Archive for 2005 Lillian Syrah

OH WHAT A NIGHT – A GARDEN PARTY FOR STEFANIA WINES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Stefania Wine Party, wine blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by ballymote

A year ago, I had never heard of Stefania wines. Fellow blogger, Mark Jahnke, who writes the entertaining and informative Jersey Foodies blog, along with his lovely wife, Pam (link is in the column on the right)would post glowingly on the wines whenever he opened them. After reading several of these rave reviews I signed up on the mailing list. Stefania wines are not available in the local wine shops and can be purchased only thru the mailing list, which is currently filled, but has a waiting list.

Paul Romero is shown answering questions from a couple of male wine-lovers while Stefania does the same for two interested female guests.  The Romero’s, who make both their home and their wine in San Jose, California, are both passionate about their craft. As with any daring venture, becoming successful winemakers involves overcoming a great deal of obstacles, and both Paul and Stef enjoy telling the stories that brought them to where they are today. From those first 50 vines planted next their hot tub (Haut Tubee to Stefania fans), they now have an array of wines that are priced well below wines of comparable quality. I had tried most of their varietals prior to last evening but this was my first time sampling their very tasty Pinot Noir with it’s nose of garden flowers and sweet cherry cola. Get on that waiting list!!!

In addition to the great Stefania wines, all of the guests brought a bottle from home and later in the evening, Mark generously opened some fantastic wines from his own collection. I was thrilled to once again try the 2005 Lillian, Whitehawk Vineyard, Syrah and this was followed by a 2007 Sine Qua Non, “The Raven”. So many wines that it was hard to keep track of them but I do know we started in the late afternoon with one of Mark’s magnums of 2006 Sea Smoke, Chardonnay and later I had a small glass of the wine I brought with me, a 2006 Kongsgaard, Chardonnay. Both of these whites were crisp and delicious but none could ever replace a really good red wine. I know there was a 2007 Lafond, Pinot Noir and that my last wine of the evening was a 2005 Andrew Murray, Oak Savannah Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Syrah.

Was there any food you ask? I’ll just say that anyone who left Mark and Pam’s charming backyard bistro hungry has no one to blame but themselves. There was a veritable orgy of food available including some the tastiest sliders with beef from Flannery’s, I believe. A terrific brisket prepared in Mark’s new smoker and rubbed with Pam’s super-secret seasonings, barbecued chicken and plate after plate of side dishes to go with the meats.

As with any party of 40 people it’s difficult to meet everyone but in addition to the guests of honor, Paul and Stefania Romero, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet another dynamic duo of food bloggers, John and Lisa Howard-Fusco who do a fantastic job on their very popular “Eating in South Jersey.”

John and Lisa put a lot of effort into their blog and have some great interviews with chefs (i.e. Paula Dean, Ted Allen), restaurant owners and others involved in fresh food and produce throughout the area. There is always something new on their site and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the Jersey food world from the seashore to the city. It’s obviously a labor of love and I totally enjoyed having the opportunity to spend some time with both of them in a great setting.

One other couple that deserves mention, simply because they were charming, would be Tom and Denise DeBiase. These Central Jersey wine-lovers will be out in Sonoma next month at the same time as my wife and I and two other couples who will be joining us. It would be nice to meet up at some point with Tom and Denise whose son is out in California pursuing his dream of becoming the next Paul and Stefania. From what I hear, he is off to a good start.

Paul and Stefania’s east coast trip took them to Washington DC on Thursday and Friday and they will be in New York City tomorrow. They had a great dinner the other night on the banks of the Potomac and I’m certain NYC will provide another super backdrop. Last night’s garden party, hosted by Mark and Pam, was a first-class affair and hopefully will provide the Romero’s with fond memories of the new fans they have made for themselves and their wines when they return to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you, Mark, for the invite.

THE FIVE TOP WINES OF THE PAST YEAR

Posted in Favorite Wines, Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by ballymote

When it comes to choosing my Top Five wines of the past year a couple come quickly to mind. A few others take some thought. After giving it that needed amount of thought I have reduced a year of joyous wine consumption down to a quintet of memorable elixirs. The first three I mention were all extremely enjoyable and helped make either a dinner or get together a special event.

Coming in at #5 of my best wines was the 2007 AUTEUR, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. I had this during a great meal at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ back in March. Here is what I wrote in my post at that time “2007 Auteur, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. Everything I had heard about Auteur wines said they needed lots of time open to reflect their true flavors. I uncorked this bottle on Friday morning and left it in the fridge until it was time to go to dinner. The wine was a dark ruby color, much darker than most Pinots and actually drank more like a cabernet. Great, intense flavors that gave a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. It’s the kind of wine that you wish you had a case of in reserve.”

