A Bouquet of a Dozen Rosés


Spring, is considered the official Rosé season, when everyone starts thinking it’s Rosé o’clock somewhere!

As we enter pink wine season, we find ourselves in a category run amok. Ten years ago, I was begging my customers to try the dry, refreshing Rosés of France, Spain and elsewhere, and to stop thinking all pink wine was sweet White Zinfandel. Even with in-store tastings , it felt like I couldn’t give a fantastic Rosé away. Fast forward to today and the Rosés are practically flying themselves off the shelves.

Where do Rosés come from? Well, there are the regional pink Rosés from such traditional locales: Provence, Rioja, Tavel, the Côtes du Rhône—with more pink wines from these classic places than ever before,  we need to pay attention to quality. Not only that, lesser-known regions are taking advantage of demand, many have no Rosé tradition at all and yet, are astonishingly good. The “newer” Rosés include grapes like Blauburgunders from Germany, Blaufränkisches from Austria, Agiorgitikos from Greece (surprisingly refreshing and delicious), Blaufränkisches from Austria and Cab Francs from the Loire (yum!). So you can basically find a Rosé from anywhere, even locally in New Jersey!

A good Rosé, by definition, should be bright, crisp, dry and mouthwatering with moderate alcohol. In the mouth, they should offer great acidity, a pithy tannin and a hint of minerality. Unfortunately, most domestic bottlings are sweet white zins, with quite a bit of residual sugar and a “thicker” texture. This is because many rosés are made using the saignée method, juice bled off a fermenting tank to concentrate what remains, not so much a product as a byproduct. Often these are high in alcohol (more than 13.5%) rendering them too ripe and too fleshy to be refreshing. 

Rosé should not be an afterthought or a byproduct, but something that had to be grown and made in the vineyard, harvested early to ensure good acidity and low alcohol, and made judiciously to preserve aroma and freshness. Settling for anything less is selling yourself short.

Prices for Rosé can range all over the map from $6 to more than $25 a bottle. It’s worth remembering that a pink wine’s main function is to refresh, and that can be done at a low price point. There are some Rosés, however, that have the pedigree, consistency and excellence that are absolutely worth the higher price: Bandol, older Riojas and certain Txakoli Rosés. Normally, if you’re paying more than $25 a bottle, you’re probably paying too much; more than $30, you’re being gouged, plain and simple.  It’s a good idea to ask your retailer for wines that are every bit as good for less money.

Here are a dozen serious Rosés that we happened upon in our travels. The prices range from $8.99 to $18.99 with one exception that is over $20. Most are in the 11 – 13% ABV — only one was 13.8%.

Pedroncelli Dry Rose of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2017

The Pedroncelli family has been producing zinfandel-based Rosé since 1954 and they’re one of my favorite California wineries. The focus here is on crisp acidity and true varietal character allowing the fruit flavors to shine—and shine it does with bright aromas of strawberry, orange, rose petals, and spice. It offers full flavors of candied raspberry and cherry with a hint of white pepper spice. Even though it is made in a dry style, the wine retains a hint of sweetness because of the fruitiness of the zinfandel grape. This pink is refreshing, clean and crisp with a delicate berryspice finish. This one is so delicious and can be found in many shops and retailers. 

La Belle Collette, Côtes de Provence, Provence, France

I found this one at Tinali Wines in Brick. A classic French Provençal Rosé blend, it comes from the sunny hills of the Château de Saint-Martin – one of the 18 Grands Crus Classés in Provence. La Belle Colette  takes its name in memory of Colette, the Provençal writer. The wine’s bright fruity style is produced from six different grape varieties: Syrah (57%), Carignan (25%), Cinsault (9%), Grenache (7%), and Tibouren(2%). The floral nose is delicate offering intoxicating fragrances of raspberry and strawberry with a hint of lavender. The palate is round and fresh, tasting of summer’s red fruits—strawberry, raspberry, hints of apple, pepper and caramel flavors. At once it’s thirst-quenching and the velvety structure combines the fragrant flavors Provence in the fresh and delicate finish.

This Rosé is perfect as an aperitif on bright sunny days accompanied by Provençal style dishes, appetizers, summer barbecues and garden parties. This surprising wine is sure to become a summer favorite. 

Rose par Paris, Côtes de Provence, France

Another find at Tinali Wines, Rosé par Paris is a versatile, bright rosy pink Provençal blend of 30% Grenache and 70% Cinsault. Produced by Domain de l’Allamande, a 74-acre family vineyard in the heart of the Pierrefeu area. The property has characteristic limestone soils and a continental climate with a maritime influence, which give this wine a high minerality.

The nose is fresh and fuity with delicious aromas of citrus and berries. The flavors are refreshing with notes of rose water, cherry and strawberry backed by good zip. The  finish offers a fresh burst of citrusy ruby red grapefruit and a zingy minerality. Delicious chilled on its own, or with salads, meat, or a Provençal meals. 

