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Taste Camp: The Wine Industry of Quebec (Part 2)

Date: Wed, Jun 19, 2013 Wine Tasting

Vinifera are also important at Vignoble Les Pervenches. Thevineyard was established in 1991, but the current owners, Michael Marler and Véronique Hupin, purchased it in 2000. The vineyard consists of three hectares, certified organic, and they grow hybrids and vinifera, though since 2003, they have only planted vinifera grapes. Their most planted grape is Chardonnay, and they possess some which is 22 years old. You'll also find grapes like Zweigelt, Pinot Noir, Marechal Foch, Seyval Blanc, and Frontenac. They plan on planting some Pinot Gris this year, planting a few rows to see how it does.

Michael, pictured above,informed us that for the last five years, they have been practicing Biodynamic viticulture though they are currentlynot Demeter certified. Their issue right now that that they have made some changes to their viticulture, due to difficulties with the laborious practice of stirring the waters for their Biodynamic preparations. To Michael, the only way to assess the efficacy of Biodynamics is to do it and check the results. He is still unsure if his results are due to Biodynamics or simply from being a conscientious farmer.

The winery produces about 15,000 bottles annually, with small increases each year. The cold, like for all of Quebec, is an issue and they cover their vinifera grapes with cloths to protect them, though that can also lead to mice and rabbits sometimes taking residence under the cloths.

We got to taste one of their recently released wines as well as a number of barrel samples. Their whites were definitely my favorites, especially their Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay wines. The 2012 Seyval Blanc & Chardonnay blend ($17) was bottled only 2 weeks ago. The blend consists of 85% Seyval and 15% Chardonnay, was barrel fermented and they used natural yeast. It had a clean, crisp, fruity taste, some delicious pear and apple. Based on my tastings, I think their concentration on white wines is a very good idea and I would recommend you check out their wines.

One of the most beautiful properties we visited was at L’Orpailleur, where we met founding member Charles-Henri de Coussergues. As I stated yesterday, they are now the largest winery in Quebec, producing around 160,000 bottles per year.

Their biggest challenge is to pass safely through the Quebec winters and pruning is a very important aspect in that regard. They conduct 3 main types of pruning, and each grape type has its preferred method of pruning. For example, Chardonnay has a more complicated pruning. They also practice hilling, putting sand or dirt over some of the vines as protection. Their oldest grapes are hybrids, sich as Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch while their newer grapes include Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.

We started our visit with some bubbly, theNVOrpailleurBrut ($26), and several writers even got to saber open some bottles, using the blade pictured above. They first started producing this sparkling wine back in 1992, beginning with2000 bottles, and they use the traditional Champagne method. The Brut is made from 100% Seyval Blanc, is aged for about 2 years and has an alcohol content of 11.5%. I was impressed with this Brut, which was crisp, clean and dry, possessed of some subtle and pleasant apple and melon notes. A hearty recommendation for this bubbly.

The winery also produced one of my favorite wines of the trip, the2010 Cuvee Natashquan ($25), which is also made from 100% Seyval Blanc. It spends a year in French oak, 30% which are new,and it possessed an intriguing complexity, as well as a rich, savory mouth feel and nice citrus tastes. Each sip impressed and I seemed to find something else within it to enjoy. This may be made from a hybrid, but you wouldn't know it from the taste. You would just taste a delicious and compelling wine. Highly recommended.

AtL’Orpailleur, after lunch, we had a tasting of wines from a number of other nearby wineries, and I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites.

The 2012Val CaudaliesRosé ($17.50), a blend of Chambourcin, De Chaunac, Marshal Foch and Lucy Kuhlman, was crisp and dry, with subtle red fruit flavors that brought to mind a ProvenceRosé. An excellent summer wine, as well as something that would be delicious year round. Their 2012 Vidal ($16.75) was very aromatic, with citrus, peach and floral notes. Another nice summer wine, something to sip on the front porch, in the backyard or at the beach.

Vignoble Gaglianomade a delicious 2012 Frontenac Gris($18) which had a complex melange of taste, with notes of honey, apricot, and lychee. It was crisp and smooth, with a very pleasing finish. Their 2011 Frontenac Noir ($25) was one of my favorite red wines, with rich red and black fruit flavors, hints of spice and a smooth, lingering finish.

The 2009Domaine Les BromeReserve Vidal ($24.50) was intriguing, with delicious citrus, peach, white flower and a backbone of minerality.

White hybrids and ice wine also impressed me at Vignoble Le Marathonien, which is owned by Jean Joly which ran some marathons when he was younger, hence the winery name.

Jean Joly, pictured above, led us on a tour of his 2 hectares of vineyards, which have a very stony soil that provide excellent drainage, and the rocks also maintain heat. The vineyard started in 1989, growing only hybrids, but they now grow a few vinifera, like Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

There are several goats on the property, and the baby goats were especially cute. They serve no larger purpose on the vineyard but they do make for a fascinating attraction for visitors.

The winery produces about 12K-15K bottles annually, including some compelling ice wines.

The NV Seyval Blanc($12) is 100% Seyval Blanc, a blend of 80% from the 2011 vintage and 20% from the 2012 vintage. It wasfresh, clean and crisp with bright fruit. Simple but not one-dimensional. An excellent value wine, pleasant enough to drink on its own or a nice accompaniment with food. The2009 Boise d'Havelock ($13) is also100% Seyval Blanc but is undergoes 6-8 months of oak aging. It had a richer, more complex taste and I found it very appealing. Of these two wines, each has their place, and it depends on your mood at the moment which you would prefer.

The 2011 Late Harvest ($28), made from Vidal, was delicious, with a pleasant sweetness, balanced by acidity, and flavors of honey, apricot and citrus. The most impressive wine though was their Ice Wine ($50), also made from Vidal. In 1994, they were the the first ice wine producer in Quebec. This ice wine had a bright golden color, and an alluring aroma of honey, flowers and dried fruit. Its richness caressed the tongue, yet possessed sufficient acidity to prevent it from being too cloying. A lengthy, satisfying finish helped to elevate this wine to the top of the charts. A killer wine and highly recommended.

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Taste Camp: The Wine Industry of Quebec (Part 1)

Date: Tue, Jun 18, 2013 Wine Tasting

Exploring emerging wine regions is always a fascinating endeavor even if their wines are not readily available outside of that region. It is an educational experience that can reflect the realities faced by many other emerging regions. It is also fascinating to witness the early growth of a wine region, to be one of the first to see their potential. During TasteCamp, our three-day exploration of the wines, beer and food of Quebec, we encountered one of these emerging regions, which has an approximately thirty year history, and an even shorter history with vinifera grapes.

Quebec's first winery, established in 1981, was Côtes d’Ardoiseand it is still in existence. In 1982, theL’Orpailleurvineyard and winerywas foundedby four men, two from France and two from Quebec. These men purchased a 20-hectare farm not far from Côtes d’Ardoise and their winery is now the largest in Quebec, producing over 160,000 bottles of wine annually. Currently, there are over 100 wineries in Quebec, though there appears to be some contradictory information online, with a few sources claiming that there are only around 50 or so wineries. Nonetheless, Quebec has a small wine industry which continues to grow each year.

One of the biggest challenges facing Quebec wineries is the cold weather. It makes it difficult to grow vinifera grapes, and the frost can decimate much of your vineyard. If you lose 50% of your crop or more in a given year, that certainly makes it more difficult to turn a profit. That risk tends to lead to higher prices for vinifera wines, which can make them less of a value. Hybrid grapes, which can be much hardier, generally grow better in this climate yet some feel they don't possess a sufficient cachet, and won't put Quebec on a competitive level with the rest of the world. There is some validity to that argument as a significant number of wine lovers seem to have a prejudice against wines made from hybrid grapes. They shouldn't possess that prejudice, but we cannot deny it exists. If vinifera grapes don't grow well though, what should the wineries do?

This division of opinion as to what grapes should be planted in Quebec seems to extend to a greater division over many other issues. There are two winery organizations in Quebec, the older Association des Vignerons du Québec (AVQ) and the newer Vignerons Indépendants du Québec (VIQ). For a small wine industry, to have two such organizations working at cross purposes, may not be beneficial. At TasteCamp, we heard little about these organizations though we did hear about some of the differing opinions of winery owners and winemakers. These organizations should work together to benefit the entire Quebec wine industry, helping its growth.

Based on my own tasting experiences with the wines of Quebec, I felt that, in general, the white wines and ice wines were of better quality than the red wines. Some of my favorite wines were also made from hybrid grapes. None of that means they cannot make good red wines in Quebec, but I think it is going to take more time and experimentation to increase the overall quality of the reds. Due to the risks of the weather, price is going to be an important factor, meaning you might not find many value vinifera wines. One finds much passion in the winery owners and wine makers, pioneers who are working hard to produce wine in a less than ideal climate. Improvements in the Quebec wine industry will continue to come.

Located along the St. Lawrence River, our first winery visit was toVignobles Carone, owned by Anthony Carone. The winery was established in 1997 by Anthony's father and originally grew only hybrid grapes, as that was all that was available. However, his father wanted to experiment with vinifera and starting bringing home grape vines from Italy in his luggage. Would you have ever imagined that anyone in Quebec would grow Italian grapes like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo?

Anthony, pictured above, has been following in his father's footsteps. The vineyard consists of 8 hectares which are broken into 3 lots and possesses 25-30K vines. Though they still grow some hybrids, such as Marquette and Frotenac, they have been slowly, taking baby steps, replacing their hybrids with vinifera such as Pinot Noir,Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese. In addition, Anthony has chosen to only produce red wines and his annual production is roughly 25K liters.

