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  • Introducing theCompass Craft Beverage Finder Mobile Application

    Posted: 2017-02-22 07:49
    theCompass Android theCompass iPhone theCompass Amazon


    theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator app has been re-branded the theCompass Craft Beverage Finder mobile application. The new name encapsulates the expanding craft beverage market from the major three industries (wine, beer, spirits) by including hard cider, mead, and sake.  This re-branding also includes a new website displaying the general functionality of the application. theCompass is available in AndroidiPhone, and now Amazon Fire tablets ($.99 on each). The re-branding effort in the iPhone will not be released until later this year as it incorporates the latest iOS upgrades.

    theCompass includes information on craft beverage producers in the United States and Canada. These establishments can be mapped using a radius search of the device’s location or by the establishment name, city, or zipcode. Users can also browse establishments by state for the United States or by province for Canada. All results can be filtered by industry type (winery, brewery, distillery, or cidery). On the Android application mead producers are displayed in the counts by country and sake producers are included with the wineries.


    The Android version now supports separate interfaces for tablets and other large screen devices as seen in the image on the right. The establishment details view provides a section to view the current and projected weather at that location - necessary information when planning a trip to wine country.
  • Cusumano Nero d'Avola, Pizza, and Sarah Jarosz's Undercurrent

    Posted: 2017-02-21 07:44
    This month I received a unique sampling package of the 2014 Cusumano Nero d'Avola ($15) packaged with a pizza making kit. The obvious message is that this Italian red wine from Sicily pairs well with America's favorite food. The Cusumano Winery is operated by brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano with the vineyards for the Nero d'Avola located in the dry and hot climate of southern Sicily - the grape's historic homeland

    The Cusumano Nero d'Avola is a palate pleaser with it's strength due to its relative simplicity. You will not be overwhelmed from any one characteristic; instead the simple and straightforward nature of the wine works wonderfully. The nose is fresh and jammy, the palate red fruit and leather with light texture, and the tail comes across with light and tannins. And the wine's relatively high acidity provides the bond to pizza - cutting through the cheese and tomato. Here's W. Blake Gray explaining why at WineFix.

    Sarah Jarosz had a big last week when her fourth album, Undercurrent, was awarded the 2017 Grammy for Best Folk Album. (Jarosz was awarded a second Grammy for Best American Roots Performance as well.) I immediately downloaded the album and soon realized that, like the wine, the strength of this release is also in it's simplicity. Most of the song's are simply Jarosz and her guitar, showcasing her sweet vocals and picking skills. When the electric guitar appears, it is present, but not overwhelming. My favorite tracks are House Of Mercy with Jedd Hughes, Everything To Hide, and Still Life with I'm With Her band mates Aoife O'Donovan and Sara Watkins providing exceptional harmonies. All songs worthy of a Grammy. Cheers.
  • Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw and Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey

    Posted: 2017-02-22 11:07
    I've been following folkster Otis Gibbs since hearing The Darker Side of Me - a song I was convinced was done by Johnny Cash. This year Gibbs released his seventh album, Mount Renraw, which includes similarly meaningful songs - simply performed but complex in thought. The mid section is the strength of this album starting with Sputnik Monroe - another Johnny Cash style ballad. This song tells the story of wrestler Roscoe Monroe Brumbaugh who single handily desegregated sporting events in Memphis. One night he refused to wrestle unless the black patrons could sit anywhere and not just in the balcony.  Empire Hole honors all working fathers  and contains the enshrining line:  "there's a graveyard my Daddy now calls home". The song also references how Gibss' native Indiana was the source for the limestone used to build the Empire State Building (Indiana limestone is the nation's stone as it was also used in building the Pentagon, Washington National Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, the Biltmore Estate, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Ellis Island -- among many other notable structures). The album continues with Blues for Diablo and its haunting fiddle and 800 Miles with the soothing fiddle and simple guitar.


    I paired Mount Renraw with the Maryland produced Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey ($40) - a working man's whiskey despite the fact that the distillery is owned by Maryland native and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. Eventually the rye will be sourced from Plank's Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland and distilled in Baltimore but for now they are bottling from the infamous MGP of Indiana located in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The 4 year aged whiskey is a blend of "two rye recipes (one that is high rye-based and another that is low rye-based)" and is cut to 83 percent using Indiana limestone rich water. The nose is noticeably spicy and caramel which carries over into the middle mouth where it remains through the smooth finish.  A very nice pairing of music and rye whiskey.

    Update: The post was revised to state that the Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey is aged 4 years instead of 2 years.
  • Cris Jacobs - Dust to Gold with Heavy Seas 21 Anniversary Ale

    Posted: 2017-02-21 07:55
    Many of you may be familiar with Chris Jacobs as the front-man for the jam band The Bridge. However, since that band went on hiatus five years ago, Jacobs has segued into a successful solo career as showcased by his latest release Dust to Gold. Although the album was released a few months ago, I revisited it while consuming the Heavy Seas Brewing 21 Anniversary Ale. This is a high octane (10.5% abv) Imperial Rye ESB which was aged 60 days in  used Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey barrels. The result is an incredibly smooth beer, malty but balanced and the heat dissipates with a slightly spicy finish.

    Dust To Gold is also mellow and spicy containing a mixture of soul, gospel, and acoustic and electric blues punctuated with Jacob's "whiskey soaked vocals". I enjoyed all the tracks but pay special attention to Kind Women, Hallelujah Hustler, Cold Carolina, and Leaving Charm City. Cheers to Baltimore's string music and beer scene.

Featured Visit

Martin Ray Winery; Santa Rosa, California - Tuesday, July 01, 2008
We started our first day in Sonoma overwhelmed, staring at the Russian River Valley winery brochure and its listing of over 100 wineries. We eliminated the wineries which were open by appointment only - but still had quite a few to choose from. We decided to start at the closest open winery to our hotel in Sebastopol: Martin Ray Winery. The winery is historically significant because it is the oldest winery in continuous operation in Sonoma County and one of the oldest wineries in California. The winery started in 1881 as the Twin Fir Winery, then changed ownership to the Martini family and operated as Martini & Prati from 1902. The winery remained operational during prohibition by shipping sacramental wine to New York. For during prohibition it was not illegal to drink wine, only to produce wine with a certain alcoholic content. And religious organizations received waivers. Thus Rabbis in New York would receive an allotment of sacramental wine and deliver it door to door for the sabbath. Sneaky. But it helped the winery continue operations. Five generations of Martinis ran the facility until Courtney Benham acquired the winery in July 2003 and renamed it Martin Ray Winery.

Martin Ray is also interesting because they obtain grapes from other vineyards even though there are hundreds of acres of vineyards surrounding the property. These vines are leased to other wineries. Instead the winery produces three series of wines from different appellations throughout California. On our visit, we stuck with predominately the Martin Ray and reserve series. For the white wines we tried the Mendocino County Pinot Gris, Angeline Winery Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and Russian River Valley Chardonnay. The Sauvignon Blanc was excellent with a citrus flavor from beginning to end. And priced at $14, this wine has great value. The Chardonnay was our favorite white, slightly creamy with vanilla flavors that doesn't overwhelm the fruit. For reds, we tried their regular offerings, which were good (Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir), but they quickly took a back seat to the reserve tasting. These wines were awesome, particularly the Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. The Stags Leap District and Santa Cruz Mountains Cabs were also extraordinary. When visiting Martin Ray, the additional $5 for this reserve tasting is well worth the cost. In Napa, you'll be paying 5 times that for equivalent wines.

During this tour we are also noting how friendly the wineries are towards adults visiting with children. And Martin Ray was more than friendly. A tasting room representative came out and played with our son and his blocks. This allowed us to taste without constantly looking over our shoulder. Thank you. On all accounts Martin Ray Winery was a perfect start to the day.

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