Checking in at #4 on my best wines list was the 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon. This one was enjoyed up in New York at the Marriott Hotel with Jerry and JoAnne B. prior to dinner at Tribeca Grill back in November. This is what I posted at that time “The Larkmead showed much better and although Parker gave it a 92, I think all of us thought it deserved higher. I’d give this one a 94. It’s not quite as full-bodied as the O’Shaughnessy but it felt more balanced and the flavors were crisp and precise with undertones of rich spices and blackberries. 

Numero 3 was another classic that helped make dinner at Gilmore’s in West Chester a Top 5 Dining Experience. The 2000 Phelps INSIGNIA was a first glass drinking treat that evening and prompted these words in that late March post “The  Insignia seemed to me to be underrated by the experts (94 WS, 91 Parker). It displayed class and strength and loads of smooth plum and blackberry flavors that could stand up to any steak or lamb dish. I’d compare this to any other Cabernet blend in the $100 price range.”

It was a tough decision on these next two wines because both of them were true highlights. After much soul-searching, my number 2 wine was the 2006 Mollydooker, VELVET GLOVE. This wine was so special I devoted an entire post to singing it’s praises. Here is what I wrote at that time. 

The Wine Advocate scored the 2006 Mollydooker Velvet Glove 99 points and Wine Spectator bestowed it with 97. Yesterday afternoon, with my wife Kathy and our friends Jerry B. and his wife, Joann,  we popped and poured this Aussie powerhouse. They had often teased me that I had a phobia about opening my “good stuff” and that one day, when I was gone, they would be toasting me with all of the bottles that I had never opened through the years. Well, the Velvet Glove will no longer be one of those wines.

Much too intense for even the heartiest of red meats we sipped this delicious wine with some cheese and crackers prior to going to dinner. There may not be another wine anywhere that is so appropriately named. The nose virtually filled the room with a sweet bouquet of berries and lavender before it even hit the glass. The first sip grabs you like, like…ok, I’ll say it, like a velvet glove!.  We all thought it reminded us of those 2001 and 2002 Shirvingtons which were also the handiwork of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. It should be mentioned this blockbuster wine checks in at 16.5% alcohol so be prepared.

Sweet, dark berries of all types, coated in vanilla cream and spice, fill the palate  with a liquid smorgasbord of flavors. The inky purple juice entices with a rich, smooth texture that is totally in balance and devoid of tannins. The finish lingers while you swirl and again breathe in the garden of intense scents that echo from the glass.  All  too soon the last of the magic elixir flows from the bottle and a special moment comes to an end. Mollydooker makes a great variety of wines but the Velvet Glove is their crowning jewel.

It was a great start to a wonderful evening of food and wine and very fitting that when I finally did open some of my “good stuff” that it was in the company of good friends who appreciate good wine.”

My number #1 wine of the past year, edging out the Velvet Glove only because I did not have the lofty expectations on this one, and at $75.00 a bottle it is only one-third the cost of the Velvet Glove is the 2005 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard, Syrah. Created by winemaker, Maggie Harrison, former assistant to the legendary Manfred Krankl of cult wine SINE QUE NON, this was to me the ultimate in drinkability for the past year. Purchased from the wine list at Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan, this wine made not only the dinner but the weekend. Here is what I posted at that time. ”  I had always wanted to try this wine having read so many rave reviews on the various wine boards. The fact that winemaker, Maggie Harrison, was the former assistant winemaker at Sine Que Non, which I have also never experienced, added to my excitement. The first taste was magical. Very seldom to you get a wine that delivers everything you are looking for in the beverage you are so passionate about. The Lillian Syrah delivers on so many different levels. It’s dark and brooding and packs so much flavor that you grasp for the right words. If Sarah and Sparky Marquis didn’t already capture the name “Velvet Glove” for their ultra-premium Mollydooker Wine, it would be perfect for the Lillian. It’s like getting hit with a velvet glove. The wine has smoothness down to a science and drinking it with my duck breast entree was like a meal designed in heaven. I’d give this one a 98 and place it #2 on my all-time list of wines. It was, as the sommelier mentioned when pouring at our table, “like drinking Sine Qua Non for one-third the price”.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to finding five more gems like these in the coming year and when I do, all of you will be the first to know.

