Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Four Fabulous Midwestern Reds

By Joy Neighbors

When you think of “wine country” in the U.S. California immediately comes to mind followed by one or all of the following - Washington State, Oregon and New York. Unfortunately, it takes a while for wine aficionados to remember that the Midwest is another great wine destination.

This region might garner more respect if wine drinkers knew something about the grapes that grow here, what the resulting wines are similar to and a flavor profile.

So with that in mind, here are four Midwestern red wines that are sure to make a delicious impact on your taste buds paired with fall's hearty foods.

Chancellor Grapes/Wine        
This is a hybrid red-wine grape originally developed in France in the mid-1800s, but the French did not utilize the grape and Chancellor found a new home in the U.S.

In the 1970s, New York State renamed the grape Chancellor and it became popular in the East and Midwestern wine regions because it's cold hardy and very prolific. The states that produce the most Chancellor grapes include New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska.

This wine is crafted like a Cabernet with an earthy flavor profile and hints of berries. Chambourcin ages well and pairs nicely with a steak or a hearty beef stew. Prices can range from $10 to $50 per bottle.

Norton Grapes/Wine
This grape was first cultivated in Virginia in the 1820s by Dr. Daniel Norton. It is the oldest native grape in the U.S. (Sorry, Zinfandel lovers.) In the mid-1800s, the grape was taken by settlers to Missouri where it acclimated well to the Midwestern climate including cold winter temperatures; the grape is also resistant to mildew and rot, making it a “perfect wine grape” for the Midwest. Norton’s popularity grew through the early 20th century until Prohibition was enacted in 1920. Once alcohol was illegal, vines were pulled up and it wasn’t until 1989 that the grape caught on again, fittingly enough, back in Virginia.

Riedel Norton Glass
Today, world-class Norton wines are crafted around the U.S., especially in Missouri where it has been designated at the state grape. (The Norton grape is also known as Cynthiana.) Norton wines are so popular in the Eastern and Midwestern sections of the country that Riedel has created a Norton wine glass.

Norton wine is similar to a Merlot or Cabernet. The grapes are thick-skinned with fruity flavors and hints of vanilla. Norton goes well with rich red meats, game and spicy foods.

Maréchal Foch
This hybrid French grape was developed in 1910 by Eugene Kuhlmann. It was named after WW1 French General Marshall Ferdinand Foch and arrived in the U.S. in 1946.

Foch produces early yields and can withstand cold temperatures - two pluses for Midwestern growth. It is, however, vulnerable to mildew. It grows well in Canada, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Oregon. This is another Midwestern wine that ages well and is similar in style to a Pinot Noir.

The flavor profile leans toward jammy, berry flavors, with a touch of spice and earthy, almost smoky undertone – pleasant, not foxy. Foch goes well with roasted chicken or venison.

Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape that is versatile enough to be crafted like a big-styled Rhone, a full-bodied Burgundy or as a soft red table wine. The origins of the grape are unknown, but it has only been available since 1963.

The grape is very popular in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and southern Illinois. Prominent fruit flavors can include cherry, berry, currents and plums. There's a spicy element of cinnamon, pepper or cloves with aromas of tobacco, leather and smoke.

Chambourcin is food-friendly. A heavy-styled wine pairs well with beef, pizza and barbecue. A lighter-styled Chambourcin goes nicely with lighter pasta dishes or ham.

Next week, a look at some outstanding Midwestern white wines to sip and savor this autumn.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Join In the Month-Long Celebration of Our Native Spirit

By Joy Neighbors

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Known as America’s “Native Spirit,” Bourbon has an extensive history in the U.S., especially in Kentucky.

Elijah Craig
While Bourbon can be made anywhere, Kentucky holds claim as its birthplace. It is said that Baptist minister Elijah Craig first aged whiskey in a charred oak barrel imparting that reddish hue and distinctive taste that is the mark of a fine Kentucky Bourbon.

White Oak Barrels
Bourbon’s taste appeal comes from the amount of time it spends aging in charred white oak barrels extracting those perfect flavors of caramel, wood, nuts, spice and smoke – the taste profile of a fine Bourbon. And that caramel color is the real thing. Unlike Scotch, Bourbon is bottled the way it comes out of the barrel – in all its amber tones and rich flavors.

