Snapshots from the Buckhead Wine Festival

At the first ever Buckhead Wine Festival guests tasted wines from north Georgia and around the globe, snacked on gourmet food from local vendors and shopped for unique wine gifts.

The event, held on Saturday, April 28th at the East Andrews Entertainment District, was created by Grape Crush Productions. It came at the end of Atlanta Food & Wine Month, an effort to raise awareness and drive business to local food purveyors, wine shops and restaurants. Both the festival and the month-long celebration supported the Atlanta Community Food Bank through a canned food drive and monetary donations.

View the slideshow for snapshots from the Buckhead Wine Festival.

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Croft Pink: A Port for Mixing

By Robin Alix Austin

How do you make a centuries-old fortified wine new again? You mix it up!

Introducing Croft Pink Porto, a port that, in addition to being the world’s first rosé port, was crafted to be mixed.

“We want people to be rebellious,” said Robert Bower, brand manager for the Fladgate Partnership. Robert shared a taste of Croft Pink during his visit to Atlanta for the High Museum Wine Auction.

While the idea of mixing port in cocktails may make port purists clutch their pérolas (that’s pearls in Portuguese), Robert hopes that Croft Pink will get Millennials to see the Portuguese fortified wine in a new way.

“We want to break the tradition of port being the after dinner drink with the armchair.”

Croft Pink also serves as an introduction to the many styles of port. From port cocktails it’s not too far of a jump to ruby, tawny, vintage port and beyond.

Just as with rosé wine, Croft Pink gets its pink color from the grape juice’s short exposure to grape skins – 12 hours to be precise. From there it undergoes a seven day cold fermentation which preserves the fresh fruit flavors. A neutral grape spirit is added, and the fortified wine spends one year in casks. Croft Pink is 19.5% alcohol by volume.

Croft Pink is sweeter than most port because it is intended to be diluted. On its own, Croft Pink has cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavors. When you add club soda, lemon and ice, it becomes the perfect summer drink.

Croft Pink is delicious with a seemingly unlimited combination of alcoholic and nonalcoholic mixers. Try one of the cocktail recipes below, or create your own and share it on Croft Pink’s Facebook page.

The Fladgate Partnership includes Croft, Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca.

Pink Diamond

1 part Croft Pink
1 part soda water
lemon wedge
ice

Fill a highball glass with ice and add Croft Pink and soda water. Squeeze the lemon wedge into the glass and stir. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Bubbles and Pink

3 oz. chilled Croft Pink
4 oz. Champagne or Prosecco
½ oz. Cointreau
2 dashes of bitters
lemon twist for garnish

Pour all the ingredients into a Champagne flute. Stir gently and add lemon twist garnish.

Croft Sangria

24 oz. Croft Pink
3 oz. amber rum
6 oz. fresh orange juice
3 oz. fresh lemon juice
1½ oz. simple syrup

Combine ingredients into a pitcher and stir. Serve over ice and garnish with slices of apples, oranges, lemon or other seasonal fruits.

Sunset

2 oz. Croft Pink
1 oz. Gin
2 dashes orange bitters
3 oz. ginger beer
mint sprig and seasonal fruit for garnish
ice

Fill a highball glass with ice and add the ingredients. Stir briefly and add garnishes.

Visit www.croftpink.com for more cocktail recipes.

Atlanta Food Truck Park Opens April 26

Atlanta’s popular food trucks will have a new permanent home at the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, opening on Thursday, April 26th.

The park is located at 1850 Howell Mill Road and will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night dining.

In addition to featuring up to 15 of the city’s food trucks at one time, there will be live music on Thursday evenings, a weekend farmers market and artist showcases.

Picnic tables provide plenty of seats for snacking, and bocce ball, horseshoes and a playground offer pre or post meal fun. Free parking is offered onsite.

Thursday’s kickoff party begins at 5pm and includes live music, games and activities for kids, in addition to plenty of mouthwatering dishes from the food trucks.

The Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market is the second of its kind in the country. It is designed to be a community-centered site to foster the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Atlantans.

Participating food trucks include Sweet Auburn BBQ, Yumbii, King of Pops, WOW Truck, Happy Belly, Honeysuckle Gelato, Nana G’s Chik-n-Waffles, Yum Yum Cupcake, Munch Truck, Mighty Meatballs, Tex’s Tacos, Tastee Truck, Fry Guy, Yoli’s Street Food, Champion Cheesesteaks, Hail Caesar, The Pickle, Rolling Reuben’s, Pressed For Time Paninis and Mobile Marlay.

