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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The New Belgium Brewing Company Explains Sour Beer

I was planning on writing a series on "What is Sour Beer", but it looks like New Belgium Brewing Company just released a video series that outshines anything I would have produced. They are short videos so you don't have to invest much time; but they are packed with information. I like the mention of the Goze style in the embedded "History of Sour Beer"embedded below, that I mentioned in my previous post. My wine friends should also watch particularly since they discuss the history of oak barrels, what oak imparts on wine and beer, and brett. The New Belgium Sour Beer Program is just another reason to visit Ft. Collins. Cheers.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blood Orange Gose - Are You Serious Anderson Valley Brewing?

Seems like brewing with blood oranges is a favorable new fad in the Maryland beer scene with at least Flying Dog Brewery (Bloodline Blood Orange IPA) and DuClaw Brewing Company (Hop Continuum No. 1 - Blood Orange Gypsy IPA) brewing an IPA version. I'm really digging this flavor profile, the subtle citrus tartness from the oranges provide a distinct difference to the heavier IBU side of the beer. I've also become interested in Gose styled beers after our recent #VABreweryChallenge visit to Manassas and  Badwolf Brewing Company. Gose styled beer originated in Germany (Goslar) and is an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with ground coriander seeds and salt. It receives its sourness through inoculation with lactic acid bacteria. You may be thinking, what about the Reinheitsgebot? Well, the beer receives an exemption because its a regional specialty. The Badwolf version was both sweet and a tad sour with a noticeable salt concentration at the finish.

Today, I joyously discovered the Boonville, California's Anderson Valley Brewing Company Highway 128 Blood Orange Gose combining my two new beer obsessions.  The brewery's Highway 128 Series is a set of funky session beers with the Blood Orange Gose weighing in at a measly 4.2% ABV. The blood oranges are added during fermentation and according to Director of Brewing Operations Andy Hooper, the Gose part of the beer is a major challenge.
"Traditionally, this beer was made by allowing yeast and bacteria to ferment wort at the same time.  It was packaged unfiltered and still contained loads of yeast and bacteria.  Putting Lactobacillus bacteria into our cellar equipment and packaging lines would be a potentially huge problem and might contaminate other non-sour beers.  To solve this problem, the lactobacillus is added in the brewhouse – specifically in the kettle.  The bacteria are allowed to sour the wort and create the acidity needed for the tart flavor and funky aromas.  After the bacteria do their job, the wort is boiled and sterilized.  Now that all the bacteria are dead and gone, it’s safe for us to ferment, filter, and package the beer in the cellar without the risk of contaminating other beers.  After fermentation is complete, a small amount of sea salt is added to enhance the body and soften the edge of the sourness."
The Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose is more sour than the Badwolf (a plus for me), but less salt on the tail - which resides mostly on the tongue (another plus). The beer starts with an orange citrus aroma and the blood orange refuse to leave the stage until the final, final act. There's a little effervescence which provides a refreshing finale - along with the salty finish. Overall this is a great beer. Good enough to have a blog post devoted to it. Care for a music pairing? Easily the funky soul and blues of JJ Grey & Mofro. Cheers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tasting Virginia Spirits With The Great Dismal Distillery SilverFox Brand

Besides wine and beer, the Virginia spirits industry is growing rapidly. theCompass Mobile app lists 20 distilleries in the Commonwealth with tasting rooms; one of these being The Great Dismal Distillery - located in Norfolk. For those familiar with the area, you'll recognize the reference to the Great Dismal Swamp. The distillery was established in 2008 by Zachary Combs. His first product was SilverFox Vodka, produced from a family recipe that "fermented grain to power the tractor on their small farm in the Fentress area of Chesapeake. What was left over, his grandmother turned into liquor. " His grandmother had received that recipe from her grandfather, known as the Silver Fox. Although, still a small operation, the distillery has expanded its product line into bourbon and rum. Each of these spirits are sold for $17, hopefully at your local Virginia ABC store.

