Adventures in Saké at the Wine ConneXtion

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Marketplace, North Andover, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

North Andover is slightly outside our usual territory, but we heard about a kikishu, or saké tasting, at the newly opened Wine ConneXtion and headed there on Saturday to see what it was about.

The tasting was hosted by local blogger Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, and it quickly became obvious that one of the things Rich is passionate about is saké. He had eight bottles available for tasting, and he expertly explained the ingredients and processes involved in making each.

We enjoyed exploring the surprising range of tastes provided and learning the differences between the Ginjo, Daiginjo and Honjozo. If your only experience with saké is sipping it warm at a Japanese restaurant, it’s time to take another taste.

The sakés we tried ranged from earthy to crisp and clean, some akin to a very dry white wine that would pair exceptionally well with any seafood. Most of them were subtler on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe. Favorites included the Kurosawa Jun-Mai Kimoto ($16), which was earthy and hinted at mushrooms, and the Ichishima Honjozo ($22) which was bright and crisp.

LaRosa’s in Andover provided quite a spread of finger foods, and the crowd favorite was definitely the wonderful arancini. You might not initially think to serve a Japanese wine with Italian food, but some of the offerings paired quite well.

2110Whether you’re a casual wine drinker or a serious enthusiast, the Wine ConneXtion is definitely worth investigating. Owners (and siblings) Sam and Tina Messina, who have been in the business for more than 20 years, really know their stuff, with Sam finding unbelievable deals and Tina streamlining the operation to make sure those deals get passed along to the customer.

It’s a large, clean, well-lit warehouse-style space with fantastic inventory and unbeatable prices. Unlike many wine stores, where the only information is a simple price tag or a glossy ad provided by the distributor, each and every wine here is informatively labeled. Uniform, well-designed signs listing price, origin, taste, and body of the wine take the mystery out of comparing vintages and make it easy to find new bottles to try.

Sam and Tina are working on getting their inventory online; in the meantime, they will happily take orders over the phone to ensure the bottles you want are waiting for you on arrival. And if the idea of saké has piqued your interest, Sam is carrying a range of bottles, several half-sized, for you to investigate. You can also find a wealth of saké information, and if you scroll down a list of  links, here on Rich’s site.

We’re glad we took the time to venture off the beaten path this weekend, since it led us to discover both the world of saké and a great new place to shop for wine.

Wine ConneXtion
117 Main Street North Andover
(978) 965-8000
www.wineconnextion.com

Share

Upcoming Events: A Winter of Wine and Chocolate

Posted: January 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Lynn, Newburyport, North Andover, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

With the arctic temps and frosty winds that have settled in, many of our friends are suffering from the post-holiday blues and have hunkered down for the winter. Happily, the next few weeks on the North Shore offer some great opportunities to lift your spirits and get out of the house.

First up, on January 14 at 6:30 pm, 10 Center Street in Newburyport will have wine expert Joyce Hulm, the regional manager of WJ Deutsch & Sons importer, and Craig Hanna, cellar master at Topper’s of Nantucket, on hand for the first of four wine dinners, this one focusing on wines of Sonoma. It’s a four-course meal, each course paired with a different wine, for $45 per person.

Sadly, January 15th sees the seasonal closing of Salem’s Lobster Shanty. Stop by to hoist a pint and give Diane and Lee your best. Sport your Shanty logo-wear any time this week and receive a 10% discount on your meal, and if you haven’t got any, shirts and hoodies will be discounted 20% until closing night. Never fear, the Shanty will reopen for business on April 1 (no foolin’).

On January 27, Finz in Salem will partner with Mercury Brewing Company for an Ipswich Beer Dinner. Four courses are paired with different beers for $35 per person. We’re thinking the Winter Ale float with fig ice cream and chocolate covered ginger snap sounds intriguing.

On January 30, though it’s a bit far afield for some, it’s likely worth the drive to Wine ConneXtion in North Andover for their first-ever saké tasting (kikishu) from 1:00-4:00. It will be hosted by local blogger Rich Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, so we know it’ll be both fun and informative.

If you haven’t heard of Wine ConneXtion, it’s because they’re new on the scene, but we hear their selection is great and their prices extremely competitive. If saké is not your thing, you might want to check out The Grand Tasting on February 6 from 12:00 to 5:00. More than 50 wines to be poured, and food will be served.

Coming up February 4, Caffe Graziani in Salem is hosting an International Wine Dinner at 6:00 pm. A five-course dinner, it will feature their signature Italian cooking paired with five different wines from around the world for $75 per person.

Chocolate enthusiasts will be happy to hear about the next two events on the roster. On Thursday February 4 from 5:00 to 7:00, Whole Foods in Swampscott will be hosting a Chocolate Fest. There will be chocolate demonstrations and many samples available from 16 chocolate experts representing a variety of artisan chocolatiers, including locals like Dan’s and Taza Chocolate. The tasting will feature live jazz music and a chocolate fountain as well.

Salem pulls out all the stops February 5 to 14 with its yearly Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, which features a fabulous Chocolate and Wine Tasting in Hamilton Hall on February 5 at 6:30 pm. Details on the festival are still unfolding, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

One last note: Sunday dining seems to be a hot topic these days. Corey over at Downtown Lynn tells us that The Blue Ox has announced they will now be open for dinner on Sundays, and there is a lot of buzz about Sixty2 onWharf’s new Jazz Supper Club on Sundays from 6:00 to 9:00.

So cheer up, stay warm, and eat well. Spring is only….well, never mind.

(A follow-up to this post with even more events is here.)

Share