Saturday, April 30, 2022

Mother's Day with Riondo Prosecco, Bormioli Rocco, and the Minute Mimosa Sugar Cube Trio

This week we received an excellent samples kit from Terlato Fine Wine featuring a newly reimaged Riondo ProseccoBormioli Rocco Italian cocktail glasses, and a Minute Mimosa Sugar Cube Trio.  This family's mother was very pleased. I mentioned the reimaged prosecco because Riondo changed the style from a fizzy frizzante to a full sparkling spumante. Based on Prosecco regulations, this required a change in closures from a frizzante screwcap to a spumante mushroom cork closure as spumante wines have greater effervescence. 

Riondo is named for nearby Mount Riondo and the brand produces DOC sparkling wines using the Charmat method from grapes grown in over 14,800 acres of vineyards in the Veneto region. The Riondo DOC Prosecco Extra Dry ($15) is 100% Glera and is extremely dry with noticeable pear and bready characters.  The wine finishes with refreshing acidity boosted by the increased effervescence. We used the non-typical Bormioli Rocco cocktail glasses and added a Peach and Raspberry cube from the Shimmer Peach and Berries cube trio. The cane sugar added roundness and softened the sparkling wine while providing subtle fruit flavors. Can't wait to use the Bormioli Rocco for more traditional cocktails and picking up more Riondo at either WholeFoods or Norms Beer & Wine. Cheers and Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Grape Spotlight: ICP Côtes de Gascogne Tannat with Domaine de Malartic

The Côtes de Gascogne is an IGP title covering the Gers administrative department of South-West France. Grapes have been cultivated in the region at least since Roman times and today the IGP consists of 12,000ha of vineyards. [IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), is a quality category of French wine, positioned between Vin de France and Appellation d'Origine Protegée (AOP). The category superseded Vin de Pays in 2009. ]  The region consists of several AOC appellations (Armagnac, Madiran, and St-Mont), but the IGP designation allows winemakers to expand beyond limited geographic boundaries and more rigid wine-making requirements.

The "terroir" across Côtes de Gascogne changes moving east to west with the eastern region more maritime from proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and changing to a continental climate moving inland. According to wine-searcher,com, "In the east, summers are warmer and drier, and the clay-limestone soils retain water more effectively. Nearer the coast, loose, sandy soils with good drainage and high rainfall characterize the vineyards".  

White wine grapes dominate the region with over 90% of planting, but for the lesser-grown red wine grapes, Tannat is a major player.  The grape is thought to have originated in the rugged Basque regions between France and Spain which may explain its inherently tough vines, thick leaves, and resistance to diseases. In general, Tannat grapes contain high natural acidity and aggressive tannins leading to wines that age nicely. Tannat wines are also characterized by deep color and high alcohol.

The Domaine de Malartic is a family estate belonging to the Périssé family and located in Gers. They produce a range of Côtes de Gascogne, Floc de Gascogne and Bas-Armagnac wines. For five generations the Périssé family has grown grapes on 68ha of vines on slopes rising off the Adour River in Bas-Armagnac. This land consists of plateaus featuring sand, reddish clay, silt, and pebbles with the vineyards extending over hillsides below the Pyrenees. They grow Colombard, Gros Manseng, Ugniblanc, Tannat, Cabernets, and Merlot with the Tannat and Merlot key ingredients to two of the wines I received in a recent Hopwine virtual fair. 

Domaine de Malartic Côtes de Gascogne Orignes Rouge 2019 Tannat
This 100% Tannat is very complex and intriguing with a white pepper aroma, rustic chewy cherries, and noticeable tannins.

Domaine de Malartic Côtes de Gascogne Mosaic Rouge 2020 Merlot / Tannat
This blend is rounder with a chalky and herbaceous character with earthy dark fruit and finishing with woody tannins. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Old Dominick Distillery & the Memphis Toddy

Not far from Beale Strait resides the first post-prohibition distillery in Memphis: Old Dominick Distillery. The distillery is the culmination of a very successful business started by Italian immigrant Domenico Canale. He arrived in Memphis in 1859 and started by running a fruit cart along the streets of Memphis. In 1866, "Canale formally establishes food wholesaler D. Canale & Co., and sets up operations in a warehouse at 8 Madison St. near Front. Among its offering is a whiskey, sold in ceramic jars and bottles, that Canale named Old Dominick". In 1880, "Canale developed the Dominick Toddy, a bourbon-based cordial with fruity overtones that must have spoken to the former fruit stand operator. It was described as the 'one of which we are the proudest' and its label featured the now iconic Dominicker Rooster." Throughout the 1900s, the business expanded under the leadership of Canale's children and grandchildren. In 1999, after 125 years of continuous operation, D. Canale Food Services is sold. 

