Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kayuga II

While passing through Arlington over the weekend, we decided to stop for dinner. There are so many restaurants on Mass. Ave that I have yet to try. I was in the mood for Japanese food so decided to give Kayuga II a try. I have never been there before but the menu looked interesting.

Kayuga is a small restaurant with large windows overlooking Mass Ave. They are open for both lunch and dinner, and even have delivery within two miles. Their menu includes Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes as well as nigiri sushi, sashimi and makimono. It is quite an extensive menu so there are plenty of choices and everyone should be able to find something to their liking.

We began with the fried Pork Gyoza ($5.75) which includes six gyoza. They were good though much the same as any other Japanese restaurant. That is not a bad thing, it is just that they were not special in any way. The Tatsuta Age ($6.50) were better than average, a nice mound of fried chicken nuggets with a nice flavor to the batter. The Miso Soup that came with our entrees was also better than average, with a delicious broth and it came out properly hot, not lukewarm as some places do.

They have a lengthy list of Makimono, sushi rolls, including many of their own invention. We had the Idaho Maki ($3.25), deep fried sweet potato and eel sauce, the Patriots Maki ($6.50), eel, fried sweet potato, cucumber and eel sauce, and the Red Sox Maki ($5.75), deep fried shrimp, crabstick, cucumber and spicy katsu sauce. I have no clue why the last two Maki are named as such. Their contents don't seem to have much to do with either sports team. But, they were quite tasty. All of the maki rolls were plump, with a nice mix of flavors and textures. You get six pieces of each and they are a good value for the price. I would highly recommend the Makimono.

We only had one type of Nigiri, the Tamago ($3.95), an egg omelet. It also was very tasty, one of the fullest flavored tamago I have had, though the pieces were a bit thin compared to most other places. I am curious about the size of the rest of their Nigiri.

The Pad Thai ($10.95) was a large plate of food and my wife felt it was one of the best Pad Thai dishes she has had, and she is a big lover of Pad Thai and has tasted it in many places. (Too many veggies for my preferences.) I had the Sesame Beef ($11.95) which was also a large plate with plenty of bite size pieces of sesame beef atop bean sprouts and carrot slices. It was easy to eat this dish with chopsticks and the sauce on the beef was very good, slightly sweet and not too thick and cloying. A very good dish.

My only significant complaint was with their Iced Green Tea ($2.50). It was quite good, unsweetened and seemed fresh brewed. But, they charged me for the three glasses I drank. Most places give free refills on iced tea, especially fresh brewed, and I have castigated other restaurants which charge for multiple glasses. Tea is so cheap that it seems like robbery to me to charge for three glasses when it probably did not cost 50 cents to make it.

Overall, I was pleased with this restaurant. Service was very good. Most of the food was excellent, reasonably priced and good portions. My only pet peeve is with their iced tea.

Kayuga II
444 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA
Phone: 781-648-4848

Kayuga II on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 29, 2008

WBW #50: Which Wine, Which Wilderness

The theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday #50 has now been announced and it is fitting with the start of autumn. Russ of Winehiker Witiculture is this month's host and his theme is touches on the foucs of his own wine blog. His theme is: Which Wine, Which Wilderness.

What does that theme entail? You must imagine that you and your significant other are seeking one final outing before winter arrives, an outdoor picnic enjoying a fine autumn day. Which wine would you bring with you for this picnic? What would be fitting for the season and the ambiance of the wilderness?

You can earn bonus points in various ways. "You get bonus points for choosing a wine that is made locally to you, double bonus points for sharing the name of the wilderness you would walk in, triple bonus points for sharing the name of the trailhead and how to get there, and a gazillion bonus points for actually walking that trail, enjoying your selected wine on a post-hike picnic, and describing your day of outdoor adventure for your readers. But by all means, do describe the wine!"

It will be easy in New England to decide on a wilderness area where I could go on such a picnic, though timing wise I probably won't get a chance to actually go there.

On or before, Wednesday, October 8, post your tasting review on your blog. Then just add a comment on Russ' post with a link to your review. As October 8 is next week, you don't have much time remaining so get to it and find that perfect wine.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saké Sunday: Saké Day--October 1

This Wednesday, October 1, is a special holiday: Saké Day ("Nihonshu no Hi"). Saké Day originated in 1978 by a declaration of the Japan Saké Brewers Association. It is now celebrated all around the world.

Why was October 1 chosen? Interestingly, the Chinese character for Saké is very similar to the Chinese zodiac sign for the Rooster 酉, the tenth sign. Thus, the first day of the tenth month, October, became Saké Day. It may also be due in part to the fact that October is also generally the start of the Saké brewing season.

Sadly, I am unaware of any Saké events in the Boston area to commemorate this holiday. Does anyone else know of any? The lack of any such events may indicate that Saké still has not made sufficient inroads into the Boston area, that more work is needed to bring Saké to the forefront. for my readers outside Boston, do you know of any Saké celebrations in your area? I do know that other locales are holding events, especially if places like San Francisco and New York City which have all-Saké stores.

For my local readers, I would like to do something to commemorate Saké Day this Wednesday. Who would like to join me? There is a very good Japanese restaurant, Kyotoya, in Stoneham that allows you to BYOB and they do not charge a corkage fee. So, we could eat dinner there and bring our own Saké! If you are interested, email me and we can try to make plans to do so.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lily Bistro: Rockland, Maine

Lily Bistro of Rockland, Maine, just opened this past spring. The chef/owners, husband and wife Bob Krajewski and Lynette Mosher, are currently spending every free minute canning peaches and pears, pickling zucchini and green beans, cellaring root vegetables, and preparing charcuterie.

They’re also fine tuning their recipe for fruit clafoutis, their #1 dessert seller, and awaiting the arrival of Maine sea urchin, tiny Maine shrimp and Maine scallops, all coming into season soon, and delivered fresh from the Port Clyde Fish Coop.

Some of their New Fall Menu Items:
* Port Clyde Pollock with fresh corn polenta, creamed leeks, yellow current tomato
* Potted Head Cheese with baguette, cornichons, mustard, local cheeses
* Spaghettini with Maine Uni
* Dijon-Braised Rabbit with hen o’ the woods, red wine & potato puree
* Roast Sirloin of Pork with buttercup squash spaetzle and cider reduction
* Braeburn Apple Clafoutis

New Fall Hours: Wednesday thru Sunday 5:00 - 9:30 PM.

New “Maine Martini” Hours: Wednesdays thru Fridays 4:00 – 6:00 PM
$6 martinis made with Maine produce-infused vodkas ranging from cantelope to cucumber, horseradish to hibiscus, plus peach, heirloom tomato and more.

Lily Bistro
421 Main St.
Rockland, Maine
Phone: 207-594-4141

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bad Economy: Wine Sales Still Strong

Despite the bad economy, sales of wine and alcohol appear to have at least remained steady, if not increasing in some areas. And wine may also be an attractive investment opportunity.

The Telegraph has an article, "Wine buyers defy credit crunch," that describes how there has been increased interest in investing in wine rather than stocks in the UK. "Live-ex, a research company that runs a fine-wine index, estimates that prices of the best vintages have increased by 50 per cent since the start of last year – in sharp contrast to the stock market, where prices have fallen by 15 per cent."

The Sacramento Bee recently published an article, "California wine sales appear healthy," states that though wine sales at restaurants are decreasing, retail and direct-to-consumer wine sales are increasing.

As a bit of an alternative, the Press Democrat reports in "Softening wine market," that wine sales are softening as consumers purchase less expensive wines while others cut back completely. But they see some optimism as well, pointing to various positive factors leading to a greater acceptance of wine overall.

So, have your wine buying habits changed with the worsening economy? Are you buying less expensive wines, though the same amount of wine? Are you investing in wine?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boston Globe Highlights Some Adonna Import Wines

In the today's Boston Globe, their "Plonk of the Month" column provides recommendations for five inexpensive Italian wines. Of those five wines, at least three of them are distributed by Adonna Imports, one of my favorite distributors.

Their wines include: 2004 Le Piane "La Maggiorina" Colline Novaresi, 2006 Martilde Oltrepo Pavese Barbera and 2006 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso. I would second the Globe's recommendations of both the La Maggiorina and Langhe Rosso. I have not had the Oltrepo before though I have had other wines from that winery that I enjoyed.

Though the Globe provided some stores where you can find these wines, there are other locations as well where you can buy them. Just ask if your local wine store carries wines from Adonna Imports.

Wine Sense: Second Anniversary Tasting

This past Saturday, I and some members of the North Shore Winers attended the special Second Anniversary wine tasting at Wine••Sense in Andover. The tasting was divided into two sessions, one from 12-3pm and the other from 6-9pm, each session having different distributors and wines. I attended both of the sessions and had a lot of fun as well as tasting some excellent wines.

