Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Loudoun Welcomes Two More Breweries to the "Dulles Corridor"

With the opening of two more breweries this summer, Virginia's Loudoun County now has 23 breweries with eight forming a pseudo beer trail that I labelled the Dulles Corridor. The trail starts on the east with contract brewer Beltway Brewing Company and the new Sterling location for Crooked Run Brewing. Before this new location Crooked Run had utilized Beltway's services, but now they have their own capacity to brew excellent beers such as the Cruise Control Pilsner or the Dulce De Leche Imperial Milk Stout. As for Beltway, they have a couple of their own recipes, but the incentive to visit is driven by tasting beers brewed for other markets such as New York's Grimm Artisanal Ales or Georgia's Brackish Beer Company.


Twinpanzee Brewing Co. forms the center of this beer trail as the new brewery celebrated their Grand Opening this past Saturday.  Waves of beer lovers arrived throughout the day enjoying four beers on tap, food trucks, and a ribbon cutting ceremony with Loudoun officials. As I savored their Coconut Brown Ale I was left wondering why Fairfax County alienates brewery entrepreneurs while Loudoun County welcomes them.

Not far down Old Ox Road lies the very consistent Ocelot Brewing Company. Beer lovers can always expect a large array of craft beers from a few IPAs to lagers and sours. During my last visit I went the low abv route with the 5.6% Craft AF Lager - a collaboration with Breiss Malting, a Wisconsin malting company. A very European beer. But if you love IPAs, then this is your spot as of August 12th there were seven on tap.

Solace Brewing Company is the other newly opened brewery founded by entrepreneurs who met and gained valuable experience working at Beltway Brewing. When opening Solace they planned big regarding the tasting room, production equipment, and portfolio. There's plenty of room indoors and out to enjoy a plethora of craft beer styles. Once again I stayed low abv with the Sun’s Out Hops Out Session IPA, 2 Legit 2 Wit, and BeachBod Watermelon Summer Ale. The later makes a great beach beer, with just a slight watermelon character. And my beer drinking partner was all about the Patiently Waiting IPL collaboration with Ocelot Brewing.

Lost Rhino Retreat sets the western boundary to the trail and sadly I've yet to visit despite the fact that I've visited the original Lost Rhino Brewing Co. Ashburn location more than any other brewery. In addition to the expanded food menu there are more beer options as well including some brewed just at the Brambleton location, collaborations, and guest taps. And either location will have the Virginia Craft Gold Medal for Czech Lager Rhino Chasers.

Also establishing the northern boundary with Lost Rhino Ashburn is award winning and WO&D Trail favorite Old Ox Brewery. The last time I visited was during a rain soaked ride over Memorial Weekend in order to purchase bombers of their Funky Face sour. I don't visit as often since their core lineup of Virginia Craft Gold Medal Black Ox Porter, Alpha Ox Pale Ale, and Golden Ox Ale are well established in area restaurants and beer stores.

And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to these breweries. Cheers.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Visiting Palmetto Moonshine's Myrtle Beach Facility

It is a popular concept for craft beverage makers to open satellite tasting rooms in popular tourist destinations with one of these being Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Recently Duplin Winery opened a facility in North Myrtle following the success of Palmetto Moonshine three years ago south of town. Brothers Trey and Bryan Boggs have been instrumental in the growing craft spirits market by first crafting the Palmetto State's first legal moonshine and then by leveraging the larger seashore tourism market to expand distribution.

The distillery's spirits are still produced in their original Anderson location, but the original still is now a water fountain in Myrtle. A $5 tasting fee provides samples of their White Lightning Moonshine, four flavored shines, and the Palmetto Whiskey ($35, 88.3 Proof). Starting with the whiskey, it was a pleasant surprise, with combinations of spice, caramel, vanilla, and finishing with a slight burn. This complexity starts with the mash bill of 21% rye and 51% corn and malted barley with additional flavors from aging less than two years in new French oak. The unique bottle honors the South Carolina Dispensary, a state controlled monopoly on liquor sales in South Carolina which operated from 1893-1915. The Dispensary employed glass makers and craftsmen that created bottles unique to the Palmetto State and what many consider to be works of art. The bottles being produced from 1893-1900 featured an embossed palmetto tree with crossed logs under the base of the trunk. A nice addition to the bar or a gift.

The various moonshines were also tasty, starting with the flagship Palmetto Moonshine White Lightning ($29, 105 proof). The Palmetto Moonshine is an "un-aged corn whiskey made from a recipe handed down from generations of moonshiners and produced using our custom copper still built by a 5th generation moonshiner". It is smooth even at this high alcohol level with traces of sweet corn. The flavored shines are all $29 and cut to 45 proof with local fruit juices. The Peach and Strawberry were our favorites as the Blackberry and Apple were too jammy and sweet for our tastes.I'd much rather return home with one of these than a lousy T-shirt. Cheers and as always theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to these destinations.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#UnexpectedPaso Delivers Delicious Whites from Paso Robles

I've learned over the years that Paso Robles is not only the 3rd largest wine region in California but one of the most diverse. Red wine is king with Cabernet Sauvignon accounting for almost 40% of overall grape harvests. That grape and other red Bordeaux grapes are promoted through the Paso Robles CAB Collective. Syrah and Zinfandel are also major players in the region as is the Other Red category which consists of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Petit Verdot. As for white wine grapes, Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape at 5%, followed by Other Whites also at 5% and Sauvignon Blanc at 2%.  To help promote these lesser known white wines, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance initiated the #UnexpectedPaso Twitter tasting sending several white and rosé wines to various wine bloggers. After I receive wine from these tastings I usually pass the leftovers among the neighborhood. And this was one time my discriminating neighbors agreed: the wines were excellent.

JUSTIN 2016 Rosé ($22.50) is made from 100% gently pressed Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is quite refreshing with layered flavors of strawberries and tart cherries.

Vina Robles 2016 White 4 ($16) is a blend of 45% Viognier, 27% Vermentino, 17% Sauvignon Blanc, and 11% Verdelho.  Its starts with plenty of aromatic stone fruit which continues onto the palate mingling with tart grapefruit. This is one savory wine.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2016 Patelin de Tablas Blanc ($27) is a blend of five white grape varieties (Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette Blanche). The fruit was sourced from nine Paso Rhone vineyards, whole clustered pressed and fermented with native yeasts. This was the most mineral driven wine interspersed with creamy stone fruit and lemons. My favorite of the group.

Adelaida Cellars 2015 HMR Chardonnay ($40) is made from grapes grown in the cooler hillside terrain of Paso Robles' Adelaida District, 14 miles from the Pacific coast and ranging from 1400 - 2000 feet above sea level. The fermented wine was aged nine months and various forms of oak which provides lift and complexity without the awful over the top buttery character. In fact, the expected lemon zest Chardonnay flavors are prominent, along with a creamy texture, and refreshing acids. Nicely done. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Royal Wine Corporation: Jezreel Valley Winery 2016 Dry Rosé

Middle Eastern wine is slowly finding a home in the U.S. market and another entering the market is Israeli Jezreel Valley Winery. The winery was founded by winemaker Yuehuda Nahar and Jacob Ner David and is situated in Kibbuz Hannaton, approximately 35 kilometers west of Haifa. The winery currently produces six wines using both international and indigenous grapes - the later being Argaman, a cross between Souzão and Carignan. The Royal Wine Corporation just added some of these wines to their kosher inventory and I recently received a sample of the Jezreel 2016 Dry Rosé ($22), a blend of Syrah, Carignan, Argaman, and French Colombard. Each grape varietal was slow cold fermented separately with little extraction. This is a fresh wine, plenty of refreshing acidity, but unfortunately not much to show in terms of aroma and flavor.  Prefer others.

Friday, August 4, 2017

#OBX Gains Another Craft Brewery in 1718 Brewing Ocracoke

I remember the days when Ocracoke Island was dry as Hyde County outlawed sales of any craft beverage. Over time this barrier island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina slowly received it's alcohol liberation as the county slowly allowed the sale of beer and wine and eventually liquor.

During the transition from dry to wet county, Garrick Kalna and his soon to be wife Jacqui arrived on the island and design a three year plan to open a micro-brewery on the island. Garrick had brewed domestically and commercially in Colorado throughout his college years. The plan's initial phase included opening the very successful Ocracoke Coffee Co. So successful, the plan was extended 18 years until they sold the coffee shop in 2012 and laid the foundation for 1718 Brewing Ocracoke by purchasing the former Atlantic Cafe next to Howard's Pub.

It was still a long process. Last year during our annual visit to the island we noticed the brewery being built out with the tanks visibly from the road.  And this year we saw progress from the outside but wasn't sure if 1718 Brewing was operating until we hit Zillies Island Pantry where their Pepperberry Saison and Coffee Kolsch were on tap. The first round was purely investigative whereas the next few were because these beers were excellent. The Coffee Kolsch was a complete eye-opener regarding the style and completely surprised on it's refreshing character. The Pepperberry exudes spices, I'm not sure what the pepperberry provides, but the beer hit all the Saison characters.

The next day we setup a private brewery tour where Garrick interrupted a day of brewing and construction to give our large group a tour and a taste of his Good Bones IPA a New England inspired IPA which translates to a balanced use of hops. While sipping, Garrick provided a brief history of his background, which included volunteering at the Outer Banks Brewing Station, plus an overview of the brewing operation, regulations, and his IPA centric focus. While answering our questions it became readily apparent that Garrick is not only a self described water geek, but also an expert on yeast cultures.  Expect some interesting craft beer coming from 1718 Brewing and for those unfamiliar, the brewery's name and banner reflect the island's Blackbeard culture: the year he was captured and killed and Blackbeard's flag.

With the current disaster caused by the Oregon Inlet construction, local businesses will need your assistance once tourists are allowed back onto Hatteras and Ocracoke. theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to Ocracoke's first brewery. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ballparks & Brews: Myrtle Beach Pelicans and TicketReturn.Com Field

Don't get excited about finding craft beer at TicketReturn.Com Field for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans minor league baseball. The Pelicans are a Cubs single A affiliate and seem to an exclusive beverage contract with Inbev. Sadly, its the low end Budweiser products Bud, Bud Light, and Mich Ultra that dominated the concession stands. I did see one Foothills Brewing tap handle for their Carolina Blonde but that tap was pouring Bud Light. As for wine, the stadium was well stocked with the sweeter side of muscadine based Duplin Winery that has a satellite tasting room in Myrtle in additional to their North Carolina location. The Sangria is probably your best bet.

