Review: Breckenridge Brewery Barrel Aged Imperial Cherry Stout

This second entry in Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery’s Brewery Lane Series is a cherry stout — “aged 50% in whiskey barrels and 50% in Port wine barrels, Imperial Cherry Stout features sweet-sour Montmorency tart cherries which play on the dark fruit flavors prevalent in a traditional Imperial Stout.”

This is a huge beer but quite an enchanting aged stout, offering a richly coffee-laced and heavily nutty approach that quickly winds its way down a rabbit hole of flavors. Chocolate-covered cherries emerge immediately, followed by more of a mocha coffee character. After a moment, the initially sweeter attack fades and lets in an herbal note punctuated by a red wine character — the Port at work — and some lingering bitterness. Quite a complex monster, though it’s so bold on the palate that I recommend enjoying it in small doses. Bring a few friends.

9.5% abv.

A- / $12 per 25.4 oz bottle / breckbrew.com

Review: Humboldt Distillery Spiced Rum

Humboldt Distillery is best known (to me, anyway) for its hemp flavored vodka. But Humboldt also makes a rum, organic and well spiced. The rum is double distilled; once in a column still, once in a pot still. There’s no information on aging or the spices used in the flavoring process.

The golden/amber rum is relatively light in color, but it presents a very rich and powerful nose. Aromas include notes of butter cookies, molasses, cloves, and a pungent note of chewing tobacco. The palate has some roughness around the edges — clearly this is a younger rum — but is nonetheless full of flavor. Ample vanilla, brown butter, lots of cinnamon and cloves — this is the classic stuff of spiced rum, but with the sweetness dialed back a bit and the toasty/bready notes given an upgrade.

The finish finds a return to the rum’s rustic roots, alongside some notes of green banana, coconut, and smoldering spice. If you’re looking for a spiced rum that goes beyond mere flavors of cinnamon-flecked brown sugar, this is one to check out.

B+ / $26 / humboldtdistillery.com

Tasting the Wines of Onward, 2017 Releases

Onward is a wine brand run by winemaker Faith Armstrong, who creates these wines sustainably, organically, and biodynamically. During a recent live tasting, Armstrong talked through a collection of five new releases, with a special focus on her most beloved baby, Pét-Nat.

Thoughts follow.

2016 Onward Pét-Nat of Malvasia Bianca Suisun Valley – If wine writers truly have their finger on the pulse of the consumer, pétillant-naturel wine, or Pét-Nat, is all the rage in New York. (Think orange wine, but this year.) This is the first bottle I’ve ever actually encountered in California. Pét-Nat is a sparkling wine, made via a primitive process that predates Champagne. Namely, it undergoes only one fermentation, which is completed in the bottle without added sugar (making Pét-Nat a completely dry, but fizzy, wine). Pét-Nat is hazy and relatively low in alcohol — this one’s 12.6% abv — and crown-capped, not corked. This wine from Onward offers crisp notes of melon and pear, with no sweetness whatsoever. It’s quite an alarming experience, not to have that sugar, because the initial fruit rush messes with your mind. The fizzy melon notes give way to a very dry, herbal, somewhat mushroomy finish. Let the fizziness subside a bit (and the wine warm up a little) for the best — and wholly unique — experience. B+ / $24

2015 Onward Suisun Valley Malvasia Bianca – Basically the same wine as above (different vintage), without the sparkling treatment. Here more of the herbal notes are evident, along with strong lemon/lemongrass character. The melon-heavy core remains, but the fresh herbs make a big return on the finish. Quite acidic. B / $20

2016 Onward Rosé of Pinot Noir – Immediately a little funky, again showcasing some mushroom notes atop a core that is less strawberry and more cantaloupe, with grassy, herbal, and some oddly savory character to boot. While refreshing in its own way, this rose grabs at the back of the throat in a strange manner, finishing on a heavily vegetal note. B- / $22

2013 Onward Hawkeye Ranch Redwood Valley Pinot Noir – So thin in color you can see right through it. Earthy on the nose, with dusty flavors of tart cherry, licorice, and some cinnamon leading the way to a finish that is awfully bitter and rustic (for better or worse). C+ / $38

2014 Onward Casa Roja Carignane Contra Costa County – A rustic expression of an already rustic wine, this carignane bottling showcases the wines meaty core, folding in roasted nuts, mushroom, licorice, and miscellaneous vegetation. Drinkable, but not showing much fruit. B / $30

onwardwines.com

Review: Warship Rum

Warship Rum is a sourced spirit that originally hails from Paraguay, where it is made from fair-trade, organic blackstrap molasses. That rum is shipped at 189.5 proof in drums to Portland, Oregon, where proprietor (and Canadian native) Olivier Beaulieu-Grise brings it down to 80 proof and filters it, then hand-bottles the finished product. The rum is otherwise bottled as is, without aging, and without any added sugar (but with a fancy paper wrapper).

As you might expect, the nose on this uncolored rum has the funk of an unaged white rum, heavy with notes of decaying vegetation, overripe fruit, and white vinegar notes. It’s a youthful slap to the face, but the body offers much more finesse: cutting the hogo with the silky sweetness of spun sugar, tropical fruit, coconut-studded chocolate bars, and even a bit of raspberry jam. The finish is a banana bomb, with hints of burlap-like coconut husk.

For an unaged white rum, Warship shows a surprising depth and versatility that merits some exploration.

80 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #2.

B+ / $22 / warshiprum.com

Review: Winc Wine Club

Winc subscription box wines
Winc is a monthly wine club from Northern California that, like most, works via an online subscription service. We had the opportunity to give them a try and were fairly impressed with the offering.

First, a bit about Winc. When you first sign up, you are asked several questions to determine your “Palate Profile.” They ask about how you like your coffee; your salt and citrus preferences; how much you like berry and earthy flavors; and how adventurous you are with trying new foods. The wine recommendations sent are based upon these questions. Most of their wines are around $13 a bottle but can be as much as $35. Rate the wines you get and you’ll improve the next set of recommendations. If you don’t want any wine this month, you can skip it.

A basic subscription includes three bottles plus a flat rate shipping. We received four bottles and a copy of the Winc Journal. The journal is particularly interesting. This one contained articles on terroir and an interview with winemaker Markus Bokisch. The journal talks about their featured wines with food pairing suggestions and rates the wines with regards to body, fruit, woodiness, earthiness, and sweetness.

Inside the journal are also cocktail recipes, using wines from your subscription box. Of our four, two were featured in cocktails in the journal and so we gave them a try as well. (See below.)

But first, on with the wines.

First up is 2015 Forma di Vida Graciano, a Spanish style red wine. Light on the sweetness, this wine has fruit flavors like dark cherry and plum. If you like your wine with lots of body, you’ll want to try this one, though it may be too heavy for people who don’t like strong flavors like we do. A / $13Summer Water cocktails

Next, we have 2016 Summer Water Rosé, which is aptly named as it is so light the alcohol content is barely noticeable. The cocktail included using Summer Water would be nice for the warmest summer days ahead. It gives the impression it would be right at home poolside. B / $15

Summer Water Shim
½ oz. fresh tangerine juice
1 ½ oz. Jardesca or Lillet Blanc
3 oz. Summer Water
1 fresh Bay Leaf

Chill the cocktail glass. Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the tangerine juice and Jardesca. Shake until the shaker feels frosty to the touch. Then strain into the glass and top with Summer water. Garnish with a Bay Leaf before serving.

Our third wine is 2015 Field Theory Abariño, a white wine from Andrus Island Vineyard. This one is extremely fruity and a touch sweet, but not overly so. It might be a favorite of the ladies. B /$18Finkes Widow cocktails

The fourth wine is 2016 Finke’s Widow Sparkling White Blend. A little sweeter than the Field Theory, it has a slight earthy undertone (like mushrooms) which gives way to the fizziness. B- / $13

Avocado-Do Slushy
¼ avocado
1 oz. shiso syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. fresh cucumber juice
4 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 shiso leaves

Shiso is Japanese basil but has a mixture of basil, anise, and mint flavors with grassy elements. You can substitute fresh mint if need be.

This recipe called for cucumber juice in the ingredients but coconut juice in the instructions. We chose to make it with the cucumber and adjusted the instructions. You could probably substitute coconut instead.

