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Vitkin Winery: An Israeli Journey

The tag line for Vitkin is “an Israeli journey through vineyards and varieties.” We received a sample of a rosé Vitkin wine and were interested in this Israeli winery’s story. This family owned winery crafted its first vintage in 2002. Israeli Journey is a series of wines made from a blend of grape varieties. The fruit is sourced from different vineyards throughout Israel, and the name results from the physical journey to the vineyards. Blends in this series are unique, as was the blend in the rosé we tasted.

Doron Belogolovsky is the winemaker. In the 1980s he worked in Italy where he was immersed in the wine culture. A decade later, Doyon was join by his brother-in-law Assaf Paz who completed an oenology degree in Bordeaux, France. Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky also caught the wine bug, and as an architect planned and refurbished the winery. Sharona’s and Assf’s father, Avraham Paz, retired and then join the winery staff.

The 2016 Vitkin Winery Pink Israeli Journey Dry Rosé Wine was a blend of 90% Grenache Noir (Garnacha) and 10% Carignan (Mazuelo). The grapes for this particular blend were sourced from vineyards in the East Carmel Ridge. Some of the fruit was left on the skins for several hours to extract color and flavors, while the rest of the fruit was pressed with little skin contact. The wine had a salmon color with a red hue. The very fruity aroma emphasized red berry fruit especially strawberry on the taste. The finish was crisp and fruity with fruit yielding to mineral on the aftertaste. This is a perfect aperitif. We paired this wine with cheese and humus. We also had it as an aperitif. This is an excellent wine for Mother’s Day and throughout the summer months. Keep the wine cool with a frozen strawberry added to the glass of wine. The suggested retail price for the wine is $29.99.


Pinot, Pasta and Parties: A Book Review

Pinot, Pasta and Parties by Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

A few weeks ago, I received a cookbook Pinot, Pasta, and Parties to review.

Pinot, Pasta, and Parties 

Authors: Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino
Photography: Vincent Remini
Publisher: Center Street Hachette Book Group
Price: $30.00/hardcover
Copyright: 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4555-9689-8 (hardcover)
Pages: 264

Readers of Pinot, Pasta, and Parties are likely to discover that there is a little bit of Italian in themselves. This book, more than a cookbook, is filled with dynamic colorful photos, mostly of food dishes but also of Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino’s lives. As well as the many recipes and numerous mouthwatering photos, tidbits of information about the authors are included throughout the book. Readers browsing through Pinot, Pasta, and Parties will undoubtedly discover Italian-style recipes to try and learn about the unique couple Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino.

Pinot, Pasta and Parties begins with a short 3-page description of the authors and how they met. Later, the chapters begin with a page or two of additional details about Dee Dee and Paul. The book jacket describes the Paul and Dee Dee. “Dee Dee Sorvino is an Emmy Award-winning television host and radio personality. She has appeared on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, CBS Morning Show, and many others. Paul Sorvino has appeared in nearly 200 films as well as numerous television shows and Broadway productions. Best known for his portrayal of tough guys, Sorvino played Paul Cicero in Goodfellas, police chief Captain Edelson in Cruising, and Sergeant Phil Cerreta on Law and Order.”

This delight book offers 10 chapters of Italian-style recipes beginning with “Italian Through and Through: From Meatballs to Marinara.” Each chapter starts with Dee Dee’s Special Cocktail and is followed by several recipes. The cookbook offers a good selection of appetizers, pasta dishes, sides, salads and desserts.

At the beginning of the book, Paul offers his Marinara Sauce with ingredients of whole tomatoes, olive oil  garlic cloves, basil and oregano. He suggests that homemade marinara sauce is much better than already made sauce. Many of the recipes in the book call for his marinara sauce.

For those who enjoy desserts, browse through the book to find Zabaglione with Strawberries and Blueberries, Tiramisu, Stars & Stripes Fruit Pizza and Olive Oil Cake.

The appendix contains two pages that describe Italian wine. Red wines included in the appendix are: Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Lambrusco, Barbera, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Amarone and Valpolicella.

Some of the recipes included in Pinot, Pasta and Parties that use wine as an ingredient include: Shrimp Scampi, Veal Stew, Zuppa di Pesce, Chicken Scarpariello, Southern Chicken Cacciatore and Veal Piccata.

Pros: Large, colorful photos enhance this book of recipes. The easy-to-make recipe for marinara would be delightful in any kitchen that frequently uses tomato-based recipes. I especially enjoy a cookbook with recipes that have ingredients that I usually have in my kitchen. The majority of recipes in Pinot, Pasta and Parties meet that criteria.

Cons: While it would be impossible to add all Italian grape varieties, I wish they had included Sagrantino, a delicious red wine we discovered while visiting Italy. Perhaps when the Sorvinos issue a revised edition, they will devote a chapter just to Italian wines.


Locations Wines Online Wine Tasting

Online wine tastings, usually accompanied with social media especially Twitter, are becoming more popular. Kathy and I have participated in several of these online format wine tastings during the last two years. Last week we participated in an online tasting of the wines from Locations Wines. We were sent Locations E, F and I. Each wine was a blend. The E was from España (Spain), the F from France and the I from Italy. The online presentation included winemaker Dave Phinney, who talked about the Locations Wines’ philosophy and answered questions from the tasters as well as questions previously submitted.

The uniqueness of Locations Wines is the disregard of defined appellations and the rules that govern the use of those appellations on the wine labels. Rather, the blends created are from some of the best vineyards from a country or state, regardless of appellation. In most of the world these wines would be classified as table wine. In reality they are a creative blend of varieties from different vineyards in different appellations, and not common table wines.

The Locations E was a blend of Spanish grapes from different areas of Spain. The blend included Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena. These grapes were sourced from Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

The Locations F wine was a blend of French grapes sourced from Rhone, Roussillon and Bordeaux. The grapes in the blend consisted mostly of Grenache and Syrah with a splash of Bordeaux varieties. During the online tasting, Dave Phinney mentioned Cabernet Franc.

Finally the Locations I was a blend of Negroamaro, Nero d’avila and Barbera. Grapes were sourced from Puglia and Piemonte.

During online tastings, I commonly write haikus to describe the wines. Since I am constantly tweeting, the haiku format lends itself to a tweet. It is also a creative form of restricted description of a wine.

Locations E Haiku

Sunny Spanish blend
Dark fruits captured the landscape
Fruit forward, oak touch.

Locations F Haiku

Floral, fruity notes
Tobacco, licorice touch
Dégustation food.

Locations I Haiku

Bold kissing tannins
Black cherry, spices, leather
Bottle, rocking chair.

Both Kathy and I as well as a drop-in guest felt that our bottle of Locations F was off. On. Further review Kathy thought the wine had low levels of cork taint. I’ll comment on the two other wines. The Locations E did remind me of the time we spent in Priorat. It was a delicious blend that paired nicely with Spanish cheese. The wine would also make a nice aperitif. Our favorite was the Locations I. This Italian blend was bold, fruity and had the type of tannins, kissing tannins, that cause you to pucker. I enjoy these tannins and delighted in this particular blend. All three of these wines retail in the $16 – $20 price range at Total Wine. If you would like to experience uncommon blends of wines from Europe at reasonable prices,  consider Locations Wines.

On a side note, I did send the question: “Have you considered making an ancient wine in buried qvevri showcasing varieties and vineyards south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains?”  Dave Phinney did answer the question. He had not considered it but would keep the idea in mind for a possible future Locations Wine blend.


Jelly Beans Aren’t Just for Easter! Pair with Wine

Pair gourmet jelly beans with wine!

Rather than just chomping down jelly beans during Easter, why not enjoy gourmet jelly beans throughout the year? Wine lovers may be intrigued with the idea of pairing gourmet jelly beans with wines.

The first wine we paired with jelly beans was an Albariño from the Rias Baixas region in Spain. Terry’s suggestion was that the light colored jelly beans emphasized the fruity characteristics of the Albariño wines, especially those jelly beans that had tropical fruit tastes. The You & Me Albariño also had tropical fruit tastes and when paired with the jelly beans, those tropical fruits tastes were more pronounced.

A couple of days before Easter, I was enjoying the Locations E wine, a red blend of Spanish grape varieties. The Locations E wine paired delightfully with the jelly beans. The biggest take I had on the pairing was that it reminded me of sweet and sour dishes. The pairing created that sensuous mouthfeel leaving one with the feeling of wanting more.

Gimbal’s Fine Candies

If you are wondering, we were tasting the wines with Gimbal’s gourmet jelly beans. We had received a package of the gourmet jelly beans and were delighted to try pairing them with wines. The bag of gourmet jelly beans offers 41 flavors. We still have a few of these special jelly beans reserved for a few more wine tastings and pairings.

About Gimbal’s Fine Candies

Made in the USA, Gimbal’s Fine Candies is located in San Francisco. The candy company claims the gourmet jelly beans are made with real fruit juice. The Gimbal family has been making candy for four generations.

In addition to making the packages of gourmet jelly beans, Gimbal’s makes: Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans, Licorice Scotties, Red Scotties, Cherry Lovers and Cinnamon Lovers candies. Also, look for seasonal candies.

