Wednesday, March 31, 2010

VINI PORTUGAL Visits New York City on April 1st...$40 Consumer Tasting...6-8pm...Cipriani's on 42nd Street.. by Philip S. Kampe

WINES FROM PORTUGAL are the New Rage in the Industry. Both white and red wines are the Retailers friend. Priced fairly, these wines deliver what most consumers want.
On April 1st (my Birthday), VINI PORTUGAL is sponsoring a Consumer Tasting, from 6-8pm at CIPRIANI'S on 42nd Street. Over 40 wineries will present their latest vintages.
Did you know, Portuguese wines are home to over 200 varieties of native grapes?
Included in the $40 entrance fee is a class on Portuguese wines, led by knowledgable Wine Professor Michael Weiss, on " WINES OF PORTUGAL: A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE" The class takes place at 6:30pm.
Cipriani's is located at 110 East 42nd Street.
Tickets can be purchased for $40 at the door or can be Reserved by visiting
This is an event not to be missed.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Culinary matching 101: wines for classic blackened tuna

In the mid-eighties Paul Prudhomme’s blackened redfish permanently entered the vocabulary of the average American restaurant-goer, but you can argue that all the variations of blackened tuna have become even more ubiquitous in restaurants and bars, and practiced by adventurous home cooks.

For over thirteen years I worked with one of America’s original Euro-Asian fusion (a.k.a. East-West or Pacific Rim) style chefs, Roy Yamaguchi, and during that period opened over two dozen restaurants for him, from Hawai`i to up and down the East Coast. One of the most popular dishes at the Roy’s restaurants, since day one, has been Yamaguchi’s blackened ‘ahi tuna (‘ahi being the Hawaiian name for the high quality, red fleshed tuna caught in the vicinity of the Islands) with a more Frenchified soy-mustard butter sauce (Yamaguchi is, after all, basically a French trained chef who applies fusion thought processes).

Yamaguchi’s blackened tuna also served as the most basic dish utilized for our wine/food matching staff training; part of our “wine & food 101,” which hundreds upon hundreds of servers as well as chefs experienced in this scenario: pen, paper, fork, knife, and usually five different wine glasses filled with five different wines.

As you will see in the recipe (snipped from Roy’s Feasts From Hawai`i) included at the end of this piece, there is a degree of difficulty (i.e. time required for multiple ingredients and steps) in Yamaguchi’s blackened tuna akin to what is considered "basic" in French cuisine, such as most of what you find in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art. So in that sense, it’s not really “101” in terms of preparation; but what makes it “101” is precisely the multiplicity of ingredients, giving it a variety of sensations resulting in “perfect” matches with not just one or two types of wines; but rather, with almost any number of different wines (in other words, “perfect” wine matches for any one specific dish don’t exist, except in the minds of irresponsible wine and/or culinary writers – hopefully, present company excepted).

Tasting wines with blackened tuna is “101” because it drives home this fundamental principle: that it is never so much a food type that determines “best” wine/food matches, but how the food type is prepared (i.e. the context in which food types are placed by their preparations). In this sense, looking at how wines are matched with blackened tuna gives you a good idea of how, or why, almost all wines and foods are matched.

How did we know this? Through repeated tastings, of course; hundreds and hundreds of them, involving hundreds of different people, each expressing preferences. Our typical selection of wines tasted with Yamaguchi’s tuna usually consisted of a typical, elegant, fruit driven pinot noir from California or Oregon; a classic, fruit driven California chardonnay; and a fairly dry sparkling wine from anywhere (France, California, Italy, Spain, etc.) – because usually these three basic wine types, would have the highest percentage chance of matching this particular version of blackened tuna, despite their contrasting characteristics.

Then we would add at least a couple of other wines to the mix: a crisp, medium bodied sauvignon blanc or pinot gris; a soft, fruity riesling or pink wine; a moderately weighted, fruit forward California zinfandel or Australian syrah/shiraz; sometimes, even a big, rambunctious cabernet sauvignon or viognier. It never hurt to find out what “happens” when boy or girl – and white, red, pink, still or sparkling wines – meets blackened tuna.

The major components of Yamaguchi’s tuna, effecting the consistently varied results regarding “best” wine/food matches:

• The fleshy, oily, saline taste of good quality tuna
• Palate stinging spices in the blackening spices as well as the hot mustard
• Saltiness from soy sauce
• Fatty, oily butter and cream in the French butter sauce
• Mild tartness from use of vinegar and lemon, as well as in pickled ginger garnishes
• Slightly bitter sensations in the blackening spices as well as garnishes like Japanese spice sprouts
• Slight sweetness or natural fruitiness in garnishes like pickled ginger and chopped cucumber
• When utilized (often in Hawai`i, but rarely outside the Islands), the salty ocean taste of fresh seaweeds
• Last but not least, umami-related sensations in blackening spices, soy, mustard, seaweeds, as well as the tuna itself (re my Deconstructing umami for more detailed treatment)

In our tastings, we would ask our staff to take a bite of tuna before a deliberate sip of each and every wine, and simply decide what they liked best. Then together, we would puzzle out exactly what it is about each wine that we like so much with the tuna. Our usual findings:

On paper, the idea of blackening, or spicing up, filets of tuna seems like an unfortunate match with full bodied chardonnays; especially since the high alcohols as well as oak tannins (i.e. bitter sensations) associated with typical chardonnays theoretically makes the sensation of hot spices taste even hotter or more bitter – unpleasant. Where a chef like Yamaguchi turns the theory upside down is in the fact that this is not simply a spicy dish, but a spicy dish balanced by fatty sensations in the addition of beurre blanc style butter sauce as well as in the fatty flesh of high quality tuna itself. When talking about such sensory interaction, we’re talking about similarities of sensations; something many wine and food lovers may not prefer, but which many people actually like (this is why we drizzle sweet chocolate over vanilla ice cream rather than ketchup – the average person likes sweet on sweet, or combining similar sensations). And besides, there is plenty in Yamaguchi’s tuna that offers up contrasting sensations to typical full bodied, oaky chardonnay; such as the sweet/sour taste of pickled ginger, the salty taste of soy or seaweed. Combine that with the natural penchant of the aromatically fruity chardonnay grape to interact positively the earthy taste of mustard, it was never surprising to find that out of groups of a dozen people, there were always three, four, or even five individuals who really enjoyed the taste of blackened tuna with chardonnay.

Sparkling wines:
Individuals expressing preferences for good, yeasty, fairly dry sparklers with blackened tuna would always cite a different reasoning from those who liked chardonnays: the refreshing contrast of sensations like effervescence, tart acidity, fairly light alcohol, yeasty and fruit perfumes, and (depending upon the degree) the residual sugars in typical sparklers when tasted with the spicy heat of the blackening spices and hot mustards in Yamaguchi’s tuna, as well as the salty/earthy taste of soy sauce and the fatty qualities in the tuna and butter sauce. The refreshing contrasting works well with the lightest, simplest sparklers, like Italy’s Prosecco, but is even more elevated when the sparkler is choice (like French tête de cuvée); which is why the match has always worked gone over in a big way in our restaurants.

Pinot noir:
This third most popular match works for still a third different reason, all related to the so-called “fifth” sensation: umami. Without going into detail, umami is essentially the pleasing sensation the palate feels when interacting with foods containing elevated amounts of amino acids; which is why Parmigiano is sprinkled on pasta, mushrooms and truffles enhance meats, stock based sauces enhance dishes, or in Hawai`i, why ogo (chopped fresh red seaweed) “completes” tuna poke. Pinot noirs are, by nature of being red wines (i.e. fermented on skins), deep and complex in flavor. Yet among reds, pinots are also fairly soft, balanced, smoothly textured, buoyant and inundated with natural spice: qualities that give wines made from this grape the highest percentage chance of perhaps any other wines (white, red, pink or sparkling) of tasting delicious with dishes (any dishes, from white to red meats) prepared with high umami ingredients. In Yamaguchi’s blackened tuna: the fish itself, and especially the mustard, soy sauce, and blackening spices. Although it is not so much similar or contrasting sensations as umami that makes pinot noirs taste so good with blackened tuna, the fact that pinot noir is a softer (i.e. less bitter) type of red wine also helps with this fatty, fleshy fish, since high tannin reds (like those made from cabernet sauvignon and other “Bordeaux” grapes) are not good fits with the high iodine content of most fish. Finally, the slightly bitter taste of the peppers and sandalwood in blackening spices, hot mustard as well as spice sprouts do add a degree of balance to the slight bitterness of grape tannin and French oak sensations found in typical pinot noir.

