Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our picks for Thanksgiving wines - NJ Life Mag


got another nice mention in NJ Life's online mag, featuring our pix for Turkey Day wines. Click on link above or read on...

With so much focus on the food, sometimes the wines served at Thanksgiving can be almost an afterthought, but the right bottle can make the meal. Not sure what to bring to the table this year? Mark Censits, owner of Cool Vines in Princeton and Westfield, has suggestions for both modern and traditional feasts.

Traditional Reds:

Domaine Gabriel Billard Millaine 2006
Style: Light Bodied
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Region: Burgundy
The vines that produce this wine are over 50 years old, but instead of calling it an old vines wine, Laurence Jobard named it after her grandmother, Emily Anne. That's respect, Burgundy style. The wine fits Laurence's style ind is terroir driven.
Price: $26/bottle, $23.40/bottle for a case

Triembaumer Blaufrankisch 2007
Style: medium-bodied
Grapes: Blaufrankisch
Region: Austria
The microclimate of this winery is characterized by Austria's longest hours of sunlight, high humidity, and moderate temperatures. Blaufrnkisch, a late-ripening variety, gives red wines which are typically rich in tannin and may exhibit a pronounced spicy, masculine character.
Price: $18/bottle, $16.20/bottle for a case

Traditional Whites:

Dom Jouard Chass-Mont 1er Cru "Les Baudines" 2005
Style: Full Bodied
Grapes: Chardonnay
Region: Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy
Paul Jouard represents the sixth-generation of winemakers of a 125,000-square-yard estate. The premier cru wine comes from forty-year-old vines. Along with a mineral character that is intense and complex, a delicate yet pronounced fruit character is found in this "Les Baudines" wine.
Price: $66/bottle, $59.40/bottle for a case

Aquila del Torre Riesling 2006
Style: Light Bodied
Grapes: Riesling
Region: Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy
Aquila del Torre expresses the true elegance and complexity of the famed Colli Orientali. Michele Ciani's attention is focused on the production of expressive wines of the territory through the respectful management of the vines and surrounding environment.
Price: $21/bottle, $18.90/bottle for a case

Modern Reds:

Rusina Dry Creek Zinfandel 2005
Style: Full Bodied
Grapes: Zinfandel and Petite Sirah
Region: Dry Creek, CA
92% Zinfandel from the hilltop of the Stefani vineyard located on Canyon Rd. near Geyserville in the Dry Creek Valley, the small addition of Petite Sirah adds brown spice and structure to the wine.
Price: $29.50/bottle, $26.55/bottle for a case

Pikes the Red Mullet 2006
Style: Medium Bodied
Grapes: Shiraz and Grenache
Region: Clare Valley, Australia
Red Mullet is a classic "kitchen sink" blend. With the grapes and percentage changing every year, it gives them the flexibility to produce a great wine every vintage.
Price: $12/bottle, $10.80/bottle for a case

Modern Whites:

Bethel Heights Chardonnay Estate 2004
Style: Full Bodied
Grapes: Chardonnay
Region: Willamete Valley, OR
Sustainably-grown Chardonnay from family-owned winery Bethel Heights; this blend of old and new world Chard clones shows off its age elegantly. Notes of warm apple pie and ginger rise off the ample nose.
Price: $22/bottle, $19.80/bottle for a case

Batterieberg Detonation Riesling 2006
Style: Light Bodied, Off-Dry
Grapes: Riesling
Housed in a 1,000-year-old castle, the estate of Batterieberg takes its name from its vineyard that was created in the mid-19th century by blasting away a mountainside with dynamite. Crisp acid with an off-dry palate, this wine goes well with spicy foods or just by the glass.
Price: $12/bottle, $10.80/bottle for a case

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's Try...CoolVines: U.S. 1 News - Nov 5, 2008

What's New in Princeton & Central New Jersey?
Reprinted from the November 5, 2008, edition of U.S. 1 newspaper
Let's Try...CoolVines
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.

Princeton Town Topics - Wed Nov 12, 2008

Princeton's local press put together a nice story on us this week. Despite a few misquotes (Yes, we are open on Thursdays and Fridays! and even sparkling wine drinking has some seasonality). Still, as they say, there's no such thing as bad press!!


New CoolVines Specialty Wine Shop Recently Opened On Nassau Street

“There are people with a low or high interest in wine, or low or high knowledge of wine. We particularly enjoy working with customers who have a high interest and low knowledge. They are interested in learning about new wines and trying them. We attract people who are exploring. Young people especially are interested in trying different wines and learning about their own personal preferences.”

Mark Censits, owner of the new CoolVines wine shop at 344 Nassau Street (corner of Harrison Street), looks forward to introducing customers to his intriguing selection of wine. “We have wine from countries all over the world, including Uruguay and South Africa, as well as France, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. We emphasize small producers and family wineries.”

Opening CoolVines represents a career change for Mr. Censits, who holds an MBA and whose background is in the corporate world, especially working to revive troubled businesses.

“I had to travel a lot,” he explains, “and I decided I wanted a change. I wanted to have my own business, and I love wine. I was inspired to be a part of the local community. I’m from Princeton, and I wanted to open here.”

Other Towns

Once he got the license for a liquor store in 2006, he began to scout locations. There was nothing appropriate available in Princeton at the time, and his search took him to other towns. “I began to scope out other areas, and Westfield came up first. We opened there in 2007.”

Then, this past August, the location at 234 Nassau Street opened up, and Mr. Censits was happy to introduce CoolVines to Princeton.

“We chose the name because it had a nice contemporary feeling,” he says. “I came at this as a wine enthusiast, and I wanted to create a retail environment more conducive to friendly customer service and where customers can feel comfortable finding new wines. I recruited a team of wine experts to work with me, and our goal is to make sure all of the wine on the shelf is good wine. We taste everything, and taste blind to price. I’m getting a lot of information from the importers and distributors.”

Mr. Censits had definite ideas about the design of the shop and how he wanted to present the wine. Wines are organized by type, color, and body (light, medium, full), in straight-forward groupings. Descriptive signs (light, medium, full) are immediately visible to advise customers.

Best Selections

As Mr. Censits points out, “Wines are arranged by how they taste rather than by country or grapes. This offers even wine novices ease in finding the best selections for their needs and taste in a friendly, non-intimidating atmosphere. This is a real help to people. We’ll give descriptions, such as ‘a full-bodied traditional red, with a lot of character’ or ‘a crisp, refreshing white’ to help them out.

“We offer a very diverse array of wine, each of which is a good example of its type.” he continues. “I wanted to stay away from hype and big wine factories. Quality wines are hand-selected from around the world, focusing on authentically made wines, often from smaller wineries that offer the best value possible for CoolVines customers.

“Also, we work directly with producers and importers, eliminating the middle man. In addition, we offer special burgundy from France, and wines from Austria and Germany that are exclusively for us.”

Mr. Censits believes the timing is just right for his foray into the wine business. “Americans are continuing to drink more wine and enjoying it with a meal,” he reports. “The kind of customer we cultivate, whether a wine expert or beginner, will make a special trip to get wine. We’re a destination.”

He is very pleased to have a group of regular customers already, some of whom come in twice a week to check out the latest wines and take time to browse. They are from all over the Princeton area and beyond.

Taste in wine can be seasonal, with the exception of sparkling wine, he adds. “Winter tends to move toward reds, although sparkling wines are popular all the time, and we have a good selection of those.”


CoolVines offers a wide price range, with many choices under $10, especially at $8 and $9. “Our typical range is moderately priced wine in the $10-$20 range,” he points out. “These are well-priced and very popular. There are higher priced wines as well.”

The store also features a selection of hand-crafted beers, and small-batch spirits. “Beer continues to be popular, and we have beer from 300-year-old micro breweries, including from Trappist monks in Belgium. The trend in spirits is to smaller production companies, such as Hudson River Rum. It’s not big brand names. People are trying something different, like our organic gin.”

Wine accessories include a variety of glasses, such as unusual unstemmed champagne flutes, also martini, shakers, and cheese spreaders. An assortment of gift wine cooler “baskets”, which include one or three bottles of wine, special chocolate, and cookies, will be a great holiday item.

CoolVines offers complimentary weekly wine tastings Wednesday at 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m., as well as off-site special wine events, such as those recently held at Nick Hilton Princeton and Camillo’s Cafe. An upcoming dinner event is scheduled at Gennaro’s Restaurant, including wines from CoolVines, on November 19. Further information is available on CoolVines’ website at www.coolvines.com.

Mr. Censits is very happy with the response to his shop — as one customer said: “CoolVines is cool!” — and with the location, which offers parking behind the shop. He is also pleased with the results of his career change.

“I like being part of the local business community. I like to collaborate with the local businesses, and the thing I’ve really enjoyed in Princeton is that people are so excited to try new things.”

CoolVines is open Sunday through Wednesday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 to 10. (609) 924-0039.