Wine Dine and Play: March 2014

Crocker & Starr

The Crocker & Starr winery in St. Helena, California











Cabernet Franc in California
St. Helena, California
Wine Style: New World / Cabernet Franc
Average Price: $$
Overall Rating: 91 points
Article Written: March 2014
Article Updated: September 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:



Blackbird Vineyard

    







An Illustration
St. Helena, California
Wine Style: New World / Cabernet
Average Price: $$$
Overall Rating: 96 points
Article Written: March 2014
Article Updated: September 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:





Mirror Cabernet

The Miror Vineyard in St. Helena, California is a cult wine that produces top end cabernet wines







2008 Cabernet Review
St. Helena, California USA
Wine Style: New World / Cabernet
Average Price: $$
Overall Rating: 94 points
Article Written: March 2014
Article Updated: September 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:



Hoopes Vineyard

Hoopes Vineyard in Yountville, California produces cabernet on par with Bordeaux and Screaming Eagle or Opus One wines










A Cab on Par With Screaming Eagle
Yountville, Napa, California USA
Wine Style: New World / Cabernet
Average Price: $
Overall Rating: 97 points
Article Written: August 2013
Article Updated: September 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:



Gustavo Winery

Gustavo in Napa California is a small boutique winery with lots of history with Château Montelena and Bottle Shock

















2008 Coombsville Cabernet, A True “Bottle Shock”
City of Napa, California
Wine Style: Cabernet, New world
Average Price: $$
Overall Rating: 93 points
Article Written: August 2013
Article Updated: September 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:




Gourmet Wine Tours of South Africa












A Day Of Wine And Food
Cape Town, South Africa 
December 7, 2013
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:



As a lover of food and wine, a trip to South Africa was something that I always wanted to do. Mainly the wine of course. In 2010, I went on a wine and food tour of France, visiting BordeauxCôtes du RhôneChâteauneuf-du-Pape, and Bourgogne. After that experience, I made up dream trips to all the countries in the world that had major wine regions, such as Stellenbosch in South Africa. I met and had many conversations with a buddy of mine at a camp in Kunduz, Afghanistan where I worked as Chef of the camp, and he was head of security, a South African. After several conversations about how I had interest in the wine and cuisine, my buddy Anton convinced me to go saying that the food and wine were very good, but the country of South Africa would be even better. Therefore, I began making the plans. When in the United States I had stopped into a used thrift store and was thumbing through the books and ran into a 2007 edition of Frommer’s South Africa. For $1.00, I bought the huge book, which had everything about South Africa in it and in detail.  When I read into the fifth chapter on the wines of South Africa, Stephen Flesch owner of Gourmet Wine Tours of South Africa was prominently listed as one of the main and better tour operators in the wine regions. Therefore, I sent him an email listed in the book, which was now nearly six years old, hoping it was still active, and I got a response. The details were worked out, and I hired Stephen for my South African wine adventure.
                                               
From the home page:
Explore the scenically stunning wine-lands of the Western Cape and experience the best of South African wine and food in the amazing variety of superb restaurants - a region which is an epicurean’s dream. Tours are offered for individuals or small groups covering the principal wine areas and estates of Constantia; Durbanville; Elgin; Franschhoek; Paarl; Somerset West; Stellenbosch; Walker Bay (Hermanus) and Wellington, combined with meals in selected leading restaurants. Arranged (pre-planned) tours are available or they can be tailored to your individual requirements. Scenic tours of the Cape Peninsula (including one or two wineries) are also offered. I am a registered tour guide and a member of the Cape Tourist Guides Association. The former Chairman of the Wine Tasters Guild of South Africa, I have a wide and intimate knowledge of the wines of the area, accumulated over forty years of wine tasting. I also know personally many of the winemakers and proprietors of the most important wineries. Currently, I am the Leader of the Cape Town Slow Food Convivium.

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/stellenbosch

Main review:
Stephen Flesch owner of Gourmet wine Tours can arrange any type of tour you wish, as you can see from the excerpt from above. My interest was Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Wineries, with a tour of the Franschhoek area. We settled on the details of the day where we would visit six wineries, have lunch at Terroir, a tour of downtown Franschhoek, and up to the top of the Franschhoek Pass to view the entire valley, ending with dinner at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français. I had visited the Constantia wine region a few days before, doing wine tastings at locations such as Eagles Nest Winery, where I tasted the best Shiraz I had ever had, Constantia Glen Winery, with wonderful views, Steenberg Vineyards, and  Constantia Uitsig, with dinner at Constantia Uitsig La Colombe.

