Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Outer Banks Distilling - Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum

The Outer Banks is the home of North Carolina's oldest micro-brewery in the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery and last year saw the establishment of the islands' first distillery: Outer Banks Distilling. Located historic Roanoke Island, the distillery currently produces two versions of rum, the Kill Devil Silver Rum and Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum. The offshore shoals known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” has led to over
 1,000 wrecks with some of this wreckage containing barrels of rum. According to the distillery, "the town of Kill Devil Hills is believed to have been named for either barrels of rum of the brand name Kill Devil or for a rum that was 'strong enough to kill the devil'”. Kill Devil Hills is also the site of the Wright Brothers first flights and ironically their father, Bishop Milton Wright, was a leader in the Temperance Movement.

This week I picked up a bottle of the Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum ($30).  The honey and pecans are locally sourced from within 15 miles of the distillery, with the spent rum soaked pecans sent to local bakers. The rum is rather rich and tasty, the honey and pecans provide a mild nutty sweetness, with the finish so smooth. Go for it neat or on the rocks.

Monday, July 18, 2016

More “Wines of Altitude” with Bodega Colomé

During our previous “Wines of Altitude” post we featured Salta's Amalaya Wines. And the parent to that brand and the founding Salta, Argentina member of the Hess Family Estates is Bodega Colomé, the founding member of the Hess Family Estates in Salta - established in 1831.  The winery and Colomé Vineyard are located at 7,545 feet above sea level and operates three other vineyards ranging from 5,750 (La Brava Estate) to 10,200 (Altura Máxima Estate) feet above sea level. This last could be the highest vineyard in the world.

This altitude provides intense sun exposure as well as a wide range in thermal amplitude, ranging between 20° during day and night. Those factors facilitate the uniform and balanced development of the grapes.  According to the winery, "La Brava Vineyard sits at 5,740 feet and yields intense and ripe fruit. Colomé Vineyard surrounds the winery at 7,545 feet and lends complexity and weight. El Arenal Vineyard at 8,530 feet gives elegance and freshness to the blend and Altura Maxima at 10,207 feet gives floral and mineral notes with fine grain tannins".

I recently received two samples from the winery, one a Malbec, the region's popular red signature grape and a Torrontés, the region's white signature grape. DNA research has shown that Torrontés is a cross between the Mission grapes of Galicia, Spain and Muscat of Alexandria. And the Muscat lends plenty of aromatic qualities.

2013 Colomé Estate Malbec ($25) is 100% Malbec made from grapes grown at all four vineyards.  After fermentation the wine is aged 15 months in French oak barriques and then an additional six months in the bottle before release.  The result is a very nice wine: medium bodied, fresh red and black fruit followed by spices and noticeable tannins and acidity.  

2015 Colomé Torrontés ($15) is 100% Torrontés harvested from 30 - 60 year old vines.  The grapes are fermented slowly at low temperatures in stainless steel and then aged three months in steel before bottling. This is a nice wine, abundant floral aromas, plenty of stone fruits, grapefruit, and refreshing acidity.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Willamette Valley Summer Whites from Left Coast Cellars

Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Left Coast Cellars, produces wine from 134 acres of estate vineyards weighted towards popular varieties such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.  I received two samples for summer enjoyment and both were quite delicious with my extended family preferring the Chardonnay and me savoring the White Pinot Noir. Cheers.

Left Coast Cellars Truffle Hill Chardonnay 2015 ($24.00) is 100% Chardonnay harvested from their Truffle Hill vineyard in Willamette Valley. There's an element of creaminess as the wine aged sur lie for 9 months, but it's all chardonnay with very little oak characters to interfere with the grape's inherent flavor. The acidic citrus finish lingers and lingers, and lingers....

Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir 2015 ($24.00) is 100% Pinot Noir harvested from across their Willamette Valley vineyards. The winery limits skin contact to achieve clarity and the wine is uniquely delicious.  It combines white stone and light cherry flavors, a silky texture, and long mineral finish of acids and slate. Go for it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

“Wines of Altitude” with Salta's Amalaya Wines

The Calchaqui Valley is located from 5,500 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea level - making it one of the highest viticulture regions in the world.  The high altitude provides intense daytime sunlight and cool nights that help better retain the acidity and concentrated fruit characteristics of the grapes. The valley lies within the Salta Province of NW Argentina and specializes in Torrontés and Malbec grapes. There are three varieties of Torrontés with Torrontés Riojano (the most common), Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Each are believed to be separate crossings of the Mission grape and Muscat of Alexandria. And Salta is its main base in Argentina.

