francesca Simon

If the first day of Fashion Week is any indication, red is going to be an It color for fall. While a number of designers ventured into the zone, it was BCBGMaxAzria who came away with the most touches. For fall, he’s keeping things simple.

The model, Ajak, sporting a hot 'do and an apricot/smoke silk/linen iridescent stripe sack dress from the Fall 2011 collection of Richard Chai.

The most visible manifestation of this is the white turtleneck body suit underneath skirts and dresses. It is further informed by voluminous silhouettes that could be rendered dowdy in some hands. Max deftly delivers sophistication along with his simplicity. For spring he showed many body-skimming looks, particularly a fetching parade of little white dresses.

What saves these autumn dresses and skirts from appearing shapeless are low-slung belts, panels at the hip and thin fabric strips that bring to mind Normandy architecture. Here to save the day, too, is color-blocking. It is in the latter that the red really stands out – particularly against b&w and white and navy. Imagine a portrait bearing the images of several people, but one in particular commands the attention. That is the precise effect of the red.

Red is not only an accent, but the main color in a couple of frocks such as a silk crepe dress. It is eye-catching, supported by the white bodysuit with black cuffs, taupe belt, light gray boot and light gray clutch. – By Yours Truly, Vevlyn Wright

BEST HAIR (TIE) – Here one is sitting in the Richard Chai “Love” show a little tired and trying to keep both eyes open. The clothes are not boring but neither are they beckoning. Sure, the series – wing coat, blazer, military coat et al. – in charcoal degrade stripe is serviceable. Further, the funnel neck sweater will keep the neck warm on a day when the mercury is hovering in the mod-20s. They do fold nicely, don’t they. Moreover, while some of the pleating is a little undisciplined, there is something to admire in the different texture pairings i.e., georgette and merino wool. Yet one is about to catnap – until.

The fall 2011 collection of Irina Shabayeva is informed by cool hair and hot colors.

Behold a goddess got-up in an apricot/smoke silk/linen iridescent stripe sack dress. Was this what it was like in the presence of the Queen of Sheba? It may be a sack dress but this is a queen. Her highness aka Ajak is rockin’ a close-cropped afro – in platinum blond. It is “subtle loud.” To use another word, it is also the highlight of the show ...

Meanwhile, “Project Runway” alums are representin’ at Fashion Week. There’s Christian S., of course. Malan Breton is showing on the last day. And here is Irina Shabayeva closing out the first day. For fall, she is inspired by fire and ice. In her first official Fashion Week collection, IS uses red, black and white to evoke the various images of fire& ice that are capturing her imagination. Some silhouettes, for instance, the white jacket with little latticework-like panels on front are amorphous and unwieldy like a wild fire. Others in gray are embellished with paillettes to evoke both the various dimensions of an ice cube, as well as black ice. While there are places where IS over uses a theme – the latticework on a black dress – it is a clever collection and a continuing manifestation of the great promise that she showed on “PR.”

Look to the head, though, for an especially clever touch in the fire&ice show. With or without the mean black brim, the models’ hair is parted on the side and pulled back into a chignon. Where the hair is parted on the side it is also dressed in a cornrow. It’s a great look and a cool head. A head at such a temperature can be achieved with ice, no? And when things get hot – if there is, say, a fire, cooler heads really must prevail, no? – By Yours Truly, Vevlyn Wright

More from Day 1 shortly. Meanwhile see shows/highlights:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NYFW: On Wild Side w/Nicholas K

Two ensembles, above and one below, from the Nicholas K Fall 2011 collection. Photos from Getty Images.

"YOU have to be crazy to have a show at 9 a.m.," asserted Richard, the wrangler of photographers at the tents, after the show of his namesake, Mr. Chai.

He was responding to an observation about attendance at that hour's Nicholas K show. RC showed at 11 a.m. (more on him later).

It was not exactly standing-room only in the Studio tent at Lincoln Center. And is there any wonder? Last night, tons of people were partying like it was 1999 at various parties, including the one for The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection. The heart collection marked the unofficial start of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York Fall 2011 Shows. Nicholas K was the official start at that aforementioned unseemly hour.

“I was inspired by the woods and rustic living; the survival instinct and going back to primitive ways," Nicholas Kunz explains about the collection in press materials. "The fall colors of the forest are reflected in the palette and overall aesthetic and I used a lot of texture and incorporated Navajo inspired prints. Think log homes, gypsies, stone fireplaces, owls, camping and migration."

It is - surprise! - a layer-heavy collection. The clothes flow, even on men. Shirts are wrapped around the waist to mimic asymmetrical skirts. The colors are earth tones and jewel tones. It is very "The Tudors" on a casual scale. While NK does casual-hip extremely well, some of the A-line skirts and dresses in particular, possess cocktail-party aspirations. And is that chiffon? And that, over yonder, are those velvet or velour britches that guy is wearing? What's up with the scarf shrugs? NZ is definitely dressing up more for fall.

No visible weaknesses here, as there is plenty to mix and match; dress up, down and around.

