What better reason than Christmas Eve to share and enjoy a couple of gems from two of my favorite #wine producers Pride Mountain Vineyards and Joseph Drouhin.
The 2014 Reserve #Pride Cab was still a pup, delicious but opulent and massive. Needs another 7-10 years in the bottle. The 2010 Clos des Mouches #Burgundy was drinking beautifully with a perfect balance of dried cherry, pipe tobacco and earthy undertones leading to a silky, smooth finish.
A lot of things happened since Covid hit and the lockdowns and quarantines rolled around. One of the most notable is that just about everyone starting drinking more… and who can blame us?? The everyday stresses intensified and with gyms and bars struggling to survive, the outlets to blow off some steam minimized. Plus, how else were we supposed to cope with virtual education, seriously ?!?
While the increase in wine consumption and sales has been widely publicized, more people are also now sipping on bourbon than ever before. It makes sense… higher alcohol content so you can consume less volume and there are so many delicious options out there that don’t have to break the bank. Plus, a bottle of bourbon lasts a lot longer than the same 750 ML bottle of wine. Think about it… a $50 bottle of wine may get polished off in one sitting, whereas a $50 bottle of bourbon can last weeks to months.
Since bourbon can be produced anywhere in the US (myth debunked: bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky) there are some stellar new offerings coming from producers all over America. And since bourbon is truly an American made product, you can feel good about supporting local businesses while sipping on a tasty adult beverage while winding from a long day. One new producer I just discovered is Penelope and their interesting lineup of various style bourbons.
Quick snapshot, Penelope Bourbon is distilled in Indiana and was created to celebrate the birth of Mike and Kerry Paladini’s child in 2018. Her name? You guessed it… Penelope. To commemorate this occasion, Mike realized he wanted to create a spirit that embodied the daily joy of celebrating life’s pleasures, both big and small. He teamed up with his childhood bud Danny Polise to distill their first batch of straight bourbon whiskey and voila, a new company was born.
Their entry level Four Grain Bourbon (75% Corn, 15% Wheat, 7% Rye, 3% Malted Barley) is anything but ‘entry’. Earning multiple awards, this is an extremely solid bottle of $40-45 whiskey. It’s on the lighter side, but not lacking in balance or flavor. Very classic caramel and vanilla aromas with fresh apple notes, baking spices and a little touch of tangerine citrus on the smooth finish. An easy sipper, but also a great cocktail bourbon with all of those distinct flavors.
They also produce a Barrel Strength version of this Four Grain Bourbon, and man is this one a beast! I think Kara Newman from WE said it best in her 93 Point review of this one… ‘bold, concentrated caramel tone that mingles with a hint of plum skin. A pleasant prickle of sweet spices—cinnamon, cardamom, clove, cayenne—lingers on the finish’. And at a whopping 58% alcohol you probably want to drop a cube, or a splash of water, in the glass before imbibing.
But my favorite from their assortment is the Rose Cask Finish Bourbon. They did a wonderful job integrating the nuances of Rose, such as strawberry fruit and rose petals, while maintaining the distinct bourbon core of apple fruit, toasted vanilla, candied caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg. And even though the Rose wine barrels they use are not from a sweet rose wine, those bright red fruit and floral notes that help add a lovely kiss of sweetness on the pleasing finish.
The first rule of thumb is to drink what you like. If you enjoy it, then it must be good!
However, if you want to gauge the technical quality of wine, there are five major structural components to assess. After you examine those levels, you can determine if and how they balance each other and lead to an intense or expressive wine with complexity on the nose, palate and finish.
Here are the five most important structural components of wine and how to understand them in the glass.
Just because a wine is fruity doesn’t mean it’s sweet.
Sweetness indicates the amount of residual sugar in wine. So, when people say they prefer a “dry wine,” it’s not to say they don’t enjoy fruity wines, just wines without any real sugar content.
