Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Alternative wine choices

Alternative wine choices

I admit it.  I’m easily bored.  So the other evening when I descended to my cellar to pick out a wine for dinner, I searched for something other than the same old, same old. I gotta say, it was tough finding something other than cabernet, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, etc.

After considerable rooting around, I found a dusty bottle of 2004 Vietti Barbera D’Asti and paired this little lovely with meatballs and faro in marinara sauce.  What a great combo!  Barbera is the lesser-known little brother of Barolo and Barbaresco  - the more famous reds from Italy’s Piedmont region  - and it is the perfect match for spicy, tomato-based dishes.

At about $15 a bottle, barbera is also a great value. Rich, medium-bodied and chock full of dark cherry flavors, barbera also has a good dollop of acid to balance it out. In addition to Vietti, look for producers such as Chiarlo, Prunotto and Pio Cesare.

If variety is the spice of life, then changing up your varietals can spice up your wine life too.  Here are some other alternatives for your consideration which are not only excellent in their own right, but will also make your palate fonder for the usual wine suspects when you return to them later.

Valpolicella can be a light to medium bodied wine full of bright fruit flavors that can successfully be paired with chicken, veal or pasta dishes.  However, Valpolicella made in the Ripasso style, is a fuller-bodied version of the wine. Ripasso is produced by adding the left over skins and seeds from Amarone into the fermenting Valpolicella producing a wine similar in body to zinfandel.

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Examining the natural wine movement

Examining the natural wine movement
I actually put my money where my palate is when it comes to supporting traditionally grown and produced foods. Some people may refer to these types of victuals as “organic” or “natural” products, but I don’t like labels nor do I wish to be associated with food fanatics who assail anyone who produces or consumes food products available in the commercial marketplace.

Hey, I’ll admit it, every now and then I love to wash down a bag of Uncle Homer’s Chipotle Pork Rinds with a 20-ounce Diet Dr. Pepper!

While I am not an organic foodie zealot, I truly do believe in buying locally, particularly when the producers use natural methods to grow fruits and vegetables, as well as to raise and feed their animals.

What does any of this have to do with wine? Well, there has been a big brouhaha over the past couple of years regarding the supposed differences between commercial vineyard/winery practices and those who claim to produce their product using only natural or organic processes.

This “natural wine” movement is particularly popular in France where the true believers have lifted their Gallic noses up even higher than normal to proclaim their practices superior to the overwhelming majority of operations around the world who use modern techniques in the vineyard and winery.

In a nutshell, natural wines use very little or no manipulation in the vineyard or winery. They claim to use no sulfur to prevent oxidation of the wines, will not add any yeast cultures to insure a stable fermentation and would never allow oak aging. The natural wine advocates are also extremely disdainful and critical of the vast majority of wineries using modern methods to produce their wines.

As you might expect, this has drawn the ire of many wineries around the world and has stirred up the wine press. The doubters believe the natural movement is more about establishing a marketing niche among those to whom the words
natural or organic appeal, rather than in any holy crusade to produce pure, unadulterated wine.

But, as wine lovers, you need to decide for yourself so you may make informed buying decisions. Is there really any qualitative or health reason for seeking out these self-proclaimed “natural” wines?

I can buy into the sustainability practices of the natural movement that was defined for me by an Oregon wine producer. He said sustainability means using natural fertilizers, composting and the cultivation of plants that attract insects that are beneficial to grape vines.

Further, he noted, sustainability practices in the vineyard also extend to actions you would not suspect have a relationship to the quality of the vine such as providing areas for wildlife to flourish and allowing weeds to grow between the vines.

But I draw the line at the bio-dynamic aspect of the natural movement. Here’s what I said about it a couple of years back:

‘ Bio-dynamic farming is sustainability on steroids! It involves some things that are downright loony. It can include practices such as stuffing cow horns with manure and burying them in vineyards over the winter, fermenting flowers in stags’ bladders, and timing these unorthodox methods of farming with the phases of the moon and the location of the stars in the night sky.’
Beginnings of a biodynamic prep - cow horns filled with manure.  Photo taken by Jeff Weissler,

As I stated earlier, I believe in supporting naturally produced products. We’ve been buying meat from Sandy Creek Farms near Ravenswood for more than two decades. Sandy Creek has used organic methods in raising and processing their meats well before “organic” became an overused and overhyped marketing term.

We also purchase more than half of the vegetables we consume from locally farmed produce or reputable retailers like the Purple Onion in Charleston’s Capitol Market. In addition, we regularly buy from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Fish Hawk Acres in Rock Cave, West Virginia , and from a Monroe County farm co-op.

To be sure, we still shop at supermarkets and love the produce supplied by reputable local wholesalers like Corey Brothers in Charleston. But it is somehow very satisfying and reassuring to eat food produced nearby, particularly if the stuff is grown in a sustainable manner. I also support our state wineries, many of which are using sustainable practices to produce their wines.

So what’s the answer? Well, I guess it’s a personal decision. I certainly have tried some of the wines that claim to be “natural” and some are good. Some aren’t.

However, I am not convinced that anyone is compromising their health by drinking the 99% of other wines produced without the application of “natural” techniques such as stag’s bladders, cow horns or phases of the moon.

Cow horns filled with manure. Photo: Jeff Weissler,

The bargain wines of winter

The bargain wines of winter
January has roared in with a frigid dose of reality as the profligacy of the holiday season has come home to roost in the form of credit card debt. Time to pay the piper and recommit to the principles of moderation and even (dare I utter the word)… frugality.

Hey, but you still have to eat and drink, right? While I am not averse to mac and cheese, stews or meatloaf, I’ll still need to pair those tried, true and hearty staples with a sip or two of the grape. And, believe it or not, there are a plethora of good, inexpensive wines from which to choose.

From my point of view, tasty wines priced between $8 and $20 a bottle represent a bargain and are a justifiable and necessary cost of helping ward off the ruinous effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Good food and wine always seem to lift my spirits and shine some much needed light on this gloomy time of year. The only real issue is finding the good to excellent bottles in this price category and that is where your intrepid wine hound excels.

