Introducing Saturday’s Tasting Wines, Round 2

 

(Mostly) accurate depiction of this Saturday's tasting wines.

(Mostly) accurate depiction of this Saturday’s tasting wines.

Are you a fan of big wines? And by big wines, I mean wines that you’d pair with a grilled ribeye, or a spicy bowl of chili con carne, or some ultra-pungent blue cheese? Then this Saturday’s Ridiculously Big Wines Tasting is for you. Here’s a little bit of background on each wine we’ll be pouring:

Olivier LaFont Ventoux Blanc 2013

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc, this full-bodied white is fruit-forward with citrus, peach, and subtle floral notes.

Scott Family Arroyo Seco 2012 Chardonnay

This California beauty is produced from vine clones from Dijon, the birthplace of some of the Burgundy’s most prestigious wines. Full-bodied with notes of apricot and tropical fruit, this wine is oaked, but not overly so; 8 months of sur lies aging in French oak impart a subtle creamy vanilla note. 

Honoro Vera 2013 Monastrell

Produced by Gil Family Estates, the folks behind Ateca, Juan Gil, and the highly-rated Clio, Honoro Vera 2013 Monastrell is made from 100% organic grapes from the northwest of Jumilla. The wine is dark, rich, and aromatic with notes of ripe berries, fresh herbs, and a hint of peppery spice.

Marchesi de’ Cordano Trinita 2007 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Closer to black than to red in color, this well-aged, perfectly balanced Montepulciano d’Abruzzo defines “big.” Pronounced notes of ripe berries, dried flowers, and pleasant spice are rounded out nicely by 12 months of oak aging and an additional 12 months of bottle conditioning.

Tertulia Cellars Redd Brand NV Syrah Blend

Part of a highly limited release of 322 cases, Redd Brand Syrah is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. This hearty Washington state red is described by the winemaker as vibrant and muscular with notes of blueberry, smoked game, cassis, and lemon peel.

Château Fougas Maldoror 2005

2005 in Bordeaux is widely regarded as a spectacular vintage, and the Château Fougas Maldoror 2005 is certainly no exception. Complex and layered with notes of blackerry, cassis, and cedar, this wine is drinking beautifully, but will continue to develop with age, if you can resist opening it now!

Domaine Thunevin-Calvet Cuvée Constance 2010 Roussillon

Hailing from the Côtes du Roussillon AOC, Domaine Thunevin-Calvet Cuvée Constance is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Carignan. The wine has been aged for just over a year in concrete tanks, rather than oak, allowing for bright, fresh, pronounced fruit character and hints of stone and minerality.

Sean Minor Wines 2009 Napa Red Blend

This classically huge California red blend is made up of 30% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, 17% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, 10% Syrah, and 4% Malbec. The result is a hefty yet smooth wine with hints of cherries, blueberries, black currant, and vanilla, along with some woody undertones, thanks to careful aging in French and American oak.

Liberty School 2011 Merlot

California’s 2011 vintage was a tough one; rainfall was lacking, so yields were considerably lower than in previous years. But that didn’t stop Hope Family Wines from creating the standout Liberty School 2011 Merlot. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 12 months in 50% French and 50% American oak, this dark, silky red is fruit-forward and well-structured with notes of dark plum, cherry, and bright, ripe berries.

Curtis Winery 2012 Cuvée Red

Having featured their 2010 Mourvedre in a previous tasting, we’re already big fans of Curtis Winery. Their 2012 Cuvée Red is a blend of 39% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 19% Cinsault, and 16% Syrah, resulting in a rich and smooth Rhône-style wine with notes of black currant, warm spice, and a long finish.

Hope Family Wines Candor Lot 5 Zinfandel

Since we enjoyed the Liberty School 2011 Merlot so much, we decided to feature another wine from Hope Family Wines. The Candor Lot 5 Zinfandel is a blend of several of their best vintages, which results in the perfect expression of the California Zin – robust, jammy, and smooth with lots of berries and a hint of spice.

90+ Cellars 2013 McLaren Vale Shiraz

If you’re not familiar with 90+ Cellars, you’re in for a treat. This Boston-based company buys the unsold wines from top-rated wineries, rebrands them with their own label, and sells them for a fraction of their original price. Boasting notes of dark plums, substantial spice, and a hint of vanilla on the finish, the 2013 McLaren Vale Shiraz is a veritable behemoth of a wine, and a perfect example of the style. You’ll be glad this one arrived just in time for barbecue season.

And that’s the lineup, as it stands – to taste any or all of these wines for FREE, stop by this Saturday anytime between 2 and 7 p.m., and tell as many of your friends as you can! As always, this lineup is subject to change, but that just means there might be a few pleasant surprises on the way.

Spirits Review: Roggen’s Rum

This bottle was full when I started this review (just kidding, I can still type).

This bottle was full when I started this review (just kidding, I am still able to type).

If you haven’t heard of Tuthilltown Spirits by now, you should stop reading this post, go to the nearest liquor store (preferably ours), and get yourself a bottle of literally anything they make. The prices are by no means low, but the quality of everything they make is outstanding (don’t believe me? Ask the New York Times’ Eric Asimov), and Roggen’s Rum, one of their more recent releases, is no exception. Here’s a bit of information on Roggen’s Rum, straight from Tuthilltown Spirits’ website:

Tuthilltown Spirits has teamed up with the Huguenot Historical Society of New Paltz to produce a limited run of aged rum celebrating the history of the Hudson River commerce and the early pioneers of the Hudson Valley. Made from Louisiana blackstrap molasses and aged in a combination of new and former whiskey casks of American oak, this rum is rich and flavorful and has been compared to Cognac in its overall demeanor. The Roggen brothers emigrated to the Hudson Valley from Switzerland and opened a mercantile that serviced communities up and down the river trading in various commodities including rum. Each bottle sold generates a donation to the Huguenot Historical Society.

In addition to that, the label for this rum is based on the original bill of lading from the Roggen brothers’ mercantile, which was reproduced with the help/permission of the Huguenot Historical Society, according to Don, our sales representative for Tuthilltown Spirits.

And with all that said, it’s time to taste this rum; but first, here are some specifics.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Alchol content: 40% (80 proof)

Price: $38.99 + tax

Aging: Aged in new and former whiskey casks; no age statement.

Appearance

This rum is a slightly cloudy deep golden color; on the glass, its legs are numerous and move at a moderate pace.

Aroma

Charred oak, butterscotch, black peppercorns, and a hint of apple pie spice.

Taste

Okay – when I said it was “time to taste this rum,” I half lied. I’ve tasted this many times before, so what I meant was, it’s time to enjoy a hefty pour of one of my favorite spirits. When I first tasted Roggen’s Rum, I could have mistaken it for a bourbon – whiskey barrel aging imparts a very whiskey-like taste to this spirit. The molasses, however, delivers a pleasant musty sharpness that you could either associate with rum, or, as Tuthilltown Spirits suggested, Cognac. This is nowhere near as sweet as many of the South/Central American and Carribean rums I’ve tasted. Tasting notes include charred oak, red pepper flakes, grape must, and burnt sugar, with an incredibly long, oaky finish.

Final Thoughts

I have yet to try a product from Tuthilltown Spirits that I wasn’t impressed with – I even love their vodkas, and I am not normally the biggest vodka fan. This is a rum for a diehard bourbon drinker – it’s dry, smoky, and spicy, and at 80 proof, it’s not too fiery to drink neat. While I personally prefer it on its own (or with a cigar), I have a feeling it would do wonders for a Suburban.

Spirits Review: the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky

If you were to ask me, “If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have one type of alcohol, which would it be?”, I’d probably say, “Tequila.” It’s strong, it’s warm weather-friendly, and as long as it’s 100% agave, it’s not very easy to mess up.

Glensilver

The Tasting Lab, neater than it has been in quite some time.

But hold on a second – that’s not to say that tequila is hands down my favorite spirit. There are just too many to pick from, and to me, the optimal spirit depends on the circumstances. It’s usually assumed that the desert island scenario refers to a tropical island, palm trees and all, and if that island was tropical, then yes, tequila would be my first choice. But if this were an island somewhere a little farther away from the equator, maybe in the Arctic, or even in the middle of one of the Great Lakes, tequila wouldn’t be my first choice. It would definitely have to be scotch. The peaty smokiness, the fiery black pepper tinge, and the light sweetness of scotch make it a perfect cold weather spirit, and on a slightly chilly night like last night, that’s what was on the menu.

