Category Archives: Tastings & Events

April is Australian Wine Month – 21% off all Australian Wines, all April Long

australia_LP

At B-21, April is Australian Wine Month – we are honoring all of our favorite Aussie wines by passing on 21% savings on all Australian wines to you – all April long.

Australian Wines show characteristics of the soil, age well and can provide a fantastic drinking experience. Our Australian friends wrote the book on good value and pleasing palate tastes. This huge country makes great shiraz, old-vine grenache and smart white blends. Follow us on a walkabout to its pioneer vineyards, artisan labels and genius winemakers. With so much wine from oz we’re sure to find you a wine to fancy.

Explore our Featured Australian Wines

Dive into a rich history of Greek wine with B-21

event-page-banner

The land of Greece and its wine have a history well into antiquity when vines from the Caucasus were distributed throughout the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians finding their way to the islands and mainland of Greece. The Ottoman Turks interrupted progress of cultivation for several centuries with recovery beginning in the 20th century. In the past few decades, in particular when Greece entered the EU in 1981, a serious revolution has been underway throughout Greece from the Islands such as Santorin and Crete as in the Peloponnesian peninsula and beyond. It’s not that we are located in Tarpon Springs, which is a significant Greek community originally attracted by Gulf coast sponge harvesting, but that the quality of Greek wines is now at a world class level. We are proud to share these with you.

Complimentary food and wine tasting Feb 23, Noon-6pm at B21

 

Bon Appetit Beaune!

Beaune is a fabulous little town in the heart of Burgundy wine country. It’s hardly the easiest spot in France to get to, but your efforts are greatly rewarded once there. Forget for a moment that in the surrounding towns and villages are the vineyards and people that make many of the world’s top wines, Beaune is also a haven of fashionable boutiques, colorful patisseries and a restaurant scene to rival any large European city.

This is a region of haute cuisine when you consider that it has given us boeuf Bourgignon, coq au vin, ouefs en muerette (eggs in red wine sauce), not to mention Burgundy truffles and a certain mustard from nearby Dijon.

While I wouldn’t suggest harboring high hopes of a breakfast of anything other than a pain au chocolat and mediocre coffee while in Beaune, I would heartily recommend you bring an appetite for the remaining meals of the day.

The first thing to know about Burgundian fare is that it isn’t well-suited to vegetarians or those watching their waistlines – and forget about clean breath since everything is cooked with a healthy helping of garlic. However, if your idea of the perfect meal is a thick steak with a side of sausages, topped with layers of foie gras and accompanied by a plate of sweetbreads or kidneys, then this is the place for you!

On a previous visit the B-21 team had an infusion of meat at the countrified Le Goret which is truly the refuge for any serious carnivore. However, on our recent trip in January, we discovered some of the area’s more refined establishments. (Click here to view photos from our Trip!)

Here are three suggestions for when you next find yourself a bit peckish in Burgundy wine country.

Le Charlemagne

Nestled near the hill of Corton in Pernand-Vergelesses and surrounded by vineyards, sits this unassuming Michelin starred restaurant. It’s a favorite of locals looking for a break from the butcher’s block and they find it in the French-Japanese fusion cuisine of chef Laurent Peugeot.

The décor is minimalist in the mode of feng shui, with a long wall of windows overlooking the vines. The well-spaced tables are illuminated by overhead spotlights and the staff is attentive, multi-lingual, knowledgeable and unobtrusive. The decidedly different menu consists of several seven-plus course selections and amongst us we delighted in dishes of beef tartare with matcha green tea foam, scallop and egg with whisky and corn topped with popcorn and balsamic, sushi rice with tuna tartare with soya and sake vinegar over frozen, grated foie gras. One word of advice – learn from our mistake and don’t arrive earlier than 7:30, if you do your evening will likely start stranded in the parking lot.

Le Cellier Volnaysien

As the name suggests, this converted home is found in Volnay, the village between Beaune and Meursault. The entrance is a wooden door in a large stone façade and leads quickly down to a cozy, dimly lit room adorned along one side by naked vines. Nathalie Gente-Pont is the charismatic owner whose ancestors called this building home. Here you’ll not only find the traditional staples of coq au vin, escargots and fondue Bourguignonne (meat fondue), but also Paysanne salad and delicate filets of trout.

In the winter, try for a table in the first room near the front door, it’s warmer with more ambience, but in the summer, I can imagine the larger rooms at the back with the tall windows or the outdoor terrace would be the ideal spot to savor the sun. It’s the perfect lunch spot as it’s only open for dinner on Saturday.

