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Proper No. 12 Irish Apple Whiskey

Proper No. Twelve Irish Apple Whiskey

Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey is a brand founded by Mixed Martial Arts Champion Conor McGregor under his Eire Born Spirits company in September 2018. It has in just under five short years become one of the most successful whiskey brands in the world. Irish Apple is their first line extension..

To paraphrase The Most Interesting Man in the World, "I don't always drink whiskey. But when I do, I prefer Irish." This whiskey is a blend of both single malts and single grains, and was aged in ex-Bourbon barrels.  Riding the current popularity of flavored whiskeys, Proper states that this one contains "natural apple flavors."  The green apple is quite dominant on the nose.  That follows on the palate, backed up by plenty of cinnamon and a surprising amount of honey and vanilla.  Even at 35% ABV, it is quite smooth and approachable, with a short finish.   This would make an excellent after dinner tipple, but because of the sweetness, as with Grand Marnier, moderation is key. 

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Metz Road

Metz Road Riverview Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020

The Riverview Vineyard is a 340 acre, sustainably-farmed, benchland site that overlooks the Salinas River. It is situated on the east side of the Salinas Valley just below the Pinnacles National Park. This property features granitic soils planted to an assortment of varieties, clones, and rootstocks specifically matched to the various micro-climates, soils, and aspects of the terrain. The namesake Metz Road runs alongside the property.

Winemaker Casey Di Cesare allowed wild and native yeasts in the air to naturally ferment the wine on-site. After fermentation, the must was pressed into a stainless steel tank for settling, then racked to 100% French oak barrels (30% new) for 14 months before bottling. The wine is a nice transparent garnet, very typically Pinot Noir.  The moderate aromas are dominated by ripe red fruits, including raspberry and pomegranate.  On tasting, these express as recessive red cherry. The medium, smooth body is supported by good acidity and understated tannins. There is a hint of bitter almonds on the relatively short finish. 1,575 cases were made, and the ABV is 14.5%.

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Ernest Vineyards

Two selections from a smallish (3,000 cases per year) West Sonoma winery specializing in Burgundy-style wines.

Ernest Vineyards Joyce Vineyard Chardonnay 2019

All of the fruit for this Chardonnay came from the Joyce Vineyard.  After fermentation, it was aged in French oak, 30% of which was new.  It pours a nice clear yellow, with citrus, green apple, and, unusually, vanilla aromas.  These continue on the palate, where the citrus is predominately Meyer lemon, supported by some pleasant melon notes.  Predictably, there is plenty of zippy acidity.   75 cases were produced, and the ABV is 12.7%

Ernest Vineyards Cleary Freestone Ranch Pinot Noir 2019

In keeping with the Ernest approach, this Pinot came entirely from the Cleary Freestone Ranch vineyard.  It too was aged in French oak, this time 38% of which was new. It is a rather light, transparent ruby.  But don't let that fool you; it is quite aromatic, with scents of raspberry, plum, and cola.  The palate features some spiciness, especially nutmeg, good acidity, a plush mouthfeel, and restrained but supple tannins.  150 cases were produced, and the ABV is 12.7%

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Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Pinot Noir 2019

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from the Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards that compose the Freestone estate, as well as fruit from select nearby growers. It was aged 13 months in 36% new and 64% one-to-three-year-old French oak barrels. The grapes were harvested at night followed by sorting before the fruit was gravity-fed to tank for a long natural fermentation using an overall average of 15% whole clusters in the final blend.

This Pinot pours a clear cherry red.  The nose is predominately raspberry, plus some spice, which continue on the palate, supported by tart cherry and boysenberry.  The acidity and tannins are in excellent balance.  For a Pinot Noir, the finish is quite long.  A quite good expression of an already-finicky varietal grown in this challenging AVA.  ABV is 14.1%.

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Robert Hall Cabernet Sauvignon

Robert Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

An entrepreneur out of St. Paul, Minnesota who founded and grew a broad range of innovative businesses, Robert Hall and his family went on a trip to southern France in the 1970s and their passion for wine began. After "retiring" in 1999, he came to Paso Robles to realize his dream of owning a winery, which he did until his death in 2014.

When Hall and his wife Margaret purchased the land "there was nothing there" as she recalled, "but dirt." The two were hands-on building their dream, designing the production facilities and winery. Twenty-six feet below ground are 19,000 square feet of caves. This cool sanctuary is home to 4,000 premium French oak barrels. Now the fifth-largest winery in Paso Robles, Robert Hall was named “Winery of the Year” by the California State Fair and California Mid-State Fair.

This wine has the largest proportion of estate fruit in their lineup. The blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 3% Petite Syrah and 2% Petit Verdot was aged in French and Eastern European oak for 18 months.

The color is dark ruby red, but not quite opaque. There is a subtle nose of dark fruit and spice. These follow on the palate, especially plum and tart cherry, with a hint of cocoa and cigar box. The good acidity and firm tannins lead to a long finish. ABV is 14.5%.

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Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

This wine was matured for 20 years in seasoned oak casks, and was made to balance lingering fruitiness and vitality with the structure and longevity that comes with aging.  This lovely amber, crystal-clear tipple opens with a nose of raisin, brown sugar, and a hint of floral notes.  These continue on the palate, complemented with tawny Port's characteristic nuttiness, baking spice, a rich mouthfeel, and good acidity, which is nicely balanced by the just-right sweetness.  It all wraps up in a long finish.   A really delicious tawny Port.

