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Archive for December, 2010

Celebrate New Years Alsatian-Style

by Gil Kulers

by Gil Kulers

Alsatian vineyards in the winter.

Alsatian vineyards in the winter.

I swore I would not write a New Year’s eve piece on sparkling wines this year. I mean, it’s not too hard to find advice regarding December 31st’s “must have” wine. Then I got a letter from Greg Lobiondo.

Greg represents the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace (CIVA), essentially the Alsace winemakers association. He thought it would be a great idea (mind you, Greg gets paid to pass along great ideas to guys like me) that I write about Crémant d’Alsace for a New Year’s Eve wine column.

Mmmm…Greg stumbled upon a sizable chink in my armor. I just happen to have a significant soft spot for Crémant d’Alsace, the delicious sparkling wines made in the northeast corner of the French Republic. Greg wasted no time in getting a few samples together for me to try.

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a fair amount of time in Alsace—one of the absolutely most gorgeous places in the world with unparalleled food and wine quality. I …

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Beer Pick: Steenbrugge Tripel

Steenbrugge Tripel

Palm Breweries, Belgium

$9.99/750 ml bottle; also on draft at select beer bars
SB Tripel Bottle
Profile: Since 2003, Palm Breweries of Belgium has been making four beers based on recipes that go back to the monks of St. Peter’s Abbey in West Flanders. What’s most interesting is that the blond, dubbel, tripel and white are all brewed with gruut  — an ancient herbal mixture (traditionally made with sweet gale, yarrow and marsh rosemary) that was used before hops.

Steenbrugge Tripel is particularly suited to the gruut addition. Not surprisingly, it seems to add a spicy herbal character that fits nicely with the clean malt and aromatic hops. At 8.7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s strong but quite refined and drinkable.

Pair with: Like most tripels, light, spritzy, champagnelike Steenbrugge would be a good candidate for a New Year’s toast. Try it with turkey with herb stuffing, pheasant or quail. Beer-pairing guru Garrett Oliver recommends matching tripel with the richness of …

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Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

For drama’s sake, I’d love to say it was delicious. It wasn’t. But I can’t say it was bad either. Somewhere along the line Beaujolais Nouveau lost its Bazooka Bubble Gum flavor, a quality I could never really stomach. I think many wine drinkers would enjoy this wine, especially at $11 a bottle.

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Beer Town: The wonder of wassail

Beer Town: The wonder of wassail

“A-wassail, a-wassail, throughout all this town. Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown. Our wassail is made of the good ale and true, some nutmeg and ginger, it’s the best we can do.”

Those lyrics from “Gower Wassail,” a folk song from the Gower peninsula in South Wales, celebrate both the drink called wassail and the tradition of traveling from house to house, singing and bringing a wassail cup to be filled.

There are many versions with alternate lyrics. The first one I heard was on the album “Ten Man Mop or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again,” recorded in 1971 by the great British folk-rockers, Steeleye Span.

John Benjamin Stone photo from “Ten Man Mop” album cover.

John Benjamin Stone photo from “Ten Man Mop” album cover.

The band’s rousing rendition filled me with wonder and confusion. It was pretty clear that “Gower Wassail” was a drinking song. The white cup and the brown ale are mentioned from the get-go. But wassail?

A quick wiki search reveals that the word “wassail” comes from the …

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Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

by Gil Kulers

by Gil Kulers

DeLoach's three-liter bag-in-a-box-in-a-cask can be filled and re-filled with two different pinot noirs.

DeLoach's three-liter bag-in-a-box-in-a-cask can be filled and re-filled with two different pinot noirs.

You'll be the coolest wine lover on the block with DeLoach's 10-liter barrel of wine.

You'll be the coolest wine lover on the block with DeLoach's 10-liter barrel of wine.

“Well, I couldn’t very well bring you a bottle of wine,” said my friend Jen as she handed me my new deluxe potato peeler (a thoughtful host gift at a recent dinner party as I had been complaining to her days earlier about the condition of my well-worn, 10-year-old kitchen tool).

Let’s be clear: a bottle of wine always makes a nice holiday gift. But, buying wine for a collector or your neighborhood “wine guy/gal,” understandably, may be a little challenging, if not downright intimidating for some.

Fortunately for the kind-hearted gift givers out there, there are so many wine gadgets and related paraphernalia that securing a present for the wine lover in your life is a cinch.

The first place to go is your local wine shop, which by now should have a bevy of wine doo-dads on …

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Beer Pick: Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan Infinium

Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan Infinium

The Boston Beer Co., Boston, Mass.

$19.99/ 750 ml bottle


Profile: Timed for the holiday season, the Boston Beer Co. recently introduced Infinium — a limited edition champagne-like beer that’s the product of a two-year collaboration between Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch and Dr. Josef Schradler of Germany’s Weihenstephan Brewery.

The brewing challenge was to adhere to the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law that allows just four ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast. It seems yeast was the most important element at several stages in the process. At 10.3 percent alcohol by volume, Infinium is strong, but light and bubbly, with a refreshing, fruity acidity and a dry finish. There’s also a smooth malt presence that says, “beer.”

Pair with: To fully appreciate the elegance of Infinium, serve it like sparking wine, chilled in an ice bucket and poured into flutes. It would make a fine match for oysters, shrimp or lobster. And it’s …

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Dark Lady Pinotage

by Gil Kulers, Kulers Uncorked

by Gil Kulers, Kulers Uncorked

2009 Doolhof Wine Estate, Dark Lady of the Labyrinth, Pinotage, Wellington, South Africa

2009 Doolhof Wine Estate, Dark Lady of the Labyrinth, Pinotage, Wellington, South Africa

• $19

• Two Thumbs Way Up

• Bright aromas of red cherry, strawberry and bacon fat. A quaffer, it has hedonistic flavors of tart, fresh-crushed cherries, mocha and cream soda with smooth, almost velvety, tannins.

Just the other day, my friend and spiritual advisor Athalie White was just tickled to tell me that she introduced a friend to a carmenère, the iconic Chilean red wine grape. Attagirl, Athalie! Not only did the two friends enjoy a yummy wine, they were able to witness another facet of the great wine gemstone.

This is not an indictment of cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, but when you’re heading over someone’s house this holiday season with a wine bottle in hand, why not make it a little more interesting? There’s a panoply of non-merlot-pinot grigio-shiraz-sauvignon blanc wines out there.

Wines made with carmenère, pinotage …

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Beer Town: Brick Store Opens Vintage Beer Cellar

This holiday season will be a bit more festive at the Brick Store Pub with the opening of the Decatur beer bar’s new beer cellar.

The vintage program has taken years of planning and a substantial investment in rare and limited edition beers. But now, beer geeks can peruse a list of some 500 different offerings, with prices ranging from as little as $7 or $8 for a 12-ounce bottle of American craft beer up to $300 for a 6-liter bottle of Belgian ale.

The genesis of the project goes back to 2006, when Brick Store partners Dave Blanchard, Tom Moore and Mike Gallagher took a trip to Belgium that included a stop at the Kulminator beer bar in Antwerp, a place famous for its telephone book-size list that includes as many as 800 vintage beers.


“We realized that was the next frontier for what we’d been doing,” Blanchard said. “But the big question was, ‘Where in the world are we going to store that all that beer?’”

As it turned out, the answer was down in the alley behind the pub, …

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Beer Pick: Victory Yakima Glory

Victory Yakima Glory Ale

Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, Pa.

$11.99/six-pack at metro beverage stores; also on draft at select beer bars.

Profile: Think of it as the dark side of Hop Wallop. Yakima Glory Ale, Victory’s take on black IPA, the current “it” beer style, was previously known as Yakima Twilight. But by any name, it’s a bold, 8.7 percent alcohol by volume hybrid brew that combines loads of rich roasted malts and bright whole flower Yakima Valley hops.

The result is a dark beer, with a deep, treacle-like malt character and the classic citrus hop aromas and flavors of an American IPA. Whether those elements balance or battle each other is the subject of an ongoing debate about this style.

Check out Victory’s Yakima Glory video intro here:

Pair with: The dark malts and bright hops in Yakima Glory create a diverse assortment of pairing hooks. But the medleys of spices, aromas and flavors found in the likes of gumbo, …

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Franciscan Estate, Cuvée Sauvage

The wine in question was the 2007 Franciscan Estate Cuvée Sauvage Chardonnay. And what’s so dangerous about a bottle of chardonnay, you might ask?

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