Archive for Malbec


Posted in Scannicchio's Restaurant with tags , , , on November 12, 2011 by ballymote

 Scannicchio’s at Broad and Porter in South Philadelphia is a dependable BYOB not far from the Sports Complex. My sons and I had tickets to the USA – Mexico soccer match at Lincoln Financial Field on a warm summer evening and decides to have dinner there prior to the game.


      I provided the wine for the evening. A 2007 La Posta, Pizzella Family Vineyard, Malbec, Argentina and a 2007 Angels Landing Cabernet Sauvignon. Both of these dark reds proved complimentary to the hearty Italian food.



                                                                                                         My sons, Frank and Brian started off their meal with Mozzarella Fritta. I would have to consider them as experts on fried mozzarella as they seem to choose if for many of their meals. They both declared this one to be exceptional with a nice coating and a quality cheese that held together well.





I began with a plate of tasty home-made meatballs served with broccoli rabe. The meatballs were delicious and proved to be the perfect appetizer.





   Brian selected the Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken. He thought it was terrific.





    Frank loved his Lobster Ravioli in a Rosa Vodka sauce.






  I was not disappointed at all in my choice of the Pollo Alla Milanese Italiano, breaded chicken cutlet topped with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and sharp provolone. I can’t remember if I attempted to take some home but I do know the portion was large enough for two meals.




Having filled our stomachs with a hearty meal it was off to the stadium to watch the USA score a second half goal and ear a 1 – 1 tie with Mexico.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by ballymote

It’s not likely that as recently as ten years ago you would have ever heard a diner in a nice restaurant request a glass of Malbec. Ten years ago, Malbec was simply a red grape grown in the Bordeaux area of France, that was used in small quantities to blend with Cabernet or Merlot.  In fact, it wasn’t even called Malbec. The Malbec grape in Bordeaux is known as Cot. Far to the south of Bordeaux, in the town of  Cahors, Malbec was faring somewhat better. Known here as “Auxerrois”, it has been grown since the middle ages and has, almost from the beginning, been called “the black wine”. Promise yourself that some day you will seek out a bottle from Cahors even if just to compare it to the Malbec you have grown so fond of from south of our border.

Okay, so with a 1000 year head-start, why aren’t we all drinking Malbec from Cahors instead of that Argentinian stuff that has become the rage of the young wine set here in the United States? For that answer we have to look at how Malbec is grown. Cot, Auxerrois or Malbec, whatever you choose to call it, is a thin-skinned grape. It’s not hearty like Cabernet or Merlot. It’s very susceptible to frost. It ripens in mid-season. The weather in France is much more hit or miss than the naturally warm climate of Argentina.  The wine produced by Malbec in France is not as fruity, not quite as flavorful as it’s South American counterpart. There are strong tannins in the French version which disappear in the warmth of the Mendoza sun. Really good Malbec needs to stay longer on the vine and the dependable sunshine allows the Malbec from Argentina to get that “hang time”.

There is no doubt that Malbec, mostly that grown in the Mendoza region of Argentina has, for much of  America, become the new “shiraz”. How long will Malbec continue to dominate and what will be the next “merlot, shiraz, malbec?” No one knows for sure but, remember you heard this here first. Watch out for Tannat from Uruguay!!


Posted in Anthony's Restaurant, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Info on Wine, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2009 by ballymote

 IMG_3654Another rainy Saturday night and another very good dining experience. I had made reservations for 6 at Anthony’s in Haddon Heights, NJ at 8:00 P.M. Late that afternoon, Jerry and Sue C. returned from their trip to Ireland, and what with Ireland not being the culinary capital of Europe, they were in the mood for a great meal so they decided to join us. Anthony’s was kind enough to add two more seats and after a short wait in the lobby, where our group paged through the latest copy of Hitzel’s Restaurant Magazine, we were guided to their upstairs dining room where we had an entire room to ourselves. Wines were opened and poured and Jerry showed pictures from his trip on his Ipod Touch while we scanned the menu and caught up on the latest news. Our server brought baskets of warm bread, butter, a dish of oil, and two plates of roasted veggies which we enjoyed while considering our selections. My wine for the evening was a Malbec from Patagonia, an area in the far south of Argentina, where the temperatures are far cooler.IMG_3655 There is an interesting story behind this wine. I had received an e-mail from Moore Brothers in Pennsauken about ten days ago. They were singing the praises of this particular wine Patagonia Malbec Barrel Selection Fabre Montmayou 2007. 

Their write-up on the wine made it tempting enough for me to decide to take a ride up to their store and grab a couple of bottles. Coincidently, the very next day I was at Monster Beverage in Glassboro and their it was, the very same wine for just 50 cents more than the price at Moore Brothers. It even had the familiar “Fleet Street Shipped at 56 degrees” which I thought was sort of a Moore Brothers trademark. Anyway, I was, and continue to be, puzzled as to how this wine which I thought was exclusive to Moore Bros. ended up on the shelves of Monster Beverage.  The wine, however, was worthy of all the praise. At $13.00 this is an excellent QPR delivering tons of flavor. I am making a note to try and get back to Monster for a couple more bottles before it is gone so, if you are reading this, pay no attention and please, stay away from Monster Beverage for the next few days. Thank You.

Meanwhile, back at Anthony’s, in between spoonfuls of a delicious crab bisque, I am outlining plans for a trip next year to Napa Valley. Everyone seems interested and I am looking forward to it like a muslim would to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Now the entrees are arriving and I have taken my friend, Tom T.’s advice and ordered the selection which bears his name, the Crab Tomasso.IMG_3659 It turned out to be an excellent recommendation as the dish was first class. It featured jumbo lump crabmeat sauteed with basil and garlic, fresh tomatoes and tossed capellinni in a blush sauce. The portion was large enough that I thought I might be taking some home but I kept going and before long my dish was clean. I guess I could have taken the purple orchid home but I wasn’t sure what kind of wine went with orchids so I left it on the plate.

Some of the other selections that my dining partners chose were:IMG_3660IMG_3662IMG_3661 from left to right,  Jerry’s veal chop served over risotto which he referred to as a cheesesteak risotto. He offered me a taste and it really was good. Joe B. and my wife, Kathy both had one of the seafood specials of the evening, the baked grouper. I heard no complaints from either one of them. Sue C. had the lamb, pine nut-crusted in a thyme and  port reduction sauce with Yukon mash potatoes. The final entree was Barbara T.’s IMG_3663Wild Mushroom Ravioli. She said the sauce was wonderful and despite the fact that I am an avid mushroom avoider, I sampled hers and have to confess that it was very good. As with the other there was nothing but the flower left on her plate and as we continued the conversation we ordered a couple of desserts to pass around. There was a round chocolate cake that was delicious and others shared a warm apple cinammon concoction with blackberry sorbet. Just before the check was presented, our waiter surprised us withIMG_3664 a home-made concoction he refered to as Chococello, a very unique imitation of the lemoncello that so many local Italian restaurants serve as a perfect ending to the meal. This chococello was a big hit and although we all would have liked to have more, it isn’t available in any stores that we know of as it is simply a drink made and bottled by the owner.

Anthony’s bills itself as “creative Italian cuisine” and our dinner certainly lived up to its billing. I’m certain there will be future visits scheduled for this restaurant. All of us were pleased with the entire dining experience.


Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by ballymote

thanksgivingIt’s less than three weeks now until families all across South Jersey will be sitting down at dining room tables to give thanks for all their blessings and partake in a feast of holiday foods. In a lot of homes there will be turkeys and hams or both, with all of the trimmings. It’s a time when wine goes perfectly with dinner;when even those who seldom have a glass of wine will be drinking to celebrate the occasion. It’s not too soon to start thinking about what wines go best with the foods that will grace your table. I tend to think about wine on Thanksgiving as two different sessions.

First, I want a wine that is just fun to sip while watching the early football games. Something that drinks well by itself or with a few pre-dinner appetizers passed around the room.IMG_3650 To fill this scenario I would go with a nice Australian shiraz or one of the now popular Argentinian malbecs. Both of these wines offer tons of flavor and don’t need foods. In fact, these wines would perhaps overpower the main course and are not suggested for the dinner table. Here are four possible choices that most people would totally enjoy while munching on cheese or veggies and a nice dip with one eye on the football game. Left to right they are the 2008 Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz ($19.99), the 2008 Mollydooker “The Boxer” Shiraz ($24.99), the 2007 Patagonia Malbec Barrel Selection Fabre Montmayou  ($12.99) and the 2008 Kaiken “Ultra” Malbec ($14.99). None of these wines will put a heavy strain on your budget and all of them are drinking nicely right now. Once it’s time for the dinner feast, it’s time to put down these heavier wines and switch toward something a little lighter that will compliment the vast array of culinary treats spread across the dining room tableIMG_3652. Finding the right wines for turkey and ham is not always an easy task. Some feel that only white wines can work with these two meats. For white wine lovers I would suggest something similar to what we have here. On the left is the 2008 Monchoff “Robert Eymael” Riesling ($13.99), slightly sweet without being overpowering with bright citrus fruits and a hint of minerality. If you don’t care for red wine this will serve nicely throughout the meal. Another white choice is the second wine shown, the 2007 St. Urbans-Hof, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Spatlese($17.99) just a tad sweeter than the Monchoff with many of the same apple and peach notes that give the wine its unique taste. Although, I will have some of the whites, I still prefer finding a red that isn’t too strong that will go perfectly with the meal. For myself, a nice Oregon Pinot Noir serves the bill extremely well and the two pictured here are both tasty and affordable. As I have mentioned in previous posts on this blog, good Pinot Noir often costs somewhere north of $30.00 and often far north. Both the 2007 Owen Roe ($18.00) and the 2007 A to Z are ($18.99) available for under $20.00 and both are great with fish or fowl.

thanksgiving 2Regardless of your wine choices, Thanksgiving is an awesome time to get together with family and share a few bottles of something and give thanks that we can all be together to enjoy each others company while remembering family members who are no longer with us.  May each of you find peace and love on this special day.


Posted in Andre's Restaurant, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by ballymote

IMG_3346There are not a whole lot of places to have dinner on the island of Brigantine. Thankfully, it is home to Andre’s and, quite frankly, after dining there for the first time I’d be content to have all my meals at this excellent Italian bistro.

Chef/Owner Andre Cassaro takes a lot of pride in the food he serves and his hospitality adds a new dimension as even strangers quickly feel welcome in his place. Tom and Barbara have been eating here for quite some time and as Barbara said during one of Andre’s many visits to our table “Andre has been feeding us for 25 years.” And feed us he did. After bringing out the warm rolls and butter he delivered a plate of fresh mozzarella and another of fennel with slices of parmigiano reggiano in a balsamic sauce.

IMG_3347Thinking he hadn’t quite impressed us enough he followed this up with steaming bowls of soup, perfectly cooked broccoli rabe with orecchiette that was delicious. I was never a broccoli rabe fan but if this was an example of what it can be when done correctly I can see why so many of my friends rave about it.

I passed on the appetizers and ordered the split pea soup which both Carol and Barbara said was “wonderful”. It was good. I reserve “wonderful” for soups with more flavor and Carol and Barbara did agree it was just a bit off this night. Certainly not a bad offering,  just not quite up to the buildup it had been given.


 Our wines for the evening were from Italy (2), Spain and Argentina. Mine was the 2005  Castel di Salvi, Santa Medici, Salento, Rosso and the smoky, dark berry flavors felt right at home with Italian food.  I got to taste all the others and Joe’s Chianti Classico Riserva was another pairing that lent itself well to the entrees we chose. Barbara is a true Malbec fan and she enjoyed her 2008 Gascon from Mendoza, Argentina while Jerry drank the Sigla, from the Rioja region of Spain.

