Bob’s Winings
                                                                           former
                  
Tasting Notes from a ^ Beer Drinker


This page contains Winings from the 4th Quarter of the year 2004.

To contact WinoBob, click here


December 31, 2004

Last year, I wrote about the science behind a hangover and some of the things you should do to lessen the discomfort.  As you can imagine, I am on a never-ending quest to assist my liver from swelling, my head from pounding and my eyes from bleeding.  I came across an article that offered up some useful advice, though I must put in the responsible disclaimer, "the best way to avoid a hangover is not to consume alcohol", but seeing how that will never happen for me, I search for the next best thing.  What the hell to do to stop the trembling hands, aching head, upset stomach and fatigue...

One medical article detailed the chemical changes alcohol creates, making us produce too much of this and not enough of that, big scientific-name stuff, blah, blah, blah.  However, here is the laymen’s (and I use the term with the best of wishes) terms.

Next time you over indulge, say like tonight, and you want to be in some shape to watch a football game on New Years Day, start your morning with a breakfast consisting of:

  • Burnt Toast- the carbon is a great filter for the toxins poisoning our bodies.

  • Eggs- our bodies need to replenish a chemical called cysteine and eggs are a great source.

  • Bananas- we deplete many important chemicals through the diuretic effects of alcohol and potassium is a much-needed mineral.

  • Fruit Juice- rebuilds the sugars that your liver needs

  • Gatorade- better than water for hydration with the addition of the electrolytes.

Once you find yourself somewhat human, coffee, or tea can be helpful for temporary energy but the negative is its diuretic quality.

So scramble some eggs, burn some toast and chug some Gatorade.  Top it off with a banana flavored Twinkie and voila…..You will be ready to poison yourself again by noon..

Happy New Year!

December 29, 2004

If you get someone a calendar as a present, shouldn’t you make an effort to deliver said calendar with more than 3 days left in that year?  As craziness floated through this year, Wino Stan and I had little time to get our very important social calendars to converge.  The funny thing was that WS gave me a calendar for my birthday, last birthday, a wine calendar for 2004, last night.  Great, I have two days I can rip off, or x-out.  We did manage to head over to Bacchus and find a seat at the very, uh, empty bar.  Last week, the high volume of holiday parties made it nearly impossible to get a seat, last night the bar was very available.

The good thing was that I got to reacquaint myself with Jimmy and Mike, as they were forced to talk to the only to patrons at the bar, us.  It is better to buy a bottle than drink 12-dollar glasses so I looked through the list and found a bottle I had not tried.  Knowing we would be smoking a holiday cigar, I wanted an elixir that could stand with the smoke and tobacco of the cancer stick.  Big, crunchy, bold, and red was the criteria and I found it in the Andes.

I just wanted to thank Jimmy and Mike; they took care of us very well; Happy New Year.

2000 Bodega Achaval Ferrer Bordeaux Blend $$$ (77.00 rest) A firm example of the quality wine coming from Argentina.  A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this wine starts very tight and needs breathing time.  Decanting settled the tannins and pushed out the fruit offering plum, black fruit, chocolate and currant.  A classy wine

December 27, 2004

Monday and it is back to work with nothing more than a weekend.  I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas celebrations with family and friends.  I, for two reasons, had little wine.  Reason one was the beating I took from the mass ingestion during the WinoStuff unofficial gathering; reason two was the drive back and forth to the new old homestead.  No need to get a DUI or worse for the enjoyment of a few glasses of wine.  As there is not must to describe, I just wanted to post a quick review and get back to the homework I am doing for the big Grape of the Year selection. 

2002 Omaha Springs Sauvignon Blanc $ (17.99)   A citrus wine with nice crispness on the finish.  A good wine for the variety of non-meat dishes we enjoyed Christmas Eve.  However, this New Zealand product leaned more to the lemons and less towards the grapefruit on the palate.

December 24, 2004

May I say Merry Christmas without pissing off anyone?  Yes, in this day of political correctness of devaluing Christmas, the cheese stands alone.  I have taken time to learn a little more about some other celebrations during this time of year.  Actually, I really haven’t, since Kwanzaa and Festivus are post-grade school creations to which Wino Bob was not exposed.)  Thinking back to a young, first grade Wino Bob’s holiday school activities, we only prepared for two things, Chanukah and Christmas.  The smell of clay, kid-safe water-based paints and the taste of white kid glue still visit my sensory bank like the ghost in a Christmas Carol.  Our art teacher coordinated the lesson of making a dradle with our music teacher whom taught us the song.  However, the rules of the game were never explained to me.  It was not until this year that I discovered there is actually a way to win and a correct way to spin that little clay toy so it flips onto the little stem.  The object is to win all the coins from the stash.  Yes, I now understand why my fellow first grade class mates are doctors and lawyers and accountants as from very young their toy, their game was based around the strategy of obtaining wealth at the hands of your mates.  Unfortunately, I was spending that same time trying to figure out how GI Joe was going to party with Barbie and Skipper if he had no genitals.  Others in my neighborhood were building forts and trenches to recreate their vision of war, I was spending time creating an environment for a war worn Joe to have a little R and R.  The blur of wine is making my vision clearer.

The top ten reasons to head straight from your Christmas Party to AA

10. You stumble to bed and pass out in the clothes you wore during the party

9. You bump into every wall on the way to the bathroom

8. You try to decide which end your holiday cheer will come out first

7. You wake up with blood shot eyes, a pounding head and fuzz on your tongue

6. The smell of rotting cheese you forgot to clean up before heading to bed is making your stomach convulse

5. You call out to the conductor to stop your room from spinning

4. You look out the window and there is a strange car in the driveway

3. You plod gingerly to the cellar and stand shaking when you discover there are fewer bottles in the rack

2. You look on the back deck and are slapped in the back of the head when you calculated the value of your glass-recycling bin.

AND the Number One reason to head straight from your Christmas Party to AA

 1.     You sit down in a chair attempting to keep the coffee from shaking out of the cup enroute to your lips and you are frightened by the sight of Wino Rocker sleeping on your couch when we wasn’t even at the party.

In a rare moment of holiday cheer, I had an impromptu Christmas gathering with those who answered their phone at 6PM last night.  What started as Wino Rocker and I getting together for our year end drink, moved into several of the Winostuff staff being available, OK, Wino John had to drop something off for me and he took his jacket off and had a drink.  One can not have a good party without a resource for wine so we called Big Bob and asked if he wouldn’t mind leaving his tradition family dinner and gift wrapping festivity to come over and drink (bring) wine.  And to conclude some loose end business, Winette Tia popped in, actually to have me sign the restraining order to keep out of the town she has recently moved to now that I found out where that is.

Even for my wino standards, we committed a wine sin by moving from bad to great the drunker we got.  Yes in Wino 101 and at the behest of Big Bob he wanted me to open the better stuff early, but I was afraid Wino Rocker would have been putting ice in the wrong wine so we polished off two inexpensive bottles before the party started.  Being in no shape to remember the flavors and scents in the lot, I will list without review the names on the empties in the recycling bin.  I will review the first wine that WR and I had as it was early enough for me to keep track.

2002 Cloud Line Pinot Noir- the newest in Dreyfus Ashby’s portfolio and I do not want to review it here as I want to be in the right frame of mind at the time I do.

1999 Ridge Monte Bello- one of WJ’s delightful go-to wines for select celebrations.

2001 Torres Nerola- I do have a bottle in the rack thanks to BB that I can enjoy one day with dinner.

1995 Silver Oak Napa- I cried but could think of no better friends to open this with.  (Editor's note: WOW!  Wine of the night!)

1995 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon - A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.  As one never knows when the day will come to meet the maker, God, not the wine maker, I figured it was a treat for me and others still standing who wanted a taste.

Thanks to great friends for a fun evening. Here is wishing every one a safe and healthy holiday season.   One never knows what the future holds so make the most of everyday with those who hold a special place in your life.  To better days in ‘05

2001 Campo de Camarena Garnacha Vieja  $ (8.99)   The nose on this one will delight Grenache fans as a spicy cedar and dark cherry wafts out of the glass.  Spain is good to this cepage and for the price, this one is worth a try.

December 17, 2004

I know this is not breaking news and I know that Wino John has written many times about the health benefits of wine and chocolate, but color me drunk not to remember that there is a medical journal that has named this as part of a heart-healthy diet.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, the Polymeal is the answer to all your health issues.  Just look at the research from “medical experts” telling us that there is a way to get back those years you lost from smoking, fried foods, McDonalds and lack of sex.  OK, the experts didn’t say you’d die sooner without sex, that is all me…

So if I smoked for 10 years, which would put me 4 and a half years short on my life expectancy, then I follow the food group below, I will gain 6 and a half netting me plus two in turnovers.  Either I light up a  cigar and try to get back to the break even point, or I enjoy the additional two years of Alzheimer’s I’m sure to come down with.    Think about it, does the plus 6.5 carry any weight if my destiny is to be hit by a bus crossing the street on St. Patty’s Day?  Does that really mean I was supposed to be dead three years ago, but came up plus two and the bus is waiting this March? Are 6.5 more years worth having if you do not know what day it is?  What if liver cancer is supposed to take me at 55 and now I have to live with liver cancer until just short of 62.   Why isn’t sex talked about in this healthy diet thing?  Imagine not having sex for another 6.5 years on top of not having it for 55 years?  Is the Polymeal playing God with our existence?  You think we have a strain on social security now, what if all the old folks sucking the system dry now end up on this Polymeal and live an additional 6.5 years?  Did the CBO take that into consideration on their latest projections?  Are the doctors who discovered this looking for ways to control population growth in other areas?  What problems do women have that this only gives them 5 years, is there a medical reason for that?  If my fish has mercury, is there a nomigram I need to carry in my wallet to calculate my death date?.  I need to speak with these experts.  They have left more questions than answers for me in their latest findings.

Am I the only one worried about this?  Christ, I need a drink….

Medical experts have put together the elements of a meal designed to cut heart disease by 75 per cent. They say the "Polymeal" will add 6½ years to a man's life, while women can expect an extra five years of life.

The surprisingly attractive ingredients are outlined in a paper to be published in the British Medical Journal today. They are: wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruit and vegetables, almonds and garlic. Each one was picked based on its ability to reduce blood pressure, cut cholesterol levels, or its proven effect in reducing events such as heart attack and stroke.

December 15, 2004

Sitting for three days in front of my keyboard, beaming from my self-proclaimed moniker of the Bobby Vineton-Polish Prince, I Googled 'Bobby Vinton' just to see what his web site looks like.  Wow, he is selling so much more stuff than we are.  Forget about his music, that’s a given, but the bejeweled apparel and the pens and pins are quite voluminous.  Who in the hell is buying a Bobby Vinton Theater pin?  Damn, if only I had gone there earlier, I could have gotten that for my mother this Christmas.  The good thing is that I’m sure if I order it, it will still be stylin' next year.  Unlike wine, the Bobby Vinton pin set will never lose its fruit, so to speak.

Actually, I am in super tasting mode.  The x-outs on my calendar leave little time for the all-important process of GOTY.  I will be drinking long and hard over the next two weeks to find that bejeweled cepage that will proudly represent 2005.  All this friggin' work for you people and what do I get besides a swollen liver and nasty hangover?  All I know for next year is more wine information and less Big Bob in a Speedo.  Not less of the Speedo, mind you, I’ve seen enough of that.  Less 'twigs and berries' and more supple, voluptuous, sultry, hard working women of wine.

2003 Vina Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon $ (7.99)    OK for an inexpensive cabernet, this Chilean wine shows promise but it is not yet where it needs to be.  Dark fruit, herb and a touch of vanilla on the nose.  Open it on a Tuesday night, this way you won’t serve it by mistake on Friday night for dinner.