I’m usually a fan of the brutally peaty Islay malts, but sometimes I don’t have the cash to splurge on a bottle of Laphroaig or Lagavulin. Sometimes I just want something I can drink a lot of, and not feel bad that I just drank what could have been a week’s worth of groceries. And that’s where the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve comes in. This modestly-priced blend comes in at $15.99 per bottle – even less than some of its bottom-shelf competitors. I have to admit that the low price put me off at first, but I enjoyed the 8- and 12-year scotches from Glen Silver’s, so with confidence, I removed the golden screw cap on this rather nice-looking bottle and went to work. Before I get into the taste, here’s some info on this blended whisky.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Alcohol content: 40% (80 proof)

Price: $15.99 + tax

Aging: No age statement.

Appearance

Deep golden brown with slender but extremely slow legs.

Aroma

Sherry oak, light honey, toffee, and peat.

Taste

Neat, this whiskey was somewhat full-bodied with notes of black pepper, tar, hay, and a bit of honey sweetness. Adding a few drops of water mellows it greatly, allowing a subtle nutty taste to come through. The finish is long with lots of oak and a bit of peat. Judging solely from the price tag, I was expecting some of that distinct cheap whisk(e)y taste – that overwhelming peppery bite and vodka-like alcohol aftertaste that you get from ordering a shot of whiskey at a bar, without specifying what kind – but the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve, while not mind-blowingly complex, was smooth and tasty.

Final Thoughts

While the price is suspiciously low, the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve is one of the better blended whiskies I’ve had, including some of the higher-end, bigger-name blends. It’s smooth, but it still has that peppery, smoky edge I look for in a fuller-bodied scotch. I could happily sip a couple of glasses of this on the rocks before (or after) dinner, but since it’s so inexpensive, I wouldn’t feel bad making a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail out of it. It’s no single malt, but the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve has definitely earned a space in my liquor cabinet.

Wine Review: Daniel Gehrs 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The mystery bottle, unveiled!

The mystery bottle, unveiled!

In all my time as a card-carrying, licensed blogger/taster of things that are delicious (but potentially bad for you in excess, I’m told), I’ve reviewed vodka, tequila, apple pie moonshine, and a ton of cigars, but never wine. But it’s time to check that box off on my “things I’ve written about” list, which totally exists, by the way – this post you’re currently reading is my very first wine review.

Since it’s my first wine review, and therefore the first on the Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits blog, I decided to go with one of the styles that got me interested in wine in the first place: the California Cab. In particular, I picked the Daniel Gehrs 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that’s new to our store, and also relatively new to the market. Founded in 1990 by Daniel Gehrs and his family, Daniel Gehrs Wines originally focused on varietals specific to France’s Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Cabernet Franc), according to their website, but eventually expanded their repertoire to include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. They’ve since taken home awards from the San Diego International Wine Competition, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and the New World Wine Competition, and the Cabernet I’m about to try is the recipient of two of those awards.

But that’s enough about me, and enough about the producer(s) – it’s time to talk about this handsome red.

It's as good as, if not better than it looks.

It’s as good as, if not better than it looks.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Alcohol Content: 13.5%

Price: $15.99 + tax

Composition: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Verdot

Aging: 13 months in stainless steel

Appearance

Dark red with bright ruby accents; slowly descending legs.

Aroma

Fresh berries, eucalyptus, peppercorns, freshly cut flowers.

Taste

I was expecting this to be a big, spicy fruit bomb, but it’s most certainly not. It’s subtler and gentler than many of its peers, and I think it owes that (at least partially) to the fact that its aging takes place only in stainless steel, rather than in oak. This wine greets the palate with eucalyptus and a bit of bell pepper up front, giving way to fresh blackberries and black currants. The fruit is ripe and pronounced, but thanks to ample acidity, it’s not jammy or blown-out. The finish is long and berry-like with a slight hint of what I can only describe as leather.

Final Thoughts

This is unlike a lot of other California Cabs out there. The absence of oak allows for the character of this iconic grape to really shine, and while the wine is relatively young, it is also fairly complex. With its subdued fruit and subtle floral aromas, this is a New World wine for an Old World palate, though its pronounced blackberry note might still impress fans of bolder, fruitier, New World-style wines. Either way, at $15.99 a bottle, it’s not too much of a gamble.

Liquor Lesson #1: If You Don’t Drink Tequila, You’re Missing Out

If there’s one spirit I could drink year round, it is most certainly tequila. Whether I’m enjoying a well-made margarita while grilling with some buddies or slowly sipping a glass of dark, oaky Añejo in the living room on a chilly night, it doesn’t matter what the occasion is. I could always drink tequila.

Blanco tequilas; these are clear because they are not oak aged.

Blanco tequilas; these are clear because they are not oak aged.

As I mentioned in my triple review of Arrogante Tequila, tequila is a spirit that a lot of people seem to be afraid of, and that fear always invariably stems down to one awful, overindulgent night with what might very well have been a sub-par tequila (maybe a mixto). Don’t know what a mixto tequila is? Don’t worry – I’ll explain that soon. In the meantime, here are some basics on this delicious, yet misunderstood spirit.

Tequila is a Mexican spirit that is distilled from the starchy core of the blue agave plant (for a detailed look at how tequila is made, check out this video). Any tequila worth its salt (no pun intended) is made from 100% agave; anything less, and it’s a mixto. Mixtos are made from at least 51% agave, along with sugars from other sources; these are fine for mixing, but I wouldn’t recommend them for sipping. The majority of tequilas are classified in any of four ways – blanco, reposado, añejo, or extra añejo. Here’s what all that means:

Reposado tequilas; note the pale yellow color.

Reposado tequilas; note the pale yellow color.

Blanco (“white”) or Plata (“silver”) – Spanish for “white” or “silver.” Blanco tequilas are clear because they are not oak-aged; after distillation and dilution, the tequila is immediately bottled. Blanco tequilas tend to have a fresher, spicier taste, and are generally used for mixed drinks, though many are smooth enough to sip.

 

Reposado (“rested”) – Reposado tequilas are a bit darker than blancos because they’re aged for at least two months, but less than a year, in oak barrels. Oak aging adds a woody, smoky flavor to these tequilas, making them smoother and more suitable for drinking on their own, though they also do well in cocktails.

Añejo (“aged”)- Añejo tequilas are aged between one and three years in oak barrels. Añejo tequilas are darker, smokier, and more complex than blancos or reposados. Añejos are best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, though there are a handful of cocktails that call for them (like the Añejo Manhattan or Añejo Old Fashioned).

Añejo tequilas; the darkest, oakiest, and arguably, the sexiest tequilas.

Añejo tequilas; the darkest, oakiest, and arguably, the sexiest of the tequilas.

Extra Añejo (“extra aged”) – As you might have guessed, extra añejo tequilas are aged for longer than añejos (at least three years). If you’re used to drinking scotch, an extra añejo might be the tequila for you.

There’s also a fifth category, joven (“young”) or oro (“gold”), which is used much less frequently. This category includes tequilas that are colored or flavored with caramel.

Regardless of whether you prefer a peppery blanco, a smooth reposado, or a bold and complex añejo (or extra añejo, if you have that kind of cash), there’s a tequila out there for anybody who enjoys a finely crafted spirit. It might seem like a bit of a gamble to buy an entire bottle of something you’ve never tried before, but fortunately, there are plenty of affordable, high-quality options out there (my picks: Espolon Silver, 750mL – $26.99 + tax; Hacienda Vieja Reposado, 1L – $26.99 + tax; El Jimador Añejo, 750mL – $29.99 + tax; all 100% agave).

There’s also plenty of information out there about pretty much every tequila ever (see: Tequila.net), but if you don’t feel like combing through it all yourself, stop by the store and we’d be happy to recommend one to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, this glass of Tapatio Añejo isn’t going to drink itself.