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! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wine & Cheese Pairings

Here are some great pairings for wine and cheese from the Cheese Course that make it much easier to understand.  Stop on in for a sample of some of our great artisanal cheeses and don't forget about the cheese happy hour from 4-7pm every Wednesday (25% off the three tasted cheeses) and our Wine & Cheese Pairing Class on Thursday, June 4th at 6pm. Enjoy!

We like to pair our tangy fresh cheeses such as Chevre, Burrata, Feta, Coupole, and Humboldt Fog with wines that are crisp, fruity, grassy and light in color. In some instances, you can even taste the fresh herbs. They go great with wines such as Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc and White Bordeaux.

We find that our Delice de Bourgogne and Brie de Nangis from France both pair nicely with rich white wines or fruity red wines. Specifically we like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.

Fruity red wines typically have lower levels of tannin, making them a good pairing with bloomy rind cheeses.  Rich white wines are also nice companions to these cheeses because they are full bodied and rich.

We suggest pairing washed rind cheeses like Taleggio from Italy and Morbier from France with rich aromatic whites, dark beers and extremely robust reds.  We make this suggestion because many of these cheeses are washed in wine that comes from regions that produce Gew├╝rztraminer, Rieslings, and Champagne. These cheeses can also be washed in brine causing them to be salty and therefore pair well with sweet dessert wines.

Recommended Wines: Gewurztraminer, Riesling or Champagne

Blue cheeses such as Roquefort from France and Valdeon from Spain, can have a pungent taste that pairs well with dessert wines and robust red wines.  Try pairing a Sauternes, late harvest Riesling, port or Vin Santo.  Their inherent sweetness balances the “saltiness” that is present in blue cheeses.

Recommended Wines: Dessert Rieslings, Sauternes, Port or Vin Santo

When we think of Cheddars and Asiago Cheeses that dominate this category, we recommend that you pair them with full bodied and aromatic whites or medium bodied reds. Try Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, or Syrah.  These heavier whites and medium reds have more tannin than the lighter reds, which allow them to stand up to the more mature cheeses in this category.

Recommended Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese or Syrah

If you like hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy and Aged Gouda from Holland, try them with medium to full bodied reds.  We like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  These wines match the intensity of cheeses that have been allowed to mature and develop in flavor.

Recommended Wines: Zinfandel. Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Kick Butt Wines of Charles Smith

Charles Smith is a legend in the wine industry, but not in the same way as Robert Mondavi (Mondavi Winery) or Warren Winiarski (Stags Leap). Those gentlemen are much older and have been established for over 40 years. The ever impressive Charles Smith is much younger and has been established for about half that time, but has none the less created a reputation of amazing talent and wine making skill. His simple straight forward wine labels and delicious juice have amazed many a drinker over his career. 

We are lucky enough to have one of his disciples visit us in the next few weeks to spread the good word. She will walk us through his history and wine making philosophy as well as his off shoot projects that everyone is raving about. This is sure to be a very cool class. (and yes he definitely looks like Sammy Hagar)

Come Join Us For Our: KICK BUTT CHARLES SMITH WINE CLASS on May, 7th @ 6pm

A Short History of Charles Smith
Growing up just outside of Sacramento, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Charles Smith began craving worldly travel at a young age due to his Welsh mother and French father. As soon as he had the chance, Charles decided to move to Denmark (for a “hot piece of a**” i.e. a lady friend he met in the states). While in Scandinavia, Charles spent the next nine years managing rock bands and concert tours throughout Europe, including the famed Danish duo, The Ravonettes. Wining and dining while on the road became a catalyst for his passion of wine, which ultimately triggered the career he has today.

In 1999, he moved back to the United States, specifically to the Pacific Northwest, opening a wine shop on Bainbridge Island, just across the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. On a road trip in late 1999, he passed through the small town of Walla Walla and met a young Frenchman and winemaker. The two men discovered their common passion for great Syrah and Charles was eventually convinced to move to Walla Walla and make his own juice. In 2001, Charles released 330 cases of his first wine, the 1999 K Syrah. The Walla Walla Valley was now his home.

