Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Best Wine Preservation System

If you are like us then you hate opening a bottle of wine to enjoy a glass with dinner only to find that the next day it is not as good or worse that it is vinegar within two days. Now we believe most bottles are single serve but there are many times when you want to open a second bottle for one more glass or you want to open a really nice bottle on Friday and enjoy it next week as well.

We have been searching for years to find a cheap and effective solution to this problem. We liked the wine bottle pump systems but they don't last long. The argon gas preservers are the best but they are very expensive. During our search we came across this fairly new company called Vin Edge. Their inexpensive and easy to use system impressed us so much that we now use it to preserve our wine tasting bottles so they stay good for up to 2 weeks. Here's the details:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Screw It (Why Screw Closures are Better Than Corks for Wine)

If you have been following our blog as of late, then you read last week about how the beer industry is changing its views of cans vs bottles. We have now seen many more consumers change their view in favor of craft beer in cans as opposed to the long held belief that bottles are better. If you missed it, then check it out here.
The wine industy has been going through the same arguments for years over the use of cork vs stelvin closure (screw caps) to close a bottle of wine. Below is a very cogent argument for all of our wine geeks from one of our favorite sources of information, Wine Folly. Check out all their great content here.
Which is better: corks or screw caps? If you say corks are better, you’re both right and wrong. The truth is, the worldwide demand for wine (and corks) is growing, so we should get familiar with the future of wine preservation. Take a closer look at why corks and cork alternatives are nearly identical in terms of their ability to store and age wine. Then preview some alternatives to wine storage to get you thinking about where the wine world is going.

Corks vs. Screw Caps

corks vs screw caps pros and cons


Corks have been the preferred choice for closing wine since the beginning of modern Europe in the 1400’s. Why? Well, cork bark is one of the few natural products that is malleable enough to hold the contents inside a glass bottle. Glass bottles became more popular to store wine during this very same era.
Fast forward to today and there are a unique set of pros and cons to natural cork:
The Pros of Corks:
1. A Natural Renewable Resource
2. Historically Preferred 
3. Longterm Aging Proven
The Cons of Corks:
1. Expensive (2-3x)
2. Limited Natural Resource (Running Out)
3. 1-3% Affected by TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
4. Variable Quality
5. Natural Corks Breathe at Variable Rates

Screw Caps and Cork Alternatives

Screw caps have only been used in wine since 1964, but they’ve rapidly become a large share of the market. If you ever travel to Australia, you’ll notice that screw caps are on nearly every single bottle in the country. The reason cork alternatives have became so popular is because of a period of decreased quality cork manufacturing during the 1980’s. Basically, winemakers were tired of getting low quality corks that would cause TCA ‘cork’ taint, so they switched.
Besides screw caps (made of metal and plastic), there are several ‘fake’ corks made from plastics to plant-based polymers.
Today, the pros and cons of several cork alternatives look like this:

Cork Alternatives: Pros

  • More Affordable Option
  • No TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
  • Longterm aging studies have shown positive results
  • Screwcaps are easy to open

Cork Alternatives: Cons

  • Some cork alternatives don’t breathe
  • Mostly Made From Non-Renewable Resources
  • Recyclable but Not Biodegradable
  • Variable Manufacturing Quality
  • Associated with ‘Cheap’ Wine

But aren’t corks better because they ‘breath’?

The longtime argument that corks are better because they breathe has been dispelled as ‘breath’ is now emulated in both screw caps and cork alternatives. Today you can buy screw caps with calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’ overtime. Ironically, real corks are actually quite variable with their oxygen ingress rates.

Are you saying that screwcaps are better than corks?


Not at all, although for most applications cork alternatives are better simply because of the quality for the price. I challenge you the next time you buy an affordable wine at the grocery; more often than not it won’t be a 100% natural cork. Instead the bottle will be closed with a technical, agglomerated and colmated cork, which are low quality alternatives to natural cork. These sub-par products are also just as unreliable with their likeliness to cause cork taint.
100% natural corks are one of the only options that are a true renewable resource but because of their high price tag, most are reserved for wines in the $30+ bottle range.

The bigger picture problem: glass is heavy

As wine becomes consumed on a more day-to-day basis, looking for alternatives to glass will become more important. There are so many wines on the market today that really aren’t meant to age for more than a year. These wines could easily be offered in polyethylene, cans or even cartons. Alternatives like these won’t affect the flavor and are often much lighter weight, a reduction in carbon emissions for shipping.
Of course glass will always have a place with wine enjoyment, but it’s okay to have a daily drinker out of a box or a can. As more great value wine producers look for alternatives, perhaps we can all support them in their efforts to clean up the waste in the wine world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best for Beer: Bottles or Cans?


     The old cans vs. bottles debate.  It has raged on for years.  It's almost as passionately argued as the wine bottle cork vs. screw cap.  In the craft beer community, for quite a while, it had seemed as if the bottle had won out. Well all that is certainly beginning to change as more and more craft breweries are either choosing to offer many of their beers in cans or are exclusively canning all together. The best example of canning exclusively would be Oskar Blues of Colorado, who began canning their beers back in 2002 and subsequently became the first craft brewery to do this.  Many of the most respected and sought after beers, especially IPAs, are found in can only format.  These beers are considered some of the best examples in the world of that style and are only available in cans.  So that says quite a bit about cans right there.
     Several side by side blind comparisons of the same beer in both formats have been done.  It's very hard to tell which vessel the beer came from and it almost seems as if the can does a better job of retaining freshness and carbonation.  With that being said, the biggest argument against cans has always been that they seem to leave a metallic taste behind, thereby tainting the flavor.  Today, this argument is not valid as all cans these days are lined with a water-based polymer that prevents the contents from actually coming in contact with the actual can.  In fact this is a must, as the aluminum cans we use today are so thin that the beer would quickly eat right through them. As for the contact with the top of the can when being consumed, if this really bothers you that much simply pour the beer out into a glass. We also shouldn't forget that draft beer usually comes from an aluminum keg, right?
     Two other huge benefits that cans provide are that they pretty much completely block out UV light and allow almost no oxygen in after being sealed.  The same can not be said about bottles.  Light and oxygen are two of beer's biggest enemies as they quickly cause the beer to lose it's flavor and freshness. So cans actually preserve their contents and protect them better than bottles.
     Other pros for cans: they fit in a cooler better, they are stackable,  they won't shatter when dropped, they are more conducive to outdoor activities,  and they don't take up as much room in the recycle bucket.  It almost seems as if cans were made for the warm weather.  They are perfect for the beach, the pool, or for hiking.  Tailgating with cans is safer as you don't have to worry about stepping on broken glass.
     So the evidence is quite clear: cans don't deserve the stigma that still seems to follow them around.  They are just more practical.  Even though you most likely won't see your favorite bottle conditioned cellar worthy Belgian ale or barrel aged stout in a can, it is pretty safe to say that cans just make more sense for most companies and consumers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Bourbon Cocktails

Looking for something new and exciting to mix up for your next party (or just after a long day at work)? Here are some really cool drinks you can make with all those delicious Bourbons that keep popping up on our shelves each week. Cheers!

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for our Bourbon Cocktail Class next Thursday (5/21/15) at 6pm to learn how to make these from our local Bourbon expert Shea Heffernan

(Summer in) Manhattan
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Meletti Amaro
¼ part St. Germaine
Bittermens Hopped-Grapefruit Bitters

Bourbon Black Tea Mint Julep
2 parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
¾ part Black Tea
¾ part Simple Syrup
Muddled Mint

Bardstown Sour
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Lemon Juice
1 part Simple Syrup
*Optional- Float Fruit-Forward Red Wine

TIKI Bar Old Fashioned
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
 ½ part Blackwells Dark Rum
½ part Simple Syrup
Bittermens TIKI Bitters

Atlantic City Sunrise
1 ½ parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
2 ½ parts Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
3 dashes Regans Orange Bitters
Muddled Fresh Basil

Friday, May 15, 2015

Think Pink: Why Dry Rose Wines are the Perfect Summer Drink!

"Pink Wines?!? Not for me, they're all sweet like White Zinfandel, right?" Whoa, stop the train and back it up a bit. Here's the real story.

Pink wines or Roses as they are usually referred to, are not all sweet and syrupy. In fact most rose wines are bone dry and loved by red wine enthusiasts. Think of them like the light refreshing version of your favorite red wines. They are the perfect Spring time sipping wines because they have the flavors and complexity of a red wine with the light easy drinking body of a white wine. The best of both worlds!

Rose wines are really interesting wines. First off, they are made the same way that red wines are. The only difference is that the skins of the grapes are pulled off early. This is usually after a few days (the longer they are left on the darker the color of the wine) . This results in a lighter color (pink instead of red) and less drying, bitter tannins. In Europe, people drink dry rose wines all year long, but here in the US we tend to only drink them in Spring and Summer if at all.

Tip: Drink your roses fresh, meaning current vintage, and the current vintage is 2014. Most roses start arriving beginning of March thru April.

Here is our Top Ten favorite dry rose wines that we are drinking this season:
1. Godelia, Mencia Rose (Spain) $13.99
2. Honoro Vera, Garnacha Rose (Spain) $7.99
3. Parusso, Nebbiolo Rose (Italy) $14.99
4. Chateau Montaud, Grenache Rose (France) $10.99
5. Bieler, Rose (France) $9.99
6. Charles and Charles, Rose (California) $11.99
7. Mas de Gourgonnier, Rose (France) $14.99
9. Olivares, Monastrell Rose (Spain) $9.99
10. Crios, Malbec Rose (Argentina) $12.99

A snapshot of Great Rose Wine Regions:
French- These tend to be light, strawberry inflected easy drinking wines made for warm weather and light foods.

