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Archive for January, 2010

The Great Whites Of Alsace

Under-appreciated wine varieties! Don’t tell that to winemakers in Anderson Valley, Calif. This frigid, windy, foggy corner of Northern California loves Alsatian varieties, probably because they share many of the climatic qualities of northeastern France, where Alsace is located. Shrugging off the “otherness” of these wines, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association has sponsored The International Alsace Varietals Festival in order to place a well-needed spotlight on these delicious white wines.

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Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick

Founders Red’s Rye P.A.
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan
$9.99/six-pack; also available on draft at select beer bars.

red-rye-bottle

Profile: The recent arrival of Founders in the Atlanta market has been greeted with excitement by beer lovers enamored of the Michigan brewery’s big, bold beers, such as Breakfast Stout. But the relatively more sessional Red’s Rye P.A. has been really a nice surprise. At 6.6% alcohol by volume, with a floral grapefruit aroma and a serious rush of hop bitterness, Red’s isn’t exactly wimpy. But the luscious caramel malt flavor creates a perfect balance, while rye malt adds a spicy note. The red color and creamy tan head complete the picture of an elegant and very drinkable American ale.

Pair with: The combo of bright hop and deep malt flavors make for a very food friendly beer. Red’s is a natural for spicy, complex foods, including Asian and Mexican, but it also would work well with sharp cheese, deli sandwiches, grilled meats and barbecue.

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2005 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Volant

The current [Le Cigare] is a different story. It fairly crackles with a multitude of well-balanced flavors and aromas. When asked what was up in 2005, Grahm offered some pretty convincing winemaking mumbo-jumbo about lees integration, etc.

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Beer Town: Wild Things at The Porter in L5P

Nick Rutherford and Molly Gunn, the exuberant young owners of The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points, took some guff from beer geeks when they first opened their labor of love pub in Sept. 2008.

Nick at The Porter

Nick at The Porter

I’ll admit, I was among those who raised an eyebrow, writing this in Draft magazine: “If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, The Porter is the greatest admirer of Atlanta’s Brick Store Pub. It’s sort of like a cover band, right down to the lip-synching design of its beer menu.”

For the record, I also noted: “It’s hard to argue with the first-class selection, which includes 27 offerings on draft and another 130 in the bottle. And the food menu, which features suggested beer pairings, ups the ante for beer bars in the city.”

Honestly, a year-plus on, it’s Rutherford’s cooking that’s made The Porter such a go-to place for me. His weekly specials have always reflected a background working at some of Atlanta’s best restaurants, including …

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Wine So Cool, It’s Got To Wear Shades

I’m still getting used to the idea that we’re living in a new millennium and we are already at the dawn of its second decade (and we still don’t have 3-D TV). For whatever reason, it seems right and fitting when we come upon these natural seams in time that we sit back and reflect on where we are and where we are going. What do I see in the way of wine trends as we try to remember to write “10” instead of “09” on the date lines of our checks?

Here are a few of my bona-fide predictions for the decade to come:

• Despite intense marketing efforts, wine in a pill will not catch on (you think I’m kidding here, but I’m not).

• Toward the end of the decade, West Coast winemakers will finally figure out how to make table wines in excess of 25 percent alcohol. The breakthrough is declared a failure when a 99-cent, pint-sized wine made to fit in your back pocket wins the prestigious Judgment of Napa Wine Tasting. Alcohol levels in all wines recede back to a …

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Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick

De Proef Van Twee Belgian Ale
De Proef Brewery, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium
$14.99/ 750ml cork-finished bottle; also available on draft at select beer bars for a very limited time.

Van Twee front

Profile: Belgian brewmaster Dirk Naudts’ increasingly famous, limited edition Brewmaster’s Collaboration Series has featured beers created with American brewers Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey and Jason Perkins of Allagash. This time, Naudts’ co-designer and co-brewer is John Mallet of Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery, and the result of their collaboration is called Van Twee (From Both).

It’s a porter-dubbel hybrid, with Michigan sour cherry juice and brettanomyces yeast added in the secondary fermentation. The flavors come in rich waves of sweet and sour, with a combination of dark chocolate and tart fruitiness redolent of chocolate-covered cherries. The brettanomyces adds another, deeper level of funky complexity and earthiness.

Pair with: Chocolate-cherry flavors make Van Twee a fitting choice for …

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2007 Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet

I enjoy (and sometimes merely tolerate) a different bottle of wine every night with dinner. It is an occupational hazard I expect no sympathy for.

On a recent Sunday night that included two pasta dishes (a mac-n-cheese casserole with Maytag Blue Cheese and spaghetti tossed with a homemade tomato sauce and sausage), I popped the cork on a Mettler Cabernet Sauvignon. (Why two pasta dishes? Why not?)

Anyway, I thought a California cabernet would play nicely with the creamy blue cheese sauce and wouldn’t be so bad with the intense flavors of the sausage, which I first poached, then sliced and sautéed so they had a crunchy crust. Oh, Henry! Was I right! It was smashing hit all around. Even my wife, Eleanore, raised an eyebrow and agreed the wine and food were indeed yummy (a significant remark, as my wife is not known for doling out faint praise).

The following night I arrived home at about 9:30 from another successful cooking and wine class at the Decatur Cooks Warehouse and I …

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Beer Town: The Year In Beer 2009

Looking back over the past decade, 2004 was undoubtedly the most notable year for beer in Georgia. That’s when state law was changed to allow the sale of beer with an alcohol content up to 14 percent, paving the way for a cornucopia of flavorful new imports and American craft brews.

Five years later, the quantity of great beer available in Atlanta is astonishing. And the number of bars and restaurants with respectable beer lists has grown to the point that it’s weird to find a place that doesn’t offer at least a few local beers and quality imports.

Here are a some other beer highlights of 2009:

1_17_BellsExposmall

The arrival of several more much anticipated breweries in the Atlanta market was spearheaded by Colorado’s New Belgium and its flagship brew, Fat Tire, which sold like crazy, even though it was initially introduced exclusively in 22-ounce bottles.

Michigan’s Bell’s made an even bigger impact among beer geeks, finally bringing Atlanta such cult favorites as Expedition Stout …

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