I recently received two wines from Amalaya, part of Hess Family Estates. Amalaya translates to "Hope for a Miracle" from the native Calchaqui Indians and that's how Donald Hess felt regarding his first investment in Argentina in the vineyards of El Arenal. No need for miracles as grapes thrive in the Calchaqui Valley and Hess Family expanded their acreage. Today the grapes for the Amalaya brand are harvested from the Finca San Isidro Vineyard and Las Mercedes Vineyard. Both are located in arid parts of the Calchaqui Valley with the main difference being soil types.

2015 Amalaya Blanco ($12; 85% Torrontés / 15% Riesling) Sourced from the Finca San Isidro vineyard, this is the first time I've seen this blend composition. Torrontés is generally aromatic and this blend elevates the peach characters and possibly the grapefruit flavors as well. This is a fresh, acidic wine; very refreshing and favorable at that price.

2015 Amalaya Malbec ($16; 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Syrah) Sourced from both the Finca Las Mercedes and Finca San Isidro vineyards. A quarter of the wine was aged in once-used French Oak barrels for ten months so while this wine is fruit forward and smooth there's a dusty, spicy, and vanilla character resulting from the oak. The finish is very easy, very easy.

Friday, July 1, 2016

#WineStudio Presents Sonoma’s Rosé Revolution

After a soggy May it was time to pivot to summer with June's #WineStudio Session 35: Sonoma's Rosé Revolution. And indeed the revolution has spread throughout the valley and across multiple grape varieties.Wineries are using the two traditional methods for producing rosé, either gently pressing the grapes as in Provence or using the saignée or bleed from red wine production. This session featured four Sonoma wines: Passaggio Wines 2015 Rosé Merlot SonomaEllipsis Wine Company 2015 Rosé of Pinot Meunier Sonoma CountyPedroncelli Winery 2015 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley; and Angels & Cowboys 2015 Rosé Sonoma County (Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc). I received a sample of the last two with notes below. Cheers.

2015 Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($12). The grapes are harvested from prime Dry Creek Valley fruit, the Pedroncelli estate as well as Buchnignani vineyard. This rosé is made by combining both popular methods, the free run juice from early picked grapes (60% of the blend) and 40% saignée (juice which was drawn from the fermenting tank of fully ripened Zinfandel). Because of the the fruitiness of the Zin, the wine feels slightly sweeter than dry (.4% R.S.) and  looks like cherry gummy bears in the glass. The flavor starts with candied red cherries and a side of mint, but as the wine warms strawberries evolve, with the fresh acids persisting throughout. A simple, yummy, and refreshing wine.


2015 Angels & Cowboys Rosé Sonoma County ($15). The brand is a collaboration between Cannonball Wine Company co-founders, Yoav Gilat and Dennis Hill, and Northern California graphic artist, Michael Schwab. The wine is a field blend of Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc sourced from vineyards in Carneros, the Alexander Valley and the Dry Creek Valley. The grapes are harvested early, lightly crushed and macerated on their skins as in the Provencal style. After a long fermentation at cooler temperatures the wine rests on its lees to increase the mouthfeel and texture. Unfortunately my bottle was consumed without my presence when friends visited, but here's what other participants had to say. 

Dezel Quillen ‏@myvinespot: Though sleek & racy, @aandcwines rosé carries enough weight/texture to move onto the the dinner table w/ grilled fish, bird, etc

Gwendolyn Alley, MA ‏@ArtPredator: Palette: watermelon, honeydew, cucumber. Crisp with minerals, light fruit, sage in finish. Angels and Cowboys #rose

Debbie Gioquindo,CSW ‏@hvwinegoddess: Everything is nice on this wine! The minerality, freshness, the citrus finish the violets on the nose....

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

San Diego's Prolific Craft Beer Scene

San Diego is craft beer heaven. I know there are other awesome craft beer cities like Portland and Denver but combine the weather, the beaches, and an accommodating baseball stadium and you get America's Finest City. First, let's look at the numbers. There are approximately 80 tasting rooms within city limits and a few of these are giants like Ballast Point Brewing Company and Stone Brewing. Others, like Pizza Port and the Karl Strauss Brewing Company, have numerous venues scattered throughout the city.  Second, there's Petco Park stadium which embraces craft beer - not just tolerates it.  See the Ballpark & Brews post. And finally, the beer is unique, interesting, and delicious.

