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Kulers Uncorked: New Year Bubbles

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

2004 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage, Champagne, France

2004 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage, Champagne, France

  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • $58

Refreshing aromas of white flowers and lemon zest with a distinct note of toasted bread, browned butter and a creamy banana note. It offers flavors similar to its aromas with lots of racy, tart fruit. As it warmed slightly, its toasted nut qualities rose up with subtle black cherry/apple/pear notes.

Bubbleheads. That’s the affectionate term for those of us who enjoy sparkling wine in general and, more than likely, harbor a special place for the titillating wines from the Champagne region of France.

I very much enjoy a glass of Champagne, but if I do have one beef with the wines from this chilly district just northeast of Paris, it’s the cost. A good bottle of Champagne will set you back $100—a great one, quite a bit more. But, oh, when a great one tipples across your palate, it’s as electrifying as your true love’s first kiss.

For the longest time, I was trapped between …

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Beer Town: Holiday Gifts for Beer Lovers

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As always, the Beer Town Holiday Gifts for Beer Lovers guide begins with beer:

If you’re looking for something big, expensive and impressive, look no further than Sam Adams Utopias 2013. Less than 15,000 bottles were made of the latest vintage of this extreme blended beer, which is a whopping 28% alcohol by volume, and sells for $199. Unfortunately, you’ll need to look for it somewhere other than Georgia, because it’s too strong according to current state law.

Closer to home and lower in price, you might put together your own mix-pack sampler. For example, a “Gold 12-pack” with a six-pack each of Sweetwater Lowryeder rye IPA and Terrapin Tree Hugger German-style altbier, both gold medal winners at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver.

Beer lovers love reading about beer, and some great beer books were published in 2013:

“Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Hub of the South” by Ron Smith and Mary O. Boyle (American Palate, $19.99), …

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Kulers Uncorked: Wine Books

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Every year around this time, I share some of the books I found interesting in the past 12 months. Books are always a great gift for wine aficionados or those with grape curiosities.

No kidding, I’ve always wondered what wine was served during biblical times. Wine is mentioned many dozen times in the Old and New Testaments, but the varietal never gets a shout out. I’ve asked some pretty knowledgeable wine folk and the best they could come up with is a guess (muscat is the best speculative answer).

Turns out no real scientific sleuthing had been initiated, that is until Joel Butler and Randall Heskett set out to explore the ancient wine world in their book Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age (Palgrave Macmillan, $27). Published in late 2012, it was easily the most interesting wine book I read this year. Butler holds a Master of Wine certification and Heskett is a biblical scholar.

The two explore the ancient world’s …

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Beer Town: Drink in local beers of the season

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Winter weather blew in before Thanksgiving, with a wet, windy snap and temperatures dipping into the 20s. But the first chill in the air always means it’s time to celebrate with the special beers breweries offer this time of year to toast the holiday season and make the cold more tolerable.

We’re talking about some of most potent and distinctive styles of the brewer’s art, including winter warmers, Christmas ales, imperial stouts and barleywines. And that means classics like Anchor Christmas Ale, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Gouden Carolus Noël, Samuel Smith Winter Welcome and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

Closer to home, Atlanta area breweries release plenty of winter seasonals, too. Here are a few to look for now and in the coming months:

Burnt Hickory Noggin Knocker — The 2013 version of this limited edition holiday imperial stout from the wild style Kennesaw nano brewery is due soon. Typically audacious at 13 percent alcohol, the 2012 version had flavors of cinnamon, …

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Kulers Uncorked: Thanksgiving Edition

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

As the tryptophan courses through your veins this Thursday afternoon and you’re lying on the couch wondering why the Dallas Cowboys decided to go for it on fourth and two— when their running game clearly has been faltering—I promise this thought will not cross your mind: “Boy, that gewürztraminer really paired nicely with the cranberry sauce!”

Whether or not the hard-to-pronounce grape variety worked with dinner misses the point of Thanksgiving. Much is made of the food and drink on this holiday that truly revolves around The Big Meal. But as I’ve said before, the focus of the feast is the people sitting around the table, not what’s on it.

And, as I’ve also said before, trying to find the perfect wine for the train wreck of flavor combinations in a typical Thanksgiving spread is a fool’s game.

Nevertheless, you will be standing in your local wine shop dumfounded (can’t blame the tryptophan coma yet) by the hundreds of choices. So here are …

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Beer Town: Beer and food pairing revisited

craftbeercookbookWhile I’m sure some people still think beer and food pairing means a six-pack of Budweiser and a Domino’s Pizza, the notion that beer has a place at the table at the best restaurants is pretty much a given nowadays.

