Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rossi's Bar and Grill -Trenton, NJ

Tonight was just one of those nights that I was too lazy to even think about cooking anything after a long day, so a late dinner was in order. I definitely didn’t feel like fast food, so I took a little drive into lovely Trenton, and hit the ever reliable Rossi’s Tavern. On the way there, I had my heart set on the always delicious burger, but about 5 blocks from Rossi’s, I remember that I have been wanting to try the Roast Pork sandwich, so tonight was going to be the night.


I walked in, and saw the usual suspects sitting at the bar, and as always, Bob was working behind the bar. I immediately sat at my normal bar stool on the corner, ordered a Yuengling, and a roast pork sandwich with provolone cheese. In the meantime, I enjoyed some college basketball on one TV, and horse racing on the other TV. It’s hard to believe that pony season is already upon us, and I am looking forward to some trips to Monmouth Park this year, as well as Saratoga, and hopefully we can even make the “Arlington Million” this year at my home track just outside of Chicago.

Out came my pork sandwich, and like the burgers, it was big! I immediately cut it in half, and the aroma’s from the roast pork were great. You could definitely smell the herbs that the pork is cooked with, and I am guessing it has some rosemary, thyme, and in the mix. The provolone was nicely melted, and the roll was airy and crisp on top, while the bottom was just starting to absorb the juices. This was also accompanied by a cup of au jus on the side, which I didn’t think was necessary, but it did have nice flavors to it. Not being super hungry, I opted for fries on the side, instead of the usual chips I order.

The first bite was awesome and flavorful, and this is exactly what I expected from the first time that I saw this sandwich. The pork was tender, juicy, and exploding with flavors. The provolone was the perfect accompaniment, and the roll was of the perfect texture. The rosemary really comes through nicely with the pork, and the flavors all work so well together. As always, the fries were hot and crisp, and were perfect with a little salt and pepper.

Although this sandwich was perfect, I would really love to see what they could do with this pork in doing a bbq sandwich, which I don’t know if they do or not. The flavors and textures of the pork really reminded me of a pork sandwich that I love at The Texan BBQ in Algonquin, IL, so that is something I would like to inquire in. But at the same point, why ruin something that is already perfect?

All in all, another good night at Rossi’s, and another tasty meal. Maybe I need to get away from their sandwiches, and try some of their steaks, or better yet try the lamb! Time will tell, and the ever delicious Rossi’s saga will continue for many years to come. And as always, kudos to Bob for the great service behind the bar! Another good night, and another happy belly! Cheers! -F. Scott

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lorena's - Maplewood, NJ

If there was one restaurant in NJ at the top of my 2010 Must Try list, Lorena's would it, and we finally made the trip up to Maplewood today to give it a try for ourselves.


After receiving an e-mail on Thursday about the new launch of the Sunday afternoon, early 2 course pre fixe menu for $32 that started today, what better reason to go up to Lorena's and check it out. This menu is served from 2PM-4:30PM. It worked out even better since I received a wine shipment from  Kistler Vineyards this past week, of which some of the wines belonged to my good friend, and winemaker Steve Eisenhauer, who lives a hop, skip, and a jump from Lorena's.


Steve has been kind enough to share allocations with us on some great wines, such as Scarecrow, and he has jumped in on a few of our allocations as well, this one being Kistler. On a side note, be sure to check out Steve's wine, Congruence.  I was fortunate enough to try the 2007 Congruence back in November, and it is definitely an up and coming cabernet sauvignon! You can tell that Steve has put his heart and soul into this wine, and his meticulous wine knowledge really makes this wine a treat! With that being said, I highly suggest you sign up for his mailing list, as his wines are made is small quantities, and will sell out fast. We are really looking forward to his 2008 release!


Back to the task at hand, we met Steve and Sue at their home, and headed over to Lorena's. We parked in the lot behind the restaurant, and turned the corner into what is a gorgeous little town. This was my first trip to Maplewood, but I am sure it will not be our last. Maplewood really reminded me of a town back in Illinois, but I can’t remember which town it was from my youth. Regardless, it had some nice charm.

I made a 3PM reservation, and we were greeted by the friendly staff. We were seated in the dining room to the right as you walk in, at a 4 top in the window, and were the only customers at the time. But really, who goes out to lunch at 3PM on a Sunday? The dining room was small and quaint, with some artwork and sconces covering the light sea foam green colored walls. The tables were spaced nicely, and covered with nice clean white linens.

Our server noticed that we had red wine, and immediately removed the white glasses, and brought red glasses to our table. As I always say, it is nice to see good stemware, and Lorena's is one of the few restaurants where we can leave the Riedel's at home and use their stemware. This is always a bonus, so kudos to Lorena's for the decent stemware. First wine opened was the 1999 Hartford Court Marin pinot noir that I brought, so feel free to read the notes in the previous post.

We were handed two different menus, and all of our eyes immediately focused on the 2 course pre fixe menu's priced at $32. Our server explained that it was a tasting menu, so the portions would be smaller, but this is always expected, and we were not disappointed in the least. A tasting menu is just that, and gives you a nice little preview of their entrees. I can say that none of us were disappointed in the least by this.

We chatted over a glass of wine, and in the mean time, our server brought over a basket of bread, ranging from some raisin bread rolls, to a brioche, to a few other kinds. This was a nice assortment, and served with butter topped with cracked sea salt.

Our waiter returned to take our order, and we all opted to go the pre fixe route. Zelda opted for the Sushi Grade Big Eye Tuna, with a Yuzu marmalade, radish, organic avocado puree, and smoked sea salt as her starter, and this was absolutely gorgeous. This was a great cut of tuna, and the two pieces were served over a gorgeous green avocado puree. The tuna had a great color to it, and from the bite that I had, I would order this in a heartbeat on our next visit as it was perfect. The tuna was very fresh, and had some great flavor to it. Sue had ordered this as well as her starter, and I think the both of them were happy with their choice.

For my starter, I chose the Duck Confit, with endive, apples, Roquefort, candied walnut, with a roasted shallot emulsion, and this too was far from disappointing! The flavors all worked so well together, and the duck confit was nice and tender, and cooked absolutely perfectly. What I really liked was how all the flavors played off of each other, from the endive, to the apple, to the sweetness of the walnut, to the shallot, to the pungent Roquefort. The flavors were endless, and it left my taste buds very happy. This was an absolute winner, and every bite gave you tastes of different elements. This was absolutely awesome.

Steve had the Spring Pea Soup, with fresh peas, a balsamic reduction, smoked bacon, and crouton. This was a gorgeous bowl of soup, with a seductive green color. From the look on Steve's face, and from seeing how empty his bowl was, I am sure that he enjoyed it.

