Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cab, Cab, Cabs.....

Winter has arrived and it sure is cold out. Up here in Buffalo we already received a few feet of snow in certain areas of the county. While some people dream of hazy days on the hammock, I look forward to settling down by the fire with a nice teeth staining red wine. In the winter there is nothing better than Cabernet Sauvignon.

The first Cabernet Sauvignon I decided to try is from Mendoza, Argentina. Trapiche 2006 "Broquel" Cabernet Sauvignon (Retail $18) is a classic example of what some of the high altitude vineyards have to offer from South America.  Broquel, meaning shield, uses hand picked grapes from select vineyards with average vines producing grapes for at least 25 years. A brand new facility with top of the line equipment was recently finished allowing this winery to create high quality new world wines. Aged in oak for 15 months this ruby red wine exhibits notes of black cherry, cocoa, leather, huge raspberry and a hint of graphite. Typically Cabernet Sauvignon from South America tends to be a little herbal and have heavy vegetative flavors like green pepper, however, in the Broquel they are more subtle with offerings of ripe medium-bodied red fruit flavors leading to a long plummy and tannic finish. This wine would pair perfectly with Prosciutto wrapped asparagus with Neufchatel cheese.

Next I jumped back to the continental United Sates and opened a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. The Chateau Ste Michelle 2006 "Cold Creek Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon retails for around $32 and is worth every penny.  The Washington state wine region is principally in Columbia Valley east of the Cascade Mountains. The valley provides the perfect growing climate for some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the world (just last year a Washington State wine was awarded the wine of the year by the Wine Spectator). Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the largest wineries in Columbia Valley and has vineyards in all the AVA's located in Washington state. Cold Creek Vineyard was planted in 1973 offering old vines and silty soils allowing for more concentrated fruit at harvest. 2006 had a later harvest due to a wet spring but still produced a very nice vintage. In the nose this wine offers black cherry, chocolate, rose petal, a hint of petrol and leather. On the palate the wine has soft and lush plum and fig flavors leading to a full and round silky finish. This wine is certainly worthy of its Bordeaux heritage. Pair this wine with a roasted beet and goat cheese tower with pistachio's.

Finally I finished strong with a historic winery from Napa Valley. The Freemark Abbey 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Make sure to check out the link attached to the wine to hear the winemaker talking about the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon) is sourced from two world class vineyards in Rutherford and retails for around $35. 2005 was a good year in Napa and this wine definitely shows both the quality of the terrior and the vintage. This wine quaffs cocoa, huge black cherry, leather, raspberry, hints of tobacco and prune in the nose. Deep and intense in the mouth with a tannic dark-red-fruit flavors offering a complex yet elegant finish. Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon is simply a reminder of how great and easy drinking a good Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon could be. Try pairing this wine with beef fajitas with fresh tomatillo salsa and Pico de Gallo.

Once again thanks for taking the time to read this review. I do welcome any comments to this site and would love to hear from you. Until next time remember to keep an open mind and an open eye.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Heavy Hitter Whites: Mumm de Cremant & Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino

Let's face it... sometimes you have to just treat yourself. With my new job I get the opportunity to travel with some nice wines. Keeping true to this blog I think it's only fair that I write about wines that I feel are not only great tasting but of great value. I understand the economy has changed the spending habits of some people, however, sometimes the old adage "You get what you pay for" definitely does apply. So with that said the selections below fall into that category where the quality of the wine far exceeds the price.

I've worked with wine in a public capacity for several years now and I often find that as I am describing wines I have some go-to catch phrases that just seem to flow out of me unconsciously. One of these pitches always comes up when I get my hands on a good sparkler (usually Champagne). Without hesitation after the champagne flute has left my mouth I seem to proclaim "I could easily drink a bottle of this every day for the rest of my life." I can't express how true that is for my first selection: G.H. Mumm de Cramant NV Grand Cru. Of course at $70 retail I hope somebody else is footing the bill. Is $70 undervalued you ask? Well, this golden Champagne shows tons of toast, hay, and straw with slight pineapple nuances. It is crisp, light and refreshing with nice medium-bodied Granny Smith flavors in the mid-palate and a long mouth watering citric and tangy finish that goes on forever. I think the wine is very reminiscent of the high quality Champagne produced by Krug (the Krug Cuvee Brut is one of my all time favorite wines), and at less than half the price of Krug I would certainly categorize this as an "undervalued" wine. G.H. Mumm is one of the largest Champagne houses and shares a rich history with the AOC. This great Champagne is 100% Chardonnay and despite the name is indeed from the Champagne AOC (named for the small town Cramant in France) and should not be confused for other sparkling wines from France labeled Cremant. Pair this wine with Calamares alla Plancha con Salsa Aglio y Olio.

This next little gem is quite the mouthful to say: Feudi di San Gregorio 2008 Fiano di Avellino. Don't let the long name fool you, this wine is very approachable. In the past whenever I drank Fiano (mostly IGT) I was only mildly impressed with the varietal, however, this DOCG (retail $20) wine from Campania, Italy certainly struck a chord with me. While a very young operation (Established 1986), Feudi di San Gregorio is one of the largest producers of wine from grapes that are indigenous to Campania and holds ownership to some of the oldest vineyards in the region. The authenticity of the varietal in this wine is certainly a very endearing quality. This wine shows notes of tropical fruit, nutmeg, apple, honeydew on the nose. Light on the palate this wine is crisp and clean upfront leading to a nicely balanced and layered appley and lemony finish. The quality of this white wine is clear as soon as it hits your tongue. Try pairing this wine with a lemon pepper monkfish over Capelli d'angelo

As always thanks for checking out my reviews and I am always open to comments and suggestions. I've already received some good criticism and suggestions that have led to some minor changes in the way I deliver information. Please feel free to comment on any article and I will make sure to try my best to respond to your request or question. With that said please check out on of my newest affiliates at where all the recipes for this entry are hosted. Until next time remember to keep an open eye and an open mind.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New York State Wines: Knapp Winery

Last spring I attended a trade show at Babeville in Buffalo. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of attending one of the big wine shows it can get pretty overwhelming for any serious wine buyer. The secret to successfully making the most of your time when confronted with anywhere between 300-500 wines is to know what you are looking for or more importantly looking at what you've already found. As I walked around the room looking for the newest wines to catch my eye I noticed a cool looking Lemoncello that I've never seen before. The table was sponsored by Knapp Vineyards, but, more importantly the Lemoncello was truly unique.

That meeting at Babeville left a great impression on me and naturally the soonest chance I had to get away for a weekend in the Finger Lakes I took it. Obviously Knapp was one of my destination points.

Knapp was founded by Doug and Suzie Knapp in 1977 and was the first winery in the Finger Lakes Appellation to plant Cabernet Franc. It's no wonder after tasting through their wine portfolio at the winery my favorite was their 2007 White Cabernet Franc($10 retail). Cabernet Franc grows very nicely in cooler climate regions. This traditionally Bordeaux blending varietal tends to be one of my favorite wines that I have sampled from the North-East wine making regions. Light pink in color this gem of a wine should have been labeled as a Cabernet Franc Rose, offering huge strawberry and cream essences with a hint of honey and lilac tones on the nose. This Cabernet Franc is light-bodied and slightly off-dry upfront leading to a berry tinged and slightly tannic yet mellow finish. I would safely pair this wine with a mushroom and braised pear stuffed pork chop with a arugula and candied walnut salad.

As I mentioned earlier one of my original draws to Knapp Winery was their Lemoncello. The other main draw (other than being a winery) is the fact that they have an Alambique still. Basically this designates the winery as a a small batch distillery as well as a winery. In the vineyards one of the many varietals they grow is Sangiovese. While they bottle a good amount of their Sangiovese they do reserve a good amount for Grappa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Grappa it's typically an Italian spirit that is created from the distillation of excess grapes and byproducts of the wine making process. Many Italian makers will make their Grappa from sub par grapes, skins and stems leftover from the their first press. While Grappa is enjoyable by itself, it is often flavored by infusing or macerating citrus peels and sugar to make it more palatable. The result of this process is Lemoncello, Orangecello, or the less popular Limoncello. What originally drew me to the Lemoncello at the tasting was the pulp in the bottle. Knapp actually adds fresh squeezed juice to their Grappa to make their Lemoncello and Limecello. This makes their offering less sweet than some of the other mainstream Lemoncello's on the market. I felt that due to it's difficulty to find I was more drawn to the Limoncello ($22.99 for a 750ml bottle). This spirit has obvious citrus tones in the nose but is not overwhelming on the palate. Chilled and served neat it drinks alot like an alcoholic version of limeade. This great spirit can be drank as an aperitif or if you're like me makes a great flavor accent for a cocktail. I took 2 ounces of citrus vodka (choose your favorite), 1 ounce of Limoncello, and half an ounce of habanero infused simple syrup shaken over ice and served up in sugar rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a chili pepper and you have a Southwest Chili-lime martini.

The most intriguing aspect of the winery for me is the simple fact that they create their own small batch brandy. Brandy is a grape based spirit produced pretty much everywhere in the world with some of the most famous coming from Cognac and created mostly from the Ugni Blanc grape. What makes the the Knapp Brandy truly a craft brandy is the way the small batch is created. As mentioned earlier, brandy can be made from any grape varietal. Knapp uses it's excess grapes or grapes to make their brandy. Ultimately one years blend can be entirely different from the next. This lends to subtle inconsistencies from year to year. Ultimately, Knapp creates vintage specific brandy, which is something reminiscent to the French Armagnac's. Their brandy ages for one year in French oak casks and comes in 187mL bottles ($22.99 retail). This well crafted brandy is light gold in color (no coloring is added) and has an essence of vanilla, nutmeg and almond. The palate offers a subtle nutty veneer with a smooth, balanced and long oaky finish that doesn't offer as much heat on the outro as you'd expect. I suggest enjoying this small batch 80 proof spirit neat in a snifter.

I thoroughly did enjoy my time at Knapp and will definitely stop by the winery again next time I'm in the area. If you are planning a trip to the Finger Lakes or live in the area Knapp is definitely worth a stop. For more information on the winery or details on upcoming events please check out: Thanks again for following this blog and would to hear some feedback from some of your drinking adventures. Until next time remember to keep an open mind and an open eye.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Special Edition Beers .... Allagash Musette & Ithaca Beer Company "Ten"

I thought that since it's summer and more importantly beer drinking weather I'd keep the momentum going by reviewing a few more beers. The following beers are edition beers of which their production is limited and closely monitored. Each bottle is numbered by someone at the brewery indicating it is indeed a special edition beer. Most beers that go through this process are experimental beers created by the brew master with extra care. In the beer world this is the equivalent to a private reserve.

Maine can be an unforgiving place. The weather and the terrain are arduous at times, which makes perfect sense why Allagash Brewing Company concentrates on complex Belgian style beers. Allagash Musette (retail $16 for a 750mL bottle) is surely a unique beer. The beer is supposed to resemble a scotch ale but none that I have ever tasted. The flavor profile is contributed to the fact that Allagash barrel ages this brew. Half of the final batch is fermented in stainless steel while the other half is fermented and aged in used oak bourbon barrels. Each of the batches are dated and numbered. As you can see in the photo attached my bottle was bottled in August 2006 and was one of 419 cases (Musette is packed in 6 packs). The website suggests drinking this beer at about 55 degrees and I would agree with that suggestion. I originally made the mistake of drinking this beer at about 45 degrees and there was a distinct flavor difference from when I made it to the bottom of the bottle. Allagash Mussette is muddy and light brown offering aromas of nut, brown sugar, coffee, and caramel. This full-bodied ale is smooth upfront with a long mocha tinged slightly off dry finish. I wouldn't suggest throwing back a six pack of this stuff. At 10% ABV this Belgian brew will surely sneak up on you. I suggest pairing this beer with quiche Lorraine and broccoli florettes in Bearnaise. Allagash offers alot of great beers and I'm sure I'll revisit this brewery again, but, until then if you're looking for some information on their beers or are planning a visit to their Portland brewery check out this

Every now and then I go someplace and when I return home I wish I had seen one last thing. Recently I was checking out some wineries near Ithaca, New York, (that review will be posted soon) and at the time never thought to check out the Ithaca Brewing Company while I was in the area. Trust me my wife would have been ecstatic considering one of her favorite beers is the Ithaca Apricot Wheat. The good news is that Ithaca is only about a three hour drive from Buffalo. The bad news is that for those out of state readers it is only available in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Connecticut. "Ten" is a Double Red Ale from the Exclusior series of beers from the Ithaca Beer Company. This small batch beer celebrates the ten years of operation for the brewery. Much like the Musette, 50 degrees is an optimal serving temp for this opaque brick hued beer. The nose on this gem offered walnuts, hops, cocoa, and fig. On the palate this beer was full-bodied and slightly off-dry with complex flavors on the mid-palate leading to a malty and creamy tinged finish with a nice lingering burst of hoppiness on the outro. This beer will creep up on you as well with a whopping ABV of 10.1%. In my wife's words, "This beer is strong". Ithaca Brewing Company uses only small batches on this unfiltered hand-packaged bottle fermented beer. It truly is a special beer because each bottle is unique. Unlike their mass produced brother en there may be some slight inconsistency from bottle to bottle. I would pair this beer with barbecue ribs and butter poached brussel sprouts. For more information on this up and coming brewery please

As always, I would love to hear what you've been drinking and some of your thoughts on new and inter sting products. Thanks again for taking the time to read this blog and remember to keep an open mind and an open eye.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Beer... Pietra Amber & Saison Dupont

I love wine. There is just something about the inconsistencies from vintage to vintage that really intrigues me. The whole idea that sun exposure, weather patterns, soil contents and rain indexes can all make or break a specific vintage and leave alot to the anticipation of the first taste of the vintage.

