Thursday, October 25, 2007

What The Hell Do You Mean By FEAR OF WINE???

I've been asked this a couple of times in the past few weeks since Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine was born. What does it mean and where does it come from?? Well, Oenophobia itself is a real disorder where a person has an unexplained and paralyzing fear of wine, wine bottles or spilled wine. That's the extreme of the Fear of Wine, the clinical definition, if you will. My definition of Oenophobia pertains to the fear of overpaying for an inferior wine that you might blindly select from a shelf, display or rack at your local wine shop. It also manifests itself when someone from the store asks you if you need any help selecting a wine, and you just blurt out: "Not Yet!" or "Just Looking" or worse yet, grab a familiar looking bottle because you know the name on it or the bottle has a little jumping kangaroo and you heard Aussie wine is getting really good!

This, to me, is the more troubling version of Oenophobia, and I am hoping to help you overcome this irrational fear by suggesting some easy moves that will make you a more confident wine buyer/enthusiast. A couple of important things for you to remember as you embark on wine appreciation:

1. Not all good wines are expensive, and conversely, all expensive wines are not always good. - If you have asked me for a wine recommendation, you will get the same answer each time: How much do you want to spend? I can recommend wines that stand out from the crowd at all different prices. In each price-range, there are good and bad wines. It is true, however, that expensive good wines will probably be as good or better than less expensive good wines. You have to remember that wine prices are a factor of the winemaker's marketing efforts, not the quality of the wine.

2. The people who work in the wine shops GENERALLY know what is good, because they taste a lot of wines and have developed a discerning palate. In NJ, wine stores almost ALWAYS will have a bottle or three that are open and will allow you to taste a wine, for free, that you probably have never had before. You just have to ask, or better yet, check to see if they post a weekly tasting time and day and get there for a free tasting. Once the wine staff has you tasting, they can tell what you like by your reaction to the wines. Now they can become personal shoppers for you and your likes and dislikes.

3. Wine is as good ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just in France or Italy or California. While it is true that certain districts in certain countries have a reputation of having the best of a certain varietal of grape, rarely is one region the only place a grape is grown. For example: Sangoivese is a wine that is produced in the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany is known for it's Sangiovese but not all Tuscan Sangiovese is drop-dead good nor is all of it better than some Sangiovese grown right here in the US. Same thing with Pinot Noir and other varieties of wine produced in the Rhone Valley in France. Winemaking is a craft, being done by people who are sometimes good at it and sometimes not. The grapes are not always the determining factor in the production of good wine. You should try wines from all over the world to see how Cabernet tastes from California, Washington State, Italy or France, Spain or Chile.

4. My last tip is probably the best: Never stop seeking out wines to try. Ask people who drink wine what are they drinking right now? Go to BYOB restaurants and bring an extra bottle of something you like and ask the people at the table next to you if they want to try yours for a taste of theirs. Read about wines on discussion groups and then try to find and drink wines that are agreed by a large number of drinkers on the site to be good. I recommend two great forums to read at the bottom of my Blog: Wine Lovers Discussion Forum and Wine Library Forum. I hear about new wines all the time from these sites and have rarely been disappointed.

I want to finish this post with a challenge to each of the readers of this Blog. I want you to make a trip to the wine store of your choice. Seek out someone who is working in the store and tell them that you are looking for a new wine to try, something you haven't had before. Give them a price range, and tell them what you like in a wine or give them the name of a bottle you have had that you liked. Ask if there are any suggestions to improve the drinking experience (time in a decanter, chilled, etc.) and then go home and enjoy it. At the end of this post, you will see a small mail envelope. Click on it and tell us the wine you were sold, how much you paid and what you thought of it. Share your experience with our readers so that we can all live vicariously through your experience, and then enjoy ours.
I started with a bottle of 2004 Veramonte Primus from Chile. It is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere. We are drinking it on Sat. and I will post on Sunday.

Happy Drinking and Learning..........

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Been A Busy Week!!! Lots Of Drinking Too!

Wow! Where did that week go??? It was just Tuesday when I wrote the last segment of Oenophobia and so much has taken place since then. Here's a recap of my interesting week, followed by a drinking log:

1. I sent an email to Gary Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library to introduce him to Fear of Wine and also to let him read the post. On Thursday, I got an email back from him stating how happy he was with the post and that he liked what he saw. I extended back an invite to come drink some of the smaller, interesting wines I am encountering and although I haven't heard back from him yet, I'm sure we'll be Bringing The Thunder to Tinton Falls. Again, if you haven't taken 10 minutes from your day to see any of the WLTV episodes or to check Gary and Conan O'Brien, you HAVE to do it. You will laugh like crazy, because the two of them play off each other perfectly. Actually, here's a link: Gary V. on Conan.

2. I also received an email from Cameron Hughes of Cameron Hughes Wine ( Cameron also read the post about his company on Oenophobia. He was very complimentary about my writeup of his company and his business model. He told me that the 2005 Barrossa Valley Shiraz is even better than the wine that went into Lot 38 which we drank last week and LOVED. So check out his site and register to be informed when new Lot series have been added. Of course I will keep you all informed as well, because I believe Cameron and his team have the ability to introduce us all to great wines in a more approachable manner. Oh, and Cameron was so pleased with the writeup, he put a link on his homepage stating that "Oenophobia Gives It's Two Cents...." with a direct link to our Blog right there on the homepage.....NICE!

3. Wendy and I decided to drink a little this week, so check out the Tasting Notes on the right side of the Blog. Some of our favorites have made their way to the tasting table. On the topic of tastings, you might look at the notes and notice that I haven't drank anything I didn't like in the past few weeks. The reason for that, is that I usually try a wine before I buy it, at the Tinton Falls Buy-Rite. Kevin is mostly the conduit for my tasting experiences. I'm going to start suggesting that we try some things that are new to us for the experience and opportunity to tell you when something is NOT GOOD. There are WAY too many good wines in the world to have to make a mistake and drink a wine that is not good. That is really why I think people FEAR WINE. They go towards something that is safe, if not very tasty, to avoid the risk of buying something really awful for more money than they wanted to spend. I'm hoping to introduce you to wines that will save you the trouble and FEAR when you walk into your favorite wine shop. All of the wines I drink and tout here on the Blog are readily available, unless noted.

4. Cynthus - I got an email from the James Murphy of the winery that makes the Cynthus Cabernet. He emailed me to tell me who distributes his wines in NJ. It is a company that Kevin deals with, but they have never introduced him to the wine, and he has never had it at a distributor's tasting. More details come forward about Cynthus and I thank James for the details. Seems they only make 320 cases of the Cynthus with grapes grown at the famous Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa. Stagecoach is a vineyard that supplies grapes to some of the best names in wine, names like Altamura, Pahlmeyer, Quintessa and Paul Hobbs. These winemakers select Stagecoach due to their attention to detail and their ability to get the very best out of the vines and into the hands of the winemakers. So Cynthus is now on its way to me. I bought a case because it is so good! I can't wait until Friday when it comes in.

5. Friday Night Wines - This past Friday I stopped in to hang with Kevin and drink some wine with him. It was his birthday this week. and I haven't gotten sotted with him since we were in NYC a month ago. I had stopped in the store last weekend to order Cynthus Cabernet and he told me it would be in the store on Friday night. Kevin had not had Cynthus, so I grabbed a bottle from my case and opened it out back. We started evaluating the wine with Steve B., who is a regular, a good friend of Kevin's, and one of the most SOLID GUYS you will meet! Steve's been a guest at a few tastings here at our house, and he always adds to the experience. Steve also has been a collector and has experience with some of the best wines in the world. Anyway, the latest copy of Wine Spectator is open in the back of the store, and we start poring over the issue's evaluations of wines. We are shocked at some of the scoring, and I will dedicate a complete future post to the issue. But as we are discussing how ridiculous some of the scoring is, Kevin opens a bottle of 2005 Caymus Cabernet - $50, and both Steve and I raise eyebrows.... We look up the Caymus on the list of Wine Spectator's top Cabs. and the 2005 is not yet reviewed, but the 2004 gets a 92 pt score. For those of you who drink wine, you've heard of Caymus, the product of the Waggoner family. They make a wine that is ALWAYS highly reviewed, and their version of "cult wine" is the Special Selection, made from the best barrels from their yield. The wine we drink is EXCEPTIONAL. I have had both Caymus Cab and Special Selection. The Camus Cab has been up and down in my opinion, with a lack of consistency from year to year. This wine, however, is one of the best wines I have ever had. The wine is young, 2005 vintage. However, it is an amazingly developed and flavorful wine, I would not feel obligated to cellar it for years. Kevin and Steve agree, and Kevin predicts a 94 from Spectator for the 2005 vintage, and a 96 for the Special Selection. I loved the wine and that one tasting has completely changed my opinion of Caymus. The bottles I have had were just ok, and I have one bottle of 2003 sitting in my bar that Wendy and I will get after this week, just to compare to the 2005 vintage. Keep posted to those Tasting Notes.

