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This page contains Winings from the 3rd Quarter of the year 2008.

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September 28, 2008

Watching the NFL gave me what I must say is a brilliant idea.  Teams wearing the throwback uniforms prove that everything old is new again.  Fashions, automobile design, home building all stand tall on newness to an old theme.   Even our entertainment recycles classic movies with modern production.  So you have heard it here first.  I will be putting together the business plan for my next endeavor.  OK, I really don’t know what a business plan is or how to put one together, but my shoebox is filled with drunken napkin scribblings that I call business plans.  With energy costs skyrocketing (i.e. shipping, freight, trucking) it is time for certain forward-thinking business brains to open up a wine merchant shop in the true old world sense.  I say, send me your barrels and I will save you on shipping costs.  I will bottle and supply those great wines that will sit in my barrel cellar.  That reminds me I need a barrel cellar, I forgot to scribble that last night. 

I will call it Throwback Merchants and ladle out bottles of Bordeaux or carafes of charbono to any patron who wants to be a trendsetter.  Count on it, what’s old is new again and this will be the next trend in wine bars and retail.  Move over microbreweries where your copper kettles make samplers for nacho and chicken wing eaters.  A steakhouse that lets you drink carafes of different wines throughout your dinner will make economic sense to the economics of wine consuming. 

Wow, I just shared genius with you guys for free…..

September 21, 2008

One place’s loss is another’s gain.  Last night we planned to have dinner with friends we haven’t seen in awhile.  Simple enough, we agreed to meet at Russillo’s in West Caldwell.  For the first time in the many times we have been there, we were turned away.  They said they require reservations.  Never before in the tens of time we have been there did they ever take reservations for less than six people.  So what does one do?  I remember seeing a name change and new banners at what used to be Sophia’s on Main Street in North Caldwell.  The place has only been open for six weeks and a quick call secured a table at 7:15 on Saturday night.  As they are just trying to build a clientele, they graciously accepted us. 

The atmosphere is cheery, the hostess/owner/family member made sure we were comfortable and we enjoyed the history behind the new place.  It’s now Gianni’s and I will say this.  The food quality was very good and the service was attentive.  They want to succeed and are taking the steps that send the right message.  The pasta dishes are served with your choice of pasta from whole wheat to tortellini to penne et al.  My food was flavorful and generously portioned for the price.  I look forward to heading back there and trying more of their selections. 

Our friends brought a bottle of Sarah’s Vineyard Pinot Noir that delivered a spice and earthy nose with red cherry and pomegranate flavors.  It was a good accompaniment for the table’s diverse food choices. 

I would like to see this new place stay, as the restaurant business is difficult.  This economy adds a complexity to the fledgling eatery.  If the portions remain, the quality stays consistent and the pricing can hold, they should make out well.

September 17, 2008

With the world going to Hell in a handbasket, I sought out the comfort of a red wine.  Then I realized, I had just used a phrase I have little knowledge of and from my search on the internet, there is little info on the origin of said verbiage.  It seemed fitting, at least inside my head, that the state of the state is dismal.  I couldn’t take the taking heads on TV trying to make news rather than report, so I turned on the radio as I ate dinner.  A commercial came on that turned my frown upside down.  Wow, does that sound gay.

There is a company that claims the difference between me and the millionaires in the world is simply that they wanted to be millionaires.  Conversely, that means that each day I wish to be poor, inadequate and drunk.  OK, the drunk part is my doing.  For all these years of small business development, cash flow analysis, ROI proposals and spin training, I have been struggling to make ends meet.  Had I just wanted to be a millionaire, I could be doing this web site as a living and counting my interest on my lunch break.  So I decided to close my business and spend the rest of the time wanting to be a millionaire in the wine business.  I really do want to be a wine millionaire.  I really, really want to be a wine millionaire.

Crap, still the same.  OK, back to work.

2006 Bodegas y Vinedos La Esperanza Malbec Finca el Origen Reserva $ (9.99)   Very nice dark fruit on the nose with a firmness and kick that will make you forget how bad your life is not being a millionaire.

September 15, 2008

I had to do some research this weekend and decided to scroll through Wikipedia.  I was stunned by what I saw under the word 'carnivorous'.  The adjective means, “feeding on other animals”.  Hell, I knew that from grade school.  The shock came when the definition was illustrated by the picture of our own meat-eating, wine-loving, Big Bob.

 

Yes that is a 17-pound roast that chef extraordinaire, wine host and highly hospitable Wino Odd Job graced us with.  The small carcass was subdivided for those of us with less developed incisors and a smaller gullet.

But the evening was mostly about the days gone by.  We spoke about the turbulent times and the political landscape and the bright evening depicted here.


Wino Odd Job lording over the cabernet we would enjoy. 

We drank our Casa Julia, our Joel Gott 815, and our Bennett Family Cabernets with dinner, then wondered if times could ever again be called the good old days.  I am not sure if it was a dream sequence or reality at that point of the night, but I found myself possibly daydreaming, possibly not, of times when smoking was not a dirty word, and men cussed and drank whiskey without concerns of a lawsuit.

We found ourselves at easier time, at a better place.

The barkeep made sure the patron’s glasses never ran dry and billowy clouds of aromatic cigars filled the air.

Unfortunately, I was coldly slapped into reality when I realized Wino Rocker was the patron next to me and I had inadvertently switched my camera to black and white.  This picture brought it all into focus.

Now that my brain couldn’t figure out how to switch the camera back, I did like the feel of a post-prohibition Tree Tavern tavern.  Maybe it was the Tree Tavern Bar and Grill or possibly the Tree Tavern Gin Mill.

 

For some reason, all that small animal made Big Bob mesmerized with a documentary about the life and times of Meat Loaf (you can fill your own joke in here.  C'mon, could it be much easier?).  Feed up with Wino Rocker, the barkeep bellowed last call and picked up WR’s glass so the bouncer would send him packing.  The song "Closing Time" played in the background and the bouncer said, “you can’t stay here”.

We finished the night with a nicely crafted Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon that brought me back to the hard cold reality that once the cigars and wine buzz ends, it's back to all the bank failures and political grime we live in.

