For those new to the blog, occasionally my husband Kevin chimes in with beer and spirits posts. Since I'm not a sake fan, he's covering that as well, including our recent trip to a sake maker in Vancouver.
On our recent vacation to the northwest, one of the places Michelle, Steven (my younger brother) and I went to was Osake Artisan Sake Maker on Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had not heard of Osake sake prior to arriving at the hotel and reading through Where magazine. Osake is reported to have been the first sake made in Canada. Armed with that knowledge and a rough idea of where we were going, we took left out of our hotel, walked down Jervis street to Sunset Beach where we picked up the Water Taxi to Granville Island.
On Granville Island, we explored the amazing Public Market before heading to the Artisan Sake shop. The sake tasting area is next to the tanks used to by the distillers which adds a nice level of ambiance to the tasting. Steven and Michelle were able to sit at the street-facing bar and people watch while I delved into the tasting. All sakes were served cold and there were 5 different types of sake available, the two premiums were $2 each and a flight of the 3 entry levels was $5. (All prices in Canadian dollars.)
I started with the Ginjo Genshu. The use of Ginjo means that 40% of the rice was ground away and only the remaining center was used in the distilling of the sake. Genshu means the sake was undiluted and can pack a slight punch.
The Genshu was a filtered sake resulting in a clear drink that had a lot of plum sauce characteristics. This was awarded a spot in the top 100 wines of 2008 by the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition. Overall I liked the well rounded flavor and sweetness. Michelle also tolerated this one (she's not a sake fan) and we paid it the highest compliment any traveler can give on a trip: we bought a bottle. At $25 for a 375 mL bottle, this was expensive but worth the price and hassle of bringing it home with us.
Second was the Ginjo Nigori. Nigori implies cloudy due to no filtration done once the sake is made. This has a chewier texture, as expected in a nigori sake, and a nice long bitter finish. In comparison to other nigori sake, my thought is that this one had a touch more ripe melon flavors and less creaminess. Once again, I enjoyed the overall experience, while Steven and Michelle were slightly less thrilled. Once again $25 a bottle is reasonable pricing for the small batch quailty sake. Both ginjos were aged for 1 year in bottle, while the junmai were aged 2 to 3 months.
I ended with a flight of the three entry level (junmai) sakes. For junmai, 30% of the rice is milled away and no alchohal is added in the process of creating the sake. The first I treid was Junmai Nama Genshu which was a nice entry level sake and at $35 for a 750 mL bottle is once again a very nice value. The main flavors were along the papaya and graininess expected. I thought the ginjo had a more vibrant plum flavor, but this would also have paired well with a lean steak or a rick meat like duck.
Second in the flight was Junmai Nama which seemed to have higher acid. The slight lime flavor and very little creaminess made me think grilled shrimp would be a very nice food pairing. In comparison to the others, this was probably my least favorite, but still ranks as a nice entry. At $27 for 750 mL, the quality/value ratio is there, but not at the same level as the other options.
Finally, I tried the Junmai Nama Nigori, which had a very nice melon flavor from start to finish. This one costs $29 for 750 mL and is again a nice value for sipping. This was the "ricey-est" of all the sakes due to the nigori style and was closest to what I have tried in the past.
For each of these three, my review is a .
Overall, the trip to Granville Island was worth it just for seeing a sake house. Luckily the small batch products that were created were enjoyable. Sadly, they did not have an open bottle of their sparkling sake, which I would have loved to try. $24 a bottle was a little high to buy without first trying it, but it is still on my list to try when I return to Granville Island, as we do hope to return to Vancouver.
Back in February we announced the news that Jim Beam was releasing a black cherry-infused bourbon. My thought at the time was that they were shooting for the same crowd that enjoys flavored vodka – sort of young, hip crowd. I'm obviously not young and hip. I prefer my vodka pure and please don't mess with my bourbon.
That said, I was willing to give Jim Beam's new venture a chance. I wasn't going to judge it sight unseen or untasted. (Kevin, on the other hand, is a bourbon purist. He went into this already disliking it.)
Two weeks ago we picked up a bottle of Red Stag at Party Town, who seemed to be the first in the area to carry it. The rep had, of course, told the staff amazing things but the staff hadn't all tried it. We were left on our own.
Again – I went into this with an open mind. I don't mind the Wild Turkey American Honey, but at least Wild Turkey bills that as a liqueur. This is still bourbon.
Kevin instantly hated it. Much to my surprise, so did I. The best comparison I've got is cherry Nyquil. Bleh. It looks like bourbon, but one whiff and you smell can already smell the cough syrup. There's an aftertaste of syrup and plastic that is fairly unpleasant. I know it's supposed to be infused with natural flavors, but it sure doesn't smell/taste that way.
In an effort to be fair, we thought we'd mix it. When I travel and want a mixed drink, I go with either Beam or Jack and Coke. In theory, this would be a cherry Coke, right? While a Coke definitely improves the flavor of the bourbon, there's still the plastic aftertaste. We also tried with Sprite, much to the same effect. There's a chance this might add an interesting flavor to Bourbon Slush. My Slush recipe uses peach tea bags, and this might add a little more oomph to that, but I still worry about the aftertaste. I'm not sure how it would work with a Manhattan, but I think I've given up trying.
I really did want to like this – I love bourbon and I enjoyed the idea of extending my options. I do believe that it should be billed as a liqueur and not a bourbon, which has a strict definition. Either way, we give it a firm .
