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Van The Wine Man's Most Popular - 2015

Here is a recap of my most popular posts of 2015:

 Wine-O wall at Brian McClintic's Les Marchands

Wine-O wall at Brian McClintic's Les Marchands

Brian McClintic, Master Sommelier And Much More

The SOMM star talked about managing his insane schedule, promoting winemaking in Santa Barbara, and his philosophy on wine service.

Wine Talk With Rajat Parr

The two-time James Beard Award winner and extraordinary wine taster discussed his four current winemaking projects and the importance of trying different wines to expand your palate.

Dave Danhi Thinks Grilled Cheese Needs Veterans, And Wine

The man behind The Grilled Cheese Truck has ambitious and creative plans for such a simple and delicious staple of life.

Sandhi and Domaine De La Cote - Santa Barbara Stars

Rajat Parr sat me up in his tasting room to try several examples of the excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming out of Santa Barbara County.

A Visit To Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

Favorite memories from a drive up the mountain, with Paul Draper, Monte Bello assemblage, and pieces of Ridge history.  

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Are You Trying Different Wines?

If you simply like wine, should you feel the need to expand your tasting experiences? There are numerous practical reasons to do so. All your current favorites will eventually become unavailable, so you will need replacements! Then there is this advice from Rajat Parr:

 Impromptu tasting at Coppia, Portland, OR

Impromptu tasting at Coppia, Portland, OR

"The only way your palate will evolve is to taste different things. If you taste the same things every day, you’re not evolving your palate. Keep an open mind, try different things, that’s the most important thing." 

If you think you only like a limited few wines, you may be surprised at how many more wines you could be liking. Get out and try something strange, intimidating, or pink. For each wine you are drinking today, there are dozens more that you will find equally pleasing and exciting to explore and share. 

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One Year Of Wine

Today marks one year of Van The Wine Man online.

 At Peter Luger - Reservations in background

At Peter Luger - Reservations in background

It has been fun traveling from coast to coast, connecting with many people responsible for delivering outstanding wines and restaurant service. Then, meeting even more consumers like myself, and sharing our experiences. The exploration was exhilarating, and memories satisfying.

I am even more excited about the next year. This first year was about proving to myself that I could keep the blog consistent, and make it relevant. Now, I expect an upgrade, from more helpful and timely content, to greater interaction with fellow and future winos. 

Good wine, and learning all about it, continues to become more easily accessible. I will continue on the path of guiding you to memorable and satisfying wining and dining experiences, and hope you will share your discoveries. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

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Wine From Unexpected Places

Wines often surprise with unheard of grapes, but unexpected stories also surround their points of origin. Check out this delicious tour across continents:

Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2013

Made from Nerello Mascalese, grown on the "northern slopes" of Mount Etna, Sicily, the largest active volcano in Europe. Dirty and stony, for sure! - $22

Domaine de Fontsainte La Demoiselle 2013

Not so surprising a place, (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) but with antique vines planted by the Romans, on a thermal spring. A tasty blend of Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre. - $20

Campolargo Valdazar 2009

Trincadeira da Bairrada, Touriga Nacional, Baga, and Tinta Barroca grapes from Portugal. That sums it up. Ripe and earthy, with lasting length. - $20

Channing Daughters Rosato Di Cabernet Franc 2014

A Long Island, New York winery, with a reputation for experimentation. Like this Rosé made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Crispy citrus flavors and bone dry. - $20

Lieu Dit Pinot Noir Santa Ynez Valley 2013

Sommeliers like Eric Railsback flocking to make wine in the Santa Barbara area is no surprise. The volume of fantastic wines, and that they remain undiscovered by the mainstream, is another story. Bright red cherries, with acidity and a fantastic finish. - $40

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Wine Cork Conversations

The cork may be as socially impactful as wine itself. I have heaps of corks displayed or stashed in a variety of containers around my house, where their colors and names add visuals to the sharing of experiences. But conversations around these small stoppers are much greater than these conversations in my kitchen.

Corks vs "other" closures is a subject of hot debate and lobbying. Discussion carries on regarding sustainability, costs, and corked wines. While natural corks remain the preferred method of closure by winemakers, the competition is inching closer. 