This white wine grape makes a huge range of wines: from bone dry to slightly sweet and very sweet; from extremely light (i.e. 7%-8% alcohol wines from Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) to as full as any chardonnay (13%-14% alcohol wines from Alsace, Washington and California, Australia and New Zealand, etc.). But by and large, it is rieslings with just slight degrees of sweetness and light to moderate alcohol levels that do best with blackened tuna, as soft fruitiness in any wine offers delicious contrast to hot spices. Besides heat, residual sugar (in wines as well as dishes) balances salty ingredients (re the soy in blackened tuna), and the sugar/acid balance of classic riesling strikes an easy chord with sweet/sour pickled ginger. In our experience, however, we have found that dry style rieslings that are balanced with exceptional fruitiness in the aroma and flavor do just as well as rieslings with actual residual sugar (although overly tart, sour rieslings with narrow fruit profiles offer very little in the way of flavorful contrast). Conversely, we have found that rieslings tilted towards emphatically sweet fruitiness also make less desirable matches; since excess residual sugar tend to overburden the palate with sensations that seem extraneous in the context of a dish already laden with a multiplicity of sensations.

Medium bodied dry white and pink wines: Whites made from grapes like sauvignon blanc, pinot gris (a.k.a. pinot grigio), albariño, and grüner veltliner, as well as pink wines like dry rosé and vin gris, tend to be neither light nor heavy; and as such, would seem to be natural matches for aggressive dishes like blackened tuna. But in reality, we have always found that it is wines of at least some extremes -- like the weight and oak of chardonnay, the tannin and spiced berryish of pinot noir, or the tart, zesty edge of sparklers – that actual make the most positive impact. Wines of moderate alcohol, moderate acidity, moderate fruit intensity, etc. tend to taste just “moderately good” with blackened tuna. In short, wines that are “okay” with blackened tuna – but ultimately, not particularly exciting.

Heavy, light or medium bodied reds: On the other hand, high tannin reds dominated by dense, bitter sensations (like most cabernet sauvignons) as well as soft tannin reds characterized by accentuated fruitiness (that French Beaujolais) tend to offer too much extreme in the way of sensations to make an easy match for blackened tuna. But unlike medium bodied white and pink wines, medium bodied reds with soft tannins and a modicum of spiced fruitiness (besides pinot noir, softer styles of zinfandel, syrahs, syrah/grenache/mourvèdre blends, lemberger, etc.) do surprisingly well with blackened tuna. As long as the tannin levels are moderated (not outwardly rough or bitter) enough to work with the fish, and the fruit qualities are tinged with variations of peppery (peppercorn or chile) or brown (i.e. suggesting cinnamon, clove, cardomom, allspice, etc.) spices to bounce off the blackening and mustard spices, these types of red wines generally hold you in good stead.

There is, of course, a world of interesting wines now available to us, in restaurants and in stores, for fusion style dishes (see my piece, Basic Guidelines to matching the Asian palate & fusion dishes). Whenever combining multifaceted dishes with complex wines, the best policy is to let common sense be your guide, think in terms of similarity and contrast, and don’t forget how umami can often pull things together. Ultimately, we are all ruled by personal preference; and so, if anything, the golden rule remains: to thine own self be true.

Roy Yamaguchi’s


Soy-mustard sauce

1/4 cup Colman's mustard powder
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Beurre blanc
(white wine butter sauce)
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Blackening spice
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 tablespoon pure red chile powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground sandalwood (optional)


1 tuna filet (preferably Hawaiian 'ahi), about 2 inches thick and 5 inches long (about 8 ounces)


2 or 3 tablespoons red pickled ginger
1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 ounce Japanese spice sprouts or sunflower sprouts (top 2 inches only)
1 tablespoon seeded and diced yellow bell pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon cucumber, cut into matchsticks (optional)

To prepare the soy-mustard sauce, mix the mustard powder and hot water together to form a paste. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavor and heat to develop. Add the vinegar and soy sauce, mix together, and strain through a fine sieve. Chill in the refrigerator.

To prepare the beurre blanc, combine the wine, wine vinegar, lemon juice, and shallot in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy. Add the cream, and reduce by half. Turn the heat to low and gradually add the butter, stirring slowly (do not whisk) until it is all incorporated. Be careful not to let the mixture boil, or it will break and separate. Season with salt and pepper and strain through a fine sieve. Transfer to a double broiler and keep warm.

Mix all the blackening spices together on a plate, and dredge the tuna on all sides. Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron skillet and sear the tuna over high heat to the desired doneness (about 15 seconds per side for rare, to 1 minute per side for medium-rare). Cut into 16 thin slices.

For each serving, arrange 4 slices of the tuna in a pinwheel or cross shape on the plate. Ladle a little of the soy-mustard sauce in two opposing quadrants between the tuna, and ladle the beurre blanc in the other two quadrants. To garnish, put a small mound of the red pickled ginger on the beurre blanc on either side, and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the soy-mustard sauce. Arrange the spice sprouts, bell pepper, and cucumber at the very center of this pinwheel.

* There is a Yogi brand of sandalwood available by calling the company in New Orleans (504-486-5538). If you prefer, you can use 1/4 cup of any Cajun spice blend instead of making up you own blackening spice.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Sampling of Wine Reviews

Hi everyone,
It's been a while since I have simply done a series of wine reviews so I thought I would do that today to highlight three Prince Edward County wines that are about to be released. I've put them in the order that they will be released - either at the winery or through the LCBO Vintages program - and I hope you enjoy them. I highly recommend getting your hands on all three of them and, in the case of the first two, preorder them today so you are not disappointed. By the way, I've listed the reviews in the order they are going to be released as indicated by the wineries.

Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery 2008 Baco Noir
11.2% alc./vol.
$20 per bottle
Available at the winery only after Saturday, March 27th 2010 or by pre-order now.
Call (613) 399-2598 or email
Blacker than SIN – that’s the only way to describe the colour – and the aromas and flavours are equally sinful. Abundant blackberry followed by a hint of bing cherry, blueberry and raspberry on the nose – talk about a fruit bomb. The texture is silky and slightly chewy with that familiar blackberry coming through, good acidity in the mid palate, slight blueberry, a very faint hit of mint and slight pepper on the finish. This would be great with duck, steak, game meats, roasts – anything you would put a Zinfandel or a Shiraz with would work with this wine.

Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery 2009 Gewurztraminer
13.4% alc./vol.
$22 per bottle
Available at the winery only after Saturday, March 27th 2010 or by pre-order now.
Call (613) 399-2598 or email
There’s something captivating about a wine that is the colour of gold – it has almost the same appeal as a deep ruby red wine – and this wine definitely holds you captive as you look at it in the glass. It takes a bit of swirl for the aromas to come through but when they do you are hit with the unmistakable lychee and rose aromas so commonly associated with true Alsatian Gewurztraminers. The lychee and rose continue on to the palate where they are joined with a major hit of spice, perfect acidity and amazing balance. My first instinct is to want to pair this with Thai food because it is such a classic pairing but – on second thought – Blackened Salmon with rice and asparagus would be just as great.

Black Prince Winery 2008 Riesling

11.0 % alc/vol
$18.95 per bottle
LCBO Vintages release (April 17th)or at the winery directly.
This is very far from a typical Riesling and it definitely fits into my category of "dangerous" wines. A "dangerous" wine is one that can be drunk so easily you don't realize you've drunk a whole bottle until you empty it because it is so light and tasty you don't think you're drinking alcohol of any sort. Since some of my family and I went through the bottle in the space of an hour one day - which equated to a couple of glasses each - this wine definitely fits the definition.

The aromas are a mix of melon, apple, pear and a slight hit of lemon which continues on to the palate where it joins lime and some wonderful effervescence. Honestly, when you smell this wine and definitely when you taste it, it feels almost like a Chardonnay but then the citrus kicks in and you know it's a Riesling. I would pair this with a bowl of fruit salad or lightly sauced pasta and most chicken dishes - so long as they're not overly spicy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Recently, I had the honor of attending a wine tasting of thirty plus wines from California's DUCKHORN Vineyards. Winebow, Duckhorn's distributor, hosted the event at Del Fresco's restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
The event was a crown jewel of what a 35 year old wine company can achieve.

With Winebow's founder, Leonardo LoCascio present, I knew this would be a wonderful tasting.

John Proto, Winebow's answer to Robert Parker, led me through the tasting.

Founded in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, this Napa Valley vineyard has found it's own way in the crowded world of winemaking.

Dan Duckhorn has had a fascination with Merlot since visiting Pomerol and St. Emillion in the 70's. He liked the softness and velevety texture of merlot, as well as it's potential to match well with a variety of foods. Plus, the aging process was faster than many other red grape varietals.
Dan decided to focus on Merlot and started buying fruit and land that would yield the highest quality grapes for his wines.

In 1988 a group of selected properties were purchased in Napa to insure consistent sources of fruit, year after year. Today, Duckhorn consists of seven properties, both in Napa Valley and in Howell Mountain.

Bill Nancarrow is the winemaker.
He has many grape profiles to choose when making his wines due to the opposing topography of Napa Valley and Howell Mountain.

The grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted. Only the ripe fruit is harvested, thus creating numerous harvests per vineyard. Twenty-five differnt types of French oak is used, thus creating numerous flavor profiles.

Duckhorn wines are World Class wines that create the perfect wine experience.

