Saturday, May 31, 2008

2004 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir

Santa Rita Hills soil at its best once again! Hints of black cherry, cola, spice, candied cherry, and vanilla on the nose. I love the smell of this wine, but it is possible that the fruit might be slightly starting to fade.
More red fruits on the palate, with more hints of vanilla on the finish. This is a fruit forward wine, but I am not sure how much longer the fruit is going to be the shining star. This may have been an off bottle compared to others, but even so, it would blow away a lot of the other pinot that we have been drinking. How is this possible on a wine under $25? I have no idea, but you can taste the love that Richard and Thelka Sanford are putting into their wines. All in all, still very enjoyable, and happy that we still have a few more in the cellar. Need to pick up some more '05's and '06's now that they are out. 90 points. Cheers!

Tavern on the Green - New York

Here's yet another restaurant that we have been dying to try, so when Zelda asked where I would like to go for my birthday dinner, we decided to try Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating all that much this morning, so we didn't take the train up early to walk around and do some shopping. The weather did finally clear up around 4PM, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day. We hailed a cab at Penn Station, and off to Central Park we went. We had a little run in with Ray Kottner, the oldest and crabbiest cab driver in New York City (LINK), and then we arrived at 67th and Central Park. From the exterior, Tavern on the Green looks great. Upon arriving, you are greeted, if you want to call it that, by a grumpy old man wearing his Tavern on the Green tux and top hat. I suppose if I had to dress like that I would be a little grumpy too! We had about 45 minutes to kill, so we walked down to the corner to get a good look through Central Park. Tons of runners, bikers, and tourists were out in full force since the rain had subsided. We headed back to Tavern a few minutes early, checked in for our reservation, and went to enjoy the outdoor seating at the outdoor bar. What a great little area, with plenty of room for live entertainment, seating, etc. Gorgeous silk lanterns were strung from the trees in many colors, and it just made for some nice decor. Before we even received our glasses of wine, our buzzer was buzzing, and off to our table we went. The place is a bit of a maze, and you walk down a mirrored hallway, with stained glass lamps hanging from the ceiling. We were then greeted at another host stand, and brought to our table in the atrium. The first thing that we noticed in the atrium was the noise! Good lord, this was kid central, and very loud. It immediately screamed tourist trap. The place however is gorgeous minus the noise, although it could use a bit of updating. There were nice 180 degree views of the courtyard outside, and the colors inside are comprised of a lot of pastel, including the flowery, pastel carpet, and painted wood work on the ceiling. Gorgeous chandeliers are hung from the ceiling as well. At first it reminded me a bit of a hotel dining room in Florida, but that is not such a bad thing. Upon being seated we were greeted by our Captain, and our waiter brought over some rolls and butter. We already had our glasses of wine from outside that we never even got a chance to sip, so we didn't end up ordering any wine with dinner, although, the 1998 Marcassin pinot noir was very tempting. ;-) For an appetizer, Zelda opted for the BLUE CRAB BISQUE TARRAGON, TOMATO AND CREAM, and I opted for the CARAMELIZED ONION SOUP-EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, CHIVES, PARMESAN CROSTINI. As we waited for appetizers, we were amazed by how many kids were here, and how loud the place was. We were also shocked at some of the attire that people wore here, but God knows that the tourists just stumble in, and they have no problem going out in their sleeveless t-shirt and hole filled shorts or blue jeans. This is also the a venue that I would expect to see people playing the game where you flick a paper triangle football through field goals made of two fingers, but we did. We could also tell that this was a bit of a tourist trap with the photographers walking around, taking your picture for $25 and selling them to the various tables. I guess you have to do what you have to do to make a few dollars. Kind of sad though, and it takes a bit away from the experience...but after the behavior we had already seen, there is not a lot of ambiance left. Tourist trap or not, the soups came and they were both delicious. My french onion was not the best I have ever had, but it was good. Nice onion taste with a good beef stock, garnished with a Parmesan covered crouton. Zelda's soup had a nice creamy orange color and texture, and nice flavors as well, but we have both had better. For dinner, Zelda ordered the SHELLFISH CIOPPINO-LOBSTER, CLAMS, MUSSELS, PRAWNS, CRAB LEGS PEARL PASTA, SAFFRON AIOLI. This was served in a giant bowl with all kinds of fresh seafood. The seafood was cook absolutely beautifully, and the sauce had a nice flavor that did not mask the taste or over power the fresh seafood. This definitely was not mind blownig, but it was good. I opted for the HERB-CRUSTED FILET OF BEEF-POTATO GRATIN, ASPARAGUS, ROSEMARY, PINOT NOIR WINE SAUCE. I ordered it medium, and it came out closer to well done, but the meat was still moist, and not dried out. I probably should have sent it back,but with hundreds of people here, I didn't feel like waiting. The pinot noir sauce was a nice treat, and the asparagus was a great pairing and a good side. The potato gratin was almost cooked like a lasagna and sliced into squares, with flavors of parm, basil, and thyme. Very good! The herb crust on the filet definitely had some basil on it, as well as parm and bread crumbs, and was good, although it did take away from the flavor of the meat. If this were a Flannery cut, I might be disappointed that the crust took away from the flavors of the meat, but to me, this was a "wedding catered steak" at best. We opted to skip dessert as we really weren't all that impressed with dinner, and I don't think the desserts that we saw were knock your socks off looking either. All in all, the ambiance was ok, minus the noise and kids misbehaving at the tables. The food was a touch above a banquet facility, and pricing for Manhattan was not nearly as high as you would expect based on how much of a tourist trap this place is. Would I go back, not likely unless we had some friends from out of town that really wanted to go there. Long story short, for the money, there are definitely much better options, and I consider this one NYC's tourist traps. At these prices, I'd be surprised if they make it another 2 years with the turning economy without some serious menu revamping. Time will tell! Cheers! Central Park at West 67th Street New York City, NY 10023 Phone: 212.873.3200 Fax: 212.580.4265

