A Toast for the Fallen: Mohonk Mountain House Hosts Wine Tasting

Photo by Monique Tranchina.

The Conference Hall at Mohonk Mountain House was packed with New Paltz residents, travelers, uncorked bottles and one of the most influential wine connoisseurs in the world. The scene was set for those attending to enjoy both an afternoon of tasting wine and to commemorate those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.

Event coordinator Butch Dener and host Kevin Zraly worked hard to make an afternoon of wine tasting fun, informative and dedicated to the memorial of the September 11th tragedies.

While Zraly dropped plenty of hilarious one-liners and wise-cracked with many audience members about sneaking in sips too soon, he made sure to include a heartfelt dedication to 73 co-workers he lost during the 2001 terrorist attacks. And with a full house in a large conference room, many people had a full-bodied experience of enjoyment while giving to a charitable cause.

Zraly introduced himself travelling as a wine enthusiast and wine studies professor who began his early career when he grew grapes in his small apartment setting as a New Paltz college student.

In reference to the weather, soil conditions and humidity, Zraly stated that “you really have to work at it.” Since then, he has authored a best-selling guidebook to wines, “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course,” and he has educated many about wine tasting.

John Novi, a High Falls Chef, stated that Zraly taught the first wine class accredited by SUNY New Paltz. When asked about his opinion of Zraly’s guidebook, Novi stated, “he makes it comprehensible.”

Before any of the attendees could sip from the first wine glass, he asked the audience to notice the differences in vibrancy and clarity. He then instructed everyone to swirl and smell twice, then cover the glass with a hand, swirl and experience the enhanced smell.

Zraly also dispelled myths that surround wine tasting and testing. When trying wines at common or upscale restaurants, he states that sniffing the end of a cork that was submerged in the wine bottle won’t do justice to the smell and taste of the wine.

And, if you do go to an upscale restaurant and order mussels, clams or lobster, you may try a more acidic wine that will complement the taste of the main course. Think of drinking the wine as an alternative to squeezing a lemon over a deep-sea delight.

Other wines affecting food consumption are ones with high tannin. One audience pipes up from the crowd and reminds everyone, “tannin has no taste, you sense it!” According to Zraly, tannin is also found in teas, which dry the mouth and give a courser tactile sensation.

For a population that does not drink with expensive fares, including Dener, this event can be viewed as an opportunity to complete a charity mission.

“The wine to me is only a means for me to raise funds for memorial. I wouldn’t know Manischewitz from Sonoma County. Zraly just reached out to me because he saw my memorial ad in the paper,” Dener said.

Novi hopes that through this event, people will honor those from the September 11th tragedy and build a communal foundation to support those affected.

“I hope they see how it takes a community of people to help build a memorial … I don’t want this to be forgotten. If you forget, it could happen again,” Dener said.

The evening wrapped up with empty wine glasses, leafed instruction booklets and plenty of warm smiles and hearty laughs. Families and friends left the dining-room style conference room with elusive bouts of euphoria but kept the reminder to commemorate those less fortunate.

All profits from Zraly’s book sale were donated to the memorial.

For those who attended the event, check out the Facebook page dedicated to the region’s September 11th memorial: facebook.com/newpaltz911memorial/