The wines I tasted were all Bordeaux blend wines, made from Merlot (80%), Canernet Sauvignon (15%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (2%). These percentages, of course, change year to year. Plus, Petit Verdot has only been used since 1998.
Duckhorn only releases their wines when they are ready to drink. The last Merlot released was the 2005 vintage.

Duckhorn wines are priced from $45 per bottle upwards. Their quality is unmatched and is well worth their suggested retail prices. If you have not experienced Duckhorn, now is the time to try these 'Exceptional Wines'.

My hat is off to Dan and Margaret Duckhorn for having the foresight and wisdom to attempt such a project. Thanks to them, we are all WINNERS!!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Hanging with the devil at the 2010 World of Pinot Noir

Six years ago I posted a piece in Robin Garr’s entitled American Pinot Noirs at a Crossroads. I know I was thinking of Robert Johnson at the time – you know, the “King of the Delta Blues,” whose hellacious, rusted can bottom pipes on Cross Roads Blues can still grab you by the throat like a black hand reaching out from Hades (that same Johnson who reportedly sold his soul to the devil in order to become the world’s greatest blues musician).

Grower Dave Umino, in his vineyard in
Russian River Valley's Sebastopol Hills

What does this have to do with pinot noir and the price of cheese in China? Even back in 2004 I was getting that itchy-scratchy feeling at the back of my throat, thinking: how the hell did Americans suddenly get so genius with this grape? Good enough so that even the most Frenchified oenophiles would have to admit that they’re coming out as more than reasonable facsimiles of even the best Burgundies? Something, just twenty years ago, most of us in the business thought we would never see in our lifetime.

Have our pinot noir specialists made a pact with the devil? Or has it simply turned out that West Coast terroirs are not such a hell hole for pinot noir after all? That it is not the scrawny, brooding child the late, great André Tchelistcheff once called it back in the sixties? Tchelistcheff also famously said that “all the challenge is getting the surly child to smile,” and aside from occasional accidents of nature, he couldn’t seeing it happening on the West Coast any time soon.

Then again, even towards the end of Tchelistcheff’s career, growing pinot noir (or any types of grape) between Occidental and the Sonoma Coast, below Sebastopol in the teeth of the Petaluma Gap, or anywhere near McMinnville or Lompoc was considered a physical impossibility. Perfectly intelligent people were repeatedly heard to say what once seemed obvious: that you just can’t grow grapes in frigid airs like that (of course you couldn’t… not with the mile x mile spacing, Cousin Itt canopies and grape chewing crushers still in prevalent use thirty years ago).

And dare I say, much of the pinot-will-never-be-great-outside-Burgundy thinking was based upon the premise that correct soil (i.e. Burgundian) is mandatory for great pinot noir. Yes, soil is important, but obviously climate, and simply coming to terms with the topographical cards you are handed with reasonable intelligence and empirical thought processing, have proven far more important. This is as plain as many a new American pinot’s nose: as pure and fragrant as can be.

Santa Lucia Highlands

But wait, hold your horses, because there is still a lot to naysaying going on. For one, I have yet to find a California or Oregon pinot noir that I can honestly say has “improved” with age. So far it seems that the best ones taste great anywhere from two to six years of age; and after that, all bets are off. Good West Coast pinots don’t seem to get better – they just get… old – tired, worn, decrepit. In that sense, lovers of Musigny and Chambertin need hardly hold their breath: pinot noirs from anywhere west of the Saône have yet to show half the longevity of grand or premier crus of olde.

For seconders, it is still no coincidence that the richest, most aromatic and expressive American pinot noirs are tipping the scales at 14% to 15% alcohol (and people complain about zinfandels being too “big”). Now, I agree that alcohol is just one of many sensory factors in fine wine, and that many 14.5% alcohol pinots taste more finesseful, elegant and balanced than pinots of just 12% to 13% alcohol. Nevertheless, at least for me personally, a 15% alcohol pinot noir is hardly classical; and I would surmise, much of the reason why contemporary pinots fall flat after six, eight or so years is because of this ungainly girth.

But hold on to your black leather gloves: the increasing forays into colder climates to extend physiological ripening at lower sugar levels, commitments to closer spacing and drier farming, less and less dependence upon new or heavy toasted oak, and myriad other adjustments big and small seem likely to become part of the combination to eventually lose the knocks on contemporary American pinots.

All this, and more, crystallized during my recent attendance at the tenth annual World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach, California, this past March 5-6, 2010. Hence, this report, with a caveat: although hundreds of top pinot noirs are there for the tasting during this two-day festival, the bulk of it is Californian (lovers of, say, Burgundy and Oregon pinot noir always find slim pickings at this event).

I also participated in something called the Iron Sommelier seminar at this year’s World of Pinot Noir; as one of four sommerliers presenting two “ideal” pinot noirs with a dish prepared from a recipe of our choosing. My dish was a household favorite for sumptuous, spicy reds: Red Cooked Pork Belly, for which a good recipe adapted from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising (W.W. Norton & Co., New York/London) can be found at the end of this post. I matched this classic, Chinese style pork belly with two spice driven, snappy, cold climate grown pinot noirs: the roasted meaty, smoky spiced 2006 Hitching Post Cargasacchi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills, and the round, juicy, strawberry, peppermint and anise/licorice spiced 2006 Maysara Delara McMinnville from Oregon.

As expected, our audience found that both the Hitching Post and Maysara pinot noirs skipped lightly and fandango-y with the peppery, gingery, cinnamon and star-anise spiced qualities of the pork belly; the crisp acidity and round tannin centers of these black and red fruit driven wines titillating the palate with every bite, even at the fattiest ends. Alas, there was no “voting” in this particular Iron competition; not even an opportunity for jury rigging (as there were no judges). But I guarantee: it was a match those unaccustomed to the appreciation of Asian style food with pinot noir are unlikely to forget.

Maysara winemaker Tahmiene Momtazi

I don’t score wines; never have, and never will (how stupid is that? – applying numbers to matters of aesthetics or organic subjects, that is), but I do have favorites. Like everyone, I might love vanilla today, but crave chocolate, Dulce de Leche or Mission Marzipan tomorrow (which is why scores are stupid – have I told you how stupid numbers are yet?). And so according to my notes just before, during and after the 2010 World of Pinot Noir, this is how I personally rate the best of the American pinot noirs tasted - basically in order of wow-ness:

2007 Failla, Occidental Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – A sultry wine that hits pinot-ness on all cylinders: huge, billowing, vibrant nose of wild berries and concentrated, wild mint, cinnamon stick and brown sugar spiced strawberry against a backdrop of toasty oak; ultra-smooth, velvet textured layering of the luscious fruit and smoky spice, becoming darker on the palate as it glides atop firm, supple tannin, coating every part of the mouth.

2007 Failla, Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley – It’s a tribute to the magical (or bedeviling) touch of owner/winemaker Ehren Jordan that he can coax such a combination of delicacy and unadulterated strength from fruit grown in multiple parts of the North Coast. Here, an array of perfumes – fresh sweet berries (red, boysenberry, raspberry…) and smoky spices – surge from the glass, and converge in lush, lively, silky sensations on the palate, finishing with a mouthwatering (or was it jaw dropping?) incandescence, bespeaking the best, or most classic, qualities of the grape.

2008 Native 9, Rancho Ontiveros, Santa Maria Valley
– Wild berry berry fragrance intertwined with vivid perfumes of peppermint and red licorice, penetrating the nostrils. Equally dramatic dramatic movement on the palate: a fine, silky entry suddenly electrified by slightly tart edged acidity, electrifying the vivid spiced fruit flavors, then layered with dense tannin adding meat to the bone, before finishing with intricate braiding of the contrasting sensations – light yet full, soft yet edgy, tight yet limber, and effusive yet compact.

Freestone's winemaker Theresa Heredia
(with her open top wood fermenters)

2007 Dutton-Goldfield, Dutton Ranch-Freestone Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley
– Tasted the week following World of Pinot Noir: brilliant, deep ruby followed by teeming, luscious aromas of spice essenced red fruit (cardamom, star anise, strawberry, cranberry, black cherry…) which, with almost unbelievable elan, seems to roll into the mouth in dense, thick, round, voluminous waves of flavor; the luscious, almost preserve-like fruit, brightening acidity and muscular tannin merged in seamless singularity.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield, Devil’s Gulch, Marin – The Marin peninsula, south of Petaluma, sees plenty of seasonal sun, but the climate is relatively cool; different, yet comparable, to conditions seen along the more vaunted Sonoma Coast. Steep terracing (up to 60% grades) also effects what comes out in the bottle: in the hands of winemaker/partner, Dan Goldfield, a pinot noir thoroughly saturated, from beginning to end, with sweet, perfumed wild cherry/raspberry fruitiness; thick with youthful, sinewy tannin, yet rounded enough for the zesty flavors to permeate the palate, the silken fine, intertwining sensations slipping over its fisted core.

