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Wine

Palmer Vineyards is located on scenic Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Palmer Vineyards is rebranding.

Fans of the vineyard, which opened its doors in 1983, should expect the same approachable feel to both the wines and the atmosphere at Palmer. The vineyard is maintaining many of the features that make it one of the best on Long Island, like being certified sustainable, but some upgrades and new features are on the way and should be completed in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to Director of Operations Ken Cereola.

Palmer Vineyards
5120 Sound Ave.,
Riverhead
631-722-9463
Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“People feel really, really welcome when they come here,” Cereola said in an interview on Palmer’s grounds last week, stressing their rebranding plan won’t compromise their comfortable feel. “We’re not standoffish, we’re not too pretentious.”

Palmer’s rebranding efforts include new labels on the bottles, some expanded outdoor seating areas outside of the tasting room, a brick oven on site for fresh made pizzas, a food truck and events geared toward education for inquiring wine minds. Chef Anna Aracri from Oceans 5 Seafood Market and Eatery in Shoreham handles food at the winery.

One such event, called the Plant. Pick. Pour. Wine Series 2016 is a three-part series in an intimate, interactive setting where participants can learn about the entire wine-making process over the course of three landmark dates that a vineyard incurs in a given year.

Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski

On June 11 the focus will be on Palmer’s unique grape varietals, why they work so well in Long Island’s climate and what makes its vineyard so versatile. On Sept. 10, it will be time to start preparing for the 2017 vintage’s harvest. Finally, on Dec. 3 guests will have the opportunity to taste the unreleased 2017 wines before they go on sale. All three events will feature wine tasting, food pairing and information from Palmer’s knowledgeable and well-traveled winemaker Miguel Martin.

Tasting room manager Evan Ducz is particularly excited for the series and said the response has been great in anticipation of the first event on June 11. Despite the educational feel, he reiterated Cereola’s assessment that the goal is to be informative without intimidating wine enthusiasts of varying experience.

“From the staff to the management, I think we make people feel really comfortable,” he said. “Comfortable about wine, which can be intimidating at times, and I think we also give off a really relaxed vibe, a very inviting atmosphere.”

Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski

Some other events at Palmer include Yoga in the Vines every Sunday, which is followed by brunch featuring breakfast pizza from their brick oven; a yearly kick-off to a fall harvest festival featuring live music, food and of course—wine; extended hours to 9 p.m. on Friday nights to start the weekend; and by-appointment winemaker tours.

Martin will have been at Palmer as its winemaker for a decade in the fall. Martin is from Spain and as Cereola puts it, has made wines all over the world. His diverse and substantial experience and knowledge gives Palmer a unique element not widely found on Long Island. He blends with grapes more commonly associated with other regions and also bottles an Albariño, a dry yet fruity white that usually comes from Spain.

“He’s a hell of a winemaker, but he’s an even better person,” Cereola said of Martin. “He’s a great guy to be around. He definitely doesn’t just make his wine and then go home. He’s a part of every aspect here.”

Ducz echoed Cereola’s comments about Martin. “As far as just being a tasting room manager the thing that I most appreciate about him is that you can go to him with any question,” Ducz said.

Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski

For those who can’t make it out to Riverhead to visit Palmer, some of the wines worth trying from a local wine store include its Rosé of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Old Roots Merlot, according to Cereola and Ducz. I also recommend the Chardonnay.

The combination of Palmer’s team, products, atmosphere and events should place the vineyard toward the top of any list of must-visit North Shore destinations for Long Island residents.

Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski

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The caprese salad pairs tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella. Stock photo

“Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures.” — M.F.K. Fisher, “Vin et Fromage”

By Bob Lipinski

Before we start on our mozzarella journey, it’s important to note its correct pronunciation (mohtz-ah-REHL-lah). Now, this stringy, elastic, slightly salty cheese that often smothers pizza is not indicative of true mozzarella. In fact, this mozzarella is usually specially made for pizzerias.

