Let’s Start With A Dessert Wine

I thought it would be nice to start with a dessert wine which reminds me of a much earlier time in my life when we had Mother’s Day at our house, the kiddies, their Grandparents and all of my wife’s sisters and their families not to mention a brother-in-law or two were on hand for the memorable Mother’s Day feast.

Our wives all decided that for this particular Mother’s Day they were going to make nothing but desserts for the main meal – have you ever heard of such a thing? I thought they were joking but alas when Mother’s Day arrived there were so many desserts you couldn’t fit anything else on the table.

Well, we (the guys) just stared at the desserts, then stared at each other, then stared at the desserts again amidst rolling eyes and thinking “I didn’t really think they were serious about this” look on our faces. Seeing as my father-in-law was the patriarch of the whole clan on that glorious, fateful Sunday I knew exactly what he had in mind (don’t forget these were the days prior to pizza delivery becoming popular).

I found the car keys and headed to the nearest grocery store which was about 10 miles away as we lived in the country at the time. When my number at the deli counter was called I immediately blurted out “gimme a pound of this, a pound of that and yes a pound of this too, and oh yes, potato salad, macaroni salad, etc, etc, etc”. You see, I was like a kid in a candy store even though I just left a whole bunch of desserts on the kitchen table I still felt I was in candy heaven. Then I get to the checkout and realized I needed some kind of bread to slap all the deli meat on so I raced down to the bread aisle and lo and behold I spot the Italian bread wafting it’s fresh baked aroma and thought I was in heaven again.  After we chowed down the meats we enjoyed the desserts our wives made for that day but we had many more Mother’s Days that were just as enjoyable! So, with that said here’s my review of a dessert wine…

Taylor Brooke NV Chocolate Essence. This is a chocolate infused Merlot Port – a what?? Well, you’ve got to taste it to believe it. Embarking on your journey into this imaginarium of wine ecstasy you are immediately drawn to the chocolate on the nose, as a matter of fact the same aroma can be smelled when you enter Hershey Park, makers of the famous chocolate. Yeah, like that! The first sip of wine is like a Hershey Kiss exploding in your mouth. Let that first sip linger for a great mouth feel, enjoy the exploding chocolate. The second sip you can detect a raspberry flavor indicative of many Merlots. Again, let this waltz on your tongue, enjoy the sensation. The third sip you can taste the port and if you’re a port lover like me, this is bliss. Like going to heaven and then back again. How Taylor Brooke Winery managed to get three distinct tastes from one wine is wine making genius. $25.99 for a 375 ml bottle deserves a 91 rating.

Well, after a hectic day at work I decided to unwind and cook dinner on the gas grill despite the gloomy skies. “It was a dark and stormy night…” Sorry, different story. It was the least I could do seeing as my wife was still painting the living room. The potatoes were cut awaiting the onion to finish off this portion of the meal. I combined the two and sprayed olive oil over the lot and sprinkled on the lemon & pepper seasoning and put them on the top rack of the gas grill for twenty minutes on each side. Meanwhile I decanted the bottle of wine we were going to have with this meal. Other edible portions of this meal included home made spring rolls baked to a golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside and plenty hot on the inside. While the home made spring rolls were baking and the potato & onion mixture was simmering on the gas grill I poured Jack Daniels Original BBQ sauce over several boneless top blade steaks for cooking on the grill. Although many times when I cook I have the times off for some of the meal but in this instance I had everything prepared at once.

You might think this was Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious but it was more like  Scrumpdillyisticdogslicksdishesexpialidocious. Don’t ask me to spell that again, you know what happened in an earlier post… oh, by the way here’s the wine we had.

Camille Cayran 2008 Secret de Campane. This French Meritage was a blend of 60% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 10% Cinsault, & 10% Merlot. This wine exhibited an opaque medium red color with cherry, spice, and pepper on the nose with a ton of tannins. Nuances of cassis, cherry, and pepper on the palate with a smooth finish. At the end of the meal, this bottle was empty, MT, gone. The rating of 90 was bumped up 2 points because of price – $7.99. Cousin Carl – I think I’ve discovered one of your low priced reds. When I get back to the wine merchant I will buy everything he has of this.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….


Drama based on real life.

Independent film based on real life events in England. Albert Pierrepoint takes up his father’s trade as a hangman while disguised as a grocery deliveryman. As he strives to be the best at this trade, his secret is unveiled while citizens are both for and against what he stands for. 

I was really moved by Timothy Spall’s portrayal of the life of a hangman. Although the political ramifications are dark it was still a compelling movie despite its macabre portraits of death. I gave this movie 5 popcorn boxes and a box of Jujubes. Don’t let the kiddies watch this though..

Perkin’s Cove In The Fall

Sitting on the lawn at the Riverside motel in Perkin’s Cove in Ogunquit, ME is one of the most relaxing mini-vacations I’ve had in a long time. The sun was gleaming off the water in the cove with a slight breeze and temperatures in the high 60’s still allowed you to wear shorts but warranted a sweat shirt in late afternoon and early evening. Early evening is 5 pm where bedtime is usually 8:30 pm for working days but when on vacation – anything goes. Not only did my wife and I catch up on the three R’s: reading relaxing, and recreation, we tried some really good wines. Although Ogunquit isn’t overflowing with wine merchants they do have several establishments that carry a variety of wines. There is one particular wine shop on US Rte. 1 that is quaint and carried some usual and unusual brands of wine.

In the center of town there is a grocery/sandwich shop/deli where a multitude of wines can be found. Grab a bottle of wine and a sandwich and you’re ready to mull out the afternoon on the deck of the motel and watch the boats and people go about their day. However, the best part about Ogunquit, ME is their many seafood restaurants. One of our favorites is Barnacle Billy’s in Perkins Cove. We have tried several meals at this establishment and have not had a bad meal yet. So, I recommend everything on the menu, I even had a Bloody Mary that was great.

So, nestled in for the night out on the back porch with a glass of wine looking at the bay amidst the many vessels anchored for slumber before an early morning jaunt into the ocean blue. Names like the Marcia Beal, the Three E’s, Melanie Jean, Happy Hour, Silver Lining, Queen of Peace, Bunny Clark, and the Gray Ghost set the backdrop for the evening sunset glistening off the treetops ablaze with the early colors of fall.

Oh, the wine we were enjoying on the back porch with a colorful rainbow in the distance was a bottle of Cline Cellars 2003 Cashmere. This blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, and Syrah brought on notes of black raspberry and clove aromas leading to mixed berries, spice, and mint chocolate flavors ending in a smooth, silky mocha finish. This went well as a stand alone wine but I had it with a chocolate brownie, okay, two chocolate brownies. $15.99 and a 92 rating.

A Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Sauvignon Blanc opened with melon and pear on the nose with nectarine and peach flavors with a hint of lime finishing with a delicate mineral finish. $8.99 and an 89 rating. Pair this with salmon, haddock, cod, and believe it or not – bluefish. Round out the meal with any style of green vegetable which suits your taste buds, and a baked potato with a dollop of sour cream with fresh chives.

The last wine for a weekend getaway: Francis Coppola 2007 Crimson Label Tempranillo. This wine exhibited nose notes of plum, leather, and tobacco. The palate experienced black raspberry, plum, and chocolate. This wine wasn’t as intense as some of the Spanish-made wines I’ve tried lately. Maybe this is due to the types of climates from California and Spain but nonetheless a decent wine. I did not pair this with food but anything grilled I’m sure will go well with this, even grilled fish would be a nice treat. Hmmm, I think I might try this with a panini. What do you think? $15.99, 83 rating.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….

Cooking At Home

Okay, I’m still on my quest, inspired by Cousin Carl, to find low priced reds. By the way, Carl what is your idea of low priced reds? Under $20, under $15,  under $10, do I dare decrease the price any further?

Although I’m not as familiar with French wines as I am with North American wines I still have a propensity to learn more in both countries. Come to think of it I can still learn more about wines from the following countries also: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and yes, Mike, Australia. Are there other wines from around the world we should be looking at? How about Germany, Japan, Greece, New Zealand? More???

Perrin Reserve 2003 Cotes Du Rhone. This French wine blended of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mouvedre, 10% Cinsault provided a peppery and spice aroma yielding a black cherry flavor with a hint of blueberry. A great wine to watch a movie with. I did not try this with food but I’m sure the possibilities are endless. Grilled meats come to mind whether you grill chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, game dishes. Yummy, I’m beginning to think I should have had this with food instead, ah another rating then. Someone try this with food and tell me if it went well or is this a better stand-alone wine.  $12.99, 87 rating.

As I was chopping mushrooms, onions (pearl & white), and draining fresh peas whilst my wife was painting a fresh look in our living area, we decided to open this sparkling wine on a whim. This is why my wife is the handy person and I prefer to cook and taste wine. Why you ask? Well, my wife has always had a level head, of course as long as she doesn’t drink too much wine and when I drink too much wine I can’t paint for beans but I can still cook and taste more wine : ))

Villa Yolanda NV Prosecco. This Italian sparkling wine provides maraschino cherry, ripe pear (most likely a Bartlett) and apricot on the nose and very profound. The palate discovered ripe pear and tropical fruits with a smooth bubbly finish. Have this with anything you like. I find that flavored liqueurs such as strawberry, pear, peach, or black currant pare pear pair well with this wine. Boy, I’m glad I never entered a spelling be, bee (Me thinks I’ve had too much wine..)-  Spelling is worse than rating wine. Don’t you agree? Well, this comes in a convenient 200 ml bottle (part of a three-pack) for $12 and is a great alternative to the more expensive champagne of which I will discuss in future reviews as well as other inexpensive sparkling wines. 89 Rating.

