PA wineries target world toasting record

Pennsylvania wineries are thinking big this month. Very big.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 14, concurrent wine tastings will be conducted in 30 counties across the state, linked by video for what is being billed as "The Great Pennsylvania Wine Toast."

Wine lover and motor of Nazareth, PA, will serve as toastmaster for the event, leading the crowds at 58 different locations in a simultaneous toast by video link under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Winery Association.

The current record is held by the United Kingdom. Last year, 17,429 participants at 400 pubs across the UK set that record by raising their wine glasses in unison.

Participating wineries:

Adams County:

Adams County Winery (Ortanna) (717-334-4631)
Hauser Estate (Biglerville) (717-334-4888)
Reids Orchard (Orrtanna) (717-677-7466)

Bedford County:
Briar Valley Winery (Bedford) (814-623-0900)

Berks County:
Blair Vineyards (Mertztown) (610-682-0075)
Kog Hill(Morgantown) (610-913-6609)
Long Trout Winery (Auburn) (570-366-6443)
Manatawny Creek Winery (Douglassville) (610-689-9804)
Pinnacle Ridge (Kuttown) (610-756-4481)

Bradford County:
Antler Ridge Winery (Rome) (570-247-7222)
Grovedale Winery (Wyalusing) (570-746-1400)
Laddsburg Mountain Winery (New Albany) (570-363-2476)

Bucks County:
Crossing Vineyards (Washington Crossing) (215-493-6500)
Sand Castle Winery (Erwinna) (800-PA2-WINE)

Butler County:
Rustic Acres (Butler) (724-283-6236)

Centre County:
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars (Spring Mills) (814-364-1000)

Chester County:

Black Walnut Winery (Sadsburyville) (610-857-5566)
Chaddsford Winery (Chadds Ford) (610-388-6221)
Paradocx Vineyard (Landenberg) (610-255-4159)

Clarion County:
Deer Creek Winery (Shippenville) (814-354-7392)

Clearfield County:
Evergreen Valley Winery (Luthersburg) (814-583-7575)
Stone Mountain Wine Cellars (Pine Grove) (570-739-4418)

Dauphin County:

Cullari Winery (Hershey) (717-533-8985)
Westhanover Winery (Harrisburg) (717-652-3711)

Erie County:
Arrowhead Wine Cellars (North East) (814-725-5509)
Courtyard Wineries (North East) (814-725-0236)
Heritage Wine Cellars (North East) (800-747-0083)
Lakeview Wine Cellars (North East) (814-725-4440)
Mazza Vineyards (North East) (800-796-9463)
Penn Shore Vineyards (North East) (814-725-8688)

Elk County:

Winery at Wilcox (Wilcox) (814-929-5598)

Fayette County:

Christian W. Klay (Chalk Hill) (724-439-3424)

Franklin County:
Tuscarora Mt. Winery (Chambersburg) (717-261-9463)

Indiana County:
Windgate Winery (Smicksburg) (814-257-8797)

Lancaster County:
Mt. Hope Winery (Manheim) (717-665-7021 x129)
Tamanend Winery (Lancaster) (717-560-9463)
Twin Brook Winery (Gap) (717-442-4915)

Lehigh County:
Blue Mountain Winery (New Tripoli) (610-298-3068)
Clover Hill Winery (Breinigsville) (1-888-CLOVERHILL)
Vynecrest Winery (Breinigsville) (800-361-0725)

Luzerne County:
Bartolai Winery (West Pittson) (570-388-8466)

McKean County:

Flickerwood Wine Cellars (Kane) (814-837-7566)

Mifflin County:
Brookmere Winery & Vineyard Inn (Belleville) (717-935-5380)

Montgomery County:
Boyd's Cardinal Hollow Winery (North Wales) (215-661-9580)

Northampton County:

Amore Winery (Nazareth) (610-837-1334)
Franklin Hill Vineyards(Bangor) (610-588-8708)

Perry County:
Hunters Valley Winery (Liverpool) (717-444-7211)

Schuylkill County:

Benigna's Creek (Klingerstown) (570-425-3090)
Galen Glen Winery (Andreas) (570-386-3682)

