Best Hotel Bars In Miami

Miami is known for its hotels—dating back to the 60’s when Sinatra, Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack frequented town. Not much has changed as many of the choice bars in town still remain inside Miami’s posh hotels. While caribbean themed bars may emanate throughout other parts of the sunshine state, Miami’s bar scene is much more sophisticated. Continue reading

5 Thanksgiving Wines From Carneros (Or Close)

“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—and informing my readers of my choices—because, quite frankly, not many wines do. This Cabernet will go perfect with some turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole…said, no one.

 

Of course, big reds like Cabernet would not be the varietals I would look to in this situation, but even some subtler reds or whites can be a difficult task for this once-a-year feast.

 

I tend to favor American Chardonnay because Thanksgiving is an American holiday and while Chardonnay may not be a match made in heaven for this cuisine, it works about as well anything else. And since I don’t think Chardonnay pairs all that well with much, why not use it in this instance. The key is to find a Chardonnay that has good minerality with little oak and only a small percentage of malolactic fermentation. There is no reason to have a fruity, oaky, butter ball wine with your marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. It’s too much. And favor soil (terrior) over fruit. The more Burgundian your chardonnay is, the better.

 

I also enjoy some white Rhone varietals with this meal as well as Sauvignon Blanc, but I would advise the same as with Chardonnay—look for minerality and acidity, over round, oaky, buttery wines.

 

If you go with a red, Pinot Noir from California or Oregon (again, we are going domestic on this holiday) is always a safe bet. Syrah and Zinfandel, which have lighter tannins, can also work provided they are cooler climate ones. Warmer climate reds from places like Paso Robles, for example, can run very high in alcohol and brix (sugar) levels which can put you to sleep on your father-in-law’s couch a little sooner than you anticipated.

 

So with that in mind, for this 2021 iteration I am focusing on the cool climate, under-appreciated Carneros region of California (with one wine from nearby in Napa Valley). I love the range and variety of wines that come out of the Carneros region. Situated on the southern border of both Napa and Sonoma and just north of the San Pablo Bay it has a sort of “goldy locks” climate with hotter temps to the north in Sonoma and Napa and cool air coming off the bay to the south. While most of the region is known for cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there are micro climates in Carneros that allow for the growing of myriad varietals—Syrah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and even Riesling.

 

Ok, enough of the foreplay. Here are my 2021 Thanksgiving wines:

 

 

2018 Bouchaine Las Brisas Vineyard Riesling ($38)

As I mentioned, Carneros has a wide range of varietals that can grow in the region. One of these is Rielsing—a varietal that thrives in southern Germany and Alsace, France and is beloved by many somelliers for its complexity and food friendliness. But Carneros has cool enough sites for this grape and the Las Brisas Vineyard is one of the most suitable in all of California due to the fact that the region is often covered in fog until mid-day. The Las Brisas Riesling from Bouchaine showcases beautiful floral notes, white peach and tangy apple notes with just enough acidity to compliment your turkey with gravy as well as your sweet potato pie.

 

2019 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc ($22)

More and more Napa Valley wineries are experimenting with non-Bordeaux varietals and I love that. While not quite as many micro climates as Sonoma there are still plenty of micros and soil types in Napa to allow for all sorts of varietals, including most of the Rhone varietals.

 

The Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc comes from the Somerston Estate in the Napa Valley, a 1,682-acre property with 244 acres of hillside vines, located in the east of Pritchard Hill. When done correctly, white Rhone wines have a lovely bouquet of stone fruits (particularly peach) and white pepper with floral notes and minerality that I love. This Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc is no exception, with intriguing floral aromatics, ample acidity, and flavors of peach, apple tart and Crème Brûlée on the finish.

 

2018 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Estate Carneros Pinot Gris ($24)

I consider Etude to be one of the forefathers of the Carneros region. Established in 1982, the winery has been a top Pinot Noir producer for decades. And while Pinot Noir still dominates Etude’s varietal lineup, the winery actually produces quite a few different varietals and blends including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Rose and even a sparkling wine—and they’re all good.

 

Etude’s Pinot Gris— grown at their Estate “Grace Benoist Ranch” vineyard—has actually become quite popular (a staple on many menus in Northern California) as it’s extremely consistent, food friendly and varietally correct. This classic Pinot Gris offers solid acidity with aromas of pear, apple, stone fruit and white flowers on the nose. Delicate notes of spice, citrus and peach dance on the mid palate while classic Carneros minerality lingers on the long finish.

 

Ram’s Gate Estate Pinot Noir ($85) 

Located at the epicenter of three of Sonoma’s greatest AVAs, Ram’s Gate’s estate vineyard borders the Sonoma Valley to the north, the Sonoma Coast to the west and Carneros to the east, and is the proverbial “Compass Rose” of Sonoma. Like most of the region, the signature morning Carneros fog rolls in off the San Pablo Bay and the wind-rich location creates a “temperature controlled” impact on the estate that is ideal for Pinot Noir.

 

This wine erupts with a bouquet of cherry, tobacco and clove on the nose. Subtler, classic Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, anise and holiday spices come through on the palate. This wine should work with anyone’s version of a Thanksgiving feast, whether you fancy white or dark meat; sweet potato pie or classic mashed potato with butter; peas or a green bean casserole.

 

2018 DuMol “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay ($75 – $90)

If you read my “Talking Turkey—With Wine” article from last year I covered another “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay. If it seems redundant for me to cover another one this year, that’s fair. But the truth is, Carneros is currently making arguably the best Chardonnay in California (Aubert, Donum, Tor and Hyde de Villaine all make world-class Chardonnay here) and the superstar Hyde vineyard is probably the best of the best, turning out high quality Chardonnays on the most consistent basis. So why not touch on it back-to-back years.

 

DuMol’s “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay has lots of pineapple (tropical fruits are indicative of this vineyard) elegant floral notes, and lemon zest on the nose with wonderful acidity and limestone minerality on the long, long finish. The wine is extremely complex with integrated acidity and flavors that unfold fluidly. It should go wonderfully with your Thanksgiving meal but can also be relished afterward while you settle into a football game or talk politics with family and friends.  Your only issue with this wine will be finding a bottle of it, but if you do, it’s worth the price.

 

Enjoy your Turkey Day and be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

A Magnificent Merlot

After being one of the most popular kids at the party in the 90’s, Napa Valley Merlot took a hit to its reputation in the 2000’s. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reason as the quality did not suffer. If anything it got better.

 

The 2004 movie Sideways certainly did not help. In perhaps its most famous scene, the main character Miles, who adores Pinot Noir and seemingly loathes Merlot declares before a double date evening with his best friend Jack, “I’m not drinking any f—ing Merlot.” After that Pinot Noir sales went up and Merlot went down in the US and that remained the trend for many years. Yet in reality Merlot was already stumbling. I know because I spent many a Saturday or Sunday in Napa during this time and could see with my own eyes that the interest in Merlot among the wine tasting crowd was waning.

 

Some will point to the fact that California Merlots used to be too one dimensional, intended for blending or for making a very quaffable wine that appealed to a wide range of people albeit in a simplistic if not monolithic fashion. My personal theory is that Merlot took a back seat to Cabernet from a perception standpoint during the late 90’s and early 2000’s—a unique period in US history when a lot of money was being made (and later lost) and people based their opinions more on what they read or heard versus what they actually experienced or tasted. From expensive technology stocks to expensive wine, perception played a big role during these hifalutin times. Commanding higher prices and receiving higher scores from the critics (namely Robert Parker and Wine Spectator), Cabernet was king in California.

 

This superficial period also happened to conveniently coincide with some stellar Cabernet vintages coming out of Napa and Sonoma, thanks in part to favorable weather and a mini winemaking renaissance of sorts which further helped solidify Napa Valley on the worldwide stage—along with its most high profile varietal—Cabernet. Combine these factors with the advent of the Internet—which allowed wine geeks like me to keep tabs on exactly which wines were getting the top scores—and it’s no surprise that Napa Cabernet, the most expensive and highest scoring in California, took off in popularity.

 

But Napa Valley Merlot—which has been thriving in the valley for as long as Cabernet—never faltered in quality during this time. In fact, while not a lot of people were paying attention it just better. And people are starting to take notice. At least I am.

 

I recently tried a Merlot from Sullivan Winery in Rutherford (Napa) and it blew me away. I can easily say it is one of the best wines I have had from Napa, of any varietal. It’s important to also point out that I tried this wine without knowing the price. No matter how unbiased a wine writer or critic attempts to be, it is inherently impossible not to have the knowledge of price effect our thinking or judging. In this case I was not surprised to find out after I had relished in a glass for twenty minutes that it commanded a hefty price. It’s justified in my humble opinion.

 

2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot ($250)

 

Consisting of 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot is actually more of a “right bank” Bordeaux style than a straight up merlot. And I love that. Aromatically, this wine has distinguished earthy qualities rooted in the typical notes synonymous with “Rutherford Dust” leading with notes of graphite, tobacco leaf and cocoa, along with an unforgettable fruitful essence that emerges from the glass. On the palate, the seriousness of the wine becomes apparent. Broad, structured and coating, the wine maintains an old-world finesse, with freshness and bright acidity. Layered, nuanced and complex, flavors of raspberries, rhubarb, crushed herbs and wet stone minerality meld together seamlessly, leaving a prolonged and satisfying finish. The polished, yet complex tannin structure gives the wine an invitation to cellar.

