Thursday, July 29, 2010

News Article

New sexy beast from Spain

If you get the chance, check out a wine called "Dignus" from Bodegas Vina Magana in Navarra, Spain. This little gem is 50% Tempranillo, and 25% each of Merlot and Cab. The current release is the 2005 vintage, and shows notes of dusted cherry, cedar, and toasted bread, along with just a touch of tobacco and cassis. The winery makes some very cool, old-world style wines. A couple of weeks ago, I tried some Merlot that they had made in the early 80's that I would have guessed as Right Bank Bordeaux if I was tasting blind- they were stunning wines that aged gracefully.

The Dignus is available for about $17 at 33 wine bar.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A wine to watch the Cards win with

Okay, so I'm a Red Sox fan. However, since I live in Saint Louis, and they are in the National League, I have started paying attention to the Cardinals. Baseball isn't a religion in our household, more like something to have on in the background, or to flip to when I get tired of watching Mad Men reruns. I do like watching good games, and also having a glass of decent wine with it.

Yesterday I was showing the Sacred Stone by Pietra Santa winery around, and I was trying to come up with a way to describe it, showing that it is a relaxed, easy-to-drink wine, with zero pretension, and that you don't have to pay a ton for. I was going to say a "wine to drink while eating a slice of pizza and watching CSI", but I've used that one before, and CSI is starting to majorly slide in my opinion. I got stuck mid-sentence saying "It's a wine to drink while eating a slice of pizza and watching....." Brain Freeze. My customer finished my sentence for me "...the Cardinals win." Score! That's exactly what this wine is for! It's a delicious blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Carignan, and Dolcetto from Pietra Santa's estate vineyards in the Cienega Valley (inland from Monterey in California). It sees 2 years in oak, and is big, juicy, and fun to drink.

So, go out and grab yourself a bottle (should be around $10- available at Wine and Cheese Places, and Friar Tuck), crack it, and watch Pujols crank one into the upper deck.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

And the winner is....

This post is fun, and painful to write. First of all, thank you to Kevin for agreeing to go on this trip with me. It's been a long time since he and I could catch up, and have good "brother time" together. I look forward to making this an annual event. Secondly, there will be some that say that we didn't give Kansas City a fair shake. On this, I defer to Kevin's expertise. We had several people say that Oklahoma Joe's is the best BBQ joint there, along with Jack's Stack, Gates-n-Sons, and others. Kevin eats at Oklahoma Joes probably once a month, so his opinion in this contest weighs heavily. Their sauce is amazing, but this is a contest about meat- not sauce. The highway collapse in southeastern KC prevented us from going there. I have eaten repeatedly at Jacks Stack, and at Gates. They simply aren't as good as the other places we went (with the exception of Pork n Pig- they flame that place.) Finally, this isn't a serious thing. Sure, we will send t-shirts to the winner, but that's about it. I'm sure my dozens of readers will understand.
So, without further ado- here are the winners:

Best Ribs- Neely's. Pappys came in close 2nd, but man, I must admit that these ribs from Neely's were the best I've ever had. I'm still thinking about them.

Pulled Pork- Pappy's. It was the most succulent, and had the best flavor.

Sausage- Split decision- Kevin says Neely's, I say 17th street. Brothers will never agree on everything.

Bologna Sandwich- Neely's. Of course, they were the only ones to offer one, but it was freaking delicious.

Beans- 17th street. The ones at Neely's came a close second, with Pappys not far behind. I just loved the tanginess, and the fact that they had 3 separate kind of beans in them.

Sauce- 17th street. More on the mustard/vinegar side, it was tangy, refreshing, and the only one we bought.

Dry Rub- Neely's. Even though it has a cheesy picture of Patrick and Gina on the side of it, it's killer. I bought some, and put it on potatoes last night.

Overall Winner- As much as it hurts me to say it (I was rooting for my home team of Mike Emerson and the boys at Pappys), this coveted prize, and t-shirt, goes to....
......NEELY'S. We had to take all things into consideration, but this was a BBQ road trip. Their meat was the best overall.

Thanks for putting up with my ramblings. Back to our regular-scheduled programming on Monday.
Until then, Cheers.

Dining with the Neely's

Friday night, the Harsha Boys Midwest BBQ Smackdown reached it's furthest destination- Memphis, TN. We checked into our fairly low-rent motel (fine for a boy's trip- the wives wouldn't have stayed there), and met up with friends Aleks and Sarah, locals. Since they have lived in Memphis for a number of years, we trusted their judgement on where to go for the best BBQ. I know some people are sitting there reading this saying "Rendevous", and others "The Interstate". Our local tour-guides disagreed. They took us to the Neely's restaurant on Jefferson. Let me say right now that I'm not a huge fan of Patrick and Gina Neely's show on the Food Network. I'm sure they are nice people, but they tend to bee too syrupy sweet and obnoxious to watch. Their restaurant is a bit of an ode to themselves- with their own pictures making up about 89% of the decor. It was a bit more rustic than expected. I almost thought we would walk into a TV "star" restaurant, and have it be uber-nice. Nope. All wood panelling, comfortable chairs, and a great mix of black, white, hispanic, and several other races eating there. It was exactly what a BBQ joint in Memphis should be.

The first course was the Sausage and cheese- Kevin liked this sausage the best out of all of them we ate. I actually liked it at 17th street the best, but this one did have an amazing rub sprinkled on it. What came next was jaw-dropping. Kevin ordered the "combo" platter- Ribs, Pork, Beef, and Turkey. I ordered a fried bologna sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly. I had never seen it on a menu before, and I'm glad I ordered it. The bologna was about 1/2" thick, smoked, and freaking delicious. The ribs were served piping hot- incredibly meaty, and supremely tender without being mushy. The pork was fine, nothing to write much about, as was the turkey. The beef was a bit tough. Another item that Sarah ordered that was probably the least-favorite thing on the table was BBQ Spaghetti. Huh? My mouth was confused. Let me go back to the ribs- I literally couldn't stop eating them! Will they give Pappy's a run for the top of the leader board?

The night ended with a trip over to Jerry's- a "famous" snowcone stand. You can get all flavors either regular, "supreme" (with soft-serve ice cream" or with "cream" (condensed milk). I opted for the Dreamsicle Supreme. Kevin got the "Legit". He doesn't know what flavor it was, but we both found small pockets in our pork-laden digestive tracts to shove the sweet goodness in.

Next post- the winners.

Friday Lunch- 17th st Bar and Grill

Friday morning, we headed southeast out of Saint Louis, destination Memphis. However, since I'm pretty much a geek and have actually read the book "Peace, Love, Barbecue" from cover to cover twice, I knew that we had to hit one of the Midwest meccas of all things pork- 17th St. Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL. For those of you not-in-the-know, this restaurant is owned by Mike Mills, a guy who has won the coveted World Championship of BBQ at Memphis in May not only once, but 3 times. Simply put, he knows how to smoke a rib.

The first curveball came when we approached the door, on a side street of a po-dunk town. The dining room of the bar and grill had been moved up the street 1/2 block. When you enter, it's sort of like walking into the banquet hall of a Holiday Inn. Not what you expect for eating great BBQ. Kevin ordered the ribs and chicken, I ordered pulled pork and sausage (anyone sensing a pattern here?). Service was deplorable, but to our server's credit, she did have to deal with a 6 top of blue haired women, and a 5 top of middle aged women, ALL of whom wanted separate checks and to pay with separate credit cards.

Folks, let me rant for a moment here. Dont do this to your server! It takes forever, it's easy to make mistakes, and usually the server gets screwed on tips. You all took math at sometime. Put it on someone's credit card, and pay them back later.

Back to the food. The ribs and pulled pork were good, but that's about it. Just good, not world-champion worthy. I honestly think I could approximate them with a couple hours of hickory and apple wood smoke, and some dry rub. What were outstanding were the sides. The tangy beans were just that- tangy, with a vinegar kick and just a touch of heat. Kevin said that the red beans-n-rice were the best he's ever had. The sausage was cooked through, had a slap of heat on it, and delicious. The sauce was the best we had the entire trip- we each actually bought a bottle.