Monday, July 31, 2017

More Summer White #Wine from Oregon's Left Coast Cellars

In 2018 Oregon may gain it's 19th American Viticultural Area (AVA) with the possible establishment of the Van Duzer AVA. The vineyards and wineries petitioning the TTB are located in an area known as Perrydale Hills, but the AVA name is based on the well known Van Duzer corridor. This passageway provides a break in the coastal mountain range and allows cool ocean winds to flow inland - dropping temperatures dramatically.

Left Coast Cellars is one of the wineries participating in the consortium as their estate lies within Perrydale Hills. Interestingly, this vineyard is the largest contiguous estate in the Willamette Valley covering 350 acres with approximately 150 planted with vines.  Not only does the estate obtain the grape retaining cooling affect from the Van Duzer Corridor, but the estate's soil is a refection of the entire valley as it consists of the three major soil types: marine sediment, volcanic sediment at higher altitudes, and loess from the Missoula Floods.

This summer I received  the next vintage of two of my favorite Left Coast Cellars wiens. As expected these wines were fresh and approachable - both in the palate and the wallet. Cheers.

2016 Orchards Pinot Gris ($18) The Orchards is the winery's prime estate site for Pinot Gris that was once a productive apple, pear, and cherry orchards. This wine brought Pinto Gris back into my good graces as it is not overwhelmingly lemongrass but instead dominated by a refreshing lighter grapefruit and green apple. There are traces of minerality and a very pleasing acidic tail.  This wine suits me well.

2016 White Pinot Noir ($24) is 100% Pinot Noir harvested from across their Willamette Valley vineyards. The winery limits skin contact to achieve clarity and the wine is as usual, delicious. This vintage provides a more citrus flavor in addition to the stone fruit. The minerals and acids provide a pleasant finish. My families favorite of the two.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ballparks & Brews: St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium

The 2017 MLB season was reaching it's zenith when we visited one of the iconic franchises: the St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, and of course beer - mostly Anheuser-Busch Inc beer. In fact, the River City was the origin for blending beer and baseball for the working class when Chris Von der Ahe founded the St. Louis Browns and the American Association. With The Beer and Whiskey League, Von der Ahe introduced Sunday games, low ticket prices, and cheap beer.

Sunday games persist, but cheap tickets and beer are rarities at today's MLB ballparks. And at Busch Stadium, InBev and Bud are obviously the King of Beers. This virtual monopoly spills over to the neighboring Ballpark Village where Anheuser-Busch Inc, Goose Island Beer Co., and Stella are your primary choices.  However, there are exceptions. Schlafly Bottleworks has a strategically placed stand at the ballparks entrance from Ballpark Village where their Kolsch and Pale Ale were my two favorites.  Sadly, inventory fluctuated over the two games and often these kegs were kicked.  A more constant option was the convenience styled hot dog stand in center field where the beer cooler housed several area micro-brews.  German styled beers are prevalent like the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Zwickel and Stammtisch and the The Civil Life Brewing Company German Wheat. The cans sold at the stadium are quite unique as the entire top peels back.


Craft beer is also available in establishments surrounding the stadium.  Our hotel carried several Schlafly Bottleworks and 4 Hands Brewing Co beers with the latter's Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown my breakfast beer of choice.  4 Hands is located just south of stadium and while walking their to visit using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder we were distracted by the live music emanating from the Broadway Oyster Bar.  And with the 4 Hands Incarnation IPA and Prussia Berliner Weiss on tap; as well as more Urban Chestnut, Schlafly, and Perennial Artisanal Ales; we failed to head further south. However, we did visit Alpha Brewing Company when returning to the hotel.  This small micro specializes in sours, mostly barrel aged sours in wine barrels.  Whereas the others enjoyed their Atheist Ale IPA I was fixated on a sour flight of Troll Wheatwine, Natural Selection, Apocrypha, and Grape Brett.  The last two were fantastic, the highlight of the weekend so if you enjoy sours, add Alpha to your itinerary. Cheers to St Louis, Von der Ahe, and Ballparks & Brews.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

John Adams Would Have Enjoyed Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

"I went last night to the Ball, where the Company Suffered more by the cold which was excessive than I ever knew any Company suffer in my Life. The Dancers only were comfortable. I came home and went into a warm bed and had a fine Perspiration, occasioned I believe by my drinking three Glasses of Madeira Wine at supper and two more after I came home, which has relieved me from all cold and I feel very well this morning. The Company owing to the Weather was not large."  Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 February 1799
It's common knowledge that the founding fathers enjoyed their Madeira, a fortified dessert wine produced in the Portuguese archipelago of  Madeira.  Our second President was extremely fond of this beverage and recently A Museum Just Uncovered 221-Year-Old Wine Meant to Honor John Adams's Presidency.  One reason behind their affection for Madeira was that the wine was also able to travel long distances without spoiling. And in fact, the long sea voyages actually transforms the flavor of the wine by exposing it to heat and movement.

In contemporary times Madeira winemakers mimic sea voyages by heating the wine.  "The wine is placed in stainless steel vats that are heated via a serpentine method. Hot water, at a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees Celsius [or approximately 115 °F], runs through this serpentine system for a period of never less than three months. Once this heating process ("estufagem") is completed, the wine is subjected to a rest period ("estágio") of at least 90 days in order to acquire the conditions that will make it possible for the oenologist to finish the wine so that it may be placed in a bottle with the required quality guarantee."

