Tasting Report: Wines of Addendum, 2014 Vintage

Addendum is a brand new (and standalone) wine label from the team at Fess Parker. The winemaking operation is in Santa Barbara, but unlike Parker’s main label bottlings, these grapes come from Napa up north. The goal of this unique project: To make high-end, Bordeaux varietal wines from California fruit… though you’ll find a little syrah in the mix in the last wine in this collection of four Cab-focused releases from this inaugural vintage, 2014. (The rest of the wines are all 100% cabernet.)

We recently tasted the wines along with Blair Fox, winemaker and Rhone varietal pro, and Tim Snider, the president of the winery. Thoughts on all wines tasted follow. (Note: Less than 800 combined cases were made across all four of these wines… and all are aged 28 months before bottling.)

2014 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Skellenger Lane – For legal reasons, the actual vineyard can’t be named on this label, for legal reasons. Quite fruit forward at first, the lush blackberry and currant notes eventually give way to chocolate, vanilla, and some baking spice. Mint comes in on the back end, but  a moderately tannic backbone remains omnipresent through to the end. A classic Napa bottling that probably will really hit its stride in four or five years. A- / $95

2014 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak Stagecoach Vineyard – Even juicier and fruitier than the Skellenger Lane bottling, this wine avoids the overwhelming tannin that mountain fruit can bring, showing zippy raspberry and blackberry notes that eventually segue into some of the mint that the Skellenger Lane bottling also shows. The finish here is surprisingly acidic, but also opulent, with a silky and lush texture that lingers on the tongue. A- / $95

2014 Addendum Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Essentially a hybrid of the previous two wines — 2/3 from Rutherford, 1/3 from Stagecoach. Here the Skellenger chocolate absolutely attacks the nose, a modest milk/dark cocoa blend that guides the way to strawberries, blueberries, and plenty of currants. It just goes on and on… pivoting a bit on the finish to a touch of citrus. A real best of both worlds. A / $90

2014 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Atlas Peak Stagecoach Vineyard – 56% cabernet, 44% syrah. An almost syrupy bomb of chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch, layering in baking spice, caramel, and raisin notes. I’m reminded of whiskey when sipping on this wine, which is a good and a bad thing, but ultimately this showcase of fruit — which, by the way, is neither particularly heavy with either cab or syrah — tends to lean a bit too far to the sweet. B+ / $80


Review: Wines of San Simeon, 2017 Releases

San Simeon is a sublabel of San Antonio Winery, which makes a vast number of wines from grapes sourced from all over California — in Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley. Today we look at a mere three of them, part of the San Simeon label (that’s where Hearst Castle is, which you should go see in person).

Thoughts follow.

2015 San Simeon Chardonnay Monterey – More of a northern California style chardonnay, this wine offers butter, lemon, and a modicum of baking spice — creamy but with a lightly bitter kick — leading to a happily food-friendly finish. B+ / $19

2014 San Simeon Pinot Noir Monterey – A lively wine, this pinot finds notes of black pepper sprinkled atop cherry, currants, and a touch of rhubarb. The palate is just a touch gummy, but secondary notes of cola and cloves give it added depth, and the lasting finish — moderately tannic — offer lingering intrigue. Drink slightly chilled. A- / $19

2015 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – A gentler style of cabernet, full of fruit, with notes of fresh raspberry and strawberry, with a vanilla cream kick. The palate is lush without being overbearing, with just a hint of tannin (particularly after the wine has time to open up). The finish shows some sweetness, with touches of graphite. I liked this wine more and more as I experienced it, especially at this price. A- / $19


Review: Method And Madness Irish Whiskey – Single Grain, Single Pot Still, and Single Malt

Method And Madness is a new brand of Irish whiskey that comes from Irish Distillers, particularly Midleton, where these expressions are born. The idea, across the board, is to take tradition and turn it a bit on its head — with all three whiskeys seeing a different type of wood treatment than the typical ex-bourbon barrels.

A bit more from the folks at M&M:

Method And Madness celebrates the creativity of our whiskey masters through the fresh talent of our apprentices. Taking inspiration from the famous Shakespearean quote, ‘ Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t ’. Method and Madness is designed to reflect a next generation Irish spirit brand with a measure of curiosity and intrigue (Madness), while honouring the foundation of innovation and experimentation grounded in the generations of expertise at the Midleton Distillery. (Method).

Without further ado, let’s look at the inaugural trio of whiskeys. They aren’t available in the U.S. yet, but soon enough you should find them at your favorite spirits merchant.

All are 92 proof.

Method And Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey – This is a standard single grain whiskey — but it’s aged in bourbon casks before being finished in virgin Spanish Oak. Results are a bit iffy. The virgin oak — as it tends to do — does a real number of the delicate grain whiskey, impregnating it with an overwhelming lumberyard character (“pencil shavings” don’t quite cut it), with hints of coal dust and walnut shells. The finish sees some sweetness trying to peek around the edges, but it’s a fool’s errand. B / $40

Method And Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Single pot still (reminder: malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still) matured in sherry and bourbon barrels, then finished in chestnut casks. Chestnuts! This is a very exotic whiskey, driven in part by the pot still spirit and part by the wood treatment. There’s lots of spice on the nose that melds with floral notes and some vanilla cream. The palate is clean and silky, but it’s got a raciness that stuffs tons of vanilla candies, mixed flower petals, and ginger-led baking spice into the palate. The finish starts to feel a little busy, but some sherry-driven grip gives it balance. B+ / $65

Method And Madness Single Malt Irish Whiskey – This whiskey was distilled in 2002, aged in bourbon barrels, and finished in French Limousin oak. No age statement, but it’s roughly a 15 year-old whiskey. The nose immediately offers notes of salted caramel, dark chocolate, and fresh wood, but the body has that unmistakable honeycomb and hint-of-lemon-peel essence you find only in Irish whiskey, moving ever so slowly from gentle citrus to mushroom, with hints of spring onion and black pepper, and a fade-out of sandalwood. B+ / $69


Review: Samuel Adams Summer 2017 Releases

The summer seasonals from Samuel Adams are here. A whopping seven brews for 2017 are reviewed below.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale Lemon Wheat Ale (2017) – A repackage of this beer from 2013, this brew remains on the tough side, with crisp lemon counterbalanced by notes of cracked pepper and coriander. Virtually no bitterness is in the mix here; instead the malt does all the heavy lifting — which is perfect for hot weather but doesn’t have the backbone for much more. 5.3% abv. B

Samuel Adams Porch Rocker – This lemony spin on a radler, and the citrus does the heavy lifting here. The beer itself offers a whole lot of sweetness, with a lemon-lime edge to it, which gives it an almost soda-like complexion. That’s not the best impression, alas: The overall impact is one of a Mexican lager with one too many squeezes of lime in it. 4.5% abv. C

Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu – An ale brewed with spices and yuzu juice added. The spice makes more of an impression than the yuzu, with a kind of dusky coriander kick lingering alongside some notes of lime peel. Yuzu’s an awesome flavor, and it’s a bummer it doesn’t show through very clearly. 6.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Hefeweizen – A surprisingly strong wheat beer, overloaded to bursting with orange peel and woody coriander. The palate is somewhat oily, which gives more weight to the pungent spiciness on the finish. A bit overwhelming for what ought to be a more refreshing and nuanced style. 5.4% abv. B-

Samuel Adams Golden Hour – A Helles lager, showing ample lemon peel, herbs, and — again — coriander, particularly on the finish. While it’s plenty malty, there’s enough acidity and just a hint of bitterness to lift it up a bit, giving the beer a nice balance, but one which ends up on the dusky side. 5.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Berliner Weisse – Lots of lemon infuses this wheat beer, giving it a slightly sour character, particularly on the brisk finish, which hints more at lime. Up until then, it’s got a modest malt level, some hints of orange peel and cinnamon, and a clean and refreshing composition. 4.8% abv. B+

Samuel Adams Session IPA – Sam’s spin on a session IPA is a somewhat muddy affair, punched up with mushroom and earth, dulling what could be some more engaging notes at the core — lime peel, pine resin, and licorice. The finish sees some odd bubble gum notes emerging. 4.5% abv. B-

each about $8 per six-pack / samueladams.com

Review: The Bitter Truth Pink Gin

Pink gin is a classic blend of gin and bitters, and Bitter Truth’s German expression of the spirit (originated in part as a tonic for seasickness) offers a traditional, maritime-inflected rendition of the pink stuff. Botanicals aren’t fully revealed, but include juniper, lemon, licorice, caraway, and fennel for starts. Presumably TBT’s own bitters are used in the mix — and to give it the telltale pink color.

Let’s give it a whirl.

The nose is familiar, not particularly “pink” but initially coming across like a more typical dry gin — with aromas of juniper, orange peel, some coriander, and a hint of licorice. The palate sees some departure from the norm, however, as it opens up with new flavors, some surprising, of strawberry, black pepper, rhubarb, and a heavier layer of bitter spices. This is all folded into a juniper-rich core that finishes with some more unexpected notes of vanilla and salted caramel — just the lightest lick of sweetness to round out a lightly bitter but flavor-filled experience.

Recommended — both on its own and to give traditional gin cocktails a salmon-hued spin.

80 proof.

B+ / $40 / the-bitter-truth.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Viva XXXII Tequila – Joven and Reposado

Viva XXXII — or Viva 32, if you’re not Roman — is a new tequila brand with some interesting goals. Created by Yvonne Niami, the tequila claims to be “disrupting the tradition of charging more for a bottle than the tequila inside it. Crafted so you can savor, priced so you can indulge, the brand’s motto is transparency in a bottle. It is luxury that is accessible – more than just liquid in a glass.” Aside from that, 10 percent of net proceeds donated to animal abuse prevention (SPCALA, ASPCA, and START).

Two expressions of Viva XXXII are available, a joven and a reposado. Straight blanco and anejo expressions are not available, at least not yet.

Both are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.

Viva XXXII Tequila Joven – This is a blend of blanco tequila with three-year-old anejo tequila (proportions are not disclosed), filtered to clear. There’s tons of pepper on the nose — both black and cayenne — but also some sweetness, lots of lime, and a bit of baking spice, to boot. The palate pumps of the sweet fruit with exotic notes of pineapple, cinnamon, fresh rosemary, and a bit of butterscotch coming up the rear — but with lots of pepper throughout. The fruit can be a bit much, though — as it tends to dull the agave to some extent. That said, the body is rounded and supple, an appropriate carrier for the sweet-and-heat experience. The heat is what lingers most on the finish, lip-searing red pepper with a subtle undercurrent of crispy bacon. It’s less weird than that sounds. B+ / $40

Viva XXXII Tequila Reposado – Rested six months in new American oak barrels. This is very light in color — through the triangle pattern etched on the bottle, it’s hard to see the color of the tequila at all. The nose is peppery like the Joven, though here the sweeter notes are more traditional vanilla and caramel, with herbal agave underpinning it all. The palate follows suit, impregnating the vanilla with clear lime notes and a hint of coconut. A gentle, sugar-forward reposado, it finds tart citrus notes on the finish that elevate it beyond the typical. A- / $45


Review: Our/Detroit Vodka Infusions

Flavored vodkas off the shelf are full of God-knows-what. So why not make your own flavored vodka at home?

That’s the ambitious idea behind the Our/Vodka crew and the four flavor-them-at-home expressions that the Detroit-based distillery has released. The idea is simple: The company provides a half bottle of 80-proof vodka that started from a Canada-distilled corn alcohol base and is redistilled in Detroit (note this is a different base spirit than the 70-proof Our/Berlin vodka reviewed previously), a tea bag, and a package of spices. You put the spices in the tea bag, the tea bag in the bottle, and wait. While this is more difficult than it sounds (getting the bag in and out of the neck of the bottle without making a huge mess is tricky at first), the process is straightforward.

Four different versions of the product have been created. Our/Tea and Our/Citrus are designed to quickly (in less than 15 minutes) turn straight vodka into a lightly flavored vodka. Our/Gin Spices and Our/Oak are intended to steep for up to 15 hours. These two produce spirits with deeper flavors and considerably more color.

We got to play with all four expressions. Let’s see how they turned out!

Our/Detroit Vodka Our/Tea Infusion – An infusion of black tea and bergamot; set infusion time of 8 to 15 minutes (actual steeping time: 12 minutes). This infusion offers clear black tea aromas from the get-go, with a considerable savory overtone of thyme. The palate is sharp and more alcohol-forward than I’d like, but the tea comes through clearly, here with some modest citrus notes driven by the bergamot — though here they come across particularly as orange peel and Meyer lemon. While it’s fun on its own, the citrus notes make it more versatile than you’d expect; I’d happily use this as a mixer for cocktails in lieu of a traditional citrus-flavored vodka. B+

Our/Detroit Vodka Our/Citrus Infusion – This one includes white tea, lemongrass, ginger, grapefruit, and lemon flavors, with an 8 to 15 minute infusion recommendation; I also infused it for about 12 minutes. The lemongrass is strong with this one, particularly on the sharp nose, which offers both lemon peel and a sharper herbal component. On the palate the grassy, herbal elements tend to dominate, muscling the fruit out of the picture a bit. While there’s plenty to like here, the finish is on the tannic side, gripping a bit at the back of the throat. B

Our/Detroit Vodka Our/Gin Spices Infusion – Lots of gin spices here, as promised: juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, sweet orange peel, bitter orange peel, and ginger. 8 to 15 hours of infusion are specified; I went with 12 hours. This is a bit more bitter than a typical dry gin, with perhaps more coriander than I’d like on the nose. The palate is a bit woody, with some vaguely herbal notes following. Oddly, there’s not enough juniper here, nor enough citrus, to work as a legit gin, but it does at least get halfway there. B

Our/Detroit Vodka Our/Oak Infusion – This infusion includes toasted oak chips, vanilla bean powder, and saffron powder, with an 8 to 15 hour infusion time. I went with 12 hours — after which the infusion bag had soaked up so much liquid I couldn’t get it out of the bottle. This is meant to resemble whiskey of a sort, but the nose is all lumberyard and sawdust, with perhaps a hint of vanilla. The palate doubles down on the wood, to the point where it tastes like furniture polish over whiskey. The finish is dusty and pungent with overtones of something approaching lighter fluid. An utter disaster. F

each $17 (375ml) / ourvodka.com