Review: 2012 Galerie pleinair and latro Cabernet Sauvignon

galerieLaura Diaz Munoz creates these two California cabernets — wildly different, yet next door neighbors — at Galerie, where the wines are constructed to evoke France’s Loire Valley. (Three white wines, not reviewed here, are also produced.) Today we take a dive into the 2012 reds. Thoughts follow.

2012 Galerie “pleinair” Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Bright fruit starts things off on this flavor-packed wine, which offers lush berries — rasp- and blue- varieties — mixed up with a brambly, woodsy essence. A seductive introduction leads to a rather intense, bittersweet finish that is almost punchy with amaro notes, vanilla, and a touch of balsamic. Nicely balanced, but with tons of complexity to explore. A / $50

2012 Galerie “latro” Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Sonoma County – A vastly different wine, with restrained sweetness and fruit, showcasing more bitter, even sour, notes of herbs, roots, and leather. Lots of tannin here, with a duskiness that dried figs, tobacco, and tar. Considerably less developed than the above, but a food friendly wine. B+ / $50

Review: 2013 Trapiche Broquel Malbec Mendoza

trapicheTrapiche’s Broquel bottling is a widely available malbec and a solid introduction to the style if you’re unfamiliar. Here a nose of dark fruits and modest balsamic notes leads into a rather dense body (though not overly so for Argentine malbec) loaded with notes of grilled plums, red pepper, coffee, and dark chocolate. Lightly bitter on the finish, it tempers some of the heavier fruit notes up front and adds balance.

B+ / $18 /

Review: 2011 Pombal do Vesuvio Douro

Portugal’s dry red wines come in a distant third place when ranking the wine varieties the country is known for, and even at Pombal do Vesuvio, it’s better known for Port than it is for table wines.

It’s easy to overlook the standard reds of the Duoro region, but this blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Amarela is an interesting and unusual — yet highly drinkable — wine.

The nose offers sour cherries, black pepper, and rhubarb. The slightly sour body features more cherry and lingonberry notes, with a light balsamic character atop it. Secondary notes of black tea, cola, and dried spices take this to a bit of a weird place on the palate, with a tawny port edge overtaking the finish.

Strange stuff, but it’s enchanting in its own way and demands revisiting to explore its quirky, rustic charms.

B+ / $27 /

Review: The Exclusive Malts Batch #9 – Deanston 1997, Ben Nevis 1996, Glen Keith 1996, Glen Garioch 1995, Allt-A-Bhainne 1995, Cambus 1988


It’s another outturn from indie bottlers The Exclusive Malts, with a series of eight single cask releases from a wide range of distilleries. Today we look at six of them. So, without further ado, let’s get on to the tasting!

The Exclusive Malts Deanston 1997 17 Years Old – A “midlands” distillery near Glasgow, Deanston doesn’t often get much notice, but this vanilla-heavy number is a solid sipper. It’s a low-key malt with ample roasted grain notes, a touch of citrus peel, and some oily leather/furniture polish notes on the back end — but the sweet vanilla character, tempered with some walnut notes, tends to take over the whole affair from beginning to end. 104.6 proof. B+ / $140

The Exclusive Malts Ben Nevis 1996 17 Years Old – Highland malt, matured completely in a refill sherry cask. Here you’ll find more red fruits than citrus on the nose — almost strawberry at times, which is an exotic surprise, with a touch of lemon mixed in. There’s lots going on on the body — fresh mixed fruits, cinnamon, toffee notes, a bit of well toasted bread. Some coconut emerges on the finish, giving this a tropical touch. Lots of fun and highly worthwhile. 102.4 proof. A / $140

The Exclusive Malts Glen Keith 1996 19 Years Old – Speyside’s Glen Keith was shuttered from the late ’90s to 2013, when it reopened to make malt exclusively for blending. This is some of the last stock from that prior production run and a final chance to try Glen Keith as a single malt. It’s fairly traditional on the nose, with sizable cereal, some apple, and moderate wood influence. On the palate, it drinks on the hot side, with sweetened grains — think breakfast cereal — heavy on the tongue. Ultimately it’s a bit simplistic, particularly for a whisky of this age, though it’s completely serviceable. 100.2 proof. B / $155

The Exclusive Malts Glen Garioch 1995 19 Years Old – This is Highland malt aged in a rum cask from Guyana, a rarity you don’t often see in Scotch. Racy and spicy on the nose, the initial impression is one of a heavily sherried whisky, loaded with citrus and laced with cloves. The body is highly spiced, almost fiery at times, with tropical notes, rounded malt, and a bit of chocolate. Straightforward, a little hot thanks to the higher-than-expected proof, but a joy from start to finish. Wish I had more to tinker with. 112.6 proof. A- / $150