 

September 11, 2008

 

September 11, 2008

This is not about politics, its about our country.

Our hearts and prayers are with those families whose lives instantly changed seven years ago.

September 10, 2008

I think I am figuring this drinking thing out.  The resveratrol in the red wine is keeping most of my internal organs healthy; my heart pumping thinned blood and my dementia at bay.  But I am still in need of food for omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.  Not so fast vine breath.  It seems that geniuses at VEEVLIFE have come up with my magical elixir of life.  The lab rats produced a spirit incorporating the much ballyhooed acai berry.  Come on, we all watched that Oprah show about this magical Brazilian fruit that boasts 10 times the antioxidant benefits of grapes and twice that of blueberries.  We did watch it didn’t we?  You guys saw it, right?  Right?? 

For the few of you who haven’t seen Oprah, the wonders of this berry is described as:

Acaí berry has a unique tropical fruit flavor and provides a high level of antioxidants also known as anthocyanins. It also contains Omega Fatty Acids (healthy fats), Amino Acids, Fiber, Iron, along with many other vitamins and minerals.

Think about it, now with a simple shot of VEEV each night, chased down with two glasses of red wine and voila, I am the fountain of youth.  Healthful elixirs with 60% proof.  Just thinking about it I am feeling sprier, more youthful and yes fitter.  Forget the salmon and oat bran; I am saying VEEV and red wine.  Maybe I can invent the next crazy, HEED- Heat Energy Exchange Device (Boiler Maker was already taken).  Start with one shot glass of VEEV, in large Bordeaux glass; fill halfway with expensive red frog wine.  Hold shot glass over the wine glass and let ‘er go.  Then you have HEED. 

As I pulled the synthetic T-Top cork and placed my nose above the neck of the bottle I was met with a very pleasant citrus aroma.  To be quite honest, it might make a great aftershave; clean an refreshing.  When poured into a glass, the pear flavors open.  I didn’t have club soda and lime as the hang tag suggested so I simple poured the VEEV over ice in a low ball glass and went forward to a healthier life.  Fruity but not sweet or syrupy, this drink reminds me of Lillet on steroids.  The finish is clean and crisp but the fruit leaves a nice impression.  Comfortable enough to be sipped on the rocks, I can see blending this with other spirits of mixers.  A natural is s splash of cranberry and fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice.  A Sunday special could be a champagne flute topped with VEEV.  Distribution is the only thing keeping VEEV from its tipping point moment with the twenty something crowd.  This will be huge in clubs and fashionable happy hour hangouts.  I should have waited till the morning to write my impressions as the after effects remain to be seen.  As of now, I recommend you hope on http://WWW.VEEVLIFE.COM and find out if VEEV is available in your state.   And for the tree hugger crowd, $1 from the purchase of each bottle goes to a save the rain forest fund. 

The Acai palm offering up its fruit.

The VEEVLIFE Spirit

And the result of two weeks of drinking the elixir of life.  The beaches of Brazil are increasing with testimonials of the healthful benefits of acai.  Bikini not included.

September 7, 2008

The verdict is in, I liked The Guilty at the pig roast better than The Verdict.  Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the thunder from down under, Justice George from Shinas Estates.  Sharon Sevrens, owner of Amanti Vino in Montclair, hosted a pig roast at the swank Van Vleck Mansion.  The crowd was excited to spend time with the gavel-wielding winemaker.  I so enjoy the shiraz from this out of the way vineyard in Muldura.  The good judge is on a two-week tour of the USA, meeting and greeting retailers and consumers in whistle stops as he crisscrosses the country.  One would never have known the ordeal he went through to meet his commitment by his energy level.  Smiling, chatting, signing bottles and answering questions masked a 35-hour luggageless trek.  That’s a professional.  If you see an advert for a local event featuring the wines of Shinas Estates, make the time to attend.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Van Vleck’s, I found out last night, were captains of industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amounting a fortune from copper mining.  The house is a jewel.  I could picture black tie dinners and cocktail parties on the grounds.  It must be nice to be successful. 

Senoritas Mexican Grill of Bloomfield catered the food.  The roast pig was delicious and the perfect muse to the shiraz.  For those turned off by the suckling staring up at you as you waited for your slices, they also had grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs. 

It was good spending the evening with George.  One day, I'll have to get myself down to that debtors prison and sample some of the other wines from the Muldura area.

September 3, 2008

Thank God Big Bob stepped in when Doe Pee bailed on last night’s meetup dinner.  Head count was stagnant due to one word: wine.  Simple enough you would think.  But the grace of the Big One adding the simple word 'wine' to the event description, the attendance went from 5 to 24.  With the end of summer lingering, Doe Pee wanted to have a Rose bash.  Knowing that the summer desires of crisp chilled wines are turning to the warming reds of fall.  Unfortunately, Doe Pee missed the simple word 'wine' in the heading of the event and kept the masses away.  When BB changed it to “Show Us Your Favorite Pink (WINE)” the replies went to max and all but the original 5 perverts had a great time.  I’m not naming names but you pervs know who you are.

We dined at La Baitas in Butler and explored the maligned and misunderstood world of Rose.  The group was buoyed by the support of the Wanaque Reserve’s wine lovers.  One minor mishap was when Bill didn’t read closely and brought a non-rose.  It was up to me to chastise him in public, confiscate his shiraz and thoroughly enjoy the bottle of Two Hand’s Angel Share, nectar for the Gods.

Prior to becoming stumble-down drunk, I wrote down a few of the offerings at my table. 

2006 Torres Vina Brava Rosado

2006 Torres De Casta Rosado

2007 Cataldi Madonna Montepulcina d’Abruzzo

2007 Domain de la Sauveuse Rose

2006 Coppola Sophia Rose - OK, I brought the California rose named for the famous filmmaker’s daughter.  It was 100% pinot noir and I wanted to show Big Bob that California (Carneros) could make fine wine vessels.  Yes, the bottle was the talk of the dinner.  The wine was so-so but the bottle is worth keeping.

