My Favorite Italian Wine Under $30!

Below are my tasting notes on the Taurasi DOCG 2008 Donnachiara, just love this wine…

This has to be one of the most well-structured and balanced wines at this price point. The complex dark fruit is delicately layered over both clove and dark brown spices while maintaining the earthy undertone. The acid is present and the tannins are firm yet supple giving it just a beautiful mouthfeel. It finishes dry and long leaving behind the fruit dusted with hints of bitter dark chocolate.

Fun Facts:

Taurasi is one of Italy’s great wines and yet it is still undiscovered by many wine lovers. Only a handful of wineries produce this high altitude red, and Donnachiara is one of the newest. The vineyards are family owned and have been for five generations but the brand new, very modern winery was just established in 2005. Aglianico vineyards slope down the steep hillsides in this mountainous region of Southern Italy.

Campania, where Taurasi is located is drenched in sunlight but the high altitude tempers the climate and extends the growing season, allowing the grapes to develop ideal balance of sugars, acids and tannins as well as take on complex flavors.The wine must be aged for three years before release by DOC law and Donnachiara ages this 100% Aglianico Taurasi in French oak barriques for 12 months adding layers of flavor and dimension.

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Made Simple…

With Thanksgiving being such a food focused holiday, you are going to hear a lot of different opinions on what wines to pair with your Turkey and various trimmings. The truth is they are all probably right! There are few bad pairings for this meal since there are so many variables involved. However when it comes down to the basics the three most simple and effective wine pairings for your basted bird are Riesling, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important is the weight and the natural acidity of these wines play off Turkey quite well allowing the food and wine to enhance one another. Since the Holiday craze seemed to start a little early this year, I’m guessing that you have about as much time to read this as I do to write it. So to keep it short and sweet I thought I would just offer a list of some delectable and accesible wines for your holiday feast.

RIESLING

Dr. Loosen Dr. L Estate QbA 2011 Mosel, Germany (Under $15)

Eroica 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen ($16-29)

Dr. Pauly Bergwelier Bernkastler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Spatlese 2011 ($30 and up)

PINOT NOIR

Castle Rock Sonoma Pinot Noir 2009 (Under $15)

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009 Chanson Pere et Fils ($16-29)

Etude 2009 Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros ($30 and up… this will be on my table!)

ZINFANDEL

Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2010 (Under $15)

Terra d’Ora Zinfandel 2009 Amador County ($16-29…again, on my table!)

Turley Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel 2010 Paso Robles (Just named in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2012!)

And the Double Secret Probation Westchester Wine Guy Surprise Thanksgiving Wine is…
Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2009 South Australia…Since there are some newer vintages of this wine out you can find it for around $35 instead of the $60 retail price…great deal! And Syrah/Shiraz is definitely a classic Thanksgiving pairing too.

Lastly, the most important thing is to drink what you like as that will really enhance the enjoyment of your Thanksgiving meal.

Cheers….and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week…a good deal?

Maybe it’s me, but it seems the thrill and excitement of HVRW has fizzled. There are certainly some great restaurants participating and I am sure I will probably even check one or two out, but the whole promotion has sort of lost its luster. I remember it being such a huge deal to be able to go and check out these fantastic restaurants for $30 per person for a 3 course meal! But now… I feel like I could take it or leave it. Is it just me? Could be, but in speaking with a few fellow food & wine peeps and restaurant insiders I think this is the general consensus. Here’s my take on why…

There is a noticeable lack of choices and smaller portions for the special Restaurant Week menu items. Yes, I know there are restaurants where this is not the case. But overall you are given an option of 1 or 2 apps, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. I can remember when it used to be 3 options for each course and the portions were just about the same size as the non Restaurant Week menu items. I was pretty disappointed in not only the portion size last year, but the selections offered. If you are going to offer something that is not on the regular menu, don’t serve sole or cod as your fish when you typically serve Chilean sea bass or tuna…not cool.

It also just doesn’t seem to be a great deal anymore. Over the last couple of years I have left the restaurants spending almost as much as I would with a non Restaurant Week meal. Of course there is wine involved which is not included… but there’s more to it than that. The Restaurant Week menu has all three courses included. Very rarely do I get both an app and a dessert, usually it would be one or the other. Or maybe the table would share a couple of apps and desserts. So unless it is a super expensive restaurant, that same $30 would cover an entree and a shared app or dessert. Plus, you get the full size entree when ordering off the standard menu which is really the focus of the meal when dining out.

Lastly, I can’t stand when restaurants participate in Restaurant Week but give you the disapproving nod when you ask to see the Restaurant Week menu. If you are participating, keep that menu in plain sight so everyone can see it. Let’s be honest, it’s the only reason many patrons are coming to your restaurant over the next two weeks, so don’t make them feel cheap by forcing them to ask for the less expensive menu! Again, not cool…

With this said, I have had some  very enjoyable Restaurant Week meals over the last couple of years… namely at Hudson House in Nyack, 42 in White Plains and The TapHouse in Tuckahoe . If you are looking to try out a place that would normally be out of your price range to sample some of their food, then this is a great opportunity to do so. But if you are thinking that you are going to be able to go out for an inexpensive night out just because it’s Restaurant Week, you may want to rethink that plan.