"Winey Wednesdays"


Everyone loves a party, especially one done in grand style. Such was the case for the 2012 Forks and Corks Grand Tasting held on Sunday, Jan. 29. The 5th Annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival was hosted by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals and made possible through event sponsors, donors and business partners.  Sarasota’s culinary creativity, range and diversity were all  showcased in a series of winemaker dinners, interactive seminars and classes and with the culminating public event, the Grand Tasting.

The Sunday afternoon was “picture perfect” for an outdoor event: bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky with temps in the 70s. The magnificent courtyard of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art served as center stage for a palate-pleasing presentation. The performers, approximately 50 local chefs and restaurateurs, combined their culinary talents with 80 international winemakers to present one of the finest flavorful food festivals in Sarasota.

The Grand Tasting event was scheduled from 12-4 pm. We arrived fashionably late (12:20pm), only to find the crowd already sizeable. With 1000-plus people attending and this event being a quick sell-out, we anticipated some difficulty with logistics. This was not the case at all! Registration was easy, the program well-organized, signage was good and the flow of people easily managed. All we needed was a plan to navigate more than 85 tables offering food, beer and wine. Our initial plan was amazingly simple in concept: start in numeric order, do a quick survey of the various foods and wines being offered (noting the ones we wanted to explore further) and then circle back to those tables we highlighted. We quickly realized our levels of interest far exceeded our capacity to taste and consume. So much for best-laid plans! Here are some of the highlights from our gastronomic trek.

Osso Bucco from Ophelia's

Local Food:

– Lamb Osso Bucco from Ophelia’s on the Bay
– Grilled Flank Steak on Artisan Roll from Michael’s on East
– Bruchetta Pomodoro and Agnolotti from Salute!
– Spicy Korean Pork Belly Happy Buns from The Polo Grill & Bar
– Kobe Beef Sliders from Square 1 Burgers & Bar
– Classic Caesar Salad from Euphemia Haye

Taylor Bay Scallop Crudo from Derek's

– Taylor Bay Scallop Crudo from Derek’s Culinary Casual
– White Bean Cassoulet from Bijou Café

Food photos courtesy of Larry Hoffman.

 

 

Wines from around the world:

– Bell Pinot Gris from Bell Wine Cellars
– Whispering Angel Rosé from Chateau D’Esclans
– Sondraia Bolgheri DOC from Poggio al Tesoro
– Noble Riesling from Helfrich
– Carneros Chardonnay from Merryvale Winery
– Champagne Rosé from Nicholas Feuillatte
– Mint Haven Cabernet from Morgenhof Estate
– Chenin Blanc from Post House

The afternoon was truly delightful, combining some of Sarasota’s finest assets: food, wine, people and weather in one amazing place.  Plus, on your way out all of the wines tasted were offered for purchase in a special retail tent at a discounted price. Now how is that for an added bonus? For those who like to plan ahead, next year’s Forks & Corks is scheduled for Jan. 25-28, 2013. Tickets go on sale Nov. 12, 2012.

Congratulations to all the people who made the 2012 Forks & Corks such a great success. Sarasota was proudly represented!

Photo by Peter Acker.

 

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Planning a successful fundraising event can be daunting. There are innumerable tasks, hundreds of details, logistics to consider, inevitable last-minute changes and challenges to master before the event can even take place, let alone be successful.

Planning these types of events since 1991, the Florida Winefest & Auction team makes this type of challenge appear easy. Having raised $7.5 million raised for children’s charities, the Florida Winefest’s Balloon Glow Dinner was their latest example of an elegant, fun-filled fundraising event.

 

The Balloon Glow Dinner

The first of its kind in the Sarasota area, the Balloon Glow Dinner was held under the stars at the 85-acre Herschberger Ranch on Friday, Feb. 24, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Imagine a wide-open field and pond at sunset. On one side of the pond, there’s a tent-covered area with 20 round tables elegantly set. On the other side of the pond, six hot air balloons intermittently fire their propane burners, providing a colorful glow from the inside of the balloon and the corresponding reflection off the water—truly an interesting backdrop.

