Pour Your Heart Out
The history of cocktails goes back hundreds of years and there are thousands – millions probably – tried-and-true recipes out there. The Moscow Mule is one such cocktail.
The story goes that in 1941, Jack Morgan, owner of Hollywood’s once famous – and now defunct – Cock ’n Bull restaurant and also the president of Cock ’n Bull Products, was trying to get people to try his ginger beer of the same name. Morgan joined forces with John G. Martin and Rudolph Kunett of Heublein Bros. Inc., the venerable American producer and distributor of alcoholic beverages and food throughout t...
Portuguese wines have been available for hundreds of years – known to us in the New World mostly as Port, the sweet dessert wine.
The Port story began in the early 1700s when England was at war with France. The British couldn’t get any of their beloved French wine, so they went with the next best thing, Portuguese wines. But the problem at the time was that the wines would spoil before they landed in England. So they decided to fortify them with spirits and the problem was solved. Fast forward 300 years and we find a modern revival in the interest of Portuguese wines.
Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA, is pulling out of the Washington market – an announcement that upset a lot of people in the beer community when it was made a couple of weeks ago.
While it wasn’t surprising to those in the know, there are a lot of people out there scratching their heads as they try to understand why. The answer is really very simple – in a nutshell, the brewery is at capacity and they need to be able to supply brewpubs first and the California market secondly – everyone else falls under those priorities. To make that possible, they decided to pull out of Washington until they could increase capacity.
With several hundred in-state breweries and more than 100 out-of-state breweries available to us, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal to Washingtonians. Why would one brewery leaving cause an outcry in beer geekdom? Actually, it comes as a relief to our Beer & Wine wine staff in that we now don’t have to deal with the Pliny situation – Pliny the Elder is an Imperial IPA from Russian River that put that brewery on the map. We could never get enough, which caused a lot of aggravation for those who wanted it. It was a classic example of supply not being able to keep up with demand.
Personally, I think Russian River Brewing’s decision to leave Washington is for the best. I’ve seen it happen way too many times to count – a brewery/winery/distillery tries to break into the market but overestimate their ability to sell to or supply the market. I would rather see a supplier admit that they cannot supply to you rather than committing and then failing to deliver.
But now we turn to a happier situation – Magic Hat Brewery in Vermont. Magic Hat is a craft brewery/brewpub that has been around since 1994. In Vermont, it’s considered a pretty big deal. When asked if they would please come to the Washington market, the answer was always “No.” For whatever reason – and my guess is that they just didn’t have the supply or capacity levels to be able to support another out-of-state market – they never ventured into the great Northwest....
Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m not exactly a holiday junkie. I wouldn’t lump myself into the same category as Mr. Scrooge or The Grinch perhaps, but I’m not all that far away from it.
But … with that said, I have to admit that I can’t wait for this time of the year. Because of winter beers. Yes, it’s that glorious time of year when most of the craft brewers offer their seasonal selection in the form of a robust, typically dark and malty elixir. Some styles tend to be darker, stouter versions of their usual style, while others showcase beers brewed with adjuncts such as fruit, spices or even spruce tips. The presence of hops tends to be downplayed – although not always – and the alcohol level typically rises. I know I’m not alone on this subject, right now the blogosphere is buzzing with all of the seasonal releases available.
One beer to pay special attention to is the Deschutes Jubelale. Since its inception, Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore., has had an artist design the label. This year, Kaycee Anseth Townsend was chosen as the artist and her design, titled “Revelers and Troubadours,” pays homage to all of the labels of the past. She created the art using scraps of paper from labels from years past. This beer will be on our Biweekly Buys for $7.49 for 6 packs, starting Dec. 12.
Another favorite is the Fremont Brewing Abominable Ale. This year, much to the chagrin of many a beer geek, Fremont Brewing (on Woodland Park Avenue North in Seattle) has released its seasonal ale in four-packs of 12-oz aluminum cans. Aluminum cans are getting trendier for craft beers, and a lot of brewers think it benefits the beer in terms of cost, recyclability and protection from light and oxygen....
Sometimes in life, you have to choose between acting now or waiting. I know people – lots of them – who are holding off on buying a house in the hopes of scoring a real deal. They could feasibly buy today, but the possibility of something even better showing up in the future always exists. This struggle between instant gratification and the hope of patience being rewarded has recently struck us in Wine Department.
As a company, we are constantly being offered wines that are absolutely fabulous; case in point, the ’09 Saviah Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley. This wine has been on the market for almost a year. Upon release, it was drinking beautifully. It showed the depth and structure of fruit known from the vineyards where it was grown. When we were told that Saviah was going to drop the price for the end of the year, we jumped on the opportunity to run it for our Holiday Wine Sale.
Then the kicker appeared. Our supplier offered us an unheard of offer – they said we could buy in on the ’10 vintage, before it has been released to any other retailers, if we felt it was up to our quality standards. In fact, they were heading to Walla Walla to taste them side by side. When they got back, the vote was unanimous that the ’10 had more stuffing than the ’09. To prove their point, they shipped us both wines to try ourselves....
Have you ever felt like someone was trying to pull a fast one on you? Has your internal “red flag” alarm been activated when something sounded too good to be true? Like that commercial where an armored car comes by a guy standing on the corner and drops bags full of money before speeding off – then a weird pig comes by and tells him it can’t be true because it isn’t? That’s how I felt at a recent tasting at a distributor’s warehouse.