Shortly after we finished our starters, we were down to the sediment in the pinot noir, so our waiter opened up the '96 Jadot that Steve and Sue had brought. I can't remember for certain which wine this was, but I did e-mail Steve to find out. Regardless, this was a very nice wine, with many years ahead of it. It seemed to drink so young, and I look forward to finding a bottle of this in the future to age. There is nothing as elegant as aged Burgundy, and I think this wine will develop for another 10-15 years. In that time frame, I think it will knock your socks off at the price, so hopefully I can find a bottle in the future to cellar.

For mains, Zelda and Sue opted for the Atlantic Halibut, with a vegetable fricassee of peas, fava beans and Brussels sprouts, with smoked bacon and a cauliflower puree. Chef Humberto was kind enough to make this to Sue's dietary restrictions, as well as Zelda's since she does not eat the swine. Zelda enjoyed this dish and the flavors, and if she had to make a complaint, it was that it was just a tiny bit overcooked, making it just a bit dry. Even so, she still enjoyed it, and it did look delicious.

I opted for the Braised Beef Short Ribs, with poached green asparagus, fine herb and mushroom fricassee, topped with a pan fried hen egg, and a natural jus. I am a huge short rib fan, and these were some of the best I’ve had. At first, I was a little skeptical with the egg, but this added such a unique element to the dish, and worked so well as the egg was cooked to perfection. The yoke was soft and runny, and the way this melded the dish together was awesome. The short rib was cooked very nicely, and very tender, and the meat pulled apart with little to no effort, with just a few small traces of fat. The asparagus spears were cooked nicely, and the flavors all worked so well together. This was a stomach pleaser for certain, and I couldn’t have been any happier with my selection.

Steve opted for the Sea Scallops, with morel mushrooms, Fiddlehead ferns, charred spring onions, white truffle oil and a mushroom emulsion, and it too looked nice, with 3 large scallops adorning his plate. Yet again, another delicious dish, and I am sure that Steve enjoyed this as well.

After dinner, we opted to skip dessert, enjoyed the rest of our glasses of wine, and had some good conversation. By this point, there were other diners in the restaurant, and it was starting to fill up. I will say that I couldn’t have been any happier with the food, the service, and the ambiance. This was a great lunch, and a great little preview for our next visit to Lorena’s.

On the way out, one of the staff was waiting at the door to hand Zelda her umbrella, and Steve had a chat with Chef Humberto on the way out. All in all, a heck of a great meal, and a very nice value for such elegant, high quality cuisine made with heart. Chef Humberto has some talent, and his creative menu highlights this.

I will say, that although the dining room is small, this would be a great place to have an offline for the oenophiles. For those in NYC, this is just a few short steps from the Maplewood train station, so it would be very easy to get do. With the fine cuisine, you could do a multitude of different wine themes, and it would make for a great night. Food for thought!

All in all, kudos to Lorena’s for a great experience, and we look forward to another visit in the future! Cheers!

168 Maplewood Avenue
Maplewood, NJ 07040
Phone: (973)763-4460
http://ww.restaurantlorena.com/

1996 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot

Our good friends Steve and Sue brought this along today to Lorena’s in Maplewood, NJ, and what a treat it was! Gorgeous ruby color in the glass, still thinning towards the rim and showing its youth. This had a really nice earthy nose, with some deep black cherry, earth, soil, and mushroom, with faint hints of spice. There was very little alcohol on the nose, but a bit still showing its youth. On the palate, this wine seemed really young, and just goes to show how well Burgundy, when properly stored can age. Nice raspberry and cherry tones on the palate, with some old world earthiness to it. Nice spice and acidity, with a smooth finish made this wine very pleasurable. I could easily see this wine lasting another 10 years plus, so if you have them in the cellar, do yourself a favor and give it another 5 years on its side, and I think you’ll be in for a great treat. 93 points.

1999 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Marin


Popped and poured at Lorena's in Maplewood, NJ today over lunch with friends, and this drank well from the get go. Nice dark cherry and raspberry nose, with subtle Asian spice and cedar notes. Much of the same on the palate, wih nice fruit. Cherry and strawberry were the shining star here, with a nice acidity, and clean finish. A classic example of a good, mature, California pinot noir. Drink 'em if you got 'em, and decant for sediment. 89 points. Cheers!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stella's Family Restaurant - Burlington, NJ

Here is a restaurant that we have driven past countless times, and have never really thought about stopping in, and I have no idea why. We recently however received and e-mail from owner Lana Pinho, asking us to come in and review her restaurant, so why not! Her e-mails were very warm, and she sounds like a nice person, so I asked her via e-mail to make a reservation for us earlier in the week for tonight. Ms. Pinho had mentioned that she recently hired a new chef from New York City, so we figured we would give it a shot.

In doing my pre-visit research, I noticed that the menu at Stella's varies, and I would say that most of the menu is Italian, and a portion of the menu is Portuguese as well. She has a wide array of appetizers, salads, soups, pasta's, baked pasta's, chicken, steaks and chops, veal, and seafood. They also have a large selection of hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, pizza's, calzones, etc. The menu is quite large, and Stella's is BYOB, something we are always searching out.

We arrived just before our 7PM reservation, and took the last spot in the parking lot. The place was jam packed, and there were many people picking up takeout. When you first walk in the door, you notice the takeout section of the restaurant to the left, and walk into the dining room through the door on the right. We were greeted at the door by the very friendly staff, and I don’t know if this is a family run establishment or not, but the staff seemed very cute, and some of the sweetest older ladies were working. They were absolutely adorable.

We sat at a nice table in the window, and I immediately started to look around the restaurant. There was some nice dark woodwork around the restaurant, and the tables were covered with nice white linens, and vases with red and white flowers in them. Personally, I would go with a real flower opposed to the silk flowers, but that is just me. I grabbed our Riedel glasses from the carrying case, as well as a 2006 Tobin James Cabernet Sauvignon James Gang Reserve that we had brought along. Our server came over and introduced himself, and proceeded to open our wine for us.

In looking around the restaurant, it is hard to get a read on what they are really trying to accomplish here, as there seemed to be so many different elements. You have the takeout kitchen or staging area connected to where the host stand is. This has a counter where they have pizza’s by the slice, as well as some other items. In the back restaurant along the wall, they also have some buffet like stations pushed against the wall. Maybe these are for catering events in one of their other dining rooms, or for Sunday brunch. Regardless, it is a bit of an eyesore, and gives the restaurant a different, unfavorable identity. I would suggest moving them out of site, and storing them somewhere when they are not in use.

Moments later our server brought over a brushette appetizer for us to try, which was a nice touch seeing as we didn’t order it or request it. The bread was nicely toasted and crisp, with a bit of oil, onion, and tomato on top. The tomatoes were gorgeous seeing as they are not in season right now. As a whole however, this appetizer needed some simple salt and paper, as it was bland. Once salt and pepper was added, the flavors and acidity came out of the tomato and onion, and it was pleasurable. It would have been more pleasurable though if it was topped by some fresh basil. The elements are definitely there to make this a fine app, but it just needs some revamping.

