Travel Diary; Life In The Castle – My Visit to Castello Di Gabbiano

Absorb Italy and keep it coming
You are allowed to enjoy this.

Learn to cook, learn to listen, learn to accept.
Everything I eat makes my body shake.
My choices are between lying in a pool overlooking a vineyard
Or napping on the daybed under a pergola.

The winemaker makes me smile. You have studied, now it is time to experience.
I’m finding balance.

Practice patience.

Who are these people that I know and recognize,
They have instantly become confidants
and partners in my experience.
I may fall in love – with what or who is the question.

Conversations inspire my soul.
I’m found in the middle of the woods under a truffle tree.
Do all butchers in Italy listen to Led Zepplin?
I’m in control of everything and nothing, and very obvious about it all.
Coffee cures all ailments, and there is a lot of it.

Become authentic and stay that way.
Life cannot continue without an Aperol spritzer.
Time has stopped.
Pizza with rocket should be served at every meal.
Say some things, leave some things out, make everyone happy.
Potatoes with skins should be consumed at all times.

My mind has observed, my mind has released.
What I think I needed, and what I planned on needing was obsolete and then forgotten.
My mind has been emptied, my mind is ready.





GDL And Other Holiday Goodies

I have a friend that will not stray from his magnum of Cavit Pinot Grigio.  He is intelligent and hard working, has a great job at Apple, is a loving father and husband – all traits that should be applauded.  Why, then oh why, the Cavit…

Nothing against the wine – I’m not here to down play brands.  I’m not hear to make someone feel bad about their wine choices either.  I think it is funny though that consumers believe you can only drink well if you have the dollars.  My friend can obviously afford an upgrade, but refuses.  He has found what his pallet enjoys, and for goodness sakes, probably keeps Cavit alive in New Jersey all by himself!

Will I break the bank on a wine for my friend?  Hmmmm?  Honestly, I don’t pull out the good stuff for my family and friends.  I live alone, so don’t often open an expensive bottle for myself.  Maybe because I’ve felt a shift in my wine drinking about a year ago; it’s become a study, a conversation, more of an opinion, and a mystery.  When you stop drinking, you notice those that continue drinking.  You see the swollen bellies, the blurry eyes, the motor functions with the slight delay…again, not judging.  Just not for me anymore.

That’s not to say wine is out of my life….oh no no no.  I’ll skip the Cavit though, and wait for the Georges De Latour from Beaulieu Vineyards.  Pricey, pricey pricey; only when celebrating the fact I sell such a wonderful wine, and at a company dinner, would I enjoy such a treasure.  Ok, maybe a hot date, but those are few and far between.

What is this fancy thing? Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, about 6% Petit Verdot added in for inkiness, aromas, sexy notes on the end. (do I like Petit Verdot?)  This is the benchmark of Rutherford California Cab; there is not a better picture.

Why so special?  The grapes for this wine are sourced from some of the original vineyards first planted in the 1900s from Beaulieu Vineyards.  For California, that is huge.  Cali doesn’t have the history that many European wines have, or a stand in the soil for that long. This wine was a brain child of some of the best pioneers of California winemaking for a reason.  When drinking this wine, you will taste the history and subtelies good winemaking is all about.  You may hear “Rutherford Dust” along your wine drinking way; here is the perfect example.  Complexity, silkiness, with a rumble in the back of your throat full of coated black raspberries and earthiness love.

What to have in your purse?  About $100 bucks.  Chant “Holiday Wine” and you will feel better.  Ask for the “GDL” if you want to look cool; an insider nickname for this wine.  I didn’t know what my co-workers were referring to, when discussing GDL, for about 3 months….

Got it, now what do I do with it?  If you can afford to, put it away.  This wine will taste remarkably better in five years.  My ex husband would say that is ridiculous, and tell you to drink the sucker.  I had a rib eye with this wine and was over the moon.  When drinking this wine, I tried to notice not only the steak and wine pairing, but the nuances of the pepper and seasonings, the way the chef grilled the steak, the fatty part of the meat versus by the bone…geek moment, but worth it!

Where did you have this wine Susan?  At Capital Grill in Paramus of course!  Go there NOW!


I’ll Have A Side of Chocolate With My Wine

Do I always need shtick?

You know – a gimmick, a comic routine, a hook to pull you in…

I want to say no, but I do.  I want to say you talk to me about wine because you want to learn; we know that always isn’t true.  I don’t want to insult, but I do want to speak to the masses that believe they are sommeliers.  You are out there, and you are brave.  I love the bravery.  You drink great wines, and insist that you are a step away from making it yourself.  The science and technology of wine is in your pocket, and you are pulling out those luscious tid bits for all to see….

…And for me to agree with.  I want to agree with you that you are really allergic to sulfites (doubtful but possible), that Malbec is only grown in South America (um, no), that “cab sav” is a varietal (stop saying that please), that Robert Mondavi created wine (wish that was true), or that your palette is made of gold and should be glorified.

Again, you are brave.  That is the first step in all of this, and you are there.  Next step; become the child.  When I try on a dress and ask my five year old nephew if I look fat, he says yes.  Why?  Because he is honest, and tells it like he sees it.  Can you strip off the costume you think you should wear and taste wine naked?  Can you FEEL the wine, experience the wine, find the story in the wine…

How do I take consumers to a different place?  How do I have you taste without tasting the mystery you have created before the tasting begins?

“Take a sip, experience the wine, create an opinion of the wine, give it a character, a voice – then nibble on a piece of chocolate – taste the wine again.  What happened to that voice?  How did your palette change?  What colors are you seeing now?”