It was difficult for me to settle on one particular entree as so many of them looked inviting. I finally chose the Charcoal Broiled Chicken Solari which wasIMG_3348 a generous portion of perfectly cooked chicken topped with both Blue d’Avegnon and Asiago cheeses with new potatoes and asparagus. The sauce was heavenly and the chicken mouth-watering. I was very happy with my choice and the portion size was just right. Andre was back to make sure the eight of us were enjoying our meals and although it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full we all managed to get the message across that everything was more than satisfactory.

IMG_3351Sue C had ordered the Veal Andre which billed itself as “fresh veal scallops sauteed with fresh mushrooms and scallions seasoned with fine herbs and demi-glaze with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.”  Upon closer examination Sue, and most of us, agreed she was served the Veal Marsala. There were certainly no scallions to be found on the dish. Despite the incorrect entree being served Sue thought the veal was very well done.

To my left I had the feeling that someone was watching me.

IMG_3350I was right, it was Joe’s Bronzino, lying there on his plate pretending to be dead but I wasn’t fooled. I think I even saw him blink at one point. Joe was a little bothered by the head still being attached to the delectable fish’s body so he had the kitchen remove it and then declared that the dish was excellent. For myself, I felt like I had lost a new friend.

IMG_3349Jerry had the tilapia and found the flavors to be unusual but a different and nice touch in making the fish quite enjoyable. It’s hard to remember what everyone had but I know Barbara had ravioli (I know cause she gave me one…mmmmmmm). Carol had the manicotti with sausage which I recall as being very generous portions of both the pasta and the sausages.

For a small little restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in Brigantine NJ, Andre’s does a great job of serving excellent food with their own signature sauces.  Andre himself is a perfect host with that innate ability of making strangers feel like family. Next time you are in Atlantic City, pass up on those casino restaurants, skip Angelo’s Fairmont Kitchen and the Baltimore Grill and take the connector bridge over to Brigantine and tell Andre that Carol and Tom sent you. I guarantee you will feel right at home.


Posted in Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by ballymote

Blog Pics #001It just wouldn’t be a perfect vacation without a nice assortment of good wines to drink while sitting on the deck, reading a good book or dining at a local restaurant. Fortunately, last week in Avalon provided the opportunity to sip quite a few good wines. Here is a list of what we drank during those seven days with ratings and, in some cases, a comment or two where appropriate.

2007 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Reisling Spatlese, a delicious white, summer wine, I give this one 91 points.

2002 Thorn-Clarke Barossa Shiraz, great for sipping with some cheese and crackers, 89 points.

2000 St. Francis, Nuns Canyon Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, took some time for this to lose it’s funk in the glass, then it was very good, 89 points.

2006 Kaiken Ultra, Cabernet Sauvignon, I had always liked the Malbec version of this one and the Cab proved a worthy partner, lots of flavor, 90 points.

2007 Landmark, Overlook, Chardonnay, just the right amount of oak, 90 points.

2005 Franciscan, Magnificat, Red Wine, excellent with a variety of meals we had all week, smooth and graceful, 93 points.

2004 Shirvington, McLarenVale, Shiraz, the four of us split on which of the Shirvington’s was better, I opted for this one and gave it 94 points for a barrage of red fruits.

2005 Shirvington, McLaren Vale, Shiraz, almost as good but slightly tamer than the 2004, which appealed to the others, 93 points.

2006 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir, Oregon, a little pricey, but excellent with my halibut, however, the other three in our group decided they were not huge Pinot Noir fans, more for me, 93 points.

2005 Mollydooker, Enchanted Path, McLaren Vale, Shiraz/Cab, just stunning and we all agreed, Sparky and Sarah have done it again! 96 points.

2004 Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon, this cab and stand with the best of them, goes well with red meat and pasta, 91 points.

I’ll have a little more on some of these wines when I do the BYOB reviews in a day or two. Overall, they were some good choices for the week.