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  • California Winery Brings Napa Valley to Charleston, South Carolina


    Napa V Education Ctr Charleston SC PicmonkeyCharleston tasters experience a bit of Napa Valley

    TASTE News Service, March 30, 2015 - Mira Winery celebrated the Grand Opening of the Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room (NVEC) in mid-March. The facility gives visitors a unique Napa experience - a premiere wine destination but in Charleston, S.C., a historic culinary destination. It will offer a number of programs using interactive displays, videos and visiting speakers.

    “The Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room is the first of its kind and we’re thrilled it is finally open,” said Mira President Jim Dyke, Jr. “Napa Valley is one of the leading winemaking regions in the world. We want to give people a sense of its place, educate them about wine and the variety of elements necessary to create wine. We believe the NVEC will become a community resource for locals and visitors alike.”

    Grand opening events included a blending session led by Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez in which participants created their own wine. This was followed by a discussion of vineyard practices and the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley hosted by Steve Schweizer of Schweizer Vineyards. His conversation with wine club members is the first in the NVEC’s Distinguished Speaker Series that brings leading members of the wine industry to Charleston to share their experiences and knowledge. “Napa Valley – where we source all of our grapes – has a certain magic to it. We try to capture some of that magic in every bottle of Mira, and we hope to express the same through the NVEC,” Gonzalez said. “The excitement we’ve seen from visitors, residents, and guests suggests the NVEC is a must-stop.”

    The NVEC is distinguished by an 18 x 29 foot mural by famed artist David Boatwright on the side of the 68 ½ Queen Street building – an adaptation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” named “Renoir Redux: Exceptional Pairings.”

    Mira began as a partnership between Gustavo Gonzalez, whose 20-year winemaking career started in a winery lab and led him to be head red Winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery, and Dyke whose 20-year political career started with parking cars in the Senate Parking lot and led him to the White House. Wine writer Steve Heimoff noted, “Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez left Robert Mondavi to do his own thing, and what an auspicious start … The wine is wonderful.”

    Editor’s Note: If you’re planning to visit Napa County wineries, we suggest you first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of nearly all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

  • March 27, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

    Youngs Double Chocolate Stout Picmonkey

    Double Chocolate Stout


    Young’s Brewery

    Bedford England

    Style: Stout

    Alcohol: 5.25%

    IBUs: Unknown

    Serving Style: Bottles, cans and kegs (our sample from draft)

    Availability: Year around in world-wide markets


    Appearance:   “Dark—somewhere between sable and black, we’d say.”

    Aroma:  “Roasted coffee followed by dark chocolate.”

    Taste:   “The chocolate and some feeling of sweetness really comes through early, but there’s a counterpoint of slight bitterness toward the mid-to-late palate and on through to the finish.”

    Food Affinity:   “Brownies with chunks of walnut (chocolate on chocolate). Or, for something savory maybe turkey mole or other slowly cooked meat in a rich sauce.”


    DanClarke Good Mug Shot Picmonkey


    --Reviewer Dan Clarke enjoyed this stout on a brisk spring afternoon

  • March 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

    Grgich Napa V Chard Picmonkey

    2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay


    Grgich Hills Estate

    Napa Valley

    Alcohol: 13.5%

    Suggested Retail: $42


    “Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other varieties including a wonderful Zinfandel, it’s probably best known for its Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that.

    “To oversimplify, French Chardonnay grown in Burgundy tends to have a leaner, less-buttery character than California examples of this variety. It’s subtler and may be an acquired taste for many Americans. Grgich Chardonnays from the Napa Valley tend to show the sophistication of these white Burgundies, but with a California richness that seems to us to be the best of both worlds.

    “Though Mike Grgich hasn’t officially retired, his nephew Ivo Jeramaz carries the title Vice President of Vineyards and Winemaking and is pretty much responsible for the wine these days. Ivo is a proponent of natural grapegrowing and all of the winery’s vineyards are now certified as organic. Most California Chardonnay wines undergo a process called malolactic fermentation, which softens the taste and may make them more attractive in the near-term. Because Grgich Chardonnay doesn’t follow this winemaking process, it retains a natural acidity which tends to make the wine a better match for food and may improve its ability to age. Complexity is enhanced by a technique known as sur lie aging in which the juice is periodically stirred or otherwise agitated with the lees (spent yeast cells). While the process may not sound appealing, it yields wines with greater richness and complexity.

    “The 2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay shows some aromas of apple and hazelnuts, followed by layered flavors of apple and melon. Lovely long finish for this elegant Chardonnay.”

    Food Affinity: “It wouldn’t be bad with just simple barbecued chicken, but it is special enough to justify spending on more upscale pairing. How about scallops or almost any preparation of lobster?”

  • Taste of Beirut

    taste of beirut Picmonkey

    By Joumana Accad


    2014 by Health Communications, Inc.


    Soft Cover, 311 pages, $18.95


    Taste of Beirut by Joumana Accad is much more than a collection of Lebanese recipes, albeit they alone deserve high praise. Anyone interested in food from the Middle East who wants to learn about the do’s and don’ts of cooking and eating, the “Lebanese Larder,” and some of the history and origins of Lebanese food will enjoy the book not only as a fine cookbook, but as a good read. From mezzes (appetizers) to desserts such as baklava, Accad presents easy-to-make recipes using fresh ingredients in a simple format with mouthwatering images. Recipes are organized by category: Breads, Breakfast and Brunch; Sandwiches and Soups; Mezzes: Dips, Finger Foods, Salads and Sides, Main Courses and Desserts.

    A simple dish such as Dandelion Greens, (called a “salad” in the Middle East) using dandelion greens sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juicer and topped with toasted pine nuts is a sweet and delicious appetizer and is enjoyed with wedges of Arabic bread. Accad’s version of Muhammara, or Red Pepper and Walnut Dip, is a show-stopper, calling for roasted red peppers, garlic, walnut, cumin and pomeg4ranate molasses. It also is served with Arabic bread.

    Throughout the book recipes are preceded by notes regarding the origin of the dish, variations on ingredients, how foods are used as home remedies and the diversity of ingredients as they pertain to Lebanon’s geography and climates.

    From traditional dishes to innovative new creations, Taste of Beirut is a wonderful celebration of people, culture and cuisine!

    --reviewed by Leslie Bisharat