Archive for the Info on Wine Category


Posted in Info on Wine, Tasting Notes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by ballymote

 Several weeks ago, on a wine-buying visit to Canal’s BottleStop in Marlton, Charlie Beatty, who has built the best selection of wines in any store in South Jersey, mentioned that Canal’s would be hosting a wine tasting at The Mansion in Voorhees, NJ on Friday evening November 5th, to benefit the Burlington County YMCA. It sounded good but we usually go out for dinner on Friday nights so I didn’t think it would be likely I’d be in attendance. As fate would have it, our friends had prior commitments for that evening, my wife, Kathy, wasn’t interested, so I e-mailed my wine drinking buddy, Gerry B. and next thing I knew we were both buying our tickets online and heading up for a Friday night of hopefully, great wines and terrific food.

The Mansion is a beautiful complex and a favorite site for weddings and special functions in South Jersey. It made the perfect setting for a wine tasting. The second and third floors were packed with over 700 wines spread among a dozen rooms with other rooms set aside for food servings. We looked over the program that were available in the lobby and circled the wines we wanted to make sure and try as we began our assault on the gathered distributors tables. Rather than list the scores of different wines we sampled I will focus on the ones that appealed to us the most.

 The only white wine that really struck the right notes with me was the 2008 Rombauer Chardonnay , soft and creamy with pear, pineapple and vanilla this is one of the most popular chardonnays on the market and it’s easy to see why. It was one of my Top Three wines of the evening.

 The 2008 Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir was subtle and smooth with candied red fruits with a hint of cinnamon and had great structure and balance and would go perfectly with a roast pork or a nicely done halibut filet.

  I was very happy to see that the good folks at Winebow Distributors had brought with them one of my favorite wines, the 2008 Caymus “Special Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon. This, in my estimation, is what fine cabernet should taste like, and year after year this one performs like a Napa champion. Smooth and elegant the fruits flow over the tongue like velvet and that soft hint of chocolate on the long and lingering finish makes this wine well worth its loft price tag.

Gerry B. had broken his favorites down into two groups. His “A” group were wines that he knew about and expected to be good while his “B” group were wines that he was not familiar with and pleasantly surprised at the taste and quality of them. His top three in the “A” group were:

2007 Beaulieu Vineyards, Georges de Latour

2006 Rubicon Estate “Rubicon”

2007 Beringer Private Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon

In the “B” Group his Top Three were:

2007 Tenuta San Guido Sassacaia

2008 Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Hess “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon

Here were the overall winners in his estimation:

 Here is how the Wine Advocate felt about this offering: 95 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): “The 2007 Sassicaia (Cabernet Sauvignon) explodes onto the palate with masses of rich, opulent fruit that caress the palate with gorgeous length and a seamless beauty that is hard to fully capture. Dark wild cherries, plums, spices, minerals and herbs develop in the glass. This is an especially bold, perhaps slightly uncharacteristic Sassicaia in its extroverted personality, but it is beautiful all the same. The inner perfume and sweetness carries through the long finish, where the sheer weight and glycerol of the fruit leaves a lasting impression. The 2007 is more than a worthy follow-up to the profound 2006. While it may lack that wine’s freshness, structure and potential longevity, the 2007 is immensely appealing today, and should drink beautifully pretty much out of the gate. That said, Sassicaia is always the most restrained of Bolgheri’s heavy hitters. This is a superb effort from Tenuta San Guido. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2037.

 This is another wine that can be counted on year after year to deliver the goods. This one also received 95 points from the Wine Advocate. Here is Parker’s review:

95 points Robert Parker: “The phenomenal 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Georges de Latour is the greatest BV Private Reserve made since the 1970 and 1968. The good news is 11,000 cases were produced. The return of this superb Napa classic is fabulous news, and the brilliance of this wine is evidenced by its opaque purple color and its big, sweet, blackberry, cassis, subtle smoke, graphite, and spicy oak-scented nose. Dense and full-bodied with sweet but substantial tannins, thrilling levels of concentration, texture, and richness, and a heady finish, this wine will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age, and last three decades or more. It’s time to once again fill your cellars with the BV Private Reserve, one of the historic names in California wine folklore.

Here’s what The Wine Enthusiast offered on the 2006 Rubicon:

“The new Rubicon, which is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon, brings to mind the 2003 and 2004. It doesn’t have the sheer force of 2002 or 2005, but it’s certainly a classic Rutherford wine, and has a good future. Bone dry, it shows herb-infused flavors of blackberries, cocoa, spices and smoky sandalwood, and yes, the tannins are dusty. Drinkable now, with a good decant, and should develop in the bottle over the next 6–8 years.”94 Points Wine Enthusiast.

We both awarded the 2007 Girard Zinfandel an Honorable Mention. In addition to all the great wines we enjoyed some good food compliments of Flemings Prime Steakhouse. It was a fun evening and we were both glad we made the effort to attend.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by ballymote

I want to like Hops n Grapes, honest, I really do. It’s my closest wine store. It’s way better than Canal’s on the Black Horse Pike and I even give it the edge over Monster Beverage, their neighbor in Glassboro. It’s just that there is something that irks me about their daily “e-mail specials” and this false sense of urgency they try to create in order to get what basically amounts to “two dollars” off of a bottle of mediocre wine. I know I am going to hear from Patrick on this one!!

What bothers me most though is that recently, with each visit, I find some little thing that pushes me away from my case purchases. On my most recent encounter I spotted the Mollydooker line-up of Australian wines priced at a not very enticing $28.99 when I can purchase them elsewhere for $24.99. I could have forgiven them the disparity, but then, they take what is probably the most popular of the Mollydooker wines, The Boxer Shiraz, and make that one an extra dollar higher at $29.99. Give me a break!!

I wander around the store checking out their selection. I read a shelf-talker for a WA92 rated 2007 wine. The actual wine available for sale above the shelf-talker is the 2008. Out of 10 shelf-talkers I look at FIVE of them do not represent the wines being offered (off the top of my head, two of the E. Guigal wines in the French section come to mind). It’s not unlike a car salesman selling you on the merits of a BMW and then after you sign for the car, delivering you a Toyota. Are they purposely trying to deceive the customer? I doubt it. Most likely, it’s simply a matter of not thinking it’s important. No one checks to assure that the shelf-talkers match the wines above them and most customers wouldn’t think to check, anyway. It’s just a lazy way to do business. They would probably also tell you that the distributor puts those on there, not them. That might be true but it’s YOUR store, YOUR integrity on the line, not the distributors or the salesmen.

I’m not a beer guy, I don’t drink much spirits. I’m a wine guy and I want to like Hops n Grapes, honest, I do. I’ll keep trying. It’s just a little harder now that Vladi isn’t with them. HE was a wine guy.


Posted in Bella Winery and Caves, California Wine Country, Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by ballymote

Bella means “beautiful” and that’s just what the views from this Dry Creek property are. The views at Bella are not the only thing they have going for them. Their zinfandel is first-class and the syrah they make is also some very good juice.

A former co-worker from years ago lives not far from Sonoma and when this trip was being planned I had asked her to try to arrange a tour at Bella which has long been her favorite winery. We arrived in the early afternoon and after a quick tour of the caves, which have lots of side rooms used for special dinners and events at the winery, our guide Ross Clendennon, loaded the eight of us into their thirty year-old all-terrain vehicle for the climb up the hill to their “Lily Hill” Vineyard.

Everywhere you turned there was one magnificent view of the valley after another.  Ross described the harvesting process and pointed out some of their neighbors including Ferrari-Carano pictured on the right above.

The grapes that go into making their signature wine, the “Lily’s Hill” Zinfandel, are grown near the top of the vineyard and benefit from both the afternoon sun and the soft breezes from the Pacific. Ross had us sampling the wines as we toured and made sure we never had an empty glass.

