Friday, January 31, 2014

A Vidal & Syrah #VirtualVines Tasting with Old York Cellars

Last night Old York Cellars hosted their January edition of the Virtual Wines online tasting where consumers can watch and/or participate in a tasting of two wines from one New Jersey's oldest wineries. The winery encourages consumers to participate at the winery, by hosting their own tasting party, or follow along via the Virtual Wines Livestream site, Facebook, or Twitter.  For me, I was fortunate to receive a complimentary sample.

The tasting was hosted by winemaker Scott Gares and sommelier Laurin Dorman and featured two wines: the 2012 Vidal Blanc ($15) and Syrah ($18). And quite frankly, these were the two tastiest wines I've tried from the winery. 

This webcast started with a discussion on the cold hardiness of Vidal  - particularly its use in ice wines or late harvest styles; I learned that it is even grown in Sweden as an ice wine.  But the Old York Cellars 2012 Vidal is bone dry - zero R.S.. On the nose and palette it displays a Sauvignon Blanc character of lemon citrus, followed by a nice refreshing acidic finish. Always enjoy sampling this French-American hybrid and this wine shows Vidal is enjoyable dry just as much as semi or sweet. Dorman suggests several food pairings with the Vidal which include goat cheese, triple creme, brie, feta, risotto, shellfish, pasta with cream, poultry, and Greek or Caesar salads.

The Syrah was made from 50% estate grown fruit, maturated on skins for 20 days and then treated in medium oak. The finished wine starts with a dark cherry almost black berry nose followed by a nice balance of dark cherry flavor and a tasty peppery spice that lingers in the finish. This finish is also soft - just enough tannins to maintain a chewy affect, but not enough to overshadow the delicious flavor. This is an old world styled wine; very impressed - nicely done. Dorman's food pairings include Gruyere and smoke cheddar, beef stew, brisket, grilled lamb, London broil, sausages, and salmon.

And it wouldn't be a Virtual Wines tasting without Laurie's Chocolates -Madagascar Single Origin 65% and Hawaii Single Origin Milk Chocolate with Macadamia & Sea Salt. The latter was paired with the Vidal so that the wine's acids mingle with the chocolate's milk fat. The darker Madagascar chocolate was paired with the Syrah, adding a litter bitterness to the fruit and pepper flavors. Like I wrote previously, these were the two tastiest wines I've tried from the winery.  I hope to be included in the May addition as they introduce their SF Competition Gold winning 2012 Merlot.  Cheers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NFL Super Bowl XLVIII - Where to Drink Local

Are you ready for some football. As you are aware this is Super Bowl week as game XLVIII kicks off this Sunday February 2nd at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Yes a cold weather venue so attendees should be prepared to stock up on warming wines, brews and spirits. Since the game features two teams whose host cities (Seattle and Denver) are well versed in the local craft wine, beer and spirits movements, here is where these fans can find their equivalent in New Jersey and New York. Better yet, theCompass Alcohol Locator mobile application can navigate you to any of these destinations as the image to the left depicts.

The closest establishments to the stadium in New jersey are the New Jersey Beer Company in North Bergen followed by the Bolero Snort Brewery in Ridgefield Park. I've never tried their beers, but I'm sure there are flavors for everyone.  Furthermore west there are a plethora of breweries plus two distilleries, the Black Prince Distillery and Jersey Artisan Distilling. Distillery tours are now allowed in New Jersey, but contact the distillery before visiting to ensure that they are open and offer tours. 

For those visiting or staying in New York City, there are a host of establishments in almost all of the boroughs - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The most well known would be Brooklyn Brewery and the brewery offers a nice tour and tasting experience. Another well known Brooklyn brewery, Sixpoint Brewery, has put their tours on temporary hiatus while they renovate the distillery.  While in Brooklyn schedule a weekend tour at New York Distilling Company or The Noble Experiment NYC and see why craft distilleries are popping up in the "City of Churches". Across the East River, in Manhattan there are several new brewpubs that have serviced and from previous visits we recommend the Chelsea Brewing Company.

Looking forward to a great Super Bowl and if you plan to visit one of these establishments beforehand, call ahead to verify hours. Cheers yo drinking local and an entertaining Super Bowl.

New Jersey Breweries & Distilleries near East Rutherford

Brewery New Jersey Beer Company North Bergen NJ
Brewery Bolero Snort Brewery Ridgefield Park NJ
Distillery Black Prince Distillery Clifton NJ
Distillery Jersey Artisan Distilling Fairfield NJ
Brewery Cricket Hill Brewery Fairfield NJ
Brewery Gas Light Brewery South Orange NJ
Brewery Climax Brewing Company Roselle Park NJ 
Brewery JJ Bitting Brewing Company Woodbridge NJ
Brewery Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery Berkeley Heights NJ

New York City Wineries, Breweries & Distilleries

Brewery Singlecut Beersmiths Astoria NY
BreweryThe Bronx Brewery Bronx NY
Distillery Port Morris Distillery Bronx NY
Distillery Tirado Distillery Inc. Bronx NY
Distillery Breuckelen Distilling Brooklyn NY
Brewery Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn NY
Winery Brooklyn Oenologyy Brooklyn NY
Winery Brooklyn Winery Brooklyn NY
Distillery Cacao Prieto Distillery BrooklynNY
Distillery Industry City Distillery Brooklyn NY
Winery Joseph Zakon Winery Brooklyn NY
Brewery KelSo Beer Company of Brooklyn Brooklyn NY
Distillery Kings County Distillery Brooklyn NY
Distillery New York Distilling Company Brooklyn NY
Distillery The Noble Experiment NYC Brooklyn NY
Brewery Other Half Brewing Company Brooklyn NY
Brewery Shmaltz Brewing Company Brooklyn NY
Brewery Sixpoint Brewery Brooklyn NY
Distillery Van Brunt Stillhouse Brooklyn NY
Brewery 508 Gastrobreweryy New York NY
Brewery Alphabet City Brewing Company New York NY
Brewery Chelsea Brewing Company New York NY
Brewery Paulaner Brauhaus & Restaurant NYC New York NY
Brewery Ruckus Brewing Company New York NY

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Final Wine Chateau Offering - Castello Banfi Belnero 2010

The final wine we received this winter from The Wine Chateau was the Castello Banfi Belnero 2010 ($28). This family owned winery has a unique story of perseverance as the patriarch's (John F. Mariani, Sr.) family was forced to return to Italy from American and lived with his aunt Teodolinda Banfi - who in time became the "guardian" of the papal apartment of Pope Pius XI. After returning to America, Mariani Sr. opened a wine house, Banfi Vinters, in Old Brookville New York in 1919 - just in time for Prohibition a year later. He survived by "importing spices and other Italian specialties as well as the manufacture of medicinal bitters, an alcohol product permitted under the new law". After repeal, Banfi began importing Barolo, Gattinara, Brunello and Chianti Riserva wines and eventually introduced Lambrusco to the U.S. market. In 1978, Mariani Sr's sons John Mariani Jr. & Harry Mariani opened the Castello Banfi vineyard estate, in Montalcino, Tuscany.

The Belnero is made from Sangiovese grapes, with small amounts of  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - all harvested in estate vineyards, on the southern hills of Montalcino. The aroma and flavor exude black fruit - plums and blackberries - with a sold structure of chocolate and tobacco. The wine has a long, tannic finish leaving the flavors to fuse throughout the palette until the next sip.  This is a very nice wine, and with patience will improve even more over time. Thanks Wine Chateau for this wine as well as the Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro Gold and Château des Jacques Moulin-à Vent. Cheers.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Touring DC Breweries with #theCompassApp Winery, Brewery, & Distillery Locator

Yesterday I spent a rainy Saturday testing the various features of #theCompassApp Winery, Brewery, & Distillery Locator by visiting three Washington D.C. breweries. My first stop was into the far reaches of Northeast Washington to DC Brau Brewing - the District's first production brewery since the mid-1950s.  The brewery was started by Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock from 2009 - 2011 and the pair had to assist the local gov't in drafting new legislation to allow beer consumers to taste at the brewery and fill growlers. By now they are well known for their canned portfolio - The Public™ Pale Ale, The Citizen™ Belgian Ale, and The Corruption™ IPA. Today #theCompass navigated me to the back of the shopping center where a eased into the last parking spot. After entering the brewery and receiving my 4 free drink coupons, I discovered why the lack of parking - the brewery was packed. Visitors were tasting in the front room, the side area, and even in the packaging area - tasting and listening to music piped through large speakers. I quickly grabbed a sample of their Exaltation Holiday Ale and joined a brewery tour - learning about their history, process, production levels, and murals coating the brewery's interior. What a cool place to spend an afternoon - particularly when getting one of the last pours of their Pauncy Stout™.  I had to share the good news via our social media channels using #theCompass' share functionality - allowing me to seemliness check on via Foursquare and share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

From DC Brau,  the application navigated me easily a few miles to Chocolate City Beer, a much smaller establishment but equally hospitable. This brewery was started by Jay Irizarry and Ben Matz and is located close to Catholic University. In fact, the building once hosted the stone making equipment that created the The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America). Now most Catholics like a good beer and Chocolate City offers a few from their every day lineup of Cornerstone Copper Ale, Big Chair IPA, and Cerveza Nacionale (black lager). My favorites were The Big Chair - named for the District's own monument in Anacostia - that delivers a smooth refreshing finish for an IPA and the Mister Mayer Second Term Imperial Stout. This latter is named after former mayor Marian Berry and is fermented with Marion Berries (a blackberry developed by the USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University). The is a really nice beer - chocolate notes mingle with a sour ale-ish finish - and don't worry if a few berries make it into your pour. That's by intent.

Unfortunately I couldn't visit longer being on a tight schedule and thus parked the car at work and used a cab for my last stop: Bluejacket Brewery. And a cab or Metro is highly recommended for this stop; there's a lot to sample - talking about over 20 beers on tap - all produced in house. And they are good; Beer Director Greg Engert and Brewmaster Megan Parisi must work long hours keeping the brewery supplied because once again - this brewery was packed - two to three deep at the bar and all tables filled. And this was four in the afternoon - evenings must be even crazier. But don't let the lines prevent a visit - the beer and breadth of their portfolio is worth it. Want a pale ale or pilsner, no problem; English bitter, Imperial IPA, Porter, Stout, Hefeweizen, Biere de Garde, Kolsch, Dunkelweizen, Barleywine - all on the menu. My favorite was the Mexican Radio, a chocolate stout laced with spicy peppers and believe me it's like sinking your teeth into a gourmet chocolate bar of the same nature. I can't wait for baseball season, with the brewery two blocks from Nationals Stadium - good baseball and beer -> what's not to like.

Cheers to the DC brew scene. Next on the agenda - 3 Stars Brewing Company, Atlas Brew Works, and Right Proper Brewing Company.