Introducing Saturday’s Tasting Wines

As you may have learned from our Facebook page, Twitter updates, or email blasts, our big Spring Wine Tasting is tomorrow. We’ve made a few changes to the wine lineup, so we thought this might be a good opportunity to tell you all a bit about what we’ll be pouring.

Not 100% accurate, but hey, it's a nice looking pyramid.

Not 100% accurate, but hey, it’s a nice looking pyramid.

R&B Cellars 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

Made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in Lake County (80%) and Mendocino (20%), this crisp yet substantial California white is bright and complex with notes of citrus and oak. Its production was limited to 500 cases, so this one won’t be around forever.

Pino 2010 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

This dry, medium-bodied Italian red is smooth and earthy with hints of cherry and a bit of pepper on the finish. Little information about the producer is available, but at $9.99, this is an unbelievable value.

Wild Meadows 2011 Merlot

Washington State Merlot wines are among the best, and Wild Meadows’ 2011 offering is no exception. This medium-to-full-bodied beauty has notes of cherries, oak, and a hint of cocoa.

Mendoza Vinyards “1907” Malbec 2011

This is a big, bold, classic Argentinian Malbec with notes of berries, oak, leather, and pepper. When you take a sip of this wine, you’ll wish you had a 12-ounce ribeye in front of you. This single-vineyard Malbec earned 90 points from the Wine Advocate.

Sobon Family Wines 2011 Old Vines Zinfandel

The Sobon family have been involved in winemaking since 1977, employing sustainable growing practices and natural winemaking techniques. Their 2011 Old Vines Zinfandel is jammy, peppery, and complex, and earned 88 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Angeline Winery Pinot Noir 2012

An offshoot of Martin Ray Winery, whose wines we’ve featured in past tastings, Angeline Winery produces high-quality wines at an affordable price point. Their 2012 Pinot Noir is fresh and fruity with notes of berries, vanilla, and oak.

Donna Tinto

We couldn’t find much information on this Portuguese red blend, but not unlike its Portuguese peers, Donna Tinto is amazingly tasty, especially considering its $7.99 price tag.

Rock Face 2012 Lodi Syrah

This sustainably-farmed, lightly-filtered California Syrah is medium-to-full-bodied with beautiful fruit and notes of herbs and pepper. At $12.99, this is a bang-for-your-buck steak wine.

Esprit du Preuillac 2009 Médoc

This classic Bordeaux is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, which is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Full-bodied and peppery, this wine boasts notes of ripe red fruit, vanilla, and leather. This is the second wine of the 2009 Chateau Preuillac, which earned 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Aveleda Follies 2011 Alvarinho/Loureiro

This blend of Alvarinho/Loureiro is floral, citrusy, and refreshing, and would pair perfectly with grilled fish or veggies. As far as price versus quality, it’s hard to go wrong with Portuguese wines.

Muriel Rioja

Muriel Rioja is a multi-vintage wine made from Tempranillo grapes. Zesty and full-bodied with a hint of oak, this rustic wine would go perfectly with spicy Spanish food.

90+ Cellars 2012 Côtes du Rhône Blanc

The concept behind 90+ Cellars is a deal-seeker’s dream. This company buys unsold wines from top-rated winemakers, labels them as their own, and sells the for a fraction of what they would normally cost. The 2012 Côtes du Rhône Blanc is a balanced blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne that boasts notes of pears and honey with some minerality on the finish.

And that about covers it – we hope to see you at the tasting tomorrow!

Check out the Facebook event for more tasting details.

https://www.facebook.com/events/366875970121538/?ref=br_tf

Spirits Review: Arrogante Tequila

Tequila is what I call a polarizing spirit – people either really love it, or they hate it to the point of being terrified of it. I’ve never met anyone who was just okay with it. Bring it up in a conversation with a group of friends and, chances are, a couple of them will recoil in horror and say something like, “I can’t touch that stuff, it makes me crazy,” or make a squeamish noise like you just pulled a dead mouse out of your pocket. Some of them might talk about their “bad tequila night,” and a long story about blacking out, getting arrested, and going to the hospital might ensue.

A handsome bunch of bottles, these.

A handsome bunch of bottles, this.

I never had a “bad tequila night.” I’ve drunk too much of pretty much every other spirit at one point or another, but never tequila. But I’m not foolish enough to think that the bad nights I had with vodka, bourbon, or whatever else, were a result of whatever I was drinking, rather than how much I drank. For some reason, though, tequila is one of those things people really don’t want to give a second chance, which is a shame, because there are few things more enjoyable than sipping a glass of delicious, well-aged tequila. Last night I had the opportunity to try the blanco, reposado, and añejo offerings from Arrogante Tequila, and I was reminded of just how much I love this oft-maligned spirit.

Arrogante Tequila is distilled from 100% blue agave from the Jalisco highlands, using a process which, according to the manufacturer, is devoid of shortcuts. The agave is harvested, slowly baked in stone ovens called “hornos,” and fermented for 3-4 days. It is then distilled twice, and while the blanco is ready to go at that point, the reposado and añejo tequilas are then aged in used bourbon barrels. The name comes from the pride that results from producing such a tasty spirit – as their website explains it, “We’re so proud of the quality of our tequila, we called it Arrogante!” Anyway, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the line.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle or 6-pack of 50ml minis

Proof: 40% alcohol (80 proof)

Price: $47.99-$58.99 + tax

Aging: Blanco: n/a; Reposado: 6 months; Añejo: 18 months.

Appearance

Blanco Reposado Añejo
Clear with medium-thin, moderately paced legs and medium viscosity. Pale caramel tint. Nice viscosity with clinging, slow legs. Nice caramel hue with ultra-clingy legs. Whisky-like in appearance.

Aroma

Blanco Reposado Añejo
Floral yet very clean nose, with just a hint of peppery alcohol. A bit more pepper and smoke on the nose, but not enough to totally cover up the earthiness of the agave. Lots of oak on the nose, along with some caramel or butterscotch, but still with some agave character.

Taste

Blanco Reposado Añejo
Super smooth and slightly smoky with a little bit of pepper and a lasting, subtle agave finish. This is among the smoother blancos I’ve tasted – not the most complex spirit, but a very enjoyable one. This is a no-frills blanco that tastes good on its own, but would really make a margarita shine. Soft and very slightly sweet up front. Much woodier than the blanco with some spicy pepper on the tip of the tongue. Long oaky, smoky finish. This is not your typical reposado; it’s not as fresh tasting as a lot of the others and has a lot more woodiness. This is a great sipper, though if you absolutely must mix it, it would be delicious in a cocktail. Smooth and a buttery; not a lot of sweetness to speak of, but lots of smoke and a little minerality on the finish. No burn whatsoever. Much sterner tasting than the reposado; not sweet, but smoother overall. This is the one that had me sitting back in my chair and wistfully staring into my empty glass, wishing I had more.

Final Thoughts

"The Tasting Lab," as I like to call it. It's not a lab. It's my desk.

“The Tasting Lab,” as I like to call it. It’s not a lab. It’s my desk.

Each one of the Arrogante Tequilas I tried really exemplified its respective style, yet each also carried some of its own unique character. They’re complex enough to impress a tequila aficionado (particularly the reposado and añejo), yet smooth enough to act as an inviting “gateway” tequila for someone who isn’t too familiar with the good stuff. As with any high-quality tequila, to shoot it would be a waste; slow down, sip it, and enjoy.

Spirits Review: Industry Standard Vodka

Let me start this review by saying that before this past year or so, I wasn’t overly fond of vodka. More accurately, I hated, feared, and avoided it at all costs. My first experience with this spirit was all-too-typical – I drank way, way, way too much of it when it was mixed with a terrible combination of other ingredients, which I will not mention here. This experience kept me far away from vodka for several years, until, as luck would have it, I found a job at Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits.

Since then, vodka and I have reconciled. In the last year, I’ve tried quite a few vodkas, ranging from the classics, like Absolut, Ketel One, and Stolichnaya, to slightly more obscure brands like Tito’s, Sobieski, and Russian Standard, to the ultra-small-batch, boutique vodkas, like Tuthilltown Spirits‘ Indigenous, Harvest Spirits‘ Core, and the subject of today’s review, Industry City Distillery’s Industry Standard.

I won’t go too much into this vodka’s background, since its creators did such a great job of detailing it on their beautifully designed website, but I will say that it is distilled in Brooklyn, New York from American-grown sugar beets. I’ve heard of vodka being made with wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, and even apples, but this is the first I’ve heard of sugar beet vodka, so for me, this was a must-try.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Proof: 40% alcohol (80 proof)

Price: $37.99 + tax

Appearance

As with pretty much any other vodka, Industry Standard is perfectly clear. A quick swirl coats the glass and produces slowly descending legs. Worth mentioning is the bottle, which looks like it should be used for lab chemicals rather than vodka.

At first glance, this looked a bit like a warning label.

At first glance, this looked a bit like a warning label.

Aroma

You have probably never had a vodka that smells like Industry Standard. This vodka exhibits a candy-like nose with hints of butterscotch and vanilla bean, with just enough of an alcohol burn on the finish to remind you of what you’re about to drink.

Taste

The first sip is remarkably smooth – almost so smooth that you could mistake it for water, if not for the pepper that begins building on the tongue after a few seconds. Following the pepper are lasting notes of vanilla and fresh fennel, which finally give way to a clean, mineral finish. I find that a lot of different vodkas just taste like, well, vodka, and only for a second, and then they’re gone, almost as if you’d never taken a sip in the first place. This vodka’s viscosity allows for its flavors to hang on a bit longer than a lot of its peers, making it a perfect slow sipper.

Final Thoughts

If you really like vodka, you should definitely try Industry Standard. If you don’t really like vodka, you should try Industry Standard. I’ve had vodkas that were smooth, delicious, and even some that were unique, but I’ve never had one that was this complex. As for how to serve it, I have to agree with the recommendation on the bottle – “Try it neat.”

Our next installation of “let’s drink the things you’ve been scared of since college” will be a triple review of the Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo offerings from Arrogante Tequila.

Spirits Review: Palmetto Apple Pie Moonshine

Have you ever had a drink and thought, “Man, this is so delicious that I feel like writing about it?” Maybe? Not really? Well coming from a cigar reviewing background, I definitely have, but after a few drinks, it’s difficult to get motivated enough to sit at the keyboard for however long it takes you to churn out a detailed description of what you just drank. But in the case of the Palmetto Apple Pie Moonshine, I was impressed enough to take some notes.

Taken from the Palmetto Moonshine Facebook page.

Mason jars: the only way to package moonshine.

Before I get started with this review, though, here’s a little background information on Palmetto Moonshine. According to their website, the Palmetto Moonshine was founded in Anderson, South Carolina in 2010 by the Boggs brothers, Trey and Bryan, though they didn’t start making moonshine until the state legalized it in 2011. Their moonshine, which is available in several different flavors, is crafted using 100- to 200-year-old recipes shared by retired moonshiners, and is packaged in mason jars (just as it should be). And so, without further ado, here’s my take on the Palmetto Apple Pie Moonshine.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml mason jar

Proof: 22.5% alcohol (45 proof)

Price: $26.99 + tax

Aging: <1 year.

Appearance

As with the rest of the flavors, Palmetto Apple Pie Moonshine comes in a mason jar. This particular flavor has a fairly murky looking golden brown color, and at the bottom of the jar is a cinnamon stick and a nice amount of sediment. A good shake gives this moonshine the appearance of spiced apple cider.

Aroma

When served chilled, this moonshine didn’t have much of a smell, though you could definitely pick up the apple spice on the nose. At room temperature, the cinnamon and clove notes are a little more noticeable and the alcohol burn is just barely detectable, though at 45 proof, it’s not enough to be at all harsh.

Taste

The first sip delivers pronounced baking spice notes – cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg – along with a buttery note that reminded me distinctly of pie crust (this buttery flavor becomes a lot more exaggerated when the moonshine is drunk at room temperature). The apple flavor trails behind the baking spice, and is followed by a little bit of classic corn whiskey bite. The finish is fairly clean with a little bit of residual baking spice. It’s moderately sweet, though not candy-like.

Final Thoughts

As evidenced by the fact that it disappeared too quickly for me to take a decent picture of the jar (the above photo was borrowed from Palmetto Moonshine’s Facebook page), this stuff is dangerously delicious, though at 45 proof, you have to put in an effort to really overdo it. I imagine this would go very well on the rocks with a little bit of bourbon, and I imagine it would be delicious heated up, though I didn’t have the forethought to save some for either purpose. I highly recommend this moonshine, and I look forward to trying the other flavors.

The Weekly Cuvée, Volume 2

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Cuvée! Sure, it’s been 2 weeks since the last edition, but that just means we have a lot more to talk about this time around. For anyone who missed the last one, the Weekly Cuvée is our (semi-) weekly wine and spirits news roundup. So without further ado, here’s what’s been going on in the wine and spirits world as of late.

Photograph by Gerard Prins

Photograph by Gerard Prins

First off, Great Northwest Wine reports that the 2013 Washington State grape harvest brought in upwards of 220,000 tons of grapes, shattering the previous record of 188,000 tons in 2012.  This significant increase in tonnage is due to the large number of new vineyards in Washington. “We’re not seeing any big surprises as far as yields being up or down,” Kevin Corliss, vineyard operations director for Ste. Michelle Wine estates, told Great Northwest Wine. Corliss added that Merlot and Syrah yields were a little better than they predicted, while Cabernet Sauvignon fell behind slightly.

Back in New York, Sen. Charles Schumer recently announced his support of a proposal to remove a Prohibition-era law banning the shipment of alcohol through the United States Postal Service, according to USA Today. Currently, the shipment of beer, wine, and liquor is restricted to private shipping companies – the new law would only allow federally licensed breweries, wineries, and distilleries to ship via the USPS. According to Schumer, removal of the law could bring an estimated $225 million to the struggling Postal Service.

And now for some global news – some of you may have heard the recent rumors of a worldwide wine shortage. Thankfully, experts have rebuked these rumors, according to an SFGate article. While a report from MorganStanley claimed the world’s wine demand surpassed supply by around 300 million cases in 2012, analysts say wine production has “increased significantly” while “consumption is stabilizing.” So while we, of all people, are not going to tell you not to stock up (we have great case discounts!), we will say that it’s probably not necessary to panic.

Finally, three whiskeys we love (and carry!) have made it on Wine Enthusiast’s list of 7 Must-Try New York Whiskeys. While we’re glad Catskill Distilling Company‘s Defiant Rye Whiskey, Tuthilltown Spirits‘ Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, and Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery‘s Black Dirt Bourbon all made the list, we find it a bit surprising that there was no mention of the Widow Jane Bourbon Whiskey. Regardless, it’s nice to see some New York State spirits featured in a publication as prominent as Wine Enthusiast.

And that’s it for this edition of the Weekly Cuvée – check back next week for our very first wine review, and be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter if you haven’t already!

Got a suggestion for our next review? Feel free to leave it in a comment!