Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Foursquare for Beer Lovers, NJ State Flag, and Hypotheticals

Untappd - it's foursquare for beer lovers. Check in to a location and with your pint. It's delicious, although I fear it may publicize my intox...

Additionally, a proposed update to the New Jersey State Flag:

In other news, hypothetical no. 1: If you are a lady/gentleman of the evening, what is your name? For example, Ginge Invitus, toothbrush complimentary.

Hypothetical No. 2 (by my Papa): Take your first name and/or middle name and/or last name and rearrange the letters to form a word or two word phrase then explain what it means.
Example: Carinne could be Ranniec - Cognac for running. A four loko for the jogger, of sorts. Not approved by the FDA.

And that is all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Westfall Winery

Finally. Finally, finally, the elusive Westfall Winery reopens in the northern half of the state. I've been waiting since, what, roughly, errrr, the second week of January, when I realized this one closed for three months, to reopen. Three long months.

It was worth the wait.

Westfall Winery reportedly closes January - March. I know, I know it's still March, but the gods of vino welcomed the public in early. It opened last weekend. Hallelujah - and goodbye, three northern NJ wineries on the passport.

Jonaid and I pulled into Westfall on this bright Saturday. The sunshine is exceptionally deceiving as the breeze was deadly. We rushed inside.

The small barn was filled with space heaters, leaving the tasting room surprisingly comfortable. Hummus and crackers were set out to enjoy with the free tasting. Our host Eileen (sp?) did a remarkable job of trying us out with the wines and then adjusting our tastes based on our responses.

Pinot Grigio - very light
Chardonnay - did not try
Riesling - Quite sweet, very aromatic.

Eileen asked us if we'd rather pick our wines or let her guide us. We explained our preference of dryer wines, so her tour along those lines would be good. She guided us through the wines with ease - and had Jonaid's tastes pinpointed within two pours.

Red Wines
Merlot - Did not try
Sangiovese - Very tasty. I got a glass at the end.
Old Vines Zinfandel - Eileen informed us these vines are 50 years old.
Malbec - This has an aroma that burns through the nostrils but an extremely smooth flavor.
Barbera - To me, this had a cherry aroma but the flavor was marvelously smoky. Jonaid got a glass of this, and was quite silly afterward.
Petite Sirah - Did not try
Nebbiolo - An extremely fragrant wine that was unfiltered. The flavors were not obvious after the Barbera.
Meritage - an undefined blend of Petite Shirah and others. Another smoky wine, but quite good.

Special Reserve
Rhone Blend - Shiraz, Mouvedre, and Grenache but I didn't care for it.
Vino Rosso - Did not try
Pinot Noir - Bravo. Enjoyed it.
Chocolate Orange Port - This had the aroma of a fresh orange peel, but Jonaid described the taste as a chocolate kiss. Eileen explained the ABV is 18%. Personally, I thought it tasted like cough syrup, but I'm not a port fan.

"Do you do weddings?" I asked.
"No." Eileen said. Reviewing her website, weddings are not permitted - but other private events are extremely reasonable, and possibly the cheapest in NJ for the food and the wine. If you're looking for ways to spruce up your family reunion, nothing may be better than a bit of vino.

Country Wines
Strawberry Honey Wine - Did not try
Spanish Passion - "You add an orange to this and you're done," Eileen explained this summertime treat.  The peach/orange flavor of this was very obvious.
Blueberry Wine - Did not try
Cranberry Wine - Jonaid and Eileen agreed this was dangerous - it goes down too easy, just like juice.
Apple Cinnamon Wine - Did not try
Raspberry Wine - A sour-then-sweet flavor.

"The Malbec grapes are from Chile. All others are from California," Eileen explained. "The fruit wines are all locally grown in NJ." Although the grapes aren't local, the entire production is. And the wines are done quite well.

Armed with our glasses, Jonaid and I headed outside to the farm.

We also learned that the wine owners operate another winery in Myrtle Beach - Island Winery. So if you're ever in the area, give them a shout. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tomasello Winery

They say things come in threes and wine is no exception. Around 3pm on Saturday afternoon Jonaid and I visited our third winery of the day: Tomasello Winery in Hammonton. I've driven by their other location in Freehold NJ, but was unaware they had additional setups in Smithville and Lambertville. I also learned they ship abroad; possibly making their wines the most easily accessible out of any winery in NJ.

The bright tasting room was very warm - so much so that Jonaid had to escape for a breather outside halfway through the wines. Another group was also tasting as we were there, but they were incredibly friendly and offered good conversation.

Tomasello's tasting is $5 for 5 tastes, keep the glass - but for some mysterious reason Jonaid got a mini dixie cup that was worth two additional tastes.

The wine list had fifty-four wines on it. Fifty four. I couldn't even begin to try them all - much less type. So here's an abbreviated list:

Premium Wines
Contained staples such as chardonnay (three kinds), pinot grigio, rkatsitelli, niagara, metlot, cabernet franc/sauv, and so many more.
French Colombard - to me, terribly acidic. 
Villard Noir - Strong flavor.
Chambourcin - Very smooth, very "public" (?) (I believe I was in mid-conversation when I wrote that word down)
Sangiovese/Shiraz - Wine pourer's favorite, but after the chambourcin I couldn't discern the flavors
Petit Verdot - Mild, tasty, and smooth
Pinot Noir - Enjoyed greatly
Cabernet Franc - Well done

Dessert & Sparkling
Although we didn't try any of these it included the regulars such as blueberry and cranberry, plus a few extras including sparkling, ice wines, and spice wines. I wish I would've tried the ice wines.

While the conversation with the other patrons at Tomasello was enjoyable, the atmosphere was a bit, well, almost hostile.

To begin with, the other party in the room was no longer tasting and was simply enjoying glasses of wine, however it took us some time to get any attention from the employees. Additionally, sometimes in wineries Jonaid and I request to pay for our tasting at the end - usually, because we intend to make a purchase and it's easier with one big checkout. We made it known we planned to do a sale at the end, however that was unacceptable - ring everything up, one at a time. That's alright - it's their protocol, and we went with it.

When you purchase your tastes you are given five raffle tickets - one for each pour. After I asked for a taste, the pourer just stood there, looking at me. I felt a bit awkward, until I said, "Is that okay?" and he said, "I need your ticket," which I'd completely forgotten about. I politely handed it over. On my second pour, I gave him a ticket - but halfway through that taste he interrogated me again. "Did I take your ticket?" he demanded, and I politely explained I'd already handed it over. I promise - I'm not here stealing your wines, shoving bottles into my purse or taking an extra swig when no one is looking. Take a breather.

I understand the winery was likely just doing their best to comply with policies but I guess it just wasn't done in a very welcoming manner. The laid back atmosphere is more my style.

Anyway, one purchase we made was the much coveted wine pump. I love this thing. I've practically been uncorking just to pump.

Cheers! Only six more wineries to go on the NJ Wine Passport!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Plagido's Winery

All you have to do is go here. Really, click here. It's the whole deal. All of it.

I'll photoblog - but only because it's a formality. Plagido's Winery was on the plate (or, in the glass) on Saturday. For $5 you can taste, or a free tasting with a purchase.

Semi Sweet & Sweet Red's [sic] did not try
Plagido Red - Antonia Rosso - Concetta's Casalinga - Cory's Red 

Semi Sweet & Sweet White's [sic] did not try
Plagido's Choice - Vidal Blanc - Niagara - Cory's White

Dry White's [sic]
Cam Franc Bianco (to me, champagne-y) - Chardonnay (to me, almost porty) - Chardonnay (OAK, did not try)

Dry Red's [sic]
Vino de Casa - Cab Sauvignon (very good) - Cab Sauvignon (OAK) - Cab/Merlot Blend (Pourer's  Fave; we got a bottle) - Cab Franc (The pourer gave Jonaid a 'you can't handle this' look, jokingly. Very floral aroma, spicy) - Cab Franc (OAK) - Cab Franc Reserve (slightly remnant of licorice) - Merlot - Merlot (OAK) - Shiraz (cherry scent, smooth) - Chambourcin (Sold out) - Asciutto Vino (currant smell)

Fruit Wines did not try
Cranberry - Peach - Apple - Cherry - Sangria

Port Style Wines did not try
Blueberry - Homestead - Blackberry - Dealer's Choice

Not snow... That's sand

The last name of the owner is Tomasello... I am curious about any potential relationship between this gentleman and another vineyard, to be reported on later this week...

Cheers & Choc.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pull the Ribbon & Voila

An incredible mountain of chocolate and wine heaven.

It's not often that I purchase a bottle of wine purely for the novelty of it. Once I bought a bottle of Chloe for Chloe - but it was by extreme accident I encountered it, at a random wine stop on an eight hour road trip to see Chloe. That one was just fate. But otherwise, I typically try to buy for tastes or prices.

This was a well-deserved exception. Yesterday I walked into Plagido's Winery. Lo and behold - the chocolate covered bottle.

At first I thought the "chocolate" was a plastic encasing, designed to keep the temperature of the wine. Not so - the entire shell was chocolate. Real cocoa, real chocolate. A $31 bottle of wine - the most expensive bottle I've ever bought - I snagged it in less than five seconds. No hesitation. The biggest challenge was figuring out if it would make the hour ride home without melting. Jonaid was a good sport as we rode back with the windows down in the 40 degree weather.

Today, I tore into it. A photoblog.

"Simply pull the ribbon to release the chocolate cover from the bottle and enjoy the sensation of chocolate and wine as they mingle in your mouth."

And all the King's horses and all the King's men, couldn't put Wineaux together again.

We picked up the Cab Franc - Merlot blend, because that was the bottle they had. But if you call in advance, you can apply chocolate to any bottle. Great fun. Cheers & chow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

DiMatteo's Vineyards

"We're lost." I held the phone with some annoyance. Wineries can be very difficult to find, frustratingly so when a GPS will find the address, but what the GPS thinks isn't accurate... Not the first time this has happened on the NJ Passport wine journey. If anyone else is attempting this, look up directions on the winery's website first! Always!

"The number listed in the passport is the number to the house... Here's the number to the vineyard. Call my husband. He'll help you better." A woman with a kind voice answered us patiently.

I dialed the number, and a gruff voice picked up. "Are you potential customers?" he asked. Answering with the affirmative, he gave me very detailed directions. Jonaid and I pulled in to DiMatteo's Vineyards  minutes later.

The tasting structure was quite small and is adjacent to both grape vines and the Atlantic City Expressway. Trucks thundered by as we walked in to the small interior. The new tasting room has only been open a year and a half, and it shines with natural light.

We pulled up to the counter and were introduced to our wine host; a very energetic retired gentleman who operates the vineyard. For $3 you can taste, for $5 you can keep the glass, and if you ever come back with the glass, taste for free again. Mr. DiMatteo offered extremely generous pours.

"I have to do it like this," Mr. DiMatteo explained. "Ladies always get poured first." Throughout the tasting I was always served first, and Jonaid waited patiently to order his next taste until I was ready.

Cab Franc - Heavier than the other wines with remnants of plum.
Red Table - Well done and would easily go with a large variety of dishes.
Pasquale Red - Did not try
Jersey Red - Did not try
Madison - Did not try. I asked what it was though - it is a blush
Chardonnay - A very cloudy wine; the buttery flavor is noticeable but something about it was quite harsh.
Vidal Blanc - Jonaid snagged this taste. I was quite proud of him all day, picking so many white wines. It had flavors a bit of sour apple, very crisp.
Traminette - Did not try
Niagara - Jonaid explained "this smells like cheese". To each their own.
Diamond - "This? This is a beautiful white- a lady's best friend," Mr. DiMatteo explained. Sweeter but good, and very crisp. A summertime drink (perhaps with my diamond girls?).
Cranberry - Did not try
Blueberry - Jonaid tasted this. It's very good and I enjoyed it.
Strawberry - "Do you own a weapon?" Mr. DiMatteo asked. A bit alarmed, I gave him a concerned look. "You know - a bow and arrow, or even a butcher knife, or maybe a baseball bat?" He clarified. I nodded and explained I, in fact, own a weapon. "Good," he continued, "because you'll need it with this. You open it? And your neighbors will attack." I laughed. He poured a generous helping. The aroma was distinctly strawberry, but the thick taste wasn't to my liking. It was a bit too much like a cough syrup, but the heavier taste may sit well with those who like ports.
Jersey White - Did not try
Sparkling Cranberry - Did not try

"How old were you when you started in wines?" I asked.
"Five. My grandma bootlegged."
I laughed. Maybe he was serious. Maybe he wasn't.
"But we have a big grape stomp in September," he continued. "Buffet, band, and stomping. Mostly the women at first, yelling at their husbands to get in there too. They never listen, the husbands - well at first anyway. That's what I do - stand and watch and see all of the chaos, and who wins the battle in the end." He looked at Jonaid. "Listen to your wife - then do whatever you want anyway. That's what I do. 'I'll be there in a second,' I say, but then I don't go... Don't tell my wife." I couldn't help but to laugh.

All wines are sold by the bottle (roughly $10-11 a bottle with the exception of the sparkling cranberry, which is $16.95) or by the glass ($4.50 a glass). Cheers!

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's a St. Patrick's Day Miracle

No Hangover!!!

Also last week's Hypothetical Situation (which can also be found here): You are a lady/gentleman of the night. What’s your street name? For example – Ginge Invitus. Toothbrush included – beware of oral diseases.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I've Got a Golden Bracket

I love March Madness. Love it love it love it. I know nothing about basketball and honestly I'm usually mathematically eliminated before the games even begin. But this year something is different - maybe I'm just feeling lucky. Hence, in a singsongy Eric Cartman voice, I've got a Golden Bracket...

Also, I must admit I love that President Obama posts a bracket. What fun. How about -- if I do better I don't pay taxes for a year? Easy economic boost too - NCAA is Made in America!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Green Beer Experiment

So it's St. Patrick's day, right. I get epically excited about all things green. Ex, green bagels.

Or, green pizza dough at the Roman Inn at Gettysburg. And I'll even dress up as a leprochaun by a rainbow with a pot of gold bud light (ad campaign anyone?).

Maybe Oktoberfest green leiderhosen can double for leprochaun pants?? Anyway that's beyond the point. The real treat is green beverages -- but the minty grasshoppers aren't exactly as Irish as a nice pint. After two years of no luck with finding a green beer, in 2k10 I decided to make my own green beer with food dye.

Although effective, the oral consequences were less than stellar.

So my boyfriend attempts an appeasement by dropping an m&m in my beer. A peanut M&M. The beer takes the food coloring out and voila - green beer without the after effect of a dyed tongue.

This weekend was yet another year of no bars with green beer, so the girls and I decided to do some experimentation.

The beers were slightly larger than usual, so two m&ms were needed. It's critical to use peanut m&ms because of (a) optimal surface area gives more food coloring (b) minimal chocolate being added to beverage and (c) who doesn't like beer and peanuts? Disclaimer - if you are allergic to peanuts, do not conduct this experiment.

M&Ms were added to a light beer (note on the beer spectrum coors is lighter than bud, but only Miller Light was on tap, so we went with that).

Fizz fizz fizz & lots of head later - a green beer. Two green peanut m&ms were used for Kate's & my beer (respective beers, c'mon now, we're professionals. We don't share that nonsense).

Jess decided to go for a deeper shade - one green m&m and one blue.

Monica had a medium green - two green m&ms, one blue, and a side of creeper Liz:

The only side effects were that at the very last swallow as a mild chocolate flavor. But it was a nice finish and no Hulk mouth. Another good trick is - change the holiday, change the m&m color. A red beer would look great on V-day, an Orange on Halloween. Or even just do it to match your outfit.

So now there's pumpkin beers on Halloween... Candy Cane Scroogedrivers at Christmas... What's next? Earth day??? Bring it & drink up.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Arithmetic Lessons for Adults (Lesson 2)

Algebra: Painful and intimidating, but not as complicated as one might think.

Algebra can also be used in the noun sense, as what mermaids shop for at Vickie's Clam (not to be confused with Victoria's Secret). Custom designs are created by the process below.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Pauly D vs Kool Aid Man (OH Yeah) & Lazy Sunday

Before there was the review of Snooki's Book, now it's the Pauly D theft of Kool-Aid Man's OH YEAH.

Next up, was the Fonz the original the Situation? Dissertation to come.

Mostly, Jonaid last night and I were video chatting. I said something about the Kool-Aid Man, he said something about "OH YEAH", and the equation was solved. As Jonaid tells me, I think i'm "soooo funny."

After that, I made a Flickr account for my upcoming photography class this week. I have no photos yet so it's not even worth being a creeper for. 

After that, I sliced up the veggies for pot roast and gave homemade jalapeno cornbread a shot. I had a spicy cornbread at the Ribfest in Pittsburgh last year and have been unable to find any since. I finally came up with a recipe that resembles pizza vomit aesthetically but is absolutely delicious. I'm quite proud actually. It's pretty good.