Next on my list of wines is a Laetitia 2005 Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir. Black cherry, spiced clove, and hints of smoked bacon. Raspberry plum flavor with a distinct cherry hard candy finish. This bottle was a gift so I don’t know the price (although I don’t believe it will fall into Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category). However, I do give this a 92 rating – a great Pinot Noir!

We paired this with Perdue’s Italian seasoned perfect portions boneless chicken breasts, a medley of fresh peas, shallots, and pearl onions. Sauteed mushrooms in white wine, sauteed white onions in olive oil, and leftover rice pilaf and broccoli & cheese ravioli rounded out this meal.


Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….

Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce

My Italian heritage gave me the basics to wine tasting and as a food critic as well. As a young child my grandfather would give us wine in a jelly glass (which probably amounted to about an ounce of wine but kept us quiet afterward) while my grandmother would simmer a marinara sauce from 5 am in the morning till sometime around 4 pm in the afternoon where we would gather at the dinner table to savor Grandma’s great spaghetti sauce over our favorite pasta while Grandpa poured our homemade wine. However, prior to the 4 pm ritual of eating pasta, Grandma would give us a sneak preview of the simmering liquid with a bowl of sauce with a meatball or two with Italian bread to soak up anything left over. The best part of the whole ritual was waiting for the wine prior to dinner. I could remember how that wine smelled and tasted and I’ll never forget those times. Think back to the first wine experience you had. How does it compare to now?

So, on with the wine reviews…

Banfi 2002 Col di Sasso. I believe this translates into “Stony Hill” where this is grown in Italy. This 70/30 blend of Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon opens with cherry, licorice, and chocolate aromas with a hint of spice & leather. Black currant, red raspberry and red cherry flavors finally succumb to a smooth mocha finish.  $8.99 and an 89 rating. And yes, pair this with spaghetti and meatballs.

This wine reminds me of those days Grandma would cook and all the beautiful aromas reached every sense you could muster while Grandpa (or Pop as everyone called him) poured our small indulgence of wine. Of course all I can remember from those days was that the wine smelled like LifeSavers – that isn’t such a bad thing, is it? I always try to keep a bottle of this wine in my collection, should you? Let me know what you think.

Continuing the effort to find the low priced reds I came across this Australian wine (Mike’s Cellar Emporium vows to find me an Australian wine I really like), that is, wine that I would actually keep in my cellar.

Lindemans 2007 Bin 55. This 60% Shiraz & 40% Cabernet Sauvignon yielded mulberry, black pepper, & earthy aromas with black cherry & black pepper on the palate and a slight mocha finish. I’m not crazy about Australian wines but I like this one. I had this with snacks – nuts, chips, pretzels, & crackers and it actually went pretty well. This would probably go well with a grilled burger or steak or just to drink. I think the Aussies are the only ones that refer to this as Shiraz, whereas everyone else calls it Syrah. $7.00 and an 82 rating although I may change/challenge the rating at a later date depending on how the second glass matches the first.

Although I will always kid white wine drinkers, I still remember being chewed out by a white wine drinker so I have found this little gem of some fairly unused grape varietals in a blend that awakens the senses.

Cline Cellars 2008 Marsanne Roussanne. Made with 74% Marsanne and 26% Roussanne grapes produced floral notes on the nose leading to apricot and nectarine flavors with a hint of lime and a subtle mineral finish. Serve this wine slightly chilled with Herb or Rosemary Chicken, rice pilaf, and a medley of pearl onions, sweet baby peas, and sautéed mushrooms. You can substitute the chicken with blackened fish (sea bass, haddock, flounder, etc. – you make the choice). This $20 bottle of wine yielded a 90 rating. Does this mean I’m starting to like white wine?? Or am I a red wine drinker going soft?

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….

Secondhand Lions

Not an Indie or foreign film but I love Michael Caine & Robert Duvall and I think you will enjoy this too. The duo play eccentric uncles and host their nephew for a summer. The boy is mesmerized by the uncles’ adventures while the mother believes there is hidden treasure somewhere on the two brothers’ estate which is set in the 1960’s . A really good movie. I give this 4 ½ popcorn boxes and a great movie for the wee ones..

Holiday Excursion

The Friday before the Labor Day holiday I left the throes of a light wind swept rain from hurricane Earl kissing the Rose City boundaries to embark on a journey to Table & Vine in search of the elusive low-priced reds Cousin Carl speaks so fondly of. Reaching my destination the coolness of Table & Vine’s “wine cellar” tingled my senses and upon first glance hundreds of bottled wines beckoned me to peruse at my leisure. However, my time was limited as my brother and I were taking our “mom” out for her 85th year on this earth. The short escapade to this wonderful “wine cellar” proved fruitful as I purchased a case and a half of wine. Yes, some of these were Spanish wines of which I am not very familiar with but willing to experiment on or accept recommendations from our wine enthusiasts’ community. Each of the 18 bottles was under $15 with 11 of them under $10. So, I believe I have stumbled upon some decent low priced reds. My fingers are crossed.

Lastly, let me say that I love wine. There are two things worth living for, one is wine and the other is more wine. So, on with the reviews……

Osborne 2001 Solaz. This Spanish wine comprised of 80% Tempranillo & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon produced black & bing cherry on the nose with a hint of leather. A beautiful wild raspberry flavor greeted the tongue and lasted quite awhile. One of those great low priced reds. $9.99, 88 rating. I did not pair this with any food but I’m sure it will go well with any grilled meats as the raspberry flavors complement the meat quite well.

My wife and I went to Boston for breakfast on the Sunday of the Labor Day weekend, alas also to visit with our daughter and her friend. We walked a couple of blocks (have you seen the blocks in Boston? Much longer than the Rose City offers). Anyway, we walked in a chilly early morn a couple of blocks (seemed like 8 blocks though) to reach a convenience store and wondered what we were going to do in a convenience store as we were on a quest to find a breakfast establishment. So, my first thoughts were of packaged donuts and pastries prefaced by weak coffee. Upon entering the convenience store we walked to the back and I was surprised to see an entrance to Gerard’s Tavern opening into a small but quite comfortable dining area. Although the tavern was Irish in tradition I ordered a Spanish omelet after buying so many Spanish wines two days before. I was sure I was morphing into a Spaniard as I was envisioning being in a bull ring chanting Ole, Ole, and then slipping into a paragon dream with the aromas of wild raspberry and chocolate nuances.

After the walk back to the apartment, I learned that my daughter bought me a bottle of Spanish wine (I knew there was a reason we had children). I haven’t the faintest idea of the cost but here’s what I found in the bottle when I returned home and paired it with a medium-well hamburger and a grilled hot dog with yellow mustard, sweet relish, chopped onions and a sandwich dill pickle. Not quite a Chicago style hot dog, but darned close. The tasting notes are as follows….

The Flying Winemaker 2007 Tempranillo. Upon putting the ol’ schnozz into the bowl of my wine glass an immediate explosion of wild raspberries hit the nose in such force I think my nose is  still disjointed. I also detected hints of mint chocolate. The palate provided nuances of dark cherry and black raspberry flavors followed by a smooth blueberry and chocolate finish. I gave this wine 90 points. Whatever the price was well worth what I got out of the wine. I’m beginning to realize that Spanish Tempranillos have a lot to do with wild raspberries. Do you find the same or similar nuances? Again, I’m not sure of the price but this is a wine that you can bring to your neighbor’s, a wine group, as a house warming gift, or just for turkey dinner and have everyone tell you that you need to pick the wines for future venues, you’ll be an instant hit while getting on several “speed dial” lists.

I’ve often chided white wine drinkers for being a white wine drinker and why would anyone drink white wine as I’m a staunch red wine lover.  One of our wine enthusiast’s siblings lived in Germany and Japan for a number of years and had the following to say:

“Why drink a white?  Because if you lived in Germany and had Riesling grapes giving you 5 distinct levels of taste (sweetness) all during one 5 or 3 course meal, you’d do it every day for $8, just like if you lived in Argentina, you drink Malbec all night with fish to beef for $8.  Wait ’til he “discovers” sake and the Far East!”

Whoa, is this the beginning of a white vs. red venue? This could prove to be a lot of fun. This prompted me to take a more serious look at white wines and what all the fuss was about, so as a result I found this delectable white wine.

Ca’Montini 2004 Pinot Grigio. Apple greeted the nose much like a fall evening in the apple orchards with a hint of pear. The aroma led to a green apple and lemon flavor on the palate with a slight, pleasing mineral finish. Yummy comes to mind after opening this bottle of wine which was well-chilled. Pair this with shrimp fettuccine or baked salmon with a maple syrup/balsamic vinegar glaze topped with chopped garlic, however I prefer thinly sliced garlic over chopped. I’m more of a red wine drinker but this one I really like. $18.99 deserves a 90 rating.

Try the wines and let me know what you think. Post your comments below.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends….

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

A French whodunnit where the secrets of the Vanger clan are unraveled by a reporter and young tech hacker to crack some gruesome findings. This is not a movie for kids under the age of 18. The minute the movie starts you are riveted to the screen amidst some twists and turns. I give this 4 1/2 popcorn boxes..