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President’s column July 2018

by Averill Shepps–

Just as I was thinking about writing this month’s column, a friend sent me a link to the New York Times article titled, “Why You Should Be Drinking Weird Wines’ by Jason Wilson. Did you know there are 1,368 known grape varieties? Going on with statistics, nearly 80% of the world’s wine is made from Just 20 different kinds of grapes. That means there are 1,348 lesser known grapes out there.

 

The author makes some powerful arguments in favor of those that are lesser known. He points out that since the middle ages Gouais Blanc was banned across Europe by various royal decrees. It was derided as a peasant grape. We have since learned through DNA testing, that Gouais Blanc was found to be the mother of around 80 modern varieties including Chardonnay. Those of you who were at the Chardonnay tasting know that Chardonnay is one of the most widely grown grapes in the world and can be found on 6 continents.

 

The Slow Food movement and others that support buying local foods have been giving us arguments for years that biodiversity is healthy for the world as a whole. Wilson makes those same arguments for grapes. I am encouraged to get his book and will report to you as I find it interesting.

 

Meanwhile, it reminds me that I have done a couple of Uncommon Grape tastings in the past, and it is time to revisit that subject. We will be having a planning meeting on June 23rd when we will talk about our schedule for next year, and I will suggest it. If any of you has a subject that you would like us to address or a grape you would like to “visit”, let a board member know before that date.

 

BYOB – Le Juene Chef Restaurant – July 2018

by Dave Williams–

Le Juene Chef which translates to “young chef” self-describes as a casual, fine dining experience, and it is that….but in reality, it is so much more. It is hosted by the School of Business and Hospitality at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. Staffed by industry professionals, students partake in learning the ins and outs of preparing and presenting a “fine dining experience” in concert with their studies.

 

Lunch is offered Mon-Fri. from 11:30-1:30. Dinner is served Wed-Sat. from 5:30-8 and Sunday brunch is available September-May reflecting the school year. Dinners are subject and cuisine themed. Of course, al a carte dining is available featuring changing cuisines using fresh local ingredients, but the themed offerings are truly remarkable. For example, they have a Regional American Dinners highlighting America’s vast culinary variety. In addition, they also have Classic Cuisine Dinners from around the culinary globe where old world cooking is showcased. Both of these dining experiences provide 5-7 course meals properly sequenced and presented on a completely set table. The price for American Cuisine Dinners is $34.95, and $39.95 for the Classic Cuisine. Wine is considered an essential part of the meal. Wine flights are offered to pair with whatever themed cuisine you select at very reasonable prices. The wine list boasts 400+ wines. All wines are no more than $10 over retail which enables one to experience a truly great wine at reasonable (not restaurant) prices. I saw outstanding Bordeaux and Burgundy at $60-90 per bottle, not the $200-500 restaurant prices. Oh, I almost forgot they offer cooking classes as well.  There is too much to cover in a brief article so I encourage you to visit their website www.pct.edu/lejuenechef to see all they offer. Williamsport may not be convenient for spontaneous dining out, but I can tell you it is well worth planning a trip. Reservations required.

 

I enjoyed the Gascony and Languedoc themed Classic Cuisine and I was nothing short of delighted with both the food and service. Seven superb courses, wonderfully presented in partnership with a corresponding wine flight. This is “dining” by definition. The sommelier and I had an active exchange which only enticed me to return to experience other great wines at affordable prices.

Le Juene Chef Restaurant, Pa. College of Technology,  1 College Ave., Williamsport, PA. 17701  ~ PH 570 320-2433 ~    www.pct.edu/lejuenechef

 

BYOB – L.I.B-ations – June 2018

–by Chris Hammacher

Lazzaro’s Italian Bistro, 49 N Railroad St, Palmyra, PA 17078

717.832.6111

 

Lazzaro’s Italian Bistro (L.I.B.) is a small quaint restaurant just past Hershey proper in Palmyra. We found parking on the street, free of charge, as there are no meters. We headed in the front door and we were greeted in several minutes by one of the staff. We were told it would be a 30-minute wait, but they ended up seating us in ten minutes.

