Magic In The Bottle

September 23, 2013

A review of the Agur Kessem 2011 and a look at the latest single malt whiskey releases from Single Cask Nation.

Blending various grape varietals to create a beverage that is greater than the sum of its parts can often seem like magic. Especially after half a bottle.

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Break Your Fast Libation Suggestions

September 12, 2013

Libations to accompany the break-fast including two kosher wines from Hagafen and the Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Every family seems to have its own traditions when it comes time to breaking the fast. Usually a milchik (diary) or pareve (neutral) meal, the dishes might range from one relative’s treasured lokshen kugel (egg noodle pudding) to another’s prized blintzes, to a table laden with various vorspeis (appetizers) of fish (various picked herrings, white fish salad, lox, etc.) along with cream cheese and bagels. Typically there will be plenty of desserts or at least sweet foods, such as honey or jams — serving as both reminder and ardent wish of life’s sweetness and the promise of the New Year. Usually there will also be eggs, recalling the cycle of life. Delicious and nostalgic, yes, but this is essentially breakfast fare — that is, these menus are not exactly screaming for wine.

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Of Booze And Bores

August 26, 2013

A review of the Bartenura Moscato and Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky.

Wine is much too important to be taken too seriously. Wine is simply a beverage of refreshment. Little more than a wonderfully natural, and alcoholic, way to quench one’s thirst and enliven things a bit, and it has been since ancient times. Yet wine also lends itself to enthusiasm, and so to fixation. In his introduction to Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking, the late Christopher Hitchens noted the “fact” that alcohol “makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.” This in no way means “that there are not wine bores, single-malt bores, and people who become even more boring when they themselves have a tipple.” Too true. Alas.

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Neo-Prohibitionists: Hands Off Our Hooch

August 12, 2013

More governmental efforts to restrict access to our favorite spirits, wine and beer by blocking privatization.

We have written in the past about the byzantine-seeming regulatory patchwork of alcohol laws in this country. Every so often, folks seek to change this regulatory system in the name of freedom and consumer choice, and while progress of a sort has been made in this or that locale, there remains a very long way to go. Even though Prohibition ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 5, 1933, more than a dozen states today still maintain monopoly control over the sale and/or distribution of distilled spirits — and some still over beer and wine. Most states do not do so, and the idea that monopoly control of some aspect of booze is justifiably a core function of government is silly. Worse, however, is that they further limit product choice, increase costs and generally annoy us consumers.

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Between Red And White

July 11, 2013

A review of the Agur Rosa 2012 and 2 Speyburn Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

Rosé wines have become increasingly popular. The best embody the brightness of a white wine combined with the complexity usually only found in a red. They range in style from light and bone-dry to fruity and fuller-bodied. Well-crafted rosés are very food-friendly, particularly the graceful lighter ones that match perfectly with such summer fare as salads, grilled fish and the more subtle cheeses. Rosés are most often created by allowing the pressed juice to have only minimal contact with the skins, usually only one to three days. The longer the contact between the juice and the skins, the deeper the color. Another method is known as “saignee” (French for bleeding). Saignee is the term used for when a winemaker, in their endeavor to produce greater intensity in their red wines, will bleed off only a small portion of the (red grape) juice from the crushed grape skins, while the remaining juice stays in contact with the skins. By bleeding off some of this juice from the vat, there will be a greater surface area ratio of skins to juice in the vat, so that more color and possibly even complexity can be extracted from the skins into their future red wine. The lighter juice that was bled off, can then be turned into rosé.

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It’s The Terroir, Stupid

July 7, 2013

A review of the Goose Bay Pinot Gris 2011 along with some Father’s Day Whisky suggestions.

One of the more fascinating aspects of wine is the influence of “terroir,” a French term that encompasses the various geographic and climatic influences upon a wine’s aromas, flavors and structure. Identical grapes grown in dissimilar locations will have distinctly different characteristics. Distances as small as a few meters between rows of vines can produce profound changes in the quality of the resulting wines.

Burgundy is one of the better known illustrations of the influence of terroir. Over several centuries the local monks painstakingly classified and subdivided the region based upon the quality of the wines produced by grapes grown in specific locations. In contrast with Bordeaux where the classifications are based upon the producing Chateaux, the wines from Burgundy are labeled according to the vineyard and there may be more than one producer creating wines from that site. There are 400 types of Burgundian soil and the stratification into Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Village are entirely dependent upon geography. One of the more fascinating aspects of wine is the influence of “terroir,” a French term that encompasses the various geographic and climatic influences upon a wine’s aromas, flavors and structure. Identical grapes grown in dissimilar locations will have distinctly different characteristics. Distances as small as a few meters between rows of vines can produce profound changes in the quality of the resulting wines.

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Wines Fit For The Grill

June 27, 2013

A review of the Recanati Syrah Reserve 2011 and several Glenglassaugh Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

It’s grilling time, and we could not be happier for there are few summer pleasures more gratifying than preparing meals outside. Whether you are a charcoal devotee or a fan of propane, rarely are there foods that don’t do well cooked on a grate. The imparted roasted, smoky flavors are truly irresistible. Besides the usual culprits (steak, burgers, dogs) we have grilled nearly every vegetable from artichokes to zucchini and even some romaine lettuce. You can grill cheese, make pizzas, roast veggies, bake bread and create unique desserts. Try slicing a firm nectarine in half, remove the pit and place it on direct heat for a few minutes for a delicious ending to a summer meal. Selecting a wine to pair with grilled foods is relatively straightforward. Stick to reds and avoid the lighter wines like pinot noir by opening something more robust with complementary flavors. One of our favorites is syrah (also called shiraz), a dark-skinned varietal that likely originated in France’s Rhone Valley. It ranges in style from deep and brooding to very fruity and alcohol laden with flavors that can include floral, berries, coffee, earth, chocolate, dark fruit, spice and pepper.

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A Variety Of Varietals

June 4, 2013

A review of the Balma Venitia Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 2006 and several bottlings of Bowmore Single Malt Scotch.

Most casual wine drinkers are aware of only a few grape varietals such as Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec and Shiraz. Others may have tried a Riesling, Pinot Gris or Petite Sirah. But there are literally hundreds more varietals that have been made into wines that are stylistically different and extremely enjoyable. All it takes is a willingness to explore the shelves of a well-stocked store and a sense of adventure.
An example is the Muscat, a floral and somewhat spicy, light-bodied varietal that is grown in nearly every wine producing country and may be the oldest domesticated grape. In Italy it becomes Moscato and it is made into Moscatel in Spain. These muscat wines are best enjoyed when young and chilled and they pair wonderfully with lunch and other light fare or as an aperitif.

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A Better Way To Arrange Wines

May 29, 2013

Reviews of the Le Mourre de l’Isle 2010 and the Glenmorangie Signet and Ealanta along with a look at the new Ardbeg release: “Ardbog.”

Walk into many wine stores and you will see the bottles organized by country of origin. Occasionally this will be further subdivided by varietal or, more commonly, by the color of the wine. Since many European winemaking countries refrain from listing the types of grapes utilized on the label, the result is that the cabernet sauvignon-based Bordeaux may be sharing space with pinot noir from Burgundy which is next to a bunch of red Rhones containing syrah.

There is likely a very sound underlying marketing rationale for this arrangement. It is a useful system for those who have an idea of what they want to drink or, perhaps more significantly, for the wines they want to avoid. But for those uninitiated into the intricacies of regional winemaking regulations, it really isn’t very helpful and adds to both confusion and the intimidation factor.

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