6. Saturday night we went to celebrate the 4oth birthday of two very good friends... Happy Birthday David and Stephen! At the party, I made conversation with several people about wine. One of them is a very astute collector of wines another is the father of this astute collector who told me about his personal quest to overcome his FEAR OF WINE. During the conversations with them and others, several names of wines were thrown out to me to see if I have had the wines. In most cases, I hadn't, but wanted to taste them and review them for you here. SO this is a call to EACH OF YOU WHO READS THIS: send a message via the Guestbook or at the end of this post. Tell us your FAVORITE wine and I will get it and review it here. Any other guests or members of the Blog can do the same, and then we can compare tasting notes with each other. I'd like the blog to be more interactive, and your participation is appreciated!!!

Please feel free to forward this to your friends who like to drink wine. And if you are reading the blog and enjoy it, make sure to subscribe to it, and all new posts will be emailed DIRECTLY to your email address each time I post. How easy is that????

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do YOU know Gary Vaynerchuk????

If you have, until now, avoided Gary Vaynerchuk, you must not be paying attention. Who is Gary Vaynerchuk? He is a wine expert....a nutty, and extremely knowledgeable, young wine expert. I haven't seen his CV, and I don't know his formal education but he's been drinking wine long before he was legal. His dad owned a liquor store in Springfield, NJ and Gary learned about wine from his Dad and from the sales guys, wine reps, winery owners and others who came to their store when Gary was cutting his teeth in the biz. He tasted 1st growth Bordeaux and Old Vine Zinfandels and Riojas and developed an amazingly accurate palate. There is some debate in the wine world where some people will claim that a palate is as individual as the person who is tasting. However, an accurate palate is one that can discern good from bad or complex from one-dimensional. An accurate palate also can discern wines it has tasted before and can identify wines already tasted. Gary Vaynerchuk has an accurate palate.

Anyway, back to Gary V. as he is known. Gary started buying the wines for Wine Library about 10 years or so ago, and he also started selling the wines and getting a reputation for his recommendations. He is the Director of Operations at the family shop, The Wine Library on Morris Ave. in Springfield, NJ. Being a man of not-so-many years, he is a technophile and wanted to expand his reach to customers across the country. How did he do it???? He and some friends started a video blog about wine called: Wine Library TV. In WLTV, Gary sets up in an in-house studio with some wines and he pours and tastes and gives his impressions. Gary's about 32 years old and has some great Gen-Y references and uses them sometimes to express himself and describe the wines he is drinking. His references will crack you up, as will his delivery. Gary is nuts, to put is simply. But he's a lovable lunkhead who has something to say and we listen to him because, he is usually.......DEAD ON. I listened to an episode of WLTV where he tasted four 94+ pt. cult wines (I had also tried three of the four he tried) and he hit the nail on the head, even taking a shot at the one who has more reputation than taste. He still carries the wine, he just doesn't agree with the "experts" all the time. He is also a burgeoning mass-media star, having gone mainstream with a memorable appearance on Conan O'brien's late night show this past August. Go to and search for Gary Vaynerchuk and Conan and you will laugh your ass off! Gary's episodes of WLTV can be downloaded from the website, saved as podcasts on iTunes or watched online. Any way you get to see Gary V. do his thing, you will be more informed, more educated, perfectly entertained and more enthused about wine. He ends each podcast with the phrase, "Because YOU, with a little bit of ME, we're changing the wine world." His followers are called Vayniacs and they have their own T-shirts, wristbands and they throw around phrases like, "Oak Monster", "Bringin' the Thunder", "Old World vs. New World", "10 Bones, U.S." (which is a reference to the cost of a wine) and many, many, MANY NY Jets references as Gary is a HUGE J-E-T-S fan!

Do yourself a favor and get to and check out a few episodes. You will be hooked on Gary's enthusiasm and desire to change the wine world. His website HAS changed the wine industry. He makes available, each wine he tastes, as well as thousands in the warehouse and retail store on his website. Internet sales make up over 40% of his company's business, and that is a claim almost NONE of his competitors could have dreamed about in the past. Internet Sales for WINE??? How could people buy a bottle without looking at it, hefting it in the store to read the label and ask the salesperson about it, or read a shelf-talker??? Well, Gary's done it by an equal measure of salesmanship, hucksterism and solid, honest information. On WLTV, he'll tell you if a wine tastes bad and he won't be shy about it. He's changed the wine industry because he decided that snobby wine sommeliers and so-called "experts" and collectors...all not-so-affectionately referred to as WineSnobs, all thought they knew more about wine than some guy who loves to drink it and talk about it and tell his friends about it. He may have even inspired someone to decide to write a blog about wine, to share what he is drinking, what he is getting exposed to and learning and ......oh crap! I'm a Vanyniac!

Its true. I love the episodes. Can't wait to meet this guy and drink some wine with him. I've looked around at the recent industry events I've gone to...but to no avail. He wasn't there at Winebow, Not at Michael Skurnik, not even at T. Edward. He's elusive. He's on my computer, or traveling the world or even hosting some Vayniacs at a recent trip to Napa to sample some early releases and see the production side of the industry. You know where he's not???? He's not hanging in my bar at home, drinking some wines that BRING THE THUNDER with my loyal cadre of winos who taste blind with me and have a blast doing it. If it happens that Gary V. stops by here in Tinton, my friends, will be the 1st to know! Until then, check out the site and prepare to be educated and entertained.

Oh, by the way. His prices are: IN-SANE!!!! (A little 1980's marketing reference for ya Gary, cause you're not so far off!)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going to Napa??? Check These Places Out!

Hey Everyone, thanks for the support for the Blog. I am amazed at how many people are visiting and subscribing to my little place on the web. I hope you take a moment to comment or make suggestions for things you'd like to know about wine. Feedback is critical to our success.

So, you're heading to Napa Valley, Ca.....or you've always wanted to. Here's a few places to visit to make you trip extraordinary instead of just great. We just came back this summer and visited most of these places ourselves. Other recommendations are made from friends who recently had special experiences there.

Gargiulo Vineyards - If you haven't had any of their wines, make an effort to try them. They make a Rose of Sangiovese that was super this summer in the heat. Their signature wine, Aprile is a sangiovese wine named after the founders daughter, April, who is an integral player in their success. The vineyard on Oakville Cross might actually be one of the most scenic views we have seen. Plus, the vineyard is within shouting distance of Screaming Eagle vineyards, probably one one the most expensive wines produced in the USA. Gargiulo Vineyards is located on Oakville Cross, right off of the Silverado Trail. Check their website: to obtain information about visiting them and obtaining their wines, which often sell out early.

Jessup Cellars - I almost feel guilty for posting this tasting room in Yountville, since the wine is ALREADY hard enough to get now....once you visit you will join the club, buy the wine and then they will tell me that there is no additional allocations for guys like me, who have supported them before YOU even got there! Here's the deal about Jessup: you are looking for a vineyard or a row of grapes even. No luck here: They have a tasting room on Washington St. which runs through the center of Yountville, past Boucheron Bakery and Villagio Spa and Resort. It looks like a honkytonk bar, until you get to the door....then what is a best-kept secret to its loyal followers turns out to be the party of the trip. The room is boisterous in the best of ways. The party revolves around the tasting bar, a half-circle of granite which separates you from the tasting staff. If you are lucky or a club member, you can get a private tasting with Danielle in the private room. If you are even luckier....Grant and/or Charlie are helping out with the pours and the conversation is a treat for insiders and outsiders alike. Join the club and be treated to some of the best wines you can't find at your local store. Jessup is a winner, and you will be a loyalist once you taste the Table For Four. Just thank me when you get home.

Elizabeth Spencer Wines - Most people know The Rutherford Grill as a great place to go for a meal in Napa. They are right, of course, with their southwestern flair and the freshest seafood in the area, The Rutherford Grill is a must visit for your Napa trip. But.....before you head into the Grill for a queso appetizer or a fresh seafood salad, walk across Rutherford Road and head into the Elizabeth Spencer Wines tasting room. Here you will find some grapes growing alongside the parking area outside. Inside is all wood and metal and old-style wineracks. The bar is open, and the wines are spectacular. The best Cabernet of our recent trip was the 2004 Elizabeth Spencer Mt. Veeder Cabernet. The wine is made by the combined efforts of Elizabeth Pressler, Spencer Graham and Matthew Rorick. We met Elizabeth and Spencer in NYC at an industry tasting to introduce the 2005 vintage releases. The Grenache and Syrah were excellent and their Napa Chardonnay was also note-worthy. Elizabeth Spencer Wines are distributed to local wine shops throughout the country and if you can't source them locally, contact them to order direct from the winery. This is a boutique winery, run by people who actually own the company and make the wines. Their commitment to their customer base is on-point and if you have the opportunity to visit them when in Napa, you will be richer for being in their good company. However, you will be poorer in your wallet because you can't just BUY ONE!

More Napa Recommendations In The Future......More Wines To Drink In The Present!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

South African Wines - Tasting Notes

Recently, I was at an industry tasting, specifically, the Winebow Vintner's Harvest 2007 held in New York City. The Harvest was like a coming out party for the new releases of many of the wineries and importers that Winebow (a wine and liquor distributor) represents. The tasting was set up with wines from different regions of the world staged together in's French wines, Here's California wines, Italians, Aussies and then the lesser known regions that produce wines.

Did you know: wine is produced on EVERY continent in the world, with the largest concentration of acres planted with wine grapes in Europe.

So Kevin and I stopped in at the South Africa table where we met Gary Jordan from Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, SA. Gary is an immensely likable fellow, who loves his wines and is ea gar to introduce them to us. He tells us he has been in the wine business with his wife, Kathy since 1993. They are very dedicated to wine production and it shows! Gary's wines are marketed under the JARDIN label here in the US, with the usual lineup of Sauv. Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Sauv and Merlot. You may not think that its a big deal to have all of these varietals under one label, but what you don't yet know is that across the board, their wines are exceptional, each varietal displaying the best characteristics of its grapes. The wines are subtle when appropriate and big in flavor and mouth-feel as expected. We enjoyed each of their wines and loved shooting the breeze with that South African accent.

Their South African version of a Bordeaux blend wine, released in North America is called Jardin Cobblers Hill. A Blend of 55% Cab, 30% Merlot and 15% Cab Franc is a Hugely Intense blend of flavors from dark chocolate, black cherry and blackberry. The wine we tasted was a 2003 production, just released at $17/bottle. It has aged for 4 years in the bottle and is drinking extremely well right now. I recommend this as a RED CASE selection, which means: buy it and drink over the next year or two. Pull out a bottle and taste test it against any "Bordeaux Style" California wines and see how the flavors of this wine stand out. You will find yourself reaching back for a Cobblers Hill when you are looking for a familiarly good wine to open with dinner. Oh, and when you do get this wine, smell it before you drink has an incredibly intense nose!

Gary and Kathy also have a second label called BRADGATE, and we tried the Bradgate Syrah, which was very good...not a lot of heat or too much extracted fruit. A really nice wine with a light approach to Syrah but a long finish of rich flavor. Bradgate retails for $8 which is a STEAL, MY FRIENDS....this is a great wine for more than twice the price.

Kevin likes his whites more than I do, so I look to his palate when tasting the next South African wine: Sequillo White 2006. The Sequillo is made by a partnership with two well-known wine producing families in the Swartland region of South Africa. I don't know anything about S.A. geography, but I read that on their it is a wine producing region of similar geography and climate to Southern Rhone region of France which is known for Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Viognier & Roussanne. The wines from Sequillo are the White 2006 and the Red 2004. The White is crisp and acidic and yet mellow in flavor of tangerine and stone fruits. This is one of the best whites I have had. I am getting a few bottles to have for the White drinkers in my life. Most of them look for the Chard. and I will blow them away with this sweet, yet crisp wine. Retails: $27/bottle

