Thursday, December 3, 2020

Cabernet Franc Misunderstood: Get To Know It December 4!

Cabernet Franc so misunderstood. Once only used as a blending grape doesn’t get much fan fare. In reality it really is the Big Daddy of all grapes!

Cabernet Franc is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere. Yes he got around during his time! It is one of the blending grapes in Bordeaux wine yet it wasn’t until recently that it’s been brought to the forefront as a stand alone wine.

My Cabernet Franc AHA Moment

When I began on my wine journey I didn’t know much about Cabernet Franc. I tasted it at Whitecliff Vineyards in Gardiner, New York and was wowed! It is during this time of year as Cabernet Franc day is celebrated that I reflect back on the grape and my Aha moment with it.

For me it was the strawberry, black raspberry, plum and dark fruit that finished with an explosion of black pepper. I was in love but didn’t realize the grape was an under-dog. The more wine tasting the more I realized that the grape is used in some percentage in other red blends all around, not just in New York but all over. As you get to know Cabernet Franc, you can pick it out of the blend. It is so much more than a blending grape.

Make sure you taste Cabernet Franc wines produced in different parts of the world. Taste and aroma will vary, some more fruity, some more minerally and some more herbaceous all based on the terroir of the region.

Cabernet Franc Pairing

Cabernet Franc pairs with so much food. Try it with your burger, roasted pork, grilled pork chop, pork belly, meatballs, turkey, lamb, venison, cheese, lentils, beans and more. Such a food friendly wine!

Cabernet Franc Day - December 4

This Friday is Cabernet Franc Day, the day you have no excuse not to try a wine made with the Big Daddy of grapes. Cabernet Franc Day was started by Lori & Michael Budd of Dracaena Wines to celebrate this underdog of grapes.

Every year Lori works her butt off to put together a great program featuring Cabernet Franc and the people that produce the wines. Join us on Twitter and follow the hashtag #CabFrancDay. The conversation begins at 8pm ET / 5pm PT. You can interact with Cabernet Franc lovers and winemakers from all over the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Another Wine Holiday Gift Idea Article

As we head into Thanksgiving we are all thinking about the gifts we still have left to purchase. Every year I try and find something new and different to suggest. From books to wine clubs. While there is so much to choose from, here are my picks for this holiday season.


The Wines of South Africa by Jim Clarke - an under-rated and up and coming wine region that dates back to 1600. Jim really gives you a great understanding of the South African Winelands. You will gain insight into the wines, wine regions and people behind the wine in South Africa. After you read this book, when we are able to travel again, you will be on the first plane to Cape Town. Package the book with a bottle of Graham Beck Brut Rose Methode Cap Classique.

Fire + Wine by Mary Cressler and Sean Martin - This is the cookbook for the person who likes to grill and use the smoker. Sean and Mary are the BBQ & Smoker King and Queen. Their recipes are easy to follow and come with great wine pairings. They explain the different types of grills and smokers, the different cooking methods, types of wood to use and of course the wines. Have you thought about grilling Brie? They have a recipe for Grilled Cedar Plank Brie and Strawberry Balsamic Glaze. Package this book with a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir and a pair of tongs.

Wine Club

Give the gift of wine with WOW Wine Club. This wine club features Women-Owned Wineries. They have a national directory of over 600 female wine entrepreneurs. Every month you receive a wine shipment from one of the woman-owned wineries. Some of these are small boutique wines that you won’t find on your wine store shelf along with their story. Order and use discount code WOWFAM15 in the notes section and get 15% discount.

Wine Tools

If a Coravin is a little out of your budget they have a new wine preservation gadget under $100. The Pivot (seems to be the word for 2020). You can pick the color - teal, coral, gray and black and will preserve what you don’t finish for up to 4 weeks.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Val d'Oca Prosecco Bringing Smiles To Your Holiday Table

The holiday time is a special time of year. This year being what it has been we all need to smile and we all need to begin our holidays with some Val d’Oca Prosecco! These bubbles will not only put a smile on your face, but be easy on your wallet and pairs great with many dishes. Drink it alone or make a bellini, enjoy with friends and family in person, on FaceTime or Zoom.

Val d’Oca - What Makes It Special

What makes Val d’Oca so special? It’s a cooperative winery established in 1952 to revive the economy after it was devastated by WWII. Today the cooperative has 600 members and 1000 hectares. The wines are all expressions of the different territories. The Glera grapes are 90% hand harvested, those with the DOCG designation compromise 60% of the production sit in the hills.

July 2019 the hills of Congeliano and Valdobbiadene were recognized by UNESCO where they work with nature to preserve and protect the land for future generations.

You will find the soils in the area mixture of limestone, clay, marl and marine sandstone and that terroir is present in the wine. The diurnal temperature change preserves the acidity in the grapes and the steep slopes and winds protect the vineyards from disease.

Val d’Oca Prosecco

You will find Prosecco from all sections of the quality pyramid. With Cartizze DOCG being the top of the line and Prosecco DOC Treviso at the bottom of the pyramid, don’t let that scare you! They will not break the bank and all are very tasty. Go with what your budget allows and you won’t be disappointed.

Rive Di San Pietro Di Barbozza Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut SRP $33 - In 2009 a system of single village designation was created. The word “Rive” on the label indicates a Prosecco Superior made entirely from grapes from the designated Rive. All Rives must be vintaged and hand harvested. There are only 9 Rives in Val d’Oca.

The grapes for this Prosecco were hand harvested in the hills of Pietro di Barbozza. Made with 100% Glera grapes the wine had aromas of lemon zest backed by floral notes. The palate was filled with luscious notes of pear, fuji apple, citrus and finishes with a touch of honey.

Millesmato Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry 2018 SRP $20 - This is the flagship Prosecco of the region. Made with 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay the Prosecco had a beautiful perlage with aromas of white flowers. Soft and creamy on the palate with flavors of green apple, pear, and lemon peel.

Val d’Oca Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry SRP $13 - Nice crisp dry Prosecco that is 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Notes of pineapple, apple and white flowers with a soft burst of acidity on the finish.

Val d’Oca Sparkling rose Extra Dry SRP $13 - A blend of 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Noir all vinified separately then blended. Hints of red raspberry, strawberry and spice. Perfect with brunch!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Get Out and Visit New Jersey Wineries

I have just spent the past week touring New Jersey Wineries with a select group of wine media. It was the first time visiting and tasting wineries outside of Cape May. I am going to be honest here, before this trip I was not a believer in New Jersey wines. Now, I can say I would and will seek them out. I will be crawling out from under my rock to go visit them and so should you!

New Jersey is a long state and the wineries are spread out so you can make them a day trip, a stop on the way to or home from the shore or map out your trip and stay at some nice Inns along the way.

You will feel comfortable visiting the wineries with the current Covid situation. The tasting are all done in flights and the tables are all spaced a good distance apart. At Auburn Road you can taste sitting in the vineyard rows. With the cold weather coming, many of the wineries will continue with tastings outside. Think of it as Apres Tasting. Dress for it with layers and bring a blanket. Some have heaters and fire pits. Don’t let the cold weather keep you away.

Here are some of my highlights. There will be more to come in the upcoming months. To keep up to date on events that are happening at the wineries go to the Garden State Wine Growers Association and sign up for their emails.

White Horse Winery: Named after the White Horse Pike, the road that travels from Cherry Hill, NJ to Atlantic City White Horse Winery is located in Hammonton. The winemaker Seferino Cotzojay came to White Horse from Bedell Cellars on Long Island. Ok - I felt the New York connection here.

The wines I thought were very well done. The 2019 stainless steel Chardonnay was very nice. Had nice acid, hints of citrus and melon. Really showcased the fruit well. If you like it oaked the 2019 Chardonnay had a nice fresh creamy mouth feel. Vidal Blanc 2019 which is a hybrid I really liked and thought it was well balanced with soft pineapple and citrus notes. The 2017 Cabernet Franc which is one of my favorites had the beautiful spice on the finish that I love. The 2019 Estate Merlot opens up real well and full of blue and black fruit.

Across the street is the Farmhouse at White Horse Winery and I totally recommend at least a two-night stay there!

