Alamos Chardonnay

Maker: Alamos, Tunuyán, Argentina

Place of origin: Mendoza, Argentina

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Brassy gold.

Nose: oak, lemon zest, thyme.

On the palate: Medium bodied and medium sweet. Brown butter, clementine, white pepper.

Finish: A little tart but fades into pretty heavy oak. Not pleasant, but not unbearable.

Parting words: This wine was the result of another grocery store shelf dig.  I hadn’t had a chard for a while and I was looking for one with some good age on it from somewhere that wasn’t California or Burgundy and this wine fit the bill.

It’s not bad really. It’s overoaked in the standard New World style, but not by much. I can see this wine going well with fairly standard seafood or roast chicken dishes. On its own, it’s a good enough for a weeknight or a casual chat with friends. The price is a little high for this sort of thing ($13) but it’s not outrageous either. My only criticism is the finish. Maybe a little less oak would have taken some of the bitterness out of the finish. Anyway, Alamos 2008 Chardonnay is recommended.


White Hatter

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USAWhite Hatter

Style: Spiced wheat pale ale

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 5.5%

Appearance: Golden with a bit of froth at the top, not much in the way of head.

Nose: Subdued. Some malt and hops with a touch of tropical fruit.

On the palate: Full bodied and hoppy. On first sip tastes like an IPA but then shifts into a mildly fruity wheat flavor.

Finish: The bitterness and the fruit fade into a lingering soapy taste.

Parting words: I’ve been a fan of New Holland for quite some time and a search of the archives will reveal numerous positive reviews of their beers and spirits. I just can’t do it with this one. It’s a part of their vintage series of riffs on their very successful Mad Hatter IPA. I have enjoyed all I have had until this one. It could be spoiled, but one would expect a beer that is vintage dated (and kept in a fridge) to be capable of aging for at least a year with positive results. At any rate, it pains me to say this, but White Hatter is not recommended.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel, 2013

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA. (Kirin)4R SB 2013

Style: High rye bourbon

Recipe: OBSK

Age: 13 y/o

Warehouse/Barrel No.: BS/3-3Q

Proof: 121 (60.5% ABV)

Appearance: Dark copper with some necklacing.

Nose: Alcohol, bubble gum, leather, rose petals, lavender. Not too different with water, a bit clearer. On the palate: Medium bodied. Burn, candy, caramel, roses. With water it becomes big and sweet. Cotton candy, rose hips, oak, grape soda.

Finish: Evaporates quickly off the tongue leaving a soft leathery flavor, some fruit punch and a lot of burn. Fruitier and more delicate with water.

Parting Words: About twelve hours after writing up these notes (right after I opened the bottle) I did a comparison tasting against the 2012, of which I have several bottles. The 2012 was a different mashbill but the same yeast strain and a year or so younger. There are clear similarities, but big differences as well. The 2012 I tasted (52.6% ABV, SN/81-3i) was much more balanced and desserty (if that’s a word) with loads of caramel and similar flavors. The comparison also brought out a capsaicin note in the 2013, similar to ghost peppers or habaneros. I didn’t think the 2013 fares well in comparison to the 2012, but I do like it better than the 2011 I had and the 2010 100th anniversary bottling (cue Whiskey Wonka). The 120th Anniversary Single Barrel (2008) is also OBSK but it’s been so long since I’ve had it that I don’t feel comfortable comparing the two.

In summary, the 2013 Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel is a very good bourbon but not as good as some of its predecessors. Not counting the 40th (2007) and 120th anniversary for reasons of memory (see above), I would rank 2013 squarely in the middle of the pack of Four Roses limited edition single barrel releases. Being in the middle of that pack is better than being at the top of any other pack, though. The Michigan state minimum of $80 is high for a bourbon of its age but given the high proof, unchillfiltering and the unmatched quality of Four Roses across the board, it’s worth it. Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel, 2013 is recommended.

Sandhill Crane Noiret

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USA

Grape: Noiret

Place of Origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.5%

Thanks to Oscar for helping me acquire this wine.

Appearance: Brick red with broad legs.

Nose: Black pepper, rose petals, cedar, smoke.

On the palate: Medium bodied and sweeter than the nose would indicate, but still not sweet. More black pepper, wood, black cherries, blueberries, with a faint herbal note. Gets fruitier as it opens up.

Finish: Slightly bitter and peppery. A bit of cherry juice as it fades.

Parting words: Noiret is a Cornell University hybrid, the result of a cross between Steuben and an unnamed hybrid. Most of the grape’s ancestry is North American, but there are no foxy flavors to be found here.