In retrospect, I would say that the ribs were definitely better than Pork n Pit, but Pappys kicks them in the junk. They were a bit lean on meat, and a touch dry. The same goes with the pulled pork. I just got the feeling that they might be resting on their laurels a little bit, and more concerned with opening restaurants all around the Midwest and Vegas to pay attention to their food quality slipping. If you happen to be in Murphysboro (or even Carbondale- it's worth the drive), check out 17th street bar and grill, but I wouldn't go an hour out of your way off of I-55 to try them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pappys lays the smack down, name mistake

First of all, let me say that yesterday, I made a mistake. I called the place we got the terrible ribs from "Pig N Pit" when it was actually "Pork N Pit." Oops.

Yesterday afternoon, my brother and I headed into Pappy's in Saint Louis. One sign that a BBQ place is going to be good is when there's a line of at least 30 people waiting- at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday! I must admit that I am a little bit biased when it comes to this place, as I have probably eaten there a dozen times over the last couple of years. I really, really like it. Plus, I think that Mike Emerson, the owner, is a great businessman that runs a true, clean, honest spot. He isn't trying to make it something that it's not. He also didn't see his success over the last couple of years, and try to open 4 more outposts, diluting the efforts of the original.

To say that the ribs blew the previous ones away is an understatement. They had a beautiful smoke ring in them, and just the right amount of "snap". I once heard that a rib should be tender, but still show the shape of your bite when you pull it away from your mouth. These did that, and had just the right amount of spice that you almost don't even need sauce on them. The pulled pork (not Kevin's favorite dish at any BBQ mecca) was moist, flavorful, and uniformly pulled. How in the world does Pappys do that? I have tried so many times to get my pork at home this consistency, always to fail. The ancillary items were just as delicious- I actually recommend the smoked chicken. It's killer!

So, if you are in the Saint Louis area, I would highly recommend this place. It's a bit tough to find- give me a call, I might give you directions.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's sad when 5 adults don't finish a rack of ribs

...This was our reaction upon trying the BBQ at the first stop of the Harsha Boys Midwest BBQ Smackdown. I had gone over to Kansas City, in hopes of trying a great BBQ restaurant with my brother, and sharing with my family. Let me start by saying that the Pig N Pit in Lees Summit was not our first choice. However, a hiway collapsed in KC this last weekend, making it virtually impossible to get from the Southeastern corner of the metroplex (where my brother lives) to anywhere else. Truth be told, I have had the sauce from Oklahoma Joe's dozens of times, but time constraints kept us from going there for the ribs. We were also kept from going to Gates n Sons, or Jack Stacks either. My brother had heard of this new place in Lee's Summit that was supposed to be really good. I don't know where he got his information, but it was incorrect.

The trip started in an innocuous manner. The Pork N Pit is located on Colbern road in a minimalistic, BBQ-Friendly environment. The 8 tables were surrounded by families obviously enjoying the meat, and the owner's eyes lit up when I told him his wares were being "pitted" (pun intended) against the best BBQ from St Louis, Murphreesboro, and Memphis. He even gave us a small sample of the brisket to try while waiting for our pulled pork, ribs, and burned ends. The brisket was tender, had a great smokiness to it, and proved to be the best thing we tried. We took the rest of the food home, and ate it there. I got a little worried about the ribs when I first opened them. They were grey, and literally fell apart when you picked them up. For you non-BBQ fanatics, this is not a good thing. "Falling off the bone" is not a good sign for quality smoked ribs. They had obviously been boiled, and then finished off briefly in a smoker. They were almost a mushy texture, and had a faint, acrid aftertaste of garlic-gone-bad. I'm not exaggerating when I say that 5 adults didn't finish a full rack. The Pulled-Pork was dry, lifeless, and didn't seem to have an ounce of fat in it. Again, not a good thing for BBQ. The sides we tried were unmemorable (the website claims to have the "best fries in the world- they aren't).

In all, if you are looking for the best BBQ in Kansas City, avoid this place. Those of you that know my style know that I very rarely tell you not to go somewhere. If you are stuck in Lees Summit, skip the Pork N Pit. Go to Holy Smoke BBQ instead- the place with easily the best beans I have ever tried.

