Valentiine's Day DiningOn Sunday, February 14, 2021, Estia Taverna, 222 North Radnor Road, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special Valentine’s Day menu for couples…

APPETIZER TO SHARE (Choose One) – Octopodi: Charcoal grilled Mediterranean Octopus over fava purée with pickled red onion, capers, Holland peppers, extra virgin olive oil… Crispy Feta: Sesame encrusted feta cheese baked with Greek Honey… Oysters: Six Oysters on the half shell served with cocktail and mignonette sauces

SALAD TO SHARE – Greek: Vine-Ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives, red onions, imported feta, red wine vinaigrette

ENTRÉE (Choose One) – Lamb Chops: Three lamb chops marinated in extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon, served with Greek fried potatoes and tzatziki… Lavraki: European sea bass grilled with ladolemono, capers and oregano, served with spanakorizo

 DESSERT TO SHARE – Chocolate Molten Cake: Candied almonds, Ouzo whipped cream

EROS ELIXIR ($13.00) – Stoli Vanilla, Godiva White Chocolate Liquor, Fresh Raspberry

The price of the Valentine’s Day menu is $120.00 per couple (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make a reservation, please Call Estia Taverna (484) 581-7124. Estia also has locations in Philadelphia, PA, and Marlton, New Jersey.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Valentiine's Day DiningOn Friday, February 12th, through Sunday, February 14th, Vickers Restaurant, 192 Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special three-course Valentine’s menu…

APPETIZER SELECTION (choose one) – Escargot de Bourgogne: Garlic, Champagne Herbes de’ Provence… Shrimp Cocktail: Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce… Smoked Salmon: Traditional Accoutrements… Cream of Mushroom Soup: Local Chester County Mushrooms… Lobster Bisque: Touch of Fine Champagne… Farmhouse Salad: Blue Cheese, Roasted Beets, Candied Walnuts… Caesar Salad: Vickers Homemade Dressing

ENTRÉE SELECTION (choose one) – Seared Salmon: Wilted Greens, Orange Vermouth Infusion… Vickers Crab Cakes: Jumbo Lump Crab, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce… Roasted Rack of Lamb: Rosemary, Thyme, Mustard, Port Wine Reduction… Filet Mignon Béarnaise: Truffled Pommes Croquette (Sauce au Poivre will be substituted for curbside pick up)… Beef Wellington: Puff Pastry, Truffle Pâté, Sauce Chasseur… Lobster Ravioli: Champagne Poached Lobster Tail, Sauce Aurora

DESSERT SELECTION (choose one) – Apple StrudelChocolate Decadence Cake**Hand-Whipped Chocolate Mousse**Crème BrûléeNew York-Style Cheesecake (**denotes that an item will not be available for curbside pick-up)

The price of the Valentine’s menu is $75.00 per person dine-in; $65.00 per person curbside pick-up. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call Vickers Restaurant, (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Valentine's Dy DiningOn Valentine’s weekend, Saturday, February 13 & Sunday, February 14, Silverspoon Restaurant, 503 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, Pennsylvania, will be serving a special menu for couples. Indoor and outdoor dining and take-out options will all be available.

Starter – Seared Diver Scallops: Lobster Beurre Blanc, Micro Shiso, Celeriac & Parsnip Purée

Main Course – Veal Tenderloin Madeira: Black Truffle Potato Gratin, Madeira Jus, Sautéed Asparagus

Dessert – Spiced Chocolate Crème Brûlée Cardamom, Star Anise, Vanilla Bean, Burnt Sugar, Cookie Heart

The price is $175.00 per couple (plus tax & gratuity). The regular à la carte menu will also be available.

Please call (610) 688-7646 for indoor, outdoor, and takeout reservations. Note that reservations are limited. Call before 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 11th, to reserve your time. Silverspoon is a BYOB restaurant.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Excerpts of the Top 100 Wines

by artfuldiner on February 5, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Wine

Wine Spec Top 100 2020Yes… it’s that time again. Time for the Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year. The hoopla began with an online countdown of their top ten wines and then the full top 100, both online and in print as the magazine’s cover story of its December 31, 2020 – January 15, 2021 issue.

The top 100 list is a big deal… and it gets bigger every year. The Spectator just loves the top 100… it sells more magazines; retailers sell more wine; and wine lovers are sold a bill of goods – they think they’re getting the best of the best.

