Pinot and Pasta and Parties Oh My!

Renaissance man Paul Sorvino known for his role in Goodfellas but also a noted operatic tenor, sculptor and cook teams up with wife Dee Dee, herself an accomplished award winning television personality to produce Pinot, Pasta and Parties; this is a cookbook which presents Italian recipes with Paul’s personal flare. I am always on the lookout for well-organized cookbook that present easy-to-follow directions and suggested menus. This one certainly fits the bill, and I thought that I would share my thoughts for readers who want to consider this cookbook.

The book’s thematic organization is its best feature. Chapters entitled “Made in America”, “La La Land”, and “Patriotism at Play” allow the cook to find a go-to menu for the right occasion. The menus themselves are complete from starters to desert and are very easy to follow. Is there something on the menu that doesn’t appeal to your particular palate or looking for an alternative to something on the set menu? No problem. The Sorvinos offer an alternative dish for each menu. For example, the La La Land themed menu that features such dishes as figs in a blanket, California veggie pizza, swordfish with olives and pasta primavera offers eggs in purgatory and stuffed peppers as alternatives.

Dee Dee Sorvino offers her skills as mixologist to present a special cocktail for each themed menu. Appalachia Magic, a mix of moonshine, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cinnamon bitters and star anise, complements the Made in America menu which features such delights as spaghetti western mac and cheese, meatball slider, and Paul’s special chili. Hosting a Goodfellas Feast? Dee Dee recommends The Goodfella, a blend of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Scotch, Cognac, land limoncello.

The Sorvinos also add a personal touch to the cook book. In addition to an introduction of themselves, each chapter includes a story about themselves, their relationship, and their passion for food, art and entertainment. Photos of themselves throughout the book enhance the personal element and the cook gets to know them both as individuals and as a couple.

I must, however, comment on the lack of suggested wine pairings with the menus. The title of the cookbook begins with the word Pinot; however, Pinot or any other varietal is never mentioned as a recommended pairing with the food. And we are all about wine and food here at Virginia Wine Time! There is an appendix at the end which provides description of Italian wine grapes, and that is it. I also don’t know that I would venture into the political theme suggested in the Patriotism at Play menu. In these times, a respite from political discussions (which usually lead to arguments) during a dinner party might be a good idea; I would adapt that chapter to suggest a July 4th gathering in which everyone can agree that celebrating American independence is always a good idea!

If you are in search of a cookbook that presents Italian dishes from starter to desert, then Pinot, Pasta, and Parties might be worth seeking out. You may also enjoy getting to know more about Paul and Dee Dee Sorvino. Remember, though, Virginia Wine Time recommended it!

The ArT of Preserving Wine

We got an email from Co-Founder and General Manager Ryan Frederickson of The ArT of Preserving Wine, a company that produces cans of natural argon gas to help preserve wine. He shared the history of his company and offered to send us a can of the argon gas to try for ourselves. Of course we accepted!

Many people enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. The ArT of Preserving Wine makes it possible to open a favorite bottle, enjoy a glass or two, and save the rest for a later date. For us though, that usually isn’t a problem. For two people sharing a bottle of wine isn’t a wasteful event. Two glasses each and the bottle is empty.

However, we decided to accept the challenge and see exactly how this system works. We decided to open a bottle of the 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Pollak vineyards. We love this wine already and would hate to see it go to waste. We each had a glass from the bottle. We then followed the directions on the can. We put the nozzle in the bottle and held the handle for two seconds. The argon gas displaced the oxygen and covered the wine surface with a layer of natural argon gas. This kept the wine from oxidizing and ruining the wonderful flavors of the wine. We quickly re-corked the bottle and stored it standing up in a cool, dark closet. We enjoyed our glass and took notes on the characteristics of the wine. While we wanted to have another glass, we decided we should keep it corked for the experiment.

Five days later, an amount of time that would ruin any uncorked red wine, we pulled out the safely stored bottle and popped the cork. AMAZING results! The wine exhibited the same characteristics it had previously! We noted the same blackberry, currents, dark cherry, and tobacco that we noted *5* days earlier! We were a bit astonished at the results. We couldn’t imagine how this could actually work. But it did! Science is amazing!

We don’t often have wine left in a bottle but we are convinced that The ArT of Preserving Wine is the way to go if we do find ourselves with wine left in a bottle. While we did our experiment with a red wine, we are sure this would work with white wine as well. However, store the white wine in the fridge instead of a cool, dark closet.

If you are interested in finding out more about The ArT of Preserving Wine, check out their The ArT of Preserving Wine. You can find out more details about the process and order a can or two!

A Perfect Score-The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21-Century Winery by Craig and Kathryn Hall

perfectscore_3d_compAre you a wine novice and interested in knowing more about wine and wine making process? Maybe you are an aspiring winemaker who wants to up your game to produce better wine. Or maybe you are the wine geek who always wants to know more about terroir or the finer details of making quality wine. A Perfect Score is the read for you. It presents the story of Craig and Kathryn Hall, owners of HALL and WALT wineries in California. Their journey into the world of wine and winemaking eventually earned them perfect 100 scores from wine critic Rob Parker.

How did they earn the perfect score? I pulled out four important ingredients that came together to produce perfection for the Halls:

1)Vision: Kathryn Hall grew up in California wine country, and her parents Bob and Dolores Walt owned a vineyard in Sonoma. She became a lawyer and in the 1990s was appointed by President Clinton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Austria; however, despite her career successes, Kathryn yearned to be back in the vineyard. Her husband, Craig, had been a successful business man and entrepreneur. Together, they agreed to combine their unique talents and areas of expertise to pursue the art of winemaking. Perfect Score takes the reader through the history of Napa as a winemaking region starting in the early 20th century and then into the groundbreaking years of the 1970s when California wines proved to be on par or better than wines from France. Of course, Napa wine trails are cluttered with well-established wineries; adding to the list in the early 2000s was probably taking a risk. However, the Halls established a goal to produce wines of high quality that expressed terroir, and this lead them to purchase the Sacrashe Vineyard in Napa Valley. They were determined that their wines would be unique and distinctive and unlike others found along the Napa trails.

2) Precision: As time would tell, the Sacrashe Vineyard proved to be the correct site for the Halls to realize their vision. They also grew varietals that were suited to their particular site in Napa, and these included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Their Sonoma site produces wines under the WALT label, and grapes grown here include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A team of expert winemakers that include Steve Leveque and vineyard manager Don Munk allowed the vineyards to express themselves in the bottle while utilizing organic methods that avoided interventions with chemicals.

3) Perseverance: Vineyard managers and winemakers are basically farmers; their crop depends a lot on mother nature. The consumer adds another layer of stress——will they embrace the vision by purchasing the product? Will their pocket books allow them to do so? The Halls had established themselves as players in the winemaking field by racking up 90+ scores by wine critics, but the Great Recession of 2008 demanded that wine drinkers who appreciated fine wine make sacrifices. Those sacrifices included wine. However, despite tolls that the economic downturn played on the wine business, the Halls remained true to their vision and their commitment to quality vineyard and winemaking practices. In the end, their perseverance to paid off as demand returned while the wines continued to score 90+ points.

4) Access: The Halls learned early on that potential customers could be found beyond those who scoured traditional wine industry media. They realized the potential in social media earlier on to create a welcoming presence for a growing legion of HALL and WALT fans.

So what were the results of the Halls’ vision, precision, perseverance, and business acumen? A Perfect Score. In 2010, the HALL Exzellenz Cabernet Sauvignon earned 100 points from renowned wine critic Robert Parker. Parker then awarded 100 points to the 2013 HALL Rainin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker’s tasting notes noted qualities in both wines that were unique to the sites where the grapes were grown; of course, 100 points must also be a testimony to expert winemaking and vineyard management.

A Perfect Score should prove to be an insightful and inspiring read for anyone especially those readers who have any sort of interest in wine, wine making, and the wine industry. It presents an intriguing story mixed with personal stories from both Craig and Kathryn. Give it a read so that you too can aspire to your own perfect score!

Changes at Virginia Wineworks

Michael Shaps Wineworks announced today (June 12, 2015) that Jake Busching has joined the winery as the new Head Winemaker & General Manager.  Jake Busching comes with 17 years experience and an outstanding reputation in the Virginia wine industry. He most recently held the position of General Manager, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Grace Estate, and prior to that he performed similar roles at Pollak Vineyards and Keswick Vineyards.  Working alongside Jake, our current enologist Joy Ting will take on a more elevated role of Production Manager & Head Enologist.  Joy will work closely with Jake to ensure that the logistics of the production facility and the cellar crew are managed efficiently.  Working directly under Joy, Jessica Trapeni will be our new full time lab technician, performing the daily functions of the laboratory to maintain and ensure our high standard of wine quality.

“I have known Jake both personally and professionally for nearly twenty years in his various roles of vineyard manager and winemaker and am very enthusiastic about the future of our winery” comments owner Michael Shaps. “Jake’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge has already made him a key addition to the Wineworks family. The increasing demand from our custom winemaking clients led us to look for an addition to our team who will fit in with our standards of innovation and exceptional service and quality. I feel very fortunate to work with such a talented team and have the utmost confidence in them.”

Michael and Jake photo

Located just south of Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Shaps Wineworks is Virginia’s largest custom contract winemaking operation, with a total production reaching 30,000 cases per year with over a dozen clients. Known for his innovation in the industry, Michael Shaps introduced the “bag in a box” to Virginia wine consumers and most recently introduced a refillable wine growler. In addition to the Virginia winery, Michael owns a winery in Burgundy, France (www.maisonshaps.com) and imports these wines to the United States, where they are sold throughout Virginia and in the tasting room at Michael Shaps Wineworks.