Monday, March 29, 2021

Sparkling Rosé Prosecco from Ca' di Prata Prosecco

In November 2020, the Prosecco Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) consortium allowed sparkling rosé wines to bear the DOC designation provided they are produced with at least 85% Glera grapes and with 10% – 15% Pinot Noir fermented on the skins.  This was a controversial decision as the two Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regions (Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani) rejected the concept. They fear that the rosé wines will diminish Prosecco's status as a white sparkling wine region and Pinot Noir has no real historical significance to the region. In contrast, Glera is the historic white wine grape of North-East Italy having been cultivated in today's Friuli Venezia and Veneto for over 2,000 years.

In any event, I was able to sample my first Prosecco sparkling rosé courtesy of Ca' di Prata, a new label produced in the municipality of Prata di Pordenone, hence the name translated as "home of Prata".  This Ca' di Prata Prosecco Rosé DOC ($17) had a solid mouthfeel, light creamy strawberries, with a bready and effervescent tail.  The mouthfeel was very similar to the Ca' di Prata Prosecco Brut DOC ($16) which like the rosé contains 85% Glera, but the remaining 15% replaces the Pinot Noir with Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay.  Both the wines provide great texture.  As does the Ca' di Prata Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG ($18) produced from the historic home of Prosecco. This wine shows more elegance and green apple flavors. An excellent wine.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

BevFluence Cocktail Book Program 2021 - Negroni: More than 30 Classic and Modern Recipes for Italy's Iconic Cocktail

This spring, BevFluence has partnered with Ryland Peters & Small and CICO Books to review several Cocktail books starting with Negroni, More than 30 classic and modern recipes for Italy's iconic cocktail ($12) by David T. Smith and  Keli Rivers. My bar setup was void of each of the three central ingredients (Campari, gin, and vermouth) so I decided to go local as much as possible - obviously excluding the Campari. This Italian liqueur was created by Gaspare Campari in 1860 as a bitter aperitif made from various herbs, fruits, and spices. 

For the gin, I went with the excellent Joseph A. Magnus & Co Vigilant District Dry Gin ($35) that I first sampled at their Washington, D.C. distillery. This is a London-style dry gin that should be a decent alternative to the English gins. For vermouth, I learned that Mt. Defiance Distillery in Loudoun County Virginia produces a Sweet Vermouth ($19, 350ml).  This fortified wine starts at the Mt. Defiance Apple Brandy that is flavored with herbs and spices and blended with barrel-aged brandy, Vidal Blanc wine, local honey, and caramel syrup. 

The perfect place to start is with The Classic, just equal parts of all three ingredients. In this scenario, the bitter orange of the Campari takes center stage with the vermouth providing a slight balance with sweet flavors.  The gin was a little lost with this palate. 

I favored another recipe called Run Free & Naked which puts The Classic ingredients into an ice-filled and salt-rimmed pint glass. Then fill the remaining glass with sparkling hard cider. I choose the Corcoran Vineyards and Cidery PoPo Peach. This was an eye-opener and will be a summer favorite. 

The next recipe came from the Experimental Negroni section and is the Oaxacan which replaces the gin with mezcal in the Classic recipe. I had the Mezcal El Silencio Espadín available and this substitution seemed to elevate the Campari even more while also providing a smokey trail. Good for a change of pace.

Check back as we will up updating this post with more cocktail experiences as we leaf through the book. Cheers. 

Another non-traditional Negroni we enjoyed was the Kingston Negroni which is the Classic above with the gin replaced with rum. We used the Pilar Key West Rum and this combination provides a little smoothness and toastiness.

The Stout & Steadfast piqued our interest - as well as a seminar discussion - so we created this cocktail using equal parts from the Classic recipe - using Aviation American Gin.  The recipe calls for filling the remaining half-pint class with Guiness, but I used the Center of the Universe Donny Coffee Brown Ale. The Campari bitters start off the race, but the coffee and dry malt catch up and lead to a smooth relaxing finish. Actually liked the cocktail more than the beer on its own. 