This month I received a three pack sample containing a bottle of each, which I have tried in various ways. In general, the overall concensus is that these spirits are designed for mixing and not for the snifters.  The SilverFox Vodka is triple distilled then cut to 90 proof with a basic petrol aroma profile until a little water or ice is added. This dampens the alcohol and burn, revealing a sweet and smooth vodka with a subtle burn.  I'd suggest using this in any of your standard vodka recipes.

The SilverFox White Rum is distilled from pure sugar cane juice, not molasses, and then infused with vanilla. The profile is honey-vanilla, slightly on the sweeter side with very little burn.  I first tried mixing in a Josie Russell, which creates a much different cocktail than when using straight rum - perhaps a little too much vanilla that overwhelms the apple. Instead, my two favorite cocktails  was a Vanilla Chocolate Drop (equal parts rum and Godiva dark chocolate liqueur and a splash of cream). A great dessert. Another dessert type drink was a Root Beer Float, add enough rum to taste. The one disappointing aspect to the SilverFox White Rum is that I would have loved to taste before the infusion of vanilla; un-aged rum distilled from sugar cane is quite tasty.

The SilverFox Bourbon, aged two years in oak, is the one spirit I preferred in a snifter, with a small dose of water. Neat, it starts with a sweet corn petrol aroma; candied corn - honey flavor; with no burn at the tail. The water pushes the petrol to the finish; leaving a sweeter vanilla-honey flavor. interestingly the burn increases slightly at the finish.  I also mixed with the suggested ginger ale and yes, it works, but I preferred this medium bodied bourbon by itself.  The SilverFox Bourbon won't be replacing my Buffalo Trace or Catoctin Creek, but is perfect for an everyday bourbon to have on hand. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oregon's Youngberg Hill Vineyards comes to Virginia

Everyone knows that Oregon is producing fantastic Pinot Noir, but did you know Oregon has 16 approved American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)? You probably did. Did you know that the largest, the Willamette Valley AVA is subdivided into smaller sub-AVAs? Yea, but did you know that in one of these sub-AVAs, the McMinnville AVA, one producer makes Pinot Noir from 25 year old vines that are own rooted? I didn't know that until Wayne Bailey, proprietor and winemaker of Youngberg Hill Vineyards (1,500 case production) came to Virginia on a short marketing excursion. And I caught up with Wayne to sample his wines and talk shop at The Wine Cabinet in Reston.

Born on an Iowa farm and tutored in Burgundy, Bailey purchased Youngberg Hill in 2003 after learning it was one site a majority of Oregon winemakers would seek to purchase fruit. The vineyard was first planted in 1989 by Ken Wright and the fruit used in his Panther Creek wines. Today these vines are known as the Jordan and Natasha blocks and the Pommard and Wadenswil clones are own rooted. The Natasha block is located at 600' and consists of sandy marine sediment that helps to ward off the phylloxera louse. The Jordan block is located higher at 800' on volcanic rock.  Bailey practices both LIVE and Biodynamic farming and strongly believes that the healthy environment may even help the vines recover if the louse strikes. As long as he has patience, 10 years patience. Bailey also believes biodynamic farming's major benefit is providing guidelines on what not to do. For instance, in order to alleviate powdery mildew, organic vineyards can use sulfur, which remains on the grapes and soil and can creep into a wine. Instead, he uses whey protein. And instead of spraying to rid the vineyard of red or rustic mites, which would also kill beneficial mites, he leaves patches of grass that attract insects that feed on these specific mites. And there are plenty of other examples of sustainable agriculture practiced in Oregon.