2006 Freestone, Sonoma Coast
– Can American pinot noir get any lusher, sharper and lissome as this? I also walked through Freestone’s precipitously steep vineyard (at 200-500 feet, in a fog smothered section of the “true” Sonoma Coast) – on a recent ear stinging day, so I got an even better feel for what I’d already tasted, comin thro’ the rye: heady, penetrating perfumes of super-plump strawberry, cassis, whiffs of smoke, and ephemeral yet distinct, toasted anise-like spice. On the palate, the incisive, acid zested strawberry fruitiness pierces clear through the velvet wrapping, lighting it up like a finger in the socket (haven’t tried it lately, but remember the feeling well). This (along with Dutton-Goldfield’s Freestone Hill) is definitely among the coastal growths that are changing the way American pinot noir is grown and defined.

2008 Costa de Oro, Dijon Selection, Santa Maria Valley
– Unabashedly intense, yet beautifully sculpted pinot; the nose telegraphing rich, plush, concentrated red berry/strawberry fruitiness with subtle toasted underpinning; then on the palate, a buxom, velvety, medium-full body, releasing the sweet red berry sensations in round, voluptuous, exhilarating waves.

Hartford Family winemaker Jeff Mangahas at Arrendell Vineyard in Green Valley

2007 Hartford Family, Arrendell Vineyard, Russian River Valley
– From one of the coldest sites in the Russian River Valley’s Green Valley sub-AVA, and tasted the week following World of Pinot Noir: deep nose of black cherry with savory/thyme kitchen herb spices, leaping from the glass; the fruit qualities stuffed into aggressively round, fleshy, densely packed textures on the palate, gripping the taste receptors as they roll into a palate-popping finish.

2007 Chasseur, Umino Vineyard, Russian River Valley – Tasted just prior to World of Pinot Noir, a pinot sourced from the cool center of Sebastopol Hills, explosive with sweetly perfumed, violet and red berry/strawberry aromas; soft, silky entry, turning zesty with voluptuous, mouthwatering fruit in the middle, saturating the senses with downright regal qualities of sheer richness, poise and balance.

2007 Chasseur, Blank, Russian River Valley
– Another blue chip from the heart of Sebastopol Hills; violet tinged color and humongous varietal nose of raspberry and strawberry, rose petals, savory herb spices, and smoky tobacco leaves; the sensations following up in a soft yet zesty, perfectly round, plump, velvety, seamless mouth-feel. From top to bottom, beginning to end: very complete, vivid, exacting, exciting.

2008 Baker Lane, Ramondo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
– The Ramondo is located at the southeast edge of Sebastopol Hills, a sub-region recently (in 2005) incorporated into the Russian River Valley AVA; but perhaps, sharing more of the restrained, textured qualities of other lower elevation Sonoma Coast (the larger, overlapping AVA) growths. As with a number of other pinot noirs from this fog chilled region, I find a lush strawberryish concentration in the nose, pure and unfettered by excesses like oak or warm, cola-like fruit. On the palate, the fruit intensity is woven with licorice and bright, dried red currant qualities; soft, round, velvety sensations, long and sexy in the feel.

Baker Lane's Stephen Singer in his Sebastopol Hills home

2007 Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
– Sierra Madre Vineyard, at the westernmost, coolest edge of Santa Maria Valley’s planted acreage, has been supplying first class grapes to over two dozen other wineries each year going on well nigh two, three decades. Now they also produce wine under their own label, and about time, too: the nose rattles the senses with super-sweet strawberry alarm, incense and peppermint fragrances, and bang-bang vibrato. The sensations are fat and juicy at first sip, then prickly fresh and persistent in the middle, sticking to the palate in bright, fresh fashion. Nice, pure, interpretation of the grape, almost impertinent in its obstinance, whatever that means.

2007 Zepaltas, Suacci Vineyard, Sonoma Coast - Ryan Zepaltas (who also assists at Siduri and makes the wines for Soliste) crafts small lots of single vineyard pinots that show a meticulous hand and puristic sensibility. The Suacci highlights the red fruit, animating acidity and slim, sinewy attributes of many wines from Sebastopol Hills, intersecting the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley AVAs, and Zepaltas' talent is in making them taste exactly like that. Here, the sweet, concentrated nose and flavors cast cherry/raspberry perfumes with pomegranate-like pulpiness and just suggestion of cola. The palate feel is tight yet silky; tannin and oak dialed back far enough for the the lush flavors to expand well beyond the composed parameters.

2007 Pillow Rd., Russian River Valley
– Further evidence that it is at the southern end of the Russian River Valley, south and west of Sebastopol (Pillow Rd.’s vineyard straddles the Green Valley of Russian River Valley and unofficial Sebastopol Hills sub-regions) where more and more of the prettiest, balanced, buoyant styles of North Coast pinot noir are be coming from (’07 is this winery’s second vintage). The aroma here is of cake spice tinged strawberry/cherry/raspberry, pure and unadorned by wood or other manipulations. On the palate, the round, fresh, juicy red berry qualities are revved up by bright acidity, encased in a moderately weighted body; and echoing the clarity the nose, the feel is pretty much free of bitter oak tannin, allowing the fruit profile to address the senses directly without passing go.

2007 Hartford Family, Jennifer’s, Russian River Valley
– A more aggressive, deeply extracted, lower fruit toned style of pinot noir from the cool climes of the Russian River Valley’s Sebastopol Hills (as opposed to the more fragrant, feminine, strawberry-red fruit forward qualities I usually find in pinots from this sub-region). The nose is scented with dark berries, a violet perfume and coffee grinder spice and smoke; the tannins full yet finely polished, and zesty acid punctuating the thick, pulpy, meaty textured flavors.

2008 Siduri, Sonatera Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – Fruit from the Sonatera Vineyard, located just east and south of the Russian River Valley’s Sebastopol Hills (pretty much in the thick of the fog rolling through the Petaluma Gap) goes to just two wineries: Siduri and Soliste, and both are stellar. This growth seems to give crisp edged, finely delineated styles of pinot noir; as in Siduri’s, with its deeply aromatic, lush, bright strawberry/cherry/blackberry fragrances, underlined with beefy undertones; the palate feel, zesty and medium-full, chiseled yet round and seamlessly knit; and the Christmas pie-plump, sweet fruitiness, distinctly under-oaked, rising from a stratum of sturdy yet giving tannin.

Siduri winemaker/proprietor Adam Lee

2007 Balletto, Burnside Vineyard, Russian River Valley
– It’s hard to get enough of these fabulously lush, focused pinot noirs coming from below Sebastopol, the coolest corner of the Russian River Valley. The nose here is drenched in strawberry syrup, dried cherry and raspberry, with spice qualities suggesting clove punctured orange peel, plus foresty/pine-cone like notes. Fat and luscious with fruit, amply supported by freshening acidity and a modicum of fine-grain tannin, rendering a buoyant, balanced feel to the irrepressibly exuberant fruit profile.

2007 Dierberg, Steven Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley – I’ve been told that this producer has been gracefully retreating from the black, burly, pedal-to-the-metal style of earlier vintages, but I’m glad they haven’t taken off the foot all the way. There’s a lot to be said, after all, for pinot noir that lays it all out on the line (you may adore Billie Holiday and Diana Krall, but who doesn’t love being slapped around by Chrissie Hynde or MC Lyte every once in a while?). The Steven is a deep, fleshy, muscular yet svelte wine; its nose inundated with peppery spice, smoked meats and dried forest floor leaves, and the requisite floral, sweet pinot-berry perfume. Turn up the grill, praise the lord and pass the steaks.

2007 Roessler, Clos Pepe, Sta. Rita Hills
– Roessler is churning out an entire sumo stable of pinot behemoths these days, and I mean that in a good way: this cuvée, for instance, is so plump yet thickly muscled, toothsome yet amazingly light on its feet, that you gotta give it props, even if the juicy black pepper/pepperminty spiced strawberry/raspberry doth seem to runneth over in glorious, uncouth nakedness. There are minerally, scrubby undertones keeping bright fruit grounded; and although soft around the edges, the fruit is zippy with energetic acidity.

2007 Evening Land Vineyards, Two Daughters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – Super-intense, sweet berry/rhubarb fragrance mingling with spices suggesting cinnamon, clove and smoked pepper. At first, lean and sprightly on the palate; then in the middle, the spiced berry qualities fill out the medium weight body, heightening the lithe, lively, silk textured qualities before finishing long yet gently.

2007 Tolosa, Marley Anne-Block 518, Edna Valley
– Not long ago nearly all Edna Valley pinot noirs were dismissed as weak, Beaujolais-types because, well, that’s the way it was. Tolosa’s Marley Anne puts a decisive end to that assumption, beginning with its super-lush nose, suggesting strawberry jam tilted towards violet and blueberry; with quieter notes of apparently terroir related qualities, suggesting dried scrub and loam. The flavors are surprisingly deep and muscle toned for a wine that is outwardly plump, supple and sweetly scented; the pinot qualities striking rich, pure chords all the way through the progression.

