Review: Four Provence Roses, 2015 Vintage

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good rose with dinner tonight. Here are four rose wines from France’s Provence, all 2015 vintages, worth a look.

2015 Domaine de la Sangliere Cuvee Speciale Cotes de Provence – Lightly grassy and herbal on the nose, this wine exhibits a bold berry profile on the palate featuring fresh notes of strawberry, plus hints of jasmine and a bit of thyme. Exotic and complex for a rose, and quite worthwhile. A- / $11

2015 Xavier Flouret Nationale 7 Cotes de Provence – A very light-bodied wine, with floral notes prominent up front and a somewhat duller, lightly vegetal body. Lively enough at mealtime, but it lacks zing on its own. B / $20

2015 Mas de Cadenet Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire – Strawberry heavy on the nose and the palate, with an undercurrent of toasty grains. Arguably the most straightforward rose in this collection, it goes down with little fuss en route to a short but wholly inoffensive finish. B+ / $16

2015 Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Cotes de Provence Rose – This is a much bolder wine than the 2014 release, showcasing big fruit flavors in the realm of peach, apricot, and pear, all folded into a slightly palate that ultimately turns somewhat sour on the back end. The finish is rustic and a bit tart. Best with food. B- / $20

A Visit to Moonlight Brewery’s Tap Room, Santa Rosa, California

Moonlight Brewery is located in Santa Rosa, California. While it is a small brewer, the brewery is best known for its beer Death and Taxes. We recently visited its tap room, which is on the brewery site.

Unfortunately the brewers were not available to interview. However, the hosts of the tap room were very gracious and friendly, and they offered a look at the boiling tank workroom and the massive, covered brewing kettles. Moonlight may be small, but the size of these boys is impressive.

On tap, six beers were offered, so a sample slat of those was in order. From left to right in the above photo, we tasted:

Toast Burnt Lager – This beer, typically brewed for New Year’s celebrations,  is a light amber body color with a creamy head. At first sip, a nice maltiness is noticeable. The burnt flavor comes through on the back end without being harsh. It is dry and not sweet at all. 6% abv A

Tipple Winter Ale – This dark brown ale is a type of “winter warmer,” brewed for fall and winter. It has a nice, rich, tan head. The first pass under the nose has a citrusy hop note which carries through the first sip. The hoppy overtones are more subtle with the second taste. 6% abv. A

Reality Czeck – A pale yellow pilsner, Reality Czeck is a light and refreshing Czech style beer. It does have the traditional floral hops flavors which are stronger after the first taste, but it reminded me a bit of a Budweiser. 4.8% abv. B

Twist of Fate Bitter Ale – Moonlight calls this English style ale ESB-ish, which means it as a touch of the extra special bittering hops that are noticeable in the taste and scent. I agree this is true to its name. Its hoppiness comes through, but it’s not overpowering. 5.6% abv. A

Lunatic Lager – This lager has a bright yellow body (slightly darker than the Reality Czeck) with a light scent revealing a touch of yeast. It is refreshing with a slight lingering aftertaste which was ever so slightly soapy in texture. 5% abv. B

Death and Taxes – It is a San Francisco style black lager–a common style of lager. The dark, chocolate brown body and thick, creamy, tan head are very welcoming. There are chocolaty notes but more of a dark roast coffee taste than anything. This one remains a favorite. 5% abv. A+

All of these are approximately $7 per 16 oz. draft, depending upon where you buy them.

moonlightbrewing.com

Review: Fort Point Manzanita Smoked Altbier

San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Company presents this collaboration with Germany’s Freigeist. Manzanita is a heavily smoked ale made from malt that’s been smoked with both beechwood and manzanita (a common evergreen shrub) branches.

The overpowering smokiness on the nose is reminiscent of apple wood smoke, crispy bacon, and mesquite. The palate is quite sweet, heavy apple and orange fruitiness leading quickly to more of the aforementioned smoke flavors, which take on some notes of roasted nuts and chicory coffee. Saphir hops add a very light bitterness to the proceedings, but the smoke is so overpowering that it quickly begins to dominate the experience from start to finish, which otherwise comes through with some stale coffee notes.

6.5% abv.

B / $8 per 22 oz bottle / fortpointbeer.com

Review: Double Nickel Brewing Pilsner and Vienna Lager

Pennsauken New Jersey’s Double Nickel Brewing has been open since October of 2015, adding to a very vibrant brewing community in Southern New Jersey. Here are two of their flagship beers.

