Charlie Opines About Wine

In my search for interesting wines to serve to guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attend many planned and impromptu wine tastings. I am happy to share my experiences with you. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cape Cod Style Found In Florida

Seaside, Florida
On the road again (still), and always working hard to find intresting wine to serve guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. In our winter travels, we search out great beaches where we can work on our tans, and we always spend as much time as possible on the pure white sands and in the clear green waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the panhandle of Florida. One of our favorite stops is Seaside, Florida, the first planned beach community along scenic 30-A, and in the heart of what is known today as the Emerald Coast.  

Chris Wallace & Me
Seaside was originally designed to copy a New England village with narrow streets radiating from a central town square across from a pristine beach. Around the square are a number of shops and restaurants, including Crush, A Vintner’s Café. Yes, A Vintner’s Café is a place that interests me. Crush is a very nice, hip, wine bar that offers small plates and sushi with both inside and patio seating overlooking the common area. We were pleased to learn that they featured a daily ‘happy hour’ from 4-6 PM with all wine, beer, and sushi half priced. Not surprisingly, Jan and I found ourselves gravitating from the beach to Crush around that time of day.  Can it get any better than this?  Yes, on Thursday evening how about a free ‘formal’ tasting

Last Thursday, we settled in to ‘our’ table by the window and ordered our usual small plate of Crostini with hummus, chorizo sausage, arugula, and roasted pepper shallot jam. The manager, Chris Wallace, was sharing four wines. Chris’s father is Mike Wallace, but as he said, not the 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace.  Having learned about our preference for reds, Chris started us with the 2007 Snake Charmer Shiraz.

The name and label alone were enough to get my attention and the wine stood up to the hype. This big and bold Australian Shiraz really complimented our appetizer. With a little research, I found it was made by Vinaceous wines from South Australia with grapes from the famous McLaren Vale. They have a very interesting website that points out that ‘Vinaceous literally means of wine and grape’. Besides making good wine, Vinaceous has a real marketing flare producing other wines with interesting names like Red Right Hand (Shiraz Grenache Tempranillo), Raconteur (Cabernet Sauvignon), and Divine (Verdelho). I was charmed by my first experience with the Snake and will be on the look out for their other brands.

Breaking the rules of a formal wine tasting, we skipped the whites, although Chris was serving a chilled gewürztraminer that was getting rave reviews when paired with Crush’s sushi. The big surprise of the night was the last wine, a 2008 Angove Nine Vines Rose. Also from South Australia, the Angove Family Winemakers have made exceptional wines since 1886. This well made Grenache and Shiraz blend is bright pink, fruity, and very refreshing. I will find some of this juice for my summer ‘deck’ wine for Inn guests to enjoy on a warm Cape Cod evening.

Formal or informal, I continue to taste wine (this is a full time job) in search of the perfect wines to serve guests at our Sandwich Inn.  

Happy Wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wine On The Road - Sharing With Old Friends

We are still on our wonderful winter road trip (2011), but I continue the hunt for wines to serve guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast when we return to Sandwich. As we wander about, we love to reconnect with old friends and often make new ones. Most of these wonderful occasions involve wine, surprise! We spent the last few weeks in a lovely new RV park in Freeport, Fl., Live Oak Landing, on the banks of the Black Creek that flows into the Choctawhatchee Bay. The Park is only a few miles from where Jan grew up and, in fact, is located on the site of a fish camp where Jan’s grandfather kept a boat and often took her fishing. A childhood friend of Jan’s, Nancy and husband Frank, live only a mile from here. Nancy loves wine as much as we do and we sampled some wines together over our stay. Each wine was tasted on a different occasion, but warmly enjoyed with Jan’s old friend and some of the wines may soon make their way to our guest at the Inn.

Jan & Nancy

On our first night in Freeport, we shared a very nice bottle of 2009 Meiomi Pinot Noir.  I had the 2008 vintage in Sandwich last year and was happy to find the 2009 and share with our Florida friends at our picnic table. Meiomi is unique in that it is a blend of selected grapes from Sonoma County 47%, Santa Barbara Count 34%, and Monterey County 19%.  The name Meiomi (May-OH-mee) is descriptive of the blend as it means ‘coast’ in a Native American Indian language and the grapes are all sourced from coastal vineyards. The winemaker, Joseph Wagner, pulls off the trick of blending grapes with distinct characteristics into a great food friendly wine. This is no surprise, when you understand he is part of the Wagner Family that started Caymus and Belle Goss, two famous California wineries.

