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Wednesday
Oct222014

Germain-Robin O&R Now in Stock

The wait is over! I know many of you placed your pre-orders a week or so ago, butfor those of you who have been holding back until these bottles were in stocknow is your time. Yesterday, I popped one of the Small Blend #3 bottles for the staff to taste. I wouldn't be able to open everything from the incredible Old & Rare portfolio (and not everyone has the time to drive three hours north to Ukiah), but at least I could give my co-workers an idea of what we were dealing with here. Right after I left yesterday evening, while I was driving up 280 North listening to the Giants unload on the Royals, I received this text from my colleague Joel:

 

 When I got to the store today people were freaking out. "Holy _____!!!" said our Aussie/NZ wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse. "I don't think I even have words to describe how good that brandy is. The best part is that you can taste each of the listed components in the blend, and understand exactly why they married them in those proportions."

That was a pretty good way of describing it, in my opinion.

In any case, I could list all my notes again, post links to the bottles, and give you quotations from every staff member, but I won't. Instead, I'm going to send you to the man himselfAnsley Coalewho is busy uploading videos that describe each of the O&R selections in fine fashion.

Check out the site here. It's much more compelling than anything I could write or say. The video links are under the descriptions for each individual expression.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct222014

Corti Brothers Exquisite Whiskey

Here I was thinking no one knew anything about this Corti Brothers project but me and a few guys in Sacramento. Yet, I woke up this morning to find my friend SKU had reviewed the exact same whiskey! That lead to a funny email exchange of "Wow! You too?" In any case, I've linked his review. Both of us have pretty much the exact same impression: the whiskey is very good, but hardly recognizable as Bourbon. In fact, when I let my colleague Joel taste it yesterday, he said, "That's the best American single malt I've ever had! Even better than Cut Spike!"

"It's actually Bourbon," I replied.

"No, I mean the sherry-aged one I just tasted," he answered.

"That's the one. It's Bourbon aged in sweet wine casks," I stated again.

He grabbed the bottle with a puzzled look on his face and stared confusedly at the label.

There are two sizes: 750ml and 375ml. We have way more of the latter. While the larger size is obviously the better deal, this is quite a rich whiskey so it may not be something you need a whole bottle of.

Here are my notes:

Corti Brothers 7 Year Old Exquisite Whiskey 375ml $29.99 - half bottle size.

Corti Brothers 7 Year Old Exquisite Whiskey 750ml $49.99 - Those looking for Bourbon flavor will want to look elsewhere, as the sweetness of the Mission Del Sol wine is the star of the show. I never in a million years would have guessed wine-enhanced Bourbon. The nose is all molasses and brown sugar, but the spiciness of the Bourbon keeps the palate from being anywhere near as sweet. Rich, however, it is. Big tawny Port flavor with a dash of dried herbs. The finish is all Bruichladdich circa 2007, back when they were releasing those big, oily whiskies finished in red wine casks. There's that earthy, vinous character on the back end. Knowing that it is indeed Bourbon, however, and not single malt, you can taste the oak and the clear Bourbon profile for about two seconds on the initial sip, but moments after that it gets buried by a gigantic wave of Amador County Mission Del Sol. Easily the most exciting and unique whiskey I've tasted this year. And one of the few moments in recent memoryif not the only momentwhere I've looked at the price and said, "That's it?!"

Must have. Buy two or three.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Oct212014

Our Friends In Sacramento (CA Pioneers - Part III)

If you live in Northern California and you're into local fooderies, then you've undoubtedly heard of the Corti Brothers; the Sacramento grocery outlet started by Frank and Gino Corti in 1947. Focusing on wine and other delicacies previously unavailable in the area, the two siblings set the bar for what a retailer of fine goods could bea purveyor of both quality and education for those interested in learning more about the things we consume. Frank's son Darrell would eventually take over the family business and today he's known in our industry as a man with impeccable taste. Even serious whisky geeks might recognize his single malt prowess from Serge's Whisky Fun blog, where a number of the Corti Brothers whiskies (bottled back in the 1980s) have been reviewed recently (to great acclaim). Darrell and our co-owner Clyde Beffa go back decades, and remain friends today; both having taken a stand for excellence in retailing long before such a thing was popular. There's no doubt a number of similarities between the infrastructure of both K&L and the Corti Brothers retail storestwo family run merchantiles that have long searched outside the box for the finer things in life; importing their own exclusive products from abroad, complete with a simple, plain white label (Kalinda would be the K&L wine version).

I bring the Corti Brothers up now because tomorrow we're getting the chance to finally do a little business together. Let me start by pasting in this text from the recent Fall 2014 Corti Brothers newsletter pertaining to an old California wine they're currently offering:

CHARLES MYERS began making MISSION DEL SOL wine at HARBOR WINERY in 1972. The last vintage he produced, the 1986, was bottled July, 2014. This 28 year old wine is the last vintage of this unique production. It is an exceptional bottling of an exceptional wine. It is also a relic of California wine, that when gone, will probably not be seen again.