But not everyone is so high on “best” lists. In an article as far back as June 1980, former Village Voice restaurant critic Jeff Weinstein was already making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms. “A list is a fundamentally lazy way for a newspaper or magazine to fill space and woo as many advertisers as possible,” he wrote. He was, of course, speaking specifically of restaurants. But his remarks apply equally to oenological utterances like the Wine Spectator annual top 100 wines of the year and ex cathedra pronouncements of similar ilk.  “Lists have a deep, structural connection to fads; lists help create them; they are subject to them,” he goes on. “The same editors lick their chops at both.”

“Rating,” Mr. Weinstein notes, “is usually a search for the best. The best is unattainable, a lie. The best hot dog doesn’t exist, and if it did, you wouldn’t get to it in time, before it was ruined by all the attention.” True enough… But the best is also a matter of opinion. Which is precisely why, when the Wine Enthusiast magazine publishes its own Top 100 Wines of 2020, I guarantee that their list will differ significantly from that of the Wine Spectator. The point being, I believe, that there are numerous wines out there that are just as good – if not a great deal better – than those mentioned in either “best list” just waiting to be discovered.

Be that as it may… noted below (in ascending order) are just a few personal favorites from the Wine Spectator top 100 that are highly recommended and well worth seeking out. Please note that the prices listed are suggested retail and will certainly be less costly from certain sources online or when on sale.

Ridge 2017 Monte BelloRidge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains 2017 (California): Listed at number 77, rated at 96 points, priced at $230… Ridge Monte Bello is one of California’s most iconic Cabernet blends. Expensive to be sure, but a simply fabulous wine that will age exceedingly well. If you’re a Cabernet fan and feeling particularly flush, this wine will make you very, very happy. Save it for that special occasion. If the price is too steep, try Ridge Geyserville, an excellent Zinfandel blend. Three Valleys, their entry-level wine, is a consistent bargain from year to year.

 Jermann Pinot Grigio Friuli 2017 (Italy): Listed as number 74, rated at 91 points, priced at $30… I’ve tasted Jermann Pinot Grigio on numerous occasions, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Consistently complex and elegant on the palate, it is aged for six months in stainless steel tanks before release. I’ve seen the 2017 on sale online for as low as $18.99.

Starl-Conde Cab 2017Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 2017 (South Africa): Listed as number 71, rated 91 points, priced at $27… Hailing from Stellenbosch, the most famous – and most beautiful – wine producing region in South Africa. Petit Verdot, Petite Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc make up 15% of the blend. Matured in a mix of new and used French oak barrels for 20 months. Available online for as low as $17.95.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc Walker Bay 2019 (South Africa): Listed as number 59, rated at 90 points, priced at $16… Founded in 1994 by Anthony Hamilton Russell, who produces world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Southern Right is named after the Southern Right whales that can be seen in Walker Bay, less than two miles away from the vineyards. The wine is barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $15.19 and various other sources. An excellent wine at a bargain price point.

Travaglini Gattinara 2015Travaglini Gattinara 2015 (Italy): Listed as number 54, rated at 92 points, $32… I have sampled this wine many times over the years, and it never fails to impress. The product of a cooler than average spring and exceptional summer; following fermentation, it was aged three years in Slovenian oak casks. The result is a rich, plump wine packed with plum and cherry. A benchmark Nebbiolo… but notoriously difficult to find. Currently available through Solano Cellars in California, which ships directly to Pennsylvania. This is an excellent wine that is well worth the chase.

Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017 (France): Listed as number 35, rated at 91 points, $25… The Trimbach family has been making wine in France’s Alsace region for 13 generations. This is a concentrated wine, filled with bright zesty citrus that leads to marvelously fresh, dry finish. I originally purchased the wine through Marketview Liquor in Rochester, New York. Unfortunately, I was later informed that they were out of the 2017 but would substitute the 2018. And this is just fine, as the 2018 is actually rated slightly higher than the 2017. A steal at $16.99 per bottle.

Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2013 (Spain): Listed as number 25, rated at 92 points, $18… Produced by one of the oldest wineries in Rioja, I have sampled previous vintages of this wine and have found them to be exceptional in every respect. The 2013 Reserva is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 7% Mazuelo, and 3% Garnacha. It was aged in French and American oak barrels for 24 months, then bottle-aged for 24 additional months before release. Available online from Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey for $15.99 per bottle.