Those who suffer from allergies may want to learn about Gimbal’s Fine Candies. According to the company’s website, “Gimbal’s candies are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free. These ingredients are responsible for countless allergic reactions across the nation. Many Gimbal’s consumers have personally thanked us for making our candies available to them. We are happy to create delicious treats that can be enjoyed by so many  people, including those living with food allergies.”

For those looking for Kosher foods, Gimbal’s gourmet jelly beans are labeled Kosher  Pareve.


Opening our Qvevri for the 2016 Vidal Blanc

On Sunday we opened our qvevri and tasted our Vidal Blanc that was sealed in the qvevri on its skins since December. A pictorial essay follows. For a detailed description, check out our post on our winemaking site.

The qvevri is buried under the sand. We first removed the sand.


The qvevri was sealed with a coil of clay between the qvevri rim and glass. The clay was still moist after four months underground. It took a bit of effort to break the seal.


A few inches of wine at the top of the qvevri was clear. 


The wine was a yellow color and the silky mouthfeel reminded me of jammy yellow stone fruits. Mild tannins were noticed.


The 18-liter basket press was a new purchase. Kathy scooped out wine and skins and placed them in the press.


The free-run wine and pressed wine was cloudy. It is now in a carboy to clear.



28th Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters

Caymus Vineyards is one of many wineries to participate in the Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters charity event.

Save the date: May 20, 2017 to attend the 28th Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters, a charity event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event will be held at Warner Bros. Studio, Gate 7 – Forest Lawn Drive, Burbank, CA.

General tickets are $375 but there is a tax deductible amount of $250. Premium VIP tickets are $500 and includes valet parking and early entrance.

Sponsorships for the event are also available. I enjoyed learning of the names for the different sponsorship levels as they represent the many wine bottle sizes. Names include: Magnum, Jeroboam, Imperial, Salmanzar, Balthazar and Nebuchadnezzar. Details of tickets and sponsorships are available online.

Gloria Ferrer of Sonoma will attend the Culinary Winemasters’ event to support Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

According to the California Winemasters website, “This extraordinary event showcases 50 international chefs and 75 of California’s Finest Wineries.  “Winemasters” has raised nearly $29 million in support of the mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”

One of the features of the event is an auction. The auction has several categories of lots including: Lifestyle, Wine, Domestic Travel, International Travel, Super Silent, and Live Auction. Descriptions of the lots can be download directly from the auction page.


Spring is in the Air! Wine & Herb Festival

View of Cayuga Lake from Long Point Winery

The Cayuga Wine Trail in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York is hosting its 25th Annual Wine & Herb Festival on April 28-30 and May 5-7. Sixteen Cayuga Lake wineries are planning to participate in this event. It is sure to bring out the wine and food lover and gardener in you.

Knapp Winery & Vineyards also has a delightful restaurant.

The three key words of the festival are Drink, Eat and Garden. What more can you ask for as spring weather comes rushing in?

Participants with tickets will have the opportunity to enjoy herb inspired cuisine with a wine that complements the dish. Attendees can also pick up herbs and vegetables and a matching recipe collection.

Possible plants to collect include: Jalapeno Pepper, Marjoram, Iceberg Lettuce, Cilantro, Parsley, Sweet 100s Tomato, Oregano, Celery, Dill, Sage, Roma Tomato, Lavender, Sweet Banana Pepper, Meatball Eggplant, Basil and Chives.

This festival includes the opportunity to be eligible for a Grand Prize.

  • The Hotel Ithaca
  • Deerhead Lakeside Restaurant & Bar
  • Cobtree Vacation Rental Resort
  • La Tourelle
  • Cayuga Lake Cabins
  • 34 State “Historic Luxury Suites”
  • 10 Fitch Luxurious Romantic Inn
  • Finger Lakes Wine Fest
  • Experience! The Finger Lakes

For those who want an early start to the weekend festival, four wineries will be open on Friday from 1 to 5pm.

Tickets are $45 each and $65 per couple. Designated driver tickets are also available.

Visit the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail website, for more details about the Wine & Herb Festival.

If you haven’t visited wineries along Cayuga Lake, check out the Wine Trail Traveler articles.


Just in time for Spring, 2 Refreshing Cocktails!

Cool Cucumber Cocktail (photo: Santa Margherita)

Santa Margherita, an Italian winery and Sparkling ICE recently provided two refreshing  spring-like cocktail recipes. If you are a fan of lavender, you’ll want to be sure to try the Lavender Lemon Sparkler. The recipe for the Lavender Lemon Sparkler requires a lavender syrup. I would suggest making the syrup in advance.

To celebrate spring, why not add these recipes to your recipe box?

Cucumber Lime & Basil Prosecco Spritzer


1 lime juiced
4 basil leaves
4 cucumber slices
Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore DOCG


1. Muddle lime juice, basil and cucumber in a shaker glass. (For extra flavour infusion allow mixture to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour.)

2. Add ice and shake mixture.

3. Strain the juice only (about ½ oz.) into a Prosecco glass.

4. Top with Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore DOCG and garnish with a basil leaf and cucumber slice.

Lavender Lemon Sparkler (photo: Sparkling ICE)

Lavender Lemon Sparkler


1½ oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. lavender syrup (recipe below)
4 oz. Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade
Lemon twist and lavender sprig for garnish (optional)


Fill a glass with crushed ice. Pour the gin, lemon juice, and the lavender syrup over the ice and stir. Float with Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade, garnish with a lemon twist and lavender spring then serve.

Lavender Syrup


4 tablespoons dried lavender
½ cup sugar
½ cup water


Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir to dissolve sugar. Add lavender and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and allow the lavender to infuse for 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a finer strainer into an airtight container. If you have any leftover syrup, search the internet to discover the many uses for lavender syrup.

Santa Margherita Prosecco is available at Total Wine stores. Sparkling Ice beverages are available at various stores including some Food Lions, Safeways and Rite Aids.


You’ve Hear of New World Wines and Old World Wines. How About Ancient World Wines?

There is such a thing as ancient world winemaking and wines. The process of making wine in buried earthen vessels, called qvevri, is the only winemaking process to have been placed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. There is very little qvevri winemaking outside the country Georgia. However there are a few winemakers that enjoy this ancient process of winemaking.

Qvevri are vessels made from clay and fired. The vessel wall is thick. Sizes range from a few liters to 3,000 liters. The inside of a qvevri is sealed with beeswax. In order for the beeswax to seep into the pours of the clay, the qvevri needs to be heated to around 160ºF. Many qvevri artisans coat the inside of the qvevri after it reaches the desired temperature while cooling down after firing. The outside of the qvevri may have a coating of a lime-based mortar mix. This helps to protect the qvevri from roots. The qvevri is buried underground. Glycol jackets or air conditioning is not needed to provide what the earth can already do. Depending on the region of the world, there is little temperature change between the temperatures inside the qvevri throughout the year.

We bought our 24 liter qvevri in the country Georgia and dug a whole in the ground for it burial.

Red wines are made by placing the red wine grapes into the qvevri for fermentation. The wine is often racked out of a qvevri into a clean qvevri after fermentation or after a short time of maceration. It then ages for months to years. Our experience is that red wines produced in qvevri are similar to red wines aged in oak barrels without the influence of the oak. White wines are very different than old world and new world white wines.

White grapes fermenting in our qvevri.

Like the red qvevri wines, white grapes are placed into a qvevri and ferment and macerate on the skins. Unlike red qvevri wines, the maceration on the skins, seeds, a few stems and dead yeast cells continues for months. Many qvevri winemakers that produce white qvevri wines open their qvevris in late March and April. The results are white wines with a noticeable tannin structure and often an amber color. I used the phrase “kissing tannins” to describe the Georgian qvevri white wines I have had. The tannins cause you to pucker as if you were going to kiss someone.

In December, we sealed a cover onto the qvevri and covered it with eight inches of sand.

Kathy and I have been aging Vidal Blanc in a buried qvevri for six months now. I did taste the wine prior to affixing a permanent sealed covering over the qvevri in December. At that time the wine was fine and I did notice the tannins. I then filled the area around the qvevri (eight inches deep) with sand. Now that April has arrived, the qvevri is ready to be opened. This is our third vintage of qvevri winemaking. In a few days we’ll discover how this year’s qvevri wine turned out.


Ideas for Pairing Wine and Easter Dishes!

Easter Wine Suggestions

In a recent newsletter from Pearmund Cellars, I noticed several suggestions for wine pairings with typical Easter foods. Check out the winery’s suggestions below.

Spiced Lamb Chops–2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Honey Glazed Ham—-2015 Viognier
Seared Salmon———2014 Chardonnay
Chocolate Bunnies—2014 Petit Verdot

For those living in the Washington DC metropolitan area, Pearmund Cellars is one of the closest wineries to DC and easy to reach in Broad Run, Virginia. The winery has a good-size tasting room with seating and a vineyard within view of the tasting room

When planning your Easter dinner, you will find some yummy special recipe ideas on the Wine Trail Traveler website. Suggestions for Easter range from appetizers to desserts. Also check out the additional recipes here.


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