On his blog, Anthony has stated the reason for why he embraces vinifera. "I have always been an advocate that nature will always do a better job of creating new grape varieties than man. Hybrids are a creation of man and while useful in allowing the range of viticulture to be extended where natural varieties might not succeed, by definition this does not produce great wine." He also believes that "Hybrids are like Gerber’s baby food. It was fine for a while, but now the consumer wants and expects more."

Anthony keeps thevinifera vines low to the ground to provide them better protection from frost damage though that is not always successful. This year, they were devastated by a terrible black frost, which was worse than anything else they had sustained previously. There were two weeks of extremely hot temperatures which caused everything to bud early. Then the black frost arrived and Anthony lost 50-75% of his grapes, including about 75% of his Pinot Noir. How do you continue after such a catastrophic loss? For Anthony though, there was no question. He would continue, no matter how deep the loss. He has chosen a formidable challenge and his passion drives him despite adversity.

About 75%-85% of the vineyard operations, like pruning, are mechanized and Anthony owns a number of specialized tractors.

Anthony owns a two ton hydraulic press, which was originally designed for ice wine though works with red wines too. He uses both French and American oak barrels, usually a year old, and rotates them every three years. To produce white wines, Anthony would need different equipment, and he thinks reds are more interesting anyways.

I tasted four of the Carone wines and overall they were good, though I didn't find any of them especially impressive. They show promise and it would be interesting to see how the winery develops during the next five years.

The NV Rosso Classico ($18), a blend of Frontenac, Landot Noir, Landal Noir, and Cabernet Severyni, spent about three months in new American oak and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. This wine accounts for about 20% of their production and was a creation of Anthony's father. It was fruity and pleasant, though a bit simple, with a nice element of herbs and spice on the finish and hints of oak. An easy drinking wine, this would be a good burger or pizza wine.

The 2011 Venice Cabernet Severyni ($24), a blend of 90% Cabernet Severyni and 10% Frontenac, has an alcohol content of 13%. Anthony's father planted the Severyni because it reminded him of Barolo. This wine had some volatile acidity and tasted a bit unripe, a strong green aspect to it. The aroma seemed a bit chemical though the taste had more raspberry and spice notes. I would like to have tasted some other vintages to see if this wine was more an exception or not.

The 2010 Venice Pinot Noir ($35), a blend off 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Landot Noir, has an alcohol content of 12.5%. Anthony was the first producer of Pinot Noir in Quebec and loves growing the grape because it is such a challenge. In 2010, he produced about 2500 bottles. He blends in other grapes for more complexity, a greater bouquet and greater fruitiness. I found thus wine to have an interesting nose of herbs and spice, and on the palate those remained prominent, though nice red fruit tastes also came though. It was smooth and pleasant, with moderate complexity. If this were less expensive, I would more strongly recommend it.

The 2009 Double Barrel ($55), a blend of 92% Cabernet Severyni and 8% Sangiovese, has an alcohol content of 14.5% and only 1000 bottles were produced. A special yeast, imported from Italy, is used in fermentation. Its oak aging is more unique in that the wine is first aged in American oak for a year and then it is transferred into French oak for another four months. This wine avoided the negative aspects of the Venice Severyni, and presented lots of compelling fruit flavors up front with spicy edge on its finish. Its tannins were mild and the finish was relatively long and pleasant. This was a good wine, but I think it is pricey for what it delivers compared to similarly priced wines.

To Be Continued...

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Rant: Wine Blog Awards, Sexism & More Questions

Date: Mon, Jun 17, 2013 Wine Tasting

Last week's Rant created a stir of discussion, in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and in emails. I questioned the reason why so few women have been named as finalists in the Wine Blog Award(WBA) category of Best Overall Wine Blog. I hoped to start a discussion and it happened, especially sparked by the hot button issue of sexism, despite the fact that was only one element of many in my post. That topic raised emotions as well as defensiveness, and it overwhelmed the rest of the discussion.

In my prior post, my only conclusion was that there was a disparity between the number of female wine bloggers and the number of women, on their own, who were finalists in the Best Overall Wine Blog. With female wine bloggers constituting roughly 38% of all wine bloggers, yet only 1 woman, on their own, being a finalist in that category, that raised a red flag to me.

As an example, let us consider that the widget field has an annual contest for the Best CEO. Women constitute 38% of the CEOs in this field yet in the last seven years, only 1 of those female CEOs has even been a finalist for this award. You can be sure that people are going to questions the reason for the disparity. And that is all I did, question the reasons for the disparity I noticed in the top WBA category.

Women tended to accept that sexism was involved in the disparity, as well as elsewhere in the wine industry. They mentioned some of the contributions of female wine bloggers and also noted that such sexism extends far beyond wine blogging. To them, it was more a given that required no further evidence. Sexism certainly still exists in many aspects of our society so it would not be surprising to find it in the wine industry. For example, I have been following the huge discussion in the science fiction publishing field over sexism. That doesn't necessarily mean sexism exists in the Wine Blog Awards, but it does mean it is a possibility.

That raises another important issue, even if sexism is not involved in this WBA category, or the awards in general, women still perceive sexism there. Perception is an important issue. Why do many women have this perception about the awards? Is it based on valid grounds? How do you change that perception if it is not accurate? Do you need more women involved in the operation and judging of the awards? Trying to combat that perception should be considered by the WBA organizers.

On the other hand, men were more apt to assume sexism was not involved in the disparity. In fact, a number of them got very defensive about the issue. They wanted concrete evidence before they would accept that sexism existed. Some even seemed disturbed that the question was asked without providing definitive proof. The issue of sexism also clouded the other questions and issues I posed. Many men got stuck on the issue of sexism and looked no further. That might have been partially due to the comments by the women that sexism did exist.

To many men, they saw no problems with the Best Overall Wine Blog category, seeing it as a meritocracy, that the best blogs were nominated. However, that raises another important issue, which underlies such assumptions yet which few men wanted to speak aloud. In essence, the assumption is that best male wine blogs generally have been of higher quality than the best female wine blogs. Maybe that is the case, and it is a question I asked in my original post, though no one wanted to directly address that question.

Some men also offered that the disparity was because there are more male bloggers but there still are 38% female bloggers, and only a tiny fraction of that percentage is represented in the finalists. If it was a meritocracy and the quality of the best female wine blogs was high, then they should be represented far more as finalists, even if there are overall less female wine bloggers than men. If people truly believe that the best male wine blogs generally have been of higher quality than the best female wine blogs, then just come forward and admit it.

I was asked to present the names of female bloggers who were "snubbed." I presented four names of female wine bloggers who I felt were deserving of being finalists in the category. I am sure there are others as well, but I only provided four. These were generally women who also had been nominated in other WBA categories, but not for Best Overall Wine Blog. Though some agreed that a couple of my choices were deserving of being a finalist, they still would not accept that those women had been intentionally "snubbed." I never claimed they were intentionally snubbed, merely that they were deserving of being a finalist yet had not garnered that honor. It could be due to more subconscious biases. No one provided a valid reason why these women were omitted.

A few other possibilities were raised. It was alleged that the WBA are merely a popularity contest, and have little to do with who is actually the best. If true, that would tend to show that male blogs are more popular than female blogs. Why is that the case? Is it a matter of quality or sexism/bias? Do the Wine Blog Awards actually present the "best" wine blogs, or is there something else involved?

Paul Mabray, who has been a judge every year of the WBA, stated that only 30% of the judges this year were women, and "which I am sure can be improved." It is interesting though that in 2012, 9 of the judges were women and 8 were men. Even when women were the majority, a female wine blogger was not chosen as a finalist. Definitely a complicated issue.

We all know sexism still exists in our society. We also know that there is a large disparity in the number of women who have been finalists in the Best Overall Wine Blog category. In addition, there are some women worthy of being finalists who have not been awarded that honor. Finally, there are numerous women who believe sexism is involved in these awards. Each of these elements is a building brick in a wall of evidence. Combined, these elements are still insufficient to prove anything, but they provide enough to warrant a further examination.

Such an examination should start with a deeper investigation of the statistics of nominations, finalist selections and voting for the 7 years of the Awards. Though that of course depends on whether such records were kept and still exist by the WBA organizers. If those records do not exist, it will be far harder to examine this situation. However, at the very least, if nothing is done, if no examination is conducted, the perception of sexism will continue to taint the WBA.

It must be remembered too that the examination I think is warranted should not concentrate solely on sexism. The goal should be to determine the reason for the disparity, whatever that reason may be. It is a topic which garnered much passion and discussion, from both men and women. Let us hope that passion and discussion does not die off.

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Authors, Alcohol & Accolades: Volume 8

Date: Fri, Jun 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness.”
--Oscar Wilde

I am back with another volume in my fun series:Authors, Alcohol & Accolades. Please checkVolume 1for links to all of the prior installments. Each installmentshowcases some of my favorite authors, and I have returned to highlight a few more, and to delve into their drinks of choice. I have found this to provide a fascinating glimpse into the life of the writers I enjoy and hope you like the interviews as well. You can look forward to further volumes in this series too, and any authors who are interested in participating in future volumes can contact me.

Two of these authors enjoy peaty Scotch while the third is more drawn to peach flavored beer. Peat vs peaches? Which side do you fall upon? I'll go with the peat.