The list of goodies I am providing below is generally available at most wine retailers. If you cannot find them, simply request that your shop order them from their distribution chain. I have selected wines that are especially complimentary to a wide variety of wintertime dishes including, in addition to those mentioned above, soups (especially pasta fagiole), pot roast, pasta as well as chicken and dumplings, gumbo and, of course, chili.

Reds: 2009 Alamos Malbec; 2008 Easton Amador County Zinfandel; 2009 Delas Freres Saint Esprit Cotes Du Rhone; 2009 Hahn Pinot Noir; 2009 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Banfi Centine Rosso; 2008 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel; 2009 Columbia Crest Caberne3t Sauvignon and 2009 Martin Codax Rioja.

Easton Amador County Zin

Whites: 2010 Pacific Rim Riesling; 2009 Benzinger Family Chardonnay; 2010 Sitious Con Class Verdejo; Alamos Chardonnay; 2009 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris; 2009 Trimbach Riesling; 2010 King Estate Pinot Gris; 2009 Clos Du Bois Chardonnay; 2010 Luna Di Luna Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio; 2009 Gini Soave Classico; 2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc.
Kudo’sI’m always on the lookout for restaurants that not only provide excellent cuisine, but also price their wines fairly. Laury’s in Charleston is to be commended for having an excellent list that is priced very fairly. In most instances, wines at Laury’s are marked up one to one-point five times their retail price, and that is about as good as you will find anywhere in the state.

Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston’s East End also prices their, small, but well thought out list, very reasonably. Other establishments around the state should follow suit which would encourage more diners to add a bottle of wine to the tab. And that’s good for both the customer and the restaurant.

Storing your special wines

Now that you've received those special holiday gifts of wine from your adoring friends and significant others, you're probably wondering how to store them if you don't own a temperature controlled wine cellar.

Well, fear not intrepid wino's, for today I shall enlighten you.

People are always asking me for suggestions on how to build or establish a wine cellar in their homes. Today, I’ll explain how you can find the proper place to store wine in your home or even in an apartment.

First of all, you needn’t be concerned about a major construction project unless you have the cash, inclination or the requisite carpenter skills to accomplish the task. Actually, folks living in homes or apartments with no basements can effectively create wine cellar- like environments in other types of spaces.

Before you begin, try and think ahead and make a determination on how many bottles you intend to store. It’s probably a good idea to come up with a generous estimation and then double it. That way, you’ll have plenty of room to grow the collection.

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Wine and related holiday gift ideas

Depending upon your budget, the sky is virtually the limit when it comes to finding a wine to give (or receive from) that special person. Today, I’ll provide you with a listing of some of my favorite cabernet sauvignons from the exceptional 2007 vintage (note to my friends: please feel free to pass this along to my wife).

However, before I get to the wine recommendations, here are some wine-related gift ideas, including a stocking stuffer or two , for the wine-stained person in your life.

Wine ReferenceI’ve noted it before, but in my opinion, the absolute best wine reference book is the “World Atlas of Wine” by Hugh Johnson. It is a compendium of everything you need to know about wine, including information on specific grapes, wines and regions, as well as label descriptions, and the culture and history of wine. Check for it at your local bookshop or online.

Wine Buying ClubsJoining a wine-buying club is a unique way to explore a variety of wines from around the world with the convenience of regular door-to-door shipping or shopping. There are clubs geared for a variety of wine lovers from beginners to collectors. Talk to your local wine retailer about offerings they may have or go to: to find the best club and price for you.

Wine StorageFinding a place to store your special wine is always a challenge. One pretty neat option is the Wine Enthusiast Six -Bottle Touchscreen Wine Refrigerator. This adjustable, temperature- controlled wine refrigerator is a great gift for those who don’t have a lot of storage space, but want a reliable place to keep their special bottles. Check it out at: $100 with free shipping.

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Some tasteful holiday gift ideas

We’re all struggling right now to find just the right wine for the lucky folks on our holiday gift short list. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve spent a whole lot of time and exhausted a plethora of brain cells just to come up with some really tasty suggestions for your consideration.

All the wines I’m recommending are under $35 a bottle (most are under $20) and are available throughout the state at your favorite wine shops and grocery stores. So go out and have a little fun. You might even buy a bottle or two for your own pleasure.

2009 Estancia Chardonnay Pinnacle Ranches -The cool Monterey climate accompanied by a long growing season produced a ripe, mouth-filling chardonnay. Highlighted by a soft, creamy texture, this wine was partially barrel fermented and aged a while in oak. Roasted cod or sea bass that is simply sauced would benefit greatly from an accompaniment of this lovely wine.

2007 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre – One of my all-time favorite reds, this blend of corvina and rondinella is a smooth, yet full-bodied wine made using the ripasso method where a portion of the grapes is allowed to dry for a few months before fermenting. The resulting wine is rich and robust with great black cherry fruit and cola flavors. This one begs to be paired with Osso Bucco or beef carbonade.

Rotari Rose- This non-vintage sparkler from Trento in northern Italy is a blend of 25% chardonnay 75% pinot noir. It was number 13 on Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 2010 Top 100 Best Buys of the Year. Produced in the champagne method, Rotari can be sipped as an aperitif or matched with appetizers like cheese, olives or fruit.

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Wines for Thanksgiving

Wines for Thanksgiving
Domaine Serene Pinot Noir - Great for Turkey Day !

I hope you’ve been training hard because we are about to embark upon a food and wine marathon that begins with Thanksgiving, shifts into high gear for holiday parties, and roars into overdrive for Christmas and New Years’ celebrations.

We will consume more food and drink more wine during this period than at any other time during the year and, as a result, we will boost the first quarter revenues of exercise clubs, diet centers and clothing alteration shops throughout this great land.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will also make more than 50 percent of your total wine purchases for the year. Therefore, today I’ll give you a few wine suggestions to accompany the first big holiday.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and turkey will once again be the centerpiece of this culinary celebration. In the past, I have written about the versatility of turkey to be successfully matched with red or white as well as light or full-bodied wines. The reason this is possible is because turkey has a variety of flavors, colors and textures which can match just about any wine.

Add to these dimensions, the manner in which the turkey is prepared (i.e., roasted, smoked, grilled or fried) and the type of stuffing used, and you have a complex set of flavor components that make matching wine with it fun. Indeed, Thanksgiving offers us a rare opportunity to sample several wines with the same meal (and that’s something to thankful for).

Conventional wine wisdom dictates that white meat should be accompanied with white wine. Well, in the case of Thanksgiving turkey, that is only partially true.

From an herbal sauvignon blanc (which pairs nicely with a sage-flavored bread dressing), to a medium-bodied, yet rich, Alsatian riesling, to a lighter-styled pinot grigio, to a creamy, full-bodied chardonnay, turkey can accommodate each of these white wines quite nicely.

But what really surprises some wine purists is how well turkey matches with red wine, particularly when the bird has been roasted on a grill or smoked. Full bodied reds like cabernet sauvignon, Rhone wines such as Chateauneuf Du Pape, along with zinfandel, shiraz or Amarone go especially well with smoked or grilled turkey.

The traditional oven-roasted turkey is also very nicely accompanied by a pinot noir, Beaujolais or even tempranillo from Spain. And, given the celebratory nature of Thanksgiving, sparkling wine and Champagne would be an appropriate match too.

And what about a dessert wine with that pumpkin pie? Well, I’ve got a few goodies for your sweet tooth that will pair especially well with this traditional dessert.

In the interest of impartiality, I will take on the formidable task of working my way through a plethora of both white, red and sparkling wines this Thanksgiving. I will then repair to the couch where, full of tryptophan and the fruit of the vine, I will snooze my way through a bevy of football games. Ah, the good life.

So here are some vinous ideas for you to consider as you plan your Thanksgiving dinner.

For the holiday aperitif: Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, Domaine Carneros Brut, Iron Horse Russian Cuvee, or Zardetto Prosecco would tickle and tingle your palate and get you primed for the meal to come.

White wines: St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc, Trimbach Riesling, Merryville Chardonnay, Louis Jadot Chablis, Banfi Centine Bianco, Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer, Talley Vineyards Chardonnay and Tolloy Pinot Grigio.

Red wines: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon; Luigi Righetti Amarone, Martin Codax Tempranillo, Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, Davis Bynum Russian River Sonoma County Pinot Noir; Domaine Serene Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir,and Georges Duboeuf Morgon Beaujolais.

Desert wines: Michele Chiarlo Moscato, Navarro Late Harvest Riesling, J Vidal-fleury Muscat de Beaumes de venise.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Canaan - Wild and Wonderful Wine Weekend

Canaan - Wild and Wonderful Wine Weekend
Canaan Valley Resort is once again planning their “Wild, Wonderful Wine Weekend” this fall. Join me and other wine and food lovers on November 11-13 for an entertaining and educational gourmet extravaganza. I’ll select wines from around the world that will be paired with a cornucopia of culinary delicacies prepared by Canaan Valley Resort’s executive chef Eric Buchinger.

It’s always fun to work with culinary professionals in pairing wines with their scrumptious creations, and the folks at our state’s most scenic resort always hit the mark at this signature event.

The weekend begins Friday, November 11 at 7 p.m. with a “taste-around reception” where wines from the world’s most prestigious regions can be sampled with matching culinary treats from food stations featuring a wonderful selection of foods upon which to graze (see below).

On Saturday, guests will be treated to a four-course wine-paired luncheon followed later in the afternoon by a tasting of wines selected and led by yours truly. After the tasting, guests will be free to hike, bike, nap (what I plan to do) or just enjoy Mother Nature’s purple mountain majesty!

View from "Table Rock" in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

The evening’s activities begin at 7 p.m. with a six-course grand gourmet dinner with accompanying wines.

Hopefully, the menus below will get your collective palates watering in anticipation. I haven’t completed selecting all the wines at this writing, but you can be assured that I will do my best to make you happy.

ReceptionSeafood station
Shrimp, Oysters, Scallops and Crab Cakes
Braised Short Ribs, Teriyaki Beef Skewers, Pot Stickers
Hors D’ oeuvre Display
Imported cheeses, Italian Meats, mousse, and pâté.
Dessert Station

LunchVegetable Terrene
Fried Green Tomatoes with Plum Shrimp
Smoked Beef Brisket Ravioli
Chocolate Espresso Cake

DinnerCrab Bisque
Pork & Peaches (seared pork belly with a caramelized peach atop)
Cajun Snapper
Citrus Chicken
Stuffed Tenderloin of Beef
Chocolate Napoleon

Guests have the option of attending the entire weekend for a package price, or choosing to participate in individual events ala carte. For pricing and additional information or reservations call 800-622-4121 or visit online at

Hope to see you there.

Local Food and Wine Event

Friends of Wine and FoodYou might want to jump on this one right away. The FARM2U Collaborative is sponsoring a great food and wine event next Monday. See the invite below.

You’re invited! Come celebrate the culinaryheritage of WV as guest Chefs from aroundthe state join Berry Hills Country Club Chef Chad Rieve to createa unique, wine-paired five-course festival offood.

Monday, October 17 • Berry Hills Country Club • Reception- 6:30 – 7:30 • Dinner to followTickets: $100 per person, $175 per couple, or$1,000 for a VIP table of eight (8). (Table hosts willalso receive 4 tickets to the Welcome Receptionof the Cast Iron Cook-Off, January 21, 2012, atThe Greenbrier).

The FoodAntipasto Salad & Exotic CheesesHarvest SoupHerbal Roasted Veal Rib EyeRussian Fingerling PotatoesSherry Glaze Chanterelle MushroomsButternut Squash Duchess

Our Team of Executive Chefs• Tim Urbanic, Café Cimino• Anne Hart, Provence Market• Chad Rieve, Berry Hills Country Club• Dale Hawkins, Fish Hawk Acres• Paul Smith, Buzz Food Products

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Witch Creek Wines: spellbinding potion

Witch Creek Wines: spellbinding potion
I consumed some palate pleasing red wine recently produced by a California winery with a West Virginia connection. Witch Creek Winery is a boutique operation located along the southern California coast in the village of  Carlsbad.

While the winery produces varietals such as cabernet and syrah, I am particularly impressed with the meritage (blended) wines that Witch Creek concocts. The winery also makes nebbiolo, aglianico, sangiovese and primitivo, a group of Italian grapes that are not widely made anywhere in the US.

Some friends of mine living in Tucker County poured me a taste of the wine one evening as we sat and sipped, reveling in one of those glorious Canaan Valley sunsets. Good wine with Mother Nature’s best. What an inspiring pairing!

Witch Creek, which sources its grapes from some of California’s most sought after AVA’s, has also garnered a bevy of medals from prestigious wine competitions such as the one sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle.

I was able to taste through most of what Witch Creek has to offer and came away wanting more. Unfortunately, because of the limited production, most of the wines are sold at the winery and to a few select restaurants in California.

However, because of the mountain state connection, a little of this lovely juice will make it back here to a few select wine shops and restaurants. Look for Witch Creek wines in places such as Snowshoe Mountain Resort and selected other areas in the Potomac Highlands. In Charleston, a limited amount of the wine will be available in the Wine Shop at Capitol Market.

Dave's PG Red

Here are some notes on three of the wines I tasted just this past week that you may wish to seek out.

2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – Medium-bodied wine with aromas of cola and ripe cherries. On the palate, this wine shows a spicy, peppery tone and finishes with a mocha impression. Grilled red meat would be my choice with this delicious wine.

2006 Kathy’s Cuvee ($48) – This meritage is a classic Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Balanced and complex with layers of berry fruit, this wine has a good tannic core and should benefit from three to five years more of bottle age. I would love to pair this with Veal Marsala smothered in Shitake mushrooms.  I recommend using Lombardo Marsala for the absolute best result.

2008 Dave’s PG Red ($48) – Another meritage comprised of cabernet, merlot and sangiovese, Dave's PG(Pretty Good) Red is chock full of bright cherry and cola flavors with richness and good depth along with excellent balancing acidity. This one begs to be matched to grilled beef short ribs basted with a mahogany barbecue sauce. By the way, Dave's Red is better than "Pretty Good!"

For those of you who wish to try the whole Witch Creek line,  you may shop the winery online at and order directly from them.

Just what the doctor ordered

Just what the doctor ordered
Fall is just about here! For me that means harvest is upon us – both in the world’s great wine regions – and right here in West–by-Golly too. While we’re not picking grapes in the Kanawha Valley, our local farmer’s market (Capitol Market) is plum full of late season veggies that I have been eating and/or feverishly preserving for winter time consumption.

Also this time of year, my thoughts turn to all manner of grilled meat dishes along with hearty red wines that just seem to go so well in cooler weather. But just as I began to plan a feast for this weekend built around these scrumptious victuals, I was reminded (by guess who) of my impending annual physical.

My family doctor’s prescription for my well being includes a heavy dose of reality and a lecture on the merits of lifestyle moderation. So before I visit with him, I’ve decided to prepare a meal that includes a plethora of farm fresh vegetables, some heart-healthy red wine and roasted meat that is chock full of protein. Just what the doctor (Feelgood) ordered.

(Note to self: this menu may not comport with the wishes of my family physician).

While I’m a man of simple tastes, I am sometimes required to consume complex dishes with esoteric wines and then render intelligent opinions on the experience. For instance, it is difficult to explain in plain English why shank of armadillo, braised with bok choy in a Tabasco sauce, is such a heavenly match to vermentino grown on the south-facing slope of Mount Supramonte in Sardinia. This job can be challenging!

Wine match challenging

So when I cook for friends and family, the food is usually straightforward, down-home meat and starch type meals with fairly inexpensive, no-nonsense wines that taste good and help de-clog the arteries (see, I’m really trying to be healthy).

In fact, I dearly love rack of lamb, grilled and served with a great big, full-throttle Zinfandel. I have used New Zealand rack purchased at Sam’s Club and these babies are excellent. But recently, I was able to get US raised, anti-biotic-free rack of lamb from my good friends at Sandy Creek Farms near Ravenswood.

I have mentioned Sandy Creek many times in the past. They raise beef, pork and lamb on organic food-stocks with no antibiotics or other additives, and then butcher and flash freeze the cuts of meat which they then deliver in and around the Charleston area. If you’re interested in having them deliver to you call 1- 800-487-2569.

And while I love their beef and especially their pork chops, the rack is simply succulent. Here’s my recipe for marinated and grilled rack of lamb, along with a few wine suggestions ,to go with this delicious meal that will feed four adults.

The Marinade
2 (six to 8 rib) racks of lamb
3 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary chopped

Much easier wine match

Combine and then wisp all the ingredients into a marinade
Place the racks in a gallon plastic baggie or dish and cover for up to four hours
Light a charcoal or gas grill and roast the racks covered using indirect heat
Grill for about 20 minutes (for medium rare) and allow to stand for 15 minutes
Slice the racks into single or double ribs and serve
Serve with a side dish of ratatouille, vegetable couscous or pasta in a pesto sauce.

For the perfect wine accompaniments, I suggest full-bodied reds such as zinfandel or grenache. Try Ridge, Falcor, Edmeades or Easton zinfandel or Las Rocas, Borsao Tres Picos or Evodia grenache (garnacha). These wines are all priced under $20 a bottle.

End of summer goodies

End of summer goodies
Today, I want to share a few recommendations from some red wines I’ve sipped recently and which I think you will enjoy too. They come from places as geographically diverse as California, Germany and Italy, but that’s one of the great aspects of wine appreciation: if you can’t find what you’re looking for, there’s always someplace else to look.

I have been a long time fan of Sebastiani Winery located in the town and county of Sonoma. In fact, Sebastiani was the first  winery I ever visited – way back before Al Gore invented the Internet. Over the years and through many Sebastiani family leadership changes two things have remained consistent: quality and value.

So I was concerned when I read that the family had sold the winery a few years back to the Foley Wine Group. My concerns, though, were unfounded as evidenced by the continuity of quality in the wines produced to this day. Recently, I tasted a couple of wines that reinforced this view.

Merlot has gotten a bad rap ever since the movie Sideways. As the price of merlot dropped, I happily benefited and stocked up on as much of the stuff as I could afford. Appreciation for Merlot (unfortunately for me) is ramping back up and the following effort from Sebastiani clearly demonstrates why.

2007 Sebastiani Sonoma County Merlot ($19) – This is a very focused wine with spicy plum and earthy flavors balanced by tannin and a nice touch of acid. Try it with grilled lamb chops basted with garlic, lemon and olive oil.

2009 Sebastiani Pinot Noir ($18) Wonderful balance in this elegant, value-priced pinot noir. Ripe cherries, some vanilla and bright acid characterize this wine from the cool Sonoma Coast. Grill a filet of salmon that you’ve dusted with cumin, brown sugar and a little chili powder, and then wash it down with this supple sipper.

It is not hard to say good things about Falcor Winery. This Napa Valley operation owned by two Charleston lawyers has produced exceptional wine for more than 15 years.

Jim Peterson, one of Falcor's owners

Their stable of products, which include a ripe and rich chardonnay and deep and full bodied reds such as zinfandel, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese and syrah, are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Napa and other highly sought after California appellations.

I am particularly fond of their Bordeaux-like blend called Bijou.Recently, another blended wine from Falcor has caught my eye…er palate.

2006 Falcor Bilancia ($36) A blend of 57% Zinfandel, 33% Petit Sirah, 7% Charbono, 2% Carignan, and 1% Valdiguie, Bilancia is a textbook example of why vintners choose to blend. Round and rich flavors of dark fruits, mocha and spice are balanced by bright fruit and good acidity. With fall coming on, I would pair this wine with braised short ribs rubbed with garlic and black pepper and cooked in a bath of tomato sauce and red wine.

Italy2008 Aia Vecchia Lagone ($19) What a find! This beauty from Bolgheri near the coast in Tuscany is Italy’s version of Bordeaux with a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and sangiovese. Rich and velvety with ripe black cherry and cola flavors, the Lagone can be drunk now and will continue to benefit from aging for several years to come. I enjoyed this baby with eggplant stacked and layered on the grill with garden tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Germany2010 Noble House Sweet Red ($10) Some of us take wine seriously…too seriously. Noble House Sweet Red, made from dorfelder (a funny name, don’t you think?), will put a smile on your face! And it’s really not very sweet, but it is full of great cherry and red fruit flavors. It’s also a surprisingly good accompaniment to food. Serve it slightly chilled and enjoy it as an aperitif on the porch or at the picnic table with a burger or some pulled pork barbecue.

Wine and Food at The Greenbrier

Wine and Food at The Greenbrier
If you are a wine and food fanatic (and you wouldn’t be reading these words otherwise), you’ve got to love what Jim Justice has done in breathing new life into the Greenbrier Resort. Let’s face it, the grand old lady was slipping before he stepped up and rescued this venerable and historic resort.

By renovating the rooms and public places, constructing a very tasteful casino and developing a world-class golf tournament, Justice is working tirelessly to upgrade the resort with the goal of achieving five-star status.

With all due respect to the above-mentioned achievements, I am particularly impressed with the efforts to elevate the wine program and cuisine at the Greenbrier. In addition to the elegant Main Dining, Draper’s and Sam Snead’s at the Golf Club, the resort has added In-Fusion (a pan-Asian restaurant), The Forum (Italian) and Prime 44 West Steakhouse named after basketball great and state native Jerry West.

I’ve had the pleasure of dining at all of the establishments mentioned and I can tell you that particular attention is being paid to making sure that the wine lists are specifically tailored to the menus of the various restaurants. Why should that come as a surprise, you may ask?

Well, the range of complex dishes prepared at the various dining venues is stunning, and it would be so much more manageable to keep just one  well-rounded list and use it for each different restaurant.

But not at the Greenbrier. Through coordination and consultation among food and beverage president Jeremy Critchfield, executive Chef Richard Rosendale and director of wine Heath Porter, the resort is able to tailor each restaurant’s menu with wines that match and enhance the culinary focus. And, since the menus are regularly evolving, the wines are constantly changing.

So if you have not visited the resort recently, you should treat yourself and that special other person in your life to a little R&R at the Greenbrier. In fact, the resort is offering a few wine-oriented events this fall that should tickle your palate.

Trefethen Vineyards
Janet Trefethen, of the Napa Valley winery of the same name, will be at the Greenbrier on September 9 & 10. Trefethen Vineyards has been winning international acclaim since the 1970’s and features some of the most elegant cabernet sauvignon made in Napa. In fact, the winery provides the cabernet for Prime 44, the Jerry West signature label.

Jerry West and "Prime 44"

Ms. Trefethen is the matriarch of this family winery and will lead guests in a tasting on Friday, Sept. 9th from 5 to 6 p.m. ($50 per person). On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Ms. Trefethen will join Jerry West and other guests in a special wine dinner at Prime 44 ($250 per person).

Talley Vineyards
Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards will be at the resort on Oct. 6th and 7th for a tasting and grand wine dinner. Talley Vineyards is located in the Arroyo Grande Valley
just south of San Luis Obispo in the heart of California’s Central Coast wine region. The winery focuses on chardonnay and pinot noir.

On Friday, Oct. 7, at 4:30 p.m., Brian Talley will lead a tasting featuring 6 wines including many single vineyard wines and older vintages ($40 per person). On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., join Talley and other guests for a special five-course dinner with six matching wines ($150 per person).

Qupe Vineyards
Bob Lindquist, winemaker of Qupe Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley (just north of Santa Barbara) will showcase his wines on Friday, October 28 at 5 p.m.($50). Lindquist and Qupe focus on Rhone Valley varietals such as marsanne, viognier, grenache and syrah. Qupe is considered among the finest syrah producers in the US.

For further information on these tastings and other Greenbrier events, you may call 800-453-4858.

Howdy Doody, Julia Child and Sponge Bob: Only one has eaten Teala

Howdy Doody, Julia Child and Sponge Bob:  Only one has eaten Teala
As a general rule, I avoid cooking indoors this time of year. It doesn’t make much sense to heat up the house by using the kitchen stove – let alone the oven - but that’s what I did last weekend to prepare one of my favorite seasonal go-to dishes.

The Italian side of my family calls the dish “Teala” (pronounced tee-A-luh). This superb casserole uses some of the freshest vegetables available from our gardens or the local farmer’s market, and combines them with herbs, cheese and spices to make a delicious all-in-one meal.

Teala was a summertime staple for many of us growing up in our Italian neighborhood of North View (in Clarksburg). In those days long ago, Howdy Doody ruled the airwaves, Sponge Bob was traveling salesman and Julia Child was a former spy who liked to cook.

Anyway, Teala was about the only way my mother could get me to eat veggies such as eggplant, zucchini or squash. And those are the primary constituents of the dish, along with potatoes, which are optional. As a matter of fact, Italians not only allow options, they encourage menu latitude which in turn precipitates heated arguments over who’s Teala is best. And, of course, that’s the idea.

So, today I am going to share my version of the dish my mother, grandmother and aunts prepared (each one differently). Most used potatoes (I don’t), some refused to use tomatoes and others disdained the use of hot peppers, onions or bread crumbs. This then allowed them to debate the merits of each Teala iteration endlessly.

Wherever they are at this moment, I know they’re all ready to pounce, but here’s my take on Teala which, by the way, can be paired wonderfully well with sauvignon blanc such as St. Supery from Napa. The dish would also marry nicely with a medium-bodied, spicy red like Marques de Caceres Rioja.

Excellent choice with Teala

2 medium sized zucchinis, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 medium sized yellow squash cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 medium sized onion cut into thin vertical slices
1 hot (or mild) banana pepper cut into vertical slices
1 sweet red pepper cut into vertical slices
1 small bunch of parsley and one handful of basil chopped together
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 third cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
1 half cup of grated pecorino-romano cheese
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

DRIZZLE a bit of the olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish and rub all over
LAYER the eggplant to cover the bottom of the dish
TOP with salt, pepper, herbs, onions, garlic, peppers, bread crumbs, cheese and oil
LAYER zucchini and repeat the step above
LAYER yellow squash and repeat toppings
REPEAT above until the casserole is full
TOP layer should be drizzled only with olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese
COVER with aluminum foil and place in a 375F oven
BAKE for 1 hour 15 minutes covered and last 15 minutes uncovered
ALLOW Teala to rest for 20 minutes before serving

WineBoy in Transition

WineBoy is dead….long live WineBoy ! Well, he’s not actually dead, but he is in transition as this Gazette Community Blog has been renamed Vines & Vittles.

Why, you ask? For those of you who have followed WineBoy from its inception in January 2007, you will remember that it was first and foremost a webcast that allowed me (in the guise of WineBoy) to create several characters who had their own unique views about wine appreciation.

The WineBoy webcasts were produced by the Gazette and shown on this site for a little more than a year before they became too time-consuming for the newspaper to continue in light of the increasing demand for hard news video.

Since the demise of the webcast, this blog has continued to provide you with written information on wine and food, but without the weirdly insightful, sometimes outrageous and always wacky opinions of my alter-egos: Wine Astrologist Marcrazi Umberto Lupini, the Right Reverend Red N. White, English nobleman and wine critic Sir Reginald Winesot Clydesdale, Frenchman Pierre N’Cest Pas (wine cynic) and Cowboy Oenophile Spud Dumplin.

I am in the process of developing a website where I hope to reprise the WineBoy characters and archive many of the older webcasts. In addition, I will move my blogs to that site after they appear here first. I’ll let you know when my new website is up and running and hopefully you’ll be able to view some of my WineBoy webcasts as well as some new ones I’ll be creating.

Vines & Vittles (I know… the proper spelling is “victuals”) more accurately describes where my emphasis is with this blog, and I’ll continue to provide you with my take on wine and how food makes the beverage we all love so much better. Nothing here will change except the name of the blog.

So today, I’ll lift a glass to WineBoy and those intrepid characters who made telling you about wine so much more fun than it should have been.

*****Wine and Roses Fundraiser
The Roark-Sullivan Lifeways Center (RSLC) is a very special organization with a great group of dedicated employees and volunteers. The center assists individuals experiencing homelessness with services that help them become self-reliant.

For the past several years, RSLC has been hosting a fund raising event at Capitol Market called “Wine and Roses.” Wouldn’t it be great to help programs like Roark-Sullivan and enjoy good wine and gourmet food, too?

Well, you can! Join me and other wine lovers at the Roark-Sullivan Lifeways Center Wine and Roses event. Wine and Roses will be held indoors at the Capitol Market from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 4.
Area wine distributors and locally owned Napa Valley winery, Falcor, are donating the wines. And believe me, there will be exceptional wines available for your sipping pleasure from all over the world. In addition, there will be an assortment of gourmet appetizers you can pair with the wines.

I’ll be there to answer your wine questions and chat about the tasty treats we’re sipping. And, hey, if you find a wine you like, you can stroll right over and purchase it immediately from the nice folks at the Wine Shop.
Tickets are $35 and you can get them at the door or by call RSLC at 304-414-0109 . You may use your credit card or send a check to: RSLC, P.O. Box 1707, Charleston, WV, 25326.

I hope to see you there.

Italian summer sippers: Molto Bene!

Italian summer sippers: Molto Bene!

I have been on an Italian wine kick recently, sipping my way through all manner of vino and loving every second. It started with an Italian family wedding where the food was matched with fiascos of wine, including many hailing from that boot-shaped peninsula.

It kept on going when my brother, who thinks he is innately blessed with a sommelier’s palate, paid us an extended visit and proceeded to drink his way through my now depleted cellar. To be fair, he did share a few of his vinous treasures - most of them older Barlos and Brunellos – so I shouldn’t complain too much (but I am).

Don’t get the impression, however, that we focused only on reds. No siree, we sipped everything from pinot grigio and arneis in the north to verdicchio and grillo down south. In addition, we tasted a whole lot of other whites and reds in between to accompany the prodigious quantities of food we prepared and consumed.

As I waddle around here now in self-imposed detox, I’d like to share with you some Italian wine suggestions, particularly bottles that pair well with the lighter-styled foods of summer. The versatility of these wines insures that, while they certainly do well with Italian dishes, you can match them with just about any cuisine.

All the wines recommended below are available in selected wine shops around the state. Oh, and be sure to pop the reds in the fridge for about half an hour before serving them. So here you go.

Continue reading

A special wine and an App to help you find the best paired dish

A special wine and an App to help you find the best paired dish
'07 Allegrini Pallazzo Della Torre

With summertime upon us, it is logical for most of us to sip lighter  whites such as pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, riesling or a whole host of other refreshing wines. It’s also common for us to drink lighter-styled reds and even chill them a little before consuming them.

One of the best lighter-textured reds is Valpolicella. Produced from the relatively obscure corvina, rondinalla and molinara grapes, this red wine can be a very pleasant sipper and an excellent accompaniment to barbecue and other warm weather foods.

Today, however, in keeping with my annoying practice of taking a literary detour, I am not going to expound on the virtues of this lighter style wine. But I am going to discuss Valpolicella, and what happens to this timid quaff when a process called ripasso is employed during  wine making.  And, I’m also going to recommend the best wine I’ve ever tasted that uses the ripasso method.

To make a ripasso, new Valpolicella wine is refermented by combining it with the pressings or pomace from Amarone (which is essentially Valpolicella on steroids), and sometimes with the addition of dried raisined grapes.

The resulting ripasso wine is considerably darker and fuller bodied than Valpolicella, but not as powerful as Amarone. The ripasso process was invented in the early 1960’s by the well-respected Valpolicella producer Masi.

Recently, I had the pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with Allegrini Pallazo Della Torre. The 2007 version of this wine could be the best ripasso-style Valpolicella ($25) I have ever tasted.

Bursting with ripe, dark plum and blackberry flavors, a nose of cola and cherries and with bracing acidity, this wine is tour de force (that means good in Cajun’). I paired the wine with grilled rack of lamb that had been marinated in olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, coarsely ground black pepper and lemons. Yummy!

In addition to Allegrini and Masi, other ripasso producers to look for are Zenato, Bertani, Tommasi, Farina, Righetti and Mazzi.
Excellent Food and Wine App
I’m always looking for new food and wine pairings to spice up my usually mundane existence and to give me something to look forward to at the end of busy work day. And, while there are literally millions of combinations from which to choose, there are literally millions of combinations from which to choose!
So, wouldn’t it be great if there was some quick “go-to” way to make your wine buying decisions easier? And, it sure would be nice to find a complimentary dish to accompany that wine selection too.

Well, a new free mobile application can do just that!

I have pointed you in the past to the website of wine writer Natalie MacLean  ( who devotes her life to helping us make wine selection decisions a lot easier. Her new mobile app will also help you pair that wine with a complimentary food too.

With the “Wine Picks & Pairings app” you can use your Smartphone camera to snap a picture of any bottle label bar code in the wine shop and get tasting notes, scores, and food pairings too. Pretty cool!

Natalie is a certified sommelier and an accomplished wine writer who knows how to provide concise and easy to understand information on the sometimes arcane world of wine and food. Check out her app.

Chablis: It ain't what it used to be!

Chablis:  It ain't what it used to be!
When I first started getting serious about wine, Chablis was the generic term for any white, particularly those mass produced vinous products that were bottled in half or full gallon jugs. No one knew anything about varietal labeling or even that there were different types of grapes that produced different types of wine.

If it was white it was Chablis and if it was red it was Burgundy. Anything that sparkled was simply Champagne.

That’s all you needed to know. And if you drank wine in public places, people sipping martinis or chugging cold ones looked down their noses at you as if to suggest you join others of your ilk under the Southside Bridge.

But when wine began to become somewhat acceptable, those same cocktail snobs became wine snobs and the game was on.

It became “tres avant-garde” to squeeze in next to someone at the local beer garden and proclaim for all the world to hear: “I’ll just have a glass of Chablis.” So what if the bartender had to reach with both hands under the bar for the humongous jug, and then struggle to get some of the stuff into the glass.

We were so cosmopolitan!
Of course, none of us knew the composition of the wine back then, (nor did we care) and most of us were just happy not to gag on the swill that passed for wine. When I recall those days, my embarrassment is only somewhat tempered by the realization that our casual misuse of the terms Chablis, Burgundy and Champagne made the French completely insane.

Where am I going with this? Well, in the past month I have had the pleasure of sipping some excellent “real” Chablis. Of course, Chablis is an appellation and a region within Burgundy where the primary wine-producing grape is Chardonnay.

Wines produced in Chablis are generally more austere than chardonnay made in the more famous areas of Burgundy (i.e. Puligny-Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne, etc.), but they are considerably more reasonably priced.

The wines are steely textured with exceptional minerality and usually have a big dollop of acidity to balance out the richness of chardonnay. In good vintages such as 2008, Chablis can continue to improve in bottle for a decade or more.

The two wines I tasted were both very closed in at first and required about 30 minutes to open up. They also had bracing acidity and were not wines you could easily sit down and sip as an aperitif. Both wines definitely require food, but once paired with an appropriate dish (in this instance pan sautéed cod), they showed their complexity and ability to marry seamlessly to the meal.

These Chablis should be readily available and priced under $30 a bottle. The 2008 Gilbert Picq Chablis is more lean and austere than the 2008 Joseph Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru. I would advise cellaring both since I am convinced they will develop over a period of years into fuller, richer versions of what they are right now.

The Obelisk: a Capitol idea !

The Obelisk:  a Capitol idea !
Good golly! I spent a good part of last week in our nation’s capitol where the temperature was a sizzling 98 degrees. And while I perspired my way through a few business meetings, I knew, at the end of the day I would be sipping some lovely beverages. I did just that and then enjoyed an anniversary dinner at my favorite DC restaurant .

Washington is a very underrated food town, and that’s a shame because the city just brims with a bevy of eateries that rival establishments in some of the more recognized culinary burgs such as New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

My absolute favorite dining address is the Obelisk Restaurant on P Street in northwest Washington. There is no sign on the unimposing building housing the small one room Tuscan restaurant, but once you’ve experienced the food, you’ll always find your way back for more.

The four-course prix fixe menu is $70 a person, but it is worth every cent and more. The wine list is very small, but well selected with an excellent sampling from Tuscany. Before the meal began, we were treated to four appetizers that were so good it was hard to imagine that the courses to come could be any better. They weren’t…but they were just as good!

How about these little ditties for starters: imported Italian Burrata  (a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream) with extra virgin olive oil, thinly sliced smoked duck breast with black cherries, fried, stuffed baby artichokes and cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers.

The meal that followed included porcini ravioli with a sage butter sauce, black bass with peppers and fennel, and lamb chops with sweet onions and rapini. A cheese course and dessert capped off the meal. A bottle of 1999 Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino was liquid silk and a perfect match for the ravioli, lamb, appetizers and cheese course.

Next time you’re in DC, I really hope your give the Oblelisk a try, but you’ll need to call for reservations ((202 872-1180).

Warm weather does cause me to alter my usual reliance on red wine as the go-to meal accompaniment. Instead of my usual practice of sipping a glass of white as an aperitif, I am using these cooling beverages with the lighter-styled foods gracing the table at Chez Brown.

I am particularly fond of Soave, the Italian white from the Veneto. If you are one of the many out there who view Soave as an unworthy alternative to the more famous white varietals such as pinot grigio, you might wish to try these two wines.

Anselmi San Vincenzo Soave

2009 Anselmi San Vincenzo ($16) – This Soave is comprised of about 80 percent garganega, 15 percent chardonnay and 5 percent trebbiano. Fuller-bodied than most Soave’s, the San Vincenzo is full of ripe apple and vanilla custard flavors with a crisp, balanced finish. I sipped this baby recently with a smoked chicken Cesar salad.

2009 Re Midas Soave ($12) – This bottling is a more traditional lighter-styled Soave with a slightly grassy aroma followed by melon, lemon and almond flavors. It finishes with a little zing of acidity making it a great match with pasta salad sauced with basil

Cafe Cimino does it again !

Cafe Cimino does it again !
Adding my voice to the overwhelming chorus of satisfied visitors to Café Cimino might seem a bit trite, but a recent meal at this venerable West Virginia Bed and Breakfast is among the best I have ever experienced and I want to share it with you.

I am no stranger to over-the-top, multi-course, belly-expanding meals accompanied by flagons of wine where mile walks between courses are necessary for diners to safely consume the prodigious quantities of food and drink presented.

So when Café Cimino proprietors Tim and Melody Urbanic asked me to discuss the attributes of the wines selected for a nine-course meal they were planning, I immediately flashed back to several very unpleasant experiences I have had trying to eat and drink everything put in front of me at such bacchanalian extravaganzas over the years.

Tim and Melody Urbanic

These days, I am trying to transition from gourmand to gourmet (even though I know I’m kidding myself) so the thought of testing my will power to exercise restraint when offered a multi-course Italian food and wine feast was- at the very least -daunting. But hey, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do what you do best.

I have had the pleasure of dining at Café Cimino on several occasions so I knew going in that Chef Tim and sous chef (and son ) Eli are masters at extracting maximum flavor from their culinary creations with just the right size portions. Still, this was to be a marathon meal with accompanying wines from Barolo in the region of Piedmont of northwest Italy.

The WinesNestled in the northwest corner of Italy in the shadow of the Alps, Piedmont is home to perhaps the most revered of all Italian wines – Barolo.  The grape from which Barolo (a town and region) is made is nebbiolo. For a wine to be labeled Barolo, it must be made in the geographical confines of the government-designated appellation. In addition, Barolo must be aged for two years in oak barrels and one year in the bottle before it can be released for sale. Barolo can range in price from about $40 to several hundred dollars a bottle, and can continue to improve in the bottle for decades.

The Barolo of Viberti Buon Padre

For our dinner, we were treated to a six-bottle vertical tasting (1993-1998) of wines from the Buon Padre Vineyard of Giovanni Viberti. Established in the 1920’s, the Barolo of Giovanni Viberti is produced in a very traditional manner with a focus on the vineyard site and farming the grapes to achieve the Viberti style. The wines were provided by one of Tim and Melody’s friends who asked them to put a special Piedmont-inspired dinner together that would accompany the Viberti Barolo.

Five lucky couples began the culinary odyssey at 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon with an aperitif of Carneros chardonnay to warm up our palates. I had arrived a couple hours before and decanted the six Buon Padre Barolos into crystal decanters. I’ve discovered over the years that Barolo, particularly wines less than 20 years old, truly benefit from the aeration that decanting provides, allowing the wines to open up and demonstrate their complex layers of aroma and flavor. In addition to the Barolo vertical, some diners contributed a 2009 nebbiolo, a 1978 Barbaresco (both wines from Piedmont) and a 2005 Barolo to the meal.

Then the feast began…. and continued for five glorious hours. We enjoyed our final (cheese course) on the lovely porch of Café Cimino. For those of you who have never experienced a multi-course meal with accompanying wines, I’m sure you’re wondering how we all felt at the conclusion of this epic journey. Actually, quite well thank you. And anyway, we all spent the night in the delightfully comfortable digs of Cafe Cimino.

The Menu
1st Course
Bagna Cauda~ Warm Herbed Olive Oil & Garlic Dip With Grissini~ Breadsticks
Tocco Prosecco
2nd Course
Cream of Asparagus Soup
2009 Elio Grasso Nebbiolo
3rd Course
Old World Gnocchi~ with Gorgonzola Sauce infused with Chamomile Grappa
1994 Buon Padre Barolo
4th Course
Intermezzo~ Chilled Sliced Cucumber with Mascarpone & Strawberry

5th Course
Rabbit Cacciatore
1995 Buon Padre Barolo

Veal main course with the '93 and'97 Buon Padre

6th Course
Veal Stuffed with Salami Rustico, Polenta with Truffles & Asparagus finished with Roasted Garlic and Grana Pandana
1993 and 1997 Buon Padre Barolo
7th Course
Baby Lettuces w/ dried Fruits, Toasted Pine Nuts & 18 year old Balsamic
1996 Buon Padre Barolo
8th Course
House-made Chocolate Tartufo with Bing Cherry center, Hazelnuts & Cream
1999 Guerrieri Rizzardi Vin Santo
9th Course
Assorted Cheeses from the Piedmont Region of Italy
1998 Buon Padre Barolo and 1978 Borgono Barbaresco
The VerdictGuilty on all counts - of succumbing to the culinary artistry of Tim and Eli, the gracious hospitality of Melody and the wine making virtuosity of the Viberti family.