Tolaini Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Legit 2016 (Italy): Listed as number 13, rated at 95 points, $45… If you think this wine sounds familiar, you’re absolutely right. This is the second release of Legit, a collaboration between jazz great Theolonius Monk’s family and Tolaini. I mentioned the first, the 2013, last year. This, as you will notice is the 2016 vintage. Rated even high than its predecessor, the 2016 Legit is aged three years in 70% new and 30% one-year-old French barriques. This is a stunning wine; absolutely stunning… so don’t expect too many bargains. The lowest price I’ve seen online is $39.99… and worth every penny.

Kistler Chardonnay Russian River Valley Vine Hill Vineyard 2017 (California): Listed as number 6, rated 96 points, $90… I’ve enjoyed Kistler wines for years… when I can afford them! The estate makes 11 vineyard-designated Chardonnays from various sites; and winemaker Jason Kesner admits the Vine Hill Vineyard is his favorite. Intense and complex, the wine was barrel-fermented with native yeast and then aged on the lees for a year before being bottled unfined and ufiltered. A perennial favorite of Chardonnay lovers.

Marques de Murrieta Gran Reserva 2010Bodegas Marquès de Marrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2010 (Spain): Listed as number 1, rated 96 points, $139… The Marquès de Marrieta winery was established in 1852. In 1983 it was acquired by the Cebrián-Sagarriga family that is founded on a tradition of excellence and innovation. Only the finest vintages from the 741-acre Ygay Estate are used to produce Castillo Ygay. This Gran Reserva Especial is made from a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo that has been aged two years in oak, one in concrete and three or four in the bottle. Critics across the board are singing its praises, calling it a wine of fantastic depth and power. I have yet to sample this vintage, but I have tasted 2005 and I can tell you that incredible is the only word to describe it… and I have every reason to believe that the 2010 is every bit its equal. Once again, no bargains to be had, but you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Washington House Basking Ridge - InteriorDuring Valentine’s Week – Tuesday, February 9th through Sunday, February 14thWashington House Restaurant in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, will be serving a special romantic menu…

APPETIZERS – 1 oz. Premium Russian Osetra Caviar: Toast Points, Crème Fraiche, Diced Red Onion ($50)… Crab Bisque: Herb Croutons ($8 Cup/$11 Bowl)… Lobster Thermidor  Toast Points: Maine Lobster Tail, Cream Sauce, Melted Gruyère Cheese, Fresh Dill ($16)… Strawberry & Spinach Salad: Bacon Lardons, Toasted Pecans, Danish Blue Cheese, Raspberry Blood Orange Vinaigrette ($18)

ENTRÉES – Chicken Cordon Bleu: Rose Risotto, Asparagus Pencils, Creamy Alfredo Sauce ($26)… Herb-Crusted Wild-Caught Halibut: Braised Baby Leeks, Saffron Risotto, Champagne Beurre Blanc ($33)… Beef Tenderloin: Pommes de Terre, Haricots Verts, Shallot Herb Citrus Butter ($39)

DESSERTS – Warm Chocolate Fondant: Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, Raspberry Coulis, Chocolate & Crème Anglaise Twirl, Ginger Snap Cookie Soil ($12)… White Chocolate Mousse Cake: Crème Anglaise, Raspberry Sauce, Coral Tuile ($13)

For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (908) 766-7610.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Alba - Interior 2On Sunday evening, February 21, 2021, Restaurant Alba, 7 West King Street, Malvern, Pennsylvania, will host a special dinner featuring a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing. The dinner will explore the Austrian influence on the wine, food, and culture of Northeast Italy, specifically the regions of Veneto, Friuli, and Alto Adige.

Course One: Venison Carpaccio, Shallot, Mustard & Pear; Wine Pairing: 2017, Elena Walch, Rosé, Alto Adige

Course Two: Grilled Pennsylvania Brown Trout, Crema of Speck & Red Currants; Wine Pairing: 2018, Beltrame, Ribolla Gialla, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Course Three: Prune Stuffed Gnocchi, Braised Duck & Roasted Chestnuts; Wine Pairing: 2018, Schiopetto, “Collio,” Friuliano, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Course Four: Braised Beef, Winter Squash, Bread Dumplings & Smoked Ricotta; Wine Pairing: 2017, Elena Walch, Lagrein, Alto Adige

Course Five: Apple Stuffed Bombolini; Wine Pairing: 2015, Secoli, Reciota di Gambellara, Veneto

The price of the special five-course wine dinner is $135.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Doors open at 5:00 p.m.; dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. Seating is limited and will be socially distant. For more information, or to make reservations, please call Restaurant Alba at (610) 644-4009.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

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Frog and the PeachFrom Friday, February 12th, through Sunday, February 14th, the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey, will be serving a special prix-fixe dinner menu priced at $75.00 per person.

