11 May 2011
Want to go to the newest wine event in Spokane? Here is your chance. Vintage Spokane needs your help in getting the word out. By simply becoming their marketing force you can qualify to win 2 tickets to the June 5 event. Details on how to participate and qualify are in the last paragraph of this post.
What is Vintage Spokane?
In 2010 we learned that the Washington Wine Commission was no longer going to host the popular Taste Washington event in Spokane. The long running event gave Spokane residents a way to explore and enjoy the wine from over 100 Washington wineries and cuisine from local restaurants. The event promoters, Varsity Communications, saw a need to continue the event for Spokane oenophiles and made the decision to host Vintage Spokane.
With the success we’ve had with Taste Washington in Seattle, we’re excited to bring an event like this back to the Spokane area,” said Varsity Communications President Dick Stephens. “Few cities in the country have a community that is as knowledgeable and appreciative of good wine as Spokane, and the sheer number of incredible wineries and restaurants that are within a short distance of the city limits are staggering. We can’t wait to put it all on display for Spokane residents to enjoy.”
Vintage Spokane is Sunday, June 5 at the beautiful Lincoln Center. 75 wineries and dozens of local restaurants and caterers are expected to participate. Ticket prices are only $60 for this year’s event (lower than previous Taste Washington events). Tickets are on sale now on their web site (http://www.vintagespokane.com) and at Nectar Tasting Room, Latah Creek Winery and Arbor Crest Winery.
Want to WIN Tickets?
Entry is easy, we need YOU to help spread the word. Post the following as your Facebook status (or as a tweet) and then leave a comment on this blog so we know you did it. One winner will be selected on May 29 and will receive 2 tickets to the event. While you’re here, go “like” the Vintage Spokane Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.
SAMPLE FACEBOOK POST:
From the producers of Taste Washington, introducing Vintage Spokane, Spokane’s newest wine event. Tickets are on sale now (June 5). Visit their web page for more info – 75 wineries and 20 local restaurants. http://www.vintagespokane.com
Learn more about @vintagespokane, 75 wineries and 20 restaurants. June 5 http://bit.ly/jGrZxa #wawine
*Nectar Tasting Room is a media sponsor of this event
05 May 2011
I thought about titling this post, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or “Mas Tequila.” There was even a little snicker as I thought about Pee Wee Herman dancing to “Tequila” in a biker bar in the movie Pee Wee Herman’s Great Adventure. Alas, none of that either happened or made sense for this post. The reason…we’re not talking about Tequila, we’re talking about Mezcal.
As a wine blogger, no one was more surprised than me when I received three trade samples of Ilegal Mezcal. My level of agave experience is limited to tequila shots, margaritas, the occasional smooth Patron and mostly memories of sickness and hangovers. Before beginning my research, I had no idea the difference between mezcal and tequila. With people consuming the agave nectar in mass for Cinco de Mayo, I was eager to do my duty to uncover the world of mezcal for wine lovers everywhere.
Mezcal vs Tequila
From what I can tell here are the basics differences between Mezcal and Tequila
- Both come from the Agave plant, but from different species
- Tequila is from Jalisco and mezcal is from Oaxaca
- Tequila is made from the crushed fermented juice of the agave plant; mezcal is made from steamed condensation of the process and then distilled.
- Tequila contains no worm, mezcal contains a worm.
- Tequila cannot be called mezcal but mezcal can be called tequila
There may be more differences but they become less important as the shots flowed.
With 3 bottles of Ilegal Mezcal and Cinco de Mayo around the corner, I decided the only way to do this review was with some authentic Mexican cuisine. I stopped by a tiny Mexican restaurant and picked up a variety of tacos (steak, beef, fish) and set out to discover the world of mezcal. Due to my lack of experience with tequila and mezcal, I won’t be giving scores to the following but will only offer my consumer based opinion.
The “low end” mezcal isn’t aged for any length of time but is double and triple distilled. The color is like water, completely clear. On the nose the wine is very pungent. At first sniff there is an overwhelming aroma of burnt plastic (like when a piece of Tupperware gets burned in the dishwasher), cheap perfume and sweet fruit. Let this mezcal sit for a few minutes and most of that offensive aroma dissipates. In the mouth I get strong smoke, pepper, and a sweet fruit that I just can’t pinpoint along with a HUGE amount of heat.
