Sunday, November 27, 2011

Corcoran Brewing\Vineyards - My Idea of Disney

I have many beer loving friends whose wives and girlfriends love wine but can never drag them out to visit wine country. Now, there's finally a place that will attract both - Corcoran Brewing and Corcoran Vineyards. The latter has been open for almost a decade now, producing some of our favorite Virginia wines - particularly Viognier and Malbec. But the former is a new establishment, having opened late spring 2011, and producing several beer styles available in growlers.

We returned last weekend after visiting the brewery right before its grand opening. Upon reaching the Corcoran grounds (Waterford VA - Loudoun County), the brewery sits on a small plot adjacent to the winery and hop farm. Head straight ahead to the red barn to sample the beer or continue to the historic tasting room further down the road on the right.

The brewery was our first stop - particularly with a few seasonals "still available" on tap. "Still available" is always a relative term when referring to this nano brewery. Their production is so limited (brewer Kevin Bills brews primarily only on Saturday), they regularly run out of their everyday beers - the P'ville Pale, Catoctin Ale, LoCo IPA. It seems this shortage will soon be alleviated as larger fermenting tanks were resting in the tasting area - ready to install. On this Saturday afternoon, many of the brews had run their course from an early rush before the Hokie game. I was able to taste the P'ville Pale and LoCo IPA; preferring the lower IBU of the pale ale as opposed to the hoppier IPA. On this day, the brewery had three seasonals available: the Padawan Pumpkin, Emmanubräu Ale, and Round Hill Root Ale. The latter two are interesting versions of winter ales (i.e. spicy flavors) - but the Pumpkin was easily my favorite. The beer is brewed using pumpkins from local farms (Wegemeyer and Great Country Farms), local honey, and pumpkin pie spices. The latter spices are very subtle - the pumpkin and honey are more prolific - and this is one easy drinking beer. Perhaps my favorite pumpkin ale tasted this season. They may have some left over the next couple weeks - but hurry.

Afterwards, I was also able to spend a little time in the winery with Jim Corcoran discussing the 2010 vintage. The best news - Viognier is back. The 2009 crop from their estate was lost to a late spring frost; but the 2010 juice is promising, particularly since it was harvested before the early fall rain deluge. This wine has always been one of our favorite Viogniers - so we are looking forward to the wine maturing for an early 2012 (?) release. They are also fermenting Riesling - and its always nice to see this variety , particularly when the fruit comes from Benevino Vineyards. Eventually this wine will be off-dry - but the early juice has that savory Riesling aroma and flavor. Nice. Beside the Chambourcin aging in Bowman Bourbon barrels, we tasted a few fermenting reds - the Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat. The CF is light and fruit forward - winemaker Lori Corcoran's preference - whereas the PV and Tannat are stronger with more acidity. The latter two will be balanced by adding a small qualities of other varietals - most likely Merlot.

It looks like 2012 will be a tremendous year for both Corcoran establishments. I think its time to talk the little boy into another birthday party at Corcoran. With beer now onsite, we will have to expect more positive RSVPs. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paradise Springs Winery - Harvest Tour

This Sunday I found myself very close to Clifton Virginia and free of afternoon chores and took the opportunity to check out the new goods at Paradise Springs Winery. I had heard that the winery had released a Petit Verdot, Petit Mensing, and a sparkling Viognier which I hadn't sampled before, but the best surprise was discovering their weekend Harvest Tours. The tour costs $15 and are available twice on Saturday and once on Sunday. While sampling practically their entire portfolio, participants explore the historical log cabin, estate vineyard, crush pad, and barrel room. We started on the front porch of the tasting room with a glass of Sparkling Viognier. Considering this sparkler isn't available for tasting - tasting it was well worth the price of admission. Paradise Springs and Horton Vineyards have started a trend by fermenting Viognier via "Méthode Champenoise".

The tour then moved to the former tasting room located in the historic log cabin. While sampling the 2010 Chardonnay and Viognier, we learned how the cabin was renovated by Howard Richter, a protégé of the great Frank Lloyd Wright. Both wines seemed "oakier" than the 2009 versions - but were well received. In the basement tasting bar our host Richard poured the 2010 Petit Manseng, which was the driest of this varietal I have tasted in a while. Nice citrus aromas and flavors - this is a wine well worth trying. The tasting continued with a vertical of Sommet Blanc. The 2009 was produced from five grape varieties whereas the 2010 from three. As a consensus, we preferred the 2010 because it had a more floral aroma with less sugar.

Eventually we ventured out of the cabin into the estate to view the dormant grapes and start with the reds - the 2010 Petit Verdot and 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I definitely preferred the Reserve CS, the wine had flavor, structure, and a finish; whereas the PV seemed a little one dimensional. Onto the crush pad - we sampled their super red - the 2009 Meritage composed of the five Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Like the Reserve CS, this wine had a balanced profile from head to tail.

We finished the tour in the barrel room - adjacent to the main tasting area. Over a glass of light Norton, we explored the barrels to identify the aging Chambourcin Port (in used Bowman whiskey barrels), Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and various other wines. Needless to say, the Harvest Tour was a lot of fun. We look forward to returning on a Friday night to sample more wine and listen to some live music. Cheers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Discovering Spirits in Sin City

We had the fortune to visit Las Vegas for my parents 50th wedding anniversary last weekend and discovered that spirits are alive in Vegas. We are talking distilled spirits - not anything associated with our friendly MyJoog Kokopelli. We first stumbled upon Freakin' Frog when looking for some live music. Located near the university, the bar attracted us by their 1,000 beer cooler and 600 whiskey collection. We are talking Scotch, Irish Whisky, Bourbon, and Canadian Whiskey. Unbelievable. Black Maple Hill, Prichards' Distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits, and other small batch corn whiskeys unavailable in our market - right their in front of us. Didn't see Catoctin Creek Distilling, but we suggested this local rye. Good thing, taxis are the primary mode of transportation.

The next day, we found a Tequila haven, Hussong's Cantina, which only serves 100% Blue Agava Tequila. No cheap blends. The beauty, after hours of sipping half a dozen brands - no hangover the next day. Even after finishing the monster Margarita topped with a Pacifico beer. My favorite tequila was the Fortaleza Anejo - smooth and sweet with zero burn. Here are the tasting notes:

This is a beautiful artisan hand-crafted, stone milled tequila. Tequila Fortaleza is produced entirely within the walls of our estate, using centuries old traditional methods which although are very labor intensive, create a tequila which is unequaled in taste and smoothness. Using our old oven with its meter thick brick walls, we cook our agave for thirty-six hours. Then we crush or mill the agave as my Tatarabuelo did over 135 years ago in our stone mill called the Tahona. The crushed agave is then washed with the pure mountain water from the Volcán de Tequila to separate the pulp from the woody fibers to create an agave juice called mosto. The woody fibers of the agave, called bagazo, are removed at this time and taken to the fields to use as compost. The agave mosto is then fermented naturally for five days in small wood vats, and then double distilled using small, labor-intensive copper pot stills. Our glass bottle is hand-blown in Tonala, Jalisco by artisan glassmakers, and our bottle tops, designed by an artisan to represent the harvested agave, or Piña, and are hand-made by our workers.
Finally, while searching for presents we discovered Nevada Vodka crafted by the newly opened Las Vegas Distillery. Located in nearby Henderson, the distillery produces vodka, gin, and whiskey from two pot stills christened Swan and Rose - the Las Vegas Copper Angels. The Rácz family has distilling in their blood from their Transylvania heritage and palinka - homemade plum brandy. This brandy lead to the recommendation to be weary of liquids served from vessels that do not contain the original substance - usually liter water bottles. If their vodka resembles any of the home made palinka we've tasted over the years - we will be back to Vegas to tour the operation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

MyJoogTV Episode 11: The Steel Wheels with Blue Mountain Brewery

Episode 11 features The Steel Wheels discussing bike touring, Ocrafolk festival, and their signature brews - the Steel Wheels ESB from Blue Mountain Brewery and the Steel Wheels Oat Malt Stout from The Livery. The episode ends with a rendition of "Nothing You Can't Lose" at the IOTA Club. Also check out Martin Garrish & Lou Castro in Ocracoke, NC; our first video on MyJoogTV. Red Wing - The Steel Wheels