Huber Riesling

Maker: Markus Huber, Reichersdorf, Traisental, Austria

Grape: Riesling

Region: Traisental DAC, Austria

Vinatge: 2008

Style: Dry

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Light gold

Nose: Dry and flinty, a bit of peach and woodruff.

On the palate: Minerals on entry, then a bit of underripe peach. Total absence of any citrus notes.

Finish: Clean and dry with a light, mineral bitterness that lingers for a long time.

Parting Words: I’ve been a Riesling fan for a long time and this is one of the driest ones I’ve ever tasted. That’s not a bad thing either. It epitomizes the Austrian style of white wines and showcases the versatility of Riesling itself. As Austrian whites become easier to find and more popular in the U.S., the gauntlet has been thrown down. North American winemakers are the best in the world. I would love to taste a Michigan, New York, or Washington dry Riesling. Get at it folks! Huber Riesling is recommended.

Woodchuck Barrel Reserve

Maker: Woodchuck¸ Middlebury, Vermont, USA

Style: Barrel-aged cider

ABV: 6.9%

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Toffee apples, vanilla

On the palate: Medium-bodied and creamy. Vanilla, apple crisp a la mode, butterscotch candy

Finish: Tangy apple, carrot cake with vanilla icing.

Parting words: This stuff is so sweet that I ran out of desserty descriptors when I was writing this review. I don’t know where they got the barrel this was aged in, but it imparted a crazy amount of vanilla and caramel to the cider. I assume it all comes from the barrel. I would be disappointed if some vanilla or caramel flavoring was added to “round out” the barrel flavors. Speculation aside, Woodchuck Barrel Select earns a recommendation.

Emilio Moro 2007

Maker: Bodegas Emilio Moro, Valladolid, Spain

Grape: Tinto Fino, 100% (Tempranillo)

Region: Ribera del Duero DOC, Spain

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14%

Appearance: Deep plum with tartrate crystals and long, luscious legs.

Nose: On first pour, the it’s a bruiser, but after a few minutes in the glass it learns to behave itself better. Still, a bit of alcohol shows up but balanced with wild blackberry, oak and creamy vanilla custard.

On the palate: Medium-dry and assertive but not obnoxious. Slightly tart, blueberries, big chubby west coast blackberries and a firm smack of leather on the back end. Very enjoyable, if that’s what you’re into.

Finish: Tannic at first and a little mealy. Eventually fades to a little sweetness and a little oak and vanilla.

Parting words: This wine scared me when I first opened it. It packed a massive punch right out of the bottle and I was afraid it would be a bull in a china shop, to coin a phrase. But when rested it is a very nice beef-oriented red. Tempranillo doesn’t always do well as a soloist. I find I usually enjoy it more when it’s lightened up with some Grenache or beefed up with some Cab or Merlot. Emilio and friends have managed to make a fairly complex, food-friendly, moderately priced red with nothing but Tempranillo. ¡Gracias a vos! Or something like that. Emilio Moror 2007 (and other vintages) come highly recommended.


Fleischmann’s Rye Whiskey

Maker: Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Age: NAS

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Appearance: New copper penny with thick, clingy legs.

Nose: Lemongrass, spearmint, caramel, alcohol, white pepper, a bit of sharp oak.

On the palate: Rock candy, peppermint, oak, vanilla nougat.

Finish: light, very sweet, maple sugar candy, a touch of oak.

Parting words: Fleischmann’s Rye is part of a line of Fleischmann’s spirits, including a blended whiskey, brandy, vodka and gin. All are made by Sazerac at Barton-1792 and all are really cheap. They are made and marketed under license (or something like that, I’m not a lawyer) from the Fleischmann’s yeast people. Ironically they are not made using Fleischmann’s yeast.

For reasons that are mysterious to me, Fleischmann’s Rye whiskey is only available in Wisconsin. In many ways it is a typical Kentucky-distilled rye. It’s barely legal at 51% rye and is much closer to bourbon in flavor than high-rye rye whiskeys like Jefferson’s and Bulleit. Where it differs from its kin like is in its lack of sharpness, usually in the form of pine and potpourri scents in Rittenhouse, Sazerac, Wild Turkey and Beam ryes. Its closest rye relative may be the Van Winkle Reserve Rye. Not that Fleischmann’s has anywhere near the complexity or sophistication of the Van Winkle rye, but both exhibit darker, sweeter flavors than other ryes. If you ever find yourself in Wisconsin, pick yourself up a handle (they’re only sold in handles now) of Fleischmann’s Rye. It’s cheap fun. Works exceptionally well (for its age) in Manhattans and Sazeracs too. If you can find it, Fleischmann’s Rye is highly recommended.

A to Z Pinot Gris

Maker: A to Z, Dundee, Oregon USA

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Region: Oregon

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Light golden straw.

Nose: Bosc pear, white grapefruit, musk melon, hint of smoke.

On the palate: Full-bodied, dry. Subdued Bosc pear, underripe peach, navel orange.

Finish: Dry, with a hint of oak tannin tapering off to a grapefruity bitterness.

Parting words: A to Z specializes in affordable Oregon varietals. Their line also includes a Pinot Noir, and a Riesling. This one has a good deal of Pinot Gris character. It is rather lacking in terroir-derived nuance, but one doesn’t expect much of that in a wine that lists an entire state on the label. This is a fine table wine that goes very well with chicken and pork. Recommended.

Parker’s Heritage Collection: Wheated Mashbill (2010 release)

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

Style: Wheated Bourbon

Age: 10 y/o

Proof: 124.2 (62.1% ABV)

Appearance: Deep auburn.

