Bash for Books Will Have Some Tasty Restaurant Fare

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Saturday is Winter Park Library’s annual Bash for Books, which is not the same thing as a book bashing. Bash for Books is a big party with food, wine and auctions to raise money for the library so it can buy things and fight against book bashers.
I’ve been to this event several times and one year I bought an auction item that turned out to be even better than I thought it would be. The original item was dinner in the home of Dishy Diva Pam Brandon prepared by her and Sentinel food editor Heather McPherson. And wine pairings selected by Brandon’s husband, Steve, who knows something about good wine.

But when we arrived for the evening of fantastic food, we were surprised to find that instead of Pam and Heather doing the cooking, they had enticed Scott and Marianne Hunnel. Wow, what a night of incredible food. The moral is that you never know what you’ll get when you bid on something at Bash for Books.

But even if you don’t buy something, there’s plenty of good food and wine to be had. For example, you can have salmon salad and vichyssoise from Chez Vincent; seafood paella, garbanzo frito and croquetas de jamon from El Bodegon; fish & chips and shrimp and grits from Logan’s Bistro (and if you want to know how I feel about the shrimp and grits from Logan’s, read my recent review); and Tuscan mac & cheese and “our family meatballs” from K Restaurant. (“Our family meatballs” refers to a recipe from the Fonzo family and does not actually refer to chefs kevin and greg. I’m pretty sure.) And wine, wine, wine.

Entertainment, too. Music will be provided by a band called No Smoking, which is perfect for a party taking place around so many books. And Michael Andrew is scheduled to get up and do a number (meaning that he’ll sing; see previous note about No Smoking).

Then, when the official Bash ends, everyone is invited to the after-bash at Hannibal’s on the Square. Sort of a Bashlette Party.

The main bash is Saturday, March 13, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. Cost is $75 in advance or $100 at the door. You can go online here to purchase tickets (and see all the items up for auction) or call the library’s circulation desk at 407-623-3300. You have until 3 p.m. Saturday to get the advance price, so get going. I’ll see you there.

Cru Beaujolais - Gamay's finest expression

Written by John Blazon on .

BrouillyWhat’s your first thought when you think of Gamay?  If it’s Beaujolais Nouveau then welcome to the popular majority. The third Thursday of each November is sanctioned as the official release of this global marketing event initially created by famed vintner Georges Duboeuf. Over the years, the commercial appeal for Beaujolais Nouveau has diminished in favor to the more serious wine consumers, who target their palates to fuller bodied reds. This shift has virtually advanced the Gamay grape into obscurity. However, when one considers the heightened interest for value driven wines today, Gamay Beaujolais can and should be top of mind if one knows how to navigate among the quality levels.




Wines to buy in recessionary times

Written by John Blazon on .

In times like these, here are ten wines you should be buying.

Truthfully, what’s in your shopping cart in economic times like these? Often I get approached by the revolving question. “What do you recommend for every day, that’s affordable?” So, define affordable - $5.99?  8.99? 10.99? 14.99?  The market is flooded with competitive price points in the swim lane of $8.99 - $13.99 and there are some tasty options to seek out.

Below are some of my favorite wine categories that deliver fruit intensity and balance when and if the money belt gets tighter. Some of you may have tried these wines before or perhaps not.  I continue to be impressed as to how these specific ten grapes position themselves as value centered wine producing areas to discover and hit the mark. So look for these grapes from these regions and you’re likely to find some good buys. Sorry, no Chardonnay or Merlot hints below.

Blazon Wine: It's OK to Blush

Written by John Blazon on .

Now is the perfect time to think about something different for this holiday weekend. Even though the summer solstice is a few weeks away to signal the official start of summer, the heat has arrived here in Central Florida and I think it’s time to pull the cork or twist open a bottle of chilled rosé. Mind you, I’m talking about a more serious style of the blush category, not necessarily the $ 7.99  bottle, off- dry pink stuff  (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I would like to introduce the blush style that screams fruit, acid, hints of minerality and above all, balance.  In the U.S. the term blush is used to call out the pale pink wine category and it’s a term overused, commonly misrepresenting the full potential of discovery beyond the off- dry white zinfandel craze.

The term rosé comes from France where many would argue the finest expressions originate in a drier style, especially in the Southern Rhone and Domaine du Dragon LabelMediterranean. I would have to agree that in the Southern part of France the blush wines from Provence and Southern Rhone (Tavel) highlight the expressions that commonly reveal diverse and delicious identities. When I was on my honeymoon, my wife, Deb, and I toured the town of Nice and stopped by the local outdoor market to buy a fresh baguette, sliced proscuitto with gruyere and locally grown olives. We came across a small wine shop and I bought a chilled bottle of local rosé and we picnicked on the beach.  Although the memory of that moment was special, it was that wine that still echoes my allure -- and appreciation -- for Provençal rosé.  

Further north in the Loire valley of France one can also find top rosé styles from Anjou of various sweetness levels. The term rosado is commonly used when calling out the pink styles from Spain especially originating from Navarre. The phenomenon of dry rosé originally hit our shores with brands from Portugal such as Lancer’s and Mateus. If you remember these then you’re revealing your age. And it is definitely time to tune up your impressions. Higher quality rosé seldom garners the attention and respect amongs U.S. consumers because for the most part these wines get typecast into the generic blush category and aren’t taken seriously, perhaps until now.

The production for rosé can be from one of three methods. The most common is skin contact from any red grape. After the grapes are crushed the skins are left to remain in contact (maceration) with the juice for a short period of time to extract the required color intensity. The longer the juice remains on the skins will result is more intense flavor and darker color.

If you study wine then you you’re familiar with the second method and term saignée, which is a technique commonly used for higher quality production. The pink juice is drawn off from a large container or vat at an early stage of red wine production prior to fermentation. As a result the remaining red wine left to ferment becomes more concentrated with increased maceration from the reduction in volume. The pink juice is then fermented separately to produce the rosé.

The last method is simply blending white and red juice together, however this is not the most favored for quality and often used for producing the sweeter pink plunk.  In terms of grape selection any red grape is eligible, however the varietals from Southern Rhone have captured the essence of classic rosé style, i.e.  Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mouvedre, Carignan. Often blended together, these grapes provide a unique aromatic and spicy tone to the bright red fruit flavors marked with acidity and refreshing minerality. The rosé style is not exclusive to southern France as noted in delicious examples which use same grape varieties to produce examples specifically from Australia, Oregon, Argentina and California.

So treat yourself to a new discovery this weekend with something different. Treat rosé as a chilled white wine and try it with your grilled or BBQ favorites. Cheeses are a natural pair affinity as well.  Hot dogs with spicy mustard also can do the trick, but leave off the sauerkraut.

Here are some local favorites to check out :

Tim Varan, CWE, owner of Tim's Wine Market, recommends :

Fun, Picnic Style –
08 Château Grand Cassagne, Costières de Nîmes, France ($10)
              …fresh raspberries and watermelon notes, generous impression of fruit
07 Forte Canto Rose, Apulia, Italy ($10)
            …based on the Negroamaro grape, spicy nose of black licorice, cherry juice and fresh sage.
08 Chateau de Campuget, Costières de Nîmes, France ($12)
       ..notes of strawberries, peaches with hints of minerals and herbs

Serious Stuff -
Domaine du Dragon “Cuvee Prestige”, Cotes de Provence, France  ($16)
            …fresh strawberries and raspberries with notes of thyme and bay leaf, long finish
Stringtown Rose ($18), Oregon
            …blend of Grenache and Syrah showcases dried cherries, bay leaf and jasmine, big style

Tim’s Wine Market
1223 North Orange Ave.

Orlando 407-895-9463 -
Windemere 407-876-9463
Lakeland 863-644-8181
St. Augustine Beach 904-461-0060

Eric Cooperman, Winebuyer for Gran Cru suggests:

07 Fuastino Rosato, Rioja, Spain ($12.99)
06 Adelsheim Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($18.50)
06 Yangarra Estate Rose of Shiraz/Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia ($18.99)
07 Storybrook Mountain Vineyards Zin Gris, Napa Valley, CA ($19.99)

Gran Cru Wine Shop
7730 West Sand Lake Road


Happy Memorial Day & Cheers,
John Blazon MS

My 81 Year-old Mother Drinks Yellow Tail Shiraz -- Does That Make Me Illegitimate?

Written by John Blazon on .

Let’s face it; I love my mom for all she has done for me. She’s an amazing woman, like all our mothers. However, my mom is most proud to boast about her son (that’s me) and his achievement of becoming a Master Sommelier.  It’s not uncommon for her ask the restaurant manager within the local senior citizen dining circuit of early birds specials if they have a Master Sommelier working on the floor she could speak with to help her decide which glass to order.

Needless to say, she has a heart of gold and truly means nothing but the best, however her knowledge of wine is rudimentary at best and beholden to what’s on sale and what she can afford. And yes, she is one of those who still doesn’t understand why they don’t fill the wine glass to the rim. I am blessed with her charm and ever present interest to learn about wine but it’s not without the occasional phone call out of the blue. One day she was shopping at one of those large discount stores and saw Yellow Tail Shiraz from Australia on sale for $ 9.99 – but wait – this was the Reserve bottling.

Being a Massachusetts resident she naturally drives across the border to New Hampshire to escape the sales tax.  At the time, the price of gas was creeping around $4 gallon for that 29 mile journey.  I said “Mom, live it up – by two bottles instead of one and you’ll break even”

Naturally my mom took my advice, after all I am a Master Sommelier and why would I lie to my mother?

Here’s my point….while the critters on the label may have influenced a plethora of new wine drinkers, we so called wine in the know consumers should not get hung up on status. As the number one imported wine into the U.S. for many years, Yellow Tail has satiated the thirst of many value conscious wine consumers who desire fruit forward flavors in an a slight off-dry style, much like Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and Sutter Home White Zinfandel achieved in their early debuts.

There’s nothing wrong with these styles and frankly the majority of wine consumers talk “dry” and prefer more “off dry,” fruitier wines. However, truthfully these wines generally lack the balance among the fruit, acid and alcohol, which are the most important components when choosing a wine to match with food. But, not all wines have to be so serious…. If you like it, drink it. After all it’s wine, it’s fun and it’s my mom’s most newly treasured talking point at the biweekly bridge table. Her son may be a Master Sommelier who doesn’t necessarily have Yellow Tail in his cellar but that doesn’t mean he won’t share a glass with her when he visits her on his next trip to Boston.