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Archive for March, 2010

Better Eat Your Wheaties!

Choosing a bottle of wine based on its label appeal is certainly one method of selection, but another factor that you might want to consider the next time you’re out shopping for wine is “Bottle Weight”.  While shopping a few weeks ago for a wine tasting party and sizing up some Italian wines, I came across a bottle of Ripasso (often called “Baby Amarone”) that was heavy enough to give someone a frickin’ hernia.  My wheels started turning…with so much mass surrounding the 2007 Ca de Rocchi Valpolicella Ripasso Montere, I thought, “maybe the folks at Tinazzi Eugenio & Figli meant for this glass vessel to be used as a bodyguard to protect the precious cargo inside?”  With that said, I decided that I would put my new theory to a test.

After I got home, I placed the little pocket Hercules on a scale to find out how much it weighed (as my kids stared at me quizzically).  To my astonishment, it clocked in at a whopping 4lbs!  This probably doesn’t sound like much to you as you’re reading this post, but try tipping and pouring this behemoth of a bottle about 4-6 times.  It won’t take long before you start saying to yourself, “I should have eaten my Wheaties this morning!”

Now I don’t know if there is any credence behind my new bottle weight theory, but after having the 2007 Ca de Rocchi Valpolicella Ripasso Montere I think I might start testing it more.  Made predominately from Corvina grapes, this red wine is dense, muscular, persistent and rich, just like its protective outer shell.  It displays loads of satisfying sweet black cherry, prune and raisin flavors with the perfect spot of wood to smooth things out.  A great buy and workout for under $20!

3 Stars out 4.  – Stretch before lifting!

The “Other” Wine from Oregon

Its wines like this that make me scratch my head and wonder why so many American white wine drinkers opt to consume trillions of gallons of so-so imported Pinot Gris (i.e., Pinot Grigio) and overlook the magically delicious domestic offerings provided by several Oregon producers for around the same price or less. 

Although Oregon is most recognized as a producer of high quality Pinot Noir, I was recently reminded of how good Oregon’s “other” wine truly is when I had the pleasure of sampling Willamette Valley Vineyards, 2008 Pinot Gris. (Retails <$15)

Willamette Valley Vineyards is best known for well…Pinot Noir.  But, I soon found out that they also make a pretty spiffy Pinot Gris that’s also deserving of some attention.

This white wine was like “two peas in a pod” when I paired it up with a slab of pan-seared salmon over an arugula salad.  I have to admit though, if you prefer your white wines blazin’ with acidity, this white doesn’t quite get to that high altitude on its own.  It’s definitely a wine that requires food like say – poached salmon, pan-seared salmon, broiled salmon, smoked salmon, breakfast, lunch and dinner salmon… or any other “Fresh Catch of the Day” for it to shine and show you what it’s all about.

If you don’t crave over-the-top acidity, but love multi-dimensional layers of tropical flavors then this Pinot Gris is a great alternative to some of the Pinot Grigio you may have been drinking.   

3 Stars out of 4.

‘Naturally Fermented’ in NJ

Over the past year, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of insight and appreciation for New Jersey state wines.  Surprisingly, many people (including myself) are shocked when they learn that the Garden State is among the oldest wine producing states in the country.  Wine production in New Jersey actually dates back to the mid-18th century.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting New Jersey’s first commercial winery and were fortunate enough to receive a tour of the facility with head winemaker, Mr. Marco Bucchi.

Renault Winery was opened in 1864 and is the second oldest continuously-operated winery in the United States.  The founder and original owner of this Egg Harbor Township landmark was French immigrant, Louis Nicholas Renault.  Mr. Renault was the son and grandson of French barrel makers for the Champagne trade.  With his in-depth knowledge of the French Champagne trade, he quickly earned success for making, distributing and selling “American Champagne”, as he called it, in the United States.  While touring the facility with Marco Bucchi, it was interesting to get a glimpse at the hand-driven wine presses, massive wine barrels and other equipment that were once used.  As you might imagine, nearly all of the work years ago was done manually.  A lot of hard labor even went into the packaging, including hand–illustrated and hand-applied labels that once read, “Blueberry Duck”, “Cold Duck” or even “Gourmet American Champagne.”  All of which, by the way, were naturally fermented, bulk processed, and bottled in the state of New Jersey.


Another interesting thing that caught our attention during the tour was one of the safety precautions once used by the workers who rotated the sparkling wine bottles.  Bottle handlers wore a special mask made out of steel mesh that looks a lot like a “fencing” helmet to protect their face when “racking” wine.  Before seeing that, it had never really crossed my mind that you’re actually dealing with a liquid that could decide to blow at anytime.  Another interesting fact that we learned while touring the facility with Marco, was that the winery continued to operate even during Prohibition.  Renault Winery was one of only a few wineries that remained open.  They were marketing geniuses of their time, labeling the contents of their bottles as a “health tonic” rather than wine.  The winery actually repositioned itself during this period as a producer of a “potion” that could make you feel better and live longer.  Distribution of the winery’s “heath tonic” (wine) soon showed up on pharmacy shelves everywhere, touting its many health benefits.

In 1977, the winery was purchased by the Milza family.  Since acquiring the historical site, they’ve added an 18–hole golf course, two gourmet restaurants, banquet / ballroom facilities and a hotel called the Tuscany House.  In addition to this, one of the things that my wife and I absolutely loved seeing during our tour was Renault’s “Glassware Exhibit” room.  It houses one of the most amazing collections of wine related glass pieces that you’ll ever have the opportunity of seeing outside of a museum.

These wine glasses were created for the Dedication of the Eiffel Tower during the Paris Exposition of 1898.

Finally, our tour ended with a private tasting with Mr. Marco Bucchi.  There was a lot to like and many different wines to fit each individual palate from dry to sweet, to sparkling, and even dessert wines.  However, there were a few in this line-up that crushed it for their uniqueness, “localness”, and downright tasty goodness.

The first wine that perked our interest was the “Fleur De Blanc” – think the fullness of a Chardonnay without the wood.  The element that really makes this white wine so interesting is the 8% splash of cream sherry that Marco decided to put in it.  You can actually taste the nutty-sweet flavors in the wine.  Overall, just a really unique white wine.

Our other favorites, were two fantastic red wines.

The first was the 2007 Merlot.  If you’re of the mindset that a great Merlot for less than $20 is a complete oxymoron, then you, my friend, need to make contact with a glass of this New Jersey produced and bottled Merlot.  It’s an outstanding effort and I still can’t believe that it came from my backyard.

The second was a 2007 Cynthiana.  Prior to this visit, I had never heard, seen or tasted a grape called Cynthiana, which is also referred to as Norton.  Marco shared with us that it’s a grape that grows very well along the east coast in states like New Jersey and also in the Midwest.  All I can tell you about Marco’s 2007 Cynthiana creation is that it’s local and lip-smacking good!  If you wanna try something that will dispel any preconceived notions that you might have about wines made in New Jersey; this red wine will lay those thoughts to rest – I promise you that!  This red has the “Wow” factor!

If you’d like to learn more about the Renault Winery or plan to visit, checkout their website.

Spring Wine Tasting Ticket Giveaway!

Talk about one hell of a swanky Friday night Happy Hour taking place in New Jersey on Friday, April 23rd from 7 – 10pm!  It’s the 3rd Annual Spring Wine Tasting event taking place at the Hilton Short Hills Hotel, located in Short Hills, NJ.

Here are just a few of the highlights for this year’s event:

  • Over 100 fine wines hand-selected by the folks at the Wine Library.
  • An Exquisitely prepared array of  hors d’oeuvres by the award-winning culinary staff at the Hilton Short Hills hotel.
  • Great live smooth jazz provided by Capital Jazz Fest Challenge winner, Marcus Anderson.  Marcus is a multi-talented saxophonist, flautist and vocalist from Durham, NC.  He recently released his second solo CD, titled, From the Heart”.

Sound good…wanna go?

Well guess what?  I’ve got 2 passes to give away, compliments of the promoters for this event, and all you have to do to win the tickets is make a guess on the total number of wine closures that I’ve got stashed in my WineLife365 “Estimation Station” shown below.  That’s it!

To Enter:   

  1. The contest starts now and is only open to WineLife365 Facebook Fans.  So, if you want to play, you’ve gotta be a fan!
  2. Place your guess in the Comment area of this post on the Fan Page.  Please limit to 2 guesses.
  3. This contest will close at 11:59pm ET on March 31st.

The first person in the comment stream (on the Fan Page) that guesses the right number will win the 2 tickets to the 3rd Annual Spring Wine Tasting on Friday, April 23 at The Hilton Short Hills Hotel.*  If nobody guesses the exact number, the person with the closest guess, without going over, wins the tickets. 

I will announce the correct number and the lucky winner on April 1st.   

Good luck and happy guessing!

Container is 19 in. tall with a 5 in. diameter opening.

* Please note:  Travel arrangements are not included.  However, discounted accommodations are available from the nice peeps at Hilton Short Hills.

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