Review: Rose Wines of Chateau Saint-Maur, 2015 Vintage

 

Ch St. Maur Clos de CapeluneAs summer begins to fade, we take yet another look at rose from France’s Provence region, this time including a trio of wines all from the same producer, Chateau Saint-Maur, which produces rose at the higher-end of the typical price band for this style.

Below we look at three wines from St.-Maur, all cru classe bottlings from the 2015 vintage.

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur Cotes de Provence Cru Classe – Grenache-heavy, with cinsault and carignan making up most of the rest of the blend (a half-dozen other grapes fill out the remaining few percentage points). This is the only “standard bottle” in this bunch compared to the oversized monsters below, this is a quite dry expression of rose, with light orange overtones and a simple, pleasant structure. Some grapefruit and quiet floral notes find a nice footing in the gentle finish. B+ / $25

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur L’Excellence Cotes de Provence Cru Classe – Grenache, cinsault, and syrah, in that order. Bottled (as is the Clos de Capelune) in a bottle with an ultra-fat base that will challenge any racking system you have. That aside, this is a pretty rose with more fruit to it than the other wines in this lineup, with peach and apricot notes leading the way to a modestly floral finish. Lively from start to finish with an enduring acidity. A- / $45

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur Clos de Capelune Cru Classe – Sourced from newly-acquired vineyards (hence the double name on the bottle), this blend spins things around, featuring cinsault first, then syrah, then a bit of grenache. Fragrant and floral on the nose, again with white flower petals and a touch of apricot notes. On the palate, it’s quite dry and even tannic at times, though the fruity finish, with its notes of peaches and a dollop of red raspberry, is often inspiring. A- / $65

chateausaintmaur.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice, Armory XPA, Big Rig, Down ‘N Dirty IPA, and Pinot Suave

deschutes armory

A whole bunch of stuff has come down the pike from Deschutes lately. Here’s a look at five new releases — two in 12 oz. bottles and three oversized offerings.

Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice Session IPA – Hey, it’s an IPA brewed not with grapefruit but with Meyer lemon! The unusual addition on this session brew ultimately adds quite a decent kick of citrus to the brew, but there’s a heavy earthiness that does a good job of masking it with burly, almost woody overtones. Nice body given the alcohol level, though. A solid effort. 4.5% abv. B+ / $8 per six-pack of 12 oz. bottles

Deschutes Brewery Armory Experimental Pale Ale (XPA) – The first beer brewed at Deschutes’ Portland-based pub, this “experimental” pale ale adds Northern Brewer and Nugget hops to give the beer a distinctly earthy character — just pure bitterness without either a lot of pine or citrus notes. Instead, a leathery, mushroomy character with coffee overtones rises up to greet the palate on the finish — which will likely divide drinkers looking for a more refreshing way out. 5.9% abv. B / $10 per six-pack of 12 oz. bottles

Deschutes Brewery Big Rig – Aka Big Rig Bitter, a “classic pub ale” per Deschutes, or an Extra Strong Bitter if you prefer more austere terminology. Big Rig offers refined, Ye Olde Pub Style drinking with an American twist. Think nutty earthiness at the start, moving quickly into a heavily piney character more in line with today’s IPAs. The finish strongly echoes the earthy-bitter beginning, with notes of mushroom and tanned leather clinging to the palate as the experience fades away. 6% abv. B+ / $5 per 22 oz. bottle

Deschutes Brewery Down ‘N Dirty IPA – A bold American IPA with Bravo, Cascade, and Centennial hops. It’s the Bravo that gives this brew its name and its character, which is intensely earthy — indeed a bit “dirty” — and washes away all but the slightest hint of grapefruit peel notes. Watch instead for chewy tree bark notes that inform its heavy, resinous finish. 6.3% abv. B / $5 per 22 oz. bottle

Deschutes Brewery Pinot Suave – The very latest from Deschutes in its Reserve Series (complete with wax-covered caps), this is a Belgian style ale that is aged in French oak and Pinot Noir barrels filled with pinot grape must. The results are nothing if not unique, intensely fruity with a mountain of malt to back it up. A little must goes an awfully long way, though, and this oddity takes its upfront malt into lightly sour territory, complete with funky, dusky overtones that cling heavily to the palate. Strikingly original, but probably more conversation piece than anything else. First topic for discussion: Is it pronounced “suave” or “sua-vay?” 11.8% abv. B / $17 per 22 oz. bottle

deschutesbrewery.com

Review: Gilles Brisson Cognac VS and VSOP

brisson cognac vs

Gilles Brisson, or just Brisson, is a Grande Champange-based producer of Cognac located in the Grande Champagne region of Châteaubernard. With just 65 hectares of production, Brisson is a relatively small producer, but it makes some impressive brandy from all estate fruit. Today we look at its two lower-level releases (a Napoleon and XO bottling are also available).

Both are 80 proof.

