arriving on: # of nights: # of guests:
Showing posts with label Charlie's Weekly Winings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charlie's Weekly Winings. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Wine and Great Friends

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ing

As we have closed out another great season at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I am contemplating what wines to serve our guest during the 2011 season. As you know, a major part of my job at the Inn is to select the wines. I enjoy the search and, at times, Jan thinks I spend too much of my time thinking about, looking for, and tasting the next wine. With our busy time behind us, now is the perfect time to reflect on the wines we have tasted this year. If you followed my blog last year, I covered a lot of ground from casual Wine Patio in the Inn’s backyard to more formal weekly tastings sponsored by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants and the Belfry Bistro. I have not added it up, but I have tasted and blogged about 100s of wines this past year, some memorable and some not so memorable.

Sometime the wines are quickly forgotten, but I still recall warmly the time spent and laughter shared with friends as we enjoyed the moment together, as much or more than the wine.  For me, wine has always meant good times with good friends. In October, I was invited to a wine tasting that demonstrates how wines and the love of wines can bind a friendship. Our host was sharing wines from the cellar of his long time wine drinking friend, Frank, whose recent medical complications no longer allowed him to drink wine.  He gave his ‘cellar’ to Ev because he knew he would enjoy it, and Ev was gracious enough to invite us to share because he knew we would appreciate the gift. In August, 2010, I blogged about a ‘Best Bottle’ night, also hosted by Anne and Ev, where I experience some of the finest wines I have every tasted. 

For this FOF (‘Friends of Frank’) tasting, Ev organized the 22 wines from white to red, from lightest to heaviest, and from youngest to oldest. It took two pictures to capture the wine line up. To fortify ourselves for the challenge, we ordered pizza from Amari’s.

Frank had an eclectic collection, mostly from the 1990s and early 2000s, with some early 1980s French to round out the assortment. We attacked our task with vigor; the eleven of us assembled FOFs shared a small taste of each of the wines. As we started with the only two whites, Ev got Frank on the speakerphone for a toast of thanks for the bounties we were about to enjoy.

When the pizza arrived, we moved to the dinning room to complement our food with numerous reds. We quickly worked our way through several adequate California Merlots, a French Merlot, and a nice Rioja. Some wines were not meant to age, as we discovered with the 2003 South African novelty wine, Goats do Roam. The only ‘goat’ of the evening was soon followed by a pleasant surprise. At the halfway mark, our eleventh wine was an excellent Columbia Crest Reserve, 2002 Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley. We all would have liked to have more than the small taste of this wine; it would be well worth the effort to locate some of this, if any is still available. Columbia Crest is a great Washington winery that makes affordable wine that obviously can stand the test of time. 

The group was starting to fade - even very small tastes of a lot of wines add up- but we forged ahead through another five wines. We went out of order to assure we reached the 1983 Chateau Petit Village that some of us had been eyeing all night. This twenty-seven year old Bordeaux wine from the appellation Pomerol still held its color and fruit flavors. A real treat to end the evening.

After this night of sharing wines, we all consider ourselves FOFs forever. I want to thank Frank for sharing his love of wine, and his wine, with his friends Ev and Anne, who opened their home and hearts to us other wine lovers. This was another night to remember. Even if I did not find the next wine to serve to guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast, I had a great time with great friends.

Happy Wine-ing

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year, New Wines For Our Sandwich Inn Guests

 Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Even though the holidays are over and we are closing for the season, I still need to look for that next great wine to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast next season. The weekly wine tastings sponsored by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants are on hold since my friends Kris and Dave have gone to the Virgin Islands to run their other business, which provides fine wines to charter yachts for the winter months. Now that sound like tough duty.

Even without official wine tastings, I am lucky to have the opportunity to taste interesting wines because I have friends that like to share wine. Over Thanksgiving weekend, our friends Bob and Noreen invited us to dinner and to taste some of their favorite wines. They live in Virginia outside Washington and also have a house here in Sandwich. They stay with us at the Inn when their house by the Bay is rented and they are wine lovers. Bob is always raving about the great Virginia wines he has tasted. I wondered if I could really find wines to serve to my guest from anywhere in the United States, other than the West Coast.

