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  • The 2016 Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards Valley View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

    Posted: 2019-02-12 06:20
    The Valley View Vineyard is a 35-acre hilltop vineyard in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley.  Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards grows several Bordeaux grape varieties on this south facing vineyard which overlooks the Santa Ynez River primarily because it is slightly warmer than in neighboring eastern and northern appellations. On the lower plots, Cabernet Sauvignon calls home whereas Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec are planted. These grapes provide the juice for their excellent 2016 Valley View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) - a 75% Cabernet Sauvignon wine filled in by these other grape varieties. Why just 75%? According to wine-maker Megan McGrath-Gates, each varietal input adds their distinctive "personalities" to the finished wine.  And after aging  21 months in 100% French oak barrels, the resulting wine provides fresh dark fruit, earthy tobacco, and a long juicy, tannic tail. A true bargain at this price point. Cheers.
  • Visit the Las Vegas Arts District & Hop Nuts Brewing

    Posted: 2019-02-09 05:00
    When visiting Las Vegas, it's usually a wise idea to leave the casinos and partake in the surrounding environment. After touring the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Red Rocks turn to the local craft beer scene. One suggestion is Hop Nuts Brewing - located in the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District. The tasting room is long and dark - providing a dive bar feel - with plenty of craft beer on tap. These included several styles of IPAs, Lagers, and Saisons. I started with small pours of the robust Bourbon Barrel Aged Omniscient Imperial Stout (10% ABV 69 IBU’s) and the smooth Harry Porter (6.8% ABV 46 IBU’s). The former was aged one year in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels and the whiskey profile dominates the chocolate coffee. On the other hand, the chocolate dominated the porter. However, my serial beverage was the Hell of a Helles (4.9% ABV 16 IBU's) a collaboration with Albertshöfer Sternbräu. This is a clean and fresh beer - spot on inviting easy and probably exceeding consumption. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to any craft beverage destination.  Cheers.
  • #WineStudio Hosts the Michigan Wine Collaborative during February

    Posted: 2019-02-06 17:26
    Those who have been following the Drink Local Wine scene know that Michigan has a thriving wine industry. To others, this may come as a complete surprise. According to Michigan Wine and theCompass Craft Beverage Finder, there are 180 winery tasting rooms operating in the Great Lakes state. These wineries produce 2.75 million gallons of wine per year from 3,050 vineyard acres which represent $5.4 billion in total economic impact. And according to the TTB, Michigan ranks 14th by state in bottled wine production.

    But a relatively new organization, the Michigan Wine Collaborative, is trying to improve that number. This non-profit collaborative has a goal to "enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers and other businesses and individuals connected to the industry...".

    And one avenue for promoting the Michigan wine industry is through the weekly twitter forum #WineStudio. On February 12th and 19th (9PM E.T.) participants will be learning and discussing wine from St. Julian Winery ‏Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Amoritas Vineyards Leelanau Peninsula AVA, L. Mawby Winery Leelanau Peninsula AVA, and Big Little Wines Leelanau Peninsula AVA.

    So why should you participate?   First, the state is dissected by the 45th Parallel -- the famed imaginary line that runs through Italy's Piedmont region; the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux in France; the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. The latter is home to the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail - perhaps the most prolific region in the state. Each wine region is unique but along the 45th Parallel vineyards receive the same angle of the sun and length of day. Second, Michigan also produces a wide range of wine styles from dry to ice wine, from viniferia, labrusca, and hybrid grapes to cherry and apple wines and cider. Like Rhone, Pinot grapes are prevalent as in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and even Pinot Meunier. Other cold climate grapes are Riesling and Gewurztraminer plus Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot (see Bordeaux reference above). Finally, you can learn how the cold climate nature of Michigan increases threats from spring freezes, winter burn, and mildew pressures from Michigan's high level of precipitation. This is amplified in tight cluster varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinots as wind flows are less likely to help dry the grapes.  See you online. Cheers.
  • Silver Spring Maryland is a Craft Beverage Destination

    Posted: 2019-01-11 10:36
    Probably because it is not incorporated, Silver Spring encompasses a large area bordered by the DC and PG County lines and extended to Burtonsville, Colesville, and Wheaton.  However the business district's heart is the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road and slowly a plethora of craft beverage establishments have opened in that vicinity.

    I recently visited a few of these including the neighboring Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park. This establishment recently moved from their Heyser Farms Colesville location where the delicious Spencerville Red apples mysteriously self- propagated. The winery first made a name for itself producing the Spencerville Red Hard Apple cider which is still a personnel favorite. The Black Twig is another single apple varietal cider but expect more traditional apple and pear cider blends. They also offer a range of wines from dry to sweet as well as local craft beer.

    Denizens Brewing Co. enjoys the honor as the first local craft beer producer in Silver Spring and since 2014 has provided a solid selection of core and seasonal beers. Their Born Bohemian Czech-style Pilsner, Southside Rye IPA, Third Party Belgian-style Tripel, and Ponch’s Porter have been staples during previous visits so this time I focused on their seasonals. This included the delicious Cool Breeze Oatmeal Stout, Animal IPA, Ill Cru Mixed Culture Strong Sour Ale, and the Lowest Lord Extra Strong Bitter. This last was an unexpected surprise - smooth but richer than those enjoyed in English pubs. Expect a larger portfolio and increased distribution as Denizens opens a new production\tasting facility in Riverdale very soon.


    Just down Georgia Avenue, Astro Lab Brewing opened just a couple months ago and the current lineup is IPA centric with a lonely Moo Milk Stout as the only alternative. This is a delicious beer, soft but packing loads of chocolate flavors. I included the S.P.F. 100 XPA Pale Ale into the IPA category and several years ago that would have been your strongest IPA. This is another well made beer joining the IPAs as approachable offerings. The Nebula Imperial Double IPA is so so smooth and the No Mates - Mosaic American IPA and No Mates - Columbus American IPA are great representation of a single hop varietal beers.


    For those seeking wine, The Urban Winery is located very close to Astro Lab and expect a new brewery, Silver Branch Brewing Company to open in the coming months. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will show you these destinations. Cheers.
  • The Chardonnay that Leverages the Chalk Hill AVA and Estate

    Posted: 2019-01-08 09:24
    The Chalk Hill Estate Winery benefits from tremendous name recognition based on the winery's outstanding reputation but also from the surrounding Chalk Hill AVA. This appellation, one of thirteen in Sonoma County, is located between the cooler Russian River appellation to the west and the warmer Alexander Valley to the northeast. The Chalk Hill AVA is slightly higher with lower soil fertility with the top soil a "distinctive layer of chalk-colored volcanic ash which inspired the name of Chalk Hill, the appellation, and the estate". Within both the AVA and Estate reside several microclimates with the lower cooler sites more suited for Chardonnay used in the Chalk Hill Estate 2016 Chardonnay ($42). The vines were planted using Vertical Viticulture techniques where the rows were planted to follow the rise of the terrain. Cover crops prevent erosion and the layout allows breezes and sun exposure which translates to acidity and ripeness. The grapes were fermented using native yeasts with frequent lees stirring and aged eleven months in 100% French oak. The result is a very balanced wine with depth and texture from stirring and noticeable butter and spices from the oak treatment. Yet, neither overwhelms the fresh fruit flavor of the Chardonnay and refreshing acidity that boosts the finish. A classic Chardonnay.

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