By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief

Usually our band of intrepid "drink local" editors and contributors can be counted on for at least one local libation. Not so this week, with New Orleans, South Africa, Portual and yes, even California (but not wine) represented.

Enjoy reading what we've been enjoying drinking:

Brut NV Lenn Thompson: Graham Beck NV Brut (South Africa)

We had a day-long (and over-night) sitter over the weekend, so Nena and I spent Saturday tasting on the North Fork.

We had some 'interesting' and diverse tasting room experiences (keep an eye out for a post this week) but also sampled some great wines. We also stayed at Shinn Farmhouse, a long over-due happening, where we tasted some new releases as well as a terrific 2004 Cabernet Franc from the library.

It was a very "local" weekend, and I had planned to go local for WWD as well.

That was until we had dinner at North Fork Table and manager/co-owner/beverage guru Mike Mraz brought over a couple glasses of Graham Beck NV Brut.

He poured it for us as though letting us in on a secret, and with good reason. This classically made — in terms of grapes and method — sparkler really really impressed, bringing nice fresh and roasted apple fruit but also toasty yeasty notes with subtle smokey edge. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a dry finish it was beautiful as a toaster and with our raw seafood dishes at the beginning of the tasting menu.

Admittedly, I'm not a Champagne expert, but if you poured this blind for me, I'd peg it as a Champagne, not something from South Africa. It's that good and that classic. So thanks, Mike, for introducing us to SA bubbly. We really came away impressed.

The best part? A quick Internet search tells me that this retails for around $15 per bottle. Try getting good Champagne for that price.


SazeracAndy Freedman: Sazerac in New Orleans

My wife and I decided to make a last-minute trip down to New
Orleans for Valentine’s Day and a little Mardi Gras partying over the
long President’s Day weekend. 

We drank nearly everything in sight,
including Cajun bloody mary’s, local Abita beers, and even the
uber-touristy hurricanes and hand grenades. 

But we couldn’t leave
without trying the quintessential New Orleans cocktail – the Sazerac. Heck, the Louisiana House of Representatives even proclaimed it the official
cocktail of New Orleans back in 2008. A Sazerac is typically some
combination of Cognac, rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint (locally-produced
anise liqueur) and Peychaud's Bitters. 

I decided to try my first Sazerac
at the Napolean House, a 200 year-old New Orleans eating and drinking institution
known for its cocktails and muffaletta sandwiches. The
Sazerac here
is made with Old Overholt as the rye of choice, and Angostura as well as
Peychaud’s bitters. The Angostura gives the cocktail some flavors of
cinnamon and sweet orange rind. While a bit out of sorts with tradition, it was
very smooth, easy-drinking and delicious.

And if you’re looking to try a
Sazerac in NYC, I would head either to PDT or Pegu Club where I hear they mix
pretty good ones.  

Fladgate_port_1995 Bryan Calandrelli: Taylor Fladgate Quinta De Vargellas Vintage Port 1995

This was a Christmas gift from a coworker. He apparently received a case as a graduation gift many years ago and decided he should share the wealth.

I am no way an expert on Port and this bottle is probably the oldest port I've ever tasted.

Aromas of red cherries, raspberries and dark chocolate lead the way in the glass. There's more of a toasty note that I usually associate with aged Bordeaux wine that I find appealing as well.

Hands down the most complex Port I've ever tasted.

Since I opened this a week ago I've gone through a ton of chocolate and I could definitely get used to finishing my meals with a glass of this stuff.

Starting the day with it isn't bad either.

Beers Evan Dawson: Stone Brewing Company Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Good friend and craft beer lover Randy Ford hosted a small group
this past weekend to taste more than a dozen beers.

The first flight
was American ambers and the second flight was chocolate beers. It was
fascinating to see the variation in the amber flight, with some of the
dry-hopped beers showing big bright aromatics while others focused on a
weightier mouthfeel.

Cool stuff.

The chocolate
flight showed more overall consistency, but I still found myself
preferring the beers that integrated the chocolate more stylishly.

Stone Brewing chocolate/oatmeal beer poured no head at all and it had
the color and mouthfeel of motor oil. Awesome, if you were in a
hedonistic mood like I was. But most importantly it took the oatmeal
and the chocolate and found a way to weave it all together while
letting each element carry through without dominating. 

favorites from the tasting: Ithaca Beer Cascazilla, Dry Hopped St.
Rogue Red, Troegs Brewing Nugget Nectar, Arcadia Brewing Company Cocoa