Monday, September 30, 2019

From Aveleda - the Adega Velha 6 Years Old Reserva Brandy

Flying home from Lisbon last month I sounded my pockets (1) and found a few extra Euros in which I converted to a 500ml bottle of Adega Velha 6 Years Old Reserva Brandy ($22). This grape brandy is made in the far northwestern DOC of Vinho Verde from a mixture of indigenous grapes: Vinhão, Azal Tinto, Barraçal, and Espadeiro.

Specifically, these grapes were grown in the granite and sandy loam soils at the Quinta da Aveleda vineyard. This site is located in the hilly sub-region of Sousa which enjoys a generally Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influences. The Aveleda winery was founded in 1870 and is currently managed by the 5th generation of the family and is the largest producer and exporter of Vinho Verde wine.

The wine is distilled using an alembic Charentais still - a similar Cognac still used for the Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva. The brandy is then aged six years in Limousin oak casks - the same oak preferred in the Cognac region and popular with brandy makers because of it's wide grains. This translates to a more tannic profile than tight-grained woods.

Despite these tannins, this is a soft brandy, some floral and woody aspects in the nose with a fresh nutty and honeyed core. Love the finish, long with little burn. Cheers.

(1)  One of my favorite lines from Moby-Dick.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Apple & Honey & Grape at Loew Vineyards

I last visited Maryland's Loew Vineyards back in June 2005 - an unusually long absence in revisiting wineries. I seemed to have gravitated more to Black Ankle, then to Old Westminster, and more recently to Catoctin Breeze -- but this summer my focused snapped back to this small family winery after tasting their Honey & Grape. This wine received a Gold and Best in Class at the 2019 Comptrollers Cup and just last week the prestigious Jack Aellen Cup. I had also sampled their Chancellor and noted that the inherent acidity had been tamed by fifth-generation winemaker Rachel Lipman to create a very likable dry red wine. A visit was required.

On the outside, and actually the inside, the tasting room at Loew Vineyards looked exactly as I remembered 14 years ago.  Think country store motif.  Whereas my main goal was to learn more about the Honey & Grape, it became very clear that the winery provided a rather strong portfolio that others in the industry would consider limited by the wine grapes and styles.

This started with the Two Consenting Grapes - a dry and un-oaked blend of Vidal Blanc and Reliance that was complex with both citrus and tropical notes.  The Reliance, a grape bred at the University of Arkansas as a table grape, provides the tropical aspects which are highly noticeable in the semi-dry Serendipity. The grape is also the main ingredient in the Honey & Grape.  The Loew family has been making some type of honey wine for over a hundred years starting with founder Bill Loew's family in Galicia. The honey augments the tropical flavors providing depth and balance to the grape's acidity.  Rachel also mentioned that honey wines age gracefully and they have been enjoying 20-year-old wines all summer.

One to drink immediately is their Apple & Honey Cyser which comes across very dry with the apple's tartness and acidity blending with the honey notes. A bottle came home for this week. Another fun wine is the sweeter Strawberry Jubilee where the strawberries dominate.

On a serious note, I wanted to emphasize their Chancellor - it is made in a lighter style more like a Pinot Noir with sour cherry and berry notes with approachable tannins and acids. Their Classic Red, a blend of Maréchal Foch and Chancellor is similar but with more weight and pepper.  And in a few years look for Zweigelt which Rachel planted this year. I can't wait.  Come visit - theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you there.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

All Maryland Beers at Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm

On May 22, 2012, then Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed Senate Bill 579, which established a Class 8 Farm Brewing license for the Free State. Class 8 license holders had to use some combination of Maryland-grown ingredients (grains, hops or fruit) in their beers but then they would get similar privileges as the state's wineries. Tom Barse was very active in getting Maryland’s Farm Brewery law enacted and a year later opened a tasting room at Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm.

Five years early Tom and Carolann McConaughy purchased their Mount Airy farm and soon planted Cascade and Chinook hops and raised Leicester Long Wool sheep. Milkhouse Brewery opened by specializing in classic styles of beer "improved with Maryland hops" and later augmented these offerings with "Stillpoint Reserve" beers made from locally sourced ingredients, including hops, grains, fruits, herbs, honey, and other Maryland agricultural products. And finally, the brewery offers "All Maryland Beer" products made with only Maryland grown and malted barley, wheat, and rye, as well as Maryland grown hops.

During a recent visit, we focused on three of these All Maryland Beers, the Green Farmer Wet Pale Ale No. 12, Homestate Hefeweisen, and Dollyhyde Farmhouse Ale. The latter was my favorite of the entire portfolio with spices and Carroll County wildflower honey providing depth and flavor. The Hefe Weisen provides banana notes and the Pale Ale a funky pine flavor. Also try the Goldie’s Best Bitter.

Milkhouse also provides a serious sour program as tart Fieldhand or Biere de Garde. The Fieldhand Tart Table Beer is a delicious tart and slightly sour post bike ride beer. For more flavor, try the Peach Fieldhand - my second favorite of the day. On this day they were also pouring a Nectarine Biere de Garde and Red Plum Biere de Garde which are interesting and fun.

And as always you can visit Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Cheers.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Gonzalez Byass Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva

During our summer tour of the Tio Pepe winery in Jerez, we learned that Gonzalez Byass has been distilling grape brandy since the founders purchased their first copper alembic still in 1844.  Today they produce a range of brandies with the Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva ($35) one of their premium products.

This is the only Brandy de Jerez to be produced entirely within Jerez and is made from Palomino grape must that is double distilled in Charentais pot stills (Cognac stills manufactured in the 1960s).  The hearts or "holandas" of the run (68-72% abv)  is aged in a traditional “Criaderas y Solera” system, in American oak casks previously used to age sherry.  The solera contains 15 criaderas, with an average age of over 12 years.  Nine of those years were spent in used Tio Pepe barrels and three in used Matusalem barrels. (To learn more about these sherries visit A Family Visit to Gonzalez Byass for Tio Pepe. )  The final bottled Lepanto brandy has a lighter weight than expected but packs plenty of flavors with abundant nuts and some caramel and vanilla. The finish is smooth and savory whether neat or with a drop of water, Cheers.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

#BevFluenceExperience Denver: Golden Moon Distillery

One of the first tours of BevFluence's Denver Experience was to Golden Colorado and the Golden Moon Distillery. For good reason. The Distillery had just been awarded the American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Distillery of the Year Award and the ten+-year-old distillery offers a rather rare and remarkable range of spirits. In fact, founders Stephen Gould and Karen Knight opened the distillery in order to recreate lost recipes -- particularly those from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. Gould's research library of ancient distilling methods dates back to the 1500s, but in order to be as authentic as possible, Gould scours the globe for antique stills. Presently they use four in the distilling process -- all dating from the early to mid-1900s. Although in order to scale up production, they contracted for larger and more modern stills but manufactured specifically to replicate the design of these antiques.

A dozen spirits and a smiling tasting room manager (Kayla) greeted us on arrival and we immediately dove into samples.  Two facts became immediately clear; first that Golden Moon produces high-quality spirits and second, there is a nice cross-pollination between Colorado craft beverage industries. The latter is evident by the Golden Moon Apple Jack ($56) and Golden Moon Grappa ($56). The Apple Jack starts with Colorado-grown apples that Denver's Stem Ciders crushes and during fermentation, the cider is transferred to the distillery where it is soon distilled, then lightly oak-aged and bottled.  This is a voluminous cider - full of apple funky apple flavor and a smooth - slight burn.

Even more intriguing and adding to the cross-pollination is their line of grappas produced from grape must from BookCliff Vineyard Each year brings not only a new vintage but also a different grape variety and in this case, we sampled three versions: a Riesling, Viognier, and a Chardonnay.  The final version was the clear preference. It provided a fuller profile both in body and fruit flavors with a more wine sensation. I'm sipping a glass as I type.

The other spirit I purchased was the Golden Moon Kümmel ($32)  - a spirit initially developed by assistant distiller Robbie Cunningham based on a Scottish recipe. The base alcohol is flavored with caraway and fennel and on its own is an interesting spirit. But Kayla, who is also the bar manager at the Golden Moon Speakeasy, recommended this as an alternative to vodka in a Bloody Mary. As fate intervenes, two of our party had already ventured to The Real Dill, Denver's source for pickles and bloody mary mix. Kayla was correct. We started with the Real Dill Bloody Mary mix and rimming spice, then the Golden Moon Kümmel, a dash of Celery Horseradish or Smoked Salt and Pepper bitters from Monarch Bitters and topped with a Real Dill Habanero Pickle. Great success.

In addition to the Kümmel, Golden Moon produces several other unique spirits and liqueurs. One is an aperitif resurrected in stature, the REDUX Absinthe ($86) where just water, and not sugar, brings out the milky and cloudy character. A sure sign of quality. The Golden Moon Crème de Violette ($32), Golden Moon Dry Curacao ($32), and Golden Moon Ex Gratia ($56) are liqueurs worth sampling neat and mixologists can envision imaginative cocktails. However, be aware of sampling the Golden Moon Amer dit Picon ($56) neat. It is based on the original recipes and ingredients used by "legendary distiller Gaetan Picon to create his amer (bitters) in the 1830’s". And it is bitter, very bitter. Get the Picon Punch ready for this one.

Follow #BevFluenceExperience on social media to read future posts on the Golden Moon Gin ($46), Port Cask Reserve Gin ($86), Golden Moon Colorado Single Malt Whiskey ($110), Gun Fighter American Rye - Double Cask Whiskey ($34), and Gun Fighter American Bourbon - Double Cask Whiskey ($34). Cheers.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Murrieta's Well - Live on Snooth Media

Murrieta's Well is an extremely reliable wine producer located in the Livermore Valley and we have written about this Wente family clone multiple times (view here).  Once again this week winemaker Robbie Meyer appeared on a Snooth Livestream in order to present several current releases.  The grapes for these wines were all sourced from estate vineyards in Livermore with the majority coming from their Hayes vineyard. This lot is located on the southwest portion of their estate, has the widest elevation range (560-860 feet), and is planted with 11 of the  20 grape varieties they grow because it features the largest array of soils, aspects, and slopes.  Here are the wines we sampled during the session. Cheers.

Dry Orange Muscat 2018 ($38) initially didn't work for me. But after the wine warmed the bitter orange peel traits subsided and mandarin flavors dominated. Then I paired with dry sausages and the spices between the two mingled seamlessly.

Dry Rose 2018 ($32) is a blend of 42% Counoise, 33% Grenache, and 25% Mourvedre and is simply elegant. Creamy, lift, and refreshing acids.

The Spur 2017 ($35) is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petite Sirah, 13% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot. It pops with cherry flavor, then spices, tobacco, and noticeable tannins. Pair with Hersheys milk chocolate.

Merlot 2016 ($46) is delicious. Full-bodied, chewy and juicy cherries, structure, dusty and chalky. The structure must be helped by the 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pair with Hersheys dark chocolate.

Disclosure: We received samples from Murrieta's Well in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Federalist American Craft Wine and Candy

During a recent #BevfluenceExperience in Denver our group experimented pairing various wines with candy: Whoppers, Oreos, Twizzlers, Skittles, and several chocolates and candy bars. This is a fun concept where some items paired seamlessly and others terribly. Here are two examples from The Federalist American Craft Wine brand. 

The Federalist Honest Red Blend ($19.99)  is branded for Honest Abe Lincoln and is a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from three northern California appellations.  This is a friendly fruit-forward wine, medium-bodied with dark fruit, spices, and approachable tannins. We found that crunchy candy such as Twix and Oreos worked best here as the cookie brought worth the fruit and tannins.

The Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2016 ($17.99) is branded for Ben Franklin, who today is popular in the meme culture where various quotes regarding wine and beer are attributed to colonial hero.  Lodi's most widely harvested grape is Cabernet Sauvignon so the brand owner's selected an appropriate wine region for this wine. It is a lighter-bodied wine with juicy fruit, some spice, and easy tannins.  But add a Hersheys dark chocolate nugget to the lineup and the wine builds texture and the spices become more pronounced.  Not true for milk chocolate, however, Nor an Oreo and Twix bar. Dark Chocolate is the pairing for The Federalist Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon.

Disclosure: We received samples from Federalist Wines in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.