Eventually, he led us to a picnic table where we tasted thru much of the Bella line-up. This was the first year that Bella did a Chardonnay, a major departure from what was always nothing but red wine. He ended the tasting with an interesting pairing, chocolate peanut butter cups with a delicious late harvest zinfandel. Ross was the perfect host and even confided that he and his friends had recently produced a “mockumentary” on the entire Napa/Sonoma wine industry titled “Corked: The Movie”, which is apparently a satirical look at the entire wine scene.

We went back to the office area and made some purchases and thanked Ross for the tour and Carolyn and her husband, Dick, for taking time out of their schedule to set this up for us and spend some quality time with us. The memories of the beauty and serenity of the Dry Creek Valley will stay with all of us for a very long time.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , on October 14, 2010 by ballymote

The Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room in Kenwood offers a unique seven course wine and food pairing. Do not confuse this with their regular wine tasting room in Glen Ellen. The Mayo Family wines aren’t in the same class with our first three visits but our group was looking forward to this pairing and we arrived at the Sonoma location eager to enjoy our 1:00 P.M. appointment.

The cost for the Food and Wine pairing is $35.00 per person and the fee is waived if a certain amount of wine is purchased. Each course is prepared by Chef Max Porter-Elliott.

Max is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and his skills at matching food and wine are evident in the pairings. We started with Crab Salad, Whole Grain Mustard with Pumpkin Seed Brittle, this was matched with a  2006 Brut, Laurel Hill Vineyard, Sonoma and the match was spot on. Course #2 was Marin French Cheese Cous Cous Pearls San Andreas Gratin paired with a tangy 2007 Voignier, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley. It was scrumptious. This was followed with AllSpice Apple Butter Sweet Potato Pork Dumpling accompanied by a 2008 Grenache, Judge Family Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Many of our group chose this as their favorite pairing. The tasting proceeds at a comfortable pace and Chef Max entertains us with stories of his past life back on the East Coast. The 4th course is an O’Neil Farms Squash Truffle Ravioli Sherry Apple with a 2008 Zinfandel, Ricci Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The majority of us thought this zinfandel was the best of the wines served.

Next up we enjoyed the Smoked Pumpkin Soup, Chili Oil, Star Anise and Creme Fraiche served with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Delaney Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. The next course was the Fruit Foie Preserve Fig Honey Compote which was paired with a wine which just recently was awarded Best of Class at the 2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the 2007 Meritage, Los Chamizal Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. This was an excellent wine. Max shared with us that the final course was actually created by his girlfriend, so naturally, all of us declared this one to be our favorite just to see how he would handle the situation. We concluded with Cardomom Spiced Brioche Pears Pomogranate alongside a 2008 Gewurstraminer, Kunde Ranch, Sonoma Valley.

It was a nice substitute for a lunch-time burger and Max proved to be not only a very good chef but a personable guy who also gave us a great dinner recommendation in Sonoma. A very enjoyable visit and I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma.


Posted in Info on Wine, Kapcsandy Family Winery, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by ballymote

We awoke early on Wednesday morning (Oct 6th) and drove to Yountville for a quick breakfast at Bouchon Bakery before heading up to meet with Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane property. This was a visit I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. Kapcsandy Wines are quickly becoming one of the new California “cult” wines and everyone who has visited and posted reports of their visit on the wine boards seems to come away totally impressed with Lou and his operation.

 We arrived exactly at 10:00 A.M. and Lou was there to greet us and show us the grounds. His passion and pride was immediately apparent as he related how through persistence and a bit of luck he was able to purchase the former Beringer property back in 2000. Soon after purchase, and with the help of famed winemaker Helen Turley and her husband, John Wetlaufer, he replanted the entire vineyard and set about working toward his goal of producing world-class wines. His first few vintages, beginning in 2003, began to draw notice and good reviews and in 2007 he brought on Denis Malbec, winemaker at Chateau LaTour in France to work his magic. The results were almost immediate. Recent vintages of the Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon, State Lane Vineyard (2007) and Roberta’s Reserve Merlot have, according to noted wine critic, Robert Parker, achieved perfection and Lou’s goal of having his wines reach the level of the First Growth’s of Bordeaux has been achieved. You can tell though that Lou is not about to rest on his laurels as he is as committed as ever to turning out the best possible wines each and every year.

