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…

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Identity Consequences; Wine and You, Friend – Reviewing Bodegas La Casa Luculo

Identity, hmmmmm… are you living your painful truth?

Is it agonizing to live with your surface thoughts?  How many times have you filtered yourself, sent the over anxious text, flirted on the edge of just being inappropriate? (guilty)  I don’t agree with the fact that you cannot take responsibility, as an adult, for adulting. We’ve come this far for a reason, and now it is time to recognize that you may have become your mother on more than one occasion. And yes, I think the painful part is the crazy amount of stimuli that surrounds us all. How can you make a decision when Instagram is available to show you how inadequate you are? Professionally, emotionally, sexually – all three weigh a selfie down.  

Your identity is what I see, what I remember, what I crave and sometimes what saves me. When you leave me, I want to know that your watery eyes meant that we went somewhere, wherever that was, and that it can be found again between us. I want to know that our moment among moments has a life beyond – or was it the wine?  We all see through the people that peek outside the curtain a bit. They don’t answer your questions fully, are moody and vulnerable to be noticed, act a little “extra” when in a conversation – and why? Don’t you crave the release of integrity?  Can we lie just a bit to get by? 

Strange bridge, but in the age of extraneous marketing plans, I’m finding it hard to hang on to the key of the Spanish wine region of Navarra. It can be because of the fact that there are complexities of soils, many microclimates, and various impressions of surrounding areas. But damn – just send me the message of who you are! I’ve tasted your whites, your reds, your blends, your lighter reds, your self respecting imagery – that’s a lot of stuff. But I”m still trying – which means you still have me on the hook.  

  • Jumping on the Navarra train again with: Bodegas La Casa, Luculo
  • Grape Varietal: Old Vine Garnacha. Well, Garnacha, but I wanted to beguile you a bit with the Old Vine part. In my research, I’ve found that the sourced vines can be anywhere from 50 to 70 years old. Is that there to entice you; it should be. Truthfully, I would hope they are that old. We are sourcing in Northern Navarra – on the border of France, at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, tiny villages, and tiny outputs to produce gobs of wine. So yes, get excited about the old vine mystery; it may pay off.
  • Eh – the wine itself: And here is where I project something I’m not going to get. I don’t like to research to much before I taste. I don’t want any masks to discourage my opinions. If I had done the research, I would have expected that this wine WAS a lighter in style, and higher in acidity. What I did like was the fresh acidity – it met the opulent fruit as a partner to the finish. A toasty French oak (think Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream) wrapped up this wine and completed a good Navarra journey. Not great, just good.
  • What to do with this lovely: Dinner at La Brace in Little Falls NJ – https://www.labracenj.com – first time, not last time. Great Italian spot in my little home town, Don’t judge me for my neighborhood joint; the place was great. Tiny – if there are 30 seats I would be surprised. We indulged in pasta, seafood – nothing too heavy. I forgot to mention that the fruit on this wine was very “pretty” – a romp of strawberry jam, a bit of cinnamon spice, and silky in texture. In the end, a northern Navarra Garnacha was the perfect pairing for this place; nothing inhibited the delicacy of the comprised indeganeous Ligurian dishes.

What else was there: I hate to do this to you, but we had a winery only wine at dinner as well. (how boushy) Selfish of me to even bring it up, but it was a lovely Pinot Noir from Sterling, located in California. You know – if you read this blog – I’m not a lover of Pinot Noir. However, at times, Garnacha from this area in Navarra is known as the “Pinot Noir of Spain” – if that can even be said. The Sterling did not have the earthiness that the Garnacha did, but similar fruit, similar assent of satisfying mood enhancing powers. Good companion, and a good assimilation if Garnacha is new to you.

You may not agree with my idea that identity, or your true self, is a painful journey. You may be happy living with what you want me to understand – well then, go for it. I’m not judging. But, like the region of Navarra, the reason I’m reaching is because I see all the possibilities.  Navarra will still ghost the hell out of my wine region compilation journey – wow, I really found a similarity here that scares me.  I’ll leave it here – just know that all the things we all see are just that – and that when you are ready to trust, trust will be available. Navarra will still be confusing, but you will have a better step towards clarity than the Garnacha. You are both lovely to me.