Puree a cucumber in a blender and then strain to extract the juice. Then combine all the other ingredients, except the shiso leaves, with the juice and stir. Pour into a medium sized glass and garnish with the leaves.

Negroni Spritz
3 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 oz. Campari
splash of soda
1 orange slice

Fill a rocks glass with ice, along with the orange slice. Pour the Campari and sparkling wine into the glass and top with a dash of soda. Mix gently before serving.

Winc’s website includes a recipes section for great food to serve with your wine. Here’s one example:

Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel PureeGarganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Purée
serves 4
1 lb Garganelli pasta
1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat
salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. red chili flakes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup torn basil leaves
lemon zest

Find a pot that is large enough to fit two live lobsters and fill it with water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the lobsters to the pot, reduce the heat so that the water is gently simmering, and cook for 7 minutes.

Remove the lobsters and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Extract the meat from the lobsters—kitchen shears work great for this task. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Store the lobster meat in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onions. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low.

Slowly caramelize the fennel and onion, transforming them into something very soft and sweet. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine; increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the puree is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you want, you can store this puree in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time before completing this dish.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except under cook the pasta by one or two minutes. While the pasta is cooking, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel puree, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the skillet with the fennel puree, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add a little of the pasta water to the skillet and stir. Add the butter and the lobster. If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring. Add the almonds and basil. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water.

Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Before serving, garnish the pasta with lemon zest.

winc.com

Review: Blood Oath Bourbon Whiskey Pact No. 3 2017

The third installment of Luxco’s annual Blood Oath series, Pact No. 3, was released in March of this year, and as with previous releases it’s a product of significant creativity. Like Pact No. 1 and Pact No. 2 before it, this release is a blend of three different rye-heavy bourbons ranging in age from seven to twelve years old.

Pact No. 3 is nothing if not rye-forward, with all of the component bourbons in the latest release having a high rye mashbill, although the exact rye content is not specified. Building on the success of last year’s blend, which included a Port-finished whiskey, one of the bourbons in Pact No. 3 is finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels. Wine cask finishing is still not common in the bourbon world, and the use of cabernet sauvignon casks is even rarer (only Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve comes to mind). Luxco partnered with Swanson Vineyards in Napa Valley to procure the wine barrels for this release, and according to the creator of Blood Oath, John Rempe, the use of this particular type of wine cask allowed for the creation of “more character and depth” in the resulting bourbon.

I have to agree with Rempe. This whiskey packs character and depth aplenty. On the nose, Pact No. 3 shows notes of brown sugar, caramel, and stewed red fruit with just a slight mint quality underneath it all. The palate is rich and oily with oak, vanilla, tons of chewy caramel, and subtle dark chocolate. The rye spice only really arrives on the back end, but it adds a wonderful richness to the finish, which is long and warming with lingering black cherry and cinnamon notes.

Although Blood Oath remains a sourced product, Luxco’s new distillery in Bardstown, Lux Row Distillers, will soon begin producing and aging future releases for the line. If they make whiskey as well as they source and blend it, we all have a lot to look forward to.

98.6 proof. 30,000 bottles produced.

A / $100 / bloodoathbourbon.com

Review: 2015 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Now that red wine aged in ex bourbon barrels is a real thing, it’s natural that it would extend to something new: white wine.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay is sourced from Monterey County, then aged in standard oak barrels for nine months. A portion of this is then further aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, instead of new or neutral oak, for two months, then blended back with the regularly-aged wine before bottling.

The results here are more successful than with Mondavi’s prior bourbon-aged cabernet. The vanilla and caramel of bourbon are a more natural fit with buttery chardonnay than cabernet. Fans of big butter and bigger oak on their wine will find nothing to complain about here, the heavy vanilla character giving this a real dessert-like character. I’m glad Mondavi took the foot off the gas after two months; too much more and this wine would have been blasted out of the water with those hefty whiskey notes. On the flipside, fans of more acidic wines will want to avoid this one.

On the whole, the bourbon effect is rich and present — clearly noticeable from start to finish — but it still lets a bit of the underlying fruit, here showing as green apple and some tropical pineapple, shine through. There’s nothing fancy at work, to be sure, but it works well enough for a $11 wine.

B / $11 / robertmondaviprivateselection.com

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