In 1899, Giuseppe Pollio came to the United States bringing with him a recipe for success . . . his family’s old world tradition of making mozzarella. The company is Polly-O, which also makes a “string cheese” mozzarella.

Now, the mozzarella I’m going to discuss and pair with wine and fruit is the freshly made cheese, often found still warm, in the Italian neighborhood latticini (store that makes dairy products).

The making of mozzarella dates back to the 1400s in southern Italy, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the white buffalo, descendants of the Indian water buffalo, were brought to Campania. The buffaloes are bred in Campania, Italy, and their low-yield milk is utilized in making mozzarella, although cow’s milk is used in most other countries. In addition to Campania, the cheese is also made in other Italian regions such as Apulia, Latium and Molise, and in 1996 it was awarded its own PDO by the Italian government and called Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

The name “mozzarella” is derived from the word “mozzare,” which means “to top off or cut,” referring to the hand method of production. When freshly made, the cheese drips profusely with whey. A smoked version, called “mozzarella affumicata,” is also produced. Mozzarella is rindless with a creamy white exterior and interior. Various shapes and sizes including round, rectangular and salami-shaped are available. When twisted or braided it’s called “treccia.”

Mozzarella is soft, moist, and quite pliable, sometimes almost elastic, hence the popularity of “string cheese” sticks. It has a mild, delicate and slightly tart-sour flavor.

When pairing mozzarella, look for young red or white light-bodied, fruity wines that don’t overpower the cheese.

Regarding food, I like to use mozzarella in the classic salad of Capri, Italy, known as caprese. Purchase some freshly made mozzarella (there is some mail-order buffalo milk mozzarella available, but it needs to be eaten within two or three days). Now, a simple overlapping of similar sized, thinly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella sandwiched between pieces of fresh basil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then lightly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and perhaps a delicate touch of a high-quality balsamic vinegar. The simplicity of the cheese makes all the difference in this dish.

When pairing mozzarella, look for young red or white light-bodied, fruity wines that don’t overpower the cheese. Some of the red wines I happen to like from Italy include Barbera, Bardolino, brachetto, dolcetto, sangiovese, and Valpolicella. White wines from Italy would be Frascati, Gavi, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, soave and verdicchio.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits, and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].

By Bob Lipinski

Spring fever — everyone (at least in New York) has it after a long, dreary and cold winter, punctuated by snow, ice, shortened days and the doldrums of being cooped up indoors, trying to keep warm. I’ve had my fill of stodgy winter vegetables, not being able to go outdoors and feel the warmth of the sun on my face and patiently waiting to put on short-sleeve shirts.

We need a Spring Fever Tonic to fill us with song, frivolity and a change of scenery (no, not a trip to Tahiti).

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” — Robin Williams

A plethora of young, fresh, fruity wines, with lively acidity and perhaps some dancing bubbles to tantalize and awaken your taste buds and spirit, comes to mind. Keep the oak-aged chardonnay and big, full-bodied cabernet sauvignon wines for cold weather.

During the winter months, I secretly began to write down beverages I would drink and recommend when cold weather finally ended. I want to share that list with you.

glass-flowerswNV Ferrari Brut — Trento, Italy
Pale yellow color with a refreshing, light aroma of citrus and some bread dough. It’s quite dry with overtones of green apple, lemon and pears. Great with fried calamari!

NV Lamberti Prosecco — Veneto, Italy
Very aromatic and fruity with classic flavors of apple, peach and citrus. Also present are hints of chamomile and ginger — delicious. Try it with some panettone.

2014 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay — Sonoma, California
I have been a fan of this wine for many years, and it continues with this bottling, bouquet and flavor of peaches, lemon, vanilla and hints of butter. Grab some cold lobster salad.

2013 Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi — Marches, Italy
An intensely perfumed aroma of apples, honeysuckle, lime, oranges and peach with a bitter almond aftertaste. Serve it with spaghetti alla carbonara.

2013 Bodegas Arzuaga “Crianza” — Ribera del Duero, Spain
Ruby-colored with a full bouquet and flavor of blackberries, coffee, chocolate and brown spices. It’s perfect with some black beans and rice.

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Pinot Noir “Director’s” — Sonoma, California
Cherry-colored with a strong bouquet of cranberry, raspberry, cola and spices. It’s medium-bodied with dry flowers and berries, and even more berries. Serve this beauty with a piece of grilled salmon.

NV Standing Stone Vineyards “Smokehouse Red” — Lake Seneca, Finger Lakes, New York
Lovely ruby color and so full of spices, cherry-chocolate and cinnamon. It’s dry, with mouth-filling flavors and a hint of smoke in the aftertaste. Pulled pork anyone?

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know about Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].

Pairing the perfect wine with a delicious meal is something of a family business. For almost 10 years I sold wine, and my father and grandfather did the same (for much longer), which allowed me to amass a decent knowledge of everything from the basics to some slightly more advanced, winemaking process related facts.

I’m not a sommelier, but I’m an enthusiastic wine consumer and I love finding the perfect pairing of wine and food. My experience and the important standing wine has always held in my extended and immediate family has taken me to many of the great wineries Long Island has to offer, and I’ve sampled wines from many of the places I haven’t visited. With that, I thought I would offer a list of my three favorite Long Island wineries, in no particular order, that can be used as a guideline for any fellow Long Islander interested in trying great food and wine in a beautiful setting this spring and summer.

wine-bottlewPalmer Vineyards, 5120 Sound Avenue, Riverhead

The draw to Palmer Vineyards is amazing quality wines, maybe as good as it gets on Long Island. Winemaker Miguel Martin is renowned for his buttery, oaky chardonnay; full-bodied, robust cabernet franc; and other lighter summery selections like his refreshing Sunrise Sunset Blush. Experienced wine drinkers with serious palates would be satisfied with their hearty reds and dryer whites, while beginners will find enjoyment in selections like Palmer Rosé of Merlot, or their Lighthouse Red and Lighthouse White blends, which are easy and approachable.

Palmer’s vineyard experience is fitting of its great wines. Martin conducts winemaker tours regularly where he leads guests through their vast barrel rooms and gets in-depth about his winemaking process. He even offers tastes directly from barrels. When the tour is over, there is outdoor and indoor seating space to occupy while enjoying samples.

Must try: Palmer Cabernet Franc 2012

Vineyard 48, 18910 Route 48, Cutchogue

If you enjoy wine and you are looking for a party atmosphere on a Saturday or Sunday, then Vineyard 48 should be your destination. Their wines and tasting room scream “summer.” The tasting room has a dance floor, large windows that let in sunlight and a live DJ on weekends. Vineyard 48 caters to limos and buses that drop off large parties. They offer the obligatory traditional wine selections like a fruit-forward merlot, and an acidic yet crisp sauvignon blanc, but the atmosphere pairs perfectly with their NOFO Peach wine or their NOFO Sangria, which come chilled and quench the thirst after some intense dancing.

Must try: Vineyard 48 NOFO Peach

Martha Clara Vineyards, 6025 Sound Ave, Riverhead

Martha Clara has become the event destination of the North Fork. They have a special event for almost every day of the week featuring some or all of food trucks, live music, wine classes, multi-course winemaker dinners, dog-walking events and many more over the course of the summer. Their wines range from easy-drinking like their Glaciers End series of red, white and rose to steak-dinner-worthy like their Northville red blend, which holds up to the heartiest of meals. Martha Clara wines have become some of the most popular selections in Long Island wines during their history, which dates back to the 1970s. They are owned by the same family that owns Entenmann’s baked goods, though the experience at Martha Clara can’t be contained to a case at the end of the aisle.

Must try: Martha Clara Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2014

Like many other vineyards on Long Island and across the world, winemaking is part of the family heritage for the Massouds and Paumanok Vineyards. Located at 1074 Main Road (Route 25A) in Aquebogue on the North Fork, Ursula and Charles Massoud founded the vineyard on the 127-acre estate in 1983. The couple, along with their three sons, still own and operate the vineyard to this day.

