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  • Visiting a Trio of Winston-Salem Craft Breweries

    Posted: 2019-10-22 08:54
    Over a decade ago, Foothills Brewing launched the Winston-Salem craft beer scene with a solid core lineup including People's Porter, Torch Pilsner, and Hoppyum IPA. The brewery is still a major player today with three locations and abundant seasonals and limited releases. They have also been joined by eight fellow breweries including three we recently visited: Wise Man Brewing, Fiddlin' Fish Brewing Company, and Small Batch Brewing.

    Wise Man Brewing opened a few years ago after renovating a vacant 90-year old structure where they offer a large portfolio of craft beer in multiple styles.  Each staff member is a certified cicerone so be prepared for an excellent experience as they explain or suggest appropriate beers.  I chose a sampler consisting of the Liquid Measure w/ Blueberry, Peach, & Raspberry IPA; Circumstances of Collision Sour IPA; Thousand Chords Grisette; and Bound To Get Down Brett Pale Ale.   The first two were loaded with fruit, creamy berries for the first and blood oranges, pomegranates, and tangerines. Fantastic.  The second two were funkier with spices in the Grisette and tart fruit in the second. Fortunately, a staff member suggested the Krankies Shape Shifter Blonde Ale, an interesting beer where green coffee beans were aged in red wine barrels then returned to Krankies to be roasted.  The coffee beans elevate the otherwise soft ale with a concentrated aroma and long finish. A crowler, please.

    Fiddlin' Fish Brewing Company reflects the lifestyle of the Blue Ridge Mountains: hiking, fishing and enjoying great music. The brewery is located on historic Trade Street near the downtown Arts District and provides a spacious environment to sample and watch the Nationals in the World Series. I chose another quartet sampler starting with the Hardy Bear Helles Lager - a refreshing beer with the expected minerality. Next was the Raspberry Black Currant Sour, a tasty beer that was deliciously tart. This led to the Cherry A Tune Cherry Rye Blonde where malted rye was added to a blonde ale grain bill and dark cherries infused after fermentation. Very complex. The sampler was filled out with the Pine Barren Pale Ale, a collaboration with the North Carolina Zoo and named after the Pine Barren Tree Frog. There is a decent amount of hops creating a robust yet clean beer and portions of the proceeds benefit the zoo.  Once again a staff member suggested an additional beer, the Black Mountain Chocolate Stout where cocoa nibs from neighboring Black Mountain Chocolate is brewed into the milk stout. A delicious creamy beer.

    Small Batch Brewing was our last stop, located directly downtown and offering a full food menu, shakes, spirits, and craft beer. Here we stayed on the darker side starting with the Porter in the Rye and the Percolator Mocha Stout. Both were complex and tasty. But also check out their full range blonde to pilsner to gose to IPA.

    And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to these destinations. Cheers.
  • Michigan Wine - Reach for the Pinot, Not Just the Riesling

    Posted: 2019-10-11 22:39
    During the BevFluence Experience Denver, the Michigan Wine Collaborative (MWC) coordinated with a few wineries to provide the experience with several signature Michigan wines. Riesling was, as expected, highly represented with excellent versions ranging from dry to off-dry and characterized by minerality with bright tropic and or stone fruit notes. Many of these we covered earlier with the MWC Riesling Roundtable and Michigan #WineStudio. Examples include the 45 North 2017 Riesling, St. Julian Mountain Road 2018 Estate Riesling, St. Julian 2018 Reserve Riesling, and the St. Julian Braganini 2017 Reserve Dry Riesling.

    However, it was the Pinot wines, both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris that piqued our interest. It started at dinner the first evening with the 2018 Chateau Chantal Pinot Grigio ($15). That was followed by the next night with the 2016 Proprietors Reserve Pinot Gris ($24) from the same winery and among a larger group. The Pinot Grigio is light and minerally like its Italian namesake includng plenty of stone fruit. Great acidity as well. The Pinot Gris is more Alsatian with rich layers of apples, stone, and tropical fruit. Once again acids lift the finish and the tasting group was quite impressed.


    Eventually, attendees discovered the St. Julian 2018 Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Pinot Grigio ($9.99). And like the others, this wine was far from the pedestrian Pinot Grigio's that flood the grocery store isles. Don't let the light color fool you, there's plenty of flavors starting with apples then transitioning to tropical fruits. Nice.

    Michigan Pinot Noir was more familiar to attendees and the Chateau Chantal 2017 Proprietor's Reserve Ole Mission Penninsula Pontes Vineyard Pinot Noir ($27) got the party started. This is a rich wine, dark fruit with a velvety texture. Similarly, the 45 North 2017 Pinot Noir ($36) is equally full-bodied but with more red fruit and spices. In contrast, a nice vertical with the 45 North 2016 Pinot Noir ($36) shows a lighter wine with a strong sour cherry profile.  These wines represent the 45th parallel.

