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It’s Time for Wine: There is Little Small About Petite Sirah

By Monty & Sara Preiser

Just mention Petite Sirah and “the question” comes soon thereafter. How is it different from (big) Syrah?

Almost all of the world’s easily recognizable grape varieties* are the offspring of two parent grapes. For example, the parents of Chardonnay are Pinot (probably Pinot Noir according to our conversation with the world’s leading grape geneticist Carole Meredith) and Gouais (a now unimportant grape hardly grown any longer). For Cabernet Sauvignon, the parents are today’s more relevant and almost indispensable Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Petite Sirah, the progeny of Syrah and Peloursin, is its own distinct variety. It was developed in the Rhone region of France (where it is called “Durif” or “Petite Syrah”) primarily to help combat the mildew to which Syrah was susceptible. But then the new vines were also compromised, this time by dry rot in the southern humid districts. Not surprisingly, then, today you won’t find much Petite Sirah under any name in France. It does, however, grow well in the drier regions of the U.S. and parts of Australia. Somewhere along the line, the preferred new world spelling and nomenclature became “Petite Sirah,” though one would not be technically incorrect according to the U. S. Government (the TTB) if either “Petite Syrah” or “Durif” were used in describing the wine.

In July we hosted a tasting of twenty 2002-2008 Petite Sirahs at our Napa home. The wines were divided into flights so that each could be compared next to another with a like harvest date. We seated a stellar tasting panel to join the two of us at the table. They included Mike Drash, owner/winemaker of Tallulah Wines and winemaker for Aratas; Shelly Eichner, National Sales Manager for Swanson Vineyards; Sara Fowler; winemaker for Peju Province; Todd Graff, winemaker at Frank Family; Shari Gherman, sommelier and President of the American Fine Wine Competition; Christina Machamer, master chef and General Manager of B Cellars; Steve Reynolds, owner/winemaker of Reynolds Family; and Florida chef Lee Blakely.

The exercise was to taste blind, comment, and then arrive at a group decision as to what medal each wine might receive at a competition. Two added elements to the evening were the presence of a film crew from the American Fine Wine Competition who were capturing how judges actually go about their charge, and the inclusion of certain wines (those with later vintages in flights 3 and 4) that could earn invitations to the next competition based on their showing.

After tasting, commentary, and debate, results were agreed on by the panel, though sometimes more reluctantly than others – sort of like a United States Supreme Court decision. The best of the older vintages were the 2004 Quixote Stags Leap and the 2004 Shypoke. For the 2005 flight, the panel favored the Olabisi Suisun Valley, with the Bremer Family, Envy, and Swanson entries receiving some good support. Generally, the wines above not only exhibited excellent balance, but they were aging well, had lost very little integrity, and paired quite nicely with the food served.

Moving to 2007, the clear favorite was the Girard Napa Valley, with the Charter Oak St. Helena also giving an excellent account of itself. A newcomer unknown to the panel (except Monty, who met one of the vintners earlier in the week), was the 122 West Russian River Valley Durif. It won some new fans and garnered a strong (though phantom) Silver medal.

The final flight consisted mostly of 2008 vintages, with one 2009 in the mix. The strongest showing was by the Aratas Napa Valley, while B Cellars Napa Valley and the Simi Dry Creek Valley showed well. Interestingly, this vintage did not produce enough “Gold” votes for any of these wines to achieve that level, even though each of the bottles mentioned highly impressed more than one member of the group. Perhaps the lack of unanimity was a function of the wines’ relative youth. They will, we are happy to say, receive Competition invitations and get another chance in early 2013.

Breaking down all the wines evaluated, medals would have looked like this:

Gold:
Charter Oak St. Helena 2007
Girard Napa Valley 2007
Olabisi Suisun Valley 2005
Quixote Stags Leap 2004

Silver:
122 West Russian River Valley 2007
Aratas Napa Valley 2008
B Cellars Napa Valley 2008
Bremer Family Dry Creek Valley 2005
Envy Napa Valley 2005
Shypoke Calistoga 2004
Simi Dry Creek Valley 2008
Swanson Oakville 2005

Bronze:
Arger Martucci Napa Valley 2005
Jessup Yolo County 2008
Retro Howell Mountain 2004

You may be eagle-eyed and note that we only listed fifteen of the twenty. Well, five did not medal on this particular evening and we see no imperative to include them further. We hope it is sufficient that we certainly recommend you sample any of those listed, as we all felt they were good enough to medal. There are also a number of excellent, more recently released Petites that were not included. Time and space usually dictate the number of wines that can be assessed, and we do what we can. Thus, we urge you to arrive at no conclusions about any wine not listed.