Just as Portugal is the only country that can call a dessert wine Port, and only Spain can craft a Sherry; only the United States can produce Bourbon Whiskey, thanks to an act of Congress in 1964. In 2007, the U.S. Senate passed the resolution decreeing September as National Bourbon Heritage Month, and so we celebrate.

In honor of the beverage, a weeklong celebration known as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is held each autumn in Bardstown, Kentucky – “Bourbon Capital of the World.” This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the festival, which will be held from September 12- 18.

Take time this month to hoist a glass of Kentucky Bourbon and celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month in style with our only designated “Native Spirit!” 


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wine Review: Sterling Vineyards

By Joy Neighbors

Sterling Vineyards
Rising 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, California, Sterling Vineyards offers guests panoramic views of Napa Valley. Peter Newton, a British international paper broker, founded the company in 1964 after purchasing a 50-acre vineyard. Newton decided to increase the vineyard’s production from Cabernet grapes to also include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the area’s first significant planting of Merlot.

Four years later Sterling Vineyards released the first California vintage-dated Merlot. By 1972, a new winery had been opened and featured a salon-style tasting room with an aerial tram to take visitors from the parking lot to the tasting room at the top of a hill.

Then, as today, when guests arrive they are given a glass of wine and allowed to stroll through art galleries and elevated walkways, winding their way through visual displays that tell the story of the Sterling winemaking process from grape to glass.

Sterling Vineyards released their first Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay and Merlot in 2000. Today, nine varietals make up the Vintner’s Collection, which sells a million cases annually. A few years ago, Sterling began crafting “Reserved" wines and has established a dedicated winery for that production.

2014 Chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve
The Chardonnay is barrel-fermented for 12 months resulting in its oaky aromas and crisp mouthfeel. The pallet is composed of melon, pineapple and citrus with a rich hint of spiciness on the finish. This full-bodied wine is wonderful with grilled chicken and seafood. Retails at $14 a bottle.

2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Cabernet grapes are hand-sorted before undergoing barrel fermentation of 12 to 24 months in the wine caves. Cerise and pepper on the nose lingers with hints of cedar before the flavors of plum, berry and cherry deliver a full pallet surprise. And a touch of chocolate tantalizes at the finish. With its rich texture and supple body, this is one Cab that delivers all it promises. Excellent with roast pork; also serve with grilled meats and hearty autumn dishes. Retails at $32.00 a bottle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Experience an Olive Oil Tasting

By Joy Neighbors

Wine drinkers love tastings! They are the perfect opportunity to sample a few different wines, experience the flavors, and decide what you like. But have you ever experienced an olive oil tasting?

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in cooking. Today olive oil has garnered a lot of press due to its health benefits. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil increases good cholesterol (HDL), aids internal digestion, slows cerebral aging, and prevents heart disease.

And just like with wine, there are several factors to consider when selecting an olive oil: the type, the color, and the tasting profile, which will help you discover some new favorites.

Types of Olive Oil

Virgin – This oil is extracted directly from the fruit and has not been refined.

Extra-Virgin – The oil is extracted using only cold pressure, known as cold pressing. With less than 1% acid, it's derived from the first pressing for the freshest, fruitiest flavor of any olive oil.

Fino – A blend of virgin and extra-virgin olive oils.

Light – This term refers to the color not calories, and has been filtered to remove any sediment.

Pure – A blend of refined virgin and extra-virgin oils.

Any oil bearing the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) logo is certified to be the grade promised.

Flavor Profile
Olive oil falls into two different tasting profiles – grassy and floral.

Grassy – Look for the vegetal flavors of artichoke, cucumber, tomato, fresh grass, or green apples. (Think Granny Smith.)

Floral – This type of oil provides a sweet smooth light flavor similar to almond milk. Fruity flavors include pear, pineapple, citrus, almond, and hazelnut.

Red or White
When compared with wine, a grassy olive oil is more like a young red wine with bright flavors - a bit immature but still charming.

A floral olive oil compares to a mature white wine (think Riesling),
with a light flowery flavor.

How To Taste Olive Oil
There are the five tasting steps, just like with wine.
(And it is suggested to taste a true extra virgin olive oil (EVOO.)

1) Pour a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass.

2) Swirl the oil like you would wine, but place your palm over the glass to contain the aromas.

3) Sniff those aromas! Just like wine, olive oil has a “nose.” These are the most prevalent notes that help you detect the oil's flavor characteristics. (Yes diehards, there is also an olive oil tasting wheel!)

4) Sip the same way you taste wine by taking in a small amount of air and mixing with the oil.

5) Swallow; the oil should have a smooth finish and a tingling sensation in the back of your throat, thanks to the polyphenols (antioxidants) in the oil.

Now head to your local olive oil shop (if you’re so lucky to have one), visit a specialty/gourmet food store, or go online and select a variety of olive oils to begin your exploration.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Drinking With Democrats

It’s Week 2 of the political conventions, which makes this the perfect time to take a look at the Democrats and their imbibing commanders-in-chief.

“Drinking with Democrats” author Mark Will-Weber has concocted a read that’s funny and refreshing, giving you insight into those Democratic Party Animals and their choice of liberal libations.

While not all presidents fit easily into the Democratic ranks, thanks to parties that are now defunct, Will-Weber does an excellent job aligning those who were known as Democratic Republicans (Not a typo.) into the party base while providing liberal pours of politically incorrect history on the  Dems, behind-the-scenes at the White House.

You’ll discover interesting Democratic POTUS drinking facts like:

Thomas Jefferson
Which Democratic presidents utilized liquor to buy votes?

What president could always be counted on to retell his squirrel whiskey tale?

Who was the founding father of wine?

What POTUS enjoyed beers in Ireland and impressed the natives with his ability to drink Irish beer?

Who had a fondness for Bourbon? (Lots of Bourbon.)

And what Commander-in-Chief preferred beer to any other beverage?

Mark Will-Weber
Mark Will-Weber, a seasoned journalist and magazine editor, offers an amusing, tongue-in-cheek look at past Democratic presidents and their drinking habits including favorite beverages, drink recipes and bar tips poured out with a twist of humorous antidotes. 

So pour your favorite libation, turn on the tube and tipple along with the Democrats as you peruse this book. You might find you’re mighty impressed with that drink!

~ Joy

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Drinking With Republicans

Ah, the political conventions are upon us. In view of this election year (and whichever party you’re supporting), a drink (or three) may be necessary to get through these next couple of weeks.

The GOP is currently holding the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, so this could be the perfect time to take a break from all the “He said, She said” and just settle down with a libation and an amazingly fun read that deals with past presidents, their intake, and their outtakes, on alcohol. 

Mark Will Weber
Drinking With Republicans, by Mark Will-Weber, provides great historical insights into the Grand Old Party's presidents and their libations of choice. Will-Weber, a seasoned journalist and magazine editor, offers an amusing, tongue-in-cheek look at past Republican presidents and their drinking habits including favorite beverages, drink recipes and bar tips poured out with a twist of humorous antidotes.You'll discover entertaining Republican POTUS drinking facts like:

What president was the father of modern Bourbon Whiskey?

What president violated Prohibition?

Which POTUS enjoyed drinking with his staff?

Which presidents lubricated foreign affair proceedings with a few drinks?

And what Commander-in-Chiefs switched out the expensive liquor for run-of-the-mill once the party got started? (Yes, there's more than one.)

And what about those presidents who don't fit easily into the Republican or Democratic ranks, thanks to parties that are now defunct? (George Washington, John Adams, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Milford Filmore, to be precise.) Will-Weber does an excellent job aligning those Whigs, Independents and Federalists into the Republican party base, all the while providing politically incorrect history on these conservatives and their behind-the-scenes incidents at the White House.

The national political conventions happen only once every four years, so go ahead, mix up your favorite drink, grab the television remote (you political diehards), and settle down to reading Drinking With Republicans while watching the GOP Convention. You may decide to have another drink and just leave the sound down … This book is entertaining enough!

(Fair play: Next week, it’s the Democrats turn at the bar.)

~ Joy