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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cape Cod B&B and Great California Wine

Charlie’s weekly wine-ings


Recently I was at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, looking for new cabernets to serve to guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, when a restaurateur friend called looking for 6 bottles of the 2005 Stag Leap Wine Cellars Artemis for a special wedding dinner request. Cellar 55 did not have it in stock, but I thought I had some in my personal cellar back at the Inn. Unfortunately I only had one bottle left in my stash, but I started thinking about this great Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2005 Stag Leap Wine Cellars Artemis is a great bottle that comes from a great heritage. The Artemis bottle’s label bares the signature of Warren Winiarski, Proprietor. He made this 2005 vintage and, thirty-two years ago, the 1973 vintage that made California wines accepted internationally. In 1976 Winiarski’s wine beat what was, at that time, the most famous French reds at the now infamous 1976 Paris blind tasting. I blog weekly about tastings I attend, but this was the ‘mother’ of all tastings. 

Until that moment in 1976, no one in the wine world considered California and French wines in the same league. Wine snobs and the general wine buying public accepted on faith that all French wines were superior to any California wines, or wines from anywhere else in the world. That year in Paris, an entrepreneurial small wine shop owner, Steven Spurrier, organized a blind tasting of French and California wines in hopes of generating interest in his wine shop. The event included renowned French judges, but garnered no press coverage except for a bored Time magazine's European correspondent, George Taber, who accidentally attended. 

Time magazine’s small story about the results shook the wine world. Taber’s recollections of the tasting are covered in his 2005 book, the Judgment of Paris, released on the eve of the 30th anniversary of this earth-shaking event. The 2008 movie, Bottle Shock, loosely based on the book, humorously recounts the famous tasting. I recommend the movie for a quick and fun introduction to the event, but if you seriously want to understand the history of California wine and the importance of this event, you must read the book. 

Spurrier explaining to judges how French wines are going to kick America's ass.
The tastings results, as presented in both the book and movie, were that this very sophisticated and respected panel of French judges selected California wines number one in both the red and white categories. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay topped all the whites, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon topped all the reds. George Tabor’s Time magazine article spread the word of the shocking victory and established the California wine industry as a world player. The indisputable quality of California wine set the stage for the explosion of sales that secured the future of the United States wine industry. 

I look forward to tasting my last 2005 Artemis from this great heritage, but need to keep looking for more readily available Cabernets to share with our guest this fall.
  
Happy wine-ing,



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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sandwich, MA Town Hall Rennovation

The race is on to complete the renovations of the Sandwich Town Hall, across the street from our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, for next Saturday’s re-dedication ceremony. The date and time for the ceremony is set for high noon on October 2, 2010,just five days from now. I walk by ever day to see the progress. Early last week, the project manager assured me they were on schedule and I could get a picture of them resetting the two massive columns that will dominate the front on Monday, today. On Friday the project manager updated his suggested time line and said the columns will be up a little later than planned. 

The painters were madly scrapping and painting the front of the building all day Saturday and Sunday. My guest remarked about the flurry of weekend activity and the level of dedication represented by how late into each evening the crew worked. Nothing like a grand reopening deadline to light a fire under a contractor.


Today it was misting and raining on and off all day. After serving our guest breakfast, I did my progress check on the work at Town Hall. The picture captures the paving crew applying the new black top to the reconfigured corner of Main street and Grove street. This piece of the intersection has been closed for almost the full 18 months since the restoration began. Just two weeks ago it was blocked by work trailers and ugly chain link fence, so it is great progress to see the new granite curbs and fresh sod on the parkway. I assume it will be open to traffic even before Saturday.

At this pace, and if the weather cooperates, I am sure the Town Hall will be ready for the Saturday ceremony. I am excited to see the completed project and see this beautiful building restored to its original splendor. I may be viewing it in much the same condition as previous owners of our historic Inn did. In 1834, our property was the private residence of Jonathan B. Hall, who had just completed some major construction work of his own. About that time, he remodel the original 1750 salt box house into the Federal style home that serves our guest today. 

We at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center are also kicking off our 260th Anniversary celebration. Please join us this Saturday or follow us on our blog. We have some special packages and events planned over the next three months to highlight the history of the historic home that is our Inn. 


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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cape Cod Pinot Envy

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

In my search for wonderful wines to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attended a great wine tasting hosted by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants on the patio at the Belfry Bistro in Sandwich. It was a perfect night outside, but you could tell the seasons are changing and we need to enjoy these waning summer-like nights of outdoor wine tastings.

The tasting was all about Pinot Noir. David, from Cellar 55, has called me a true “Pinot Hound”: someone who really loves Pinot Noir. This was definitely a night for the hounds. The four Pinot Noir wines offered expressed the breath and depth of this grape. I just love wine and wine tastings because it never ceases to amaze me that such different and distinctive tastes and flavors can all come from the same grape variety. Pinot Noir is the signature red grape for wines produced in the Burgundy region of France and is one of the classic varieties used in Champagne. It is a thin-skinned grape, which can be hard to grow and harvest, but in the right place it can produce magnificent wines. That recent cult movie, Sideways, may have impacted the general public’s and the typical consumer’s impressions of Pinot Noir, but the grape and its wine have been a main stay of the wine world for hundreds of years.

Spenser, from Horizon Beverage Company, guided us on a wonderful tour of some very interesting and different Pinot Noirs. Our first wine was a classic French representation, the 2007 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir. In a nod to the American market, this French wine is actually labeled as a Pinot Noir instead of the traditional Burgundy. The infamous first growth French red Burgundies often command release prices in the $300-$500 per bottle range. The Louis Jadot family is an nègociant with 150-years of experience of sourcing and creating excellent offerings of French burgundy at affordable prices.


2007 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir - “Reliable and fine, the medium bodied '07 Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir shows elegance as it comes onto the palate with loads of ripe fruit and sweet oak flavors.”  WILFRED WONG

Our second stop on the Pinot Noir tour took us to Sonoma, CA. The 2007 Chateau St Jean Pinot Noir is a fine example of this regions treatment of this grape. Different form the French, but delightful in its own way.

2007 Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir  “Youthful and inviting, this Pinot Noir displays lovely aromas of raspberry, cherry and plum as well as hints of rose and leather. The palate offers jammy fruit flavors and round tannins that give a creamy texture and a long fruit-driven finish.”  WINEMARKER’S NOTES

The next two wines were both from Oregon, the 2008 King Estate Pinot Noir and the 2008 Lange Three Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir. Both Oregon wines are made with grapes from the Willamette Valley AVA (Approved Viticultural Areas). The Willamette Valley shares climate and terroir characteristics with some of the best know growing areas of Burgundy and is having similar success with it Point Noirs.

It’s never too early to look for that perfect Pinot Noir to serve with Thanksgiving dinner.  At this moment, I would be leaning towards the Chateau St Jean, a lighter and fruiter wine to complement that turkey and all the trimmings.  But I still have time to taste more wines before I make that final choice, and trust me, I’ll taste as many more as I can.
Happy Wine-ing


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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sandwich Bed and Breakfast Celebrates 260th

Historic Sandwich Town Hall
Every morning this summer as I walked down the driveway of our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast to fetch the daily newspapers, I was greeted by the sounds of construction from across the street. Our Inn is located in historic Town Hall Square just across the street from the Sandwich Town Hall. For the last fifteen months, this historic 1834 building has been undergoing a total restoration. The contractors have been racing to complete the project in time for the scheduled October 2, 2010 re-dedication ceremony.

When construction of the original building began in 1834, I am sure the Hall family members, at what was at that time 118 Franklin Street, heard the construction commotion every morning just as I have this summer. The historic building that is now the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center was already almost 75 years old at that time. This year, 2010, we are celebrating the 260th anniversary of this lovely historic home.

1880 Photo of Hallstead
Now 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center
Our anniversary coincides with the re-dedication of the recently renovated Sandwich Town Hall. Both buildings are located in historic Town Hall Square which has been designated a place of historic significance by the National Registry of Historic Places.

With the re-dedication ceremony on October 2, we will begin a three month long celebration. We will be blogging about the history of our Inn, which is deeply intertwined with the history of Sandwich Village. We will share the pictures and memories of past residents, including a few ghost stories. Guests at our Inn during this time may select one of our anniversary specials and share in our celebration.