Double Nickel Brewing Pilsner – Brewed with Noble hops, this excellent pilsner has a very clean crisp flavor and the straw color you would expect. Although it’s a bit more bitter than many American pilsners, it has a depth of flavor not often seen in American versions of this style. The beer exhibits distinctive citrus and floral overtones, with a little spice on the finish. Beer drinkers who don’t usually drink small-brewery beer might find this a good gateway beer. The brewery describes the beer as being good for light beer drinkers, but at 5.6% alcohol I would beg to differ on that one. B / $10 per six pack

Double Nickel Brewing Vienna Lager – A very malt-forward beer brewed with three different malts (Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich), this beer has a rich caramel flavor and color. The first taste is full of caramel and malt, leaving little room for any nuance. After the first taste, honey and toffee overtones begin to fill in behind the malt, tempering and smoothing out the flavor, as the first blast of malt begins to wear off. The sweet finish tastes like a molasses brown bread, and it feels similar on the tongue. The beer finishes a little heavy with a strong but very pleasant aftertaste, and it maintains its taste and body even if it’s a little warm, seemingly at its best flavor at around 45 degrees. 5.3% abv. B / $10 per six pack

dnbcbeer.com

Review: Pinnacle Vodka

Pinnacle’s Cinnabon-flavored vodka didn’t exactly wow us, but the company does considerably better with its unflavored expression.

Distilled five times from French wheat, this is a vodka produced in a modern style, with a lightly herbal nose that hints at toasted marshmallows and white sugar. The palate is moderately sweet but not overblown, approachable with a smattering of those candied notes but finishing with gentle notes of mixed herbs and some orange peel. Nothing all that noteworthy, really, but at least it’s got something beyond simple sweetness. Sure, don’t get me wrong — this isn’t a “serious” vodka that anyone is going to sip on straight, but as the basis for a punch or some fruity concoction, it ought to work just fine.

Available for as little as $7 if you shop around.

80 proof.

B / $10 / pinnaclevodka.com

Review: Flight of the Earl’s Blended Irish Whiskey

Damn I love a whiskey with a grammatical error in its name.

The Flight of the Earls was an event in Irish history, when the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tyrconnell were exiled from Ireland to mainland Europe, an event which ushered in centuries of migrations out of Ireland.

Flight of the Earl’s is an Irish whiskey. So, grammatically: “Flight of the Earl Is?” Or a flight that belonged to the Earl? It’s the best eye-roller I’ve experienced in the world of booze since Coors released Artic Ice beer in the ’80s. (Coors later said they misspelled “Arctic” on purpose for trademark and branding reasons… true or not, I’m not so sure about the motivation of the “Earl’s.”)

For better or worse, we’re here to review drinks, not label grammar, and the question of whether you can trust a distiller to pay attention to what he’s putting inside the bottle if he doesn’t know what he’s putting on the label, well, that is left to the reader and the comments section.

Flight of the Earl’s is a relatively standard and straightforward blend, lightly astringent on a nose that offers notes of roasted grains — think hard crackers — and rubber in equal measure. A bit of green banana and a hint of bubble gum give it a distinct Irishness. On the palate, the whiskey is more mellow than the nose would indicate, offering surprising notes of milk chocolate and caramel at first, its sweetness fading into a more cereal-driven character later on, showcasing the underlying grains with greater clarity.

Flight of the Earl’s gets off to a somewhat dull and rocky start, but it’s redeemed in the end by some interesting flavor combinations. Or, should I say “combination’s?”

80 proof.

B / $NA / visionwineandspirits.com

Review: Gin MG

Spain is in love with gin, and it makes sense that Spanish-produced gin would rise in prominence as part of the “drink local” movement that’s sweeping the globe.

Gin MG (sometimes written as GinMG or GINMG), is produced by Destilerias MG in Barcelona, Spain. While it is flavored with Spanish juniper, little else is revealed about the contents of the London Dry-style gin or its production methods. (The company notes only that an antique still is used to craft it, and that no sugar is added to the final product.)

I’m glad they mention that, because Gin MG has a moderate sweetness to it that sure does seem like a by-product of sugar. On the nose, a powerful and pungent, juniper-driven evergreen note dominates, with a slight lemon peel undertone. On the palate, there’s a rush of cotton candy that is quickly doused by juniper and a stronger lemon component, though here it shows itself more like lemon oil (lemon Pledge, even) than peel or fruit. That feeling is perhaps driven by the overly oily body of this gin, which drives a finish that is rather unctuous and creamy, rather than sharp and biting like a more traditional London Dry.

On the whole, this could work fine in a long drink, but more gin-forward cocktails will be better served by another bottling.

80 proof.

B / $21 / destileriasmg.com

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