Sparkling Countdown: Côté Mas Crémant de Limoux

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There really is no place quiet as magical as the south of France.  Not only is Limoux, in the Languedoc, the ancestral birthplace of sparkling wine, but there is a plethora of amazingly affordable and delicious rose wine to choose from. In today’s sparkler, the Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut fits the bill perfectly. This enticing blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel before it’s Methode Traditionelle  secondary fermentation in bottle. A beautiful pink color with bold peach and stone fruit flavors, effervescent with blood orange and strawberries.  At $15, it’s an everyday value and is fantastic with cheese or potato chips! Another sample from our friends at Gregory White PR, we salute you!

Sparkling Countdown: Faire la Fête

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Monday Monday.  It’s Monday, and I hate Mondays.  But, on the update, it’s the last Monday in 2015.  So how do we celebrate? With Faire la Fête of course!  Faire la Fête is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, from Limoux, France.  Much like yesterday’s Crémant, this wine is from the birthplace of sparkling wine, and is where there is a month long carnival (fête) each year before Lent. This is a fun, lively bubbly, that is full of bright white peaches, lemons, cherry blossoms and fresh cream.  This wine encourages you to celebrate every day life, and is a fête in itself.  At under $20, it is a great everyday fizzy that you can enjoy with oysters, desserts, or a warm afternoon in the sunshine. Thank you to Banner Media Group for introducing me to this great wine!  

Countdown to 2016: Ferrari Trento

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Next up, we celebrate Sunday, and the arrival of my dear friend from another continent, by traveling to Italy in our glass. While many people know about Proscecco, and perhaps the magic of Franciacorta, Lombardy’s sparkling wine, Ferrarri Trento has been making sparkling wines in the Italian Alps since 1902. At ony $25, the Brut, which is 100% Chardonnay, is a steal, and will leave your guests wondering – “Is it Champagne, or is it Ferrari!”  Unlike Prosecco, which is typically fermented in bulk, Ferrari bottle ferments (just like Champagne), and is aged for at least 24 months. Delicate and lively, with bright citrus and apple notes, enveloping the bouquet of white flowers.  Slight hints of freshly baked bread, this is a wonderful way to end the evening, or just get it started, Ferrari Trento is one of the best values in sparkling wine outside of France. This is the base level for Ferrari, but if you want to explore more, try this European Winery of the Year’s delicious reserve wines.  Still affordable luxury, and oh so delicious. Thank you to my friends at Gregory White PR for this scrumptious way to ring in the New Year!    

Countdown to 2016

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At last, Christmas has come and gone, the beacon that is the end of 2015 is drawing near.  To count down in style, I have decided to enjoy a different sparkling wine every day! Pop goes the cork on 2016. Today, on December 26th, Boxing Day, or the day after Christmas – what ever you call it – I am enjoying Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut.  This family owned Champagne house has been in operation since 1812, and is a fantastic last minute or host/hostess gift.  Readily available and priced at a user friendly $45, it’s a great way to say Happy Holidays with classic Champagne. Classic flavors of citrus and brioche, with a nutty finish.  Beautiful dusting of nutmeg on the chalky finish.  A great entry point in to Champagne, particularly if you are trying to impress your friends and visiting family.   Thanks to the lovely ladies at Teuwen Communications for the sparkling party in a glass!    

Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute Holiday Gifts

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It’s hard to believe that next week is Christmas, and we just finished Hanukah festivities.  Whether you celebrate one of these holidays, another one, or just the time of year, you probably have a list of people that you want to a little something special for. Don’t panic!  Here are a few last minute gifts that are sure to please the wine lovers in your life! Wine bottle totes – I love these cute little neoprene bottle holders.  They make a great gift in of themselves, but you can put your favorite bottle of wine inside and make even more special.  I love these soft, cushioned totes for parties, and they even keep those whites chilled! CBreeze design will monogram them for you, which makes a great custom gift.  Choose from a variety of designs and accents, and your monogram.  They also have wine tote bags and other designs. ($28) Built New York has a large selection of wine accessories, including the City Tote, which is the perfect light weight reusable bag for your your shopping needs. ($40).  They also have wine totes, which come in a 20201 or 2 bottle version.  Slightly taller than the CBreeze version, the Built wine tote is great for larger bottles and those odd shaped sparkling bottles. ($15-18). Tattinger & Dita Von Teese – Who doesn’t like bubbles at this time of year?  If you are celebrating something, on consoling yourself, sparkling wine makes everyone happy.  To celebrate the launch of Dita Von Teese’s new book, Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour, from famed Burlesque star Von Teese, Champagne Taittinger has worked with Dita to envision the perfect DIY Beauty & Bubbles Bash to host at home!  With the glitzy holiday packaging, even the box is a party, not to mention the nectar inside.   ($50 champagne) With instructions on how to build your own Champagne Tower, pirating advice, and more fun, this is a great party starter.  The book is fabulous too, and makes an awesome gift for someone who want to learn more about how Dita empowered herself, and broke all the rules, while defining a new style at the same time.  ($30 book) VinoMaster Wine Opener – similar to the Orignial Rabbit, this wine opener is a great tool to have in your bar.  The VinoMaster makes opening one, or many, bottles, super easy!  The simple lever action is fantastic for any one with manual dexterity issues, with arthritis, or just opens tons of wine.  $45 And don’t forget, Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine! Joyeaux Noel, and Happy New Year!

It’s closer than you think: Livermore Valley Wines

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Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we live amongst several world class growing regions.  You probably have heard of Napa Valley, and maybe even Dry Creek Valley, but have you heard of Livermore Valley? With over 130 years of vinious history, Livermore is a secret worth sharing.  The first families in the Livermore Valley are still some of the most well known – Concannon and Wente.  Arriving in 1883, they pioneered grape growing in the region, and set the stage for what would become a hotbed of innovation and trailblazing.  Today, there are over 50 wineries in Livermore, each making their stamp in the valley. Recently, Livermore came to the city, when several wineries hosted a trade tasting and seminar.  Being able to listen to a third generation Wente, and hear the history of Concannon Vineyards from John Concannon is a treat worth traveling for, but luckily I didn’t have to. While Wente has expanded beyond the sprawling vineyard visitors center to launch Wente’s Winemaker Studio, where you can play winemaker and blend your own wine, take classes, and hone your aroma skills.  But, while the grandfathers still stand tall, there are also smaller wineries that are making their mark in Livermore. One of these is Page Mill Winery, which was previously located in Woodside, has been making wine since 1976.  Continuing the production of quality wines in Livermore, Dane Stark continues this tradition using grapes primarily harvested from Livermore Valley.  Today, Page Mill focuses on Livermore Valley fruit, and makes excellent Cab Franc and Syrah. Another personal favorite is Steven Kent Winery.  As I’ve reviewed before, Steven Kent balances tradition and trailblazing, while making Bordeaux style blends, highlighting how Livermore can produce world class wines. Vasco Urbano Wine Company sees the terroir for Rhone style wines in Livermore, and they do so beautifully.  Their mission is clear, to produce excellent Rhone style wines that express the Livermore Valley.  Using innovative farming practices and renegade winemaking techniques, the resulting Syrah, Grenache, and rosé are beautiful.   With over 50 wineries in Livermore, there is something for everyone.  Just over an hour from San Francisco, and easily accessible by public transit, it’s a must visit for any wine lover!  

Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine – Books for the wine lover

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A few years ago, I was lucky enough to experience an amazing cultural experience in Rioja, Spain, exploring, food, and lifestyle writers.  While I wine, food and lifestyle options the region has to offer.  Our small group of compatriots didn’t know each other before our trip, but we quickly became a tight knit group meandering the countryside in search of delicious wines. Among those intrepid explorers were the dynamic duo behind Wine Folly, Madeline Puckette, and Justin Hammack.  Puckette, a talented graphic artist and Sommelier, is known for creating unique, easy to follow, and creative infographics that help us understand wine. This year, Wine Folly compiled those infographics and extensive wine knowledge in to a guidebook on wine, Wine Folly:  The Essential Guide to Wine.  Using simple techniques that yield complex results, Wine Folly provides a guide for over 50 wines, and helps the reader create their own ranking system by reinforcing basic building blocks of flavor, origin, and classic terroir. The clean layout is divided in to easy to understand fundamentals, styles of wine, and wine regions of the world, allowing even the newest wine drinker the ability to understand complex styles and regions. Not sure what wine glass is best for Chianti?  There’s an infographic for that.  How do you pair Riesling?  Check out the wine pairing consideration diagram.  My favorite part of the book is the in depth profiles of the most common varietals.  The clear flavor wheel is color coded and grouped by major flavor group and the dominant olavors are clearly outlined.  The facts at a glance makes it an excelelnt study guide, as you can see on one page, where it grows, how much grows, and hte average price per bottle. Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine is available for $25 on Amazon as well as WineFolly.com.  I highly suggest you pick up a copy or two!     A promotional copy was provided by the PR agency for review, but my mad love of the cool images is all my own!    

Pierson Meyer — from a mountain grows pinot

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Peirson Meyer Wines were born from a friendship that was formed in early 2001, when Lesley Warner-Peirson, her husband Alan Peirson, and Robbie & Shannon Meyer met at Peter Michael Winery.  With a shared passion, their first wine, the L’Angevin Russian River Chardonnay, was produced in 2001. Today, Peirson Meyer crafts small lot wines sourced from Sonoma and Napa, and made to reflect the land. Starting with the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, with only 50 cases (2 barrels) produced, winemaker Robbie Meyer really enjoys the use of native yeast.  In this wine, Pinot Noir clones 777 and 828 from two Sonoma County vineyards create this pale pink princess with rose petals, ripe peaches and berry coulis.  An elegant and restrained rosé that deserves to be the centerpiece of a summer day.  $32 While Peirson Meyer is known for Pinot Noir, the 2013 Ritchie Sauvignon Blanc comes from a cooler site where the grapes ripen more slowly.  Using the native yeast and a gente pressing of whole clusters, this wine is aged in neutral oak.  Bursting with tropical melon and juicy pears, the minerality shines through with a chalky, floral finish. $30 In contrast, the 2013 Ryan’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from a much warmer site in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district, and produces a bolder, more tropical style of wine.  Native yeast fermentation reveals dense apricots and honey, with slight banana notes.  $30 One of the highlights of our tasting experience was the ability to taste three chardonnays side by side.  Doing so allows us to really see the differences each site makes, as well as the nuances of wine making such as barrel selection or yeast selection. First, the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  Aged in 45% new French Oak, and fermented with native yeast (are you starting to see the pattern here?), it is a blend of three vineyards.  Robbie allows malolactic to complete naturally, and uses the native yeast to his advantage, creating a natural, and rich wine.  Viscous and replete with baked apples and nutmeg.  $38 The 2012 Sophia’s Chardonnay comes from a site in the Russian River formerly known as the Sullivan Vineyard.  With 40 year old vines located near Graton, in the west of Sonoma County, this wine is nutty and cirrus driven, with preserved lemons, caramel, vanilla and fresh cream.  $44 The 2012 Heinz Vineyard Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast appellation is physically near the Sullivan Vineyard, yet worlds apart.  Restrained and clean, with Asian pears and graphite.  This wine is clean and focused.  $55 Finally ,we were treated to a trio of Pinot Noirs, each one unique, but with some wonderful similarities. 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is classic Russian River, with dark forest floor, cola, and cherry notes.  Holiday baking spices dance on the tongue in this rich Pinot Noir.  $44 In the small town of Graton, the Miller Vineyard turns Russian River on it’s head by offering a lighter style of Pinot Noir.  The 2012 Miller Vineyard Pinot Noir has bursting black cherry, root beer, […]

Spell Estate – Diversity in Pinot Noir

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Wandering the aisles of the annual Pinot Days in San Francisco is a combination of old friends, new discoveries, and random skee ball shooting.  This year, there was a new venue, new wineries, and new tastes abounding, of which a few really stood out. I fully admit that I stopped by the Spell Estate table, simple for the reason that I had never tried them.  When approaching events of this size, I often target those “new to me” folks, of which I am unfamiliar.  I was happy that I had the opportunity to do so, because Spell Estate really is a special find that I have on my “must buy” list for Pinot Noir now.  After chatting with winemaker Andrew Berge, I knew that I was excited to taste the full line up.  Thanks to General Manager Allisun Groat, I was able to taste the large variety that Spell Estate offers and here are some of my notes. Founded in 2006, Spell Estate was inspired by Bill & Tiki Spell’s love of Pinot Noir.  Committed to delivering the best expression of Pinot Noir possible, they focus on the vineyards to create world class Pinot Noir. Engaging winemaker Andrew Berge, who grew up in Europe and is deeply indoctrinated with the wine & food lifestyle, was a smart move for the Spells.  With a depth of experience in winemaking, Andrew is passionate about his wines.  With Spell, as well as his other label La Poutchine , Andrew can extract the expression of each microclimate and terroir as detailed as small patch of vineyard on a steep slope. With each winery comes a unique style, both created and ever evolving by Andrew Berge.    2013 Alder Springs Pinot Noir – Located just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the fruit comes from three blocks planted between 1700 and 1900 feet.  The volcanic soils here lend themselves to the earthyly old world character of this wine, will tea leaves, dried herbs, and leather, with a bright garget color.  With the earthy underlying notes, the bright red berry and cherry notes are calling attention to this age worthy example of Mendocino Pinot. 2013 Weir Vineyards – Yorkvile Highlands Pinot Noir – just southeast of Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands is the gateway to Pinot country.  The Weir Vineyard is planted between 850 and 1000 feet, with the cooling influences of the coastal fog, giving this wine a brilliant cherry base with macerated strawberries.  A hint of graphite and smoked meat round out the finish.  With just 43% new oak, the wine is balanced and calm with the remaining 50% one year or older. 2014 Umino Vineyard Pinot Noir – a classically bold Pinot, with strong cherry flavors and a rich and sultry mouthfeel.  With the vineyard located in the far western reaches of Sebastapol, in western Sonoma County, the foggy influence moderates the hot summer days creating beautiful acid and structure. 2011 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir – from a vineyard on the true Sonoma Coast, in Freestone, this luxurious wine is […]

K is for Knez

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When I was first introduced to Knez Winery, I knew they would be something special.  It was no special occasion, or anything memoriable, it was just a bottle of fantastic pinot noir on the table one night at dinner.  Sometimes, it’s the little things. I re-introduced to the label at a weekly tasting event at Arlequin Wine Merchant, where I had the chance to talk with the winemaker while I tasted the ones.  Once again, I loved not just the Pinot Noir, but the Chardonnay as well. Fast forward to earlier this Spring, when I was meandering through Anderson Valley with my friend, we were working our way back south after a delightful day at Roederer, I stopped by The Madrones in Philo, a small collection of tasting rooms.  Here, I was able to taste through the then current releases of the Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir, as well as a historical look back at two other vintages. Knez focuses on hand crafted, single vineyard wines influenced by the extreme climate of Anderson Valley, and the combination of marine influences, damn, cold, fog, and the soils of the area.  With particular attention paid in the vineyard, winemaker Anthony Filiberti practices a more hands off winemaking approach, preferring to do as little intervention as possible.  This old world philosophy encourages a sense of place to be developed in the wine, carrying the terroir over from vineyard to bottle. The Cerise Vineyard, where the Knez Pinot Noir is born, was planted in 1995 to ten clones.  This mixture of clones, in 15 blocks, allows for careful selection and characteristics to be hand picked for each wine. 2009 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir A brilliant cranberry color with a mountain strawberry nose, and bold, bright red fruit.  Strong acids with piquant notes of cranberry melt in to lightly scented vanilla flowers.  As the palate opens, Bing cherry, ripe raspberries and rose petals appear.  The mid palate reveals crushed minerals, cedar, and cardamon, cinnamon and anise, with a hint of violets. 2010 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir Dark and brooding, with a kiss of brown sugar, the 2010 is a deep garnet color with forest floor aromas and earthy, cedar notes.  A touch of mint and wild berries blend with black cherry, deep raspberry and bergamot while dried lavender and white pepper dot the finish. Currently the 2013 is $34 in the tasting room.  As these are library wines, I am unable to provide current pricing.  Please contact the winery for more details. If you find yourself in Philo, be sure to stop in an taste the terroir at Knez!    