The Atlanta Food Truck Park will host the Howell Mill Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 1pm beginning May 5th.

For more information visit www.atlantafoodtruckpark.com.

Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, opening April 26th at 1850 Howell Mill Road. Open seven days a week, 11am to 10pm.

Dining Atlanta: Week of April 23, 2012

By Eric Harvison

Dining Atlanta spotlights what is opening and closing around the city. Check in at the beginning of each week to find out what is changing in your neighborhood.

Click here to read earlier columns

Atlantic Station

YARD HOUSE opened over the weekend, fulfilling the promise of a proper pub for Atlantic Station.

Buckhead

More WATERSHED (ON PEACHTREE) intel. The Twittersphere reports that Julia LeRoy will assume the role of executive chef when the restaurant opens next month. Not sure if this will have any impact on chef LeRoy’s recently announced gig as consulting chef at PINEWOOD in Decatur.

Decatur

The DECATUR DINER has been sold and closed, and will reopen as a “high energy Mexican Restaurant.” The new owners are the founders of CINCO MEXICAN CANTINA, which has a couple locations in the ‘burbs.

Downtown

The Buckhead Life/Levy Restaurants project at Philips Arena opened Saturday evening. RED offers “contemporary American fare” – burgers, wings, etc, plus a few vegetarian options.

Old 4th Ward

PIZZERIA VESUVIUS has “temporarily” closed, citing the ongoing roadworks along Edgewood making way for the Atlanta Streetcar project. They will reportedly use the time they’re closed to remodel the restaurant.

Piedmont Heights

THE COTTAGE Ethiopian restaurant on Piedmont at North Rock Springs Road has closed and will reopen as a new location for DUNKIN’ DONUTS. Not sure if they’re going to demolish the existing structure (which was originally built as a BURGER KING).

Vinings

MULBERRY STREET PIZZA on Cobb Parkway (near the original TOMO) closed yesterday.

Westside

SWIT BAKERY AND CAFE has opened in the Brickworks complex, next to Hop City Beer & Wine.

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Eric Harvison’s Dining Notes began a few years ago as a sporadic e-mail exchange with a friend, sharing restaurant openings and trying to satisfy that vague urge to dine “somewhere new.” That friend started forwarding Eric’s messages to some of her friends, several of them food industry professionals. They in turn began passing along bits of restaurant news and gossip that they would come across. These exchanges became more frequent and took on a viral life of their own that has evolved into what you read today.

Aside from the occasional editorial comment, Eric won’t attempt to review these restaurants. There’s plenty of others better qualified, with much more refined palates — probably you. Rather, this is an attempt to help you keep up with the constantly changing Atlanta dining scene, for better or worse.

Share Your Photos with The Optimist

Have a favorite photograph from your family’s beach vacation? Share it and it could end up on the walls of Chef Ford Fry’s highly anticipated new restaurant.

The Optimist, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar opening in May, is asking future guests to help create its relaxed, oceanic feel by submitting photographs. Suitable photos include images of surfside fun — from fishing, surfing and other water sports to playing in the sand and relaxing with family and friends on the beach.

The Optimist and The Oyster Bar at The Optimist will feature a menu focused on sustainable seafood prepared in a wood-burning grill and oven. The oyster bar will be more casual, with a raw bar and shellfish selections that encourage sharing.

The name of the restaurant was suggested by Fry’s father, who enjoys sailing. It is a term for a small sailing dinghy used by children, and also refers to the upbeat attitude felt towards catching the next big fish.

To submit your photo email the file to theoptimistatlanta@gmail.com or mail printed photos to Kimberly Powell’s attention at JCT. Kitchen & Bar (1198 Howell Mill Road, Suite 18, Atlanta, GA 30318). The restaurant’s designer Smith Hanes will be creating storyboards using these photos over the coming weeks.

The Optimist and The Oyster Bar at The Optimist are located at 914 Howell Mill Road in Atlanta. For more information visit theoptimistrestaurant.com.

photograph: fresh oysters on the beach in Cap Ferret, France

Four Seasons Atlanta Hosts Perrier-Jouet Experience

One of Atlanta’s top hotels and one of France’s top Champagne houses will be uniting for an unforgettable evening.

On Thursday, April 26th the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown will host The Perrier-Jouët Experience.

Perrier-Jouët Cellar Master Hervé Deschamps will guide guests through a tasting of three acclaimed Champagnes. The bubbles will be paired with small bites from Park 75.

The featured Champagnes will be Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque and Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé.

The tasting will be held from 6pm to 7:30pm at the Savannah Hall inside Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta.

The event costs $50 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

For more information or to make a reservation call (404) 253-3840.

The Perrier-Jouët Experience at Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, 75 14th Street Northwest. Thursday, April 26th, from 6pm – 7:30pm.

Buckhead Wine Festival Debuts on April 28

Get ready to raise a glass at the first ever Buckhead Wine Festival!

The afternoon of tasting, learning and shopping will take place on Saturday, April 28th at the Andrews Entertainment District.

From 3pm to 6pm guests will taste wines from north Georgia and around the globe, enjoy gourmet food from local vendors and shop at the pop-up market. Hot weather favorite King of Pops will be offering a special “Mimosa Pop” created just for the festival. There will also be a silent auction that will feature unique wine and food themed packages. VIP ticket holders will be able to enter an hour earlier and attend wine seminars.

General admission tickets are $25 in advance online and $35 at the door. VIP tickets are $40 and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets visit www.buckheadwinefest.com. All guests must be 21 or older.

The Buckhead Wine Festival was created by Grape Crush Productions and comes at the end of Atlanta Food & Wine Month, which is an effort to raise awareness and drive business to local food purveyors, wine shops and restaurants. Both the festival and the month-long celebration support the Atlanta Community Food Bank through a canned food drive and monetary donations.

Buckhead Wine Festival, Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 2pm to 6pm at the Andrews Entertainment District at 56 East Andrews Drive.

Dining Atlanta: Week of April 16, 2012

By Eric Harvison

Dining Atlanta spotlights what is opening and closing around the city. Check in at the beginning of each week to find out what is changing in your neighborhood.

Click here to read earlier columns

Around Town

Farmers market season is underway with the reopening last weekend of the Peachtree Road, East Lake and Sandy Springs farmers markets. Other in-town seasonal openings that I’m aware of are the Piedmont Park Green Market on May 5th and the Brookwood Farmers Market on June 8th.

Former Creative Loafing food editor and restaurant critic Besha Rodell has accepted a position as food critic at the LA WEEKLY, replacing Pulitzer winner Jonathan Gold who recently moved across town to the Los Angeles Times.

Airport

THE ORIGINAL EL TACO will join YEAH! BURGER and ECCO in the new international concourse F at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, becoming the Fifth Group’s eighth restaurant (counting the airport ECCO).

Buckhead

The Atlanta Journal Constitution quotes WATERSHED managing partner Ross Jones that the restaurant’s new Buckhead home hopes to open on May 24th. Jones also shared that the restaurant will now be called WATERSHED ON PEACHTREE.

Petrus Brands’ SHANES RIB SHACK on Roswell Road has closed and will be replaced by THE VILLAGE TAP, a new concept from the owners of the 5 PACES INN.

BHOJANIC Indian restaurant will open a second location in the Shops Around Lenox late this summer.

Atlanta’s only South African Restaurant 10 DEGREES SOUTH is now bottling and selling their signature Peri Peri sauce.

STG TRATTORIA has opened at 102 West Paces Ferry specializing in casual Italian fare. Opened by BOCADO’s Brian Lewis; Joshua Hopkins was brought over from ABATTOIR to become executive chef. Adam Waller, formerly with SOTTO SOTTO, is chef de cuisine.

Decatur

Permits filed with the state reveal that YOUR DEKALB FARMERS MARKET is preparing a massive expansion, more that tripling the market’s size and adding over 2,600 additional parking spaces. The expansion will take place in phases beginning this October.

Recently opened — COZEE TEA on East Ponce, near Natural Body.

More details about the new restaurant planned for the former CAKES & ALE space on Ponce (Dining Atlanta, March 19). The full name will be THE PINEWOOD TIPPLING ROOM, with T. Fable Jeon (most recently at THE LAWRENCE) leading the cocktail program as Principal Barkeep, and Julia LeRoy stepping in as consulting chef to create according to their press material, a small plate menu of “reinterpreted Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, venison, sweet potatoes, and a re-imagined fried bologna sandwich.”

Downtown

AMERICAN ROADHOUSE‘s second location has opened in the Pencil Factory Lofts.

Emory

EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS will be replaced by a “full service” DUNKIN’ DONUTS this June.

WEST EGG CAFE owners Jennifer and Ben Johnson are opening a second cafe in the Emory Point development later this year. Unsure what the name of the new cafe will be.

Midtown

LIME FRESH MEXICAN GRILL has opened at 903 Peachtree.

Old 4th Ward

Former DYNAMIC DISH location at 427 Edgewood will become JOYSTICK GAMEBAR, offering up food, games, and cocktails.

Vinings

The restaurant that replaced TOMO on Cobb Parkway at Paces Mill is another Japanese/sushi restaurant, HOKI JAPANESE RESTAURANT. Now open.

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Eric Harvison’s Dining Notes began a few years ago as a sporadic e-mail exchange with a friend, sharing restaurant openings and trying to satisfy that vague urge to dine “somewhere new.” That friend started forwarding Eric’s messages to some of her friends, several of them food industry professionals. They in turn began passing along bits of restaurant news and gossip that they would come across. These exchanges became more frequent and took on a viral life of their own that has evolved into what you read today.

Aside from the occasional editorial comment, Eric won’t attempt to review these restaurants. There’s plenty of others better qualified, with much more refined palates — probably you. Rather, this is an attempt to help you keep up with the constantly changing Atlanta dining scene, for better or worse.

Arkenstone: Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet from Howell Mountain

By Robin Alix Austin

Just as wine changes over time, your memories of how a wine tastes will change. Last year I wrote that Arkenstone’s Sauvignon Blanc was my favorite white wine at the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. One year later I was curious to see how their latest vintage would compare.

Underneath the tents at Atlantic Station winemaker Sam Kaplan was offering a taste of Arkenstone’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. After just a couple of sips the memories of how much I enjoyed the 2007 vintage came rushing back – and I was delighted to discover that the 2009 wine is just as memorable.

Arkenstone is located on the western shoulder of Howell Mountain in California’s Napa Valley. Owners Ron and Susan Krausz planted their first vines in 1998. Today their traditional Bordeaux varieties and Syrah are grown using organic methods. Sam joined Arkenstone as winemaker and vineyard manager in 2006.

The 2009 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc is 97% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Semillon. The wine was aged approximately 11 months on the lees in a combination of French oak and concrete.

Floral, aromatic and lush, this wine will convert non-Sauvignon Blanc fans. Missing are the grassy notes that turn off many. Instead there is an explosion of blooms – honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and orange blossom – woven in with stone and tropical fruit. As you sip you get flavors of peach, golden pear, kiwi and honeydew. The finish is long and crisp, with refreshing minerality and a hint of green apple.

As impressive as the Sauvignon Blanc was, it shared the spotlight with Arkenstone’s two outstanding red wines: the 2008 Estate Obsidian and the 2008 Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2008 Estate Obsidian is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The wine spent 22 months in French oak barrels. Intense and layered, the Estate Obsidian has mouth-filling flavors of blackberries, ripe dark cherries, mocha, tobacco and fig. A touch of spice lingers on the long and satisfying finish.

The 2008 Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon has everything you look for in a top Napa Cab. Lush dark berry fruit is rounded out with notes of leather, licorice, dark chocolate and cedar. A full and velvety mouthfeel makes this a wine you’ll want to enjoy over time.

For more on Arkenstone visit www.arkenstone.com.

This is part of a series of articles on wines from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Click here to read more.

It’s Time for Wine: A Tasting of Cork and Screw Top Wines

Cork vs. Screw Top — An Actual Tasting (Finally)

By Monty and Sara Preiser

As we look back, it seems that it was about 1999 when the American wine industry began to discuss in earnest the question of whether screw top enclosures could match corks in terms of a wine’s desired aging. Perhaps the issue had gained credibility at that time because by the end of the century Australian and New Zealand producers were reporting some encouraging results in favor of the screw cap enclosures. Up to then, however, consumers had not warmed to the idea, but more and more such bottles on the shelves naturally led to more and more discussions and inquiries.

By good fortune we happened to make an unscheduled stop at PlumpJack during that pivotal summer. While this property and its then sole winemaker Nils Venge are both in the industry’s forefront today, the winery was only two years old in 1999. Though it boasted some famous owners, it was not yet a major player. What put PlumpJack on the radar was its brilliant idea to bottle half its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon under screw top, and half under cork (150 cases total). For some reason the cost was a bit more for the latter if purchased separately, but the price was $260 for both wines – in those days a pretty costly pair. Nevertheless, we readily ponied up the money for a duo signed by Nils, and decided to let them age until a special moment occurred that was ripe for an evaluation and comparison of the two.