I should also note that the local Whole Foods supplied cheese, crackers and dip for both sessions. There was a nice variety of delicious cheeses which certainly went well with some of the wines.

The first session garnered only a small crowd which was nice as it gave you more opportunity to talk with the distributors about their wines. The second session was much busier but I still was able to talk a bit with the distributors. My friends enjoyed themselves and many of them left with some new wines.

Here are some of the wines that most impressed me.

Adonna Imports:
Eileen always has some great wines and this was no exception. I had a few of the wines before, though not their new vintages. Let me highlight a couple of the wines.

2007 D.J. Vajra Moscato D'Asti ($19.99) from Piedmont, Italy: An appealing fruity nose with a nice taste of citrus and only a slight sweetness and a light effervescence. It was a refreshing wine which would make a nice apertif or a palate cleanser. Another excellent wine from this winery.

2003 Massa Vecchia Rosso ($57) from Tuscany, Italy: This is a wine that really needs to breathe for a time before you drink it. I had the opportunity to taste it soon after it was opened, an hour later, and then 7-8 hours later. I was not crazy about it soon after it was opened but it blossomed over time and then I got the full impact of this wine, all of its complexity and flavor. Lots of red fruit with hints of spice, vanilla, leather and more. A very long and smooth finish. This is a Wow wine but you need to be patient.


2005 Schroeder Family "Saurus" Malbec ($16.99) from Patagonia, Argentina: There is an interesting story behind the name of this wine. When digging on their property, they found a large dinosaur fossil. They were permitted to build their vineyard on the property if they protected the fossil so they built a museum around it. This wine is very good, with nice red fruit and vanilla flavors. It is a smooth wine with mild tannins and a bit lighter than many other Argentina Malbecs.

2004 Richard Hamilton Gumprs Shiraz ($19.99) from the McLaren Vale, Australia: This is another wine that is not like many other typical Aussie Shirazes. It is a light red color and has a delicious taste of cherry and raspberry, yet it is not a fruit bomb. It reminds me more of a Rhone wine, a bit more light and subtle than what is often seen in Australia.

Cafe Europa:

2005 Laumann Family Cambiata Tannat ($32) from Monterey, California: Albeit a bit pricey, this is an intriguing wine made from Tannat, which is more often found in France and Uruguay. The Tannats I have had before are using quite tannic, big bold wines. Yet this was a much milder Tannay, with nice dark fruit flavors and a touch of spice. It was more like a smiple Petite Sirah.

2004 Bravanate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) from Howell Mountain, California: A big, full-bodied spicy Cabernet with well integrated tannins and a very long finish. Plenty of complexity and simply a delicious wine. This was a favorite of many of my friends too. An impressive wine that is reasonably priced considering its high quality.


2007 Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau ($19.99) from Alto Adige, Italy: An interesting white wine with citrus flavors, some mineral notes and a nice crispness to it. There is a hint of some more exotic spice that complements the wine.

2007 Bedell Cellars, First Crush ($14.99) from Long Island, New York: A very good value wine that is 54% Merlot. It is smooth, with very mild tannins and plenty of lush red fruit flavors. An easy drinking wine perfect for pizza to BBQ.

Oz Pacific:

2006 Contat-Grange Maranges Rouge ($28) from Burgundy, France: A very nice young Burgundy with prominent fruit rather than any earthiness. A light wine compared to many California Pinots.

2007 Guy Allion Le Poira Malbec ($14.99) from Loire Valley, France: A value wine able to compete with any Argentina Malbec. This wine has interesting berry flavors, including a bit of blueberry, and mild tannins. A smooth, easy drinking wine with lots of flavor.

Vineyard Road:

1999 Geantet Pansiot Gevrey Chambertin Les Poissenoits ($70) from Burgundy, France: As expected, this was a Wow wine, a top notch Burgundy. The nose seemed a bit musty but there was none of that in the taste. A complex melange of red fruit and earthiness with hints of cinnamon. A very long finish, well integrated tannins and just a smooth feel to it. A wine to contemplate as you drink.

1991 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($75) from Sonoma, California: Another Wow wine that also begins with a musty nose. A subtler Cabernet, more like an older Bordeaux. Tame tannins, complex berry flavors with dominant cherry, and a very long finish. Another wine to contemplate, to savor slowly with close friends.

If you have not been to Wine••Sense before, then I do recommend you check it out. They have a diverse and interesting selection of wines, including all of the ones I just mentioned.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The North Fork Table & Inn: Long Island

Besides providing some winery recommendations, Lenn of Lenndevours also recommended a restaurant to me on Long Island, the North Fork Table & Inn. After checking their menu online, I decided to make reservations. And the restaurant did not disappoint in the least.

The North Fork Table focuses on seasonally creations featuring locally grown biodynamic and organic produce, fresh seafood from the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound and North Fork artisanal cheese. Their staff includes Executive Chef Gerry Haden, Pastry Chef, Claudia Fleming, Beverage Director Mike Mraz and Mary Mraz.

The restaurant offers a classy but homey ambiance, the type of experience you expect from a fine inn. They generally sat people away from each other, giving each table a bit more privacy, which is nice.

The restaurant has a full bar, including some of their own special cocktails such as the Desdemona (Prosecco, Strawberry Sorbet and Rose water) and Scott's Super Delicious Plus (house-infused Vanilla Vodka, fresh Grapefruit Juice and Gingerale). They also have beers, including some New York brews, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Their wine list is very impressive with its diversity, including wines from lesser common regions such as Morocco, Slovenia and Uruguay. They also carry a fair share of Long Island wines as well. For a wine lover, you may have difficulty choosing which wine to order as so many will tempt you. Bottles prices generally start at $40, with only a few below that price. They have fifteen wines available by the glass, in either a three or six ounce pour. Six ounce pours range from $8-$15. This is a wine list compiled by someone passionate about wine, someone who enjoys going beyond the safe zone to try new things.

There were so many wines I wanted to try that we decided to order glasses rather than a bottle. The 2008 Niel Joubert Chenin Blanc ($9/6 oz) from Paarl, South Africa was a pleasant choice. It was a crisp, light wine with plenty of delicious citrus flavors. The Oyama Ginsuika "Silver Water" Junmai Ginjo Sake ($11/3 oz) was excellent, a light and silky smooth Sake with subtle fruit and hints of floral notes. This is a Sake that would please even someone new to Sake and I would highly recommend it. The 2005 Borghese Pinot Noir ($15/6 oz) is from the North Fork of Long Island. It is a Burgundian style Pinot, more subtle and a touchy earthy over subdued berry flavors. Another excellent wine.

I also tried the 2006 Thalvin-Graillot Syrocco Syrah ($10/6 oz) from Rommani, Morocco. This is the first wine from Morocco that I have ever had and when I saw it on the wine list, I knew I had to taste it. The wine is made from 100% Syrah grown in the Zenata region of Morocco. The wine maker was Alain Graillot, of Crozes-Hermitage fame, who came upon the vineyards while bicycling. Alain started a relationship with the domaine who owned the vineyards, Domaine des Ouled Thaleb. As expected, this was a very Rhone style wine, more restrained with subtler berry flavors, hints of spice and a touch of earthiness. The tannins were mild and it had a moderatly long finish. A very good wine that you could easily confuse with a French Rhone.

As for the dinner menu, you can order off the menu or select their tasting menu. As we were a bit short on time, we decided to just order off the menu. Appetizers range from $12-25 and Entrees from $34-42. The cuisine is creative American, with plenty of diverse and interesting options. Foodies will love the available choices and it was difficult to decide which items to order.

Prior to our first course arriving, we received warm, fresh bread with soft butter. An excellent start and the bread was quite delicious. For appetizers, we chose the Local Krupski's White Sweet Corn Soup with Truffled Polenta Agnolotti and White Truffle Essence ($15) and the Crisp Cod & Yukon Gold Potato Cakes with Truffled Tartar Sauce and Micro Herb Salad ($15). The Corn soup was delicious, creamy and sweet. There were several agnolotti in the soup, light pillows of tasty polenta. The three cod and potato cakes were thick with a nice, crispy exterior and stuffed full of lightly salted cod and potato. Another excellent appetizer.

Our entrees included a Roasted Dayboat Harpooned Atlantic Swordfish with Shiitake Mushrooms, Baby Bok Choy, Pea Shoots, Crisp Fingerling Potatoes and a Carrot-Ginger Purée ($36) and a California Farm Raised Rabbit Two Ways, a Loin wrapped in Bacon and a Picholine Olive Sausage, atop creamy Polenta and Ratatouille ($33). The swordfish was cooked perfectly, leaving it moist, tender and flavorful. It was a good-sized piece of fish with plenty of fresh veggies on the side. The rabbit was also quite delicious, especially the sausage slices. The sausage slices had plenty of flavor and were tender, without any tough, gristly fillers. The polenta was also quite good, very creamy with a nice corn flavor.

For dessert, we had a Pear & Chocolate Tart ($12) and the Warm Sugar & Spice Donuts ($12). The sweet pears were atop a very moist and rich chocolate cake, in a pastry shell, and they paired together well. None of that was left on the plate. The donuts were a stack of 10 warm donut holes. 10!! I could not believe there were so many. They came with a vanilla-based dipping sauce and the donuts were absolutely delicious, light and sweet. I could not finish them all though so took several for the ride back.

Service was very good, professional and attentive. Overall, I was very pleased with our dining experience. The restaurant is a bit pricey but I think the type of ingredients and quality of the food justifies their prices. This is a place that should impress you. From the diversity of their wine list, to their varied menu options, there is something here for everyone. I am glad that I dined here and would recommend it to others as well.

North Fork Table & Inn
57225 Main Road
Southold, NY
Phone: 631-765-0177

Monday, September 22, 2008

Paumanok Vineyards: Long Island

During my visit to a few of the wineries on the North Fork of Long Island, my favorite was definitely Paumanok Vineyards. Lenn of Lenndevours had recommended this winery and I am very glad he did. This is a winery I would strongly recommend as well.

Paumanok Vineyards, founded in 1983, is owned and managed by Ursula and Charles Massoud, and their three sons. Though the estate has 103 acres, the winery produces less than 9000 cases a year. They grow a variety of grapes including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The tasting room and winery are within a converted barn and it presents a more quaint ambiance. The vineyards are just outside the barn and you can walk through them if you wish. They have two tasting flights available, the Paumanok Flight and the Grand Vintage Flight. The Paumanok Flight, consisting of six wines, costs $5 though you can also taste any of the wines individually for $1. The Grand Vintage Flight, consisting of six wines, costs $10 though you can also taste any of the wines individually for $2. Each flight includes both white and red wines. I chose to taste the Grand Vintage Flight.

On the day I was there, the pourer in the tasting room was Anna, a very personable and knowledgeable woman who helped to make the tasting a fun experience. She was a very good representative for the winery.

I began with the 2007 Paumanok Chenin Blanc ($28), made from 100% Chenin Blanc and which is the only Chenin Blanc made on Long Island. The wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. Only 629 cases were produced. What a wine to begin my tasting! First, it had an alluring nose, such compelling fruit flavors that you just wanted to smell it for awhile before tasting it. And when I finally did taste it, the flavors fulfilled the promise of its nose. Crisp and light, there were favors of grapefruit, apple and melon. A slight tartness that only added to the allure. Well balanced, this is a wine that should please many people. Though it might seem a bit pricey, I think it is well worth the price and I bought some of it. A wine I highly recommend.

The 2007 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc ($28) is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and was fermented entirely in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 13.9% and only 321 cases were produced. The nose of this wine was very nice, with plenty of citrus smells which also came out on my palate. There was only the merest hint of grassiness. This wine is all about the fruit. It had nice acidity and a good finish.

The 2007 Paumanok Dry Riesling ($22) is made from 100% Riesling and was fermented entirely in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 12.5% and only 381 cases were produced. I smelled a lot of green apple on this wine and it came out on the taste too. I also detected some lime and overall the wine was a bit tart, especially on the finish. I liked this wine though it did not really impress me.

I was a bit hesistant about the next wine, the 2004 Cabernet Franc Grand Vintage ($36), as I am usually not a fan of Cabernet Franc. Too often, it has a green/vegetal taste that turns me off. It was a light red in color and had a berry smell, but with a hint of greenness. But, when I tasted it, there was none of that vegetal flavor. Instead, there was plenty of blackberry and black cherry flavors. It had moderate tannins and a decent finish. Surprise! I actually liked this Cabernet Franc. That is why you should keep trying a grape that you may generally dislike. You never know when you will find it in a wine that you will like.

The 2004 Paumanok Assemblage ($36) is a blend of 38% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot. The wine spent 14 months in oak, 70% new and older French oak barrels and 30% older American oak barrels. It has an alcohol content of 13% and only 575 cases were produced. This wine had a moderate red color with a nice aroma of ripe red fruit. It had a lush taste of blackberry, raspberry and a hint of blueberry accompanied by touches of spice and vanilla. There was even a hint of anise. A very smooth wine with restrained tannins. A long finish and plenty of complexity. A pleasing wine.

The 2002 Merlot Grand Vintage ($36) is made of 99% Merlot with 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine spent 14 months in oak, 70% new and older French oak barrels and 30% older American oak barrels. It has an alcohol content of 13% and only 346 cases were produced. It had a light red color and a bit of a muted nose. On my palate, its spicy component was most dominant, the fruit being more subdued though definitely there. It also had a bit of earthiness, especially on the finish. The tannins were mild and overall it was a smooth, silky wine. A very long satisfying finish with loads of complexity. One of the better Merlots I have ever had and reasonably priced for what you get.

I also had the fortunate opportunity to try a few of their Library wines. And they were exceptionally impressive.

The 2005 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive Vineyard Limited Edition ($60) is made from 100% Petit Verdot, which you don't often see anywhere. This is the first time the winery has bottled such a wine. The wine spent 14 months in French oak, 33% new. It has an alcohol content of 13.5% and only 76 cases were produced. This wine had an intriguing berry nose, a melange of smells that flitted back and forth in my nose. On the palate, this was a "Wow" wine, impressing me with its rich, lush and complex flavors. A compelling blend of fruit and spice that tantalized my taste buds. The undercurrent of blueberry was delicious. The finish was very long and such a pleasure. The tannins were strong, but it is a well balanced wine that should cellar well. Though I think you could easily enjoy this wine now, it may be even better in a few years. I bought some of this wine as I just had to have it. What an exceptional wine and well worth its price.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Tuthills Lane Vineyard ($60) is made from 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 14 months in French oak, 40% new. It has an alcohol content of 13.5% and only 351 cases were produced. I have not had many good Cabernets from New York. But this wine shows that New York certainly can make an impressive Cabernet. Dark red in color, the nose is rich with ripe berries and a touch of spice. On the palate, there is ripe plum, blackberry and black cherry accompanied by vanilla and spice. A harmonius blending with moderate tannins and a very long finish. This is a top notch example of Cabernet, on par with many of the better California Cabernets. An excellent wine that is worth the price.

I enjoyed all of the wines I tasted and some of them really impressed me. I think their pricing is on par with the quality of their wines. They have plenty of diversity in their wines and there is something that should please everyone. Because of their small production, their wines are mainly available at their winery. They are well worth seeking out though. I do know that the next time I visit the Long Island wineries, I will be returning to Paumanok Vineyards.

Twitter Taste Live #4 & #5

The upcoming schedule for the next two Twitter Taste Live events has now been announced by Bin Ends.

On October 23, at 7pm, Jed Steele of Steele Wines will be the featured guest. Six of his wines will be on the tasting schedule.

"Steele and Shooting Star Wines was founded in 1991. Prior to that time, winemaker/owner Jed Steele was the founding winemaker, general manager, and VP of Production at Kendall Jackson for the first nine vintages of that company. Prior to his adventures at Kendall Jackson, Jed worked for 10 years for Edmeades, then a small independent winery in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County, as winemaker and vineyard manager. Jed began working in the wine business at Stony Hill Winery in the Napa Valley in 1968.

From mid-1991 until mid-1996, Steele Wines co-leased a small winery in Lake County. In June of 1996, Jed purchased the old Konocti Winery between Lakeport and Kelseyville in Lake County. The winery is located on Highway 29, exactly one hour driving time from downtown Calistoga, driving north-northwest, 45 minutes directly east of Hopland in Mendocino County, and one and a half hours from Santa Rosa, driving north-northeast.

The list of the wines for the tasting will be announced soon and you can purchase them at Bin Ends.

On November 15, at 6pm, The Bloggers Take Over event will be held. This promises to be an intriguing event. Though the details are still being put together, it should involve wine bloggers from all over the world showcasing some of their favorite wines. Stay tuned for further details.

It is very simple to participate in these Twitter Taste Live events. Just sign up for a free Twitter account and then follow "Binendswine" on Twitter. The first three Twitter Tasting events went very well and were lots of fun so why not join us for the next events.

