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Month in Wines (and Whiskeys and …) – November 2013

December 3, 2013 8 comments

Chamonix Pinot NoirIt is time to summarize yet another month in wines. This month, I decided to extend this summary to whiskeys and beyond, as I managed to make a number of very interesting discoveries.

Talking about wines, there were two clear standouts – Pinot Noir from South Africa and white Burgundy, but generally, there were quite a few good wines. Here we go:

2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.5% ABV) – nice round fruit, good acidity, hint of cassis on the nose and palate, soft tannins, light and balanced. 8-

2009 Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve Franschhoek South Africa (13.5% ABV) – phenomenal. Muscular, powerful, intimidating – it attacks you with the dark smoky fruit right from the first sniff. An extremely pronounced gunflint, which has an effect of the light on the moth – you just can’t stop smelling this wine. Dark power on the palate, intense, dense, structured, full bodied and shameless. 9-

2008 Basel Cellars Merriment Estate Red Wine Pheasant Run Vineyard Walla Walla Washington (14.57% ABV) – Nice Bordeaux-style blend. Lots of depth, dark fruit, firm structure, good acidity and balance overall. 8-

2007 Mount Palomar Charbono Temecula Valley, California (13.2% ABV) – Mount Palomar is one of my all times favorite producer from the Temecula Valley. This wine was probably at it’s peak. Perfect nose of ripe raspberries. Raspberries and blueberries on the palate, dark chocolate, medium to full body, overall welcoming and heart-warming. Perfect. 8+

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13% ABV) – nice and clean. Beautiful nose of light cherries with a touch of herbal notes, a sage profile. Light, perfectly integrated fruit on the palate – fresh cranberries and tart cherries, nice underpinning of a touch of mint and sage. Easy to drink and delightful. 8

2010 Cala de Poet Maremma Toscana IGT, Italy – total surprise from Trader Joe’s considering the price of $5.99. Dark plums and herbs on the nose, tart raspberries, eucalyptus and dark chocolate on the palate, firm structure and nice tannins, very balanced. 8-

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV) – another surprise from Trader Joe’s – tiny refreshing bubbles, notes of fresh apple on the nose, round and roll-of-your-tongue on the palate with more of the fresh apple and yeast notes. Excelllent sparkling wine (and a great value at $9.99). 8-

2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau (12% ABV) – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau literally gets better and better every year. Young, fresh and inviting on the nose, with lots of juicy cherries. Very concentrated on the palate, with good, tightly knit, firm body, fruit and acidity fully in check, excellent balance. 8-

2004 Jade Mountain Syrah Napa Valley (14.6% ABV) – this was a total surprise. It was my last bottle from the case, and couple of the previous bottles were hinting that they are getting past prime. When I saw this bottle (unexpectedly) on the wine cabinet’s shelf, the first thought was “oops”. The first sniff and the first sip immediately proved me wrong. Fresh, dark fruit on the nose, same on the palate – nice, round, supple blackberries, dark chocolate, touch of espresso, full body, integrated tannins, overall excellent balance. Now I wish I had more left. 8

2003 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon Neyres Ranch – Conn Valley Napa Valley (14.5% ABV) – one of my favorite cabernet Sauvignon wines. A classic, cassis nose with a touch of bell peppers. Dark fruit on the palate, more cassis with some blackberries, round, warm and supple. Full body, acidity and tannins are in check. Excellent balance.  8

2006 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, California (14.5% ABV) – Dark garnet color, nice touch of smoke on the nose, cherries. Classic California Pinot Noir. Fresh cherries on the palate, medium to full body, round tannins and acidity. Drinkability: 8

2005 Domaine Laleure-Piot Pernand-Vergelesses AOC, Burgundy (13% ABV) – I have no idea how this bottle ended up in my cellar. I also had no expectations, as previously I had bad luck with older white Burgundies. Boy, what a treat this wine was! Pale yellow in the glass, hint of an apple and gunflint on the nose. Touch of vanilla and more fresh apples on the palate, round, inviting, effervescent but perfectly present. Delicious! 8+

Whew, done with wines!

Regarding the whiskeys – I already had a separate post about them, but I want to specifically include them here:

Catskill Distilling Company Wicked White Whiskey – this is six-grain (corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, smoked corn, malt), un-aged whiskey. Absolutely spectacular nose and flavor – complete impression of delicate single-grape grappa with round sweet fruit and all around delicious. You have to taste it to believe it.

Catskill Distilling Company Most Righteous Bourbon (70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malt) – round, clean, caramel, butterscotch, all perfectly balanced together. One of the best bourbons I ever tasted.

Catskill Distilling Company One and only Buckwheat (80% buckwheat, 20% small grains) – unique and different. Nose is absolutely unusual, reminiscent of sun flower oil. Viscous, roll-of-your-tongue delicious concoction. Great complexity, another drink you have to taste to believe it.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin

Last but not least – Gin! Yes, I know – if you ask an audience of 10 “who likes Gin”, you might be lucky if you will get one enthusiastic “yes”. However, this Gin was truly something else.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin, locally produced in Vermont, made out of Juniper berries and honey – absolutely spectacular on the nose and the palate, with the refreshing scent of juniper berries and a touch of honey sweetness. Perfect balance. Ability to convert people – two of the gin haters became gin lovers after they tasted this nectar. If you will have an opportunity – find it and taste it for yourself, and let me know if you will become a convert too.

