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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cape Cod Holiday Wine Tasting

Charlie’s Weekly inWine-ings

I consider attending wine tastings a very important part of my job as Wine Steward at our Sandwich bed and breakfast. I see it as part of my professional responsibility to find wine to serve our guest at our Sandwich bed and breakfast. My search has taken me to many different settings. We all have seen the signs in our local liquor store: Free Wine Tasting Today. Back in a corner you find a store employee standing behind a card table or better yet, a makeshift table made out of stacked wine cases offering thimble sized plastic cups of wine. The wines may be billed as a “special” purchase, which may mean a cheap deal that the wholesaler talked the store into “blowing out” the inventory. Yes, I always stop and taste.

So, what do you think I would do when I get the email that says “Tonight - The Finest Fine Wine Event Ever - 6:30 at Cotuit Liquors”?  Even knowing my predisposition to the usual liquor store tasting as I described above, the headline alone got me to open the email and read on. The hype continued with “Featuring over 20 hard to find wines that NEVER get poured, at discounted prices”. They had me hooked. In my almost 20 years of visiting and living on the Cape, I have been to Cotuit Liquors many times and know they have a wide selection of wines and some very nice high end wines.  

The tasting lived up to the hype, it was coordinated by Wendy Koder a wine consultant and featured 20 wines from the Martignetti Companies, a major wine wholesaler. Wendy and a very knowledgeable team of Martignetti and Cotuit Liquors’ employees staffed three tables. As you entered the queue, you were handed a real wine glass and a list of the wines by table. Table One was seven champagnes, from Moet to Dom Perignon, from Blanc de Blanc to Rose and priced from $74.99 to $174.99. I have had the likes of Veuve Clicquot before, but never the La Grande Dame 1998 at $149.99, which was my favorite sparkling of the night.   

Table two had a mix of seven whites and reds; the only white I tasted was the Far Niente Chardonnay 2010.  I served the 2008 at Thanksgiving and think the 2010 is also a great wine even at $51.99. I tasted four reds, two Pinots and two Merlots, ranging in price from $44.99 to $84.99. A new wine to me was the Leonetti Cellars Merlot 2009 from Walla Walla Valley Washington. It really caught my attention with a unique flavor profile, but at almost $85 it may not make to my guest wine list.

The last table was six big reds from France, Italy, Napa Valley and Washington State and priced from $74.99 to $199.99. I tasted all and was excited by my first taste of two very well known Napa Valley Cabernets, Silver Oak 2006 and Knights Bridge 2007. A real treat was tasting the 2008 Doubleback Winery Cabernet, again from Walla Walla. This is a highly rated wine, Wine Spectator 94 points, from a new winery started by Drew Bledsoe of New England Patriots’ fame. Who knew Drew was also a talented winemaker with a big future in the wine game now that he is no longer playing pro football. The website says the 2008 is sold out, but we know you can still get it at Cotuit Liquors. 

In wine, a high price doesn’t always mean it is a great or even good wine, but in this case I think it sure made a difference. I had a great time and tasted some wines I have never had before mainly because of the price point. I will be keeping my eye out for the next in-store tasting to make sure I don’t miss an opportunity to find the next great wine for my guest at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast

Happy Wine-ing & Happy Holidays

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spirits of Christmas in Sandwich, MA

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings
In the Spirit of Christmas!!!

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…’ well maybe not so much based on the weather here at our Sandwich bed and breakfast. No snow yet and another week of 50 plus degree temperatures. I think I am starting to like this global warming stuff. In spite of the weather, our historic Village is decked out for our annual celebration of Holly Days In Sandwich. This is a two-week-long event that kicks off with the tree lighting and carol sing on the first Friday of December. The town tree is across the street from the end of our driveway and the carol sing is around the corner at the First Church of Christ.

During December our quests enjoy partaking of the free festivities and we also have a weekend Christmas Package that includes tickets to ‘Gardens Aglow’ at the Heritage Museum and a special Wine and Food tasting at the Inn. You knew we would have to work wine into this somehow. Jan titled the package ‘In the Spirit’, for both the spirit of the holidays and the spirits, wine, that I like to serve our guest. I pick the wine and Jan prepares the food parings.   

I think celebrations and sparkling wines are made for each other, so I started our tasting with a Botter Prosecco, NV. Botter is a small family-owned Italian winery that has produced wines since the early 1900s. A non-vintage, NV, means they blend wines from different years to produce a predictable taste from year to year. Prosecco is to Italy, what Champagne is to France, and I think it is a great sparkling wine to start a holiday tasting.   

