Saturday, November 29, 2014

Best of the Best 2014-Double Gold Medal Winners from the San Francisco International Wine Competition

NEW YORK- Tasting Panel magazine used the private dining rooms of Madison Square Park's eponymous SD26 restaurant to present its Double Gold Wine Competition and 2014 Spirits Competition winners from the prestigious 34th annual  San Francisco International Wine Competition. Founded by famed wine expert, author and founder Anthony Dias Blue, the event is a showcase for some unexpected inductees into this now-hallowed category.

This year's competition was the largest ever, with 4,569 entrants from 26 states and 31 countries. Portfolio of the year was captured by Trinchero Family Estates of St. Helena, California in the heart of the famed Napa Valley. The Tasting Panel Magazine Winerry of the Year was awarded to Maryhill Winery of Goldendale, Washington, and The Andre Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year award went to Cinzia Merlie of Le Macchiole winery of Bolgheri, Italy. The Wide World of Wine was truly represented in this year's award winners!

 D Roy with Silvercoin Tequila
Below: Katie Kozlowski Redemption Rye

 Dwight Casimere with Nigel Avery, CEO Sileni Estates USA Inc. of St. Paul, MN

 Lina Lenox-Prestige Wine and Spirits Group

Below: Dwight Casimere with Tasting Panel founder Anthony Dias Blue

34th Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience is Super Bowl for Wine Lovers

Event is a prelude to the unveiling of Wine Spectator list of Top 100 Wines of 2014
New York--Wine lovers call it the Super Bowl of Wine; the 34th Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. the Grand Tastings are a prelude to the announcement of the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2014. A sold out gathering of wine connoisseurs sampled wines rated 90 points or better, poured by the winemakers themselves. Offerings came from around the world. All of the money raised goes to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Fund, which funds culinary and wine programs around the country.

The Wine Spectator has released its Top 100 list since 1988. This year, editors selected wines from among 18,000 tasted in 2014. The selections are prioritized according to quality, availability and value. The top 100 were determined from a field of 5,400 wines that rated as outstanding, 90 points or higher. 

At the top of impressive list, which was dominated by European wines, was a port, Dow's Vintage Port 2011 ($82) from Douro, Portugal, which scored 99 out of 100 points. Two other Portuguese wines cracked the Top 10; Prats and Symington Douro River Valley ($55) at 97 points was No. 3, and Quinta Do Vale Maeo Douro ($76) garnered 97 points for number 4. The number 2 spot went to an Aussie, Mollydooker McLaren Vale Shiraz "Carnival of Love" 2012 ($75) at 97 points and another Australian wine, 2011 Leeuwin Chardonnay Margaret River Art Series ($89) with 96 points for number 5.

France, which is the world's top wine producer, came into the top 100 with two wines, the 2012 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($135), at 97 points, at number 7, and the classic Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2011 ($165) from Bordeaux to round out the top list at number 10.

Wine Spectator is the world's leading wine authority with more than 3 million readers worldwide. Here are some scenes from the Grand Tasting in Times Square.

Below: Dwight Casimere with Matteo Lunelli-CEO Ferrari, Trentino, Italy

The Year's Best Party: New York City Wine and Food Festival

Monday, November 10, 2014

Amarula Cream: The Spirit of Africa Parties in the U.S.

Amarula Cream Perfect for the Holidays-$25

By Dwight Casimere

Amarula Cream liqueur is the perfect guest at any Holiday party. Launched in South Africa in 1989, it quickly became an international sensation, becoming the second largest cream liqueur in the world, with sales in over 160 countries. Its been available in the U.S. since 1994, and is now enjoying a bit of a revival. A recent introduction in New York's famed Harlem got the party started at a dance party in historic Striver's Row, featuring the Harlem Swing Dancers (photos below).

Amarula Cream is produced from the fruit of the Amarula tree. It's a small, yellow, thick-skinned fruit that only grows from uncultivated trees in sub-Saharan Africa. The flavor is distinct, making it a sophisticated indulgence enjoyed by both discriminating connoisseurs and folks who just like a plain old good tasting drink. Everywhere it is served, Amarula quickly becomes the life of the party. It can be served neat, over ice, or as an ingredient in a variety of cocktails. Many compare it to Bailey's Irish Cream, perhaps the only cream beverage to exceed Amarula in terms of global sales, but the flavor is much more delicate and exotic.

Amarula Cream is created through a unique production process that in many ways mimics fine wine production.  Hand-harvested marula fruit is fermented into  wine which is then double-distilled into a clear spirit that is then aged in French oak barrels for two years, The oak imparts  characteristics of baking spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and toast, which are valued flavor components of the world's great wines. Add to that the distinctive, delicate citrus flavors of the marula fruit and the finest fresh cream, and you have the makings of an international flavor sensation. Amarula Cream was awarded Gold at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWCS), in Verona, taly, in which I have been a judge for the past two years. The marula fruit is harvested in Limpopo province in South Africa, then distilled and bottled in Stellenbosch, South Africa's premiere wine growing region. No wonder it tastes so good!

Here's a few recipes for cocktails using Amarula Cream.

Amarula Brown Elephant
2 oz Amarula Cream
3 oz milk
3 oz Coca Cola
Pour Amarula Cream and milk into shaker with ice. Shake and strain into tall cocktail glass filled with ice, top with Coca Cola and stir gently. 

Amarula White Nile
1 oz Amarula Cream
½ oz Cointreau Liqueur
½ oz Crème de Cacao
Add all ingredients into cocktail shaker, shake and strain in to Martini glass. 

Amarula Fiery Dusk
2 ½ oz Amarula Cream
1 generous scoop vanilla ice cream
1 tsp fresh chopped chilli
Whole chilli or vanilla pod for garnish
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or blender and shake or blend until smooth. Pour into a martini glass filled with ice, garnish with a whole fresh chilli or a vanilla pod.

Amarula Brandy and Cream
1 oz Brandy
1 oz fresh cream
½ oz Amarula Cream
In a cocktail shaker add Brandy, fresh cream and Amarula Cream, shake and strain in to glass filled with ice. 

Amarula Martini
1 oz Amarula Cream (30 mL)
½ oz Gordon’s London Dry Gin
Dash of bitters
Lemon zest for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice shake and strain in to a Martini glass. Top with dash of bitters and garnish with lemon zest.

 Amarula gets the party started on Striver's Row in New York's famed Harlem
 The marula fruit grows exclusively in South Africa

 Amarula is instantly the life of the party!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New from Trentino, Italy: Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio-$12

photos: vineyards high in the Italian Alps above Trentino, Italy
Winemaker Lucio Matricardi-Mezzacorona Vineyards

New from Italy: Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio from Trentino-$12

The Dolomite Mountains high above Trentino, Italy produced some of the most exquisite, delicately flavored Pinot Grigio grapes in all of Italy. The steep terraces and ledges in the high mountain vineyards in what is lovingly called "the Italian Alps," produce grapes of uncommon depth and flavor, due to the unique mico-climate of crisp, dry air and the cooling breezes from the Adige River. The melting glaciers at the higher elevations combined with the warm sun during the daylight hours, are the basis of a wine with rich character and structure.

"The wine gets its name because of the unique growing area, with the vines literally hanging from the steep cliffs of the Italian Alps, said winemaker Lucio Matricardi.

"When you taste even the unripened grapes, you already start to get the complex aroma of flowers and the beginnings of the fresh melon and white peach flavors that make this wine so special," he gushed. Cliffhanger is the latest wine entry from Gruppo Mezzacorona Wines, producer of a distinguished and diverse portfolio of high quality, Italian wines from the Italian Alps to Sicily.

"We're in a very unique and coveted position, Matricardi explained, "because we aren't just producers and bottlers, we also own and cultivate our own vineyards and grapes. We have more than 26,000 acres under vine, so we can take on the responsibility of developing grapes that are of the highest standard. As a major grower, we see ourselves as having the responsibility to grow the best possible varieties using biodynamic principles."

Slightly yellow in color, with a green hue, Cliffhanger truly displays outstanding flavor and balance of crisp fruit, and bright acidity that makes this a great companion with all types of food, from seafood, such as grilled Grouper,  sauteed scallops, and fresh oysters, to a variety of appetizers, from stuffed mushrooms, to Caprisi crustini with fresh Mozzarella and ripe cherry tomatoes. The Holidays are coming and at just $12 a bottle, it would be prudent to buy a case and have a few bottles now and save a few to grace the Thanksgiving table. Cliffhanger goes great with Roast Turkey!  
 Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio
 Vineyards high above Trentino with the Italian Alps in the background
 Below: with winemaker Lucio Matricardi