Going by the name, I was expecting something close to Pinot Noir, but there is no resemblance whatsoever. This is closer to a brash young Shiraz or Pinotage, which is not a bad thing, just something to be aware of. The grape’s peppery, rustic characteristics may be enhanced by the climate of South Central Michigan which is much drier and hotter in the summertime than Northwestern and West Michigan.

At first pour this wine is all black pepper and not particularly pleasant. Once it airs out it becomes enjoyable, especially with food. I can see grape this doing very good things for a red blend, perhaps providing some welcome spice to a less flavorful red, but it does fine on its own here. This price is a bit high (close to $20), but I think it’s worth it  for a chance to try a wine from fairly rare grape. It’s worth giving a try if you are ever in the neighborhood. Sandhill Crane 2010 Noiret is recommended.

Goose Island 25th Anniversary Ale

Maker: Goose Island, Chicago, Illinois, USA++

Style: Extra Special Bitter

ABV: 6.4%

Appearance: Golden brown with a lacy head.

Nose: Subtle but complex and malty. Breakfast cereal, charred fruit, floral hops.

On the palate: Full bodied but not heavy. Effervescent with a hardy bitterness, some fruit and a hint of spice. It’s a bit overwhelming on its own, but pairs with grilled hamburgers and BBQ very nicely.

Finish: Long and bitter with a hint of cherry or plum. Mostly bitter, though (it is a bitter after all).

Parting words: Goose Island’s Anniversary Ale isn’t a blockbuster like I was expecting, but it is very enjoyable. I love ESB and a good ESB can be hard to find these days. This is a very good ESB, one of the best I’ve had from an American craft distiller. It’s a pity it seems to be a one off. It’s delicious. Goose Island 25th Anniversary Ale is highly recommended.

Round Barn Kölsch-style Beer

Maker: Round Barn Brewery, Baroda, Michigan, USARB kolsch_

ABV: 5.2%

Appearance: Old gold, with a decent head.

Nose: Malt, hops, hint of lemon peel.

On the palate: Medium bodied and fizzy. Crisp with a classic Kölsh profile, but with more weight than expected.

Finish: Crisp and slightly fruity fading to a long, pleasant bitterness.

Parting words:

I was pleasantly surprised to see one of Round Barn’s beers on my supermarket shelves, since we rarely even get their wines around here. My concern with operations that seem to do a little bit of everything (Round Barn makes beer, wine, and distills spirits) is that they often end up doing nothing very well. Round Barn is a welcome exception to that tendency and I look forward to trying more of their beers in months to come.

This is a delicious, refreshing and very food friendly beer. It is full bodied enough to give it presence but so boozy as to preclude a second glass. The price is a tad high, but not out of line with other quality microbrews. Round Barn Kölsch-style Beer is recommended.

Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel

Maker: Wild Turkey, Lawerenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Campari)RR-Single-Barrel-2

Age: NAS

Proof: 110 (55%)

Appearance: Burnt orange with a nice robe and thick, slow legs.

Nose: Oak, caramel, alcohol, cayenne, plum. Classic turkey profile, but a hint of fruit.

On the palate: Sweetness, then big burn. With water the burn dies down and an unexpected fruity note comes forward. Wine grape jelly, a bit of oak and caramel.

Finish: Sweet but fiery like cinnamon disks. Fades to a pleasant, slightly fruity sweetness. With water the fruit is firmly in charge in the finish. A light jammy flavor lingers and slowly fades.

Parting words: For a Wild Turkey, this is a odd duck. I have never had a bourbon that was this fruity, ever. I have heard people mention a note of grapes in some Wild Turkey products before, but all I had ever gotten was typical caramel sweetness and WT’s characteristic char and oak notes. It’s pleasant, but not very well integrated into the rest of what’s going on here.

Those who thought the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel would be the second coming of Russell’s Reserve 101 proof will be disappointed. It’s not that, but it is good. I’m not sure if it’s good enough to justify the price (close to $50), especially with another perfectly good barrel proof bourbon (Rare Breed) around $10 less already in the Turkey coop. With all that in mind Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is mildly recommended.

A brief postscript about the label: In an era in which superfluous words have overrun whiskey labels like ants on an unattended slice of cherry pie, the label on this new expression stands out as one of the most absurd recent examples of the phenomenon. The label calls it a “Small Batch Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”. A single barrel is the smallest possible batch of barrels so the label isn’t wrong per se, but it is comically redundant and raises serious questions about the minds behind Sky/Campari’s marketing and management of Wild Turkey. My advice to Campari (not that anyone there asked for it) is to remove the “small batch” and save a few pennies on ink while making the label appear less stupid.