Wines from Tornatore

by artfuldiner on May 22, 2019

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

Tornatore - VineyardThis family-owned winery is located in the village of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the northeastern slopes of Mt. Etna, Europe’s biggest and most active volcano. And while the family is relatively new to winemaking, they have been growing grapes for more than 150 years. “My first commercial vintage was 2012,” notes founder Francesco Tornatore. “However, it was my great-grandfather who was the first in our family to plant vines here in 1865.”

Mt. Etna is an exceptional terroir. Situated in northeastern Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and Italy’s fourth largest wine producing region, there is abundant warmth and sunshine… There is also a dramatic cooling effect, courtesy of the sea breezes and high elevation, that preserves acidity, enhances structure, and brings complexity to the Tornatore wines. The region’s volcanic soils are both fertile and well-drained and, therefore, ideally suited to viticulture.

Many types of grapes thrive on Mt. Etna’s slopes; but it is the native white Carricante and red Nerello Mascalese that produce the region’s most significant wines (including the two noted directly below). And Tornatore relies almost exclusively on these two varietals for their single vineyard and regional blends.

Tornatore - Etna Bianco 2017Tornatore Etna Bianco 2017: In the glass, this wine is a beautiful light straw color with subtle green reflections.  The nose perceives hints of stone fruit and herbs, while the palate revels in the bright acidity of lemon, lime, and grapefruit that moves on to a long and slightly salty finish (a characteristic of the Carricante grape). The Wine Enthusiast bestowed 90 points (100-point scale). If you’re tired of that same old boring, over-oaked Chardonnay, the 2017 Etna Bianco makes a uniquely delicious and desirable alternative. Highly recommended.

Tornatore - Etna Rosso 2016Tornatore Etna Rosso 2016: This light and lively red wine gives off marvelous whiffs of roses and red berries tinged with subtle herbal notes. The palate is ethereally elegant and alive with hints of strawberry, smooth-as-silk tannins, and a crisp, bright acidity. This delicious, well-balanced wine – which recently received 93 points and an “Editors’ Choice” designation from the Wine Enthusiast – is the perfect complement to any meal.

Both of these wines are available through Pennsylvania State Stores and are priced at $24.99 per bottle (somewhat less if purchased from sources online).




Nicholas - Summer Walk-Around Wine TastingOn Friday, June 7, 2019, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will kick off the summer with a tasting that will feature wines perfect for sipping by the pool, backyard, or beach club.

Available for tasting will be a combination of Nicholas Wines bestsellers, as well as newly discovered winemakers from his recent trip to Burgundy. Winemaker Richard Luftig will also be on hand to pour his Pied à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

These wines pair perfectly with summer fare, including fresh fish, grilled meats, and seasonal vegetables. Hors d’oeuvres will be served to complement the selection of wines.

Corzano e Paterno Il Corzanello Biano 2018

Couselo Rias Baixas Albariño 2017

Domaine Ricard Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Le Petiot 2018

Domaine Corsin Macon Villages 2018

Domaine Denis Carré Auxey Duresses Blanc Les Vireux 2016

Weingut Keller Riesling Limestone 2018

Effet Papillon Côtes de Catalan Rosé 2018

Sandhi Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2016

Domaine Francois Raquillet Mercurey Rouge 1er Cru Les Vasees 2017

Xavier Vignon Côtes du Rhone 100% 2015

The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Santa Barbara County 2016

Cerbaia Rosso di Montalcino 2017

Maurizio Lambardi Brunello de Montalcino 2013

Château Reverdi Listrac-Medoc 2015

Chad Napa Valley Cabernet Blend 2016

Pied à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

The cost of the summer walk-around wine tasting is $75.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity), $50.00 of which will be put toward your first wine purchase.

For more information, to reserve your place, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Avola Kitchen & Bar

625 North Morehall Road

Malvern, Pennsylvania

(484) 328-8584

The Avola Kitchen & Bar is named after a picturesque seaside village in the south of Sicily… But buzzing past its location among the new strip mall storefronts on bustling Route 29, it doesn’t exactly strike you as very Old World… Neither does the restaurant’s industrial chic interior. Industrial chic or industrial style refers to an aesthetic trend in interior design that takes its clues from old factories and industrial spaces; which, I might add, has become all the rage in restaurant décor of late.

Avola - InteriorWhat this translates to within restaurant precincts in general – and Avola Kitchen & Bar in particular – is (ultra) high ceilings, exposed pipes & ductwork, a plethoric variety of hard surfaces, and tablecloths, window dressings, and other sound retardant materials conspicuous by their absence. The result: a cavernous space that reverberates sounds – even when partially filled – like a chainsaw run amuck. My advice: If you’d prefer peace and quiet, stop by on a sparsely populated Sunday evening. On the other hand, if you’re hankering for a bit of excitement, go with a group and add your own contribution to the bedlam.

Given the restaurant’s interesting geographic designation, Chef Elizabeth Semprevive’s cuisine is pretty much what you would expect: a Mediterranean combo – as their website suggests – of Old-World flavors and farm fresh ingredients. Choices include small plates, soups & salads, pasta, pizza, and entrée-size portions.

Avola - Meat & CheeseThe small plates are especially noteworthy, ranging from items like an exceedingly tender Grilled Octopus and Mussels White swimming in white wine, garlic, parsley, and cream to a fabulous Meat & Cheese board (pictured) that incorporates an ethereal chicken liver foie mousse, several cheeses, and a variety of accompaniments. An excellent presentation and definitely worth the $18.00 price tag.

Avola - Charred CarrotsAmong the other tapas-like possibilities, the results are mixed. The Sautéed Mushrooms with garlic, thyme, and lemon could have used a bit more seasoning… Ditto the Meatballs. For while they came stuffed with cheese and spruced up with Italian herbs & spices, parmesan, and a supposedly zippy diavolo sauce, they tasted surprisingly bland. The Charred Carrots (pictured), on the other hand, were overwhelmed by za’atar and sumac, definitely on the gritty side, and looked like they’d been dropped onto the plate from ten thousand feet.

Avola - Roasted BeetsOn the other hand, the Seared Brussels Sprouts and the Crispy Moroccan Cauliflower were both excellent. The former arrived embellished with spicy pepper relish, prosciutto, lemon, pecorino, and bread crumbs; the latter with an irresistible artichoke aioli. In my opinion, however, top prize in the small plates department clearly goes to the Roasted Beets (pictured) garnished with a winning combo of ricotta, hazelnuts, vincotto (a dark, sweet paste produced by the reduction of nonfermented grapes), and slice of rustic country bread.

Avola - Caesar SaladAmong the salads, the Caesar (pictured) deserves special mention. It may not look like much sitting in the bowl, but the little gem lettuce, which possesses the crispness of Romaine and the sweetness of Butter lettuce, is at the very peak of good health and infinitely more interesting than plain old Romaine… But the maker/breaker of any salad is, of course, the dressing; and this one is extraordinarily delicious. The key, in my opinion, is the use of white anchovies, as they instill a milder, more subtle flavor than their pungent brown cousins. And the dressing is judiciously applied… just enough to gently coat the leaves without drowning them. A first-rate effort.

Like the small plates, the entrées are also something of a mixed bag. The Spaghetti Pomodoro, for example, is a relatively simple dish but right on the money. The red sauce is alive with flavor, while the burrata, basil, parmesan, and breadcrumbs add their own unique contributions in strong supporting roles. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Tortellini Brodo simply lacked character. The parmesan broth was the bland-leading-the-bland and received absolutely no assistance from the innocuous ricotta & goat cheese filling. Any flavor that managed to make its presence known was purely coincidental. Fortunately, this item has since been removed from the menu.

Avola - Duck BreastI very much enjoyed the Seared Bronzino served up on tender stalks of broccolini. The filet itself was perfectly textured, moist and flaky… Unfortunately, the dish was marred by an excessively oily lemon-caper beurre blanc. The Crispy Skinned Duck Breast (pictured), however, was first-class across the board. Aided & abetted by blue corn polenta, mustard seed vinaigrette, and a delightful tiara of carrot ribbon salad, this beautiful presentation was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the palate.

Avola - Carrot CakeDesserts, all made in house, are not the restaurant’s strong suit. Both the highly-touted (by our server) Doughnuts and the Olive Oil Carrot Cake (pictured) left me feeling shortchanged. Surprisingly, the simplest entry – Vanilla Gelato with Local Honey & Sea Salt – proved to be the most satisfying.

Dining at Avola can, indeed, be a thoroughly rewarding experience. No question, the ingredients are top notch… but, on several occasions, as noted above, the preparation and presentation came up short.  As a general rule, my dining partner and I found the small plates more enjoyable than the larger entrée portions. That being said, however, be particularly circumspect in your menu selections and you probably won’t be disappointed.

Bon Appétit!



Harvest Hosts Plant-Based Dinner

by artfuldiner on May 17, 2019

in Uncategorized

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar - Glen MillsOn Wednesday, May 22, 2019, 6:30 p.m., the various locations of Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar will host a special Plant-Based Dinner with appropriate wine pairings.

First Course – Rhubarb & Beet Tartare: Pickled Green Garlic, Cashew Cream, Chive, Radish, Rustic Toast; Wine Pairing: Moscato, “Seven Daughters,” Piemonte, Veneto, Italy

Second Course – Tomato Bisque: Rice Pearl, Smoked Paprika, Black Lava Salt, Grilled “Cheese,” Seitan Bacon; Wine Pairing: Rosé, Grenache/Syrah, M. Chapoutier, “Belleruche,” Rhône, France

Third Course – Charred Wedge Salad: Baby Romaine, Grilled Asparagus, Confit Tomato, Avocado, Scrambled Tofu “Egg,” Rice “Bacon,” Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing; Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sandford, “Flor de Campo,” Santa Barbara County, California

Four Course – “Impossible Meatballs”: Polenta, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Tofu “Ricotta,” Basil Bud; Wine Pairing: Merlot, Benziger Family Winery Reserve, Sonoma County, California

Fifth Course – Sweet Pea Flan: Strawberry, Coconut, Pistachio Streusel; Wine Pairing: Brut, Zensa, “Organico,” Emelia Romagna, Italy

The cost of the Plant-Based Dinner is $59.00 per person with wine pairings; $39.00 per person without wine pairings (plus tax & gratuity).

For more information, or to make reservations, please call the appropriate Harvest restaurant. Nearest Harvest locations include: Radnor, PA; Glen Mills, PA; North Wales, PA; Newtown, PA; Moorestown, NJ.

Bon Appétit!



Crystal Springs - Beer & Food Fest 2The 10th New Jersey Beer & Food Festival will be held at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey on Saturday, June 15th with tasting of ore than 200 beers from around the world…. And on Sunday, June 16th, the Resort will also host a Father’s Day Brews Brunch in the Chef’s Garden.

The New Jersey Beer & Food Festival tasting will take place on Saturday, June 15th, at 3:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. VIP access). Beer aficionados may sample over 200 beers, including many craft brews from around the world. Resort Executive Chef Aishling Stevens and her team will fire up open pits for a BBQ feast, featuring favorites like pulled pork, homemade sausages, spit-roasted Berkshire pork and more.

Live music by Lima Bean Riot, hot air balloon rides, and grown-up games will make for a fun afternoon for adults 21 and over. Tickets are $75.00 for regular admission; $100.00 for VIP access (early admission at 2:00 p.m. and a special gift). Designated driver tickets are $35.00. North Jersey residents may skip the drive and take a bus from Hoboken, departing from the corner of Washington Street & 3rd Street. The cost is $100.00, which includes regular admission and round-trip transportation.

Golfers can get an early start to the day with the Brews & Birdies Tournament at 9:00 a.m. on the Resort’s Wild Turkey course. The 18-hole tournament includes beer tastings along the fairways; and top teams will win prizes. The cost is $195.00 per person, which includes entry to the Beer Festival.

On Sunday, June 16th, the Chef’s Garden, the Resort’s seasonal outdoor restaurant, will welcome families for a Father’s Day Brews Brunch, which will feature a three-course menu and tastings of Sam Adams beers (10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.). Guests will enjoy a garden salad of greens and herbs from the organic Chef’s Garden, then choose from entrées like Grilled Fish Taco with chipotle crème and charred salsa; Beer Can Chicken; and Smoked Beef Brisket with corn bread, cabbage slaw, and pickles. The cost is $43.00 for adults; $16.00 for children ages 4 – 16. Reservations may be made by calling (855) 977-6473.

Tickets for Beer Festival events are available at The Festival will take place on Festival Field at the corner of Route 94 and Wild Turkey Way.

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - ExteriorOn Wednesday, June 12, 29019, Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a special dinner paired with the legendary Cabernets of winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown at Kinsella Estates in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The special guest of the evening will be Kinsella’s general manager, Richard Smock.

First Course – Cavatelli Pasta: Pickled Enoki Mushrooms, Fontina Cheese; Wine Pairing: 2016 Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel, Kinsella Estates

Second Course – Monkfish “Osso Bucco”: Lentil Tabbouleh, Tokyo Turnip; Wine Pairing: 2015 Dry Creek Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spencer Vineyard, Kinsella

Third Course – Pan Roasted Duck Breast: Duck Leg Hash, Wild Mushrooms, Currant Duck Jus; Wine Pairing: 2013 Dry Creek Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jersey Boys Vineyard, Kinsella

Fourth Course – Roasted Colorado Rack of Lamb: Spanakopita, Fava Beans; Wine Pairing: 2016 Dry Creek Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Heirloom Vineyard, Kinsella

Dessert Course – Vanilla Tapioca: Mango Caramel, Toasted Coconut, Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

The price of the Kinsella Estates wine dinner is $125.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Washington House Basking Ridge - ExteriorOn Saturday, May 18, 2019, 11:00 a.m. – Closing, the Washington House Restaurant, 55 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, will host their 4th annual Beer & Wine Garden, rain or shine.

The Scandic fire truck will be on hand featuring Scandic Pils and Coors Light; and wine selections will include red and white options. Chef’s small bites will be served outside, including fried pickles, hot dogs, pretzel bites, Washington wings, and chicken and steak quesadillas. Full-service dining will also be available inside and on the front patios all day.

Raccoon Ridge Ramblers will perform live in the Beer Garden at 4:00 p.m.

Cash only outside… guests please plan accordingly.

Bon Appétit!



Il Nido- InteriorIl Nido, which recently opened in Marlboro, New Jersey, is a restaurant that celebrates Italy’s artisan tradition with meticulous ingredient sourcing both locally and from Italy. Ingredients are organic, sustainable, and local whenever possible; and Chef Joseph Voller, who has run the kitchens at Eno Terra in Princeton and Le Virtu in Philadelphia, lets them speak for themselves through his modern Italian menu.

Il Nido - MugnaiaThe menu changes weekly, with signature dishes and spring highlights including White Asparagus Soup with prosciutto-rosemary pestata; Lamb Chop Scottadita with spring onion, pea and mint salsa verde; Mugnaia, a long, single strand pasta that the chef learned to make at La Bilancia in Abruzzo, Italy (pictured); Black Spaghetti with crab, green chilies and bottarga; Mushroom Risotto with porcini, morels, and black trumpets; Grilled Octopus with crispy potatoes and salsa verde; Halibut alla Piastra with fava beans, pancetta, potato & artichoke in brodo; and Four Story Hill Farm Veal with white asparagus, baby carrot, cippolini, and gnocchetti.

The menu also features four different dry-aged steaks from Allen Brothers in Chicago. Every month, Il Nido’s regional tasting menu (four courses, $60.00) will showcase a different region of Italy. For the month of May, it will be Sicily.

Il Nido - Interior 2Tucked away in a strip mall on Route 9, Il Nido offers surprises at every turn. Two elegant, intimate brick-walled dining rooms – one also featuring a fireplace – transport diners to the Italian countryside. Tables are large and comfortable; and the sound level is muted, allowing for a proper dining experience and good conversation. Two comfortable booths with chef’s tables are tucked away by the kitchen. Both affording great views of the culinary action. A separate private dining room is reminiscent of a wine cellar.

The restaurant, located at 184 Route 9 North, Marlboro, New Jersey, is BYO and serves dinner Wednesday – Sunday. For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 851-6347 or click on the restaurant’s website,

Bon Appétit!



Domaine Andre Bonhomme - ExteriorViré-Clessé is a relatively new appellation (designated growing area) in the southern-most point of the Mâconnais region of Burgundy, France. This is the warmest and driest part of Burgundy; and it is known chiefly for its Chardonnay, which is responsible for approximately 85% of annual production. The wines here tend to be drink-now, fruit-forward, and less expensive compared to those produced in the northern Mâconnais. Viré-Clessé, however, is one of the few exceptions to this rule, considered as close to a Premier Cru vineyard as possible in this veritable sea of village wine.

Viré-Clessé was created in February 1999 – and retrospectively applicable to the 1998 vintage – when the quality of wine from four towns, Viré, Clessé, Laize, and Montbellet was recognized to be superior to that produced by other villages in the region. Unfortunately for the last two villages, the name would have been too long to include everyone, so only the first two were used.

Domaine Andre Bonhomme - VineyardsBut what is it that makes the wines of Viré-Clessé unique? First of all, high-quality wine production in this region is rare. The Mâconnais consists of 7,000 hectares of vineyards. Of these, the grapes from just under 6,000 hectares are destined for unoaked, drink-now village level Mâcon wines – approximately 83% of total production. Quality is clearly not the main focus here… at least not compared to the appellations to the north. The few exceptions, such as Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran, make up the remaining vineyards, with Viré-Clessé  one of the smallest quality regions making up a miniscule 1.2% of vineyard area. The scarcity of quality Viré-Clessé is the first reason for its uniqueness.

The second important point about Viré-Clessé is the style of its wine. Not only is it unusual when compared to others in the Mâconnais… but also to all of Burgundy. Burgundian Chardonnays tend to possess a pale green/gold color, sharp acidity, light body and aroma, and a bone-dry finish. None of them exhibit the same voluptuous oak usage or sweet fruit expression seen in New World Chards… None but Viré-Clessé that is… The wines of Viré-Clessé are plump, ripe, and voluptuous. So much so, in fact, that they are often mistaken for high-quality New World Chardonnays.

Domaine Andre Bonhomme - Winemaker Aurelien PaltheyDomaine André Bonhomme is one of the key reasons why Viré-Clessé received its own appellation; and the wines from this extraordinary producer unquestionably deserve the distinction. The Domaine was created in 1956 with ten acres that André’s father, Joseph Bonhomme, had been bottling and selling under the Mâcon-Viré village appellation. André continued to farm manually during the widespread transition toward mechanized methods and pushed heavily to become the first Mâcon village with their own independent appellation. Aurélien Palthey, André’s grandson, is the current director of the Domaine and continues to carry on the tradition of excellence of one of the greatest estates in Burgundy.

Noted below are two of the Domaine’s recently tasted offerings…

Domaine Andre Bonhomme - Vire-Clesse 2017Domaine André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes 2017: The Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes is produced exclusively from vines that are 75 to 90 years old. The grapes are hand harvested and fermented on natural yeast. The wine is then matured for 24 months in a mix of stainless steel and oak barrels, 15% of which are new. The result is a Chardonnay that is luminous pale gold in color with hints of pear, pineapple, and honeysuckle on the nose. On the palate, this is a rich wine, creamy and expansive, with a voluptuous mouthfeel and long exotic finish. If tasted blind, it might easily be mistaken for an infinitely more expensive Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet. Fortunately, however, it retails for $32.00.

Domaine André Bonhomme Mâcon-Villages Vieilles Vignes 2017: In the glass, the color is an attractive pale-yellow gold. On the nose, there are hints of peach and green apple. The palate is generous, creamy, and elegant with touches of limestone and crisp minerality at the finish. This is a marvelously opulent wine that fills the bill for most any occasion. And the best part is the price: $24.00.

Both of these fine wines are readily available at Moore Brothers Wine Company in Wilmington, Delaware, and Pennsauken, New Jersey.




Vickers Restaurant - InteriorOn Sunday, May 12, 2019, Vickers Restaurant & Bar, 192 East Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special à al carte Mother’s Day menu from 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Appetizer Selections – Escargots de Bourgogne: Garlic, Champagne, Herbes de Provence… Shrimp Cocktail: Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce… Lobster Bisque: Touch of Fine Champagne… Farmhouse Salad: Blue Cheese, Roasted Beets, Candied Walnuts… Caesar Salad: Vickers Homemade Dressing

Entrée Selections – Vickers Crab Cakes: Jumbo Lump Crab, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce… Champagne Poached Lobster Tail: Lobster Ravioli, Petit Lobster Tail Garnish, Sauce Aurora… Pan Seared Duck Breast: Brandied Cherries, Seasonal Vegetables… Beef Wellington: Puff Pastry, Truffle Pâté, Sauce Chasseur… Mushroom & Spinach Strudel: Leeks, Feta Cheese, Smoked Pepper Romesco Sauce

Dessert Selection – Artisanal Ice Cream: Espresso Bean, Sweet Cherry Vanilla, Maple Walnut, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate… Cinnamon Apple Strudel: Maple Walnut Ice Cream… Crème Brûlée: Singed Sugar Crust… Chocolate Trio: Dark Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Almond Joy Macaroon

For more information, or to make reservations for Mother’s Day, please call Vickers at (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!