Snyder County:
Shade Mountain Winery (Middleburg) (570-837-3644)

Sullivan County:
Eagle Rock Winery (Laporte) (570-946-7767)
Winterland Winery (Lopez) (570-928-7771)

Westmoreland County:

Greendance, The Winery at Sand Hill (Mount Pleasant) (724-547-6500)

York County:

Allegro Vineyards (Brogue) (717-927-9148)
High Rock Winery (Hanover) (717-633-1288)
Hummingbird Ridge Winery (York Haven) (717-315-0209)
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery (Wrightsville) (717-252-WINE)
Naylor Wine Cellars (Stewartstown) (800-292-3370)
Pennsylvania Winery Association
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Beam sends six-grain spirit to limited outlets

Jim Beam is known mostly for the consistency of its standard version of bourbon. That's one reason it is such a favorite with cocktail makers for such standards as a Manhattan.

Now, the company has come up with a new six-grain expression called Jim Beam Signature.

It is beign tried at the moment as a product available only through what is known as "travel retail" -- in other word, European duty-free shops at 29.99 Euros.

It is made from a blend of spirits distilled from corn, barley, wheat, triticale, rye and brown rice. (And, no, Start Trek fans, triticale is not the same grain used in the immortal episode "The Trouble With Tribbles.")

The limited-production spirit -- 13,800 bottles of the six-year-old, 89-proof spirit, to be precise -- is, says a gramatically-challenged company statement, "a result of us mingling different bourbons together. Each were made from a standard bourbon recipe (high percentage of single grains). For instance, we distilled a high wheat, small grain bourbon; a high triticale, small grain bourbon; and a high brown rice, small grain bourbon. Each were barreled separately then mingled together prior to bottling."


NY a hotbed of sports Halls of Fame

Fame, as the saying goes, may be fleeting, but in New York State, you have a better-than-average shot at making it stick.

That's because New York has at least 30 halls of fame that are open to the public, filled with honorees ranging from athletes to abolitionists, dancers to doyennes, soccer players to singers.

The number actually tops 30, but that would include virtual halls -- several of which have buildings in the planning stages but most of which are programs of honors rather than physical venues. Plus, numerous schools, colleges, municipalities, teams and business organizations have virtual halls of fame, which pads the total well beyond 50.

I recently attended a wedding reception at the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga Spa State Park. Because it also is home to the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame, I got to thinking of all the sports-related hall of fame sites within easy reach of New Yorkers.

The most visible and best known is, of course, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (888-425-5633). But it does not stand alone. There are:

National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, devoted to thoroughbred horse racing, Saratoga Springs (518-584-0400).

National Soccer Hall of Fame & Museum, Oneonta (607-432-3351).

Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Goshen (845-294-6330).

International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota (315-697-7095).

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, Amsterdam (518-842-0022).

National Distance Running Hall of Fame, Utica (315-724-4525).
New York Museums Guide
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Passport fees going up on July 13

WASHINGTON, DC -- If you're in need of a passport for upcoming international travel, better hurry or you'll be paying more for the privilege.

As of Tuesday, July 13, adult passport book fees will go from $100 to $135, and the fee for persons under 16 will go from $85 to $105. Renewals of adult passports will go from $75 to $110.

The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, which oversees the passport office, also is raising 24 other related fees.

The "switch to the e-passport with the chip and the additional security features are what is increasing the costs," said John Echard, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. "It's a lot more expensive to make passports now than it used to be."

New passports have had an electronic chip embedded in them since October 2006. The chips contain all the information in the passport plus facial-recognition data.

Passport cards, which resemble driver's licenses and are used to allow entrance to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean at land border crossings or sea ports-of-call.
Passport Home Page
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Vintage Indiana coming up fast

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- Vintage Indiana is expected to draw more than two dozen state wineries when the annual festival is held Saturday, June 5.

The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. downtown in Military Park, also will feature about a dozen restaurants as well as live entertainment, art, kids’ activities and educational programs. A crowd upwards of 10,000 is expected.