In 2013, "following the surprise discovery of an unopened bottle of Old Dominick Toddy from the late 1800s, Chris and Alex Canale decide to reinstate the storied spirit brand started by their great-great-grandfather, Domenico.  They hire Master Distiller Alex Castle and in 2017 the distillery produces its first whiskey -- not far from the location of the original D. Canale & Co. warehouse. 

The distillery provides guided and self-guided tours through several artifacts with the guided tours leading through the barrel room and distillery. We took the self-guided tour and then walked up to the tasting bar where we enjoyed a flight plus a couple new twists to classic cocktails. Overall, the spirits are solid, and with multiple bars and a rooftop seating area - a frequent destination if we lived in Memphis. 

Honeybell Citrus Vodka (80 proof)
The Honeybell Orange is a hybrid of sweet tangerine and bitter grapefruit and Master Distiller Alex Castle feels this is one of her most "inventive and unique" spirits. This is a very smooth vodka, where both aspects of the fruit are truly noticeable.  

Formula No. 10 Gin (95 proof)
An interesting gin that starts with juniper and finishes with licorice. Complex flavors from the eight botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica root, licorice root, grapefruit peel, chamomile, orris root, and ginger root. 

Huling Station Straight Bourbon (100 proof)
Huling Station was the closest railway station to the D. Canale & Co. warehouse where, in 1866, Domenico Canale’s spirits were shipped throughout the United States.  This is made from a high rye recipe and bottled at 100 proof -- "reminiscent of the spirits offered by Domenico Canale".  There's definitely a bite to this bourbon with spicy notes mixed with the corn and caramel.  

Huling Station Straight Wheat Whiskey (90 proof)
This whiskey is comprised of  83 percent wheat, producing a lighter, more delicate profile.  A very pleasant sipper with stronger grassy characters.  

Memphis Toddy (60 proof)
This is the reverse-engineered spirit that led to the founding of the distillery. Its base is a high-rye bourbon which is then augmented with proprietary and a "carefully-curated array of natural ingredients".  It has an interesting profile, starts with the rye bite but then finishes with a sweet, baking spice finish. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Louisiana's Three Roll Estate: Rhum Agicole From Cane to Glass

Louisana is the second most abundent producer of sugar cane in the United States, following Florida with over 1,500 thousand short tons of harvested sugar. Baton Rouge's Three Roll Estate provides a small portion of this figure through their sugar cane estate. They are also a certified Farm to Table producer through their Cane to Glass process where the sugar cane is grown on a single estate in the delta and crushed at their mill as it passes through three steel rolls. The juice is then fermented and distilled in the French Caribbean rhum agricole style which provides a more grassy and intense rum. 

Their signature product is the Three Roll Estate Rhum Agricole Premium Rum which is produced once a year at harvest where the sugar cane juice is fermented 90 minutes after pressing. This rum is the truest expression of the Cane to Glass process and is the rum we purchased after our visit. It's extremely smooth, yet intense with plenty of vegetable and grassy notes and even a bit herbaceous. They also bottle a Three Roll Rhum Agricole White Rum from the juice fermented during the three-month harvest. 

Another product worth considering is the Three Roll Rhum Agricole Brazilian-Style Rum produced by fermenting the cane juice with yeast sourced from Brazil. A Cachaça throughout. The one rum I didn't care for was the Three Roll Rhum Agricole Dark Rum where the cane juice is processed into sugar and the molasses byproduct is fermented and aged in French oak vats, before being finished in American oak. I think the oak overwhelms the white rum and loses the fresh grassy and honey notes. 

It appears our future may entail more visits to Louisana so we looking forward to returning and spending more time in the tasting room and perhaps a visit during harvest. Cheers and thanks to theCompass Craft Beverage Finder

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Nashville's Corsair Artisan Distillery

Corsair Artisan Distillery
 was founded in Bowling Green KY in 2008 but moved to Nashville in 2010 to become the first craft distillery in the Athens of the South since prohibition. They now have two locations in Nashville, their headquarters distillery and one in the former home of Yazoo Brewery located in the Marathon Motorworks Village. The village once housed the Marathon Motor Works (1910-1914) which was the first factory to totally manufacture automobiles in the southern United States.  It now houses a thriving community of artisans along with a fabulous walking tour of the former plant.  And for more history, the Corsair Artisan Marathon location is home to a circa 1920 240-gallon pot still which survived the move from Bowling Green as well as prohibition. 

