Friday, December 19, 2014

Grab Bag Friday

We're at the final weekend before Christmas, so we expect the stores to be a bit busy. Shop early, if you can. We will have extended hours on Sunday. Below, we'll link to the holiday hours schedule for both stores. Please note that today is the final day of our Holiday Toy Drive. Your donation of a new, unwrapped toy will brighten the holiday for a local child.

If you still need gift suggestions, click here for a listing of the gift sets that we have available. It'll save you some time when you get to the store.

Events in Lawrenceville

We have a couple of events on the agenda for this weekend. Today, from 5-7pm, we have a free tasting of Bulleit Bourbon, with a complimentary rocks glass etching available. Click here for details. On Saturday, we have a free tasting of Hetta Glogg (a variation of mulled wine), from 4-7pm.

Win the Barrel! We're raffling off this (empty) Woodford Reserve barrel, with the proceeds to benefit HomeFrontNJ. The drawing will be this Sunday, December 21.

Click here for the Lawrenceville store holiday schedule.

Events in Woodbridge

Today, from 2-4pm, we have a free tasting of The Macallan. Sample their 10, 12 or 15 year expressions. Complimentary gift wrap is also available.

Click here for the Woodbridge store holiday schedule.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine

Since you're likely looking for it as well, it won't surprise you to know that we sell a lot of Champagne and Sparkling Wine at this time of year. Just so we all speak the same language, Champagne refers to a specific type of sparkling wine, made in a specific manner, from the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wine made elsewhere can be made as Champagne is made (Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionelle), but, by treaty and tradition, should not be called Champagne. You will find some domestic sparkling wine listed as Champagne, and they were "Grandfathered" in.

Champagne and sparkling wine also have a range of styles that reflect sweetness. What you'll usually see is "Brut," which is dry, and Sec or Demi-Sec, which have a bit of sweetness.

We recommend Aubry Brut Champagne. This NV Champagne rated 92 points from Wine Advocate. From the review: "This contains just one-quarter each Chardonnay and Pinot; 45% Meunier; and a mixture of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau (a.k.a. Pinot Gris). Nearly half of it is reserve wine, and more than half of that from a solera going back to 1998. If that sounds like a recipe for delivering complexity, you’re right and won’t be disappointed! Bittersweet perfume suggestive of gentian and iris mingles with intimations of fresh lime and sea breeze that in turn manifest themselves on a seductively silken palate in both juicy, vivacious exuberance and mouthwatering saliva-inducement. A scallop-like sweetly saline and mineral amalgam takes hold in a vibrant finish that leaves me caught between the urge to linger and the urge to take the next sip."

Our staff loved it as well: "A brilliant “value” among Champagne!  Citrus and mineral notes take the lead with green apple and pear flavors in the background.  A slight ginger note takes hold on the finish.  A dry, clean style that has a very attractive green apple juiciness that keeps you coming back for more.  This puts some of the big house Champagnes to shame!" Available at $35.99 in the Bottle Club®.

Blanc de Noir
If you prefer a domestic sparkler, one that is made like Champagne, it's hard to beat Gruet. This is available as a Brut or Blanc de Noir. It's produced in New Mexico by the family of Gilbert Gruet, a Frenchman who produced Champagne in Bethon, France. They began their great American experiment with an experimental vineyard in 1984, and their first bottlings available in 1989.

The Blanc de Noir rates 90 points from Wine Spectator. The rich and toasty character of the Blanc de Noirs is balanced and superb. Aged for two-year minimum, the palate is developed and shows rich complex flavors. The amazing berry aromas and the creamy texture play a leading role and create a great finesse. Winemaker's Note: A fine salmon color, aggressive mousse and a lovely fruity wine with plenty of immediate charm and toasty aromas. There is also an explosive juicy flavor of raspberry. $13.99 in the Bottle Club®.

The Brut offers a crisp, and full-bodied sparkling wine, which has developed rich complexity and fine mousse. The allure of toasty finish from twenty-four months on tirage, is a complement to the sophisticated apple and citrus flavor.Winemaker's Note: Brilliant with ultra fine bubbles. A wonderful fine bouquet dominated by green apple and grapefruit flavors. A truly classic house style! A Wine Spectator Best Buy, at only $12.99 in the Bottle Club®.

 Ripped from the Headlines

Wine industry "cutting edge" technology? Click here for the story.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What to Drink for Christmas, Part 2

In yesterday's post, we explored some wine options for those who were preparing a ham dinner. We also linked back to our What to Drink for Thanksgiving series, for those who were serving turkey at Christmas. We'll review some additional pairing options today.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

If you're not familiar with this tradition, we'll cite Wikipedia here: "The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration.

Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus."

We're definitely recommending Italian white wines as the first choice here. You can have several bottles of the Saladini Pilastri Falerio Bianco on hand, as it's an amazing value at only $6.96 in the Bottle Club®. This full-bodied wine is producted from an ancient mixture of grapes from Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Its typical straw-yellow hue and delicate bouquet are due to the excellent position of the vineyards in the Marche, closer to the Adriatic.

Ok, it's a special holiday, and maybe you want to go a little upscale on your white wine choice. We have you covered.

We also suggest the Gavi from Marchesi di Barolo, located in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy. It's a classic wine for seafood and fish dishes due to its structure and minerality.

The color is yellow straw with green hues. The aroma is intense and fine, fruity and floral. Enjoy golden apples and green almonds on the palate. The scent of chamomile flowers is delightfully present, completely in harmony. Priced at $17.49.

Chardonnay is still the most popular white wine varietal, so this next recommendation is for those who want a very nice selection.

Paul Hobbs is one of the world's best, and busiest winemakers. Meticulous vineyard management followed by minimally-invasive winemaking techniques allows their team to produce
wines that express their vineyard origins with finesse, complexity and authenticity. Paul Hobbs wines are fermented with native yeasts, aged in French oak, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The 2012 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Chardonnay is an amazing choice. It scored 90-93 points from the Wine Advocate: "A big-time winner. It exhibits copious aromas of tropical fruit and buttery citrus, medium to full body and a flamboyant personality. It should drink nicely for 3-4 years."

The wine offers a brilliant citrine quartz color and impresses with aromas of citrus blossom, spiced baked pears and honey?glazed brioche. Layered yet seamless, it lifts off the palate with a hint of mandarin meringue, while an enduring essence of marzipan crème lingers through the lengthy finish. $39.99 in the Bottle Club®.

Roasts, Pasta Dishes

Red meat, red sauce (red gravy, if you prefer), Santa wears red, Rudolph's nose is red...there's a definite theme to Christmas, and red wine is the perfect fit for the heartier meals.

We're not the only ones particularly captivated by the Feudo di Santa Croce Primitivo di Manduria LXXIV. Wine Spectator gave it 91 points, and ranked in as #69 on the Top 100 Wines of 2014. Their review: "A burly, brambly red, underscored by tarry smoke and underbrush notes, offering flavors of blackberry coulis, herb-marinated black olive, grilled mushroom and ground spice. This shows muscle that recommends it to short-term cellaring, made accessible by integration and balance."

The winery says "this has a ruby red color, enriched with garnet reflections. It offers a generous perfume, which recalls plums and ripe red fruits. This wine has a velvety texture, dry and spicy." And our staff said "Very enticing aromas of vanilla, stewed fruit, blackberry, cedar and prunes.  The flavors are silky and lush with bold vanilla, blackberry, licorice, blueberry and chocolate with black pepper on the finish.  A great, new find!"

Only $19.96 in the Bottle Club®.

Our dinner wine pairings are now complete. Tomorrow, among other topics, we'll discuss Champagne and sparkling wines.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What to Drink for Christmas, Part 1

Over the course of the next couple of days, we'll go over some recommendations for wines to accompany your Christmas dinner. Our wine team contributed to these recommendations, and can help you find them in the store. Of course, the suggestions apply to any time you're having these dishes.

Because family traditions see so many different meals at Christmas, we'll do our best to cover the most popular. If your choice isn't listed, please ask, and we'll be happy to help.


Today's recommendations will cover most traditional ham preparations.  An Oregon Pinot Noir is one nice choice. Something a bit spicy and berry-rich to play against the saltiness/sweetness of, say, a glazed ham. We recommend the A To Z Wineworks Pinot Noir.

The A to Z Pinot Noir invites with vibrant aromas of juicy berries, cherries, lavender and violets, evolving to clove, game, smoke and cherry tobacco. A succulent, focused attack has flavors of blue and red fruits, flowers and earth, then deepens with hints of mocha, gingerbread, green tea and cacao. A very tannic structure is balanced by perfect acidity, giving shape and elegance to the concentration of lush fruit. A beautiful, complex, forward wine results, walking a tightrope between richness and elegance. Built for midterm aging, the captivating A to Z Pinot Noir once again sets the standard for  Pinot Noir in Oregon. $15.99 in the Bottle Club®.

Another outstanding pairing for ham (and lamb as well) is  Le Galet Côtes-du-Rhône. Le Galet Côtes-du-Rhône is a traditional Syrah-Grenache blend, providing an accessible, early drinking style without being overly tannic.

On the nose, there is an abundance of black and red fruit, particularly blackberry and loganberry, with plenty of warm spice. The palate follows the same theme, with the soft and supple tannins blending nicely with the warm spice to produce a mouth-filling richness. The flavor is similar to the nose, with plenty of red and black berry fruit combining beautifully. This wine certainly delivers a lot at this price. And the price is only $9.96 in the  Bottle Club®.

If you prefer a white wine, consider the Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, from California's Sonoma County.  The 2012 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay from Sonoma County has superior lots of wine from vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Carneros. This full-bodied Chardonnay boasts aromas of apple, citrus, pear and marshmallow perfectly balanced by flavors of quince, peach, lemon and hazelnut with lingering, creamy toasted oak notes. $23.99 in the Bottle Club®. This Chardonnay will also pair nicely with pork rib.

As we noted above, there will be additional installments this week. If you're having turkey as the main holiday meal, please look at our Thanksgiving blog posts for suggestions:
Red wine
White wine

Now we're kind of hungry. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Celebration

Our Beer Gift Sets make for some of the best sharing opportunities. Today, we're showcasing the Duvel Gift Set, which comes with 4 bottles of their Golden Ale, to share in whatever way the math works for you.

Are you truly passionate about something?  Then you must possess ‘Love-what-you-do-ness.’  Are you willing to take all the time necessary to perfect your passion?  Of course that means you demonstrate ‘Wait-wait-wait-ness.’  Dedicated to absolute craftsmanship without compromise, no matter what?  Then your approach certainly reflects a ‘Devils-in-the-details-ness’ attitude.

Everyone is a master of something in their world and Duvel is keen to celebrate the one-of-a-kind nature and achievements of its fans and lovers – be they achievements or talents grand or small.  Whether you are a beloved bubble-blower or a perfected potato-peeler you’ve achieved mastery in the same fashion Duvel has – with a passion, commitment and dedication to be the absolute best at something.  Our masterfulness is beer. What is yours? Share your #Masterfulness on Twitter!

Many years ago, Duvel boldly went where no other brewers had gone before. We invented our own category of Golden Ale. It takes confidence to stand out from the crowd. So thanks for doing you own thing by drinking our own thing.

If you've ever done something in a hurry, you know it often ends in disappointment. So here's to an unhurried pour.

The Duvel Gift Set includes four bottles of Golden Ale, along with an Art Series Glass. $13.99. While supplies last.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Special Holiday Treats

If you're still searching for something special, whether as a gift or as a keeper, here's a look at some products that are new to our shelves.

Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon is the newest project from our friends at Duckhorn.

Home to some of Washington State’s most celebrated vineyards, Red Mountain is renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon. With ideal southwest-facing slopes and significant day and nighttime temperature swings, this small but highly prized area in Eastern Washington produces exceptional wines. Named for the Canvasback duck, which is native to the Pacific Flyway, this wine was crafted from grapes cultivated by some of Red Mountain’s finest growers. With Canvasback, the aim is to express and develop the depth, structure and sophistication that define wines from this young and exciting appellation.

Alluring aromas of blueberry, black cherry, plum and licorice rise from the glass supported by earthy minerality and hints of dry desert sage. While the entry is rich and juicy, the wine reveals its full structure and intensity on the mid-palate, where firm, fine-grained tannins support layers of lush fruit and earth, as well as notes of savory herbs and exotic spices.

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak; 64% new, 36% neutral. Limited availability, at $37.99.

Doña Paula Estate Malbec 2012 was rated at 93 points by James Suckling.

Intense violet color. In the nose, aromas of black fruits, violets and spices. Mineral and graphite notes. Great balance and freshness in the mouth, with good concentration and medium structure. Soft tannins and persistent finish.

Only $11.99 in the Bottle Club®.

Chateau du Busca XO Armagnac rated 90-95 points from Wine Enthusiast. "*Superb/Highly Recommended* Understated floral scents of jasmine and honeysuckle along with aromas of dried yellow fruit, buttered almonds and orange blossom are discovered in the nose. The palate entry is lusciously oily, semisweet and buttery while the midpalate stage highlights the oak, cocoa, black tea and walnut paste. Finishes gracefully, semisweet, and tightly structured."

Armagnac is a distinctive kind of brandy produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of grapes, typically including Baco 22A, Colombard, Folle blanche and Ugni blanc, traditionally using column stills rather than the pot stills used in the production of Cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before release.

Very limited availability in Lawrenceville, with a couple of bottles due in at Woodbridge. $86.99.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Grab Bag

Welcome to the middle of the holiday shopping season. We appreciate the fact that you are shopping with us at Joe Canal's in Lawrenceville and Woodbridge. Our staff is ready to assist you in any possible way, so don't hesitate to ask.

If you're preference is for a pre-packaged holiday gift set, click here for an earlier blog post with a fairly comprehensive list. For single bottles or cases, please check with our staff. We can even help with themed concepts. Your blogger assisted someone who was shopping for wine that had a tree on the label. He was in the landscaping business, so the tree label was his theme for the year. And we had plenty of choices, starting with Dreaming Tree, Tilia and Wishing Tree.

But we're about more than just shopping, so let's really start this post by covering...

Lawrenceville Events

We have our regular wine tastings this weekend, from 4-6pm today and 2-4pm tomorrow. Click here for the tasting menu. On Saturday, from 4-6pm, we have a free tasting of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch. And on Sunday, we have a free tasting of Hendricks Gin, from 2-4pm.

Brand new to our Events calendar is the Tim Smith Climax Moonshine Tasting and Bottle Signing, on January 31. Click here for more information.
Tim Smith and Camo
As always, keep up with our events and activities by clicking over to the Events page on our website, or follow us (@jcanalslawrence) on Twitter.

Woodbridge Events

On Saturday, we have the Johnnie Walker Blue Label engraving. Click here for details.

The big tasting event of the weekend is on Saturday, from 5-7pm. Pisco is something that most people haven't yet sampled, and we're offering you the opportunity to change that. Stop in for a free sample of Porton Pisco, and find out why this South American spirit is growing in popularity.

Woodbridge will also welcome Tim Smith for a tasting and bottle signing for his Climax Moonshine on January 31. Click here for the detailed information.

Follow us on Twitter at @jcwoodbridge, and remember to check our Events page regularly.

We're in the final week of our Holiday Toy Drive. Simply bring a new, unwrapped toy to either store. We're working with other businesses locally to help brighten  the holiday season for some less fortunate children. The deadline is next Friday, December 19.

New Products

This is the time of year when Champagne and other sparkling wines sell the best. Your blogger started Thanksgiving dinner off by opening a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and another is waiting for the next big family dinner. Veuve Clicquot Luminous, 1.5L is is fun twist on the incredible popular Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut.

Veuve Clicquot Brut starts with 50-55% Pinot Noir, for structure, 15-20% Pinot Meunier, to round out the blend, and 28-33% Chardonnay, for elegance and sophistication. So what makes this bottle different? This 1.5 Liter magnum bottle has a label that light up. We know you already love Veuve, and this limited-edition Luminous will help make the holidays even more fun. 

Chateau La Dame De Montrose 2010 is a beautiful Bordeaux, scoring 94 points from the Wine Advocate. Dense black color, with violet highlights. Complex nose with notes of morello cherry, raspberry, dark tobacco, Havana, and a touch of vanilla. Net attack in the mouth: Mid-mouth fresh and ample. Long finish on neat tannins. Great homogeneity in the tasting with recurring notes of raspberry, vanilla and mocha. Discreetly wooded. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot, best from 2015-2035.

Ripped from the Headlines

From the Wine Spectator: "A Champagne kerfuffle has arisen in Britain's Parliament. During budget negotiations meant to impose some belt-tightening measures, the House of Lords refused to merge their catering services with their lowly counterparts in the House of Commons because 'the Lords feared that the quality of Champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service,' said Sir Malcolm Jack to a parliamentary committee in the Commons (Jack served as clerk of the Commons, in charge of such affairs, from 2006 to 2011). The chairman of the committee, understandably, asked, 'Did you make that up? Is that true?' Jack confirmed that it was, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mirror. Then, because the members were having a laugh, another asked if the Lords' concerns about Champagne quality were, in fact, valid. 'I don't think they were,' responded Jack. 'We were very careful in our selection.' For good measure, another MP went ahead and just said how he really felt: 'The Lords are a bunch of unelected, out-of-touch toffs and money grabbers. It is time they were put out of their misery. Let them drink corporation pop.' The Lords bought 17,000 bottles of Champagne since 2010 at a cost of $417,000. The Mirror reported last year that taxpayers were spending $94,000 a week so peers could dine at subsidized prices: 'trompette mushroom risotto with truffles, Champagne and double cream' for 13 bucks, as one example. A Lords spokesman rebutted that 'the House of Lords would not reject a merger of catering services with the House of Commons simply on the supply of Champagne.' "

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beer Man in Wine Country

On occasion, Joe Canal’s staff members are able to go on trips to meet the producers of the items that we sell. Whether we travel to the great wine regions, or any other location, the trips are educational, great for team-building, and, of course, they’re fun.

Chris Spicacci, Beer Supervisor at Woodbridge, recently visited California on just such a trip with other Joe Canal's team members. Here's his report:

It was a clear Monday morning that we were on our way to the airport. I was a little nervous about flying, not having done so in over 15 years, but still very excited for my first trip to the West Coast.

After we landed and checked in at the hotel, we visited the Beringer Winery. What a nice place, with a lot of interesting history. We had a 2012 "Luminus" Chardonnay and a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a "Nightingale" Sauvignon Blanc with dessert. We spent the night in the Simi house. Beautiful place, very roomy, excellent view. First time ever playing Bocce, which is a lot of fun.

The next morning, we stopped at Gott's Roadside for breakfast. Iconic place, delicious food.

Beringer tasting
Later in the day we visited Beringer Winery; tons of history there. We were taken out to the vineyards while discussing the history and origin of the winery. From there, we went to Franciscan for lunch. Best meal of the trip for me, a 3 course lunch. We sampled a 2012 Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay and a 2008 Magnificat along with a couple of others. We were given a tour of the winery. They showed us where they make the wine, how they crush and process the grapes and it was thorough. Really nice place with great people.

Stag's Leap Manor House
Next, we visited Stag's Leap Winery. It was a very entertaining and informative tour, learning all of the history of the winery. We heard that the winery had supposedly been haunted. We tried their wine sitting in the front porch of the establishment. Very fun, but no ghosts.

That night, we finished up at the Hess Winery. What an unreal place. Donald Hess, the owner has a massive art collection on displays throughout 3 floors of the winery. He's been collecting paintings and pieces for over 40 years from all over the world.

"Throughout my 40 years of acquiring and building up the art collection my early, simple guidelines have remained unchanged. Even today, I rely chiefly on my intuition and on my own eyes, however I still find that several times waking up at night and thinking about a painting, a result of having been deeply moved by a particular piece of art, continues to be the best indicator for purchasing a new piece."

"I am certainly not influenced by fashionable trends, nor does it matter to me, how well-known and artist is. My main criteria is: an artwork cannot just be visually pleasing - it has to deeply touch me in such a way that during the week before finally purchasing the artwork I constantly think about it." - Donald M. Hess

Some of the pieces were just mesmerizing. Amazing collection. Makes me, someone not really not into art before this tour, really appreciate the craft.

The wines? 2012 Chardonnay 2012 Select Pinot Noir and a 2010 Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvee were sampled with the meal.

Chateau St. Jean
The next morning we started with a tour of Chateau St Jean, including lunch. More of the same, great scenery, and great wine.

We had some time in the middle of the day, so we stopped at the Russian River Brewery. Best part of the trip for me, being super into craft beer. It was good to be able to try some some highly rated beer that isn't available in New Jersey. Better was being able to purchase some to bring back home.

We finished Wednesday night with a tour of the Clos du Bois Winery. Another nice place and, again, a lot of nice scenery. We sampled a 2012 Calcaire, Russian River Valley, and a 2011 Reserve Cabernet, Alexander Valley, among others.

Finally, on the last full day, we visited Sonoma Valley to tour the Ferrari-Carano Winery. Far and away, the most beautiful place we had seen. After a tour inside and out, we went down to the tasting room to try a number of different wines. Our tasting menu included a 2013 Pinot Grigio, 2013 Fume Blanc, 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, 2012 Merlot, and a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was yet another great place.

Seeing that it was our last full day there, and we had an early flight to catch the next morning, we just drove back to San Francisco to spend the rest of the day there. We stopped at an In & Out Burger for dinner, and that was delicious. we did a quick little tour of the city on foot, visiting Fishermans Wharf, also seeing Alcatraz from afar. What added to the trip was the buzz of the people of San Francisco, due to the Giants being in the playoffs. We spent the last night just relaxing in the hotel, trying to rest up for the early flight.

All in all, I feel like this was a great experience. I was honored and grateful to take part in the trip. I gained a lot of new knowledge in wine, saw and toured many wonderful, beautiful places, and gained a new appreciation for wine that I've never had.