Jan
15
2015

Imbiber

Tequila Time with 3 New Anejos

Article by Virginia Miller

Recently, I received no less than three new Añejo or Extra Añejos imports from Mexico. “Añejo” means aged in Spanish and this tequila category is essentially the clear spirit one starts with as a blanco tequila, but aged a minimum of one year (and less than three years) in oak barrels. Extra Añejo is a newer category that means the tequila was aged a minimum of three years or more.

Photo Source: dulcevidaspirits.com

Photo Source: dulcevidaspirits.com

I’ve tasted some notable Añejos in my day, but by and large when it comes to tequila (a category — and region — I love), I am most drawn towards Reposado or Blanco tequilas because it is all about letting that agave shine. In whisk(e)y, oak is such a critical factor in the character and flavor profile. While I enjoy some of the woody notes of Añejos, my favorite Añejos still taste most strongly of the agave plant, which is what sets tequila apart from whisk(e)y, rum, brandy and other spirits. Agave is the heart and soul of tequila and to not be able to taste the freshness of the plant, for me, is what ruins it. Young tequila lets the vibrant, green notes shine, although there are exceptions on every front.

That out of the way, here are my notes on these three new releases, one of them an Añejo and two of them Extra Añejos, that are just hitting the shelves.

Espolon Añejo Tequila ($35)

Photo source: tequilaespolon.com

Photo source: tequilaespolon.com

Espolon Blanco and Reposado Tequilas have long been one of the strong value-for-taste tequilas (plus they sport that cool, Day of the Dead, skeleton artwork), working well in margaritas and other tequila cocktails. For the first time, Espolon is releasing an Añejo. Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza ages the Añejo in American oak for 10 months, then finishes it in heavily charred Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for another 2-3 months. Vanilla and bright agave hit hard on the nose while the taste is heavy on vanilla, spices and caramel without obliterating the agave. For the value, it is a strong cocktail tequila.

Dulce Vida Organic Extra Añejo Tequila ($169)

Photo source: drinksuerte.com

Photo source: drinksuerte.com

Actually certified organic, Dulce Vida Tequila, produced in Mexico from an Austin, TX-based company, just released their 5 year anniversary tequila: an extra anejo aged 5 years in Napa Valley red wine barrels (the first tequila aged in red wine barrels). It smells and tastes the most like a whiskey of the three, if that is what you are after. There are tannins from the red wine barrels and dominant whiskey characteristics of caramel, cedar and leather with a bit of dried fruit sweetness. This one is most ideal as a sipping tequila of the three. It is a limited edition release so once the bottles are gone, they are gone.

Suerte’s Extra Añejo Tequila ($110)

Released in October at less than 1000 bottles, Suerte’s Extra Añejo Tequila was aged five years. Produced in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, it is 100% tahona processed, which means the slow-roasted agave is crushed by a two-ton, volcanic rock wheel (a tahona), an old world practice still found often in mezcal but rare in tequila. There are silky, vanilla, spiced — even apple — notes to the Extra Anejo, but there is also the strongest agave plant taste and liveliness of three, meaning the oak is present but thankfully does not dominate.

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Jan
01
2015

Imbiber

Devil's Acre, new in North Beach

Devil’s Acre, new in North Beach

My Top Drink Articles: December 15-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

My Year in Dining & Drink article

398 Cocktails

398 Cocktails

Cocktails

The 14 Top New Cocktail Bars of the Year

Devil’s Acre, a new/old timey elxir source, soda fountain & cocktail bar in North Beach

What to Eat & Drink at Chris Cosentino’s new Cockscomb

State Bird sister restaurant The Progress opens next door

What to eat & drink at Union Square’s new 398

3 things to know about STEM, the new Mission Bay restaurant with edible gardens & Bay views

Hot Drink: a notable barrel aged cocktail at Per Diem

Wine, Beer, Spirits to Purchase

What to order at downtown’s new SOMA Eats & Bottle Shop

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Jan
01
2015

Imbiber

3 Spirits Picks for December

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk — or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries — in any given month. For December, here are 3 international spirits — vermouth, rum and Scotch— that stood out or offer something different.

BroVo Vermouths ($18)

Photo Source: brovospirits.com

Photo Source: brovospirits.com

I’ve been having fun with BroVo’s brand new line of vermouths — and was already a fan of their amaro line. As with their unique amari, based off recipes from different bartenders around the US, the vermouths use Washington state wines as the base (including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Rosé wines), produced with botanicals at their Woodinville, WA, distillery.

The initial four vermouths are Witty, Pretty, Jammy and Pink, each playful, vibrant and from recipes created by varying bartenders working BroVo distillers Mhairi Voelsgen (owner) and Mac Kenney. I particularly like the savory, dry Witty and the floral, bright Pretty, all four standing strong on their own on the rocks or mixed in a classic Palmetto cocktail, which is equal parts dry (white) and sweet (red) vermouth with bitters. Details and where to purchase by state or online here.

Lost Spirits Colonial Rum ($100)

Photo Source: lostspirits.net

Photo Source: lostspirits.net

I’ve been a fan of Lost Spirits in Monterey since the moment I first tasted distiller Bryan Davis’ whiskies and overproof rum. I adore their Cuban-style rum and their  Navy Style Rum. Davis has done it again with their new Colonial American Rum (124 proof) with the same base but laden with notes of wood and smoke, figs, earthy coffee and a decided molasses bent. It’s a sipping rum at a mere 240 bottles — stay tuned for a new variation in 2015. Available for purchase only at Bounty Hunter.

SIA Scotch Whisky ($50)

Photo Source: siascotch.com

Photo Source: siascotch.com

Distilled, aged and bottled by Douglas Laing  Co. Ltd. in Glasgow, Scotland, the first notable aspect of SIA is that it’s a recipe created by Carin Luna-Ostaseski. With women being the exception rather than the rule in whisk(e)y distilling and blending, that is worth celebrating. To taste, it’s a balanced, pleasing blend of whiskies from Scotland’s Speyside (50%), Highlands (40%) and Islay (10%) regions.

Luna-Ostaseski crafted a crowd-pleasing blend, golden in color, subtle and smooth but thankfully not lacking in character. As one expects from quality Scotch, harmony is everything and this whisky evokes wood, hazelnut, vanilla and a hint of spice. Though I don’t know the sources of the “juice” (whiskies), the blended aspect results in the affordable price. Sources for purchase here.

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Dec
15
2014

Imbiber

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

My Top Drink Articles: December 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

Bay Area Holiday Dining Survival Guide

2014 Bay Area Food & Drink Trends

Cocktails

RN74 from a vegetarian perspective – an array of creative new vegetarian dishes

Beer

Visiting the new Brewcade (beer with vintage arcade games) and Tap 415 in the Westfield Centre

Wine & Sherry Lists

4 things to know about the new chef and menu at Gitane

Wine Country

Napa Valley newcomer: what to love at Archetype in St. Helena

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Dec
15
2014

Imbiber

5 Wine Picks for December

Article by Virginia Miller

Many wines cross my desk or are tasted at numerous restaurants and bars I visit almost night… For December, here are 5 wines that stood out in the last 4 weeks, whether by the bottle or tasted at a local restaurant/bar.

1. 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc ($16)
Recently at Gitane, I fell for the mineral, citrus notes of a layered 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, France ($11 glass, $32 carafe, $44 bottle). It averages around $16 retail.

2. 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis ($20)
During a recent return to French wine mecca RN74, I savored more excellent white and red Burgundy by the glass, one of my favorite wine regions in the world. My favorite of a number of half pours was the balanced acidity and yellow orchard fruit of a 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis, France (I do so love Chablis). For purchase at K&L Wines.

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

3. 2009 RicciCurbastro Franciacorta Saten Brut ($35)
This Italian sparkling wine from Italy’s Lombardy region is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, delivering a bright burst of acidity with unexpected notes of vanilla lavender, baked apple and toasted almond. This wine is a refreshingly affordable alternative to Champagne. For purchase at Binny’s.

4. 2012 m2 Wines Tormenta Tempranillo ($22)
From a 24-year-old vineyard on the east side of Lodi, comes this unexpectedly balanced, pleasing Tempranillo. The medium-bodied red is dark and lush, balanced by acidity. Purchase via m2’s website.

5. 2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo ($23)
Another balanced offering from Lodi and Bokisch Vineyards (try their Albarino at Picnic on Third) is this medium-bodied Tempranillo, delicately smoky with blueberry, subtle tannins and leather notes and acidity.