Kareem Massoud, Paumanok’s winemaker, called their vineyard a perfect blend of old world and new world style. With so much competition now on the North Fork, most vineyards seem to do what they can to develop a distinguished niche. “I think our niche is that we’re dedicated and committed to producing the most delicious wine possible,” Kareem said. “We’re really like a wine lovers winery. If someone’s really interested in wine, they should come visit.”

He added that Paumanok tends to stay away from the party atmosphere and focuses instead on their award-winning wines and the delicious oysters and cheeses that are also sold at the winery and pare wonderfully with the estate-bottled wines. Paumanok was named Winery of the Year for 2015 at the New York Wine & Food Classic. The competition was judged based on a cumulative score of at least seven submitted wines to a panel of 21 judges. Paumanok won the award one other time in 2004.

Their tasting room is a quaint old barn, with large windows that let in sunlight and provide beautiful views of their rows and rows of vines. The tasting room lets out to a deck around the back of the barn, with wooden tables and chairs for comfortable spring and summer days.

Paumanok wines are estate bottled, meaning that the producer of the grapes has control of the entire growing, harvesting, fermenting and bottling process. Everything in a bottle of Paumanok wine was grown on their property (with some minor exceptions). This distinction, along with the fact that Ursula was born and raised in Germany while Charles comes from Lebanon, gives the vineyard a nice dash of old world, according to Kareem.

Kareem said that Paumanok is one of the oldest wineries on Long Island that is still owned and operated by the original founders. The family has been making wine and building their brand since 1990.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Kareem said in an interview Monday. He reminisced about the days between 1983 and 1990 when the family was growing grapes, but no wine was being produced or sold yet. Kareem said that he and his brothers did quite a bit of lawn mowing between their family home in Connecticut and the massive land at the winery in Aquebogue during his teenage years.

Today, however, the winery has a dash of new world, state-of-the-art technology that has made winemaking a more — forgive the pun — fruitful endeavor. Kareem said last year Paumanok invested in a new mechanical harvesting machine with onboard sorting technology. It is useful for removing M.O.G., or matter other than grapes, when it’s time to harvest the grapes. It even includes a de-stemmer.

Kareem said that his wines are all like his children, so picking a favorite was very difficult. For a white, he chose Paumanok Chenin Blanc. Its current vintage is 2014. “I like to call that our ‘Sour Patch’ wine,” Massoud said, referencing the sweet and sour candy. He said that the citrus and grapefruit notes, paired with a refreshing, thirst-quenching characteristic, make it well balanced and provide a nice contrast.

The red Kareem is most proud of is their Assemblage, which is a French word meaning blend. He only makes the Assemblage in grand vintage years, or years with the best quality harvest of grapes. Recently, their 2013 Assemblage received the highest rating of any red wine on the East Coast from a popular wine magazine.

Kareem also added that the 2014 and 2015 vintages of Paumanok Riesling received awards as New York State’s best Riesling. That is not a small feat, as New York is one of the most popular Riesling producing areas in the world.

Paumanok Vineyards is open for self-guided or winemaker-lead tours during the spring and summer for small groups, or by reservation for large groups. They are also preparing for two marquee events: a Mediterranean cruise in June hosted by Ursula and Charles that features Paumanok wines and makes stops over a seven-day span from Portugal to the Bordeaux region in France and their sixth annual lamb roast dinner at the winery in August.

For more information about their events, or to plan a trip, visit www.paumanok.com.

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In 1982, Bob and Joyce Pellegrini had a vision. They wanted to own a quality winery with gorgeous views and a tasting room fit for their superior products. Bob Pellegrini passed away in early 2015, but his vision lives on with his wife and their professional and talented staff who are committed to the vision that the couple had over three decades ago.

Despite growth in the Long Island wine industry and booming demand for “party bus tours” and events built around entertainment first and great wine second, Pellegrini Vineyards has managed to stay true to who they are. Tasting room manager John Larsen and winemaker Zander Hargrave both stressed that desire to remain aligned with the Pellegrini’s mission.

Pellegrini is for serious wine drinkers. That was the overwhelming message from Larsen and Hargrave when I visited the vineyard on the first whisper of a spring day last week. That is not to say that those lacking a substantial base of knowledge in anything winemaking or drinking related should be intimidated by the experience at the Cutchogue vineyard. All that you need to bring through the door is a desire for knowledge and an appreciation for the delicate art that is winemaking.

“If you were looking for a party with your friends, this might be your perfect first stop,” Larsen said in Pellegrini’s Vintner’s Room, a second-floor sitting area with a massive window overlooking rows upon rows of vines growing the business’s cash crop. “Come and hang out, see what we’re all about, then go see music somewhere else later in the afternoon if you want the full experience of the North Fork,” Larsen added.

The team at Pellegrini Vineyards would prefer for their outstanding wine, customer service and breathtaking views to speak for themselves. Neither Larsen nor Hargrave seemed to begrudge any of the many vineyards that choose to be “event centers” as Larsen referred to them. However, neither has any desire to jump on that train. At least not right now.

“This is a true winery,” Larsen said. “We focus on the wine, and the customer service that goes along with it.”

Pellegrini Vineyards offers a wine club, which gets members exclusive wine releases, access to special dinners, luncheons, self-guided winery tours and other events. Both Hargrave and Larsen suggested that membership in the club is the ideal way to enjoy everything that Pellegrini has to offer.

Winemaking is in Hargrave’s blood. He has been at Pellegrini since the fall of 2014, though his roots in the Long Island wine industry date back to the very beginning. His parents, Louisa and Alex Hargrave, were the brave entrepreneurs who first decided that the North Fork of Long Island was being wasted by only growing potatoes.

Zander grew up at Hargrave Vineyards. He has essentially spent a lifetime in the wine community along the North Fork, save for a few hiatuses to pursue a teaching career, managing a vegetable farm and selling advertisements for a newspaper.

“I grew up with it,” Hargrave said about his youth around winemaking, which clearly has shaped the way that he hopes people enjoying his wine use it to craft memorable experiences. “It’s about the people. It was always about the people. The wine is sort of a conduit to relationships with people. When I look back on my life growing up in the vineyard, it was ‘who’s coming by?’ It was the excitement of the harvest, guests at our home, having dinner with really interesting people. That, to me, stands out more than anything. And of course as I got into the work and got older I gained an appreciation for wine itself. That’s not what I really think about growing up. It was all about the people.”

Hargrave raved about the state-of-the-art equipment that he has at his disposal, which makes the vineyard’s old world mentality of fine winemaking much easier to pull off. “I would say probably the most unique feature of the Pellegrini winery is we have six, ten-ton open fermenters that we do most of our reds in,” he said. The giant fermenters feature a pneumatic punch-down system that, without getting too technical, serves the same purpose as the old method of grape stomping. The tanks have a long arm that gently stirs the contents to submerge the flavor-packed grape skins that tend to rise to the top.

I asked Hargrave what he would bring home if he were grilling steaks for dinner. “You got to go with the Encore,” he said immediately. “That’s our Bordeaux blend. It’s only released in the very best vintages. The current vintage is 2010, which was one of the best vintages ever on Long Island. I did make a ‘13 that will be released down the line once it gets some bottle age. You can’t go wrong.”

Hargrave suggested his sauvignon blanc if seafood is on the menu. He also beamed with pride when describing Pellegrini’s chardonnay, which he touted as special and unique. He also called their merlot “world class.”

Sticking to their guns has been challenging at times, but it is easy to see why Pellegrini has been able to keep their focus on quality wine above all else. The passion that all of their employees have for great wine and the great experience that is learning about new wine through tasting and conversation is the lasting memory of a couple of hours spent there.

The roughly 30 acres of rolling hills, a feature that Larsen said is unique to Pellegrini on a mostly flat North Fork, could make relaxing in their outdoor courtyard with a glass in hand feel like a European getaway. An hour by car might seem like a rigorous day trip, but it’s nothing compared to a six-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The experience might not be the same, but at Pellegrini it would be just as enjoyable.

Pellegrini Vineyards is located at 23005 Main Road, Cutchogue. For more information call 631-734-4111 or visit www.pellegrinivineyards.com.

Rich and Carolyn Mora are keeping their Setauket-based wine shop thriving. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits just gets better with age.

The small Setauket business owned by Rich Mora and his wife Carolyn, has served liquors to local communities for more than two-and-a-half decades. The business’s online presence also allows it to serve communities at the national level.

Rich Mora purchased the property from previous owner Robert Eikov in 1989 hoping to pursue his love of wine. Eikov and his wife Blanche ran a butcher shop out of the store for several years before they turned it into a liquor store around 1965.

Eikov used to butcher and sell meat in the main part of the building where Rich Mora sells his wine.

Eikov and his wife built the store after they got married and lived in an apartment behind the store.

“I always had a good palate. I’m good at judging wine and picking good wine [so] I wanted to be in the business,” Rich Mora said. “I decided I wanted to work for myself.”

Rich Mora was a science teacher in the area before he bought the business. He said the wine business was blossoming around the time he acquired the business.

Carolyn Mora became involved with the business after the duo met in 1999. She said she loves being involved in the business not only because she loves wine and spirits but also because she like providing her clients with good quality liquors.

While the Moras have a variety of wines from all around the world, the pair can’t purchase a large quantity of liquors like bigger stores.

“We try to be very … selective of what we purchase for the store so that people know when they come in here, they’re going to get something different,” Carolyn Mora said.

For Port Jefferson resident Damen Reschke, the variety of wines and spirits is one of the store’s best attributes, saying that the Moras’ selection beats those found in bigger liquor stores on the island.

Every Saturday between 3 and 6 p.m., residents can sample various wines at the liquor store’s weekly wine tastings. The tastings are one of Rich Mora’s several programs or events residents can attend.

Setauket residents Louis and Loretta Gray have gone to Mora’s wine tastings for the past 10 years. They said they enjoy learning where and how various wines were created and other facts they pick up at the tastings.

“It’s very personable,” Loretta Gray said. “You get to know all the individuals who represent the companies, and we like to support our local businesses.”

Elaine Learnard and her wife Ann-Marie Scheidt have purchased Mora’s wine for several years. According to Learnard, the pair typically buys wine at the tasting “because we’re being exposed to something we both don’t know about.” She added that when it comes to wine recommendations, Mora never fails to suggest something good.

In 2009, Rich Mora went the extra mile when he helped Learnard and her wife when they got married. He arranged the wines and helped store the wines to keep them cold for the summer wedding.

“The leader sets the tone. He’s a very, very nice person; therefore all the people who work for him are very nice,” Learnard said.

Despite the store’s small size, residents can choose from the more than 900 facings of liquor on display. Residents can pick up three bottles of wine for $10.99 or empty their wallets for the Moras’ most expensive bottle of liquor, priced at $14,000.

While a bigger establishment would give the Moras more room to expand their business, they are content with their small business.

“I wouldn’t mind if we stay small physically and grew big on the Internet,” Carolyn Mora said. “ I would love to see the store be known as the best little wine store in the world.”

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By Bob Lipinski

The Super Bowl, the final battle between the best football teams in the AFC and NFC will take place this year on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

Typically, a Super Bowl party consists of beer, dips, chips, salsa, hot dogs and more beer. I have some suggestions for a great Super Bowl party, but first let’s go back in history to the first Super Bowl game. On Jan. 15, 1967, the first Super Bowl was played. The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 35 to 10. The game was played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the attendance was 61,946. The MVP of the game was quarterback Bart Starr. Now on to the party.

My suggestion for a “super” Super Bowl begins with setting up the television room. Grab a roll of masking or duct tape and place a length on the rug separating the room in half (one for each team) so guests can choose which side of the room they will sit and root for their team. No co­ mingling is allowed!

The food is next; one six-foot (or two three-feet) “super” heroes puts the work, care and decision making on your local deli. If a hero is not in the cards, consider making a six- to eight-pound pork shoulder in a slow cooker, creating “pulled pork” sandwiches with plenty of barbecue sauce. Another food option is a steeping hot pot of chili, made with beef cubes, red kidney beans and plenty of hot sauce. Although lasagna is not necessarily thought of for Super Bowl, it’s hearty, can be enjoyed warm or even cool, fairly easy to make, most people love it and it “goes a long way.” The last food item entails taking out your old fondue pot and making a cheese fondue, with plenty of crusty bread (and perhaps vegetables) for dipping. You can even melt chocolate instead of cheese for the sweet lovers.

Beer, an integral part of Super Bowl can be purchased from your local brewpub, beer distributor or brewery in large growlers, beer balls or even a half-­keg, which has a capacity of 7.75 gallons or about 82 (12­-ounce) drinks.

Although there’s nothing like a “cold frosty one” while watching football, I enjoy wine before, during and even after the game. Because it’s a Super Bowl and everything is large, why not shop for large-format wine bottles, ones that contain three ­liters (also known as a double magnum or Jeroboam), 101 ounces or the equivalent of four bottles, or perhaps a five ­liter, containing 169 ounces or about 6.5 bottles. Virtually every wine shop (or liquor store) sells them, and most will have an assortment of both reds and whites, priced accordingly. Before purchasing large bottles of white wine, be certain you have a container or location large enough to chill it.

There you have it … now let’s hope your team wins!

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know about Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila.” He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].

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What could be more alluring than a glass of whiskey on the rocks or an arctic cold martini in a Y-shaped glass adorned with several pimento-filled green olives?

Although I love an ice cold martini and certainly a glass of whiskey with ice, a glass of brandy on a cold winter day certainly is a great body heat rejuvenator. Smelling its rich, fiery, heavily perfumed bouquet and its smooth, velvet-like texture and luxurious aftertaste beckons a second glass.

“Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.” — W. C. Fields, 1880–1946, American comic and actor

To make this holiday season really festive, I’ve included a list of some of my favorite spirits (that will hopefully become yours).

Laird’s Applejack, made in Scobeyville, New Jersey, since 1780. It is an apple brandy, dry and full of rich apple flavors. I like it either in a brandy snifter or sometimes on the rocks while listening to relaxing music.

Auchentoshan “Three-Wood” Single-Malt Scotch Whiskey from the Lowlands. It has been aged in three different wood types: Bourbon, Spanish Oloroso Sherry, and finally Pedro Ximénez sherry barrels. Spectacular flavor.

Black & White Blended Scotch Whisky. On its label there is a black Scottish terrier “Scottie” and a white West Highland dog “Westie.” I have been enjoying this Scotch for decades.

Campari from Italy. Campari, which is bright red, has a bouquet and taste of bitter orange, cherry, ginger, lemon, licorice, orange zest and strawberry, with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Drambuie Liqueur from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It was first produced in 1745, from a blend of Scotch whisky and heather honey-based liqueur. Its classic cocktail, called a Rusty Nail, consists of equal parts of Drambuie and Blended Scotch Whisky.

Zubrówka Vodka from Poland and other Slavic countries. It has a yellow-green tinge and a distinctive smell and taste of spring flowers, thyme, lavender and freshly mown grass, which is derived from various botanicals that have been added.

Chartreuse “Green” Liqueur. This world-famous liqueur was originally formulated in 1605, in Grenoble, France, by St. Bruno. Licorice and flower aromas, with sweet herbal notes. Sweet middle and finish, with flavors of herbs, licorice, white pepper and burnt flowers. Very elegant and well made.

