Archive for the ‘ Product Reviews ’ Category

Wilshire Grand Events in New Jersey- Palmaz Vineyard Tasting

I am often invited to wine tastings or am even hunting down a good bottle for my own self indulgence, and then of course to pass on the education, and this time a local media friend, Hillary Morris did not fail us when she sent out an invitation to PIWC for a tasting and tour event- Palmaz Vineyards and The Wilshire Grand Hotel at New Jersey.

The hotel is located in West Orange (north) New Jersey, and I do not get up to those areas as often as I might like. There are still so many parts of New Jersey for me to explore as a transplant from Texas. Great restaurants to taste as well. Why not make it a wine and food experience I say!

My partner and I found the hotel nestled right off of the Garden State Turnpike, so points for not getting lost and easy access. After parking you see the hotel is on the right, so we headed left for the catering hall aka entertaining banquet section of the building. Upon entrance you have gorgeous visuals for any event need. I am wondering if it is not too late to repeat my own vows just to have a party here. The in-laws in New York would like the access.

As a caterer myself, I felt this was definitely a grand and beautiful place to hold an event- I could linger in the main foyer in my best rags with a dirty martini extra blue cheese stuffed olives, and only hope someone with Baby Grand Piano skills will show before I start banging out a Frank Sinatra song and drive everyone away…

We were directed to one of the banquet rooms in which Palmaz Vineyard and Hillary Morris was about to begin the ‘sip and twit’ style education. We were all being treated to a grand luncheon put on by the hotel ,  and I was ready, well hungry! The vintner’s family- mom, son, and daughter, along with Alan Greenberg their eastern regional manager (at our table) were on hand to explain when, why, and how the vineyard began its journey into wine making.

It was fascinating to learn from the son, Christian the wine makers took a former vineyard and converted it into an underground natural filtering (220 feet/3 sub-levels), or gravity flow system winery. Fifteen hours of hand separating the grapes from stems and wood, and much more labor intensive work was going on, and so much more care taken to ensure this once ‘darling of Napa’ vineyard produced a good product. I would have to make sure we had a tour when we returned to California! The visuals on the screen did have me fascinated, but what about the taste? Proof in the pudding, as I will borrow a cliche.

~ MENU ~

Appetizer

Baby Field Green Salad paired with Palmaz Vineyard Chardonnay 08
My first taste of the wine was not a good impression. The salad was gorgeous, flavors of all the toppings were great, but I prefer more oak in my Chardonnay, and less fruit, but I felt the stem ware did not do the wine justice. No room to open it up with air, but after a few more taste it grew on me. The wine is cold fermented in French oak for seven months, so it is a subtle flavor on the palate. I would serve it up against some other similar Chardonnay’s with a similar dish.

Entree
Hoisan Glazed French Cut Chicken Breast
Cedar Knoll Cabernet 06
Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet 06

Some complained the Hoisan was not a good pairing with the weight of the Cabernet, but I felt it did not overwhelm the dish and was well balanced- the key is too not have one out do the other, and in the case the Hoisan was thick and as the chicken was dipped and tasted with the wine, well it worked!

My favorite- The decanted Palmaz Vineyard Cabernet 06, was outstanding!

Dessert
Goblet with Duet of Sorbet and Assorted Berries

No wine was served, and I passed on the dessert; it was beautiful, but not one of my favorites. My philosophy is if I am watching calories, not to waste them on any dessert served. I have a sweet tooth, so I simply had another helping of the Cabernet!

The price range of the wines are $50 to 100 a bottle, but the vineyard is low yield and puts a lot of time and care into keeping with old style wine making and aging art on the property, as well as the extensive water conservation practices in place. I plan on purchasing one of the 06 Cabernet’s for my own cellar!

PIWC is hoping to colaberate with Palmaz via Alan Greenberg one day after the first of the year for our own tasting, so we will bring you more news of how well the wines pair with some of our own choice foods!

Cheers to all the wonderfully nice people  Hillary Morris Public Relations invited to this event! (Thanks to Palmaz, The Wilshire Grand and the people at The HIP Event PR company too!)

Chef Elizabeth Stelling

What else am I up too?

Eating Weeds
Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

VinAssure Review #1

How did we discover VinAssure?

PIWC is always seeking out products we can try to review, but while over at GrapeRadio I viewed an ad for VinAssure and went to check it out.

Would we drink up too 700 bottles to make this product worth while?

Of course we would…do…drink plenty of wine with meals I prepare, and open lots more for wine tastings during the year. Any of you out there who value the wine you buy, or pour for family, friends, clients and host wine tastings will appreciate this product.

After contacting the products company we had to decide our approach to testing VinAssure. Of course we would open three wines, used the VinAssure Argon Gas canister, Vinuvac pumping device, and the cork method to see which preserved the wine as if we had just opened it. Before traveling to Spain last month, hubby and I opened a few bottles to test. We found that after our second attempt, and re-tasting the wine upon our return, the wines smell and taste were as if we had just opened it. Now we will open some more wines and share their results soon…

How can you tell there is argon gas in the VinAssure canister?

The manufacture and developer of VinAssure recommended this to me- Hold up a seal-able sandwich bag, make sure it’s flat (as opposed to having air trapped in it), seal it about 3/4 of the way, inject VinAssure into the bag for a slow count of 5, seal the bag all the way. VinAssure’s Argon has forced any air our of the bag and has remained IN the bag.

Now cup your hands around the bag and you will see a pillow effect from the argon that’s been injected. Visually that pillow equals the amount of Argon you’ve injected into a bottle with a 5 count. That’s approximately 185ml or 1/4 bottle. The ‘rest’ of what’s in the bottle’s empty space (if it’s more than 1/4 empty) is air, so there is now a mixture of air and Argon. Obviously, then, the more VinAssure you inject the greater the proportion of Argon and the greater the level of preservation.

We’ve found that the 5-count (or 1/4 bottle of Argon) is enough for the palates of most people. But the one constant in this is that all wines and all palates are not the same. Actually, the suggestion to add more Argon came from the calculation of the actual amount of gas going in and not from any negative feedback. Because the very expensive refrigerated preservation units (like Wine Keeper and Enomatic) use a method which keeps 100% of the empty space full of gas all the time, we wanted to be able to explain to users how much VinAssure it would take to simulate that method.

I tried what Peter recommended and you can see the pillow, as well as taste the difference in filling the wine bottle space with more than just room temp air, marbles, or pumping out the air. We also preserved the wine at room temp on the counter, as well as storing in a temp controlled upright wine cellar, and on a 45 degree tilted angle in the cellar.

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling

What else am I up too?

Eating Weeds
Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Spanish Whiskey, D.Y.C.

Someone got the brilliant idea in Spain to develop a Whiskey! Or should I say import over 20 years ago, and then make it their own. A few Spaniards along the way snubbed this unique bottle, because it seems they have been convinced Johnny Walker Blue and other major labels reign supreme. For the most part I might have to agree, as far as high end…but think about it, JW is blended scotch, not whiskey, and there is a difference in the two. Slight differences to be exact, but its all good.

Spain is known for its glorious Rioja and other wine regions. Did you know Spain considers wine ‘Food’? Yes, we were told this, as I held my glass of D.Y.C. whiskey behind my back. I have a deep affection for this liquid gold aged in oak barrels.

Along side a Spanish beer, one might even feel they have entered an Irish twilight zone!

Ummm whiskey on the rocks!

Its history? Lochside Distillery is the origins of this smooth libation. You can read about the Scottish born whiskey, and how it landed in Spain. This only proves that buying one of the four versions of this whiskey is worth bringing home to share with friends. Not to mention a great topic of entertaining conversation.

Aficionado’s, are you still not sure? Try the 8, 12 year old, or the Pure Malt when you visit Espana. You will want to add it to your collection. Why? Because, who ever heard of whiskey made in Spain? Thanks to my keen eye and taste, you might not have ever known.

HINT: Look for it outside of Madrid. Not too pricey if you can find the 8, 12, and Pure Malt, but by the glass in the city- you are being ripped off at $15 a glass at many posh bars. Many Tapa’s bars serve it for a mere $4 or 5 euros, a good bargain, and great with many foods offered, or an after dinner drink!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling

More of Chef E!

Eating Weeds
Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Arizona Wines- MeCaSah

Southwest Arizona Scenery

Not only is southern Arizona beautiful in paintings of the southwest style, but it is a great place to visit. Being from Texas and not having such good wines produced, I was skeptical about trying Arizona wines, but it was a good experience.

Visiting Tucson, Elgin, Sonoita areas we found a few wineries who were producing some decent grapes, but some were just bringing them in from California. What was the point? Maybe their grape varietals needed more maturing, but one winery was producing good cabernet, merlot and syrah grapes on their sprawling vineyard. A beautiful day and drive, we ended up purchasing a great bottle of wine.

After sharing it with my partner in wine sister, Adrienne, we decided it was worth the extra weight in the luggage after all. Sonoita Vineyard’s MeCaSah (My house wine), 06 Red Table Wine was a good match to the Italian meal we enjoyed together. Of course hubby broke out a Nickle and Nickle, and Adrienne brought a bottle of Sancere and an Isocolis cabernet blend, this bottle almost had not chance of survival. Well I was in love with its mellow and medium body. They were all good, but with a glass left in the MeCaSah bottle, I snuck it back into the carrier, and enjoyed it the next night. Savored every last drop.

When in Rome, or should I say Arizona, visit Sonoita Vineyards and pick up a bottle- tell them the chef from Texas sent ya’ll!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling  Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! </a> Read her post on ‘dogeuro’ stands along the Arizona highways!

When Its Time For Wine, It Can Be Spectacular

Opus One 1999

Aging wine can be a tricky thing. You have to be comfortable with spending money on wine, and letting it lie on its side until the right moment arrives. When is that? Not sure, then read up on the wines, and follow a few simple procedures- temperature, keeping it in a dark place, and on its side. A temperature controlled environment is the best, but understandably if one cannot afford to build a cellar, or basement area, then an upright refrigerated unit works.

How do you know a wine is meant to be aged? Here are a few notes-

Knowing how long to age wines can seem difficult. There are many types of grapes, many methods of production, a great variety of storage conditions and an overwhelming number of personal preferences. Each of these factors has an impact on how long a wine should be held before drinking. In general, wines gain complexity and lose fruitiness as they age. Tannic red wines also mellow and become softer as they age. Once a wine reaches maturity, it will usually plateau before slowly going downhill. Different grapes make wines with different aging profiles. As an example, most Cabernet Sauvignon will age for longer periods than most Merlot’s.

Of all the wines produced, more than 90% are designed to be consumed within a couple of years after they are produced. Understand that it is just as possible to age a wine for too long a time as it is to age it for too little a time.

In general, more expensive wines are usually designed to become better with age. Most inexpensive wines do not benefit from aging.

If you are not sure then read, or do your research. The internet is full of wine sites, forums and blogs, so it would be almost impossible not to find out a recommended aging time-line for your bottle of wine.

Hubby and I opened up this Opus One with a meal at Ruth Chris Steak House. Corkage fee of $15 for a 1999 was a bargain. They did offer an 06 for $210, but you can purchase them for around $100, sometimes less if the store wants to unload them. Friends have often purchased wines off of Ebay, but unless you trust how it was stored, and the temperature, be careful.

I was disappointed in the Ribeye I had, over cooked, but hubby’s lamb chops were perfect. Sure I could have sent it back, but by the time we waited and arrived for dinner, I was hungry. They removed some of the bill for the mistake. I however feel a good Ribeye on the home grill is by far the best experience. Eating out is risky, and an expensive lesson.

Bordeaux Blend- Cab and other grapes

Opus One has lost some of its momentum in the wine connoisseur circles, but we felt it had aged perfectly. There are some higher end wines out there, but Opus One is still producing some good grapes, and is perfect for aging. Mellow and meaty- great with grilled meats. The recommendation for this wine was to open no later than 2012, so it just felt right to enjoy the wine. The best part of our meal was the company and the wine by far!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

New Jersey Wine & Entertainment- 2010

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Sprawling Vineyard of Amalthea

New Jersey Wines ~ Savor the Experience!

More than two hundred years ago, London’s Royal Society of the Arts recognized two New Jersey vintners for their success in producing the first bottles of quality wine derived from colonial agriculture. Today New Jersey’s wineries continue the tradition of producing high quality wines. But New Jersey’s 30+ wineries offer more than just nationally and internationally acclaimed wines, they offer a total wine experience.

Savor New Jersey’s award-winning wines at wineries nestled amid rolling hills and breathtaking scenery. Sample the wines and taste the quality for yourself. Browse the gift shops and tour the winery to see how and where the wine is made.

Garden State Wine Growers Association Need a new passport? Pick up your Passport to the NJ Wine Country when you take a Walk In the Vineyard Wine Trail Weekend, July 17 & 18, 2010 at wineries across the state. Be the first start your 2010 NJ Wine Country adventure.

We suggest you hit one of the ‘Outter Coastal Plain’ wineries in South Jersey. Among them Amalthea winery- 409 Vineyard Road, Atco, New Jersey. The beautiful sprawling tree and grass covered property is surrounded by Amalthea’s small vineyard. Once you turn off the main road and begin down the gravel pathway- you feel the world was left behind and the historic ‘Green Tavern Inn’ and Wine Makers Cottage become a peaceful getaway into a wine lovers paradise. Enter the tasting room and have some well developed whites to reds while the staff is thoroughly trained in vine growth, varietals, to blending styles the owner has created from extensive training in France.

Events: Barrel Tasting- Enjoy a signature Chardonnay Caesar Salad and other delights while tasting some of next years vintages, and placing your six bottle limit order for your favorite pick! $10 per person, 12-5 PM Saturday and Sunday, July 17th & 18th- 2010

WAMPPWine Art Music Poetry Project, July 31st, 11-5 PM- Enjoy music, poetry, and art while enjoying wine and food as local and New Jersey grass root performers entertain you throughout the afternoon. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to spread out picnic style across the beautiful lawn of Amalthea Cellars in the shade of this tree covered property!

This past weekend the winery was flooded with new comers and followers of Amalthea bringing friends and family to taste their favorites, and walked away with new favorites. One man shared with me his love for the winemaker, Louis Caracciolo’s skill in his top blend, Europa- a European style reminiscent of an exquisite Bordeaux style. This winery holds all makes and styles of wine, so there is sure to be a bottle with your name somewhere on the property!

In 1976, the first vineyards were planted at Amalthea Cellars. Founder Louis Caracciolo’s infatuation with wine making began as a young boy making wine in the cellar of his Italian immigrant grandfather. Emilio brought the art from “The Old Country” at the age of thirteen to the southern New Jersey town of Blue Anchor at the turn of the century. Being exposed to the charm of wine making at an early age ignited a passion that continues to this day at Amalthea Cellars. Caracciolo often says of his philosophical grandfather, “I came on the scene with an unlit torch and my grandfather passed the flame.”

Hope to see you down there, and Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Oxygen, an Enemy of Wine?

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While researching options for ‘Wine Preservation’ over the past year, because my husband travels quite extensively in his work and often we open up a good bottle of wine and he may want more when he returns in a week. Consumers do not always want to finish a bottle or two all in one sitting- what to do?

I am not always in the mood to drink two or three days in a row. Call me crazy! I love wine, but routinely I am myself traveling quite extensively to the the gym now. So I am seriously watching my calorie intake, and unfortunately alcohol and sugar products are high on that ‘no-no’ list.

PIWC will be testing out a new product I recently discovered on-line, the VinAssure™ Wine Preservation system. I am excited out this product and have seen it on a few wine sites. Often as a chef, or even just as a great cook I might make a few dishes where a white and a red would pair well, but for only two people and not other guests sharing- we would want to save what is left for another evening.

Wine connoisseurs have found numerous ways over centuries to preserve wine, most do not care if it sits on the counter just re-corked at room temperature, but if you are serious then you may want to re-think the options.

The VinAssure™ Story- How did this amazing product begin?

VinAssure™ grew out of a simple desire not to waste wine, and a practical business need to make good use of every last drop. For years I was the owner and proprietor of a small wine store and tasting bar, and I had what I would consider a low to medium volume of wines served by the glass each week. At one point I sat down to calculate the dollar-for-dollar waste of unsold, tossed out, or employee consumed wine that had just become an accepted sunken cost of my business. Even with my small program the numbers were staggering… I was simply WASTING WINE and pouring potential revenues down the drain!

VinAssure works by using Argon gas,

ARGON: WHAT A GAS!

by Clark Smith

All her pretty dreams argon.-Bruce Springsteen

Oxygen is not the enemy of wine. Yet the most outspoken proponents of O2’s role in wine development will still scrupulously try to exclude it from partial tank head spaces. We all gotta gas. But in reality, few of us do it well. And in an imperfect world, it is not enough to shrug and say, “We just try to keep topped tanks”…(read more)

Come back next week and find out how are VinAssure experience pours out!

Cheers!

Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!