SHIVER FACTOR: (this is the score of how smooth the mezcal is – the higher the score the more smooth) – At first sip, the Joven is very tough to swallow and earns a shiver score of 3-/5
Overall, I’m not sure I could enjoy this mezcal without a mixer. The aroma off plastic was overwhelming and the hot finish left me shuddering and even coughing a little.
Reposado is aged for 4 months in new and recharged whiskey barrels. The mescal is slightly darker than the first but still a very pale yellow color. The sniff boasts a soft cedar and butterscotch aroma followed by hints of vanilla. This reminds me of a well aged scotch. Hints of burnt plastic still accompany the other aromas. The front palate is very soft with caramel undertones but immediately lead to a long strong hot finish (that’s what she said). This Reposado is much more balanced than the Joven.
SHIVER FACTOR: Much more balanced of flavor and alcohol heat with a nice sweetness 3+/5
Nicely done and full of unique flavors. The Reposado was immensely more drinkable than the Joven.
So, I started this tasting by sipping along with my tacos not knowing the price points of each mezcal. The Anejo quickly stood tall above the others for aroma, taste and finish. On the swirl the Anejo is about the same color as a corn tortilla (pictured). Since I’d already tasted a little bit, I’ll rely on my notes for memory, “oh my gosh, so buttery with deep undercurrents of smoked cedar and sweet fruit.” The Anejo spends 14 months in new and recharged whisky barrels. The mouth feel of this mezcal is very enjoyable with a ton of earthy flavors, tobacco, butterscotch, and more. There is a sweet fruit / candy flavor to the very tip of the flavor that quickly gets overtaken by the smoke, butterscotch and alcohol. DO NOT MIX THIS MEZCAL, just sip it neat or over ice.
SHIVER FACTOR: Nice and smooth with a kick of smoked hickory and heat. 4/5
Very intrigued by the complexity of aroma and flavor. As someone new to the drink, I found myself just enjoying the aromas before sipping on a glass with ice. The finish was balanced and lacked the typical hot chest burning fire.
This Cinco de Mayo enjoy a glass of mezcal. The intense smoky butterscotch may be a little overpowering for a margarita but try sipping on a shot with a few cubes of ice. Who knows, you may be singing “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or dancing like Pee Wee Herman. Here are a few videos for inspiration.
PEE WEE HERMAN “Tequila” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM
03 May 2011
“Once you know what you like, you’re already an expert.” This is a phrase I use all too often in the tasting room for intimidated newbies and, in many ways, I believe it. Sounds pretty simple and inviting right? Sadly, the man behind curtain would agree that there’s more to enjoying wine than simply sticking to what you’ve previously found easy and comfortable. The world of wine is dying to be discovered in each and every soul. Yes, if you’re a novice drinker and find Franzia to be smooth and elegant then that’s your prerogative. I’ll even find myself enjoying a nice glass of boxed wine on a summer camping trip. But for me to say you’re an expert in my tasting room needs the accompaniment of a little more explanation.
No one, and I mean no one, has ever been born with an amazing wine palate. It’s a physiological and psychological structure, if you will, built with experience, dedication, and attention to every subtle detail inhabited by the wines we’ve had in our past. An expert might know more than one can conceive, but life has shown me the true best of the best are always willing to learn and be proven wrong. I say this because no one should ever “know what they like” and refuse to veer from that path claiming to be an expert on their own palate; you never know how much you could be missing out on. For example, I’ve had roughly twenty different Tempranillos (Spain’s “noble grape” often referred to as the Spanish Cabernet) as of late, and I have yet to find one that truly tickles my fancy. Will I stop drinking Tempranillo? NO! All it means is that I get the luxury of being “forced” to keep drinking more until I find one I like. Yes, there’s the possibility that the day won’t come, but to be honest I’ll never know. There’s too much wine in the world to ever stop searching.