Recycling and repurposing of corks appears fit to take off, with ReCork claiming to have collected over forty-nine-million. As more people drink wine regularly, expect to see additional drop-off points as cork recycling goes mainstream.

Decor and the use of corks for artistic expression is an expansive industry for both professionals and hobbyists. Just search "wine corks" on Pinterest. You could possess the ideas or designs to become the next (first?) famous cork artist of the world!

Do you have a side in the cork vs other debate,  or would you miss corks if they were only used for ultra-premium wines? What do you do with your wine corks? Post a comment, or a picture of your cork project for me to share. 

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Pour The Wine - Simple Service

Over-pouring of wine may be the norm, but what if instead there was no pouring? Recently, a server in an established restaurant opened my bottle of wine, sat it on the table, and departed. I waited a few minutes before pouring it myself, determining it had been forgotten. I kept waiting for the server to offer to refill the glass, but it was not going to happen. After removing the cork, wine service was over for the evening, and I poured the entire bottle over the course of the meal. The server handled food and water, I did not witness any other bottles of wine being served, and overall service was agreeable. I was left to wonder.

A server in a restaurant where a bottle of wine is frequently on the ticket ought to be prepared to pour it. Just not too much.

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Wine Stories - Paydirt, Paso Robles

 Going For Broke label

Going For Broke label

Patrick McNeil always brings non-traditional artistic expression to the wines he works with. An entrepreneur on the business side of wine, he was previously behind the design and marketing of The Prisoner, among others. Now with winemaker McPrice Myers, he has his own memorable brand on the market, Paydirt. The label on the current Going For Broke blend is part of a larger work of art, with another piece of the puzzle appearing on a different bottling, Reckless Abandon. Perhaps there will be additional wild-eyed labels in the series, and exciting red blends to match!

Paydirt Going For Broke 2013 - A mouthful of a red blend, with Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. A juicy balance of dark berries, medium tannins, some peppery spice, a taste of The Dirt of Paydirt, and a pleasantly lingering finish. $30

 Art on the wall of Paydirt

Art on the wall of Paydirt

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Westbank Grill - Four Seasons Jackson Hole

The Four Seasons Jackson Hole is an ultra-luxury resort in a breathtaking setting, located near the base of the Grand Teton mountain range. Somehow, Westbank Grill exceeds these surroundings by delivering an excellent wine and dining experience.

The Food: A perfectly prepared 32oz dry aged American “Kobe” Wagyu bone-in beef rib eye with grilled vegetables and roasted mushrooms with Wyoming Whiskey, rosemary, and garlic confit. Five intriguing sauces accompanied the beef, including huckleberry pudding and horseradish cream. 

The Wine: Jackson Hole Winery The Outlaw Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, a local product. Sourced from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, it showed dark fruit and a velvety smooth finish, and meshed well with the beef. The winery does production nearby, at over 6,000 feet!

The Service: A true team effort was flawless from greeting to goodnight. Several staff members seamlessly transitioned throughout the night after our initial lead server became ill. Had she  not made such a strong first impression, we would not have noticed that our service was being managed on the fly. There was no indication that anything went off-plan. 

The Atmosphere: From an open booth featuring what must be the restaurant's best view, I felt completely at ease in the large dining room. It is the epitome of a luxurious while rustic theme, with a majestic stone fireplace dominating the center of the room, and floor-to-ceiling windows on either side overlooking the mountain and ski lifts. 

Westbank Grill in Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole - 7680 Granite Loop Rd., Teton Village, WY  83025

Westbank Grill @ Four Seasons Jackson Hole Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Wine Community-Building Power of SOMM

 Passionate wine community following a  SOMM  screening

Passionate wine community following a SOMM screening

Whenever I view SOMM with people that are seeing it for the first time, the audience reaction reminds me just how emotionally-charged the film is. This is especially so with responses in a crowded theater. The amplified "Awwwws" and gasps during the scenes where the sommeliers receive the results of their Master Sommelier exams, or when we learn they are never told the correct identity of the tasting wines, are particularly stirring. These collective, engaged expressions create a warm sense of comaraderie, that everyone in the audience is going through the testing process together with the somms. 