    Thanks MWC, St. Julian, Chateau Chantal, and 45 North for enhancing the BevFluence Experience Denver. Cheers.
  • Nomad Outland Whisky - Distilled in Speyside, Aged in Jerez

    Posted: 2019-10-09 13:22
    We continue our series focusing on our trip to Tio Pepe and González Byass in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain with the Nomad Outland Whisky ($49.99). This spirit is a collaboration between the González Byass Sherry Master Blender Antonio Flores and Whyte & Mackay’s Master Blender Richard Patterson.

    The spirit starts in the Scottish Highlands as a unique blend of over 30 different malt and grain whiskies from Speyside -- each 5 to 8 years old.  Typically, Speyside whiskies can be classified into two groups: light and grassy or rich and sweet. Since the resulting blend destined for Nomad is aged three years in sherry casks, the base starts rich and sweet.

    After these three years of aging, the spirit is transferred to Jerez where it spends a mínimum of 12 months in old Pedro Ximenez casks. The collaborators initially had tested this finishing in various used sherry casks including Fino and Oloroso barrels but determined the complex and textured residual from Pedro Ximenez works best.  During these 12 months, the Nomad also absorbs some native yeast providing a little funk as well as the finishing due to Jerez's unique micro-climate -- subject to changes in temperature, winds, and humidity.

    This is a beautiful whisky with multiple layers of vanilla, molasses, nuts, and dried apricots with some mango and honey. Yes, multiple layers of flavor.
  • Charles Woodson Launches Intercept - Affordable Wines from Paso & Monterey

    Posted: 2019-10-04 06:00
    Photo Credit: Lu Chau, Photagonist
    For those who didn't follow college or professional football during the late 1990s through the middle of this decade, you may have missed the extraordinary career of Charles Woodson. Primarily a defensive back, Woodson was a two-way star at the University of Michigan and in 1997, his junior year, the Wolverines won a share of the National Championship and Woodson was awarded the Heisman Trophy. He not only beat out Peyton Manning for the award, but he was the last non-running back or quarterback to receive it. I remember the famous game against Ohio State where Woodson was instrumental - returning a punt for a touchdown, intercepting a pass in the end-zone, and making a long reception that led to Michigan's only offensive touchdown of the game. In the NFL, Woodson played 18 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, a Pro-bowl player for half these seasons and winning the Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010. His NFL career ending after the 2015 season.

    Like many of his fellow professional athletes, Woodson has successfully launched a wine brand Woodson Wines soon after retiring and more recently Intercept Wines in collaboration with the country's seventh-largest winery O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. Woodson first became interested in wine while playing with the Raiders when the club's training camp was located in Napa Valley. Say's Woodson, "My love of wine happened organically while living in Napa Valley during training camp playing for the Oakland Raiders in the '90s. The way people connected with wine intrigued me and I wanted to be a part of it." The Intercept collection consists of four wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay - all priced at $18 and sourced from either Paso Robles or Monterey County. The wines are made by Amanda Gorter, the assistant winemaker at Robert Hall Winery working under the esteemed Don Brady. So right there are three positive indicators for this collection: price, appellation, and winemaking. Recently I received samples of two of these wines described below.

    2018 Paso Robles Chardonnay
    This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Adelaida and Templeton Gap Districts; these are two new sub-AVAs located within the western side of the larger Paso Robles appellation. The Templeton Gap AVA is noted for its cool days and nights due to the ocean breeze that is blown in through a gap in the Santa Lucia Range. As Paso's most western region, the Adelaida District receives the greatest influences from the Pacific Ocean with more rain and cooling breezes. These climates are best for cool-climate grapes but also grapes like Chardonnay in which enhanced acidity is desired. This acidity is what drives the Intercept Chardonnay bridging the apple and citrus fruit notes with the slight toasty notes from the barrel fermentation and sur lie aging. A fresh and balanced wine.


    2017 Monterey County Pinot Noir
    This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands (90%) and Paso Robles (10%). The Santa Lucia Highlands is a small but popular winegrowing appellation in Monterey County that is known for cultivating excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Like the western Paso regions, this region is strongly affected by maritime influences which extend the ripening season and enhance acids. The wine is medium-bodied with dusty and chalky cherries, some baking spices, and noticeable yet approachable tannins.


  • Two Hands Shiraz - Take out the Peanut Brittle

    Posted: 2019-10-02 06:44
    Two Hands Wines was established 20 years ago with the goal to produce the best Shiraz-based wines from throughout Australia. To that end, Two Hands releases ten Shiraz wines, each highlighting the specific region and vineyard in which they are grown.

    We recently received two samples, the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2018 ($33) and Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz 2018 ($33). They both share aspects of dark plum fruit, chocolate, varying levels of spice and earthiness, as well as a seamless flow to the mild tannins. Delicious. They also pair well with peanut brittle as the wine's chocolate notes erupt into the peanuts and the crunchiness adds depth to the tannins. On the other hand, chocolate bars are lost in the wine's robust flavors.

    The winery also just announced that they will implement sap flow sensor technology to manage vine health and monitor water use. This provides two benefits. First, it saves water - drastically desired in Australia. Second, the technology monitors the actual grapes and vines to determine when they actually need water - optimizing the plant's health.

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