Sneak Preview: Del Frisco's Grille Chestnut Hill

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Del Frisco's Grille is set to open Saturday November 30th, 2013 at The Street in Chestnut Hill, MA. Situated toward the east end of the ambitiously revitalized shopping and dining center, Del Frisco's Grille is part of the Del Frisco's Restaurant Group that includes Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse and Sullivan's Steakhouse.

Del Frisco's Grille is a different concept than Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse in Boston.

From their website:
DEL FRISCO'S GRILLE IS MODERN, INVITING, STYLISH AND FUN. Taking the classic bar and grill to new heights, Del Frisco’s Grille draws inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients. Our menu is a tempting mix of prime steaks, fresh seafood and twists on American comfort cuisine. The energetic bar, a destination in itself, creates a buzz throughout the restaurant and sets the stage and tone for an amazing dining experience. We proudly take our roots in the tradition of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, providing guests with a familiar, yet exciting atmosphere, fresh, approachable fare and genuine hospitality.
We visited Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse in Boston last year and we were impressed. I was thrilled when I heard another Del Frisco's was opening closer to home and I was intrigued to learn more about what differentiates the two concepts.

The Chestnut Hill location will be the 11th Grille in the country. There are currently 10 Double Eagle Steakhouses. But the steakhouses have been around longer and, at least in the Boston market, the steakhouses compete at the highest end of the category. A 22 oz Ribeye at the Double Eagle Steakhouse is an eye-popping $53, and they've got even more expensive steak options north of that. 

So Double Eagle has set the high water mark for elite steakhouses in Boston on a number of levels and I was eager to learn more about what Del Frisco's Grille offers. I had a chance to find out at an informal pre-opening lunch this past week. For the location's relative proximity to downtown Boston, I think the concept will fit very nicely.

Location and Design

Although Chestnut Hill is obviously completely different from the Seaport District, the siting is somehow familiar. You enter on the first floor and take an elevator or stairs and the restaurants are both on the second floor.
Not yet signed when I visited, Del Frisco's Grille wil occupy the 2nd
floor of this portion of The Street Chestnut Hill

View into the kitchen with their motto:
"Do Right and Feed Every Man"

View from the second floor dining room onto Hammond Pond


Each Del Frisco's Grille features staples and dishes tailored to the local market.

We started off with one of their signature appetizers: Ahi Tacos. Tuna Tartare, Avocado, and Spicy Mayo. They were fresh and delicious, and just the right size. The flavors were bursting and thankfully the taco shells didn't. Great stuff.
Ahi Tacos - $14
Brussels Sprouts have made a comeback and I can see why with this dish. The core flavor of the vegetable comes through well and is deliciously lifted by (what else?) bacon. 
Shaved Brussels Sprout Flatbread - $13
And you've got to try the burger to assess the place, right? It's very nicely done and at $14 with fries and table service it's just $4 more than a similar offering from the nearby counter-service Shake Shack.
Grille Prime Cheeseburger - $14
I mentioned the inclusion of local dishes. We had a taste of the Lobster Roll - and it was terrific. Not so much mayo as to obscure the main attraction but it was nicely cooked and presented and quite a treat. Also available but not pictured: Fish & Chips (Haddock) with Harpoon IPA beer batter - $16.50. Seafood procured from the Foley Fish Boston so you're getting it fresh here.
Native Lobster Roll - $19.50
The Ribeye was a tremendous treat, especially at lunch. Served with a lagniappe (which means a little something extra) of potato cake. Their steaks come from Stockyards in Chicago.
16 oz Prime Ribeye - $39


The restaurant will feature 300+ unique wines by the bottle and 24 wines by the glass. The assortment is more diverse than at the Double Eagle Steakhouse.
One of several temperature controlled storage/display
cases for wine at Del Frisco's Grille Chestnut Hill
Overall, the emphasis on wine was a bit less than it was at the Double Eagle Steakhouse, which is to be expected for a more approachable suburban venue. This restaurant has more of an eye for value than at the Steakhouse.
WWP-approved selections like Banshee, Coho,
Heitz, ZD and Robert Foley - I like it!
A quick glance at one of their temperature controlled storage units reveals some of my favorites (Coho, Banshee, Heitz, Robert Foley), and a review of the by-the-glass/carafe/bottle looks well-chosen and quite a bit more affordable than at the Double Eagle Steakhouse. For example, the bellweather Meiomi sells for $46/btl at the Grille vs. $72/btl at the Steakhouse.

Wines by the glass/carafe/bottle at Del Frisco's Grille Chestnut Hill


Del Frisco's Grille at The Street Chestnut Hill is yet another welcomed addition to an area that's attracted a slew of attractive dining options. The menu and ambiance are well-matched to the locale and I think this restaurant is going to be very successful.

The menu offerings tone down the celebratory air of the Double Eagle Steakhouse nicely making the Grille a great option for a night out for a couple -or- a comfortable lunch out with children working on their best manners. ;)

With salads and sandwiches in the $15 range, entrees in the $15-$28 range, and steaks from $29-$43, Del Frisco's Grille is worth checking out. They're open for lunch and dinner weekdays and for brunch on the weekends.

They're set to open at Chestnut Hill Saturday November 30th, 2013.

Check 'em out:
Del Frisco's Grille
33 Boylston St. Suite 3370
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
(617) 608-3682

Related Reading:


Slideshow: The Best (and Worst) Wines at Trader Joe's Right Now

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It's been a while since we did our weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, but we did today and I was reminded what a fun place it is. Especially when you haven't shopped there in a while. And especially at the holidays.

The wine assortment hasn't changed much the past few years - other than the vintages. They always bring in a few higher end wines at the holidays but for the most part I'd avoid anything over $20 at Trader Joe's.

See also: Is Trader Joe's a good place to buy wine?

I saw a bunch of shoppers wandering the wine section asking the folks stocking the shelves which wines were best. The wine area at Trader Joe's is a pretty fun environment - probably because the worst thing that can happen is you spend $5 on a wine that's not very good.