Chris Holm (Twitter:@ChrisfHolm)
It is especially cool to find a local New England author who I enjoy, and Chris Holm is currently a resident of Maine. He has written numerous short stories, appearing in magazines such as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He has also been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. My first encounter with his work though was his first novel,Dead Harvest, the first in his Collector series. This series centers on a protagonist who collects the souls of the damned for hell. It has a pulpish/noir feel with strong mystery elements and an intriguing supernatural mythology involving a battle between heaven and hell. It is well written, engaging and the action never lets up. The sequel, The Wrong Goodbye, was equally as good, elevating the scope of the story to a more epic level and I eagerly await the next book, The Big Reap, which is due out on July 30.I have also enjoyedDead Letters: Stories of Murder & Mayhem,a collection of9 short stories, ranging from horror to mystery. One of my favorites wasAction, a twisty story about a bank robbery.

"When it comes to food and drink, I'm an unrepentant hedonist, so I could take up several column-inches discussing my favorite libations. In the interest of entertaining someone other than myself, though, I'll endeavor to be brief. As much as I enjoy a well-crafted cocktail or a lovingly brewed pint, my two great liquid loves are wine and whiskey. Both are infinite in their variety and complexity. Both require time and skill to produce, and tell the story of the land and hand from which they came.

"For wine, I tend to prefer bold, ass-kicking reds; there's nothing finer in my mind than a Paso Robles Zin. Although lately, my wife and I have been on a major Spanish kick. They're putting out some marvelous wines at prices even an author can afford. My whiskey tastes vary based on season. Bourbon or American grain whiskey on a summer's day. Scotch once the leaves turn. For the former, I'm nuts about Blanton's or Michter's. For the latter, I'm fond of Macallan when I'm craving something clean and light, but the smoky peat bog that is Laphroaig is my go-to more often than not. And whatever you're pouring, I'll take mine neat, thank you very much."

Zachary Jernigan (Twitter:@JerniganZachary)
From Arizona, Zachary seems to be a twisted (in a good way) and funny person who I hope to soon meet at Readercon next month. He has written over a dozen short stories that have appeared in places, such as Asimov's Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and Escape Pod. I first encountered his debut novel, No Return, which was just published in March.It is a compelling fusion of science fiction and fantasy, bringing to mind the works of Zelazny. It is an epic and inventive novel about astronauts, wizards, gods, arena battles, ancient secrets, and so much more. It is not easy to describe but all of the elements come together in an exciting melange and is an impressive debut. There may be a sequel in the future, but I will look forward to whatever Zachary writes next. If you want something different, seek out No Return.

"I grew up in a Mormon family, and thus wasn't exposed too much to the broader alcohol-consuming culture until my early twenties. When I first started drinking alcoholic beverages, I... well, I suffered them for the effect. The first alcoholic beverage I actually enjoyed was a Lindemans peach lambic (Pecheresse), which continues to be my favorite alcoholic treat.

"Thanks to the increasing popularity of the labor-intensive Belgian beer -- and Lindemans in particular -- my peach lambic can be found in bars all over the US and other countries. I don't always drink it, as I'm not always craving something so sweet, but when I have an occasion to be particularly jubilant it's what I reach for. A great deal of the reason for this is nostalgia, for in truth there are better lambics to be had, but this is the appeal: I savor it, and travel back a bit in time to when I first realized that alcohol could be savored."

Wesley Chu (Twitter:@Wes_Chu)
Originally from Taiwan, and now living in Chicago, Wesley is a former stunt man and a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He is also a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, one of my favorite magazines when I was growing up and which is still a very cool magazine. His debut novel,The Lives of Tao, was just published in April. It is a fun science fiction tale with an espionage bent and a conspiratorial foundation. Warring aliens, stranded on Earth, take control of humans and use them to fight their battles, as well as to try to discover a way to leave Earth. Great characters, lots of action, humor and intriguing historical tidbits elevate this work and make it an excellent debut. It is simply a very fun read.

"When it comes to alcohol, I'm not a tourist. I figure out what I like and stick with it until something else steals the crown. Basically, my drinking preference is one big alcohol Hunger Games. As I get older, I've not only become a scotch drinker, I've become one with very particular tastes. Basically, I love my peaty single malts from Islay. It's almost impossible for a scotch to be too peaty in my book, though the folks at Bruichladdich Port Charlotte certainly have tried. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll drink stuff from Speyside or Highland if I have no other choice, but I’ll be damned if I drink any of the Glens.

"My favorite single malt is an Ardbeg Uigaedail. You drink this puppy neat like God intended. Maybe it’ll feel a little oily as it coat yours tongue. Maybe it’ll remind you of leather and coal. In any case, once you take a sip, you’ll taste the smoke, dirt, sea salt, and just a tinge of spice. The texture of it is almost chewy, and damn that fantastic finish is long. It’s easily one of the more complex single malts I’ve tried (that I can afford). However, who knows?"

Addendum: Wesley has informed me that he now has a new favorite, the Ardbeg Corryvreckan. "I prefer the Corryvreckan a little bit more. Probably not worth the extra cost but a nicer burn."

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jun 13, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Boston Chops, the new steakhouse in theSouth End, is debuting a new Brunch menu, held every Saturday and Sunday, from 10am-3pm, including some elements of their Rarely Celebrated beef cuts. Their food menu is divided into the following sections: Raw, their full raw menu is available for brunch; Tossed, with three salads not available on the dinner menu, including Lobster Cobb Salad (grilled avocado along with the lettuces, ½ a lobster, sharp cheddar, egg and grilled bacon, $24). The Unnamed section of the menu features items such as Huevos Rancheros, with machaca beef cheeks, black beans, grilled avocado, and a tortilla ($14); Brisket Shank & Grilled Tongue "Hash" with a 2hr egg, frites, cheese curds and gravy ($14); Giannone Fried Chicken with biscuits, sawmill gravy, sausage, and pepper jelly ($19), Brunch Frites, bottomless frites with a selection of either grilled steaks (a choice of three 8oz cuts) or sandwiches (corned brisket & tongue reuben $14, burger with house bacon, BC sauce & cheddar, $15, croque monsieur $15) served with the choice of select sauces from the dinner menu. For Sides, try the House Made Pecan Sticky Buns ($7) or House Made Donuts with Chocolate Sauce ($7).

On the beverage menu, you will find Prime Bloodies, culinary infused Bloody Marys, a collaboration between the kitchen and the bar. All bloodies can be “cooked” to order: Rare – bold house made Bloody Mary mix, Medium– add spice to your life, Well Done– when you want to play with fire. Selections include: Pickled Mary with asparagus, green beans, frog balls, and cornichons – all pickled in house ($10); Smoked Kebab with speared bell peppers, pearl onions, and smoked beef tongue ($10); Charred Shishito with pepper jack cheese, grilled shishito pepper, and lemon ($10); Steak & Cheese with veal stock and blue cheese stuffed olives ($10).

2) The Beehive Restaurant's latestcelebration will be “La Fête nationale du Québec” or “Quebec National Day” featuring an evening of food and live performance from award-winning singer-songwriters Isabelle Cyr and Yves Marchand on Monday, June 24, from 5pm-1am. In partnership with the Quebec Delegation of Boston and Svedka Vodka, The Beehive will be decked out representing our friends to the north in proper fashion as Cyr and Marchand perform original, well-known and traditional pieces from their Quebec and Acadian repertoire from 8pm-12am.

Highlighting the true friendliness of Quebec and its people, dinner will kick off at 5pm with a La Fête nationale du Québec specials menu in addition to The Beehive’s regular fare. The evening’s food will feature traditional Quebec fare such as: Smoked Trout Cakes with Horseradish & Cucumber Salad ($12), Foie Gras & Maple Crème Brulée ($14), Brome Lake Duck Breast Au Poivre with Sweet Potato Fries ($27), Québec style Lobster Spaghetti ($32), and Bleu berries pie with Maple syrup ice cream ($8).

In the mood for some Quebec cocktails why not try some of The Beehive’s fun featured cocktails for the evening such as the "Caribou de Ville” ($11.50) blending together red wine, American Honey Wild Turkey splashes of maple syrup, served on the rocks with a cinnamon stick, or the "Quebec Urbain" ($11.50) made with Svedka Clementie, blood orange juice and muddled fresh mint served on the rocks.

There is no cover charge for this event, but dinner reservations are highly recommended, so please call 617-423-0069.

3) The Grafton Inn introduces the first annual Grafton Food Festival, a celebration of local food and farms in Vermont, to be held June 22 and 23, from 10am-4pm, in Grafton Village. The event is presented by Northeast Flavor, a food and wine magazine focused on New England culinary pursuits. Celebrate Vermont’s “taste of place” and sample local food from more than 20 local food providers including Grafton Village Cheese, Side Hill Farm, Vermont Creamery, Blake Hill Preserves, Wright Orchard Sugarworks, Vermont Smoke and Cure and more. Additional food vendors, a bar and local farms will be set-up for purchased items, as well.

Guests will have the chance to enjoy cooking demonstrations each day featuring nationally recognized chefs including Susan Tuveson and Jean Kerr of Northeast Flavor, Jason Tostrup of the Inn at Weathersfield, Martin Schuelke of the Grafton Inn and more. One lucky attendee at each of the five cooking demonstrations will win the prepared food and sit at a special Chef’s Table at the event to enjoy it.