I did find a Virginia wine in my Cellar, which I brought to the dinner. On our travels a few years ago, we stopped at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA. Jefferson spent time in France and loved their wines and may have been Americas’ first ‘oenologist’; he personally brought many of the first vines of the French grape verities to his home. I actually saw his restored vineyards on the beautiful grounds of this national park. Maybe it should not surprise me that Jefferson’s 1770s interest in wines has survived and thrived in Virginia. The official state industry wine website lists 191 wineries in nine geographic areas, with six Approved Viticultural Areas (AVA). 

We started our evening with Bob’s favorite, a 2002 Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo. He had recently done a multi-year vertical tasting at the Vineyard and felt the 2002s was nearing its peak. I have to agree; it was great and went well with the selected cheeses and nuts. Nebbiolo is a famous Italian grape verity that is obviously doing well in Virginia. The winery is located in Purellville, VA, in the Northern Virginia Region, the region nearest to the Washington, D.C. area.

I brought a non-vintage Monticello Claret which I purchased in the gift shop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  The Barboursville Vineyard in partnership with Monticello produces the wine, with a portion of the proceeds going to support Monticello.  As stated on their website:

‘In Thomas Jefferson's time the most esteemed red wines produced in France came from Bordeaux, and were called "Claret" by enthusiasts in England and America. Our Monticello Claret is based on the noblest red wine varietal from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, estate-grown at Barboursville Vineyards and aged fully 12 months in American white oak barrels.’

The Vineyard is located in the Central Virginia Region in the specific Monticello AVA. I have marked both of these wineries on my trip maps plus dozens more that need to be visited this year.

We finished the evening with a treat from Bob’s cellar, a 2003 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Napa Valley.  This wine stole the show. Chateau Montelena is located in Calistoga, CA at the North end of the Napa Valley.  It is famous for winning the historic 1976 Pairs Tasting that established California as a source of world-class wines. On a personal note, we learned that Noreen had dated a nephew of Jim Barrett, the founder of this winery, in the 1980s.  She recalled the cases of ‘good’ wine they served at family gatherings.  She may have been enjoying some of the award winning 1973 Chardonnay. Oh, what I would give to have some of that wine by the case today.

Although I still liked the California Zinfandel best, I have a whole new appreciation for Virginia wines. I will plan our trip this year to include visits to as many of these wineries as possible. We hope to meet up with Bob and Noreen and share more of their favorites at the source.

Happy New Year and 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 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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wine Lover's Cape Cod Thanksgiving

 Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Thanksgiving is about family and friends. Jan and I do not have family near us at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, but we do have great friends who joined us for a wonderful thanksgiving dinner and some great wines. Frequent guests at our Inn, Pricilla and Bob from Saratoga NY, now considered old friends, came to stay for the three day Holiday. New neighbors, Marva and Bill, now considered new friends, also joined us for the evening. We all share a passion for good wine.

We started the evening at the Inn with Scharffenberger Cellars’ sparkling wine from Mendocino, CA. As I have said before, it cannot be Champagne if not but from Champagne, France, but this sparking wine sure met my cork popping and lively bubble criteria. I have liked this wine for years even though it is not as well know as some other California sparkling wines. New guests from New York City shared a toast with us on their way out to dinner. A joy of being an Innkeeper is meeting new guests and introducing them to other guests and our friends, who often gather around the fire at Inn, most likely with a good glass of wine being shared.

We made our way to the Belfry Bistro for our Thanksgiving dinner; the first Pilgrims would have envied us that night.The owner, Chris, joined us for the last seating of the evening and the feast began. Since we had already started with a white wine at the Inn, we went immediately to a red. We broke away from some traditional paring logic and instead just selected some of our favorite wines. I selected a newfound favorite, the ZD Wines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the heart of the Napa Valley. It pared well with the first course of Vanilla Scented Pumpkin Soup with Cornbread Croutons and the second salad course of Organic Autumn Greens with Roasted Parsnips and Vermont Alpine Cheese.