At The Wine Cabinet, Bailey was pouring samples of four wines, all estate except for the 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir.  We started with the 2013 Aspen Pinot Gris ($28, 11.8%).  The wine has a strong apricot flavor and a depth not usually associated with the grape. Nice acids too. The 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir ($40, 14.5%) is interesting in that it is composed of the Dijon 777 clone from three vineyards in the Willamette Valley AVA - including Youngberg's Bailey vineyard.  This is a dark wine, both in color and with dark cherry flavors, easy tannins, and finishes with appropriate acids.  I mentioned the features of the Natasha block above and the 2012 Natasha Pinot Noir ($50, 13.8%) is quite enjoyable with more dark cherry and some blackberry flavors, white and black pepper mingle in the palette, a little earthy funkiness, and the wine finishes with mellow tannins and plenty of acids. Bailey mentioned that the acids result from the higher altitude and the tannins are fruit tannins, not wood tannins. The final wine was the 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir ($50, 13.4%) which is a deeper, more complex, and more tannic version of the Natasha.  With patience, this is one to lie down for awhile.

Younberg Hill strongly encourages visitors. The Bailey's operate an Inn on site and for those who like to cycle, they have initiated a program where after visiting area wineries, all purchased wine will be delivered to the Inn. No need to haul wine bottles in the backpack. Here's hoping I can be one of these cyclists soon. Cheers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Billy Joe Shaver, #Lent, & #theCompassApp

Starting tomorrow thousands will give up drinking alcohol for Lent, perhaps based on their hangover from Fat Tuesday. While the endeavor is noble, is it necessary? For, in the words of Billy Joe Shaver, "it's not what you put into your mouth that defiles you, it's what comes out". So I suggest to continue supporting your local wineries, breweries, and distilleries, and give up cursing instead. Shaver and theCompass Mobile Application will be happy. That's my lenten obligation. Cheers and be safe.

Monday, February 16, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge - a Return to Ashburn

Our first stop on the #VABreweryChallenge was to Ashburn's Lost Rhino Brewing Co. and this weekend we returned to visit two area breweries: Beltway Brewing Company and Old Ox Brewery.  Beltway is a contract brewery that opens it's doors on Friday evening and pours the latest contracted beers. This evening they were pouring a couple high octanes brews from Virginia's Adroit Theory Brewing Company, but I started with the Cahaba Brewing Company American Blonde. Perfect for summer or southern drinking. We also learned there's a new brewery opening in Upper Marlboro, Maryland - Calvert Brewing Company - and they contracted out their Good Company Pale Ale. More malt then hops, this was a popular offering on the low alcohol front. Looking forward to visiting Calvert Brewing soon.

I've visited Old Ox several times based on their immediate proximity to the W&OD bike trail. They also have expanded hours on Fridays and the brewery was packed - interesting with a food truck and Frisbee golf in the production area. We also wanted to support the brewery while in the mist of a frivolous dispute with Red Bull who claims the Old Ox brand would somehow confuse consumers with the energy drink. Really? I recommend reading the brewery's open letter to Red Bull, who you would think has more important problems like losing a class action suit where consumers of their drink are entitled to a $10 refund. In any event, I loved Old Ox's Kristin's Passion Mexican Hot Chocolate Porter - just how I enjoy a porter - chocolate base with a soothing milky hoppy finish.

We wish Old Ox good luck in solving this dispute and safe travels to all who try to complete the  #VABreweryChallenge or who are using theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery locator app. Cheers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bourbon Review: Moving up to Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In my younger years, my go bourbon was Ancient Age, first the light brown label and then the dark brown. As the years progressed, I've stayed within the to Buffalo Trace DistillerySazerac family and graduated to their Buffalo Trace Whiskey ($30).  Most are familiar with the fascinating history of the distillery from Colonial E.H. Taylor, Jr, George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, Elmer T. Lee to now Harlen Wheatley. I would also recommend the Buffalo Trace Oral History Project produced by The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Getting back to the the Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the bourbon is distilled from a low rye mash bill (see the Bourbonr Blog).  The spirit is then aged in the distilleries famous century old warehouses. The result is a fantastic whiskey. On the nose, I was presented with a major whiff of  toasted vanilla almonds. On the palette, the nutty flavors mingle with caramel and honey, finishing with a vanilla-anise blend and a subtle burn. Quite nice. Maybe I need to do a comparative tasting with Ancient Age for old times sake. Cheers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Woodchuck Cidery wants you to drink Cheeky Cherry on Valentine's Day

