Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Toast to Tuesday: Director’s Cut TNT 1/3/12

So another year has come to a close, and I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to all of our guests, old friends and new, and extend my overwhelming gratitude. You have all played a big part in our success throughout 2011. I always enjoy seeing each and every one of you, I appreciate your support and feedback and I look forward to the time we will spend together in the future.

As I look back on my time so far as GM (I can’t believe its been over 9 months already) there are a lot of memories that stand out. Our beer and wine
dinners with Peak Organic, Silver Oak, Far Niente, Joseph Carr, Cameron Hughes and Veuve Clicquot were all amazing as Chef Lacy continued to out do himself
with every menu he created. I know those of you who joined us for Patti’s birthday over the summer had a blast sipping on the wines of Jorge Ordonez and rockin’ out with Wayz & Means on the patio, I know I did. We were also very lucky to have such a successful Patriots season, let’s just hope they can push through to the big game. Congratulations to those of you who won the T3 raffles and got to enjoy those games live, and we hope to see you come tailgate in style again next season.

Throughout the year, I get to try alot of wine and I sometimes have a chance to bring some in that may not be on our regular list. These wines might get
great reviews or perhaps are limited release or production, or I just really
enjoyed them on a personal level and I try to snatch a few up before they are
gone. I have found a bottle or two of some of these wines, and now that 2011 is gone I would like to invite you all to help me kickoff the first TNT of 2012 so I can share them with you. Be sure to get there early as some of the wines are sure to disappear quickly.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top 50 Wine List Award!

On behalf of Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro, I am pleased to announce that we’ve won a 2011 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award for National Top 50 Notable Wine List. Culled from more than 10 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners, Tastings bested more than 12,000 other restaurants in the U.S. to receive this award. I would also like to congratulate Left Bank at Stonehedge Inn & Spa in Tyngsboro as the only other Massachusetts restaurant to make the list.

When I began developing the wine list, there were a few key factors I wanted to be sure to consider. First, I wanted to share some of my personal favorites that I have worked with and come to love throughout my career. I have always tried to keep tabs on trends as well as the feedback from our guests so I can bring in labels that I know will be enjoyed. Then I try to keep the list versatile with labels from around the globe and from right here in our back yard, making sure I have something available for everyone, red, white, pink, sparkling, sweet or dry. Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to create a list that offered great value. I want guests to be able to come back and try something new that one might not choose to get somewhere else. I will continue to work diligently (as long as tasting a lot of wine is considered diligent work) to introduce our guests to new and exciting wines, and I will continue to help the list grow and evolve.

As I arrived to work one day recently, I opened my e-mail box, as I do first thing every morning. I noticed an email with the word “Congratulations” in the subject box. Since it was first thing in the morning, and I wasn’t fully focused yet, I scrolled right past it, assuming it was some marketing scam trying to get me to sign up for some product with the promise of a trip to Hawaii or a new car. A while later, I noticed that the e-mail was sent from OpenTable, the company we use for online reservation booking. Still, I figured it was some type of marketing ploy, but decided to open it anyway and here is what I found:

Hello Mike! OpenTable diners sipped and spoke, naming Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro to this month’s Diners’ Choice list for Most Notable Wine Lists! We raise a glass to you on this great and well-deserved recognition for your cellar and stellar team alike!

I thought to myself “Hmm, that’s pretty cool…” and it wasn’t until I looked a little deeper into the award and the list of honorees and thought about it and then thought “WOW, this is actually pretty awesome, with only 100 seats, going up against over 12,000 restaurants nation wide, with over 10 million votes we were able to make the top 50!” We could not have done it without all of you. So thank you to all of our diners who have helped Tastings earn this accolade. Come see us again soon, your table and wine glass are waiting!

Mike Cicciarella
General Manager/Award Winning Wine Lover

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Noun 1. process of growth and development of the beer program at Tastings Wine Bar
2. sudden & radical change in the train of thought that Tastings is just a wine Bar

So I’ve been part of the Tastings family now for almost three years, and those of you who know me know that I enjoy all types of spirits. I love wine (obviously), I love tequila and bourbon (another story for another day), and I also LOVE beer! When I lived in Arizona a few years ago, I was heartbroken when I discovered how hard it was to find a bar that could keep the beer cold enough. Then finally one day, when I had almost given up hope, I ordered a Fat Tire at Carlsbad Tavern in Scottsdale, and when the delicious, icy liquid hit my lips I was so happy, I almost shed a tear. I remembered this while I was doing inventory on a Sunday in the not too distant past, and as I was counting beer in the walk-in I realized that I had become extremely bored with our selection. There was no fire left in my once passionate love affair with beer. So, I decided it was time to make some changes and spice things up a bit.

