Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda ($11.99)
From the producer:
"100% Bonarda Argentina organic grapes come from pergola vineyards located in Luján de Cuyo (Mendoza), at 800 m. The area has a semi-desert climate with hot days and cool nights. We choose deep, fresh soils with low fertility to control vigor, delay ripening, and avoid hydrological stress. These are sandy loams where the clay component provides mineral nutrients and water retention, while the sand component prevents the silt and clay part from compacting excessively, and guarantees water drainage.
Vinified in 300hl stainless steel tanks with temperature control for a duration of 10 days from crushing to pressing, with daily rack-and-return for a gentle extraction. The wine is aged in concrete tanks, receiving no oak treatment in order to preserve freshness and to represent a pure expression of the grape.
The efforts that the winery has been making since 2012 to grow grapes organically have finally paid off in this 2017 vintage. This Bonarda is an organic certified wine, presenting notes of crispy red fruits and white pepper, with soft tannins in the palate and intense flavors. It has a long and fresh finish, with lots of character. Its deep and vibrant mouthfeel makes it a true pleasure wine. Ideal to pair with pasta Pomodoro dishes, pizza and light meats."
Bonarda from Argentina is also called Douce Noir, and its DNA traces back to Savoie, France. It's a dark grape that produces a medium-bodied, red fruit forward wine that is not usually aged in oak. You might have heard of an Italian Bonarda, but they are a completely different set of grapes and have nothing to do with this varietal. Bonarda is the second most planted red grape in Argentina (behind Malbec), and it produces wine that is easy to drink with a kind of brambly fruit and spicy earthiness on the palate. This wine is an excellent value, and a great alternative to Pinot Noir or Merlot.
Vicentin Blanc de Malbec ($16.99)
From the producer:
"Blanc de Malbec owes its name to the type of vinification. It is a red wine vinified as a white, making it the first Blanc de Malbec in Argentina. The idea for this innovative wine came from the vineyard and led to its final creation. The hue is slightly pink, well defined and bright. Soft floral notes of sweet jasmine are perceived along with violets and mild aromas of fruits including
peach, strawberry and watermelon. Fine integration with the wood awakens flavors of cinnamon, cloves and spices. Sweet, fresh, unctuous, explosive, very fruity and elegant on the palate; the taste is intensified by hints of mature and sweet tannins."
I had never encountered a white Malbec until this one, so I was obviously curious about what the wine would be like. Red Malbec is usually quite bold and full-bodied, often with spicy or smoky undertones. As a white wine it still has a lot of character, and it is very elegant on the palate. It is aged six months in oak, but the wood just smooths it out and builds on the creamy mouthfeel created by the malolactic fermentation. This is a well-balanced, interesting, pretty wine that is also sure to be the talk of the table.
Nifo Sarrapochiello Falanghina del Sannio ($12.99--was $14.99)
From the producer:
"Rooted in Campania for three generations, the winery Nifo Sarrapochiello is located in Ponte, a small town in the Sannio, a pleasant place, already existing in Roman times, which owes its name to the presence of an imposing "pontem lapideum" on which the Via Latina passed that connected Rome to Benevento and thanks to which the Romans supplied themselves with wine and grapes of the highest quality.
Winemaker for passion and cultural heritage is the young owner, Lorenzo Nifo Sarrapochiello, who has decided to combine respect for tradition and scientific innovation, in order to ensure the company the high quality standards that have always been pursued. In fact, since 1998, the Nifo Sarrapochiello grapes are grown and treated with the organic farming method ( bioagricert control organism ). After a strictly manual harvest, the grapes are transformed with production standards that protect the environment and the health of the consumer: this results in perfumed wines, intensely aromatic and with a great personality.
Pale straw-yellow wine with aromas of pear, banana, aromatic herbs, yellow flowers and sweet spices. Taste is very delicate and elegant, persistent. A perfect match with fish steaks, white meat and aged cheese."
Falanghina is one of Italy's better known whites, and is an ancient varietal. This wine is a must with seafood, though it would go well with poultry and pork. Elegant, long finish with ripe fruit undertones.
Cantine Monfort Terre del Föhn Marzemino ($12.99)
From the producer:
"The Marzemino grape occupies a prominent place in the wine growing world in Trentino thanks to its excellent quality. The origins of the vine are lost in history but it is likely that it comes from Marzemin, a village in Carinthia. Currently Marzemino is cultivated in particular on the right bank of the river Adige and, especially in the foothills of Nomi, Pomarolo, Isera and Mori. In the Vallagarina the variety has found ideal soil and climate conditions which lend it its unmistakable organoleptic characteristics. To distinguish it from other similar wines it is called 'Marzemino Gentile' where 'gentile' (gentle) is justified by the matchless delicacy of the wine.
