Here is a smattering of what our contributors were drinking over the holidays…

Lenn Thompson: Troeg's Brewery Perpetual IPA
Troegs-perpetualSometimes, a brewery's top-flight reputation can almost be a hindrance. Troeg's Brewery is one of my favorite east coast breweries. Of course they brew one of my all-time faovrites — Nugget Netcar — but all of their stuff is good, even the stuff made in styles that I don't typically reach for.

So when I saw this for the first time on my local beer shop's shelf on New Year's Eve, I grabbed it without thinking. My instincts told me that Troeg's knows their way around hops and that this is a beer I'd probably love.

And… well… it's a good beer. Not something I'd seek out again, but not something I'd not drink happily. My expectations were high and as such, perhaps this beer had little chance of meeting them.

It's balanced and very citrusy in its hop profile — but seems almost light on the palate (even at 7.5% abv), lacking the malty backbone that many of my favorite IPAs have.

Of course, if it had that backbone, it'd be an awfully lot like Nugget Nectar, which it's not. Expectations can be a bitch.

Evan Dawson: Dominus Estate 1991 Napa Valley<
DominusSome generous friends shared a magnum of this wine to help us count down to 2012. And what a way to do it. The next time someone tells you that Napa can't make elegant wines, don't believe it.

The winemaking is impeccable, but that's perhaps not even doing it justice. Proprietor Christian Moueix has explained that he refuses to acidify under any circumstances. He instructs crews to pick earlier than many Napa producers. And he decided to increase yields when everyone else seemed to be cutting yields; Moueix has said that this keeps the vines in balance and allows for lower-alcohol, physiologically ripe wines with good acid. Just imagine.

One other word about this wine: Magnums are underrated, sexy, often unaffordable for me, and if I haven't mentioned it yet, sexy.

Happy New Year, indeed.

Tracy Weiss: Apple-Cinnamon Maker's Mark
Apple BourbonImagining a snow-covered scene complete with pre-midnight snow angels, this updated classic would be the perfect drink to warm up our celebration. And what’s easier than throwing cinnamon sticks and sliced Fuji Apples into a container with a bottle I already had on hand?

As the cocktail marinated for three days, I looked on, as proud as if I had distilled it myself.

Fantastically mild weather ‘forced’ us to abandon the hot toddy portion of the agenda. Instead, we threw back the apple bourbon unadorned or with a splash of Canada Dry Ginger Ale. The result: holiday fun in a glass. The blend was smoky, earthy, smooth, and honeyed – the combination you’d expect from the simple sum of these parts. It reminded me of an alcoholic breakfast cereal, not that I’d recommend imbibing that early in the a.m.

Perhaps I’ll get my chance to sample this heated beverage as intended in a winter landscape later this year. But for now, Apple Cinnamon Maker’s Mark set the tone for a quiet cozy celebration.

Rochelle Bilow: A Finger Lakes Duo
Wines_bilowMy boyfriend’s (who took this picture) birthday was last week, or, as I’ve come to call it: his excuse for breaking into our most
treasured corner of the wine cellar.

The two wines he chose to have before and with dinner couldn’t have been more different: a Ravines 2008 Argetsinger Dry Riesling, and a 2009 Dr. Konstantin Frank 2009 Cuvee d’Amour.

We’d been saving the Argetsinger mostly out of deference and respect – we were afraid no occasion was grand enough to open it. I’m glad we did, though, because I don’t remember the last time I had a riesling that pure and honest. The flavors were layered – was that a gentle trace of floral honey I detected? Lime candies? – but they were clean and easily understood.

Terroir is a difficult thing to define, on paper or in the glass, but I think that this wine exemplifies it well. (Of course, it helps to know a bit about grower Sam Argetsinger and his commitment to his vines.) My only regret is that we didn’t buy more than one bottle – I’d like to see how it changes in a year, two, three.

I remember tasting the Cuvee d’Amour at Dr. Frank last summer and thinking “Hm! How interesting!” Five months later, I still find it quite interesting, but not as pleasant. There’s a bit too much twang and wang for me, with an almost-sour finish. It did improve – as most wine does – with dinner. An intensely flavored lamb burger seemed to speak its language. The grapes are native to Sibera and Northern China, admittedly placing this wine out of my knowledge zone. I seem to remember our taster that day suggesting we cellar it for ten years, but who am I to argue with a birthday boy? Anyway, I see no reason why we can’t try again with another bottle.

Looking forward to tasting what next year’s birthday uncorks.