The sense of community lingers after the film, as people gather over their glasses to compare viewing notes. Conversations carry on about the talent and commitment of the somms, how unbelievably rigorous the MS program must be, or favorite lines like Brian McClintic's "...tannins that ripped your face off!" The best observations are of how the film has inspired the viewers to taste and educate themselves about a broader scope of wines. Question and answer sessions lead to deeper discussions, with notes recorded for future reference. New friendships are initiated, with plans set in motion to share further in the mutual love of wine. Wine brings passionate people together, and SOMM escalates wine's societal effects.

SOMM is a special kind of film for wine lovers, and the show will go on: SOMM: Into The Bottle will premier as the opening feature of the Napa Valley Film Festival on November 11th, 2015. It will star many of the wine superheroes from the original cast, and if the initial teaser is any indication, the same powerful emotional impact from the first film carries on as well. Follow me for more details on the sequel as they become available.

Download SOMM or buy it on DVD

View my previous post: SOMM - The Addictively Emotional Wine Film

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Chance Meetings With Winemakers

I met Jeff and Stephanie Lippencott by chance at lunch in a hotel where we were staying. Jeff is a composer, responsible for music accompaniment to numerous top-rated television programs. Later, as I sat at the bar reading Rajat Parr's Secrets Of The Sommeliers, Jeff sat next to me, and asked what had me reading the book. I explained my passion for wine, my blog, and working to share the love. "I make wine!" he exclaimed. 

Jeff enthusiastically described cultivating a small vineyard over the past decade in Southern California, from which he now produces Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend under the One Vine Four Branches label. Stephanie recounted the depth of resources and research that have been invested in learning about winemaking. They once hired a Master Sommelier to gain entrance to and escort them through barrel rooms of the first growth chateaux of Bordeaux. Jeff is hands-on throughout the entire winemaking process of growing, harvesting, barreling, and bottling his wines, which contain only juice from his grapes. Annual yield determines whether the wines will be single varietal or blends. An early effort, the 2010 Syrah, won a gold medal in the Los Angeles Cellarmasters home winemaking competition, and a silver medal in Wine Maker Magazine's home winemakers competition. He expressed his excitement over recently receiving a shipment of new, custom-made, French Oak barrels for use with his 2015 vintage, which will be a blend appropriately entitled Maestro. While still very limited in volume, Jeff's "hobby" has grown from sharing a few bottles with friends and clients, to making sizable philanthropic gifts. 

I love to meet winemakers and hear their inspiring stories, and the surprise aspect of this encounter provided an additional thrill. It was an exhilarating conversation that came about entirely by chance, even after our initial introduction. More wines available logically means there are more people making it, so remain alert to wine-minded people you run into. You never know when that person sitting nearby is a winemaker!

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Elway's, Denver - Winning Wine And Service

Visits to two of John Elway's upscale steakhouses in Denver could not have been under more opposite circumstances, yet both yielded outstanding experiences worth repeating. 

 Elway's Downtown

Elway's Downtown

First, my wife and I were thrilled with an anniversary dinner at Elway's Downtown, inside the Ritz-Carlton. Arriving for a reservation, we were recognized and seated immediately in a cozy, semi-private booth, complete with flowers. Several members of management and staff cared for us throughout the evening, with Executive Sommelier Gail Oversteg taking the lead. She gave excellent recommendations from the wine list and food menu. A pair of truly prime steaks were perfectly prepared, and we are now loyal users of Elway's steak seasoning. Gail continued to exceed expectations throughout the evening. After I inquired about the aerator she used to decant our Burgundy, she produced a new, boxed and gift-bagged version of the device that we gladly purchased at cost. 

On another trip, we made a spontaneous drop-in to Elway's at the airport, on a game day no less. Anxious about a short layover, yet hungry for great food, we cautioned the hostess of our dilemma. She mentioned that the menu would be limited (no prime steak this trip) for such a brief meal, but assured us it could be done. Our waiter, Andrew, was aware of our time frame when he introduced himself, and reassured us we were in good shape. A strong list of wines by the glass included selections like Guigal Cotes du Rhone and Acacia Pinot Noir. The Spicy Steak Chili was exactly that, with chopped chunks of beef bringing serious heat. Andrew presented the check immediately after our meal. We were in, out, and fully satisfied in twenty-five minutes! 

