One of the things I love most about New York City -- why I moved here 30 years ago -- is its dynamic multicultural scene. European immigrants long ago contributed to this diverse milieu, and today new groups are contributing to our increasingly global melting pot.
In recent years, I have been a voracious consumer of the best of India's culture here in New York -- from Bollywood film festivals to the subcontinent's unique cuisine.
Images courtesy of JINGO Media/Peter Schaaf.
I recently attended the launch of what will surely please the city's Indophile community. Sam Bhatia, an entrepreneur and patron of Indian culture in the U.S., organized a wine tasting event at Devi Restaurant to introduce Mirza Ghalib (Sufi Wines), French wines blended specifically to pair well with the complexity and spiciness of Indian fare
These wines add to the rich diversity of offerings that make this city one of the important cultural centers in the world.
Sam and I often run into each other at Indian cultural events around Manhattan. He supports the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) and the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), as well as Indian charities that include Children's Hope India and the DIYA Foundation.
Knowing Sam's background as a former Continental Airlines executive, I was curious about how he got into the winemaking business. He explained that, as with most of us who enjoy Indian cuisine, it is nearly impossible to find the right wine to pair nicely with curries and other savory Indian dishes at fine restaurants.
The Mirza Ghalib collection. Image courtesy of JINGO Media.
"The wine idea came up as a result of my global travels," he said. "There is one question that always came up: which wines go well with Indian food?"
The answer to that question came unexpectedly. "I met a Frenchman who was also searching for wines to pair with Indian dishes, and thus, Mirza Ghalib was born," Sam told me.
Frédéric-Jean Hoguet, a French wine expert and member of the highly esteemed Académie du vin de Paris, pulled together a team that ultimately created Mirza Ghalib, named after India's renowned 19th century poet.
Indur and Aroon Shivdasani (Indo-American Arts Council), Joya Dass
(CNN, New York 1, AVS News Anchor), my friend Sam Bhatia,
Lavina Melwani (Lassi With Lavina), and Richard Mei (China Airlines). Images courtesy of JINGO Media/Peter Schaaf.
At the launch event, more than a hundred New Yorkers spanning every cultural community in the city raised a glass of Mirza Ghalib at Devi to toast the newest bottles to join the array of wines available in the city.
In his remarks that evening, Sam said, "Throughout history, wine has found its place naturally to accompany a hearty and sumptuous meal. As aficionados of Indian cuisine, we were never quite satisfied with the wines we were presented to accompany our dishes. So, with the help of friends and professionals in both the cultural and wine sectors, we decided to create our own - Mirza Ghalib."
Founder and principal of Sufi Wines Sam Bhatia.
Image Courtesy of JINGO Media/Peter Schaaf.
I tasted both the red (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah) and white (a Viognier), which are both from the Pays D'Oc region of France and found both to be quite delightful.
A Sufi Wines representative who mingled with the guests suggested pairing the Cabernet Sauvignon with Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, such as tandooris, tikkas, curries and kebabs. The Voignier, he suggested, goes well with fish dishes and vegetarian plates, such as lentils, bhajias, samosas, and bhajias.
My partner John Lee, the cultural editor of The Stewardship Report, is a wine connoisseur. He told me, "As South Asian cuisine and fine wine pairing become a new trend globally, it is exciting to see Sufi Wine elevate the dining experience leading to greater appreciation and recognition of Indian cuisine."
The company plans to release a Syrah this summer that I am told will pair well with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian cuisine.
Sam is passionate about spreading the word about these new contribution to Indian dining. Devi was the first restaurant to "have faith" in Mirza Ghalib and carry the wines, so there was no question in his mind about where to hold his launch event.
Guests enjoy the launch party at Devi Restaurant.
Images courtesy of JINGO Media/Peter Schaaf.
"We are currently served in more than thirty fine Indian restaurants, including Michelin stars like Junoon, Tamarind Tribeca, and Tulsi," Sam said proudly. He added that New York's Indian community is helping to spread the word.
I have known Sam Bhatia for years and have always appreciated his sense of corporate social responsibility. Now that he heads his own firm, he can be more involved than ever in supporting social and cultural causes. I tip my hat to Sam, his fine wines, and his sense of responsibility. Thought leaders and global citizens such as Sam Bhatia help make New York City the center of culture and diversity.
Edited by Nigel Roberts.
See Stories by Jim Luce on:
The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org) supporting young global leadership is affiliated with Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), raising global citizens. If supporting youth is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.