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tsukasa Japanese Restaurant - Bordentown, NJ

Yet another great meal once again at Tsukasa. Tonight was a perfect night for sushi, so we grabbed a bottle of the 2007 Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc and headed to Tsukasa.
It was a slow night at Tsukasa, but it was also 8PM by the time we got there, and there was only a table of 4 having dinner as well. One more table did however come in before we left, so it is good to see that the Bordentown locals are supporting this great little restaurant!
Tonight we started with edemame, and it is always a treat here, being nice and hot, and sprinkled ever so lightly with sea salt. Sushi wise, I opted for the Philly roll, made with fresh salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese, as well as my staple, the spicy tuna roll, and a shrimp tempura roll. Zelda opted for the California roll, salmon and avocado roll, and a shimp tempura roll. Everything was rolled to perfection, and the fish was at perfect temp for me...COLD COLD COLD! I love biting into sushi and feeling that burst of cold fish, and tonight it was absolutely perfect! Kudos once again to this family for opening a great sushi bar in Bordentown! I promise, one of these days we will review their hot food! =)

2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kim Crawford has done it once again, with another delicious sauvignon blanc, and another great QPR! Marlborough really has figured out sauvignon blanc!
Twist off the cap and poured tonight at Tsukasa, this always pairs well with sushi! Upon first sniff, oddles and oodles of peach were prevelant on the nose, with hints of passion fruit, grapefruit, lemon, and pear. Other hints of straw and grass made their appearance known as well.
Tons of citrus on the palate, with hints of grapefruit, pineapple, peach, and pear. The finish was short, and showed a prevelant hint of green pepper.
Could this be our "Wine of the Summer" two years in a row? It's hard to say at the moment, but this is definitely one that we will consume by the caseload. Another great vintage from the Kim Crawford crew in New Zealand! 90 points. Cheers

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Avanti WCR682SS 166 Bottle Wine Chiller HAS ARRIVED!

It's a beautiful day in our household as the new wine cellar has arrived.

Stores up to 166 Wine Bottles
One Touch Digital Control for Red, White, or Sparkling Wine
Reversible Tempered Double-Glass Door with Stainless Steel Frame
One Touch Dual Function Electronic Display for Monitoring Temperature (F/Cº)
Auto Defrost
One Touch ON/OFF Interior Cavity LED Lighting System
Wooden Shelves on a Sturdy Pull-Out Roller
Built-In Interior Fan for Temperature Control
Stainless Steel Handle
Security Lock
Net Capacity: 166 Bottles
Color: Black / Stainless Steel
Unit Dimensions: 71 1/8H x 23.5W x 26 7/8D
Carton Dimensions: 74.75H x 26W x 30D
Unit Weight: 223
Shipping Weight: 239
Defrost System: Auto
Power: 110V / 60HZ
Reversible Door: Yes
Got home and it was waiting on the curb. Unfortunately, the kid delivering it was without a helper today. That being said, he had his girlfriend with him, and damn near lost it coming off of the truck. So much for P trying to slip the guys a fifty to take it into the house. Beverage Factory really should do more screening on their shipping partners. The kid couldn't even get it out of the street and onto the curb, and offered to leave it in the street, next to the curb, and asked P how busy our street is and how much traffic we get. Yikes! Thank God for Dave being home to help the kid get it off the street and onto the sidewalk.
So I got home, and saw the giant box sitting on the curb when I arrived. I have to say that it was packed very well. The outside was a combination of cardboard and styrofoam, and the styrofoam was abundant around the chiller. There were plenty of plastic straps holding everything together, and it was sitting on two wood pallets. The chiller itself was wrapped in plastic once I got all of the packing off.
Thanks to Dave, our local comic book artist, we got the chiller into the house. I have to say that this thing is indeed heavy, and weighs every bit of 220 pounds! I got it level, an let it sit for a few hours per the instructions. I turned it on at around 8PM, and started loading it up with bottles, as well as a few different thermometers to check the temperature. I set it to a cool 55 degrees, and 2 hours later, it is sitting at 63 degrees at the top, and 61 degrees at the bottom. An update will come in the morning.
All in all, I am very happy with the quality. The wood shelves are nice, the housing is nice, and the glass door is nice. Packaging was very nice as well, and I really don't have a lot of complaints.
As expected, I did have to remove a few shelves to stack bigger bottles on top of each other. This made me lose some spaces, but at least I could stay bottles 2 high, and 2 deep in these rows. It could always be worse! 166 bottles? Not a chance, but I'd guess I could cram at least 120 in here if I really wanted to!
As of this morning, the digital display was reading 55 degrees, and upon further investigation, my thermometer at the top of the chiller was reading a cool 54.9 degrees, and the thermometer at the bottom was reading 53.8 degrees. Not bad at all. I am going try different locations for my thermometer sensors to see just how accurate it is, but so far so good.
I can say that this thing is very quiet compared to that 102 bottle Haier garbage that we originally bought from Home Goods. We could most definitely hear the Haier kick on while we were in the family room watching TV, but that is not the case with this unit. It runs very quietly in comparison.
So far, I can say that I am very happy with this unit. It looks nice, runs quietly, and was very affordable in comparison. For the money, you can't beat it. Sure, it's not a Eurocave, but it also didn't cost what a Eurocave costs. A full review to come after 6 months in operation!

Bottle Shock - The Movie

There has been some speculation about this movie for some time now, so I figured I would take a second to blog on it.