The Exclusive Malts Allt-A-Bhainne 1993 22 Years Old – This Speyside distillery is primarily used to make malts for Chivas blends, and it almost never shows up as a single malt. This well-aged number is the lightest shade of gold, with floral and grain-heavy notes up front, plus hints of baking spice and burnt sugar. Touches of petrol emerge with time. On the palate the whisky is initially sweet and innocuous, but some less savory components quickly come around — notes of coal, burnt paper, gravel, and ash. The finish is a bit rubbery, and short. Ultimately lackluster. 101.4 proof. B- / $160

The Exclusive Malts Cambus Single Grain 1988 26 Years Old – Cambus was a Lowlands grain whisky distillery that was shuttered in 1993. This is a darkish whisky, exotic on the nose with tropical fruits, irises, ripe banana, and coconut notes. On the palate, it’s intensely sweet — with amaretto notes and more ripe banana before venturing toward notes of watermelon, cherry, and rhubarb all mixed together. The finish is exceptionally sweet, almost cloying. All in all, this is a somewhat bizarre whisky that nonetheless merits consideration because it is so very unique. Not sure it’s a daily dram, however. 96.2 proof. B / $180

Review: Wines of Stonestreet, 2015 Releases

STONESTREETStonestreet is a high-elevation vineyard and winery in California’s Alexander Valley — all three of the wines below are made from 100% estate fruit. Let’s taste.

2014 Stonestreet Sauvignon Blanc Alexander Valley – Not especially Californian in makeup, but rather quite tropical with melon, mango, pineapple, and standard citrus fruit notes, with a quite sweet — coconut custard and sugar buns — underpinning. The finish is lightly bitter with slight ammonia notes, but by and large it’s a fine example of a New Zealand-style sauvignon blanc. Just, you know, not from NZ. B / $35

2013 Stonestreet Chardonnay Alexander Valley – Big, California style chardonnay — with vanilla, oak, and brown butter to burn. Some lychee notes develop on the body, then a lemon sweet-and-sour note hits on the back end. Candylike at times, but not overblown. Much more cleansing than most chardonnays, thanks to that touch of citrus on the finish. B+ / $40

2011 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – A stylish cab, with a dense layer of fresh herbs and a currant backbone. It layers in notes of vanilla and charcoal atop modest tannins. Drying on the finish. Easy to enjoy alone or with a meal, and it probably has a few years to continue maturing in bottle before it hits its peak. B+ / $45

Review: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2015 Edition

four roses 2015LESmallBatch_Front_White_FIN

With Jim Rutledge retiring from Four Roses and Brent Elliot succeeding him as master distiller, Rutledge has just overseen his last edition of the Four Roses Small Batch, his final release from the distillery.

The 2015 Limited Edition Small Batch is comprised of a 16-year-old Bourbon from Four Roses’ OBSK recipe, a 15-year-old OESK, a 14-year-old OESK, and an 11-year-old OBSV, making this a fairly old installment of the panoply of Small Batch releases.

The Four Roses 2015 Small Batch has a very exotic nose — sweeter than 4R usually comes across, with notes of cherry, floral honeysuckle, and eucalyptus. The body is heavily fruity, with ample vanilla-cherry character up front that leads to a big and syrupy vanilla, butterscotch, and chocolate character that washes over the palate as it heads to a lengthy and quite sweet finish that offers notes of apricot. For those who like their bourbon with plenty of sugar (but also plenty of heat), this Small Batch release will hit the spot perfectly.

I enjoy a sweet bourbon, but I have to say the 2015 goes a bit too far down that road, ultimately leaving little room for subtlety. It’s a fine sipper on its own, but in the pantheon of Four Roses’ Small Batch releases, it is need of some balance.

108.5 proof.

12,600 bottles produced (a further increase over 2014 — in 2011 they only made 3500 bottles).

B+ / $90 /

Review: Deschutes Brewery Jubelale Winter Ale 2015

Jubelale 12ozIt’s the time of the season for Jubelale, Deschutes’ highly regarded winter sipper. This year’s Jubelale has a familiar profile, with notes of Mexican coffee, baking spices, fresh hops, and a mildly earthy and woodsy core. 2015’s installment has a nice balance among its constituent components, playing up the coffee the most this year while tempering it with hops and a modest slug of sweetness. It drinks more like a coffee stout than a traditional winter warmer — I expect some will still be sipping it well after the jubelizing is well over.

6.7% abv.

B+ / $8 per six-pack /

Review: S-NAC Hangover “Game Changer”

s-nacAnother in a long line of purported hangover curatives, S-NAC is a “pre-game” supplement (taken in the form of two big, orange tablets) with just two ingredients.

