Gary's Wine - Karen MacNeilOn Saturday, October 10, 2015, Restaurant Latour at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey, will honor Karen MacNeil, the award-winning author of The Wine Bible, the highest selling wine book in U.S. history, with a special dinner featuring French wines from Crystal Springs 135,000 bottle wine cellar.

Beginning at 6:00 p.m., during a Champagne reception in Crystal Springs’ Wine Cellar, Ms. MacNeil will be signing copies of the second edition of The Wine Bible, which has been completely revised and updated for the new release.

Dinner in Restaurant Latour will follow at 7:00 p.m. with a discussion of the wines of France. Executive Chef Anthony Bucco has created a five-course menu that will be paired with two wines per course, covering the breadth of French winemaking regions. In addition, each guest will receive a copy of The Wine Bible.

The full menu and wine pairings for the Karen MacNeil wine dinner are noted below…

Amberjack Crudo: Gala Apples, Habañero, Shiso, Textured Barley; Sunchoke: Cider Vinegar, Caviar; Wine Pairings: Ruinart, Blanc de Blanc, NV; Egly-Ouriet, Les Crayeres, Blanc de Noirs, NV

Stracciatella Tortellini: Pastured Hen Egg, Black Trumpet Mushrooms; Wine Pairings: Darviot-Perrin, Chassagne-Montrachet, La Bergerie, 2007; Jean Louis Chave, Crozes Hermitage Blanc, Sybille, 2007

Vinegar-Glazed Squab & Foie Gras: Wild Main Blueberries, Parsnips; Wine Pairings: Baron Thenard, Givry, Cellier Aux Moines, 2005; Dominique Laurent, Bourgogne Rouge, Cuvée Numero 1, 2005

7x Rib Eye Cap & Short Rib: Turnips, Bone Marrow, Bordelaise; Wine Pairings: La Lagune, Haut-Medoc, 1983; La Parde de Haut Bailly, 2009

Beet Sponge: Goat Cheese Panna Cotta, Bitter Chocolate, Caramel; Wine Pairings: Crpres de Climens, Barsac, 2009; Chateau de La Peyrade, Muscat de Frontignan, Languedoc, 1994

The cost of the Karen MacNeil wine dinner is $195.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (844) 207-3203.

Bon Appétit!



Wine Dinner 2For wine lovers in the mood for a pleasant road trip, on Wednesday, October 7, 2015, the Washington Inn, 801 Washington Street, Cape May, New Jersey, will be hosting a special fall wine dinner. Featured will be the extraordinary vintages of the Terre da Vino Winery in the Piedmont region of Italy, which was recently named the 5th most beautiful winery in the world.

The menu and wine pairings are noted below…

Amuse Bouches: Duck Liver Crostini & Pickled Cucumber; Chickpea-Rosemary Ricotto, Celery Relish; Wine Pairing: Apèritifs

First Course: Local Fluke Crudo, Shaved Fennel, Radish, Lemon, Frantoia Olive Oil, Cape May Sea Salt; Wine Pairings: La Villa Prosecco Extra Dry Millesimato; Terra da Vino Piemonte Chardonnay “Fosche”

Second Course: Butternut Squash & Wild Mushroom Risotto, Duck Confit, Taleggio Fonduta, Fried Sage; Wine Pairing: Terre da Vino Gavi di Gavi DOCG “Aureliana”

Third Course: Braised Lamb Shoulder, Pasta al Ceppo, Broccoli Rabe, Manchego Cheese; Wine Pairing: Terre da Vino Barbaresco DOCG “La Casa in Collina”

Fourth Course: Steak Florentine, Duck Fat Fried Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Lemon; Wine Pairing: Terre da Vino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG “La Luna E I Falo”

Dessert Course: Plum Frangipane Tart, House-Made Gelato; Wine Pairing: Terre da Vino Moscato d’Asti “La Gatta”

The cost of the Terre da Vino wine dinner is $75.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (609) 884-5697.