Last night I received a couple of bottles of Cheeky Cherry, the newest addition to Woodchuck Cidery Out on a Limb Series™. The Middlebury Vermont cider house is marketing this cider for Valentine's Day; so I was expecting a sweet cider to pair with the holiday's red coloring. Instead, and to my taste bud's enjoyment, I tasted a dry cider (although not sure the exact R.S. level) full of apple and tart cherry flavors. In fact the tart cherry resides on the tongue long afterwards, with the apple's acidity providing a lively finish. I was also expecting some artificial-ness with the cherry flavor; but no, the cider house infuses dried Michigan tart cherries into the already fermented cider plus a douse of Belgian cherry juice. The base cider is composes of a blend of common eating apple varieties as well as bittersweet cider fruit.  The alcohol weighs in at a reasonable 5.5%. Thumbs up for the Cheeky Cherry.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Next Stop in the #VABreweryChallenge: Manassas with Badwolf Brewing Company and Heritage Brewing

This weekend we continued our #VABreweryChallenge by traveling down Route 66 to the historic Civil War town of Manassas and two very new breweries: Badwolf Brewing Company (#3) and Heritage Brewing (#4). Badwolf is the smaller of the two and opened in July 2013 by Jeremy and Sarah Meyers. Did I mention small? They utilize a one barrel system; yet this nano-size can be a major benefit. There are plenty of unique beers on tap. This weekend featured six beers and I sampled all using their larger than normal sampler (8 ounces? per glass). I started with the Grisette (4.3%), a low alcohol session Saison with a lower spice profile which made it quite enjoyable. Next, was the most interesting, Bad Moon Rising (3.9%), a gose styled beer from Goslar Germany, that is to say, an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with ground coriander seeds and salt. Fails the Reinheitsgebot, but gets an exemption being a regional specialty. And as advertised, it is sweet and salty. Very interesting.  The Chocolate Nutz (6.6%) nut brown ale was spot on as was my favorite, the Simtra Pale (4.4%) - an American pale ale brewed with Simcoe and Citra hops. Surprisingly the highest abv, was their refreshing Hefeweizen, The Wild Rumpus. And we closed out the tasting with the Vanilla Malupa (5.7%),  a full bodied milk stout brewed with vanilla beans. Not bad. The only negative comment I can give the brewery is the cramped quarters on a crowded day; otherwise their beer is solid.

As a more spacious brewery, Heritage Brewing, provides plenty of room along their L-shaped tasting bar.   This veteran owned brewery also opened in 2013 and they claim to use at least 90% organic ingredients. Heritage bases their production around five flagship beers; the Freedom Isn't Free IPA,  Kings Mountain Scotch Ale, Revolution American Amber Ale (brewed with organic oranges), The Teddy East Coast Pale Ale, and the American Expedition - a honey ginger wheat ale. On this visit, I stuck to the Freedom Isn't Free IPA - a solid offering with plenty of IBUs to produce that refreshing hoppy finish. Our tasting neighbor preferred the American Expedition - so that's at least two popular beers. Heritage also has a great deal on their canned beers - $8 a six pack. That's a bargain. Cheers and safe travels with theCompass Mobile App.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hall Winery, Protocol #WineStudio, and #Wine Credentials

Protocol #WineStudio continued their January discussion on Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction with more credentials from available from the San Francisco Wine School. These include the California Wine Appellation Specialist® (CWAS) program, the French Wine Scholar (FWS) Program, and the Italian Wine Professional (IWP) Program. And to assist our appetite samples from Hall Winery were distributed to several lucky participants. Me being one of these.  Like Steven Kent Winery, Hall sends their staff to the San Francisco Wine School; they participate in the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program and plan to start sending staff to take the CWAS. A clear benefit to both the winery and its customers.