Next post- Pappy's in Saint Louis.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

BBQ Challenge

Today begins the Harsha Boy's Midwest BBQ Challenge. That's right- my brother and I, over the next couple of days, are going to sample BBQ from the great cities of Memphis, Murfreesboro (IL), Saint Louis, and Kansas City. We will try ribs and pulled pork from institutions in each city, and report back with our candid thoughts on each one. The winning joint's owner will receive an Epiphany Wines shirt, and free veterinarian care for a year. (Just kidding on the vet care, no worries Kev.) More thoughts to come....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Winery Profile- Villa Creek

To say that I'm excited to bring in the wines of Villa Creek (pronounced Vee-ya, Spanish Style) is an understatement. I had first tried their wines a couple of years ago through a local friend, but they haven't been available in the St Louis market yet. Located in Paso Robles, this particular winery produces Rhone and Spanish-style blends from grapes that they source from the Denner, James Berry, and Ohana vineyards. They also own a 60-acre estate that will be planted in 2012. Their white wine is a killer blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Picpoul that is reminiscent of a white CdP, but has a new-world feel. I really look forward to sipping it while warming up my grill. After I cook pig, chicken, or beef on said grill, I will move onto their reds. The ones I will be looking at bringing into the state at first are the Willow Creek Cuvee (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah), La Boda (Grenache/Mourvedre), and Avenger (Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache). This isn't to say that the state won't be getting the other wines- stay tuned for the other wines down the road.

In the meantime, check out their website at


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NYC, other schtuff

On Monday morning, I flew to the Big Apple for an afternoon and Tuesday morning meeting with my Spanish wine supplier, Ole Imports. It was a very well run meeting, and we got to try some truly incredible wines. One of the best parts was that there were several of the winemakers there, and they were all jazzed about Spain winning the World Cup. If you are curious, look at their website to see the portfolio-

Monday night, we had a dinner/reception on the roofdeck of the Kimberly Hotel- really an amazing spot for cocktails (despite the fact that Ketel was $16 per glass. Oof). This is where the night took a southward turn. Some of us left the reception, and went over to Times Square, where my iPhone was promptly stolen off of a bartable. So, I was in a big city, no phone, no email, and most importantly, no map. To get back to my hotel, I wandered around a bit, and got very lost very quickly. Then my savior appeared- a black transvestite hooker with bleached blonde hair. After I declined the opportunity for a "date", he/she was nice enough to point me in the direction of my hotel. Now I guess I have my NYC story.

The next day, following the rest of the tasting, I took a cab over to Momofuku, and had an absolutely killer Ramen bowl with pork belly, scallops, and a poached egg. That was followed by a cab ride to the Spotted pig- quite possibly the coolest bar in America. One long, uncomfortable plane ride, and I was home. It was a heck of an adventure, but I'm plenty content with our decision to live in the Midwest. There's just no place to get away quietly in NYC.

In other sports news, I just got off the phone with Cris Cherry of Villa Creek winery, and I will be carrying their wines. Their winery profile to come tomorrow.

Tonight, it's Blues Music and a picnic dinner at the Botanical Gardens. Cheers!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Winery Profile- Denner Vineyards

Today, I wanted to let you know about a cool little winery out of California that I will be working with soon. Denner Vineyards is located in Paso Robles, CA, and is the epitome of a "local boy done good" in the wine scene.

The vineyards themselves, owned by the Denner family, were planted in 25 small blocks in 1999. They focus on sustainable agriculture, and minimalistic approaches to fertilization, pest control, and irrigation. The vineyards are planted with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Zinfandel.

The local connection comes through Anthony Yount, who was born locally and grew up in Clayton. He studied his wine stuff at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and then worked as an intern at Denner. From there, he was the cellar master at Villa Creek under Cris Cherry, and then moved back to Denner where he is the current winemaker. He also makes the Kinero brand, which focuses on off-the-beaten-path whites.

I must say that everything I have tried from this vineyard has been exceptional. I particularly like the Theresa- a white Rhone-style blend, as well as the Dirt Worshipper- a Cote Rotie style blend of Syrah and Viognier.