For those interested: Sequillo Red was also good, but not as good as the Cobblers Hill, or the Bradgate, in my opinion. I thought the wine was a little one-dimensional with not enough of the unique flavors of GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) coming through. At $27/bottle, that extra $10/bottle vs. Cobblers Hill is wasted money, as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recent Tasting And Update On Restaurant

So last night was the big dinner with our friends where I wanted to bring some special bottles of wine. I received a phonecall at about 5pm from the restaurant, who shall no longer be nameless: Picola Italia in Cobblestone Village in Ocean Twp., NJ. Wendy and I love Picola Italia, and we go there between once to twice a month for dinner or just to drink and watch the Yankee game at their bar. The restaurant has some of the best service staff that we have met, and most of them remember us when we come in and they have even made a point to keep a bottle of Mt. Veeder cabernet handy for whenever my brother Glen is there for dinner. The chef/owner Brian is inventive and creative while delivering high quality and tasty food for lunch or dinner.

Ok, so enough about the want to know what happened with the phonecall, right?? So I get a call at 5pm from Meghan, who is our favorite waitress. She tells me that she spoke to Brian and he said we can bring our bottles to the back door and he will allow it since we are good customers. I asked what corkage they would charge, and she said, "None, we will do if for you as a favor." I refused, and told her that I wanted to pay corkage, out of respect to Brian and his liquor license and all that. She said that wasn't necessary, but he didn't want us to walk in the front of the restaurant with our wines.

So now I was torn.......I wanted Brian to make a change to his policy, but I didn't want it to be a favor, I wanted a policy change. I decided to pass on his offer (although I was so torn about what to do, I brought the wine but left it in the car) and buy wine from his cellar. We picked the 2003 Cynthus Cabernet...see tasting note to the left. It was as good last night as it was a month ago when we drank a bottle at the bar. The winery has a very small presence on the web, so getting info on them is not easy. When I do get more, I will pass it on.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cameron Hughes Wine

I don't know where I first heard about the Cameron Hughes Wine, but it was probably in one of the discussion groups listed below. I remember looking for some of the hard-to-find, wine club only wines that are frequently mentioned in the discussion boards. I heard good things about Cameron Hughes wines and saw that their price was very low compared to many of the wineries that sell their wines by subscription. There was a story here, and I couldn't make it out initially. Until I saw their website.

Cameron Hughes Wines is not a winery. They own no property planted with rows of verdant vines along dusty trails or mountain ranges. They own no crush facilities or fermentation plant. They work out of an office and on the road sourcing grapes from vineyard owners. Cameron Hughes Wines is a phantom producer of wines. They make their wines at facilities all across the world, from the US to Austrailia to New Zealand and they use the facilities of the places that grow the grapes, and they cut out the middleman and the distributor. If you want an education on how the cost of wine increases as every level in the process of production comes in touch with the product, see the Cameron Hughes website.

Anyway, they obtain the surplus grapes from many super-premium wineries and blend them at the sites to come up with wine that they feel is superior quality at a low price. I've had just one bottle so far, after buying a case of mixed lots. The bottle was VERY young, almost too young to drink. It needed several hours to settle and let the flavor of the wine come forward. As the bottle went on, it was getting better and better. All for $14. They claim that the grapes that go into the bottle of wine come from a vineyard that sells their wine from $60/bottle and up. That's a good QPR for me!

Here's the funny part of the story......Cameron Hughes does not only sell their wines online. They do have a distribution channel: COSTCO. Yep, big box Costco, with their 10-14% markups are a perfect combination with the discount producer of super-premium wines! If you are reading this from a state that allows wine sales in Costco, run out and get a case of Lot 35 or 36 Cabernets.

The Cameron Hughes story is just one of the many ways to introduce you all to wines you might never have heard of. You have to be a little adventurous to buy wines you've never tasted, but at $10-20 max. prices......its worth the chance.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Quick Rant About Restaurants & Wine

This weekend we are having dinner with some friends that we haven't been out with for awhile. I was hoping to have them to the house first, drink a little wine and then grab a bottle or two of the ones we all liked the best for our dinner out at a popular, local restaurant. This restaurant has a very extensive wine list, and their selection is filled with popular names like Miner, Joseph Phelps, Shafer, Antinori and Altesino among others. Each time I come to this restaurant, I mine their list for a good value of a good wine. The problem I have is that the wines are routinely marked up at least 2X retail, and almost 4X wholesale.

While this markup is good for the restaurant, it is not good for the patrons who appreciate and enjoy wines. After all, who is going to buy expensive wines on the list if not people who know wine and appreciate the quality of a finely crafted wine and are willing to pay high prices because they know what they are getting? And if they know wine, they know they DONT WANT TO PAY DOUBLE OR MORE.

So I called the restaurant to inquire if they have a corkage fee. See, I have a few bottles of Elizabeth Spencer Mt. Veeder Cab that I was going to pour, knowing that my mother is headed to Napa this week, and she would buy Wendy and I a six-pack to replace what we would be drinking. I also know that there is NO CHANCE that this wine is in the restaurant's cellar since it is only sold in the tasting room. The person on the phone had no idea what I was talking about when I asked what their CORKAGE POLICY was. For the uninitiated, a corkage policy is when a restaurant allows you to bring your own bottle of wine into the restaurant and they charge you a fee to allow you to do so. Corkage is commonly permitted when you bring a wine that is not on the restaurant's list, because why would they let you bring in a wine that you bought for $30 that they have on the list for $58? The next person I spoke with was the hostess, who confirmed my reservation and then haughtily told me that they have over 200 wines on their list and she was sure there was something to my liking.

So now I am torn between selecting a BYOB restaurant like Gianna's in Atlantic Highlands, owned by my friend, John Mandica and his wife, Georgie, where we regularly bring multiple bottles and wind up chatting wine with the other patrons of the restaurant. Or we could go to Table in Red Bank or any number of fine restaurants in the area who do not have a liquor license. We select these places because we love wine and fine food, but do not want to be overcharged for either.

Some restaurateurs are getting with the program and realize that if they combine good food with good wine values, guests will come more often and drink more high-quality wines with modest markups. See this article from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, a weblog about wines . ( Also, in Atlantic City, NJ you can visit the Tropicana Hotel & Resort's upscale restaurant, bar and shopping area called The Quarter, and have dinner at a number of restaurants including PF Chang's, Carmines, even The Palm steakhouse and bring a bottle from Vin100, a wine shop located in The Quarter with wines from around the world, all priced under $25! And they will charge you $10 per bottle on the 1st bottle only.

Hopefully these trends will spread and take off, because the wine lovers are getting the short end, and the producers are also, if they realize that their wines with reasonable prices appear out of reach in a restaurant and are not getting consumed by the people who might keep buying wine that they loved at a special night out.

Remember to keep asking your favorite restaurant with a liquor license what their corkage policy might have a few bucks left over for dessert!

Welcome And Enjoy The Ride!!

Hi Everyone.....
Based on some drunken ramblings I have had with some of my drinking buddies, I decided to post a blog on my wine experiences: Drinking, Tasting, Buying, Visiting And Soon Entering The Wine Industry With The Winebar Named: OENOPHOBIA, of course!

I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the greatest people who craft great wines, here in the states and beyond. These winemakers and their families and key employees make the wine travel experience a fantastic trip for wine lovers of any experience level. They take their time to make you feel at home, while introducing you to their life's work. The wines of these special people will frequently be a topic of this Blog. If you are planning travel to California Wine Country, let me know and I will help suggest some things to make the trip great.

Use the Blog to help pick out wines at your favorite retail shops or online sellers. I hope to post weekly so I can recap any tastings I have had, my additions to my personal wine cellar and wines I hope to profile, different ways for you to buy wines you'll love and and more importantly to you, I hope to provide information to help you overcome your own personal OENOPHOBIA: A Fear Of Wine!

Much Thanks to the Flannagan Brothers (Kevin & Sean) for their ongoing direction and guidance to help me develop my palate, try wines from around the world and expose me to the people and the inside of the wine industry. Kevin & Sean can usually be found somewhere within the Friendly Confines of The Buy-Rite Liquor Store on Asbury Ave. in the Tinton Falls Plaza in Tinton Falls.

So without further ado, buckle up, strap in and enjoy my own personal journey (and hopefully yours) into the world of wine......