Drink This; Luzon, Petit Verdot

Don’t ask me to tell you about myself.

Do you know why I say that?  Because you know exactly what you want from me.  You KNOW what your are going to get before I answer the question.  And, I don’t even know how to answer that question.  Do you want the run down of my resume, do you want to know my career ambitions, do you want to know if I’m dating anyone?  Should I share just a little or go insane with my life notes?  I’m betting that honesty and credibility are gone from our conversations, personal or professional. Instead we just peck around each other and come up with really rude judgements.

On top of all this, I probably know what you want to hear.  I can size up the situation pretty quickly.  You want to know if I’m going to compliment your style, make you money, be engaged – but only to a limit, build your atheistic business, tell you you are pretty, pick up and satisfy your dropped promises, and smile the entire time.  I do all of that better than anyone you have ever met.

Wine choices are similar.  (a stretch, but do you like how I am connecting everything?)  We make wine choices for many reasons – we know the wine will deliver because we’ve had it before, the grape choice is our favorite, or the label is really attractive.  We want to impress our friends with our wine knowledge or lack of, maybe we want to get drunk, or just maybe we want to spice up an evening.  All valid thoughts, and all things we already know.

So why would I bring a wine to a pizza party where no-one has ever heard of the grape?  How am I winning here?  You know it’s not because I am trying to show off – my friends could care less about what I know about wine, and barley listen to my wine rhetoric.  The reason; I’m turned on by Spanish wine lately.

Just am.  I worked in Spanish wine years ago for a hot minute, and the romance never left me.  There is something about the fruit components, the spice, the line in the sand it draws, the feeling that lingers with me after I drink it…  This is what I wanted to share.  And that’s it isn’t it.  I just want to have my close friends get the goosebumps I do about a wine. (and life) Here is the low down on what we drank:

  • Name of the wine: Luzon, Petite Verdot
  • Where it is from: Jumila, Spain.  It is a continental climate with hills, valleys, a mountain range – but it is also hot as hell and a very harsh place to make a grape for wine.  What you get – very full bodied wines full of abundant fruit flavors, baking spices and coffee.
  • Grape: Petite Verdot; This area grows A LOT of the grape Monastrell – another WGGW fav and will be reviewed shortly.  Petite Verdot is a grape we find in the Bordeaux region of France where it is important in the final blend.  What I like about this grape, when hailed from Spain, is that it is courageous and daring, bold right from the first sip and dark as tar.  It’s like a chocolate covered deep black cherry, dipped in cuban coffee, and rolled around my tongue.  If that doesn’t make you want to drink this wine…
  • What to do next; Just buy it -it’s under $12.  I purchased this bottle at Fairway Market in Woodland Park.  Beyond the notion that I’m obsessed with Spanish wine lately, I knew we were having food from the grill.  I was going to a pizza party where you add your own toppings, throw it on the grill, and enjoy your pizza venture as well as everyone else’s.  First of all, genius party shtick.  Now think of that char you get from smoky grilling, dripping cheese, something spicy like chorizo toppings…it’s giving me heartburn, but pairing perfectly.

And yes, I drank this wine while eating a bag of cheese doodles.


Drink This: Provenance Vineyards

Quite often, at a wine tasting, a consumer will ask me what my favorite wine on the table is.  I never have a good answer for this mainly because I see wine differently than you do.  The bottle has been researched, studied, atheistically torn apart, put back together with a pretty marketing bow, and sold – in my head.  When I choose to DRINK something, it is all about the moment, the company, my mood.  When I am pouring at a three hour event, I’m not in the mood.

So…how to be polite with this question.  I answer honestly; I’ll tell you what is in my fridge.  What is waiting for me when I get home is the answer.  Are you like me; at the end of the day is when you truly become yourself? There is Work Susan, Gym Susan, Sister Susan, Aunt Susan, Let’s Go On A Date Susan, and then the real Susan.  Real Susan and I need to check in when the day is done; wash your face, put on the comfy clothes, “slay the demons” (that bit totally borrowed from my coach – thanks big guy, well put),  and pour yourself a little relaxation.

My go to lately is Provenance Sauvignon Blanc.  Not because it’s summer; I would drink this in the dead of winter.  Mainly because this wine is not that grassy, acidic, enamel wrenching Sauvignon Blanc my friends seem to love.  I need a little roundness.  I need some smooth lovely soul reaching real talk.  However, don’t get to deep with me.  It’s the end of the day in this picture I am painting, and we don’t need to fix the world’s problems.  (by the way, we all know wine doesn’t do that, right?).  For a winery known for reds, it’s amazing to me a white like this can stand out like it does.  There is some barrel fermentation (slight) on this wine; that is what is changing the game for me.  And don’t sit in judgement with your stainless steel animal of a wine that you swear by.  Remember; complexity, layers of flavors, journey of a wine.  That is what holds the mystery.

