New Cigar Accessories

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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Military Humidors
At Joseph & Curtis we are proud to offer custom engraving for any of our humidors. Whether its text or a custom logo logo engraved on your humidor, Joseph & Curtis can make it happen for you. If you would like a logo engraved, please contact us first so we can arrange for you to email us the image.

We are also proud to announce several new products to our cigar store:

Monolith 800c

The Monolith 800c Series eHumidor is the ideal cigar environment system which regulates temperature and humidity at the touch of a button.


  • Holds up to 800 cigars
  • Temperature adjustable from 41F to 71F
  • Humidity adjustable from 50% to 80%
  • Digital Temp. and Humidity display at the top
  • 2 Slide out racks on top, 1 fixed rack in base
  • Ambient LED light kit
  • 3 Genuine Spanish cedar trays 20″W x 13.625″D x 3.625″H
  • Lock and key
  • Side panels in black finish

Monolith 1200c
The Monolith 1200c Series eHumidor is the ideal cigar environment system which regulates temperature and humidity at the touch of a button.


  • Holds up to 1200 cigars
  • Temperature adjustable from 41F to 71F
  • Humidity adjustable from 50% to 80%
  • Digital Temp. and Humidity display at the top
  • Ambient LED light kit
  • 4 Slide out racks on top, 1 fixed rack in base
  • 5 Genuine Spanish cedar trays 18″W x 15″D x 4.5″H
  • Lock and key
  • Side panels in black finish

Cigar Locker
A Cigar Locker for a Commercial setting is a convenient way to store ones private stash for multiple customers. Cabinets are made so they will fit flush up next to each other in the event more compartments are required.

  • 12 slotted raised panel sectionals for air circulation.
  • 2 slotted raised panel sectionals at the base for extra storage.
  • Lock and key for each sectional.
  • Crown molding at top and bottom.
  • Completely Lined with Premium Kiln Dried Spanish Cedar
  • 2 Interior A/C Outlets
  • Additional Lock Sets Available
  • Available in Cherry or Dark Mahogany Finish

Hydra LG Humidifier

The Hydra® LG Commercial Series Cigar Humidifier is designed to automatically regulate the humidity inside large cabinet humidors up to 16 cubic feet in size. Add up to 3 optional external fans to extend the Hydra’s humidification capabilities even further! For smaller capacity humidors, view the HYDRA-SM Personal series.

Lotus 20 – Citadel

  • Triple wind resistant torch flame
  • Single action electric quartz ignition
  • Viewable fuel level window
  • Integrated 8mm cigar punch cutter
  • Pre-filled with premium butane
  • 2 year manufacturer’s warranty

The Passive Wine Cellar

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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As many of us try our best to be the greenest we can be, I am often asked if it is possible to build a green wine cellar? There is no exact way to do this, but here are a few ideas that can help.

Try building your wine cellar in a spot that will require the minimum amount of cooling or even better, no cooling at all. The “passive” wine cellar should be built below ground with as little natural light as possible. Installing a floor vent which draws cooler air from the underground can really help with temperature conditions.

Using natural stone (slate) is a great way to help maintain consistent temperature as well. Other ways you can push the “green” button would be to use re-claimed wood for the wine racks and recycled glass. Further, you may wish to check the wineries you are buying from: are they using wind power, organically grown grapes, certified bio-dynamic wines (no sulfites) or perhaps they ship wines by train. An example would be Osprey’s Dominion, who we recently interviewed in one of our popular Q&A interviews – check out the blog to learn how they are using wind mills to power their vineyard.

We are all looking for ways to sustain the planet and to be the best stewards possible, but if you are looking for a perfect 56 degrees for wine storage it would be difficult to achieve in a passive cellar. However, if you are willing to give up a few degrees and some fluctuations in temperature, then a passive cellar just may be the way to go.


All I Do Is Wine: Q&A with Zita Keeley

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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Over the years Joseph and Curtis have come to form some great relationships both personal and business related. Zita Keeley is one person who fits both of those. She has an amazing passion for wine and anything wine related. Zita offers her talents among a wide variety of wine related subjects: TV pilot, wine school, women for winesense, and the list goes on and on.

Recently, Zita asked me to speak at her Hoboken school for wine about wine storage which I was glad to do. Our passion for building custom wine cellars opens new doors to new friends each and every day.

I found the class insightful, unpretentious, and fun. I hope you will find Zita as interesting as we do.

Now, let’s chat with Zita Keeley…

J&C: So tell us about ALL I DO IS WINE.

Zita: Many people laugh when they hear my company name, All I Do is Wine. The name actually came about as an “aha” moment one morning when I woke up. It is probably thanks to my son who kept on complaining to me that all I ever talked about was!! It really is a name that captures my love and passion for wine.

J&C: Where did your passion for wine come from?

Zita: I know that I always loved wine but the passion was definitely fueled while living in London, UK for 6 years. During that time I dined out quite a bit (a real “lady who lunched”) and found so many fabulous and affordable wines that I loved. I needed to know more. A friend convinced me to take the wine course at Le Cordon Bleu and that was the beginning of my wine career path. After a fabulous conversation about dessert wines with the Sommelier from one of London’s top French restaurants, I knew for certain I wanted to know more. I continued studying back in NYC and started working with various companies assisting with wine events and tastings. After realizing I did not want to become a Sommelier (not a job for a mom) nor did I want to sell wine the one thing that stuck out for me was how much I liked talking about wine. That is what led to my teaching and consulting. In addition I write a monthly newsletter and my daily blog, “The Wining Woman.”

J&C: Most memorable wine moment?

Zita: One of my most memorable wine moments, of which there are many, was back in London one Thanksgiving meal. Some friends we had invited brought along a visiting guest from France. His contribution to us was 5 bottles of Puligny-Montrachet and some cheese. (What a great guest!) This was the first time I ever tasted Puligny-Montrachet and I was just blown away. We finished all 5 bottles and, to this day, I haven’t found one that has made me gasp the way that one did. (It was also only about $8.00 bottle.. that definitely will make you gasp)

J&C: Favorite place to travel that’s wine related?

Zita: I love anywhere that has vineyards. I can be driving through the Finger Lakes and suddenly get goosebumps when I see the sun shining over the vines and the lake. One of my most memorable wine trips has to be my visit to the Rhone Valley. Not only was it my first real vineyard visiting experience but it was the perfect region to truly understand winemaking. The diversity between the North and the South and the beauty of both is inspiring.

J&C: Tell us about your wine tasting classes.

Zita: I started Zita Keeley’s Wine School after living in Hoboken for a while and seeing that there weren’t many wine course offerings in NJ. This course is designed for all aspiring wine enthusiasts. I teach all the basics of wine tasting, including buying and storing wine as well as pairing wine with food. The curriculum delves deeper into wine study as students will also learn how to choose a wine with confidence, how to read a wine list and, naturally, how to enjoy wine.

J&C: Any special guests?

Zita: In the past we have had some special guests with our most recent being Mark Censits, owner of Cool Vines wine stores in Westfield and Princeton (partner of Joseph and Curtis). Joseph and Curtis will be guests in 2010 as well.

J&C: When do the classes begin?

Zita: The course is run as a once a week, 6 week program for 2 hours each session. The next course begins on Monday March 1st from 7:00-9:00PM. Classes will be held March 1, 8, 15, 22 and April 5 & 12. (No class on March 29.) All classes will be held at The Melting Pot- 100 Sinatra Drive- Hoboken, NJ. Cost for the entire course is $390 and advance payment/registration is required. Registration form is available at or email

J&C: Who is the ideal student?

Zita: The ideal student is anyone with a real love of wine who wants to have more confidence and understanding of wine.

J&C: Anything you would like to add about the TV show?

Zita: My newest project is to host an as yet untitled wine lifestyle and contestant based tv show that will be marketed to a specialty cable network by Coalition Films, a Hoboken-based production company that is developing the new show as well as working with reality TV mogul Mark Burnett on a few other fledgling projects. The pilot will be shot in March.

J&C: Please tell us about Women for Winesense.

Zita: I am the founding President of the New Jersey Chapter of Women for Winesense, a national non-profit organization that is the premier wine education and networking organization for wine industry professionals and wine enthusiasts. We have a variety of events throughout the year.

J&C: Any up-coming events?

Zita: Our next event will be on Saturday February 20th where we will be tasting wines served at the White House in celebration of Presidents Week. For more information go to and see events calendar. There is also the upcoming Grand Tasting Event in Napa, Ca from Fri April 30-Sunday May 2, 2010. This is an event not to be missed with seminars, tastings and winery visits.

