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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cape Cod Wine Lovers Gather

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

If you have been reading my blogs, you know I am always looking for the perfect wine to share with guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. My need to assist my guests leads me to many a wine tasting to fulfill my duty, or so I often say. This weeks tasting at the Belfry was special and I was pleased that Jan had the opportunity to share it with me. We sat with our friends Ev and Anne and shared great wine and great food.

As the summer turned to fall and now winter, and as the tastings moved from the large outdoor patio into the more intimate Bistro, the number of attendees has lessened. From the peak July numbers of often over seventy, now the numbers are fewer. Although lower in volume, all these diehards are very serious about their wine and food experience. Chris, the owner, partnering with my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, has responded by rewarding the attendees with even higher quality wines and unique food pairings.

A smile is crossing my face as I am recalling this wonderful evening. Gary from Winebow introduced us to the wines, as restaurant manager Jafar presented the food parings. We started with two Peter Michael Chardonnays. Those of us who follow Wine Spectator Magazine and recently read its Top 100, The Most exciting Wines of 2010, recognize Peter Michael from the top of the list. His 2008 Sonoma County Ma Belle-Fille was the number three wine of the year and rated 97 points on Wine Spectator’s 100 point scale. The winery's website says:

‘In 1982 Sir Peter Michael established the Peter Michael winery on a square mile of rocky volcanic ridges that form the western face of Mount St. Helena in Sonoma County. From the beginning, the wine growing philosophy was modeled on the French tradition infused with a few modern influences: One, the vineyard terroir would be the single most important feature. Two, the wines would be elegant rather than overstated. Three, there would be a hundred-year commitment to the development of a great estate. Given this commitment to the product, only a limited quantity will ever be made.’

Although we did not sample the No. 3 wine, we had the unique pleasure of tasting two 90+ point wines from adjacent single vineyards from the same vintage. First we had the 2008 La Carrière Chardonnay pared with sashimi tuna, and then the 2008 Belle Côte Chardonnay pared with a salmon dish. The two Chardonnays were very different, reflecting the varying types of soil in which the grapes were grown. The La Carrière has a high mineral profile similar to French Burgundy and the Belle Côte has a broader fruit profile more like the best of California’s ‘big’ Chardonnays. The wine dramatically enhanced both fish parings. All of Peter Michaels wines are of very limited production and it was a rare treat to try two in one night.

As we moved on to the reds, we started with the 2006 Whetstone Bella Vigna Pinot Noir from Whetstone Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. The grapes from the Bella Vigna Vineyard in Sonoma produced a ruby red wine with heavy berry aromas that was well pared with a beautiful serving of duck. I had the pleasure of meeting Jamey Whetstone last year at Cellar 55 and tasted some of his younger wines from the Russian River Valley. This 2006 shows that Whetstone’s wines will age well and are something to look forward to. 
The last scheduled wine was a wonderful 2006 Cakebread Merlot from Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford, CA. Jack Cakebread was one the early vintners that help put Napa Valley on the world wine map by consistently producing excellent wines. Early in my wine journey, I favored Napa Merlots and this wine reminded me of how good it can be. This big wine was pared with an unbelievable cheese pie. Although there was a ‘bonus’ wine served to finish the tasting, I do not remember it since I was still lost in the great Merlot and cheese pie combination.  

What a night of great wines. All of these wines, except the little remembered bonus bottle, were rated 90+ points and some retail for almost $80.00 per bottle. Guests at our  Sandwich Bed and Breakfast may not be seeing these wines out for general consumption every night, but I had a great time testing them just in case I win the lottery. 

Happy wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas in Sandwich 2010

 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Here at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast we are almost ready for the big day, Christmas. In historic Sandwich Village and at our Inn we hold nothing back to celebrate the season. We kicked off Holly Days in Sandwich with the lighting of the town Christmas tree, in the center of Town-Hall Square, which happens to be at the end of our driveway. 

Our guest and a few hundred residents of Sandwich sang Oh Christmas Tree as the massive pine glowed with it brightly colored lights. The festive caroling took place in front of the neighboring First Church of Christ, just as it has since the mid 1800. This picture perfect New England church was featured on the cover Elvis Presley’s best selling 1967 album. The Sandwich Chamber of Commerce distributed songbooks and candles to assist those who had forgotten the words. I, like many, may not have known all the words, but I sang loudly and with the holiday spirit. It was cold but no snow fell, unlike a few years ago when the snow was coming done so hard you could not make it through a song without shaking the wet snow off the songbook a few times.