As we looked over the menu, we were drawn to their house specialties. Both Zelda and I both opted for something off of this menu, to get a real feel for what they do right here. Zelda opted for the PAELLA MARIHERA - Seafood Casserole Prepared in Saffron Rice with Lobster , Shrimp , Scallops , Mussels and Clams. I figured I would give one of their steaks a try, and opted for the O F'lL DE JACQLYN - Pan Seared Rib Eye Steak in Madeira Wine Sauce. I was given the option of vegetables or pasta for my side, and opted for a penne with vodka sauce, to get an idea of what their pasta dishes were like.

Both of our entrees came with salads, and we both decided to try their Caesar. The salads came out with the dressing on the side, and were a bit uninspiring. The lettuce looked dry and wilted, and the lettuce was topped with some bacon, and a powdery parmesan cheese. I first tried the dressing, and it seemed as though it was out of a bottle. I don’t see why so many restaurants in the area use pre bought dressing. Is it really that hard or time consuming to make your own dressing fresh? If you’re going to put in a little effort, turn that little into a lot. I also thought that the bacon on the salad was a bit of an odd combo, as I have never been offered this on a Caesar. I wish we would have had the option of asking for bacon, or no bacon, as Zelda is not a pork eater. We ate some of our salads, and left the rest to save room for dinner, as the salad was plain and boring.

In the meantime, we saw another table or two come in as we looked around the restaurant, and we got more and more of a diner feel to the place, which is not what we had expected. One thing that shocked us a little bit was when we overheard the staff talking, saying, “Do you know where the lobster is?” This worried us a bit, knowing that it was for Zelda’s paella, and at this point, it was almost as though we were on an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Dinner came out 10 minutes or so later. Zelda’s paella was served in a giant dish, with yellow rice. There were large chunks of lobster, scallops, mussels, shrimp, and clams. This was a very large dish, but it could have definitely used some work. I had one of the scallops, and it was cooked nicely, but had some grit to it. The mussels were very pasty, and most definitely over cooked, and could have been fresher. The way it came off of the shell was actually a bit disturbing, and the texture was horrific to say the least. The lobster too was dry, and had a hard time coming off of the shell, obviously not fresh, and very much overcooked. The rice had the same gritty texture as the scallop, and was overall very bland. At $24.99, the portion size was nice, but the quality of the seafood, and the cooking was disappointing to say the least. Being one of their “house specialties,” I expected much more.

On to my rib eye, the first thing I noticed was how thin this steak was cut. The first half was cooked nicely to the temperature of medium, and again, I found this to be very bland. Had it been a high quality cut of meat, the flavors probably would have been very nice, but this was a mediocre steak at best. The Madeira wine sauce was thin and uninspiring, and needed some salt and pepper, or something to give it some flavor. The last couple bites of my steak were very fatty, and cooked rare at best. The cow was still moo’ing on my plate, and it was disappointing. The side of pasta was a nice portion, with peas, and typical for this part of New Jersey. I have definitely had better, and also had worse.

We decided to skip dessert tonight, and finished our glasses of wine. After seeing how much takeout they do, and how many pizza’s they sell, we decided to get a pie to go, just to see if maybe we were missing out on something. We ordered a medium pie with ½ sausage to take home, and it was decent, but there are definitely better pies in NJ. The sausage was in the casing in link format, and sliced thin about the size of a quarter. This seems to be pretty common in these parts, and I really wish that more places would just do it right, and order their sausage from City Beef in Trenton. The flavors on the pie were nice, the sauce was decent, and the seasoning was decent. We had the rest for a snack on Sunday evening after out late lunch at Lorena’s.

All in all, we will not go out of our way to visit Stella’s again, but maybe we missed the mark on this establishment. From her e-mails, Ms. Pinho seems like a nice woman, and maybe she was just looking for help. I could think of a lot of things to improve this restaurant, and would start with little things in the dining room, before a full kitchen revamp. For a New York City chef, there was nothing inspiring in the least about the dishes served. I would figure out what you are truly good at, and go from there. Narrow down the menu as you do not need so many items, and figure out the clientele that you truly want to cater to. This area is really a culinary wasteland, as there are not a plethora of good restaurants in this area, so there is room for fame and greatness here. If you are reading Ms. Pinho, please don’t take this constructive criticism the wrong way, we’re here to help, and would love to see you make some changes.  If nothing else however, kudos to your staff as the service was excellent!

Stella's Family Restaurant
1414 North Route 130
Burlington, NJ 08016
Phone: (609)747-7747
Fax: (609)747-7752
Email: FLDSJ@AOL.COM
http://www.stellasrestaurant.biz/

2006 Tobin James Cabernet Sauvignon James Gang Reserve

Popped and poured tonight at Stella’s Family Restaurant in Burlington, NJ, and from the get go, this was an over oaked, alcoholic mess. I truly hate to say that as I am usually a huge fan of Tobin James wines, but this one just wasn’t doing it for us tonight. Maybe it was the food, maybe it was just the entire experience, regardless, it wasn’t one of our better Saturday nights in our little food and wine world.


Tons of oak and alcohol on the nose, with some jammy red and black berries. Nothing really stood out all that much, and the oak was overwhelming. On the palate, the vanilla from the oak was overwhelming, with some jammy/chewy blackberry and dark raspberry and plum. Secondary hints of mint round out the mid palate, with a finish of more oak and alcohol. This is the first Tobin James wine I have been disappointed with, and I am wondering if these wines just no longer appeal to us. I am going to guess no as we really love their fruit bomb zins and whites, so maybe we just weren’t in the mood for a wine of this style tonight. 80 points. Cheers!

Restaurant Underground - Princeton, NJ

After reading about Underground on Chowhound, today we decided to give it a shot for ourselves, to see what it was all about.  Underground has a nice Bulgarian/Middle Eastern flair to it, and that is what they pride themselves on. 

We actally tried to come here I would guess 2 years ago, and I remember walking down the lit stairs, and going inside to a dark, but gorgeous room.  We stood there for probably 10 minutes, and were never helped, so we ended up leaving.  Today, we walked down the steps, and were greeted right away.

The restaurant was bright, with all the light shining in the two long windows in the front.  The first thing I noticed was the glass floor and steps, and we were seated at a table along the wall.  A long bench seat wraps around and adorns the entire wall.

The tables are made of cracked glass, and there is a stacked stone bar with some nice fiber optic lighting elements worked in.  A large piece of fabric drapes a portion of the ceiling, and adds an elegant touch.  It is nice to look at, and adds a nice Middle Eastern element to the restaurant.

Our server David came over and took our drink order.  He also told us about the specials, and brought us samples of the Spinach and Sirene with Feta Cheese Croquettes.  Wow were these tasty, fried to a golden crisp, with incredbile spice and flavors.  I would go back for these along, as they were so tasty.  The also put samples outside, to draw in the customers.  Not a bad thing in the least, and we could see many people grabbing them as they walked by.

