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Annata Wine Bar

Annata's fully stocked bar

Located in the downtown area of Hammonton, NJ, just over the train tracks is Annata Wine Bar. The restaurant, owned by brothers Matt and Phil Brunozzi and their sister Jackie, has been open for three years.

The tables are beautifully set, with big, comfy chairs that almost welcome you to nap after feasting. (Though, it’s kind of frowned upon.) The windows are big and inviting to look over Bellview Ave and the strolling visitors, while enjoying the reasonably priced, delicious food.

The flavors of the menu are classic Italian-style (large and small) tapas-inspired as well as some American flavors accompanied by a fully stocked bar and an extensive wine list. When I arrived, I famished and knew I wanted to taste the spectrum of their menu. Diana S., the bartender, served me a glass of Santa Margarita 2010 Pino Grigio, a reasonably priced, clean, easy-drinking wine. “Wine is bottled poetry” read a sign hanging atop the bar, fitting I thought, as I sipped the Italian varietal. Finally, I chose their French dip sandwich and the risotto off the menu.

The risotto is served with red sauce, it’s creamy, sweet, salty and savory. It had just the right amount of seasoning and each bite which were welcoming and warm. The risotto is a filling dish with a hefty portion (that was the small!) I couldn’t finish and knew I had a French dip beckoning. I saved the risotto and it kept well for the next day’s lunch. I moved on to the French dip served on a crusty long roll. Good bread makes a good sandwich, and the bread was outstanding. The meat complimented the bread, thinly sliced, juicy, salty and just as the bite finishes– a punch of horseradish comes through. The au jus complimented the crusty bread, slightly softening it just before that much anticipated first bite. It was one of the best French dip sandwiches I’ve ever had, my mouth waters just thinking of the sandwich. It was served with a handful of warm, salty, flavorful and delicious hand-cut fries, rounding out the meal.

“We wanted to do Italian food with the wine bar feel, we wanted something that people wanted to come to and tell their friends about.” Co-owner and Executive Chef Matt Brunozzi said.

The atmosphere was welcoming and cozy. The perfect spot for any date night (first or fiftieth),  a quiet evening at the bar, or a birthday celebration. I need to find an excuse to go back there just to try the eggplant tower (with another glass of wine), which Annata’s has sold a record number of since a feature on NBC 10 Philadelphia, excuse enough for me to go back to try.

There aren’t any beers on tap, though they have a selection of bottled beers to choose from. Of course, their wine list is long, with a wide variety to choose from.

“The wine list is composed of about 165 wines, 150 of which are available by the glass.” Co-owner and president Phil Brunozzi said. “We have a wine preservation system that allows us to reseal any open bottles and allows us to offer the wine-by-the-glass option. It gives customers the opportunity to try different things they normally wouldn’t order.”

Annata’s also offers a variety of local wines on their list. DiMatteo Vineyards, Sharrott Winery, Amalthea Cellars, Tomasello Winery and Plagido’s Winery. Other wines offered come from Napa Valley, Italy, Portugal and Chile to name a few. Not only can wine be purchased by the glass but bottle and case as well, adding to the uniqueness of the establishment. Wine is ever-present throughout the restaurant with bottles stacked high along the walls and old barrel tops lining the bar, adding to the excitement of wondering which of the 150 varieties should be tasted next.

I highly suggest this place for most any occasion, including weddings and banquets. To learn more, visit their site or check out the video I put together, below.

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Black Friday is hovering over us, taunting us to shop for Christmas and Hanukkah or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. No worries my Sassy Vinos! I have links to share! Links that will lead you to the wonderland that is online shopping- no lines, no screaming children, and shipped right to your house without tired feet and you can accomplish it all with a glass of delicious, full-bodied red in your hand. Lets shop!

Uncommongoods.com is a great place to start for all wine drinkers and spirit lovers alike. Click on “dining and entertaining” and then the “wine” link.  The site offers uncommon goods, exactly the namesake. As pertaining to wine there are boardgames, a corkcicle- a cork that has a cold end to plug your open wine and keep it cold, as well as a cool snow ski wine rack. There are sale links, so it easy to find deals. Some items are on the pricier side, however Cyber Monday- the Black Friday online- is soon and I wouldn’t doubt a deal or two.

