Friday, May 28, 2021

The Single Village Del Maguey Vida de San Luis Del Rio Mezcal

Continuing our exploration of mezcal with the widely distributed (thanks to the distillery's purchase by international spirits company Pernod Ricard) and easily recognized Del Maguey Vida de San Luis Del Rio Mezcal  ($37). The distillery - named after the Taino word for agave - was founded in 1995 by Ron Cooper who envisioned opening the United States to previously unavailable "100% certified organic, artisanal Mezcal produced using original handcrafted methods".  And in particular, this brand was intended to highlight individual villages by releasing single village mezcals. The green bottles are also easily recognized by their distinctive Ken Price labels and palm fiber bottle covers. The Vida label is Price's artistic interpretation of an agave farm.

The Vida is crafted as an entry-level Mezcal with "an ABV profile called for by bartenders around the world".  It is traditionally handcrafted from 100% mature agave Espadín by the family of Paciano Cruz Nolasco in the village of San Luis Del Rio.  The Nolascos are also responsible for the Crema de MezcalSan Luis Del Rio, Madrecuixe, and Tobaziche labels. The Vida Mezcal starts with vicious smoke on aroma which may be why bartenders favor it as an ingredient. The smoke stretches like the palm fiber covers through the flavor profile. The base is a smooth and creamy sweet agave core laced with tropical fruit. The smooth tail lasts with zero burn and elevating the smoked agave. 

The first cocktail I tried with it is a version of the Mezcal Mule using our reliable Appalachian Brewing Company Ginger Beer. The ginger and smoke dance together as the bite from the ginger beer elevates the mezcal.  An alternative is to add Grapefruit juice to provide more tang and to lengthen consumption. Check back for more cocktail recipes. Cheers. 

Mezcal Mule
Ginger Beer
Del Maguey Vida
Lime juice

Del Maguey Vida Production Notes:
Village: San Luis Del Rio
Palenquero: Paciano Cruz Nolasco, Marcos Cruz Mendez
State: Oaxaca
Region: Valles Centrales
Maguey: Espadin
Agave Species: A. angustifolia haw
Age of Maguey: 7-8 years
Elevation: 2952 feet (900 meters)
Roast Duration: 3-8 days
Type of Wood: Mezquite, Quebrachi, Huamuchil, Pitayo,
Pochotle, Tepeguaje, Copal Tepomaco, Pino, Encino
Milling: Molino, Electric
Size of Tinas: 1400 L
Fermentation Duration: 8-10 days
Water Source: Rio Hormiga Colorada
Still Type: Copper
Still Size: 350 L
ABV of Mezcal: 42%
Liquid Profile: Vida is distilled to be more widely available with an ABV profile called for by bartenders around the world. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Barbera d’Asti Through the Wines of Vinchio Vaglio

This landscape covers five distinct wine-growing areas with outstanding landscapes and the Castle of Cavour, an emblematic name both in the development of vineyards and in Italian history. It is located in the southern part of Piedmont, between the Po River and the Ligurian Apennines, and encompasses the whole range of technical and economic processes relating to the winegrowing and winemaking that has characterized the region for centuries. Vine pollen has been found in the area dating from the 5th century BC, when Piedmont was a place of contact and trade between the Etruscans and the Celts; Etruscan and Celtic words, particularly wine-related ones, are still found in the local dialect. During the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder mentions the Piedmont region as being one of the most favourable for growing vines in ancient Italy; Strabo mentions its barrels." -- Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato - UNESCO

Barbera d’Asti is one of the most famous wines from the Piedmont region of north-western Italy, focusing on soft and approachable styles of Barbera. In 1959 the cooperative Vinchio Vaglio was created, representing 192 family wine growers and 450 hectares.  Located in the Piedmont Monferrato above, the members of Vinchio Vaglio witnessed their Barbera d’Asti becoming a DOC in 1970 and upgrading to its current DOCG classification in 2008. 

Map courtesy of UNESCO.

"The DOCG catchment area is located in the hilly areas of the Asti and Alessandria provinces in eastern Piedmont, where the region shares its borders with Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. The vineyards which produce Barbera d'Asti wine are typically situated on hilly terrain, ranging in altitude anywhere from 90 to 300 meters (300ft to 1,000ft). The territory spans a relatively large area that adjoins the production area of Barbera d’Alba to the northeast. In 2018 3,384 hectares (8,358 acres) were recorded for the appellation. Production in the following year was just over 16 million liters, equivalent to just under 1.8 million cases." --

Through the Hopwine program, we tasted several wines from Vinchio Vaglio, all 100% Barbera and reflecting unique vineyards sites within the region. For instance, the Vigne Vecchie (Old Vineyards) label designates a program started by Giuliano Noè with the purpose of safeguarding historical vineyards.  The program sources Barbera grapes from within the cooperative that are at least 50 years old.  The "I tre Vescovi" (The three bishops) brand is made from grapes grown in the “core zones” of the UNESCO World Heritage “Vineyard Landscapes of Piedmont.” This name refers to the area where the borders of the towns of Acqui Terme, Alessandria, and Asti meet and where according to legend the bishops of these three dioceses used to meet on this neutral ground to hold discussions. 

Barbera d’Asti D.O.C.G. Superiore I Tre Vescovi 2018
The 100% Barbera wine is sourced from core zones of the UNESCO World Heritage Vineyard Landscapes of Piedmont. It is aged in 75 hl large French oak casks and barrique for 12 months followed by an additional month in stainless steel tanks and six months in the bottle before release. It starts with a vibrant floral and mint aroma which leads to a juicy and textured body elevated by the approachable acids and tannins. 

Barbera d’Asti D.O.C.G. Vigne Vecchie 50° 2018
This 100% Barbera celebrates the winery's 50th Anniversary and is from the Vigne Vecchie - Old Vineyards project. This wine was aged only in stainless steel, no oak, in order to maintain the true characteristics of the grape. This wine is fantastic - floral and herbaceous with cherry barnyard earthiness and sufficient tannins regardless of oak. 

Nizza Riserva D.O.C.G. Laudana 2016
Bricco Laudana is the name of a south-facing ridge of hills between Vinchio and Mombercelli in which this Barbera is sourced. The sandy soils with a relatively small content of clay produce grapes with elevated aromas and structure; whereas the south-facing exposure and mild winds provide conditions that lengthen the growing season.  The "Nizza" refers to a philosophy combining innovation and tradition which in this case leads to 18 months of aging in new oak and second and third-year French barrique. The wine then rests in cement tanks for another month prior to bottling, followed by six months of bottle aging before release. Expect healthy dark cherries, sizzling acidity, and chewy tannins. 

Barbera d’Asti D.O.C.G. Sorì dei Mori 2019
This relatively young Barbera is sourced from grapes with the core UNESCO zone and is aged for only six months in cement tanks prior to bottling, followed by three months of bottle aging. Once again, no oak. Expect a very fruit-forward pleasant wine with enough rustic character to remain interesting. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Vineyard Pests: Brood X Periodical Cicadas Coming to a Vineyard Near You

This was the title of an article in the March 2021 Viticulture Notes by Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist, AHS Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Winchester, Virginia and based on information from Dr. Doug Pfeiffer’s fruit extension site:

For those of us in Fairfax County Virginia, the 17-year, periodical cicada ‘Brood X’ has emerged in full force creating a mess on our driveways and walkways while emitting a deafening racket.  According to the Viticulture Notes article, residents of the northern Shenandoah Valley and parts of the northern piedmont can expect a similar situation. But what effect will the cicadas have on vineyards?  I reached out to several growers and wine producers and want to thank Jake Busching (Jake Busching Wines), Shannon Horton (Horton Vineyards), Jennifer Breaux (Breaux Vineyards), and Jack Sexton (Williams Gap Vineyard) for their responses.
Jake Busching had the most succinct answer. "Cicadas will harm new canes. They have a saw on their abdomen that cuts deep furrows into the cane so they can inject their eggs. The cane will most likely die from that point outwards. If you have older pruned vines you’re fine".  And Wolf explains, "...because lateral buds and shoots can easily compensate for the shoot damage that can occur with older vines ... injured shoots will be pruned off later ".  He continues, "However, young vines are subject to severe injury, with females using even the trunks as oviposition sites.  Oviposition may occur at multiple sites on one shoot or young trunk; affected areas become weak and will break easily (Eggs in the shoots may be seen on dissection of the injured material). Young vineyards should be protected."

It's obviously too late now, but the best advice is not to plant a new vineyard 1-2 years before an expected emergence of periodical cicada. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

WhistlePig 10 Year Rye and The Auctioneer

Thanks to Melania (Dallas Wine Chick) and her recent spirit exchange I received a bottle of the WhistlePig 10 Year Rye ($50, 100 proof) that began with the help of the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. They "discovered and purchased an incredible stock of 10-year-old blending Whiskey in Canada that was being profoundly misused".  This whiskey was then aged in new American Oak at the distillery in Shoreham Vermont to allow the rye to reach its full potential. This spirit is complex, with lots of baking spices on the nose, followed by the spicy rye mingling with caramel and vanilla that extends into the long and hot tail. 

WhistlePig has also launched an interesting barrel program where they experiment with various used casks as well as local, sustainably harvested, Vermont Estate Oak barrels.  The former include Sauternes, Madeira, and Port casks whereas the latter includes a custom toast profile for the Vermont oak. I need to try the 12-Year-Old aged in these world casks and the 15 Year Old aged in Vermont Oak. 

In the meantime, I'll be sipping this 10-Year_old over ice or in The Auctioneer, a cocktail that the distillery recommends where I heated the honey with a little water so it dissolves easily and used the Puerto Rico Distillery Coffee Rum with an equal amount of the Burmuda Coconut Liqueur.  Cheers.

The Auctioneer
1 ½ oz PiggyBack Rye
1 bar spoon local Honey
¼ oz Coconut Rum
½ oz Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
Orange for garnish

Add all ingredients to an old fashioned glass.
Stir without ice to incorporate honey.
Add ice.
Stir again.
Garnish with an orange twist.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sud-Ouest France, Fronton, Gaillac, & IGP Comte Tolosan Through the Wines of Vignobles Arbeau

Sud-Ouest France (south-West, France) is a large territorial zone stretching just southwest of Bordeaux to the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Pyrenees to the south.  It incorporates several administrative regions, diverse geographic areas, and multiple wine grapes and styles. This includes sweet wines from Jurancon and Monbazillac; tannic, full-blooded reds from Cahors (Côt aka Malbec) and Madiran (Tannat); sparkling wines from Gaillac; and a wide range of dry white wines.

Wine Scholar Guild

According to, "The soils, climates, and topography of the South West are as wide-ranging as its wines. The presence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea means that much of the region has a maritime climate, but there are inland areas that make use of the drier, hotter summers created by their more continental climate. The Garonne, Dordogne, Lot, and Tarn rivers bring alluvial soil types (clay, sand, gravel) to much of the region. Other vineyard areas, such as Irouleguy and the wider Bearn are also set on the steep slopes and foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, offering a variety of stone types, along with varying altitudes and aspects".

A recent Hopwine exhibition included a couple wineries from the Sud-Ouest starting with Vignobles Arbeau. The winery and estate (Château Coutinel) are located in the village of Labastide Saint Pierre, within the AOP Fronton, with the village located 42km north of Toulouse and about equidistant between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They also range beyond AOP Fronton to other South-West domains: AOP Gaillac, IGP Comté Tolosan, and IGP Côtes du Tarn. Our friends at Grape Experiences have a post concerning the winery's history and signature Négrette grape. 

AOP Fronton is an appellation to the north of Toulouse known for its rustic red wines (around 85 percent of production) in addition to smaller amounts of rosé. At least 50 percent of any Fronton vineyard must be planted with the Negrette grape (40% of any blended wine). Since the berries are small and tightly bundled, they are susceptible to powdery mildew and grey rot. Thus, the vines prefer hot, dry growing conditions and thrive in Fronton's dry, semi-continental climate. It is also particularly fond of the region's acidic, sandy clay boulbène soil type. 

Chateau Coutinel France - Sud-Ouest AOC Fronton Rosé 2020
This is a blend of 70% Négrette, 15% Syrah, and 15% Gamay grown on boulben, sandy-silt, and sometimes gravely soils.  This is a pleasant wine, candied cherry aroma, velvety texture, and lifting acids.

Chateau Coutinel France - Sud-Ouest AOC Fronton 2019
Same blend and soil types as the rosé showing fresh sizzling raspberries. Poprocks?

Chateau Coutinel Négrette / On L'appelle Négrette France - Sud-Ouest Fronton 2019
100%  Negrette grown on same soil types. This is a delicious wine, juicy and dense blackberries, some licorice, with suitable tannins and acids.

