Summertime And The Sipping Is Easy



A review of the Cantine del Borgo Pinot Grigio 2010 and the Bulleit Rye Whiskey.


By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon


Washington Jewish Week  July 13, 2011


Bulleit RyePinot grigio is an ideal wine for summer sipping. One of Italy’s most popular white wines, the best Italian pinot grigios originate from the Alto-Adige, Veneto and Friuli regions. Recently a number of very good ones are being produced in other countries including the U.S., in California and Oregon, where they are often called pinot gris.


Best drunk chilled and within two years of release, pinot grigios are dry and very fragrant with bright acidity that works well as an aperitif or with light pasta dishes, grilled seafood and cheese. A flavorful kosher example is Cantine del Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2010 ($13), a medium-bodied, very smooth wine that has melon, apple and floral aromas with a touch of smoke that flow nicely into mango, quince and citrus flavors. The clean and refreshing finish leads to wanting another sip.


Cantine del Borgo Reale is owned by the Italian food and wine company Giordano Vini S.p.A. Located in the Veneto region, Cantine del Borgo Reale produces a broad range of kosher wines including Moscato d’Asti, Chianti, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Prosecco and Sangiovese. They can be found at The Wine Harvest, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill and other fine wine shops.


Spirits-wise, having finally clocked in a little bit of summer travel and rest, we thought we’d reflect on the lingering spirit of last week’s Fourth of July celebrations. Most Americans celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, picnics, parades, fireworks, hanging out at the beach, or just vegging in front of the television. All of which is more or less traditionally appropriate. The only component of our collective Independence Day celebrations that seems to have lost some of the deserved national focus and appreciation for its historical importance is the booze. Sure, we have beer and wine at our July 4th shindigs, but our nation’s ancestors would get thoroughly pickled at such affairs.


According to historian William Rorabaugh, a professor of U.S. history at the University of Washington in Seattle, communal binge drinking was so customary at July 4th festivities, that “it was surely no accident that one early temperance society adopted a pledge that allowed its members to become intoxicated on Independence Day.” In fact, Rorabaugh writes in his classic text, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition, “during the 1820s no holiday had more import than the 4th of July,” a date that would evoke “a national intoxication.”


Apparently, Americans drank more alcoholic beverages between 1790 and 1840 than at any other period in our nation’s history – nearly a half pint of hard liquor per man each day.


So what were Americans drinking back then? Well before the American Revolution, it was mostly madeira, hard apple cider and apple brandy, rum, and really anything they could get their hands on to distill that wasn’t otherwise being taxed too greatly by the British. The demand for whiskey increased as supplies of rum ran dry during the American Revolution. After the revolution, however, the tipple of choice was largely rye whiskey – it was both cheap and plentiful, and American!


Back then, whiskey and other distilled spirits were seen as staple foods to shake up an otherwise bland diet. Think of it as rye bread versus white bread. Whiskey was also thought to be curative, healing colds, fevers, and a palliative for aches well into the 19th century. At that time, most sources of water were neither clear nor sparkling, nor in any way appetizing.


It is all too often forgotten that until Prohibition, America had a proud tradition in its domestic rye whiskey industry, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania. There has been a certain recrudescence of the rye trade, and many new brands have been introduced. But straight rye whiskey is still a vastly underappreciated spirit.


All of which is to say that straight rye whiskey, the tipple of our nation’s hearty, freedom-loving forebears, should be accorded at least a modicum of respect and is certainly worth at least a sample taste. Here then is a fine, new straight rye whiskey that’ll help anyone remain a most happy Yankee Doodle Dandy:


Bulleit Rye Whiskey ($28) is a golden, straw-colored 90-proof spirit distilled from a fermented brew of 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley – which is much higher rye content than most. Bulleit Rye is made at the Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ind. (not to be confused with Bulleit Bourbon, which is made at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky.).


Bulleit Rye is a smooth, bold, balanced, complex and delicious offering with aromas and flavors of spicy rye, orange peel, overripe nectarine, dried apricot, maraschino cherry, mint, cinnamon, cocoa and pipe tobacco, a touch of licorice and with a hint of treacle. The medium-dry finish also offers hot cinnamon, and something like candied ginger with some lovely dry oak notes. Tasty straight, this makes for a fine cocktail base – if Bulleit gave it a little more barrel ageing, it’d be even better. L’chaim!

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