— by Averill Shepps
I have written before but not recently, about one of my favorite wine books, Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise. Terry is a poet and the use of language is important to him, so that the book is beautifully written. He helps the reader to look at wine differently.
I opened the book in anticipation of this column, and the first thing I saw was, “Have you ever tried to field the question, what kind of wine do you like?” I thought of many times when I have been asked exactly that. Pourers at wineries or wine shows ask it. At least they have a reason; they are trying to find out what to pour for you. I am asked it often because people know of my serious interest in wine. I assume they are after gems of wisdom or guidance on what to buy. I am asked it in social situations where the asker is just making conversation. I can go on. But my answer in each situation is different. I often answer it with “It depends” or “It varies”.
Thus, “It depends on what I am eating”. Sometimes I just say, “French” or “European”, just to get past the awkwardness of the question. Terry says he responded that he liked moderate wine, but while he had an idea of what he meant, the asker was flummoxed. At a winery they expect you to answer sweet or dry. I like my wine wet is an accurate answer to that query. And then they ask red or white? Again, it depends. Sometimes I say I like good wine. T he better it is the better I like it. We can all agree with that answer. I would enjoy hearing any of your responses to the question. Do let me know of any gems.
— by Chris Hammacher
“Sweet, rich-textured, flower-scented and smooth.” For many of us, this may cause us to think of sweet fruit-flavored wines, White Zinfandel, or even box wines just to name a few. We would not be wrong. What if I said those same characteristics also describe one of the most enjoyable wines in the world? Oh, and by the way, it is rare, sought after, revered and deliciously sweet.
Now, let us add the fact that the reason this wine is so well known and has those characteristics is not because the winemaker purposely adds sugar or infuses additional flavor, but rather it is due to a fungus that grows on the grapes. One question…would you care to drink a wine purposely made with fungus? The fungus is called Botrytis Cinerea, also more commonly known as “noble rot.”
The botrytis forms during mild misty evenings and then multiplies when the days become hot. The fungus does not convey a “rotten” taste to the grapes but instead it helps to release almost all the water from the grapes. By doing so, it leaves the grape skin container filled with sugar, acids, and flavor components. The small amount of juice that does remain is more concentrated than ever. The producers that choose to make this wine must wait for this process to occur and finish, then harvest immediately. Their window of opportunity is a very narrow one, since normally too much humid weather quickly follows and will turn the noble rot to grey rot, and all would be lost.
If all the stars align and growing conditions are optimal, the wine that is made from this botrytis is truly remarkable and has the potential to be one of the longest-living wines in the world, able to be cellared for nearly half a century. The two most well-known regions for these wines are Sauternes and Barsac, both in France. The crème de la crème, the pinnacle of these wines, quite literally, “the gold standard” is Chateau d’Yquem and it hails from Sauternes. It was given the title of Premier Cru Supérieur back in 1855 during the Classification of Bordeaux wines, the only Sauternes to this day to hold that title. However, there are many great producers of these wines at reasonable prices. I would encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try one with appropriate food matches.
—by Averill Shepps
Your Board of Directors held its planning meeting recently, a get-together where we present and discuss ideas for tastings to be held in the coming year. It is a time where we look at general goals for PWS away from the monthly Board meetings when we have to be concerned with the business and function of the organization so that we have little time for broader discussions. Many ideas were proposed, and we did leave the meeting with a broad plan for 2019. While we have lots of ideas about possible tastings, we have to do more research to be sure they are viable and appropriate for our members and friends. We have to assure that the wines are available in the state or if they have to be special ordered, to decide whether we should have a speaker and, if so, who, and a Board member has to be willing to manage the event, etc.
Some of the events that were suggested include The Pennsylvania Wine Excellence tasting in January where we present the top scoring wines from our judging; a Bordeaux tasting in February; Portuguese wines for March, an International wine tasting for April, Loire Valley wines for May. For later in the year we would like to have a dinner and wine event, a Malbec tasting, a walk-around tasting presented by one or two importers/distributors, a Champagne tasting towards the holiday season, an educational event with HAAC’s Bob Green.
We have a couple of open spots, especially in the summer months. We often visit a local winery during that season, and we may have a summer social event or an ever popular Blue Light. Since we do have some open spots, any of you are welcome to make a suggestion of an event you would like us to hold. Contact me or any other Board member about your idea. Meanwhile you can look forward to an exciting and varied schedule of events for 2019.
—by Zach Ortenzio
Miss Saigon, 1736 E. Chocolate Avenue, Hershey, Pa. 717-533-6857
Reservations suggested; closed Mondays, open Tuesday and Wednesday 10am-8pm, Thursday through Saturday 10am-9pm and Sunday 11am-8pm. No corkage fee. Décor is plain with an eclectic group of objects to amuse the eye.
One of the three appetizers, Bo Nuong La Nho, was memorable, the grilled marinated beef wrapped in grape leaves with duck sauce.
Main courses included: Gà Nuóng, grilled chicken served with rice and with pickled vegetables, including carrots and cucumbers. The chicken was attractively served with slices spread out from a mound of rice and vegetables. The chicken had a pleasant soy and honey glaze. The pickled vegetables were a nice counterpoint to the chicken.
Mì Xà Dòn, a combination of crispy stir fried egg noodles with vegetables and chicken. This meal could feed at least two people.The dish was layered with a soy broth followed by noodles and finally chicken and vegetables, which included mushrooms and carrots. Both the chicken and vegetables were thinly sliced so you did not need a knife. Surprisingly the egg noodles stayed crisp through the entire meal, and the chicken and vegetables were lightly seasoned so you were able to enjoy all of the flavors in this meal.
Two of us had Pho dishes, Vietnamese Beef and Noodle soup. Both soups contained rice noodles and thin slices of eye of round and brisket in a gently seasoned broth. Served with the dishes was a plate containing bean sprouts, basil, hot pepper slices and segments of lime. Any or all of these could be added to the broth. One of us flavored his broth with the basil and peppers, the other preferred the gentle but distinct flavor of the lime and basil. The soups were ample; the broth was good although one was a little too salty.
—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.
—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
–by Chris Hammacher
Lazzaro’s Italian Bistro, 49 N Railroad St, Palmyra, PA 17078
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.
—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!
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!
—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!