Archive for 2007 Lafond Pinot Noir

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.

SAPORI TRATTORIA – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Sapori Trattoria, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by ballymote

Having been to most BYOB’s in Collingswood at one time or another over the past few years, it’s a little surprising that Sapori slipped thru the cracks. In all honesty, for some time I thought it was a Japanese restaurant (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Anyway, last night, after some confusion on just how many we would have in our party, Carol and Joe B. joined my wife, Kathy, and I for a Saturday evening, pre-movie (Inception) dinner. Parking was easy for a change and we both had nice bottles of wine with us to enhance our meal.

Joe’s contribution was the 2007 Ca di Rocchi Montere’ Ripasso, Valpolicella. Often referred to as a “baby amarone” this wine displayed ripe black cherries and a spicy pepper note with raisins lurking in the background. Joe said it was recommended by one of the staff at Hops n Grapes and I thought it went well with the rich red sauces. I had been thinking of having fish, maybe the Atlantic Salmon I read about on the web menu for Sapori, so I brought along a 2007 LaFond, Santa Rita Hills, Pinot Noir. The Lafond proved slightly darker than most Pinots with a vibrant nose of earth and flowers. Cherry cola  and ripe berries gave this wine a smooth, flavorful taste that has me mentally adding it to my list of good Pinot Noir at reasonable prices. I believe this was just under or just over the $20.00 mark.

Our server, Nick, who is actually a better looking guy than this photo would suggest, opened our wine and cooly and efficiently recited several “specials” from both the appetizer and the entree choices. As we chomped on some nice bread and a unique butternut squash/eggplant spread, he made some suggestions that were helpful in arriving at our selections.

Kathy can seldom pass up a dish of mussels and tonight was no different as she chose the Cozzi Saporite, mussels steamed open in a tomato broth with garlic, oregano, parsley and an ample amount of white wine. Kathy seemed a little surprised when the sauce appeared more red than white but that did little to hamper her enjoyment of her appetizer.

I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble in deciding on my starter and boldly ordered the Salsiccia ai Ferri, pork, parsley and sweet provolone sausage, grilled and served over polenta and sauteed beans with goat cheese dressing. It was good. I felt like I was at a villa in Tuscany eating something truly native to Italy. It could have been the best appetizer of the night except for two things. The first was the appetizer that Joe ordered, which was from the specials of the evening. Joe ordered the Hand-made Gnocchi stuffed with butter-nut squash and served with Oxtail ragu. Joe offered me a sample and it was scrumptious. Joe thought it was among the best “tail” he had ever had(sorry, I couldn’t pass that up). This would have made an excellent entree with just a slightly larger portion.

As good as mine was, as better as Joe’s was, Carol’s was the best of all! She had the Fettucine al Ragu d’Astice, Maine lobster meat sauteed with shallots and cherry tomatoes in a white wine tomato, touch of cream sauce with fettucine served over a layer of pesto. This was actually an entree selection which, like many of the items on the Sapori menu, can be ordered as an appetizer. This one was exceptionally good.

We could have left Sapori at this point quite content and pleased with our meal but we would have missed the entrees. Joe stayed with the “specials” and opted for the “fish of the day”, a Grilled Sea Bass, fileted tableside.

This creature of the sea was seasoned with sea salt and stuffed with butternut squash and served with a salad and some unknown dressing. Joe thought the flaky white fish had lots of flavor and he had no complaints about his selection.

Kathy was tempted by Nick’s powerful description of another evening special, the lamb shank. After he assured her it would fall off the bone it got her vote and came to the table with side servings of both beets and broccoli rabe. The lamb was tender and flavorful and Kathy was pleased with her choice.

Carol was set on some type of veal dish but wasn’t sure she wanted the accompanying sweet peas. Once again, Nick used his power of persuasion by hinting that not only were these the best tasting peas ever made but, he would be willing to exchange them for another veggie if she didn’t agree. Hey, not even your local Ford dealer will give you a guarantee like that so Carol selected the Spiedini di Vitello, tender filets of veal rolled with pine nuts, raisins, bread crumbs, pancetta, onion and caciocavello cheese, grilled and served with onion and bay leaf, topped with a lemon-olive-oil-almond butter sauce, with a side of sweet peas. Whew, that is easily the longest, most involved set of ingredients in any entree I have ever written about. You would think they needed three plates to serve all that but there it was resting nicely on a single plate. For you pea lovers out there, don’t be conned by Nick’s passionate plea for the joy of peas. Carol felt they were still just peas and just passable peas at that. She did like her veal choice very much and that’s what counts.

After being assured by “you know who” that the chicken thigh I was about to order was “boneless” I settled on the Braciola di Pollo, all natural chicken thigh stuffed with butternut squash (thinking it must have been on special at a local produce stand this week), provolone, sage and scallions and baked in a lemon zest-sage butter sauce and served with spinach and potatoes. It was a nice change of pace to be served thigh meat instead of the breast which is usually standard at most restaurants. My meal was excellent.

We passed on dessert but three of us gave a thumbs up when offered a strawberry flavored “lemoncello” ( I know that doesn’t make sense but, you know what I mean). It was the perfect topper on an excellent meal. Sapori, on Haddon Avenue in the heart of the BYOB capital of New Jersey (Collingswood), certainly has earned another visit in the not too distant future.

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