There’s no direct correlation between sweetness or dryness and quality. Sure, you would be hard-pressed to find a 100-point White Zinfandel on Wine Enthusiast, but there are plenty of 100-point sweet wines, like Port and Tokaji, that are some of the most sought-after wines in the world.
You know that mouthwatering feeling you get when you bite into a fresh pineapple or sip freshly squeezed lemonade? That’s acidity, and it’s one of the most important components of wine.
Derived from grape pulp, acidity accounts for less than 1% of the composition of wine. (Water comprises 80–86%, and alcohol typically 11–16%.) Acidity helps to make cool-climate white wines zippy and refreshing and helps rich reds, like Saint-Estèphe in Bordeaux or Rioja Gran Reserva, to age gracefully for decades.
While acidity will tend to be lower in red grapes than white, without medium to high acidity in a wine, it will appear as flabby or flat and it will be nearly impossible for it to exhibit balance or harmony.
A great exercise to understand tannin is to peel the skin off a red grape and eat it by itself. That drying feeling in your mouth that sucks your cheeks in is from the tannin.
However, tannins can also come from oak aging, so you will notice a bit of tannin in those big, buttery Napa Chardonnays and gloriously complex Sauternes.
Tannins are more prevalent in red wines because there is more skin contact with the juice during fermentation and when the juice is pressed, or when liquid is separated from solids. The more contact the juice has with the skins, and possibly stems, the more the tannins can be detected in a wine.
Without a healthy dose of tannins, it’s very difficult for a wine to improve and evolve over time. Conversely, a wine that is oversaturated with tannins, and that doesn’t possess enough fruit or acidity to balance it out, will feel astringent and come across as particularly bitter on the finish.
The cat’s out of the bag: Wine has alcohol, and it’s a critical component of the body and weight of your pour.
Alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process. The more sugar in whatever grapes are fermented, the higher the wine’s potential alcohol. Grapes develop sugar as they ripen, which explains why high-alcohol wines can come from generally warmer regions like Barossa in Australia, Priorat in Spain and many regions in California, while cool-climate white wines from Vinho Verde in Portugal or the Loire Valley in France tend to have lower alcohol levels.
Lower or higher levels of alcohol are not surefire signs of quality in wine, though. There must be a minimum level of around 8% alcohol by volume (abv) for even the lightest of white wines. And, for those big, high-alcohol reds that exceed 15% abv, there should be a hefty dose of fruit, ample tannins and at least moderate acidity to keep everything balanced.
Residual sugar, tannin and alcohol work in tandem with fruit concentration to determine the body or weight of a wine. The denser the fruit and higher the alcohol, the heavier and fuller-bodied a wine will feel on the palate.
A great way to judge body is to think about water and milk. A light-bodied wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will have a consistency similar to water, whereas a full-bodied wine like an Argentine Malbec will be closer to heavy cream. The collaborative effort of all these structural components leads you to determine whether you’re drinking a light-, medium- or full-bodied wine.
So, What Makes a ‘Good’ Wine?
Once you have made your assessments of all these structural components, you can then determine how they complement one another. Does the acidity balance out potentially high tannins?
Does the alcohol complement the high fruit concentration, leading to a long and pleasing finish? Does the combination of these components then culminate in an intense, expressive and potentially complex wine?
If the answer to all these questions is yes, you probably have a good, or possibly outstanding, wine on your hands.
One thing I love about Google Photos is the Collage function. While it’s a bit creepy, it finds pics with similar topics and the same people’s faces and sends these ‘over the years’ type of collections.
This morning I received one with my dad and some of the pics of #wine bottles I’ve snapped over the years. I thought these pics were just a way for me to keep a record of some of the more memorable bottles I’ve had the good fortunate of tasting and enjoying over the years.
Turns out it’s also capturing images of the man who first sparked my passion for wine and still enjoys nothing more than sharing a glass over good food and better conversation. Thanks for sharing the memories of Pops and Wine, #Google!
If you are like most wine collectors and consumers, you tend to be a little skeptical and even pessimistic about purchasing wines from those less than optimal vintages. And why wouldn’t you… poor wine vintages seem to be all you hear about, maybe even more so than when there is a fabulous vintage. When the growing season is cold, damp or experiences late season rain or hail, it can certainly affect the grapes grown that year. But does that mean that all wine from a less than stellar vintage is going to be subpar? Absolutely… not!
The difference is all about development. In the best of vintages, the fruit become fully concentrated in the grapes which leads to higher sugar levels. These wines will typically have a higher alcohol, as there is more sugar for the yeasts to consume during fermentation leading to the byproduct of alcohol. And because the fruit is so concentrated, they will tend to lead to denser wines. Tannins also develop more intensely leading to darker colored wines (for reds) as well as ones with a bit more backbone to them. And in those optimal vintages where there is enough of a temperature range, so the mornings and nights are much cooler than the days are, the acids will develop properly as well. In a nutshell, great vintages lead to wines with higher levels of all the structural components.
On the contrary, cool and wet vintages can lead to grapes that experience a slower, or potentially lack of, development. Fruits may not reach their full concentration levels and tannins may get stuck in sort of a ‘green’ level. Less fruit will also lead to a bit lower alcohol levels, while the acidity in can still remain high, as cooler climate wine regions are often known for their bright and refreshing high acid wines. But, just because all of these structural levels are not ramped up, does not necessarily mean that the wine it leads to will be of poor quality… it just means that it probably will not age as well as those better vintage wines will.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of not so great wine from poor vintages… no doubt about it. But the better wine producers know exactly how to take the fruit that is provided from that harvest and coax out the best qualities from those grapes to craft the best wine possible from what mother nature has provided. Not only that, sometimes waiting for these fabulous wines from the best vintages to age and evolve until they reach their peak can be a little… well… exhausting. Additionally, these off vintage wines can offer a serious value to their prime vintage counterparts. There are some folks that would rather not wait to enjoy a recently purchased wine, and some that simply may not have enough time left to enjoy the results of a perfectly aged 2009 Bordeaux or 2007 Napa Cab.
I had my family over for a pre Thanksgiving meal last year, since we would not be spending the holiday together. I had a bottle of 2014 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape in the cellar for a few years and was waiting for a Thanksgiving bird and the right company to pop it open. 2014 was the epitome of a poor vintage, sandwiched between some fabulous ones in the Southern Rhone. But with Pegau being one of the best and most consistent CDP producers in the region, I was willing to take my chances. While the wine was certainly on the lean and delicate side, it was drinking just beautifully in its infancy! Lovely black fruits, black pepper spice and dried herb aromas gave way to this amazing marzipan and olive tamponade character on the palate with a finish that I can still taste if I think about it. The acidity kept the structure in perfect balance while the tannins were smooth as silk making a perfect pairing for the bird and all the trimmings.
Would this wine have aged much longer? Probably not without losing too much of the fruit, so we caught it right in its prime. Most importantly I was able to share it with my parents who both really enjoy a great Chateauneuf du Pape. I had no regrets about opening this wine early since it was with people who really appreciated it. That right there, is reason enough to grab some great wines from not so great vintages and open up something special with those that you love while you still can!
It’s Friday, the end of a long week. You’ve decided to open a bottle to celebrate. Perhaps it’s an older Bordeaux, or a young, vibrant Austrian Grüner Veltliner. You pour a splash in the glass and give it a sniff. A wave of disappointment crashes down around you as the wine smells like burnt matches and rotten eggs.
Fear not. A little aeration may be all you need.
First, let’s get this out of the way. Not all wine needs to be decanted. Decanting is necessary mostly for younger red wines that need maximum aeration, or for older wines to help remove sediment.
However, just about every wine will improve with some aeration, whether in a decanter or through a quick swirl in the glass. So how much time does a wine need to breathe? And how long should you swirl before your wrist feels like it’s going to fall off? The answer is…it depends.Aerator vs Decanter: Which is Better?
