Friday, January 11, 2019

Silver Spring Maryland is a Craft Beverage Destination

Probably because it is not incorporated, Silver Spring encompasses a large area bordered by the DC and PG County lines and extended to Burtonsville, Colesville, and Wheaton.  However the business district's heart is the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road and slowly a plethora of craft beverage establishments have opened in that vicinity.

I recently visited a few of these including the neighboring Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park. This establishment recently moved from their Heyser Farms Colesville location where the delicious Spencerville Red apples mysteriously self- propagated. The winery first made a name for itself producing the Spencerville Red Hard Apple cider which is still a personnel favorite. The Black Twig is another single apple varietal cider but expect more traditional apple and pear cider blends. They also offer a range of wines from dry to sweet as well as local craft beer.

Denizens Brewing Co. enjoys the honor as the first local craft beer producer in Silver Spring and since 2014 has provided a solid selection of core and seasonal beers. Their Born Bohemian Czech-style Pilsner, Southside Rye IPA, Third Party Belgian-style Tripel, and Ponch’s Porter have been staples during previous visits so this time I focused on their seasonals. This included the delicious Cool Breeze Oatmeal Stout, Animal IPA, Ill Cru Mixed Culture Strong Sour Ale, and the Lowest Lord Extra Strong Bitter. This last was an unexpected surprise - smooth but richer than those enjoyed in English pubs. Expect a larger portfolio and increased distribution as Denizens opens a new production\tasting facility in Riverdale very soon.


Just down Georgia Avenue, Astro Lab Brewing opened just a couple months ago and the current lineup is IPA centric with a lonely Moo Milk Stout as the only alternative. This is a delicious beer, soft but packing loads of chocolate flavors. I included the S.P.F. 100 XPA Pale Ale into the IPA category and several years ago that would have been your strongest IPA. This is another well made beer joining the IPAs as approachable offerings. The Nebula Imperial Double IPA is so so smooth and the No Mates - Mosaic American IPA and No Mates - Columbus American IPA are great representation of a single hop varietal beers.


For those seeking wine, The Urban Winery is located very close to Astro Lab and expect a new brewery, Silver Branch Brewing Company to open in the coming months. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will show you these destinations. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Chardonnay that Leverages the Chalk Hill AVA and Estate

The Chalk Hill Estate Winery benefits from tremendous name recognition based on the winery's outstanding reputation but also from the surrounding Chalk Hill AVA. This appellation, one of thirteen in Sonoma County, is located between the cooler Russian River appellation to the west and the warmer Alexander Valley to the northeast. The Chalk Hill AVA is slightly higher with lower soil fertility with the top soil a "distinctive layer of chalk-colored volcanic ash which inspired the name of Chalk Hill, the appellation, and the estate". Within both the AVA and Estate reside several microclimates with the lower cooler sites more suited for Chardonnay used in the Chalk Hill Estate 2016 Chardonnay ($42). The vines were planted using Vertical Viticulture techniques where the rows were planted to follow the rise of the terrain. Cover crops prevent erosion and the layout allows breezes and sun exposure which translates to acidity and ripeness. The grapes were fermented using native yeasts with frequent lees stirring and aged eleven months in 100% French oak. The result is a very balanced wine with depth and texture from stirring and noticeable butter and spices from the oak treatment. Yet, neither overwhelms the fresh fruit flavor of the Chardonnay and refreshing acidity that boosts the finish. A classic Chardonnay.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Toasted Goat Winery and the History of Frostburg Maryland

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson authorized the construction of the National Road - the first major highway in the United States built by the federal government and linking the western territories to east coast cities. Specifically, the 620-mile pike was built between 1811 and 1837 and allowed goods and settlers to move considerable easier between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. Early in the surveying period, "Meshach Frost built the first house in present-day Frostburg in 1812 (on the present-day the site of St. Michael's Church and Rectory)" In 1820 the growing town was named Frostburg and the community continued to grow even as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal reached the Cumberland area in the mid 1800s. In fact, the railroads accelerated the local economy by providing transportation for the coal industry in which Meshach Frost also helped develop through the Frostburg Coal Company. And during the Civil War the manufacture of fire brick became a leading industry.

These economic trends continued to the turn of the century when the Hotel Gladstone opened in downtown Frostburg in 1897. Eventually, William Gunter purchased the building, renamed it Hotel Gunter, and installed a jail for prisoners being transferred and a cock-fighting ring in the basement. Other vices continued through prohibition as the basement also operated as a speakeasy.

In much more recent times the hotel was purchased by local Frostburg residents Donny and Kristan Carter and is now the home of Toasted Goat Winery. The couple opened the winery a couple years back in the Arts and Entertainment District and will remain in the district as they move operations to the hotel. The arts are a major influence in the winery's theme as evident by the label paintings displayed behind the tasting bar. These labels celebrate various aspects of Frostburg such as featuring church steeples, bridges, and rail trains. Donny Carter is the winemaker and produces a range of styles using local and American sourced fruit. On the other hand, Kristan Carter is a home brewer and ensures that the tasting room includes Maryland craft beers via pints and flights. In the future, the couple plans to open a full-service restaurant to cater to both hotel guests and visitors.

During a visit to Frostburg State University (the other FSU), we stopped in for a flight of mostly white wines. The Steeple White ($14.99) was the clear favorite as the Pinot Grigio is fermented to 1% r.s. providing a fruity counter-balance to the excellent acidity. This wine was book-ended by the sweeter Moscato ($18.99) and drier Chardonnay ($18.99). For the reds, our party also enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon laced Steeple Red ($16.99) and the dessert Chocolate Covered Raspberries wine. We also explored the hotel's basement containing the old jail and relics from the coal mining era.  We look forward to visiting again soon using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Founding Spirits Distillery: Farm to Table "Never Bitter" Amaro


When is an Amaro not bitter? That was the question that Jon Arroyo and Bob VanLancker wanted to answer as part of the Washington D.C. farm to table kitchen and distillery: Founding Spirits Distillery. This Italian liqueur literally translates to "bitter" and is usually consumed as a cocktail ingredient or an after-dinner digestif. Instead the Founding Spirits Arroyo’s "Never Bitter" Amaro is intended to be more approachable and consumed both as an aperitif and digestif as well as in cocktails. It is distilled onsite using their Founding Spirits Vodka as a base and then infused with multiple herbs, roots, spices, and botanicals. The vodka is in itself very clean and distilled from North Dakota Hard Red Spring Wheat and Virginia rye and barley.

