Champagne is for Winners and Beginners

No doubt you are winning at something if you are drinking Champagne, especially French Champagne. The stuff is golden nectar of the gods poured in a glass. Here’s to hoping that this New Year’s Eve you can stare at the sparkling section of your local wine purveyor with some basic understanding of the labels. It can be confusing especially when there is so much French involved. “It’s all French to me.” as someone recently said. But is it really with Prosecco and Cava involved? And of course there are the delicious domestics. Sparkling wine is made around the world but only called Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region in France using a specific method. Methode-Champenoise is a labor intensive and costly process by which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating bubbles. Champagne can range in sweetness based on the dosage, or how much sugar is added. Sugar is often but not always added during the traditional Methode-Champenoise and what amount is added will dictate the label. Below is a list of designations starting from least amount of sugar added to most amount.

          Doux- 50+ g/L

          Demi-Sec- 33–50 g/L

Sec-17-35 g/L

Exta-Sec -12-20 g/L

Brut- 0–12-g/L

Extra- Brut – 0–6 g/L

Brut Nature – 0–3 g/L

*Extra Dry is found on domestic sparkling wine bottles and actually means less dry than brut but not sec or secco which would be deemed sweeter.

At the shop we have many options ranging in price from Louis Perdrier sparkling wine to vintage Dom Perignon. Vintage champagnes are made from grapes grown in a single exemplary growing season. These are supreme examples of what champagne can be and are therefore often costly. Perhaps a great way to celebrate an abundant year with friends and family is with a vintage champagne. We stock a couple that deliver Dom taste without the price such as L’Armandier-Bernier and the famed Bollinger, favored by James Bond. We also have a selection of the best value prosecco, cava and sparkling wines from Spain, Italy and the USofA. Here are some of our favorite NV (non-vintage) and vintage French bottles we stock for your convenience and pleasure.

Louis Perdrier NV Brut– High quality French sparkling wine. Notes of apples, some richness with a citrus finish. Great for a budget and any party!

Forget Brimont NV Brut– Sophisticated champagne in the $25.00 range from family run winery. Offering notes of ripe gala apples, ginger and biscuit. Shows fine balance and elegance.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Blanc de Blancs– Family owned and run Champagne House. Deep, wide aromas—cumin, buttery pie crust. Shows good length and presence on the palate; flavors are zesty citrus enveloped in a smooth minerality. A good apéritif.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Rosé Pale strawberry-pink color. Light raspberry and white pepper aromas, with a raspberry crème brûlée flavor profile. Clean and dry, with good length and heft.

Moet & Chandon NV Imperial Rosé This solid, muscular rosé might be the ticket to turning a red wine devotee on to Champagne. Flinty around the edges, with tight, tart red fruit.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin 2004 La Grand Dame– Intense, serious and persistent. Yellow stone fruit flavors are bright but kept in check with mineral, herb and citrus peel through the finish.

L’ Armandier- Bernier 2002 Premier Cru– Growers Sophia and Pierre L’Armandier focus on organic farming. They use low doasage or no dosage in their Blanc de Blanc which is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir as traditional method dictates.This vintage is broad and rich, scoring over 95 pts with Robert Parker. It is clean, refreshing and fabulous to pair with a New Years Dinner.

Bollinger La Grand Annee 2004 Extra- Brut– exceptional vintage with 90 plus ratings from Parker and Tanzer! Notes of toasted bread and candied fruit, rhubarb, notes of exotic spices. Perfectly balanced and pleasing in any application. And this champagne is featured in James Bond films! So, you can drinky it and be classy and continental like that! 

Any way you choose to celebrate you will win with these selections! Remember whatever you choose, to drink responsibly. 

 

 

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whiskeys

Three special drinks featured in the ‘Bachelors of Wilson’ shoot

whiskeysPhoto by Caitlin Steva PhotographyWe specialize in unique Bourbons and Whiskey at the Market Basket. It’s something we are passionate about. This year, Wilson Living Magazine asked us to hand-pick a few special varieties for their Bachelors of Wilson photo shoot, featured in the March/April issue.

The three we picked are truly special–here’s why:
EAGLE RARE
We hand-selected our 10 year old Eagle Rare single barrel from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort Kentucky. This mahogany colored bourbon is full bodied that finishes with a nice spice note. This is our everyday, go-to, sipping whiskey at our house. And at under $30.00 it is certainly a great value. Eagle Rare is the only bourbon to wine double gold twice at the San Francisco International Spirits Competition. This is truly a rare bourbon that you will not find on every shelf.

KNOB CREEK

Named after president Abe Lincoln’s boyhood home in Kentucky, Knob Creek is a standout in Jim Beam’s small batch collection. Our hand-selected barrel proof , 9 year old Knob Creek is special because it was chosen with the help of Fred Noe. Noe, who represents the 7th generation of the Beam family is also a Castle Heights grad. Full and smooth with a nice long lingering finish, Knob Creek can be enjoyed with a few splashes of water from the tap like Fred’s daddy, Booker liked. Fred was kind enough to spend some time with us and sign our bottles at the shop. These bottles are just special enough for the big day.

ANGEL’S ENVY

Angel’s Envy get’s its name from the “angel’s share” or the small amount of whiskey that evaporates in the barrel during the aging process. This blended Bourbon is the swan song of late master distiller, Lincoln Henderson. Henderson is known for developing Jack Daniel’s single barrel as well as Woodford Reserve. His son, Wes now runs the show at Angel’s Envy as they continue to produce premium whiskey. While this whiskey can be delicate, our blend is full-bodied, balanced and expressive at the end. Angel’s Envy spends eight monthes in port barrels giving it a unique flavor.

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Champagne is for Winners

No doubt you are winning at something if you are drinking Champagne, especially French Champagne. The stuff is golden nectar of the gods poured in a glass. Here’s to hoping that this New Year’s Eve you can stare at the sparkling section of your local wine purveyor with some basic understanding of the labels. It can be confusing especially when there is so much French involved. “It’s all French to me.” as someone recently said. But is it really with Prosecco and Cava involved? And of course there are the delicious domestics. Sparkling wine is made around the world but only called Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region in France using a specific method. Methode-Champenoise is a labor intensive and costly process by which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating bubbles. Champagne can range in sweetness based on the dosage, or how much sugar is added. Sugar is often but not always added during the traditional Methode-Champenoise and what amount is added will dictate the label. Below is a list of designations starting from least amount of sugar added to most amount.

Doux-50+ g/L

Demi-Sec-33–50 g/L

Sec-17-35 g/L

Exta-Sec -12-20 g/L

Brut- 0–12-g/L

Extra- Brut –0–6 g/L

Brut Nature –0–3 g/L

*Extra Dry is found on domestic sparkling wine bottles and actually means less dry than brut but not sec or secco which would be deemed sweeter.

At the shop we have many options ranging in price from Louis Perdrier sparkling wine to vintage Dom Perignon. Vintage champagnes are made from grapes grown in a single exemplary growing season. These are supreme examples of what champagne can be and are therefore often costly. Perhaps a great way to celebrate an abundant year with friends and family is with a vintage champagne. We stock a couple that deliver Dom taste without the price such as L’Armandier-Bernier and the famed Bollinger, favored by James Bond. We also have a selection of the best value prosecco, cava and sparkling wines from Spain, Italy and the USofA. Here are some of our favorite NV (non-vintage) and vintage French bottles we stock for your convenience and pleasure.

Louis Perdrier NV Brut– High quality French sparkling wine. Notes of apples, some richness with a citrus finish. Great for a budget and any party!

 Forget Brimont NV Brut– Sophisticated champagne in the $25.00 range from family run winery. Offering notes of ripe gala apples, ginger and biscuit. Shows fine balance and elegance.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Blanc de Blancs– Family owned and run Champagne House. Deep, wide aromas—cumin, buttery pie crust. Shows good length and presence on the palate; flavors are zesty citrus enveloped in a smooth minerality. A good apéritif.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut RoséPale strawberry-pink color. Light raspberry and white pepper aromas, with a raspberry crème brûlée flavor profile. Clean and dry, with good length and heft.

Moet & Chandon NV Imperial RoséThis solid, muscular rosé might be the ticket to turning a red wine devotee on to Champagne. Flinty around the edges, with tight, tart red fruit.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin 2004 La Grand Dame– Intense, serious and persistent. Yellow stone fruit flavors are bright but kept in check with mineral, herb and citrus peel through the finish.

L’ Armandier- Bernier 2002 Premier Cru– Growers Sophia and Pierre L’Armandier focus on organic farming. They use low doasage or no dosage in their Blanc de Blanc which is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir as traditional method dictates.This vintage is broad and rich, scoring over 95 pts with Robert Parker. It is clean, refreshing and fabulous to pair with a New Years Dinner.

Bollinger La Grand Annee 2004 Extra-Brut– exceptional vintage with 90 plus pts from Parker and Tanzer. Notes of toasted bread and candied fruit, rhubarb and exotic spices. Perfectly balanced in any application. James Bond loved it and so will you! 


Any way you choose to celebrate you will win with these selections! Remember whatever you choose, drink responsibly. 

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The Pairings That Worked

When I go out to dinner and order wine I hope that the wine I order compliments the food. The nights that I cook and I bring home a bottle of wine I try to pair it with the meal. After all, food and wine are friends who are meant to be together. They bring out the best in eachother. When wine is paired with food well with food it makes all the difference. Whether the dinner is for two or two hundred I like for things to taste good. No one wants to disappoint their guests. 

Ensuring that you have the proper pairing means understanding that the profile of the wine should compliment the food. An example of this is a good Sauvignon Blanc and a salad with vinegarette dressing. The acid in the wine stands up to the acidity of the dressing. Often the mineral characteristics in a white wine such as a Muscadet will compliment a dish with mineral tones such as raw oysters. Baked buttery oysters might prefer a buttery wine such as an oaky Chardonnay.

 

Last Saturday night we had a wine dinner out on the lake. Luckily the following pairings were slam dunks. We started with mixed greens with lemon vinegarette. The chosen wine for this dish was Broken Dreams Chardonnay from Slo Down Wines. This dry, full- bodied Chardonnay has nice notes of tropical fruit and lemon zest. Lemon plus lemon equals success. The second course, a mushroom tart with gouda cheese was paired with a red blend called Oakley. This Syrah, Petit Syrah and Barbera blend is a true value blend from Sonoma County. It’s got a little bit of everything including 3% Pinot Noir. The strong cheese complimented the wine bringing out the fruit. The dinner was a Zinfandel and Zinfandel blend themed dinner. Oakley qualified with a tiny 3% Zinfandel in it’s blend. The winemakers even put a handy pull away food pairing chart on the back of the bottle. Next we served braised short ribs with root vegetables. I always love short ribs as there are a variety of wines to pair with these babies. I practically order these any time I see them on a menu. We chose the Zinphomaniac from Lodi to sip with the short ribs. Lodi is an iconic Zinfandel producing region in Central California. This wine brings loads of jammy black fruit with a touch of pepper and spice. We rounded out the dinner with ever popular Zinfandel, Syrah and Petit Syrah blend, Sexual Chocolate. This wine will make you blush or flush but it’s chocolate notes and supple tannins never fail to please. Dessert was simple- chocolates in a martini glass. And yes, chocolate can and does pair with wine.

Dinner was a success. The key to the success was choosing the wines after tasting them with the food to be served. Thanks to Gina and Jim Stradley and Chef Julio for their patience and hard work.  

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Why your new best wine is like your new best friend…

Taste a wine, or meet a person. Each wine is different as each person is different. Wines are so varied that they can be, and often are, compared to the human personality types. Wines can be matched with friends, relatives and recent acquaintances. Some of these folks are in your life by chance, while others have the bond of family. The characteristics expressed by grapes are as complex as people, and our impressions of wine can be compared to our perceptions of people. You meet wines as often you meet people: dinner at a friend’s houses, restaurants, cocktail parties or at your favorite tailgate party.

 

After the very first taste, we develop thoughts, feelings and initial impressions about wine. We may not like it after that initial taste. It’s almost how you didn’t like your husbands ex-girlfriend the first time you met her, but as time went by you realized she was a nice person. That rose’ from the Lanquedoc did nothing for you at first, but on the third try you realized that even though she was easy, she was still a lot of fun. After all if ever there was a floozy of wines, it’s certainly a French Rose’. Seriously, it pairs with everything!

Your palette evolves as does your taste in people. You may no longer hang out with a certain group of people. And, you may now pass over a fruitier wine for an earthier, more matured wine, a wine with more discretion.

We seem to find varying wines for the changing times in our lives. Some wines are young and some wines are old. Perhaps you remember that 84′ Bordeaux that was popped open at dinner because the smell did kind of remind you of Uncle Buddy’s house. Buddy is dusty, crusty and long in the tooth as some wines can be. However, Buddy has layers that have formed during his tenure. He is no simple wine so to speak. A wine reminiscent of Buddy could be called a real senior citizen of the cellar. Then there is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a baby, an adolescent, a real young buck full of fruit and tannins. It needs to open up. It needs to age. And just like that guy you dated in college, it really needs to mature before you take it to a family dinner. In time it will gain some layers and some complexity. Right now its still being formed in the cellar. It will be ready to enjoy in a few years.

A wine may appear in your life at a friend’s house. Perhaps you did not choose this wine, but it is the only Chardonnay on the bar and that is really what you want to drink. After a glass you mutter to yourself that it’s “not bad” and “ Why are my friends so cheap?” and “ Next time I’m bringing my own wine.” and “ Don’t they know about the Market Basket?” If that chardonnay were a person, it would be the only girl in your drivers ed course from high school, the one you ate lunch with because she was the only other girl.

Other wines are like your family. Take champagne. She appears in her tall, slim glass at every family event and celebration. She is like your older sister who you love so much and also hate…. the next day. She knows sooo much more than you and being with her makes you feel so sophisticated. You will go days without speaking but when you get together again it is like a sunshine bubble dance of love and happiness! Relationships with humans and wine can be cyclical. People like wine can come and go. Feelings about wine can come and go.

And then, there is the wine you meet at a cocktail party. It smacks you in the face with its big bold tannins. It tells a long belabored story about its childhood spent on pristine acreage in Napa Valley, the careful intuitive hands that picked its grapes and its years spent in fine oak barrels and it goes on and on about its price. “Is this wine for real?” You think. And just when you wonder if its over it smacks you in the head with its blistering tannins. You may think your palette can’t take anymore, so you try to hand this glass to someone else. Or, maybe you have some more because you prefer a strong personality in wine. Some wines can wear you out. And anyone who has ever participated, or more correctly, not participated in a one sided conversation knows that as personalities can feel overwhelming, so can wine.

Luckily, your every night wine is like your best friend or your spouse – familiar, easy, low maintenance. It’s soft and unpuzzling, simple, yet elegant. Your every night wine doesn’t make you eat filet mignon. It goes just as well with Ritz crackers and cheesewhiz or a frozen pizza.It’s like a warm blanket. Value being a particular concern, it’s the wine you stay home with and watch T.V. Although a good relationship surely has no price tag.

