Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cliffhanger Vineyards Introduces Proprietary Red Blend to US

Cliffhanger Vineyards Proprietary Red Blend: Photo Credit Bill Rockwell
    I recently uncorked a bottle of the 2012 Cliffhanger Vineyards Proprietor's Red Blend and was amazed that red grapes  from the sub-alpine region of Northern Italy could produce such a fantastic red wine. Estate grown Lagrein (30%) and Teroldego (70%) grapes, indigenous to the area around Trentino, go into this blend that starts with a deep, opaque garnet and a fruit-laden bouquet in the glass .
    The flavor profile of the Proprietor's Blend  is predominately berry, especially blueberry and black raspberry, but other notes include black cherry and violets.
    With 13% alcohol, the Proprietor's Red Blend goes down as smooth as silk and is light on the tannins. Those who like Pinot Noirs should appreciate the wine's mellow, seductive flavors and pleasant drinkability. (The Lagrein grape is actually related to Pinot Noir as well as Syrah, and Teroldego has been cultivated in Italy for centuries).
    Both complex and intense, the wine is versatile enough to be drunk solo but is also extremely complimentary to a range of foods including red meats, grilled vegetables, red sauced pastas and hearty cheese.
    The suggested retail price is $14 but it's worth $20 to 25 at least.
   Note: Cliffhanger Vineyards Proprietor's Red Blends will make its US debut on June 1, 2014. It is available in PA via a special order for a minimum of 6 bottles for consumers (on-premise accounts are also able to purchase for their wine lists).

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio Enters US Market on June 1 - Advance Notice - It’s Delish

White wine lovers will have something to look forward to on June 1 besides the start of glorious warm summer weather.
Mezzacorona, Italy’s largest producer of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, is introducing a Pinot Grigio and a Proprietary Red Blend to the US market on that date. The wines have a Cliffhanger label, an apt name for the vineyards from which the grapes hail - plots located on and around the steeply terraced granite-faced slopes and ledges of the Dolomite Mountains (on the edge of the Italian Alps) near Trentino, Italy.
Recently I got a chance to taste an advance sample of the 2013 Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio, made with 100% of the grape varietal. In the glass, the wine has a pale yellow color with a wonderfully fruity bouquet. At the front of the mouth, the wine starts off modestly and understated, but blossoms out magnificently at the back of the tongue with creamy, buttery flavors (you can thank the partial malolactic fermentation for that) and soft slightly sweet hints of pear, quince, mango, ripe melon and chamomile. The finish is long and lasting and moderately dry.
The wine has a nice citrus-y  acid balance and comes in with 13% alcohol. Remarkably, the wine also comes with a suggested retail price of around $13, which is a steal for a wine of this quality.
Winemaker Lucio Matricardi, Ph.D. said "the Cliffhanger Vineyards style shows the passionate dedication of our farmers to cultivate grapes in extreme conditions. These grapes are concentrated berries that produce wines that reflect the character of the Trentino people: strong and gentle at the same time."
Cliffhanger Pinot Grigio can be enjoyed both by itself and with foods like grilled fish,  calamari, grilled veggies, pork, chicken, cheeses like Mozzarella and Brie, melon and prosciutto and light desserts such as panna cotta.
Note:Cliffhanger is available in PA via a special order for a minimum of 6 bottles for consumers (on-premise accounts are also able to purchase for their wine lists).
Up next: Cliffhanger’s Proprietary Red Blend.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

fireWALL Dance Company to Stage "On the Rox"

firewall Artistic Director Elisa Alaio

Unique and edgy as always, Off the Wall performing arts center has recently added the creative fireWALL dance theater company to its growing repertoire. On Friday, May 23rd, fireWALL’s six-member dance troupe will debut their first full production at Off the WALL performing arts center with an emotional performance of "On the Rox."
In a recent phone interview, artistic director, Elisa Alaio, said that five of the company’s six dancers focus on a different decade starting with the 1940s and moving up through the 80s. Each dancer will solo in a specific decade while the others will serve as supportive "props" for the soloist. The bartender, who has her own solo, is considered "timeless" and works at the bar through the decades.
Appropriate costume changes will reflect each decade, and the music will feature popular songs of each era made famous by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.
"Each solo tells a unique story related to a particular decade," said Alaio, who will dance the 1970s. "There is also a considerable amount of humor in "On the Rox."
The company takes its name from Alaio’s wish to incorporate in some way the word "wall" from its home theater - titled Off The Wall to underscore management’s desire to stage edgy, challenging works. "fireWALL" is also a contemporary high-tech term used a lot by Internet users, a young crowd Alaio is hoping will become a significant segment of her audience.
Alaio, 22, hails from Brooklyn and graduated last year from Point Park University, along with four of the company’s dancers who come from California, Ohio, New York and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgher, Antwane Younger, is the only member of the ensemble without Point Park credentials. Alaio considers the dancers not only her best friends but also "incredibly talented artists."
The artistic director linked up with Off The Wall when she danced a couple times with another company at the Carnegie-based theater. Impressed by her artistry, Off The Wall founders, Hans and Virginia Wall Gruenert, asked her to form a dance company and she consented. For their performances, the troupe has been rehearsing in a specially designed studio space located above the theater.
Following the run of "On the Rox," plans are in the making for another production slated for a December run.
   'On The Rox is an original, collaborative work created by the dancers themselves. Set in a 1930′s hotel cocktail bar, prepare to be transported to another time and place, as the six characters take you on a journey through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
    For tickets and more information, phone 1-888-71TICKETS.

fireWALL Dance Company

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Prosecco - Put a Little Sparkle in Your Life

Carpene Malvolti Prosecco
With the onset of warm days, cool (chilled) wines seem a good match for the weather outdoors. Who’d want to sip on a heavy red when it’s 90-degrees in the shade (except for when dining on barbecued beef or lamb)?
A wine like Prosecco, the Italian sparkler, is not only light and refreshing, it also has those gaseous pearls that climb up the glass and tickle the nose and palate.
The reasonably priced Carpene Malvolti Extra Dry Prosecco NV certainly fits the bill for summertime pleasure with its small and persistent bubbles that gently rise through its straw yellow, delicate and fruit laden essence. Made from 100% Glera grapes harvested from the hillsides of the historic DOCG region of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene located in the Veneto region in the province of Treviso, the Carpene is a consummate Prosecco.
Apple, pear and white peach are the major taste indicators that are layered over a soft acidity. The Prosecco’s rather low 11% alcohol makes it a great picnic wine, a good aperitif and a good candidate for mixing with black currant liquor (cassis) to make tasty Kir Royale.
      The Carpene Malvolti Extra Dry Prosecco is a good match for seafood, white meats, salads, risotto, polenta, and cream sauced pastas.

Calamares - It’s Kitschy Label Suggests an Unpretentious Wine
Calamares Vinho Verde
Never one to be fond of Portugal’s vinho verde, a white wine made from grapes grown in Minho region in the far north of the country and meant to be drunk young, I was nevertheless drawn to the Calamares label. It shows a smiling green squid (vinho verde means both green and young wine  in Portuguese), a subliminal suggestion that it might go well with seafood.
Attesting to its youth, the Calamares I uncorked had a lot of residual bubbles and effervescence and showed the characteristic light lemon color with a pale green hue around the edge of the glass. Tasting notes included citrus, quince and mineral with a refreshingly high acid componentt.
Easy to quaff and low in alcohol at 9 percent, the Calamares is a good buy at under $10. It’s slight effervescence and unpretentious flavors make it a good candidate as a base for Sangria, spritzers and wine cocktails. Good food choices are fried calamari, mussels, clams, crab and delicate white fleshed fish.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Inky - Going Fifteen Rounds But Without a Knockout Punch

L-R Abby Quatro, Adrienne Wehr and Tony Bingham in "Inky" at the Off The Wall Theater. Photo Credit: Heather Mull

    If playwright Rinne Groff’s intentions for "Inky," one of her earlier plays, were as clear-cut, as black and white as scenic designer, Rich Preffer’s stunning set, "Inky" might be a whole lot more entertaining.
    As plots go, "Inky" has the feel but not the substance. Watching it is like waiting for Godot - anticipating something nebulous without the actual realization. Billed as a dark comedy, it’s not all that dark and neither is it that noisily merry. (I counted about ten heartfelt laughs during the entire 80-minute performance).
    What saves "Inky" from becoming trite and makes it a unique experience is the title character, a young woman obsessed with boxing and boxers, especially Mohammad Ali, whose notorious quips and prosaic poems she’s committed to memory.     With a accent that sounds East European and an awkward way of expressing herself in English, Inky tells the Yuppie American couple she works for as an au pair for their nine-year old daughter and newborn son that she’s from a spit of land that lies between two lakes - one big one that's  salty, one small one that's  fresh. It’s an origin that envelopes her in mystery and sustains her mystique. An allusion to a possible sexual assault in her past also helps explain her obsession with the need for self defense.
    Inky proves to be the catalyst that propels Barbara and Greg, a constantly sparring couple who live upper middle class lives, in new directions. Her presence and fresh way of looking at things jolts them out of their daily routine and complacency and opens new doors to experience.
    For Barbara, she’s the motivation for getting out of her self-centered, material acquisitiveness and back into her feelings and her motherly role; for Greg she’s the stimulus for committing morally and legally questionable acts that affect both his family life and career.
    As Inky, Abby Quatro is as endearing as she is animated and self-assured. Short in stature, she’s long on talent and gives the play’s rather gray hue a lot of color and texture. She also packs both a visual as well as emotional punch as she takes on her employers with a deferential combativeness throughout the play’s 15 rounds, all of which end appropriately with the sound of a bell provided on cue by sound designer, Ryan McMasters.
    A gem in the role of Greg, Tony Bingham has a way of being able to convey his thoughts and feelings simply by the look on his face. Add to that ability a strength for bringing the dialogue to life with a potent aura of realism, a sort of Jack Lemmonish stage presence and a playful boyishness.
    As Martha to Bingham’s George, (catch the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe allusion?), Adrienne Wehr is Barbara, a live wire with a short fuse, a Shiksa version of a Jewish princess who wants more than anything the material trappings that come with rising up the socio-economic ladder.
    In the end, Inky, despite her disadvantaged background, proves the ultimate victor over her privileged American counterparts, her stamina and will to survive triumphant. If only the playwright had managed to imbue her work with much of the same punch and pizzazz as she gave her title character, "Inky" would be a lot more fun to sit through.
    "Inky" is at the Off the Wall Theater in Carnegie through May 17. For reservations and more information, phone 1-888-71-TICKETS.