Friday, November 17, 2017

Sonoma Chardonnay For The Holidays

The wine world recently lost Don Carano, who founded Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in 1981 with his wife, Rhonda.  A Wine Spectator article quotes Kim Stare Wallace of Dry Creek Vineyards, who called Carano "one of the visionaries of Dry Creek Valley." I will join the rest of the wine world in sending my condolences to Rhonda and the family.

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate winemaker Rebecka Deike. She handles the winery’s red wine program and started out wanting to be an optometrist, but she saw her focus change to a wine career.

The Ferrari-Carano 2015 Chardonnay of Sonoma County was made using only Chardonnay grapes from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys, plus fruit from Carneros. Sixty different lots of Chardonnay went into this wine. The wine is aged on the lees in French oak barrels, about three quarters of them neutral. A full mouthfeel results from a nearly full malolactic fermentation. Alcohol hits 14.2% abv, and the wine sells for about $22.

The wine has a golden tint and an aromatic nose with lemons, tangerines and a bit of minerality mixing in. On the palate, there's great citrus and tropical fruit and a full mouthfeel. The oak is a bit more pronounced than I usually like, but I always fall for that at holiday time. It's not a butterball, but it definitely has a bit of a spare tire. This is a lush Chardonnay with a good acidity and a clear hankering to be on a Thanksgiving table.


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Vivino Wine Awards

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sweet Wine For The Holidays: Château Manos

Sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. You can start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of sweet wines from Bordeaux, and I was lucky enough to be included.  I've been posting separate articles about each wine recently.

Château Manos is owned by another Bordeaux producer, Château Lamothe de Haux. The village of Cadillac is just south of Bordeaux. The Cadillac AOC dates back to the 1970s.

Not a Sauternes this time, but a Cadillac and sweet nonetheless, the wine is made from a blend of 98% Semillon grapes along with tiny splashes of Sauvignon and Muscadelle. It sells for around $13. Online I notice the same price for both the full and half bottles, so make sure you don't pay too much. Deborah Parker Wong pointed out during the virtual tasting that Lamonthe's Damien Chombart and Caroline Meurée make the Château Manos wines.

This lovely, gold wine is not as incredibly sweet as others, but it is probably in the range of off-sweet. The nose carries earth and apricot, which is influenced by a honey note but not controlled by it. Several tasters commented on the purity of the fruit and the wine's flinty minerality. It's less dessert-y and more like a table wine, but still holds a place at each end of the spectrum. The mouthfeel is not so viscous as the Sauternes we tasted, and the acidity is more vibrant.


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Monday, November 13, 2017

Fogo De Chão Has The Meats

There's a fast food ad campaign which includes the tagline, "We have the meats." Sorry, drive-through, but you can't hold a toothpick to Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. They, indeed, have the meats.

I was invited to sample their fall menu at the Los Angeles location. The Fogo de Chão way is to keep bringing grilled, table-sliced meat to your table until you tell them to stop. One has to be careful with this style of service, because it’s easy to end up feeling like Earl, in "Diner." He ate the whole left side of the menu. Including the chicken dinner.

Cruz was our server, or one of many servers, and he promised we would leave feeling sated. General Manager Heather was more helpful than we could have hoped and customer service manager Moises was a true gentleman.

Fogo de Chão is a great place for groups. There were several large parties there on the Sunday when we went for lunch. I could tell that they were not strangers to the place, and that the entire group had been looking forward to the meal.

I opened the meal with a Brazilian Moscato/Malvasia/Gewurztraminer blend, the demi-sec Salton "Flowers." It’s an $11 glass, from the Serra Gaúcha region, in southern Brazil. The wine is very sweet and fruity, with a decent acidity. A spicy floral element comes from the Gewurztraminer, while the Malvasia offers up some citrus to the sweet moscato. It’s extremely tasty with mushrooms and salads. I ordered an Alamos Argentine Malbec when the meats became the focus, and it was predictable reliable. The wine list offers a wide choice, with plenty of South American options.

They have a beautiful, light potato salad at Fogo de Chão that doesn't take up too much of the appetite you want to reserve for the meat. Big chunks of potato and carrot are bathed in a wonderfully light dressing. The butternut squash soup is different. It's very nicely spiced and better than the usual I've had, possibly because of the coconut milk and cinnamon used in it. The mashed potatoes have a good consistency, and they're real, not fake. My wife says they are complemented by "just the right amount of butter - too much."

Here come the meats. A little girl near our table precociously asked my wife, "Do you know what I call this restaurant?" Without hesitation, she said, "The meat parade." And so it is.

The Linguiça sausage was excellent, smoked in sage and rosemary. The Cordeiro leg of lamb, grilled and earthy, was right where I live. The Beef Ancho, the prime part of the rib eye, is succulent and extremely flavorful. The bone-in Cowboy Ribeye is only available through January 1st, so don't wait. Bone-in meats, says Fogo de Chão, have a more decadent flavor because the bones help retain moisture during the slow cooking.

I didn't try the Picanha Burger, But I wish I had. It sounds so good: "Fresh picanha (sirloin cap) ground in-house sits atop a brioche bun with smoked provolone, bibb lettuce, tomato, onion and chimichurri aioli, served with crispy polenta fries."

Our meal was in the main dining room, but there’s an option for folks who want to eat or spend less. The Churrasco Meat Board happens in the more casual Bar Fogo setting, where you get one, two or three selections of fire-roasted meat, including beef or pork ribs, lamb chops and beer-braised chicken legs, served with their wonderful chimichurri sauce. But, when is chimichurri sauce not wonderful?
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I was completely wowed by my dining experience and gave Fogo de Chão an A-. The flavor is uniformly fantastic, but I found some of the beef items a little tough. My wife gave the experience a solid B, as she is always more focused on beef than I am and more critical of its consistency. She agreed that the flavor couldn't be beat and she was in love with the sides.


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Friday, November 10, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweets From Sauternes

Sauternes is a French appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge.

Haut Charmes Sauternes 2015

The 2015 Haut Charmes Sauternes is supposedly made from grapes taken from the young vines of Chateau d'Yquem, the top house in the region. I can't confirm that, it's just an educated guess, and someone else's educated guess at that. The Sémillon grapes are joined by Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were kissed by botrytis before harvest. Declassified though it may be, a d'Yquem at $20 is a bank job type of steal.

@JvBUncorked commented during the virtual tasting that this 2015 Charmes is much sweeter than he recalls earlier vintages being. It's my first time, so I don't know. @parkerwong wrote that she likes the candied melon, saffron and white peach notes.

Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine has tropical notes layered in with honeyed apricot and peach. It's quite viscous, has a nice acidity, great mouthfeel and a little savory backbeat that really entices. It seems muscular, in a white wine kind of way.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

Sauternes is a city in France's Bordeaux region. It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving. However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You’ll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently held a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge and expertise. Eight sweet Bordeaux wines were sampled, and we'll be visiting them all this month.

Chateau Lauvignac Cuvée Sahuc Sauternes 2014

A Grand Vin de Bordeaux, the Cuvée Sahuc is made from Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle and Sémillon grapes. It sells for just $19, making it one of the best deals from the region. In the Snooth virtual tasting, @jamesthewineguy liked the wine's yellow citrus peel, almond, crushed sea shells and pine nut notes.

This dessert wine's nose is laced with overripe apricots trod upon after a rain. It's sweet, but it's earthy, and just a hint of smoke comes out of nowhere. The palate gives the same mixed message. "Is this love, baby, or is it just confusion?" The acidity is good - not too soft, not too racy. The finish reminds me of that childhood fruit tree in the neighbors' yard, with just a little bit of raisin.


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Monday, November 6, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

Sauternes is a city in France's Bordeaux region. It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving. However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You’ll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently held a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge and expertise. Eight sweet Bordeaux wines were sampled, and we'll be visiting them all this month.

Chateau Filhot Sauternes 2009

Chateau Filhot is a second growth vineyard in the Sauternes region, planted to mostly Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, with a smudge of Muscadelle. Its history dates back to the 1600s and finds it intertwined with Chateau d'Yquem, with which it was compared by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to France. A Yquem family member reportedly owned the place, for awhile. The bottle retails for $40.

This wine has a lovely, golden hue, like a room bathed in the glow from a fireplace. On the nose, candied apricots and a hint of lemon peel lead the way. Honey traces portend sweetness. The palate has a special delivery for a sweet tooth. Apples, peaches and pears mingle in a viscous, mouth coating orgy of fruit. One of the online tasters commented on how strongly the Sauvignon Blanc comes through. There is a good level of acidity, too, in case you're not having it just for dessert. A brie would go nicely, or a triple cream cheese. You could even pair this with a seafood dish.


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Portugal Wine: Prats + Symington Chryseia

Portugal's Douro Valley is one of the most distinctive terroirs in the wide, wide world of wine. Prats and Symington grow grapes and make wine there. The Symington family owns most of the big port houses. Bruno Prats left Bordeaux, seeking winemaking thrills in Chile, South Africa and, finally, Portugal. He partnered with the Symingtons in the late 1990s. Together, they put Bordeaux wine-making methods to grapes that are usually intended for Port in the Prats and Symington wines.

The Symingtons have two prime Douro estates, Quinta de Roriz and Quinta da Perdiz. Both quintas are near the village of  Ervedosa. The different microclimates and soils of the two valleys produce different results. Roriz gets minerality from traces of tin, the remnants of old mines. The cool riverside nights also bring more aromatics. Perdiz is in the warmer Torto Valley, and offers more ripeness as a result. The grapes are largely grown in dedicated plots, rather than mixed vineyards, which is more typical for the the area.

Portuguese grapes, aah, they are exotic and wonderful. Touriga Nacional for floral aromatics, Touriga Franca for body and structure and Tinta Roriz - Tempranillo in Spain - gives a peppery flair.
Post Scriptum's Chryseia was first bottled from the 2000 vintage. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in 400-litre French oak barrels, for 14 months. Grape distribution has 64% Touriga Franca, 28% Touriga Nacional and 8% Tinta Roriz. Winemakers Bruno Prats and Charles Symington oversee production, with the assistance of Pedro Correia and Luis Coelho. Alcohol sits at 14.3% abv and the retails price is $25.

Post Scriptum De Chryseia is inky indigo and impenetrable at its core. The nose is a wild array of blackberry, cigar boxes, leather and the whole spice rack. It has a great mouthfeel, full and rich with enough tannic structure to handle prime rib, yet not so much that it ruins the sip. That dark fruit is lip-smacking good on the palate and it carries along a savory saddlebag of spices, which linger long on the finish.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Martini Time: Boodles Gin

Boodles is a British, London Dry gin that has been around since 1845. The company was named after Boodles gentlemen's club, run by one Edward Boodles. This is the gin that was reputedly served there and is believed to have been a favorite of Winston Churchill, although other gins also make that claim. Who wouldn't? This "proper British gin" is now made at the Greenall's distillery

The Boodles crest offers "labour and patience" as two of the gin's ingredients. The company claims Boodles is a "clean spirit distilled from British wheat and then infused with a number of traditional herbs and spices, including nutmeg, sage, and rosemary." The PR department says Boodles is known for its "distinctive floral nose and lingering juniper flavor, with a clean finish," and that sounds fairly accurate. Nine botanicals make up Boodles -  it's just fun to say - and contribute to its aroma and taste. Juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary and sage are all blended together to make Boodles. They claim they are the only gin to contain nutmeg, rosemary and sage in its recipe.

There are some piney notes on the nose, from the juniper, and a floral element, but both are quiet. The gin tastes very elegant and smooth, at 45.2% abv. No citrus botanicals are used, unlike other London dry gins. They figure you’ll put a slice of lemon or lime in your cocktail, so there's no need. Boodles also makes a Mulberry gin, which I gather is like a sloe gin, except made with mulberries.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kona Brewers Ride Wave Of Success

Started by father and son Cameron Healy and Spoon KhalsaKona Brewing Company is based on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. A lot of people surf there, but even more drink beer. 1995 saw their first brew, Pacific Golden Ale, which is now known as Big Wave Golden Ale.

KBC brews their beer not just in Hawaii, but also in mainland locations that are close to their distribution centers. The water mineral levels at each brewery are adjusted to simulate the water used in Hawaii.

Sustainability is a watchword for the company, as they recycle everything from plastic cups to spent grain to air conditioner condensation. They also like to give back to the community and the world by supporting local interests like Bishop Museum and the Kokua Festival, and global ones like Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign and Surfrider Organization.

Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale is a light-bodied Ale with a golden hue that they say comes from caramel malt. The beer has a fresh, tropical nose with a hint of citrus and tastes smooth, with just a nod toward the Galaxy and Citra hops used in making it. It's very refreshing and goes great with chips and salsa or ahi poke. Or sausages, if you're in the mood. Alcohol is a low 4.4% abv, so you can have another one.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wine Country Washington: Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend

The Mercer family has been working the land in southern Washington's Horse Heaven Hills AVA for more than a hundred years.  Rob and Will Mercer not only grow wine grapes, but also other fruits and vegetables - like baby carrots - near Prosser, Washington with the use of sustainable farming practices.

The 2015 Sharp Sisters Red Blend shows a family name and includes Cabernet Sauvignon from the Eagle & Plow Vineyard, Merlot from the Dead Canyon Vineyard, Grenache, Syrah and Carignane from the Spice Cabinet Vineyard and Petit Verdot from Milt's Vineyard.  Winemaker Jessica Munnell used nearly equal amounts of Cab and Syrah, blended with the rest in smaller quantities.  Alcohol is large, at 14.8% abv, but the price tag is reasonable, at just above $20.

The Sharp Sisters red is inky purple, with a nose of big, black fruit and quite a savory side. I smell cigar box, spice rack and cedar plank on the nose, in addition to the plums and blackberries. The palate comes on less brawny that expected given the high-octane alcohol number. It's a pleasant array of black and blue fruit that is remarkably smooth, yet its tannins are muscular enough to sit with a ribeye.


Monday, October 23, 2017

San Diego Beer: Orderville IPA By Modern Times

You've probably experienced the same sort of thing that happened to San Diego’s Modern Times Beer, only maybe not with hops. The story of their Orderville IPA is all about great passion, the best intentions, bad luck and a happy ending. Er, a hoppy ending.

Their blog, by proprietor Jacob McKean, describes how they set out to make a "wet-hopped" beer, using freshly harvested, green Mosaic, Simcoe and Chinook hops. They intended to brew the beer and dry-hop it with those wet hops. Not being a brewer, I'm lost already, but they say it sounded cool at the time and I agree with them.

This is where things went wrong. I'll let McKean get all beer-nerdy again. "The harvest, of course, didn’t shake out at all as predicted, and we were forced to brew two entirely separate beers: one with wet Simcoe, another with wet Chinook. The wet Mosaic showed up late—naturally—so we dry-hopped the Simcoe beer with the wet Mosaic. But we ordered so much Mosaic that we literally couldn’t fit
anywhere near enough of it into the fermenter, so we filled the hopback with the wet Mosaic and recirculated the beer through it over and over and over and over again." Then the two beers were blended, and that's Orderville. It is, by their own description, a "completely absurd and radically inefficient" way to make beer. But it's a happy - and hoppy - ending.


This Point Loma beer is one of the most distinctive IPAs I've ever tasted. As an IPA true believer, even I recognize that the style tends to taste almost interchangeable at times. This one most certainly does not. The green hops give the beer a less "roasted" feel. The aroma is fresh and almost biting, less floral and more herbal. The flavor profile has a bit of a cantaloupe note amid the citrus, which is something I've never experienced before. It's dry, it's fantastic, it's food-friendly and it paired very well with a pepperoni flatbread.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Wine Country Washington: Mercer Sauvignon Blanc

The Mercer family has been working the land in southern Washington's Horse Heaven Hills AVA for more than a hundred years.  Rob and Will Mercer not only grow wine grapes, but also other fruits and vegetables - like baby carrots - near Prosser, Washington with the use of sustainable farming practices.  Winemaker Jeremy Santo does a fantastic job with the fruit he's given.

Mercer Sauvignon Blanc 2015

This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Mercer estate Princeton Vineyard. Alcohol hits low, at 12.5% abv, perfect for a wine that's intended to refresh, not conquer. Fermentation took place with the use of a yeast that brings out the grapefruit, passion fruit and lychee notes. This white was aged in 100% steel tanks, malolactic fermentation was prevented.

The wine has a faint yellow tint and a nose that's more savory than grassy. It's more like a California Sauv Blanc than a New Zealand one, even though it's neither. . A lanolin notes masks the grapefruit and lemon aromas, but does not hide them. The palate offers more fruit, but a nice mineral-based salinity sails ahead of it. There's plenty of acidity here and a lengthy finish of Meyer lemon.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wine Country Washington: Mercer Wines

The Mercer family has been working the land in southern Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA for more than a hundred years.  Rob and Will Mercer not only grow wine grapes, but also other fruits and vegetables - like baby carrots - near Prosser, Washington with the use of sustainable farming practices.  Winemaker Jeremy Santo does a fantastic job with the fruit he's given.

The Mercer 2015 Malbec (78%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (22%) grapes were grown in the Spice Cabinet Vineyard on a southeast slope above the Columbia River. The 2015 vintage was hot, and fruit came in about two weeks ahead of schedule. The grapes were not crushed, which they say preserved all the whole-berry characteristics. The juice experienced malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels, where the different lots aged for 18 months before being blended. Alcohol hits a lofty 14.8% abv and sells for around $20, which is a great deal.

The Mercer Malbec looks dark ruby in the glass. The nose offers some beautiful dark fruit - plums, blackberries and currant - and sticks a lovely dose of French oak in there. A nice, savory hint of black olives lurks in the background. The palate is just as enjoyable, with a fruity focus augmented by peppery spice and cinnamon. This is a wine that will be a hit at the holiday table, no doubt. It's a festive, fun red that can hold its own with the standing rib roast.


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Monday, October 16, 2017

Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0

Escondido's Stone Brewing has long been a favorite in Southern California. They are probably a favorite in other areas, too, but I don't know what their distribution is like. You have to feel like you've made a good beer choice at the market when the guy behind you in the checkout line says, "Mmm, Stone. Good stuff." I understand that women sometimes talk to each other in the checkout line, even in restrooms, but men as a rule don't, so it's high praise when they do.

Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 debuted in 2002 as a "liquid poem to the glory of the hop." They like to say they bow to both the beauty and the boldness of the little flower. They draw all the "piney, citrusy, tropical essence" of hops to make the craft beer lovers of today glad it's not the '70s anymore. For hops nerds, it's reportedly Centennial, Citra, Simcoe and Azacca hops that give Ruination its character.

Ruination's nose gives a refreshing blast of citrus and floral, with a hint of that lovely bitterness you await on the palate. When you sip it, or gulp it, depending on how thirsty you are, you get that pleasure. Flavor is what IPA is all about, and Ruination delivers. The foamy head dissipates medium-quickly and leaves nice traces on the glass. Call it ruination if you like. I call it refreshment.


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Friday, October 13, 2017

IPA: Redhook Long Hammer

Redhook Brewing was founded in Seattle in 1981, when beer was bad and everybody knew it. The craft beer movement was the best thing to ever happen to beer drinkers. Once I broadened my beer horizon with Guinness, Newcastle, Fuller's ESB and the like, I could only smh - if that abbreviation had existed then - that American brewers couldn't seem to get beer right. Yet they sold damn much of it.

Redhook was a favorite tap choice of mine in my San Diego years, of which there were only two. That handle seemed to be poking its head up from every bar in town, including the one across from my Pacific Beach apartment. I saw it a lot, and I called its name a lot.

Before that, in L.A., my drinking buddies and I had the idea that you could order any beer with the word "red" in its name and feel secure that it would satisfy. Red Stripe, Mendocino's Red Tail, San Diego's Karl Strauss Red Trolley - there were probably more that I don't remember. The trick worked until Michelob, I believe, came out with a red-branded beer of some sort, then Bud. The novelty didn't work anymore. But Seattle's Redhook was always reliable. Plus, it has a cool logo. Oh, and they make a Purple and Gold version which I suppose is in honor of the University of Washington Huskies, although I'm sure the NCAA would not sanction such a thing. The NFL might, but the Seahawks' colors were too ugly for a beer can. Full disclosure: Redhook does actually incorporate an approximation of that green not found in nature on their Long Hammer cans and bottles.

Redhook Long Hammer Dry Hopped IPA is an amber beer has a little oomph and a little less citrus than a typical India Pale Ale. The nose has a nutty, grainy texture - not really too floral at all. That's unusual in an IPA, which is usually hopped to the max. The Cascade hops used to make Long Hammer are administered with care and reason. It drinks smooth and easy, even when the chill has worn off a bit. A nice frothy head whips up on the pour and gets out of the way quickly. An earthy finish provides a nice memory. Alcohol at 6.2% abv means a couple of pints won't do you in. It hits me as a winter IPA, while the style typically makes me think of relief on a hot, sweaty summer day. This will do then, too.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Gin For Los Angeles

Mulholland Gin is called "The Spirit of L.A." on the label, and those who know about the history of Los Angeles are not surprised. William Mulholland built the aqueducts that allowed Southern California to siphon off Northern California's water.  There'd be no San Fernando Valley without him.

The label also says "In good times and bad, all will drink. If not water, then Mulholland." I'm for that, even though Mulholland Distilling is all the way over in Downey, not in the Valley. It's described as a new world gin made with botanicals of cucumber, lavender and lime. It's distilled from 100% GMO corn and hits Navy strength, at 48% abv, 96 proof.

Walton Goggins and Matthew Alper collaborated on this gin, as well as a vodka and a whiskey. Goggins is a familiar face, having acted in some fairly notable television series. Alper has spent time on the other end of the lens as a cameraman and photographer. His brother founded OTTIMINO Winery while his wife is in sales at Frog's Leap Winery.

The cucumbers in Mulholland Gin come across strongly, with lavender, juniper and vanilla notes right behind. It's a very aromatic gin, and has a flavor that’s refreshing on its own, although the alcohol level reaches up to about my limit. Still, it’s a great martini gin. I liked it better nice and clean instead of my usual dirty style. It may not be as thirst-quenching as water, but it's a damn sight more interesting.


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Monday, October 9, 2017

Israeli Wine: Carmel Winery

Israeli winery Carmel was established in 1882, so it's been around longer than the state of Israel. Shomron, where the wine is made, is in the West Bank region of Galilee. Grapes include 45% Shiraz, 30% Carignan, 20% Petite Sirah and 5% Viognier. Carmel is kosher, with alcohol that hits in the usual range at 14.5% abv. The label promises a light, fruity and refreshing wine. They say you should serve the wine chilled.

The Carmel Mediterranean Red Blend 2016 is Syrah-heavy, inky, and earthy on the nose. Savory tones overshadow the plum, cherry and currant aromas, with a high, herbal note apparent - sage, perhaps. There’s a light cinnamon-and-vanilla feel as well. The palate is dark and fruity, with a firm set of tannins. Pair this easily with a standing rib roast over the holidays, whichever holidays you observe.


Friday, October 6, 2017

True Grit: Mendocino Petite Sirah Vertical

Parducci has been producing wine for 85 years. It all started with John Parducci, known in the day as "Mr. Mendocino." He pretty much put Mendocino County on the wine map. Those who keep his vision alive today raise a toast to him every day, I would imagine.

The winery gave me the opportunity to sample a vertical tasting of their Petite Sirah line. The True Grit mentioned on the label refers to the "determination, patience and vision" of the immigrant farmers who had the idea that grapes and Mendocino would pair well together. Petite Sirah, the label goes on, is "an American original, big and bold, with plenty of heart."

Parducci 2004 Mendocino Petite Sirah
This wine is indigo-black. No light is getting through the glass. A whiff shows some black fruit and some serious tar and forest floor. Smoke and leather play a role as well, with a hint of oak spice. As for the palate, don't tell me this is a 13-year-old wine. You can't kid a kidder. The wine is drinking extremely young, and showing its teeth in the tannins. These are jawbreaker tannins that could probably melt a steak by just pouring it on the meat. They do settle down a bit as the glass sits, but don't wait for this do become a "sipper." The darker savory aspects also strengthen as the bottle is open. Black currant and plums come through vividly, and the finish is long.



Parducci 2005 Menocino Petite Sirah
This is an indigo-black wine, with nose that shows a lot more tar than does the 2004. Savory notes abound - tobacco, vanilla, black olive. The palate offers firm tannins, but nothing scary. Blackberry fruit comes off as if it’s been trampled underfoot and gets an overlay of spice rack. It finishes long and savory.



Parducci 2006 Mendocino Petite Sirah
This wine smells dark, but it's heavily laced with cedar and cigar box notes. Black fruit is apparent and rides high on the nose. On the palate, things are surprisingly nice and smooth. Firm tannins are no more than that, and the acidity is youthful. The taste centers on blackberries and a bit of savory tar, but much less than the '04 and '05 display.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Martini Time

The martini. It's a classic cocktail. It's the classic cocktail. The martini is described as a drink made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It sounds so simple, and it's so good. It's perfect, already. No vodka martinis for me, please. I love the aromas and flavors of the herbs and botanicals found in gin, and vermouth for that matter.

As for the recipe, I don't adhere to it. I stopped using measuring devices years ago and just eyeball the amounts based on how I feel at the moment. That may not work well in baking, but it does in mixing drinks. The 2:1 ratio of dry gin to dry vermouth is fairly easy to guesstimate. I like a 3:1 mix if I'm making the martini at home, a little heavier on the gin. If I'm out of vermouth, that's okay too. Lots of people go with a much higher ratio, so make it to your taste. The less vermouth, the drier the martini. There's an old joke about drinks so dry there was dust in the urinals, although I've never noticed any evidence of that. I like Hendrick's, a Scottish gin that is infused with rose and cucumber.

As for the vermouth, it should be dry, too. The white kind. Vermouth is actually fortified wine blended with botanicals, like roots, bark, flowers, herbs, and spices. The name is an Anglicization of the German word for wormwood, which has been used in making vermouth. Without the gin, vermouth is a very nice aperitif all on its own. It was once thought to be good for what ailed one, and was used like Granny Clampett used her home-distilled concoction, for "medicinal purposes." I've had Cinzano, Martini and Rossi and Noilly Pratt, and all are fine. I 'm currently using Dolin de Chambery, and it's tasting very nice.

I like to add a dash (or twelve) of bitters to mine. I ran out of Angostura bitters recently and bought a bottle made in New Orleans, Peychaud's bitters are based on the gentian flower, and are similar to Angostura bitters. Peychaud's has a lighter body, a sweeter taste, and more floral aromatics. It's used in making that New Orleans treat, the Sazerac cocktail.

Shaken, not stirred, like James Bond? Experts say no. On TV's "The West Wing," President Bartlett said 007 was not only ordering a bad martini, he was being snooty about it. The shaking, while providing a good way for bartenders to show off, reportedly "bruises" the gin and makes the taste have more of a bite. Can't have that.

Garnish with olives, of course, or a lemon twist if you're afraid of olives. Toss in a splash of olive juice to make it a dirty martini.

Cheers!


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Monday, October 2, 2017

Oregon Vermentino

If Vermentino grapes were as commonplace in American vineyards as Chardonnay, maybe the ABC attitude -- Anything But Chardonnay -- would be ABV instead. They're not, though. And they probably won't be anytime soon. That's why I cherish them whenever I can.

Troon Vineyard's Craig Camp talks about two of their Vermentino wines, sounding like he's trying to choose his favorite child: "The 2016 Troon Red Label Vermentino, Applegate Valley is in the classic, richer, but still zesty style of Sardegna. The 2016 Troon Blue Label Vermentino, Cuvée Rolle, Applegate Valley was a co-ferment with 10% marsanne. It was named Cuvée Rolle (rolle is the name for vermentino in French) as the inspiration for this co-ferment comes from the richer rolle blends of the Languedoc in Southern France. As an interesting side note, there is actually more vermentino planted in France than in Italy." That should have them Rolle-ing in the aisles at the next tasting. The Red was fermented in steel tanks, while the Blue was done in oak barrels. Both were aged four months in neutral French oak.

Troon Red Vermentino Applegate Valley 2016

Camp calls the red label Vermentino a "decidedly different" expression of the grape, "grown on the granitic soils of the Kubli Bench in Oregon’s Applegate Valley."

This wine is one of three different styles of Vermentino produced at Troon. They call it their "sitting on the Italian Beach" Vermentino, made from grapes grown in Troon's sustainably farmed vineyards in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. They picked the grapes a little earlier for this bottling than for the Blue Vermentino, which was left to ripen longer. Alcohol hits only 12.5% abv and it retails for $15.

The Troon Vermentino is a light straw gold color and very clear in appearance. The nose is savory despite apple, lime, peach and tropical notes. There's a waxy, lanolin scent and some minerals, but the salinity is just what I always hope for in this grape. The mouthfeel is full, yet the acidity is racy. Sea salt tones color the apple-meets-lemon-lime fruit and an earthy element weaves its way through it all. That salty flavor stays around a good, long while, too.


Troon Blue Vermentino Applegate Valley 2016

Don't over-chill your white wines. Troon's website pleads with you to refrain from refrigerating their Blue label Vermentino. They say a slight chill "emphasizes the wine's fruitier character," but a serving temperature in the mid-60 degree range "emphasizes the wine's savory qualities as well as its lightly tugging texture." They claim that, chilled, you're looking at notes of "yellow plum, papaya-with-a-squeeze-of-lime and guava." The slightly warmer expression "favors aromas of Spanish almonds and whispers of amontillado Sherry."

In old-country fashion, they tread the grapes by foot for this old-country varietal wine. It hits 12.5% abv and retails for $22.

The Troon Blue Label Vermentino looks so delicate in the glass. The pale color made me anticipate a light-hearted wine. It's a deception. The nose has notes similar to the Red Label, perhaps a little more savory - even yeasty. On the palate, the mouth is full and has great weight, while bringing a little more salinity to the show than the Red. Despite the almost creamy mouthfeel, the acidity is zippy and fresh.

The third Vermentino in Troon's line up, the Black Label, spends a year in barrel on the lees. The 2016 is expected to be bottled in the spring.


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Friday, September 29, 2017

Bien Nacido And Solomon Hills Wine Estates

One of my favorite vineyards is Bien Nacido, in the tiny Santa Barbara County town of Santa Maria. The wines made from those grapes speak to me like few others, and they speak of earth and and sun and fog. And earth. The Miller family sells 99% of the grapes they grow, keeping only the scant remainder to bottle for themselves. Their tasting room is well south of Santa Maria, in Los Olivos, the bustling little town that seems to be made up of only wine tasting rooms and restaurants. And that's okay with me.

The tasting menu opened with a Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Vin Gris, which was a very light salmon color with a somewhat oaky nose.  It belies the six months the wine spent in new French oak. Earthy and herbal on the palate. It was a great wat to shake off the heat of a sweltering late summer day.

2014 Bien Nacido Chardonnay $45 - Big, full fruit, with pronounced oak.

2014 Solomon Hills Chardonnay $45 - Very earthy minerals. Both Chardonnays were big, but not fat.

2013 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir $60 - Strawberry and black tea on the nose, with a floral elegance. The palate shows delicate tea notes, too. Not at all what I expect from a California Pinot. Very graceful.

2012 Bien Nacido Grenache $60 - Big minerals in this one, with a floral touch. Great acidity and mouthfeel.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lacing Up For Shoestring Winery

On a recent day trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, we stopped in at Shoestring Winery. It's on Highway 246 in Solvang, close to Ostrichland USA, that weird big bird farm you may remember from "Sideways." The Shoestring tasting room is a homey barn where nice people pour samples and show off other wares, like home-flavored salt and homemade chocolates. Shoestring is a small winery, producing less than 3,000 cases per year. Twelve of their 60 acres are under vines.

Michelle poured for us on this blistering 105-degree day with the memory of times past wafting from the back. She said horse trainers founded the place and named it after their budget. There were once horses quartered in the barn, and she told us that the wooden discs on which the ponies walked are still back there, giving off a pungent creosote smell. The aroma was amplified by the heat and the fan blowing air from the back area, and reduced my ability to pick up the nuances of the nose. On other trips to the place it was not nearly so hot and the smell was hardly noticeable.

2012 Shoestring Pinot Grigio  $24 - It's the only white wine they make. Crisp and fruity, the last of an older vintage vintage.

2009 Shoestring Sangiovese $37 - This exceptional wine spent four years in “used French oak.” Cherry on the nose and palate with earthy, herbal notes.

2009 Shoestring Vino Blend $37 - A new release that blends 50% Cab, 25% Merlot and 25% Syrah. Usually, the lead grape in this wine is Sangiovese, but they got a good deal on Happy Canyon Cab grapes that year. It's earthy and rustic with great tannic structure.

2009 Shoestring Merlot $37 - Another wonderful wine, with a nose  showing vanilla, spice, and a tiny bit of smoke. The palate is marked by earthy cherry.

2007 Shoestring Syrah $37 - My favorite of the bunch, this warm climate Syrah shows blueberry and pepper on the nose, and offers a palate of good dark fruit with oak  spice notes. I had it with one of those homemade chocolates, and it was great.


Monday, September 25, 2017

NZ Is For New Zealand

Locations is an experiment of place for winemaker Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift fame. It's his attempt to make wines from all over the world. These wines are labeled only with a big letter or two, depicting the place of origin - F for France, P for Portugal, I for Italy, TX for Texas. Yes, he sources grapes from Texas. And NZ is for New Zealand.

The 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes were grown in Marlborough's Wairau, Awatere and Waihopai valleys. Phinney says he searched for growers who had been digging the Kiwi dirt since the early 1970s. He describes the three lots this way: "the Wairau Valley, with its traditional passionfruit and crisp grassy flavors… complemented by the second wave of plantings in the ever expanding Awatere Valley, noted for the minerality and elegant characteristics the fruit gains from the region's proximity to the Pacific Ocean… the southern valley of Waihopai, where the gravel soils, and later, cooler ripening climate produce Sauvignon Blanc characteristics that provide the final layer of complexity." The wine never touched oak, and alcohol is reasonable at 13.5% abv.

This New Zealand Locations wine delivers exactly what the label promises. The classic fragrance of NZ Sauvignon Blanc comes through with fanfare. Minerals, citrus, fresh cut springtime grass, wet driveway - they're all there. The palate shows the bracing acidity and fresh-flavored lemon-lime-minerality for which the country’s favorite white wine is known. Yet, there is a creaminess to the mouthfeel which suggests malolactic fermentation. You'll want to have crustaceans over for dinner when you uncork this one. I had it with a homemade cheese and olive plate, a good pairing.


Friday, September 22, 2017

85 Years Of Mendocino

Parducci has been producing wine for 85 years, and so the name of this one is a natural. John Parducci, known in the day as "Mr. Mendocino," started the whole thing and pretty much put Mendocino County on the wine map. Those who keep his vision alive today raise a toast home every day, I would imagine.

85 is a blend of Mendocino grapes - 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It was aged in a little less than one-third medium toasty, new American oak and the rest in seasoned oak barrels. Alcohol checks in at 14.5% abv and it sells for $45. They only made 240 cases of this commemorative beverage.