After we ordered, David also brought over a taste of the Chicken Paprika Soup, their signature soup.  This had a nice rich, red stock, with large chunks of chicke, vegetables, and rice mixed in.  To me, this didn't have as much Middle Eastern flair as I would have expected, but it was still a nice soup.  The paprika seemed really subdued, but I don't think that is a bad thing.  To me, the soup had more of a Tuscan influence, but again, it was tasty.

For lunch, we opted for sandwiches today as not to spoil our dinner tonight at a restaurant that we have been asked to review.  Zelda, always on the search for the perfect falafel, ordered the Falafel sandwich.  This was a traditional style falafel sandwich with lettuce and tomato, served in a pita with Bulgarian dressing on the side.  It also came with homemade chips.

From the bite that I had, the falafel was fried up nicely, and had some really nice spices to it.  Zelda really enjoyed this, and I cannot blame her in the least.  It was some of the better falafel I have had in this area.

Against my better judgement, I opted for the gyro, in hope that it would be the traditional, spit cooked meat, shaved off fresh, and put onthe sandwich.  I really should have asked, but figured I would take my chances.  Unfortunately, it was the processed meat, and was a 50% mix of lamb, and 50% beef.  It definitely did have nice flavor, but could have used more meat as there were only 3 or 4 thin slices on the sandwich, along with some lettuce, tomato, and shaved red onion.  I will however say that the tzatziki was by far the best I have had in this area, with nice garlic and cucumber flavors, with a really nice flavor.

All in all, a good lunch, and a good place.  I would be really interested to go back and try some of their entrees from their dinner menu, as it looks like they have some great stuff.  David provided us with great service, and was very knowledgeable of the menu.  Good flavors and nice spices make it worth a trip back in the future, but I will be ordering something other than the gryo.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Restaurant Underground
4 Hulfish Street
Princeton, NJ  08542
Phone:  (609)924-0666

Friday, March 26, 2010

Toscano Ristorante - Bordentown, NJ

Once again, we ended up in Bordentown tonight, and took a little stroll around town to see which places were hopping.  The bar at Toscano Ristorante happened to have some seats open, so we sat at the bar where Shannon was working to have a few glasses of wine and a couple of dishes.

It was nice to see some of the locals in there that we know from town.  Aja was there, and later her Mom Joanne showed up, alongwith our friends Don, aka "The Pro," and his girlfriend Noreen.  Our other friend Charnel showed up after a while, and it is always a pleasue to run into the old Bordentown crew, as we spent so many years in town in the past.

For wine tonight, we had the usuall Centine there that we usually have.  It's not the best wine in the world, but by Bordentown standards, and many restaurant "by the glass" options, it isn't bad in the least.  Yes, Toscano has a full bar, so BYOB was not an option tonight.

In the spirit of Lent, we staye away from meat tonight, and Zelda opted for the seafood bisque as her starter.  As usual, this was a gorgeous cream based soup, filled with lump crab meat, as well as a whole shrimp.  Awesome flavors, and nice creaminess, this is aways a tummy pleaser!

In the mean time, I enjoyed the house salad that came with my entree, filled with nice crispy lettuce, and a medley of veggies, tomato, celery, onion, cucumber, etc, with a nice house dressing.  This was the perfect starter to tide me over.

For an entree, Zelda opted for the Wild Mushroom Angolotti, topped with a truffle cream sauce.  Nice large chucks of mushroom, with some chopped mushroom as well, with really nice, meaty flavors.  This was a very nice appetizer, and the perfect entree for her tonight.

I went for the Angel Hair Pasta with Crab Meat and Asparagus, and it too was perfect for tonight.  The pasta was cooked al dente, just how I like it, and topped with jumbo lump crab meat, and chopped asparagus.  The sauce was nice and creamy, and had some citrus notes too it.  This was nicely seasoned, and great comfort food.

After dinner we hung out at the bar with the gang for a while, before calling it a night and heading home.  All in all, another nice meal in the "Little City with a lot of Charm," and we always look forward to our visits to Bordentown!  If you have never been, I higly recommend taking a drive to the little one square mile city as there as many restaurants in town worth visiting.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Toscano Ristorante
136 Farnsworth Avenue
Bordentown, NJ 08505
Phone: (609)291-0291
http://www.toscano-ristorante.com/

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You Write the Wine List!

OK oenophiles, here is the task at hand:

Take your favorite bar, restaurant, whatever it is you chose, and write a wine list for them as a regular customer.  What wines would you like to see by the glass?  What wines do they have now that you would get rid of?  Pick about 6-10 wines, and leave your comments with what wines you would put on the list.  Choose any number of wines for each category, or any category of your own:  Sparkling/Champagne, white, red, etc.  Have fun with this!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

CoolVines Featured in New York Times!

Congratulations to Mark Censits and the CoolVines Team for their mention today in the New York Times! In today’s lead column in the Dining section, Eric Asimov talks about the new generation of wine shops, bringing interesting wines to customers in an unintimidating way. He mentions only three stores outside of New York City, one in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco, and CoolVines in Princeton!

Here’s the excerpt.... “The recent vintage of shops can be found in pockets of wine enthusiasm around the country, including DomaineLA in Los Angeles, Terroir Natural Wine Merchant in San Francisco and CoolVines in Princeton, NJ. But enthusiasm seems to burn hottest in New York City.” The full article can be found at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/dining/24pour.html

I've said it once, and I will say again that Mark and his team at CoolVines are awesome! Mark has a great vision, and took a great concept and ran with it: To bring great, small production wines to the customer at affordable prices. One of the real beauties of Mark's vision is that a lot of these wines are drinking well now, but also have the stamina to last many decades in the cellar. Some of our favorite wines that we have picked up from CoolVines include 2006 Sine Qua Non Syrah Raven Series, 2005 Downing Family Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Leviathan, 2007 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu La Petite Cote, 2007 Gérard Bertrand Vin de Pays d'Oc Cigalus Blanc, 2007 Diatom Chardonnay Huber, 2005 Jean-Michel Guillon Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, and 2006 Iris Hill Pinot Noir, which was our 2009 house red.

That being said, check out both of their locations in Princeton and Westfield! They host tastings at both stores, on both Tuesday’s, as well as Saturday’s from 2PM-5PM! Check it out, and let me know what you think! Cheers! -F. Scott

344 Nassau Street, Princeton - (609) 924-0039
23 Elm Street, Westfield - (908) 232-5050
http://www.coolvines.com/

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Food & Wine.com Recipe of the Week - Seared Scallops with Pinot Gris Butter Sauce

A new feature that I am going to try to incorporate into our blog is a “Recipe of the Week,” that I will choose from Food & Wine.com. If you have never visited Food & Wine, it is definitely worth a look, and they have many great recipes listed, many of which we have tried.  It is my goal to get these recipes posted by 7:30PM on Sunday evening, but we'll see if I can actually keep up with this.  I think that I can!