Certainly taste what you know you like, but never be against branching out from time to time. The saddest thing one could ever do to is become unwilling and close-minded. This goes for everything, not just wine. The honest reason I jumped into the wine industry is to help expand the palate of the young and willing world, as well as my own. Develop and build your palate by taking chances, stepping outside of your preconceived box, and letting the world of vino come alive in you. Just for fun, next time you stop in the any tasting room or wine shop, tell the worker to grab a wine he or she thinks you’ve never had before. You can always let them know the wine you usually drink so as to help narrow down the selection. I’m not saying one can’t have “their wine”, but don’t choose it every time. Simply acknowledge it as your safety net, but seize every opportunity to experience something new. Who knows, you might find a suggestible Tempranillo for yours truly. Wine is life so make it a good one!
About The Author
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker.
By Clive Pursehouse
Cognac is difficult beverage to wrap your head around and one that I came upon only recently. It’s a wine eau-de-vie, doubly distilled in copper stills and aged in very specific oak casks; it drips with historical and traditional significance, method and practice. Just when you think you might have it cornered, it often eludes and surprises you. That a drink with such origins moves so adeptly through modernity speaks to the sensuality of the beverage. It’s a true beauty, both in process and in the glass.
The French region of Cognac appears on a map like a bullseye. As you move your finger toward the center of the region, you pass through the various crus, or growing areas, of Cognac, from the Bois Ordinaires through the Borderies and into Grand Champagne. The soils, largely limestone and clay, provide the backdrop for the Ugni Blanc grape, and as the terroir becomes more exclusive territory, the grapes provide more finesse and proper acidity for the longer term aging that awaits the region’s most prized brandy. The Grand Champagne Cognacs will very regularly see multiple decades in casks of oak that generally hail from Limousin or Troncais.
Like all vinifera, the St. Emilion grape, Ugni Blanc (or Trebbiano as it is often known through Europe), has moved throughout the world looking for its best possible home. This white wine grape is the second most widely grown grape in the world and its vigorous vines produce thick-skinned grapes that explode with acidity. While it’s made into many a white wine and is probably best displayed in Umbria’s Orvieto Classico, it’s clearly found its true calling in Cognac. The distilling process and long barrel aging provide a perfect example of man’s ingenuity making the most of nature’s bounty. The beautiful aromas of a well aged Cognac prove that only time and patience allow us to see what this fruit can truly do.
So what of Cognac and its place in a wine lover’s home? It’s grown and harvested with the same care and reverence as our beloved Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah before it’s aged and blended to find that perfect balance of flavor and aroma. The time cognac spends in the finest of oak mellows the wine and impart it with flavors of toast and nuttiness and its color (imparted by its time in cask) ranges from a light tan to a burnt sienna.
So how does a wine blogger approach this Cognac mystery, this wine distilled and aged in oaken casks? By tasting it, of course. Never one to be overly scientific, I also wanted to taste some other examples of the varietal, and so I got my hands on some Orvieto Classico. (I know, it’s a whole other country. I’m covered, though – didn’t you just read the bit about not being scientific?) I tasted the Orvieto alongside a V.S. Cognac and a V.S.O.P. The V.S. (Very Special) designation means a Cognac sees at least two years of barrel aging though in many cases more. The V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) spent at least a decade in French oak. Many of the large Cognac producers, or houses, actually do in-house cooperage.
As a wine, the Orvieto Classico is a study in contrasts. The nose opens up quickly, even when chilled. There are floral notes abounding on this wine, but one sip and you’re left scratching your head. There are slight grass notes, a bit of straw, notable acidity, but no finish to speak of. I hold a special place in my heart for Orvieto the Italian hill town, but the Trebbiano-based white wine leaves me hanging.
That same vinifera varietal, known in France as Ugni Blanc, is the country’s second most planted varietal. The primary reason is the production of Cognac. The V.S. (Very Special) was a blend of the Fin Bois and Petit Champagne crus. It sees minimal aging but the tawny butterscotch color and the vanilla undertones speak to the time spent in oak. The wine, er, I mean Cognac, had a light nose of vanilla, beeswax and dried rose petals. Flavors of smoke, and dried figs and raisins came across the palate.