Rhone to the Bone, Côtes du Rhône, France 

Clear light pink Rosé comprise of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. We found this one at Wegmans for under $10. The label was bold and definitely demanded our attention.  Once opened, the nose offered notes of red  currant, cherry, citrusy grapefruit and  a hint of mint. Sharp, viscous mouthfeel backed by a pleasant freshness on the palate, balanced by a touch of minerality. It was great for burger night and will become a regular in our lineup.

Rivarose Brut Salon de Provence, IGP Méditerranée, France

This was an accidental purchase at Wegmans. I planned to get another Rosé but this landed in my cart and at the checkout line instead. since it wanted to go home with me, I figured, why not give it a try? Made with 100% Syrah, this sparkling Rosé has gentle effervescent bubbles that offer a flavorful bouquet of berries and grapefruit. Apparently, Rivarose has made sparkling rosé in this region since 1909, and it is the only Brut Rosé from the heart of Provence. On the nose, strawberry and raspberry aromas dominate, while in the mouth the strawberry flavors and notes of exotic fruit combine with a fine and elegant mousse crating a bright sparkler with notes of citrus fruits and spice.

Enjoy on its own or as an aperitif pairing with cured meats, crudités, Provençal dishes or chocolate-based desserts. With its rose-petal hue and yummy crispness, you may just find that any occasion is special enough to pop the cork and celebrate! 

Fleur de Mer Côtes de Provence Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France 

Fleur de Mer is crafted by winemaker Florian Lacroux of the 50-year-old cooperative, Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint-Tropez. A brilliant coral pink blend of 46% Grenache, 21% Cinsault, 14% Syrah, 19% Other (Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cabernet), Fleur de Mer evokes aromas of fresh watermelon, cherry, subtle citrus, peach, lavender and Mediterranean herbs. The flavor profile is a mineral-infused strawberry and mild grapefruit blend with notes of lime and tangerine. On the palate, this wine is light- to medium-bodied with nice controlled acidity that leads to a mouthwatering feel. This balanced, medium-bodied wine is fresh and elegant with a soft texture, a minerally finish  and refreshing acidity. This is a versatile wine that will pair with lots of foods, perfect for sitting oceanside or poolside on a hot summer day.

Honoro Vera Rosé 2017, Jumilla, Spain

Another inexpensive Wegmans find, this Spanish Tempranillo/Syrah blend was a delicious discovery. This beautiful salmon colored Rosé shows hints of watermelon rind on the nose. The palate shows primarily red fruit: cherry with a touch of strawberries and watermelon. The finish is very smooth and bright with watermelon and strawberries. Medium-bodied and dry it offers a nice lively, crisp acidity, that is both refreshing and approachable. Served chilled, this wine is a very refreshing and surprisingly versatile—perfect with food or just sipping on a hot day. It may be sipped as an apéritif or it can go with an array of foods: salads, seafood, side dishes, pork or chicken. A refreshing Rosé for any occasion including outdoor dining, picnics or backyard barbecues. It will be invited back.

El Coto Rosado, Rioja, Spain

This Rosado is a delicious Rosé made from  90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, and it is one of our summer staples. A lively, pale  pink Rosé that at first offers up a sweet nose of fresh strawberries and raspberries with a hint of caramel. Silky and delicate, the wine follows with tangy, red cherry aromas with piquant herbal notes leading to ripe, juicy flavors on the palate. Dry and easy drinking, the palate is fresh as well as sweet, displaying a wide range of sharp and crispy red and dark fruits, strawberries and cherries. The cleansing acidity helps balance the fruit and the long, clean finish. It is versatile, ideal as an aperitif, great with salads, Mediterranean and Oriental cuisines and very easy to enjoy. 

Frog’s Leap, La Grenouille Rougante Pink, Napa Valley, California

There’s something fun about this wine, even though it’s kind of spare. The word “Rouganté” in the name seems to mean “blushing Frog.”  Made from 87% Carignane 8% Valdiguié (Napa Gamay) 2% Mondeuse 1.5% Charbono  and a half-percent of  Mourvedre/Riesling, it’s bone dry, and acidic, with modest strawberry flavors. This Californian is directly comparable to a Provençal Rosé.  Very aromatic, with aromas of apple skin, white flowers, a lot of strawberries and red fruits, gooseberry and raspberries that introduce this medium to full-bodied wine with vibrant acids and crisp fruit flavors. Delicate floral aromas and fresh fruit flavors come together in this classic style. Lifted by bright, natural acidity and low alcohol, this wine is the perfect companion to a warm, sunny day. A light tannic structure makes this wine food-friendly, with a clean and lingering finish. Nice and easy to drink and a perfect accompaniment to any meal!

Sidebar, Russian River Valley, Rosé, Russian River, California, USA, 2016

Made entirely from 100% Syrah, Sidebar Rosé hails from old Syrah vines in the Russian River Valley. This dry, succulent wine is a light pink-orange in color and begins with a robust flavor bursting with watermelon, cranberry and bristling acidity. There are classic notes of strawberry and watermelon, hazelnut and savory lemon peel that introduce a crisp, energetic and chalky palate which over-delivers flavor.  Dry and crisp, it remains lighthearted in the glass, finishing with a tease of grapefruit. This is one generously flavored wine, and is admirably dry and refreshing, with zesty red fruit, citrus and spice notes. Seamless, it’s medium bodied and has plenty of texture to offer around a crisp, meaty finish. 