One sidenote: This is the first Vintage Indiana since the Indiana Wine Grape Council named Traminette the official state grape. Look for a number of expressions of that particular hybrid, developed at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
The Traminette 'coronation'
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Old Johnnie Walker site being revived

From the Carlisle, Scotland, News & Star

ANNAN, DUMFRIES-SHORE, SCOTLAND -- A former distillery that last produced Johnnie Walker whisky more than 90 years ago is set to go back into production.

Under a £6 million project, the dilapidated 180-year-old building will be restored and equipped to distill a distinctive single malt. It also will become a visitor center and whisky academy providing courses on all aspects of the creation of the perfect dram.

Behind the scheme is Dumfries-born businessman and whisky enthusiast David Thomson, an honorary professor of food and nutrition sciences at Reading University, and his wife Teresa Church, an animal nutritionist.

Professor Thomson, 55, said: “We bought the old distillery three years ago and the project is now set to go. We have been given a £350,000 grant from Historic Scotland who are keen to see the buildings restored. Unfortunately, a £150,000 grant awarded by the Scottish government has been withdrawn although I hope it may be reinstated."

[Go here for the full story.]
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New England Wine & Food Expo doubling up

WORCESTER, MA -- Too often major events are scheduled in conflict with each other. The DCU Center has taken care of that little problem this year by scheduling the New England Gourmet Food & Wine Expo and the Worcester Kitchen, Bath & Home Remodeling Expo adjacent to each other Sunday through Tuesday, June 18-20.

Admission to both shows is free.

Food & Wine Expo attendees will be able to sample from among 1,000 wines, beers and spirits from around the world. This year’s theme is "Wines of California."

The expo offers guests the chance to participate in the tastings program and sample high-end wines in the Fine Wine Tasting Lounge. The chefs stage will feature education and samplings with celebrity and local chefs. The Cheese Corner will have presentations and tastings.

In addition, the entertainment area will present an array of French-style performances and will include The Art of the Cocktail Stage.

Best in Category awards will be presented in numerous categories, including top organic wine product and top organic beer product. In addition, consumers choice awards will be presented in such categories as wine and beer. Plus, beer/wine/spirits awards will be presented for international winery, domestic winery, gold-silver-bronze wineries, and international and domestic breweries plus the medal awards.
Food & Wine Expo website
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Hudson Valley culinary history in a day

HYDE PARK, NY -- The rich culinary history of the region will be explored and celebrated during the 4th annual "Bon App├ętit: Food and Dining in the Hudson Valley," a conference scheduled for Saturday, March 20, at the Roosevelt Library and Home.

The day-long event, organized by the Great Estates Consortium, will be held in the Henry A. Wallace Center. It was scheduled to coincide with Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, which this year will be held March 15-28. (Details of the restaurant week -- actually two weeks -- are available here.)

The schedule will offer presentations on regional cuisine from Dutch colonial days to the present. Some of the highlights:

• Heidi Hill, historic site manager of Crailo and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, will open the conference by exploring 17th century food, using Dutch genre paintings and archaeological evidence.

• Valerie Balint, associate curator at Olana State Historic Site, will explore evolving mid-century dining tastes and trends using Olana and the daily practices of the Church family as an example.

• Frank Futral, curator of Decorative Arts at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, will explore the food customs of millionaires during the Gilded Age, including the behind-the-scenes work of the 24 domestic servants needed to present a "Dinner of Ceremony" in a Gilded Age mansion.

• Lunch will be provided by Gigi Hudson Valley and will feature local food. Laura Pensiero, chef/owner of Gigi, will introduce the lunch and discuss how she uses local farm products for her business .

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to visit participating Great Estates where they will be given an opportunity to engage in special food related tours and activities. Each site will pair with a restaurant offering visitors a Hudson Valley treat. While there is no additional cost for visits to the historic sites, participants must pre-register for the sites they expect to visit.

They are the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Locust Grove Estate and Clermont State Historic Site.

Space is limited, and meals and refreshments are included in the conference fee. The $60 per person registration fee includes coffee/tea in the morning, the catered luncheon, and afternoon Great Estates site tours.

Additional details and registration are available by phone at (845) 889-8851.
Hudson Valley Restaurant Week
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Kansas to join smoking ban list

TOPEKA, KS -- If you're sick of making your way through clouds of smoke in public places, circle July 1 on your calendar if you plan to be in Kansas.

