Sunday, June 4, 2017


The Perfect Summer Time Bubbly That Goes With Everything

by Dwight Casimere

 Jen Wall with Barefoot Bubbly
 Barefoot Prosecco COC

 Antoine's Signature Crab Stuffed Pomapano and (below) its famous Baked Alaska

If I were going to settle on a single sparkling wine for summer fun, it might by Barefoot Bubbly Prosecco DOC-$10.99. Made in Italy in the Veneto, where Prosecco is traditionally produced, the sparkling wine is made with 100% Glera grapes, the original Prosecco grape mandated by local Italian law. If you're wondering if you're getting the real thing, both the facts and a taste evaluation guarantee that you are. First of all, the Italians and, in fact, most European countries are a lot more strict on winemaking than their counterparts in the U.S. Process's grape content and production methods are strictly regulated, so, even the most obscure, small production brand is required to have the same high standards as a larger, more well known house.

Enter Barefoot Bubbly Prosecco, which is owned by E&J Gallo. The company went to Italy with the idea of a making a premium Prosecco that was both affordable and had its own individualistic style. "We tasted over a hundred of the sparkling wines from the region and came away with pretty much the same impression...they all taste the same.We wanted to created something that was uniquely Barefoot and which gave our drinkers a totally different experience.," said Jennifer Wall, Barefoot Vice President and the brands long-time award-winning winemaker.

Barefoot is the most consumed wine of any in the American market. There's probably a good reason why. The brand delivers a consistently good tasting product at an affordable price. Let's go over the specifics of Barefoot Prosecco.

The wine is exactly what a Prosecco should be, with some added dimensions, There's some delightful summertime tastes of Meyer lemons, ripe grapefruit, Golden Apples and Asian Pear that make it perfect with seafood. Jen spoiled this wine writer by taking him to Antoines in New Orleans' French Quarter for some butter-soaked Pompano, their signature dish, smothered in crab and fresh lemon juice. It could not have been a more delightful taste combination.

The sparkling wine is also versatile. You can serve it alone or with appetizers and salads for an aperitif or first course, and carry it right on through a deliciously fresh and light summertime meal and on through dessert.

Antoine's rolled out their signature Baked Alaska, a creamy concoction of angle food cake, whipped cream and soft ice cream. So New Orleans and so delicious! Smothered in  rich chocolate sauce, it was the ultimate match with creamy Barefoot Prosecco DOC!



Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

NEW ORLEANS--One of the nation's biggest moveable feasts just celebrated its 25th year and raised over a million dollars for local charities and the Nunez Community College Culinary Arts Program. The event kicked off with the nation's biggest block party, the Royal Street Stroll, where a record number of revelers followed Bacchus and the Crewe of the Cork and a 'second line' New Orleans brass band through the French Quarter to eat and drink the best from local chefs and the nation's and the world's finest winemakers and brewmasters such as Stella Artois. With major sponsorship from Barefoot Bubbly and Barefoot Wines, and an assortment of Wines of Portugal , Luis Jadot wine, Kobrand Fine Wine and Spirits, Banfi, Seven Three Distillery and exotic teas from Pure Leaf.

75 of New Orleans' top chefs offered delicacies along with 1,000 fine wines at the Grand Tasting for one night only at New Oreleans' most festive venue, Mardi Gras World. The Big Gateaux Show was a massive pastry competition, hosted by Chef Tariq Hanna of Sucré Full of scintillating displays of burlesque, pastries and cocktails that features celebrity chefs and judges alongside Burlesque starlets, Trixi Minx & Bella Blue.  This after-party followed the Saturday Night Grand Tasting.

There's not a better party anywhere!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


by Dwight Casimere

Greece is one of the oldest wine producers in the world. In fact, it was the Greeks who brought wine to Rome. Therefor, its somewhat surprising that when wines of Greece presented its Grand Tasting at City Winery is New York and Chicago in advance of a national rollout, they were being greeted by both the public and the media as "something new."

After tasting some 40 of the latest vintages from producers representing all of the country's wine growing regions, it was evident that Wines of Greece are well crafted, with a unique flavor profile that is both fun and food friendly.

Tasting Greek wines is an instant education in the country's unique terroir and grape varieties. Names such as Moschofilero (mo-sko-feel-ero) from Mantinia located the high plains of the Peloponnese peninsula, where this pink-skinned grape reigns supreme, or Agiorginko (a-yor-gee-tiko), which translates to St. George, in Greek.

Each of the wines tasted had an aroma and a taste that stood out. Nerds in the north of Greece specializes in the Xinomavro (ksee-no-mavro) grape, a flavor equivalent to Italy's Barolo or France's red Burgundy. Yet, the wine has its own distinctive character. As presented by Boutari, Greece's largest wine producers, with six properties spread around the various growing regions, the wine has earthy fruit flavors and nicely balanced tannins that pairs beautifully with grilled meats, such as barbecue, or leg of lamb in a rich sauce.

The white wines are especially interesting and delightful and really show their versatility with a variety of foods, from sushi to salumis, salads and grilled vegetables and soft and semi-soft cheeses. They're perfect for a summertime smorgasbord or buffet. Pull out all the stops and the wine is more than equal to the task.

One wine that stood out was the 2015 Viognier called Ariadne's Thread ($20) from Rouvalis Winery. The wine is made from mavrodaphne grapes, unique to the slopes of Aigalia, in the northern Peloponnese,  which is blended with the international variety Viognier. The result is stunning. Bright fruit, a crisp flavor with backbone from its combination of slate and clay in the soil. There's a nice balance between fruit and tannins that makes this the perfect wine to have with roasted, herbed chicken, salmon roasted quickly over hot coals sprinkled with mesquite wood chips or the fruits of the sea, either served raw, steamed or grilled.

Don't forget sparkling wines. The Greek producers are making everything from Brut to Rose, 'blush' wines and sparkling dessert wines. Almost every producer at the tastings has their own take on sparkling wine and each deserved a nod.

Friday, May 12, 2017


by Dwight Casimere


NEW YORK-- Al Fresco dining and imbibing was the order of the day as the skies opened their county of bright sun after days of gloomy spring weather, as if to welcome the Wines of Provence, from the sunny South of France in a salivating tasting of the wines and cuisines of the region on the Refinery Hotel rooftop lounge. Everyone donned white straw hats with bright pink headbands and several of the ladies waved their fans to stir up the burgeoning late spring breezes and to enhance the lovely floral and bright, red fruit aromatics of these delicious blush wines.

Fifty shades of pink was the order of the day as winemakers, who had flown over especially for the event, uncorked their latest vintages. All of the wines were fresh, vibrant and alive. Perfect to accompany the lavish buffet of fresh oysters, steamed shrimp and lump crab with assorted roasted vegetables or the region and a groaning sideboard of sumptuous prime aged beef sliders, tuna tartare and assorted small bites representative of the region. There was no end to the bounty of beautiful wine, food and beautiful people to herald the impending days of summer and their perfect liquid accompaniment, the Wines of Provence.

Monday, April 17, 2017


The Illumination Factory in Chicago's South Loop is transformed into the Loire Valley
Paul Buisse, winemaker, and his Clos Du Galmont Vouvray 2015-$20
A wine enthusiast
The Wines of Domaine Fournier-La Belle Vines Sancere 2015/2016-$27

Sauvion 2016 Vouvray-$13.99, 2015 Muscadcet Sevre et Maine-$12.99 and Sancerre 2016-$32.99

by Dwight Casimere

A welcome sign of spring is the arrival of new releases of the magnificent wines of the Loire Valley, France. Their light, flavorful and refreshing. Perfect for spring, with just the right ripe fruit, melon and apple and pear flavors that are perfect with the soft cheeses, salads,  seafood and charcuterie spreads that make dining al fresco this time of year so much fun. Ever tasted an Anjou pear? Well, this is where those delicious beauties originated, and there are plenty of wines that share its delightfully crisp, unctuous flavor. Love ripe melons or ripe wild strawberries ? There are a number of wines from the Loire valley that embody those luscious flavors. Loire Valley's place in fable and in history is secure. This is where Joan of Arc led French troops to victory in there Hundred Years War and where the French language was born. It is the birthplace of the French Renaissance writer Rabelais. The hillsides are dotted with some of the most magnificent castles to be found in all of France. 

 I had a unique opportunity taste a collection of the new Loire Valley Wine releases while they were on national tour. Tasting sessions where held at The Park near Chelsea Market in New York, at The Illumination Factory in the post-industrial South Loop near Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center and at The Cheese School in San Francisco's trendy art district on Folsom Street.

The Loire Valley is, in many ways, the heart and soul of France. Its regions are rife with lore and wine legend. The Pays Nantes on the Atlantic coast of Brittany is famous for the city of Nantes where wine has been produced steadily since the Roman era.The region is best known for Muscadet, a derivative of the Melon de Bourgogne grape, which has nothing to do with the more well known Muscat grape, of a similar name. This is the largest white wine appellation of France and is recognized as the ultimate crisp, dry, seaside wine, perfect with oysters, scallops, mussels, lobsters and all other shellfish. The great thing about Loire Valley wines is that they not only taste great and pair well with today's lighter, and more exotic cuisines, they're also easy on the budget, with most under $20, and many in the $10-$15 dollar range. You can splurge at your local wine shop and get a mixed case containing a veritable spring bouquet of flavors and colors. 

Anjou is the ancient Duchy of Anjou, once a seat of wealth and power in France, the region is best known for its sweet wines. Saumur is the picturesque setting of one of the most famous castlles in France, built with the same toffee limestone that underlies this vineyards, giving the wine its unique flavor and acidity. Underground tunnels beneath the castles now serve as the caves and cellars for sparkling wines from the region; the Fines Bulles, the Chenin Blanc-based sparkling wines of the Loire. The region is also famous for Saumur-Champiogny, one of the valley's great red wines made with Cabernet Franc. 

Touraine is known as the "Garden of Francer" where nobility built the many castles that make this one of the prime tourist attractions of France. Many of the chateaus are housed in them. Some of the most famous wines of the Loire are produced in Touraine; Vouvray, made from Chenin Blanc and Chinon and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil, both made from Cabernet Franc. Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Malbec also hail form the region and are known for their exceptional quality and competitive price.

The Centre-Loire is in the exact geographical center of France. It is here that grapes have been grown for 2,000 years and is the original home of Sauvignon Blanc and its most famous wine, Sancerre. Pulley-Fume, Reuilly, and Menetour-Salon are lesser known, but no less noteworthy. The region also produces some delicious and colorful rose and red Pinot Noir wines.

Perhaps the best known wines from the Loire are produced by Barton and Gustier which was on hand with its AOC Sancerre 2015 white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99) The AOC 2015 Vouvray and 2015 AOC Rose Anjou (both $10.99) were pleasant and flavorful and offered some of the best value for a very reasonable price.

Another of my favorites were the wines of Sauvian, similarly budget priced with Saurian AOC Vouvray 2016, a white Chenin Blanc, got for a mere $13.99 and AOC Muscadet Sevre et Maine, a sweet white wine made from Melon de Bourgogne, for a mere $12.99. The more pricey Saurian Sancerre 2016 tops out at a hefty $32.99, but its luscious aromas of white flowers and white peaches and flavored with notes of  tarragon, ripe tangerines and crisp Anjou pears makes it worth every penny. Don't let the  designation of the Melon as a 'sweet wine'  fool you, as the wine has enough balance, structure and acidity to stand up to lighter foods, such as mild soft cheeses, fruit salads, and spicy Indian and Asian fare, for an interesting flavor combination. Try some tender Bay Scallops poached in butter with a splash of the wine thrown in right at the end for a unique taste thrill!. The AOC Rose d'Anjou ($12.99) had a beautiful blush pink color and flavors of ripe melon and ripe red berries. A blend of Grolleau and Gamay, this was a perfectly balanced wine that best shows why Rose is the wine of spring.