Eight Tips on being a great wine writer – from Karen MacNeil

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One of the highlights of this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference was the welcoming keynote speech by Wine Bible author, Karen MacNeil.  In her address to some 250 bloggers, writers, and wine industry professionals, she gave clear and concise advise on how to be your best self. I’ll give you a hint:  Drink a lot of champagne!  Or, as Karen put it, drink a glass of the good stuff, every night. But more importantly, how do you become even more successful as a writer and / or blogger?  That has always been an issue for many of us who have been blogging for a long time.  As someone who has been around the wine blogging scene since it’s early days in  2008, I am always asking myself how to be better, smarter, larger.  Better is an interesting word however, as the interpretation of the word can be fraught with misinterpretation and differing opinions. Karen made several great points in her keynote, of which we can all interpret our own messages from.  Each one of us has to decide how to implement them, and what they mean to us. Here are my takeaways: Know your subject!  Whether it is wine, whiskey, or Winnetka, you need to know your subject. This goes without saying.   There are plenty of blogs, websites, books, and so forth that are written well but lack subject matter expertise.  Clearly, most of us blog about wine for pleasure and passion, but take it to the next level and learn your subject. After completing my Certified Wine Specialist credential this year, I’m constantly thinking about my next step in my wine education.  Whether that be another credential or a new book, when you stop learning, you die and become a dinosaur. Agonize over your writing This, I have mastered.  As many writers, I am my own worst critic, and often it takes me much longer to write a piece as other bloggers I know as I sit and write, rewrite, analyze, and consider each word. What makes YOU is something important.  Be unique. Remember, that you need to be real, and be authentic.  Your uniqueness makes you special.  Who wants to be like 100 other wine blogs out there?  While my voice may have evolved over the last 8 years, at its core, it is still the same Luscious Lush. Practice, practice, practice This is something I need to work on.  There are more ways to practice than by being a prolific blogger.  One way to practice is to find other forums, such as a writers group, or blogging circles that issue challenges. I often shy away from the cliques or groups that do things together, but the more I write, the more I realize, it’s important that other people see my word and give me inspiration.  Are there writers groups that you belong to?  What inspires you? Be a great writer, don’t be a serviceable one. Because who wants to be mediocre?  Why not practice (see above) and stand out from the crowd?  There are […]

Starting Fresh

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Blogging is hard work.  Sometimes, those who don’t blog, or write, don’t understand the level of effort required to write well, write consistently, and write often.  Occasionally, this leads to the dreaded apathy – or writer’s block.  Currently, I’m going through an extended period of blocked apathy, which can be very frustrating for someone who likes to be a storyteller. So how does one combat this malady?  The question is unique to every writer, but for me it’s about clearing out the cobwebs and old posts, and starting fresh with new inspiration.  Gone are the 100 drafts of ideas I might “some day” get around to writing. Instead, I am starting Fall 2015 with a clean slate, and thinking of new ways to share my thoughts on wine, whiskey, food, and travel here on Luscious Lushes.  While some old subject matter might reappear (realistically, how can it not?), I am moving forward with a fresh outlook. Like many bloggers, balancing a full time job (or jobs), friends, family and the reality of life can bog you down and make it difficult to stay inspired.  So what do you do to stay inspired?  How do you stay on track, particularly during a change of seasons, career, or when life throws you a curve ball? Happy Autumn!

WBC15: Historic Seneca Lake Part 2

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On the second day of our pre-conference excursion around Seneca Lake, the summer day greeted us in Geneva with a sparkling view, and I wandered down to check out Opus Coffee, owned by local chef Heather Tompkins (who prepared dinner the previous evening). Thank goodness for caffeine!  After an evening at Microclimate, a unique wine bar featuring wines from around the world as well as the Finger Lakes, coffee was much needed on the warm summer morning. Before heading back to Corning to kick off the official conference, the second day of our Seneca Lake excursion would bring us to Anthony Road Wine Company, as well as one of the first ladies of the Finger Lakes, Fox Run Vineyards. Anthony Road Wine Company was started in 1990 by Ann & John Martini, renovating an old farm shop and cobbling together a production winery from borrowed, used, and otherwise improvised equipment. I particularly enjoyed the rosé (of Cabernet Franc, a dry, tannic rosé (that was perfect on this hot day), as we learned about the history of Anthony Road, and the experimental vineyards they are using to determine what varietals to plant next.  The rosé was replete with tart cherries, under ripe strawberries, Tuscan melon and dried herbs.  Refreshing! Our last stop on the pre-conference excursion was Fox Run Vineyards.  If Dr. Frank is the President, Fox Run is the First Lady of Finger Lakes wine.  Situated on what was once the lakeshore, in a region called Torrey Ridge, Fox Run overlooks the deepest part of Seneca Lake.  Here, the microclimate is slightly different, as the deep waters offer more substantial cooling effects. For over 100 years, Fox Run was a working dairy, and the first grapes were planted in 1984 in the old dairy.  Focusing on sustainable practices, this family owned vineyard now is looking toward the future with a stunning wine & cheese program.   The Food & Wine Experience at Fox Run features a pairing lunch in the barrel room, with selection of local cheeses, charcuterie, greens and fresh baked bread.  A flight of specially selected wines is paired with each bite, created to bring out the best in each wine.  Our group was treated to a special Riesling tasting afterwards, with 4 unique wines:  Riesling 11 – Hanging Delta Vineyard, Riesling 12 – Hanging Delta Vineyard, and Riesling 11 and 12 from Lake Dana Vineyard.  Essentially, each of these wines comes from a different block in their vineyards, but the winemaking goes beyond that with twists and tweaks for each vintage.  This experience alone was worth the stop at this Grand Dame of the Lake. The Seneca Lake experience was magical, and full of history.  With a wide variety of wines and experiences, I look forward to going back and experiencing more! In fact, in part 3 of my Lake Seneca tour, our Magical Mystery Bus (Friday Excursions at WBC) took us back to Lake Seneca a third time, with all new stops and experiences.  But you’ll have to stay tuned for […]

WBC15: Chasing history on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail

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Earlier this month, as some 300 wine writers and industry folk convened in Corning, NY for the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, we were greeted by an overwhelmingly friendly, hometown, local wine culture of the Finger Lakes. The people of Corning, and the surrounding towns which make their business from the wine industry of the Finger Lakes clearly showed a great pride in the uniqueness of the local wines, and how they stand out among the rest of the U.S. as well as the world. Before the official conference began, I joined the pre-conference tour of Seneca Lake, which provided a deep dive in to the specifics of the largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, and the wine industry on it’s shores. As my friend Melanie and I (@dallaswinechick) first drove in to the area from Philadelphia, I was struck by the pastoral beauty, and calm of the gently sloping hillsides and glacial lakes, carved by the last ice age to reach the Hudson Valley. While this region has been home to winemaking for much longer, in 1986 the Seneca Lake Wine Trail was formed to encourage visitors to the area to experience all the region could offer.  Today, the largest lake also provides the largest, and most diverse wine trail in New York – 30 wineries, a distillery, breweries, and cider producers all line it’s shores. The deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is 632 feet and it’s shores provide a perfect locale for wine grapes.  On our first day, as we set out from Corning to Geneva, we bounced along the small towns and shoreline communities learning about the history and tasting several wines. First up, we visit the Villa Bellangelo Winery in Geneva, NY.  Villa Bellangelo is on the western shore of Lake Seneca, and specializes in cool climate varietals, with a razor sharp focus on what the Finger Lakes is famous for – Riesling.  Here, we were treated to several older vintages, tasting the progression of both the winery, and the wine, as it traveled through time.   Along with Bellangelo, King’s Garden Vineyards was pouring a 10 year vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ironically located in Lodi (New York), King’s Garden Vineyards makes a bit of everything, upsetting the traditionally apple cart of the Finger Lakes a bit, by veering off in to Chardonnay and Cabernet, versus Riesling and other aromatic whites.  I particularly enjoyed the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the unique tasting of two 2010s, one that had been in bottle for a few months, and one that was just bottled – giving it extended oak aging.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Finger Lakes actually has some great Cabernet Sauvignon, and the ageability of these wines is remarkable. After enjoying the afternoon at Bellanagela, we headed to Ventosa Vineyards, where the Finger Lakes Women in Wine greeted us with a powerhouse team of female winemakers & winery owners, and one awesome chef. Before dinner, we tasting through some local ciders to refresh our palates, and heard from these […]

Vermouth: The Spirit that Created Amerca’s Cocktail Culture

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Vermouth, that mysterious wine based beverage that lingers in the minds of our grandparents, Don Draper, and Downton Abbey.  Today, vermouth is part of an ongoing cocktail-culture revolution.   In Adam Ford‘s new memoir of the beverage, Vermouth:  The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture, the long, and somewhat forgotten history of vermouth is recalled, meandering through time from somewhere around 10,000 years ago to the present day. Vermouth is a special elixir that has stood the test of time.  An aromatized wine (wine that has had herbs, spices, and other ingredients added to it before being fortified), that is similar to gin in it’s methodology of creation.  Similar to Gin, Vermouth can be made with botanicals, typically those considered to have health-promoting properties. Unlike gin, there are no specific requirements as to what must be contained within. Through this book, Ford takes us around the world, from China, to the Middle East where it gained exotic spices, to modern day America, where it is undergoing a strong revival,  vermouth has evolved, changed, and developed in to the atypical beverage that it is today. The definition of vermouth varies widely globally, and some are even created from botriticized wine.  With so many flavor variations, the possibilities and pairings are endless. This book is a beautiful illustration of the history and development of vermouth, but is also a modern encyclopedia and shopping guide.  From small wineries producing vermouth (Sutton Cellars) to larger, commercial operations that are producing boutique cocktail mixers, there is a vermouth for everyone. When, after World War II, many producers took short cuts and used cheaper, more readily available ingredients, the new trailblazers created high end vermouths from the finest of ingredients.  Like any other beverage of quality, you will see this reflected int eh price point, but also in the flavor.  Have you experienced a high end spirit mixed with a low end vermouth?  The combination just doesn’t work.  While some might be tied by distributor requirements, a handshake agreement or other systematic problems with the three-tier system we have in the U.S., I am of the mind that with quality must go quality. To that end, Ford discovers a litany of different craft vermouth producers to experiment with.  While you will probably know Cinzano, Martini & Rossi and maybe even my current favorite Carpano Antica, have you experienced Vya or Imbue? While perusing this must have cocktail textbook, you might see a familiar cocktail or two, but you will also see some long-forgotten cocktails that bring images of The Cotton Club and the Roaring Twenties, as well as re-imagining what they might be like today in the speakeasies of the new millennium.  I am partial to a Manhattan, as well as a Martini and, while friends are partial to Negronis.  Have any of us you heard of a Hanky Panky? Hanky Panky Ingredients 2 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica) ¾ oz. London dry gin ¼ oz. Fernet-Branca 1 orange peel Instructions Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with […]