Archive for Chris Ringland

A LITTLE CAFE – BYOB (2ND REVIEW)

Posted in A Little Cafe (2nd review), South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by ballymote

 This is probably the longest I have ever gone between the actual date of our meal and my report. We revisited A Little Cafe in Voorhees, NJ on Saturday evening, November 27th. Joe and Carol B. and my wife, Kathy and I returned to this cozy little BYOB after a 14 month hiatus. The picture to the left is fittingly dark because the surrounding area WAS very dark on this late fall weekend.

 I may not remember everything we ate but I do know what wines we had with us. Joe and carol shared a 2004 Sasso al Poggo, Toscana. This “super Tuscan” offered ripe red fruit, hints of earth and licorice with smooth tannins and an overall softness on the palate. I had the bolder 2005 Green Lion, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa. This one is another creation from Aussie winemaker, Chris Ringland except this time he brings his skills to California. This one is a really nice value that delivers REAL cab quality with fruit sourced from prime Napa growing sites (Pritchard Hill and Diamond Mountain) at an extremely affordable price.

 Along with the standard bread and oil for dipping we were presented with an attractive dish of fried green tomatoes in a tasty pesto sauce. There were two for each of us and we asked for, and received a second dish and I think we all agreed we could have made a complete meal out of this beautifully done starter. The breading was perfect and the tomatoes were first-class.

We each chose the Three Course Prix Fixe dinner and Joe and I started with the soup of the day which, in this instance, was a Potato Soup. Joe remembers it as having something spicy added to it. I, on the other hand, with senility setting in quickly, remember nothing but the potatoes. I am pretty sure we both enjoyed it, though. The ladies both had salads and I didn’t take a picture of them.

 For my appetizer I went with the Crab Cigarettes, a Little Cafe Signature Dish – Jumbo lump crabmeat rolled in paper-thin crepes and served with a spicy red chili dipping sauce. I’d say that even the non-smokers of the world would enjoy these “cigarettes” so feel free to “light up” your meal with this appetizer.

Joe went with the Spicy Calamari, lightly breaded and fried calamari topped with a hot and spicy red pepper relish and served atop a bed of crisp lettuce, Carol had a mushroom dish that I couldn’t find mentioned on the menu. Both of them liked their choices.

 For his entree Joe opted for one of the evening “specials”. A baked pork chop topped with King Oyster Mushrooms and a plum wine sauce served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and Julienne-style vegetables.

 Kathy and Carol both seemed to be in a non-adventurous mood as they selected the Chicken Parmesan. Carol traded the traditional pasta accompaniment for mashed potatoes and veggies while Kathy stayed with the linguine.

I debated between the Marianne’s Meatloaf and the Chicken and Crab with the latter winning out in the end and I was not disappointed in my choice. Sauteed boneless chicken breast layered with jumbo lump crabmeat, sauteed spinach, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese and topped with a pesto sauce. This tasty dish came with mashed potatoes and the Julienne veggies. I’m not a big fan of the Julienne veggies but the overall dish was very good and the portion large enough to provide lunch for the next day.

A Little Cafe is one of those places you can always count on for a good meal at reasonable prices and even though Chef/Owner Marianne Powell was not present on this Saturday evening, it was obvious she had left the place in good hands.

IN DEFENSE OF SARAH AND SPARKY

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , on January 3, 2010 by ballymote

If your first two questions are “who are Sarah and Sparky?” and “why do they need defending?” then you have come to the right place.

“Sarah and Sparky” are Sarah and Sparky Marquis, a husband and wife team of winemakers in Australia. They were the driving force behind the very popular Marquis Phillips line of Aussie wines and currently they produce one of my favorite lines, Mollydooker.  They were also responsible, several years back, for making my favorite wine of all time, the 2001 Shirvington. Sarah and Sparky are no longer associated with the Marquis Phillips line of wines although they are still being made under that name by another Australian winemaker, Chris Ringland. The original collaboration on those wines was a partnership between Sarah, Sparky and an importer named Dan Phillips (thus the Marquis Phillips name) who has a company called The Grateful Palate. Troubles in wine paradise resulted in a protracted legal battle that resulted in Mr. Phillips retaining the rights to the Marquis Phillips name and he continues to produce these wines long after Sarah and Sparky have disassociated themselves from the project. Interestingly, one of the wines produced each year by the Marquis Phillips people is a Shiraz/Cab blend titled “Sarah’s Blend”. That doesn’t seem particularly fair to me but, that’s another story for another time.

The Mollydooker wines  ( Australian for “left-handed, which both Sarah and Sparky are) have gained a legion of fans here in the USA.  Sarah and Sparky produce wines at a variety of price points. In the $25.00 range they have an excellent shiraz called “The Boxer”, a merlot “The Scooter”, a cab/shiraz/merlot blend “Two Left Feet”, a cabernet “The Maitre D” and a white wine “The Violinist”. They have other wines at the $50.00 price point, two high-end offerings, a shiraz “Carnival of Love” and a shiraz/cab blend “Enchanted Path” which are in the $80 range. Their Top of the Line, pride of the family, is a rich shiraz called “The Velvet Glove” which tops in at $200.00 per bottle (I have one of these and am looking for the right time to give it a try).

Now, as to why they need defending. I like these wines, most of the time. For those who can’t find a wine they like I would ask that you invest $25.00 at your local wine outlet and pick up a bottle of the shiraz,” The Boxer”. It’s full of rich, dark fruit flavor, considerably more so than most wines. Therein lies the problem. Most wine aficionados feel that wine shouldn’t have this much flavor. I have read tons of complaints saying they can’t drink these wines, they wouldn’t drink them for free, and my favorite comment that I have seen more than once, “it’s not for drinking, it should be spread on toast.” When I went to look up something on these wines here are the first two reviews that I came across:

“This stuff was absolutely wretched. Over the top alcoholic and artificial fruit flavors that remind me of trying to wash dirt out of my mouth with Robitussin cough syrup.”

“I’m universally underwhelmed by the Marquis wines. Maybe some of you who are constantly bitching about the price of some wines can stock up.

You’re welcome to my share.”

The truth is, these wines are fruit bombs. I don’t think they go all that well with food. I do think that they are fun to drink with cheese or just sitting around before a meal. There is definitely a place for these wines and Sarah and Sparky do a fantastic job of marketing their wines. They are truly PR experts. I have never met them but have corresponded with them many times and they both seem like genuinely nice people.

Do yourself a favor. Try one of their wines. Then come back and thank me.

EVERYDAY WINES – AFFORDABLE PRICES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by ballymote

We can’t always afford to drink the absolute best wines. Well, maybe some of us can but, I’m not in that elite group. That’s why I am constantly searching for the best QPR wines. QPR stands for Quality Price Ratio and simply means that for the money spent you are getting a better wine than what you might expect at that price point. Defined in other terms it means you are drinking a $12.00 wine that tastes like a $30 wine. These are wines that don’t break our budget. They are wines we can open with pizza or just to sip on the deck on a warm summer evening. There are many such wines and each person has their own favorites. here are a few of my current favorites:IMG_2503

Keep in mind that “everyday wines” can be constantly changing and are certainly not limited in any way to the six bottles pictured above. These are simply good representatives of the group. From left to right these wines are

2002 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz

2005 Domaine “La Garrigue” Cotes Du Rhone

2005 Sainte Leocadie, Les Clauses, Minervois

2005 Green Lion, Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Chateau Pesquie, Terrasses, Cotes du Ventoux

and resting comfortably in the forefront is my perennial favorite in the QPR group the

2007 Pillar Box RED

The Pillar Box Red is from Australia and each year is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. Some years are better than others but all of them are very good. A couple of years ago this was available for $7.99 but obviously the word got out and it’s now going for $12.99 in most stores (Circle Liquors has it for $10.99 (shhhhhhhhhh..don’t tell anyone).

The Thorn-Clark Terra Barossa Shiraz is also from Australia and is loaded with lots of berry fruit flavors and usually sells for about $15.00.

The Chateau Pesquie, Terrasses is a steal at $14.00 and is a delicious blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah from the Cotes du Ventoux. It almost always scores 90 points from Parker and Wine Spectator.

The Sainte Leocadie, Les Clauses is from the Minervois region of France, it is light and fragrant and matches up well with a wide variety of food items from pasta to beef. It usually sells for about $13.00 but I bought a case for $9 per bottle from the Wine Library in North Jersey after watching Gary Vaynerchuk, the marketing mastermind from Wine Library TV. Great Value!!

The 2005 Domaine “La Garrigue” Cotes du Rhone is good stuff. Here is what Robert Parker had to say about it in his rating:

91 Points – Robert Parker (Wine Advocate)

“The 2005 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine, a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah, is a fabulous example of how high quality Cotes du Rhones can be. Made under the auspices of the brilliant oenologist Philippe Cambie, this wine comes from the estate`s oldest head-pruned vines of 60 to 90 years old. Dense ruby/purple with terrific black cherry and black currant fruit, full-bodied essence of Provencal fruit, herbs, incense, and spice, this essentially tastes more like a Vacqueyras than a Cotes du Rhone and is beautifully ripe, full-bodied, opulent, and also vibrant, which is in keeping with this top-notch vintage.”

I would simply add that if you are lost in a wine store with NO IDEA what to buy. It’s hard to go wrong with any Cotes du Rhone as they usually are priced very reasonably between $10.00 and $15.00 with a large selection to choose from. Do I have to tell you they’d be located in the section that reads “FRANCE”??

2005 Green Lion, Napa, Cabernet is a Chris Ringland product. Chris is a talented winemaker from “down under” who makes a wide range of excellent wines under the “R Wines” brand. He is teamed with importer, Dan Phillips who carries the Grateful Palate lineup of wines. It’s a wonderful example of a Napa Cab that could sell for 2 to 3 times it’s $16.00 price tag.

OK, there are 6 wines that should keep you heart-healthy and your thirst quenched. Enjoy!!

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