Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 86 Co. Aylesbury Duck Vodka

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When you think of quality vodka the big players in the business usually come to mind first.  And that’s too bad because there are a handful of products that really catch my eye- and my palate.  These brands I’ve written about in the past and they fill a necessary place on my bar.  Each exemplifies a quality that I find beguiling and pleasurable.  There may be the flavor of a whisper in your ear, pursed lips against whiffs of citrus, wet stones and freshly fallen snow.  The flavor of the surf in Maine comes to mind.  Encapsulated and profound is the metaphor for this product.  And what vodka is this one?  What makes it stand aside of the pack?  Perhaps it is the water or the hard winter wheat?  Who makes such a lovely product that is in the process of whetting your appetite?  Making you thirst?

The 86 Company makes such vodka.  It’s gorgeous stuff and as a rule I don’t really care for vodka.  When I opened the broad neck of the Aylesbury Duck– more about this later- I experienced the flavor of the surf crashing upon the cliffs surrounding the lighthouse at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.  The foam of the seaweed mixed with the froth of the ice cold waters, combines with the falling snow.  That is the duck.  Quack.  Yes the Aylesbury Duck.  It is a real duck breed.  A large duck with a pronounced pink bill, orange legs and feet, the Aylesbury Duck has been the brunt of jokes for eons.  But this vodka is no joke.  It is seriously accurate!  It tastes like toasted bread!  Find me bread that tastes like this and I’ll want to slather it in sweet butter!

Aylesbury Duck is pure and gorgeous in a glass.  It mixes like a dream and is perfectly content over ice with just a splash of seltzer water and a twist of grapefruit.  To me at least, the real vodka is the one that has no flavorings or colorings.  It is not candy scented, nor is it flavored after a type of cake. 
Real vodka is at most at home mixed with juices or woven into a land of mystique and balance.  I’m torn in my life between the classic Russian style of potato vodka and the harder edged wheat versions of vodka.  Some producers are using raw honey yet others use rye grains.  Some even use corn!  That’s moonshine to me- certainly not vodka.  But the Aylesbury Duck is pure form and motion.  The essence of citrus is tucked in the back, the lick of salt water- the burn of fire. 

I want some now.
Tangerine soda syrup from Fruitations in Massachusetts makes this vodka even more sensual and lush.  The aromatics of the tangerine zest jumps out at your palate with flashes of color and light from the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water.  Bursts of sunshine- salt and pepper are enrobed in the zest of the citrus fruits.  Yum. The bitters that I choose, Bitter Truth in lemon give this drink balance, harmony and depth.  Try them with seltzer as a mocktail!

Jane Bowles Summer House- the summer pavilion on Tennessee William’s home on Key West is an unlikely name for a cocktail.  But after a few in the soft breeze of the summer, you will find the ability to be a poet as well as a drinker.

Ingredients:
3 oz. (yes) Aylesbury Duck Vodka from the 86Company. 
1 oz. Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
½ Ruby Red Grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, and then broiled until crusty, scoop and cool
Hand cut ice
3 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in lemon
4 shakes Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

Preparation:
To a Boston Shaker:
Add the ½ broiled sweetened grapefruit, muddle a bit
Add the Aylesbury Duck
Add the Fruitations Syrup
Muddle a bit
Pour over the other cocktail shaker filled ¾ with ice and shake hard for a minute
Strain into a Collins Glass with one spear of hand cut ice
Add the Perrier Sparkling Water
Add the bitters over the top
Garnish with a bit of the broiled grapefruit and a colorful straw

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wines for the Superbowl

By Liza B. Zimmerman

While I have done complex wine tastings during the Superbowl with some geeky friends, most people would prefer easy-drinking wines that crowd pleasers. And no you don’t have to have beer when you watch the game, particularly if it is one of those generic light brands.

Approachable wines generally have intense fruit profiles and aren’t too tannic. This is not the time to breakout those ten-year-old Cabernet Sauvignons to see if they have mellowed. This is a good excuse to drink fruit chewy wines like Zinfandel and food-friendly Pinot Noirs. What is more both go well with hamburgers, hot dogs and party food like piles of nachos and guacamole. 


The Ramsay “North Coast,” Pinot Noir 2009 has that fruit-laden palate. For a spurge the Freeman winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010 is going to have all that wild, rich intensity that Sonoma Coast fruit tends to bring to the game. While I love Red Burgundy and Oregon Pinot, I would save them for another day. Sobon Estate “Hillside” Amador Country Zinfandel 2011 from the Foothills is a crowd pleaser and a bargain at $12.99. It was one of our go-to wines when I taught at the now-defunct Copia wine school and museum in Napa. 

Carménère, which hails from Bordeaux and is grown in Chile, also has a lively, juicy profile that can stand up to fun and indulgent game day foods. Your white wine fans may want to feast on a cheese spread (don’t forget the Marcona almonds and membrillo: quince paste). Slightly off-dry white are always great with almost anything but the most intense and super-stinky cheese. The Aresti “Estate Selection” Gewurztraminer 2012 might be a good choice, given its stone fruit flavors. Pinot Gris, such as Maculan “Pino & Toi” 2012 would also be good choices. 