Heitz Cellar, Napa Valley, Grignolino Rosé, 2016

Every year, Heitz produces a limited amount of their unusual and rare Grignolino Rosé and since 1961.Ruby grapefruit-red, it’s sultry with strawberry, watermelon, orange zest and salty spice flavor, highlighted with a vibrant and seductive nose of sweet red cherry, wild berries and floral aromas. This wine is built around great acidity, with just the subtlest hint of savory phenolics on the back end that cry out for al fresco dining. This one is a splurge Rosé.

Lest we forget New Jersey, here is my favorite home-grown New Jersey Rosé:

Four JGs Monmouth Blush, Colts Neck, NJ 

4 JG’s combines the crisp fruity flavors of Vidal Blanc with the French vinifera Cabernet Franc to create a delightful blush wine. With a medium salmon pink hue and the profile of a classic French Loire Valley dry rosé, this wine presents a beautiful balance of fruit flavors, refreshing acidity, and a clean, crisp finish. On the palate you get bright red fruits of cherry, watermelon, lime, and raspberry which continue to a crisp, dry finish of minerals, white flowers and savory herbs.This vintage of Monmouth Blush has a  label featuring Molly Pitcher…a local Monmouth County heroine. This wine is thirst quenching!

There you have it a bouquet of a dozen Rosés!

Wines to Pair with Easter Lamb


Lamb is synonymous with springtime and is another popular Easter entrée. Lamb is characteristically both fatty  and robust in flavor. To stand up to this combination, a big, bold and tannic wine is in order and the tannins found in Cabernets will help cleanse your palate, by cutting through the fatty flavor of this meat, allowing you enjoy the other side dishes of your dinner.

Red wines from the classic varieties are a wonderful, natural match with lamb. But to get the finest wine matching combination, you’ll have to pay close attention to the cut of meat you’ve acquired, how you are going to cook it and with what. Traditionally, lamb shares the table with red Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Côtes du Rhône. Those familiar varieties are tried-and-true pairings, but there are plenty of affordable, lesser-known–and truly delicious–options.

Lamb is traditionally–and symbolically–the main dish at Easter dinner. But most Americans haven’t tried this luscious cut of meat. Lighter, tender lamb meat tastes milder and less gamey, but still delivers a richness that rivals steak. This meat requires a wine that will not swamp and overpower the delicate flavors and texture. This means it is ideal for dry, fruit-forward red wines—if you reach for a full bodied red, you run the risk of ruining your meat.

Cooler climate styles of Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Germany, New Zealand or Oregon offer good value options.

If you’d rather not do red but a fabulous rosé, reach for a weighty rosé such as Tavel or Bandol from the South of France.

If you’re feeling extravagant, a pink, tender lamb and a great vintage rosé Champagne is something everyone must try once, such as the Veuve Clicquot, Rosé, Moet & Chandon, Rosé or Californias sparkler,Schramsberg Vineyards North Coast Brut Rosé.

The most popular cooking style for lamb for Easter is roasted and medium to well-done at that. The meat is fuller in flavor, but not quite as tender; therefore, it can handle a fuller red wine. Bordeaux blends are made for roast lamb. The young Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines of the left bank are fruit forward with a smattering of spiciness and oak. These combine to add an extra dimension to the meat  and the tannin will make the lamb meat feel more tender.

Your choice doesn’t need to be a Bordeaux. A good Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot affordable blend can be found from almost every region. A rich California Cab, like Beaulieu Vineyard’s Cabernet from Rutherford, California is a good pairing.  Lamb is strong in flavor and supports tannic, full-bodied red wines. Whether it is a mild spring day or a little bit chilly, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great option. Other regions with great choices include: Hawkes Bay, New Zealand; Coonawarra and Margaret River, Australia; Stellenbosch, South Africa; Argentina and Chile.

If you’re not keen on Cab, opt for a good Rioja Reserva Tempranillo. Its welcome acidity with hints of berries and balsamic and supple tannins complement the roasted red meat. Plus, the silky mouthfeel makes it a pleasure to drink long after the meal is done.

A roasted bone-in leg of lamb stays extra juicy and looks impressive on the Easter table. The classic garlic-rosemary combination, when paired with an Oregon Pinot Noir  earthy notes in both the food and wine with appear. Roasted lamb offers a much wider variety of wine from which one can choose, including Syrah, Malbec and Brunello. 

If you’ve gone for a shoulder from an older lamb, you’ll be cooking with a lot more fat content on the meat, which holds and seals in the flavor fantastically. You’ll gain a pronounced, gamey flavor to your roast. Tannin, acidity and a little bottle age to draw out secondary flavours in wine are what we are looking for.

A southern Rhône with bottle age would fit the bill, along with muscular Gevrey-Chambertin, Ribera del Duero or a younger Brunello di Montalicino from Tuscany. Brunello needs at least two years in oak and a minimum of four months in bottle, giving the wine the age it needs to compliment the older lamb, the tannin to soften meat and the acidity to cut through the extra layers of fat on show.