On our arrival and quick hotel check in across from Petco Park we headed over to the Stone Brewing Tap Room located conveniently just outside the stadium. The tap room provides a host of Stone brews, most very IPA-centric, but enough options for our heavily weighted Miller Lite group. I choose the Citrusy Wit and finished my Father's Smoked Porter before heading to the Tilted Kilt for lunch. Both solid beers for their respective styles. At the Kilt I went overboard with local beer starting with the AleSmith Brewing Pale Ale .394, then moving on to the the Coronado Brewing Company Berry The Hatchet, and finishing with the Ballast Point Pineapple Sculpin. The later was slightly sweeter than the Grapefruit Sculpin, the Coronado fruit ale tasty, and the AleSmith my favorite of the trio.

After putting the padre to bed for a nap, I ventured ahead to Half Door Brewing Company, named in honor of the Irish pubs and farmhouses where half doors were a way to let fresh air in and keep the nosy farm animals out. The brewery sits in an eccentric historic house with a large front porch and divided second floor seating. Great architecture.  I started with a favorite style, the Bearleener Berliner Weisse and it was tart and fruity as expected. When the crew eventually caught up most of us turned to the Half Door Pale Ale  - a beer that found common ground between the IPA and lite beer drinkers. This beer left us in a cheerful state heading into the stadium.

Day 2 started with an Uber to Ocean Beach to visit relatives, walk in the ocean, and stroll the pier. Afterwards Pizza Port Ocean Beach was a short walk away for lunch and we came away impressed with the food and the beer. My favorite was the No Surf Cream Ale - a refreshing summer ale, while my brother looked favorably upon the Swami's IPA and my father stuck to his porter - the Tube Time Porter.

Our return Uber ride detoured into the Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen Restaurant, a satellite venue in Little Italy. I knew it was a wise decision when we met Bob Carpenter, the MASN TV voice of the Washington Nationals, coming out. I selected three different beers for my sampler and fell in love with the Tart Lady a Wild Ale exuding juicy and tart apricots. The other two experimental ales just weren't for me. The Hop Trois IPA was funky but seemed unbalanced and the When Doves Crye Rye Wine was tense and spicy - too much for my palate. But a sifter of the Tart Lady quickly it washed away. And once again I finished my Father's porter, this one the malty Black Marlin.

I'm returning to America's Finest City later this summer and I will be using theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App to visit several breweries that I lost time - particularly Mission Brewery and Monkey Paw Brewing. Cheers. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge - Arlington with New District Brewing Company & Capitol City Brewing Company

Recently the W&OD received another brew stop along the bike trail as New District Brewing Company (#36) joined Capitol City Brewing Company (#37) at it's origin in Arlington.  The later has anchored their Shirlington corner for at least a decade. Normally when I visit Capitol City I stick to the Capitol Kolsch - clean and easy drinking after a bike ride. I've never really been satisfied with the rest of the portfolio but this visit I noticed an expanded rotating taps menu which included an Imperial Blonde, Gose, and a Porter on cask. An interesting development indeed. I obviously ordered the Gose and encountered mixed results. It started tart with a hint of saline and not much coriander but was refreshing. However as the finish lingered it seemed somewhat flawed - a dirty funkiness that didn't belong.  But with that expanded portfolio, I'll be back.

New District Brewing Company is the "first package brewery in Arlington, Virginia in one hundred years"; that's their story and they are sticking to it. The brewery is located across Four Mile Run Drive from the W&OD on Oakland Street near the .5 mile marker. One easy route is to circle back to the brewery at MM 0 taking two consecutive rights on Shirlington and 27th and then left on Nelson, and right on Oakland. Once you arrive get ready for some puppy love with the dog park across the street. As for the beers, another mixed bag. Their signature 1821 is a Saison brewed with a mystery spices from the family's village in Greece. It's big, biting, and spicy - appealing with food and at nighttime but not particularly after a 12 mile ride. The Folded Note Pilsner is hoppier than most and like The Bright Future Kolsch has a solid mineral backbone. Both were a bit refreshing but served at cask temperature - perhaps due to changing of kegs. My favorite was the South German Lager, a maltier brew is some Marzen character, but dry hopped for added aromatics. This beer provided the energy for the 12 mile return trip. Cheers and as always, theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App will guide you to any wine, beer, or distillery destination.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ballparks & Brews: Petco Park - San Diego Padres

