Archive | September, 2011

Quick hit: Mexican Petite Sirah (yeah, really)

25 Sep
casino wine list Mohegan Sun

Photographic proof, in case you didn't believe me

Mexico doesn’t export a lot of their wine–and it’s not like Sicily that specializes in crazy obscure grapes. Nope, they’re growing lots of known names like Chardonnay, Tempranillo (that’s for you Rioja-heads) and Italian hits like Barbera and Nebbiolo. And here’s another shocker: they make even more of it than Canada does, although most of it’s to make brandy. A lot of it is produced in Baja California, since there’s high elevation and it’s close to those cooling Pacific breezes to keep the grapes from getting more baked than the Ei Felta Thi fraternity on spring break.

L.A. Cetto Wines from Guadalupe is one of Mexico’s leading wineries. Their Petite Sirah was full of red strawberry/cherry flavors, which was interesting since the grape when grown in more traditional areas has more inky blue and black berry flavors. The L.A. Cetto version definitely had a sharp acidity to it that Petite Syrah tends to have.

It would probably make an okay sangria, though you’d have to hold back a little on the hard alcohol you used in order not to overcome the wine. Not particularly complex, but it was drinkable enough and definitely showed a lot of its rustic peasant Italian heritage.

Mohegan Sun Sol Toro restaurant, $8 by the glass


Booze review: High West 36th Vote

12 Sep

Bottled Manhattans

Bottles like this used to sell snake oil.

So the Gin Savant and I were browsing the wares of one of our fave booze pimps when the proprietor pulled us aside excitedly to show us the limited number of bottles of High West’s 36th Vote bottled Manhattans in stock. The name comes from the deciding vote to end Prohibition cast by–wait for it–Utah. Yeah. Osmondromneyville*. Go figure.

Here’s the basic gist of bottled or casked cocktails. You take all the ingredients of a cocktail–in this case, vermouth, whiskey and bitters–throw them in a cask, let it age, bottle it, and voila, sell it to the market for an exorbitant price: $55. Yeah, you read that right.

Proponents of this fad say it creates a maturing effect like wine: things mellow out like a fine Bordeaux. It’s easy to sip, more refined, and some other blather that I’m not buying. Yeah, well, Bordeaux often comes out of the cask kicking and screaming in all its tannic glory, and it’s the bottle-aging that calms it down.

Mnahattans are not supposed to go down your gullet as smooth as Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C. You are not supposed to chug them. It’s supposed to be a melange of flavors and intensities. It’s supposed to go down harsh and bitter on you, like a bored housewife in a Cheever story giving a blowjob with teeth as the protagonist ruminates on the existential hell of the suburbs and wishes he were Joe DiMaggio or something. There was no edge to this. There was nothing grabbing us, because this thing was too smooth and bland. All the elements tasted the same. Like liquid wood. And what, I ask, is the point of that?

We ended up throwing in more bitters, three-week-old past-its-prime red vermouth, and a shot of some other whiskey to make it taste better. If you need training wheels on your cocktails, this stuff is for you.

But for $55–yep, you still read that right–you can damn well buy your own Old Overholt ($12), Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth ($6), bitters of choice ($18) and maraschino cherries ($4 at the packie) to make big-boy-and-girl Manhattans and still have a crap ton of money left over, unless you are a total cocktail prick connoisseur and get Luxardo maraschino cherries. The only thing you don’t get is the awesome old-school apothecary bottle, which was the only thing we saved. The Gin Savant’s got it in his head to make bathtub gin and he wants something pretty to put it in.
*I’m going to digress a sec. Utah and booze: let me tell you a story–10+ years ago, I drove cross-country with an acquaintance moving to San Francisco. We stopped for the evening in Wendover, which is this casino town split on the Nevada/Utah border. My friend and I were toodling around the casino and she wanted a picture of herself pretending to play the twenty-five foot tall slot machine. Before the flash even faded away, we were set upon by a fat goon squad. Long epic shitstorm story short, we got questioned and carded and questioned some more before they let us go, film still intact. Why? Because the Mormon faithful don’t want to be photographed drinking and, Moroni forbid, gambling. They get kinda touchy that way.

Summer, where’d ya go?

7 Sep

From the lawn of the Safari Room. Wine tasting: it's a jungle

Unlike my beloved Gin Savant, I’ve never been one of those who bemoan the Labor Day weekend as the end of the best time of the year. But the older I get, the more cranky I’ve become when September rolls around once more, depositing college brats and BC tailgaters on my front doorstep like a cat puking up a hairball that’s been intestinally festering for eight months. There’s more rain and traffic on my commute this week, and more assholes cutting me off, all curiously with Rhode Island license plates. Anyhow, in the spirit of good karma and genial expansiveness, here are a couple of pics from the better, more productive of my two trips to the foreskin of New England in the last two months.

The showstoppers of the Boston Sommelier Society's Newport outing

In case you don’t want to click on the photo to enlarge, you’re looking at three of my best memories of the summer:
Clos de la Coulee de Serrant
Chateau Pontet-Canet 1988
Alter Ego de Chateau Palmer 2002

Sigh. What was your best memory from a bottle this summer?