 

 

The Beekman Hotel

An architectural gem hailed for its iconic nine-story atrium and pyramidal skylight, The Beekman unites some of the world’s greatest talent, including the sophisticated design of Martin Brudnizki and the culinary cachet of restaurateur and chef Tom Colicchio. Continue reading

A Versatile Vermentino

For whatever reason, when talking about Italian wines many people think of red wines—Barolo, Brunello, Barbaresco, Super Tuscan. Yet Italy produces 17 different white wine varietals—more than any other country—with a variety of styles and characteristics that can work with almost any cuisine. One of these varietals, which tends to fly a bit under the radar, is Vermentino. Considered to be one of the most important white wines produced in Italy, Vermentino, if done right, can be one of the great food wines. It’s perfumed nose and rich minerality make it a great match for light summer meals from fresh fish and produce, to light pasta dishes with olive oil and herbs to a simple burrata salad.  It can also stand up to heavier dishes such as Gnocchi with mushroom sauce, Bouillabaisse or even a classic Chicken Piccata.

 

Produced mostly on the island of Sardinia, Vermentino is generally light in body yet is quite complex with alluring aromas of peach, white pepper and lemon zest. On the palate, Vermentino can have a slight oiliness to it but is otherwise dry and crisp. What I love most about a good Vermentino is the mineral and saline characteristics. Wine, after all, is made from fruit off a vine that is grown from the earth’s soil. And while a wine’s bouquet may greet you, and its mid palate may strike up conversation, it is the earthiness, the soil, the terrior of the wine that lingers on the finish, leaving an indelible mark in your wine memory bank. Subsequently, it is also what makes a good food wine.

 

2020 Surrau “Limizzani” Vermentino Di Gallura DOCG (SRP: $16)

 

Located fifteen minutes from the stunning Costa Smeralda in the northeastern corner of Sardinia, Vigne Surrau is home to the only DOCG on the island of Sardinia—Vermentino di Gallura DOCG.

 

This 100% Vermentino is a blend of fruit from all of Surrau’s estate vineyards and was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The 2020 Limizzani is quintessential Vermentino with a bouquet of spice, crushed flowers, white peaches and apricots that lift up out of the glass. The perfumed nose leads to more stone fruits, pepper and lemon zinger, followed by crushed stones and a viscousness on the palate that is typical of Vermentino. The round, supple mid palate finishes crisp and clean.

 

Surrau’s 2019 “Sciala” Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG (SRP: $27) is wonderful as well with similar characteristics, but I actually preferred the lower priced Limizzani, without knowing the price difference. At $16 a bottle the Limmizzani is a great wine to buy several bottles of or even a case of and enjoy throughout the summer with fresh seafood, pasta and other summer fresh dishes.

 

7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

Continue reading

2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount

As we move into the middle of spring and the weather across the US (and northern hemisphere) begins to warm up, it is only natural for people’s wine tastes to change.

Rosé reasserts itself after a long winter’s nap and white varietals begin to fly off the shelf too. For those that prefer red wine, regardless of the weather or occasion or food pairing, it seems only natural to favor the softer, more delicate varietals, like Pinot Noir. But if you love Bordeaux varietals and simply will not be satiated with anything else when there’s juicy meats coming off the grill, you might find a nice Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley to be the perfect fit.

Blends, which typically include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (and to a lesser degree Petite Verdot and Malbec) can offer the ideal balance in a red wine and they pair nicely with grilled meats, barbecue and other stuff you might be cooking as the weather warms. Also, blends from the new world typically offer brighter fruit than their French counterparts which further helps them pair nicely with a variety of foods, including your Memorial Day smorgasburg of burgers and sausages and steaks.

I was lucky enough to recently try the 2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount ($90), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot sourced from the Gamble family’s vineyards in Oakville and St. Helena and it was delicious.

Greater than the sum of its parts, the final blend for the 2017 Paramount was drawn from fruit grown on nine different vineyard sites stretching the length and breadth of the Napa Valley. With the intention of allowing each variety to express its unique terroir and character, Winemaker Jim Close ferments each wine separately. At the core of this blend is Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from Gamble’s Knoll-top vineyard and St. Helena Cabernet Franc, which harmonizes with Oakville Merlot from just below Gamble’s Family Home vineyard and Petit Verdot grown on the slopes of Mount St. Helena.

Of course, high pedigree vineyard sites don’t magically make great wines. You need a great wine maker—which they have—as well as a keen understanding of how to farm the land and yield great fruit…responsibly. At the heart of the winery’s regenerative farming approach is owner Tom Gamble, a third-generation farmer, who purchased his first vineyard in 1981. Over 20 years later, he started Gamble Family Vineyards with the goal of celebrating the distinct Napa Valley terroir he had come to know and love. A strong believer that wine is a gift from the earth, Tom takes a holistic approach when caring for his vineyards and the surrounding land.

The 2017 Paramount is deftly balanced—bold yet approachable—with just enough oak and the kind of soft tannins you expect from a top tier Napa Valley blend. Dark fruits—raspberries, black currants, plum—explode out of the glass, giving way to mocha and vanilla notes on the long, long finish. This wine has just enough acidity to make it a wonderful food wine, yet is soft enough to enjoy on its own or casually with some hard cheeses and charcuterie.

Still prefer white wines this summer? Gamble also makes one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in Napa Valley. Their Heartblock” Sauvignon Blanc ($90), while pricey for the white varietal, is a benchmark for quality Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley.

Where to Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet in Scottsdale, AZ—Home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open

Billed as “the greatest show on grass” the WMPO is truly a unique tournament for both the players and spectators alike. Construction of the stands and other venues at TPC Scottsdale’s stadium course start nearly four months in advance. I can vouch for this timeline as I’ve played the course in late October and construction crews had more than begun work, with workers out on a Saturday, assembling the grandstand. It takes construction crews months of ‘round-the-clock’ work to build the “city” at TPC Scottsdale for this one-of-a-kind tournament.

“The People’s Open”—as it is affectionately known—was named the Tournament of the Year by the PGA TOUR in 2019, an honor it has received four times in the last six years (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) helping the tournament gain legendary status for being perhaps the most lively, if not rowdy event in golf. The most popular spot on the Stadium Course is the 16th hole, a par 3 that, during the tournament, is the only fully enclosed hole on the PGA tour. A 20,000-seat grandstand plays host to fans who typically respond to great—and bad—shots alike with raucous excitement.

Grandstand at TPC Scottsdale’s Waste Management Phoenix Open

While the WMPO is certainly a treat for golf enthusiasts, a weekend in Scottsdale itself is no consolation prize. There are numerous reasons to visit this part of Arizona in January, February or March—weather being the focal point of course. Nearly 314 days of sunshine per year and some of the warmest year-round temps in the U.S. make this a top desert destination for 8.9 million visitors per year. 51 area golf courses, diverse shopping hotspots, and engaging arts and culture attractions elevate Scottsdale to the top of the must-visit list for anyone in search of warmer weather.

The Jewel of the Sonoran

Known as the jewel of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is located on the eastern edge of Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by sun-drenched mountains and dotted with brightly colored cacti that radiates its natural beauty. The city’s warm climate will come as no surprise, but its desert location might mean you don’t expect to also find world-class food, art, architecture and golf courses that have earned Scottsdale its “Beverly Hills of the Southwest” reputation.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of where to “Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet” in Socttsdale, AZ.

See also: Staying put in Palm Springs

 
Where to Stay:

The Phoenician Resort and Spa

Mother of Pearls Pool at Phoenician

Since 1988, Scottsdale’s The Phoenician Resort has been a vast oasis in the desert, a 250-acre luxury property offering guests some of the Southwest’s best in dining, spa, golf and more. In short, it has everything you could possibly want—great rooms, restaurants, a world-class spa, newly redesigned 18-hole golf course and 9 (yes 9!) pools—while unwinding in the desert.

If you’ve been to The Phoenician pre-2016 you might be surprised to know that it has undergone a multi-year renovation, because, quite frankly, it didn’t appear to need one. But great hotels are always evolving. In 2016, the 60 guestrooms in the Canyon Suites, a AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five Star boutique hotel within the resort, were redesigned as was its pool area and lobby. Also that year, the Phoenician’s main building was renovated, 557 rooms total.

Most of the public areas got a face-lift in 2017, and 2018 brought a new three-story spa that features a rooftop pool as well as a fresh golf course and athletic club.

Mother of Pearls

Perhaps the most impressive asset on their 250-acre property is the pools—a three-tiered complex that features the iconic, hand-tiled Mother of Pearl pool on the lower level; and three separate, recreational-styled pools on the upper level. A newly designed center lounge area offers reserved, family-friendly seating on the north side; and adult-only accommodations with pool and cabanas on the south side. For kids, a variety of imaginative escapades awaits at the premiere treehouse and waterslide, along with the splash pad.

Phoenician Spa Exterior

Also impressive is the Phoenician Spa. Called the Centre for Well-Being, the 22,000-square-foot complex offers everything you could want to make your stay just a touch—or a whole lot—more relaxing. Featuring 24 treatment rooms—including a Tranquility Suite for couples—as well as a quiet relaxation room and locker rooms with a vitality pool, steam and sauna, this brand-new, three-story facility allows you to unwind from everyday stresses and feel completely rejuvenated. Enjoy aerial yoga, meditation and cardio classes in the Movement Studio, or work out in the Fitness Center. Or tap into your competitive side with some outdoor tennis, pickleball or half-court basketball action at their “athletic club.”

Athletic Club at Phoenician

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa 

Sanctuary Spa Courtyard

Built into the side of Camelback Mountain (the 900m-high rocky outcrop shaped like a camel’s head that dominates the local skyline) is the upmarket Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa. While it may not have the pure scale of offerings as the Phoenician—smaller pool(s), fewer dining options and no golf course, it’s about quality over quantity at this relaxation-centric resort, especially if you like a world-class spa. Retreat to ultimate comfort within a spacious casitas, suites or Sanctuary’s exclusive villas, each offering the most spectacular views of the famed Paradise Valley.

When all the relaxation has you hungry they have you covered, compliments of Food Network star and Executive Chef Beau MacMillan and his award-winning cuisine. With unrivalled views of the area, an award-winning spa, an excellent restaurant and bar and famous mid-century modern design, it understandably attracts a high-end crowd. Rumor has it that Jay-Z and Beyoncé even honeymooned there.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North 

With 40 acres of awe inspiring desert scenery as a backdrop, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North sits in a prime location between downtown Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix. 210 well-proportioned rooms are spread out over the property in a series of one and two-story casita-style designs. The resort recently completed a $13 million renovation inspired by the natural grandeur of its Sonoran Desert setting.

Designed by Whitespace Interiors, all of the resort’s spacious casitas and suites got a makeover. Intended to enhance the luxury desert experience with natural elements set against a subtle earth tone palette the contemporary new furnishings, streamlined décor, and modern artwork capture the warm, peaceful essence of this rocky desert retreat.

Other solid choices: Fairmont Scottsdale, W Scottsdale, Andaz Scottsdale.

Where to Play:

This part is hard because golf courses are very personal in taste. Also, there are literally dozens of great golf courses in Scottsdale—54 to be exact. Here are a few I like. And these also happen to be—purely by coincidence—some of the most popular (if that matters to you).

Troon North

Troon North Golf Club

If Scottsdale is the “crown jewel” of the Sonoran Desert, many might consider Troon North to be the crown jewel of Scottsdale golf courses. Newer courses have taken some of the spotlight away from this desert classic, but Troon North’s two 18-hole courses remain a hallmark of Scottsdale golf. Immaculately groomed fairways, bentgrass greens and exceptional customer service create the renowned Troon Golf Experience. Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle courses consistently rank at the top of every golfer’s must-play list. Recent course renovations by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf have created two new layouts that bring his original concept to life.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club “Saguaro” Course

Offering breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks and the Superstitions, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club—which opened in 2001—lies on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land that will never be commercially developed. With two award-winning golf courses, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club delivers one of the best golf experiences in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. Scott Miller designed the Cholla Course, while Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw teamed up to create Saguaro. The results have captivated the golf world ever since opening for public play to much acclaim by industry leading publications such as Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Golf Digest.

GreyHawk Golf Club

Grayhawk “Talon” Course

Established in 1994, Grayhawk Golf Club features two par-72 golf courses—Talon and Raptor—engineered with their own distinctive personalities. Talon offers a desert-style test of golf that skirts thick stands of Sonoran Desert and box canyons on the way to large multi-tiered greens. Raptor delivers more traditional challenges clearly laid out come-and-get-it style with generous fairways and deep greenside bunkers guarding crowned greens. Both of the highly acclaimed layouts at Grayhawk Golf Club are widely considered to be among the best golf courses in Scottsdale.  are available to gear up before golf as well as clean up after.

If you are heading straight to the golf course from the airport Grey Hawk is a great place to start as the club house is fully loaded with amenities including full service men’s and women’s locker rooms and great food and beverages at Phil’s Grill when you are finished.

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium and Champions Courses)

TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course 13th Hole

Surrounded by the stunning McDowell Mountains, TPC Scottsdale boasts two championship courses for players to enjoy—the world famous Stadium Course and the stunning Champions Course. As Arizona’s only PGA Tour property, you’ll experience the standards of quality and service normally reserved for the tour professionals. Home to the Waste Management Phoenix Open,

The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale has hosted some of contemporary golf’s greatest moments since opening in 1986. The course was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf specifically to serve as the stage for the tournament—what’s now become the largest spectator golf event in the world.

Rivaling its famous sister course in both beauty and playability, the Randy Heckenkemper-designed Champions Course offers an ideal desert golf experience. Built on the former site of TPC Scottsdale’s Desert Course, the layout was completely revamped in 2007 to flow seamlessly within the naturally rugged terrain, meandering between natural ravines and through picturesque foothills.

And Eat Gourmet:

Mastros City Hall Steak House

Mastros City Hall Steak House Exterior

If you only have one night to dine out in Scottsdale and you like red meat, there is only place to go—Mastros. Not necessarily because they have the best steak in town—Scottsdale has a lot of competition in that department—but because it’s simply a great scene (though the steak, sides, appetizers and wine list will not disappoint). The sleek, if not gaudy interior screams American opulence, but in a fun, lighthearted way that is exciting. If that’s not reason enough, the restaurant also just underwent a renovation that encompasses nearly every aesthetic from floor to ceiling of the 12,000-square foot space, along with new menu items.

One of the more visually noticeable changes is the wine bottle display that hangs over the bar. It has been adjusted to display on both sides for maximum admiring. A new wine wall displays an impressive collection of reds while temperature control makes it fully functional. As for new menu items? What new menu items could a cavernous steakhouse with a huge menu really add. How about Authentic Kobe beef: The restaurant recently acquired a license to sell the meat coveted for its pedigree, exclusivity and marbling. Diners can choose a 4-ounce portion served in one of two ways: Sliced and served on a hot stone accompanied by jalapeno ponzu, hot sesame mustard and chimichurri sauces; or, a hand-cut steak divvied up in 2-ounce pieces that’s seasoned with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.

Dominick’s Steakhouse

Dominick’s Steak House

While Mastros may reign supreme when it comes to history and word of mouth- driven cache, Dominick’s Steakhouse is hard to beat—in any category. From their 28 day wet-aged steaks, to the thoughtfully manicured wine list to their crowd-pleaser sides (corn brulle, shishito peppers) and appetizers (from fresh burrata to a loaded seafood tower) they have everything you want in a steakhouse. But the atmosphere is perhaps its greatest asset—a vibe of sophistication and elegance that even Mastros can’t challenge. With leather embossed walls lined with tasteful artwork and hand-crafted chandeliers hanging from the ceiling the main floor offers guests one of the most luxurious restaurant settings in Scottsdale while the second floor gives diners a modern feel as they enjoy steaks at one of the tables surrounding the rooftop pool.

Virtu Honest Craft

Celebrated as one of the top 20 “Best New Restaurants” in the U.S. by Esquire Magazine immediately upon opening in 2013, as well as nominated by the prestigious James Beard Foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 2014, Virtù is Chef Gio Osso’s intimate, stylish gathering spot tucked inside Old Town Scottsdale’s charming Bespoke Inn bed and breakfast. Menus feature handmade pastas, premium seasonal produce sourced from some of Arizona’s most celebrated farmers, superb seafood imported from the most notable fish markets in North America and southern Europe, as well as a seasonal cocktail program crafted with fresh-pressed juices and unique spirits.

ShinBay

Sushi at ShinBay (Facebook)

Chef Shinji Kurita specializes in the traditional Japanese coursing menu with modern twist. In 2012, ShinBay in Scottsdale was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant”. In 2013, Chef Shinji Kurita was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef Southwest”. Kurita’s two-hour omakase dinner (Japan’s freewheeling version of the tasting menu) is a fish-centric joyride with one of the city’s great talents, a perfectionist who sources rare, top-quality fish, uses age-old cooking methods and applies the Japanese principle of subtraction (akin to “less is more”) to every dish – painstakingly creating beautiful bite-size masterpieces that honor time and place. In Kurita’s capable hands, simplicity looks so easy.

FnB

Once called “the epicenter of creative Arizona cuisine” by Food & Wine Magazine, as well as named “Best New Restaurant” by nearly every major publication in the Phoenix area upon its debut in 2009, FnB has continued to receive acclaim both locally and beyond for its richly flavored, globally accented seasonal menus, continually showcasing the best of Arizona’s abundant farming and agricultural community. Tucked inside the charming and historic Craftsman Court, in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, FnB owes its praise and passion to its owners, Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director Pavle Milic. Notes the New York Times “Few restaurants have done as much as FnB in Old Town to illuminate the agricultural bounty of Arizona.”

Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork’s Wood Fired Cooking captures the spirit of bold American cuisine, creating flavors that crackle with a rugged edge. In the Old West, the best food was prepared on a simple wood fire. This same spirit, freshness and flavor are at the heart of every dish we serve. Select from lamb, chicken, beef, pork and fresh fish entrees all perfectly prepared by wood fire rotisserie, open flame grill or wood oven roasting. Add to this our impeccable service and an atmosphere as inviting as our food, and you’ve got a dining experience you’ll come back for again and again. Roaring Fork’s ideal blend of energy and intimacy has made it a favorite for over a decade.

Mowry & Cotton 

Mowry & Cotton Dining Room at Phoenician

Located at the Phoenician, Mowry & Cotton offers modern American cuisine  prepared using cooking techniques of fire, coal and smoke. A large, hearth oven stands as the central focal point of the lively, approachable restaurant. Chef de Cuisine Tandy Peterson injects her own signature style and knowledge of international cooking techniques into the eatery’s regionally inspired American dishes. From flatbreads adorned with locally-sourced ingredients to fresh fish, hearty proteins and ample options for vegetarian diners, Mowry & Cotton’s straightforward menu features great fare from one of the area’s top emerging culinary talents.

Thirsty Camel

Thirsty Camel Lobby Bar at Phoenician

Also at the Phoenician, located right in the lobby, is The Thirsty Camel—one of most beautiful, relaxing and visually magnificent “lobby bars” you will ever come across. But don’t just take my word for it. They happened to be awarded the Forbes Travel Guide “World’s Best Hotel Bars” for 2019. Thirsty Camel features spectacular panoramic views of the resort and valley beyond, as well as a Sonoran inspired food and beverage menu with diverse and exceptional selections of bourbons, whiskies, premium spirits, and handcrafted cocktails for locals and resort guests alike. Their spicy margarita is spot on perfect.

pool at Baha Mar

Baha Marvelous

1,000 acres—3 Deluxe Hotels—2,300 rooms—100,000 square foot casino —8 Pools—30 Bars—42 Restaurants—$4 Billion in total cost. 

These are just some of the staggering statistics that accompany the newly opened, much ballyhooed, longtime-in-the-making mega resort Baha Mar in the Bahamas—which was famous long before it ever opened due to multiple bankruptcies, a revolving door of owners, and the now well documented, stutter-step fashion in which it was conceived and ultimately built. Continue reading

Q&A with New Travel Social Platform CEO LeAnn Campas

Travevel is a new platform that combines the familiarity and interactivity of a social platform with user generated content focused on travel, tourism, exploration and adventure. Travevel’s interactive platform is ad-free and filled with user-generated image and video travel content, including an interactive map. Here’s what CEO LeAnn Campas has to say about the future of travel and social media’s role.

 

Q. Why are travel and social media so synergistic? 

 

A. Social media is visual and there are few things more visually interesting than travel images and videos. The two were made for each other. Additionally, the vast majority of us put more weight on personal experiences, and there is no better way to share our adventures, explore others’ experiences and interact with them than through a social platform.

Q. Does Travevel lend itself more to user-generated content (UGC) than some other genres and if so why?

 

A. UGC always carries more weight and credibility to consumers than any form of paid content and we have seen growing frustration from users of other platforms as to the aggressive amount of ads they are seeing, which has a negative impact on the user experience.  With Travevel, our mission is to focus on authentic content from personal users.  While business user accounts will be a part of the platform, the content they upload cannot be branded or watermarked, nor can they pay any additional fees for their content to be prioritized or shown in a different manner than individual user content.  We want to ensure that the user has full control over what they see and how they interact with not only other users, but businesses as well.

 

Q. What is it like launching a travel-oriented social media platform during a worldwide pandemic that has brought the travel industry to its knees? 

 

 

A. There is no question that this is a challenging time to develop and launch Travevel, however, we have found there to be some benefits to the timing.  Through speaking with other travelers worldwide who have had severe restrictions placed on their movements and activities, we have seen even more enthusiasm about future travel not only from frequent travelers, but from those who didn’t have any plans pre-pandemic.  A very large number of people have been actively researching and exploring new destinations to escape this new, and drastically different normal. Travevel is a platform that helps users plan now for travel later.

 

Q. Will COVID-19 change the future of travel even after a vaccine? What are the positives and negatives that will come out of this for the travel industry? 

 

A. Based on the dramatic increase in activity we have seen in the last few months as more destinations started to open, I feel the only thing that will prevent a return to normal levels next year will be limitations on air transportation and rolling travel restrictions across the globe.  Being shut in for so long has certainly seemed to increase interest in travel and new experiences, which should greatly benefit the industry.  The main negative long-term will be transportation and occupancy based.  It may take some time to see the effects of reduced airline routes combined with destinations operating a reduced occupancy.  Unfortunately, at least in the short-term, employees will bear the brunt of these decreases.

 

Q. What are some destinations you recommend right now for Americans based on COVID-19 restrictions and protocols and all the headwinds associated with them.

 

The Caves Resort, Negril, Jamaica

A. While it is difficult to put together a list, there are so many amazing National parks and outdoors destinations close to home, no matter where you live.  Internationally we have been very impressed with the protocols and restrictions imposed by Jamaica since the country reopened in July.  Requiring a negative COVID test, designating a tourism corridor and mandatory masking in public areas have been very effective, and to date, they haven’t had any cases by guests or staff at resorts.  We have visited four times since July and have always felt safe.  Many countries are now reopening to tourism with a wide range of protocols in place from Mexico with no testing or authorization required, to others where a negative test is required as little as 48 hours prior to arrival in addition to travel authorizations, mandatory insurance.  From our personal viewpoint, we prefer to travel to an area with well thought out, and in some cases, challenging safety protocols.  These are interesting times for travel and we strongly encourage others to visit destinations that make you feel safe and comfortable based on your personal situation.

 

Q. What will travel look like in 2021?

 

A. There is certainly no shortage of people wanting to get away.  The struggle will be finding available space in both transportation and lodging because of reduced routes and capacity.  These transportations challenges could very well lead to a dramatic increase in weekend trips to parks, beaches and other outdoor attractions close to home.

 

Q. Any tips for travelers in 2021 and beyond?

 

A. Be flexible, be patient, and be understanding.  The entire world has changed and everyone is still figuring things out.

 

Power and Elegance

Bordeaux style blends from Napa Valley have always been a favorite of mine. Whether it’s a left bank style (heavier on the Cabernet Sauvignon), a right bank style (heavier on the Merlot and Cab Franc) or somewhere in the middle, the concept of blending varietals together to make a more rounded, complex wine has been around for a long time. The French championed the style a couple centuries ago in Bordeaux—more out of necessity than preference, since their climate does not always yield ripe enough fruit. Thus blending was needed to smooth out the edges and soften the tannins. Napa’s trailblazer vintners were initially reticent to blend because they did not want to copy the French—nor did they need to. Thanks to its warm climate and consistently sunny days during most of the growing season, a lack of ripeness is rarely a problem in Napa. But the practice eventually took hold nonetheless. Joseph Phelps is considered by many to be the first winery in Napa Valley to practice the technique, back in the 1970’s. Their flagship wine “Insignia,” considered the first Bordeaux-style blend in Napa, remains one of my favorite wines.

 

Of course, many producers in Napa Valley still prefer to make 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and excel at it. Caymus Special Selection and Shafer Hillside Select are two of the most revered Napa cabs on the market, with international name recognition and cult-like status. Thanks in part to ideal vineyards plots, perfect soil and a long growing season—these producers can make world-class red wines that consist of 100% Cabernet, yet with decidedly soft, plush tannins and layers of complexity that might easily be mistaken for a blend. While most Napa wineries tend to concentrate and excel at one or the other, a few excel at both.

 

Cliff Lede

Located in the Stag’s Leap district of Napa Valley, Cliff Lede Vineyards is one of these producers that has mastered both. They make blends—namely their “Claret” and “High Fidelity” labels. And they make Cabernet—though depending on the label and the vintage it could be anywhere from 85% to 100% Cabernet, give or take a few percentage points. All of their wines, even their Sauvignon Blanc, are extraordinary in my opinion. Before I delve more into their wines, let’s take a quick look at the winery itself and it’s rather short, yet successful history in Napa Valley.

 

 

Cliff Lede Vineyards was established in 2002 by Canadian born Bordeaux enthusiast, Cliff Lede, following the acquisition of a sixty acre estate in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. With a focus on producing wines from estate vineyards, Lede tapped David Abreu, considered the best viticulturist in Napa Valley, to replant the vineyards. Lede decided to name each vineyard block after some of his favorite rock songs and albums—from “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” creating what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.” In 2005, a state of the art, 25,000 square foot winery and cave system was etched into a hillside overlooking the estate vineyards. Winemaker Christopher Tynan crafts Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, with the flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the steep eastern hillside portion of the estate.

 

Stag’s Leap District

Ok, so what makes these wines special? After all, Napa Valley is home to a lot of great producers. For me, it’s the balance, complexity and polish of their wines. And while winemaker Christopher Tynan deserves a lot of credit, even he would probably agree that the vineyard plots Cliff Lede lays claim to in the Stag’s Leap District play a major role in the final product.  There are 16 AVAs in total in Napa Valley and each one has different characteristics. Yet, while the differentiating characteristics of these AVAs can be debated, it is hard to argue against the notion that Stag’s Leap District Cabernets have distinctively softer, silkier tannins than their neighboring AVAs. This is what SLD Cabernets are known for. Power and elegance.

 

Situated in southeastern Napa Valley, along the Silverado Trail, about five miles north of the city of Napa, the Stags Leap District is only about a mile wide and three miles in length. This makes it is one of the smallest AVAs in Napa Valley. And given its southern location in Napa Valley, it is also one of the cooler AVAs, resulting in a more subdued style of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Micro climate

Often referred to as a “valley within a valley,” the district is bounded on the east by the towering Stags Leap Palisades, to the west by the rolling hills and Napa River, to the north by the Yountville Cross Road, and to the south by low-lying flatlands. These landscape features lend the district its clear physical identity while a unique set of topographical characteristics make it ideal climate for growing Cabernet.

 

Says the Stag’s Leap District Winegrowers Association, “The rock facades of the palisades reflect the heat of the sun onto the vineyards below, causing temperatures to rise more quickly than in neighboring vineyards. As afternoon draws to a close, the hills funnel the cool, marine air flowing north from the San Pablo Bay through the Stags Leap District corridor. The cooling effect of this breeze, coupled with nighttime air drainage off the mountains and hills, means lower nighttime temperatures. This allows the grapes to achieve an excellent balance of acid and sugar and also minimizes the threat of frost. The end result is a longer growing season of warm days and cool nights—perfect for late-maturing varietals such as Cabernet.”

 

Cliff Lede currently produces a total of 10 Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blends. While all of them are muscular enough to stand up to a steak or lamb chops in the heart of winter they are also very elegant wines that can be enjoyed anytime of year with a wide array of cuisines. Below are my notes for the three wines I tried.

 

2017 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District

The fruit for this Cabernet (88% Cabernet Sauvignon,5% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) was sourced from the hillside terraces of Cliff Lede’s Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard estate which surrounds the winery, and a few neighboring vineyards in the Stags Leap District. The wine is composed of small lots from their best blocks, representing a diverse range of carefully selected clones and rootstocks. This wine is also rich in soil diversity ranging from Poetry’s volcanic origins, to the ancient riverbed alluvial soils of Twin Peaks, further contributing to the wine’s complexity. Great wines are indeed “made in the vineyard.”

 

 

The 2017 Stags Leap Cabernet has vibrant aromas of crushed flowers and dark fruits (blackberry, dark cherries) intertwined with chocolate, spice box and cassis. The wine has tremendous depth and layers of flavors that build into a long opulent finish that is framed with great minerality and loamy soil that personifies the SLD terrior.

 

 

2017 Dancing Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District (Rockpile Vineyard)

89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, and 1% Malbec. The fruit for this one is sourced from Lede’s Poetry and Twin Peaks Vineyards. The Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in shallow volcanic soil and farmed to low yields, resulting in good structure with plush tannins and tremendous concentration.

 

This wine announces itself a bit more on the nose than the Stag’s Leap Cabernet, wafting with a bouquet of dark berry fruits, lavender and cocoa. Wonderfully complex with minerals and slate/graphite on the finish.

 

2017 Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District

 

The Poetry Vineyard, carved into a steep west-facing hillside, reaches from the highest elevations of the Stags Leap District appellation to the valley floor. This vineyard, designed by David Abreu specifically for Cabernet, draws its uniqueness from shallow, volcanic soils atop fractured shale. Due to the stressful nature of the site, planted with high vine density and farmed to very low yields, the vines develop slowly and produce small flavorful berries.

 

A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot the bouquet on this one is loaded with black currants, crushed flowers, stone and cherry liquor. On the palate it has a complex medley of spices, tobacco, licorice, currant, dark cherries and even hoisin. The long finish includes cigar, dried cherries and warm slate.

 

Talking Turkey—With Wine

“Thanksgiving wines” has become an annual piece for me. I enjoy coming up with a list of food friendly wines that pair nicely with turkey and gravy and stuffing and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole (insert traditional sides) because, quite frankly, not many do. My general rule is, don’t overthink it…and stick to white wines.

 

What do I mean by don’t overthink it? When you have family and friends over (though this year may be different) and you are in charge of the wines it’s perfectly normal to want to offer some different choices, including something that may not be on your guest’s radar. Albarino or Riesling for example. But do these wines really match well with turkey? Not in my book. Sometimes the obvious choice is the best. Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? Not Stonewall Jackson.

 

So what is the obvious choice? I always favor American Chardonnay. Why? Well, first off, because it’s American. This is our holiday after all. Yet ironically, it pairs nicely with Thanksgiving cuisine. Why do I say ironically? Because I don’t think Chardonnay pairs all that well with much. And yet it pairs well with a meal that doesn’t pair well with much. Go figure. But there are other reliable choices other than Chardonnay. Plenty in fact. Here is is my 2020 lineup:

 

Gary Farrell “Ritchie Vineyard” Chardonnay 2017 ($60)

Simply put, this is one of the best chardonnays I have tried in a long time. And being 2020, of course I tried it on a virtual wine tasting session via zoom call. A wine writer on the call made what I thought was a very astute comment about this wine, saying that it had a “lean mid-palate.” But he meant it in a complimentary way. And I knew right away what he meant. In addition to the wonderful stone fruits, lemon curd and limestone minerality that this wines exhibits, the lean mid-palate creates a sense of even-flow and gracefulness that allows the fruit to fully shine as the wine slowly unleashes all its splendor right up through the long finish.  This is a wine you can certainly enjoy on its own but it is a food wine through and through.  It’s California fruit meets Burgundian acidity and minerality. It’s opulent yet practices restraint. It’s a Chardonnay that people who aren’t particularly fond of Chardonnay will still like.

 

Ram’s Gate “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay 2018 ($70)

Usually when I think of famous vineyards in Napa and Sonoma I think of vineyards planted for Cabernet. There are many. But Chardonnay has a few too. And the Hyde Vineyard in Carneros—who’s soils its namesake Hyde family has been working since the late ’70s—is one of them. The cool Carneros winds here lead to slow and steady ripening allowing for complex and exquisite flavor development, with more of a Burgundian framework. The Ram’s Gate Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay is no exception.

A medley of the two clones—Robert Young and Musqué—produce a mineral-driven, austerely elegant chardonnay (similar to the Gary Farrell Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay in this sense) with white peach, apricot and lemon zest. Partial malolactic gives lovely texture in the mid-palate while the chalky soils drive saline and minerals on the finish.

Says winemaker Joe Nielson, “Hyde Vineyard is one of those cherished places in California where heritage, hard work and terroir come together to produce a wine that has incredible depth, richness and precision—hallmarks of not just a complex wine, but a delicious addition to your favorite meals.”

 

Gamble Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2019 ($28)

Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes to people’s surprise, actually thrives in Napa Valley (the chardonnay on the tasting list at a Napa Valley winery is likely from Carneros or Sonoma and not from their actual estate). Yet for a long time, it played the role of warm up wine—a palate cleanser or amuse bouche—before the featured wines. Not anymore. Across the board, vintners are no longer making Sauvignon Blanc for a little extra cash flow. They are investing it in big time—from farming, to specific clones, to barrels and concrete eggs.

 

One such producer is Gamble Family Vineyards. While their “Heart Block” is a benchmark for Napa Valley Sauvignon block (and commands a $95 price tag) their regular Sauvignon Blanc at a more palatable $28 is a wonderful wine, composed of four distinct Sauvignon Blanc clones:, Sauvignon Musque and 530, which originate from the Loire region, and Preston and 316, which originate from Bordeaux.

 

Truchard Vineyards Roussanne 2018 ($28)

This white varietal has been traditionally associated with the Northern Rhône, where it is blended with Marsanne to make white Hermitage wines. Like a lot of varietals that originated in France, it can also thrive in California, provided the right soils and microclimates are present. Carneros has exactly this, with cool (enough) temps, volcanic rock and ash soils and gently sloping vineyards—like it’s Northern Rhône brethren.

 

Floral aromas of pineapple, honeysuckle, and jasmine, with highlights of brioche and vanilla. The mouth is crisp, with clean flavors of fresh pear, honeydew melon, and lychee. Bright acidity provides a lengthy finish of citrus, mineral, and spice.

 

Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc Los Carneros 2016 ($92 1.5 L Magnum)

 

 

This one might seem like a bit of a wild card. And yes, it’s only available in 1.5L Magnum format (and .375L split) but that shouldn’t be a problem for a Thanksgiving feast. I say wildcard, because at first glance a Pinot Blanc may seem a bit light for your average Thanksgiving meal. On the contrary, Pinot Blancs from California tend to be a bit “bigger” than those from Alsace or Italy. And not everyone’s turkey lunch or dinner is dominated by heavy gravy and buttery mashed potatoes. If your Thanksgiving meal is on the lighter side, this could be a perfect match.

 

Truthfully, when it comes to white wine, Robert Sinskey is more known for their “Abraxas” white blend, which includes Pinot Blanc but also Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtz. I like the straight Pinot Blanc more though. It has been one of my favorite white wines from the sunshine state since I first tried it about 15 years ago.

 

The bouquet on this wine never disappoints. Aromas of fresh cut flowers, honeydew melon and even a little allspice jump out of the glass. Stone fruits (peach and apricot) and Meyer lemon are joined with white pepper and crème brule on the long finish—framed by great minerality.

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Refresh

When gangster Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo in 1946, it was the first large-scale casino-hotel project on a quiet stretch of Nevada desert. Today, Las Vegas is anything but quiet, with massive casino-hotels stationed like giant soldiers on the world-famous Strip.

Continue reading

Inman’s Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir

If you read my article on Ehlers’ Rosé—made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—then you may recall my affection for new world rosés. Yes, the classic Provence style, driven primarily by Grenache and Cinsault (Syrah and Mouvedre to a lesser degree), will likely reign supreme for a long time—both in terms of market cap and perceived authenticity (what a rosé should taste like in most people’s mind). And in the dog days of summer this style of rosé is usually what I look for too. But rosé as a segment of the wine market is unique in its sheer size and endless possibilities. Remember, you can make rosé out of almost any red varietal—from a single varietal or a blend of several. This is why the number of rosés on the shelf of your local wine merchant has probably grown over the years. They are everywhere and constantly evolving.

One varietal that has proven to work well for rosé is Pinot Noir. However—and this is key—it depends on the region. You don’t see many rosés coming out of the Côte-d’Or in Burgundy, for example. Yet this region is world famous for Pinot Noir. So why so few rosés? Rosé needs very ripe, bright fruit to achieve the kind of flavor profile that people have become accustom to—in my opinion. That’s not to say some earthiness is not also a key factor in making quality rosé. Provence has both, but it’s the warm climate in the south of France that is paramount. When I think of wine regions of the world that have the kind of soil to grow world-class Pinot Noir but also have plenty of sunshine, California and Oregon come to mind above all other regions. Particularly California.

Inman Family Wines

Established in 2000 with the planting of their Olivet Grange Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley, Inman Family Wines is the result of Kathleen Inman’s love of Pinot Noir and the soil that produces it. Since her first small vintage in 2002, she has been an ardent supporter of non-interventionalist winemaking practices, ignoring the critically acclaimed riper-style and leading the movement towards more subtle, nuanced wines with a sense of place.

 

The 2019 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV Estate

The 2019 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV Estate is no exception to these practices and reflects the winery’s success with “intentional” or “direct-to-press” rosés. Some rosés are made as a by-product of red wine by bleeding off some of the juice early in the production process to create a higher ratio of skin to juice, which concentrates the resulting wine. Whereas rosés made “intentionally,” rather than simply by drawing off the free run juice, tend to have greater complexity and structure because the entire grape is used.

 

As you might expect this wine has flavors of a classic rosé as well as the alluring, delicate flavors of a premium Russian river Pinot Noir. Strawberries and raspberries intermingle with stone fruits (peach and apricot)—held up with great minerality. This wine is indeed a result of the “direct-to-press” approach with good complexity and layers of flavor that last a while on the finish.

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Family Vineyards Donates Portion of Chardonnay Sales To Autism Speaks

Coronavirus has gripped our country and the world like nothing we have ever seen or could imagine. To say that vanquishing it through social distancing and other measures is the most important thing in most of our lives right now seems like a safe bet. From a philanthropic standpoint it should rightfully be a priority for most who can afford to give. But there are other causes that still need our attention even in the deepest depths of the coronavirus pandemic. One of these causes is Autism awareness. April, after all, is Autism awareness month.

 

Frank Family Vineyards, founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank—and one of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley—is a champion of this cause. Throughout the month of April, the winery will donate 15% of all proceeds from direct sales of its 2018 Carneros Chardonnay ($38) as well as from “Frank for a Cause” packages ($55) featuring a limited-edition blue t-shirt and bottle of Chardonnay. Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization and this donation will help fund the organization’s vital programs that increase global understanding, advance breakthroughs in autism research, expand early childhood screening and improve transition to adulthood. Those interested in supporting the cause may do so via the Frank Family Vineyards website.

 

“The outbreak of the coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the world, with the fast-changing environment requiring navigation through uncertain times. During a time like this, we want to make sure non-profit organizations are not overlooked and are therefore continuing with our plan to support Autism Speaks during the month of April,” says Rich Frank.

 

The inspiration behind Frank Family’s 2020 fundraising campaign is Jennifer Higgins, who has been a vital part of the Frank Family team as Retail Operations Administrative Assistant for the past 12 years.

 

She graciously shared her family’s experience with Autism: “Every parent stresses out and worries about their kids. For us, our concerns are just different. We love our son Owen for all that he is and want to see a world where people with autism can discover their true potential,” she says. “I hope this campaign, along with all the work this charity does throughout the year, helps to create a kinder, more inclusive world.”

 

This year Autism Speaks is celebrating its 15th anniversary as an organization and will be launching a commitment to make 2020 the “Year of Kindness.” The goal of the “Year of Kindness” is to make both the online and offline worlds kinder while increasing acceptance of individuals with autism and their families. Since the organization’s founding in 2005, its core mission remains the same: to enhance lives today and accelerate a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.

 

“We have an amazing community of wine buyers at Frank Family, many of whom have supported our fundraising campaigns in the past. Through our “Frank Fights Hunger” campaign last November, we were able to raise $20,000 for Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization,” says Leslie Frank. “We’re grateful that our winery’s ethos of giving back has been embraced by our customers. We look forward to raising funds for Autism Speaks this April.”

Supporters of Frank Family’s April campaign on social media should use #FrankForACause.

Ehlers Estate Rosé

Like a lot of people who enjoy a glass of rosé as the weather warms, I like the classic style that the Provence region of southern France is known for—light salmon color, dry, with a slight earthiness. That’s not to say, however, that the wine has to be from Provence in order to achieve this style. Put a bottle of Wollfer Estate (Eastern Long Island, NY) in a blind tasting line-up and you’ll likely fool some people who might peg it for Provence or Bandol in the south of France.  Regardless of its origins, this style of rosé is very quaffable, very popular and very available. And for years this has been my default style. But rosés, which can be made from almost any red grape varietal, come in a lot of different styles. So why not branch out.

 

I recently tried Ehlers Estate’s Napa Valley Rosé (“Sylviane”) made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc and was pleasantly surprised. While a number of Napa wineries do a rosé, most are merely a fun experiment. A warm-up wine to include in the tasting line-up for people visiting the winery. After all, Napa Valley does not exactly lend itself to rosé, at least not from a traditional standpoint. In my article, “The Real Rosé Season Starts Now” I highlighted a couple of California rosés that I love—Beckman’s Grenache Rosé and Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris De Cigare. The former is 100% Grenache and the latter is a blend, comprised (typically) of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Carignan, Cinsault and Mouvedre. Notice a pattern here? Both of them use Rhone varietals (which are also prevalent in Provence to the south), mimicking the French style. And both are delicious. But that doesn’t mean wineries in Napa Valley most follow this script. After all, these varietals do not exactly thrive in Napa Valley. Beckman and Bonny Doon are both in the central coast. Napa vintners can certainly grow varietals like Grenache with decent quality and they do. But is that something they really want to put much effort towards? My guess is no, which is why you see many of them, like Ehlers, using what they already have—Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Why mess around with Rhone varietals when you have some of the best Cab and Cab Franc in the valley?

 

Tasting Notes: The juice of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc lots were fermented in stainless steel drums and once-used barrels. The first thing I noticed is that the wine was not quite as acid driven as the traditional roses I have talked about, yet it had more structure with mellower tannins and more body. According to the winemaker, the fermentation went very slowly and the used oak allowed for the development of a beautiful creamy texture in the wine, which I would say is dead on. Bright aromas of raspberries and strawberries, melon, vanilla beans and white peach fill the glass. This rose will certainly refresh you on a hot day but, because of the softer tannins and more muscular body, can also be enjoyed year-round.

12 Wines To Try This Holiday Season

This has become an annual column for me and one I really enjoy writing. I find this food and wine pairing fun to write about because it can be a challenge.  Yes, old man winter’s wrath may queue the obligatory Bordeaux or Cabernet from many an oenophile’s wine cellar, but not necessarily on the fourth Thursday in November with turkey and gravy or in late December with a Christmas Ham. Nor do these muscular reds ingratiate themselves with any particular harmony with those potato latkes during the 8 days of Hanukah. Indeed, the various cuisines that we celebrate with during the final month and a half of the year are not necessarily a great match with the wines we might otherwise think to drink this time of year. To be fair, not a lot of wines, in my opinion, are an obvious match with turkey and gravy.  But I’ll try. 

2018 Sidebar Kerner Mokelumne River, ($25) 

From acclaimed winemaker David Ramey, Sidebar is the only winery to make a 100% Kerner wine in California. Kerner, an aromatic cross between Riesling and Trollinger (known as Schiava in Italy), with origins in Germany, shows well in this dry, aromatic and acidic bottling—an ideal white wine for offsetting heavy meals.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 Eroica Riesling ($22) 

Riesling is one of the most misunderstood wines out there, often thought to be overly sweet. The fact is, Riesling can be sweet but also bone dry. Offering sweet lime and mandarin orange aromas, this CSM Riesling is more in the middle and could match with a variety of foods. It will pair with your turkey and gravy but also with those sweet potatoes. 

2018 FEL Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley ($25)

FEL, a second label from Cliff Lede Vineyards—one of my favorite Napa wineries—produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from the Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast. A blend of fruit from three different vineyards (Wiley, Hein and Klindt) located in the “Deep End” of Anderson valley near the town of Navarro, this wine is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean allowing for bright citrus flavors and refreshing acidity. Pinot Gris, if done right with plenty of acid (some can be flabby), can be a great match with myriad cuisines from Thai to Indian to oysters on the half shell.   

2016 Inman OGV Estate Pinot Noir ($70)  

Kathleen Inman made her name in wine at the Inman estate, the 10.45- acre Olivet Grange Vineyard (OGV) located in the Santa Rosa Plain neighborhood of the Russian River Valley. The site was planted by Kathleen in 2000 and has always been farmed organically to encourage a healthy ecosystem and soils.  The OGV Pinot Noir is complex, with great aromatics. The wine’s bright red fruits—strawberries and red cherries—and complex savory components reflect the full depth and nuances of the vineyard. California Pinot Noir is a no-brainer with your Thanksgiving feast—it’s fruit forwardness a better match with all those flavors than Burgundy in my opinion. Just make sure you get one that is balanced with plenty of earthiness (terroir) to keep the fruit in check. The Inman Pinot Noirs do this in spades. 

2016 Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Tascante Contrada Rampante Etna Rosso DOC  ($50)

If you read my article “A Winemaking Renaissance in Sicily” then you know how fond I am of Sicilian wines these days. I think they represent a value in terms of price-to-quality that is hard to match on a world stage. The vineyards of Contrada Rampante are characterized by volcanic formations of different lithological characterization but belonging to the same time period as Contrada Pianodario (between 15,000 and 4,000 thousand years). Rampante, one of the four Contrade in which Tasca d’Almerita works, is located at an average elevation of 740 meters a.s.l., between the communes of Passopisciaro and Randazzo. This is as food-friendly of a wine as I have had in some time. Bright red fruits, spice and an earthiness almost reminiscent of a classic French Burgundy are in abundance, framed with sharp acidity that keeps everything in check throughout its long finish. This wine would go great with richer pasta dishes, like pappardelle with bolognese but because of it’s lighter body can easily work with Thanksgiving turkey, gravy and all the fixins. 

2018 Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Capofaro “Didyme” Salina IGT ($26) 

Sicily, like mainland Italy, does not get enough recognition for their white wines, sans Pinot Grigio which is almost too popular and takes too much of the spotlight. The fact is Italy has a ton of white varietals, many of which are wonderful food wines. The Malvasia fruit for the Didyme is harvested at the ideal stage of ripeness and immediately vinified. The result is a dry and savory wine with good acidity. Didyme shows notes of aromatic and floral herbs, which recall the Mediterranean characteristics of the Island. The wine is named Didyme, the ancient name for the island of Salina, because it captures the essence of the island’s terroir. So often we talk about terroir in red wines but whites have it in equal amounts and I love a white wine that has equal amounts fruit and terroir and plenty of each. 

Chateau Des Jacques Moulin a Vent (Louis Jadot) 2016 ($27)

Depending on your level of wine interest, you’ve either never heard of Gamay or you’re tired of hearing about it—particularly in reference to it being the perfect Thanksgiving wine. Then add in the common confusion (mainly among Americans) that surrounds Beaujolais—namely it being grouped together with the folksy Beaujolais Nouveau wine that is released the third Thursday of every November—and Gamay can be a bit confusing. But there is no denying it is an elegant, highly versatile wine, if you pick the right producer. It also happens to be a favorite choice among sommeliers—however much that counts for you. I’ve gone with Louis Jadot here because its extremely consistent, highly available and in general a classic example of the Gamay grape. This Beaujolais offers a fleshy texture and greater longevity than any other Beaujolais cru. Its exceptional structure supports vivid red fruit aromas and crushed flowers with good minerality. 

Alban Central Coast Viognier 2018 ($30) 

Alban Vineyards makes what many consider to be the best Viognier in California. As one of the original Rhone-style wineries in the United States, Alban has helped to bring Viognier out of obscurity, claiming its rightful place in the American wine drinker’s lexicon. This white Rhone varietal is full-bodied, fresh tasting, with nice balance, depth and concentrated flavors. Remembered for its complex aromas hinting of apricot and peaches, this wine is just the right amount of floral with low to moderate acidity. Their cool climate location and use of malolactic fermentation helps to counteract the high acidity, high alcohol and over-luxuriant flavors that Viogniers tend to be chastised for. The 2018 J Rickards Viognier ($28) from the lower Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma is another fine choice. 

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Syrah 2018 ($45) 

Tensley describes the 2018 vintage as a cool one that “gave the grapes plenty of time to hang on the vine to develop flavor and texture.” I would agree. It’s a great example of cool climate Syrah and my preferred style. Warmer climate Syrahs from places like Napa and Lake County can sometimes be overripe, too high in alcohol and lack balance. Not the Tensley Syrahs.  The Tensley Colson Canyon delivers the up-front fruit you would expect in a California Syrah along with spicy, meaty, and peppery qualities that beautifully balance it out. Also of note, if you’re into scores. Their 2017 Colson Canyon scored 95 points with Wine Spectator and made #14 on its Top 100 List. The 2018 could be better though!

Mi Sueno Chardonnay, Los Carneros 2017 ($42)

Chardonnay is a classic pairing with the typical Thanksgiving meal. The key is finding the right style of Chardonnay. Turkey may not be known for its wine pairing ability but there is plenty of richness in a Thanksgiving smorgasbord—from the gravy to the buttery mashed potatoes to the stuffing and all the flavors it absorbs. Therefore I like to go with a full-bodied Chardonnay but one that is still Burgundian in nature. Mi Sueno’s Los Carneros Chardonnay achieves this balance. Their Chardonnay also owes some of its rich elegance to a wild yeast fermentation, and 18 months of aging in 30% new French oak. This stirring of the lees and a secondary 100% malolactic fermentation lends a plush texture to the wine. A platinum-hued color begins the experience and follows with aromas of guava, white peach, lemon zest and wet stone. The flavor echoes the nose and reveals additional flavors of pineapple, lemon custard and green apple delivered with a mouthwatering, bright acidity.

I also like the Mi Sueno story. Husband and wife team Lorena and Rolando Herrera started the winery in 1997 as a side project while Rolando was assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle. The brand represents the couple’s love story as well as the culmination of Rolando’s journey from being an immigrant dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil to his becoming director for Paul Hobbs Winery and eventually winemaker more than a decade later, before giving 100% of his time to his own winery.

The 2018 Pfendler Vineyard Chardonnay ($42) is another example of a full bodied California Chardonnay with a Burgundian backbone. Lemon curd, nectarine and crème brule on the nose, and framed by good minerality, it’s a great example of Petaluma Gap (Sonoma) Chardonnay—one of my favorite regions. 

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG ($50)

Amarone della Valpolicella—the most prestigious red wine of the Veneto region in Italy—might seem a little too muscular for turkey and stuffing but I think it can be a match made in heaven (especially with all the other side dishes) if it’s a well balanced Amarone from a good producer. The four brothers who started Tenuta Sant’Antonio dedicate their primary Amarone to their father, Antonio Castagnedi. The best grapes from different vineyards are selected for this wine and are brought to the winery’s drying room to undergo the appassimento process. After at least 3 months of drying, the grapes have shriveled and lost much of their water, while retaining their sugar, flavor, and other components. Once fermented and aged in new barrels, the Amarone is a powerful wine, yet fruity, fresh, and clean. 

“Amarone is a wonderful complement to Thanksgiving meals because it will hold its own against the many flavors at the dinner table,” says Armando Castagnedi of Tenuta Sant’ Antonio. I agree. And once the meal is over it is the perfect wine to retire to the couch with and watch a little football. 

Serious Summer Whites

It’s easy to crave simple and refreshing white wines in the summertime as the mercury rises. In fact, I am all about crisp, clean and refreshing wines this time of year—especially as a cocktail or apéritif before dinner. There is nothing like that $15 bottle of Sancerre that you discover at your local wine shop and stockpile, by the case, for the rest of the summer. But then there are times when you want something a little more complex Continue reading

Where to Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet in Bermuda

Stay:

Rosewood Bermuda in St. George’s on the north end of the island is steeped in history. Formerly known as Rosewood Tucker’s Point (the adjacent Tucker’s Point Golf Club has been around since 1932) when Rosewood Resorts took over the management of the 88-room Tucker’s Point in 2011 the new resort sits atop one of the highest hills on the northeastern end of Bermuda, next to Castle Harbour and with ocean views from almost every room and window.

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Rather than opt for a minimal contemporary look, Tucker’s Point remains true to its location with rooms decorated in a Georgian colonial look, complete with canopy beds, wainscoting and freestanding tubs. The resort has an impressive four pools (considering its relatively small size), including a 25-meter lap pool and another reserved for adults. Not so much a complaint as a caveat: while the resort has an enviably large beach (unlike many Bermuda properties), it’s a five-minute shuttle ride away. On April 1, Rosewood Bermuda reopened after a four-month, $25 million makeover. Formerly known as Rosewood Tucker’s Point, the reimagined resort welcomes guests with an elegant lobby anchored by a new bar and lounge, plus an atrium courtyard. The 92 rooms and suites are now residential-style retreats that reflect the island’s English colonial heritage. Dining-wise, the resort’s signature restaurant reopens as the Island Brasserie; A refreshed Beach Club features a restaurant inspired by the island’s fish markets (plus an updated bar and new luxury cabanas). Wellness junkies will appreciate a modernized Sense, a Rosewood Spa.

 

If some laps in the pool or splashing in the surf don’t constitute sufficient exercise, guests at the resort also have access to the Tucker’s Point Club. This 18-hole course was originally laid out in 1932 and then redesigned in 2002 by Roger Rulewich, former chief designer for Robert Trent Jones.  Greens fees start at $205 through mid-September and $225 after. What’s more, guests of Tucker’s Point also receive playing privileges at the renowned Mid Ocean Club, which consistently ranks among the world’s top 100 courses. Originally designed in 1921 by Charles Blair Macdonald, the historic course was enhanced in 1953 by architect Robert Trent Jones

 

The Reefs, a villa only resort in Southampton is also a great stay if you can afford it. The beloved fixture on Bermuda’s South Shore since 1947—and which Conde Nast rated #1 in the region (including Bermuda, Bahamas and Turks & Caicos) not long ago—is family-owned and operated by the Dodwell family, native Bermudians whose passion for island living and gracious hospitality has delighted generations of loyal guests. Nestled in a pink sand cove surrounded by Bermuda’s wind-swept limestone cliffs, The Reefs echoes the island’s enduring elegance, blending it effortlessly with a youthful, make-our-own-rules spirit that charms friends old and new.

 

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A less expensive alternative to Tucker’s Point and The Reefs, The Fairmont Southampton, right down the street from The Reefs is a great deal with a great location. If you can get by the size and color—affectionately known as the “pink elephant” due to it’s size (400 rooms) and light pink facade—the Southampton has a ton to offer at a very reasonable rate. Fairmont’s Private Beach Club is situated on one of Bermuda’s finest beaches, a secluded private cove with Bermuda’s signature pink sand.  The cove is somewhat protected from rough water due to a large rock just a short swim out (you can walk to it during low tide). It also happens to be an easy and convenient location to put on your snorkel and mask and see some of Bermuda’s beautiful fish. If you want a larger beach, the world-famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, a curved stretch of pink sand that connects to other South Shore Beaches, is just steps away. The Southampton also has two pools including a kid’s pool with a slide.

 

Of course, the most talked about resort right now in Bermuda right now is the newly built (2017) The Loren at Pink Beach. The first hotel built on Bermuda in a decade, The Loren has raised the bar among the island’s resorts with posh yet minimalist rooms and suites which bring a new level of elegance and style to the destination. This seaside resort embraces the clean and modern aesthetic of an urban boutique hotel resulting in a set of sophisticated retreats with endless ocean views.

 

 

Play:

Wide shot from back of new Tee on 16th hole of Port Royal Golfcourse

 

If you’re not staying at Tucker’s Point (and you’re not a member or don’t know one) then Mid Ocean is not an option. But many will argue that the prestigious Port Royal Golf Course is just as good—and easily as beautiful. Originally designed by famed course architect Robert Trent Jones in 1970, the Port Royal Golf Course of Southampton Parish underwent a $14.5 million refurb back in 2009. It now features resewn fairways and tee boxes, a new irrigation system and a grandiose clubhouse.  Although the course has incredible ocean views, at 6,842 yards, it is also Bermuda’s longest and perhaps most challenging course so beginners beware. (Non-members can book a tee time at Port Royal Golf Course up to seven days in advance. The course is public and open to all players daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.). But be prepared to pay hefty greens fees and book well in advance.

 

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For a less highfalutin activity, and one that is completely free, the beaches in Bermuda are a top-of-the-list activity. Whether your beach time is of the more active nature (walks, swimming, frisbee) or the less active (sunbathing) there is no place on Bermuda more pristine to waste the day away than Horseshoe Bay Beach. Always ranked among the top beaches in the world, it is easily on par with the best stretches of sand in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  

 

Eat

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To say Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelson’s namesake restaurant Marcus’ in the Hamilton Princess Hotel is breathtaking would be an understatement. Arrayed with modern art from the hotel’s owners, including original pieces by Andy Warhol, Liu Ye and Nelson Mandela amongst others, the space is visually striking, The signature restaurant occupies the former Gazebo Room, once a grand ballroom, offering a central bar and views of the ocean. An open kitchen creates a show all in its own, with chefs creating Samuelsson’s specialty including Jerk Pork Belly, and tantalizing Fried Chicken & Waffles. Additional dishes pay tribute to Bermudian culture, such as Grilled Bermuda Onion and Fish Chowder Bites among others. The restaurant features a full beverage menu with signature and classic cocktails, a well-rounded selection of wine and beer, and a new spin on a local favorite, ginger beer-based Darker and Stormier.

 

mickey's

 

The only true beach bar and bistro on the island, Mickey’s Beach Bistro—or just “Mickey’s”—on Elbow Beach is loved by locals and visitors alike. Sip an island cocktail prepared by Bermuda’s best bartenders while listening to the waves break and gazing at the wide open Atlantic. Their eclectic menu and versatile wine list rounds out a great overall experience—a must stop while on the Island.

 

For cheaper eats, head to Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy (in Hamilton and in St. George’s) for what many—including Marcus Samuelson himself—believe to be the best fish sandwich on the island. The traditional Bermudian fish sandwich — deep-fried and served on raisin bread with lettuce, tomato, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and perhaps a touch of hot sauce and some sauteed onions — is one of the best fish sandwich anywhere.

 

Drink

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Bermuda is a unique island in that it has many of the characteristics of the tropical islands in the Bahamas and Caribbean but it is undoubtedly subtropical—it is on approximately the same latitude as the Carolinas. So while the peak season in August and September may feel balmy and lend itself to island (rum) drinks, much of the year is more temperate. This, combined with the fact that Bermuda is a British territory, steeped in British culture and cuisine, results in food and drink options that are just as much pub fair-oriented as they are beach bar.

 

A less formal option than Mickey’s, Sea Breeze, also located at Elbow Beach Resort and positioned just above the famous stretch of sand, is an open-air terrace, with stunning, panoramic views of Elbow Beach’s pink sand and the wide open, blue atlantic waters. It’s a wonderful spot in which to enjoy cocktails from the bar, an aperitif before dinner or drinks under the stars.

 

Over in the more bustling Hamilton Parish lies The Swizzle Inn, a landmark known as Bermuda’s oldest pub and favored by both locals and visitors. It also happens to be the birthplace of Bermuda’s original Rum Swizzle, the deliciously potent national drink made with Goslings Black Seal Rum, Barbados Rum, Triple Sec, pineapple juice, orange juice, Bermuda Falernum, and Angostura Bitters.

 

For more British style pub fair, head to the The Frog and Onion Pub which calls an old barrel making building home and is also attached to the Dockyard Brewing Company. This authentic British-style pub was created in 1992 by a Frenchman (Frog) and Bermudian (Onion), hence the name. The historic Cooperage, completed in 1853, was converted to five storehouses in the 1940s. With the pub serving great comfort food, it pairs perfectly with an ale from Dockyard Brewing Co., Bermuda’s only microbrewery. Featuring 5 different types of beers and ales, it is a favourite destination of locals and tourists alike who wish to sample artisanal beverages of exceptional quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Napa Nuances

I love Napa Valley in the off-season, when the hills, a parched straw color for much of the year, are lush green from the fall and winter rains and cooler temperatures. And that is exactly how I found it on my most recent trip, with picturesque green hills rising above the grapeless, valley-floor vineyards. Continue reading

Five Sparkling Roses for Valentine’s Day

Much like its still wine cousin (rose),  sparkling rose and rose Champagne strike a soft and delectable balance between sweet, dry and earthiness that sets it apart. And of course the color only adds to the allure—especially on a certain day in Mid-February when the red and pink color spectrum reigns supreme. 

Here are five rose sparklers I love this Valentines Day:

Roederer Estate Brut Rose, NV—$28

This 56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay blend, produced by the renowned French Champagne house Louis Roederer but in California (Anderson Valley), has been a favorite value wine of mine for years. In fact, I actually used to sell it when I briefly worked for a wine distributor many moons ago. It was so popular it had to be allocated, or bundled with the higher-end offerings that Roederer produced—a little trick that distributors and suppliers (in this case Maisons Marques and Domains) like to use when they know they have a winner. Mouth filling, elegant and sweet—but not too sweet—this festive sparkler has a beautiful red hue and comes in at a great price point considering the producer (Louis Roederer also produces Cristal).

Schramsberg Brut Rosé, 2017—$45

Another great value from Northern California, driven by bright, flavorful Pinot Noir grown in Carneros, Anderson Valley, and the Sonoma and Marin coastal areas (a few small lots of Pinot Noir are fermented in contact with their skins to add depth and subtle color to this unique sparkling wine). Aromas of strawberry and orange peel dominate the nose while grapefruit, darker berries and a little toast lead to good structure on the palette. This versatile sparkling wine has a bright, clean finish and can be enjoyed any time of year with a variety of foods.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé—$45

Blended with 90% red grapes (45% pinot noir /45% meunier) and 10% chardonnay, this sparkler is on the sweeter side for a Brut yet very well balanced. Think strawberries and cream; this light, salmon colored rose is perfect with desert—or as desert.

Frank Family Brut Rose, 2016—$55

Frank Family quietly has four sparkling wines offerings. And while it may not be a core competency I think it’s a testament to the diversity and willingness to experiment with new ideas that is prevalent in Napa and Sonoma today.  While all four of their sparkling wines—Blanc de Blancs, Rose, Rouge and the Lady Edythe Reserve Brut—are all delicious, the Brut Rose is my favorite.  Made in the traditional French method where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, the wine then rests on the spent yeast cells for two and a half years before disgorgement. The 2014 Brut Rosé is lively yet balanced, with alluring flavors of strawberry and orange creamsicle and framed with just enough toasty oak notes. Side note: Frank Family has been recognized in national publications for leading the effort of “grower-champagnes” in the United States—Marylin Monroe used visit the winery from time to time to get her fill of bubbles.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé—$60

Madame Clicquot created the first blended Rosé in 1818 by adding some red wine to Yellow Label champagne. The result was Veuve Clicquot Rosé, a fruity and full-bodied expression of the Veuve Clicquot style. If you love their yellow label it’s time to try the Rosé. Made using 50 to 60 different crus, the cuvee is based on Brut Yellow Label’s traditional blend, 44-48% Pinot Noir, 13-1 % Meunier, 25-29 % Chardonnay. This wine has classic Rosé Champagne aromas of ripe strawberries integrated with more vibrant notes of grapefruit and lemon singer. Perfectly quaffable with desert it is also a great wine to have as a cocktail or aperitif before dinner.

An Insider’s Take On The Surging Demand For CBD Oil

I recently attended a trade show promoting various spa and wellness brands at none other than the Rainbow Room atop NYC’s Rockefeller Center. The boutique show—hosted by the Green Spa Network, a nonprofit trade association that provides education, resources and gatherings for the spa and wellness industry—represented my first glimpse into the burgeoning market of CBD oil. Continue reading