Eat This: Dinner at South and Pine With A Little Pinot Noir

Categorizing an area for restaurant reviews on my website, and calling that category “Eat This”, should just happen. Mood noted.

I don’t go to Morristown for two reasons; (1) I have a destructive ex, in the industry, that trolls the land, and (2) I never think of Morristown as a qualitative “foodie” place.  Great bars, young pretentious hipsters, younger girls vomiting in the corners of bars around 2 AM…

Not judging, but I totally am.  Last night, I found South and Pine in Morristown – changed my mind on what I thought was going on in this busting at the seams town.  Where there is a bar/restaurant/meeting place on every corner, I dare you to search for an eclectic and direct outline of someone else’s vision of true culinary art-forms.  Cookie cutter “lets get drunk”, “how weird can I make the wine list”, and “I’m so trendy” cocktail locations have dominated and sickened the overly ambitious crowds.  Time to take a breathe, realize we are mature human beings and not animals ready to choke on cheap booze, and relish in a true, clean expression of “farm to table’ and in the moment design of a restaurant.

And yes, it’s a BYOB.  Glory BE!  When I go out to eat I want the server to run the show, make me feel like the queen I am, and tell me I am a genius wine goddess for owning such beautiful specimens I have brought to the table.

But I screwed up.  The wine I brought sucked.  Just sucked.  Thank goodness my dining partner thought deeper into the menu and what wines made sense; he saved the day. (whew, that could have been a tragedy!)

What do I mean by this?  As noted, the menu is consistently changing to match foods that are seasonly appropriate.  Right now, you will find pumpkin soup, pork belly, lamb sirloin, and just wait… Braised Bison.  You heard it, and I cannot lie, this made me loose my mind.  One of the BEST grapes for the Fall, and for this menu, is Pinot Noir – hands down.  This grape shows an abundant cranberry fruit, fall sweet spice, and a structure to hold up to a cornucopia of autumn flavors.  Our Pinot Noir choice, and this may be a surprise to you: Celine et Vincent Dureuil, Rully 1er Cru ,”Vauvry”.  Yes, your wine girl is drinking Pinot Noir AND a Frenchy; two things I’m not a fan of.  Let’s break this down and tell you why it worked:

  • Fruit for this wine is sourced from a Premier Cru Vineyard (pretty freaking good) located at the top of a hill.  Lots of sunshine giving this wine a plumpness and bountiful fruit expression without being over the top in candied flavors.
  • Aged 18 months in French Oak, picked from 40 year old vines, and one of the best producers in this region. The oak gives this wine oomph to the structure, and the older vines add a complexity to the fruit composition.  Basically, making everything I hate about Pinot Noir sing a different song.
  • Rully is a village in the larger area of Burgundy, France called Cote Chalonnaise.  Not a lot is written about this area of Burgundy, mostly because they are not known for wines of an elegant nature. I am not elegant in nature, so we have something in common.  Instead, you will get a rustic wine approach with earthy tones, black pepper and spice; and maybe not the best focus.  However, these wines are affordable, have a sound framework, and pair generously with the season.

Recap; go pick some apples, drink a few Octoberfest beers, and finish your day at South and Pine with a bowl of steaming Mussels.  Let the staff smile and wipe your chin, watch through the open kitchen all the hustling and bustling, and bring a bottle of Pinot Noir with you.  Ignore the 20 somethings passing by the window, but do flirt with your dining companion. (and maybe the cutie floor manager!)

Side note; surprise starter was a split bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial Champagne.  Just the right amount and just the right bubble to clean your palate for the fatty flavors of Fall.  Check out this review/sales pitch from my friends  @ Drizzly if you need some more info!

Dinner With People You Don’t Know (Or Care To Know)

If you and I are friends, you are probably one of about five people.

This is true of most of us; keep your squad close and all others, well, at a nice arm’s length distance. I don’t want to sound bitter, mean girly, or elitist. I want to come to you, as always, with the truth. I don’t like a lot of people.

I love people, and I am in a very loving kind of career that is people centric. That may be why I am black hearted with promises of BFF-isms and “let’s bare our souls” conversations. I’ll smile through it, laugh at the right moments, but I gotta say, I’ll forget about our conversation in about 5 minutes.