If you have a young, opulent and highly tannic Rhône red, it may need to decant at least an hour to soften tannins and round out any hard edges. This applies to most wines with similar structure and concentration. But, for an easy-drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, something that is fresh, zippy and full of aromatic citrus fruit, an hour of breathing may dull the qualities that give the wine its character.
However, a few swirls and a bit of time to breathe in the glass will usually help reductive or sulfur-related aromas blow off the wine. Here are a few tips to help decide how long a wine should breathe so each pour will shine.
Even at home, pour a sample before a full glass
Just like a sommelier at a restaurant, pour a small sample to test the nose and palate before you commit to a full glass. Some wines may have some reductive or sulfur notes, which come across most notably as aromas of rubber, burnt matches or rotten eggs. Often, these aromas will dissipate after 10–15 minutes. You may opt for a decanter, but it could be simpler to pour a small glass and swirl away to see if those odors fade.
Young, tannic reds need oxygen to soften tannins
Whether it’s a young Napa Cab, an Argentine Malbec or Aussie Shiraz, these wines typically need a dose of oxygen to smooth out any roughness and soften tannins. Of course, if you enjoy the punch that these wines can pack straight out of the bottle, there’s no need to delay. Allowing them to breathe too long can overly soften their opulent nature.
Still, most young, tannic reds can benefit from some aggressive swirling and 10–20 minutes in the glass. This will help open up big, brooding wines and allow for overpowering oaky notes to fully integrate with the fruit and often high alcohol levels.
Older vintage wines may be ready right out of the bottle
There’s a common misconception that older wines all require several hours of decanting. The truth is, even several minutes in a decanter may overly oxidize an older, delicate wine. It can obliterate the drinking window to just a few short seconds.
Yet, there are longer-aged wines, usually those that started with high levels of tannins, alcohol content and fruit concentration, that will benefit from several minutes in the glass to open completely. These could also potentially benefit from decanting.What are Tannins, Really?
The rule of thumb for older wines is that the lighter and older a wine, the less aeration it will need. When in doubt, pour a small sample into a glass and examine it. Red wines tend to lose color with age, meaning the lighter in color the wine appears, the less aeration it will likely need. An inky, bright ruby, opaque older wine will require more oxygenation. The opposite is true for white wines, which gain color as they age.
White and sparkling wines do not typically need aeration
That’s not to say all whites and sparkling wines can’t benefit from a bit of oxygen. If any reductive notes are detected in a white wine, by all means give it some air and possibly 10–15 minutes in a decanter. The same is true for those rich, deep gold whites that may need a little bit of room to stretch their legs. But the vast majority of these wines come out of the bottle ready to rock.
If you pour a sample and the wine is slightly muted or not as aromatic as expected, add a bit more to your glass and swirl away. The problem will usually solve itself.
Enjoy the process
One of the best parts about tasting wine is to see how it develops from the time it’s opened until the last sip. Nothing is more rewarding than when the final taste from a highly anticipated wine is the best of the bottle. It allows you to fully appreciate the journey that it took to get there. So, while aerating and decanting some wines will certainly help bring them to their ideal drinking window, to taste the natural evolution of the wine after it’s opened is its own great pleasure.Published on June 8, 2021
New York has become quite the hot spot when it comes to Bourbon production.
Contrary to popular belief, Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky. In fact, the spirit can be produced anywhere in the United States as long as the mash to be distilled is at least 51% corn and the spirit is aged in new charred oak barrels.
What started as a few scattered upstart distilleries has transformed into a full-fledged Bourbon movement in the Empire State. You can find Bourbon operations throughout New York that match the quality of many of Kentucky’s historic distilleries.
Here are five of New York’s finest producers. They craft world-class Bourbon and offer enjoyable tasting experiences.
Tuthilltown, the first post-Prohibition distillery in New York, also produced the state’s first Bourbon, dubbed Hudson Baby Bourbon.