Pair with creamy or fruity desserts such as tiramisu or crème brulée, as well as soft cheeses and nuts. Even vanilla ice cream.  Serve lightly chilled in a reasonably-sized Port glass or wine glass.  It will stay fresh for four to six weeks once opened, but I doubt you will wait that long to finish it.

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Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2016

The Portugese only declare Port vintages in years which they deem worthy.  In the 21st century, these have been 2003, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, a rather more frequent pace than in the 20th century.  These "Vintage Ports" are the top-tier offerings.  "Late Bottled Vintage Ports" are made from grapes of a single vintage, in this case 2016, but of second-tier quality fruit, although they can still be quite good.   

As indeed this one is.  This wine spent four to six years in oak, as all Late Vintage Ports do.  Dark purple in color, it offers subtle aromas of raisin, prune, and baking spice.  The rich mouthfeel carries flavors of ripe berries, particularly blackberry, and chocolate, and a well-balanced and restrained sweetness.

Pour this wine in a wine glass at room temperature, or slightly chilled in warm weather to make it more refreshing.  It works as both an aperitif and after-dinner drink. It does not need to be decanted, is ready to drink on release, and should be consumed within four to six weeks of opening. The ABV is: 20%.

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Cockburn's Special Reserve

Cockburn's Special Reserve

Cockburn’s (CO-burns, not COCK-burns) is perhaps the best-known name in Port, thanks to their Special Reserve. It revolutionized the Port trade in 1969 by creating a new category between Ruby Port and Vintage Port. (It is more substantial than a Ruby, but less so than a Vintage.) Special Reserve is matured for up to five years in oak casks and bottled ready to drink. This dark opaque purple wine has a surprisingly delicate nose of sweet plum. It is much more lively in the mouth, with red berry flavors, a restrained sweetness, good acidity, and just slightly bitter and peppery tannins. 20% ABV.

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Chalk Hill

Do consider 375 mL half bottles. They are handy if you want a red and your companion wants a white, like the two shown here. Half bottles are also convenient for picnic outings. And, empty half bottles are great for storing leftover wine; just fill the half bottle as close to the top as you can, reseal it (easily done if the closure is a screw cap), and park it in the refrigerator.

The only real downside to half bottles is that they will cost somewhat more than half what the same wine in a full bottle will, since, other than the wine itself, the remaining expenses of filling, labeling, packing and shipping are more or less the same as for a full bottle.  For instance, the Chardonnay is $15 for a half bottle, and $26 for a full one.  Similarly, the Pinot Noir is $15 for a half bottle, and $29 for a full one (but really, not much of a penalty on this one). 

Finding your favorite wines in half bottles can also sometimes be difficult, although like wine in cans they are becoming more common.  And now, on to the wines.

Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2018

This offering underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, followed by 10 months of sur barrel aging in French, American, and Hungarian oak, of which 25% was new. It is rather pale for a Chardonnay, but that doesn't mean it's insipid. It features moderate aromas of citrus and melon, which continue on the palate, plus some vanilla custard. It has a full, unctuous mouthfeel, and plenty of zippy acidity. ABV is 14%.

Chalk Hill Pinot Noir 2017

This wine also underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, followed by nine months of aging in French oak, of which 25% was new.  It presents with a transparent, light to medium purple in the glass. It is mildly aromatic, with flavors of raspberry, tart cherry, and a bit of dust on the medium body.  Enjoy this easy-sipping Pinot now. ABV is 13%.

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Scheid Family Wines

Scheid Family Wines is a pioneer of winemaking in Monterey County, and a producer deeply committed to earth-friendly practices. Here are three of their selections.

District 7 Chardonnay 2017

The name refers to Scheid's official regional designation within California.  The fruit was sourced from their cooler estate vineyards in Monterey. The juice was fermented for 14 months in 75% stainless steel and 25% new French oak.

The wine is a medium-gold color. There are moderate aromas of grapefruit, apple, and melon on the nose.  That grapefruit explodes on the palate, with plenty of bracing acidity and a medium body. The vanilla and oak notes are subtle, at best, which is predictable with so much of the wine having been made in stainless steel. ABV is 13.5%.

Scheid Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2020

After harvest, the juice was fermented in 100% stainless steel, followed by four more months in cold stainless for aging. This wine is nearly colorless in the glass, a very pale yellow.  It is moderately aromatic, smelling of honeydew and a hint of grass, so typical of Sauvignon Blanc but nicely restrained here. The honeydew continues on the palate, with cascading flavors of just a bit o' honey sweetness, followed by zippy acidity, and it all wraps up with some pleasant lime bitterness. ABV is 13.5%.

Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2020

The fruit for this wine is grown in Scheid's Ryder Estate vineyard in California's Central Coast. It saw eight hours of skin contact to extract the very pale salmon color, followed by cool fermentation in stainless steel.  This easy-drinking Rosé is quite aromatic, predominately of strawberries with a bit of melon. That flavor continues on the palate, abetted by tart cherry and a hint of grapefruit. The acidity is just right for a refreshing quaff. ABV is 13%.

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Grieve Double Eagle

Grieve Family Winery Double Eagle Sauvignon Blanc 2018

When it's time to select a white wine for dinner, I usually first search for a Chardonnay in the basement refrigerator.  If none is available, I'll go for a Savignon Blanc, and failing that, a Pinot Grigio/Gris. Both of the latter are often reliable but unassuming options.