We like Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2001. This wine may be on the pricey side, but it is a robust full-bodied wine. There is a beautiful layering of blackberry, currant and cherry over  spicy anise, cedar and toasted oak. There is minerality and a smmokiness that underlies the ripe, unctous fruitiness. Big and rich , there is depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering finish. it is no surprise that  Wine Spectator gave it a score of 93 or that Wine Enthusiast scored it at  91. 

Rack of lamb is always a treat. Add an olive crust and it becomes as refined as a restaurant dish. The briny crunch of the crust fuses into the tender meat and smells phenomenal coming out of the oven. A similar meaty olive scent comes through in an intensely spicy Syrah. Rhône Syrahs are wines with big flavors–black pepper, black fruits–and Syrah can handle the intense savory elements of rack of lamb perfectly.

Cool Sippers for Spring 2014


Lately, the question that I’ve been hearing from friends and customers is “What’s drinking for Spring 2014? What should I be drinking?”

Comfort food and classic cookware are making big classy comebacks. Chefs are taking down-home cooking upscale. Humble vegetables like beets and turnips are taking root on Michelin-starred restaurant menus from soups to dessert. It’s a good thing I like beets and turnips!

From my seat at the wine bar, I’ve notice five interesting trends and they are all good. Yes, there are new wines on the market, old wines are being rediscovered by a new generation of wine lovers and they are all waiting for us to take a sip.

First, more people will be discovering more affordable wines from different regions

The demand for established big hitters from Burgundy and Bordeaux continues to raise the prices and make it harder for regular every day consumers to afford them. Because of this many consumers are willing to try new wines from different countries, and discovering tremendous bargains. Portugal and Spain have had strong vintages and weak economies, and they have some great offerings on local wine shelves. Old world countries unfamiliar to the American wine drinker—Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria—are modernizing their vineyards and wineries to better compete in the world market. In South America, Argentina and Chile are producing new premium wines at great values. But will Brazil be the next trendy South American wine region? These regional shifts seem  driven by a genuine interest in more varietals and styles as a new generation of wine drinkers reveals itself to be more adventurous than previous generations.

  • El Coto Crianza, Rioja, Spain 
    El Coto de Rioja, in Oyón, was founded in 1970 by a group of wine makers committed to creating a new type of Rioja. Today, El Coto de Rioja Crianza is one of the most popular wines in all of Spain and one of the top-selling Rioja’s in the world. Dusty and leathery, it’s packed with the sour cherries and rustic aromas that are part of the classic Rioja profile. Made from 100% Tempranillo it is positively ancient in style. Basically, it’s earthy, with seductive cigar box, spice and herbal aromas balanced by plenty of scented red fruit to round out the rough edges. This medium-bodied red offers up a vanilla and leather-laden wine that has layers of fresh raspberries and cherry fruit flavors, cedar and spice with a wonderfully long, soft, yet earthy finish—the essence of fine traditional Rioja. I love it, but then, I love Spanish wines. If you’ve never had an old-school Spanish wine, I suggest you at least give it a try— it’s always a good value!
  • Bodega Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda Malbec, Argentina
    Established in 1901 by Leoncio Arizu, Bodega Luigi Bosca is the oldest family owned and run winery in Argentina and it is being managed by the third and fourth generations of the Arizu family. The winery owns seven vineyards and more than 700 hectares, located throughout the province of Mendoza. The Wine Spectator gave this little gem a solid 87 points and described it as “Toasty with plum, vanilla and mocha notes followed by a medium-weight, slightly firm, smoky finish.”  This intense red wine could be considered an amazing bargain with its fresh aromas of morello cherries and spices wafting from the glass. It is a well-structured, velvety wine with balanced tannins as a result of three-months spent aging in French oak casks. It will be hard to find another Malbec with such richness and depth at  this price.

New World Chardonnay revival

I’m hearing that Spring 2014 will be the Spring of Chardonnay. It looks like ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) may finally be falling by the wayside this year. Producers seem excited about Chardonnay, believing they have the right clones and vine age to produce superior fruit and leaner, cooler climate wines. Producers are limiting the use of new oak barrels to amplify the expression of fruit and “terroir” while reducing that huge “oaky” flavor. If you’re an oak lover, don’t worry, the oak won’t disappear completely, subtle use of oak will continue to play its part in the best Chardonnay. Look to see more aromatic and elegant styles from cooler coastal and higher altitude vineyards. These revived Chardonnays have the wow factor that has eluded us in recent years.
Here are two Chardonnays with an elegant expression of fruit and richness:

  • Josh Cellars Chardonnay, California
    Sometimes you just want an affordable, tasty Chardonnay and this wine from Josh Cellars delivers plenty of bang for the buck. Josh Cellars is the value line from Napa winery Joseph Carr. A blend of tank and barrel fermented fruit, this bright Chardonnay opens with inviting stone fruit aromas of ripe white peaches, apricot and pear accented by tropical pineapple and delicate notes of honeysuckle and white rose petals. On the palate, you’ll find lush peach, pear, citrus and tropical fruit in a creamy-textured, medium-bodied wine supported by just enough citrusy acidity.  Balanced, and round, the flavor profile is gentle — ripe citrus summer fruit, melon, peach and pear with hints of apple, light oak, and apricot aligned with a touch of vanilla and smoke. This Chardonnay is excellent with food , very enjoyable and a crowd pleaser. Serve it cool, not cold for the greatest benefits.
  • Joseph Carr Dijon Clone Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
    Winemaker Joseph Carr says he uses 100% French barrel selections and separated lots by  individual Dijon clones. The wine was barrel fermented and aged sur lies (on the yeast) with full malolactic fermentation. Indeed, he has produced a balanced, luscious and opulent Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast region. The aromas showcase  green apples, vanilla, butter, lemon tart, a touch of apricot  and green pepper. There are light notes of oak and yeasty brioche behind the luscious fruit.  French oak aging imparts oaky smoke vanilla flavors. This is a classy Californian in a very Burgundian style and it will be perfect for any meal. This is one wine you can’t  afford to pass up!

Champagne isn’t the only Bubbly of choice

With bubblies, rising prices for domaine and estate Champagnes from established regions have caused us to reconsider our choices and to explore different regions. Although spending on Champagne has picked up, most consumers are not opting to spend the big bucks for every day occasions. Consequently, Prosecco, Cava and other sparkling wines are  gaining market share. Prosecco, made only from the white grape Glera, has embedded itself in the American wine vocabulary, palate and budget.

  • Riondo Spago Nero Prosecco, Veneto, Italy
    As with most Prosecco, Riondo Spago Nero is made using the Charmat method, meaning it is a first-rate wine to drink young and fresh. In general, Prosecco often has lower alcohol levels and is best consumed within 2 years of release. This 100% Prosecco (Glera) version is a personal favorite and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate agrees stating, “This effusively fruity, light-bodied offering offers terrific floral notes, persistent effervescence, and a clean, delicate finish. It is an ideal apéritif to enjoy over the next year.— 90 points.”  It is effusively fruity and light-bodied, not to mention delicious. This amazing little wine is a perfectly inexpensive sparkler, so if you love bubbles you can splurge a lot more often.
  • Veuve de Vernay Brut, France
    Veuve du Vernay Brut is a crisp, clean and refreshing sparkler from the Bordeaux region of France. This charming little wine is made from a grape called Ugni Blanc (or Trebbiano in Italy). It’s bright and zesty with hints of apple and pear on the nose and lots of fine velvety smooth bubbles. The flavors are very much apple and pear with a hint of toast. For the price, it’s perfect to serve at any celebration, as an apéritif or as a compliment to lighter dishes.

Sustainable, organic or biodynamic wines are becoming more numerous and mainstream

The Natural Wine movement has highlighted the need for greater sustainability across all wine production due to their obvious popularity with consumers. Actually, it seems the younger generation of wine drinkers are not asking “are you organic and sustainable?” But “why aren’t you?” Because of this, more and more wines will be labeled sustainable, organic or biodynamic as these eco-friendly vineyard practices gain popularity with growers and consumers.

  • Barone Fini Pinot Grigio 2012 Valdadige DOC
    I know a lot of Pinot Grigio lovers and this Trentino-Alto Adige winery follows all the strict guidelines of the Italian DOC while practicing sustainable agricultural techniques. The average vine here runs between 25 to 30 years of age and these older vines provide crisp, dry flavors of roasted almonds and surprising concentration of apple. Soft, round apple and pear fruit fills the mouth with ripe, juicy flavors. The finish is long with ripe apples and lychee nuts. This is a fresh Pinot Grigio and it is meant to be enjoyed with friends as an apéritif, or with a light meal.
  • Deep Sea Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California
    Deep Sea Pinot Noir is comes from Rancho Arroyo Grande in the Central Coast region of California, just thirteen miles from the Pacific Ocean. Most of the fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from the Solomon Hills Vineyard in Santa Maria, California. This Pinot greets you with a wonderfully smoky nose, hints of vanilla and caramel notes. Barrel-aged for 17 months in French oak, this wine is soft and silky with classic flavors of cherry, rose petal, and exotic spices.  Light and balanced, with delicious fruit, elegant oak notes and earth, this wine pairs well with many cuisines, or can be enjoyed on its own.

It’s in the Blends

Red blends have become a thing. Blends are perfect for when you don’t know what type of grape you want to drink or what to pair with your meal. A blend of several varietals will offer a bit more flavor, round out some rough edges and help compliment the meal. You really can’t go too terribly wrong with a blend. The easy-to-grasp concept, modest price points and flavor profiles can add a new dimension to your cellar and they can be found from every region.

