Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Robust Reviews For Coffee Brews

It is the time of the year for getting together with old friends, as a gang of guys from Ardsley is doing at Captain Lawrence. They’ve known each other since kindergarten, and have opted to spend the frigid day warming themselves with some tasty cold-weather craft brews.

“We’re all up for the weekend and decided to do some eating and drinking together,” says Sean Flynn, who lives in Manhattan.

The beer of choice among the Ardsley four—Flynn and Matt Schwartz of Manhattan, and Adam Long and Mike Nugent of Hartsdale—is a new espresso stout called Shakey Bones. As we discuss the small-batch beer, CL brewman Justin Sturgess walks by after leading a tour, and stops to answer a few questions about the Shakey. It is produced from the left-over wort of the popular, and potent, Frost Monster imperial stout, says Justin. “It’s not quite as high alcohol content,” he says of the nonetheless robust 7.3% mix, “but it will give you kind of an idea as to what the Frost Monster is like.”

It being late November and all, I ask the guys what they are thankful for.

“Good beer, actually,” says Adam.

“Shakey Bones,” specifies Mike.

“Hanging out with childhood friends,” says Sean.

“My friends and family and myself are all in good health,” says Mike.

Elsewhere in the tasting room, another crowd of old friends is swelling. “We’re just getting together to celebrate,” says Anne-Sophie Pawlowski of Pleasantville, who neglects to mention that it is, in fact, her birthday.

Later, the group of ladies will venture out for burgers. But for now, there are locally brewed beers to sample. “I can’t decide what I like best…the Pumpkin Ale or the Amber Ale,” says Janet DiGennaro of Thornwood, tasting the new Amber Scrambler small batch. “I’m sorry.”

No need to apologize.

The ladies have plenty to be thankful for. “Family and friends!” sums up Marcela Provenzano.

The tasting room is jammed. Sharing a table in the quiet nook in the brewing area adjacent to the tap room, Samantha Heck of Elmsford (“just down the street,” she says) and Sean Palmer of Brewster (little known fact: a “brewster” is a female brewer) are enjoying a couple brews. Samantha loves the Pumpkin Ale, while Sean is all about the Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA. The couple was never happier than when Captain Lawrence offered an Imperial Pumpkin Ale for a short time earlier in the season.

“I’ll try everything they make, but I’ll come back to the Imperial IPA,” Sean says.

He’ll grab a sixer of the quirky new Hopsomniac, an india pale ale brewed with Stumptown Coffee, for Thanksgiving dinner. “My brother is a hop-head like me,” he says.

Sean is thankful for a new law job and “my beautiful girlfriend,” he says. (Yes, that would be Samantha, seated across the table.)

Samantha smiles. “I’ll always be thankful for my family,” she adds.

The Hopsomniac, a partnership between Captain Lawrence and Whole Foods, is also going down easily out on the patio, despite temps hovering around freezing. A hardy group plays bocce. The Gleason’s guys make pizza. Brandon Glen and Katie Reid of Stamford are huddled around a barrel. Both are from the Midwest, so a little nip in the air does not deter them.

Brandon explains how the two ended up at Captain Lawrence.

“We wanted coffee, or coffee-flavored beer,” he says.

The latter obviously won out; Brandon’s got the Shakey Bones stout (“great espresso flavors,” he says), she has the Hopsomniac. “My new favorite,” says Katie. “A little bit of IPA comes through, and it’s toffee-ish when it warms a little.”

Brandon moved east for work last year, and Katie joined him a few months ago. “It was great to experience the area in the fall for the first time,” says Katie, an Oklahoman. “And getting to do it with him was all the better.”

The pair has plenty to be thankful for—being reunited, and a late fall day when you can kind of, sort of, enjoy a beer outside. “It’s not nearly as cold,” says Brandon, “when you have a drink in your hand.”

—Michael Malone (
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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Whitecliff's 2012 Gamay Noir

I had to get this out while you are still shopping for your Thanksgiving wine.  If you are looking for a red on the table, this is one I would suggest and it retails for $20.95

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of Gamay, but this one is crafted well, nicely oaked and balanced with some acidity

Some strawberry and cherry notes on the nose combined with some earth and oak.  On the palate I found bright cherry and raspberry vanillin with a hint of oak.

If you are looking for a light red for Thanksgiving, pick up this Gamay.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 Thanksgiving Day White Wines Under $20

Picking out wine for Thanksgiving can be a challenge.  Do I serve a white, red, rose, sparkling?  Well actually all three are fine.  Perhaps you have one from each category with each course.  Here are my suggestions for reasonably priced white wine to serve on Thanksgiving Day.

Well begin first with whites.  For this holiday I like to stay away from traditional whites like Chardonnay.

Of course I have to get in a Hudson Valley white!  Robibero Family Vineyards Traminette.  This wine has nice aromas of green apple, lemon and spice.  A beautiful mouth feel with nice acidity and flavors of lime and green apple.  Now only will this pair well with your turkey, but also with Triple Cream Blue Castello Cheese. SRP $19

Second on my list would be a Riesling from the Finger Lakes. You can see my previous post on some of them at here.  They range from dry to sweet.  Now at Thanksgiving, I make a spicy stuffing, so I would go with a semi-sweet Riesling. You would need to pair the Riesling with your tradition. Most of them retail for under $20.

Pinot Gris is another wine although that varietal isn't a favorite, it is now becoming one.  I was really wowed by King Estates Signature Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley in Oregon.  It aged sur lie for 4 months in stainless steel tanks. It's fresh, racy and has a great mouth feel.  It sells for around $17.

Gruner Veltliner, another grape I don't drink a lot of that I should.  Its origins are from Austria where it is the signature grape.  Pick up a bottle of Hermann Moser 2013 Per Due Gruner Veltliner. You'll get some citrus aromas, coupled with pear and passion fruit and a little white pepper on the finish.  It retails for around $12.99

Last on my list is Torrontes from Argentina. Try the Recuerdo Torrontes.  I reviewed the 2011 vintage here. Not sure if you'll be able to find the 2011, but the 2012 I am sure is just as good.  It retails for $15.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Captain’s Log: A Thanksgiving Day Monster, and We Don’t Mean Turducken

The leaves are all but down, the cold weather is very definitely upon us, and the tap lineup at Captain Lawrence has shifted to heartier brews. The Frost Monster is back! Hibernating all summer, the monstrous imperial stout, brewed with a massive amount of malt and sporting a fearsome 11% alcohol by volume, is on draft and available in four-packs. The Monster’s makeup is slightly different from last year’s iteration. “We cranked up the roasted malts—we’re always trying to make things better,” says owner Scott Vaccaro. “It’s a big, strong, warming beer.”

Nearly as bold—OK, nothing is really nearly as bold as the Frost Monster. But also packing a substantial punch is new release Hopsomniac IPA. A partnership between Captain Lawrence and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Hopsomniac is an india pale ale brewed with Stumptown Cold Brew coffee. The coffee side of the equation is rich and intense, and the IPA end citrusy and hoppy. It’s unique and it’s good, and it’s for sale at Whole Foods and at Captain Lawrence.

“Hopsomniac combines the best elements of an IPA and a good cup of coffee,” says Scott. “What better way to stay up late, drinking IPAs than drinking them with coffee?”

Sticking with the big, bold beer theme, the Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA—for years a draft beer and a 17-ounce bottle sold individually—will debut as a four-pack of traditional 12-ouncers in January. “It’s more bang for your buck,” says Scott of the new packaging.

And that same Imperial IPA—it’s perhaps the most popular offering in the tasting room—has led the Captain’s charge into Philadelphia. The Imperial IPA kegs arrived in the City of Rocky, Adrian and Brotherly Love a few weeks ago, and followed by the Smoked Porter in the next few weeks, the IPA in December and the rest in January. All are in kegs; Captain Lawrence six-packs hit Philadelphia further along in ’15. Philly represents a major branching out for Captain Lawrence. (For the record, famous resident Ben Franklin did not actually say “Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy,” though countless t shirts at beer fests credit him for saying it.)

