Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I "Heart" Ehlers

The first thing I noticed on the label when I was first introduced to Ehlers wines was how the E on the label forms a neat little heart.

Ehlers has quite a history, first making wine as early as the mid 1800's, then a long history of selling the land, recouping it all and then giving it away again, this time for charity. 100% of the proceeds from Ehlers wines goes to cardiovascular research, hence the heart on the label.

The celebrated winery grows Bordeaux varietals and is 100% organic. The newest releases come from the 2012 vintage, a banner year following the brutal weather of 2011 that caused many vintners big losses.

The 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon may seem young for a Napa cab, and while it certainly could use a little more time in the bottle, it is delicious with lots of rich dark fruit; cherry, black raspberry a bit of caramel.

The 2012 Estate Merlot is bold but velvety, with some of the same characteristics of black raspberry and cherry, but a little more spice and a juicy mouthfeel.

Both wines come in around $55, good for drinking now but are keepers for some aging.

Monday, June 29, 2015

KC American Bistro Beats the Summer Heat

As the summer heat gets even hotter, my summer menu sampling continues with KC American Bistro in north Naples. This is another one of those great, strip mall finds.

The small bistro first opened in 2009 where it became a standing room only space. Four years later, Chef/Owner Keith Casey expanded and more than quadrupled the capacity while still keeping some intimacy.

This bistro serves American regional cuisine; a spin on traditional dishes from around the country, integrating local elements in a way that  just makes sense and tastes great.

You'll find lots of seafood on the menu but also succulent lamb, beef and a refreshing watermelon salad. Like many restaurants, chef is offering a few new seasonal specials that you have to try before they go away

One of these items is the cornmeal fried oysters served with a green apple slaw, over a cajun remoulade that had just the right amount of kick, not to overpower the mollusks. The cornmeal was crisp and the oysters juicy.

Also new for the summer is the potato crusted Alaskan Halibut served over lentils, garlic spinach and potato. There were layers and layers of flavor and I couldn't put my fork down, trying each of them individually and in conjunction with the others.

Also new this summer, KC American Bistro adds a full liquor bar to its lineup. The great wine list remains, with lots of boutique selections and a nice by the glass roster.

For even more specials, pick up the July edition of Living Local and look for the bistro's ad along with my business review

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Peter's Pinot.....

I love  experimenting with new white wines during the summer months....by new, I mean new to me. Peter Zemmer is certainly not new to the wine making game. His grandfather founded a winery in the small Italian village of Cortina in 1928.

An Italian pinot grigio might not seem like a big deal to you, as many are thought to be sleepy. Not this one. The grapes come from Alto Adige in northern Italy where the average elevation is 1600 feet.  The valley is surrounded by snow capped mountains, popular for skiing, but the grapes are happy despite the cold, as there is prolific sunlight to warm them year round.

The alpine style wines released from this area are more and more impressive.

Once in the glass, the wine was a straw color with a floral nose. Mineral, acidic and tropical, I tasted a variety of fruits as it sat in my glass and warmed up a bit; melons, pineapple and citrus to name a few. It was fresh and enjoyable.

I served the Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio with pasta, shrimp and fresh pesto and it was an satisfying combo. Next time, I would like to try it with any salty appetizer or fish dish, or simply drink it on its own. In the price range of $16, this one is a delicious and affordable simmer find.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Barbatella: Summer BOGO's and Brunch

For food and wine lovers, summer in Southwest Florida is exciting. Forget about the suffocating humidity and threat of hurricanes, we've got 1/2 price wine and pre-fix menu's that will make you sweat.

Some amazing places are putting forth some amazing deals to make us brave the heat and afternoon rains, Barbatella is one of them. The restaurant on Third Street South in Naples not only has some new summer dishes but equally impressive are the seasonal deals.

I got a sneak peak recently while sipping a floral and fruity Zibibbo from Sicily. Yes Zibibbo is a grape, it is typically on the sweet side, but this one was fresh, with more minerality; a nice summer treat served at Barbatella.

Gorgonzola and pistachio, wrapped in fig and salami
Some super specials this time of year include a happy hour that starts at 2:00 and an early dining menu; three delicious courses for only $21.50.

This restaurant has a courtyard, a cozy bar and an open pizzeria with a wood fired oven. The pies are fantastic, especially on Monday when it is buy one get one all day.

Other great deal include Wine Wednesday with 1/2 off bottles under $100 and Sunday when it is 1/2 off ALL bottles. The Sunday Brunch is also impressive with a three-course spread for $21.50 and $3 mimosa's all day.

There are specials almost every day of the week but they're not listed on the website at the time of this posting, so give them a call. Get out and enjoy their great food and drinks at amazing prices this summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Wiley Whites

Since it's summer I can "officially" wear white, and I feel the need to drink them (and pink) too. Unfortunatley I've had a few tucked away that just didn't withstand the test of time and have had to dump more than drink lately. Sad.

I fell in love with the Cadaretta SBS during a Wine Wednesday interview a couple of years ago, and stocked up on a case of the sauvignon blanc/semillion blend. Digging around for some weekend wines, I FOUND ONE, but my excitement was quickly tempered when I read the fine print....2011.

Not because it was a precarious year for some growers (mostly in California, this is from Washington) but because it's four years old. While some reds aren't even released for four years, whites are a different story....aging potential is generally more limited.

When first opened, my fears were supported....disappointment. It was a bit astringent, however, I tasted tropical fruit even mango, so I put a cork on it and tried it again the next day. Guess what? It worked itself out.

Moral of the story....if there is a HINT of potential....let it sit and try it again, you never know if magic can happen with a little infusion of oxygen.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bubbles, Brunch and Tunes

Photo: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point 

I recently updated the Best Brunch category for !0Best, a division of USA TODAY, and new to the list is the Tarpon Bay Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort.

The Champagne and Jazz Sunday Brunch features a fantastic spread along with live jazz from 10:30– 2:30. While the music is lovely and the food divine, I particularly like the Champagne part.....it's unlimited, whether in the form of a Bellini, mimosa or straight up.

Photo: Gina Birch
The buffet is full of seasonal fruit, rich cheeses and seafood; some fresh and local others imported from around the world. And the choices don't stop here. Part of the brunch includes a made to order main course such as cornish hens, Waygu beef, fish, omelets, eggs Benedict and more. There is no possible way you will leave here hungry. 
Photo: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point 

The desserts are decadent and the chocolate fountain is always a treat. Enjoy this feast for $48, children 5-12 are $24 and children under 5 are complimentary. This event often sold out at the beginning of the year, so now is the time to get a seat. I would still recommend calling for  reservation, as it is coming up on wedding season and you never know if the room will be booked out. 

Photo: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Down The Drain

It's never fun when a friend moves away.....unless he gives you the wine he doesn't want to pack. At first there is excitement at a big score, then there is trepidation. After looking at the labels I realized these are gonna be epic or they are going to suck, because of their age. Some wines are made for aging, others for drinking within a few years or even months.

It was like Vegas in my house tonight....rolling the dice. I started with the oldest bottle.

1) 1995 Jacob's Creek Orlando Shiraz/Cabernet. It smelled like a fortified wine and I thought for a second that I might actually give it a swirl over my tongue. Then I saw how cloudy it was and just couldn't do it. First one down the drain. Mild disappointment but in a way I kind of expected a 20 year old bottle from Australia to be past its prime....unless it was a Grange.

2) 1998 Primus Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon. This one smelled musty and a bit like stewed fruit. I thought I might actually get a little something from it, but what I got was a mere hint of what it was. I could vaguely taste its fruit, enough to know that maybe 10 years ago, I would've been all over it. Bottle two.....down the drain.

3) 1999 Fife L'Attitude. It looked OK other than the little bits of floating cork. So far all three corks had broken so this was not a good sign for me. The smell was a bit mineral, another bad sign but not bad enough for me to deny giving it a swirl. Sadly, no fruit, all acid. My recycling bin just got fuller.

4) 1999 Ben Marco V.M.S. I was really hoping this would be the one, as I'm a big fan of winemaker Susana Balbo. But the minute I took the foil off of the neck, I saw the cork had been compromised. Of course it crumbled but for the sake of the experiment, I pushed through. The color was strong but unfortunately so was the smell. Way to funky for even a fan to try. Another sad dump.

5) 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel. I decided to get out of the 90's with its boy bands and grunge and move into the next decade....way into the next decade. The cork stayed intact, good sign. I thought, if this one doesn't work, I give up. It worked.

The years have balanced it out; good fruit, spice and good with the sundried tomatoes on my salad. Thank you Charles. So far the gamble you took, not to pack these former gems was a good one. But so was the Seghesio. More to come. Cheers!