I’m Liking What Everyone Else is Liking – Some Silver Oak Love

One of the biggest questions that I get asked, as a wine professional, is my opinion on the wines that have secured their feet in the sand as “wine fan” favorites. I am here to admit that I do not regularly drink Sassicaia, Tignanello, Penfolds Grange (that may be a lie), Caymus – you get it  – the icons that are thought of to be the definition of what is good, great, and expensive. Why don’t I indulge in a wine that is deemed worthy by your creepy neighbor that happens to take on “wine guy” status in your tribe? He is the guy that created the Saturday night “Let’s drink a lot of expensive wine” dinner parties you are slightly scared to attend for the chance you may look stupid.  I’m cheap – that’s the honest reason I don’t hang with that guy. I am also inquisitive and desire that experience of not knowing. What can my level of involvement be if you are already telling me it has to be good? And, by the way, thanks for not giving me an option…

That last statement was a little bitchy, but I get offended when the status of a wine is more important than the end product. Let me fall in love on my own time.

And just like a child’s thrill of Santa, I do get a rush when asked to go to a fancy wine dinner. What is fancy to me? Yeah, the wine counts – main component here. However, there are few times I can stop,  be part of the scene, ENJOY a five course meal, and become a participant in something special. A wine and chef can create all the magic possible – but it’s the vibe, the electricity of the landscape, and the arena the crowd constructs with their opinions, their laughter, and the ohs and ahs that come from filling your belly and palate with abundant flavors.

Thanks Fascino Restaurant http://www.fascinorestaurant.com and Silver Oak https://www.silveroak.com for hosting a night full of food and wine greatness, that really happens every so often. It takes skill, of course, to produce a successful wine and food pairing. However, it also takes thoughtfulness, precision, imagination, cleverness; being obvious is easy, but being creative is memorable. 

Every course – yes, every course – was memorable. Is it horrible to say that one of my favorites was the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna paired with Twomey Cellars Pinot Noir? (Twomey being from the Silver Oak family tree) Obviously California in nature, yet balanced with a pretty earthiness and rounded fruit paired well with the eggplant caponata under the fish.

When the “star” (and I’m being obvious, because all the wines were great) of the evening arrived – the Alexander and Napa Cabs – the crowd began to buzz. Was this what they were waiting for? Was this the only reason they put up with Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot as mistresses before the master? If so, shame on you. But, with a swish of the bottle from the ever so elusive server, we got to compare the two Cabs. Wine and food pairing champion – the Alexander Valley. More acidity was present, the concentration of fruit played with a lingering finish, and a spice was present; important trigger to the short rib braising jus surrounding my sexy polenta. The Napa Cab was typical (not a jab, more of a “definition”) Napa Cab with a life span. You could wear this wine like a fur coat; warming, alluring, silky and pressing on the palate. Thank GOODNESS for the chocolate fudge cake and bravo for that decision. Even though it kept me up all night, it was worth it.

Am I a “sell out” for indulging in the crowd favorite – absolutely not. Bravo to Silver Oak for continuing status in the wine world. How much good juice, and new juice, is out there? Here is an example of a recipe for success, a passion to make something – year after year – that works. I applaud you Silver Oak, and will continue this lovely journey with you. And Ryan DePersio of Fascino – please be my best friend. Your culinary vision is now on my stalking list.

And what the hell, throw in Stags’ Leap Winery Cab as a ringer at the end of the night. It was cold, I was contemplating on becoming an Uber driver, all during the buzz of “save the world” conversations – just needed to continue…

Deep Reflections and Crappy Montepulciano

What to do if, when walking into a dinner party, a deep conversation is taking place and there is little or no interest in your opinion.

Harsh, honest, but what do I mean by that?  I think we all choose who we want the best advice from; consciously or unconsciously.  There is always that better voice, amongst a group of friends, that raises the best pros and cons.  Said person has more life experience, or a deeper awareness about the way the world ticks.  In truth, maybe they don’t know squat about what path is the right one to take, but they sound the best in a conversation.  I always want to be this person; the mentor, the non judgmental figure head – however, it never seems to work out that way.  My thoughts and advice come out like my nephew’s building block sets; a jumble of shapes and ideas that never stack very high, and usually come crashing into a heap.  Instead, I’m the girl that opens the wine.

Better explanation is that I find a job to do.  A distraction.  I may give my acute observations here and there, but I never actually get heard.  Instead, investing in the “what physically to do at this moment” helps balance out my desire to grab someone and shake them into a new perception.  Usually, wine is involved.  This is where I can become your expert, and you listen to my opinion.  I become Queen for a minute, “Queen of Wine in New Jersey” (don’t be jealous), and tsk tsk at my subject’s inabilities to grasp a simple tasting note.  Silly barbarian folk.

That night I was again lost, mainly because I couldn’t create a tasting note.  The wine we were drinking was that boring!  The idea was a good one: Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo with spaghetti and meatballs.  What a great grape from Italy; Montepulciano.  I’ve always loved the herbal quality you can find in this wine while also getting consistent fruit flavors such as prune, red plum, and at times licorice.  This style of wine, coming from the best area (Abruzzo) in Italy, can come in two styles; soft and approachable, or balls to the wall rich and powerful.  Guess which one I prefer…

Key here is to know your producers.  Some will blend Sangiovese into the final product (15% of what is allowed), which would give you that more aggressive and spicy end game.  This is what I would have preferred, but didn’t receive.  Familiarity of European producers, specifically French and Italian, will help you make decisions on who you bring to the party.  Taking a risk is ok, but like that evening, a risk may be a dirty diaper.  Puro Desio was not the producer for me, or seems like anyone else; I can’t find them anywhere on the world wide web!  There may have been a label change, and they now go by “Platinum”, but I can’t really figure that out.  Who can say.  I can only show you the label I drank, and didn’t care for. Great thing is, this wine didn’t cost my friend more than $12.

Knowing who makes the wine is like knowing who you want to listen to when asking for advice; what outstanding, thought provoking conversation has you alter your own attitude.  There are tons of producers and tons of coaches that can build you up or squash your dreams.  Your gut is all you have in the end.  Slow down, open your eyes, breathe, and trust – and also be patient.  That is all you can do.  But please pass on this wine, and maybe, just maybe,  listen to the unassuming girl sitting next to you…

Holding Back Not Just The Good Bottles

The feature picture was caught by accident.  It can not describe, in better detail,  the people I hold close to my heart, and our relationship as it unfolds year after year.

Michael – always pointing out that something can be better, that my hair is a mess, that I should date, and would like to re-arrange the furniture in my house. I wait for his call every morning to see if I lifted my head off the pillow.

Johnny – dual and triple personalities, best human on this planet, even when bitchy is my best person, will fix just about anything in my house, would rescue me from a burning building. (and grab my handbags while at it)

Matt – rips open my soul and makes me speak the truth, causes me to cry at a drop of a hat, can make me smile with a side eye. Thinks he is the consolation prize when the truth may be, at times, it is all about him.

And they drink all my wine.

I introduce you to these men because, well, I don’t have many friends. Truth. I also don’t have many friends that I want to share great wine with. Now, hold your comments. I’ll open a bottle for just about anyone. This blog is really about what I drank on my birthday, and what I’ve been holding for just the right time, meal, and company.

Stand outs:

Sterling Prosecco – Please don’t call me a sell out with the Prosecco pour, and one from California on top of it.  I brought it for a toast, but wound up drinking half the bottle.  PERFECT with cheese, was slamming with the foie gras (another must on my bday) or alone as I found myself sipping and waiting for my girls to arrive. Yes, I have women friends, and yes, they are always late. We will break them down in another blog.

St Clement, Star Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon – This one wasn’t fair because it isn’t available for purchase in Jersey. I visited this winery tasting “experience” (an outdoor patio, relaxing, serene) about 2 years ago and picked up this bottle. I can remember sitting amongst the olive trees, looking out over Napa Valley, and enjoying this single vineyard cab.  Lighter in body than some wine drinkers may care for, but true style, sculpted tannic structure, pretty raspberry jam fruit.  Great starter cab when you don’t want something to put you to sleep before the meal.

Stags’ leap Winery, Ne Cede Malis – Who took Latin in school?  “Yield Not To Misfortune” – defined for all of you lost (like I was for about the first six months into selling this wine). I drink a bottle of this every year on my birthday. Sure, because of the message, but mostly because I love a Petite Sirah field blend. Who doesn’t. I’m just amazed at the way this wine changes on my palate sip after sip. So many dips and turns in this wine, so many expressions of the vineyard; my happy place on earth. Best place to watch the sun go down…

Where did we dine? Laurel and Sage in Montclair was a place I was dying to try. Over delivered. Great staff, true fine dining experience right here in Jersey. A little expensive (I’m cheap), but GO THERE for a special occasion.

Will you be invited to the next dinner party?  I hope so. There are so many great bottles to share, as well as so much more to share about myself. Both are tough hurdles to jump. I think that is the reason for this blog; to document the great situations I DO create, the great people I found on this earth, and celebrate them – one by one.

Want to hear about the ladies in these photos?  Stay tuned…

Shaniqua Says I Can’t Sell Rose

How do you handle the itching behind the eyeballs I call pressure?

Pressure leads me to my new associate- enter anxiety.  This is a new partner in my life.  I’m handling anxiety better by giving it a persona.  This was an example/lesson/practice I read in the amazing book The Untethered Soul (thanks G) – imagine the voice in your head sitting on the couch next to you.  Let this voice speak to you.  That voice, I’ve found, is complete and utter anxiety – in her best form.  I’ve named her Shaniqua.

Here is a quickie of a conversation with Shaniqua; Shaniqua told me the other day that there is no way I can succeed with the new outline of my job position come July.  Shaniqua thinks it is even stupid to begin this task.  So, I’m done before I start?  You and I know she is completely wrong, but how funny is the shut down of your soul in moments like this.  I’m not a defeated individual, but good ole’ Shaniqua brings it out in me.  She is worse than a one night stand.  She told me I was intelligent, but not smart enough to get this done.  Then she laughed when I said that I had help.  She reminded me that very few people have helped me in the past, so what makes this time different?  I told her I have an outline and a plan; Shaniqua thinks it is rubbish.  Then she reminded me I can’t even sell rose – what makes me think I can do this…

Well, she is right on that one.  Damn rose category – flooded.  And I have GOOD rose!  Not weird/you’ve never heard of the country/I can’t pronounce the wine that we all seem to be swimming in, and that every buyer loves to purchase and watch collect dust.  No, this is good stuff.  South of France stuff.  Not push you out of bed change your life stuff – but then again – rose is just that, rose.

Here you go – buy this – Maison De Grand Esprit L Etre Magique.  This is a Cotes De Provence Rose – yes, from France.  Imagine yourself lying on your chaise lounge, sun warming your face, watching the rippling waves of the crystal clear water at your feet, sipping a little Magique – there you go.  Reasonably priced too – that is the best part!!!!  I’ve found that a great rose has a core of fruit, bright yet balanced acidity, and this little minerality tinge on the end of your tasting experience.  These wines are friendly, pair wonderful with all different food situations, and can just make you smile.  Everything you are looking for in a rose you got right here – and I can’t sell a damn bottle.

Part of the reason why is that no one is selling it but me – ok Shaniqua, I’ll make that change.  I’ll do more (how, I don’t know.  I bleed this stuff) The other part is there is so much damn rose out there you could choke on the stuff.  So, dear blog and readers, I bring you yet another suggestion.  Pray tell, there are some souls who actually sell this wine:

  • Little Brothers: 67 Church Street, Flemington, NJ
  • Shoprite Liquors: 41 Old Highway 22, Clinton, NJ
  • Vine Republik: 1267 US Highway 22, Mountainside, NJ
  • Adelphi Wine Company: 51 B Arthur St, East Brunswick, NJ

I know this will grow – screw Shaniqua and her damn weave.


Rebounds and Getting Played – Real Wine Talk

I cannot disconnect myself with what is happening in my mind and what is happening personally in my life from this blog. This morning I woke up, checked out social media, witnessed a special someone creeping around town like an animal, felt like a brick hit me in the face (or the dead heart that was being slightly revived), and knew I had to write this.

Just like stupid romantic relationships that you find yourself in, wine can be a rebound and a “getting played” moment.  What do these two have in common; they make you feel special for a moment, lost, empty, and really really stupid.  I’m not any of the later, and I’m here to tell you that you are not as well.  Let’s distinguish how we got ourselves here, and what we can do to prevent this:

Getting Played:


My friend Jackie buys a wine because the label is pretty.  This makes her feel special, intelligent, full of hope, confident that she is doing the right thing.  Sound familiar?  The marketing may tell you that you NEED this wine in your life, that this wine will bring you places you never have been before, your life will change if you just involve yourself a little bit…ok, that may not be the wine talking, but you understand where I am coming from.  I insert a picture of 19 Crimes here; a wine I sell, I love, I love selling.  This wine has everything I just spoke about, and does taste good.  You get a bang for your buck, a funky label that your friends will love to talk about, and a good time.  What does that sound like?  Beware, but be a risk taker.  Enjoy the positives that getting played may give your body and  palate.  It’s all just fun, isn’t it?

The Rebound:

IMG_1935I don’t consider a rebound always a bad thing.  It has the best intentions.  If I am feeling lonely, can’t make a decision, want a consistent warm hug, Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah does it for me. (the innuendos in this blog are killing me by the way).  However, rebound wines will take you over the hump, but may not take you all the way.  It’s easy to get stuck with the one thing you know will make you feel good when you don’t want to take that next step into the unknown.  Petite Sirah may be the unknown for you as a varietal – here is the seduction.  The best rebounds are in the lure of what will be, aren’t they?  This one happens to deliver, and deliver.  That’s why it may be my date for New Years Eve…

Where does that leave us?

33908720_UnknownGreat question.  Maybe it’s not drinking wine at all.  Maybe it’s about making healthier choices for my body and my mind.  I chose this picture above because it is filled with food and wine choices that make me feel positive and good.   I just realized the wine is a little blurred out; is that a sign?  It’s great to take some risks.  When that risk fails though, should I stay in bed with a pint of ice cream, or go lift weights.  You know the right thing to do, but the “right” thing just seems so hard…

The opening photo is a picture of a wine barrel being “toasted” and treated for wine aging.  I remember taking this photo and being overwhelmed; it was a burning hot, a type of anxiety, a thrilling and tactile experience.  This photo is where I want my heart, mind, and soul to stay.  If I continue to get played, or be the “rebound girl”, so be it – it still makes me feel like the fire.  If I make poor choices in love and wine, so be it.  I rarely notice social media posts about mistakes we may make.  They happen to me at every turn.  Thank goodness they do – I’m learning, maybe closing myself off a bit, but still curious.