The re-dedication ceremony for the Sandwich Town Hall will take place on October 2nd, 2010 from 12:00 noon until 1:00 pm. in front of Town Hall at 130 Main Street in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Tours of the building will begin after the ceremony.

Don’t miss an opportunity this fall and winter to revisit American history by staying at our Inn and strolling around Sandwich Village, the oldest village on Cape Cod.


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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cape Cod Canal Wine Tasting

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Labor day has past and some say the summer is over, but the weather is great and we still have lots of guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast in Sandwich, MA. This week I had no formal wine tastings to attend, but met my obligations to taste new wines by sampling a few with friends. Our friends Ginger and Knute, who summer in Maine, are back on Cape Cod and last night we got together with them.


Cape Cod Canal Sunset
As many of you know, Jan and I close our Inn in January and travel the South in our Winnebago recreational vehicle/motor home. Ginger and Knute introduced us to the RV lifestyle several years ago and we plan our winter trips to cross paths a few times on the road. Over the years we have shared a bottle or two of wine in the sunshine from Amelia Island to Key West, FL. They drove their RoadTrek to the Cape Cod Canal and we watched a magnificent sunset with the Sagamore Bridge as a backdrop and shared some nice wine. We got take out from Seafood Sam’s and dined in the RoadTrek with all the comforts of home.

This was a great opportunity to re-taste some wine I had a few weeks ago at a Cellar 55 sponsored formal tasting. I ordered a few bottles for my cellar and had just picked them up that day. We started with a 2008 Conundrum, a very interesting white blend originally created at the famous Caymus Winery in Napa Valley, California. Caymus is best known for its Cabernet blends and in 1989 set out to make a very special white blend that evolved into today’s Conundrum. Conundrum is now a separate company with production facilities in Monterey County.   

The 2008, and other Conundrums I have had, give you a unique and hard to describe taste sensation. The label has never identified the specific grapes included or the percentage of each grape in any vintage. The Conundrum website’s 2008 tasting notes are as follows:

“What is that wonderfully robust, floral and bright tropical taste? Is it green apple, tangerine or honeysuckle? Could it possibly be apricot, melon, pear or light vanilla? That’s the Conundrum. Our proprietarily secretive blend of California white grapes create a lush, creamy texture that leads to the mouth-watering question, “Mmmm, what’s in there?” We’re not telling. Can you guess?”

Jon Bolta, the winemaker/master blender shares this history:

“After experimenting with 11 different white wine grapes, we chose the three that we considered the key ingredients, the aromas and flavors that form the foundation of the wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and--for its intriguing floral/tropical character--Muscat Canelli. Then, from our "spice cabinet," we added small amounts of Sémillon and Viognier. Already, we were working with flavors and textures that formed a new and unprecedented combination--a conundrum, or puzzle to be teased out by the taster.”

So, neither the bottle nor the website gives you a clue as to the blend, but it is a great wine that goes down way to easily. It may be a conundrum, but it was the perfect wine to share with friends at the end of a perfect day on Cape Cod.
Happy Wine-ing


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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sandwich is Jamming - 2010 Fall & Winter Jam Schedule

It may only be the middle of September, but it is never too early to think about making something special to give those near and dear to you for a holiday treat or gift. Nothing says “I love you” like home-made jam.

Make your plans now to attend one of the great jam workshops at the Green Briar Nature Center’s 1903 Jam Kitchen and make jam just the way your grandmother did. You've never had so much fun. Classes are from 9:30 am until 11:30 am on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s throughout the fall and winter and some special classes are scheduled on other winter weekdays. All materials are provided for you and you will take home four to six 8-ounce jars of finished product to give as gifts or for your own table. Registration and advance payment is required. The cost is $28 for Thornton Burgess Society members and $38 for non-members. Call the Nature Center office at (508) 888-6870 for more details and to reserve your space.


