by Averill Shepps
As I think about what to write this month, my memory goes back to the earlier years of PWS, back to when we were known as the Wine Society of Central Pennsylvania. Back when we started we were the only game in town. If you wanted to learn about wine, we were your answer. Now the wine specialty stores are having tastings! I recall my first wine society tasting and my surprise at hearing about events coming up. I wanted to attend all of them in order to increase my knowledge. Naturally some events were good, and some not so good, but there was never an event where I learned nothing. That is still true. In Science, a negative result in an experiment is still important as it gives you more information about what you are studying. Wine is much like that. You try wines made from a specific grape or from a certain country or wine area, even a specific vintage from a really good (or bad) year, and all those experiments blend together to increase your knowledge. In the early years of your pursuit, you are also learning about your taste buds and your nose. We are all unique so that what appeals to one person is not the same as another. When we vote for our favorite wine at the end of a tasting, most wines get at least one or two votes. Another huge plus for becoming part of PWS is that you meet people who share your passion for your favorite subject. To others, we are obsessed; to kindred souls we are a source of yet more knowledge and we can join our friends in enjoying wine more than once a month!
—by Averill Shepps
Late Fall is election time for your Wine Society. A Nomination Committee has begun work and will be announcing its results at our November Board meeting on Monday, November 12. The vote itself will take place at the December meeting on Monday, December 10. All meetings are held at the Harrisburg Hilton and begin at 6:30 p.m. You may order dinner from the room service menu and have it served just before the meeting. Board members may bring wines that we sample during the meeting. Nominations for any Board position may also be made by a Board member. You may attend the meeting, or you may send your nomination to the Committee Chair, Scott Casper, at 9 Spring Hill Lane, Elizabethtown, PA 17022 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Not only can any current member nominate another member for a Board position, s/he may also vote at the December meeting. Members have the right to attend any Board meeting; the dates are listed on the back of each Newsletter.
If any of you are considering joining the Board, we would love to hear from you. It means going to monthly meetings at the Hilton, helping with tastings, and thereby learning how to host events or perhaps perform another function for the Society. You will learn a lot more about wine and be working with some really dedicated people who love the subject. Talk to any Board member about what is involved and let us know of your interest.
–by Bill Beeson
Upper level at 7011 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg PA 17112 Phone: 717-710-3731 Hours: Tues- Sat: 10am – 9pm; Sun: 11am – 7pm
Our area has seen a number of phở restaurants open recently, and we’ve been sampling them. Phở (pronounced “fuh”) is the national dish of Vietnam. It is a rich broth with rice noodles and your choice of a variety of meats, seafood, or vegetarian ingredients. Bean sprouts, Thai basil, scallions, jalapenos and lime are served on the side to top your order to your tastes. It is a full meal.
For lighter fare, appetizers consist of a variety of hot and cold Vietnamese rolls, most containing pork, as well as Bánh Mì or Vietnamese meat sandwiches (think Vietnamese sub). The menu fills out with meat and seafood entrees with rice vermicelli or white rice, and fried rice combos. An interesting variety of Vietnamese beverages are available. We didn’t sample any as we brought wine, of course.
I ordered the Tàu Hủ Cuon – Winter Rolls – fried tofu and vegetable cold rolls which are served with a delicious bean dipping sauce. I was very impressed with the fresh and complex flavors in this vegetarian roll – these were the best rolls of this style I’ve tasted anywhere. For my entrée I chose the Phở Vegetables. Some phở dishes I’ve tasted were somewhat bland, but not this one! The broth was extremely flavorful and the vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The added fried tofu was so good, I wished there was more (something to request next time). The Vietnamese vegetables provided some unusual, subtle and delectable flavors. Vietnamese food is distinct from Chinese, Thai and Cambodian, though some ingredients are shared. Lynne had the Gỏi Cuốn spring roll appetizer and the Cơm Chiên Đồ Biển – shrimp, salmon, crabmeat, shrimp balls & egg stir-fried rice. The spring rolls were crispy, fresh, and contained an unidentified interesting, unique spice combination to be enjoyed. The seafood rice had fresh garden ingredients and fresh seafood with several fish surprises not promised (cuttle fish and scallops); making it both interesting and tasty.
The shock of the evening was our check as we found prices to be very reasonable given the gustatory experience we both enjoyed. WHEN, not if you go; because you must go – this is a great find. We recommend bringing light whites and rosés which will not overwhelm the subtle, wonderful taste profiles in these dishes. Enjoy!
—by Averill Shepps
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new comes along. In this case it’s blue wine, not the Blue Nun wine that was popular in the 70’s, but blue-colored wine! Why? I suppose because it can be made. The vinification process uses both red and white grapes blended with anthrocyanin from the red grape skins and indigotine, an organic compound commonly used as a food dye. It was first made by a Spanish company called Gik and the Italian Blumond, but they both ran afoul of the wine labelling laws.
A new company has made a blue wine and calls it Vindigo, avoiding the laws, possibly because nowhere on the label is it called wine and because it has enough alcohol to be called wine . Blumond at 7% alcohol was rejected for that reason. According to Vindigo’s Facebook page, it is made from Chardonnay grapes filtered through red grape skins for the anthrocyanin. Flavors mentioned are cherry, raspberry, blackberry and passionfruit. No mention of the food coloring. Apparently the drink is very popular in some parts of southern France, so okay, it’s a non-serious holiday wine that looks pretty in the pictures as it is a lovely color, but not one that we usually drink.
Blue wine has received press attention in such magazines as the British Decanter, as well as the American Food and Wine and Wine and Spirits. Reuters has also covered it. Let’s see where this trend leads. I’m sure the story isn’t over, and if the wine proves to be serious, PWS will have to introduce it to you.
—by Dave Williams
316 Bridge St., New Cumberland, PA. 717 547-6250, www.zanellis.com T- Th: 11-9, F-Sat: 11-10
Apparently, it runs in their family and in their blood starting with immigrant grandparents from Northern Italy that started an olive oil and wine import business in NYC early 1900s – to parents that operated a grocery store and butcher shop outside the city. Now brother and sister have opened a bistro style restaurant and bakery in New Cumberland. Dan, who is the Head Chef after 20 years’ experience in Italian kitchens with his sister, Joan, the General Manager, are offering in-house made pastas, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, Stromboli, pizzas and desserts.
A nice selection of appetizers are available from bruschetta to flash-fried calamari to hand-breaded veggies. The roasted eggplant caprese was a delightful twist on the conventional caprese. Salads are nicely presented with the option of adding steak, chicken or shrimp to make a meal. Pastas are the feature with some time tested recipes and a few favorites Dan has acquired over the years. You also can compose your own pasta dish with a selection of sauces and add-ons. However, I suggest trying one of the regular menu items to get a taste for what the Zanellis offer. Mare e Monti, steak and shell fish in a tomato sauce over linguini, and squid ink pasta tossed with calamari in olive oil and garlic sauce were our selections. We left pleased and sated without room for dessert.
Zanelli’s is intended to be a neighborhood, family restaurant. It is a BYOB so come prepared. Reservations are accepted only for parties of 8 or more. Prices are quite reasonable. The Saturday we dined, music was offered by a local singer, guitar player that pleasantly complemented our experience. Enjoy.
— 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.