Per the company, here’s what they are and what they do:

  1. Sulbutiamine is a highly bioavailable, lipophilic form of thiamine that works as a cognitive enhancer by increasing glutamatergic neurotransmission (among other things). This counteracts the effects of alcohol on depressing the glutamate system. Glutamate is the brain’s principal excitatory neurotransmitter, and is required for memory formation, learning and cognition. This is why it may be difficult to recall events that happen when you’re drunk, and some people may exhibit poor coordination and cognitive skills while inebriated. Sulbutiamine counteracts this effect (to a point).

  2. N-Acetyl L-Cysteine goes to work to protect your liver by increasing the levels of Glutathione. Both NAC and Glutathione bind to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that come about as a result of acetaldehyde metabolism (acetaldehyde is what alcohol first gets metabolized to). In addition thiamine from sulbutiamine may complex with acetaldehyde to give rise to acetyl Coenzyme A. The end result is that this formula should protect your liver and brain cells from acetaldehyde and resulting ROS toxicity. You do want to give enough time for the product to get in your system and for your liver to transform the NAC into glutathione before you start ingesting alcohol, however. This is why we stress taking S-NAC before you start drinking (at least a half hour prior).

The primary goal of S-NAC is to remove acetaldehyde from the system, which is supposed to not only give you less of a hangover the next day but also a clearer head while you’re drinking. (The company warns that you may feel more sober than you actually are, so use caution if you’re out and about.)

I tried S-NAC on three occasions and had mixed results. In general, I felt fine overall both while drinking and the next day, but on one occasion I found myself waking with a substantial headache. I hadn’t consumed much at all the night before, so the headache could have been the result of dehydration or some other cause like stress or allergies. Either way, it passed fairly quickly once I drank a glass of water. I would not say my mood or alertness while drinking changed noticeably, but that’s a highly subjective question to try to answer.

Does S-NAC work? Hard to say, but it certainly didn’t hurt — which some hangover remedies can do — and my results were interesting enough to merit giving it another whirl down the line.

B+ / $30 for 10 doses /

Review: Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila (2015)

jose-cuervo-tradicional-reposado-tequilaCuervo’s cheapest 100% agave tequila — Cuervo Tradicional — has been with us for a few years now, but we’re only just now getting around to reviewing the original — the reposado bottling. We first looked at Tradicional Silver four years ago, now we’re hitting it up for a second review, plus a first review of the Tradicional Reposado.

Let’s dig in. Both tequilas are 80 proof.

Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver Tequila – This is a clean and well-crafted tequila, with moderate herbal, agave notes on the nose. Hints of cinnamon and cloves emerge if you give it time. On the body, the tequila is quite simple, with some citrus and more clove emerging over time. The finish is agave-focused, lightly bitter, and moderate in length. Well made and perfectly fine as a mixer, but it’s a little plain on its own for serious sipping. B / $19

Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado Tequila – Aged two months in oak, the legal minimum to call a tequila a reposado. Very pale yellow in color. A blend of caramel and agave starts things off on the nose, with a decent balance between the two notes. On the tongue, it’s significantly sweeter than the Silver, which helps to balance out the spirit’s herbal character. We’re left with some citrus, and a bit of cotton candy on the back end — oddly that pairs pretty nicely with this reposado’s herbal core. Again, this is hardly a special occasion tequila, but for under 20 bucks — and at the same price as the Silver — it’s hard not to think of this for your frozen margarita machine. B+ / $19

Review: Carpano Dry and Carpano Bianco Vermouth

Carpano Bianco HRes FrontThe company that makes Punt e Mes and Carpano Antica also makes some more pedestrian vermouths, including these two white styles — both made from ancient, secret recipes.

Let’s try both!

Carpano Dry Vermouth – Classically dry, sourly winey nose, with notes of dried, savory herbs (absinthe notes are described in the tasting notes, but your mileage may vary). Light on the palate, with some bitterness lingering on the finish. Simple and versatile, but much better as a companion with gin than with vodka. 18% abv. B / $22 (1 liter)

Carpano Bianco Vermouth – Carpano’s sweet white vermouth (made from wine using trebbiano, cortese, and chardonnay grapes) is restrained on the nose, with similar herbal and “old wine” notes as the dry vermouth. The body pairs up these bitter and winey elements with a layer of sweetness, which works to elevate this vermouth considerably, particularly when drinking it solo. Again, it’s a relatively simple vermouth, but it works well with both vodka or gin — though somewhat better with gin, particularly more floral styles. 14.9% abv. B+ / $22 (1 liter)