December 11, 2004

If you were soon to be 70 years old and at the top of your profession for 40 years, would you consider stepping aside for a younger person to take your respective role in your chosen field?  As we are faced with longer life expectancies due to the top-secret work of genetically engineered super humans by the profit greedy pharmaceutical companies headed by Wino Lou, people are living longer and thus working longer.  I think it is a conspiracy developed by the Republicans in conjunction with the drug companies to keep people living longer, with our natural selection processes being burdened to the point that we become dependant on medications to keep us alive and people like Wino Lou can afford expensive wines to swill with exotic fare.  I say it is time for a Woodward and Bernstein type investigation by someone like Mike Wallace (case in point: does an 84 year old liver-spotted man need to be working at this point in his life?) 

My point being that someone born in 1935, whose career in the entertainment industry hit in 1962, should be ready to officially pass the torch to the next generation and go out on top, so to speak.  Today, December 11, 2004, five days before his 70th birthday I ask that the Prince consider passing his crown to a younger, livelier entertainer to carry on the tradition for another 30 years.  Wino Bob, Prince, entertainment industry, what in the hell have you been drinking?  OK, after sharing two bottles of the vine with the regulars at JR’s I was depressed on the ride home listening to WCBS radio - the oldies station.  They were featuring the songs of the seventies.  That ain’t oldies to me, winos, that was the music for the Wino Bob mackin' mojo…

Just as I was about to punch over to AM talk radio, an oldie in my opinion came on the station.  This one, I remember being played by my cousin as she was infatuated by this artist.  I think she wore through two 45rpms of this song.  Yes, as the Italians have Sinatra, the Chinese have William Hung, the Irish have Jamison, the toothless/shoeless Hillbillies have Elvis, we Poles have Bobby Vinton.  The song, Roses are Red My Love, Violets are Blue, though only half accurate, was a huge hit in the early sixties and my cousin to this day is a huge Bobby Vinton fan.  Roses are red, but violets are actually, well, violet but I guess that is too hard a word to rhyme.  Did you know that nothing in the English language rhymes with the word Orange? 

Yes, the entertainer Bobby Vinton, born in a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will turn 70 next week and it is only right that the crowned Polish Prince seek out a replacement prior to his inevitable passing.  As we are hard pressed to appoint an obvious entertainer of Polish decent that proudly wears their heritage on their forehead, I offer myself as the next crowned Polish Prince.  To the management of Mr. Vinton, it may be a wildly significant PR move at this time for you to contact me and schedule a photo-op of the Official passing of the polish scepter from Bobby Vinton, to Wino Bobby Vineton.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, a simple “e” added to his last name ties our lives together perfectly.  We both have humble beings from a sleepy little mid Atlantic suburb of a larger industrialized city.  We both are proudly Polish and we both have wildly successful careers in entertaining millions through our art.  OK, he’s wildly successful and wealthy and I have several drunks that email me how I suck and don’t know much about wine, but hey, I have a loyal following.  Now, if Mr. Vinton chooses not to officially crown me the next reigning Polish Prince, I might just name myself the Polish Prince of Wine and totally cut them out of the fan fare.  Maybe, now that I think about it, grube panie z gotuje się na ich *forehead* i *keilbasa* oddychanie mógłby lubić mnie lepszy (lepiej) są Polski Książę Piwa, think about it….

2000 Cain Concept $$ (39.00)    Meritage Christmas to one and all, this blend is heavy on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and offers a depth of dark fruit flavors with a spice and mint finish that will stay with you beyond the bowl of the glass.  A solid creation for complex wine lovers.

 

1999 Muga Reserve Rioja $$ (22.00)    Medium body with a nice fruit/acid balance, the light oak adds a mild sweetness to the spice, chocolate and dark cherry flavors.

 

December 9, 2004

I was ready to de-title Beer Boy, as he has not been drinking much beer lately, allegedly.  As I see from my empty email box, if he is drinking, he sure is not spending any time writing about it.  Well, Beer Boy, if you are not writing about all that beer you are drinking, what the f@#* have you been doing?  What?  Studying for your USA Cycling coach license?  Oh…never mind.  What Beer Boy has provided is the latest USA FDA approved Food Pyramid; you know that chart you got from the gym teacher/ health teacher in junior high school that had us eating mega servings of veggies and fiber.   If I ever ate that much fruit and fiber, I would need a DSL connection in my bathroom.  Miss Gym teacher/ health teacher with the dyke haircut and bigger arms then the math teacher, will you be sharing the newest Food Pyramid recommended by the FDA?  Yes, Winos and Winettes, the Winostuff staff has been lobbying our FDA pyramid developers and we are proud to announce that our hard work has paid off.  Officially, wine has been added to the Food Pyramid, though my one bottle a day has been down graded to a glass or two a day, but liquid lunches are back in service.  I am seeing the growth of Stewart-like drive-up fast food chains, with women on roller skates delivering trays of wine to your convertible.  The time has arrived to celebrate and watch for these commercials coming on cable as you read this.

  • Wine, the other white meat

  • Wine- its what’s for breakfast

  • Wine Helper, just add, uh, wine?

  • Jimmy Dean Winauges

  • Wine-a-roni

  • Swine- sipping wine in a can

  • Wine- breakfast of champions

  • Wine and cheese- forget that, it’s already there and yes someone else has thought of putting the wine into the cheese.

Move over Rachel Ray,  new on the Food network, Wino Bob’s Thirty Minute Wine Meal and Wine on 40 Dollars a Day.  So next time you're over someone’s house and they try and force a tofu burger on you, tell them you will get all your vitamins, minerals and protein from your wine, thank you very much, you under weight, tree hugging, Birkenstock wearing, lava lamp lighting, Vegan.

 

Text Box:
The New Food Pyramid

  Alcohol (in moderation): Scores of studies suggest that having an alcoholic drink a day lowers the risk of heart disease. Moderation is clearly important, since alcohol has risks as well as benefits. For men, a good balance point is 1 to 2 drinks a day.   

December 8, 2004

No disrespect intended but I forgot to acknowledge the sacrifices made by our brave service men and women yesterday as it was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Unfortunately, Ben Affleck and Hollywood ruined the story.  Actually, with the f’ing up Ben did to his true life love story with J Lo in the Hollywood stink bomb, Gigli or Jersey Girl, or one of the mindless, poorly written box office failures, it temporarily blinds me to that event.  That is why a ticket costs so much, to make up for the lost revenue of crappy movies by expensive movie stars.  On the other hand, Sideways, like a big ass California Cab, is being swirled and sipped by winos across the country bringing latest revenues over 12 million to date.  I digress.

Thank God for wine-drinking neighbors who frequent the local wine shops.  As I did not make myself the center of attention at Costa’s tasting on Saturday, there was a bottle of wine I wanted to taste, but didn’t force them to open while I was in the store.  Luck struck twice on Sunday, first being invited to a Holiday gathering at the neighbors and second when the wine I wanted to try was being served at said neighbors.  Sad comment on my needing to get out more, except for Wino Lou and family and the neighbors that hosted the evening, I didn’t know any of my neighbors.  I guess after ten years of living here, moving beyond a two house from porch geography might be a good idea.  It turns out that the neighbors I don’t know like wine as much as the neighbors I do know.  Thinking about this, I can parlay that into a glass of wine every third house if I pretend to be doing some sort of exercise/ neighborly friendliness thing.  I just need to meet someone on Hatfield to complete one revolution about the block.  

As it was Sunday night, Wino Lou and I both had work to finish up before Monday morning, his was to explore the development of a synthetic replica of a human genome through molecular separation of embryonic stem cells from a church mouse, and mine was to drink enough wine to have something to write about.  Every time he tried to leave, I kept filling his glass so I wouldn’t be the last comic standing.  Finally his sense of responsibility to his career left me savaging the wet bar for unfinished glasses of red wine in search of a brilliant point, about wine, to type out on my Sony Vaio, alone, late at night.

As you can see, no brilliant point developed, but I heard there would soon be a major break through announced from an evil pharmaceutical profiteer in NJ.  I have to keep this under wraps unless I want to spend the next 9 months in a cell with Martha Stewart, but Viagra will look like Pez when this thing breaks.  I wonder if I were in jail for nine months if Martha Stewart would be a major score, you know if I would be able to find her sexy.  Some how I think her Gestapo-like orders to pleasure her would turn me off.

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo $ (16.99)     Nice balance with jammy raspberry flavors and a structured acidity, but somewhat one-dimensional.

December 7, 2004

I don’t know if I should hold my head high with pride or bow in shame, but I think Wino Jim has been infected with the Wino Bug

He is now reading wine articles and wine shopping and drinking more wine.  When we first spoke, he told me he really didn’t want to get caught up in the pretense of wine and the rituals and the learning and…

So now, he is in the thick of it and we have exchanged several emails about wine issues.  In a very complimentary way, he told me that my head is filled with useless wine information and that I am a lot like Clark Kent.  I can, at a moments notice dash into a wine shop and transform from the geeky, nerdy-looking stick figure into a geeky, nerdy-looking stick figure who knows a lot of unimportant stuff about wine.  I emailed him back that at least Clark gets to fly around with Ms. Lane in his arms and have her fawning over his special powers, at which point he responded with this.

Top ten uses for Wino Bob's special wine knowledge:

10.  Winning friends and influencing people (particularly wine salesmen!)

9.   Helps you get over the urge to giggle when you hear the word, "Pinot."

8.   Impress dates, neighbors, employers and small farm animals (There are reports that it may have the opposite effect on wives)

7.   Provides a great excuse for "exploring" additional vintages (otherwise known as drinking more).

6.   Helps pass the time while waiting for food.

5.   Allows you to make condescending Sommeliers answer the really difficult questions (as opposed to just selling the expensive stuff!)

4.   Provides an opportunity to talk about "legs" and "nose" without actually referring to body parts

3.   Helps to make sense of that odd gurgley feeling you used to get after drinking a gallon of Gallo

2.   Encourages your spouse to find additional sources of revenue to support your habit

And the number one use for Wino Bob's special wine knowledge...

1.   Will give you some idea of how hangovers feel in other countries and under various "growing conditions!!"

I could tell it must have been a slow day at work for Wino Jim, but am glad to have one more counted among the growing wino masses.  See what a good Malbec will get you….

 

December 4, 2004

I think this is the first time in a year and a half I am typing away in the small third floor room during the afternoon.  I just realized that the room isn’t so dim and dreary when the sunlight streaks in the southward facing window.  An old Massachusetts sea captain who settled in NJ after his sailing days were over built this house.  The windows on the northern and southern windows are designed to look like the windows in the captain’s quarters of an old whaling ship.  Right now, I can almost see the ocean trailing behind me as I glance over my right shoulder.  Why am I writing at this hour of the day, or better yet, why am I buzzed at this hour of the day is the more appropriate question.  I must admit, it is not my fault.  No, in the course of the Saturday chore ritual, I stopped in two places, the first being Kings Supermarket.  To my delight, the shelves were stocked with Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau so I grabbed a bottle to enjoy with my, ah, my week and a half old turkey sandwich.  Actually, I don’t have a leftover sandwich.  As you know, I had lamb on T-Day.  I decided to buy a bottle and next time I go to Linda’s Chicken, a Boston Market type eatery in town, I will order a takeout of turkey, yams, cranberry, potatoes and gravy to enjoy the 2004 JD BN with and remember Thanksgivings past when I would be throwing out the green fuzzy bowl that once has stuffing, or potatoes, or something that wasn’t green and fuzzy when I first put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. 

On my drive home from Kings, my wino-in-training, Jim, called to let me know that Costa’s was having an in store tasting from 1-4PM.  WOO HOO, free wine tasting, I am so there.  Besides, we were going to dinner with Mag and Jim tonight and I need a bottle to bring so I can shop and taste and walk around like I’m still shopping and taste, and pretend I don’t know what to bring to dinner and taste.  So it was off to Costa Wines and into a store filled with people asking stupid questions and wine distributors giving bloviated answers.  John has been a friend so I didn’t want to drink every wine he was pouring here’s the list:

  • Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio

  • King Estates Pinot Gris

  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo

  • Pascual Toso Malbec Riserva

  • Esprao Reserva

  • Monte Velho

  • Vinha Da Defesa

They also had to show and sell but not to taste, the Fontodi Flaccianello 2001 that landed number 10 on Spectator.