See also: Four luscious reds to buy now at Trader Joe's

I zipped around and picked up a few favorites but I thought it would be helpful to share one guy's opinion on this subject for people who might be standing in the store or doing a quick Google search on the best wines to buy at Trader Joe's. If you're looking for luscious, fruit forward crowd-pleasers, here are some of my favorites:

Best Wines to Buy at Trader Joe's - slideshows

If the slideshow fails to embed or you want to get straight to the list, here are the 8 recommended wines in the slideshow:
  1. Castaño Monastrell - $6.99 (best $7 wine on the planet? I think so)
  2. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet - $7.99 (back with a vengance in 2011 - sooo good)
  3. Dr. L Riesling $9.99 (SOLID German Riesling)
  4. Apothic Red $8.99 (luscious and delicious)
  5. Chariot Gypsy - $4.99 (also luscious and delicious - with a bit of sweetness - and extremely affordable)
  6. Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc - Viognier $10.49 (gorgeous - aromatically and otherwise)
  7. Trentatre Rosso $5.99 (incredibly well put together and approachable for an Italian red)
  8. Cocobon Red $7.99 (light and juicy with streaks of mocha)
Note: Listed in order of how highly recommended each wine is (1 is most highly recommended)

And here are four I'd recommend you NOT buy:
  1. Avoid: Blue Fin Petite Sirah - $3.99 (gives Petite Sirah a bad name)
  2. Avoid: L'Authentique French Red - $4.99 (thin and bitter. worst wine ever?)
  3. Avoid: Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc $6.99 (so disappointing)
  4. Avoid: Hangtime Bourgogne - $6.99 (watery and devoid of flavor)
Note: Listed in order of how strenuously I recommend you avoid these wines

And remember Jason's Wine Blog? He hasn't posted lately but I did catch one recommendation from him. If a guy has had a year to think about one wine to buy at Trader Joe's it must be good:

Further Reading:
Charles Shaw blind tasting (or: Are we wasting $10 a night?)

Like hearing about deals and great value wines? I'd love it if you SUBSCRIBED to the Wellesley Wine Press for future updates.

Question of the Day: What are some of the best/worst wines you've found at Trader Joe's lately?


A Wine Guide for Celebrating the Holidays

Thursday, November 21, 2013

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is how they provide an opportunity to take a break from our normal schedules to gather with family and friends to celebrate the season. For us that means a chance for the kids to see their grandparents, [re]creating holiday traditions around the house, and enjoying great meals with special wines.

I recently wrote an article for WellesleyWeston Magazine on tips for selecting wines to celebrate the holidays. In it, I reached out to local food & wine experts like Mike O'Connell Jr. from Upper Falls Liquors in Newton, Chef Ming Tsai from Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Chris Minervino from Lower Falls Liquors in Newton, and Austin Moran from Nine East Wine Emporium in Natick. My thanks to each of them for sharing their time and expertise.

One common thread in the suggestions within the article was this:
Relax and enjoy the season while in the company of family and friends.

If you live in Wellesley you should be receiving a copy of this in the mail soon.

To read it online now:

As always, feel free top drop me an email ( or ping me on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) with comments. Enjoy. I hope you have a great holiday season. Cheers!


Five Secret Massachusetts Retailer Free Shipping Codes (and what wines to buy now)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This post is sponsored by Ansonia Wines - a new
French wine merchant in the Boston area. Check 'em out.
With the holiday season squarely upon us, many of us are short on time and looking to avoid sitting in traffic tracking down wine deals. And as much as I like to complain that Massachusetts is a lousy state for wine consumers because of restrictive shipping laws there are some deals to be had if you look around.

Slowly but surely, Massachusetts retailers are ramping up their online presence and this presents an opportunity for Massachusetts wine enthusiasts to scoop up deals online. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is one of the few states (the only?) that prohibits its retailers from shipping out of state.

So these deals are only for us in Massachusetts that otherwise have to observe online wine deals from afar (or dream up ways to finagle shipment to "friends in a neighboring state").

Here are five Massachusetts free shipping offers I've noticed recently:

Gordons - Free shipping on $200+ orders

Gordon's is a dusty bottled old guard retailer in Waltham. They've got some really nice stuff, but a reputation for inconsistent inventory online vs. in store. Pricing is a little high but they offer 20% off mixed cases so that brings prices down. They list the 2010 El Nido Clio for $49.99 so that's $39.99 fully loaded as part of a mixed case. The 2011 Clio is about to come to market in Massachusetts so I'm surprised to see the 2010 available, especially since I didn't see it in stock last time I was there. They've recently revamped their website so for now no code is needed for free shipping. Just add $200 to your cart and it should show free shipping.

D & L Liquors - Free shipping on any order with code "WELCOME"

Another traditional retailer with a similar pricing model. 20% off a mixed case and free shipping for a "limited time" (they launched their website in September). They list the 2010 Alto Moncayo for $49.99 so after 20% off and mixed with more affordable wines that's $39.99 fully loaded. Parker didn't rate this vintage 100 points but you know what? I like the 2010 better than the 2009. D&L has some off the beaten path stuff like 29 Songs as well.

Drizly iPhone app - Free shipping (in under an hour!) with code "wellesley"

This is a WWP exclusive. Boston-based Drizly offers fast delivery of beer, wine & spirits to your home or office in the Boston area. Now serving the western suburbs - including Wellesley. Download the iPhone app to shop now. Their system doesn't yet understand mixed case discounts so it may be better to buy beer or just a bottle or two in a pinch for now. This could come in handy during the holidays! Full review of Drizly coming soon.