Petite Sirah is a wine growing in popularity, and we are personally happy to see it. The flavor profiles fit our palates well. We look for a full bodied wine with deep color pigmentation and medium to high tannic structure. Spices and peppery red fruit are identifiable in the better bottles, as is a (sometimes) touch of jam (but not jammy like Zinfandels). With the above descriptions, you can see that Petite Sirah is quite perfect with grilled game dishes, medium spiced stews, and duck. If you aren’t familiar with this wine, we recommend you explore.

*The term “variety” refers to the vine or grape, while “varietal” refers to the wine produced by a variety. It is often hard, when writing, to distinguish which one is being discussed, and sometimes it is both or a combination of both. Most people do not distinguish the two, and almost always use the term “varietal.”

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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.

It’s Time for Wine: Napa Cabs That Drink Like $100 Wines

Affordable Napa Cabernet Sauvignons That Drink Like $100 Wines

By Monty and Sara Preiser

As long time wine writers, we are constantly asked two very common questions. Firstly, “Can a wine really be worth $100?” And secondly, “Do I have to pay that much for good ones?”  Today we will explore answers to both inquiries, and a practical solution.

For about 20 years we have studied many aspects of the wine-world, tasted thousands of wines, and extolled our opinions in hundreds of articles. The one truth that we passionately want to make common knowledge is: The only important factor is your own personal opinion – whether you like a wine or not. It matters not what any critic says – your own taste should always be your guide. We also believe it is helpful to discover writers/critics whose perspectives fall in line with your own. If you taste and determine that the Preisers’ (that would be us) palate and style are amenable, then we are always pleased to develop long term relationships.

Today we feature eight beautiful Napa Cabernet Sauvignons that can confidently be served to any Cab lover, and unhesitatingly paired with food at the finest of restaurants. Astonishingly, all of these recommended wines cost $65 or less, a very difficult reverse threshold for fine Napa Valley Cabs to meet.

First, however, to question number one – how can a wine be so expensive? Actually, one might just as easily ask how any car can be worth $50,000, how an orchestra seat at a Broadway show can run $150, or even how a beer can cost $8. The elementary answer as to why so many producers and suppliers can command these prices is . . . because they can. In many cases it is nothing more than simple supply and demand fueled by marketing, while in other situations the driving force is an individual’s desire to buy what others cannot afford or obtain.

Fortunately, there are many wineries that make a profit satisfactory to them by selling their wines at what one might call gentle prices (the paradoxical irony here is that some people think that the more inexpensive the wine, the worse the quality – and while that might be so more often than not, it certainly is far from a universal fact). There are logical reasons why fine wines might be available at $65 or less.

-Vintners already own their own property and vines, and thus they need not make heavy outlays for the fruit. A lower cost means a lesser margin is needed for a fair profit;
-A winery might sell so much other wine for such an acceptable-to-the-owner profit, that it can afford to offer a particular Cabernet Sauvignon for a relatively affordable price;
-Though the wine is terrific, neither the winery nor the winemaker has yet reached celebrity (or at least well known) status, and so a lesser cost may mean easier sales; and/ or
-Vintners may just feel as if the lesser price is enough.

The above are all objective justifications as to why you need not be afraid to show off wines of $45 to $65 that you find enticing. Answering the second question earlier posed, the wines below (listed alphabetically), at least to our palates, have constantly maintained exceptional quality, and all can be enjoyed now, or, if properly stored, for ten or eleven years into the future.

2008 B Cellars Syn3rgy ($55) – Black and blue fruits are most noticeable in this wine from nose to first sip, and through the mid palate. Just as the back palate comes into play, some jammy notes appear, and the finish features a kiss of tobacco and touch of oak. Wonderful layers.