NK started off the fashion parade in September when the tents brought the show to Lincoln Center. Perhaps, it will become a tradition. And what says Richard about this.

"Some people never learn."

See shows/highlights:

Thoroughbreds: A Tale of Two Vineyards, Part 2

On the grounds of the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is an olive press, above, where tastings are among the events. Photos from Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.


yesterday’s segment, Cline Cellars Zinfandel was the subject of the first tale. (See:

Today, the focus is on some beautiful wines produced by Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.

Remember that Posner Fruit Spread commercial, the one in which people fainted at the dinner table because – horrors! – someone dared to call it “jelly?” Well, that’s how territorial ancient wine regions can get about their wines.

So territorial in fact, that long before the European Union was formed governments independently regulated the official recognition of specific wine regions, generally called “appellations” or “denominations.” A French vineyard might produce a sparkling wine but wouldn’t dare call it “Champagne” unless it was produced in the Champagne terroir (region) of France. The Champagne appellation is protected.

By contrast, the tradition of appellations in the Americas is a relatively recent development. American viniculture itself is only a few hundred years old, as opposed to being as old as the dead Greeks and Romans. The U.S. government only began officially recognizing American Vinicultural Areas (AVAs) in 1983!

A Neptune fountain overlooks the vineyard at Jacuzzi.

AVAs. Haven’t heard of them? You’re not the only one. Give it another 50 years or so and that might make all the difference. (The über-geeky should check out the official comprehensive list of appellations by country:

Why does this matter? North American winemakers do not face the same stringent restrictions as their European counterparts. No particular region is known as the dedicated terroir of a grape. If the soil can handle it, grow a Pinot in Napa, a Zin in Oregon, and then rip them out and try something else just for giggles. Well, probably not. Vine cultivation is not cheap and the grapes are more temperamental than cats.

In America, it is entirely possible to specialize in hearty indigenous Zins on one side of the road and exquisite Italian varietals, including Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Nero d’Avola, and the rare Aleatico, on the other.

And thus continues A Tale of Two Vineyards.

Named in homage to Frank Cline’s Italian grandfather (and yes, this is the same family behind the Jacuzzi tubs), Jacuzzi pays tribute not only to an Italian style of winemaking, but also to Italian varietals themselves. Many of the grapes come from grafts grown in Italy. Jacuzzi prides itself on making a true Italianate wine in America, hence the villa.

The villa is not vanity; it sets the tone. Walking across the fountained courtyard into the foyer is like being transported to Italy without a passport. Don’t tell customs! Olive-tasting and a boutique store are off to the right. To the left is a generous tasting room with a truly knowledgeable staff. I especially recommend Fred Vallerga, whose love for wine and all things Italian sparked a second career; his pride in Jacuzzi wines is infectious.

Detail shot of the label of the 2009 Montepulciano. The label on all Jacuzzi wines feature a photo of the grandparents of Frank Cline, the vineyard's owner.

Jacuzzi’s Italian-style wines are quite different than Cline’s. Think about it this way –while a Zin will always have something of the wild mustang about it, Jacuzzi’s wines are cultivated thoroughbreds.

Imagine wines that are far less fruity and sweet (dry). Keep the heartiness and watch carefully as different tastes suggest themselves long after the sip has gone (layers of complexity, long finish, heartiness). To this, add an immense respect for the grape – capturing the special characteristics of the varietals, either standing alone or blended into wonderful versions of classics.

Let me suggest three gorgeous wines:
2008 Sagrantino. Don’t let the barest hint of berry cause confusion. The Sagrantino varietal is not Zin’s kissing cousin. Undertones of thyme and an ever-so-slight tangy edge (soft tannins) balance the sweetness beautifully, making for a quietly elegant wine. $28

2009 Montepulciano. Silver Medalist in the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Jacuzzi’s Montepulciano sports undertones of nutmeg and berry on the one hand, and a coffee finish on the other, while still remaining remarkably dry. It is a full-flavored wine without the heaviness and its food pairing possibilities are endless: grilled vegetables to game and many points in between. $24

2008 Sagrantino

2008 Late Harvest Aleatico. According to FV, of the 20 acres of Aleatico that exist in the world, 16 grow in Italy and the remaining four grow here. That in and of itself should be enough to recommend this exquisite dessert wine. Exploding with flavors, Aleatico reveals violet on the nose and a touch of raisin on the palate. It is reminiscent of some dessert Sherries but without the added fortification. $32

Do not even think of serving Jacuzzi wines with everyday pasta, pizza or leftover takeout. The wine will march out of the glass, go back in the bottle, recork itself, and sulk until someone who really appreciates its uniqueness coaxes it out again.

Jacuzzi and Cline. Two entirely different approaches to wine. Two entirely different approaches to varietals. Several well-produced wines from one very small region, but don’t call it a terroir.

What’s the moral of A Tale of Two Vineyards? For American wines, forget the issue of terroir. If the wine drinks well, what’s it to ya?

Next time: Sake for its own sake.

Learn more about Cline Cellars at, and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards at Both vineyards ship to most places throughout the United States. For international shipments, contact them directly.
Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Based on a work at .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at .