Cost is $10 per person; children under 12 are free. The Grafton Inn will offer specially priced farm-to-table dinner menus at the Old Tavern Restaurant on Friday and Saturday evening. Friday night is a Vegetarian themed tasting dinner (with a meat option) and Saturday night is a local Pasture to Plate tasting dinner. Reservations are necessary for each dinner. Additional activities in Grafton this weekend include guided wine and cheese hikes at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ($25 per person) and live music at Phelps Barn Pub on Friday and Saturday night at 8 pm (no cover). The Grafton Inn is offering a special Grafton Food Festival lodging package that includes two night’s lodging at the historic inn, breakfast each morning, entry to the Food Festival and a special Food Festival welcome bag for just $375.

For the complete event agenda and to book lodging or dinner reservations, visit GraftonFoodFestival.com or call 800-843-1801.

4) Beginning Sunday, June 9, TICO hosts a monthly Summer Patio Party with food, drinks, music, games, giveaways and fun. On Sunday, July 14, from 2pm-8pm, there will be an All-American BBQ. Technically it’s Bastille Day, but don’t tell that to TICO – they’re still celebrating the Fourth well into July with classic BBQ fare like burgers, dogs, ribs, cornbread; beer samples, giveaways from Patron Tequila, and music from DJ Jaz. On Sunday, August 11, from 2pm-8pm, there will be a Patio Pig Roast. Closing out the summer with another of TICO’s winning pig roasts, the patio will be rocking once more with all-you-can-eat porchetta from the rig roast, sides, beer samples, giveaways from Patron Tequila, and music from DJ Jaz.

COST: $20/person at the door includes all-you-can-eat food, beer & spirit tastings, giveaways and live music from DJ Jaz of the Boston Celtics

5) Bistro 5, a phenomenal Italian restaurant in Medford, is celebrating strawberries and local agriculture from June 13-June 29, with a special 5 Course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings. 50% of their dessert sales will benefit the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Market.

The Menu is:
Strawberry Thyme Chilled Soup (Port Wine Syrup, Mascarpone and Prosciutto)
2011 Aragosta, Vermentino, Sardegna
Scungilli (Thinly Sliced Conch, Green Strawberries and Spring Onion Vinaigrette)
2011 Loosen Bros "Dr .L" Riesling, Germany
Goat Cheese Ravioli (Strawberry Confetti and Shishito Peppers)
2009 Montaribaldi, Dolcetto d'Alba
Duck Milanese (Strawberry and Window Box Shiso, Rhubarb and Cherry Compote)
2009 Zenato, Valpolicella, Ripasso
Strawberry Shortcake (White Chocolate Mousse and Lemon Cloud)
2011 Elio Perrone 'Bigarò', Brachetto d'Aqui

Cost: Tasting Menu--Five Course: $68 per person or Three Course: $49 per person
Wine Pairing--Five Course: $25 per person or Three Course: $20 per person

For reservations, please call (781) 395-7464

6)Chef-owner Chris Douglass of Ashmont Grill is hosting four special dining events this summer. Prices and menus vary.

Monday, June 24 @ 6 PM
Joel Gott Wine Dinner: Cost $65 inclusive for 5 courses of seasonal cuisine, served communally on the patio and paired with 5 wines from this white-hot winery. Gott’'s local representative will speak. Seating for this event limited to the first 25 people who call to reserve a space.
Sunday, July 14 @ 6 PM
Pig Roast: This exciting outdoor pork-a-thon features a traditional pig roast with all the fixin’s plus selected beers and wines. Cost is $60 inclusive.
Sunday, August 11 @ 6 PM
Lobstah Bake: New Englanders know that this feast always includes our favorite crustacean, plus local corn, potatoes, clams, hot dogs, watermelon and more. Act fast as seating is limited @ $60 inclusive.
Sunday, September 8 @ 6 PM
Dueling Chefs of Dorchester: This exciting competition pits the kitchen teams of Ashmont Grill and Tavolo (our sister restaurant) against each other in an end-of-the-season patio party chock full of local farm fare, meats, fish, psta, homey desserts, wine and beer. $75 inclusive.

Rain dates for all four events will be posted online.

7) Joseph Cassinelli, Chef & Owner of the Alpine Restaurant Group, announced three new hires to his restaurant team. The Alpine Restaurant Group currently owns and operates Posto, Posto Mobile and The Painted Burro in Davis Square. These are some of my favorite restaurants. Alpine Restaurant Group has named two inaugural positions including: Alec Riveros as Director of Operations and Chef Robert Jean as the Culinary Director of the group. Additionally, Chef Wyatt Maguire joins as Executive Chef of Posto.

In 2010, Posto was one of the first restaurants to debut in the resurgence of the Davis Square restaurant scene,” says Joseph Cassinelli. “It is New England’s first Verace Pizza Napoletana certified pizzeria, but over time it has evolved to be much more. Under the direction of our new team, guests can now enjoy a dining experience that highlights the simplicity of Italian cuisine augmented with the New England bounty. An extensive antipasti program of small plates, handmade pasta dishes, and local grilled meats and fish are labors of love that we are all excited to share.”

The new menu at Posto showcases the simplicity of Italian cooking with a focus on artisan ingredients. The menu includes a new section of Stouzi (white bean puree with cauliflower giardinerre), Ensalate (string bean salad with fava, pea, sunchoke, Gaeta olive and pistachio pesto) and Primi (ciabatta with rosemary roasted peach, foie gras & lavender sea salt). The Pasta section features an expanded selection of hand made dishes such as a rabbit tagliatelle with peas, carrots, toasted garlic, farm egg & tarragon. The Pizza selections offer both rosso and bianco selections and continue to be made in the true Neapolitan spirit with “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and house made fior di latte mozzarella. A new section of Carne e Pesce showcases wood roasted meat as well as an extended selection of seafood dishes such as whole roasted sea bass “cartocchio” with spicy pomodoro, fennel & saffron sea salt and brook trout with kale, chiogga beet, sweet onion & bone marrow “almondine.”

The beverage program at Posto has also been revamped. The cocktail list now includes a selection of Aperitivo such as Aperol Spritz which is available by the pitcher, Cocktails made with house infused spirits, house made limoncello and simple syrups, in addition to selections of local and international draft and bottled beer. The wine list features sparkling, rose, white and red wine selections available both by the bottle and by the glass. Posto’s beverage program also features an imported Italian wine preservation system called Enzo. Enzo’s extensive wine by the glass program allows guests to enjoy rare selections of reserve wines by the glass. I look forward to checking out all the changes.

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Taste Camp: Apple, Strawberry & Honey Wines In Quebec

Date: Tue, Jun 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

Wine doesn't have to be made from grapes to be delicious or interesting. During TasteCamp, our three-day exploration of the wines, beer and food ofQuebec, this was made evident by numerous compelling wines made from apples, strawberries and honey. Some of these fruit wines were even better than some of grape wines we tasted. Quebec would be well served by continuing to showcase these delicious and intriguing fruit wines.

You may be familiar with Ice Wine, from Germany, Canada or elsewhere, but Quebec is the birthplace of Cidre de Glace, apple ice cider which is sometimes known as apple ice wine. Ice cider can be produced into two different ways, cryoextraction and cryoconcentration. In short, cryoextraction means that the apples are allowed to freeze on the tree before they are harvested, pressed and fermented. With cryoconcentration, the apples are harvested and pressed, and then the juice is allowed to freeze. What difference does this make for the resulting ice cider? In general, cryoextraction will produce more fresh fruit flavors, increased acidity and less oxidation. It is more expensive to produce though so many ice cider producers primarily use cryoconcentration.

Ice cider is growing in popularity in Quebec, and elsewhere, andFarm Credit Canada states that it accounts for 70% of sales in the Société Des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) local product section. About 1 million bottles are produced in Quebec each year, worth an estimated $20 million in retail. About 1/3 of the production is exported to Europe and Asia. Some ice cider is imported into the U.S. and you might know Neige, an ice cider produced by La Face Cachée de la Pomme, which I have I previously reviewed.

During our explorations, we visited with Christian Barthomeuf(pictured above), the owner of Clos Saragnat,as well as the creator of ice cider.He wasalso one of the first men in Quebec to plant grape vines, back in 1979. Around 1989, he decided to produce something different, and created ice cider, though in the 1980s, no one wanted to hear about cider. The wine regulating bodies refused to recognize the designation of "ice cider" until ten years later. It was difficult during those ten years to market and sell ice cider, which had to be known by other common terms, which were not actually accurate terms.

Christian has consulted with other wineries and cideries, including what would eventually become La Face Cachée de la Pomme. In 2002, Christian and Louise Dupuis founded Clos Saragnat, which occupies about 35 hectares. Their apples are organically grown and they grow some other fruits as well. They produce their ice cider through cryoextraction, though it would cost them one-third less to use just frozen juice. An assemblage of apple types are used, and Christian wants to work with the fruit and nothing else, including wood. The cidery produces less than 10,000 bottles a year, largely dependent on the results of each vintage. It is a small, artisan operation and Christian's passion for ice cider was more than evident.

Currently, Christian is advocating for new regulations on ice cider, to make producers have to place on the label the method of production. He believes people should know whether the ice cider they are drinking derives from frozen apples or frozen juice. As there are clear differences in the resulting product from each different method, as well as differences in price, I agree with Christian that it would benefit consumers for this information to be required to be on the label.

We tasted two of their ice ciders, the 2009 Avalanche and the 2009 L'original, both sold in 200ml bottles. Both were excellent, complex, liquid ambrosia that seduced the palate. The Avalanche was less sweet, though still with honey notes, and possessed some tartness, good acidity and delicate floral notes. The L'original was sweeter, with a thicker and richer mouth feel, but still good acidity. It also had more dried fruit flavors and far fewer floral notes. Which is better? It all depends on your mood at the moment.

Christian's influence can be felt atLa Face Cachée de la Pomme, which means the "hidden side of the apple." They have been producing ice cider since 1994 but only commercially since 1998. They prefer to refer to their produce as "apple ice wine" so they can avoid any confusion with other ciders. Their orchards extend over 50 hectares and they grow about 30 different types of apples, though the majority as McIntosh and Spartan. The McIntosh is the essence of their Neige Premiere and Bubbly.

They currently have two types of apple tree plantings, the classic and contemporary. The classic method generates less apples per acre and it takes much longer, 10-15 years, for the tree to mature properly. The contemporary method, which was inspired by the Netherlands, takes only about 5 years to mature properly, and an acre can produce significantly more apples. As all of their harvesting is done by hand, this method is also easier to harvest. The cidery is moving toward all contemporary plantings.

Unlike Christian,La Face Cachéeprimarily produces apple ice wine through cryoconcentration, about 90% of their production. They use cryoextraction for their Neige Winter Harvest. They export their apple ice wines to 20-25 countries, and California is their largest U.S. market, though they are also available in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, only two of their products, the Neige Premiere and Bubbly, are currently available in the U.S. It is interesting that because of U.S. law, the cidery is not permitted to place the vintage on their labels.

I was enamored with the 2011Bulle Rose Sparkling Cider ($18), a blend of the Geneva and Honeygold apples. It acquires its pink color from the red/pink flesh of the Geneva apple, rather than from the skin. It only has a 6% alcohol content and is made in limited quantities once a year. The delicious sparkling cider was mostly dry, fresh, crisp and bursting with apple and and red berry flavors. An excellent summer drink, and very food friendly as well.

The Neige Bubble ($15) is made from 100% McIntosh apples and I previously tasted and enjoyed at the Boston Wine Expo. Another fun sparkling cider, perfect for summer entertaining, or just relaxing. I am also a fan of the Neige Premiere, their basic apple ice wine.

The 2009 Neige Sur Lie ($26) is intriguing, having been left on the lees for about a year, and bottled unfiltered and without any sulfur. It has a darker amber color, with apple notes but deeper flavors of caramel, nuts and almost butterscotch. It is sweet, though with balanced acidity, and possesses a lengthy and complex finish. The Neige Winter Harvest is very thick, rich and sweet with a melange of complex tastes, including caramel, apricot, lychee and dried fruits. An amazing, well balanced elixir that delights the palate and mind.

Val Caudalies Vignobleproduce ciders and wines, and their orchard are planted with about a dozen different varieties, with five usually primarily in their ciders. Their 2010 Cider Liquoreaux, made fromCortland, MacIntosh, Empire, Liberty and Spartan apples, is smooth, tart and tasty while the 2011 Apple Ice Cider Reserve, made from the same apples, is sweeter with a silky mouth feel and plenty of complexity. Both were fine examples of what Quebec is doing well.

ThoughUnion Libre Cidre & Vinproducesice ciders and wines, they are also known for another unique product, Le Cidre de Feu, fire cider. Their Ice Cider ($24), made from an assemblage of Cortland, Empire, Spartan, & McIntosh apples, is made from cryoconcentration. It has a mild sweetness and a delicious crisp apple taste with elements of honey. A fine product.

Their Fire Cider ($26) is produced by fermenting a must, which has been heated and reduced by evaporation. This process takes several months of fermentation and then it is aged in oak barrels. It has an alcohol content of 16% and is sweeter, with more caramel, maple, and nutty elements complementing the apple foundation. Their 2004 Reserve Fire Cider ($28) is aged in Jack Daniel's whiskey barrels. It is similar to the basic Fire Cider, but with deeper flavors and the added element of a whiskey aroma and taste.

Strawberries! Ferme Guy Rivest produces two tasty wines made with strawberries including La Donzelle and Mistelle de Fraises. La Donzelle is a fortified wine made with strawberries and raspberries, and it is not too sweet, with nice acidity, and a smooth, pleasant flavor. It would made for a nice dessert wine. The Mistelle de fraises is a port style wine, also made with strawberries, and it is sweeter, with tasty notes of vanilla, spice and strawberry. Another good choice for a dessert wine.

As an interesting aside, they also produce Strawberry Pearls, which uses molecular gastronomy techniques to create little red pearls, resembling fish roe, but which burst in your mouth with a strong strawberry flavor.

Finally, at one of the large tastings, one of the most interesting wines was the Les Ruchers du Troubador Sparkling Honey Wine($25), a vin de miel mousseux. It is organic, unfiltered and aged for three years prior to release. It is semi-sweet, with honey and floral notes, and an appealing earthiness elevating its complexity.

People sometimes get overly pretentious, feeling that only wine made from vitis vinifera grapes is worthy of attention. They show disdain for hybrid grapes, and out right hate for wines made from other fruits. They are wrong in their attitude and approach. Good wine can come from many different avenues and my experiences in Quebec have shown me high quality and delicious wines made from apples, strawberries and honey. I know others who visited Quebec who felt the same. That should be your main takeaway from this post, that you should be willing to explore wines beyond vitis vinifera. You never know what treasures you might discover.

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Rant: Best Overall Wine Blog? It's A Man's World

Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

Yes, plenty of women blog and write about wine.

Back in March 2008, I began to compile a list of women wine bloggers, and have continually updated it, constantly adding new women to the list. There are now over 100 women on that list. In the 2013 State of Wine Blogging Report, the survey found that about 38% of bloggers are female. It seems likely that the number of female wine bloggers will continue to grow.

This past weekend, the Wine Bloggers' Conference was held in Penticton, British Colombia, and the winners of the 7th Annual Wine Blog Awards were announced. Out of the nine different categories, most people would probably agree that the most prestigious is the Best Overall Wine Blog, won this year by David White of Terroirist. You can read the Criteria for the selection of the Best Overall Wine Blog.

It has struck me as curious that in the last seven years, no female blogger has won the award for Best Overall Wine Blog. Yes, they have won in some of the other categories, but the most prestigious award has so far been elusive. It goes beyond the fact that they have not won this award. During these past seven years, there have been 31 finalists in this category and only a single woman, for her own blog, has ever been a finalist. The sole female finalist, back in 2008, was Dr. Debs ofGood Wine Under $20.A fewcollaborative blogs, with male and female contributors, have been finalists too. However, during the last three years, all of the fifteen finalists have been male bloggers.

Why is this so? Why are almost no women becoming finalists in this category, especially despite the fact that they have won awards in some of the other categories? I don't have any answers to these questions. I don't know the reason for these omissions. However, I believe it is an area that needs exploration and analysis. With the large number of female bloggers out there, why is it so hard for them to become a finalist in this category?

Some people will speculate that sexism is involved, but is that the case? Of the judges for 2013, 8 were men and 4 were women. They were the ones who selected the finalists. One might speculate that with more women on the judges panel, then female bloggers might have a better chance of becoming a finalist. But in 2012, 9 of the judges were women and 8 were men. Even when women were the majority, no female blogger ended up as a finalist in this category.

Are female wine bloggers just not as talented as male wine bloggers? I am positive most people would fervently dispute that point. And I would agree. So if there are these highly talented female wine bloggers out there, why haven't they been recognized in the Best Overall Wine Blog category?

So many unanswered questions and lots of speculation. What are your thoughts on these matters? Why is the Best Overall Wine Blog category a "man's world?"

Addendum (6/10/13): It has been pointed out to me that though David White is listed on the Wine Blog Awards as the "Author" of Terroirist, it is actually a collaborative effort of eight individuals, two of which are women.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Jun 6, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1)Join Chef Jason Bond and the team at Bondiron Tuesday, June 18, at 6:30pm, as they welcome special guest William Easton from the Terre Rouge Winery in California for a fun and informative evening of wine tasting and discussion. A special four-course dinner prepared by Chef Bond will be served to highlight and complement the selected wines. Chef Bond’s creative menu of local, sustainable, and fresh ingredients will be paired with 4 to 5 different wines starting off with a dry rosé, the Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador, offering a delicious creamy nuance and crisp bite perfect for an early summer evening. Also on the list is the 2010 Amador Zinfandel, a wine with complex spicy aromas and a nice creamy texture derived from the 10 months in French oak barrels. Also being poured is the 2009 Syrah, Les Côtes de l’Ouest, which has “a clean purity of Syrah fruit that is reminiscent of many St. Joseph’s and other Northern Rhônes.”

Winemaker Bill Easton, who has spent the last 32 years focusing on producing a limited amount of high-quality wine from Rhône varietals to old-vine Zinfandels and other one-of-a-kind varieties, will be in attendance to discuss the history, culture, and qualities of his selections.

Reservations are required. Please call 617-661-0009
Cost: $125 per person

2) It’s game time at the newly revamped Faneuil Hall hotspot, The Place. Beginning Wednesday, The Place will now be home to a weekly Game Night competition where the after-work faithful will engage in trivia and video game battles. During trivia, The Place will dish out half-priced appetizers including: Chicken Tenders (made fresh in-house and breaded to order, served plain or tossed in your choice of buffalo, BBQ, spicy BBQ, teriyaki glaze, or Cajun rub – regularly $8); Loaded Nachos (crispy tortilla chips loaded with cheddar, diced tomatoes, diced red onions and jalapeños served with sour cream and salsa – regularly $8); and, Philly Steak Rolls (crispy steak rolls served over mixed greens with our housemade spicy ketchup – regularly $8).

