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: Magnolia Proving Ground IPA and Kalifornia Kolsch

San Francisco-based Magnolia Brewing is releasing two of its flagship brews in cans for the first time. We sampled them both, straight outta aluminum. Thoughts follow.

Magnolia Proving Ground IPA – This IPA is described as an American-British hybrid that includes British Maris Otter malt used as a counterpart to classic west coast hop strains. The results are slightly familiar to anyone accustomed to hybrid IPA brews, but dazzling nonetheless. Lightly nutty notes and bites of apple give way to big pine resin and citrus notes. The palate is bold and fruity up front, with a lingering finish of lightly toasted grains and a hint of coffee bean. Highly recommended. 7% abv. A / $NA

Magnolia Kalifornia Kolsch – This German style golden ale is malty, buttery, and full of classic notes of banana bread and chewy, freshly toasted grains. Plenty enjoyable on a hot day, but some lightly sweaty notes make the finish a bit funkier than desired. 4.7% abv. B / $NA

magnoliabrewing.com

Review: Chapter 7 Highland Single Malt Whisky 19 Years Old

Chapter 7 is a newish independent bottler (established only in 2014) that has released only a couple dozen indie Scotch releases to date. Many of these are distillery-labeled, but this one, among its latest — and newly available in the U.S. as an exclusive for us Yankees — is a 19 year old with unstated provenance other than that it hails from The Highlands of Scotland.

This is my first go-round with Chapter 7, and based on this release they sure seem to know what they’re doing. The nose of this cask strength release is loaded up with sherry-driven citrus, nutty almonds, heather, and nougat, sharp with alcohol as well as oily orange notes. The palate segues into some tropical character, featuring mango notes, ripe banana, and coconut, before building up notes of cocoa powder, sweet white wine, and a touch of floral character. The finish is long, soothing, and gentle, even at full strength, without water.

Deeply complex and loaded with layers and layers of flavor, this is a whisky to seek out — and to savor.

112.4 proof.

A / $180 / chapter7whisky.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

Book Review: How to Drink French Fluently — A Drinker’s Guide to Joie De Vivre

How to Drink French Fluently—A Drinker’s Guide to Joie De Vivre.

How to Drink French Fluently, a book sponsored by St. Germain (aka St-Germain), is gorgeous. The photos interspersed throughout are lush and beautiful, making this a perfect coffee table book.

This book is a drinker’s guide, but it has so much more to offer than just cocktail recipes. Of course there are plenty of those from acclaimed bartenders, and each centers around St. Germain. For the elderflower liqueur lover, these thirty cocktails are sent from heaven.

The book is divided into five times of the day when a cocktail is considered appropriate—brunch, daytime, aperitif, dinner, and as a nightcap. Each section contains an explanation of the history of cocktail traditions for that time of the day and what to serve with each of the drinks during those occasions. Then come the wonderful cocktails included in each section. We have to fess up to trying nearly all of them, except for two which contain fruits not yet in season.

There is one small section near the back of the book which is particularly impressive. These pages explain how to make the unique ingredients called for in the book’s recipes. Among those ingredients are Gewürztraminer syrup, strawberry shrub, lemon cordial, St. Germain sorbet, smoked tomato-infused St. Germain, and even ice cubes made with St. Germain. We loved the ice cubes so much, we tossed a few into a tall glass of iced tea for a new take on sweet tea.

Here are a few of our favorite cocktails from the book. Once you try them, you’ll want to try the rest.

Rivington PunchRivington Punch
1 oz. dry rosé wine
½ oz. St. Germain
1 ½ oz. Aperol
¼ oz. Combier Framboise
1 oz. soda water
1 strawberry
1 grapefruit crescent

Stir all of the ingredients in a wine glass over ice. Garnish with a strawberry and a grapefruit crescent.

Voodoo Down
2 dashes orange bitters
¼ oz. ginger syrup
¼ oz. honey syrup
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. St. Germain
½ oz. Trinidadian Rum
1 oz. 12-year-old Elijah Craig bourbon

Put all ingredients into a shaker and shake with ice. Strain over ice into a double rocks glass and serve. No garnish is needed.

Voodoo DownMidnight Bouquet
1 dash grapefruit bitters (We used orange bitters instead)
½ oz. St. Germain
¾ oz. Amaro Averna
¼ oz. San Andres Alipus mezcal
1 ½ oz. añejo tequila
1 grapefruit twist

Stir all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Then strain into a coupe glass. Next, express the oils from the grapefruit twist over the surface before using it as a garnish.

A /$20 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Imagine a glass of Campari. Now strip away all the color. That’s the essence of Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco, a product that dates back to the 1930s but which has been off the market for years. Now it’s back, imported by Anchor Distilling, and ready to bring some clarity back to the world of amari.

Some more details from Luxardo:

Luxardo Bitter Bianco is produced from a distilled infusion of bitter herbs and aromatic plants, such as rhubarb, thyme and bitter orange. The Luxardo family revived the product and improved the production techniques to create a clear expression of bitter with no artificial coloring, featuring the same herbs as the Luxardo Bitter Rosso. Unlike Luxardo’s traditional Rosso, which is produced through maceration at 50 proof, Luxardo Bitter Bianco is produced through distillation resulting at 60 proof. The higher proof, with the addition of wormwood, provides a lingering bitter finish.

As you’ll note in the above, this incorporates the same herbal recipe as Luxardo Bitter, sans the color. Luxardo Bitter is a similar product to Campari in both flavor and color. Luxardo Bitter Bianco is the nearly colorless rendition of the same, with just a hint of yellow. The nose is bold and bitter, with cinnamon and clove notes, bitter roots, and a bit of dark brown sugar. It’s an enticing aroma that’s hard not to sip on (assuming you’re an amaro fan), and the palate doesn’t disappoint. There’s a touch of honey sweetness that leads to notes of rhubarb and traditional bitter roots, a hint of anise, and ample orange peel. The finish is bittersweet but cleansing, with considerable length.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but stripping the color out of this amaro also strips out some of the heaviness, rendering it lighter on its feet than the typical, darker (or candy-colored) amaro that we’ve all become accustomed to. It’s hard to put down. I’m an instant fan.

60 proof.

A / $28 / luxardo.it

Review: Captain Morgan LocoNut

Captain Morgan Loconut
A new seasonal take on Captain Morgan’s Cannon Blast is this summer 2017 release, called LocoNut. When it arrived, the scent of coconut wafted up from the box. Yes, the familiar round bottle is dressed up like a cracked open coconut, and even the bottle is scented — but not in the way you typically smell coconut in sunscreen and hair products. This is a fragrant, mouthwatering tantalization of your senses. It actually makes you want to open it right up.

Caribbean rum, spices, and coconut liqueur make up this white spirit. The spicy flavors of cloves, cinnamon, and cassia bark are present, but they all take a back seat to the very sweet coconut. It may be too sweet for some people and could possibly negate the need for simple syrup when used in a cocktail.

Captain Morgan recommends serving LocoNut as a chilled shot, and we also found it works wonderfully on the rocks and in cocktails. Still, you can ramp it up with other spirits in your glass, and Captain Morgan’s recommended cocktails pair it with other alcohols like whiskey or, of course, regular Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. All work well.

Bottom line: It may not be classy, but if you like coconut, you’ll find this liqueur a winner.

40 proof.

A / $15 / captainmorgan.com

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