After a devastating freeze in 2004, Charles brought to life, a label he had once in a dream: House Wine. Low and behold, the label concept had never been created or trademarked, so Charles launched the legendary brand before selling it to Precept Brands in 2006. That same year, Charles started a second brand, Charles Smith Wines. The brand was themed as “The Modernist Project,” which focuses on the way people generally consume wine today: immediately. The intent was (and still is) to create wines to be enjoyed now, but with true typicality of both the varietal and the vineyard.

A self-taught winemaker, Charles is a true artisan and a pioneer in the wine world. In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. In 2009 Food & Wine magazine awarded Charles “Winemaker of the Year” and in 2010 Seattle Magazine recognized Charles as their “Winemaker of the Year.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top 10 Drinks for Summer

The warm weather has finally arrived and with it comes thoughts of the delicious beverages we will be sipping on while soaking up the sun. With all the plethora of choices out there we have narrowed it down to our Top 10 Summer Drinks. These are the most flavorful, easy drinking and perfect cooler stuffers around!


1. Greylock Gin & Tonic
This premade Gin & Tonic is packed in 200ml bottles for a perfect serving every time. Made with super premium Berkshire Gin and mixed with small batch craft Tonic water, this is one of the most delicious G&T's you will ever taste. The only thing you need is fresh lime slice and sunshine!

2. Spiked Seltzer (West Indies Lime, Indian River Grapefruit, Valencia Orange)
One of the coolest new creations that screams Summer. This is a artisanal sparkling seltzer water that is actually brewed to create a nice 6% alcohol level. These aren't your overly sweet Mike's Hard Lemonade, just fresh ingredient that are crisp, dry and very refreshing!

3. Honoro Vera, Dry Rose
Most wine drinkers see a pink wine and think white zinfandel sweet. This is definitely not the case with most rose wines from other countries. This dry rose from Spain has a white wine crisp, light body with the flavors of a red wine (think strawberries, raspberries and light spice). If you haven't tried a dry rose yet, then jump on the band wagon and pick this one up today.

4. Harpoon, Big Squeeze Grapefruit Shandy
A seasonal favorite around here that is now in cans! This is a combination beer and grapefruit juice that hits the spot on a warm day. Nice and light with a flavor similar to a wheat beer accented by a nice tart grapefruit flavor. Better snatch this one up soon before we drink it all ourselves!

5. Crabbies, Cloudy Lemonade
A new offering from Crabbies who specialize in making alcoholic ginger beer. This lemonade has a sweet and tart flavor with a nice kick on the finish from the 4.8% abv that this drink packs. Something a little different that would make a great Arnold Palmer when mixed with some iced tea!

6. Abita, Strawberry Lager
A Summer seasonal that comes straight from New Orleans (and we know they know how to drink!) and is brewed with fresh strawberries to make this lager really come alive. This very easy drinking beer has light flavors of caramel, spice and of course strawberry with a silky soft finish. This beer is great for everybody because it's not sweet but it's not bitter and dry either. 

7. Aveleda, Vinho Verde
An amazing wine for both the price and quality. Think of Vinho Verde as Portugals version of Pinot Grigio but lighter and more refreshing. It also has a slightly lower alcohol level (10%) which makes it a great choice for those afternoon parties that you don't want to pass out before your guests leave.

8. Owl Brew, Coco-lada (Tea Crafted for Cocktails)
This is the only drink that made the list that requires a little prep work. A really unique company out of Brooklyn, NY that makes this Coco-lada drink mix that is a blend of black tea, coconut, chai spices & pineapple that is amazing when mixed with a little (or a lot of) rum or prosecco.

9. Ca Furlan, Prosecco
Prosecco is the undesputed champion of versatile drinks! It is perfect served chilled all by itself but it also plays well with others such as peach nectar (bellini), orange juice (mimosa) or for a real treat on a hot day, pop a few pieces of frozen fruit in to flavor it and keep it cool at the same time. Cheers!

10. Jack's Hard Cider
This is made at a local winery in Pennsylvania using only the freshest apples that are grown on the estate. These ciders are slow fermented to create a richly flavored cider that has a smooth finish with out the typical lingering syrupy flavor that other big cider producers have. Plus the cans make it a very easy to transport Summer treat.