It was a pleasure interviewing our friend, Zita Keeley from All I Do Is Wine. We hope that you enjoyed the Q&A and visit to learn more about Zita’s passion for the wine lifestyle.

Until next blog…


Osprey’s Dominion Wine Q&A

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Being wine cellar builders as well as wine enthusiasts, we almost always help our clients stock their wine cellars once we are finished with the wine cellar design and construction. We always try to find what types of styles our customers enjoy. Big reds? whites? French, Italian, Cali, but in the last few years I have come to taste an incredible “local” product, and that is the wines from Osprey’s Dominion located on Long Island’s North Fork.

My initial taste was the 2000 Meritage which simply blew me away. That particular “library” wine has won numerous awards including **BEST IN CLASS** NEW YORK STATE FAIR 2004 **DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL WINNER** 2004 Tasters Guild International / **GOLD** 2004 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition…so it was a no-brainer to approach Osprey for our clients and see if they would like to team up and work with the premier wine cellar company Joseph and Curtis…the answer was a resounding yes.

Without further ado, we are proud to introduce our friends at Osprey’s Dominion.

Q. When was Osprey started?

A. 24 acres were planted in 1983.

Q. How big is the vineyard now?

A. 90 acres on 3 farms.

Q. Tell us how the name came about.

A. The Osprey (Aka Fish Hawk) can be seen flying over this area of the North Fork thus the name Osprey’s Dominion.

Q. Can someone come and taste the wines?

A. Yes. We have 2 flights available.

Q. What are the different types of wines that Osprey produces?

A. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sparkling, Port.

Q. I mentioned the 2000 Meritage…what are some of your favorites?

A. Our Fume Blanc (100% Sauvignon Blanc) fermented in oak. I am very excited about the
spring 2010 release of our Carmenere, ODV being the first vineyard on Long Island.

Q. Are there any events coming up at Osprey?

A. Jazz on the Vine in February and March. Ballroom dancing on Feb 20 and March 27.

Q. Please tell us about the wind turbine project?

Osprey’s Dominion Vineyard commissioned Eastern Energy Systems, Inc. to install a 20k wind turbine at their North Fork winery in the Town of Southold. This will be LIPA’s first Farm Service turbine, undertaken through the Backyard Wind Initiative created this year. The wind turbine is expected to produce an estimated 42,802 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year for an annual energy savings of $7,918. The projected total cost of the project is $144,000. A LIPA rebate of $69,401 is anticipated, significantly off-setting the expense for the system. Osprey Dominion Vineyard may further reduce the cost of the system via a Federal tax incentive and by selling the excess electric energy produced back to LIPA.

Q. Does Osprey offer a wine club?

Yes. We offer 15% and 20% discounts throughout the year as well as quarterly shipments/pickups of first release varietals. Check out the Wine Club page on our website for more information.

Q. Please tell us your winter/summer hours.

A. 11-5 Sun-Fri and 6pm on Saturday during the winter. 11-6 Sun – Thur and 9 on Fri
and Sat during the summer.

Q. At Joseph and Curtis we have clients all over the country…does Osprey ship nationally?

A. We ship to all the states that we are legally able to.

Q. Are tours of your vineyard available?

Yes…by appointment.

We would like to thank the folks at Osprey’s Dominion for their time, and their friendship. To all of our blog readers and fans, you know we only interview the best in the biz so we implore you to check out Osprey for some excellent wines to add to your collection.


Home Wine Cellars

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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The days of the wine cellar being banished to the basement are over. Our clients love for wine combined with the entertaining aspects of today’s modern wine cellar, are asking J&C to incorporate designs for a first floor wine cellar. We’re doing conversions of butler pantries, bathrooms, bedrooms and stand alone spaces.

For example, one of our latest custom wine cellars is designed for raw space which was conveniently located next to the family, dining and living room, just steps from the kitchen. Now it’s a stunning wine cellar and destination spot.

The wine cellar features redwood wine racks, cooling system, cathedral ceiling, custom niches for knick-knacks, a mahogany, wrought iron arched door way and a window view to the dining room. The cellar holds over 2,300 bottles. The split cooling system has the coil in the wine cellar. The condensing unit and condensate line are run to the basement.

Homeowners love the feeling of dining with the ambiance of the nearby wine cellar. They also enjoy the convenience of the close proximity of the cellar. As guests arrive, the wine cellar becomes a focal point and guests are excited to tour the new use of space.

It invites you to enter….where you are destined to share not only wine but memories as well

Heidi Barrett Speaks with Joseph & Curtis

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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When it comes to making wine there are those that make wine…and then there are those that make wine! The name Heidi Barrett may or may not ring a bell with you but it should. Heidi is considered the Babe Ruth of the wine making industry. Heidi began attracting praise at the age of 25, when she helped turn around Buehler Vineyards. She then went on to “cult” status when she created “Maya” a California Cab blend for Dalla Valle which received consecutive 100 point scores from Robert Parker. She then became a superstar with her work at Screaming Eagle, which became the biggest cult cab in the world. Her first vintage was 1992 and became a 100 point wine from Mr Parker. A single bottle of Screaming Eagle fetched $500,000 at the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 2000. Heidi now makes incredible wines under her own label, La Sirena.

Heidi was kind enough to spend some time with Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars. Please enjoy getting to know this wine making legend.

J&C: most kids dream about being a doctor, a fireman, a New York Yankee, etc…was there ever a doubt you would become a winemaker?

Heidi: Sure, I almost became an oceanographer or a marine biologist. I still love all things ocean but get my “fix” with regular scuba trips where I can fish ID my heart out. Plus it’s so darn beautiful under there, maybe the most beautiful part of the planet that very few people get to see. La Sirena means “the mermaid” in both italian and spanish so it was a way for me to combine my two passions into the winery name and also reflect the magic element of both.

J&C: being a parent of 2 myself… please tell us about growing up with your parents and how they helped shape your career and passions.

Heidi: Well, with a scientist/winemaker dad and an artist mother it’s no wonder I was attracted to winemaking. I spent a lot of time visiting my dad at work in various wineries as a kid. My sister and I both loved being there and we thought it was normal. “Doesn’t everyone’s dad do this?” We also did a lot of art as kids, something I still do today. My Dad never pushed me into the wine world which I’m thankful for, allowing me to come to it on my own, but we started tasting wine very young, learning flavors and even a bit of chemistry. Winery work became my summer job in high school since who else will hire you when you’re a kid except your family? Davis was the obvious choice for college once I had been working in the business and knew I liked it.

J&C: At what age did you find yourself passionate about wine and wine making?

Heidi: Really senior year in High school when I had to buckle down and pick a college was the start but doing internships in both Germany and Australia where I learned so much was very exciting and inspiring. Passion for it builds over time. The more you learn, the better you get, the more fun it is.

J&C: Have you ever worked anywhere else but in/on vineyards?

Heidi: Not really. I was a waitress for a few months doubling up with my cellar crew day job when I first graduated from UCDavis in 1980 and had zero money. We worked 10 hour shifts starting at 6:30AM til 5, then I’d go work at the restaurant til 11.

J&C: Who are your biggest influences?

Heidi: My Dad for sure. I have learned so much from him. I used to talk his ear off to and from work with so many questions when I was working in the cellar. Also Justin Meyer (first hired me out of Davis at Franciscan and Silver Oak), Jerry Luper ( I was his assistant winemaker), and Alfred Hoffmann (Germany-taught me about balance in wine). Also Gustav Dalla Valle- became a close personal friend and a bit of a mentor. I got to help him create his dream and put his brand on the map at the time.

J&C: I happen to know you graduated from UC Davis…memories of that experience?

Heidi: It was a great time of life. Some pretty amazing winemakers came out of my class. I remember Randall Graham always asking a ton of questions. We all made wine in 5 gallon demi-johns in the basement of the wine dept. At that time there was no pilot winery like what they have now. Working in Ann Noble’s sensory lab was fun. We all loved Ralph Kunkee for microbiology.

J&C: Do you think its more important (for wine making) school experience or real world hands on experience?

Heidi: I think it’s about 50/50. You need the foundation of education but there’s nothing like working hands on to get the picture.

J&C: Please tell us about some of the vineyards you have worked for?

Heidi: There have been so many over the years and some interesting winery owners in the mix too. One of my favorite jobs was working with Gustav Dalla Valla, a larger than life character with an amazing zest for life. I’d be at the winery doing routine labwork and he’d stand over my shoulder telling me all these incredible stories of his life. He started the company Scuba Pro, and was a contemporary and competitor of Jaques Cousteau. He had so many adventures , I can’t even begin to list them all here. He died in 1995 and I sure miss him. Screaming Eagle was another interesting chapter for me. I was fortunate to be winemaker there from day one in 1992 until it was sold 14 years later in 2006. It was a wild ride to create something like that that was so successful right out of the chute. The hard part was that I set my own bar so high and created the expectation of greatness each year. To keep that quality year after year no matter what the vintage dished out was alot of pressure and certainly a challenge. One of those things where you rise to the challenge being pushed like that with everyone watching for the slightest bobble. When you are at the top, you find out who your true friends are. The sale came as a complete shock to me. So many changes have occured there, it’s just not the same little jewel it once was. There are so many stories to share , not sure how much space you have!

J&C: Is there one special quality one needs to be a world class wine maker?

Heidi: Versalility, patience, experience, and attention to detail.

J&C: Since your cult wine “Maya” received 2 100 point scores from robert parker (the 92 and 93) as well record breaking bids at the Napa Valley Wine Auction…as well as a bottle of your 6 liter 92 screaming eagle which sold for $500,000 how do you top that?!

Heidi: I’ve actually had 5 100’s so far and made a number of other wines that I thought had

the potential for that score. It’s really one man’s opinion on any given day so not something we can control or expect as winemakers. I really try not to focus on the scores, it’s certainly nice when you get a good one, but it can also be a big distraction from the task at hand- making the best wine you can, every year. Now I’m working on that same quality with my own La Sirena and a similar blend for the Cab that I used to make for SE.

J&C: Please tell us about La Sirena.

Heidi: La Sirena is my own little winery where I make just the wines that I personally love, Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, Syrah, a fun red blend of 7 varieties called Pirate TreasuRed, and a dry Muscat Canelli called Moscato Azul. I work hard at making the best wines I can each year in small quantities. These are all wines of great depth, purity, personality, and balance made with finesse and alot of experience. We grow some of our own grapes, Cabernet and Syrah and contract the Muscat Canelli from our neighbors vineyard. We work with a few other growers as well who farm specifically for La Sirena to our standards. The winery was founded in 1994

with 200 cases produced the first year. We now make about 2000 a year divided between all the wines, usually making no more than 400-500 cases of each. So, small production wines with a winemaker with a 30 year proven track record equals the real deal, wines of pedigree.

J&C: What does La Sirena mean?

Heidi: The mermaid in Italiian and Spanish.

J&C: Please tell our readers what the average day for Heidi Barrett is like.

Heidi: My days really vary and usually involve many different things all in the same day. Of course it depends on the time of year but right now I do alot of tasting going winery to winery, troubleshooting, working on blends, sometimes doing local wine deliveries, and warehouse which usually involves driving the forklift. Other days are office related, selling wine, working with distribution and setting up wine events, ordering bottling supplies, doing cork sensory trials, my tasting group, bottling, meetings with clients, etc. And this is supposed to be the slow season!

During crush there are almost daily vineyard visits between all my clients, tasting alot of grapes and juices, tasting all fermentors and making adjustments daily, crushing, pressing, filling barrels, some labwork, records, you name it and it’s seven days a week then. With each season there are different things going on in the winery so it really varies week to week what I work on. Plus I try to fit in a bit of exercise and my other interests when I can. I haven’t watched television in years! I don’t think I could fit it in although I do love watching the Olympics so will go to a neighbors house to watch some of that.

J&C: Any passions outside of the wine and vineyard?

Heidi: Many- skiing, scuba diving, art- painting, making jewelry, ceramics, gardening,

flying helicopters (I’m close to getting my license) kayaking, fly fishing, travel.

J&C: Favorite places to travel?

Heidi: Anywhere tropical.

J&C: What is the most pressing issue facing the wine industry?

Heidi: Protecting our appellations. So when it says Napa Valley it IS Napa Valley. And now

we can say Calistoga on the label which is very exciting with the new Callistoga AVA

being accepted.

J&C: Favorite foods?

Heidi: Wild blackberry pie, watermelon, salmon, chocolate (naturally), fresh blueberries,

and roast wild duck with pomegranate sauce.

J&C: You have seen some amazing changes in Napa…what do you feel is the biggest

change in the last 25 years?

Heidi: There have been so many changes I’ve seen since living here in the late sixties. My

sister and I used to ride our horses to the vet when there were no fences between the vineyards. We’ve seen so many new wineries spring up and huge changes in viticultural practices, vine spacing and land use rules. We have alot more upscale restaurants and fancy shops in the towns now. It all used to be pretty casual around here. Land prices have gone through the roof for a good acre of vineyard property in the last 25 years. All in all, it has kept it’s amazing beauty and is still a great place to call home.

J&C: What’s on the horizon for La Sirena and Heidi Barrett?

Heidi: Hopefully, continuing to make even better wines and bringing more notoriety to La

Sirena as some of the best wine in the world. I love it to become the new Screaming Eagle! The wines are just as good, it’s just not as famous yet so it’s still affordable.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Heidi Barrett, a wine making legend. Please check out La Sirena’s website for more information about Heidi and her latest wine creations.


John Hammond Grammy Nomination

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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In a recent blog we reviewed Rough & Tough, the latest recording by our good friend John Hammond. We are thrilled that Rough & Tough received the Grammy nomination for Traditional Blues Album of the Year. John last won a Grammy in 1985 and has had several nominations since.

John performed recently at the City Winery in NYC.

City Winery, with its custom wine racks leading down to the subterranean wine cellar is a perfect backdrop for a wine lover like John.

He also sat in for a few songs with The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Blind Boys and John sang ‘One Kind Favor’, written by Blind Willie Jefferson and the crowd went wild.

A few weeks after the performance at City Winery, we had dinner with John & his wife Marla. We opened a bottle of Obsidian Ridge Cabernet, a big chewy cab that with proper wine cellar storage should age for years to come and also happens to be one of John’s favorites.

This wine is a perfect example of why California Cabernet is so sought after. John & Marla share a beautiful duplex loft, and although the space will not accommodate a wine cellar, we are working on a design for a custom wine rack to hold John’s favorite wines. Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars raise their glasses to a good luck toast for a Grammy win on January 31st . Who knows, a custom Grammy rack?


Fontodi Wine Dinner at Italian Wine Merchants

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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At Joseph and Curtis Custom Wine Cellars one of the luxuries that comes with our business is the ability to try some pretty amazing wines. In doing so we are able to recommend to our clients which wine to stock their wine cellar with. While a lot of attention went to Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 last year, for me the highlight of 2009 was the release of the 2006 Super Tuscans.

Sassicaia returned to form with monster grip and concentration, Masseto again comes in as Italy’s number one cult wine, but it might be Flaccianello that stole the spotlight. I actually agree with Wine Spectator in crowning this the wine of the vintage with its 99 Points. I have been fortunate to do many blind tasting with Chris Deas and Italian Wine Merchants, and Flaccianello, along with Bruno Giacosa, are two routine winners.

And ironically, it’s the lower scoring 1999 example that I think may be drinking best. Its always great to see ratings on different wines…but nothing beats the real thing. We love to help our clients build beautiful wine cellars as well as fill them! Here is a great opportunity to taste some amazing wines and great food as well!


Special Winemaker Dinner with Fontodi Flaccianello
Featuring Giovanni Manetti, a vintage vertical of Flaccianello, and more

Wednesday, February 3, 2010
7:00-10:00 PM

Perhaps the most talked about wine of the historic 2006 Tuscan vintage is Flaccianello, but the legendary Super Tuscan wine that delivers the structure and longevity of a classic Brunello, has long been a staple in Italy’s cache of great wines. For this event, Fontodi winemaker, Giovanni Manetti will fly in to lead a vertical of Flaccianello and much more. Experience back vintage Flaccianello (’99,’95, ‘88) including the iconic 2006 release. Fontodi also crafts a highly regarded Chianti Classico that we will pour alongside their flagship Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo as well as other cult favorites.

Fontodi Wine Tasting:
Pinot Nero 2006
Syrah 2000
Chianti Classico 2006
Chianti Classico Riserva 1993
Vigna del Sorbo 2006
Flaccianello 2006
Flaccianello 1999
Flaccianello 1995
Flaccianello 1988 (magnum)
Vin Santo 2001

Click here for details.

Hospitality Wine Cellar Design

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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To the many fans of our website, we are happy to announce that we will be soon be introducing our new hospitality and design page to showcase our restaurant and hotel projects.

You will continue to see our ongoing residential projects for custom wine cellars and the many new exciting designs for our one-of-a-kind wine racks and wine storage. But here is a sneak preview of a recent restaurant project we completed.

Artisans Brewery & Italian Grill (formerly known as Basil T’s in Toms River, N.J.) sought out the design services of Joseph and Curtis Custom Wine Cellars to emphasize their new focus on wines. Artisans is known for their cigar room; the in-house brewery and the excellent food and service. Now, they wanted to be able to showcase their selections of excellent wine. We sat down with the Gregorakis family and put their ideas and our designs to paper.

We took advantage of four arched, open niches and created custom wine racks for the space.

With our bare hands, we custom made these wine cabinets at our shop and did the rest of the carpentry on site in phases. The custom crafted wine cabinets featured accent lighting, wine racks and glass doors .

The first phase was done in about one week, allowing the other areas of the restaurant to remain open. Once the two cabinets and niche spaces were completed with the new wine cabinets and double doors, we moved to the front space, which also took us about one week for the custom racks to be built and installed.

Customers continue to compliment the owners on the new, extensive wine list, showcased in the beautiful custom wine racks.

We highly recommend the cigar room (which we personally have tried several times) where you can eat dinner or just lounge on the leather couches and watch a ballgame.Next time you’re in the Tom’s River area, stop in for a great meal, fantastic wine selection and (if you indulge) step in to the humidor for a cigar at Artisans Brewery & Italian Grill.

Overall, the entire project was completed on time, on budget and as always the clients were delighted. We will be reviewing the wine list of Artisan’s and many other restaurants around the tri-state area on our new hospitality page which will be published January 1.

Bon Apetit!

Wine Soiree In-Bottle Aerator and Decanter

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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Joseph & Curtis are proud to introduce our friend Andrew Lazorchak, from Wine Soiree. After meeting Andrew and learning about his innovative in-bottle wine aerator and decanter, we had to bring him in for one of our famous Q&A blogs so our readers can learn more. We only work with people who are as passionate as we are about building wine cellars. So let’s get right to the conversation!

Where did the idea for Wine Soiree come from?

Soirée has been a happy-go-lucky story. The core to Soirée is the 3 partners (I’m one) which were all intrinsic, in their own right, to the development of Soirée.

At the crux of it, the genesis for Soirée came when I (Andrew Lazorchak) got the opportunity to design a home Wine Bar for long-time family friends, now business partners. That was in 2004, by 2005 we were sitting around the Wine Bar that I designed, and were drinking some Napa Cab.

My NYC cynical side was poking around at some of the accoutrements that they had received as gifts, one of which I gave to them. We started to talk about these wine accessories and how they helped wine, I was barely a wine novice at this time. And can you blame me, I was most baffled by a pewter Sea Horse that hangs in a decanter and agitates the wine as the wine gets poured in. Who thought of this?

Anyway, after a few more occasions at the bar and the ever-infamous cocktail napkin sketches (note I was/am an architect), we looked at each other and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to make our own.” And as I love to say, “3-years later, we were right, It’s a lot of fun!” The development of Soirée seems like it took a few weeks in hind-sight, but we spent 1 year and a half in development with our Factory. Personally, I was intrigued in the branding packaging, and stylization of a consumer good. And what was crucial, is that I had the capability and desire to do all of the 3-D modeling prototypes, graphics.

As a team we developed Soirée casually at nights for seven months. And ultimately we had designed a much more complex object then what we currently sell. It took us a bit to realize how fragile wine is, and that we had to respect the way wine is handled by an “aerator”. It was really fun though, and the fact that we all enjoyed the struggle and massive learning curve, keep in mind none of us have ever brought a product to market, made every little success that much bigger. And the reality of glass production was what really defined the ultimate design – we realized that glass can only do so much without costing a fortune. And we never considered plastic, we have always been adamant about glass, I will remain stunned at the amount of plastic wine aerators on the market.

How long has it been in existence?

We started in 2006 – we had our first samples in-hand by summer 2007 and sales waiting to go. We made our official debut in 2008 at the Boston Wine Expo – the biggest show in North America. (we sold out at that show and were located in the absolute back corner, it was awesome!)

I see Soirée called an aerator and a decanter?
(1) What’s the difference in the 2 names
(2) Why is it so important to decant?

Great questions:

(1) A decanter is traditionally used to remove sediment from wine. Soirée is truly an aerator – a device that rapidly and conveniently adds air to wine. As the vast majority of wines are clear fined (filtered), sediment is rarely an issue. And I find that most wines 8 years of age or older will start to give off sediment (Sediment is either residual from the winemaking process or is the chemical result of wine “melding” or aging. We mix up the terms, as most people intuitively get the idea of decanting to mean to air-out a wine.

(2) I just finished a wine show in Texas, and got this question from a lot of people, as Aeration is still a new concept to most people. My token answer goes as follows: Have you ever heard the expression, “You have to let the wine breathe.”? I ask this to a lot of people, and they all say, “ya.” So I point to a sealed bottle of wine and say that this bottle is hermetically sealed, devoid of oxygen. It has been in slumber for X years. Like everything else in our atmosphere it is activated by the presence of oxygen, and when you uncork the bottle, it is just now seeing oxygen. Like a bear coming out of hibernation or doing aerobics in the morning, you need to get oxygen going through its veins to allow the wine to come to life. That is the simple idea – the Soirée adds air – in turn it makes wine taste better. And to be thorough, I want people to know yes you can aerate all wines, even whites? Really, Whites? Yes!

My rule of thumb is any wine 8 years old or younger can handle aeration, if it’s older aerate to taste. That is a great thing about an aerator like Soirée – if you have drank half the bottle and the wine is drinking well you can always pull off the Soirée and finish the bottle normally. Soirée let’s you customize how much air you want in the wine, something you can not do with a decanter. And a fun fact is that 90% of all bottles are drunk within 24 hours of purchase, and young wines (despite some erroneous blogs) benefit MOST from aeration (ask a winemaker if they ever shook a wine bottle or put wine in a blender, they’ll all have a story about this.). And yes whites can benefit with aeration, white wines jump aromatically with aeration, and reds increase aromatically but more so have increased mid-palate expression and finesse on the finish. (this is a deep topic, as acidity, sediment, and wine structure are all factors, I could go on for a while and put most people to sleep with these details.)

You talk about Active Decanting vs Passive Decanting on your website, can you explain this more?

Well first off cheers for perusing our website! We also got praise from that awarded Soirée The Best Bet and gave us a nod for having passionate content. I am glad to know people are reading it!

Traditional decanting: The process was invented to “clear” the wine or pour the wine into a decanting vessel, leaving sediment in the bottle. The wine then sits and passively decants for a period of time. Soirée by its physics – causes the wine to open up every time you pour by having air bubbling up into the bottle (think of the glugging of milk). This bubbling takes place when the wine bottle is being poured Up-Side Down and air “glugs” up into the bottle.

Then, when the bottle is turned right-side up, the wine then sloshes back down mixing up the wine in the bottle. As a result – the wine in the bottle will get exposed to more oxygen with very pour – allowing the whole bottle to actively “decant” as you pour. And the sharp question here, is if one pours a glass or two with the Soirée is the bottle then safe to save for another day. The answer is yes, of course we always recommend that you finish the bottle (that’s our joking answer) but yes as long as you have better than a third of the bottle left, seal the bottle, refrigerate it, and even use an inert gas like Vineyard Fresh (these are the proper ways to store wine for max preservation), your wine will be good for a day or 5.

J&C is now a proud retailer of the Wine Soiree…whats the price?

$22.99 is your price as we agreed. We, Soirée, like to retail for $24.99 + S&H as we aim to not compete with our retailers. We love to give our retailers every advantage as they, like you, are our best advocates. (check it out in the Joseph & Curtis store)

What’s on the horizon for the soiree?

Global domination, just kidding, well, hopefully not. But from the get-go people have encouraged us to diversify and make variations on a theme. Even some of or our retailers are like – what miracle product are you going to invent next? We have decided to stay a single SKU company until we have the confidence that we are clearly the leader or a strong rival. I like to say if we can be what Pepsi is to Coke, I am cool with that, we just better be Pepsi or Coke. And you can bet we’ll work like rust until we are.

It’s hard enough to introduce one product to the world, why make more work? We have ideas “on the drawing board” that will compliment Soirée, and keep in mind I am an architect turned wine lover (mid-level sommelier), with a passion for branding. So you can bet we’ll do something involving design, brand, and wine – ya that’s vague. But honestly – this whole endeavor has been one lucky move to the next (supported by little sleep and lots of work), but if I were to guess I’d live in Napa Valley and be flying around the country selling Soirée back in 2007 when we started – I’d say you’re nuts but I am an “anything’s possible” kind of guy. So there will surely be new endeavors – but none that are going into action just yet.

What’s the funniest story about the soiree?

Hmmm, this question is a tough one. I am split on this answer, cause I’ll never stop getting funny names that people call Soirée and well the fact that we are doing so well stupefies me sometimes. But, you wouldn’t believe how many people come up to me at a tasting and ask, “Hey is that a Wine Bong?” and what makes this funny, is that they are commonly over the age of 60, – I love to retort, “What’s a bong?” They never expect that answer – and then we all laugh.

And then there’s who said in his review, ” The Soirée looks like a glass Christmas tree ornament, or a sex toy for the very, very adventurous. Or an elegant alien spacecraft for extraterrestrial fleas…Soirée does indeed seem to aerate the wine…” This review was before some other aerators came out, I’ll leave that one alone, but this was a hell of a review to read, not knowing Joe’s sense of humor – but without getting too mushy, the overall craziest thing is that we have made it happen – my business partners and I look at each other sometimes and say, “All this because of a glass ball.”

And we are not referring to money, we got time before this is paying mortgages. But such a novel, Yet Effective, product has enabled so much fun, opportunity, great employees, international distribution, and a lifestyle that most people mock me for. Ohh ya, my friends love to tease me, “Ohh work must have been real tough today, another wine tasting or “sales” in wine country.”

Ya, I get a lot of crap –but as Gary Vaynerchuk is promoting in “Crush It”– when work is 100% passion you don’t need a vacation and weekends don’t exist – and that is because you don’t need them – you are 100% happy with everything you do. And to my friends that call me a workaholic – they’re right – but they can’t say I am not having fun.

Thanks again for this opportunity to talk about Soirée, we are so excited for all of our growth and the many loyal fans and friends we have made along the way. We look forward to the coming years and thank every one that has helped make us what we are today. Try every wine you can, and drink every bottle like it is your last.

Well that wraps up our Q&A with Andrew Lazorchak, from Wine Soiree. We hope you enjoyed reading another edition of our blog – now go get your Wine Soiree from our store, it makes a great gift for the holidays! We can giftwrap it for you as well, check it out in our store.

Antonio Galloni at Zachy’s Nov 14th

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Check out what our friends at Zachy’s have going on tomorrow, definitely worth stopping by their store if you are in the area. Maybe you will want to pick up a case of wine for your wine cellar. If you haven’t taken your wine experience to that next level yet, check out our wine cellar design page for some ideas.

Enjoy the event at Zachy’s,

Antonio Galloni and Value Wines! Saturday, November 14 | 12-4pm | In-Store

Come join us this Saturday November 14th as we welcome Wine Advocate wine critic Antonio Galloni here at the store. Antonio called us a few weeks back as he was very excited for the release of the team’s new book – Parker’s Wine Bargains, The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25.00.

The release of this book could not be more timely as everyone is looking for the best bang for the buck in their daily wine purchases. Each of the The Wine Advocate’s critics has taken the time to isolate wineries/wines that consistently produce wines of superior quality in the under $25 category. They then take the time to point out recent vintages that are/will be available which gives the consumer an EXCELLENT reference tool to search through the thousands of selections from around the world.

This quick reference book is a must have for bargain hunters and will also make an excellent gift for the wine lovers in your life.

We have taken the time to carefully go through this new book and are very excited to welcome Antonio to the store this Saturday as we take a tour of the wine world to see what the Wine Advocate has sought out for us.

This will be a great opportunity for people to load up on values for Thanksgiving which is just a couple weeks away. We are tasting with Antonio over a DOZEN selections from the book!

Wine Tasting Rooms Gaining Popularity

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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As home wine cellars become more and more popular, wine tasting rooms are as well. A wine tasting room is simply a room set-up to enjoy your wine, food, and friends. It can become the main entertaining space in your home. It is also a room or space that isn’t 56 degrees like a wine cellar with a cooling system!

Some common features of a wine tasting room:

  • dishwashers for glass ware
  • cabinets for storage
  • wine racks for obvious reasons
  • custom built Joseph & Curtis walk-in humidor or desktop humidors
  • smoke-eaters to enjoy Room 101 Cigars
  • murals and paint finishes
  • tables
  • flat-screen and touch pad music control

All of these features make for some great nights in the tasting room! If there is not enough space to have a dedicated tasting room…try a barrel with a table top, or a bar. We have included some pictures and a video of our latest completed cellar…enjoy!


Wine Cellar Murals

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Joseph and Curtis is proud to announce our custom wine cellar mural division. All of our wine cellar fine art options are hand painted and created to the customer’s taste and dimensional needs.

These timeless masterpieces are created on canvas and they can be painted in acrylics or oils. Choose from our collection or simply send us any image idea. Custom artwork such as vineyard scenes and other wine motifs will be created around your specifications.

Our wine cellar paintings are often used in archways or any open space. They can also be framed. For those who prefer their wine cellar artwork painted directly on the walls, we have talented artists that will travel to paint murals worldwide. There will be additional costs to cover travel expenses depending on the location.

At Joseph and Curtis, we have always felt that there are many things that separate our wine cellar company from the rest, but one area we would like to highlight is our design team. From start to finish we can turn any space into a true masterpiece – regardless of budget or physical space.

Contact us now


Matt Booth Q & A

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Matt Booth is a good friend of Joseph & Curtis and someone we admire very much…he is a man who marches to his own beat and his quality of work is second to is a glimpse into the “Conspiracy”

“We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those that would do us harm”

J&C: That’s my favorite quote…so first things first: Much respect for your service to this GREAT nation…do you have a favorite quote?

I don’t do many quotes – one that stuck with me however, is from our man Benjamin Franklin“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both”

J&C: Tell us about your service to our country as a marine.

I served four years with 3/7 India Company in their Weapons platoon as a machine-gunner 0331 from ’96 – 2000. I made some of the best friends of my lifetime, and now several years later several of us work together surrounding Room101.

J&C: How does a marine become a jewelry designer?

That is an interesting question – the short version is….after I got out I moved directly to Hollywood proper to pursue music as a career – and started digging in to the insidious “industry” in general…

I was introduced to this style of crazy silver jewelery here in Hollywood and it took me from simply interested and intrigued – to obsessed and ultimately I am where I am today because of those earlier experiences here in LA.

J&C: Tell us about your feelings about a cause very dear to both our hearts, the Wounded Warrior Project.

The Wounded Warrior Project is an extremely vital program that focuses on raising aid for the guys and girls that are coming home severely injured as well as lobbying for new legislation that will help support those same soldiers and provide them with much needed care for their injuries. It is a cause that I support whole heatedly and I am utilizing the marketing campaign surrounding the launch of the Room101 cigar to help raise awareness for the cause. I urge everyone that has not already to log on to to learn more.

J&C: Tell us about what Room 101 is and about the Conspiracy.

Room101 is my baby, my brand and my life.

In my opinion (of course I could be somewhat biased) Room101 is the finest, and most fully comprehensive luxury lifestyle collection in existence. We pride ourselves on our jewelry design first and foremost of course – but we have expanded the collection with items ranging from travel accessories to custom instruments, custom vehicle collaborations, custom knives and of course as you may be aware, cigars…. Room101 is something I live and breathe.

The Conspiracy began as my middle finger to the world – to let the nay-sayers know that this brand is for real.Since its inception, the Conspiracy has grown to include other believers and supporters who understand what we are doing, connect with our philosophy on a deeper level, and contribute their own talents to our mission. I like to think of the Conspiracy as our own “by invitation only” club. The momentum has grown to the point where we are now approached by people asking if they can be a part of it.

J&C: Describe your style in four words.

1. I
3. TO

J&C: What’s an average day for Matt Booth?

My days are anything but average. Everything changes on a day to day basis, depending on the needs of the brand. People have a perception that this is all glitz and glamor because they see the final product. However, few people realize the hard work and long hours that go into what I do on a daily basis. Now that we have added the cigar brand, my responsibilities are twice as great and my time is more in demand than ever. Everyday I wake up ready for all of it. I am blessed that I am able to work for myself and the future of the Room101 family.

J&C: Eddie Bauer had the Ford Explorer…I am thinking a Matt Booth F-16?

It’s funny you would bring up airplanes…lately I have been itching to Room101 out a private jet interior….now I just need the plane.

J&C: I know you work with a couple chopper builders…do u ride?

I grew up riding dirt bikes – and the Room101 bobber is going to hit the streets of LA 2010.

J&C: What’s your favorite place to chill?

To be honest with you – the ability to chill has eluded me for the past few years. I would have to say lately it would be the deck on my pad in Hollywood with a good cigar and my Chihuahua.

J&C: Tell us about the cigar launch…and where can someone buy them AND what makes a good cigar?

From what I hear it’s nothing short of a success. The Room101 cigar can be purchased most anywhere fine Camacho products are sold. It’s a killer smoke – go out and get you some!

J&C: Would you ever consider lending your Room 101 flavor to a humidor for us or one of our clients?

Of course..It would be my pleasure my man…I am always looking to take on projects that are new and interesting. I’m looking forward to the first Room101 walk in humidor project with Joseph & Curtis.

J&C: Where can our readers learn more about Room 101?

Needless to say, Matt Booth is the real deal and fights for what he believes in, doesn’t let anything get in his way. We all can learn a lesson from Matt and the Room 101 Conspiracy – party hard, work harder!

Room 101 and Camacho sent us 2 boxes of Room 101 cigars that we will review at the Joseph & Curtis Fan Page on Facebook, Become a Fan to keep in touch!

Matt, thanks again for the interview, we wish you NOTHING BUT SUCCESS and look forward to collaborating on some killer projects with Room 101.


Erik Weihenmayer Q & A

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Erik Weihenmayer is someone we can all marvel in. It’s very easy to be inspired by all of Erik’s amazing accomplishments, but what I admired most was his sense of humor, and his work ethic. Everyone might not make it to the top of Everest, but we can all summit our own personal Everest by using adversity as the fuel to our fire.

Erik Weihenmayer climbing in Thailand.
Erik Weihenmayer climbing in Thailand. (Photo credit: Charley Mace)

Now let’s talk with Erik…about wine…about adventure…about dealing with adversity.

Do you have a favorite wine?

I especially enjoy Shiraz, an Australian red which may be the country’s highest profile wine. Someone told me the grape first came to Australia from the Rhone area of France many years ago.

Do wine and skiing mix?

Sure they mix, but only after you’re done skiing! And I have a rule: when guiding, no drinking.

Erik skiing in the Alps
Erik skiing in the Alps

You have just returned from Istanbul. What did you do there?

I had two speaking engagements, with Pepsi/Frito Lay and with P&G, but then I climbed Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey, where Noah’s Ark is supposed to be buried. We didn’t find it, but we did find the summit. It was much colder than expected for this time of year. Heavy snow had covered the high mountain, and for my team, the climbing was a little treacherous. Luckily, though, trekking in snow is much easier for me. There are few rocks and mini-boulders to avoid, and you simply slog your way to the top. We climbed with three Iranians, mountaineers we have been in contact with for several years. One has translated my book, “Touch the Top of the World,” into Farsi, and is now working to get it approved by a special committee which reviews all books and films for the Iranian market, so that it can be published.

Please tell us the Australian champagne story.

Kosciuzsko, the tallest peak in Australia at 7,200 feet, was more a bump than a mountain – by far the easiest of the Seven Summits. The real work of Mt. Everest, as well as my five other continental summits, was behind us. We figured Kosciuzsko was only a ceremonial walk to the finish line to complete my seven-year quest. When I told a local Aussie of our plans, he responded, “Ah! What a lovely stroll. I did it with my dog last summer.” We planned interviews over a satellite feed to news programs around the world for the historic moment I finished. We even had a bottle of champagne along with us for a celebratory toast at the top.

Erik (4th to right) and team celebrates on the top of Kosciuszko by popping a champagne cork in a strong wind.
Erik (4th to right) and team celebrates on the top of Kosciuszko by popping a champagne cork in a strong wind.

However, it seems that whenever we finally let up and assume something will be easy, we are presented with a dramatic reminder that life involves suffering. Climbing my Seventh Summit felt like a mini-version of the Odyssey, as if the winds had been unleashed against us. From the moment we arrived at Kosciuzsko during the Australian spring, a series of huge low-pressure systems, half the size of the continent, repeatedly dumped snow over the mountain. The winds near the top roared at eighty miles per hour. After waiting five days for the weather to clear, and with no improvement in sight, we made the decision to go for it. What match would little Kosciuzsko be against hardened mountaineers who had summited the tallest mountains in the world?

Only a half hour out of the parking lot, as the howling wind roared down the slopes and drove hard bullets of ice directly into our faces, I was already questioning the wisdom of continuing. One of my teammates was actually lifted up by the wind and sent sliding 100 yards down the snow slope. When he waved up that he was fine, and we knew he wasn’t hurt, we all let out a relieved laugh.

It seemed like the winds had focused their attention on our team, because next I was struck by a tremendous gust. The wind flung me back into Eric Alexander, who was right behind me, and we both went down in a pile. We were a tangled heap of arms and legs as we slid twenty feet down the hard-packed slope before Eric managed to dig his ice axe into the ice and stop us.

As we got above the tree line, we were faced with an indistinct wind-scoured landscape, made even more disorienting by the blizzard. Jeff Evans took the lead and had to navigate with a compass. For three hours, we wandered around through the whiteout looking for the actual summit.

Finally, after trudging up a last snow face, with the wind fighting us at every step, Jeff described to me the truck-sized boulder layered in ice that signified my Seventh Summit. It took four of us holding tightly to our banner to pull it out of my pack and hoist it for a few summit shots as the wind tried to rip it away. Then, sticking stubbornly to our summit celebration, we popped open the bottle of champagne. The cork sailed away, zinging, I assume, past all seven continents on its way down. As I took a drink, the fierce wind tipped the neck of the bottle, caught the liquid, and plastered half the contents across my face and Gore-Tex suit. The irony wasn’t lost on us. This summit, typically host to T-shirt clad tourists, young children, and dogs, was doing its best to blow us off the mountain. In fact, of my Seven Summits, little Kosciuzsko’s brutal winds topped them all. Nothing else was even close.

If I had confronted that kind of adversity on my first summit, it might have sapped my will to even attempt the others. But along the journey, my tolerance for suffering had expanded, and by the time we reached Kosciuzsko’s summit, all we could do was laugh. In fact, we must have all looked like lunatics, covered in frozen champagne and braced together against the hurricane-force gale as we howled with laughter. Lovely Kosciuzsko had done everything in its power to make our experience as memorable as our ascents of far bigger mountains. Instead of a ceremonial stroll to the finish line, we had to work for every inch—and our accomplishment made us proud. (Excerpts from Erik’s “The Adversity Advantage.”)

Is it easier to be adventurous being blind?

Probably yes, because every day and every experience is an adventure for me. When I walk from my home into town, it can become an adventure. One day, I was going with my guidedog to the local gym. We got to a place in the road where I knew the gym was straight ahead. But Wizard would not budge. Irritated, I commanded him, “Forward,” but when I stepped forward it was into a fairly deep pool of water. So, I went home to change my sneakers and then started out again.

Erik on a rock overhanging the sea in Thailand.
Erik on a rock overhanging the sea in Thailand.

As I learned to live as a blind person, I realized that blindness truly makes life a big adventure, and that’s how I try to look at it. Sure, there are frustrations, but more often than not, if you take a step back and look at the situation, one should probably just laugh. So, you have a choice. You can either let adversity crush you, as it does many people, or you can use its energy to propel you on the pathway to your dreams.

How amazing was climbing Everest?

Most people focus on me being the only blind person to summit Everest, but the even better story is that 18 of my teammates stood on the top that day as well, which is the most climbers from a single team to summit Everest in a single day. We had no superstars, just good solid climbers, but there was tremendous cohesiveness around the vision of helping a blind person to stand on top of the world.

Looking across the final section of the southeast ridge towards the Hillary Step and the summit of Mt. Everest. (Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck)
Looking across the final section of the southeast ridge towards the Hillary Step and the summit of Mt. Everest. (Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck)

I could have been standing there alone. Instead, and much better, was standing with all my teammates who have made this feat possible. Time Magazine called it perhaps the greatest team to ever climb on Everest, which is the ultimate compliment.

Erik on the cover of Time Magazine.
Erik on the cover of Time Magazine.

How did you get involved with speaking?

Shortly after my climb of Mt. McKinley in Alaska in 1995, which was the first of my continental summits, we started getting inquiries about movie and book rights, tv shows and magazine articles, and speaking engagements, mostly from non-profits and schools.

My dad was serving as my manager (he still is), and he arranged 8 talks at private schools in one week.

Erik and his dad Ed work together building his speaking business,  writing books and producing films embodying his message.
Erik and his dad Ed work together building his speaking business, writing books and producing films embodying his message.

Even the small speaking fees represented huge money to me then, but it was really a tough road, because by the 5th or 6th presentation I honestly couldn’t remember whether I had already told them the story I was about to share. From there, it just grew, mostly by referrals and good testimonials. Now I am speaking around the world, occasionally sharing platforms with people like Secretary Colin Powell, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Prime Minister Tony Blair and other heads of state.

Even my corporate talks, though, have had their ups and downs. My very first presentation at a big conference for a Fortune 500 firm was at AT&T. Twelve hundred people were packed into the auditorium. I was given a glowing introduction, and was warming the audience up with a few stories which had them laughing and cheering. I was just ready to plunge into the real message when a loud alarm interrupted my presentation.. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, until I heard people getting up from their seats and exiting the room. Then I realized it was a fire alarm drill, and I went outside with the conference head. We didn’t begin filing back in for 30 minutes. My momentum was doused. Cold water had been thrown on my flow.

With all of the inspirational people you have been around, do any stories stand out?

When I was 12, I was watching a TV show called That’s Incredible. I could still see a little out of one eye, though I had to crane forward just a few inches away from the set. Being featured that night was an athlete named Terry Fox. Terry had lost a leg to cancer and, when not yet discharged from the hospital, made a decision to run across Canada from east to west. With my nose pressed up against the screen and with tears pouring down my face, I watched Terry run. The miles took a tremendous toll on his amputated leg and its primitive prosthetic. He hobbled along mile after mile, fighting the pain of blisters and raw skin, often using a pair of crutches to propel his body forward.

Erik on the last pitch of his climb of El Capitan's 3000-foot vertical face.
Erik on the last pitch of his climb of El Capitan’s 3000-foot vertical face.

What struck me most was the look on his face. It was a look of extreme contradiction: full of exhaustion, yet radiant with exaltation. In his thin face was the trace flicker of an intense internal light that burned power into his struggling frame. The image filled my sagging spirit and gave me a feeling of utter courage. Many would have retreated from such hardship, but—surprisingly—Terry faced it head-on and literally ran into its midst. It was while staring into Terry’s face that I first wondered how we could harness that great storm of adversity swirling around us and use its power to make ourselves stronger and better. (Excerpt from “The Adversity Advantage.”)

With all of your accomplishments, what drives you to continue on these adventures?

I love the adventure itself, to be sure, and the pleasure of working with teammates to accomplish stretch goals, but what drives me most is the discovery process, the innovation necessary to do something which the world sees as impossible but which I know in my heart is truly possible. After I began climbing big mountains, I wanted to become a better rock climber. Some said that a blind guy may be able to slog it out on a steep slope, but feeling for holds up a vertical rock face was too difficult, even impossible. But faces are tactile, and using my hands and feet as my eyes, I climbed steep faces such as The Nose of El Capitan, 3000 feet of overhanging rock. But when I thought about ice climbing, critics claimed that ice faces were smooth and you had to discern the good ice and see precisely where to plunge your ice tool…but I learned how to tap the ice with my tool and use the pitch to tell me about the quality of the ice. Later, I climbed Polar Circus, a 3300-foot vertical ice waterfall in the Canadian Rockies, in 11 hours. As in other ventures, I learned that there are many ways to climb a mountain, and that sight is helpful but not indispensable.

Tell us about your work with the school systems?

It is important that our young people learn to dream big. They need to get passionate about something, and then work to surmount the obstacles that stand between them and their dreams. So I spend a lot of time in schools and colleges sharing this message, using my own life experiences as a practical example. I love to go to a campus, show one of my films to students, parents, faculty and the community in the evening, then share my story in a formal presentation with videos and slides the next morning. It is rewarding to know the school is abuzz with a message about overcoming adversity. We have held city-wide school programs in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, where thousands of students from tens of schools read my “Touch the Top of the World” and then came together in a central venue to hear my message. I wish we could take this program to more cities and schools across the country. The Touch the Top message needs to reach today’s youth.

What is your favorite food and any story about it?

My best and worst are both from Nepal, where I have spent a lot of time climbing. Momos, Nepalese dumplings, are at the top of my list. Fortunately, there are several Nepalese restaurants where I live in Golden, so I can still enjoy them back here at home. At the other end of the spectrum is dhalbot, a bean dish which is a staple for our Sherpa guides in the mountains. Dhalbot has been my nemesis – and my teammate’s – in the Himalayas. In fact, every time I think about dhalbot, even now, I get this sick feeling in my stomach.

Anything exciting on the horizon?

There are many mountains still to climb, including the 53 Fourteeners in Colorado (I have summited only 30 of them). I may climb Damavand in Iran with my Iranian friends, if the authorities approve. I am investigating biking across the Salt Flats in Nevada. And I may return to ski the Haute Route, from Mt. Blanc in France to the Matterhorn in Switzerland at elevations above 10,000 feet; last Spring, my team had to make an emergency descent on Day 4 because of a severe snow storm and avalanche dangers, so the Haute Route remains “unfinished business.” The north face of the Eiger, a classic in the Alps, is a near-term target.

Erik doing figure 8's on a practice ski.
Erik doing figure 8’s on a practice ski.

And next year, I hope to climb the Moose’s Tooth near McKinley in Alaska, which is known for its stark vertical walls, elevator-shaft like couloirs and razorblade ridges. There are no “walk-ups” on this mountain.

How can one obtain a copy of any of your books or dvd’s?

Go to my website,, not only for video clips and articles, but also to order “Touch the Top of the World” or “The Adversity Advantage,” or our films in dvd. Teachers and students will want to look at the Education section of the website, which includes a curriculum guide for “Touch the Top of the World” for use in classrooms, plus other educational materials.

How insane was Primal Quest?

In retrospect, very insane. Those who said that my team and I would not get beyond the first day were close to being right. Primal Quest is the most brutal adventure race in the world: for us, 9 days, 467 miles, 60,000 feet of elevation gain, no time outs. We were one of only 42 teams of 80 elite teams from around the globe to finish within the prescribed time, but it was a huge struggle. Our worst enemy was the sleep monsters, because we only got an hour or two of sleep each night. Jeff Evans, my tandem partner, and I took turns falling alseep on our mountain bike. I was a 5th grade teacher at the time, and began hearing my school children cheering me on from the sidelines, before realizing they couldn’t be there in the mountains at midnight. Jeff, on the other hand, felt goblins and trolls biting his toes. He had been to 107 Grateful Dead concerts.

Erik and Jeff biking a mountain course on Primal Quest.
Erik and Jeff biking a mountain course on Primal Quest.

Who are the people you credit with getting you where you are?

There are so many: my Braille teacher, Ms. Murin, who insisted, sometimes with a heavy hand, that I learn Braille…. fortunately; the Carroll Center who the Blind, which bravely introduced a bunch of us blind kids to rock climbing; Sam Bridgham, a fellow teacher and climber in Phoenix who challenged me to climb something bigger, which led to McKinley; Jeff Evans, my principal adventure partner who has summited more mountains with me than any other climber, who was prepared to sacrifice his own Everest summit by setting ropes for me on the steep slopes at 28,000 feet; amazingly, he got a second wind and stood with me on the top. But my parents were the broom and dustpan, my dad continually sweeping me out into the world of adventure, working with me to find ways to do things which blind kids didn’t do; and my mom who, when I finally crashed, would pick up all the pieces, and put me back together again with TLC, until my dad would sweep me out again.

In walking away from our interview with Erik Weihenmayer, I find myself wanting to be a better man…and to try just a little harder at everything I do…and above all else…to NEVER take a moment for granted.

Thank you Erik.


Garage to Wine Cellar Conversion

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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Most people assume that wine cellars are in the , well, you know- cellar, but at Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars we are always looking for innovative places to create a custom wine cellar. We are doing more and more wine cellars and custom wine racks on the main living level from new construction where an entire room is specified by the architect near the kitchen or dining room to retro-fitting a wine cellar into an existing (and underused) butlers pantry which we completed recently in Holmdel, NJ – watch for upcoming blog.

The garage project however was a first. We were contacted by the homeowner Phil who told us ‘ it doesn’t have to be elegant or fancy, but it does need to store and organize as many bottles as the space will allow’ and will need a wine cellar cooling system that will maintain my collection at 56 degrees’ for his extensive wine collection.

We met Phil and surveyed the room he had in mind, an approx 10’x10′ annex to the garage that would be a perfect space for a wine cellar once the room was prep ed with the proper vapor barrier and insulation. We designed the space for maximum storage and were able to give Phil upwards of 1800 bottles! A space that might otherwise be full of old lawn chairs, fishing rods and rusty bicycles has been transformed into a wine lovers tour of France, California, Italy, South America etc.

