Recipe: Shamrock Sour

Posted on March 11, 2012 by Christopher Null| Leave a comment

Most St. Patrick’s Day cocktails are nasty concoctions of Midori and other mystery liqueurs. This recipe from Julie Reiner has nothing remotely Irish in it, but it actually sounds good.

Shamrock Sour
2 parts Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1/2 part Green Chartreuse
1/2 part Lemon Juice
1/2 part Grapefruit Juice
1/2 part Agave Syrup (to make, combine equal parts of water with Agave Syrup)
1/4 part Egg White

Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin and shake without ice to blend. Add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a double rocks glass and garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wheel.

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Posted in Bourbon, Recipes, Whiskey

Roundup: Sparkling Moscato on the Rise

Posted on March 10, 2012 by Christopher Null| 1 Comment

Moscato continues to prove how popular this grape has become when used as a low-alcohol, fruit-forward, and sweet alternative to other sparkling wines. These Moscatos show just how inexpensive and far-flung this wine is, hailing from eastern Europe and Australia, while not exactly proving how great it can be.

NV Esti Exclusiv Rose Moscato – Hailing from Moldova, this Moscato is from the same company that makes Exclusiv Vodka. The peach-colored wine lacks finesse. The fruit flavors are present — apples, mixed red berries — but come across like canned fruit, with a huge dose of perfumy flower petals atop  them. The finish is on the sour side. 10% abv. C- / $7

NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato Australia – Not a bad representation of Moscato. Oranges and peaches, with a sweet but not overbearing presence. Finish is clean and refreshing, not cloying, while leaving behind some bracing sweetness. 9% abv. B+ / $6

NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato Rose Australia – A rose similar to the Exclusiv, it’s cloying and smells of musty perfume, but with heavier and more saccharine sweetness on the finish. 9% abv. D+ / $7

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Posted in Rated B+, Rated C-, Rated D/F, Reviews, Wine

Seminar and Pairing: German Wine + Asian Food = Love

Posted on March 9, 2012 by Christopher Null| 1 Comment

When you eat sushi, Chinese food, or pad thai, what’s your drink of choice? If you’re like most: Beer, maybe sake, if you’re feeling adventurous. Why not wine? The general dearth of wine options on most Asian food beverage lists is a good reason, but a more common one is that consumers just have no idea what wines to drink with Asian food. This food runs from ultra-spicy (General Tso’s chicken) to ultra-delicate (toro sushi), with some cuisines giving a taste of each during the meal.

Master of Wine Jeannie Cho Lee recently came to San Francisco to show us that pairing wine with Asian flavors isn’t just possible, it can be fantastic. And she turned to the country that makes the most inspired, common, and – if you think about – strange natural pairing with Asian food: Germany.

Lee led our group through a four-course meal at SF’s Ame restaurant, each paired with two different (and often wildly contrasting) wines, to see what we thought worked and what didn’t. A snapper carpaccio with two gelees, umami soy and lemon sea salt, was a great dish – and the soy gelee worked surprisingly wonderfully with 2009 Friedrich Becker Pinot Noir from the Pfalz region of Germany. I was less enamored with a 2010 Castell Silvaner when paired with the lemon gelee, which handily overpowered the wine.

Up next was a tuna tartare with slow cocked egg, dashi broth, and a smattering of bitter greens. Here, the reds didn’t pan out – a 2006 Furst Pinot Noir was too earthy and shallow, unflattering with the bitter components of the dish. A 2003 Fritz Haag Auslese Riesling was however a phenomenal match. Sweet wine? Yes, but at age 9 it had mellowed and caramelized, offering enough acid to keep up with complex dish.

Finally, a lobster dish in coconut curry broth. Here both wines – a 2010 Spatlese Riesling from Selbach-Oster and a 2010 Riesling from Leitz – worked well, but for different reasons. The Spatlese, though young, didn’t bomb the dish with sugar, tempering the mild heat in the curry, while the crispness of the Leitz Riesling was a natural pairing with the dish. It didn’t have the acid I would have liked but any Riesling probably could have done the job. (Alas I had to skip the last dish due to time constraints.)

That leads us into Lee’s general pairing tips – which were presented in a booklet created with the Deutsches Weininstitut – which, as you might expect, are heavy on the use of Riesling. All German whites get a shout-out or two for almost every region from India to Japan, but Lee also recommends German reds with Northern Chinese food, Sekt (sparkling wine) with Singaporean food, and even Pinot Noir with sushi and Indian curry.

Of course, you can’t define an entire country by one style of food, and wine pairing recommendations can’t be pinned down based on a gastronomic stereotype, either. Lee’s book is a great reminder of that, and should serve as a reminder that one size doesn’t fit all in the wine and food world – and that one needn’t resort to Sapporo just because it’s sushi night.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Sapporo.

Want a copy of the book? Email contest2@drinkhacker.com with your U.S. mailing address and the subject line “German Wine.” We’ll give away five copies at random on April 9, 2012. Good luck! Entrants must be at least 21 years old to win.

