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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog


November 27, 2013

Midweek Swig: Lincoln Peak Marquette 2012

MarquetteThis week: Lincoln Peak Vineyard Marquette 2012

Cost: $14.99 at Norwich Wine & Spirits

Strength: 13.9 percent a.b.v.

The pour: A dark, inky violet with an almost opaque core. It ain't leggy — instead, it clings to the sides of the glass in sheets. Warming aromatics of blackberries and currants tangle with hints of mint and cinnamon.

The taste: Juicy! The wine has pronounced, quenching acidity that tempers the stewed cherry and cranberry flavors. It's tart, sprightly and lighter-bodied than the color (and even the bottle) suggests, with quiet tannins and a simmering finish.

Drink it with: I picked this up to see if it might work on the Thanksgiving table. Though it would slightly overwhelm turkey, the wine would stand up well to the richer dishes on the table — a potato gratin, creamed spinach, harder cheeses served at the end of the meal. It might even work with the bird if the latter were slathered in a dark pomegranate gravy. Yet this Marquette's true moment will come later in the season — when we're gorging on mac-and-cheese, sausage and braised meats.

Continue reading "Midweek Swig: Lincoln Peak Marquette 2012" »

November 22, 2013

Grazing: Why Hatin' on Beaujolais Nouveau Is So Wrong

DrouhinLast night, I dropped in on what was probably one of Vermont's only Beaujolais Nouveau release parties. And though I planned to write about some raw-milk cheeses today, a bee has landed in my bonnet: The snark that many wine industry people (writers, retailers, distributors, etc.) reserve for this wine.

If you're unfamiliar with BN, it's a very young, Gamay-based wine that ferments only for only a few weeks before it's bottled. Released each year on the third Thursday of November, it's the first taste of the year's harvest; bars and wine shops in Paris and elsewhere will pop open bottles at midnight to jumpstart a wine-centric party. Yesterday, I received a late invite to a release party that the New England Culinary Institute was throwing at Chef's Table In Montpelier. 

Balloons marked the entrance and, on the inside, NECI students (some clad in berets) roamed the cozy red rooms pouring Joseph Drouhin's Beaujolais Nouveau and serving up French morsels such as coq au vin. About two dozen people sipped and discussed the wine —  some had never tried Beaujolais of any stripe before. They chatted about everything from its flavors (lots of red fruit, of course, but grippier than in past years), to the year's weather in France, to beer (this being Vermont). It was a mellow, low-key celebration of wine and food and fall and all things French.

Continue reading "Grazing: Why Hatin' on Beaujolais Nouveau Is So Wrong" »

October 29, 2013

After 20 Years, Trattoria Delia Owners Open a Wine Bar

SottoFor most of Trattoria Delia’s 20-year existence, its Italian-centric wine list has earned awards from the Wine Spectator. Yet would-be guests at the cozy Burlington spot may not always get to taste those wines, because the resto's popularity often means waiting for a table.

Tomorrow, Tratt owners Tom and Lori Delia will change that when they open Sotto Enoteca, a wine bar connected to the restaurant via a back hallway, and with an entrance a few feet north on Saint Paul Street.

"I've been working the concept in my mind for awhile," says Tom Delia. And when Mane Attraction vacated the space at 150 Saint Paul, he and Lori decided to lease it. "You have to challenge yourself and try new things."

Part wine bar and part overflow lounge, Sotto (“under” in Italian) will be open roughly in tandem with Trattoria's Tuesday through Sunday dinner hours, and will offer at least 17 Italian wines by the glass, including a Barolo and a Valpolicella Ripasso.

"We also wanted to represent some international varietals that are done well in Italy," says Delia, and so the glass list also includes some Italian-made Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Merlot-Cabernet blend. Guests who snag one of the 25 seats (six of them at the bar) can sip them alongside a handful of dishes from Trattoria’s menu. Those include the house-cured duck confit, snails with Sambuca, fried calamari and a selection of salumi and cheese plates.

Those who prefer other beverages can have their glass filled with beers such as Heady Topper, Fantôme Saison and brews from Hill Farmstead Brewery and Grassroots Brewing. And there's still more to drink: Manager Matthew Marrier has put togther a craft cocktail list that includes a re-creation of Ernest Hemingway's favorite daiquri (which the writer supposedly drank with grapefruit juice) and an "eggnog-esque" classic flip made with oatmeal stout, Amaro and a whole egg. It's called Breakfast In Bed.

"The whole concept is a place for our customers to wait, but also to be a kind of neighborhood wine bar, the place away from home where people can talk and grab a light bite," says Delia.

Welcome to the ’hood, Sotto.


September 6, 2013

Grazing: The Summer Drink I'll Miss the Most — Orleans Bitter Spritzer

OrleansBrrr. The heat kicked on last night, and the basil narrowly missed a date with frost-induced death. Though these are the best sleeping nights of the year, they're also kinda bittersweet, since we all know what lurks around the corner.

Summer is technically still here, though, and all this season I've indulged in in a coral-colored ritual in a glass, one based on the elegant Orleans Bitter. A version of this drink was first served to me early this summer by Orleans' co-creator Deirdre Heekin at her Woodstock restaurant osteria pane e salute. As a friend and I sat the bar, Heekin handed us a few wine glasses filled with ice, Orleans, sparkling water, and an orange wedge.

I haven't made wine spritzers very much, but this was another creature — dry but quenching, zesty, invigorating, graceful. It was almost like drinking liquid hyssop with a tropical edge. There may have been other flavorings lurking in there, but I didn't ask; I went home and replicated it in the simplest way possible.

I say simplest, but its key ingredient — Orleans Bitter — can be challenging to find. When I ran out of my first bottle, It took me a while to find another. Last week, I hit gold at the new Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport. Then my personal spritzer party picked up where it left off.

With its ease of preparation and bittersweet balance, this drink is a liquid mirror of late summer. Make it as strong or as weak as you like.

Continue reading "Grazing: The Summer Drink I'll Miss the Most — Orleans Bitter Spritzer" »

June 21, 2013

Dishing With...Winemaker Kathleen Inman

Kathleen_72Since yesterday, Burlington has been quietly filling with prominent winemakers who are in town for this weekend's waterfront Burlington Wine & Food Festival.

Among them is Kathleen Inman, the winemaker at Inman Family Wines in California's Sonoma County, who arrived in BTV yesterday for her first-ever visit, starting with a dinner at Pistou where her wines were featured.

Inman has been making wine since 2002, three years after she and her husband purchased a Russian River Valley farm and planted thousands of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines. At her Olivet Grange Vineyards, she resolved to make the "lower-alcohol, higher-acid wines," that she grew fond of while living and traveling in Europe over the previous 15 years.

Even before that long spell across the pond, winemaking was perhaps always lurking in Inman's blood; she was born in Napa Valley, albeit to a teetotaling family of Seventh-Day Adventists. After college, she pursued a career in finance in Yorkshire, where she lived and raised a family with her British husband, Simon.

Inman was a passionate gardener with a long-smoldering dream to make food-friendly, terroir-driven wines. Since she and her family returned to northern California, she's gained a reputation as a solo winemaking force — she only hired her first employees recently — as well as a non-interventionist winemaker who relies on organic grapes and native yeasts for her line: two silky Pinot Noirs, a Pinot Gris, a taut, citrusy Chardonnay, a juicy (limited-release) rosé and a brut rosé sparkling wine.

Continue reading "Dishing With...Winemaker Kathleen Inman" »

May 24, 2013

Burlington's Uva Wine Bar Changes Name

Vin logoLess than two months after opening, the owners of Burlington's Uva Wine Bar have changed its name due to a trademark objection from a similarly named restaurant in New York City.

Starting this week, Uva — which means "grape" in Italian — will instead be known as Vin Bar & Shop

Kevin Cleary, who opened the bar with his wife, Kathi, says the brand change had stalled their initial marketing plans. "It was disappointing to have to change the name, as we had put a great deal into it before we had opened," wrote Cleary in an email. "That being said, it's better that this happened now as opposed to two years from now, when we would have had much more invested in the name and brand." 

Vin — which is steps away on College Street from L'Amante Ristorante, the couples' decade-old Italian eatery — is a combination wine bar, retail store and education center.

April 10, 2013

Community Health Centers To Raffle Off Bottle of '82 Mouton Rothschild

MoutonMeet the 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild, one of the most sought-after bottles in the world from one of the most historic vintages. Upon its release, the opulent wines sold for about $125 each, an amount that one Burlingtonian who snapped up a few at the time calls "really cheap."

Flash forward thirty years. That collector left the wine-trade job that he held for decades, but still has a cellar filled with incredible bottles. When he found out that Community Health Centers of Burlington — which maintain a center a few blocks from his Old North End home — were having a wine auction to raise funds, he trekked down to his stone-lined cellar and unearthed the '82 Mouton Rothschild. It's a wine that received a rare perfect 100 points from wine critic Robert Parker, and one that sells for more than $1000 now. "It was just too valuable for me to open and appreciate," says the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Kimberly Anderson is thrilled with the donation. As CHCB's development manager, she's been working for months to plan "Salud: A Doctor's Night Out," an auction of dozens of rare and interesting wines that takes place on April 16 at the Old Lantern in Charlotte. "We were so thrilled and humbled that this donor thought of us. I love the fact that someone from our own backyard is helping us to help the whole community," wrote Anderson in an email. She's thankful all around; some of the other bottles in the auction come from the likes of Cakebread Cellars, Opus One and Silver Oak. All of the proceeds benefit a center that serves 17,000 Burlington residents every year.

Continue reading "Community Health Centers To Raffle Off Bottle of '82 Mouton Rothschild" »

April 2, 2013

Three Penny, Mad Taco Owners Team Up to Open Craft Beer Bar in Winooski


The corner of Main and Union streets in Winooski is returning to its barroom roots on May 1, when Scott Kerner and Wes Hamilton of Montpelier's Three Penny Taproom and Joey Nagy of the Mad Taco open a new craft beer spot, Mule Bar, in the former Pho Pasteur space.

Yes, Pho Pasteur closed this morning, and Mule Bar will take its place in about four weeks. "We've been waiting to get into Winooski for a long time," says Kerner. "This feels like a city with a great vibe." Kerner told Seven Days a few weeks ago that he's "freaking pumped" about the new spot at 38 Main Street.

Mule Bar will have 49 seats — including 16 outside — with a long bar along one wall and a few high-tops along another. The room will be airy, like the dining room at Three Penny — or what contractor Eyrich Stauffer of Stauffer Woodworking calls "Danish modern saloon." Mule Bar will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sunday (more on the food below).

Many Winooski-ites had already heard rumors about Mule Bar, but Kerner and Nagy were reticent to reveal their plans to the media until their proverbial ducks were in a row: a liquor license and a signed lease.

Two weeks ago, Guy Page of the Winooski Bridge was at the Winooski City Council meeting in which Kerner applied (and was approved) for a city liquor license, and Page reported it in his newsletter. 

This morning at 11, Kerner and Nagy finally signed their lease in a deal that was brokered by Peter Yee of Yellow Sign Commercial. By 12:30 p.m., they were in the space with Stauffer and their new chef — Jean-Luc Matecat, former chef at Amuse at the Essex.

Matecat says that Mule Bar will have a "local, ever-changing" menu to complement the tap list. He's already started seedlings in his living room for the restaurant's future garden, which will be up the street in the Landry Community Garden.

Continue reading "Three Penny, Mad Taco Owners Team Up to Open Craft Beer Bar in Winooski" »

February 14, 2013

L'Amante's Owners to Open Wine Bar and Retail Store

Food-grilling-lamanteGrape things are again afoot in Burlington (sorry). This April, L'Amante owners Kevin and Kathi Cleary will open a wine bar, store and event and education space steps away from their College Street restaurant.

"It will be completely different than anything else in Burlington, or Vermont. It will be all things wine," says Kevin Cleary, who is in the thick of renovations at 126 College Street to create a retail wine and cheese shop, a 36-seat wine bar and a glassed-in event and classroom area where he'll hold classes as part of Vermont Wine School. 

The 3000-square-foot space will be called Uva — Italian for grape — and though Cleary is mum on the décor, the couple's trips to Italy have left their mark. "We love going to the small wine bars in Venice, Florence and Rome where it's a really laid-back and casual atmosphere, and you don't feel pressured to eat a whole meal," says Cleary. 

A full menu would be difficult at Uva, as it will lack a kitchen; prepared food will be carried a few steps from L'Amante. The bar — where guests can order from a selection of 20 wines by the glass — will not be without sustenance, though. A hand-cranked slicer will dole out imported and local meats and cheeses alongside a menu of small plates and charcuterie.

Uva has been a long time coming. "It's one of those things. We've been here for 10 years, and after five years we had the itch to create something again," says Cleary, who has studied wine seriously for decades. Two years ago, he founded the Vermont Wine School, an outpost of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the only formal wine education center in Vermont. (Disclosure: I earned my Level 3 WSET certificate there.)

The new spot also solves at least two frustrations: For years, the Clearys have had to turn away scores of private functions; the glassed-in event space will enable them to cater those events, as well as hold more wine classes.

Another frustration was not being able to sell guests a wine they might be sipping at L'Amante. "People are constantly asking us, where can I buy this wine? And we would tell them who the importer is. Now, If you're drinking a glass of Barolo you like and you're walking out at 10 p.m., you can go over to the store and bring it home with you," says Cleary. (Vermont law calls for a strict demarcation between the retail space and the bar, so shopping with glass in hand is a no-no).

Continue reading "L'Amante's Owners to Open Wine Bar and Retail Store" »

January 8, 2013

Pistou 'Grapes Up'

Food-pistouOn Pistou's Facebook page, the Main Street restaurant says that it's "closed for winter vacation." Nuh-uh — don't believe it.

Pistou may be closed for a week, yes, but it's hardly a vacation. On the other side of those enormous windows, a lot is going on — namely, changes that may make the corner eatery more of a mecca for wine geeks.

That's because the restaurant has two new partners, Jason Zuliani (of the nearby Dedalus wine shop) and his wife, Emilie Paquette. (Former partner Maji Chien has left to pursue other interests.) As Zuliani and chef Max Mackinnon got to know each other over the past year or so, they had ongoing conversations about how a menu might respond to wine, and vice-versa.

"We've talked about what we want to do with food and wine, and this is an opportunity to do that," says Zuliani, who was the wine director for the New England Culinary Institute prior to co-owning Dedalus, where he'll continue to work. "It's really going to come into focus."

While Zuliani is finessing a list that will render grapes even more front-and-center than they are now, Mackinnon is reimagining the menu to render it more flexible for pairing with the "99 percent French" wines that Zuliani is curating. "We don't want people to necessarily think about appetizers and entreés," says Mackinnon, whose French-inflected, James Beard-nominated approach (thankfully) won't change. "This will be a place you can come to share a bunch of plates. It will be a little more freeform," and will likely include some bar snacks, too.

Orienting a wine list toward a menu is nothing new, of course. But a glimpse at the wines — with a section devoted to the elusive bottles of the Rhône's Domaine Gramenon, for instance — suggests that it will encourage diners to do more than absently order whatever to wash down their seared scallops.

Pistou will also have a "killer" beer program, says Zuliani, while its cocktails — contrary to current bar trends — will fade to the background.

Paquette will manage the front of the house, where, also this week, the seating is getting rearranged, the colors refreshed, and the on-site market phased out. (Sadly, though, lunch is not part of the new equation, much to the chagrin of this South Champlain Street neighbor. Just wanted to put that out there.)

Pistou reopens on January 16. We'll be interested to see what's pouring.

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