A Recent Bourbon Find

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.

Is This Wine Any Good? The Five Most Important Structural Components to Know

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III

GETTY

How do you determine whether a wine is ”good”?

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.

Sweetness

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.

Acidity

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.

Tannin

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.

Extended maceration, in which winemakers press the grapes with their skins intact, is one way to impart tannins to wine. Since most white wines are produced without skin contact, the vast majority has little to no tannins.

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.

Alcohol

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.

Body

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.

Most important structural elements wine tasting
BY TOM ARENA

Published on October 26, 2021

How Long Should I Let My Wine Breathe?

As Featured by Wine Enthusiast

BY MARSHALL TILDEN IIIWoman opening bottle of wine next to man in kitchen

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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.

Red wine being poured into decanter
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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.

Happy friends having fun at dinner party. Bearded man opening wine bottle with bottle opener. Credit Getty
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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.

A juror swirls a glass of wine during the competition 'Best of Gold' in Wuerzburg, Germany, 11 May 2015. A jury elects the best wines from Franconia in the competition. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand /dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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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

Five New York Distilleries Bringing Out the Best in Bourbon

As featured at Wine Enthusiast

BY MARSHALL TILDEN IIITaconic Distillery's BourbonTaconic Distillery’s Bourbon / Photo by Catherine Frost

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 Spirits

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.

Founder of Black Button Distilling Jason Barrett (L) and Master Distiller Jeff Fairbrother (R)
Founder of Black Button Distilling, Jason Barrett (L), and Master Distiller, Jeff Fairbrother (R) / Photo by James Bougue

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.

Black Button Distilling's Four Grain Straight Bourbon
Black Button Distilling’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon / Photo by Gary Ledgerwood

Its entry-level whiskey, Four Grain Straight Bourbon (60% corn mash), is smooth and delivers a spicy finish. But its Single-Barrel and Double-Barrel Straight Bourbons showcase intense vanilla, oak and caramel notes. They exude balance with long, silky finishes.

If you’re an Irish cream fan, check out the Bespoke Bourbon Cream. Its sweet vanilla notes compliment the creamy texture and flavor.

Hillrock Distilling owners Jeffery Baker and Cathy Franklin
Hillrock Distilling owners Jeffery Baker and Cathy Franklin / Photo by Pierre Auguste

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.”

Bottling at Taconic Distillery
Bottling at Taconic Distillery / Photo by Catherine Frost

Taconic Distillery

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.

The Dutchess Private Reserve Bourbon is an easy sipper that offers gentle notes of honey and vanilla. However, their Barrel Strength Bourbon is significantly bolder and deeper at 57.5% alcohol by volume (abv), so you might want to sit down with this body-warming selection.

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.

How to Know Who is Wine Worthy?

 

When to Open That Special Bottle 

(as featured in Wine Enthsuiast)
You know the bottles. They’ve been sitting in your wine fridge for a few years now, waiting for the perfect night and the perfect audience.

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It’s always tempting to open up those special bottles when in good company of family and friends, particularly when a wonderfully delectable dish is included. However, deciding when to pull gems from the cellar can be one of the most agonizing decisions to make—especially if you have already had a glass or two and are being egged on by your pals.

Even though you may love the people surrounding you, are they truly going to appreciate what you are about to open? Has everyone already had too many glasses pass their palate to accurately assess the true quality of your potentially stellar selection? Are there simply too many people for anyone to get more than a drop or two of this high quality, highly-anticipated juice? These are the questions that need to be addressed and answered, under potentially stressful time constraints, before you pop open that vintage bottle you’ve been saving for just the right moment.

Here are a few rules of thumb to help guide you into making the right wine service decision, and avoiding the regret of opening something spectacular you later wish you hadn’t.

The smaller the group, the better.

When there are too many people, inevitably someone will not get a chance to taste the opened bottle and you will probably hear about it for months to come. Generally speaking for a single standard bottle, if there are any more than six people, you may want to save it for a more intimate gathering.

Know your audience.

If more than half of the group are really going to appreciate and enjoy something special, then pop the cork. Who knows, you may enlighten someone with an epiphany wine experience.