I found the Meiomi at Chan’s Wine World in Sandestin, Fl., a shop that Nancy recommended to me last year. They have an extensive selection of wines and cheeses and a very knowledgeable staff, who suggested the next wine we tasted. We stayed with pinots and shared a 2008 Block 7 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. We enjoyed this easy drinking wine with humus and crostini on Nancy’s porch. I had never heard of Block 7 and after a little research I learned it was made by Deerfield Ranch Vineyards in Kenwood, Ca exclusively for Chan’s Wine World. Since only 360 cases were made it is no wonder I have never seen it before and unfortunately we will never find it in Sandwich to serve to our guests. Oh well, at least we had the pleasure of it one time. 

The last time we did our RV Park tasting, it was around the fire pit overlooking the Black Creek. I was excited to share a 2007 Petite Petit from the Michael David Winery in the Lodi Appellation of California. I first discovered this great blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot on our way home last year in a cute wine bar in Ashville, NC. I wrote about in one of my first wine blogs and have not been able to find it since. The funny thing is I found it at the Publix’s grocery store. In Florida, food stores sell beer and wine and usually have a predictable and limited offering. The Petite Petit’s label, with it colorful dancing elephants, all but jumped of the shelf at me. It was like seeing an old friend.  

Our first stay at the new RV park was made more enjoyable by sharing wine with friends. We had ‘wine picnic table’, ‘wine porch’, and ‘wine fire pit’ and a great time. 

Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wine Tasting And Winter Travels

Florida Bound
The whirl-wind activities of the holidays and all the great guests we had at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast distracted me from my wine blogging duties. For me the opportunities for formal wine tastings diminish over the winter months as we focus on repairs and improvements to the Inn and take some much needed time off. Jan's and my life plan includes our annual Motor Coach trip to Florida to visit friends and family and recharge are batteries. Many of our guests have seen our Winnebago Aspect parked in the driveway and have heard stories from our travels.  

On a recent stay at the Salt Springs Campgrounds in Ocala National Forest in Florida, we had an accidental wine tasting. It probably will not surprise past guests from our Inn that we quickly acquainted ourselves with other campers and invited them over for ‘cocktails’ and snacks. Jack and Pat from Vermont and Ed and Margie from upper Michigan pulled up their chairs for a little conversation and libation before we all went to the live entertainment scheduled at the ‘Barn’. 

As you might suspect, I do not like to be too far from great wines. Over our years of RVing, I have taken safeguards to assure I have access to fine wines no matter how remote or rustic our camping environment may be. I have worked out special storage arrangement to guarantee I have some of my favorites with me at all times. From my mobile cellar, we started with a Ceja 2007 Pinot Noir, which I am sure no one had ever had before.

Jan and I discovered the Ceja Vineyard on our last winter trip to California where we visited many wineries to improve our knowledge, expand our pallets, and find wines for our Inn. We met the Ceja family, Amelia, Pedro, Armando and Martha, and fell in love with their red wines. With limited production and distribution, we are please when we can share these great wines, which are seldom available outside on Napa Valley.

I next served a Joseph Carr Wine’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I have enjoyed many times and about which I have blogged before. Just last summer, I tasted the 2008 Cab with Joseph Carr himself at a wine tasting sponsored by my friends from Cellar 55 Wine Merchants. Joseph’s wine is a nice Bordeaux style blend that has low tannins and is very approachable/drinkable, even when young. I think the 2005s are drinking perfectly and my camping friends seemed to really enjoy it. 

After the wonderful wine, we moved on to the live entertainment at the campgrounds’ community center, which is literally a barn. This Saturday night the venue presented a bluegrass trio called ‘The New Old Daze’.  The music from the stand-up bass, guitar, and mandolin was infectious. It reminded me of the sound track from that 2000 cult film, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’, about three haphazard depression era prison escapees lead by George Clooney. Although the Barn could be straight out of the movie, no one would confuse the band members with George or his singing.

The New Old Daze

After an interesting night at the Barn, we finished off the night with a little dark chocolate and Zinfandel. A glass of the 2008 Orin Swift Cellars Saldo Zinfandel was perfect with our Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree. This was my first taste of this big, lush Rutherford, CA zin. I am a big fan of Orin Swift Cellars ‘Prisoner’, a wonderful zinfandel blend, but will now be looking to stock Saldo as my new favorite California Zinfandel. 

Even if you are camping in the wilderness, there is no excuse for not having a great wine to share with your fellow travelers. 

Happy wine-ing,

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts