Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy (Surprise!) Birthday to ME!

This past Saturday, I had the incredible pleasure of being the recipient of a SURPRISE 40th birthday party, held at The Renaissance catering facility in Ocean, NJ. The Renaissance is a beautiful catering hall which can accommodate small and large (250+) parties. The catering is done by my very good friends, Stephen & Joey Falco. They outdid themselves on Saturday night, I will always remember the "extra mile" they went to make my party special. Thanks, guys. I have always told my wife Wendy that I NEVER, EVER want to have a surprise party for any birthday other than my 100th. I figured that at 100 years old, I would walk in, everyone would say, SURPRISE! and I would keel over from a heart attack and die, with a big smile on my face. Who the hell expects to reach 100??!!
But Wendy decided not to listen to my objections and held the party this past Saturday, over 1 month before my actual birthday. I was totally surprised and awe-struck! Even though I did NOT want a party, and even though I was embarrassed at the thought that so many people took such time and effort on my behalf, I have to say it was the best birthday experience of my life. Thanks to so many people, most importantly Wendy, I had a fantastic time with my best friends and my family. I will remember the night's moments forever and will always be grateful to each and every person who was there to share the night with me.

You might wonder why I am posting about the party and my birthday on a blog dedicated to WINE! Well, as many of you can tell, wine is a central component of our lives. Wine appreciation is a very popular topic within my group of family and friends and wine is usually not far from any organized activity we engage in. In fact, the party was supposed to be for my sister-in-law, Stacey and to hide the party from her, we told her it was going to be a wine tasting party held by another friend.

For the party, Wendy consulted with Kevin Flanagan of Buy-Rite Tinton Falls, our resident wine expert and guru. He suggested some wines which are not among our usual rotation of good QPR wines. However, Kevin's picks were, of course, on the money and the wines that were served were so popular, we have only two of 18 left! Here is the roundup:

2005 El Toqui Chardonnay Riserva, Chile ($12) The Casas del Toqui brand is from the Chacapoal Valley region of Chile, and is produced by the winemaker of Cru Bourgeois from Medoc along with local winemakers and extremely unique terroir at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The house also makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Semillion and some late harvest wines. The Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels and blend tropical fruits with oak flavorings. Not too buttery, more clear and refined flavors come through. A very good white wine.

2004 Bradgate Syrah, So. Africa ($11) The next wine was Bradgate Syrah, a product of the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. I had written of the Bradgate wines in an earlier post from the Winebow Fall Harvest Tasting in NYC as one of the wines produced by Gary and Kathy Jordan of Jardin Cabernet. The Bradgate Syrah was an interesting wine as it had a very muted, nondescript nose. The wine was not a "Aussie, New World" fruit bomb of a Syrah. It was more refined with plum and spice and a lot of wood, almost like kindling-flavor. The wine also had some chocolate, but not deep chocolate flavor....more like a low-calorie chocolate candy. It was a wine that may develop more in the bottle or with more air time.

2004 Pitch Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA ($15) The Pitch was the familiar wine in the bunch at Saturday's party, as it has been enjoyed by my friends and I on more than a few occasions. This is the prototypical QPR wine in my opinion. The wine's flavors and well-constructed profiles are more often associated with wines in the $35-$40 price range than in the $15 range that you can buy the Pitch for. Pitch is also a great example that Cabernet Sauvignon can be produced in regions other than Napa and be among the better wines at a gathering. Smooth and vibrant, this wine extracts the finer elements of fruit and tannins and resonates on the palate. A great wine for its price+.

The final wine served was the 2005 3 Trees Pinot Noir, Victoria Australia ($ 14) The three trees on the label of the bottle are the Eucalyptus and Bunya Pine trees (indigenous to Australia) flanking the Oak tree which is the quintessential wine tree. The wine is an intriguing mix of subtle fruits and then strawberries with very little of the "pinot noir" terroir that seems to bray, "BARNYARD" to me when I drink it. I love my wine with a little STANK on reminds me that the wine I am drinking is a product of farming and the land. However, some Cali Pinots are too overcome with terrior and sour cherries that they turn me off. This wine was a very nice, subtle wine with a nose of violets and spiderwebs (my brother, Eric called it ATTIC", which I love as a descriptive word for wine!) Upon tasting, the 3 Trees elevated itself as a great wine to take your time with....the glass lasted much longer than some of my more treasured Cabernets usually do. I liked this wine on my limited engagement with it and look forward to more time with it again in the future.

I want to again say how amazing it was to be feted by my closest friends who mean more to me than they could ever know and I loved all of the gifts and will be reviewing them one at a time here on Oenophobia. Thanks & Happy Holiday to all of you.

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