The gourmet dinner catered by Chef Paul Mattison was served buffet-style, with four primary food stations and three dessert stations all set up around the back perimeter of the tent. The menu consisted of the following:

  • Panzanella: Fennel-crusted bread salad of olives, anchovies, and capers with a red wine reduction.
  • Ripe Tomatoes and Boccancini: Mozzarella with caramelized onions and fresh basil oil.
  • Strawberry Salad: Romaine lettuce with strawberries, candied walnuts, gorgonzola and chopped red onion served with Sauvignon vinaigrette.
  • Pan Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb: New Zealand rack with a mint, tomato and lemon confiture.
  • Sliced Duck Breast: With mandarin oranges, roasted shallots, candied pecans and ginger demi.
  • Carved Beef Tenderloin
  • Paella: Traditional Spanish saffron rice with shrimp, mussels, fresh fish, chorizo, pork, garlic, onions, peas, artichoke hearts and tomatoes.
  • Plank Broiled Salmon: With basil, lemon and a Vernaccia cream sauce.
  • Shrimp
  • Chicken in Chianti: Slow-roasted chicken thighs with onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, pine nuts, sultanas, demi-glace and sage.
  • Grilled Quail: With dried cranberry sauce.
  • Risotto: Fugi con Tortifo.
  • Smore’s: Fire pits, Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and loads of fun.
  • Warm Apple Crisp: Deep-dish apple cobbler topped with vanilla bean gelato
  • Bananas Foster Flambé Crepe: Fresh-cut bananas, caramelized brown sugar, cinnamon and crème fraiche flambeed in a crepe with imported dark rum and banana liquor, topped with fresh, sweetened whipped cream.

Jim and Sharon Butler enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

As one would expect from the Florida Winefest & Auction, an ample selection of boutique wines ranging from sparkling, white, rosé, and red in various varietals were available as an aperitif and an accompaniment to the meal. Music for the evening was provided by John Rinell.

This year’s Balloon Glow Dinner served as a preview for next year’s event: Planning is already underway for 2013 Florida Winefest and Hot Air Balloon Festival to be held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. Plans include participation from 15 to 20 balloonists, rides and much more to come—another first of its kind in Sarasota!

Florida Winefest & Auction’s 22nd annual event will be held in Sarasota, April 12 through April 15, 2012. For more information on all the events and ticket purchases, go to the Florida Winefest & Auction website.

Under the tent at the Balloon Glow Dinner. All photos by Candice McElyea.

 

 SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Many restaurants in the Sarasota area offer a “BYOB” policy; but are they truly sincere?

We thought it would be a good idea to provide a listing of restaurants which allow you to bring your own wine for lunch or dinner. So we created the “BYOB” category on our site and set out to work. Now this is where it becomes interesting. In fact very interesting! We started reaching out to local SRQ restaurants to inquire about their “BYOB” policy and found the following:

1) Most Sarasota area restaurants allow patrons to bring their own bottle for a corkage fee. This is a standard practice.

2) The range of prices for the corkage fee were from $0 to $25…yikes!

Now we do not begrudge a restaurant for charging a fee for the “BYOB” service. It is only fair to pay something for the service and to help defray the restaurant’s lost revenue from the wine sale. However we feel $25 is excessive and not consistent with the spirit of the “BYOB” category we are trying to build. So we had to make a decision how to represent this on our site and we did. We are listing “BYOB” restaurants with a corkage feee of less than $15.

What do you think?

SRQ Reviews, the restaurant guide you need to find the best dining in Sarasota, Florida.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Continuing our tour of wines from the Southern Hemisphere, today we are tasting the 2008 Unfiltered Malbec from Loma Larga Vineyards. Generally we associate Malbec with Argentina, however this Malbec is from Chile.

Background: A long history of wine production

Wine production in Chile started in the mid-16th century with vines carried by Spanish explorers, missionaries, and settlers. Most of the early wine production was conducted by missionaries for religious consumption but by the end of the 16th century the fledgling wine business expanded its use of the “common black grape” to produce sweet wines for export and general consumption. This sweet wine production continued through most of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Aging Cellar

The influence of French wine making was strong and French vines were introduced into Chile by wealthy landowners in the late 18th century. Not only did the introduction of French varietals expand the types of wines produced, but it incorporated French wine making techniques into the process. With an expanding production base Chile increased its exports of wine and became the 3rd largest wine exporter to the United States behind France and Italy by late 20th century. Today Chile ranks 4th in exports to the United States.

