Al Spoler

Host, Cellar Notes and Radio Kitchen

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.

His most rewarding immersion in cooking came through his work as a television director at MPT.  Spoler served as off-line editor and assistant director on two series featuring the legendary French chef Pierre Franey.  He also worked with Mexican chef Patricia Quintana, and with Bed and Breakfast expert Gail Greco on her series "Country Inn Cooking". Al says traveling all over the US visiting country inns and taping recipes that they prepared in little makeshift television kitchens was an incredible education.

Spoler's tastes in cooking are influenced by regional tradition and contemporary casual French fare. Never slavish to recipes, he is never happier than improvising a Sunday dinner with whatever ingredients come to hand.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent    ** = very good    *** = superb     **** = elite

Spy Valley Dry Riesling, NZ '15 **  $$

(Very firm, bone dry riesling with deep fruit, great acidity)

Fratelli Allesandria Barbera d'Alba '14  **  $$

(Fully packed medium bodied red, with soft deep fruit flavors)

Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin Valley, SA '15 ** $

(A big bold SB that makes a statement, very well made)

Paul Cluver Riesling, Elgin Valley SA '14 **/12 $

(Dead ringer for classy Alsatian riesling, very good effort)

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir, Elgin Valley SA '13 ** $$

(Very Burgundian style, classic flavors, some complexity)

Adelsheim Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley '14 ** $

(Strong, lovely floral nose, dry deep fruit, minearlity)

Rhiannon California Red Blend '14  **1/2 $ VALUE       

(Big, complex, brawny, over-delivers, stupendous value)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine and Spirits.    

May 17,2016 - Radio Kitchen - Spring Pickling and Canning

One of the slight frustrations of springtime is that it doesn't go on forever.  So many of our favorite vegetables come and go so quickly that we wish there were a way to, well, preserve the moment.  But Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has got some techniques that allow us to do just that.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   ****= elite

Pacific Rim Gruner Veltliner, Spring Creek Vyd., Washington  * 1/2 $

(Lean, tart wine with floral notes and traces of white pepper)

Austrian Pepper Gruner Veltliner, Austria '13  * 1/2 $

(Well structured with citrus, melon, and spice, good acidity)

Count Karolyi Gruner Veltliner, Hungary '14 * $

(Green apple notes with apricot, and peppery finish)

Broadbent Gruner Veltliner, Austria '15  ** $ VALUE

(A very good wine from a very good house, great buy)

Wimmer Gruner Veltliner, Austria '13 * 1/2 $

(Crisp, flavorful white with lime, white pepper notes)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine and Spirits  


May 10, 2016

May 10, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Herbs

Along with asparagus and strawberries, herbs are among the first things to arrive in the market here in Maryland.  A lot of famers are getting a head start on their herbs by starting them under cover in hoop houses, so they are available now, ready to use, or to grow.  And Chef Jerry Pelligrino of Schola Cooking School, this is a delightful way to add accents to your cooking.

Price:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality: * = decent    ** = very good    *** = superb    **** = elite

Yalumba Unoaked Chardonnay, South Australia '13 * $

(Delicate, clean flavors but not much character)

Ridge Crest Chardonnay "Unoaked" Columbia Valley '12 * $

(Simple, very dry, "Alsatian" approach)

Naked Unoaked Chardonnay. Santa Barbara '13 ** $

May 3, 2015 - Radio Kitchen -  Farmers Market Brunch

With spring firmly established here in Maryland, we're all eager to resume our trips to the market and check out the local produce.  To give your visits an extra sense of immediacy, we'd like to propose a challenge for you:   go shopping, come home and fix a delicious brunch for your family.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has plenty of ideas.

Every spring we feel an obligation to talk about one of the first vegetables to his the market here in Maryland, and that would be asparagus.  And every time we do this show, I worry if we're going to run out of ideas.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has pointed out, it's looks like that's  not going to happen any time soon.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent    ** = very good    *** = superb    **** = elite  

Boordy Vineyards "Petit Cabernet", American '14 ** $

(Crowd-pleasing light red with tons of flavor; very food friendly)

Marques de Cáceres Rioja Riserva '09  ** 1/2 $$

(Very young, yet already complex, gorgeous texture)

Domaine Pichot Vouvray, Coteaux de la Biche, Vouvray '12 ** $

(A leaner, more acidic version of Vouvray with lots of character) 

Dr. H Tanisch Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Kabinett '14 ** $$

(Sweet for a kabinett, but has crystaline purity of flavors, lovely)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.

Visit them at

Albarino - 4/20/16

Apr 19, 2016

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent    ** = very good    *** = superb    **** = elite

Juan Gil "Kentia" Albariño, Rias Baixas '13 ** $

(Layers of complexity with herbs, stone fruit flavors)

Raimat Albariño, Costiere de Segre '14 *1/2 $

(Fresh, flowery wine with good acidity, firm structure)

Martin Codax Albariño, Rias Baixas '14  ** $

(A classic albariño with crisp apple flavors, mineral notes, complexity)

Burgans Albariño, Galicia '14 **1/2 $  VALUE

(A very complex, delicate, aromatic white)12

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.

Visit them at

April 19,2016 - Radio Kitchen - Under Pressure                    

The best cooking short cuts are the ones that not only save us time, but improve the flavor of our food.  One such handy technique is one that may be a little under-utilized; and that would be pressure cooking. Although he hates to confess to it,  Chef Jerry Pellegrino came to pressure cooking only recently.  And it has blown his mind.