Gilles Brisson 1er Cru Cognac Grande Champagne VS – A bit rough and tumble, but it’ll work in a pinch. Initially a tad alcoholic and overtly woody on the nose, it opens up with time to reveal ample fruit and spice. The body leads the way with simple apple and cinnamon notes, vanilla touched with a bit of lemon peel, gingerbread, and grapefruit notes. The finish isn’t altogether clear, though, with a somewhat grainy character that isn’t unpleasant but which takes the focus off the fruit. I’d use this as a solid mixer or for straight sipping in pinch. B+ / $25

Gilles Brisson 1er Cru Cognac Grande Champagne VSOP – A clear step up, this Cognac offers immediately more maturity, its nose distinguished by more well-integrated wood notes complementing winey characteristics and well-matured fruit notes (think sultanas and figs). The body is seductive and dusky with notes of sherry, dried cherries, orange peel, and ample ginger. On the finish, a gentle coffee character comes to the fore, lingering alongside a complement of dried citrus. Lovely balance, and an outstanding value. A / $35

franckssignaturewines.com

Review: Stirk’s Gin Oak Barrel Finished

Stirk's Gin Bottle Shot

“Stirk” of Stirk’s Gin is David Stirk, the creator of the Exclusive Malts line of Scotch whiskies, and this is his gin, or rather, some sourced London Dry that was placed into recently-dumped single malt Scotch barrels for finishing (the amount of time in barrel is unstated). The results? Let’s take a look.

It’s got an unusually heavy amount of juniper on the nose for a barrel-aged gin, but the intense evergreen and spice aromas driven by the distillation are just prologue for what’s to come. The nose leads to a palate that melds fresh botanicals with ample, but not overwhelming, barrel influence — with flavors of vanilla custard, banana cream, and some toasty wood notes. That may sound awfully whisky-like, and indeed Stirk’s Gin is just that, a rich and surprisingly creamy spirit that finishes like a flan that’s somehow gotten mixed up with a classic G&T.

That all may sound odd, but Stirk’s works out better than most mashups. Both Scotch and gin fans should give it a try, should the opportunity present itself.

92 proof.

B+ / $40 / impexbev.com

Review: Pierre Croizet Cognac VS

pierre croizet  vs-bottle image

This is the entry level Cognac bottling from small producer Pierre Croizet, a Fins Bois based producer. This VS (production and aging information is not available) is a soft but surprisingly well-made and focused brandy, with a nose that offers aromas of gentle fruit in the form of baked apples and golden raisins, studded with notes of simple caramel and some spice.

The body plays up the spicier aspects of the Cognac, some cinnamon, gingerbread, and ample vanilla, all of which play beautifully with those apple notes. The finish is modest but fresh and fruity, without only a hint of more harsh alcoholic overtones, so common in young brandy (or any spirit, really).

I haven’t encountered Croizet’s older expressions, but on the strength of this ultra-affordable VS, I can’t wait to give them a try.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / pierre.croizet.com

Review: Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria and Blood Orange Mimosa

miami cocktail mimosa

Miami Cocktail Co. produces ready-to-drink bottled cocktails, with organic and natural ingredients as the focus. The beverages are made from a base of premium wine and use progressive recipes that add some unexpected fruit components to the mix. (Coming soon is the company’s “Copper Pot Margarita,” which is made with “agave wine.”)

I was originally a skeptic but was pleasantly surprised once I actually cracked the bottles open. Let’s give the two currently shipping products, a sangria and a mimosa, a spin.

Both are 9% abv.

Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria – Red wine with mango, pineapple, lime, and orange juice. Fresh and fruity, a lot like a quality sangria but sweeter than it usually comes to your table, thanks I’m sure to the use of ultra-sweet tropical fruits in the mix. Mango comes across first and most clearly, with tart lime adding a sour element. The light tannin in the wine is a nice foil for all of the above, leading to a well-balanced finish that complements both the fruit and the wine. A-

Miami Cocktail Co. Blood Orange Mimosa – I have an earlier version of this product made with carbonated white wine (the recipe has since been updated (see photo above) to use naturally sparkling wine like Champagne) plus blood orange, grapefruit, and tangerine juice. More refreshing than the sangria, and light on its feet with those tangerine notes hitting the hardest. Whatever wine is used here is quite mild; any character it had is washed away by plenty of fruit — though the sweetness and sugar are both kept in check. (That grapefruit element is a surprising aid here.) Mom would love it for a Mother’s Day brunch. A-

each $15 / miamicocktail.com

Review: 2015 Chateau Sainte Marguerite “Symphony” Rose

BS-Symphonie-Rose

More Provence rose as summer hits its peak months, this one a blend of 40% grenache, 40% cinsault, and 20% syrah. Restrained with light apricot, browned apple, and apricot notes, the wine unfolds to reveal some white floral elements, a bit of honeysuckle, and more herbs and baking spice on the finish. Showing lovely balance — and with not a hint of “strawberry” to be found — it’s an unusual rose that plays best for the white wine enthusiast.

Aka Symphonie.

A- / $34 / dreyfusashby.com