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.
Poolside 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.
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 concoctionsand 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.”
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
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.
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.
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?
Going Vertical: Kanonkop Pinotage From 1998 to 2009
What does a 1998 South African Pinotage taste like? Oddly enough, like a musty, saddle leather-driven Rioja—at least the bottling by Kanonkop.
This week, we tasted ten Kanonkop Pinotage bottlings spanning 11 years with winemaker Abrie Beeslaar. Kanonkop is a historic wine estate in the Stellenbosch region, run by the same family for four generations. They grow Pinotage (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault developed in the 1920s), as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. But Pinotage and its attempt to overcome a negative stereotype in the eyes of the American consumer took precedent during the recent tasting led by Beeslaar. (That’s USQ’s Tom Smith tasting with Beeslaar above.) He noted that wine drinkers tend to judge the variety over the producer, when in fact, we should be judging the producer not the variety. And after tasting stellar examples, such as the 1998, the earthy and complex 2008 Cape Winemakers Guild Pinotage and the juicy, red berry-focused 2009 Pinotage, his words hit a homerun.
We could bog you down with copious notes on each wine, but overall, the wines showed a variety of red wine descriptors, from tints of deep cherry to aromas of smoked meats to flavors reminiscent of classic Burgundies. The 2008 Cape Winemakers Guild Pinotage, designed specifically for auction by winemakers invited to the guild, stood out with its 100 percent new oak aging, dark, earthy nose, and complex brown shoe leather and dark fruit notes on the palate. It seemed quite similar to the 1998, with its musty funk and still juicy fruit cocooned with strong earth and leather notes. One person even joked that it was like Chateau Musar, the infamously wine geek red wine blend from Lebanon. Yet even the young, but “will mature beautifully” 2009 had many fans, thanks to its powerful structure, red berry flavors, and balanced tannins. If we’re going to judge Pinotage, we’re going to rule in its favor, at least when we’re talking about Kanonkop. -Stephanie Cain
Jay McInerney Talks The Juice with Wine Critic Ray Isle: Book Reading & Wine Tasting
USQ and Strand Bookstore host Jay McInerney as he reads from his latest non-fiction book, The Juice: Vinous Veritas, followed by a chat with Ray Isle, executive editor of Food & Wine, and wine tasting. The Juice features more than 50 articles of McInerney’s adventures in oenology, hilarious anecdotes, and invaluable wine advice. Sip, listen, and talk vino during our Q&A session and wine tasting, featuring bottlings highlighted in the book. If you’re familiar with McInerney, you’ll know he’s currently a wine columnist for the Wall Street Journal and author of eight novels, including his heralded debut Bright Lights, Big City and previous wine publications, A Hedonist in the Cellar and Bacchus and Me. He describes Thomas Jefferson as “the founding wine geek,” writes that a Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay tastes like a “deconstructed margarita…wowsah,” and calls the Sonoma Pinot-craze “the bizzaro-world antithesis of planet Napa Cabernet.” Want more? We’ll see you on May 10!
Reservations are required to attend this event. Tickets are sold ONLY through Strand Bookstore. Cost: Buy The Juice book or a $25 ticket, which includes a $10 voucher toward purchases at USQ the night of the event. Buy tickets here.
Sometimes great rums get overshadowed by classic Scotch and trendy Mezcal. But the lineup at Ron Santa Teresa, a Venezuelan rum company that’s been around for more than 200 years, should have you thinking rum is the new IT spirit. From their perfect-for-bartending Claro (hello, daiquiri!) to the first solera-made rum, the 1796 Ron Antigua de Solera, the brand has established a high standard. Each Friday in April, we’ve poured the Claro, Gran Reserva, and Solera at the Barrel, both neat and in two signature cocktails, the Claro Daiquiri and the S’Lightly Balmy. If you were lucky enough to taste, go to town with these cocktails! If you haven’t, head to USQ this Friday for the last Barrel tasting!
Santa Terea’s Claro was specially designed for shaking and stirring. A blend of 3-year-old rums, the rum boast a pale golden color with fruity, wooden flavors on the palate. It works well in mojitos and, our favorite, the daiquiri. Wonder if Hemingway preferred Santa Teresa?
Claro Daiquiri 2 oz. Santa Teresa Claro 1 oz. fresh lime juice 2 ½ teaspoon brown sugar
Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a glass of your choice. We like it up served up.
As much as we adore the claro for its cocktail properties, we can’t cheat on the Gran Reserva, Santa Teresa’s flagship bottling. Thank the 5-year aging in cask barrels for the amber-tinted gold hue and rich mouthfeel. Every now and then we do crave a Dark & Stormy (who doesn’t?), so this twist, S’Lightly Balmy, might take the place in the drink rotation.
S’Lightly Balmy 1 oz. Santa Teresa Gran Reserva 1 oz. cloudy apple juice 1 oz. ginger beer splash of lime
Pour the rum over ice in a highball. Add apple juice and beer. Squeeze a splash of lime. Drink.
Dare I Say Sexy? 2009 Occhipinti Siccagno Nero d’Avola
I’m always a sucker for natural wines, so I find myself always looking to this certified organic producer from Sicily. Young female winemaker Arianna Occhipinti comes from quite the winemaking family. Her uncle is Guisto Occhipinti who owns Cos winery (also killer stuff). The thing that separates her wine from some of the other island producers is how fresh it is; it just reeks of elegance. The 2009 Nero d’Avola, 100 percent Nero d’Avola, is bright, tart and acidic, with dark cherry flavors. I love that I feel like I am tasting Sicily when I take each sip. A big handful of volcanic rich soil hits the mouth, but in a great way. Trust me, I wouldn’t make you drink dirt. Yet, the wine appears surprisingly soft and, dare I say…sexy? Maybe is because Arianna is not even 30 years old. The best is yet to come. Drink it, love it! We do! -Joseph Sangiovanni
Every time I fly Virgin America (which is often, NYC > SFO), I end up with a VeeV cocktail. But that’s hardly the only time I sip the açai spirit. Heralded for its earth-friendly approach to all-things alcohol, VeeV is distilled from the Brazilian fruit, açai, known for its healthy properties. (Surfers say so, at least.) It makes a good substitute for vodka- or cachaca- based drinks, or just simply mixed with juice.
Given Earth Day, though, we have to spotlight VeeV’s green efforts. The company was the first alcohol brand to be certified carbon neutral. The distillery is powered completely by renewable wind energy. Their innovative distillation process uses 200 percent less energy than traditional pot still. On top of all that, VeeV donates $1 from the sale of every bottle to rainforest conservation efforts. Wow.
If we really need to further win you over with the spirit, though, mix it up in one of these signature cocktails. With the Greenmarket only steps away from USQ, you’ll be eating AND drinking local. Then you’ll be ordering it on your next flight too!
Herbal Advice Who doesn’t love a mason jar? Just what we thought. We’re giving you a bit of Herbal Advice with this cocktail: Go Green. 1 ¼ oz VeeV Açai 2 lemon wedges ½ oz simple syrup 2 oz club soda fresh cucumber, sliced thinly sprig of mint raspberries
Pack the mason jar with ice. Add all of the ingredients and seal the top. Shake and serve, tableside.
Brazilian 57 Forget Skinny Girl Margaritas. This 125-calorie (not that we are counting, we drink wine and spirits for a living) champagne cocktail should be swapped for that boring mimosa at any Sunday brunch. Including April 22, Earth Day! 1 ¼ oz. VeeV Açai ½ oz fresh lemon juice ½ oz simple syrup Champagne lemon twist, for garnish
Shake the first three ingredients well with ice and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
We’ll be tasting VeeV and VeeV-based cocktails this Saturday at USQ during our Go Green Organic Tasting. Stop by. More details here.
I’ve been on a whites kick lately, and there is no better white to welcome warm weather than this lightly effervescent Basque bottling. Txakoli is, traditionally, a slightly sparkling, dry Spanish white wine boasting a pale green color and served as an aperitif. A blend of two native grapes, Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza, this bottling is one of three produced by the Txueka Etxaniz family in Getaria, along the coast. (Getaria is actually hometown of fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga. No wonder I love this wine so much!) Even though it’s light and crisp, with melon notes and a slight acidity, it’s far more complex in character than most enter-summer wines thanks to its mineral backbone and zesty finish. Perfect with seafood. Try salted anchovies. -Stephanie Cain
The 2010 Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli de Getaria is Stephanie’s staff pick this month. Check it out here.
When I saw the Salvatore Gives You His Word cocktail at Huckleberry Bar on Tuesday night, I immediately thought “shoes.” Hello, Ferragamo! But alas, no, the cocktail was named for the founder of Averna, Salvatore Averna, who developed the caramel-laced liqueur from Italy. And it has nothing to do with shoes, except you can wear really nice ones while sipping the amaro.
Made of all natural ingredients, Averna is produced from a secret recipe (what isn’t?) of herbs, roots, and citrus rinds, with the addition of natural caramel. Many people sip it neat or on the rocks as an aperitif, but Huckleberry Bar’s general manager Stephanie Schneider whipped up some snazzy cocktails with Averna’s history as her inspiration. It’s been around since 1868, so there’s a plethora of tradition. While she developed four concoctions in total, we’ve got the recipes for our top two—Salvatore Gives You His Word and Taken By Storm—below. Check out all four, including See You Amaro Morning and the Averna Negroni, at the Brooklyn haunt this month.
Salvatore Gives You His Word 1 oz. Averna ¾ oz. Old Overholt ¾ oz Maraschino ¾ oz. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a coupe. No garnish.
Taken By Storm 1 ½ oz. Averna ½ oz. Gosling’s 151 ½ oz. ginger juice 1 ½ oz. grapefruit juice
Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Finish with a grapefruit twist.
Terroir is a common term for wine, but you don’t hear it so much for vodka. Well, EVER. That’s about to change with Karlsson’s Gold Batch 2008, a vintage vodka distilled from one specific type of potato. And you thought vodka had to be odorless and tasteless?
To catch you up to speed, Karlsson’s Gold is a collaborative project between master distiller Börje Karlsson, the guy who helped launch Absolut, and a group of Swedish potato farmers. Concocted as a blend of seven varieties of virgin potatoes from Cape Bjäre, Sweden, the vodka is distilled only once (as opposed to around seven times, like most commercial brands) to preserve the character of the potatoes.
Karlsson didn’t stop there, of course. He took it to the next level with his Batch series, debuting with the 2008 harvest. Made exclusively from the Gammel Svensk Rod (“Old Swedish Red”) new potatoes, the bottling has a distinctive sharp and complex, earthy and peppery flavor that sets it apart from blended vodkas. The label displays the name of the farmer, Bertil Gunnarsson, harvest property, and the bottle’s edition. Only 1,980 bottles exist.
Swing by USQ every Saturday in April, from 6pm to 9pm, for sips of the Batch 2008 and Karlsson’s Gold Vodka. Both bottlings will be for sale. Find out more information here.
USQ welcomes the Masumi Brewery back to the Salon tonight, 6pm to 8pm, for an evening in celebration of the newly minted Arabashiri sake, which will be unveiled for lucky attendees. This unpasteurized nama sake heralds the spring season and is among our most anticipated sake arrivals each year. Join special guests Katsu Miyasaka and Keith Norum as they present this year’s Arabashiri alongside five other delicious sakes from the Masumi Brewery.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
Taking Easter Peeps to New Heights: Yellow Chickie Martini
Easter just isn’t complete without Peeps, those sugary, marshmallowy concoctions that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. (And they are super fun to microwave. Try it.) But the classic Peep, the little yellow chicken, inspired our Easter cocktail 2012: Yellow Chickie Martini. It’s a lively combination of Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, Capri Natura Limoncello, Dolin Dry Vermouth, created by our spirits director Tom Smith. The earthy potato vodka and savory, herbal vermouth playfully balance the sweetness of the limoncello. Serve it up or on the rocks.
2 oz. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka 2 oz. Capri Natura Limoncello 2 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth Peeps Yellow Marshmallow Chicks
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish by floating a Peep in the martini. Happy Easter!
Oregon's Montinore Estate: An Evening with Rudy Marchesi
Join USQ as we welcome our good friend Rudy Marchesi to the Salon tonight, from 6pm to 8pm, for an evening of top-flight wine from his Willamette Valley-based Montinore Estate. Attendees will enjoy luscious white wines like the honey-scented Pinot Gris and Borealis, a unique blend of Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. We’ll also uncork four Pinot Noirs, including two single-vineyard offerings from the superb 2008 vintage.
Since purchasing the farm in 2005, Rudy has turned the estate into one of Oregon’s finest producers of organic- and biodynamically- farmed wines. A staff and customer favorite of ours since 2006, we feel the wines at Montinore have never been better. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet and mingle with Rudy Marchesi during this limited two hour tasting event.
Admission is free, and reservations are not required.
USQ welcomes Jacques Herviou to the Barrel on Thursday, April 5, from 6pm to 8pm, for a duo of Languedoc cuvées from Château Maris. An entirley organic effort, from viticultural practices to a winery made completely of hemp bricks (that’s right, hemp!), Château Maris produces a delicious selection of biodynamic wines. Featured as a kick-off to Earth Month, we’ll pour two selections from the La Livinière Cru of Minervois. An are most notable for Vin Doux dessert wines, Minervois’s still wines are shooting to the spotlight thanks to efforts like those of Château Maris. Stop by for the old-vine Château Maris 2009 Biodynamic Syrah and Château Maris 2008 Continuité de Nature Carignane and get the lowdown on this planet-friendly effort!
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
I’m in Miami, trick! USQite Stephanie just returned from a trip to South Beach, where Belvedere seemed to be the vodka brand of choice. While strobe lights and sparkling bottle toppers may not be your evening routine, this Belvedere Vanilla Sour should make a guest appearance. Red velvet rope not included.
2oz Belvedere Vodka 1 oz vanilla syrup 1 oz lemon juice dash Angostura bitters dash egg white
Combine all ingredients and shake well. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Do you want to be my date to the Spring Fling? Twist and Shout your way over to USQ tomorrow for our annual Spring Fling Mega Tasting. We’ll be pouring wines from Italy, Spain, France, South Africa, and Greece, set to our favorite sock hop hits. They’ll be a Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On. Sip on summertime selections such as Nora Albarino, Naia Verdejo, Raats Estate Chenin Blanc, Hiedler Gruner Veltliner, Althea Prosecco, Willm Riesling, Chateau Larose Trintaudon Haut-Medoc, Rustenberg John X Merriman, and more. Throw on those Blue Suede Shoes, and we’ll see you there!
Admission to the tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
Now that it’s officially spring, we decided to break out the punch bowls. USQite Seth White whips up a refreshing vinho verde punch, based on the young Portuguese white wine. We, however, determined that it needed a bit more…booze (to celebrate the warm weather, of course). Check out this vodka-and-vinho-verde version, the Portuguese Eastside Punch, to kick-start the sunshine season!
Rosemary Syrup 2 cups water ½ cup sugar 4 sprigs rosemary, rinsed
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill. Can be made up to one week in advance.
Portuguese Eastside Punch 7 bottles of Sogrape Vinho Verde Gazela 4 cups Absolut Mandarin Vodka 1 cup rosemary syrup 1 cucumber, thinly sliced ⅓ cup mint leaves
In a punch bowl, mix the wine, vodka, and rosemary syrup. Add the cucumber slices. Let stand for one hour. Garnish with the mint and serve over ice. Note: You can substitute Leroux’s Triple Sec for the rosemary syrup, but you will lose some herbal notes.
Jam out to righteous Reggae while jet-sipping your way through the Mediterranean Sea’s prime wine-growing regions at USQ’s Island Wine Party, this Saturday from 2pm to 5pm. We’ll be your tour guides through Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Majorca, Canary Islands, and Porquerolles—no boat required! Sample popular varieties like Cannanou, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello Mascalese, but don’t miss out on esoteric pours such as Frapatto, Listan Negra, and Callet. These are unique wines with tons of personality, much like the their dreamy native isle locales. Featured producers include COS, Amina Negra, Bermejos,Domaine Leccia, Argiolas, and Planeta, among others.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. Boat shoes and sailor hats welcome. More information here.
Catch some luck of the Irish tomorrow, as we host our USQ St. Patrick’s Day party from 2 to 5pm. Our pot of liquid gold features tastes of Irish whiskey and Irish cream from Emerald Isle producers including Jameson’s, Redbreast, Midleton’s, Bushmill’s, Tullamore Dew, Concannon, Coole Swan, and Ryan’s Irish. Be sure to don green, though, because you don’t want a nasty pinch from our team of leprechauns.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
Every now and then, we get the shakers and strainers out at USQ and come up with our own seasonal cocktails. The most recent was a springy St. Patty’s Day concoction based on Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Since Scotch cocktails are “having a moment right now” we felt it necessary to include their isle neighbors. Tyrconnell’s is made from 100 percent malted barley, a sweet and complex whiskey where no peat is used. Try the refreshing Tyrconnell Clementine for this year’s unseasonably warm St. Patty’s Day party.
2 oz Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur 1 oz freshly squeezed Clementine juice ½ oz Dolin Dry Vermouth 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass. No garnish necessary, but feel free to skewer a Clementine segment for presentation.
Now we know that’s a quite involved cocktail, especially as the day and evening progresses. Which is why we’re tipping you off to this evening sipper that serves as the best nightcap leprechauns can offer, Nutty Irishman.
Combine equal parts Irish Cream (such as Bailey’s or Ryan’s), Frangelico, and heavy cream into a rocks glass. Garnish with a nutmeg sprinkle.
Stéphane Tissot boasts just as much character as his well-respected, nuanced, biodynamic wines from the Jura. A wine region nestled between Burgundy and Switzerland, the Jura’s chillier climate, late harvest times, and marl, clay and limestone- based soils provide the framework for unique and innovative wines, such as the sherry-like Vin Jaune and the native variety, Trousseau. Tissot’s “quest for aromatic diversity” has led to the creation of more than 30 different varietals, including such bottlings as his 2008 Traminer and 2010 Poulsard. He makes seven different Chardonnays alone, including the 2009 Chardonnay “La Mailloche,” which he poured at USQ along with five other bottlings in late February. We chatted with the exuberant Tissot about his Demeter-certified biodynamic wines, German Riesling and family vacations.
How would you describe Jura wine to someone who has never had it? “How would I describe it? Oh my. Well, Jura is a small area between Burgundy and Switzerland. When you speak about Jura, you think mountain. We’re 80 kilometers from Burgundy but a completely different climate and soil. We have a very different history. We were Spanish for 80 years in 17th century. We have five different grapes [Chardonnay, Traminer, Poulsard, Trousseau, Savagnin] and a totally different style of winemaking.”
Do you blend the five varieties? “No, the only blend is in the Crémant.”
What sets your wines apart from other Jura producers? “I’m in the north of the area. I have an estate of 46 hectares. In total, I produce more than 30 wines, and for example, I make seven different Chardonnay. Every one is from a different soil—clay, marl, limestone—and each produces a different style of the wine. It’s clay soil on the ‘La Mailloche.’ It’s got lots of character, a very spicy Chardonnay, and lots of concentration but very nice acidity. Lots of acidity why? Because clay soil is a very fresh soil and results in nice acidity.”
You mentioned during the tasting a certain dish to pair with your Chardonnay. What was that? “ ‘La Mailloche has lots of power, minerality and acidity. It goes well with chicken with cream of mushroom.”
We know you like experimentation. What are some of the projects you’re working on? “We don’t enough! Every year we are trying to make something different and new. Each year is an experiment. Something new I’m doing now, is, well, most Jura producers make one Vin Jaune. I have enough Savagnin that I make four Vin Jaunes, each from different soils. When you speak about Vin Jaune, you speak about the winemaking, of the style, of the power, of the concentration, but sometimes we miss all the complexity of the wine on every soil. For me, four different Vin Jaunes is a step forward for winemaking.”
Describe the process of making Vin Jaune. “Vin Jaune is very similar to Sherry. We use the grape Savagnin. There is a lot of alcohol capacity in these grapes, and we leave these grapes for six years in oak barrels. We leave a floor of yeast at the top of the wine, and this floor of yeast protects the wine [from the air] and gives a character to the wine.”
Why did you decide to go biodynamic? “We have been biodynamic since 04. When you’re biodynamic, you have a different life in your vines, in your grapes, and in this way, you can make very easy wine. It leads you. You can keep your yields low, and it increases the minerality. When you drink a glass, you want to drink another one, because they have very nice acidity.”
What do drink at home? “Oh, at my place, I drink wine from my estate, of course, but I really drink wine from everywhere. When it’s good, it’s good. I have lots of different styles of wine in my cellar. I like Syrah; the Rhône can be very very good. I like a good Riesling, too. You know, in France, it’s not so common to find a really good Riesling from Germany.”
What is the most memorable bottle you’ve had? “One that is very interesting is…we bought land in 2001, and I had wine from those vines, a 1959. Very very good.”
What are some of your other hobbies besides wine? “Mountains are very important in my life. I like skiing. I love to spend time with my family outside. Sometimes, I’m too busy to see my family. When a winemaker is working, he’s working. You have to take time with your family to visit without the wine.”
Does that mean family vacation? Where do you go? “When we go on holiday, we like to rent a small boat on the channel in Burgundy and spend four or five days just winding along the channel.”
Tuscan wine is more than straw-covered bottles of Chianti. But you know that. What you might not know, though, is just how exciting the historic Italian wine region has become in recent years. According to David Weitzenhoffer, who hosted our Wine 101: Tuscany tasting last week, Tuscany is experiencing a transition right now, one in which the notion of terroir has taken front and center. “You can really see now how much place matters,” Weitzenhoffer said.
From Sangiovese-based bottlings of Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva and Villa I Cipressi Brunello di Montalcino to unmistakable Super Tuscans from Due Mani and Podere Forte Guardiavigna, the tasting showed how traditional winemaking techniques have fused with more modern approaches to create some of the best wines in the region’s history. For example, Weitzenhoffer described the 2006 Podere Forte Guardiavigna, a blend of Bordeaux varieties, as “one of the most world-class Super Tuscans. It rivals almost anything coming from Bordeaux.” Just think of that: Petit Verdot grown just 20 minutes, by car, from Montalcino!
It’s warm and sunny, and we’re ready to pack a punch. This South American-themed cocktail may be a bit pre-mature (It is still March, after all) but tequila sounds delightful. Spirits Director Tom Smith discovered La Tigresa years ago during an interactive mixology session at the Salon, and well, hasn’t stopped drinking it since. Named after Argentine boxer Marcela “La Tigresa” Acuña, (as she was known to be rather sweet outside the ring and rather savory within), this cocktail calls to mind the poolside jaunts coming soon.
1 ½ oz Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila ¾ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur ½ oz fresh lime juice 2 cubes fresh pineapple 1 slice red bell pepper
In a clean shaker, combine pineapple, red bell pepper, and lime juice. As opposed to the classic “twist-and-pulverize” muddling technique, perform a gentler pressing of these ingredients. Next, add the St. Germain and Siete Leguas Reposado. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a skewer of pineapple and red bell pepper.
One of my favorite things to drink, period. This red vermouth, based on Giuseppe Carpano’s original recipe from 1786, is a delightful melange of candied red cherry, bitter gentiene and quinine notes, and touches of orange peel and mint. Silky, spicey, herbal, bright are all adjectives that come to mind when sipping on a Carpano Antica. Enjoy as I do, simply over rocks, or as an addition to any traditional cocktail calling for sweet vermouth; makes a good Negroni great. Check it out here. -Charles Sasson
PS. In the mood for a Manhattan? The New York Times recommends Carpano Antica Formula in the latest Diner’s Journal.
Take a stroll through “la dolce vita” this Saturday as USQ takes you on on a tour of Italy with our Viaggio a Italia Tasting. Sip more than 15 wines from famed appellations of the Mediterranean country, such as Barbaresco, Valpolicella, Chianti Classico, Campania, and Fruili, among others. We’ll have producers in the house too! Chat with winemakers and representatives, including Bruna Grimaldi, Claudio Morelli, Pier Busso, Alberto Vaona, Enrico Pierrazuoli, Isabela Blasig, and Mattia Ca Montanari, who will be pouring selections of their current offerings.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. Find out more informationhere.
Our Wine 101 series continues with a look at the wines of Tuscany. Guest host David Weitzenhoffer returns to the Salon with an array of wines from a number of this famed region’s top producers. Attendees will enjoy Chianti, Brunello, Carmignano, and super-Tuscan red from producers such as Felsina, Villa I Cipressi, Il Borghetto, Due Mani, and Podere Forte. A seated event, guests will enjoy the wines both during the seminar and afterward, alongside savory treats.
Reservations are required to attend this event. Tickets cost $25, and include a $10 wine voucher valid toward purchases the night of the event. Reservations are limited to two per customer. Cancellations made less than 24 hours before the event cannot be refunded.
It may still be winter in New York, but it’s summer in the other hemisphere! Join USQ tomorrow from 2pm to 5pm and head south of the equator for our Southern Exposure Tasting. Warm up with sunsoaked sips from South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand, including tropical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, structured Chilean Pinot Noir, electric Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc and silky Mendoza Malbec. Featured producers include La Posta, Kanonkop, Luca, Tikal and Los Vascos, among others.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservation are not required.
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Flavored vodkas may have gone too far with marshmallow and whipped cream, but we all agree bison grass was a good move. Zubrowka, the ubiquitous bison grass vodka from Poland, won our 2012 Martini Bowl, and finds a home with plenty of our customers. In fact, Zubrowka brand ambassadors were mixing up cocktails at The Barrel every Friday in February! Considering spring is just around the bend, try this Zubrowka-approved “Fleur de Pologne” cocktail, a delicate blend of wintry warmth and spring fling.
1.5oz Zubrowka 0.75 oz St.Germain 0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice 1 oz. cloudy apple juice/cider 4-5 fresh mint leaves a few drops of rhubarb bitters absinthe spritz in coupe, optional
Shake all ingredients well. Double strain into coupe or cocktail glass. Also, try it on the rocks in a tumbler.
We regularly open wines here at the shop for purposes of educating customers as well as ourselves. The other night we took advantage of trying a very cool red wine from the island of Sardinia, the 2004 Santadi Shardana Valli di Porto Pino. It would have been easy to taste Cannonau, which is probably the most famous red varietal from Sardinia, but the island offers so much more. This particular wine is made mostly from Carignano, with a little Shiraz (85%, 15%, respectively). This is one of those “funky” wines that shows characteristics of things not normally thought of when describing wine. Although smooth with some silky tannins, this wine has a very distinct flinty quality that flirts with burnt rubber and what one staff member described: “It’s like that scent, when you use a toaster oven but it hasn’t been cleaned in a while…and it has all the crusted stuff on the bottom that burns.” Sound scary? Think again. The Carignano vines are, on average, about 100 years of age and provide intense fruit. Dense, darker fruit flavors are coupled with a vibrant minerality. The wine is meant to drink right now; it’s excellent to pair with a rich stinky cheese. So if you want something unique, fun and well priced, pick up a bottle and tell us what you think. -Joseph Sangiovanni
Fabio Alessandria of G.B. Burlotto visited the Salon for a tasting of his Barolo wines, including a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. One our favorite tasters captured his talk on video. Check it out here.
At Barrel with Daniel Boulle of Domaine les Aphillanthes
Rising southern Rhône producer Daniel Boulle considers himself a vigneron before a winemaker. Having tended vines and sold off his grapes for years, he, in 1999, began crafting his own Côtes du Rhône wines. Robert Parker wrote that they “may be the richest Côtes du Rhône I have tasted” and we appreciate the ripe character about them. USQ welcomes Boulle to the Barrel for a Tuesday evening of Domaine les Aphillanthes tasting.
Boulle’s domaine is located in the small town of Travaillan, just northwest of Gigondas, and he produces several cuvées of Côtes du Rhône, with his wife, Helene. He employs a series of biodynamic practices in the vineyard and believes in minimal intervention. He ferments in concrete vats and bottles without filtration. What results are powerful and expressions of Rhône blends, such as his 100 percent Syrah, the Cuvée du Cros, and Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre cuvées, Cuvée des Galents and Cuvée des Trois Cepages. Swing by for sips and stories on the Domaine les Aphillanthes current releases.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
After our Cognac & Blues event on Wednesday, we’ve had a hankering for more Cognac brandy. Which brings us to the choice cocktail of the weekend: Sidecar. The Sidecar is thought to have been invented in Paris for a patron of the bar who typically arrived by motorcycle sidecar. The first mention of the drink can be found in Robert Vermiere’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them. His concoction calls for equal parts Cognac brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. But we follow the more popular recipe, found in The Savoy Cocktail Book:
1/2 Cognac brandy 1/4 Cointreau 1/4 lemon juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.
