What’s Inside DelmarvaWine.com:
Guest writer Fran Severn explores the swell of new wineries springing up on the Delmarva in a new story posted on the “Featured” page. To read about the energy and challenges of growing good grapes Click here.
A Milestone Reached!
DelmarvaWine.com has passed the 1,000 mark for “unique visitors.” It is gratifying to know that more than a thousand different people visited the website in such a short time, including so many folks I’ve never met. - John Rankin
Every Wednesday night in Salisbury, wine lovers gather at a popular restaurant to enjoy upscale wines at half price. That’s because Sobo’s Wine Beerstro offers every wine on their list for fifty percent off. Originally named “Sobo’s Wine Bistro,” owners Tom and John Knorr morphed the “Bistro” name to “Beerstro” to include their own line of Evolution Craft beers which are served on tap.
True to the wine bistro model, there is an abundance of wine with nearly 100 offered by the bottle. The wine list is diverse enough to allow harmonious pairing with any entrée on the menu. During my visit last week I counted 23 white wines and a mind-boggling 46 reds available by the bottle. Standout white wine labels include Stag’s Leap, Cakebread, and Ferrari-Carano…the reds include Sbragia Family, Faust and Justin. Sobo’s tiers the wine list into price categories organized by body within each price tier.
For a value approach to trying new wines with each visit, there’s a group of 25 wines priced at $25 a bottle, every day. Familiar names on the 25 for 25 list are Peter Lehmann, Chateau St. Michelle and Beringer. During my visit I chose to sample several wines by the glass including William Hill Winery’s Chardonnay, Central Coast 2011 $9/gl. This is a focused, medium-bodied Charonnay with an oaky, slightly nutty personality. It is a polished wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with seafood or pork shank. A Wine Spectator rated 91, Sobo’s lists the bottle at $34. I was impressed to find John Duval Shiraz, “Entity” 2008 $10/gl. on the wine list. One does not find Entity on many Shore wine lists, so I enjoyed a glass of this too. This Australian Shiraz shows the black fruit typical of a Barossa red, but also unusual restraint that often goes missing in many of the Shiraz labels from Down Under. Sobo’s lists this Wine Spectator 91-rated wine at $72/bottle.
With so much to offer wine lovers, and a menu that stresses locally-grown ingredients in many of the entrées, there’s a lot to bring folks back to this upscale restaurant with a relaxed, Eastern Shore feel. It’s good to be here any day of the week but Shore residents should consider penciling in “Sobo’s” on their calendar each Wednesday.
Sobo’s Wine Beerstro, 1015 Eastern Shore Drive, Salisbury, Md. Phone 410-219-1117
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Horton, Viognier, Orange County 2012 $19 – Treat yourself to a refreshing change from the usual glass of Chardonnay or Riesling. Horton, the respected maker from Virginia, has a fresh, new release that will earn your respect – and grab your attention. Their 2012 Viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAY) has the aromatic intensity and acidic backbone of a good Sauvignon Blanc, but definitely not the same flavor profile. A medium-bodied white with floral and tropical fruit notes, this is an excellent example of the quality that some Virginia wineries are achieving within their product lines. This is a delightfully easy wine to drink and one with unusual elegance for the price. Serve cooled to about 55 degrees…refrigerator temperature will stifle this wine’s flavors. Note: This review refers to the 2012 vintage only. You may find older vintages on the wine shelf; I recommend the 2012. Available at Hair O’ the Dog Wine & Spirits, 219 Marlboro Avenue, Unit 52, Easton, Md.
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Like other small towns on the Delmarva, Cambridge is undergoing an inspiring revitalization. Old buildings downtown are being purchased by investors with a vision – a vision to re-purpose old structures with current, commercial appeal. Meet one of the investors: Carol Ruark, who opened “A Few of My Favorite Things” ten years ago on Race Street.
Carol celebrated her ten year anniversary with the unveiling of a refurbished wine bar within the gift and specialty items shop. The beautiful wooden bar was created by nationally-recognized artist (and Dorchester county resident) Michael Rosato. Last Saturday’s open house drew many to the wine bar to sip wine and share the excitement. Ruark, a Philadelphia native, used to visit Cambridge on getaway trips and decided that somehow, some way, she was going to move there some day. And move she did, becoming one of the town’s pioneers in the downtown’s revitalization when it began.
On Saturday her shop was a buzz of activity with folks dropping in to browse the chocolates, cheeses and wine. The wines in stock total about 100 labels and a dozen are offered for sipping via the wine bars’ Cruivinet, a temperature-controlled dispensing system. On my visit I enjoyed Roza Ridge “Roadside Market Red” 2009 ($14), a soothing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo aged in new American oak.
Joining Carol to greet visitors on Saturday were husband Joe and wine server Lorrie Devine, who was on her first day of work at the wine bar. They told me that the shop will soon offer wine flights, which will support a greater number of wine selections, and a food menu that makes the mouth water just by thinking about it. Future menu items include cheese plates, hot soup and salads. A notable pick will be the good, old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich, prepared with flair on a Panini press. “I want to offer simple comfort foods,” Carol commented.
The future menu certainly seems worth waiting for, but you can enjoy “A Few of My Favorite Things” right now. The Ruarks have wisely included small tables in the shop’s floor plan, and folks were making themselves comfortable passing time by just sitting, sipping and people-watching. This is home-grown Eastern Shore pleasure: casually enjoying wine and a relaxing day within a unique shop in downtown Cambridge.
A Few of My Favorite Things is located at 414 Race Street, Cambridge, Maryland. Phone 410-221-1960.
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No one recognized the location of the “Where On the Delmarva Are You?” photograph, which was shot on Water Street in downtown Vienna, Maryland. The fabulous house and nearby pavilion overlook the Nanticoke River. With no winners for this month’s $25 Giant Food Gift Card prize, we’ll try again next month with a new contest photo.
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Artesana, red wine blend, Uruguay 2011 $19 – Tannat is a grape that remains unknown to many Americans but in Uruguay it’s becoming the signature grape for the South American country. Tannat brings high tannins to a wine and that makes for dry going on the palate. To soften that effect, winemakers usually blend it with other red grapes like Merlot or Zinfandel (in this case 60% Tannat and 40% Merlot). Your Weekend Wine Pick won me over after two 2 sips for the way the Merlot softens the more harsh nature of Tannat. The 60/40 ratio is just right. Practice the art of self-control by pausing to sniff this once or twice during a full 60 seconds before sipping. You’ll appreciate the drinking part all the more. The dreamy aromas are of raspberry, cocoa and a balsam wood character. When you’ve finally sipped, revel in the abundant dark berry and plum flavors with a distinctive touch of mint on the finish. The 15.3% alcohol is certainly hefty, but I found the tannins and fruit doing a good job of balancing the oomph. The wine’s dry character made this a great pair with gourmet pizza, and Italian red wine drinkers will appreciate this one on its own, without food. At $19, I consider a wine of this quality to be a value wine. Not too cheap, but you’re buying a wine that will make a solid impression upon finishing a glass. Available at Teller Wines, 1201 Savannah Road, Lewes, Del.
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There’s a place in Lewes, Delaware where visitors can immerse in optimism – a place of steady positive thoughts. Half Full is a pizzeria and wine bar where you can share that vibe while imbibing hand-selected wine and munching gourmet pizzas baked on hand-stretched crusts. I’d heard the chatter about Half Full for a while but never had the opportunity to stop in. The 4:00 p.m. opening time limited my options in the past, but yesterday I made a point to time my day trip to Lewes around an early dinner at this intriguing eatery. (Tip: Come early, as there are only 35 seats inside and six outdoors) The pizza list offers 12 styles, each with their own combination of toppings. There’s a “have it your way” option which allow the choice of sauces and nearly 20 toppings. Pizza is king here, and Half Full doesn’t cut corners. The ingredients are fresh and flavorful. The mushrooms on my pizza were sautéed in herbs, giving them a flavor burst that sets Half Full pizza apart from one you’ll get at a strip mall pizza place.
For kids and the non-wine drinker, there’s a selection of carbonated waters and sodas. They even serve Dogfish Head craft-brewed ales. But wine is the big draw here and that’s what drew me in. For me, having a simple meal of pizza and wine is a spiritual event that can’t be experienced too often. I wasn’t disappointed with the wine list, finding a lineup of eight reds and eight whites. Don’t expect familiar labels that clutter the shelves of some wine stores. Half Full is a culinary experience, waiting to serve those seeking to broaden their wine experience. You can explore grapes and names that may be a bit unfamiliar.
The reds included a Spanish Rioja; a Toscana blend; a Tannat/Merlot blend from Uruguay; Grenache; and a Portuguese blend. The whites were equally diverse with Gewürztraminer; Pinot Gris; and Argentinian Torrontes in the lineup. All 16 wines are offered by the glass ($7 to $11) and by the bottle ($26 to $42). Where to start?
Conventional pairing rules pair pizza with red wine so I chose a glass of two different dry reds. The first half of my pizza went with Montebuena Rioja, Cuvée KPF 2010 ($9/gl.), a good choice for its mildly spicy finish. Enjoy the black currant/black cherry flavors on the palate. Montebuena is a good, relatively inexpensive way to explore dry Spanish wines. Made from the Tempranillo grape, the 2010 vintage received a 90 rating from Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
For the second half I chose Artesana red wine blend 2011 ($10/gl.), an Uruguayan blend of 60% Tannat and 40% Merlot. I liked the raspberry and cocoa nose and abundant dark berry and plum flavors with a distinctive touch of mint on the finish. The pleasing, dry depth of this wine was like having dessert with dinner. Note: you should select another style of wine if you prefer yours soft or sweet, for this is tight and dry.
Half Full is a pizzeria that everyone needs to experience at least once. The attractive, trendy dining room along with the quality food will likely bring you back. Judging by the number of local folks who came in to pick up carry-out orders, it was clear that there are more than just I who find Half Full a place of optimism and positive experience.
Half Full, 113 Market Street, Lewes, Del. Open 7 days a week, opening at 4:00 p.m. each day. Phone 302-645-8877.
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For the third year, the Maryland Wineries Association is partnering with quality restaurants and wine shops to celebrate Maryland wine and produce. During the ten days running from June 14-24, local restaurants and wine shops will host public events centered around Maryland wine, including winemaker dinners, tastings, wine flights, and more. DelmarvaWine.com is posting news about Eastern Shore events on the ”Wine Events” page. To view events currently announced, click the “Wine Events” tab above.
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La Ardilla, Moscato de Valencia, Spain 2011 $11 – Let’s officially kick off summer with a Spanish Moscato that’s light, fresh and even foamy in the mouth with its slight effervescence. Tom Greenwood, wine specialist at R&L Liquors in Lewes, Delaware, recommended this to me for the lively character and affordable price. “I like to have a glass of wine in the afternoon, one that doesn’t get me tipsy,” says Greenwood, whose wine suggestions are always informed and welcomed. “La Ardilla is a Spanish wine that is not heavy with alcohol and not a sugar bomb. This is like a diet Moscato,” he smiled. His palate must be tuned well because customers have been buying this up. Note the wine’s light fizz when pouring a glass, along with aromas of mandarin orange and apricot. This is sweet but not too much so. And although “La Ardilla” is Spanish for “squirrel,” there’s nothing nutty about this. It will pair well with casual family gatherings or social settings…even a quiet summer afternoon alone with nothing more than a good book. Serve chilled from the fridge; bottled with a convenient screwcap. Available at R & L Liquors, 207 Second Street, Lewes, Del.
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Nassau Valley Vineyards, peach wine “Peach Ambrosia” 2012 $16 – Here’s an Eastern Shore classic with no grape juice, no flavor additives, just the real deal. It’s 100% fermented peach juice in a semi-sweet version meant to be enjoyed year-round. Aside from its distinction as Delaware’s first winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards has bottled this fruit wine since 1999. At first sip, you’ll think of this light-bodied peach wine as a summertime beverage but it is more versatile than that. During the summer, enjoy it on its own or as a refreshing wine spritzer with a splash of cold club soda and an ice cube (spare the lime or orange slice). During the fall, sip Peach Ambrosia with pumpkin pie or apple cobbler…it will make a just-peachy pair with those traditional desserts. With only 11% alcohol it is light and clean on the palate and a good match for casual family or social settings. Available at the winery at 32165 Winery Way, Lewes, Del. and at many wine retailers throughout Delaware.
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