Stephen picked me up from the condominium I was leasing from my friend who convinced me to visit South Africa in West Beach, Cape Town. As we began our drive going to Stellenbosch, leaving Cape Town we passed by the Cape Town Film Studios, where I could see three older ships in the distance sitting on a small pond of water. This is where the show Black Sails on Starz is filmed. Black sails now about to enter its second season is a story prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. The drive from my condominium on West beach to our first winery visit was a good hour drive, so Stephen helped the time go by, and talked about the history wine in South Africa, and South Africa itself. Stellenbosch was named after Governor Simon van der Stel (1639 - 1712), and the word Bosch in Afrikaans means trees. Also as part of the conversation, Stephen mentioned that South Africa has 23 wine regions, with over 600 wineries, with 150 being in Stellenbosch alone. 

We arrived at the first winery on the list going up the long driveway with vineyards on both sides leading up to the main house and tasting room of Meerlust Wine Estate where during the tasting, they had an outstanding Meritage Blend called the  Rubicon given a 92 by Robert Parker. The palate is full bodied, structured but packed with fresh dark fruit and rounded, linear tannins with an aging potential of 15 - 20 years.

The next vineyard called Ken Forrester Wines, which was only a few minutes from the Meerlust Estate, where they had a nice patio area to sit down and get out of the hot sun. Stephen could tell that I really didn’t enjoy the white wine selections that they offered, but this is when Stephen found out that my favorite style of wines in this world are Rhône or  Rhône style blends, to which Ken Forrester did have The Three Halves and The FMC.





The third vineyard on the travels through Stellenbosch was one of my favorites of the entire day called De Trafford Wines, which also featured their sister winery Sijnn Wines. This vineyard had one of the best Merlots that I had ever consumed that reminded me of Emmolo Wine company, in Napa California. Also at De Trafford, I was shown and learned how to make Straw Wine, which is a process of drying grapes in the open sun on beds of straw, which is only done in South Africa by a handful of vineyards, De Trafford being one of them.

Straw Wine
http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/48565

The fourth stop on our tour was a beautiful estate that besides the wine vineyards also had a hotel, restaurant, golf course, and a gated neighborhood of upper-middle-class homes. The Estate was called Kleine Zalze, where is where we also had lunch at their restaurant Terroir. The vineyard had a nice Chenin Blanc, as well as a Shiraz, and the lunch was a good break. 

 
 

The fifth vineyard was called La Motte, which was a good 45-minute drive from Terroir and Kleine Zalze as we had to travel down a very scenic highway into the outskirts of the Franschhoek Valley. Franschhoek was originally a town settled by French Huguenots, escaping religious persecution from Europe and the Cape Colony, and the town’s focus is on education and theology with many schools and university’s as well as churches. At the center of the town was a large religious memorial dedicated to the Huguenots.  La Motte was one of the oldest properties in Franschhoek and focused on the life of a South African artist (Jacob Hendrik Pierneef 1886 – 1957). With the tasting room and restaurants, you could tell a lot of money was put into the property. They had a wonderful Chardonnay



The sixth and final tasting of the day was at the Cape Chamonix Winery, another wonderful property that had a fantastic Troika (meaning: Russian sleigh pulled by three horses), blended with Cabernet Franc 51%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, and Merlot 9%.



After that final tasting, we drove up to the Franschhoek Pass where I saw some beautiful views that were unlike any I had ever seen before, and it made me want to start looking for property to purchase. It was truly a magnificent sight to see.

 
 

As we drove back down near the town, we stopped at the Mont Rochelle Hotel for tea on the terrace. The property also had a mountain vineyard, but we did not do a tasting, just tea. Essentially we were killing time, and preparing for the main event of the day where Stephen joined me for dinner at the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, Rated #53 in the top 100 restaurants in the world by San Pellegrino for 2013. All I could say when the meal ended was wow.

 
 
 

Stephen drove me back to West Beach, collected all the wine that I had purchased from the tastings, and prepared them to be sent by air freight back to the United States for me, which would save me a fortune from shipping it, or ordering it from a distributor in the states at their outrageous prices. When I return to South Africa, I will use Stephen again. It was a wonderful and informative tour and made it one of the best days of the trip.



Tour Prices 
(excludes, alcohol, taxes & 20% gratuity’s)

$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 (inexpensive)
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 (moderate)
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 (pricey)
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 (expensive)
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 (very expensive)

Currency:
Price
South African Rand (ZAR)
R 1,900.00
United States Dollar (USD)
$$$
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
£££
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
$$$
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
¥¥¥¥¥
European Union (EUR)
€€€

All rates include transport in an air-conditioned Mercedes B180 and tasting and admission fees, where applicable, but exclude the cost of meals and wines consumed which will be charged separately.



