Monday, September 29, 2014

Vina Alicia San Alberto Syrah

San Alberto Vineyard
Tucked away in the Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza, Argentina sits Vina Alicia that began in 1998 by Alicia Mateu Arizu, wife of the well known winemaker Alberto Arizu (owner of the Luigi Bosca Winery).  Alicia began the commercialization of hte wines that bear her name with the youngest of her three sons, Rodrigo Arizu.

The winery is surrounded by a 10 hectare vineyard, the winery has a production capacity of 50,000 liters, but only commercializes 25,000 bottles per year of Vina Alicia's wine and 80,000 bottles of Paso Paso de Piedra's wines.

The wines come from two vineyards, Vina Alicia which is 15 hectares and produces mainly Malbec and San Alberto which is 10 hectacres and produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo, Grenache Noir, Carignan, and Syrah.

Now that we know what vineyard the Syrah I tasted came from, let go right on over to the tasting notes.

The 2007 Vina Alicia San Alberto Syrah is 100% Syrah from the San Alberto vineyard.  The Syrah had long skin contact, aged in oak for 12 months and bottled without filtration.

A complex bouquet that was woody, a bit of a cigar box with black fruit notes of plums and blackberries.

Once in your mouth, flavors of ripe, juicy blackberry and plum.  There was a little bit of menthol towards the finish.

We did have a slight issue with the cork as it broke off and we had to push the other half into the bottle. But not to worry, a strainer right into the decanter was a great fix.

If you can find this wine, it will be a nice wine for fall.  Cheers!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

From Field to Glass - Hillrock Estate Distillery

Tucked away on a beautiful country road in Ancram, New York you'll find Hillrock Farm, home to Hillrock Estate Distillery and Jeffrey Baker producing whiskey under the direction of Master Distiller, Dave Pickerall.  I recently toured the distillery with Tim Welly, who I knew from his days at Millbrook Winery.  I am not a bourbon or whiskey drinker (bad experience at 18) but I received a huge education about the distilling process with Tim.  I did taste at the end and was pleasantly surprised how my palate reacted.

Read through the brief show notes, listen to the podcast then view the video and you will have visited and experienced Hillrock Estate Distillery.

At Hillrock they have 36 acres planted that they do rotational planting between barley and rye. They lease and farm an additional 225 acres.  Plant with winter varietals of rye and barley which adds a spicy character to the whiskey and really brings the terrior to the whiskey.

Their malt house is the first purpose built malt house at a distillery in the US since before prohibition. Malt is a controlled germinated seed (Rye and Barley)  that is planted in the fall and harvested late July.

They malt or mill to create a flour like grist. When grist is added to water it’s called mash (wart when making beer.)

The picture above shows them floor malting.  They sprout the grain.  The grain sprouts inside and above the seed, grows a new piece of grass.  The new piece of grass will signify they are producing amylase, which is an enzyme that concerts starch into maltose in the mash.

Then they steep grain for three days with water for 12 hours at a time and  draining allowing it dry for 12 hrs at a time in a controlled environment as they wake the seed up and make it sprout. They can ferment naturally without the use of enzymes

The grain is aerated with a malt rake. Once dry they will burn Peet brought over from Scotland to flavor their grain to make it taste like scotch styled whiskey.


Water is then added to the malt and is then pumped over to their fermentation vessels, inoculated with yeast and fermentation begins.  Fermentation only lasts 4 to 5 days and the mash looks like oatmeal.

Once fermentation is done it heads to the still. Then it is aged in 8 different sizes of  new oak barrels

At this time they produce  4 products.

Double Cask Rye Whiskey – 100% rye grain, aromas of cinnamon and clove, caramel and butterscotch.

Single Malt Whiskey -  Single malted grain.100% malt barley. Aged in new American white oak cask and finished in sherry oak casks from Spain. Highest end whiskey.  Aromas of  sweet, honey, caramel and brown sugar. 86 proof.

Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey – Aged in Sherry Oloroso Casks this whiskey had sweeter notes. Has much more oak character.  A little creamer and sweeter on the palate than the rye and a little nutty.

George Washington Original Recipe White Whiskey –Dave Pickerall, Master Distiller (who came from Makers Mark) worked with historic Mt Vernon to create this white whiskey. It is 60%  Rye, 30% Corn 10% Malted Barley, fermented and distilled, aged in a barrel for 1 day.  Estate Edition. Each year the Limited Edition is released at Mt. Vernon. The Regents allow them to produce some of the spirits each year to increase donations to their educational foundation.  Has nice tropical aromas. The recipe was taken from George Washington's original notes and created to simulate the type of whiskey they were making at the time.  86 proof.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wine & Dine on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry

Saturday evening I went on my first ferry ride out of Cape May.  I listen to the horns blow every day and watch the 7am ferry leave while on my walk, but have never been a passenger until Saturday. Yes of course it wasn't a trip to Lewes for outlet shopping, but a Sunset Wine-Lovers Cruise.

We had three courses over and the dessert course back, while the ferry transported cars and it's passengers.

It all began with the 2012 Notre Dame Luberon paired with Pate Maison, Cornichons, Grilled Marble Rye with Spicy Mustard. The wine is an organically made wine made in the Luberon region of southern France.  It is unoaked and a blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre.  (SRP $10.99)

Aromas of raspberries and plums filled the glass.  On the palate I tasted cooked raspberries and it finished with licorice and a hint of spice.  It was a tad on the fruity side.

I am not a big Pate person, but Catherine kept telling me to pretend it was liverwurst.  I did, a little mustard and pate.  The pairing was adequate.

The next pairing which I thought was the best pairing of the cruise was Smoked Salmon Pinwheels with Lemon Pepper Creme Fraiche with The Crusher 2011 Wilson Vineyard Chardonnay.

The wine comes from Clarksburg AVA which is located in California's Sacramento Delta. This is a partnership between the Sebastiani family who is a well known winemaking family in California and the Wilson family who are a respected grape growing family.

The Crusher Chardonnay is a blend of 87% Chardonnay, 11% Viognier and 2% Muscat Alexandria. With hints of lemongrass, vanilla and honeydew melon on the nose the wine was very well balanced.  Spending only 3 months aging in French oak, there were soft flavors of pineapple, honeydew melon and lemon on the palate.   (SRP $18)

The lemon flavors in the wine truly complemented the Lemon Pepper Creme Fraiche in the smoked salmon pinewheels.

The last dish before we docked in Lewes, Delaware was Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Potato Pancake paired with 2012 William Hill North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.(SRP $15.99)  The Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a little bit of Merlot was rich in dark fruit.  It had hints of cocoa on the finish. Personally I think the Cabernet was a bit to strong for the Pork, but I rolled with it.

Now we are on our return trip to Cape May and the seas are getting a bit rough and dessert if served. My favorite!  Creme Brule paired with 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling.  (SRP $9.00)

With a residual sugar count coming in at 1.7 I personally think the Riesling wasn't sweet enough for the Creme Brule.  But that is my personal palate opinion.  Was the wine good, yes and the Creme Brule was wonderful!

The Riesling had nice notes of ripe peach and minerality on the nose.  There were even some subtle hints of lime, which all carried through to the palate.

I must commend the ferry for thinking out of the box as it was a nice 3 hour cruise.  Yes we docked in Lewes, they turned the ship around and we sailed back to Cape May listening to music and dancing as the ship was rocking, yes it was a tad rough out there, but made for a great way to meet and converse with everyone at the dinner.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Toast to Mom

Mom and her friend Sandy. October 2013
I lost my favorite fan last month.  My Mom. That might explain why my postings have been light., please be patient with me during this time.

Although my mom never said much or showed it, she followed my blog to keep up with me and was very proud. She would say "you never told me you were doing this, going here." When I asked her how she knew, she said she read it on my blog.

We learn a lot from our parents.  I think what makes them most proud is when they see us succeed and when they learn from us.

My mom was a White Zin drinker.  That is until she began to come to my house regularly for dinner. What joy I had introducing mom to new wines.  She had an open mind and palate.  I always asked her if she liked it, just to make sure and I never steered her wrong. I talked to her about what she tasted, smelled, how the pairing went with dinner.  When I look back at those moments I realize how proud she was of me and she never turned down a dinner invitation!  She enjoyed the company, the meal and a good bottle of wine.
Mom & my son Michael, May 2014
Just in an instant life can change, just like that bottle of wine.

Raise your glass tonight and toast to your mom. She might not show it much, but she loves you and is proud of you!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: The Bewitching Power of Sour

They came from near and far—some venturing across many states to taste something sour, something tart, something they relish more than just about anything in the craft beer universe. Sour’d in September brought 20 breweries—Nantucket’s Cisco, San Diego’s Ballast Point, Pennsylvania’s Weyerbacher--to Captain Lawrence to showcase the best of their sour ales; all everyone needed was some decent weather, and the day would be a dandy.