The wine is medium dark and smells of plums and blackberries, with great notes of sage, vanilla and eucalyptus. That dark fruit hits big on the palate and carries along nice oak spice notes with it. Tannins are fairly aggressive, and the finish lingers awhile. The oak notes come through effectively, but do not take over the nose or palate.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

43-Year-Old Rivesaltes Dessert Wine

The Terrasous aged sweet wine series features a range of their natural sweet wines that have been aged for at least six years. This one hails from 1974. The wine is fortified to 16% abv and sells for about $75. That’s for a nice, full-sized wine bottle, too, not a little "sweet wine" size.

The 1974 Vin Doux Naturel is made of  Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc grapes grown in southern France's Rivesaltes region of Roussillon, just north of Spain and west of the Balearic Sea.  It's surely sweet, but with the beautiful tart edge that makes dessert wine so approachable and food friendly. The more age these wines have, the more character they show. Pair with pastries or enjoy on its own as an aperitif or a finale.

This 43-year-old white dessert wine is whiskey dark, even darker, maybe. The nose brings buckets of raisins and brown sugar, with baking spices - it smells like the bottom of an upside-down cake. It's fairly viscous and tastes of sweet spices and raisiny fruit, with an awesome acidity still working.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kosher Wines For Rosh Hashanah

If you need kosher wines for Rosh Hashanah - which begins at sunset on September 20th, 2017 and runs through sunset on September 22nd - there are some good ones and some not-so-good ones out there. Of course, if you're happy with Mad Dog and your family prefers the taste of grape juice over wine, then you're probably all set. You can get a half barrel of it for seven bucks. If you want something more like a fine wine, however, read on.

Galil Mountain Winery and Golan Heights Winery are both Israeli producers. You may not have even considered that wine is made in Israel, but it is and it's often really good and it's kosher.

Golan Heights Winery describes their part of Israel this way: "The Galilee (or Galil) is the most northern, and generally considered the best, appellation in Israel. The highest quality area within the appellation is the Golan Heights (or simply the Golan), the coldest region in Israel. The vineyards on this volcanic plateau rise from 1,300 feet above sea level to 3,900 feet and receive snowfall in the winter." The region is known as Israel’s "wine country."

The winery’s first vintage was the 1983 Sauvignon Blanc. Since then, it has been operated as "strictly Kosher" from the vineyard to the winery. Head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld leads a team that has trained around the world.  Schoenfeld says wine "has the power to embody the culture, language, scents and people of its region."

Yarden Blanc de Blancs

Blanc de Blancs is a fancy term for a sparkling wine made only from Chardonnay grapes. The Yarden Blanc de Blancs is made completely from those that were grown in Israel’s Golan Heights region. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the wine was aged for a minimum of four years. Alcohol is quite manageable at 12% abv. It retails for $31.

The wine fizzes up quite bit, but the bubbles dissipate quickly. Its nose shows tons of toast and an earthy, yeasty quality that is undeniable. The savory aromas lead to a palate that displays more of that holy soil, embedded in a vibrant, but not quite racy acidity. It has great weight and offers the kind of taste treats one expects from Champagne.

Yarden Malbec

The 100% Malbec wine is sourced in Yonatan Springs in central Golan Heights.  It's aged for 18 months in French oak, carries an alcohol number of 14.5% abv and retails for $33.

It's a wine that is dark to its core, in tint, aroma and taste. Blackberry and currant bring the fruit smells, while a savory aspect rivals it in the form of tar and spice. The palate is rich and dense, with dark fruit flavor and the mark of a year and a half in oak. The tannins are firm, but not overpowering. It rivals other popular-brand Malbecs, but comes at a higher price.


Galil Mountain Winery Yiron

Yiron is a Bordeaux-style blend from upper Galilee. The wine is Kosher, but not Mevushal.
Galil Mountain's head of winemaking Boaz Mizrachi Adam says he follows advice to "do the best you can without hurting future generations."

This wine features 56% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot. Winemaker Micha Vaadia aged it for 16 months in French oak barrels. At 15% abv, it’s wise to keep an eye on uncle Julius if he’s driving. Retail is $32.

This dark wine has aromas of cassis with a savory backbeat. Anise and leather join the fruit on the nose. The sip offers a tasty expression of the grapes involved, with an earthy element that's not quite pencil shavings and not quite olives, but close on both counts. The tannins are a bit toothy, but that brisket probably needs a good taming.

The wines of both wineries start at under $20.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

Murrieta's Well "The Spur" Red Blend

Murrieta's Well is a Wente property in California's Livermore Valley. They take great pride in being one of the Golden State's "original wine estates." The property was founded in the late 19th century, with cuttings from the Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux in France. The place was bought in 1933 by Ernest Wente. In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso "partnered together to revive the winery." Winemaker Robbie Meyer does a great job of turning the fruit entrusted to him into magnificent wines that tell the story of the land.

A virtual event recently put Murrieta’s Well into an online tasting session, which is documented here. My thanks to those involved in putting on the show for inviting me and providing samples to taste.

Murrieta's Well "The Spur" Red Blend Livermore Valley 2014

The Spur is made from five mostly Bordeaux-born grape varieties. It's a mix of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petite Sirah, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc, all grown in their Livermore estate vineyards. They say they blended "the classic Bordeaux varietals with Petite Sirah to create a distinctly Livermore Valley fruit expression."

The wine was vinified in steel, then aged for 24 months in French oak, half of which was new. Only 207 barrels were made. Alcohol hits low, at 13.5% abv and it retails for $30.

The Spur is medium-dark in the glass and offers up a beautiful nose that is defined by its aging process. Vanilla spice and cigar box notes keep the cherry-red fruit flavors disguised well. The palate is a savory splash of herbs, fruit and spice. As in the aroma profile, red fruit takes a back seat but never has to shout, "down in front!" There's a hint of tartness that lines up perfectly with the bounty of flavor in this wine. A firm tannic structure adds purpose to pleasure.


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Friday, September 15, 2017

Addendum: New From Fess Parker

Santa Barbara County's Fess Parker Winery is branching out. In the spirit of their founder's pioneering ways, the heirs of the barrels have headed north, to the Napa Valley, to create a new label. Adding to the Parker legacy is Addendum, the company's arm for Bordeaux-style wines.