Nose: Alcohol, vanilla butter cream frosting, oak, blondies, white pepper.

On the palate: Full-bodied, sweet, vanilla frosting, then it evaporates off the tongue. With a little water, the oak comes close to taking over. There is still a good amount of sweetness, and vanilla though and a bit of allspice and ginger to boot.

Finish: Big oak, then hot, hot hot and a long, lingering burn. With water, still some burn, but a little white chocolate, oak, turbinado sugar.

Parting words: When United Distillers Corporation was merged out of existence, Old Fitzgerald, the wheated bourbon flagship of the closed Stitzel-Weller distillery, went to Heaven Hill. The quality of Old Fitz had already been declining and the sale didn’t make it any better. Its reputation tanked, and not without justification. The conventional wisdom was that the folks at Heaven Hill just didn’t care about wheaters.

The previous entries in the Parker’s Heritage Collection (named for Master Distiller Parker Beam) were both from the rye bourbon mashbill. When this wheated bourbon edition was released back in 2010, it was something of a revelation. It has the sweet vanilla flavors one expects but it has power that few wheated bourbons have. Let’s hope it’s a sign of good things to come.

Parker’s Heritage Collection: Wheated Mashbill was an instant classic, and is pretty hard to find on shelves, but there are still some out there. It’s not cheap, either, but it’s worth every penny. Highly recommended.

Vignette Wine Country Soda: Pinot Noir

Maker: Vignette Soda, Berkley, California, USA

Ingredients: Filtered carbonated water, Pinot Noir juice concentrate, citric acid, natural flavor. 50% Juice

ABV: 0%

Appearance: Light burgundy, fizzy.

Nose: Grapey, sweet and a little syrupy. Some Pinot character. More subdued than a typical grape soda.

On the palate: Fizzy and sweet. Dryer and less acidic than a typical grape soda, with even a bit of complexity. Black Current jam, allspice, black pepper, blueberry ice cream.

Finish: Clean with a bit of sweetness.

Parting Words: Soda isn’t normally the sort of thing I drink or review, but I thought I’d give this one a shot since it is a wine grape soda. Besides Pinot Noir, they also make a Chardonnay and a faux brut champagne  and rosé of undisclosed grape varieties. It’s a grape soda, but it’s one with a little style and would be very refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. It also might be a wine good substitute for tee totaling loved ones or older kids. Vignette Pinot Noir Soda gets a mild recommendation.

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel (Kahn’s selection)

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Age: NAS

Barrel: Kahn’s 6-11/09

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Appearance: Shiny copper penny

Nose: Big vanilla like a Van Winkle wheater, and black tea, but just a touch. Orange peel and coriander.

On the palate: Medium bodied, light, but pleasantly so. Sweet, more orange peel, leather, sweet cinnamon, some heat, but never rough. Complex, balanced and elegant.

Finish: Warm, with more sweet cinnamon and potpourri flavors. Leaves the mouth all tingly.

Parting words: Rock Hill Farms is one case in which it pays to judge the book by its cover. It comes in one of the most elegant decanter of any bourbon on the market, and it tastes like the sort of drawing room bourbon it looks like.

The biggest drawback the standard issue Rock Hill Farms has is its price, $55 for a 100 proof NAS in the state of Michigan, and that’s before taxes. The Kahn’s edition is better than the standard version, and the last few times I’ve purchased it, it went for $45 before taxes. For a bourbon this suave at 100 proof, that is a pretty good deal. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Last spring I bet a bourbon buddy of mine a bottle that Purdue would make it further in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament than his Ohio State Buckeyes. I lost and sent him my bottle. He fell in love with it and now wants me to pick up a case of the stuff up for him next time I’m in Indianapolis. Kahn’s Rock Hill Farms is highly recommended.


Canadian Club Sherry Cask

Maker: Some distillery or distilleries in Canada (Beam Inc.)

Age: 8 y/o

Style: Canadian Whisky finished in a sherry cask.

ABV: 41.3%

Appearance: Dark copper with thick legs. Like a tanned figure-skater.

Nose: Big, bold sherry flavors. Wood, butterscotch, caramel.

On the palate: Hot, but thick. Some sweet butterscotch candy, light fino sherry flavors, and caramel again.

Finish: Hot, but mitigated by the fruity sherry sweetness. Disappears fairly quickly in unfortunate Canadian Whisky tradition.

Parting words: This is an unusual whisky. The closest thing I can compare it to would be a super sherried single malt Scotch like Abelour A’bunadh. The sherry influence is very strong. Sometimes I think it’s too strong, sometimes I like the fact that the typical Canadian Club notes don’t come through. It works best as an after-supper sip. I didn’t have much left when I reviewed it, but I did have enough to try it in a Manhattan. It didn’t perform as well as a high-rye bourbon or rye but the sherry added an interesting twist to the drink. Canadian Club Sherry Cask gets a recommendation.

Heinz Eifel Eiswein

Maker: Römerhof, Trittenheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Grape: Silvaner?

Region: Rheinhessen, Germany

Vintage: 2009

Style: Ice wine

Appearance: Bright gold.

Nose: Mild, lemon tangerine, Bartlett pear, ,

On the palate: Thick and full-bodied. Pear, lemonheads, orange gummies, orange blossom honey.

Finish: Sweet and slightly tart. Orange sherbet, long and sweet.

Parting words: Eifel Eiswine is a refreshing, tasty dessert wine. It’s probably better in the summertime, but it’s very enjoyable in February, if a little one dimensional. That and, for an ice wine, it’s very cheap. Heinz-Eifel Rheinhessen Eiswein is recommended.