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Ecco Domani's Trio Of Wines And The Luxe Lab Bash

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I had no idea how stressful drinking alcoholic beverages could be until I started writing about them. For a while, I said yes to every wine and spirits-related invite and solicitation that came my way. But eventually, I couldn't keep up. My apartment was littered with enough bottles of booze and vino for me to open my own liquor store, and my appointment book was filled with invites to taste this and sample that, at various hipster locales throughout New York City. All of which was fantastic.

But with the comped bottles and party invites came the inevitable emails and phone calls from publicists. Have I tried their product yet? Do I like it enough to write about it? If I don't like it, will I write about it anyway? Do I have anything to say about it? Anything that somebody hasn't already written somewhere else? Oh man, I need a drink. One that hasn't been given to me by a publicist, that is.

With my sanity at the breaking point and my liver begging for mercy, I stumbled into something called the Luxe Laboratory on 30th St. in Manhattan to sample... um, what was I tasting again? And what else is going on here? While I searched my memory banks and my iPhone, a pretty young lady handed me a glass of wine. I quaffed it absentmindedly, struck by the chic splendor of the Luxe Lab, which resembled nothing so much as the apartment of a very tasteful gazillionaire. Turns out it's owned by soon-to-have-his-own-TV-show style guru Robert Verdi, for the express purpose of throwing amazing shindigs, and instructing would-be hosts and hostesses in the art thereof.

In the midst of my gawking, I realized the wine was probably the reason I was there, so I took a sip and paid attention. And it was good. Really good. Turns out the gathering was in honor of the launching of Ecco Domani's new 2008 pinot noir varietal, which was what I was drinking. It's a young, vibrant wine -- jammy without being overly sweet, fruity but not cloying, and bold enough to hold its own with the canapes.

Next I grabbed a glass of the Ecco Domani pinot grigio. I'm not a fan of white wine in general, and I think of pinot grigio as the wine of choice for people who don't really like wine. But this stuff was good! It had character, its mineral undertones blending with green apple notes and a pleasantly tart, slightly acidic finish.

I looked around at the Beautiful Young People who'd been assembled for the evening. How beautiful? They were too terrified to touch the elaborate and ridiculously expensive spread, for fear they'd gain a couple of ounces. "You can photograph me holding a breadstick," one of them exclaimed, "but I'm not gonna eat it." Seriously.

In the midst of the misguided youths, I found food-and-drink writer and gourmand David Rosengarten, who seemed as baffled as I was to be there. Aparently, Ecco Domani had contacted him the day before the event to give us philistines and our tastebuds a guided tour of their wines, along with the foods with which they'd been paired. He told me, "I said to them, 'I really need to taste them before I can commit to anything.' I mean, what if I hated them? But I really, really like these wines. In my opinion, they're very good $25 wines."

I agreed. "But the thing is," David said, "they go for around $12 or $13." Obviously I hadn't done my homework, because this was news to me. To help me better process the information, I reached for a glass of Ecco Domani's merlot. It turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. Where the pinot noir was a young, sassy wine, the merlot was a little statelier -- dry and elegant, with more pronounced tannins and a smooth finish. To compare wines to the new revival of Sondheim's A Little Night Music, think of the pinot noir as Catherine Zeta-Jones and the merlot as Angela Lansbury. Or not.

After more wine, more food, and another look at the Luxe Lab -- which includes a tub with built-in speakers positioned so you can listen to music underwater, snorkel not included -- I stumbled back out into the real world, feeling full, tipsy and happy. The Man would be appeased ... at least until the next round of bottles and invites shows up.