The Grieve Double Eagle Sauvignon Blanc demands attention though.   The bottle features a front label made from rather extravagant foil-stamped genuine leather, I assume to invoke an association with old-school leather golf bags. The fruit was sourced from the Grieve estate vineyard, and saw fermentation in a concrete egg and sur lie aging. It pours a pale yellow, opening with mild aromas of tropical fruit. There is also an expected vegetal undernote, in this case green bell peppers rather than grass, which I'm not a fan of in any Sauvignon Blanc. The tropical fruit and a bit of lemon zest continue on the palate, which also features a soft, round mouthfeel. There is snappy acidity at the lingering end. Grieve produced 442 cases. ABV is 14.2%.

Grieve Family Winery Double Eagle Red Wine 2018

This blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot was sourced from vineyards in Oakville and St. Helena. Like the Sauvingon Blanc, the front label is leather. The bottle is sealed with black wax. Although this makes for a nice presentation, the wax was quite hard. So much so that trying to get it off broke the foil cutter on my admittedly cheap waiter's corkscrew. I had to use my kitchen torch to melt off enough of the wax to get at the cork so I could pull it. Ahem.

Once open, it pours an opaque dark purple in the glass.The nose is mostly dark stone fruit, with vanilla and spice from the 18 months it saw in French oak, of which 67% was new. This carries on to the palate, especially plum, plus a lush mouthfeel and a hint of earth. It's all supported by nicely balanced acidity and grippy tannins. The whole show wraps up with a long finish.  661 cases were made. ABV is 14.6%.

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Katy Wilson launched her own winery, LaRue Wines, in 2009 at the tender age of 26. It  is named in honor of her great-grandmother, Veona LaRue Newell. The winery is very much a boutique operation, focusing on small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with total production limited to just 500 cases. Drawing on the cool conditions and remote coastal vineyards of the Sonoma Coast, Wilson strives for wines that are complex and vibrant with elegant acidity, and that drink well when young but also age gracefully. 

LaRue Wines Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

The fruit for this Chard was sourced entirely from the Charles Heintz Vineyard and then aged for 17 months in once-used French oak.  It pours a clear bright yellow, and the nose offers up aromas of mango and grapefruit,  with a touch of lemon meringue. The palate features a full, smooth mouthfeel and flavors of lemon and creme brûlée, all supported with mouthwatering acidity and a hint of vanilla. Production was 75 cases.  ABV is  13.1%.

LaRue Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2018

Wilson drew on three vineyards for this selection:  46% from the Thorn Ridge Vineyard, 38% from the Rice-Spivak Vineyard, and 16% from the Emmaline Ann Vineyard. The wine saw 20 months in French oak barrels, 20% of which were new. It is a quite pale cherry red, but looks can be deceiving. It starts with aromas of dark stone fruit, particularly plum, followed by predominantly strawberry on the palate, with some cranberry.  Hints of violets and vanilla lead to a medium finish. It all wraps up with zippy acidity and delicate tannins.  Wilson made 125 Cases.  ABV is 13.3%.

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Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Dry Farmed Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

In order to meet California's strict "dry farmed" classification, the fruit for this wine comes from a single block in the vineyard, and must be carefully segregated from bud break to bottle.  This age-worthy 100% Cabernet is a deep, dark purple, with a nose of brooding blackberry.  The palate is super dry, with recessive dark fruit, particularly dried blueberry, paired with flavors of earth and bay leaf.   Jack London himself can be seen on the label, admiring his Beauty Ranch.   ABV is 14.1% and 500 cases were produced.

Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Wild Ferment Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Relying exclusively on wild yeast to ferment a wine is about as risky as it gets.  Visually identical to the Dry Farmed, the nose presents aromas of raspberries and blackberries.  The soft, rich palate offers that same raspberry and black cherry, with a bit of dust.  The tannins and acidity of this hedonistic wine are in excellent balance.  On the bottle, Jack London can be seen on horseback riding through the ranch in 1915.   ABV is 14.9% and 500 cases were produced.

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Brooks Ara Riesling 2018

Brooks has staked their reputation on Riesling, so they better know what to do with it. Happily, this expression doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, it’s one of the most interesting Rieslings I’ve ever had. Ara (the Altar), is a constellation. In ancient Greek mythology, Ara was the altar where the gods first made offerings and formed an alliance before defeating the Titans,

The wine is 100% Riesling, half from the Brooks estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and half from the Yamhill vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. It is a bright lemon yellow in the glass, with aromas of lemon curd and orange blossom. The lemon theme continues on the palate, with the addition of nectarines, Sweetarts, and apples, but the wine is definitely dry. The flavors are well-supported by tingly acidity. ABV is 14% and just 325 cases were produced.

Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2016

Brooks considers this their flagship Pinot Noir. Janus was the two-faced Roman god who looked both to the past and future.

This 100% Pinot Noir was sourced from 60% Brooks Estate and the remainder from seven other sites around Willamette Valley. After fermentation, it saw 18 months in French oak barrels. It is a medium purple in the glass, with a nose of rich plum, vanilla, and rose. The palate features tart cherry, ligonberry, and black tea on the medium finish, all supported by lively acidity and balanced tannins. The ABV is 13.8% and 1000 cases were made.

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Maritana Chardonnay “La Rivière” 2018

La Rivière, aka “The River,” was entirely indigenous-yeast fermented in barrel, and aged on the primary fermentation lees throughout its time in barrel. It pours a pale yellow, with aromas of mango and honeysuckle. The smooth, full palate features lemon, quince, lemon curd, and a touch of caramel. There is plenty of acidity, and those used barrels make for subtle tannins. The ABV is 14.5%, and 2000 cases were produced.