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Dec
01
2014

Imbiber

Crystal Jade cocktails

Crystal Jade cocktails

My Top Drink Articles: November 16-30

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

3 new SF wine bars you should know

Cocktails

Hapa Ramen opens its first brick-and-mortar – with cocktails – in the Mission

Crystal Jade opens its first location outside Asia – cocktails with Embarcadero views from a spacious patio

Just what Napa needed: La Taberna, an all day destination for Spanish food and sherry, wine, Madeira

Creative cocktails in Napa Valley: The Farmer & the Fox in St. Helena

Hapa Ramen cocktails

Hapa Ramen cocktails

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Dec
01
2014

Imbiber

3 Spirits Picks for November

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk — or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries — in any given month. For November, here are international spirits — mezcal, a cacao spirit, an agave spirit and a single malt whiskey — that stood out or offer something different.

Amaras Mezcal ($49.99)

Photo Credit: Mezcal Amaras website

Photo Credit: Mezcal Amaras website

Amaras, also known as Mezcal Amores in Mexico, is a mezcal made from espadin agave, just released in the US in November through Anchor Distilling, starting with a handful of cities, including SF, LA and NY.

Founded in 2010 by Jorge Rodriguez-Cano and Santiago Suarez Cordova, they sought the best distillers for espadin mezcal (and have also started growing tobala agave plants for future release), tahona processed, which means the slow-roasted agave is crushed by a volcanic rock wheel (a tahona), an old world practice I’ve seen in my travels to distilleries around the state of Oaxaca (more here) and on a rare occasion, in tequila production in Jalisco.

Amaras is a soft — but by no means subtle — mezcal, one that sits in the happy middle both mezcal novices and aficionados can appreciate.

Solbeso Cacao Spirit ($35)

Photo Credit: Solbeso Twitter page

Photo Credit: Solbeso Twitter page

Distilled from cacao, and yet it functions like a tequila or an unaged rum? Yes, that is the surprise of Solbeso, a cacao fruit-based spirit based on an ancient practice of distilling cacao fruit into a clear, unaged spirit. It’s distilled from the pulp, not the beans, so don’t expect chocolate-y notes so much as a floral, clean citrus aroma from the 12 varieties of cacao from farms in Peru and Ecuador used in the distillate. It makes an unexpectedly bright, lively margarita and even works well in gin cocktail classics heavy on the lemon, like a Bee’s Knees or a Daisy.

Venus Spirits’ El Ladron Blanco & Wayward Single Malt

Venus Spirits is a distillery newcomer to Santa Cruz this year, opened by founder/distiller Sean Venus. He’s distilling gin, vodka, aquavit, whiskey and agave spirits. I sampled Venus’ unaged and aged gins (the latter will be released in Spring 2015), the agave spirit, El Ladron Blanco, and Wayward Single Malt Whiskey.

Photo Credit: indiegogo.com/projects/venus-spirits-the-tasting-room

Photo Credit: indiegogo.com/projects/venus-spirits-the-tasting-room

The first standout: El Ladron Blanco made from 100% organic blue weber agave from Mexico — akin to tequila and distilled twice in their alembic pot still — it is fruity, bright, salty and plays well in classic tequila cocktails (namely a margarita).

The second standout: Wayward Single Malt Whiskey made from organic malted barley, twice-distilled and aged 5 months in new American oak (Venus is also aging bourbon and rye). With a background in craft beer, whiskey wasn’t a big leap and, in fact, was his inspiration behind starting a distillery. Inspired by a pale ale beer recipe, this whiskey plays light, partly due to its young age but also its pale ale nature (there will be a two-year aged version released in a couple years) — but it isn’t without caramel, woody character.

Watch the Venus Spirits website for pricing and links to where you can purchase – currently, the site merely links to social media.

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Nov
15
2014

Imbiber

New drinks at the Alembic

New drinks at the Alembic

My Top Drink Articles: November 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

Bluxome Winery & Les Clos team up for a month of (delicious) sailing on the bay

Cocktails

New cocktails on ALEMBIC’s menu alongside dishes from its brand new kitchen

Second Annual Give Back the Bird: drink Wild Turkey whiskey cocktails for charity this Thanksgiving at 5 favorite SF bars/restaurants

Beer

3 new BEER BARS you should know in SF and Oakland

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