With our main course of Cider Roasted Turkey with all the trimmings, we went a little more traditional with a Point Noir. Marva, who grew up in Oregon, selected a wonderful Alexana Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyards form the Willamette Valley. I have had many great Oregon Pinots, but had never tried this one; it was the perfect match for an unbelievable main course.

When you think it couldn’t get any better, I finished the meal by selecting the most sinful dessert: Warm Chocolate Goo Cake, Fudge Ice Cream, with Raspberry Flavors. Chris’ wine choice was a great Cakebread Cellars 2007 Dancing Bear Ranch, a wonderful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the Howell Mountain area of Napa Valley. This wine is a treat anytime, but was the icing on the cake, so to speak, for me as it magnified the flavor experience of my chocolate delight.

So, all in all, I would say it was a perfect Thanksgiving, great food and wine shared with wonderful friends. Since my search to find great wines to serve guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast never stops, I also discovered a great new Pinot Noir to consider. To participate in the fun, consider joining us at the Inn next Thanksgiving or we also have some great Christmas and New Year Eve’s specials on our website right now.

Happy wine-ing,

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sandwich, MA Sparkles for the Holidays

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings 
All wines that sparkles are not Champagne

I am in search of the perfect wine to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast over the upcoming holidays. When it comes to that very special occasion or celebration, what is the type of wine most people think of buying to share and commemorate the event? Champagne, of course! Even as a kid from a little farming town outside of Chicago, I knew that something that popped its cork and had bubbles was special. I admit that Cold Duck may have been the first wine I purchased because it met my ‘pop and bubble’ criteria. I have come a long way since those days, I hope.  

The Wednesday night tasting at the Belfry Bistro expanded my horizons about popping and bubbling alternatives. Kris, from Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, and Polly, from Classic Wine Imports, selected four interesting sparkling wines. Notice, I did not say four Champagnes.

All sparkling wines from Champagne France can be called Champagne, but a sparkling wine form anywhere but Champagne France cannot be called Champagne. Champagne is not just a generic term for any sparkling wine, but is the protected French name of sparkling wine produced from specific grapes grown within a specific, legally defined area of Northern France. The French wine industries’ regulated approach to the making of Champagne has assured that some of the greatest sparkling wines come only from France, but usually with a predictably higher price tag. Also, French wines are almost exclusively made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes. The four sparkling wines of our tasting challenged both the grape and price paradigms of French Champagnes.

We started the evening with Laetitia NV Brut Cuvee, a sparkling wine from the central coast of California. Like French Champagne, it is a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but with Pinot Blanc instead of Point Meunier. Laetitia follows a ‘Methode Champenoise’ tradition of malolactic fermentation including bottle aging, riddling, and disgorging. It is Non-Vintage, which means a number of vintages from various years are blended to give Laetitia’s Brut Cuvee a consistency from year to year. This smooth sparkling was nicely pared with little neck clams from Woodbury Shellfish, a sustainable grower from Wellfleet, MA.

Although the first wine we tasted was nice and reminded me of many good Champagne and sparkling wines I have had, the second wine started that paradigm shift from what I had experienced before. It was Italian, the NV Riondo Pink Spago Argento Vino Frizzante. Made from a red Rabosa grape, this fresh and fruity wine was a pale rose color in the glass. It really came to life when it was pared with tuna sashimi. The next wine was a real surprise, the Pacific Rim White Flowers Sparkling Riesling NV. Made with grapes from Washington State's Yakima River area, it did not taste like the sweet German Rieslings I have tasted.  It was served with an interesting paring of fresh local Nantucket Bay scallops.

I think in this case, we did save the best for last. The last wine was a 2008 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz from Southern Australia. Paringa Vineyard’s website says: ‘Paringa - A magical place where clean soil meets the clean water meets the clean air’. This bubbling wine is a deep magenta red color and I find it a delightful visual shock when first poured in a flute. I have enjoyed this wine before where the host had referred to it as ‘black gold’ and I agree, especially when pared with Chocolate ice cream and other assorted chocolate treats. It was by far my favorite of the tasting.

