Review: Montucky Cold Snack


“The Unofficial Beer of Montana” is actually made in Wisconsin, but I doubt anyone’s checking the fine print in the Great White North.

What we have here is a lager as pale as the folks for whom it’s made, sold in 16 oz. cans emblazoned with a white horse and pastel mountains. Inside the can is nothing particularly noteworthy, though on a hot day or after sufficient exertion it will offer sufficient refreshment to pull you through til dinnertime. Both lightly sweet and malty, it’s a breakfast cereal in beer form, just chewy enough to come across as a touch heavier than a light beer.

The finish is fairly clean but unmemorable, though a beer like this clearly doesn’t have designs on overthrowing your favorite IPA or stout in your refrigerator. It’s picnic and party beer, built for summers by the pool or lake or what-have-you, the kind of places where beer in 16 oz. cans work really well.

4% abv.

B- / $8 per six-pack of 16 oz. cans /

Review: 2014 Gran Passione Rosso Veneto IGT

gran passioneA blend of 60% merlot and 40% corvina, this is a deep purple, wholly opaque wine with a pungency that you’ll find from wines like this — “apassimento” wines that are made from dried grapes, common in northern Italy. (Think Amarone, but on a much simpler scale.) The initial rush of fruit and florals — think strawberries and rose petals — quickly gives way to a sticky dried fruit notes, with notes of citrus juice and some sweet-tart dried fruit. The finish brings on some vinegar notes, but it does little to counteract the extreme sweetness, which really lingers on the palate for far too long.

I love Amarone and other apassimento wines, but this one feels a bit too immature for prime time.

B- / $12 /

Review: Wines of Rodney Strong, 2016 Releases

2013-rodney-strong-chardonnay-sonoma-bottle-72dpiThree new affordable releases from Rodney Strong, all from the Sonoma County range. Let’s give them a spin.

2014 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma County – Bright and fruity, this is an apple- and pear-focused wine that laces modest (but not overwhelming) vanilla and caramel notes into an otherwise fruit-forward experience. Uncomplicated, but super friendly for everyday drinking. B+ / $10

2013 Rodney Strong Merlot Sonoma County – A workmanlike merlot, with cocoa powder and cassis notes, plus a somewhat herbal finish. Densely fruity at first, it settles into a groove after a bit to pair at least reasonably well with heartier dishes. On its own, a somewhat bittersweet note tends to dull the finish. B- / $13

2013 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – A very young cab, with notes of blueberry and chocolate. While unabashed in its sweetness, it is tempered by a touch of baking spice and a pinch of bitter herbs that give it a cleaner finish than you’d expect. B / $14

Tasting the Pinot Gris Wines of Alsace, 2016

alsaceThe region is best known for Pinot Blanc and Riesling, but Pinot Gris is a major varietal in the Alsace — so much so that the region’s reps sent us four selections from the area for us to cover.

Let’s dive into four major Alsatian Pinot Gris wines to see how they stack up.

2011 Albert Mann Vin d’Alsace Pinot Gris Rosenberg – Honey and peaches and cream, oh my! A gently fruity and mildly perfumed wine, it’s a pretty sipper with a body that pushes hard on the fruitier notes, those peaches giving way to simpler citrus on the finish. Easygoing, if a little plain at times. B+ / $25

2010 Louis Sipp Pinot Gris  “Nature’S” – Night and day vs. most of the field, this is a wildly sweet wine that you might well mistake for a muscat, or possibly a dessert offering of some kind. Pungent with notes of overripe peaches, orange creamsicles, and Ricola cough drops, this is better saved for the end of the meal, not the start. B- / $28

2011 Riefle Bonheur Convivial Pinot Gris Alsace Moderately sweet, with a tropical bent and notes of ripe banana. Some perfumed notes add a touch of intrigue, but a bit of astringency mars the back end. Less of a blowout than the Louis Sipp, but still on the digestif side of the fence. B- / $17

2011 Hugel Pinot Gris Alsace – Arguably the biggest name in Alsatian wine, this pinot gris comes complete with a Ralph Steadman illustration on the label. Very aromatic and floral, this is one of the driest wines in the collection, a pale and perfumed sipper that melds white flowers with notes of melon, white peach, and tart gooseberry. B+ / $22

Review: Tullibardine Sovereign, 225, 228, 500, 20 Years Old, and 25 Years Old

Tullibardine Sovereign Bottle ShotTullibardine is a Highlands based distillery, largely overlooked in the U.S. but widely available if you take a spin around the internet.

Tullibardine has changed hands and directions more than once (the whisky we reviewed only 4 years ago is long since off the market and the company has been sold and rebranded everything since then). So, today we’re taking a look at the complete lineup of Tullibardine, a distillery which dates back to just 1949.

Before we get going, you might be curious about the three expressions with numerical monikers — 225, 228, and 500. These refer to the sizes of the barrels in which these whiskies are finished, in liters — Sauternes, Burgundy, and sherry, respectively.

