Advicesisters’ Wine & Spirits Summer Roundup
By Alison Blackman and John Dunham
One of the great things that we get to do as reviewers is sample a wide range of different products. Sometimes we test and sample products that don’t quite fit into a feature we’re doing at the moment, but we really like them and want to suggest them to you.
So, for your browsing pleasure, we’re presenting a review of some of the beverage alcohol products and events we liked in the last couple of months….choose to peruse…our wine and booze roundup!
World Malbec Day:
We can think of no other wine varietal that is more closely identified with a country. Sure Shiraz is Australian, but that is really just a different spelling of Syrah, which is a Rhone grape.
Malbec simply means Argentina to us. This is true even though the grape itself is a Bordeaux grape and one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. But Argentina is where Malbec has blossomed into a varietal unto itself. The grape was first brought to Argentina in 1853 but really took off in the latter part of the 2oth century, and is now the predominant grape of Argentina (20 percent of the harvest), where it grows particularly well in the Mendoza region.
Argentinian Malbec produces a fruit forward wine, similar in character to West Coast Merlot and Cabernet. Malbec tends to be purple in color with a nose featuring red and black fruits. The dominant notes are cherry, plum, and raspberry, but it can contain stronger tobacco, leather and coffee notes depending on how it has been vinified.
Malbec also has a solid structure making it good for both aging and pairing. It is good with turkey, duck, and darker meat poultry as well as with leaner red meats like pork or sirloin. Think about Argentinian grass feed beef with its low-fat content and you have come up with the perfect Malbec pairing.
World Malbec Day was sponsored by the government of the Argentine Republic and Wines of Argentina, and while it featured about two dozen wines, we were not able to stay for the entire event. We were; however, impressed by the wines we were able to taste Of particular interest were:
Jelu Estate, Malbec Rose (2016: $12): When we think Malbec, Rose isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but this is an excellent wine and worth having in your cellar.
Candy-red in color (like a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy), the wine had a nose dominant in strawberry with some coffee notes. On the palate, the wine was quite mineral, with nice notes of cherry and blueberry as well as some rose on the finish. It paired beautifully with a light scallop appetizer that was prepared by Balanera Restaurant, and Argentinian kitchen in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
We sampled Fin Del Mundo Malbec Reserva (2015: $17), a dark purple wine with a laundry room nose. The wine had a lot of structure and will age well. On the palate, we found cherry, plum, and blueberry with a little coco.
Colome Estate Malbec (2014: $25) was also purple, with a traditional nose of plum. cherry, and raspberry. On the palate, t, the wine also featured some star anise notes along with blueberry and a little strawberry. This was a lighter wine than the Fin Del Mundo and would drink well now.
For more information on Malbec visit MalbecWorldDay.com or WinesofArgentina.com
As we continue this international roundup, we come to the islands of Japan. Known for a range of unique beverage alcohol products that you just don’t find anywhere else, from Sake, a beverage made from fermented rice, to shochu, a spirit distilled from a range of interesting bases including rice, sweet potatoes and soba (buckwheat), to Umeshu, or plum wine, which is made by soaking unripe plums in a base distilled spirit, there is always something different coming out of Japan.
We sampled the first new product to come from the Sapporo brewery to the US market since 2004, Sapporo Premium Black ($4 for a 22-ounce can).
This dark lager beer was actually lighter than we expected (it is not a stout or porter), with a dark brown color, and a malty nose with some cocoa and coffee notes. The beer was light and smooth across the palate with a clean finish and not a lot of hoppy bitterness. We would pair with beer with anything from spicy dishes like Chinese food to more traditional beer pairing favorites like hot dogs and hamburgers.
For more on Sapporo Premium Black visit www.sapporobeer.com
We also sampled an old favorite from Japan, Ty Ku Sake. The Ty Ku Black Super Premium Junmai Ginjo ($20) is imported from Nara, Japan, and as a Junmai Gingo, is one of the top 6 percent of all Sake in the world.
The key to making a quality sake is to ensure that only the core of the rice granule is used. This is done by polishing the grains to remove the husk and outer portion of the kernel, which contains more protein and fats than the inner portion. These cause impurities and off-tastes and aromas. In Ty Ku Sake Black only 55 percent of the grain remains.
We are more partial to sake with a stronger taste profile like Nigori (or unfiltered sake); however, one never passes up a Junmai Ginjo.
The Ty Ku Black was clear in color with a sweet nose. On the palate, the sake was extremely smooth, and light with a subtle sweetness and a bit of a marzipan or almond flavor. It is a nice clean sake but more like a vodka than what we generally find in a sake. It would make a good accompaniment to lighter food like sushi, fish, and lighter noodle dishes.
For more information visit www.tykusake.com
Here’s My Girl!
There are literally thousands of wines on the market today, with something for every occasion, pairing or palate. We sampled Noble Vines 515 Vine Select Rose (2016: $15).
This Central Coast rose from Delicato Family Vineyards is made from Grenache layered with Syrah and other aromatic varietals all from the Central Coast of California.
It is a medium pink color with a nose redolent in strawberry and tropical notes. On the palate, the wine was drier than I expected, a bit rough up front, the wine flowered to strawberry and cherry notes mid palate with a light finish. It can work well with chicken, pasta dishes, or just on its own.
For more on the 515 family of wines visit: http://www.noblevines.com/
Location, Location, Location
Wine can be difficult to comprehend sometimes. With all of the varietals (many of which are simply different names for the same grape), vinification techniques, barrel types and toastings, it is sometimes easy just to throw one’s hands in the air and say “I’ll have the red.”
But wine does not have to be hard. Winemaker Dave Phinney, introduced Location Wines as a way to take much of the guesswork out of wine selection and pairing. Mr. Philly relates Location Wines production to the way wine is made in Champagne. Each year, the best grapes from the area are used to produce a consistent, premium product that reflects the best of the region. He is simply taking this concept out of the region, and to the country as a whole.
Rather than following strange and complex rules, many of which were created in the 1800s, Mr. Phinney is trying to make the best possible wine from grapes from a given country. He takes grapes from great vineyards and vines and breaks with tradition to blend them into easy to understand wines.
For the tasting, we sampled three bottles, E4, a Spanish red wine, F4, a French red wine, and I4 an Italian Red, each priced at $19.
E4 is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Carignan. It is a dark red to purple color, with a peppery nose with some tobacco and currant notes. On the palate, the wine featured dark fruits, plum, blackberry and cherry with some tobacco flavors.
F4 is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varietals. It is medium red with notes featuring strawberry, florals and some clean laundry room. The wine was very fruit forward with a lot of red fruit and some tartness (say red currant). The structure was light and not what one would expect from a Rhone dominated blend.
I4 was, we thought, the best blend. Featuring Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola and Barbera, the wine was complex. Deep red in color, the nose featured cherry and salted meats, with some forest notes. On the palate, the wine was very fruity with figs, blueberries, and cherry with some mineral notes on the finish.
These are fun wines and will illicit some interesting discussions around the table. For more information, visit: http://www.locationswine.com/
Rock & Roll Fantasy
Justin Timberlake, Sammy Hagar, Carlos Santana, and Diddy are just a few of the many musicians who love their tequila so much they purchased their own brands. While not all of us can be rock stars, anyone can rock tequila with the most uniquely packaged tequila brand on the market.
Rock N Roll Tequila features three triple distilled platinum tequilas ($49.95 each) housed in unique glass guitar bottles with a patented, 50 ML bottle top known as a “roadie” that provides an extra two shots of platinum tequila.
Rock N Roll Tequilas are all hand-crafted with 100% pure blue agave grown in Highlands (Los Altos) of Jalisco, Mexico. The three styles are:
Platinum: Hand-crafted, triple distilled, making it one of the smoothest-tasting tequilas on the planet.
Mango: Double distilled with natural mango flavor and no added sugar. This mango tequila is sweet on its own and lots of fun to serve right out of the bottle.
Cristalino: An Añejo Tequila that is uniquely distilled, aged and filtered crystal clear then barrel-aged for 2 to 3 years in French oak.
We tasted all three and found them astonishingly smooth. There is no real need for the lime and salt to cut the harshness because there simply is none. The next time you’re in your favorite bar, ask a “Rock N Roll Margarita.” And show your cool factor.
For tasting events information visit www.facebook.com/ROCKNROLLTEQUILA and visit http://rocknrolltequila.com/
There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem
One of our favorite drinks during the summer is a big pitcher of Sangria which is a blend of wine and fruit juices, likely developed in the Caribbean, from which it reached both Spain and America during the colonial period. It became popular again in the United States in the later 1960s and can be found both bottled and “homemade” throughout the country.
A pair of premium bottled Sangria’s from Spain made their way to us a few weeks ago. Bottled under the Slices label, these wines come in a red, a white and a rose version. We were able to sample the red (in a local BYO Mexican restaurant) and the white.
Slices Red begins as a Tempranillo, but it is blended with natural fruit juices from oranges, limes, and blackberries.
Right out of the bottle, the wine is distinctive, with a great purple color and a refreshing spiciness combining the fruit flavors with nutmeg and cinnamon. This is a great wine to drink on a lazy afternoon, or better yet, to be paired with spicy foods like Mexican, or Latin dishes.
Slices White begins its life as a blend of white Spanish wine and is then enhanced using natural fruit juices from lemons, limes, and pineapples. This gives it a citrusy fresh flavor that is a perfect picnic wine.
Both are available for about $8.00 a bottle and make wonderful accompaniments to any summer party.
For more about Slices Sangrias visit: http://www.slicessangria.com/
We recently had the opportunity to visit one of the oldest and most beautiful Champagne houses in Reimes, Chateau Pommery. Pommery is one of the grand names of the Champagne region and is known as the house where the distinctive Brut style was invented.
Now Pommery comes to America with its new Louis Pommery sparkling wine. Louis Pommery is made using the Champenoise method. It is produced from 96 percent Chardonnay and 4 percent Pinot Noir, carefully selected from the finest vineyards in California by cellar master Thierry Gasco. The result is a light, straw-yellow colored wine with a nose featuring citrus and pear.
There is a nice mousse to the wine which is characterized by strong minerality and bright acid notes. This is a dry wine without much fruit, but with a creamy mouth feel and nice citrus notes on the finish.
Louis Pommery is a nice addition to the Pommery family of fine sparkling wines, and makes an excellent gift for summer celebrations. This wine is just entering the market now, so pricing is not yet available.
For more on Pommery visit http://www.champagnepommery.com/en/marque/champagne-pommery