I was invited to American Northwest’s warehouse in the Cloverdale neighborhood of South Seattle recently. (Side note: There is no way I would have found it on my own. I was following someone who knew where they were going.) The agenda for the day included tasting a bunch of spirits they are now distributing and also to some wines for our Italian wines promotion. I was shown the usual rank-and-file wines that one would expect from a reputable distributor. I’m not knocking the wines, there were some really good ones, but most of the wines just didn’t make sense for all of our stores. Then it happened. I should have known from the look on the faces of the guys tasting this particular wine with me. When someone says: “You tell me how much this should cost,” you know they’re up to something.
The wine I am referencing is the 2010 Franco Serra Barbera d’Alba. For those who don’t know much about Barbera d’Alba, here’s a crash course. Barbera d’Alba is a red wine from the Piemonte region of northern Italy. It is made from Barbera grapes, near the village of Alba. While it is not as famous as its bigger brothers Barolo or Barbaresco, it is still a wonderful wine. Actually, there are some producers who focus solely on Barbera and make world-class wines....
We’re about to get the first whole-grain malting facility in Washington state since 1934 – and that’s probably great news for local beer makers.
The Washington Beer Blog and the Skagit Valley Herald both reported recently that a malting facility will open in Burlington by early next year. This is a really big deal for some local producers of craft beer. Malted grains are one of the key ingredients in making beer. The majority of producers, if not all, are buying their malted grains from Great Western Malting in Vancouver, WA. With the popularity of “hyper-local” products being available to customers at farmers markets and even our stores, this is a hot-button issue.
Imagine being a craft beer producer in Bellingham or Mount Vernon (and there are a few) and wanting to support local agriculture and businesses. You will finally have the resources available to say that your product was made from locally produced ingredients. Interestingly, there could be some issues. The Vancouver malting company has an advantage – economy of scale. It is a multi-national company, headquartered in Australia and takes advantage of the massive barley resources in Idaho and California. It has the infrastructure of rail cars, semi-trucks and ships to move its product. All of this leads to uniform quality at reasonable prices....
As I alluded to in my previous post, not all Cotes du Rhone wines are made with Grenache. In fact, the Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone we are featuring this month is made with 100 percent Syrah. That’s not the only odd (and wonderful) thing about this wine …
Louis Barruol is the winemaker for Chateau de Saint Cosme, a property in the southern Rhone region of France. The estate has been in Louis’s family since the 1400s. Interestingly, the estate has Gallo-Roman ruins on it. There also is a medieval chapel built between the 11th and 12th centuries. Technically, the property lies within the Gigondas region of the Rhone Valley. The estate has 15 hectares, or about 37 acres, of vines and they make several different wines under the Gigondas appellation and also a few different Cotes du Rhones.
What makes this estate different is that Louis Barruol also sources fruit from different appellations within the Rhone Valley. Wines from the estate bear the Chateau on the label, whereas wines made from sourced fruit are simply called Saint Cosme. The wine we’re featuring is an example of the Saint Cosme label. Since the regulations for Cotes du Rhone allows for fruit to be sourced from many different areas, Louis chooses fruit from the Vinsobres region, northeast of Avignon and the Gard district, on the west side of the Valley....
When the idea of blogging first came up, I was a little apprehensive. I don’t mind writing; in fact, I was always pretty good at it during my school days. My apprehension came in the ability to express an idea well enough, that it would speak to all of the stores and that it would be coming from my specific point of view. I’ve finally been overcome those, as you can tell by the headline.
For the month of September, all of the Town & Country Markets’ stores will feature wines from the Rhone region of France. Every time we do a promotion with Rhone wines, we are always surprised by how well they are received. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Rhone wines, let me begin by saying you’ve been missing out. Some of the most famous and sought-after wines (read: expensive) come from the Rhone. At the same time, this region offers some of the most value-oriented wines in the world.
Understanding Rhone wines is rather easy, once you know the composition of the specific wine regions. For the red wines, there are basically two grape varieties you should know about – Syrah and Grenache. Wines from the smaller regions to the north are only made with Syrah. Wines from the southern regions are predominantly made from Grenache. This makes sense because Syrah tends to do better in a cooler climate, just as the northern Rhone and Grenache do better in hot climates like the south. As for the whites – Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier dominate in the north, while dozens of varietals (too many to list here) are acceptable in the south....
In my last post, I mentioned a couple of wines that we would be promoting for Washington Wine Month. Here’s a little bit about one of them – Sharecropper Cabernet Sauvignon from Owen Roe (Owen Roe has vineyards in both Washington and Oregon and this is one of their Washington wines).
Back in 2001, Owen Roe was a budding new winery. For most new wineries, cash flow is a constant problem, especially if you consider there is a huge amount of overhead for the first few years. Think about it – you have to invest in a physical space to make your wine, all the equipment, grapes (duh) and all of the other things like bottles, labels, corks, etc. Because you have to wait a couple of years for your wines to be ready, you don’t even get paid for it for several years.
So, to overcome this hardship, Owen Roe brought back the historic practice of sharecropping. Essentially, the grower and the winery agree that the grower will be paid once the winery sells its product. They actually did this for several vintages, but now, because of the success of the winery, they pay their growers upfront....