Maritana Pinot Noir “Le Russe” 2018

Le Russe, aka “The Russian,” is a blend of several sites and clones. After primary fermentation, for aging the wine was placed into small French oak barrels, 50 to 80% new, depending on the vineyard source.

It has a transparent, medium-purple color. The nose offers juicy aromas of plums and strawberries. The full-bodied mouthfeel carries flavors of tart cherry, cola, and vanilla. These are supported by forward tannins and very good acidity. The ABV is 14.5%, and 1400 cases were produced.

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Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards Oak Knoll District Estate Chardonnay 2018

This 100% Chardonnay is Trefethen's highest-volume wine. After both barrel and malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged for nine months in 13% new oak.

It is a pale straw gold in the glass. The nose presents aromas of lemon, lime, and grapefruit, plus a hint of peach. The smooth palate features these same flavors, as well as some lemon curd and just a suggestion of oak. It's all wrapped up in a refreshing zippy acidity. The ABV is 13.3%, and 28,800 cases were produced.

Trefethen Family Vineyards Oak Knoll District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

This wine is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon (enough that it isn't labeled a "red blend"), 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc. After fermentation, it was aged for 18 months in 52% new oak.

This full-bodied wine is inky dark purple. The nose displays aromas of dark stone fruits, particularly plum, and earth.  These continue on the palate, with the addition of prunes and cocoa, plus a little vanilla.  There is well-balanced acidity, as well as plenty of grippy but nicely integrated tannins.  The ABV is 14.2%, and 23,880 cases were produced.

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Imagery Estates

Imagery Petite Sirah 2016

Petit Sirah can make big, full-bodied wines, and this selection is an excellent example.  Imagery likes to call this a "toothbrush wine" because of its deep color and bold flavor (although dentists caution against brushing your teeth soon after drinking wine, as the lingering acidity can damage tooth enamel by doing so.)

The fruit for this wine was sourced from the Shell Creek vineyard in Paso Robles, one of Imagery's longest-standing grape suppliers. The wine itself is dark inky purple, with a nose of blackberries and plums.  These continue on the palate, with a plush, full body, and big but controlled tannins. This was accomplished by tasting the juice at every pump over, to assure that the tannins did not become excessive. Jammy concentrated fruit comes  through mid palate, with a lingering richness on the finish

Imagery Gee eS eM 2017

This blend is made from 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 30% Mourvèdre sourced from a number of North Coast vineyards. GSM, as it's more commonly referred to, is a mix traditionally produced in the Côtes du Rhône region. It is also a favorite of the so-called "Rhône Rangers," a group of American winemakers who promote the production of wines containing at least 75% of the 22 Rhône grape varieties.

Dark garnet in the glass, this wine starts with aromas of figs and roast plums and a bit of vanilla. These are followed by flavors of strawberries and tart cherries. There is just the right amount of acidity, and the soft tannins are restrained. The silky structure all wraps up in a nice long finish.

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7 Deadly

7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel 2017

This wine, 7 Deadly’s main selection, was first released in 2002, starting with 700 case.  According to the winery, "7 Deadly was born from a Catholic school upbringing, and our winemaker's lust for hedonistically seductive wine.  Seven certified-sustainable vineyards were chosen for the inaugural vintage.  The Seven Sins were related to the seven old vine Zinfandels blended to create 7 Deadly Zins, now America's favorite Zinfandel."

Clear and dark purple in the glass, this wine starts with aromas of dark stone fruit and leather.  There is plenty of traditional zinfandel pepper on the palate, abetted by tart cherry and racy acidity.  It ends in a medium finish, with a bit of cardamom bitterness.

7 Deadly Cab Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

That "Zins" pun just doesn't work when you replace it with "Cab," does it?  A peril of trying to overextend a clever marketing concept.  Regardless, the wine itself works pretty well.  It has the same dark purple color of the Zinfandel, with plum, vanilla, and a bit of marshmallow on the nose.  Flavors of blackberry and bing cherry follow.  It has a rather thin mouthfeel, but well-structured tannins and a moderately long finish. It is an approachable and easy-drinking Cabernet.  The 2020 is the first release of 7 Deadly Cab.

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No. 3 Gin

From 1923 to 2010, UK-based wine purveyors Berry Bros. & Rudd, founded in 1698, controlled Cutty Sark Scotch whisky, whose yellow label is famous the world over.

When Berry Bros. & Rudd decided to try their hand at gin in 2010, it took a team of spirit specialists 730 days to refine and create No. 3 Gin.

Each batch is presided over by distiller Dr. David Clutton, the only person in the world with a Ph.D. in gin. He starts by weighing and blending the six botanicals (grapefruit peel, orange peel, coriander, cardamom, juniper berries, and angelica root) in the recipe. They are then added to the still and steeped for over 16 hours in pure grain spirit. The next day, the distillation begins and lasts over seven hours. The ‘heart’ of the distillate is then collected. Finally, No. 3 is diluted to 46% ABV (the producer claims this is "the ideal amount"), and bottled.

This gin opens with crisp and fresh grapefruit, with forest-like juniper. The piney juniper continues on the palate, correctly, supported by floral notes and hints of spicy cardamom. There's plenty of citrus ‘zing’ complemented by the gingery spiciness of the coriander. It all ends with the earthy dryness of angelica. The whole package is quite smooth and balanced. But remember that 46% ABV, and drink responsibly. This is high-octane stuff, and that smoothness can fool you if you're not careful.

