• Neyah does it again: when I asked for a cachaca drink at Nopa, he served Sagatiba Cachaca and Dimmi, with their own house Birch Beer Bitters. Birch beer and Dimmi’s herbal/floral/grappa notes melded into a beautifully unique coctail. While you’re there, try White Whiskey as it should be imbibed in a White Manhattan or Buck with your choice of small batch white whiskeys… my Manhattan featured an as of yet unreleased white whiskey from Leopold Bros. that reigned supreme in taste compared to other worthy versions.
• Victoria D’amato-Moran’s (of Cent’Anni Cocktails) drinks often taste like vacation, and none more so than a tropical imbibement she whipped up at a recent private spirits tasting event at Tres Agaves, as well as at Taste of the Nation. Called the Yucatan Punch, it consists of Chinaco Reposado, dreamy Kalani Coconut Liquor (a 100% natural coconut liqueur that puts other coconut liqueurs to shame), D’aristi Xtabentun (a rum/honey/anise liqueur) and pineapple.
Stand-outs at a recent private spirits tasting at Tres Agaves:
• Blackbull scotch – newer to the market but 30 years aged, a sherry-like whisky, certainly not a favorite but intriguing
• Briottet – surprising, ripe, elegant Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), Creme de Banane, Creme de Mure (blackberry)
• D’Aristi Kalani Coconut Liqueur – 100% natural, fresh, un-toasted coconut – tastes like tropical vacation – may be the best I’ve had of its kind
• English Harbor Rum – toasty, burnt sugar, complex, even at merely 5 years
• Luxardo’s Anice – clean, light anise liqueur, not syrupy or cloying
• Ypioca Cachaca – satiny Brazilian cachaca, from Crystal to smokey Gold or clean Silver
4/22 – TOAST OF THE TOWN – It was a bit surreal having the entire War Memorial Opera House filled with wine and food, live jazz, and a smartly-dressed crowd. As these tasting events so often do, it grew overly packed once two pleasant VIP hours passed and the general public entered. In those early hours, I enjoyed a number of global sips.
French highlights: 2007 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru is a full-bodied white, alternately dry, fruity and floral. And on the more affordable end, Mouton Cadet’s 2008 Bordeaux Blanc is a smooth, citrusy Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadet blend.
Schramsberg has long been a local favorite for their sparkling wines in particular: it was delightful to sip their 2001 Reserve Brut with cherry notes, and their ’06 J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, with Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot blended in.
A Cabernet Sauvignon highlight was Louis M. Martini’s velvety, rich 2005 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cab, available during the VIP tasting only.
4/29 – WINES OF CHILE – On a weekday afternoon, I visited a trade tasting held here and in Chicago. It was an education on the range in Chilean wines, which I certainly have been drinking more of in recent years. Similar to Portugal, which I wrote about last issue, the quality to affordability ratio is strong. Many wines I tried were $6-13 a bottle, ideal in these tight times. In tasting (and spitting) dozens, a few that rose to the forefront initially:
• Terra Andina – loved the whole line, from fruity, vanilla (with hint of smoke) Chardonnay, to berry, tobacco, tannin-rich ’08 Carmenere; Andina isn’t readily available but they just got distribution in So. Cal. K&L Wines so should make their way here soon
• Lapostolle – French owners (who also own Grand Marnier) but Chilean-grown; floral/citrus ’09 Casa Sauvignon Blanc may have been my favorite, but appreciated ’07 Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay and ’08 Carmenere
• ’06 Carmen Reserva Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon – berry, earth, hint of spice
• Aliwen ’09 Sauvignon Blanc – Affordable ($10 or less), crisp, Summery