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Roundup: Tuscan Red

   “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'”

   Dave Barry said that, according to a poster I saw in a sandwhich shop. The monthly Binny’s wine manager meeting certainly wouldn’t disprove the sentiment, but it is an example of how keeping humanity from its full potential can be both fun and interesting. 

   Continuing the tasting notes from the last Binny’s Wine Blog post, let’s take a look at some of the newest arrivals in the category of Tuscan red.

2007 Masi Serego Aligheieri Bello Ovile Rosso di Toscana

   Masi is best known as a top-notch producer of Amarone and more from Valpolicella. Their relaltively recent purchase of the Poderi del Bello Ovile vineyards marks their expansion into Tuscany. They stick with the tradional grapes of the region (80% sangiovese) but the Masi thumbprint of plush, rich wines is apparent. Thie Bello Ovile is all about cherries dark, fresh cherry fruit underlined by darker herbaceous notes, and just a little dirt. This is a Tuscan value.


2007 Antinori Guado al Tasso

   Right up front, this is what expensive wine smells like. The wood influence shows, but it isn’t out of balance like a nice suit that fits well. Super complex on the palate. Blood, tart cherry, olive, weeds, cedar, meat… (and this is where I stop taking notes and just enjoy it.) Impressive.


2006 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino

   Done in a classic Brunello style, which means this shows some character developed from age and isn’t over the top. On the nose, it seems to be just at the point where the fresh, primary fruit is starting to settle down, allowing other complexities to shine through. Orange peel, cedar notes meet the soft berry fruit. Argiano has produced in an over-the-top style lately, this might show a return to a more traditional style.


2007 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Brolio

   More up-front, especially after tasting that Brunello. More plush, bright fruit like strawberry and cherry. Bigger grippy tannins run parallel to the herbal component. Very solid for twenty bucks.


2006 Castellare I Sodi Di San Niccolo

   Classy! A nose of dry cherry fruit balances with cedar and vanilla notes from the wood. Thick on the palate, and even bigger than the nose suggests, with dark plum, raspberry, good tannins, tobacco and saddle leather. Still quite primary, I’m betting this is only going to be better in five years, if anybody actually waits that long. I might consider myself a Castellare fanboy.

Monthly Roundup: New White

   Let’s kick off a new regular feature on the Binny’s Blog: a monthly roundup of new release tasting notes. The wine managers at Binny’s have a monthly meeting which, after some edge-of-your-seat conversation about policy and operations, shifts into a tasting of new releases. These wines are noteworthy because they’re chosen by Binny’s wine managers and buyers. In short, theseare the wines that the wine geeks are geeked about.

2010 Monchhof Estate Riesling 

   Citrus and tropical fruit notes. Super spritzy on the palate. This riesling is a balance acidity and sugar. Not very complex, but fun.


2009 Zind Humbrecht Riesling

   Broad nose that shows caramel, orange. More complex and heavy than the Monchhof. Noticable crisp acidity that keeps this linear despite the extra sugar. There’s a hint of stone and orange citrus, with a heavy, oily texture under the acidity.


2009 Zind Humbrect Pinot Blanc 

   Light and round on the nose. The slight spice and light fruit reminds me of homemade applesauce. Fruity and light on the palate, with crisp acidity and a flinty taste. This is fine.


2009 Louis Michel & Fils Chablis Vaillon 

   Good fruit andmore of a charred note than I’d expect in Chablis. Keeps good focus.


2010 Pichot Vouvray Domaine le Peude la Moriette

   Tropical fruit onthe nose: melon, tangerine, apricot, pineapple. It hints atsweetness. The same great fruits on the palate, and maybe honey too.This fruit-driven pleasure would be amazing with spicy (hot) asianfood.


2009 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc Pessac Leognan

   Lime, grass and atiny amount of char. Classy, thinky wine. Somebody sittingnear me says something about “wet wool.”


2009 Bridesmaid White

   The newBridesmaid wines a white and a red are blended from leftoverparcels from a couple highly regarded California wineries. I guessthat makes it a sort of declassified thing. The white is a broad andmellow and sort of reminds me of canned fruit cocktail with lots ofpears. It’s weighty on the palate with low acidity and maybe a touchof sugar, just slightly sweet. Pleasing if not very complex.


2009 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneufdu Pape Blanc

   Wow! I just love whites from the Rhone. Great dried apricot and orange, along with baking spice on the nose, which is sort of quiet. Fruity, steely in the palate over heavy fruit and earthy spice, with a noticably long finish. Delicious.


2010 Tablas Creek Patelin de TablasBlanc

   Thisis a new offering from Tablas Creek (I and other Binny’s guys haveexpressed our love for Tablas Creek before) in the style of a Rhone white. The Patelin is similar to the LaNerthe Blanc, but is more fleshy and forward on the nose. It’s a bigball of white fruit until the finish, which shows odd acidity. Still,an interesting new wine, and a value (more detailed info here).  