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas7On Thursday, October 22, 2015, 7:00 p.m., for one evening only, Chef/Proprietor Nicholas Harary and the Restaurant Nicholas kitchen, 160 Route 35 South, Red Bank, New Jersey, will present a five-course menu that reflects the best of wild game and seasonal produce.

The complete menu is noted below…

First Course: Venison Carpaccio, Pine Nut Pudding, Charred Onion Marmalade, Upland Cress

Second Course: Stuffed Quail, Apple Stuffing, Pickled Cranberry Purée

Third Course: Rabbit Ravioli, Carrot Butter, Dill Oil

Fourth Course: Pheasant, Braised Cabbage, Sweet Potato Purée

Fifth Course: Buffalo Short Rib, Polenta, Burnt Onion, Charred Pepper Purée

The cost of the five-course game dinner menu is $135.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Gary's Wine - Karen MacNeilThanks to the enormous success of previous Grand Tastings, this year, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace is expanding their annual fall fundraiser into a three day event: Gary’s Grand Wine Experience, Saturday, October 24 – Monday, October 26, 2015.

Food and wine lovers will now have more opportunities to explore their passions. Guests will meet top Napa Valley vintners and taste rare vintages at a symposium moderated by Karen MacNeil, as she kicks off her book tour for the 2nd edition of The Wine Bible. There will also be wine pairing dinners with guest vintners at New Jersey’s best restaurants, as well as the biggest Grand Tasting event ever!

This bigger celebration means more chances to support the beneficiaries. Gary’s Wine & Marketplace has raised more than $700,000 over the years and expects this to be the best year ever.

Schedule of three days of Wine, Food, and Philanthropy…

Saturday, October 24, 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m.: Free in-store wine tastings with vintners and winemakers at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in Madison, Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough, New Jersey.

Sunday, October 25, 4:00 p.m.: Napa Vintners Symposium and Tasting at the Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ. The panel discussion will be moderated by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. Participants include: Bruce Philips of Vine Hill Ranch; Kathy Simpson of Barbour Vineyards; Miles MacDonnell of Round Pond Estate; Hugh Davies of J. Davies & Schramsberg; Lindy Novak of Spottswoode Winery; and Mike Reynolds of Hall Wines.

Sunday, October 25, 7:00 p.m.: Wine Dinners with Napa Vintners. The Bernards Inn, Bernardsville, NJ, with Round Pond Estate & Barbour Vineyards… The Ryland Inn, Whitehouse Station, NJ, with Hall Wines & J. Davies Schramsberg… Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen at Vail Mansion, Morristown, NJ, with Vine Hill Ranch & Spottswoode Winery

Monday, October 26, 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (VIP Admission at 6:00 p.m.): Grand Tasting 2015 at the Park Avenue Club, Florham Park, NJ. This is Gary’s biggest wine tasting event of the year, featuring hundreds of fine wines, stellar selection of premium spirits & craft brews, and savory & sweet pairings.

The 2015 Beneficiaries: Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute (Atlantic Health System)… Atlantic Home Care & Hospice (Morristown Medical Center)… Interfaith Food Pantry of Morris County… Morris Museum… Morris Arts.

Tickets & Packages start at $80.00. Attendees will receive a copy of the newly released The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition with the purchase of Wine Symposium and VIP Grand Tasting Tickets. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please clink on

Bon Appétit!



Amanti Vino - Rufus Wine LabelsAmanti Vino, the boutique wine, beer & specialty spirits shop located at 30 Church Street in Montclair, New Jersey, is marking its 10th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, proprietor Sharon Sevrens has partnered with the Montclair Art Museum (MAM) to create a Sunday afternoon of fun that the entire family can enjoy. Amanti Vino’s 10th anniversary birthday bash will have it all: wine, food art, crafts, dogs, cake, and good causes.

The party will feature the first tasting of Cuvée Rufus, Amanti Vino’s first-ever private-label wine, named for the store mascot, Rufus, a gentle Labrador.

