Tasting the Wines of Artesa, 2017 Releases

I realized I hadn’t visited Artesa, located in California’s Carneros region, in many years, and on a lark I paid a visit to their tasting room. I ended up spending nearly an hour here digging through rarities you won’t encounter much in the wild. (Pro tip: Avoid the winery’s supermarket bottlings; the gold is upmarket.)

Brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.

2016 Artesa Albarino – Dry, with good acidity, herbal and lightly toasty. B / $28

2014 Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir – Very green, skip it. C / $40

2013 Artesa Block 91D Pinot Noir – Bold body, lots of red fruit. Structured and built in a vague Burgundy style. Highly worthwhile. A / $80

2014 Artesa Sangiacomo Pinot Noir Carneros – Softer but meatier, a bit tougher on the finish. A- / $80

2013 Artesa Cabernet Franc Single Vineyard Foss Valley – Big at first, but layered with fruit. Amazing structure highlights pretty aromatics. Luscious, rounded. One of the best cab francs I’ve experienced. A / $85

2013 Artesa Malbec – Chewy, with big tannins, but a solid fruit core. B+ / $45

2013 Artesa Pinnacle – A blend; quite dry, with jammy berries, some currants, light tannin, and a meaty edge. B / $55

2013 Artesa Rive Gauche Cabernet Sauvignon – Left-bank style blend (hence the name); soft, a little marshmallow, and some brown sugar. Quite floral. A- / $60

2013 Artesa Foss Valley Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – Blackberry and spice, licorice, dark fruits. A- / $90

2013 Artesa Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon – Blueberry notes, bold fruit, some cranberry sauce. A- / $90

artesawinery.com

Review: Dos Almas 55 Tequila Plata and Cinnamon Liqueur

Dos Almas is a new brand of tequila (a silver) and liqueur, made in the Highlands region of Jalisco. These are wildly different products, so let’s hop to it. Details (and thoughts) follow.

Both bottles reviewed are from production #1, which comprised 1300 and 1600 bottles, respectively.

Dos Almas 55 Tequila Plata – This is a double-distilled silver tequila, 100% blue agave, bottled overproof, “straight off the still.” You can find in-depth production information on the company’s website below. There’s a slight smokiness and dusty charcoal character on the nose here, along with notes of grilled lemon and rosemary. Some of the aromas tend to clash a bit, but the palate finds more balance between the roasted agave notes, sharp citrus, and ample black pepper character. Orange oil percolates on the tip of the tongue, while spice and heat linger on the back end. What starts off a bit rocky on the nose ultimately comes together in quite a compelling way. While hot, I’d never have guessed this was 55% abv. Note that it is wildly expensive for a plata. 110 proof. B+ / $79

Dos Almas Cinnamon Liqueur – This is a cinnamon liqueur made from 100% blue agave reposado tequila that is infused with organic Indonesian Ceylon cinnamon sticks and organic agave nectar. This is quite a lively and compelling little liqueur. (Actually, whether this is a liqueur or a flavored tequila is a matter of debate; I’d suggest the latter.) The nose is sweet but not overly so, with plenty of red hot candies amidst the notes of racy, herbal tequila. It’s an engaging start to a spirit that keeps firing on all cylinders; the palate is bold with notes of sweet and sour sauce, cinnamon jelly, and a lingering herbal character driven by the reposado. There’s ample caramel here, vanilla-scented sugar, and notes of maple-glazed donuts. Bold but approachable, it’s Fireball for the thinking (and wealthy) man. 70 proof. A- / $55

dosalmastequila.com

Tasting the Wines of Buena Vista Winery, 2017 Releases

Founded in 1857 by the colorful Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy, Buena Vista Winery was a pioneer of California wine. The first wine caves in California were dug here (and can still be seen today by visitors), and Haraszthy is responsible for bringing all kinds of European wine varietals to the U.S.

Today, Buena Vista is owned by Jean-Charles Boisset, an equally colorful man who has spent millions restoring the historic buildings and caves here to their former state (only now they’re safe from earthquakes). After a quick tour through this fascinating facility in a heavily wooded part of Sonoma — it only makes a small fraction of Buena Vista’s production; the rest is made at sister operation DeLoach, which shares a winemaker with BV — we tasted a number of new releases from the winery.

Thoughts follow.

