Did someone say Madeira?

Watch this video of Ricardo Freitas of Vinhos Barbeito at NYC's Astor Center discussing the newest addition to the RWC Historic Series Madeiras: Savannah Verdelho.

Know Your Gins; Small's Gin featured in Chicago Tribune

Having a gazillion gins from which to choose is great news for gin drinkers, as well as those who typically abstain: With the vast variety on the market, you're sure to find one you like.

Still, the sheer number of bottles labeled "gin" can be intimidating.

To shed some light on your liquor cabinet, we derived a glossary of styles explaining old European standards. By comparison, the new breed is so varied, it defies categorization, so we picked a half-dozen you're likely to come across on menus and store shelves.

School thyself, then sip.

The old guard

London dry: Perfected in England in the late 1800s, this traditional blend of grain-neutral spirit, juniper berries and various botanicals produces results that most folks associate with gin: the bite of pine and a menthol aroma.

Plymouth: Heavy on the juniper but often described as softer than London dry, with which it's historically concurrent, Plymouth gin is named for the region in which it's made and carries a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which keeps its unique flavor regional.

Genever or jenever: Gin's historical namesake, with roots in Holland in the late 16th century, when it was used for medicinal purposes. Its skunky, bold flavor is thanks to its use of malt spirit, which often makes it a favorite among whiskey drinkers.

Old Tom: Before they perfected London dry, the English were busy making this hodgepodge of grain distillate, botanicals and juniper, with sugar added into the mix to mask the "imperfections." Recently revived, slightly sweet Old Tom is a nice middle ground between genever and London dry.

The new breed

Small's: There's a lot going on in this Oregon spirit: lots of citrus, cardamom and even raspberry, all of which play nicely together.

Hendrick's: This Scottish standard is a blend of 11 botanicals, plus a signature cucumber-rose "essence" added after distillation.

Bluecoat: Derived in the tradition of a juniper-forward London dry, Philadelphia's gin boasts the definitive Christmas tree bite that gin lovers love, and gin haters hate.

Anchor Junipero: The name says it all: San Francisco's Anchor Distilling Co. goes juniper all the way with this blend of botanicals with a dry finish.

North Shore Distiller's Gin No. 6: Made in Chicagoland, this well-balanced dry gin's citrus notes shine in the simplest of cocktails, like martinis.

Death's Door: Derived from ingredients grown on a remote Wisconsin island, this gin has a clean fennel finish.

Article written by Lauren Viera, Tribune Newspapers

Perfum de vi Blanc 2009 mentioned in Q&A with Greg Sorrell of DOC Wine Bar

Greg Sorrell of DOC Wine Bar pours a glass of Perfum de vi Blanc. Image by Thomas Caestecker
Greg Sorrell of DOC Wine Bar pours a glass of Perfum de bi Blanc.

There is a well-known fact that elicits a nervous chuckle: Recessions and drinking go together. While one envisions a once-respectable (?) stock jobber sprawled in a fetid heap after a market crash, the truth is that people simply want to ease their nerves about lean times. Of course, the economy doesn’t lend itself to stilted waiters and wine directors speaking in demeaning tones about “world-class” product to patrons already intimidated by their shrinking portfolios.

Rather, the confluence of the economy and enjoyment of beverages with a kick has led to perhaps a better appreciation of wine. This has created interest in varietals, blends and regions that are driven more by devotion to practice and place than obtaining a top score in a "proper" publication. Opportunities have opened up for white wines from Spain, red wines from Austria and grapes thought lost to careless transport across the ocean.

Sommelier Greg Sorrell of Chicago’s DOC Wine Bar vigilantly monitors the “grapevine” and the emerging wines that will allow his customers to share his passion for it. Though an almost reverential student of the grape, Mr. Sorrell is not overly formal or severely serious about this endeavor; he sees wine as a primary vehicle to a jovial experience. Chicago Budget Wine Examiner sat down recently for a few sips with the affable sommelier, and Mr. Sorrell was equally generous with conversation and a good pour.

Chicago Budget Wine Examiner: What was the impetus behind establishing a wine bar of this style? What’s the primary customer base you’re trying to attract?

Greg Sorrell: We started in 2005 as a neighborhood-style addition to Dunlay’s on Clark (next door). The owner had an interest in wine, and so it was natural to add this when the space became available. I came on board six months after it opened, and because I had experience at Charlie Trotter’s and Alinea, I was given a lot of opportunity and creative control with the wine initiatives here. The younger (Millennial) wine crowd has the knowledge and wherewithal to appreciate many finer things. But here, it's done in a more comfortable manner, without excessive formality. This is very attractive to me. I’ve always had a love for wine and food, as well as people – and this setting is a way for me to connect with people.

Many people have had Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but when they come here, they are looking for a real experience. We’re fortunate to have a lot of repeat people; I usually recognize about three-quarters of the room on any given night. It makes for a really warm, inviting and comfortable space. But there are some novice wine drinkers who come in, and they will hear a conversation about (something more esoteric) say, Zweigelt. We try to provide them with an unintimidating approach to discovering something different. This gives them a sense of knowledge, which they can take away and build on for the future.

CBWE: You say you like to experiment with under-the-radar wines and things that are off the beaten path. There are many of these items on your list, yet you also have many Chardonnays. The latter is popular, yet polarizing – can you explain this?

GS: Many people do have a comfort level with the varietals they recognize, so I don’t want to go strictly obscure. So, I will try to find different expressions of those familiar wines. For instance, the Silver Mer Soleil Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 is unoaked – all stainless steel-tank fermented. We also change the half-bottle and by-the-glass lists every two weeks, so there’s a lot of rotation.

But, the more obscure wines are really our most popular, and our staff really gets behind them – they’re exciting to talk about, and in turn, the customers will often say, “Oh, I ought to give that one a shot.”

CBWE: Have any particular varietals caught your attention lately?

GS: I’ve really been enjoying white wines that are Muscat blends from the Penedés region of Spain. The Perfum de vi Blanc 2009 has a semisweet profile, and would be best as an aperitif, but it does work with some seafood dishes, with sushi and with Thai. It’s a blend of Macabeo (60%) and Muscat (40%). A Sardinian white I’ll be bringing in soon is a Vermentino. Sardinian wines are very cool. They are grown very close to the coastline. The Vermentino is almost slightly salty because of its proximity to the sea. It’s got a real sense of place.

A red that I’ve found really interesting is the Cannonau, which is a Sardinian red that tastes almost like an Italian Grenache: medium-bodied and mildly tannic. It goes really well with mushrooms, or a truffled gouda cheese. I also really like Austrian reds. The Zantho Zweigelt 2006 is really great wine that’s very flexible with food – a real crowd-pleaser. On the nose, you get figs and walnuts, and flavors are of Gamay, i.e. Beaujolais. And there’s a touch of spice to it. I recommend it for big groups of people who might be ordering a number of different things to eat.

Any trends you see developing? Everybody mentions how Malbec is on a roll. What varietal is poised to equal its popularity, or even surpass it?

GS: Well, I think there are a couple of wines that could be on the verge of doing this. Chilean Carmenère is one that I do really well with here – the Casa Silva Reserva. It’s a grape that’s super friendly, with some weight, dark fruit and some spice. It’s got a neat story, too. It was being sold as Merlot for many years, and was thought to be completely lost when brought over from Bordeaux.

A white that could take off is French Semillon. As the weather turns a bit warmer, and people turn to white, this is one I recommend, particularly if someone is not necessarily a white wine drinker. Semillon is dry – almost “slatey” – and has a nice mineral component.

CBWE: What are your personal favorites – white and red – priced at or under $15 per bottle at retail?

GS: A red that I really like is the Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc 2008, from the North Coast of California. It’s very flexible, and I really love it with smoked duck breast.

The Gessami Gramona 2008 is a white I would recommend. Like the Perfum de vi Blanc I mentioned, it’s from the Penedés region of Spain. It’s 60% Moscato, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Gewurztraminer. When you see a Gewurztraminer from Spain, that’s something truly unique.

Chicago examiner.com article written by Thomas Caestecker

More than Bubbles- blog by Liz Mendez

The sports and wine world have been brought together on many occasions, usually in celebratory fashion. With the Chicago Blackhawks just winning the Stanely Cup, I am once again reminded that wine and sports belong together, even if it's only to celebrate the everyday game. On a beautiful spring day, a few individuals from the wine world did just that…celebrated a day of baseball with a few glasses of wine.