So, even though these aren't the cheapest wines on the market, if you are fortunate enough to find some in your local store or restaurant, please snag it, drink it, and report back.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wine from New York??? Really???

Yesterday I had the opportunity to try a couple of wines from New York, and I am getting really excited about the fact that they may soon be available in the state. The winery that sent samples was Hermann J Wiemer, which is located on the West coast of Lake Seneca. For those of you unfamiliar with the fact that New York is an entire state, and not just a city, this is about 5 hours Northeast of NYC in the Finger Lakes region, and you have to go through Pennsylvania to get there. Located near the town of Dundee, Weimer vineyard was planted in 1973 by Hermann Wiemer, a German immigrant that was born to a wine-making family in the Mosel. They have been producing wine from their 140 acre estate since 1979- most of which are in a fairly German style.

I only tried the semi-dry Riesling and the Cabernet Franc yesterday, but will get to the dry Riesling, Gewurtz, Cuvee Frost (blend of Riesling, Gewurtz, Chard, and Pinot Noir), and sparkling (method champenoise, made from Chard) either today or tomorrow.

Now, I can sit here and wax eloquent about how these wines were a great hybrid of German and New-world Rieslings with peach, apple, apricot, lychee and hazelnut notes, but rather I will tell you the true proof that this stuff is good. My wife and I usually have a bottle of wine open at dinner, especially lately since I have been sampling so many. Last night was the first time in months that I sat there and watched her drink her glass of Riesling, finish it, reach for the bottle, and pour herself another glass. Folks, we have a winner!

Here's to bringing a wine from the Finger Lakes into the red state of Missouri. Now, if I could only get it in a camo-can so my neighbors would buy it...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Delicious Wine from Alsace

Every once in a while, I taste a wine that has such an immediate impact on me that I have to tell other people about it. This happened this week with the 2004 Rolly Gassmann Gewurtztraminer from Rorschwihr in Alsace. The Gassmann family has been producing wine from 21 separate vineyard sites in the area since 1676, and the name of the wine comes from the marriage of the Rolly family and the Gassmann family in 1967. All of the wines from this estate have been produced Biodynamically since 1997.

Enough about the technical stuff- how did it taste? As soon as I opened the bottle, the kitchen was instantly filled with aromas of pineapple, mango, ginger, and perfectly ripe pear. These notes continued right through the palate, along with flavors of Juicy Fruit gum, cinnamon, flint, and petrol. This isn't a watery wine by any stretch of the imagination, but rather viscous and full bodied. I tried the wine 2 days later, and it still hadn't lost a bit of its fruit. The word to describe this particular wine is "wow". Once again, we have living proof that white wines, especially those from Alsace, can age.

I highly recommend you get some of this wine, and check it out!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Trip to Denver, other goings-ons

I didn't post on Thursday because I got up early to fly to Denver in order to meet with a potential supplier of mine, and on Friday because I was coming back home. A lot has happened since my last post, so bear with me a bit.

Thursday in Denver was a great trip. I will likely be doing business with a wonderful importer there that took me out to lunch and dinner, and showed 14 wines or so. The dinner at Barolo Grill was absolutely stunning- the courses were a Salmon Carpaccio; Mushroom Consome with mini raviolis; Black Rice with Quail Egg and Foie Gras Sauce; Guinea Hen with peas and fava beans; and finally a rhubarb soup with yogurt ice cream. It was a bit of a heavy course-load for summer, but it was a delicious endeavor nonetheless. I will post more about the wines we decided on as they become official. While in Denver, I also checked out their version of Atomic Cowboy. Ours is much better here in the Lou. I don't think there's any relationship between the two.

I came home from Denver to find shipments from three separate suppliers that want me to taste through their wines. It's a tough job trying to taste through 40 wines or so, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Again, as these become official, I will post about them on here. (**Hint- I may have accidentally leaked a few of them on my twitter feed for the company @epiphanywines).

So, now I'm back in the office, paying bills, blogging, writing my price book, writing an employee manual, and recovering from the massive amounts of grilled and smoked pork product I ate over the weekend. It's glamorous, I know.