This is when I’m “on” by the way; when I am at a wine dinner entertaining. Because that is about 90 percent of a wine dinner; entertainment. If you think people are coming there to learn from me, then save your money. And, can I tell you, I am so good at making you feel like we have a burning lifelong bond. It’s just so under-fulfilling, and I think it is cracking my heart a bit.

Dinner with a great retailer (now this guy is cool) and his collector customer’s got to me this week. I tasted these customers on eight wines, all good, some great, some better than great. I was the perfect host; I told jokes, stories from my own life that may have seemed personal. (nothing I say in a wine dinner is even close to personal – illusions, all of it), I conveyed loving ideas of California on a cool April afternoon at the winery; sipping chardonnay, watching the grapes grow…I’m making myself vomit. My audience’s response?  “Go open another bottle; we need to drink more”.

This is not the Wednesday night of my dreams, but is a reality. If you find 1 person in about 10 that your are connecting with at a wine dinner (or life for that matter), you are lucky. I did find that one woman, and she bought 12 cases. I earned my keep that evening, but lost a little part of my psyche.

However, you came here to learn something, didn’t you.  Ok, lessons from this dinner:

  • My friend Al is a true gentleman and professional, and has a few stores (coming soon; Kearny location):

Clifton Commons Spirits and Wine: 132 Kingsland Rd, Clifton.  If Al isn’t there, ask for Babu.

Little Falls Liqours: 315 Main St, Little Falls – I buy my beer here.  Great selection of whiskey and bourbon in the back of the store. Don’t let the size of the store fool you.

  • You need a starter: An audience needs wine in their hand as soon as they walk in the door. If not, they will feel like this is a waste of their time. I like to serve something light, pretty, not to serious, low alcohol, and a conversation starter. I went with Matua Rose – a rose of pinot noir. Good fruit, pretty color, fun, palate cleansing, and a good prop to hold during simple friendly exchanges. We have enough serious crap in our lives: the beginning of a wine dinner should be a little get-away from that nonsense.
  • Pinot Noir will always be the winner for food and wine pairing; Everyone likes this wine.  You cannot go wrong.  It will pair with most all foods. Stick to California selections to be safe, and venture to the French stuff for a little sass.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is always a winner; But watch out. You may feel like you need to spend a lot of money. The Cab that everyone went back to this evening was the cheaper one. Why? It was easy to drink, but had all the qualities of a great Cab; abundant fruit, great tannic structure, finesse, style.  My selection for the evening was The Stag – and you can find this at Al’s store.
  • You always need a sleeper – I will consistently pack a wine that I think is good, but that no one would touch on their own. Now, this is risky. If played well, you come out looking like a rock star. I had my audience try Chateau St Jean Chardonnay; again, not to expensive, but not something that “experienced wine people” (I write this with a side smile) may reach for.  If you find a wine with balance, this move will turn out well. Ask Al for something off the beaten track. Don’t spend more than $20. Be honest with YOUR audience and let them know this may be a flop. You may surprise yourself.
  • Where was dinner? I highly recommend – Salute in Montclair.  Affordable, gluten free pizzas, brick oven pizzas, beautiful fish, homemade pasta, everything fresh…a winner.

 

Obsessing Over Wine and Crossfit – Part 2

All day long I pontificate  and stress to wine buyers what their consumers will be wanting, thinking, and craving.  I’ll link in my features and benefits with what my main focus and priority product is, I’ll give my pitch, and close like the master I am.

Does anyone like this stuff in the first place?

That fact buzzes in my head.  When did we leave out the human connection to a brand, a grape, a pretty label?  In all the marketing decks I study (ok, skim), there is Nielsen data, statistics on market profitability, and so on and so on.  What I want to know is who is drinking  it and what do they think?

I’m not attracted to over-blown wine snobs; they turn me off.  I want authentic, solid, and positive people going in the same direction I am.  I also want minds that look at both sides of the coin, outside the box, and well, can tend to be eccentric.  Anyone that finds pleasure lifting a ton of weight for two hours in a hot gym after a full day of work is hired as a reviewer for Wine Girl Gone Wild.

