Archive for the ‘ Wine Tastings ’ 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 ~


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.

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!

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.


Chef Elizabeth Stelling

What else am I up too?

Eating Weeds
Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Spotlight: VinAssure Wine Preservation System

Wine lovers should be delighted to know there is a wine preservation system available that promises to preserve precious left over wine. No more wasted wine. Preserve up to 700 bottles per cylinder. Sounds great!

The VinAssure system is designed for restaurants, wine bars and wine lovers. It combines industrial grade Argon gas, an inert gas that when pumped into your favorite bottle prevents the oxidation of wine. With the VinAssure Wine Preservation system, opened bottles of wine now have the ability to retain their alluring bouquets and mouth filling palates by preventing wine oxidation for days.

Restaurant owners, wineries, tasting rooms and wine lovers can now rest assure that every glass served has the same appeal as when the bottle was first opened. No more wasted premium wine. The VinAssure preservation system preserves wine for up to a week or more depending upon the wine and tasters palate.

VinAssure uses only winery grade ALIGAL Argon. The Argon displaces whatever air is in the bottle and that along with refrigeration forms the winning combination to preserve the wine. It’s reasonably priced; less than $0.04 per use and easy to use.  It’s one of the lowest costs per use wine preservation system on the market today.

No more wasted wine!

Next up: I put the Vin Assure Wine Preservation system to the test.

VinAssure Wine Preservation System


Cool Vines adds a new location

News Snippet: Mark Centis, founder of Cool Vines has opened up another Cool Vines at another location in Princeton. The philosophy of the new store on Spring Street remains the same; present their portfolio of wines in a manner that is approachable to the consumer.

Cool Vines arranges their wines according to flavor profiles and skips the “shelf talkers” and wine ratings from industry experts. To the average wine consumer this approach is less intimidating and more engaging. Why buy a 90 point rated wine, if you don’t like the flavor? Seems senseless to some.

The sales staff is very knowledgeable and will engage shoppers with little interesting bits of information regarding the wine’s profile and food pairings. Every Saturday there is an in-house wine tasting from 2-5 pm where wines are showcased and shoppers are treated to education and a little taste of the wines before buying. Effectively it’s “try before you buy”. Cool Vines tries to stock their stores with less well known brands with a focus on smaller family owned wineries, giving the consumer some industry treats.

This past Saturday, Cool Vines showcased three wines from South Africa; Chenin Blanc, a Rhone-Blend and Pinotage (indigenous grape variety of South Africa). South Africa is the up and coming New World star and is noted for making clean, crisp Chenin Blanc loaded with tropical fruits. The Man Vintners 2010 Chenin Blanc was just that! Clean with crisp acidity and generous notes of melon on the nose.

Cheers! -Adrienne

Cool Vines 21 Spring Street, Princeton, NJ

Cork’d highlights the wines of the Barossa with Langmeil Wines

Australian old vines wine fans should be pleased with tonight’s tasting event. Langmeil Wines will be highlighted at tonight’s Cork’d event where Langmeil Wines from Australia’s famed Barossa Valley will be showcased. Participants will be treated to some gnarly old vines wines where the fruit is rich and concentrated on the palate and nose.

Langmeil Wines family member, James Lindner will be on hand to walk participants through the tasting and answer questions.

Here’s a list of the wines that will be on hand-the line-up:

Event: Roger Smith Hotel, NYC 10/6

7pm tonight

Shiraz or Syrah? More old vines A $35 give-away


Spotlight: Albarino from Rias Baxias

Chances are that you have never heard of Albariño. It’s just one of those obscure grapes maybe on the list of wine enthusiasts. The grape is from the up and coming Rias Baixas area of Spain.

Cork’d hosted another wine tasting event at the Roger Smith Hotel in NYC to increase brand awareness to wine consumers.
The Albariño grape was the star of the show, where 5 wines were showcased. Participants were treated to great Albariño  wines representing the Rias Baxias area of Spain as well as factoids relating to the grape varietal.

Albariño is Spain’s most exciting white grape varietal. Rias Baixas is the birthplace of the grape.

Albariño is a white grape varietal and is noted for it’s great acidity and food friendlieness, especially when paired with such seafood treats as ceviche, mussels and empanadas.

The Rias Baixas region of Spain is a white growing grape DO of Spain. 12 grape varietals are grown in the area, but Albariño makes up 90% of the grape growing region. The typical Albariño aroma profile consists of citrus, melon, peach, apricot and other exotic fruits.

Wines showcased:

ADEGA CONDES DE ALBAREI: Pale yellow in the glass. On the nose, loads of tropical fruits, citrus with a medium, juicy finish. Loads of acidity. Bright and refreshing. Pairs well with fresh seafood. 12.5% ABV.

Martín Códax 2009 Rías Baixas Albariño: Pale yellow in the glass. On the nose, apple, pear and peach. Short finish yet clearly refreshing. A great wine to be paried well with seafood and light salads.12.8% ABV.

Palicio de Fefiñanes 2008: Pale yellow.On the nose,lemon and lime. Medium finish with some minerality.

Serra da Estrela; Light yellow. Very aromatic with apricot, peach and lemon-lime. A long vibrant finish showing great acdity.

Pazo San Mauro 2005: pale yellow with a vibrant nose of citrus and stone fruit. On the palate, long lasting acidity with spicy citrus notes.

Cheers! -Adrienne

Old Vines Can Be Good!

Old Vine Zin Tasting

In last weeks post I talked about aging wine. This week I thought I would mention aging vines, as in ‘Old Vine’ wines. In a recent Zinfandel Tasting (not as in ‘white’ or blush, but red wine), twelve wines were presented to the group. I feel after four wines, the rest become muddled, and in this case the better ones were served last. But if your palate can take heavy wines such as these, then pair them with a good steak.

What does ‘Old Vine’ mean?

THE TERM “old vines” appears on many wine labels, most often on California zinfandel’s and Australian shiraz and grenache. In France the term is “vieilles vignes,” in Italian it’s “vigna vecchia,” and in Spain you’ll see “viñas viejas.” It seems to be a mark of quality, but is it? What exactly qualifies a vine as old, and what impact, if any, does age have on flavor?

Like the word reserve, the use of old vines on a wine label is unregulated. But unlike reserve, which has been rendered meaningless by greedy marketers, “old vines” is still treated with respect. Winemakers use it to say something important about the vineyard from which the wine was produced. It’s old! And that’s good!

Our favorite ‘Old Vine’ served at this tasting- too many to say. Like I said it became muddled after the fourth wine. Keep a wine tasting simple, so the students and guest are not overwhelmed. I however feel Zin’s are over looked, and outside my taste for the favorite Pinot Noir varietal, I would open up a good California Wilson Zin (many have almost 16 % alcohol) in a heartbeat!


Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Pairing Wine with Market Finds

Over the summer Farmer’s Markets and Flea Markets are a great way to find local made goodies to introduce to friends along side a good wine.

We recently discovered a new friend was in the business of making biscotti- many flavors, and interesting combination’s too! As well as some hot sauce, or where I come from in Texas, Chili Paste who’s flavors still ring out in my memory, and I want to spread on even just the simplest piece of cheese.

Being sent a few bottles of wine from a winery in California’s Lodi region, especially a Syrah, Partner’s In Wine felt it was time to take the treats to the table to get others opinion on some pairings.

Earthquake Syrah-

Invited to a gathering and fundraiser, her and I each took a bottle to compare side by side. Both were good meaty and jammy on the taste buds. Syrah is know to pair well with spicy, with its own spicy notes. The chocolate biscotti also was good match, but a surprise was the coffee toffee biscotti that held up to the match.

Syrah is a good bottle to introduce those white zinfandel to white chardonnay drinkers to some good red wine. Drank with good bites like the Saba’s Hot Sauce Spread, and Randi’s Gourmet Food Biscotti will help them quickly decide red is the road to follow. It worked for us!


Chef Elizabeth Stelling Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Check out the Hatch Chili Post- Now these would go perfect with my Earthquake Syrah!

Cabernet Day in NYC

Taste some fine Cabs

Yesterday in celebration of Cabernet Day( organized by Rick Bakas  and sponsored by Cork’d)  I decided to go into NYC to taste some fine Cabs @ The Roger Smith Hotel. The line -up included some Bordeaux wines, of course St. Supery, Hahn Estate, Borghese, Porter Family, Stryker,& Jacuzzi (named after the large tub of H2O). The tasting list also showed Titus, but unfortunately the local event organizer could not locate the case of wine, so it was a ” No Show”.

Cabernet Day is a celebration of  social media and wine all rolled into one. And it’s not like I need an excuse to drink good Cab but it’s a great way to meet and tweet with your fellow Cab lovers about your wine impressions.

There were scheduled meetups throughout the country with quite a few of them taking place in the New York/New Jersey area (I’m from New Jersey). The hotel had roughly 40 tweeters all lined up with smart phones and laptops in hand. Me, I had pen & paper in hand and concentrated on bouquet and taste instead of pecking at a miniature keyboard. Call me old-fashioned or cheap.Whatever!

There were even a few Cabernet Francs showcased at the event. Its always easy to forget that grape varietal when most people think Cabernet Sauvignon; I did!

In the end it was The Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 that I enjoyed the most. Actually, this wine was not listed but just happened that someone ” snuck it in”, so I helped myself to a little 2 ounce taste. Glad I did, because it was my own personal show stopper. It kind of took my mind off of the no-show Titus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

A very interesting event though there were no real show stoppers for me ( except for the rogue Rodney). In the end, I think social media and wine drinking is a great marriage. Who would of thought of such a perfect pair? It’s a match made in heaven with no pencil or paper needed.

And they said “it wouldn’t last”!

You may also like: Small winery, far reach recent wine posts

Cheers! -Adrienne

Mollydooker The Boxer 2009; big & fruity

OK, Mollydooker fans here it is: The Boxer 2009 release is upon us. The long awaited vintage is here and let me tell you Shiraz fans, this is one big wine. And as Sarah and Sparky say “2009 was a blessing“.
The husband and wife team from McLaren Vale Australia proclaim to be the best vintage ever.

The Boxer Shiraz 2009 is not for the faint of heart: big fruit, with loads of spice, jam, berries and a slight pepper edge. Smooth tannins that just coat your tongue from beginning to end.
Sarah and Sparky talk about the WOW factor in their wines. “We make wines that make people go WOW”. And it’s the Marquis Fruit Weight (MFW) that Mollydooker has trademarked that makes people go WOW. MFW is the percentage of your palate that is covered by the velvety sensation of fruit, before you experience any of the structural components of the wine.

Mollydooker wines must have at least 65% MFW to be considered for bottling. Those less fortunate little grapes that don’t make the cut, get sold in bulk!

The Boxer 2009 definitely has plenty of WOW from beginning to end. On the nose this wine has spice and pepper. The Boxer is big enough to stand up to a barbeque with some powerful sauce, yet eloquent enough for a great rack of lamb or lamb chop. Personally, I had my Boxer with a rack of lamb Moroccan style and went WOW. The Moroccan spices were a lovely compliment to the wine.