This is what our editors and contributors have been drinking…
David Flaherty: Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam Bière
Whenever I can get my hands on this stuff, I do, because Jolly Pumpkin is some beer out of left field — no, I take that back, this is some beer from under the bleachers in left field where the circus freaks hang out. And I do enjoy a good circus freak.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: there is some wild s%&t coming out of Dexter, Michigan (population <3,000). It must be the cold winters; the fact that creative types are forced indoors for months at a time, only to begin tinkering, plotting and scheming their creations. Ron Jeffries, the brewmaster of this strange, incredibly geek-centric outfit, does much that can be classified as “abnormal”. He uses wild yeasts, open fermentation, and often ferments his beer in former wine barrels, introducing them to all sorts of funky, microbial jesters of sourness.
The Weisenbam Bière is no exception. Snappy, refreshing, pulsing with life. An acidic, sour backbone sings it on home but with a round, softer center from the wheat. Big, bold fruit that has a biting zip. A german hefe tweaked out on acid with Hunter S. Thompson roaming through Vegas. All hail the freaks.
Tracy Weiss: Domaine Dirler-Cadé, 2010 Sylvaner Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
While I love many wines produced in Alsace, I don’t know much about Sylvaner. Thanks to the lovely people at Blue Ribbon Bakery, I found this wine in my glass last night.
A creamy, but crisp white gave me melons on the nose with a very slight floral undertone. Perfectly paired with Tandoori Octopus, the wine was mellow with enough acid to see me through the spiciness of the dish, but not bracing like the Riesling I expected to be served. Dry with a taste of grapefruit and lemon zest, the Sylvaner had a firm presence on the tongue, like a great kisser, and a long finish. (I’m leaving that one alone.)
Aaron Estes: Bear Republic Brewery Racer 5
My area in Queens is pretty scarce when it comes to a quality beer selection. Most of the time I have to venture into the city to find anything somewhat decent. Local? Forget about it… To peruse the aisles only to find endless six packs of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Lime…you get the picture.
I decided to head into one of our new local grocery stores, but this is a little off the beaten path. Lo and behold…what have we here…? Racer 5?!? Tucked between cases of some no name malt liquor, one of my favorite west coast IPAs sat there just waiting for me.
I love the tropical fruitiness on the nose and the perfect malty/hoppy balance on the finish. This IPA is so smooth, so drinkable…a true pleasure to drink. I am still amazed that I am able to find this in my local grocery store in Queens. I hope this is not a fluke or a rarity, because I have officially become their best customer.
Amy Zavatto: Paul Blanck 2010 Pinot Gris, Alsace
Really tropical nose – pineapple, ripe pear, lily, and a little bit of Dole fruit cocktail. Medium to full body, unctuous on the palate. Minerally and lots of spice — almost tastes/feels like it saw some barrel time (but it didn’t).
I thought the acidity was lacking a little and, perhaps, this was leaning a little bit on the flabby side of things. Charming, though! Had it with salty roast chicken and a crazy, mildy spicy lentil side dish with Andouille sausage, and salad with some aged goat cheese.
Julia Burke: Justin Vineyards 2009 Justification
I can scoff at California reds with the best of ’em –– at Premier, I was sort of known for that. But when I’m with my four favorite wine broads at our favorite wine bar, sometimes it’s fun to give the big-ass reds a spin.
We were in such a mood last Thursday at Just Vino, and ended up ordering Justin Vineyards 2009 Justification, the biggest, most extracted red I’ve had in months. And I have to say… I felt, well, justified.
Oaky, tannic, and super-ripe? Sure, but the spicy, black fruit also had notes of graphite and tobacco, and I might just have picked out the cab franc in it. Maybe.
I’m no convert, but with some cheddar, jamon, and olives this wine was just (sorry) what the doctor ordered.
Todd Trzaskos: Martinshof Zum Martin Sepp 2011 Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel, Austria
It was a long busy weekend and we were both running in different directions, only finally crossing paths on Sunday evening. I normally have no problem coming up with a dinner idea, but this particular and rare evening, I was just not up for cooking, and called the kitchen closed. We needed “Easy.” There was not even an urge to dine out, and have to get ‘cleaned-up’ for public appearance, so take-out it was.
A fine local restaurant, with its small tavern, is amenable to serving their menu out the door, so while the burgers were on order, I sat at the bar and enjoyed a glass of “easy.” I chose the Grüner because, well, I like Grüner. Sure there is the fad effect that has made versions available almost anywhere that has a half-conscious list, as well as people’s urge to sound cool if they can say it correctly. Me, I like the profile of a white with nice freshness, good body, slightly slippery texture, apple, pear, citrus flavors, with a dose of herbaceous and a dash of mineral. Even better I like that Austrian Grüner come in a wide range from the simple tavern quaffing and food flexible Heuriger like this one, to truly and amazingly complex versions that are still evolving 40 years on. The Austrians keep a lot of the good stuff for themselves, but do not send us the low end either. Generally in the U.S. you are getting a pretty decent bottle of wine for your money, so to me, the choice is easy too.
Lenn Thompson: Coteau des Chenanceaux 2005 Chinon
I didn’t go into last weekend planning on making it a non-local wine weekend, but after enjoying Cote Rotie, red Burgundy and a snappy-rich Austrian gruner Friday night, I decided to continue the trend — just to step away from local wine for a few days to taste some different wines and reset my palate a bit.
I opened this Loire cabernet franc Saturday night and then enjoyed it through the rest of the weekend.
Intense and extracted, unlike any other Chinon I’ve had actually, it showed gobs of black fruit and the typical vegetal notes I look for (and yes, enjoy in moderation) in Chinon was much more menthol-eucalyptus here, almost like an Aussie shiraz. The standout here is the rich mouthfeel, framed by Chalky tannins and just a bit of acidity.
I’d say this could have aged significantly longer in my cellar, but was tasting quite interesting now.