What to Drink While Watching “A Christmas Carol”

Whether you’re watching the 1951 Alastair Sim version of the Dickens classic, or taking in a live performance at Trinity Rep (which we highly endorse – it is just fantastic this year), we’ve got a pairing that will make your enjoyment of this holiday must-do that much better.

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Curt Columbus, Artistic Director of Trinity Rep (and a wine lover with a great palate) selected two sparklers to go with the show. Said Curt: “Two celebratory wines for the year’s most festive production! One’s sweet and one’s dry, but both are sparkling and just spectacular. The dazzling Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Sofia Blanc de Blancs is dry and full of bright, fresh and juicy pear flavor; the sensational Centorri Moscato d’Asti has a crisp honeycomb-scented sweetness. Both are bubbly and echo the joyful spirit of the holidays at Trinity. Happy Holidays!”

Both the Sofia and Centorri are available to drink during the show. If you purchase either in store, Bottles will donate 20% of your purchase back to Trinity.

We’re proud and thrilled to be the Official Sommelier of Trinity Repertory Company. Happy Holidays from all of us at Bottles!

Top Holiday Wines for 2016

There’s a lot of eating that will be done over the next 30 days, what with the festive observances of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and Day, and myriad other wonderful winter celebrations. And if you’re reading this blog, stakes are that you’ll be drinking wine with those feasts. Here are our picks for the bottles that pair beautifully with holiday menus of all tastes and styles.

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Domaine de Grisy Bourgogne Rouge (Pinot Noir), Burgundy, France
What a great value for a red Burgundy, full of the traditional tart cherry, mushroom, and forest floor aromas and flavors. It’s a superb option for your holiday cocktail party, and is also incredibly winter-food friendly. $21.99

Gracciano, Rosso di Montepulciano, Italy
An elegant Rosso with cherry, raspberry and eucalyptus notes, balanced by earthy tannins. It wants to be on the table during your traditional Italian feasts. Mangia! Mangia! $16.99

The Fableist Merlot, Paso Robles, CA
A big, ripe merlot that’s ready to party. It’s silky with notes of black tea, blueberries and a saturated minerality, and has hints of sweet plums, warm cedar planks, and freshly ground spices. We’ll be opening bottles of this to enjoy while eating pizza, stringing popcorn and watching Die Hard. Do the same! $24.99

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Penya (Grenache, Carignan and Syrah blend), Cote Catalanes, France
You say you’re making a roast? Welcome to your new best friend. It’s a rustic country wine, loaded with herbal, spice and blackberry flavors that go terrifically well with roasts of all stripes, from pork to lamb, to vegetables. $13.99

Justin Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA
An overflowing glass-full of black cherry & currant, blackberry jam, violets and herbs. Serving a big steak with bordelaise or hearty beef stew? Need an impressive gift? Justin’s your guy. And, it’s on-sale! $24.99 (compare to $34.99)

Ampeleia ‘Unlitro,’ Costa Toscana, Italy
A newcomer to our shelves and one that we can’t stop drinking. It has notes of cherry, roses and juniper, and a bright, “alive” quality that makes it refreshing and extremely pleasant to drink, especially when paired with roast chicken. It’s uniqueness means it’s a great gift for the hard-to-please wine lover, too. $19.99 (1L)

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Domaine de Bel Air, Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, France
Need an impressive gift for the boss, or a special wine for a crowd? This stunning French white is incredibly expressive with white peach and lilac aromas, and citrus/herbal flavors. It’s a rounder and very elegant expression of Sauvignon Blanc.  $22.99

Saint Peyre Viognier, Languedoc, France
We love this soft, full-bodied white for its floral, peachy and tropical notes, and for its versatility. It’s special enough for fancy holiday occasions, and low-priced enough to drink on a weeknight, say, while you’re wrapping gifts.  $12.99

Oyster Bay Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand
A beauty from down-under that’s best enjoyed under a down blanket in front of a warm fire with a big bowl of popcorn. It’s lush with ripe apple fruit flavor, and rich with a creamy body. That hallmark Kiwi “crispness” can be found in the finish. $14.99

A toast to you and yours from all of us at Bottles!

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Bottles’ Favorite Things: A Spirited Gift Guide

In addition to his other important responsibilities here at Bottles, Liam spends a good bit of the year compiling a list of well-crafted, tasty bottles for you to give to the spirits enthusiast on your holiday gift list. Some of the labels that made this year’s cut are new to Rhode Island and others are favorites that have stood the test of time.

Herewith, the 2016 list of Bottles’ Favorite Things:
Borsci San Marzano
An after-dinner concoction that’s completely unique. In fact, we’ve never had anything quite like it. The best way we can think to describe it is to imagine if an amaro, a coffee liquor, a cream liquor, and Fernet all got together and had a baby. This is that baby. $24.99 (750ml)

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St. George Triple Gin Sampler
One of our favorite things to give or receive, each of these bottles houses a uniquely crafted, artisanal gin. ‘Terroir’ is made with all California botanicals (bay leaves, orange, spruce tips), while ‘Botanivore’ has a much more traditional juniper and citrus flavor. The Dry Rye gin is a spicy flavor bomb perfectly suited to an ice-cold martini. The whole kit ‘n kaboodle is an ideal sampler pack for gin-lovers. $24.99 (3 bottles, 200ml each)

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St. George Bruto Americano
Move over, Campari! This home-grown (Cali) bitter has all the hallmarks of Campari and Aperol, but with a unique American spin. Bitter and herbal, with a finish of pine and bay leaf, it makes a killer Negroni – the “it” drink of the moment. And the packaging can’t be beat. $29.99 (750ml)

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Caffo Vecchio Amaro del Capo
A must-have for serious amari fans, the del Capo is a beguiling marriage of fruity, herbal, bitter, sweet and savory flavors. Our new favorite post-meal treat is best served ice cold, right out of the freezer. $24.99 (750ml)

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Caffo Limoncello dell’Isola
We’ve finally found it. A limoncello that’s not overly saccharine. This beauty is made with family-grown Calabrian lemons, and no added flavorings, color, or other nonsense. Bright, pleasantly sweet, and, of course, full of the sunshine-y taste of lemons! $19.99 (750ml)
Glenrothes Triple Pack
One of the best values we’ve ever come across. Three extraordinary single malt whiskies in bottles that just make you want to hold on. A terrific gift for the burgeoning whiskey lover in your life. $34.99 (3 bottles, 100ml each)

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Hine Rare VSOP Cognac
Are all Cognacs created the same? No, and Hine is a venerable and often overlooked house that deserves your attention. Their VSOP is comprised of over 25 Cognacs, with about half coming from the Grande Champagne region and the remainder from the Petite Champagne. Treat the brandy-lover on your list to this something special. $49.99 (750 ml)

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Barr Hill Gin
A delicate gin for all cocktail enthusiasts. It’s distilled with hand-picked juniper berries, and bottled with the addition of 5% raw honey. It’s not sweet, but does impart the heady aromas of fresh wildflower honey. And it makes the best ‘Bees Knees’ cocktail you’ve ever had. $39.99 (750ml)

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Barr Hill Gin & Honey Gift Pack
The beekeepers at Barr Hill had the great idea of letting us all in on the magic of their spirits with this gift pack. In it they include a versatile bottle of their traditional gin, a bottle of Barr Hill’s magical “Tom Cat” barrel aged gin (perfect for sipping on the rocks), and a jar of their fabulous raw Vermont honey, which is used to create the gin. $49.99 (2 bottles, 375ml each, and an 8oz jar of raw Vermont honey)

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Koval Organic Spirits Triple Pack
Straight from the heart of Chicago to your home. Koval’s distinctive whiskies are kosher, organic, and sure to please! This sampler has bottles of Koval’s bourbon, millet whiskey and four grain whiskey. Of course it’s ideal for the Cubs fan on your list this year, though we know any whiskey lover will love and appreciate it, too. $39.99 (3 bottles, 200ml each)

Happy Gifting!

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DIY Gifts: Homemade Hooch

pineapple5Peperoncini Vodka, Pineapple Vodka, and Coffee Bean Bourbon, ready to gift

DIY infused booze. It’s the perfect gift, whether you’re the type that likes to have your gifting done pre-Thanksgiving, or the guy who’s scouring the mall on December 23rd.

It’s simple, really. All you need is a neutral spirit, an empty jar or bottle, spices, produce, or herbs of your choice, a ribbon (or not) and a gift tag (or not). The hardest part is creating the perfect combination of flavors for your recipient (and that’s what we’re here for), and letting time do its thing.

Because the formula is vague (booze + flavor = infusion!) it can be easy to get overwhelmed. My advice is to keep it simple and stick to your gut. That’s what I did when I first made Pineapple Vodka many years ago. And though I’ve made more intricate infusions over the years, the original Pineapple is the one most requested by my family members. I get the evil eye if I don’t gift it each season. Not only is it delicious, but also has the added benefits for our purposes here, of being virtually foolproof, and quick. Which means even if you find yourself needing gifts on December 23rd, this recipe will deliver.

solopineappejarDIY Pineapple Vodka (makes 750ml of infused spirit)
Trim and cut one fresh pineapple. (If you don’t have a pineapple coring apparatus, just use a sharp chef’s knife or a serrated knife to trim off the top, then trim straight across the bottom so it will stand up straight. Slice down the sides, cutting off the tough outer skin and inner spikes. You can now slice the pineapple into rings or chunks. For rings, cut the pineapple widthwise into slices. Using a small, round cookie cutter, stamp out the inner core and discard. For chunks, slice the pineapple lengthwise around the core to desired thickness. Cut each piece lengthwise again. Finally, dice crosswise to create chunks.) If you’re using a bottle as your gifting container, be sure to cut the fruit into pieces small enough to fit inside the neck of the bottle.

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chunk-closeupSelect a glass container with a tight fitting lid. Fill it ¾ of the way with the cut pineapple, and add enough vodka to fill.

pineapple4Seal the container, and shake for about 40 seconds. For optimum infused flavor, let sit for at least 1 hour and up to 2 weeks. If you find yourself short of time, simply indicate an “open” date on your gift tag. One of the best parts about this particular infusion? The fruit is edible (some say even better) once it’s soaked. Don’t forget to tell the recipient to eat the booze-infused pineapple – it’s amazing.

Bottling Your Infused Gift
This recipe yields 750ml of liquid, enough to fill a standard wine bottle. Swing-top bottles (we sell both the 750ml and 8oz sizes) are really great for this, as are wide-mouth mason jars, which lend a truly homemade feel.

Writing Your Bottle Notes
A handwritten note or tag to accompany your handmade hooch is a lovely, thoughtful touch.
-consider including your suggestions for how best to enjoy the spirit, or a recipe for a cocktail that has as its main ingredient your infusion.
-if your infusion contains ingredients that may be considered allergens, include that info on your tag.
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Below are additional combinations I’ve used for years. Some require weeks of steeping and contact time, others only 24 hours. Visit our handy Infused Booze Infographic for instructions, then play with the combos below. I’d love to hear about infusions you’ve done or are trying this season. Tag @bottlesfinewine on Instagram and we’ll share your creations!

Bourbons (I like Bulleit or Maker’s Mark)
Hearty, warm aromatics will enhance the spirit’s warm, oaky notes. Consider:
Apple Cinnamon Bourbon
Coffee Bean Bourbon

Vodka (Prairie & Tito’s are my go-tos)
These neutral spirits are the most versatile, and play nicely with just about any fruit, herb or vegetable. Try:
Peperoncini Vodka
Ginger Lime Vodka
Blackberry Thyme Vodka

Gin (Prairie or Farmer’s work best here)
Herb and citrus flavors are a natural partner for gin. Consider:
Cucumber Basil Gin
Rosemary Gin

Tequila (Altos or Camarena)
Bring out the big guns to match tequila’s punch. Try:
Mango Tequila
Strawberry Tequila (so great for strawberry margaritas!)
Jalapeno Tequila

I hope you have fun infusing your booze!

Happy Holidays,
Alex

PUNCH! Local, Herbal and Delicious

Whether you’re hosting 4 people or 40, serving a big bowl of premade punch is a stress free and festive way to ensure your guests drink well. Bottles’ friend Jessyloo Rodrigues, the Botanical Bartender behind the Parcel Apothecary herbal CSA / cocktail farm, recently shared with us tips and tricks for perfecting your punch, as well as three of her favorite seasonal recipes.

A Traditional DIY Rum Punch

Tips on ingredients:

The original word for punch comes from the Sanskrit word meaning 5, and refers to the 5 traditional ingredients in classic punches: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, tea/spices. Consider using variations on those key elements when constructing your punch.

Our new favorite way to remember the recipe for a Traditional Rum Punch is with a rhyme: “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.” Using that rhyme as your guide will allow you to riff with ingredients and open your punch up to what’s in season.

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Sour: lemon juice is traditional, but you could also use lime juice, grapefruit juice, tart/sour cherry juice or a blend.

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Sweet: A classic simple syrup is an easy way to add the “sweet.” To make simple syrup, mix 50/50 sugar to warm water and stir until sugar is dissolved. You can use traditional cane sugar, or grenadine syrup (pomegranate & sugar simple syrup), or make your own simple syrup with any of the following sugars: honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar, demerara. Consider adding strawberries, raspberries, passionfruit, or any other fruit to your simple syrup. Or infuse the simple syrup with your favorite aromatic herb (like lavender, mint, basil, rosemary). To do so, add the herb after the sugar is dissolved and the water is slightly cooled, and let steep for 15 minutes, then strain out the herb matter.

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Strong, aka, the alcohol: The punches below use locally-made spirits. If you’re not in the Rhode Island vicinity, be sure to look for spirits made in your area. Thanks to the boom of small craft distillers, they can be found in your local radius anywhere in the US at this point. Use just one spirit, or a mix of several.

juice
Weak: Go with one juice, or try a blend. Pineapple, orange, pomegranate, and watermelon are all good choices. Or, try freshly squeezing a blend of your own juices (carrot &  ginger are terrific). When cocktails meet your health kick – your trainer will be proud! Also, it’s always a good idea to balance the juice with water (tap, coconut, acai, etc.) as it helps dilute the juice’s concentration.

ice
Using large-format ice is ideal, as it slows down the dilution of your punch, while keeping it chilled. Consider using a bundt pan as a ring mold, and float your garnish (citrus wheels, herbs, garnish, edible flowers, or a little prize) in the water before freezing. Alternately, use plastic bags or a small plastic bowl as your mold. Large-format ice cube “trays” are easily available, too. We have several sizes and shapes at Bottles.

All recipes below are formatted for the standard, large 8-quart punch bowl.

punchdoneA Traditional Rum Punch 

Ingredients
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (sour)
2 cups simple syrup made from demerara sugar (sweet)
3 cups Thomas Tew Rum (strong)
4 cups of a 50/50 mixture of pineapple juice and coconut water (weak)
Garnish: fresh limes, cranberries and rosemary. Jessyloo chose rosemary, a symbol of remembrance, for this recipe as it represents the rhyme that will help you remember how to make punch! It’s also a lovely aromatic herb that will inspire you and your guests to stir up fond memories of loved ones at your holiday gathering this year. (Herbal Fun Fact: simply smelling rosemary once a day can improve your short and long term memory.)

Method
Combine all ingredients into a punch bowl, stirring well after each addition. Add large-format ice and garnish with fruit and herbs. In our punch, Jessyloo filled the limes halves we squeezed earlier with cranberries and rosemary for garnish.

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Here are two additional recipes that will require a touch more effort, but are worth every second.

Honey Bee in a Pine Tree

Ingredients
9 green tea teabags
12oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 bottle (750ml) of Barr Hill Vodka (distilled from Vermont honey)
12oz Combier (an orange liqueur)
18oz Pama Liqueur
8oz Zirbenz (a pine liqueur)
1 bottle (750ml) Mionetto Brut Prosecco
Garnish: pomegranate jewels and lime slices

Method
Prepare 18oz of green tea by brewing 9 teabags in 18oz of boiling water, and letting steep for 5 minutes. Add the next 5 liquid ingredients into your punch bowl, stirring vigorously after each addition. Let sit in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Top with a 750ml bottle of prosecco. Add ice and garnish with pomegranate jewels and lime slices. (Herbal Fun Fact: white pine needles are edible and high in vitamin C.)

Five Pointed Punch

Ingredients
1 tbsp Chinese 5-Spice Powder
7oz raw honey
6 Roobios teabags
25oz of Sons of Liberty Gala Apple Whiskey
8oz Lime Juice
12oz Orange Juice
10oz Apple Cider
32oz club soda or seltzer
Garnish: lime, orange and apple slices cut width-wise to reveal their star (remove seeds).

Method
Make a 5-Spice honey simple syrup: stir the Chinese 5-Spice Powder and raw honey into 8oz of hot water until dissolved. Add to your punch bowl. Prepare 12oz of strong Roobios tea by brewing 6 teabags in 12oz of boiling water, and let steep for 15 minutes. Add to the punch bowl. Add all remaining liquid ingredients except the club soda into your punch bowl, stirring vigorously after each addition.  Let sit in the fridge for 2-4 hours.  Add ice cube and top with club soda before serving. Garnish with the fruit slices. (Herbal Fun Fact: The spices used in Chinese 5 Spice are star anise, szechuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves. These represent the 5 natural elements in traditional Chinese medicine, thus making the powder a balanced and powerful blend. All 5 spices are used for digestive complaints and as an ingredient in tooth paste.)

