Review: Wines of Terra d’Oro, 2016 Releases

Amador County is home to Terra d’Oro, the first winery to open in this region since the end of Prohibition. Formerly bottled under the Montevina label, the winery was established in 1973 with a focus on historic grape varietals — particularly those of the Italian persuasion.

We sampled a vast array of current releases from Terra d’Oro. Thoughts follow.

First, some white and rose…

2015 Terra d’Oro Chenin Blanc & Viognier Clarksburg – 87% chenin blanc, 13% viognier. Peaches and lemons arrive up front, with perfume-driven notes taking the lead in short order. The finish offers hints of vanilla and caramel. On the whole, the wine is tropical and a bit buzzy, and it offers a refreshing take on a style that can often be overwhelmingly fruity. B+ / $16

2015 Terra d’Oro Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County – There’s a nice slug of mango on the front of this wine, an an otherwise standard pinot grigio from Santa Barbara, far from Amador. Light and quite fresh, it’s an uncomplicated crowd pleaser with a brisk and nicely acidic finish. A- / $16

2015 Terra d’Oro Rose Wine Amador County – Made mostly of nebbiolo grapes. Fruit forward, and loaded with strawberry notes. A surefire crowd pleaser, this is a lively and fragrant wine that showcases crisp acidity and a slight sweetness on the finish. Nothing too fancy going on, but it’s difficult not to enjoy in the moment. B+ / $13

And on to the reds…

2014 Terra d’Oro Barbera Amador County – A bit fruity for a barbera — in fact, it’s got so much bright plum and cherry notes that barbera would’ve been my last guess. That said, this barbeque sipper has plenty to like, including a healthy vanilla note, a dusting of black pepper, and some dried herbs on the back end. It’s a definitive “new world” example of this grape, however. B- / $18

2014 Terra d’Oro Aglianico Amador County – This obscure Italian varietal makes for an interesting alternative to zinfandel, showcasing chocolate and caramel notes along with a moderate slug of citrus. Not as sweet as you’re expecting — at least not after it opens up for a few minutes — and the finish offers restraint. B+ / $18

2013 Terra d’Oro Sangiovese Amador County – A dense wine, with intense cherry and vanilla notes, plus a dusting of dark chocolate on the back end. The plummy finish and lack of herbal notes recall cabernet more than sangiovese, which isn’t entirely a bad thing — but which doesn’t ring authentic to the grape. B / $18

2013 Terra d’Oro Teroldego Amador County – Made from a obscure Alto Adige grape, this is an inky, ultra-ripe wine with notes of anise, cloves, and loads of dark currants. Sweet up front with a lingering earthy, tannic, and herbal finish, it makes me think of a cross between zinfandel and amarone… with all the good and bad that that connotes. B- / $18

2013 Terra d’Oro Petite Sirah Amador County – Ripe and juicy, with a ton of sweetness and residual notes of black tea, black pepper, and licorice. With time, this wine settles down enough to be approachable but the overwhelming sweetness otherwise makes the experience rather singular, culminating in a raisin- and cherry-heavy finish. B / $18

2013 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Amador County – Restrained for zinfandel, with plenty of sweet raisin notes but also notes of blackberry, sweet tea, and vanilla candies. The finish is, again, quite dialed back, bringing forth notes of chocolate and licorice. It’s not an overly serious wine, but it’s a fun one. A- / $18

Finally, a pair of single vineyard zinfandels…

2014 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Home Vineyard – Chocolate and intense Port notes — this is classic Amador County zinfandel, dusted with black pepper and notes of vanilla cake frosting. The finish offers notes of dried blueberry and a solid amount of baking spice and dried ginger notes. Though the body lacks structure (so common with zinfandel) and tends to fade away rather than go out with the bang I’d like to see, it’s still a fun and worthwhile zin. B+ / $24

2014 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Deaver Vineyard – A somewhat vegetal expression of zin, with notes of coffee, sweet tea, and fruity, juicy plums throughout. Lots of tannin and a heavy wood influence muddy the waters, while the intense cherry jam notes come across as a bit cheap. B- / $22

terradorowinery.com

Review: Tequila Herradura, Complete Lineup (2016)

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At Drinkhacker we have a habit of revisiting spirits every few years to see how things have changed. In the case of Tequila Herradura, this is our third time around with the brand (and the fourth for the silver expression). Our 2008 and 2012 reviews may serve as guidance and starting points for this re-re-review. Notably however this is our first encounter with Herradura’s luxe extra anejo, Seleccion Suprema.