The fog shrouded Sebastopol Hills

2008 Drake, H Block-Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley – Multifaceted nose of floral/rose petal, fresh berry and stemmy, green leafy nuances. Despite the leafiness in the nose, flush with juicy, silken textured fruitiness on the palate; fleshy yet finely composed, balanced, lively, almost delicate qualities, laying down its slender, feminine frame with finesse and ease.

2007 Flying Goat, Rancho Santa Rosa, Sta. Rita Hills – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a Flying Goat that wasn’t right on the money; and amazingly, this is winemaker/proprietor Norman Yost’s first bottling from this fairly young vineyard (owned by Foley Family Estates, where Yost once was winemaker). This bottling regales the senses with a rich blend of blueberry and raspberry, with earthen, rhubarb-like undertones; seamless flow on the palate, the silken layers of zesty berryish fruit dancing on the palate, while underpinned by firm yet unobstrusive tannin.

2008 Pali, Fiddlestix, Sta. Rita Hills – The nose is wild with fresh crushed raspberry and blueberry fragrances, and the exuberant fruitiness tucked into a moderated yet curvaceous body, beefed up by velvet textures and brothy flavors. The flavors run deep, dense, luscious, touching all parts of the palate. Great vineyard, and a terrific winemaking (that is to say, skilled enough leaving well enough alone.

2008 Freeman, Akiko’s Cuvée, Sonoma Coast
– Another new winery “discovery” for me; this bottling representing a blend of multiple vineyards along the Sonoma Coast and the fog shrouded Petaluma Gap and Sebastopol Hills. Beautifully bright, floral perfume, mixing purple plum and bing cherry; the intense fruit qualities balanced on a taut yet silken smooth frame, skipping nimbly into a rich, rousing yet finely composed finish.

2008 Alma Rosa, Clone 667-La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
– Tasted the week prior to World of Pinot Noir; sweetly concentrated strawberry/cherry cola nose with roasted/beefy and red licorice notes; yet almost belying the deep aromas, lithe and lively on the palate; the red berry flavors coming across as sleek and fine boned (think whispery waif in a supple, black leather jacket).

2008 Paul Hobbs, Russian River Valley
– I always approach the products of celebrity winemaker brands with skepticism, but damned if this one just hits the North Coast pinot profile right between the eyes: gushy wild berry aroma tinged with smoky, brown spices; sweet, lively berry flavors encased in velvet as smooth and inviting as the shagged walls of Elvis’ Jungle Room; all the aforementioned, stretching across the palate in impeccably tight, fluid balance.

2007 Cargasacchi, Cargassachi-Jalama Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
– Cargasacchi’s Jalama is located beyond the boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA near Point Concepcion; as such, the coldest, westernmost site in Santa Barbara County. Within a compact, pert, marbled beeefy frame, there is a nice burst of bright, sweet varietal qualities; and despite sturdy tannin in the middle, the feel is plump and plush, and the body just moderately weighted, topped with flavors of cocoa dusted raspberry and twiggy earth tones. If you’re looking for the usual surfeit of body and ultra-ripe fruitiness found in most California pinots (as charming as it may be), don’t bother searching here; but this is one vineyard to keep your eye on, if you prefer pinots of more moderate weight and classical scale.

2008 Dragonette, Fiddlestix, Sta. Rita Hills
– The Fiddlestix vineyard continues to be a rich source of dynamic, expressive pinots for a number of Santa Barbara producers, and this is among the better ones: red berry pinot qualities filled out by smoky, beefy qualities; and on the palate, the round, meaty, berryish fruit underlined by a judicious dose of toasted oak, steered by buoyant yet sturdy sensations.

2008 CRU, Santa Lucia Highlands
– Bright beacon of raspberry/strawberry fragrances characterize a luscious pinot fruitiness, neatly packed into a medium-full yet compact body, putting everything in its place: notably racy acidity, moderately firm yet pliant tannin, and outwardly plummy, smoothly finished flavors, bouncing through the palate.

Fiddlestix Vineyard in Santa Barbara's Sta. Rita Hills

Abbreviated notes on other outstanding pinot noirs, all highly recommended:

2008 Landmark, Grand Detour, Sonoma Coast
– Unerring blend of multiple cool climate vineyards; exuberant, toasty, fat, fleshy, luscious fruit strapped over full, expansive, tannin lined body.

2007 ROAR, Gary’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
– Focused, winsome, strawberry/red berry fragrance harmonized with subtle smoke of oak; very fine, silky sensations, the fruit sharpened by piquant acidity, alive and lustrous the palate.

2008 Alma Rosa, Clone 115-La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
– Richly perfumed nose of red berry and cassis; soft, fleshy, sensuously curved frame; the fruit focused sensations rich and cohesive on the palate.

2007 Stephen Ross, Stone Corral Vineyard, Edna Valley
– Exceptionally bright, focused, cinnamon and pepper spiced strawberry fruit; velvet layers flowing smoothly across the palate.

2007 MacPhail, Pratt Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – While carrying a Sonoma moniker, sourced from the Russian River’s Sebastopol Hills; extremely pretty, compelling strawberry/raspberry nose embedded in smoky oak; fairly full, toasty, yet round, silky; the lush fruit zippy in the middle.

Keller winemaker Jacqueline Yoakum

2007 Keller, El Coro, Sonoma Coast – Effusive nose of red berries, licorice, brown spices and subtle, smoky oak; full yet very round, and velvet textured body, allowing the fruit to drive the qualities in the mouth.

2007 Soliste, Sonatera Vineyard-T Block, Sonoma Coast
– Transparent cold climate style; slightly unyielding youthful nose giving up sweet strawberry concentration; medium rather than full body, tightly woven with zippy acidity and firming tannin, the flavors running deep enough to exert an exhilaratingly fresh, bright presence.

2007 Flying Goat, Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley – Super-juiced red berry perfume tinged with peppermint and brown spices; deep, dense yet finely textured through a long, fruit dominated finish.

2008 Freeman, Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley
– An exceptional new brand to keep your eye on; this bottling sporting a sweet array of red and black fruit, just lightly toasted; plush, juicy, long and refreshing on the palate.

2007 Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands – Sweet, heady, wild blackberry perfume with resiny, dried herb spices amplified by rich, toasty smoke-of-oak; the aggressive notes signaled in the nose backed by a big, luscious palate profile, powered further by a core of solid tannin.

Sinor La-Valee's Mike Sinor

2007 Sinor La-Vallee, Talley-Rincon Vineyards, Arroyo Grande Valley – Soft, friendly yet vigorous style; chocolate dust coated cherry cola fruit with subtle toast; velvet layers punctuated by zippy acidity.

2007 Sinor La-Vallee, Aubain Vineyard, Central Coast
– Flowery scented, lush, opulent generosity; brimming with cherry cola-like fruit; fleshy and densely extracted on the palate.

2007 Merry Edwards, Meredith Estate, Russian River Valley
– From Sebastopol Hills; deeply pigmented, grippy style, yet bursting at the seams with sweet raspberry/strawberry fruit, with generous oak embellishments sitting behind the plush fruit, revved up by snappy acidity.

2008 Pessagno, Lucia Highlands Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
– In the big, viscous, sumptuous, seductive style that has popularized many Santa Lucia Highlands pinots: satin and lace garbed concentration of crushed cherry and cranberry, scented with violet and a touch of smoky oak.

Praying for pinot at Alma Rosa Winery

2007 Surh Luchtel, Umino Vineyard, Russian River Valley – Another Sebastopol Hills sourced bottling tasted just prior to World of Pinot Noir; plush strawberries with floral, rose petal fragrances; satin entry, with bright, forward red fruit qualities underlined by soft acidity and rounded tannin.

2007 Foxen, Bien Nacido Vineyard–Block 8, Santa Maria Valley – Sweet red berry nose tinged with red licorice and brown/toasty spices; the fruit and oak tannins wound tightly on the palate, underlying the rich layers of spiced red berry qualities.

2006 Dukes Family, Alyssa, Willamette Valley
– Handsome, multifaceted nose of brambly blackberry, and raspberry veering towards cinnamon scented black cherry; sturdy, fleshy, quite full for an Oregon style.

2008 MacMurray Ranch, Willamette Valley – Gentle yet precise style, honed by a sweet toned nose and a slender yet long, silky feel; the pinot fruit qualities balanced on a pin.

2007 Chamisal, Califa Selection, Edna Valley
– Sweet scented strawberry/cherry cola fragrance; slightly big in the mouth, but fine, silky flavors melting into a backdrop of earthen, tannin and oak sensations.


Adapted from All About Braising, Molly Stevens (W.W. Norton & Co., New York/London)
Serves 4:


One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced into 6-8 coins and smashed
3 scallions, white and green parts, cut into 1-inch pieces
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 oz. Chinese rock sugar, smashed into small rocks with hammer (or ¼ cup brown sugar)
2 whole star anise
¼ cup dry sherry
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark mushroom soy sauce
5 cups chicken stock (or water)
1-½ to 2 lbs. pork belly, preferably skin-on, cut into 2-inch chunks

Bok Choy

1 lb. bok choy (1 medium head or 3 baby heads)
1 ½ tablespoons peanut oil
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ cup water

1. Braising liquid: In carbon steel or stainless steel wok, combine ginger, scallions, cinnamon stick, sugar, star anise, sherry, boy soy sauces, and stock or water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, and boil for 12-15 minutes to infuse liquid with spices.

2. Braise: Slide pork into the wok and lower the heat to gentle simmer. Braise, uncovered, turning pork with tongs from time to time to braise evenly, until meat is fork-tender, about 3 hours. Monitor heat so sauce simmers modestly, never vigorously. Lower heat if necessary.

3. Meanwhile, washing and trimming bok choy: Rinse bok choy thoroughly, paying close attention to inside hollow at base of each leaf where dirt tends to gather. Drain. Cut lower ribs crosswise into 1-inch pieces, and slice the leaves into slightly wider 1-½ strips. Set stems and leaves aside in separate bowls.

4. Simmer bok choy: When pork is tender, turn off heat and let sit. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bok choy stems handful at a time and cook, stirring, until stems throw off their water and soften, 4-5 minutes. Immediately begin adding leaves, stirring and tossing with tongs, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Add water, cover, and lower heat to medium. Simmer until bok choy is crisp/tender, about 5 minutes more. Set aside in warm spot.

5. Finish: With tongs, transfer pork to large platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid medium sauce pan, and discard solids. Skim some but not all of clear fat from surface (some fat essential to flavor). Boil the braising liquid until reduced by one quarter to one half, about 8 minutes. Taste. Should be salty and intense.

6. Serving: Serve pork and bok choy with drizzle of reduced braising liquid.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


New York City always rises to the occasion of Celebration.
Just like New Orleans, New York celebrates Life, often in Culinary ways.
New Orleans celebrates with Parades.
There are two important Culinary events taking place prior to and on St. Patrick's Day. Both are worth attending.
On March 15th (Monday), at Noon, GALLAGHER'S Steakhouse (228 West 52nd), will remember two legendary Irish-American Sports Figures, DICK MCGUIRE and JOHN HALLIGAN by awarding former Yankee and ESPN and YES Sports Analyst, JOHN FLAHERTY, and former New York Ranger, DAVE MALONEY, with the Prestigious HALLIGAN-MCGUIRE IRISH AMERICAN 'GOOD GUY' Award.
The three course luncheon is $75, part of which benefits FORDHAM University.
Contact CIRILLO WORLD at (212) 972-5337 OR E-MAIL for tickets.

On St. Patrick's Day, World Famous Chef, SANDY INGBER (he is one of our favorites) of GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR, will prepare his famous 'GUINNESS BATTERED FISH AND CHIPS' on the menu. The restaurant is located 'below sea level' at Grand Central Station.
Chef Inger shared his Outstanding recipe with us.

2 Cups of Guinness Stout
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.ground pepper
1 egg
All purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds cut into 3 ounce portions of Cod, Haddock and Pollock
(boneless and sliced on the bias)

+ In a large mixing bowl add beer, baking soda, salt and pepper and egg
+ With a whisk, slowly add enough flour until the batter is thick, not runny and adheres to a wooden spoon
+ Heat oil in a deep fryer or saute pan to 350 degrees
+ Dredge fish in flour, shaking off excess and dip in batter, covering all sides of fish
+ Holding battered fish, gently dip into hot oil, holding halfway in, wait 15 seconds and drop into oil. (This will prevent the fish from sticking ot the bottom)
+ Flip fish over when brown on one side and cook altogether 6-8 minutes depending on thickness of fish
+ The fish should be one color all the way through or 140 degrees internal temperature
+ Serve with french fries and tarter sauce

Recipe by Chef Sandy Ingber

For reservations to try the 'Guiness battered fish and chips, on St. Patrick's Day, (lunch or dinner) telephone (212) 490-6650

Remember, ST.PATRICK'S DAY is a day Wine Drinkers can take a vacation and enjoy GUINNESS STOUT and JAMERSON'S IRISH WHISKY.
I, certainly will!!

Philip S. Kampe
Maria Kampe

Monday, March 8, 2010

Top 10 players of our weekly wine quiz - February

Congratulations to our top 10 players of our weekly wine quiz - February. Great job!

1° LAVILLA JOE 4650pts 00:09:22

2° SHIPWAY MARK 4500pts 00:12:54

3° BASSET FRANCIS 4325pts 00:12:29

4° BOULANGER RODOLPHE 4275pts 00:12:18

5° MAIER CHRISTIAN 4200pts 00:15:51

6° BERG TONY 4175pts 00:11:45

7° GOODMAN RICHARD 4150pts 00:16:15

8° WELLS EVAN 4100pts 00:11:18

9° CROSLEY JOE 4050pts 00:21:28

10° REDDICKS DON 4025pts 00:17:48

A new series starts today @ - I want to see your name here next month!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WINES OF MANCHUELA 'An Expression of the Land' by PHILIP S. KAMPE

Recently, on this website, I wrote an article about the D.O wines from MANCHUELA, a region in Spain. The wines are great, but, difficult to find. Thanks to Melanie Young and her faithful crew, I was invited to a tasting of 'VINOS D.O. MANCHUELA'.

What I learned was that the reds are made up of the native varietal, BOBAL, primarilly, while the whites lean towards the local grape, MACABEO. TEMPRANILLO, also, plays a major part as the other red varietal.

I met and tasted wines from many winemakers, who were present to explain about the grapes and their vineyards.

Michael Apstein, a wine column contributor to the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle,
was the moderator for the tasting. His comments and insights contributed greatly to the history and present day status of the Wines from Manchuela.

These wines are hard to find, but, well worth the journey.

The wines that create the MANCHELA WINE EXPERIENCE are:

100% Macabeo
well structred...tropical fruits..white flowers

100% Bobal (Red)

Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon
fresh...fruity...forward...with tannins

100% Tempranillo oak...long finish.

Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon
ripe fruit...well structured...tannins

100% BOBAL
blackberry...toasted oak...tannins...structure

All of these wines are worth investigating.
SPAIN is on the radar.
For more information on the wines from this Region, contact


ONTARIO WINE DIVA and the OLYMPICS by Philip S. Kampe

We owe the ONTARIO WINE DIVA a big THANK YOU for all of the hard work and information she has passed on to us for the past SEVENTEEN days.
Let the games LIVE in our memories FOREVER!!

A Look Back…

Who was watching that Men’s Hockey game on Sunday afternoon between Canada and the US? Who cheered and who just about died when the US tied up the game seconds before the end of the third period? What was your reaction when Sid “The Kid” Crosby scored that final goal in overtime to make Canada proud and the final gold medal awarded to Team Canada? Team United States put up a remarkable fight – they kept us on our toes at all times and we have to say thank you to them for not giving up. Now, as we look back at the last seventeen days, here’s a quick recap of the BC wineries and the Ontario wines that I recommended we all enjoy while watching our favourite sports and our favourite athletes.

Quails Gate Winery
Tasting Room and Restaurant open daily except December 25th, 26th & January 1st.
Tours available April 30th – October 11th.
3303 Boucherie Road
Kelowna British Columbia
V1Z 2H3 Canada
Phone: 250-769-4451
Toll Free: 1-800-420-9463
Fax: 250-769-3451
“Try their Fortified Gamay Noir; definitely a unique after dinner treat.”

Cedar Creek Estate Winery
Tasting room open daily
Tours available May 1st through October 31st
Restaurant open for lunches only – June 12th to September 20th. Special dinner series available on select dates during the summer.
5445 Lakeshore Road
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
V1W 4S5
Telephone 250 764 8866
Facsimile 250 764 2603
“NAFTA could have caused this winery to close but hard work & perseverance made it strong.”

Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Wine shop and tastings available year round.
Tours available at 12 noon and 2 pm
Restaurant closed from January 2nd to February 10th; open daily the rest of the year.
4870 Chute Lake Road
Kelowna, BC Canada
V1W 4M3
(250) 764-8000
toll free: 1-800-667-3538
fax: (250) 764-2598
“Wines aged in a geometrically precise Pyramid.”

Mission Hill Family Estate
Wine Shop open year round except December 25th, 26th and January 1st.
Tours available January 2nd – October 15th.
NOTE: Not all tours are available at all times, check website for details.
Restaurant opens for lunch May 14th – September 19th
Restaurant opens for Tapas June 26th – September 5th
1730 Mission Hill Road
West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
British Columbia, Canada
V4T 2E4
Main 250.768.7611
Retail Store 250.768.6498
General Information 250-768-6448
Facsimile 250.768.2267
“Regularly described as the most spectacular winery in Canada”

Sleeping Giant Winery (at Summerland Sweets)
Winery open daily for tasting and purchases
6206 Canyon View Road
Summerland, BC V0H 1Z7
(250) 494-0377
“Over 20 fruit wines to choose from”

Red Rooster Winery
Wineshop and gallery open daily.
Patio open during summer months.
891 Naramata Road
Penticton, BC
V2A 8T5
(250) 492-2424
Fax: (250) 492-2400
“A Penticton winery that supports local artists”

Howling Bluff Estate Winery
Tasting Room and Inn open from April 30th – October 15th
Winner of the 2009 Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in British Columbia wines
1086 Three Mile Rd
Penticton, B.C.
V2A 8T7
Winery 250.490.3640
“3 wines and an Inn overlooking Lake Okanagan”

Elephant Island Orchard Wines
Tasting Room open daily from May 1st to October 11th. Will open by appointment during the off season – just call ahead first.
2730 Aikins Loop
RR#1 S5 C18
Naramata , BC
V0H 1N0
Phone: (250) 496-5522
Fax: (250) 496-5521
“No, it is not on an island.”