The V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale) was a blend of the Grand Champagne and Petits Champagne crus (with at least 50% of Grande Champagne). In Cognac terms, this qualifies it under the Fine Champagne classification. This Cognac had a darker caramel hue and was loaded with vanilla and coffee aromatics. The depth and complexity of this Cognac was immediately evident, and for this neophyte, frankly a bit surprising. The Cognac hinted at dark cinnamon flavors, which gave way to cloves, prunes and tobacco. The Cognac was layered with flavors and its finish lingered on the palate a long time.
This wine guy was impressed. In Cognac wine drinkers will find a kindred spirit (pun intended). Cognac and wine have much in common, including their shared origins in the vineyard, the marriage to oak casks or barrels, the concept of terroir, the acknowledgement of the place that the grapes come from, and ultimately the patience that their handlers display. If you haven’t considered Cognac, perhaps it’s time you do.
Clive Pursehouse is the Washington Correspondent for The Oregon Wine Blog. He has spent the last year and a half discovering the nuance, passion and people that make the wines of Washington state so dynamic. He lives in Seattle with his lovely wife Gwynne where he holds down a paying job. He enjoys exploring the wines of Washington and Oregon, racing his bicycle and being handsome. You can contact him at email@example.com if you need any pointers on any of those areas.
12 Apr 2011
There’s only one thing I love more than being told I’m awesome; it’s an honest friend giving me a suggestion on how I could be more awesome. After my last blog, my good friend Mark Rogers said I fell hook, line and sinker for a common misconception within the wine industry. Mark was referring to how, while sharing a few helpful tips to make wine tasting a little more fun and enjoyable, I very briefly discussed the “legs” of wine and its ability to aid in immediately determining quality. Out of the goodness in his heart, he decided call me out stating legs don’t mean squat. His challenge led me on a hunt for the truth to settle the debate.
What the heck are legs anyway? Legs are the streaks, or veins, that run down the side of the glass after wine is swirled. The French and Spanish call them tears; Germans know them as church windows. For way too long, seemingly knowledgeable winos have been ‘oohing’ and ‘aaahhing’ as glasses are swirled, assumptions are made, and wine is prematurely judged. The common myth is simple; nicely shaped, thick legs signify great body, flavor, balance, and higher glycerin/alcohol content. Wine knowledge is fun, but many tend to believe everything they hear and I’ll admit I never questioned the importance of legs until now.
There is no glycerin in wine. Glycerin is the trade name for glycerol syrup one can find at most local pharmacies. Glycerol, however is an alcohol compound found in wine that adds sweetness, but the amount found in any glass is so tiny that its weight has a negligible effect on the body. What do “legs” have to do with overall wine quality? There is literally nothing found in the appearance of legs that reveal the wine’s greatness – unless higher alcohol content means better wine (hey…we all have nights like that). The same goes for flavor. The phenomenon, if we choose to call it that, is known as the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect and states that alcohol has a faster evaporation rate and lower surface tension than water, effectively forcing the alcohol to evaporate at a faster rate. As the water’s surface tension and concentration increases, the liquid moves up the glass and pushed into beads. After awhile, our good pal gravity decides to drop in for visit and pull the liquid back towards the dusty earth from whence it came…thus creating legs/veins/tears/church windows or whatever your little heart desires.
“So that’s it? The thicker the legs, the more alcohol,” you say? Well yes….technically, but this still won’t help you in a tasting. In order to really see a noticeable difference in the legs, the wines would have to be as far apart (in regards to alcohol) as table reds are to fortified wines. Overall, legs are a redundant observation of anything related to the wine’s significant characteristics. Please, however, don’t take this as a plea for you to go around correcting people when they bring up this topic. Unless you’re asked, don’t correct or give advice. Just be happy that the next time you overhear some cute blonde say “did you notice these legs,” you can nod and smile knowing that’s not all you noticed. Enjoy life with friends and drink happy!
Here is a little 80’s inspiration on another kind of ‘legs’
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades at Lindeman’s bistro and coffee shop on Spokane’s South Hill. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker.