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Jay McInerney talks The Juice at USQ! To promote his newest wine book, The Juice: Vinous Veritas, Jay McInerney held a wine tasting and book reading in conjunction with The Strand and USQ. Ray Isle, executive wine editor of Food & Wine, also joined the party and discussion. Check out more photos here.

Jay McInerney talks The Juice at USQ! To promote his newest wine book, The Juice: Vinous Veritas, Jay McInerney held a wine tasting and book reading in conjunction with The Strand and USQ. Ray Isle, executive wine editor of Food & Wine, also joined the party and discussion. Check out more photos here.

Take a Peat Monster Poolside

Compass Box’s whiskymaker John Glaser doesn’t produce your typical Scotch whisky. With names like The Peat Monster, The Spice Tree, and Great King Street, these small-batch scotch whiskys bridge traditional techniques and more innovative approaches. USQ will be pouring tastes of four whiskys from the collection as part of our Fluid Fridays series for the month of June. But beyond whisky neat, there, of course, will be cocktails from Compass Box brand ambassadors Elana Effrat and David Bailey.

Scotch-based cocktails seem to be the rage right now and we certainly aren’t complaining. There is something about mixing a smoky dark spirit with refreshing spring and summer ingredients. For a start to the sunny season, try out the Smokey River Trading Company, a citrus-inflected, Peat Monster-based concoction whipped up by the bartenders at Avenue Grill in Denver, Colorado. And for a even chiller drink, “Poolside,” mix in some elderflower liqueur and fizzy water with Orangerie.

Smokey River Trading Company
2 oz. The Peat Monster
½ oz. Averna Amaro
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Add ingredients to a shaker. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

1 ½ oz. Orangerie
splash St. Germain
seltzer water or club soda
orange slice, for garnsih

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add Orangerie and St. Germain. Fill with seltzer or club soda. Stir, and garnish with an orange slice.

Check out the Compass Box lineup here.

New York Distilling Company Gins

Our friend Allen Katz of New York Distilling Company and The Shanty talks to Paper Mag! We love a good navy strength gin and tonic. Oh, and we’ve got the gins here.

Celebrate Chardonnay Day! South African winemaker Bruwer Raats talks Indaba Chardonnay.

I Want To Be a Master Wine Blender…When I Grow Up

What does it take to be a master wine blender? A lot of patience and anxiety, it seems. USQ hosted winemaker Andy Erickson, known for his work at for Ovid, Arietta, Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Dancing Hares, and his own label, Favia, for an Art of Blending seminar. The interactive session, complete with five barrels samples of 2011 Napa Valley grapes, pitted three “teams” against one another to come up with unique red wine blends based on Erickson’s own Leviathan. Oh! And USQ made a blend too.

If you want to be a master blender, start off by perfecting your palate. Then gather a bunch of beakers and brush up on chemistry. Might want to learn the metric system. And math, you know, since the percentages of each grape in the blend should add up to 100 percent. After tasting through barrel samples (so fresh they haven’t even been RACKED yet) of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and two clones of Cabernet Sauvignon (191 and 337, for the record), Erickson discussed the attributes of each with the group. He mixed a blend on the spot, but assured us that the final percentages always change, as the wines each evolve in their French oak barrels.

On group wanted more Cab Franc and another pushed for Merlot, while the third group wanted a blend much like Erickson’s. USQ? We said toss in 45 percent Syrah (!) just to mix it up. We ended up with a selection of shockingly different wines, each with their own pros and cons. The key to balance is working with blending ideas throughout the aging time, so by the final round, you have some idea how each grape’s elements change over time. Our blend featured a bit too much Syrah for elegant balance, but hey, never know how the Syrah will taste in a few months!

Flowers in the Form of Drinks: Mother’s Day Cocktails

Who needs to give flowers on Mother’s Day when you can give floral cocktails?! Our friends over at Serious Eats agree that botanic-inspired drinks are definitely the way to go this Sunday and hence, have compiled a list of eight blossoming concoctions and recipes. Instead of creating our own cocktails this week, we figured we’d share theirs, such as the lavender- and honey-laced H.K. Rose and the agave-tinged, bubbly punch, Jalisco Flower. We’ve also got all the spirits and wine ingredients handy, ready for you to hit “add to cart.”

Tis’ the Season…For a Rosé Like No Other

After a few weeks of teasing and flirting, it’s almost that time of year. The sun is starting to shine a little brighter, the air is warm enough to send your coats and sweaters packing for the back of the closet, and before you know it, city-dwellers will be heading to their summer homes in the Hamptons and Jersey Shore. That’s right, Rosé season is upon us, and while you can’t beat a light crisp Provence rose on a hot summer day, sometimes you want a little more out of your blushing summer companion. Enter, 2000 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado.