On a recent visit, I was able to sample the Amaro neat and in two interesting cocktails - all during a delicious family meal. Sipping neat, the liqueur is slightly sweet and savory towards the front, with the finish introducing a somewhat bitter experience. But much more approachable than most bitters. For cocktails, the Amaro was an interesting ingredient in a Piña Colada -- providing a balance with the sweet pineapple and coconut milk. Even better was the How Jefferson Woulda Liked It -- a concoction of Founding Farmers Rye Whisky, Founding Spirits Amaro, lemon, brandied cherry, and an orange slice. This was brilliant, with the Amaro contrasting with the sweet and spicy rye whiskey.  In fact, the whiskey was has been produced for the past decade as a partnership between Arroyo and Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery. In traditional Copper Fox style, the barley and rye were malted using apple and cherrywood. Excellent.

In addition to the three spirits mentioned above, Founding Spirits produces an American Whiskey that is distilled at Copper Fox but aged in D.C. and the Founding Spirits Gin, distilled onsite. On our next visit we will target these spirits and as always, you can locate Founding Spirits using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Cheers.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Springfield Manor Winery Distillery Brewery - A Free State First

On our many trips home from Catoctin Breeze Vineyards, we've always noticed Springfield Manor Winery Distillery Brewery as we traveled south on Route 15 passed Thurmont and Cunningham Falls State Park. Perched on a small hill overlooking the highway and farmland, this multi-purpose 1775 era farmhouse has a few firsts in the Free State. It was the first post-prohibition legal distillery in Maryland holding license #001. There were a couple spirits that were bottled previously, but Springfield Manor was the first to distill in Maryland. Their corn and grain spirits (Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, & Caramel Corn Whiskey) consist all or partly from corn grown on their 130 acre farm. The fruit brandies are produced from locally sourced fruit and the Grappa from Merlot and Cabernet Franc pomace (the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes).

Springfield Manor initially started operating as a winery to augment their event venue with the Ironmaster as a signature blend of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The later is also bottled as a single varietal which join the Ironmaster, Ironmaster Reserve, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Blanc De Rosa (rose) as dry offerings. They also utilize the hybrids Chambourcin and Traminette as well as offer two Farmhouse house wines and a Frizante sparkling wine.

Finally, Springfield Manor became the first establishment in the state to not only produce their own spirits and wine, but also beer as they incorporated a 7bbl brewhaus. With this small brewing system, expect a range of rotating drafts using the Manor's signature spring water.

On our visit, we skipped the wines in order to enjoy a beer flight while listening to the live music of Nick Andrew Staver. This flight consisted of the Citrus IPA, Toasted Nut Job Stout, Summer-Set Blonde and Sunshine Station Pale Ale. A solid lineup. We then moved downstairs for a spirits tasting and Springfield Manor accentuates the fact that their Lavender Gin was awarded a Double Gold & Best Of Class from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  And it is a complex gin. We also enjoyed their Patriot Rum distilled from pure molasses and the Grappa. We will have to return in mid-January 2019 when they re-open for the season in order to sample their remaining spirits.

As always local wineries, breweries, and distilleries  can be visited while using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Sorry iPhone 11 iOS and iPhones 5S and greater users. Cheers.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Q&A with Brut Force Author Peter Stafford-Bow

Peter Stafford-Bow knows satire. And he knows the machinations of most facets in the wine trade. These truths are self evident in the author's initial release Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer and its sequel Brut Force. This release once again follows wine buyer Felix Hart as blackmailers put him in precarious situations involving a corrupt wine tasting between old and new world Pinot Noir. Like its predecessor, Brut Force is a compelling read; I found myself leaping into the next chapter -- even as late night drowsiness set in. It is also entertaining, at times silly (don't be surprised if you laugh out loud), but Stafford-Bow keeps the focus on the wine industry throughout the various plot twists. This focus and the author's inherent knowledge of the wine trade led me to submit several questions regarding his background and his highly recommended current release.


1) When did you develop an interest with wine?
I started working in a liquor store while studying at university. At the time, my experience of wine was limited to hosting house parties where we’d buy bag-in-box Don Darius (a cheap, La Mancha red), blend it with brandy and orange juice in a trash can, and tie a ladle to the side of the bin. Not exactly the fine wine end of the spectrum. But the liquor store management were big on training, even for part-time staff, and they persuaded me to study for a basic wine exam. After that, I was bitten. I gave up my ‘proper’ university studies (and the trash cans full of gut-rot) and dedicated myself to wine full time.

2) In Corkscrew, the main character, Felix Hart, becomes a supermarket buyer and retains that occupation in Brut Force. Are his experiences anecdotal to any events you experienced as a supermarket buyer?
Yes, I’ve based both books on my experience of buying wine for supermarkets in the 1990s and 2000s. The main plotline in Corkscrew is based on real experience. We used to find stowaways in containers of Italian wine quite frequently – you’d receive a call from the depot saying a bunch of Afghans wearing bobble hats had just leapt out of a shipping container full of Pinot Grigio and legged it out of the warehouse. I lived in Cape Town for a while and the South African adventures in Corkscrew are based on my time there.

3) The plot lines in both books are very complex with multiple twists that require extensive resourcefulness and imagination. Do these attributes come naturally to you?
That’s very complimentary of you, thank you. I hope the plots aren’t TOO complex! I love spy thrillers, especially John le Carré, so maybe I’ve brought a little of that to my novels.

