Archive for the Info on Wine Category


Posted in Glassboro South Jersey Wine Festival - Part 1 with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by ballymote


 A beautiful sunny afternoon in Mid-May with temps in the 70’s, a nice breeze and plenty of wine and food available was all it took to draw thousands to Rowan Blvd. in Glassboro, NJ for the Glassboro Vintage South Jersey Wine Festival. Judging by the smiles and laughter visible throughout the grounds, a good time was had by all. Speaking of judging, the purpose of my visit was to sample many of the  red wines offered by the 14 wineries of the Outer Coastal Plain who attended this event. Before I give my opinions of the wines I sampled, I would like to offer a few thoughts on my feelings about New Jersey wines both prior to Sunday and after a day of tasting.

 I have several friends and family who enjoy New Jersey wines. I have not been among them. Many of those who enjoy them like sweet wines. There is an abundance of sweet wines produced locally. In my opinion, adding blueberries, strawberries, peaches or cranberries, to a wine takes that beverage out of the “wine” category and into something that I call “frine” (fruit + wine). If you like that, more power to you. I prefer the dry red wines done so well in areas like California, Oregon and Washington here in our country and in several others throughout the world. Quite honestly, I had not sampled a great number of dry red wines from South Jersey but the several I have had have not been enjoyable with the notable exception of a Sharrott Winery Cab Franc which was quite good.


After an afternoon of sampling wine at the Glassboro South Jersey Wine Festival, I would say I have a slightly higher view of our local wine production. In particular, there appear to be two grapes that our South Jersey vintners appear to be utilizing to create some very drinkable wines. Those grapes are Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. Cab Franc I have enjoyed for years both on its own and as a grape added as a blend with lots of wines from all over the world. Cab Franc makes up two-thirds of the grapes in the world-class Chateau Cheval Blanc. It’s heartier than Cabernet Sauvignon, less dark and with a spicy pepper component and a touch of violets. Chambourcin is another hearty grape that seems to grow extremely well in this area. Local producers seem to be using it on its own and as a blend with other grapes. It offers up flavors of plums and cherries, pepper and licorice and I must confess, I found it to be consistently, the best varietal regardless of the overall quality of the winery. Chambourcin is not a grape that will be found in California. Its resistance to weather makes it perfect for holding up well in seasons of the East Coast.

It was fun to get to know some of our local wines. Most of the folks standing nearby when I sampled seemed to prefer the sweet “frines” and that’s ok. The people manning the booths were friendly, knowledgeable of the product and in many cases, extremely proud of the wines they were producing. In my next article I will review the wines I tasted with scores for each.


Posted in Outer Coastal Plain (AVA) with tags , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by ballymote

An  AVA  (American Viticultural Area) is a specific, designated wine growing area within a state. In New Jersey there are three such designated areas, Warren Hills, Central Delaware Valley and the Outer Coastal Plain. South Jersey is home to the vast Outer Coastal Plain (2.25 MILLION acres) which is ten times the size of the other two areas combined. The OCP includes an area that stretches from just northeast of Trenton to Cape May, NJ and includes approximately 34 current wineries. As I mentioned several times on this blog, I am not a particular fan of New Jersey wines but I am willing to put in more time and tasting allowing for the (unlikely) possibility that I am actually missing the boat on some good local wines.

There are 2 primary reasons why I don’t feel attachments to the local wines. First, many of the wineries seem to have a compulsion to add some sort of fruit to the wines. Call me an irrational wine snob but, to me, wine is made from grapes, not grapes PLUS blueberries, or grapes PLUS peaches. Even if these fruit wines tasted good (and I realize many folks think they do), I would still not consider them to be wines. Maybe they should fall into an entirely different category of beverages which we could call “Frines”. This alone disqualifies many of the locally produced bottles from any consideration as serious wines. The second reason for my less than favorable view is that many New Jersey wine makers buy grapes from California and then blend those grapes with some from their own vineyards. This may, or may not, make their wines taste better but, in my opinion, it disqualifies them as New Jersey wines. Additionally, if the current marketing campaign wants to sing the praises of NJ wines and constantly remind all of us that “Jersey soil and our climate is reminiscent of that of Bordeaux”, bringing in grapes from out of state seems to shoot major holes in that theory.

