Review: 2015 Don & Sons Chardonnay Sonoma Valley Watmaugh Ranch

The Don in question here is the famous Don Sebastiani, and this is his (and his family’s) first wine under this new label.

A classic Sonoma chardonnay, the Don & Sons Chardonnay offers a hefty nose of oak and brown butter, with plenty of vanilla. On the palate, the fruit becomes more evident, though the apple and lemon is filtered through notes of walnuts, baking spice, and ginger — the lattermost which lingers considerably on the finish. Bold in body, this wine pulls no punches en route to its huge finish, bold with fruit and vanilla, and classically California all the way.

B+ / $50 / donandsons.com

Review: Baron Samedi Spiced Rum

There’s a great story behind Baron Samedi then man — he’s the legendary master of the dead in Haiti, “the ever-cool and confident guide to a world shrouded in shadows and riddled with enigma.” (He’s also the henchman to the big bad in Live and Let Die, if you’re a Bond fan.)

Baron Samedi the rum is a different animal, a highly-sweetened spiced rum made from a mixed base. Some deets:

The Baron Samedi Spiced Rum is a carefully crafted, supernatural spirit. Made with high-quality rums from the Caribbean, the Baron Samedi includes a small amount of Jamaican pot still rum for depth of flavor. All natural spices — cocoa, cinnamon, and clove — are steeped into the rum, which is then blended with vanilla and an exotic spice from the Baron’s native Haiti.

An exotic spice, eh? Well, let’s give Baron Samedi a sampling.

The nose of this rum is exceedingly sweet but also almost overwhelming with its chocolate, cinnamon, and clove notes — all three present and accounted for as promised — with plenty of vanilla backing that up. The palate is, as expected, quite sweet — almost unbearably so on first blush — the vanilla melding with brown sugar and some nutmeg to create an almost Christmas-like character on the tongue. The finish recalls hot buttered rum — the 90 proof base giving it more of an oily character than you typically get in a spiced rum — with ample nutmeg dusting the top. Of course, all of that is mere prologue to the main event: Sugar, and lots of it, lingering like melted caramels and well-packed, light brown sugar, both of which just undulate over the palate for what seems like days.

If this wasn’t so sweet, Baron Samedi might stand as an excellent example of how flavorful spiced rum can be. Unfortunately, the sugar doctor has been so generous with the Baron that ultimately that’s all one can really grab onto here.

90 proof.

B- / $15 / baronsamedi.com

Review: Starr Hill Summer 2017 Releases – Resinate, Festie, Sublime, The Hook, Warehouse Pils, Grateful, and The Love

Starr Hill’s (late) summer beers are now in full effect — today we look at a full seven varieties, including four appearing in a mixed case of cans for the first time. Let’s take a spin!

Starr Hill Resinate Imperial Red IPA – If “resin” is the operative term here, Starr Hill sure got this one right. Sticky, almost syrupy, this beer offers a maple, raisin-soaked attack before hitting you with a slug of bitterness — chewy, almost chocolaty, resin with a whiff of pine needles behind it. A hearty beer that will fit better come cooler weather. 7.7% abv. B

Starr Hill Festie Oktoberfest Lager – A classic German-style amber lager, fairly heavy on the carbonation with notes of dates, nuts, and a mash-up of baking spices. Warming and toasty, it’s by and large a hit for a beer of this style, though the malt feels a bit overdone on the finish. 4.8% abv. B+

Starr Hill Sublime Citrus Wit – If you like your wheat beers nice and orangey, Citrus Wit is for you. Lots of coriander back up a healthy dosing of citrus peel, giving it an intensely spicy, almost middle Eastern feel. Whether it lives up to its name is up to you. 4.7% abv. B

These four were all reviewed from cans (though they’re also available in bottles).

Starr Hill The Hook Grapefruit Session IPA – Not my favorite session IPA, this is a weak entry into an increasingly crowded field that comes off as watery and only hinting at any fruit, let alone grapefruit. Rather bready, with an herbal edge, the characteristic pine resin and citrus are decidedly lacking. Not there yet. 4.9% abv. C+

Starr Hill Warehouse Pils – A classic German pilsner, this burly lager goes beyond the typically barley-led basics and offers overtones of roasted meats, coriander, and green vegetables. A nicely dry finish helps even things out a bit. 5.5% abv. B-

Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale – “Remastered” for 2017 with a new recipe to modernize the beer with a revamped hop bill and more malt. Good decisions all around: The new version of the beer bursts with hops without being overwhelming, with lemony citrus, gentle caramel, a dusting of spice, and some amaro notes all adding complexity. 4.7% abv. A-

Starr Hill The Love Wheat Beer – A moderately bodied hefeweizen, this isn’t the most distinguished of wheat beers, very heavy on the grain, with a subtext of apples and a significant amount of coriander. Fine, but “love” might be too strong a term. 5.1% abv. B-

each about $15 per 12-pack / starrhill.com

Cocktails and Cake Recipes for Labor Day 2017

Where has the summer gone? It’s time for our last ditch grilling, hanging out, and partying weekend: Labor Day. After all, you have to love a holiday where people take the day off of work to celebrate work. Here are some great cocktails you’ll enjoy and an easy cake recipe to boot. Cheers!

Angry Cider Slushy

Angry Cider Slushy
courtesy of Angry Orchard
1/2 oz. Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
1 oz. white rum
3/4 oz. lime juice
2 ½ Tbsp. white sugar
4 strawberries (or any other seasonal berries that are available)
2 cups ice

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Serve in rocks glass and garnish with a strawberry.

Junior Buffalo “GDE”
by Clayton MacGregor, Pig & Pickle in Phoenix, AZ
1 ½ oz. Bulldog Gin
1 ½ oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 dash Orange Cream Citrate from Bittermen’s Bitters
1 ½ oz. house-made orange blossom soda

Fill a tall rocks glass with ice, koozie on glass is optional. Measure gin with a jigger and add to glass. Add fresh grapefruit juice and Orange Cream Citrate. Garnish with an orange slice, a hug, and a high five.

To make orange blossom soda, mix together the following:
2 oz. orange blossom water
6 oz. orange simple syrup
24 oz. water

Place in an iSi container (i.e. Soda Stream) and carbonate.

Kelimutu
courtesy of By the Dutch from the Netherlands
1 ½ oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrack
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. passion fruit syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon syrup
1 dash By the Dutch Classic Bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Over the Moon

Over the Moon
created by Mixologist Ben Scorah
1 1/2 oz. Tequila Don Julio Blanco
3 oz. fresh coconut
3 oz. coconut water
2 oz. fresh pineapple juice
1/2 tsp. activated charcoal
coconut flakes for garnish

Combine Tequila Don Julio Blanco, coconut, coconut water, fresh pineapple juice, and charcoal in a blender with ice. Blend for 30 seconds. Then pour contents into a highball glass and garnish with coconut flakes on top.

Note: activated charcoal is the element which turns this drink black and is currently a craze in foods and beverages around the world — most notably black ice cream and black lemonade. However, it is the same ingredient used in emergency rooms to help overdose victims because it absorbs the alcohols and other chemicals in the stomach. This means it can interfere with medications you are taking. If this is a problem, simply leave out the charcoal and enjoy the cocktail without it.

Rumosa Signature Cocktail
2 oz. Island Company Rum
2 oz. fresh orange juice
1 oz. club soda

Build in a champagne flute and garnish with an orange slice.

Bacardí Refresco Superior
2 parts Bacardí Superior rum
¾ part ginger syrup
1 part lime juice
1/4 part St-Germain
4 cilantro leaves

Shake all ingredients vigorously with plenty of ice. Double strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and fresh cilantro.

Margo Flips
2 parts Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1 part Chocolate Stout (We used Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout)
1 whole egg
4 dashes Peychauds Bitters
1/2 part brown sugar cayenne syrup

Add Auchentoshan Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Chocolate Stout, whole egg, Peychauds Bitters, and brown sugar cayenne syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake until egg is broken down and drink is frothy. Strain into footed rock glass with fresh ice. Garnish with nutmeg.

To make the brown sugar cayenne syrup:
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Bring to boil. Let cool and keep in refrigerator. Note: if you don’t want that much syrup, cut the proportions respectively. We made ours with ¼ cup brown sugar, 1/8 cup water and ¼ tsp. cayenne. It made enough for two cocktails.

Almande Horchata
courtesy of Baileys
2 oz. Baileys Almande
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 tbsp. honey
1/4 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tbsp. vanilla extract
fresh nutmeg for garnish

Combine Baileys Almande, almond milk, honey, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain contents into a coffee mug over fresh ice. Garnish with fresh nutmeg.

Labyrinthe
Signature cocktail for Maison St-Germain
1 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila
1 oz. Kaffir lime infused St-Germain French elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz. Noilly Dry vemouth
1/4 oz. of fresh lime juice
5 dashes chartreuse (You could probably use absinthe as well)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake well, Pour into a coupette and garnish with kaffir lime leaf.

Rosé Affogato
created by Luis Hernandez at the Seamstress Rosé Bar
1/2 oz. strawberry-infused Campari
sparkling rosé
berry ice cream

Place one scoop of berry ice cream in a coupe glass. Pour in infused Campari and top with sparkling rosé.

To make Strawberry-Infused Campari, take 1 pound of strawberries sliced and cored per 750 ml bottle of Campari and let sit for 3 days to infuse.

Peachy Bear
from Kim Richards
2 oz. bourbon (we used Lost Republic, which is made in collaboration with Bear Republic)
2 oz. Van Gogh Cool Peach vodka
1 oz. amaretto
2 dashes orange bitters

Pour all ingredients in to a glass and stir with ice. No garnish is needed unless you just want to add a grilled peach slice.

Truly Italian Margarita

Truly Italian Margarita
created by Natasha David, Nitecap
1 oz. Casamigos Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
4 oz. Truly Colima Lime

Combine all ingredients, except for Truly, in a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a double rocks glass (14 oz.) and top with Truly Colima Lime. Garnish with a salt rim and lime wedge.

How about a nice dessert to finish off your holiday? At a recent visit to the Coppola Family Wineries, one of their employees mentioned this dessert as a family favorite.

Pound Cake with Grappa

Pound Cake with Grappa
1 slice of pound cake
2-3 blackberries (or raspberries)
Grappa

Place the berries on top of the cake slice. Use a pipette to drizzle the grappa all over the berries. We covered them twice. Dust with powdered sugar if you desire. Serve to your guest with a fork.

Momma’s Pound Cake Recipe
courtesy of Paula Deen
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Tasting: Late 2017 MashBox Club Spirits Samplers

What’s new from MashBox? The last couple of packages we’ve received include these samples. (We also received duplicates of the Black Button products below and Black Button’s Bourbon Cream.)

Oak & Rye Wormwood – Spirit distilled from grain distilled and flavored with herbs. Somewhere in the vein of an aquavit, the nose is lightly licorice-inflected, showing evergreen and mixed herbs atop a base of vanilla and caramel. The palate is on the bitter side, again heavy with herbs and a sizable amount of licorice, with a sharp finish of orange peel and dusky cloves. Intriguing as a sipper, but not exactly a versatile spirit. 90 proof. B

Black Button Distilling Citrus Forward Gin – There’s ample citrus on the nose as promised, but it primarily takes the form of dried orange peel and a touch of grapefruit. Some floral aromas can also be found here — rose petals and some potpourri. The palate is a bit on the rustic side, a grainy character muscling aside the more delicate elements, though there’s a sizable amount of that citrus peel on the finish, which is touched with black pepper and grains of paradise. 84 proof. B

Black Button Distilling Four Grain Bourbon – Made from 60% corn, 20% wheat, 9% rye, and 11% malted barley. Aged at least 18 months in 30 gallon barrels. Young stuff, but it’s getting there. The nose is a mix of popcorn and sweet candy, some orange peel, and salted caramel. A touch of smoke and an herbal kick recalls aquavit. The palate is more straightforward, caramel corn, some vanilla, and a smarter of cloves on the back end. It needs more time in barrel to mellow out, but this isn’t a bad start. 84 proof. B

mashandgrape.com

Review: Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon

Rock Hill Farms is one of the sub-labels of Buffalo Trace/Sazerac, an upscale bottling in a fancy decanter that people really seem to love because it has a horse on the label.

Rock Hill Farms (bottled with no age statement or anything else by way of production data) is a rather typical expression of Buffalo Trace’s house style, a rye-heavy bourbon that’s well spiced from start to finish.

The nose features orange peel, oily furniture polish notes, and loads of nutty sherry (or sherried nuts?). A winey, Port-like character emerges with more time, studded with aromas of cloves, raisins, and dried cherries. On the palate, many of the same notes persevere, though those fruitier notes come with a slightly bitter edge, along with some more exotic notes of dried papaya, allspice, and candied walnuts.

All told it’s a fine example of bonded-style bourbon, though it may be an overly familiar one for hardcore bourbon enthusiasts.

100 proof.

A- / $49 / sazerac.com

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