After this great tasting, I had this song running through my head by a very funky singer by the name of Taj Mahal, it was titled ‘Snow in the Desert’ with the refrain of ‘Champagne don’t drive me crazy, cocaine don’t make me lazy; ain’t nobodies business but your own’. It may be true, but now I have a sparkling alternative to Champagne that I will be serving to guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast over the Holidays. See our Holiday Specials, come stay with us, and I’ll share some great bubbly with you. 
Happy wine-ing,

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanksgiving Wines Come Early to Cape Cod

Charlie's Weekly Wine-ings

The weather is turning and I am planning ahead for what wines to serve guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast on Thanksgiving. Conveniently, I was asked to help out at the Wednesday wine tasting at the Belfry sponsored by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants that was exploring what wines to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. Timing is everything and I am again at the right place at the right time.

As always at a Belfry tasting, each of the wines is pared with a food sampling. As this one had a Thanksgiving theme, I had thoughts of pumpkins and dressing running through my head. Since I have the opportunity to taste a lot of wine, and at least per Jan spend too much time at Cellar 55, I had already tasted two of the four wines offered and thus had a certain level of expectation about them. I was in for a pleasant surprise on both the food and wine choices.

Gary Gahl from Winebow Boston conducted the tasting and started us with an Oregon Riesling. My first thought when I hear Riesling was ‘sweet’ German wines, which I never buy. The 2009 Riesling from Willamette Valley Vineyards was not too sweet and was very refreshing by itself. It was pared with parsnip soup with blue cheese. Together the wine and soup came alive. I am not sure I have ever had parsnip soup and would never have thought to serve it with a Riesling. What a nice start.

Next we had the 2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards ‘Whole Cluster’ Pinot Noir with a mixed green salad. Gary explained that in this wine making process, the grapes are left on the stems and then fermented in a large tank where the weight of the grapes themselves performs the ‘crushing’. The same process is often used in French Beaujolais, yielding a light, fruity and very drinkable wine. Kris from Cellar 55 calls this a great ‘porch’ wine to enjoy as you sit quietly in you favorite chair on your porch and watch the world go by.

Finally we got to the turkey pared with 2008 De Majo Norante Sangiovese. But this was not just any old turkey; it was brine soaked turkey breast with a wonderful light sauce. Sangiovese is the main grape in all Chianti and this was a nice fruit-driven wine that complemented the turkey. The Wine Advocate gave it 90 points and said:

"The 2008 Sangiovese Terre degli Osci is an incredibly delicious, full-bodied wine with gorgeous clarity and definition. Made in a bold, fruit-driven style, the wine offers terrific depth and a long, polished finish. This harmonious red is a knockout!"

Often the last paring of the evening is with a desert and I was thinking about pumpkin pie all day. But the last wine listed was a 2008 Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec from Argentina. Bousquet is a leading organic producer from the Mendoza region. I could not see Malbec and pumpkin pie. The last paring was not dessert, but an exceptional tasting of venison. This big Malbec and powerful meat were a perfect combination, as the flavors mingled and lingered, I forgot all about the pie.

As I savored the experience of these great wine and food parings, I wondered how we could replicate it at our Sandwich Inn. Would I be able to match Chef Dan’s parsnip soup? How exactly do you ‘brine’ a turkey? Would Jan even allow me to have venison in the kitchen? Since Chef Dan isn’t coming to my house to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner, I solved my dilemma by making reservations at the Belfy Bistro for Thanksgiving Dinner. I will get to experience more wonderful parings without all the trouble. I think this will be a new tradition for Jan and me. We hope you will take a look at our Thanksgiving Specials and come join us.

Happy wine-ing,

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sandwich, MA Wine Tasting Features Connecticut Wines

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ing 

Do you think I can find wines in New England to serve to guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast? Is a wonderful Connecticut wine an oxymoron? I almost didn’t go to the Wednesday wine tasting at the Belfry Bistro here in Sandwich because it was the Jonathan Edwards Winery from North Stonington Connecticut. I was pleasantly surprised by the wines and intrigued by the story behind the wines. Mark, representing the winery, told the story well and the Belfry pared wonderful appetizers with each of the four wines served.

