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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fun Facts: Dom Pérignon

Quite possibly the most famous Champagne and the most famous Benedictine monk, Pére Pérignon has been touted as the inventor of Champagne. Although the romantics and the French (I know that is a little redundant) stick to this story, the image of a lovable blind monk being the first to stumble upon this magical wine is unfortunately not true.

The process of converting still wine into sparkling was documented well before the famed monk laid claim. Christopher Merret, a British scientist, executed the first documented instance of voluntary secondary fermentation. Outside of his research, he did little to further improve upon his findings. That was not his objective; he was a scientist, not a winemaker. That job was left to Pére Pérignon.

Pére Pérignon truly earned his reputation as an innovator. His creation was referred to as le vin du Père Pérignon and it became the must have wine of the time. His innovations and his ability to elevate a wine to such heights that it can now only be claimed by one region in the world is why we celebrate him.

In the end, Dom Pérignon may not have been the first, but does it really matter?!

Sources/Interesting Reads:

P.S. - I am aware that I am blinking in the picture and look like a fool, but Dom is in the background an that makes me very cool.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wine of the Week: Yalumba Shiraz-Viognier Barossa

Yalumba Winery holds a sentimental place in the hearts of Australian wine lovers, as it is the oldest family-run winery in Australia. Yalumba was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith, a British immigrant and brewer. He brought his family to Angaston in the pursuit of a new life. After purchasing a 30-acre parcel of land just beyond the southern-eastern boundary of Angaston, Smith and his son, Sidney, began planting the first vines by moonlight.

Yalumba, which is aboriginal for the land all around, has a rich history of producing very well-composed wines at numerous price thresholds. To make a comparison, Yalumba is to Australia, as E. Guigal is to the Rhone (France). From top to bottom, they offer tremendous wines from all over the region.

My favorite line of their wines has been their Hand Picked line. Lately, I have been drawn to their Barossa line as well. This region offers terrific growing conditions for Shiraz, allowing it to develop numerous layers of flavor and vibrancy.

2006, Yalumba, Shiraz-Viognier, Barossa, Australia - $16

The 2006 shows a beautifully pure purple hue. The nose is of vibrant red berries with a hint of pepper. The palate is very pleasant, with strawberry and blueberry the most evident. The tannins are very soft and there is a slightly perceptibly amount of heat prior to the medium length finish.

Overall this wine is very good and with its nice balance, it will accompany a meal of pork or chicken perfectly. I am rating this 90 and Wine Spectator gave it a 91. It should age well for five or so years, but I like its freshness and would drink it now.

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


Friday, September 25, 2009

Athletes & Wine: The NFL

Wine Spectator recently ran a column, Are You Ready for Some Football (Wines)? , that is certainly right up many NFL fans’ alley. They highlighted some of the former players that have taken heavily to a wine lifestyle since retiring. It is surprising to see some of the names involved and hopefully this list continues to grow.

For those of you who doubt that an NFL player can make great wine, don’t think that they are going it alone. They have enlisted great winemakers to either mentor or partner with them in their journey. Winemakers such as Thomas Brown (of Schrader), Chris Figgins (of Leonetti), Rob Lawson (of Ghost Block) and the legendary Ed Sbragia (of Beringer), highlight the wealth of winemaking knowledge involved. This should not be surprising as great players realize the importance of having a great team (both on and off the field).

Unfortunately, current NFL rules forbid active players from discussing/promoting alcohol (it is simply an endorsement situation, the NFL just wants to be in control of it). Just imagine the active role wine has in many of these players lives, be it well-developed cellars, part-ownership in restaurants and wineries, and possibly as part of their investment portfolios. I look forward to hearing more as the years progress.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece about current NBA player Zaza Pachulia’s recent purchase of trendy Atlanta wine restaurant Eno. As I alluded to then, any time an athlete embraces the wine lifestyle, I find it very appealing. Athletes have a way of appealing to most casual wine drinkers in a way that Robert Parker, Jim Laube and Hugh Johnson simply cannot. If you said “who?” to the names just mentioned, then I have proved my point. There is the potential that this type of exposure to non-wine drinkers will hopefully convert a few new wine lovers to our side.

I encourage you to read the Wine Spectator piece; it is a nice synopsis of former greats that have succumbed to the allure of the vine.