Cedar Rose Winery: Located in Millville, New Jersey and owned by two young men, Steve Becker and Dustin Tarpine. A dream that began by planting 2 acres of vinifera in 2011 just after finishing college. One of the wines I really started enjoying on this trip is Vidal Blanc and Cedar Rose’s 2017 aged in Acacia Barrels was delightful with nice citrus and floral notes, soft on the palate and a nice finish. The 2017 Capelli Vineyards Cabernet Franc had a complex nose, beautiful black fruit and a soft lingering spice on the finish.

Auburn Road Vineyards: The Green Acre story…Two attorneys from Philadelphia, Scott and Jules wanted to escape the city life and hang up their lawyer hat. They bought the farm in 2003, planted the vines in 2004 and opened their wine bar (tasting room) in 2007. Many of their wines are named after yoga poses. Two wines here that stood out are their White Bottle made with 100% Chardonnay grapes. The wine was fresh, flean with lemon, hint of butter and nicely balanced. Good Karma made with 100% Merlot. Nice red fruit, jolly rancher cherry and soft black peppercorn spice on finish.

William Heritage Winery: I pass this winery frequently on my way to I95, however, it’s usually in the early morning or late at night. The Heritage family has farmed this land since 1853. In 1998 Bill and Penni Heritage began to convert the farm from apples and peaches to grapes. Wines to taste are their 2019 Estate Reserve Chardonnay. Barrel fermented and aged on lees for 8 months. You can smell hints of butter on the nose. The palate was clean, hints of butter, melon and lemony on the finish. Not to miss is the 2019 Burn Pile Vineyard Chambourcin. Very dark purple in color with aromas of figs, dates and blackberry. The palate shows lots of black raspberry, blackberry, silky mouthfeel and prune on the finish.

Bellview Winery: Purchased in 1914 by Jim Quarella’s grandparents. The winery sits on the original 20 acres of Bellview Farms. The farm today is 150 acres that includes the farm across the street. Today Jim and his son Scott run the business. In 2000 they commercially planted their first grapes. Today the vineyard is planted with 20 varieties on 50 acres. They are still looking and researching what grows best where they are. They are looking for consistency every year of the quality of fruit that comes off the vine. Some of the grapes showing the consistency they are looking for are Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Traminette, Braufrankish, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Chambourcin. Two wines that stood out for me was the 2017 Gruner Veltliner. It’s the third year producing this wine and will really come into it’s own as the vines mature. Nice and crisp with lively acidity and notes of green apple, lime, pear and white pepper on the finish. The Chambourcin 2017 had a nice red fruity nose, high acidity, notes of red raspberry and soft baking spice on the finish.

Tomasello Winery: Two weeks after the appeal of prohibition, Charlie’s grandfather drove to Washington DC in a snowstorm to apply for his winery license. Tomasello became bonded licensed winery number 68 in the United States. Charlie and his brother Jack are the third generation to lead the winery and three years ago the 4th generation joined the company. The Palmaris OCP Label represents the 4 generations farming the land. They grow 68 acres of grapes in Atlantic and Camden counties. The 2019 PALMARIS OCP Chardonnay was the perfect pairing to the salmon salad that I thought was lunch. Long and behold Filet Mignon came out the 2016 PALMARIS OCP Petit Verdot was the match for that with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.

Sharrot Winery: I have been to this winery before, but not since they renovated and built a larger tasting room with windows overlooking their vineyard. Grapes are grown on a 34 acre farm that include Chambourcin, Vignoles, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a tad of Petit Verdot. In 2004 they acquired the property, 2005 the first grapes were planted, 2007 the first vintage and in 2008 the winery was opened to the public. The 2019 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay was aged in oak for 6 months. Just enough oak to wet your palate. Nice acidity on the finish with notes of lemon. Their 2018 Merlot was the New Jersey Governor’s Cup winner and I can see why. Lovely nose of blueberry and black fruit, very balanced, soft and silky on the palate with blue and black fruit.

Unionville Vineyards: Located in the Sourland Mountains which is a ridge that runs from Lambertville to the east and ends in Hillsboro, it is the largest continuous forest in Central New Jersey. They have been growing Chardonnay in the Pleasantville Vineyard since 2001. The 2017 Chardonnay is nice and lemony with hints of pear and a nice mouthfeel.

