After wrapping up the Wine Bloggers Conference, Michelle and I transitioned from wine to Washington’s other known commodity: beer. We had a quick stop in Prosser, then a few brewery visits in Seattle proper before we headed home. We also stopped an snapped a quick photo of some hops growing as we drove across the state. Washington accounts for 75% of the hops grown in the United States, which might account for the number of breweries that we found.
We started off our beer tasting in Prosser, WA, which was roughly halfway between Walla Walla and Seattle.
Horse Heaven Hills Brewery – As the official Kentucky visitors to the Brewery, this one made for a nice transition from wine to beer. This little brewery only sells by the growler and shares the parking lot with the Prosser AutoZone.
We walked on in and sat down at the bar where we tried the following:
We picked up an empty growler for ourselves as Michelle was taken by the image of the horse as well as the story of wild horses roaming the local hills. It was Michelle’s favorite brewery of the trip as she liked most of the beers we tried for different reasons. $5.00 for 4 samples.
Whitstran Brewing – This was our second stop in Prosser and luckily they served food. My burger was excellent and Michelle had no tr0uble finishing her sandwich as well.
Another nice selection of samples (9 for $9.50) was split between the two of us.
Lunch was a very nice at Whitstran and it was worth a stop in Prosser to start making the switch from wineries to breweries. We had a great afternoon and if we had been able to keep the beer refrigerated, I think we would have had a few full growlers as we continued into Seattle. For anyone on the wine trail, I strongly recommend stopping and trying something a little different. From Seattle, I think it would be well worth the drive to the desert to see a little sun.
Every year at the Wine Blogger’s Conference, we partake in Live Wine Blogging. Basically, winemakers move from table to table, telling us about their wine in 5 minutes or less. We get to make a snap judgement and blog about it. It’s sort of like speed dating for wine and it’s equally as exhausting.
This year the Live Blogging sessions were split into two: Whites & Rosés on Friday and Reds on Saturday. Because we had so little time to learn, ask questions, and type, the notes aren’t the best. They should, however, give you a general idea of how we felt about the wine. The reds, in general, were consistently more impressive than the whites.
Wine #1: Desert Wind Ruah, Merlot blend: 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc
Soft and silky with structure throughout. At $20 would go great with Steak or heavier food.Little bit of tartness on the middle.Lighter tannins and acid makes this a drink sooner rather than later. A little too green for Michelle.
Wine #2: Duck Pond Red Blend: 52% Merlot, 29% Syrah, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wahluke Slope, Washington (Columbia Valley)
Slightly tannic, ready to drink now and rather fruit forward. ~$15
Wine #3: Mollydooker Velvet Glove, 100% Shiraz single vineyard
Nice and well rounded. Surprisingly, much lower in alcohol than other Mollydooker wines. 2010 Velvet Glove will join the rest of the Mollydooker line with a screwcap. Wine is thick and coats the glass, but the fruit is not as up front as a more traditional californian shiraz. Drinking this ruins your glass for anything else, it’s so thick. It’s also not an easy wine to get through – better off sipped over a period of time. Coffee and chocolate flavors. $185/bottle
Wine #4: Trio Vintners 2007 Riot Red Table Wine: 52% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre
Columbia Valley, WA
Light, easy-drinking, pleasant berries. Strong acid and nice overall flavor. Mouvedre smooths out the Sangiovese. Well done Italian blend. Different from others, yet tasty..
Wine #5: Ponzi 2008 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Almost a little effervescence and bubbles on initial taste. 11 Mo in French oak. $35 a bottle.Kind of a basic level Pinot. Newly bottled and not the best. Everyone agreed later that there was something wrong with this wine. It shouldn’t have been bubbly. From Michelle’s perspective, it was definitely too bright and fruity for an Oregon Pinot Noir, lacking earth.
Our review: Review withheld due to the fact we believe it was a bad bottle.
Wine #6: Stoller JV Pinot Noir 2007
Dundee Hills, Oregon
Heavy terroir and earthiness on the nose. Sustainable winery that is an old turkey farm that was transitioned to winery. Burgundy was referenced as a similar area. 10 mo in oak, mostly neutral. This is a great example of what new world grown pinot noir can taste like. Turned earth and subtle cherries all over the palate. $25
Wine #7: Cornerstone Stepping Stone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc
Tons of tannins and acidity. Acid is flavor, tannins are a feeling. According to Craig, “Acidity is what makes a wine live.” This would age well (might even benefit). Very balanced with lots of tannins and acid, but happily lacking in vegetal flavors. $30 bottle. 600 cases.
Wine #8: Sequel by Longshadows 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah (98%syrah with 2% cabernet)
We have very few notes on this one – just a rating. It’s worth mentioning that we did pick this up at a charity auction (and paid a pretty penny) because the Sequel line has such a great reputation.