The occasion for this new roundup was a San Francisco lunch with Ruben Aceves, International Director for Brand Development for Brown-Forman’s tequila operations (B-F has owned the brand since 2007). Aceves took me through the lineup while providing a deep history of Herradura. (All products were formally reviewed not during lunch but rather several weeks later.)

That said, while Aceves says that Herradura’s tradition-bound production process has not changed in years, climatic conditions impacting the agave harvest mean that Herradura, like all tequila, is evolving. How has this impacted the finished product? Let’s find out.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Tequila Herradura Silver – Racy and loaded with agave on the nose, sharp lemon notes leading to some sultry, earthy aromas. The body shows slight sweetness with ample agave character shining through, along with notes of citrus, some coconut, and a finish that leans slightly toward floral elements. The finish nods at brown sugar and honey, laces in some chocolate, and folds in a healthy slug of herbal agave notes. Definitely benefits from some air time, so give it up to an hour in glass before really digging in. B+ / $25

Tequila Herradura Reposado – Aged 11 months, forever in the tequilaverse. Soft and pretty, with clearer floral notes than the silver. The nose is engaging, offering ample vanilla and caramel, with, again, a hint of coconut. The palate is again soft, gentle, and slightly fruity with notes of mandarin oranges, vanilla custard, and just a twist of cracked black pepper. So easygoing it comes across as if it’s almost watered down, which makes it borderline dangerous. By way of comparison to the 2008 release which I still have on hand, it is clearly lighter in color, with less of an herbal component on the nose and the palate. The finish of the 2008 is quite a bit fruitier, too, giving it a bolder profile and a stronger conclusion. That said, I like the overall direction the expression has taken in recent years. A- / $34

Tequila Herradura Anejo – Aged 2 years. Heavy dessert notes attack the nose — chocolate, caramel, toasted coconut, and graham cracker. Sweet but not overblown, it’s immediately engaging, with a slap in the face of banana cream pie drizzled with caramel sauce. The finish is lightly peppery, edged with fresh herbs, notes of green apple, and a touch of barrel char. This expression seems to have changed the least over the years (which makes sense, because used bourbon barrels have not likely gotten much different), which suits it just fine. A- / $40

55122_Seleccion_Suprema_-_US_with_Closed_Gift_Box_previewTequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo – Aged 49 months. Rich, gorgeous, and opulent — it’s a knockout from start to finish, kicking things off with a nose of dense caramel, chocolate, and an underbelly of herbal agave, the lattermost which is stronger here than in either the reposado or anejo. The palate is a showcase of candy shop delights, beginning with slightly salty caramel, and moving on to gobs of milk chocolate, ample coconut, almond brittle, and flambeed banana. Exotic raspberry notes emerge from absolutely nowhere late on the finish, which lasts for ages thanks to the bold and rounded power of the body (and yet, it’s just 40% abv). Everything fires on all cylinders, working together in near-perfect balance. Bottom line: This is a tequila that’s impossible not to like — nay, impossible not to love. 80 proof. A+ / $340

herradura.com

Recipes: Memorial Day Cocktails 2016

In some circles, it’s the official start of summer. In others, it is a time to pay reverence and salute those who have dutifully served in our United States Armed Forces. Whatever your occasion, we’ve taken the liberty to try out all of the cocktails suggested below and present them for your celebratory consideration. May you have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

Summer ThymeSummer Thyme
1 1/2 parts Aperol
1 1/2 parts gin
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
1 part Sparkling Ice Pink Grapefruit
thyme rub

Shake Aperol and gin with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass that has been rubbed with thyme sprig. Top with Pink Grapefruit Sparkling Ice. Garnish with thyme sprig.