Fast forwarding to 2012, a couple of weeks ago the perfect opportunity indeed presented itself. Visiting Florida for a wine event were three of our favorite Napa couples – all skilled in most aspects surrounding wine. They were Clark and Elizabeth Swanson, owners of the famed Swanson Vineyards in the Oakville Appellation of Napa; Anthony and Suzanne Truchard, owners of the equally notable Truchard Vineyards in the Napa Carneros Appellation; and Chef Ken and Sheryelle Frank, owners of the oft awarded Michelin starred La Toque restaurant in downtown Napa. What a group.

We dined at one of Boca Raton’s best restaurants, Arturo’s, and owner Vincent Gismondi arranged to have both bottles at the correct temperature, properly decanted, and served blindly to us after an appropriate time for opening. Sara and I were anxious that the wines be without flaws after 13 years of storage and a change in residence, and it was immediately obvious (thank goodness) that the wines were in excellent shape. All of us then spent some time tasting both of these gems on their own, and then with the entrée of our individual choice.

If you have watched the movie Bottle Shock, a semi-historical picture about the 1976 Paris wine tasting where American wines made their international mark, you may recall a marvelously moving scene that takes place after the panel of solely French judges begins to blindly taste the American Chardonnays and French Burgundies. Beautifully depicted is the increasing confusion among the judges – confusion about which wines came from which nation. In effect, that alone was really a victory for the fledgling American wine industry no matter which wine was ultimately selected as the best that day.

At our own Boca tasting, while “perhaps” not as historically significant as the Paris event, there was, however, a similar initial response. The wines were excellent — that no one denied. But they were also so close in flavors that at first blush no one was willing to venture a definitive statement as to which glass came from which bottle. And truth be told, wasn’t that, in and of itself, a victory for the wine under screw cap? Further, if these were ever proved to be the usual results, would that not be a victory for an entire industry that loses incalculable dollars to tainted corks every year? No, at least not yet. The wines still had some time to spend in glass before any conclusions could be drawn with certainty.

It is interesting to note that since 2004 PlumpJack has been producing Cabs under both enclosures. It is also interesting to revisit the reality that even though screw tops have been out there for a while, there are still no properly controlled studies by wineries, writers, or institutions of repute finding that screw tops allow the same great aging characteristics of corks. Once our wines were allowed to open up even more, would our little experiment find any differently?

As we sat and sipped, it was not surprising that we all perceived a constant changing of characteristics in both glasses. This happens with fine wines as they become more oxygenated. For a while most of us preferred one glass, and then the other. However, and most importantly for this exercise, everyone liked both wines very much for the entire time we were there, and few were certain which was which. Ultimately, much like the upset in 1976, the majority of the table felt that the glass of wine that came from the screw top bottle was, on balance, better. Those who felt the opposite all conceded that the call was close.

As we sat down to write this article we could not help but wonder what happened to those other 149 sets of 1997 wine that were sold by PlumpJack in 1999. Well, courtesy of Ken Frank we did discover the destiny of one pair. Ken and Sheryelle, themselves, along with famed vintners and philanthropists Garen and Shari Staglin, did in fact enjoy a side by side of the subject wines about five years ago. Their conclusion? Interestingly, the same as ours, though they somewhat discounted their results because, they felt, it was too close to bottling to make any valid pronouncement, and certainly not one prognosticating anything long term.

That is not the case any longer. Plenty of time has passed and in all these years we can find no evidence that any independent wine writers or qualified panel of tasters have taken the time and effort to make a comparison of these two bottles, or any other similarly situated wines. It is true that PlumpJack itself ran a test about five years ago and announced there was little difference, but the bias here (or clear potential thereof) is too obvious to even require comment.

It is hard to accept that we are the only writers to have taken the issue seriously enough to do something about it (the specter of Paris is again raised in our minds as we think of George Taber, the only journalist who felt it worthwhile to cover that august European event). However, as far as we can discover, what we and our Napa friends did in Florida has not been undertaken, or at least covered in some broad manner, by any other independent writer.

We feel lucky that we had such unassailable palates tasting with us, as that certainly adds great credibility to what we report today. Lest one think, by the way, that our panel’s judgment as to the quality of the wine under screw top was based only on some simplistic reason like retaining fruit flavors comparable to a five year old wine, that is far from accurate. Both wines had aged beautifully, and both probably will easily live another 5 to 8 years. But on this day, to these particular tasters, and with these particular wines, the screw cap enclosure made a significant name for itself and, at least for these two writers, opened another chapter for research.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November. In fall 2011 the Preisers released the first issue of The Preiser Key to Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.