Some of my guests were from California, so I felt pressure as I presented some my favorite California wines from my cellar. We next went to a Mount Eden 2007 Edna Valley Chardonnay, Wolf Vineyard. Mount Eden Vineyards is located in Saratoga, CA south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz Mountains’ appellation. I tasted this wine a year ago at a Cellar 55 tasting and loved it. I have not tasted their 2008s yet, but a Mount Eden Chardonnay was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator and chosen as the 13th best wine of their Top 100 Wines of the Year 2011. I was very pleased that our California guests liked it and I am anxious to try some of the 2008s. With the two white wines, food wise we severed Lemon Humus with Flax Pita Bread and crab cakes.

As a smooth transition, I move from the California Chardonnay to a California Point Noir, the 2008 Ceja Carneros Pinot Noir. Ceja Vineyards is located in Carneros and we had the great pleasure of visiting the origianl winery in 2006 and meeting the entire Ceja family. I have been a wine club member for five years and am always happy to share these wines with guest, ususally East Coast guest, but this time even Californias who have never expereinced this great Piont. Jan prepared a wonderful bruschetta with pesto and mozzarello cheese on a Italian bread to serve with the Pinot.

I had selected another red to serve, but the caroling was starting and we all rushed to see the tree lighting. I’ll keep this last red to serve next weekend as we gladly do this all over again. Holly Days is a special time in Sandwich and we have an In the Spirit Christmas package if you would like to join us at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast.
Happy Wine-ing This Holiday Season

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wine for a Sandwich Thanksgiving

Stop Wine-ing and Be Thankful

Thanksgiving week is a wonderful week for those of us who love wine. For this special holiday I like to share great wines from my cellar with my guest at our Sandwich bed and breakfast. This is a time to be thankful and a time to share, both of which I had the opportunity to do this year. 

As a lead into the holiday, my friends at the Cellar 55 Wine Merchants hosted their annual in cellar tasting on Tuesday night. As always, they selected excellent wines to share that they felt would enhance the meal. I had the pleasure of tasting wonderful wines from Napa Valley, France and Argentina. From around the world, a wide selection of great wines is available at the Cellar to help you enjoy your holiday. Yes, this is research and work for me.  

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Belfry Bistro sponsored a very special wine tasting.  All proceeds from the tasting went to benefit the non-profit R.I.S.E. Worldwide. R.I.S.E.’s mission is ‘to be a catalyst to education, entrepreneurship, and generational change within insolvent communities’ by developing community centers in Tanzania, Africa. Chris Wilson’s son Alex is the founder and driving force behind this endeavor.  Chris, and all of us who attended, had a chance to be thankful for what we have in America and share with others across the world. And we also tasted some great wines, including a 2008 Peter Michael La Carriere Chardonnay, and a 2008 ZD Point Noir.  A chance to ‘do good’ and have a great time, another reason to love wine. 

Far Niente Winery
On the big day, we had our traditional dinner at the Inn with guests and friends. As you might expect, our friends enjoy wine as much as we do and I am thankful that Jan’s best friend Donna from Napa Valley also graciously shared some wine from her cellar with us.

To kick off our festivities, we started with a 2008 Far Niente Chardonnay and a very unique 2008 En Route Point Noir from Donna’s cellar. Far Niente in Oakville is a magnificent estate that we had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago that is best known for its classic Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet. The same Far Niente partners created En Route in the Russian River Valley to focus on the best Point Noir.  

With the heaping amounts of turkey and dressing and more sides than you can image, we served two Zinfandels from my Cellar, a 2005 Downing Family Zinfandel and the 2008 Papapietro Perry Zinfandel. California Zin is a versatile wine that can perfectly compliment the wide range of flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. I think these two, although different in style and location, Downing in Napa and Papapietro in Sonoma, each added to the bounty of food we shared.

As we lingered over our pumpkin, apple, pecan, lemon meringue, mixed berry, and sour cherry pies, and more wine, we were all thankful to be together.

Next year plan to join us for this great day of celebration at our Sandwich bed and breakfast, just miles from where they held the first Thanksgiving in 1620. Sandwich is also a great place to visit over the Christmas Holidays, we are open and would offer a warm Sandwich welcome, and a bit of wine.

Happy Wine-ing

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