Normally I'd be offering up some New Year's Eve suggestions in the column before the big night, but time is of the essence. Seats are going quickly for the 6th Annual Winter Wine Festival at the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel and Spa. It begins on Jan. 15 and runs until Feb. 27 and this year the festival brings in the new while keeping some of the familiar.
Wines To India What's new? Ben Gaherty for one. He's not only the new beverage manager at the Wentworth, he's running the festival this year and he's bringing in some great winemakers and chefs to start off his first fest in a big way. What else? Ben is making sure that the festival this year is giving back to the community. Part of the proceeds for each ticket in the festival is going to Share Our Strength an organization that helps fight childhood hunger. You should all know about this non-profit by now! More of the new is mingled with the familiar in the opening night of the festival, the Grand Tasting Reception from 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Jan. 15. Just as in past years, Ben Baldwin and the Big Note will be playing their fantastic swing, jazz and funk dance music and just like before there will be plenty of wine, beer and local restaurants offering the best in show of their sips and tastes, but new this year, the gala includes as many of the Taste Magazine's Top 20 as possible including Jumpin' Jays Fish Cafe, Green Monkey, Brazo, Cava Tapas & Wine Bar, Four Restaurant, Epoch at Exeter Inn, White Barn Inn, 98 Provence, Ristorante Massimo and The 100 Club. The chefs from many of these restaurants will be participating in the wine dinners to come as featured chefs so it's a good chance to meet them and try their cuisine before making a commitment! I'm very excited about The White Barn Inn and 98 Provence coming this year. Even more excitement for the reception comes from the appearance of TV Diner's Billy Costa as the MC. He always gets a crowd in the mood for fun and food.
Grover Vineyards India "I really wanted to make it a local event vs. a Wentworth event," says Gaherty. "It just made sense to reach out to them and 'pair' them with just the right wineries. I approached the chefs who would be appropriate and then went to the wine purveyors. With the Dona Paula dinner on Jan. 16, Carlos Trad the wine maker was going to be in the area so we got them and that dinner will be with Mark Segal from The 100 Club. Mark has a great style with Argentinian food." Other highlights include the Feb. 20 Seghesio Family Vineyards Grand Vintner's Dinner with Chef Benjamin Hasty of Epoch Restaurant at the Exeter Inn and Breezy Hill Farm.
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Wine Prices In India Events JC Cellars Wine Wednesday — The first Wednesday of the month, sample wine and cheese in a casual and fun atmosphere. 55 Fourth St., Oakland. Reservations: 510-465-5900, www.jccellars.com .
Wines To India Book-signing with Elizabeth Somer — 1 p.m. Jan. 12. Somer is a registered dietitian and editor-in-chief of Nutrition Alert, which summarizes the research from more than 6,000 journals. She is well-versed in nutrition research, the author of nine books, and a frequent guest on the Today Show. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 415-927-0960.
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Photos by Jennifer Brown/The Star-Ledger For many — I fear most — wine drinkers, the answer is, “The same thing I drank in 2009, and 2008 and 2007.” Once a chardonnay drinker, always a chardonnay drinker.
Wine Business In India For those of us who truly love wine, however, the new year is an opportunity to expand our palates — to explore emerging wine regions, discover new grape varieties and experience different styles of winemaking. What will we be drinking? Whatever is novel, fresh and exciting. (Of course, it has to taste good too.) Adventurous wine drinkers always are on the lookout for the next must try bottling. So, what can we expect to see — and smell and sip — in 2010 and beyond? It may be easier to predict the weather than Americans’ taste in wine. Who would have thought, 30 years ago, that a rosé made from the little-known zinfandel grape would become the hottest selling wine in the country? But that’s how white zinfandel got its start.
Wine Prices In India More recently, merlot was dethroned as the go-to grape for red wine drinkers by pinot noir, which many vintners had previously ignored because it’s so hard to grow. The trend was fueled by the movie “Sideways,” which vilified merlot and glorified pinot noir — and, in the process, changed the tastes of a nation. Who’d have predicted that? Okay, so I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do have the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of some of New Jersey’s most astute wine professionals. So, I asked them — winemakers, importers, retailers, restaurateurs and others — what kinds of wines most likely will capture our attention, and impress our palates, in the new year.
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Toward the end of each year I like to use the Tri-Cities Wine Festival as a point of reference for evaluating Washington's performance in the wine industry.
Wine Club India The festival, held Nov. 7, outgrew its old venue at the Red Lion Inn in Pasco and moved this year to the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. There were more participants (about 100 wineries attended), more wines (well over 300 were poured), and a much better choice of varietals.
Wine Business In India This was my 25th year at the festival, which I suppose qualifies me as much as anyone to offer a few observations on how far we've come, and to give you an idea of what to expect in the future.
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I can't start this column in good conscious without saying this first - whether you call it bubbly, sparkling wine or Champagne (only if it's from the region of Champagne of course), it is not just for celebrations. I repeat, it should not just be poured and enjoyed on New Year's Eve or when you get that big promotion.
Wines From India That's not to say that it's not perfect for those occasions, because it is. And it's perfect for a wedding toast or Sunday brunch too. It's the perfect wine for romance (think Valentine's Day) too.
Wine Club India Pugliese Vineyards 2003 Sparkling Merlot ($20) certainly qualifies as unique. It might not be the most elegant sparkler around, but the light-bodied, fruity wine is worth a try if only for its novelty. Plus, it's great with food - most any food.
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