Such expanded production requires extra brewing space, and Scott is planning to take on an extra 4,800 square feet next to the existing 19,000 square foot facility in February. The extra leg room allows for both barrel storage and a second bottling line. Oak tanks are en route from all over the globe, including a pair of 1,400-gallon vessels from a winery in San Diego, and two more 800-gallon barrels from Italy. All told, more than 4,000 gallons worth of oak tanks are headed to Elmsford.

Any of the aforementioned full-bodied beers would be a fine selection to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. The brewery has also held back a batch of Pumpkin Ale kegs, with growler fills on sale this week. They’ll go quickly.

Other Turkey Day options include small batch brews like the easy drinking Hop Chug IPA, a 4.9% ABV beer brewed with Mosaic and Chinook hops; and Second Runnings, a cousin of the Frost Monster jazzed up with espresso from Black Cow in Pleasantville.

Scott says the classics do just fine on Thanksgiving too. “There’s nothing like a cold Freshchester Pale Ale,” he says, “to go with turkey, football and family.” 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mira Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

As you can see the weather is getting a bit chilly and I'm drinking more reds now that whites.

Mira Winery's 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will keep you warm this winter.  This wine is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah.  You will find blackberry and plum aromas and a hint of black pepper and licorice.

On your palate it's juicy and ripe with blackberries and blackcherry with hint of herbs.  As the wine opens it will begin to finish with strong black current.

This wine will pair nicely with a nice hard cheese and steak.  It retails for $52

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Proud Wine Blogger Mommy Moment

I don't talk that much about my kids but raising them, you never know what they absorb.

For them, growing up in our house, when Paul and I got home from work, we uncorked a bottle and shared our day ventures with each other and the kids.  After we uncorked the bottle, we always discussed it, the aromas, the flavors. Yes we did let the kids smell and if they wanted to taste. Neither of them were really interested.
Michael & Melanie playing cards while we tasted.
I'll never forget in 2003 when we visited Williamsburg Virginia and we spent the day wine tasting. We went to First Colonial Winery in Charlottesville.(this was the Richmond part of the trip).  We arrived the same time an "older" couple did. I could see their disapproving face when we got out of the car with two kids. We entered the winery and were the only ones there with the "older couple."

We took the tour with them and their disapproving facial expressions never went away until the end of the tour when Randy(I believe that was his name) asked if there were any questions.  Michael raised his hand and asked "How do you know when to pick the grapes." OMG, the older couple smiled as Randy said that is a great question and answered him.

Michael never really drank.  OK, I think he began his sophomore year in college.  Most kids then can't tell a good wine from a lousy wine.  Well Michael could.  While most kids come home from college and take food back with them, Michael took wine (he was 21 then)

For his college graduation this year, we gave him a subscription to the California Wine Club.  I felt that was a good introduction to California wines. (he gets lots of NY wines  from us)

Two weekends ago he traveled to meet a friend in the middle of Pennsylvania somewhere, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. As I'm talking to him on his ride out (hands free of course) he is telling me there is a winery there and they were going to go wine tasting. I could hear the excitement in his voice.

After the weekend when I spoke to him, I asked him if he went to the winery. With great enthusiasm he begins to tell me all about it.  How they had a great blend that was a Lemberger, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (and also told me the percentages, although I didn't write them down). Their Cabernet Franc was very good and that he purchased a bottle.  He told me all his tasting notes.

I can't tell you how proud I was at that moment.  For a 22 year old to be so well versed in wine and have such a good palate.

Melanie isn't to far behind.  Although her palate sways sweet, she is open minded.  She recently won a pasta basket at a bridal shower that contained a bottle of Pinot Noir.  I received this picture from her. Although she said the wine wasn't the best, I'm glad she could tell the quality.  I'm just as proud of her too!

All I can say is Paul and I  did well!  They actually listened all those years during wine time.

My advice to my wine blogging friends, even if your kids are young, include them.  Talk to them. You never know what they absorb and where it will take them in the future.