2009 Chappellet Signature ($49) – The grapes are grown mountainside, where the rocky soils make a vine’s roots struggle so that only the healthiest survive. This leads to highly concentrated fruit with excellent structure.  A nose of cherry and violets leads into notes of cassis, licorice, and clove on the palate. The beautiful finish is chocolate influenced.

Cliff Lede Stags Leap ($60) – The winemaking team of Abreu, Melka, and Anderson is top notch, and to find their wine at this price is unusual. Dense and creamy, there are suggestions of sweetness all around, though there is interesting minerality on the finish. Great concentration.

2009 Frank Family Napa Valley ($49) – Cherries Jubilee comes to mind as this wine refuses to take a back seat to its extraordinary and more expensive brothers. Consistently lauded by critics, the lush, ripe berries are bookended by vanilla on the nose and a woody, leather finish.

2008 Mi Sueno Napa ($65) – Produced from Napa’s newest appellation – Coombsville – this powerful wine fills your palate with black fruit and some forest floor after having enticed you with the aroma of vanilla coffee. Strong but smooth tannins are present and welcome.

2008 Paradigm ($62) – Iconic winemaker Heidi Barrett has a long association with Paradigm. The 2008 shows off perfectly ripe fruit integrated with tannins that are strong but approachable. Cherries and red berries abound, while a hint of cigar box lingers with the finish.

2008 Parry ($60) – Napa’s smallest vineyard, only 160 cases were produced this year. But what a wine. Semi-sweet chocolate is prevalent on the nose, and the velvety mouth-feel surrounds luscious cherries and baking spices which are maintained throughout an ultra long finish.

2007 Reynolds Family Estate ($45) – All is dark in this concentrated single vineyard Cab – currants, plums, and chocolates intermix from nose to the back palate, while the finish is one of baking spice and campfire. Swirl it around and layers interchange. Yum.

If your mouth is watering, call your favorite wine store and ask if the wines you prefer are in stock. If not, don’t fret – you have three options. The first is to ask your retailer to order what you desire. As long as a winery has a distributor in a state, then any product that winery makes can be ordered for you by a retailer. The second option is to make your purchase directly from the winery’s website. However, there are some states to which some wineries will not deliver. Whether a winery’s position on this is wrong or right is a discussion for another time, but rules change quite often. If you run into a non-shipping policy, the third option kicks in – use the internet or contact a wine savvy individual to locate a reputable wine broker in California. S/he will happily obtain all the wines you desire, and will send them to you even if a winery will not (trust us, there are ways to do it – legitimately, too).

In case you are wondering if any of these machinations will increase the bottle price, the answer is “no” (though when you avail yourselves of the latter two options you may have shipping costs). As a matter of fact, sometimes paying the shipping costs is well worth the effort as you know the wines coming to you have probably been stored correctly (and you may be able to wrangle a discount with a winery or broker).

Remember our first admonition above all else. Search, research, discover, and make your own selections with confidence.

This article originally appeared in Coastal Carolina Life in July. To view the article in the magazine, which also includes pictures of the bottles mentioned, visit www.coastalcarolinalife.com.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Dining Atlanta: Week of April 2, 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

Airport

Shaun Doty’s YEAH! BURGER has filed for the permits to open their third metro location in the new international terminal (Terminal F) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Joining YEAH! BURGER in the new terminal will be a second location of Midtown’s ECCO, which will occupy a portion of the mezzanine.

Ansley

Atlanta Magazine food editor Bill Addison writes that the name for Shaun Doty’s other new project (Dining Atlanta, March 19th), the rotisserie chicken restaurant at Ansley Mall, will be BANTAM & BIDDY (Bill thoughtfully informs us city folk that these names are breeds of chickens).

Buckhead

BARBERITOS SOUTHWESTERN GRILLE & CANTINA has filed for permits to open a new franchise location at 2900 Peachtree Road, in The Peach shopping center. There are currently 26 BARBERITOS locations around the Southeast.

Adding to their new brunch menu, LOCAL THREE has launched a new seasonal dinner menu.

Cheshire Bridge

Reported that although he remains in charge of the kitchen, Kevin Gillespie no longer holds an ownership stake in WOODFIRE GRILL.

