Thursday, July 19, 2018

Winephabet Street M is for Mencia

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 13. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions on letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

This month we explored the Mencia grape grown in the Northwestern part of Spain. Mainly in the Bierzo region. It was once thought to be a clone of Cabernet Franc but through DNA profiling they found it was identical to Portugal’s Jaen do Dao variety.

This is a grape new to me. Someone at the restaurant left a bottle of Mencia and I tasted it and wasn’t impressed. I was a little worried about the bottle I had at home. Worry not! I was wowed and very impressed with Godelia Mencia SRP $19 and highly recommend it. The grapes in the Godelia Mencia come from 40 to 80 year old vines. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation in barrels and is aged for 12 months in French oak.

To learn more about Bodega Godelia and the wines they produce visit my previous article on Godelia and the white wine they produce. Click here.

Sit back and relax and watch or listen to the webinar. Learn about Mencia and the wines we are drinking. The best is to look at our expressions when we taste what we are drinking. You will see how much Lori and I loved this grape and the wines we chose.

Don’t forget to sign up for July’s episode of Winephabet Street where we go to Italy and learn about the Negroamaro grape. Winephabet Street will take place Monday July 23 at 8pm ET from the comfort of your living room (or wherever you may be). Register here

You can find all past episodes on and don’t forget to visit our sponsor the wine club where wine experts select wines matched to your taste, personalized for you and shipped right to your door.

Watch the Webinar

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Celebrate Bastille Day with Luxe Rural Rose from Domaine Paul Mas

Bastille Day is the celebration of the storming of the military fortress and prison Bastille on July 14, 1790. This was a turning point of the French Revolution and a celebration of the unity of the French people.

Today it is celebrated by a miltary parade and parties throughout France. Why not celebrate with the Frenchman himself Jean-Claude Mas. Jean-Claude produces wines from the Languedoc region of France where the regions terroir meets modernity. His wines are great expressions of what the Languedoc region offers. Wines that give pleasure in their youth and become exceptional with aging. His wines are an everyday luxury and best of all they are very reasonably priced.

A little background on Jean-Claude, he grew up in the vineyards as the son and grandson of grape growers.He produced his first wines from a 35 hectare plot of vines inherited from his father. Today he owns 12 estates in the Languedoc- Roussillon covering 700 hectares. In addition he manages an 1500 additional hectares.

Planted are 45 different grape varieties, each giving different expressions into the wine.
Each vineyard is treated with TLC and is given what it needs to produce quality grapes. For instance, in Limoux at Domaine Martinolles some vineyards are planted with cereal crops and leguminous plants before they replant them with vines. This is the natural way to bring the organic material back into the soil that the previous vines depleted. Jean-Claude has great passion for his vines and visits each estate vineyards every week to check on the health of the vines. He is called the “pioneer for the ‘New Languedoc’,” raising the profile and quality of the region’s wine.

Jean-Claude’s wines are great for everyday enjoyment. Whether celebrating and event, or wine o’ clock, his luxe rural wines will put a smile on every face. Luxe Rural is an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life, something we all need to do every day.

Domaines Paul Mas 2017 Cote Mas Rose Aurore is the perfect wine for celebration of any kind, like friendship as we did one evening. The beautiful label on the front originates from a pastel drawing in the Art Nouveau style of the original Domaines Paul Mas family estate. He worked with an artist that had the Toulouse Lautrec style to create the label.

Once past the label and one sip and the comments were “this is a lovely great everyday Rose.” It’s fresh and easy drinking with a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault an 20% Syrah. It has a nice pink color bringing excitement to the wine. Aromas of strawberry, and some floral hints leading to a well balanced palate with flavors of watermelon, strawberry, and cherry.

While most wine comes in 750ml, this Rose is the only 1 liter format in distribution in the US to signify wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends. The wine retails for $12.99 / 1 liter.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Exploring the Super Tuscans of Ca' Marcanda

We have all heard the term used “Super Tuscan” but do we understand what that term means? Back in the day, producers were dissatisfied with the rules for making Chianti and blending a small percentage of white grapes into the wine. Winemakers stopped using white grapes in the blend and began to use other varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon these wines that were labeled “table wines” became the most sought after and expensive wines in Italy. They fall under the IGT classification. Today, since the “Super Tuscan” title has been worn out so to say, many of the wineries are marketing their wines as Bolgheri. This region is where th hillside vineyards and cool sea breezes produce a very distinctive terror.

I got introduced to Ca’ Marcanda through #Winestudio which is an wine education program I participate in on Tuesday evenings. Ca’Marcanda is owned by the Gaja family located in Bolgheri, Italy, the birthplace of modern Italian wine. Angelo Gaja purchased his first property in Tuscany in 1994, Pieve Santa Restituta. In 1996 after 18 trips of negotiation, he purchased the historic 250 acre estate in Bolgheri in the western region of Tuscany and named it Ca’ Marcanda. Ca’ Marcanda in the Piedmontese dialect it means “House of Endless Negotiations” as a reminder of the 18 trips back and forth to negotiate the purchase of the property.

The Soils

Ca’ Marcanda has two distinct soil types that influence the wine. 

Terre Brune meaning dark earth is darker soil located in the lower elevations and closer to the sea where the soil is rich in minerals with clay and limestone. In the darker soil areas the roots have to stress and go deeper, with that, the deeper they go the clay content increases. This gives the wines great depth and complexity along with a more pronounced tannic structure.

Terre Bianche meaning white earth.Terre Bianche is located closer to the hills. Here you have calcareous clay, limestone and the soil is well drained. This soil is ideal for producing long lived wines

The Wines

The Aesthetics are very important to the Gaja family. Great thought was put into the colors and labels on the bottles. As we explore the wines we will explore the colors of the labels and what the thought process is behind them.

2015 Ca’ Marcanda Promis
Label color is Blue and White and denotes commitment, expectation, fulfillment and hope. This wine is a great entry point into Gaja family Super Tuscan wines.
Blend: 55% Merlot
35% Syrah
10% Sangiovese
Aged: 12 months in slightly used barriques. Bottle aged until released.
Soil: Terre Brune
Aging: Recommended aging 5 - 10 years or drink now.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of dried garden herbs, sage and thyme, black fruit. Opens nicely on the palate with well integrated soft tannins and flavors of black cherry and black berry with a hint of licorice on the finish. Went great with pasta and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Price: $48

2015 Ca’ Marcanda Magari
Magari means “what if” if only it was true which is a expression used often in Italian to express desire, hope and a vision for a bright future.
Label color black and white is the Gaja family’s favorite colors.
Blend: 60% Cabernet Franc
30% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Estate Petit Verdot
This 2015 blend marks a change in the previous blends as Cabernet Franc the dominant grape.
Aged: Oaked aged for 12 months and bottle aged prior to release
Soil: Terre Brune
Aging: Recommended aging 10 - 15 years
Tasting Notes: Aromas of blackberry, and chocolate with firm tannins and flavors of dark fruit and a touch of blueberry.
Price: $65

2013 Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda
This is the flagship wine and only produced in exceptional years. Label is red for strong and powerful.
Blend: 50% Merlot
40% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Estate Cabernet Franc
Aged: 18 months in slightly used barriques and 12 months in the bottle before being released.
Soil: Terre Bianche
Aging: Recommended aging 15+ years
Tasting Notes: Beautiful aromas of black fruit escape the bottle. As the wine is poured into the glass, tobacco, vanilla bean and black pepper notes come to the surface. As the wine opens there is a hint of mocha. The palate is full of red and black fruit with firm tannins, layers of cassis, blackberry, plum and fig.
Price: $145

What can we expect in the future from the Gaja family. Perhaps Sicily and Mt. Etna

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mercer Wines the Foundation of Horse Heaven Hills

You might have remembered Horse Heaven Hills a topic me and Lori discussed on Winephabet Street. We just touched on the Mercer’s who were really the developers of the Horse Heaven Hills wine region. The Mercer family planted the first wine grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Now a little more background and introduction to the Mercer wine brand.
It all began in 1747 when Hugh Mercer, a Scottish Highlander came to the United States. He died in the Revolutionary war and left behind five children. One of the offspring of those five children were Willis Mercer who headed west in 1886 and settled in Prosser, a town in the Washington Territory which then became Washington State. They began by herding sheep, lamb and growing row crops. In 1958 the family operation grows and Mercer Ranches is incorporated.
In 1972 Don and Linda Mercer became the first grape growers in Horse Heaven Hills. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon in Block 1, and this Block will later become Champoux Vineyard.
The first vintage produced by Mercer was in 2005, when they produced a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Today they oversee 2000 acres of vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and produce four distinct labels with the Eagle & Plow dedicated solely to charity as a result of 911.

Eagle & Plow

Eagle & Plow was created as a result of the devastation of 911. Mercer Estates’ Vineyard Manager, John Derrick lost his best friend on Flight 93 and Rob Mercer, owner of Mercer Estates who served as a captain in the US Marine Corps reenlisted, leaving his young family behind and served in Iraq. When he returned, Rob and John planted a special vineyard - BLOCK 93 - on the Mercer Farm to serve as a memorial for fallen heroes and a means to give back to programs that benefit those who served and suffered. 911 vines were hand planted in BLOCK 93 of the Cavalie Vineyard. Eagle & Plow BLOCK 93 Cabernet Sauvignon was born and 100% of the revenues from this wine are donated to charities that serve American servicemen and women, their families and survivors of tragic events.

Mercer Canyons

The Mercer Canyons label honors the history the Mercer family brings to the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The grapes are sourced from their estate vineyards and reasonably priced between $10 and $14.

Mercer Reserves

The Mercer Reserves are produced from the best vineyard block and barrels. They are pressed using a gentler basket system and are aged in new French Oak. Mostly reds in this lot with one white, a Chardonnay. Prices range from $32 to $42

Mercer Estates

Mercer Estate wines are produced from Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley. There are 17 wines in this portfolio ranging in price from $12 to $32. I had the opportunity to taste three of the wines from this portfolio. I have to apologize, I am a bit late with this tasting as the wines were sent to me as a sample this time last year. However, this shows how well the wines age, yes, even the Sauvignon Blanc.

2015 Mercer Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc - I generally think to drink Sauvignon Blanc young, within a year of it being produced. I was skeptical opening up a 3 year old Sauvignon Blanc and I was taken a back on how delightful it was. Notes of fresh cut grass, lime zest an passion fruit filled the glass. One sip with pineapple, pink grapefruit and tropical fruit had me smiling. The wine is not overly acidic, clean and crisp and just a delight to sip on. The grapes come from the Princeton Vineyard and the wine retails for $15

2015 Mercer Horse Heaven Hills Sharp Sisters is a red blend consisting of 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah, 18% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Grenache and 2% Carignane. The color of the wine was extremely dark and full of ripe dark fruit. Soft tannins makes this wine elegant yet the fruit forwardness of the ripe blackberries, plums and other dark fruit make it striking.
The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged in French and American oak where malolactic fermentation took place. The wine was aged for 18 months in barrel separately then blended together and bottled. It retails for $22.99 I had paired it with a ribeye and it was a bit to overpowering for it.

2015 Mercer Horse Heaven Hills Malbec is a blend of 78% Malbec and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon from their Cabinet Vineyard. The wine was fermented in oak upright tanks. After fermentation the wine was aged for 18 months in new and old French oak barrels, then blended together. Aromas of cigar ash, black cherry, plum, and black cherry and a hint of earthiness escape from the glass. Your palate is filled with black cherry, plum, subtle tannins and finishes with hints of baking spices.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Winephabet Street L is for Lambrusco

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 12. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions on letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

This month we explored the Lambrusco. Did you know that the wine is made from different Lambrusco grapes. It is kind of a wild child and a misunderstood grape but is one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties.

Sit back with a glass of wine and join us as we explore Lambrusco. Watch the webinar or listen to the podcast.

You can find all past episodes on and don’t forget to visit our sponsor the wine club where wine experts select wines matched to your taste, personalized for you and shipped right to your door.



Friday, June 8, 2018

What I've Learned 2 Months Into the Restaurant Business

It’s been 2 months since Kitchen 330 opened it’s doors, a venture between me, Paul and his cousin Gus Zimmerman who is an Executive Chef. Not 100% knowing what I was getting into, I have to say the people in Stone Harbor have been so welcoming. If the people in Cape May were this welcoming, my transition would have been much easier.
Being someone who is in bed at 10pm every night, it’s been a lifestyle adjustment on the days we are open, as it’s midnight before I see my pillow. I think in time I will get use to the 6 hours or so of sleep, and during that time I don’t wake at 3am, so that’s a good thing.

The Reservation Process

Learning Open Table and all about reservations and table flipping has been an eye-opener. Now personally, when I go out to eat and make reservations, I know how important it is to be on time and also how far in advance you make that reservation.

  • People play Open Table reservations like a video game. It’s amazing without a credit card guarantee and cancellation policy, how many reservations get dropped an hour before their arrival time.
  • You make your reservation. If you make it well in advance you get assigned a good table. As more people make their reservations, they get assigned to tables. If you make your reservation perhaps 30 minutes before you arrive, the table choice might not be the best. Even though the restaurant might seem empty, those tables are assigned to people who will be arriving within 15 minutes to 1 hour after you.
  • It’s important for a restaurant to be able to flip tables. By that I mean, 2 people come in to eat at 5:30pm. They are alloted 1.5 hours to enjoy their meal. If they are running late, the 7pm reservation has to wait to be seated. A chain reaction. Personally as working the front of the house, this is something I stress about on very busy evenings.

Review Process

As a reviewer myself, I always look for the positive in something. When I dine out, if it’s really bad, I will say something at the restaurant if approached. Knowing you can’t please everyone, people pick the strangest things to focus on in a review. But that is okay, to each their own. Sometimes a wine isn’t what you would expect based on your palate and the same goes with food. It’s all open to  interpretation. Why a wine judge will give one wine a score of 18 out of 20 and another will give a score of 9 out of 20, it's about interpretation.
What I found interesting is one Sunday at Brunch a customer told me and I quote “ You should get Scott XXXX down here to review the restaurant. If you comp him a meal he’ll give you a great review.”She said she works for a local PR firm. Don’t know if she was trying to impress me, but I walked away bewildered. As a reviewer myself, I will not be bought. If I don’t like a wine, I will say so, but someone else might like that type of wine. If I am in a tasting room or wine tour I will write about the experience from my perspective. Everyone has a price point, and all price points are different when it comes to food and wine. This particular food critic who I found out use to do the music beat, did come in and dine at the restaurant. Did I comp him his meal. NO. Did he write a good review. Not really. Makes me wonder on the integrity of food critics following the PR woman’s comment.

The Restaurant Industry

I didn’t know much about the working parts in the world of restaurants. One thing, if the kitchen doesn’t produce quality, people aren’t going to walk in the door. People leave gratuity on the experience. Food and service. Behind the scenes, you have many people involved in making sure what is presented to you looks good and taste good. There is such a disparity in wages. I don’t think the servers understand the value of others like the Expo/Runner (The one telling the chef/line cooks what dishes to cook for each table and when, any alterations of the dish, any table allergies, then assisting delivering the food to the table so you are served promptly and your food is at the right temperature) in the restaurant. Not to mention the wage of the line cooks. Well not sure I agree. I guess this is my first experience in the restaurant industry, had I worked it in my younger years, perhaps it would be different. Maybe it’s because I live in a shore / seasonal town? Perhaps it’s different in the big city.
Do I think there should be more tip sharing among all co-workers involved, I think so. Especially in a small venue where everyone works together to achieve success. I don’t think there is enough value placed on the kitchen staff. The way in which the economy drives things, it’s a shame that someone going to culinary school and is looking for a position to start at, is offered such a low wage. I see in other establishments, those positions going to less qualified people because they are the only people who will work for that wage because they aren’t educated and can do the job just as well as an educated person. (I’m trying to say this as politically correct as I can). I still have a lot to learn about the industry.


It’s been a little bit more of a time commitment than I thought. I miss my evenings drinking wine with my husband and cooking dinner. (We still do it 5 nights a week when he’s in town) Once we go 7 days in 3 weeks, it will be 10 weeks of craziness. I am looking forward to meeting new people and the conversations that will be had.
Right now feel like I’m hosting a dinner party Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and serving everyone Brunch on Sunday after the party. I’m staying up way past my bedtime, but the best part is I’m not cooking. I’m just making sure everyone is taken care of and I am meeting some wonderful people, and having great discussions on wine. Ask me at the end of the summer if I still feel this way

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Exploring the Godello and Dona Blanca Grape with Godelia

We all have a first. It’s always exciting when I try a wine that is made with grapes I’ve never tasted before and or knew about. This wine - 2015 Godelia Blanca was a first for me. It was a first with the Godello grape and the Dona Blanca grape.
Exploring Godello, it is an indigenous grape grown in the north west part of Spain known as Galacia. It is thought to have originate from the banks of the Rio Sil River in Galicia. In the 1970’s the Godello grape was close to extinction. A small number of growers have made a resurgence of grape to save it and inspire winemakers to produce wine with it and see what they can achieve.
Today Godello is a key grape varietal in Spain. You will find them grown in the appellations of Valdeorras, Monterrei, Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo.
The Dona Blanca grape also grown in the Galicia region of north west Spain also goes by the name Valenciana in the Valdeorras area of Spain. It is the indigenous grape of the Bierzo appellation.It is also known in Portugal as Dona Branca and is grown Portugal from the Douro northward.
I received the 2015 Godelia Godello-Dona Blanca as a sample and it’s the first time I’ve tasted wines from this producer along with the grape varieties. Bodegas y Vinedos Godelia is located in the district of Pieros in Bierzo between Galicia and Castilla-Leon. The 35 hectare estate has soil consisting of slate, quartzite, clay and sand which ads to the minerality and acidity of the wine.
All the grapes are picked by by hand an chilled for 24-48 hours. This causes them to split and begin maceration on the skins. The grapes are lightly pressed while still semi frozen, then settled off the gross lees. Fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks. The Godello and Dona Blanca remain in the tank on the lees with stirring for 5 months and then is bottled.
En Papillote
Tasting Notes: 2015 Godelia Blanco - Pale yellow in color, my first sip led to a big smile on my face. Not knowing what to expect, it reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc and then I looked to see what the grapes were in the bottle. There was a hint of salinity and freshness on the nose along with aromas of white flowers and just cut honeydew melon. The palate was crisp with bright acidity. Flavors of Meyer lemon, orange blossom and pineapple. A delightful wine, that would pair well with most shellfish and white fish. Very reasonably priced at $17
Join me on Monday, June 18 for Winephabet Street at 8pm as we learn about the Mencia grape and I taste Godello's Mencia. Another indigenous grape to the region. Click here to sign up.
Explore Bodegas y Vinedos Godelia in this short video.