One historical producer is Blandy's Madeira, a family owned winery that has been operating continuously for over two centuries. In 1989 they partnered with the Symington Wine Family to form the Madeira Wine Company (MWC).  MWC utilizes two maturation processes. The first is called Armazém de Calor where the wine is "stored in large wooden casks in a specially designed room outfitted with steam-producing tanks or pipes that heat the room, creating a type of sauna. This process more gently exposes the wine to heat, and can last from six months to over a year".  Second, during the aging process the wine is aged " in seasoned American oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the casks of this wine are gradually transferred from the top floors of the lodge, where it is naturally warmer, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where it is cooler. During this totally natural ageing, the wine underwent regular racking before finally being bottled".

As a side note Madeira wine can be made from the following grape varieties: Tinta Negra, Sercial,Verdelho, Terrantez, Bual (Malvasia Fina), Malvasia (usually Malvasia Branca de São Jorge).

To celebrate the 4th of July (yes, I realize the tardiness of this post), I received a sample bottle of their Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira ($29). The wine is named after the vat of wine that the Duke of Clarence drowns in in Richard III. And it clearly satisfies the founders affinity for Madeira wine. Dried fruits is the initial dominant flavor, followed by raisins and subtle chocolate. The sweetness is neither gritty or jammy and the tangy acidity balances the sugar seamlessly. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and am sad to see it disappear.  Cheers to Adams, the 4th, and Madeira wine.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wine Sample: Abadia Retuarda Seleccion Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León

The Abadía Retuerta winery launched in 1996 during Spain's Ribera del Duero explosion onto the world market. Although relatively young, the winery inherits a long tradition of winemaking as the winery and vineyards are located on the former site of the 12th century Santa Marie de Retuerta Monastery in Sardón de Duero. Along the banks of the Duero River, "the monks of the order of Saint Norbert were given terras et vineas (land and vines) in Duero Valley and the second abbot brought the first French grape varieties from Burgundy that were planted in this famous Spain wine region. Since then, the land of our estate has been dedicated to the vine, to silence and to devotion."

Abadia Retuerta farms these same vineyard sites which today is located within the heart of the "Golden Mile", a "privileged strip of land it shares with some of the Ribera del Duero's most illustrious wineries...". Despite the fact that Abadia Retuerta could produce wines under the prestigious D.O. Ribera del Duero label, they chose instead to use the broader Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León classification that allows them to be more flexible in the grape varieties and percentages included in the final blend.

For instance, D.O. Ribera del Duero labeled red wines requires a composition of at least 75% Tempranillo, with the remaining proportions divided between Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However the 2013 Abadia Retuarda Seleccion Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León ($30) is composed of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 10% Others (such as Merlot & Petit Verdot). Apparently the Syrah adds additional strength the the wine accompanied by the richness of Tempranillo and the elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine does however follow the D.O. Ribera del Duero regulations for aging Reserve wines spending over 12 months in oak and two years aging in the bottle. This is a fantastic wine, intense with aggressive red fruit, well integrated tannins and fresh acidity. The finish includes a hint of smoke and spice. However I feel that drinking this wine young is an injustice and the wine will gain elegance with more time in the bottle. Cheers to Abadia Retuerta and the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Symington Family Estate’s 2015 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim

Symington Family Estate’s Dow Winery is known for their Port being a historical producer of Portugal's signature fortified wine. But for many years Symington has been producing a dry red table wine from the same Bomfim used in these ports and sharing the wine with friends and family. Eventually they released this wine commercially and this month I received a sample of the 2015 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim ($13).  This wine is made from traditional Portuguese grapes Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), all grown in the Duoro DOC. This region is centered on the upper Douro River and it's Mediterranean climate is sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influences.  This is a juicy wine, dominated by dark fruit (plums and dark cherry) and acidity. Despite only having medium tannins, this wine benefits from a little breathing. The freshness remains but the acidity becomes more in balance with the fruit and wet stone minerality. The suggested pairing is Chouriço, so pick your sausage. Cheers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Latest from “Wines of Altitude” with Amalaya Wines & Bodega Colomé

Last July I covered Wines of Altitude featuring two wines each from Amalaya Wines and Bodega Colomé, each members of the Hess Family Estates. Both wineries grow and source grapes from the Salta Province of NW Argentina - one of the highest viticulture regions in the world where vineyards are situated 5,500 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea level. This high altitude provides intense daytime sunlight and cool nights that help better retain the acidity and concentrated fruit characteristics of the grapes - predominately Torrontés and Malbec. There are actually three varieties of Torrontés: Torrontés Riojano (the most common), Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino.  Each are believed to be separate crossings of the Mission grape and Muscat of Alexandria. This June I received the current vintage of the previous wines and will compare and contrast below.