Often, the story behind a wine is as much fun as the wine. Mark did declare up front that this winery has no connection to the past North Carolina senator and twice presidential candidate John Edwards. Now that would be an interesting story. This Jonathan Edwards’ website declares “New England Charm. Napa Style.”  What does that mean? The Edwards’ family approach includes a state-of-the-art winery on a bucolic New England farm near the Connecticut sea-coast, where select varieties of grapes are grown and processed into Estate Wines, and another line of wines that are made with grapes from Napa Valley.

Jonathan Edwards lived and worked as a winemaker in Napa Valley and established relationships with select growers of different grape varietals. Through long-term contracts, the Connecticut winery has a consistent supply of some great Napa grapes. Jonathan Edwards was not at the Wednesday tasting because he was in Napa directing the hand picking of their grapes. The Napa grapes will start their fermentation in California and then the young wine is brought to New England in refrigerated trucks where it is barrel aged and finally bottled.

 We started the night with a 2009 Jonathan Edwards Chardonnay. It is Estate Grown, meaning the chardonnay grapes are from New England: grown here, picked here, fermented here, aged and bottled in Connecticut. Only certain varietals do well in New England. In addition to the Chardonnay, the Estate Wines include Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Cabernet Franc.

We next tasted three reds, all from Napa Valley grapes: the 2007 Jonathan Edwards Zinfandel, the 2008 Jonathan Edwards Merlot, and the 2007 Jonathan Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon. In each case, the young wine was shipped from California and barrel aged for 18 months in either American or French oak. All were bottled in Connecticut. I particularly liked the Merlot and will be calling on my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, who carry these wines in Sandwich.
We only tried these three reds, but Jonathan Edwards Winery also features Napa Valley Syrah and Petite Sirah. I look forward to trying the Petite Sirah since I learned Jonathan worked for a time at Vincent Arroyo Winery in Calistoga, CA. Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah is Jan’s all time favorite wine and we have been very lucky to receive an annual allotment, which we nurse and enjoy all year with some very special friends.

I want to try all of these wines when we visit the winery in North Stonington, Connecticut, which is near Foxwoods Resort Casino. This sounds like a fun road trip and necessary to find more great wines for guests at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast.

Happy wine-ing,

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sandwich, MA - French Wine & Cheese Tasting

Charlie's Weekly Wine-ing

In a previous blog, I reported on a search for Chardonnay to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. In August, I tasted and commented on four nice California Chardonnays. Last Friday night I had the pleasure of experiencing some French Chardonnays. The Brown Jug here in Sandwich sponsored the “Wines and Cheeses of France” with wines presented by Gary from Winebow (previously Boston Wine Company). The wines were from some of the key regions of France and were expertly pared with French cheeses by Michael and Steven from The Brown Jug.

The Brown Jug Wine Shop
We experienced seven wines matched with exceptional cheeses. It was a great education about the contrasting flavors and the impressive effect of combining the wine and cheese. The wines included: Domaine de l'Aumonier, Sauvignon blanc, Loire; Simonnet Febvre, Chablis; Saint Aubin Domaine Langoreau, Burgundy; Domaine Newman, Beaune; Clos Salomon, Givry 1er Cru, Cote Chalonnaise; Chateau Lacoste Borie, Pauillac; and finally the Drapier Grande Sendree, Champagne.  

I do not speak French and am baffled by French labels. Gary does speak French and used colorful maps to explain the origins of each of the wines. As each wine was served, I studied the label and tried to decipher what I heard Gary telling us about the wine. The first wine actually said Sauvignon Blanc, a grape I am familiar with, and “Loire”, a region of France that I had also heard of before. The next two wines were Chardonnay, but you could not tell from the bottles.