The winery: Loma Larga Vineyards

After researching the feasibility of producing limited quantity premium wines in Chile, the Diaz family started Loma Larga Vineyards with the 1st vintage being 2004. With an intense focus on quality, consistent production, and the most sophisticated wine making techniques, Loma Larga Vineyards is producing limited quantity high quality wines for export.

Advanced Wine Making Techniques

Our Tasting:

On our 1st pour we were immediately drawn to the color of the wine. A deep, dark, inky purple tone, the wine visually exuded a richness which was backed by the taste. Flavorful, visually appealing, the wine presented a richness and character which we expected to pair well with the grilled porterhouse we were planning to prepare.

On our 2nd pouring we were matching the grilled porterhouse, oven roasted herbed potatoes, and an arugula salad with the wine. A perfect pairing. The wine has a big mouth feel which stood up to the grilled beef and was moderated some by the potatoes. A very nice combination. Once again, we were quite impressed with the character of the wine and the “long legs” which were demonstrated when the wine was swirled in our glass. This is a wine which can be cellared for 3-5 years and certainly meant to be paired with food.

Where to buy the wine:

Retailers:

Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at GOS Wines for their support in providing information and the wine.

SRQ Reviews, the restaurant guide you need to find the best dining and new restaurants in Sarasota, Florida.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Continuing our tour of wines from the Southern Hemisphere, today we are tasting one of the most popular varietals from Argentina. The 2007 Malbec from Dolium Winery.

Background: Old World comes of Age

Wine making in Argentina can be traced back to the 16th century when vine stock was brought into the country from Chile and Spain. Cultivation of the vines expanded and the Mendoza wine region began to emerge as the country’s most important wine-producing region.

Historically wine production in Argentina was primarily a domestic business. That is, the wine produced by Argentine vineyards was for domestic consumption and not of export quality. This focus on domestic production continued for centuries. A series political dictatorships and economic threats began to have a influence on the Argentine wine industry. With the hyperinflation of the 1980’s and the drop in domestic wine consumption within Argentina, the Argentine wine industry began to think about exports. The success of Chile’s wine exports provided a  further catalyst for the Argentine wine producers to make wine worthy of export.

With an emphasis on producing higher quality of wine for export, investments were made in technology and equipment to improve both quality and yield. Today, Argentina is ranked 5th in worldwide production.

The winery: Dolium Wines

The Old world comes of age is exemplified by Dolium Wines. Taking the Latin name for amphora, the ceramic wine storage vessels used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, Dolium is making a connection to the old world. In ancient Rome, wine was stored underground as a means of temperature control. Today Dolium is the 1st underground winery in Argentina to combine old world traditions with modern-day technology to produce their wine.  

In 1997, Mario Giadorou, a mechanical engineer, turned his attention to his ancient Italian family’s business of wine making and a new Argentinian winery emerged. The winery continues to invest in technology to produce distinctive wines representing the characteristics of the Mendoza region and the international standards of wine consumers around the world.

Our Tasting:

On our 1st pour we were impressed with the dark red ruby colored wine. We expected depth of flavor and were not disappointed. With a nice aroma we took our taste and were very surprised in a good way. Expecting a big “malbec mouth” we discerned the characteristics of the grape but also a subtly sweet taste as well. Very good.

On our next pour we were pairing the wine with some sweet and spicy bbq spare ribs. It was a delicious pairing. The subtle sweetness of the wine matched perfectly with the smokey sweetness of the sauce on the spare ribs. It worked very well together.

On our next pouring we wanted to try something a little more spicy for a pairing. We choose a lemon, jalapeno sauced fettucine. This was a spicy dish so were not sure how this wine would hold up.  Once again, the subtly fruity flavor was enhanced with the spicy sauced pasta. The wine was a winner!

Smooth, rich, with a subtle sweetness, and a deep red color, this Malbec from Dolium is a versatile wine which pairs well with grilled meats and spicy flavored dishes.

Where to buy the wine:

Retailers:

Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at GOS Wines for their support in providing information and the wine.

SRQ Reviews, the restaurant guide you need to find the best dining and new restaurants in Sarasota, Florida.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Today’s taste test focuses on another South African wine; this time the Dombeya Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Stellenbosch.

Background: Something old is something new again!

Even though wines were produced in South Africa for 350 years, the country itself is still considered  a new world producer. In the earliest of years, wine production and techniques were influenced by  European settlers from the Netherlands, England, Italy, and Germany. Although the South African wine industry was growing and production improving, the exportation of South African wines was still quite limited through the 20th century.      

In the 1990’s a confluence of events:      

1) Nelson Mandela’s freedom in 1990
2) The introduction of democracy in 1994
3) The economic and political desire to reemerge on the international trading market
4) Investment capital in export industries i.e. wine      

As such, an old world wine industry becomes a new world wine producer.

The winery: Dombeya Wines

The Name
The Dombeya tree (tropical hydrangea) is native to South Africa, with extraordinarily beautiful flowers that bring South Africa’s spring season to life. The Dombeya tree, which is interspersed throughout the region and symbolizes regeneration and renewal for modern-day South Africa, is the namesake for this hand-crafted winemaker. Located in the heart of Stellenbosch, home to some of South Africa’s best wines, Dombeya Wines is committed to producing wines characteristically representative of the region.

The Winemaker
The wines of Dombeya are made by Rianie Strydom, one of South Africa’s most celebrated wine makers. Since commencing winemaking duties at Dombeya in 2005, her wines have won many awards and gold medals, including a Veritas Awards Double-Gold Medal in 2007 for the 2005 Boulder Road Shiraz

The Soil and Viticulture
The two sites that the vineyards come from are in Stellenbosch, one on the Helderberg Mountain and the other in Faure. Both vineyards are southeast facing and receive cooling sea-breezes from the ocean in the afternoon. The soil consists of coarse sand with underlying clay and “coffee-stone” fragments. The latter is very common in the Helderberg area.

The 2008 harvest was not without difficulty for the making of Sauvignon Blanc, due to rain in the ripening period. One benefit though was that the average night temperatures were relatively low compared to the day temperatures which was great for the preservation of flavour. This allowed for slower ripening and thus better phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels. The wine has a lovely tropical
balance and a full mouth feel, which makes it a lovely food wine.

The grapes were handpicked before 10am to preserve the flavours and fermented with Zymaflor VL3 and Anchor Vin 7 yeast strains at average temperature below 15°C. After ferment the wine was kept on the gross lees until bottling in August. The vineyards were planted in 2001 and are well protected from direct sunlight due to its vigorous growth.

The Wine: Dombeya Sauvignon Blanc 2008

ANALYSIS

Alc: 13.67%
Total Extract: 24.0 g/l
Res sugar: 3.5 g/l
T.A.: 7.2 g/l
V.A.: 0.46 g/l
pH: 3.54

 

Our tasting:

On our 1st pour we noticed a very light, pale straw color, a crisp dry taste with a hint of fruit. The wine had a good “feel” in the mouth. We sensed the wine would pair well with food, seafood in particular. So we served a shrimp, scallop, and tomato ceviche, pan seared, Cajun spiced, Grouper with a tropical salsa, and a rice pilaf. The ceviche is an acidic dish using lemon and lime juice as its main cooking ingredients. Usually this level of acidity will “kill” the taste of the wine but we were surprised! The underlying fruit became quite pronounced and the wine had a very fruity taste with this pairing. Next came the grouper and pineapple salsa. Once again the wine did fine; offering a good balance between fruit and acid. A really nice taste and complement to the meal.

This wine truly demonstrates a range of flavor. Served as an apéritif the wine demonstrates a steely reserved character with a hint of fruit. Paired with an acidic dish, the wine is transformed into a fruity delight. Served with a spicy and sweet dish the true balance is shown.

Where to buy the wine:

Retailers:

Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at GOS Wines for their support in providing information and the wine.

 SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide       

Continuing our tasting tour of wines; today we are tasting the Penny Black, a dark blended red wine from Post House Vineyards in South Africa.       

Background: Something old is something new again!      

Even though wines have been produced in South Africa for 350 years, the country itself is still considered to be a new world producer. In the earliest of years, wine production and techniques were influenced by  European settlers from the Netherlands, England, Italy, and Germany. Although the South African wine industry was growing and production improving, the exportation of South African wines was still quite limited through the 20th century.      

In the 1990’s a confluence of events:      

1) Nelson Mandela’s freedom in 1990
2) The introduction of democracy in 1994
3) The economic and political desire to reemerge on the international trading market
4) Investment capital in export industries i.e. wine      

truly opened up the world market potential for South African wines. As such, an old world wine industry becomes a new world wine producer.      

The winery: Post House Vineyards  

History and Background
 Hermann Gebers bought the farm in the picturesque area between the towns of Somerset West and Stellenbosch in 1981. Situated on a ridge, the winery offers panoramic views of Cape Point, False Bay and the surrounding Helderberg Mountains. This area is one of the preeminent wine regions of South Africa and falls under the ward of Stellenboch.

The farm was systematically planted to vine. In 1996, Nick Gebers made a couple of experimental barrels. Two vintages later, and after a stint in Burgundy, the first vintage was released. As the homestead on the farm had originally operated as a post office, serving the local missionary community of Raithby, it was a logical step to associate the wine with its postal origin. The wines were thus named Post House.     

Viticulture and Terrain

Until the early 1980s, the Post House site had a mix of tobacco and bush vines, which was systematically planted to vines. The property covers a total of 185 acres of which 111 acres are used for vineyards. Varietals were selected to suit the soil  and growing conditions. Since 2007, the vineyard comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Petite Verdot, Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Viognier.      

Using leaner soil, rather than more fertile soil, results in a more balanced vine. The more fertile the soil, the more vigorous the growth; this leads to the associated drawbacks of high yield and shaded fruit. At Post House  the advantage of leaner soils, results in wines with a good balance between the levels of alcohol and acidity.      

The vineyard is planted on the foothills of the Helderberg Mountains. The red varietals are planted on a gentle westerly slope while the Chenin Blanc enjoys a cooler southerly slope. The soils mainly are a conglomerate gravel on a clay base. This gravel soil is known as ‘cool ground’. This is because the gravel acts as natural mulch, shading the vine roots from the sun. The gravel /clay combination acts like a sponge, storing water during the rainy season and redistributing it back to the roots in the dry season. This ensures constant feeding of the vines, giving them a more balanced water source than simple irrigation would supply.      

The foliage is a very important element of the vine. It is both the energy factory of the vine as well as a moderator of the sun’s rays in bunch zones. It is important to have sufficient leaves to ripen the grapes to their optimum while not over shading the bunches. The trellis system is 4-6 wires for vertically trained vines known as the Vertical Shoot Positioned Trellis. Shoots are trained up allowing the sun to filter through onto the grape skin, which is essential for the development of ripe tannins and colour in red wine. Furthermore, leaves are removed on the south side of the vine around the bunch zone thereby increasing the exposure of the grape bunches to the gentle morning sun.      

The Wine: Penny Black 2006      

Named after the 1st stamp to be printed in the world, the wine is composed of the following varietals: Shiraz , Merlot , Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.     

    Alcohol 15.1% vol
    Residual sugar 1.7 g/l
    Free SO2 22 mg/l
    Total SO2 40 mg/l
    Total acid 5.7 g/l
    pH 3.75      

Maturation potential up to 8 years. 

Our tasting:  SRQ Reviews wine tasting notes

On our 1st pour we immediately noticed the color; a deep inky red almost purple in appearance; a rich and intense display. Upon tasting we were struck by the depth and character; layers of tastes, a smooth  almost silky texture was noticeable. We were anxious to pair this with some food.

We paired the Penney Back with some grilled NY sirloin, oven roasted potatoes, broccoli, and a fresh garden salad with blue cheese dressing. As expected, the food and wine paired exceptionally well. The grilled beef brought forward the layers of subtle flavor. In fact, the food helped us discover and appreciate the depths of flavor in the wine. This is a great wine to serve with any type of grilled meat such as lamb, beef, or pork.

Since the subtle flavors were enhanced by the food, we suspected the wine would open up over time and flavorfully stand on its own over time. We were not disappointed. After being opened for 2 hours or so, we tasted the wine once again on a stand-alone basis. Wow! The flavors were present, the wine now smoother, and the texture a silky smooth mouthful. Especially good and definitely something we would serve again.

Where to buy the wine:

     Retailers:

      Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at Terry Seitz Inc. for their support in providing information on the wine.

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