Thanks to my tablemates, the often-too-quite Caroline, the Wino Odd Jobs, creative meetup assistant Lisa, homemade wine magnet Gene and the sparky Phil.  Dinner was fun and the veal sorrentino was light enough for most of the Rose.  I was struck to see a Pinot Grigio Rose. 

It was nice to see new faces, all are welcome, we don’t bite.  It was sad to see people who responded yes not show up, it hurts our standing with the restaurants we are asking to set aside tables.  Look at the next event Lisa has arranged, the free wine tasting at Cool Vines sounds great.  I wish I were in town for that one.

August 31, 2008

Cruising through the internet and looking for exciting wine topics to bestow upon my friends and foes, I was chuckling and perplexed at the same time.  To save embarrassment, I will not identify the source but I read this and had to comment.

    " ………..one year in new French and American oak. Opaque purple-colored, it offers a complex perfume of pain grille, pencil lead, spice box, black cherry, and blackberry. This leads to a full-bodied, ripe, layered wine with intense flavors, serious complexity, and exceptional length. It has enough structure to unfold for another 4-6 years and drink well through 2025.  Score: 95."

Not to be the pedantic Tony Randall from the Password episode of the Odd Couple, but Felix correctly identified that pencils have graphite, not lead.  Lead has not been used as a writing tool since the German chemist, A. G Werner, invented graphite in the mid 18th century.  So I ask a simple question, was the author of this wine description alive to recall the scent of true lead in a pencil?  OK, could he, sorry it was a guy, be thinking of a graphite aroma in his wine?  What is one to believe?  I get spice box, I can live with perfume of pain grille.  (Roughly translated into toasted bread, though I would not, myself call that perfume.)  But the lead pencil issue really twists my nipples.  Is it a No. 2 pencil, a mechanical 0.7 pencil, or a one of those big, fat, first grade learning-to-write pencils?  Does the pencil have an eraser?  Is it a yellow school pencil or a stainless steel Cross pencil from the haberdasheries of the gentry? 

Secondly, I thought we were on the “get the lead out” movement?  I know in my Geek job, lead is a curse.  The electronics world is running scared of lead.  China is tarnished by lead paint in kid’s toys.  We need an understanding of this term or more importantly, we need to hold responsible the authors of silly comments in describing wine….case in point.

August 30, 2008

As I sat drinking a glass of wine last night, for the sake of this web site, I marveled at the audacity of the Dope.  The Dope -Keith Olbermann - opened his show with a statement something like this, “If you went to bed last night thinking John McCain’s VP was Governor Pawlenty, your were Mcswitched”…or something along those lines.  The failure was what should have been his follow up statement.  If his viewers went to bed thinking that way it was because he and Chris Matthews were so cock-sure that it was Pawlenty.  Hey told their viewers as much in their smears that John McCain couldn’t fill a ten thousand-seat arena for the announcement.  Which goes to show why MSNBC primetime is last among the cable news channels in viewership.  They aren’t reporting real news; they are just trying to manufacture news.  Also on parade was Keith’s inability to hold true values when he called out Bill O’Reilly for making a crack about Katrina, but sat in silent boot-licking when Michael Moore opened his segment wishing Gustav disrupts the Republican convention.  If nothing else comes from this past week’s DNC convention, let it be clear that Matthews and Olbermann have lost any little objectivity and the desire for a guest that offers an alternative viewpoint to Olbermann is banned from MSNBC.  The only words a guest can say are, “You're right, Keith….”  Evidence is Gene Robinson and Howard Fineman as Keith's guests and the removal of Dana Milbanks, Tucker Carlson, Dan Abrams and soon-to-be Joe Scarborough.  They mock Fox, but arguments ensue because they allow people with opposing opinions.  MSNBC, befuddled by Fox beating them in the ratings, simplistically think it’s a lean that does it.  Unfortunately, they neglect that reporting is not an emotional game.  To deepen their misguidedness, next week Rachael Maddow starts a show that will be "Olbermann light".  Her credentials are that Keith Olbermann likes her since she falls in lock step with his point of view reading of events.   

Never before have I agreed with Bill Maher, he even found the Olbermann/Matthews love fest over the top.  He tamped down his comments since he still has to go to parties with those two.  I heard from an insider that he was going to say that the news was Keith punched Chris in the nose when Keith went to give Barack a reach-around.  Can you say rusty trombone????

I enjoyed the pageantry with a bottle of Rhone red from the lesser region of Ventoux.  The coverage made me throw up in my mouth several times so I didn’t want to ruin a high-end bottle of wine.  The wine comes from Chateau Pesquie, which has a great little story. 

 In the early 1970’s, Odette & René Bastide, bought Château Pesquié from an heir of the famous Provençal writer, Alphonse Daudet. They were wine pioneers, as the Appellation Côtes du Ventoux was not created until 1973. René & Odette completely restructured the vineyards. The results of that work are now vines that average 35 to 40 years of age (the oldest are over a century old). For the first twenty years of their ownership, the grapes grown on the estate were taken to two cooperative wineries.

The Château Pesquié vineyards are located on clay-and-limestone gravel slopes. The Côtes du Ventoux region features an extraordinary geological diversity. The vines are mainly planted in soil from the Quaternary period reinforced by the mineral wealth of the Cretaceous period. The soil consists of ancient gravel and scree.

These are grenache/syrah-friendly folks that I recommend you try for causal drinking.  More importantly, this wine caused me to stretch my dormant gray matter and do a bit of homework.  I briefed the back label and found a description I had not experienced prior to this one.  The term is “garrigues aroma”.  I pointed my google searcher from 'garrigues hot babes' to 'garrigues aromas'.  I found this description:

The term “Garrigue” refers to a distinct variety of limestone-based scrubland commonly found in the Mediterranean area. These hills have endured the hand of man for millennia in the form of logging, agriculture, burning and other forms of use and abuse. The characteristic vegetation is low and bushy, with distinct aromatic elements like juniper, laurel, wild thyme, lavender and rosemary. Elliot Essman.

I will be paying more attention to this region and this description.  I am appreciative of these flavors. 

