Monday, February 8, 2016


Champagne Taittinger welcomes Valentine's as a day dedicated to cherished friends, timeless love and exquisite wines

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

Champagne Taittinger Artistic Director and Global Ambassador Vitalie Taittinger with Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--Champagne Taittinger Artistic Director and Global Ambassador Vitalie Taittinger personally unveiled the brand's re-imagining of Valentine's Day with a heartfelt welcome to "Uncage My Heart," a day dedicated to cherished friends, timeless love and the incomparable wines of Champagne Taittinger.

"Valentine's Day is so many different things to so many people," she emphasized. "Champagne Taittinger would like to acknowledge  the day by celebrating the different kinds of love; the beautiful, magical love shared by friends,  the excitement of a first date and first impressions, and finally, lasting love. Each of these is a unique experience that lends itself to the enjoyment of wonderful wine and great food. That, of course, means Taittinger!"

Chef Camille Becerra prepares a sumptuous spread at "Uncage My Heart"

The wines presented were all paired with the delightful and imaginative cuisine of Chef Camille Becerra, Executive Chef and Partner at Navy raw bar and restaurant in SoHo New York.  Her experience in creating vegetarian meals at a Zen monastery in Mexico and as a contestant on Top Chef Season 3, have all informed her global concept of cuisine. Her eclectic selection of dishes all paired perfectly with the unique and exciting flavors of Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV ($59.99), Prestige Rose NV ($83.99) Nocturne ($81.99), Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus ($94.99),  and Comtes De Champagne Rose 2005 ($261.99).

"Valentine's Day is a great time to spend time with your friends like never before," Vitalie emphasized. "That's why we decided to bring you a fun and easy party idea complete with bite-sized samples prepared by Chef Becerra with our signature Champagne Tower at center stage,. The experience is complete with Champagne Taittinger Brut La Francaise and Nocturne, the beautiful accompaniment to any night of celebration.  We call it the "Bubble Bash!"

The dinner menu is a simple, but elegant and tasty one; Liver Mousse with Chocolate and Chocolate Nibs, Avocado Tostados with Hominy, Sprouts and Seeds and Quail Eggs in Shiso with Sea Bean and Aji.

"Nothing makes the perfect first-date impression like creating an impeccable and irresistible food and wine pairing. We combined Chef Becerra's Lettuce Hearts with Gentleman's Relish and Spiced Steak with a Grand Finale of Chocolate Mousse," Vitalie explained.

"Love is timeless, cherished and magical," Vitalie expounded. "We at Taittinger believe that love should be celebrated, and what better way than with an intimate Champagne dinner for two. We dedicate it to Lasting Love."


Chef Becerra created a sumptuous menu, with a First Course of Crispy Potato Latke with cured trout and horseradish creme fraiche paired with Brut La Francaise NV, Shrimp Rillette with Prestige Rose NV and Castelvetrano Olive with New York Cheddar puff pastry and smoke almond paired with Brut La Francaise NV. Second Course consists of Maple-Bourbon Spiral Ham with pineapple casserole and cornbread streusel paired with Nocturne, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Champagne vinaigrette a nd Pomegranate with Prestige Rose NV followed by a palate cleanser of Cranberry-Blood Orange Compote.

Chef Becerra demonstrates how to make a quick Chocolate Mousse at home

Dessert Course rounded out this unparalleled evening of love and luscious cuisine with Lemon Tart topped by toasted meringue paired with delectable Nocturne, French Macaron with Champagne buttercream accompanied by Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, 2005 and the piece de resistance, Chocolate Champagne Truffles with glass of Prestige Rose NV, one of the finest Champagnes to ever grace a bottle.

Creating the famous Taittinger Champagne Tower

"This is the time to slow down and savor the moment with the one you love," Vitalie concluded. "The intimately elegant Comtes Rose is the highlight of this final celebration, which Chef Becerra paired with a wholesome, upscale menu that is expertly crafted to complement Champagne Taittinger. It is also the final step on our journey of the heart, meant to keep your love lasting forvever"

Especially if that love is fueled frequently by Champagne Taittinger!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wine of the Week: 2009 Prazo de Roriz from Douro, Portugal-$`14.99

by Dwight Casimere

Portugese wines are largely ignored in this part of the world, but they are a tremendous value and offer great flavor and quality for the money. A case in point is Prazo de Roriz 2009 from the Douro,  the principal wine region of Portugal. The winery itself, Quinta de Roriz, dates back to the 1700s, so these folks have a bit of experience in what they're doing. The fact that they can deliver such a beautifully balanced and elegant wine for about 15 bucks says it all.

Made from grapes that are native to Protugal, 36% Tinta Barroca, 31% Tinta Roriz,  10% Tinta Francisca and 9% each of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional (Portugal's flagship grape) makes for a uniquely concentrated wine that is full of flavors of dark, ripe plums, small juicy berries that have been turned into jam and a lingering note of smokey barbecue. This is a terrific wine to have with ribs or a grilled steak. One of my favorites is steak au poivre, which is a strip steak covered with green or black peppercorns, then quickly sauteed in butter and then smothered with a sauce made with the pan drippings, minced shallots, garlic and mushrooms and then finished with a generous gob of butter to give the pan sauce a smooth, shiny finish. Be sure to add a dash of the wine in the sauce to bring out its richness. The concentrated flavors of the wine meld perfectly with the peppery flavors that emanate from the steak and the condensed flavors of ripe fruit and soft tannins will cut through the richness of the meat to give you a pleasurable finish on the palate. This is a great wine for any hearty winter time meal. From a meat lover's pizza, to Momma's lasagna or Sunday meat sauce to ribs or a fine steak.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


by Dwight Casimere

Healdsburg, CA--Dry Creek Vineyards has been making terrific Bordeaux style wines for decades. The Dry Creek appellation located 70 miles north of San Francisco Bay and just 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean offers the perfect combination of warm afternoon sunshine and cool, fog-shrouded nights and mornings for ideal grape growing. The valley's unique tapestry of soils, which combine Pacific tectonic plates with exposed fossilized marine material also adds to the lush, complex flavors of the wines. The combination of intense sun in the upper valley and cooler conditions toward the Russian River creates a daily cycle of heat and cool the provides grapes that are rich with crisp, fruity flavors with a balanced finish. 

One of the best examples of the rich, complex flavors from the winery, which was recently named one of the Top 100 Wineries 
Wineries of the World in 2015, is Dry Creek 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel ($30). 

The wine shimmers with a deep purple color with flecks of sapphire that glint like semi-precious stones. The first thing that grabs your attention is the aroma of exotic Middle Eastern spice; cardamom and a hint of star anise with white pepper almost prompting a sneeze. Black cherries and ripe plums account for the dominant flavors with blackberry and blueberry notes rounding into some  hints of baking spices from 16 months of aging in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak. 

But, that's just where the flavor fun begins. The wine has a long finish with added hints of licorice, espresso and dark chocolate coming through with each sip. The longer this wine breaths in the decanter before serving, the more expressive it is n the palate.

Along with Roast Turkey or game meats, such as a Christmas Goose, Pheasant stuffed with chestnuts and fresh sage, or a Standing Rib Roast smothered in Rosemary, Dry Creek Old Vine Zinfandel will fit right in as part of the centerpiece for any Holiday table. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015



2015 Wine and Food Fall Gala Highlights Ideas for Holiday Entertaining

The Fireside Lodge  of the William Tell Holiday Inn in Countryside, Illinois was the perfect setting for a Holiday themed Wine and Food Fall Gala that featured area's best chefs paired with wine and spirits from the top producers around the world. All of the "big guns" of the wine world were on hand, including Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV Champagne ($34.99), Terlato Family Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Italy (($19.99), Fess Parker Chardonnay from California's Santa Barbara County ($16.99), Davis Bynum's eponymous 2013 Pinot Noir ($32.99), and the outstanding 2012 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California ($22.99), Palazzo Della Torre from Allegrini in Italy ($19).

Top chefs paired their most sumptuous specialties with the wines, giving patrons a plethora of new ideas to grace the Holiday Table with standard items giving way to ethnic favorites prepared and served with a holiday twist. Chef Chen Villalobos of Cafe Salsa in Countryside prepared a variety of freshly made tacos, featuring flavors of Chicken Limon and Camarones A La Diabla (sauteed garlic shrimp in a spicy chipotle cream sauce), Natalie Espinosa of Bella Banquets set out a smorgasbord of Italian American favorites, Taste of Home Catering shared its opulent dessert display, as did TONI Patisserie and Cafe. La Buona Vita of LaGrange presented an array of Italian Antipasti and Emilio's Tapas of Hillside and Chicago served Spanish delights.   Among the visiting winemakers was Elio Pisoni of the Pisoni Winery of  Trentino, Italy and Marco Firriato from the Firriato Winery of Sicily's Mount Etna region. The international flavors abounded and gave attendees plenty of fresh ideas for enlivening their holiday meals with festive new offerings from around the globe.