This spring, Amanti Vino and MAM held a contest for the design of the wine labels, which generated more than 100 submissions from children and adults. The 8 winners will have their designs on the bottles; all will be featured in a special installation in MAM’s Children’s Arcade and in a book created by Amanti Vino.

“We’ve had such an amazing decade in business, I wanted to do something special to commemorate the occasion,” notes Ms. Sevrens. “Rufus has been an important symbol of the shop, so it was natural that we immortalize him on our first release!”

A percentage of proceeds from the sales of Cuvée Rufus, birthday bash tickets, and the wine label book will be donated to Intensive Therapeutics and to help support exhibitions and education programs at MAM.

The birthday celebration will be held on Sunday, October 11, 2015, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., at the Montclair Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey. Tickets may be purchased at Amanti Vino, MAM, or online at


Bon Appétit!



Oregon’s Ponzi Vineyards

by artfuldiner on September 29, 2015

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Wine

Ponzi - Winery ExteriorOf the four founding Willamette Valley wineries, Coury is a name now relegated to the history books; Erath has been sold to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates; and while Eyrie Vineyards produces a number of marvelous wines, the brand maintains an almost invisible profile. Ponzi, however, is thriving.

Ponzi Vineyards was founded by Dick and Nancy Ponzi in 1970. The first vintage of Pinot Noir was produced in 1974; in 1978 the first Pinot Gris was planted. The sales of Ponzi wines gradually increased, with the winery breaking even for the first time in 1984. In 1985, wine critic Robert Parker wrote that Ponzi’s Pinot Noir was comparable to the world’s great Burgundies; and, in 1987, Ponzi made the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list for the first time. In 1988, Robert Parker named Dick Ponzi as one of the world’s best winemakers.

Ponzi - Winery InteriorPonzi wines are sold in eight countries; and the winery’s production is an extremely healthy 45,000 cases annually. Ponzi’s 2007 Arneis was served at President Obama’s inauguration. The winery owns five vineyards, two tasting rooms, one wine bar and one restaurant. It is credited as a forerunner of today’s Oregon Pinot Noir boom; but the winery refuses to rest on its laurels…

Ponzi - Family… For the past 20 years, under second generation proprietorship – daughter Anna Maria, president; daughter Luisa, winemaker – Ponzi has continued to carry on with style and unparalleled success. And just this past July, Ponzi was voted #29 in The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Wineries in America 2015.”

Their famous Pinot Noirs, for example, receive consistently high marks from the oenological powers-that-be (Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, International Wine Cellar, etc.); and their single vineyard and/or reserve Pinots could very easily set you back a C-note or more. This may strike many as an exceedingly hefty sum… but when you do a bit of comparison shopping among those extraordinarily expensive French red Burgundies, Ponzi Pinots are nothing short of outlandish bargains.

Ponzi - 2012 Tavola Pinot NoirBut Ponzi also produces some excellent less costly vintages that are quite often superior to wines retailing at twice the price. The 2012 Ponzi “Tavola” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($25.00), their entry level wine, is wonderfully fragrant, packed with dark berry fruit, silky smooth & elegantly sexy going down, and long and savory on the finish. This is a stellar wine that’s as easy on the pocketbook as it is on the palate.

The 2012 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley is the mid-level between Ponzi’s “Tavola” and their reserve/single vineyard Pinots. Retailing around the $40.00 mark, once again, this is a ton of wine for the price. It exhibits a bit more acidity than the “Tavola,” but this is nicely balanced with a superb concentration of flavors and soft tannins. Another excellent effort.

Although Pinot Noir is Ponzi’s claim to fame, winemaker Luisa Ponzi has produced some marvelous white wines as well. She first planted Pinot Blanc on the winery’s Aurora vineyard site as early as 1990; and her most recent vintage, 2014, garnered a whopping 92 points (100-point scale) and an “Editors’ Choice” from the Wine Enthusiast. Wine critic Mary Ewing-Mulligan bestowed 90 points and described the wine as “’Alsace-like’ because of its weight, richness, mineral notes and viscous texture.” This excellent vintage – rich, complex, and bursting with exotic flavors – retails around the $20.00 mark.