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WALT Wines

WALT Wines, owned by Kathryn Hall and Craig Hall, is dedicated to the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Pacific Coast. They strive to source top fruit from the most distinctive vineyards; practice precise, non-interventionist winemaking; and focus on limited production. The goal is to allow the wines to naturally and honestly express the character of the sites where the wines are grown.

WALT's methodology includes: night harvesting; hand sorting every berry; whole cluster pressing of Chardonnay; native yeast fermentation; barrel aging on lees to create more texture, richness, and complexity; and weekly batonnage and topping during the decidedly long malolactic fermentation. The wines are neither fined nor filtered. This can result in a bit of haze, but it is in keeping with the idea that the wine was made with the least intervention and with the highest-quality intentions.

WALT Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay 2017
This wine opens with bright aromas of lemon, apricot, and mango. The palate features an unctious mouthfeel, with flavors of tart citrus and a hint of butter. A near-perfect balance of acidity and creaminess. Super OTW.

Match this wine with grilled Chilean sea bass with citrus-Anaheim salsa; baked monkfish fillets with fines herbes bread crust; or scallops St. Jacques.

WALT Bob’s Ranch Pinot Noir 2017
Cherry cola and black tea express on the nose. Cherry flavors predominate, abetted by dark fruits mingled with raspberry and cinnamon. This is supported by excellent mouthfeel, vibrant minerality, medium acidity, and just a hint of tannins.

Consider serving with balsamic-glazed salmon; chicken with cherry-wine sauce; or Cornish game hens with raspberry gravy.

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BACA Wines

BACA Wines
The eponymous Kathryn Hall Wines are known for their Cabernet Sauvignons .Ms.Hall’s daughter, Jennifer Brown, helms a second operation, WALT Wines,  specializing in Pinot Noir. In 2016, Ms. Brown launched a third winery for the family named BACA Wines. Latin for ‘berry,’ BACA’s focus is on California Zinfandel.

BACA sources fruit from Calistoga, Russian River, Rockpile, Howell Mountain, and Paso Robles, all from prominent vineyards. Using winemaking techniques that include optical sorting, exacting fermentations, and aging in French oak barrels, BACA aims to craft wines that reflect their place and climate. The BACA wine portfolio includes these five Zinfandels: Double Dutch, Cat’s Cradle, Marbles, Tug O’ War, and I Spy. In addition, there is a four-pack canned wine, Ring Around the Rosé, also made from Zinfandel, of course.

BACA Double Dutch Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard 2017
This Zin starts out ruby red in the glass, with a nose of cherry and blueberry. Next comes plenty of tart cherry on the palate, with touches of smoke and milk chocolate. It is all supported by good tannins and bright acidity. There is little black pepper, often a characteristic of Zinfandel. The finish is luxurious and long.

BACA Cat’s Cradle Zinfandel Rockpile AVA 2017
This big wine is dark brick red. Leather and stone fruit are the initial aromas. It is racy in the mouth, with puckering (in a good way) acidity, and flavors of sour cherry and that typical black pepper. Well-built tannin carries through the lengthy finish.

Enjoy either of these selections with focaccia burger with tomato, arugula, and aioli; brine-cured port chops with balsamic glaze, or braised chicken with tomato, pancetta, and zinfandel.

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Migration Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Duckhorn Portfolio is the umbrella corporation of an expanding wine mini-empire. First came the flagship Duckhorn Vineyards, established in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn to pioneer and feature premium Napa Merlot. (Duckhorn has a “second growth” label named Decoy, as well.) Next came Paraduxx in 1994, specializing in Zinfandel-based blends. This was followed by Goldeneye, which began making Pinot Noir in 1996.

Duckhorn’s newest label is Migration,  established in 2001 in the Anderson Valley. Migration focused first on Pinot Noir. Shaped by the valley’s cool nights, fog-shrouded mornings and mild, sunny afternoons, this inaugural release established Migration’s stylistic identity, producing wines with abundant fruit and bright acidity.

Migration Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2017
The 100% Chardonnay matured for 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, 35% new and 65% neutral oak.  It also saw 75% malolactic fermentation.

Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a dominant nose of lemon, with trailing aromas of apple and pear. The citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit continue on the palate, abetted by hints of vanilla and baking spice. Quite good acidity.

Migration Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2017
The Pinot Noir is 100% varietal, and matured for 10 months in 100% French oak,  35% new and 65% neutral. Sourced from six vineyards in the Green Valley, Russian River Valle,y and Petaluma Gap. A blend of more than 80 small lots of wine that winemaker Epperson has to work with. Excellent quality and value considering the huge production of 23,000 cases.

One is greeted by a bright, festive red color, with cherry and blueberry aromas.  The taste is of tart cherry, cranberry, and subtle oak. The wine is quite dry, silky,  and supported by a backbone of well-balanced tannins. It ends with a medium-length finish.

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Carmel Winery

Wines from Israel
Carmel Winery, one of the first and largest winemakers in Israel, was founded in 1882 by French wine magnate Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the famous Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux. It sits on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, about 14 miles south of Haifa. The Zichron Yaakov wine cellars were built in 1890, and are still active to this day. Carmel Winery works with 108 families of wine growers to nurture some 3,500 acres of vineyards in Israel from the Galilee and the Golan Heights in the North, to the Negev in the South. Carmel uses state-of-the-art technology to produce an array of wines from entry-level offerings to premium bottlings.

This new Private Collection series showcases the country’s most prized growing regions and Carmel Winery’s 137 years of winemaking expertise.

