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The Expo Goes California

So I just finished the wine list for The California Wine Adventure that takes place on March15th. After getting so much feedback about our last events (this will be our 7th Expo event at Drury Lane), we decided to change it up a bit. And after looking over the list that we were able to compile, I’m glad we did. 550 wines from nearly every reach in California. Definitely something for everyone.


Want to compare top Napa Cabs? Caymus Special Select, Rubicon Cask Cab, La Jota Howell Mtn, Stag’s Leap Cab, Grgich Cab, and Chimney Rock SLD are just some of the highlights.


Pinot lovers wont be disappointed either. With more than 60 to choose from, you could do a comparison of just Carneros Pinots, or just Russian River Pinots, or just Sonoma Coast Pinots You get the idea.


Or maybe you’d like to know what’s new and/or different in California?


Did you know they produce Valdigue, Arneis, Barbera, Pinot Meunier, and Dolcetto? You’ll be amazed at the quality these grapes show off in their new world homes.


Whatever it is you want to try – in a huge event like this – have a strategy. Whenever I do a tasting of this magnitude, here are a few things I do to keep some focus:


1. Have an objective. Are you tasting in order to stock up? Just tasting whites? Reds? Doing a region or varietal comparison?

2. Get the book early. Some will post the event book online (like the CWA) or at least get it at the entrance and mark out the plan.

3. Go smaller to bigger. I try to do white before red, lighter bodied to fuller bodied, and dry before sweet. This progression will help the wines show their best.

4. Recognize palate fatigue. When I think I should be getting more from a wine, I slow down. Refresh the palate often by eating bread/crackers or drinking water in between.

5. Review before you leave. Take a last look at your plan. Did you hit everything you wanted to?


Oh, and in this event, I would definitely take in a seminar. It’s a nice break in a long tasting and I promise you’ll learn something you can’t by tasting alone. (It’s like going to a show in the middle of the day at Disney. You’ll come out refreshed and ready to go back at it.)


I’ll keep you posted on new developments as we get a closer to the big event.

New Releases

A number of eagerly anticipated whisky releases are due to hit in the late winter and early spring, here’s the best information I have thus far:


Octomore 1st release and PC7- these heavily peated bottlings from Bruichladdich are due by late Feb, no firm pricing yet, but PC7 should stay in line with last years PC6 release, about $130-140 and Octomore will fall out in the $180-200 range.


Ardbeg Supernova- Most heavily peated Ardbeg ever, this is a very limited release, first come-first serve, limit one per person.  Price should be in the $120 range, email to be added to the waiting list, we should see product by March.


Glenmorangie Astar- a 50% abv, unchillfiltered, non-age statement release drawn from first fill ex-Jack Daniels barrels, a beautiful, unadulterated example of what comes off the tallest stills in Scotland.  No retail as yet, sells in the UK for roughly the equivalent of $75, best eta is towards the end of March.


Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2008 Release- Yes, that says 2008, the whiskey (62 barrels total, 1995 distillation) was put into stainless in early September, unfortunately Brown-Forman was stuck trying to source the unique decanter to complete the bottling, their old vendor had gone out of business.  Theyve now found one and begun bottling, so we should see this in the next 3-4 weeks, should stay around $40 retail.


Binnys Handpicked Casks- Next wave will include more Elmer T. Lee, Blantons, Eagle Rare 10 year, and Sazerac Straight Rye from BT; more Four Roses Single Barrels to follow up Barrels # 1, 2, and 3; and working through a final round of samples for OB bottlings from two well known Scotch distillers.

Have You Tried?

One of the best parts of having the job title Specialty Spirits Buyer, besides having to taste booze daily and write and talk about it, are the days when you hit something totally different, creative, interesting, or just flat out funky and unexpected.  Here are some things that I’ve had and brought in recently that are worth a look at for those who love to experiment:


Hayman’s Old Tom Gin- An 18th century sweet style of gin originally developed to hide impurities, Old Tom dropped out of favor as the quality of London Dry improved.  Hayman’s has introduced the first Old Tom style I’ve seen in a long time, and its excellent.  The light, fruit sweetness is a nice compliment to the minty, piney juniper character.  ($24.99)


North Shore Distillers Gin #11- A London Dry looks back across the English Channel at its Dutch Genever roots, Chicago’s Master Distiller Derek Kassebaum has taken his base Distillers Gin #6 and added a savory, herbal layer of aromas and flavors, I can get some white pepper, caraway and even a touch of oregano.  ($29.99)


Mette Eau de Vies- Toss away the standard Kirsch, Poire, Mirabelle, etc., this Alsatian master will craft an excellent Eau de Vie using just about anything as a base flavor.  Amongst the most exotic (and excellent and true to flavor) creations? Ail (garlic), Gingembre (ginger), Café (coffee), Feuille de Basille (basil), Cannelle (cinnamon), Mandarine (mandarine orange), and Poivron (green pepper).  ($44.99/375ml)

Great Spirits Values

The economy has been tough on folks for a number of months now and Ive been getting a lot of questions about stretching dollars without sacrificing quality.  Heres a list of some products that I think are worthy of giving a try and saving some $$$:


Very Old Barton 100 proof Bourbon- $11.99
Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye- $16.99
Black Bottle Islay Blend- $17.99
Dewars 12 year old Blended Scotch- $21.99
Lismore Speyside Single Malt- $24.99
Cruzan Light Rum- $10.99
Cockspur 5* Barbadian Rum- $19.99
Brokers London Dry Gin- $15.99
Milagro Silver 100% Agave Tequila- $19.99
Gran Torres Triple Orange Liqueur- $19.99
Delord 15 year old XO Armagnac- $38.99


Note: Pricing may change after this post, so check for the latest prices.

How Much Should You Pay For Vodka?


My assistant Joe asked the other day what vodka he should be buying and taking home, my reply, as a dedicated whisky guy, was none, if you work for me youre not allowed to drink vodka.


There is a tremendous price range and amount of competition in the vodka category, which seems odd for a spirit whose legal definition is after all neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.  Ouch, doesnt say much for those products at the higher price points!  But being dedicated to our craft, and to playing around, we did something I would encourage everyone to try out with their dedicated vodka drinking friends, a blind tasting.


Have 6 or 8 vodkas poured blind, neat and at room temperature, at the widest range of price points possible (we did a quickie, 4 bottles retailing from $10.99/1.75L to $50/750ml.)  Try to do a budget brand, 1 or 2 competitive domestics, 1 or 2 old line European brands, and 1 or 2 boutique brands.  The more famous the better.


Guess what?  When you cant see the bottle and be influenced by the pretty glass or the opinion of your favorite singer, or the price, your tongue and nose might shock you.  Ive actually done this a few times with consumers, inspired by a published tasting from the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago, and done truly blind, the expensive, trendy, and iconic has never been close to being picked as the best of the tasting.

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