Ridge Vineyards Wine Dinner at Legal Sea Foods Park Square Boston

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Legal Sea Foods is hosting a paired wine dinner at their Park Square Boston, MA location featuring wines from Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge is one of those vineyards that never goes out of style. A great wine to choose at a business dinner when you want something everyone's sure to enjoy without breaking the bank. And a great wine to choose for your dinner table every night. Unless you pop a bottle of Monte Bello - you might want to have a special occasion to justify that one.

More info from the press release:

WHAT: On June 19th, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a wine dinner with Ridge Vineyards. Ridge Vineyards respects the natural process that transforms fresh grapes into wine and the 19th century model of guiding that process with minimal intervention, producing high-quality grapes of distinct, individual character. Legal Sea Foods will team up with Ridge Vineyards’ winemaker, Eric Baugher, to host a four-plus-course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with Baugher’s choices from their vine.

The menu will be presented as follows in Park Square’s 10,000 bottle wine cellar:

Mini Crab Cake, Mustard Sauce
Marinated Calamari Salad, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis
Shrimp Escabeche, Jicama Round, Cilantro Crème Fraîche
Ridge “Estate” Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2011

Rainbow Trout Rillette
Wild Mushrooms, Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Ridge “Three Valleys,” Sonoma, 2011

Oven Roasted Cornish Hen
Hickory Grilled Ramps, Red Bliss Potatoes
Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc
Ridge “Estate” Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2010

Hickory Wood Grilled Tuna Steak*
Olive Tapenade, Truffled Mashed Turnip
Aged Balsamic Reduction
Ridge “Geyserville,” Sonoma, 2011

Morbier, Aged Gouda, Private Stock Aged Cheddar
Grilled Crostini & California Cherry Compote
Ridge “Mazzoni Home Ranch,” Sonoma, 2007

WHERE: Legal Sea Foods - Park Square Wine Cellar
26 Park Square, Boston

WHEN: Wednesday, June 19th at 6:30pm

COST: $95 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)

MORE INFO: Reservation required by calling 617.530.9397 or visiting www.legalseafoods.com.

Another dinner they've got coming up that caught my eye? Peter Michael on June 20th a Legal Harborside. A little pricier but wow - talk about an opportunity to taste some highly regarded wine. Both of these events sound fantastic.


Sale: 20-25% off Summery French Wines and Free Shipping

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I've been on the hunt for an assortment of interesting, affordable, late spring/early summer wines. The weather the past few weeks in the Boston area is starting to show signs of summer and I'm looking for wines to match the season. I'm looking for luscious, juicy, light and flavorful reds. And fruity rosés balanced with crisp acidity.

WWP sponsor Ansonia Wines, a new French wine merchant offering free delivery to the Boston area, stepped up with a timely offer today. Through Monday they're offering two options:
Both offers include free shipping to addresses east of the Mississippi. Shipping is also free across the US on 12 bottles or more.

I like deals that stack.

The Memorial Day sampler included just one red wine, and I've got enough whites clogging up the works around here. But if your tastes this time of year include whites, sparklers, and rosés it sounds like a great way to get to know Ansonia's selections.

I went for the following to round out a mixed case:

2x Point du Jour Chiroubles 2010 for $15.00 each
2x Prunier Côte de Beaune-Villages for $24.00 each
2x Mure Pinot Noir 12 for $19.00 each
2x Houchart Rosé 2011 for $17.00 each
2x Muré Rosé 2012 for $15.00 each
2x Sincérité Rosé 2012 for $12.00 each

Visit this page for a list of their summer wines.

Here was my total:

Discounts : $-40.80 USD
Subtotal : $163.20 USD
Shipping : $0.00 USD
Total : $163.20 USD

For more info on how they operate here's a post I wrote about them earlier this year.

Head on over and place you're order if these wines sounds like they're up your alley!

Check 'em out: 
If you've got questions hit them up on Twitter: @AnsoniaWines


Value Wine Discovered...at a Steakhouse!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This post is sponsored by Ansonia Wines - a new French wine
merchant with free delivery in this Boston area. Check 'em out.

Finding value wines in a steakhouse setting is challenging. The big name wines (Cakebread, Caymus, Silver Oak, etc) are so marked up they're hard to enjoy. I usually "bail" and go for a couple wines by the glass to keep costs contained and try new things.

Last week I was headed to The Capital Grille in Burlington, Massachusetts for a work dinner so I reached out to their Master Sommelier George Miliotes for a recommendation. He replied:
I'd had the Termes and Muga before, and enjoyed them both, but I'd never tasted this bottling from Juan Gil before. I've enjoyed George's Monastrell picks in the past so I was excited to try the Juan Gil.

When we were seated I mentioned to our served I'd gotten a recommendation from George for a Spanish Monastrell. He immediately knew it was the Juan Gil I was after - it sounded like it's been a successful wine for them.

Like I mentioned in this post about a great $7 Garnacha, Spain is a the place to go if you like the flavor profile of domestic red wine and you're looking to save some money.

The wine was served at what I thought was the perfect temperature, probably around 60-65 F. The wine was immediately aromatically present with gorgeous fresh vibrant fruit supported by just a hint of the affects of a moderate oak regiment. The wine was versatile. It was tremendously enjoyable on its own, with a salad (their wedge of course!), and with appetizers. It paired very well with their Kona Crusted Sirloin.

I don't think I've ever gotten so much positive feedback about a wine -- all unsolicited -- in a situation like this. Both during the meal and the next day people were gushing on about how much they enjoyed the wine.

The great thing about it is it's near the bottom of the price spectrum of The Capital Grille's wine list.

It can be found for $10-$12 at retail and that makes it a great daily drinker and a tremendous value in a restaurant setting. Highly recommended.

My thanks to George for the recommendation and hospitality!

Check it out:
Further Reading
Question of the Day: What are some of the best values you've found at high end steakhouses? What's your strategy for finding value?


Trip Report: Wine Spectator Grand Tour Chicago 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

After stops in San Francisco and Las Vegas, Wine Spectator's 2013 Grand Tour came to a close in Chicago this past Friday. 200+ wineries hand picked by the maganize's editors for their pedigree of outstanding ratings were on hand, each pouring one of their signature wines.

The event includes a 3 hour walk around tasting of top-scoring wines, a light buffet that's enough to make a meal out of, and a souvenir Riedel wine glass.

The event is truly an embarrassment of riches. This was the second Grand Tour I've attended and just as with the first I found myself in stretches where I was pouring out epic $200+ wines just to clear way for the next amazing wine. As an attendee there are just too many must-try wines to tackle in a single night. The best you can do is indulge and enjoy until your palate is shot.

If you've never been to Navy Pier before it's kind of like an indoor Fisherman's Wharf or Faneiul Hall kind of place. We didn't realize the Spectator event was on the far end of the pier or we may have had the cab drop us off there. But we had time to spare so we enjoyed walking through Navy Pier, mingling with kids on their way to their high school proms. It was quite a scene - kids today!

We arrived at about 6:30 for the 7:00 pm event and a formidable line had already formed. Security did a great job controlling things throughout the night. Not that the "rowdies" at a Spectator event are hard to control, but they were quite courteous. For example, after we got our tickets from Will Call we technically should have gotten back in the entry queue to get wrist bands. But a kind security guard spared us the line and retrieved wrist bands for us. Nice!

But I started to have concerns this would be a crowded event with lines forming around the marquee wines. One thing I loved about the Boston Grand Tour in 2011 was the moderate crowd levels. You could walk around and taste most any wine with hardly a wait. Would this event be more like The Boston Wine Expo which is notorious for having long lines at each table?

While waiting in line we chatted with a nice couple from Michigan so time flew by. We were inside the Grand Ballroom before we knew it. We made a beeline for the California Pinot Noirs.

We started with the 2010 MacPhail Pratt Vineyards Pinot Noir. I'd never tried MacPhail before but have wanted to ever since Belle Glos winemaker Joe Wagner mentioned them as one of his personal favorites. The MacPhail was bursting with flavor; a very satisfying wine. 90WS/$49 retail.

Next to MacPhail was a Flowers Pinot Noir- the 2010 Flowers Sea View Ridge Block 20. I thought the de-emphasis of Flowers in the front label in favor of a more prominent mention of the vineyard was an interesting play. The wine is very elegant and delicious. 91WS/$75 retail.

Siduri was on hand pouring their 2011 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir. I didn't try that but wish I had. I bet that was a winner.

But I did try the 2011 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir. I've had this wine many times across the last few vintages and it has been so reliably delicious. I asked the assistant winemaker, who was pouring the wine, how they achieved that distinctive slight sweetness in their Pinot Noir in general and the Las Alturas' flavor profile specifically. He described how they let the grapes start to shrivel just a bit on the vine (a technique which Belle Glos' parent company Caymus employs on their Cabernets as well) but before the grapes lose hydration. It sounds like a recipe for over-ripeness but I have never once gotten a raisiny or pruney note in any of their Pinots. Not one has been overripe. Their wines are so plush it's hard not to like them. Spectator hasn't rated the 2011 yet but the past two vintages scored 92 points. Around $44.

Tasting the Las Alturas served as a nice calibration mechanism. But before we got too carried away we thought it would be good to get some food. We were considering going out to dinner before but I'm glad we didn't. That would have made us late and there was plenty of food to be had. Pastas, paninis, cheese, crackers and bread along with an array of desserts and coffee. A quick bite to eat and we were back in the game.

Some of the wineries were set up on a half-circle on the second level of the venue. We settled in for quite a stretch: Joseph Phelps Insignia, Cos d'Estournel, Pontet-Canet and more all lined up in a row.

I remember trying the Phelps Insignia at the event in Boston. It was amazing. I remember thinking to myself that if I ever saw a deal on it I'd go for it as a splurge. At $200 it's a tough price point to get behind - but a great wine to taste at an event like this. Strangely though, the 2009 Insignia was a tannic beast and not nearly as enjoyable as I recall the 2006. Not that it won't settle down but I wasn't immediately drawn to this vintage. 91WS/$200.

The 2008 Cos d'Estournel I tried immediately after was eye opening. One tip I picked up from the gentleman pouring Chateau Palmer at the Boston event was that when you're buying Bordeaux for enjoyment, buy in the "off" vintages. In Bordeaux, 2005, 2009 and 2010 are the recent ones with substantial hype. The 2008 Cos d'Estournel was charming on the nose and elegantly satisfying on the palate. 90WS/$135.

Me (left) with Wine Spectator Senior Editor James Molesworth

Just as I'm having a debate in my mind about the Bordeaux value proposition, I see Wine Spectator Senior Editor James Molesworth. He covers Bordeaux, The Rhone Valley and more for the magazine so he's the perfect guy to help me relate to what I just tasted.

I explain my theory about buying Bordeaux for consumption in off vintages, how fantastic I thought the '08 Cos d'Estournel was (his official tasting notes for the wine call it "quite juicy" which may explain why I liked it), and how '09 and '10 Bordeaux is so expensive that I haven't considered buying much of it.

He sympathized, I think, and we had a nice chat. I asked him what the next "big" vintage is going to be in France - trying to get a jump on this year's Scoop the Spectator contest! He said 2011 and 2012 were rather unheralded compared to 2009 and 2010. Finally a rest from the vintages of the century in Bordeaux. I found James to be a kind, engaging, and patient man. It was great to meet him. Follow him on Twitter: @jmolesworth1

Fresh off the conversation about Bordeaux vintages was a taste of a great one: The 2010 Pontet-Canet. 97WS/$210 - it was an elegant, refined wine. I tried the 2008 Pontet-Canet at the Boston event and the 2008 was quite a bit more fruit forward and ready to go. The 2010 needs time.

I'm always torn at events like these whether to spend time tasting new vintages of marquee wines -or- explore more off the beaten path wines. As much as I'd like to take the opportunity to learn, I'm a sucker for certain wines and it's hard to pass up a chance to taste wines like Caymus Special Selection. The 2010 was just rated 96 points by Wine Spectator and retails for $130. The wine is amazing.

Whereas the 2009 was so comically fruity it was almost a non-wine, the 2010 recovers nicely and sticks a near perfect landing. Plush fruit amply backed by supporting mocha notes make it extremely enjoyable. It's not at all off the beaten path but for sheer enjoyment this was probably my wine of the night.

A couple of Aussie Shiraz showed nicely: The 2011 Mollydooker Carnival of Love and the 2010 Glaetzer Bishop. The Bishop vineyard is, according to the gentleman pouring it, situated right next to the more famous/expensive Amon Ra vineyard so if you like the Amon Ra the Bishop might be a nice value play.

I stopped by to see if I could say "hi" to Dan Kosta who was pouring my beloved Kosta Browne Pinot Noir that evening. Molesworth was over tasting the wine. They weren't otherwise acting nearly as seriously as they appear in this photo...

Wine Spectator Senior Editor James Molesworth (left)
with Dan Kosta from Kosta Browne (right)

Just when I thought I'd miss him, I spotted Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews. In addition to running the magazine, he reviews Spanish wines so I picked his brain about that category a bit. I asked him about the 2011 Boston Grand Tour event, whether it was poorly attended and whether they'll ever bring the Grand Tour back here. He said that yes, attendance at Boston wasn't spectacular, but I got the sense they're willing to try new venues every few years. Matthews is a true gentleman and it was a pleasure meeting him.

Me (left) with
Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews (right)

One more wine: The 2010 Alto Moncayo Garnacha. Just like the Betts & Scholl Grenache wowed me at the Boston event, I thought this Grenache-based wine was fantastic. The 2010 hasn't been rated by Spectator yet but the 2009 got 93 points and retails for $45. You can find the 2010 in the $30s and I think it's a tremendous value at that price. The only problem is you can find great Grenache under $15. Heck, under $7! But I think the Alto Moncayo is worth a shot if you've enjoyed more affordable Grenache. The 2010 is gorgeous.

Conclusion and Recommendations

I was thinking of how to explain the quality of the lineup at this event in a way that anyone would understand it - even if they're not into wine.

Take an experiential hobby and lay out all of the benchmark experiences in a row and try them one after another back to back. It's like taking the best paintings from Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso and lining them up in one place for you to experience. Like having Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert present their best dishes to you. Like driving an M5, an S6 and E63 AMG back to back. Like playing Augusta and Pebble Beach in the same weekend.

I recall an interesting piece from W Blake Gray about how there are 2 types of premium wine consumers in the US: The Prestige consumer and the Intrigue consumer. Labels and brands are important to the Prestige consumer. I consider myself a Prestige consumer.

The reason I'm a Prestige consumer is because I'm interested in experiencing benchmark wines to give myself a relatable frame of reference for comparing other wines I try.

If you're looking to efficiently and enjoyably build up a frame of reference for some of the world's great wines, these Spectator events are the best I've found. If you're a wine enthusiast it's hard to imagine not feeling like a kid in a candy store. And if you just like the taste of wine there's a ton of really good stuff to enjoy.

The next opportunity to take in an event like this is October 24-26, 2013 in New York.That events features 2 evenings of walk around tastings like the ones on the Grand Tour plus sit down seminars moderated by Spectator editors including a tasting of the year's Top Ten wines each presented by the winemakers. You can attend just the grand tastings, either evening. Who's in?

Although it would be great to have one of these in Boston (or wherever your hometown might be) I thoroughly enjoyed doing it as an overnight trip. Usually when we go for a night out, the kids are raring to go first thing in the morning and we're dog tired. Not the case when you wake up in a hotel bed! Keep that in mind next time one of these roll around and getting there involves a bit of a trip.

Disclosure: Complimentary admission on a media pass.

Question of the Day: Have you been to any Wine Spectator events? If so, what did you think?


Event Report: Francis Ford Coppola Winery at Ruth's Chris Boston

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Francis Ford Coppola Winery hosted a media dinner at Ruth's Chris in Boston last week. The purpose of the event was to increase familiarity with the Coppola offerings in the Boston area. I'd never been to this particular Ruth's Chris location, so it was a great chance to "kill two birds with one stone" while trying the Coppola wines in a fine dining setting.

The Coppola lineup features no less than 10 brands, and that doesn't even include the Napa-based Rubicon/Inglenook winery they also own. Here's the run-down of brands within the Coppola portfolio with the wines we'd tasted in bold:
  • Sofia
  • Diamond Collection
  • Votre Sante
  • Director's Cut
  • FC Reserve
  • Archimedes
  • Eleanor
  • Director's
  • Rosso & Bianco
  • Su Yuen
This Ruth's Chris location is situated within the old Boston City Hall. I'm pretty sure I'd heard the story of where the peculiar "Ruth's Chris" name came from, but I appreciated being reminded that it came about when Ruth Fertel purchased the Chris Steak House in New Orleans in 1965. That popular location burnt down so Fertel chose to open a new location nearby. Because she was only licensed to use the name "Chris Steak House" at the original location, she named the new restaurant Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Today there are more than 120 Ruth's Chris Steak Houses, making it one of the largest fine dining entities in the United States.

I've been to a handful of their other locations so when we walked through the door I immediately recognized the enticing aromas of their signature steaks served on piping hot plates sizzling with butter. The event was held in a subterranean portion of the restaurant which overall looked to be very nicely built out, successfully blending Boston charm with comfortable modern elbow room standards.

On to the wines...

2011 Sofia Blanc de Blancs

The evening started out with the 2011 Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine served with hand-passed hors d'oeuvres of Seared Ahi on Crisp Cucumber and Tomato Bruschetta Crostini.

The Sofia line-up consists of a Riesling, a Rosé, and this Blanc de Blancs which is 86% Pinot Blanc, 12% Muscat, and 2% Riesling. It weighs in at 11.5% alcohol and retails for $19.

The wine is made in a slightly off-dry style and I thought it offered appealing fruit characteristics of perfectly ripe pears and apples with the effervescence providing a nice lift without getting in the way of enjoyment.

Like many of the wines we'd try, the Sofia Blanc de Blancs is distinctively packaged, in this case within a pink cellophane wrapper.

2011 Diamond Chardonnay

This was the first of two wines we'd taste from their Diamond collection. A trend at California wine dinners seems to be describing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as Burgundian. Folks asked what that meant and winemaker Corey Beck said it meant a focus on lower alcohol, higher acidity, and moderate oak influence.

Though the alcohol was moderate (13.5%) wine didn't seem particularly Burgundian to me, but if you like your Chardonnay with a creamy texture and a crème brûlée finish this one's got it.

The Chardonnay was paired with a Chilled Shellfish salad with tiger shrimp, lumped crab meat, spring greens, and white balsamic vinaigrette.

The Diamond Chardonnay carries a $16 retail price. You'll find it on sale for $11 or $12 a bottle at retailers.

2011 Votre Santé Pinot Noir

This was my favorite wine of the night. I've been talking a lot about getting back to basics and seeking out affordable, enjoyable weeknight wines and this is one I consider meeting that description.

It was a soft, plush wine with sufficient California Pinot markings (strawberries, supporting herbal notes, etc) that it felt like legit Pinot. It also featured just a touch of baking spice warmth yet bright fruit kept it feeling fresh.

It paired very enjoyably with a Wild Mushroom Risotto featuring cremini mushrooms, fresh thyme, and Romano cheese. Fantastic comfort pairing.

The best part? The Pinot retails for just $14, meaning you'll be able to find it at retail for just over $10 (search for it using Wine-Searcher) or for $8 by the glass in restaurants. I hear they sell tons of it at The Cottage in Wellesley and I believe it's poured at Ruth's Chris as well.

2011 Diamond Claret

This is the Coppola wine you've probably seen most frequently in wine shops, including Costco if I'm not mistaken. The bottle is wrapped in gold netting to signify it's one of their signature wines.

The winery website is quite good - it includes a video showing how to open one of these bottles while retaining the netting. They're big on presentation: "It's all entertainment," says Francis Ford Coppola.

The Claret is mostly Cabernet-driven wine (79%) but labeled as a Claret to denote the inclusion of other Bordeaux varieties.

The wine retails for $21, though discounters seem to drive it down in the $12 range.

That's a favorable price point to be paired with an 8 oz Filet & Lobster Tail Rockefeller (stuffed with creamy spinach and Romano cheese)!

If you've never been to a Ruth's Chris, their signature move is delivering steaks to your table on very hot plates sizzling with butter. I wondered how they'd pull that off in this setting with 20+ people being simultaneously served in the room.

Winemaker Corey Beck quickly sensed it was time to stop talking when the sounds and smells of the sizzling steaks entered the room! The restaurant did a fantastic job presenting the entrees concurrently.

2010 Director's Cut Cabernet

Dessert - a fantastic flourless chocolate cake with fresh berries - was paired with the Director's Cut Cab which was a nice step up from the Claret. The Director's Cut was denser than the Claret which I appreciated.

Beck described the mindset of Director's Cut being analogous to a filmmaker deciding what he wants to keep in the final picture. In producing Director's Cut, Beck gets to decide which lots and barrels work best together when creating the final blend.

It's produced from grapes from Sonoma's Alexander Valley and is a nice value at $29 retail, and available for less if you look around.

Conclusions and Recommendations

It was very enjoyable tasting these wines in the context of the food at Ruth's Chris. The Voltre Santé Pinot Noir is one in particular I'll gladly buy it next time I see it available at retail. The Director's Cut Cab was a nice wine, and I hear they make a Director's Cut Pinot Noir I'd also be interested in buying.

The Coppola empire of endeavors is impressive. Filmmaking, wine, resorts... The list is long. Many celebrities get into winemaking as a side hobby that loses money. But in the case of Coppola's wine brands they actually kick off money that's in turn used to create independent films. Fascinating guy. I think I'll have to go back and re-watch The Godfather.

For more information, visit:

Related Reading

Question of the Day: Have you tried the Coppola wines? If so, what did you think?



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