WineEnthusiast.com – the link will take you right to their new items for the holiday season. Unique wine glasses, shirts, corkscrews, corkscrew decorations, all reallllly cool items. Scrabble with a cooking theme, touchscreen wine refrigerators, wine bathtub-cooler and my favorite wine salt and pepper shakers! (oh how I want them!) Basically, if you’re enthusiastic about wine and spirits, this is the site for you!

Wine.com – why not actually buy wine while you’re at it? You can shop by price, listed on the left side of the web page. There’s a number of varietals to choose from as well as champagne. It’s easy to shop by rating as well. There’s a link to shop all of the highest rated wines. Their great deals link takes you to expensively priced wines, now slashed to a more reasonable price- depending on what you want, of course. There is so much to choose from. I suggest searching and really deciding what you want, before getting it. Always read the reviews! I will be likely purchasing one and describing my adventures from the site and will be more than happy to share with you.

Online shopping is always fun. Be wary of the card you’re using and where you’re buying from. Fraud should always be a concern, so know what you’re getting into. I’m not saying these sites are unsafe, rather it is best to be prepared especially when it comes to your finances.

I hope you have a wonderful time shopping! Enjoy a glass of wine, get comfy and get to shopping!

Sassy Sangria

Sangria made with Valenzano's Shamong Red wine

Sangria is usually a treat served cold, perfect for the summer. I was thinking how citrusy-red-wine flavors go really well with fall and break up the mounds of cinnamon we will be consuming this season. So, I thought why not? I spent some time looking at recipes online and took from a bunch and came up with my own. Not only was it fun and easy but I was able to use local wine to top it off.

What you will need:

1 bottle of red wine of choice. I used Velanzano’s Shamong Red for it’s sweeter taste

1 Cup of ginger ale (or club soda depending on how sweet you want it)

Sprig of fresh mint

2 Oranges

1 Carton of strawberries

1 Lime

1 Tablespoon of sugar

How to make it:

Cut one of the oranges into thick slices and put at the bottom of the pitcher. Do the same to a few strawberries and the lime. Leave a little bit of the lime to squeeze the juice. Half the second orange and squeeze in the juice. Cut and muddle (to the best of your ability) the fresh mint and add to the pitcher.  Next, pour the entire bottle of red wine into your glass pitcher (or what you choose to serve it in.) Then, add the tablespoon of sugar and stir. Add your cup of ginger ale (add as much as you want for taste, it will sweeten it all). Add ice to your glasses or wine glasses, and serve. For a stronger, more fruitful flavor let it sit overnight in the fridge and serve the next day for deeper flavor.

It is so sweet, delicious and fruitful! Seasonal flavors, like cinnamon or pumpkin, can get old. The fruitiness and the fresh flavors break up the dullness you may find as seasons continue to change.  The fresh fruit and squeezed juice shine through and make an easy, delightful drink that is good to share with friends and family. It is cheap! I spent approximately$15.00 total on everything, including the wine!

I hope you enjoy!


Happy (Sassy) Halloween!

Happy Halloween sassy vinos! I love Halloween, ghost stories, history of haunted places, the real story of all hallows eve, candy, pumpkin-spiced everything, really the works. Wine comes in lovely fall inspired flavors that were perfect for this evening where the living and the dead are in the same realm.

Gimmicky Halloween photo complete with candy, wine and pumpkin muffins

Tomasello Winery is located in Hammonton, NJ and makes an incredibly delicious Mulled Spice Wine. It is a red, incredibly sweet, fruitful wine. On the back of the bottle it is described as a “red wine with mulling spices added. The result is a moderately sweet wine with hints of cinnamon and clove”

They weren’t kidding. The first words out of my mouth following my first sip were “my god” and “cinnamon.” Taking notes and writing them into something you can understand is always interesting. However, my incoherent notes were spot on. That rush of sweet red wine followed by those hints of cinnamon and clove are so interesting. I immediately followed my sip with a mouthful of warm, delicious pumpkin muffin. It was a marriage of epic-fall-flavor-proportions.

I was fully expecting a dark oaky flavor with hints of cinnamon thankfully my expectations were shot down in seconds. It was warm and sweet. It was inviting me to keep sipping it.

I had an incredibly gimmicky Frankenstein “wine glass” to really emphasize the Halloween night. I am so happy to have paired it with a pumpkin flavor. They meshed well and made for a fantastic dessert. The bottle suggests cheesecake to pair, however I have a distaste for said dessert so I went with five pumpkin muffins, three of which saw their demise as the night pushed forward.

I accompanied my fall flavors with Ghost Hunters Live Event. What better to celebrate than ghost hunting via T.V. (I mean what other options are there?) flipping between the ghost hunters and American Horror Story(an FX original psychosexual thriller scary-as-all-hell-show) I was enjoying my ghoulish night to its fullest extent. I am thankful to have had Tomasello’s Mulled Spiced Wine as an Halloween sweet and warm

companion.

The remants of my delcious Halloween journey

Heritage Vineyard Revisited

Where all the wine is made at Heritage Vineyards in Richwood, NJ

Heritage Vineyard’s Grand Finale Concert event was a few weeks ago. I learned so much information I had to stagger the posts to allow you to truly understand what I learned.

While at the event, I was lucky enough to meet the winemakers, see where they work, the chemical processes it takes and the true passion put in to each barrel of wine made. Sean Comminos, one of Heritage’s winemakers gave me the full tour. Their 150 acre property contains not only tons of grape vines, but fruit, corn and other agricultural gems lining the long property.

Tucked away is where all the wine is kept and fermented. There are both oak (mixed American and French) as well as stainless steel (huge) casks to ferment the wine. When walking into the area it is noticeably colder smelling of yeast and fruit. Sean offered only the best and most interesting information regarding his profession.

Transition of a skeptic

I was not always a wine drinker. Quite hilariously, I refuted wine’s tantilizing advances for quite some time.

This mostly, because of my Catholic upbringing. During Holy Communion, the priest blesses both bread and wine, symbolizing the Blood and Body of Christ. This Catholic-Church-wine and the Blood of Christ so loudly screamed “gross” that it was a serious deterrent.

Wine never symbolized food, an enriched deep history or everything good about enjoying a social evening rather, a way to repent for my sins every Sunday and brush my teeth after mass. (Though, the Bread of Christ was always a plus.)

Why do you care as a Sassy Vine reader? Maybe you know me, read the site and don’t have much of a taste for wine, rather, it makes you cringe and scrunch your nose at the thought. Maybe you can relate to my religious anecdote and feel the same sentiments. So, this is my fecitious look into being a wine drinking blogger and evolving as such. I am still new at this and learning along the way.

I was so uneducated in the first days, I really had no idea. I was an avid Riesling drinker. It’s so sweet and delicious. I (still) love it. I always got Kung Fu Girl. What a cool label they have. I enjoyed a really cold glass of it with dinner or just after class. Thinking of it makes me want a glass, actually.

Riesling is a white grape originating from Germany. A glass with a slice of pumpkin or zuchini bread would make a fantastic option for dessert.

With this discovery of white wines came a slew of new tastes to try. Charddonay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Each of the wines have their own personalities that I love.

The tastes I feared the most were those of the reds. The wine would not be served in the gold goblets I was so familiar with, this rather, was the true change in my tastes, a coming of age.

It turned into a true Bruce Wayne/Batman situation for me, in becoming something I feared the most…or whatever he says (with much less-cool-rich-guy stuff and fighting crime.)

Alright so it wasn’t that dramatic, but I was nervous. I almost couln’t bare to do it. I could only think of church and all those people drinking from the same goblet, and the nun with the white kerchief gingerly wiping the rim. I almost didn’t do it from those visuals alone. Yet,tasting the red wine was…amazing. It was better than I could imagine. I drank the (boxed) Cabernet Sauvingion with pizza (which, is a cool way to pair a red) resisting at first, and soon succumbed to its powers. The headache the next day was not what I had anticipated, but alas a true love affair had begun.

What amazing flavors red wines had to offer! They really weren’t just the Blood of Christ! My pallet rejoiced. I am still trying and sampling reds. Syrahs, Cabernet Francs, Cabernet Sauvignons, the works, all grasp my attention and keep me wanting more.

I have been attending winery events, and with each comes a new introduction of wine. I hope to refine my tastes yet again and find a core group of wines I truly like and can share. Still being a newbie, I know that it will happen in time.

With age and maturity comes (great responsibility?) new tastes. Over time your pallet changes and you wish to take new food adventures. Which leads us to now and my adventures with wine. I’m learning, tasting and enjoying this spirited journey of my expanding and ever-changing pallet.