Le Fleury

Back to Beaune and a restaurant renowned for its fresh produce and support of the local farmers and fishermen – Le Fleury. Owners Jerome and Cécile ensure only the finest quality ingredients for their comprehensive menu of both à la carte and prie fixe offerings.

A few of the dishes that caught my eye were starters of Velouté de Potiron, Eclats de Pain d’Epices, Crème Fouettée (warm pumpkin soup with raisin spiced toast and whipped cream) and the foie gras flan with creamy lentils and hazelnuts. Then your choices expand to Tournedos de Volaille Farci aux Champignons (chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms) or beef filets from Charolais with truffle jus with mashed potatoes and leeks. You’re not done at this stage as Beaune is also known for its indulgent local cheeses and particularly the stinky but sensational Epoisses – it’s a must if you haven’t had it before and especially if you have!

The lighting is a bit too bright and the dining room is nothing special, but the food and hospitality more than make up for these negligible shortcomings.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, these and all the restaurants in and around Beaune have wine lists with more vintages from more producers of the finest wines of Burgundy than the imagination can conjure – and that is reason alone to visit! So even though it may take planes, trains and automobiles to get to here, you are assured of being well fed once you arrive in beautiful Beaune.

Wine Lab Wednesdays with the New Kids on the Block

…No, not these guys. ….But we got it: the right stuff.

New Bs Crystal and Zach
New Bs Crystal and Zach

Our Wednesday night taste ‘n’ talk get-togethers and staff tastings are starting to draw a crowd of wine-lovers.

Customers, suppliers and the staff seem to like going through a dozen or so bottles of wines, some of them good deals on our shelves and some we might buy. It gives everyone an inside insight on the process. By everyone, that may mean Bob, Shannon, Rhett, Mark, myself… and now, the shining new faces on the crew, Zach Groseclose and Crystal Farina, two smart young Tampa Bay wine talents.

Zach comes to B-21 from the Beach Bistro, the gourmet center of Anna Maria Island, and also Eli’s in New York. Crystal has a sharply honed palate, spending several years with local wine merchants and restaurants (if you miss her at Gino’s Italian in Carrollwood, she’s here!) before coming to B-21.

Tonight, J.C. Marin, the amiable rep from Winesellers Ltd., will bring out some Lodi reds, an intriguing Aussie shiraz called the Ripper, and new vintages from Argentina, including organic torrontes and bonarda. Help us taste them and make up our minds. Stop by from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight, and every Wednesday, for the latest buzz on the tip of our tongues. Remember, the longer the hang time, the better the wine …and the conversation.

1,000 wines came to the fair. What wines go with fried bubble gum?

Actually, 1,067 entries showed up for the annual wine judging at the Florida State Fair this year and 62 took home double golds. As usual, the Florida contest draws in a wide net from Minnesota to Florida as well as the major wine regions of the West Coast and abroad, unoaked chardonnay to chambourcin.
So the best of show awards were spread out: Top white was an Edelweiss from Miletta Vista in Nebraska; best red a syrah from Klinker Brick in Lodi; best bubbles went to a brut fron Laetitia in San Luis Obispo.

In Florida wines, the central part of the state did well, Lakeridge Winery in Clermont got a double gold for the 2010 Blanc du Bois. Its sister winery, San Sebastian, got single golds for a Blanc du Bois, a Stover and a port. And Florida Orange Groves in St. Pete, the perennial champ of fruit wines, claimed best of show in fruit for its Mango Mama.

For me, my best of the fair was outside the wine judging. Pork chop on a stick, fried mashed potatoes and the burgers of your dreams/nightmares: peanut butter and bacon burgers, doughnut burgers on a split Krispy Kreme, and the Wild Hog, a bacon cheese burger topped with pork barbecue, fries and slaw. All at one stand. I could have stayed all day.

Ernst Loosen, Doctor of Riesling: Here With Red Slate, Blue Slate, Gold.

Ernst Loosen, the madcap wizard who modernized the reputation of the Mosel, brings his wines and his smarts to B-21, this Saturday. Loosen is a master of innovation and tradition. He made the first German-American hybrids with Chateau Ste. Michelle yet is a vigorous defender of the Mosel’s terroir and precision. He’s been a strong opponent of the new super-bridge over the wine valley. Maybe it’s because he has such a great sense of balance that he’d prefer a tightrope.
He’ll be here from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday for an afternoon of tastings, seminars and sales of a half dozen of his wines, from kabinett to auslese. Laughs by the case are free.

 

 

Return of the 100pt Native: Fred Schrader’s Homecoming

UPDATE: Good news on the final tally for the MFA auction: It raised $186,000! Most successful in the museum’s history. I’m sure it will stay around for many vintages to come.