WINE MAKING METHOD
Brief red wine fermentation on the skins, malolactic fermentation and refining in stainless steel vats. Brief ageing in bottle.
Colour: bright ruby red .
Bouquet: delicately fruity (fruits of the forest) with floral notes of sweet violet
Palate: dry, harmonious, pleasing for its fruity notes and slight almond finish.
First courses with meat sauces, white meats, poultry, cheeses.
This wine is famous for its fruity taste. It is an indigenous wine mentioned in the Opera 'Don Giovanni' of Mozart."
I'm really into indigenous grapes and wines that are off the beaten path, so for me this is a really compelling one. It drinks a bit like a Pinot Noir in that it's light-bodied and brightly fruit-forward. I think at $12.99 it's a great alternative to Pinot, but it also stands on its own as a cool climate red. Organic.
Black Button Citrus Forward Gin ($31.99)
Rochester, New York
From the producer:
There are more classic cocktails made with gin than with any other spirit, and after a time out of the limelight, gin is bouncing back with a vengeance. Gin is a spirit which derives its predominant flavor from juniper berries. From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has evolved from use in herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Gin was developed on the basis of older jenever, and became populare in Great Britain (particularly in London) when William od Orange, leader of the Dutch Republic, occupied the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones with his wife Mary. Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, represented by products of various origins, styles, and flavor profiles that all revolve around juniper as a common ingredient. Classic retro cocktails mixed with premium gins in stylish glasses are back in fashion and a new wave of premium gins are taking over.
Our craft distillery specializes in farm to still products where all of our grain is shipped from a local farm just south of our distillery. Unlike some other craft distilleries, we distill, age, bottle, and label all of our products by hand right here in Rochester, New York in our production room. We do not, and never plan on shipping any spirits from large scale production companies.
Jason Barret has always found Gin to be an acquired taste. That is why he has given this spirit a new twist for gin lovers and an excellent starting point for the more inexperienced gin drinkers. The blend of bitter orange peel, sweet orange peel, and New York State Cascade hops molds well with the delicate notes of juniper berry. The unique blend of botanicals leaves you with a long lingering 'citrus forward' taste at the end."
This is one of Black Button's flagship products, and it is an excellent example of the quality of their distilling. While a citrus forward Gin is an easy choice, for summer, this is a good flavor base for fall and winter, too. I like negronis as the weather gets cooler, and this makes a great one.
Few American Whiskey ($45.99)
From the producer:
In a world chock-full of mass-produced spirits, only few remain truly handcrafted, and small-batched. (If you’re reading this, you’ve indeed found the finest.) FEW Spirits are a new take on timeless distilling techniques, and transcend the oft-ordinary taste we’ve all grown accustomed to. Distilled from the very best grains, aged to perfection, and bottled under their own roof, FEW remains in their own hands until distribution.
For nearly a century, Evanston, Illinois, the home of the Temperance Movement, was a dry city. In dire need of liquor laws that weren’t penned the same year as the invention of the band-aid, FEW’s master distiller overturned century-old prohibition laws to become Evanston’s first distiller of grain spirits within the city limits.
From the charred Minnesota white oak, recipes of our Bourbon, Rye, and an experimental malt whisky unite. We bring you American Whiskey. "
This product is so new that Few doesn't even have it on the website yet. It's an unusual blend of Bourbon, Rye, and single malt, and despite a fairly high ABV (46.5%), it is smooth drinking with great flavor. I enjoy it neat, but a splash of water or a cube will not do you wrong.
Middle West Oyo Wheat Whiskey ($46.99)
From the producer:"Inspired by four generations of distilling traditions in the Middle West family, the small enterprise built its foundation on the belief that authenticity in the world of artisan spirits meant handcrafting products from scratch, while celebrating the distinctive flavors of the Ohio River Valley.
Central to the distillery’s identity is the belief that craft spirits should be made with care, by hand, by creators who originally distill their own products. In today’s growing micro community, marketers often use words like “artisanal” to disguise the industrial sources of many distilleries’ core products—which are neither artisan nor handcrafted, and seldom deserve the premium they command. Middle West Spirits is proud to practice the time-honored craft of producing our spirits from grain to bottle, and honored to support the farms, craftsmen, trade partners, and retail customers who desire an authentic expression of world-class, American-made craft spirits.
Middle West’s flagship wheat whiskey is a unique addition to the crowded field of corn-, rye-, and barley-based (blended) dark spirits. Made from 100% Ohio soft red winter wheat, OYO Whiskey is produced and aged in small batches and offers a one-of-a-kind flavor profile distinctive to its Ohio origins. The distillery uses single-source Ohio grains to emphasize regional “terroir,” and barrel-ages the whiskey in white American oak cooperage sealed with beeswax.