Wine #9: Solena Estates 2008 Pinot Noir
Hyland Vineyard, McMinnville, Oregon
Solena Estates was Michelle’s big find at the Conference. She fell in love with the consistently earthy pinot noirs they produce. 2008 is set to be best vintage ever from Oregon. Earthy with an acidic finish, but still plenty of fruit up front. Single vineyard designates is primary focus. Volcanic soil. $50
Wine #10: Concannon 2007 Petit Syrah
Livermore Valley, CA
Nice bing cherry and acid on the finish. Big wine – called the “little monster.” 12 mo american oak. plus 6 months in large 58 year old large barrels. 4 months since bottled, but still ready to drink. Bottle itself seems to weigh a ton. Vineyard is in a conservancy land trust near the San Francisco Bay. Made us crave steak. $15/bottle
Wine #12: Jordan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot., 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec
Napa Valley, CA
Decanted. Balanced and not as fruit forward as we first expected. Earthiness is in the mid palate with fruit up front and tart fruit on the finish. $52
As we enter the heat of summer here in Cincinnati, my thoughts turn to heading outside and cooling off. Sadly most of the local pools, lakes, and rivers have a negative view of bottles, even those filled with craft beers. This has led me to my summer project of finding a canned beer to last through the pool parties and canoe trips. Cans have gotten a bad name due to people associating a metallic taste with the beer. As times have changed, so has the assumption that the can is the only reason for poor quality beer. I let none of that deter me from my quest for a great beer in can form.
Up first is the Summer Solstice Cerveza from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. This light cream ale has a lemon meringue quality that makes it nice and light after a hot muggy day of yard work. The overall flavor is sharp and leaves the palate with the hint of lemon that fades to a nice creaminess. Overall, the flavor and mouth feel make this a beer to recommend. The price tag is a touch high ($8.50 for a 6-pack on the Kentucky side of the river) but the quality makes this a great first entry into my attempt to find a nice, well crafted, micro-brewed beer in a can.
Any suggestions for other cans to try that might be difficult to find? Let me know in the comments along with suggestion on where to find them. I’ll be searching for canned beer during our travels as well.
Back in April of 2007, Kevin conducted a massive blind tequila tasting. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I’m reposting his grand experiment. I’d love to have him do this again sometime, now that his tequila palate has developed more.
With the increase in advertising, even my Tivo-filtered brain has seen a few TV ads. So I decided to see if there was good reason for the additional cost with the premium level of Tequilas. With the help of Michelle, I went for a blind tasting of 5 premium Silver tequilas with 1 well-level tossed in to see if it would be noticeable.
Silver is the entry level in Premium tequilas. Silver usually has a slightly more alcohol taste and a lot of roughness around the edges. The trade-off is the increased level of fruit in the flavor. The second level is gold, and the top tier is Reposado. The flavor is smoother, but the fruit becomes lighter and more integrated into the overall flavor.
Here is what I tried, in order of preference after the blind tasting:
The first tequila I tasted turned out to be the 1800. The alcohol came through on the nose along with a nice sweet characteristic. There was a very nice pineapple flavor that was evident on the taste. The finish had a slight burn, but was still a nicely flavored and relaxed drink.
The second one on the table was a much different drink. This turned out to be the Milagro, which had a very sugary smell almost to the level of marshmallows. The flavor had less of the fruit I expected, continuing to enhance the sugary sweetness instead. The finish had no burn, but it didn’t seem quite what I was expecting. I suspect Michelle might like this one for its sweetness. (Milagro Tequila)
Up next was a very fruity and dry smelling entry. It was a return to what I like about Tequilas, the tropical fruits and dry flavor were evident in this offering from Corazón. This return to a traditional flavor was a nice switch from the last. (Tequila Corazón)
The next tequila was an undrinkable mess. The odor was reminiscent of spoiled wet straw. Sadly, this was the Montezuma and I could not progress past the nose for this one. It proved that the extra money is worth the cost from a low end to a higher end. (Barton Brands)
My rating: (yes, it smelled that bad)
Up next was the gem of the tasting. It has a deservedly high reputation and this Patrón did not disappoint. In the interest of full disclosure, the first premium tequila I ever has was Patrón. I still find it quite enjoyable. It had a very light and crisp smell with a great full flavored taste. (Patrón Spirits Company)
Finally, the Don Julio – this had a more upfront nose and a heavier flavor. The tequila had a woodsy characteristic I did not find enjoyable. It helped me realize that I like the pineapple and guava flavors evident in other selections. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped or expected. (Don Julio from Diageo)
In honor of today’s Derby, I tried three beers that were aged differently, but all used barrels that had previously contained Kentucky bourbon. I stuck with stouts that had an age of 2 to 12 months of additional time.
Bourbon County Stout by Goose Island
Michelle described the initial nose as similar to opening a new box of choclates. That matched up with the vanilla, carmel and chocolate that I smelled. As the evening progressed and the beer warmed up a bit, I started to get additional notes of butter toffee along with a little bit of oaky tannins on the finish. At 13% AbV, this is a sipping beer that would go great with dark choclate, cakes, or even creme brulee. I think this was my favorite of the three listed and all around a really nice beer. I would recommend this to almost any one. Even Michelle, who is not usually a beer drinker enjoyed her share, deciding it was a nice dessert beer.
Jefferson’s Reserve by Bluegrass Brewing Company
A nice Kentucy brewed beer from Louiseville, home of today’s muddy Derby. This was the mildest of the three in overall intensity. At 8% AbV and aged for 60 days in Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon barrels, there was almost a candied orange flavor along with coffe and oak on the finish. I would reccomend this to stout lovers who want to try something with a hint of bourbon aging to see how the stout changes.
KBS by Founder’s Brewing
This is a stout aged for one year in a Bourbon barrel. I would consider this the heaviest of the three I tasted. The nose jumps out with wood and coffee to which adds vanilla in the main flavor. The 11.2% AbV is not apparent as the coffee and wood cover any of the overall influence. I’m not sure I would reccomend this to a lot of beer drinkers unless you like stouts with heavy wood influances.
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