Bellview Winery

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Driving down Weymouth Road, located in Landisville, NJ, I was pleasantly surprised by the gem I found just off Atlantic St.

Bellview Winery is tucked in Cumberland County amongst a beautiful farmland. I pulled into the winery parking lot, admittedly not expecting much. Upon opening the door into the tasting area, I was surprised. A beautiful wood floor area set with tables and just down the stairs, a bar fit for tasting. The winery is owned by Jim Quarella a fourth generation produce farmer who attended Delaware Valley College.

Ashley Stewart, 29, of Vineland, NJ and an employee of the winery for the past year and a half was more than helpful, not only giving me insight on the already bottled wines but the harvests as well. “This year was a record harvesting for us, 32,000 pounds of fruit for both Merlot and Syrah harvests for us.” Ashley said.

Guests are allotted six wines for tasting. I tried three red and three white to get a good idea of the spectrum offered. However, six is only 5% of what they offer. There are 30 wines available for purchase from Bellview.  To the left of the bar for tasting wines is a seating area with a munchies menu available. Free Wi-Fi can be accessed from your computer or tablet for the working or social media-savvy individual.

The first three wines I tried were white wines.

2010 Pinot Grigio– A classic sweet and slightly dry wine. The sweet wasn’t overpowering. It was made in a stainless cask, however it still finishes with that nutty flavor that is easy to appreciate. Their description include “melon and honeysuckle” as part of the flavors. I could taste the honeysuckle over the melon, but I believe that is dependent on individual pallet.

2010 Viognier- This was my first try of a Viognier ever, and it was really interesting. It had a strong mango aroma, but finished with the taste of papaya. The most amazing part? These are the normal characteristics of the Viognier grape. It grows advantageously in this area. William Douglas Steakhouse, located in Cherry Hill, will start carrying it in the near future.

2010 Traminette– Bellview’s menu describes the flavors as “a wonderful lime aroma with subtly spicy hints of spearmint and hops.” They weren’t kidding. That lime flavor comes out with almost a punch. The first reaction I had was WOW. The flavor was unique and immediately gave me ideas for cooking in the future (I was thinking tacos). Ashley mentioned its popularity in Glassboro, NJ. Hops and Grapes, a local spirits distributor cannot keep it on its shelves due to the successful pairing with sushi and thai food. Samurai, a Japanese/sushi restaurant is just a stones throw from the store, making it easy to marry the tastes together at dinner.

The last three wines are my personal favorite, the reds. Ashley helped me out a bit, allowing me to taste an extra red. (Thanks!)

2007 Chambourcin- This was a classic style Chambourcin. Starts sweet and ends dry. It’s exactly what you would expect and full of flavor. I recommend for those starting to try red wines. I mentioned this before in a previous post and it stands true with Bellview’s.

2009 Lemberger- Another first for me. It was produced in an American Oak cast lending it’s nutty flavor to the finish of the wine. It is composed of 90% Lemberger, 5% Chambourcin and 5% Cabernet Franc. It has a strong body with fleeting deep tastes of tobacco, appealing to any man wishing to try a stronger wine. It’s not too strong nor too dry, while maintaining the dry characteristics. I recommend a cigar and a nice night to enjoy with a bottle of the 2009 Lemberger.

2009 Cabernet Franc– Another added to the list of firsts. I didn’t enjoy this as much as expected, however it had surprising factors to it. It had an earthy flavor and left you feeling refreshed. Not many reds can lend themselves to a refreshing style, however the Cabernet Franc did it well.

The final wine, and my favorite type of red I tried was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon– fruity, dry and oaky. “Mmmm” was all I could think as I sipped the deep cherry and grape flavor. The sweet, oaky finish lends itself to a good wine to use for cooking and sharing for a hearty dinner. I am biased as well, being that it is one of my favorite types of wine. Try it anyway!

I ended up purchasing a bottle of their 2008 Syrah.  I originally purchased a singular glass and sipped as I walked the property and took beautiful photos. It was delicious and a good companion while snapshotting its origins.

Next weekend is the Italian Festival, being held on the winery’s property. It will feature 18 vendors including Espisitos from Philly and Luciano’s Fresh Market, a vendor featured in the Vineland Amish Market. Music will also be featured at the event.

I will be in attendance and cannot wait to share the deliciousness with you!

Be sure to visit the site for a list of wines, tasting room information and purchasing tickets to next weekend’s event.