Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Brews Travelers’ Year of Beer

For most everyone in the tasting room—and particularly on the patio on this don’t-forget-the-sunscreen kind of day—it is simply a perfect Sunday: A few locally brewed craft beer samples and lots of laughs with friends before the work week starts. 

For Brandon Wurtz and Michael Roberts of Dallas, the work week can wait…and wait…and wait.

Visiting the Captain Lawrence tasting room on a 75 degree Sunday, the two are about a third of the way through a year spent visiting breweries around the nation, visiting all 48 continental states, sipping brew in as many breweries as they can get to, and writing about their experiences (exbeeriences?) at BrewsTravelers365.com. To date, Brandon and Michael—who look the part in beards and beer t-shirts—have visited 126 breweries in 15 states, and written about over a hundred. “We look for what is unique, what the scene is,” says Brandon.

They’re shooting for 365 breweries in 365 days. Highlights thus far?

“Oh, man, that’s tough,” says Brandon as he shakes his head.

Michael, who quit his job in merchandising to make the trek, gives it a shot. “The people,” he says. “Every single person we’ve met on the trip has been overwhelmingly kind and cool.”

Captain Lawrence offers “one of the coolest setups I’ve seen,” says Michael. “Chill, open, everyone hanging out.”

From here, they are on to Connecticut (Two Roads Brewing, Back East Brewing), then back to Westchester (Peekskill Brewery) before heading west.

But first, there is the 4 p.m. tour. A foursome from Poughkeepsie already had their own; Billy Kistner won a private tour in a raffle at a pub called Schatzi’s that was hosting a Captain Lawrence tap takeover. Each beer you bought spelled another raffle ticket.

“He bought so many beers he had to win,” says pal Tony Paonessa.

It wasn’t hard to get Tony, Billy’s sister Andrea and friend Tom Kinsley on board for the schlep south. “I said, ‘Sunday? Beer?’” Billy says. “They said, ‘Sure.’”

The foursome agrees that the tour was way more informative than another they recently took in Brooklyn. Talk turns to the “overexposed” hipster scene in that borough, which includes people naming their kid Brooklyn.

“My kid’s gonna be named Elmsford,” says Andrea as she enjoys a Fiona Irish red ale.  

The mood is ebullient inside and particularly out. Village Dog sells barbecue grub out of a tent, but Shane and Honore Adams of Hawthorne will do their own ‘cue at home. Shane likes the hoppy Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA, while Honore prefers to tone down the hops, opting for the flagship Freshchester Pale Ale.

“It was such a long and hard winter,” says Shane of their decision to pop in. “We had cabin fever. When we saw the opportunity to come out, we took it.”

Honore plans to fill up the growler with the Pale Ale, then they’ll head home to get the barbecue cranked. Shane says he uses it year-round, but tonight will be special. “It’s the first time we get to go outside and enjoy a meal,” he says.

Patio seats are hard to come by. There must be close to 140 characters out and about--fitting, because Emily Santis of Long Island City works at Twitter, where her duties include stocking up the office fridge with Captain Lawrence, including the summery wheat beer Sun Block. “We drink a lot of beer,” she says.

She, Justin Barros of Bronxville, Kwasi Osae-Kwapong of White Plains and Lisa Raho of Tuckahoe did some hiking up by Bear Mountain, then decided to cap off a postcard-perfect spring day with a few beer samples. “This is a nice hidden gem in Westchester,” says Kwasi.

He swears by the Belgians and sips a Liquid Gold, as does Lisa. Justin’s Sun Block is “perfect on a nice, warm spring day.” Emily has the small-batch Fiona. “It goes down easy, it’s smooth, it’s delicious,” she says. “I like her.”

Meanwhile, the Brews Travelers Brandon and Michael are making mental notes for their Captain Lawrence review. They’ve seen the brewery on a particularly special day: under a big, bright sun after a harsh winter.
Brandon says you can’t go wrong with a year spent visiting breweries. “I’ve never not had a good time,” he says, “or not met someone new, at a brewery.”

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale.

The “Notes From the Tasting Room” book is available at the brewery and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Captain-Lawrence-Tasting-Room/dp/0985632844/

Monday, April 14, 2014

Heading to South America: Wines of Uruguay & Argentina with Courtney Quinn

In this episode of Uncork Your Mind I talk with Courtney Quinn of Our World Our Community importer of wines from Uruguay and Argentina.

Like many people, Courtney didn't begin her career in the wine industry. She actually worked in the not for profit sector and wanted to make a career change. All it took was a trip to Napa and she knew the wine industry was for her.  She went home and enrolled in San Diego State Business in Wine program.  Then quit job, sold house and moved to Napa and studied at CIA Greystone in their wine immersion program. 