We moved inside to the tasting room and Lou began pouring virtually the entire line-up including a 1995 Beringer Cabernet from State Lane that had served as a mentor wine for him. Lou, by the way, was, and continues to be a collector of fine wines and has a cellar that would make anyone envious. I was already aware of how good his wines were but it was a treat to watch the others in our group as they sampled one after another of the Kapcsandy wines. Naturally, the highlight of the tasting was the 100 point 2007 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon but I think what stayed with everyone even more than the lingering finish of each of those wines was the cleanliness of the entire operation.

As Lou escorted us from one area of the plant to another it became apparent that what is clean by other’s standards is downright filthy by Lou’s standards. Every inch of floor space is immaculate to the point of being able to eat off it. The stainless steel sparkles. The barrels are spotless. Lou would have it no other way. His attention to the minutest detail is meticulous. He could be described as being a stern task-master except that he has an obvious softer side and a sense of humor. The two hours flew by and all of us learned so much and were totally impressed by the man and his wines. We made some purchases, begged to be remembered when the 2008’s were released for sale and thought that was the conclusion of our Kapcsandy experience. It was not.

On Friday, Gerry B. and I drove back up to Kapcsandy to pick up our wines. Much to our surprise and delight, we arrived just as last night’s harvest of merlot grapes was being sorted in the plant. Lou took us over and we had the opportunity to watch as the grapes were de-stemmed and moved slowly along the conveyor belt with nine pickers on each side scanning the grapes closely, removing the imperfections. By the time the grapes dropped gently onto the next area where they were gently prodded and suctioned into the tanks, they were perfect. It was fascinating to watch and observe as the climax to a year of growing took place. So much goes into the end product that we see as a bottle of wine. It starts in the soil, gets nurtured by Mother Nature, receives good “parenting” from Lou and his team, a touch of magic from Denis Malbec and all we see is the finished product on a shelf.

Thank you so much, Lou, for allowing us for taking the time during your busiest of seasons to both enlighten and entertain our group. Keep up the great work!!


Posted in Alpha-Omega Winery, Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by ballymote

Tuesday morning, our intrepid group of wine lovers set out from Sonoma for our appointment at Alpha Omega which sits just off Route 29 in Rutherford. There is a beautiful view of the vineyards and fountains from the front deck but we ventured inside to meet with Rick Patton, the Tasting Room Manager.  Rick looks very much like a Hollywood character actor and his outgoing personality was perfect for an early morning tasting. He poured us a couple of A-O Chardonnay’s, an unoaked and an oaked version. Our group voted unanimously for the oaked version which had the more creamy mouthfeel due to under-going malolactic fermentation. We liked it so much that we purchased almost two full cases. As we moved into the reds, Jean Hoefliger entered straight from the fields. Harvest is late in many areas of Napa this year and several vineyards were picking this week. Jean is the winemaker at Alpha-Omega and when he speaks of his wine it’s easy to detect his passion for his craft.

“Liquid poetry”, is what he associates with a well made wine. He believes in letting the vines and the soil do most of the work in creating his wines. With that in mind, I asked him why he felt he needed to consult several times a year with Michel Rolland, noted wine blender who travels the world teaching wineries how to blend wines that will score well in the ratings. Jean replied that he simply uses Michel as a sounding board. He says he needs “a doubter” to provide him with options so that he doesn’t become complacent over time. Jean has practiced his craft in wine regions all over the world and his talents are evidenced in the wines he produces.

Jean spent about 40 minutes with us and then it was back to the harvest and Rick continued the tasting and tour leading us into the Barrel Room and outlining the A-O fermentation process. One of the distinct highlights of the tour was an opportunity to taste their flagship wine, in this case, the 2008 not yet bottled ERA. The barrel sample we enjoyed really was “liquid poetry” with a floral bouquet on the nose and rich blackberry fruits intertwined with cedar and licorice with great structure already evident. As a consumer, it’s hard to justify paying $185.00 for a bottle of wine but this one may just be worth it.

