Burgundy: The End of an Era?

If you are a lover of all things Burgundy, as I am, you have been swimming in a sea of nearly limitless options of liquid heaven. We have had a string of good to great vintages in the last two decades – 1999, 2005, 2009. Finding a great bottle of wine has been almost like throwing darts at the wall. In short, Mother Nature has spoiled us by making vintage condition more amenable to making great wine year in and year out, luring us into believing Burgundy is a nearly limitless well of the world’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.



For those of you that didn’t know, our well is going to start drying up for the immediate future.
The 2010 vintage was only short relative to the five years prior, but the low yields of ’11 and ’12 were worrisome. Production for many producers is down severely, in some cases up to an 80% reduction in 2012.

The real disaster is the most recent 2013 vintage. I would never deliberately try to sound like Chicken Little, but the sky literally fell. Hail destroyed whole vineyards sites completely and many of those were among the best vineyards of the Cotes d’Or. Some reports are saying the result will be an estimated 4 million bottle shortage. This will make even common wine that was once able to hit shelf without any difficulty into allocated items with much higher prices for lesser quality.

Post Hail Storm

Post Hail Storm

I tend to be an optimist so I’m sure there is a solution for the wine drought from this region we love. One option is to take advantage of the upcoming futures of 2012. As many of you have seen, getting a few bottles is like playing the lottery: you need luck but you will be rewarded with some great wines at relatively great price. Another is to take advantage of what the critics have missed: namely great vintages that have had the misfortune of following a well-touted vintage like 2009 or 2005. No doubt these were great years, but the two vintages that followed were nothing to sneeze at. I dare say I would rather drink ’10 than ’09 any day of the week. The last option, and the one I find the most fun, is to find the communes that get looked over in the scramble for the Gevreys and Cortons. Morey St. Denis, Fixin and Santenay are places that make tremendous wines and don’t demand an arm or leg.

Lucky for us, enough people missed the boat on 2010 that there is still a backlog of wine from that year out there, waiting for us to slurp it up. At the end the day it’s the wait for the next great vintage, the search for the latest up-and-coming producer, and most of all, the gamble that they all come together in your glass to create the magic that keeps you looking for another bottle.


Cheese, a cure for the winter blues?

More snow. Surprise! This winter has been forever long. I’m sure a lot of you are just like me and want to continuously be in flannel, near a heat source, eating something deeply comforting. For those of you who suffer through the winter blues, cheese could help!

Cheese contains phenylethymine which stimulates the nerves to release chemicals called endorphins as well as serotonin. Endorphins, as most of you probably know, are natural pain killers that, like morphine, which induce a sense of mild euphoria. The long and short of it: cheese can make you feel good! I know it always helps my mood.

The good news is that we just received some jewels to make the chilly trek here worth your while. These are limited, so bundle up and come on in!

Mothais Feuille, Western France

          Mothais a la Feuille, Western France

Mothais a la Feuille has a soft, runny texture that becomes dense as it ages. The unique combination of earthy, lemony, and rustic flavors from the chestnut leaf become deeper as the cheese ages. It pairs well with some champagne or, if you like the heavier stuff, single malt whiskey. We suggest Eilan Gillan single malt scotch whiskey.

Robiolo Castagno, Piedmont, Italy

             Robiolo Castagno, Piedmont, Italy

My personal favorite. This is a pure goat’s milk robiola from Piedmont wrapped in aged chestnut leaves. I’d describe it as pure bliss! Cakey, with a velvety  texture on the outside. Open it up and use the chestnut leaves as a natural frame for the cheese. Pair it with Sangiovese. We suggest Campi Nuovi.

Pecorino Foglie di Noce, Northeastern Italy

      Pecorino Foglie di Noce, Northeastern Italy

This delectably sharp raw sheep’s milk cheese is wrapped in walnut leaves and aged for three months. We suggest it partnered with a Riesling or Port for a perfect evening.

If these cheeses don’t help you feel better from the doldrums of winter, you need to see a doctor, not a cheese monger!

Sending warm thoughts your way,


When the Weather Outside is Frightful ……

Make Hot Chocolate!!

Every year, when winter hits, I’m always nostalgic thinking of the tireless hours I spent sledding down the snowy hills in the backyard of my childhood home. It’s not until my first whiff of hot chocolate with steamed milk that the memories flood back. I not only think of the fun I had soaring over homemade snow mounds, but also of the welcoming cup of cocoa my parents had for us once we peeled our wet gloves off.

My adult hot cocoa tastes have matured beyond the Swiss Miss mixes and onto the finer indulgences on the marketplace today. Out of many o’ taste tests (hard gig) I’ve decided these cocoas are at the top of the taste charts, I hope you agree.

Cocoa Sante


Cocoa-Sante from Concord, MA

This cocoa comes in an array of different flavors. My personal favorite is the Nor’ Easter, which was recently featured in both Martha Stewart Living and Edible Boston. Nor’ Easter is a combination of mellow cocoa and malt. I have no words, just mmmm.

My other favorite is the Parisien which is a bit darker and much more full. One sip of this cocoa and your deepest chocolate cravings will be satisfied.




Hernan Mexican Hot Chocolate

Hernan Mexican hot chocolate comes in a hand woven baskets.  The chocolate inside of the baskets are whole pieces of dark organic chocolate mixed with a touch of cinnamon. You can enjoy the pearls of chocolate on their own but I recommend melting them slowly in a saucepan, whisking in milk after they’ve melted.  The end result is a warming, dark, and soothing cocoa.  Hernan makes me, dare I say, happy that it’s cold out there. These cute baskets are a perfect gift for the chocoholic in your life.



Snow Man Poop, Gourmet Du Village

Last but not least we have the Snow Man poop for the kids, or the kid, at heart. This hot cocoa is light and sweet with little white marshmallows a.k.a. “the poop.” Come on in and pick up a cocoa from our coffee and cocoa section, located in the front of the store, right near our holiday cookie selection.


The Inside Scoop on Restaurant Wine Lists

These days there’s certainly no shortage of restaurants with spectacular food, though it’s not as common to find a great selection of beer and wines to go with said cuisine. More often than not restaurants opt to work with large wine/liquor companies, giving them most of their wine list to move big-quota items in exchange for deep discounts on liquor and maybe even free menu print outs. It’s often why you find the same beer and wines in most restaurants you frequent.

This is something that is understandable for most places, from the big scale operations to small mom and pop restaurants. In the case of large chain restaurants or restaurant groups, they’ve got the space and the budget to move big items from the distributors, and having menus printed out (among other free goodies given to the owners) is a nice “trade.”  In the case of small restaurants, a chef/owner may not have the money to hire a wine/beverage director, or lack a good wine palate, so for them, the less work on their plate, the better.

Gourmet DinnerAs you might have guessed, I’m very passionate about pairing great wines with great food. It pains me to continue to find the same 10-20 wines on the list of most every place I eat at. That said, there are some places that I feel stand out from their peers. Below are a few people/restaurants that have a place in my heart. As in our store – and yes I’m tooting my own horn here -  these folks have sought to work with many distributors, small and large, to create a diverse selection that will make your dining experience from good to memorable. And, these folks don’t just possess great wine knowledge, they’re very cool and friendly.


Legal Seafoods Park PlazaSandy Block/Park Plaza, Legal Seafoods
I first met Sandy back at Horizon’s headquarters for a Jadot seminar. The first thing I remember about Sandy was his down-to-earth nature. Over the years I’ve bumped into him several times at trade tastings and events and it’s always been a pleasure chatting wine with him. Aside from being one of only 279 people worldwide to hold the prestigious Master of Wine title, he is the beverage director for Legal Seafoods. Specifically, it is Sandy’s headquarters – the Park Plaza location – that I’m singling out. Magnificent wine dinners aside, his wine list at this location has tons of hidden gems like very well aged Muscadets, white Burgundies of all stripes and styles, and quite the interesting and eclectic sparkling wine selection. He’s really focused on the Loire Valley of France, which is a perfect fit for Legal’s fish items. In fact, he’s got a wine dinner coming up, featuring the wines of the Loire on July 18th, which I highly recommend you attend.


The Castle RestaurantJames Nicas/The Castle, Leicester, MA
The Nicas family has owned and operated The Castle since the 1950s. Driving past this magnificent “castle” on Route 9, just leaving Worcester, the first thing that comes to mind is Medieval Times or some strange, vacation-style theme park. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cuisine-wise, the food is traditional French cuisine (escargot, Chateaubriand) complete with the dessert carts that get wheeled out to you at the end of the meal. This is the kind of place that was “farm to table” before it became a trendy phrase to use.

Wine-wise this place is where it’s at with James Nicas offering a wine list that will make any fan of aged Bordeaux, Rhone, Burgundy and California Cabernets drool like Pavlov’s dogs when that menu unfolds in front of you.  This place is where I had many of my wine epiphanies; 1994 Musar, 1981 Nino Negri Sfursat, 1985 Palmer Margaux, 1985 Chapoutier Hermitage ‘Sizeranne’ to name a few. The Nicas family has been stockpiling wines in their cellar for decades, but the best thing about this place is that these wines are a fraction of what they’d cost in Boston or any other major city.  Even their wine tastings are crazy affordable. I remember attending a Loire Valley lineup, at least 15 wines to try, for $30.  A 1993 La Doucette Pouilly Fume, and 2002 Menetou Salon Blanc, 1996 Sancerre Rouge were just a few of a 15+ wine lineup. Another tasting featured so-called “off” vintages: 1998 Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa and the 1981 and 1983 Bordeauxs.  Again, I’m pretty sure the tasting prices for at least 15 wines were under $50.  You’ll also find some aged bottling of Chartreuse and Vintage Porto that will make you… well, I can’t say here.

Still, this wouldn’t as so cool without James himself. I’d probably combine the Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes book and all other material written in the past 40 years into this man’s brain. On top of that, he’s the sweetest guy you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Snobbishness and pretention are two words you’d never associate with James. This is a must visit for any retailer, sommelier or fans of wine.  It takes a bit of a drive to get there but it’s definitely worth it!  http://www.castlerestaurant.com/about.html


Oleana RestaurantTheresa Paopao and Lauren Friel/Oleana Restaurant
I’d like to think that at this point everyone knows Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge. Since 2001, Ana Sortun’s Eastern Mediterranean/Turkish restaurant has grown into what is the coolest (and tastiest) place on the east coast, IMHO anyways. I recall dining there the first time years ago and was not only blown away by the food on my plate but the wines that were carefully chosen by the sommelier, at that time, the famous Theresa Paopao.  Rumor is Theresa’s back in the Boston area helping out at various restaurants before she heads to NYC to set up a second Toro location. People still come in and ask where to go for great food and wine, and Oleana is always the first name out of my mouth. Lauren Friel is the current sommelier at Oleana and she’s taken the torch from Theresa and is rocking one of the best wine lists in the city. I love the way the wine list is organized. The sub-headings are a playful and educational way of letting you know the style of wine and what type of foods they will go with. Of course, the staff is insanely educated too, so even if Lauren’s not there, you’re in good hands.

Lauren and Theresa are no strangers to taking chances and putting things on the list that match the cuisine, no matter the origin of the wine. Lots of Greek and Lebanese wines can be found on the list, and now that summer’s in full swing, the Summer of Riesling is put out front and center. Lauren also started a natural wine night on Mondays, I believe. http://oleanarestaurant.com/


Coffee Syrup: An Institution

As a child I grew up in Chicago right in the city. My mother would put me on a plane at the beginning of every summer so that I could spend it with my grandmother and grandfather at their house in Rhode Island. It wasn’t just a house. It was a home away from home and it happened to be on the beach. It was not just about relaxation and escaping the city. It was an entirely different culture. I learned that not everyone chose to pronounce their R’s on a daily basis. And since my grandma was a well-known cook and baker, she taught me that a cabinet was a milkshake, a grinder was a sandwich, chowder comes in three styles and coffee milk is as vital to a Rhode Islander as water.

At this point in time I had no interest in the flavor of coffee and swore I’d never touch it. I said that about alcohol too….  I had to take her word for it and always had a fascination with how coffee played a role in peoples’ ability and drive to function. I understood hot coffee. I even got coffee flavored ice cream.  Maybe it was because when I’d return home to Chicago my friends and family would say “Coffee milk??? What the heck would you do that for?” I would then chuckle and forget about it for several months. I tucked it away like it was some foreign beach thing. I associated these things with vacation and not a way of life.


Then I moved to New England in high school. My mother decided it was time for her to go home and have us close to her immediate kin. It took a lot of getting used to especially with not having access to the warm beautiful beach all year round. Seasons exist here too? It took years to adapt and as I grew older I developed a taste and affinity for coffee and all that it could do. I then discovered a company in Rhode Island called Dave’s merely miles from where I spent every summer of my childhood. I saw a bottle of their coffee syrup in Providence and joked with my boyfriend “Did you know that coffee milk is a way of life in this state? It started in the 1930s and replaced Del’s frozen lemonade as the official drink of Rhode Island.”  He laughed and I suddenly realized it was a part of my life for over 25 years but I always dismissed it because I didn’t feel like I was FROM here. It’s taken some time but New England is finally home. Rhode Island is very dear to me and for such a small state there are SO many reasons why it is fantastic. I brought the syrups into The Spirited Gourmet almost for a laugh months ago. Then I made a serious decision to have their fresh roasted beans as the shop’s house coffee. Needless to say we have a cult following on it all. The coffee is well balanced and hand roasted to order. The syrups now come in four flavors. Coffee, Mocha, Coffee with Vanilla Madagascar and Decaf. They are cold pressed and made with all natural ingredients unlike its early competitor Autocrat which is packed with fructose.

Now don’t get me wrong… if you were to head to Olneyville right on the edge of Providence at 3am after a night of too much fun at the hot club and you asked for “2 all the way with a coffee milk” (a New York system wiener loaded with beef and onions – below) and you specified what type of syrup you wanted in your milk… well I’m not sure what would happen to you. Best of luck.


You can purchase pretty much everything Dave makes here at our shop and, if you ask me nicely, I will talk cawwwfeee milk with a Rhode Island accent. And just in case you didn’t know by now, Rhode Island is neither a road or an island. Discuss.


Beaching on the Jersey Shore

Captain’s Blog.  Stardate 66781.1.

Surf City

Spring is here. The weather’s getting warmer. It will soon be the time when I head down to my family’s summer shack on the Jersey Shore (not the MTV one) in the town of Manahawkin, just a quick shot to Long Beach Island where you can find miles of beach, mini-golf and great restaurants featuring way too much – ok, there’s never too much -  fresh seafood and oysters!

First off, I am the first generation to catch the wine bug. The only wine that I can remember at the dinner table when I was a kid, our next door neighbor in Maspeth, Queens would bring some of his “homemade” juice over. Didn’t leave much of a good taste, as I recall. As far as seafood was concerned I generally ate everything, although I didn’t get the oyster bug until only about 6-7 years ago.

That magical combination, when bright acidity hits the fat in the shell of the oyster, just blows me away! And to feel that with family around, just makes it a bit more special. With the craziness of what’s been going on lately, it’s nice to know there’s a place you can go where everyone knows your name. (No, not the Cheers bar). It’s family, so I’m glad to be seeing them soon, with my 6-pack of oyster/seafood wines, to sit out on the deck facing the lagoon, put on some tunes, and just chill out.

Of course I have to give a shout-out to not just Bistro 14 in Surf City – where the majority of my dining will occur – but to all of L.B.I. and the surrounding regions who, to this day, are still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy tore through last year.

Here’s a great selection of affordable wines that will be accompanying me to the shore in just a couple of weeks (and later on in the summer).

Jersey Shore wines

1)      NV Mestres ‘1312’ Cava, Penedes, Spain – $17.99. Brand new to the store. I don’t think I’ve tasted a bubbly from Spain with this much delicacy, elegance and complexity in a long time. This will be the first thing I pop when I get down there. Would actually be happy drinking nothing but this wine and nothing else!

2)      2011 Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche, Italy – $9.99. As much as I wish Metallica had a hand in making this wine, it’s just not so. I’ve been bringing this wine down to the shore for years. Located in the town of Civitanova on the coast of Italy, Fontezoppa’s Verdicchio grape goes hand in hand with all of their fresh seafood, so I thought….

3)      2011 Domaine Eugene Carrel ‘Jongieux’, Savoie, France – $12.99. Instead of the usual Muscadet from the Loire, I opt for the cleansing and bracing acidity of the Jacquere grape variety from the Savoy region of France. Carrel’s is hands down, the best on the market!

4)      2010 Amizade Godello, Monterrei, Spain – $15.99. Often times, Godellos that hit the U.S. market are riddled with too much oak, which destroys the delicate tendencies of this grape. And with the interesting herb-like nose – thyme and lavender – I’d want to put this wine with mussels or steamers. Mmmmm…

5)      2011 Martin Arndorfer ‘Vorgeschmack’, Kamptal, Austria – $16.99. A set of seafood wines wouldn’t be complete without this Grüner Veltliner from the newest hippie/organic winemaker from Austria. This is super-versatile stuff that will work with oysters, but also rock some pasta with clams and olive oil.

6)      2010 Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Rosso, Sicily, Italy – $12.99. Yeah, you see this wine everywhere, and it’s one of the reasons I bring it over. My grandmother recognizes the label, and making her smile is just fine with me. Though for all its placements, it’s still a great Nero d’Avola based red. I like it!



Homepage Facelift

Welcome to the first blog from The Spirited Gourmet! As you know, we’re big believers in communicating with our customers. We’ve recently done a facelift on our homepage to provide you with more information. Here’s what’s new:

  • An Upcoming Events sidebar that will provide you with a calendar of tasting events.
  • A link called New Arrivals that will take you to a page showing all the new wine, gourmet food, craft beer and spirit items added on a weekly basis. Many of these items will be introduced with special pricing.
  • Our Captain’s Blog, an homage to Star Trek, that we’ll use to educate those interested in learning more about what’s behind the products we carry. We’re very passionate about what we do and want to share that passion with those who are of the same ilk. While informational, we’ll strive to make our blogs humorous and fun. As I always say, if you can’t fun with these products there’s something seriously wrong with you!

Captain’s log, stardate 1314.5. We’ve encountered humanoids who appear to very much enjoy good food and drink. They’re way better looking than Tribbles. We look forward to meeting them again and providing them with things that will make them happy. Kirk out.