  •  Apothic Red Winemaker’s Blend, California
    This is an inexpensive blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot from California. It’s often a favorite at wine tastings. Think of it as a berry fruit bomb with a cornucopia of flavor. Plum and blackberry aromas are quickly followed by notes of vanilla, spice and a bit of maple. The flavors are a melding of juicy mixed berries, cherry cola, brown sugar and spice that give way to a finish of lingering chocolate and maple syrup. An intriguing wine that will take you on a full flavor rollercoaster ride. It pairs nicely with barbecue and pizza, but many love it on its own.
  •  Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Rhône Valley, France
    “Les Abeilles” is a tasty Rhône blend of 33% Grenache, 34% Syrah and 33% Mourvèdre. Named after the honey bees inhabiting the vineyards, this wine entices with intriguing aromas of plum, ripe dark fruit and a little licorice. This medium-bodied, velvety red has smooth blackberry and black cherry flavors with spice against a backdrop of smooth, silky tannins. It offers a dry and velvety finish. A great bargain.
  • Di Majo Norante Ramitello, Biferno Rosso, Molise, Italy
    I love a good Italian wine and this blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Aglianico is one of them. It begins with a lovely aroma of dark berry fruit, smoke, menthol and maraschino cherry. The wine tastes delicious with the berry fruit continuing from the bouquet as well as some added flavor of dried herbs, licorice and leather. This is a smooth, silky soft wine with very nice balance. The finish is dry and delicious with some lingering smoky notes.
  • Primus, Colchagua Valley, Chile
    Primus is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Merlot from Colchagua (pronounced  kohl-CHA-gwa) Valley which has been dubbed the “Napa Valley of Chile.” This blend is a big, full-bodied wine. The ripe red and black berry fruit aromas are layered with exotic spice. You’ll also note the telltale “Chilean” menthol and eucalyptus on the nose. Blackcurrant, blueberry, ripe cherry, chocolate, toasted oak, vanilla, pepper, anise, and rich chocolate flavors create a dense, warm, spicy, leathery, dark-fruited lovely wine with mouth-drying tannins.

There you have it, a dozen wines for spring 2014. Enjoy!

In the pink – Easter Rosé


This year, Rosés are hot and for this season of youth and renewal pink wines and sparklers set a mood of festiveness and joy. They also clear the palate and prepare it for the sensory experience to come.

Although most Rosés are dry, most folks shy away from  these pink or “blush” wines because they associate it with the sweeter incarnations of  white zinfandel.  There are variations of Rosé wines that have only a hint of sweetness to some that are very dry. To make certain your Rosé is dry, choose one with at least 12 percent alcohol.

Rosé wines are a great alternative to the various white and red wines and most often white and red wine drinkers can agree that  they have the light crispness of a white with the complex body of a red, without the tannins…and they are pretty.

Gruet Brut Sparkling Rosé, New Mexico, USA.
This brilliantly-hued pink is both fun and serious. It is creamy with a hint of strawberries in the aroma, but with the structure, acidity and a crisp finish that can stand up to most foods, especially Easter ham.

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto, Piedmont , Italy.
This is a unique vivacious and festive red sparkling wine that is delightfully sweet and subtle with the lush flavors of ripe raspberry and juicy strawberry.  Aromatic with a hint of rose petals and raspberries, it has a fruity character and gentle acidity that  extends across all  occasions and food pairings, from savory to sweet. On its own Rosa Regale is an elegant aperitif, it tempers the heat of spicy Asian and Latino fare, and  is an ideal foil to the piquant richness of goat cheese, especially in a spring mix salad with almonds and cranberries. Easter quiches, glazed hams, beets, vichyssoise, dark chocolate, pair enchantingly with Rosa Regale.

Etude Rosé of Pinot Noir, USA
This salmon pink Rosé  offers vibrant aromas of fresh raspberries, strawberries, red cherries and sweet blood oranges. Flavors of strawberry rhubarb and cherry persist on the palate and combine with a pleasing note of minerality. The perfectly-balanced acidity makes this wine a wonderful complement to many foods.

Mayne Sansac Rosé Bordeaux, France.
As with most Rosés from Bordeaux, this wine has has a central core of Merlot (80%), which contributes a rich fruitiness to the wine. Providing structure, the 20% Cabernet Sauvignon  exchanges its formidable tannin for a lovely fruitiness with a fine savory edge. This Rose makes a perfect alternative to red throughout the year, and when paired with the right food it absolutely comew alive. If you love the classic pairing of lamb and red Bordeaux, this  rose would be ideal for pairing for any lightened-up lamb dish or sautéed mushrooms.  This is a power Rosé.

Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec, Argentina 2010.
This wine is a beautiful, deep, vibrant rosé color with a surprising amount of body. It exudes beautiful aromas of fresh, ripe wild strawberries with hints of spice. The fresh jammy flavors of strawberries and young cherries come rushing over your tongue, accompanied by spice notes and a clean, dry finish. This is the perfect chicken wine and a charming companion to mildly spicy Asian cuisine or  light snacks and cheeses.

Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rosé .
This fresh, dry French Rosé has plenty of power and balanced lip-smacking fruit characteristics. This is a charming blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault and 10% Syrah full of floral and crushed red cherry aromas. It’s full-bodied, ripe, mineral-driven fruit on the palate, with tangy undertones and a note of white pepper.  The wine has acidity and tannins that are ripe but firm; this is no wimpy Rosé. The wine has an easygoing, uncomplicated nature that makes it pair well with a variety of dishes salads, quiche, grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, and Asian cuisine.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé,  Rhône Valley, France.
A consistent and elegant Rosé that is balanced and fresh with an expressive nose of redcurrants, raspberries and citrus. This is a complex, perfumed wine that is dry yet flavorful  with spicy red fruits, white pepper and blood orange. It has a firm memorable finish it easily pairs with  Easter ham, roast chicken or vegetarian.

Don’t be afraid to drink pink this Easter, the Easter bunny will love you for it.

Pink and sparkly wine for summer days.


 A Pink Prosecco? Well, not exactly. This wine is definitely pink and from Italy’s Prosecco region, but now that Prosecco now is protected by a DOC, only sparkling white wines produced in the regions of Friuli, Venezia, Giulia and Veneto in Italy, and traditionally mainly in the areas near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso, can be called Prosecco.

Imported to the Jersey shore by Barneget’s VE Raimo Brands  Costaruél’s cheeky pink Costaruél Rosé Cuveé Concerto is made from Raboso, a red grape. The Raboso grape is grown primarily in northeastern Italy around Veneto. This little-known grape is essentially the sister grape of the white Prosecco, and Costaruél uses it to make a similarly delicate sparkling wine. Unlike France, where the region controls the name, here the grape, Prosecco (or Glera), has created a name for itself and any non-prosecco grape grown in the region is simply out of the DOC.

This sparkler is something special—serve chilled, it feels light and refreshing, but because it is made from red grapes it holds up to heartier foods.

In the glass, it is a pretty shade of pink with pale copper reflections, the fine effervescent beads provide a golden sparkle to the wine. The aromas that greet your nose are elegant, dry and soft: fresh, mouth-watering strawberry and peach with just a hint of fresh herbs. The nose carries through to a crisp, prickly palate running rampant with fresh yet delicate, watermelon, red berries and a creamy mousse.

The first sip is a taste of sweet summer fruit backed with a tart tongue-tickling acidity. The subtle fruitiness is refreshing and leads to a crisp and dry finish.

This gentle pink is great served on a warm summer’s day as an apéritif prior to a barbecue, with hors d’oeuvres, summer salads, Sunday brunches, strawberries, cheesecake or as a special dessert.

You can also make a simple delicious Wine and Roses Cocktail using a 750ml bottle of Costaruél Rosé Cuveé Concerto and rose syrup. Pour four ounces of the sparkling Rosé into a Champagne flute, take one tablespoon of rose syrup and gently drizzle the syrup into the glass. It will trickle down to the bottom and create a pretty effect when served to delighted guests.

If you aren’t in the mood for pink, how about just sparkly?

Costaruél Prosecco Extra Dry would be a sparkler of choice, according to Vic Raimo, owner of VE Raimo Brands, he says says “Costaruél Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in Italy, perfect for beating back the summer heat. It is light, refreshing, low in alcohol and delicious.” He is also happy to announce that Costaruél Prosecco Extra Dry has won a Silver medal at this year’s Vinitaly competition in Verona, Italy.

Prosecco is Italy’s famous sparkling wine, and it is also the name of the white grape that is used to produce the bubbly. Costaruél Prosecco Extra Dry  hails from the Le Dolcirive Costaruél vineyards in the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOC—situated between those two multi-syllabic towns some 30 miles north of Venice, and due north of Treviso.

Generally labelled as Prosecco, it is a sparkling wine made from the indigenous Prosecco grapes of this region. DOC Prosecco Appellation rules allow for up to 15% blend of other local minor varieties—Verdiso, Perera, Bianchetta and Prosecco Lungo. Costaruél Extra Dry Prosecco has some Verdiso—a grape discovered in 18th century. It increases acidity and gives more tangy flavor. As such it becomes more  important in hot years when the acidity tends to be low. The other grape in this blend is Perera—used to heighten the wine’s fragrance and flavors with its distinctive pear taste and aromas.

This pale straw-colored blend offers delicate fruit and enticing aromatics of granny smith apple, pear, some citrus and a dash of almond and gossamer bubbles.  The ripe mouth-watering flavors are of granny smith apples, followed by peaches, pears, some bready notes and gentle apricots. The fresh fruity palate shows forward acidity, warm fruit, honey, peach, green apple and citrus notes leading to a truly crisp long-lingering refreshing finish. This well-made wine has a luxurious edge, medium body, and some minerality to it, but it retains the playfulness Prosecco demands.

Perfect to pair with Prosciutto, stuffed mushrooms, creamy sauces, almonds, seafood, fried fare, spicy Asian entrees and even potato chips or buttered popcorn. This is a very forgiving, food-friendly sparkling wine option.

Prosecco is not meant to be aged, so drink it up!

Both wines have recently started appearing on local retailers’, if your favorite retailer doesn’t have it, ask them if they can order it for you.

Wine I Like It Blind Tasting – November 2010


The latest Wine I Like It blind wine tasting was an eye-opener for many of the tasters. None of them were prepared to discover these wines each had an average price point of $12 and were wines most of them knew, had previously tried, or had once considered as a favorite wine. The ten wines hailed from eight different wine regions.