A few of my favorite things about beer are: enjoying a delicious brew while cheering on our beloved Boston sports teams, the quenching refreshment of an ice cold one after a long day at work, and the fun of trying the multitude of brewing styles and flavor profiles that beer has to offer, much like the world of wine. There are some phenomenal local breweries putting out some ridiculously good artisan/craft beers, and staying true to the Tastings “locavore” nature, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity. The “new look” beer list now features offerings from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project (MA), Peak Organic Brewing Company (ME), Mayflower Brewing Company (MA), and Newport Storm (RI). What’s great about these companies is that they brew beer in smaller batches and seasonal styles. What does this translate to? A flexibility to have a constantly evolving list with choices such as Espresso Amber and Rhode Island Blueberry.

Now, I’ll admit that enjoying a great meal with the perfectly paired wine can be an almost religious experience, but the same can also be accomplished with beer. To those naysayers out there, just ask anyone who recently attended our first ever beer dinner with Peak Organic Brewing Company from Portland, ME. Chef Ben Lacy has showcased an amazing talent of tasting a wine and developing a dish that will match its nuances. Well, this time he accomplished the same task with an amazing array of brews from Peak, including Hop Noir, Imperial Hefeweizen, Nut Brown and Pomegranate Wheat, and I’d say he nailed it! I would highly recommend not missing out on our next beer dinner.

I know not all of you share my love of barley and hops, but if you’re apprehensive but willing to give it a try, just ask our friend Cathy Farrell. You can usually find her at our Tuesday Night Tastings or at the bar for live music, and after the Peak dinner and the Pretty Things tasting, she has begun to develop her love of beer too!

Come join the beervolution, and happy drinking,
Mike Cicciarella
General Manager/Beer Lover

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Summer Bar Scene at Tastings

The Summer Bar Scene at Tastings

At Tastings, our passion and creativity thrives on the changing of the seasons. We have been waiting and hoping for warmer weather and the amazing selection of local produce that comes with it, and our patience has finally paid off. Some of you may not know that in addition to Chef Lacy’s seasonal menus, I like to shake things up on the beverage side of things too. With every new season, I have an opportunity to try to incorporate local or house-grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs into my cocktail recipes.

The new cast of characters includes: Strawberry Chocolate “Mojito” a twist on the classic, using fresh, house grown mint, muddled local strawberries and limes, and a hint of Dutch chocolate. The Porch Swing brings me back to the summers of my childhood, sitting on my grandparents’ porch sipping fresh lemonade or iced tea and snacking on berries we just picked at the local farm. The drink is made with a puree of thyme scented raspberries, sweet tea vodka, and lemoncello crema. Next, there is the Speakeasy, which is made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, local honey, fresh lemon, and a whisper of peach. I don’t really have a cool story behind this one, I just really love bourbon, and this is a nice way to mellow it out a bit for the warmer temperatures. The Cucumber Cooler is a combination of Hendrick’s cucumber infused gin, muddled fresh cucumber, mint, lemon and lime, and is dangerously refreshing and delicious. Come visit me to find out what other concoctions I am working on, I might have a few more surprises.

This summer will also bring a couple changes to our wine flights. If you’ve never had one before, a wine flight is a small tasting of three different wines, tied together by a common theme. This season’s new additions include “Bed of Rosés” featuring a selection of amazing Rosé wines from across the globe. These aren’t the California white zins that you may associate with pink wine. Rosé is packed with bright fruit flavors, is amazingly refreshing in the hot weather, and pairs really well with a lot of different food. Many of our guests have asked me in the past, why do we feature wine flights from so many different countries, but not one that showcases domestic wines? I thought to myself, you’re absolutely right, and just in time for the 4th of July. The “Red Blooded American” flight will a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon, a Howell Mountain Zinfandel, and of course, a Napa Valley Cab.

Even though we’ve all been waiting a while for summer, you know we will probably be quickly complaining about the heat and as you can see, there are plenty of delicious options to help quench your thirst. I hope to see you all soon, and help you to do so.

Happy summer and happy drinking!
Mike Cicciarella
General Manager/Director of Fun

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wine List Rollout!!!