More on each expression in the tasting notes below.

Tullibardine Sovereign – Entry-level Tullibardine is this NAS whisky, which is aged in first-fill bourbon barrels for what looks like 6 to 8 years based on my impression of the spirit. There’s plenty of grain to go around here, but it’s tempered by nice honey notes on the nose and body, some butterscotch, and an overall gentle hand that blends toasty wood notes with its barley base. It’s not something I’d drink solo but it’s a totally fair base for mixing. 86 proof. B- / $46

Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish – NAS, but finished for 12 months in 225 liter Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes casks. A bit doughy, it’s a spirit that balances a basic grain profile with notes of green apple and citrus — classic notes associated with Sauternes finishing — then finishes off with notes of pie crust and cinnamon toast. Aside from the flash of fruit, it’s surprisingly restrained for this finishing style. 86 proof. B / $56

Tullibardine 228 Burgundy Finish – Finished for 12 months in Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet red Burgundy casks, 228 liters in size. No real hints at Burgundy here, rather it’s a whisky loaded with honey, vanilla, and baking spices that weave in and out of the spirit. There’s an awful lot to like here, with various notes offering cake frosting, strawberry, and malted milk. A fun little whisky to sip on, it manages to use its youth to its advantage. 86 proof. B+ / $56

Tullibardine 500 Sherry Finish – Finished for 12 months in 500 liter Pedro Ximinez sherry butts. This is a fairly classic, though simple and youthful, sherry-finished malt, balancing a toasty caramel nose with some sharper citrus notes underneath, particularly evident on the body as it develops. The finish is soothing with gentle grain, malty caramel, and just a hint of cloves. As with many of these NAS whiskies, this is a fine everyday dram, but it’s not cut out for serious exploration. 86 proof. B / $56

Tullibardine 20 Years Old – Now we’re getting into the old stuff. This whisky spends 20 years in first-fill bourbon barrels, which give it a depth of flavor and density that the above four whiskies just can’t muster. The nose offers some curious hospital character, with slight mushroom and forest floor notes. The body has some of this brooding wet earth character, mixed in with notes of heather, dark chocolate, walnuts, and savory spices. The finish recalls a bit of that Listerine character and more granary notes. 86 proof. B+ / $140

Tullibardine 25 Years Old – 25 years in oloroso sherry casks give this a dark, burnished color and a dense nuttiness that is only hinted at in the younger spirits. Notes of butterscotch, flamed orange peel, and barrel char notes lead the way into a body that offers touches of banana, nougat, coconut, and cocoa powder notes. The finish brings up the classic Tullibardine grain character, ending with a touch of powdered charcoal. 86 proof. B+ / $300

Review: Wines of La Crema, 2016 Releases

La Crema 2014 Virtuoso Pinot NoirToday we look at three new releases from Sonoma-based La Crema, including the kooky Virtuoso Pinot Noir. Virtuoso is the result of a crowdsourced winemaking experiment, in which 25,000 “virtual vintners” put their input into what type of wine La Crema would make (Russian River Pinot won), what type of yeast would be used (wild), how long the wine would spend in barrel (9 months), and more. Majority ruled, and La Crema made it to the crowd’s specifications. Did the wisdom of crowds prove better than the wisdom of a trained winemaker? Let’s find out!

2014 La Crema Pinot Gris Monterey – A fruity yet brisk and fun pinot gris, this wine offers lush apple notes with a smattering of tropical and citrus fruits, showing some melon notes on the finish. Ample acidity gives the wine a freshness that cuts through any lingering sweetness, wrapping things up on a light and vibrant note. A- / $15

2013 La Crema Chardonnay Monterey – A pedestrian chardonnay, some curious lemon notes are about all that give it structure outside of a moderately wood-driven, slightly chalky and gravelly expression of this grape. The vanilla on the finish is reminiscent of cake frosting more than anything else. B- / $20

2014 La Crema Virtuoso Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – Let’s see if the crowd knew what it was doing. Virtuoso is initially quite restrained for a Russian River pinot, with blackberry preserves, black tea, and mild chocolate notes. The wine is modest of body, almost thin at times, with a short — but nicely bittersweet — finish. Otherwise, it’s not terribly remarkable — perfectly acceptable with a meal, but on its own it feels a little lost in the shuffle. B+ / $50

Review: NV Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto (2016)

Sandeman founders reserveHere’s a fresh look at Sandeman’s widely-available nonvintage Ruby Port, which is sold in the squat bottles labeled Founders Reserve. (We last reviewed it in 2012.)

It’s a rather alcohol-forward Port, which dulls the raisiny core more than a bit with some hospital character. Secondary notes of weak tea, rhubarb, and caramel sauce find an unhappy hanger-on on the form of some canned vegetable notes that linger on both the nose and the finish, dulling this wine’s impact.

B- / $15 /