Alpha-Omega is a beautiful property in a great location producing wonderful wines, red and white. It’s clear that Jean Hoefliger can read the pulse of wine lovers and his attention to detail and love of the land has resulted in a group of wines that are both elegant and delicious. Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to make our visit a memorable one.


Posted in Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Trip October 2010, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by ballymote

Returned yesterday from a wonderful eight days and seven nights in Napa & Sonoma. My wife, Kathy, and I, our good friends, Joe B. and his wife, Carol and Gerry and JoAnn B. spent a glorious week in Wine Country with a taste of San Francisco thrown in as a diversion.

Quite honestly, we did not get to nearly as many winery visits as I had anticipated but the ones we did were absolutely fantastic. We had great weather, drank great wines and enjoyed some fabulous food each evening of our trip. There is so much to write about that it’s difficult knowing where to start. I think I will separate the wine from the food and do individual reports on each of our wine exploits because each one was truly memorable.

Prior to the trip there were three individuals from Napa that I wanted very much to spend some time with. I knew them from not only their wines but their interaction on the various wine boards. Each one seemed unique yet outgoing in their passion for their wines. I wrote to each and as I had anticipated, all three were gracious and offered a personal visit to their property. I will begin tomorrow with the first of our appointments and that would be a warm and wonderful two and half hours with Merrill Lindquist at EMH/Black Cat Wines in Calistoga.  Next will be a report on our visit and tour with Jean Hoefliger at Alpha-Omega in Rutherford and the third will be a very informative and personal experience with the amazing Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane Vineyard. Each one remarkable in its own way and a marvelous learning experience for each of us. See you all tomorrow!


Posted in Info on Wine, Pre-Trip Update #5 (Final) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by ballymote

A trip that we began planning over a year ago is now just a few short days away. The research is over, the reservations have been made, dinners arranged and winery appointments scheduled. I have always believed that much of the enjoyment of travel was in the planning and this was certainly no exception. I have had a blast during every phase of the research process. With hundreds of great wineries in Napa and Sonoma to choose from it is no easy process to come up with the very few we will have time to visit during our week. I’ve tried to concentrate not just on places with great wine, but more importantly, places with great people. 


We arrive in San Francisco on Saturday morning and after a full day tour of the city we will be dining at Rue Lepic on Nob Hill. On Sunday morning we will make our way to Sonoma, stopping for breakfast in Tiburon and checking into the Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma, our home for the week. After freshening up we plan on driving to Santa Rosa for the final day of the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair, and after a healthy sampling of the wines competing for medals at the fair it will be time for dinner at Cole’s Chop House in Napa. Next Saturday, after making our way back to San Francisco, we will tour Alcatraz and enjoy dinner at Izzy’s Steaks and Chops before four of us head for the airport and our flight back home. Gerry and JoAnn will remain in the city by the bay for another 3 days.

Monday thru Friday will be our days for wine visits. It’s an exciting time of the year in Wine Country as the harvest is taking place in many of the areas we will visit. Here is  what our week may look like. Not all of these are booked or will take place, but it’s a nice outline of what the week may look like. Thanks,Gerry, for putting this together:   

Monday, October 04, 2010            8:45 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    40 miles ~60 mins to   10:00 AM    EMH Wines, 25 Rosedale Rd, Calistoga

Travel         02 miles ~05 mins to   12:00 PM     Vincent Arroyo, 2361 Greenwood,Calistoga

111 miles     04 miles ~10 mins to   2:00 PM       Chateau Montelena, 1429 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga

167 mins     07 miles ~12 mins to   3:30 PM       Larkmead, 1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga

                    36 miles ~48 mins to   5:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Wineries                                          7:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Visited         22 miles ~32 mins to   8:00 PM       Dinner at Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St,

    4                                                                      Yountville


Tuesday, October 05, 2010            10:00 AM    Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    28 miles ~40 mins to   11:00 AM    Alpha-Omega,1155 Mee Lans, Rutherford

Travel         22 miles ~31 mins to   12:30 PM     Chalk Hill, 10300 Chalk Hill, Healdsburg

127 miles     17 miles ~25 mins to   1:30 PM       Mayo Family Tasting Room, 9200 Sonoma

