A New England Wine Dinner

Wine Institute of New England

presents

A New England Wine Dinner

with

Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez

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Join us for an unforgettable wine dinner focused on the wines and cuisine of New England. Chef Daniel will prepare a delectable 5-course meal based on seasonal native foods. Each course will be expertly paired with regional wines by WINE’s director, Renée Allen, and presented with food and wine pairing tips and techniques.

Saturday, April 11th

6:30 pm

The Crush Club

65 South Colony Road

Wallingford, CT

Menu subject to change based on availability.

Menu

Domestic Cheese, Nut & Fruit Display

paired with Hopkins Vineyard Gold Label Sparkling Wine

New England Cheddar Apricot Tartlet

paired with Sunset Meadow Vineyards Blustery Blend

Stonington Scallops on a Bed of Brussels Sprouts Sauerkraut topped with Red Pepper & Bacon Relish served with Mini Arugula Salad with Egg Crumble

paired with Sunset Meadow Vineyards Cayuga or St. Croix

Tenderloin of Beef with Twisted Connecticut Butter Emulsion Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower, Rosemary New Potatoes,  Connecticut Butter Cabernet Emulsion

paired with Jones Winery Cabernet Franc

~ Study in Chocolate ~

Mini Lava Cake with Pana Cotta Quenelle & Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Bark

Westford Hills Eau de Vie Chocolate Cherries

paired with Hopkins Vineyard Night Owl

$99.00/person

About the Chef

Chef Daniel won many awards and pleased many palates as the Executive Chef of the Norwich Inn & Spa for 11 years. One of his signature dishes made Connecticut Magazine’s 50 Dishes To Try Before You Die. In addition to his award winning cuisine and innovative approach to nourishment, Chef Daniel is well known for his entertaining hands-on cooking classes.

Uncork Your Inner Wine Expert!

Wine Institute of New England

presents

Uncork Your Inner Wine Expert!

Our 2015 Wine Appreciation Class series begins with one of our most popular classes. Learn wine tasting techniques in a fun and non-intimidating atmosphere while you try several highly rated wines. We will also share several excellent tips for optimizing your wine drinking experiences. This class will provide the information you need to feel more confident when selecting and tasting wines at home, with friends, or while entertaining clients. If you haven’t had your inner wine expert uncorked yet, you must try this class!

Offered in two locations in January!

For more information and to register, click here.

Summer Breeze, Makes Me Feel Wine…

What better way to spend the first day of summer than sipping the wines of the Southeastern New England AVA at the Coastal Wine Trail's Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival? This event was promised to be the first of several planned this year to celebrate the Southeastern New England AVA's 30th anniversary. The Wine Institute of New England left the familiar surroundings of Connecticut and headed for Westport, Massachusetts to see what the rest of New England was pouring. 

coa_int_logoThe Coastal Wine Trail weaves its way along the Southeastern New England coastline from Connecticut to Cape Cod. Each winery has its own distinct flavors and personality it brings to the trail. In attendance were ten wineries, each offering tastings of 4 wines to ensure there was something for every palate. The wineries pouring were Stonington Vineyards, Coastal Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyards, Langworthy Farm, Newport Vineyards, Running Brook Vineyard & Winery, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, Travessia Urban Winery, Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod, and Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery.

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My invitation included entry to the "Media Tent." Although it may have been the lure of V.I.P. treatment that lulled me in, it was what I found under the tent that kept me there. Along with a small showing of select wines, it was here I found the grape growers and winemakers.

IMG_1144I started off with the 2010 Chardonnay Select from Greenvale Vineyards, a perfect summer sipper. Winemaker Richard Carmichael was on hand to talk about the winery. In addition to three Bordeaux grapes (merlot, malbec and cabernet franc), and two hybrids commonly grown in this region (cayuga and vidal blanc), Greenvale is growing albariño on their 22 acre vineyard. Carmichael explained how this white grape indigenous to northwestern Spain seemed to thrive in the maritime climate at their vineyard in Rhode Island. Albariño grows in Rias Baixas within a region known as "Green Spain" due to its wet, cool climate. Planted 3 years ago, Greenvale's albariño will be making its debut very soon. I can't wait.

IMG_1136 Some cute as heck graphics caught my eye on what looked like a large bottle of beer. It was in fact a beer bottle, but it definitely wasn't beer; it was Farmer's Fizz from Westport Rivers Vineyard. Unlike the original Farmer's Fizz, this newer version of their popular bubbly was produced in the style of a Prosecco. Meaning what? It went through two fermentations, both in the tank (rather than the second one ocurring in the bottle, as in Champagne). Made from 3 chardonnay clones, pinot gris and pinot blanc, it was fizzy, off-dry, refreshing and fun. Grape grower Rob Russell told me that, although they produce excellent examples of several styles of wine, traditional method sparkling wine is the style at which this winery excels. In addition to spotlighting sparklers, Westport puts an emphasis on using estate grown grapes for their wines, the majority of which are dry.*

IMG_1142While enjoying his 100% Estate Grown 2011 Cabernet Franc, I chatted with Dave Nielson, winemaker and owner of Coastal Vineyards. Coastal produces 15 wines from their 8 (soon to be 10) acres of vines, including one from the French-American hybrid, chambourcin. Chambourcin, popular on the East coast, was commercially released in 1963 and is typically used as a blending grape due to its intense color. Chambourcin is resistant to fungal diseases, allowing the grower to use fewer chemicals. Coastal makes a sparkling wine from chardonnay and pinot noir using the traditional, or Champenoise, method. Look for this winery to release a red dessert wine this year.

IMG_1145I was happy to spot a bottle of Stonington Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorite Connecticut red wines, poised at the end of the table. Standing next to his creation was Mike McAndrew, grape grower and winemaker at Stonington. Although the winery mainly produces single variety wines a là Burgundy, France, McAndrew revealed that a pinot noir-riesling blend, aptly named "Pink Noir," is joining the lineup. While it may be a break from Stonington's more traditional offerings, it is probably not a bad marketing move. Sales of rosé wines increase every year, with imported rosés experiencing 9 straight years of double digit growth, inlcuding a 39% increase in volume in 2013. Like it or not, pink is still in. I happen to like it. (If you like pink, too, click here to sign up for our upcoming class, Looking at the Wine World Through Rosé Colored Glasses)

IMG_1138IMG_1148There were many other wines being poured that were worth a second sip. The Blessed Blend Limited Edition by Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard (owned by bangle buff Carolyn Rafaelian of Alex and Ani) was a lively, lip-smacking blend of vidal blanc and chardonnay. I also enjoyed the lineup from Running Brook. The festival coordinators broke the day down into sessions. This was great from the public's perspective as it kept crowding at tables down to a minimum. I am already looking forward to next year's festival. In the meantime, this Connecticut dweller will definitely be hitting the Coastal Wine Trail again this summer. 

To see what else the Coastal Wine Trail has in store to celebrate the Southeastern New England AVA's 30th anniversary, visit their site: CoastalWineTrail

*During my discussion with Mr. Russell, I was persuaded to visit Wesport Rivers Vineyard & Winery after the Festival. Check future posts to read about my experience there.

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Happy Anniversary to a Local AVA!

LOCAL WINERIES CELEBRATE 30th ANNIVERSARY

WITH

WINE, CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE

 

The Southeastern New England American Viticultural Appellation (SENE AVA) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Formed in 1984, this AVA brings together wineries from Cape Cod and the Islands, all the way through South Coast Massachusetts and down to coastal Rhode Island and Connecticut.  

As part of the celebration, the Coastal Wine Trail will be having a Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival this Saturday, June 21st, 2014, from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Westport Fairgrounds in Westport, Massachusetts.

The Coastal Wine Trail is comprised of 10 wineries that span from Stonington, Connecticut all the way through the Newport, Rhode Island region up towards the South Coast of Massachusetts and down to Truro, Cape Cod.  Each winery is located along the scenic Atlantic shoreline, making the Coastal Wine Trail a great 2-3 day weekend trip for sightseers and wine lovers.

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Wineries currently in the Coastal Wine Trail include Connecticut’s Stonington Vineyards, as well as Coastal Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyards, Langworthy Farm, Newport Vineyards, Running Brook, Sakonnet Vineyards, Travessia Winery, Truro Vineyards, and Westport Rivers Winery.  

“Although each winery is located within close proximity to the coast, they all have very unique identities” said Kaisa Holloway Cripps of Running Brook Vineyard.  “Each winery has a distinct atmosphere which makes the trail a diverse and interesting experience for travelers.”

All ten of the Coastal Wine Trail wineries will be serving wine tastings at the Festival. Tickets cost $25 in advance and $40 at the door. For tickets and more information, click here: Wine, Cheese & Chocolate

Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The Re(night)cap with Afterword

The nightcaps we posted are good all year long

With any of these you will never go wrong

In case you missed one we’ve reposted them here

With one afterword, coming sometime next year…

imageEpilogue: Oktopusake Premium Junmai Sake, Connecticut

On the rare occasions I’m not drinking wine with sushi, I opt for sake instead. Sake is a perfect pairing with sushi and, since it is a rice wine, I can still call it research. I was very excited to learn that there is a local company working on perfecting their own sake. Oktopusake will soon be offering three varieties of their premium junmai sake to Connecticut consumers: Sun – a traditional dry sake; Moon – an unfiltered version (think milky white and slightly sweet); and Stars – a specialty reserve sake that will be as black as squid ink because it will be tinted with, well…squid ink! We will keep you posted on Oktopusake’s progress and are very much looking forward to seeing this new local product in Connecticut stores and restaurants in 2014.

 

 

Re(night)cap: One of the questions I encounter the most as a wine educator is “What’s your favorite wine?” I confess, it’s a question I’ve come to dread because I always feel like I’m disappointing the inquisitor. My answer usually goes something like this: “I don’t really have a favorite. It depends on the day, the time of year, the company in which I find myself, and any gustatory delights with which I may be pairing the wine.”  If really pushed, I’ll tell them that I am a Champagne girl. This seems to provide them with a little more satisfaction. But the truth is my favorite wine changes on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. And I am always waiting to find my next favorite wine. The beauty of the wine world is that there is always more to explore. So, here I will present a list of my 12 favorite wines right now for drinking and gifting during the holidays, one day at a time for the next 12 days.

A Votre Santé!

For the full list of 12 nightcaps, click here: Nightcap Recap

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The 3rd Nightcap

terra-noble-reserva-carmenere-63352-pNightcap #3: Terra Noble Reserva Carmenere 2011, Maule Valley, Chile $12

Carmenère has an interesting history. It was once a regular contributor to the blends of Bordeaux. It's susceptibility to mildew, however, made it the black sheep of the family, being passed up more and more by the Bordelais for the other authorized Bordeaux grapes (including carmenere's father, cabernet franc!). Fortunately for carmenère, it was able to thrive in drier climates and found a new home in Maule Valley, Chile, where plenty of sunshine and summer warmth has brought out the best in this variety. Ironcially, global warming has some Bordeaux grape growers experimenting with their little black sheep once again.

 The grape is dark-skinned, producing deep red wines with good structure, dark berry notes, hints of mocha, and herbaceous overtones. Some have likened the flavors of carmenère to those of Indian spices. After recently tasting a bottle of Terra Noble, I said to myself, "Why aren't I drinking more carmenère?" I have no doubt you will feel the same after tasting this wine, especially at this price point. 

Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas

pgpa11_1Nightcap #2:  Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Les Princes Abbés 2011, Alsace, France $18

Allô Alsace! When Americans think about French wine, Bordeaux comes to most minds. For others, it's Burgundy. And, of course, nothing could be more French than Champagne. It seems like the cool, northeasterly region nestled between the Vosges Mountains and Germany known as Alsace is oft overlooked. But Alsace has exceptional wines, especially if you're a lover of whites, and deserves its due attention. And although one need look no further than the quality of its wine to fall in love with Alsace, this region has endeared itself to me by being home to the very first biodynamic estate in France. It is still a hotbed of organic and biodynamic grape growing today. Domaines Schlumberger practices both organic and biodynamic viticulture, and they plough and work the vineyards with the estate's four horses.

One of my favorite grape varieties from this region is pinot gris. For all you lovers of pinot grigio out there, it is the same grape. What creates the difference in taste, for the most part,  is the soil and the climate. Alsatian pinot gris tends to have more powerful, riper aromatics, and a weightier mouthfeel. This beauty from Domaines Schlumberger is no exception. The warmth of the wine is foretold by its light golden hue (the winemaker compares it to buttercups), while the titillating aromatics announce the lively grapefruit and pear flavors within, and the hint of honey that adds to the slightly creamy mouthfeel. Although historically fermented to dryness, the wines of Alsace today often contain some residual sugar due to the changing climate. This wine has a hint of sweetness to it, which provides the perfect complement to foods with a slight kick to them, such as Thai or Szechuan Chinese. I personally enjoyed it with sushi and would not hesitate to serve it as an apéritif. And who doesn't love the elegance of the flute d'Alsace, the traditional long, tapered green bottle, a reminder of Alsace's Germanic history?

Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas

One of the questions I encounter the most as a wine educator is “What’s your favorite wine?” I confess, it’s a question I’ve come to dread because I always feel like I’m disappointing the inquisitor. My answer usually goes something like this: “I don’t really have a favorite. It depends on the day, the time of year, the company in which I find myself, and any gustatory delights with which I may be pairing the wine.”  If really pushed, I’ll tell them that I am a Champagne girl. This seems to provide them with a little more satisfaction. But the truth is my favorite wine changes on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. And I am always waiting to find my next favorite wine. The beauty of the wine world is that there is always more to explore. So, here I will present a list of my 12 favorite wines right now for drinking and gifting during the holidays, one day at a time for the next 12 days.

A Votre Santé!

photo-141Nightcap 1: Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura, Jura, France $25

Sparkling wine is appropriate any time of the year, but it's especially welcome during celebrations and holidays. Besides being festive, sparkling wines are made using grapes with high acidity. This acid, as well as the bubbles, helps these wines cut through a myriad of holiday foods, including those with higher salt and/or fat contents, making them excellent mates for varied holiday hors d'oeuvres. 

This delightful sparkling wine made with 100% chardonnay grapes from the L’Etoile region of Jura is made in the same method as Champagne. It shows citrus notes and lively acidity with a lingering touch of toastiness. And oh the bubbles! The icing on the yule log? Nicole Deriaux, granddaughter of the original winemaker and now full time vigneron, practices organic viticulture. L'Etoile means "the star" in French. Quite fitting for this star of a sparkler.

 

Tasting Tips for Sipping Like a Pro

Wine Institute of New England

presents

Tasting Tips for Sipping Like a Pro

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

7:00-9:00 pm

at The Crush Club

We will review tasting techniques, discuss grape varieties and wine regions, taste several well-rated wines, and reveal six simple secrets to sipping like a pro.

$50/person

This class is limited to 30 people.

 

Join us before the class for a sparkling wine reception to celebrate 

the exciting new partnership between

Wine Institute of New England

and

The Crush Club

5:30-6:30 pm

65 South Colony Road

Wallingford, Connecticut

Entrance is at rear of building.

 

To register for the class, please visit:

www.wineinstituteofnewengland.com/wine-appreciation-classes/

Food, Fads and Fashion at the 2012 Mohegan Sun Winefest

I attended the 2012 Mohegan Sun Winefest early on Sunday hoping to avoid some of the thirsty throngs at this popular wine tasting event. Armed with my stemware, I filed in at 11:00 with other trade and press members and surveyed the room for a plan of attack. I was met with a mouth-watering display of fresh Connecticut grown fruits and vegetables displayed by Sardilli Produce and Dairy, a foretelling of the bounty that lay within.

Sardilli supports locally grown sustainable agriculture, supplying restaurants and institutions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Westchester County, New York.

I delved into my first tasting at a booth across from Sardilli called “PEEL” that was touting fine liqueurs made in Connecticut with fresh fruit. The lemons in the Limoncello may not have been locally grown, but the libation was refreshing, delicious and beautifully bottled just the same.

Refreshing liqueurs made in Connecticut by Peel.

As I moved further into the body of the room, I gazed at the sea of wine distributors hawking their portfolios.  A cursory look revealed that many of these companies were highlighting a current trend I am enjoying, the resurgence of the muscat grape.  Muscat is grown all over the world and is usually easily recognizable by its powerful aroma and grapey flavor. The fourth most planted grape in Italy (known there as moscato), it is widely used for sparkling wines such as Asti Spumante, and many countries use the grape for making sweet dessert wines. Now the muscat grape has come back into favor and can be found in every style from still white to rosé to bubbly. While I typically minimize my dessert wine tasting at events such as these, I was drawn in by a sweet little bottle of Pellegrino 2010 Passito de Pantelleria perched enticingly on the Frederick Wildman table. Made from 100% moscato, the wine was sweet without being syrupy and the stone fruit notes with just a hint of spice left me wanting another taste. However, the rapidly growing sea of sippers forced me to move on. I paused at the table of the highly recognizable brand, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, to pick up a purple-footed key chain and try their new Moscato Spumante, a fun, fruity and creamy sparkler at a good price point. In fact, Barefoot Bubbly is the most awarded California wine brand under $15.

The seductive labels of "Sweet Bitch" wines.

Further exploration of the room revealed another current trend as cleverly named wines reared their naughty heads with labels such as “Sweet Bitch,” “Sassy Bitch,” and “Mommy’s Time Out.” And while these playful names may be no more revealing of the contents within than many of the French labels the uninitiated struggle to interpret, they certainly catch the eye more quickly. I have been seeing more and more of these wine bottles on the shelves that attempt to shock, awe and delight wine buyers with attention grabbing labels. This would account for the multitude of banners that hung like an airborne celebrity A-list around the room. The well-respected names of generations of winemakers are no longer the only way to brand wine. These days, many of the names that are responsible for closing the deal on our wine purchases are recognizable from different areas of our lives – Francis Coppola (movies), Jeff Gordon, (car racing) Ed Hardy (fashion). As much as I enjoy the tattoo-esque designs of Christian Audigier, it may take me a little more time to grow accustomed to the jeans and high school jacket clad Ed Hardy rep at wine shows. One of the more successful fads they have capitalized on is sangria in a bottle. If you’re short on time and fresh fruit, pick one up and bring it along to your next picnic or barbeque.

Fashion Meets Wine at Ed Hardy Wines

Bottles of unoaked varieties, both red and white, abounded. I tried an unoaked chardonnay from the “Simply Naked” line. The idea is to allow the variety’s natural characteristics to emerge unmasked by the flavors that accompany oak aging. I found the chardonnay light and citrusy.

Always on the lookout for wineries embracing biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods, I was pleased to see some of my favorites in attendance. The wines of Grgich Hills Estate made from 366 acres of organically and biodynamically farmed grapes are always a pleasure to taste. Slocum & Sons brought along one of my favorite new discoveries, a tannat from Bodegas Carrau of Uruguay. This winery is doing some wonderfully innovative things with sustainable and organic farming. Their wines made from the lesser-known tannat grape are worthy of exploring. For those seeking something closer to home, the sole representative of the Connecticut wine industry in attendance was Jonathan Edwards Winery. In addition to pouring their Connecticut cabernet franc and chardonnay, this local farm winery was serving up some of their well-known wines made from Napa Valley grapes.

Food tables were set up along the perimeter of the room with pre-purchased food coins required to taste the culinary offerings. I enjoyed tacos from SolToro Tequila Grill and sushi from Feng Asian Bistro. Both were excellent. Although the wine tables seemed to be the main draw, there was no shortage of entertainment for food lovers in the crowd. Over the course of the weekend, a main stage on one side of the room played host to an oyster shucking competition, grape stomp, and celebrity chef demonstrations from such well-known names as Bobby Flay, Daisy Martinez and Todd English. Diehard foodies could sign up for a Celebrity Chef Dine Around on Saturday evening to see their favorite chefs cooking up a storm.

SolToro Tequila Grill

By 12:45 the thirsty throngs had indeed arrived and sipping space was at a premium. I decided to make my way to calmer territory and headed out to Todd English’s Tuscany for a wine seminar given by Aurelie Botton of Marnier Lapostolle. Lapostolle is an organic and biodynamic winery in Chile. Held in the intimate setting of a private dining room, my seminar was attended by 22 guests seated at a banquet table complete with cheese platters, table settings and 4 pre-poured glasses of Lapostolle wine. Lapostolle was founded in Chile in 1994 by Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, the creator of Grand Marnier, and is now run by his great granddaughter, Alexandra. Ms. Botton told the history of the carménère grape in Chile, at one time mistaken for merlot, and how carmenere fell out of favor in its native Bordeaux because there are too many clouds there. Apparently, a large amount of UV rays are required to dissolve the substantial quantity of pyrazine present on the skin of carmenere grapes. The climate, coupled with the fact that carménère was virtually annihilated by phylloxera in France in the 1800’s, has rendered this grape all but extinct in France. Chile on the other hand is the perfect home to this deeply crimson red, smoky, spicy variety with hints of green peppers. In fact, the introduction of carménère vines into Chile predates the phylloxera outbreak in France and therefore Lapostolle’s vines retain their original roots rather than having been grafted onto phylloxera resistant roots, as is the common practice throughout the world today.

As I soaked in the history, I sipped delightful sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and carménère wines. The wines tasted all the better knowing that the vineyards are organic and biodynamic. It is the belief among biodynamic winemakers and their followers that biodynamic viticulture results in a wine that is a truer reflection of the earth in which the grapes are grown as well as of the vines’ surroundings – often referred to as terroir. Ms Botton may have lost a listener or two as she briefly described the preparations and unusual rituals that are the heart of the process, but I soaked that in as well. Some of the best wines I have tasted are created using biodynamic viticulture. For those seminar participants who may not have been buying into the concept, there were still other wonderful and innovative techniques being employed at Lapostolle about which they could get excited such as the use of indigenous yeasts and the introduction in 2005 of their state-of-the-art 100% gravity flow winery, Clos Apalta. With the discussion about the newer winery came the grand finale, a glass of Clos Apalta wine.  This blend of carménère, cabernet sauvignon and merlot is made with whole cluster fermentation, a process similar to carbonic maceration in Bordeaux, and hand-destemmed grapes. The result is magnificent. A frequently awarded wine, Clos Apalta earned a place on Wine Spectator’s 2008 Top 100 list and was named Best New World Winery 2008 by Wine Enthusiast.

The Lapostolle seminar at Todd English's Tuscany.

 

The Mohegan Sun Winefest has something for everyone. Here you can consume delicious food, rub elbows with celebrity chefs, or experience the thrill of a live oyster-shucking contest. Wines can be found in a range of prices beginning with savvy selections for under $10 in the Grand Tasting to some of the finest wines in the world at the Elite Cru Tasting. If wine is not your passion, bourbon and beer tastings can be enjoyed as well. The Grand Tasting is a great way for the uninitiated, truly patient and/or truly thirsty to sample many different wines. For the well seasoned and less patient wine drinkers out there (I consider myself both), the seminars and special events provide more detailed information and the opportunity to engage in more detailed conversations with winemakers and wine educators.

Just pick your poison.