Being a beautiful 75 degree spring day in New Jersey, I wanted to go with a dish, or at least a main ingredient that reminded me of summer.  So for the first entry to this continuing trend, why not go with something near and dear to myheart during the summer month, scallops!  This week’s Recipe of the Week is the Seared Scallops with Pinot Gris Butter Sauce, by Hugh Acheson, and is cut and pasted below!

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced
2 cups Pinot Gris (I will be the first to say that I am not a big pinot gris or pinot grigio fan, so feel free to substitute one of your favorite other white varietals.)
2 thyme sprigs
1 cup fish stock
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt and ground pepper
1 packed cup baby spinach
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 large sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until golden, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. Lightly crush the nuts.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until browned, 4 minutes. Add the wine and thyme; boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 15 minutes. Add the stock and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 9 minutes longer. Add the cream, bring to a boil and remove from the heat.

3. Strain the wine sauce into a clean saucepan. Whisk in the butter, 4 pieces at a time, until the sauce is thickened and smooth; set the pan over low heat as necessary to help melt the butter. Stir in the chives and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4. In a medium bowl, toss the spinach with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

5. In the skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned but barely cooked through, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the scallops and spinach to plates. Garnish with the pine nuts and pepper flakes. Gently reheat the sauce, spoon on top and serve.

2008 Château Bellevue La Forêt Fronton Rosé

Nice rosé on the cheap with hints of passion fruit, strawberry, pineapple, guava and citrus on the nose, with just the slightest bit of alcohol. On the palate, this is exactly what it is, a $10 rosé, but a pretty good QPR (quality to price ration). Again, nice hints of passion fruit and guava, with some lemon grass coming through.

Nice acidty and a crisp finish make this a good summer sipper. We actually bough this last summer at the Bottle Shop at Spring Lake, and it got buried in the back of our refrigerator and I forgot it was in there. Never even logged it into CellarTracker as a matter of fact. OOPS! Regardless, it made for a nice summer sipper on a 75 degree spring day in NJ here in March. 84 points! Cheers!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2003 Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noir Seven Twenty Eight Fiddlestix

I grabbed this bottle out of the cellar tonight after a '98 Harford Court Jennifer's pinot noir I opened was showing nothing at all on the palate, and was unpleasant. Unfortunately, this bottle didn't have the wow factor that several other bottles have had as recently as January of this year. Even so, this was still a pleasure to drink, and we love Kathy Joseph's wines.

As always, that beautiful Santa Rita Hills nose with that earthiness that is so distinguishing. Nice black cherry, pomegranate, and raspberry, with some oak, spice, and brown sugar. On the palate, there was a bit of bittnerness, which is out character for Fiddlehead. Some strawberry and black cherry dominated, with subtle hints of spice, and surprisingly, there was really no cola on this wine at all. The finish was typical Fiddlehead, and berry, I mean very pleasant, but it just didn't live up to the greatness of other bottles. Even so, it was still nice to drink, and we look forward to some other bottles in the future. 88 points.

1998 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Jennifer's

Popped and poured, initially this wine was showing a beautiful nose of dark cherries and blackberry, but nothing but sour prune juice on the palate, and was very unpleasant. Left the bottle on the counter and pulled an '03 Fiddlehead 728 pinot to drink instead. After finishing the Fiddlehead a few hours later, we revisited this bottle, and it opened up and gained some flavor, but is definitely over the hill.

The nose still showed the same, but now added hints of brown sugar and some jammy raspberry. On the palate, the prune was gone, but the fruit was still in the background, showing to be very tired and subdued. This bottle was definitely over the hill, and storage just may have been an issue with this bottle. Some subtle strawberry on the palate, but the wine was thin and tired. Short finish, with some acidity. Drink 'em if you got 'em, as I don't see these getting any bettr with time. 82 points.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Farnsworth House - Bordentown, NJ

Took a stroll into Bordentown last night since it was so nice out, and took a walk around town. Stopped in Jester's Cafe first where we were supposed to meet some friends later in the evening, and ended up walking down to The Farnsworth House since we love their bar menu.

There were 4-5 tables seated downstairs, and we took the last 2 stools at the bar. Definitely busy as always on the weekend, but that is not such a bad thing. Zelda opted for a cocktail and I opted for a glass of pinot noir (Red Truck - BLAH, but probably perfect for most of their customers).

We noticed that the bar menu had been revamped, probably for Lent, and we opted to do appetizers tonight. Zelda went with the quesadillas and something else, that I cannot remember now for whatever reason. The quesadilla however was very nice, with a nice pepper inside and good cheese. The green color on this pepper was gorgeous, and the flavors were very nice. I know, it's just a quesadilla, but it was really good, even down to something as simple as the flour tortilla.

I opted for two appetizers as well, and in the spirit of Lent, went with the scallops casino, and the grilled swordfish skewer. Scallops came out and were small in size, and served in a shell. The scallops were cooked nicely, with great texture, and a nice little hint of sweetness. The "casino" elements added some nice flavors, and it was a good appetizer.

The swordfish skewer was almost perfect, but could have used the slightest bit of salt and pepper. Nice big chunks of grilled swordfish, with onion, red pepper, green pepper, and yellow pepper. Great flavors, but again, some salt and pepper in the kitchen would have made this perfect. Regardless, nothing I couldn't take care of myself, and it was a treat.

Add some fresh warm bread and some hummus, and this was a great meal. As always, kudos to Fatih and the Farnsworth House staff for great service and a delectable dinner. Love the bar menu here, and with a drink each and 4 appetizers, our bill came in at under $40. Their beer selection is always changing, and Fatih carries some great beers that you will not find at a lot of places. It's always fun to stop in to see what he has on tap. Great value, and we look forward to going back and visiting again soon. -mJ

Farnsworth House
135 Farnsworth Ave
Bordentown, NJ 08505
Phone:  (609)291-9232

2007 Red Truck Pinot Noir

Ordered this against my better judgment off a wine list, but wasn't in the mood for a beer or a cocktail. I've seen this wine a million times, and figured why not, how bad could it be? This wine is exactly what it is, a small, mass produced, cheap pinot, that probably appeals to some, but not me.

Some strawberry and plum on the nose, with slight hints of cherry and other mixed berries. Kind of a fruit medley so to speak that was less than inspiring. On the mouth, quite thin, lacking acidity, and pretty much un-inspiring. Some more berry on the tongue, lacking structure, depth, and again acidity. No spice, no earthy, no nothing really.  The finish was short, but not offensive, but didn't do much of anything for me. Definitely not my cup of tea, or glass of pinot for that matter. 71 points

F. Scott and Zelda partner with The Trentonian!

It is with great honor my dear readers that we announce our new partnership with The Trentonian, Trenton’s premier newspaper! I was contacted during the week, asking if we would like to be featured on The Trentonian’s BLOG page, and we gracefully accepted their offer. This page can be found at http://www.trentonian.com/blogs/ . Currently, we are the only food/wine related blog listed on their page, and we are very honored to be a part of this great publications website.

