Review: 2014 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel

Our third bourbon-barrel aged wine comes from Fetzer, which recently launched a new label: 1000 Stories. Unlike previous bottlings from Mondavi and Apothic, this is a straight zinfandel instead of a cabernet sauvignon or a blend (respectively). Need deets? Says Fetzer: The wine (sourced from Mendocino) is “aged in a combination of new bourbon barrels from Independent Stave Company, and old bourbon barrels from famed distilleries such as Heaven Hill and Four Roses.”

A didn’t have high hopes considering how rocky a start this category has gotten off to, but this is  a wine that comes off quite a bit better than expected. It’s extremely sweet from the get-go, but this is tempered by some big berry notes — blackberry and blueberry, plus ample milk chocolate, vanilla, and some tea leaf. Mild hints of coffee arrive on the finish, adding a layer of complexity I didn’t expect to find. That said, allow me to reiterate that this wine is a true sugar bomb, all jam and juicy raisins overwhelming a finish that may very well come across as simply too much. Those looking for nuance will need to apply elsewhere… but those looking for a well-made curiosity may get something out of it.

I’m not saying whiskey barrel-finished wines are going to be a great thing, or even a good thing… but if you are going to give one a try, 1000 Stories, for now, is the bottle to grab.

B / $15 / 1000storieswines.com

Review: 2014 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

This is an opulent cabernet from Mount Veeder, classic in its Napa styling, but not so overblown as to be undrinkably dense. Bold currant notes are complemented by tea leaf and some coffee bean notes, with a back end that showcases bittersweet licorice and a touch of molasses. Hints of florals and a lingering patchouli note add some nuance to what is a surprisingly versatile wine considering its density and youth.

A- / $44 / mtveeder.com

Review: Coco Cocktail

Coconut water plus booze? Now you can get your electrolytes and your buzz in a single can, courtesy of Coco Cocktail, which is 70% coconut water, plus just enough hooch to make you forget you’re drinking coconut water.

Technically Coco Cocktail is made from powdered coconut water on top of a base of water, cane sugar, and “OTS orange wine,” which is “other than standard orange wine,” which is basically a cheap class of alcohol that lets you put “wine specialty” on the can instead of “malt beverage.” #REFRESH all you want (per the instructions on the can) while being excited that you’re drinking an all natural product — but understand there’s still a lot of mystery booze in the kit.

As for Coco Cocktail in actual consumption, it’s a lemon-lime flavored, lightly fizzy concoction with a very sour body. Coconut water has never been my bag, so I appreciate the effort to cover it up with fruit flavors, but Coco Cocktail takes it all a bit too far, with a mouth-puckering finish that’s as powerful as many a sour candy out there. Light notes of the underlying coconut bubble up here and there, but these are quickly washed away by the flavoring. In other words, if you want to drink coconut water, but also booze, and also not taste the stuff, well, here’s one way to do it.

5.6% abv.

C- / $10 per four-pack of 12 oz cans / cocococktail.com

Update 2/10/2017. A reply from Coco Cocktail’s parent company CEO Franz Tudor:

I would like to thank you for taking the time to review COCO Cocktail #REFRESH.  We respect all opinions regarding our product, but I would like to address a few comments that were made in your review.

 In response to the “cheap class of alcohol” comment I would like to provide the following.  OTS Orange Peel Wine is far from cheap and in its pure form tastes more like a very pure vodka.  The orange peels are turned into a molasses which is then fermented.  This process produces a very clean, gluten free and non-gmo alcohol, there is nothing “cheap” and there is no mystery with the OTS orange peel wine used in #REFRESH.  OTS wine is nothing like malt in many regards mainly quality, gluten free, non-gmo and there is no aftertaste.  The OTS wine we use could be consumed as a standalone cocktail and we pride ourselves as using only the cleanest ingredients and stand behind everything contained in #REFRESH and all future Coco Cocktail products.  In fact our products undergo more testing by certified independent labs than any alcoholic beverage in the market.

While your article mentions coconut water, it fails to comment on the vitamin and mineral content of #REFRESH.  This is the first alcoholic beverage to ever be able to claim as per US FDA regulations that it is a “Good” source of several essential vitamins; A, C, D, E, B1 & B6.  Did you know that 95% of the population is vitamin E deficient and 90% are potassium deficient? I would further emphasize that all sources of vitamins and minerals in #REFRESH are from actual food sources and are fully bioavailable to the human body unlike the synthetic vitamins used in many non-alcoholic beverages including Naked Juice.  Pepsi recently paid fines for using synthetic vitamins in Naked Juice and misleading consumers in their advertising and packaging.  Most non-alcoholic beverages in the market claiming vitamin content are from synthetic vitamins which typically have bioavailability rates of 10-12%, meaning when a product states 100% of vitamin C and the source is synthetic your body will only use and absorb 10-12% of the advertised content.  The US FDA recently changed labeling regulations for products utilizing synthetic vitamins.  There is absolutely nothing synthetic in #REFRESH.  I will and have compared our product to multiple fresh pressed juices any time as the majority of the time #REFRESH has a superior nutritional profile and wait until POW! hits the market as it achieved US FDA regulations to claim an “EXCELLENT” source of vitamins adding multiple B vitamins and vitamin K in addition to the vitamins found in #REFRESH.

We have created a special process to make our coconut water easier to store and transport.  Once rehydrated our “powder” creates REAL and All Natural Non-GMO coconut water that would compete with any coconut water currently available on the market in both taste and nutritional profile.  The US FDA has reviewed our process and ruled that our coconut water “powder” was still an All Natural Juice (the FDA classifies all coconut water as juice).  We add nothing to our coconut water unlike many of the leading non-alcoholic coconut water brands on the market.  Each can of #REFRESH is 70% coconut water and contains 177mg of potassium per 12oz serving and only 7mg of sodium, the appropriate hydration formulation considering most in the US are not sodium deficient in their daily diet.

The SuperFruits Mangosteen and Garcinia Cambogia are also added to #REFRESH.  These SuperFruits are excellent sources of antioxidants.

As far as taste goes.  We use real fruit extracts and not “All Natural” flavors as the dirty industry secret is that those flavors are made with chemicals that happen to be classified as natural, but often contain not even a trace element of the actual fruits.  This is not the case with #REFRESH and the extracts we use as flavor.  While it does have a strong or tart citrus flavor, there is a large population who prefer tart over sweet.  In addition, considering the large number of cocktails include something citrus and something bubbly, #REFRESH makes an excellent and nutritious mixer with spirits ranging from vodka to whiskey.  Try it once instead of using sodas, high sugar content juices or energy drinks (which by the way it is very dangerous to mix caffeine and alcohol).  Taste like beauty is in the palette of the drinker.  Yes I have seen the sour patch face on occasion, but I have also heard delicious and that is so refreshing the majority of the time and is supported by our current sales ramp.  With that said we are preparing to launch a pomegranate berry flavor called POW! that will appeal to the sweeter in palette but will only contain 13g of total carbs per 12oz serving and 100 calories. 

Again, I thank you for taking the time to review and I respect your opinion, but wanted to address some of the misunderstandings contained in the article.   If you have further interest in better understanding our products and company mission I am available at any time to address your questions and comments.

Cheers & To Your Health!  Franz Tudor, CEO of Healthy Beverages, LLC and Co-Creator of COCO Cocktail.

Head-to-Head Review: 2015 Broadside vs. 2015 Rombauer Chardonnay (Blind Tasting)

A little something different this time out: A blind tasting and review. Broadside, so confident in the quality of its chardonnay, sent us not only its own wine for evaluation, but a bottle of Rombauer as well — often considered the benchmark for California chardonnay. The instruction: Taste them blind, and pick your favorite.

Brave move, but wholly unnecessary, really. Stylistically these two wines are absolutely nothing alike. (Broadside seems to have made some major stylistic shifts since we reviewed this bottling last year.) I had a clear favorite, but please, try this experiment or something like it, and see for yourself.

2015 Broadside Chardonnay Central Coast Wild Ferment – A very atypical chardonnay, with notes of fresh grasses, brisk lemon, grapefruit, and a smattering of baking spices — particularly nutmeg — emerging on the finish. A lively and, again, fresh wine, Broadside drinks closer to a sauvignon blanc than a California chardonnay, though hints of creaminess in the silkier-than-usual body give it ample power. A- / $17

2015 Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros – Tasting this blind was pointless. Rombauer sticks out immediately with its up-front notes of oaky vanilla and undercurrent of melon and pineapple. The ultra-creamy body offers a finish that goes on for days, but getting there can sometimes be a slog through a wall of whipped cream and confectionery. Iconic, to be sure, but not nearly as versatile as Broadside’s lighter and more lively style. B / $30

broadsidewine.com

Recipes: Making Cocktails With Port Wine

Port wine is having a bit of a renaissance with bartenders and mixologists, as Facundo Rum has brought to our attention, sharing the Facundo Bishop recipe with us. It is indeed warming and lovely to relax with and we highly recommend it. The cloves spice up the orange, which hugs the warming rum and sweet port.

Here’s the recipe for the Facundo Bishop, plus four additional cocktails that include Port wine as an ingredient.

(Note: While making these, we used Graham’s Fine Ruby Port. You can use a white port in any of these, but we recommend reserving it for summertime.)

Facundo Bishop
2 parts Facundo Eximo Rum
1 part Ruby Port
1 teaspoon white sugar
3-4 whole cloves
orange wedges

Place port, orange wedges, and cloves in a small pot. Warm and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, but do not allow the liquid to boil. Pour contents into a snifter or stemless wine glass. Add Eximo and stir. Add sugar and serve warm.

Red Dog MartiniRed Dog Martini
(Courtesy of Bar None Drinks)
3 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. ruby port
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. grenadine

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with cracked ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Port, bourbon, and maple syrup come together in the Second Circle. This one comes to us from Laura Sant who tells us astrologer/bartender Patricia Clark Hippolyte developed the drink especially for Scorpios as part of her “Mixstrology” series. Of the cocktails here, this is our favorite.

Second Circle
2 oz. bourbonSecond Circle
1 oz. ruby port
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
3 Luxardo or maraschino cherries for garnish

Combine bourbon, port, syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled champagne coupe; garnish with cherries, preferably pierced by a plastic sword.

New York Sour
(Courtesy of Eater.com)
2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes peach bitters
4 bar spoons port (ruby or tawny)

Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters to cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into rocks glass with ice. Float port atop.

Ruby Port Cocktail Inspired by Picholine in NYC
(Courtesy of KitchenFiddler)
3 ounces port (ruby or tawny)
½ a lime
splash of ginger ale
additional lime wedge, for garnish

For each drink, fill a rocks glass with the cracked ice. Add the port, then squeeze the juice from the half a lime into the glass. Add a generous splash of ginger ale and stir, using the handle of a long spoon to mix it up. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge and serve. 

Review: Robert Mondavi 2014 Pinot Noir, 2013 Merlot, and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Today, a trio of new releases from Robert Mondavi’s entry-level “Napa Valley” line.

2014 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros – Smells fine — light but heavy with notes of tea leaf and cherries, classic pinot stuff — and then you take a sip. Ugh, here it reveals a funky, bitter, and entirely unpalatable character that is redolent of muddy boots and bitter greens. Doesn’t smell or tastes corked — just bad. D- / $18

2013 Robert Mondavi Merlot Napa Valley – Fruity on the nose, with overtones of earth. The palate sees some funk, but it keeps things quite light, with gentle florals layered over a core of red berries, plum, and some tobacco leaf notes. Moderately tannic, particularly on the lasting finish, which eventually echoes the floral elements while calling up some spice notes. Nothing overly special, but it’s palatable. B- / $17

2014 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – A very young cabernet, this one really needs another year in bottle before being cracked open. Today it drinks with youthful notes of overripe berries and sweet jam notes, though the finish seems some tightness from the clove-scented tannins still bound up in the bottle. Hints of milk chocolate endure on the relatively simple finish. Still, I think there’s ample promise here; give it some time. B- / $20

robertmondaviwinery.com

Review: Flora Springs 2015 Soliloquy, 2013 Holiday Blend, and 2014 Trilogy

Napa’s Flora Springs has been making wine since 1978. Here are three new releases from the company (all late 2016 launches that you should be able to find on the market today, with the possible exception of the Holiday bottling). Thoughts follow.

2015 Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc Oakville – Surprisingly honeyed for a sauvignon blanc, the wine offers notes of orange blossoms and sweet honey atop more floral elements. Some coconut and toffee notes bubble up on the finish. The traditional grassy acidity of a California sauvignon blanc is missing here; in its stead, a rather unique experience that offers a strange melange of styles. Serve it blind and keep your friends guessing! B+ / $21

2013 Flora Springs Red Wine Holiday Blend – Each year Flora Springs releases a one-off holiday blend, complete with a variety of etched label designs to choose from. It’s always a cabernet-heavy Bordeaux-style blend similar to (but different from) Trilogy. This one’s a tad gummy, which dulls the fruit character and leaves it with a somewhat cloying, unsatisfying finish. In the mix you’ll find some blackberry and boysenberry notes, an herbal lacing, and plenty of chocolate and vanilla notes, but it’s nonetheless muddy throughout. B / $57

2014 Flora Springs Trilogy – 86% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 6% petit verdot. A classically huge Napa blend, with juicy currants dominating from the start and enduring for quite a while. Give it some air to reveal notes of dark chocolate, salted caramel, bitter licorice root, and a smattering of spices. The finish evokes gingerbread, cocoa, and a significant vanilla custard character, tempered with more currants and some candied violets. A huge wine, but one that, given time, showcases the best of what Napa has to offer. A- / $80

florasprings.com

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