Spanish- These tend to be darker, dryer rose wines that can stand up to nice summer BBQ fare without losing a beat.

Italian- Mostly made from heavier grapes like Nebbiolo, these wines like their Spanish neighbors are richer and hold up to heavier, meatier foods.

Portuguese- These tend to be light wines that are refreshing.

American- These tend to be medium weight wines that go great by themselves, but have enough weight to stand up to lighter summer meals.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cameron Hughes Wines

California's Wine Negociant
(& Our Latest Tasting Table)

Our Tasting Table is open for sampling everyday now (not just on the weekends). We run a set of wines for two weeks and then switch them up. To "kick it up a notch" we offer 20% off these wines if you buy any three bottles (you can also purchase them here). For the next two weeks we will be looking at one of California's premier wine negociants. A negociant purchases grapes and makes wine but does not own any of the grapes or vines. Cameron Hughes travels all over the world looking for delicious juice that he can blend and sell under his own wine label. In rare cases he is also able to buy already made wines from other wineries (such as high end wineries) that need fast cash. The deal is that he does not disclose where he got the wine from (Opus One does not want it known that they are selling their $200 a bottle juice for $50 a bottle to Cameron Hughes).

Overall, Cameron Hughes is able to secure good wines at a good price. This allows everybody to enjoy wine that is not ridiculously inflated in price due to wineries trying to create luxury brands.

Here are the wines we are featuring for this set (05/07/15 to 05/21/15):

Cameron Hughes, Lot 465 Chardonnay  ($10.99)
Monterey County, California 
This is our best-selling white wine every year. Barrel fermented in new American oak with full malolactic fermentation, this style of Chardonnay suits the Arroyo Seco sub-appellation of Monterey County to a T. While 2012 was a fantastic comeback for this wine (since frost decimated our chances in 2011), 2013 is even better than 2012, and as good as the vintage that put us on the map with Arroyo Seco: 2009. -CH

Cameron Hughes, Lot 384 Meritage  ($18.99)
Dry Creek Valley, California 
Lot 384 is composed primarily of Dry Creek Merlot, with a bit of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa to finish the blend. The wine, purchased from a high-end Sonoma producer, was barreled down for 14 months. In a tough vintage, this wine passed with flying colors. -CH

Cameron Hughes, Lot 436 Cabernet Sauvignon  ($16.99)
North Coast, California 
Lot 436 is a delicious Cab sourced from high-end producers in Dry Creek, Napa Valley, and Lake County. This exact same wine originally retailed for $32, and represents an exceptional value here. Same wine, same bottle, new label. If you’re looking for a Cabernet that offers tremendous bang for your buck and is already showing well, this is your winner. -CH

Friday, May 8, 2015

Craft Beer Happenings

     With a new brewmaster, a new line up of brews, and a new look, Otter Creek has truly reinvented itself and is quickly becoming a well respected brewery in the Vermont craft beer scene.  Mike Gerhart became the brewmaster in 2009 and his since given the brewery a completely new vibe.  With big names like Dogfish Head and Magic Hat on his resume, he clearly knows what he is doing. This knowledge is reflected in the almost completely new line up of brews offered by Otter Creek.  The packaging features cartoon drawings of either Mike, his dog, and or his VW bus; and are very eye-catching and inviting.  As we know, packaging is certainly not everything and the real question is do the beers measure up?
     The answer is most definitely yes.  Mike knows what he is doing and this shows in his final products.  He has a small line up compared to many other craft brewers but he uses it well.  His flagship beer, Backseat Burner, is of course an IPA.  With vibrant grapefruit flavors and a pleasant, hoppy bitterness that doesn't overwhelm, this has quickly become one of my go-to IPA's.  Over Easy, which is his take on a session ale, is flavorful and easy to drink.  It's for the most part a toned down version of Backseat Burner yet retains the qualities that many session ales tend to lose.  The current seasonal is Fresh Slice, which is a White IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, clementine, and coriander.  With tons of funky fruit flavor and a refreshing finish, it's a great summer beer and a great alternative to those lemon flavored beers that dominate the market.

     The other Otter Creek seasonals worth checking out include Kind Ryed, a Rye IPA; Citra Mantra, an India Pale Lager; and Over Grown, a Pale Ale.  All are generously hopped and have tons of flavor. Also, keep an eye out for collaborations with other highly notable brewers which appear from time to time.  Mike has pretty much resurrected a dead brand and made Otter Creek new and exciting again as it was when the brewery first hit the growing craft scene back in the 80's.  All of these beers are definitely worth a try!