Decatur

Longtime JOHNNY’S PIZZA, and more recently ROCKET 88 and Karma Boutique, will open soon a the second location of Inman Park’s popular VICTORY SANDWICH BAR. 340 Church Street.

NO. 246 was closed last week while the restaurant was used as a film set for an upcoming movie, Adult Children of Divorce, a comedy starring Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Jessica Alba, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jane Lynch.

Emory

The WONDERFUL WORLD OF BURGERS & MORE in Emory village has closed and will reopen shortly as the latest location for TIN DRUM ASIA CAFÉ.

Midtown

Opening date for CAMPAGNOLO has been set for Saturday, April 7th, when the restaurant will host an opening benefit for the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta from 6pm to 10pm. Ten dollar donation at the door. Veteran Atlanta chef Daniel Chance is heading the kitchen. Prior to CAMPAGNOLO, he as spent time in the kitchen at ABBATTOIR, TWO URBAN LICKS, TROIS, VENI VIDI VICI and PRICCI.

Old 4th Ward

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that brothers Jason and Hugh Connerty will convert the longtime Geyer and Taylor building at 591 Edgewood Avenue into a pizzeria, AMMAZZA! (loosely translates to “wow”). Opening planned for sometime in June (though this is the brothers’ first attempt at a restaurant, so I wouldn’t plan a June wedding reception based on that opening date).

Virginia Highland

The Wednesday Food Truck Night across from OSTERIA will not return to the neighborhood this Spring. Organizers cite a number of resons behind the decision.

Westside

Jennifer Zyman (@blissfulglutton) tweets that Decatur’s COMMUNITY Q will be taking over the BURGER JOE’S location on Marietta Street sometime in June to bring BBQ to the Yellowjacket masses.

Robert Carver of CARVER’S COUNTRY KITCHEN passed away in March at the age of 76.

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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.

Dining Atlanta: Week of March 19, 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

The latest round of cutbacks at Creative Loafing has forced food editor and restaurant critic Besha Rodell out of a job. The AJC reports that CL editor Eric Celeste has asked Besha to continue to write for the struggling paper on a freelance basis. No word on whether she will accept his offer.

A new food truck will be trolling the streets and boulevards of town. ROUXD FOOD TRUCK will begin selling Jamaican/New Orleans cuisine beginning this week. Think Cajun shrimp pies.

Ansley

YEAH BURGER! partner Shaun Doty acknowledges he is in negotiations to open a fast casual rotisserie chicken restaurant in Ansley Mall sometime this fall. Reportedly, the yet unnamed restaurant will also bring back the popular duck fat fries that were on the menu at SHAUN’S until its demise at the end of 2010.

Buckhead

Former CRAFT space in The Mansion on Peachtree will reopen as Texas-based DEL FRISCO’S GRILLE, featuring “prime steaks, fresh seafood, and twists on American comfort cuisine.” Opening planned for late 2012.

CHEYENNE GRILL in the Peachtree Battle shopping center is changing their name to the WHITEHALL TAVERN. Historical note — the original WHITEHALL TAVERN was founded in the 1830s in what would eventually become downtown Atlanta (at the corner of present-day Gordon and Lee Streets).

Decatur

The ancient pecan tree that overlooked THE MARLAY HOUSE pub had to be taken down last week due to damage from an earlier lightning strike. The wood from the massive tree is being “tree-cycled” into several (5) banquet tables, benches and odd bits of furniture to be crafted by local woodworkers.

The space formerly occupied by CAKES & ALE on West Ponce de Leon at Ponce de Leon Place will reopen as THE PINEWOOD, serving “regional inspired cocktails and food.”

And speaking of CAKES & ALE, in their new location the restaurant has imported a new pastry chef. Eric Wolitzky has been brought in from BAKED in Brooklyn, NY. Also announced that they will begin Sunday brunch service effective April 15th.

Downtown

REN’S DELI & GRILL on Broad Street closed last Friday. Better known as the longtime MICHAEL’S DELI, the space will reopen as a Northern Indian cafe, NAANSTOP EXPRESS INDIAN CUISINE — home of the Naanwich. The concept was first rolled out (pun intended) by owners Samir and Neal Idnani as an Indian food truck in Los Angeles, serving “homestyle Indian food with a steet food twist,” but the pair have decided to relocate to Atlanta and open a brick and mortar cafe, with hopes to open additional locations around the metro area.