Listed below is a condensed list of former NFL personnel that are now involved in winemaking:

Charles Woodson (Current Green Bay Packer CB) – TwentyFour Wines
Rick Mirer (former Seattle Seahawk and Oakland Raider QB) – Mirror Wine
Drew Bledsoe (former New England Patriot and Buffalo Bill QB) – Doubleback Winery
Joe Montana (Hall of Fame quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers) – Montagia
Dick Vermeil (Legendary NFL coach) – Vermeil Wines
Mike Ditka (Hall of Fame player and coach) – Mike Ditka Wines
Carmen Policy (Former San Francisco 49ers president) – Casa Piena

Image Sources:
Charles Woodson -
Drew Bledsoe -

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wine of the Week: Seghesio Zinfandel

The Seghesio family can trace their winemaking roots back to the vineyards of 1800s Italy. That is was when Edoardo Seghesio decided to pursue a new life in Sonoma County, which at the time was the home of a flourishing Italian community. Like other Italian immigrants at the time, Edoardo recognized the potential that this area had for creating terrific wines that reminded them of home. In the late 1890s, he purchased the land that would spawn Seghesio’s signature wine, Zinfandel.

A lot of time has passed since the days of Edoardo, but the family name is still realizing his dreams of creating amazing wines. Since 1999 their Sonoma County Zinfandel has scored 88 or higher (per Wine Spectator's ratings) and their other wines continuously represent their drive for excellence. In 2007 their Sonoma County Zinfandel became possibly one of the best value wines that I have come across (it was rated 93 point and only cost $22). That is until I tried their 2008 vintage!

2008, Seghesio, Zinfandel, Sonoma, California - $23

This wine was completely on par with the quality exuded in the 2007 vintage, but was different in a few key ways. The smokiness is less perceptible and the subtleties of the 2008 make it a little more interesting.

The wine hits your senses right out of the bottle when you notice the super deep plum color of this wine. From there, your sense of smell is hit with the distinct aromas of dark cherry and blackberry capped off with just a hint of spice. It is in the mouth where things really come together. The cherry melds into a beautifully subtle jaminess that is lined with very mellow oak. Everything here is in balance, which is what makes this wine great. One would never guess that this wine is over 15% alcohol, due to the fact that there is no perceptible heat. This is a truly harmonious Zinfandel.

The 2007 has not yet been rated by Wine Spectator, but I am giving it a 92 point rating that could possibly become a 94 with a year or two of cellaring. This will pair perfectly with anything from pizza to filet mignon. Please make a point of trying this wine!

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Welcome to my wine world!

As published on 9/23 in the Nashua Telegraph (click link to view Telegraph version).

When I first proposed writing a wine column to the Telegraph, I did so for a few reasons.

First, as a restaurant/personal wine consultant, I hold a firm belief that wine has a way of elevating life's special moments. This belief may sound overly romanticized, but hear me out.

Have you ever had people over for dinner, or gone out to dinner with someone special or a group of friends? Of course you have. Now have you noticed how those same occasions are noticeably different when a nice bottle of wine is served?

Catch my drift?

Wine has special qualities that elevate a family meal into a feast or a chat around the table into a brainstorming session about fulfilling your dreams.

The second reason is to counteract what I have experienced from the beginning of my own wine journey. Wine has been the object of some very pretentious people who make it far too complicated. My goal is to show you that wine is simply wine – and it is meant to be enjoyed by all. The appropriate level of involvement is up to you. Never let anyone who thinks he or she knows more about wine make you feel inferior for not knowing!

Finally, there are truly special things going on in our neck of the woods regarding wine. My intent is to introduce, or re-introduce, you to local wine-related gems and review some of the restaurant wine experiences available in the area. No need to worry, restaurateurs! (Well, no need to worry if you offer a good experience for your patrons.) I will also be sharing my perspective on goings-on in the wine world, including some delicious and not-so-delicious reviews of readily available wines. I will also be offering practical advice for those who appreciate and/or collect wine.

Let me begin by offering the review of a wonderful wine that I recently enjoyed: 2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $44.

Domaine Drouhin has a very rich background. It is the product of the expansion of French wine houses into the new world. Maison Joseph Drouhin, of Beaune, France, had been producing celebrated pinot noir since the 1880s. In 1987, it sought to pursue its own expansion when it purchased 225 acres of what was then a Christmas-tree farm.

The 2006 Domaine Drouhin is one of 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 Burgundy-styled Pinot Noir.

Wine ratings issued by a reputable publication serve as a barometer of the quality. As you will find out, I don't normally fall in line with the Wine Spectator reviews a majority of the time. I feel they are tightwads in some instances, but then again, it is only one person's rating/analysis. WS gave it a 90 for the 2006 vintage, and I almost feel slighted for them! This wine is very comfortably a 92 pointer – 90-94 points indicate a great wine – and I think this will only get better with time. Wine & Spirits gave the DD a 93. I think this illustrates that ratings are highly personal! I hope you have a chance to enjoy this terrific wine.