Address:         
P.O. Box 31353,
Grassy Park, 7888
11 peninsula Road
Zeekoevlei, 7941
South Africa
           
Cross streets:
Le Grange Road and Misrole Ave

Contact Information:



Website: Gourmet Wine Tours of SA
Telephone:
021 705 4317
Fax
021 706 0766
Email contact:
Serving hours:
South African Standard Time
(GMT, Zulu, or UTC + 2:00)


Social Media 
Accolades:
Facebook link             
Pinterest



Who is John Galt?



TTFN

“I like cooking with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”






Prato



 Winter Park, Florida
A dinner reunion
Dined in January 2014
 
Northeast of Orlando and all the Disney parks, Sea Worlds, and Universal Studios is the city of Winter Park, a small city community with lots to offer as far as shops, museums, and business. I was meeting some friends of mine who lived in the Orlando area that I worked with over in Afghanistan at FOB Shank, which we casually nick named “Rocket City,” since it was attacked more by the enemy than any other base in the country. Deb and her husband knew the Orlando area, more than me, so they picked the location for me to meet and enjoy a reunion dinner, and that place was a small Italian Restaurant called The Prato.


****
The worlds best restaurants, based on the  
That I visited and reviewed on this site…
****
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Sydney, Australia
Cape Town, South Africa
Melbourne, Australia
Austin, Texas, USA
San Francisco, California, USA
Yountville, Napa, California, USA
Paris, France
Sydney, Australia
Franschhoek, South Africa
Dubai, UAE
Dublin, Ireland
Ripponlea, Melbourne, Australia
 Charleston, South Carolina, USA
London, United Kingdom
Denver, Colorado, USA
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Christchurch, New Zealand
Cape Town, South Africa
Dubai, UAE
Dubai, UAE
New Orlean’s, Louisiana, USA



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Star ratings chart:
5 stars
Extraordinary  
4 stars
Outstanding 
3 stars
Exceeded expectations    
2 stars
Above average                         
1 star
Average
No star rating
Basic, poor, or appalling


Review basics:
Overall Star rating by Wine, Dine, & Play:
4 of 5
Quality of food:
8 of 10
Presentation:
7 of 10
Wine selections by region:
Scroll below the main review section to see the tasting notes of the wines chosen.


8 of 10
Old world:
1.        Spain: Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero, & Rioja
2.        Italy: Piemonte, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto, Toscana, Sardinia, Montalcino, Abruzzo, Pulgia, & Sicily
Customer service:
7 of 10
Ambiance:
7 of 10
Corkage fee’s:
American Restaurant standard is $25.00 per bottle
Restaurant style:
Casual
Dress code:
Smart casual, or Casual attire
Reservations:
Recommended
Make reservation through opentable.com, or by contacting the restaurant directly. See contact info below the review section
Walk-ins:
Accepted, but not guaranteed
Child policy:
 
The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance. Hire a Babysitter. See Alinea Baby Gate, god I love Alinea.
Cuisine style:
Contemporary, Bistro, Modern, Italian, Mediterranean, Fusion, & Vegetarian
Music styles:
Background instrumental
Experiences:
Place for foodies, Business parties, hot spot, Great bar, Great outdoor dining, Good for special occasions, Rustic, Classy, and a Neighborhood gem.
Gratuities:
Industry standard is 18-20% added to parties of 6 or more
 
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Diner’s,
Parking:
Valet, or street parking
Transport options:
Taxi, limousine, personal vehicle, and walking
 
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Medium, to high
Smoking:
Nonsmoking restaurant, and nonsmoking patio
Patio:
Yes

Chef:
Brandon McGlamery

Food price per person
(Excluding gratuity)

Price chart:
$£€¥ -                Under 50.00
$£€¥ x 2 -          Under 75.00
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00

My food bill:
Currency:
Country :
Price chart:
$45.00
USD 
$
£26.92
GBP 
£
€32.68
EUR 
$49.84
CAD 
 
$
$50.30
AUD 
$$
¥275.50
CNY 
¥¥¥¥

Visit these sites to get up to date currency rates:    
 www.xe.com
Alternatively, visit:


Scroll down below the main review to see cost of wines and tasting notes.



From restaurants home page:
Blending simplicity and inspiration, Prato celebrates cuisine from Italy’s rich culinary landscape, seamlessly blending Italian classics with modern techniques and seasonal ingredients. The warm space welcomes guests with its contemporary design balanced by rustic elements, including a long bar, which encourages a vibrant and communal atmosphere. With its window-paned doors and year round patio seating, Prato emphasizes the “Park” of Park Avenue.