202 mins                                                             Hwy, Kenwood-7 course wine/food pairing

                    16 miles ~25 mins to   3:00 PM       Swanson, 1271 Manley Lane, St Helena

Wineries      21 miles ~35 mins to   4:00 PM       Ravenswood, 18701 Gehricke Rd, Sonoma

Visited         03 miles ~06 mins to   5:00 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    5                                                  6:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    20 miles ~40 mins to   7:00 PM       Dinner at Bottega, 6525 Washington St,                                                                       Yountville



Wednesday, October 06, 2010       9:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    24 miles ~36 mins to   10:00 AM    Kapcsandy Winery, 1001 State Lane, Napa

Travel         07 miles ~12 mins to   12:00 PM     Robert Baiale, 4038 Big Ranch Rd, Napa

57 miles       08 miles ~15 mins to   1:30 PM       Truchard Vineyards, 3234 Old Sonoma Rd,

93 mins                                                               Napa

                    07 miles ~13 mins to   3:00 PM       Del Dotto Cave Tour, 1055 Atlas Peak Rd, Wineries                                                   Napa

Visited         11 miles ~17 mins to   5:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    4                                                  7:30 PM       Dinner at Sonoma Renaissance Resort



Thursday, October 07, 2010          9:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    42 miles ~65 mins to   10:15 AM    Bodega Bay

Travel         11 miles ~15 mins to   12:30 PM     Jenner

171 miles     16 miles ~30 mins to   2:30 PM       Armstrong St Prk, 17000 Armstrong

260 mins                                                             Woods Road, Guerneville

                    19 miles ~36 mins to   4:30 PM       Thumbprint, 36 North St, Healdsburg

Wineries      40 miles ~60 mins to   6:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Visited                                             8:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    1              43 miles ~54 mins to   9:00 PM       Dinner at Cyrus, 29 North St, Healdsburg



Friday, October 08, 2010               8:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    29 miles ~39 mins to   9:30 AM      Whitehall Lane, 1563 St Helena Hwy S,

Travel                                                                 St Helena

63 miles       08 miles ~15 mins to   11:30 AM    Paraduxx, 7257 Silverado Trail, Napa

93 mins       02 miles ~03 mins to   1:30 PM       Silverado Vineyards, 6121 Silverado

                                                                            Trail, Napa

Wineries      01 miles ~02 mins to   3:30 PM       Hartwell, 5795 Silverado Trail, Napa

Visited         23 miles ~34 mins to   6:00 PM       Dinner in Sonoma

I will certainly be busy writing restaurant and winery reviews in the days and weeks following this trip and I am looking forward to that challenge. My wife, Kathy, and myself are fortunate to be making this trip with four of our absolutely favorite people, Joe and Carol B. and Gerry and JoAnn B. The weather looks good with warm days and cool nights and we are psyched for a fabulous trip!


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2010 by ballymote

This past Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story in their South Jersey section titled “New Jersey’s Wine Market is Aging Well”. The piece was written by staff writer, Chelsea Conaboy and featured the Sharrott Winery in Atco, NJ. I wrote about this winery earlier this year and even went over to Hops n Grapes and purchased a bottle of their award-winning Cabernet Franc. I had it at Siri’s in Cherry Hill and even gave it a slightly favorable review. It was hardly a wine that would have me choosing Garden State wines over those of Napa, Sonoma, or just about any AVA in California. Therefore, when I read Sharrott winemaker Tom Sharrott declaring this years vintage in the NJ Outer Coastal Plain, “Napalike”, and fellow vintner, Louis Caracciola of nearby Amalthea Cellars stating “New Jersey wines will eventually emerge as a competitor to California in quality, if not in quantity”, I have to add my two cents to the equation.