FOUR FINE WINES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by ballymote

It’s not often I have the opportunity to experience a quartet of excellent wines on the same day. This past Saturday on a weekend trip to the Big Apple, that opportunity presented itself. My fellow oenophile, Gerry B. stopped by the New York Wine Exchange and picked up a bottle of the 2005 O’Shaughnessy, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon. I had brought with me from my humble collection, a 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon.

We popped both of these in our room at the Marriott prior to dinner. It probably wasn’t fair to the O’Shaughnessy because I know from past experience that this is a huge wine that needs to be open a couple of hours before drinking in order for its true flavors to show. Parker had scored this wine 95 points and it has a great bouquet of licorice, dark berry fruit and tobacco. It’s smooth but quite tannic and that’s where not allowing it to breathe serves as an injustice. I’d give this one a 92 and blame the score on our lack of patience.

The Larkmead showed much better and although Parker gave it a 92, I think all of us thought it deserved higher. I’d give this one a 94. It’s not quite as full-bodied as the O’Shaughnessy but it felt more balanced and the flavors were crisp and precise with undertones of rich spices and blackberries.  We could probably have finished both bottles but it was time to get ready for dinner and more wine at Tribeca Grill.

Aside from the food, Tribeca Grill is a consistent winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award for their extensive 1800 selection wine list. I was thrilled to find the 2005 Lillian’s White Hawk Vineyard Syrah.  I had always wanted to try this wine having read so many rave reviews on the various wine boards. The fact that winemaker, Maggie Harrison, was the former assistant winemaker at Sine Que Non, which I have also never experienced, added to my excitement. The first taste was magical. Very seldom to you get a wine that delivers everything you are looking for in the beverage you are so passionate about. The Lillian Syrah delivers on so many different levels. It’s dark and brooding and packs so much flavor that you grasp for the right words. If Sarah and Sparky Marquis didn’t already capture the name “Velvet Glove” for their ultra-premium Mollydooker Wine, it would be perfect for the Lillian. It’s like getting hit with a velvet glove. The wine has smoothness down to a science and drinking it with my duck breast entree was like a meal designed in heaven. I’d give this one a 98 and place it #2 on my all-time list of wines. It was, as the sommelier mentioned when pouring at our table, “like drinking Sine Qua Non for one-third the price”.

Gerry had chosen the 2005 Venge Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This was an interesting wine. Parker had scored it a 92 with these remarks in December of 2007 “exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, loads of new oak, plenty of cassis fruit, high tannins and a noticeable acidity.”

I found it to be the lightest Cabernet, in color, of any I have ever had. It almost looked light for a Pinot Noir. It has a beautiful nose and is exceptionally smooth but I found the fruit flavors subtle, not bold, and almost, not just Bordeaux like, but  Burgundian. It was good, but so different that I could never pin it down and I gave it a 90. I think both wives agreed with me but Gerry loved it; even more than the Lillian Syrah. I guess that’s why they make more than one type of wine and why the true way to judge a wine is by your own palate and not by high scores or the opinion of others.

The truth is that all four of these fine wines were excellent. They each had their own story to tell and all of them added to my own personal history of wine drinking pleasure.

TRIBECA GRILL (NYC) – NOT A BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Tribeca Grill (NYC), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2009 by ballymote

What better way to spend a November weekend then to head up to New York City and explore the lower East End including a tour of the Chelsea market and dinner at Robert Deniro’s Tribeca Grill, one of the bright stars in the area’s culinary heavens. Well, one better way would be to do it with good friends, and Gerry and Joann B. from Oaks, PA certainly qualify on that front. We met them at noon on Saturday, and after dropping our bags off in our rooms at the Marriott, we set off on foot to explore the area.

 We got a peek at the construction slowly progressing at Ground Zero. Cranes dot the skyline that once featured two gleaming towers. It’s taking more time than one would have imagined but I feel confident that when completed it will be a tribute of which we can all be justly proud.

We walked down to South Street Seaport for views of the ferries on the river and the Brooklyn Bridge, still for sale, in the background. We grabbed some lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant called Sequoia, as we took advantage of the sunny, almost 60 degree, late fall afternoon in the Big Apple.

We walked off the food by heading up to the Financial District, checked out the New York Stock Exchange, the weekend wanderers on Wall Street, and the scores of street merchants peddling everything from photos to watches to designer handbags.

We headed down to Battery Park, paused for a visit to The New York Wine Exchange, and caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty poised as she always is as the beacon of freedom to millions who have come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. In fact, so many find her attraction so compelling that they attempt to replicate her beauty. There were three of them in Battery Park but although many tourists were fooled into thinking these were the real Statue of Liberty, a history buff such as myself never hesitated in knowing they were imposters. See if you can spot the REAL Statue of Liberty from these two photos.

If you picked the photo on the bottom you are a true patriot who knows their American history and probably excelled in the classroom. If you picked the photo on the top, I suggest you stop reading this blog immediately, call a doctor, preferably an Optometrist and think seriously about having yourself institutionalized.

As the afternoon sun slipped toward the horizon it was time to head back to the hotel for a pre-dinner glass of wine and a recap of the afternoon as we prepared for what we hoped would be an excellent meal at one of New York’s best dining spots. The four of us had been here a couple of years ago and enjoyed  a couple bottles of the 2001 Shirvington at the Tribeca Grill.

I have decided I am going to discuss the wines that we enjoyed this weekend in a separate post simply because all four of them were good enough to warrant attention on their own merit. I will tell you that before dinner we had the 2005 O’Shaughnessy, Howell Mountain Cabernet and the 2005 Larkmead, Napa Valley Cabernet (I have just poured myself the final glass of the Larkmead 48 hours later and am about to drink it).

We took a cab (that would be a vehicle for hire as opposed to a wine varietal) from the Marriott to the Tribeca Grill for our 8 P.M. reservation. The restaurant was packed with weekend diners. It seemed every table in the room was buzzing with activity.  Gerry and I had looked at the wine menu online and made our selections. I had chosen the 2005 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard Syrah, and Gerry wanted the 2005 Venge Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, these wines will be discussed in the next post because there is much to say about both of these wines.

My meal began with a bowl of French Onion soup, correct temperature, lots of good onion flavor, a blanket of crusty cheese, and some bread to make your own croutons. A good start. The menu offered several interesting choices and mine was the

Grilled Long Island Duck Breast 29
Butternut Squash & Apple Purée, Spinach, sun-dried Cherry Sauce

The duck had been carefully sliced into multiple fork size pieces and then reconstructed on the plate to form an entire breast. It was crispy and looked picture perfect as it sat on the bed of spinach and squash puree. The portion size was excellent and the duck flavorful and cooked to perfection. I was very happy with my choice of entree.

Gerry began his meal with the Charcuterie Plate 14
Speck, Veal & Mushroom Terrine & Chicken Liver Mousse. He raved about Mousse and felt the Lillian wine was an excellent accompaniment to the entire dish. For an entree he selected the Grilled Dry Aged New York Strip Steak – 16oz. 39
Roasted Chanterelles & Blue Cheese Potato Purée

His plate looked delicious and his steak was done medium as he had requested. I did get to sample the Blue Cheese Potato Puree and it was absolutely incredible. In fact, it would have gone well with my duck and yes, I was envious that it wasn’t included with my fowl. It appeared to me that Gerry was slowly savoring each bite of his meal.

The women started with salads and Joann chose what would have been my second choice for an entree, the Pan Roasted Atlantic Salmon 27
Bacon & Onion Stew, Horseradish Potato Mousse.

Once again, I was offered, and readily accepted, a taste of her salmon. It was perfect with a crisp crust, balanced beautifully on a cushion of horseradish potato mousse and the bacon and onion stew. If I had any complaint at all it would simply be that I would have preferred a bigger cushion of the wonderful accoutrements. Joann was quite happy with her choice. My wife, Kathy was torn between a few selections but opted for the Roasted Organic Chicken 23
Creamy Potato Purée, Porcinis, Brown Butter Carrots & Peas

Once again, Executive Chef, Steven Lewandowski displays his creative skills with a simple dish served in an elegant style and accentuated with porcini mushrooms, Kathy was completely satisfied with her poultry dish and all of us were totally impressed with the service and overall quality of the Tribeca Grill.

We lingered for a while talking and enjoying dessert. Kathy and Joanne had a plate of cookies and I chose the Banana Tart
Malted Milk Chocolate Pecan Ice Cream

This turned out to be one of those dishes that looked better than it tasted. It was well done and the ice cream was delicious but it just may have been that I wasn’t as into the whole banana thing as I imagined. It certainly did nothing to affect my overall impression of Tribeca Grill as being an outstanding example of what makes New York City the dining capital of the world. Remember, it’s not the BYOB capital of the world, that title belongs to South Jersey, but there is no denying that the hundreds of great places to eat in Manhattan make it the home of the Holy Grail for gourmands.

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