Tanqueray No. TEN Green Machine
1.25 oz. Tanqueray No. TEN
3 oz. green juice
mint sprig for garnish

Blend greens, apple, and lemon together to create green juice. Pour green juice into glass, add Tanqueray No. TEN and stir. Garnish with a celery stalk or mint sprig.

punchGrapefruit Summer Solstice Punch
10 parts Bacardi Grapefruit
4 parts Pineau des Charentes
4 parts orange liqueur
5 parts orange blossom honey syrup
7 parts lime juice
lemons, sliced as garnish

Mix all ingredients and place into a punch bowl with a large ice block.

Le Grand Fizz
1 1/2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
1 part St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
3 lime wedges
1 parts chilled soda water

Build in an oversized cabernet wine glass with plenty ice. Add Grey Goose vodka, then squeeze three lime wedges and discard. Top with St. Germain and chilled soda water. Garnish with two lime wedges.

Review: Rums of Rhum Clement – Canne Bleue, Select Barrel, 6 Years Old, 10 Years Old, and Coconut Liqueur (2016)

rhum-clement-select-barrel-1

Rhum Clement is perhaps Martinique’s most distinguished producer of sugarcane-based rhum agricole, but it’s been 8 years since we’ve checked in with the distillery in earnest. After some rebranding and shuffling of products, the lineup still looks fairly familiar. While we didn’t get to check out Clement’s very top-end rums this time, this roundup comprises a fairly comprehensive look at the company’s most widely available products.

Thoughts follow on the four rums and one rum-based liqueur tasted.

Rhum Clement Canne Bleue – White rhum agricole made from a single varietal of sugarcane. Intense on the nose with petrol and rubber notes, you could be forgiven for assuming this is cachaca. Overripe fruit and a range of vegetal notes fill the palate, leading to a hot, almost overwhelming finish. This one actually says it’s “intense” on the front label, in all caps and italics, so I guess I have no one to blame here but myself. 100 proof. C / $30

Rhum Clement Rhum Vieux Agricole Select Barrel – This is three year old rum aged in French oak, denoted as such on the back label. Lot of heavy vegetal notes remain on the body here, as yet untamed by the rum’s time in wood. Vague aromas of coffee give way to heavy mushroom and green vegetable notes, the funkier notes lingering on the body before an interesting apple character arises on the finish. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it works as a worthwhile mixer. 80 proof. B / $30  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Rhum Clement Tres Vieux Rhum Agricole 6 Years Old – Notes of coffee, tobacco, and baking spice on the nose give this rum the impression of significant age from the get-go. On the tongue, silky brown sugar leads to winey notes, complemented by a touch of smoke. The finish showcases the rum’s more savory side, hinting at both well-tanned leather, charcoal notes, and coconut husks. Balanced, without overblown sugars, it’s an excellent rum that’s still at the beginning of its life. 88 proof. A- / $55

Rhum Clement Tres Vieux Rhum Agricole 10 Years Old – Bolder coffee notes on the nose here than in the 6 year old, but otherwise the aroma is a close cousin to its progenitor. On the palate, there’s quite a bit less sweetness here than on the 6 year, that brown sugar note taking a back seat to a stronger brandy and oxidized wine character, complemented by notes of roasted nuts, more coffee, and Spanish sherry. More brooding and more intense, it’s a provocative rum that showcases austerity over sweetness, making for a more intriguing sipper. 88 proof. A- / $70

Rhum Clement Mahina Coco Coconut Liqueur – Made from white rhum and chunks of macerated coconut. Slightly tropical, with clear and powerful coconut notes, it’s a richer and more engaging version of Malibu, with notes of banana and, especially, pineapple emerging on the finish. Keep this on hand for upscale pina coladas. 36 proof. A- / $24

rhumclementusa.com

Review: Aervana Wine Aerator

Aervana_Lifestyle_7

Aervana is yet another wine aeration system, and this one has a twist: It has batteries. Rather than pour wine through the device, the Aervana sits on top of the bottle and pumps wine up through a tube, and sends the air-infused wine out through a spigot, into your waiting glass.

Aervana (rightly) claims a lot of “firsts” with this device: It offers a constant flow rate, it leaves sediments at the bottom of the bottle, and it’s a bit less dramatic than what often happens when you try to hold a traditional aerator between bottle and glass.

Those are all good plusses — and the sediment factor alone merits Aervana serious consideration — but the device isn’t without its drawbacks. First, I simply don’t like putting stuff (namely plastic stuff) in my wine. It’s probably just my own conceited snobbery, but dipping these plastic tubes into bottles (and later cleaning them) strikes me the wrong way. If you don’t finish the bottle in one sitting, that means multiple cleanups if you want to close the bottle with a Vacuvin device or other stopper, too.

Since Aervana is a pump (6 AAA batteries, included, are required), it makes noise, and certainly becomes the center of attention whenever it is activated. The wine flow is slow to start and slow to finish, dribbling out for quite a while after you release the button up top. Fortunately it doesn’t seem to drip after the flow finally stops, which would have been a deal killer.

As for its results, it works well, really airing-up wine to the point where it is positively frothy when it hits the glass. All told it works as well as other aerators; if you have a tight or closed wine, it can really help some of the more engaging flavors come to the fore.

For $100, the Aervana is decidedly pricey, so you’ll need to think carefully as to whether it’s for you. I’ll probably keep it on hand mainly for use with older, sediment-heavy bottles that I’m just too lazy to decant.

B / $100 / aervana.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Ol’ Major Bacon Flavored Bourbon

Ol' Major with Bacon

Another whiskey from Branded Spirits… this one with a major (and obvious) spin.

To start with the basics: This is real whiskey flavored with real bacon. The bourbon is an 88% corn mash made by Terressentia, the bacon if from an Oklahoma pork producer. The flavoring and bottling operation takes place in Nashville; this involves taking nitrous aerosolized bacon, injecting it into the bourbon, and then filtering it heavily to remove the solids.

Hands down this is the best bacon-flavored spirit I’ve encountered to date. Slightly meaty, slightly salty, the pure bacon essence grows stronger as it evolves in the glass. On the palate a maple syrup character is prominent, with those classic bacon notes building on the lingering, slightly smoky finish.

Consider me pleasantly surprised. While it sips surprisingly well, it’s definitely made for mixing — try it in an Old Fashioned or a Bloody Mary.

70 proof.

A- / $25 / brandedspiritsusa.com

Review: Wines of Mt. Beautiful, 2016 Releases

Mt Beautiful NC Pinot Noir

Mt. Beautiful is a fairly noteworthy New Zealand winery, which we most recently encountered in our tasting report on new NZ wines. Recently we received a quartet of expressions from the winery. Thoughts on each of these 2016 releases follow.

2014 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris North Canterbury – A simple wine, with moderate florals embedded into a mild tropical and citrus body. The short finish is more aromatic than fruit-focused, with a slight brown sugar edge. A quite pleasant but simplistic companion with lighter fare. B / $19

2015 Mt. Beautiful Riesling North Canterbury – Crisp and aromatic, with light notes of pineapple to give this wine a bit of a New World spin. The finish is loaded with acid and comes across as a bit peachy, with a solid and sophisticated balance between the two. A- / $21

2014 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury – A straightforward sauvignon blanc, though far from the tropical bomb that you typically expect from New Zealand. Instead, here you find bracing acid, significant floral elements, and a dusting of candied pineapple on the slightly earthy back end. B+ / $16

2014 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury – A fairly thin wine, with some vegetal and mushroom notes taking hold of the nose. The palate showcases more red cherry fruit character, though the finish reprises some of those leathery notes, with a surprisingly touch of gingerbread on the finish. B- / $26

mtbeautiful.co.nz