To ward off the cold, the Dan’l Webster Inn had set up a hot cider stand under their front portico on Main Street. Many stores were open late and serving hot drinks and sweets. We stopped by to wish Merry Christmas to Lee at the Spotted Cod, a wonderful shop where I know I can always find a gift for Jan, since she loves everything in it. We made our way to the bar at the Belfy Bistro where we gathered around Gary at the grand piano and continued to raise our voices in song. Yes, a little Christmas cheer was also consumed.

Holly Days in Sandwich continued when the North Pole Express pulled out of the train station in Sandwich. Kids of all ages are delighted to ride this specially decorated Cape Cod Central Railroad train to the North Pole Station (the fully restored, early 1900 station in Barnstable). At the North Pole, visitors saw the elves and Rudolph getting ready for the big night while Santa Claus was checking the list of the ‘naughty and nice’ with a little help form Mrs. Claus.

Last Sunday, our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast was one of the featured homes on the annual Holly Days Home Tour. Hundreds of folks took the opportunity to see our wonderfully decorated historical home. As we are celebrating the 260th anniversary of our Inn, Jan out did herself to lavish our tree and fireplace mantels with starfish and seashells of all kinds to capture the theme of a seaside Christmas. We served breakfast to our guest in front of the fire in the keeping room and then reset the table with our finest Christmas dishes to show the tour visitors how a 1750 Christmas dinner would have looked.

As Christmas day approaches, you can still join us for the fun, see our web site for our Holiday specials through New Year’s Eve. The outside lights are aglow and the inside is decorated to welcome you to share our cheer at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast.

Inn Peace

Charlie Preus, Assistant Innkeeper and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cape Cod Wine Lovers Enjoy A Malbec Flight

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

As the weather cools, I am looking for a hearty wine to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. A recent wine tasting at the Belfry Bistro featured Malbec from Argentina…a hearty wine indeed. Chris, the owner of the Belfry, changed the normal flow of the tasting by presenting the wines in a ‘flight’.

From Wikipedia: "Tasting flight is a term used by wine tasters to describe a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison."

At our tasting, each attendee had a pure white sheet of paper with four circles and the name of each of the Malbecs to be tasted written in one of the circles. We poured all four Malbecs at the same time into the appropriate glass. Immediately, against the white paper, you could see the differences between the wines. This is a great way to compare and contrast the wines. You can observe the variations in color and clarity by holding each glass to the white background and then next to the other wines. In a sequential tasting of four or five wines, your memory of the first wine fades as you move along. I often wish I could go back and re-taste an earlier wine to contrast it with the current one; a flight gives you the perfect opportunity to compare the taste of each wine directly to the other wines.  

The wines compared were: Alta Vista Premium Melbec produced by the Alta Vista Winery near Mendoza; Nandu Melbec from the Portet Family wines near Lujan de Cuyo; the Punta Final Malbec from Bodega Renacer in Perdriel; and the Zuccardi Series A Malbec from the Familia Zuccardi in Santa Rosa.

All four wines are from Argentina’s famous Mendoza region, acclaimed to produce some of the best Malbec in the world. All four Bodegas (wineries) were within 60 miles of the city of Mendoza. All four wines were of a similar price range. So, one could expect the wines to be very similar in color and flavor profile. You would be wrong if that was your assumption. The wines ranged from ruby red to deep purple and the fruit flavors from light strawberry to dark blackberry and spice. As always, each wine reflected the actual specific soil where the grapes were grown and the fermentation and aging choices of each individual winemaker. I enjoyed the wide variation of style shown by these great Argentina Malbecs. 

To go with the wine, Chef Dan prepared four ‘snacks’ and, like the flight of Malbecs, he presented all four at the same time. Each attendee was given a beautifully prepared individual platter with all four of the tasting snacks. The advantage was that you could compare each of the food offerings with all four of the wines. I went back and fourth enjoying the subtle differences as I mixed the wines and foods.

This flight tasting was a new experience and one I look forward to repeating often. I am on my way to Cellar 55 Wine Merchants to stock up for guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast. Join us at the Inn and we’ll try our wings with a flight of our own.
Happy Wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts