Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Port Call

Dessert wines in general, and Port in particular, are often under-appreciated. Maybe we're all too busy to savor a glass after a nice meal, but we ought to re-think that. Port, and other dessert wines, have been around for centuries, so we could benefit from a Port Appreciation Day.

Port traces its roots back to the 17th century. The legend is that two wine merchants in the seventeenth century were exploring Portugal’s Douro valley and discovered the Abbot of a Lamego monastery adding grape spirit to his wine early on in its fermentation to preserve its sweetness.

They decided to use this method of ‘fortification’ to preserve their wines for the long sea journey back to England. This wine took its name from the city where these traders had their base: Oporto (Porto), from where it is to this day shipped to the world.

Port is still produced in this way, by intentionally interrupting the fermentation of the grape must (or juice) by the addition of a clear grape spirit called aguardente, generally referred to as ‘brandy’. This preserves a large amount of the grapes’ natural sugars, thereby giving Port its characteristic sweetness and richness. Today's featured New Product, Graham's Vintage 2000 Port, has a 20% ABV, rather than the 12% or so that is common to red table wines.

The mountainous Upper Douro region of Northern Portugal became the world’s first officially demarcated wine region in 1756. This protected region is the only place in the world that can produce authentic Port, just like authentic Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.

All of Graham’s wines are aged beneath the riga pine beams of the earth-floored Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, which has stored Graham’s wines since it was built in 1890. Located at the estuary of the Douro River and cooled by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean Graham’s 1890 Lodge is crucial to the slow and balanced evolution of Graham’s wines.

The character of any glass of Port is in large part determined by the way in which it has been aged. Port styles can be divided between those aged in bottle and those aged in wood, whether small oak casks or large vats. Port is always aged in seasoned casks, unlike dry wine, which uses new wood. (An aside for our Scotch drinkers; check your favorite labels to see which are finished in ex-Port casks.)

Vintage Ports spend only about 18 months in wooden vats before they are bottled. Once bottled, they have no further contact with air and therefore there is only slow change in the color of the wine: the structure, complexity and character of the wine changes slowly with time. Port wine ages more slowly in bottle than in barrel.

In contrast, Tawny Ports are aged in contact with oxygen, which permeates the oak of the barrels. The color thus changes, from the original deep purple-red of the young wine to lovely tawny shades. Depending on the length of time spent in barrel, Aged Tawny Port ranges in color from the cedar-red of a 10 Years Old, to the deeper amber of the 40 Years Old.

At Joe Canal's, we have a dazzling selection of Ports, as well as other dessert wines. We also have team members ready and able to discuss the choices with you. Start your own Port exploration today!

Monday, July 27, 2015

How to Shop at Joe Canal's

Our two stores are among the largest and highest-volume wine, beer and spirits outlets in New Jersey. Because of our low prices and exceptional customer service, many of our shoppers aren't "regulars," and may benefit from this quick tutorial.

How We Save You Money

Our strong purchasing power helps us bring in great products from around the world at reasonable prices. Thanks to your loyalty, we're often offered special opportunities for specific items, which we sell at the lowest possible price. And we have our own shopper's club, called the Bottle Club®, and members enjoy added savings throughout the store (look for the orange price tag). Membership in the Bottle Club® is free! Just sign up as you check out, or join at our website, www.jcanals.com.

How We Organize 

Our wines, beers and spirits are generally kept in separate locations within the stores. Special sale items and displays are the exception to that rule. There are an assortment of signs within each store that will also help you get to where you're going.

Spirits are grouped by type. All vodkas are together, for example. Irish whiskey is separate from, but near, Scotch whisky. International Single Malt whisky (brands like Amrut, for example) can be found closest to Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Of course, our rarities are also kept together, often in a locked case.

We also have an extensive collection of liqueurs that are generally subdivided by style. Our cream liqueurs (Bailey's, etc.) will be together, and will also be close to coffee liqueurs, orange liqueurs, and everything else in that broad category.

Beer is usually divided into two major categories: national brands and craft beer. Big-selling international brands (Stella, Corona, etc.) will usually be grouped with the domestic national brands.
Some of the craft beer selection at Woodbridge
There are, of course, variations to this design, usually because of the space required to display any particular product.

Top 100 Wine Display
We sort our wines in what we consider the most logical way. First, we separate by country, then by state or region. With our domestic wines, we then group by varietal and wine color within each state. In other words, all of California Cabernet's will be on one (large) area, and our Cabernet from Washington will be elsewhere. Our California Red Blends will be together, and our California White Blends will be together, but in a different location.

Generally, our international wines will be grouped together by region, and by wine color. For example, you won't find a Bordeaux in the middle of the Burgundy section. On the other hand, you will find everything from Ribera del Duero in the same area.

Don't forget to look out for our tasting events, for the ultimate try-before-you buy experience.

Other Stuff

Cheese display in Lawrenceville
We do sell mixers (soda and juice, for example), cheese, other snacks, cups and glassware at both of our stores. The ABC does restrict what we can sell (beyond the wine, beer and spirits), but we offer some great choices in those categories.

                  Customer Service

We believe that our exceptional customer service is our most important attribute. You can shop in a lot of different places, but we aim to make you feel comfortable when you shop in our stores.

If you ever have questions while you're shopping, please ask any of our store associates for assistance. Our Managers and Supervisors are generally wearing red shirts, and our stock team and cashiers were various Joe Canal's t-shirts (but they all should have the same style on any particular day).

Each store also has a Customer Service counter, should you have a special request, need to request/return a keg, or need personal assistance for any reason. There may not be someone at the counter at all times, but your wait will be minimal.

We also know that there may be times when you need assistance getting your purchases from the store out to your car. Our associates are happy to help. Simply let the cashier know that you need assistance, and the cashier will call a stock associate to the front.

Shopping From Home

Most of the products in our vast inventory can be found online at www.jcanals.com. We also post money-saving coupons on our website, with new offers posted every Tuesday. And you can also stay current with our Growler menu by looking under the Beer tab on our website.

Thank You

With all of the choices that you have in the marketplace, we do appreciate your patronage at Joe Canal's. Follow this blog, our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to stay informed about specials, sales, tastings and celebrity appearances.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Weekend Update and More

Writing headlines and subject lines are a different skill set than long form writing, which is why newspapers and magazines typically employed different people for those tasks. Here, your blogger handles both assignments, and we like to change things up on occasion.

Changing the subject line, however, isn't changing the basic message of our Friday blog post. We have to give you enough information to last until our next posting, which will be Monday.

In-Store Events

We outlined our upcoming events (both stores) in yesterday's blog post. Click here to link back to that post. In particular, we want to draw your attention to the Founders Brewing Small Plates event in Woodbridge next Friday, July 31. Click here for more information on that tasty event. And we're in the final week of our Christmas in July Growler tappings in Lawrenceville. Click here for details.

New Products

If you're someone who prefers the autumn beers and ales, they are starting to arrive. Consult our store staff for specifics.

Domaine Bernard Defaix 2014 Petit Chablis. Produced on the flatter grounds of Chablis, the Petit Chablis is characterized by its freshness.

Its pale robe and its vivacity redolent of mineral hints convey the subtlety of the Chardonnay grape grown in this stony soil. The wine is bottled 8 months after the harvest in order to preserve all of its tangy, racy freshness. An attractive advantage of this appellation is its excellent value for money. We only produce small quantities of this wine. 100% Chardonnay.

Only $13.99 in the Bottle Club®, making it a great value from this classic appellation.

Prophecy Pinot Noir showcases the best of California. Upon the first swirl, this Pinot Noir delights the senses with a bouquet of toasted oak and ripe raspberry. Plush and smooth, the mouthfeel is round and filled with luscious layers of red cherry and strawberry that are complemented by notes of brown spice.

Priced at $11.99, this will pair with grilled chicken or salmon.

Re Manfredi Vigneto Serpara Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2008. 94 points from Wine Advocate: "An evolved and sophisticated expression, the 2008 Aglianico del Vulture Serpara gives us a great taste of the pedigree and potential of Aglianico del Vulture. This is a massively full-
bodied wine with an inky dark and impenetrable appearance. The bouquet shows thick layers of dried blackberry, spice, leather, cola and tobacco. You'd be hard pressed to beat this massive level of vinous intensity. Polished, but firm, tannins characterize the mouthfeel and the wine shows elegant tertiary tones of ash, tar and licorice that give it extra momentum and persistence."

The vineyards are in south central Italy, at the foot of Mount Vulture in the Basilicata region. That's about half-way between Naples and the Adriatic.

Limited availability, priced at $46.99.

Ripped from the Headlines

Winemaker Charles Smith (between our two stores, we currently carry at least five of his wines) has opened up an urban winery next to the Boeing facility in Seattle. Road trip! Click here for the story.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Beer, Wine and Spirits Events

At Joe Canal's in Lawrenceville and Woodbridge, we appreciate the fact that you have made us your favorite choice when shopping for wine, beer and spirits. You've enabled us to grow into New Jersey's leading wine, beer and spirits Superstore, which then allows us to offer you even more-special purchases, lowest prices on everyday items, and outstanding events and programs.

As we like to do on Thursday, here's a look at the upcoming events at both of our stores.

Events in Lawrenceville

We have a wine and craft beer weekend scheduled. On Friday, we have our regular wine tasting, from 4-6pm. Click here for the tasting menu. On Saturday, we welcome our friends from Flying Fish Brewing Co. for a tasting, from 2-4pm. Flying Fish opened in 1996, and has grown to become the largest craft brewery in New Jersey.

Looking ahead one week, we have another interesting weekend scheduled. We start with a wine tasting on Friday, from 4-6pm. Then, starting at 5pm, we'll host a book signing. Come meet author Lew Bryson, where he'll sign copies of his latest book, "Tasting Whiskey."

Lew is the managing editor of Whisky Advocate magazine, and has written a total of six books. Amazon.com had this to say about "Tasting Whiskey:" "Whiskey lovers will devour this fresh and comprehensive guide to everything there is to know about the world's whiskeys, including Scotch and bourbon as well as Tennessee, Irish, Japanese, and Canadian whiskeys. You'll learn about the types of whiskey and the distilling traditions of the regions where they are made, how to serve and taste whiskeys to best appreciate and savor them, how to collect and age whiskey for great results, and much more. There are even recipes for cocktails and suggestions for food pairings. This is the guide no whiskey drinker will want to be without!"

"Tasting Whiskey" is available in paperback or Kindle.

The weekend of events will wrap up on Saturday, August 1, with a mixology event that features Crop Organic Vodka. Since vodka is the most versatile of all the spirits, this event will help you with your bartending skills.

Please click here to visit the Event Calendar on our website.

Events in Woodbridge

In Woodbridge, our weekend starts tonight, with a tasting of Shiner Beer. First brewed in 1909, Shiner is the flagship brand of Spoetzl Brewer, which is located in Shiner, Texas. On Friday, it's our turn for the Crop Organic Vodka mixology event, 4-6pm. Finally, we have our regular wine tasting on Saturday, 1-3pm. Click here for the tasting menu.

Next weekend will be about craft beer and wine. We'll have our regular weekend wine tastings, Friday from 4-6pm, and Saturday, 1-3pm. The big (and delicious) event will be in-store on Friday, 7/31. That's our Founders Brewing Small Plates and Tasting event. We'll pair five courses with five different Founders brews. Attendees will also have the opportunity for special purchases (KBS, anyone?). Due to space restrictions, we are limited to 25 attendees. You don't want to miss this fun evening. Click here for more information.

The weekend continues on August 1, as we host our regular weekly wine tasting, 1-3pm.

Please click here to visit the Woodbridge Event Calendar.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What to Look For

It's the middle of the week and the middle of the summer, so we should take a look at what's new in our stores.

Coney Island Brewing Co. Hard Root Beer

The gypsy should have predicted this. The most dignified beverage of days past, re-imagined for your future self. The wooden planks under your feet and a hot dog in your hand; the only difference is that now you’re tall enough to ride the ride.

Coney Island Hard Root Beer is a new twist on an old favorite. With hints of vanilla, licorice and birch, this root beer will bring you back to the boardwalk. 5.8% ABV.

At this time, we have a very limited quantity, in Lawrenceville only.

The Shepherd Napa Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Aromas of lime, passion fruit, and gooseberry with notes of kiwi and jasmine. The mouth is delicate and smooth with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, and lychee. Firm acidity provides a zesty finish of citrus, mineral, and spice.

The Shepherd will be on the tasting menu at both stores this weekend, giving you the important try-before-you-buy opportunity. Sauvignon Blanc is great for summer pairings, like salads and fish. Only $10.96 in the Bottle Club®.

                   Rogue Farms Marionberry Braggot

Marionberry Braggot combines Marioberries, grown and hand-picked at Rogue Farms, with Hopyard Honey, collected from 7,140,289 Rogue Farms honeybees to create a true taste of the terroir of the Wigrich Appellation.

17 INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Honey & Wildflower Honey; Rogue Farms Dare™, Risk™, Dare™ R-1, Dare™ R-3, Risk™ R-1, Risk™ R-3, Risk™ R-7, Maier Munich & C120 Malts; Rogue Farms Flaked Rye; Rogue Farms Rebel Hops; Rogue Farms Marionberries & Marionberry Juice; Free Range Coastal Water & Pacman Yeast.

11.4 ABV. Very limited availability.

Frog's Leap Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5L

Balance, restraint and respect for terroir. All in a wine that explains without trying why Cabernet is King.

The 2012 vintage had nearly perfect growing conditions for developing depth of flavor and complexity; warm days, cool nights, and a beautiful crop of evenly ripened, small berries. The grapes were harvested at full maturity while retaining high acidity and low pH. Even in its youth—right out of the tank—the aromas were mature and defined. We bottled the wine just a bit earlier than usual with slightly less exposure to the barrel to ensure preservation of the wine’s character.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has all the hallmarks of the legendary Cabernets of Rutherford: the deep, cassis-currant aromas, the classic notes of "Rutherford Dust," and the earthen flavors of cedar and black olive. The mouthfeel is plush across the palate with velvety tannins, yet balanced by bright acidy and firm structure that hints at promising years to come. Pair it with rack of lamb, N.Y. Strip, or just another glass! This wine is destined to give decades of drinking pleasure.

The 1.5 Liter (magnum) size is available for the Bottle Club® price of $104.99.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

North and South

The North end of New Zealand's South Island is a magical place for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. And as we're into the hottest part of the year here, a light and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice for the lighter summer foods we're now enjoying. In New Zealand, they've found a balance between the centuries-old warrior culture and today's viticulture.

Symbolizing the timeless tradition of sharing wine between good friends and family, the ‘Pikorua’ represented on our label is a Maori eternity icon traditionally given as an offering of friendship. It resembles two ('rua’) intertwined pikopiko ferns – the pale green new-growth frond that thrives in shady, damp areas of New Zealand’s woods. The ferns represent two people travelling their own path of life but always coming back together because of their strong bond.

Pikorua Sauvignon Blanc delivers the hallmarks of the now world-famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Refreshingly crisp, it delivers bright tropical fruits with a touch of gooseberry and lightly herbal notes. We recommend enjoying Pikorua Sauvignon Blanc with good friends and family, either on its own or with lighter flavored dishes, oysters, poultry or spicy, Asian-influenced meals.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chillin' and Grillin'

With the weather turning decidedly toward summer over the last few days, many of us are doing more grilling. Sometimes it's for flavor, and sometimes it's just to keep extra heat out of the house. Whatever your reasons for grilling, and whether you're gas or charcoal, our industry partners have some great ideas and pairings.

Grilled Salmon with Creole Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Recipe courtesy Chateau Ste. Michelle.

8- 6oz salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lemon
Creole mustard-tarragon sauce, recipe follows


Heat grill to medium-high.

Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place salmon on grill and cook about 2 minutes. Rotate 90 degrees to make cross hatch marks on the flesh and cook 2 more minutes. Turn fish over and cook 2-3 minutes; rotate 90° again and cook a few more minutes. Depending on the thickness of the fish, it may take more or less time. Transfer salmon to a serving platter and squeeze lemon juice over each piece. Drizzle with Creole Mustard-Tarragon Sauce sauce and serve.

Creole Mustard-Tarragon Sauce


2 Tbsp chopped shallots
1 cup dry white wine - Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
¾ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp Creole mustard
8 oz unsalted butter, softened & cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste


Place shallots, wine and vinegar in a heavy non-reactive saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup. Add cream and return to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Whisk in creole mustard. Remove from heat and whisk in butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating each piece before adding the next. If the sauce cools too much to fully incorporate the butter, place over low heat for a minute, but do not boil. Stir in tarragon, lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pair with Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris

Blue Cheese Burger with Chive Aioli

Recipe courtesy St. Francis Winery & Vineyards


1½ pounds ground beef
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
½ cup mayonnaise
1 bunch chives, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, finely minced
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and black pepper
Sliced tomatoes and baby spinach for garnish
4 Hamburger buns


Coat the sliced red onion with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and marinate for about 1 hour.

Mix the chives, garlic and mayonnaise together and reserve for later use.

Preheat a grill or cast iron griddle pan over medium high heat.

Form the ground beef into 4 to 6-ounce patties about 5 inches in diameter.

Grill the onion slices on the preheated grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until well marked and just tender. Remove onions from the grill and reserve someplace warm.

Season both sides of the hamburger patties with salt and black pepper and lightly coat with olive oil. Place the patties on the preheated grill and cook about 3 minutes per side for medium or until desired temperature. When the burgers are nearly done, distribute the crumbled blue cheese evenly over the 4 patties so the cheese begins to melt. Remove the patties and reserve.

To assemble; spread a liberal amount of the chive aioli over the bottom piece of each bun and add the finished burgers. Garnish with grilled onions, tomatoes and baby spinach as desired.

Serve immediately, with St. Francis Old Vine Zinfandel.

Ommegang Summer Chicken with Orange Hennepin Glaze

Recipe courtesy of Brewery Ommegang

1 large roasting chicken, cut up
1 cup Ommegang
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, both white and green stems snipped
3 chopped garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes a pinch of salt and pepper

1 cup orange marmalade
1 cup Hennepin
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp. Allspice

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken, marinate for 1 hour. Grill the chicken or roast it in a 425 degree oven.

Heat ingredients together and brush over grilled or roasted chicken. Serve with Cranberry Almond Rice.

Serves 4 to 6

Provide by Elena’s Sweet Indulgence, Oneonta, NY. Enjoy with Ommegang Hennepin.

Pineapple Bourbon Pork Tenderloin

Recipe courtesy of Evan Williams Bourbon.

1 1/2 to 2 lbs. pork tenderloin
1/2 cup Evan Williams Bourbon
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pineapple, peeled and cored
1 cup Evan Williams Bourbon
1 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar

Place pork tenderloin in plastic bag with blended marinade ingredients and set in refrigerator to marinate overnight. Cut pineapple into 1/2 inch pieces and mix with remaining ingredients in heavy saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes or until sauce reaches a marmalade consistency. Remove pork from marinade and grill over hot coals for about 20 minutes. Slice pork and spoon sauce over the top.

Fireball BBQ Chicken

Sweet mustard chicken with a hint of cinnamon and whisky. Courtesy of Fireball Whisky.

12 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons yellow mustard
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons Fireball Whisky (for the rub)
1/8 cup Fireball Whisky (for the sauce)
12 oz of your favorite BBQ sauce
Your favorite BBQ Rub

In a bowl mix the mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and 4 teaspoons of Fireball Whisky. Partially remove skin and fully coat chicken with 1/3 of the mixture and sprinkle on your rub. Put skin back on and coat with the rest of the mustard mixture and more rub. Grill chicken until done. In a separate pan, mix BBQ sauce and 1/8 cup Fireball Whisky on low heat until sauce is well mixed and warm. Use this as a dipping sauce or coat chicken with sauce.