Gladstone Tavern - Jersey Peach WeekFrom Wednesday, August 5, 2015 – Tuesday, August 11, 2015, the Gladstone Tavern, 273 Main Street, Gladstone, New Jersey, will celebrate “Peach Week” with a special menu featuring Jersey fresh peaches grown at Melick’s Town Farm.

FROM THE BAR – Frozen Peach: Vanilla Rum, Crème de Peche, Honey, Lemon… Peach Sangria: Pinot Grigio, Contrado, Opal Basil, Orange… Maggie’s Farmhouse Peach Ale: Terrapin, GA 5.3%

FIRST COURSE – Peach Chili: Hickory Smoked Pork Shoulder, Fresh & Dried Chili, Pinto Bean, Queso Fresco… Peach Orchard Salad: Mesclun, Dried Cherry, Hazelnut, Wheatberry, Jasper Hill Blue, White Balsamic… Peach & Speck: Shaved Speck, Truffle Pecorino, Bitter Chocolate, Frisée, Baby Arugula, Cocoa-Chili Vinaigrette

MAIN COURSE – Grilled Swordfish with Peach Coconut Curry: Long Beans, Basmati Rice, Lemongrass, Mint… Grilled Pork Tenderloin: Peach-Chipotle Salsa, Tostones, Summer Squash Hash

DESSERT – Peach “Melba”: Vanilla-Poached Peach, Rum Soaked Sponge Cake, Raspberry Sorbet, Honey Yogurt, Granola… Scoops White Peach-Opal Basil Sorbet: Peaches & Cream Ice Cream

For more information about Peach Week, or to make reservations, please call (908) 234-9055.

Bon Appétit!



Philly’s Food Truck Frenzy

by artfuldiner on July 31, 2015

in Breaking News, Opinion, Pennsylvania

Philly's Food Truck FrenzyPhiladelphians are wild about food trucks – and with good reason. If you crave a particular culinary treat, chances are you can find it on wheels.

Here’s a listing of some of the city’s tastiest trucks…

UNIVERSITY CITY: The city’s first and only Brazilian rotisserie, BrazBQ dishes out spit-roasted fare. There’s a steak sandwich with chimichurri sauce and potato sticks, chicken tacos and grilled pineapple dusted with cinnamon and sugar 3500 Market Street.

Grilled Venezuelan arepas stuffed with adobo-braised steak & plaintains; chicken salad and avocado; and chorizo and pico de gallo are all hot sellers at Delicias. One truck calls University City home, a second travels citywide.

Soul & Caribbean foods mix & mingle on the giant platters dishes out at Denise’s at 30th & Chestnut Streets.

Kung Fu Hoagies, specializing in vegetarian and vegan fare, has wooed the meat-free set (Tuesday – Friday, 104 South 38th Street).

Spot, specializing in sirloin burgers, hand-cut fries, hand-butchered cheesesteaks, roast pork loin sandwiches, and creative concoctions like meatballs stuffed with sharp provolone cheese, is a highly sought-after lunch stop on Drexel’s campus, 33rd & Market Streets.

The wait for lunch can be long at Tacos Don Memo, which offers up generous portions of tacos al pastor, vegetarian burritos, and gigantic tortas layered with may, cheese, and pickled jalapeños (weekdays, 3800 Sansom Street).


TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: A pair of Tyler School of Art grads run Cloud Coffee, using ReAnimator beans to creative a slew of marvelous beverages (2001 North 13 Street).

Classic and not-so-classic fillings stuff the crepes at The Creperie, a long-time favorite located at 13th & West Norris Streets, Monday – Saturday.

Poi Dog Snack Shop, the only Hawaiian truck in town, lists tacos, musubi, and sweets at 13th Street & Montgomery Avenue.


ROVERING TRUCKS: The Cow & The Curd (Fried Cheese Curds)… The Dapper Dog (Hotdogs with interesting toppings)… Farm Truck (Eco-Friendly Fare)… Mac Mart (Mac & Cheese)… Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Cart (Inventive Pierogies & other Polish Specialties)… Pitruco Pizza (Wood-Fired Oven Baked Pizza)… Say Cheese (Grown-Up Versions of the classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich)… Sugar Philly (A Patisserie on Wheels)… Vernalicious (Global Fare Sandwiches)… Zsa’s Ice Cream (Artisanal Ice Creams and Sorbets.


OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS: Falafel Truck (Famous for hefty portions of fried chickpea balls; 20th & Market Streets)… HEARTFood Truck (Local, Sustainable & Seasonal Fare; 2nd & Pine Streets)… Jamaican D’s (Friendly Jerk-Centric Truck; 17th & Spring Garden Streets)… Taco Loco Pastor, Chicken, Tripe, Tongue & Chorizo Fillings; Jefferson Square Park & Federal Street & Washington Avenue.

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Tastes of the Sea DinnerOn Thursday, August 20, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will present a special “Tastes of the Sea” menu.

Gaining inspiration from artisans and purveyors, Chefs Nicholas Harary and Michael Metzner will take guests on a culinary tour of the very best seafood and produce the Garden State has to offer. The evening will begin with Hudson Big Eye Tuna followed by Barnegat Light Sea Scallops, Local Black Bass, and Upside Down Jersey Peach Cake.

The complete menu and wine pairings are noted below…

First Course: Hudson Canyon Big Eye Tuna Crudo, Chimicurri, Tomato Powder, Cucumber Salsa, Toasted Jersey Corn; Wine Pairing: 2014 Luberon, Grenache Blanc, Les Chatagnier, Domaine de la Citadelle

Second Course: Seared Barnegat Light Scallops, Grilled Long Sweet Peppers, Grilled Shallots, Wild Arugula, 50-year Aged Sherry Vinaigrette; Wine Pairing: 2011 Carneros, Chardonnay, Etude

Third Course: Jersey Crab Boil, Blue Crabs, Clams, Calamari, Fluke, Old Bay Consommé; Wine Pairing: 2014 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, Rosé, Château Revelette

Fourth Course: Seared Local Black Bass, Smoked Potato Purée, Wild Mushroom, Baby Leeks, Preserved Lemon Brown Butter; Wine Pairing: 2013 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Hyland Vineyard, Trousses Chemises

Fifth Course: Upside Down Jersey Peach Cake, Toffee Sauce, Butterscotch Ice Cream; Wine Pairing: 2002 Bacharacher Wolfshole, Riesling Auslese, Ratzenberger

The cost of the “Tastes of the Sea” menu is $135.00 per person; $185.00 per person with wine pairings (plus tax & gratuity).

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Stockton Inn - ExteriorOn Wednesday, August 5, 2015, Executive Chef Alan Heckman of the Stockton Inn, 1 South Main Street, Stockton, New Jersey, will partner with celebrated Philadelphia Chef Al Paris for a five-course tasting menu featuring the quintessential summertime favorite – lobster. The tasting menu will be available through Sunday, September 6.

Chilled Lobster Mole: Charred Chili, Chocolate and Pickled Avocado

Maine Lobster Bisque: Burnt Apple Marmalade and Crème Fraiche

Grilled Lobster Sausage: Scallop and Tomato-Riesling Gastrique

Lobster Summer Bean Cassoulet: Lobster Tail and Orange-Glazed Pork Belly

Raspberry-Lavender Shortcake: Port-Lobster Syrup

With the exception of the launch night, August 5, the Stockton Inn’s seasonal à la carte menu will also be available.

The cost of the lobster tasting menu is $79.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please visit

Bon Appétit!



Frog and Peach - PatioEvery summer, the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street at Hiram Square, New Brunswick, New Jersey, offer the unique dining experience of their Festival of Peaches Tasting Menu.

Each evening, beginning Thursday, July 30, 3015, and running through mid-September, the restaurant’s menu will consist of five courses featuring delicious, locally-grown New Jersey peaches. Matched with carefully-selected wine pairings, the Festival of Peaches Tasting Menu is an event not to be missed.