Wild Goose Vineyards
Winery open for tours & tastings from April 1st to October 31st. Call for appointments between November 1st and March 31st.
Picnic area on site where the winery recommends you bring a lunch and enjoy it with a glass of Wild Goose wine.
2145 Sun Valley Way, Okanagan Falls, B.C.
Phone: (250) 497-8919
Order Line: 1-877-497-8919
Fax: (250) 497-6853
“2009 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year”

Chandra Estate Winery
Tasting room open daily from April 1st to October 31st. Open by appointment only from November 1st to March 31st.
33264 121 Street
Oliver, BC
V0H 1T0
Phone: (250) 485-4081
Toll Free: 1-866-777-4081
Fax: (250) 485-4051
“The winery with unique names for their wines - and they're organic.”

Le Vieux Pin
Tasting room open daily from April 1st through October 31st. Please call ahead to make appointment during off season.
34070 73rd and Black Sage Rd
Oliver, B.C.
V0H 1T0
Tel: 250.498.8388
Fax: 250.498.8399
“A French name for the winery, French names for the wines...”

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Tasting Room open year round, except for weekends during the winter season.
The Sonora Room (Restaurant) will be opening for the 2010 season on Friday, February 12th and will remain open until December. Please see website for specific details.
The Guest house has similar hours to The Sonora Room. Please see website for specific details.
100 Burrowing Owl Place
RR#1 Site 52, Comp 20
Oliver, British Columbia, V0H 1T0
Toll Free: 877.498.0620
Local: 250.498.0620
“As impressive looking a building as Mission Hill”

Golden Beaver Winery Inc.
Tasting room open daily from April 15th to October 15th, Sunday through Wednesday from October 16th to April 14th except between December 12th and January 4th when they are closed. Check website for specific details on hours.
29690 S Hwy 97
Oliver , BC V0H 1T0
Phone: 250-495-4991
Fax: 250-495-4324
“A Canadian Tokay, two wines called Vin de Cure.”

Road 13 Vineyards
Wine Shop and Tasting bar are open daily from Easter weekend through to October 31st.
All other times, please call ahead to confirm that someone will be there.
13140 316A Ave,
Road 13 RR1 S-28A C10
Oliver, BC V0H 1T0
Phone: 250.498.8330
Fax: 250.498.8331
“Call ahead to verify they will be there but visiting Road 13 Vineyards is well worth the trip.”

Herder Winery & Vineyards
Tasting room open from May through October but call in the off season to see if they are available for purchases.
2582 Upper Bench Road
Keremeos, BC V0X 1N4
Phone: (250) 499-5595
“A white wine blend of 4 grapes plus a nice selection of reds.”

Clos du Soleil
OFFICE ADDRESS: 1411 West 6th Avenue
Vancouver, BC,
Canada V6H - 4E9
Phone: 778.837.4205
WINERY ADDRESS: 2568 Upper Bench Road
Keremeos, BC,
Canada V0X-1N4
Phone: 250.499.2831
“Only 2 wines but when they have 1 of Ontario's best female winemakers helping them out, you know Clos du Soleil has to be good.”

Domaine de Chaberton Estates Limited Partnership
Tours available year round – check website for details on times.
Wine Shop open year round – check website for hours.
Bacchus Bistro open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch; Friday & Saturday only for dinner.
1064 - 216 Street
Langley BC
V2Z 1R3
Boutique 604 530 1736
Bistro 604 530 9694
Long-Distance 1 888 332 9463
“Some very unique grapes”

Now, let’s not forget the amazing wines from Ontario that we have enjoyed over the last seventeen days. Here is my rundown, with tasting notes and winery contact information, for the seventeen wines that reached the podium.

We started out the Ontario wine series with, quite naturally, a glass of bubbly. This is one of my new favourite bubblies from Ontario, made entirely from Prince Edward County grapes and the first VQA bubbly to do so. Made by Jeff Innes at The Grange of Prince Edward, it is this delicious combination of fruit, mineral and a slight touch of cream. Only $29.75 a bottle, this bubbly was released back in November so it is best to get your hands on this quickly as they are running short on bottles. To order some of this great bubbly, find the wineries contact information below and get in touch with them.

The Grange of Prince Edward
990 Closson Rd
Hillier, ON K0K 2J0

Our second day saw us enjoying a glass of East Dell Estates 2008 VQA Pinot Grigio. Flavours, and aromas, of honey, pear and green apple, this wine pairs perfectly with seafood dishes and your favourite Olympics sport. An amazing value at $12.95 per bottle, this wine is available at the winery or can be delivered to your home.

East Dell Estates
4041 Locust Lane
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B2

On the third day, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day, we enjoyed a wine that is completely unique to the Ontario wine industry - Black Prince Winery 2008 Chardonnay Terroir Elite. This wine is completely unique in the Ontario wine industry because, for the first time ever, we have Prince Edward County grapes aged in barrels from The Carriage House Cooperage which is a local cooperage house in Prince Edward County – the only one of its kind. Never before have the grapes and the barrels been so closely linked and the wine they created together is one to be enjoyed over a candlelight dinner. There were only 100 cases of this wine produced and, at $29.95 a bottle, these wines are going to fly off their shelves.

Black Prince Winery
13370 Loyalist Parkway, RR#1
Picton, ON K0K 2T0

Day four was the day we got to enjoy my favourite White Meritage from Ontario - Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery 2007 Nuit Blanche. Ever since I had this wine, when Harald Thiel brought a bottled that day Nuit Blanche to an Ontario Wine Society event I was organizing, I have been in love with this wine. The current vintage – 2007 - has a rich mouth feel with sweet fruit characters and a lingering finish. The wine shows refined aromas of papaya, guava fruit, Chinese allspice and smokey minerality. $40 a bottle but completely worth the expense.

Hidden Bench Estate Vineyards & Winery
4152 Locust Lane
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B0

The fifth day of the Olympics was the first day the Men’s hockey team were playing and, given that Wayne Gretzky was their GM prior to Steve Yzerman, it seemed fitting that we should enjoy a bottle of Wayne Gretzky Estates 2007 Merlot. It has a fruit-forward style highlighted by aromas of blackberry and cherry. Rich, rounded palate and moderate tannins frame ripe berry fruit, finishing with mocha and oak spice. Possible food pairings – mild curries, pork tenderloin, souvlaki, chili or stew – everything we would love to eat at this time of the year to keep us warm. To grab a bottle – or two – of this wine which retails at $15.95 a bottle, visit your local LCBO, the winery itself or order online.

Wayne Gretzky Estate Wines
3751 King St, PO Box 55
Vineland, ON
L0R 2C0

On day six, I wanted to share a store of a wine that, in normal circumstances, may not have made it to the shelves - Marynissen Estates 2007 Bottoms Up. From Jeff Hundtermark – winemaker at Marynissen Estates - In 2007, our lees filter unceremoniously gave up and is now non-functioning. The decision was made to place all the Lees from the bottom of each tank (all 7 varieties) into one tank and allow the lees to settle the old fashioned way... by gravity. This procedure took approximately 5 months and a further 4 rackings until we were able to recover as much as we could. The bonus, as we found out, was that the wine being in contact with the lees for that period of time provided intense fruit concentration, integrated tannin structure, and the deepest of colour. The serendipitous part of this story is when we decided to taste the wine before using it to top up barrels; we discovered just how special the wine was. We immediately ordered new American Oak barrels and aged the wine for a further 8 months. This wine is available at the winery directly so contact them to place your order today.

Marynissen Estates
1209 Concession 1, RR#6
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

Day seven saw us enjoying an old classic from winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky - Rosewood Estate Winery & Meadery 2008 Natalie’s Sussreserve Riesling. Natalie has been making this wine since her early years at Angel’s Gate Winery and it has become known as her signature wine. An off dry style of Riesling, this wine has won awards at major competitions for both this vintage and many past vintages, this wine is made by adding unfermented Riesling grape juice back into the wine just before bottling which creates added complexity, character, structure, natural acidity and of course sweetness. The 2008 vintage has bright notes of lemon, lime, peach and wild flowers. The palate is fresh with balanced acidity and sweetness. Pairs best with lemon or butternut squash risotto, Weiner Schnitzel, Thai dishes, Munster and St. Paulin cheeses and warm apple desserts.

