Monday, July 27, 2009

The Spirit of Cape Ann, Ryan and Wood Distillieries

My good friend Joey is the driving force behind the community blog Good Morning Gloucester. Joey has a lot of love for Gloucester and the small businesses of Cape Ann and is quick to promote others. Recently, he did a series of interviews at Ryan and Wood, Inc. Distilleries. The interviews give you a sense of how a distillery is set up, the fermentation process, and how the stills work. I hope you enjoy these.

Part I
Courtesy of Good Morning Gloucester, ©2009 GoodMorningGloucester and is used with permission.
Part II
©2009 GoodMorningGloucester and is use with permission.
Part III
Courtesy of Good Morning Gloucester, ©2009 GoodMorningGloucester and is used with permission.
Part IV
©2009 GoodMorningGloucester and is use with permission.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Quest to Quench: Beer vs. Wine

Enduring Wine/Beer Stereotypes:

Wine = swirl; sip; savor
Beer = gulp; knock back; down

Not having any Sapporo or the like in the house this afternoon to pair with our seared tuna on soba with dashi broth and seaweed salad, we opted to open a bottle of white. Oops, the ignominious discovery is made that we have only two chilled bottles to choose from: A kick-ass value Chenin Blanc or an Italian Riesling. So, wanting to reserve the Chenin for more serious consideration, I opened the Riesling.

This was one of those wines where, upon initial sampling, one's first thought is that this 56 degree wine would benefit from further chilling. This kind of observation is often linked with having served a wine which is on the plonky side. Out came the trusty cooler sleeve, and the heaps of of big mushy apple crisped to more refined honey, pear, and lemon. Not an unpleasant wine overall, but one which left a lot to be desired when compared to the memory of a clean Alsace.

I should probably be embarrassed to even mention that I used my glass of wine to wash down a vitamin pill: Hey, now... What ensued was a fulled-bodied palate cleansing sensation with a rear-palate echo of the flavors of the meal; namely sesame and the richness of the tuna. Now, I'm familiar with the concept of quaffability but, this was something new: A wine that is actually best gulped--not so as to lessen the duration of it's influence on the palate but, to accentuate it!

With a rather dull attack which faded almost instantly to nothingness when sipped, this wine found a higher calling as a substance to be swashed willy-nilly between the back molars and over the gullet. Truth is, I could have had a beer, but the house beer is Sam's Summer Ale; too sweet and hoppy for this meal. In a sense, this so-so wine took the place of a beer but without the carbonation or bothersome "too-full" feeling.

I'm not particularly recommending this wine, but I do recommend opening up to the possibility of discovering the best in a wine by experimenting with how it's swallowed, swigged, swilled, or guzzled.


Monday, July 6, 2009

California Wine Hike with the California Wine Hiker

I haven't been much of a wine blogger lately. Just been short a couple buckets of inspiration. Happily, there are always more inspiring wines out there which gives a wine blog a pretty good shot at longevity, dry spells notwithstanding. We've discovered a lot of new and wonderful wines since starting this blog twenty plus months ago. However, the biggest unforeseen benefit of wine blogging has been getting to know other wine bloggers. It all started with twitter, and then the Wine Bloggers' Conference in Sonoma in October 2008. It's been a fun and rewarding couple of years to say the least.

Russ Beebe, the "winehiker" has been one of my all time favorite wine blogging and twitter personalities since the beginning. We met only briefly at the WBC so, of course I was very excited when he suggested we join him on a wine hike while visiting the Bay Area. Russ has been hiking local trails for years and years and is really knowledgeable about local plant and wildlife species. He's been doing the wine hikes for about four years now and says his concept of wine hiking is not to bring a bottle on the trail but to hike a trail that ends at a winery. Picchetti Ranch and Winery fits the bill perfectly.

There aren't many properties like Picchetti Ranch which offer real open space hiking trails within close proximatey to a tasting room. Russ is hoping to see that change. He says there is an untapped market for wineries willing to cut some real trails and offer outdoor enthusiasts more than just the typical vineyard walk. Picchetti Ranch has grounds with wonderful rustic charm and a perfect post-hike picnic area adjacent to the tasting room. Russ likes to take groups there because the two mile trail that starts on the property offers plenty of year-round interest in terms of flora and fauna. He pointed out several wild flower and tree species including the wonderfully aromatic mugwort and bay tree leaves.

The wines of Picchetti overall are on the rustic side (in keeping with the surroundings), and fruit features prominently. Some had a little too much fruit concentration on the nose for my taste, and leaned toward prune and other port-like aromas. We quite enjoyed the 2006 Merlot which will hopefully benefit from aging to unify the components. We bought a bottle to lay down. Right now its displaying a lot of cherry and a very rich finish which reminded me of white truffle oil soaking into the tongue.

After a pleasant tasting with Smiler at Picchetti, Russ led us down the road to the Cinnabar Tasting Room in downtown Saratoga. These wines were more refined in contrast to Picchetti but still exhibited some of the same flavors of black fruit and licorice which seem to characterize Santa Cruz Mountain wines. Cinnabar just released an interesting Petite Sirah from a new vineyard that shows some promise for future vintages. My favorite was the Cabernet Franc which was just good. I can't really say more than that since I tend to lose track of pulling out individual flavors when a wine is well integrated and not overpowering in any aspect as was this Cab Franc. I think it would definitely show favorably against some of the Long Island Cab Francs we recently sampled.

If it had been any day but a Monday, our adventure wouldn't have stopped there. But, alas, Saratoga businesses seem to have agreed to take Monday off so we didn't get to finish off at the wine bar as hoped. We bid Russ the wine hiker adieu until our dinner later in the week, and thanked him for a most excellent tour.

Just a little plug here: Russ the California Wine Hiker also organizes and leads corporate group hikes--That would be my kind of team building event! Support your local wine blogger and seek him out!

p.s. Sorry the picture is fuzzy--A nice lady who'd just finished her tasting took it! That's Russ on the left.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Backyard Sipper

Happy Fourth! Right at this moment we are sipping the 2008 Zolo 'Gaucho Select' Torrontes. We don't generally take wine recommendations from cowboys, but maybe we should start because we're all liking this.

On the nose we found orange blossom, ripe melon (honeydew), honeysuckle, and pineapple--really ripe tropical pineapple. It's very clean on the palate with a nice lime essence pooling and spreading from the mid-palate. Very floral too with a long finish.

We enjoyed this wine with cheeses and even found it paired well with cherries! The bottle says the grapes were sustainably farmed and it was imported by Epic Wines of Aptos, CA: Aptos is one of my favorite home towns, so I like this wine all the more for the hometown connection.

We didn't buy this wine but, I understand it normally retails for around $16 but, this particular bottle was purchased on special for under $10. A great wine for a perfect summer afternoon!