VinoDivino - Free same day home delivery

VinoDivino recently opened a new location in Needham and they're offering free same day delivery to select parts of Boston, Newton, Needham, Brookline and Wellesley through November. VinoDivino has a reputation for sleuthing out highly rated wines and sometimes they charge a premium for them (like with this 2010 Alexana Pinot Noir for $54.50 compared to a $42 release price). But check out this 2012 Illahe Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $22.95 - not bad at all! Select "Same Day" delivery at checkout for free shipping. - Various ways to get free shipping

I wrote about a bunch of deals you can stack for free shipping and discounts on and Wine Spectator. Read this blog post for more information.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Question of the Day: What are some of the best deals on specific wines you can stack with these free shipping deals? What retailers with free shipping offers did I miss?


Thanksgiving Wines: New Releases from Ponzi Vineyards

Ponzi Vineyards is an Oregon producer founded in 1970 by Dick and Nanzy Ponzi. They started with 96 cases of Pinot Noir sold to the Portland market in 1976 and have grown from there. Their wines are now available nationally.

Ponzi was among the first wineries in Oregon to commercially produce Pinot Gris which now accounts for one third of the winery's total production. Along with their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir they are Ponzi's flagship white and red wines.

Luisa Ponzi was one of America's first women winemakers to be formally educated in Burgundy. She's been winemaker at Ponzi for 20 years working alongside her father Dick Ponzi. In addition to their popular Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines, Ponzi produces a Dolcetto, a Pinot Blanc, an Arneis and other varietal wines.

The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are crafted in a style that's food-friendly and ready to enjoy upon release. I recently tasted both. I think they'd be terrific picks for Thanksgiving.

2012 Ponzi Pinot Gris
13.2% alcohol
13,000 cases produced

After cool 2010 and 2011 vintages in Oregon, winemakers were thankful for 2012 which was dry and warm from July through mid October. A wet spring kept crop levels low but produced grapes with intense flavors.

The Pinot Gris was fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation was prohibited to retain brightness.

Star bright pale gold in color. Perfectly ripened stone fruit on the nose. Supporting lime on the palate. Low-medium acidity makes it enjoyably non-bracing. Finishes very dry especially given then generous nose. Solid.

88/100 WWP: Very Good
Find it on Wine-Searcher

2010 Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
13.6% alcohol
8,283 cases produced

After a wet spring, 2010 was the coolest summer in 17 years in Oregon. However, two weeks of warm, dry days prior to harvest enabled Pinot Noir to achieve ripeness - albeit at reduced yields.

The Pinot Noir was hand sorted and destemmed then fermented for 12-20 days with manual punch downs. The wine was aged in 30% new French oak barrels for 11 months. It was racked and bottled by gravity flow - unfiltered and unfined - then aged in bottle for five months before release.

Slightly murky visually specifically towards the end of the bottle. Bright sour cherry nose along with tea and dry autumn leaves. Strawberry rhubarb on the palate and a definite non-sweet streak. Long herbal-tinged finish. Very good stuff. Textbook Oregon Pinot Noir. A nice melancholy wine for autumn.

88/100 WWP: Very Good
Find it on Wine-Searcher

Samples for review.

Along with their estate in Beaverton, and a wine bar and bistro in Dundee, Ponzi recently opened a new state of the art winery and tasting room in Sherwood, Oregon.

Check 'em out:
Ponzi Vineyards

Related Reading:
Thanksgiving Wines: New Releases from Cakebread Cellars


Seasons 52 Opens in Chestnut Hill

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seasons 52 - a fresh grill and wine bar with 36 locations in 16 states - opened in Chestnut Hill, MA this week. The restaurant is situated within the newly redeveloped Chestnut Hill Square on the south side of Route 9. It's part of the Wegman's development (which is set to open in Spring 2014).

I took part in a small gathering of local food & wine writers to learn about what Seasons 52 has to offer. We were treated to a Chef's Table dining experience which provided an opportunity to enjoy many of their signature dishes along with wines paired specifically for the occasion.

Pro Tip: If you're coming from points east of Chestnut Hill a new dedicated left turn lane for Chestnut Hill Square now eliminates the need for a U-Turn.

Seasons 52 features:
  • Fresh seasonal dishes served in a casual sophisticated environment 
  • Every dish on the menu has less than 475 calories
  • Over 100+ wines on an international wine list, 64 of which are available by the glass
  • Wine list features 26 varieties from 14 countries
Master Sommelier George Miliotes (@TheWineExpert) and Senior Director of Culinary Clifford Pleau were in town to help the restaurant open and personally presented each course. What a pair of talented individuals.

Here's what we tasted...


Blackened Steak & Blue Cheese
 cremini mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions

Lobster & Fresh Mozzarella
roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallions, lobster sour cream

Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, Champagne MV

Miliotes said he selected the Chartogne-Taillet as an example of his commitment to grower Champagne. Producers need to be large enough to service all of the restaurants in the Seasons 52 collection but small enough to answer his phone calls. It was a terrific start to the evening. Light with appealing fruity aromatics.

The flatbreads were an enjoyable start to the evening. I thought the lobster was particularly well prepared.

Lump Crab and Haas Avocado
Aveleda Vinho Verde, Portugal 2012

"A good Vinho Verde can be served any time to anyone and they say 'Wow - that's good.'" was how Miliotes described this simple but enjoyable pairing. It's hard to argue with such a delightful aromatic wine alongside crab meat and seasoned avocado. Nice stuff.

Organic Salmon and Lemongrass Sea Scallop
roasted on a cedar plank
Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Central Coast 2011

This was a really attractive dish and it tasted great too. The Mer Soleil Chardonnay is one of two Chard options from the Wagner family (Caymus, Belle Glos, Meiomi, Conundrum). Mer Soleil sees time in oak barrels. They also offer an unoaked Chardonnay in a ceramic bottle.

The comparison point offered here is the unoaked Vinho Verde to the oaked Mer Soleil. The weight of the salmon supports the more full bodied oaked Chardonnay nicely and makes for a delightful pairing. The Wagners make wines that are hard not to like.

I especially enjoyed flavors the salmon picked up from the herbs it was prepared with, and the roasted vegetables provided an excellent accompanying taste as well.

Baby Spinach Salad
caramelized Bosc pears, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese

Casillero del Diablo Viognier, Casablanca 2012

Here, Miliotes shows his ability to select a wine from an unusual category that appeals to many at an affordable price point. Chile isn't exactly known for Viognier and it's not like Viognier in general has a large following. But they can offer it for a relatively inexpensive cost per glass and it's a fruit forward white wine that's sure to please.

The pear preparation as described by Chef Pleau was as simple as it comes: Cut the pears into wedges and roast them. They become remarkably sweet and delicious without any additional intervention. We did this just last night and it they made for a terrific addition to a salad.

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli
harvest vegetables, black mushrooms, roasted onion jus

Retromarcia, Chianti Classic 2010

The Retromarcia is a custom blend made to George's specifications. It's made in a classic style (which is to say it's not to be mistaken for a new world fruit bomb). Oak influence is minimal.

I don't think I've ever met a pillow pastry I didn't like and this one is no exception. Terrific.

Oak-Grilled Lobster Tail and New Zealand Venison Chop
truffle mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, red wine demi glaze

De Toren Z, Stellenbosch 2011

This course was a star of the night both for the food and the wine. The lobster was prepared absolutely perfectly and the venison reminded me of a lamb chop in a good way.

If there was one wine Miliotes humbly hung his hat on as having discovered and brought to the US market, it was The De Toren Z - a mostly Merlot driven Bordeaux blend from South Africa. It was terrific but I had a hard time concentrating after a bottle of Alto Moncayo showed up on the table.

I'd been blabbing all weekend before the event on Twitter about how Robert Parker rated a couple recent vintages of Alto Moncayo 100 points. The wine is a blockbuster and at ~$40 it's a Spanish Garnacha worth seeking out. I have a feeling Miliotes was listening and added the Alto Moncayo as an act of hospitality. I said, "George - you heard Parker rated this 100 points, right?" He just shrugged and said he included it in the lineup because he thought we'd like it.

Alto Moncayo sells for $45 retail, and is $91 on the list at Seasons 52.

As an aside, the 2010 has been even better for me than the 2009 Parker rated 100 points. Parker rated the 2010 "only" 92 points but if you're buying for near term consumption purposes the 2010 is every bit as good if not better than the 2009. More on the 100 point Alto Moncayo here.

Mini Indulgence Desserts

Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2010d

Keeping with the health conscious focus, desserts are presented as "indulgences" in moderate portions. I went for a pecan pie driven treat and a strawberry cannoli indulgence. A terrific finish to the meal.

Miliotes chose a German Riesling to pair with dessert, which is a move I'd highly recommend for holiday celebrations. Related to this, he mentioned Riesling is his go-to wine for consumption at home. Its moderate alcohol levels, food friendliness, and suitability for all sorts of weather make it a super grape variety to have on hand.

Me (left) with Master Sommelier George Miliotes (right)

Discussion & Conclusion

There's no doubt I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Seasons 52 and I'll look forward to visiting again. But there's one thing I'm still thinking about: What occasion is appropriate for a visit to Seasons? What's the crowd like? Who is this restaurant for?

I appreciate that the menu offers lower calorie options. I left thoroughly satisfied. I have to admit - as much as I love The Capital Grille (review) I sometimes overindulge there. But Seasons 52 isn't defined by this characteristic in my view.

To gain a little more insight into the Seasons 52 demographic, I reached out to my mother-in-law who lives in Florida for her thoughts. She lives in a community with a Capital Grille and Trulucks so I asked her how Seasons 52 compares to other dining options. She responded:
The decor is unique at Seasons 52. It feels more geared towards women than men. The bar service is excellent and they have a piano player in the center of the bar. It doesn't seem as pricey as The Capital Grille. If I was going out to dinner with my girlfriends I would probably go to Seasons 52. However, if I was going out to dinner with a date I think I'd prefer The Capital Grille. 
Based on the vibe I got from the Chestnut Hill location I can definitely see this location being especially popular with singles and couples who enjoy the social aspect of dining at the bar. Seasons 52 has really thought about this style of dining and has executed it very well.

As part of Darden and boasting 30+ Seasons 52 locations, the restaurant was already operating efficiently. There's something to be said for experience and I wouldn't hesitate to try this location early in its operating cycle.

Overall, Seasons 52 is a welcomed addition the dining options along the revitalized stretch of shops and restaurants along Route 9 in Chestnut Hill. With its fresh, healthful, delicious, and seasonally rotating menu I'd highly recommend a visit.

Further Reading:
Check 'em out:
220 Boylston Street
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
(617) 558-1152

Question of the Day: Have you been to Seasons 52 in Chestnut Hill or other locations? If so, what did you think?


Coming Soon: Jorge Ordoñez Wine Dinner at Blue Ginger

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fresh on the heels of the 100 point rating his Alto Moncayo wines received, Spanish wine super importer Jorge Ordoñez and Chef Ming Tsai are teaming up to conceive and present a dinner pairing wines from the Ordoñez portfolio with Chef Tsai's cuisine.

Ordoñez is the importer responsible for for bringing in an impressive list of Spanish wines to the US market. If you turn a bottle of Spanish wine around and look to see who the importer is, especially if it's a good one, I'd say there's a 70+% chance it'll bear his name.

The pattern I've seen is value at every price point. From entry level wines like Bodegas Borsao (labeled as Borsao Tinto, Monte Oton, and Tres Picos), Wrongo Dongo, and Bodegas Volver - to higher priced wines like Alto Moncayo - the entry level wines draw you in and make you wonder:

If $6 tastes this good, what happens when I spend $35 in this category? Then the $35 wine blows you away.

Though he's no longer involved at Spain's Gil Family Estates (one of my favorite producers from this trip to Spain to say the least) Ordoñez was responsible for bringing Bodegas Juan Gil to the US market and helped form the team behind Bodegas El Nido whose wines set the bar for what wines from Jumilla can be, selling for $45 to $140. If you like Alto Moncayo, you'll love El Nido Clio.

Ordoñez' success, I think, has come from identifying outstanding vineyards in Spain, working with producers on vinification standards, styling the wines for the American market, and developing brands and labels American consumers can relate to. That they can recognize and get excited about buying again and again.

And perhaps most importantly, his wines are styled in a way that blend the old world with the new to form a flavor profile that's very appealing to an American wine consumer like myself who enjoys the style of wines from California but who is looking to branch out into new regions - especially those more affordable than Napa.

Looking at the wines slated to poured, this dinner provides a window into his latest discoveries. Based on what I've tried in the past I have every reason to believe these wines will continue a tradition of incredible quality and value...

Jorge Ordoñez Wine Dinner

November 18, 2013

Togarashi Spiced Salmon Tataki
Orange-Roasted Fennel Salad
2012 Jorge Ordonez & Co "Botani" Dry Muscat (Sierras de Malaga)


Lemon-Butter Poached Sablefish
Parsnip-Quince Puree and Grilled Shallot Chutney
2012 Bodegas Avanthia "Avancia" Godello (Valdeorras)


Szechwan Spiced Duck Breast with Soy-Tangerine Confit
Foie Gras Sauce
2009 Sierra Cantabria "Reserva Unica" Rioja (Rioja)


Turmeric-Fennel Crusted Oven Roasted Sirloin
Spicy Grilled Eggplant, Clove-Spinach Puree and Yellow Rice
**2011 Bodegas Volver "Triga" Old Vine Monastrell (Alicante)**


Wasik's Cheese Course
2011 Bodegas Breca "Breca" Garnacha (Calatayud)


Blue Ginger Dessert
2012 Jorge Ordonez & Co "Victoria" Sweet Muscat (Malaga)

$125.00 Per Person, Inclusive of Tax and Gratuity
For reservations call 781-283-5790 x18
Reservations required 

Credit card is required to hold a reservation. 
Charge will be incurred on the day of the event. 
No penalty for cancellations made prior to 48 hours in advance.

**USA premiere release**

For more information, visit Blue Ginger's website:

Further Reading:


Ends Sunday: $25 Wagyu Burger and Belle Glos or Silver Oak at The Capital Grille

Thursday, November 14, 2013

As I was driving down to the Massachusetts State House to testify in favor of allowing the direct shipment of wine to Massachusetts Tuesday I thought to myself: Should I stop in at The Capital Grille for lunch? Of course I should!

I'm not too familiar with restaurants around the State House so rather than struggle with uncertainty I stopped in at The Capital Grille on Boylston Street for a quick bite to eat. I'm glad I did because I didn't realize they were still running their Wagyu & Wine offer which includes:
  • A Wagyu Burger topped with Havarti and a "perfectly prepared" egg
  • Truffle Fries
  • Your choice of a glass of Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon -or-
  • A glass of Belle Glos Pinot Noir
All for $25.

This is quite a deal because Silver Oak Alexander Valley carries a retail release price of $70 and Belle Glos single vineyard wines retail for $44. Say what you will about steakhouse markups, and I'm unsure what a bottle of Silver Oak goes for on their list, but if they sell it for $150 and you get 4 or 5 glasses per bottle that would be like a $33 glass of wine. They're basically paying you $8 to take the burger! ;)

And the burger is terrific.

I couldn't decide which wine to taste so I tried both.

At this location they're pouring the 2012 Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir (Wine-Searcher). This is the second vintage Dairyman has been in the Belle Glos portfolio and the first time I've tried it. I always pause a bit when choosing wine by the glass in a restaurant especially if I see it's been opened for an indeterminate amount of time. Especially at 11:30 am when the bottle was likely opened the night before.

But the wine was absolutely delicious. If you've tasted Belle Glos Pinots before you know it's a bit of a Cab drinker's Pinot - rich and full bodied. For my palate, they never cross the line into raisins and prunes and they skilfully retain brilliance despite their ripeness. The Dairyman continues this winning streak.  My favorite bottling has long been the Las Alturas Vineyard, but I'd put the Dairyman right up there alongside Las Alturas. I'd like to track down a bottle or two of the Dairyman to see how the two compare side by side. Highly recommended.

The 2009 Silver Oak Alexander Valley (Wine-Searcher) was very nice as well, and even though both paired nicely with the Wagyu Burger, I preferred the Pinot Noir. Either I've gone so far off the deep end in favor of the core flavor profile of California Pinot Noir I can't discern a good Cab from a good Pinot OR this wasn't the greatest glass of Silver Oak I've had. I'm usually a fan too. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't great for me.

However the Wagyu Burger was terrific. The egg yolk provides a perfect sauce of sorts for what's probably best enjoyed with a knife and fork. The Truffle Fries are good but like I've said before not my favorite side on their otherwise terrific menu.

All things considered you can't go wrong with this offer. A second glass of wine, if you'd like, will set you back $20. Check it out before the offer ends this Sunday November 17th, 2013:

This offer is valid at most but not all Capital Grille locations.

Check 'em out:
The Capital Grille Boston
900 Boylston Street


Massachusetts Direct Shipment Conversation Expands to Include Retailers

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Imagine a friend in another state telling you about a great book. You go to to buy it only to discover it's not available for shipment to your state. That's what we're currently dealing with in Massachusetts when it comes to wine since current laws do not allow for the direct shipment of wine from out of state wineries.

The Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure met Wednesday to hear testimony on the direct shipment of wine to Massachusetts residents.

Along with a 7 other passionate wine consumers, I was on hand to share my thoughts with the committee. Arguments against direct shipment came from Frank Anzalotti of MassPack (a body that includes some but not all Massachusetts retailers). Although a representative from the Masschusetts wine & spirits wholesalers was on hand to delivery testimony on a non-related beer wholesaler issue he did not testify on the topic of the direct shipment of wine.

If you're new to the issue here's a brief history of wine shipment into Massachusetts.