All of the wines featured in ongoing reviews are readily available at the New Hampshire Liquor Store off Exit 6 behind the Nashua Mall.

Until next time, cheers!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Be educated when looking at a wine list!

Few things irk me more than restaurants that mislead their patrons regarding their wine offering. Whether they do it intentionally or not is not the issue. In my opinion, wine should not be a compromise and you should get what you pay for. Unfortunately this is sometimes not the case.

Many restaurants rely on big names to appeal to wine drinkers and with good reason. A majority of these big names have amassed good reputations throughout the years and continue to produce very good wines. However, for some of them, their reputation no longer is representative of what they produce.

Restaurateurs are sometimes guilty of romanticizing, being too business minded, being ignorant, or being lazy in terms of finding out the true quality of the wine they offer. This leg work and honest evaluation should be required prior to the two to three time mark-up of a bottle. We should have the assurance that the mark-up is justified.

The objective of this article is not to blast local restaurants or restaurateurs. Although they should look at their lists closely and ask themselves, “am I offering my patrons the best possible experience by offering this wine?” Rather, this article is meant to inform the public of wines that should be avoided (in my opinion), because their lack of quality does not justify the high prices they demand. The oddity in all of this is that the wines that prove to be the main culprits are on numerous lists around the Nashua area!

Here are some wines to avoid, due to overly inflated prices in return for generally mediocre quality.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – All recent wines. Unfortunately this former giant still has a strong reputation in the general public. This is why you find their wines on many lists and this is why they still demand higher prices. Wine aficionados are aware that they have fallen-off heavily in the past decade. Their wines prior to this decade are still aging very well.

Duckhorn – Merlot. On rare occasion they have a good vintage. However, their variable quality does nothing to justify very high prices. Add to this that there are so many other options out there, why take the risk? Read about one of my Duckhorn experiences here.

Opus One – This wine demands far too much for the quality. Recently their vintages have improved, but if you are looking to shell out a week’s pay, you can do better. This is a better wine to purchase at a wine shop or liquor store and enjoy at home (that way you are only parting with a couple day’s pay). Do not pay the mark-up!

Joseph Drouhin – Burgundy Whites (trust me it makes sense). They make the list for typically being far too overpriced on wine lists. The quality is typically good, but for the price other whites are more appealing.

Michael & David Phillips – Almost all wines. They are very big in the area for some reason. Outside of their recent Petite Syrah (which was very enjoyable), I have been very underwhelmed by the wines they offer.

Here are some wines that I recommend which are readily available at local restaurants.

Justin – Isosceles. My favorite “higher-end” value wine out there. Personally, I would look for the 2005 or 2006. If you are going to get a prime-cut steak, pair this with your dinner! The best price locally: Giorgio’s in Milford & Bedford Village Inn (also available at C.R. Sparks, Michael Timothy’s & Unums).

CaymusNapa Valley Cabernet. You almost never have to worry about quality with this wine. If you are questioning which wine to get and this is within your range, it will be a safe bet. Available at: Bedford Village Inn, Michael Timothy’s & Saffron Bistro.

Robert StemmlerPinot Noir. For the price, I feel they offer some of the better Pinot Noirs available in local restaurants. Available at: Bedford Village Inn, C.R. Sparks, Michael Timothy’s & Unums.

Conundrum – White Blend. This is a fruity and crisp, food friendly wine that is typically offered at a comfortable price. Best price locally: Bedford Village Inn (also available at C.R. Sparks).

Zinfandels – Red not white! Typically, Zinfandel offers some of the best values on a wine list. They are food friendly and pair well with any red meat, as well as grilled meatier fish, poultry, pork and vegetables. Personally, I would never pay more than $65 for a bottle of Zinfandel (even at a restaurant), because you can get great deals for less. Best deals locally: Seghesio Family at Bedford Village Inn & Rosenblum at C.R. Sparks.

I hope this helps you the next time you are looking at a wine list and thinking “is this bottle worth it?” Due to the economic situation, I chose to withhold the names of the restaurants that carry these poor wines. My ego does not permit me to believe that I would have an impact on a restaurant’s bottom line, but just in case.

My intent is to help you be informed and help you avoid wasting money. To strengthen this point, I urge you to do a little research if you plan on having a bottle while dining out. Look at their menu and wine list online. If there are a couple bottles you are interested in, run them through Cellar Tracker or Cork’d to learn what others thought. You would not buy a $60 pair of jeans or a $250 suit without trying them on first would you? Then why pay $60 to $250 (or higher) for a bottle of wine without knowing if they are any good?!