Local Wine Company, Cream Wine Company and Guy Davis took over one of the most famed rooftops in Wrigleyville just outside right field, above the iconic letters and numbers AC0165101 (reminding us every day how long it's been since a World Series Championship) and Latin phrase of 'Eamus Catuli.' Pairing wine with the food and atmosphere of baseball is no easy task; because not just any wine will do, but this hat-trick managed to nail it perfectly (which is no surprise given the talent among these three groups).

Meant to be enjoyed daily, the Daily Chardonnay was an excellent start to the day. Being an unoaked Chardonnay from Monterey, the lime zest and minerality danced on the palate and were a perfect complement to the snacks of chips, salsa and cheesy foccacia. After a few innings of Daily Chardonnay, it was time to stretch and we did just that with a little help from the Davis Family Vineyards.

The always delightful and charming Guy Davis shared two of his incredible wines with us to celebrate the picturesque day, the Russian River Valley Davis Family Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While still maintaining a great minerality the Chardonnay was a bit more round than our starting wine and the spiced apples on the palate played nicely off of the Bratwurst and potato salad. My first introduction into the Davis Family wines was the Pinot Noir, a few years back, and with a slight chill in the air on this day in April my first glimpse into the current vintage was even better. Displaying the beautiful characteristics that the land of the Russian River Valley has to offer, this Pinot Noir was bursting with a balance of ripe red fruits, acidity and just the right amount of alcohol. Of course pork and pinot are a fun and now classic pairing, but this wine was absolutely delicious with the BBQ chicken sandwich. Then again, the Davis Family Vineyards Pinot Noir is luscious and mouth-watering all on its own.

A game day combining friends, wine and baseball showcases a perfect reminder that the good life is more than bubbles. Cheers!

Article written by Liz Mendez for her Grapes of Life Blog.


Barrel Fever; Your Whiskey, Now with Wine

You and whiskey. All in all, you've got a pretty good thing going.

That doesn't mean you haven't wandered. A seductive aperitif in a hotel bar. A cheap beer when you really needed it. And, sooner or later, everyone occasionally winds up wetting their beak in a good pinot.

And—you better sit down for this—that includes your faithful whiskey.

Introducing Whipper Snapper Whiskey, a new vagabond of an Oregon whiskey (by way of Chicago), which compensates for its relatively young age with a lifetime of experience. Let us explain.

The first thing you need to know: this is a product from the Pacific Northwest distiller (with strong Chicago connections) that last wowed you with Ransom, a gin that gets that little hint of something extra by using former pinot noir barrels for aging. And they figured, hey, if you've got some extra pinot barrels lying around, you might as well make some whiskey too…

The result: a pot-stilled hooch that has all that kick you want from a shot of white lightning, but with the refinement and depth of an aged scotch or bourbon. Basically, think of it as the whiskey that would be concocted by a Master Sommelier who dabbled in moonshine.

In other words, your jug band will approve.

As written by Urban Daddy

Join Cream's Virtual Tasting on Twitter June 17th

Cream Wine Company, starting June 17th, will host monthly wine tastings online using the social media outlets Twitter and Facebook. Creating a virtual wine tasting community is interactive and has many advantages for the consumer and the wine industry: it brings wine novices and participants together with experts in the wine industry, allows winemakers to respond directly to consumers real time, promotes local retail businesses and restaurants, creates an opportunity to engage with people from all over the U.S. and the world, and just makes tasting wine a little bit more fun.

 “It’s the perfect way to bridge the gap between the vineyard, marketing and consumer without having to host a party for a million people in your own home,” says Andy Pates, proprietor of Cream Wine Company.

 June 17, 2010, from 5-8 PM Central Time, Cream Wine Company will host their first online tasting featuring 2008 Murphy’s Law Red from Washington. Special guest Christophe Bakunas, owner of Local Wine Company, the national representative for Murphy’s Law and other wines from the West Coast, will be attending the first tasting as well as sommeliers, bloggers and other wine industry professionals using their personal Twitter accounts and the hashtag #tastecream. Convinced of the success of virtual wine tastings, Christophe Bakunas adds, “It's an opportunity to discuss the same wines with friends colleagues and people from all over the world.”

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