This tasting group seriously set about tasting and providing feedback.  Most tried guessing the varietals and a few tried guessing both the varietal and region. One taster correctly identified each varietal and region of all ten wines and named the producer on three. Two correctly identified seven of the ten wines and the remaining tasters each averaged five correct indentifications.

The fifth wine tasted was correctly determined by all to be Chardonnay, with one taster correctly identifying the region. Another interesting note about the tasting: wines number one and two were only one point apart, and wines three, four, and five were each separated by two points. This was the highest rated and closest point grouping to date.

So what were the top five wines from this selection?

Well, number one was the last wine tasted: [yellow tail] Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a multi-regional blend from Coonawarra, Wrattonbully & Padthaway, Australia. Full-bodied, structured, complex, and elegant, it had aromas of ripe, black cherries, blackberries, mint, oak, and velvety smooth tannins.

Overall our tasters commented on the “smoothness and lack of harsh tannins”. Some comments included:  “very smooth cab”; “a drinkable red, touch of sweetness at end”; “good flavor, smooth, yet has nice body to it”;  “very yum”;  “great nose, nice color, nice finish, tastes great!” and  “Love it!”

Our tasters were surprised to see that this was [yellow tail] Reserve Cabernet and that it retailed for around $13 not the $18+ they had guessed.

Number two was [yellow tail] Reserve Chardonnay. This wine was correctly identified by everyone and one person correctly identified it as [yellow tail] Chardonnay from Australia. Gasps of “Yellow Tail? You’re kidding!” were heard at the reveal.  Tasting it blind, they had been able to concentrate on the full-bodied wine’s melon, peach, tropical fruit rather than brand name. All of the tasters commented on the fresh palate and powerful fruit.

Some of the written comments were: “a little sweet, but good”; “dry, smooth, great dinner wine”;  “a hint of oak/butter in the finish”; “It’s oaky—Chardonnay. Not sure where it’s from”; “powerful, tropical fruit”; “oaky”: “ It’s my favorite white so far.”; “ Loving these wines”; “tend not to like Chardonnay, but would drink this again”; “hint of citrus oak flavor comes through” and “nice bouquet and great flavor”.

The tasters said they would pay up to $16.80 for it. The actual price point is around $12. Both top wine’s alcohol level hovered around 13.5%.

Number three was Ramon Bilbao Crianza Tempranillo from Spain. This medium-bodied wine was a bright, deep, cherry-red with intense aromas of ripe black berries, savory hints of balsam and licorice. It was fresh, well-structured and textured with smoky cedar, spice box, leather, violets, and blackberry nuances.

All of the tasters commented on the intriguing earth, smoky aromas and the lenghty, peppery finish. A few noted a bitter edge to the cherry flavors. Overall, the wine was well received and comments included: “Nice nose, deep color, very nice”; “smooth, mellow, love it!”; “ Great flavor and body, dry finish, like this a lot”;  “definitely yummy. Strong finish”; “My favorite so far”; “ love the flavor”;  “smooth cherries”, and  “not sure of what this is, but would drink again.” All wanted to know where this wine could be purchased and the average estimate for this $12 wine was $16.50

The first wine of the evening  [yellow tail] Bubbles ranked at number four. The first thing the group noticed was the stopper or “zork”—a reusable sparkling wine stopper that the user presses down firmly to seal, and then pulls the side clasps down until a click is heard—they were intrigued. Made using the Charmat process (Tank Fermentation),  Bubbles was delightfully fresh and fruity. Flavors of tropical fruits and a medium sweetness led to a delightful, crisp finish.

Some of the group thought it was  a $14 Cava. The sparkling wine lovers  thought this was “a delicious, fun sparkler”. One stated it was “too fruity for my taste”, but most agreed that it was a “good, general occasion bubbly”. Other comments included:  “good flavor, but a twiggy after taste”; “sparkling wines are my favorite.”; “Refreshing lemon-lime, yummy and light”; “nice amount of bubbles”; “love the apricot and peach flavors’; and the final comment “It’s sparkling, it’s white, what’s not to like?” They especially liked the $9 price tag.

Rounding out the top five was Hob Nob Merlot, a red from France made in a “New World” style.  The group picked up on the black-currant, plum, and blackberry aromas and flavors. Most of the group commented that it was “Full-bodied with a nice soft, dry finish”. One commented “This is interesting. I like the smooth, deep flavors would pay $15.” Written comments included:  “nice tannic finish and the best so far”; and  “tastes like rasins, but I think it’s merlot— nice chocolate undertones.” Most  agreed they would buy it again and they would pay around $15.50 for it. They were delighted to discover it was an $11 wine.

This tasting offered several surprises, instead of tasting something new and different, they were  reintroduced to some old favorites and great values.

The next wine I Like It tasting will be held at Branches Catering on January 25, 2011.

Most of these wines can be found at local retailers, including: Gerards Wine & Spirits in Point Pleasant, Wine King of Wall, Spirit of 76 in Manasquan and Monmouth Bottle Shop in Oakhurst.