Malbec World Day with the Hess Collection, Colomé, & Amalaya


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“Malbec World Day” or “Malbec Mondo” as English speakers prefer to say is celebrated on April 17 to commemorate the day back in 1853 when Argentina’s President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento officially made it his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry.  He asked Michel Aime Pouget, a French soil expert, to bring over new vines from France and amongst Pouget’s selection, was Malbec.  In the following years, the Malbec varietal flourished in Argentina’s dry, and sunny weather, particularly at high elevations.  Today, Malbec is Argentina’s star varietal.

Here we are for Malbec World Day 2019 and I received a trio of Malbec samples from the Hess Collection portfolio, specifically from Bodega Colomé and Bodega Amalaya. The wines are produced in the Calchaquí Valley in Salta, Argentina. The valley has altitude – from 5,500 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea level – making it one of the highest viticulture …

Lodi Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel & Ancient Vineyards


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Marian’s Vineyard at
Mohr Fry Ranches

Lodi is the “self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World” producing over 40 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel, with the vast majority of it grown in the Mokelumne River AVA. But to paraphrase a favorite song, ” well…how did it get there”? According to Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and Its Wines, brothers George and William West had added Zinfandel to their Stockton based El Pinal Winery by at least the 1860s. In 1889, German-born Joseph Spenker planted a vineyard, most likely from cuttings from El Pinal, that consisted of Zinfandel, Carignan, Mission, and Tokay — the later a Vitis vinifera table grape that closely resembles the gnarled look of the Zinfandel vine. This plot is still farmed today by Spenker’s ancestors (Wanda Woock Bechthold and her son Greg Burns) in the Royal Tee Vineyard of Jessie’s Grove Winery and is Lodi’s …

Wines of Navarra, the Camino de Santiago, and French Grape Varieties


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The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and concluding at the shrine of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. The pilgrimages started very shortly after the believed discovery of the tomb of the Patron Saint of Spain in 814. There are two competing claims regarding James evangelization of the Iberian Peninsula with one, based on the Epistle to the Romans where St. Paul suggests a disciple hadn’t visited Spain and the alternative, that after James was martyred in AD 44 his remains were transported back to the land that he had in fact evangelized.

Regardless, pilgrims flocked to the site using the Camino de Santiago and Wines of Navarra website, “in 1234 the first of a succession of French monarchs ascended by marriage to the throne of the Kingdom …

Alternative Packaging from Argentina’s Santa Julia


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Who’s been looking for wine distributed in alternative packaging to bring along during hiking, cycling, boating, or fishing trips? I know I have. And I recently received a strong contender from Winesellers Ltd. a trio of wines packaged in 375ml cans (SRP $5.99).  The wines are produced by Santa Julia, an Argentine brand that leverages their Mendoza location. The winery practices certified organic vineyard management, thus two of these wines are labeled Organic. The Organic Chardonnay provides a classic unoaked Chardonnay flavor; very refreshing with subtle depth and sufficient acidity. The Organic Malbec Rosé behaves again as expected, refreshing with layers of strawberries. However, the red Tintillo is the most interesting as the 50-50 blend of Malbec and Bonarda is fermented using carbonic maceration — a process where the grapes are fermented intact order to achieve a fruitier wine. It’s also designed to drink chilled,  or mildly so …

Lodi Wine: The Basics


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Last week I spent four days exploring Lodi California with Snooth and witnessed the unique wine culture that reflects this region. Over the next couple of months expect regular Monday posts describing this culture.  But today I want to highlight the region’s significance so here are a few basic facts available from the Lodi Winegrape Commission.

Relevance
The Lodi Appellation (American Viticulture Area) is the most prolific in California and accounts for 20% of all wine grapes crushed in the Golden State. According to the Lodi Winegrape Commission, “there are more acres of wine grapes planted in Lodi than all of Napa Valley and Sonoma County combined; in fact, more than the entire states of Washington and Oregon together, plus another 30%”. Thus, Lodi is arguably the most widely planted wine region in the entire U.S. and why the region is relevant to wine consumers.