Amalaya translates to "Hope for a Miracle" from the native Calchaqui Indians and the grapes are harvested from the Finca San Isidro Vineyard and Las Mercedes Vineyard.
  • 2016 Amalaya Blanco ($12; 85% Torrontés / 15% Riesling) This release has the same grape composition and Finca San Isidro vineyard source as the 2015 release.  The wine is also as refreshing with more citrus and minerality - a little sugar - and a tremendous deal at this price.
  • 2016 Amalaya Malbec ($16; 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Petit Verdot) The 2016 version replaces Syrah with Petit Verdot; expands the vineyard to both Finca Las Mercedes and the Calchaqui Valley; and maintains a similar oak regime (25% aged 8 months in French Oak). The two are also very similar on the palate so let me reuse my descriptor: this wine is fruit forward and smooth there's a dusty, spicy, and vanilla character resulting from the oak. The finish is very easy, very easy. 
Bodega Colomé primarily sources fruit from four vineyards. The winery and Colomé Vineyard are located at 7,545 feet above sea level and operates three other vineyards ranging from 5,750 (La Brava Estate) to 10,200 (Altura Máxima Estate) feet above sea level. This last could be the highest vineyard in the world.
  • 2014 Colomé Estate Malbec ($25) This release is also 100% Malbec and produced from grapes grown at all four vineyards.  This wine is denser, more full bodied with dark fruit and a velvety complexion. The finish shows white pepper, acids, and once again noticeable, but approachable tannins.
  • 2016 Colomé Torrontés ($15) Like the 2015 release, this wine is 100% Torrontés harvested from 30 - 60 year old vines from throughout the Calchaqui Valley and shares the same wine making methods. It also shares most of the characteristics of the previous year with the abundant floral and Muscat aromas, plenty of stone fruits, grapefruit, and refreshing acidity. A fantastic wine.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TasteCamp Maryland 2017: The Beer

TasteCamp Maryland's agenda incorporated a couple breweries and why not as the Frederick area hosts over a dozen craft breweries. The first was actually an informal stop at the Old Line State's biggest craft brewer, Flying Dog Brewery.  This was my first visit to the tasting room since our MyJoogTV episode and since then they added an outdoor patio and food trucks. Even thought a majority of their beers are well distributed, the tasting room provides an expanded lineup such as the Raging Bitch on cask, suggestions for combining beers as in a Black & Tan, and limited release beers like their heat series.  See The Passionate Foodie's take on the "Heat Series" Shishito Rice Ale.

Smoketown Brewing Station is located about 10 miles southwest of Frederick in the historical railroad town on Brunswick -- once a major hub for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The town is much quieter these days, more a destination for those biking the C&O Canal or kayaking on the Potomac.  Smoketown now provides these visitors with local craft beer brewed from their premises in the former Volunteer Fire Department. Make sure you ask about Walter, the resident ghost and former fireman, who is the namesake for the delicious Walter's Spirit. This high ABV Porter is aged 4 months in A. Smith Bowman Distillery barrels. Another nice high alcohol offering is the Wicked Threesome Belgian Tripel. Their lighter beers were also excellent and would hit the spot during a bike ride so try the Light Rail Lager, German Crossing Hefe, or Ashcat Pale Ale.

The final brewery stop was to Attaboy Beer, a new operation located just off Carroll Creek in historic Frederick. Think casual at this spot as Carly and Brian Ogden provide a kid friendly environment, a legal change that they requested as the Frederick County Board of License Commissioners used to outlaw minors at breweries.  The horror of such a possibility. Minors still have to leave by 9PM, but not before their parents can sample an interesting portfolio of ales and saisons. Don't leave without trying a version of Creek Life Pale Ale - this is one solid beer. 

And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder can guide you to all these destinations. Cheers.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chilean Wine from Ventisquero & Valdivieso

I recently received review samples of four entry level Chilean wines, two each from Valdivieso and Ventisquero. Valdivieso became Chile and South America's first sparkling wine producer when in 1887, founder Don Alberto Valdivieso, released Champagne Valdivieso. Close to a century later the winery added still wines to their portfolio and today work with close to a dozen grape varieties. The current winemaker is New Zealand native Brett Jackson who has quite the resume working in New Zealand; Napa Valley; Stellenbosch, South Africa; and Narbonne, France before joining Valdivieso in 1999.
  • Valdivieso Valley Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($15) The 100% Sauvignon Blanc is from the Leyda Valley. The cooler valley provides slower and gentler ripening allowing the grapes to retain acidity.  This is an excellent wine, tropical aroma, weighty lemons, and abundant acids.
  • Valdivieso Brut Rose NV ($13) Comprised of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay all sourced from the foothills of the Los Andes mountain range in the Central Valley wine region. Secondary fermentation is achieved using the Charmat method. This value is incredible as the sparkler holds its own being dry with abundant flavors and a smooth effervescent finish.

Ventisquero is a younger entity founded in 2000 in the Maipo Valley. But under the guidance of winemaker Felipe Tosso they have expanded into other regions leveraging the expanding Chilean vineyard landscape. They just don't source the grapes but own the vineyards in Apalta, Lolol and Peralillo in Colchagua, Casablanca, Maipo, Leyda and Atacama.  I was sent two wines from the Reserva label, one of nine labels in the Ventisquero brand.
  • Ventisquero Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15) The 100% Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from the sandy-clay soils of the Casablanca Valley.   After fermentation the wine is aged on its lees for four months which provides a creamy depth to the soft lemon melon aromas and refreshing acids. Another great buy.
  • Ventisquero Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17) The 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah are sourced from the Maipo Valley where the soils are granite and stony.  This is a very smooth wine with some chocolate leather and tobacco on the nose, a little dustiness, and very approachable tannins.Well done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

TasteCamp Maryland 2017 - The Distilleries

One of the many benefits of attending TasteCamp is that the focus extends beyond wine and always includes beer, cider, and spirits. TasteCamp Maryland was able to leverage the spontaneous and organic craft distillery eruption in the town of Frederick; today the area supports three craft distillers when two years ago, none existed. During the weekend we were able to sample spirits from these distilleries as well as from Lyon Distilling, located in Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The main spirits tasting occurred at McClintock Distilling, located in a gutted shell of a 100-year-old mechanic’s garage and owned-operated by college friends Tyler Hegamyer & Braeden Bumpers.  Their facility is ingenious, following the footsteps of the distillery's namesake McClintock Young - a renowned local inventor in the 1800’s who patented over 100 inventions.  The facility houses many of these inventions and patents, but none compare to the engineering feat in the closed-loop cooling system and water management. This process allows the distillery to reuse tons of water during the cooling process; we are talking about 50 gallons per minute recycled and reused. Their German-made 264-gallon copper still is also ingenious in that it allows the distillers to change the focus of each batch from say vodka to gin quite easily and with a little more ingenuity allows for a dry hopping process where the botanicals seep into a gin through the vapers and not the mash.

Nevertheless none of this matters if the spirits don't shine, and in this respect, the three McClintock craft spirits do shine.  The Forager Gin is infused with "botanicals inspired by native herbs found in the Appalachian Wilderness" and is refreshing in the sense that the juniper is muted. And there appears to be equivalent citrus character. The Maryland Heritage White Whiskey is based on a "historically derived rye heavy mash bill from pre-prohibition Western Maryland distilleries". The whiskey is then aged for 24 hours in oak which along with the rye provides just a hint of pepper and other spices. But the sweet and mellow corn and wheat provide the strongest influence leading to a very smooth spirit. Finally, the Epiphany Vodka is distilled from Northern Italian organic wheat and double distilled and triple filtered, a process that once again provides a clean and smooth product. Nicely done.

The same evening the two other Frederick City based distilleries poured: Dragon Distillery and Tenth Ward Distilling Company. The former was the area's first distillery when Navy veteran and businessman Mark Lambert decided it was time for a career change. Although the distillery is named after the Dungeons & Dragons game (they readily acknowledge their geekiness), the underlying influence is Mark's great-grand father "Bad" Bill Tutt.  This rebel was apparently a doctor, gambler, and moonshiner and their moonshine is based on an old family recipe. The distillery produces traditional spirits like the Joust Gin as well as many flavored spirits such as Fannie Tutt's Lemon Meringue ​Moonshine (named after Bill's wife) and the Medieval Mint Flavored Vodka. In general I hesitate sampling anything flavored but I thought the Medieval Mint Flavored Vodka was very tasty with the chocolate finish that complimented the mint. The gin was clean and not juniper heavy - as I prefer.

Monica Pearce and business partner & distiller Kyle Pfalzer opened the Tenth Ward Distillery in July 2016 and specialize in "offbeat spirits by experimenting with unconventional ingredients, recipes, and aging techniques".  The name “Tenth Ward” is a reference to the way Frederick City was divided during the late 19th century. They source locally with the grain and corn grown, malted, and\or smoked at the Rippon Lodge Farm in West Virginia. And the cider for their Applejack is sourced from McCutcheon’s, a 4th generation family owned apple manufacturing plant that has been in Frederick since 1938.  At McClintock, Pfalzer poured samples of four spirits: White Caraway Rye (80% malted rye & 20% malted barley mashed with caraway seed), Applejack (100% apple brandy aged in used bourbon barrels), Claude Counter Corn Whiskey (80% smoked corn & 20% malted barley), and the 120 proof Lindsay Stunkle Rye Whiskey (80% malted rye & 20% malted barley).  I was unsure about the Caraway Rye but dug the Applejack and Claude Counter. The apple-bourbon combo was very enticing and the smoked corn adds a peat character to the corn whiskey.  The Lindsay Stunkle was hot; next time I look forward to tasting with a little water to dampen down the alcohol.

As mentioned previously Ben Lyon, co-owner of  Lyon Distilling poured four rums at a tasting at Big Cork Vineyards. The distillery is located in the sailing village of St. Michael's and has been producing rum and whiskey since 2012.  Here we will focus on their rum where the molasses and sugar cane juice are sourced from Louisiana and fermented, distilled, and aged at Lyon. Moving from right to left we sampled the Sailors Reserve Rum, Bijoo Batch Rum, Curacao Orange Liqueur Rum, and their Coffee Rum. The first two were solid sipping neat, full of flavor and little burn.  I wasn't sure about the Curacao, but loved the Coffee. In fact went back for seconds and thirds. I need to schedule a visit this summer. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

From Teetotalers to The World's Best Cabernet: Australia's Galvanized Wine Group

"The irony is that Thomas Goss and successive generations were strict teetotalers" Tony Parkinson, Group Principal, Galvanized Wine Group

The story behind this ironic situation originated in 1854 when Thomas Goss purchased a tract of land using his Ballarat Goldfields proceeds.  For the next 144 years Goss and successive generations of family teetotalers farmed grain and sheep on this homestead. But in 1993 Tony Parkinson purchased parcels of this historic farmland and began to plant grape vines. And "in 1998, Keith Rowland, great-great-grandson of Thomas Goss sold the Ingleburne homestead property to Tony Parkinson ..... which reunited the original Thomas Goss section (80 acres) of farming land".  From teetotalers to vineyards.

The Goss farm is located in McLaren Vale, an area well suited for grape vines with its winter dominate rain and dry summer days which transition to cool breezy evenings. Parkinson explored the region when he decided to enter the wine industry and first purchased part of the Goss farm in 1988. This parcel would become Penny's Hill Vineyard and the first vines were planted in 1991. In short order he expanded his vineyard acreage and "set about establishing the brand with distinctive 'red dot' packaging and the slogan, 'Proudly Australian. More so McLaren Vale'". The first Penny's Hill brand wine appeared in 1997 with the introduction of the Penny's Hill 1995 Vintage Shiraz.

