Our Wine Tour of Tuscany by Scott Casper

Some of our favorite wines come from Tuscany so we wanted to take a wine tour of the region. The appellations we visited were: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. The appellation we looked forward to visiting is one of the most prestigious in the world, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Of the wineries we visited in the Brunello zone, our favorites were Altesino and Val di Suga.

We wanted to visit Altesino because we drank more of their Brunello than any other and really liked it. Altesino has a good working relationship with the PLCB that over the years has benefited the winery and Pennsylvania wine consumers. The winery staff was pleased to hear that we were from PA. We had their 2012 Brunello that was very good AND it is currently available in the state system. But the “show stopper” at the tasting was their Montesoli, their single vineyard, estate flagship wine. That was excellent! It should be. It costs over $100 a bottle!

Val di Suga produces three single vineyard, estate Brunellos. Each vineyard has a very different type of soil; therefore, the three Brunellos taste and smell completely different. That made for a very special tasting. I particularly looked forward to this winery visit because I have a 1999 Spuntali Vineyard Brunello. The Spuntali soil is very interesting because it’s ocean floor with lots of seashells. It’s not something you would expect in southcentral Tuscany but the ocean receded from this area millions of years ago.

The gracious and knowledgeable woman who conducted the cellar tour and tasting was astounded that I had a Spuntali from 1999. She asked, “where did you ever find it?” I told her I found it in a “magical place” called the West Shore Plaza Wine and Spirits Store in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania back in 2007. I said, “They even had a special name for it. They called it a Chairman’s Selection.”

The first appellation we went to in Tuscany was Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. The famous winery Poliziano was our first stop. The winery secured a reputation for consistently producing fine wines for many years. After the cellar tour, we went to their modern tasting room where the winery manager conducted the tasting. We had five of their wines. All of their wines were spectacular! Our next stop in the appellation was at Gattevecchi. Instead of having their wines in a tasting room, we had them with lunch on their small outside deck high up in the mountains. We had four of their wines with as many courses and they were all perfect pairings. The view, the wines and the food were “trifecta” winners!

The last appellation we visited in Tuscany was Chianti Classico DOCG. The Classico region is different from Chianti DOCG. Chianti Classico produces the best wines overall compared to Chianti, Chianti Rufina or Colli Senesi. You can easily identify the Classico wines with the symbol of their DOCG, a black rooster, on the upper label of every bottle produced there. We went to five wineries in the Chianti Classico zone. Our favorite was Vecchie Terre di Montefili. This is a small production winery that makes fine artisan wines. It was formerly a monastery high up in the mountains. The monks planted the vineyards and started to make the first wines here. They later sold the estate and it became a commercial winery.

Vecchie Terre di Montefili is a beautiful place. The views were breathtaking due to its elevation. It has two ponds among its vineyards with tall, full shade trees at the winery building. Both the winery and house had abundant plantings of beautiful flowers in full bloom. We had five wines including a thirteen-year old Super Tuscan. They were all stellar. Tuscany is remarkably scenic and the wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino (see last month’s newsletter) and Chianti Classico are among the best in Italy and the world!

Healthy BYOB Mellow Minded Cafe

by Lynne Beeson


Mellow Minded Café – Living, Loving, Local  at 5943 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112  717-412-7120

Hours: M-Tu 11-4; W-Th  11-8; F-Sa 9 -9; Su 9-3


This is our frequent go-to when we want to avoid the Friday interstate traffic snarls, and still want a good meal!   This place is family friendly, reasonably priced, and the best we’ve found among local ‘vegetarian-or-not’ places.   It’s casual, with counter walk-up service, but food is brought piping hot to your table when ready…so you can order, then sit back, pop a cork, and settle in a bit and chat before your food arrives.

Great care is taken with allergens, food restrictions, and preferences – including gluten free, dairy free, and vegan notations on the menus – the people behind the counter know what’s in each recipe, or will check with the chef if they don’t.  There’s something for everyone from small plates (prosciutto wrapped asparagus with balsamic) to large plates (fajitas your way) and from salads (add fish, shellfish or steak) to smoothies (from a fruit cornucopia – whatever you wish), But on to the fabulous FRESH food we enjoyed last visit, and the local wines we paired!

This visit, our dining trio started with the tomato bisque, which is gluten free, thick yet creamy, and oh so good. We paired soup with Allegro Brut Rosé.   Moving on to entrees, we sampled the crab cake dinner – one humongous lump crab cake on creamy parmesan risotto with grilled asparagus; the specially marinated, then BBQ tofu sandwich on brioche with very fresh, organic mixed greens on the side; and “the burger” (no roll this time to really savor the burger) made with locally raised, grass fed beef, topped with garlic aioli, lettuce and tomato also with a side of lightly dressed organic greens. With these we paired Allegro 2014 Skin Chardonnay, and the awesome, drinking-at-its-best right now, Allegro 2002 Reserve Merlot – every weekend should start this way!   You must check out this place.   Mellow Minded also serves breakfast – we keep planning to do that – it just hasn’t yet happened – but it will as we keep coming back and have yet to be disappointed.

The Inn at Herr Ridge by David Williams III

900 Chambersburg Rd, Gettysburg, PA. 17325 717 334-4332

Wine dinners are nothing new, however, superb food and wine dinners at reasonable prices in historic venues near Harrisburg are worthy of mention. I have to admit I was not familiar with the Inn at Herr Ridge but have driven past it innumerable times as it sits on Rt. 30 about 4 miles East of Gettysburg. My bet is you have too. I strongly suggest becoming familiar with this establishment.

Sommelier Brad Doerr and Chef Michael Andrews are pairing up to do themed wine dinners every Friday over the winter season. The themes change monthly. November 11, we attended a 4 course “Casa del Vino” Wine Dinner featuring wines and foods from Spain. Before I share the menu, I must tell you this location owned by Steve Wolf since 1977 has a 6000+ bottle wine cellar with domestic and international vintages dating back to 1970’s. It has also multiple Wine Spectator recognition awards. Brad has been given stewardship over the cellar and selects wine for the wine dinners not seen on the restaurant wine list. Trust me, after the tour of the cellar they have many surprises worthy of superlatives. Chef Andrews is certainly up to the challenge. Our menu is outlined below:

Manchego-Chorizo Pisto a la Macha served with Casa del Mar, Cava Brut NV
Valencia Seafood Paella paired with 2007 Martin Sancho, Verdejo, Rueda
Stella Cherry Braised Pork Belly with Smoked Bacon Gigante Beans, dancing on one’s tongue with a 2000 Segura Viduas Reserva from Penedès (Tempranillo)
Astorgia Chocolate Crema Catalana Raspberry Espuma wonderfully paired with a 2004 Dominio de Tares from Bierzo (Mencia)

I am a tough restaurant critic but was more than delighted with all 4 courses; in fact, I was impressed. The wines were expertly matched and highly complementary. One comment I have to make, a 9 year old Verdejo was the surprise of the evening, although the significant red with dessert made me momentarily pause before consuming both completely, ending with a wonderfully sated smile. Verdejo is typically youthful, light in color and tart with nice balance. However, this was truly golden showing a richness of age and deep elegant notes with a lingering finish. All of this for $70 per person plus tax and tip. Attending the wine dinner, should you wish to spend the evening and enjoy the B&B, you receive a 33% discount off your room. Look for me as I plan to return for the food as well as the wine. Check the web site under events for upcoming wine dinners. December will be Argentina. Yummmmmm !

Greystone Public House by Bill Beeson

The Greystone Public House has made a spectacular entrance, quickly ascending to the top of the Harrisburg dining scene. Chef Jason Viscount, formerly of Bricco, has a creative approach to “contemporary, rustic American” dishes. What I appreciate most is the consistent attention to detail that is (unfortunately) not often encountered locally. An example – salads are never overdressed, and the balance of spices and flavors is in perfect harmony. We’ve tried four of the five standard salads and wouldn’t change a thing about any of them.

I enjoyed black cod and clams in a clam broth so delightful, I took the leftover home for use in my cooking the next day. Portions, by the way are always generous—think of the next day’s lunch. Other dishes we and our friends and business associates have enjoyed, include the seared yellowfin tuna with baby turnips, lentils, kabocha squash and spiced pumpkin seed gremolata; blue catfish with fingerling potatoes, braised kale and endive; swordfish atop oyster mushroom risotto; a smoked elk sausage sandwich with chipotle apple butter, warm pepper onion and cabbage slaw; braised beef shortribs with smashed red bliss potatoes, brown butter brussels sprouts and red wine sauce; and yellowfin crostini with chili aioli and avocado – all of these and more completely wowed us!

The wine service is equally impressive, and unmatched in this area. Over 200 bottles are offered, many also available by the glass. And Greystone takes an innovative approach by offering “The Stack” of three 8 oz. carafes (stacked via unique bottle design). This enables individuals to pair a different wine with each course as the three wines chosen can be different. Wine and food prices are reasonable – which is refreshing!

The building’s original structure was built in the 18th century, and the newest renovations were reconstructed in a modern rustic style. We recommend dining upstairs if you like intimate conversation. The bar is large, open, with table seating on both sides and wonderful for socializing on a more casual conversation level. It can be however, quite noisy! Parking is plentiful and free!

Every wine selection we tried has been excellent, further demonstrating exceptional care and planning with the menu in mind. This is yet another feature that makes Greystone stand out in the local dining area. Reserve a table soon! You will find Greystone at 2120 Colonial Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112. Phone: 717.829.9952 Hours : M-Th: 11am – 11pm; Fri – Sat: 11am – 12am; Sunday: 10am – 10pm [Sunday Brunch 10am – 3pm].