4) In Brut Force! the plot begins with Hart's Pinot Noir vine that he planted in his backyard. How prevalent is Pinot Noir in actual English vineyards?
Pinot Noir is quite widely planted now, thanks to the focus on sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South-East England is less than 200 miles from the Champagne region and the soil is the same geological formation as that in Champagne – i.e. chalk – so that’s what English vignerons are concentrating on. The total area under vine in England is only 5,000 acres, so still tiny compared to the US or European countries, of course. Around one quarter of that is Pinot Noir.

5) People may be surprised that there is a vibrant English sparkling wine industry. Are there any estates you recommend?
Yes, most English sparkling wine is excellent quality – it’s all Traditional Method (i.e. Méthode Champenoise). Good estates include Hambledon (their rosé is superb), Camel Valley, Hush Heath (who make the Balfour brand) and Hoffman & Rathbone – though that last one is very boutique.

6) Moving along with the plot in Brut Force!, there's a blind tasting between new and old world Pinot Noirs. Did you conduct a similar tasting to get a sense in your mind what Hart would experience?
I didn’t set up my own tasting, but there are lots of people doing similar ‘face-offs’ these days. Just last month, at a posh London hotel, there was a Champagne versus English Sparkling blind tasting, with several eminent Masters of Wine in attendance. The French won, I believe, but it was pretty close. Perhaps the English will triumph next year…

7) In both books, you discuss wine regions such as South Africa or in Brut Force!, Pinots across the globe. Did you travel to these locations in order to research - obviously Burgundy but also New Zealand, Germany, California, or Oregon?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel very widely during my career. I’ve been to every major wine producing region, and plenty of minor ones too! So yes, with hindsight I consider my whole drinking career to have been literary research…

8) Staying with wine regions, do you have a personal favorite(s)?
That’s a tricky one. I love the rolling hills of Beaujolais, while the picturesque villages and vineyards of Tuscany are wonderful too. Central Otago in New Zealand is gorgeous, but the breath-taking scenery of South Africa’s Cape probably takes the top slot for sheer beauty.

9) Brut Force introduces organic wine fanatics. Do you have an opinion on organic, biodynamic, or natural wines?
Yes – Organic is good, Biodynamic is better, and non-intervention, Natural wines are best! Of course, you have to know what you’re doing in the vineyard and winery. But any movement that respects the environment, minimizes additives, and allows the true nature of the wine to shine is on the side of the angels in my opinion.

10) The characters in both books are quite distinctive, from Hart to his companions to his adversaries. Do you follow a process when creating each character or are they based on actual acquaintances?
I wouldn’t say there’s a process, as such. All the main characters are based on a real person or, more commonly, a combination of people – usually work colleagues or wine trade folk. Many of the characters in the novels are thoroughly despicable, of course, whereas in real life most people are reasonably pleasant, so that’s where I have to make a few dark tweaks – for legal as well as artistic reasons!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lucas & Lewellen Brut Sparkling Wine 2016 Santa Barbara County

Lucas & Lewellen is one of the more prolific wineries in Santa Barbara County as evident by their large wine portfolio and popular Solvang tasting room. Most of the winery's 40+ wines wear the Lucas & Lewellen label signifying that they are produced from estate grapes from either Goodchild Vineyard, Los Alamos Vineyard, or Valley View Vineyard. I recently received a sample from their Los Alamos Vineyard -- the Lucas & Lewellen Brut Sparkling Wine 2016 Santa Barbara County ($36).

This sparkling wine is composed of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay that according to the winery, "is a clear expression of the estate Los Alamos Vineyard terroir". These 278 acres stretching for over a mile of Highway 101 just south of Los Alamos in the Santa Ynez AVA. Over 20 varieties of grapes are planted - with the Rhône, Burgundy and Bordeaux regions well represented - and with some of the vines planted from cuttings brought over from Europe over 25 years ago. This Burgundian styled sparkler is delicious as creamy apples vibrate against a slightly bready interior and then lifted by the refreshing effervescence. Very nicely done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Down on the Redskins? Then Detour to TCOB & Dynasty Brewing

As the Redskins implode this football season, any residual pain is overcome by two relatively new craft breweries that reside just around the corner from the 'skins' Ashburn facility. First, we recommend Drinking, Playing, and Brewing at The Craft of Brewing (TCOB Brewery ™) and #VABreweryChallenge #66. TCOB provides a craft brewing experience where visitors can drink from one of twenty self-service taps, play pool or shuffleboard, or brew beer themselves using  TCOB's 20L or 50L kettle systems. During our visit we sampled several very interesting and unique beers -- being able to pour anywhere from two to sixteen ounces each. A few standouts were the Dead Center (Nitro) Schwarzbier, Imperial Pumpkin Stout, Hopitis IPA, Chowderhead NE IPA, and the Respect My AuthoriThai Gose. The last was brewed with lime peel and Thai basil providing Pad Thai in the glass. I hope to visit again very soon with a lager recipe in hand.

A few doors down sits Dynasty Brewing (#VABreweryChallenge #67), named after the Virginia dynasty regarding four of the first five American presidents. This establishment is a partnership with one partner longtime Loudoun brewer Favio Garcia (Director of Brewery Operations).  Garcia is well known in the area from his experience with Old Dominion, Lost Rhino, and Beltway Brewery. And as expected their portfolio is rock solid starting with the DynastyFest Helles Lager. There's nothing to hide with this satisfying quaffer. The Data Center Pale Ale was well balanced as was the Random Allusions IPA. Getting into the more intriguing, they offered My Brother's Neighbor Kettle Sour Pale Ale, The True Story Milk Stout, the Holliday Farm Caramel Corn Peanut Stout, and the Maintenance Mike Milkshake IPA. Lactose does wonders in IPAs and the Holliday Farm is a delicious treat.

As always these breweries can be visited easily using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Sorry iPhone 11 iOS and iPhones 5S and greater users. Cheers.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Trio From Spain's Gonzalez Byass

In 1835 at only 23 years old Manuel María González Ángel founded the precursor to Gonzalez Byass creating the Tío Pepe (Uncle Joe) sherry brand inspired by his uncle uncle, José Ángel. In fact the winery’s foundational solera is still inscribed with “Solera del Tío Pepe”. Nearly ten years into his operation Manuel united with his English Agent Robert Blake Byass to form González Byass as they shipped "exceptionally pale..." Tío Pepe wine to the United Kingdom. Together they built the company to be the leading exporter of sherry wines in Jerez.  González Byass focused exclusively on sherry until the 1980's when they started incorporating wineries from other notable Spanish wine regions into the corporate umbrella. These included Bodegas Beronia - D.O.Ca. Rioja and Viñas del Vero - Somontano. And during the same period "the Byass family withdrew from the business and the winery passed into the hands of the direct descendants of Manuel María González". For this winter season we received three samples that will warm your palate.

Beronia Crianza 2015 ($14.99) & Beronia Reserva 2013 ($19.99)
Rioja is situated in the Ebro Valley hemmed to the north by the Cantabria mountain range and to the south by the Demanda range and creating an enclave for the eventual production of quality wines. Yet in ancient times it was inhabited by a Celtic tribe called Berones who called the area Beronia. In modern times (1973) as the region now know as Rioja became the preeminent Spanish wine producing region, members of a gastronomic society founded Bodegas Beronia -- which was eventually incorporated into the González Byass portfolio. The winery is specifically located in Rioja Alta -- the western most of the three major Rioja sub-regions -- and it's high elevation and Atlantic climate assists in the development of acidity, color and moderate alcohol levels. Like most of Rioja, the Tempranillo grape reigns supreme and is the majority grape in both these wines.  As expected, the Beronia Crianza was aged one year in oak and is excellent (what a value). Expect bright cherry fruit with slight black pepper and very comfortable tannins.  Reserva wines must spend three years aging with one of those in oak and the Beronia Reserva spent 20 months in various oak treatments and then aged an additional 18 months in bottle.The wine is darker where the fruit and dirt mingle with black pepper and expect more depth and noticeable tannins. Nicely done.

Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2010 ($39.99)
"Viñas del Vero owes its name to a river in the Somontano district of Spain. The source of the Vero river lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and it is famous for its ravines, canyons and gorges. The Secastilla valley lies at the far north-eastern limits of Somontano, nestling half way between the two main roads that link Somontano to the Pyrenees. It enjoys a special Mediterranean microclimate that is quite distinct from that of the rest of the region and is ideal from growing vines and olive and almond trees". Garnacha is just one of several Spanish and International grape varieties planted at Viñas del Vero and is the sole grape in the Secastilla. Even though the wine was only aged eight months in oak, it is very complex with dense cherries, spices and chocolate floating through various depths and lingering tannins.  This is a delicious wine - if your ready to splurge - it comes highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Settle Down Easy with Local #VACraftBeer

There are now 266 brewery tasting rooms in the Commonwealth and sadly we have now only visited our 65th in the #VABreweryChallenge. The latest is quite close to home, the recently opened Settle Down Easy Brewing Co. (SDE). Located in Falls Church, the brewery's name is derived from lyrics in the Grateful Dead song Ramble on Rose -- but not so fast. Odell Brewing Company had trademarks rights from their Settle Down Brown, yet in a rare sign of trademark fellowship, granted the new proprietors rights to the name.

There were two positive aspects I noticed when entering the brewery. The first was its spacious and open floor plan that allows visitors to flow easily between tables and the bar. Plus it provided an extensive view the brewing equipment.  The second was the two British-styled beers that were listed on the color-coded tasting wall. English styles seem to be overlooked within the current craft beer market but SDE was pouring the Gallows Pale Ale and the Do Yourself a Favor Porter. I wonder if Head Brewer Henry Jager perfected these recipes at his stints at Twisted Pine Brewing Company and Heavy Seas Brewing. They are excellent examples of each style.

The brewery's overall portfolio is expansive with several hopped beers to meet the current IPA fever. There are multiple IPAs, a Dry Hopped Kolsch, and a hopped Martian Monster Red.  They also offer experiments with honey with the Sweet Scoville Sting Honey Jalapeno Ale (it has a kick) and the Raspberry Ramble Raspberry Honey Ale (aroma-centric and tart). But if the Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout is available on nitro, don't leave without a taste.

And as always these breweries can be visited easily using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Sorry iPhone 11 iOS and iPhones 5S and greater users. Cheers.

Monday, December 3, 2018

From Vitis sylvestris to Tempranillo & Garnacha in Spain's Vinos D.O. Navarra

"The first records of winemaking in the region date back to ancient Roman times, but grapes were almost certainly thriving here long before that. Vines of the prehistoric Vitis sylvestris species – predecessor of the cherished Vitis vinifera – have recently been discovered still growing in Navarra. After the Romans, grape-growing continued under the Moors, and was then greatly expanded under Christian rule. Demand for wine was strengthened by Catholics making the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to the shrine (now a cathedral) in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle St. James are buried.", Wine-searcher.com

These ancient vines most likely found refuge on the Iberian Peninsula during the Ice Age and gradually retreated from alien varieties with  successive Phoenician, Greek, Carthaginian, Roman, Arab and Crusader populations (Vine to Wine Circle). But fascinatingly, some Vitis sylvestris still flourish today  - particularly in Navarra, one of Spain's 17 first-level administrative regions, located just north of Rioja in north-central Spain.

This region has a Mediterranean climate that is moderated by its proximity to the Bay of Biscay (Atlantic Ocean) in the northwest, the Pyrenees in the northeast, and the Ebro River.  It gained its DO status in 1933, but because of its diversity also includes five sub-zones: Baja Montana in the northeast, Valdizarbe in the north, Tierra Estella in the northeast, Ribera Alta in the center, north of the Ebro, and Ribera Baja in the south below the river. A small section of Navarra is classified as Rioja DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada).

Traditionally, Navarra has been strongly associated with its rosé wine (rosado), with Garnacha producing the best examples. However in the 1980’s, the official state laboratory of Navarra (EVENA) deducted that red wine blends were the future of the region and Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot were widely planted.

We recently received four red wines from Vinos D.O. Navarra which showcase the powerful and elegant nature of their two most popular grape varieties:  Tempranillo and Garnacha.  The first is considered the "great ambassador" of Spanish wines and accounts for 33% of grape plantings in Navarra whereas Garnacha (indigenous to the Ebro Valley) accounts for 23%. 

Bodegas Ochoa Crianza 2014 ($23)
Javier Ochoa has been producing this 100% Tempranillo wine since 1987 from grapes sourced from their Santa Cruz estate. One year aging in American Oak plus some rounding in the bottles provides a medium bodied texture wit fresh sour cherries, dense dirt and chewy tannins.

Senorio de Sarria Crianza 2013 ($17)
This wine has the least amount of the Spanish noble grapes as it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% each Graciano and Garnacha. The grapes were sourced from vineyards planted in limestone and marl near the town of Puente la Reina -- "the crossroads of the ways" -- a medieval town where the two main routes on the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela converge. After fermentation the blended wine was aged 12 months in American oak that shows oaked vanilla and spices along with a juicy and earthy character that finishes with smooth tannins. 

Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral Old Vine Garnacha 2016 ($14)
This winery is located in the sub-zone Valdizarbe and this 100% Garnacha comes from vines planted 70+ years ago. The hillside vineyard consists of porous marl and sandstone and benefits from large diurnal temperature swings - slowing growth and enhancing acidity. After fermentation the wine was aged five months in French oak providing some vanilla and spices to this bright, fruit forward wine. 

Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin La Cantera 2016 ($12)
This estate was founded in 1988 and the Garnacha is sourced from 70 year old vines on the La Cantera vineyard. "La Canera" translates to "quarry" which describes the vineyard's rocky and poor soil where vines must root deeply in order to produce even its low yields. Combined with 15% Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel then aged six months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a jammy wine, fill of bright dark fruit, noticeable tannins, and finishes very clean.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dr. Laszlo Szabo Presents Hungarian Wines From Tokaj, Eger, & Villány

"These botrytis grapes are picked by hand as they raisin so that it may take six trips to pick the entire cluster", Hungarian Ambassador Dr. Laszlo Szabo
On Monday, November 19, 2008, the Embassy of Hungary hosted a Hungarian wine tasting featuring various wines from three major regions Tokaj, Villány, and Eger.  The Ambassador Dr. Laszlo Szabo conducted the presentation and displayed a mastery of that country's wine styles, grapes, and regions. The wines consisted of four brands each representing various styles such as the wonderful dry Furmint wines to the historic Tokaji Aszú dessert wines from Tokaj. The latter is the focus on the above quote where Dr. Szabo not only emphasized the labor-intensive harvest but also the Puttonyos system which measures the sugar intensity of the Tokaji Aszú wines. The wine brands were Orosz Gabor and Bodvin from Orosz Gabor (Tokaj), Sauska (Villány), and St. Andrea (Eger).

Tokaji Dry Furmint
In general, these wines display crisp minerality as a result of the volcanic soils both in the Tokaj region of Eastern Hungary and in the Somló region of western Hungary. The grape is sometimes blended with Hárslevelű to provide more fruit and depth and can be labeled Furmint with 30% other grape varieties. The wines to seek out from this tasting are:

Villány Kadarka & Cuvee
This wine region located in southwestern Hungary lies at the same degree of latitude as the northern part of Bordeaux. Mountains in the north protect the area from cold northerly winds, while the southern ranges help establish a micro-climate where the number of sunny hours is the highest in the country. Villány is known for Bordeaux, Rhone, and Burgundy grape varieties as well as a few indigenous grapes like Kékfrankos and Kadarka. The later grape variety makes lighter bodied wines with cherries and spice character as evident by the Sauska 2015 Kadarka.  Think Pinot Noir.  Sauska also produces a Bordeaux styled red blend the 2015 Villány Cuvee 7 which is aged 15 months French Oak and is a fantastic silky textured wine.

Eger Egri Bikavér
Eger is located in northeastern Hungary at the base of the Bukk Mountains. It has a cooler climate which is represented in "enhanced acidity, rich aromas, and elegant tannins". Once again volcanic soil is in play planted with multiple red and white grape varieties. These include both international and indigenous varietals such as Kékfrankos, Kadarka, and Turán -- a grape that has migrated to the Pacific Northwest and goes by Agria. And all are possible participants in the famous Egri Bikavér red wines - famous for the imagery of Hungarian soldiers fighting off the Turks at Eger Castle with their beards stained red from the Bulls Blood. Here is the trio of excellent wines from St Andrea:

Tokaj Dessert Wines
Dessert wines from Tokaji range from late harvest wines to the aforementioned Tokaji Aszú. Szamorodni is a traditional late harvest style where depending on the sugar level of the grapes, can be made Száraz (Dry) or Édes (Sweet) Szamorodni. The Bodvin 2016 Tokaji Édes Szamorodni is a nice example of the sweeter style with full apricot flavors and elevated acids to alleviate the sugar. Another late harvest option was the Orosz Gabor 2015 Tokaji Sárgamuskotály -- basically an un-botrytised late harvest Yellow Muscat. This wine exudes the familiar muscat aroma with layers of acids and salt to once again balance the sugar.