Rosewood Estate Winery & Meadery
4352 Mountainview Road
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B2

On the eighth day, we chose to indulge in another celebrity wine – this one from Dan Aykroyd’s shelves - Dan Aykroyd Wines Discovery Series 2007 Cabernet Shiraz. This Cabernet Shiraz displays a rich bouquet of dark berry fruit and peppery notes. The palate is smooth in texture, showing concentrated flavours of plum and cassis complemented by an undercurrent of spicy layers. Winner of the All Canadian Wine Championships 2008, bronze medal in the Red Vitis Vinifera category, the Canadian Wine Awards 2008, bronze medal, and the prestigious Cuvee Wine Award. Available at the winery or through your LCBO store at $14.95 a bottle.

Dan Aykroyd Wines
4041 Locust Lane
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B2
905-563-6063 xt 25

Day Nine found us at the second weekend of the Olympics and there is just something so satisfying about comfort food on a weekend so I wanted to make sure we had a wine that would pair well with classic comfort food. Now, comfort food means a lot of things to a lot of people but, for me, there’s nothing like a homemade burger where I got “unique” with the toppings. Ketchup, mustard and relish just don’t work on a homemade burger for me and when it comes to something to drink – I want something just as tasty as the burger I’m about to enjoy. That is why, for day nine, I chose Chateau des Charmes 2007 Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc. This wine, from the warm 2007 growing season has concentrated currant and cassis aromas and flavours. There was limited barrel aging for this wine – only long enough to impart some slight spice and smokiness and not mask the vibrant fruit that is coming out as you swirl the glass. This wine is $13.95 a bottle and is available both at the winery and at your local LCBO.

Chateau des Charmes
1025 York Rd
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1JO

By the time we hit day ten, it felt like we needed another white wine so for that day, the choice was Tawse Winery 2008 Quarry Road Vineyard Gewurztraminer. Tawse Winery was named Best Ontario Winery at the 2009 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards and this particular wine was awarded the Gold Medal at the 2009 Ontario Wine Awards.

Tawse Winery
3955 Cherry Ave, PO Box 822, RR#1
Vineland, ON
L0R 2C0

Having had a break from red wines, on day eleven, we return to them with Creekside Estate Winery 2007 Shiraz. The winemaker at Creekside Estate Winery – Craig McDonald - hails from Australia so it is almost natural that when he makes a Shiraz, he is going to put an Australian mix on the final product and, when you combine his expertise plus the expertise of the rest of the winemaking team at Creekside and the incredible growing season that 2007 has become to be known for Ontario, it is not much doubt that this wine is a world unto its own. Typical Shiraz is mostly black pepper and cloves in the aromas and the flavours alike but the 2007 growing season added a couple of extra dimensions to these components – slight floral and plummy, jammy fruit. This wine can be picked up at the winery, online or at your local LCBO store.

Creekside Estate Winery
2170 Fourth Ave
Jordan, ON

On day twelve, we chose a wine from a new type of winery – a virtual winery. Virtual wineries mean that they do not have store fronts or wine boutiques for you to enter and that all of their sales come from their website. Nyarai Cellars is Ontario’s first virtual winery – you can’t visit them, you can’t tour their facilities, you have to go to a local restaurant to try their wines but they will deliver their wine (that you order online) right to your front door. From their opening, Sauvignon Blanc has been a very important grape to them – it has become their flagship grape – and for very good reasons, it is one of their most outstanding wines. Fermented in 100% stainless steel, this medium-bodied wine exhibits flavours conveying notes of white grapefruit, green melon and driven tropical fruit embraced by firm acidity promoting a lingering finish. Now, since the release of this particular blog entry, back on February 23rd, I have learned that the wine is sold out but that the 2009 vintage is coming along nicely and will be available in the coming months.

Nyarai Cellars

The wine for day thirteen saw a wine that uses the art of assemblage - Ridgepoint Wines 2006 Cabernet Merlot. What this means is, in relation to the 2006 Cabernet Merlot, each of the grapes involved – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot – they were each fermented separately, aged over two years in a combination of American and French oak barrels and artfully blended at bottling. The result is a wine that has complex aromas of blackberry, dried plums, eucalyptus and pleasant oak with a hint of milk chocolate. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine displays smooth tannins with refreshing acidity on the finish, for which Niagara is known. A great wine to pair with food, I recommend pairing this with roasted meats, tomato based dishes or even some chocolate but also with our shortest day of sporting events at the Olympics. This wine is available at your local LCBO at a price of $14.95 but you can also order their wines directly through the winery.

Ridgepoint Wines
3900 Cherry Ave
Vineland, ON L0R 2C0

Day fourteen sees our final glass from the Prince Edward County wine region of Ontario - Sandbanks Estate Winery 2007 Baco Noir Reserve. Whatever vintage you may have, this wine has always been one of the best made wines that Sandbanks Estate Winery has ever made. Baco Noir has always been known to be a bit of a “fruit bomb” when it comes to flavours and even aromas and this one does not disappoint. While very fruity in general, the predominant flavours are blackberry and a hint of chocolate and this wine has not disappointed in competition. Gold, Silver and Bronze as well as honourable mentions have made this wine as award winning as our Canadian athletes have been at the 2010 Olympics so it is only fitting that we have a glass (or two) of this wine. Sandbanks Estate Winery will deliver anywhere in Ontario for free and does not have minimum orders, so to order the 2007 Baco Noir Reserve, which retails for $24.95, call the winery.

Sandbanks Estate Winery
17598 Loyalist Parkway
Wellington, ON K0K 3L0

As we enter the final weekend of the Olympics, I chose a lovely white wine that epitomizes the hard work our athletes have put in over the previous two weeks – Fielding Estate Winery 2008 Pinot Gris. When you read the description the winery provides on how this wine was made, it is intriguing to see the complexity and thought they put into making this wine. “Three vineyard plots from different sub-appellations (Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Lakeshore, Lincoln Lakeshore) were selected and harvested at different stages to help bring different flavour profiles to the final wine. The grapes were soaked on the skins for a short period before pressing and cold settling. Fermented cold using several yeast strains for three to four weeks, the wines were kept on light lees to help build richness in the final wine. A small portion of the final blend was fermented warm in a neutral French puncheon barrel to help add complexity and mouthfeel.” The result is a wine that is light straw in colour with a copper rim and crystal clear. Pear, tangerine and honey are the aromas that come into play and they flow evenly into the flavours of key limes, anise and flowers. Like any good Pinot Gris, it has a fresh and lively mouthfeel, great balance, good concentration on the flavours and a slight hint of residual sugar on the finish.

Fielding Estate Winery
4020 Locust Lane
Beamsville, ON L0R 1B2

On our final Saturday, I chose to highlight a type of wine that previously had not been mentioned – fruit wines. In Ontario, we’re not all about grape wines! Yes, we do make some absolutely amazing grape based wines here but the unsung hero of the Ontario wine industry is definitely fruit based wines so today’s wine is Southbrook Vineyards NV Blueberry. Now, when it comes to fruit wines, there are a lot of hits and misses when it comes to blueberry. Think about all the different fruits out there that you see in your grocery stores – blueberries are definitely one of the smallest. So, naturally, it takes a lot of work to get an intense, true to life, taste from such small berries in a bottle of blueberry wine, but Ann Sperling and her team at Southbrook Vineyards manages to do just that. At the winery, they refer to their Blueberry Wine as “Courageous. On the wild side, with a hint of northern herbs.”

Southbrook Vineyards
581 Niagara Stone Rd, RR#4
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
L0S 1J0

Well, we have made it to the final day of the Olympics – and we all know what today brought to Canadian sports. Although Sidney Crosby scored the final goal for us – which was amazing – it’s about more than just him. There were two other guys who scored early on for us and there was Luongo who kept a lot of US goals out of the net. One person alone CANNOT win a hockey game – it was a team effort – so it makes sense to have as our final wine, one that is a blend of different grapes and as sweet as the final victory was - Stratus Wines 2008 Icewine Red. Like the name suggests, this is a red blend in Icewine form but it is the blend that is surprising to most. A classic Meritage blending of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot but instead of Merlot, J-L Groux decided to introduce Syrah into the mix. Young Icewines tend to have flavours that are not completely developed and need some aging time in a cellar to make them really interesting. That is not the case with this wine as it is already showing floral and berry characteristics and, more importantly, it doesn’t show a bell pepper flavour component which is common with some Cabernet Franc grapes. Given the superb flavour of this icewine, it is only fitting that we choose to end our series of wines to drink through the Olympics with on the night of the Men’s Hockey Gold medal game and the closing ceremonies. Available for purchase, at the price of $39.85 a bottle, at the winery or online.

Stratus Wines
2059 Niagara Stone Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

Ignore the Name and Try this Wine: “B I T C H,” the Wine by Philip S. Kampe

You can’t help noticing the bottle on the shelf. With a pink neck and bold black label emphasizing  the word, “BITCH,” it’s had to ...