When Parkinson purchased the last section of the original Thomas Goss farm in 1998 the property was used as a cellar for the Penny's Hill brand. However, in order to celebrate the 200th birthday of Goss, Parkinson's recently incorporated Galvanized Wine Group (GWG), launched the Thomas Goss label featuring McLaren Vale red wines and Adelaide Hills white wines. The new label was not only a tribute to Goss and his family's long contribution to the region, but also a playful jab at their teetotaler lifestyle.

I learned this information at a recent lunch with Parkinson and current GWG winemaker Alexis Roberts at BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant in Washington DC.  Their visit to D.C. was near the culmination of a two week sprint across North America promoting their story and wine brands. Besides the Penny's Hill and Thomas Goss labels their portfolio includes The Chook (Australian for chicken) which was once known as the Black Chook until lawyers became involved.  During the lunch we sipped the wines listed below and discussed the Mediterranean-style climate of McLaren Vale, the cool climate Adelaide Hills, pests (apple moth, rust mites, birds for late harvest grapes, some kangaroo), markets (Canada is their #1 export market), and these delicious and affordable wines. In sum, the Thomas Goss label provides extraordinary value and across the board were excellent; The Chook, more value with a playful flair; and Penny's Hill, class. The latter includes the recently awarded The World's Best Cabernet Penny’s Hill 14V Edwards Road Cabernet Sauvignon. From Teetotalers to The World's Best Cabernet. Cheers.
Thomas Goss 16V Riesling ($16.99) - Lemons, texture, abundant acids from large diurnal temperature swine in the Adelaide Hills. Domestic market understands that Riesling is equivalent to dry wine so no need for the International Riesling Foundation scale.

Thomas Goss 16V Chardonnay ($16.99) - Fermented in neutral oak plus occasional lee stirring provides a complex and weighty wine that showcases the Chardonnay fruit. Once again, plenty of length and acidity at the tail.

Thomas Goss 15V Shiraz ($16.99) - More weight at this price point plus very balanced fruit. The blackberries transitions to slight spice and a bright finish.

Thomas Goss 14V Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99) - More dark fruit, complex with a slightly spicy finish. "Dynamic" for a single word descriptor.

Penny’s Hill 14V Edwards Road Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.99) - Sourced from higher elevated five acre block. More elevated, narrow window to harvest.  A classy wine, drinkable now but possesses rounded tannins and acids for aging. Recipient of The World's Best Cabernet  Enough said.

Penny’s Hill 14V Cracking Black Shiraz ($27.99) - Sourced from the Malpas Road Vineyard and aged 18 months with 20% in new French oak, this wine oozes with complexity. The Bay of Biscay clay soil dries to a crackle, hence the name, and limits vigor providing greater grape quality. Expect dark fruit, some chocolate, and firm tannins.

The Chook 14V Shiraz-Viognier ($19.99) - Co-fermented Shiraz with a small amount of Viognier provide an enhanced aroma. This is a deliciously smooth wine, very ripe fruit that lingers with the subtle tannins.

The Chook NV Sparkling Shiraz ($19.99) - Produced using the Charmat method from between 3-5 year old wine, this sparkling wine has been produced since 2005. There is plenty of body and lift where the fruit and spices linger...... Great value.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SAVORing Ten Years of Craft Beer

This year the Brewers Association celebrated ten years of presenting SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience. And has we all know the craft beer landscape has changed dramatically during those years. According to the Brewers Association at year end 2007 there were 1,449 operating breweries in the United States with 1,406 being craft breweries and accounting for $5.74 billion in sales. Ten years later at the end of 2016 the total number of breweries escalated to 5,301 in which 5,234 were craft and $23.5 billion in sales. And as we know, that number increased during 2017 with multiple craft breweries opening weekly. This growth was no doubted fueled by legislative changes at the national and state levels; using Virginia as an example, the number of craft breweries skyrocketed when the state finally allowed breweries to serve beer in pints without having to also serve food.

The 2017 event featured 172 craft beers from 86 craft breweries as opposed to the 2008 event which hosted 48 breweries pouring 96 craft beers.  The inaugural event was was most likely concentrated with Pale Ales, English Porters, and a few West Coast IPAs, but over the next ten years transitioned to heavier IPAs, barrel programs, and sours. Whereas the latest event was heavy on the IPAs and sours, session styles re-surged with low ABV Pilseners, Kölsch, and Gose. Now I will come off as a hypocrite because I spent half the night targeting the sours and barrel aged beers, with both Crux Fermentation Project (Sour Golden Ale & Better Off Red) and D9 Brewing Company (Defying Gravity Series, 1st Edition - Cape Canaveral & Wild Things Series, 1st Edition - Pearedox ) each proving my favorite beers of the evening.  And the Union Craft Brewing Older Pro with Blueberry (Fruited Wood-Aged Sour Beer) and the Schlafly Bottleworks Gooseberry Gose were excellent.