Now that she had some wine education she needed to decide what to do and where to go with it.  When talking to people one thing was constant they kept telling her  "Have you thought of Mendoza Argentina" she thought this was sign and she packed up and went to Mendoza.

One thing she realized very fast is she needed to learn Spanish. So she enrolled in a Spanish class, and spent the mornings in class and the afternoon scouting out  vineyards.

Returning to the states, speaking with people in the industry, she took their advice and began OWOC.  She began importing with wines from Argentina and then someone suggested Uruguay wines.  She did her research and went to San Francisco for the wines of Uruguay tasting.  She was very impressed with Bodegas Carrau's Tannat and Sauvignon Blanc and the rest is history.

Courtney sees her growth in the South American market.  At the moment she only imports to California, but  wants to expand to other western states.  She wants to focus on other producers in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

You can find more information on OWOC wines at  http://www.owocwines.com/ and if you don't live in California, you can order her imports from Protocol Wine Studio http://protocolwinestudio.com/

Listen to the podcast below as Courtney talks about the wines she imports and the history behind the wineries.

Wine Review: Bodegas Carrau
There are only 230 wineries in Uruguay and Bodegas Carrau  has two different vineyards , one in the southern part of the country and one in the northern part of the country.  The Sauvignon Blanc is from northern vineyard in the Cerro Chapeau region which is a continental climate at an elevation of 1000ft.  The highest vineyard in the country.  Down in the southern part the Las Violetas region has a maritime climate.  This vineyard has the influence from Atlantic ocean. Two very different terriors, two vineyards, one winery. The only gravity flow winery in Uruguay.

2013 Bodegas CarrauSauvignon Blanc Sur Lie - Amazing!  Aromas of passion fruit and fresh citrus just pouring out of the bottle.  Nice soft acidity with hints of lime.

2010 Bodegas Carrau Tannat Reserva - Aromas of black cherry,oak and vanilla. Plums and hints of raspberries on the palate with soft tannins.  I paired this with Paul's Chicken Marsala and it was a great pairing.

Remember you can find the podcast and subscribe by:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Week With Ed Hitzel

Unless you are in South Jersey you won't know who Ed Hitzel is.  I didn't know who he was until a few weeks ago myself. I'm a newbie down here and just learning to find my way.
Chef Michael Dangelo of 2 Mile Restaurant, Ed Hitzel and me

Ed is the MAN and Restaurant Critic for South Jersey. What Ed says goes! He has his own TV segment "Hitzel Approved", Radio Show "Table for One", Restaurant Magazine and Newsletter.  Don't let all that scare you, he is indeed a very nice man!  I was a lucky girl last week and got to spend time with Ed on both TV and Radio.

Ed is the go to for South Jersey food!  Who in the restaurant industry doesn't he know?  When I was on his TV segment he had 6 other chefs from various restaurants showing their menu items.  All of them looked so good! It was a real education for me, since I am new to the area and not sure where to eat.
Luke Palladino
The highlight of my week was co-hosting his 3 hour radio show.  It was just me, Ed and special Chef guest Luke Palladino.  Wow! is all I can say about Luke!  What a very talented and committed chef with a passion for great food and service!  Luke is the first Chef I have found in South Jersey with a passion for farm to table.
Braised Beef Marubini (a style of ravioli from Cremona, Italy) Shaved Parmesan

Beside from being very handsome (yes ladies, he's taken) he has traveled all over the United States and Italy and has incorporporated many things he has learned into the menus at his restaurants. Luke's Italian Restaurant is located in Linwood NJ, his Steakhouse in Northfield, NJ(that has a 5 pound Tuscan Porterhouse Steak on the menu. That's a big steak!), Luke's Kitchen & Marketplace at the Revel in Atlantic City and Luke Palladino at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City.

A few things I learned about Luke in the 3 hours I spent with him.  He's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and just this year his daughter graduated from the CIA as a pastry chef. Luke worked under Emeril Lagasse at Commanders Palace in New Orleans.  He spent 4 years working in all the regions of Italy by traveling around with his knife set looking for work to gain the experience that has made him the wonderful chef he is today.

He loves chocolate and not everything is learned in chef school.  Nope, his Pierogies that you will find on the menu is from his longtime girlfriend Christine. Yes, Christine spent time in the kitchen teaching Luke and his chefs the proper way to make them from her family's special recipe. They were all good students.

As I write this today and you read this, Luke will be changing his menus from winter to spring as he incorporates the vegetables of spring into his menus.

Although I have not been to any of Luke's restaurants I can assure you I will be soon. As the radio show was from 10a to 1p, I left starving!

Look for Luke's new restaurant opening this fall in Philadelphia.