Writing the First Look feature for the AJC, I visit a new restaurant every week, 52 weeks a year. So far in 2013, there were very few that didn’t have at least a couple of craft beers in the bottle or on draft. And many boasted thoughtful or even outstanding beer lists, with a range of styles and flavors to match everything from appetizers to desserts.

To me, that means chefs and beverage directors are getting it. Though, sadly, that doesn’t always translate to servers, many of whom would be hard pressed to accurately describe a beer, let alone suggest how to pair it with a particular dish.

I thought about all that recently while talking with John Holl, a beer writer and editor of All About Beer magazine. Holl is the author of “The American Craft Beer …

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Kulers Uncorked: Wine Apps

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

The Vivino app scans a wine's label and instantly lists everything from nearby retailer to ratings from consumers and publications.

The Vivino app scans a wine's label and instantly lists everything from nearby retailers to ratings from consumers and wine publications.

One of the earliest wine gadgets (and I understand it is still available in specialty shops) was actually two devices that worked in combination. They are called “Pen” and “Paper 1.0.” They are very reliable, require no charging, but provide no backup systems.

In the Paleolithic Age of wine appreciation, let’s say the 1990s, I filled hundreds of notebooks with tasting notes. Twice in the past 10 years, I’ve bravely accessed the dozen or so shoe boxes I’ve accumulated. Both times it was for a friend who required information from an ancient tasting I attended.

It’s not that I don’t want to revisit wines I’ve tried. It is just a challenge. The information in those notebooks remains sound and valuable. I just find accessing the information difficult and cataloging a pain.

Modern times have helped greatly in …

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Beer Town: Anchor brewmaster Mark Carpenter craft beer pioneer

Anchormarkcarpenterstory

Anchor Brewmaster Mark Carpenter

For anyone interested in the history of American craft beer, Mark Carpenter, brewmaster at San Francisco’s  Anchor Brewing Co., is one the primary sources — because he was there, almost from the beginning, over 40 years ago.

When legendary Anchor owner Fritz Maytag hired Carpenter in 1971, there were only five employees at what’s now widely considered America’s first craft brewery. And they were making just one beer, Anchor Steam.

But other iconic styles followed, including Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn, and years of Christmas Ale iterations. And after Maytag sold Anchor to a pair of Bay Area entrepreneurs in 2010, Carpenter stayed on to help preserve and expand the brand.

Carpenter was in Atlanta, recently, working with accounts and appearing at some Beer Week events. I caught up with him at Cypress Street Pint & Plate, where we sat down with pints of Anchor California Lager, and I asked him about all the changes he’s seen over …

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Kulers Uncorked: Madeira

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Broadbent, Rainwater, Madeira

Broadbent, Rainwater, Madeira

  • $19
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Exotic aromas of rose water, blood orange, dried orange zest, light brown sugar and toasted walnuts. Flavors of tart citrus fruit, apricot, grilled peach and caramel with a surprising jalapeño-like spiciness on the finish.

When Alice returned from her tour of Wonderland, I’m certain that—upon reaching drinking age, of course—she poured herself a glass of Madeira. There is probably no style of wine that defies convention (or anything approaching normalcy) than this export from the Portuguese island it is named after.

It’s sweet. It’s dry. It’s tart. It’s old. It’s new. The process by which it’s made is confounding and, unlike any other wine, it really never goes bad after opening. The world of Madeira exists on the other side of the rabbit hole.

Perhaps appropriate for Halloween, this is the sort wine that scares the bejeebers out of most wine drinkers. But it wasn’t always that way. When …

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Beer Town: Lowryeder and Tree Hugger Gold at GABF  

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Sweetwater and Terrapin, Georgia’s two largest and most visible craft breweries brought back gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver with a pair of fairly new beers.

At awards ceremony on Oct. 12, Atlanta’s Sweetwater won the top honor in the Rye Beer category for Lowreyeder. Originally called Rye’d Ale and brewed as part of Crank Tank series to benefit Camp Twin Lakes, Lowreyeder joined Sweetwater’s year-round lineup in August 2012.

Made with 25% rye malt and brewed with Columbus, Mt. Hood and Centennial hops, then dry-hopped with Centennial and Mt. Hood, its truly a rye IPA with a spicy, hoppy presence that’s very approachable and pairs well with food. In fact, at the recent Atlanta Cheese Festival, it made a pretty close to perfect match with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

Athens’ Terrapin won gold in the German-style Altbier beer category for Tree Hugger. Originally brewed for the Decatur Green Fest in support of the Dogwood Alliance, …

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