Baker’s 7-year-old Bourbon. Baker’s Bourbon is 107 proof and is very aromatic with a sweet, smooth, medium finish. It has a warm amber, tawny, nut-brown color with a bouquet of fruit, caramel and vanilla. It tastes of toasted nuts, fruit and sugar-vanilla, with a silky texture. The aftertaste is warming and sweet, with a medium-long aftertaste.

Hine Antique XO Cognac. Created in 1920 by George Hine. The taste is mellow and supple with a wealth of sustained flavors, floral nuances, hints of honey, leather and a pronounced taste of vanilla, carried by finesse and endurance. Velvety smooth and extremely elegant.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].

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By Bob Lipinski

I am absolutely the best holiday shopper and everyone loves my gifts. My secret? I do all my shopping in a liquor store — wine shop, if you prefer — and it takes less than one hour. Forget those long lines, crowded malls and roads that resemble parking lots. I have never had a gift returned because it doesn’t “fit,” it’s the wrong color or size, it’s out of style, or “I already have one of these.”

There are countless holiday gift packs of wine and distilled spirits, some even contain glasses to enjoy the beverage. From cardboard boxes, tins, ribbons, bows and wooden boxes, each is colorfully decorated and makes a great gift. If you’re uncomfortable making a selection or really don’t know that much about wines and spirits, simply ask one of the store’s employees for assistance.

Some of my suggested wines and spirits for the holidays that won’t break your pocketbook are:

Bubbly
Cavicchioli Lambrusco “Vigna del Cristo” (Emilia-Romagna, Italy)
Roederer Estate “Brut” (Anderson Valley, California)

Wines
Ferrari-Carano “Fumé Blanc” (Sonoma, California), white
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi, California), red
Sella & Mosca “Cannonau Riserva” (Sardinia, Italy), red
Nino Negri “Quadrio” (Lombardy, Italy), red

Spirits
Jim Beam “Black Label” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Old Forester Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
The Famous Grouse “Blended Scotch Whisky” (Scotland)
Black & White Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
New Amsterdam Vodka (USA)
Svedka Vodka (Sweden)

Now, if you want to go all-out and impress, here are a some more suggestions:

Bubbly
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill “Brut” (Champagne, France)
Besserat “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France)

Wines
Gundlach-Bundschu “Chardonnay” (Sonoma, California), white
Olivier Leflaive “Puligny-Montrachet” (Burgundy, France), white
Clos du Val “Cabernet Sauvignon” (Napa, California), red
Domaine Alain Burguet “Chambolle-Musigny” (Burgundy, France), red
Zuccardi “Reserva Malbec” (Mendoza, Argentina), red

Spirits
Chivas Regal 18-Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
Booker’s Straight “Small Batch” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Diplomatico Reserva 8-Year old Rum (Venezuela)
Prunier XO Cognac (France)

Now, what do I want as a holiday gift? A bottle of Baker’s, 107 proof, 7-Year-Old Bourbon, and a long straw to keep me happy on a cold winter night.

Also, recently, I had the opportunity to taste a simply delicious rosé wine from Provence, France, which will certainly be part of my holiday celebration. Maison Belle Claire Rosé is salmon-colored, with a luscious bouquet and taste of fresh fruits, cherries, peaches, strawberries, and orange. It is light, dry and refreshing, with plenty of fruit. Serve it chilled as part of your holiday brunch celebration.

In the words of the late Clifton Fadiman, an American writer, editor and book reviewer for The New Yorker, “Wine is alive, and when you offer it to your fellow man you are offering him life. That is why there are few better gifts to send than a case or two — or a bottle or two — of wine. It is not that when drinking it, they will recall the donor — if you crave such vulgar satisfactions, it is more efficient to send them a chair with a pair of spurs set in the upholstery. It is that, when drinking it, they will become more conscious of themselves, of their own capacity for joy.”

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits, and food; and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].