Wednesday Jam Workshops
Sept. 15  Bread & Butter Pickles
Sept. 29  Apple Pie Jam
Oct. 13   Apple Pie Jam
Oct. 27   Pear Apricot Ginger Jam
Nov. 10  Cranberry Lemon Pear Jam
Nov. 17  Apple Pie Jam
Dec. 1     Winter Jam
Dec. 15   Berry Holiday Jam

Saturday Jam Workshops
Sept. 18  Apple Walnut Conserve
Sept. 25  Bread and Butter Pickle
Oct. 16   Sugar Free Spiced Pears or Ginger Pear Jam   
Oct. 30   Apple Pie Jam or  Apple Marmalade
Nov. 6    Cranberry Apple Pear Conserve
Dec. 4     Berry Holiday Jam
Dec. 18   Christmas Marmalade 

Make your reservations for one of these great workshops and then come stay at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast. We will make you a delicious breakfast and send you off to your Jam Session.


Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sandwich Bed and Breakfast Serves Marilyn Merlot

 Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

My never ending search for great wine to serve to guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast in Sandwich, MA has taken me fom Cape Cod to the wine country of California and Santa Barbara, Napa, and Sonoma. My last California trip a few years ago was over 13,000 miles and took almost three months. My current search for Merlot took me only eighteen miles to Hyannis, MA and ended in the Inn’s wine cellar here in Sandwich.

In Hyannis I found a great buy on Marilyn Merlot. Yes, that is correct, Marilyn Merlot one of the Marilyn Wines made by Nova Wines, Inc in St. Helena, CA. In 1981, a few friends made some homemade Merlot and came up with the idea for a fine Merlot with pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the label. The first Marilyn Merlot was release to the public in 1985. They now also offer a Marilyn Cabernet and the Norma Jeane (a young Monroe and a young Merlot) plus other special wines featuring unique pictures of the late movie star.
 
1985 Marilyn Merlot
"Like the star it's named after,
Marilyn Merlot is a full-bodied
vintage from California,
fruity and luscious."

- Life Magazine, March 1988.
In 1987, I was frequenting Atlas Liquors in Medford, MA where I saw my first Marilyn Merlot, the 1985 vintage. The seductive picture of the buxom star on the label and $5-6 price caught my eye. I bought a case with the intent of giving a bottle to friends as a novelty Christmas gift. For a number of years after that first 1985 vintage, I bought a case each year when the next vintage was released on June 1, the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. A bottle of the latest Marilyn Merlot wine became a standard Christmas and/or birthday gift to friends. I also drank a few myself to assure the quality was acceptable. I always say never give a wine that you personally have not tried and enjoyed. The wine was surprisingly good and was consistently rated highly by the wine trade and quickly became a desirable collectable wine.


Unfortunately, I did not save one of each of the first vintages. I just pulled this form the Marilyn Wines website:

“The Marilyn Merlot Vertical collection includes 12 bottles, one each of the first twelve vintages of Marilyn Merlot, 1985-1996. A different portrait of Marilyn graces each vintage. We have fewer than 50 sets, including the ones we are saving for our grandchildren.
$10,000.00 for the twelve bottle set - 750 ml./each”


That asking price of over $800/bottle is a long way from the $5-6 price I paid in 1987.  The average release price for the 2008 has now pushed up to over $30.00 per bottle, but that still looks like a good “investment”.

Fortunately, I did have decent cellar space in the Cape Cod home we purchased in 1994 and I did start to save a bottle or two each year after that. I now have a well-preserved Marilyn Merlot vertical form 1992 to 2007, with the 2008 to soon be added. I did note with satisfaction that the Marilyn Wines website also offers a more recent vertical as follows: 

“The Second Marilyn Merlot Vertical collection includes 12 bottles, one each of the most recent twelve vintages of Marilyn Merlot, 1997-2008.
A different portrait of Marilyn graces each vintage.
$1000.00 for the twelve-bottle set - 750 ml./each”


My original intent was not to collect for investment purposes, but in this case my six plus cases of Marilyn Merlot does include a couple these recent verticals. So in hindsight, each year I tasted a nice Merlot, shared a gift with friends and may have still made one of my smarter investments. Next week, I’ll be down in the cellar sorting my inventory, separating out the investment bottles and seeing what extras I have to be drunk soon. So the next time you stay with me at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, ask to see my Marilyn Merlot vertical and see if I have an extra that is ready to be drunk.      