We hope you enjoy making these punches. Our thanks to Jessyloo, and Happy Holidays!

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Cider For Thanksgiving. It’s A Thing.

While Thanksgiving may be the most All-American of holidays, its history is deeply rooted in our more local New England heritage and traditions. A meal of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce could only have come from New England (after all, they weren’t shooting wild turkeys in the vast cranberry bogs of El Paso).

Every year people ask us, “What’s the best wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner?” The answer is, honestly, almost any wine that you like! Pinot noir, Cotes du Rhone, and malbec are all great, safe choices, and all offer extremely tasty wine at a variety of price points. But the one beverage that gets short shrift each year, and couldn’t be better aligned to our New England Thanksgiving traditions, is cider.

One thing New England has never been short on is apples. And when you’re facing a harsh new England winter without any modern conveniences, it makes a lot more sense to turn your surplus apples into safe-to-drink cider, so you can save your barley and wheat for baking. Which is what our forefathers did.

After prohibition, we lost our taste for cider, and many of our orchards were given over to the cultivation of eating apples. Thankfully, the recent resurgence in craft beer and spirits has reversed that trend, and many long forgotten cider apple varieties are making their way back onto our shelves.

Here are nine of our favorite ciders for a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. Many come from cideries right here in our backyard, but we’ve also included some classics from the great cider making nations of Europe.

We hope you find something new to try in our list, and are inspired to branch out with your Thanksgiving feast. Remember, it’s not wine, and it’s not beer – it’s cider!

Nine Great Thanksgiving Ciders

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Stormalong Cider The Grand Banks – Sherborn, MA
A new-comer to the Rhode Island market, Stormalong makes an excellent dry cider, and a very tasty dry-hopped variety. Our choice for Thanksgiving is their cider finished in Boston’s Bully Boy Distillers’ rum barrels. The cider coaxes beautiful flavors of vanilla and baking spice from the oak casks, and provides a welcome counterpoint to the bracing acidity of the cider. Extremely well made.

Shacksbury Classic – Shoreham, VT
Made with both eating and cider apples from Vermont and England, this slightly sparkling cider has subtle earthy notes and an off-dry finish that’s the perfect accompaniment to turkey’s dark meat and fatty skin.

Eve’s Cidery Albee Hill – Van Etten, NY
Made with a hodgepodge of traditional cider apples like ‘Stembridge Cluster’ and ‘Wickson,’ this is a cider for wine lovers. Bone-dry, with nuanced flavors of stone fruit, peaches, and sage. With a slightly bitter finish, this cider goes with everything on the table, especially stuffing and gravy!

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Aaron Burr Cidery Appinette – Wurtsboro, NY
This one is a bit bonkers, but the juice in the bottle is phenomenal. A Champagne lover’s cider, Appinette is made from 30% Traminette grapes from the Finger Lakes, and 70% cider apples. A little cloudy and ruddy, it has vibrant, bubbly aromas of grapefruit, apricots, and rose petals. Truly delightful.

Oyster River Winegrowers Dry Cider – Warren, ME
Unfiltered, bottle conditioned, naturally fermented cider – it’s about as natural as it gets. Bracingly tart, with lively, persistent bubbles, this is a light bodied cider for a toast and a first course.

Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cider – Devon, England
Made with fun-to-say English apples like ‘Sweet Alford’ and ‘Dabinett’, this cider is fermented and aged in chestnut casks before bottling. The chestnut adds a creamy weight to the cider, which retains a little sweetness and residual sugar.

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Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie – Normandie, France
A strikingly beautiful cider with a ridiculously understated label. Very lively in the glass, with a frothy head and complex flavors of apples, pears, citrus, pine, leather, anise, and oak. An elegant cider for an elegant meal.

Rekorderlig Spiced Apple – Vimmerby, Sweden
Rich and fruity Swedish cider, infused with cinnamon and vanilla. It’s apple pie in a glass – perfect for dessert!