With all of that said, welcome to our new readers who have found our blog through the Trentonian’s page! Be sure to check back often for updates, and we hope that you enjoy the read. As always, feel free to send us your suggestions on restaurants or wines that you would like to see reviewed, and we will do our best to make that happen! Thanks, and cheers! -F. Scott and Zelda

Press of Atlantic City Editorial Urges Passage of Direct Shipping Bills - UnCorkNJ

In today's edition, the PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY published an outstanding editorial in support of our efforts to permit the direct shipping of wine to New Jersey residents. The editorial urges the General Assembly to follow the action taken last week by the Senate and pass the direct shipping bills (S766/A1702) without delay.


To read the PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY editorial, please follow this link.

As our effort in the Legislature continues to progress, your support and assistance is even more important. Editorials such as today's, coupled with your messages urging your elected officials to pass this legislation, is making a difference.

Please continue to contact your legislators and the Assembly Regulatory Oversight & Gaming Committee members! Additionally, please encourage your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to also contact their legislators!

Every message of support gets us one step closer to providing New Jersey residents with direct shipping!!

-From an UnCorkNJ e-mail

Pizza Show Down - Columbus Market - Pete's -vs- Kate and Al's - Columbus, NJ

So today was installation #1 of the pizza showdown at Columbus Market in Columbus, NJ. The two places are Pete's, as well as Kate and Al's. All the locals seem to have their favorites, and from what I have heard, that is Kate and Al's.


That said, I took a ride over there for lunch today, and gave Pete's a try. Pete's is located inside, just out the doors close to the Amish Market. Pie was hot out of the oven, and I went for the plain cheese since I can't eat any meat today being the good Catholic that I am, and here we are in the season of lent.

Nice square pie with a good crispy crust, that although thick, is light and airy. The sauce could have used just a touch of seasoning. Nothing some dried Italian herbs couldn't take care of, as well as a few red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper. Nice cheese on the pie that was hot and gooey.

All in all, two nice slices of pie, and a steal for around $5 with a large drink. Stay tuned as I give Kate and Al's a shot next weekend.

With that said, who's been there, and which pie is your favorite? Cheers!  -F. Scott

Pete's Pizza
2919 Route 206 # 611
Columbus, NJ  08022

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Croque Monsieur - Ina Garten "The Barefoot Contessa"

With a few recent trips to the Carriage Trade Cheese Shop in Medford, NJ, what better to make when we have some nice, fresh Gruyere cheese than Croque Monsieur from Ina Garten’s recipe? The recipe itself is easy, and these are some great sandwiches when we’re in the mood for them. That said, I picked up some Boar’s Head turkey, and made these sandwiches tonight. Yes, we prefer these with turkey opposed to ham, but the ham is very pleasant as well, so long as it is good ham.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 cups hot milk
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Pinch nutmeg
• 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups - I actually used 7 different cheeses)
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
• Dijon mustard
• 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Needless to say, the recipe is easy, and these came out nice like always. This is the first time we have made these in the new oven, and they cooked even better, and faster than with our old oven. The new broiler works wonders, and cooks very fast. The cheese came out with some nice color, and was a bit of bubblicious heaven. What is there to say other than gorgeous? So if you are looking for a delicious, quick meal, this is a great option, and one that I figure was worth sharing. Give it a try, and I hope you enjoy it! I know that we did! Cheers! -F. Scott & Zelda

Recipe compliments of FoodNetwork at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/croque-monsieur-recipe/index.html

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sea Smoke Cellars - RELEASE ALERT - 2008 VINTAGE

Yet another mailer is on the way, and for those that are C0 or C1 list members, you have already received your allocation, and are able to order your 2008 pinot noir.

I got an e-mail from Katie at Sea Smoke saying that we have moved up to C2 status this year, which is a beautiful thing.  The different tiers are a reflection of where you stand on the list.  This number gets it's designation from the length of time you have been on their list, as well as the dollar amount you have spent.  Obviously, the longer you have been on the list, and the more you have spent, the higher you will be in member status.

This year, the C0 received an offer for 12 bottles of each of the 2008 pinot noir.  These bottles consistof their least expensive offering, "Botella," at $40, their middle of the road bottling, "Southing," at $52 a bottle, and their high end bottling, "Ten"at $80 per bottle.

This year, they are also offering magnums at the same time, of the "Southing," at $120, and their Chardonnay at $120 per magnum.  For those high on the list, there is also one more bottling called "One Barrel," that comes from one barrel that they selected as the best invidual wine.  This wine is being released at $150 per bottle (750ML), and is very low in production.  Unfortunately, we are not high enough on the list, and I doubt we will see an allocation of this, as we didn't last year either.  We are also not high enough to receive their Chardonnay, called "Gratis," which they give to their best/longest supporting customers.  This is a chardonnay that they include at no charge, and that is a heck of a nice gesture!  I am however glad that we are offered the chardonnay in magum format, as it truly is a nice wine!

From what I am told, the C2 allocations should be out at the end of March, and we should be getting 2 Botella, 10 Southing, and 4 Ten.  I have not heard what C3, C4, and C5's will be offered, but I am sure if you e-mail Katie, she can answer that for you.

There has been a lot of speculation about the 2008's, as this is Don Schroeder's first year making the wne on his own, with no help from former winemaker Kris Curran, who left Sea Smoke and is now at Foley.  Last year, Kris still consulted with Don at Sea Smoke, but she did not for the 2008 vintage.  Regardless, I am very confident in Don's abilities, and once again, we will be taking everything we are offered from Sea Smoke.

Peope always ask us what we like about Sea Smoke, and for me, the beauty of these wines is age.  If youare looking for a wine that you can start drinking as soon as they arrive, then these wines are not for you.  We are currently just working our way to our 2005's, and I still think that these need another year to 3 years to really start showing their stuff.  In my opinion, the "Ten" is easily a wine that can cellar for 10 plus years, and when that time comes, it will be one of the biggest, and best pinot you will ever drink, for my palate at least.

That said, if these sound like a wine you like, I highly recommend you sign up for their list at http://www.seasmokecellars.com/ and tell them that we sent you! Sea Smoke has alot of promise, and these wines are only going to get better as the vines continue to age!  Sea Smoke has a great story, a great piece of land, and a heck of a great team crafting some of our favorite wines!  Give them a whirl with some age on them, and you'll see where my love for these wines comes from!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Saturday, March 13, 2010

UnCorkNJ -UPDATE- What's Next?

New Jersey Senate Passes Direct Shipping Bill

Your letters, emails, phone calls and support made the difference this past Thursday!!

