Once upon a time (let’s say 10 years ago) in America, when someone ordered a “white wine” at a restaurant, the implication was: “I’ll have a chardonnay, please.” That changed ever so slightly with the advancing popularity of pinot grigio—the “other” white wine.
There is something comforting and uncomplicated about ordering a wine by its grape variety. You have the security of knowing what you’re getting…or at least that’s what you’d like to believe. In truth, all chardonnays are not made equally. Far from it. They are blends of different grape clones, oaked and unoaked lots and they have widely varying percentages of juice that has gone through malolactic fermentation (the process that
Recently, the Colorado-based Brewers Association released data on U.S. craft brewing that tracked a 14 percent increase in dollar sales and a 12 percent jump in volume in the first half of 2012.
What’s more, the total U.S. brewery count now stands at 2,126 — the highest number of breweries in business since the late 1800s.
The Brewers Association also tracks breweries in planning and lists 1,252 breweries on the drawing board now, compared to 725 a year ago.
That kind of growth and excitement certainly has been mirrored around metro Atlanta, with three new breweries — Red Hare in Marietta, Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw and Strawn in Fairburn — opening in 2011-2012.
Three more breweries — Monday Night in Atlanta, Three Taverns in Decatur and Wild Heaven in Avondale Estates — are on track to start making beer in 2013.
Monday Night, which debuted as a contract beer company in 2011, has announced plans for a new Westside brewery on Trabert Avenue that will include a large tasting room
Reserve. A potent word, especially when applied to wine.
“Sir, would you like a glass of our regular cabernet sauvignon or the reserve?”
Naturally, you pick the reserve, which conjures up dusty, precious bottles made in limited numbers held a special anteroom of the cellar. These are wines “reserved” for special occasions. In the wine world, reserve means the cream of crop, the ne plus ultra, or the shnizzle, as my pal Snoop Dogg…er Snoop Lion likes to say.
Reserve has a very specific, legal meaning in most European winemaking countries. Typically, winemakers are required to pick riper grapes and make wines with slightly
I’m not a beer snob. At the right place and time, I can easily enjoy a quenching PBR tallboy, a creamy pint of Guinness or a puckering Belgian sour ale. For some reason, though, I’ve never really cared for anything mixed with my beer.
Sure, a very long time ago, I was inspired by Ringo’s antics in the Beatles movie “Help” and thought it was cool to belly up to the bar at a pub and order a lager and lime — usually a Harp with a shot of Rose’s lime juice. And a couple of times I’ve tried out that Mexican concoction called the michelada, which can be a bit like a spicy beer Bloody Mary. But that was about it.
Then something happened that changed my way of thinking. I started noticing how many smart bartenders were using beer to make really interesting cocktails. And an even bigger moment of enlightenment came when I realized that the beer wasn’t being flavored so much as being used as another ingredient for flavor and texture in these drinks.
Recently, while I was working on a
Lighter and less boozy libations, bottled and carbonated cocktails, punch bowls for sharing with a crowd, and more local and seasonal ingredients top the drink trends this summer at Atlanta’s restaurants and bars.
At Seed Kitchen and Bar in Marietta, mixologist Chris McNeill makes every effort to tune his cocktail menu to the restaurant’s seasonal approach to cooking.
“Cocktails in general have become much more seasonal,” McNeill said. “We’re using whatever ingredients are available and as local as possible, and that’s a lot easier in the summer.”
McNeill’s newest cocktail, Smoke on the Water, is a juicy mix of mezcal, muddled watermelon and cucumber, Lillet Rose, agave nectar and lime juice, served with watermelon ice.
Another summer favorite is the Island Irie, a Jamaican-inspired rum drink made with
I never really had much use for sangria, which I thought was Spanish for crappy wine. That was until one July afternoon, when I sat down at a café in Altea, a small town north of Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. I was seated at the outside bar with my wife, Eleanore, as I watched a young man putting wine, fruit, etc. into a glass pitcher. Naturally, I made the same Smart Aleck remark about the English translation for sangria to the barman.
Being a terminal wise guy can get you beat up or it can get you free drinks. In this case, it was the latter. The barman laughed politely and poured Eleanore and me two large glasses of his concoction; they were on the house. Needless to say, they were delicious. We ended up having a couple more glasses and wheedling his remarkably simple recipe from him
Given that the voters are homebrewers, I’m always interested in the results of the annual Zymurgy magazine 50 Best Beers in America poll. This year, like the past three years in a row, the readers put Pliny the Elder at the top.
The double IPA from Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, Calif., isn’t available in Atlanta. In fact, outside of California it’s only distributed in the states of Oregon, Washington and Colorado, though oddly you can find it around Philadelphia.
Pliny is a really great beer. When I’ve had it at Russian River, I’ve thought it deserved to be ranked as the top double IPA in America. But is it the best beer in America? Or does its scarcity push it to the status of a Proustian object of desire?
One thing’s for sure, homebrewers love hops.
Finishing second for the third straight year was Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an IPA that is available in Atlanta and might get my vote for go-to beer at any bar or restaurant. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, another highly rated,
When Charles Smith was 12 years old, he snuck into his Aunt Penny’s pantry and filtched a bottle of riesling. “It was probably a Piesporter Goldtröpfchen,” Smith said, referring to the renowned vineyards along the Germany’s Mosel River. “I remember loving it!”
Smith may appear a rebel. And with his reputation for stealing wine, managing punk rock bands in Europe in the 1990s, wearing leather and riding big, loud motorcycles, it would be easy to make that mistake. In reality, Smith is a thoughtful, charming, American winemaker. He only looks like a troublemaker.
I caught up with Smith on the phone while he was poolside in Palm Springs, Calif. The owner
It was a happy accident, swears Ari Fleischer, founder of Atlanta’s Frozen Pints Craft Beer Ice Cream.
At a party two years ago, a friend spilled a beer next to an ice cream maker, prompting Fleischer to wonder what beer ice cream would taste like.
“It was a moment of inspiration,” Fleischer said. “When I saw it, I said, ‘We should pour the beer in there and see what happens.’ When it worked, I thought, ‘This is genius. This is what I want to do.’ ”
The impromptu trial combined vanilla ice cream and bock beer and became Frozen Pints first flavor, Vanilla Bock.
Fleischer calls it “the one that started it all.” But it took a lot of experimentation and couple more years of building the business before Frozen Pints made it to market.
Now, Vanilla Bock and four more flavors are available at select metro Atlanta beverage retailers, including Decatur Package Store, Green’s Beverages, Hop City, Mac’s Beer and Wine, Smoke Rise Bottle Shoppe and Smyrna World of
On his recent swing through Atlanta, George Foote and I sat down for lunch at the Four Seasons. We’re both wine educators, so the conversation naturally flowed to our teaching triumphs, failures and frustrations. Foote is the national wine educator for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and was in town to give a class on blended wines to Ste. Michelle’s Georgia distributor. Foote has been in the wine business for 35 years and has been an educator for more than 20.
As we swirled a couple glasses of Tignanello and the ethereal Solaia, both from Tuscan winemaker Antinori, we came up with a list of perpetual misunderstandings many students have about wine. Here’s a snippet of our exchange and Foote’s explanations.
All rieslings are sweet.
Riesling is the only noble grape variety that runs the style-gamut from dry to sweet. The long and glorious history of this grape variety has seen times where dry, medium or sweet versions have been in favor, but all styles are readily