David Ransom Drink Explore INSPIRE Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Distilling’s Whisky Master – Dave Pickerell

David Pickerell. Photo by David Handschuh
David Pickerell. Photo by David Handschuh

There’s probably nobody in the world today with a better handle on the pulse of the whisky industry than Dave Pickerell.


A veteran of the industry, Dave has spent a career moving the craft of making whisky forward through his knowledge and expertise in distilling. First at Makers Mark, where as Master Distiller for 14 years, he was in charge of making sure that the legacy of the Samuels family’s 19 barrel-at-a-time distillation recipe was kept true, and then as head of Oak View Consulting, the company he founded upon his departure from Makers Mark to help bring his distilling expertise to the budding craft spirits industry.


Some of his projects, like Vermont’s Whistle Pig and Hillrock Estate in New York State’s Hudson Valley, are game changers. Others, like Old Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg Tennessee, which he also helped start, are more mainstream. However, all are close to his heart, as they’ve, with his input, helped revive an industry that had been lost after the temperance movement essentially shut down regional spirits production just under 100 years ago.


Hillrock Estate Distillery in New York's Hudson Valley
Hillrock Estate Distillery in New York’s Hudson Valley

One of this favorite projects may be the re-birth of the Distillery at Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s Virginia homestead. Our first President made whisky on the property during his lifetime there, but the distillery was shut down and dismantled after his death. When the Trust decided to re-create it, they tapped Dave, a West Point grad by the way, to help research and build it again.

George Washington Distillery by Zzzzt!Zzzzt!
George Washington Distillery. photo by Zzzzt!Zzzzt!

At any given time, Dave has about 20 projects in the works worldwide, some he helps start and then moves on from, others, like Whistle Pig and Hillrock, he continuously works with, creating new product lines while acting as Master Distiller. Regardless of his role in any given product he oversees, Dave’s input and knowledge in the whisky business is unmatched.

Hillrock Estate Whiskies

We welcome Dave to The Connected Table LIVE! On Wednesday April 27 to chat whisky, Whistle Pig, and his incredible achievements at Hillrock Estate, America’s first whisky made from all estate-grown grain.

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
David Ransom Drink Explore INSPIRE Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Drinking Aloha: Carta Coffee’s Scott Burr

A lot of people yearn to get into the wine business, where aside from the pretty hard work (winemaking is not romantic, only drinking wine is), a life of good food, good wine, travel, and mostly beautiful surroundings carry the day, pretty much every day. It’s rare, however, to find someone who leaves it. Carta Coffee Merchants Founder Scott Burr is one of those people.

A longtime member of the wine industry, Scott grew up in a agriculturally focused family that had grown grapes and farmed its Northern California land for generations. Always interested in wine and winemaking, Scott eventually got a degree in enology from Fresno State before embarking on a 20+ year career as a consultant in the California wine industry, mostly in Sonoma

Yet, for Scott, something was missing and he yearned for a place he could plant his feet on the ground and get back to what really interested him: farming. It was on trips to Hawaii that he had started to gain interest in coffee, in particular, the coffee grown in Kona, and he eventually bought an abandoned coffee farm. Working with the region’s top consultant, third generation grower and coffee guru George Yasuda, Scott started planting new coffee plants, and Nolyssa Coffee Farm was born.

Carta Coffee Merchants, Scott’s new brand, is a small-production coffee grower/roaster where everything is done the old fashioned way, from hand-tending of the orchards to how the beans are processed and finished. Maybe not the easiest way to do it, but it makes for very good coffee, and along the way Scott has realized his dream to get back to the land in a way that stimulates not just his mind and bloodstream, but also his sense of well-being.

So, what makes Kona coffee one of the world’s most sought after cups? Or, more importantly, what makes someone give up a career in the wine industry to start a coffee farm in Kona on the Island of Hawaii? We visited with Scott at Alyssa Farms on April 20th for a firsthand look and taste. Here's the permanent link to our show.  Or, cut and paste this link:

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South Africa’s Simonsig Wine Estate – Johan Malan


The View from Simonsig. Photo: Michael Oliver, South Africa


legal_logoSouth Africa has a winemaking industry that dates back to the 1600s, and the Malan family, whose Simonsig Wine Estate in that country’s renowned Stellenbosch region in the Cape Winelands is one of the most recognized names in the world of wine, helped create it.

Grape growers in South Africa since Jacques Malan first planted vines in 1688. The Malan family has been involved in the wine industry on many levels in the ensuing years, and Simonsig, which takes its name from the region’s Simonsig Mountain range, in whose foothills descendent Frans Malan planted a vineyard in De Hoop in the 1950s, has made a name for not only itself, but for the entire country by consistently making exemplary wines from South Africa’s star grape varietals, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

While Chenin Blanc, one of the world’s great white varietals, is grown most notably in the Loire valley in France, it seems to have found a second home in Stellenbosch, where wineries have been bringing out beautifully crafted versions for many years. Simonsig’s Chenin Blanc is one of the benchmarks. They also make a barrel fermented Chenin, a rarity for that varietal, but a stunner of a wine that breaks the stereotype that Chenin can’t stand up to extended time in oak.

The view in Stellenbosch

Another varietal, and one that helped put South Africa on the map, is Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, it is a grape unique to South Africa, and was “invented” there in the 1920s and then forgotten for many years until it was rediscovered and propagated on a commercial level. Loved by some, dismissed by others, Pinotage makes an interesting wine, medium to full bodied, with interesting notes of spice, earthiness, and smoke. Yet, it’s the polarizing character of acetone or paint, which tends to

drive the discussion on it, though to be honest, a well made Pinotage such as the consistently award-winning ones made by Simonsig are beautiful wines and can not only stand the test of competition, but can age and stand the test of time, as well.

Wines_2Simonsig makes many other wines, as well. Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz, and the Bordeaux varietals all grow well in South Africa’s Cape where no vineyards are very far from the moderating influence of the Oceans that surround it. There are also a handful of world class sparking wines made – another Simonsig innovation, as they were the first winery to make what is called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle)

wines back in the 1970s.

For all the wonderful wines being made in South Africa, There still seems to be a bit of a disconnect with the American consumer, maybe due to the location (it’s a 20 hour flight at least). Yet the wines are world class, and only getting better. Simonsig, with its long history in the region and wonderful wines, continues to lead the way.

Johan Malan- Winemaker
Johan Malan of Simonsig

We welcome Johan Malan to The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday April 13th to speak about his family’s winemaking legacy and get his take on the wines being made there that are making South Africa one of the most exciting places in the wine world these days.

David Ransom Drink Explore Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Tawny Times with Port’s George Sandeman

“Sandeman Don” created in 1928 by George Massoit Brown, is one of the world’s first branding images


Think about this fact: every minute, 18 bottles of Sandeman wine are sold. That’s just under 26,000 bottles per day, or somewhere north of 9 million bottles per year.

One of the truly iconic names in the world of wine, the Sandeman family started trading

in Port and Sherry in 1790 and is considered one of the first global wine brands, with exports to 75 countries. Sandeman was one of the first to put its name on its barrels and advertise its wines as coming from the House of Sandeman. It was also one of the first companies, in any industry, to trademark its name, in 1877, making Sandeman the brand, one of the oldest actual brands in the world.

Along the way, Sandeman has created a legacy of ideas on branding and marketing that have cemented its reputation as a leader in an industry that has seen the star of fortified wines tested at times due to globalization of the winemaking world and also the changing palate of the consuming public.

Also a producer of Sherry, Brandy, and Madeira, Sandeman is something of a fortified wine specialist, and while Sandeman does make Vintage Port when vintages are declared (their latest offering is the stunning 2011), its strength lies in the more approachable (and affordable) styles such as Tawnies, Rubies, and aged blends such as its iconic 10 and 20 year old ports.

Aging Room at Sandeman Port in Vila Nova de Gaia
The Aging Room at Sandeman Port in Vila Nova de Gaia

These days Sandeman is part of the Sogrape Vinhos company, Portugal’s leading family-owned wine company, and 7th Generation family member George Sandeman serves as its Director of Public Relations and family Ambassador.

Sr. George Thomas David Sandeman (86)
George Thomas David Sandeman

George Joins us on The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday April 13 to discuss his family’s remarkable legacy in the wine industry, and his vision for the future of fortified wines.


Betony’s Chef Bryce Shuman – Life Outside “The Park”

Betony, 41 West 57th Street in NYC

Restaurants come (and go) at a pretty fast clip in New York City, one of the world’s great dining capitals. Some do so without much fanfare, some do so with lots of it. Betony, which opened in 2013 in midtown Manhattan, is one of the latter.

The brainchild of Chef Bryce Shuman and partner Eamon Rockey, who oversees the front of the house, Betony was


an immediate hit with diners and critics alike, receiving three stars from the New York Times, and won the title of Esquire Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year honor its first year, a Michelin star in 2015, and in 2016, a Beard Awards nomination for Best New Restaurant.

Best New Chefs Class of 2015, Shuman Seated in front


Shuman, a North Carolina native who had honed his skills under Wolfgang Puck’s team at Postrio in San Francisco and then under Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park, was also thrust into the realm of NYC’s chef cognoscenti, and was tapped as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2015.

Betony’s cuisine is at once comforting and very sophisticated, a stylistic ode perhaps to Shuman’s six years at Eleven Madison, where Humm’s cuisine bears some of the same characteristics. Yet, Betony’s menu is clearly all Shuman, who seems happy to delve into culinary ingredient esoterica, and take more chances with pairing differing elements in his dishes.12417588_833804730078605_8696419413190507105_n

That is not to say that his menu creations are in any way weird or strange, they are far from it, blending flavors into beautifully presented dishes that seem to feed all the senses at once. Yet, through them, one senses a freedom that may not be attainable in a restaurant where 3 Michelin stars were granted, and must be maintained.

And that’s the charm of Betony, and Chef Shuman’s slightly more human view of what sophisticated New York City dining should be.


Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple


Bryce Shuman joins The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday April 6, 2016 to discuss his restaurant, path to the top, and if we’re really lucky, maybe even why he collects Analog Synthesizers in his spare time.

Twitter: @betonyNYC


Instagram: @BetonyNYC

David Ransom Drink Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Alfonso Undurraga – Wine 2.0, Extending the Family Legacy

With a six generation legacy of  growing grapes and making wine, the Undurraga family has been at the forefront of fine wine production in Chile since the 1880s. Undoubtedly one of that country’s most famous wine making families, they have a number of firsts in their lengthy list of accomplishments, not the least of which was that they were the first Chilean winery to export their wine to the United States, way back in 1903.12

When the family sold the winery in 2006, they started a new venture in the Los Lingues zone of Alto Colchagua, Koyle Winery. Run by family members Alfonso Undurraga and his sons Alfonso (Jr), Max, and Cristobol, Vina Koyle, as it is called, takes its name from a Chilean Indian word for the rare local purple flower that grows around the 2700 acres of land in the foothills of the Andes where the winery sits. The Undurraga family also owns vineyards near the coast, and source grapes from both their inland and coastal vineyards to make the wines. All their vineyards are farmed either organically or biodynamically.

Koyle's Cristobal, Max, and Alfonso
Alfonso Undurraga and his sons Alfonso (Jr), Max, and Cristobol

Currently Koyle is focusing on the following wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and a small production of Chile’s flagship varietal, Carmenere.  Some proprietary blends are also in the portfolio, including AUMA, their top wine, created from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Malbec and Petite Verdot from the winery’s oldest vineyard plantings – with each grape aged separately for 24 months in French oak before

being blended and aged in a “concrete egg” tank for an additional 9 months before bottling.

A new star on the Chilean wine scene, Vina Koyle only has a few vintages under its belt, but with over a century of experience in making wine, the Undurraga family seems to be on track to create yet another legacy for themselves in the world of Chilean wine.

Alfonso Undurraga
Alfonso Undurraga

Alfonso Undurraga (the younger) joins us on The Connected Table LIVE! April 6 at 2:00pm ET to speak about his family’s winemaking legacy, new venture Vina Koyle, and also the state of winemaking in Chile as a whole, as he also serves as Director of that country’s wine trade marketing association, Wines of Chile.

Connect: Facebook: Koyle   Twitter: @totikoyle

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple