Nicholas in Main Dining RoomOn Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a special dinner paired with the beers of Carton Brewery of nearby Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Special guest of the evening will be owner Augie Carton.

First Course: Crispy Pork Belly, Peach Butter; Brew Pairing: Carton Boat Session Ale

Second Course: Crispy Octopus, Peruvian Salsa Verde, Charred Eggplant Purée

Third Course: Spiced Carton Beer Cheese Soup, Young Rapini, Broccoli Chips; Brew Pairing: Carton “Blossom” Saison O.W.C.

Fourth Course: Crispy Red Snapper, Summer Corn Pudding, Carnaroli Rice, Parmigiano Crème; Brew Pairing: Carton “Planning Jersey” Barn Beer O.W.C.

Fifth Course: Carton UnJunct Stout Beer Braised Beef Short Rib, Espresso Pommes Mousseline; Brew Pairing: Carton “Sundae” O.W.C.

Dessert Course: Kelly’s Brownie, Bacon Caramel, Nicholas Creamery Carton Stout Ice Cream

The price of the Carton Brewery dinner is $95.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Alba - Interior 2On Monday, August 19, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Alba, 7 West King Street, Malvern, Pennsylvania, will be hosting a special dinner featuring “Coastal Villages of the Mediterranean” Wine & Tasting Menu.

La Spezia, Liguria, Italy: Fried Rock Shrimp, Pesto, Lemon Aioli; Wine Pairing: 2011 Tenuta La Ghiaia, “Ithaa” Vermentino (orange)

Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, Italy: Raw Ahi Tuna, Potatoes, Olive & Caper Tapenade; Wine Pairing: 2015 Assuli, “Astolfo” Grillo

Jumilla, Valencia, Spain: Valencia Style Paella, Chicken, Chorizo, Calamari, Saffron, Peas; Wine Pairing: 2016 Hammeken Cellars Gran Pasas Monastrell

Naples, Campania, Italy: Wood Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Poached Fennel, extra Virgin Olive Oil; Wine Pairing: 2008 Rocca del Principe Taurasi

Rivesaltes, Languedoc, France: Roquefort Bleu Cheese, Amaretti Stuffed & Baked Apricots; Wine Pairing: Terrassous Rivesaltes 6-Year

The price of the Coastal Villages of the Mediterranean wine and tasting menu is $115.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call Restaurant Alba at (610) 644-4009.

Bon Appétit!



Francisco’s on the River

1251 River Road

Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania

(215) 321-8789

Francisco's on the River - ExteriorFirst reviewed in December 2017, Francisco’s remains a local (and personal) favorite. Chef/proprietor Francisco Argueta, a native of El Salvador, has stated that something like ninety percent of his customers are regulars; and I certainly have no reason to doubt his word. So, if you happen to be cruising by on a journey to or from the New Hope/Lambertville area, this charming little BYOB makes the perfect stopover for a casual dinner.

During my most recent visit, on a warm & inviting Saturday evening, my dining partner and I lucked out and managed to snare one of the coveted tables on the outdoor patio. Which, as it turned out, was quite fortuitous, as the interior dining areas were packed to the gills, and the noise level (when the door was left ajar), even from our vantage point, was nothing less than lethal.

Not a great deal has changed here since my initial review… From the moment you’re seated, servers still hawk the establishment’s famous whole wheat garlic bread. It isn’t complimentary, but $3.00 is a paltry sum to shell out for something so utterly delicious. In point of fact, it’s downright sensual and guaranteed to get those gastric juices flowing for the good things to come.

Francisco's - Arugula Salad with Shrimp Citrus VinaigretteThe first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice when you check out the appetizers is that salads make up a lion’s share of the possibilities (and are also noted as daily specials). So, in case you missed the not-so-subtle hint, let me spell it out for you (as I did in my initial review)… when it comes to starters, greenery is clearly the way to go here. I’ve been treated, for example, to such delicacies as a Blueberry and Pear Salad with goat cheese & white balsamic vinaigrette, as well as an incomparable Caprese Salad spruced up with a fabulously flavorful basil pesto. Most recently, however, a special Arugula Salad adorned with shrimp, chunks of tomato & orange segments tossed in a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette (pictured) filled the bill quite nicely.

Francisco's - Herb-Crusted HalibutAlthough Francisco’s is best known for its hearty, old-fashioned Italian cuisine, on this particular occasion both my dining partner and I settled on the slightly more innovative seafood specials… she with the Tilapia topped with Crabmeat; I with the Herb-Crusted Halibut (pictured) adorned with an excellent fennel citrus sauce. The accompanying vegetable medley, while adding a welcome splash of color to the proceedings, was strictly generic on the palate. The red-skinned mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were decadently rich & creamy, beautifully seasoned… and worth the price of admission.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

If Francisco’s has a house specialty, it is undoubtedly Chef Argueta’s brilliant take on the two ultimate paradigms of Neapolitan comfort cuisine. His Eggplant Parmigiano, which usually suffers from plebian overtones, is deliciously picturesque and decidedly upscale. Fourteen (14) layers of wafer-thin sliced eggplant are bathed in the restaurant’s red sauce and enhanced with a sprinkling of parmesan and basil. Equally pleasing to both eye and palate is his Lasagna (pictured). Luscious layers of perfectly cooked pasta are interspersed with ricotta cheese & Bolognese supplemented by porcini mushrooms, smoked bacon, mozzarella cheese, and more of that irresistible red sauce.

Francisco's on the River - Coconut Cake, House FavoriteDesserts include such first-rate items as Crème Brûlée, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cake, Chocolate Torte and Lemon Tart. The Coconut Cake (pictured) is the house favorite; and, in my estimation, deserving of that accolade. The cake itself is marvelously moist; the icing appropriately sweet… but not cloyingly so. On the other hand, after a hearty Italian dinner, a light, citrusy, palate-cleansing dessert might be just the ticket… And, when it is available, the aforementioned Lemon Tart is just what the doctor ordered.

As noted above, Francisco’s is a BYOB restaurant… and a good bottle of Italian vino is certainly called for. However, if you also happen to be in search of an enjoyable preprandial libation, allow me to suggest the cozy, comfortable, and extremely casual Bowman’s Tavern, just up the road toward New Hope.

Bon Appétit!



The Wines of EnRoute

by artfuldiner on July 24, 2019

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

EnRoute - VineyardsEnRoute was established in California’s Russian River Valley in 2007 by the partners of Napa Valley’s Far Niente Winery. Devoted exclusively to producing Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, EnRoute introduced its first wine, “Les Pommiers,” in May 2009. Les Pommiers is named for the apple orchards that once flourished in the region, and reflects a blend of vineyards primarily from Green Valley and the upper Middle Reach area of the Russian River Valley AVA.

The name, EnRoute is a reference to the journey the partners – including Beth Nickel, Erik Nickel, Jeremy Nickel, Dirk Hampson, and Larry Maguire – have taken on their way to producing Pinot Noir, which began in Burgundy in the 1980s. While Far Niente’s vision is exclusively focused on Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the partners still enjoyed traveling and tasting the great Pinot Noirs of the world. Eventually, sister winery Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard program provided opportunity to venture into the Russian River Valley. After several years of producing wines here, the partners decided to make a serious commitment to the region by acquiring two remarkable vineyards and establishing EnRoute, devoted completely to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

In search of vineyards to comprise their “Les Pommiers” Pinot blend, the partners also discovered several lots that stood out for their particular character: Some vineyards produced intensely structured wines with bold aromas, while others were more delicate with silkier tannins and subtle notes of fruit and earth. Thus, with the 2013 vintage, EnRoute debuted their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, featuring wines from their Amber Ridge and Northern Spy Vineyards.

In 2013, EnRoute also expanded its portfolio to include “Brumaire,” a Chardonnay named for the famous fog that every morning envelops the Russian River Valley. The EnRoute Chardonnay is a blend derived from vineyards carefully planted on a soil type known as Goldridge, a fine sandy loam that produces wines with vibrant citrus and mineral notes and the textures that are the trademarks of the region’s best Chardonnays.

EnRoute - Andrew Delos WinemakerAndrew Delos has been making Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County for most of his winemaking career. Following graduation from the Viticulture and Enology program at University of California, Davis, he served as enologist with MacRostie Winery in Carneros. He was then appointed assistant winemaker at Pellegrini Family Vineyards in the Russian River Valley where he worked with Olivet Lane Vineyard. Eventually, Mr. Delos became assistant winemaker at single-vineyard specialist Nickel & Nickel in Napa Valley, where he made wines from Napa Valley, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast. When the winery partners created EnRoute in 2007, given his background in Russian River Pinot Noir, Mr. Delos was the obvious choice for winemaker.