2004 Château Pesquié Côtes-du-Ventoux Les Terrasses $ (10.99) I say grab this and enjoy on a Thursday night or a relaxing Saturday evening with friends.  The juice is a medium bodied wine of 70% grenache and 30% syrah with flavors of red fruits and herbs. 

August 29, 2008

I promise to drink more so I can post more frequently.  Tuesday night there is a wine meetup dinner so there will be exciting wine news to write.  But for now, I have been glued to the meltdown at MSNBC in their coverage of Obamanation.  The bounce from the historic nomination of an African American placed John McCain behind the eight ball. But today, the polls are up, at least mine is, with the selection of Governor Palin as the running mate for John McCain.

I saw Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, puffy chested as they marveled at the stadium attendance and visibly laughed that Tim Pawlenty and John McCain were having trouble filling a 10,000-seat arena.  Ooopsy!!!!!

Yes, in an historic turn of events, the party of the rich old white men put forth a 44-year-old GILF.  Mother of five, gun toting and what I can only imagine as a red wine loving hunter and fisher-women.  As we get to know Mrs. Palin, I am sure more polls will rise.  I think Keith Olbermann’s head just exploded and Chris Matthews’s drooling lower jaw is scraping the floor in what they thought was the scooping of the announcement last night.

Think about it, if this ticket gets in, Mrs. Palin could run in 4 years as an incumbent and maybe break through that cracked glass ceiling.  I say 4 years and Mr. McCain may choose to step aside.

Next entry will be wine all the time…

August 25, 2008

Let me write the headlines for the week, “Obama Truly is God and Savior for Our Nation” It started over the weekend when Obama selected the change agent.  Yes, 35-year Senator, old white guy incarnate, 2-time failed Presidential candidate, and King of minority impersonations, that’s the change we need.  I am now feeling like I can almost vote for Obama knowing Old White Guy Biden is going to really be running the show.  The puppet master will tell the newbie what to do and what to say and we will fix all the problems in the world.  Number One on the ticket may be too radical but the clear headed, statesman whose foot entered his mouth already at his acceptance speech should be full of sound bits over the next 75 days.  You know how he will be the parent in the relationship and bring the message.  We already saw that his message rang true in Iowa garnering a full 1% of the vote.

The Michelle Obama speech was calm and soothing and made me feel like she and I have a great deal in common.  Except for the fact that she went to Princeton and Harvard and I went to ASU when it was the number three party school in Playboy’s ranking.  Her brother was recruited for the basketball team at Princeton; my brother was the recording secretary of the Calculus Team.  She grew up on the South Side of Chicago; I grew up on the north end of Bloomfield.  She had a high paying cushy law job out of college, I learned how to drink a Foster’s can while standing on my head.  She lives in a million dollar mansion; I live in a dank third floor room.  I’m sold, case closed.  I feel Michelle and I could call each other Boo.  For that simple fact and that her husband is looking forward and will make the world a better place, I am considering shutting down the Clinton Unified National Ticket PAC and starting up Barack Obama Our Savior PAC. 

So buckle in folks, if you want to laugh, watch the convention on MSNBC.  The Matthews/Olbermann histrionics are entertaining.  Oh and if you didn’t get the point last night, “this party will come out of this convention unified”.  If I heard that once, I heard it a hundred times.  Even the woman that was sweeping up the convention center was mouthing that to the camera.  I wonder why Chris Matthews didn’t ask his guests why they were all saying the exact same thing as their first talking point.  Here’s a hint, if they have to tell you there will be unity, you can count on the fact that there isn’t.

August 22, 2008

I received a special email invitation today from WinoStuff regular, Brian Bedlowski the manager of the month at the A&P Ledgewood wine store every time Wino John makes a purchase.  The “B”-man was a large part of the Grand Opening for the Best Cellars at A&P in West Orange.  My special invitation found me amongst those others with special invitations. 

The store is attractively designed and the wall on the right (pictured below) makes finding well-priced wines in simple terms like luscious, smooth, fresh and juicy.  I picked up a bottle of Rose for a party I am attending tomorrow.

During my visit, Brian introduced me to Joshua Wesson, the Senior Director of beer, wine and spirits for A&P.  As you can see below, Brian is taking a lesson in customer service from Joshua (the one with the red tie).  The customer in the center was asking for a recommendation from their Italian selection.

But I think Brian is most comfortable greeting customers and pouring out some of the featured wines.  Notice as I was approaching, he took away all the sample glasses leaving me thirsty and cranky.

If you are around West Orange, head over to 445 Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange.  They will host weekly tastings, discounts on mixed and closed cases and a friendly staff.  My only comment is that parking is ample but might be tight on a Saturday afternoon.  We at WinoStuff send our sincere congratulation to the new Best Cellars store.

August 18, 2008

The weather could not have been better for painting the porch deck this weekend.  Low humidity and high seventies with generous breezes allowed the paint to dry quickly and speed the process of getting the task completed.  It was also a good way to sweat the toxins out of the body from the night at Jamie’s cigar bar.  Finally, on Sunday night, I had the opportunity to sit for a few hours and enjoy the porch with a bottle of red.  I grabbed what I figured would be a simple easy drinker.  It turns out that the winemaker turned this one up to ELEVEN.

This Tinto de Toro grabbed my horns and shook me about the head and neck areas.  Wow, this ain’t your momma’s red.  It hails from the area named for a town on the Duero River in the province of Zamora, northwest of Madrid. The appellation is small yet growing in international acclaim.  The wine is jammier and earthier than the tempranillo I have enjoyed to date. Not a fruit bomb, dry and clean with spice and pepper.  This is a game wine that venison or elk or braised lamb would stand tall.  As a first pass, I have to say I am intrigued and enlightened and set on seeking out more offerings.

2006 Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago G Pago la Jara Toro $ (11.99)   Big and bold with black cherry, smoke, earthiness and pepper nicely put together.