2013 Buena Vista Blanc de Noir – A welcome sparkling wine made from pinot noir grapes. Fresh apple up front, with lots of almond character. A- / $50

2014 Buena Vista Eleanora’s Selection Chardonnay – Complex, with biscuity notes balancing out pears, apples, and ample butterscotch. Plenty of acid on the back end. A- / $42

2014 Buena Vista Private Reserve Pinot Noir – Sourced from 5 vineyards all over California. Currants and spice hit in earnest, with a light black pepper character. A touch of menthol soothes the ample tannin profile. Cinnamon lingers on the finish. A- / $65

2012 Buena Vista Antal’s Selection Zinfandel – First vintage of this expression, made from 100 year old vines. Dense in color, very rich with fruit and chocolate notes. Jammy to the point of being nearly overwhelming. B / $40

2015 Buena Vista The Sheriff of Buena Vista – A blend of petite sirah, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, and syrah. Chewy with lots of tannin, baking spice, and more of that menthol. Raspberry finds a way through the finish of what is otherwise a bit of a mutt of a wine. B / $40

buenavistawinery.com

Review: The Rums of Maggie’s Farm

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Maggie’s Farm is focused on one spirit only: rum (plus a couple of liqueurs, one of which is a falernum). The name of the distillery hails from a Bob Dylan song, and while he didn’t mention rum production in it, a quick listen might get you into the mood to sip some of their craft-distilled goodies.

Below find our thoughts on six of the nine rum expressions the company currently produces. Production differs from product to product, so follow along closely!

Maggie’s Farm White Rum – Made from 100% raw turbinado sugar and unaged after pot distillation. Pungent with oily fuel notes, as is typical for unaged rum, with some aromas of citrus peel, lavender, and ginger. On the palate, the more industrial-tasting notes are dialed back, with notes of ripe banana and marshmallow fluff showing, though the finish is loaded up with coal dust and hints of petrol. Not unapproachable, but strictly a mixer. 80 proof.  B / $28

Maggie’s Farm La Revuelta Dark Rum – (“The uprising.”) This is a funky product that is actually a blend: Maggie’s Farm’s raw cane pot-distilled rum from Pittsburgh mixed 50/50 with a column-distilled molasses rum from Trinidad. Solid stuff here: The nose is rich and authentic, with caramel and molasses notes, strong vanilla, and some chocolate, too. Mildly floral aromas persevere, given enough time. The palate is sweet and loaded with cinnamon-heavy baking spice, applesauce, and just a hint of diesel on the back end to give it some kick. A top-notch, well-aged rum. 80 proof. A / $35

Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum – This is the turbinado-based rum, flavored with eight different spices, “including Tahitian vanilla bean, fresh orange zest, nutmeg, and allspice.” It is not sweetened with sugar. The nose is bold with notes of lemon, vanilla, gingerbread, and evergreen Christmas notes. Enticing, it leads the way to a body loaded with those baking spices, dusky root beer notes, some green olive, and loads of vanilla. It’s strong for a spiced rum, but as promised, it’s only very lightly sweet, so let your mixer do any sugar-sweetening you need. 80 proof. B+ / $30

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Unaged – “Queen’s Share Rum is made exclusively from the tail runnings of our normal cane rum distillations. Being heavier than alcohol, the flavor and aroma compounds boil off the still in a higher concentration at the end of the distillation cycle. We keep these tail runnings and re-distill them on their own. This results in a more flavorful and complex spirit. This unaged version is the unadulterated and bottled at cask strength.” Much more neutral than the standard White Rum, this is both fruitier and more floral, with a honeysuckle kick. At 57% abv, it’s hot but not scorchingly so, with a slight petrol finish, followed by some more banana. Milder than you’d think. 114 proof. B / $24 (375ml)

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Rye Barrel Finish – The Unaged Queen’s Share mentioned above spends 18 months in rye whiskey barrels before bottling. The whiskey character is undeniable here, from the sweet caramel nose, loaded with rye-heavy baking spice, to the lush and clove-forward, toffee-soaked palate. Some flambed banana notes remind you that this is actually rum, not whiskey, with a finish that adds in notes of bubble gum and some fresh cherry fruit. Fun stuff, but far off the beaten path of traditional rum. 110 proof. A- / $35 (375ml)

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Double Cask Finish – This is another Unaged Queen’s Share rum, finished in two types of casks for 21 months. Mysteriously, the identity of both of those casks hasn’t been revealed to me. Again it’s got a whiskey kick to it, all toffee and caramel, cut with baking spice, banana bread, and almonds. Some moderate but sharp citrus notes percolate here and there, but the sweeter notes of vanilla and creamy caramel dominate. The finish is racy with allspice and cloves, spiced nuts, and hints of gunpowder. I like the more straightforward rye finish a bit better. 110 proof. B+ / $NA

maggiesfarmrum.com

Review: New Belgium La Folie 2017 and Juicy Watermelon

Something old, something new from New Belgium. One is a reprise of its annual sour release, the other a fruit-flavored ale. Let’s try both!

New Belgium La Folie Sour Ale 2017 – New Belgium’s annual release of La Folie — a sour brown ales matured in oversized French oak wine barrels for up to three years — is here. No surprises for those familiar with the beer. It’s intensely sour, with a heavy focus on fruit notes — apple and lime, especially — that are mouth-puckeringly tart. At the same time, it lacks that heavy acidity and pungency that can make so many sours overblown and undrinkable. While this is undoubtedly a powerhouse, it guides that power into something with balance and grace. 7% abv. A- / $16 per 22 oz bottle

New Belgium Juicy Watermelon – Watermelon lime ale? Sounds like something from which I’d run away screaming (and perhaps a reprise/rebrand of last year’s Heavy Melon), but much to my surprise, this fruit-heavy ale is quite approachable. You don’t even notice the fruit at first, which drinks more like a lager, malty and lightly sweet, with some Christmas spice elements. As the beer warms up, the watermelon becomes more evident, but it’s kept in check, never spiraling (quite) into Jolly Rancher territory. Summery, for sure, so hold out for a hot day. 5% abv. B / $9 per six pack

newbelgium.com

Review: 2 Greek Wines from Cava Spiliadis – Tselepos Santorini and Gerovassiliou Malagousia

The estates of Cava Spiliadis are the home of both of these Greek wines — Tselepos and Gerovassiliou — both of which serve as excellent introductions to the essential white wine styles of Greece. Thoughts follow on these highly approachable wines.

2015 Canava Chrissou Tselepos Santorini Assyrtiko – Fresh aromatics and a touch of honey give this white a lively character, slightly sweet with a bit of an herbal overtone and notes of lime zest, lingering on the back end along with hints of white pepper. An ample body adds substance to the experience. B+ / $30

2015 Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia – Malagousia is a recently revived grape varietal making a comeback thanks to Gerovassiliou, which produces a wine that is highly acidic, with notes of peach and apricot and plenty of florals to keep things interesting. It’s a bit like a cross between viognier and riesling… with some honey on the finish that works to smooth out the experience. A- / $16

cavaspiliadis.com

Review: Glen Moray Elgin Classic, 12 Years Old, 15 Years Old, and 18 Years Old

Speyside’s Glen Moray bills itself as offering “affordable luxury,” marketing a range of single malt whiskeys in a variety of styles. The new Elgin Heritage Range comprises three malts — and they all have age statements, clocking in at 12, 15, and 18 years old. Today we look at all three of these, plus one NAS release known as the Elgin Classic. Thoughts follow.

Glen Moray Elgin Classic – Indeed, a “classic” NAS single malt (entirely bourbon cask aged), lightly grainy but imbued with plenty of caramel (lightly salted) and some nougat aromas. The palate is lightly sweet, milk chocolatey with some orange and lemon peel overtones. It’s got ample youth — Glen Moray says the whisky here is an average of seven years old — but Glen Moray makes the most of a relatively simple spirit that melds salt, grain, and cocoa powder into a decent whole that comes at a highly attractive price. (Note that there are a number of specialty finished versions of Elgin Classic, but those aren’t reviewed here.) 80 proof. B- / $22

Glen Moray 12 Years Old – Like the Elgin Classic, this is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. This is an instant upgrade to the Elgin Classic, a malty but rounded experience that offers a nose of supple grains and a touch of cinnamon raisin character. The palate can be a touch sweaty at times, but on the whole it’s got a body that offers a beautifully integrated combination of roasted grain, walnuts, raisins, and caramel sauce. The finish integrates the cinnamon with some chocolate notes, a touch of dried plum, and a hint of gingerbread. A really fine experience and, again, a pretty good bargain. 80 proof. A- / $37

Glen Moray 15 Years Old – This 15 year old expression is a blend of whisky matured in bourbon casks and sherry casks, making for a much different impression right from the start. The nose has that oily citrus character driven by the sherry casks, but this tends to come across as quite youthful, almost underdeveloped at times, though some white florals and elderberry notes peek through at times. The palate is more of a success, with lots of fruit, a creme brulee-like vanilla note, and a twist of orange peel, though the finish is a touch on the harsh side, with some lingering acetone notes. All told this drinks like a younger sherried whisky (younger than it is, anyway). Some time with air opens things up nicely. 80 proof. B / $58

Glen Moray 18 Years Old – We’re back to straight bourbon barrels for this 18 year old release, which has no sherry influence. Bold butterscotch, vanilla syrup, pine needles, and menthol all dance on the nose. The palate is hot — this is considerably higher proof — with notes of roasted nuts and brown sugar. Some chocolate notes evolve in time, alongside a cinnamon punch and a dusting of powdered ginger. What’s missing is much of a sense of fruit — aside from some hints of dried peaches and apricots, the whisky falls a bit flat, particularly on the relatively grain-laden finish. Note that this one is quite hard to find at present. 94.4 proof. B / $100

glenmoray.com

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