IGP Comte Tolosan is a large sub-region in the Sud-Ouest and encompasses 12 administrative departments, including the sub-regions of Jurançon, Cahors and Armagnac. The IGP label provides a geographical classification to wines that do not classify for the AOC-level appellations due to the grape variety or winemaking style. "Most IGP-related viticulture takes place in the center of the basin, along the course of the Garonne river. Old alluvial terraces provide well-drained, rocky environments for the vines, allowing for good flavor concentration in the grapes and deep, healthy root systems".

One popular grape in the IGP and other sub-regions is Braucol, a member of the Carmenets family and originating in the Spanish Basque Country. It is thought to have migrated to the region via pilgrims traveling the Way of Saint James. Specifically, it was spread by the Benedictine monks of Madiran and Conques who had recognized its rusticity allowing its cultivation in the Pyrenees and Aveyron. A synonym is Fer Servadou translating to wild and keeps well because it's a lambrusque (wild vine) and is highly resistant to mold. 

Domaine De Coutinel France - Sud-Ouest IGP Comté Tolosan Braucol 2020
This 100% Braucol wine begins with slight pepper but retains a soft elegance that carries through the finish.

AOP Gaillac is a historic wine-producing region located northeast of Toulouse and covers 64 communes spread out for roughly 20km (12 miles) from the town of Gaillac on the Tarn river. A further nine communes within the appellation lie on the other side of the town of Albi, on the eastern edge of the main winegrowing area. 

Duras – Fer – Syrah is the classic Gaillac wine blend with the Fer referring to Braucol. Together these three varieties make up at least 60 percent of any Gaillac red or rosé wine. Duras is an ancient grape variety, thought to have been introduced to France by the Romans more than 2000 years ago. In Sud-Ouest France, notably around Gaillac, it produces well-structured red wines full of color and alcohol.

Domaine Vaillieres France - Sud-Ouest AOP Gaillac 2019
This blend of 50% Braucol, 25% Duras, and 25% Syrah is from grapes from clay and limestone soils on the right bank of the Tarn River. It is very rustic, with a spicy-stoney character accentuated with a strong tannic backbone. A knockout. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Free State Collaboration: Dragon Dog's Frederick Rye Whiskey

Frederick Maryland is at the crossroads of many family road trips,  those leading north on Route 15 towards Thurmont and Pennsylvania or those leading west towards Cumberland, Seven Springs, and beyond.  It also explains the high frequency of Civil War battles fought in the city or surrounding land including the battles of Antietam and to some extent Gettysburg.  Today, Frederick city and county is a craft beverage destination with a plethora of wineries, cideries, breweries, and distilleries. 

Two of these are Maryland's largest brewery, Flying Dog Brewery, and Dragon Distillery. Flying Dog beers are widely distributed, of excellent quality, and are known for the Hunter S. Thompson inspired labels drawn by artist Ralph Steadman. Dragon Distillery is a small operation whose Frederick county roots dates to the mid-1700s.  Some of their products are inspired by the Founder's great-grandfather Bad Bill Tutt and long-held family recipes. 

A newer recipe is a collaboration between Flying Dog and Dragon called Dragon Dog's Frederick Rye Whiskey ($42, 48%) and is marketing as "Frederick's first Rye Whiskey". Flying Dog prepares a mash using a proprietary blend of nine specialty rye grains which is then fermented and aged at the distillery. Over ice, the spirit provides a spicy wet stone aroma, with the spice and rye packing cinnamon and other dry baking spices. The heat is noticeable upfront but quickly backs off during the tail. 

And as a BevFluence contributor, we are still beating the Negroni drum via recipes from Negroni, More than 30 classic and modern recipes for Italy's iconic cocktail ($12) by David T. Smith and  Keli Rivers available by Ryland, Peters, & Small.  An offshoot of the Boulevardier is the Old Pal which replaces the bourbon with rye whiskey and calls for equal parts rye, Campari, and Cochi Americano or red vermouth.  My version of the Old Pal uses the Mt. Defiance Distillery Sweet Vermouth ($19, 350ml) (pre-mixed with Campari) and with the Dragon Dog provides a very dry and chalky version of this cocktail where it feels like the glass has been rimmed with cinnamon powder.