Those were my instructions to a group of tasters this weekend.  I admit – this was a test, and I thought it would fail.  Both wine and chocolate are subtle in flavor and texture, display a certain character, entice, seduce.  I could not have the chocolate sweeter than the wine, so I had to be careful.  A milk chocolate with Woodwork Pinot Noir was the winner.  Another winner was a Chili Chocolate with BV Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wow – the chocolate enhanced the flavors of this wine showing me a slight spice I never experienced!  The looser?  Bitter chocolate.  What I learned was that wines with rounder tannins paired best with the sweetness of the chocolate.  Bitter just became more bitter. The Blass Shiraz was fine on it’s own; I don’t think it needed to be paired with anything!

If you are in the Caldwell area, check out Caldwell Flowerland.  What a beautiful spot!  Not only are the botanicals on point, but you can rent out the space for your next event!  And what a space!  Perfect for an intimate function, or more.  Check out the pictures below:




What Happened On Taco Night?

I made a declaration a few weeks ago (I do this often) that I am committing to eating at home more, and that my friends should as well.  We are all domestic, intelligent, and closer than close within our relationships; there is no reason we should be spending all this money in restaurants when we own or rent beautiful homes, and like to entertain.

Forgot that I sell wine to said restaurants….

Lets forget that point for a minute.  We also have good, ok, GREAT wine to drink, study and share with the ones we love.  I believe in tasting and re-tasting the wines I sell.  I want to put them in a memory and palette rolodex to choose from when selling.  I want to make decisions from my gut – don’t think, just respond in an honest tactile form.  Maybe think a little Susan…

Sunday night was taco night; as it should be.  What to drink – enter Sterling Vineyards.  I’m finding out that this may be the wine my friends choose when they want to “drink something good”.  There is already a familiarity; that is the hardest thing to get across to a wine consumer.  The fact that you can understand this, and enjoy this at the same time gets me halfway there on the sale.

Ok, break down:

Where is the vineyard? – Napa Valley baby; the first winery to bottle a varietally labelled Merlot from the Valley.  We are talking Mountain Vineyards – Diamond Mountain – love this because you will be tasting structure and intensity.  YES!

Why so many wines from Sterling?  Know what you are buying – there is an “entry level” category  called “Vintners’ Collection”.  There are also wines specific to the Napa Appellation (these are my hot pics for the holiday), and the Reserve wine named “Platinum”.  These wines will taste different, and will hit you with a different price tag.

Should I visit?  Hell yes.  I have not been, but I know it is spectacular; you ride a gondola, yes, a gondola, up the mountain.  What?  The visitor center is sick…

Is it worth it?  This winery is one of the best known, most trusted brands in all of Napa Valley.  If you have not tried yet, get to it.  If you had this wine in the past, welcome back my friend.

What should I have in my purse and where do I get it?  Start with the Vintners Collection; you are looking at around $10-$11.  Not bad, right?  The Napa Appellation is between $15-$20.  You can buy this most anywhere; specifically the Vintners.

We were celebrating a little package change coming in January.  You are the first to see!  We were also celebrating Michael’s amazing cooking!  Bravo!



Thai Food For Days

I’ve now eaten at SLA Restaurant in Montclair twice, and I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE.

In fact, I have found myself craving Sai Ouer (the most delish Thai sausage with a spice we cannot put our thumb on) and the best Pad Thai I have EVER tasted.  Best part, beyond the Gluten Free menu choices, is that I can BRING MY OWN WINE.

And that we did.  Classic Thai food and wine pairing –  Riesling.  The Dr Loosen Riesling we picked up at Magnolia’s Wine Shop (next door by the way) was not to my liking.  What makes this pairing really great is the clash of the bountiful fruit of the wine with the spice of Thai chilies, and then racy exuberating acidity.  The acidity on Dr Loosen was flat and boring.  Grab a different German Riesling, or  a New York Finger Lake wine.  Those are pretty, but will give you the slatey minerality rieslings are really known for.

Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay was perfect for me; not so much for my wine friendly companion.  This chardonnay delivers a charming core of fruit while giving me a tingle of acid right on the sides of my cheeks.  Yes please to cool me off from the heat I was feeling; insert really bad sweating photo:

img_2876I grabbed a red for the evening as well – Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend.  You need a big boy to stand up to the flavors of the dishes on that table.  I can’t get enough of this vintage of Bin 389; the blending of major viticultural areas of Australia, 18 months in oak (whoa – nice), and linked to one of the most Iconic wines of this Century – Penfolds Grange.  Flavors of dark red fruits, chocolate, cinnamony spices, and some kind of bacon thing going on.  Cmon now…

Johnny came out the winner when he suggested beer.  Yes, beer – ahhhhh men; got get it Johnny.  He was told not to pick up an IPA, but didn’t listen and THANK GOD he didn’t!  Bengali IPA from New York has a supple yet substantial  body with caramel notes that matched our meal perfectly.  There is much more fruit present, at least to me, in an IPA.  I liked the hoppy character of this beer, and damn what a nice food match.  Just read that this beer is being marketed to hipsters; oh Johnny…

Go here: SLA Thai Restaurant – 38 Upper Montclair Plaza (behind Talbots), Montclair, NJ

What to have in your purse; This is not an expensive meal.  If you eat with us, we order everything, so, well, it is expensive.  Check the menu out on line:  And remember, you are not paying for booze – this is a win.

In a pinch: Stop in at Magnolia’s Wine Shop right next door to the restaurant –  We purchased the Riesling and the beer there.  They were open pretty late, and the guy working the floor was very helpful.