I liked the Chablis and learned that this is a sub-region of Burgundy with soil that gives the wine a very mineral flavor. This wines’ label did declare that the 2008 Simonnet Febvre was a “Grand Vin De Bourgogne.” Gary explained that Bourgogne is what the French call Burgundy. I still do not understand if Bourgogne is French for the English Burgundy, since I have also seen the word Burgundy on French bottles. For example, the next bottle we tasted was also a Chardonnay and included Burgundy on the label but was not Chablis. It didn’t get any easier with the red wines. The Domaine Newman and Clos Salmon were both Pinot Noir base wines, but neither said Burgundy or Bourgogne on the label that I could remember. I am known as a Pinot Hound, but I did not flip for either of these two. To be fair to the French Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, even if I cannot read the labels, I need to taste more and should do a side by side tasting with some of my favorite California wines. Oh, what a good idea for another tasting.

All in all it was a great evening. I learned a lot about French wine and enjoyed some great cheeses. I look forward to the next Brown Jug event.    

Happy wine-ing,

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sandwich, MA: From Temptation to Redemption

Charlie’s weekly wine- ing

On a rainy Wednesday night, I went in search of new fall wines for wine tastings at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. The weekly wine tastin, sponsored by my friends at Cellar 55, had to move from the outside patio into the main restaurant at the Belfry Bistro in Sandwich, MA. The setting is unique in that it was a Catholic church built in the early 1900s and converted into a fine dinning restaurant about fifteen years ago. The building still has the stained wood cathedral ceiling and beautiful wood paneling through out. It is very obvious that it had been a church, which made the choice of wines being tasted either ironic or iconic.

I love red Zinfandel and in this case it would have been a sin to miss this Zin tasting in this church like venue. For many years it was believed that California Zinfandel was the only wine grape that originated in the United States. All other grapes could be traced back to plantings brought to these shores by the earliest settlers. For over a hundred years, it was believed that Zinfandel was indigenous to California. Recent modern DNA testing has proved it is related to the Italian Primitivo grape that can trace its origins as Croatian. Most likely early Italian immigrants planted the first vines in the 1800s. The grapes of these old vines often ripen unevenly with some berries reaching very high sugar levels, which can produce wines with 17% alcohol. Maybe that is one of the reasons I have always liked red Zinfandel. I stress “red” because the sweet Sutter Home “White Zinfandel” may have been a marketing and
financial success, but it is not real Zinfandel as far as I am concerned. That may be way too much history, but it is all part of what I love about wine and wine tastings.

 Dave from Cellar 55 and Polly from Classic Wine Imports selected four great California Zins for the tasting. The first three were Alexander Valley Vineyard’s wines made from grapes sourced from three different sub-regions of Sonoma County. The last wine was from Lodi California, which is south of Sacramento and a much dryer and hotter climate than Sonoma. As Polly said, the four wines show how the same grape can produce very different results based on where it is grown and how the wine maker processes the grapes after harvest.

We started with the Alexander Valley 2007 Temptation Zinfandel (Sonoma County), then their 2007 Sin Zin (Alexander Valley) and next the 2006 Redemption (Dry Creek Valley). Alexander Valley Vineyards has been making great Zinfandels for over twenty-five years and these three show the great range of flavors that can be produced from this grape even though they all come from Sonoma County. 

The last wine of the night was the 2007 7 Deadly Zins from the Michael & David Family of Wines. Brothers  Michael and David Phillips' family has been farming in Lodi since 1860 and own some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the country. They selected the best from seven vineyards for this wine. They offer this pray on their website:
Schulenburg's vines, grubby with GREED,
Embrace Lodi's soil, to drink and to feed.
Oh Lord, forgive me my zin.
Secure in it's strength, weathered with PRIDE,
Standing like soldiers, the forest of Snyde.
Oh Lord, forgive me my zin.
Hearts filled with LUST, ole Maley's trees.
Court Lodi's sun, and flirt with it's breeze.
Oh Lord, forgive me my zin.
Good Bishofberger did raise some GLUTTONOUS beast,
Vines fattened like turkeys before Thanksgiving feast.
Oh Lord, forgive me my zin.
With the tilt of the glass, I commit seven zins,
  Oh Lord, with your help... I'll do it again.

What a trip, from temptation to redemption, all in one night. The names and labels alone were worth the price of admission. 

Happy wine-ing,

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

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

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

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