I've only been to a handful of major league ball parks but for now the San Diego Padres' Petco Park is in a league of their own. The park embraces craft beer embraces craft beer - not just tolerates it like Nationals Park. I only strayed between the third base line and home plate in the 200 level but saw dozens of unique craft beer options at multiple stands. There's even a dedicated stretch of pavement for craft beer carts. And all local craft breweries: Stone Brewing, Pizza Port, Mission Brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing, and Mike Hess Brewing Company. Walking past these carts will take you to a larger craft beer vending area (with longer lines) including Coronado Brewing Company, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., and Saint Archer Brewing Company among others.

There are other craft beer options as well starting in the center field patio where Ballast Point Brewing Company and Sculpin are King overlooking taps from other local breweries. Although I didn't venture into the 300 level I read that Stone Brewing has a dedicated tasting area and I'm sure other craft breweries are represented. As for non-local breweries, I did see a lonely Goose Island Beer Co. and thought why bother.

I stuck to lighter beers but there were a plethora of other beer styles. The Ballast Point Kolsch and Mission Blonde were my go to beers, whereas my IPA laced sibling chose Sculpin, the Stone IPA, and the ridiculously delicious Karl Strauss Aurora Hoppyalis IPA.

If you care to pre-game, there are a few breweries within walking distance starting with the neighboring Stone Brewing Tap Room and Half Door Brewing Company - two blocks away.  On an outer parameter you can find Monkey Paw Brewing, The Beer Company, and Resident Brewing, then take the Craft Beer Bus to Mission Brewery -and then be deposited at the stadium gates. Cheers to craft beer and baseball.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#FirstSipNZ with Villa Maria's Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc

One of the most reliable sources for affordable New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has always been Villa Maria and they didn't disappoint with their current summer offerings tasted through the #FirstSipNZ campaign. Elizabeth Smith has the details on this campaign at Villa Maria’s First Sip of Summer. In general New Zealand, and in particular, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines are fresh; driven by citrus, tropical, herbaceous, and mineral characteristics; and refreshingly acidic. I learned that the "minerality often comes from vineyards with stony old riverbed vineyard sites". Here are the two wines we sampled, both will be available across the U.S. either now or towards August. Cheers.

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99). The grapes were sourced from vineyards throughout the Marlborough region of NZ with a mixture of warmer and cooler vineyard sites which showcase the herbal and tropical note. However, for me, this wine was all citrus from the wet grass aroma through the bright lemon-grapefruit character to the long, long finish.

2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99). Produced in the frizzante style similar to Moscato d’Asti and Vinho Verde where the wine maintains generous effervescence but not to the extent of a sparkling wine. According to winemaker Helen Morrison, a true méthode champenoise would overwhelm Sauvignon Blanc and the wine would lose the freshness associated with the grape. The grapes were also sourced from vineyards throughout the Marlborough region of NZ. The added frizz elevates the fruit profile with the citrus flavors dominating while chilled and the tropical banana and guava like characteristics evolving when warming.. The wine also maintains its texture from the creamy start to effervescent ending.  As for food pairings, seafood was highly recommended (mussels in particular). I'll be heading to the beach with this wine for sure. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Minnesota's Alexis Bailly Vineyard Voyageur

Minnesota wine was present last month at the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting through the Alexis Bailly Vineyard Voyageur ($29). The wine is a blend of Minnesota grown Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, and Frontenac. The first two grapes are French hybrids whereas the later was developed by the University of Minnesota in 1996 as an extreme cold hardy wine grape for northern growers. The wine itself, as well as the winery, is named after their 4th great grandfather, Alexis Bailly, who along with a handful of other French/Canadian pioneers (voyageurs) paddled their way through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Hastings, Minnesota. And the Marechal Foch and Leon Millot were part of the original vineyard when, in 1973, David Bailly planted the fist modern vineyard in the North Star State.

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
The vineyard was inspired by not only Bailley's interest in wine but also a desire to start a business where he could deduct wine trips to Europe. I can relate to that sympathy. In 1967 he tasted the Boordy Vineyards Red from the historic Maryland winery and realized European styled wines could be made in the east. Further research lead him to Millot and Foch and over time he concluded that "the Léon Millot has made the best wine and the Maréchal Foch has been the most winter hardy".

The Voyageur is dark, both in color and black fruit forward flavors; stressing the fruit forward nature of this wine. Ten months of oak treatment comes in play during the mid-palate and outweighs the fruit, whereas the wine finishes with plenty of acids and a slight tannic coating. This wine shows well, a bit pricey in the world market, but more reasonable in the drink local market. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Argentina's Rutini Wines Delivers Four Wines from the Tupungato Valley


I recently received a care package from Rutini Wines, the esteemed winery located on the outskirts of Mendoza, consisting of four Argentinean wines. The winery was founded in 1885 by Italian immigrant Felipe Rutini, who according to wiki became one four great Italian winemakers in Mendoza. His first vineyard was located in Maipú and he further expanded into the Los Corralitos and Medrano regions of Mendoza. In 1925 his descendants planted the first vineyards in Tupungato, in the heart of Mendoza's Uco Valley. Named after one of Mendoza´s mountain peaks, the Tupungato Valley sits at  3000 to 5000 feet (900 to 1500 meters) above sea level. The valley also consists of  several different microclimates, creating optimal growing conditions for different grape varieties. Today it is recognized as one of Mendoza´s premier viticulture regions and the source of the four wines received from Rutini.

2015 Trumpeter Torrontes ($12) - Argentina´s signature white varietal, this Torrontés starts with stone fruits, continues with a mineral backbone, and finishes with easy acids. A very nice wine providing top value.

2014 Trumpeter Malbec ($12) -  Aged using a plethora of American and French barrel grades for 7 months this wine starts bold with strong cherry flavors, maintains a base of structure, and then the tannic finish falls slightly flat. But for the price, I'd say worthy .

2013 Rutini Malbec Encuentro ($19) - Aged 12 months in 50-50 French and American oak this wine is delicious. The wine starts with smooth black cherry and plum, followed by a spicy and structured mid-palate, and finishing with chewy tannins.  Hits a sweet spot.

2012 Rutini Malbec ($35) - Aged 12 months in 80% new French oak and 20% new American oak and includes grapes from vineyards from both La Consulta, San Carlos and Tupungato Valley, Mendoza. This is a juicy wine exuding dark fruit, herbs, and earthiness; yet maintains a firm structure. The tannins at the tail creep up slowly.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Kentucky's StoneBrook Winery Vidal Blanc

The annual Wine America Congressional Tasting delivered once again with a new state wine, in this case, Kentucky and the StoneBrook Winery Vidal Blanc ($13). The winery is located in the western part of the Bluegrass state, just south of Cincinnati, in the Ohio River Valley AVA. This viticultural area is the second largest in the U.S. spanning portions of four states (Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky) and encompassing 26,000 square miles. (The Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA is the largest at 29,914 square miles.) This region also possesses a long history of grape growing reaching back to the early 1820s with Catawba and Isabella being the featured grapes.  In most cases French hybrids have now replaced these native Labrusca grapes.
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
StoneBrook Winery is a 5th generation farm composed of two farmsteads dating back to the 1870s and 1890s. Their tasting room is located in the remodeled Kool House originally constructed in the 1890s. Their Vidal Blanc was the winery's first estate wine and is fresh and floral on the nose, transitions to a sweet pear and grapefruit flavor finishing with decent acids to balance the sugar.  I'm sure this is their best seller. Cheers.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

#SAVOR2016's Top Fifteen Beers That Blew Me Away

I attended SAVOR 2016 on Friday June 3rd and this Brewers Association sponsored event was splendid.  76 breweries poured two beers each and represented a mix of styles from IPAs, Stouts, Porters, Saisons, and sours. Many sours in fact and that's how I started off the evening. Out of the two dozen or so, there were a few that clearly stood out above the noise. Same for the many excellent barrel aged stouts and porters.  And in both categories top honors goes to Crux Fermentation Project. One caveat, I didn't sample many IPAs - just ran out of time trying to sample 152 beers. Cheers.
  1. Crux Fermentation Project [Banished] Bretted Farmhouse 
  2. D9 Brewing Company Systema Naturae Sour Ale fermented with wild lactobacillus & yeast, naturally conditioned.
  3. Crux Fermentation Project [Banished] Tough Love Barrel Aged Imperial Stout banished to used bourbon barrels
  4. The Lost Abbey Track #8  Barrel Aged Quad Judgement Day aged 9 months in new bourbon barrels and spiked with cinnamon sticks and dried chili peppers
  5. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout combines hefty amounts of various dark malts with 98 IBUs of hops
  6. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Schnickelfritz Weissbier
  7. Center of the Universe Brewing Company IV Quadrupel aged in red wine barrels
  8. Southern Tier Brewing Company Salted Caramel Imperial Stout based on a milt stout with Himalayan sea salt and caramelized sugar
  9. Right Proper Brewing Company Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne Berliner Weisse brewed with Meyer lemon zest, elderberries, and dry hopped with Sauvin
  10. New Belgium Brewing Company Tart Lychee Sour Ale barrel aged with lychee puree and cinnamon sticks
  11. Perennial Artisanal Ales Savant Blanc Sour Ale Barrel Aged Belgium Blond Ale (aged in Chardonnay barrels) with Chardonnel wine grapes
  12. Deschutes Brewery The Abyss Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout brewed with black strap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, augmented with vanilla, then aged 12 months in rye whiskey barrels.
  13. Strange Craft Beer Company Cherry Kriek Lambic with loads of cherries
  14. Bell's Brewery Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout
  15. Lewis and Clark Brewing Company  Prickly Pear Pale Ale

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#WineStudio Concludes it's Two Month Foray into DO Rías Baixas

Our two month #WineStudio foray into DO Rías Baixas wine concluded May 31st as the focus continued with their signature grape Albariño.  This has been an eye-opening venture into the region's wine and history as explained in these earlier DO Rías Baixas posts. We will finish this series by commented on a few additional wines we sampled during the sessions.

2014 Santiago Roma DO Rías Baixas ($11). This 100% Albariño is made from grapes harvested from estate vineyards in the Salnés Valley. It is unique in the sense that it offers ripe red apples that then lead into a lemon-mint profile. This excellent value wine concludes with a mildly salty finish.

2013 Baladiña DO Rías Baixas Lagar de Besada ($16). This wine is also 100% Albariño from the Salnés Valley made from one of the first bonded wineries in DO Rias Baixas. It starts with stone fruit which is quickly followed by strong citrus flavors, mild minerals, and a somewhat tannic and very fresh acidic finish.

2014 Tomada de Castro DO Rías Baixas ($14). The Castros had been making homemade wine for a century when Carlos Castro took the venture public. It is another 100% Albariño with plenty of maritime influences. The wine possesses the more typical tropical and stone fruits, mild minerals and saline, sweeter acidic finish.

2015 Torre La Moreira DO Rías Baixas ($18). This wine is produced by Bodegas Marqués de Vizhoja, a historic estate from the 16th century located near the Portuguese border.  This may be my very favorite wine of the sessions with it's very intensive stone fruit flavor, saline and herbal notes, and bright finish. Well done indeed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 SAVOR Preview - IPAs, Sours, Stouts, Saisons, and Porters

It's officially SAVOR week as the annual American craft beer and food experience occurs Friday and Saturday nights June 3rd and 4th. The event is sponsored by the Brewers Association and consists of 76 breweries pouring two beers each. The breweries represent 28 states and Washington DC,  70% were not at least year's event, and 50% have never poured at SAVOR before. This year Wyoming seems to have an over supply with Black Tooth Brewing Co., Melvin Brewing, and Roadhouse Brewing Company representing the Cowboy State. Melvin was the GABF 15 Small Brewpub of the Year so check them out. Along with a sample of beer there is a food pairing developed by Chef Adam Dulye, executive chef at the Brewers Association and Chef Kyle Mendenhall, BA chef consultant and executive chef at  Bolder Colorado's The Kitchen

As usual there is a plethora of beer styles and IPAs dominate the tasting again with 33 versions ranging from low abv sessions to high octane imperials. In tune with the sour beer trend there are about two dozen sour or tart beers with a vast majority binging Sour/Wild/Brett but including four Gose and three Berliner Weisse beers (The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Seaquenchale is included in both the Gose and Berliner Weisse totals). The latter two styles are my sweet spot right now so I've listed these beers below. I'm also a Porter fan and there will be ten versions with a few sweeter Baltic styles, a smoked from Quest Brewing Company, the Flying Dog Brewery barrel aged Notorious B.A.G., and several Imperial Porters - see Stone Brewing Co. Encore: 6th Anniversary Porter. Similarly there will be 16 Stouts from a silky smooth milk stout like the Saugatuck Brewing Co. Neapolitan to several heavy imperial and barrel aged versions. Saisons as well as a few other Belgium inspired Dubbel, Tripel, and Quad ales are also well represented. See Virginia's Center of the Universe Brewing Co.and their IV Barrel-Aged Quad & Monkey's Uncle Tripel and Florida's Marker 48 Brewing Diepolder Dubbel & Meet The Heat Saison. And finally, I've listed a few notable and interesting brews that I plan to checkout. Cheers.

Notable and Interesting
Lewis and Clark Brewing Company - Helena, MT: Prickly Pear Pale Ale
Great Raft Brewing - Shreveport, LA: Oceans Between Us Brett IPA
Service Brewing Company - Savannah, GA: Old Guard Biere de Garde.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - St. Louis, MO: Schnickelfritz Weissbier
Black Tooth Brewing Co. - Sheridan, WY: '1314' Strong Ale
Adroit Theory Brewing - Purcellville, VA: Ortolan Bunting Strong Ale
Melvin Brewing - Alpine, WY: Chchch-cherry bomb

Gose
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, DE: Seaquenchale - Kolsch/Gose/Berliner Weisse Hybrid
Flying Dog Brewery - Frederick, MD: GoseFace Killah
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Chico, CA: Otra Vez
Victory Brewing Company - Downingtown, PA: Kirsch Gose

Berliner Weisse
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, DE: Seaquenchale - Kolsch/Gose/Berliner Weisse Hybrid
Right Proper Brewing Company - Washington, DC: Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne
Bear Republic Brewing Co. - Cloverdale, CA: Tartare

Friday, May 27, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Nebraska's Mac's Creek Vineyards & Winery Poncu

Mac's Creek Vineyards & Winery came through with another interesting wine at the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting. This was their Poncu ($25) port styled wine. The weather is too extreme in the Cornhusker state for vinifera grapes so Mac's Creek specializes in cold hardy hybrids, many created at the University of Minnesota such as Edelweiss, LaCrescent, and Frontenac.

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
Founder Max McFarland explained how the Poncu is made.  They ferment Frontenac and then send the wine to a distillery where it is distilled into grape brandy. The winery then purchases the brandy, ages it in oak barrels, and then use it to fortify batches of semi-dry Frontenac. As you can see, Frontenac all the way.  The label and name honors the McFarland Family cattle brand and Max's father Dale "Bud" McFarland. Bud enjoyed Stetson hats and Poncu is what 3rd generation and co-owner Barry McFarland called his grandfather as a little boy.

The Poncu is very nice. The nose is cherry, wood, and a bit ethanol.  The oak character persists throughout and with the alcohol dampens down the sweetness.With this wine, Mac's Creek proves with a little ingenuity and working within the state regulations, a winery can produce a unique and tasteful wine - in this case a highly recommended port styled dessert wine. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Rhode Island's Greenvale Vineyards 2015 Albariño

theCompass view of
Greenvale Vineyards

It's been difficult procuring wines to continue the United Grapes of America series, but them comes along the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting featuring dozens of wines from across the United States. This event included several interesting wines with one being the Greenvale Vineyards Albarino. This Rhode Island winery is located along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, RI, five miles north of downtown Newport and is a member of the Coastal Wine Trail. Apparently "Greenvale is a farm that has been in the same family since 1863. It is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places". 

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

For the past two months I've sipped plenty of Rías Baixas Albariño through #WineStudio's Rías Baixas sessions and the 2015 Greenvale Vineyards Albariño ($15) matches most of the characteristics I've come to expect in this style. It starts with tropical flavors with some lemon then transitions to a saline-mineral character before finishing with decent acids. Since the grapes are estate grown in the Ocean state (very close to an estuary), they share some similarities to their Galicia grown brethren. Cheers to American wineries producing wine from interesting grapes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge #36 - Arlington's Sehkraft Brewing

Saturday I made my second visit to Sehkraft Brewing and this time they had five of their house brewed beer. This brewery, restaurant, butcher shop, and music venue also carries an impressive list of Virginia and National beers to augment their house brews. First though, the food is unique and outstanding as Chef Jay Jenc melds Eastern Europe and Piedmont/Low Country cuisine - at very reasonable prices. On both my visits I went with the wild burger, the first bison, the second camel. And there's plenty of sausage and kielbasa straight from the butcher shop. Actually, all the meats come from the adjacent butcher shop.