Geography
The Lodi …

Dos Spanish Rosado Wines for Spring


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In the 3rd Century BC the region of Rioja was inhabited by the Berones, a warrior people from Celtic origin whose populations reached from the Cantabria mountains in the North to the Demanda mountain range in the South. This warlike population, also dedicated to agriculture, livestock, pottery, and metallurgy named this area Beronia.

Beronia Winery was named to honor this heritage and is located in the Rioja Alta subregion of the famous DOCa Rioja. This subregion shares similar characteristics as its two other subregion siblings (Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental – formerly Rioja Baja) — like abundant sunshine. Rioja Alta is the highest region and enjoys a larger diurnal temperature leading to acid retention and longer maturation periods. CVNE is another winery located in Rioja Alta (with additional vineyards in Rioja Alavesa) and is currently celebrating its 140th year anniversary. In fact, the winery is still controlled by …

Brewers Association Reveals the 50 Fastest Growing U.S. Craft Breweries of 2018


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The Brewers Association released its second annual list of the 50 fastest growing small and independent craft brewing companies of 2018. “These small and independent craft breweries from 27 states registered a median growth of 163 percent in 2018 and included 13 brewpubs, 35 microbreweries, and two regional craft breweries”.

“Even as market competition continues to increase, these small and independent breweries and brewpubs demonstrate there are still growth opportunities across a diverse set of regions and business models,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. And the list is rather representative of all geographic regions.

  1. Lake Time Brewery, Clear Lake Iowa
  2. Big Oyster Brewery, Lewes Delaware
  3. Oak Road Brewery, Summerville South Carolina
  4. The Dreamchaser’s Brewery, Waxhaw North Carolina
  5. Shattered Oak Brewing, Oregon City Oregon

Methodology: The list presented includes only small and independent breweries. Growth is measured based on production at their own facilities. …

Kin & Cascadia Showcase the Columbia and Willamette Valleys


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Winesellers Ltd., the family-owned global importer, recently expanded their portfolio into the Pacific Northwest by creating the Kin & Cascadia brand. The initial two offerings are a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington’s Columbia Valley and a Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley — both arguably the premier wine regions in their respective states. Each is priced close to $15 providing excellent value.  Finally, don’t you love the contrasting bottle styles reflecting Bordeaux and Burgundy? Cheers.






2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, Washington State ($15)
The grapes are sourced from vineyard sites in the Wahluke Slope AVA located near the edge of Red Mountain. The region is one of the driest, warmest climates in the state, perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are composed of sandy and alluvial soils with vine shoots on original roots as phylloxera has never been in Washington State.  For the price, this is a very …

Wines of Santorini…from Assyrtiko to Vinsanto


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Wines from Santorini

Santorini, we’ve all seen photos of the picturous villages and white sandy beaches on this Greek archipelago. But many of us are probably unfamiliar of the rich wine-making tradition (3500 BC) on these islands – particular the main island of Santorini. We were very unfamiliar; until we received a care package of wines from the Wines From Santorini. Here’s what we learned.

The current geographic layout of Santorini is the result of a massive volcanic eruption in 1600BC that created the central lagoon and surround islands. The inhabitants were destroyed, but a few vines survived which may be the lineage to the most important indigenous wine grape: Assyrtiko.  Along with Athiri and Aidani, these grapes comprise the majority of Santorini white wines as well as Vinsanto (Italian: “holy wine”). This is a dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes, then aged in barrel; a Mediterranean delicacy for centuries.

Wines from Santorini

Grape growing on Santorini is quite unique. Because of the volcanic eruption, the limestone base is covered with chalk, slate, ash, and lava. This composition helps to create wines with a naturally low pH level and high acidity.  The lack of clay in the soil also creates a natural barrier to the Phylloxera louse which has never ventured onto the island. As a result, the vines are some of the oldest, ungrafted vines in the world. Finally, rainfall is quite rare, but the vines are “watered” at night by a mist that rolls in from the Aegean. The seas also bring heavy winds so the vines are pruned like a cylinder in order to protect the fruit.  The result of this hot, dry, climate is very low yields – averaging 25 hl/ha. And all the wines are protected under the “Santorini” OPAP designations of origin.

The first wine we sampled was the Gavalas Winery 2009 Santorini a 90-10 blend of  Assyrtiko and Aidan. The Gavalas family has been producing wine for three centuries and the grapes from this wine were harvested from the “vineyard of Santorini” that is considered to be the oldest in Greece; perhaps even the world’s oldest continually cultivated vineyard.  Pretty amazing. Only 25% of the juice is extracted from the grapes which is then fermented in stainless steel. The wine starts with a citrus aroma mixed in with a slight dose of salty air. The wine  tastes fresh and clean, with hints of minerality and decent acidity.  Very natural and nicely done.

The next wine was the Gaia Estate 2011 Thalassitis, 100% Assytiko. This winery is a youngster in relative terms, having opened in 1994. The owners, Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, started the winery in part to save an old tomato processing plant from being lost to the modern world – i.e tourism. Their Thalassitis (“Thalassitis Oenos” Greek for sea-originated wine) is named for the ancient practice of mixing wine with sea water apparently for therapeutic reasons. Did they know something we are missing today?  Instead the owners of Gaia Estate believe that their proximity to the Aegean Sea creates a similar affect and provides the Thalassitis with a unique flavor. That, and 80-year old vines. The wine is bigger than the Gavalas with even more acidity but with the same mineral and and sea salt characteristics. This is your “Wow” wine, which was simultaneously proclaimed at our table causing a jinx comment from our son. Wow.

Finally, we moved to a vinsanto, the Karamolegos 2005 Vinsanto to be precise – a blend of Assytiko and Aidani. These grapes were sun-dried for twelve days, fermented two months in barrel, followed by two years aging in more oak. The result is a blood orange wine with raisins, honey, nuts, and vanilla popping up at various stages in the palette. The wine is syrupy – but not sickening so – with a long finish that invites you back for more. This is something else. We were first introduced to this style from a Cretan Wine exhibit at the South Beach Wine & Festival years ago and promptly forgot. Not anymore.

Here’s to hoping we visit Santorini one day. Cheers.

The United Grapes of America – New Jersey – Tomasello Winery Rkatsiteli


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From the plans of the southern Caucasus in the Republic of Georgia to the outer coastal plain of New Jersey, the ancient Rkatsiteli has found a home at Tomasello Winery.  The winery is one of the country’s oldest, opening right after Prohibition was repealed (license #68). Three generations of Tomasellos have operated the winery, producing an assortment of vinifera, labrusca, hybrids, and fruit wines – can you say New Jersey blueberries. And Outer Coastal Plain Rkatsiteli ($12). We had hoped to share this wine during our Discovering Georgian Wines for #winechat tasting, but the

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

logistics of online ordering failed us. Oh well. This wine starts with typical floral aromas, and continues with some apricots and spice on the palette. The wine seems drier than the Horton Vineyards and Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars – although the sugar levels are similar.  Not as acidic either, but just enough to balance the equation. Kudos to Tomasello Winery for producing a truly unique wine.

2006 Bennett Family "The Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon


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After the Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay, we finally opened our next wine from the Wine Chateau, the 2006 Bennett Family “The Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. We were excited about this wine because we tend to shy away from  Napa Valley cabs, primarily due to budgetary constraints. However, this one is definitely within our means, on sale for $20 at the online retailer. And what a QPR – particularly now that  the wine has been able to mature in the bottle. The wine starts with a big aroma as dark cherry and chocolate engulf the nose. I thought my face was going to get stuck in the glass; I couldn’t get enough of this sensation. Dark cherry continues in the palette, combined with bits of earthy dirt and a creamy texture that ends with subtle tannins and a little spice; but a smooth, smooth finish. This is an easy drinking wine where the 14.5% alcohol is barely apparent. Not bad from a family of whisky distillers. Cheers.

Wine 101: Corot noir


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Corot noir courtesy of
Double A Vineyards

Is Corot noir, the new Pinot Noir for cold climate vineyards? Of course not; but this cross between hybrids Seyve Villard and Steuben has its converts. Developed  at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, its wines “are free of the hybrid aromas typical of many other red hybrid grapes, and can be used for varietal wine production or for blending. The distinctive red wine has a deep red color and attractive berry and cherry fruit aromas.” This in the words of grape breeder Bruce Reisch. And according to Double A Vineyards, a New York nursery,  “The wine has big soft tannins with a structure that is complete from the front of the mouth to the back, suitable for a varietal wine or for blending. Pairs well with beef, game, and other hearty dishes.”

Hunt Country Vineyards
Classic Red

Diane Forsee of Forsee Vineyards and Winery (Coffeen Illinois) is one convert: “it just happens to be one of our best sellers here at the winery”. The grape handles the Midwest winters well, the hot humid summers, and even poor clay soil. The negatives, do not over-crop and “you have a very small window within which to harvest, because the ‘numbers’ are perfect for a short time. Otherwise, the acid is too low and the wine becomes the perfect blender.” But in the winery, the grape is versatile. They produce a dry red aged in American oak; a fruit forward semi-sweet blush; and a semi-dry “Chianti” styled wine blended with Leon Millot.

In Branchport, New York, Al Hunt of Hunt Country Vineyards grows Corot Noir to keep his wines competitively priced. His customers demand wines below $10 and their Classic Red fits that bill. Plus this five varietal, medium bodied blend has won several Golds, including a recent one at the Florida International Wine Competition. We need to get our hands on this one.

Corot Noir seems to have found a home in New York and Illinois, but is also grown in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and even Colorado and South Dakota. Here is an alphabetical list.

The United Grapes of America – Arizona – Arizona Stronghold Tazi


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The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

Blood Into Wine, the story of Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski quest to produce world class wine in the northern Arizona desert. Ever seen the movie? Well they did it; sorry to ruin the ending. And now their Arizona Stronghold Vineyards is a cult winery, popular not only on the left coast but on the right. And on our coast some of their wines are available through Wholefoods by Vino 50 – such as the Tazi – Aromatic White Blend ($23). And aromatics is what you get. Orange and flowers linger on the nose, moving to citrus flavors and a crisp dry finish. Pretty impressive. The 2011 blend consists of 28% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Riesling, 18% Malvasia, & 16% Chenin Blanc; the composition changes year to year – but the results are the same. This is why they turned blood into wine.

Discovering Georgian Wines for #winechat


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Quick question? What is the oldest known vinifera wine grape? Muscat. Maybe. One from Greece – perhaps Agiorgitiko? Maybe. How about Rkatsiteli – where clay vessels in the Republic of Georgia have been found that contain Rkatsiteli seeds which date back to 6,000 BC (A Short History of Wine). And  Jancis Robinson The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition states that the wine tradition finds its roots in the valleys of the South Caucasus – its not far fetched to believe that Rkatsiteli is one of the first vinifera wine grapes. Yet Rkatsiteli is just one of 500 unique Georgian grape varieties; perhaps one is   even older. Moving forward, Georgian wine is mentioned in Greek literature,particularly when Jason finds “fountains of wine” there on his quest for the Golden Fleece. The wine culture is further encouraged in the 4th century AD by the spread of Christianity in Georgia by St. Nino from Cappadocia, who wore a cross made from vine stems. Being pottery experts, the Georgians mastered qvevri, clay vessels used to ferment and age wine.

My first contact with Georgian wine came through the Georgian Wine House who poured at several successive Washington D.C. Food & Wine Festivals.Then I learned that Horton Vineyards grew Rkatsiteli in their Gordonsville Virginia vineyard and that they had gotten the idea from drinking Rkatsiteli from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. This ancient grape was one of the first planted to prove that vinifera grapes could survive and prosper in the Finger Lakes. I was hooked. Needing a red partner, I naturally turned to Saperavi, the most popular red Georgian wine grape that is used in popular semi-sweet to dry wines.

When asked to host #winechat, Georgian wine and their American counterparts seemed a perfect topic. Representatives from the Georgian Wine House, Horton Vineyards, Dr. Frank, Standing Stone Vineyards, and Castle Hill Cider agreed to participate.Why the last two? Standing Stone is the only grower of Saperavi in the United States and Castle Hill is the only American user of Kvevri vessels. Before the chat we sampled ten wines and used them as a reference during the conversation.

Teliani Valley Tsinandali 2010 (SRP $10). Georgian wines are usually blends and named for the region or village so Tsinandali is the appellation and the wine is composed of 80% Rkatsiteli & 20% Mtsvane. This wine is made in the Western style so fermented in stainless steel with no skin contact. The Mtsvane provides a more floral bouquet, while the  Rkatsiteli provides structure and acidity. And at the price, a great bargain.

Vinoterra Rkatsiteli 2011 (SRP $13). This wine is produced in the traditional Georgian  method where the wine is fermented and  macerated on skins for 6 months within qvevri vessels. This skin contact produces an orange coloring to the wine which many falsely think as oxidized. Not here. The wine has a somewhat spicy, apricot aroma with a mild tannic finish. Since most Georgians consume white wine this one is made to hold up to red meats – particularly lamb. Did I mention Rkatsiteli translates to Red Horn? Interesting factoid.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2010 Rkatsiteli (SRP $15). The first Rkatsiteli produced in the United States, this wine is slightly sweeter than the previous two. It has an intriguing  grapefruit\orange aroma with a crisp acidic finish that balances the sugar. 

Horton Vineyards 2011 Rkatsiteli (SRP $15). This wine is made from estate grapes growing right in front of the winery and a full Monticello AVA wine. 2011 was a poor growing year in Virginia so this wine has more skin contact because of the condition of the fruit. It is also semi-dry at 1.8% RS and possesses a similar grapefruit\orange aroma. Very flavorful with the required acids to balance the sugar.

Teliani Valley Unfiltered Saperavi 2007 (SRP $19). Saperavi is translated as dye or black (wine) and in the glass seems as dark as Norton. This wine is from the Tsinandali sub-region of the larger Kakheti region – which is responsible for a large percentage of Georgian wine production. Like the previous Teliani Valley wine, this one is made for the Western market (fermented in stainless steel; aged 6 month in new French oak).  Here we first encountered the standard sour cherry nose representative of Saperaviand the muscular tannins. This is a big wine.

Vinoterra Saperavi 2008 (SRP $22). Moving to an even bigger wine that was decanted an hour before tasting, this wine was produced using a combination of new and traditional methods. The juice was macerated on their skins for 18 days; fermented in qvevri; then sealed for six months. At that point the wine is racked into 75% new French oak and 25% neutral oak. The result is a larger sour cherry profile on the nose and through the palette. The tannins are smoother – but the oak treatment is noticeable throughout.

Vinoterra Saperavi Selection 2009 (SRP $24). Here is a 100% traditional Georgian wine made from 50 year old vines and fermented and aged in qvevri. No oak treatment. The result (also decanted one hour ) is a surprisingly fruity and earthy wine, with lower tannins and more finesse. Seems like the oak in the 2008 may have masked the earthy characteristics of the fruit. This was my favorite Saperavi for the evening.


Standing Stone Vineyards The Dark Red (SRP $30). The only Saperavi produced in the United States, the winery first thought of this grape as a side-kick to Pinot Noir.  When they learned how cold hardy and productive it was, a single varietal wine was in the cards. This wine has the traditional sour cherry nose, but with a less tannic and more fruity profile than the Georgians. This is a party fun – easy drinking.

 Teliani Valley Kindzmarauli 2011 (SRP $15). This is a semi-sweet Saperavi made in the Kindzmarauli micro zone in Kakheti. Grown at a higher elevation this wine has great acidity and all natural sugar – coming in at 2.5% RS and 11.5% alcohol. This is an easy drinking wine and is no surprise its the top seller in their portfolio. Dark chocolate, here we come.

A very nice assortment of wines – both from the Republic of Georgia and the United States. And with affordable SRPs, there’s no excuse to start your Georgian wine experience. Cheers.

