Review: 2015 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay Sonoma County

Landmark’s latest release of its iconic chardonnay has arrived. This year’s is initially a bit overwhelming with oak, this wine settles into a groove driven by dried apples, lemon peel, and fall spices. The finish is almost bitter at times, with sherried overtones, including more pumpkin-esque spice and a touch of gentian on the back end.

B / $25 / landmarkwine.com

Review: Tuaca Liqueur (2017)

The last time we heard from Tuaca was back in 2012, when the classic liqueur got an ill-advised brand overhaul, complete with a wholly out-of-place modernized bottle and label. A cinnamon-heavy version called Cinnaster came a year later.

Sazerac bought the brand in 2016 and earlier this year relaunched it — not just with the old label reinstated (or a very similar one, anyway), but with a revamped recipe closer to something like the original Tuaca might have tasted like. To wit:

The brand renaissance starts with what is inside the bottle. Tuaca will once again be made with imported Italian brandy and infused with Mediterranean citrus and vanilla spice.

I had the good fortune to discover I had a mini Tuaca from ~2007 on hand to compare against a new bottle made with the revamped recipe. Let’s give them both a try, head to head, to see how things have changed.

The 2017 Tuaca is clearly darker in color, and the nose is completely different. Rather than simple cinnamon and orange, the aromas are much earthier, with hints of spice box, mushroom, cedar chest, and caramel. That isn’t necessarily a plus — its brooding aroma can be a little off-putting at first.

The palate is, of course, just as different as the nose. While old Tuaca is light and feathery, with a lemon-orange-cinnamon trinity at work, the new one has more complexity, and it’s more engaging. The brandy base gives the spirit a viscosity and a core of cinnamon raisin character, atop which candied orange, cloves, and allspice make an impression. The finish is much more lasting than the older bottle, spicy and warming — the way Tuaca really ought to be.

All in all, the change in recipe is a fantastic move.

70 proof.

B+ / $20 / tuaca.com

Review: Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Tawny Port

The Port house of Taylor Fladgate celebrates 325 years of operation in 2017, so what better time than to put out a unique expression of Port? This is a tawny port with no age information (though on tawnies, an age statement doesn’t mean much anyway), but the winery does offer some information on its production:

To commemorate the milestone, Taylor Fladgate’s blending team has drawn on their extensive cask aged reserves to create a special blend of fine oak-matured Ports selected for their depth and richness of flavor. The limited-edition Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny, released in a special 1692-style bottle, is a fitting tribute to Taylor Fladgate’s long history and mastery of the art of cask aging and blending.

What’s in the bottle is immediately odd, feeling a lot like a cross between a ruby and a tawny Port. Fruit-forward, it carries the juicy raisin and fresh fig and date notes of a ruby port, with undercurrents of chocolate sauce and coffee bean. As the palate develops it brings forward some of those classically tawny oxidized notes, here showcasing a finish that offers hints of sherry-infused hazelnuts and a smattering of Christmas spices, heavy on the cloves.

B+ / $38 / taylor.pt

Review New Amsterdam Raspberry and Lemon Vodkas

In the last few years, we’ve reviewed (and recommended) a number of New Amsterdam products due to their wide availability, low price point, and general quality (you can find those reviews here, here, here, here, and here). The addition of Raspberry and Lemon flavors to New Amsterdam’s range of flavored vodkas makes sense, and the new products follow recent precedent in both their strengths and weaknesses.

Tasting notes follow. Both are at 70 proof.

New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka – Sampled straight, New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka tastes like a hard Jolly Rancher candy. It is exceedingly sweet and sour, with virtually no alcoholic bite at all. With a few sips, the amount of sugar in the product becomes virtually overwhelming, and I wouldn’t recommend mixing it with tonic or anything that is also sweet. Perhaps seltzer is the best mixer since the bubbles and water would dilute the cloying candy flavor. Anyone looking for genuine raspberry flavor will be disappointed, but taken for what it is (candy-flavored vodka), New Amsterdam’s Raspberry Vodka is enjoyable enough and will probably fill a niche.  B- / $13

New Amsterdam Lemon Vodka – It seems a bit odd for New Amsterdam to offer a Lemon vodka after previously releasing a Citron variety, but the two are different enough that it makes sense. The primary distinction is the level of sweetness, with the Lemon showing even more sugar. The Lemon Vodka does not hide its alcohol as well as the Raspberry and even at 70 proof, it is hot on the nose and the palate. Sampling this vodka blind, I would probably guess I was drinking a full-on Kamikaze. It is sweet and lemony, like a lemon drop, leaving behind a citric acid burn. Like the Raspberry, the Lemon would also go well with an unsweetened mixer, like seltzer, but New Amsterdam suggests mixing it with iced tea, and I think they are on to something with that idea. Unsweetened iced tea takes some of the alcoholic bite out of the vodka while the sweetness of the vodka seems appropriate to my expectations of sweetened lemon tea. B- / $13

newamsterdamspirits.com

Review: Patron Extra Anejo Tequila

Patron has added its first new addition to the core tequila lineup in 25 years: at long last, an extra anejo bottling.