Twitter Taste Live #3: Michel Schlumberger

This past Thursday, the third Twitter Taste Live event, hosted by Bin Ends, took place and it was even a bigger success than the first two. The special guest was from Michel Schlumberger winery in Sonoma County, California. The co-host for this Twitter Tasting was wine blogger Megan of Wannabe Wino.

"Michel-Schlumberger lies off the beaten track in Wine Creek Canyon, a sylvan side pocket of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. Each of the wines from our benchland, hillside, and mountain vineyards illustrates the French concept of terroir, or the expression of a specific place. We take pride in the wines produced from this all Estate, organically farmed fruit. Here, tucked away from the mainstream in Healdsburg, you find artisan vineyard work and winemaking at its finest. We hope you enjoy your exploration."

There were many wine bloggers, including myself, and many others, from all over the world, who participated in this event. Craig of Bin Ends led Twitter Taste Live from the Wine 2.0 New York event, garnering even more participation. A few bloggers even attended the Wine 2.o event too.

As I mentioned in my review of the second Twitter Tate Live event, one of the most fascinating elements of this tasting is that you get to hear so many different descriptions of the same wine, showing how people clearly smell and taste wines differently. That was very evident this time as well, especially with the first wine of the tasting.

Practically, this event was a bit more chaotic than the prior two events. That may be partially due to the fact the event was being run from the Wine 2.o conference, creating some logistical issues. It may also be partially due to the growing number of people who are participating in these tastings. There were no major problems, matters just did not run as smoothly as before. As these events are still relatively new, this is probably more a matter of growing pains and it will work itself out in time.

The wines that were tasted included, with a few of my notes, the following:

2006 Chardonnay "La Brume" ($29.60): This wine certainly tasted differently to many people. For me, it had too much of a buttery flavor for my preferences. That buttery flavor overwhelmed the other flavors of the wine. Yet there were other participants who tasted little if any butter flavor in this wine. They raved about the wines exotic fruit flavors, the touch of spice, and minerality. So it truly is a matter of preference. Though I did not care for this wine, there were plenty of others who loved it.

2005 Syrah ($22.40): This wine is a blend of 81.5% Syrah, 5.3% Zinfandel, 5.9 % Petite Sirah, and 3.2% Viognier. This was my favorite wine of the evening, just a luscious wine with plenty of alluring flavors and complexity. Blackberries, blueberries, plum and even raspberry filled my mouth, assisted by touches of pepper and spice. The tannins are restrained and the finish is long and delicious. Despite all the fruit, this is not a fruit bomb wine. I think this is an excellent value at this price and I highly recommend it.

2004 Merlot ($22.40): This Merlot has a little bit of Petit Verdot and Carmenere and was aged for 16 months in French oak barrels. This wine can benefit from a bit of breathing as it can seem too overpowering when the bottle is initially opened. But, after an hour or so, the wine is more tame and smooth. And it was even better the next day. Lots of black cherry and vanilla flavors in this wine with undercurrents of clove and leather. More complex than many comparable Merlots, this stands as another good value wine.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.60): Spice seemed to dominate in this wine, with undercurrents of dark berries. It kind of reminded me of the spices in apple pie yet atop a blueberry/blackberry pie. Tannins were moderate and the finish was long and spicy. An intriguing Cabernet that I enjoyed, especially as it seemed a bit more unique in its spice-driven flavors. Much more of an Old-World style than what usually comes from California.

All of these wines are available for sale at Bin Ends.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Twitter Taste Live in October. I will be posting the details in a separate post, as well as details on the November event. I strongly urge you to get involved. Sign up now for Twitter (it's free) and get ready for the next live Tasting.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Salem Wine Imports: Grand Tasting 9/25

Keep September 25 open on your calendar. Salem Wine Exports will be holding their first "Salem Wine Expo" on that date, from 6-10pm. The event will be held across the street from the store in the Lyceum Restaurant, thus allowing for much more space.

There will be over 80 wines available for sampling, including Silver Oak, Ch. Gloria, Bollinger, Pride Mountain and much more. There will also be light appetizers and live music. A few winery owners and winemakers will be in attendance to talk about and discuss their wines and methods and to answer questions. All wines will be discounted 20% for the event so you will have an opportunity to fill your cellar for the winter months.

There is a charge for this event, either $20 prepay or $25 at the door.

I will be leading a group of the North Shore Winers to this event and hope to see you there. It should be an excellent time with plenty of interesting wines to taste.

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church St.
Salem, MA
Phone: 978-741-9463

Raphael Winery: Long Island

As I mentioned previously in my review of Roanoke Vineyards, I had a bit of free time to explore a few of the wineries on the North Fork of Long Island. Lenn of Lenndevours also recommended that I check out the Raphael Winery so I made that one of my destinations.

Raphael, which was established in 1996, is owned by John Petrocelli Sr. The winery concentrates on Merlot though grows other grapes as well. Their wine maker is Richard Olsen-Harbich and he is assisted by Vineyard Manager Stephen Mudd and consulting enologist Paul Pontallier, Managing Director of Chateaux Margaux.

Unlike the quaint tasting room at Roanoke Vineyards, Raphael presents a grander venue. It is an impressive building, a place which would make an excellent venue for functions. Obviously much money was invested into the building yet the most important aspect is their wine. Is it as impressive as the venue?

The wine tasting area, which you can see above, is a larger circular counter, that is designed to resemble a large wine barrel. They have three different tasting flights, each with three wines and priced from $6-8. They also have four library wines available for tasting, each for $5. I decided to go with the $8 tasting as well as one of the library wines.

First up, I tried the 2004 Raphael La Fontana ($21.99), a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec. This wine had a rich red color and a smell of ripe dark berries. On the palate, there was ripe plum and raspberry with a touch of spice and vanilla complementing the fruit. There was also a hint of earthiness as well. The tannins were moderate and the finish was also moderately long. It presents well as a Bordeaux-style wine. I enjoyed the flavor of this wine though it would be better paired with food. At this price, it is worth buying.

Next, I tasted the 2002 Raphael First Label ($30.99), which is 97% Merlot and 3% Malbec. It was aged for 12 months in French oak. This very dark red wine had an intriguing nose of dark berries. On the palate, it was a more powerful wine, with storng blackberry and ripe plum flavors coupled with a bit of leather and vanilla. Though the tannins were evident, the wine presented an overall smoothness and balance. It had a long satisfying finish leaving you to crave more. There is plenty of complexity and this is certainly an excellent Merlot. I definitely recommend this wine and it is not overpriced as some other Long Island Merlots can be.

I was not as enamored with the 2001 Raphael First Label ($24.99), a blend of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was aged for 18 months in French oak. I found the wine to have a vegetal smell which was offputting to me. And some of that greenness came through on its taste as well. The wine also seemed more tannic than the 2002. After tasting the 2002, this vintage seemed to be lacking and I did not enjoy it.

I finished up with one of their library wines, the 2006 Raphael Malbec ($39.99). This wine also did not impress me. It had a strange flavor, almost like purple rock candy. It certainly was unlike any Malbec I have ever had. If anything, it reminded me of what a Malbec might taste like if it were made by Yellow Tail.

Overall, I enjoyed half of the wines, which is still a good ratio. It is also good to see that Raphael generally has good prices for their wines. They do seem to do well with Merlot and it is worth stopping by the winery to check them out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roanoke Vineyards: Long Island

I had to visit Long Island for business and decided that on my way home, I would stop by a few of the wineries on the North Fork of Long Island. But which ones to visit? I knew that my best choice would be to ask Lenn of Lenndevours for some recommendations as he covers New York wines on his blog and knows a lot about the Long Island wineries.

There are two main roads through wine country on the North Fork, Route 25 & 48. There are wineries located on both routes and there are plenty of streets that connect these two routes, making travel relatively easy. There are also plenty of wine trail signs, indicating the wineries. Along the way, you will also find many farmstands selling local fruits, vegetables and other items. We stopped at a few of them on route, loading up the trunk with the fresh produce.

The first winery we visisted was Roanoke Vineyards, located on Route 48. Roanoke is owned by Richard Pisacano and his wife Soraya. Richard had been involved in vineyards on Long Island for almost thirty years, having helped to plant and maintain some of the first vineyards here. For over ten years, he has been the Vineyard Manager at Wölffer Estates. The wine maker at Roanoke is Roman Roth, who is also the wine maker for Wölffer and The Grapes of Roth. Roanoke is a small, boutique winery and their wines are generally only available at the winery or online. They seek to make Old World-style wines and concentrate on Cabernet Sauvignon. their tasting room, pictured above, is reminiscent of an old country store. They have two tasting flights available, one for white wine and one for red. Both cost $7, for a flight of four wines, and it is free if you spend at least $70.