AMUSE – Roasted Beet and Pomegranate

 APPETIZERS (Choice of) – Oysters on the Half Shell: Sherry Mignonette… Baby Arugula Salad: Asian Pear, Walnuts, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, Endive, Maple Vinaigrette… Duck Confit: Falafel, Black Garlic Confit, Pickled Vegetables… Cured Tuna Sashimi: Cucumber, Tobiko, Lemongrass Broth… Jumbo Lump Crab Salad: Granny Smith Apple, Trout Roe, Coconut Tarragon Velouté… Mushroom & Ricotta Gnocchi: Porcini Mushrooms, Mascarpone, Soy Mushroom Sauce

ENTRÉES (Choice of) – Roasted Purple Cauliflower: Romesco, Edamame, Toasted Peanuts, Pickled Shallots… Ora King Salmon: Saffron Risotto, Guanciale, Carrot Top Pesto… Pan Seared Sea Scallops: Roasted Maitake Mushrooms, Golden Baby Beets, Pickled Grapes, Almond Cream… Griggstown Chicken: Whole Grain Mustard Spaetzle, Dried Cherries, Toasted Pecans, Marsala… 24-Hour Braised Short Rib: Turnips, Salsa Verde, Cauliflower Purée, Beef JusGrilled 7 oz. Beef Tenderloin: Broccolini, Potato Leek Purée, Foie Gras Béarnaise ($10.00 Supplement)

DESSERTS (Choice of) – Crème BrûléeChocolate Tasting: Hazelnut Chocolate Dacquoise, Chocolate Marquise, White Chocolate Sorbet… “Box of Assorted Chocolates and Candies”Cheese Board: Three Fine Cheeses, Garnishes and Accompaniments ($5.00 Supplement)… Trio of Ice Cream & Sorbet

As noted above, the price of the three-course prix-fixe is $75.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (732) 846-3216.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Antica Italian Restaurant

1623 Baltimore Pike

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

(484) 770-8631

www.anticapa.com

Antica - Interior 1Situated just a few hundred yards from the Brandywine River Museum in the shadow of Brandywine Prime Steakhouse, Antica (pronounced an-TEE-ka) sounds like some exotic Mediterranean port-of-call. In reality, however, the name is merely a playful nod to the area’s long-running enthusiasm for antiquing.

Owned by chefs Josh Friedberg and Gent Mema, also proprietors of the popular Il Granaio restaurants in Glen Mills and Phoenixville, Antica’s three light & airy dining areas come replete with soothing colorations, a rustic stone wall, and framed prints by Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford’s favorite artistic son. You sense immediately that this is a cozy, welcoming space… But it is the authentic, lovingly prepared and beautifully presented cuisine that makes this diminutive eatery worth a journey.

Although I had dined at Antica on several previous occasions (and reviewed the restaurant twice before), the circumstances my dining partner and I encountered were quite different from previous visits.

First of all, originally a BYOB, the restaurant now sported a liquor license, offering its patrons a compact selection of wines by the glass and bottle, brews, and an interesting inventory of specialty cocktails.

Secondly, our visit occurred on a Sunday evening during the month of December, just after the governor had once again prohibited indoor dining. We were seated on the partially enclosed porch with a free-standing heat tower perched directly next to our table. And while the unit did a commendable job of radiating the heat downward toward the tabletop, appendages below the table – namely legs and feet – remained colder than a witch’s toenail throughout our meal. In addition, the traffic noise from Route 1 was more than a little daunting.

Despite our bone-chilling evening, however, one aspect of the Antica dining experience has certainly not changed – the excellent quality of the cuisine… And, as an added bonus, the entrée portions were infinitely more prodigious than I remembered them. Leftovers abounded.

Antika - Roast Pork & Broccoli Rabe EggrollTo start things off, my dining partner and I decided to share the Roast Pork & Broccoli Rabe “Eggroll.” A relatively new addition to the menu – and a real winner, by the way – two crispy rolls are cut on the diagonal and filled with tender slices of pork, broccoli rabe, and kicked up a notch with plenty of sharp provolone cheese. But the real crowd pleaser comes courtesy of the accompanying mustard horseradish aioli… with just enough heat to tantalize rather than paralyze those delicate taste buds.

When it comes to entrées, under normal circumstances, we undoubtedly would have chosen the seafood route, as the kitchen is quite adept at matters piscatorial and offered both Sautéed Salmon and Grilled Whole Bronzino on their printed menu. However, since our lower extremities were still doing battle with the elements (rather unsuccessfully, I might add), some good old-fashioned down-home Italian fare looked mighty inviting…

Antika - Sunday SupperAnd my dining partner’s Sunday Supper (pictured) – a Sunday evening special combining braised pork cheeks, ground sausage, and meatballs in a rich red sauce over homemade tagliatelle pasta – succeeded in warming both body and soul. My own Veal Parmigiana, topped with mozzarella and served up with linguini marinara, Italian comfort food taken to the max, was equally satisfying.

The house specialties I’ve sampled over the years have all been incomparably delicious. So, when various items put in periodic guest appearances, be sure to take advantage of your good fortune. The Pasta Pomodoro, for instance, a deceptively simple dish, still managed to blow me away. It offered a choice of pastas – I ordered linguini – in a pomodoro sauce, which is made with fresh tomatoes, olive oil & garlic and, usually, basil. It is meant to be a quick, light sauce rather than a heavy one. And Antica’s version was most assuredly light on the palate… but it was also alive with fresh flavors.

Antica - Spinach FettucciniOn the other hand, the Spinach Fettuccini, a dish with a slightly richer consistency, definitely stepped up the “wow” factor. House-made spinach pasta was sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, tossed with a pesto cream sauce, and topped with shaved Grana Padano cheese. I generally find cream sauces entirely too overwhelming for my palate; but the pesto cream was both light and irresistible. The infusion of basil and garlic added a spicy, earthy dimension that both contrasted with and, at the same time, complemented the luscious consistency of the cream. And the toasted pine nuts contributed a most satisfying textural counterpoint.

Antica - Carote MarsalaAmong the side dishes, the Carote Marsala – freshly sliced carrots braised in marsala wine and flavored with thin slices of roasted garlic – is highly recommended. Carrots are rarely offered as a restaurant side dish, usually being consigned to some form of innocuous vegetable medley or nondescript garnish. But here, as elsewhere, the kitchen continues to weave its magic with a highly colorful presentation that is both tasty and tasteful.

Antica - Lemon Cream CakeHomemade desserts include such favorites as cannoli, tiramisu, and Bundino di Pane, an Italian version of bread pudding. For my money, however, nothing quite tops the considerable charms of the luscious Lemon Cream Cake. This is a crowd-pleaser at both Antica and the two Il Granaio restaurants. After a substantial Italian dinner (like ours), this delightful denouement hits all the right notes… It’s rich, but not cloyingly so. And, unlike some heavy, over-the-top sweet endings, it’s also as light as a feather on the palate. The perfect conclusion to your evening at table.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Favorite Red Wines of 2020

by artfuldiner on January 2, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

I certainly sampled an interesting variety of wines in 2020 – including five days of glorious tastings in South Arica – most of which were quite reasonably priced. Listed below, however, are the 5 red wines that are particularly recommended (favorite white wines will be noted in the post immediately below).

Gigondas 20162016 Gabriel Meffre Domaine de Longue Toque Gigondas (France): Gigondas is a wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône valley of France. It is primarily a red wine region, with a very small amount of rosé wine production. The 2016 Domaine de Longue Toque Gigondas is a lush blend of Grenache, Syrah, and splash of Mourvèdre. It is deep purple/ruby in color with intense aromas of black fruits and touches of vanilla and spice. This is a plump, full-bodied wine that is beautifully structured and layered with flavor. Fine lingering tannins move you seamlessly along to an impressively fruity finish. Wine critics have been effusive with their praise. The 2016 Gigondas garnered 93 points from Wine Spectator, while Jeb Dunnuck bestowed a whopping 95 points, calling it “the finest vintage of this cuvée to date. In short, a blockbuster.” And here is one instance where the Pennsylvania LCB has pitched you a real bargain. Listed at $44.00, this “Chairman Select” is on sale for a paltry $19.99.

