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Seafood Expo North America: Why You Should Go

Date: Wed, Feb 19, 2014 Wine Tasting

Grab your snorkel and mask, watch old episodes of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and get ready for the Seafood Expo North America(SENA), which is returning to Boston from March 16-18. I'll definitely be there, my fifth year of attendance, but will you?

If you are a writer, and cover any topics related to seafood, from recipes to sustainability, then I strongly encourage you to attend. As I have said before, "the seafood show is fertile soil for a myriad of story ideas as each exhibit booth has its own unique and interesting story." Any writer who attends this show should easily find the seeds for at least a dozen stories, and likely many more.

SENA is a huge trade show, and there will be over 1000 exhibitors, from over 40 countries, showcasing a wide diversity of products and services. This is an excellent place to learn more about a myriad of seafood issues, to talk to numerous seafood businesses, to explore the seafood industry. You can learn more about different countries, such as by visiting the Japanese Pavilion. In addition, the show is fun, with plenty of delicious seafood samples, from lobster to oysters. Ever had salmon bacon? Fried alligator? You never know what might be available to sample at SENA.

We all know that seafood is at the crux of some of the most important food issues in the world. The range of seafood topics touches on so many crucial matters, from sustainability to health. Not only is it delicious, but it provides numerous health benefits. It is integral to the economic health of many local businesses, from fishermen to restaurants. The potential extinction of certain fish species is a major concern that needs to be addressed. These are all issues which need more coverage by the media, and which you can make your own contributions.

Why do I care? First, I view our local writers and bloggers as a community and I believe we all benefit by helping each other, giving recommendations for excellent events. Second, I feel that seafood is a vital topic which more people need to write about so that we raise attention to all of its urgent issues. That will benefit all of us in many ways. It is with greater exposure and cooperative efforts that we can cause change in the seafood industry.

As an added incentive, iPura, a food safety company, is holding their 4th Annual iPura Tweet & Blogfest. The concept is for local bloggers to tweet and blog about SENA and then their writings will be assessed by an impartial judge.You will be judged on the quality, content, creativity/originality, number of entries, and depth of your tweets and blog posts concerning SENA. The Winner receives a prize of $1000! Certainly a worthy prize and I am proud to say that I won last year's competition. Of course I will be entering the contest again, to try to maintain my crown, and I encourage all local bloggers to toss their hats in the ring too and try to win.

And as another incentive, SENA is also held in conjunction with the New England Food Show, where you will find a plethora of food and drink related products and services, from wine to cheese, spirits to locally produced foods. You can easily visit both shows, and the Food Show will give you fodder for even more stories. If you go to both of these shows, you won't be able to complain about writer's block for months at least.

So I hope to see you this year at the Seafood Expo North America. And if you want to read more about SENA, check out my posts from last year's show.

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Fish Restaurant: Calamari, Sword Fish Chop & Bacon Beignets

Date: Tue, Feb 18, 2014 Wine Tasting

American seafood consumption has been on a decline, and annual consumption is significantly lower than the USDA recommendations. This is despite the fact that eating seafood twice a week reduces the chances of dying from heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., by 36%. There is a mountain of scientific evidence supporting that health statistic so why aren't Americans paying attention? It is imperative that Americans eat more seafood and dining atFish Restaurant & Wine Barmay help motivate you.

TheFish Restaurantis located in Marlborough, easily located on Route 20, and it is only about 30 miles from Boston. You might think Marlboro is too far to go for dinner but it is well worth the short trip. And you could sit in Boston traffic for the same amount of time that it would take you to reach Marlboro. If you live north of Boston, it is easy to get to Marlboro by taking Route 128 South to Route 20 West. Route 20 West has plenty of shops, wine stores, restaurants, and other sights, and would make for a great spring or summer jaunt, ending with dinner at Fish Restaurant.

The restaurant was once named Coral Seafood and there is still a second location of Coral Seafood still existent in Worcester. Fish Restaurant is owned byGeorge Voyiatzis, the son of Ted and Georgia Voyiatzis who originally owned Coral Seafood. Their other son,Jim, operates the Worcester restaurant, which is more of a "mom & pop" place. Fish Restaurant was a rebranding, an attempt to make a bit more upscale restaurant, but still very approachable. I was invited as a media guest to check out the restaurant, to see what it is all about. I left, well sated and impressed with what I found at Fish Restaurant.

You will find an elegant ambiance, but is far from pretentious. You can sit at the long, well-stocked bar, or at one of the tables in the bar area. Or you can choose to sit in the dining room, at one of the tables of the large semi-circular booths. It has a capacity of around 150 people, doesn't feel over crowded and sound levels seems under control. There is a more private section of booths and tables which also can be used for large groups.

Approximately a year ago, Fish Restaurant hired a new executive chef, Sasha St. Germain, who had previously been their guest chef at a winemaker dinner. Sasha is originally from the Ukraine and has worked at some top restaurants in New York City, including Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant, and Marcus Samuelsson's Riingo and Aquavit. He is still a young chef, and despite a bit of a shy nature, there is clear passion within him. You can see the roots of his Ukranian upbringing in some of his cuisine, especially his love for pickling. He also embraces the use of local, seasonal and more natural ingredients.

As their primary focus is seafood, they regularly send their own truck down to the Boston Fish Pier to purchase fresh fish. As theVoyiatzisfamily has a long history with seafood purchasing, they are very knowledgeable as to how to select and buy the best seafood. The restaurant's menu changes regularly, dependent on what seafood is seasonal and available. They also try to be sustainable, understanding that is not always easy to do. In addition, they try to purchase only organic meat, which is locally obtained if possible. Their produce also tends to be seasonal, and local when available. The most popular seafood at their restaurant tends to be scallops.

Ian Nal, is the General Manager and Beverage Director, in charge of the cocktail and wine list. He is originally from Belize, a certified sommelier, and has also worked in a number of top New York City restaurants. Ian selected and explained the wines we had accompanied to our dinner, and was personable, knowledgeable and an engaging conversationalist. He has crafted an intriguing and diverse beverage program for Fish Restaurant.

You'll find 6 beers on tap, nearly all from Massachusetts breweries, and about 11 beers by the bottle and 1 hard cider. There is a fully stocked bar and their special cocktails, priced $9-$10, are seasonal, and currently center on Winter cocktails. I started the evening with the Spanish Armada (pictured above), which is made from Torres Gran Reserva 10 year old Brandy, Fig Puree and Lustau East India Sherry. It had a prominent dried fruit and fig flavor, with some nutty elements. It was nicely balanced, without being too sweet, and I could have easily drank a few of these. I also tasted one of their forthcoming Spring cocktails, the Shy Geisha, which is made with Korean Soju. Once again, it was a well balanced cocktail, with only a mild sweetness. The Spanish Armada was a hearty choice for a cold, winter evening, while the Shy Geisha was lighter, a promise of the spring.

I was enamored with the diversity of the wine list, its intriguing blend of classic grapes and more obscure ones. They offer about 28 wines by the glass, priced $8-$19 though most range $8-$10. You'll also find over 100 wines by the bottle. You'll find plenty of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also intriguing grapes like Bobal, Pinot Meunier, Godello, and Gruner Veltliner. Pricing is generally reasonable, and you'll find plenty of bottles priced under $50. Wine lovers will love exploring the options on this wine list. Showing its devotion to their wine program, the restaurant's staff receives wine training every two weeks.

Fish Restaurant serves both lunch and dinner, and is open seven days a week. The menu has a Raw Bar, with items such as cherrystone clams, lobster tail, and shrimp cocktail. There are also at least 5 types of oysters, most local and priced at $2.25 each. The Dinner menu includes Soups (2 choices at $8 each, like Clam Chowder), Salads (2 choices at $7-$8), Appetizers (9 choices at $10-$17), New England Favorites(3 choices at $21-$27, all fried seafood selections), Lobsters (4 choices at $25-$43), Meats(4 choices at $23-$31, beef & chicken), Surf & Turf (2 choices at $39-$43), Seafood (8 choices at $20-$30), Vegetarian (2 choices at $18-$20), Sandwiches (2 choices at $14-$21), and Sides (9 choices at $4-$8).

The menu offers plenty of choices, without overwhelming the consumer, and most of the selections are under $30. As you can see, the focus is on seafood but there are plenty of options for those who don't want seafood. Remember too that the menu changes on a regular basis, and there will likely be specials, dependent on what is available each day.

We began our meal with a Shellfish Sampler ($17), a selection of oysters, cherrystone clams, and jumbo shrimp. I'veranted before about the disturbing fact that the U.S. imports an astounding 91% of their seafood, and I have implored Americans to eat more domestic seafood. Imported shrimp is one of the largest components of this statistic. Fortunately, Fish Restaurant uses only domestic Gulf shrimp, which earns them special kudos from me. And they were good-sized and delicious, with an excellent, firm texture. The oysters and clams were very good too, each with their own unique flavor. A fine way to begin our dinner.