We were waiting for warmer weather to make the Negroni Float, but couldn't wait. The recipe calls for smaller amounts of the Classic added with ice to a large glass. Then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and slowly fill with cola or as in our case, Kutztown Sarsaparilla. Top with whipped cream and let the cola and ice cream integrate into the cocktail, then sip with a straw. The Negroni takes a back seat and I love our choice of Sarsaparilla which blends in nicely with the Campari. A worthy dessert. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Dalmatia Debit

Debit is a white wine grape that has historically been planted along Croatia's Dalmatian coast but may have originated across the Adriatic in Italy. According to, several Italian grape varieties are given the nickname Pagadebit ('the debt payer')  in which Croatian Debit may be a shortened version. And possibly more relative, an alternative Croatian name for Debi is Puljizanac, which means "someone/something from Puglia".  

In any event, today the Debit grape is vinified to create dry, fresh, and aromatic wines with generally bright acidity.  In Northern Dalmatia, outside the medieval town of Šibenik, Testament Winery has planted Debit vines where they must struggle to survive and where diurnal temperatures help create highly acidic grapes. The Testament Debit 2019 ($23) also provides a strong fruit aroma, with the fruit flavors laced with minerals and finishing with refreshing and lasting acidity. 

This wine and other Croatian wines are available in the United States through Croatian Premium Wine Imports.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Coteaux du Giennois Sauvignon Blanc

The Loire Valley is a major wine region in western France that follows the course of the Loire river as it meanders through France, from the inland hills of Auvergne to the plains on the French Atlantic coast near Nantes. The "Upper Loire" sub-region is comprised of many appellations all with one common denominator - their proximity to the river. These appellations include Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Orleans, and our subject: Coteaux du Giennois. This appellation consists of fourteen parishes around the town of Gien and resides midway between Orléans and Sancerre. 

According to Loire Valley Wines, the vines in the Coteaux du Giennois are planted on siliceous or limestone slopes on old river terraces along the Loire and experience a continental climate with little ocean influence.  Light-bodied red wines are produced in the AOC using Gamay or on occasion Pinot Noir, but white wines are the main attraction consisting of 60% of output.  And this features almost exclusively Sauvignon Blanc.

We recently received samples through the Hopwine program from one Coteaux du Giennois producer, Domaine de Villargeau.  In 1991 two brothers, Jean-Fernand and François, cleared old vineyard parcels of flint-based soils with the supposition that this type of soil would "allow for a full expression of Sauvignon Blanc".  These hillsides had been abandoned a century ago during the phylloxera crisis but provided south-southwest slopes that order to maximum sunshine. A decade after the initial planting, Jean-Fernand's son Marc joined the team as well as his brother Yves when Jean-Fernand and François retired. Today the Domaine has 23 hectares of vines planted along the Loire River, 80% of which is Sauvignon Blanc planted on flint, limestone, and marl soils. This allows the winemaking team to produce five unique cuvées expressing both the grape and the soil. 

We received three of these cuvées through Hopwine and they each showed various degrees of minerality and lemon zest. 

Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois Villargeau blanc 2019
Sauvignon Blanc from 70% flint terroirs and 30% limestone clay. It shows light citrus, saline, with a bright and lasting finish. 

Fernand & Sons Coteaux du Giennois 2018
This cuvée pays homage to their grandfather "Fernand", who created the original Domaine in 1920. The is Sauvignon Blanc from flint terroir on a flint subsoil and shows intense minerality, even salt, with tart lemon and a fresh lasting finish. 

Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois Sans Complexe 2019
Sauvignon Blanc harvested from marle soils and expressing itself with "crispiness, fruitiness, and minerality". The wine also provides depth and a full lemon mouthfeel. A lovely wine. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Jim Beam Black Extra Aged vs Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

For Christmas, I received this advent calendar created by Jim Beam and featuring miniatures of their popular flavored releases as well as the traditional Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Black Extra Aged.  The Kentucky Straight is created using a low rye mash bill of 75% corn, 23% rye, and 12% malted barley and is a classic bourbon by definition. This means that it was created using more than 51% corn, aged in new charred American white oak barrels, and meets the appropriate ABV marks.  The Kentucky Straight Bourbon moniker simply means the whiskey was aged more than two years within the Bluegrass state. The Black Extra Aged is the baseline Kentucky Straight aged further  - averaging around six years in barrel and a slightly higher proof 43 versus 40. 

I decided to sip both the Kentucky Straight and the Black Extra Aged side by side, each poured over an ice cube.  They have a similar caramelized corn and vanilla aroma which is actually stronger with the Straight.  This is an approachable bourbon, definitely watery for stronger tastes, but at $15 per 750ml -- enough flavor, finish, and minimum burn for the price.  The Black Extra Aged has, as expected, a deeper profile with more spice notes, is smoother and provides a bigger kick, and has a longer finish.  That being said, I'm not sure it's worth the extra $10, for a mixer, I would go with the Kentucky Straight and for a sipper -- I would look elsewhere. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Nagy-Somloi Olaszrizling

The most widely planted grape variety in Hungary is Olaszrizling, also known as Welschriesling to a wider European audience.  In many cases, Olaszrizling wines are rather pedestrian, light, and neutral, where they are favored in boxes, jugs, or as the base for the Hungarian wine spritzer: fröccs.  However, in a particular microclimate with volcanic soils or in specific environments these wines find a more complex expression such as in Magyarország's second smallest wine region -  Somló. This region is only 507 hectares and is basically a single hill that was an active volcano millions of years ago when the Pannonian Sea covered what is now central Europe. 

Today the hill is populated by multi-generational small family farms that were not confiscated during communism. Collectivized and socialist agriculture never gained a foothold in Somló thanks to its small size and the hill's steep slopes. These were inaccessible to machines and large-scale agricultural methods. Many of these small farms are vineyards planted in the rich volcanic black basalt soil that helps winemakers create minerally driven wines. The soil also helps warm the grapes during chillier days by absorbing heat and then radiating it back towards the vines.  

Kolonics Pinceszet is one of these multi-generation family farms and cultivates Olaszrizling on two hectares on the south-east side of the Somló hill -- specifically in the Apátság vineyard.  Károly Kolonics produces several versions of Olaszrizling wine, and each starts with six to 12 hours of skin contact before pressing and fermented using only indigenous yeast. The differences in the styles result from oak aging in various large and old barrels (1,000 or 1,500 liters). In the instance of the Kolonics Pinceszet Nagy-Somloi "St. László" Olaszrizling 2018 ($25), the wine was aged exclusively in the "St. László" barrel -- a 1,500-liter, steam-bent oak cask -- for one year. The wine is rich in tropical fruit and laden with minerals providing a smooth flow to the finish.  We couldn't stop ourselves from finishing the wine in one sitting. Egészségére. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Mezcal El Silencio Espadín and the Taco Bamba Grapefruit - Vanilla Margarita

Continuing our venture into Mezcal, we recently purchased the Mezcal El Silencio Espadín ($30), a very traditional product produced in San Baltazar Guelavila, Oaxaca, and from 100% organically grown Espadin agave. According to the bio, the spirit is made by Pedro Hernández, a ninth-generation Maestro Mezcalero, and double-distilled in small batches. Apparently, in 2019 Constellation Brands took a minority stake in El Silencio which most likely explains how it's available in the local ABC store 

When sipping neat, it starts with the smokey agave aroma that we've come to expect, and then the palate is smooth and textured - with a soft profile.  I then added lime juice which added a little kick and interestingly boosted the aromatics. But we found its most usefulness, was the filler for the Grapefruit - Vanilla Margarita mix from Taco Bamba.  The smokiness added to the cocktail and the vanilla gave the feeling of aged mezcal -- but just to a Reposado. Cheers.