Completely different experiences in scope, with identical happiness. Elway's has a high-five recommendation for wine, food, and service.

Elway's Downtown - Ritz-Carlton 1881 Curtis St. Denver, CO  80202

Elway's - Ritz-Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Missouri, The Show Me Wine State

You might not have Missouri at the top of your wine destination list, but it has much to be discovered. If you find yourself in the midwest, fall presents some of it's best wine experiences.

Missouri Is Full Of Wineries

September is Missouri Wine Month. Spread throughout the state are over one-hundred-twenty wineries, offering styles of wine to please any taste. My brother-in-law's family owns the DeLaney Vineyard and Winery in Nevada, where they produce wines from nine grape varietals, all planted and developed in a little over a decade. Ten wine trails connect the dots for day trips or weekends of tasting delight.

Grape Varietals Of Missouri

Missouri's grapes may be unfamiliar, with names like Catawba and Cayuga. There are no Cabernet or Chardonnay vineyards, but countless options emerge from the eleven grapes that excel in the state. My favorites are made from the Norton, which produces a bold, dry, red. It is the oldest native grape in the United States, with ties, like most U.S. wine subjects, back to Thomas Jefferson. Some of the best Nortons come out of Stone Hill Winery in Hermann. Historic itself, the winery has existed since 1847, and was once one of the largest winemaking operations in the country. Like many of the wineries, they offer regular tours, and host frequent special events that are open to the public.

If you need further motivation to taste and tour the wineries of Missouri, there is natural beauty to behold. Fall foliage will be breaking out in brilliant color in the coming weeks, adding to picturesque settings on rolling hills alongside rushing rivers across the state.

Missouri offers an experience with all the history, variety, and good wine as more well-known areas. You just have to imagine sipping your Seyval Blanc instead of Sauvignon Blanc while watching the sunset.

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Quenching Your Wine Thirst - 2015

Standouts from a tasting of the current portfolio of Thirst Wine Merchants.

White Wines

  1. Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste Rose 2014 - A delightful dry Rose from French varietals. $16
  2. Sandhi Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills 2013 - Becoming a regular favorite from Rajat Parr. $34
  3. SCRIBE Estate Chardonnay 2013 - Grapes from the corner of Carneros, Sonoma, and Napa, with a hint of pepper. $25
  4. SCRIBE Chardonnay Skin-Fermented 2014 - From a different clone in the same vineyards as #3, delivering a very unexpected punch. $34
  5. Gramercy Cellars Viognier 2014 - A field of daisies and baby powder. $22

Red Wines

  1. Leonetti Cellar Merlot 2013 - A Merlot leading the way?! Very dark, thick, and smooth. $84
  2. Figgins Family Estate Red 2012 - Herbaceous, then very dry and balanced. $87
  3. Chateau Angludet Margaux 2011 - The winemaker loves Petit Verdot, and this has 12%. Dark and earthy, with a hint of sweetness to finish. $45
  4. Blackbird Vineyards Arise 2012 - Dirty and chewy with strong spice. $52
  5. Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris 2012 - From hot and cool climate vineyards offering balance. Smooth with some spice. $19
  6. Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 - $18
  7. Boroli Barolo 2010 - $45
  8. Shaefer Vineyards Merlot 2013 - $53
  9. Casa Silva Carmenere 2013 - $15
  10. Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Vigneto Enrico Cialdini 2013 - Yes, Lambrusco. $18

 

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Don't Judge - Simple Service

I have a friend who is a member of the Joseph Phelps Preferred Wine Club, and has verticals of Insignia and Backus Cabernet in storage. You might not pick him out of a lineup to be the wine collector. I witnessed a server in a full-service restaurant with a solid selection of wine offer my friend every drink available except the wine list. After the list was asked for and delivered, the server highlighted only wines by the glass. For whatever reason, this server had determined my friend was not a serious wine drinker. 