It’s popular to add a sugar rim, as Schiller’s Liquors (photo above) does in Manhattan. For that, coat the rim with a fresh lemon and dip into sugar.
“What we saw on the sorting table was beautiful, some of the best Pinot Noir you can dream of.”
This is how Aubert de Villaine, self-described “steward of the domaine,” referred to the 2009 harvest at yesterday’s trade tasting in the The Library at The Palace Hotel. One of the highlights of the year for each that I’ve been in the business comes with tasting the new vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, an event comprised of wine writers, sommeliers, and buyers like me. As the wines are well beyond my means, it is a privilege to taste them, and listening to de Villaine’s synopsis of each vintage is more informative and enlightening than any wine course in which I’ve sat. His dissemination of the vintage from winter through harvest and élevage is not dissimilar from the way in which Ishmael tells his tale of the white whale, slowly and surely, building gravitas with inclement weather and pulling victories from sunny afternoons. Yesterday, he stumbled quietly in French for the first few words before explaining that his English was out of practice and apologized for the volume of his words: “My voice as I get old gets less and less." Naturally, when he finishes with the tale of the vintage it’s impossible not to have a deeper reverence for the wine in the glasses before you.
New to the lineup this year was the Corton, a bottling crafted with fruit from Clos du Roi, Renardes, and Bressandes. De Villaine described these parcels as among the original part of Corton, vineyards that existed before the appellation grew to its current size. When paired alongside the other wines there was a marked difference in both the aroma and flavor of this Beaune-based beauty which de Villaine summarized as only a master Burgundy Jedi could: “The wine of Corton looks towards the ground, and the wines of Vosne look towards the sky.”
As the tasting continued de Villaine made constant reference to the “airiness” of Vosne, a description that made perfect sense given the aromas that permeated the room. In past years (‘07, ‘04) the wines haven’t shown at their best at this tasting, but yesterday’s exposition left smiles on just about every face in the room. Comparing the ’09s to the ‘59 vintage, de Villaine remarked, “I don’t think I’ll ever see them at their peak. You may.”
You may if you’re flush and lucky enough to find some. Each year the retail allocations shrink as demand grows. I find it amazing to think that given the current economy it is possible to sell as many bottles from this estate as one can get their hands on. The good news is that magnum lovers will be rewarded with more magnums in 2009. More magnums at the expense of larger formats, of which there will be none. Aubert explained that “95% of big bottles ended up at auction,” which elicited chortles from a grinning John Kapon seated at the table behind me. Once the subject of auctions and the parallel market came up, de Villaine discussed a number of new anti-fraud features they were planning to incorporate into the labels in coming vintages, “things that only we at the Domaine are aware of.”
The tasting ended with a few sips of Le Montrachet. The 2009 seemed less melodramatic than in previous vintages, “more mineral,” as de Villaine described it, and completely devoid of botrytis. Sitting there among my colleagues I enjoyed the Montrachet from sip to swallow, savoring it as I read through my notes and quotes from de Villaine. I’ll spare you my impression of the wines (it’s obvious I enjoyed them), but a note scribbled between some nouns and adjectives reminded me that as we’d settled into the degustation Aubert ended his vintage report and encouraged us to taste in silence and avoid using words “for something that doesn’t need words.” His voice might be getting “less and less,” but to me his words have never been more resonant. -Jesse Salazar
French-trained oenologist Morten Hallgren has long been convinced of the wine potential in New York’s Finger Lakes. He and his wife, Lisa, a chef, settled among the shale-stoned soil of the region in 2000, founding Ravines Wine, and never looked back. Today, he produces dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Meritage on 17 acres near Keuka Lake. The New York Times described his 2009 dry Riesling as “elegant, with complex aromas of citrus, pear and lillies, distinctive minerality, and vibrant acidity.” Prior to Hallgren pouring his Riesling at our Winter Riesling Tasting, we talked winemaking, dinner parties and beer.
What sets New York State Riesling apart from other Riesling-producing areas, such as Washington state, Germany and Austria? “Austrian Riesling would probably be the closest to dry Finger Lakes Riesling — the combination of a firm acidic backbone, a moderate but more substantial alcohol level, and the deliberate absence of botrytis. I think our Rieslings have more structure than most German Rieslings, which make them easier to pair with food. We have a firmer acidity than most Washington Rieslings, resulting in more focused, intense aromas.”
What sets your wine apart from other New York Riesling producers? “We have a commitment to all hand picking and whole clustering pressing. Aging on the lees allows us to ferment dry and still preserve textural elements.”
What was it like building a winery from the ground up? ‘It allowed Lisa and I to focus exclusively on dry wines and food pairings without commercial compromises. It was also a lot of work!”
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? “The most rewarding aspect is being part of a group of winemakers with a chance to mold and shape wines from a little known region with immense potential.”
Where do you see the New York State wine industry in five years? “I think, and hope, we will see a greater emphasis on dry wines with even higher quality standards. I think there is already a shift toward drier Riesling, even if we struggle with defining what ‘dry’ is.”
What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines? “I love local, fresh goat cheese with my dry Riesling.”
What is your go-to bottle for a dinner party? “Currently, I take my 2005 Meritage or my 2008 dry Riesling. Finger Lakes wines have inherent balance.”
What is your most treasured bottle, personally? “I’m saving some 1990 Champagnes, Taittinger, Pol Roger. 1990 is my anniversary year.”
If you’re not drinking wine, you’re drinking…? “Beer! As a kid in Copenhagen, I lived close to the Carlsberg Brewery.
Any particular style or brand? “I drink everything.”
RiesLin-sanity Takes Over USQ: Riesling in Winter Tasting
Everyone is going crazy for Lin-sanity and New York right now, not least of which is USQ! Which brings us to tomorrow’s tasting in the Salon: Riesling in Winter, including New York Riesling (local pride!), as well as exquisite pours from Germany, Austria, and Alsace, from 2pm to 5pm.
By now, most wine enthusiasts recognize the amazing potential of Riesling in New York’s Finger Lakes region, just as basketball fans revel over breakout Knick’s star, Jeremy Lin. On hand to share their offerings will be Ravines Wine Cellars’ winemaker Morten Hallgren and Red Newt Cellars’ winemaker Brandon Seager. Taste and talk with these major players to get the skinny on the state of Riesling in the Finger Lakes. Also featured from Finger Lakes will be bottlings from Dr. Konstantin Frank.
Featured European estates include Austria’s Alzinger, Hirsch, and Bründlmayer; Germany’s A.J. Adam, Reuscher-Haart, Josef Leitz, Günther Steinmetz, Clemens-Busch, and Weiser Kunstler; and, Alsace’s Domaine Albert Mann, Domaine Bott-Geyl, and Willm. We promise there are no airballs here and expect a few slam dunks among these 24 wines.
Admission to the tasting is free, and no reservations, or basketball abilities, are required. Find out more information here.
If Fabio Alessandria can’t have wine with dinner, he drinks water. The winemaker at the famed G.B. Burlotto estate in Piedmont, Alessandria is the great-great grandson of Giovan Battista Burlotto, a distinguished producer who was among the first to bottle Barolo and brand it under the family name. Alessandria has brought renewed acclaim to his family’s holdings in and around the village of Verduno, home to the limestone-rich Monvigliero vineyard which is considered among the great Barolo crus. USQ held a tasting of 12 Burlotto wines, including his aperitif favorite, Pelaverga, the 2007 Barolo Monvigliero, and a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. We also sat down to get to know the young, northern Italian native.
What sets your wines apart from other Barolo producers? “It’s difficult to find a bad Barolo, but I prefer the more elegant, traditional style of Barolo. For us, the Verduno village is well known for the elegance and finesse of the wine, especially from Monvigliero, which is considered the most feminine vineyard in the Barolo area. We, in the family, think that while power is important, we don’t want to to lose the finesse, the drinkability of the wine. We want to maintain the aromaticity of the Cannubi, for example. Wines in the more modern style are more concentrated, more extracted, have more oak. I want to feel the profile of the grape.”
What is the most reward and the most challenging aspects of your job? “I enjoy that it’s a family business. Our cellar is small, so I’m involved in the winemaking, the vineyard, and the marketing. I like that I can see the different aspects, but of course, the winemaking I love, to taste the wine. I try every day to do the best to show our soil and what our grapes can offer. But this is the most challenging part of the job: to understand the grape and what we want in the grape. The last vintages, from 2004 to 2008, are all really good vintages, but really different. We have to take what is good in each grape to produce really great wine.”
What do you drink at home? “Barolo. I like to pull out a 10- or 12 -year Barolo after dinner or lunch. It’s so much more complex; I like to concentrate on the wine [without food].”
What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines? “I drink the Pelaverga with sausage and prosciutto. I love the freshness and acidity of a younger Barolo with a stack of red meat like steak fiorentina.”
You’re going to a dinner party. If you can’t take your wine, what would you take? “Of course, Barolo is my favorite wine, but I love Burgundy. I love the Rhone Valley, from Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Just today at lunch, I had a Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape.”
If you can’t drink wine, you drink what? “With food, I love wine. If I don’t drink wine, I drink water. But I like a light beer in the middle of the day in the summer, to relax a bit when it’s hot.”
What is your most treasured bottle, personally? “We have some bottles of Barolo going back to 1889, 1890. Those are special.”
At the Martini Bowl 2012 last Saturday, Bulldog Gin served up one “Dirty Dog” of a martini. While the London-based spirit didn’t take home the top prize (that went to Poland’s Zubrowka bison grass vodka), it did win in our minds for the herbed feta-stuffed olives. Make one yourself with the recipe below.
3 oz. Bulldog Gin ½ oz. olive juice speared olives for garnish
Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with olives.