Although the distiller recently transformed its labels and brand names, the storied bottling, now dubbed Hudson Whiskey NY Bright Lights, Big Bourbon, is still a quintessential example. It has classic notes of caramel, spice and vanilla that are mild and approachable.
With the Jellystone Lazy River Campgrounds just a mile away, a visit here makes for the perfect day-trip excursion if you need to sip on something with a little kick while spending a weekend camping with the family. Don’t forget to also try its extensive line of rye whiskeys while you’re there.
Black Button Distilling
Black Button Distilling is home to a variety of complex and intriguing spirits. Based in Rochester, 90% of Black Button’s ingredients are grown in New York. And Black Button’s whiskeys are truly expressive of the character of the local corn and wheat.
If you’re an Irish cream fan, check out the Bespoke Bourbon Cream. Its sweet vanilla notes compliment the creamy texture and flavor.
Hillrock Estate Distillery
This widely accoladed distillery is a legacy of the renowned late master distiller Dave Pickerell.
Hillrock is one of the few “field-to-glass” whiskey producers in the world, meaning the grain for its mash is all estate grown. Hillrock Estate is also the first American distillery since before Prohibition to craft whiskey on site from estate-grown grain.
Kara Newman, the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast, gave the distillery’s popular Solera-Aged Bourbon a 96-point rating, noting its “peach and vanilla aromas, bold raisin and brown sugar flavors and a gentle exit that just hints at Sherry.”
Like many of the other distilleries, Hillrock Estate is in the Hudson Valley. Visit its early 19th-century restored Georgian house, taste its line of handcrafted spirits and enjoy the stunning landscapes.
Catskill Distilling Company
Nestled directly across from where the original Woodstock music festival took place (now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts), Catskill Distilling is as innovative with its branding as it’s meticulous about spirit production.
The creative juices are on full display, from its 1960s-themed Peace Vodka to the The One and Only Buckwheat.
Most notable is its The Most Righteous Bourbon… and most righteous it is! It earned a 93-point score from Wine Enthusiast, where it’s “bold caramel and toffee aromas” proceeded a “long, mouthwatering finish.”
Taconic, founded in 2013, is a relative newcomer to the state’s Bourbon game.
Its pet foxhound Copper (named after the color of their bourbon) graces each and every bottle. Located in scenic Hudson Valley, Taconic’s line of whiskeys now makes waves on a national scale.
Taconic’s farmhouse tasting room is located nearby to both Millbrook and Clinton Vineyards, two winery staples in the Hudson Valley. There are few better ways to spend a day than to sip on whiskey and wine amid the area’s abundant natural beauty.
Wine has three levels of flavors and aromas that evolve over the course of its life: primary, secondary and tertiary.
Younger wines display primary fruit flavors and aromas. These include black, red and dried fruit in red wines. For white wines, they can offer scents and flavors of green apples, plus citrus, tropical and stone fruits, and underripe fruits of all kinds. Primary aromas are the most obvious to detect in young wines, and they’re often what sparks interest in wine drinkers. Herbs and spices, like mint, pepper or licorice, are also part of the primary category.
Secondary aromas and flavors derive from winemaking processes like fermentation and aging. These can include the biscuit and yeasty notes that appear from lees stirring and autolysis (the effect when yeast dies off), or the very distinct buttery popcorn aroma that’s a byproduct of malolactic fermentation in many Chardonnays. It also encapsulates the wonderful characteristics that are imparted by oak aging, like vanilla, clove, smoke, coconut or even coffee.
The last of the three levels of aromas and flavors is tertiary. These complex components occur when wine is aged in an ideal environment.
In red wines, fresh ripe fruit starts to transform into stewed or dried fruit, like raisin or fig. Tertiary aromas of tobacco, earth and mushroom will come about, too.
White wines start to develop dried apricot, orange marmalade and sometimes even maderized qualities, or Sherry-like notes of almonds and candied fruit. Other tertiary characteristics include nutty aromas as well as complex spice components like nutmeg, ginger and petrol.