A server in a restaurant with any wine program at all should have the list at the ready, if not on the table, when making introductions. After that, there are simply too many potential unknowns to judge a diner on appearance. If the server had offered the list going in, he might not have found out about my friend’s collection of wine, but he would certainly have known he was likely to order a bottle. When selling a full-service experience that is attracting sophisticated diners, it is a good rule to expect that they want your best, regardless of appearance. Or at least that they want to see your wine list.

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Half-Price Wine On Sundays At Garozzo's, Kansas City

I am rarely in favor of discounting by full-service restaurants, but Garozzo's of Kansas City has a wine promotion that works splendidly: Half-Priced Wine Every Sunday

While enjoying your Chicken Spiedini on Sunday nights, you can take your pick of Garozzo's wines for half the listed prices. It is a sizable list, with numerous Italians to choose from, and is already reasonably priced. With the Sunday discount, your bottle may be less than retail, where you may have difficulty finding some of the selections. On my original Sunday trip, I found a 1998 Anselma Barolo for $40. Already brick in color, with classic tar and roses, and a sweet finish, this was the wine that solidified my Nebbiolo love. 

Once you hit the one-hundred-dollar bottles, you get fifty-dollars off, but no wines are excluded from discounting, and Garozzo's has maintained Half-Priced Wine Sundays for many years. A great deal you can count on for wine, delicious food, and a "family" atmosphere...It is a combination that is difficult to top. 

Garozzo's Ristorante - 526 Harrison St., Kansas City, MO  64106

Garozzo's Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Extreme Accommodation - Raya At Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Solid restaurant service is often accomplished by simply accommodating a diner's request, and the best in the business know how to over-deliver on all expectations. But few achieve stunning service, which my wife and I experienced at Raya inside the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.

Ready And Willing Service

 Stunning views of the ocean 150 feet below

Stunning views of the ocean 150 feet below

We were not guests of the hotel, nor were they expecting us. It was a spontaneous visit while on a coastal drive, with expectations only of "something good at a Ritz." But it was three in the afternoon, the restaurants were closed, and it would be almost two hours before one of the bars opened. We saw a busy server inside Raya, and asked if there were anywhere on the property we could get wine and a snack. He was easy-going and engaging, appearing to empathize with our plight. He invited us into the empty restaurant, where he showed us the fantastic views of the beach and ocean below, before asking us to take a seat at a table. He said he would see what he could arrange for us.

Above And Beyond Service

When he returned with waters, he asked if we had any specific wines or snacks in mind. We were open to anything considering the circumstances, but he pressed us on wine. I mentioned that I had been on a French Syrah trend. He departed again, returning shortly with a platter of cheeses, nuts, and olives, simple and satisfying. He explained that Raya did not have any French wines by the glass, but that he had something in the works. Soon, he was back again, this time with three glasses of French reds, including a Syrah, from the neighboring wine bar. 

We were shocked at the lengths to which this lone waiter went to give us an unforgettable experience. He looked after us for over an hour, while tending to his planned duties. If this is how the Raya staff treats drop-ins, the treatment when they are actually open for business must be special indeed!

Raya, Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel - One Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point, CA  92629

Raya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A Visit To Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

I visited Ridge Vineyards' Monte Bello Estate high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains during the final assemblage of their 2006 flagship wine. I recently happened upon a supply of the wine, and enjoyed recalling one of my best winery experiences. 

Paul Draper - Legendary Winemaker

Anything Ridge begins with Paul Draper, the chief winemaker since 1969 and CEO since 1988. Draper is one of the most-decorated winemakers in the world, including the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits, which he won shortly before my visit in 2007. He is an advocate for quality and transparency in winemaking, and Ridge has listed all ingredients on their labels since 2012. It was intriguing to have a conversation with Paul at ease in his element. With one of wine's greatest resumes, he remains eagerly hospitable. When setting up my visit, I copied three Ridge employees on my request email, and who do you think replied first and most-graciously? That's right, Paul Draper. 

Monte Bello Assemblage

Tasting the individual components of the 2006 Monte Bello was extremely interesting, with guidance from Ridge vice president of winemaking for Monte Bello, Eric Baugher. A Santa Cruz-area native who grew up farming before earning degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology, Baugher has been with Ridge since 1994. During the tasting, he explained in depth the constantly-refined science of winemaking at Ridge. The Monte Bello is a Bordeaux-style blend is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc grapes, all grown on the Monte Bello Estate. Draper likes to say, "Wines make themselves", and the cool, mountain-top climate and terroir undoubtedly "make" this standout wine as much as the winemakers.  

Ridge Vineyards and Wine History

2006 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the famed Judgement of Paris, where the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello placed fifth. It was celebrated with a re-tasting of the same wines from the seventies, and this time around, the Monte Bello lead the way for the now dominant American wines. The 2006 version is promoted as a "direct descendant" of the winning wine.  But sentimental feelings for the 2006 aside, any year is likely to impress. At the assemblage tasting I also savored a couple of glasses of the 1978. Browned at the edges, yet bright and fresh, with a fantastic(!) taste of forest floor, this library selection was still very much alive. Always concentrated and complex, Ridge Monte Bello is built to please now or for the long-haul.

Along with the excellent wine and conversation, the humility and commitment to great wine at Ridge must be appreciated. During my visit, there was not a peep of the accolades from the thirty-year anniversary of the Judgement, nor Paul Draper's James Beard Award. All talk was about the current and future wines. If you have the opportunity, take the long, winding road up the mountain to Ridge, a unique and memorable wine experience.

Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello - 17100 Montebello Road, Cupertino, CA  95014

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Italian Wine Food And Family - Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas

Jimmy's Food Store is a family-owned neighborhood market, situated in Old East Dallas between Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville. The history is what you would imagine of an Italian family business, passing from one generation to the next, and focusing more, then completely, on Italian food and wines. The tempo of the staff is fast-moving and straightforward, brief but complete with information and recommendations. There is a melting pot of customers roaming about at any given time, grocery shopping, picking up lunch, eating in the store, and drinking wine! 

Italian Market, Butcher, and Deli

 Hot Italian Sausage

Hot Italian Sausage

The grocery and butcher stand are packed with imported Italian products and fresh foods. Pastas, gravy, bread, produce...Try a few cuts of Piemontese beef on your grill. And if you are not waiting until later, be sure to experience a sandwich from the deli. Hot Italian Sausage, with cheeses, sweet peppers, and onions is my pick. There is the Italian Stallion, Muffuletta, even a Cuban, all made fresh and delicious. You can find a seat at a table in front of the store, soak up the bustling activity and conversation going on around you, and savor your sandwich with a glass of wine.

Wine...Italian Wine

Yes, wine is served by the glass in the store. Very good wine, for a price of four dollars. It comes from a large-format bottle or box behind the counter. But the real wine fills several aisle of the market. Almost any Italian varietal is available, with a full-range but still at very reasonable prices. And there are only Italian wines. There will always be several bargain picks, perhaps a half-price table, and potentially significant discounts on some great Barolos, Brunellos, and Amarones. This is one of the reasons you want to subscribe to the newsletter below. Depending on timing, you might find autographed bottles in the racks from famous winemakers that have visited Jimmy's.

Winemaker Dinners

Jimmy's regularly hosts influential figures in Italian winemaking for dinners in the Circolo del Vino, the wine room. "Generous" is the best description of these events, which are open to the public. It is an opportunity to meet and learn from some of wine's big names, and socialize with a group of like-minded Italian wine lovers. Several food courses are accompanied by even more wine courses, in a festive atmosphere, at a steal of a price. There might be door prizes, or a bottle of wine to go for everyone. The email newsletter is the way in to these events.

You are not likely to simply run across Jimmy's unless you are looking for it. If you happen to be in or passing through Dallas, scout it out in advance. You will be pleased with the effort!

 

Sign up to receive email invitations to winemaker dinners, wine and food specials, and more from Jimmy's.

Jimmy's Food Store - 4901 Bryan Street, Dallas, TX  75206

Jimmy's Food Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Carny Tactics Are Not For Restaurants

I am all for a trip to the fair, especially with wine increasingly available at such events. But use of the refined techniques witnessed in food stands and gaming booths in a full-service dining establishment is unexpected and irritating. I recently experienced a complete assault of carny activity in one setting.