As the subject says, the movie is called Bottle Shock, and it is scheduled for release later in 2008. This film portrays the Barrett family in a fictionalized version of the infamous tasting in Paris, highlighting Jim's '73 Montelena Chardonnay which bested some lofty white Burgs. That is the short version of the movie.

More information can be found at:

That being said, what do you think is going to happen with this movie? What kind of new life is it going to bring to the world of California Chardonnay? Is it going to have any substantial effect at all? Is it going to do what Sideways did to California pinot noir? Only time will tell! Cheers!

Vineyard 25 - vines are on their way!

Great news today from our good friend Paul Romero at Stefania Wines! Our syrah vines are on the way! Woo hoo!

Paul sent me an e-mail last night saying that our Syrah 373 vines are on the way, and that they are from root stocks 101-114. That is very exciting news, and I am very curious to see how these are going to thrive in New Jersey. These will arrive in Lambertville any day. From there, they will be soaked in water for 24 hours prior to planting, and then they will go in the ground.

You can see the area that we plan to plant these in on this picture. Is this the ideal place to plant them? Probably not, but we sure do think that it will be fun to see if we can really tend to the vines, get them growing well, and maybe even producing fruit in the next few years. If we can, then we'll see what progresses from there. Will we ever be able to grow enough grapes here to produce our own wine? Definitely not based on our space, but like I said, it is going to be a fun adventure!

Stay tuned to the latest from Vineyard 25. Thanks again Paul!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

2005 Agro de Bazan Albariño Rías Baixas Granbazán Ambar

This is a very delicious Albarino that we enjoyed tonight out on the bistro. Great golden color in the glass, much darker than a sauvignon blanc and some chardonnay. On the nose, many different fragrances protruding to include lemon, lime, and grapefruit. On the palate, lots of acidity and minerality, with more lemon, and pear, with hints of passion fruit and spice. The finish was a bit on the acidic side, and a tad sour, but all in all, I have no complaints at all about this wine. Makes a good summer sipper worth of 87 points! Cheers!

Monday, May 26, 2008

2004 Augey Bordeaux

This was the second bottle of the night, opened for Arounkone after he made a visit to the bistro. This second wine followed the rose, but it seemed be be a decent progression.
The nose had some cherry, with hints of currant, spice, soil, and a touch of alcohol. On the palate, this wine was very thin, with hints of more red fruits, but nothing really stood out. The finish was very short, lasting maybe 10 seconds if that, but what do you want for around $7?
This was the second time we visited this wine, and it's a perfect guest wine towards the end of the night. I definitely would not recommend starting with a wine like this, but once everyone's palate's are shot, this is a good go to. 83 points. Cheers!

2006 Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noir Pink Fiddle Fiddlestix

Well, I can say that I have never been a big fan of ROSÉ, but what a great summer sipper this wine is. Of course, being made from pinot noir, how can we not like it? Tonight we paired it with crab legs, corn on the cob, and pasta salad out on the bistro, as a lovely end to the Memorial Day weekend.
A nice pink color in the glass, with a nose of tropical fruits, flowers, and strawberries. On the palate, lots of passion fruit, pomegranate, and a bit of spice, with a bit of sharp acidity, and a very short but pleasant finish.
When it comes to summer sippers, this is definitely a winner. What really intrigues me about this wine is the fact that it is a mix of grapes from both the Fiddlestix Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills, as well as fruit from the Alloro Vineyard in Oregon. Some of the clones harvested for this blend include Pommard, and Dijon clone 667, making this wine is a great blend, and I look forward to enjoying many more bottles this summer. 88 points

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2006 Tobin James Sauvignon Blanc Sundance

This wine came in the Fall 2007 shipment from Tobin James, and was enjoyed out on the bistro with leftovers from Under the Moon. As you'll see in my other posts, be sure to check out the Tobin James Gang Reserve wine club. For the price, you just cannot beat it, and his wines are fun as fun can be!
This particular bottle displayed some hints of pear, green apple, and lemon on the nose, which led the palate to a little more of the same, with some subtle hints of grapefruit as well. The finish was very short, but pleasant for what it was.
It's amazing how different California sauvignon blanc's are from the New Zealand sauvignon blanc that we usually drink. You really can taste the difference, but both California and New Zealand are making some high quality wines. From a QPR perspective though, I think New Zealand has the lead.
As far as the Sundance goes, all in all a good wine, and a bargain for under $10, and worthy of 87 points. Cheers!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

2006 Foley Estates Pinot Noir Rancho Santa Rosa

Another great bottle out on the bistro with a nice antipasti and a pizza from Empire.
This was a very gloral pinot noir on the nose, with that Santa Rita Hills nose as well. Lots of black fruits, mainly blueberry, blackberry, maybe even a little black cherry. Hints of earth, chai, and mushroom as well. On the palate, very fruit forward, with lots of those black fruits shining, and very well integrated tannins. A nice lingering finish that lasts 20-30 seconds. Another great Santa Rita Hills pinot that is drinking well now, but will probably stand up and get better over the next few years. Drink now between 2010. 91 points. Cheers!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Under the Moon - Bordentown, NJ