Guzman Riestra Sidra Brut Nature – Asturias, Spain
A secondary fermentation in the bottle creates this naturally sparkling beauty with a Champagne-like dryness and body. It has bright fruity pear and banana notes, but is not at all sweet or cloying! The bubbles and tartness of the apples will cut through heavier flavors of mashed potatoes and stuffing without getting in the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Liam

The Top White Wines For Thanksgiving

Our entire team gathered one Sunday night after closing to taste through the Thanksgiving wines that our Wine Director, Nick, selected this year. The consensus? They’re all winners. There wasn’t a loser among them (and we have a really opinionated staff. Really. Opinionated.) That said, there are marked differences among each bottle. We encourage you to grab a staff member for help in selecting the style that will match your palate.

Last week we shared our red wine picks. Herewith, the whites:

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Corvezzo Terre di Marca Prosecco, Italy
Delicious, organic sparkling wine, new to the store, which has just a whisper of the fruitiness
you want to enhance Thanksgiving flavors. Perfect for toasts, pairing, and cocktails. $13.99


Domaine Bernier Chardonnay, The Loire, France
A tasty, un-oaked chardonnay that’s loved even by those who don’t typically like chards. (Believe us.) It’s perfect for when you want an all-around great white with value. $11.99

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Godeval Godello, Galicia, Spain
A versatile dry Spanish white that will go with everything on the table and stands on its own as an aperitif. Great minerality! $17.99

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Mount Eden “Wolff” Chardonnay, California
A great barrel aged chardonnay that has a bit more structure for the oak-loving ‘Cali-Chard’ drinker at the table. $21.99

Cheers!

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The Top Red Wines for Your Thanksgiving Table

Everyone has opinions about which wines pair best with Thanksgiving dinner.

Some say only drink Beaujolais, some dictate pinot noir. Some suggest drinking bubbly wine throughout the entire meal (let’s have dinner at their house!), some suggest pairing a different wine with each course.

None of the above are wrong, of course. The only wrong wine to serve with the most written about meal of all time is the one you don’t like.

The tack we take for you, our loyal, trusting friends, is not to demand that you drink one style, but rather to suggest a variety of turkey-and-fixins’-friendly wines to meet all palates. Want to serve Italian wine? We have one for you. Rather show your love of the USA? We got that, too. Any of the wines below will be do what a good Thanksgiving wine is supposed to do: taste good and support the glorious flavors on the table.

Herewith, our top red wine picks for Thanksgiving 2016.

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Durban Beaumes de Venise, Rhone Valley, France

A crowd-pleasing red blend of grenache and syrah that’s not too light nor too heavy. Its ‘old world’ finish (i.e., dry, subtle and earthy) won’t dominate the meal you’ve slaved over, either. $19.99

primarious_red
Primarius Pinot Noir, Oregon
This is the wine that will be so popular on the 24th that you’ll chide yourself for not purchasing more. It’s a velvety, well-crafted pinot noir from a great producer that everyone will enjoy – the classic turkey pairing that never disappoints. $16.99

tami_nero_red
Tami Nero d’Avola, Sicily

Looking for an off-the-beaten path wine with great pedigree? The Tami has that distinctive Italian feel without a crazy price tag. And it’s made by Arianna Occhipinti – the current darling of the wine world. $19.99

yon_red
2012 Chateau Yon, Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

A classic style, this merlot / cabernet blend is everything you would expect from a Right Bank Bordeaux (balanced fruit, smooth) that is ready to drink now, at a phenomenal price. $21.99

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Antigal Uno Malbec, Argentina

A smooth and supple red that perfectly compliments the more bold dishes on your table. Malbec is a Thanksgiving best seller for us year after year. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!  $19.99

Tune in next week for our top picks for the white wine drinkers at your table

Cheers!

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Kiuchi Brewing

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a very special 193-year-old brewery.

They have never closed, and have been producing continuously since 1823, so how can they be 20 years old?

The answer lies in what is being brewed, and in some of the most innovative, thoughtful, and delightful products that we are proud to carry on our shelves. They all come from the Kiuchi brewery, who from their home in Japan send us charming, thoughtful sakes which they’ve brewed since the early 1800s, and mouth-watering beers which they began brewing 20 years ago.

We’d love to share a few of our favorites with you, in the hope that you find some new favorites for yourself.

The Sake

Kiuchi sake has been brewed for a long, long time, with a sustained commitment to quality ingredients and traditional methods. Their careful processing coaxes wonderfully floral, fruity and nutty aromas from the rice, along with a beguiling mouthfeel that demands to be savored. As always, sake is best enjoyed with good food and better company.

Here are some of our favorites from this venerable house. What’s great for beginning sake drinkers is that Kiuchi makes the following sakes available in sample sizes. Five of their best are sold in a pack of 200ml bottles.

Asamurasake – ‘Morning Purple Red Rice Sake’ is made from a very unique red rice, and is indeed reddish-purple in color, with a very light spritz and refreshing berry flavors.

tarusake

Tarusake – Sake slowly matured in Akita Cedar barrels. Look for flavors of white pepper, citrus zest and, well, cedar.

kurahibiki

Kurahibiki – A complex sake made with ‘Yama Danishiki’ rice, specifically bred for sake brewing. A sophisticated sake with flavors of honeydew melon and lychee fruit.

The Beer

Kiuchi began brewing beer in 1996 under the Hitachino Nest label, along with their iconic owl.

Led by their stalwart White Ale, their brews are typified by fresh spins on style, with a uniquely Japanese twist that intrigues your taste buds without shocking your sensibilities. If you’re lucky enough to find any of these beers on tap – drink them! Since we aren’t always so lucky in our draught choices, here are some of our favorite award-winning bottles:

hibichi

White Ale – A Belgian-style witbier brewed with the subtle additions of coriander, nutmeg, orange peel, and fresh orange juice. Remarkably refreshing!

Anbai – Anbai means ‘salty plum,’ an apt name for this take on a German gose. The brewers ratchet up the alcohol on their White Ale recipe to 7% and add Japanese green sour plums and sea salt. Sounds odd, but the slightly tart and flinty flavors are explosive and addictive.

Red Rice Ale – An ale comprised of barley and red rice, fermented with sake yeast. The result is a malty brew, with a pleasantly earthy finish. It’s one of our favorite food beers, as it marries perfectly with all manner of meats and fatty fish.

Dai Dai – A dry IPA brewed with the peel of the ‘Fukure Mikan’ fruit, a wild Mandarin orange which is cultivated near the brewery. As with all Hitachino beers, it’s neither too bitter nor fruity, with all the flavors in balance.

Sweet Stout – An English-style milk stout, with decadent flavors of coffee, chocolate and roasted nuts. Not a dark or bitter stout, but a pleasantly sweet brew perfectly suited to dessert.

Kanpai!

-Liam

Paso Robles Wines are a “Force of Nature”

The labels had us at hello.

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The art was graphic, powerful, densely colored, and letterpressed onto textured paper on heavy black bottles.

We had to try them.

To our relief, the wine inside the bottles matched their intensity and originality. And we bought a bunch of them. Can’t miss them – they’re on display in the middle of the store through mid-November.

They’re the Force of Nature wines, made from fruit grown at Mossfire Ranch in California’s Paso Robles. The area has been bubbling up on the radar screens of real wine aficionados for some time now. Yes, some the wines from this central coast region can be overly big and juicy, but due to 40 degree diurnal shifts which chill down the warm Paso air at night, many of the better-crafted wines are taut with acidity.

Enjoy these rockin’ wines while binge watching Luke Cage, or hanging out around a fire pit, telling ghost stories deep into the night. We’ll be doing just that.

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Cabernet Sauvignon

This big beauty of a wine is concentrated and lush, and finishes with a subtle smoky wet-earth notes. Rob Murray, the gent who grows the grape, describes the wine as having a “farmer’s fist full of blueberry pie sprinkled with cinnamon spice.” This time of year? Yes please.

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Red Blend

Comprised mainly of merlot, with bunches of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite sirah mixed in, the wine’s deep purple color matches its intense ripe, dark-berry fruit flavor. There’s that acid at the end, balancing all that jammy goodness. Pro-tip: for full deliciousness, decant one hour before serving.

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Zinfandel
Dusty and floral, this atypical Paso Robles zinfandel fills your mouth with smooth cherries, rhubarb, chocolate and peppercorn. Its’ zippy acidity keeps those exploding flavors at bay, thankfully, and helps make this a superb bottle for steaks, burgers and tagliatelle bolognese.

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Chardonnay
A powerhouse chardonnay made from fruit grown at the Murmur Vineyard in Santa Maria, just 12 miles from the Pacific coast. Tangerine peel, white peach and jasmine aromas jump out of the glass. Big, round flavors of kiwi and passion fruit lead to a juicy finish with a palate cleansing citrus minerality. Gulp-able for sure.

Enjoy!

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