Let’s begin with the “Gold” medal that the Sharrott Cabernet Franc won at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The statement on its own makes it seem like the Sharrott wine was the best, or at least, the best of the Cabernet Francs in the competition. That would be news to the Cabernet Francs produced by Big Dog Vineyards, Dusted Valley Vintners, Imagery Estate Winery, or any of TWELVE other Cab Franc producers who ALL won a “GOLD MEDAL” at the same competition. It would REALLY be news to Cosentino Winery and Zerba Cellars who both won “DOUBLE GOLD MEDALS” for their entry, and absolutely shocking news to DH Lescombes Winery of New Mexico which took the top “BEST OF CLASS” prize at that competition. So, as you see, there is just a little less luster to the Sharrott “Gold Medal”. Is it meaningless, certainly not, it’s better than the Silver and Bronze medals won by the 47 other Cabernet Francs in that same voting. Let’s just say that many Wine Competitions are generous in their distribution of medals.

In her article, Ms. Conaboy interviewed Vladi Nickolich, the Wine Manager at Wine Works in Marlton, NJ. He stated that many wine buyers who sought out local wines were looking for the familiar blackberry, cranberry, “name your assorted fruit” sweet wines. Some of the other wines which are seeking credibility are at price points that simply make choosing wines from California, Oregon, France, Argentina or any one of the other wine growing regions who are producing better wines for less money, a better choice.

Certainly, there is a place for local wines, and for some of the better ones, I understand why they have to charge what they do to make a profit. I’m simply saying that the use of terms such as “Napalike” is a bit premature. For casual wine drinkers, a day spent visiting the local New Jersey wineries can be fun and informative. They might even consider capping off the day with a nice Napa Cab at a local BYOB.


Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Marketing with tags , , on September 20, 2010 by ballymote

I’m not sure the exact date of the opening of Wine Works in Marlton, NJ; I know it was sometime prior to the start of summer. I had been meaning to get up there and although I had made a couple of trips to Canal’s BottleStop during that time, one thing or another (maybe I can blame tremendous road construction in the area) had kept me away. Last week, I finally made my first visit. There was an element of surprise upon entering when the first face I saw was not Max or Felipe, but Vladi, my wine guy from Hops n Grapes. He had not been there long but explained that he was happy to be a part of WineWorks and hoped to do his part in making the place a success. Vladi is one of the good guys in the business, he knows wines and offers personable and helpful suggestions.

WineWorks is the new venture for Max and Felipe Cammarota owners of Terra Nova Restaurant in Sewell and the Landmark Americana in Glassboro, NJ, who sold there very successful, Hops n Grapes store in Glassboro, NJ at the end of last year. Their new location in the old Two Guys Shopping Center on Route 70 in Marlton, NJ faces a host of challenges which will keep them busy as they strive to make in-roads in an area ripe with competition. Perhaps their biggest challenge is that they are within a stones throw of Canal’s BottleStop. There is another Canal’s not far away on Rt. 73 and a host of other wine outlets sprinkled along Rt. 70. If it were not for the presence of Canal’s BottleStop, I would say they would have an excellent chance of leaving all the others in the dust.

A walk around the store reveals a nice selection of wines with very competitive prices. They had several items that I have not seen available elsewhere and that is something I am always on the lookout for whenever I visit a wine store. It looks like they are targeting some of the items that are the daily e-mail specials for Canal’s BottleStop and trying to go under them. It would seem consumers can benefit from any price war that takes place in the coming months. Long term though, they have their work cut out for them. The selection and service at Canal’s BottleStop, under the leadership of Charlie Beatty, will be tough to top.

Wine Works offers some modern features such as their “Taste The Harvest”, a selection of approximately twenty wines available in one ounce pours thru use of their “Enocard”. If you go to their website to find out how to get an “Enocard” or how much it costs, good luck. As far as I can tell, and I spent way too much time trying to find out, there is nothing there that gives you this information. In fact, their website needs quite a bit of work. The link for “BROWSE WINES”, which I foolishly thought would show me their wine selections in-depth, actually shows four wines. They are the same four wines shown on another link that purports to tell you how to match wines with food, but does not. Come on guys, I know there is a lot to do in opening a new store of this size but I would think the website has to be right up there in importance.

They offer a large selection of artisan cheese and fine cigars. Wine Works is a nice looking store in a very competitive area and I wish Max and Felipe the best of luck.


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