August 16, 2008

Since Wino Wally is all tied up with important stuff, we couldn’t have a WinoStuff executive board meeting, so we settled for a steering committee session.  Wino Odd Job took the wheel and steered us into a restaurant that is one of only a handful where cigar smoking is still permitted.  Yes last night, the usual suspects, me, WOJ, Wino John and the big man (no Clarence Clemens is still on his honeymoon), Big Bob, all got together for dinner.  It had to be over 4 months since all our schedules meshed.  The only reason Wino John was able to make it is that Misty May/Kerri Walsh were not playing beach volleyball last night. 

Might I suggest if you are a smoker and wealthy (two musts for this place), head over to Bloomfield Ave in Clifton, just off the Allwood Circle and stop into Jamie’s Cigar Bar and Restaurant.  It is the first place I have been to in years where diners are enjoying an after dinner cigar or sitting at the bar listening to a computerized big band.  Wino Odd Job knows the chef/owner and we got the royal treatment.  Our tour of the wine cellar made me not want to leave; well controlled, beautifully appointed and stocked with a nice selection.  Big Bob could hardly hide the oak in his shorts when he unearthed a bottle of 1994 Peju Cabernet Sauvignon HB Vineyards-Napa Valley.  As we looked and touched and gawked, the wine made its way to the dining room for a breath of air.  We sat and read an eclectic menu of homemade pasta, fish and meat, with an arms length of appetizers.  One does not jump right into such a wine so we warmed up with a Brunello di Montalcino.  Come on people, it’s a steering committee meeting and we need to honor the Grape of the Year (besides WJ had the floor at that point and he is all about GOTY). 

For dinner, I pedantically paired homemade cannelloni with the Brunello.  The pasta was generously portioned, almost over abundant, dare I say nearly bursting off the smallish appetizer plate.  Sorry, I might have more accurately been describing the way the women in this place were dressed. I will just say, wow, I thought Mae West was dead. The Brunello was from Canalicchio di Sopra, a small cult producer owned by Francesco Ripaccioli. Winemaker Primo Pacenti and has been making wine in the limestone and clay soils in the region since the 1960's.  Elegant and racy, the balance of acidity and fruit enveloped the pasta and sauce like a condom. 

The main course selections were vast, but I settled for the buffalo filet.  The portion was appropriate for the pricing and cooked medium rare allowing the lean meat to remain soft and flavorful.    Come on, what else would you want to accompany a distinctive Napa wine.  In another revelation, Wino Odd Job ordered something I have never seen on a menu, a filet mignon on the bone.  I guess I badgered him enough about never seeing that at Outback that he let me try some.  A completely different texture and flavor comes to the meat when it’s left on the bone.  One might say meat on the bone is superior.  More people should offer up meat on the bone……you get the point.

We finished with espressos and cigars and the melodic tunes of Frank Sinatra.  All I will say is it was very fitting if you get my drift.  Enough said, enough said if you know what I mean.

The place is unique and the food was excellent but the thing that most impressed me was the efficiency of the air filtration system.  With all the cigar puffing, I walked out of there with little more than a hint of second hand smoke.  Well done I say.  Great night, superb wines and a unique experience for NJ, cigars in a restaurant.

August 13, 2008

Well, well, well, a chest thumping, braggadocios, webbed footed frog goes on the record that they will beat the USA swim team but I guess the white surrender flag that each Frenchman is required to carry slowed them down.  Oh no, a Waterloo moment.  So, except for women’s beach volleyball, and some radio recaps, I have seen little of the Olympics.  When I watched, I had with me an inexpensive red from the Navarra wine region of Spain.

 

I toasted a garnacha that was less than ten dollars and had a nice flavor, worth drinking to the Misty May/Walsh duo.  I must assume the parents of Misty had a different career path for their daughter.  I honestly never went to school with anyone (male or female) named Misty.  Can we guess what her dad’s reasoning was?

Anyway, I don’t think the numbers are great for viewership, but as a stalwart red blooded American, I will commit my time to the support of the women’s beach volleyball run for the gold.  I’ll drink to that.

2006 Artazu Navarra Garnacha “Artazuri“ $ (8.97)   A fun wine, easy drinking with light red fruit and spice on the finish.

August 10, 2008

I received a late night email from our good friends at www.therisingtide.info.  They were attending the 6th Annual Pocono Mountains Film Festival and were awarded Best Documentary.  They told me the venue had BV Coastal as the cab on tap.  I am sure they went through the night finishing off what they were pouring.  The festival was at Mt. Airy Casino and Golf Resort so one can only imagine what took place after the awards ceremony.  I heard one of the executive producers was spotted late at night trying to pick up old women with oxygen tanks by flashing the award in front of anyone who couldn’t wheel their way out of his sight.  Sad, but our congratulations go out to the crew.  I hear that in September, they will be in Tampa Bay and Wildwood NJ.

 

August 9, 2008

I am a bit embarrassed about how long it has been since my last post.  Work has been getting into the way of my alcoholism and a business trip across the pond had me drinking beer, beer and beer.  On the wine front, I have little to share.  I thought of writing something about the druid reporting of 8-8-08 and making up some tie in with wine and numerology.  Unfortunately, I am running at 90mph and just wanted to say I am still alive.

If you ever get the chance to visit Chelmsford England, I recommend you ring up Michael at The Riverside Inn.  A quaint sixteenth century gist mill that has 8 rooms and a traditional pub resides along the Chelms River.  Young’s light and dark is the house special and, as beer goes, it’s decent.  We ate out at several nights and I have previously reviewed the wine offerings at all three places.  I must say the Brits are wine starved.  The pickings are slim at the average dining room.  There were a handful of reds and whites but nothing along the lines of what the average restaurant offers in Anywhere, NJ.  Granted I was not in London and nor did I dine where Prince Charles hangs.  There were several French wines but most of the people I saw having wine were ordering Aussie shiraz or Argentinean Malbecs. 

I failed at finding a local shop that sold Cuban cigars or Absinth so I came home empty-handed.  Though we are still nearly a week away, I am glad to have received an email from Wino Odd Job.  He suggested a Friday night outing where wine and cigars will be foremost on the menu.  I haven’t been to this place, Jamie’s in Clifton, but he said smoking and drinking are front and center.  I hope my work life relaxes a bit this week so I can warm up for the night of this WinoStuff staff meeting.  Developing………………..