Another great meal at Under the Moon, and we were shocked to see the restaurant wide open, with the exception of "The Hoff's" inside, and two tables outside. It is however Memorial Day weekend, and Bordentown seems dead during this time. Great to see Estella and Fawn as usual. Estella even seemed to have some help in the kitchen, and was finally getting a chance to relax. Needless to say, she was watching the stove like a hawk, ensuring everything came out to her expectations. As usual, we started off with a few nice pieces of toasted bread, along with Estella's world famous chimichuri. God this stuff is so good, and I can't even begin to explain. I would love to have her recipe, and could eat this every day with some nice, warm bread. The Under the Moon house salad was next, with a nice balsamic dressing, and lots of fresh veggies. Great color on the tomatoes, with good iceberg lettuce, red onion, and cucumber, with a hint of dried herb. As usual, this is the perfect starter, and comes with most entrees. It's delicious! Tonight Zelda ordered the seafood risotto with scallops and salmon. This looked and smelled gorgeous, and the risotto was cooked to absolute perfection. Hints of roasted red pepper, topped with freshly shaved Parmesan made it absolutely perfect! I was torn between the shrimp ravioli with mama's famous "pink sauce," but instead opted for the cheese tortellini with grilled chicken as I figured this would be more filling. I was correct, and it was fabulous. The pesto is awesome, and you can tell how fresh it is. you could smell the basil 10 feet from the table, with tons of garlic as well. It paired perfectly with the chicken, and I just could not get enough on the tortellini. YUM! We ended up skipping dessert tonight, which is very rare for u at Under the Moon, but we just didn't have the room in our stomachs, and actually brought leftovers home. That said, another great dinner in the "Little City with a lot of Charm." Kudos to Luigi and Estella, and we'll see you soon!

2005 Merryvale Pinot Noir

Great Carneros pinot popped and poured at Under the Moon in Bordentown, NJ. Nice and young, but ready to drink upon release. Nose of strawberry, black cherry, vanilla, and the slightest hint of milk chocolate. More of the same on the palate, with the cherry dominating, with a hint of acidity, and very mild tannin. This wine will definitely continue to evolve, and I would not pop another for at least a year. Based on the tannin and acidity, I think this wine will continue to impress for another 4-6 years. For now, this wine is a hold, worthy of 90 points. Cheers!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

2005 Taz Pinot Noir Fiddlestix

Another fine example of a Santa Rita Hills pinot noir, and just another reason we love pinot from this area.
We have yet to have a pinot noir from the Fiddlestix Vineyard we have not liked. They are a great source for grapes, and sell to many different wineries in California like Taz, Fiddlehead, Ortman, Summerland, Hitching Post, Tyler, and many more.
This bottle was popped and poured tonight, and drank well right out of the bottle with no decanting, and nothing more than a few swirls in the glass. The first thing to notice about this wine is how floral it is on the nose. Also, tons of cherry, a hint of earth that is so common in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, raspberry, strawberry, and the slightest hint of spice.
On the palate, the cherry/cherry cola dominated, with the slightest hint of caramel. The finish was very pleasant, and lingered for a good 20-25 seconds. There is nothing at all offensive about this wine, and it's actually quite a pleasure, and drinking very well right now. There is a good chance it will get even better with a year in the bottle, but who can wait? It's drinking that good right now. Wine Spectator only gave this wine 87 points, but I think it's worth of 91. Will definitely purchase another bottle in the future. Good QPR at $25. Highly recommend. Cheers!

Delorenzo's Tomato Pies - Route 33 Robbinsville, NJ

Another outstanding pie, or two at Delo's tonight! Upon arrival, we were told there would be a 30 minute wait tonight. If I had to guess, it wasn't more than 10 minutes, and we were seated promptly. It's great to see this location packed with a line of people waiting as usual, and good to see that those who are afraid to go support Hudson Street based on their opinions of Trenton coming out to support them here. Sure, this neighborhood is a lot safer, but the Hudson Street location is not that bad, and there are always police officers there ensuring everyone's safety. I really don't think this is necessary, but it is nice and reassuring for those who might be a little intimidated.

As usual, Sam greeted us while we waited, as well as when sat. As always, he was friendly, and he and his team are great people. Great staff with great food! Bonus!

Tony waited on us tonight, and came right over and opened up our 2005 Taz Fiddlestix pinot noir. Review on that to come as well! He took our order for the antipasti salad, as well as a large sausage and sweet pepper, and another large sweet pepper. This will leave for delicious leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

The antipasti came loaded up with cheese, fresh mozzarella, olives, roasted red peppers, salami, sesame bread sticks. This salad is huge and a meal in itself that could easily be a great snack for 4 people. So damn good, but so much food! Regardless, we ate a lot of it, and not enough of our tomato pies!

As always, our pies came and were absolutely gorgeous as seen at left. The sweet pepper is seen on the top, and my sausage and sweet pepper is on the bottom. These pies are absolutely perfect. Look at the nice bubbles, thin crust, and tasty cheese! YUM!
Tomato pie just doesn't not get any better than this. I've said it before, and I will say it again! Gary and Sam have it down to a science, and there is nobody that can even come close to duplicating these pies. From the crust, to the sauce, to the fresh sausage and other fresh ingredients, everything is first class.
The crust still is a little different from Hudson Street, but that is not a bad thing to say the least. I really think that it is the Trenton water. =) Regardless, it is just as good, just a tad different. Almost as though there is a little more air and density to it. The sausage and sweet peppers on the other hand were perfect. There is no other sausage like this on a pie in New Jersey. The sweet peppers are magnificent as well, and always taste as though they are right off of the vine.
All in all, another great meal at Delorenzo's with great food, great wine, and great service. Kudos as usual to Sam and his crew, and to Tony our waiter. Keep up the great work an outstanding pies!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Vineyard 25 - COMING SOON!

Is it possible to grow decent grapes in New Jersey? What are the chances that good syrah vines will grow in New Jersey? Well, I wish I had the answer to these questions, but it is just a matter of time before we find out!

Special thanks to Paul Romero, owner, winemaker, vineyard manager, etc, I have some great syrah vines coming to us that we will try to grow organically in our backyard.

I can't say enough great things about Paul and his wife Stefania. Not only is Paul creating amazing syrah and cabernet sauvignon, he and Stefania are just damn good people to boot!