Thursday afternoon, the State Senate passed the direct shipping of wine bill, S766 sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3), by a vote of 29 to 5.

Because of your support, we are one step closer to providing New Jersey residents with consumer choice in wine!

The Assembly counterpart bill, A1702, will now be heard by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee.

Please continue to encourage your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to support UnCorkNJ by contacting your legislators.

A copy of the Senate press release appears below:

SWEENEY / STACK BILL TO ALLOW DIRECT WINE SHIPMENTS TO NJ CONSUMERS PASSES SENATE

TRENTON -- Legislation Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator Brian Stack sponsored to allow New Jersey consumers to receive direct shipments from wineries today passed the Senate.

The Senators said lifting the direct-shipping ban would not only be beneficial to consumers, but would also be a boon to the state's emerging wine industry, as many small wineries only have their products available for sale in a limited number of stores or on-site.

"Allowing direct shipments of wine to and from New Jersey will not only enhance consumer choice, but would provide essential inroads for our budding wine industry," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. "With our wineries producing better and better wines and winning prestigious awards, we should be expanding, not limiting, access to New Jersey wines."

If enacted, New Jersey would join thirty-five other states that currently have direct-shipping laws on the books.

The bill, S766, would authorize the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission to issue direct-shipping licenses to holders of either a New Jersey plenary winery license with retail privileges or a New Jersey farm winery license. Out-of-state shippers also would be allowed to receive a shipping license, with the stipulation that they provide the Division of Taxation payment for any excise and sales taxes due and an annual report noting quantity and type of alcoholic beverages shipped to New Jersey consumers.

"New Jersey consumers should not have to be limited only to what's in stock at their local wine store, nor should they have to drive half-way across the state to get a quality New Jersey wine," said Stack, D-Hudson. "Likewise, out-of-state visitors who try New Jersey wines and want to purchase them shouldn't be shut out. It's time we give consumers and vintners the ability to deal directly with each other."

New Jersey is the sixth-largest wine producing state in the country. New Jersey wines also have won an increasing number of national and international awards.

The measure, which passed 29-5, now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

UnCorkNJ - REMINDER: Direct Shipping Bill Scheduled for Senate Vote Today

3:32PM EASTERN:  !!!!!UPDATE!!!!!  The New Jersey Senate has listened and voted 29 - 5 in favor of this legislation!  That is ourstanding news, and I am surether will be much more to come!  The people spoke, and our legislators listened!  Kudos to NJ!  -F. Scott

REMINDER: Direct Shipping Bill Scheduled for Senate Vote Today

This afternoon at the Statehouse in Trenton, a bill to permit direct shipping of wine to New Jersey residents, S766, will be voted on by the entire Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Senator Brian Stack (D-33), will also permit the state's wineries to directly ship to out-of-state wine consumers.

The Senate voting session is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m.

We thank you again for your support! Please continue to contact your legislators in support of direct shipping, and encourage your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cafe Galleria - Lambertville, NJ

Had a literally last minute planned on the fly via text message mini Cellar Tracker offline line tonight at Cafe Galleria in Lambertville. Was originally planning on meeting a buddy, but his plans changed, so met another oenophile at Cafe Galleria instead.


Walked in and only one other table in the restaurant. By the end of the night, another 3-4 tables had come in. Popped and poured a 2005 Alma Rosa La Encantada pinot noir, and PBM brought a 2006 Folio (Michael Mondavi Family) Cabernet Sauvignon Emblem Oso Vineyard that he had decanted.  Notes to be posted soon on these wines!

Looked over the menu and our waitress came over and read us the specials. Many of them sounded good, but for whatever reason I was craving chicken tonight with some sort of cream suace, so I went with the Chicken Cordon Blue. I know, boring, but it sounded great! My fellow oenophile went with a cheese ravioli special.

Dinner came out and looked fabulous. PBM's ravioli filled the plate with a nice bright red sauce, which I think he said had some nice spice to it. The rav's looked good and plump, filled with a nice blend of cheeses. He seemed to like it as his plate went back to the kitchen empty.

My cordon blue was awesome, with a nice, large chicken breast, with a nice slick uf ham about a half inch thick, then smothered with melted cheese. It was then covered with a nice cream sauce filled with mushrooms. This had a very nice texture, and a very rich and creamy buttery taste. On the side, a small potato that had been sliced in half and grilled. This left a little to be desired as it was a bit hard. A huge side of veggies consisting of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots filled the rest of the plate. A nice bread was also on the table, and almost like a chibatta bread.

All in all, a nice meal with a fellow oenophile, drinking some nice wines, and having some great wine conversations. The service is always fast and friendly, and the tiny place just has a neat little charm to it. Kudos to the staff! Thinking a Wednesday day night tasting group is going to be put together in the Lambertville area shortly! Cheers! -mJ

2006 Folio (Michael Mondavi Family) Cabernet Sauvignon Emblem Oso Vineyard

PBM brought this to Cafe Galleria in Lambertville, NJ tonight, and I thought that this was a very nice QPR. The way it developed in the glass was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced. Definitely some creamy oak and vanilla on the nose, with some dark black fruits. Nothing really stood out to me on the, but maybe some blackberry.

On the palate, at first, this wine was super smooth, with more mixed black berry on the palate, and a bit of caramel and mocha notes. Super smooth finish, and well integrated tannins. Second glass was similar, but then the tannins started to appear, and that was so odd to me, but not a bad thing at all as I enjoy that tannic backbone.

Poured a sip this morning, and the wine was just too cold to pick anything up as I threw it in the cellar last night. Still tasted nice, with more black fruits again and some nice currants. Tannins were hidden from the coldness of the wine.

I let it warm up while I was in the shower near the fireplace, and once again, the nose was similar, but the vanilla really stood out, as well as some nice spice and plum. Similar palate as before, but once again, the tannins were back.

I have never seen a wine evolve like this over a such period of time, but I find it interesting. I think this wine will get better in the next 3-5 for sure, and I would also be curious to see how this wine is popped and poured. Going to try to track a few down, because based on this one, it's a nice cab for $25.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scarecrow - 2007 Cabernet Sauvigonon

What can I say other than the fact that yesterday was a great day in the wine hobby for both Zelda and I.  If there is one mailing list that we have truly been waiting to get on, it has been Scarecrow, and yesterday our dream came true.  In unfolding the newspaper that the mail was neatly tucked in, I see a beautiful white envelope embossed with a gorgeous rustic gold Scarecrow and a return address of Rutherford, CA!  At this point, I was very excited to receive my golden ticket. 

Before I opened the envelope however, I noticed the exact same envelope behind mine, addressed to Zelda.  What can I say other than the simple fact that life is good, and WE have both received the golden ticket!  Sure enough, I opened the envelope, read the gorgeous postcard, only to find out that ordering opens at midnight on March 11th.  That said, I think it might be a late night!