EnRoute - 2015 Chardonnay2015 EnRoute Brumaire Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): My introduction to EnRoute came by way of this extraordinary Chardonnay. Recently garnering a whopping 95 points (100-point scale) from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2015 is voluptuously rich yet lithe and velvety on the palate. There’s plenty of oak here, but it’s so beautifully balanced with nuances of fresh citrus that you only sense succulence and complexity rather than heaviness. To quote Wilfred Wong of, “This winery seems to be aiming to make the most traditional style Chardonnay with a decidedly Burgundian accent.” For my money, it is certainly succeeding. And speaking of money… This wine normally retails around the $40.00 mark. However, as a Chairman’s Selection, it is currently on sale in Pennsylvania State Stores for a mere $24.99. Since there still appears to be plenty of it around, my advice is to catch it while you can.

EnRoute - 2016 Pinot Noir2016 EnRoute Pinot Noir Russian River Valley “Les Pommiers”: This charming wine possesses all that oenophiles love about Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley: namely, luxurious aroma and ultra-rich texture. Generous red fruit flavors dance across the palate softened by elegant, silky tannins, while a mouthwatering acidity leads to a long and focused finish. And you won’t have to wait years or even months for this little beauty to come around… it’s irresistibly approachable at the present moment. Just pop the cork and have a go. However, given the wine’s superb structure and intensity, setting a few bottles aside in the cellar for five to ten years will also have its rewards. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $59.99, the high end of the retail scale, this wine is hardly a bargain. On the other, I’ve seen it offered online for as low as $29.99. So, this is one instance in which a little comparison shopping could save you a bundle. Definitely worth seeking out.




Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar - Glen MillsFrom Sunday, July 21 – Friday, August 2, 2019, the various locations of Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar will be celebrating Restaurant Week with specially priced three-course lunches and four-course dinners.

Restaurant Week Lunch Menu…

First Course (Choice of) – Cup of Soup… Small Nutty Watermelon Salad… Small Modern Greek Salad

Second Course (Choice of) – Harvest Grilled Chicken Club… Knife & Fork Organic Egg Salad… Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos… Taco Quinoa Bowl

Third Course (Choice of) – Any Seasonally-Inspired Dessert

The cost of the special lunch menu is $20.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).


Restaurant Week Dinner Menu…

 First Course (Choice of) – BBQ Pulled Pork Flatbread… Pesto Caprese Flatbread… Organic Pork Pot Stickers… Avocado Artichoke Dip

Second Course (Choice of) – Small Nutty Watermelon Salad… Small Modern Greek Salad… Cup of Soup

Third Course (Choice of) – Sesame Chicken… Cedar Roasted Salmon… Sweet Corn Ravioli… Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($8 Upcharge)… Churrasco Wagyu Sirloin ($8 Upcharge)

The cost of the special dinner menu is $35.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar locations are in Glen Mills, North Wales, Harrisburg, Radnor, Moosic, Newtown, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Moorestown, New Jersey; and Delray Beach, Florida. Please call individual locations to make reservations.

Bon Appétit!



Vickers - ExteriorOn Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Vickers Restaurant & Bar, 192 East Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, will host a special “Romancing the Renaissance” Wine Dinner, which invites diners to enjoy the pleasures of Toscana. Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Pappardelle: Porcini Mushrooms, Cream; Wine Pairing: Cantina Bruni Vermentino 2016

Pesce alla Griglia: Turbot, Grilled Radicchio, Toasted Fregola, Pistachio; Wine Pairing: Teruzzi and Puthod Vernaccia 2017

Insalata: Arugula Salad, Shaved Parmesan, Prosciutto

Porchetta Toscana: Pancetta, Fines Herbes, Roasted Grapes, Parsley Gremolata; Wine Pairing: Col d’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino 2016

Dolce: Tiramisu; Wine Pairing: San Felice Vin Santo Belcaro 2009

The cost of the “Romancing the Renaissance” wine dinner is $85.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call Vickers, (610) 363-7998.

Bon Appétit!



Anthony’s Cucina Fresca

78 West Lancaster Avenue

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

(610) 873-5544

Anthony's Dowingtown - InteriorOwned by Chef Danilo Angelucci and his wife, Katherine, Anthony’s Cucina Fresca is a homey, welcoming and, above all, bustling trattoria. No matter what day of the week you decide to put in an appearance – especially at dinner – rest assured that the joint will be jumping… which is something of a recommendation in and of itself… “Never eat in an empty restaurant,” food writer Jim Quinn once remarked, “everyone who isn’t there must know something you don’t.”

… And there are several excellent reasons why Anthony’s continues to pack them in: the food is well-prepared and generously portioned; the price is right (downright inexpensive in my book); and the service – even in the midst of the hustle & bustle and the tightly-spaced seating arrangements – is self-assured, friendly, and exceedingly knowledgeable… Another plus is the restaurant’s well-stocked bar, which features select signature cocktails and an assortment of Italian wines and beers.

Anthony's Downingtown - BurrataAppetizers get culinary matters off to a good start. There are, of course, the so-called usual suspects, items such as the Clams & Mussels Mix in either red or white sauce, Fried Calamari, and Bruschetta. But the kitchen also turns out a number of more interesting starters that appear to be specifically designed to pique your culinary curiosity as well as rouse your tired taste buds from slumber. The Stuffed Figs, Prosciutto, and Mascarpone, for example, isn’t exactly your usual bill of fare. Dry figs are stuffed with a creamy mascarpone cheese and chopped walnuts and served with Prosciutto di Parma. But even better is the kitchen’s updated Burrata (pictured). Homemade creamy mozzarella is pillowed on a bed of spring mix, topped with roasted red peppers, and finished with a delicious pesto sauce and splash of truffle oil.

Anthony's Downingtown - Baked EggplantUtilizing a host of familiar ingredients, Anthony’s Eggplant (pictured) is a charmingly contemporary take on a traditional starter. Thick tender slices of baked eggplant are interspersed with homemade fresh mozzarella and Romano cheese, splashed with extra virgin olive oil & marinara sauce, and crowned with a fresh basil leaf. As photogenic as it is delicious. The definitive winner in the appetizer department.

Anthony's Downingtown - Signature SaladAnthony’s salads, which are anything but ordinary, also make marvelous starters – and most easily double as light entrées or are suitable for sharing… The Pear, for instance, offers up slices marinated in cinnamon sauce with mixed greens, Gorgonzola, walnuts, and homemade vinaigrette dressing… The Portobello combines glazed mushrooms, mixed greens, roasted zucchini, goat cheese, and caramelized almonds splashed with a mandarin vinaigrette… The Organic includes chickpeas, sunflower seeds, feta cheese, kalamata olives, beets, and fresh mushrooms served over a bed of spinach with a homemade honey vinaigrette. My nod, however, goes to Anthony’s Signature Salad (pictured), a delightful combo of fresh strawberries, grapes, sliced almonds, goat cheese, and grilled salmon on a bed of romaine lettuce drizzled with a first-class honey/balsamic vinaigrette.

As you move on to the entrées, tradition prevails once again, as the menu offers the customary variety of pastas and chicken & veal dishes served up Saltimbocca, Marsala, Piccata, and Parmigiana. Salmon, a menu mainstay, is presented San Remo (baked with mussels, clams, and shrimp in a spicy marinara) and Sicilian (baked in a garlic olive oil sauce sided by sautéed vegetables). The kitchen also puts out a very nice Filet Mignon Italian Style wrapped in bacon with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus.

Anthony's Downingtown - LasagnaMy dining partner’s Chicken Parmigiana was particularly well prepared. The chicken was moist and tender, smothered in melted mozzarella and accompanied by al dente penne pasta. My only gripe was that the marinara sauce could have used a bit more seasoning. Anthony’s Lasagna (pictured), on the other hand, was right on the money. The lasagna noodles were layered with beef, mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan and then doused with a marinara & panna sauce. This is basically marinara sauce spruced up with heavy cream and a touch of nutmeg. And its presence added a delightfully rich & creamy dimension to the lasagna’s taste and texture. A must try.

Veal, in whatever incarnation it may appear, is always a good bet. My Veal Marsala, for instance, sautéed in a mushroom Marsala wine sauce, was marvelously tender and offered up just enough consistency to indicate that you were biting into the real McCoy rather than that beneath contempt processed variety. The mashed potatoes also proved an excellent complement; and while the sauce struck me as a tad too sweet, why quibble.