You may know Schrader for his stunning Napa cabs over the last 15 – 20 years, or his fabbo ratings from both Parker and Wine Spectator. Folks around here knew Fred long before, more than 30 yards ago when he was just an antique picker, turned auctioneer and art dealer, local boy made good, now made great.

He returned to his Florida hometown this month for the first time in decades to guest star at the Museum of Fine Arts wine festival and auction in St. Petersburg. Schrader played the role with gusto and a big moustache. The two magnums Schrader and wife Carol donated, the 2007 CCS cabernet sauvignon and Old Sparky cab raised $5,500, they had the winning bid of $3,000 for a future penthouse dinner on the St. Pete waterfront and provided a grand wine for the dinner of 250. That was the 2010 Aston Estate Pinot Noir to go with scallops and fredola and Kobe short ribs. The pinot is a newer project he started a few years ago, now coming handsomely into its own. “It takes longer with pinot [than cab], but we’re in the best place on the Sonoma Coast.” He also provided bottles of Double Diamond cab and Vieux-Os zinfandel for a private party.

In return, Schrader got time to walk along a Beach Drive he hadn’t seen in over 25 years. As much as the area enjoyed welcoming him. “It was good for the hometown boy too,” Carol confided.

Local wine lovers chipped in with wines from their cellars, like Margaret and Ed Amley who donated a bottle of Screaming Eagle and two case of super-Tuscans.

When all was bid and done at silent and live auctions, the museum buzzed with hopes that the auction in its second year had raised $100,000; however organizers in the counting house have not come up with a final tally. Their goal is to someday match their neighbors to the south where this year’s Naples Winter Wine Fest raised over $12 million.

Meanwhile, if you missed out on the Schraders, B-21 has a few bottles of the 2006 Double Diamond from Amber Knolls, And if you want to bid on fine bottles for fine art next year, contact the MFA and circle February on your calendar.

Rioja dropped by today.

We had a special visitor join us this morning on his way to the SoBe (South Beach) Wine Festival where Victor Urrutia Ybarra, current CEO of CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) and fifth generation of Real de Asúa family, founders of one of the most renowned and historic bodegas in all of Spain, will be heading a seminar that will explore the great wines that have propelled CVNE to the forefront of Rioja. Stating he had cold since November, Victor, in his surprising English accent, revealed how the winery has taken the traditional approach with Rioja and blended in new international styles that incorporates a whole new balance of wines. My previous experinces with CVNE (I’m talking 20 years ago) was very traditional, with rubbery scents, pale color with harsch tannins. The revelation was that I was totally wrong. We tasted some current vintages of some of his properties, including 2010 Cvne Monopole , 2008 Cvne Crianza, 2004 Imperial Reserva, 2006 Contino Reserva, 2004 Viña Real Gran Reserva and a library selection 1973 Viña Real Gran Reserva. All very classic and modern at the same time. The head turner was the 2004 Imperial Reserva, mostly tempranillo, full and rich, and just ignited with energy on every level. Initially scored it a 90 but raised it to 92 as I grew fonder with each sip. And then to my surprise, realized we already had some here at the store (39.99). All in all, a very special visit and I am heading out tomorrow to catch his seminar in South Beach. Viva Rioja!

Big hearts, deep pockets and rich cellars raise $12 million at Naples wine auction

Naples Wine FestWine fans popped big for the little kids of Collier County last at the 12th annual Naples Winter Wine Festival and auction. Over $12 million big, adding up to more than $106 million raised in 12 years. That’s a huge injection of hope in a town that’s so wealthy on one end and so poor on the other.  The proceeds in Naples are so big they rival and sometimes surpass any other wine charity in the yet the stars of Napa, Burgundy and Bordeaux always show up in in Naples.  Top wine lot was for $1.1 million for a monster lot of Haut-Brion from HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg. Actually, it was drop-dead beautiful console cabinet custom designed and  built for Haul Brion, with almost two dozen bottles including, I’m not kidding, 1935, ’45, ’59, ’61, ’75, ’89, ’90 and 2009.  It initially sold for $550,000, a figure that so pleased Prince Robert that  he offered a second at the same price.

Next up: The second annual wine auction at St. Pete’s Museum of Fine Arts Special guest will be a hometown boy made very good as a Napa vintner Fred Schrader. He once ran his own auction in Pinellas as an antique and art dealer. Now folks bid high for his 100-point cabs.  Auction will be Feb 10. and tickets are a lot more affordable, $225 a head  instead of $5,000 per couple in Naples.  For information contact mfawineauction@gmail.com or call 896-2667 Ext. 197.