Peach Tasting Menu…

Half Shell Kumomoto Oysters: Champagne Peach Granita, Black Pepper; Wine Pairings: A) Juvé y Camps Cava Brut Rosé, Pinot Noir, Spain, NV… B) Paul Goerg Brut Reserve, Champagne, France, NV

Peach Carpaccio: Crispy Duck Confit, Spiced Almonds, Arugula, Prosecco Vinaigrette; Wine Pairing: A) Mustiguillo “Mestizaje,” Vin de España, 2014… B) Barat Chablis, Burgundy, France, 2013

Burgundy and Peach Braised Suckling Pig: Roasted Local Grains and Grilled Peach Salad with Basil and White Chocolate; Wine Pairings: A) Maillard Bourgogne Rouge, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France, 2013… B) Guyon Gevrey-Chambertin “La Justice,” Burgundy, France, 2010

Cinnamon Peach Empanada: Gorgonzola Mascarpone; Wine Pairings: A) Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Tomasso Bussola, “Ca’ del Laito,” Veneto, 2010… B) Amarone Classico, Tedeschi, Valpolicella, Veneto, 2010

Poached Peach: Spiced Granola, Caramel Sabayon; Wine Pairings: A) Patricius “Katinka” Late Harvest Tokaji, Hungary, 2011… B) Ben Rye, Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria, Italy, 2010

The cost of the Peach Tasting Menu is $64.00 per person; wine pairing A, +$45.00; wine pairing B, +$70.00 (plus tax & gratuity).

For more information about the Festival of Peaches Tasting Menu, or to make reservations, please call (732) 846-3216.

Bon Appétit!



Fare Restaurant

2028 Fairmount Avenue

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(215) 763-5500

 Fare Restaurant Philly - ExteriorIf you happen to be visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or paying a call at the Barnes Foundation or the Rodin, you will find Fare Restaurant the perfect spot for lunch or dinner.

Ensconced on Fairmount Avenue just across the street from Eastern Penitentiary and a scant two blocks from a convenient pay parking facility, Fare offers diners a dash of New York City vibe to go with their local, sustainable, organic New American cuisine.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Dining RoomBut the restaurant’s eco-friendly stance goes beyond the food. Their wood tables and veneers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Ceiling tiles are made from recycled materials and the red pendant lights adorning the bar are repurposed from old traffic signals. Soothing shades of red & gray, comfortable banquettes, personable service, and moderate prices make Fare a friendly, welcoming space that appeals to neighborhood folk and visitors alike. The bustling bistro also offers al fresco dining in warmer weather.

In the matter of restaurant ethics, Fare has obviously staked out the high moral ground… Fortunately the gastronomy more than lives up to its good intentions. The menu merely lists ingredients in a straightforward manner, giving little hint of the joys to follow. But, trust me, in matters of preparation and presentation, each dish works its own unique magic on both the eye and the palate.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Leeks & FennelTake the starter of leeks & fennel, for example. Both constituents are gently braised with black olives. A foundation of goat cheese adds a delightfully creamy contrast to the slightly crunchy fennel/leeks combo, while crispy pillars of multigrain crostini provide an eye-catching and even more pronounced textural antithesis. A relatively simple dish, but one that hits all the right notes.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Gingered Beets… As does the appetizer of gingered beets. Here the diner discovers an attractive tangle of baby arugula splashed with tangy red wine vinaigrette. Surrounding this epicenter are diminutive dunes of roasted diced red and golden beets embellished with grated ginger. Supporting players include delicious dollops of walnut chutney and ricotta cheese, each bringing its own complementary gifts to the party.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Farmhouse FlatbreadOther starter possibilities include: a daily selection of oysters on the half shell; crispy calamari & shrimp; tuna tartare with crushed avocado and tamari marinade; Greek and Caesar salads; and a personal fave, farmhouse flatbread with bacon, sharp cheddar, and Granny Smith apple (pictured).

Fare Restaurant Philly - Hummus PlatterOn the other hand, if you’re just stopping by for an afternoon munchie, you really can’t go wrong with the addictive hand-cut truffle fries dusted with parmesan and accompanied by a zippy chipotle aioli. Also highly recommended is the incomparably fresh house-made hummus platter (pictured). Served up with a tiara of roasted red peppers, green olives, celery, carrots, and pita triangles, it’s perfect for sharing. Whichever dish you choose (both, perhaps!), be sure to wash it down with either the refreshing Spanish Condes de Albarei Albariño or silky smooth Montoya Pinot Noir from the Golden State.

Main courses offer a variety of options, with matters piscatorial occupying a prominent place. You may, for example, have a go at the whole branzino (European seabass) served up with healthy brown rice & spinach and finished with a parsley-lemon sauce or the avocado crab cakes garnished with sweet chili sauce and seasonal vegetables.

Fare Restaurant Philly - SalmonBut even more to my liking is the organic Scottish salmon (pictured), a uniquely delicious combo of colors, tastes, and textures. The pan seared filet luxuriates on the kitchen’s novel interpretation of panzanella (Tuscan bread & tomato) salad, sporting not only cherry tomatoes and grilled multigrain baguette croutons, but also slices of avocado and fresh corn kernels tossed with a fabulous cumin-cilantro vinaigrette. The pièce de résistance? A sumptuous sea of ricotta cheese.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Seafood PastaEqually recommendable is the seafood pasta, an appetizing amalgam of shrimp, crab, scallops, calamari and clams set on a seabed of linguini and bathed in a savory white wine sauce. All constituents are at the very peak of good health, and the wine sauce very nearly qualifies as a significant food group on its own individual merit. If you’re a seafood lover, this dish is not to be missed.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Bison BurgerConfirmed carnivores need not despair, however, as Fare also offers up a first-rate flank steak with chimichurri (a green sauce comprised of finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and white or red wine vinegar), a New York strip with goat cheese potato croquette and shallot demi-glace, and a bison burger stuffed with spinach & feta cheese crowned with lemon-dill yogurt (pictured). Vegetarians, on the other hand, can dig into the wild mushroom cakes or the tofu ricotta lasagna with house-made marinara.

Fare Restaurant Philly - Blueberry Pie ala ModeBut be sure to leave room for one of homemade desserts, which change frequently. Recently sampled was an excellent downhome blueberry pie spruced up with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The perfect ending to a perfect evening.

In addition to serving lunch Monday-Friday and dinner seven days, Fare also offers diners a fabulous weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Lobster RollsFor those who missed their celebrated lobster menu, this coming Sunday, August 26, 2015, through the end of August, the Bar N at Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank, New Jersey, will be celebrating “Lobster Sundays” with a special three-course lobster menu.

First Course: Mug of “Kennebunk” Lobster Bisque; Wine Pairing: 2013 Chardonnay, Clos Julien

Second Course: Classic Lobster Roll; Wine Pairing: 2014 Sancerre, Domaine Dominique Crochet

Third Course: Roasted Cherries & Almond Cake; Wine Pairing: 2014 Moscato d’Asti, Elio Perrone

The cost of the three-course lobster menu is $45.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity); $65.00 with the wine tasting flight.

Please note, Bar N does not accept reservations.

For more information, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Terre a Terre - ChefOn Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Chef Todd Villani, owner of the NJ-based farm-to-table restaurant Terre à Terre, 312 Hackensack Street, Carlstadt, New Jersey, will prepare a five-course dinner highlighting local, farm-fresh foods at the prestigious Manhattan-based James Beard House. The Garden State Bounty dinner will feature seasonal dishes with Chef Villani’s creative blend of exotic flavors and ingredients – his signature approach to preparing foods with an international flair.

Farm partners for the dinner include: Bergen County, NJ, based Goffle Road Poultry Farm; Blue Moon Acres Farm based in Pennington, NJ; Bracco Farms; PA-based Elysian Fields Farm; Nicolosi Foods; Bucks County, PA, Carousel Farm Lavender; and Shibumi Farm, which grows exotic mushrooms from its Princeton-based farm.

Wines for the dinner will be donated by Jean Edwards Cellars and Bougetz Cellars. Jean Edwards works with some of Napa Valley’s best-know and respected growers. For the dinner, they will donate a 2014 Jean Edwards Cellars Dalla Gasperina Vineyard Saignon Blanc and a 2011 Jean Edwards Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Bougetz Cellars is donating a 2012 “The Cairn” Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast.