  • Front Man - There was a man on the street in front of the restaurant, quietly hailing passers-by to come inside, where they could "be seated immediately". I attempted to keep walking, but when my wife and I paused to look at the menu, we were gently, enthusiastically herded inside. We saw the presumed maitre d' pass the man cash as we were seated and he returned to the street.
  • Purveyor of...Wine - A server approached promptly, inquiring if we would be interested in wine with dinner. An extensive pitch ensued, proclaiming the variety of wines available, the deals that were offered, but most-strenuously the popularity and value of the house wines. I asked what the house wines were. "Red and white", was the answer. I asked the varietal of the red, so he insisted on bringing a taste. He returned with a new bottle, opened it without presenting it to us, and poured us both full glasses. At no time did he offer a list of the great selection of wines. We tasted the wine and accepted the bottle. 
  • Flower Petal-er - On the heels of the wine man was what can only be described as a sweet little old lady with a bouquet of fresh flowers. "Flower for the beautiful lady?" Ten dollars was the price for the single rose, but Wife of Wine Man was smiling.
  • Accordion Player - Throughout the evening, an elderly gentleman made his way from table to table to bar, and back again, playing the same three tunes on his accordion. When he arrived at our table, while asking if we could play a song for us, and pausing thoughtfully before choosing one of his three songs, he never broke eye-contact with my wife. Another ten dollars.
  • Photographer - After our meal, while I was already anxious for the check, we were approached by a gentleman who offered to take our picture, saying only, "Picture?" I declined. Apparently not understanding, he continued, repeating again, "Picture?" We accepted the Polaroid, for the small sum of ten dollars.
  • Gratuity Included - After an extended wait, our server presented the check, which included a twenty-percent tip, then promptly disappeared. The manager, who thus far had hovered over the dining room the entire evening, was also missing. I waited briefly, then paid the check with cash, down to the penny.  

It was as though a team of carnies separated from their circus had taken control of this restaurant. I was a willing participant, and have no excuses. But afterward, all I could think about was the inattention by the server, which was apparently intentional to allow for the interruptions by the regularly-scheduled peddlers. And that I paid forty dollars more than I had planned for this "experience". The only positive was that my wife thought the side show was fun, and hung the photo in her office. Should I encounter another operation of this sort, I will do my part by avoiding it. Hopefully such tactics are relegated to the midways of amusement parks.

Have you experienced a borderline con in a restaurant? 

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Lessons With Wine Exploration

Always eager to try a different style of wine, I was excited when friends brought me straight from Germany a bottle of Schreieck Faszination Scheurebe Trocken 2014. The wine was a treat, but more, it made me think of all the lessons to be learned while exploring the background of just one bottle:

  • Fun with Languages - There were a minuscule twelve-thousand search returns for "weingut schreieck", and almost none in English. Site translation proved helpful to an extent, and reasoning on a variety of unfamiliar German words and phrases proved challenging, but intriguing. The Faszination line appears to describe wines that are as elegant and "delightful as you are". Also the description might read "good for happy hours", and "especially at night".
  • Underlying and Unexpected Flavors - I felt this particular bottle was dominated by a thick layer of grapefruit. This is apparently common with wines from the Scheurebe grape, a mysterious offshoot of Riesling. The winery promotes gooseberry and rhubarb notes. My tongue is not keen enough to recognize such specific flavors, but they made sense after I read the literature. Interestingly, a search finds everything from Pinterest boards to toiletry product lines of "grapefruit and gooseberry". Who knew?
  • (More) Level Playing Field - Almost hidden in the description is the wine's Silberne, or Silver Kammerpreismunze, a German state's Chamber of Agriculture-awarded medal for wine quality. It appears Germany attempts to reward quality in the glass, rather than location, tradition, etc. It would be interesting to see how an overarching, state-run, wine ratings system would be received in America.

These are only a few of the interesting references available on the web about a somewhat obscure wine. Much like wine choices, information about wine has never been more available. And, I had as much fun reading up on the wine as drinking it. What do you like to learn while wine-ing around?

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