One for the Home Team (s)
Since my hometeam (the 49ers) didn’t make the cut, I will spare you the California wine suggestions. If you are a Seahawks fan, there’s plenty of good stuff to drink to support your home state. Syrah is one of Walla Walla’s best grapes and the fruit and herbal flavors of the Tertulia Cellars “Redd Brand,” Syrah 2009 is a good example. Seven Hills Riesling 2008, from the Columbia Valley would also be great with cheese and to start the day off. 

If you are a Broncos fan, your state does produce wine (although it is perhaps justifiably better known for its beer). Many of them are clustered around the Denver area. According to the Colorado Wine, the state is home to more than 100 wineries, most of them small and family owned. However few of them are available outside of the state. Large stores, such as Applejack Wine & Spirits, would be good places to look for them (or call the wineries directly and see if they can ship to your homestate).

Last but not least, let’s give it up for New Jersey, where the game will take place. This state is not known as fine wine production center but there are a handful of good producers. It was rumored that former President Nixon only drank wines from New Jersey, although no one has been able to confirm it. I had some really lovely Reislings from Alba vineyard. They were one of the many producers pouring wine at the Reisling Rendevous hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle in and around Seattle last year. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others. 

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM. 

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Iberian Stunners

By Liza B. Zimmerman 

Many of us have long been tongue-tied trying to pronounce the great red grape varietals that go into Port: try saying Touriga Francesa five times fast. However, most of us never needed to since they were always blended in Port. These days Portugal’s Douro Valley is beginning to produce some stunning, dry red wines from these grapes and some of them are made from single varietals.

When I worked for an importer in Seattle almost a decade ago, most consumers were too afraid to try these amazing wines. I bet it was a combination of not knowing where they were produced, and their glorious history, and not quite knowing how to ask for them. When we bottled a single-varietal Syrah from the same producer, and put “SYRAH” on the label in big letters, it flew off the shelves. And suddenly, previously timid Seattleites started buying lots of dry, beautiful reds from the Douro. 

A decade ago these wines were less expensive than today, but many are still great values. The main red varietals in Port are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (which is Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. Few besides Touriga Nacional are found on their own. The great producers are mostly still making them as field blends, just like Ports, and will laugh at you if you ask them to break down the percentages of different grapes that they contain. The two wines on the list at DrinkUpNY from the region are both blends and priced between $8.99 for the Doural Red and $11.99 for the Esteva. Both of these, like many from the region, also tend be very balanced and relatively low-alcohol for hot climate reds, coming in at 12.5 to 13 percent alcohol by volume. 

The Dão region, in north-central Portugal is another area to watch that is producing some good-value, well-priced wines from some of these grapes. And the great winemaker Luis Pato is producing some beautiful wines from the Baga grape in the Bairrada region, which is famous for its pork. 

The Grapes in Spain
Spain has gotten the bulk of the attention in the Iberian varietals game. Many of the country’s distinguished reds are made from the beloved Tempranillo grape. Spain’s wines have also been more widely exported and they have been brilliant marketers.

Rioja has long been home to classic Old World and now evolving red styles. Wines, such as La Rioja Alta "Vina Ardanza" Reserva 2004, made from Tempranillo with a touch of Grenache to soften the mix will age for some time and is still  a relative bargain. Trendy regions like the Priorat are also making some stunning, intense reds. Alvaro Palacios is one of the regions iconic winemakers and his "Camins del Priorat" Priorat 2012  and  "Les Terrasses" Priorat 2009 will stand up to intense flavors and big foods. 

The Navarra region, often known for its charming and affordable rosés, is also making some lovely Tempranillo-based reds at great price points. Bodega Inurrieta “Sur” 2006 is a luscious and accessible wine and a great bargain for $12.99. I have tasted through all this producer’s varietals at a wine show in Germany and one is better than another. I promise. 

California is also making some stunning wines from these varietals and the Tempranillo Wine Producers and Amigos Society has been hosting a great tasting featuring them in San Francisco for several years. The bulk of producers are from California, with a sprinkling or Oregon and Washington thrown in. Some of my favorites are Pierce Vineyards. I adore their Cosecheiro which is a blend based on Tempranillo. Another favorite is Bokisch’s Touriga Nacional, a well-balanced stunner from the up-and-coming region of Lodi. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others. 

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM. 

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

There’s More than Beer that Goes with Ethnic Food


By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have never agreed with the presumption that non-Western/non-Mediterranean food was intended to only go with beer. While I love a great pint it is not an excuse for overlooking a great wine pairing. As more elegant and expensive Chinese and Indian restaurants open—such as Hakkasan in NY and SF and Dosa in SF—we see lots of great wines that go with the foods being offered on their lists.

Don’t miss the chance to mix up some of your own great pairings at home when you order out. There are just a few simple rules, long-demonstrated by beer’s popularity with these foods, to follow. Beer is cool, refreshing and cuts and balances all types of spice—from hot peppers to smoky sumac—found in many non-Western cuisines.

You will want to use the same principals in pairing a wine. White, cool, fresh and aromatic come to mind. A hint of sweetness—akin to hoppiness—works beautifully with spice and complex, layered flavors. Many of us have long presumed that reds are easier to pair with foods, from earthy flavors to intense, palate-coating cheeses. Actually whites more often stand up to the task. I just finished writing a wine and cheese pairing guide for an importer and all the food writers on my tasting panel struggled with many more of the reds than the whites in terms of finding good cheese pairings. 

Here are a few good rules for pairing chile-, curry- or other spice-laden dishes with wine:
1) Go white when you can, it will be cool and refreshing like beer
2) Try aromatic white varietals—Rieslings, Marsanne, Roussane—they have the complexity to stand up to these dishes
3) Avoid oaky whites, the sensation of chawing on wood will numb your palate for subtle flavors
4) Experiment with wines with higher acidity than you may normally enjoy: it will cut through intense and fatty flavors and cleanse the palate
5) Go lightly on the salt, as too much of it will make your wine seem watery
6) Make sugar your friend, off-dry Rieslings, such as many from Germany will be divine with spicy food
7) Support the home team: many North African and Middle Eastern countries produce great wines. Try a Turkish, Jordanian or Lebanese wine with foods from the country. We have long said “What grows together goes together.” And China and India are both ramping up for pretty serious wine production. 
8) Don’t be afraid of grape varietals you can’t pronounce or haven’t heard of: consider it an adventure.
9) If you choose a red, think cool-climate wines with more acidity and less alcohol, overly ripe wines will taste like candy with many of these cuisines and won’t complement the layers of flavors. 
10) Embrace the bubbles: sparkling wines are divine with sultry, layered flavors. Champagne is a classic, but France makes great sparklers in many other regions, as does California and Northern Italy. 

A couple of great pairings from DrinkUpNY’s selection might include:
Altanuta Pinot Grigio 2012 (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy): it is dry and has great citrus notes
Cantine Terranera Falanghina 2011 (Campania, Italy): this grape is one of the great discoveries from the region outside of Naples; it is dry, floral and divine
Jean-Maurice Raffault "Les Galluches" Chinon 2011: if you want a red, the dusty and herbal flavors of Chinon pair well with so many types of food (yes, in a beautiful way)
Gosset Brut "Excellence" NV (Champagne, France): bring on the bubbles, sparkling wines—from France and domestic—open the palate and pair beautifully with spicy food 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others. 
Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM. 
She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vermouth: Your recovery drink after eating heavy food over the holidays

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

You’ve supped and you’ve sated over the holidays and you’re feeling rather full.  Why not look to history and learn a bit from our ancestors.  How did they recover after eating heavy food?  And what did they do to stimulate their appetite if they were feeling less then enthusiastic about food and drink?  

The answer my friends is Vermouth.  Vermouth is a wine based product that  is delightful as both aperitif and digestive after a good meal.  Let’s first look to history.   Vermouth historically was used for all manners of illnesses and afflictions.  It was originally used to repel fleas and ticks from the scalp though the use aromatic herbs.  

Vermouth is an aromatized wine.  This means the wine has been infused with botanicals, herbs and spices. Some of these botanicals include wormwood.  Vermouth may have been called wormwood wine at one time.  There are many different historically relevant brands of Vermouth that exist to the present day.  

Here are a few sold at DrinkUpNY that I love with some tasting notes.

Carpano Antica.   With a mouth coating flavor profile of dewy stone fruits plucked fresh from the tree dipped in raw honey with deeper aromatics of mountain herbs and spices enrobed in sweet chocolate, Carpano is my favorite of the Euro-Centric Vermouths.  It is especially delicious served over one cube of hand cut ice with a lemon zest.  In one word, sophisticated.   I saw it all over Italy.  

Punt e Mes.  Dripping with sweet and bitter flavors, this venerable brand of Vermouth is
perfectly at home with a splash of grapefruit soda or if you must, with your choice of Gin and Campari.  Punt e Mes is resplendent and lush alone in a snifter, yet vivacious with nothing more than a splash of seltzer.  I like to take a chunk of charred orange and muddle this into the base of a rocks glass for spark.

Dolin, both the white and the dark are masterful with nothing more than a crumbled sage leaf and a lemon zest in a glass.  Starkly aromatic and dry as a bone- in the white version- and restrained, yet lively and pure in the red, Dolin is charming Vermouth.  She calls out for a smile, a nod and a wink from the other bottles on the shelf.  Dolin is striking and wears her age well.  Dolin drinks like your cool aunt who smoked her own hand rolled cigarettes. 

Boissiere Extra Dry Vermouth comprised of a blend of herbs and bitter orange is marvelous as an aperitif to compliment food.  I love to prepare a composed salad of orange segments, basil, feta cheese and radicchio tossed with vinaigrette of tarragon vinegar and bold and spicy, Spanish olive oil. The Boissiere Extra Dry Vermouth is magnificent served simply with a few splashes of seltzer water and a long peel of lemon with your salad.  Delicious! 

Vermouth was originally used as a hair tonic to repel pesky fleas.  It’s nice to know it evolved from a tonic first to be administered only topically to one that is more comfortable to the drinker, when imbibed internally! 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.



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