Here's what our editors and contributors were drinking last week…
Evan Dawson: Ravines Wine Cellars 2007 Meritage
I have now opened this wine on three separate occasions, and it has been three distinctly different wines. What a beguiling lesson for those of us who seek to power taste and ascribe a permanent score or note.
In March 2009, shortly after bottling, this wine was precocious and juicy, dark and rich. Coming from the fabulous-for-reds 2007 Finger Lakes vintage, and in the hands of perhaps the most skilled red wine maker in the region, hopes were high. I found it explosive, if slightly shrouded by oak tones.
Last week it opened up entirely differently. Almost harsh in acidity, the oak coating had been replaced by a frame of grilled and fresh herbs. It was thinner, having dropped some baby fat, but not thin.
That same bottle, one night later, had become something much more complex. It retained those herbal elements while reuniting with the juicier black fruits. There was also something hard to pin down, an interplay between ripe fruit and acidity that defied my description.
I enjoy writing tasting notes, and I think they can be tremendously valuable. But they are also malleable, given wine's ever-evolving state. This bottle reminds us.
Lenn Thompson: Great South Bay Brewery Massive India Pale Ale
There is more than a bit of a beer revolution underway on this narrow sand bar jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. New micro- and nano-breweries (a fairly new term for me) have popped up all over the Island. Few of them bottle their beers, instead relying on beer shop growler stations and bars to get the word — and their products — out into the marketplace.
That's how a growler of this IPA founds its way into my possession — and my pint glass — over the weekend. Until then, I'd only heard about Great South Bay Brewery via the local beer geek channels.
Even at 6.8% abv, I'd term this a session IPA because, while showing stylistic hop character and bitterness, it's not over the top bitter or piney (only 50 IBUs). It's well balanced and didn't bludgeon my palate into submission after a couple pints.
I enjoy having my palate ravaged by hops as much as the next hop addict, but not at the beginning of a long day of sipping.
On Saturday, it paired beautifully with lots of college football, but I'd imagine it'd work really well with sharp-but-not-too-crumbly cheddar cheese.
As the weather gets colder, whiskey is making more regular appearances in my glass. This time, I chose a local offering with some real personality.
Finger Lakes Distilling's Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey is not messing around.
Neat, it's like a corn muffin with a burning 90-proof edge that warms from the inside out. On the rocks, it's clean and smooth but maintains an almost smoky, crusty cornbread finish.
In both cases, it's got a substantial buttery mid-palate that makes it worth sipping and savoring.
But hey, let's be honest. It's also perfectly okay to hit this from a hip flask while you're raking those last leaves.
Earning the title of "Cab Franc Guy" in the greater western New York area hasn't come without seemingly hundreds of conversations about my favorite grape. In these friendly discussions there's usually someone who mentions that they don't generally like cab franc yet there's been one that has made them reconsider once or twice.
The cab franc mentioned by people who don't like cab franc is usually this bottle of Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso Toscana. This Super Tuscan cab franc shows the grape in a ripe and rustic, undeniably Italian manor.
Aromas of black fruit, dark chocolate, leather and tar compliment its nearly opaque red hue. There's nothing thin, vegetal or acidic in this wine and its weight, tannins and alcohol are well incorporated. In a blind setting I definitely wouldn't pick it as being cab franc.
That being said it was still delicious.
I dug this wine immensely but for the usually asking price of $80 or more, it's not going to reach my table again anytime soon.
Most wine lovers would enter a wine bar with 80 wines by the glass and be in heaven.
When my fellow wine geeks and I visit our favorite wine bar, however, our first question to the garrulous owner is invariably, "Hey Jeff, got anything open that's not on the list?"
That's how I ended up with a glass of this 2003 Aglianico, not on the menu but right up my alley for a post-concert drink with new friends.
The maturity only gave it grace; rustic notes of dried herbs, dusty florals, and black truffle softened a still-fierce grace note of sour cherry, begging for a wood-fire soppressata pizza.
I like my Italians a little more mature (what can I say) and this one hit the spot.
It was time to clean out the beer fridge here at work. The Autumn season is upon us and I was itching to make room for the brown ales, the porters and the rich Belgian beers I'd ordered for November. It was time to say goodbye to the beers of summer, so I did some clearing and purchased the scraps for my home fridge (a nice little perk of restaurant life).
Boulder Beer Company was the first microbrewery in Colorado. As the movement began in earnest in California at Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada, Boulder Beer soon followed. In what is now a saturated, beautiful bastion of breweries like New Belgium and Odells, they are the grandfather of the Colorado scene. And grandfather needs his respect.
The Sweaty Betty Blonde is the perfect summer beer (not to mention the perfect beer for the near blistering conditions of my Queens apartment; damn those pre-war radiators can do some heating). So, in the near Havana-like conditions, I sat on my couch last night and cracked one open. A Pale Wheat Ale in style, it had a hint of orange peel and lemon on the nose, with a beautiful crisp body. It took me back to July and for a moment, I could feel the summer sun on my face. Then I opened my eyes and I was in Cuba again.
I love watching the seasons change through the beers in my glass. It's about time for a big, hearty Belgian Tripel, people. I hope you're ready.