July 27, 2008

I don’t read as much as I should but when forced to sit on a plane for a stretch of time, I can’t just watch that stupid movie.  I purchased two books for the retreat time and read one in total.  The second, I started on the flight home and found myself reading it at night and, dare I say, on the weekends.  The one I am caught up in right now is The House of Mondavi.  Though only through the first third, I keep finding myself drawing similarities between the turmoil in the Mondavi family and that in the Gallo family.  I know I am behind the times here and probably some NY Time reporter has drawn the same conclusions.  I haven’t seen those reviews since I don’t read much NY Times.  All I can say is I am glad I am not the first-born son of an immigrant Italian-American family in Napa Valley 1930-present.  It seems if I were, I would be in a legal battle with one of my younger siblings as I would have been the smarter one with ambition to move dad’s business from selling grapes and bulk wine to the eastern USA post prohibition.  No, I don’t have any legal problems like that with my siblings.  On the flip side, I also don’t have tens of millions of dollars in the bank and unlimited supply of sought after wine. 

I saw many parallels with the Gallo and Mondavi patriarchs, the driven first-born sons and the less ambitious worker bee cellar rat second sons.  Both families went to court and both had issues with the use of the family name.   Fortunately, Robert Mondavi’s quest was to build quality and class into California’s wines while Ernest Gallo made millions on Thunderbird.  Don’t spoil it.  I want to find out for myself if one of the Mondavis ends up making cheese….

A compelling story line thus far, but I have only reached the judgment in 1976.  No, not the judgment in Paris, but rather the judgment in favor of Robert as the rest of his family tried to screw him out of his father’s company.  I’d say half a million cash in 1976 is worth like fifty million in 2008.

July 26, 2008

Sorry for the absence, but it was my annual “dry out” week and I had little contact with the outside world.  You know the deal, an undisclosed resort with scheduled meetings and other people you recognize but you can’t tell anyone you saw them...  Let me just say the vortex energy and the strikingly majestic rock formations in Sedona make for a tranquil location to place one’s life in perspective.  The solitude and spirituality taught me that I am better served in NJ drinking than living the clean life.  I did get to spend a short amount of time on the web one day and found this bit of wine related news quite ingenious.  Read below, my good friends, the entrepreneurial spirit abounds.

Weird wine labels and exorbitant prices promoted by a liquor company have led Taiwan police to crack down on a prostitution ring, the online newspaper NOWnews.com reported Sunday.

While the normal price for a bottle of beer is about 30 Taiwan dollars (1 US dollar) and 500 dollars (16 US dollars) for a bottle of liquor, the liquor company charged 3,500 Taiwan dollars (100 US dollars) for a bottle of local beer, 5,000 Taiwan dollars (160 US dollars) for a bottle of Japanese wine, and 6,000 Taiwan dollars 200 US dollars) for a bottle of Russian vodka.

The rules for drinking were even more strange: the drink had to be imbibed only once, and within 50 minutes; a 10 per cent surcharge had to be paid for extra service; a drink could be replaced if the customer was unhappy with it; and there was also an extra charge if the drink was taken 'wearing a raincoat and spits into the mouth.'

But an investigation revealed that the liquor company was actually a prostitution ring, which lured customers through an internet chatroom, NOWnews said, and the labels referred to the nationality of the prostitute.

'Wearing a raincoat and spits into the mouth' was the code for oral sex, and '18 proof beer' and '30 proof beer' referred to the age of the call girls.

The online paper did not provide other details about the prostitution ring, but if convicted, those behind it could face a maximum five-year imprisonment on charges of offences against morals.

Finding my way back to civilization, I immediately pinged Wino John and The Other Bob (yes were are blackberry ping pals) and convinced them to have lunch at the usual watering hole.  I got there a half hour early just to be amongst friends.  Some people call them wine bottles, I call them confidants.  Screw summer, I needed a quick dose of big red and I grabbed a bottle from a producer I saw there for the first time.  It nicely filled the void of sobriety as this Aussie ran at 16% alcohol.  Yes, you read that correctly, 16%!  Move over zinfandel.  I read about Molly Dooker but could not afford the two offered at my local shop.  Eighty dollars is out of my league these days.  The bottle at JR’s was their blend, Two Left Feet.  At the imbibing point, I neglected to read, or watch on youtube, the Molly Dooker shake.  Yes, I now learned that Molly is preserved with nitrogen and is recommended to be degassed.  The link below is where I found the video clip, see for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeNALwamaDs

Be that as it may, I found this one a welcome back to the world of drunkenness and sloppy spelling.  Woo hoo, no more sobriety for another year.

2006 Molly Dooker Two Left Feet $ (23.00)  Maybe since I didn’t degas, I missed the nuances in this wine.  It is big and bold and red and deep with plum and chocolate flavors.  The 16% alcohol will kick your ass in this 68% shiraz, 17% merlot and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  I think I need another bottle to compare.  Molly, Molly, oh Molly, you can find our shipping address on the front page…

July 17, 2008

I just want you to read this so you don’t embarrassingly make the same mistake I did.  Last night, a customer needed to meet with me so I suggested one of the trendy places in Montclair.  I listed a few that I was interested in and he picked one that I have been looking forward to trying.  We went to MESOB, the only Ethiopian restaurant outside of Ethiopia (that I know of).  Stupidly, I showed up with a wooden bowl and my own fly to buzz my head.  Wrong!  Though, by the time dinner was over, my stomach was disdained, not from malnutrition but from a very interestingly enjoyable meal. 

The food is spicy and I recommend the meat sampler.  Five meat-based specials with three veggie-based selectable sides.  Expecting spicy, I went with a semi-sweet Riesling.  Nice selection, I must say to myself.   My second most enjoyable thing, next to the deliciously unique food, is the fact that there are no (repeat no) plates and utensils.  Yes, I was schooled by our Ethiopian waitress that one takes their injera (Ethiopian bread) and uses it to grab the food then right into your mouth.  The lamb was excellent, there was a mild and spicy beef, chicken and peppers and cubed beef in spice and herbs.  The two of us ate what could have fed an Ethiopian village.  Nice atmosphere, pleasant staff, unique food and the robust Ethiopian coffee roasted fresh at the end of the night. 

Check out http://www.mesobrestaurant.com and try it out.  I am confident you will enjoy the experience.

2007 LEITZ DRAGONSTONE RIESLING $ (12.99)   The spicy food made this wine earn the extra 0.5; otherwise it was too sweet for my taste.

July 15, 2008

Wow, I am not quite sure where the time went, but I am late in posting up the latest wine meetup event.  The day belonged to Wino Odd Job for arranging the perfect weather.  I guess God takes the Titanium Am Ex card.  WOJ sacrificed sleep like a teenager awaiting tickets to his favorite concert, like a sports fan waiting for World Series tickets, like a nerd geek awaiting the new iPhone, like a Star Trek fan dressing in Spock ears waiting...  (you get the picture)  as he staked out the most scenic view at South Shore Marina.  He got there at 8am for a 4pm event, that’s dedication to planning.  The view was spectacular, just look.

We had a nice sized crowd; about 19, and the food and wine flowed all afternoon.  The complete set of pictures is located on the wine meetup page http://wine.meetup.com/66/photos/395691/.  Mike seasoned up some caldrons and piled shrimp into the boiling brew.  Lori was looking more for fresh then frozen and neglected to read she didn’t have to catch her own.

The wine theme was, “bring your summer favorites” and I think the group earned a respect for rose.  We had roses from Spain and South Africa, Chile and Argentina.  And the wines were from a variety of varietals.  Halfway through the afternoon, we were down to white wines only.  In the end there were but three bottles with some wine left from the twenty-eight with which we started the event.  As JoAnn said, this was a great venue, being out in the wilderness kept us from being thrown out of another restaurant.  Several highlights for me were:

  • JoAnn honoring her bet and showing up in a jersey from the championship NY Giants.

  • Late afternoon guided boat tour of Derek Jeter’s lakeside estate.

  • New faces for the event.

  • Perfect weather

  • Wino Odd Job’s culinary Skills.

  • Not one duplicate wine and the large consumption of rose.

  • Not having to eat a fish Lori caught out of Greenwood Lake.

  • 2006 Bodegas Eguren Reinares Rosado- Tempranillo and Garnacha light red fruit and intense raspberries.

  • 2008 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose- South Africa with notes of strawberry, binge cherry and a touch of spice.

The group consensus seemed to be one more outdoor event in late August/early September to take advantage of the weather.  We need to find someone else in the group who has access to a venue.  Any Lake Hopatcongers amongst us?

 

July 11, 2008

Just so you know, my town is making me drink wine.  Yes, Caldwell, NJ has forced me to stop drinking their water and freely and openly drink wine.  In what they are calling "poopgate", someone (maybe a disgruntled employee) or some heard of deer have been using our water supply as their personal port-a-san.  As everyone knows from the history of the world, ancient water supplies were unsafe and wine had to be introduced to kill off that nasty little ecoli varmint.  My new diet had me wine free for several days but the town is forcing me right now to brush my teeth with chardonnay and shampoo with shiraz.  If I use the town water, it gives shampoo a completely different meaning…

Last night I fled to the wine refuge, Wino Odd Job’s bar, to save myself from drinking tainted water.  Actually we had to go shopping for the upcoming Wine Meetup bbq on Saturday.  I was a bit delirious and had an uncomfortable moment when Wino Odd Job offered to head to BJ’s.  I have set this up weeks ago and it seems that Wino Odd Job has been doing all the work for this event.  After shopping, we grabbed dinner at Villa Madrid and WOJ brought a delicious Primitivo.  Puglia does produce some very enjoyable bold wines and this was a great example.

After dinner, Wino OJ showed me a great little wine shop in Pompton Lakes called Amazing Grapes.  The selection is ecelectic, they have wine tastings frequently, they are owned by the same people that own the Frank’s Pizza next door so you can get food and sit in the wine shop.  Best of all, they have a bar to sample the wines they sell.  Nice niche shop located on Wanaque Ave in the Pompton Lakes Towne Square Shopping Center.

2003 Prima Mano Primitivo di Puglia $ (19.99)   Nice rich full-bodied red with blueberry, plum, tar, leather, and anise flavors run throughout this bold beauty.  I will be drinking more of this one.

July 10, 2008

How’s this for an invitation, “Wino Bob, you DON’T want to come over for dinner, do you?”  Yes the graciously warm and inviting Wino Rocker rang me up the other night with the most uninviting invite for dinner that I have ever experienced and that is exactly why I accepted it.  I can only guess he hit his head on a shelf or something and suffered a pang of “Humanness”.  Before the throbbing pain subsided, he dialed the phone.  Arriving early, further to my surprise, the old WR had grilling apron and chef hat aplomb.  With wine in hand, yes the wine that Wino Rocker brought to my house one night, I offered back his offering and The Wino Rockers served up a summer evening feast of foods in concert with my newly embarked upon diet.

In a Bobby Flay-like presentation, our healthful turkey burgers were served on whole-wheat buns, I was surprised to learn that Wino Rocker is a condiment junkie.  If it could squirt from a bottle it appeared on his burger, ketchup, mustard, mayo and I think wasabe.  The Aussie Shiraz, a Mrs. Wino Rocket selection of the month, was a delightful accompaniment to the grilled fare.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention all of my observations.  Hint to diners with the Wino Rockers, Mrs. Wino eats corn unlike the rest of the world.  I would challenge you to invite her to dinner to observe for yourself. 

After dinner, it was cigars and wine on the newly renovated back deck complete with everything a wealthy entrepreneur would want except for the hot tub.  Come on, WR, I hang out with you for all the cool things us commoners cannot afford and I cannot afford a hot tub.  Wait... why would I want to be drunk in a hot tub with Wino Rocker?  That thought just made me throw up a little in my mouth... 

Wino Rocker, that should teach you to think before you dial the phone, and to Mrs. Wino Rocker, thanks for making him invite me.  See you in the funny papers.

2004 Angoves Red Belly Black Shiraz $ (12.99)   A nice offering of dark cherry, plum and anise swirling about your palate with a backbone to survive a stogie.

July 6, 2008

OK, I know, you can stop the emails.  I am back to the wine stuff and off the things that roll around in my head.  There are several things that popped into the empty non-wine space and I just need to clear them out.  Have Kathy Griffin and Andy Dick ever appeared at the same time?  I think not.  It is clear to me tonight that Kathy Griffin is Andy Dick in a long red wig.  I was going to do a 'separated at birth' but I think they are the same person.  I read somewhere that Kathy Griffin is dating Apple brainchild and retired billionaire Steve Wozniak.  Go figure.  With the stench of death in the air, my condolences to the Bozos out there.  Larry Harmon and his Bozo franchise will never be the same.  The passing of Jessie Helms must also be mentioned.  I will refrain from the lengthy glowing words and I will leave the Bozo puns to the left as Jessie Helms and Bozo will most likely be Keith Olbermann’s lead story Monday.

Back to wine and the weekend and hanging out.  What better a text to receive than from someone saying they’re stopping by with wine and steaks.  Beat that.  So with nothing much to do but clean a glass, it was a drinking and eating fest.  Unbeknownst to me, I had just cracked open a bottle of Miguel Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Reserve 2005.  This Chilean did not excite me as I finished my first glass.  Big Bob’s knock brought more wine and prime beef.  He cracked open a chilled Torres Rosé as I fired up the grill and prepped some snacks.  I am coming to the realization that rosé is becoming a summer wine for me.  The heat and humidity plays right into the rosé’s sweet spot.  But I fail to leave the paradigm that I can eat steak with the rose.  I had a cabernet sauvignon at the ready but the Big One uncorked a Malbec while I was retrieving the beef from the grill.  Steak and Malbec perform a river dance, no flailing arms and unnecessary upper body motion, just melodic rhythmic stomping of taste buds.  A happy dance of culinary delight. 

It turns out that Enrique Foster does magic with his limited edition Malbec.  I once had the IQUE and did not enjoy it.  The Limited Edition is an entirely different animal.  Nice wine for steak, the only thing that would have improved it was finishing the bottle along with an Opus X.  This wine would handle the cigar because of its robustness.  This was a welcome break from the workload of this holiday weekend.  It will be tough eating canned soup this week.

2006 Torres Family DeCasta Rosado $ (8.99)    Cool crisp blend of garnacha and carinena showing an iris floral nose and bright red cherry and plum flavors. 

2003 Enrique Foster Malbec Limited Addition $$ (42.99)  Deep color and a full-bodied glass full of bramble fruits, and blackberry are highlighted with licorice and a long finish.  A wine bringing forth why you want to buy Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina.  Face it, Argentina’s beef is the reason for a wine like this.

July 4, 2008

A day to look back on what it took to form this nation.  We are far from those days chronologically and in national spirit.  The HBO mini series John Adams delivered a terrific depiction of what and why the fought for independence to form this great Nation.

Happy Independence Day.

July 2, 2008

Just a few quick comments….This just in.  Our good friend, Wino Odd Job recently returned from a food industry trade show where he spent the day sampling.  The winner in his book is the Mercer Dairy Wine Ice Cream.  You can get the “scoop” (sorry, it just showed up in my empty head) at www.mercerdairy.com and read up on their offerings.

For the ultimate pairing, Mercer's Wine Ice Cream is available in the following varietals:

    * Ala Port

    * Cherry Merlot

    * Chocolate Cabernet

    * Peach White Zinfandel

    * Red Raspberry Chardonnay

    * Royal White Riesling

With 5 percent alcohol, you must be 21 years of age or older to enjoy.

I am wondering if you get a brain freeze hangover.

On a front closer to home, actually closer to my home than your home especially if you don’t live in NJ, chef/restaurateur Michael Frodello has been named Executive Director at The Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, NJ.  If that name doesn’t ring a bell, Michael and his wife Sylvia were the brains behind Bacchus in Fairfield.  Tragically, Philip Darrow, passed away in December and The Park Ave Club has been searching for an Executive Director.  I trust that Michael will be expanding the wine list and wine dinners at the club. (Big Bob, get the distributors in and lets up that wine list!)  I say, there might be a cot in the basement in The Park Ave Club very soon for yours truly… 

We wish Michael all the best and look forward to his influences.

July 1, 2008

I spent some time this weekend watching our young athletes compete for spots on the US Olympic Team.  In what can only be considered a twist of fate, NBC had primetime coverage and MSNBC had many of the events that would not make the prime time broadcast.  Things were set, that is until late last night.  I just received word that internationally recognized woman gymnastics coach; Bela Karoli contacted the IOC to discuss a change.  In what can only be described as an unusually exciting late minute heroic performance, Bela was able to get Keith Olbermann on the team.  Karoli was watching Countdown last night and marveled at the verbal gymnastic, pretzel twisting justifications and credibility dismount Keith Olbermann nailed with his Special Comments defending Barack Obama’s FISA vote reversal.  “In gymnastics we have turns for the flexible position Keith gets into when doggedly pitching Obama.  Commoners call it flip flops, but we have terms like "salto", "triple reverse twist", "compulsory" and "back flip". What I saw Keith do to change his special comments from 5 months ago made Nadia jealous.  Right then I knew we needed him on our team,” Karoli stated from his training gym. 

Face it, Keith can spin and twist better than Juliana Laskow.  It is very easy for him to do the uneven parallel bars as he leans so much to the left.  His Jimmy Legs brings interesting new additions to the flag dancing routine.  Nightly, he vaults the truth to dismount reality and present the world according to KO.  The only event he will struggle with is the balance beam.

So please join me in welcoming Keith Olbermann as the newest member to the woman’s US Olympic Gymnastic Team.  Besides, if he doesn’t do well, we hear there is a Minister of Communications position open in the Chinese Government which Keith is interviewing for anyway.

 


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