When Beaucastel came to Clearwater, oh my.

Chris Ponte
Tampa Bay's best French-trained chef Chris Ponte.

Beaucastel When we heard a couple of months ago that Cesar Perrin, a bright young son of the Beaucastel family, was coming to town we decided to pair the great name of Chateauneuf du Pape with our Tampa Bay’s best French-trained chef Chris Ponte.  We knew Perrin would bring great wines from the terrific 2009 vintage, we didn’t know he would bring a 100-pointer! Neither did he. The day before the dinner, Robert Parker gave a perfect score to the old vine cuvee of the CdP blanc, the loveliest wine anyone makes from marsanne, and 96 points to almost everything else.

To be honest, Cesar seemed shell-shocked but happily so. He had managed to bring two bottles each of the VV blanc and the CdP rouge, just enough for everyone to taste an ounce or so. A stunning sip that brought superlatives at every table, remarkable wine that demonstrated that 2009 was superb in the souther Rhone — and that white Cdp was extravagantly so.

The food matched beautifully with all of Ponte’s style from Cordon Bleu, Taillevent and Payard, We started with hors d’ouevres of soft quail eggs in the shell and house made gravlax, and went on through duck breast with fig butter and sweet potato frites to a duo of lamb,  lamb saddle with apricots and a small dish of a Moroccan lamb stew. Subtle but exotic spices that matched all the Rhone’s warm, intriguing flavors. Yet the biggest reds, like the 2007 CdP rouge, shifted happily into cheese-worthy mode
against Camembert and then settled down with a final taste of chocolate and candied fruit.

Beaucastel and Cafe Ponte, great pair and great pairings.  We’ll be back for sure.

 

On the water with Isaac Muga;taking Beaucastel to Ponte

Summer and MugaFor our first St. Pete wine dinner, Isaac Muga  the winemaker of the current generation of our Rioja pals joined Spanish champion Summer Martin and B-21 aficionados at the Parkshore Grille downtown.  Isaac brought a big broad smile and two very special guests, the 1999 and 1989 vintages from the family cellars. There’s a lot to be said for maturity, especially in the Rioja and with Muga but  to my palate the young upstart, that juicy  99, won the night.

Food from St. Pete celeb chef Tyson Grant (his company runs Cafe Gala at the Dali Museum) showed tempranillo handsomely with contemporary dishes. Menu started with stone crab and pink grapefruit and ran through spice Dhane, Muga and Dominicrubbed salmon sashimi, silken  pork belly and lamb sirloin. Intense chocolate finished the last of the old Muga in every glass.  Biggest hits from our inventory were the 2005 Seleccion Especial and the 2004 Prado Enea. I couldn’t find a drop left. Underdog 2009 Rosado, a blend of tempranillo and viura. won over a number of rose-scoffers.

Next up is a dinner with Cesar Perrin of Beaucastel at Cafe Ponte in Clearwater Friday. We’ve got a few tickets left to taste the cooking of star chef Chris Ponte with the fabulous Chateaneuf du Papes of Beaucastel and the Rhones of their American friends at Tablas Creek.

Invitation to B-21′s VIP Holiday Event of the Year

Holiday TastingWe are busy gearing up for the holiday season, but I wanted to take a moment to personally invite you to our Grand Holiday Tasting and 3-Hour VIP Sale on Sunday, November 20th.

What is different this year? For starters, admission is $30, and is credited toward your purchase of $300 or more that day. Also, this year we are limiting attendance to clients like you. We’ll offer exclusive pricing on over 100 winesto all attendees. So come and sample our most festive wines from Champagne, the Rhone, Bordeaux, Rioja, Tuscany, Napa, South America and beyond, made for
celebrating and for giving.

We’ll kick things off at 1:00pm with a Champagne Reception, and the Grand Tasting will begin at 2:00pm. Coming in from out of town? No problem! B-21 has a special rate at Innisbrook Resort for you, simply mention B-21 when booking your room.

I will be there and hope to see you there as well!

 

Ask the chef, St. Pete: The Mugas are fantastic.

That’s the word from Tyson Grant, star chef at Parkshore Grille, who’s working up a killer menu for the B-21 Rioja dinner with Isaac Muga this Tuesday.  Isaac is bringing grand old vintages of Prado Enea as well as the latest bottlings. Parkshore on St. Pete’s dazzling new waterfront scene will be B-21′s first dinner in St.Pete and we’ve got a few seats left.( $79) Fantastico dinner, magnifico Riojas and one-night pricing.