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Absinthe, the spirit that was banned a century ago, is back, legal, and making its local debut on Thursday night at the Party Source. Often with a green hue, it’s often known as The Green Fairy.
Absinthe originated as a “remedy” in the late 1700’s in Switzerland. It contains wormwood, green anise, and fennel. It was brought to popularity by Henry-Louis Pernod, who opened the first absinthe distillery in 1797. In 1805, they were producing enough absinthe to open a second distillery in France called Maison Pernod Fils.
In the 1840s, absinthe was given to French troops as a malaria treatment. When the troops returned home, they brought with them a taste for the green spirit. By the 1860s, most French restaurants and clubs had the 5 pm l’heure verte, the green hour. I like to think this is how Happy Hour originated.
All social classes enjoyed absinthe, but the drink became associated with bohemian artists and poets, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, and more. Remember the scene in the beginning of Moulin Rouge with the floating green fairy? It makes more sense now, yes?
Absinthe was banned shortly before the movement towards prohibition. There were rumors (inaccurate) that it made you crazy, depressed, suicidal, even murderous. Of course, it didn’t – at least not any more than other spirits. Bans on absinthe began in 1905 in Sweden and continued internationally until France finally banned it in 1915.
Absinthe preparation is almost a ritual. Called la louche, it involves draining a thin cold line of water over a cube of sugar into the glass of absinthe. The sugar is generally sitting on an absinthe spoon, which is a beautifully decorated slotted spoon.
Absinthe fountains (for the perfect stream of cold water), absinthe spoons, reservoir glasses, and more will all be available at The Party Source, starting now! Tonite, you can come to an absinthe “party”, starting at 5 pm, where you can learn about la louche and try two different types of absinthe.
Absinthe can also be used in cocktails. One of the most famous is Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, which is a mixture of iced champagne (replacing the water and sugar in la louche) and absinthe. A dash of absinthe can be used effectively in a Manhattan and in the distinctly New Orleans style Sazerac.
The Absinthe Party at The Party Source starts at 5 pm tonight and is free.
The artwork used in this article is in the public domain.
So here’s the thing. I’m at the height of stressed right now. Between trying to get things out for clients (you know, my REAL job), all the last minute craziness of organizing the Benefit, dealing with taxes as a freelancer, and well, just life in general right now, I’m stressed. Even, I might say, angry and at the end of my rope. So I truly welcome this Wine Blogging Wednesday (although I stressed out at the idea of having to even write a post in the midst of everything else).
The theme for this 43rd outing of our monthly adventure is Comfort Wines.
Yep. Comfort Wines. Sort of like comfort food. For me, a comfort food is homemade macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings. So what wine do I turn to when I’m falling apart (like right now)? None.
When I’m stressed, or upset, or anything requiring comfort, I don’t turn to wine. So you could say I’m bending the rules a bit on this WBW, but hear me out.
I turn to Armagnac. More specifically, when I need comfort "wine," I turn to Chateau du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac 8-Year. (It also comes in 12, but I seem to prefer the 8.) I pay around $50 for this at Party Source.
What is Armagnac? Like Cognac, Armagnac is a type of brandy. However, Armagnac tends to be less expensive, and often just as good if not better, than many Cognacs available. Like wine, these types of spirits are made from grapes. My Bas-Armagnac is made exclusively from the Folle Blanche grape from a single harvest. It is then aged in French Oak for 8 years. See – I’m not that far off from wine am I? For my particular Bas-Armagnac, the grapes are distilled separately in a traditional continuous still,
a wood-burning Armagnac alembic, on the location at Chateau de Tariquet. (I learned this from the back of the bottle.) My bottle was distilled in 1998, bottled in November, 2006.
Armagnac is smooth and wonderful. It has the ability to relax me and it almost forces me to chill out a little. I tend to add 1 or 2 ice cubes to any pour, which helps release more flavors.
There’s a bit of oak in my Armagnac, although less than in the 12 year. I don’t mind it, however, as I might in a chardonnay. It’s accented by vanilla, cinnamon, and all sorts of things that make me think of curling up by a crackling fire, in a fuzzy blanket, and just sipping. Those are the sorts of flavors that force me to just STOP and BREATHE.
I think I’ll go have some right now.
Many thanks to Joel for hosting this. I suspect he’ll be needing comfort wines with WBW and a new little baby at home. Congrats on the little one Joel!
Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on my blog posting duties. I’m sorry. With all the deaths and memorial services, about every two weeks since September, I have to admit I haven’t been in the mood. I also haven’t actually gone anywhere exciting or drank anything more than bourbon in the last few weeks.
But it’s autumn, and I usually love autumn. I love the crispness of the air and the crackle of the leaves under my feet. And I love the chance to make mulled cider.
Today, I’m sharing with you my incredibly easy mulled cider recipe. You need a crock pot, and let’s go from there.
Shel’s Mulled Cider
2 quarts apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp whole cloves
1tsp whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ tsp salt
1 dash ground nutmeg
1 ½ oz rum (per mug)
1. With cloves and allspice in a large teaball, cook all ingredients in a crockpot on low for 2-8 hours.
2. Stir occasionally/rarely to dissolve sugar.
Alternatively, you can cook in a pan on the stovetop on low heat 20-30 minutes until simmering.
3. Pour your favorite golden rum into each mug, but do not cook with the rum. A cinnamon stick in each mug is also a nice festive touch.
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