10 Cane Rum Review – Marketing Trumps Quality


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A constant at our local ABC store is the bright orange label of 10 Cane Rum, sitting prominently at eye level on the shelf. The distillery is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton – which explains the marketing power. After several years of browsing I finally forked over the $30 to discover for myself, what the marketing buzz was all about.

The rum is produced in Trinidad using the “rhum agricole” technique – the first press of the sugar cane juice and not molasses – and allegedly requires the juice from 10 cane stalks to produce a single bottle of rum. This rum is then aged one year in new French oak and blended with a small dose of older Trinidadian rum. 

The rum pours a pale yellow and the nose, sweet alcohol.  Not a lot going on at this point – sweetness and burn. This trend continued on the palette with no noticeable flavor profile rising forth – just a general sweetness of brown sugar followed by a slow burn. Adding a few drops of water actually suppressed the sugar, but not the alcohol. Conclusion: not at all worth the price. You may ask, if the rum isn’t anything special, why the almost empty bottle. The short answer – makes a decent (yet expensive) mixer for the Hemingway Josie Russell.

#winechat – Rkatsiteli and Saperavi – from Georgia to America


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#winechat will reconvene in 2013 on January 9th with a focus on the birthplace of wine-making – the Republic of Georgia – where archeologists have unearthed viticulture artifacts from 5,000 to 8,000 years old. Accompanied by the Georgian Wine House, we will discuss Kvevri terracota vessels, the popular Rkatsiteli and Saperavi grapes, and counterfeit wines. Georgian wines are available through Potomac Wines & Spirits. Rkatsiteli and Saperavi have also migrated to the United States where a handful of wineries cultivate and vinify these grapes. We hope to have representatives from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars (NY), Standing Stone Vineyards (NY), Horton Vineyards (VA), Tomasello Winery (NJ) and Avanguardia Wines (CA) as well as Castle Hill Cider, who utilize Georgian Kveri terracota fermenting containers in their Keswick Virginia cidery. We are looking forward to seeing everyone online on the 9th – 9PM ET on Twitter.

Update: Facebook event describing the wine is now available #WineChat talking Rkatsiteli & Saperavi

Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario Reserva Exclusiva – What’s in a name and satchel?


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While browsing a liquor store in New York, I came across a fancy leather satchel containing an interesting Venezuelan rum – Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario Reserva Exclusiva ($30). Traditionally the term “ron añejo” refers to aged rum and “pampero” to a vicious squall. Thus, in 1938, Alejandro Hernández started Industrias Pampero, C.A. and produced the “first rum to be accredited ‘Añejo’, by the Venezuelan government”. Twenty-five years later to celebrate their anniversary (that’s 1963 for those like me slow in arithmetic) the inaugural Ron Añejo Pampero Aniversario Reserva Exclusiva was released.  Now owned by the Diageo empire, the distillery continues to release this premium rum, which is referred to in Venezuela as “Caballito Frenao” (“Restrained Horse”) because of the logo on the satchel.

The rum pours a dark caramel with a nose of toasted vanilla and sweet honey nuts. Very appealing. On the palette there’s a wave of chocolate being ridden by vanilla notes plus a hint of leather when it crashes into a warm molasses burning sensation. Who needs the creme brulee when this rum will suffice for dessert. Adding a few drops of water smooths out the palette by dampening the alcohol to completely eliminate the burn, allowing the rum’s flavor profile to shine. This is very nice sipping rum, flavorful and balanced – worthy of the $30 price. Cheers.

Christmas in New York City – Brooklyn Brewery on the Itinerary


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As tradition has it, my family once again asked for a trip to New York City to partake in the Christmas lights and festivities throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs. This year I agreed, with one stipulation; we allocate enough time to visit Brooklyn Brewery – located in the now trendy Williamsburg industrial area. And this visit was easily handled with the Prospect Park Zoo on the itinerary.

I’ve been a big fan of the brewery ever since my first Double Chocolate Stout many years ago – perhaps close to their 1988 opening. Since that time the brewery has expanded its portfolio from their famous Lager to many different styles. And the brewery itself has expanded with demand to double its capacity and eventually triple it next year.  And anyone who follows beer culture knows the influence of Brewmaster Garrett Oliver as he is  editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. One day we need to feature him on MyJoogTV.

We arrived at the brewery to find a swelling crowd even though the tasting room had just opened. As it was Sunday we were welcomed to SmorgasBrewery; where local “underground” chefs provide gourmet food to pair with your beer. And what a selection of beer – maybe a dozen options – and not just the perennials augmented with some seasonals. I noticed only two – the Brooklyn Brown Ale and Brooklyn Lager, surrounded by the single hop Sorachi Ace, Radius, Winter Ale, Brooklyn Monster Ale, and There Will Be Black – among others. After sampling a few, my favorites were the Brewmaster’s Reserve There Will Be Black and Sorachi Ace. The former is a Black IPA that satisfies my craving for chocolate transitioning into a bitter finish. The latter is a Single-hop Farmhouse Saison where the rare “Sorachi Ace” hops (developed in Japan by crossing the British “Brewer’s Gold” with the Czech “Saaz”) is sourced from a single hop farm in Washington state. The beer is cloudy but light; lemony but very clean – with a refreshing, almost acidic finish. Love the style and ingenuity using a single hop variety.

With the family keeping a tight schedule there wasn’t time for a tour or more tasting, but with the renaissance in Williamsburg, I see a destination trip in my future. Beer and live music seem to pair well in Brooklyn. Cheers.

Note: Brooklyn Brewery is open to the public Monday-Thursday from 5-7pm for reservation-only Small Batch tours, Friday evening for Happy Hour, and Saturdays and Sundays for Tours and Tastings.

Wines from the Wine Chateau: Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay 2009


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Earlier this month we received a few wines from the Wine Chateau, and the Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay 2009 (onsale now for $13.97) was the first we opened. The wine comes from the
Casablanca Valley in Chile, specifically the Lapostolle Atalayas Vineyard. The winery is now excluselively owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle family – of Grand Marnier liqueur fame – as well as the Château de Sancerre in the Loire Valley. The expanded into Chile by purchasing a vineyard populated by ungrafted old vines that were protected from Phylloxera by the Andes Mountains. Or so they say.

The vineyard expanded over time and now includes Chardonnay which is responsible for 100% of the Cuvee Alexandre. The wine starts with pear and which leads to a tasty vanilla and apple flavor ending with a creamy finish. The oak enhances the fruit without over shadowing it and does not contribute the over-extracted buttery character that I truly distaste. This is a very nice wine, and with this sale price – an extreme bargain. Cheers

#TGTaste Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut & Brut Rose


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This week I participated in the monthly ThirstyGirl Twitter chat this time featuring sparkling wines from Domaine Ste. Michelle – the bubbly wing of Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Specifically we were sent sample of the the Brut and Brut Rose- both retail around $12.  Expectations were high, since that day I learned that the The Wine Trials had named Chateau Ste. Michelle their 2011 Winery of the year and that they found that 70% of blind tasters preferred Domaine Ste. Michelle to Dom Pérignon and 85% preferred Domaine Ste. Michelle to Veuve Clicquot. Pretty impressive.

Both wines were made from grapes harvested from Washington’s Columbia Valley, in which the winery is quick to relate, “whose climate is similar to that of the Champagne region in France”.  The grapes were then fermented and converted to sparkling wine using the traditional Methode champenoise process.

The Brut is a blend of 88% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Noir and to me, exuded green apples from the nose to the finish. There is a slight sweetness to the body (1.19% RS) that dissipates at the refreshing  and effervescence tail. Just a pleasure to drink – lookout Christmas morning. The Brut Rose is 100% Pinot Noir, with the same sweetness, but more of a fruit flavor – strawberry replaces the apple – with a slight creaminess texture. The finish, just as refreshing as the Brut.

It’s easy to understand why these wines are so popular – great RPQ at $12 and a quality well past this price range. Ready to move on to their Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs. Cheers all and Merry Christmas and a safe new year.