Made from what is considered a worthless, yet historically famous grape variety, MISSION, it is the product of a fermentation technology, first described and written about by W.V. CRUESS, in 1916. This fermentation technology, syruped fermentation, for the production of high alcohol dessert wines, came about due to the lack of fortifying spirit in California in 1915. Professor Cruess writes about it in his book, The Principles and Practice of Winemaking [2nd edition, 1947.] Cruess’ book was the winemaking guide Charles Myers followed.

In 1972, it was difficult to make fortified wines, since to fortify necessitated the presence of the Federal officer responsible for alcohol. Charles thought this was onerous. In 1969, Stony Hill winery in St. Helena started to produce a sweet semillon wine for Corti Brothers called Semillon de Soleil. Charles thought he could produce a similar sweet wine with Mission grapes from Amador Co. As a home winemaker he had tried making such a wine in 1967. Thus, with a humble variety no one wanted, and old technology, which no one wanted either, nine vintages of Mission del Sol were produced. The grapes were always from Amador County vineyards and varied from Deaver to Eschen, to Story. This last vintage, the 1986, is from the century old vines at Story vineyard.

The production technology at Harbor winery has always been as “non interventionist” as possible. The wines didn’t make themselves, but were handled with as little manipulation as possible–what was just necessary. ANGELICA is probably the closest wine type that Mission del Sol corresponds to. It is different from classic Angelica in that not being fortified with spirit, it has a softer, less hard flavor, with great fruitiness that is not just simple.

The aged character of the 1986 comes through with a striking ruddy amber color, a marvelous “rancio” character and pungency, reminiscent of a fine Bual or Verdelho Madeira. A soft butterscotch flavor is due to the wine’s age. It is sweet, but with a dry end. With 22.7% alcohol and only 8 grams of sugar, it is not cloying or sticky. When fermentation finished and the first analysis of the wine made, it had 15.7% alcohol. In 2010, it had 19.5%. Its alcohol at bottling is simply concentration due to evaporation. Curiously, the sweetness is less than dry Sercial Madeira would have.

I got the chance to try one of these bottles a few weeks ago and it was quite an eye-opening experience. Not only is the Mission wine a relic of California's booze history (a subject I've been covering recently on the blog), but it got me immediately thinking: what would whisky taste like were it to be aged in a leftover Mission Del Sol barrel? The profile is very similar to a sweet sherry flavor and could probably do quite a number on the right spirit. Maybe that was something we could work on together.

But then, of course, that curiosity was soon satisfied. I got the answer I was looking for and it seemed that someone was far, far ahead of me in that line of thinking. Tomorrow, you'll see exactly what whiskey aged in Mission Del Sol looks like. It looks like Darrell Corti is back in the whiskey business. That's good news for all of us.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Oct202014

Wow Bob Wow

It is happening again. I about pissed my pants and started crying like a little baby the other day when I heard David Lynch was going to shoot a new season of Twin Peaks for Showtime next year. 

 

 

I have driven to North Bend, WA for the sole purpose of visiting the "Double R" Diner and the town that served as Agent Cooper's homebase for the Laura Palmer investigation. That was in 2009, when my wife and I went from Seattle to Idaho stopping for what was a magical moment for me personally.

 

How does Coop get out of the Black Lodge? What's been happening for the last twenty-five years? How much more cherry pie can one man eat? I guess I'll have to wait until 2016 when it actually airs.
If you didn't see the news a few weeks back, check out the link below and get your goosebumps going.

 

 

-David Driscoll
Sunday
Oct192014

Original Content

I've been lazy this morning; sitting around in my pajamas, drinking coffee, and skimming through the five New Yorkers that have backed up on me in the previous weeks. There's an interesting one-pager about Netflix and its push towards more original programming in the issue I'm reading now. Apparently, they just signed Adam Sandler to make four movies exclusively for their subscription-based streaming service. The article focuses on how Netflix has been able to adapt from a pay-per-view service, to a DVD-rental service, to a streaming service, and now into a provider of original content (remember what Austan Goolsbee said about Silicon Valley businesses that can adapt?). 

So what changed?

"Netflix became a victim of its own success," the article states. "Once content providers saw how popular streaming was becoming, they jacked up the price of their content."

That sounds oddly familiar.

Jeffrey Ulin, the former head of distribution at Lucasfilm, is quoted in the article as saying: "The calculus here is simple. There's a lot more competition for viewers. That means it's harder to get content. And the content you do get costs more."

This premium price on content, my friends, is why Signatory bought Edradour distillery. It's why Ian McCleod bought Glengoyne and Tamdhu. It's why Willett finally got its operation up and running, and why Michter's and Angel's Envy are building their own distilleries. It's why Black Maple Hill doesn't sell Kentucky Bourbon anymore. You need original content; your own juice if you're going to survive in the new world of whiskey. Buying programming from other producers is getting to be too expensive.

"The carrot for any pay-TV service is really original content," Ulin goes on to say. "That's the one thing you can guarantee people won't find anywhere else. Of course, everyone is investing in original content, so Netflix just has to do what others are doing and hope that it can do it better."

Faultline, anyone?

-David Driscoll

UPDATE: I just realized that yesterday's blog post wiped out all our Palazzi rum. I've got plenty more coming tomorrow, so you can now order into the negative via the link in the previous post if you want to capitalize on the hot price.