2009 Herman Story Tomboy

   Sometimes I tastea wine and just have to smile at the over-the-top character. This isone of those wines. It smells like honey and Nilla wafers. On thepalate, the wood shows through, along with heavy orange fruit. It isweighty, viscous. Maybe from the alcohol. The labels says … er …16.1%. This is certainly unapologetic. Limited quantities of theTomboy are available.

Next Time: New Red

Had Some Champagne


Yesterday, a handful of Binny’s wine geeks were hosted for lunch and some Champagne. The venue was fancy, and the wine list was unbelievable. To fit in, I dressed as much like a lovable, turn-of-the-century hobo as I could, sort of a step up for me. We had a delicious lunch, but I found it difficult to pay attention to the food because of the wine.

When I walked in the room, somebody handed me a glass of bubbly. It was fine. A little toast, light green apple fruit, acidity, a tiny bit of residual sugar. What else could you want? The hint of sugar made me guess it was domestic, until somebody revealed it as Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. Not a bad start. The rest went like this:


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Liverpool in a Pint

Last year, for the first time ever, The Robert Cain Brewery made its way from Liverpool to the United States.  It is safe to say that this had been a long time coming, considering beer has been crafted at the brewery since 1845.  Three of Cains brews are now set to debut in Chicago at every Binny’s in the coming weeks.  

Cains calls their Dark Mild the quintessential British session beer thanks in part to its low level of hops, low carbonation, and low alcohol content.  Those things considered, the beer still has a decent body and toasty malt flavors.


Cains Bitter is another fine session beer, albeit it is more assertive in terms of hop bitterness than the Dark Mild.  Carbonation is low, and the body is light.


Cains Export Lager is, you guessed it, another quaffable, refreshing, sessionable brew. Unlike the aforementioned beers, this offering is a lager, rather than an ale.


If you enjoy award- winning, authentic English beers, then Cains should be on your must try list.

Binny’s Hand Picked Elijah Craig 18 Year Old


   There’s a brand new batch of Binny’s Hand Picked Elijah Craig 18 Year Old on the way. For those in the know, this is an understated value, a great example of what happenswhen an already solid bourbon sees just short of two decades in wood. Joe M. and I tasted through these samples hoping to find two barrels for single barrel bottling.

   Our reference sample is from a previous Binny’s bottling, and is classic Elijah Craig 18: A complex and dry nose with notes of molasses, touches of eucalyptus, dried cherry and sawdust. EC18 shows its 18 years of wood aging, along with a spicy,herbal character with dried fruit. It’s bottled at 90 proof, important to remember when tasting barrel samples at variable andsometimes bruising barrel proof.


3160518 X-Warehouse 2nd Floor, 123.8 proof

   Or first sample, we’ll call it 518, seems way more fresh and youthful than the reference, at least on the nose. There’s more fresh green herb, more eucalyptus. But that changes on the palate. The dry wood is there. The alcohol is up front almost immediately, and behind that is more caramel, citrus, berry fruit, and even more wood. I like this right away.


3164313 X-Warehouse 4th Floor, 141.8 proof

   The nose on 313 is pretty much right on target, if more dry, with autumnal notes like dried leaves and dried fruit. On the palate, its crushing alcohol is just too overwhelming to taste anything else of meaning. We add some water. “Just awee bit” Joe explains, saying “you can always add more, but it’s a bitch to pull out.” Water opens it up so it shows roundsweetness and a wonderfully thick texture, but all the nuance is gone. The angels were too greedy.


3164680 X-Warehouse 2nd Floor, 119.7 proof

   680 is perhaps the most typical. On the nose, molasses (yes!) and some sawdust and tea leaves. It’s hard on the palate, spicy and woody, with a strong baking spice similar to cinnamon but not quite, and is framed in caramel. I like this one the most for the great molasses character.


   Now Joe and I compare notes. My favorite is 680 for its characteristic molasses and baking spice, and 518 in a close second. Joe likes the 518 for its eucalyptus and freshness and balance (correct me if I’m wrong, Joe). My notes here make these two seem like opposites, but they’re really only opposites within the profile of EC18. Both are a good representation of what the 18 is all about. We also agree that the 141.8 proof 313 is interesting, but just outside of the profile we’re looking for.

   Expect both the 680 and 518 to hit Binny’s shelves as single barrel Binny’s Hand Picked bottlings. The turnaround on these purchases is a little unpredictable, but we’re guessing that they’ll arrive in a couple more weeks. As usual, we don’t have control over which bottlings are sent to which stores (a side effect of the three tiered distribution system). So … you know … it can turn into a fun treasure hunt for anybody looking to try a specific Elijah Craig 18, or both.

Spent Some Time in California


   Spent some time in California last week, just a couple days mostly in Napa Valley, with a quick jaunt or two to Sonoma. What was supposed to be a relaxing, vacationey sort of trip yielded little time in the sun by the pool with a pretty girl, and lots of winery visits. No complaints here, it was completely awesome, but the next time I want to relax, I’m booking the sofa.

That Napa Sign   Sparing all the tedious details:

   There are all these big wineries, not really corporate but still commercial; agricultural tax shelters built on the valley floor by guys who made too much money somewhere else, producing consistently delicious but safe wines at acceptable tonnage. The only thing missing here is the heart, the myth, the character.

   Then there are classy hillside estates, purchases that represent early gambits in the region that stayed in family hands for a generation, until being sold to global soda companies and flipped to luxury goods conglomerates. These places still produce classy, interesting wines that live up to their deserved reputations. You can touch some romance, just by the fingertips. And if you’re lucky, they might let you taste a library release.

   And then there are vineyards where somebody took a chance and broke into the industry. Because they love wine and want to live it. Where grape growers live on the vineyards with their families, and then make the wine themselves. Where the conversation can shift from the science of winemaking to the myth and to the passion and then back because it’s all the same thing anyway. I like these kinds of places, and their wines, and more importantly, I like these people.


   Here are some pictures. Click for a bigger view.


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{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}The Valley From the Hills{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}Spring Mountain Garden{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}Hillside Vineyard{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}

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{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}Winery{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}Token Leaf{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}Wine Goddess at Davis Family Vineyards{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}{TAB}

The Evil Twin is Arriving

Evil Twin Brewing, from across the Atlantic in Denmark, is debuting at many of our stores.  Evil Twin should fit in well here in the states, as they specialize in two of the most popular stateside styles:  the imperial stout and the double IPA.  While Evil Twin’s head brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso’s interests currently lie within this duo of styles, he is famous for something entirely different.  He collaborated with one of the famous breweries in the world, Cantillon, to create possibly the most highly regarded lambic in the world, Blåbær Lambic.


Currently the following three beers From Evil Twin are starting to pop up across our fleet of stores:


Evil Twin Yin Imperial Stout, 10% ABV


Evil Twin Yang Double IPA, 10% ABV


Evil Twin Disco Beer Double IPA, 10% ABV


Through Google translation of a Norwegian article posted on their Facebook page (they don’t currently have a website), it looks as if the people over at Evil Twin actually recommend mixing Yin and Yang to create the ultimate black & tan.  We don’t know about you, but this sounds like a must try for us.  What is the craziest Black & Tan you have ever concocted?  


Memory is a tricky thing. 


Because sometimes one specific one can be so good, that it can completely get in the way of any attempt to revisit it. Be it that favorite album from high school, that pizza place you went with friends or that one post college haunt, sometimes you just cannot go home again. Especially if that was your post college haunt.


So the other night, I picked up a bottle of Orval to put this theory to the test. It is widely considered one of the great Belgian Trappist beers and, personally, it was one of those drinking experiences that really opened my mind up to the complexity of not just Belgian beers, but to the potential of all beer in general. So, yes, the bar was set kind of high.


After I poured the bottle in my glass and admired its brown, opaque color, I realized I was already coming into contact with some brettanomyces. The brett, as I will here forth lazily refer to it as, is a wild, naturally occurring yeast. It is the famous tart and funky character that is the calling card of traditional sour beers. I was already starting to smell it, even with the glass six inches from my face and it was alerting my senses that something unique was en route.


On the first taste, it was a ripe red apple. It is certainly sweet, but with a soft, but bitter bite to the finish. The brett shows up seconds later with the malt, bringing that musty bit along with that tangy yeastiness. The tone of the flavor stays very bright, and with a little time, it stays bitter, but a cedar/woody/cherry sort note begins to develop. The malt seems to come alive a bit as it warms to add a nice richness to the proceedings.


Sometimes things arent as great as you remember, but other times they are. However, if you can find a way to surpass them to create an even better memory, that is a real trick.

Coming Soon: Goose Island Marisol

Goose Island is releasing a very limited amount of Marisol into the Chicago market via Binny’s.  Marisol is a Latin style white ale that was originally brewed as a collaboration with Frontera in Chicago,  a restaurant that is headed up by famous chef and author Rick Bayless.


Goose Island recommends pairing the sunshine colored and citrusy flavored Marisol with the fresh dishes of Mexican cuisine including ceviches, salsas, and summer salads.  Marisol is spiced with tea and coriander, clocks in at 5.3% ABV, and is a great summer session beer.


We should be seeing Marisol in the next couple of weeks, contact your local Binny’s for availability.


June is International Craft Beer Month at Binny’s

We have continued our theme of month long craft beer sales, and June is no exception.  Over 700 beers from a great deal of breweries spanning the entire globe are currently on sale. Essentially any craft beer that isn’t from either the United States or Belgium (because we featured these countries in the previous months sales) have their prices slashed.  Don’t miss out on big savings if you are a fan of German, English, Scottish, Asian, Scandinavian, or other international brews.  For a full list of what is on sale, click here or on the picture below.


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