Challenge your friends and colleagues to PS3 games on LCD flat-screens including FIFA 13, Call of Duty and NHL 13. If you’re more the scholar, there is team trivia. To the victors? Prizes including $25 gift certificates to The Place, VIP passes and t-shirts.

WHEN: Trivia competition: Wednesdays from 6pm – 8pm
Video game competition: Wednesdays from 6pm – 11pm
The competitions are complimentary to guests. Half-priced appetizers are offered from 6pm – 8pm.

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Shipping Wine To Massachusetts: A Critique Of Andelman's Plan

Date: Tue, Apr 16, 2013 Wine Tasting

Like many wine lovers in Massachusetts, I would like the ability to receive shipments of wine directly from out of state wineries. There are plenty of wineries which do not sell their wines in Massachusetts but which I would like to be able to purchase. However, I still cannot do so because the legislature can't seem to get their act together and pass a constitutional law which would allow it.

In 2006, a law was passed that barred many such shipments into Massachusetts but it was later ruled unconstitutional, a decision affirmed by the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Since that decision on January 2010, several efforts have been instituted to create a legal framework allowing out of state winery shipments. To date, despite the passionate advocacy of groups such as Free The Grapes, all such efforts have failed but I continue to have hope that will change one day.

Currently, House Bill 294, authored by Representative Theodore Speliotis, is in the committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure and it is hoped that it will receive a hearing. Dave Andelman, of The Phantom Gourmet and Restaurant & Business Alliance, seems to feel that House Bill 294 is wrong and has offered his own plan in a column,A Better Way To Buy Out Of State Wine,in theMetrowest Daily News. I believe Andelman'sthree-pointplan is unduly burdensome, overly protective and based on inaccurate information.

Andelman first point states that out of state wineries should pay a $1000 licensing fee rather than the proposed $100. He states this fee would be comparable to New Jersey but that is incorrect. The New Jersey licensing feeactually is a spectrum, dependent on the production level of the winery, and ranges from $63-$938. So Andelman has provided inaccurate information concerning New Jersey's license fees.

Andelman also sees this fee as a potential means of revenue for the state, yet there is no rationale for why that should be the case. He offers no evidence that a $100 licensing fee would be inadequate to administer the cost of the program. A $1000 fee would be burdensome on small, boutique wineries which already have limited resources. That is the rationale behind basing licensing fees on the size of a winery, to not overburden the small producers.

In his next point, Andelman wants to restrict wineries to shipping one case per month to a household. The current bill allows each household adult to order 2 cases per month. He tries to make the current plan seem scary by alleging a household could order over a million bottles of wine. While technically it is possible, the chance is so remote as to be silly. The average person in the U.S. purchases only about 14 bottles per year. The vast majority of the more dedicated wine lovers still probably own less than 1000 bottles. So Andelman's worries are essentially baseless.

Andelman's suggestion prevents consumers from ordering multiple cases of wine from a single winery at a single time. Consumers generally do not order a case each month of a wine they desire. They usually want to buy it at a single time, to ensure they get the wine before it sells out. They might buy two to three cases of a wine, and then may not buy from that same winery for six months or more. There is no valid reason to restrict sales to a single case per month. That would be an undue burden, based on the usual purchasing practices of wine lovers.

Finally, Andelman alleges that shipped wine should have to be sent to a liquor store, to protect against underage drinking. He mentions that a 20-20 story and a North Carolina University study proved that minors could easily buy alcohol on the Internet. Yet he does not provide a link to either the story or study, or provide any of the actual facts from these two sources. How reliable is this information? Where was the study conducted? Does the study envision a similar system as proposed by House Bill 294? These allegations seem more like fear mongering.

The fact is that wine stores have had plenty of problems in selling alcohol to minors. As one example, the city of Haverhill conducted a series of stingson bars, restaurants and liquor stores and 25% of those places were caught selling to a minor. You can find plenty of other examples of liquor stores which have sold to minors. Yes, we need to ensure minors cannot purchase alcohol but Andelman's plan would not guarantee that.

Andelman's plan also includes that a consumer would have to pay a "nominal" processing fee to the liquor store. Could a liquor store refuse to accept shipments? Who would regulate the amount of the processing fee? Would liquor stores want the added paperwork of processing these shipments? We should not place this added burden on liquor stores. Andelman though seems to believe this would help liquor stores who "..may be forced to terminate employees if their sales fall much further after the increased amount of liquor licenses which have been issued, including large liquor sections at supermarkets." How is that so?

He fails to explain how it would help liquor stores. They would receive only a "nominal" fee so that shouldn't be enough to make up for any alleged lost sales. He provides no evidence or statistics on whether local liquor stores have seen decreased sales or not. He fails to provide any evidence that out of state shipments would significantly affect small liquor stores.

Dave Andelman needs to provide far more details, evidence and support for his plan as currently it is lacking in many aspects. He has yet to offer valid arguments or a valid alternative against House Bill 294. And his initial inaccurate information about New Jersey licensing fees casts doubt on his own research and credibility.

I will continue to side with Free The Grapesin supporting House Bill 294.

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Rant: Local Sports, Local Wine

Date: Mon, Apr 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

Sport fans tend to support their home teams, to have a sense of pride in these local sport teams. In Boston, most local residents support the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots. Even if you are not a big sports fan, you still tend to have a sense of pride in your local teams. One's pride in your local teams often does not depend upon the greater success of those teams. These sports teams don't even have to win championships to have local fans with great pride in their teams. For example, Red Sox fans fervently supported their team despite the fact it took them 86 years to win another World Series.

Local teams, local pride.

This is a great concept and I wish people would have that same pride in their local wine industries. Every state in the country now makes their own wine, and those wineries need the support of their local residents. They need to be embraced like they were a local sports team.

Over the weekend, I attended the fifth annual Drink Local Wine conference in Maryland. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn about and taste a diverse variety of Maryland wines. Prior to the conference, I had never tasted a Maryland wine and at the conference, I probably got to taste easily over 100 Maryland wines. In addition, I attended several panels where a number of people involved in the Maryland wine industry discussed the past, present and future of their wine scene. The issue of local pride arose during these panels.

Like many states, Maryland wines have an image problem, including among many of its citizens. Though I saw much pride for their wine at the conference, the grand tasting also showed how numerous people still did not fully understand the type of wines that Maryland produces. Some previously believed that Maryland made only sweet wine so the grand tasting was an eye opener for them, giving them additional reasons to have greater pride in their state. Far more residents of Maryland need to have pride in their wine industry, to embrace it as they do their local sport teams.

I think it was especially fitting that the Grand Tasting was held at the Warehouse at Camden Yards, the park where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball. Maryland residents have great pride in the Orioles and they should have a similar pride in their local wine industry. That requires a greater comprehension of the local wine industry, a willingness to explore and taste local wines to learn what they have to offer.

I heard a local chef, whose restaurant emphasizes local ingredients, explain that he was still ignorant of many Maryland wineries, which was part of the reason why his restaurant's wine list had only a tiny amount of local wines. As he has pride in local food ingredients, he should learn more about Maryland wine and obtain a similar pride in those wines. Locally, I have heard from a number of restaurants and wine stores who possessed much ignorance of the Massachusetts wine industry, failing to realize the quality that exists there.

I am using Maryland as an example and my point extends to citizens in every state. You need to have pride in your local wine industry, no matter where it fits on the spectrum of quality. Maybe your state doesn't make "championship" wine yet, but that still does not mean you shouldn't support it. Your support and pride in your local wine industry will give it an added incentive to improve, to raise its quality. Take some time to learn about your local wine industry and you might be surprised at the quality you discover.

Let your pride for your local sport teams extend to your local wineries!

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Friday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Fri, Apr 12, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back with a special Friday edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Executive Chef Eric Gburski is getting ready to roll out a new lunchtime menu at Estelle’s in the South End. Chef Gburski’s Burger Joint menu will launch on Monday, April 15, and features five juicy burger options and four gourmet salads perfect for all palates. Estelle’s will now be a burger joint by day while continuing to serve up its signature southern cuisine by night and also for Sunday brunch.

Chef Gburski’s quintet of burgers are served with house-cut fries and a variety of sauces and will be flipped as follows: Estelle’s House Burger (100% beef burger with American cheese, tomato, onion, Estelle’s B n’ B pickles, potato roll - $7.95); Double Trouble (double 100% beef burgers, double American cheese, tomato, onion, Estelle’s B n’ B pickles, potato roll - $12.95); Cajun Turkey Burger (spiced turkey with American cheese, tomato, onion, Estelle’s B n’ B pickles, potato roll - $9.95); Crispy Catfish Burger (pan fried, breaded and spiced catfish with lettuce, tomato, onion, Estelle’s B n’ B pickles, potato roll - $10.95); and, Vegan Burger (black eyed pea and corn burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, Estelle’s B n’ B pickles - $8.95).

For salads, there are four options: Cajun Chef’s Salad (smoked turkey, Tasso ham, Gruyere cheese, Romaine lettuce with remoulade vinaigrette, julienne vegetables, house deviled egg - $11.95); Big Chopped Salad (Iceberg chopped and tossed with buttermilk ranch dressing, pickled red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cornbread croutons - $9.95); Spinach Salad (warm roasted shallot-bacon vinaigrette, crumbled feta cheese, chopped egg, grilled red onions - $10.95); and, Bitter Greens Salad (chicory, arugula, Tuscan kale, sherry-mustard vinaigrette, roasted beets, goat cheese, orange-spicy pickled carrots - $9.95).