What type of grapes are we producing in the vineyards of the Outer Coastal Plain? It seems among the reds there is a great deal of cabernet and merlot, some syrah, cab franc and a grape that seems to grow particularly well in this region, chambourcin. On the white side there is plenty of chardonnay, some sauvignon blanc, vidal blanc, pinot grigio and some riesling. Of all of these, I am intrigued by the chambourcin. In the next few weeks I intend to properly sample wines made from this grape.

The Glassboro Vintage South Jersey Wine Festival is being held the weekend of May 19th and 20th. Thirteen South Jersey wineries will be taking part and there will be opportunities to taste and purchase wines on the spot. The event takes place from Noon until 5:00 PM each day and tickets are available at the site for $25.00 or, in advance, at the website for $19.00. I intend to visit the festival on Sunday and sample a minimum of 40 different wines from among the participating wineries. I will report on what I liked and what I didn’t like shortly after the festival. It’s a great chance to enjoy both the weather and the wines so come on out and take part. Your admission even includes a souvenir festival wine glass.


Posted in My Wine Rack, Uncategorized with tags , , on April 6, 2012 by ballymote


 I don’t have a huge wine collection. For the past many years what I did have rested comfortably on a variety of store-bought racks holding 18, 24 or 36 bottles plus a wine  refrigerator that held another 32 bottles. Many of the bottles would stay in their original cases which often prompted my wife to threaten to throw them out if I didn’t get them out of their boxes. The problem has now been solved with the recent addition of hand crafted wine racks made by the fine folks at Arch General Contractors. We were having some renovations done to our Rec Room, mainly, the removal of a large pillar that served as a supporting column for the house. We replaced it with an overhead beam which opened the room and gave greater depth. It seemed like the perfect occasion to add some racks and get all of those bottles a proper home.

 I am delighted at the way the finished racks look and the bottles have told me they love their new home. My new problem is that I have some empty slots which need to be filled with vino and that can only mean additional purchases. As you can gather from all this, wine collecting is a dirty job but someone has to do it.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , on January 10, 2012 by ballymote

  A few weeks ago, St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball fans were devastated at the news that Albert Pujols had accepted an offer of 254 million dollars for ten years from the Los Angeles Angels. The three-time National League MVP was the heart and soul of the Cardinal team and they won’t be the same without him.

Canal’s Bottle Stop in Marlton has just suffered a similar loss.

Yesterday, I learned that Charlie Beatty, the 18 year veteran wine guru of Canal’s Bottle Stop in Marlton, NJ is no longer Wine Manager at the store. The news was shocking and to make matters worse, no one at the store would say where he went. If each of the employees of the Bottle Stop were soldiers being held prisoner by the enemy, there would be little chance that any of them would break and reveal secrets even under the most extreme torture. Despite zero help from Canal’s staff, I had a hunch. I went back to my car, headed east on Route 70, just a few hundred yards, and pulled into the shopping center that serves as location for Wine Works. Charlie was not there at the time but this IS his new home. Max & Filippo, owners of Wine Works (former owners of Hops n Grapes in Glassboro, NJ) have pulled off a major coup in adding Charlie Beatty to their employee line-up.

Charlie Beatty WAS Canal’s Bottle Stop. He was to that store what Pujols was to the Cardinals, Brady to the Patriots, Labron to the Heat. When I named that outlet my #1 wine store in South Jersey two years ago, I gave Charlie Beatty as not just the number #1 reason but also the 2nd and 3rd reason. His personality, knowledge, expertise and customer service skills are top-notch and have endeared him to his multitude of loyal customers. His ability to stock the shelves with hard to find wines that the true oenophiles appreciate is unmatched in the area.

Wine Works, pre-Charlie, was an excellent wine store. For me, the only problem was that it was located just a stones throw from Canal’s Bottle Stop. That problem no longer exists. Wine Works will now be my go-to destination for adult beverages.

Max and Filippo are to be credited for having the foresight to make Charlie an integral part of their team. He has a dedicated following that will find him quickly and help him build sales at Wine Works. I really think it won’t be long before I have to re-do my Top Five Wine Stores in New Jersey. Any guesses as to the new Numero Uno???

Best of luck to Charlie and Wine Works. If you would like to leave a message for Charlie click on the “comments”  link below.


Posted in Info on Wine, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 10, 2012 by ballymote

 Yesterday, the New Jersey Assembly passed by a vote of 58 – 19 a bill allowing wine shipments into and out of New Jersey. The bill now sits on Governor Christie’s desk awaiting his signature. I will keep you informed.


Posted in Nouveau Beaujolais with tags , , , on November 20, 2011 by ballymote

 If you should happen to visit your local wine shop during the coming week, you will notice a number of signs similar to this one proclaiming the arrival of the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s that time of year and in the next couple of weeks some 65 million bottles of this inexpensive wine made from the Gamay grape will be consumed worldwide.

Although it is NOT great wine it is, indeed, a great marketing strategy perfected by the folks at Georges Duboeuf. On the third Thursday in November, the wine, which is only about 6 weeks old, is shipped from Paris to markets all over the globe amidst a great deal of fanfare.

The brightly colored bottles of Georges Duboeuf’s 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau will occupy the prime spots in most wine stores and millions will choose this hyped vino as an accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.

The gamay grapes are harvested by hand, go thru a speedy fermentation process, are quickly bottled and the wine is soon headed to dinner tables all over the globe.

The Beaujolais appellation in France is located in the southern part of Burgundy not far from the city of Lyon. The gamay grape from which the wine is made is much lighter than cabernet or even pinot noir and you can expect a fruity taste. The wines are made to be drank almost immediately as few of the “new” Beaujolais will retain its flavor much longer than six or eight months .

Wine geeks, such as myself, have a tendency to downplay this varietal but Charlie Beatty, Wine Manager at Canal’s Bottle Stop in Marlton (my absolute favorite wine shop in the entire Delaware Valley) actually recommended a Nouveau Beaujolais that I will be trying with Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday.

 I will be back here next week to let you know my thoughts on the 2011           L’Ancien, Beaujolais.


Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine with tags , on February 24, 2011 by ballymote


Everyone loves lists. Okay, maybe I should just state that I love lists, and since I haven’t posted a list in quite some time, it’s only right that today be the day. Here is a list of my favorite wine regions. It’s not perfect because it doesn’t account for specific regions of a state or country which may be the reason that they have been included. I will try to reflect a bit on regions in the narrative.

                          TOP TEN FAVORITE WINE REGIONS

 1. CALIFORNIA – In my estimation, no other state or country offers the quality and variety found in California. From outstanding Cabernets in all price ranges to soft, fragrant Pinot Noirs that rival the best of Burgundy, California sits at the top of my list. A visit to Napa/Sonoma, or any of the other fantastic wine-growing areas is like a pilgrimage to Mecca for any true wine-lover.

 2. FRANCE –   Many would have these first two regions reversed but to me, I have to slide France just under the Golden State. I love the wines of Bordeaux, Chateau Neuf du Pape, the Cotes du Rhone and many other smaller appellations. Quite often my wallet prevents me from truly knowing the joys of Burgundy but, overall, there is much to enjoy in the wines of France which on the nose and the palate reveal so much about the place from whence they came.

 3.  Oregon – This one made the list almost exclusively because of their Pinot Noirs. For those of you not familiar with this grape, it offers a much softer taste than most red wines. The best of these have very fragrant bouquets of lavender and soft cherries and they are a red wine that will go well with lots of different dishes including both chicken and fish.

4. SPAIN – Don’t have a lot of money but you wanna drink some good wine? No country in the world currently produces more value wines than Spain. For less than $10.00 you can find something good to drink every night for months without repeating the same wine twice. It’s fun to just experiment with these wines and the Tempranillo, Monastrell, Garnacha and combinations of each of these grapes create some tasty and food friendly wines.