Main review:
I met my friends at The Prato Restaurant, enjoying the small town feel and square where the restaurant was located, and the unique setup of the dining room. The bar was down the center in a long square with tables and booths on either side. Beyond the bar were the kitchen and the famous picture of the pigs symbolizing the restaurants artistic design.
Along the right wall near to the booth where we sat was a symbolic sign of a classical bistro style restaurant having a large chalk board showing the specials of the day from food to drink, and classic menu items. Deb started with a glass of Chardonnay, from the Alois Lageder Vineyards, in the Alto Adige region of Northeastern Italy, while I had a Nebbiolo, from the Cascina Chicco Winery, a prominent vineyard in the Piemonte, Northwestern Italy. Deb's husband stayed to non-alcoholic drinks. (Scroll down below the main review to see wine tasting notes)

The server was very helpful going over the menu in full and elaborate details, showing pride and confidence in what he was selling to us, which to me shows great effort on the restaurants part to train their staff, and hire a group of professionals who are not only there to collect a paycheck, but to be excited about the food, and get the customer excited. Things like that tend to improve gratuities at the conclusion of the meal, like we did for our server. As we chatted and caught up, we ordered a starter dish of Heirloom Eggplant Crostini with charred peperonata, (stewed peppers) and white anchovy, very delicate and wonderful tasting starter dish.
For the entrée course Demand her husband split the Campanelle pasta with beef short rib, ragout, Swiss chard, and horseradish. I had a taste, and enjoyed the wonderful flavors of the dish.
I on the other hand was in the mood for duck. So I enjoyed the duck leg confit served over a butternut and acorn squash purée, with roasted root vegetables of parsnips, turnips, and carrots, with a garnie of chickpeas.  The leg was topped with a cranberry mustardo and finished with a little fresh cut chive. This item is on the autumn and winter menu’s, and according to the staff was one of the most popular, so I’m sure it will return after the summer season. This was without a doubt, an absolutely outstanding dish that does great credit to Chef McGlamery and his crew at the Prato.
It had been a fantastic night catching up with them, and enjoying a wonderful coursed meal and it was time to end the evening with some coffee, and a tiramisu dessert, served in a glass dish, layered in the traditional bread and coffee mascarpone fashion, instead of on a dessert plate.

This Restaurant reminds me of:
Besides classic American style cuisine, the United States is known for its Italian Restaurants, thanks to the Italian immigrants of the early 20th century, who helped take the old country recipes and merged them with the already well diverse melting pot of American food. Unfortunately most Americans don’t visit finer dining establishments, so their idea of eating out is chain restaurants, which for Italian are places like little Caesars and Olive Garden, so they will never get the chance to experience what real Italian food like. Carabbas comes close, but still misses the mark. Though when I travel, I don’t eat at a lot of Italian Restaurants, but when I do, they are usually very memorable. I would compare my experience food wise with BiCE Restaurant, near the Marina in Dubai, UAE with my experience at the Prato. BiCE has two locations in Dubai, and is rated as the best in the country and the top 10 in Asia. I would rate the Prato with one of the best I have visited in the United States. It would have received a 5 of 5 on my list if the wine menu would have exceeded the old world varieties of Italy and Spain, and if the Italian section had more or higher end varieties to match the wonderful cuisine.

Cost of wines and other alcoholic beverages in USD:
$20.00

Tasting Notes:
Wine & Grape:
Nose (Bouquet):
Palette Experience:
brilliant, straw-yellow color with light green hints; the aroma is delicate with pronounced notes of subtropical fruit;
Quite intense flavour and a good, medium-bodied structure, coupled with lively acidity. Under proper storage conditions, this wine will drink well for at least 2 to 4 years.
The color is red and it has an ethereal, elegant fragrance;
There are hints of violet, marasca cherry, and final notes of spice. It’s full, aristocratic, and delicate.


Restaurant address: 
124 N. Park Avenue
Winter Park
Florida, USA
   https://www.google.com/maps?q=the+prato,+orlando&ll=28.598233,-81.35096&spn=0.001639,0.00327&sll=28.598225,-81.350961&cid=17038801177630767387&hq=the+prato,+orlando&t=m&z=19 
           
Cross streets:
 East Morse BLVD & Lincoln Ave.

Contact Information:

Maître d, reservations:
+1 407 262 0050
Website:
Email:
Online Reservations :
http://www.opentable.com/prato-winter-park
Facebook Link               
https://www.facebook.com/PratoWP
https://twitter.com/pratowinterpark
http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=The%20prato%20winter%20park

Hours:
Lunch:
Wed-Sun: 11:30am-3:00pm
Dinner:
Monday
5:30–11:00 pm
Tuesday
5:30–11:00 pm
Wednesday
5:30–11:00 pm
Thursday
5:30–11:00 pm
Friday
5:30–11:00 pm
Saturday
5:30–11:00 pm
Sunday
5:30–10:00 pm
  
Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5:00)

Proprietor / Manager:
Tim Noelke


 Explore the menu  


Review by:
Chef Sean Overpeck (CFE)


Chef Sean cooks for soldiers in Afghanistan, 2012:





"Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."

TTFN







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