And, just as there are country wines mad from muscadine grapes, there are late harvest muscats from the Michelin star studded wine lists. We all know a hillbilly who would like to spit some beechnut. Yet, we are familiar with the gent who likes to toke on a stogie. The grapes can be the same, just raised and cultivated in different places, or not cultivated,… Just like humans, wines have various levels of cultivation.

 New wines are born every day and every year just like humans. Prissy or not, your wine is what you like as your friends are who you like! Enjoy both!

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A few words on Scotch…

      With the recent return of Will Ferrell’s scotch-drinking Anchorman character, Ron Burgundy, this is  the perfect time to explore the basics of Scotch.  Once referred to as “aquae vitae” or “water of life,” scotch is simply malted barley that is distilled in Scotland in column stills or in pot stills. 

It’s a hot topic among folks who discuss the craft bourbons they enjoy in their place of repose or recreation. For some collectors, it’s an endless hunt for the rarest of spirits for their collection. Others simply sip their favorite and are quite content with that. Be it Old Charter, Jameson, Willian Larue Weller or Dewars. It’s  made from barley, wheat, corn or rye distilled, aged, bottled, shipped and sold out of a box, off a shelf or in a drink at the bar.   Each whisky varies according to region it is made in retaining those unique characteristics. These expressions represent generations of craft and are intimately linked with the history of the locations.

Single malts, composed primarily of barley, are made in a pot still and originate from one distillery. Blended or vatted malts are are mixtures of single malts from different distilleries. So too are blended Scotch whiskies, except that they also include grain whisky, which is composed of corn and wheat and made in a column still. The good whisky is always kept in a special place whether its in a barrel, on a rack, on a shelf, in a cabinet, or even in a special room. Because of growing interest, good whiskey is in high demand. 

Scotland is traditionally divided into four regions: The Highlands, the Lowlands, Islay and Campbelltown. The Speyside region housing half of Scotland’s distilleries was once considered part of the Highlands. Today it is recognized officially as its own district. In the Lowland– only three ditilleries remain in operation including Auchentoshan. Speyside as stated has the largest number of distilleries with some eighty or so including The MacCallan, Balvenie, The Glenlivet and the Glenrothes. The Highland region has Aberfeldy, Dalmore, Oban and Glenmorangie. The Islands is an unrecognized subregion. Arran, Highland Park and Talisker are among the distilleries in this region. Campbelltown, once home to 300 distilleries now only has two or three and Springbank is the best known of thise distilleries with a family history steeped in tradition. And then there is the Islay region which has eight producing didtilleries including Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

Just as the regions vary so do the characteristics of the Scotch from the different regions. Highland scotches tend to be light bodied delicate whiskies. Highland scotch, Glenmorangie is Scotland’s favored malt in it’s 10yr style. The distillers revolutionized barrel aging by finishing scotch in sherry casks. Now after their success, other distillers have followed suit. The speyside malts have been desribed as having the fruit qualities such as bananas, pear and apples. There is little peat and maybe just a whif of smoke. Cream soda and lemonade have been found in the these whiskies as they can be essentially sweet. Whereas the The lowland scotches are known for the flowery characteristics as they don’t use peated malt. Notes of heather, mint spice and pears are used to describe the central lowlands scotch- Aberfeldy. They have sweeter characteristics but are not typically as sweet as the Speyside malts. The finish on these scotches such as the Auchentoshan is dry and therefore perfect for an aperitif. Smoke is is the predominant characteristic of the Islay scotches. Islay scotches vary from the northside to the southside which houses the peatiest of producers Lagavulin and Laphroig. These scotches therefore pair perfectly with a cigar. The Islay scotches from the Northside like Kilchomen still retain a bit of smoke but are not quite as robust as the southside scotches. Campbelltown scotches are full bodied and full flavored sometimes being described as having a seamist quality. Springbank can become raisiny and rich with age.

Take time to enjoy the wide variety of scotches. Don’t turn your nose up at blends such as Dewars and Famous Grouse. These are good blends that you can count on to be found at most bars.  With a little bit of research we know that Famous Grouse is made from MacCallan and owned by the same company. Dewars is actually made from Aberfeldy scotch. Johnny Walker makes a fine blended whisky. Many may not know that the famous gold label is made from Clynelish scotch. The myth and lore that comes with many of these whiskies often makes them more desirable and even more collectable.  Often times you will be surprised and delighted to learn more about what you are drinking no matter what it is. Hopefully this abbreviated scotch primer is encouragement to go out and do some research. It can be entertaining as well as educational!

 

 

 

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The Perfect Plant -Agave

You and Tequila Make Me….

 

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 In this blog I usually espouse different grapes and grains. But this weekend turned into a time to reflect upon that perennial plant of peril, blue agave and it’s product, tequila. I have been known to enjoy the occasional margarita, or a shot of tequila. So, this weekend when my gracious host/paddleboard wondergirl offered me her special drink, I couldn’t say no…it’s called manners! A cold margarita with crushed ice after a long paddleboard ride in a shady cove sure sounds good. I peruse the ample liquor cabinet on the house boat and quickly realize that these folks take their tequila seriously. This is not just a once and a while type thing. There were atleast four different types of tequila decorating the shelves along with a large bottle of Grand Marnier. The margaritas made in a traditional way in a pitcher with lime-ade were strong. I told my friend that she should be looking for 100% agave anything else was pretty much not really tequila. Agave is a succulent plant similar in looks to a yucca or aloe plant whose favorite habitat is the desert. Lucky for me she had some El Ultimo Reposado which tasted great in the perfectly mixed cocktails replete with shaved sno-cone style ice.

 

The original margarita was actually called a “daisy” and was simply made with lime juice, sugar and tequila. If you have never tried a margarita this way, I encourage you to do so. The fresh squeezed lime juice is great. Again look for 100% agave when purchasing tequila.

“Now tequila may be the favored beverage of outlaws but that doesn’t mean it gives them preferential treatment. In fact, tequila probably has betrayed as many outlaws as has the central nervous system and dissatisfied wives. Tequila, scorpion honey, harsh dew of the doglands, essence of Aztec, crema de cacti; tequila, oily and thermal like the sun in solution; tequila, liquid geometry of passion; Tequila, the buzzard god who copulates in midair with the ascending souls of dying virgins; tequila, firebug in the house of good taste; O tequila, savage water of sorcery, what confusion and mischief your sly, rebellious drops do generate!” Tom Robbins Still Life with Woodpecker

Saturday night in Shady Cove around the dinner table with Don Eduardo Anejo and an open bottle of Jose Cuervo and the conversation turns to tequila again. What does anejo mean? It’s been aged in the barrel longer than the reposado which is typically aged from 2-11 months in our margaritas from earlier. I encourage my friends to smell the cuervo after smelling the Don Eduardo and we all agreed it smelled like sugar. Cuervo is classified as a mixto tequila meaning it has atleast 51% blue agave the remaining parts are aften such items as cane sugar, caramel color, oak flavoring extract and glycerin. So we left the Cuervo alone and drank the Anejo which is made for sipping as it has been aged in oak barrels atleast a year. And the result was still dancing at the tiki bar next door where tequila was certainly betraying some outlaws.

This time of year lends itself to tequila with the long hot days of Summer coming to an end. We will be wearing our hats, ponchos and mustaches on October 25th at Sammy B’s for the first ever but much talked about Market Basket Tequila Tasting. We like tequila year round in this town if you havn’t noticed! We plan on having several big name tequilas such a Herradurra and Don Julio as well some beautiful craft tequila you may have yet to encounter. Sammy B’s Tex Mex appetizers will not disappoint. The cost for the tasting is $20.00 and reservations can be made by calling the shop at 449-7115.

 

 

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The Recovery of Rye

If you don’t like Rye you just haven’t meant the right one.

Rye is ingrained, pardon the pun, in the history of our country. It’s Patriotic to drink rye whisky. George Washington distilled rye at Mt. Vernon in small copper pot stills. At the time of his death in 1799 Mt. Vernon was producing 11,000 gallons annually. In fact, they have ressurrected the still. What a great way to further induce interest, tourism? Rye whiskey was made famous  in luscious dark bars in New Orleans in the heydey of classic drinks like the Sazerac. Rye graced many of the old Nashville haunts during the prohibition era such as Jimmy Kelly’s and Nero’s and Rotier’s. In fact from the beginning of prohibition in 1919 until 1967 when liquor by the drink became legal in Nashville there many dinner clubs, supposedly private, where cocktails were available. Rye was flowing at the bar then and is making a comeback now. From 2010- 2012 rye consumption has  doubled in the United States according to Impact Databank. Therefore just about every big name in bourbon has introduced a rye whisky. There are the folks who would argue it never went away although the demand may have dwindled. Throughout the years Colonel E. H. Taylor from Buffalo Trace has been a flagship in the distiller’s sough after lineup. They have a large operation producing at least 100,000 gallons of whiskey a year (Something George   Washington would have marveled at, no?) However they havej dedicated micro-stills   reserved for experimental limited release batches. Rye can be described as somewhat stronger than Bourbon. It bursts with fruit and spice  which is derived from the grain.  It can be quite livlier and spicier than bourbon.  Whereas the corn gives bourbon the toasty caramel sweeter flavor. True rye must be composed of 51%  rye. The rest of the mash is usually filled    out with corn and barley. And this is the way that many producers have made rye over the years. But interestingly more and more rye whiskys are boasting up to 91% in the mash. E. H. Taylor has no corn added and it still has notes of toffee as well as pine needle, mint and perfume.  Bulleit’s rye smacks of nut and licorice while Dickel’s rye is more like rye bread    with jam. This is quite a phenomena as both distilleries source their 95% rye recipes from the same Lawrenceburg Ind. Distillery. There must be something to the charcoal distilling process that truly set’s Tennessee Whisky apart. The new extra aged Knob Creek Rye comes packed with notes of caramel, honey, pepper and juniper.

And what rye would I be drinking in the glass pictured below? Why Jefferson’s, of course. 

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Fine wine with a mission

In 2008 I took a last minute trip to Napa with a friend. By some sort of stroke of good luck we travelled down a dusty path to Ehlers Estates. I had never heard of these wines, being new to the wine business. In addition, they aren’t exactly taking out full page ads in wine spectator. So, after doing the big name wineries cliche thing we were pleased to find the historic stone winery that is Ehlers. I didn’t buy a whole lot of wine on that trip, but the most expensive purchase of wine that I made was at Ehlers. This bottle was their flagship silky smooth cabernet called 1886. I knew at the time that I could not purchase this wine in TN.

I was very excited when I found out that one of our smaller distributors had picked up the Ehlers wines. I am pleased to announce that we now sell the cabernet franc, the merlot , 120 over 80 Cabernet Sauvignon and yes, their flagship, much beloved by me, 1886.

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But, you see there is so much more to this wine. The founder of the winery, frenchman and philanthropist, Jean Leducq began buying up parcels of land in St. Helena in 1985. In 2001 he combined the original 14 acres and historic stone winery along with an additional 40 acres that composes Ehlers today. The best part of this wine, aside from the fact that it is organic and biodynamic is that all of the proceeds of the sales of this wine go to a nonprofit organization that funds heart disease research. In fact,Vanderbilt received two million dollars last year from the Leducq Foundation.WOW. The wine is amazing, the people who make it are conscious about our environment and about the greater good of the human race. Not to mention they operate out of a gorgeous old stone building that was erected in 1886 by Bernard Ehlers! And to think I had no idea back in 2008, I just liked the wine. I hope my customers choose to try this wine. It is sure to astound the palate. The 1886 is filled with notes of plum, black cherry, violets and cinnamon. Petit verdot adds a whisp of blueberry. There is just a touch of merlot blended in to warm up the middle. The finish is long and strong.

This year we were fortunate enough to bring in the highly sought after Petit Verdot in addition to the rose’. Both wines were out of sight literally and figuratively!

I will be back at Ehlers in October! I plan on representing Lebanon well! We are excited to have such a strong relationship with these producers! 

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Malbec Throwdown

Malbec Throwdown We had a lovely French Malbec blend at dinner two nights ago on vacation that was the inspiration for this blog and consequential “Malbec tasting throwdown”. I have had many Malbecs from Argentina and surprisingly few from France where Malbec has its’ beginnings as a lowly blending grape. Times have changed and Malbec has come into its own, the shining star, premier grape in Argentina, particularly Mendoza.

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The grape was first introduced to the region in the mid 19th century when provincial governor, Governor Domingo Sartiena instructed the French agronomist Miguel Pouget to bring grapevine cuttings from France to Argentina. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and intense fruity flavors with a velvety texture. While it doesn’t have the tannic structure of a French Malbec, being more plush in texture, Argentine Malbecs have shown aging potential similar to their French counterparts. The Mendoza region is the leading producer of Malbec in Argentina with plantings found throughout the country in places such as La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires.

In France, Malbec has an identity crisis. It traditionally was grown in 30 provinces, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine (a.k.a. “The Great Big Book of Everything”). And it had almost as many names. In the Loire Valley, it is known as cot but plays second fiddle to Cabernet Franc; in fact, maybe fourth fiddle, behind Gamay and Pinot Noir as well. Its most hospitable ground is in Cahors, midway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, where it traditionally was known as auxerrois, an unfortunate name that can only be pronounced correctly when coughing up a hairball. Although the grape orriginates in France under several names, Argentina is foremost and reknown for Malbec. The country grows 70% of the world’s Malbec. So the winemakers of Cahors responded to Argentina’s success by embracing “Malbec” as the name of their grape and displaying it prominently on the label. They also have increasingly bottled their wines as 100 percent Malbec, though the appellation laws allow some Merlot and Tannat in the blend. The same thing has happened with Chardonnay. As a result of this new marketing emphasis by Cahors, we have a wine throwdown of sorts.

On beach vacation with a friend (who certainly loves a good throwdown) we bought a couple of bottles. This is a tremendously fun way to explore wine. The french wine is a Kermit Lynch wine, a Cahors consisting of 80%Malbec and 20% Merlot. I was not sure about it the first time I had it and figured a second time would seal the deal, good or bad. The Argentinian wine from the well-known Catena family of wines. Both wines were the same price, $15.99. Argentina tends toward a polished New World style, with new oak prominent to varying degrees and what I call “disappearing tannins,” by which I mean you can sense them in the inherent structure of the wine but you don’t necessarily feel them on your tongue and teeth. My friend preffered the wine Argentina citing the cherry properties. The French expression, on the other hand, is more earthy. The nose had the barnyard thing going which I loved while my friend disdained. New oak is not as prominent (and I hope the vignerons of Cahors don’t change that). The flavors and textures are a bit more rustic and chewy, and they often get even better a day or two after the cork is pulled. Cahors somehow combines a hint of Bordeaux-like class (the Atlantic influence) with the ruggedness of warm-climate wines from the Mediterranean. So, basically if you like a “New World” feel to your wine, an Argentinian Malbec might be for you. The Cahors is for a French wine lover, someone who appreciates a more “Old World” style wine.

Malbec makes a very food-friendly pairing partner with its concentrated black cherry and blackberry fruit components, fig-like flavors mocha and mineral notes along with a unique gamey quality that often rolls out with smoke, pepper and tobacco spice. From roasted and stewed beef or game to braised lamb, sausage, mushrooms, and spice-laden sauces, Malbec has the versatility and spice-affinity to handle a stunning array of food combinations and ethnic cuisines.

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