The white wine flight includes three Chardonnays (including one late harvest) and a Rose. The red flight includes the Rose, two Merlots and a Blend. I chose to do only the red flight.

The 2007 Roanoke Vineyards De Rosa Rose ($16) is a blend of 36% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 29% Chardonnay. It was fermented in stainless steel, did not undergo malolactic fermentation and has an alcohol content of 12%. Only 337 cases were produced. I found this to be an Old World-style Rose, more like a French Rose than a California one. It was a dry Rose with more subtle fruit flavors. Though there were hints of strawberry and raspberry there was also a touch of apricot, almost as if it were an aged Rose. It had good acidity and a moderately long finish. I enjoyed this wine very much and it would make for a great summer sipper.

The 2004 Roanoke Vineyards Merlot ($45) contains 93% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. It spent 16 months in French Oak, about half being new barrels, and has an alcohol content of 13.2%. Only 121 cases were produced. This fine was plenty of ripe plum, raspberry and black cherry flavors, as well as a touch of almost cinnamon. The tannins are mild and it is a smooth drinking wine. The finish is moderate though there is a touch of tartness on that finish. Though I enjoyed this wine, I think it is too expensive for what you get, a problem I have seen before in some Long Island wines. At $45, I want more of a "wow" factor with a wine.

The 2005 Roanoke Vineyards Blend One ($30) contains 52% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc and 17% Merlot. Only 150 cases were produced. This wine had some of that wow factor. It had an intriguing nose of ripe dark fruit and that fruit also came out on my palate, lush plum, ripe blackberry and a hint of blueberry. It also had a spicy backbone that complemented the wine. The finish was long and satisfying, a sensual pleasure. The tannins were moderate and there was plenty of complexity. A wine I would definitely recommend and which I bought some.

The last wine was not from Roanoke but was a 2003 Wolffer Estate "Estate Selection" Merlot ($35). This wine is made of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 20 months in French Barriques (50% new oak and 50% one-year-old oak) and only 548 cases were produced. This wine had an almost musty smell to it, not enough to be offputting but not quite pleasing either. But it had quite a delicious taste. It reminded more of a Bordeaux, and there were excellent dark red fruit flavors with hints of both vanilla and chocolate. The wine was very well balanced and the tannins were unobtrusive. The wine had a long finish with more vanilla at the end. There was plenty of complexity in the wine and I was impressed with it. I would also recommend this wine and I bought some of it as well.

Overall, I enjoyed all four wines, though I felt the Roanoke Merlot was overpriced. I would recommend a stop by the Roanoke tasting room if you are in the area. Lenn's first recommendation to me was a good one so I looked forward to the next winery on my itinerary.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bin Ends: Free Wine Classes

Bin Ends, a discount wine store in Braintree, will soon begin a monthly program of Free Wine Education Seminars. (For more info on Bin Ends, check out my most recent post).

Owners John Hafferty and Craig Drollett want to make wine fun for all, eliminating the snob-factor and intimidation many experience when shopping for and learning about fine wines. Their new classes are designed to educate consumers in an engaging way with delicious tastings, wine history and insider tips and tricks to finding great wines at a great price.

I think this is an excellent opportunity for people to learn more about wine and it won't cost anything to do so. Plus, you will get to taste some wines, which is an added bonus. I do recommend you take advantage of these classes.

Here is the upcoming schedule of class:

October 14–Bargain Hunting for Fine Wine Treasures
Whether perusing your local package store, specialty shop or even shopping for wines on the web, self-proclaimed treasure hunter and Bin Ends co-owner, John Hafferty, will share his expert advice on helping you maximize your fine wine dollars. Taste top-notch selections that pack a punch well beyond their price-tag, all the while soaking up some insider tips for bagging those big name bargain bottles.

November 11–Holiday Entertaining on a Bin Ends Budget
Having some trouble deciding on a red that will sit well with the StoveTop this Thanksgiving? Bin Ends provides a wonderful tasting to introduce holiday hosts and hostesses to delicious offerings that will pair perfectly with your festive meals and most importantly – won’t break the bank!

December 9–Fine Wine Gift Giving
Bin Ends presents a tasting seminar to showcase perfect wines for holiday gift giving to satisfy everyone on your list - from your bubbliest of friends and family to the richest and most full-bodied! Bin Ends will provide an educational and delicious session to simplify your holiday shopping this year, no matter what your budget is. From grab gifts and holiday swaps to elaborate treats for your loved ones, Bin Ends will make you an expert in shopping for wine gifts sure to delight this holiday season.

Each class will run from 6:30pm – 8:00pm and is free but you must RSVP to rsvp@binendswine.com as space is limited.

Beija Art of the Cocktail Series: Part 3

Beija's Art of the Cocktail Series continues on September 23 at 6:30pm. This is an opportunity for a small group of guests to receive an exclusive, hands-on lesson in cocktail creation from one of Boston’s finest mixologists. I attended the first of this series and already talked about how much fun I had at the event.

The third event in this series will be held at the Lobby Bar & Kitchen located at 131 Broad Street, Boston. Mixologist Scott Schoer will preside over the event, presenting the Beija Liquid Jail Time. In addition, you will get to try two other Beija cocktails and appetizers will be served. Reservations are first come first serve and will be limited to 15 people.

Visit Beija to make reservations.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sakaya: A Return Visit

On my recent trip to New York, I did not have much extra time to spend in Manhattan as my primary business was on Long Island. But I made sure to make some time to stop by Sakaya, an all-Saké store in the East Village. They have an excellent selection of Saké and I just had to buy some.

On this visit, I had the distinct pleasure to meet Rick Smith, a former associate publisher at Food & Wine, and co-owner (with his wife, Hiroko Furukawa) of Sakaya. I had only met Hiroko on my previous visit so was glad to get to meet Rick this time. He was very personable and obviously passionate about Saké.

I placed myself in Rick's hands, asking for his Saké recommendations. I gave him my list of prior purchases, so he would not duplicate them, and Rick pointed out some interesting choices. I bought what he recommended so I look forward to seeing how those Sakés taste. Though I have no worries about what I bought.

My purchases include:
Hiraizumi "Splashing Spring Water" Tokebetsu Junmai Yamahai
Tsukasa Botan Senchu Hassaku Tokebetsu Junmai
Denemon Junmai Ginjo
Sato No Homare "Pride of the Village" Junmai Ginjo
Kamoshibito Kuheiji Muroka Junmain Ginjo

I also bought another Shochu, the Satoh Kuro which is made from sweet potato.

If you already enjoy Saké, then you have to visit this store if you go to New York City. If you still have not embraced the hoys of Saké, you should still go and maybe find a wonderful new beverage. I will certainly return on my new trip to NYC. And maybe I will see you there.

324 East 9th Street
New York, NY
Phone: 212-505-SAKE

Veselka: Breakfast

While in Manhattan earlier this week, we stopped off at L'Express for breakfast but it was closed for some renovations. So where to go instead? As I wanted to visit the East Village later, we decided to drive over there earlier and find a place to eat.

As we walked around, we passed by Veselka, a Ukranian restaurant, and decided to eat there. It is a medium-sized restaurant and was fairly busy. It is a very casual place with some tables outside. It has a long history in the East Village.

The breakfast menu has plenty of traditional choices, from omelettes to pancakes, but also includes items such as blintzes and potato pancakes. We ordered the 2 egg special ($7.45) and the buttermilk waffle ($5.95). The egg special comes with choice of potatoes, kasha or tomato. The potatoes were actually French fries. It also comes with choice of challah or toast, as we had the toast. We also had some kielbasa with it. You also get juice and coffee. The orange juice seemed fresh squeezed and was very good. The egg dish was good and the kielbasa, a half slice, was especially tasty. The waffle was made from scratch, as well as to order, and it was a good Belgian style waffle. I got a side of kielbasa ($3.95), which was the same size as the one that came with the egg special. It was too expensive for its size, though it was very tasty with a nice spice to it.

It is a decent place for breakfast though nothing special. I would rather have tried lunch or dinner there, to get more of their specialities such as pierogi.

144 Second Ave.
New York, NY
Phone: 212-228-9682

Veselka on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pho Republique: Kung Fu Kitchen

"So…your Culinary-Fu is very good… Or is it? Enter the Temple of Pho on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 from 8:30pm–1am as Pho Republique invites you to the first ever Kung Fu Kitchen, an evening of flying woks and kung fu kicks! Come and enjoy complimentary dim sum, drink specials available at the bar such as a tall glass of caffeine fanatic fury “The Saigon Kick”, made from an ancient secret special blend of Pho house java, Van Gogh Double-Espresso Vodka, Canton Ginger Liquor & Bailey’s Irish Cream ($9.50). Go deeper into in the 36 chambers with Martial Arts demonstrations and a lion dance performance by Nam Pai Kung Fu Academy! Kick back and view classic kung fu flicks on the tube and enjoy Pho’s extensive cocktail list and order off their regular dinner menu while you contemplate your next move! Come chow, come watch, come play… and come sample some of Chef Arnond “Arnold” Sreesuvan’sThe Master of the Pho-Tastic” new Fall menu items. This event is free to the public, cash bar; regular dinner service will also be served. All in attendance can sign up for a free Kung Fu lesson at Nam Pai Kung Fu Academy as well!"

Please RSVP to: kungfukitchen@gmail.com

Pho Republique
1415 Washington Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-262-0005

The Beehive: More Burlesque!

Burlesque is very hot and you will get another opportunity to catch a show at The Beehive in the South End. On September 23, from 9pm to 1am, the Beehive will present the second in their series of “Pinchbottom Burlesque."

Pinchbottom is where burlesque meets theater, buys it a drink, and takes it to bed. Pinchbottom Burlesque is the name of a production company which produces themed & scripted burlesque shows in New York City. It is also the title under which its two creators, Nasty Canasta and Jonny Porkpie, perform as a duet. Each Pinchbottom show centers around a different theme, bringing together striptease and variety acts from top performers with contemporary narrative. It even has a plot and script!

This new show features Nasty Canasta and Jonny Porkpie and special guest stars Clams Casino, winner of the “2008 Burlesque Hall of Fame Exotic World Pageant” for “Most Humorous” and “Most Innovative.” Do not miss Peekaboo Pointe of “This is Burlesque” and the World Famous Pontani Sisters. In September’s show, Pinchbottom brings the Message of Burlesque to the people when their Church of the Almighty Posterior presents an Old Time Tent Revival and Burlesque Show! The doctrines of the faith — peace, love, and va-va-voom!

There will be no cover charge and there will be a cash bar.

The Beehive
541 Tremont St.
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-423-0069

Stoneham Sun: Cachaca

My new column of "A Passionate Foodie" can be found in the September 17 issue issue of the Stoneham Sun newspaper. This is a weekly column that concentrates on reviews of local restaurants though it may also touch on a few other food and wine topics.

The new column has been published today and will soon be available online. The new column talks about Brazilian cachaca, similar to rum though made only from sugarcane juice. I also discuss my favorite cachaca, Beija.

If you have any questions or comments about my column, feel free to add them here.

Dine with passion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

OurGlass Wine Co.: Grand Fall Tasting

This is such an exciting season as so many new wines are released and many local wine stores have grand tastings, giving you the opportunity to try many different wines.

This past weekend, I attended the Grand Fall Wine Tasting at OurGlass Wine Co. in Saugus. A number of members of the North Shore Winers and a couple other Meet-Up groups were there as well so it was a fun event with many of my friends. I have been to numerous grand tastings events at this store and they are always very good.

This grand event had 12 wine distributors (with over 75 wines), 1 beer distributor and 3 food distributors. I tasted about half of the wines and found plenty of good and excellent ones.

I began the tasting at the Adonna Imports table, always one of my favorites. Of their new wines, I very much enjoyed the 2007 Gritsch Kalmuck Gruner Veltiner ($13.99) from Austria, the 2006 Casina Roera Vino Rosso da Tavola IGT ($18.99) from Italy, and the 2007 Villa Rosa Rosso Toscana "Poggio ai Rovi" ($11.99) from Tuscany. The Villa Rosa was one of the best value wines of the tasting.

Ideal Wine & Spirits had a couple of winners too. The 2007 Le Petit Mas ($9.99), a Rose from the Vin de Pays d'Oc, is a very good value. The 2005 Sorine & Fils, Santenay Burgundy ($27.99) is also another good value that is sure to please the Burgundy lover.

Charles River Wine Co. had a tasty and spicy 2005 Gerard Metz Gewurtztraminer ($17.99) from Alsace. Ruby Wines had a fruity and easy drinking 2006 J. Lohr Valdigue ($9.99), a California wine made with Gamay, the Beaujolais grape. For the price, this is a very good value. Boston Wine Co. had a smoky and earthy 2005 Spier Pinotage, Private Collection ($26.99) from South Africa. As I am a big fan of Pinotage, this wine certainly pleased me.

Vineyard Road Wines had a few excellent wines, including the crisp and fruity 2006 Fattoria Laila, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi C.S. ($13.99) from Italy, a nice, off-dry 2007 W. Richter Riesling QbA "Zeppelin" ($14.99) from the Mosel region of Germany, and the spicy and complex 2005 Domaine de Deurre Vinsobres ($20.99) from the Rhone region.

M.S. Walker had a lightly effervescent and very refreshing 2007 Twin Vines Vinho Verde ($9.99) from Portugal, one of the top values of the tasting. They also had an intriguing and silky smooth 2004 Swanson Merlot ($34.99) from Napa Valley. Baystate Wine Co. had an impressive and slightly sweet 2007 Robertson Gewurtztraminer ($10.99) from South Africa, another top value of the tasting. Their 2006 Peirano Estates Tempranillo ($15.99) from Lodi, California, was another good wine, with nice dark fruit and spice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wine Auction: September 19

Once again, Skinner, a large auction house in Boston, will be holding another wine auction. the auction will be held on Friday, September 19 at 6pm at their offices at 63 Park Plaza, Boston. Skinner’s retail partner in this venture is one of my favorite wine stores, Lower Falls Wine Co.

You can check out the catalog of lots that will be auctioned. There will be over 250 lots and they will be auctioning more than just wine this time. They have added a number of wine-related antiques including decanters, glassware and more. The wines come from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, California, Australia, Portugal. They range from Bordeaux and Burgundy to Port and Champagne.

Some of the highlights include:
12 Bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982
2 Bottles of Screaming Eagle
12 Bottles of Chateau Margaux 1982
12 Bottles of Chateau Petrus 1989
12 Bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982
Chateau d'Yquem 1928
Double Magnum of Chateau Latour 1982
2 Bottles of Chateau Margaux 1929
10 Bottles of Chateau Haut Brion
4 views from Grands Vignobles de la Cote d'Or

I attended their last auction in March, and it was quite exciting. Plus, there were bargains to be found, provided you had the money to purchase some of these high-end wines. The auction proceeds quickly and should not last more than two hours or so. I will likely attend this auction too so maybe I will see you there.

Wine Sense: 2nd Anniversary Tasting

On Saturday, September 20, Wine••Sense in Andover will be celebrating their Second Anniversary with a grand tasting event. As I have mentioned before, Wine Sense is a cool boutique wine shop with a very passionate owner, Samanta. This event should be lots of fun and it is free.

There event will is separated into two parts, an earlier event from 12pm-3pm and a later one from 6pm-9pm. Each part will have different distributors so you could attend both parts and still not taste the same wine. Plus, even if you have gone to a tasting at Wine Sense before with these distributors, they should all have different wines than any they have showcased before.

The distributors include
Jonathan Tagliani - Martignetti
Andrew Bishop - OZ Pacific Wines
Eileen Wright - Adonna
Angus Smith - Vineyard Road
Todd Verhoeven - Cafe Europa
Sean Driggs - Arborway
Dan Hirschkop - M.S. Walker

There will also be food at this event. I will be there with a group of fifteen to thirty members of the North Shore Winers. I hope to see you there as well!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Boston Wine Writer's Meeting: September 16

Jonathon Alsop of the Boston Wine School has started a new Boston Wine Writer's group and its second meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 16 from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

Jonathon states: "As long as you have a passion for good wine writing, it doesn't matter whether you're a published writer, editor, sales rep, importer, restaurateur, blogger, PR person, publisher, wine lover, whatever: you're invited!"

I attended the initial meeting of this group and it was both fun and educational. It is also an excellent opportunity to network with others involved in the wine community. Unfortunately I am unable to attend the second meeting but I will be there for future meetings. If you are interested in wine writing, I highly recommend you attend.

The next two meetings will be held on: October 20, 6:30-8:30pm & November 24, 6:30-8:30pm.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Twitter Taste Live #3: Michel Schlumberger

The time nears for the third Twitter Taste Live event! Bin Ends has announced the guest and line-up for the new Twitter Taste Live which will be held on September 18 at 7pm. The special guests will be from the Michel Schlumberger winery in Sonoma County, California.

"Michel-Schlumberger lies off the beaten track in Wine Creek Canyon, a sylvan side pocket of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. Each of the wines from our benchland, hillside, and mountain vineyards illustrates the French concept of terroir, or the expression of a specific place. We take pride in the wines produced from this all Estate, organically farmed fruit. Here, tucked away from the mainstream in Healdsburg, you find artisan vineyard work and winemaking at its finest. We hope you enjoy your exploration."

The co-host for this Twitter Tasting will be wine blogger Megan of Wannabe Wino. There will be plenty of other wine bloggers, including myself, who will be participating as well.

September 18th is also the date of the Wine 2.0 conference and tasting in New York City. There will be a team of bloggers tweeting live from the event throughout the day, and Bin Ends will be streaming Twitter Taste LIVE from their table beginning at 7pm. Live participants in New York will include @binendswine, @1winedude and @saltlinestudio.

The wines that will be tasted include:

Chardonnay "La Brume" 2006
Syrah 2005
Merlot 2004
Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

All of these wines are available for sale at Bin Ends.

It is very simple to participate in this event. Just sign up for a free Twitter account and then follow "Binendswine" on Twitter. The first two Twitter Tasting events went very well and were lots of fun so why not join us for this third event.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Israeli Wine Tasting

As I have said before, and will say again and again, you should try as many different wines as you can. Try a wine from a different country or made from a different grape. You never know where you might find a new treasure, an excellent wine that greatly pleases your palate. A significant part of my own wine enjoyment is seeking out the new.

That sense of adventure is what led me to a recent tasting of wines from Israel sponsored by the Israeli Consulate and Israeli Wine Direct. The event was held in the Bulthaup building on Boylston Street in Boston, a spacious area with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Boston Common. There was an open kitchen in the area where you could watch the cooks preparing varied and delicious appetizers for the event. There were over 50 people who attended the event.

One of the highlights of the evening was a short lecture by Richard Shaffer, the founder of Israeli Wine Direct, on Israeli wines. Earlier in the evening, I also had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with Richard for a bit, finally getting to meet him after chatting with him online for a time on Twitter. I found Richard to be very personable, witty, down to earth, and obviously passionate. He was a good speaker as well.

In his talk, he mentioned that the "kosher" label had been a marketing mistake. Wines from other countries were usually listed under the name of that country, yet Israeli wines were usually lumped under "kosher" rather than "Israel." This caused a bit of a disconnect and people did not think of "Israeli" wines. Recent years have seen a surge of quality wines coming from Israel, especially from boutique wineries, yet much of that wine has been unavailable in the U.S. Richard is working to make those wines more readily available in the U.S. market.

Israel basically lacks any indigenous grapes, most primarily lost due to previous conquests, especially by the Moslems who ripped up vineyards. So, Israel now uses more international vareties from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvigon. The country itsel is long and narrow and has four or five different climates, allowing different types of grapes to be grown there. Richard feels Israeli wines have a special terroir, centered on how some of the wineries are located on very ancient and historic areas. One example is Tzora Giv'at winery which is located near where David allegedly killed Goliath.

Six wines were available for tasting.

The first wine I tried was the 2007 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc ($23.99). This had a fruity nose without any grassy notes. On the palate, it was crisp and had very good peach, apple and lemon flavors with a hint of grass on the finish. A very pleasant and enjoyable wine. There was another Pelter wine at the tasting, their 2006 Pelter Trio ($28.99), which I previously reviewed and enjoyed. Pelter also makes an Unoaked Chardonnay which I suspect may be very good too based on my enjoyment of their other two wines.

There was a second white, the 2007 Flam Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay ($18.99). Two brothers, Golan and Gilad Flam, established this winery in 1998 in the Judean Hills. Flam only produces about 7,000 cases annually. This wine had a bit more yellow color than the Pelter Sauvignon, and was also more fuller-bodied. I felt thought that the fruit flavors were rather muted and the finish was a bit too tart for my tastes. It was an ok wine but nothing impressive.

The first of the red wines was the 2006 Tzora Giv'at Hachalukim Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.99), the only kosher wine of the evening. The winery is set at the foot of the Jerusalem Mountains on Kibbutz Tzora. This wine, like all of the reds, had a light red color, almost like a Pinot Noir. The wine had some typical Cabernet fruit, mild tannins and a decent finish. But, it had a bit of a green/vegetal taste which I did not like. It reminded me of Cabernet Franc, which I generally dislike because of that common vegetal taste. If you enjoy Cabernet Franc, then maybe this Cabernet would appeal to you as well.

The 2005 Karmei Bravdo Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.99) is made in a winery located on the western slopes of the Judean Hills. It was founded in 2001 by two professors of winemaking science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They only produces about 25,000 bottles annually. For me, this Cabernet also had too much vegetal taste, as well as smell.

Ending the reds was the 2004 Somek B'Kat Hanadiv ($33.99). The family that owns this winery and vineyard extends back six generations, since 1882. They only produce about 5000 bottles a year, a tiny level. In Hebrew, "Bikat Hanadiv" means "the valley of a generous man" which is the name of the valley where the grapes are grown, on the southern slopes of Mt. Carmel. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Sirah. I really enjoyed this wine. It was more tannic than the other reds but not overwhelmingly so. It had lush fruit, black cherry, blackberry and rapsberry with plenty of vanilla and spice, especially on the long and satisfying finish. There was no vegetal tastes at all in this wine. Definitely a wine I would recommend.

In the end, I enjoyed half of the wines, which is certainly typical of any tasting. There will always be some wines you do not like, sometimes just out of personal preference. What this tasting did show me though was that there are some excellent wines coming out of Israel and it is well worth exploring the other wines they have to offer. So, get rid of any misconceptions you have about Israeli wines and start over by tasting what is out there. I am sure you will find some that you will enjoy, and hopefully find some new favorites as well.

Update : I just found out that I won the door prize at this event, a copy of The Wine Route of Israel, a coffee-table sized hardcover book all about the Israel wine industry, geography and history. I can't wait to read it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Le Patissier: Souffle

I was in Boston the other evening, on Boylston Street, for a wine tasting which ended around 8pm. I felt a yearning for something sweet. I was not too far from Finales but I really wanted to return to Le Patissier, the new desserterie at Troquet. After attending a recent dessert tasting there and having an excellent experience, I wanted to try one of their regular desserts. Especially one of their souffles.

Pastry Chef Sarah Woodfine was at her station and with the open kitchen area, you can watch her prepare your dessert. There were two souffles on the menu, a Chocolate and an Apple Crisp ($11.75). With apples in season, I decided to go for that one which also came with a Caramel Calvados sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. In addition, I got a glass of the Muscat that came recommended with the souffle.

I eagerly waited for the souffle, watching Sarah make it. It really did not take long at all to arrive. The souffle looked perfect, a nice crusty top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Sarah broke the crusty top and added some of the sauce. The ice cream was in its own dish on the side. A nice presentation. And the taste?

Decadently delicious! A nice crusty exterior with its soft custardy interior, with cubes of fresh apples, cinnamon and maybe a couple other spices as well. Perfect souffle consistency. The sauce was also excellent, not overly thick and with plenty of sweet flavor. I made sure to finish every bite of this dessert. The ice cream, homemade as all of their ice creams are, had a rich vanilla taste and was very creamy. I highly recommend this dessert and I almost had to order the chocolate souffle as well, though my self-control took hold.

The Muscat also made a very good accompaniement. It was mildly sweet, not cloyingly so, and had some nice fruit notes that went well with the apple souffle.

If you enjoy dessert, and who doesn't, then you should check out Le Patissier. They have home-made desserts which should please anyone. And if you love souffle, then this is definitely the place to go. I will be back to try that chocolate souffle, as well as some of their other concoctions.

Le Patissier
140 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-695-9463

Le Patissier on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2006 Twisted Oak River of Skulls

Though Halloween is still over one month away, I have already found the best choice for a Halloween wine, the new 2006 Twisted Oak River of Skulls. Just check out the eerie red skull that is on the label. Plus, the history behind the name of the wine provides a rather grisly background, a ghost story that could be easily embellished.

"In 1805, Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga was ordered by the Spanish Governor of California to explore the Great Central Valley. displace the local Natives, and re-name everything he found. Well, one day Gabe and his horsemen came across a river the banks of which were littered with skulls. No one knows for sure how the skulls came to be on the banks of this river. Perhaps they were the remains of an ancient battle, or a terrible plague. Or perhaps it was a really great party that suddenly went horribly wrong. Whatever the case old Gabe, being a true master of the obvious, named this river "El Rio De Las Calaveras" or in English, "The River of Skulls."

Just imagine that it is Halloween night and in dim candle light you pass around this wine. As you do so, you begin to tell the story of Moraga. You could claim to know the true origin of the skulls found on the river and will tell everyone the eerie secret. There are just so many horrific possibilities.

Yet this wine is more than just a creepy label and backstory. It is an excellent tasting wine and I was lucky enough to sample some this past weekend.

The 2006 Twisted Oak River of Skulls (Twisted Few price $28/Regular $35) is a limited production, single-vineyard Mourvedre from Calaveras County in the Sierra Foothills of California. This release does have 10% of Syrah added to it. This wine will only be released once a year to members of their River of Skulls mailing list, members of The Twisted Few wine club, and to a limited number of restaurants. You can still sign up for the River of Skulls mailing list and I strongly urge you to do so.

I love Mourvedre so the River of Skulls certainly sounded like a wine I would enjoy. And it pleased me immensely. It had a nice ruby color though it was not overly dark. When I smelled it, a delightful torrent of lush fruit wafted up from the wine luring me deeper into the glass. The taste fulfilled the promise of its nose, provide ripe cherry and strawberry flavors that mingled with hints of vanilla and and spice. The spice was most prominent on the finish, as well as with a touch of tobacco, though in a good way. I don't smoke and dislike its acrid smell yet a touch of tobacco flavor in wine is pleasing to me. There were some moderate tannins so this wine may go best with food to help mellow those out. The finish is very long and satisfying, making you yearn for more.

Overall, the wine is well balanced, complex and very tasty. In many respects, this wine reminded me of a softer version of the El Nido Clio, my favorite Spanish wine made with Mourvedre (known as Monastrell in Spain).

I drank this wine with grilled steak and I think it went very well together, softening the tannins and creating a mellower wine. My wife and I finished off the bottle as we both enjoyed it so much. Plus I am going to keep the bottle as I am sure I can find some use for it. Just can't bear to toss out that red skull.

While I recall the delicious taste of the wine, my own thoughts return to the real River of Skulls. Why were those skulls there? It intrigues the writer in me and maybe it will lead to a new short story. I have always enjoyed the horror genre. With Halloween approaching, maybe El Jefe at Twisted Oak could create a new contest where people could submit their theories as to the origin of those skulls.

Wine Tastings This Weekend

The Fall Wine Tasting Season has begun and there are two big tastings coming up this weekend. This is the time to find out what is new and to try many different wines. Tantalize your palate and have fun at one of these tastings. And they are both free!

Sept.13: Grand Fall Wine Tasting, from 3-7pm, at OurGlass Wine Co., 124A Broadway, Rt1 North, Saugus, www.ourglasswineco.com
OurGlass always has excellent grand tastings, usually with 70+ wines, some artisan beers, plus food. I have attended a number of these events, often with a group from the North Shore Winers, and for many of them it is their favorite tasting of the season.

Sept.13-Fall Clearance Wine Tasting, from 1-4pm., at Gordon's Fine Wine, 894 Main St. Waltham, www.gordonswine.com
Gordon's should also have lots of wine available for tasting, as well as food. They have an excellent tasting room in the back of the store. I have taken members of the North Shore Winers to tastings here too and they have enjoyed it.

Stoneham Sun: Bistro 5

My new column of "A Passionate Foodie" can be found in the September 10 issue issue of the Stoneham Sun newspaper. This is a weekly column that concentrates on reviews of local restaurants though it may also touch on a few other food and wine topics.

The new column has been published today and will soon be available online. The new column is a restaurant review of Bistro 5, an Italian restaurant in Medford that has excellent, creative cusine. It is not your traditional or average Italian restaurant. And it is well worth a visit.

If you have any questions or comments about my column, feel free to add them here.

Dine with passion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Serene Restaurant

Over the weekend, I had dinner with a few people at the Serene Restaurant in Andover. This was my first time there and I knew little about it. It came recommended by one of my dining companions who had chosen the spot for our dinner.

Serene is owned by Sally Fabian and she was working as the hostess on the night I was there. Their head chef is Carlos Penate. The restaurant is located on the second floor above a Starbuck's though they occupy the third floor as well. The second floor has a long bar, numerous high tables and a smaller dining room in the back. The third floor has another dining area and the restrooms. The second floor has large windows allowing you to look down and out at Main Street. A casual and fun ambiance.

Their wine list is small though diverse with a fair share of Italian wines. Prices seem reasonable, especially on some of their higher end wines where the markup seems low. We began with an Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico ($41), a pleasant and fruity Chianti with hints of chocolate. We ran into a problem though when we tried to order another bottle as that was the last one. I tried to order a few other wines and they did not have those either. They really need to update their wine list, or restock.

Serene is open for both lunch and dinner. For dinner, they have a number of more traditional Italian dishes as well as dishes with only a hint of an Italian flair. Your choices include Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Risotto, Pasta and Dinner Entrees. Most of the Pasta and Dinner Entrees range from $15-$25 so it is reasonably priced.

Before our appetizers came out, we received some fresh dinner rolls with roasted garlic, oil and olives. The bread was very good and it was nice to get all of the accompaniments as well. A very good start.

We began our meal with some Garlic Bread with Cheese ($3.50), a couple Apple, Goat Cheese, and Walnut Salads ($7.50) and the Mussels "Chowder Style" ($11.95). There were five pieces of thin garlic bread topped with melted cheese and they were good. The salads were quite large, plenty of fresh ingredients and had a very nice taste. The Mussels were supposed to have pancetta, baby red potatoes, and roasted corn in a light cream and chive butter sauce. The bowl was quite large and is was like I had chowder topped by a bunch of mussels in the shell. The potato was different though, actually being sweet potato. The mussels were tender and flavorful, with a good soup though the sweet potatoes did not seem to work as well as a regular potato might have. The sweet potatoes were sweet and tasty, but I am not sure they really went as well as they could have with this dish.

For our entrees, one person got the Pumpkin Ravioli appetizer special ($9.95). The ravioli had a maple flavored sauce and the dish was quite large for an appetizer. My friend raved about the ravioli, saying they were excellent. Another of my companions ordered the Tuscan Shrimp Risotto, which also has Roasted Butternut Squash and sautéed pancetta ($23). Another large dish of food which my companion enjoyed very much. My wife ordered the Roasted Frenched Pork Chops ($23) which are topped with prosciutto and pine nuts, drizzled with a basil cream sauce and served with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. She ordered it medium rare and the chef had our server confirm that she wanted it cooked that way. Seems they were worried about illness from undercooked meat. It was a large and tasty dish though it did not impress her. I had the Chicken Saltimbocca ($24) which has Prosciutto, Sage and Asagio cheese rolled in tender chicken breasts and served with angel hair. I got a big plate of food and it was very good. The chicken was tender, the pasta cooked just right and the sauce was nice.

For dessert, we ordered a passionate fruit cake and a tiramisu cannoli. Both were excellent and eagerly devoured by all of us. The cannoli was probably the favorite of the two.

Service was very good. You certainly get plenty of food here at a reasonable price. The food is good, though not exceptional. It is a place to sate your appetite and have a good time. Maybe I can't help but compare it to Bistro 5, another Italian restaurant I have recently dined at. Bistro 5 is an exceptional restaurant that sets a high bar for its competitors.

Serene Restaurant
12 Main Street
Andover, MA
Phone: 978-475-7711

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bin Ends: Another Look

Restaurants, wine stores, food markets and other such places can undergo changes at any time. As a blogger, I think it is my advantage that I can post again and again about such places, noting any changes that occur. The usual print media, newspapers, magazines and such, often only write about a place once. They rarely revisit older places, or track the ongoing progress of a new endeavor. So, if you want updated information about a place, a blog might be your best option.

Bin Ends, a discount wine store in Braintree, opened in early May and I visited the store just a few days after their opening. I posted a positive review of the store and was impressed by its owners, the store concept, their diverse selection and the excellent prices. I felt it had much potential. Since that time, I have paid attention to their endeavors, even participating in their innovative Twitter Taste Live series.

Recently, I stopped by the store again to see how it had changed, if at all, since May. In many ways, and all positively, it was the same except that it now carries an even larger selection of wines. There is plenty of diversity and the wine prices are still excellent. I was very pleased to see that they now carry several different types of Japanese Sake as well as Beija, my favorite Cachaca. And the Beija was even discounted a few dollars off the usual retail of $30.

They had several wine bottles open for sampling, which they always do, and I tried a couple of the wines. Back in May, the owners mentioned that they would eventually get some of the Enomatic wine tasting machines. That has not happened yet though I have recently been told that they should arrive in early 2009. I even spent a little time sorting through their 50% off bin, one of my favorite parts of the store, and found an interesting Portuguese wine. In addition, I bought some 2005 Tenuta Pederanza Lambrusco “Grasparossa,” just an exceptional wine that I really love.

Bin Ends continues to be an excellent wine store and is following through on the potential I noted back in May. Their changes since May have generally been more subtle, adding more selections as well as adding more diversity. Yet all of those changes have been positive. I continue my hearty recommendation of this store.