This isn’t Patron’s first dance with extra anejo. Patron Extra Anejo 7 Anos hit as a limited edition in 2015, and the infamous Guillermo del Toro Extra Anejo dropped earlier this year. The catch: Both of those were very limited editions. This is a permanent extension to the lineup.

Some details:

Aged for more than three years, Patrón Extra Añejo is the first new addition to Patrón’s core range of tequilas in 25 years, expanding an iconic line that includes Patrón Silver, Patrón Reposado (aged at least two months), and Patrón Añejo (aged for more than 12 months).  Extra añejo tequila, a classification that the Consejo Regulador de Tequila (Mexico’s governing body for tequila) created in 2006, represents the fastest-growing category in aged tequila today.

Patrón Extra Añejo tequila is crafted from the highest-quality 100 percent Weber Blue Agave and distilled using the ancient tahona process and the more modern roller mill method. It is then aged for more than three years in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels…. Patrón Extra Añejo is packaged in the same iconic bottle as Patrón’s other core tequilas, hand-numbered and hand-labeled.

Say what you will about the recent, wacky Guillermo del Toro bottling, this is a classic extra anejo tequila, with a nose of deep vanilla and caramel, backed by a very gentle herbal character driven by the agave. The creamy palate gives the immediate impression of vanilla ice cream, drizzled perhaps with a bit of chocolate syrup and plenty of caramel sauce. The sweeter components find foils in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg notes and, over time, the emergence of some hints of black cherry, rhubarb, and lemon peel. Amazing from start to finish, it’s a balanced tequila that doesn’t reinvent the extra anejo formula, but which guides it oh so subtly with a careful hand to someplace excelente.

80 proof.

A / $90 / patrontequila.com

Review: 2016 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio

Ah, that classic of the Chinese restaurant wine list gets an upgrade with its 2016 vintage, courtesy of Christian Siriano, who designed the flowery label for this vintage. That’s probably the most interesting thing about this wine, which is decidedly muddy for pinot grigio, with only modest notes of marshmallows, lilac, and out-of-place savory sage and thyme showing through.

C / $8 / eccodomani.com

Review: Tequila Corralejo 1821 Extra Anejo

Tequila Corralejo‘s latest release, an extra anejo, has arrived.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Tequila Corralejo has released 1,000 cases of 1821 Extra Añejo (1821) in the U.S. The limited-edition expression, imported by Infinium Spirits, is the latest offering from the award-winning line of premium tequila expressions.

1821 represents Mexico’s rich history and hard-fought sovereignty led by Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a noble priest born at Hacienda Corralejo. He’s renowned for launching the Mexican War of Independence in 1810 in revolt against the injustices of a tyrannical Spanish government against Mexico’s poor. Although Spanish rule was officially abolished on August 24, 1821, Hidalgo is memorialized as the Father of his Country and Mexican independence.

As with all of the brand’s expressions (silver, reposado, añejo),1821 was produced with only the finest 100% Blue Weber Agave tequila at Hacienda Corralejo in Guanajuato, Mexico. Corralejo employs the 400-year-old Charentais method of distillation, the same method perfected by the French in distilling cognac, which is what sets Corralejo apart from other tequilas. The agave is slow cooked in stone clay ovens for 27 hours, then rested for 12 hours before going to the mill to be double distilled in copper pot stills. A fine selection of small American oak barrels provides roasted hints that add to the tequila’s excellent flavor. 1821 was aged for 36 months to yield a tequila with impeccably smooth flavor.

The TL;DR of that is that this is aged for three years, and the results are impressive, if somewhat unexpected. For starters, the nose is much more agave-forward than the typical extra anejo, delicately herbal with secondary notes of white flowers, creme brulee, and lemon peel. On the palate, the tequila is similarly herbal and citrusy — not at all dominated by barrel-driven vanilla and caramel notes the way most extra anejos are. Instead, the experience is quiet and restrained, a study in the interplay between agave and fruit, primarily lemon, culminating in a finish that is at once engaging, summery, and unique.

80 proof.

A- / $130 / tequilacorralejo.mx

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