Do not forget that wine is all relative to your personal taste. However, a little information and guidance can go a long way in helping you avoid a poor wine experience. When it is all said and done, we want to have the best experience possible when dining-out at a nice restaurant.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weekend Escape: Flag Hill Winery

Most people do not associate wineries, vineyards and winemaking with New Hampshire. This is with good reason; we have very fertile soil, it rains too much and our winters last eight months. These are not exactly premium wine producing conditions, but somehow Flag Hill Winery makes it work.

Since 1996, Flag Hill has been producing wine on their beautiful estate in Lee, NH. During this time they have been able to find ways to adapt their vines to the harsh and variable New England winters. Like many New England wineries, Flag Hill has to rely on unique varietals or grapes and partially on fruit wines. For those of you who do not prefer fruit wines, they have a nice line of more traditional wines as well.

Expect to see names such as Vignoles and Marechal Foch stocked on their shelves rather than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Do not be dismayed, they make some comforting and carefully crafted wines. These varietals have been selected due to the way they adapt themselves to the colder climate and overly generous soil. The most notable of these unique varietals are the Cayuga and Seyval Blanc, which were a crisp and vibrant revelation. However, it was the North River Port that was the biggest surprise of all. The spices, almond and caramel jump from this six year, oak-aged delight!

Every year, Flag Hill hosts a Harvest Fest. They welcome guests into their vineyard to help them bring in the grapes. Typically, tickets for this event are around $10 per person. It takes place towards the end of September or early October. If you are looking for something fun to do, make this it. It is not often that someone can say that they have helped in a winery’s grape harvest! If you are interested in attending, be sure to sign-up to receive the details and the date of the event (dates change year to year depending on when the grapes are ready for harvesting).

If you are looking for a unique wine experience, Flag Hill is definitely worth the quick drive (about 40 minutes from Nashua). You will leave with a renewed appreciation for New Hampshire wine and hopefully with a bottle of their North River Port!

Flag Hill Winery
297 North River Road
Lee, NH 03861

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Glass Half Full

Today, the Nashua Telegraph announced the launch of my bi-weekly wine column A Glass Half Full. It was announced both in print and on the web in the Feast section. You can view today's announcement entitled New Wine Columnist to Debut by clicking the link.

Mark it on your calendars, my first column will run on Wednesday, September 23rd and will be an introduction of things to come.

Thank you for your continued support!

2009: Harvest Report (up to this point)

It appears that God is smiling on us this year. From all indications, the 2009 harvests from across Europe and the US are ringing the sounds of excellence. Today, we will be focusing on three of the major collecting regions of Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy. It would be amazing if we looked back at 2009 as a historic vintage for numerous regions around the world. All indications are point to this being a possibility.

Napa Valley

According to a report in the St. Helena Star, the Napa Grapegrowers’ conference, reported that weather conditions this year have been almost perfect. Matt Taylor, the winegrower at the prestigious Araujo Estates, was not shy when it came to his excitement. He stated that 2009 has had an incredible growing season and that the grapes behold a beautiful acidity.

As of this past weekend, the weather continues to bless the harvest of 2009. According to the Napa Valley Registry, John Ruel of Trefethen Vineyards & Winery commented that the warm weather continues to speed ripening! On Tuesday, we will be bringing in our first chardonnay of the year, some beautiful Wente Musqué clone (a clone of Sauvignon Blanc) that is just singing with flavor.

Also, we received our first major comment about Cabernets from Volker Eisele of Eisele Vineyards. He said that temperatures in the vineyards dropped to 44 degrees during the night and daytime temperatures were around 80 degrees. This is the best weather for good color development in the reds. He finally went on to say that the harvest is on schedule for Cabernet, but will not be early due to recent cooler weather.

There have also been a lot of whispers of an over abundance of Cabernet and Pinot Noir grapes. Add to this that the market (for Pinot Noir) is finally slowing down, according to an interview in Wine Spectator of Dennis Martin, VP of Winemaking at Fetzer. These facts could potentially make for some good deals for bargain hunting consumers down the road.


Expectations are equally optimistic in Bordeaux. According to reports from Decanter, the harvest of 2009 is being compared to the historic harvest of 2005. Other then a May hail storm, which damaged a decent amount of vines (with the worst damage occurring on the Right Bank), the conditions have been optimal.

Château Teyssier’s Jonathan Malthus said that in terms of quality, we are in the best position since 2005. Three weeks back, Château Carbonnieux’s Eric Perrin told Decanter that we are bringing in grapes of great delicacy and freshness, when speaking of the Sauvignon Blanc harvest. Perrin also mentioned that this years harvest is around one week to 10 days in advance of 2008 for both whites and reds, with larger quantity and healthier grapes.


In Burgundy, the expectations seem to be even loftier. Some of the wine houses are even declaring that 2009 will be a magnificent vintage for both the whites and reds. The grapes were small and they've developed from this perfectly through the summer. This is easily the best year since 2005, said Jean-Paul Durup of Domaine Jean Durup.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer Domaine Jacques Prieur’s owner Martin Prieur stated, we're looking forward to a very fine vintage, very balanced. Considering the stubbornness of Pinot Noir, these optimal growing conditions are providing a pivotal first-step towards a legendary wine.

In the cases of Napa, Bordeaux and Burgundy this year has provided a terrific harvest season thus far. However, as exciting as this all sounds, wine houses are not out of the woods just yet. In California there is always the potential of continued wildfires to contend with and there is always the possibility of a wet September/early October (which could dilute the concentration of the grapes).

As it stands, the weather since these articles were written has been optimal for harvest, as well as the final leg of ripening for the reds. If the negative variables continue to be held at bay, then it will be up to the talented winemakers to create terrific wines from a very exciting batch of grapes!

Based on the most recent weather reports (9/16) from The Weather Channel, Napa Valley looks to be the best positioned with no rain in sight and temperature variation on the low and high ends that are very promising. Both Bordeaux and Burgundy have some rain in the forecast, the severity and length will be key factors to watch going forward. The temperatures also look to be dipping slightly. Let us hope that a few days of poor weather does not undo the promising foundation that has been laid.

Stay tuned for an in-depth report following the conclusion of the harvest season!

Decanter –
Napa Valley Register-
St. Helena Star -
Wine Spectator -

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A great way to learn...occasionally pick at random

This past weekend I happened to stop into Wine Society to pick up a couple bottles. Wine Society has a nice selection and offers labels that are not readily available anywhere in the area. While meandering around the racks, looking for a Spanish wine, I spotted a bottle of Portuguese wine. At $12 a bottle I figured it was worth a try.

The bottle selected was from Douro, a world famous wine region, but not for the typical wine that most are accustomed. Douro is the home of Port, which is a heavily aged and fortified wine. For many years, Port dominated the grape demand in this region (mainly Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tempranillo, known in Portugal as Tinta Roriz). This left only leftover grapes for the unfortified wines. Times and tastes have changed. With the recent influx of capital, many Port producing wineries have given unfortified wines a more prominent place in their portfolios. This move has proved beneficial, as Portuguese wines are an ever improving value offering in foreign markets.

Picking a bottle at random can be a rewarding or awful experience. So where does this experience fall?

2007, Castello D’Alba Colheita, Red Blend, Douro, Portugal - $12

The Colheita was a medium-full bodied wine that exhibited a very clean, almost shimmering, ruby red complexion. The aroma was of earthy dark berries with an undertone of oak. The palate was fresh and lively with plum and cherries dominating with very good acidity. The wine possessed very pleasant warmth towards the end.

It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. There is very little information about this wine available, but I was happy with the selection and would rate it at 87 points. It is a very pleasant sipping wine and would go well with pasta or leaner cuts of meat.

If you are ever in the area, stop by Wine Society (Amherst St in Nashua, NH) for a unique bottle of wine. Being random is a great way to learn new things about different regions and your tastes!

- Johnson, Hugh; Jancis Robinson. The World Atlas of Wine: Sixth Edition. Mitchell Beazley. Pgs. 216-218.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Wine of the Week: Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc

Merry Edwards, as a winery, is still very new to the game. They were incorporated in 1997 and started to produce wine only 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.

Today’s Sauvignon Blanc is of the vintage following their classic 2007 which was dubbed by James Laube of Wine Spectator as, “the greatest Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had from anywhere.” It garnered a very prestegious 96 points.

Can the 2008 possibly follow-up such a wonderful vintage?

2008, Merry Edwards, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California – $35

The 2008, like the previous vintages, was created from Musqué (a Sauvignon Blanc clone) and then barrel fermented. These two factors give this wine a very nice medium to full body feel, compared to most Sauvignon Blancs that offer a lean and crisp feel. The nose was of very mellow lemon zest with a hint of lilac. The palate offered a nice array of fruit beginning with green apple and brown pear and then introducing grapefruit towards the end. From nose to mouth this is a wonderfully complex wine and the acidity is mouthwatering.