The Addendum wines are just becoming available, but I was able to snag a sample thanks to a Brandlive virtual tasting event put together by Charles Communication. Parker's daughter Ashley Parker Snider, her husband and Parker President Tim Snider and winemaker Blair Fox all took part in the online session.

The virtual tasting is hosted here, if you’d like to take a look.

The Fess Parker winemaking program began 30 years ago in Santa Barbara County, with Rhône and Burgundian styled wines. The second generation of the Parker family is forging the new label for single vineyard Napa Cabernets. They source some grapes from Stagecoach Vineyard, and another noted plot that we cannot mention due to contractual restrictions.

Tim Snider says they felt they had to explore the possibilities presented by their vineyard relationships in Napa. In true pioneer fashion, they are blazing a new trail for themselves. Snider says the family did not make the move to producing Napa Cabs cavalierly. He says the main emotion at this point is enthusiasm. Ashley pointed out that they didn't start a Cab label just so they could charge more for the bottles. Production on all four of the Addendum wines together is less than 800 cases, she says, so it’s more of a learning experience.

The grapes for the 2014 Addendum Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon came from two Napa sites. Alcohol comes banging in at 14.9% abv and retail price is $90.

This is an extremely dark-tinted wine. It's nearly impenetrable, in fact. The nose follows suit, showing very dark fruit covered in a savory shawl of forest floor, cigar box, pencil shavings and spearmint. The palate is lush, with blackberry flavors and earth most prominent. It has quite a backbone, with enough tannic structure for marbled beef and some left over. It still drinks fairly youthfully, but it does settle down somewhat over time.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rioja Red

The Vivanco dream began, according to the website, 100 years ago when Pedro Vivanco González started a four-generation - and counting - business. Today Santiago Vivanco leads the business side and and Rafael Vivanco Sáenz makes the wine. The winery is where it has always been, in the La Rioja town of Briones.

The Vivanco 2013 Rioja Crianza is all estate Tempranillo, grown in Rioja Alta, on vines that range from 15 to 20 years old. The crews were able to wait until early October to get the fruit off the vines. Aging lasted 16 months, in French oak barrels. Alcohol runs at a reasonable 13.5% abv and I see the wine selling for about $15.

The art on the label is a 1974 Joan Miró work called, Le Troubadour. The bottle was inspired by an 18th century vessel, which is on display at the Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine.

The dark Spanish wine gives off a heady whiff of black and blue fruit with an overlay of leather and black olives. A little smokiness creeps in after it sits awhile. On the palate, it has a vivacious acidity that makes my lips smack. It also features plums, blackberries and currant in a slightly savory, earthy framework. I want a pork chop with this, or a lamb shank.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Murrieta's Well: Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc

Murrieta's Well is a Wente property in California's Livermore Valley. They take great pride in being one of the Golden State's "original wine estates." The property was founded in the late 19th century, with cuttings from the Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux in France. The place was bought in 1933 by Ernest Wente. In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso "partnered together to revive the winery." Winemaker Robbie Meyer does a great job of turning the fruit entrusted to him into magnificent wines that tell the story of the land.

A virtual event recently put Murrieta's Well into an online tasting session, which is documented here. My thanks to those involved in putting on the show for inviting me and providing samples to taste.


Murrieta's Well Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc 2014

The wine is made from estate grapes grown in California's Livermore Valley, in the Sachau vineyard - 88% Cabernet Franc with a 6% splash each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Vinification was done in steel tanks, while the three parts were aged separately for ten months in French oak barrels. The vintage was marked by drought and the resulting lower yield from the vines produced small, concentrated grapes.

Twenty barrels of this wine was produced, and it's all sold out, according to their website. It carries its alcohol at 14.1% abv and the retail price was $58, when it was in stock.

The 2014 Murrieta's Well Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc is big, brawny, dark and deep. Inky indigo in appearance, the nose shows dark fruit and a tarry edge that carries tobacco and spice. Flavors run to the dark side as well, with blackberry and plums shrouded in forest floor. The structure is great, with firm tannins and juicy acidity.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Two Fine New York Gins

The New York Distilling Company says their spirits are "purposefully different." The Brooklyn-based distillery is run by "cocktail people making spirits for cocktails," Allen KatzBill Potter and Tom Potter. The latter also co-founded the Brooklyn Brewery.  The distillery makes ryes and gins that are distilled in Brooklyn from grains grown in New York State. I was ent tiny sample bottles of each for review.

Gin is perhaps the best use for juniper berries that there is. Originating in Great Britain in the Middle Ages, when they called it genever. The Dutch popularized gin as a medicinal product (for my rheumatizz) and today, whenever someone offers me a tonic for my soul, I say make it a gin and tonic.

Dorothy Parker Gin

The neutral grain spirit and botanicals are distilled together in a 1000-liter pot still, as in the 18th century. The botanicals include juniper berries, coriander seed, lemon and orange peel, whole green cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, elderberries and hibiscus petals.  The process takes seven hours to distill, and it's then left for a week before being slowly proofed in a column still to 44% abv over the course of two to three weeks.

The Dorothy Parker Gin has really herbal aromas - the juniper and coriander play large - and great traces of citrus on the sip. It's fantastic straight up, even better as a dirty martini.

Perry's Tot Navy-Strength Gin

Again, the neutral grain spirit and botanicals are distilled together in a big pot still. The list of botanicals is similar, including juniper berries, coriander seed, lemon, orange and grapefruit peel, whole green cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, angeleica root, whole star anise and wildflower honey.  The distillation process is the same, but it’s proofed higher, to 57% abv.  They say Perry's Tot gin is the first Navy Strength gin produced in the U.S. in 100 years.

The aromatics are much the same as the DP, except with more citrus notes and more firepower on the palate, to be sure. Navy strength means, in this case, 114 proof. It doesn't mess around. And it's exactly what you want in your G'n'T. They call theirs are "Tot & Tonic." If you really want to get crazy at your home bar, try their recipe for the "Innocenti." Stir over ice the Perry's Tot, a dry vermouth, Lillet Blanc and Benedictine and strain into a cocktail glass.


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