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E. Roberts
I try not to be a coffee snob, I really do. However, sometimes it isn’t easy.
Pairing cigars and coffee has now become a professional endeavor, at least one of them, and something I take rather seriously. For this inaugural column, I browsed through both this forum and its sister site,, to get a feel for what coffee blends were popular with the members who’d weighed in on the subject. I settled on Dunkin Donuts’ Original Blend as a mass-market coffee with good tobacco-world appeal that was apparently America’s favorite, pound for pound (according to the company’s advertising, anyway); certainly many members enjoyed it, as have I when those donut cravings strike. So it was that my editor Avi and I struck out to find suitable cigar accompaniment for this coffee a couple weekends ago. Unfortunately, we’d chosen the Sunday of the NFL championship games for taste testing, a day when most people are drinking beer instead of coffee. We should have done the same.

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Shopping for WineFebruary 1, 2012

John St. Mark
"Where should I shop for wine?" "How can I be sure I’m getting a good deal?"

I get questions like these a lot, and I sometimes catch myself giving really unhelpful answers. As someone who works with wine, my priorities can be a little distorted, so I thought it might be interesting to pass the question on to a few old friends. They represent different generations and different economic circumstances, but they share a sincere appreciation for good wine. Where do they get it?

Roxanne and Duane live in a small, modern loft near the center of town. They both enjoy cooking and Duane, an avid fisherman, frequently has fresh seafood on hand. I noticed a small wine rack in their kitchen with some interesting labels: Alsatian pinot blanc, albariño from the Rias Baixas region of Spain, classic Bordeaux and Rhône reds… "Those were gifts, mostly;" Roxanne tells me "we open those on special occasions."

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By E. Roberts
Looking through any number of cigar reviews, one will invariably find several mentions of a coffee flavor expressed in a particular brand.
And, one certainly won’t have to look very far—see Russ Ouellette’s Black Market Cigar Review this past December. Indeed, a coffee and a cigar make for a perfectly complementary pairing for a number of reasons. With the remarkable array of both fine cigars and specialty coffees available today, one is presented with an inexhaustible variety with which to investigate these pairings and find a perfect combination for both palate and budget.

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Wine ClarificationNovember 21, 2011

By John St. Mark
Egg Whites, Clay, Fish Guts… What Are They Putting In My Wine?

In recent years there has been some controversy surrounding the use of certain materials and processes in winemaking, and the argument has been made that agents used to process wine should be covered by labeling regulations. Why do they use that stuff?

Immediately after grape juice has fermented it contains particulate matter in suspension and unstable compounds that could, over time, affect the wine adversely (for example, micronutrients could support the growth of bacteria that would spoil the wine.) Traditional methods of clarification (removal of unwanted substances) include the following:

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Old VinesSeptember 26, 2011

By John St. Mark
Old Vine Zinfandel Information
If you pay attention to wine labels you may have noticed references to "old vines." Why should that matter? How long do grapevines live?

First, let’s be sure we’re talking about old vines and not about old wine. The year on the label refers to the year of the harvest (or, more accurately, to the year the grapes developed on the vine; in some exceptional cases, grapes are left on the vine into the winter and harvested after the New Year has begun.) That is important information because conditions that affect wine quality (the weather, mainly) vary from year to year. In addition, wine evolves over time so it is useful to know how old it is.

"Old vines," on the other hand, refers to the age of the plants that produced the grapes that were used to make the wine; their influence on wine quality is very different from that of time spent aging the wine. There is no generally agreed upon minimum age for a vine to be considered "old"; use of the term tends to be relative and can vary greatly depending on numerous considerations.

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