And we are done here. If you tasted any of the wines and spirits I mentioned – don’t be shy, and comment away. And just as a feature preview, the next up in the “best wines” posts is my personal Top Dozen wines of 2013. Don’t miss it… Cheers!

Indifferent, Okay and Spectacular

November 10, 2013 7 comments

Over the last few days, I had a few of the “accidental tastings”, which I would like to share with you. Oh yes, and if you are wondering about the title of this post – read on.

It is not the wine we will be talking about today – instead, it is the other type of “liquid pleasures”. Well, actually, not even one”type”, but a few – Tequila, Scotch and Whiskey!

I have to admit, I don’t drink tequila all that often. When I do drink it, I don’t do shots (as I don’t see a point of pleasure in a quick gulp of an alcohol) – as wine, scotch or cognac, I like to sip and enjoy it slowly.

Tequila DeLeón is definitely not something to look at lightly. I would say that in the overall image presentation, starting from the bottle itself (take a look below – that top is so heavy, it can be literally used as a weapon), to the web site and all the marketing materials, Tequila DeLeón is an attempt to bring out the tequila, shall we say it, of Rémy Martin’s level, and not just any Rémy Martin, but all the way to the top – Louis XIII de Rémy Martin.

Tequila DeLeón bottle

Tequila DeLeón bottle

I had an opportunity to taste through the full line of Tequila DeLeón, starting from the tequila blanco, which is unpretentiously called Diamante, to the Louis XIII-like Leóna. Below is the complete list with the descriptions and suggested retail prices (sorry for the quality of the picture, but I hope you will be able to see enough – or go to the web site for more info):

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Here are my notes:

DeLeón Diamante – touch of sweetness, the classic Agave notes of tequila are very muted, viscous mouthfeel.

DeLeón Riposado – nice herbal profile, had some lightness and touch of spiciness. One of my favorites.

DeLeón Añejo – mind you, this tequila is aged in the used Sauternes oak casks, and not just any Sauternes, but venerable d’Yquem. Interesting palate, but not smooth enough, some rough edges.

DeLeón Extra Añejo – very nice, excellent flavor profile, some spiciness, very good depth. Probably my favorite – which is not surprising, considering that it is compared with the Scotch in the official description.

DeLeón Leóna – this is simply overdone. It has a lot of oak. A LOT. Oak is the only thing I was able to taste.

Now, if we look at the prices, which are ranging from $125 for Diamante to $825 for Leóna, this is where Indifferent part of the post’s title comes into a play. I would gladly take Chinaco and Don Julio for the sipping tequila blanco any day (both are under $50), and I never tasted Añejo better than my favorite Tres Generaciones ( also under $50). I appreciate the art of the Tequila DeLeón, and yes, if you need to impress, go for it; meanwhile, I will have another sip of Chinaco.

So you know what left me indifferent. Now, for the Okay part, I tasted through a group of Scotches.  Here they are:

MacPhail’s Collection Highland Park 8 years old – very nice! hint of smoke, perfect balance, touch of sweetness.

MacPhail’s Collection Glan Grant 10 years old – herbal notes, smooth, nice acidity, very good.

Mortlach 15 years old – nice and simple, but somewhat one-dimensional.

Old Pulteney 21 years old – nice, very complex, interesting nose, spicy profile – excellent overall.

Glenlivet 21 years old – okay, so it is a scotch, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

The Macallan 21 years old – least interesting of all. Just boring…

Based on the notes, you can probably see why this is just “okay”. But if you like Scotch, I would definitely recommend the Highland Park 8 and Old Pulteney 21 – those are worth seeking out.

And now,  let’s talk about Spectacular. I was given to taste (blind) four different spirits, one by one, and the most I could say after each one was “wow”. They were one better than the other. Zak was looking at me patiently, waiting for me to guess what they were. The first one, I said, was a grappa. The second? Bourbon. The third? No idea – absolutely unusual profile. The fourth? May be a Rye? Then he put 4 bottles on the table, one by one. Here they are:

Catskill Distilling Company Spirit's Collection

Catskill Distilling Company Spirits Collection

When I saw what they were, I had to say “wow” one more time. All of the spirits were produced about 90 miles away from my house, in the town of Bethel, New York . It is amazing how far the local New York producers went. You probably read my rave review of Hudson Distillery – I will definitely make an effort to visit Catskill Distilling Company when I will have a chance. Here is what I tasted:

Wicked White Whiskey – this is six-grain (corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, smoked corn, malt), un-aged whiskey. Absolutely spectacular nose and flavor – complete impression of delicate single-grape grappa with round sweet fruit and all around delicious. You have to taste it to believe it.

Most Righteous Bourbon (70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malt) – round, clean, caramel, butterscotch, all perfectly balanced together. One of the best bourbons I ever tasted.

One and only Buckwheat (80% buckwheat, 20% small grains) – unique and different. Nose is absolutely unusual, reminiscent of sun flower oil. Viscous, roll-of-your-tongue delicious concoction. Great complexity, another drink you have to taste to believe it.

Definat Rye – a very classic Rye, with a touch of sweetness, but otherwise dry palate, some spiciness and good acidity.

All four spirits are reasonably priced ( from $19 to $38) and definitely highly recommended.

There you have it, my friends – my story of indifferent, okay and spectacular. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!

 

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