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Posted in Bar Food, Contests, Wine

Tasting Report: Italian Wine Masters, 2012

Posted on March 8, 2012 by Christopher Null| Leave a comment

Sangiovese is the king of all Italian grapes, so much so that if you’re drinking a wine from Italy but aren’t sure what it’s made from, there’s a good chance it’s Sangiovese, usually 100%.

Three of Italy’s big names in wine are all based on Sangiovese: Brunello, Chianti, and Montepulciano. I was excited by this recent event, Italian Wine Masters, because it took the unusual step of putting all three under one roof (along with plenty of Prosecco, to get things going). Only these four wine regions were represented. No Barolo, no Sicilian wines, no Bolgheri.

What the event offered was the unusual opportunity to compare these three wine regions against one another, with plenty of wineries from each region pouring their wares. I barely scratched the surface (notes follow), but found the event quite eye-opening. Montepulciano gets a bad rap as “cheap Chianti,” but I found a lot of freshness in many of these wines that you don’t get with Chianti, which often comes across as dusty and a bit bitter to me. Brunello is always a mixed bag, but the wines I tasted at the event were my favorites of the day: Rich, deep, and well balanced.

The takeaway: Give Montepulciano another chance. It’s usually less expensive than Chianti and potentially a more rewarding experience.

Tasting Report: Italian Wine Masters 2012

NV Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut San Fermo / B+ / tougher

NV Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut S.C. 1931 / B / huge body, vegetal notes

NV Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry Miraval / A- / lighter body, peaches, tropical character

2010 Furlan Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry Millesimato / B+ / quite fizzy, big French style

2010 Il Colle Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry Millesimato / B+ / light, sweetish

NV Il Colle Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry 46 Parallelo / A- / better balance of tropical character and acid

NV Il Colle Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry / B+ / tropical

NV Perlage Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut Animae / B+ / cheesy nose, big body

NV Santantoni Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry / A-

2007 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG / A- / licorice kick, nice finish

2006 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva / A / lush, great balance

2007 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino DOCG / B+ / still young

2007 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG / A / lively finish

2006 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG / A- / big earth, acidic body

2009 Loacker Corte Pavone Rosso di Montalcino DOC / A / great body, cocoa powder and cola, amazing depth for a Rosso

2010 Loacker Corte Pavone Rosso di Montalcino DOC / A-

2009 Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Bibbiano / B+ / nice easy style, lighter

2009 Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Montornello / B+ / similar

2008 Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Vigna del Capannino / B / bit of vegality

2009 Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG Casa Emma / A- / cherries, some spice

2008 Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Casa Emma / B / some cheese character

2007 Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Casa Emma / B+ / better structure

2009 Fattoria Nittardi Chianti Classico DOCG Casanuova di Nittardi / B+ / bit flabby

2008 Fattoria Nittardi Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Nittardi / A- / more earth, some vegetal character

2008 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / A / good structure

2007 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Nocio dei Boscarelli / A- / more acid, single vineyard wine

2007 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva / A- / needs time

2010 Casale Daviddi Rosso di Montepulciano DOC / B / quite jammy

2008 Casale Daviddi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / B / similar

2005 Casale Daviddi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva / B+ / better balance

2010 Contucci Rosso di Montepulciano DOC / A- / light body, good berry fruit, licorice

2008 Contucci Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / A-

2008 Contucci Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Mulinvecchio / B+ / huge tannin, young

2007 Contucci Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva / B / some barnyard notes, off finish

2010 Il Greppo Rosso di Montepulciano DOC / B / quite fruity

2008 Il Greppo Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / B / tar, leather, licorice, sweetness – strange balance

2009 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano DOC / B / lots of earth, herbs

2008 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / B+ / better balance, more fruit

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Posted in Reviews, Wine

Review: Sandeman Ruby Porto and Founders Reserve Port

Posted on March 7, 2012 by Christopher Null| Leave a comment

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good quality Port. These two Ruby Ports from Sandeman show that you can get solid dessert wines for under 20 bucks. Not familiar with Ruby Port? Ruby is (of course) the cheapest and least complex Port, a blend of wines that sit in neutral (not wood) tanks for, well, as long as it takes.

NV Sandeman Ruby Porto – Light in body and heavy on the fruit jam character. With a lush fruit flavor profile and at 19.5% alcohol, today it could almost be mistaken for one of your more ostentatious Zinfandels. The heavy raisin, cocoa, and light tobacco character on the finish are of course a giveaway that you’re drinking Ruby. Perfectly serviceable as a dessert tipple. B / $14

NV Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto -This raises the game with a touch more complexity, with more woody notes, leather, tar, and dark cherries to give a bit of balance to the jammy fruit character. A blend of ports aged for five years before release, Founders Reserve doesn’t represent a significant price hike, but it’s distinctly more worthwhile. 20% alcohol. B+ / $18

sandeman.eu

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Posted in Port & Sherry, Rated B, Rated B+, Reviews, Wine

Review: Redbreast 12 Years Old Cask Strength Irish Whiskey

Posted on March 6, 2012 by Christopher Null| 2 Comments

OMG how the people love Redbreast. It wins awards, has hipster cred, and bartenders love the stuff. It’s the hippest Irish whiskey on earth, and it costs a boatload.

Somehow I’ve never really gotten into it.

Made by Midleton (which also makes Jameson and other Irish brands), it is distilled three times in a copper pot still before aging. Now the venerable 12 year old Redbreast is newly available in a cask strength version, bumping the proof up to 115.4.

Most people drink Irish because it is so easygoing, and Redbreast shows why the Other Half may be getting into it: It is not so easy, bolder, fuller, more flavorful, and a little rough around the edges, perhaps primarily due to the use of both malted and unmalted barley in the mashbill. There is plenty to like here: That telltale Irish whiskey banana character (almost over-ripe in the way it comes across), coconut, nougat, dried figs, raisins, and butterscotch syrup. It’s creamy and rich, almost like a dessert or an ice cream topping. But it keeps that quirky funkiness — a kind of bitter edge that you really only catch on the finish.

Of course, at cask strength it is a different experience than at 80 proof. But even I was embarrassed at how easy it goes down without cutting it with water. The side effect of high-proof whiskey is always that crazy long finish, though (I wouldn’t call it “burn” here), something you can only cut with… another sip.

Now that I’ve spent more time with Redbreast, I’m starting to see what the others do. I can’t speak for the 80-proof varieties (yet), but this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

A- / $70 / irishdistillers.ie

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Posted in Irish Whiskey, Rated A-, Reviews, Whiskey

California Wines: Page, Revolver, Mumm, Miraflores

Posted on March 5, 2012 by Christopher Null| Leave a comment

I’ve spent more time than usual in various wine regions in Northern California, and I figured I’d put all my tasting notes into one post. Page Wine Cellars is a boutique winery in Yountville that also sells under the Revolver label. Miraflores is based in El Dorado — up in the Sierra Nevada foothills — where it produces quite the bevy of wines (we didn’t taste about a third of those available).

Finally, there’s mega-sparkling outfit Mumm (“You can get a whole bunch of Mumm’s.”), which surprised me with some really exemplary wines. Mumm may have the reputation of a budget, grocery store-friendly winery, but it has quite a range of wines that deserve another look.

Tasting notes follow.

Tasting Report: Semi-Random Wines of Northern California

2010 Page Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc / $25 / A- / peppery finish

2010 Page Wine Cellars Proprietary Red / $60 / B / Cabernet blend

2009 Revolver Wine Co. “The Fury” Cabernet Franc / $50 / B / pepper and plum

2009 Revolver Wine Co. “Forsaken” Petite Verdot / $50 / B+ / really juicy, pepper, cocoa

NV Revolver Wine Co. “Redemption” Petite Sirah / $NA / B+ / jammy

2010 Miraflores Chardonnay / $21 / B / big oak, butterscotch

2008 Miraflores Muscat Canelli / $15 / B+ / peaches, orange blossoms

2009 Miraflores Barbera / $23 / B-

2006 Miraflores Zinfandel / $22 / B+ / juicier, chocolate

2007 Miraflores Zinfandel / $25 / B+ / good body, licorice finish

2008 Miraflores Zinfandel / $25 / A- / more fruity, fig, currant

2005 Miraflores Syrah / $30 / B+

2006 Miraflores Syrah / $25 / B / hefty, drying finish

2007 Miraflores Syrah / $25 / B / very dry

2009 Miraflores Methode Ancienne Syrah / $30 / A- / more complexity, exciting finish

2008 Miraflores Botricelli / $40 / A / a Sauternes clone, not bad at all

NV Miraflores Principe Port / $24 / C

NV Miraflores Black Muscat / $40 / B- / astringent and medicinal

2009 Miraflores Zinfandel / $NA / B / more traditional Zin, jammy

2010 Miraflores Barbera (barrel sample) / $NA / B+ / big fruit

2010 Miraflores Cabernet Sauvignon (barrel sample) / $NA / B+ / jammy

NV Miraflores Angelica (pre-release) / $NA / B+ / fortified grape juice, almost; juicy raisin and cocoa powder character

2001 Mumm Napa DVX / $60 / A / crisp apple, lovely balance, lasting finish

2005 Mumm Napa DVX / $55 / B+ / ends with earth notes, somewhat less thrilling

2006 Mumm Napa DVX Rose / $65 / A / strawberries, cherries, lively fruit

NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige “Extended Tirage” / $30 / B+ / long fruit character

2006 Mumm Napa Devaux Ranch / $36 / B+ / touch of sourness

NV Mumm Napa Brut Rose / $24 / B+

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Posted in Reviews, Travel, Wine

Review: Tequila Clase Azul

Posted on March 4, 2012 by Christopher Null| Leave a comment