Thank you Ed, for having me as your guest on TV and Radio this week.  I enjoyed it and learned a lot about the food scene in South Jersey.

Monday, April 7, 2014

From Vine to Wine: Millbrook Boot Camp 2014

Registration is open for Millbrook Vineyards & Winery's 2014 From Vine to Wine, wine camp for the adult child in you.  Guaranteed to have fun, learn about wine and make new friends.  
I participated in this program two years ago and had a great time, learned lots!  What they changed up this year is they added up a red wine blending class.  That should to be great!  The information is below and here are some links to video I shot when I was in the class. 
To sign up call 845-677-8383 ext 17

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Taste of Hungarian Wines

I was asked a few weeks ago to take part in a #Winechat featuring Hungarian Wines.  How could I refuse. This was my chance to taste wines from my home country.  One of the wines is produced about 40 minutes from where my family is from.  Below were the selections for the evening.
I have to say the selections were very unique.  That's what I LOVE is tasting wines from different regions made with grapes indigenous to that region.  Not your mainstream wine.  Also an interesting not is that it's been 20 or so years after the re-establishment of private and faily wineries in Hungary.  My father actually had papers claiming our vineyards and I believe the filed them with the consulate but nothing ever came from it. Today, Hungary is in the midst of a huge wine renaissance.

2011 Bodrog Bormühely Lapis Furmint - The Furmint grape is widely grown in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region of Hungry.  It is the principal grape in the Tokaji dessert wines people think of when you think Hungarian wines.  Actually this was was relatively dry.  It is said the grape was introduced to the region during the Austro-Hungarian era of the Middle Ages.

The grape is very high in acidity and with residual sugar at 4.9 g/l it doesn't taste sweet at all.  The acidity is really nicely balanced. The aromas of this wine are of sweet ripe peaches and toasted sugar.  The minerality of the wine comes out in the taste along with a nice creaminess felt on the palate. The wine did go through a full malolactic fermentation furmentation and spent 9 months aging in Hungarian oak sur lie.

2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling - This wine comes from the Somló region about 40 minutes from Tapolca and Hungary's smallest appellation.  The region was once an underwater volcano. The grape is also known as Welschriesling in Austria and is no relation to the Riesling grape you are accustomed  to.  This wine had lemon on the nose with a hint of floral.  It was very soft on the palate and had a hint of spice on the finish. This wine is aged two years in 1200 liter Hungarian oak casks before bottling.  SRP $25

2011 Eszterbaur "Nagyapám" Kadarka - This wine comes from the Szekszárd region which is in southern Hungry. When I first tasted this wine I immediately characterized it as a Gamay with a hint of Pinot Noir.  Fermented with native yeasts, the wine had flavors of tart cherry, raspberry, soft tannins and a nice spice on the finish.  I tasted it room temperature as well as chilled for 15 minutes in the fridge.  It is definitely better when slightly chilled. SRP $18

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room Talkin’ Baseball…and Beer

It’s opening day for our national pastime, but it really doesn’t feel like it. The weekend was a wet washout, a few flakes even flew, and if you look around a bit, you can still find clumps of snow where the sun, as the saying goes, don’t shine. But when the ump calls “Play ball!” for the first time all year, hope springs eternal.

Bryan Carney of Sparkill, across the Tappan Zee, wears a Mets cap and a sheepish smile. So he’s a fan of the Metsies, yes?

“You could say that,” Bryan says with a shrug, the way Mets fans do.

He and Ally Nolan have been talking about visiting Captain Lawrence for years, and—at long last--got around to it today. “We finally got some time off,” says Ally, sipping the Kevin’s Bacon Ale, brewed with a mix of Irish malts, maple syrup and, yes, bacon. “We finally made it.”

Bryan likes the Imperial IPA a lot more than he likes the Mets’ hopes for 2014. “Eighty wins—that’s the goal,” he says.

Ally is more of a passive fan. “She’s been upset with them since they traded R. A. Dickey,” explains Bryan. “And Jose Reyes.”

Across the tasting room on a mostly mellow Sunday, Michael Giuliano of North White Plains is also a Mets fan—something of a rarity here in the Bronx’s backyard. “My dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan,” he says with the same shrug Bryan showed a minute before. “That’s what happens.”

He’s having the monster ale Seeking Alpha, but would prefer something a little less hoppy than a triple IPA. Wife Enzara is enjoying her favorite: The Brown Bird Ale. They serve it at Victor’s in Hawthorne, where Enzara bartends. She’s happy to spend a lazy Sunday in the tasting room. “You get stuck in the house all winter and you get cranky,” she says. “But you go out for a few beers and it’s not so bad.”

Michael has the good humor of a long suffering Mets fan. He tells the story of his church’s pastor, regaling the congregation in Valhalla about the time he gave Mets tickets to a parishioner, who gave them to another parishioner, and so on—until the pastor’s tickets ended up coming back to him.