I took this  wine and the Cabernet Sauvignon to Sla Thai – my favorite Thai restaurant.  With this winery located in the heart of Napa Valley California (Rutherford to be exact), I thought the two expressions of this vineyard would make sense with the rustic quality of Thai food. The Rutherford Appellation is a pretty warm place; grapes can reach their full maturity while producing deep and and richly flavored wines.  That is what stood up to the complex flavors of our meal.  There is a LONG ripening period in this specific area of California = wines with great acidity, balance, interest and all out love.

Where can I find these wines; Just about anywhere.  They MAY not be stacked on the floor of a wine shop; take a trip to the shelf. You can do this, I promise.  Don’t be scared.  It’s time to stop that “grab and go” – take a tour.

What should I have in my purse; The Sauvignon Blanc will run you about $17-$20 and the Cab around $40 – $45.

The Sleeper; The Merlot from Provenance Vineyards is stellar.  Deep red fruit, dusted cocoa, followed by warm oak at the end.  Delish.

Drink This: Stop the Beringer Hate

Mood, history and feelings.  Most of what leads us into our situations.  Wine is no different.

What kicks off in your brain when I say Beringer Vineyards?  I’ll tell you- white zinfandel.  You see yourself perched in front of that huge glass door (cold box) in a wine shop wondering what jug you will choose.  It’s pink, full of gushy fruit, and will do the job.

And nothing wrong with it.  I defend blushy goodnes in this blog: if you are interested in reading: White Zinfandel – so, we don’t need to get into that.

Beringer makes a damn good White Zinfandel – probably the best in the market.  There are a few more facts you should know about the winery.  I covered a few here: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Dinner.  However, for some of the top hits:

  • Two brothers began this winery in 1876.  We can consider them some of the godfathers of California winemaking and wine growing.  Jacob Beringer’s great great (maybe another great) grandson is now leading the charge; Mark Beringer.  One of the COOLEST guys in Cali; laid back, very handsome, witty, a ton of charm.
  • Beringer Private Reserve level of wines (chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon) are the crown jewels of the Beringer line up.  Both varietals have won “Wine of the Year” in the past (the only winery EVER to achieve this status), and continue to be a benchmark of true California “wine of place” choices.
  • There is so much more to explore here.  Not only are wines produced in Napa (and who would snub their nose at that), but fruit is also sourced from Paso Robles, Sonoma…more to come.  Consistency, history, an apex of where we all began in California winemaking.

When I want to grab and go with something good, Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay is on my mind.  In fact, a bottle is usually chilled and ready to go.  It is rich, classy, and complex all at the same time.  There is citrus, honeysuckle, baked apple – but not to a point where you can’t enjoy more than one glass.  Does that happen to you?  Sometimes the chardonnay is just “too much” and overbearing.  I’ve never experienced that with this wine.  In fact, this is a “all nighter” to me; I can enjoy this wine by itself, and throughout the meal.  The wine pairs well with EVERYTHING and everyone enjoys it.  That is always important to me.  If we are friends, you know I can pull out some funky wines.  However, I want you to enjoy yourself, and not wear that wrinkly face after a sip, and ask for some tequila instead.  This is a staple, and will continue to be with me.

Where do I get this stuff? – The nice answer to this question is ANYWHERE!  Shoppers Vineyard in Clifton, Wine Library in Springfield, Central Avenue Wines in Jersey City (I LOVE the owner Neil.  He rules)…I could go on.  This wine is a classic to wine buyers, and as I have outlined, a pure expression of California chardonnay.

What should you have in your purse? – Around $30.  You can buy a cheaper chardonnay, and I don’t blame you if you do.  We are moving into a heavier palette meal time – October brings lovely soups and roasts, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I’m hungry.  You need something that measures up, and can deliver these hearty flavors to your table.  Take the plunge.

And now for something that has NOTHING to do with this blog – check out my girls back squatting.  This summer, nothing has made me more happy than working through my back squat.  If I didn’t have my posse behind me, well, is it worth it?  So impressed with what we all have accomplished!:


Drink This! We may get a little pricey…

Now that I have your attention, let’s just dive in head first.

You don’t always need to spend a stupid amount of money getting good wine.  I just watched a good friend get ripped off from a “sale” on a 2011 California Merlot from a C class vineyard.  This friend had every good intention when buying desireable wine, and trusted the retailer when he said “Great Deal!”.  How was she to know that 2011 in California was a sketchy vintage, and that the said vineyard, well, makes boring stuff.  Shame on you Mr. Retailer!

