Longboard Vineyards showcases California’s Russian River Valley at a superb Alberto’s Ristorante wine dinner.
Spring Wine Tasting with winemaker Oded Shakked Read more…
The nantucket wine festival returns to the island May 15 through 19, offering wine enthusiasts an intimate way to experience world-class wines and food in a famous coastal setting. Read more…
Cape Cod Package Store's wine manager shares tips for great wedding wines.
As part of our special focus on weddings in this issue, Centerville’s Cape Cod Package Store wine manager and buyer Diane Slater speaks with Cape Cod Life about the perfect wine for a Cape Cod or Islands wedding reception. Read more…
It’s rare to call a trip to the liquor store an educational experience. At Cranberry Liquors in Harwichport, owner Joe Della Morte’s knowledge of wines is as extensive as the selection offered in his store, and he is eager to help customers who come through the door with advice about the bewildering array of wine choices available on today’s market. Read more…
Enjoying a glass of port is synonymous with winter. Oohs and aahs follow those first luscious sips of the season—sips that deliciously pair with nuts, Stilton cheese, a dessert course, or just by itself. Each variety of port has a different personality: some are bold and muscular, others mature and focused. But they are always sweet—and they always make a great gift.
Port is a wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal (authentic Portuguese port is labeled “Porto”) that has been fortified with brandy. The history of port dates back to the 17th century, when English wine merchants came to Portugal to look for new wines and encountered hearty reds infused with brandy as they fermented. Fortifying wines also kept them stable during shipping.
Port is either bottle-aged or barrel-aged, and with a few notable exceptions, it’s usually red in color. The best bottles are made with half a dozen highly regarded grapes blended together to give the wine an intense color, body, taste, and aroma. With the holidays upon us, here’s a guide to different port varieties along with a few selections available at local package stores.
Vintage is the top port as well as the most expensive. It’s made from a blend of the best grapes culled from top vineyards three or four times a decade—the years that port shippers declare to be vintage years. Vintage ports should age quite a long time before being served, and it’s best to buy a bottle that is at least 10 years old if you want to drink it right away. These are rich and dense with lots of tannins. They are also unfiltered, so expect sediment on the bottom.
Single Quinta port has a key difference from vintage ports: they are produced from grapes from one vineyard (quinta means “farm”) in a single, non-vintage year. The label displays the vineyard’s name. But single-quinta ports are crafted much like vintage ports, offering powerful berry fruit tastes that need significant bottle age to come together. They are a less expensive alternative to a port from a vintage year.
Also known as LBV, Late Bottle Vintage is a variety from a single vintage that’s aged in the barrel four to six years before being bottled. While they are not made in vintage years, they are robust, ideal for drinking right away, and usually half the price of vintage ports.
Standard Rubies are the most basic ports: young, sweet, simple, and inexpensive. These have tasty raspberry and cherry fruit flavors. You’ll find labels that say “Finest,” “Reserve,” or “Vintage Character.”
While the labels on Aged Tawny ports might say 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old, the bottles themselves haven’t actually aged that long. Rather, they are made with a blend of ports barrel-aged for different lengths of time. The age is an approximation of the taste; for instance, a variety labeled 20 years old tastes like it should be that age to the port maker. The blending and wood aging gives a pale color and silky texture with nutty, butterscotch, and dried-fruit flavors.
Lastly, Colheita is a tawny port from a single vintage that usually has woody and vanilla flavors. Port makers don’t usually keep them in large quantities. Colheita ports are usually aged at least seven years, but you might find a few that are 10 to 50 years old.
Descending the wooden stairs into the subterranean wine cellar at Nantucket’s American Seasons feels like stepping into a cave. You’ll most likely hit your head on the door frame if you don’t duck. This space is a rustic contrast to the gloss of some other wine storage rooms. That’s because it doesn’t need polish: the racks are filled with close to 5,000 bottles, many from prestigious grape-growing regions in the U.S., several available in small quantities that rarely make their way onto local wine lists. Read more…
Sebastien Taffara’s education and infatuation with wine began at 15 years old, on the second floor of a brasserie in his native Normandy, France. Four years later, he moved to Paris, laboring as assistant to the wine director under famed French chef Joël Robuchon before heading up the wine program at Le Pergolèse. In Paris, he met Philippe Rispoli, a chef whom he would follow across the pond to Wellfleet. In 2009, the duo opened PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet. Taffara became the restaurant’s manager and wine steward—selecting the wines for the restaurant, stocking the 1,000-plus bottles in the wine cellar, organizing staff tastings, and arranging special winemaker dinners. Cape Cod Life spoke with the 26-year-old Taffara to uncover some of his personal favorite glasses, how to best pair wine and cheese, and the transition from a cosmopolitan city in France to the majesty of the Outer Cape.
CAPE COD LIFE: What are your observations about the level of wine interest and knowledge of the people who dine at PB?