The Summer Bounty dinner menu is noted below…

Hors d’Oeuvres: Juniper-Cured Goffle Road Poultry Farm Duck Prosciutto with Ginger Mustard on Pretzels… Vietnamese-Style Crab Spring Rolls with Rice Noodles, Spiced Peanuts, and Micro-Shiso… East Coast Oysters with Borage, Riesling Migonette, and Cucumber Caviar… New Jersey Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Lovage and Pickled Ramps

Dinner: Tuna with Beet Mousse, Melon, Radishes, and Micro Greens… Viking Village Scallops with Charred Corn, Shibumi Farm Mushrooms, and Corn Milk… Duck Confit with Seeds-and-Grains, August Lettuces, Blackberry Confiture, and Nutmeg Vinaigrette… Nicolosi Fine Foods Berkshire Black Pork Belly with Sumac Grits, New Jersey Peaches, and Wild Basil… Elysian Fields Farm Lamb with Caramelized Leek-Lamb Bacon Gratin and Rapini Purée… Lavender-Raspberry Crostata with Lemon-Mascarpone Gelato, Raspberry Curd, and Frangipane

The cost of the Summer Bounty Dinner is $130 per person for James Beard Foundation members and $170 for non-members. Reservations may be made with the James Bears House at or by calling (212) 627-2308. Friends and fans of Terre à Terre can access a limited number of discounted tickets by calling the restaurant at 201) 507-0500.

Bon Appétit!



Ho-Ho-Kus Inn - ExteriorThe Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and Tavern in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, will be offering three July exclusive tasting events. The Inn will also be serving the season’s best local offerings on the summer menu with lunch and dinner served daily and outdoor dining on the patio.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 6:30 p.m.: The Cellar Club, the Inn’s monthly wine education series (no membership required) will present “West Coast Wines.” Guests will sample the best the West Coast wine region has to offer without leaving the Garden State. Participating vineyards include: Covey Run Winery, Washington State; Louis Martini Winery, Sonoma County; Prophecy Winery, California; and William Hill Winery, Central Coast. Complimentary small plate pairings will accompany selections. The event is priced at $35.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity) and reservations are recommended.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 6:30 p.m.: The Inn’s monthly Craft Beer Tasting will feature Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago’s top craft beer. The tasting will include complimentary bar bites served alongside refreshing Goose IPA, an American style brew, 312 Urban Pale Ale, Honders Ale, and 312 Urban Wheat Ale, which is inspired by the City of Chicago and populated with flavor. The event is priced at $25.090 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Reservations are suggested.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 6:30 p.m.: The Inn will host a special Mixology Event with the Inn’s own Mixologist, Darryl. Guests will enjoy a mini mixology demo, sample creative cocktails, and perfect their bar recipe IQ. Featured fine spirits include Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Casamigos Tequila, Bulleit Small Batch Bourbon, and London No. 1 Gin. The event is priced at $35.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Reservations are required.

For more information, or to make reservations for any of these three events, please call (201) 445-4115 or online at

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn is located at One East Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey.

Bon Appétit!



WINES OF THE MONTH - August 2015-12013 Bodegas Cerrón Remordimiento Chardonnay, $11.99-$19.99 – Bodegas Cerrón, located in the southeast corner of Spain in the village of Fuente Alamo in Albacete province, is a 4th generation owned and operated vineyard.

The winery, which received its Organic Farming Certification in 1995, uses organic viticulture as a production model throughout the vinification process. No fertilizers, additives, or synthetic chemicals are used, producing a sustainable agriculture that respects the environment.

Viña Cerrón fields are divided in two estates: “La Muela” and “El Tejarejo.” The grape varietals grown on these estates include Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Syrah, Monastrel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

We tend to think of wine itself – and the act of wine tasting – in strictly sensual and physical terms… But Bodegas Cerrón’s philosophy, which is noted on their website, is not afraid to explore the cerebral and metaphysical aspects as well as the sensual…

“A simple class of great wine can induce personal encounters offering salacious conversations, interesting dialogues or possible love stories, during an epoch in which a myriad of communication tools has weakened the quality of human communication.