Gov. Mark Parkinson's office says he plans to sign into law, and make effective July 1, a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other enclosed public and work places. The legislation was approved last week by the state House of Representatives.

The 1,000-member Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association had expressed a preference for a weaker law, one that would allow restaurants, taverns, casinos and private clubs to designate their facilities as a smoking section as long as they paid an annual fee and did not admit minors.

Kansas will become the 31st state to ban smoking in restaurants. Michigan will become the 30th when its statewide ban goes into effect on May 1. Virginia became the 29th when its ban went into effect on December 1, 2009.
Somking bans in the U.S.
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Subway plans beer and wine in Colorado airport

GRAND JUNCTION, CO -- Burger King, which recently opened in Miami the chain's first burger-and-beer bar, has nothing on Subway.

The sandwich shop chain will be offering both beer and wine at a new Subway sandwich shop under construction at the Grand Junction Regional Airport.

The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority this week approved the franchise store's plans to serve alcohol when it opens on the airport terminal's second floor in May or April.

Kevin Kane, spokesman for Subway in its Milford, CT, headquarters, said alcohol is not served at stores that have street access, but there are exceptions when it's part of the lease agreement with the landlord. The airport will hold the liquor license.
Grand Junction Regional Airport
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Mass. tightens food allergen notifications

BOSTON, MA -- In the Bay State, tourists and residents alike will be given more information at restaurants on potential food allergens beginning this summer.

The state Department of Public Health unveiled new requirements this week that will require restaurants to be more proactive in addressing potential allergic reactions.

Restaurant employees will be required to undergo training and education on preventing foods from becoming contaminated by allergy-inducing items. Restaurants also will be required to post allergy alert stickers on all menus to notify staff and customers before orders are placed.

"This law isn’t perfect, but it’s a meaningful first step towards raising awareness," said Janine Harrod, director of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. "It emphasizes the responsibility of the food-allergic customer to remain vigilant about everything they put into their bodies."

The new regulations have been in the works for several years, with the industry being largely cooperative.

Harrod said that, while the law does not now require operators to post allergy alerts on menu boards and drive-thrus, the Public Health Council can expand the scope of requirements before the requirements are formally adopted into law in April.
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'30 Most Important Restaurants' rated

Interested in eating at the best -- or at least top-rated -- places in town, depending on which town you plan to visit?

The annual "30 Most Important Restaurants in the United States," compiled by the online guide Opinionated About Dining, lists Thomas Keller's French Laundry in the Napa Valley, CA, and Per Se in New York as the tops this year.

The annual survey was conducted between September 1, 2009, and January 8 of this year. It is based on more than 29,000 rankings from about 1,900 respondents.

The list is composed of restaurants that earn a rating of at least 95 points in the Opinionated About Dining guide.

This was the second straight top finish for the French Laundry with a perfect score of 100. Per Se scored 99.73 to rank second.

The full survey, which examines 1,000 restaurants throughout the United States, will be released March 1. Here, however, is the Top 30 list:

1. The French Laundry, Yountville, CA, 100
2. Per Se, New York, 99.73
3. Masa, New York, 99.00
4. Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif., 98.53
5. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY, 98.50
6. Mini-Bar, Washington, DC, 98.48
7. Urasawa, Beverly Hills, CA, 98.43
8. Jean Georges, New York, 98.30
9. Alinea, Chicago, 97.78
10. Corton, New York, 97.53
11. McCrady's, Charleston, SC, 97.50
12. Le Bernardin, New York, 97.17
13. Sushi Yasuda, New York, 97.08
14. Guy Savoy, Las Vegas, 97.00
15. Schwa, Chicago, 96.71
16. Kuruma Sushi, New York, 96.43
17. Eleven Madison Park, New York, 96.27
18. Momofuku Ko, New York, 96.26
19. Komi, Washington, DC, 96.11
20. (tie) Cyrus, Healdsburg, CA, 95.93
20 (tie) Providence, Los Angeles, 95.93
22. Marinus, Carmel, CA, 95.81
23. Town House, Chilhowie, VA, 95.73
24. Coi, San Francisco, 95.72
25. Hugo's, Portland, ME., 95.66
26. Bouley, New York, 95.45
27. Aubergine, Carmel-By-the-Sea, CA, 95.39
28. L' Atelier de Joel Robuchon, New York, 95.28
29. O Ya, Boston, 95.16
30. Elements, Princeton, NJ, 95.04.
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DC prepping for International Wine & Food Fest

WASHINGTON, DC -- Finishing touches are being put on the 11th annual DC International Wine & Food Festival, set for February 11-14.

The four-day event will feature more than 600 wines, along with a variety of events at various venues.

The major event is the Grand Tasting & Street-Fare Food Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14, from 2 to 6 p.m.

The festival will conclude with a screening of the film "Bottle Shock," a movie about how Napa Valley’s Montelena Winery challenged France’s position as the world’s top wine producer in 1976, putting California wines on the map.
Festival tickets
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SF Beer Week promises big stuff

SAN FRANCISCO -- The annual San Francisco Beer Week is scheduled to begin next Friday, February 5, and run through Valetine's Day, Sunday the 14th.

An estimated 60 rare, limited-release beers will be popping up, along with a host of activities at multiple venues. Herewith, a small sampling:

• A music concert, live comedy, and a dozen breweries at a "Beer-In for Charity" at Cobb's Comedy Club.

• A dinner with barrel-aged beer pairings by Beer & Nosh's Jesse Friedman, with celebrity chef Jen Biesty, at Scala's Bistro.

• Nightly food pairings with Drake's Brewing Co. new Belgian Trippel at The Front Porch.

• "Beer to Breakers" bike ride with breaks at breweries in San Francisco.

• Such new beer releases as Triple Rock's Keyser Soze Imperial Stout, Gordon Biersch's Rauchbier, Special Bock and Barrel-aged Dunkles, Russian River's Pliny the Younger, Schmaltz's Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah, and Speakeasy's new collaborative beer with Whole Foods.

• "Meet the Brewers Nights" with Black Diamond, Sudwerk, Trumer, Allagash, Marin, Ballast Point, Moylan's, Triple Rock, Bear Republic, and the San Francisco Brewers Guild.

• A Peninsula pub crawl on CalTRain with Wet Your Whistles.

You can get the full rundown on the interactive events map on the website, along with details on tickets, lodging and the like.
Dowd's Brews Notebook
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Kosher wine-and-food extravaganza in NYC

NEW YORK -- From time to time, I get an inquiry about kosher wine and food events. They're few and far between in most areas.

However, if you're willing to trek to Manhattan, you can take care of that problem on Monday (February 1).

The Royal Wine Corporation of Bayonne, NJ, is hosting a "Kosher Restaurant & Wine Experience" at 6:30 p.m. at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers. The event will feature tastings from 20 kosher restaurants -- Abigael's, Cho-Sen Gardens, Fumio, Glatt a la Carte, Le Marais, Pomegranate, Noi Due and Taverre 84 among them -- and 200 varietals from 40 international wineries.

Numerous winemakers will be on hand. There also will be a seminar by Jay Buchsbaum, Royal’s fine wine director Jay Buchsbaum.

The cost is $100 per person or $175 a couple. Details and reservations: Call (888) 710-2439 or go online.
Kosher Wine Society
Kosher Wine Review
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Have a cold one your way

MIAMI, FL -- Burger King likes to refer to itself these days as BK. Now, the B can stand for beer with your burger.

If you're here in Miami, that is. That's where the fast-food chain has opened its first "burger bar" where it is selling beer to drinking-age patrons.

The Whopper Bar South Beach is offering Whopper sandwich with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors brews. With fries, the combo costs $7.99. A beer alone, served in special aluminum cans made for BK, costs $4.25.

This restaurant is the company's pilot project. If successful, it plans to introduce the concept in other tourist markets such as Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles, according to Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King North America.

Can a wine list be far behind?
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Coffee & Tea Festival in NYC

NEW YORK -- Wine, beer and spirits have their extravaganzas, but coffee and tea don't have nearly the number of showcases. However, the 5th annual Coffee & Tea Festival NYC is a major event.

The international event, open to the public and the trade, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, February 2021, at 7WEST, located at 7 West 34th Street in Manhattan.

The event will offer two days of programming including classes/lectures/demos from industry pros and pioneers. Chocolates and sweet treats will offer a wonderful compliment to the spectacular collection of coffees and teas.
Ticket information and reservations
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San Francisco about to be ZAP-ed

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 19th annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival is set for January 28-20 here.

The event, to be held at the Fort Mason and Intercontinental Hotel, is three days of tastings, wine pairings and seminars.

Beverly Gannon (above left), chef of the Hali'imaile General Store in Maui, Hawaii, will prepare Hawaiian-themed food to pair with selected Zins at the January 28 dinner at Herbst Pavilion in Fort Mason.

More than 250 producers will offer samples of their wines at the Grand Zinfandel Tasting on January 30.

Admission to individual events or all three days ranges from $59 to $524, and is by advance purchase only. Information is available online.
A video interview with Chef Gannon
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Classifying the castles of Scotland

William M. Dowd photos

Ancient Edinburgh Castle sits atop an extinct volcano.

ABERDEENSHIRE, Scotland -- In the craggy Highlands of Scotland, and to some extent in the lusher lowlands as well, life has always been harsh.

Rough weather, generations-long disputes between family-led clans, hard-scrabble earnings pried from rocky fields and shaggy cattle, invaders from Scandinavia and England imposing their will and their rule … . All have played a part in producing a stubborn, hardy race of people known for clinging to their ethnic heritage as strongly as any people you’ll find anywhere.

Little wonder, then, that most of Scotland’s structures have been built, at least in part, of stone – the strong granite type quarried in abundance throughout this land about the size of South Carolina; stone that defies armed attacks, howling winter winds and debilitating cold and snow. Stone that can be cut and muscled into various shapes to accommodate the needs of the people.

Most types of granite tend to sparkle when wet, and in a land where “wet” is synonymous with “typical day” and where you’re never more than about 45 miles from the sea, it’s not unusual to see a certain gleam ahead when approaching a town or village after a storm.

As I traveled throughout Scotland I noted that even the meanest villages were made up mostly of stone structures. And Aberdeen, one of the major cities, is, in fact, known as the Granite City. The granite blocks are found in private homes, farm outbuildings, commercial facilities and, of course, the ubiquitous castles.

Castles have always had a special place in the life and legend of Scotland. The structures themselves vary widely, rather than automatically falling into the “Ivanhoe” or King Arthur model Hollywood created for us.

From the earliest stone fortifications, known as brochs and motte castles, to fortified manor houses (essentially tower-like structures built vertically for security reasons ) erected in the 13th through the 15th centuries and often expanded in later years -- and large, sprawling castles whose names are well known to us today –- Balmoral, summer home of the British royal family; Cawdor, scene of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”; Ardverikie House, the manor house on the BBC America television series “Monarch of the Glen,” and, of course, magnificent Edinburgh Castle that stands on an extinct volcano overlooking that ancient city – these are a legacy that punctuates the history of the nation.

Today, the castles fall into three categories:

• Those that have gone into ownership of such official agencies as Historic Scotland or the National Trust.

• Those that have become tourist accommodations as a way to pay the heavy taxes that have caused most other families to sell them off.

• Those that have fallen into disrepair and now provide mute testimony to the fate of all things made by man, no matter how immortal the feel of their stones.

Many of the historic sites were spruced up in 2009 during the national tourism promotion effort called "Homecoming Scotland."

I've come across several examples of each castle category during my travels of the country.

A welcoming committee greets guests for a Leith Hall luncheon.

One of the most historically interesting was Leith Hall, built in A.D. 1650 and now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

It’s a preserved treasure trove of Scottish memorabilia in the form of chinaware, oil paintings by the likes of Gilbert Stuart, as well as household and personal articles of the period. It’s a typical example of a residence for a Scottish laird (lord), set on a 286-acre estate in the rolling countryside of Aberdeenshire.

The remnants of Huntly Castle.

It stands in marked contrast to Huntly Castle, looked after by Historic Scotland. The original was built 500 years before Leith Hall. The stone structure that now stands in ruins replaced the original wooden fortifcation in about 1410, and one still can see much of the shell of the main building as well as the remnants of outbuildings -– a winery and a bakery -– and of the motte, a circular artificial defensive mound.

Huntly has always had a cursed existence, usually because its lairds were on the losing side of political and military battles, the winners continually setting the place afire and defacing much of its masonry art. It eventually became an unintended “quarry” for people stealing stones to build the nearby town of Huntly. Finally, in 1923 it passed into state care.

The best example of the third category –- a family home turned commercial enterprise -– was Ballindalloch Castle in an area known as Speyside, a large crescent of land where the river Spey meanders, and where much of the ubiquitous Scotch whisky such as The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich is distilled.

The 16th Century castle has been home to the Macpherson-Grant family since 1546. The original structure was in the traditional Z shape, but has been modified and enlarged over the centuries. It’s a good example of the evolution of a fortified tower house into a sprawling estate.

The people who own and operate Ballindalloch are the picture of British aristocracy, motion picture style.

Oliver Russell, 68, a onetime banker raised in London, is the son of a highly decorated British admiral, and as a young man was what is known as an “honors page” to Queen Elizabeth II. He’s tall, slightly stoop-shouldered, with carefully combed silver-gray hair, a long handsome face and a courtly manner.

Clare Macpherson-Grant Oliver, lady of the manor at Ballindalloch Castle. Husband Russell Oliver greets visitors, below.

His wife, Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, 62, through whose family the castle has been owned, is the only child of the sixth baron of Ballindalloch. She is an elegantly turned-out woman, dressed in a tailored skirt and jacket, her gray hair worn in sort of a Thatcheresque poof, hands clasped as she speaks, softly and with a clipped English inflection.

When her father died during her childhood, the family title went to his brother who passed ownership of the estate to her upon his death. However, legally the title may only be passed from male to male in the family line.

“Such a silly thing,” Lady Clare said with a dismissive wave. “The very idea that women can’t be just as accomplished as men.”

To avoid having the title die out, the Russells' elder son, Guy Ewan, 41, has officially changed his surname to Macperson-Grant which means he can eventually inherit the sobriquet.

She does, however, hold a title of her own. She is the Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, which means she is the Queen’s representative in the locality.

“It also means I have to be sure everything is in proper order when the Queen comes for any occasion,” she told me during a tour of Ballindalloch.

She also is the author of several published cookbooks and designed a number of the items among the jewelry, cashmeres and tartans sold as part of “the Ballindalloch Collection.”

The main dining room of Ballindalloch Castle.

The castle, which has undergone a continual upgrade over the 40-plus years of the Olivers’ marriage -– “I very cleverly married a banker, so he knew all the particulars of how to financially support this venture,” she said -– is a pristine place, with gilt-framed portraits, fine fabrics, heirloom dishware, draperies and silver tableware and bric-a-brac, photos delineating the more modern adventures of the family, and collections of weapons from many generations. All of which stand in stark contrast to seeing the laird and lady of the manor off in a corner stuggling mightily to overcome an office computer problem in the absence of a staff member who usually handles such chores.

Visitors wander through the house, moving through one corridor after another that range in size from two-abreast to tiny, cramped winding staircases once used by servants to stay out of sight of guests while going about their household duties.

The grounds of the estate contain about 100 stone buildings, smallish affairs that over the years served as living quarters for estate workers. Many have been refurbished to serve as guest houses. The grounds also offer salmon and trout fishing in the rivers Spey and Avon that run through the grounds, shooting and hunting on the riverbanks and in the mature hardwood forests, and golf on the private course Oliver Russell runs.

The flora and fauna of the estate are worth seeing. Flower gardens, a walk-through arbor and river walks; a herd of Aberdeen Angus, a breed developed by Lady Clare’s great-grandfather in the 1860s.

“In the States you call them Black Angus,” she explained to me as she pointed out a trio of the great beasts lounging under a shade tree, “but the true name is Aberdeen Angus and they came from right here at Ballindalloch.”

Many of the castles, such as Blair Castle at the Atholl Estates right in the heart of Scotland midway between Inverness (located at the top of Loch Ness) and Perth, are excellent family stops. Child-oriented displays and activities such as wildlife tours via Land Rover, farm tractor tours, pony treks and country fairs abound.

Next year’s “Homecoming Scotland” festivities undoubtedly will ramp up tourism throughout the country. If you’re of Scottish descent, July 25-26 will be the pinnacle when “The Gathering 2009” is projected to be the largest international clan gathering and Highland Games ever held in Scotland.
Around 8,000 clans-people from around the world are expected to take part in a parade along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the Highland Games’ Heavy Event Championship.

The competition moves from country to country each year since its inception in 1980. This year’s championship was won by American Sean Betz in West Virginia, and he plans to defend his title next year in Edinburgh.
Homecoming Scotland
The Gathering 2009
Scottish Tourist Board
• Clans & Castles
Fishing In Scotland
Golf Travel Scotland
The Malt Whisky Trail
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Boston Wine Expo discount tix available

BOSTON, MA -- Discounted tickets are available until January 15 for the 19th annual Boston Wine Expo, scheduled this year for January 23-24 at the Seaport World Trade Center.

The organizers call this the largest trade and consumer wine event in the country, with more than 450 wineries participating and pouring samples of more than 1,800 wines from domestic and foreign producers.

The event also includes free food samples from a wide variety of vendors, as well as workshops and seminars.

Full details are available online.
• Dowd's Wine Notebook
Dowd's Guides


72 participants for HV Restaurant Week(s)

The 4th annual "Hudson Valley Restaurant Week" will be offering a three-course, prix-fixe lunch for $20 and dinner for $28 at participating restaurants in the historic region of New York State.

The event this year actually is a two-week event despite its name, scheduled for Monday, March 15, through Sunday. March28.

Prices are per person and do not include beverage, tax or tip. Reservations are recommended eveywhere, and required at some establishments. No tickets or passes are required, simply review the restaurant list below. Contact restaurants directly for details and reservations.

There are 72 restaurants signed up as participants so far, including the following:

Armonk: Marc Charles Steakhouse, Opus 465

Red Devon

Piggy Bank Restaurant

Iron Forge Inn

Brewster: Santrista Grill

Crabtree's Kittle House

Chatham: Blue Plate

Cold Spring:
Brasserie Le Bouchon, Cathryn's Tuscan Grill. Hudson House River Inn

Congers: Restaurant X and The Bully Boy Bar

Dobbs Ferry: The Cookery, Halfmoon, Off Broadway Restaurant

East Chester:
Casa Brusco

Hudson's Ribs & Fish, Il Barilotto

Garrison: The Bird & Bottle Inn

Goshen: Catherine's Restaurant, Il Tesoro

Hastings On Hudson: Blu Riverfront Bar & Bistro, Harvest on Hudson

Haverstraw: Union Restaurant and Bar Latino

High Falls: Depuy Canal House

Hyde Park:
The American Bounty at the CIA, Twist

Il Soriso, River City Grill

Le Fontane

Mamaroneck: Zitoune Restaurant

Hidden Cellar Restaurant, Raccoon Saloon


Millbrook: Charlotte's

Milton: Ship Lantern Inn

Montgomery: Backyard Bistro

Mt. Kisco: Cafe of Love

New Paltz: Beso, Village Tea Room Restaurant & The Bake Shop

North Salem:
121 Restaurant and Bar

Two Spear Street

McKinney & Doyle Fine Foods Cafe

Peekskill: The Peekskill Brewery

Pine Plains:
The Stissing House

Iron Horse Grill

Port Chester:
Sonora Restaurant

Poughkeepsie: Amici's, The Artist's Palate, Babycakes Cafe, Beech Tree Grill, Shadows on the Hudson

Starr Place, Terrapin Restaurant

Somers: Luce Seafood & Pasta House

Porotino Restaurant

Marcello's of Suffern

Bistro Z, Caravella, Eqqus at the Castle On the Hudson, Harvest Grille at the Westchester Marriott, Ruth's Chris Steak House

Tappan: Il Portico

Valhalla Crossing

Wappingers Falls:
Aroma Osteria

White Plains:
Legal Seafood, 42, The Melting Pot, Niko's Green Taverna

La Lanterna Restaurant, Tombolino Ristorante, X2O Xaviars on Hudson
Restaurant Week updates
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