The Ugly, the Okay and the Good

January 10, 2010

Hosted a dinner party last night where red was de rigueur.   The three bottles I selected varied from good to ugly.

The Ugly

2006 Rock River Cabernet Sauvignon

Used this as a cooking wine but had to sneak a sip also.  Dark ruby in color without the expected accompanying fruit flavor.  Somewhat flat, but acceptable to simmer beef in.

Around $7.99

The Okay

2007 Dingac Winery Plavac Peljesac Peninsula

Bought this somewhat obscure wine at the recommendation of an acquaintance and was a little disappointed.  A cousin grape of Zinfandel, Plavac Mali is light in alcohol at 12%.  This wine is light-bodied, soft on the nose and reminded me of a Beaujolais.  I tasted a tiny bit of pepper and some light cherry.  Can’t tag this wine as ‘the bad’, but wasn’t up to ‘the good’ either.

Around $14

The Good

2006 Ramey Claret Napa Valley

This is a well-balanced wine with herby, fruity aromas.  It’s dark purple in color, full-bodied and very food-friendly.  Good wine for the price.

Wine Spectator: 91 points.

Around $30


2007 Pasqua Sagramoso Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore

January 4, 2010


Peppery, dark and a nice wine to pair with Italian foods, especially ones with red sauces.  Young with medium tannin and should be decanted before tasting.

Well-priced at around $20.

Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

January 3, 2010


Uncorked this full-bodied Israeli wine with a filet mignon fondue recently and was pleased with my selection.  This wine is dark ruby in color, rich with ripe cassis, offer a medium finish and shows great legs.

About $15 per bottle.

Voga Sparkling Pinot Grigio

December 29, 2009
Voga Sparkling

Voga Sparkling

This wine shows tiny bubbles that are mousse-like in the mouth.  Ultra light with fresh and bright flavors that would be great with a light fish or seafood and also as an aperitif.  Real crowd-pleaser at a recent dinner party and the neat packaging is certain to be a conversation-starter.

Priced right at around $12.

2005 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

December 28, 2009

This is THE Chardonnay for folks who don’t enjoy big, buttery California Chardonnays.  It’s not heavy on the oak, but has enough of it to make it…interesting.  This New Zealand wine is similar to a French Chardonnay and is dry with a fresh, complex taste.

Around $30.

PS: Good call pairing this wine with smoked salmon Jean-Guy

2007 Rockpile Zinfandel Seghesio Family Vineyards

December 13, 2009
Seghesio Zinfandel

Seghesio Zinfandel

Bright berry flavors reminded me of Grandma’s juicy raspberry pie.  The word ‘succulent’ might have never applied to a wine better than this one.   This Zin feels thick and sorts of coats your mouth in a most appreciated way.  Tasted peppery and clove nuances.  Amazingly well-balanced with solid tannins.  A big, bold Zinfandel that delivers.

92-Point Wine Spectator

Have a Penchant for Fabulous Food? Café Panache Delivers

December 9, 2009

Our party of four was greeted warmly upon arriving at this cozy, upscale restaurant and was seated at a table with great chairs.  Yes, I’m mentioning chairs as I believe restaurants often omit splurging on this important décor item.  The smallish space boasts a hip and wealthy crowd (can you say “Real Housewives of New Jersey”?).  Since Café Panache is a BYOB, we’d brought four wines to enjoy.

The first wine we opened was a terrific Prosceco – La Marca Di Conegliano Valdobbiadene.

Tune Tartare

Tune Tartare

The second wine we uncorked was a 2003 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon.  We drank it with our starters, which were outstanding: Tuna tartare with wilted seaweed on an avocado and wasabi puree, a wild mushroom and arugula salad with shaved parmesan and a pan-fried pulled pork cake.  The tuna was served in a very generous portion and was a great contrast to the wilted seaweed.  The intriguing pulled pork dish was simply great.  Pulled pork was formed into a patty then breaded and pan-fried to create a crispy exterior.  The huge parmesan shavings on the wild mushroom salad were delectable.

The third bottle we enjoyed was a 2004 The Dead Arm Shiraz and it was served with our entrees: A perfectly-seared loin of venison, braised short ribs with dark beer and black molasses, a stellar mustard seed-crusted and sautéed calves liver, and a special of the evening, a crispy John Dory on a bed of wonderfully al dente farro.  Braising the short ribs in beer and molasses is a great way to prepare this popular dish – nice twist by Chef Kevin Kohler.  The star of the evening was the sautéed calves liver.  This dish was

Short Ribs

Short Ribs

simply divine.  Perfectly cooked to ensure its tenderness, and full of peppery flavor.

Our final wine was a 2003 La Chapelle de Calon and we drank it with our desserts: a cheese plate with solid options, a white chocolate mousse and a crème brulée.  The mousse and the crème brulée were standard and okay.

I made a reservation well in advance for this popular restaurant and had very limited options, so plan ahead if you want to dine at Café Panache on a weekend night.  The restaurant occupies what was formerly a Long John Silver’s, but you’d never guess it by the beautiful décor and warm atmosphere.  If you haven’t dined at this restaurant, definitely put it on your radar for special occasions.

130 East Main Street
Ramsey, New Jersey
(201) 934-0030