Ponzi - 2014 Pinot GrisBut even better, in my opinion, is Ponzi’s stunning 2014 Pinot Gris ($17.00). Italian Pinot Grigio (very same grape) is known primarily for its innocuous, nondescript nature. The version from France’s Alsace region, on the other hand, tends to be richer, full-bodied, and packed with flavor. And Ponzi, once again, is noticeably Alsatian in its approach. In point of fact, I recently sampled a highly regarded Italian Pinot Grigio and the 2014 Ponzi Pinot Gris side by side… and the difference was dramatically palpable. While the Italian entry tasted harsh and overly acidic, the 2014 Ponzi beguiled the palate with its lovely creamy consistency and complex concentration of fresh citrus flavors. This is a food friendly – and price friendly – wine that’s impossible to resist.

And speaking of irresistible… that is the only word that could possibly describe the sensational Ponzi 2012 Aurora Vineyard Chardonnay, which recently collected a colossal 96 points from Paul Gregutt of the Wine Enthusiast. This extraordinary wine has it all – texture, complexity, and seamless blend of flavors – including a $60.00 price tag. But if you’re feeling flush, this “must-have” Chard puts all those heavy-handed California fruit bombs to shame. Go for it!

Ponzi - Dundee Bistro & Wine BarPonzi Vineyards is a class act in every respect. Several years ago, when my wife and I were in Portland, we had the pleasure of visiting the winery as well as dining at their restaurant, the Dundee Bistro. The Bistro serves excellent cuisine buttressed by a seasonally changing menu and a reasonably priced world-class wine list, with their own vintages receiving only minimal markup. If you happen to be vacationing in the area, the Dundee Bistro is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner, or a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting.




Cru vs. Brew 2015

by artfuldiner on September 28, 2015

in Breaking News, New Jersey Event, Special Events

Wine Dinner 2On Thursday evening, October 22, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Amanti Vino, the boutique wine, beer & specialty spirits shop located at 30 Church Street, Montclair, New Jersey, will host the highly anticipated signature wine & beer pairing event, Cru vs. Brew 2015, at the Woman’s Club of Upper Montclair.

Wine or beer? Which will prevail? Guests will savor both and decide with their votes. In the wine corner: Michael Skurnik of Michael Skurnik Wines, distributor and importer of fine estate-bottled wines from around the world. In the beer corner: Garrett Brown of Firestone Walker Brewery, presenting award-winning, limited-edition brews rarely available in the Garden State.

The competitors will select pairings for each course of a spectacular dinner prepared by NJ’s most celebrated chefs. After each dish, guests will vote on the winning pairing and a champion will be crowned at the conclusion of the evening.

Cru vs. Brew proceeds will once again benefit Intensive Therapeutics, which offers individual and group occupational therapy programs for children with special needs.

The menu is noted below…

First Course: Chili-Rubbed Swordfish with Sweet Potato Crabmeat-Scallion, Tri-Citrus Beurre Blanc; Guest Chef: Shaw Paul Salziel, Laurel & Sage (Montclair, NJ); Brew Pairing: Firestone Walker Bretta Weisse; Wine Pairing: To Be Determined

Second Course: Homemade Pasta in Lamb Ragout with Goat Cheese, Kalamata Olive, Basil Pesto; Guest Chef: Ariane Duarte, Ariane Kitchen & Bar (Verona, NJ); Brew Pairing: Firestone Walker DBA; Wine Pairing: TBD

Third Course: Roasted Chicken Breast with House-Made Smoked Cremini Mushroom Sausage, Mangalitsa Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, Kabocha Pumpkin, Whole Grain Mustard; Guest Chef: Corey Heyer, The Bernards Inn (Bernardsville, NJ); Brew Pairing: Firestone Walker Agrestic; Wine Pairing: TBD

Fourth Course: Meat Course TBD; Guest Chef: James Laird, Restaurant Serenade (Chatham, NJ); Brew Pairing: Firestone Walker Reginald Brett; Wine Pairing: TBD

Dessert Course: Oatmeal Stout Cake, Milk Chocolate Cream, Dark Chocolate Oat Crumble, Preserved Sweet & Sour Cherries; Guest Chef: John Suachelli, Maritime Parc (Jersey City, NJ); Brew Pairing: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin; Wine Pairing: TBD

What: Cru vs. Brew 2015

When: Thursday, October 22, 2015, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Woman’s Club of Upper Montclair, 200 Cooper Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey

Cost: General Admission, $170.00 per person

For more information, and to purchase tickets, please call (973) 509-9463.

Bon Appétit!



Beer Fest - Not Your Average Joe'sThis coming Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at 6:00 p.m., Not Your Average Joe’s, 29 St. James Place (Suburban Square), Ardmore, PA, will host a special five-course Oktoberfest dinner with five appropriate beer pairings.

First Course: Butternut Squash Flatbread; Brew Pairing: Harpoon Pumpkin Cider

Second Course: Biergarten Bratwurst; Brew Pairing: Leinenkugel Oktoberfest

Third Course: Beer-Braised Clams and Linguine; Brew Pairing: Paulaner Oktoberfest

Fourth Course: Pork Schnitzel & Potato Kugel; Brew Pairing: Sam Adams Octoberfest

Fifth Course: Hot Apple Cinnamon Sticks; Brew Pairing: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (484) 708-1500.

Bon Appétit!



Wine Dinner 2Sommelier Brian Hider of the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, New Jersey, will lead guests through a fascinating series of wine dinners exploring the wine regions of France. Every event will feature seven wines from the region, and dinner will consist of a menu perfectly crafted to reflect the region and complement the wines.

The schedule of wine dinners is noted below…

Friday, September 25, 2015, 7:00 p.m.: Champagne

Friday, October 2, 2015, 7:00 p.m.: Burgundy

Friday, October 9, 2015, 7:00 p.m.: Rhone

Friday, October 16, 2015, 7:00 p.m.: Bordeaux

The cost of each wine dinner is $65.00 per person; $115.00 per person with wine pairings (plus additional beverages, tax & gratuity).

In addition, this coming Saturday, September 26, 2015, 2:30 p.m. the Inn will welcome fall with a walk-around wine tasting, sampling 40-50 wines that are perfect for the crisp air of the autumn season. To complement the wines, guests will be treated to hors d’oeuvres from the Pluckemin Inn kitchen, and the Plucky Tavern will also be open.

For more information, or to make reservations for these events, please call (908) 658-9292.

Bon Appétit!



Wine 3On Thursday evening, October 8, 2015, Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a fall walk-around wine tasting.

The tasting will feature wines from around the world that pair beautifully with the fall flavors of roasted meats, hearty soups, and harvest vegetables.

Noted below are the wines to be tasted…

Domaine Daulny Sancerre Blanc Clos de Chaudenay 2013

Kuenhof Suditirol Veltliner 2014

Domaine Talmard Macon Uchizy 2014

Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2014

Domaine Magellan L’Herault Blanc 2014

Weingut Freiherren von Heddesdorff Riesling Feinherb 2013

Domaine Crochet Sancerre Rouge 2013

Close Julien Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2013

Château Revelette Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rouge 2013

Château Larose de Gruaud Saint Julien 2011

Cameron-Hughes Lot 448 Meritage Napa Valley 2012

Nicholas Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013

Para Maria de Los Tecolotes Syrah Santa Barbara County 2014

Xavier Vignon Gigondas 2012

Beran Zinfandel California 2012

Passed hors d’oeuvres and artisanal cheeses will be served to complement the tasting.

The cost of the tasting is $75.00 per person, $50.00 of which will be applied toward your first wine purchase.

To reserve your place for the Fall Walk-Around Wine Tasting, please call (732) 345-9977.

Cheers & Bon Appétit!