I decided to grab a bottle for dinner tonight of the Malbec from Argentina, which I did spend time sampling at the store.  Several local restaurants served food so I could have easily turned that stop into dinner and drinks. 

2003 Pascual Toso Malbec Riserva $ (14.99)   Breathe in and out, in and out, this wine needs a good bit of oxidation before it shows any fruit.  When you finally get to the reason you wanted to drink it, you find a tasty raspberry and dark fruit flavor with a finish of chocolate and a touch of spice.  A nice wine for a casual dinner.

November 29, 2004

The trauma of the holiday season is officially upon us.  Workers spent Saturday, blocking one lane of the major road through the center of town as they connected holiday decorations to the lampposts lining the street.  Shoppers had the roads and parking lots jammed to the discomfort of the average person heading out to pick up a newspaper or bottle of wine.  From the entry in the guestbook, it looks like Wino John was playing hide and seek in the well stocked wine cellar of Wino Wally over the holiday so I am sure he will be updating his page within the next day, or days, or week, or month, I hope.  With all my belly aching, I will keep this one simple.  Making up for the lack of wine at dinner on Thanksgiving, I sampled the following wines.

2003 Red Bicyclette Syrah Vin de Pays D’Oc $ (8.99)    I grabbed this from the display close to the front door at Costas’ as I was heading next door for a quick dinner on Saturday evening.  The nose on this was pleasant, but the wine seemed very watery.  Yes, little fruit and a host of tasteless liquid, this wine is the offering of Gallo as they try to market a casual drinker from France back into the US market.  I was not impressed, though the label will catch a great many buyer’s attention. 

2003 Long Neck Cabernet Sauvignon West Cape $ (7.99)     This South African offering needs to calm in the glass before any positive impression is obtainable.  It starts as a jigsaw puzzle with pieces scattered about, but does come together well enough to show a drinkable cabernet sauvignon.

November 25, 2004

I would like one of our smart readers to describe to me the way that our brain stores memories.  I know there are no silicon chips being burned with 1’s and 0’s, but rather an extremely complex balance between chemicals and electricity.  Therefore, as I sit here in the dead of night, as the wind howls through the drafty window next to my small desk in the dimly lit room on the third floor, a message keeps flashing through my mind’s eye.  “A file by that name already exists, do you want to overwrite: yes/no?”  In the blink of an eye, I selected yes, and the file titled Suckiest Thanksgiving replaced the 1976 Thanksgiving memory with 2004’s.  I was a junior in high school in 1976 and it was one of a handful of Thanksgivings that my father was in Germany for a business trip that ended that Saturday.  Going through several Thanksgiving dinners before when all the trimmings were prepared for days and the table was set with an empty place for my father’s absence, we ended each with my mother not feeling much like eating the turkey.  In 1976, we ate roast beef on Thanksgiving and the traditional turkey on Sunday upon my father’s return. That was also the year I was repairing a broken collarbone, unable to play in the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game and had an argument with my girlfriend as she drove me home from the field house.   For the past 28 years, that day has been resident in the non-silicon mass storage device.  Today it is officially replaced and I have no one to blame but myself. 

There are some major issues going on with the health of a family member and it had me thinking in many different ways then the one I most wanted to.  What should have been a day filled with leftovers, hangovers and holdovers turned out to be the dinner scene from A Christmas Story; the one where Ralphie and his family are eating a Holiday dinner in a nearly empty Chinese restaurant.  A small breakfast in Barnegat and a small dinner in Fairfield (not Bacchus), with a two-hour window to sit in my new recliner and have an aperitif on the rocks to accompany the third quarter of Indianapolis versus Detroit.  I normally would place a complimentary plug for the restaurant here, but I will give them a pass.  I am assuming the poor service and mediocre food was a result of the minimal amount of patrons on Thanksgiving.  The fact that six of us doubled the amount of diners should have been a forewarning of things to come.  The traditional turkey platter held no interest on this unusual celebration this year and I vow that it will not end up this way again,  I went with lamb.  Washing it down with two glasses of the house cabernet sauvignon, we ate and talked quietly as not to wake the wait staff from the nap they were taking.  Boredom in the kitchen must have had the chef finish three of our dinners six minutes before the other three.  One would think if you only have six dinners to prepare, you might be able to serve them at the same time.  Sorry, this should not be a review, but rather a lesson learned. 

The fun part of the night turned out to be the Travel Channel marathon of John Ratzenberger’s series, Made in America.  I really like this show and the topics it covers.  John visits factories in the USA and highlights the work being done by those dwindling manufacturers for products that can proudly say, Made in the USA, on their label.  The negative about the show is he tries to cover too much in a half hour and spends too little time showing the details of these workers.  We need more of this so I hope The Travel Channel expands this series to an hour.  Cliff Claven has hit a homerun with this series, at least for me.  If you have not seen this show yet, take the time to seek it out, you will not be disappointed.

Let us keep the numbers rolling for Sideways; I read the production cost was 12 million so they are half way to break even.  We can show the market that we Winos are a force to be reckoned with by pushing this over the top.

Orange Colombo aperitif    This aperitif has a rose wine base with alcohol, infusions of oranges, quinquina, sugar and distillates. Infusions of oranges are made from orange peels, rubans verts, Côte d’Azur type, and peels of sweet oranges macerated in alcohol. I chilled this and poured it over ice in a tumbler to excite my taste buds before my journey to the dinner of infamy.  My brother brought this back from a trip to Provence several years ago.  

2004 Beringer Nouveau $ ($8),   Created from Pinot Noir and Valdiguie, this is the most widely promoted Thanksgiving Day wine in the Essex county area.  Not from Gamay and not from Burgundy, this light style red from Beringer holds little excitement or flavor for me.  I wonder how long this will be promoted.

November 23, 2004

Wow, when is the thank you coming?  Since I wrote about the lack of numbers on the movie Sideways, you Winos and Winettes have taken to the theaters and nearly doubled the box office in two weeks.  The register just topped 6.2 million dollars and counting.  I will be looking for the call from Mr. Giamatti and Mr. Payne.  Face it, the masses will settle for any wine entertainment, look no further..

In response to our readers support, I celebrated with myself last night.  I opened a rare bottle of wine.  In fact, there were only two bottles of this wine in the world and I cellared one of them for the past three years.  Now I drank and peed that rare bottle and have lost contact with the gentleman that had the other.  Rare wine?  What the F^#$, Wino Bob?  I thought you only buy affordable stuff.  That is true, and this bottle actually was affordable at the time I bought it.  This wine came from the boutique winery, Alden Yachts.  OK, here’s the deal, several years ago, through my geek job, I was selling equipment to yacht builders.  I got to know several owners of high-end yacht manufacturing plants and one of the owners was very much a wine lover.  He and I were talking one night and he mentioned that it would be great to have a wine and a sparkling wine they could serve during the launch party for each yacht sold.  Alden is a company in Portsmouth, RI that makes multi-million dollar sailboats with luxury galore.  The first time I was invited up to tour the plant and step aboard a yacht ready to be delivered, I was in awe.  The conversation spun down to wine and I told the owner, I had some sources I could call. 

I know there are tons of wineries that will print up labels with your name on them, but this had to be far classier.  I myself have some bottles from Windsor personalized for me.  That would not serve the clientele of Alden so I peeled down many layers of the onion to get something unique.  What I found was a company called Thoroughbred Vintners that works with Precision Etching.  The design they came up with was stunning and the two bottles I bought to show the owner of Alden Yachts, landed one in my cellar.  Worried that it would be just another run of the mill, make your own label type wine, I fiddled and fondled that bottle for years reluctant to open it and give it a taste.  In a moment, which had me realizing my alcohol shakes weren’t frenzied enough to make me open one of the remaining good bottles, I took the Alden Yacht Wine to Big Bertha and proceeded to inadvertently drive the cork into the bottle.  God Damn It, Cartman, I was in a wine funk and reversed the action of Big Bertha leveraging the cork down the neck of the bottle and into the wine.  The level of liquid, my pissed mood and the fact that I have no real wine to quell my jones had me sloshing and spilling the first pour.  Hey, this has a pleasant nose.  Slurp, slosh, hey, this doesn’t taste bad.  So I poured a glass and set it down for a few minutes to wipe up the splatters.  I picked up the bottle and spun it around to see what was on the back.  The words, Thoroughbred Vintners 1997 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, California and some phone numbers.  I cannot do a formal review as mine and Dave’s were the only two bottles like this, but if you go on their web page, the wine they bottle in the commemorative events is from the same vineyard. 

If I recall, the set up of the Alden Yacht artwork and bottle etching was a higher cost then the wine itself, but this wine was a pleasant surprise.  The black cherry and cassis flavors finished smoothly and had me wishing I had a case of this in my cellar.  Unfortunately, the one and only Alden Yacht Wine is flowing through a water treatment facility in Newark and on its way into the Newark Bay to be recycled into the biosphere of our planet.  A surprise, a pleasant surprise was delivered in that bottle and if sourcing an etched Wino Bob Syrah, I might have to call the Thoroughbred Vintners and see if they could hook me up.

November 19, 2004

Before I serve up the main course for this entry, I wanted to add one more comment on the lack of good wine material.  If you remember back around October 22nd, I stumbled upon a movie that was being released called Sideways. This movie starred Paul Giamotti and was directed by Alexander Payne.  Fox, or Alexander, or Paul did not contact us so we never had the opportunity to throw our weight behind promoting this wine story, or not.  I saw the box office numbers today and I think Fox and Alexander and Paul need to rethink their snubbing of WinoStuff.com.  In fact, they should set up that special screening and wine and dine us.  I point no further than the popular election numbers and the position we at WinoStuff.com took early on.  The results speak for themselves as will be evident on the January 21, 2005 entry of Wino Wally.  I predict it will recap all the wines severed at the Big Dance for W.  In the world where fake documentaries can pull in over 100 million dollars (and still have no impact) a good wine story should be able to pull in a tenth of that.  I submit to you that Sideways neither affected the wine industry nor influenced the movie industry with a 4-week total of $3,751,301.  I have not been to a movie theater since ticket prices were five dollars so I am guessing that across the country average ticket prices are currently around nine dollars.  That roughly translates to 417,000 moviegoers.  Maybe this movie problem is similar to the book problem; there is little entertaining wine related material exciting the interest of the mass population.  Therefore, I stand by my premise that WinoStuff.com remains the most powerful, entertaining-wine related property on the market today, and that is why our readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds each month.  Big Bob also showed me pages of WinoStuff.com in Spanish and German.  Stay tuned for more exciting news on this topic….

Please, clear the dishes and let the sorbet cleanse your palate, the appetizer is over and now for the main dish.  Road trip with Wino Rocker, part deux.   The aging, stuck in the sixties, good friend of mine called the other day and informed me that one of his favorite bands was playing at the Legendary Stone Pony.  The group, Mountain, famous for the guitar riffs of the one and only Leslie West was an iconic influence of garage bands around the country.  Who doesn’t find themselves humming the words from Nantucket Sleigh ride?  How stoned were they?  We arrived just as the first of two warm up bands were taking the stage.  The warm ups brought their groupies and the remainder of the crowd was there for Mountain.  I looked around at one point and realized, I was a tweener.  Caught somewhere between the 20 something crowd there to cheer and sing along with their favorite garage band lyrics and the over 55 crowd that cheered and sang along with Leslie West at Woodstock.  If I might make several observations, the West crowd did look a bit like the infirmary at the VA hospital, and gentlemen over fifty, if you are wearing expand-a-waist pants to the concert, please cut the long gray ponytail.  There was nothing funnier to me then seeing an aged hippie with elastic waistband crappy blue jeans. 