Anthony's Downingtown - Fruit TartDesserts cover the usual bases, i.e., tiramisu and cannoli. Both are just fine… but occasionally the kitchen will bake up a sweet ending that is really worth those extra calories. Recently, for example, my dining partner and I were treated to an exquisite freshly-made fruit tart that far surpassed expectations. The crust was perfectly textured, the fruit at the peak of ripeness, and the creamy filling an ethereal treat. Take a gander at the photo and you’ll understand precisely what I mean. If it happens to make a guest appearance the evening of your visit, don’t hesitate to dig in.

Anthony’s Cucina Fresca – which, by the way, is not related in any way to Anthony’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant in Malvern (that was reviewed several months ago) – is most assuredly worth a visit. Just one caveat… As I write this review, Anthony’s is undergoing renovations, which may add to the general confusion or to the fun, depending upon your point of view.

Bon Appétit!



Farm to Fork Dinner



From September 21 – 28, 2019, participating members of South Jersey Hot Chefs,, will be celebrating Farm to Fork Week, serving four-course dinners priced at $35.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity).

For a list of participating restaurants, please go to

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Jesse Katz Wine DinnerOn Thursday, August 1, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will host a very special dinner with Jesse Katz from Devil Proof Vineyards and Aperture Cellars.

His Malbec has been the highest rated Malbec in the history of California for five straight years… “Hands down the greatest Malbec I’ve ever tasted,” according to Robert Parker.

First Course: Barnegat Light Scallop Crudo “Provençal”; Wine Pairing: 2018 North Coast, Chenin Blanc, Aperture

Second Course: Curried Summer Squash Tortellini, Cashews, Local Honey; Wine Pairing: 2018 Sonoma, Sauvignon Blanc, Aperture

Third Course: Roasted Organic Hen, Caramelized Pearl Onion, Sauce au Vin Rouge; Wine Pairing: 2016 Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aperture

Fourth Course: Veal Chop, Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushroom, Black Truffle Bordelaise; Wine Pairing: 2016 Alexander Valley, Malbec, Devil Proof

Fifth Course: Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake, Salted Caramel, Nicholas Creamery Coffee Crunch

The price of the Jesse Katz Winemaker Dinner is $125.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 345-9977.

Bon Appétit!



Portugal - WineNo other country can match Portugal’s range of indigenous wine grape varieties; an incredibly rich palette for winemakers that goes back to the Bronze Age. Tartessians, Romans, and Phoenicians introduced wine grapes here; and viticulture eventually spread across Portugal’s diverse geography.

Because Portugal’s wine culture developed in relative isolation, there are many grape varieties that do not grow anywhere else in the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that winemakers usually draw from a variety of grape sources to create balanced, flavorful blends. Especially during the last decade, winemaking in Portugal has been undergoing a quiet revolution. Other than the great fortified wine from Porto, Portugal has often been seen as the home of cheap table wines of average quality. Now, however, the focus is clearly on quality, studying and experimenting with the over 250 indigenous grape varieties and working sustainably in the vineyards as much as possible. The result is that Portugal is a veritable treasure trove of unique and distinctive wines. To many wine experts, Portugal is the last frontier of wine in Western Europe; there is still so much that has yet to be tasted and explored.

Portuguese blends, with their distinctive combinations and unique character, reward wine lovers seeking diversity. These wines, at their best, often from small but distinct regions, combine ancient winemaking wisdom with the latest scientific and technical knowledge to put pleasure back in your glass.


Portugal - VineyardLight-Bodied Whites: The cool, hilly, verdant northwest of Portugal is the main source of Vinho Verde, a unique style of white wine with low alcohol and high, fresh acidity. Vinho Verde may be made from numerous grape varieties such as Alvarinho. Some wines are aromatic, others are not; styles range from dry to medium dry.

Full-Bodied Whites: Higher in alcohol and richer in texture, these wines come from sun-bathed vineyards with high summer temperatures. There are soft, rich wines from the Alentejo region, intense, minerally whites from the Douro, and full-bodied whites from Trás-os-Montes in the northeast. The oak-ageing of top-of-the-line reserve whites from the Dão and Lisboa regions, rounds them out to full-bodied status.

Rich Round Full-Bodied Reds: The hot summers of the Alentejo region make for easy ripening grapes, which yield rich fruit and full-bodied wines. Alentejo red wines are made from a variable blend of grape varieties, including Trincadeira and Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Portugal - Vineyard 2Robust Reds: Big and firmly tannic in their first few years of life, top Douro red wines exhibit their own robust style of elegance and complexity of flavor that comes from a mix of grapes where old vines of mixed varieties are planted together. Trás-os-Montes is the wine region to the north of the Douro Valley that also grows similar grape varieties that yield big red wines. Another source is Bairrada, made from the Baga grape, which has full body as well as high acid and tannin that matures into a softer, complex malty wine of great originality.

Elegant Reds: The Dão region has what is considered Portugal’s greatest concentration of elegant red wines, fine quality Touriga Nacional blended with Tinta. Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen, and other grapes contribute to the intensely-flavored, perfumed reds with good acidity and excellent balance. The red wines produced from the Castelão grape in the village of Palmela on the Peninsula de Setúbal offer complexity, fruity flavors, good acidity, and balanced tannins that exhibit hints of cedar in maturity, not unlike a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.

Port Wine: Port is divided into three families: White, Tawney, and Ruby. White Port offers a range of colors that can vary from pale white to amber. The Ruby family exhibits red tonality that extends from light red to very dark red, almost black. The Tawny family usually extends from colors like auburn, copper, and amber.

Madeira: All Madeira has a nutty, deliberately oxidized and slightly caramelized quality from wood-aging under the influence of heat. Madeira ranges in character from just off-dry to seriously sweet. In ascending order of sweetness: Sercial, Terrantez, Verdelho, Boal, and Malvasia.


For those who may be interested in sampling two first-rate, reasonably price Portuguese wines – other than Port, that is – I would highly recommend those noted immediately below, both of which are readily available through Pennsylvania State Stores…

Portugal - Luis Duarte2014 Luís Duarte Rubrica Branco White: One of Portugal’s most recognized vignerons, Luís Duarte is the only winemaker to have been awarded Winemaker of the Year twice, in 1997 and 2007. In 2007, he initiated his own personal projects, with the Rapariga Da Quinta and Rubrica labels. Introduced to US markets in 2010, they have become an instant success, as both brands were included in the top 100 wines of the year in Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Rubrica means “signature” in Portuguese… And these wonderfully rich wines, blended with indigenous Portuguese & French grape varieties, and aged in French oak barrels, are extraordinary examples of what Luís Duarte is capable of creating. And his 2014 Rubrica Branco White – an artful blend of Antão Va, Gouveio, and Viognier – is impressive, indeed. Recently receiving 93-points (100-point scale) and an Editors’ Choice designation from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2014 offers up energizing whiffs of oak and vanilla. On the palate, the wine is beautifully balanced between opulent ripe fruit and a tight but tantalizingly juicy texture that continues to unfold as the wine opens up.

I’ve tasted this wine several times, and it just seems to become more pleasurable with each encounter. A marvelous effort… and everything you’ve heard about the amazing wine bargains from Portugal is absolutely true. The 2014 Luís Duarte Rubrica Branco White, for example, retails in PA State Stores for $26.99, around the $23.00 – $24.00 mark if purchased from sources online. When compared with the often-outrageous prices charged for French white Burgundies, this Portuguese beauty is a bargain, indeed.

Portugal - Insurgente 20152015 Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas Insurgente: Lua Cheia en Vinhas Velhas, which translates as “full moon in old vines,” is the joint project of three experienced Portuguese wine professionals, João Silva e Sousa, Francisco Baptista, and Manual Dias. After many years buying grapes to make wine in the Douro Valley, they bought their own 25-acre vineyard there in 2009. They have since expanded to other regions – Alentejano, Vinho Verde and Dão – but their true focus remains in the Douro.

The 2015 Insurgente is a 50/50 blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro, two grapes that are indigenous to Portugal. The grapes are from the Dão, one of the country’s most prominent wine regions, just south of the famous Douro Valley (home to Portugal’s most well-known wine – Port). In the glass, this wine dazzles the eye with its distinctive inky purple color. The aroma is intense and complex, a combo of ripe black fruits and spice. This is a juicy full-bodied wine with plenty of acidity and velvety well-integrated tannins. It’s downright elegant on the palate and, as one reviewer noted, “it has weight without power.”

Unlike the hefty clout of many Cabernets, the Insurgente is rich, stylish, and rife with subtle nuances of taste and texture. Named as a “Best Buy” in 2017 by Wine Enthusiast magazine, its $14.99 Pennsylvania price tag (lower from sources online) is a positive steal. An incredible wine at an absolutely incredible price point.