Beneduce Vineyards: Owned by Mike Beneduce Jr and sits on the farm that was purchased in 2000 as an expansion for his dad's business, Great Swamp Greenhouses. As you drive up the property you will see the greenhouses on the right that they grow and sell annuals and perennials there. The winery sits in the refurbished tractor barn. In 2009 they began planting the vineyard on the property. They wanted to plant the best grapes that will grow best on the property. They found that their location, soil and climate data is in line with Austrian, Northern Italian and France wine regions so they planted what grows well there. 2019 Dry Riesling a must-try. Stainless-steel fermented, soft, clean with notes of peach and stone fruit. The 2016 “Centerfold” Pinot Noir nice with slight hints of earth, red raspberry and killer spice on the finish. Don’t forget to try their Pet Nat’s all nicely done.

Mount Salem Vineyards: Sometimes the little wineries you wouldn’t think of to stop at are diamonds in the ruff. The vineyards was planted in 2005 and they have a total of 7 acres planted. They chose Austrian varieties that include Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is dry farmed and the wines are wild yeast fermented. The Cabernet Franc Rose is one you want to take home with you. Lots of strawberry and baking spice on the finish. Their Cabernet Franc has a beautiful nose with strawberry and spice leading to a palate of red fruit, sour cherry and spice that softly explodes in your mouth on the finish.

Alba Vineyard: Located right between New York City and Philadelphia it’s a must stop in your travels. The winery was purchased in 1997 out of bankruptcy, but the vineyard itself was planted in the late 1970’s and the winery opened in 1984 by Rudy Marchesi. They began with 50 acres of property and today own 90 with 45 planted acres of 8 grape varieties. It’s a beautiful property! Highlights were their 2018 Grand Reserve Chardonnay that spent 18 months in the barrel. The nose had hints of oak and butter. The oak was nicely integrated in the wine with flavors of crushed stone and soft citrus. The 2016 Heritage Estate Cabernet Franc was aged in oak for 30 months in French oak. It’s a rich Cabernet Franc with nice integrated oak, nice structure with dark red and black fruit and nice black spice on the finish.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Kitchen Wine: Going out with a Bang!

This is the last edition of the Kitchen Wine Series for 2020. Unfortunately, the kitchen has closed. The property did not have real estate for outdoor dining and with the New Jersey restrictions with indoor dining we were barely keeping the lights on, let alone not meeting our rent. To give you an idea, we made 10% of our annual gross sales this year. Take-out, if we did 3 to 5 orders a night that was a lot. There were evenings we didn’t even receive any orders. Indoor dining we legally had the capacity for 11 based on our occupancy, but could stretch it to 18 with everyone being 6 feet a part and in the restaurant all at the same time. We were lucky if we had 8 people.We had many cancellations once people found out there was no outdoor seating. Be it as it may, we decided to close before our losses got to great. We do plan on reopening at another location if we find one suitable for us in 2021.

We went out with a bang with Caymus Vineyard’s 2012 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was sent to me to participate in Caymus’s 40th anniversary celebration, however, FedEx had other ideas for this wine. I didn’t receive the wine until a week after the event, but I saved it for a special occasion.

This special occasion was toasting the end of 3 good years in Stone Harbor. Family owned vineyard, family owned restaurant. Even though we had to close, we have met so many wonderful people, had some great times, great wine dinners and created friendships that will last a lifetime.

This wine when poured screams excitement. The dark red wine with purple hues says juicy plum. It’s an incredible and complex tasting wine! Vanilla, oak, hardcore plum, dark fruit, black currant, tobacco and a hint of chocolate on the finish. WOW! I savored every sit.

Chef’s Pairing Suggestions: Gus had one word “Big juicy steak! Stilton Blue Cheese too. If you’ve had Gus’s steak - he prepares it with Stilton on top. That will be an amazing pairing.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Trick or Treat & Sherry - Best Candy Pairings With Sherry

Halloween is fast approaching and it’s going to be time to raid your kids candy. If you are an empty nester like myself, well, you buy candy you like, try not to eat it all before it’s time to hand it out and hope for leftovers. As you sit there eating that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you might want to think about a nice glass of sherry to pair with it.

Let’s Talk Sherry

What is Sherry? First thing that may come to mind is you cook with it. Yes, but there is much more to sherry than cooking.

Sherry is produced in three towns in Southern Spain known as the “Sherry Triangle.”

  • Jerez de la Fontera
  • Sanlucar de Barrameda
  • El Puerto de Santa Maria

Sherry is made using the solera process. This is where they fill the bottle with sherry on the bottom of the cask. This allows for the new sherry to be poured into the top. The finish product, what is in the bottle is a mixture from all years. With every sip there is history.

Sherry is made from green grapes only and fortified with grape spirit.

  • Palomino
  • Moscatel
  • Pedro Ximenez (PX)

Sherry is made from 90% of the Palomino grape. Most Sherries are non vintage. Only an Oloroso Sherry can be vintage.

There are 5 types of Sherry.

  • Fino
  • Oloroso
  • Amontillado
  • Pal Cortado
  • Manzanilla

Let’s Get Pairing - Bring on the Sherry and the Candy!

We got all kinds of Halloween candy, some that are my favorites and some that I would never touch. You have to try it all, because you just never know when the right pairing will light up your palate.

First we tasted each of the three Sherries on their own so we can see their expressions. Then we moved onto the candy and the cherry. We samples 11 different Halloween candies with the three Sherries. Sometimes the Sherry overpowered the candy. Sometimes the ingredients in the candy overpowered the Sherry and some integrated very well.

Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso - Light golden in color, this Sherry made from 100% Palomino has a sweet nuttiness aroma of hazelnuts and spice with a palate that has hints of truffle and vanilla.

 Almond Joy - Although I don’t like coconut, one bite of Almond Joy with Alfonso and it diminishes the leathery flavor and paired really will

Whoppers - once we got through the childproof wrapper, the candy brings out the nuttiness in the Sherry

Butterfinger - the butter blends in really nicely and makes the truffle sand out

100 Grand was the best pairing for me. It toned down the truffle and nuttiness, yet the chocolate and caramel mix right in with the Sherry, smooths it out, and gives it a fantastic finish.

Gonzalez Byass Nectar - Dark coffee in color made with 100% Pedro Ximenez speaks aromas of honey and prunes which will turn that dark coffee look to prune juice. The palate speaks figs and prunes, honey and a hint of maple syrup

Whoppers - the chocolate and caramel blended nicely together

Butterfinger - the buttery flavor blended nice with the Sherry and toned down the strong prune and fig flavors

100 Grand - This candy bar brought a creaminess to the Sherry, toned down the prunes but brought out the dates and honey,

Harveys Bristol Cream - Nothing about Cream in this Sherry. It’s a blend of Oloroso, PX, Fino and Amontillado aged for an average of 7 years. Medium golden in color this Sherry the grapes are 80% Palomino and 20% Pedro Ximenez. Fresh aromas of raisins, caramel and dark maple syrup lead to a nice creamy smooth palate with orange marmalade and finishes with hazelnut.

Hersey Bar - simple as it is, the chocolate and creaminess of the bar paired very well with the Sherry.

Butterfinger - buttery flavor blends well with the Sherry. Make the Sherry feel creamy on the palate

Kit Kat - Who doesn’t like Kit Kats. This brings out the fruitiness in the Sherry

Tootsie Roll - who knew- this little piece of taffy mixes nicely with the Sherry and the flavors of the Sherry just explode in your mouth. Just make sure your fillings are still there when you are done eating and drinking.

Whether you purchase the Halloween candy for yourself, to give out, or raid your child’s grab a bottle of Sherry and see what your great pairings are.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kitchen Wine: 2017 Riccitelli Tinot de la Casa Malbec

Sometimes I feel like this lady. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any information about the label design and the what inspired it. However what was in the bottle was really good on a cool summer evening in the kitchen.

2017 Riccitelli Tinto del la Casa Malbec is hand harvested from two different vineyards in Argentina. Las Compuertas which is located at the highest section of Lujan de Cuyo accounts for 50% of the grapes and Gualtallary, one of the highest points in the Uco Valley account for the other 50%. The wine is co-fermented in small French oak vats with 50% whole clusters and indigenous yeast. Each of the vineyards brings the different terroir and when combined you have a nice complex Malbec with aromas of dark fuit, vanilla spice and a hint of forest. The palate is full of dark fruit, nice integrated tannins and a hint of earth.

Chef’s Pairings: Beef, Venison, Lamb Lollipops, Ribeye, Strip Steak, Flat Iron and Skirt Steak with a cigar.