I e-mailed Paul one day on a whim asking him where he buys his vines, and after giving me a suggestion, he was gracious enough to offer me a few plants that he had leftover after doing some planting and replanting early this season. Knowing Paul, and knowing the care and precision that Paul takes on his wines, I am sure that these are going to be great vines. Whether or not they will grow in New Jersey and produce fruit is another matter, but hopefully we will find out in the next couple of years.

Paul was also gracious enough to give me some great tips, as well on some great resources that will help out a ton as well. So all of that said, I look forward to receiving our plants from Paul, so please do stay tuned as this project progresses.

From here, God only knows. Will we ever own a vineyard and winery on the East Coast? More than likely no. Will we ever own a winery or vineyard in California? Nah, but this will certainly be a fun project nonetheless.

Thanks again to Paul and Stefania, and be sure to check them out at: Stay tuned as the story unfolds at Vineyard 25!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yardley Inn - Yardley, PA

It was a rainy day by the time I got home, and a perfect day to sit at the bar at the lovely Yardley Inn, overlooking the Delaware River. For those of you not familiar with Yardley, it's just across the river from Trenton, and about a 15 minutes drive from where we are located.
The bar was dead when we got there, however we did get there at an odd time, just a few minutes before 3PM. That being said, we had access to the "In Between Menu," which happened to be perfect for us.
At the bar, we enjoyed a nice glass of New Harbor sauvignon blanc. This wine seems to be a staple in restaurant these days, and is a joy to drink, like many of the other Marlborough New Zealand sauv blancs that are out there. At $9 a glass however, I thought it was a little expensive, but once I saw the monster pour in the big fishbowl white glass, I was pleasantly surprised. No complain whatsoever paying $9 for the glass that we both received.
On to lunch, Zelda ordered the beer battered tilapia & chips with caper remoulade...your classic fish and chips? Not exactly as it is made with tilapia, but what a pleasant treat it was. I never would have thought of this, but I would definitely order for myself next time we go back for lunch or dinner. Everything was perfect. The fish was fresh, and the batter was light, airy and crispy! Yum! Even the caper remoulade was outstanding!
I opted for the sausage & pepper hoagie, and it too was delicious. It was served on a fresh Italian roll, with a double row of great sausage, smothered with onions and red peppers, then topped with melted provolone cheese. The portion was huge, and I ended up taking 1/2 of the sandwich home for lunch tomorrow. Fresh butterfly chips accompanied my sandwich, and they too were outstanding.
All in all, yet another great meal at the Yardley Inn, with a nice view of the river, great food, and great service. Kudos!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2003 Fess Parker Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard

It seems as though 2003 pinot noir is hard to find these days, and after doing some research, this seems to be the only bottle of '03 that we had left in the cellar. Very strange...
Popped and poured this bad boy tonight out on the bistro and wow! What a dark color in the glass! Very dark plum and hard to see through! This wine on the nose was very aromatic and floral compared to other Fess Parker's we've enjoyed. Lots of dark dark fruits with hints of sage. On the palate, more black fruits and red fruits. Hints of raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry.
This is definitely more of a heavier pinot noir, very full bodied, with medium acidity and tannins. Based on the tannins, I would guess this wine will continue to age for another 3-4 years. 15.9 percent alcohol, but you would never guess it based on the nose. All in all a good wine worthy of 90 points.

Friday, May 16, 2008

2005 Melville Pinot Noir Estate

Another greawt release from Melville! Popped and poured at Tsukasa Japanese Restaraunt in Bordentown, NJ tonight, this wine showed a nice ruby red in the glass. Surprisingly, very little alcohol showing on this wine, even though it was in the mid 15's. This wine would definitely benefit from some open bottle time, but I really have no complaints all considered. I think this wine will also show better with another year in the bottle.
On the nose, lots of dark cherry, spice, and had that typical Santa Rita Hills soil smell. On the palate, more of the same followed, along with hints of plum and red fruits. This wine was a little spicy when first popped, but it settled down nicely in the glass, making it a joy to drink, and a great QPR. Will purchase more of this in the future, and will be great with another year in the bottle. All in all, yet another from Santa Rita Hills worthy of 90 points! Cheers!

Tsukasa Japanese Restaurant - Bordentown, NJ

Another great meal at Tsukasa! Kudos to this family, and we'll do whatever we can to ensure that they are successful! A nice fresh breath of air, and just what Bordentown needs! It's nice to have another option other than Italian in the "little city with a lot of charm." Upon walking in, we were lucky enough to snatch up the last table, so it was great to see their business thriving during this "Street Fair Weekend." Skipped the white wine tonight and enjoyed a Melville pinot noir with dinner. Not the best pairing for sushi, but it definitely worked! See the review here as well! Tonight we opted to do a soup and sushi combination. No, this is not a combo on the menu, but one that we created ourselves. Zelda opted for the Tempura Udon, which was a nice soy based soup, with big, thick, white udon noodles. We've never tried the udon before, and I do think that I prefer the soba over udon personally. I opted for the Tempura Soba, made with thin buckwheat noodles, and made from the same soy based broth. Both soups came with 2 nice sized shrimp tempura on the side, as well as a nice pairing of tempura vegetables. A lot of places will serve the tempura in the soup, however I think that it is much more enjoyable when placed on the side, so you can really enjoy that tempura crunch! On the sushi side, I opted for the delicious Philly roll, containing salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber, as well as the spicy tuna roll, which is a staple at least a staple for me. Zelda opted for the salmon and avocado roll, as well as a California roll. As always, the fish was very fresh, and very enjoyable. This sushi chef has some skills, and he knows how to make some damn good rolls! If I had to pick a gripe, I would mention that I would enjoy the rolls to be about 10 degrees colder, as I like my sushi very cold, but the temperature that it is currently served at is probably right at industry standard. As always, the service was great and friendly. It really is a pleasure to dine with the folks at Tsukasa! Check it out and support them! They need to stay in Bordentown! That's my 2 yen. Cheers! 1 Crosswicks Street Bordentown, NJ 08505 Phone: (609) 298-3838

Rest in Peace - Robert Mondavi

June 13th 1913 - May 16th, 2008
Today, the passing of California wine legend Robert Mondavi was announced.
Mr. Mondavi had many great feats in his amazing life, and was a true innovator helping California blossom in the world of wine.
I can't say that we ever met the man, but we give thanks to him and his family for passion that he and his family gave to this great industry! Thoughts and prayers to the Mondavi Family!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kongsgaard 2008 Spring Release

Kongsgaard is always a release that many look forward to, and this year is no exception.
Unfortunately for us, I am going to have to pass this year, so if anyone is interested in picking up our allocation at release prices, feel free to e-mail me and they are yours. I can have this shipped directly to you as well. Their wines are pricey, but their chards and syrah are favorites of many, and absolutely incredible.
The releases are as follows:
The Judge Chardonnay 2006 Napa Valley has the startling expression of minerality and fruit for which this Chardonnay, grown on our family land, has gained its reputation. The remarkable length of the finish must have to do with the naturally miniscule yield of this rocky vineyard planted on land that was originally purchased by our family in the 1920s as a rock quarry site. It would amuse my grandfather that Robert Parker finds “terroir-based minerality” and “hints of crushed rock” in the wines from a vineyard that almost was a quarry. 11 tons was the yield from the 9 acres of Chardonnay at the Judge vineyard in 2006. This works out to produce less than one-half bottle of wine per vine. The exceptional 2006 Judge stands out for its intense energy, depth, and uncannily long finish. Robert Parker wrote that this wine “exhibits superb acidity,” and notes the “concentration, precision, and minerality.” He has ranked every vintage of the Judge in his “extraordinary” category. Fans of White Burgundy will love this extravaganza. $175/bottle, 550 cases produced.
Chardonnay 2006 Napa Valley is the usual blend of our shy-bearing blocks of the Hudson and Hyde vineyards in the Napa Carneros. The Hudson vines provide the extravagant richness and also the peach pit and almond aromatic intensity. The Hyde contributes to both the mineral depth of the wine and the super high tones in the aroma. Like The Judge, the Napa Chardonnay develops for 22 months in barrel before bottling (with the first 18 months on the fermentation lees). At 12 months ageing, when most Chardonnays are bottled, our wine is just getting over adolescence. In the second year the sophistication sets in. Parker found the 2006 Chardonnay “young, elegant with plenty of citrus and tangerine oil characteristics as well as hints of quince and crushed rocks.” He predicts, “It should prove to be long-lived given its acid profile.” This is our biggest vintage of Napa Chardonnay to date because we were able add ten additional tons from the Hudson vineyard block adjoining ours. Alas, the 2007 vintage (a universally short chardonnay crop in Napa) is only half this volume due to unusual losses at flowering, and we are very sorry to report that we just lost about half of the Hudson 2008 Chardonnay crop to an unusually severe frost on April 14. In other words, the Napa Chardonnay will be offered in reduced volumes in the two vintages following this one. $75/bottle, 1900 cases produced.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley is a blend of two vineyards: our 1000 vine block in the Judge vineyard in the hills east of Napa and the Abreu Madrona Ranch in St. Helena. Our vineyard is composed of four Cabernet clones from the great chateaus of the Medoc. Abreu grows for us two heirloom California selections, which proved themselves in the early days in Napa. The 2006 blend is everything we could hope for. The key to Cabernet for us is getting the tannin balanced properly – strong enough for staying power, but silky and gracious for the near term. These qualities are governed first by the growing site, next by our farming techniques, and finally by our cellar practices. At every meticulous step we think first about the tannin. These choices guide the structural development of the wine. Look for graphite, cedar, and violets in the aroma, and enjoy the luscious and powerful flavors. We like to let our customers make up their minds about new wines in our portfolio before we show them to the wine critics. With two vintages of Cabernet in the market now, we’ll now see what Tanzer and Parker have to say. Tanzer’s review of the 05 and 06 will be published any day, and in the fall Parker will have his first look at the 05, 06, and 07. $150/bottle, 200 cases produced.
Syrah 2006 Napa Valley hails from a uniquely rocky 2.7-acre vineyard at the back of the Hudson ranch in Carneros where the rolling terrain of Carneros becomes the foothills of Mt. Veeder. This matters because here we have the cool, perfume-preserving climate of Carneros along with the special rocky soil of volcanic parent material, which occurs otherwise only at higher elevation. You can’t taste the rocks in the wine if there aren’t any in the vineyard. Wrapped around its mineral core Parker found in “the sensational 2006, chocolate, burning embers, aged beef, smoky game, blackberry, black cherry, and crème de cassis notes.” This all adds up to what he calls “unquestionably the most singular expression of Syrah in Northern California.” $150/bottle, 220 cases produced.
Grenache/Syrah 2006 Napa Valley is made only in the ideal ripening years like 2006. We celebrate such perfect weather by making two tons of our beloved Grenache/Syrah blend. The last one was in 2003. Grenache is hard to ripen until the vines are about 100 years old (think Priorat and Chateauneuf du Pape), but when Napa has a very long, dry “Indian Summer,” Grenache on well-drained soil in Carneros can achieve stunning maturity. In 2006 we were able to co-ferment one ton of Grenache with an equal portion of the Hudson Syrah in 600-liter open-top oak fermenters to create our shot at the southern Rhone. You will recognize Grenache’s astonishing raspberry and strawberry fragrance mingling with the brooding gaminess of the Syrah. The hedonistic finish of this wine rides on the silky tannin for which the Grenache in Spain and France is so justifiably famous. $150/bottle, 110 cases produced.
VioRous 2007 Napa Valley, half Viognier and half Roussanne, benefits from a vinification that is very different from the Chardonnay. The intense aroma is preserved by fermentation exclusively in older barrels and the wine is bottled after 10 months of barrel ageing. Parker has routinely called this flamboyant wine “the best white Rhone Ranger made north of San Francisco” and “one of California’s most exotic whites.” The production is limited to the yield of the four short rows we planted in the Judge vineyard after falling in love with these varieties on a tour of the Rhone Valley in 1992. $75/bottle, 90 cases produced.
More information at: Cheers!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2006 Sanford Pinot Noir - Santa Rita Hills

Sanford's latest release, and another good one...but be patient and give it some time in the bottle...

Nice red/violet color in the glass with raspberry, black cherry, blackberry, other black fruits which I can't identify, a hint of cola, vanilla, oak, and pepper on the nose! Lots of dark berries on the mid-palate, with strong tannins and acidity. The finish was short, and a tad on the sour side. This wine is showing well for being so young, but lacking the complexity and the "candied cherry" that I have grown to love in the '04. In my opinion, this is a better offering right off the bat than the '05, but I said it before, and I will say it again, Sanford hasn't been the same since Richard and Thekla left! Regardless, they are still making a good wine!

In short, this wine is still young in the bottle and needs more time! Based on the tannin structure in this bottle, I think that this bottle will age nice for up to 5 years...maybe more!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2005 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Land's Edge Vineyard

This was our second visit to this pinot, and it was every bit as good as the first. For somewhere around $40, this has to be one of my favorite California pinot noir.
This bottle was popped and poured at just above cellar temperature, and had an awesome nose of cherry cola, caramel, vanilla, moss, and other red fruits...maybe even some jammy raspberry. On the palate, lots of candied cherry, vanilla, caramel, and very silky on the tongue...quite a bit of spice as well, almost like a syrah, but this and the tannins calmed as it spent more time in the glass, and as the bottle opened up. Finish was short and not over complex, and I would say it had a medium complexity. All in all, a great wine that I will purchase again and cellar for a few years. This particular bottle was more of a new world fruit forward pinot, compared to the first bottle that we had. Definitely need to pick up a few more of these to cellar! All in all, a great pinot worthy of 91 points. Cheers!

Friday, May 9, 2008

2004 Sanford Pinot Noir

What can we say, other than "YUM" about another great bottle of this '04 Sanford Santa Rita Hills? This is the wine that changed our thoughts on pinot noir forever, and is just such a darn good bargain! Unfortunately, stock on the 2004 is starting to run a little thin, so lets hope some similar pinot releases are soon to come. With the thousands of pinot out there, I am sure we will find one, but for now, this is just so darn enjoyable!

Tonight we brought this along with us to Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, NJ, and as always, it was a pleasant treat! Popped and poured at this "new to us" BYO, this wine showed the usual hints of the '04 Sandford. Great ruby color in the glass, thinning ever so slightly near the rim. Tons of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry on the nose, with the faintest hints of cola and spice. Lots of candied cherry on the palate, and a finish that likes to linger pleasantly for 20-30 seconds.

There is something so special about the '04 that the '05 lacked, mainly in the fruit department. Was this because the harvest was that much better in 2004? What the fruit harvested earlier? Later? I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I don't.

Unfortunately, I do not see this wine improving at all any further, but I think it will hold steady for another 2-3 years with proper cellaring. I have a local hot spot with a few more bottles, and maybe I'll have to clean out their inventory so we can enjoy one a year for the next few years...hmmm. Another consistent 90 point Sanford! Cheers!

Blue Bottle Cafe - Hopewell, NJ

After several months of trying to get up to Blue Bottle Cafe in Hopewell, and not finding the time, tonight, we finally had the opportunity to dine at Blue Bottle, and what a great experience it was! We've heard many great things about the Blue Bottle Cafe in many newspapers, publication, magazines, and even on the wine boards, that it is one of the premier BYO's in the area. Upon driving up, it really doesn't look like much other than an old house, but upon walking in, you will find a great restaurant, with cozy decor, and lots of blue glass accents and bottles, hence the name. Tonight, we didn't have a reservation, but we were smart in getting out early to beat the crowds. I think we arrived at Blue Bottle around 5PM, and they were able to seat us in the back atrium, overlooking the woods and a creek. The staff was very friendly, and we started off by opening yet another 2004 Sanford pinot noir Santa Rita Hills. God we love this wine! We started off with an appetizer and salad: Pan Seared Crab Cake with Chick Pea Puree, Sauté of Chorizo, Leeks and Roasted Tomatoes, and Yellow Pepper Emulsion $12.00 Blue Bottle Salad: Mixed Baby Greens with sliced red Grapes, Toasted hazelnuts, red wine and honey Vinaigrette, shaved manchego cheese**$8.00 Both were absolutely delicious, and the preparation was gorgeous. As you might know, I am very picky when it comes to crab cakes. In mine, I don't use much filler, or anything else for that matter, as I really like to just taste the good crab. That said, I was a little bit weary, but I was pleasantly surprised. The crab cakes itself was delicious, and the chorizo, leeks, and roasted tomato were tasty. I ate the crab cake separate from all of this, but enjoyed the chorizo on it's own. It was a pleasant treat to say the least! As for the salad, that was great as well, with a very nice red wine and honey vinaigrette, that had great flavor, but was not over powering. The hazelnuts were a very nice touch, along with the delicious grapes, and most of all the manchego cheese. This was the perfect salad, and for us, splitting the salad and the crab cake was quite filling! As for our entrees, Zelda ordered the Roasted ‘Griggstown Farm’ Breast of Chicken with Braised Chicken and Spring Vegetable Risotto, Preserved Lemon and Roasted Garlic Jus $25.00. I did not try her chicken, however, the risotto was great, cooked absolutely perfectly, and was very Spring-esq and refreshing. Very tasty! The chicken was nothing to write home about, and wasn't necessarily bland, but it was lacking some zing and pizazz. It could have just used something else, but I cannot put my tongue on exactly what that is. Myself, I ordered the Duo of Beef - Pan Roasted Painted Hills Cote de Boeuf with Ribeye Braciola, Parmesan Polenta Cake, Asparagus, Grape Tomato Relish and Natural Beef Jus $34.00. This was absolutely gorgeous, and the meat could not have been cooked any better! I ordered it medium, and it came out perfectly medium. The flavors were great, they were great cuts of meat, and it tasted like meat, not a bunch of flavors and spices trying to cover up a mediocre piece of meat. Even the polenta was good, and I am not even a polenta fan. There is something about the texture of polenta that just does not do it for me. The asparagus on the side too was wonderful, and the dish also had some very nice grape tomatoes. All the veggies were perfectly cooked, and they were a nice side item that added great flavors to the dish. All in all, yet another good BYO in the local area, or just a 30 minute drive or so. I can't say that it was excellent, but I can say that by the time my entree came, I was not all that hungry. That said, we need to come back again in the future, skip the appetizer and salad, and then we will be able to give it a more accurate review I think. Great service, good food, and a romantic little place to take your wife out on a date! I look forward to going back in the future! Cheers! The Blue Bottle Cafe 101 East Broad Street Hopewell, NJ 08525 Phone: (609)333-1710 Http://

Sunday, May 4, 2008

2006 Château Laulerie Bergerac Sec

This is a great $8 wine that we found at the Bottle Shop of Spring Lake one day when we stopped in and they had a tasting. For the price, this is an incredible summer sipper, and I really look forward to this out on the deck this summer. The blend is 50% semillion, and 50% sauvignon blanc, and the sauv blanc qualities really shine through. Lots of pear and green apple on the nose, with more pear, green apple, lemongrass, and grapefruit on the palate. The finish however almost has some buttery, chardonnay type nuances, which is very pleasant and intriguing. For the money, you cannot beat this wine, and again, it will make a great summer wine. For the price, back up the truck and start loading up the cases! 88-89 points! Cheers!

Kafe Kabul @ Rat's - Hamilton, NJ

It was a gorgeous day to sit outside on the veranda at Rat's, overlooking the beautiful sculptures and the pond. We got to sit outside, watching the fish swim by as Zelda sipped a mojito, and I enjoyed a nice glass of the 2005 Domaine Rene LeClerc, a medium bodied pinot noir from the Cote D'Or that was loaded with bright raspberry and cherry and a structured long and earthy finish. Great Spring sipper on the terrace!
We started off with the Poutines (French fries with cheese and gravy). These are always an absolute treat, fresh cut from fresh potatoes with the skin left on. They are covered in just the perfect amount of gravy and melted cheddar cheese, and I would eat this all day! Such a fun appetizer, and I wish that we could find these elsewhere.
For lunch, Zelda opted for the grilled salmon with new potatoes, asparagus and herb butter. This was very nicely cooked, with a generous portion of salmon. Great flavors, and not overpowering spice and herb, this really let you taste the fresh salmon.
I opted for the grilled organic hamburger with swiss cheese, and as always, this is one of the best burgers you will find in the area. The beef they use for this burger is absolutely fabulous, and as always, cooked to a perfect temperature of medium. More fries came on the side, in the same style as the fries used in the Poutines, and they were great.
All in all, another fabulous meal at Rat's, on a gorgeous day overlooking a gorgeous setting, and of course, being accompanied by my gorgeous bride! Kudos to Rat's for yet another great meal!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

2005 Orin Swift The Prisoner

This wine came in at #17 on Wine Spectators Top 100 list for 2007, so I figured it was worth a shot for a wine around $30.
To me, zinfandel is a great wine during the cooler months. I love a nice zin in the fall, or paired with the right foods. This one is no different.
Tonight we enjoyed this bottle at Oliver-A Bistro in Bordentown. This bottle was popped and poured, and ready stright out of the bottle. Decanting would have been a plus, but what can you do at a restaurant where you are in and out?
On the nose, lots of dark fruits and berries, with similar qualities on the palate. This wine is definitely drinking well now, but could probably improve slightly with more time in the bottle.
All in all, this is a great blend, and very easy to drink. This is definitely a fruit forward wine, however, it is not a new world "fruit bomb" so to speak. I felt as though it was a bigger wine, and could almost be considered a "late harvest" wine, as it seems as though the fruit is almost to the point of over-ripeness. This was not a bad thing however.
The blend: 48% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 10% Petite Syrah and 2% Charbono. All in all, an easy drinking wine worth of 90 points! Cheers!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bonny Doon Vineyard Framboise

For the money, what more could you want from a dessert wine for someone who cannot get enough raspberry?
There is nothing complex about this dessert wine, but how much complexity can there really be?
Tons of jammy raspberry notes, with a pleasant sweetness and syrupy texture. Definitely a fruit forward wine, and it would pair well with chocolate cake, or even on top of chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream! It might not be Tobin james, but it sure is pleasant! 88 points. Cheers!

2001 Foxen Cabernet Sauvignon

Full review to come!