In A Rye Mood

July 9, 2013

Reviews of the Hagafen Napa Valley Syrah 2009, the Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Small Batch Rye, and the Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey.

It seems most appropriate to select an American-made wine when celebrating Independence Day. The holiday also gives us another opportunity to acknowledge one of the country’s finest winemakers, who also happens to limit his production to kosher wines. Ernie Weir, the founder and winemaker of Napa’s Hagafen Cellars, has for years created notable wines that have won numerous awards, including competitions against nonkosher contenders. His wines are another compelling argument against a “kosher wine” shelf since consumers deserve to be exposed to wines of this quality. They should sit next to similar varietals and not be relegated to an unused corner of the store. And observant customers will either be shopping at a store that only has kosher wines or will look for a hechsher no matter where the bottle is displayed. Having again made our case to liberate kosher wines from the tyranny of display prejudice, we can focus on a wine for the summer holiday.

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Drinking Wine For “Lone Soldiers”

July 8, 2013

Reviews of the Ariel Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye Whisky and the Koval Single Barrel Four Grain Whiskey.

The Lone Soldier Project connects those who serve in the IDF with people and organizations that can offer support through letters, packages and donations. It has centers in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv dedicated to the memory of Michael Levin, a Philadelphia native who perished in Lebanon in 2006 while serving as a paratrooper in the IDF. The centers provide counseling and other programs to address the social, physical and emotional needs of the Lone Soldiers before, during and after their service.

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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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Brane-Cantenac Continues Legacy Of Perfection

June 12, 2013

Reviews of some of the outstanding wines of Chateaux Brane-Cantenac.

In 1855, Napoleon III decided that the Bordeaux wineries represented at the Exposition Universelle de Paris need to be classified. Ranging from “First Cru” (growths) to “Fifth Cru,” these rankings have endured, despite significant changes in the size of many of the vineyards, with only a few modifications — among the most famous being the elevation of Mouton-Rothschild to “First Cru” in 1973. This is no mere list because the winery’s Cru classification has a direct effect upon the prices their wines can command. The cost of a bottle of the prestigious “First Growths” (Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, and Mouton-Rothschild) is frankly astronomical and out of reach for many wine lovers. Thankfully there are other classified wines of the Medoc whose excellent quality is associated with a more approachable price. Not to say these other Bordeaux are inexpensive. But for those who wish to experience some memorable wines, it is certainly worth collecting a few friends to buy a bottle or two to share.

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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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Drinking To A New Jewish Life

May 23, 2013

A review of the Louis de Sacy Brut Rose Champagne and the Talisker 25 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky bottled in 2005.

We recently had some reasons to rejoice and, as our readers would expect, there were a few bottles opened with family and friends. With a wide range of excellent wines available at all price levels, choosing the best celebratory wines was a bit of a challenge.

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What’s Really In That Glass Of Wine?

May 20, 2013

A review of the Binyamina Reserve Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 and the Highland Park Loki 15-year-old single malt Scotch Whisky.

Last week we noted that a wine’s flavors are primarily the result of how and where the grapes are grown coupled with the skill of winemaker, and that wine is essentially free of additives. There are parts of the wine producing world where the nonadditive approach is simply common practice and well-established tradition, while there are other regions where this sort of nonadditive winemaking is actually regulated. Even where regulation prevails, however, there are sometimes stipulated allowances for certain invasive steps and ingredients.

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