Corsair is extremely innovative and appears to be leading the industry in a couple styles as described below. The Marathon Brewstillery also contains a brewpub pouring many local beers and ciders as well as cocktails based on their spirits. Way more affordable and intriguing than heading to Broadway.

Corsair American Gin (92 proof, $29.99)
This gin is produced in small batches using a vapor basket system where the botanicals are extracted instead of cooked as in the more traditional boiling/maceration process.  The result is a very citrus-forward gin popular in the American style with noticeable cucumbers and mint. The juniper is apparent but sometimes I feel the pendulum is swinging too far from the London Dry style. 

Corsair Barreled Gin (88 proof, $39.99)
The distillery ages their American Gin in used spiced rum barrels with the intention of imparting "vanilla, fall spice notes, and wood to the finished product". Instead, I think the wood-induced characters overwhelm the gin and impart too much wood into the final product. 

Corsair Spiced Rum (85 proof, $29.99)
The rum is produced from molasses and then aged in small  (15 and 30 gallons) new American Oak casks.  This is a solid rum with plenty of vanilla and baking spices that carry throughout.

Corsair Dark Rye (85 proof, $41.99)
The grain bill consists of 61% Malted rye, 4% malted chocolate rye, and 35% malted barley. The use of malted barley over corn makes this both a rye whiskey and a malt whiskey but also tones down the spicy rye notes and adds smoother mocha sweetness.

Corsair Triple Smoke Small Batch American Malt Whiskey (85 proof, $49.99)
The distillery uses three individually smoked malts (cherrywood from Wisconsin, beechwood from Germany, and peat from Scotland) to craft this malt whiskey. This is such a unique spirit -- both peated and smoked with the smoke holding court. Since I purchased this bottle, I've had more opportunities to sample it than the other spirits and each time the profile changes slightly. Sometimes mesquite dominates, other times butterscotch and peat. Truly worth visiting just to pick up this smoked gem.

Monday, April 4, 2022

A Southern Brewery Tour

For spring break we are heading on a multi-state tour of colleges and for my benefit, breweries and maybe distilleries. These types of trips make managing theCompass Craft Beverage Finder worthwhile as we can search for craft beverage establishments in each city we pass through.  I'll be updating this post as we visit more breweries. Cheers.

Great Oak Brewing - Southern Craft BBQ (Bristol, Virginia)
Apparently, we missed a great spot during last year's Bristol Rhythm & Roots as Great Oak Brewery and Southern Craft BBQ opened at the tail end of State Street. The BBQ was excellent - try the burnt ends tacos or half chicken. The two beers I tried were as good. The Tennessee Uncommon Ale has a mash bill that includes corn and was more flavorful than expected. The Twin Eddies Coffee Porter was a surprisingly good pairing with the burnt ends. Can't wait to return for the 2022 music festival.

Balter Beerworks (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Another brewery with a tremendous kitchen (blackened Mahi wrap), Balter is located in downtown Knoxville and provides a full bar in addition to a dozen craft beers. I went with a flight that included the Good Neighbor Kolsch, Maypop American Pale Ale, Firebelly IPA, and Bear Blend Coffee Oatmeal Porter.  These are solid beers, interestingly the Maypop was more intense than the Firebelly. The Good Neighbor was well made - refreshing with a little breadiness - and worthy of a crowler to the hotel room.

Back Forty at Sloss Docks (Birmingham, Alabama)
On Friday nights it looks like half of Birmingham descends to the Sloss Docls to hang out at Back Forty Beer Company. Full kitchen, plenty of seating and outdoor space, wine, and lots of beer choices. I tried two Pale Ales side by side, the Naked Pig Pale Ale and the Barrel Smash American Pale Ale. Both are full of flavor with the Naked Pig a bit easier on the palate. We also had a glass or two of the Bama Mosa Brut Ale which is a tasty light ale fermented using champaign yeast and augmented with orange juice. A fan favorite for one in our party. Finally, we brought home a 4-pk of the Slur Bight Fruited Sour. Fermented with oranges and aged in vanilla it is soft with definite tropical flavors.

Southern Prohibition Brewery (Hattiesburg, MS)
Unfortunately, our timing was not optimal for stopping in Hattiesburg as the brewery's tasting room is closed for renovations. However, I was able to try two of their beers at the Crescent City Grill while getting our first exposure to cajun cooking. The Suzy B is an unfiltered Blonde Ale packing plenty of flavors and a lasting finish. The Devil's Harvest is a Breakfast IPA weighing in at a mere 4.9% and carrying some oats in the mash bill. No need for high alcohol with this much flavor. Excellent.

Tin Roof Brewing Co (Baton Rouge, Louisana)
This brewery is the closest to LSU and I was able to try their Paloma Gose which lead me to visit the next day.  Their Voodoo juicy pale ale is their most popular but I was more overwhelmed by their experimental beers like the King Cake Cream Ale brewed with malt, corn, rice, and two locally commissioned king cakes! The Parade Ground Porter was brewed with plenty of coffee beans and dozens of donuts. Each is delicious but don't overlook the Doubtfire Banana Coconut Cream Berliner Weisse. This is far beyond the traditional sea salt and coriander. Loads of flavors. 

Parish Brewing Company (Broussard, Louisana)
Broussard is located about five miles south of Lafayette so it's a quick trip to Parish Brewing from the Hub City. It's also apparent that berliner weisse and coffee stouts and porters are popular beer styles in the south as Parish provides several. The Greetings from Holly Beach is a tiki-styled Berliner Weisse with pineapple, mango, passionfruit, coconut cream, and toasted coconut. Fantastic. The Sips Pinot Noir Black Currant is dry, but juicy with dark fruit and a lasting finish. The Parliament of Owls is a powerful Espresso Blend Imperial Stout with graham crackers, chocolate, and toasted marshmallow. At 13% this packs a wallop of flavors and alcohol. On the lighter side, the Parish Pilsner and Canebrake Wheat ale are solid. 

Natchez Brewing Co (Natchez, Mississippi)
This brewery is located in perhaps the oldest city in Mississippi with scenic views of the mighty river and plenty of historic homes and museums. The city also doesn't have an open container law so a nice way to spend an afternoon is to grab a crowler from the brewery and sit along the river at Natchez Under the Hill.  I purchased two of these for destinations later in the trip. The first was the German Pilsner Frölich which is spot on stylistically with a refreshing, bready profile. The second was the Southern Grace Berliner Weisse keeping the traditional profile with very creamy sea salt and a slightly sour finish. 

Ghost River Brewing Co. (Memphis Tennessee)
The brewery has two locations in Memphis, their original location on South Main and on historic Beale Street.  This last location was within a short walk from our hotel so we had a quick visit before the Redbirds baseball game. This location also has a large backyard patio where a band was setting up that couldn't get started before we finished our flight. This was a random flight generated by a pourer and started with a delightful Grindhouse Cream Ale.  The flight also included the Dom’s Barrel-Aged Red Ale which spent six months in Old Dominick whiskey barrels. Definitely taste the whiskey.  It ended with the Rocket 88 Stout which is a solid roasted malty beer. Finally, the brewery's flagship beer, the Ghost River Gold, is available throughout the city - like at the Lookout Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. 

TailGate Brewery (Nashville, Tennessee)
This brewery has three Nashville tasting rooms with one in Music Row, just up the street from the original Tin Roof.  Witness the long tasting board showing over 40 beers, seltzers, and ciders. Over a Lent pizza and Calabrese fries, I drank a flight of four well-made beers which consisted of the Solar Eclipse Hazy Pale Ale, Cranberry Gose, Tennessee Lager, and Peanut Butter Milk Stout. I appreciate the opportunity to taste locally inspired beers like the Tennessee Common Lager which includes some corn in the mash bill. I also had a pour of their house-made hard cider - delicious apple flavors with tartness and acidity. With this expansive beer menu, I hope to return before we leave Nashville to taste so many styles in my wheelhouse: Lager Projekt: German Pilsner; SHNACK Sour SeriesBarrel Project: Coffee, Coconut, HazelnutMixed Culture StoutTrees: Hop in Smoke, and so much more. 

Miscellaneous Beers

Great Raft Brewing Reasonably Corrupt Dark Lager - Shreveport, Lousiana
Flying Tiger Brewery Burma Blonde Lager - Monroe, Lousiana
Yellowhammer Brewery Sunliner Fruited Sour - Huntsville, Alabama
Wiseacre Brewery Tiny Bomb American Pilsner - Memphis, Tennessee
Crosstown Brewing Siren Blonde Ale - Memphis, Tennessee
Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch Pilsner - Nashville, Tennessee
Yazoo Brewing Hopry Hazy IPA - Madison, Tennessee
New Heights Brewing Coffee & Cream - Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville Brewing Company Nashville Lager - Nashville, Tennessee