TAFFARA: The people who come here are really educated about wine and they don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most want to drink French wines and 60 percent of our list is French. Many want to try a wine from Burgundy—rosé is also very popular since it’s a wine for summer. People are very curious and like to discover new wines. One night we opened a six-liter bottle of Gevery-Chambertin and sold it by the glass for $18. It was sold out in two hours. This was a real treat to have an opportunity to buy such a good wine by the glass. We do this in France. People here are very open-minded. They really listen. They ask me what they should order and care about what they’re going to drink. It’s great to share their passion.
Tell us what wines are your personal favorites?
I love the wines from the Rhone Valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte Rôtie are very exciting to me. I love to have a glass of Gevrey-Chambertin.
How do you like American wines?
I’m getting more interested in American wines. I like the pinot noirs from Oregon. In France, there is more complexity in the pinot noirs. The region, the climate, the soil make a very big difference, especially in Burgundy. We also bring in Bordeaux blends from California. These types of wines from America are very interesting to drink.
Tell us how to pair wine with cheese. This can be tricky.
Chardonnay goes well with many cheeses. Red wines from Gamay grapes from the Loire Valley or from the Beaujolais region go well with a cheese platter. Goat cheese is fantastic with a glass of Sancerre. Blue cheeses pair very well with a sweet wine, like a Sauternes or Barsac. Roquefort goes very well with a glass of muscat.
Why would you leave your job in Paris to come to work in Wellfleet? That’s a very big change.
I always worked in a restaurant that was established. I never had the opportunity to help open a restaurant, and this was a good opportunity for me. This is why I decided to come to work here. Growing up in Normandy I was used to the countryside. I grew up by the beach—Normandy is the Cape Cod of France. It’s a big change from Paris, but I knew what it was like to live in a small town. You get tired of the city. Here you get to enjoy the beach, the nature. No more subways, there’s less stress, I bike on the bike trail. I’m happy to be here.
A pitcher of sangria contains a fusion of flavors and ingredients—and makes for an ideal warm-weather sipper. The punch-like drink combines red or white wine, juices, spirits, a splash of soda, and chopped fruits. And this thirst-quencher has a lot going for it: the sweetness is a delicious counterpoint to spicy foods, it’s an easy-to-make party drink, and come summertime, the beverage tastes so right alongside seafood and salad. Read more…
At Karen and Sean Terrio’s wedding reception, guests toasted with cups of sake instead of flutes of champagne. It was fitting—the couple had just bought a Japanese restaurant. Now five years later, the Terrios, who own Misaki Sushi in Hyannis, have sipped countless sakes and know much about this ancient drink. “Learning about sake gives me a better understanding of Japanese traditions,” says Karen.
Once known as “the drink of gods,” sake has been around for thousands of years and is made from polished long grains of rice, spring water, yeast, and an enzyme known as koji that aids the fermentation. Although brewed like beer, it’s drunk like a wine.
Starting about three decades ago, new processes let brewers produce premium and artisanal sakes that are usually served cold in a wine glass. The quality is discerned by how much of the outer layers of the grain are polished away—the more polished, the higher the quality and cost. There is a plethora of styles from light and dry, slightly sweet, floral, with tastes of honey, persimmon or squash, to those infused with plums or left unfiltered and creamy. Look for the words Ginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo or Nigori (unfiltered) on labels—these are some categories of the better grades of sake.
Sake bottles in various shapes and colors line the square tables at Misaki when Karen holds tastings with her staff. Calligraphy and sketches of historical Japanese figures, brushed characters, designs of the horizon, crashing waves and flowers, and mottos or poems in Japanese poems decorate the striking labels. The back label gives the sake’s exotic name in English, like Midnight Moon, Pearls of Simplicity, and Dreamy Clouds. While you might think certain French wine labels are hard to decipher, these are nearly impossible to read without learning a few kanji.
The fermented rice drink also makes creative cocktails. Shake with spirits and juices, and you have a saketini. Dump a hot ochoko – a tiny cylindrical cup used to serve sake – into a cold glass of beer and you have a sake bomb. ” Sake has become more trendy than ever before,” says Karen. (She still sometimes enjoys sipping the traditional warm cup of sake. “Its soothing.”)
From Hamada San, the restaurant’s Japanese sushi chef, the couple learned about sake etiquette. For example, the Japanese never pour their own sake when dining with other people. It’s up to a dining partner to fill another’s glass. “Understanding these rituals gives me a better understanding of this history” says Karen. ” There’s a lot to learn.”
World class wines from France. Fresh oysters from Duxbury. Black bass caught off the coast of Nantucket. Superb salmon flown straight from Scotland. Fine cuts of lamb from Colorado. Black truffles ordered from Paris. All prepared and served by highly regarded chefs and sommeliers in an elegant Nantucket home on a lovely summer evening.
These were just some of the attractions for a “Great Wines in A Grand House” dinner held last summer as a premiere 2011 Nantucket Wine Festival event. The evening was a star-studded extravaganza created by well-known chef, Robert Sisca of Boston’s award-winning Bistro du Midi, several French winemakers, and a Nantucket couple who shared their historic home with 18 lucky guests. Read more…