And please don’t spend your pennies on wine.  There are other interesting things in life to splurge on.  What you can do is either hang with me (I work in luxury wine – it’s like a “win win”), or tag onto a fancy dinner that your best friend throws.  This evening, the BFF happened to open back vintage Barolo…

The snobby Italian reader just got excited.  Yes, I said Barolo.  Review for all others that don’t have your Italian wine hats on:

Where are we? – Northern area of Italy – an amazing area called Piedmont.  Rolling hills, wild boar running through the vineyards, old world charm, gamey meats, homemade pasta, just keep thinking about this…

What grape are we talking about? – This lover of a grape is Nebbiolo.  As this wine ages, it comes alive with higher levels of tannic structure, dark chocolate, crushed red fruit, smokey yumminess; this is a grape that I can SMELL all night.  I get high from the nose…

Why so good? – There are too many reasons.  This wine has an approaching power; like a gorgeous man across the room, your eyes have met, making his way closer and closer, your heart is pounding, everything is in slow motion…whoa, sorry about that.  Full bodied (back to the wine), complexity that continues to reveal itself as you get to the bottom of the glass, exotic, transforming.

My favorite of the night was the Vietti Castiglione.  I have always liked this wine.  This wine, to me, is a perfect example of traditional Barolo, even though the winery hasn’t been alive as long as other wineries in the area.  Every wine from Vietti (he makes amazing Barbera and wow – the Arneis) is beaming.  The wine comes alive before you – expressive, full of muddled wild cherries and cocoa.  Loved it.

Go here: Gary’s Wine and Marketplace will have a few selections from Vietti.  An aged Barolo may be near impossible to find, but you can try.  Gary does have the 2012 vintage of the exact wine I enjoyed.  Get it, and don’t drink it…if you dare.

  • Gary’s Wayne Location – 1308 NJ 23, Wayne, NJ – other locations in Madison, Bernardsville and Hillsborough

Have this in your purse: $41.99 – not to bad for something that will shoot you over the edge.

Where else can you go: I love Vine Republick in Mountainside NJ; they have this wine for $42.98.  Or, if you don’t feel like leaving your office, buy online from Wine Chateau (http://www.winechateau.com ). BTW – I am hosting a dinner with Wine Chateau in September at their sister restaurant Le Malt.  Oh, you gotta come…

  • Vine Republick – 1267 US 22, Mountainside


By the way, BFF made LAMB!  You can’t get a more perfect pairing! (with a vegetable terrine, potato galette, and sautéed string beans.)


Drink This! Locations Series from Orin Swift Cellars, “Corse”, Vermentino

The best ideas come at breakfast.

The best ideas also come from teachers of very little people.  Maybe it is because they need to twist ideas into a simple form, making sense to a young mind, or maybe it is that my mind grabs on to what they are saying; not sure.

Over pancakes, Jackie, friend and partner in crossfit crimes, as well as a Kindergarten teacher, was plain and simple in her request for a new blog…”Pajak – this wine stuff is tooooo complicated.  Tell me what to drink, what it tastes like, and where to get it.”  Again, why didn’t I think of that.

And so, “Drink This” is born.  I plan to tell you just that – I’ll do all the wine work for you and let you know who is cool in the wine world to buy it from.

This is also an opportunity for me to find some pretty cool stuff.  My friend, Nick at Shoprite Wines and Spirits in Caldwell, told me about this project Dave Phinney (winemaker) is doing at Orin Swift Cellars called “Locations”.  This is a project focusing on varietals reminiscent of the areas they are sourced from, with a little “Dave Phinney” spin on them.  Sounded interesting to me, so I picked up “Corse” Vermentino.

Is your Sauvignon Blanc getting a little tired this summer?  Insert this beautiful grape with it’s flavors of green apple, bittersweet almonds, and something herbal in the middle.  Sort of like a basil leaf drizzled in honey; just luscious (one of my favorite words).  I would usually pick up a Vermentio from Sardinia, and got a little snobby when I was given one from Corsica, France.  This is a tiny little island owned by the French, and now on the Susan vacation hit parade.  I have been won over by this expression of pretty and full fruit, light acidity (ok, there could have been a better kick of acidity, but I’ll deal), and lingering tingles of a finish.  Don’t just drink this in the summer – I can see enjoying this wine with the harvest flavors that will soon be upon us.  There is a certain spice and richness that I found a comfort and a seduction.

Bravo to the inception of a new blog sound bite, and to a new line of wines I’ll be knocking down bottle by bottle.

Go here: Shoprite Wines and Spirits, 478 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ

Have this in your purse: $17.99

Ask for: Nick or Sammi.  If you are in to Italian wines, or speak Italian, Nick will most likely invite you to Sunday super.  Two great guys that just get excited about this stuff, and taste more wine than you and I can dream of.  They are educated, smart, and will know exactly how to guide you around this expansive shop.  Don’t be scared – walk in and say I sent you!

Check out Nick giving me more details on Corse Vermentino…