Note to garage bands, if your drummer is 45 and we still haven’t heard you on the radio, think Home Depot.  The first band, Nite Lite, was OK, but I really couldn’t get much into their musical style.  It seemed spastic at best and unrehearsed at worst.  But they plugged their new CD and their web site before every song.  Then, as they carted off their instruments, the next band carted theirs on stage to rock the crowd with the songs from their new CD.  Where the hell are all these CDs being produced?  Have you rocked out in your car to the songs of Count Josephine? Me neither, but I will say they were the better of the two bands.   As I stood there listening to their third song, knowing they were there, probably playing for drinks, in hopes of being discovered by the more affluent crowd of the Mountain following, I had a chill run down my spine.  It wasn’t from the bottle of Bud that was knocked over by the plastered fat chick in her drunken Stooper, tacking across the floor.  No, it was from the chilling fact that I am nothing more than a garage writer.  Like the aging drummer of Count Josephine, whose hopes of national recognition and industry acceptance have long passed.  I sit here late into the night tapping rhythmically on the keyboard of my Sony Vaio, with the same dashed hopes of that guy.  Young, up and coming journalistic prominence has drained like the black from the hair on the side of my head.  The mainstream wine industry media looks sympathetically down at my wine entries with that “he’s had a tough life, just humor him” look.  Dejectedly, my Yeungling buzz is wearing off and I quietly accept my position of drunken wino blogger.

As for the main event, Mountain took the stage about 10:45PM and once over the shock of Mr. West’s snow white hair, science professor glasses, Ben Gay scented cologne and the oxygen tank on the side of the stage as his climbing the three steps left him breathing hard, he picked up a guitar and mesmerized the audience for the next hour and a half.  Colostomy bag and all, the dude can play a mean ass guitar.  The highlights for me were Scenes from an Imaginary Western, the Animal’s-House of the Rising Sun, his tribute to Cream, Mississippi Queen and his acoustical interpretation of Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind.  The only moment I twitched slightly over was his rap during the intro to Blowin in the Wind, when he was trying to quiet the twenty something garage band groupies who were talking loudly during his entire set, he admonished them to listen to the words of this song especially in light of the fact that WE lost the election.  Wino Rocker and I immediately looked at each other, laughed and simultaneously mouth, “We didn’t lose the election.” 

Corky Lange gave his heart and sole with every beat on the drums, but at one point I saw him tapping his wrist with his sticks trying to find out what time it was from the stage manager.  I guess old Corky was hoping to be in bed by midnight.  It must be tough knowing that in 1969, you were part of a historical event as 500,000 fans gathered at Yazgar’s farm for three days of music, love and harmony, to be standing on stage 35 years later in front of 250 people in Asbury Park, NJ in November.  Is it the love of the music that drives them to play no matter how small the crowd and how little money?  Or is it the need to play in venues that will provide any amount of cash since investing in the market was not the way of the counter cultural leaders in the sixties?  Put aside the wafting odor of Ben Gay, set aside the gasping breaths after every song, set aside the fatherly look, Leslie West remains to this day an amazing guitarist whom offers his passion and talent in every drop of sweat coming down his time worn brow and flowing off the frets of his instrument.  The show was tops, though I wished I were older in 1969 and saw him in that same venue.  To Mr. West, thank you for a fantastically entertaining evening.  And to the aging garage bands, from an aging garage writer, I tip my beer to you because I feel your pain man, I feel your pain.

November 14, 2004

I grew up in a house where spontaneous social interaction was more the norm then the exception.  At any given moment, my father might call saying he was on his way home with a business associate from San Paulo or Sydney or Johannesburg.  My father was an international sales manager and when his agents came to visit the home office, he graciously invited them to our home, unbeknownst to my mom.  Other times, cousins or my older brother’s friend would pop in the back door and a spontaneous evening of eating, drinking and laughing would ensue.  That is why I feel a bit embarrassed this morning as I was caught with my proverbial pants down yesterday, touching myself.  About 5:45PM, as I was ¾ of the way through my Los Vascos, a somewhat spontaneous gathering erupted in the kitchen.  The danger of this crowd was that one of the couples have drank till sun rise with us during those 'more bottles than bodies' events.  Trying to be gracious, but not much prepared, I rooted through the fridge and located the only servable snack in the house.  Yes, Wino Bob likes the cheese and Wino Bob likes the port, so in the ultimate show of laziness, I keep on hand a wedge of port wine cheese.  Who thought of this?  I don’t know, but I bet it was some high society captain of industry befuddled at a cocktail party as he tried to maneuver spreading cheese on his crackers while standing discussing captain of industry things and sipping a 50 year ruby.  In a Michael Keaton moment, he must have been struck like lighting with the idea to eliminate one of the obstacles.  He must have pondered, a plate, a slice of cheese, a cracker, a knife, a glass of port, a napkin and only two hands.  Simple, feed the port to the cheese and lay it out on a cracker.  Voila, freedom of looking captainly while enjoying my two favorite snacks.

The cheese was the easy part.  The difficultly came as I knew the Los Vascos was the last of the everyday drinkers and I was faced with 5 winos expecting a beverage from the wine cellar.  My mind raced as I contemplated heading down stairs, out the bilco doors, hopping in the car and driving to Costas’ for several bottles of an everyday drinking wine.  But then the latest WOTM selection came to mind and I grudgingly reached for the last of my BV stock, a bottle of 1995 Georges de Latour.  I trembled as I placed the foil cutter on the capsule, wondering if this was the right thing to do.  Realizing in the next few days, Wino John will be posting a picture of Georges himself donning a banana hammock with a Winostuff tat on the left cheek of his wrinkly saddle bag ass, I took one for the team and sacrificed this gem to the masses.  Wiping away tears, I headed to the kitchen clutching the opened bottle, knowing the winos would not be making a distinction between the remaining Los Vasco and the sophisticated Georges. 

I also offer this as a proverbial poke in the eye to Mr. Laube, whose silver mustache and eye mole must have caused him to transpose his latest review.  Either that or the newest release of Georges really sucks, but I can no longer afford to buy at that price point and BV is not sending me any samples to challenge the rating.  I side with WJ and think Mr. Laube is in concert with Michael Moore to produce a made up documentary to bring down the BV Empire.  Another clear reason why the alternative web media like WinoStuff is out protecting the rights of the everyday wino.  Without this alternate voice, the mainstream wine press would slant the mass opinion to FOL (Friends of Laube) wines and possibly disrupt the balance of wineries in Napa.

So here’s to not blindly accepting that which is printed in big time industry rags.  Here’s to the voice of the lowly wine drinker whose access to the best is limited by his lack of credibility.  Here’s to the captain of industry who freed my Great Walenda balancing act at a cocktail party by feeding the port to the cows so they manufacture port wine cheese.  But most of all here’s to the upcoming eye damage brought about by the thong clad ass of Georges de Latour.

1995 BV Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve Rutherford $$$ (65.00) Crafted like the cream of Aphrodite herself, this big cab brings delight with rambling black fruit, cassis and the gentle hands of mild tannins on the lengthy finish.  A treat.

November 13, 2004

As the consternations of Global Warming continue, I am looking out my window over the snow-covered lawns in the neighborhood.  Though only a dusting, the turkey has yet to go to the chopping block and we are showing signs of that long hard winter ahead.  I hope it is warm where you are, unless of course, you are in the great north and own a ski lodge and rely on the white stuff as a source of income. 

I saw Wino John has taken to honoring the out outgoing Governor who is heading out after announcing he was coming out.  The Pansy Wine will be a fitting tribute to the man who was ruled by his heart and not his head in protecting the citizens of NJ.  I find it amusing that the person taking over for ex-Governor McGreevey is Richard Codey, but he goes by the name Dick.  So we have Dick Codey replacing Dick Salot in office.  I feel safer already. 

Last night, after returning from the opening page of chapter one for my own private, Tuesday’s with Morrie, I scrolled through my last quarter’s entries.  I noticed I have begun to suck.  I have mostly boring political bullshit and some rather mater-of-fact, barebones wine reviews.  While Wino John is sitting s-faced in front of the home computer, laughing hardily to himself as he finds bits and pieces of amusing wine industry info, I sit, somewhat vacant, in front of the keyboard, just not feeling the funny juice flow down the leg of my pants. 

Hey, on a cold fall afternoon, there’s nothing better than a warm mug of Dicken’s cider.  Yes, if I had my way this fall, I would blaze a log in the fireplace, dim the lights and spend the evening with a heaping helping of Dicken’s cider.  Dicken’s cider is the perfect ending to a rough day at work and what better way to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving meal with an early serving of Dicken’s cider.  Or as I did last year, surprise the relatives by cleaning the table, laying out a pumpkin pie and whip cream and placing some Dicken’s cider right there on the dining room table.  Boy, will that make for a great deal of conversation. 

I know, I heard that in the third grade also, but I needed to clear my head before I get back on track with a review I myself will reread.  As Thanksgiving is closing in and the thought turns to wine with dinner.  Steve, the guy that worked the wine festival pick up truck with me, had suggested I try the multitude of Cranberry wines being made in NJ.  I have a hard time going for the wine made from anything other than the grape, but I did taste the cranberry wine with my deep fried turkey sandwich and it was interesting in its presentation.  I have a hard time recommending it but find that from time to time, it’s not all about me.  There are many who enjoy a good glass of blueberry, red raspberry, blackberry, apple, strawberry, cherry, or cranberry wine and what better place to produce these than NJ.  As our ex-Governor was so proud of the blueberry, he officially named it the state fruit, edging out by ten votes the runner up, the Governor himself.  NJ and blueberries, perfect together.  And if you have ever driven across the state on Route 70, the Ocean Spray cranberry bogs still adorn the Pinelands.  If you are tired of the decision of Pinot Noir or White Burgundy and the crowd is not adventurous enough for Zinfandel or Gewürztraminer, you may be able to spark something different by heading out to your local wine store and grabbing a bottle of cranberry wine.  If it really sucks, your hosts will have an hour’s with of table conversation goofing on you.  If its good, tell them it was a Wino Bob recommendation as we strive to come up with new and interesting information Wine Spectator will be writing about in three months.  And for those of you really looking to shock the shit out of your crazy aunt or meddling mother-in-law, just offer up a nice hearty, warm serving of Dicken’s cider…

You can find Cranberry wine from the following NJ producers:

  • Tomasello- the largest distribution in the state making it easiest to find

  • Cream Ridge Winery

  • Bellview Winery

  • Valenzano Winery

For those not man enough to bring the Dicken’s cider you can opt for:

  • Bellview’s Winter Spice

  • Four Sisters’ Apple Spice

2002 Los Vasco Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua $ (8.99)   This Chilean property of Domaines Baron De Rothschild (Lafite) is a solid example of wine offerings from South America.  Good dark fruit and bell pepper flavors present well for fewer than ten dollars.

November 8, 2004

Yesterday, the weather seemed more like Late June than early November as the mercury pumped its way over the 65 mark.  At one point, just before the kick-off for the Giants game, I ran to Kings and tooled around looking for something to eat.  It has been awhile since I had a simple fish dish, so I headed back to the fish counter.  The Chilean Sea Bass looked excellent, but at $14.99/lb, I opted for the less expensive Tilapia.  Two pounds of fresh fish in tow, I zigzagged the isles wondering what else I could prepare with the selected main course.  A nice ginger, kind of Asian Fusion thing might do the trick, so I found the Hosain sauce and Thai noodles with soy ginger and some Bok chow, water chestnuts and mini-corn mix.  The red I had left over from Saturday night would not work, so I headed to the white wine section.  With little experience in white, other than my Sauvignon Blanc (too citrus) and oaky Chard (too oaky), I found myself with several Riesling choices.  Andrea Immer is always touting Riesling as a good match for Asian style sauces.  My hand reached for the bottle just above the $8.99 price tag, but stopped and moved over one bottle.  For some reason, I grabbed my second choice that turned out to be an $11.00 bottle.  What the hell, I might be dead tomorrow.

The food cooked up and my curiosity grabbed me by the shorts, so I opened the bottle that had been chilling since the opening kick off between the Bears and Giants.  Good thing I opened it when I did as the 14 point lead vanished quicker than Donald Trump’s part in a windstorm.  Hey, not a bad nose.  Wow, nice taste, I thought to myself since no one else was home.  It turned out to be a pleasant surprise and an enjoyable meal as the ginger complemented the green apple, apricot and acidity of the wine.   Tough loss for the Giants, but the wine made me forget quickly and sent me computer-bound to learn a bit more about the bottle I was enjoying.  What initially made me pick this wine was that the Monterrey Bay area printed on the label.  I spent a day at the Monterrey aquarium and was very impressed by the 35-foot kelp beds and the variety of sea life.    

The wine is from Jekel, owned by the mega-conglomerate Brown-Forman.  Here is some basic info about B-F from their web site:

Out of his idea grew a company that in fiscal 2003 had sales of $2.3 billion, of which $1.7 billion was accounted for by sales of wines and spirits

Brown-Forman, founded in 1870, is a diversified producer and marketer of fine quality consumer products, including:

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
Southern Comfort
Finlandia Vodkas
Canadian Mist Canadian Whiskies
Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Early Times Kentucky Whiskey
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Pepe Lopez Tequilas
Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails
Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Scotch Whiskies
Fetzer Vineyards California Wines
Korbel California Champagnes
Bonterra California Wines
Jekel California Wines
Sonoma-Cutrer California Wines
Bolla Italian Wines
Michel Picard French Wines
Lenox China and Crystal
Lenox Collectibles
Dansk Contemporary Tabletop, Housewares and Giftware
Gorham Silver, Stainless Steel Flatware, and Crystal
Hartmann Luggage, Business Cases, and Personal Leather Goods

The top two holdings of B-F hold interesting birthday celebratory experiences for me.  Southern Comfort found half my stomach on Mrs. Fanaldi’s front yard during my 17th  and the last time I touched JD was for my 21st  when ¾ of a bottle flowed passed my lips.  Sonoma-Cutrer is consistently the number one Chard in white linen restaurants, some of which serve their food on Lenox china. 

2002 Jekel Monterrey Riesling $ (11.00)   A solid wine that offers a host of green apple, apricot and peach flavors with a clean finish and a nice balance of acidity.  Pad Thai and Asia style dishes will be very friendly to this wine. 

November 6, 2004

Since this is my page, I would like to start off with a Happy Birthday wish to my younger brother.  I was hoping this would replace the need for me to drive down to the drugstore and pay $3.99 for something he will read and toss in the garbage, making Hallmark richer and me momentarily guilt free.  Then he informed me that my entry is the last thing he checks on his bookmark list so it may not be until next week before he sees this.  Since its time stamped, does it qualify as being thoughtful, or since he may not get to it for a week, would it be better to read a belated Happy Birthday to my younger brother?

Hey did anyone see Bill Maher’s meltdown last night on his HBO show.  There were several times he got nasty with the guest, Andrew Sullivan.  That was the first time I heard Mr. Sullivan, and he was trying to enlighten Bill as to the current problems the left has.  Bill was like a cornered animal and immediately brought up the fact that Mr. Sullivan is gay.  I thought the left was tolerant, I guess they just tolerate differences if you agree with their political positions.  Otherwise a conservative, who is gay, is stupid.  Both Bill and Al Franken have had a hard time this week.  Their hubris in thinking they were going to influence the election is palpable.  At least Stern realized he had no influence and moved on, but Bill and Al cannot believe people could think differently than they.  It seems the talking points after the election were that the President doesn’t have a mandate since Kerry got the second highest vote count in history.  Hey, I’m a Panther fan and the Panther’s had a great score in losing the Superbowl last year.  In fact many say it was the best Superbowl in history, but they lost and the only thing that matters is that the Patriots are in the history books.  Can you remember whom Pittsburgh beat in their 4 Superbowl wins?  Exactly…By the way, I forgot to thank Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in my list from the other day.

I just realized that our Gay Governor is supposed to leave office on the 15th, at least that was the plan.  Which brings me to the question for NJ wine drinkers that I have been thinking about.  Is there much interest in making NJ a reciprocal shipping state?  I understand from the Garden State Wine Growers Association, they feel this will dampen the enthusiasm for local wines, but there is a large population not interested in the wine styles NJ offers.  Currently, NJ offers a permit to carry in up to a gallon per person of wine from out of state, but wouldn’t it be great to order directly from a vineyard.  On the flip side, if the folks from the state of brotherly love come to a wine festival, wouldn’t it be great to call the winery and have a case sent to your house from Tomasello, or Amwell?  I would like to hear from my fellow NJ winos regarding your interest in direct shipments.  Right now, the best we can do is ship to Wino Wally’s Mar Largo in West Virginia.   But for those of us not wealthy enough to purchase a county so we can get direct shipments, it doesn’t seem like Ken Starr is working on our behalf.  Please email me your thoughts and I will ensure your voice will be heard.

2001 Blackstone Winery Syrah $ (7.99)   This California Syrah has a friendly berry nose with hints of vanilla and toffee, but the wine serves a harsh finish that detracts from the otherwise enjoyable blueberry, black cherry and oak flavors.

November 4, 2004

You might think that I would be in a good mood or even a great mood after yesterday.  I was and I went out to celebrate. I went to have a glass of wine, maybe two, maybe the whole F'n bottle.  I drove into Bacchus’ parking lot and the place was not as packed as I expected.  Fine with me, at least I can get a seat at the bar.  The newly appointed GM, the unappointed waiter, Jimmy, greeted me with his always-jovial attitude as he walked the bar with Ned, one of the owners.  I took my bar stool and asked Mike if I could see the wine by the glass list.  “Not much new”, he told me.  Then brought over a bottle and asked if I like red zinfandel.  He poured a taste. I sniffed, swirled and sipped. Wow, not my style.  I pushed it back towards him and he walked back to the wine locker.  Try this one.  It is a red zinfandel, but a lot more expensive.  I tasted, but did not want to get soaked.  Then Mike asked me if I have ever tried the Ring Bolt Cabernet.  I said no and Mike poured one up.  He told me it is reasonable and since it was not $12.00 per glass, I accepted it to start my wine high.

Towards the end of my first glass, I asked to see the appetizers and I saw a cheese platter listed.  Great, some cheese, crackers, and fruit to offset the alcohol so I can handle the drive home.  "Mike, give me another."  The platter came and it was like my high school chem. teacher, Kathleen McBrair, well proportioned and smelled delicious.  The Buffalo mozzarella and Jersey tomatoes were outstanding and the smoked English what-the-f#@% was even better.  Void from the platter was any bread or bread-based complement and the fruit was a small cluster of moth gonads (actually they were champagne grapes).  Glass two went well and I thought about a third.  Reality being less fun than fantasy, I needed to catch up on sleep and be fresh for an early morning meeting.  “Mike, ring me out.”  I said and Mike punched several keys to make a paper stub spew out of a printer on top of the wine cooler.  “That will be $37.75” What, the F%#^?  I had two glasses of a cheap wine from Australia and a few slices of cheese.  You've got to be kidding me.

I actually am thinking that Bacchus is working their way out of my budget.  It seems every time I go in there, the price of their wine by the glass hits a new high.  Kiss me before you give it to me.  Talk nicely, give me a handy.  The thing they keep forgetting is that they are not on the waterfront in Hoboken, overlooking lower Manhattan.  They are on a main road overlooking a main road, just down the street from a main road.   When is enough enough and what power besides not going in there anymore do I have?  OK, so I will not go in there anymore, unless Wino John is flashing his Iridium American Express card.  Yes, WJ is so wealthy, he is the only one in NJ that has a Iridium Am Ex.  That is two levels higher than black.  Being a techno dweeb must pay really well.

2002 Ring Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon $ (13.99)   This cab from down under is OK, but lacks the character and packed fruit I enjoy.  An easy drinking cab appeals to a wide variety of drunken patrons.   

November 3, 2004

It was a long night as I sat glued to the TV. Not wanting to be too upbeat, I spent much of the time watching MSNBC and the left spin-doctors at the table.  Finally, at 3:45 AM, I could no longer keep my eyes open.  I nodded off, not knowing what the ultimate outcome would be.  About 5:50 AM, my cell phone rang, it was the call I had been waiting for.  Without naming names, the person on the other end of the line said they had the internals to be confident that the numbers would hold and to thank us for the support from Winostuff.com.  The internals showed what power we added to process and how the site was a great late night diversion during some of the long hard months of work. Before hanging up, the one simple phrase was, "be humble, do not gloat."

I hit the end button and looked at the clock to see if I could steal a few more minutes of sleep before it was time to start the grind.  As I sat there on the couch, TV in the background showing the same numbers of Electoral votes from 3PM, I remembered the words that my Junior High School football coach said to us before our first game. “When you get in the end zone, act like you have been there before.”  These are words I have cherished ever since, so I have opted not to do the Wino Bob, Drunken “Stooper” dance.  No, I simply want to acknowledge a few people:

  • 527’s

  • George Soros

  • Moveon.org

  • America Coming Together

  • Harold Ickes

  • John Podesta

  • Lurch

  • Nancy Pelosi

  • Media Fund

  • NAACP

  • AFL-CIO and the Union Bosses

  • Air America

  • Al Franken

  • Michael Moore

  • Fahrenheit 9/11

  • Howard Dean

  • Al Sharpton

  • Jesse Jackson

  • Tom Daschal

  • Howard Stern

  • Don Imus

  • Cheryl Crow

  • Bruce Springsteen

  • John Bon Jovi

  • John Stewart and the Daily Show

  • Dan Rather

  • 60 Minutes

  • 60 Minutes II

  • Bill Clinton

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton

  • France

  • Germany

  • Russia

  • Bob Schrum- 0-8

  • Joe Lockhardt

  • National Guard documents

  • CBS

  • Viacom

  • ABC

  • NBC

  • CNN

  • MSNBC

  • Chris Matthews

  • Dee Dee Meyers

  • Ron Reagan Jr.

  • Ragen Books and the many Anti-Bush Titles

  • Terry McAuliff

  • DNC

  • Trial Lawyers and frivolous lawsuits

  • Teresa Heinz Kerry, her mouth and her Billions

  • The Fleeing Wounded farm boy Kerry shot in the back

  • Jim McGreevey

  • Jeff and Carolyn

Now, I am taking a break from the Wine and Politics page.  This election was too vitriolic and it really strained some relationships.  See you in the funny papers….

November 1, 2004

Holy crap Marie, November 1st, the landscape is painted with a variety of reds, and yellows and oranges as the trees prepare for the long winter ahead.  Tomorrow, this two year, bloody battle will finally be over and we can move on.  I actually turned off the political shows yesterday.  I am super saturated and at this point, I do not believe there can be an undecided voter in the world, never mind America.  No matter the outcome, we need to move forward.  The interesting thing will be if this year, the pollsters have met their death nail. Reading any newspaper, you can find a poll that supports every scenario imaginable.  Five point lead for Bush, four point lead for Kerry, Bush losing Ohio, but picking up Hawaii, Wisconsin and Colorado.  New Jersey dead even.  Artists and entertainers pushing their cache behind a candidate; and tomorrow we will finally know what it all means.

Actually, I feel it useless to talk politics at this point.  I am not going to change your mind and you are not going to change mine.  Anyway, here is something upon which I can write.  Saturday was the date we finally settled on to have dinner at Wino Jim and Winette Maggie’s place.  As I promised them, they cooked and I would do a small amount of Wino 101.  Dragging out the materials I prepared for Winette Alice’s tasting over the summer, I packed three wines, flip chart and pointer into the back of the Explorer and headed out.

Our hosts served up a platter of appetizers and we sat in the den, near the fireplace and held class.  It was a fun, interactive session with a good amount of digging into the issues.  WM & WJ were really into it and could not wait for the actual tasting to begin.  They are strong California cab fans so my interest was to expose them to other varietals to tempt their palates.  I brought along a Pinot Noir, a Zinfandel and a Shiraz/Mourvedre blend.  During each wine, we took time pedantically scrutinizing the S’s.

  • Sight

  • Swirl

  • Sniff

  • Sip

  • Savor

  • Sip/Swallow

The wines contrasted well enough to highlight structural differences. Interestingly enough, we came to one group consensus.  The Pinot Noir ended up as least favorite amongst the four of us.  Now, I will admit, it was a California Pinot, not the fine wine selection from a major Burgundy producer.  The limit we placed on the event was not to bring anything over $15.00.  As my tendency to ramble pushed dinner back by 25 minutes, we finished our last wine at the dinner table and brought the bottles along to finish with the meal.  My new pupils were so excited about the simple information I provided, they almost had me thinking about taking this on the road.  What did come out of it is the  interest in a Wino 101 diploma, not that it carries any weight in the Wine World, but rather more like a badge of courage for surviving my wine knowledge diatribe.  Wouldn’t you be proud to hang an “I survived Wino 101” certificate on the wall in your fashionable wine cellar?  Maybe not…

2002 Paraiso Springs Pinot Noir $ (15.00)   This wine comes out hot and takes some time for the fruit to poke its head out of the gopher hole.  It mellows to a cherry and cranberry aroma with some wood on the finish.

2001 Ravenswood Zinfandel Lodi $ (14.00)  A solid Zin from a reliable producer brought a mouthful of black cherry, dark fruits, a hint of spice and a silky smooth finish.  An enjoyable wine and a nice compliment to a hearty beef stew.

2003 Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz/Mourvedre $ (11.00)    If you are looking for fruit and spice with a firm backbone, moderate tannins and some length to the finish, all for eleven dollars, then red drinkers will enjoy this blend.  A little brother to the GSMs I so love from down under, this is a good value wine you can bring to friends and stands up well with red meat dishes.

October 29, 2004

OK, Ok, whom ever has the bad Karma voodoo doll can take the pins out, I surrender.  The “Tastier Body of Christ” comment must not be sitting well with the Wino Jesus dude.  With another day of less than positives floating through the wino world, I claimed sanctuary and buttressed myself in the wine area of JR’s.  I walked the floor, looking at bottles, with the KGB wine manager shadowing me like Michael Jackson at the kid’s cancer ward of St. Barnabas Hospital.  JR’s shelves are stale when it comes to new and exciting things to try.  Since they expanded their Merlot section, I have little interest in a large number of their bottles.  Shaking like an alter boy at confession, I grabbed several bottles, just to get KGB boy away.  As he lumbered to the cashier desk, I quickly looked around in solitude.  I found myself at the Aussie rack, and fondled a bottle of Greg Norman at $14.00.  Then, just as he was heading back at me, I spun to the opposite side of the rack and saw something I had not seen before.  A producer I like, with a new wine, from a region they are not known in.  Wow, ding, ding, ding, this is the winner.  I snatched the bottle and stuck it out in front of me just as KGB boy came back to put me under house arrest.

Winos and Winettes, the producer I enjoy for its solid American Zinfandel is Ravenswood, good wine, nice value.  However, today, the wine I picked from them is a new release from a property of theirs in Australia.  In addition, the import label on the bottle is No Wimpy Wines, Importers.  Now that is a great offering and this is one to find as my selection of the month.  No, "week".  No, "day"!  Find it and enjoy, this is a great value wine.

2002 Ravenswood Shiraz $ (11.00)  The wine offers its fruit first and all the wine-related baggage as a tag along.  Spice and chocolate and ripe black cherry will make you enjoy this from the uncorking to the last sip.

October 28, 2004

Just a quick note to fill in one detail that I neglected from the business dinner at Bacchus.  The original plan was to meet at 6PM for a drink, and dinner to follow at 6:45.  Showing up fashionably late, 6:20, the bar was empty so I sat and ordered a Coors Light to wet out my palate.  As I sipped my brew, Jimmy came over to me and informed me that everyone was already seated in the main dining room looking for me to show so they could order the appetizers.  I carried my beer to the table and took the open chair.  In front of my place setting was a glass of white wine.  Big Bob defined it as the 2004 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine is a winner from New Zealand and the 2004 has a lot to show.  Do not be hesitant to grab this off the shelf.  Note that this one will carry a twist cap.  Buy it and try it, you will not be disappointed.

October 26, 2004

For my ninth birthday, I remember getting my first real wristwatch.  To that point, I had the traditional goofy kid watch, but at the ripe age of nine, I opened a small box that contained my very own Timex.  During the sixties, Timex was the brand of choice for those who needed something reliable and not too costly.  At that age, I think I was more amused by the slogan, “Timex - It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  My prepubescent sense of humor made me laugh every time I heard my father repeat that line from their commercials.  As most nine year olds, several months beyond the initial excitement, you take the analog watch to your room and pop the back off to investigate the complexities of a stem, spring, and gear; a masterpiece of mechanics that helped guide your day.  For those under 22 years old, we actually had to learn in class, what time it was by the position of the hands on the clock.  The digital world is so different.  If you never had the chance to see the beauty and intricacy of the gear movements in a watch, it is worth the effort as long as you do not remove the spring or a gear.  There is interdependence and a rhythmic structure to a watch that is almost hypnotic.  So, as Wino John often says, what the hell does that have to do with wine?

Last night, I had the unique experience of popping the back off another interdependent, rhythmic, hypnotic mechanism that does relate to the wine world.  For the first time since I have been waxing poetic about wine, I got to see the business side of the industry, the mechanical gear turning that helps swing the fruit of the vine to the consumer’s hands.  Through an unfortunate mistake on Big Bob’s part, I turned up at Bacchus last night and found my way to a seat at the table with a winemaker, a wine importer and a wine distributor.  Tick, tock...  Big Bob was generous enough to invite me to taste along with the crowd, as long as I sat quietly, did not say anything stupid and only ate from the bread basket that was initially placed on the table.  Hey, for me, that was as close as I have been in a while to a real wine event so I did as ordered.  I almost got off to a rough start as Big Bob introduced me to Riccardo Tedeschi.  He introduced Riccardo as a vineyard owner near Verona.  Now, growing up in Essex County and researching NJ wines extensively, I was totally unaware of any vineyards in Verona, NJ.  I greeted Riccardo with a comment that had him perplexed at first, “Hey, you don’t look like a Hillbilly (that’s Verona High School’s mascot).  Then I was sharply informed that Riccardo was from the Veneto Region of Italy.  Interesting that Italy has been around forever and they had to name a town after our Verona…

Business wine dinners are not at all like I expected that those in the business taste, not drink, they talk and learn and take notes and actually conduct business.  Me, I was just trying to reach the middle of the table and schnor a glass of each to get my freak on.  Mr. Tedeschi, as it turned out, is a very passionate winemaker, being fifth generation you could say wine is in his genes.  By default I was seated next to a regional manager from the distributor, both of their discussions delivered information that became trapped inside the wine stream pumping out of my heart and into my brain.  As you know from my entries, my knowledge of Italian wines is mostly limited to Super Tuscans and Chianti style elixirs.  Last night I became familiar with the meaning of Ripasso, Recioto, Baby Amarone and Ritardato.  It was not until the end of the night I found out only the first three are wine terms.  The fourth was used to describe me, but I have not figured it out just yet.

The educational part of the wine tasting had us sniff, swirl and spit the following:

  • 2003 Monte Tenda Soave
  • 2003 Capitel Lucchine
  • 2001 Capitel Dei Nicalo
  • 2001 San Rocco Rosso
  • 2001 La Fabriseria Rosso
  • 2001 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Doc
  • 1999 Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Doc
  • Monte Fontana Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Doc

 

Helpful definitions:

ripasso process
[ree-PAH-soh]
A process used in producing some VALPOLICELLA wines to give them richness and BODY. After the wine is FERMENTED in the usual way, it's placed in casks containing the LEES from a prior batch of RECIOTO or RECIOTO AMARONE, a concentrated wine made from PASSITO grapes. This process, which lasts from 2 to 3 weeks, adds color, TANNINS, and complex flavors. Unfortunately, the term ripasso is not allowed on the label, so you need to know producers who make this style of wine.

recioto
[reh-CHAW-toh]
An Italian wine made in the VENETO region using the PASSITO method. In this method, grapes are dried in a cool, airy room for up to 4 months until semi-dry, which produces concentrated sugars and flavors. Occasionally, the grapes develop BOTRYTIS CINEREA, which gives them added richness. If during VINIFICATION, FERMENTATION stops either naturally or because of human intervention, the wine's left with RESIDUAL SUGAR and it's simply a recioto. If fermentation continues until the wine is completely DRY, then the term amarone, which means "strongly bitter," is added to the name. RECIOTO DELLA VALPOLICELLA and RECIOTO DELLA VALPOLICELLA AMARONE are examples of these two different types of wines. Recioto's name is derived from a local dialect term recie meaning "ears." A grape bunch often has two small clusters-called ears-branching out of the main bunch. The ears are thought to be of better quality because they stick out and catch more sun. Because of this, ears were always used in recioto wines.

Ritardato- uneducated wine writer who shows up uninvited to drink free wine,  laugh obnoxiously, and pass out on the table in a drunken stooper.

As you know this entry is solely my opinion and as the wines go, I have to call it as I see it.  The Soave was refreshing, clean with good fruit, and could wind up on my porch this summer in late August when the heat and humidity has me looking for a nice white wine to tamp the evening weather.

There are several red wines that impressed my palate and stirred my loins and as usual, they were the heartier, more expensive offerings.  The first of my picks is the La Fabriseria, the depth and richness of the wine was like a pitch down the center of the plate.  After listening to Riccardo describe this wine, I understood my excitement.  This offering carries a small percent of Cabernet Sauvignon among the traditional Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Rossignola, Negrara and Dindarella.  This familiar friend of cab set off my memory like seeing a Timex at a drugstore counter.  It had a comfort for me, as I am so traditional in my early wine education.  A winner for winos like WJ and me as we tend to lean on old reliables.

The next of my choices is the San Rocco, a ripasso that offers a sweet nose, but a dry wine, which will offer itself up to a wide selection of foods.

For those wanting to dip their toe in the Amarone pool, the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Doc is a light style Amarone for timid red drinkers looking to branch out.

The top dogs of the night were the Monte Olmi Amarone and the Monte Fontana Recioto.  The Recioto is the Mariano Rivera of the Tedeschi portfolio.  This wine is the perfect closer for a meal; smooth, silky, rich and a plate of figs, chestnuts and black sweet fruits.  Forget Oporto after a meal and try the Monte Fontana.  If you do not enjoy this wine, call me personally and I will meet you at the restaurant and drink the rest of your glass.  You can reach me at 800-555-WINO  (OK, I made up that number, I wanted to seem hip).  However, I will tell you this is a winner for a date with a cheese plate or as Wino John prefers a double chocolate fudge brownie, a match made in heaven.

At the end of the dinner, Riccardo was nice enough to invite me to visit the winery; unfortunately, my financial situation currently makes it difficult to travel to Verona, NJ, near mind Verona, Italy.  WJ, where is that venture capital guy you told me you knew so well?  I see a travel budget of tens of thousands for me to properly do research for this entry…

To really learn something important about the Tedeschi wine history and the complete offering from Riccardo’s hard work, visit www.tedeschiwines.com

Ciao Baby

October 23, 2004

It was 11:15AM yesterday and I had just left the first of four customer visits I needed to complete for the Geek World order to remain in balance.  The message alert on my Sony Ericcson P800 PDA/Cell phone went off.  I downloaded the email header as I drove east on route 80 from Hackettstown.  The email was from Big Bob and the subject said, “Bacchus”.  I clicked retrieve and the alert came up that the message was 3kb, so I hit download and the email sped through cyberspace and landed in my message center.  I opened the email, adjusted my glasses so I could glance down and read, and still glance up and drive without either looking like a Picasso.  The info was direct, “Need to go to Bacchus to discuss details with Jimmy, are you available?”  Hitting reply and graffiti scribing a simple yes on the touch screen, I tapped the send button.  Throughout the course of the next several hours, when a free moment was punched into our work schedules, we coordinated a time.  Unfortunately, I had some obligations that delayed me for a half hour, but I managed to roll up at the valet stand as the numbers on the radio in my explorer flashed over to 7:50. 

The bar was crowded, and the staff has changed to the point that my roots at Bacchus can be summed up with the words, “then there were two.”  The older gentleman that greeted me as I looked around was a newbie and the waiters rushing drink orders or bussing tables looked younger than they had been the last visit I made there.  I spotted Big Bob, ignored the maitre’d and headed to the open seat.  Giving up on my arrival, Big Bob was chowing down on the lump crabmeat appetizer and washing it down with a white from his portfolio, Dopff & Irion’s Crustaces, a reasonably priced Alsacean white wine that goes well with shellfish.  Also opened in front of him was a Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon.  Given the choice, I went for the South African Red.  As I looked around the bar, the unfamiliarity of the staff made it seem like I had never spent any time there, I never got thrown out of there, I never slept one off in the backroom there.  No, I was just another customer.  Several minutes past the first sips of wine and finally, a greeting from someone I knew.  Yes, as the original staff has dropped like autumn leaves, Jimmy has risen to the upper limb.  My Polynesian friend can rightly be called the Big Kahuna, as he is the man controlling the wine and getting the primo tables.  The second and last of those from day one is Tony. 

We pleasantly talked wine as the two-piece band of musicians played familiar tunes on an electric acoustic guitar and a percussion set consisting of congo drums.  Kind of eclectic but somewhat coffee house-esque, the music was a pleasant environment enhancer.  I grabbed a menu and found a new item, rack of kangaroo.  Jimmy came by and offered me a taste of a new wine Big Bob is out promoting and on Monday, he will have the winemaker and a small group of extremely important wine industry people for dinner at Bacchus.  I promised to save comments on the sample until after Monday night as that wouldn’t be fair for me to define their opinions before they had a chance to taste for themselves.  At this point, I will only say that the winery is from Veneto; for Italian wine lovers, you will know that this region is world famous for Amarone, a wine WJ exposed me to early in my wine drinking career.  Highlights of this style of wine are powerful alcohol content, rich sweet plum flavors and a kick ass drunk when you finish a bottle yourself.   When you think Veneto, think of gondolas passing through waterways, lovers snuggled on bridges, brick and mortar supporting ancient building as they raise from the seabed, braless dark complexioned Italian women with long legs and silky hair, and Amore.  Interestingly enough, Amore sounds closely similar to Amarone, though one means "love" while the other means "bitter".  And how relevant is that as love and bitterness sometimes go hand-in-hand, what may start out as love, may end as bitterness.  Envision the screaming match that escalates to a slap across the face, a shocked look, and ends in a passionate kiss and the hungry pawing of love-starved friends.  What the F%#@?  Wow, did I make a left turn!  I was sitting at the bar with Big Bob all night, believe me, he’s a nice guy, but doesn’t work for me in that scene.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that as our Governor’s happiest days are a head of him since his announcement.

Getting back to the focal point of the entry, the rack of kangaroo was interesting, as something different.  It carried a gaminess to it, but the Nederburg cabernet sauvignon stood with it.  I am interested to see what the outcome of Monday night is and what wines Big Bob will be presenting.  Jimmy will be my source for input.  I truly hope a new set of wines will be on the list at Bacchus the next time I stop in. 

October 21, 2004

My luck as a schnorer, or the rider of coattails, sometimes delivers a special reward.  This time it was through the hard work of Wino John and his WOTM selection that served up a great dining experience last evening.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, we had the distinct pleasure of enjoying dinner with Véronique Drouhin.  Well, actually, the lovely and elegant Véronique is hard at work in the wine cellar of DDO in Oregon creating liquid gold from the fruit of the vine some 3200 miles west.  I was at a restaurant with the chuckleheads, WJ and Big Bob.  Véronique’s presence was in my glass, and may I say, what a lovely glass it was.  Since my responsibility for this evening’s entry is solely focused on our tasting the latest offering from Big Bob’s portfolio, I will come right out and tell you we complimented a portion of our dining experience with:

2002 Véro Chardonnay
2002 Véro Pinot Noir

These wines are still in the roll out phase so I consider this a sneak preview of things to come.  We met at the Columbia Inn in Montville.  The best I could piece together is that in a past life, Big Bob most have spent many a drunken night at the bar and his late night refusal to leave has made him something of an honorary family member there.  This was the second time I enjoyed a meal at the Columbia Inn and the ownership, for some reason, are very polite to the big man.  I’m guessing his bar tab lead to the extension they put on the dinning room several years ago, but that’s just conjecture on my part. 

I’m not one to be pedantic enough to pair my meal with the wine, but as I sniffed the part of Véronique that swirled in my glass, and looked over the appetizers, one pairing jumped out at me.  The Chardonnay greeted me with a pleasant nose of fruit and limestone and drank fresh and clean with a nice presentation of fruit and acidity.  No splinters here as this wine married well with the scallop appetizer I ordered.  Quaffing politely while I awaited my scallops, visions of late summer nights on the porch came running up my spine.  Véro Chardonnay will play well on a hot, humid August evening in NJ, serving it well chilled.  Or on a lazy Sunday, I could enjoy this one as I slurp through a dozen raw oysters or a plate of steamers.  Think shellfish for this wine or a simple sole almandine and you will appreciate the effort Véronique put into the bottle.  In fact, I think I tasted her fingers on the finish….

My main course was the rack of lamb in a red wine reduction.  I went gamy to see how the Pinot would fare.  The nose comes up hot and I swirled and swished to flash off the initial alcohol that greeted me from the pour.  The first impression was an earthy aroma, which gave way to cherry, red berry and raspberry flavors.  The finish was short but the wine had enough behind it to stay even with Sherry Lewis’ sidekick.  This wine could be overrun by a peppery steak or an over zealous sauce but for a quaffer it brings an approachable style for Pinot Noir fans. 

The bottles we drank were from the initial samples Big Bob received and I found it interesting that the labels these wines carry in France is far different from the one featured on our front page.  The labels which did not get approved for US distribution feature a young (possibly 6 or 7 year old) Véronique with her brother on the Pinot label and with her grandfather on the Chard label.  This speaks to the respect for the Drouhin family heritage in the wine industry in Burgundy and the relaxed attitude Europe carries on enjoying a glass of wine as a rite of every human being.  Our puritanical roots have the image of a child or children on a wine bottle banned, yet the culture of wine in the French society sees the beauty, simplicity and honor this picture brings to this wine.  I could spend the rest of the time discussing the difference in views between Europe and America on wine consumption, but that would detract from the focus of our dinner.  The wine conversation Big Bob shared was educational and the food was a treat, however, I would have far more enjoyed sitting across the table from the lovely and talented winemaker, Véronique instead of glancing over at Wino John and Big Bob.  Even three bottles of wine could not trick my mind into seeing anything other than those two  Wow, what a sight…  (Editor's note:  Out of the three of us, you had the best view...)

Major props to BB for the treat and the enjoyable evening.  Let us know when Véro will be in the NJ wine shops so we can put a few bottles in the racks for the summer fun on the porch.

October 20, 2004

I nearly sprouted a sapling when I was searching the net today.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, the power of an entertainingly funny wine web site is causing Hollywood to sit up and take notice.  The numbers of hits drove the small screen to bring wine to TV.  Unfortunately, Scripps chose a bubbly, attractive successful wine guru Andrea Immer over Wino John and me, but let’s face it, that show is totally based on our style and approach to the fun, unsnobby side of the grape.  Boom, Andrea is a star and I sit at home, pounding pithy comments on my Microsoft word program and strike out when the industry shuns my words of, well, ah, ….wisdom?

Now the small screen has the big screen looking to an off beat comedy featuring two wine loving quirky guys on a road trip to California’s wine country.  I have not been invited to see the movie, nor have I been consulted on the plot, but from what I have read and seen from the trailer, it looks funny.  Paul Giamatti seems to have taken his role from the success of American Splendor and added wine fascination to his comic book personality.  Paul has played some great roles recently and this looks like it could become a cult classic.  I say cult classic as it is under limited release as most Indie Films are.

Director:  Alexander Payne , Phedon Papamichael
Producer:  Michael London , George Parra
Production Credits:  Alexander Payne , Rex Pickett , George Parra , Claudia Lewis
Screenwriter:  Jim Taylor

So to Mr. Payne and Mr. Taylor, we would love a screening to help promote your movie.  If you are one of the lucky ones where this movie opens on October 22, please send me an email and let me know how you liked it.

Sideways

A wine tasting road trip to salute Jack's final days as a bachelor careens woefully sideways as he and Miles hit the gas en route to mid-life crises. The comically mismatched pair, who share little more than their history and a heady blend of failed potential and fading youth, soon find themselves drowning in wine and women. Emerging from a haze of pinot noir, wistful yearnings and trepidation about the future, the two inevitably collide with reality.

http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/sideways/

October 17, 2004

Having been significantly dry for sometime, I needed to deluge myself with a severe dose of vine juice.  Who better to over-consume with, then the ever reliable and over-indulger, Wino Rocker.  It was strictly bottle count over body count in a night of music, discussions and mass consumption.  John at Costas knows when the Rocker is coming over as my shopping list lengthens and my case quantity discount is stretched to the limit.  It seems like the last few times Wino Rocker has come over, we hit a drunken point in the evening when a guitar comes out and the live version of karaoke night unfolds.  Can music save your mortal soul?  I wouldn’t say the music died last night, just that the melodies of the songs were murdered.  Funny, I seem to have the same discussion with WR as I do with my older brother with whom he was in the band. For me, the music carries the feel but the words make it interesting.  To this day, I don’t think Wino Rocker knows the words to any of the songs he plays.  Since my musical talent was left in the bottle when God walked by me on the production line, its not the driving force behind my passion for good songs.  I am amazed when I observe musicians, that they can create so diverse a song out of the same six strings.  For me, it’s mostly the search for the brown note…

Surviving three bottles for the two of us is a bit calmer than I expected.  I did enjoy the Chilean Cabernet from the Colchagua Valley.  After the guitar gently weeps, it was time to watch the Yankees hand the Red Sox a spanking the size of the Bambino’s bloated liver.  The brooms could come out tonight and further the legend of the curse. 

For now I’m off to repair some board rot on the porch, in preparation for what seems already like a nasty winter on its way.  I just hope the banging of the hammer keeps rhythm with the pounding in my head.  Since I can’t keep a beat, I’m sure the syncopation necessary for me to get through this chore will elude me early and I will be left with an echoed thumping reverberating inside my skull.  

2002 Mount Gras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva $ (9.99)    A nice cab that pours out a rich deep purple and drinks full.  There is plenty of black cherry and plum to last through the glass and the finish is a short but silky one.

October 11, 2004

I am slowly becoming a fan of Unionville Vineyards.  As I mentioned, I volunteered last weekend to help at the Grand Harvest Festival.  As part of the thank you packet we were given a t-shirt, tasting glass and 2 bottles of wine.  By the time I got to the tent that had the mixed case of wine to pick from, there was a whole lot of Cranberry wine and the rest were whites.  NJ is famous for its fruit wines as the terrior limits the grape varietals that can successfully produce quality wine.  Exhibit one was the Rhone sampling I did last week.  The three wineries that touted syrah have a way to go before they will meet the quality and flavors the grape is able to provide.  With little to excite me, I grabbed a bottle of Chardonnay from Amwell, as I have a great respect for Dr. Fisher.  Amwell was very instrumental in getting the Wine Farm Act passed in NJ which took the handcuffs off our wine industry.  Prior to this legislation, NJ was limited to one winery per one million in state population.  As NJ boasts 7 million, we were only allowed to maintain seven wineries, until 1981. Dr. Fisher, like most visionaries, opened a winery first and asked questions later, only to find out he was not able to sell his product.  Serpentining through the often corrupt NJ political minefield, Dr. Fisher worked with Congresswoman Barbara Connelly to allow farmers the opportunity for converting their apple and peach orchards into a more lucrative crop, grapes for wine. 

My second choice was merely trading off the earlier tasting at the Unionville Vineyard.  As I was impressed with the Hunter’s Red Reserve, I grabbed a bottle of the Hunter’s White Reserve.  As far as white wines go, I only enjoy a few.  As a warm up or Saturday summer porch wine, this Vidal Blanc based wine is a nice treat from a local source.  There is a great deal of wine history in NJ, believe it or not, and as the light of the industry is shone brighter and brighter on NJ wines, their quality will be forced to improve or the industry will perish.  Unfortunately, most wineries have a philosophy to produce sweeter, easier drinking wines to capture the novice, but the longevity in the marketplace will be the quality rise through national exposure.   Interestingly enough, I was watching 50 Wines from 50 States, or something like that, last night.  It was an hour special by Andrea Immer.  Her selection for NJ was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Tomasello Winery of Hammonton, NJ.  Tomasello has a unique history as it was the first winery to open in NJ after prohibition and impressed me with their Ice Wine.  The other reason I have a penchant for Tomasello is that my relatives once owned farmland there, but as my story goes, it was sold for next to nothing during a period when farming was difficult and blueberries were not a lucrative crop.  Just think; had my relatives had the foresight to hold the farm, I would have inherited the ability to uproot the blueberries and plant the cabernet. 

NJ wines are moving in the right direction and we await the next few years to see the exciting advancements in the best crop yet of the Garden State.  Governor McGreevy signed legislation on July 14, 2004 prohibiting direct shipping to consumers from NJ wineries.  This has to change to get our wines visible to other parts of the country.  One would hope the pressure from a powerful web site behind an issue like this could be the catalyst for change.  I smell WinoStuff lobbyists haunting the halls of Trenton fighting for the rights of NJ wine lovers to send and receive wines from other states.  Join me; send your contributions to Wino Pac- the voice of the common wino.  See you in the funny papers………   

October 10, 2004

If you haven’t noticed, I have stayed away from political comments as we are now within the thirty-day window until elections and I do not understand the depths of the campaign finance reform bill.  I would not want John McCain paying me a visit.  That dude spent 7 years in a prisoner of war camp and he could probably pull my spleen out through my throat.  He also seems to be the darling of both parties and if ever he became the top of a party ticket, he might actually merge the two and leave us with the Republicrats as the only thing left on the ballot.  If all the pundits claim the primary is to secure your fringe base, but the true campaign is as a centrist, then why have two parties?  Face it, old Ross was the closest a third party candidate ever came to shaking things up, save Jesse in Minnie-soda for his independent one term election.  This year has been so bitter, I have started several evenings with the simple statement, “I’m not talking politics tonight, I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change my mind in an hour, drunk, discussion.”  We have very close friends who have been working hard for Kerry since he first announced and we actually were together several weekends ago.  Though they tried to draw me into it with outrageous one-line comments here and there, I wouldn’t engage.  It seems like people are so emotionally tied to this election that fistfights could actually break out at the polling places. 

Sorry, wine and politics only appear on our wine and politics page, though that UN report about the bribes some officials from certain countries were taking from Saddam while we were at war is a topic that needs to be explored, just not here.  That will be on our French wine and Saddam page that Wino John will be adding next week.

Hey, enough with this bull crap, for those who have a Costco membership, check out the wine I bought there yesterday and consumed last night.  Here’s one for the pizza and spaghetti dinners that you aren’t sure what to drink.  On the Cline Cellars’ web site the suggested retail price is much higher.  Buy it at Costco for almost half price and keep this around for the crazy nights when you just need to drink a bottle of wine to dull the pain of life and you don’t want to waste something good on a drunken stooper.  Yes, winos, this is "one to forget about your lousy day" wine, your "I don’t make enough money to deal with this bullshit" drunk, your "what do you mean that’s not a cold sore" revelation.  Actually, this one is a fun, great value wine for red drinkers who want something that’s a little brash and crunchy. 

2002 Cline Red Truck Red $ (6.95)     I actually bumped this wine a quarter point for the fact it is so inexpensive.  This blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Sirah is not for casual red drinkers as the Mourvedre dominates the early drinking.  Wow, crunch, crunch, crunch, but give it some time and it settles into a nice dark cherry, and blueberry flavor with a short finish of chocolate. 

October 7, 2004

I think I have unearthed the equivalent to antimatter when it comes to wine restaurants.  As WJ had very important plans and Big Bob was dining with his latest acquisition to his portfolio, I had time on my hands and a hankering for a wine buzz.  Not interested in the 9 dollar a glass Bacchus routine, I stopped into what I am hoping will be my back up, go-to place.  The beauty here is convenience and presentation.  Yes, Colors, which I have had dinner at once, promotes their upstairs bar/lounge area as a place to chill out and have a drink.  After sending the last fax, clearing the email and mailing off the latest brochures for my geek obligations, I locked the office and headed west on Bloomfield Ave.  Less than 2.5 miles from my point of origin, I was turning left into the valet line at the destination.  Valet parking for a casual drink is a bit over the top, but they must be pressed for parking and the other businesses in the area must have a restriction on using their lots.  So I handed over the keys to my 1996 clunker, and valet boy squeezed me in between the jet black 745BMW and the White Mercedes SUV.  I grabbed my stub, not that anyone would mistakenly take my ride, and headed up the stairs to the bar area to check out the potentially new home away from home. 

Topping the stairs, I looked around thinking they were closed.  I inched my way in and found a bartender bent behind the bar cleaning the lower shelf of the beer cooler. “Excuse me, Miss, hello”.  As the bartender stood, I inquired if they were open, which they were.  So I ordered a glass of red and was asked if I wanted Cabernet or Merlot.  I selected the cab and she poured out a glass from a gallon jug.  Then I asked if I could drink it there and was told yes.  But the odd thing was that I was at a bar with no bar stools in a section of the restaurant that couldn’t serve food.  What the f*%& ?  I can have a drink at the bar as long as I stand.  It was explained to me that they have set the bar up to not be a gathering place and to keep the number of customers from enjoying themselves with food and drink by not being able to serve food on the second floor of the facility.  It seems that the locals fought to keep this place from opening for over two years. The neighborhood was concerned that drunken noisy patrons would roll out on Bloomfield Ave at 2AM and disrupt the tranquility of their early morning sleep.

To add to the environment, the two plasma 50 inch Panasonic TV’s had the Fox news channel on and the young woman serving the bar was an overtly opinionated Republican.  So, I can go and stand for two hours after a hard day at work, to drink a jug wine at $6.00 per glass and not be able to absorb my alcohol intake with food as I watch Bill O’Reilly on the Factor and listen to the bartender tell everyone why Kerry is the wrong man at the wrong time.   Well, winos, I think I found a new home….

October 3, 2004

By the time we got to Finesville, we were about 3,000 strong and spent a weekend on Sharko’s Farm filled with free music, free wine and free love.  Sorry, the entire ride home this evening, I kept thinking, dude, you just left Wine-Stock.  Yes, I was only nine when the love-in, be-in, drop-in greatest music festival of the world took place on Yassgers’ Farm, so I had to convince myself that this was close to it.  Actually, for those who did not volunteer, there was an 18-dollar per person charge to cover the music and tasting.  The food was plentiful and there was no brown acid.  God himself could not have picked a finer day, as the cloudless blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon.  A comfortable 74 degrees made this day a success.  My role as a volunteer had me picking up purchased cases of wine at the wineries’ tents and dropping them to a stand by the parking lot so guest would not have to lug the bottled grape nectar all around the festival.

This task made three hours move like three minutes as another volunteer and I made loop after loop, picking up and dropping off for the frenzied crowd.


The tents of 13 NJ wineries just prior to the gates allowing thousands of wine loving, music appreciating participants to gather on the property of Alba Vineyards.


Same shot two hours later as the masses party and listen to the sounds of Voodudes.

About three o’clock, we took a break, grabbed our tasting glass and made the circuit.  I tasted with one thing in mind, what new and exciting wine in the world of reds did these NJ wineries have to offer?  I tasted and spit some, drank some and found a few that I really enjoyed.  Mind you, I only tasted the wines made from grapes and passed on the fruit wines NJ has come to be known for.  There was no blueberry, cranberry, cherry, pomegranate, etc on my tasting list.  I liked several, but the two that stand out in my mind are the Unionville Winery’s Hunters Red Reserve and the Amalthea Cellars’ Europa II.  Both had style and depth and a power that made me take notice.   Excitedly, I darted to three tents, which featured signs promoting their newest release, syrah.   Yes, a Rhone grape in NJ, I could be on the cutting edge of the next wine fad soon to grace the pages of Spectator.  But no, winos, there is long and far to go before NJ produces a syrah worth the 12-18 dollar asking price.  They were weak in fruit and absent in spice and seemed more like an in-law to the syrah.

My find of the day was a dessert wine from Tomasello, the second oldest winery in NJ.  Nestled along the banks of the Mullica River, this winery was featuring a Vidal Blanc Ice Wine that was worthy to rest at the end of Thanksgiving Day dinner.  A reasonably priced 12 dollars makes this my find of the day.  Tomasello can be found in a large number of wine stores throughout the state.  No this is not powerful enough a wine to bring your Governor out of the closet, but it might get your ass tickled with a feather.

I had such a great time, that I told the staff at GSWGA, if they would have me back next year, I would gladly help out.

October 2, 2004

Things that suck about being sick:

  • Unable to clear your head during flight

  • Pressure in sinus cavities during take off and landing

  • Can’t taste anything

  • Things run out of your nose without your knowledge

  • Mucous becomes the appetizer for every meal

  • After coughing and spitting, something resembling your lung lands on the ground

  • Missing out on unique wine opportunities.

OK, there are tons more, but the one that hurt the most was my declining Big Bob’s offer to be the first in North America to taste Vero, the latest wonder wine from the lovely and talented Veronique Drouhin.  Yes, graciously, Big Bob called me this week to join him in sampling the fed ex air shipment that contained the newest developments from Drouhin, and I had to decline as my head was still full of lung juice.  I await his comments and look forward to finding this on the shelves of my local wine store.

Last night was the first time in a week and a half that I felt up to doing anything.  Casa de Filipo is close and wasn’t crowded so we called our friends Wino Jim and Winette Maggie and we headed off to a simple supper.  They brought a white, which I just used to lubricate my palate, and I brought a red for dinner.  The conversation revolved so much around their desire to learn more about wine, that at the end of the night, I drunkenly agreed to have dinner at their house in 2 weeks and conduct a small wine tasting.  It will only be the four of us, but they want to learn some basics.  Winette Maggie told me she will call this weekend and let me know what she will be cooking, and then they want to experiment with different style reds.  I find myself hating myself for becoming pedantic about wine.  Not actually pedantic, but consuming time at dinners answering questions and describing wine styles and flavors.  What ever happened to the simple "lets get drunk" reason we started this whole thing?

Anyway, tomorrow is the Grand Harvest festival at Alba Winery that I have graciously volunteered my time and talent.  I hope to see some of you there.  Last night I did drink some of the red just to make sure I could taste something.  It turned out to be a nice one to compliment a meal and I look forward to tasting it again when I am at 100 per cent.  See you in the funny papers…

2001 Alterra Cabernet Sauvignon $ (14.99)     Be careful and let this one have some time in your glass, it starts out hot and totally hides the fruit in this alcohol heavy first sip.  It settles down nicely and drinks smooth and fruity for a nice casual compliment to a meal.  Bring a bottle to a friend’s house to enjoy with cheese.

 
 

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