 5. ARGENTINA – Don’t you dare cry for Argentina. They have taken the Malbec grape which originated in the Cahors region of France and brought it to a new level. This wine is a favorite of several of our dinner companions and it’s always a welcome addition with a wide variety of foods.

 6. AUSTRALIA – A few years ago the Land Down Under may have held even a higher spot on my Top Ten Regions List. It may have slipped a little but it’s hard not to enjoy a well made Shiraz. The wines of Oz are full of deep rich flavors and they are diversified enough so that you can find excellent cabernets and pinot noirs. My favorite wine of all time is STILL the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.


7. ITALY – So many fine wines from so many regions of Italia. Anyone who has ever visited Italy returns with rave reviews on how good the simple wines were that accompanied each meal. Back home we can choose a simple Chianti or the more regal Barolo’s or Brunello’s. You can spend a little or you can spend a lot but the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes shine with the rich sauces and pasta dishes that seem to have been made for these wines.


   8. GERMANY – I’ve never been crazy about white wines but whenever the situation calls for a crisp white wine, Germany is my region of choice. The Reisling grape is done to perfection in a couple of the hilly regions of Germany. The sweet apple, pear, and peach flavors that shine through a quality Spatlese and blend with the ever-present minerality is the perfect accompaniment to lots of lighter foods.

 9. WASHINGTON – Sneaking into my Top Ten is the third state known for its wine production, Washington. This area is home to some top-notch producers who make some very nice cabernets and red blends. Solid, if not spectacular wineries such as Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle provide excellent choices at very reasonable prices.

 10. NEW ZEALAND – The Kiwis are known primarily for their zesty Sauvignon Blanc, a great summer sipper for those of you who enjoy white wines. Personally, I skip the whites and search for some of the Pinot Noirs and exciting red blends that hail from this area. They don’t get a lot of press but several areas of New Zealand are producing some first-class wines on a regular basis.

There you have it. My Top Ten Wine Regions, subject to change as the years go by.


Posted in Favorite Wines, Tasting Notes, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2011 by ballymote

 In writing this blog, and in having the opportunity to dine out weekly at many of the wonderful BYOB’s in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, it also presents an opportunity to taste a lot of different wines. Some dinners there is the surprise of discovering something really good. Once in a while the same dinner will present two wines of note. I must confess that I don’t get too many dinners where SIX of the wines were exceptional. Our dinner at Salt and Pepper in South Philly, which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog, is one such instance where the wines were all top-notch.

Now, it should be noted that one observer’s definition of top-notch may well differ from another’s and my wallet and the wallets of my friends may preclude some of the world’s best wines from our table but, the six we had on this cold January evening were just fine with all of us present. Additionally, there were some other wines on the table that I didn’t sample  for one reason or another. Here is what we enjoyed in no particular order:

 2007 B. R. Cohn, Silver Label, Cabernet Sauvignon

On plenty of other occasions this could have been the best wine at the table. Tonight, despite some nice black cherry and spice nuances, and a pleasant oak treatment this one was slightly lost in the presence of some real heavyweights. Still, at a price point in the $20.00 range, this North Coast cab from the excellent 2007 vintage offers great value.

 The 2005 Shirvington, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia is one of those wines that is always welcome at any table where I am eating. Once again, none of the recent vintages will ever match Sarah and Sparky’s magnificent 01 and 02 effort and, in fairness, that could well be because they are no longer responsible for Shirvington wines. Still, it always brings intense shiraz flavor and although it isn’t perfect with a lot of foods, it’s still a great wine for sipping and conversing and will work with many heavier meat items.

 2007 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon. My affection for Pinot Noir isn’t shared by many of my wine-drinking friends. I do try to convert them every once in a while when I have a Pinot that I think is outstanding. This was one that they all seemed to enjoy, especially with the lighter foods on the menu. This 90 pointer exhibits a great nose of spring flowers and raspberries and soft flavors of cherry and spice. It is currently available as a Chairman’s Selection in the PA State stores for $29.99 which is almost $20.00 less that its normal retail price.

 2007 Mauritson,Rockpile Ridge Vineyard, Zinfandel. My wife, Kathy, has become a Zin-lover. She has become a zinfandel lover without being exposed to the really good 40.00+ wines that are available. In fact, this may have been her first. The rich blackberry flavors, the baked-pie with hints of Asian spices and the overall structure and balance of this wine made it, for both of us, our Wine of the Night. Considering the competition this was no small accomplishment. It may have been that I wasn’t expecting it to be so good and I knew the others would be.

2007 Kapcsandy, State Lane Vineyard, Estate Cuvee. I opened my first bottle of this superb wine at the end of the summer and was slightly disappointed because I expected more. In retrospect, it may have been my fault as I didn’t give it enough time to breathe before serving. This time, we had our server decant the wine for about 90 minutes before we could hold out no longer and started sampling the deep purple nectar. Much better this time and reminiscent of our sampling it last October with Lou Kapcsandy at his Tasting Room in Yountville, CA. This red blend which garnered 96 points from Robert Parker consists of 46% Cabernet and 46% Merlot with equal blends of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Made in the true Bordeaux fashion this is one terrific wine as evidenced by these remarks on Cellar Tracker

  Tasted by etherscreen on 1/29/2011: With such great Cali Cabernet produced by the likes of Rivers Marie, Lewelling, Karl Lawrence, and Stefania to name a few, available way below a c-note, why should one really look to those priced out of reach for many of us? Ok collectors (read not drinkers) can stockpile screaming eagle, harlan, etc., but those wines are nothing more than a distant dream to the vast majority of us. With this in mind, I am not looking to acquire many Cali Cabs north of $100, save Shafer Hillside Select and a few others. Why should we pay more???

Well my friends, the Kapcsandy 2007 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard is one profound example of why to pay more! This wine exemplifies the perfect marriage of Napa fruit with a Bordeaux sensibility. It’s color is nearly alive in the glass. Nose of cassis, wet earth, pencil lead, cigar box, minerals, and menthol. Powerful, but with restraint on the palate. Well proportioned. Finish captures the wonderful aromas noted on the nose as well a some chocolatey oak that sails a nice distance.

I spoke with Lou for a fair amount of time discussing his wines, his history, and his philosophy. He struck me as an extraordinary guy with a clear vision and purpose in his wine making. While I am not in the business of drinking over priced Cali Cab, I am, from this point forward, in the business of cellaring and drinking Kapcsandy wines. (137 views)

  Tasted by Wine-Strategies on 12/25/2010 & rated 97 points: opened on Thursday, tasted (yikes, this is young!) and re-corked for Saturday’s Christmas dinner. Let me begin by saying this is the finest North American wine I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lots. Shafer, not even close. Araujo, whatever. Abreu, Colgin, etc., nah. This wine is like one of the first dates you ever had, with the girl you just knew was for you; when you knew in your heart that the feelings would run deep, and the experience was one you’d never forget. A medium-weight entry gives way to a full-bodied, sophisticated and regal mouthfeel. It’s as if this wine weighs nothing and is as dense as a star, all in the same moment. The structure and blend (they nailed it) is fit not for kings or gods, but for the purest of the pure. The chosen. Loving, caressing, layered in purity and focus. This is worth every penny, and then some. Highly recommended. Drink thru 2030, approx $135, 14,1% abv (576 views)
  Tasted by hrl on 12/24/2010 & rated 95 points: From 375. This is just stellar. Very classy and complex nose that comes across like classified Bordeaux. The palate is very ethereal as the wine is powerful yet restrained. This is a great meeting of Napa ripeness and restrained French winemaking. As someone who finds many of the Napa cults far too big and ripe, this is ideal. My first bottle from this estate and I plan on buying many more. (635 views).




2008 Alpha Omega ERA. We barrel tasted this wine during our October California visit and my friend, Gerry B. decided right there that he had to have this when the folks at A-O finally bottled it. From the monster-size impressive bottle to the equally impressive juice contained therein this is one major red wine endeavor. Certainly this was too early to be opening a wine of such magnitude but one sip and you can already see the lushness and velvet texture of this wine. It will be even better in five or ten years but it delivers much even at this early stage. This is not only a great wine but if you are ever out Napa way, Alpha Omega should be near the top of your “Must Visit” list not just for the great wines but it’s in a beautiful location and the folks, headed by the charming Jean Hoefliger and his entire staff, make you feel totally welcome.

So, there you have them. A great beginning to 2011 and if once a month brings wines of equal quality, it will be a wonderful year.


Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Dinners with tags , , on February 2, 2011 by ballymote

 Matching wine with food isn’t always the mass confusion that many declare it to be. There are some combinations that almost everyone knows. For instance, a nice filet, T-Bone or sirloin steak certainly deserves a big California cabernet by its side for maximum enjoyment. All out of cab at the moment?  Not to worry, simply substitute a nice Malbec, a syrah or a hearty zinfandel and you have hardly lost a beat with your beefy meal. On the other hand, some foods do offer much more of a challenge in finding the right wine to highlight their flavors.

One such meal was our dinner on Sunday evening, Pork and Sauerkraut slow cooked overnight in a crock pot and accompanied by some buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes. Of course, it’s not really the pork or the potatoes that cry for something special, it’s clearly the acidic, tongue-curling flavors of the sauerkraut that cries out for something special. The wine we chose to match with this dish worked perfectly.

 The 2007 St. Urbans – Hof, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Spatlese proved to be an excellent match for this entree. Crisp and silky smooth with just the right minerality and soft hints of pear and melon, grapefruit and lemon oil. It was right on target in helping to negate the stringent flavors of the dish. In the German hierarchy, spatleses are just a bit sweeter that the kabinetts and you may personally find that the kabinetts provide an even better match with this type of food. It’s not surprising that this wine received a 92 from the Wine Advocate and a 91 from Wine Spectator and is available locally for about $25.00.  It’s the type of white wine that makes a red wine aficionado like myself admit that there is room for both in the world of vino.


Posted in Info on Wine, Tasting Notes with tags , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by ballymote

 They always claim there are two kinds of knowledge, “knowing something, or knowing where to find something.” With the dawn of the computer age the “knowing where to find something” has become even easier. I certainly don’t claim to know everything about wine but I do know places where I can go to look when I have something Id like to learn more about. Two such places are the popular wine “chat boards”, Wine Spectator and Wine Berserker. I make sure I stop by these two fonts of knowledge several times a week. In so doing, I often pick up ideas for new wines to try. A few weeks ago one of the main topics of conversation on Wine Berserker was “your favorite Under $15.00 wines”. There was lively discussion with scores of posters volunteering their personal favorites. One wine that garnered several mentions was the 2008 Altovinum “Evodia” Calatayud Garnacha from Spain. I have seen that wine many times on the shelves of local wine shops but it became just one of many Spanish wines I hoped to try one day. The chatter on the boards though was so favorable that the next day I picked up a bottle for $9.99 at a PA State Store near where I work.

 My wife, Kathy, and I opened the bottle at a local restaurant on New Years Day and were both immensely disappointed. Kathy went so far as to call it “horrible’ and I struggled to find something redeeming about it to no avail. It could have been that the bottle was “corked” but it’s more likely that this wine just didn’t appeal to our palates. Remember, just because the majority may like something it’s no guarantee you will find the same wine equally charming.

 Less than 24 hours later we were at my brother Tom’s house for a delayed family Christmas celebration. Tom has a very nice wine cellar and we can always count on him having something good in his wine fridge. This day was no exception and one of the wines we popped was a 2000 Justin, Isosceles, a Cabernet based blend from Paso Robles, CA. I have had other vintages of this same wine and it has always been enjoyable but this 2000 was absolutely stellar. A decade in the bottle had brought out all of the highlights of this delicious nectar. Bright strawberry, subdued blackberry, hints of caramel and some cotton candy, all perfectly balanced and topped off with a long, smooth finish. This was really a wine that had reached its apex of flavor.

That’s the amazing thing about wine. The Justin Isosceles sells for about $50.00. This one was worth it. Often times you can find a $15.00 bottle that drinks like a $50 bottle. It’s the experimentation and thrill of discovery that makes drinking wine such a unique pleasure.