It’s important to note that wines with tertiary aromas and flavors are not “better” than those with primary and secondary ones. Around 90% of wines are meant to be consumed young and fresh, while a small percentage of wines improve with three to 10 years in the bottle. Only a tiny amount of wines (some estimate as low as 1%) are meant to age 10 years or more.
If you are drawn to wines with fresh fruit, powerful tannins and a mouthfilling finish, you might generally prefer primary and secondary flavors and aromas. Be honest about your palate and preferences, and be confident to drink whatever and whenever you like.
To truly showcase your wine, storing and serving at the proper temperature is crucial. Determining the precise temperature your wine should be kept at is subject to several variables, all of which we’ll cover here.
WHAT IS THE BEST TEMPERATURE TO STORE WINE?
Storage time greatly impacts the conditions at which your wine should be kept. Generally, recommendations can be divided depending on whether you’re planning for short-term or long-term storage; where short-term is less than six months, and long-term is any time beyond that.
For short-term storage, you want to avoid any pre-mature aging or agitation. To do this, a constant temperature of 50°-59° Fahrenheit is best. If you’ll be storing your wine for longer, you’ll want to keep your cooler a little colder — 53° to 57° Fahrenheit. This temperature will prevent spoilage and allow the wine to age and mature gracefully.
VARIABLES IN WINE STORAGE
Red vs. White Wine Storage Temperature
While common to keep whites in the fridge and reds on the shelf, that’s not what the experts at Wine Enthusiast recommend. Although different wines should be served at different temperatures, all wines should be stored at the same temperature.
Whether white, red, sparkling or fortified, we suggest following the above-mentioned temperature guidelines, depending on how long you are storing your wine.
Ideal Temperature by Unit
For wine storage, coolers are available in single-zone models and dual-zone models. Single zones are often more economical, beginner friendly and ideal for long term storage of all wines. However, if you are looking to have both long-term and short-term storage as well as service temperatures in the same device, a dual-zone cooler is probably best. With dual-zone coolers, you can independently adjust the temperatures of two separate storage areas.
Are you exclusively storing wine, or do you have spirits, beer, and mixers to keep cold as well? If the latter is the case, consider looking into beverage-center units. These typically have space for beer/soda cans, standard bottles, and sparkling wine bottles. Not only do these units free up space in your standard refrigerator, but they offer a convenient space for all your entertaining needs and supplies.
Wine Fridge Temperature Range
Most standard units have a temperature range between 40° F and 65° F. Some specialized units can offer temperatures below 40° F, but that will be too low for most wines.
TIPS FOR PROPER WINE STORAGE
Say your reds and whites are stowed away, stored in a cooler at the ideal temperature. Is there anything else you should know about storage to enjoy optimal quality and flavor? The answer is: Yes.
The location of your unit is something to consider. We suggest avoiding any particularly harsh environments that could force your wine cooler to work harder than it has to. That means non-air-conditioned garages or patios in hot climates.
We strongly suggest avoiding areas that are subject to intense ambient temperature fluctuations. This is going to put some very unnecessary stress on your wine refrigerator. And while the units we offer can certainly stand up to the task, keeping your refrigerator in a relatively constant ambient temperature is going to prolong its life.
Like any refrigerating device, wine coolers are rated at certain max-capacities. It’s important to keep keen attention to these recommendations. When wine refrigerators are over-filled, they won’t be able to maintain a constant, ideal temperature. That brings us to our next point…
Wine refrigerators operate just fine when under-filled. So, we always consider buying for what your wine collection will be, not what it already is. This way, you’ll be able to comfortably grow your collection, without worrying about storage space.
All in all, our wine refrigerators are going to do most of the work for you. But you’ll just want to make a few considerations to ensure that you’re optimizing the performance of your unit. We suggest taking into account your current and future needs to determine which unit is best for your home. No matter what you decide, we’ve certainly got a wine refrigerator for you. Take a look around our online shop – the perfect unit is only a few clicks away!