The 2018 Winemakers Blend is an easy-drinking mix of 50% Cabernet and 50% Merlot, made by Carmel’s Chief Winemaker Yiftach Peretz. It has fragrant aromas of blueberry and vanilla on the nose. The taste features suggestions of plums with hints of spices and cocoa abetted by soft tannins. The finish is relatively short.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps predictably, is much like the Winemakers Blend. It has rich aromas of blackberry and chocolate, with a similar flavor profile. The well-balanced tannins are more prominent, and the finish rather longer.

The 2018 Shiraz is deep purple in the glass, with a medium-bodied palate of dark stone fruit, a hint of green pepper, and good supporting tannins. It offers the longest finish of this trio.

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And Now for Something Completely Different
The Exitus winery is located in Parlier, California, about 20 miles southeast of Fresno. I don’t know how badass the folks of Parlier are, but it’s certainly the image that Exitus is trying to cultivate. Their one current offering is Exitus Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Wine. It is fermented in the usual stainless steel. But, rather than using traditional barrels expressly made for wine, Exitus is matured for three months in charred barrels that were previously used for the production of Kentucky Bourbon. The schtick is supported by distributing the wine in clear liquor bottles.

Exitus is a blend of Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Merlot, sporting a robust 15.9% ABV. The wine displays a dark but bright cherry color in the glass (as well as the bottle). The alcohol is evident on the nose of the first pour, but gives way to aromas of dark berry, leather, and tobacco thereafter. After about an hour, Exitus becomes surprisingly well-behaved, with flavors of ripe dark stone fruit, dusty chocolate, and spices. Things wrap up with a bit of oak, vanilla, and balanced tannin. Interestingly, Exitus had me thinking about a glass of port for after dinner.
Try this with sweet and sour baby back ribs, thyme-scented pork loin with grapes and port, or sloppy joe burgers. But do it soon. As clever as that clear bottle is, the wine won’t age gracefully in it.

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Black Stallion

Howdy Pardners
I just saddled up this here Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is named in honor of the historic equestrian estate that once graced the grounds, and was the largest of its kind in California. There are big ripe berries and plum on both the nose and palate, with hints of vanilla as well. It’s all supported by medium tannins and a nicely balanced acidity. The fruit is sourced from many vineyards across the Napa Valley, and then matured for 18 months after fermentation. I suggest pairing this wine with duck breast in a plum sauce. This is one of many Cabernets available from Black Stallion. $28.

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Cork Pops Ratchet Corkscrew

Ratchet This Up
Many people, including some servers themselves, are intimidated or bewildered by so-called waiter’s corkscrews. That’s too bad, because once mastered they can be highly portable and simple to use.

One such corkscrew is the Ratchet Corkscrew from Cork Pops. It is it is nicely designed and built like a tank. Perhaps too much so, because it limits its portability. Unfortunately, the ratchet mechanism is more of a gimmick than a useful feature, and makes the corkscrew more complicated than it needs to be (although it could be handy for wine drinkers with limited hand mobility and strength). $29

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Hand-Painted Golf Glassware from Amanda Lee
American-made and hand-crafted in an art studio, durable glassware from Amanda Lee Glassware is a unique gift for avid golfers. Designs can be mixed and matched or come in sets complete with hand-made boxes. Each glass starts at $18.00 and ships to all 50 states. Hand-made box sets range from $55 - $90. The company also hand paints terrific holiday designs, butterfly designs, floral art and birds.

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Two New See-throughs
Ukraine’s Khortytsa (Hor-Ti-Tsa) Vodka, although new to the US market, is well-known globally. It was named among the world’s best distilleries at the 2014 New York International Spirits Competition. Only 19 of the world’s leading distilleries were recognized with this honor.

The Khortytsa Distillery is located in the Ukrainian city of Zaporozhe near Khortytsa Island, a sacred place in Ukraine - considered to be the cradle and heart of Ukrainian national pride - and is one of the country’s seven wonders. Fro the purest water possible, the distillery uses a filter process containing schungite (a unique natural mineral), and is further enhanced with special birch and alder-tree charcoal and quartz sand sourced near the Ural Mountains.

Currently, there are four items within the Khortytsa line imported to the United States: Khortytsa Platinum, which is the most popular ($14.99 per 750mL.); Khortytsa Ice, specially formulated to be frozen with the bottle turning blue when chilled ($15.99 per 750 mL.); Khortytsa Honey Pepper, which adds a spicy zing to a variety of cocktails ($15.99 per 750mL.), and Khortytsa De Luxe a “super premium” vodka for connoisseurs, ($29.99 per 750 mL.).

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LEAF Vodka is sourced from two unique American waters. These water sources give LEAF vodkas their signature tastes.

LEAF Vodka made from Alaskan glacial water has a pure, smooth taste with a hint of sweetness, while LEAF vodka made from Rocky Mountain mineral water offers richness and complexity, lending a warm and savory impression on the palate. Both expressions are distilled five times, are made with USDA Certified Orgainic non-GMO wheat, and are unflavored. The difference is in the water, which constructs two distinct tastes for different taste profiles.

To date, LEAF has won over 20 awards since 2014 including multiple Double Gold and Best in Show awards from a variety of organizations including the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the San Diego Spirits Festival,, the SIP International Consumer Tasting Awards, and the Ultimate Spirits Challenge among others.

$18.99 per 750 mL.

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Codigo 1530 Tequilas
Anyone keeping abreast of celebrity news knows that tequila is a hot market. Just last June, actor George Clooney sold his tequila company for around $1 billion. A few years back, rock musician Sammy Hagar sold his stake in a tequila company for over $80 million.
Entrepreneurs Frederico Vaughan and Ron Snyder got the bug—or is it worm?—to start a tequila brand while they played a round of golf together at Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Vaughan’s favorite local distillery was located in Amatitan where a family had been producing tequila for five generations. “The secret of Codigo 1530 tequilas begins with the best blue agave in Mexico, the purest water in all of Mexico and yeast from a local bakery,” said Vaughan during an August visit to Chicago. “We then age the tequila in French Oak wine barrels out of Napa Valley.” The varieties of tequila that come from this process differ based upon the resting time and the charring of the barrels.

Blanco is an unrested tequila that’s clear and pure. Rosa has a pink tint from the aging in the wine barrels and is a delicious sipping tequila. Reposado is aged for six months and serves up a smooth, vanilla and caramel flavor to pair well with food.

Chicago-area retailers who sell Codigo 1530 include:  Binny’s, HR Liquors, Town & Country Liquors, El Patron Liquors, JD Liquors and Pete’s Liquor Store.

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Boondocks American Whiskey
Crafted in close cooperation with Dave Scheurich, one of the world’s most respected master distillers and winner of the Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award, Boondocks American Whiskey Cask Strength 127 has an ultra-smooth finish, with distinctive aromas of rich caramel and vanilla. A robust and pleasantly aggressive palate is highlighted by fall spices and oak. This expression received a Gold Medal/91 points in the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016 and Best of Category in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016

2 Bottle Messenger Bag Gift Pack - (2) 750 ml bottles: 127 Proof American Whiskey & 95 Proof American Whiskey $49.95

2 Bottle Gift Box – 95 Proof American Whiskey and 90 Proof Port Finish Bourbon $99.99

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Say “Cheers” to the Holidays with These Selections from Royal Wine
‘Tis the season to tote a special bottle of wine to those kind enough to host us to a holiday party. This year’s top picks from Royal Wine come in a wide range of prices, but all are special enough to impress. Let these suggestions take the guesswork out of gift-giving. And some might just entice you to treat yourself to some holiday cheer as well.

Bartenura Sparkling Moscato Rosé
Bartenura is the most popular Italian Moscato in the U.S. market and beyond. With its luxurious taste, appearance, and mouthfeel, the Sparkling Rosé is like upgrading from coach to first class. Slightly sweet, it’s a festive companion to cheese and dessert. And its “couture fashion” inspired gift bag is a feast for the eyes, too. $17.99

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Teperberg Legacy Petite Sirah
The Legacy Petite Sirah showcases why Teperberg is a rising star among Israel’s wineries. Their flagship wine is not only delicious but also intriguing. Aged in French oak barrels, this deep red offers a soft flavor and rich texture with a complex balance of fruit and roasted oak. $69.99
Carmel Limited Edition
A powerful yet elegant Bordeaux-style wine, the Carmel Limited Edition represents the best of Israeli winemaking. Its distinct Mediterranean notes are bold and earthy, characterized by a rich, smooth, fruity taste. Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the legendary Château Lafite-Rothschild, and the Limited Edition is a tribute to its origins. $69.99



LVOV Vodka “Say it with LVOV” Gift Box (1.75 liter)  - 
LVOV’s premium Polish vodka offers excellent value for the money. Crafted in the old tradition from potatoes (and thus gluten-free), it is distilled and filtered four times for a hint of mineral taste with a touch of sweetness and a slightly herbal aroma. This is a refined, mellow sip as part of your favorite cocktail or enjoyed its own. LVOV Vodka Gift Boxes are available in a choice of six “expressive” options that will definitely convey “Thank You.” $19.99 - $21.99

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Craig's Red Wine 2014  

Craig's Red Wine 2014
Craig Hall, with his wife Kathryn, is the founder of Hall Wines, and this wine is one of his pet projects. It is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot from a number of Hall's growers throughout Napa Valley. It was aged in 60% new French oak for 22 months.

This big, bold Bordeaux-styled red blend has a nose of black fruits, black cherry, raspberry, earth, and a touch of smoke. It offers a palate of blackberry, cherry, plum, and chocolate. There is good acidity and plenty of tannins. If you like a tannin punch, drink now. If not, wait a year or two. Either way, let it breath for about an hour. The finish is long and concentrated. Comes packaged in an elegant gift box for the holidays. Price includes shipping. $60

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Walt Clos Pepe Pinot Noir  

Walt 2015 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir
Walt's Clos Pepe vineyard is in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County. Winds from the Pacific deliver a temperate maritime climate, allowing for grapes to develop through a long, mild growing season. The sandy soils, born of ancient sea beds, obligate the vines to produce low-yield, high-quality fruit.

On the nose, this Pinot Noir exhibits very ripe red and black fruits, clove, and leather. The flavor is a complex balance of jammy cherries, berry fruit, and dried figs, with a hint of mushroom and earth. This is supported by abundant minerality and just enough acidity, oak, and tannins to provide balance and structure. The Clos Pepe has great depth, medium to full body, and a long finish. Comes packaged in an elegant gift box for the holidays. $75

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Viader 2014 Proprietary Red Blend
If you need a gift for the wine lover on your list who has (almost) everything, this is the cult wine you're looking for. With just 1811 cases produced, and at the upper end of Napa prices, this is a rare find. This is the flagship wine from Viader, and put this unique mountainside winery on the map as one of the first in Napa to tackle and successfully showcase Cabernet Franc as a deserving companion with Cabernet Sauvignon. Affectionately known to fans as "Liquid Cashmere."

This is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon provides the backbone, structure, character, and aging potential, while Cabernet Franc instills a balance and early approachability. The wine was aged for two years in 70% new French oak. It shows firm structure influenced by the rocky volcanic soils of the eastern slopes of Howell Mountain, and an elegant yet intensely rich profile. Big, hearty tannins wrap around flavors of succulent dark fruit, clove, and sage, with hints of floral notes.Cellar for up to 12 years. Handcrafted by the mother and son winemaking team of Delia and Alan Viader. $170

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Do Call It Frisco
As any resident of San Francisco will tell you, "Don't call it Frisco!" But we're talking spirits here, not the city, so I think we're OK. Plus, keep reading and a pun will become obvious.

Frísco founder Charlie O’Connell has an abiding love for pisco, the spirit native to Chile and Peru. And now his goal of creating a sustainable, pisco-inspired, American-made spirit has been realized. Launched in May of 2017, Frísco has a clean, full-bodied, yet delicately smooth taste with floral overtones, suggestions of tropical fruit, and just a hint of sweetness.. $35

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FLAVIAR: A Community of Spirits Lovers
After five years in the making and international growth, Flaviar is now launching a membership-only community for spirits enthusiasts, dedicated to providing education, discovery, and unparalleled access to the world of spirits. Flaviar seeks to aid every member in developing their own tastes as they curate a home bar that is more eclectic, more exotic, and, more personal than the world’s best speakeasy.

Designed for people discovering the world of fine spirits, Flaviar plays to their motto, “Tasting is Believing.” The membership community is about taste, exploration, and quality. All members receive:

  • Themed quarterly Tasting Boxes (shown at left)
  • Access to exclusive member-only private bottlings
  • Original content on fine spirits
  • Free shipping
  • Exclusive offers, such as live experiences and curated regional tasting events hosted by Flaviar, distillers, and brand ambassadors alike, in select markets across the country.

Through trial and discovery, members can learn more about their favorite products from a database of currently 22,206 products, build up their virtual (and physical) home bar, and share thoughts and feedback, helping spirits novices and experts alike find their favorite spirits – from global names to small, regional craft producers.

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Laphroaig Scotch

Laphroaig's Newest Expressions
Laphroaig (La-'froyg) literally means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay." The secret to Laphroaig is that it benefits from the happy circumstances of where it is produced—next to ocean water and on land that gives Laphroaig a unique peaty taste. It is one of only a few distilleries that still uses traditional malting floors, and dries and infuses its own malt with the thick smoke from old peat-fired kilns.

Each year, Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell crafts a limited edition malt to celebrate friendship (“Cairdeas” in Gaelic). For 2017, Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask offers a doubling of flavor, due to the maturation in two American oak barrels. The 2017 bottling of Cairdeas features different ages of Laphroaig matured for more than five years in first-fill bourbon casks, then laid to rest for a second time in smaller quarter casks. After six months of further maturation, the liquid from 177 of the casks was bottled at Cask Strength — no color added, no chilling, and a simple barrier filtration. The flavor features a sweet vanilla dryness that develops into a creamy, oily mouth-feel with bitter licorice root and a throat full of smoke. The finish is long, creamy, and (predictably) smoky. $80

Laphroaig Lore is rich and deep with smoke, peat, and seaside minerality. The flavor is the result of liquid being drawn from a selection of casks, including first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, virgin European oak, first-fill Oloroso Sherry butts, first-fill and refill quarter casks, and refill ex-Laphroaig stock. The taste is richly peaty with a spicy chili bite. The finish is short and dry, but with an unexpected long, sweet aftertaste. $125

Laphroaig Select brings selections of Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood, and 10 Year Old together to create a subtle blending of peat, oak, and sweetness. The spirit sees a final maturation in new American Oak casks. For the last six month of aging, Select rests in the highest, warmest reaches of the Laphroaig warehouse during the Scottish summer. On the palate this whisky is deep, complex, and smoky, with a bit of sweetness. The long finish features smoke and spice. $45

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Boodles Mulberry  

Boodles Mulberry Gin Returns for Holiday Cheer
Premium gin producer Boodles has brought back last year’s hit holiday flavor. The delicate taste of mulberries is complemented by the classic Boodles British Gin botanicals of rosemary, nutmeg and sage to create Boodles Mulberry Gin. Along with its amazing flavor, the gin’s dark red color will make this gift a conversation piece at the dinner table.

Boodles Gin is sold in Chicago at Garfield’s Liquor Stores across Chicagoland as well as other retail establishments. 

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Wyoming Whiskey For Discerning Santas
Small batch whiskey, we have been told, is a welcome trend. The Mead family first came to Wyoming in 1890 as ranchers. While subsequent generations have endeavored in law, politics, and extreme skiing, Sam Mead is leading the fifth generation toward renown as a premier whiskey producer. Wyoming Whiskey products include four varieties. Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a traditional bourbon whiskey that is dark amber in color and smooth to the taste buds. Flavors that can be detected include brown baking spices, vanilla crème, caramel, and cinnamon.

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Cuervo Reserva de la Familia
Reserva de la Familia is the world’s first extra-añejo tequila. It is hand selected from the Cuervo® family’s private collection. Each bottle is made using only blue agave harvested at its peak maturity after seven to twelve years of growing in the field, and aged in French and American oak barrels for a minimum of three years. Not for shots or margueritas, Reserva de la Familia is best served in a snifter, allowing for full appreciation of its flavors, aroma, and velvety finish. At about $130 per 750ml bottle, this is a rare treat for most of us, but worth it if you can swing it.

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