And then the rain came.

“We paid for good weather,” quipped Captain Lawrence founder Scott Vaccaro, “and this is what we got.”

In fact, the rain could not damper the good mood. There was a giant tent for everyone to huddle under; the mood underneath was festive, and the precip meant there was zero line, at least for a spell, for special Captain Lawrence sours such as the peachy Flaming Fury, the plummy Viola, sour standards like Rosso e Marrone and Hops N’ Roses, and the first ever release of Barrel Select Pomegranate.

“Snow would not have kept us away,” says Paul Ascher of Mount Kisco.

Sour beers, rendered funky by wild yeast strains or bacteria in the brew, are not for everyone. But that distinctive taste—tart, fruity, acidic—is what hardcore connoisseurs will travel many miles for. 
Megan Couillard (“It’s French for testicles,” she says of her surname) and Holly Gore schlepped from central New Jersey. “I thought it was a great chance to learn about sour beer,” says Holly, who prides herself on her taste for offbeat brews.

Both are raving about the American Sour with Cherries from Sloop Brewing up in Poughkeepsie; sampling involves sipping, biting the cherry, and sipping again. “It’s interactive!” says Holly. “It’s bananas!” says Megan.

The sour beer lot is perhaps more like a wine crowd than a typical beer crowd; Jared Garcin, pouring Sour Wench on behalf of Ballast Point, calls them “seasoned vets.”

“Their palates are nuanced and they can pinpoint distinctive flavors a lot more than beerheads,” says Jared. “Seeing this community build and grow is awesome. “

Speaking of funky, Sam Magdovitz of Philadelphia’s only regret on the day is that the rain jacket weather means he can’t sport his Funky Buddha Brewery bowling shirt. He and Paul Ascher have sampled beer all over the world—Belgium, Alaska--and made a point to trek to Elmsford for the day. Captain Lawrence’s Flaming Fury, he says, “is as good as any sour I’ve ever had.”

Sam offers a detailed description of sours’ allure, noting the veritable bouquet of distinct flavors. Paul takes it down a notch or two. “I don’t have too much to say,” he says. “I just like them.”

You hear the word “complex” an awful lot when people describe the beers. Mike Rinaldi of Kew Gardens calls Captain Lawrence’s Rosso e Marrone his favorite U.S. sour ale for range of flavors. “A lot of people are doing sours now, but Captain Lawrence is still above the rest,” he says.

Rinaldi says he’s always been drawn to the sour end of the taste spectrum. “You should meet his wife,” quips pal Tom Schmid, also of Philly.

People sample brews from Single Cut and Finback out in Queens and Great South Bay Brewing from a little further out on the Island; Smuttynose from New Hampshire, and Peekskill Brewery and Evan Watson’s Plan Bee just up the road a bit. Andrew Said Thomas of Brooklyn is a “huge fan” of sours, and has fallen in love with the Lady of the Woods sour from Cisco. So has his pal Bridget Brown, who mentions the “more artisanal” charm of the sour crowd.

The rain lightens up; Andrew and Bridget venture out of the tent. “Sour people want to drink and taste and enjoy,” he says. “It’s not, drink as many beers as possible.”

Allagash of Maine. The Bruery of Orange County, California. Carton Brewing from the Jersey Shore. Grub from a wide range of vendors, including Walter’s of Mamaroneck and regional grocery chain DeCicco’s. Cigars.

The rain stops. The band plays on. People step out of the tent and catch up with old friends from past Captain Lawrence special releases, or other beer festivals.

“Good breweries, good beer, good people,” says Scott Vaccaro. “Sour never tasted so sweet.” 

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Running the Hudson Valley Wine Competition and the Results

For the past 6 or so years I've been behind the Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition.  When I took the realm of this competition it was just wine.  The past two years with the explosion of distilleries in the Hudson Valley we opened up to spirits. This year we had 91 wine entries, 4 cider entries and 10 spirit entries.  I hope in the future to expand on the cider and spirits categories.

I am the chief cook and bottle uncorker for this competition.  I have to rally the troups to enter. I catalog everything in a spreadsheet.  My son has taught me Excel so the results and score keep have gotten much easier.

Once everything is cataloged labels for the bottles and tuits are printed and labeled.

Usually a few days before the competition I sort through all the wine, label them and put them in boxes by flights and panels

Then the day before the competition I head up to the Hudson Valley Wine Festival and set up.  It is usually a one truck load trip.  This year it was a truck and car load.  Good thing my son Michael was around to help me.

Once at the fairground we set up for the first few flights. I want to make it easy on my back room staff, as 8:30am arrival on a Saturday can be difficult.

And then it's competition day.  I do want to thank all the judges and back room staff who volunteer their Saturday to learn about Hudson Valley wine, cider and distilled spirits!  I couldn't do it without the support of my husband Paul and son Michael. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room Blood, Sweat and Beers

When we think of football, we think of frozen tundras and puffy, frigid vapors spilling from the quarterback’s mouth. If not that, at least some nippy autumnal temps to go with our pigskin, wings and, of course, beer.

So it’s a little tough to get into the spirit when it’s 90 degrees out, the humidity around 110% and climbing fast.

Kevin Duignan of Bronxville and Jim Lillis of Mount Vernon caught their sons’ high school games—Xavier and Fordham Prep—earlier on this impossibly steamy Saturday, and are stocking up on Captain Lawrence for the NFL Sunday opener.

But first, an impassioned game of bocce on the brewery’s expanded patio.

“We like beer and we like bocce, and we talked about coming for a long time,” says Jim. “I said, where are we going today? When he said, Captain Lawrence, I was like, can you pick me up in five minutes?”

The skies threaten heavy rain and worse. The air is so thick it feels like it could stop a bocce ball in mid flight. But the men soldier on. “We are a tough bunch of players,” quips Kevin. “Even the threat of rain does not keep us down.”

They are leaning towards the India Pale Ale for the Jet game on Sunday. Asked how the Jets look this season, Jim laughs the sarcastic laugh of a seasoned Gang Green fan.

“I’m cautiously pessimistic,” he says.

The only place hotter than the patio, other than Satan’s sauna, is anywhere near the Gleason’s pizza oven. “We’re drinking a lot of Kolsch,” pizza man Andrew explains to a customer of his preferred coping mechanism.

The AC is whirring away inside. John Lul of Riverhead and Danielle Dunne of Babylon are enjoying a few Liquid Golds over a barrel. John is the assistant baseball coach at SUNY Purchase, where Danielle is a student. John helped put the players through their paces earlier in the day. “It was pretty hot,” he says. “A few kids dropped.”

He too is a Jets fan. “We’ll see,” John says, showing a similar cautious pessimism as Jim Lillis. “Hopefully we’ll be a little better than last year.”

Danielle is having none of it. “Don’t count on it,” she says.

Back out on the patio, the clouds continue to thicken, and the humidity approaches 120%. Kevin and Jim’s epic game plods along. Mark Batchie of Mahopac, his fiancĂ©e Jackie, and their pal Brian Bellantoni of White Plains are combating the heat with cold beer samples. Mark is a good guy to know around these parts—he did the plumbing at Captain Lawrence. He and Jackie will, in fact, marry at the brewery later this month.

“Why not?” says Jackie.

They’ll serve their Batch of Love red IPA at the wedding—brewed with extra love from Justin Sturges and Justin Perrone.

Mark roots for the Dolphins, which dates back to Dan Marino’s playing days. Jackie likes the Giants—at least most of them. “Get rid of Eli!” she says.

One can only take the outdoor temps in small doses. Back inside, beertender Jack Reilly gets on the mic and announces an illegally parked Prius and the 4 p.m. tour. A woman yells for him to put on some dance music. “No dance music!” Jack shoots back.

But it’s Stevie Wonder coming out of the speakers, and it sounds great. “Sir Duke” cranks; Mike Horton’s right leg bops in time. He can, indeed, feel it all over. “Good vibe music,” the Bronx resident explains.

Mike and Bryant Srour of Goldens Bridge (“My family can’t even say it,” Bryant says of his tricky last name) are old pals from Mount Kisco, reconnecting over locally brewed ales. It was Mike’s idea; he buys the Liquid Gold in the grocery store, and wanted to try it at the source. “I’d heard a lot about the brewery,” he says. “It’s lived up to the standard.”

Bryant sounds the virtues of “home beer”—not home brew, but beer brewed close to home. “There’s just something about it,” he says.

The guys are pondering which beers to bring home for Sunday’s action. “Football, beer and wings,” Mike says. “Just lazy Sunday stuff.”

Bryant calls this beloved custom “an innate guy thing.” “I think it’s something you’re just born with,” he adds.
But across the room, Danielle Dunne suggests football-and-beer transcends gender.
“It’s just so…American,” she says.

Red, white and brews. We’ll drink to that!

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale.