Review: Yves Leccia 2015 Patrimonio Blanc and 2013 Patrimonio Rouge

Corsica isn’t a wine region that many Americans are familiar with. (Hint: It’s part of France, not Italy.) That’s a shame, because this island produces some stellar stuff, and at the head of the class is Yves Leccia, a veteran winemaker whose products are widely considered ‘the Rolls-Royce’ of Corsican wines.”

Leccia doesn’t need me to validate what everyone already knows, but here are some tasting notes for two new releases, for those unfamiliar with Corsica and Leccia’s wares. (Also note that these are essentially just the entry-level wines from Leccia!) Patrimonio is a region near the northern tip of Corsica, where nielluccio and vermentino grapes comprise nearly 100% of the varietals grown.

2015 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc – 100% vermentino. A gorgeous wine. Aromatic with white flowers, a spritz of perfume, and a grating of lime peel on the nose, the wine evokes a complexity seldom found in today’s whites. On the palate, the lush body is reminiscent of a chardonnay, but the notes of apricot, more florals, nougat, and soft vanilla sugar cookies give it a whole new dimension. The finish is ripe with fruit but cleansing and refreshing. Hard to put down, it’s a benchmark of French winemaking but also quite a bargain. A / $29

2013 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Rouge – 90% nielluccio, 10% grenache. Less complex than the Blanc, but quite engaging thanks to lively acidity, a fruit-forward character that’s heavy on currants, strawberry, and raspberry, and a finish that offers hints of tea leaf and cloves. There’s just enough tannin here to give the wine some meat on its bones — both figuratively and literally, thanks to hints of roasted sausages laced with savory spices. B+ / $30

yves-leccia.fr

Review: J. Wray & Nephew Silver Rum, Gold Rum, and Overproof Rum

Jamaica’s J. Wray & Nephew — or just Wray & Nephew — lays claim to being the #1 producer of rum in the country, and when you consider that the company makes both Appleton and Captain Morgan, it’s a claim that’s not hard to believe. Wray & Nephew also makes pot-distilled rum that is released under its own label, some of it highly sought-after by rum aficionados. Recently, Wray & Nephew’s entry-level bottles, a white and a gold rum, both finally made it to the U.S., joining the company’s renowned overproof expression.

Let’s find out what the fuss is all about.

J. Wray & Nephew Silver Rum – This is an aged rum, filtered to white. I will go on record and tell you this is one of the best white rums I’ve ever encountered. Gentle but full of depth, it offers a nose of toasted coconut, vanilla, fresh cream, and just a hint of hospital character. On the palate, the expect rush of rubber cement flavor so typical in white rum is absent. Just supple coconut and light caramel, sweet vanilla cream, and subtle banana notes. The finish is clean, just a touch rubbery (to remind you it’s rum, of course), but fresh and quite versatile. Everything a white rum should be — a clear winner. (Get it!?) 80 proof. A / $25

J. Wray & Nephew Gold Rum – Aged (and indeed gold in color) but with no particulars attached. This has an immediately much more pungent nose, with notes of mushroom, red bean paste, burnt toast, and barrel char. It settles down on the palate, bringing out a sweeter side that showcases toffee, coconut, vanilla, and some baking spice notes. There’s more complexity here than in the silver, but you’ll find this kind of richness more commonly in a number of other rums in this category, which makes it a bit less unique. 80 proof. A- / $25

J. Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum – This is the flagship rum from Wray and the rum with which most American drinkers will be familiar. This is familiar instantly on the nose, with a mixture of citrus and petrol notes, very aromatic with florals and the raw alcoholic notes one expects from an overproof rum. The body is a bit tougher and astringent, slightly charcoal-dusted but otherwise intense with fruit, both citrus and tropical, with overtones of overripe banana, bubble gum, and a touch of eucalyptus on the finish. Surprisingly approachable despite the heavy alcohol level. 126 proof. A- / $19

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Review: Wines of Lula Cellars, 2016 Releases

Mendocino’s Lula Cellars is the brainchild of winemaker Jeff Hansen, who produces a number of traditional Anderson Valley varietals in his Philo facility. Today we look at three of the winery’s new releases (all from late 2016), a pair of pinots and a zinfandel.

2013 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir Mendocino – Fairly burly, even by Mendocino standards, offering notes of blackberry, tea leaf, bitter herbs, and tobacco all wrapped up in a slightly earthy, mushroom-tinged body. The fruit endures to the end, but it’s tempered by a powerful grip that, at times, feels a bit out of place. B+ / $45

2013 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir Costa Vineyard Mendocino – This single-vineyard pinot is a clear step up from the more general bottling, and it finds a bolder body pairing nicely with expressive blueberry, cherry, and a denser, more powerful tea character. The blackberry notes in the above wine are more evident on the juicy finish, which is tempered with just a touch of herbal, earthy bitterness. A beautiful, versatile wine through and through. Oddly, it’s the same price as the non-single-vineyard Mendocino bottling; absolutely this is the one to get. A / $45

2014 Lula Cellars Zinfandel Mariah Vineyard Mendocino – A softer zin, Lula’s Mendo bottling offers notes of cola, chocolate-covered cherries, and a touch of vanilla, particularly evident on the back end. Some tannins give the wine a bit of grip, but they’re kept in check by the lightly sweet body and silky finish. B+ / $29

lulacellars.com

Review: Stateside Urbancraft Vodka

Philadelphia-based Federal Distilling’s inaugural Stateside Urbancraft Vodka does not disappoint.

Beginning with the fun flip-top bottle and ending with the seamless  finish, this is a very enjoyable vodka. Distilled seven times and aerated with “medical grade oxygen,” Stateside has a very pleasant, gin-like juniper and citrus nose upon first approach. The vodka drinks cleanly and is well-balanced. On the palate there are hints of grapefruit and spring rain, and a very subtle sweetness reminiscent of the corn used to distill it. The vodka’s finish is very well-structured, leaving only the citrus notes to play with a little residual sweetness.

Overall, it’s a well balanced vodka that is very enjoyable neat or as the base for an exemplary martini.

80 proof.

A / $30 / statesidevodka.com

Review: Bear Republic Double Aught Pilsner, Racer X (2016), and Pace Car Racer

A trio of new beers from Bear Republic

Bear Republic Double Aught Pilsner – A light, Euro-style lager made with imported Hallertauer hops, this beer fully fits the part it was designed to play, bold with malty notes, a slight nutty character, and toasty cereal notes to round things out. Gentle in flavor but packed into a powerful body, it’s a great cold-weather lager with plenty of meat on its bones. 5% abv. A- / $10 per six-pack

Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA (2016) – This was a late 2016 arrival that we’re finally getting up. As always, megadoses of Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial hops give this rich IPA a hefty yet fully manageable bitterness, the silky caramel core tempers things and allows to show through notes of sweet apple, cloves, and dates. The finish is piney resin, as to be expected, as waves of bitterness come crashing back in. Rinse and repeat. 8.3% abv. A / $8 per 22 oz bottle

Bear Republic Pace Car Racer – Bear Republic’s session IPA is a dead ringer from the start as a session beer. While it isn’t at all watery, the hops are muddy and lacking in citrus and piney character, coming across with notes closer to those of pine cones than pine resin. While it’s got ample bitterness that helps it stand out against, say, your typical bottle of Miller Lite, any true IPA fan will be wishing for the full-strength experience once the leathery finish arrives. 4% abv. B- / $10 per six-pack

bearrepublic.com

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Barrel Strength Bourbon

Wyoming’s first legal distillery, Wyoming Whiskey, only began production in 2009, but despite its youth the distillery already has an impressive portfolio of its own aged whiskeys. These include a Small Batch, Single Barrel, and Bonded Straight American Whiskey. Of course the rarest of them all has received the most excitement in the whiskey world of late. Released in the fall of 2015, the extremely limited Barrel Strength Bourbon was a run of only 111 bottles from two leaking “honey” barrels filled in the distillery’s first year. Only 96 of those bottles actually made it to retail, with slightly more than half bottled at 120 proof (the rest at 116 proof).

The distillery says that Sam Mead, Wyoming Whiskey’s head distiller, identified the two barrels as being of high quality even before they started to leak significantly. The accelerated oxidation elevated the whiskey into another class entirely, and a new addition to the Wyoming Whiskey lineup was born. So how good is it?

The first thing to jump out on this whiskey is its deep copper color. On the nose, the unusual oxidation comes through immediately with wet oak and mustiness at first, but that quickly fades to freshly baked oatmeal cookies, buttery cinnamon, and a little mint. On the palate, there’s a gentle heat up front and big flavors of molasses and oily, Madagascar vanilla that give way to black tea, cardamom, and spearmint. The finish has fading notes of allspice and anise. It seems a tad short, but maybe only because I really want that next sip.

Even though it’s on the younger side (under six years), Wyoming Whiskey’s Barrel Strength Bourbon drinks with the balance and refinement of a whiskey twice its age. If not for the initial “rickhouse quality” in this whiskey, it would rival some of the best barrel strength bourbons of the last few years. Unfortunately, this bottle is beyond rare and not exactly cheap, but if you find it, by all means buy a pour. And take the whole bottle home if you can.

120 proof.

A / $199 / wyomingwhiskey.com

A Visit to Moonlight Brewery’s Tap Room, Santa Rosa, California

Moonlight Brewery is located in Santa Rosa, California. While it is a small brewer, the brewery is best known for its beer Death and Taxes. We recently visited its tap room, which is on the brewery site.

Unfortunately the brewers were not available to interview. However, the hosts of the tap room were very gracious and friendly, and they offered a look at the boiling tank workroom and the massive, covered brewing kettles. Moonlight may be small, but the size of these boys is impressive.

On tap, six beers were offered, so a sample slat of those was in order. From left to right in the above photo, we tasted:

Toast Burnt Lager – This beer, typically brewed for New Year’s celebrations,  is a light amber body color with a creamy head. At first sip, a nice maltiness is noticeable. The burnt flavor comes through on the back end without being harsh. It is dry and not sweet at all. 6% abv A

Tipple Winter Ale – This dark brown ale is a type of “winter warmer,” brewed for fall and winter. It has a nice, rich, tan head. The first pass under the nose has a citrusy hop note which carries through the first sip. The hoppy overtones are more subtle with the second taste. 6% abv. A

Reality Czeck – A pale yellow pilsner, Reality Czeck is a light and refreshing Czech style beer. It does have the traditional floral hops flavors which are stronger after the first taste, but it reminded me a bit of a Budweiser. 4.8% abv. B

Twist of Fate Bitter Ale – Moonlight calls this English style ale ESB-ish, which means it as a touch of the extra special bittering hops that are noticeable in the taste and scent. I agree this is true to its name. Its hoppiness comes through, but it’s not overpowering. 5.6% abv. A

Lunatic Lager – This lager has a bright yellow body (slightly darker than the Reality Czeck) with a light scent revealing a touch of yeast. It is refreshing with a slight lingering aftertaste which was ever so slightly soapy in texture. 5% abv. B

Death and Taxes – It is a San Francisco style black lager–a common style of lager. The dark, chocolate brown body and thick, creamy, tan head are very welcoming. There are chocolaty notes but more of a dark roast coffee taste than anything. This one remains a favorite. 5% abv. A+

All of these are approximately $7 per 16 oz. draft, depending upon where you buy them.

moonlightbrewing.com

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