Happy wine-ing


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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sandwich Bed and Breakfast Invitation to Visit

 As a wash-ashore resident of Cape Cod, I never cease to be amazed by the beauty of our chosen home. A frequent guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast has a saying, “If you’re lucky enough to live on Cape Cod, you’re lucky enough.”  I have come to fully understand the truth in that statement.

Charlie and I have lived many places from east coast to west coast, most a result of moves to accommodate career momentum. But, from the early morning fog on the marshes to the push and pull of the tides, it is the serene beauty of Cape Cod that has stolen our hearts.


From the moment the first crocus pushes its little face through the snow to reach the warmth of the sun, until the last golden leaf drops from the trees and Cape Cod is wrapped in a blanket of snow, there are endless adventures to be had. Each season brings interesting events to attend, new menus in restaurants with seasonal specialties to be enjoyed, lighthouses to visit, birds to watch, trails to bike and hike, rivers to kayak, and beaches to relax upon with that great read you have been looking forward to.


If you’re planning a short get-away or an extended vacation, we invite you to stay at our Historic Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast Inn. You will start each day with a healthy, hearty, and delicious breakfast served in the Inn’s keeping room or out in the garden when weather permits. Now you’re ready to spend the day exploring Cape Cod.

Fresh baked goodies and early evening wine will be waiting for you when you return to the Inn. Charlie selects a nice red wine and a delicious white wine from his cellar for our guests to enjoy as they peruse local restaurant menus in search of just the right place for dinner. When you return from enjoying some wonderful Cape Cod cuisine, you can end your day with a snifter of brandy, port, or sherry before you retire to the lovely guest room we have prepared for you with your private bath, luxurious Egyptian cotton linens, and soft cotton robes.

As innkeepers, one of our great joys is meeting and getting to know the wonderful folks who come to stay at our Inn. We hope to get to know you very soon.

 
Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sandwich Inn to Serve Merlot This Fall

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

With fall fast approaching, I have set my sites on finding nice chardonnays and merlots to serve guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast located in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Last week the wine tasting helped me find some chardonnays and figured I would have to go looking for the merlots. Instead, the merlots came to me. An impromptu “wine patio” at the Inn solved my merlot dilemma. Jan and I invited over a few wine loving friends to enjoy a touch lighted evening in our back garden. Each friend brings a bottle of wine, or two, and we share. 

Merlot has gotten a bad rap ever since the movie Sideways hit the DVD aftermarket. In this funny cult movie, the hapless lead character, Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, is a wine snob that loves pinot noir and constantly berates anyone who drinks merlot. Some friends of mine in the wine industry swear this movie alone drove up the prices on California pinot and drove down the demand for merlot. A clever irony or intended twist in the film is the fact that the prized wine Miles often boasts of owning, a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc, is a well know Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

With this arcane backdrop, let’s get back to my pursuit of the right merlot to offer guests at our Sandwich Inn this fall. I did some research on my own, and our wine patio helped me narrow my search. I did a personal tasting of a Pam Starr 2006 Adastra Merlot from Carneros Napa Valley. Pam Starr is a well-known Napa winemaker who consults to Adastra, which means “to the stars,” and also has her own label, Crocker and Starr. This great limited production merlot, only 814 cases made, is from 100% organic grapes, a growing trend with quality winemakers.

At wine patio, I got to sample a really great mature merlot, a 2003 Pine Ridge Crimson Creek Napa Valley Merlot. What a treat. This was a classic and shows how a great wine can age and hold its charm. Unfortunately, this is not a wine that is any longer available to be enjoyed by my guest, but I truly enjoyed it.

We also tasted the 2008 Leese-Fitch California Merlot from The Other Guys (TOG) group. The name Leese-Fitch celebrates a building in Sonoma Square, Sonoma, CA. TOG is run by siblings Mia & August Sebastiani who are the 4th generation of the Sebastiani familly to make wine in the town of Sonoma. A few years back, I toured the origianl restored 1895 Sebastiani winery and saw the oldest producing cabernet vines in the United States. After 100+ years, the next generation of Sebastianis is again making great, affordable wines. This Leese-Fitch Merlot, available from Cellar 55, will be served to guests at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast this fall. 

Happy wine-ing



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