Bottles On The Bourbon Trail

Liam and Eric recently returned from a trip to Kentucky in search of private barrels of Bourbon that will be sold exclusively at Bottles. The barrels will be in store within a matter of months, so to tide you over, here are a few highlights from the guys’ trip:

Day One
Welcome to Kentucky! We arrived just in time for an early lunch at Mammy’s Kitchen in Bardstown (Liam had a hot brown, and Eric had the country ham plate with fried apples and green beans, and “coffee”) before heading off to the Willett Distillery.

The iconic Willett copper pot still is glorious. It was great to see how hands-on the distillery is in this highly technological age. Once made, all of Willett’s bourbon is transferred by hand into the barrels and weighed on a big manual scale (at the bottom of the photo) before being rolled into the rickhouse to age.

Willett isn’t yet available in RI – but perhaps soon!

Next stop: Maker’s Mark, where Eric did a thorough inspection of the private barrels in their new warehouse. Dug into the limestone hills, it was built to house their barrels of Maker’s 46, which require a 9-week cold aging process to finish. The private barrels that are aged there are finished with a different type of oak staves for 9 weeks. The wax dipping line was pretty cool to see, though the lady on the left wasn’t all that impressed with Eric.

Fun Fact: All of the trees outside of the distilleries are black. This is due to a whiskey fungus called Baudoinia. As barrels age in their warehouses, the liquid inside evaporates – the ‘angel’s share.’ This evaporate is full of ethanol, which Baudoinia feeds on. Since ethanol is denser than air, the angel’s share actually moves along the ground, and as soon as it hits anything moist (which there’s plenty of in the damp morning Kentucky dew) the fungus sticks and goes to work. Tree bark makes an especially good breeding ground. These lovely trees in bloom at Maker’s Mark show what we mean.

After a taxing day of bourbon tasting and dinner we were off to taste more whiskey! Here’s a shot from our barstool perch at Haymarket in downtown Louisville. That’s 300+ bottles of whiskey you see there, including the full cadre of Pappy and the antique collection, about 12 private barrel Four Roses, a bunch of stuff that isn’t made anymore and a lot more. We tried their own private barrel of Four Roses (picked by the Haymarket staff and Jim Rutledge the day before he retired). We needed a “calibration” on Four Roses before we headed over to pick out our own barrels. Also, their “well” bourbon is Heaven Hill 6-year – only available in KY. We might have had to bring some back with us.

Day Two brought us to the Heaven Hill distillery. One of many highlights from our trip was stumbling upon our very own private barrel of Elijah Craig, number 5017812, which we selected from a slew of samples last month. Our guide was astounded – hundreds of barrels move throughout the facility each day – the chance that we were here on the one day that our barrel was in line for bottling was one in thousands. It’s bourbon kismet! It’s also how we found out it’s 10 years old. Not quite 12 years, but not too bad for some pretty good juice. We grabbed a sharpie and signed it. Keep your eyes open – it will be in store before you know it.

We then watched as barrel number 7673766 was rolled onto the line to be filled with new make whiskey. Once filled, it was carted off to the rickhouse to age anywhere from 4 to 30 years. Heaven Hill numbers their barrels sequentially, so this tells you they’ve produced over 7 million barrels. They come in one door to be filled, and robots pack them onto a truck to be moved to the rickhouse. The second photo below is a huge pile of what comes out after the barrels are dumped. It’s bits of charcoal from the charred barrels in which the bourbon was aged that need to be filtered off before bottling. It was still damp from however many barrels were dumped that day, and smelled amazing.

Another astounding sight was that of the distillery warehouses themselves. The shot below is of just 4 of the 53 Heaven Hill rickhouses. The photo shows 7 stories of bourbon barrels, thousands of barrels in each – and these aren’t even the largest on the property. Over a million barrels are aging at Heaven Hill right now. These rickhouses caught on fire in 1996, sending rivers of flaming bourbon cascading down the hill, exploding barrels shooting overhead like fireworks. It’s very difficult to give a sense of scale, but these things are huge – gargantuan behemoths of bourbon rising over the horizon as you drive through the Kentucky countryside. Our heads came to about halfway up the bottom row of windows. The smell in the air was quite literally intoxicating.

Next stop was to Jim Beam to select a barrel of Knob Creek. We got to open 3 samples ourselves, popping the bung out with a giant hammer, and sampling them fresh and raw right from the barrel. The difference in flavor from barrel to barrel is always surprising. Two of our samples were aging right next to each other, but couldn’t have been more different. We chose barrel C06B22, which was aged in Warehouse K (which abbreviated in the photo looks like “whiskey,” doesn’t it). The code on the barrel tells where the bourbon was made and its age: C is for the city of Clermont where it was distilled, 06 is for 2006, B is the second month of the year, and 22 is the day of the month. February 22, 2006. Our barrel is 11 years and almost 2 months old! It’s older than our store!

We then went to Copper & Kings brandy distillery where (as we wrote about last month in our blog) the distillery pulses music via 5 major sub-woofers into their aging room. Unlike bourbon, brandy doesn’t like the temperature fluctuations that force the liquid in & out of the barrel staves – it’s too harsh for the delicate fruit flavors. In France, for instance, they will often rock the barrels by hand to agitate the liquid. At Copper & Kings, they use musical vibrations to jostle the booze in each barrel, allowing for more contact time with the wood. Sonic aging! You can see where they are aging brandy in ex-beer barrels as well. We were there on Al Green’s birthday, so it was Al’s tunes all day. That’s going to be some sexy brandy!

Next stop was at Four Roses, where we selected two private barrels. While there, we had the great opportunity to hang out with Al Young, Four Roses’ newly-minted Senior Brand Ambassador. He’s a great guy to know, and he even co-signed the barrels we chose for ya’ll back in little Rhody. We chose the OESQ recipe, one that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but there are barrels that are just starting to hit their mark. We had a chat with Brent Elliot (who recently took over as Master Distiller from legend Jim Rutledge) about the barrel, which he personally selected as a sample for this program. He was excited that we chose it, and mentioned that several “Qs” had caught his eye recently (you can read more about the different Four Roses recipes and the significance of ‘Q’ yeast on their website. Our barrel has a nice interplay of flavors and is not too hot on the finish. It helps that it comes from warehouse M, rack 8, 6 high, so pretty much right in the middle of the warehouse – the sweet spot.

We mentioned that we bought 2 barrels…so what about the second one? It’s a surprise! But you’ll find out soon enough. We can’t wait for you to try them.

On Day Three we mozied over to the old Stitzel-Weller distillery – where Julian Van Winkle (the first Pappy) began the modern bourbon craze all those years ago. Though the distillery is in the process of being modernized, they still have some of the original buildings. Imagining Pappy walking through that exact door was pretty cool. The iconic Old Fitzgerald smokestack was great to see in person.

We then went to the unbelievable Vendome Copper & Brass works, where almost 100% of the fermentation equipment for distilleries in the country (even that used by Rhody’s own Sons of Liberty) is made. The craftsmanship is amazing. Each still is a unique piece – and while they are 100% functional, they are complete works of art in and of themselves. The facility isn’t open to the public – we were so thrilled to have had a guided tour through it.

Later in the day we watched as artisans made barrels at the Brown-Forman Cooperage. The most important part of the bourbon aging process is the barrel, so to be able to see how they’re made was a rare treat. Brown-Forman makes their own barrels for Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, and Jack Daniels, among others. The barrels are charred with incredible heat for about 40 seconds. These barrels are right in the middle of their charring, and it was hot by the kiln. The char is what helps filter the bourbon and give it its distinctive golden caramel coloring. One of the most skilled jobs in the cooperage is that of fixing issues on defective barrels. This talented gentleman is replacing a split stave with a new one.

We ended our trip with a visit to Buffalo Trace where we saw their indescribably huge (seriously – we couldn’t get a great shot) fermenters. They have 12 of them. Each is 3 stories tall and holds 92,000 gallons. Each. They were full & bubbling. The sheer size of them made us truly wonder why it’s so hard to get their bourbon – where is it all going? Or is it all still aging?

The bottling line for Blanton’s Single Barrel is tucked away in a quiet corner of the distillery grounds. When the barrels are ready, they are individually vatted & proofed, hand bottled one-by-one, hand numbered, etc. It truly is a gem of a hand-made Bourbon. Wish we could get more of it at the store, but when you see the small number of bottles that each barrel yields, you can understand why it’s so hard to come by.

We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the business side of our trip than a visit to ‘Bourbon Pompeii’. Not open to the public yet, this is the excavation of the ORIGINAL O.F.C. distillery from 1873, built by Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. The history is amazing. Those big square holes were 12 copper-lined big fermentation tanks, and there is some sort of cistern (no one knows what that was for yet). It was a step into history that few get to see.

We couldn’t leave Kentucky without a trip to a race track! Before heading to the airport we made a pit stop at Keeneland for the Maker’s 46 Mile. Liam bet on horse 6, ‘Conquest Panthera’ & won $2! Eric bet on horse 4…

We saw a ton during our time in Louisville, more than we have room to share here. We had lovely visits with the Alltech Brewery & Distillery (makers of the popular Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Town Branch Bourbon), Woodford Reserve, Against the Grain Brewery, and other hot spots around town. We tried some amazing bourbons, met some very cool people, and found some very tasty whiskey to bring home and share with all of you. Keep your eyes peeled over the next few months for the arrival of our private barrels, and your own taste of the best Kentucky has to offer.

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A Recipe from north Restaurant, With Wine

You can’t get any more seasonal or versatile than this, a delicious recipe from Bottles’ friend Chef James Mark of north, and recently named Edible Rhody Local Hero. Make it for breakfast. Make it for lunch. Or make it for dinner. We don’t care which, just as long as you make it. And do be sure to try it with Eric’s wine pick, the Laurent Barth Alsacian gewurztraminer. Says Eric: “This pairing gets a big WOW from us! It’s one of our favorite white wines and is an intriguing companion to James’s complexly flavored dish. The wine is intensely fragrant with aromas of spring flowers and exotic fruits and has the perfect amount of fruitiness and zippy acidity to accentuate, but not overpower, the multi-layered flavors of the dish.”

The recipe and pairing were initially featured in Edible Rhody‘s beautiful Spring issue.

Edible_Rhody_northphoto credit: Edible Rhody

gewLIGHTLY CHARRED GREENS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SPICY BREADCRUMBS

Chef/Owner James Mark, north, Providence, and Edible Rhody Local Hero, 2017: Chef/Restaurant

Says Chef James Mark: This recipe celebrates what we in the Northeast have at the farmers’ market in early- to mid-spring—overwintered kale, spinach, broccoli and chard—all of which are incredibly sweet, their sugars concentrated by chilly nights and warm days. Butternut squash, if stored correctly, has the time to develop a deep complexity and concentrated sweetness. This recipe makes good breakfast, lunch or dinner food. Throw a fried egg on it for breakfast, eat it chilled with cooked barley for lunch or add some pasta or serve it as is for a side for dinner. You’ll end up with extra butternut sauce, which is great on rice, mixed into scrambled eggs or as a pasta sauce.

1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bulb (6–7 cloves) garlic, peeled
Neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed
Dried chile flakes
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)
1–2 bunches dark leafy greens (whichever look good at the market, such as kale, Swiss chard, collards, broccoli tips, bok choy or a combination), washed and patted dry
½ teaspoon fresh oregano leaves (or more to taste)
¼ cup Spicy Breadcrumbs*
2 scallions, sliced very thinly
Lemon wedge

Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and add to a sauce pot along with the onion and garlic.

Barely cover with water and boil until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Pour contents into a blender (or food processor) along with 1 tablespoon oil and blend until very smooth. Season with the chile, salt, black pepper and maple syrup to taste.

Next, strip the greens off their stems and cut the leaves roughly into 4-inch pieces. (Stems can be cooked with the leaves, or use them in a stew or pesto. Just cut them thinly across the grain so they are palatable.)

Heat a high-walled Dutch oven or enameled pan until very hot. Add the greens and allow to char undisturbed, about 2–3 minutes.

Season with oregano, chile, a pinch of salt and add 1–2 teaspoons oil. Toss, allowing the greens to wilt slightly, about 30 seconds. Add approximately a ½ cup of the butternut sauce. Toss again and transfer to a serving bowl.

Garnish generously with breadcrumbs, scallions, a squeeze of lemon and a few turns of black pepper. Feeds 4–6 people as a side dish or 2 as a main course.

* Spicy Breadcrumbs
4 cups Japanese panko
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes
2–3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed

Add ingredients to a sauté pan and place over medium heat. Toss continually in the pan until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in an airtight container. Note: This makes extra, but they last, and are great on pasta, too.

Bon Appetit!

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5 Questions With Alex

Meet Alex McIlwee – our brand-spanking new (female!) Beer Manager. (Not many ladies hold that title. Anywhere.) She’s been with Bottles for the past 2+ years and we’re so excited for her new role. Alex is a Scranton, PA native (yes, where The Office takes place and yes, where Joe Biden is from – she’s very proud of both those facts), but says she’ll probably never leave Rhode Island. When she’s not at the store she’s most likely doing something involving food: cooking food, eating food, pairing drinks with food, or reading about food. Any other shred of free time is spent with her pets whom she loves dearly, or exploring every nook and cranny of our beautiful state. Oh, and drinking beer. She does that a lot.

1. Fave beer in the store right now?
Two Roads Passionfruit Gose. It is wicked tart and dangerously chuggable in those tall boy pounders. Especially tasty with raw littlenecks.

2. What beer trend is about to explode?
I’m enjoying all of the sour beer releases, and I’ve noticed the rest of my generation is, too (I chalk this up to shoving handfuls of Sour Patch Kids and Warheads in our mouths as kids). On the opposite end of the spectrum, quality coffee in beers is poppin’ which is so freaking smart. Brewers combined two of the world’s biggest vices (caffeine and beer) and did it really well. I respect that!

3. The beer/food pairing you crave the most is…
Whole belly clams and fries with a New England style IPA is arguably the best pairing in the universe.

4. What are your plans for the Bottles beer program for the next 6 months?
Showcasing the big seasonal products and limited edition items is vital but I strive to provide as much local product as possible. Being able to sell a brand that I believe in while simultaneously knowing the hands and people that put work into it is such a simple concept yet so profound to me.

5. This summer we should be drinking…
Session IPAs. Great beers that have those admirable IPA qualities but with softer flavors and a lower ABV that pair beautifully with mowing the lawn, fishing, and sitting on the porch.

6. What’s your desert island brew?
Ahhhhh this is hard. Allagash Hoppy Table Beer or Jack’s Abby House Lager. Simple, no-frills, delicious.

7. What excites you most in today’s beer world?
Canning! A lot of local businesses are investing in canning systems (Revival, for instance) and a lot of bigger craft companies that swore they’d never can are canning (looking at you Dogfish Head!). Cans are crushable, portable, and better for the environment. It is a no-brainer.

8. The most underrated beer or style of beer is…
Definitely ciders. They get cast aside and bad reps for being fruit bombs or “chick beers” but they’re bursting with character and make killer cocktails.

9. Fave style of beer?
I love super sour and funky gose, but at the end of the day a good lager is all I really want.

OK, so that was more than 5 questions, but Alex is such a font of good beer info that we couldn’t help ourselves. Be sure to ask for her next time you’re in store and what to know what’s new, tasting good, and what to drink.

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Our Top 9 Spring Wines, Part II

We’re down to just a few weeks now until our local farmer’s markets will awash with brightly-colored and fresh spring produce: green peas, ramps and asparagus, magenta rhubarb, orange carrots and more. Prep for the arrival of those goodies now, friends, with our selection of spring wines that are equally as bright and fresh with flavor. Here are our remaining picks of the season’s best this year.

spring_veggiesDomaine de Martinolles ‘Le Berceau’ Blanquette de Limoux, Languedoc, France $14.99
‘Le Berceau’ translates to ‘cradle’ which in this case symbolizes the birthplace of sparkling wine. This bottle was made using the traditional Champenoise method, making this delicious, crisp and bone dry bubbly a spectacular value.

Contour Pinot Noir, Monterey, Napa & Sonoma, California $14.99
Loads of juicy strawberry and blackberry fruit with a whisper of spice on the finish – making it a perfect match with your first-of-the-season grill fare (salmon anyone?)!

Thierry Germain ‘Les Roches’ Saumur Champigny, Loire Valley, France $27.99
Hand-harvested cabernet franc from 25+ year old vines. Fruity, pleasantly funky, and completely biodynamic/organic, this bottle is pretty acidic and begs to be paired with a creamy spring pea risotto or a rich lamb dish.

Fatum Dry Spanish White Blend, La Mancha, Spain $11.99
Bursts of lime citrus flavor with ripe pear notes that gently wash over your palate. Look for hints of salt and brine to round out that tart finish. A staff favorite!

Enjoy Spring!

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The Top 9 Spring & Kosher Wines, Part I

For some reason, it seems as if all of our guests are looking forward to the arrival of true spring weather this year more than ever before. We don’t have an in with Mother Nature, but we can certainly help you set a springtime mood with the wine you put on your table. Here’s what we think are the best of the bunch to do just that this year, as well as those that will be excellent at your seder.

spring22Our Kosher for Passover Picks

The Butcher’s Daughter, Bordeaux, France, $19.99
A great wine that just happens to be kosher for Passover, this Bordeaux blend is ripe with a bouquet of cassis and raspberry fruit, and a deep cocoa character. Made to drink with your brisket or lamb roast.

Notte Italiana Prosecco, Veneto, Italy $17.99
These semi-sweet, happy bubbles pack a punch of bright green apple, but finish creamy and smooth with hints of vanilla. Wonderful with light appetizer fare for any spring festivity.

Lanzur Chardonnay, Valle del Maule, Chile $11.99
A big, bursting, round and juicy chardonnay with an oaky backbone that lends tons of structure and depth. Serve chilled next to an overflowing platter of latkes or pan-fried potatoes.

Looking for more kosher options? Come by or call the store to shop our expanded selection of over 75 seder-friendly wines.

spring1Non-Kosher Picks

Elk Cove Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon $19.99
Pinot Blanc is a grape you need to try for its vibrant, round and fruity notes. The Elk Cove has a tropical fruit flavor tinge that is balanced by an underlying, subtle, lemon zing. We love this wine for its incredible food-versatility, especially with lighter fare.

Zorzal ‘Terroir Unico’ Pinot Noir Rosé, Tupungato Valley, Argentina, $14.99
The grapes for the lovely Zorzal rosé were picked earlier than usual for this region, thus resulting in a wine with zippy acidity and a young (aka ‘green’) vibrancy. It’ll be superb with grilled or roasted meats & veggies, legumes and fish.

Tune in next week for the remaining bottles on our Top 9 list.

Cheers & Happy Spring!

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A Boozy Play List For Brandy Cocktails

Brandy’s dandy whether sipped after dinner, or when mixed into a cocktail, as we like to do. The classic Brandy Alexander, a creamy treat made popular in the early 20th century, still holds its own today, but for simpler, less-sweet brandy beverages consider the Brave & Strong, and Glory Days.

Both cocktails are from Copper & Kings, the Kentucky distiller that fashions its American brandies on American whiskey and American music. Yes, music: the distillery has five major sub-woofers in their maturation cellar through which they pulse music (a bass note in particular). This pulsation causes the brandy-filled barrels in the cellar to jostle, which increases the contact time between the brandy and the charred barrels. And if you remember your Aging 101 class, increased contact time = more complex flavor. Cool, right?

Don’t believe us? Visit the Copper & Kings website, scroll down to “Brandy Rocks” and listen to what the booze is boogie-ing to today. (As of this writing, it’s pulsing to blues guitarist Lightin’ Hopkins. Great stuff.)

And while you’re listening to what they’re spinning, mix up a few cocktails with — what else — Copper & King’s American Craft Brandy. (Which just happens to be $5 off at Bottles through March 31st.) We’ve got two for you today: one hot to usher out old-man winter and the other, a cold, refreshing version to welcome spring’s warmer days. Enjoy, and rock on.

brandy2
Brave & Strong
Add 1.5 oz. Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy and .5 oz. vanilla cream to a mug. (Homemade vanilla cream –  cream with a drop or two of pure vanilla extract – is best, though vanilla-flavored coffee creamer is a passable substitute. If you’re feeling decadent, use a scoop of all-natural vanilla ice-cream instead.) Top with freshly-brewed hot coffee. Stir, sip, and watch the ice melt away.

brandy1Glory Days
2 oz. Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy
1 12oz. Bottle of Hard Apple Cider (such as Stormalong Legendary Dry Cider or Shacksbury Classic).

Take a sip of brandy. Add a touch of cider to the brandy. Repeat at own pace and taste until glass is empty. Refill glass with more brandy. Repeat.

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5 Questions with Kate

kateMeet Kate Miceli, our newly minted wine assistant. Kate’s been with us for just over 6 months, and thanks to her extensive wine knowledge and uncanny ability to help customers find what they’re looking for, she was a no-brainer for this new role. As part of our ongoing efforts to help you drink better, she’ll be helping Nick manage our expanding wine collection, spending all of her time on the floor helping to understand your needs so that you leave with the perfect bottle.

Kate hails from Pleasantville, New York and is a graduate of Johnson & Wales, where she studied wine, culinary arts and nutrition. She’s an accomplished cook with professional experience, knows all about cheese, is a master oyster shucker, and loves to cook at home for her family and friends, and her pug.

Here’s more on Kate’s current wine thoughts:

What’s your favorite style of wine?
Dry white wine is my favorite style. Especially whites from Saint Joseph in the Northern Rhone Valley from the grapes marsanne and roussanne that are vibrant and golden in color, and have a lot of body and flavors of ripe nectarines, tropical fruits, and white flowers.  I find these wines to be perfect with a variety of foods.  Fried chicken, Thai curry, stuffed pork loin with pancetta, and roasted Cornish game hens are just a few things that I would love to drink with a good Northern Rhone wine.

What’s your go-to bottle of wine for dinner on a Tuesday night?
On a typical Tuesday night, I am probably cooking tacos for dinner. Spicy chicken or pork tacos! Ice-cold Pullus sauvignon blanc from Slovenia is delicious and makes for a great pairing. The wine has flavors of cape gooseberries and zesty limes!  It goes exceptionally well with avocado and fresh homemade Pico de Gallo too.

What bottle on our shelves do you most covet today?
One wine that brings me pure joy is Taurasi from the producer, Mastroberardino. This fantastic  ruby-red hued wine hails from Campania in Italy. This is what they drink in Naples!  It is comprised of 100% aglianico grapes and is multi-layered and very complex.  It is powerful, but quite elegant with flavors of bitter cherries, flint, fresh herbs, and cherry wood.  Drink with hearty meat roasts, truffles, fancied up pizza, and Bolognese.

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated wine style?
Wines from South Africa often get a bad rap.  My newest favorite vineyard from South Africa is Stellekaya. They make a fantastic Sangiovese called Hercules. The winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela, is the first female African American winemaker in South Africa.

What in the wine world are you most excited about today?
I’m excited about how natural wines are gaining popularity up here in New England.  They have been the real ‘it’ thing in Brooklyn and NYC for many years but now I see more and more of these fun ‘natural’ wines here in RI. To me, these wines are like drinking art. I also find it very exciting how many women are now a part of the wine world.  While it used to be a male dominated career, many strong women are changing that.

 

If you’re in need of a great wine recommendation, come by and find Kate – she’ll be glad to help you!

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Why Nick Put These Wines on Sale

casatripleThe stunning CasaSmith wines are on sale – a full $5 off – through April 30. Why’d Nick do such a thing?

  1. He wants you to drink better in 2017, and with these wines you can do just that.
  2. They’re a truly delicious old world/new world mashup, made with classic Tuscan, Piedmontese and Pugliese grape varieties grown on single vineyard estates in Washington State.
  3. You’ll get so much more than a $20 bottle of wine.
  4. They’re well crafted wines, meant to be enjoyed today.
  5. The wines are highly-rated (if you’re into that sort of thing).
  6. Just look at those labels.

Buyer Beware: Winemaker Charles Smith makes the CasaSmith wines in limited quantities, so try them early. If you like them as much as we do, be sure to pick up a few bottles before the vintage (and our sale) is gone.

casa_buck
2015 CasaSmith Cervo Barbera: Silky, plush, dark cherry, dried sage, mineral driven and earthbound.

casa_pig
2015 CasaSmith Cinghiale Sangiovese: Layer upon layer of Italian cherries, fresh herbs, rolled tobacco and blackberry. Depth for days and a finish that is an eternity.

casa_pine
2015 CasaSmith Porcospino Primitivo: Blackberry, boysenberry, pie crust and black tea. Ripe fruit, fresh oregano and fine tannins to boot.

Cheers!

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Cooking with Beer – Two Recipes

It’s cold out! When the February snow and wind hit, I like to hunker down with a hearty braise inspired by the land of “Cuisine à la Bière,” served with a vibrant green salad tossed with an orange IPA-flavored dressing.

You may know that Belgium has a long and proud brewing tradition that stretches back for hundreds of years. Beer is so deeply rooted in Belgian culture that it holds the same revered place on the table as wine does in France or Italy, and is used in many of the same ways. Cooking with beer can be a real treat, and this Belgian inspired one-pot meal is one of my favorites to make in the winter, especially on a long, cold, snowy Sunday.

The beer I’ve chosen to use in this dish comes from the esteemed Dubuisson brewery, the oldest in Wallonia (older than most Trappist breweries!). Their flagship beer, Scaldis Amber, is a 12% ABV take on an English Barleywine. It adds both fruity and savory notes to the roast, with flavors of ripe fruit and caramel, along with a hint of herbal hops and licorice. Although it’s high in alcohol, most of that will steam off while cooking, so don’t worry, this is a family-friendly pot roast!

Scaldis is something we regularly carry, but if you want to branch out, any Belgian-style Amber or Dark Ale will do. Some of our favorites for cooking (and drinking) include:

-Allagash Dubbel
-Rochefort ‘8’ or ‘10’
-St. Bernardus ‘Pater 6’
-North Coast ‘Brother Thelonious’

When it comes to pairing a beer to drink alongside this braise, do we really have to tell you what would go best? Scaldis Amber, of course! If that’s a little too strong for you, any of the aforementioned beers will also work quite nicely.

To learn more about the beer, check out Dubuisson’s excellent website: https://dubuisson.com/en-us, and check out https://dubuisson.com/en-us/our-beers/scaldis-amber for more on the Scaldis.

cookingbeer4Belgian Pot Roast
If you’re short on time, skip the steps below and instead use a slow cooker. You can put the whole shebang in on low before you go to work, then add the root veggies and turn it to high when you get home.

Ingredients:
4 – 5 pound beef rump roast or bottom round
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
(optional: ¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning or cinnamon for extra flavor)
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
2 large onions, cut in half & sliced into thick half moons
3 carrots, peeled & cut into cubes
1 big sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 12 oz. bottle of Scaldis Amber
A mix of your favorite root vegetables to finish the roast: small potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, etc., cut into bite-sized chunks.

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 F.

Mix the flour, salt & pepper (and the Old Bay or cinnamon, if using) in a big plastic container with a lid.

Heat a dutch oven or deep-sided casserole over medium–high heat.

Dry the roast well with paper towels and put it in the container with the flour mixture. Gently shake it up, down and all around to evenly coat the meat.

Warm the oil and/or butter in the dutch oven until hot (not smoking!). Tap off any excess flour and brown the meat on all sides, a few minutes per side.

Remove the meat to a plate to rest, turn the heat down to medium, and add the onions to all the beautiful brown bits left in the pan. If it seems dry, add another 1-2 teaspoons of oil or butter.

Cover the pot, and sauté the onions, stirring every 2 minutes or so until soft and just beginning to take on some color.

Push the onions to the sides of the pan, put the meat (with any juice on the plate) into the middle of the pan and add the carrots, thyme, a little salt and pepper, and the whole bottle of Scaldis. Mix everything up around the meat, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan.

Bring it gently to a boil, cover, and bake in your oven for about 3 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, scrub your root veggies and cut them into evenly sized chunks – about the size you’d want to put in your mouth after they’re cooked.

After 3 ½ hours, add your root veggies to the pot, stir them up a bit in the sauce, and leave to cook for another 30 minutes or so, or until the meat is falling apart.

Let the roast cool a bit, and eat it with a cold glass of Scaldis Amber!

cookingbeer2Orange & Ale Vinaigrette
To complement the rich roast I like to serve a vibrant, zesty salad that also uses beer as a main ingredient. With thanks to Sean Paxton of Home Brew Chef & BeerAdvocate, here’s one of my favorite salad dressings to make any time of year, but especially when I’m missing the sun.

Ingredients:
3 oz. IPA (I like any of the following for this recipe: Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter, Harpoon Hoppy Adventure, or Lost Nation Mosaic IPA – or just use your favorite)
1 tbsp minced shallot (or half a small onion, minced)
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (bring out the good stuff for this)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Put the shallot, orange zest, honey and mustard in a small bowl and whisk in the beer until well combined.

Slowly whisk in the oil, a few drops at a time, until the whole thing is creamy and emulsified.

Drizzle your dressing over hearty greens, or blanched green beans, or asparagus, beets, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc., you get the drift.

The dressing will keep in your fridge for about five days if you don’t eat it all first!

Enjoy! –Liam

Rare, Collectible and Affordable Wine in The Cellar

thecellar-WEB-1One of our resolutions this year here at Bottles is to find new ways to help you drink better. And we’ve started by expanding our cellar of special wines: the bottles that are iconic and collectible, as well as those that are rare, highly-rated, and have achieved cult status.

Our new Cellar list, over 600 bottles strong and growing, is made up of wines hand selected by Nick, Josh and Eric. Not only are they the wines that you’ll want to buy today and drink in 15 years at your daughter’s college graduation, they’re also the affordable, ready-to-drink-now bottles produced by indie winemakers whose talented work has garnered them a dedicated following.

Some require a minimal monetary commitment, such as a $49 bottle of limited-allocation 2012 Elk Cove “Five Mountain” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that you could drink this weekend. Other wines at a similar price point are terrific for those just starting to build their home collection.

Then there are those that are certainly an investment in time and money – the $1199.99 2010 Lafite Rothschild that will be great to drink in 2022 comes to mind.

But what all of our Cellar wines have in common is highly-competitive pricing. It’s our goal to get them on your table or in your cellar by offering them to you at better prices than you find most everywhere else. And by you we mean you the everyday wine lover who just wants to drink better, as well as the serious, informed wine collector who’s filling your 3,000+ bottle cellar.

We invite you to come in and browse our new list. Our team members are at the ready to help you select the perfect bottle for your special occasion, whether it be big (a 50th anniversary) or small (take-out with a cherished friend on Saturday night).

Visit our complete list here, and check back often for new additions. For the stories behind these and other bottles, email our Wine Director Nick Shugrue at (401) 372-2030 or nshugrue@bottlesfinewine.com.

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