Estelle’s will be open for lunch service Monday through Saturday from 11:30am to 5:00pm.

2) Owner & Chef Brian Poe is springing into the season with the launch of a series of new menus at The Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill on Thursday. On the culinary side, Executive Chef Poe will introduce a new upscale, entrée concept to his restaurant – devoid of “tips” – while refreshing some of his signature “tips” and lunch offerings to incorporate the premier flavors of spring. On the beverage side, seasonal sips, brews and first-time “mocktail” selections will emerge.

For dinner, Chef Poe will now serve up a quintet of new entrees geared toward those with savory and hearty appetites: Wagyu Flank Steak (marinated in basil and garlic with spring peas, shiitake mushrooms, bacon-mint risotto, cabernet sauce - $24.95); Thai Peanut Crusted Halibut (roasted fingerling potatoes, coconut lemongrass broth, grilled baby bok choy - $26.95); Pork Porterhouse (basil and onion marinade, avocado, chanterelle mushroom and tomato salsa, mushroom glace - $24.95); Shrimp (with lobster-buttered cheese grits - $26.95); and, Antelope Meatloaf (cranberry-jalapeño au jus, crispy cheesy potato cake - $17.95).

On the lunch menu, there are now six gourmet salads and six sandwiches, piled-high, available in addition to many options for soups, appetizers and “tips.” Highlights include: Endive, Radicchio & Arugula (grilled asparagus, toasted pine nuts, kalamata olives, parmesan cheese, aged balsamic vinaigrette - $9.95); Grilled Baby Bok Choy Salad (sauté of snap peas, Thai chilies, caramelized shiitakes, grilled tofu, sesame-soy vinaigrette - $10.95); Buffalo Sandwich (buffalo meat, lettuce, tomato, boar bacon, juniper mayonnaise, Swiss cheese - $12.95); Spring Chicken (grilled chicken tips, Meyer lemon mayonnaise, mint vinaigrette, pea tendrils, tomato - $10.95); and, Grilled Tuna (peppercorn and coriander, grilled medium rare, pink peppercorn-soy vinaigrette, micro wasabi greens - $15.95).

Other newcomers to the spring menus include: Lobster Corn Chowder (lobster, corn, potatoes, ginger - $13.95); Spring Pea Soup (crème fraîche, crouton - $9.95); Spring Salad (peas, carrots, parsnips, cucumber ribbons, morels, seasonal specials - $9.95); and, Celery Salad (roasted celery root, celery root chips, celery, shaved parmesan, watermelon radish, black radish, sea salted walnuts, fennel, red wine Dijon vinaigrette - $11.95).

Available at lunch and dinner, Chef Poe will continue to serve up his seven signature “tips” selections with refreshed accompaniments and his nightly rotating wild game specials.

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Thursday Sips & Nibbles

Date: Thu, Apr 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) The Taste of the North Endis turning 20 this year. The Taste of the North End was founded by Donato and Nancy Frattaroli in 1993 as a benefit for Casa Monte Cassino. The Frattarolis became aware of Casa Monte Cassino when a family from Italy came into their North End restaurant. The family was staying at the CMC while their four daughters received medical attention at Boston's Children's Hospital Boston. The Frattarolis were touched by their story and inspired by the mission of the Casa; to provide a place to stay for impoverished families from around the world while their children receive serious medical attention in Boston. Over the next few weeks, as the Frattarolis developed the idea for the Taste of the North End to raise funds to help Casa Monte Cassino provide its invaluable services.

The Frattarolis, with the support of the North End restaurant community, held the First Annual Taste of the North End in the basement of St. John's School. That first year, guests were able to try dishes from fifteen North End eateries. The success of the event has been incredible. What started in St. John's moved to the local Coast Guard Base, the New England Aquarium, and finally to the DCR's Steriti Rink on Commercial Street. The Taste of the North End currently features over 30 restaurants, bakeries and distributors. Since its inception, the Taste of the North End has raised over $500,000 for Casa Monte Cassino and other local North End charities.

This year, guests can sample from more than 35 popular North End eateries showcasing a wide array of delectable appetizers, cheeses, entrees and desserts, and sip on refreshing libations from area wine and beer distributors. There will also be a high-end silent auction with hotel and restaurant packages, Boston sporting tickets, memorabilia, and more.

All proceeds from the event are split between multiple non-profit organizations in the North End including elderly, education and health programs to help better then entire community; last year over $100,000 was raised. This is the fourth year that North End Waterfront Health has partnered with the Frattaroli family to put on and host the event.

This year’s event co-chairs are event founder Donato Frattaroli, owner of Lucia Ristorante, and James Luisi, CEO of North End Waterfront Health. The Master of Ceremonies for the 16th year is KISS-108 and NECN personality Billy Costa. This ceremony will also honor Matt Conti, a local North End Community Journalist for his charitable work with North End organizations and North End restaurant owner, Barbara Summa of La Summa Restaurant.

This year’s participating restaurants include: Al Dente, Antico Forno, Aragosta, Artu, Bricco, Cantina Italiana, Carmelina, Ducali, Filippo, Fiore, Gennaro’s 5 North Square, Il Panino, J. Pace, La Summa, Lucca, Lucia Ristorante, Mamma Maria, Massimino, Mercato del Mare, Mike's Pastry, Modern Pastry, Neptune, Pagliuca, Paul W. Marks, Pellino, Perkins, Piantedosi Baking, Quattro, Taranta, Terra Mia, Tresca, and Vito’s Tavern.

The event will be held on Friday, May 10, from 6pm-11pm, at the DCR Steriti Memorial Ice Rink, 561 Commercial Street, Boston.

Tickets are $79 and can be purchased in advance at totne.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 617-643-8105. Tickets are $99 after April 26th.

2) Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer is celebrating their 14th year of success in the city. This year, from May 6-12, some of the area’s premiere restaurants and bakeries will be joining forces to help raise money to benefit breast cancer research and care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Establishments will choose one dessert to feature for a week where 100% of the proceeds from sales will go directly to the Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer organization.

This year, top area restaurants have kindly pledged to donate all of their selected dessert’s proceeds to join in the battle against breast cancer including:

Avila Modern Mediterranean and Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse’s Warm Chocolate Cake ($9)
BOKX 109 American Prime’s Local Strawberry, Tarragon & Balsamic Shortcake (basil, peach gelato, rhubarb lattice - $10)
Haru’s Banana Spring Rolls (chocolate dipping sauce - $9)
Legal Harborside’s Savarin Aux Fruit (yeast cake soaked in passion fruit and Bärenjäger with whipped cream, fresh fruit - $7.95 on the second level)
The Tip Tap Room’s Blackberry & White Chocolate Bread Pudding (caramel and brioche - $6.95)
The Varano Group’s Fresh Berry Chocolate Tart ($9 at Strega Waterfront, Strega North End and Nico).

3) On Monday, April 15, at 6:30pm, Tryst Restaurant located in Arlington and Berman’s Wine & Spirits, located in Lexington combine forces to host a four course, prix fixe wine dinner in celebration of international winemaker and the evening’s special guest, Guillaume Gonnet, the co-owner of Font de Michelle located in the Rhone Valley of France.

Font de Michelle has been run by the Gonnet family for over three generations, and offers some of the fairest prices throughout Chateauneuf du Pape sector. Quoting Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, "One of the top estates in the eastern sector of Chateauneuf du Pape, with cellars located adjacent to Vieux Telegraphe, Font de Michelle has been impeccably run by the Gonnet brothers for a number of years. Moreover, they have kept their egos in check, offering some of the fairest pricing of the appellation."

Hosted at Tryst, guests will indulge in Chef Turano’s four course menu:

P.E.I Mussels (Coconut & red curry)
(2011 Cotes du Rhone Blanc “La Julia”)
Comte & Caramelized Onion Tart (Field greens & lardon’s)
(Cotes du Rhone Rouge “Font du Vent”)
Slow Braised American Lamb (Spring dug parsnip & roasted vegetables)
(2010 Chateauneuf du Pape “Font de Michelle”)
Almond Financier (Orange anglaise & rhubarb)
(Muscat Beaume de Vinise-La Pigeade)

Cost: $75 per person (tax & gratuity not included)
Reservations are required by calling Tryst at 781-641-2227

4) Mâitre d' hotel and Fromager Louis Risoli teams up with Sommelier Erich Schliebe to bring an exquisite Cheese & Champagne sampling to this month’s Salon Session at L’Espalier. On Thursday, April 11, at 6pm, Risoli and Schliebe present an entertaining evening for an intimate and interactive sampling. For $55 per person, guests can indulge in a selection from L’Espalier’s award-winning cheese cart paired with fine champagne. Hosted in L’Espalier’s striking salon overlooking Boylston Street, guests can toast to great cuisine, conversation, and a one of a kind view of the city.

For more information or reservations, please call (617) 262-3023

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Liparita: Cabernet of Balance, Complexity & Value

Date: Tue, Apr 9, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Don't cheat!"

That is the sage advice from Jason Fisher, the winemaker forHoopla Wines,Hoopes Vineyard, andLiparita Winery. Though such advice is applicable as a general life lesson, Jason was referring to the act of winemaking. He means that wine should be made right, with minimal intervention, devoid of manipulation. Wine should express terroir, and manipulation only serves to conceal and obfuscate that sense of place.