Our first wine of the evening was the 2010 Olivier Leflaive Aligote, a crisp and clean wine with strong minerality and hints of apple. It was an excellent match for the raw seafood, especially the briny oysters.

Our meal progressed onto some more raw seafood. The Scallop Crudo was made with a watermelon ponzu, black garlic, dill, and cantaloupe pearls. Tender scallops were enhanced by the sweetness of the black garlic, and the acidity of the ponzu helped to balance out the dish. A dish I would order again.

The Ahi Tuna Ceviche was made with an avocado mousse, sweet pickled jalapeno, and a blood orange vinaigrette. Again, the fish was silky and tender, and the fatty avocado was balanced by the acidity of the blood orange, and the mild heat of the jalapeno.

Our next wine was the 2011 Domaine Barmes-Buecher "Rosenberg" Pinot Blanc, an Alsatian wine from a Biodynamic producer. It was more full bodied, with a nice acidity, and an intriguing mix of peach and herbal notes. Alsatian white wines are excellent choices for seafood.

Moving on to a few appetizers, the Crispy Calamari ($10), with cherry peppers & miso aioli, was one of the best fried calamari I have ever tasted. The coating was clean and crisp, and the calamari could not have been any more tender. It melted in your mouth and I could have inhaled the entire dish. Even if you think you dislike calamari, this dish will change your mind. Highly recommended.

The Grilled Octopus ($12) also impressed me. Made with sherry-braised beets, radish, and green goddess dressing, the tentacle pieces were very tender, with a nice smoky flavor. It is clear the kitchen knows how to properly prepare squid and octopus to ensure it is tender and not rubbery. It is a positive sign of the quality of the kitchen.

One of the non-seafood dishes, the Duck Rillettes($11) are topped by a red grape gelee and accompanied by cornichons and pickled onions. Smearing the rillettes on the bread, it made for an earthy and savory spread, with a little sweetness from the gelee. It was smooth and flavorful, and a nice departure from all the seafood we had enjoyed so far.

The 2011 Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunierwas light and fruity, with a mild touch of earthiness and spice. I've previously enjoyed older vintages of this wine, and there has apparently been some changes in their winemaking in recent years, such as the use of carbonic maceration. I liked this wine though, seeing it as similar to some lighter Pinot Noirs.

As one of our entrees, we had the Diver Scallops($23) which have roasted fingerlings, romesco sauce, hazelnuts, and a bacon-shallot marmalade. Individually, each component worked well, and the scallops were cooked just right. However, I think there were too many components on this dish, though maybe it was more the presentation that didn't work for me. Specifically, I didn't think the romesco and marmalade worked well together. As the dish was presented, it almost seemed as if all the elements were intended to blend together. If the scallops and marmalade had been separated from the potatoes and romesco, I would have enjoyed it much more.

The Braised Short Rib ($26), with rutabaga puree, braised cippolini onions, and trumpet royal mushrooms, is for the non-fish lovers though it would please anyone. The short rib is braised for about six hours and later pressed down into large squares of very tender and flavorful meat. For a carnivore like myself, this was a compelling dish.

The highlight of the entrees was the Swordfish Chop, a special entree which is not always available. As there are only two chops on a swordfish, availability is limited and the preparation varies all the time. We had the chop topped by a chimichurri sauce, and it was meaty, moist and tender. This was a huge hunk of fish, and it was cooked perfectly, with a delectable sauce enhancing the natural flavors of the fish. Another highly recommended dish, and you might even want to call ahead before your dinner reservation to have them save you a chop.

With these entrees, I greatly enjoyed the 2009 Bodegas Mustiguillo Mestis, a Spanish red blend made of 50% Bobal, 30% Tempranillo and a mix of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. An interesting melange of flavors, including red and blue fruits, hints of spice, and a touch of smokiness. Smooth and easy drinking, but with plenty of complexity. A nice accompaniment to hearty dishes and beef.

The Dessert menu has 6 choices, priced $8-$12, and includes items from a Pear & Cranberry Cobbler to a Cheese Plate. We had two of those selections, including the Chocolate Ganache a L'Orange ($8.50) which comes with a citrus salad & lime ricotta. This dish was elegantly presented, and the chocolate was rich and creamy, with a crunchy vanilla tuile. Big enough to share, it will satisfy your sweet tooth.

My favorite though was the Cinnamon Bacon Beignets ($8), a mound of small, donut holes covered with cinnamon and bacon dust. It is accompanied by a bacon, maple caramel dip which enhanced the light, fluffy donuts. It was more of a subtle dip, without any flavor overwhelming the others. These beignets are addictive, and it is far too easy to pop one after another into your mouth, no matter how much you ate for dinner. A highly recommended dessert.

With dessert, we had a fine choice, the Blandy's 5 Year Old Malmsey Madeira. A nice, balanced taste of dried fruits, nuts, caramel and honey. More people need to enjoy Madeira.

The restaurant possesses an admirable philosophy on sourcing, attempting to be sustainable, seasonal and local, balanced by the difficulties and practicalities of operating a restaurant. Their beverage program is also admirable, with seasonal cocktails and an intriguing and diverse wine list. Kudos to Ian for all his work in regards to the cocktails and wine. The food is prepared well, and the quality and quantity of each dish is compelling. Kudos to Chef St. Germain for his work in the kitchen, and retaining him as their new Executive Chef was a great idea. I cannot wait to return to Fish Restaurant, to check out lunch and other items on the dinner menu. It garners my highest recommendation and I strongly encourage my readers to check it out.

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Rant: A Vinous Indiana Jones

Date: Mon, Feb 17, 2014 Wine Tasting

Raiders Of The Lost Ark was a major hit, becoming the highest grossing film in the U.S. in 1981. I remember seeing this movie in the theater, and felt transported as the adventure progressed upon the great screen. The film evoked a sense of wonder, presenting a story of exploration and discovery, an adventure that traveled to exotic, foreign lands. It presented a mystery, which led to research into ancient traditions and cultures. There were negative forces that wanted to assert a monolithic thinking upon the world, to crush any desire for diversity.

I feel like a vinous Indiana Jones.

In a recent rant, Robert Parker lashed out against those who enjoy, promote and advocate for more esoteric grapes. He referred to them as "...some godforsaken grapes that, in hundreds and hundreds of years of viticulture, wine consumption, etc., have never gotten traction because they are rarely of interest.." He continued to say that such wines are "...in truth, rarely palatable unless lost in a larger blend..." I think Parker has lost that sense of wonder about wine.

To me, a large part of wine is exploration and discovery, the adventure of seeking out the vast diversity in wine, including many hundreds of different grapes. That exploration has taken me to wine regions all over the world, and back thousands of years in history, seeking the origins of rare grapes. It is the mystery of these esoteric grapes which beckon to my soul, which cry out for tasting and investigation. Like Indiana Jones, I am off on a vinous adventure, resisting the negative forces trying to impose their narrow minded thinking upon the world.

I have long been a champion and advocate of more esoteric wines, grapes and regions. I like supporting the underdog. However, I only support those wines which I feel are worthy. I don't just support a wine or grape because it is obscure. It must be delicious and compelling, interesting and palate pleasing. And unlike Parker, I have found many excellent wines produced from more esoteric grapes. For example, this past weekend, I tasted intriguing wines made from grapes like Mtsvane, Krakhuna and Saperavi. Such wines have earned my support.

None of that means I ignore the classics, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. I have immense respect for them, though we all know there is plenty of rather uninspiring wine made from these grapes too. During this past weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed some exceptional wines from Burgundy, both white and red. One can enjoy both classics and the esoteric. One doesn't have to choose one over the other.

There are calls for diversity in all aspects of our society now and the wine world should be no different. We want to see more women and people of color involved in the actual wine industry, as winemakers, winery owners, sommeliers, and more. We should also seek more diversity in the wines we drink. Enjoy Chardonnay, but also understand the wonders of Godello, Arinto and Rkatsiteli. Embrace Cabernet Sauvignon but don't ignore Mencia, Touriga Franca and Caladoc.

Not every wine seeks to attain the lofty heights of Romanée-Conti. Some just want to provide a compelling and tasty wine that delivers on its price. Esoteric grapes can produce plenty of wines exactly like that. And we may never know the potential heights they can reach unless there is more experimentation with such grapes. A hidden gem might be hiding in a remote vineyard, a grape that has almost been forgotten but with vast potential. It is the folly to think we know everything about wine and which grapes make the best wine.

For me, I want to continue on the path of Indiana Jones, exploring everything that the world of wine has to offer.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Feb 13, 2014 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1)Restaurateurs in Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Seacoast are looking ahead to Spring and the latest edition of Restaurant Week Portsmouth and the Seacoast. Sponsored by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, this Spring celebration will take place Thursday, April 3 – Saturday April 12, and will feature restaurants located in Portsmouth and throughout the Seacoast.

Whether you’re a local resident or a traveler, you can find what you are looking for in Portsmouth and the Seacoast, said Valerie Rochon, Tourism Director for the Chamber. “Want to shop our independent stores or rich gallery scene before dinner? Take in dinner and a show? Stay the night in one of our charming hotels? Portsmouth and the Seacoast have it all. And, if you are new to the area, Restaurant Week is a great way to introduce yourself to this charming, culinary destination.

