Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.
Robert Mondavi

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just a Reminder

A Wine Odyssey has moved to

Go there to read my latest column from the Nashua Telegraph !!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Attention: A Wine Odyssey is moving!!!

As of today, the websites for "A Wine Odyssey" and Senel Wine Consulting have merged! I hope that you chose to continue to follow my writing at I look forwar to seeing you there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wine of the Week: Kris Pinot Grigio

Quite a few years back, I was exposed to a wine that changed my perception of Pinot Grigio by the most unlikely of sources, my mom. It was the night after one of my Aunt Vikki's Christmas parties that she called me with a good amount of excitement. It is not often that she can talk wine with me (she is not a big drinker), but she made two very solid recommendations based off of that night. The first was Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet and the second was Kris Pinot Grigio. I must admit, at the time I associated Pinot Grigio with Cavit, Bella Sera and Barefoot, but after Kris, I was awaken to what Pinot Grigio can be.

Kris is produced by Franz Haas winery in Alto Adige, Italy. This area is in the northern most part of Italy and borders both Switzerland and Austria. The owner and winemaker, Franz Haas, is part of a long line of winemakers that dates back to the 1880s. As his name suggests, Franz is of strong Germanic roots and brings a uniquely German way of making wine to Alto Adige.

Another very unique aspect to Kris' wines are the labels. They display the works of Riccardo Schweizer, a contemporary Italian artist with Germanic roots. Each one of the labels depicts the blending of art and science, the primary focus of Haas' wines. The prints used on Kris' three varietals were a gift to Franz Haas and help to complete a beautiful wine experience.

2008 Kris Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy - $11.99 (reg. $14.99)

The 2008 is a very pleasant and very food friendly wine that keeps up with Kris' reputation for producing very consistent wines. By appearance it has the normal young characteristics of Pinot Grigio, pale yellow with evident hints of green. The nose jumps out of green apple and citrus which is reflected on the palate along with a bit of nut towards the end. The main component of acidity is well integrated into the flavor profile which allows for this wine to pair well with most non-red meat foods.

Ever since my mom recommended this wine, I have not been let down. This is by no means a flashy, rock star of a wine, but rather a steady rock that you can rely upon to pair with a nice meal. Add to this the price of the wine and you have a true value on your hands. I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I have over the years.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

7 Reds & 7 Whites for the Holidays

This will be my last post until I return from Ohio following Thanksgiving (either 11/30 or 12/1). I hope you enjoy!

This past week I ran a column in the Nashua Telegraph (Thanksgiving recommendations from the experts) that paired terrific Thanksgiving inspired recipes with their perfect wine pairings. The contributions came from a panel of truly creative and talented chefs, restaurant owners, a sommelier and even a trailblazing winemaker.

The final installment of my Thanksgiving recommendations is straight forward. I wish to simply put forth a list of 7 red wines and 7 white wines that can't miss when paired with traditional Thanksgiving fare. The price range for these wines varies greatly, however, I have gone through great lengths to find values at every price level. The way I look at it, if you are having a special meal, offer special wines to accompany it!
As I mentioned in the article, there are a few simple rules to remember when pairing food and wine:

• Choose a wine you enjoy.
• It is generally safe to pair hearty dishes with hearty wines and conversely lighter dishes with lighter wines.
• Pay attention to the accompaniments of the dish. Some wines may go well with turkey and mashed potatoes, but not the brussels sprouts or horseradish being served with them.
• Don’t stress about it; wine is meant to elevate, not tear down. You are with loved ones who will likely appreciate your effort.

With that being said, here are the wines. They have been selected with equal parts quality and food-friendliness taken into account. Also, all of these wines are well stocked at the NH Liquor Store off Exit 6 behind the Nashua Mall, as well as many other locations.
The Whites (pictured above)

- 2008 Kris, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy - $11.99 (reg. $14.99)

- 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington - $16.99 (reg. $20.99)**

- 2007 Benton Lane, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $18.99

- 2008 Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand - $21.49**

- 2007 Joseph Drouhin, Chablis, Beaune, France - $21.99 (reg. $23.99)

- 2006 Mer Soleil, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California - $36.99

- NV Moët et Chandon Nectar Imperial, Champagne, Epernay, France - $38.99

The Reds (pictured above)

- 2007 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses, Rhone Blend, Cotes du Ventoux, France - $10.99 (reg. $12.99)

- 2008 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California - $12.99 (reg. $15.99)

- 2005 Castano Solanera, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon, Yecla, Spain - $13.99

- 2004 Antinori Villa Toscana, Cabernet Blend, Tuscany, Italy - $21.99

- 2008 Seghesio, Zinfandel, Sonoma, California - $22.99**

- 2007 Benton Lane, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $25.99

- 2007 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $43.99**

I know that it is cliche to say "life is too short to drink bad wine", but it is true. There are a tremendous amount of wines out there that are crafted by winemakers whose sole intention is to share their artistry with you. The wines above are a good introduction to food-friendly wines that are crafted with love. This Thanksgiving I ask you to invite them into your homes to help enhance your memorable Thanksgiving dinners!

** indicates my top 2 picks per category

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Grandma's Cheesecake

Thanksgiving at my Granparents' house is always the meal of the year. Robert and Dolores peck both come from households that are deeply rooted in ethnic culinary traditions that have been passed down through the years. I think all of us grand kids have a certain affinity for Wiener schnitzel, spatzle, paprikash, nut horns and all the other Central and Eastern European delicacies that we have experienced through the years.

With this in mind, you would probably expect the dessert that I selected to feature to be a Bohemian or Bavarian specialty. Instead, I have selected the dessert that has been perfect for the entirety of my life and one that is quintessential Americana, Grandma's Cheesecake. There is nothing elaborate, no insane preparation, just some Philadelphia and a whole lot of love!

Grandma's Cheesecake

(Serves 8-12)

Ingredients for Crust:

1 sleeve/package Graham crackers (9 crackers)

1 stick of butter (1/4 lb.)

Ingredients for Cheesecake:

3 8 oz. pkgs Philadelphia Cream Cheese (Do not use fat free)

5 Eggs

1 cup Sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. Vanilla

Ingredients for Topping:

1 Pt. Sour Cream (Do not use fat free)

6 tbsp. Sugar

1 tbsp. Vanilla

Step 1

Use a 9 X 13" pan (glass or metal)

Finely crush 1 package of graham crackers. Melt 1/4 lb butter and mix together with the graham crackers, pressing it in the bottom of pan and set aside.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees

In a large mixing bowl add 3 room temperature pkgs. of cream cheese. Using a mixer at low speed, add one egg at a time until all 5 eggs are mixed with the cream cheese. Slowly, add 1 cup of sugar to the mixture. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. Vanilla. When mixture is complete, pour it into the pan with the graham cracker crust. Bake for 1 hour or until you can put a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean.

Step 3

Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 pint of sour cream, 6 tbsp. of sugar and 1 tbsp. Vanilla. Spread this mixture over the cheesecake and return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 1 hour. Cover with Saran Wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate. For best results, refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Perfect Pairing

2005 Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttanyos Red Label, Tokaji, Hungary - $37

This is a terrific pairing, because the cheesecake provides somewhat of a blank canvas to work with. The spice, apricot and honey in this wine will provide a wonderful compliment. You can also use other sweeter dessert wines (i.e. - Late Harvest Riesling, Muscatel or Vin Santo), but for my money, good Tokaji or Sauternes are the ultimate, and this is one of the best.

Thank you Grandma for sharing your wonderful recipe!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Chef Berkman's Applewood Bacon Braised Kale

Over the past few years, I have gotten to know Legal Sea Foods' Executive Chef Jason Berkman the person. He's a great friend now and shares an affinity for many of the same things that I enjoy, namely good food, cigars and most importantly, wine. However, it was during this past year that I was exposed to his culinary prowess.

Back in August, a group of us took part in a wine dinner in which I selected the wines and Berkie collaborated on the menu (with Chris Baker). It was something to see how the meals came together and the precision in which they were prepared. After an event like this, it is hard not to have even more respect for the talent that good chefs possess.

Like Merry Edwards and John Carnevale, I thought that Chef Berkman would bring a unique element to the Thanksgiving project that I was putting together. I asked him to pick one of his favorite sides to share with us. He picked a kale dish which delighted me, as it is a vegetable that is dramatically underused, but extremely delicious and packed with vitamins. Also, with the gnocchi, crab dip and eventually cheesecake, we finally have something healthy! He also stressed the importance of buying local produce if possible. It will not only ensure freshness and regional identity, but it also supports local farmers. This last point is something that Chef Berkman and Legal Sea Foods aims to do with their menu items whenever feasible.

Applewood Bacon Braised Kale

(Serves 4)

8 heads of kale
2 large onions (approx 1 1/2 lbs)
1/3 lb of applewood smoked bacon
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 cups of chicken stock
1 tspn. kosher salt

Step 1
Remove the ribs of the kale from the green leafy portion. Discard the ribs and cut the green leafy portion into 1 1/2" strips, lightly wash and then steam them for 5 minutes.

Step 2
Dice the bacon into 1" pieces and render it in a medium sized pot with salt on medium heat.

Step 3
Add garlic to the pot with bacon, when the garlic starts to show signs of toasting, add the onions and continue cooking until onions are translucent (caramelized).

Step 4
Add the steamed greens to the bacon mixture and mix well. Increase heat to high.

Step 5
Add 1 cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring until stock begins to reduce (about 10 minutes). Add the remaining cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring and cooking for another 10 minutes until the most of the stock has cooked down. Remove from heat and serve.

Perfect Pairing
2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon - $44

The 2006 Domaine Drouhin is one of Berkie (and my) favorite pinot noirs. The aroma is of beautiful rich cherry that is mirrored on the palate along with a hint of spice. The tannins are noticeable; however, they are well integrated and somewhat delicate. This is a very thoughtfully made, well-crafted wine that is confident in structure and complexity. It is very much a terrific Thanksgiving pinot noir.

When you think about versatile Thanksgiving wine pairings, pinot noir should almost always be one of your first thoughts. The berries, spice, herbs and vibrant acidity that are common characteristics of good pinot make it a tremendously food friendly wine.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Jon Carnevale's Game Hen

Along with Merry Edwards, Jon Carnevale brings a lot to the table as far as offering a unique look at pairing food and wine. As the general manager at Bedford Village Inn and only certified sommelier in New Hampshire, he has the palate, training and restaurant experience to know what goes well with most flavor profiles.

The recipe he decided to share with us today was a terrific recipe for an alternative to the typical Thanksgiving turkey. This is also a practical recipe designed to impress on any occasion.

Wild Rice & Chestnut Stuffed Game Hen

(Serves 4)


1 cup wild rice, rinsed

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup coarsely chopped chestnuts (either fresh or from jar or can), toasted

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 tspn. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tspn. finely chopped fresh sage

3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry

2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Step 1
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine rice, 3 cups cold water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, 45 to 55 minutes.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in center of the oven. Transfer rice to a large bowl, along with chestnuts, onion, thyme, sage, parsley, and dill; stir to combine. Lightly season the cavity of each game hen with salt, and loosely fill with equal amounts of stuffing, leaving a little space in each for the rice to expand during roasting. Any remaining stuffing may be baked in a covered heatproof dish; set aside.

Step 3

Using kitchen twine, truss hens by tying the legs together tightly, looping each side of the string around a wing, and bringing the string all the way around the bird tightly to hold the legs together and the wings close to the body.

Step 4

Season hens with salt and pepper, and place breast side down on a rack set in a roasting pan. When 10 minutes remain, flip the hens over and continue roasting until the hens are dark golden brown and the juices run clear when pierced at the thigh. Total cooking time for hens will be 50 to 55 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, should register 175 degrees to 180 degrees.

Step 5

Remove hens and stuffing from the oven. Transfer hens to a platter. Cover with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Place roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the roasting pan. Add wine, if using. Sift flour into the roasting pan, and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups stock. Cook until mixture has thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. The consistency of the gravy may be adjusted with a teaspoon or two of stock or wine. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 6

Place a hen on each of 4 plates. Spoon gravy over hens.

Perfect Pairings:

Jon offers up two terrific wines to pair with the wonderful game hens. The first of which is the one he would select if this was pretty much his last meal ever. The second of which is a more practical pairing that can be found a little more regularly available.

1997 Domaine des Comtes Lafon "Clos de la Barre", Meursault, Burgundy, France

Based on tasting notes, I can see why Jon would select this wine. It is not only from a noteworthy Burgundian producer, but the palate of honey, lemon and herb would perfectly compliment the game hens.

2006 Lemelson "Thea's Selection" Pinot Noir, Willamatte Valley, Oregon - $36

This pinot has very nice acidity and pleasant notes of smoked blackberry. Since the game hen is a little gamier (pun intended) than turkey, the complex structure and smoky nature of the wine will compliment the dish well.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Merry Edwards' Crab Dip

After writing about the Merry Edwards 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, I was contacted by the winery and thanked for the kind words. When I originally came up with the idea for the Thanksgiving column for the Nashua Telegraph, I was hoping that Merry would contribute. She did not disappoint!

Merry Edwards, as a winery, is still very new to the game. They were incorporated in 1997 and started to produce wine in the early 2000s. Although new, do not let this fool you. In 1973, Merry Edwards became one of the first woman winemakers in California. Thus, she is certainly not inexperienced and brings a very unique approach to her wines. Many wineries are focused on the bottom line, while she states that their focus is on gentle, traditional, labor intensive winemaking practices. You can clearly experience this difference in their wines.

Connie’s Hot Crab Dip


8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces Dungeness crab meat (two medium sized crabs)
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons green onion, minced
1 tablespoon horseradish
dash Worcestershire
salt, pepper, and fresh dill to taste

Step 1

Combine cream cheese, crab meat, milk, onion, horseradish and Worcestershire in a mixing bowl and fold together. Once all of the ingredients are well incorporated, begin to add the salt, pepper and dill slowly, tasting along the way.

Step 2

Bake at 400 degrees in an ovenproof baking dish for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Step 3

Let sit for about 5-10 minutes and then serve with mild-flavored or water crackers and enjoy!

Perfect Pairing:

2007 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - $42

Merry decided on the 2007 RRV Pinot Noir and in my opinion you could easily use their wonderful Sauvignon Blancs as well (or you can do both!). She describes this wine as "echoing the mood of the wonderful 2007 harvest, the personality of this wine conveys a strikingly pure fruit character. The deep garnet color is a prelude to its ripe, dark fruity aroma. Nearly all the descriptors common to Pinots from our Valley come to mind – black cherry, cola, blueberry, black currant and raspberry are tinged with rich cocoa, chocolate and nutmeg. Each time you return to the glass, another intriguing layer reveals itself. The rich fruit carries forward into a boldly structured palate which is bright yet smooth with a seamless, luxurious finish."

Sounds delicious!

Merry Edwards’ wines are available by order only (thanks for nothing NH Liquor Commission!). You can order her wonderful wines through the Merry Edwards Website, trust me they are worth every penny!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Chef Brianas' Gnocchi

Chef Constantine Brianas, a native of Nashua, has become one of the more acclaimed chefs of the area. He joined co-owners Stephen and Karen Williams a couple years back to create Unums. Since then, the restaurant has become a beacon of fine food and wine that challenges and trumps the best that southern New Hampshire has to offer.

Brianas’ innovated dishes and rotating menu offer a wonderful alternative to some of the more traditional fair in the area. One of the things that Unums does so well is their gnocchi and Chef Brianas was kind enough to share one of his seasonal recipes with us! It may look complex, but in all honesty if you follow the instructions it is very doable.

Gnocchi with Colossal Shrimp in Simple Pumpkin Sauce with Toasted Ginger

(4 servings)

Ingredients for Gnocchi:

1/2 cup whole milk Ricotta

1/3 cup Romano cheese (grated)

1 tsp lemon juice

3 eggs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour to consistency (approx 1-2 cups)

Ingredients for Toasted Ginger:

1 tree of ginger

Olive oil to coat

Dusting of ginger powder

Dusting of garlic powder

Zest of 1 orange

1 sprig of tarragon or sage

Ingredients for Shrimp:

12 large shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tbsp. of maple syrup

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Step 1 – Gnocchi

Blend eggs together and then add Ricotta and whip together until a creamy consistency. Then add lemon juice, Romano and salt & pepper (to taste) and then whip until it returns to creamy consistency. Add the flour slowly until the mixture begins to fall of the edges of your mixing bowl. Continue to slowly add flour at this point until the stickiness turns to a pizza dough consistency.

Step 2 – Gnocchi

Gnocchi mixture should be rolled into logs that are ½ inch in diameter and then cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Step 3 – Toasted Ginger

Preheat oven to 450. Peel ginger, exposing all of the raw flesh and then cut into pieces so that you can mince it. In an ovenproof pan, add the olive oil and then after a few moments (allowing it to get hot), add the ginger and lightly dust the ginger and garlic powders and then toast until golden brown. Add the orange zest and sage or tarragon (julienned). Put into the oven for 7 minutes.

Step 4 – Shrimp and Simple Pumpkin Sauce

Sauté shrimp in a skillet until flesh turns pinkish and then add the ginger mixture from the oven and continue to sauté until golden brown and the shrimp have curled. Add the vegetable stock and heavy cream and then reduce by 1/2 until a lightly thickened consistency occurs (if it seems to be too thick, add a little more vegetable stock).

Step 5 – Gnocchi

Boil a pot of water and add a slight pinch of salt. Add the gnocchi and watch it sink to the bottom. Once the gnocchi floats to the top, strain it in a colander.

Step 6 – Finalizing the dish

Add the pumpkin puree and maple syrup to the mixture that has been sautéing and lightly incorporate. Then add the gnocchi, lightly stir for a couple moments and then serve!

Perfect Pairing

2007, Truchard, Chardonnay, Carneros, California - $29

While sitting with Chef, he recommended using a crisp white wine with this dish. Either a Sauvignon Blanc, Un-Oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay or Riesling would work quite well. He recommended the 2007 Truchard for this dish as it is one of the wines on Unums wine list. It is light yet complex blend of nectarine and pear with lively acidity and long finish that will cut through the creaminess of this dish.



Thanksgiving recommendations from the experts

As published in the 11/18 issue of the Nashua Telegraph (click here to view Telegraph version).

Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.

When I think about these words uttered by the late Robert Mondavi, I cannot help but imagine him speaking about the many occasions that took place during his life in which he shared what he referred to as “the gracious life.” In many ways, I feel that all of us share in the gracious life on one day in particular, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a day unlike any other during the year. It symbolizes something that is so simplistically beautiful and humbling – being thankful. Next Thursday, families will converge on dining room tables all over the country. Little kids at one end, adults at the other, but all joined together as a family. The traditions will vary from region to region, and the spread will include a variety of dishes from the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes, to lasagna, to baked macaroni and cheese. No matter what is on the table, the attention is squarely on the meal and togetherness that this wonderful day promotes.

However, there are some conundrums that may arise. A common point of inquiry surrounds wine. The typical question of “What wine pairs well with Thanksgiving dinner?” will inevitably come up numerous times. There are many possible answers; nevertheless, there are variables to consider first: What is the main element of the side dishes? Are there any harsh flavor components? How is the turkey prepared? Who are my guests, and what do they like?

Now, I could be very general and say that Oregon pinot noir goes well with turkey with cranberry sauce, or that a Gewurztraminer from Alsace would go well with a mushroom and herb stuffing, but I think you all deserve more than that. Thus, I have enlisted the help of a team of experts from the culinary and wine worlds to assist me in this task. I have posed to them this simple question: What is your favorite traditional family dish served on Thanksgiving, and which wine would you pair with it?

When approaching the recommendations, one thing to consider is why these pairings work. Here are a few simple rules to help you along:

• Choose a wine you enjoy.

• It is generally safe to pair hearty dishes with hearty wines and conversely lighter dishes with lighter wines.

• Pay attention to the accompaniments of the dish. Some wines may go well with turkey and mashed potatoes, but not the brussels sprouts or horseradish being served with them.

• Don’t stress about it; wine is meant to elevate, not tear down. You are with loved ones who will likely appreciate your effort.

However, if you have an aunt, uncle or hotshot cousin who is truly into wine and would look down on you if you served Two Buck Chuck, let’s hear what the pros have to say to help you to avoid such a disaster:


• Constantine Brianas, executive chef and co-owner of Unums in Nashua, NH: “Buttered Gnocchi with Toasted Ginger, Simple Pumpkin and Colossal Shrimp is not only a dish that we serve at the restaurant, but also one that I serve during Thanksgiving. The combination of the fresh made gnocchi with the pumpkin puree has an autumn feel that is undeniable and sets the stage for the rest of the meal.”

Brianas’ perfect pairing: 2007 Truchard Chardonnay from Carneros, Calif.

• Merry Edwards, trailblazing winemaker/owner of Merry Edwards Wines in California: "One of my favorite recipes during Thanksgiving is Connie’s Hot Crab Dip. It is made with Dungeness crab and is a dish that was one of my dear friend’s late mother’s and one which we continue to enjoy today."

Edwards’ perfect pairing: 2007 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley pinot noir from California.

Main course/sides

• Jon Carnevale, sommelier and general manager of the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford, NH: “Occasionally, we go with an alternative to the traditional stuffed turkey. One of our favorites is Wild Rice and Chestnut Stuffed Game Hen. It is an incredibly aromatic dish from beginning to end, with the thyme and sage announcing the main courses arrival.”

Carnevale’s perfect pairing: 1997 Domaine des Comtes Lafon “Clos de la Barre,” Meursault from France or 2006 Lemelson “Thea’s Selection” pinot noir from Willamatte Valley, Ore.

• Karen and Stephen Williams, wine loving co-owners of Unums: “Typically, we brine our turkey overnight and then fill it with an amazing Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing. The stuffing is a combination of porcini, shiitake and button mushrooms, along with crumbled French baguette, thyme and fresh leeks. On the side, we do a mashed potato with roasted garlic and freshly grated horseradish.

The Williamses’ perfect pairing: 2005 Krupp Brothers Black Bart Marsanne from Napa Valley.

• Jason Berkman, executive chef at Legal Sea Foods in Burlington, Mass.: "Ever since I became a chef, I have had to step it up in the kitchen at home during the holidays. Besides the traditional Thanksgiving fare, one of my favorite side dishes is Applewood Bacon Braised Kale. It is quite the crowd pleaser."

Berkman’s perfect pairing: 2006 Domaine Drouhin pinot noir from Willamette Valley, Ore.


• I couldn’t let the column end without dessert! Luckily for us, my grandmother (Dolores Peck) makes a scrumptious traditional cheesecake. Grandma’s Cheesecake is nothing flashy, just Philadelphia and a lot of love. Typically, dessert is paired with coffee or tea, but if you want a truly memorable dessert experience, Sauternes or Tokaji will bring this to the next level.

My perfect pairing: 2005 Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttanyos Red Label from Hungary.

I would like to thank our experts for their thoughtful recommendations. Hopefully, their suggestions will assist you when putting together some terrific pairings of your own this Thanksgiving.

From our families to yours, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Editor's Note: Recipes for the dishes mentioned in this article will be posted one at a time daily beginning tomorrow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Joe Montana sacked again...

Back in September I wrote about the healthy community of formal NFL greats that have transitioned to lives in viticulture (click here for article). In my wildest dreams I could only wish to be in the position that these men find themselves, playing in the NFL and then living the gracious life in Napa, Sonoma or Washington State. Unfortunately, it looks as if one member of that elite group has decided to bail out.

While reading, I came across a blurb that in my opinion is unfortunate, although the details surrounding this are not known. I thought some of you would be interested in this follow-up:

There's been a lot of talk about football player-owned wine labels lately, so it came as somewhat of a shock this week when Unfiltered learned that one of the leading names in the merging of gridiron greats and grapes may be getting out of the business. NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have put their Tuscany-inspired wine estate in Calistoga, California, on the market. The asking price for the 500-acre property and 9,700-square-foot home is $49 million. You may also remember Montagia, a Howell Mountain Cabernet blend that the Montanas collaborated on with Beringer winemaker Ed Sbragia. Unfiltered suspects that Montana may have proved the old adage true: If you want to make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one.

Don't forget to check back on Monday for the first of seven Thanksgiving wine pairing installments!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Hello Everyone,

I know that during the past week few weeks there has not been as much content posted on A Wine Odyssey. I would like to apologize for this, while at the same time reassure you that the momentary lull will be well worth it. There will be a few new features coming up that I feel will be of interest to you all.

The first feature will begin next week and run for the duration of time between now and Thanksgiving. I have enlisted the help of a some local and national food and wine all-stars to offer up their favorite holiday recipes and perfect wine pairings for each dish. I will feature a new recipe/wine pairing nearly every day. I strongly encourage you to try some of them out.

The second feature will be more of a running journal of my development as the sommelier at Left Bank Restaurant at the Stonehedge Inn & Spa. This has been an exciting development and one that I am going to approach with the respect that it deserves.

Finally, if you have any questions as to which wines to pair during the holiday season, please feel free to leave a question in the comment field on any of the recipes and I would be happy to address them.

I truly appreciate your continued support and look forward to providing you with interesting and practical content and features.

Erol Senel

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wine of the Week: Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon

In the last column, we covered Levent Bozkurt's desire to seek out wineries that have a true grasp of terrior. The folks at Burgess Cellars have a feel for the slopes of Howell Mountain on which their vineyards are situated. They plant only Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, because it is their belief that these three varietals are best suited for the land and conditions that God gave them.

Burgess Cellars has been a family-owned winery since 1972, which is by no means commonplace in today's Napa Valley. Another unique aspect of Burgess is that their winemaker, Bill Sorenson, has been at the helm for the full duration of the family's operation of the winery.

Now that you know a little more about Burgess Cellars, how was the wine?

2005, Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California - $35 (on sale for $25)

From the get go, I was excited about this wine. The aroma did not take long to unfold. The nose was led by a healthy dose of vanilla, which was followed up by currants and blackberry. The palate was very pleasant and well structured, with currant and blackberries leading the way with some cedar coming in about mid way. This medium/full bodied wine had a tremendous amount of acidity and the tannins were still firm. A very good bottle now which should only become a little more nuanced with age.

My only gripe about this wine is that someone at Burgess thought it a good idea to use synthetic corks instead of natural. Now call me a romantic, but if you are opening a good bottle of wine, you do not want to be pulling the equivalent of a rubber stopper out of it! Regardless, this was a good one and I shouldn't be so picky.

Wine Spectator gave this wine an 87 point rating and I would bump it to 90 points. The structure and nuances of this wine is surely improving with age (compared to their notes from back in February of 2009). Be sure to check this out and take advantage of the ridiculous discount available at the NH Liquor Store!

This wine is available at the Exit 6 NH Liquor Store (behind the Nashua Mall).


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wine Mecca of New England

This week I had the distinct honor of being in the presence of American wine royalty. Back in 1996, Silks at the Stonehedge Inn (Tyngsborough, MA) made a bold announcement when it was named as one of the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award winning restaurants. The award goes to the restaurants that meet a number of different criteria, from excellent service to breadth of selection to rare verticals and so on. At the time, there were only 93 restaurants in the world that could make such a claim. This past year, Left Bank Restaurant (which replaced Silks as Stonehedge Inn's on-site fine dinning restaurant) was awarded their 13th consecutive Grand Award (1 of only 72 in the world).

As someone whose passion is wine, I had to visit this bastion of fine wine, especially since it is in my own back yard. I made an appointment to meet the owner, Levent Bozkurt, to interview him for another article that I planned on writing in the future. Mr. Bozkurt approached with an air of confidence and openness that I was not expecting from someone of his stature (in the wine world). His resume is nothing if not impressive with the highlight being his establishment's ownership of New England's largest wine cellar, which houses over 112,000 bottles.

We sat down in a room that felt as if it was a grand library in a hunting lodge located somewhere in the Alps. From there, my interview was completely derailed by Levent's willingness to completely open up. He told me about how he got into wine as a result of his father giving him a shopping list of wines to pick up while traveling abroad during his professional soccer days with the Turkish professional team Galatasaray. He also shared an interesting story about how he acquired a bulk of the Inn's early collection. I could go on with the stories, but those will be for another day.

To amass a collection of the breadth and depth that the Stonehedge Inn offers takes time, patience and obviously deep pockets. One can simply go out and purchase a mass quantity of wine; however Mr. Bozkurt is very structured in his approach. After he initially invested a portion of his own collection (~2,000 bottles) and obtained the collection of a noteworthy collector from Dallas, Mr. Bozkurt set off to expand from this solid foundation the old fashioned way. He goes to the different regions (favoring France, "New Italy", Spain, Australia and California), tastes the wines, he interviews the winemakers and if everything is up to his standards, he will add their wines to his cellar to age (this method also allows for prices that are amazingly fair).

Levent mentioned a couple times during the tour that there is nothing more important that terrior and the grape. What I took away from this is that he is looking for a winemaker to realize what the earth has given them and work with it as unique, rather than trying to make it into something it is not. He does not want a Pinot Noir to be crafted to have characteristics similar to a Zinfandel, if he did "than he would just buy a Zinfandel." The most poignant example of this was when he was speaking of Veronique Drouhin-Boss, the winemaker at Domaine Drouhin in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. He said, "she realizes that this is not Beaune, this is the Willamette Valley." It is his appreciation for the small things like this that make him stick out as a viable authority on wine.

It is with this fine eye that he has amassed his collection and carefully selects which of his aging inventory of 82,000 remaining bottles are ready to be added to the list at Left Bank. His process of cellaring wines for years rather than days is another example of his attention to the process and sets his establishment apart from others in New England. Like the other 71 restaurants from around the world that join in the elite, Left Bank may be misunderstood by those who do not appreciate what a list of this caliber represents (refer to this link for my explanation). However, to those who do appreciate the effort, passion and life's dream of a devoted proprietor to offer an immaculate experience, they will recognize that they have found a true wine Mecca.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Date Night: Corks

As published in the 11/3 issue of the Nashua Telegraph (click here to view Telegraph version).

For the second installment of the "Date Night" series, I thought it would be worthwhile to venture to one of Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence restaurants.

Since there are only two restaurants in the state to receive this distinction and only one in southern New Hampshire, that narrowed down my choices. Bedford Village Inn got the nod. However, the part of the inn we visited is not your mom and pop's Inn. It was the chic Corks Wine Bar, which opened last November.

I had a chance to speak with BVI's general manager and sommelier Jon Carnevale about the creation of Corks. The concept emerged from a discussion surrounding what to do with a seldom used dining room. Considering the reputation it had for being the vanguard of fine wine and dining in New Hampshire, the choice to open a wine bar should be of little surprise.

When my wife and I first walked in, we were very drawn in by the surroundings. The austerity of BVI's fine dining area melted away. The room we were standing in was stylistically unique. Corks is superbly designed to feel like a room created for a memorable wine experience. The comfortable chairs and intimate seating arrangement are perfect for a romantic night out - so much so that we witnessed a couple getting engaged. The wallpaper is made from pressed cork and bottles are beautifully displayed throughout the room. Another unique element is the artwork of acclaimed artist Gerard Puvis displayed throughout. His pieces are unique as they are created using the foil wraps from wine bottles. Impressive is a very accurate description.

With all of this lauding of the atmosphere, how was the most important part of the evening?

After being seated in a quiet corner, my wife and I took the economical approach, with a few glasses of wine, an appetizer and dinner. The menus, both for wine and food, are geared toward having a very different experience; you are able to select from their tavern and fine dining menus, as well. Chef Peter Agostrinelli's menu for Corks has more of a tapas feel and offered items that were distinctive and comfortably priced. We selected the chorizo lollipops and the fried olives stuffed with sausage and fontina as starters. The lollipops were good, but they were outshone by the wonderful olives, which we could have eaten all night. For our main course, we opted for the kobe beef burgers with homemade tots, which was one of the better burgers I have had lately. Price altogether for food: $28!

Wait, is this really the Bedford Village Inn?

The common misconception is that BVI is expensive. The truth is that most menu items are in line with most of the nicer area restaurants and its wine markups are far less! I believe the misconception arises from the fact that BVI inspires you to indulge and embrace the experience it creates. The reality is that any restaurant will be as expensive, or inexpensive as you make it.

Due to the reasonably priced food menu, we were able to enjoy their wine list a little more liberally. However, before getting too far into its wine list, I want to make sure that all the beer drinkers out there know that Corks offers a very nice selection of brews on tap and by the bottle. It also offers a beer flight, which I explained in the past is a way to sample a few different offerings that are deliberately paired together.

OK, back to the wine.

Corks has at its disposal the full breadth of BVI's award-wining wine list of more than 700 different wines. A list of this size could be a bit daunting, but don't be overwhelmed, as they made it approachable for us all. The Corks wine list has been condensed and is broken down into two parts, the Corks Cruvinet Selections, which offers the "best of the best" by the glass and a standard "by the glass" list. Each wine is offered in a 2- or 3-ounce tasting pour, a standard glass or by the bottle - it all depends on what you wish to spend. If you are looking for structured variety, there are numerous wine flights offered, each with a distinctive theme.

With this being said, my wife decided to go with a flight of sparkling wine with different liquors. I, on the other hand, jumped into the Cruvinet Selections like a fat kid on cake.

To keep things reasonable, I went with a 2-ounce pour of three different wines. My favorites of the three were the 2007 DuMOL Pinot Noir from Sonoma, which shone of crisp cherry and plum on the nose with sour cherry, plum and some spice on the palate. This was easily a 92-point wine and a tremendous way to start. The other was a 2005 Shafer One Point Five Cabernet from Napa, which was such a refined and elegant cabernet with rich blackberry and currant along with nice minerality and super refined tannins. The Shafer was one of the better Napa Cabs I have had lately, at 93 points. Besides these two, there were another 10 or so on the Cruvinet portion of the list. Carnevale mentioned that they are normally rotated every week.

The reason I speak so highly of the Cruvinet Selections is because it is almost wholly unique to this area. The normal wines by the glass offered in restaurants typically range from $8-$25 wholesale, whereas the wines offered on this list retail range from $50 or more. To me, that provides a level of quality experience that is worth mentioning and a level of sacrifice and investment by the owners for the benefit of their patrons.

The aforementioned wines and food are one part of the consumer-friendly, unique and quality-laden experience offered at Corks. The waitstaff was knowledgeable and friendly (thank you, Meagan), and Carnevale was extremely generous with his time and knowledge. As he mentioned to me, "I love to take time with those who love wine." What more can someone who loves wine ask for? I would highly recommend Corks for your date and hope you share a similar experience.

Corks Wine Bar is at 2 Village Inn Lane in Bedford. For more information, call 472-2001 or visit


Monday, November 2, 2009

Wine of the Week: Rosenblum Petite Sirah Heritage Clones

Rosenblum Cellars, like many wineries in California at the time, was founded by passionate wine lovers who had established themselves in frields far away from viticulture and oenology. Ken Rosenblum, an established veterinarian, and his wife Kathy founded Rosenblum Cellars in 1978. Since then, Ken has headed up the winemaking and has elevated his wines to the point that Rosenblum Cellars is now regarded as a "Mecca for Zin-fanatics". Besides their famous Zinfandels, Rosenblum focuses primarily on varietals native to the Rhone.

The winery is located in Alameda County which obviously is not in the traditional wine areas of Napa or Sonoma counties (although they do have a tasting room in Napa, smart idea!).

So now you know a little bit about the winery, how was the wine?

2007 Rosenblum Heritage Clones, Petite Sirah, San Francisco Bay, California - $16

This is a very good Petite Sirah. Its appearance was extermely dense and viscous. The aromas exploded with lush blackberry and bitter chocolate. On the palate, this robust wine exuded very dry, big blackberry, strawberry and currant with spice and green vegitation in the backdround. There was a healthy amount of heat from alcohol present, but it was not enough to really take anything away from this fun wine.

Overall, this was a very good representation of what Petite Sirah can be. It would pair wonderfully with any red meat, especially rack of lamb or sirloin. I would put this wine at around 91 points and once you take into account the price point, you quickly realize what this is a terrific value!

This wine is available at most NH Liquor stores, including the one behind the Nashua Mall off of Exit 6.