Jason told me that one of the greatest challenges in the California wine industry is the uniformity of style, how few winemakers are willing to think outside the box. Far too much Cabernet Sauvignon tastes the same and terroir too often seems to take the backseat. Some high end California Cabernets have been chastised in the wine media for seeking high scores, creatinghomogeneouswines. Little can differentiate some of these $100+ wines as they taste largely the same. There should be alternatives available.

Recently, over dinner at Abe & Louie's, I met and conversed with Jason Fisher and John Healy, who is in charge of sales and marketing for those same three wineries. They are part of a three person operation, the third being the primary owner Spencer Hoopes. Besides chatting with the two of them, I had the opportunity to taste several of their wines over dinner, an excellent way to experience such wines.

Jason Fisher, pictured above, has a strong local connection as he once lived in Arlington, Massachusettsand graduated fromBoston College. He has previously worked at wineries includingParadigm, Grace Family Vineyards, andCosentino, as well as spending eight years as a flying winemaker inSouth Africa. I found him to be down to earth as well as knowledgeable and passionate about wine. It was an enjoyable evening, especially as I very much enjoyed the wines

Liparita Winery has a long and vibrant history, extending back to 1880 when William Keyes, a geologist, arrived in the Napa Valley and found soil which reminded him of Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian Islands, in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily. He planted a vineyard on Howell Mountain, calling it Liparita-La Jota, "Little Lipari." The wines became award winning though unfortunately the winery closed with the onset of Prohibition.

In 1987, the label was resurrected but less than ten years later encountered financial troubles and was sold, in 1996, to Kendall Jackson. Ten years after that, the brand was sold, around 2007, to Spencer Hoopes as the principal owner. Hoopes was once involved in manufacturing, but had long been a wine collector and connoisseur. He eventually bought a small vineyard, at first selling his grapes, but decided that he should try to produce his own wine. Mitch Cosentino, of Cosentino Winery, initiallymade wine for Hoopes and that led to the creation of the brands ofHoopes VineyardandHoopla Wines.

Hoopes was familiar with the old Liparita Winery and desired to bring back the label to its former glories so he purchased it in 2007. Part of that homage entailed designing a label that would reflect the original Liparita label. In 2008, they released their first two wines, from the 2006 vintage, both Cabernet Sauvignons, one from the Stags Leap district and the other from Oakville. Their intent was to produce an “ultra premium wine” but at a more reasonable price. They didn't want to be just another winery selling $100+ Cabernets.

I started the evening with the2011 Hoopla North Coast Chardonnay($18), which sees neither oak nor malolactic fermentation. Instead, it spends about 6-9 weeks on the sur lies and then is racked off and spends a little more time on light lees. It has an alcohol content of 13.5% and only about 700-800 cases were produced in 2011, about half the usual production. The 2012 has just been bottled and will be available soon. Jason stated that the tannins of oak interfere with the white fruit flavors in white wines, giving more of an oak taste, and they did not want any interference with the fruit flavors in this wine. The Chardonnay had a very pale golden color and the pleasant aroma offered plenty of intense fruit smells. It had a full mouthfeel, very good acidity and delicious, clean flavors of green apple and pear. It would pair well with seafood, light chicken dishes and other light dishes. Highly recommended.

The2010 Hoopla The Mutt($28) is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 10% Petite Sirah. This is the first vintage and the exact blend will vary each year though they will always use Cabernet and Petite Sirah. They use their best grapes for their estate wines and decided to use the others for this blend, rather than sell the grapes. The Petite Sirah is from 90+ year old vines, and the older the vines, the less tannic the Petite Sirah. I would be intrigued if they bottled a 100% Petite Sirah from these old vines. The wine spends about 22 months aging in about 25% new French oak. With a dark red color, and a nice aroma of ripe fruit and spice, the wine was pleasing. It wasn't overly tannic, and possessed a nice blend of red and black fruit flavors, complemented by a spicy backbone. A good wine with a hearty dish, from a rich stew to a juicy steak. Recommended.

I tasted both of their estate wines, from Oakville and Yountville, which are locally distributed by Andes Imports. These are wines that need to breathe for a time once they are opened. They are not intended to be "pop and drink" wines. Terroir is essential to Liparita and they do not fine or filter their wines, believing that fining is not needed if the pressing is done correctly. They only produce about 5200 cases and might double that one day, though theywill never expand if it would cause them to lower their quality.

The 2009 Liparita Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) is sourced from the same location as the grapes used in the Caymus Special Selection, often selling for $125+. This Liparita has an alcohol content of 14.7% and spends about 30 months in French oak, 70% new. A dark purplish color, its aroma was alluring, with notes of black cherry and dark spice. On the palate, there was a delightfully complex melange of ripe plum, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and dark spice with strong tannins. It was well balanced, powerful and possessed a lengthy and satisfying finish. Despite its power, it possessed its own elegance and was clearly not one of those muscular, overpowered Cabernets that are favored in some circles. I feel that this Cabernet is comparable in quality to wines offered at twice the price or more and thus it is an excellent value at this price. Highly recommended.

My favorite of the two though was the 2009 Liparita Oakville Cabernet Savignon ($55). This wine has an alcohol content of 14.9% and spends about 32 months in French oak, 65% new. It too possessed a dark purplish color with an alluring aroma, though there was more red cherry, plum and spice on the nose. Its taste was a complex and compelling blend of red and black fruits, vanilla, black pepper and spice. It was not as tannic as the Yountville, being more hedonistic and smooth, yet still possessed of a good structure. It was a wine of less power and more elegance, balanced well and possessed of a near endless finish that made you yearn for more and more. Once again, this Cabernet is as good as wines at least twice the price and is a superb value. Highly recommended.

Jason mentioned that some other wineries have encouraged them to raise their prices, yet they have resisted. I admire their winemaking philosophy, their devotion to terroir, as well as their desire to charge a more reasonable price for their excellent wines. Their wines may be new to many wine lovers but they are wines you should seek out, especially if you love high-end Cabernet but don't wish to pay $100 or more for a bottle. Don't ignore their other labels either, which also are offering delicious wines.

And as Jason Fisher advised, "Don't cheat."

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Rant: Parents, Stop Spoiling Your Children!

Date: Mon, Apr 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Recent immigrants aside, Americans spoil and cater to their children more than do other countries. We buy them more toys, read more books about how to bring them up, and give them larger allowances to spend."
--An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen is an American economist, academic, and writer. He occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University.I have been reading his newest book, which was released last year, and it is a fascinating look at the world of food. He possesses strong opinions, and though I don't agree with all of them, there is validity in much he has to say.

Spoiled children! Even if you won't admit it, I am sure you know plenty of parents who spoil their children too much. You might even be one of those parents yourself, though you probably deny it. There are numerous negatives attached to spoiling children but I am only going to deal with a single aspect here: Food.

Food? How does that fit into being spoiled? Let us start at the beginning. "Food habits start in the family. That is where we learn what to eat, how to eat, and how to value food. While a palate can be retrained, most people keep the food tastes of their childhood." (Cowen) This is an essential foundation and applicable to many varied food issues. If we truly want to change the negative aspects of our food system, much of our efforts should be directed at changing the eating habits of children.

"We also spoil our children by catering to their food preferences, but this damages dining quality for everyone. American parents produce, buy, cook, and present food that is blander, simpler, and sweeter, and in part that is because the kiddies are in charge." (Cowen) Sugar coated cereals, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, McDonald's and more. Go to most restaurants, and that is what usually can be found on their childrens' menus. This often bland and predictable food can negatively impact a child's future consumption patterns.

However, the negative impact also adheres to the parents and that may not be as readily visible, but it needs to be considered due to its significance. "A lot of American food is, quite simply, food for children in a literal sense. It’s just that we all happen to eat it." (Cowen) Parents fall into the trap of eating similar food to their children and there are multiple reasons for this. "Since it is easier to cook for the whole family, American food followed this simpler, blander path." (Cowen) Rather than cook two meals, one for the children and one for the parents, many choose to cook a single meal, which caters more to the blander, simpler tastes of the children. When children eat out, many want to go to fast food chains, from McDonald's to Burger King, and they take their parents with them, who then also eat there. "Many fast food outlets target their marketing at children, hoping that parents will be dragged in as well." (Cowen)

When children are on their own, with their own money, their eating habits don't get any better. "...(C)hildren spend a lot of their allowance money on candy, fast food, and snacks. This shapes their tastes and gives them some food autonomy, relative to their peers in other countries, who are typically more dependent on the food chosen by their parents. The result is a lot of bad food and a lot of sweet, bland food. For instance, children have been the driving force behind the prominence of doughnut chains in the United States." (Cowen) You can't expect most children to seek out healthy food when they are out on their own, with their own allowance money.

Other countries often lack their issues. For example, "In France, in contrast, the wishes of children, whether for food or otherwise, are more frequently ignored. The kids are simply expected to eat what the adults feed them." (Cowen) Children are far less spoiled and they learn to eat much better cuisine. Interestingly, at AKA Bistro in Lincoln, which has a French bistro section, their childrens' menu includes items like snails, replicating more of the French experience.

In the end, parents need to seize control and stop spoiling and catering to their children. They need to feed their children better food, more interesting and healthy foods. They need to stop taking them so much to cheap fast food chains and stop them from guzzling gallons of sugary drinks. The children are not going to stop on their own. Parents bear the ultimate responsibility and it is time for them to step up to the plate. Don't look to the government to solve problems such as children's obesity. Parents, look at yourselves and make the necessary changes.

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