The two wines they sent were clear benefits to those of us tasting; these were the 2012 HALL "Eighteen Seventy-Three" Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) and the 2011 HALL "Jack's Masterpiece" Cabernet Sauvignon ($125). The "Eighteen Seventy-Three" honors Captain William Peterson, who in 1873, and established the first incarnation of the many wineries that have operated on Hall's St. Helena site. Although the vineyard Peterson planted was lost to phylloxera, elements of his winery are still evident in the restored winery.  The "Eighteen Seventy-Three" is an incredible wine, made from all Napa Valley fruit and aged in French Oak. Allow this wine to breathe because their are layers of chewy tannins ready to be released. These tannins are proceeded by creamy blackberry flavors then mild acidity.

Jack's Masterpiece is the creation of HALL President and former Winemaker, Mike Reynolds, who was tasked to devise a special release wine. If you notice, Hall supports the arts and uses different paintings in their labels. In 2006, Reynolds' then 18-month-old son Jack presented him with a canvas painted to celebrate Father's Day. Reynolds now had inspiration for the wine, Jack's Masterpiece. The 2011 incarnation is more subtle and earthy than the 1873, but contains plenty of depth and cherry flavor. Another beautiful wine.

Friday, January 30, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge - #2: Mad Fox Brewing Company, Falls Church

Our second stop in this year's #VABreweryChallenge was a short trip to Mad Fox Brewing Company. Readers may be familiar with the MyJoogTV episode filmed at this brewpub and its proximity to the W&OD bike trail. This day, Mad Fox had a full menu of beers available which included three cask offerings. One of these was a delicious St. Swithin’s E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter) - and English ale brewed with English Pale and Crystal malts and lightly hopped with the English First Gold hop varietal. Also on cask was the Mason's Dark Mild - at 3.3% ABV - a perfect lunch beer. It's medium-dark, mostly sweet with a light hop finish. My clear favorite during this visit was the Cabernet Funk, a Saison that is dry-hopped with Citra hops and then aged in used Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Barrels. This is a complex beer; spicy dirty, with a touch of tannins. And only 6.0% ABV. I'll probably return soon for their 5th Annual Barleywine Festival (February 21-22). Cheers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learning About Turkish Wine with Vinorai Wines on #WineChat

This past Wednesday, #WineChat  featured the Turkish wines from importer Vinorai Wines. During the hour chat we learned several facts about the wine industry in Turkey such as DNA analysis shows that grape seeds were domesticated in Anatolia as far back as 9000 BC. Whereas Turkey accounts for only 2% of total world wine production, they are the 6th largest grape grower. There are four major  grape growing regions: Anatolia, Thrace, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean being the biggest. Anatolia produces wine from mostly the indigenous varieties such as Emir, Narince,  Öküzgözü, and Boğazkere. They remaining regions have a more Mediterranean climate and specialize in international varieties, although the indigenous planting are increasing.

During the evening, I sipped on the Selection Narince - Emir 2011 from Kavaklidere Winery. Several of this winery's wines are available locally at Cenan's Bakery in Vienna, VA.  The winery is one of the largest in Turkey and is located in Anatolia. The Narince and Emir grapes were harvested from vineyards in Tokat and Cappadocia. After fermentation, the wine was aged eight months in French oak. The result is a wine with a big aroma, a creamsicle texture, green apple and lemon flavor, and decent acids on the finish. And quite the value at $12.  That should be an incentive to check out Turkish wine. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#DrinkLocal Options for #Beer & #Wine for Super Bowl XLIX

It's time to move past the Packer's late game meltdown and #deflategate and start concentrating on what's most important for Seahawks and Patriots fans heading to Phoenix for Super Bowl XLIX. What are the options for drinking local?  And there are plenty, The Phoenix are is home to over 20 craft breweries in addition to  one winery and one distillery. I've never had a chance to sample any, so please let me know your favorites. Here's what's listed on theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator and