“I look for [the Mets] to go .500,” Michael says. “It’s gonna be tough. The pitching’s OK, but they’ve got no sticks.”

While there have been three separate Jeffersons to play in the major leagues (Jesse, Reggie and Stan, if you’re scoring at home), Pavel and Milan Jefferson, brothers living in Hartsdale, have but a passing interest in baseball. “Is A-Rod still out?” asks Milan.

They grew up in San Jose and sort-of root for the A’s. They have the best seats in the brewery—a handsome pair of Adirondack chairs, emblazoned with Captain Lawrence logos, all alone in the brewery’s rectangular viewing area outside the tasting room. “Actually, someone took our stools inside,” says Milan. “We came out here and saw these beauties.”

Pavel enjoys the Demon Sweat black pale ale. Milan says the IPSession India Pale Ale is “pretty awesome.” Pavel, a tennis teacher, had hoped to go snowboarding, until the rain put a damper on his plans. “I wanted to do something fun in the area,” he says, “and thought, where else can I go?”

He does have one fond baseball-ish memory: having his graduation from NYU at the old Yankee Stadium, when a streaker ran the bases and made it to third before the nude dude was tackled. The memory, and the Demon Sweat, bring a smile to Pavel’s lips.

Speaking of Yankee Stadium—and Demon Sweat--a few samples of the dark, dark ale have struck Josh Glantz of Scarsdale with a blast of promotional genius: tie in Captain Lawrence to Derek “The Captain” Jeter’s final season with the Bombers. “You gotta get it into Yankee Stadium!” he enthuses.

“He’s a marketing guy,” notes pal Michael Deforge, also of Scarsdale.

Josh has been visiting Captain Lawrence since the early days, with a growler showing a Pleasantville address to prove it. It’s Michael’s first time at 444 Saw Mill River Road. He looks lovingly to the patio outside. “As soon as the sun is out, I might be here every weekend,” he says.

Michael is from hops country in Washington State, and roots for the Mariners…to go .500 this year. “You’ve got King Felix! You’ve got Cano!” counters Josh. “That’s it,” says Mike. “Stop now.”

Hailing from the Bronx, Josh loves the Yankees, and says some younger players—and A-Rod watching from home--will at least make them more fun to watch this year.

Whether they’re rooting for the Yankees, Mets or Mariners, everyone in the room is pulling for spring to finally show itself. “I’m desperate to get outside,” says Josh. “With the grill…and the beer.”

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale.

The “Notes From the Tasting Room” book is available at the brewery and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Captain-Lawrence-Tasting-Room/dp/0985632844/

Monday, March 31, 2014

Private Tasting in the JCB Lounge France Meets California

I had no idea what we was in store when Cindy said we had a tasting at Raymond Vineyards at 1pm and we couldn't be late.  After all I wasn't expecting to do any wine tasting on my trip.

When we arrived at Raymond Vineyards and were waiting for our host Michelle to whisk us off to the JCB Lounge we did a little exploring.
Yes this is what we wandered into...The Chrystal Cellar. It was quite interesting as it's focus is on the experience of wine and decanting.  There room has stainless steel walls, a mirrored bar and a huge collection of Baccarat crystal throughout.
This is the tasting that was offered in the Crystal Cellar..."The Crystal Experience"

Michelle found us in the Chrystal Cellar and escorted us to the afternoon tasting in the JCB Lounge.  Boy did I feel special. I didn't even want to sit on the gold couch for fear of ruining it.

Then there was the table all set for the four of us.

And this is some of what we would be tasting.  Jean-Charles Biosset JCB Collection. What makes this so special...it's the innovative collection that brings two world of winemaking together.  The Old and the New. It brings together California and France.

After we watched a short video (and no we didn't sit on that couch) we sat down to taste some of Jean-Charles creations.  We began with the bubbly.  I fell in love with them, a Sparkling Brut No 21 and the Sparkling Rose No 69. They retail for $25   No 69 represents the year Jean-Charles was born and there are a few other wines with significant numbers as well.  

No 3 is a 2011 Pinot Noir and what is special about this is that it is Pinot from his vineyards in California and Burgundy.  It does come with a price tag, as it sells for $123.  It was good, but you'll have to dig deep into your pocket for that one.

One more wine that had a significant number was No 11 a 2011 Pinot Noir.  The number 11 was his soccer jersey number and this happens to be one of his favorite Pinot Noirs.  Number 11 is a shining star as far as he is concerned.(Retails for $65)

Had a wonderful time here and I thank Cindy for setting this up.  The only thing that was absent was Jean-Charles himself who I hear shows up frequently.