The big story, as an observer of this issue over the past few years, is the potential inclusion of out of state retailers in the discussion. Tom Wark was on hand representing the American Wine Consumer Coalition. Joining Wark on the pro-shipment front was New York wine retailer Daniel Posner who serves as President of the National Association of Wine Retailers. They argued that in order to enable Massachusetts consumer access to a wide variety of imported wines, out of state retailers should be allowed to ship to the state.

Several bills related to the direct shipment of wine have been proposed this session but the weight seems to be behind H294 sponsored by Representative Theodore Speliotis of Danvers. The bill doesn't include retailer shipments but the bill would enable shipments from out of state wineries. Speliotis formerly chaired the committee he testified before this week. As sponsor of the bill, Speliotis obviously supports direct shipments of wine. However, under his watch as chairman in prior sessions the bill never made its way out of committee.

Speliotis, somewhat strangely as the bill sponsor, said his concern is for what might happen to Massachusetts retailers if direct shipments were allowed. He says he's concerned about small business in Massachusetts "when we open the doors to the Internet". This argument seem strange since consumers are already fully able to buy wine online in Massachusetts - including from the nation's largest retailer since they've gone through the trouble of obtaining a Massachusetts retailer license and buy all their wine from sold here from Massachusetts wholesalers. At issue is access to wines currently not distributed in the state.

Representing consumers nationally, Wark debunked the notion that allowing direct shipments would be bad for Massachusetts wholesalers and retailers. He pointed out that when Maryland allowed direct shipments wholesalers and retailers actually saw an increase in year over year sales along with broader consumer choice.

Posner, representing national retailers, described how out of state retailers remit taxes for wines shipped to New Hampshire as a point of comparison. Retailers pay $500 per year for the privilege of shipping to the state plus an 8% tax. This is particularly notable given that there is no sales tax on wine in New Hampshire when purchased from state liquor stores. New Hampshire has therefore created an import tax on wine and their state income increases each time a Massachusetts consumer ships to New Hampshire to skirt existing laws. I drove home that point in my testimony and when discussing this with WBZ-TV:

What I hope made an impression on the committee was the earnest testimony from 8 wine enthusiasts in attendance who each described how current laws limited their access to specific wines. These tax-paying Massachusetts residents each have interest in specific wines they can't shipped to them because of existing laws.

A representative from the Wine Institute (pro-shipment) described the fundamentals of why shipments can't occur now and how the bill(s) would rectify the situation. Things like per-consumer capacity restrictions and FedEx/UPS licensing requirements. That's the thing - it's not really up to the committee whether shipments will occur. It's only up to them to pass along a bill which describes how they should occur.

My message to the committee was, I hope, simple. It's time. Three years ago, existing laws were found to be unconstitutional. The state has yet to change laws to comply with that ruling. They need to move one of these bills forward but while we're at let's make sure we get it right which means including out of state retailers in the bill, defining a non-onerous licensing, reporting, and fee structure, defining reasonable volumes, and allowing in-state retailers to ship out of state.

What Happens Next?

The bill gets killed in its sleep while nobody is watching. Just kidding. Though it is what happened last time.

At some point the committee will hopefully vote to send an amended H294 forward for a vote in the House. Governor Patrick is in favor of the legislation so hopefully from there it would move swiftly towards becoming a law.

What Can You Do?

Head over to Tom Wark's blog to see a summary of the session including the American Wine Consumer Coalition's testimony.

And visit Free the Grapes' Massachusetts 2013 page for instructions on how to email committee members to encourage them to allow H294 our of committee and on for a broader vote. Now would be a good time to do it while it's fresh in their minds.

Thanks to CBS Boston WBZ-TV for their coverage of this issue.

I'd love it if you subscribed to the Wellesley Wine Press to keep up with future updates.


A Slew of Stackable Spectator Deals (including a 95 point red you can buy now)

Monday, November 11, 2013

As a deal hound, one of the things I like most are deals that are stackable. By that I mean you can apply multiple methods of savings to get things you want rather than having to choose one discount over another.

If you're interested in an amazingly affordable highly rated red wine shipped directly to your doorstep, along with a Wine Spectator subscription (or extension) this set of deals might be for you. If you're into collecting airline points and miles this deal gets even sweeter.

Step 1: Get a Steward Ship Subscription

Steward Ship is like Amazon Prime. For a flat rate you get free shipping for the whole year. What I like about it is that when I see a wine pop up that I'd like to try I can get it shipped out immediately without having to build towards a mixed case to reduce per-bottle shipping charges.

It's also great for gifting. With Steward Ship you can get free shipping orders sent to any address. So you could theoretically send a single bottle of wine to 30 colleagues, friends and family this holiday season with your Steward Ship membership.

Steward Ship costs $49 per year. This is an affiliate sign-up link. Feel free to use it if you'd like:

Get FREE shipping on ANY order for 30 days with Stewardship trial.  Sign up now!

Step 2: Shop Through an Online Portal

You can get additional savings in the form of cashback, points & miles by shopping at through an online portal. There are tons of online portals. To compare the best savings rates in your preferred currencies check a site like Cashback Monitor:

Step 3: Take Advantage of Portal Promotions

The United MileagePlus shopping portal is running a promotion whereby if you make 3 purchases of $25 you get an additional 1,500 miles. That's worth $15-$30 depending on how you value United miles. (ends 11/11/2013)

So break up your shopping into 3 separate $25 transactions to maximize this bonus. You'll get free shipping on all of them since you have Steward Ship. :)

Not to be outdone, the AAdvantage Shopping portal offers up to 750- 2,500 bonus miles for cumulative purchases of $75-$250. (runs 11/12/2013-12/02/2013)

Step 4: Double Dip the Shopping Portal

If you're not sure which wines you want to buy but want to take advantage of a short-term shopping portal promotion you can sometimes get bonus points for buying gift cards through the portal. Although gift cards are said to be excluded you can try double dipping the portal by buying a gift card and then using that gift card to buy merchandise.

More on double dipping here:

Step 5: Get a Free Six Month Wine Spectator Print Subscription with $50 Purchase with Steward Ship

Want a Wine Spectator print subscription? Or an extension to your existing subscription? For Steward Ship members, if you place a order of $50 or more you can get a 6-month Wine Spectator print subscription:

For comparison, the going rate for a one-year Wine Spectator subscription is around $49:

Wine Spectator (1-year auto-renewal)

Note: I've saw a half off voucher for a Wine Spectator print subscription that's intended to be used for gifting purposes that can also be used to renew your own subscription. Check for that if you're an existing subscriber.

Step 6: Consider Using Points & Miles to Renew Your Wine Spectator Print Subscription

Last I checked you could use United and US Airways miles at a very favorable rate for a Wine Spectator print subscription. More on that here:

Step 7: Get a Free 3 Month Subscription to Wine Spectator Online

As part of Wine Spectator's Top 100 reveal they're offering a free 3-Month online subscription. Can't beat that:

Step 8: Buy the 95-Point 2009 Muga Rioja Seleccion Especial for $34.99

Now that you have an online subscription to Wine Spectator you can log in and search their ratings database. You'll find things like this candidate for Wine Spectator Wine of the Year:

This is a terrific price for a 95-point red wine, and if you live in Massachusetts like I do you can buy it for $34.99 fully loaded (no tax and free shipping with Steward Ship or $0.01 on your first order):

Buy Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva 2009 on

Wine Spectator tends to be more conservative than The Wine Advocate with the big numbers. More on that here:

Accepting that Wine Spectator is more conservative with the big scores, 100 points is 100 points. Check out this deal from over the weekend if you missed it:

Step 9: Get 10% off 6 bottles of Rioja wines with code RIOJA

A nice thing about having Steward Ship is that you can enter a promo code on top of your free shipping that's automatically included. Luckily that 95-point Muga is a wine from RIOJA and is running 10% off 6 bottle or more through 11/17/2013.

Step 10: Round out your Orders with Inexpensive Wines

With Steward Ship you can ship out even a single bottle of's cheapest wine for free. But you can also use less expensive wines to reach price points like $25 or $50 to trigger portal/subscription bonuses.

Shop around. By sorting on "Savings" I found they had a terrific deal on this wine (for orders that ship to MA) that I've previously really enjoyed:

2007 Sanford Pinot Noir on


By stacking some or all of these deals together you can get some terrific wines shipping directly to your home or office without having to battle holiday traffic. I ordered a bottle of Muga on Friday morning and it showed up on Saturday.

And it's nice to access to Wine Spectator print and online subscriptions - especially when you can catch them on a deal.

The and Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. Just FYI and thanks if you choose to use them.


Amazing Deal Alert: Parker Goes 100 Points on Alto Moncayo (and it's still available at retail)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A friend on Twitter (@heelcorkdork) informed me this morning that Robert Parker released scores for a variety of Spanish wines yesterday (November 8, 2013 as part of a Jorge Ordonez Selections - Uncensored and Live tasting report, eRobertParker subscription required) that included 100 point scores for the 2007 Alto Moncayo and the 2009 Alto Moncayo.

I'll have to do some research to confirm this, but my gut tells me that at a release price of $45 these might be the most affordable 100 point rated wines ever from Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator. Making this even more compelling is the fact that both are available at retail. But I'd recommend acting quickly because this wine will absolutely not last long.

See also: An amazing younger sibling of Alto Moncayo for about half the price?

QPR metrics aside, the wine is absolutely delicious.

Before any more time is wasted I'd suggest you shop now and ask questions later:

Search for 2009 Alto Moncayo on
Search for 2007 Alto Moncayo on

Be aware when you're shopping that there are 3 levels of Alto Moncayo and listings south of $30 are probably for the Veraton:
  • Alto Moncayo Veraton ($25)
  • Alto Moncayo ($45) -> this is the wine we're talking about
  • Alto Moncayo Aquilon ($155)
Update (11/11/2013):

I phoned Jorge Ordonez' office and they confirmed it was the Alto Moncayo proper not the Aquilon that was rated 100 points. Robert Parker also confirmed this on his message board this morning. (subscription required)

I first tasted Alto Moncayo not too long ago. It was at this year's Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago. They were pouring the 2010 and it was one of my favorite wines of the night. So powerful, complex, and luscious.

Then this summer when I was in Spain tasting through Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas I was talking with Loren Gil from Gil Family Estates (Juan Gil and Bodegas El Nido) I was saying how much I liked his El Nido and Clio wines, but also Alto Moncayo. I should have known this already but he informed me both wines are made by the same winemaker: Chris Ringland from Australia. It's fascinating how connections come together like this in wine.

Then, this summer Empire Wine had a Ship4Free offer on the 2009 Alto Moncayo (they're sold out but here's the offer if you're interested in reading it). I've opened one of them so far. Here are my notes:

2009 Alto Moncayo
16% Alcohol
1,000 Cases imported

At 16% alcohol I was afraid the flavors were going to be raisiny or pruney. But they weren't. In fact, the aromas and flavors were rather high toned. Taut like a drum, dancing above what I sense they'll become with some air or some time. So intense, so compelling. Baked cranberries. Hints of bright fruit, followed up immediately by deep dark rich fruit. Distant fireplace on a cool autumn evening - smoke. Really unique and compelling. I'll follow up with more impressions tomorrow. This feels young.

On the second night (amazingly there *was* some left in the bottle - gotta be careful with these high octane wines) the wine is much more subdued and smooth. This makes me think letting this wine breathe is a good call. And worthy of laying some down a couple years if you can resist cracking them open. Good luck with that!

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

So, knowing I have 3 bottles remaining should I buy more just because Parker thought it was a 100 point wine?

Well, I know that just like with El Nido Clio I'm really enjoying popping them open with guests as an example of one of my favorite wines from Spain. So I'm going through them quickly. For me, the wines drink like a $100+ wine and cost around $40. They taste like a massive splurge but the cost isn't in the stratosphere.

Knowing I'd like to have more Alto Moncayo on hand and that it's an age worthy wine I think it's time to buy more now. And with scores like this it's likely future releases will be more expensive. So if you're going to buy now why not buy the 2007 and 2009? It might even present a flipping opportunity.

The only thing I'm unsure of is how "official" Parker's scores are on these wines. I don't think his tasting protocol has ever been perceived as being particularly uniform in terms of blind vs. non-blind and such. So I believe these wines will be touted as 100 point wines "because he said so" - especially for retailers wanting to sell them.

In summary, this may be not only the most affordable 100 point wine ever. But also the best actionable QPR play ever. Point chasers unite! ;)

Thanks so much to @heelcorkdork for the heads up. I never would have caught this otherwise.

Update (11/14/2013):

Listings for the 2009 on Vinfolio debuted at $139. The 2007 is listing for $159. These are listings, not sale prices. Yet. :)

Related: Entries have closed for Scoop the Spectator 2013. It'll be interesting to see whether the market for their winning wine moves more than the Alto Moncayo does. :) We're waiting on them to reveal their Top 10 so we can see who won. Thanks to everyone who participated this year!

Question of the Day: Where have you seen these wines available? Especially for retailers who don't list on Wine-Searcher I'd love to hear where you've found them.


Reader Question: What's a Good $30 Domestic Pinot Noir for Gifting?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Q: I'm looking for a good domestic Pinot Noir to give as a gift to colleagues, friends, and neighbors this holiday season. I'd like to stay around the $30 range if possible. What would you recommend?

What a fantastic question. It's one of those questions that, when I read it, I think: If I can't answer this question I have no business writing this blog.

First off I'll say this: $30 is a price point that you should absolutely be able to get a fantastic bottle of wine. If someone says they're looking for a good Napa Cab for $10 I'd say "good luck". But $30 is the price point where magic can happen and if you've got the patience to shop around a bit you should be able to get a terrific bottle of wine. If we can't do this we're doing it wrong.

Next, I think domestic Pinot Noir is a terrific category to shop from. If you compare Sonoma Pinot to Napa Cab you'll find Sonoma Pinot is always more affordable for comparable quality. Pinot pairs well with almost anything and the best ones have effortless power that make them light in color but full of flavor.

Finally, when I think of wines for gifting I think an attractive label is important. You want the wine to convey a certain level of thoughtful style that's less important when purchasing for personal consumption.

I realized as I was reviewing my Cellar Tracker notes that many of my favorite wines that fit the bill are somewhat hard to find here in Massachusetts. Hopefully, with a bit of legwork and creativity these suggestions can be acted on in most of the country - even in tough states like MA.

So with those parameters in mind here are five domestic Pinot Noirs that I think make for great holiday gifts:

Zepaltas Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 

In 2009, the 2006 Zepaltas Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was my wine of the year. I first heard of them after one of Ryan Zepaltas' early wines earned a massive 95 point rating from Wine Spectator. I tracked down a bottle of their Pinot on a trip out to Calfornia and it so absolutely delivered on what I look for in California Pinot Noir it was uncanny.

I've had their wines a number of times since and had the pleasure of meeting Ryan and tasting his wines in Sonoma. His labels and branding is remarkable well done especially given his still-modest production levels. Everyone I've shared his wines with has been blown away.

Retail availability, especially in Massachusetts (where Zepaltas still doesn't have distribution yet) is spotty. It may be worth dropping him an email and trying to work something out for shipment to a neighboring state.

Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir 

The Wagner Familly is most famous for their Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon that sells for around $60-$70. Belle Glos is their Pinot Noir label. Each bottle is wax dipped with an elegant scripted-font label. The packaging is quite attractive I think and the wines are absolutely delicious.

Some might call these a Cab-drinker's Pinot Noir and while I don't think that's quite accurate from a flavor profile perspective these do indeed hit the spot when you're looking for a hearty yet elegant glass of wine.

They offer four single vineyard bottlings in addition to the sub-$20 Meiomi Pinot Noir that's a blend of wines from all of the California regions they source Pinot Noir from (but note: fruit for Meiomi comes from none of the vineyards sourced for their single vineyard wines). Both Meiomi and Belle Glos are terrific values. The Las Alturas is my favorite single vineyard bottling typically. Ample retail availability - even on Shop around and you can find this for a very fair price.

Sanford Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir


This is from one of the wineries featured in Sideways and while some lament the departure of Rick Sanford I think this wine still delivers. A simple yet elegant label and a wine that people gush over.

I remember opening a bottle of this around the holidays a couple years ago after a couple days of opening far more expensive wines and company absolutely gushed over this one. That says a lot in this context. is offering 15% off a case today and they're closing out the 2007 vintage of this wine. This information is probably not widely actionable but I mention it as a way of saying this can be had at a discount if you look around.

Chasseur Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

I remember discovering Chasseur for the first time while shopping at the San Diego Wine Co while on a business trip. I'd selected a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay because I like it and it's hard to find in Massachusetts and one of the owners of the store came and took it out of many hands and say "no no no - get this instead".

His suggestion was to go for the harder to find Chasseur Chardonnay which in turn helped me become familiar with Chasseur's Pinot Noirs. You can usually find them for around $30-$40 and I hear they have favorable terms if you're on their mailing list

The wines are fruit forward yet restrained. Highly enjoyable yet elegant. The label has an artisanal quality to it that I think makes it well suited to gifting.

Alta Maria Pinot Noir

I may have saved the best for last here. This wine started popping up on Wine Spectator's radar screen a couple years ago. I don't see it widely available in Massachusetts (no distribution?) but when I find it available for shipping or in other states it's not hard to find it for $25.

And for what's in the bottle it's an absolute steal.

The label is gorgeous with a raised image of, I think, rustic nails coming together. Paired with an elegant lower case font I think it's a terrific design. Probably the best value of the bunch - if you can track it down.

Further Reading:
Holiday Wine Blind Tasting: Sure it looks good, but does it taste good?

Question of the Day: What do you think? What are some of your favorite ~$30 domestic Pinot Noirs for gifting?



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