Keep food pairing in mind.

Having the perfect food pairing may not be totally necessary for the enjoyment of a high-quality bottle. However, having a terrible pairing, like a wonderfully aged Bordeaux with oysters, can certainly hinder a potentially memorable wine drinking experience.

Do it early in the night.

Taste buds tend to get a little tired as an evening of wine tasting progresses, rendering that glorious bottle mundane if it’s not one of the first poured. Plus, the more that your crew tends to consume, the less likely they are to get properly geeky about all of the intricacies of something that deserves a little more attention.

Be selfish.

Sometimes you just want to open a phenomenal wine because you feel like it. In those cases, forget about any of these suggestions and just crack it open! Sometimes life is too short to not drink your best wine.

Published on December 20, 2018
About the Author
MARSHALL TILDEN III

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.

Thanksgiving Wine and Turkey Pairing Recs

Marshall Tilden III, DWS, CSW

You may want to sit down for this: Thanksgiving is a mere week away! How crazy is that?! But ready or not, here it comes. Which means that both your menu and wine lineup need to start rapidly coming together. Even if you are not hosting (which makes life that much easier) you can still have a huge impact on the meal by bringing the right wines for your family and friends to enjoy. I mean, who doesn’t love the guy who rolls in with a few bottles of great juice?! Which then begs the question… what are the right wines to pair with a traditional Thanksgiving meal?

The great thing about a roasted turkey and all the trimmins is that there are a ton of wines that will pair well with the meal. It just depends on what style of wine you crew prefer. The one possible wine component you may…

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A Glass Enclosed Stunning Custom Wine Cellar Video… with a Nod to Jack!

If seeing really stunning wine cellars makes you too envious for words, than I suggest you DO NOT click on this link below… But, if you dig that cellar porn and want to check out a simply gorgeous showcase wine cellar video tour, then have a look here. Enjoy!

Glass Enclosed Custom Wine Cellar Video Tour

My WSET Diploma Level 4 Exam Experience

Marshall Tilden III, DWS, CSW

Wine has been a passion of mine for just about as long as I have been allowed to drink it. From the bottles of straw bottomed Chianti and Pere Patriarche Rouge on my grandparent’s dinner table, to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin that my pops selected one night at Spark’s Steak house (my ‘epiphany wine’), it has always been a part of my life. The more I sipped,  the more curious I became about everything that went into wine and what made it so damn tasty. Once I started working in the biz, IImage result for Pere Patriarche Rouge decided I needed to step up my ‘wine geek’ status a notch or two which was when I decided to enroll in the WSET.  The Wine and Spirits Education trust is based in England with satellite schools throughout the globe and is one of the most recognized and respected wine education organizations in the world. They offer…

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Seven Wines to pair with the Feast of Seven Fishes

Seems like this post has seen a lot of activity over the last few weeks, so I thought I would update it with some new wines for this year. These selections are similar in style to the wines as the original post but includes some of my recent favorites with current vintages..enjoy!

Marshall Tilden III, DWS, CSW

The holiday shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come and gone, and everyone is probably a little lighter in the wallets because of it. So now that most of the materialistic aspects of Christmas are in our rearview mirror, its time to focus on what is truly important this season…family and friends coming together to celebrate this most joyous holiday. My family partakes in the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve, and it is always one of the most memorable meals of the year. I generally have the honor (and the pressure) of selecting the wines to go with the meal…talk about stress!

The traditional fishes that are served in the Feast are Calamari, Scungilli, Baccala, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and some type of big fish (usually a snapper, sea trout, tuna or large shellfish like lobster or crab). However over the years the rules…

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A Couple of Recent Wine Enthusiast Pieces

The world of wine storage can get pretty confusing…part of my job is to help wine lovers figure out the best method of storage for their individual needs. Much has to with what is in their actual collection, the bottle capacity and of course budget. But there is certainly much more to it than that. Below are a couple of recent articles I worked on that can help distinguish if a single or dual zone wine refrigerator is best for you, and some pretty stunning cellars that we created over the years. Check it out!

The 411 On Dual Zone Wine Fridges

Cellar With Style