What's New in Princeton & Central New Jersey?
Reprinted from the November 5, 2008, edition of U.S. 1 newspaper
by E.E. Whiting
Tucked away on a cozy corner of Nassau Street and Harrison is a new shop specializing in wines and fine spirits. CoolVines is overflowing with choices and to help sort things out, the shop sponsors free wine tastings every Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m.
On a brisk Wednesday night, my friend and I arrived around 6 p.m. for a tasting of Rieslings. The shop was buzzing and the wines were a revelation. As many do, I had avoided Rieslings as being too sweet for my taste. However, the beauty of a tasting is to have your preconceptions blown out the door. We started with a dry German wine with a kick of Granny Smith apple at the end that, as advertised, would be the right choice with spicy Oriental food. The other two offerings were each progressively a tad fruitier.
In addition to the wines, the range of unusual beers was entertainment in and of itself and the staff was very knowledgeable about the differences among Belgians, organics, and British and American brews. My personal favorite section was the variety of gins with botanicals to make your head spin without even opening the bottle. To complement the gin, owner Eric Mihan pointed out a specialty tonic infused with herbs. Both ended up in my shopping bag. Also intriguing were the single grower champagnes and sparkling wines. As I am a lover of all things bubbly and different, into the bag they went.
Each bottle of wine is clearly labeled with a tag that classifies the wine, for example, as light, medium or full, as well as a “style” description such as traditional, modern, or dry, and the recommended serving temperature range. Prices run the gamut, as expected, from around $20 per bottle to, well, let’s say sums similar to the cost of dinner for four.
Beyond the wines and spirits, Cool Vines offers gift items such as stemless champagne glasses, hilarious napkins, variously flavored bitters, sake sets, and snacks. A holiday tasting will be held on Wednesday, December 3, which will showcase gift baskets created with specialty chocolates and other goodies.
Other upcoming tasting events include “Hail to the Chief,” Wednesday, November 5, 5 to 8 p.m.; “Thanksgiving Wines,” Saturday, November 8, 2 to 5 p.m.; and “Holiday Gift Wines,” Wednesday, November 12, 5 to 8 p.m.
CoolVines also participates in offsite events. On Saturday, November 8, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., the store will sponsor a wine tasting at Queenstown Gallery, 24 West Broad Street, Hopewell, at the opening reception for an exhibit of watercolors by Beatrice Bork. And on Wednesday, November 19, at 7 p.m., CoolVines will co-host a multi-course Italian wine food and wine pairing dinner with special guest Doug Salthouse of Willette Wines at Gennaro’s 47B State Road (Route 206 north). The cost is $85 per person, includes tax and gratuity.
On the evening we went to the wine tasting at the store, a steady stream of visitors came and went, some coming in for the first time, others repeat customers. Cool Vines clearly has an established coterie of clients despite having opened only in August. The conversation around the tasting wines was lively and inclusive. Some folks knew about the wines, others had never tried them and were delighted to discover a new find.
Rums of all sorts, ouzo, gins, and specialty vodkas are there in plenty. Browsing is welcome and more gift items are being unpacked daily. We left with the distinct impression that if you need a special libation, this shop is apt to have it. CoolVines is also available to host private wine tastings, wine dinners, and other events. Parking is plentiful and easily found behind the shop. Stop by for an education, a chat, and a chance to discover more in the world of wine and spirits.
— E. E. Whiting
Cool Vines, 344 Nassau Street. 609-924-0039, www.coolvines.com. Complimentary wine tastings Wednesdays, 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 2 to 5 p.m. Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 8 p.m.