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Archive for March, 2012

Kulers Uncorked: Black Slate Priorat

By Gil Kulers, CWE

By Gil Kulers, CWE

2009 Black Slate, Porrera, Priorat

2009 Black Slate, Porrera, Priorat

  • $21
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Elegant notes of black cherry, cola, violets and a subtle dusty, earthy quality. Remarkably complex with flavors of ripe, dark berry fruit, plums and figs with a playful blueberry note. All this accented with touches of white pepper and dark spices.

Through a series of fortuitous events not entirely of my making, I’ve been plowing though a number of high- impact, full-bodied red wines lately. Some, like the J.L. Chave from France’s Rhône Valley, are pretty well known by wine fanciers. Others, like the Jiménez-Landi from Méntrida, Spain (I’m still trying find Méntrida on a map), are undiscovered stars.

The one thing all these wines have in common is that they have their fair share of tannins.

Tannins are one of the most misunderstood components of wine. They mistakenly are given credit for allergic reactions. Some wine drinkers describe dry wines (wines without any residual sugar) as tannic, …

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Beer Town: Five Seasons bourbon beer week

Last year, Julian P. Van Winkle, the scion of Kentucky’s celebrated Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, seemed perplexed but pleased when he told me that almost every day he gets an email from a craft brewer looking for old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels to use for aging beer.

“I’d like to see the difference between, say, a Maker’s Mark barrel and a Pappy barrel aged with the same beer,” Van Winkle said. “That would be fun to try.”

Recently, Crawford Moran, the brewer-owner of Five Seasons Brewing Co. on Atlanta’s Westside, took up Van Winkle’s challenge. Over five days (March 27-31), Moran will present the results of a grand bourbon beer experiment.

Crawford Moran

Crawford Moran

Moran filled five different bourbon and whiskey barrels — Four Roses single barrel, Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, Evan Williams single barrel, Pappy Van Winkle 20 year and Old Pogue bourbon — with a Belgian-style ale he dubbed “Free Form Jazz Odyssey,” then aged each barrel for six …

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Beer Town: Session beers breaking out all over

For years, session beers — loosely described as flavorful lower alcohol beers — have been a hot topic among craft beer aficionados.

Malt Advocate magazine Managing Editor Lew Bryson even started a blog called the Session Beer Project.

Terrapin Beer Co.

Terrapin Beer Co.

But recently several companies, including 21st Amendment, Samuel Adams, Founders, Terrapin and Wild Heaven, have given a bigger boost to the cause with offerings that are rekindling the debate over the precise definition of a session beer.

According to the Brewer’s Association, a session beer is any style of beer that “can be made lower in strength than described in the classic style guidelines. The goal should be to reach a balance between the style’s character and the lower alcohol content. Drinkability is a character in the overall balance of these beers. Beers in this category must not exceed 5.1 percent alcohol by volume.”

Some British beer lovers think the definition should be something under 4 percent alcohol …

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Kulers Uncorked: La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River

By Gil Kulers, CWE, Kulers Uncorked

Gil Kulers, CWE

2010 La Crema Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Calif.

2010 La Crema Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Calif.

  • $40
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Lots of aromas of dark berry fruit with scents of cola nut and a subtle smokiness. Bold, bright flavors of raspberry, blackberry laced with minerals, cinnamon, clove and a dusty earth quality.

As with many human endeavors, reward follows risk. Sometimes the risk is riding your bike off the roof of a house and into the pool to gain YouTube infamy. Other times, it is making a multi-million dollar gamble by planting a vineyard where Mother Nature suggests you should not. In either scenario, you look talented or brilliant only if things work out just right.

Take Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, for instance. She and her cohorts at La Crema Winery thought it would be a great idea to tramp up to Anderson Valley in California’s Mendocino County to plant pinot noir grapes along the Navaro River. In addition to being steep and rocky, the slender valley acts as a funnel for the Pacific Ocean’s fog …

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Beer Town: I Heart Rye

Call me a little slow, but sometimes it takes me a while to realize how much I like something. Then I need to figure out why I like it.

Rye is the most recent example.

I’m a big fan of rye bread, especially as a delivery system for corned beef or pastrami or ham. I’ve been mixing Manhattans with rye whiskey for years. And I’ve been drinking Terrapin Rye Pale Ale since it was first released in 2002.

But it finally occurred to me that I’m drawn to stuff made with rye in an almost unconscious way.

Founders Red's Rye

Founders Red's Rye

Put a beer menu in front of me, and if Founders Red’s Rye is on the list, I’ll be compelled to order it — maybe even in lieu of some beer geek rarity, like Bell’s Hopslam.

The same goes for rye whiskey. If a cocktail menu features a Manhattan, Sazerac, Toronto or Ward 8, I’m almost magnetically inclined to test the bartender’s skills.

What is it that I find so compelling about rye? Maybe it’s because rye adds a dry, spicy character that’s zesty and …

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