While I have a great passion for wine (and if you are a regular reader of this blog so do you) it's become clear that its more basic cousin, Beer, is growing more popular with the wine community. Let's face it; beer is usually cheaper than wine, is as all natural and organic as wine and with the increasing popularity of craft and imported beer is has become as accessible to the consumer who just can't make up their mind on styles.

As craft beer lists and food and beer pairings have begun popping up in many fine dining establishments across the country I've decided to begin reviewing some craft beers that I haven't tried before.

The first beer that caught my eye while scanning the beer shelves at Wegmans was the Vielle Provision Saison Dupont by Brasserie Dupont. This light summer ale has been brewed in Tourpes Belgium uninterrupted since 1844 and within the last 20 years has begun making artisan cheeses and bread. Initially the beer brewed in this family owned farmhouse brewery was intended for consumption throughout the winter months by the field workers. Brasserie Dupont uniquely and subtly (on the cork) vintage dates their bottle conditioned ales. Saison Dupont retailing at around $12 for a 750mL bottle would cellar nicely for a moderate amount of time. Tons of yeasty sediment, or "mud" as I like to refer to it, is evident in the bottle so it's important to pour slowly as not to disturb the precious starter yeast on the bottom of the bottle. This beer had a great head especially when poured into an appropriate Belgian goblet. Saison Dupont was light amber in color and exhibited a floral nose reminiscent of a Belgian white ale with a light citrus and hoppy undertone. While light and semi-crisp in upfront it finishes nicely with a long creamy and lightly spiced chai essence. I would pair this great summery ale with a turkey and brei pannini and blue Idaho potato chips.

This next beer I tried is a bit of a gem. I picked this 750mL bottle up in a small store in Austintown, Ohio not too long ago for about $8. What caught my eye about it wasn't the label or the price. Simply put this is a Chestnut beer from Corsica, France. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Corsica is an island south of France and West of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is most famously known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. More interestingly in 1584 one of the governors of the island ordered all farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly of which included a Chestnut tree. These creative islanders use their surplus chestnuts to flavor their beer. While Corsica also has a relatively large wine production (for the size of the island) their beer is very interesting indeed. Pietra is not your everyday amber ale. This amber is unfiltered with tons of sediment and what I like to refer to as "floaters" throughout the body of the beer. Amber in color, the nose on this great beer offers mocha, chocolate and nutmeg. Pietra is light, smooth and refreshing with nutty tones (I'd imagine with the Chestnuts and all) but not as overwhelming as a nut brown. The finish offers a lightly hopped yet mellow veneer. Truly a unique beer. A slow pour is definitely recommended to keep the sediment to a minimum. Pair this beer with a grilled lamb kebob and long grain rice. While this is available in the U.S. I have yet to find a store that carries it in New York.

Thanks again for reading my ongoing online tasting notes. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them or if there is something you feel I should be reviewing I'd appreciate the direction. Until next time remember to keep an open mind and an open eye.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It been a long time... NYS Wines Intro

Recently I've come to the realization that I have let some good things go to the wayside. One of which is my online tasting notes. In an attempt to regain some creativity in an increasingly mundane job I've decided to resume my online notes. So I've poured myself a glass of Trimbach Gewurztraminer and without further ado, I'd like to begin this week's tasting notes.

Rather recently I helped my wife write a wine article for the Buffalo News. While it was alot of fun and I received a decent amount of good responses from my participation one minor criticism remained with me. I had given the people of Buffalo a list of about 15 wines from regions outside of New York State. So as a bit of redemption, and while I collect and taste through local wines from both the Niagara Escarpment and Finger Lake wineries I decided to start with a little gem from Long Island that I found a few years ago. Pindar Pythagoras NV is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec that retails for around $14. Traditionally New York State wines are known for their white wine, specifically Riesling and Vidal Blanc, however, the red varietals on Long Island benefit from the same coastal weather conditions that is evident in cool weather Washington State wines. Pindar is a one of the wineries that is responsible for the uprising of the wine industry in Long Island. Long Island wines are bunched among a region called the Benchlands. This is a sandy and rocky sandstone wine region that was left by drifting glaciers thousands of years ago. While this vintage of Pythagoras celebrates the 20th anniversary of the winery, Pindar does not put a vintage date on the bottle. This light ruby wine exhibits essences of strawberry, black cherry, cocoa, cream, eucalyptus and raspberry. Pythagoras is a medium bodied red berry flavored wine with a sharp acidic light cranberryesque finish and a long oaky outro. Try pairing this wine with a barbecued duck confit sandwich with cilantro cole slaw and five year cheddar biscuits. For more information on Pindar or to order some wine from their fantastic portfolio please visit

Thanks again for your time and remember to keep an open eye and an open mind. See you real soon.