Quite a mouthful, but once you get a taste, all you’ll want is another mouthful of this incredibly unique rosé. Drop all your expectations about what a rosé is and should be and enjoy the ride. Founded in 1877, López de Heredia is steeped in tradition and unlike many new producers, considers aging the wine both in barrel and bottle to be an essential step to creating a fine wine. (See a video of our recent tasting with the Heredia family here.) This particular wine is a blend of Tempranillo (20%), Garnacho (60%), and Viura (20%), all from the Heredia family vineyards. The wine saw four-and-a-half years in used American oak barrels, and six years in bottle before it was released. Bursting with flavors of dried red fruit, almonds, peach, and orange zest, while sporting a nice mineral backbone, this is definitely not your typical rose next door. It’s great paired with spicy dishes as well as more substantial summer meals like sausage and charcuterie.

At the time of harvest, the demand for the rosado was so low that López de Heredia stopped making it from 2000 until 2008. With such extensive ageing, we may not see another rosado from them until 2018! USQ snagged quite a few cases for this reason, but don’t wait too long—get your hands on this while it’s hot (and hot outside too). -Seth White

Pinot Talk with Rudy Marchesi

A 1978 Beaune Premier Cru changed winemaker Rudy Marchesi’s perspective on wine. Funny, then, that he would become one of the top producers of Oregon Pinot Noir today, at Montinore Estate. He made his first wine 40 years ago, a student of wine since youth thanks to a winemaker grandfather. He remains a student, though, constanting looking for new and innovative techniques, biodynamic practices, and different grape varieties to grow in the Willamette Valley climate. His fascination with native northern Italian grapes led to his white wine blend, Borealis. His love of food has him producing cheese, cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, and verjus, a pressed juice of unripe grapes that falls somewhere between wine and vinegar. Oh, and did we mention he’s a jazz pianist?

What sets your wines apart from other Oregon Pinot Noir producers?
“We try to find that balance between elegance and concentration of flavor. We are more interested in our wines being seductive than big. And, consequently, I think that our wines are more European in style as opposed to new world.”

What is your favorite dish to pair with one of your wines.
“It’s difficult to answer that question with just one dish because Pinot Noir by nature is so versatile. For example, I recently had a fluke ceviche at ABC Kitchen with our Red Cap Pinot Noir, and it was one of the most interesting and pleasurable pairings I have had in awhile. Likewise, the Red Cap was spectacular with a pork roast I recently had. But I think one of my favorite pairings, as the weather gets warmer, is our Almost Dry Riesling with any kind of grilled seafood.”  

What is the most memorable bottle you have had?
“It was a 1978 Beaune Premier Cru. It was the first time I experienced Pinot Noir at that level of quality. And it completely changed my perspective on wine.”

More on Rudy Marchesi, and his Montinore bottlings here.

Missed our Duero to Rioja event with Maria López de Heredia last week? Listen to what she has to say about her family’s famous bottlings of white and red Rioja, including the 1991 Viña Bosconia Rioja Gran Reserva, 2003 Viña Bosconia Rioja Reserva, and 2001 Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva.

Video courtesy of our friend at The Zinfidel. Check it out!

Off to the Races: Kentucky Derby Cocktails

Sure, we know that this Saturday, May 5, is the infamous margarita-guzzling holiday of Cinco de Mayo. But for those southern folks among us, it’s Derby Day, as the first Saturday in May always hosts the Kentucky Derby. This year marks the 138th running of the horse race, which kicks of the Triple Crown. Time to don those big hats with floral accoutrements and seersucker suits as you sip bourbon-based cocktails and sweet tea!

The “holiday” basically calls for drinking of all sorts, as horse lovers place bets on the 22 horses ready to post on the track, and the who’s who of horse racing and Kentucky society post up in the grandstands. While we can’t always make it to the races, we can mix up the cocktails. Here are two to start your Derby Day celebration, the classic Mint Julep, the official drink of the Derby, and the Man O’ War, a signature Maker’s Mark cocktail inspired by the famous racehorse.

Classic Mint Julep
According to the Kentucky Derby’s website, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of the Derby events. It requires 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice! While the official derby cocktail uses Early Times bourbon, we prefer Jim Beam, the everyman’s bourbon and the spirit Stephanie’s father, a Kentucky Colonel, uses in his drinks.

½ cup Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup water
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh mint

Chill down a silver derby cup or highball glass. Meanwhile, make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water together for a few minutes. Cool and place in a covered container, keep chilled. Fill the chilled cup or highball glass with crushed ice. Add one tablespoon of simple syrup and 2 oz. of Jim Beam bourbon. Stir rapidly. Garnish with a sprig or two of fresh mint

Man O’ War
This cocktail was concocted by Maker’s Mark in honor of the horse of the same name. One of the winningest horses in history, Man O’ War only lost one race in his career! While he never ran the Derby, we can get behind this perfect afternoon tipple.

1 ½ oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz. orange curacao liqueur
½ oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. orange juice
Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Are you ready to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” with a glass in hand?