Acacia Pinot Noir was in my wine bag that day, and I knew it would be a hit with this crowd.  Why?  Everyone loves this grape.  The wine seems to hit all the high points of flavor wine drinkers are looking for.  This Pinot Noir is from California; bolder fruit, medium body where others may tend to be lighter.  The texture is rich and inviting.  In past blogs, I discussed feeling a wine during the tasting process; where does it go on my palate, what is tugging at my senses, and how does the wine linger after I swallow it?  All elements that come alive with Acacia Pinot Noir, and reasons that attracted my reviewers.  California Pinots also give me a spice at the end; a harvesty warmness that makes me feel at home.

Go Here:  Buy Rite Wine and Liquor; 650 Shunpike Road, Chatham, NJ.  Ask for PJ.  He just purchased enough Acacia Pinot Noir to last him throughout the season. (unless you buy it all…)

Have This In Your Purse: Around $20.00.  You may find a sale, and you most likely will come October.  DO NOT BUY A BY ACACIA – this is a different wine.  The wine we tasted in this blog is the Acacia CARNEROS Pinot Noir.  Just show them the blog.

To see what really happened in the gym, check the video below.

A big shout out to Brazen Athletics for allowing me to take advantage of your members and coaches after a grueling barbell club evening.

Brazen Athletics – Brazen Athletics

Fairfield Location – 1275 Bloomfield Ave (Pio Costa Complex) Fairfield, NJ

Hoboken Location – 1317 Willow Ave, Hoboken, NJ

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The Rise and Fall of a Wine Dinner

Maybe my expectations are to high.

I have been privileged to sit and experience the marriage of wine and food at the highest level.  Yes, moments like this have left me speechless.  Seems funny to say that.  This doesn’t need to happen in the fanciest of restaurants, or at a winery.  This can happen in my kitchen with a baked mac and cheese and some Barbaresco.  I want the pairing to sweep me off my feet, and whisper secrets in my ear.  Every time I sit, stand, or linger to drink and eat, I want the wine fairies to lift me to this high once again.

What happens when the food sucks?

Truly sucks.  When you are the speaker, and have lost control with what comes out of the kitchen, this challenge may smack you in the face.  Thank goodness you have a wine safety net.  Good wine can act as smoke and mirrors.  I never want wine to mask the flavors of the  food, but it may win the race.  Last night I leaned on the stories of Beringer Winery’s legacy; the longest continuously run winery in Napa Valley, half of the soil contents found in the world are found in Napa Valley, micro climates, accolades (Beringer is the only winery to win the coveted #1 Wine of the Year from Wine Spectator with both a red and a white wine), and just good juice.  When we got to the third course, and the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, I convinced the audience we were sitting in a vineyard, and that this goopy soup didn’t really exist. (soup in July?)

And then the audience died. (not actually – creative writing…)

When I turn off the wine drama channel in my brain, the people left standing are those that take me for the slightly introverted person I am.  And then I can’t shut up.  Why, oh why, would you do anything fun with anyone else that you don’t want to talk to – or even look at.  Comfortable silence is beautiful, but lazy silence is stupid.  Lay in bed and watch Netflix if that is your game.  Now I am forced to tell all the wine jokes, and act like a clown to raise a spirit.  That actually turns my belly.  I understand that a wine dinner is entertainment, but I don’t want to have to stir your soul for you.  Come with a desire to explore – even for a moment. I will make the wine stuff painless.  It’s just wine; I’m sure your life involves much more complicated tasks.

And if all of this still makes an evening a horrid mess, stop drinking all together.  Please know responsible consumption is the best consumption.

Now for this fabulous Pinot Noir (Beringer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir):

Ah Pinot Noir.  So hard for me.  My dinner guest last night loves the stuff.  He can be a harsh critic.  It took him a few sips, but the wine won him over.  Why a few sips?  This is California in every breath of the word.  Red cherry and bruised strawberry flavors.  Spicy oak on the finish, structured, and slightly dense for a Pinot Noir.  I will soon be writing about Burgundy (still Pinot Noir), and I will outline the difference.  And what a difference there can be.  I like lushness, especially when I am entertaining people I am not friendly with.  Puts me and my guests at ease.  This wine comforts the palette; allows you to taste a full expressive fruit without being overdone or obnoxious.

Beringer dinner, blog