Fancy or not we still produced beautiful Redwood custom wine racks and Phil loved the display rows we gave him that allows him to easily locate the wine he is looking for since you can see the label and the bulk storage above and below that bottle for wines he stores a quantity of.

Phil loves gardening and has a massive vegetable garden and commented that the cellar would be a perfect environment to store his canned harvest. So if you happen to be wandering through Phil’s cellar don’t be surprised if you see a mason jar sitting proudly beside a ’86 Mouton Rothschild.

Hmmm, which wine do we drink with the pickled beets?


Gettin a little ‘Rough&Tough’ with blues legend John Hammond

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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We meet lots of interesting people designing and building wine cellars. From the wine makers themselves to professional baseball players and while John Hammond is not a customer, he has taught me many things about wine. John first noticed one of our custom wine racks at a small dinner party we had and a wine conversation naturally followed.

John & his wife Marla are fantastic cooks who can get everything from slow-smoked bbq to refined Italian on the table and it was a mutual love of food & wine that first brought my wife & I and John & Marla together.

We have been friends for nearly 10 years and one thing we have learned is John is constantly touring and so whenever we have the chance to get together to cook, drink wine and catch up, we do.

This evening was great. Standing Rib Roast, Soft Shell Crabs and a chance to sample John’s new record- Rough & Tough (Chesky Records). Curt came by and we sat on the patio, ate, drank wine and enjoyed some of the best blues that is currently being recorded.

Rough&Tough is John Hammond at his best. If you are a hardcore John Hammond fan, this record reminds you why you are. If you don’t know John’s music, but wonder why John has the reputation he does, listen to Rough&Tough and you won’t wonder any longer.

Check out the CD at CD Universe

Its tough to pry John away from his big California Cabernets but we went all Italian while we ate and listened to the new record thanks to some fantastic selections from Italian Wine Merchants NYC. Rough & Tough was recorded at St. Peters Episcopal Church in New York City by David & Norman Chesky (Marla co-produced) on the Super Audio Format and the sound is stunning.

Beginning with ‘My Mind is Ramblin’ to John re-visiting ‘Get Behind the Mule’ from his Grammy nominated Wicked Grin CD we were treated to some of the purest, most honest blues that you will hear anywhere. John bends the strings on his Guild 12-String playing ‘Statesboro Blues’ and beats up his National Steel guitar all over this record.

Rough & Tough is as good as it gets.


Man Cave – Yankees and Wine

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

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We recently had the pleasure of converting a closet into a wine cellar in New Jersey. The customer then asked if we could paint a mural in the arch of the wine cellar, which led to a conversation about the homeowners basement.

He asked if we could turn the basement into a real “man cave” so we discussed a general theme (New York Yankees with a wine tasting area), but other than that we had great flexibility. Once the demo was complete we decided on a raised panel theme with antique paint finish (to make the room look as if it had been there a long time) .

We also decided on walnut wine racks and a distressed plaster wall finish. We then added a wine barrel tasting table with bar style leather chairs to match the custom pool table. We then arranged some of the owners NY Yankee photos and added a few of our own.

We had our friend Paul O’Neill sign a personal note to the homeowners (BIG fans) and the NY Yankee pool table light. The television was hung on the wall with 2 Yankee photos left and right as well as a walnut cabinet to hide the components. The basement was a tremendous success as the homeowners loved it and so did we.

We also included a NY Yankees engraved humidor (from our cigar room) which every man cave needs! (other teams available)

Some day we may even do their whole first floor and kitchen! Hmmmm…stay tuned for more.


Paul O’Neill Wine Cellar Q &A

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Words do not describe how excited we were to work with Paul O’Neill. As a life long New York Yankee fan it was and is a dream come true.

There are 3 players that I have always told my kids to look up to: Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon (once he became a Yankee because of his Wounded Warrior work) and Paul O’Neill.

Paul played the game with such passion and was the epitome of what I call a “gamer.” I highly recommend reading his book called Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir by Paul O’Neill, with Burton Rocks. His memories are treats to Yankee stories, hometown tales, and valuable insights into what has made him the person he is today, all of it shaped by his relationship with his father.

So let’s start the Q&A with Paul O’Neill …

What do you think of this year’s NY Yankee team?

“They are right there in the toughest division in MLB. They have a lot to live up to with the new stadium and signing three of the top five free agents. Let’s face it, Yankee fans expect them to win it all. September will decide everything. They have to get away from the injury bug. It has really added up these last two years but great teams play through adversity and find a way.”

How is your retirement going?

“Great. I don’t miss traveling so much. I do miss the pinstripes. In golf, etiquette is a little different when you get frustrated but I have chucked a few clubs when it starts driving me crazy. I don’t feel retired with the golf events, broadcasting, kids and charity. They all keep me busy.”

When did you start getting into wine?

“In about 2001 when I felt my playing career should end.”

What are your favorite wines?

“Silver Oak, Insignia, Von Strasser Strauss, Prisoner.”

Ever thought of owning your own vineyard?

“A lot of wine drinkers have fantasies of it. My father came from a farm family and always told me how the work never ends and since a vineyard is a form of farming, I think I better let others and just enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

Are you enjoying the wine cellar?

“I love it. It’s sort of like my space in my house. A special place where others have to be asked in. Sort of like my treehouse as an adult.”

How often do you entertain in the cellar?

“Not too often and usually just one on one. Mine is not big enough to have a table or bunch of chairs.”

What was your most memorable Yankee moment?

“Game five of the 2001 World Series was certainly up there. The fans spontaneously chanting without being prompted by the scoreboard. I felt like it all had come together, my father, baseball, the fans thanking me when nine years before, I had a lot of doubts about making it in New York. Who would have ever imagined we’d become the greatest baseball dynasty since the 50s Yankees? We beat the best team in the National League, the Braves, eight World Series games in a row. We won 14 straight World Series games. If teams entered the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown would be right to have the 90s Yankees high on their list.”

How many Gatorade coolers have you destroyed?

“None. I just tuned some up but they still worked.”

Tell us about Right Field Charities on your website at

“We just started it a couple years ago. Basically we serve other charities that serve children with money and memorabilia to their auctions. We seek to serve children, the heart of baseball which I owe much gratitude to. I also don’t like seeing people who work for charities pay themselves four and five times what the average person makes in America. If you want to be paid like that, go into private industry and take the risks others take. So we try to be careful of whom we give to. There are great charities out there and there are lemons. We do our best to distinguish. More than anything, whether a person gives to Right Field or someone else, it’s to send a message that the world needs you to help. You don’t have to be famous or wealthy to qualify. You just have to be there. Do something. Contribute. One day we’d like to build a beautiful park full of diamonds that kids can play great baseball in even if they can’t afford it. I’d like to dedicate it to my father who played, coached and spectated his whole life for almost no financial gain to him. He probably spent more money buying kids milkshakes than he ever made playing in the minor leagues. That could steer a lot of kids onto the right path. Give them a sense of belonging. It is a long process. Nobody at RFC even takes a paycheck right now. But the charity world is competitive in itself. A lot of organizations compete for available funds.”

Are there any events coming up?

“Yes. There is one in the works. So many people have written in asking about it. We will send notices to our fan club mailing list which can be found at

I heard you may have a special event at Italian Wine Merchants.

“Yes, that is in the works. These events are hard to schedule because when I’m in NY, the days are very busy because I don’t reside there anymore. We have to fit everything in in just a couple days and you never know about rain outs, extra innings. But we’ll get it together.”

Do you prefer white or red wine?

“Red. I don’t like a lot of sweetness in wine. Dry is good for me.”

What is your favorite wine story?

“Going to Italy and discovering I loved the super Tuscans more than the French wines.”

Who is your favorite band?

“The Stones and then Kenney Chesney. Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp are up there too.”

Are you still playing the drums?

“Yes, but I’m being eclipsed by my two boys. I can’t sing so I don’t know where I’d sit if we formed a band.”

Do you miss NYC?

“Of course. It’s a place where you could never see everything or know everything about. I don’t miss the traffic but living there full-time was certainly a high point in my life with priceless memories.”

Once a date is set for the IWM event, Joseph and Curtis Custom Wine Cellars will auction off a wine racking system to help our friend Paul O’Neill with his charity Right Field Charities. Please stay tuned for dates to this awesome event. I have to say I always loved seeing “Paulie” in the
pinstripes…but he looks DAMN good in a J & C shirt!!