Perch Pub and Brewery: 480-773-7688
SanTan Brewing: 480-917-8700

Arizona Wilderness Brewing: 480-284-9863
Dubina Brewing Company: 623-412-7770

Desert Eagle Brewing Company: 480-656-2662

Freak'N Brewing Company: 623-738-5804

Bold Barley Brewing: 602-978-0007
Mother Bunch Brewing: 602-368-3580
North Mountain Brewing Company: 602-861-5999
O.H.S.O. Eatery + NanoBrewery: 602-955-0358
Old World Brewery: 623-581-3359
The Phoenix Ale Brewery: 602-275-5049
Sonoran Brewing: 602-510-8996
Sun Up Brewery: 602-279-8909
Uncle Bear’s Brewhouse Grill: 480-961-2374

Arizona Distilling Co: 602-391-3889
Bad Water Brewing: 480-659-9225
Fate Brewing Company: 480-994-1275
Papago Brewing Co.: 480-425-7439
Scottsdale Beer Company: 480-219-1844
Su Vino Winery: 480-994-8466

Arizona Distilling Co: 602-391-3889
Huss Brewing Company: 480-264-7611
Sleepy Dog Brewing Company: 480-967-5476

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who's Up For A 2015 DC, MD, & VA Brewery Challenge

While enjoying a tulip of Tripel at Lost Rhino Brewing Co. on Saturday, my friend Chris and I heard about  someone who visited all 100 Virginia breweries in 2014 (#vabrewerychallenge).  Not afraid of a challenge, we committed ourselves to accomplish the same feat in 2015, with me raising the bar to visit the eleven breweries in the District (#dcbrewerychallenge) as well as the 60 or so in Maryland (#mdbrewerychallenge). As expected, we will be using theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator to navigate to these establishments. And I can image that Uber will be utilized often.

Thus #1 for the #vabrewerychallenge is Lost Rhino Brewing Co., located in Ashburn Virginia. Most should be familiar with their year round Face Plant, Rhino Chaser, and New River; but i tend toward the seasonal's - like the Tripel and brown ale styled porter - Why Nut?  With decent food and live music on weekends, what's not to like.

On Sunday I began the #dcbrewerychallenge at Atlas Brew Works, located in northeast near the National Arboretum. I was one of the first visitors, but by the time I had finished a sampler, the tasting bar was two deep. Atlas was the 4th craft brewery that has recently opened in DC and I was familiar with the brewery since their District Common and 1500 South Cap Lager are available at Nationals games. But three of their specialty brews hit home for me. First was the Rowdy Rye, I'm always in the search for rye, and this had a some edgy spices to balance the sweet malt. Next was the Pumpernickle Stout that includes some rye and molasssas - ingredients for pumpernickle bread. There is some sweetness to this beer as well but also some creaminess and spice. The final beer, the Town & Country, is outstanding. It's their Belgian Saison aged nine months in used red wine barrels. This process creates a complex beer - with many wine characteristics such as a strong cherry aroma and some tannins on the tail. Can't wait to share this one with my wine friends.

Brewery #2 for the #dcbrewerychallenge is Bardo Brewpub, located less than a mile from Atlas. Pay attention, because if you miss the brewery, you need to travel several blocks to retrace. Bill Stewart initially starting brewing beer with Bardo Rodeo in Arlington Virginia in 1993-4 and at the time it was the largest brewpub in the country. His brother Andrew helped manage the brewpub. Eventually that location closed and the Stewart family renovated the current location and opened Bardo Brewery in 2013. They have an enormous outside seating area and a good sized indoor facility which was half full on this visit. There were ten beers on tap, but once I saw the Bubba's Sour mash, I knew what direction I was headed. This is a tasty sour, black in color, tart in flavor, unfiltered for added complexity. 

 Check back for our next challenge stops. Cheers. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Steven Kent Winery, Protocol #WineStudio, and #Wine Credentials

The January theme at Protocol #WineStudio is Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction and to help sip our way through the discussion, samples of Steven Kent Winery to several participants. The winery started in 1996 with the goal of producing world class Cabernet in the Livermore Valley. Bordeaux grape varieties have been planted in the valley since the 1880's and many believe it's "climate and soils match those of Bordeaux’s left bank of the Gironde".  And Steven Kent Winery is all about Bordeaux - producing wine from all five red varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The winery was also a perfect match for discussing wine credentials as they have a well educated tasting staff. The winery trains every employee on the Livermore Valley section of the California Wine Appellation Specialist® (CWAS) program from the San Francisco Wine School. And a full 90% of the staff continued with the entire program. That's impressive.

For the #WineStudio twitter event, we tasted the 2011 Small-Lot Petit Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard ($50, 14.3% abv) and the 2011 Livermore Vally Cabernet Sauvignon ($48, 13.5% abv). The Ghielmetti Vineyard was planted by the Ghielmetti family in 2001-2002 and hosts vines from 10 different grape varieties. According to Tracey Hoff - VP Sales & Marketing, Petit Verdot thrives in the vineyard's gravelly soil, warm days, and cool evenings. Six barrels were chosen for the small-lot PV and the results are quite impressive. The 2011 Small-Lot Petit Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard starts off big, and I mean big, on the nose with dark fruit and tobacco leading to a complex mixture of blackberries, dirt, chocolate and some vanilla at the tail. Quite often, 100% Petit Verdot can be one dimensional - plowing straight ahead - but not the Steven Kent. This wine has depth and character.

The 2011 Livermore Vally Cabernet Sauvignon is also a well structured wine with the help of 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot & 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged 2 years in a combination of new and used French & American Oak. Being an acid hound, my first impression was the racy acidity, but there's also plenty on the nose - most likely an assist from the PV.  The wine has more of a cherry undertone with similar notes of chocolate and vanilla as the Small-Lot Petit Verdot. And the finish is spicier on the sweeter side with more cinnamon than pepper. A solid wine.

And catch the last night of #WineStudio's Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction on Tuesday January 27th to learn about the San Francisco Wine School's programs on French Wine Scholar (FWS), Italian Wine Professional (IWP), and the above mentioned California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS)® program. Cheers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Tasting of Four Napa Valley Wines from Ca’ Momi

Just in time for the Christmas holiday, Ca'Momi Winery sent me four wines from their Napa Valley establishment. "House of Momi" honors the three owners Italian heritage, specifically, the name of the family house in Italy's Veneto region.  The winery offers a few brands with the fruit sourced from the estate in Carneros or throughout Napa Valley. I received a shipment of their Passion brand, consisting of Merlot,  Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. They also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon in this series.

My first thought was that it will be intriguing to sample Napa Valley Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. And they both were tasty with the 2013 Zinfandel ($26) focusing on blackberry and spice and the 2013 Pinot Noir ($26) dark cherry. Both are fruit forward, easy drinking, with a shadow of tannins at the tail. Nice wines, but I would prefer other California regions with these varieties.  The 2013 Chardonnay ($22) was a more typical Napa Valley wine with a big citrus fruit flavor, with vanilla and butterscotch in the mid-palette, and a but of spice at the finish. Good acidity as well. For those who enjoy a little oak, but not over the top, this is for you. My favorite was the 2013 Merlot ($22). There's plenty going on in this wine starting with the cherry leather aroma, gummy berry flavor, dirt texture, pepper, and big tannins on the tail. Nicely done.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business

Kentucky Education Television (KET) in partnership with the The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries and  Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) have released a one hour documentary titled Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business.  The documentary is streamed here and is quite informative.  It captures an oral history of several of the leading families in the Kentucky bourbon industry as well as documenting the entire whiskey process. These families include the Beams at  The Jim Beam® Distillery and Heaven Hill Distilleries; the Russells at Wild Turkey; the Samuels at Maker's Mark Distillery; the players behind the Brown-Forman Early Times Distillery; Master Distiller Jim Rutledge at Four Roses Distillery; and Master Distiller William Pratt at Michter’s Distillery, LLC.

You will also need to read this critique by Chuck Cowdery on a few major missing players: Sazerac's Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle, & Elmer T. Lee. Regardless, the documentary is highly recommended for those interested in all things bourbon.

Update: The Buffalo Trace Oral History Project includes several videos of the families not included in the KET video also hosted through the The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Angel's Envy - Is Bourbon Aged in Port Casks Still Legally Bourbon?

I recently received a bottle of the Angel's Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Port Finish - which is almost as nice as their Cask Strength. For those unfamiliar with the brand, it was started by the late Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson and his son Wes. Henderson helped develop several major bourbon brands such as Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel and is an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon is produced using the legal requirements for Bourbon - over 51% corn, aged in new charred American Oak, as well as meeting a few proof requirements. It is entitled to be labeled Straight since it has aged more than four years, in this case at least six years. But then the whiskey is aged between three to six months in used 60-gallon ruby port barrels made from French oak. The result is a complex whiskey: vanilla, toasty honey, candied citrus, and plenty of nutty character. But, with this final finish - can the product be legally labeled a Bourbon?  Any ideas out there?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning about Wines of Southwest France (Fronton & Cahors) on #Winechat

The last two weeks of #WineChat featured a discussion of the Wines of Southwest France - "a lush, hilly wine region that occupies the corner bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains on the south. The region is home to a string of more than two dozen winemaking appellations whose producers are united by a passion for place. Some of the world’s great grape varieties originated here and many of the area’s lesser-known varieties are grown nowhere else." 

One wine grape that originated there was Malbec, specifically from the sub-region of Cahors; another Negrette, from Fronton.  For the second week I was sent samples of each from Chambers Street, the Cosse Maisonneuve 2009 Cahors Le Combal (13.5% ABV,  $19.99) and Colombière 2010 Fronton Bellouguet (13.5% ABV, $15.99).

Cahors, is located due north of Toulouse, and the birthplace of the Malbec grape and is known locally as Cot or Auxerrois.  AOC regulations in Cahors stipulates that Malbec must comprise at least 70% of all blends with Merlot and Tannat rounding out the rest. These are black wines, dark and chewy as perfected illustrated by the Cosse Maisonneuve 2009 Cahors Le Combal. This is a fantastic wine, cassis and stewed plum on the aroma, with deep chewy tannins. And I mean chewy and made from organic grapes.

Fronton is also located north of Toulouse, just not as far north and is home to Négrette, where at least 40% must be included in a final blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Fer and Gamay are the other grapes permitted. The Colombière 2010 Fronton Bellouguet is a funky wine, where the aroma is sweet anise - very gin like - followed by dark fruit flavors with a nice transition into a juicy tannic finish. Another fantastic wine.

This is one wine region I'll continue to explore. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who Makes Trader Joe's La Ferme Julien?

You may have seen two La Ferme Julien wines on sale at Trader Joe's at the enticing price of $5.99. At that price I purchased one of each and went home to research. The wines are produced by Famille Perrin, the same family that owns the famous Château de Beaucastel that produces Châteauneuf-du-Pape in southern Rhône. You may be familiar with estate since it is the co founder with Robert Haas of Paso Robles' Tablas Creek Vineyard.  In 1978 Jean Pierre Perrin and François Perrin took over management of the estate from their father Jacques Perrin and soon introduced La Vieille Ferme - an inexpensive Côtes du Rhône - that quickly became very popular. Look for the chicken on the label. Trade Joe's recognized this trend and contracted with Famille Perrin to create a private label version - the goat version.

The two wines are blends of four southern Rhône varieties. The grapes for the La Ferme Julien Blanc are sourced from the Côtes du Luberon and consist of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Vermentino. Not exactly your household names. The wine starts with stone fruit aromas, leading to a citric flavor - both lemon and grapefruit. It starts nicely, but then falls flat at the finish because of a lack in acids and vibrancy. The La Ferme Julien Rouge is comprised of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault sourced from the Côtes de Ventoux. Both Ventoux and Luberon are located in the extremely southeast region of the Rhône leading to Provence. This is a simple wine, the term "rustic" is used quite often as a descriptor, and is very easy on the palette. Nothing exciting about either wine, but at $6, you get what you pay for.