Yet I was excited that more breweries were pouring traditional ales and lagers that I feel as a beer culture we are losing focus. Seattle's Reuben's Brews poured a traditional Gose, no extra flavors, just lactobacillus, salt, and coriander. It was fantastic. Did you know that Stevens Point Brewery is the nation's 5th oldest brewery? They've been brewing continuously for 160 years, specifically their flagship Point Special Lager.  They also produce the Point S.P.A. (Session Pale Ale) which is my new bicycle beer if I can find it. Summit Brewing Company out of St. Paul, MN has been brewing since 1986 making them the 30th oldest brewery. They were pouring their flagship Summit Extra Pale Ale as well as the Summit Keller Pils. The later is nails the style, with North Dakota two-row Moravian 37 barley and Saaz hops from the Czech Republic. An awesome Bohemian Pilsener. Complementing that on the German Pilsener side was the Half Acre Beer Company Pony Pilsener

Sadly, during my four hours at the event, I seemed to only have tasted through one third of the beers as well as missed the entire upper level of oysters and cheese.  Yet, SAVOR was still a remarkable event I I look forward to popping open the collaboration beer: SAVOR X, a Baltic porter brewed with hops and cocoa husks, courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Company. Cheers.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The ArT of Preserving Wine with Cakebread Cellars and Rochioli Chardonnay

Opening a bottle of wine is a commitment, a commitment to finish the bottle.

I'm sure everyone has heard a variation of this saying because as soon as a bottle is uncorked or unscrewed,  oxygen enters the bottle and affects the wine. Initially that's a positive event when consumers swirl a glass or decant a bottle. At this initial stage, the oxygen enhances aromas and softens the wine by breaking down of tannins. But eventually too much oxygen will flatten the wine by diminishing the aromas and flavor and eventually alter the wine's color to a disagreeable brown. The question then becomes, when dos the transfer from positive benefit to negative hindrance occur? And of course, it all depends on the wine.

I recently received a promotional sample from a company trying to postpone that determination by allowing consumers to finish a bottle days and perhaps weeks after opening. The ArT of Preserving Wine offers a can of natural heavy Argon gas to displace oxygen in open bottles of wine. Since Argon is heavier than oxygen it displaces that gas and forms a layer between the wine and the oxygen - thus extending the life of an open bottle of wine. And it must be true if the marketing material states it.

Right. I test ArT on several bottles anyway, both white and red, but was most interested in white wines since they are more susceptible to faster oxidation because of their lower tannins. Plus we seemed to have had more white wines needing to open than reds. I started with several Albarino wines left over from a Snooth tasting and for the next few days as advertised the wines stayed fresh. Very fresh. I then experimented with a 2010 Cakebread Cellars that I feared would oxidize quickly. Unfortunately the bottle was consumed entirely by day two - it is a Cakebread. I took smaller pours with the #ChardonnayDay gift, the excellent 2013 Rochioli Chardonnay. On day one this wine was complex, with buttery and lemon characters and persistent acids.   Day two and three showed similar characters with the acids and aromas started to wane on day four.  But still a delicious wine at that point. Now I can't verify whether a wine will stay fresh for weeks as ArT claims, but I can for just short of a week.

A can retails for $9.99 with 130 uses per can. If you can't make the commitment to finish the bottle on opening then consider the ArT. Cheers.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Spirits Review: Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask Rum

I've been on a rum kick since Spring Break and have continued my sipping with the Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask Rum ($45, 86 proof). Each bottle of Mount Gary rum is labelled "Est. 1703" which is rather self explanatory and makes the distillery the oldest existing brand of rum in the world. Makes sense considering that rum most likely originated in Barbadians and called "Kill-Devil". The distillery is currently majority owned by Rémy Cointreau and is named for Sir John Gay Alleyne, a trusted friend of John Sober, who purchased the Mount Gilboa Plantation/Distilleries in 1747".

Spirits labelled XO refers to Extra Old and this rum is a blend of 8 to 15 year old spirits distilled from molasses. The rum starts with a nutty, vanilla, and honey aroma that continues into the palate where it becomes a bit chewy and spicy. It finishes with a progressive burn where it's initially completely smooth, but the burn slowly materializes to showcase the 86 proof. Enjoy neat or over ice. Cheers.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Salute American Vodka - Your USA Certified™ Spirit


If you are looking for a patriotic and smooth vodka this Memorial Day weekend or for the upcoming 4th of July then start searching for Salute American Vodka. The native spirit is not only distilled and bottled in Rochester New York using Midwestern corn and wheat, but the "signature red, white, and blue 750ml bottles (modeled after World War II standard issue GI canteens) are manufactured in New Jersey". In fact the label contains the USA Certified™ seal where the parent company passed an audit and certification process that proved that all product assembly and American labor comply with all U.S. safety standards and labor laws.

In addition, one dollar from every bottle is donated to charities supporting active and retired military personnel. "Patrons have the opportunity to localize the dollar by nominating resident heroes to receive support in their communities through the company’s program Salute American Heroes. In 2017, the company aims to impact five different veterans through donations to charities that support those veterans’ pursuit of the American dream. Salute American Vodka has an award-winning taste with an honorable social mission".

But what about the vodka? The spirit is distilled four times then cut to 80 proof. It is clean with a sweeter profile that thickly coats the palate and finishes very smoothly. Easy drinking neat, but who drinks vodka straight? Instead, cocktails are your best bet and Salute offers a range of drink recipes such as an Apple Cider Cocktail or Salute Raspberry Lemonade.

Now, I received this bottle as a sample and currently Salute American Vodka is only available in the Northeast. But the company is quickly lining up distributors in other states and hopes to have the vodka available in the Mid-Atlantic very soon. Cheers and happy Memorial Day.