As for the beer I was quite satisfied with four out of five. Their Amber Ale had a nice balance of malt to hops and not overly sweet as tends the style. It also was the best to pair with the camel burger.  The Good To Go Session IPA was both flavorful and aromatic; a low abv session without tasting watery. The Hoptastic IPA was fuller, hoppier, and not over the top. Then there's the Wicked Weiss, a fresh and mildly tart Berliner Weisse - seems like a great beer for their patio and post bike ride. (And Sehkraft isn't too far from the W&OD Trail)  The final beer was the Uber-Awesome IPL which just didn't suit me. I liked the individual aspects of the lager and IPA, but they just didn't seem to meld together and were fighting each other. Otherwise a talented lineup. Go visit soon - theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator app will help. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator App Release 2.1

This week we released the first major upgrade to the Android version of theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator App. The new version includes several library upgrades - including Location Services - as well as several workflow patterns. First, the data is now stored on the device allowing for data access in the most isolated regions. Second, the location and zipcode\name searches have been separated to different activities. And along with the state\province module, these activities utilize a viewpager to display the lists and maps of establishments for an easier flow. The maps also include an upgraded cluster library used for California and Washington state and probably for Oregon in the near future. The Company Details activity is basically the same except easier access to social media sharing and a new Weather API that graphically illustrates a seven day forecast.  The next release will include social media logins which will then allow the user to check-in and save comments when visiting an establishment. That work will commence after the WineCompass.com site is upgraded to a more stable platform. Cheers and safe travels.





Friday, May 13, 2016

#WineStudio Presents Galicia – “Green” Spain and the Celtic Influence of Rías Baixas

During the height of Greek civilization between 800-400 B.C., the Celts, who we now associate with Scotland and Ireland, ruled over most of Central and Western Europe. In fact, the Alps mountain range is named from the Celtic Alpes, which itself is derived from a pre-Indo-European base alb (hill). Over time the Celts were pushed to the extremes of Europe - including Galacia where the Romans referred to them as Celtiberians - regardless whether they were ethnic Celts or a mix with Iberian tribes. (See The Celts in Spain). The Celtic presence explains why many Galicians are fair-skinned and eager participants in the production of wine as the ancient Celts were fans of wine, mead, and beer - which they called cervesia. (See Story of the Celts: The Ancient Celts). 

This week #WineStudio's Rías Baixas session focused on Galicia being called Green Spain as"its wet and mild ocean-controlled climate produces lush pastures and sylvan forests". And whether by intention or coincidence, the landscape of Galicia more closely resembles Celtic regions of Ireland, Great Britain & the west coast of France than the rest of Spain.  This greenness results from winds from the Atlantic Ocean bringing moisture inland which is then trapped by the Galician Massif mountains.This wind also carries sea spray inland which "permeates everything; soils, air and vine". And Galician's diet is based on the sea: fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. As a result many Rías Baixas wines carries some allotment of salt and minerals and the wines are bred to pair with seafood. And the two wines featured this session validate this claim.

2014 Lagar de Bouza DO Rías Baixas ($16) - produced by Bouza do Rei which was established in 1984 and was one of the first wineries registered in the newly created DO Rias Baixas. The winery is situated in Val do Salnés - the western most and most maritime extreme of Rías Baixas sub regions. The vineyards are located on small hills, most only 100 meters above sea level. And the vines are trained on granite posts to protect from humidity. This wine consists of 100% Albariño and exudes minerals that blend with and intense lemon flavor and abundant acids. Give me clams and oysters.

2014 Eidos de Padriñan DO Rías Baixas - Val do Salnés ($22) - this wine was produced by Adega Eidos, also located in Salnés, and launched in 1993. Eidos refers to the "backyard garden arbors constituting the traditional ungrafted Albariño vineyard" mentioned above.  Their Padriñán vineyard is south-facing and  overlooks the sea and receives additional heat exposure from "reflection from the water and a wind-sheltering stand of eucalyptus at the top of the slope". Despite the similar growing conditions this wine is a complete contrast to the Lagar de Bouza. Whereas the former was aggressive and citrus, this is a laid back wine, with textured tropical flavors include creamed guava and milder minerals and acids.  A very self assured wine and my favorite of the entire series.

Other DO Rias Baixas wines in this series can be seen here.