The 2008 is a terrific response to the question posed earlier. This is the most unique Sauvignon Blanc I have had. Due to the lush acidity and supple body, this will pair terrifically with any seafood. Personally, the seafood dish picked should be very clean and possibly offer a light citrus sauce to fully compliment this wine.

Wine Spectator is yet to rate the 2008, but when/if they do I am sure it will have another terrific rating. To me, this wine is a classic. It will certainly age very well for about 5-7 years due to its crafting and natural traits. I rate this wine 95 points, because it is the best white wine I have ever had.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sopranos in Nashua

A couple of big names from HBO’s The Sopranos hit the NH Liquor Store off of exit 6 in Nashua yesterday. John Ventimiglia (who played Artie Bucco) and Vincent Pastore (who played Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero) took a few hours to promote the release of The Sopranos Wine.

A very good sized crowd turned up to welcome these iconic stars of one of TV’s all-time greatest shows. Both stars were in good spirits and cracked jokes and posed for countless pictures, while signing bottles of Sopranos wine and anything else people shoved in front of them.

As my wife and I approached the table, we overheard some terrific banter.

Fan at the table: What would you guys pair with this wine?
Big Pussy: Pasta Fagioli
Person: Oh yeah
Artie: Well it’s better than a colonoscopy.
Big Pussy: That doesn’t sound fun.
Artie: It’s nothing, they knock you out.

Then it was our turn.

Big Pussy: (to Christine) Hey Honey!
Big Pussy: (to Me, less emphatically) Hey Honey.
Me: (To Artie) He is rather flirtatious isn’t he?
Artie: Yes he is.

Great times!

Ventimiglia and Pastore were refreshingly down-to-Earth and the wines were better then I expected. The varietals available were Pinot Noir, Chianti and Pinot Grigio. I am going to hold off final judgment on the wines until I have a chance to try them in a proper glass.*

According to their website, the wines were created to celebrate wine’s time-honored place in Italian family tradition. The Sopranos Wines line-up also includes a Chianti Classico and Riserva for those who appreciate wine and are not just looking for a novelty bottle. Hopefully they will be available locally soon.

All in all, the local wine/liquor scene in Nashua is being actively promoted. Along with the Soprano cast members, actor Dan Ackroyd was in town a few months back promoting his wine label. And in two weeks Danny Devito will be in town promoting his limóncello. Any chance of getting Francis Ford Coppola out here?

*The good people at Martignetti Distributing opted to use cups similar to those that accompany a bottle of cough syrup! Good job promoting your wines (and by good job I mean horrid job). You are lucky that Ventimiglia and Pastore are charismatic and excessively popular.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fun Fact: Wine Origins

Most people think of France when they think of the birthplace of fine wine. In many respects they may be correct. The French certainly have perfected the craft, but were they the first?

For years, historians, archaeologists and scientists have been trying to isolate the origins of wine. Popular belief is that wine originated in the Middle East or immediate surrounding areas. The most common countries associated with the birth of wine are Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Iran.

Although there is no disputing the fact that the wine consumed at that time would barely resemble what is consumed now, there is physical proof that inhabitants during that time created, stored and attempted to age wine!

There have been vessels unearthed which contained residue of stored wine and preservative agents, the oldest of which dates back 8,000 years. It was unearthed in what is today the Republic of Georgia.

Since then, many of the countries associated with wine’s origins have gone through transformations which have shifted there interest away from wine production. The most notable event would be the spread of Islam (in the 700s A.D.), a religion that forbids the consumption of alcohol.

The Greeks and later the Romans had no such restrictions and gladly picked up the mantel. They continuously sought to improve their wines and even laid the foundations of what would become the current wine strongholds of France and Italy. When these empires expanded, the presence of wine expanded along with them. The Romans would not only bring their own vines, but also cultivate wild vines growing in the different regions.

Regardless of its origins, wine has always been a very integral part of civilization. It has always lent itself to improving the quality of life of everyone who consumed it out of appreciation and not excess.

Sources (Text):
- Johnson, Hugh; Jancis Robinson. The World Atlas of Wine: Sixth Edition. Mitchell Beazley. Pgs.12 & 285.
Source (Image):

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wine of the Week: Buehler Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a varietal that is horribly overlooked. Many people bypass the Zinfandel aisle for the more common red varietals (i.e. – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc). However, as I covered in the Cab rules supreme article from last month, there are a lot of quality, unique wines that get looked over.

Zinfandel is the one grape that US consumers should really embrace. For many years it was considered to be California’s only native grape. Although DNA research has shown that it is Croatian in origin, there is no doubt that Napa and Sonoma County winemakers have perfected this varietal. Besides this, Zinfandel is also very food-friendly, easy to drink by itself, bold and overall inexpensive! The best Zinfandels will typically run you $30-40, while there are plenty of mediocre Cabernets and Merlots that start at $30-45. I hope you heard that Stag’s Leap and Duckhorn!

I will now step down from my soapbox and offer you my recommendation.

2007, Buehler, Zinfandel, Napa Valley - $19

The aroma lofts pleasantly of cherry and strawberry along with some slight herbal notes. It awakens the palate with jammy strawberry, raspberry and blackberry flavors. It has a very supple body with nice warmth and a long, flavorful finish. This wine pairs perfectly with BBQ and grilled foods, as well as a nice steak. Gary Vaynerchuk will be happy with this Zinfandel as it is not an Oak Monster!

Wine Spectator gives the 2007 Buehler a 90 and I give it a 91. It is not an overly complex wine, but the generous jammy fruit and long finish that it offers is terrific.

The next time you are out, look for this wine or the 2007 Seghesio Family Zinfandel from Sonoma (if you can find it!) . Your taste buds will thank you!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

I thought that this would be the proper forum to wish my wife, Christine, a Happy 2nd Anniversary.

Christine is an amazing woman and has been exceptionally supportive and patient of my endeavors. Ever since we were married, she has been continually growing in her appreciation of fine wine. I attribute a lot of this to Olivier Magny of Ô Chateau, who got us even more excited about French wine while on this trip.

The day after our wedding, we boarded a plane leaving for Paris and began what would be an amazing life experience. Today’s entry is our way to look back at a few of the memories and a way to share them with you.

On the plane ride home, we each made a list of our favorite things about our honeymoon. We hope you enjoy them!

Christine's List
Arc d'Triomph
Bicycles everywhere!
Decorative Old Buildings
Eiffel Tower
Lancel (She loves her Lance)
Mercedes Taxis
Mona Lisa
Scottish People in Kilts (In Paris during the Rugby World Cup)
Seine River Cruise
Vineyards of Champagne

Erol's List
Arc d'Triomph
Eiffel Tower
Everyone Riding Bikes
Moët & Chandon
Mona Lisa
Ô Chateau (Olivier!)
Rediculous Cars (Both tiny and super high-end)
Unique Fashions (Urban Myth: The Smiling Parisian Woman)


Monday, September 7, 2009

Death by Chocolate and Raspberries

1 - Store bought pizza dough
6 oz - German Baker's Chocolate 45-50% cocoa (finely chopped)
4 oz - Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate 50-65% cocoa (finely chopped)
2 tbs - Sugar
3 tbs - Brown Sugar
2 tbs - Butter
1 cup - Coconut
1 cup - Fresh Raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll the pizza dough to desired shape and size on a floured cooking sheet. Put dough in the oven for 4 minutes.

While the dough is in oven, melt the butter and then combine with sugar and brown sugar. Remove pizza dough from oven and brush the entire surface with the butter and sugar mixture. Once all of the mixture is applied, cover the pizza with the German and semi-sweet chocolate. Before returning to the oven, sprinkle the 1 cup of coconut evenly across the top of the pizza. Return to the oven for 6 more minutes.

Remove the pizza and then, using a butter knife, spread the melted chocolate evenly across the surface of the pizza, leaving the outer crust exposed.

Apply the fresh raspberries and enjoy!

5 minutes later enjoy your sugar rush and subsequent sugar coma!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Athletes & Wine: Zaza Pachulia

As a former athlete and a wine lover, it always interests me to see athletes getting involved in the world of wine. There are countless examples, from Drew Bledsoe starting his own winery (Doubleback in Washington), to David Beckham's love affair with Far Niente's Cabernet Sauvignons, to former pro-cyclist Jonathan Vaughters becoming an honorary member of L'Echansonnerie des Papes (the keyholders of Chateauneauf). There are many fun and intriguing stories of pro-athletes succumbing to the allure of wine.

This latest example is close to my heart. As a restaurant wine consultant, I truly appreciate when restaurant owners try to improve their patrons' experiences whenever possible. Such is the case of Zaza Pachulia, center for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. According to an article in Wine Spectator, he has recently purchased Atlanta's Eno. His intent is to introduce some wines from his homeland of Georgia (yes, Georgia is also a country). To me, there is nothing better than offering a unique, cultural experience. Kudos to Zaza!

Now, if only Hedo Turkoglu would become a restauranteur in Toronto and introduce some Turkish wines!

Friday, September 4, 2009

There's nothing like an older bottle of wine

1991, Simi Reserve, Alexander Valley, California

The Simi Reserve was still alive and well, although it is in that last quarter of its life. This was somewhat of a surprise based on what I had read prior to opening it and the conditions in which it was stored. In 1995, Wine Spectator's most discerning palate, James Laube, said it was supple and harmonious, with well-focused cherry, currant, mineral and spice notes that lead to firm tannins and an excellent, long finish. This ample California Cabernet needs to age into 1998 or 1999 to show its best. This would put its peak from 1998-2001 before starting to fade.

After tasting this last evening I would say that this is just past its peak (by 3-4 years). The 1991 Simi Reserve offered the color and body that would not reflect the fact that this wine is old enough to vote. The meniscus (outer ring) was of garnet but overall the wine still radiated a dark plum hue.

It had a medium to full-bodied feel, which still offered a nice dose of fruit on the nose and palate. The aroma jumped of prunes that folded nicely into saddle leather. At the very end, the nose put forth a nice amount of wet peat moss. The palate was of matured blackberry and cherry that evolved into plum, seemingly with traces of menthol (?). The tannins were completely mellowed out by this point.

This wine still has a good amount to offer and should drink pretty well for at least 3 more years. The original Laube tasting in 1992 was scored an 88, with the 1995 tasting scoring a 92. I would put this in the 90-91 range, because this wine still has some terrific qualities.

Although this wine will be extremely hard to come by, I feel that it is important to try older wines if wine is a passion of yours. It gives you a completely different experience and appreciation. Also, older wines make terrific birthday and anniversary gifts. Imagine opening a wine from your birth year, wow!

Note – when looking at projected time in wine ratings, the rule of thumb is as follows:

Let's use this wine as an example:
1995 (date published) – 1998 (date of peak) = 3 (years) + 1998 (date of peak) = 1998-2001 (peak drinking time)

This just goes to show you that estimating a peak drinking time is not an exact science. These expert palates are simply using what the wine is showing at the time and trying to put some practical advice forward.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fun Fact: Fumé Blanc

When you walk down the aisles of your local wine or liquor store, you may find yourself in the Sauvignon Blanc or California Whites section and find yourself looking at a bottle of Fumé Blanc. This may provoke the question, “what the heck type of wine is this?”

Fumé Blanc is a made-up marketing name created by the Robert Mondavi. In his memoires, A Harvest of Joy, he explained that he created the name for two reasons. He wished to disassociate his winery’s drier, somewhat Loire-style, Sauvignon Blancs from the unpopular sweeter version that was readily available in California. The second reason is that he found "Fumé Blanc" to be far easier to say than Sauvignon Blanc, thus more approachable to consumers. The name was a jumble of the Loire Valley (France) term “les blancs fumés.”

To test the phonetic appeal of the term, they released the wine in test batches. The first was labeled with Sauvignon Blanc and the second with Fumé Blanc. Guess which term sold more?

This marketing innovation turned out to be pure genius. Robert Mondavi Winery saw a substantial increase in Fumé Blanc sales after the rebranding.

Even to this day, Mondavi Fumé Blanc continues to be a terrific California Sauvignon Blanc for a very reasonable price (around $20). A couple other Fumé Blanc names to keep an eye out for are: Chateau St. Jean ($13) and Grgich Hills ($30).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wine of the Week: Gemtree "Uncut" Shiraz

2007, Gemtree Uncut, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia - $20-25

Gemtree is a very young, hip, organic boutique winery from one of Australia’s most renowned Shiraz regions. It was launched in 1998 and has since been led by winemaker Mike Brown, who joined Gemtree from the terrific wine producer d'Arenberg.

Due to a severe draught in 2007, the wines of their Uncut blocks ended up being very powerful and of very low yields. For those of you not familiar with what goes into growing a wine grape, years of very little rain can be terrific for wine. During a draught, vines are forced to fight for every bit of moisture. This struggle to survive leads the vines deeper into the earth and contributes to a wines complexity. Also, grapes during these years are very concentrated due to the fact that they are not diluted with an abundance of water.

The 2007 Uncut is a very powerful, berry forward wine of very deep color. On the nose you get some ripe blueberry and cherry which is mirrored on the palate. After that initial hit of berries you then may get the hints of oak imparted by the barrel aging. The acidity and mild tannins truly shine through. Due to its structure and acidity, this is a very food friendly wine. These are the reasons I selected this for the wine list at Juniper's at the Wildflower Inn (Lyndonville, VT).

Wine Spectator has not rated the 2007 as of yet, but past vintages have scored out in the 88-92 range. I feel that this wine is a very solid 92 point Shiraz, which would also make it a terrific value!