Tasting Notes: 'Brilliant amber color. Aromas of fruit pastry dough, nougat, suede and buttercream with a supple dry-yet-fruity medium body and a graceful refrain of spiced nuts, dried cherry, wheat bread, and baking spices on the finish. An elegantly styled whisky for sipping or cocktails.' -- International Review of Spirits, Beverage Testing Institute"
Smooth and balanced, this is a delicious and unique sipping whiskey that will warm you up on chilly nights. Middle West does a great job of grain-to-glass production, and I'm thrilled to welcome this new product!
Catoctin Creek Single Barrel Roundstone Rye 92 Proof ($49.99)
From the producer:
"This whisky is the culmination of several years of planning. 'For a few years now, we've been putting whisky away for storage,' remarked Becky Harris, Chief Distiller and President of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. 'We pulled some of the more interesting barrels from the back of the barn and decided to release these at a higher proof: a whisky specially curated for flavor, while still being remarkably smooth, as is our existing 80 proof Roundstone.'
Think of it as our 'Distiller's Reserve' version of Roundstone Rye. Only one in every ten barrels gets selected to be in the Roundstone Rye '92 Proof' whisky."
Organic, single barrel, 100% rye from a solar-powered, family-run, grain-to-glass distillery: what more could you want? Delicious flavor with the perfect balance of spicy bite and smooth mouthfeel? It's got that. Sip it neat or make a great cocktail with it--either way, you'll love this rye.
Black Button Bourbon Cream ($31.99)
From the producer:
"Whiskey and cream seem to be such a natural fit together and this, the only farm fresh New York State bourbon cream around, combines our hand finished Bourbon and local cream for a drink that delights. Bourbon Cream is similar in concept to an Irish Cream but discloses a richer feel. The bolder vanilla and caramel flavors make this a unique spirit that can be used on its own, in a cup of coffee or in a cocktail. We recommend trying it in a Root Beer Float!"
Drink this, not that! This stuff is incredible. It's sweet without being cloying or syrupy, and the creaminess is not overbearing. Black Button is a grain-to-glass distiller in Rochester that produces quality spirits. This contains a blend of their own bourbon, bourbon from another small distiller, and local NY cream. It will ruin you for other cream spirits! We will be trying it plain and mixed with Wild Moon Chai liqueur.
Wild Moon Chai Liqueur ($21.99)
From the producers:
"Uniquely flavored, all-natural liqueurs designed for the professional mixologist and home enthusiast alike. Hartford Flavor has revolutionized the traditional liqueur. Wild Moon Liqueurs are flavor forward, have reduced sugars, and no chemicals; there is nothing else like it on the market.
All natural-Gluten Free-GMO Free"
I have met the creators/owners of this company, and I was extremely impressed with their dedication to bringing something unique and versatile to the liqueur market. Beyond the incredible flavor profiles, these liqueurs are made in small batches as naturally (and organically) as they can be. The base spirit is made from sugar cane. I am happy to currently carry the Cranberry and the Lime, but at this week's tasting we will pour Chai, which is great for fall and winter cocktails.
Standing Stone Dry Riesling ($13.99)
Finger Lakes, New York
From the producer:
"Standing Stone Vineyards is integral to the heritage and future of the Finger Lakes region. Located on the Eastern slopes of Seneca Lake, the site is not only visually stunning but also ideal vineyard land. Factors such as proximity to the lake, slope, and soil type are vital components that contribute to moderating lake effects and ripening, and contribute to the distinct nature of our wines.
In order to achieve the purest expression of place, we implement low intervention practices, both in the cellar and in our farming methods. We have increased biodiversity and ecosystem health and eliminated synthetic inputs. It is an exciting time to delve into what this farm has to offer and we invite you to taste the wines, and explore with us.
Our Dry Riesling is sourced from one of the oldest Riesling vineyards on Seneca Lake, planted in 1972. The combination of vine age and the site’s location contribute to a concentrated and ripe presentation. The palate is agile and crisp with round fruit flavors and a textured mouthfeel.
Vinification Techniques: Indigenous yeast fermentation lasting three months, blend of two Riesling blocks but heavily weighted toward the older West block, no fining or filtering agents."
Standing Stone has been a solid Finger Lakes producer for years, but upon the retirement of the original owners, Hermann J. Wiemer bought the brand and the vineyards. Wiemer is an exceptional label, so I am thrilled that they are putting their name behind Standing Stone. This Riesling comes from older vines, and you can really sense that in the body and in the ripeness of the fruit. It starts fruit-forward, drinks elegantly over the mid-palate, and has a dry finish. Even if you think you don't like Riesling, do give this a try.