We were lucky enough to make the second wave of the mailer this year, and I find that very surprising based on the quality of wines from the Napa Valley from the 2007 vintage.  2007 Napa cabs are going to be phenomenol, and I have been trying to stock our cellar with many of the big 2007 cabs, so we'll have great wines to enjoy in the 10-25 years.

There is a certain mystique about Scarecrow that we absolutely love, other than the simple fact that the wines are delicious.  We've had a very generous friend over the years who also happens to own his own wine label, who has been kind enough to share his allocation with us the last two years.  We have picked up the 2005 and 2006 vintages from him, and he was also kind enough to offer us two bottles from his allocation this year.

Thankfully for one or two of his other friends, he can share those with others who have been waiting.  This year, we finally get our own allocation, so thanks again Steve for all of your kindness the last two years!  It is very appreciated!  Considering that Steve has shared these with us at cost, when he could have been flipping them for 2-3 times the release price, it truly says a lot about Steve's character, and his love for this hobby!

So sure, the inaugural vitage of this wine came out in 2003 with a Robert Parker score of 98 points, which is the highest score Mr. Parker has ever given to a wine first release.  But it takes more than scores and a fancy box to make me a believe, but for starters, take minute to read the Scarecrow story below:

"The Scarecrow story begins in a patch of earth with a fabled past. The J.J. Cohn Estate, where Scarecrow

grapes are born, borders what was once the legendary vineyard of Inglenook winemaker Gustave Niebaum,
whose plantings blanketed more than 1,000 acres of the Napa Valley at the close of the 19th century.

John Daniel Jr. took the helm at Inglenook in 1939, determined to restore the label to pre-Prohibition standing and produce world-class Bordeaux-style wines. In 1945, Daniel convinced his neighbor, J.J. Cohn, to plant eighty acres of Cabernet vines on the 180-acre parcel Cohn had purchased a few years
prior. The property served as a summer retreat for Cohn’s wife and their family. He had no ambitions tobecome a winemaker himself, but Daniel promised to buy his grapes, so Cohn planted vines. The rest, as they say, is history.

J.J. Cohn fruit figured prominently in Inglenook’s superlative Cabernet Sauvignons of the post-war era, and has more recently gone into wines of such renown as Opus One, Niebaum-Coppola, Duckhorn, Insignia and Etude.

J.J. Cohn Estate grapes are highly sought-after in part because Cohn bucked the trend, begun in the mid-
1960s, of replacing vines planted on St. George rootstock with the supposedly superior AxR#I hybrid.
Over time, vines grafted onto this new stock proved highly vulnerable to phylloxera. But by then, virtually
all of the old St. George vines in Napa had been destroyed. Only the original 1945 J.J. Cohn vines
survived. These highly prized “Old Men” continue to produce uncommonly rich fruit—the hallmark of
Scarecrow wine.

But the Scarecrow story doesn’t end there. This is more than a tale of enchanted ground and the exceptional
wine that flows out of it. The Scarecrow story is a story, too, of an extraordinary family legacy. Joseph
Judson Cohn was born in Harlem in 1895 to Russian immigrants. Cohn spent his childhood in dire
poverty and never learned to prefer the taste of fresh bread over stale—even after he’d found great success
in Hollywood.

A move west in the 1920s launched Cohn’s studio career. Highly resourceful and extremely capable, Cohn
began as a bookkeeper, distinguished himself early and rose quickly through the ranks to become Chief of
Production at MGM. His unofficial credo, “Nothing is impossible,” became the motto of his MGM staff.

They knew him as a man who simply refused to take “No” for an answer.During Hollywood’s golden age, Cohn was instrumental in the making of such film classics as Ben Hur, Gigi, Mutiny on the Bounty and, most beloved of all, The Wizard of Oz. Today, the Scarecrow label pays tribute to the endearing and indomitable character from that film. Scarecrow evokes a distinctly American agricultural icon and American optimism. And most importantly, Scarecrow honors the remarkable life of J.J. Cohn.

Cohn lived to be 100 years old, spanning a defining century that he helped to shape. The people who labor with passion and conviction to bring you Scarecrow wine are proud to be part of his living legacy."  This was cut and pasted from the "Our Story" page on Scarecrows website.

OK, so you are probably saying to yourself, "Big deal, so they have a marketing team who knows how to write and tell their story."  Yes, that is definitely the case, and they did a heck of a great job marketing this wine before it was even released.

But to me, the real proof is in the pudding, and I am not referring to Robert Parker's scores, however, Mr. Parker rated the 2003 at 98 points, the 2004 at 95 points, 2005 at 94-97 points from the barrel, the 2006 at 94+ points, and finally the 2007 at 100 points.  For us however, we are not score chasers, but we can say from the 2003's-2005's that we have been lucky enough to taste wit generous friends, these are truly wines that please our palates, and that says a lot.  Our scores have not matched Mr. Parker's scores, however, they have been very close, on both the higher side, as well as lower, in both double blind tastings, as well as non blind tastings.

Some of the nay sayers are unhappy in the fact that the prices on Scarecrow have gone through the roof over the years.  The 2003 was released at $100 per bottle, then the 2004 went to $125, 2005 at $150, 2006 a $175, and this year the 2007's are being release at $225 per bottle.  Sure, these are steep increases, but I can attribute it to inflation as well as supply and demand.  Can you really blame them if they have a waiting list for their mailing list several years long, and the wines keep selling out vintage after vintage?  I surely don't think so!

So yes, these are pricey wines, they are collectors items, they come in a fancy box, and a fancy bottle with a piece of straw tied around them.  They are also high sought out wines, trophy wines to some that they will never drink, and just want to show off in their cellar.  For whatever reason you love Scarecrow, that is entirely up to you, but I can say that Zelda and I truly look forward to opening these!

The info:

Scarecrow
P.O. Box 144
Rutherford, CA  94573
Phone:  (707)963-3361
Fax:      (707)968-9367

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Release Price:  $225 per bottle + Tax and Shipping, sold in 3 packs
Production:  800 cases?
More information to come!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Monday, March 8, 2010

Uncork New Jersey - New Jersey Direct Shipping Bill Scheduled For Senate Vote

New Jersey Direct Shipping Bill Scheduled For Senate Vote

This Thursday!

The Senate bill, S766, to permit direct shipment of wine to New Jersey residents has been scheduled for a vote by the entire Senate on Thursday, March 11, 2010.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Senator Brian Stack (D-33), and co-sponsored by: Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25), Senator Jim Whelan (D-2), Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39), Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1), Senator James Beach (D-6), and Senator Robert Gordon (D-38), was unanimously released by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee in early February.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!

Please follow this link to contact your legislators and the Senate leadership, to let them know you support direct shipping! If you have already sent a message of support, please send another one and encourage your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to do the same.

Every message gets us one step closer to providing New Jersey residents with consumer choice in wine.

PLEASE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT UNCORKNJ!!!

http://www.uncorknj.com/