26 May 2015

2012 Salton Intenso Cabernet Franc

My latest column for Snooth is up with a focus on Brazilian food:

Brazilian Cuisine is Begging for Wine

Oddly at the time of writing I did not have any Brazilian wines on hand, but a couple of weeks later one showed up for review. I did a lot of my article research at Brazil Flavor here in the suburbs of Memphis, and they were excited when I finally showed up with a bottle from the home country. It was much better than a lot of the wines that I had at a class in New York in 2013.

Vinícola Salton has been around since 1910 and is the first modern winery in Brazil. Best known for their sparkling wines, the winery produces around 20 million bottles a year including still wines under 50 different labels.

2012 Salton Intenso Cabernet Franc
Campanha Gaúcha, Brazil
100% Cabernet Franc
$15, 13% abv.

Excellent Bordelais characteristics with a focus on green pepper, leather, and touches of black cherry. Smoother and less tannic than you'd expect from the grape and age with a medium body that softens gracefully over the course of an hour. Quite delicious and one of those bottles that would be absolutely perfect for bringing to a blind tasting.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

18 May 2015

Twig Wine for Nomacorc

My latest piece for the Nomacorc Blog is up, a short piece on a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo often referred to as "twig wine". It's a fun bottle that I've enjoyed over the years and I was glad to share it for this assignment.

Twig Wine: Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

13 May 2015

Markus Wine Co.

Markus Wine co. is a side project of Borra Vineyards in Lodi, California, run by Borra winemaker Markus Niggli. Niggli is from Switzerland, and given the dizzying number of grapes that we tried over that week, I asked him over dinner if he was growing any Chasselas. The laughing answer was "no". Apparently it's not a good fit for the region, and demand is decidedly low here in the US. However, the winemaker is producing some milder, lighter, European-style whites that once again change everything that you think you know about Lodi wine.

The labels featured on this series are the result of a collaboration with Michael Leonard and the University of the Pacific in Stockton. I'm particularly fond of the pure text design of the Nativo, because that's how I'm wired. All three of these wines can be purchased from the Borra website.

2014 Markus Wine Co. Nuvola
Lodi, California
100% Gewürztraminer
$19, 13.2% abv.

Dry and herbal with touches of honey. I know that sounds odd but it is possible for a wine to have some of the aromas of honey without the sweetness. Outstanding with a tuna salad sandwich on a croissant during these mild spring days.

2014 Markus Wine Co. Nativo
Lodi, California
75% Kerner, 19% Riesling, 6% Bacchus
$19, 13.1% abv.

Hurrah! I get to try another new grape for the first time (or the first time I've logged it). Bacchus brings me to 195 on the life list, and this particular bottle was light and floral with a touch of lemony acidity. I enjoyed it with a simple appetizer of steamed shrimp, lightly seasoned.

2014 Markus Wine Co. Joey Insieme
Lodi, California
95% Torrontes, 5% Riesling
$19, 12.8% abv.

Light citrus aromas pop up with a mild body and a slightly mineral flavor. Much more depth as it warms up. My favorite out of the three, and a unique expression of the Torrontes grape. Highly recommended with a large platter of raw oysters.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

01 May 2015

Repost: The Mint Julep

A timely repost for Derby Day tomorrow...

On Cinco de Mayo this year, I went out and had margaritas and Mexican food with Julia and some friends, but that afternoon I had to make a certain cocktail. The event was the Kentucky Derby, and the cocktail was the classic Mint Julep.

I've written about this cocktail many times before, but I don't think I've ever shown one in my nickel-plated brass julep cups. I love these things, but so rarely get to use them. Click on the photo for the bigger version and you can see the thousands of tiny drops of condensation clinging to the metal. Enjoying it through a whole bouquet of fresh mint is also a really wonderful sensory experience.

I achieved a perfect Mint Julep thanks to one special ingredient: a cup of ice from a nearby Sonic Drive-In For those not familiar, it's a fast food chain where you drive up to a parking space, order through a speaker, and if you wish, eat your meal there after it's delivered by a young woman who may or may not be on rollerskates. Sonic is decent enough when I'm in the mood for it, but they have this rough little pelletized ice that is just amazing for the Mint Julep, which is really sort of an adult snow cone.

As much as I enjoyed my classic cocktail, I looked around at my ingredients and thought I could try something fun yet profane. I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon for the former, and have found it to be a reliable performer in one of my other favorite classic cocktails, the Manhattan. Could I have a peanut butter and chocolate moment here?

Benito's Manhattan Derby
2 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Sweet Red Vermouth
Fresh Mint
Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Old Fashioned Bitters
Bourbon-soaked Cherry

Muddle the Bourbon and Vermouth with fresh mint and small pieces of ice. Add more ice and shake thoroughly. Fill a tumbler with ice and add a few drops of a good quality dark bitters. Pour the cocktail over the ice and bitters and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a cherry. (I like to get a jar of maraschinos, drain out the red corn syrup, and replace it with Bourbon. Leave it in the fridge for months.) While I don't think this cocktail will ever catch on, it was a lot of fun and tasted great. It's less sweet and somewhat smoother than a Mint Julep, and I'm now wondering which of my 20 different bitters would best improve that cocktail...