Wine Dine and Play: FOCUS wines

FOCUS wines

A Tasting In Paradise
Cape May, New Jersey, and Key West Florida
Wine Style: Napa and Sonoma
Average Price: $
Overall Rating: 85 points
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
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Joe Caruso

Brian Graham

Some snowbirds may think of Paradise as New Jersey but being a resident of Florida I think about the entire state and especially Key West as paradise. Now if you're the New Jersey Governor and have a condemned beach all to yourself, then that is a different story!! FOCUS Wines are inspired by owner Joe Carusos' two daughters who were born with congenital cataracts, and a portion of the proceeds of the wine sales goes to the Children's Hospital and Ophthalmologists in Philadelphia (C.H.O.P), and other locations who helped them through 26 eye surgeries. They are a wholesaler based in Cape May, New Jersey with their grapes being picked from Sonoma & Napa vineyards.

My wife and I first tasted FOCUS wine selections during the 2016 Key West Food and Wine Festival events, where three of the five grape varietals were available. The wines are also sold year-round in Key West and a few other select retailers and restaurants. The varietals include the Parker pinot noir, Shea chardonnay, Zion cabernet sauvignon, Madeliene Q merlot, and the Sadie sauvignon blanc. At the time of this article, the current vintages were 2012 and 2013. 

FOCUS Wines are the top selling wines in the best “Wine-List Restaurants” in the tri-state area including Lucky Bones at The Washington Inn and Congress Hall in Cape May, New Jersey as well as Pat Croce Restaurant Group in Key West.

A FOCUS on 3 of the wines:
The “Parker” pinot noir is named after one Mr. Carusos two daughters who, like him, were born with congenital cataracts. These doctors and their teams have provided numerous procedures, therapies, and support many children with loss of sight.

The “Zion” cabernet grapes according to FOCUS were selected among the best coastal growing regions in California's northern coast and San Joaquin region.  In these areas, warm sunny days provide optimum grape ripening while the Pacific Coast fog creates cool nights that maintain the acidity of the grapes resulting in the balanced fruit of a full-bodied cab. Zion is a remarkable young man who received the first pediatric bi-lateral hand transplant EVER! Watch the video about Zion's story here! 

Shea” Caruso was born in 2010 and was the first case of congenital cataracts to be seen in an ultrasound.  Dr. Scheie was Joe Caruso's eye surgeon when he was a child and is now a legacy to which all the eye surgeons and ophthalmologists at C.H.O.P. honor in their practices. The winemaker selected grapes from vineyards across the coolest growing areas of the Sacramento River Delta and San Joaquin Valley, as well as vineyards in the North and Central Coasts. Grapes harvested from a variety of vineyards and areas each provide unique flavor components, creating a balanced, complex and harmonious wine.

Personally, the cabernet needs a little more time to age, and according to the winemaker it can easily go for 10+ years, so I would give it 4-5, then decant it. The pinot noir was nice for a California blend considering I lean more towards Bourgogne and Willamette for my pinot favorites. I suppose it is due to the higher alcohol content in FOCUS then you see in Old World pinot’s that made it so attractive to me, along with all the winter spices. The Chardonnay was an excellent “non” oak bomb for a Cali wine but still had California spelled all over it with the crispy floral and zestiness. They are very different in general from the French and Oregon varietals which are more earthy and granite flavored in my opinion. 

In Key West, I did not taste the merlot or sauvignon blanc, as I may have overlooked it. The cases produced each year range from 600 to 1800 depending on the varietal. You can learn more by visiting the website.  

Wine & Grape:
Nose (Bouquet):
Palette Experience:
2014 Shea Chardonnay
Winemaker Notes:  
57% Napa, 43% Sonoma County with a  brilliant straw hue. Elegant floral nose of gardenias, with crisp citrus and white tropical fruit notes.
Winemaker Notes:
The palate has a crisp foundation that forms the backbone of lemon zest with hints of guava, mandarin oranges, and grapefruit.
2012 Parker Pinot Noir
Winemaker Notes:  
52% Sonoma, 48% Napa Valley
A red garnet hue, an elegant aroma of ripe bing cherries, rose petals, Christmas spices with hints of fresh vanilla bean

Winemaker Notes:
On the palate, the soft entry leads into a rich dark cherry foundation with a hint of leather and the terroir of vineyard earth of slate and loam. A plush elegant finish of cola, cordial cherries, cocoa bean and notes of toasty oak. This wine will age easily 10+ years.

2014 Zion Cabernet

15 months in French Oak (40% New)
Winemaker Notes:  
54% Napa 46% Sonoma County
75.7% Cab Sav, and 24.3% Merlot
this wine shows sweet black fruits with high notes of anise and hints of pine and holiday spice on the nose

Winemaker Notes:
The palate is rich with blackberry and ripe cherries, sweet vanilla bean, and cocoa with hints of smoked meats, earth, and leather

I refer to myself as an oenophile though, oenophilia is defined as “a disciplined devotion to wine, accompanying strict traditions of consumption and appreciation.” In a general sense, oenophilia also refers to the enjoyment of wine, often by a layman - which I am, and not qualified as a professional. I just enjoy drinking it, so my rating is based on enjoyment and the overall experience, not the science of an expert.

Overall Star Rating:
85 Points
3 of 5 Stars: 
Exceeded Expectations
Wines Produced
Red: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc


Other New World wines or wineries to Wine Dine and Play:

A pioneering wine estate in Malgas
Western Cape, South Africa
Passion, science, & innovation
Newburg, Willamette
Famous battle named blocks 
Gruyere, Yarra Valley Australia

A Few other Old World Favorites:

Biodynamic Winery of the year 2016
Giesta Dão, Portugal 
Wine tours and restaurants 

A Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
Cussac-Fort-Médoc, Bordeaux

See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary


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The worlds best restaurants is a subjective list of who is writing it and changes on a regular basis. The Wine Dine and Play best experiences are based on my highest rated stared restaurants, meaning that the visit was an outstanding or extraordinary experience. From cafés, chains, mom + pops, hole in the walls, to fine dining including a few Michelin spots. Visit the Top 100 page to see the entire list.

A few to tease you with…
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Impeccably prepared French fine dining 
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Contemporary, African-French Tasting Journey
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“I like cooking with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”


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