 Tesselaarsdal Winemaker2018 Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir (South Africa): The Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley of South Africa is known for its lighter, elegant style wines. This is also the home of the world class Hamilton Russell Vineyards, which has been extremely influential in shaping the region’s focus by emphasizing the grapes of Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The 2018 Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir was produced by Anthony Hamilton Russell’s protégé Berene Sauls, who founded the Tesselaarsdal Winery in 2015. Hamilton Russell initially financed the project. Ms. Sauls is a descendent of the freed slaves of South Africa who were bequeathed the land by former East India Company settler Johannes Tesselaar in 1810. This is a downright elegant wine, silky smooth on the palate with engaging aromas of red fruit. Aged for 9+ months in 100 French oak barrels, the 2018 Pinot Noir is graceful and charming at the present moment but still age worthy.  The price is on a par with what you would expect from a Hamilton Russell vintage. The lowest price I have seen online is $42.93 from the International Wine Shop. Trust me, you’ll want to check this one out.

Legit Cabernet 20132013 Tolaini “Legit” Cabernet Sauvignon (Italy): This remarkable wine garnered 94 points and was chosen as #26 in the Wine Spectator “Top 100 of 2019.” It is rich with aromas of dark fruit and cassis surrounded by the spice of French oak. On the palate, it is full-bodied with excellent depth, balance, and fine tannins, which are indicative of a cellar-worthy vintage. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was farmed organically in the San Giovanni vineyard in the heart of Chianti Classico and produced in a state-of-the-art facility under the watchful eye of world-class winemaker Michel Rolland. This is, indeed, a wine to savor. The label… in case you’re wondering, is the face and hands of the legendary Thelonious Monk. When Tuscan vintner and international wine importer Lia Tolaini Banville met the grandchildren of the late jazz great, she was inspired to honor his memory with a singular wine from her family estate – LEGIT. The retail price is listed at $45.00… However, Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California, is offering it at $31.99; the Red Wagon Wine Shoppe in Rochester, Michigan at $36.99 (plus shipping). Both will ship directly to Pennsylvania. Simply a fabulous wine! Not to be missed!

Trefethen Merlot 20172017 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Merlot (California): The Merlot grape flourishes in relatively cool growing regions with moist soils. This makes it a perfect match for certain parts of the Trefethen estate vineyard, located in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley, a sweet spot between warmer up-valley regions and the cool southern tip. The 2017 Trefethen Merlot has a splash (5%) of Cabernet Franc mixed in, which gives added pleasure to both the nose and the palate. The wine is definitely fruit forward but not at all unctuous. It spent 18 months maturing in American oak, 44% new, so you’ll definitely sense a healthy amount on the palate. Fortunately, however, the oak is perfectly counter-balanced with luscious red fruit and mouth-watering acidity. The fine tannins indicate that this wine will age very well… but why wait? The price is right, too. Currently on sale in PA State Stores for $19.99.

Cantina Zaccagnini 20172017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Tralcetto” (Italy): The Zaccagnini Winery was founded in 1978 in Bolognano, a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Starting from a family-run business, the estate has grown rapidly and steadily, reaching its current state of 300 hectares of beautiful vineyards with 70% of an annual production of over 3,000,000 bottles destined for an international market of 45 countries. The 2017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Tralcetto” is a wine that embodies the essence of terroir. It is produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, a vine of Tuscan origin imported into Abruzzo toward the end of the 18th century. After vinification in steel, the wine spends 4 months in wooden barrels and can rest even more than 3 years in the bottle. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo doesn’t get the same attention as more familiar Italian reds from such well-known regions as Tuscany, Piedmont, and Sicily. So, for now at least, this wine is still flying under the radar, which is why it continues to be such an incredible bargain – $14.99 in Pennsylvania State Stores – and could very easily become your everyday go-to Italian red.  With its fruity flavor, complex medium-body, relatively soft tannins, and incredible price point, the 2017 Zaccagnini Tralcetto is a wine that’s hard to resist.

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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Favorite White Wines of 2020

by artfuldiner on December 31, 2020

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

I certainly sampled an interesting variety of wines in 2020 – including five days of glorious tastings in South Arica – most of which were quite reasonably priced. Listed immediately below, however, are the 5+ white wines that are particularly recommended (favorite red wines will be noted in a forthcoming post).

Please note that prices are approximate, depending upon where the wines are purchased; and, of course, are subject to change. Prices in states other than Pennsylvania can vary significantly from retailer to retailer. Therefore, it would certainly be to your advantage to spend some time surfing for the best possible deals.

 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines - 2016 White Blend2016 A.A. Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein White Blend (South Africa): The description of this vintage in the wine mags was positively glowing, as it garnered a whopping 94 points from both the Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits. A blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Sémillon, Viognier, and Colombard, the 2016 is positively opulent, filled with exotic flavors and a marvelous acidic backbone that holds its complex elements in perfect harmony. Similar in structure to the DeMorgenzon Maestro – another highly-regarded South African blend that I highly recommend – the Badenhorst exhibits a bit more body and depth… and also carries a highly price tag. Listed at $43.00, according to the Wine Spectator, it is currently available online at Connecticut’s International Wine Shop for $29.89 per bottle.

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 20172018 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc (South Africa): The wineries of South Africa are the most beautiful in the world; and there are many who believe – this writer among them – that DeMorgenzon is the most beautiful of them all. Today, this estate is not only celebrated for its majestic beauty, but also for crafting some of South Africa’s most exciting and original wines. And it is the DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc that has captured the attention of critics and connoisseurs alike. During my trip, I sampled their 2018 Chenin Blanc,and it is nothing short of spectacular. Once again, this excellent vintage is available online through the International Wine Shop for $31.80 per bottle. If you consider the price a bit steep, be sure to try the Ken Forrester 2018 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc, which is available online through Wine Chateau at $14.97. Sampled at Helena’s Restaurant in Stellenbosch, this is a lovely wine, golden-hued and full bodied, with a perfect balance of fruit and delicate oak/vanilla flavors. An excellent wine at an excellent price point. 

Greenhill Winery & Vineyards2019 Greenhill Vineyards Viognier (Virginia): Wonderfully picturesque, Greenhill Vineyards reminded us of several wineries we had visited in South Africa. Of particular note is their 2019 Viognier, which was sampled both at the winery and during our dinner at the Red Fox Inn. I am usually not a fan of viognier, but this is simply a lovely wine in every respect. Aged in stainless steel, it offers up a distinctive floral bouquet. Crisp and clean, it beguiles the palate with notes of stone fruit and mandarin, leading to a lively and expressive finish. Though a bit pricey at $39.00, it is still, in my opinion, worth a shot. And, conveniently, it may be ordered directly from the Greenhill Vineyards’ website and shipped directly to Pennsylvania.

Loveblock - Pinot Gris 20182018 Loveblock Pinot Gris, Marlborough (New Zealand): Owned by winemaker Kim Crawford and his wife, Erica, Loveblock wines are both sophisticated and complex. Pinot Gris (Grigio) has a number of different styles. The wines produced in Italy tend to be light-bodied and on the acidic side. Those hailing from Oregon, the other hand, are fuller bodied and more rounded. The organic Pinot Gris from Loveblock, however, goes its own way… It is decidedly “elegant” – a word not generally associated with Pinot Gris – supple and as smooth as silk. Garnering 92 points and designated an “Editors’ Choice” by the Wine Enthusiast, this is, as Decanter magazine noted, a Pinot Gris “to sink into.” Currently on sale at Pennsylvania State Stores for $15.99

Trefethen Chardonnay 20182018 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Chardonnay (California): The estate’s history can be traced back to the Eschol Winery, which was commissioned by James and George Goodman and constructed in 1886 by a Scottish sea captain named Hamden McIntyre. The winery is now owned by John & Janet Trefethen, withtheir son-in-law, Brian Kays, doing a fabulous job as winemaker. Signature wines include Dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dragon’s Tooth, a Bordeaux-like blend. The 2018 Oak Knoll District Chardonnay, which received 93 points from the Wine Enthusiast, is both elegant and classically-styled. It is beautifully structured, displaying just the lightest touch of ripe fruit. Low in oak, but engagingly supple of texture with 13.3% alcohol, it also possesses a refreshing acidity that keeps all its elements in perfect balance. You will find the price tag quite refreshing as well. The list price is $38.00, but numerous sites online are running specials in the mid-$20.00 range. The really good news, however, is that Pennsylvania State Stores currently have it on sale for $19.99.

Cheers!

Be Safe & Stay Well

TAD

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