Opening any day now near LUNACY BLACK MARKET on Mitchell Street, CHARLOT’S CREOLE CAFE. Gumbo, po’ boys, etc.

Midtown

Now open, THE FIFTH IVORY PUBLIC HOUSE. “A southern version of an Irish Pub” merged with a 60s style piano bar, according to their website. 794 Juniper at 5th Street.

LA PIETRA CUCINA chef Bruce Logue has departed the restaurant. No news on where he’s headed, but last year it was rumored that he was looking to open his own restaurant somewhere in-town.

RA SUSHI has converted their upstairs overflow seating in to a separate bar, GEISHA LOUNGE (no relation to GEISHA HOUSE which closed in Atlantic Station recently).

TIN DRUM will open their third in-town location in Colony Square later this spring.

THE LAWRENCE had their soft opening over the weekend, and expect to receive their liquor license by tomorrow.  905 Juniper Street.

SONO

(This is apparently the hipster description for the area between downtown and North Avenue, now appearing in Yahoo! Maps)

Recently opened, METRO FUXON. Caribbean/West African cafe.

Westside

The guys from P’CHEEN in the Old 4th Ward are planning to turn their popular Monday night BBQ habit into a full time BBQ restaurant sometime this summer. BONE LICK BBQ, 1133 Huff Road near CORNER TAVERN.

New rooftop bar (three bars actually) and concert venue has opened inside the King Plow Arts Center, TERMINAL WEST.

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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.

Dining Atlanta: Week of March 12, 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

Buckhead

High drama at FUOCO DI NAPOLI. Creative Loafing reports that pizzaiolo Enrico Liberato has abruptly departed the fledgling restaurant and his return appears uncertain at best.

CL also reporting that ONE MIDTOWN KITCHEN chef Drew van Leuvan is departing to open his own place, SEVEN LAMPS at the Shops Around Lenox. Estimated June opening.

Decatur

Maria Riggs and husband Joel Riggs have been peddling their baked goods at the Decatur Farmers Market for the past three years. Now, with funding assistance from the Kickstarter program, they are launching REVOLUTION DOUGHNUTS + COFFEE next to ALE YEAH! and AVELLINO’S PIZZA at 908 West College Avenue, promising doughnuts “made from scratch with real food ingredients – without all the pre-fab mixes, funky oils, preservatives, fillers, or stabilizers that the big doughnut chains use.”

Downtown

Jaaion Barnes has been named executive chef at SWEET GEORGIA’S JUKE JOINT, replacing Hank Reid. Barnes began his career in the kitchen at STRAYA’S in New Orleans.

Glenwood Park

New wine shop coming to 880 Glenwood Avenue. 3 PARKS WINE aspires to let their customers have a say in the wines they carry via social media, e-mail, and face to face recommendations. Owner Bob Conquest is targeting most wines in the $15 – $20 range, and hopes to open on May 1st.

Inman Park

Travel + Leisure magazine has recognized BARCELONA as one of the “Best Wine Bars in America.”

Midtown

Reported that the recently closed Outwrite Bookstore space at 10th and Piedmont will be absorbed by neighboring GILBERTS MEDITERRANEAN CAFÉ, who will use the space to expand their bar.

Vinings

Also rumored that an Indonesian restaurant is in negotiations for the former TOMO space on Cobb Parkway.

Virginia Highland

GEORGE’S BAR AND RESTAURANT will host filming of scenes from an upcoming Clint Eastwood movie tomorrow, The Trouble With the Curve. A baseball themed film, also starring Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman; though I’ve no idea which (if any of them) are in the scenes being shot tomorrow.

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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.

Dining Atlanta: Week of March 5, 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

Berkeley Heights

No more brown bagging it. CARDAMOM HILL received its liquor license last week.

Nearby, TERIYAKI EXPERIENCE at The District at Howell Mill has closed.

Decatur

Madrid based LA TAGLIATELLA pizza/pasta restaurant chain, with over 100 locations throughout Spain and France, is opening their first U.S. restaurant at the Emory Point development on Clifton Road. TIN LIZZY’S and FRESH TO ORDER have also recently signed onto the development, slated to open this fall.

DeKalb (unincorporated)

Reminder to those residing in unincorporated DeKalb County, tomorrow’s election includes decisions more impactful than selection of the potential future leader of the free world. Sunday alcohol sales are on the ballot. Same is true in Cobb, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, plus a few scattered townships (…and yes, I get the irony between “free world” and the inability of a citizen to purchase a can o’suds on a Sunday).

Downtown

For when you tire drinking out of the fountain at Centennial Olympic Park, the folks from SIDEBAR and ENGINE 11 FIREHOUSE TAVERN have just opened PARK BAR at 150 Walton Street in the former SABOR LOUNGE location. Basic pub grub menu.

Eric Dauce, former head baker and pastry chef at HIGHLAND BAKERY, and prior to that ALON’S, is opening his own place, LA FRENCH QUARTER CAFÉ in the Healey Building. According to the press materials, the café “will focus on fresh breads and a legacy of baking.”

New Caribbean restaurant opening on Auburn Avenue at Piedmont. MANGOS hopes to be open within the month.

Little 5 Points

Former LUNA NUEVA space has converted into a new sushi and Thai curry/noodle parlor – THAI 5. 1148 Euclid Avenue.

Midtown

Back in July I reported that CRAVE was “opening soon” at 239 Ponce (onetime WHITE DOT nightclub and birthplace of Pork & Bean Wrestling for those of you taking notes). This project has been shelved, and Jermaine Day will go before the Neighborhood Planning Unit tomorrow night to make his case for a liquor license for his ORGANIX FOOD LOUNGE. If successful, he hopes to have the lounge open in three to six months offering a menu aimed at the “Whole Foods demographic,” consisting largely of organic tapas and cocktails.

Speaking of liquor licenses, Richard Blais’ newest concept, THE SPENCE comes before the NPU for their liquor license hearing on April 3rd. 75 5th Street.

Morningside

Nick Salpekar, longtime wine guy from MURPHY’S, has purchased his own wine shop up the road, taking over HIGHLAND WINE & CRYSTAL, 1402 North Highland. No changes to the overall concept are planned, though Nick advises to expect a name change sometime in the intermediate future.

Westside

New brunch option. SWIT BAKERY & CAFÉ is opening at 1000 Marietta Street, adjacent to TOSCANO & SONS ITALIAN MARKET.

——————————————————————–

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.

Dining Atlanta: Week of February 27, 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

DOC GREEN’S on 19th Street will be replaced this June by BGR: THE BURGER JOINT. Offering “prime, dry aged, all natural, hormone free, grain-fed beef.”

Buckhead

The former JOHNNY ROCKETS space on Roswell at West Paces has reopened as LIME FRESH MEXICAN GRILL.

And a bit further south along Peachtree, the former GENGHIS GRILL at 2140 Peachtree will also be converted into a LIME FRESH.

The usually reliable Jennifer Zyman is tweeting rumors that the Kinjo family is getting ready to open a new sushi parlor on Pharr Road but it won’t be under the MF SUSHI name.

Chamblee

Now open, BROWN’S BBQ. 2148 Johnson Ferry Road. This is a brick and mortar (well, aluminum siding and glass) version of Marvin Brown’s BBQ that has been available at the adjacent “Drive Through Farmers’ Market” for the past six months or so.

Decatur

FEAST closed last weekend. According to a posting on their web page, the decision to close the popular 7 year old restaurant was driven by a combination of the difficult economy and owner Teri Rogers’ continuing battle with breast cancer.

Downtown

HOOTERS on Peachtree is celebrating renovations to the restaurant today (insert augmentation joke here).

Inman Park

The property that houses Richard Blais’ HD1 is on the market for $1.25 MM.

Midtown

Folks from STK on Peachtree at 12th have opened CUCINA ASELLINA next door, serving up pizza and pasta.

REPICCI’S ITALIAN ICE on Piedmont at 10th Street has closed.

Oakhurst

Former NECTAR space will reopen as SUGAR MOON BAKERY, specializing in cupcakes.

Ormewood

LITTLE CEASARS is coming to Moreland at Custer Avenue.

——————————————————————–

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.