 

The restaurant was decorated well. The noise level was louder than we expected but not too loud. There was a lot of hustle and bustle all over the restaurant. After looking at the menu we settled on Lobster Ravioli and Lasagna Classico, which we thought would pair nicely with our 2007 Chimney Rock Cabernet Stags Leap District Napa Valley.

 

The lasagna was excellent, the sauce was thick and meaty with traditional Italian seasonings. The Lobster ravioli was great and had a creamy bisque sauce and was more subdued than the lasagna’s red sauce and not as sharp. The cabernet was more subtle and softer than anticipated but still substantial. Having said that, maybe an Italian red would have still been the best option for a pairing with the lasagna. A tomato-based sauce usually pairs well with a heavier red wine, such as a Chianti. The sangiovese grape, which is what Chianti is predominantly made of, is a more acidic grape and pairs beautifully with the acid in the tomato.

 

The end result: Lazzaro’s won’t break the bank and you get a good amount of food for the money. The fact that it is a BYOB makes it even better and we will be making a trip back there soon, maybe with a bottle of Chianti Classico.

 

President’s Column May 2018

by Averill Shepps

Many of you may know that the PLCB Wine Specialty Stores are now allowed to do wine tastings, but for those that don’t, you need to try them… The Lemoyne store that I go to frequently has them on Fridays from 4-6 and Saturdays from 12-2. The store tasting times are listed on the PLCB site, but it is a lot easier to go to your particular store and find out when they have their samplings. The website lists all the stores in the state forcing you to wade through the entire list to find the times. If you want to know what wines are going to be served, you can ask the wine consultant to put your name on an email list to get their weekly announcements. They serve 4 wines, most often with a theme, such as a grape, a country, a holiday, etc. Each consultant chooses the wines so that they are different from store to store.

 

Knowing that, some enthusiasts have found they can attend more than one tasting in a 2-hour period! One creative sipper I know made it to 5 different stores in a day, all within that 2-hour period. The pours are small, one ounce of each wine, so that you should be aware that drinking all of them at 5 venues means that you drink 20 ounces which is clearly too much. You always have the option of pouring asking for a smaller pour or of pouring out a wine that you don’t’ like.

 

I have left to last the social aspect of the tastings. They provide an informal place to easily meet and chat with others who share your interest and passion for wines. I have likened the atmosphere to a relaxed British Pub where people go to meet their neighbors and friends. Enjoy!

 

BYOB THEA – Sophisticated Farm to Table – May 2018

by Cindy Shingler

1303 Saxton Way, Mechanicsburg, PA  17055   Phone (717)759-4654

 

Thea, which is Greek for aunt, is a beautiful new setting in Arcona Crossroads – a newly built community of homes, shops, fitness center, and this classy restaurant. Chef AnnMarie Nelms is the owner/chef of this wonderful new eating establishment. AnnMarie is a graduate of Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and daughter for one of Harrisburg’s famous restaurateurs – Sophia Nelms.

 

I heard about THEA from my niece, who has been there several times and raved about the food. A group of us decided to try it out last month and made reservations (highly encouraged!). Imagine our surprise when we saw my niece there the same night!

 

It allowed us to sample many of the items on the dinner menu, including appetizers Ricotta Stuffed Meatballs, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, and Fresh Cut Truffle Fries. They were all delicious and I can’t pick a favorite! Some entreés we enjoyed were the Chicken Pie, Pasta Bolognese, Thea Meatloaf and the Duroc Pork Chop. The chicken pie was rich and flavorful with a herbed pastry crust. The meatloaf was served over a leek and gruyere bread pudding and marsala demi glaze that was to die for.  But the pork chop made the most impressive plate. It was a gigantic bone-in chop, cooked perfectly and served over bacon and brussel-laced noodles.

 

What really impressed me was that they do not charge a cork fee, considering the upscale atmosphere. We enjoyed a rosé, a sauvignon blanc and a nice cabernet with our meals. All in all, it was a wonderful experience that I look forward to enjoying again very soon!

 

President’s Column – April 2018

by Averill Shepps

I have a lot of wine books, and have written about a couple of them in this column. I have another one to recommend, especially to those of you interested in French wines or who are planning a trip to France. The author is Jacqueline Friedrich; the book is titled, Wine and Food Guide to the Loire. Published in 1996, she is currently updating and expanding it. However there is comprehensive information in the original version about the history, climate, soils, grapes, area food and the winemakers. There are readable maps for each of the areas covered, the Nantais, Anjou and Saumur, Touraine, Sancerre, and the Auvergne. At last the wine labels based on geography make sense. She lists the best producers, rating them in a very understandable way: Leaders, Excellent, To Watch, Highly Recommended, Recommended, and By the Glass. She also reviews the best producers. The book has won many awards, having been named the best wine book of the year by James Beard, IACP(Julia Childe), Veuve Cliquot, Decanter magazine, and Robert Parker. Jancis Robinson has placed it on her list of favorite wine books. I’m in good company!

 

I carried the book on a trip to the Loire with friends about 15 years ago and used it as a guide to finding good wineries to visit. A gem of a discovery was Domaine de L’Ecu where fifth generation winemaker Guy Boussard was producing superb Muscadets. He named them after the rocks that generated the soils in which they were grown, namely Granite, Gneiss, and Orthogenesis. He proudly pointed out the horse in the vineyard, but I didn’t understand its significance until I learned a lot more about organic and biodynamic methods in the vineyard. The horse’s hoofs were easier on the soil than heavy tractors or other machinery. The first volume of Jacquelin’s update is called Earthly Delights from the Gardens of France. By the time you read this, I will have order and read it!

 

BYOB – Mangia Mangia – April 2018

Mangia Mangia                                                                                                                                             by Zach Ortenzio

2981 Elizabethtown Road, Hershey, PA                            717-689-3798

Reservations Suggested; closed Mondays                   $5.00 Corkage Fee Per Table

www.mangiamangiaitaliangrill.com

 

Upon entering Mangia you will note that it is divided into two sections. The section on your right is dedicated for takeout orders, while the section on your left is dedicated to sit down meals. This section is inviting, well-lit and capable of seating over 70 people in a relaxed atmosphere. Once that has been determined, menus will be provided and the specials of the day will be revealed. The menu is extensive ranging from appetizers, salads, entrees and other delectable items.

 

We started off our meal with two appetizers and a salad. One of the appetizers, Fried Calamari Fritti, came from the regular menu. The second, a Mozzarella Caprese, was the special of the day. The calamari was lightly breaded and served with a lemon wedge and two sauces, marinara and aioli. The sauces, though very different, were complementary to the calamari. The Mozzarella Caprese consisted of crostini and warm mozzarella slices covered with toasted bread crumbs. The slices were then drizzled with two pesto’s; sun dried tomato and basil. These two pesto’s provided different taste sensations to the appetizer. The salad was a Poached Pear Frisse with field greens, bacon, walnuts and gorgonzola. The last three items were flavor notes in the salad, balancing beautifully with the greens and pears.

 

After finishing the appetizers and before ordering entrees our waiter provided us with two types of dinner rolls. The first dinner roll can be found at most restaurants. The second type of dinner roll came with Mangia Mangia’s homemade pizza sauce with some parmesan cheese sprinkled over the rolls. We ate the rolls with the pizza sauce and they were outstanding. For our entrees we ordered, Spaghetti Carbonara, Baked Rigatoni and Raviolone. Before going further all of our pastas were done al dente, not over-sauced, nor did they need any additional seasonings or cheese. The Carbonara had a bacon sauce with Pecorino Romano cheese; the Baked Rigatoni included tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses; the house made Raviolone had a pesto sauce with toasted walnuts and pecorino Romano.

 

We spent approximately three hours at Mangia Mangia and we were not rushed. The wait staff was courteous and knowledgeable about the menu. If you wish to have a relaxed dining experience with truly good Italian food, Mangia Mangia is a restaurant well worth considering.

 

BYOB Seasons on Main – March 2018

–by Dave Williams–

 

I presume we all like BYOB restaurants for the same two reasons: 1-without good food they won’t be in business long and 2-it enables us to enjoy a good to great bottle of wine without the hefty price of a 200-300% mark up. Many are pleasant experiences and worthy of return, a few are exceptional and cherished, holding high anticipation for a return. Seasons on Main in Bloomsburg falls into the latter category with plenty of elegance, luxury, intimacy and personal touch.

As the name implies, the menu is seasonal with 4 corresponding menu changes a year with many local farm to table components. As a self-trained chef, Gary Vadakin’s passion for food started young at home and transformed into a career around 30 years old having worked in a number of top restaurants in NYC, Philadelphia and Miami. In the end, he wanted his own restaurant and in February 2013 he accomplished that. A key insight, the staff has knowledge and longevity which speaks volumes for the atmosphere and success of the Seasons on Main.

I experienced the Fall menu which had both traditional and creative offerings. The selection was limited with good variety. I started with Pan Seared Lemon Pepper Scallops followed by Harvest Mixed Greens with Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese Salad. My entrée was Grilled Harvest Game Sausage Trio composed of Wild Boar with cranberry red wine, Venison with blueberry merlot and Elk with pear and port wine sauce. Fresh, excellently prepared, presented and memorable. A St. Veran Macon chardonnay started the meal, followed by Tratori Dry Creek Zin which were great meal partners.

Seasons on Main has limited seating so reservations are highly recommended, if not necessary. Bloomsburg is about an hour North of Harrisburg making it a destination, but well worth it.

Seasons on Main,  10 W. Main St.,  Bloomsburg, PA. 17815   (570) 336-2790   Open: Wed-Sat.  5-9PM   www.seasonsonmainpa.com

 

President’s Column March 2018

–by Averill Shepps–

The Pennsylvania Wine Excellence Awards Event was outstanding. 92 people had signed up. Five were no-shows, so that our attendance was 87. That is a record for that particular event, as well as for PWS events since the early years of the Society. And the winner was… Waltz Vineyards Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Crow Woods 2014. That is the second year in a row for Waltz!

The Certificate for the top scoring white wine went to Presque Isle Wine Cellars for their Lake Erie Traminette 2016. We had 7 representatives from the wineries who made the top scoring wines to speak to us about how the wines were made, and of their passion for what they are doing, and in one case, love was the secret for the excellent wines. At least four of the winemakers spoke to me after the event to say that they thought the wines poured were all deserving of recognition. That was an accolade for our judging.

I want to thank all of those who worked on PA Excellence XVI. It takes a village of wine lovers to produce. I was again delighted with the expertise and spirit exhibited in how everyone worked together. My thanks to co-host Dave for his many responsibilities; to Lynne and Nicole for handling a double work load with registration; to Brett for helping Dave with wine delivery; to Scott for bringing his super cork remover; to Jacy for posting the event on Facebook as the afternoon proceeded; to Stevie for working outside and inside the room; to pourers (we needed lots) Brenda, Cathy, Cindy, Chris, along with Dave, Brett, Scott; and I even did some. I am not listing the judges but obviously the event could not happen without them. Maybe we can say love is responsible for making PA Excellence what it is!
 

President’s Column February 2018

by Averill Shepps–

I have come across a new book on wine that is full of information on sipping, smelling, tasting wine, our favorite drink if not our favorite subject. It is “Cork Dork” written by Bianca Bosker. No, I had never heard of her either, but she is a professional journalist who has taken a journey deep into the world of wine and especially that of sommeliers, so deep in that particular world she became one! The book is about her discoveries. She writes of going through the various taste and knowledge tests that are needed to become a somm, of working in restaurants, and only the best, to study what the sommelier must learn about how to treat customers (who are rated according to how much they spend), practicing the art of presenting the wine properly, as well as how to present oneself in dress and manner. She speaks to scientists who have studied the brain, particularly the senses of taste and smell. She undergoes an fMRI examination so that a neuroscientist can note her brain’s reactions. She gets advice on how to improve her sense of smell by training her brain, and undergoes her own regimen at home to do so. She visits a sensory scientist who analyzes what regular humans enjoy about wine. The information is used by such labels as Sutter Home, Woodbridge and Yellow Tail. Randall Graham is quoted as having called Yellow Tail ”raspberry motor oil”. It is fascinating reading as she endeavors to answer the question, “What’s the big deal about wine anyway?” Another reviewer calls it “A marvelous journey through the MAD, MANIC, SEDUCTIVE subculture of wine and wine lovers.” Use your Christmas money, your stock market profits, or even cut your utility bills to buy this book. You’ll enjoy her journey, and you will learn a lot!!