Finally, there were two true Tokaji Aszú wines made from fully botrytised individually harvested grapes. These were five and six puttonyus wines, the highest classifications, and starting with the Bodvin 2013 Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyus. This wine was aged three years in oak and is fabulous with a deep apricot base and the inherent acidity to keep the wine fresh. The highlight of the evening was the Orosz Gabor 2007 Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyus that according to Dr. Szabo sells at the Trump Hotel for $140 a teaspoon. The wine is still fresh after three years in barrel and eight years in the bottle and shows the result of waiting for only outstanding years to make this wine. Egészségére.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Duclaw Sausage Twins Featuring the Bad Moon Porter and Blonde Ale

Who's visited DuClaw Brewing Company - Arundel Mills or DuClaw Brewing Company - BWI and had the Duclaw Sausage Twins. Unbelievably good sandwich -- two sausages poached in Blonde Ale with Old Bay, topped with crab meat, Bacon, cheddar, tomatoes, and chipotle mayo on toasted pretzel rolls. Includes sliced pickles and a side of Bad Moon Porter Mustard. These restaurants pair their pub food with a sizable local craft beer menu including several from their parent Baltimore's DuClaw Brewing Company. Perhaps their most known beer is the Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. This unique beer comes across sweet just like a Reese's. However, I learned while devouring one of the sausage twins that the Sweet Baby Java Espresso Infused SBJ actually counters the sweetness and makes drinking a pint enjoyable rather than a challenge.  As stated above, the Bad Moon Porter and Bare Ass Blonde Ale are mentioned as ingredients to the sausage twins and both are drinkable beers on their own. Particularly the Blonde Ale with its inherent minerality.  For those looking for more options Duclaw has available the Misfit Red Amber Ale, Enjoy Your Time Away IPA, and Funk Blueberry Citrus Wheat Ale. Cheers.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ted Trots Out Cass Winery at Bazin's

Bazin's on Church recently hosted Cass Winery and its charismatic co-owner Ted Plemons. He and Steve Cass officially opened the winery in 2005 on land Cass owned and, motivated after a trip to South Africa, they wo hired their future winemaker before even one vine was planted. From that opening Cass Winery has earned multiple awards and salutations and in 2015 and 2018 Winery of the Year at the Central Coast Wine Competition.


 Located in Paso Robles Wine Country, the 145 acre estate vineyard benefits from the "Templeton Gap" -- a series of passes in the Santa Lucia Range through which air flows creating evening breezes. This helps generate a dramatic change in temperature between daytime and nighttime (the diurnal variation) which in turn helps preserves the balance of natural acids inside the grapes. Like many of its neighbors, Cass specializes in Rhone grape varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (the GSM blends), and Petite Sirah for reds and Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne for whites. Paso is also becoming well known for their Cabernet (see Paso Robles CAB Collective) and Cass currently pours a savory and creamy 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36).


But the Rhone varietal wines were the main attractions at Bazin's starting with two delicious white wines -- the 2017 Genesso District Mr. Blanc ($24) and the 2016 Estate Viognier ($27). This Viognier possesses the characteristic stone fruits of peaches and apricots with brilliant acidity that balances the fruity front and finish. The Mr. Blanc is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier and is more tropical and minerally in nature. We came home with a few bottles of this fantastic wine. There were also two red Rhones the 2015 Mourvèdre ($35) and 2015 Grenache ($35). Both were juicy wines with dark fruit, spices, and approachable smooth tannins.  And finally they poured the layered and wavy 2014 Backbone Syrah ($45) - commendably old world in style.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Right Bank and Truffle Hill from Left Coast Estate

"Each vineyard at Left Coast contains a wide variety of clonal and rootstock combinations, elevations, row orientations and soil compositions. A microcosm of flavors, sugars, and acidity can be found in each block of vines.",
This Oregon winery is very proud of their estate which explains Left Coast Estate's recent rebranding from Left Coast Cellars. This estate is sub-divided into nine blocks each differentiated by natural characteristics such as elevation and soil composition but also vineyard management such as clonal and rootstock combinations. I recently received samples of four Left Coast wines introducing me to the Right Bank and Truffle Hill vineyards.

Left Coast Estate Cali's Cuvee Pinot Noir 2016 ($24)
This is the winery's flagship Pinot Noir that is composed of grapes from all the blocks and different clonal selections from their vineyard. This is a delicious wine with earthy dirt aroma, dark cherries and bitter dark chocolate flavors, approachable tannins.

Left Coast Estate Right Bank Pinot Noir 2015 ($42)
The Right Bank is a 12 acre hilltop vineyard that consists entirely of Pommard clone Pinot Noir. This clone was originally sourced from the Château de Pommard in Burgundy by Dr. Harold Olmo at University of California at Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology -- reference to Prince of Pinot. This excellent wine starts with a minty aroma, then dark dark fruit, some chocolate, plenty of texture, and finishing with smooth tannins.

Left Coast Estate Truffle Hill Pinot Noir 2015 ($42)
Truffle Hill is home to four acres of European Black Truffle-inoculated hazelnut trees, shrub roses and holly oaks but is also planted with five acres of the Swiss clone Wädenswil Pinot Noir. According to the Prince of Pinot, "the Wädenswil clone was a selection done by the Swiss Federal Research Station in Wädenswil, Switzerland in the 1950s from ancient clones brought to the Zurich area by Swiss mercenaries who fought for the King of France in the Burgundian Wars of the 1470s. The Wädenswil clone was selected for its excellent ripening in a cool climate and natural disease resistance, qualities that contributed to its success in Oregon." This is another fantastic wine, earthy and tobacco aroma with dark fruit and more earth through the palate.

Left Coast Estate Truffle Hill Chardonnay 2017 ($24)
Since the Truffle Hill Vineyard is directly east of the "Van Duzer Corridor" it receives major marine influences that benefit these Chardonnay grapes. As does the marine sedimentary and Chehulpum silt loam soils. This 100% Chardonnay is a fresh wine, pears and figs, creamy texture, and lighter acids. My style of Chardonnay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

#GoGoldenBordeaux with Sweet Bordeaux

Raise your hand if like me, you thought Sweet Bordeaux would refer to just the wonderful wines of Sauternes? I learned preparing for the Snooth facilitated #GoGoldenBordeaux tasting that Sauternes is one of ten appellations producing these dessert wines. Bordeaux is the only French region which allows for the development of Botrytis Cinerea - aka noble rot. And this derives from the region’s oceanic climate which alternates between humidity and heat. When the Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, or Muscadelle grapes hang on the vine a little past their harvest peak then noble rot ensues. This grape concentration produces a golden colored wine with intense aromas and flavors.


Sauternes
Its sweet wines come from the towns of Sauternes, Barsac, Preignac, Fargues and Bommes, located on the left bank of the Garonne, about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified according to tradition, in small volumes, for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

Bordeaux Supérieur
Its sweet wines come from vineyards all over Gironde, capable of producing quality sweet white wines. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified over 6 to 18 months, in vats or barrels depending on the crus. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. The vinification is followed by great attention because producing a sweet wine is a precision job. But the charm of Loupiac is also the multiplicity of producers who make wines with very different personalities and all very endearing.

Loupiac
Their acidity and freshness. Their citrus aromas and liquorice notes which bring character. Their accessibility and delicate balance with the sugar.

Cadillac
Its sweet wines come from the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally for 12 to 18 months.

Saint-Macaire
Its sweet wines come from vineyards of 10 towns in the Saint-Macaire canton, which extends on the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne, south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are produced after handpicking and harvested by successive selections, followed by a traditional vinification, aged for 10 and 18 months.

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont
Its sweet wines come from the town of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont and its hilly terroir, the only one which can claim the wines from this appellation. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally and in small volumes. They are aged for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

Premières Côtes
Its sweet wines come from vineyards of 39 towns that lie on the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne, south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are produced at the end of harvests and of a traditional winemaking, aged for 10 and 18 months.

Cérons
Its sweet wines come from three cities, Cérons, Illats and Podensac, located about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon. They are vinified in accordance with traditional methods and in small volumes. They benefit from 12 to 18 months vinification, in vats or barrels depending on the crus.

Barsac
Its liquourous wines come from Barsac town, on the left bank of the Garonne, about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified according to tradition, in small volumes, for 12 to 18 months, in vats or barrels depending on the crus.

Graves Supérieures
Its sweet wines come from the Graves vineyards on the left bank of the Garonne. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally and in small volumes. They are aged for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

The Wines

Chateau Manos Cadillac 2016
This tropical and honey-citrus wine is practically all Semillon harvested from a clay-limestone slope in the commune of Haux. The Château has belonged to the same family for four generations and produces one delicious wine.

Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet 2016
This is the lightest and freshest wine of the group comprised of 90% Sémillion and 10% Sauvignon. Like others, the grapes were harvested from vines growing in clay and limestone soils. This is the wine that started the brainstorming for cocktails.

Château la Rame Sainte Croix du Mont 2015
My favorite -- savory with stone fruits of peaches and apricots, honey, and racy minerality. The 100% Sémillon grapes grew on the typical clay-limestone soil but with a fossilized oyster subsoil. This explains the minerality.

Chateau du Cros Loupiac 2014
The is a very citrus and candied blend of 90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon, 5% Muscadelle grapes harvested from the right bank slopes of the Garonne River on chalky clay topsoil and limestone subsoil. Some of these vines date back to 1907.

Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac 2011
The chateau is in its eighth generation of family ownership and this blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with multiple layers of raisons, honey, apricots, and butterscotch. Seven years has not dented it's quality.

Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes 2016
This is an extremely rich and tart wine with a hint of spice. It is 100% Sémillon that was aged 12 months in stainless steel tanks. Excellent.

Chateau Filhot Sauternes 2015
Chateau Filhot Sauternes dates back to the 1600s and was compared to Chateau d’Yquem by then ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson. The grapes were grown south of the village of Sauternes on south-west hillsides with the blend established at 60% Sémillon, 36% Sauvignon, & 4% Muscadelle. There is more of an orange cream cycle feel to this wine that was aged 22 months including 12 months in oak barrels.

Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes 2006
This wine shows the aging potential of this styled wine. It offers layers of dried apricots and honey, abundant acidity, and salty minerals. There's abundant history with the property as well as Count Blaise de Suduiraut replanted the vineyard and restored the estate after it was destroyed in the 1600s. The 99% Sémillon grew on sandy clay soil and the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 15 months with 30% of once used barrels and 70% of twice used barrels.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Kent Island's First Brewery: Cult Classic Brewing

Have you ever been stuck in Route 50 west bound traffic traveling over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge? Well, these are new stop to pass the time outside of the Kent Narrows restaurants. Cult Classic Brewing opened recently smack center of Kent Island and has a playful tasting room - spacious and outlined with various boardwalk games (3,000 square foot taproom, 75 foot bar). In this reconstituted ACME Supermarket, brothers Brooks and Jesse McNew serve a dozen craft beers from their rather extensive initial brewing systems. Their portfolio runs the gamut of craft beer styles and my sampler consisted of the Kolsch, Munich Helles, Pale Ale, and Porter. They last was my favorite although the other three were very stylistically correct. On my next visit to the beach I plan to explore their Irish Red and Oatmeal Stout - if both still on nitro - as well as their various IPA offerings. Cheers and as always theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to this and all other breweries.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Chalk Hill 2016 Sonoma Red Wine


The Chalk Hill Winery 2016 Sonoma County Red ($24.99) is a friendly wine as our group quickly and easily disposed its contents not long after uncorking. Expect a rich and smooth dark fruit sensation mingling with spices and vanilla, before finishing with a velvety and lingering tail. It is a Bordeaux-ish blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 3% Zinfandel, and 2% Merlot. Whereas the Chalk Hill brand is normally characterized by estate fruit, this wine is derived from grapes sourced from a combination of Chalk Hill estate and Foley Family vineyards dispersed throughout Sonoma County. [Foley Family is the parent company to Chalk Hill Winery.]   According to the tasting notes, the Chalk Hill AVA fruit provides richness, concentration, and nuttiness, whereas the Sonoma County fruit provides fruit forward nuances. These grapes are barrel fermented in French and American oak (20% new) then aged in additional 12 months in barrel. The result is a delicious wine.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Finally, a Trip to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

This month I finally was able to visit the holy grail of east coast brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  In my opinion, this brewery isn't lionized because of its iconic brands such as the 90 Minute series but because co-founder Sam Calagione freed us from the Reinheitsgebot. Before Dogfish Head opened in 1995, almost all American beers adhered to the key features of this German law -- brewing with just malted barley, yeast, hops, and water. Calagione blew this stagnation out of the water by not only creating non-conformist beers but also becoming a mini-archeologist and brewing craft beverages enjoyed by ancient cultures. Think of excellent and provoking beers such as Midus Touch, Chateau Jiahu, or Theobroma. Then there is his innovation combining wine must and beer as with Noble Rot and Siracusa Nera. Or think of the special oak treatments such as the Palo Santo Marron. Thus, for those who love any of the funky, sour, or just crazy beers brewed by the thousands of craft breweries today, Dogfish Head was the pioneer.

The brewery is located in Milton Delaware, far from Sam's New England heritage and Dogfish Head, Maine in which the brewery is named. Instead, Delaware is the home state of co-founder and current VP Mariah Calagione -- Sam's wife. The brewery first opened in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware as a brewpub which is still operating today as Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. After those early days the brewery's growth mandated a relocation to a larger facility in Milton, which has continued to expand as demand dictates.

Visitors to Dogfish Head first notice how the facility is massive, with fermenting tanks erected through ceilings and the long, long warehouse. Most are probably unaware of the equally large packaging facility located a football field behind the brewery.  Dogfish Head is easily the largest brewery I've ever seen outside a stop in Golden, Colorado. In fact, their experimental R&D unit alone is larger than most craft breweries. According to the Brewers Association, in 2017 Dogfish Head produced 276,243 barrels of beer. In comparison neighboring Crooked Hammock Brewing released 1,300 barrels and Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, Maryland 2,800 barrels.  Yet Dogfish Head is still only the 12th largest independent craft brewery as defined by the Brewers Association.

In contrast to the brewing size, the tasting room is rather small - more comparable to a routine craft brewery. Obviously then, off season is the most opportune time to visit as I heard horror stories of long summer queues.  And there is no shortage of beers available as they pour close to two dozen beers as samples, pints, crowlers, or growlers. Where else can you find the 120 Minute IPA, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Palo Santo Marron, Pennsylvania Tuxedo, Viniferous IPA, or Wood-Aged Bitches Brew all in one spot. They even pour beers that have graduated from their R&D system but are not intended for wider distribution.


The tasting room is also where visitors schedule tours - and Dogfish Head offers several varieties. The shortest is the Quick Sip a 25 minute free tour that includes four free samples of beer. The hour long Off-Centered tour is most recommended where for $10 participants receive four samples and stops at " our 200-barrel brewhouse, Off-Centered Center and even our new R&D system where you’ll have a chance to sample one of our experimental brews and we finish the tour out at our packaging facility where we show you have everything is kegged, canned and bottled".  Of notable interest is the original brewing equipment (a bucket and electronic football game) used by Calagione to develop the 90 Minutes series. And on our tour we sampled an excellent IPA that most likely won't even make it into the tasting room. And for visitors who really plan ahead look for the limited Grain To Glass, Randall Jr., and Distillery tours with access to normally off-limit parts of the brewery. And yes the distillery official relocated from the Rehoboth Beach brewpub to a larger pasture in Milton.

For those heading to the Maryland or Delaware beaches, visiting Dogfish Head takes just a slight adjustment from your route.  For those brewery tourists, visit nearby Lewes and Rehoboth Beach to broaden your craft beverage trip. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you there.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Santa Cristina and the Italian IGT

Most of Italy's wines are labeled DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), classifications that set rules governing concerning the viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties, wine styles, and more. Barolo DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Prosecco DOC, and Soave DOC are popular examples of each.

However, many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status, not because they were of poor quality, but because they were made from grape varieties (or blends) not sanctioned under DOC/G laws. One example are the Super-Tuscans -- Sangiovese blended with international grape varieties. Thus in 1992 the IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) was created -- granting winemakers more freedom to create unique blends. IGT wines are only required to state the vintage, region of origin, and producer name on the label and be made from at least 85% grapes from the region.

Santa Cristina is one establishment that utilizes this classification by creating several Toscana IGT wines. The winery is located in the small historic town of Cortona and in 1946 Niccolò Antinori released their first vintage -- a Chianti Classico. However, with the passage of the 1984 DOCG laws requiring lower vineyard yields, Chianti Classico grapes became so complex and rich that they required more aging than what this fruity, fresh wine should have. In 1987, the winery stopped using the Chianti Classico designation and in 1994 adopted the IGT classification by adding Merlot to soften their signature red wine. This wine has evolved into the Santa Cristina Rosso Toscana IGT and I recently received a sample accompanied by two other Santa Cristina wines. In general, they provide immense quality at a noticeably reasonable price point. Cheers.

Santa Cristina Rosso, Toscana IGT 2016 ($13)
The Rosso not only incorporates Sangiovese and Merlot, but also Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Each of these grape varieties were fermented separately  , then blended and aged partly in oak and stainless steel. The result is a dry, but fruity wine - very food friendly -  with juicy and savory texture finishing with moderate and lasting tannins. Give me a burger or pizza.

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato, Toscana IGT 2017 ($14)
Santa Cristina was one of the first Italian wineries to release a rosé wine and is named after the cypress trees which reside in the Tuscan landscape. This wine is predominately Sangiovese and offers soft red apples and strawberries followed by a long and fresh finish. Nicely done.

Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio, delle Venezie DOC 2017 ($13)
In the past this would have been referred to as an IGT delle Venezie wine but in 2017 the delle Venezie DOC was created that covers the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Veneto regions. Seven out of ten delle Venezie wines are Pinot Grigio and this grape variety is required to be 85% of the bottled wine. This is another soft wine, with citrus and green apples dominating the palate with a velvety texture and lasting tail. A great example of delle Venezie Pinot Grigio.