Participating Restaurants, to date, include: Agave Mexican Bistro; Anneke Jans; BG's Boathouse; Blue Mermaid; British Beer Company; Café Nostimo; Carriage House; Cava Tapas & Wine Bar; Common Man; Dolphin Striker; Epoch at Exeter Inn; Galley Hatch; Grill 28 at Pease; Jumpin' Jays Fish Café; Library Restaurant; Martingale Wharf; Mombo Restaurant; Moxy; Orchard Street Chop Shop; Portsmouth Gas Light Co.; Radici Restaurant; Ristorante Massimo; River House; Rosa Restaurant; Rudi's Portsmouth; Harbor's Edge; Three Chimneys Inn; Vida Cantina; and Wellington Room.

2) This Valentine’s Day relive the past while making new memories at Hyatt Regency Cambridge’s renowned Spinnaker restaurant. On February 14, from 6:30PM to 9:30PM, the Hyatt is opening up the doors to the Charles View Ballroom, once the home of Spinnaker Italia, Boston’s only rotating restaurant, for a classic $70 prix fixe Valentine’s Day dinner as a nod to the romance and celebration that Spinnaker evoked.

Spend Valentine’s Day taking in the same vast and impressive views that once ushered in countless special events, engagements, birthdays and anniversaries while indulging in a variety of dining stations, operated by expert chefs. Containing a classically inspired raw bar and contemporary, New England-style dishes; including, oven roasted, garlic beef tenderloin; creamy Arborio rice with cabernet sauvignon, prosciutto and Romano Reggiano cheese; and white chocolate crème brûlée. The Spinnaker pop-up will also include signature Spinnaker cocktails as a toast to days not long forgotten.

Located on the sixteenth floor and known for its vast and impressive views of the Charles River and Boston skyline, the Spinnaker restaurant rose to fame when it opened in 1976. Evolving from a lounge to host a variety of cuisines, including northern Italian and regional inspired fare, the Spinnaker served the public for 28 years before closing its doors in 2004.While the original Spinnaker has lost all ability to in fact “spin” the renovated meeting room space, today known as the Charles View Ballroom, will transport you back in time as you walk the circumference taking in the sweeping views of today.

To make a reservation please call 617-492-1234

3)Chef & Owner Anthony Caturanois reprising his popular Gravy Sundays weekly culinary series at Prezza. Keeping in the longstanding Italian tradition of family and food, “Gravy Sundays” provides a menu of Old World-style comfort cuisine with a new special each week, served Sundays from 4pm-9pm.

Prezza’s “Gravy Sundays” menu has six homestyle options including: Gnocchi (San Marzano tomato, parmigiano - $14/$28); Meatballs (tomato, tagliatelle - $14/$28); Fried Clams (cherry peppers - $14); Linguine alle Vongole ($14/28); Veal Saltimbocca (spinach, roasted potatoes - $26); and, Chicken Parmigiano (tagliatelle, San Marzano tomato - $26).

Over the next six weeks. Chef Caturano will dish out an additional special to celebrate the return of the Prezza tradition:
February 9: Tagliatelle (pecorino cheese, black peppercorns - $14/$28)
February 16: Porchetta (roasted potatoes, braised kale - $28)
February 23: Eggplant Parmigiano ($14)
March 2: Roasted Veal Breast (stuffed with ricotta and broccoli rabe - $28)
March 9: Ricotta Gnocchi (sausage, broccoli rabe, Taleggio - $14/$28)
March 16: Pork Cheek Ravioli (aged balsamic - $14/$28)

4) On Monday, March 17, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, A Spoonful Of Ginger will offer guests the opportunity to taste the cuisine of 24 of Boston’s restaurants at the beautiful Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Guests will enjoy an evening of gourmet dishes prepared by some of Boston’s most renowned chefs, including David Becker, Joanne Chang, Andy Husbands, Kevin Long, and Jasper White. I have been to this event numerous times and it is a great and tasty time.

Proceeds benefit Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI), which strives to enhance the quality of life and health outcomes for the rising number of Asian Americans living with diabetes, as well as working with Joslin in their commitment to finding a cure. This year’s event will honor the Director and Founder of the AADI and Joslin Diabetes Center’s Director Research, Dr. George King, for his contributions to the AADI’s mission and his active role within the Asian American community.

COST: Tickets are $250 per guest
FOR TICKETS: Call 617-309-2512, e-mail Kevin.Hudson@joslin.harvard.edu or visit: www.joslin.org/ginger

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Mutemuka Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu: The Rarity of Organic Sake

Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2014 Wine Tasting

Organic Sake is a rarity, largely due to the nature of rice agriculture in Japan. Most rice is cultivated on hillside terraces where water filters down through the terraces from the top of the hill. Thus, if you want to be organic, all of your neighbors above you on the hill must also be organic, or their water would corrupt your efforts. Plus, it can be difficult if your close neighbors use pesticides, which can easily blow in the wind onto your terraces.

In addition, Japan has strict regulations concerning organic Sake, not only in the fields but also in the brewery itself. It takes a great commitment to become organic. You must also realize that yields of organic rice paddies are approximately 50% less than ordinary paddies, and organic production costs are about 25% higher. It isn't cheap to be organic, especially considering that rice is often the most expensive element in Sake production.

You may have seen some organic Sakes at your local shop but many of those actually use organic rice sourced from California. I previously reviewed one of the few organic Sakes that actually used organic rice from Japan. We must also understand that a Sake may be organic but hasn't received certification from the U.S.yet. It can be a confusing situation for consumers who seek out organic Sake.

Earlier this week, I drank an intriguing Sake from an organic producer, another excellent addition to the portfolio of The Floating World, a small Sake importer based in New Mexico. I previously ravedabout this importer and several of their compelling Sakes, and they sent me a sample of their newest acquisition.

The Mutemuka Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu ($76/720ml) is produced by the Mutemuka Shuzo, which is located in the Kōchi Prefecture and was founded in 1893. The term "mutemuka" roughly translates as "a Sake made with pure intentions, without ornamentation." About 30 years ago, the brewery introduced organic farming to its rice, even though neighboring farmers weren't happy with his decision. TheKōchi Prefecture is well known for its numerous rivers and Mutemuka sits close toShimanto River, famed for its purity and sometimes called "the last clear stream of Japan." Using water so pure only adds to the value of organic Sake.

As an aside, Mutemuka also makes shochu, a distilled liquor, and they produce a special type, kuri-jochu, chestnut shochu. This is supposed to be a smooth drink, and one will improve with age.

TheMutemuka Junmai Muroka Nama Genshuis more unique as it is a premium Sake made from two types of rice, including a table rice. For their moto, the yeast starter, they use Kaze Naruko, which is a Sake rice grown only in the Kōchi Prefecture. For the fermentation tank though, they use Hino-Hikari, a type of table rice, which means this Sake uses more table rice than Sake rice. Nearly all futsu-shu, ordinary Sake, is made from table rice but it is more a rarity in premium Sake. However, there are some excellent examples which indicate that quality Sake can be made from table rice. That should be good news to U.S. Sake producers who use table rice for their premium Sake.

For this Sake, the rice is polished down to 65%, and has an SMV of +5, which would tend to make you believe it should be dry. In this case, you would be correct. As it is a Muroka Nama Genshu, that means that it undergoes no charcoal filtration, pasteurization or dilution. As a Nama, you need to refrigerate it so it doesn't go bad. The Sake is also aged for about half a year at room temperature.

Up front, there is a fruity taste, some melon and pear notes, but that quickly transforms on your palate into a more savory and earthy element, which then dominates your mouth. A surge of umami floods your palate, with hints of herbal notes and a tinge of bitterness. It possesses a fascinating complexity and this is also a very food friendly Sake, especially because of its high umami. Another winner from The Floating World.

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Sake News

Date: Tue, Feb 11, 2014 Wine Tasting

Kanpai! Here is another short list of some of the interesting Sake articles that have been published lately. It is great to see more and more coverage for Sake, though I recommend that anyone seeking to publish a Sake article check it at least a few times for accuracy. A few basic errors continue showing up in introductory Sake articles, and those errors would be easy to eliminate if you had a knowledgeable Sake person check your facts. Let us also hope that we see more than just introductory Sake articles in the future. Sake has many depths and all those varied facets make great material for articles.

1) Does playing music during Sake production lead to smoother Sake? In The Japan Times, you should read the article, Walking In The Steps Of Samurai, which talks about the Japanese city of Sasayama in the Hyogo Prefecture. The article provides some interesting history and also discusses the Hohmei Sake Brewery, where the same company has been producing Sake since 1797. The brewery now hooks up each barrel of Sake with its own speakers so music can be played, and the vibrations will travel through the Sake. A variety of different musics will be played and it is thought this leads to a smoother Sake. There are a number of wineries, in places such as Spain, South Africa and Chile, which play music in their cellars, or sometimes even in the vineyards. I don't know if it actually works or not, but it is an intriguing practice.

2) Sake produced in Maine? Yes, it is coming and that is good news to local Sake lovers. The Seacoast Online posted a new article, Bringing the art of sake to the Seacoast by Deborah McDermott. This spring could see the opening of the Blue Current Brewery, in Kittery, Maine, by Dan Ford and John Sygtowski. They hope to begin production by the end of March and eventually open a tasting room too. There is a small growth of Sake breweries in the U.S., with around a dozen currently in operation or opening in the near future. Most of those breweries used to be in California but that is changing and you'll find breweries now in places like Texas and Minnesota, and now soon in Maine and Connecticut. I eagerly look forward to taste the Blue Current Sakes, and see what New England can do with this wondrous beverage.

3) More Sake qualifications? In January, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), with the cooperation of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), has held several Sake seminars in London. The Drinks Business reports that this is but a preliminary to the WSET's project later this year to create a Sake qualification course, the Level 3 Award in Sake. There is little information available currently on what the course will entail, though the fact it is "Level 3" means it could be similar in some respects to the Level 3 Award in Wine & Spirits.

As I already possess a Sake certification from John Gauntner and the Sake Education Council, I wouldn't seek out this additional WSET certification. And I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about Sake seek out Gauntner's certification course. However, I also support efforts to train more people in Sake and think it is good that the WSET is getting involved in Sake education. I look forward to learning more details about this certification course, and seeing more Sake advocates come forward.

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Rant: Banned In Boston

Date: Mon, Feb 10, 2014 Wine Tasting

In the late 19th century, the phrase "banned in Boston" started to take hold, usually referring to movies, books and plays that got banned because they were thought to be immoral, salacious or offensive. It use continued into the 20th century and now in the 21st century, another would-be exhibitor has been banned in Boston, because they were found to be offensive to the organizers of a large-scale wine event.

This weekend, the Boston Wine Expo comes to town and thousands of consumers will descend on the Seaport World Trade Center, taking the opportunity to sample from more than a thousand wines or attend one of the more than 40 seminars. Besides all of the wine tables, there will be exhibitors showcasing food, magazines, financial services, travel and more. However, though they wanted to exhibit, you won't find the American Wine Consumer’s Coalition(AWCC) at this year's Expo. They were "banned in Boston."

This banning recently came to light in the Wine Industry Insight, in the articleBoston Wine Expo Bans Direct-To-Consumer Exhibitors by Lewis Perdue. Mr. Perdue was informed by Tom Wark, Executive Director of the AWCC, that they had tried to obtain a booth at the Expo but were denied because of their support of direct wine shipping in Massachusetts. As I mentioned previously, a law which barred out of state winery shipments to Massachusetts consumers was ruled unconstitutional. Since that ruling, there have been several efforts to create a legal framework allowing such winery shipments, though nothing has yet succeeded.

Most recently, the proposed legal framework is House Bill 294, authored by Representative Theodore Speliotis.A public hearing, with much positive support, was heard on this bill in November 2013 but it is currently in limbo, awaiting a vote. Free The Grapes is pushing for such a vote and you can check out how to help in that regard. The AWCC has been supportive of this bill, and wanted to use the opportunity of the Boston Wine Expo to explain to the consumer attendees about the importance of the bill and why they should support Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) sales.

Mr. Perdue followed up with James Carmody, the President of the Boston Guild of Oenophilists, which organizes and operates the Boston Wine Expo, to discuss the banning of the AWCC. Mr. Carmody stated that wholesalers and distributors have been the "foundation of the show." Thus, there business interests are important to the Expo. Mr. Carmody also noted that the Board has decided not to allow direct shippers to exhibit, and this also apparently now extends to any organization which promotes the idea of DTC sales.

In some respects, this is surprising as Free The Grapeshas been an exhibitor in prior years, including last year, and they have long promoted DTC sales. So it appears that a blanket prohibition on exhibitors promoting DTC sales is something new this year. Why is this year different? Free The Grapes has stated that they didn't plan on attending the Expo this year. If they had tried to become an exhibitor this year, would they have been refused too? The Expo website does not provide any rules or restrictions as to who can exhibit at the Expo, so would-be exhibitors have little information as to what is potentially prohibited.

In other respects, this is not surprising. Last year, I met James Carmody at a Expopreview eventand he summed up, with much candor, the primary purpose of the Expo: commerce. It is primarily about wineries finding local distributors, distributors finding retailers and restaurants, and wineries trying to raise their brand recognition with consumer. Nearly everyone showcasing their products at the Expo is seeking to make money, to expand their business. On the Expo website, under "Why Exhibit," it states: "The Show has been transformed into a major "selling event" for wineries with distribution in Massachusetts." That seems to make the focus of the Expo more clear.

Besides this emphasis on business, the Expo is also a consumer event, at least in part. As their website states, "The Boston Wine Expo is the largest trade and consumer wine event in the country." However, it needs to be understood that the business needs and desires of the Expo generally take precedence over consumer issues, and definitely on the DTC sales issue. Wholesalers and distributors are the primary opposition to House Bill 294, believing it threatens their profits. As they are integral to the prosperity of the Expo, the Board does not want to alienate them by allowing exhibitors to promote DTC sales.

The Boston Guild Of Oenophilists Inc. is organized as a Domestic Profit Corporation, though they have also contributed over $1 Million to numerous charities. The corporation has a President, Treasurer, Secretary, CEO, CFO and 16 Directors. Some of those Directors work for wholesalers and distributors, so it is understandable why they would be opposed to DTC sales. This concern about DTC sales, leading to a ban this year on those supporting such sales, may have arisen because of the looming presence ofHouse Bill 294. It may be seen as an imminent threat, and the wholesalers and distributors do not want anyone promoting that bill at the Expo.

Interestingly, Free the Grapes notes that "...a December 2012 report by the Maryland Comptroller noted that wholesale-to-retail sales actually increased 3.6% the year following implementation of direct shipping in that state." This seems to indicate that the fears of Massachusetts wholesalers and distributors is largely unfounded. Proponents of DTC sales, such as the AWCC, have also provided many convincing arguments in support of DTC sales. The arguments against DTC sales have been far weaker and less convincing. At the base, it is primarily about fear, fear of lost profits.

When you delve back into the origins of the Boston Wine Expo, the seeds of its inspiration actually supported "direct access to the wines' producers." The founder, François-Laurent Nivaud, found the basis for his idea for the Boston Wine Expo in the French wine shows, Le Concours, and those French shows actually wanted people to have direct access to the producers. Currently, Le Concours has a web-based sales channelfor online sales of its wines. Why can't the Boston Wine Expo emulate these aspects as well, supporting DTC sales?

It is inevitable that DTC sales will come to Massachusetts. It is only a matter of time, and with House Bill 294, it could be here sooner than later. There is a growing surge across the entire country supporting DTC sales and wholesalers and distributors are trying to hold back a tidal wave with paper walls. Rather than fear it, wholesalers and distributors need to learn how to co-exist with it. The presence of Free The Grapes at prior Expos did not cause any harm, so why start now to ban organizations like AWCC from promoting the cause of DTC sales? Will such a prohibition really stop DTC sales from coming to Massachusetts. Extremely doubtful.

The Boston Wine Expo has prided itself on change, trying to make the event better and more relevant each year. For example, within the last couple years, the Expo has embraced social media and blogging, which has been a positive addition. However, banning promoters of DTC sales is a step backwards. It is a denial of the inevitable future of wine sales. It does a disservice to the consumers attending the event. And it needs to change.

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2014 Mohegan Sun WineFest: Favorite Wines & More

Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2014 Wine Tasting

As the New Year begins, and winter embraces New England, it is the time for two major wine events, theMohegan Sun WineFestand the Boston Wine Expo. This is an excellent opportunity to explore new wines, to taste new vintages, and find new favorites. I recently attended the Sun WineFest and will go to the Wine Expo later this month. Because of their proximity of distance and time, and the nature of the events, it is natural to draw some comparisons between the two events. In short, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and which event you desire to attend is probably more a matter of preference.

As for venues, the Sun WineFest is the clear winner, hosting the event in a casino rather than Wine Expo, which is held in an exhibition hall in the Seaport District. Even if you don't gamble, there are plenty of other options at Mohegan Sun, from a swimming pool to shopping. I enjoy gambling, especially poker, and had fun playing some games during the Sun WineFest weekend. The Sun WineFest also runs over three days, with several different events, from a Bourbon Tasting to a Celebrity Chef Dine Around. However, they do not run wine and alcohol seminars like the Wine Expo, and would benefit more if they did.

The centerpiece of both wine expos is their Grand Tasting event, both which run on Saturday and Sunday. At the Sun WineFest, Grand Tasting tickets generally cost $80 on Saturday, $70 on Sunday and $125 for both days. These are less expensive than the Wine Expo which costs $95 for Saturday, $85 for Sunday and $145 for both days. The Sun WineFest Grand Tasting also has five hours for the public as compared to Boston's four hours. However, the Sun WineFest only provides one special hour for the media/trade while Boston provides two hours. I wish that the WineFest provided an extra hour for the media, giving us a bit more quiet time to check out, taste and review wines. Once the public arrives, it becomes far more difficult to check out the wines. The Grand Tasting event at both expos is the most crowded on Saturday so you might want to go on Sunday instead.

Both Grand Tastings have fun and interesting chef demonstrations during the course of the Grand Tastings. Attendance at these demos is free and you often get to sample food prepared by the celebrity judges. Both expos have food vendors though I feel the Sun WineFest has more, and diverse, food vendors where attendees can sample a variety of dishes, from lobster rolls to oysters, burgers to sushi. A portion of the proceeds from these food vendors goes to benefit the Channel 3 Kids Camp.

The Sun WineFest offers a smaller, and less diverse, wine selection than found at the Wine Expo. There were plenty of large, commercial brands there, from Yellow Tail to Barefoot, but you could find some intriguing selections if you looked carefully. For example, you could taste an $8 Yellow Tail Shiraz or a $100 French Rosé, if you took the time to carefully peruse all of the tables. I would have preferred more wine diversity at the Sun WineFest, to see better representation from some regions, such as Portugal, Greece and South Africa. I would also have preferred to see more small wineries represented. Prior years seemed to possess more diversity than this current year.

On the other hand, the Sun WineFest offers more than just wine for tasting. You can also find beer, cider and spirits, which the Wine Expo rarely offers. At the Sun WineFest, there are several separate rooms for their beer and cider samples. The spirits are offered in the same main hall as the wine tasting, except for a few producers which were located just outside the main hall. These additional beers, ciders and spirits add value to the Sun WineFest.

I now want to share some of my favorites from the Grand Tasting, mainly wine but with a bit of cider and whiskey too. Obviously, I did not taste every wine at the event so there could have been other worthy wines that I simply did not get the opportunity to sample. If you attended this event, and tasted some excellent wines that I have not mentioned, feel free to add your thoughts to the Comments.

Chateau d'Esclans, located in Provence, France, has a rich and vibrant history and was acquired by Sacha Lichine in 2006. The Chateau is well known for its Rosé wines, and four of those wines were available for sampling. I've tasted prior vintages of these wines and have been impressed so I had high expectations, which were well met.

Their entry level Rosé is the 2013 Whispering Angel ($20-$25), which was recently released. Bright red fruit, clean and crisp, this is a delicious and easy-drinking wine but it is not a simple one. This is the Provence styleRosé which I really enjoy. The 2012 Chateau D'EsclansRosé ($30-$35) has more restrained red fruit flavors and greater complexity with some herbal elements. It brings elegance to your glass. The 2011 Les Clans ($75) is made from a blend of 50 and 80 year old Grenache and sees a touch of oak. The complexity continues to increase, and there is a subtle melange of intriguing flavors, including tropical fruit, dried fruit and herbal notes. Elegance, style and a fuller body. The 2011 Garrus ($100) is made from 100% 80-year old Grenache and sees about a year in new oak. This is an ethereal and complexRosé, clearly a stunner. It nearly eludes description, something to experience rather than read about. The taste will linger long in your mouth, and it will haunt your memory for even longer.

Two years ago at the Sun WineFest, I met Jim Bernau, the founder ofWillamette Valley Vinyards, anOregon winery. You can read my prior review of their wines, and I made sure to stop at their table again to check on their latest vintages. The 2012 Pinot Gris ($17.99) was as good as the 2009, presenting more of a full bodied wine with creamier fruit flavors, nice apple and peach tastes. The 2011 Estate Pinot Noir ($30), which was just released, is my style of Pinot, with fresh cherry flavors, herbal aspects and an earthy streak. Well balanced, it is food friendly and complex, a serious wine to savor. And at this quality and price, it is also a good value.

Murphy Distributorsoffered some interesting Spanish wines, including one of my overall favorites of the event. The 2012 Bodegas La Val Albarino(about $15) was pleasant with citrus and lemon notes, plenty of acidity and even a littlespritz. The 2012 Martinez LaCuesta Blanco (about $11) is barrel aged, made from 100% Viura. The aroma has nice floral elements and on the palate there is a nice balance of herbs, melon and apples. An easy drinking and good value wine.

One of my favorites of the entire event was the NV Vermut LaCuesta ($20), an impressive Spanish vermouth. Tempranillo is the base wine, and it presented with an intriguing herbal taste with only mild bitter elements and hints of sweetness. I tasted some of it on its own, as well as in a glass with ice, and in both instances, it was impressive. It is well balanced, and would be delicious on its own or in a cocktail. Highly recommended.

Wines from Arizona? As soon as I learned an Arizona winery would be at the WineFest, I knew that I had to stop at the table and check them out.Arizona Strongholdwas founded in 2007 by Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan (a musician and the frontman for the band Tool). They own 200 acres, and 120 of them are sustainably planted with a variety of grapes, from Mourvedre to Sangiovese. Their wines are generally priced $12-$22, so they are made to be more affordable for everyone.

I liked their red wines, including the 2012 Nachise ($22) a Rhone blend made up of42% Syrah, 30% Petite Sirah, 18% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre. It is aged in 95% neutral French oak and presents with plenty of lush red and black fruit flavors up front, with spicy notes on the finish. There is also a sprinkling of herbal hints, enhancing its complexity. A wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food. My favorite of their wines though was the 2011 Mangus ($22), a Super Tuscan blend made up of 60% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. It spent about 10 months in neutral French oak and the alluring aroma beckoned to me.On the palate, it was compelling, with lots of complexity, luscious red fruit, and dark spices. The tannins were restrained and it had a lengthy, satisfying finish. Highly recommended.

Moonlight Meadery made an appearance, offering samples of a number of their interesting meads. Check out my prior review of the Meadery. One of their highest end offerings is their Utopian Mead (about $50), which is aged in used Samuel Adams Utopiabeer barrels. Each batch though has its differences. When I previously tasted some Utopian at the meadery, I appreciated its complexity and depth of flavor, but it reminded me too much of a beer and thus didn't appeal to my personal preferences. However, at the Sun WineFest, I tasted the Utopian Batch #7, a new release, which was aged for 3 years. I actually enjoyed this batch very much, savoring its intriguing melange of honey, dried fruits, and hints of cocoa. It beer taste was very slight, and didn't detract from my enjoyment. Well worth seeking out.

Winebow offered a few good Spanish wine selections. The 2008 Juve Y Camps Brut Natural Cava Gran Reserva ($18) is an excellent example of a Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. Crisp and clean, with tiny bubbles, the palate presents delicious flavors of green apple, peach, honey and light toasty notes. Full bodied and complex, it is an very good value at this price. The 2012 Licia Albarino ($14-$15 )is another excellent value wine, showcasing the wonders of Albarino. This was probably the best Albarino I tasted at the event. The 2010 La Tremenda Monastrell ($16) was an easy drinking wine, with prominent fruit, black cherry and blueberry, and a subtle backbone of spice.

Jonathan Edwards Wineryis a local winery, located in Connecticut and they produce both estate wines as well as other wines made from California grapes. I tasted their estate wines and enjoyed the 2012 Estate Pinot Gris ($23). I found it full bodied and crisp, with pleasant pear and melon flavors, enhanced by a floral component. I was most impressed though with their 2011 Estate Cabernet Franc ($25), which had an alluring aroma of red fruit without any hint of vegetal. On the palate, it was light and easy drinking, with delicious cherry and raspberry flavors, with some herbal notes, though not any green pepper. Mild tannins, nicely balanced, and with a pleasing finish, this wine would be enjoyable on its own or paired with food. Highly recommended.

David Milligan Selectionspresented another one of my top favorites, and best values, of the Sun WineFest. The 2012 Espirit de Sarrail Carcassonne Rouge ($10) is the first wine to be imported into the U.S. from the Cite de Carcassonne IGP, which was established in 1981. This region has about 25 producers, most working as a cooperative. Domaine Sarrail is the largest producer, with an estate of 250 acres. This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Malbec and the aroma was compelling, such powerful fruit, and the palate lived up to the promise of the nose. Excellent red fruit flavors, a hint of spice, and some herbal notes. Far more complexity at this price point than many other wines. It is easy drinking but not overly simple. Highly recommended.

The 2012 Chateau Le Berriere Muscadet Sevre et Maine ($10-$12) was another excellent value. Crisp and clean, this wine presents delicious flavor of lemon, peach, floral elements, and a strong minerality. Bring on the oysters for this wine and enjoy!

Craft & Estatepresented another one of the best values of the tasting. TheNV Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs($15)is a blend ofUgni Blanc, Colombard, and Chardonnay. This sparkling wine is from the Jura region and made by the méthode champenois. Great acidity, a clean taste, and delicious flavors of green apple, lemon, and hints of toast. At this price point, this wine is a clear winner, presenting an excellent taste.

Glenlivet Distilleryshowcased their 15 Year Old and Nadurra Single Malts, and I previously reviewed both of them. I retasted them and my thoughts about both haven't changed. If you enjoy whiskey, Glenlivet delivers.

TheChivas Regal Gold Signatureis a blended Scotch whiskey, with a minimum age of 18 years though some of the whiskies are aged as much as 40 years. It is aged in old bourbon and sherry barrels. I enjoyed this smooth, easy drinking whiskey with a nice blend of spice, caramel, dried fruits and hint of maple syrup.

Aberlour A'bunadhcombines two Gaelic words: Aberlour which means"mouth of the chattering burn"and A'bunadh which means "origin." Aberlour produces a line of single malt Scotch whiskies and the A'bunadh ($80) is a cask strength whiskey, at 60.4% ABV, that is aged in Oloroso casks. It is bottled only twice a year and I tasted Batch #46. It is made in a more traditional manner, and presented a compelling profile. It possessed a creamy mouth feel, with plenty of spice, dried fruit notes, caramel and a little sweetness. Lots of complexity, smooth and with a very lengthy finish.

Crispin Cider offered several of their products for sampling, except the one for which I was most excited. Their Original is crisp and clean, mostly dry and with tasty apple flavors. The more artisanal Honey Crisp, which is unfiltered, provides more complexity and a richer taste. The Saint, which uses Belgian trappist yeast and maple syrup has a fuller mouth feel, and just a hint of maple flavor complementing the apple flavors. I wanted to sample their Artisanal Reserve Cho-tokkyu, which is made with Sake yeast and organic rice syrup, but it was not available at the event. I'll have to seek it elsewhere.

The Sun WineFest gave further support to my belief that there are still compelling wines available under $15. Generally, those wines are European, including countries such as Spain and France. The WineFest also showed that good wine is made across the U.S., from Connecticut to Arizona. California, Washington and Oregon are not the only states that made excellent wine. Take the opportunity of these large wine expos to explore and discover the wonders of wine.

(Please be advised that I received a complimentary media pass, guest room, and food allowance for attending the Mohegan Sun WineFest.)

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Feb 6, 2014 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) This year fall in love with not one night of Valentine’s Day celebrations, but four. The Beehivewill indulge lovers with “Four Days of Lovin’” - a four-day long event featuring Valentine’s Day inspired dishes from Executive Chef Marc Orfaly, signature cocktail specials and live jazz performances from Thursday, February 13 through Sunday, February 16.

Chef Orfaly’s special cupid’s day dishes include Pressed Foie Gras, duck confit and artichoke terrine with vermouth soaked mustard seeds, toasted brioche and pickled sun chokes ($15), Seared Maine Scallops, black caviar, crème fraiche potato and celery root salad with mizuna greens ($16), 'Heart & Sole,’ broiled lemon sole with ragout of porcini, hearts of palm, fava beans and asparagus finished with mushroom jus ($28), and Australian Rack of Lamb, olive oil and whole grain mustard potatoes with sautéed spinach, and confit lamb shoulder ($38).

Lovers can shake things up with one of The Beehive’s Valentine’s Day concoctions like the Chocolate-Covered Cherry Martini made with vodka, Dorda Double Chocolate liquor and Cherry Herring ($12), the Willy Wonka made with Jim Beam, Dorda Double Chocolate liquor, Campari and fresh orange juice ($12.50), and finally The Heart Beat featuring Rose water topped with Domain Chandon Brut and garnished with a chocolate strawberry ($12.50).

Reservations are highly recommended so please call 617-423-0069.

Performance Schedule:
Thursday, February 13:
· Early Evening Jazz set with Doug Johnson: 6:30PM - 8:30PM
· Late night Jazz set with Greg Hopkins: 10:00PM - 2:00AM
Friday, February 14:
· Early Evening Jazz set with Kevin Harris: 5:00PM-7:00PM
· Mid-Evening Jazz set with Michelle Wilson: 7:30PM-9:30PM
· Late Night Jazz set with Mr. Nick: 10:00PM-2:00AM
Saturday, February 15:
· Saturday Jazz Brunch: 10:00AM to 3:00PM
· Early Evening Jazz set with Sharon Sugar Brown: 6:30PM-8:00PM
· Late Night Jazz set with Karma Exchange: 10:00PM-12:00AM
Sunday, February 16:
· Sunday Jazz Brunch: 10:00AM to 3:00PM
· Sunday Blues Jazz set with Bruce Bears 8:00PM-12:00AM

2) This Valentine’s Day wine, dine and seduce your significant other with a romantic rendezvous at Tryst, the award-winning boutique restaurant and lounge located in Arlington. Tryst’s quaint backdrop will set the perfect mood for an evening of Valentine’s Day surprises and romance while guests enjoy a special menu created by Executive Chef and Owner Paul Turano. Chef Turano’s Valentine’s Day three-course prix fixe menu will be offered exclusively on Friday, February 14 and as a la carte specials in addition to the regular menu on Saturday, February 15 & Sunday, February 16. Guests can relax, reminisce and indulge in Tryst’s specials including Duck & Kabocha Tart, Cioppino, Bucatini Carbonara and Beef Short Rib as well as sweet desserts such as Baked Apple Dumpling, Chocolate Brownie Bread Pudding and Italian Bignè.

COST: $45 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Optional $25 wine pairing.
Reservations are highly recommended. Please call 781-641-2227.

3) On Saturday, February 8, from 1pm-5pm, the Wine ConneXtion, located in North Andover, will team up with Ye Olde Pepper Companie, the oldest candy company in the United States, for a special Valentine’s Day tasting featuring a selection of Wine ConneXtion’s most popular Malbecs paired with Ye Olde’s signature chocolates.

Ye Olde Pepper Companies’ rich history dates back to 1806 when a woman named Mrs. Spencer landed on the shores of Salem, MA following a tragic shipwreck. To make a living, Mrs. Spencer began selling her candies on the steps of the First Church. Her signature confection, the “Salem Gibralter,” is said to be the first candy made and sold commercially, being distributed internationally by sea captains.

Guests will not want to miss an opportunity to sample a wide variety of Malbecs. Walk-ins welcome all day. Must be 21+.

4)Check out some of the new winter happening in Kendall Square at Belly Wine Bar.

Aglio e Olio – Late-night pasta party
$8.00 per person
Aglio e Olio is a Rome-inspired, family-style nightcap of spaghetti with garlic and oil (or aglio e olio for those from lo stivale) for the night owl set. Guests are welcomed to wind down, sip vino and slurp noodles every night from 10:00 PM until closing time because really, a heaping bowl of pasta is way better than a full night’s sleep.

Spare Parts – Ensuring nothing goes to waste
Plates served a la carte. Menu changes daily
Since his appointment as Executive Chef this fall, Andrew Bonner has brought some spirited spontaneity to the Belly menu, showcased through the ever-changing “Spare Parts” menu. Written on a chalk board in the dining room, the daily specials exemplifyExecutive Chef Andrew Bonner's passion for expanding guests’ palates and experimenting with seasonal New England flavors, as seen in dishes like Sweet and Spicy Duck Wings, Open Faced Grass Fed Beef Pastrami with Sauce Whatever and Oxtail Ravioli with Maitake Mushrooms & Carrots.

Three Blind Wines – Grape trivia for the taste buds
$20 per flight
Every Monday night
Belly puts wine geeks to the test every Monday with Three Blind Wines, a mystery flight game comprised of three unknown grapes. Guests are challenged by the Belly team to guess the names of all three sips; if successful, the following week’s flight is on the house!

Coravin Pours – No need for vintages to collect dust
Approximately $20 to $38 per 5 oz. pour
Available daily
As card carrying Kendall Square wine nerds, the Belly team sends serious props to Greg Lambrecht, the Boston-based entrepreneur who engineered the Coravin wine opener, a way to drink vino without removing the cork, hence avoiding oxidization and keeping bottles as fresh as the first pour right until the last drop. Madonna! Belly employs a Coravin of its own to serve experimental guests rare pours without sacrificing taste or quality. A library of grapes available via Coravin includes magnums of 2004 Chateau Pibernon Bandol, 1993 Breton Bourgueil “Les Perrieres” and more, all served tableside from Coravin to taste tube and ultimately into the eager sipper’s glass.

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Argyle Winery: Brut Rosé Bubbly

Date: Tue, Feb 4, 2014 Wine Tasting

There are only a small number of wineries in Oregon which produce sparkling wine, partially due to the higher costs involved in the process. Maybe the most famous producer of sparkling wine in Oregon is Argyle Winery, and on a previous visit to Portland I got to taste a few of their wines and meet their winemaker, Rollin Soles. Recently, I received a sample of their 2010 Brut Rosé, and it didn't disappoint in the least.

In 1987, Argyle Winery was founded by Brian Croser and Rollin Soles, with a primary goal of creating sparkling wine, but they also created still wines. All of their sparkling wines are vintage dated, and they do not seek to create a consistent taste year from year, but rather want a sparkling wine reflective of each different vintage. For still wines, they produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

The past year has seen some significant changes to Argyle. First, they purchased a new facility in Newburg, Oregon, to they can expand production capacity beyond their current 50,000 cases. They will continue though to maintain their tasting room in Dundee. Second, in February 2013, Nate Klostermannwas elevatedtothe role of head winemaker, thoughRollin Soleswill continue working with him, and signing off on all wines.

Third, the winery has redesigned their wine labels, to make it easier for consumers to choose the category of wine that caters to their preferences. One of the changes is that each wine now has one to three diamonds on the label. One diamond refers to the Grower Series "paying tribute to Argyle’s history as growers first." Two diamonds refer to the Artisan Series "which features select wines representing the best examples of the specific craft of Argyle’s viticulture and winemaking." Three diamonds refer to the Master Series which are "only the rarest, most age-worthy wines made in small quantities often from single vineyards."

The 2010 BrutRosé ($50) is part of the Artisan Series and only 2000 cases were produced. TheRosé is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. The Pinot Meunier is from a small plantiing in theirKnudsen Vineyards. With an alluring aroma of red fruit and toast, the bubbly possessed complex flavors of strawberry, cherry and hints of peach. There were also subtle spice elements, a mild toastiness and a lengthy and satisfying finish. The body had some creaminess which didn't overwhelm the palate, and the clean and crisp flavors stood out. The tiny bubbles were refreshing and it an an excellent food wine, with everything from seafood to fried chicken, pizza to burgers.

This is a sparkling wine that is worth the price, delivering high quality, excellent taste and plenty of complexity. It is well worth the splurge.

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Rant: Mayo Haters Unite

Date: Mon, Feb 3, 2014 Wine Tasting

What is the #1 condiment, based on annual sales, in the country? The answer depends in part on what you consider as a condiment. Some people consider salsa as a condiment while others see it more as a dip. Ketchup is a popular condiment but some news sources have recently noted that salsa has become more popular than ketchup, though I think far more people use salsa as a dip rather than slathering it atop a sandwich or burger.

However, whether you consider salsa as a condiment or not, the #1 condiment isa ctuallymayonnaise. In 2013, mayonnaise sales reached $2 Billion while ketchup sales were only $725 Million. Salsa sales are higher than ketchup, but not by much, so mayonnaise still beats salsa too.

Despite its huge popularity, mayonnaise has its detractors, including myself. Mayo haters unite! There is even an anti-mayo site, Hold That Mayo.I dislike the consistency, the taste and even the look. I don't think it adds anything to a sandwich. There are other ways to add some moistness to a sandwich. Or maybe you shouldn't be eating meat that is so dry you need mayo. Mayo usually contains lots of fat and commercial mayos can contain high fructose corn syrup. Do you really need to add all that fat and sugar to your sandwich?

At some restaurants, mayo seems to be a common ingredient on many of their sandwiches, from burgers to fish. And it is not always listed as an ingredient on the menu. I hate ordering a sandwich, which doesn't state it has mayo on the menu, and then getting it delivered to me with mayo atop it. If it has mayo, the menu should say so. And a juicy burger should never need mayo.

If you like mayo, why? What does it add to a sandwich? Do you really think mayo helps a juicy burger? With these huge sales for mayo, what am I missing?

Or if you also hate mayo, step forward and be heard. Let us tell restaurants to put that ingredient on their menus when they add it to a dish. No more surprises on our sandwiches.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jul 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
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1) 51 Lincoln Owner Jeff Fournier and Chef de Cuisine Nate Gibson present Raw August, a month-long celebration of internationally influenced raw cuisine, featuring vegetables from 51 Lincoln’s own rooftop garden and proteins in their purest form.

During the month of August, Jeff Fournier and Nate Gibson will prepare dishes that are globally influenced, yet locally sourced. These carefully prepared dishes will not only delight your palate, but also provide you with a love of proteins in their natural state. Served with complimentary wine pairings, these dishes provide the perfect finishing touch to summer. Below are sample menu items for Raw August:

Wagu Steak Tartare with Red Onion, Capers, Truffle Dijon Dressing
Onset Oysters on the Halfshell, Pickled Ramp Mignonette, Peach Gastrique, Fresno Chili, Chervil
Colorado Lamb Kibbe, White Onion, Parsley, Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette, Naan Bread
Scallop and Mango Poke, Poi and Taro Root Chips, Radish Slaw
Cold Smoked Sail Island Salmon Tartare, House Baked Fennel Bread, Soft Boiled Farm Egg, Fennel Fronds, Pickled Mustard Seed Vinaigrette
Duo of Tartares: Yellow Fin Tuna & Fresh Blueberries, Red Onion, Lemon, Cilantro, Blueberry Aioli
Rhode Island Fluke Ceviche, Jalapeño, Lime, Cilantro, Pineapple, Avocado Espuma
Faroe Island Salmon Carpaccio, Crispy Green Bean Frites, Brandy Cream sauce

When: August 1-31 (Tuesdays through Saturdays, starting at 5:00pm)

2) From Sunday, September 8 to Sunday, September 15, restaurants and wine shops located north of Boston will join together to hold the third annual North of Boston Wine Week (NOBOWW). Sponsored by Merrimack Valley Magazine, in conjunction with NECN’s “TV Diner,” M.S. Walker, Horizon Beverage Company and Cape Ann Foodie Tours, North of Boston Wine Week will celebrate the towns north of Boston as a premier destination for fine wine and food. Throughout the week, the area’s finest businesses will highlight their wine selections with various events and great deals including everything from specially crafted wine tastings, wine dinners, wine flights, pairings, special events and more. For the complete calendar listing of events visit www.NorthOfBostonWineWeek.com.

North of Boston Wine Week will kick-off with a complimentary inaugural event at the Wine ConneXtion, located in North Andover, on Saturday, September 7, from 1pm-5pm, during an exclusive, free wine tasting event featuring cuisine from several participating venue’s chefs.

Buy local, drink global and join North of Boston as a vibrant food and wine community and support local businesses including: 50 Warren Restaurant, 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, Alchemy Bistro, Andiamo Restaurant + Bar, Angelina’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Blue Stove at Nordstrom, Burton’s Grill, Busa Wine & Spirits, Café Escadrille, Centro, China Blossom, Emerson By The Sea, Evviva Cucina, The Grapevine, Hanover Street Chophouse, Joseph's Trattoria, Laurie's 9:09 Gastro-Diner, Luna Rossa Ristorante, Michael's Harborside, Nathanial's at the Hawthorne Hotel, On The Bone, Oregano Pizzeria, Orzo Trattoria, Phat Cat Bistro, Ristorante Olivio, Salvatore's Restaurants, Smolak Farms, Stonehedge Inn & Spa, Ten Center Street, Tryst Restaurant, Tuscan Kitchen, Tuscan Market, Waterside Grille, and the Wine ConneXtion.

3) Executive Chef/Owner Paul Turano of Tryst Restaurant in Arlington, MA (and the soon to open “Cook” restaurant in Newton), has been nominated by Governor Deval Patrick to represent the state of Massachusetts at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 3. The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is one of the nation’s most prestigious seafood competitions showcasing domestic, sustainable seafood featuring acclaimed chefs from across the country. Chefs are asked to create unique dishes and flavor combinations with domestic seafood that is native to their home states and representative of their region. Hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the most renowned cities for all things gourmet, the event is sponsored by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and presented by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.

It’s such an honor to represent Massachusetts in this competition,” said Chef Paul Turano. This will be the first time Massachusetts is represented at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. The Great American Seafood Cook-Off takes place at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, in Hall J, alongside the Louisiana Restaurant Association Food Service Expo on August 3.

4)On Sunday, July 28, at 6pm, Chef Paul Turano of Tryst Restaurant in Arlington is collaborating with New England’s very own root beer company, Tower Root Beer, for the third annual Root Beer Dinner, celebrating Tower’s 99-year-old classic soda recipe.

Founded in Somerville, MA, in 1914, Tower Root Beer evolved from a tonic company into a specialized root beer company. During the Prohibition of the 1920’s when root beer became the substitute for beer that was no longer available, their pharmacist- perfected recipe contributed to Tower’s early success and allowed them to withstand the stock market crash of 1929, even when the bank that held their working capital could not. Spanning New England, Tower Root Beer grew into a well-known business before an unsuccessful merger and competition from the two major soda conglomerates forced them off the market. For the past 30 years, Tower’s recipe has sat under lock and key, before a third generation of the family decided to reestablish the family business after finding their grandfather's handwritten recipe.

Tryst Restaurant is celebrating the return of the timeless drink with a classic three course, $34 prix fixe dinner ($14 for optional cocktail pairing) by Chef Paul Turano featuring root beer inspired dishes and innovative cocktails inspired by the sweet treat. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Tryst at 781-641-2227.

And here is a special Recipe from Chef Turano for Root Beer Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:
3 lbs Boneless Beef Short Ribs (about 1 1/2" thick with good marbling)
1 ea yellow onion, rough chopped
1 ea carrot, rough chopped
2 ea celery stalks, rough chopped
3 ea garlic cloves, rough chopped
3 Tbls tomato paste
4 ea fresh thyme sprigs
1 ea bay leaf
½ bottle dark beer
½ bottle Tower Root Beer
3 cups chicken stock
3 Tbls balsamic vinegar
flour, as needed
salt and pepper
canola oil, as needed

Directions:
Season short ribs with salt and pepper, dredge in the flour, bang to remove excess flour. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, add a little canola oil and cook the ribs in batches (Do Not Overcrowd the Pan!) Brown the ribs on all sides, taking care not to burn the flour. Remove ribs and place in an oven proof casserole about six inches deep. Sear remaining ribs.

Wipe out excess oil from the sauté pan. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until light brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the beer, root beer and bring to a boil for two minutes. Pour into the casserole over the ribs. Add the aromatics and chicken stock. Cover the casserole with lid or aluminum foil. Place in 300˚ oven. Half way through cooking, flip the ribs in the liquid to ensure even cooking. Cook approximately two and a half hours, until the short ribs are tender, but not falling apart.

Remove the meat from the casserole, strain the liquid through a sieve, skim excess fat and return to casserole or a stove top safe pan. Reduce the liquid until the desired consistency. Return ribs to the liquid to slowly reheat. Serves 4-6 people.

5) On July 31-August 25, Rosa Mexicano will launch their annual Ice Cream Festival, featuring a dedicated menu of sweet and salty ice cream flavors, Paleta popsicles, dessert guacamole, ice cream-stuffed churros and more.

Part of their ongoing Flavors of Mexico series, the beloved festival will introduce specials including but not limited to:
· Guacamole de Postre: a decadent sundae of sweet avocado ice cream "guacamole," prepared tableside with fresh raspberries, white chocolate shavings & coconut crunch; served with piloncillo chocolate sauce and cinnamon sugar Buñuelos
· "Paleta" Popsicles: in flavors such as Guava, Chile & Huckleberry; and Papaya & Passionfruit
· Ice Cream Stuffed Churros: a twist on the traditional "deep fried ice cream," three churro fritters filled with various ice cream flavors such as malted coffee and plantain & peanut butter; served with chocolate fudge ganache
· Ice Cream Cones: highlights include Plantain & Peanut Butter; Strawberry Rose; Sweet Cream, Mexican Chocolate & Cajeta Swirl; and Mexican Sour Gherkin & Jalapeño Sorbet

6) Bringing a taste of the North End to the Greenway, Carla and Christine Pallotta havenowopened the doors to the relocated NEBO at 520 Atlantic Avenue. The new 180-seat restaurant, with a 65-seat patio on the edge of the Greenway with 180-degree views of the Financial District, is now open for dinner service, and will add lunch in the next few weeks, followed by a takeout program specializing in Italian sandwiches, baked goods, and pastries.

After eight years at the original NEBO, our hearts – and our parking spaces – will always be in the North End,” say sisters, chefs, and co-owners Carla and Christine Pallotta. “Though we’re not technically located in the neighborhood any more, we’re still close enough to do our morning shopping. Instead of ‘North End Boston,’ NEBO now means ‘North End brought over’ to the Greenway.”

In addition to the pizzas, handmade pastas, and antipasti for which NEBO is famous for, the new NEBO menu will offer even more traditional Italian dishes that the original, smaller NEBO kitchen wasn’t equipped to execute. These new dishes include about 10 new pizzas and summer entrees that focus on seafood and vegetables such as Branzino, Squid Ink Pasta with Salt Cod Confit, and Cioppino with Lobster, Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels and Smelts in a Spicy Tomato Brodo with Crostini.

NEBO has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the building, a vaulted brick ceiling, and an open layout that includes: a 60-person bar area with two communal tables, an Italian marble bar, and 12-seat drink rail; a 120-person dining room with banquettes, coffee-stained rift oak tables, and chocolate brown Herman Miller bucket chairs interspersed with refinished Thonet chairs from the old NEBO; and a semi-private dining room with an Italian alabaster chandelier. The state-of-the-art open kitchen with adjoining gelato and sandwich bar is the “dream kitchen” Christine imagined eight years ago when she crafted the business plan for NEBO’s original North End location. During the warmer months, NEBO’s outdoor patio on the edge of the Greenway includes custom furniture designed to match the original cast iron work of Atlantic Wharf, nutmeg umbrellas, and Winston Flowers arrangements.

NEBO is now open for dinner Monday through Saturday beginning at 5:00 PM. Lunch service begins late July; takeout by September. NEBO is closed on Sundays.

I am a huge fan of NEBO so I am very excited to check out their new location, and I think it is great that they will soon be open for lunch too. This is definitely a restaurant I strongly encourage my readers to check out.

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Tea Cuvee: Cold Brewed Pleasures

Date: Wed, Jul 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

The South End is a cool area that abounds with restaurants and unique shops. I recently attended a Blog And Tweet Boston event, at Gifted, a gift shop with lots of funky items, from jewelry to art, greeting cards to tableware. At the event, we got to meet numerous local shop owners and artisans, showcasing food, drink, jewelry, candles, glassware and more. It was a fun evening and good to learn about some of the new places and purveyors in the South End.

Travessia Winerypresented three of their wines, including a Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc and Rose. As I have said before, Travessia is one of the best wineries in Massachusetts and you really need to check out their wines. All three of these wines are great for summer, and would pair well with a wide range of foods.

There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”
--Lin Yutang

Prior to attending the event, I was most intrigued toexperience the newTea Cuvee by Evy Chen(pictured above). I love tea, especially iced tea, so the idea of Tea Cuvee intrigued me. Evy is originally from the Fujian province of China, which has a lengthy history of tea and is a major region of tea production. At bars and elsewhere, Evy desired a nonalcoholic option, something other than soda or water. However, she also found most commerical tea products to either contain little tea or possess many artificial ingredients and flavorings. This inspired her to create a solution, to produce a new tea product that would be natural, refreshing and delicious.

The company is only about one year old, and Evy currently produces two different teas, with a third in production. The first tea is Moonlight, which is made from white tea, apricot and jasmine and the second is Amber, made from oolong tea, rosemary and orange zest. The tea is sold in 13.4 ounce bottles for $8.99 at places like Whole Foods, Shubie's and small gift shops. Organic whole leaf teas are used, and there are no sweeteners, artificial flavors or colors. Plus, it has 0 calories.

Tea ... is a religion of the art of life.”
--Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea

One of the essential aspects of the Tea Cuvee is that it is fully cold brewed and there is absolutely no heating involved. In small batches, the tea leaves are soaked in cold water for 16-20 hours. Why did choose to use cold brew rather than hot brew? Because cold brewing is chemically different from hot brewing, and some say that it is a better process.

In short, brewing extracts various substances from the tea leaves and hot brewing performs this process faster. In addition, the heat causes certain chemical reactions which cold brewing does not. Cold brewing tends to produce less caffeine and acid, and the flavors are often more delicate and subtle. In addition, cold brewing is supposed to create more antioxidants, making it healthier for you.

Only the Amber was available for tasting, and I found it to be fresh and clean, with subtle roasted tea flavors, enhanced by bits of herb and citrus. It wasn't sweet and was quite refreshing. Evy suggests pairing the Amber with aged cheese or grilled meats. This is definitely a tasty tea that you should check out and I look forward to tasting more of Evy's teas in the near future.

I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.
--Lu T'ung

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Non-Rant: Family, Friends, Wine & Food

Date: Mon, Jul 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

Though it is Monday, this is going to be a glorious week so I don't have a Rant in me. Instead, I just want to emphasize one aspect of wine drinking which is deserving of far more attention than it may receive. It's fine to read a wine review, to learn the history of a grape, to understand the life of the winemaker, and similar such items. However, when it comes down to it, nothing tops sharing wine with friends and family.

For example, last week, I spent the day with Adam, of Wine Zag, and his lovely wife, Liz, at their summer house on Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire. We drank wine (from an Alsatian white blend to a fine white Burgundy), ate some delicious grilled foods (plus Liz's excellent potatoes), and just had a great time together. It was the experience which elevated everything we drank and ate, just being together with such good friends.

This week will also be special, and it will be the family and friends that I spend time with which will make the drinking and dining experiences even better. And I am sure that is the same way it is with most people, that our food & drink experiences are so much better when shared.

Starting on Thursday, I will be attending Readercon, a convention devoted to imaginative literature, such as science fiction, fantasy and horror. I will get to meet writers in person that I have previously known only online. I will get to share meals and drinks with these writers, and those experiences will be even better because it is with cool new friends, like Zachary Jernigan and Wesley Chu.

On Saturday, I am having a festive birthday party, for a milestone birthday, with plenty of wine, beer, homemade Sangria and plenty of food (though my official birthday is on Friday). What will make it most memorable though will be all my friends who will be there to share my special day. Though the food and drinks will be good, it will be the friends and those memories which will remain with me the longest. And that is how it should be.

Don't fret over selecting the wine so much. Instead, fret more over who you will share the wine with, which of your friends or family will best elevate the experience for you. That is the most important thing to know about wine.

Read Full Wine Blog Post


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