“Concealed behind the mundane appearances of merely drinking wine and having some basic knowledge of it, a divine World of Wine awaits to be discovered. This fine World of Wine is a place that gives birth and fosters marvelous ‘wine-centric’ experiences; a world that satisfied the states of consciousness of clever consumers. Amongst them, lies the state of reminiscence, the most mysterious and philosophical experience.

“It is difficult to imagine life without wine and philosophy. The enigma revolving around both has to do with the contemplation of the meaning of life. Through our adamant determination to reconcile passion and reason, contemplation and transformation, it is meaningful dialog that will allow us to understand that philosophy and wine are simultaneously reason and consequence. The meaning of life is not innate to us and cannot be found through our genes. Likewise, wine does not grow ready to drink in an oval goblet of grapes, as it is a creation of the human being, whom is made substantially of philosophy and wine.”

These noble thoughts are very much in keeping with the winery’s motto: “The new Generation of Old World Wines.” In other words, Bodegas Cerrón represents the “Young Guns” of Spanish winemaking… and the 2013 Remordimiento Chardonnay is clearly a perfect example of this new style. This is not your average Chardonnay, which is to say, this wine is not a Spanish version of a big, bold and buttery California Chard. It clearly speaks of its own Terroir, of its own time and place. In the glass, you detect the aroma of fresh fruit with subtle floral nuances. On the palate, there is just the subtlest hint of toasty oak accompanied by excellent acidity.

This is an extremely pleasant easy-drinking, food-friendly wine. The price is quite pleasant as well; normally retailing for around $20.00, I’ve seen it on sale for as low as $11.99… By the way, the winery also produces a smooth Remordimiento Red, a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot, for about the same price.


WINES OF THE MONTH - August 2015-22007 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva, $19.99-$30.00 – Bodegas Montecillo has been owned and operated by the Osborne family since 1973. The winery, however, was established in the Rioja Alta region of Spain in 1874 and remains the epitome of tradition. It produces its own barrels and casks to winemaker Maria Martinez- Sierra’s specifications; in addition, she uses traditional Bordeaux methods in her winemaking and relies heavily on Spain’s traditional red grape, Tempranillo. The winery also enjoys the well-deserved reputation of producing expressive wines at good price points that are both versatile and exceedingly food friendly.

Bodegas Montecillo keeps its production counts to 275,000 cases annually, allowing for both quality control and consistency, while still being able to share their wines with the rest of the world. Over 90% of the Montecillo wines are reds made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. The winery also produces a white wine, Montecillo Blanco, made from 100% Viura grapes.

Montecillo wines, while noted for their reasonably priced vintages, are also noted for their longevity. And this longevity is partly due to Rioja’s traditional winemaking style and lengthy legally mandated aging periods. Wines designated Reserva are required to have a minimum of 1 year oak aging and 3 years total aging. Gran Reservas require a minimum 2 years aging in oak barrels and 5 years total aging before bottle release.

Montecillo Gran Reserva, which is produced from vines that are 50+ years old, is only made in years when vintages warrant the prestige and sense of place that best represents the Rioja Alta region. And the winery is even willing to skip vintages of Reserva and Gran Reserva if the season’s grapes are not up to par with winemaker Maria Martinez-Sierra’s exacting viticultural standards. This, it should be noted, gives consumers an extra layer of buying protection – as you know you won’t be wasting your money on a wine that is not of the best quality from the very beginning.

Bodega Montecillo - Maria Martinez-Sierra, WinemakerThe 2007 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva, already eight years old at this juncture, is not even breathing hard. It does show a bit of maturity in the glass, fading from deep ruby at the center to a touch of clear garnet at the rim… but still has miles to go before it sleeps. Highly rated (91 points) by both the Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits magazine, respectively, its aromas – herbs, wood smoke, raspberry & cherry – are classic Rioja. On the palate, it is smooth and silky, finessing a fine earthy finish and a subtle tangy bitterness that is the perfect match for a variety of foods.

This wine normally retails around the $30.00 mark, but I’ve seen it on sale for as low as $20.00. A major bargain.