Coming this week Tastings will be rolling out our new for 2011 Wine List. We’ll be sad to see some of these wines go, but happy that they will be replaced by wines that we feel deliver exceptional value and taste. We’ve revamped our Chardonnay by the glass and bottle selection to bring you the best of all continents producing prime Chard. Welcome in Trevor Jones ‘Virgin’ Chardonnay by the glass! This exceptional un-oaked wine from down under WAAAY over delivers for the money, with luscious notes of pineapple, pears and creamy apple pie. Say hello to Ed Sbragia’s single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc by the glass from Dry Creek Valley California. Ed is known for his exceptional work at Beringer Cellars and at his own family label and has been receiving outstanding ratings across the board. Also say hey to three new wines from Massachusetts native Joseph Carr. Joe has been producing top notch wines in Napa Valley for years, and we are excited to bring aboard his Napa Valley Cabernet by the glass, as well as his Dijon Clone reserve Chardonnay at an affordable bottle price. Close your eyes, and this wine tastes like the finest Mersault for under $50 bucks! Just dropping a hint here, but Joe Carr MAY (as in will be) joining Tastings for a private wine dinner on March 31st. I’d book that on my calendar and make your reservation if I were you. We’ll also be adding some exceptional Paso Robles Syrah, a 2005 St. Emilion Bordeaux (maybe the greatest vintage ever), single vineyard Craggy Range Meritage by the glass, and so many more incredible wines that this blog could get almost as long as this run on sentence. So come to Tastings in the near future and welcome in some of these exceptional wines. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Scott Shoer
General Manager/Wine Director

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Just because winter is smacking us around in New England doesn’t mean that good eats aren’t on the stove at Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro. The feedback from our guests about the recently released Winter Menu is overwhelmingly positive. Beef Tongue Tacos anyone??? Buffalo Style Chicken Livers??? Perhaps one of the best bowls of chili I have ever had in my life was created by Chef Maue for this menu. Hopkins Southdowns Lamb Chili. Not too spicy, but just right for these cold and often brutal winter nights. The addition of a NY Strip Steak to the menu has been an instant classic. We are butchering these steaks to order so you know the quality is excellent!
It’s not only the winter menu that is making waves at Tastings, but our house made cocktails have received a nice face lift as well. Manager Mike Cicciarella has created a drink for the true carnivore…The Bacon Manhattan. Yes, I know it sounds too good to be true. Bourbon AND bacon? Together in a marriage that may last a lifetime. We are infusing 7 year old W.L Weller Bourbon with house cured bacon and stirring that together with vanilla bean and black pepper syrup, a couple dashes of sweet vermouth and the obligatory shake of bitters. You won’t find anything out there like this smoky treat. Not getting enough vegetables in your diet? I wasn’t either until we introduced the shockingly refreshing BetaCarrotini. This blend of Gin, fresh local carrot and ginger juice and some fresh orange is like V-8…for adults! If you’re still pining for summer, we haven’t forgotten about our rotating cast of creative “mojitos”. This season we are shaking up a ginger mojito with rum and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.
So don’t let the snow get you down. Pay a local kid a few bucks to shovel you out and head to Tastings for some adult winter fun without worrying about hitting a tree on your wooden toboggan.

Scott Shoer
GM & Wine Director/Winter Sports Enthusiast

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tastings New Year's Resolutions, errr... Goals

Ten Tastings Goals for 2011

Here at Tastings, we resolve to resolve resolutions. The term is so overdone these days that I’m pretty sure I should lose 20lbs, quit smoking, exercise more, and not beep my horn anymore. Chances of more than one of those happening are probably slim, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have GOALS. That’s it, goals. We resolve to no longer resolute, but to have goals. Reachable, attainable, likely, executable goals. Tangible things we can work with. Ideas get forgotten, but goals get reached (or not)! So here we go. A few things we at Tastings have set for ourselves as goals for 2011. Enjoy.
1) Drink more good wine. (duh!)
2) Continue to support local farmers and work with them on collaborative dinners at both the farms and at Tastings.
3) Host more wine or themed dinners.
4) Expand our rooftop garden and grow more herbs and veggies!
5) Take more field trips with the staff to wineries and farms.
6) Help Chef Maue sell out the James Beard House (again) in June.
7) Introduce more fantastic music acts to our already growing lineup for Live Music Wednesdays.
8) Bigger and better Tuesday Night Tastings.
9) Create a cocktail using bacon. (duh again!)
10) And finally, our main goal for 2011 is to provide the best food, service, and beverages at Patriot Place!

Stay tuned to the newsletter for upcoming events and Tastings.

Scott Shoer
General Manager
Goal Setter