Pour Form

Sometimes people are vexing. It may surprise some people who know me, but I get annoyed pretty quickly (especially with myself).  But all in all, most people think I’m a pretty easy going, laid back kinda’ guy. And for the most part, maybe even the whole part, I am.

So what frustrates me?

Say I go to a small party and bring a bottle of wine.  It may be one of my favorites. It may not be. Either way, it doesn’t matter. After placing the bottle on the assigned table with the rest of the night’s accoutrements, I quickly go about my customary walkabout and exchange pleasantries. After promptly returning to pour myself a glass, I notice that there is ALREADY less than a quarter of the bottle left.

Now, it can be argued that with the previous act of placing the bottle on the table, I willfully give up the rights to this particular wine. As with other blurred lines of “social etiquette”, I happily acknowledge this unwritten rule in the fabric of our society.

No big deal right? I brought it for everyone.

But as I stealthily scan the room to see who may be enjoying it (we’ve all been there), I happen to notice a couple of people across the room with glasses filled to brim. So high in fact that I can vividly imagine their dry-cleaning bill increasing exponentially with even with the slightest swirl. Now I am all for having a good time, but is there really a need to fill the glass to the tippy top?

I’ve been told of a preconceived notion that a 750ml bottle of wine holds 4 “generous” glasses. Well I beg to differ. I submit that a properly poured bottle of wine has approximately 7 glasses in it. And each pour should be about 3 ounces. This humble portion allows for the maximum amount of allotted torque to effectively swirl the contents and release its full capacity of olfactory splendor. It is also important to note that wine is something to sniff, sip and savor. Not to be swilled “pell-mell” or “willy-nilly”.

I’m not trying to be the “pouring police” here, but I know what I like. It may not be what other people deem correct, moral, or even worth discussing.  But, to me, pouring a glass of wine over 3 ounces is poor form.

– Wesley Kirk


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Stop and smell the Rosé

Back in the way-far, starry past of my Sommelier education, I attended a class meant to develop facility in tasting. Before actually tasting any wine, our instructor gave a demonstration of the importance of the sense of smell.  He asked that each of us pinch our nostrils shut and then place a small red pellet, about the size of a tic-tac on our tongues. After a few seconds had passed, we were instructed to relax our grip. That seemingly tasteless pellet, now aerated with breath was suddenly transformed into an eye-watering, cinnamon fireball. The lesson, which each of us no doubt first learned in childhood when faced with having to eat something particularly loathsome, was reaffirmed. Skipping the science, it’s this: smell and taste are intertwined, work together and complement each other on a deep level, and anything we can’t smell, we can’t fully taste.

After a palate cleansing, the class focused on developing our wine tasting technique using the procedure familiar to anyone who’s made even the faintest acquaintance with the Food Channel—assess the color, swirl to aerate and release aromas, smell or “nose” as we say in the biz, sip wine and air together.  In order to gain the fullest appreciation of any wine, it’s important not to take a short cut in this ritual by skipping steps two and three. Why then do so many people (and years of pouring wine confirms this observation)) omit this part of the program?

Many of a wine’s finest aspects, and many of its flaws such as TCA, the chemical that “corks” a bottle, are best and most easily perceived through the sense of smell. In addition, flavor notes perceived on the nose are not necessarily mirrored on the palate, and vice versa. Smelling….. sorry, ”nosing” a wine before tasting it also allows us to concentrate on various aspects of the bouquet without the distractions of weight, mouth-feel or for the wonkier among us, the analysis of “attack”, “mid-palate” and “finish.” This Level of geek-dom of course, is all well and good if you happen to be in the wine business. The majority of wine lovers however are not, and need only remember one thing:  you never have to look far for some of wine’s greatest pleasures- they’re right under your nose.

— Thaddeus Kawecki

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Can you taste the rarity?

Rare beer is all the rage these days. Every brewery seems eager to jump on the bandwagon. And it’s not hard to see why. These limited releases often generate a lot of press for small craft brewers. Brewers also use limited releases as a platform to push the boundaries of beer in general. They can be as creative as they want. Beers such as De Struise Pannepot and Russian River Pliny the Younger simply cannot be brewed as regular offerings. Those beers take too long to brew, and their ingredients are too expensive. Part of their charm is that they are not readily available. Many people who chase these offerings will never get a chance to taste them. And the lengths some people go to get a sip are excessive to say the least. Some retail outlets have been forced to employ lotteries in order to allocate the beer to their customers fairly. I could not imagine standing in line at a liquor store, hoping my number would be called just so I could be allowed to purchase a bottle of beer.

I am starting to think this trend is counterproductive to the craft beer industry. It promotes the idea of exclusiveness. It could even end up alienating customers. If people keep getting shut out, why would they stay interested? While I am all for experimenting, I feel brewers should spend more time adding to their core brands. They should use the space they have to brew more beer for everyday consumption. Great beer is something that is meant to be shared. But how can you share a bottle that you couldn’t find?

In the meantime check out these great beers in readily available at Amanti Vino:

Firestone Walker Double Jack Imperial IPA (22oz) – This hop monster is “dry” on the palate with resonating notes of orange marmalade and pine needles. – $7.99

Left Hand Milk Stout (6 pack) – Perfect for the colder months, this stout is “roasty” with a touch of creamy sweetness to balance it out. – $11.99

Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte White Ale (750ml) – Featuring notes of earthy spice and a floral essence, it is very unique for its style. – $13.99

— Mike Kaminski

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Biodynamic Vintners Part #1: From Cow Horns to Horsetails…

I’m not sure there are many that could explain exactly what the practice of biodynamic viticulture entails. And believe me, there’s definitely more involved than just dancing in the moonlight and reading your favorite bed time story to the vines every night. Honestly though, after having read what hoops producers jump through in order to obtain the “biodynamic” designation, I really wouldn’t be surprised if they do both.

Despite the absurdities, it is evident that something about the practice is very successful. What is it exactly? No one can quite figure it out. No, really! No scientific explanation exists that provides empirical evidence for why this method of viticulture is so successful, but it is just that. So what is it exactly that makes a vineyard biodynamic? Are you ready for this?

This is real life “voodoo” viticulture at its finest.

For a vineyard to be eligible for the biodynamic designation necessary preparations must be followed for each vineyard site. So here we go:

  1.  The horn from a lactating cow is filled with manure and first buried in the soil over the winter season. Naturally. At the end of the season the horn is then dug up and the contents within the horn are removed and mixed with water and finally sprayed over the vineyard that same afternoon.
  2. The horn is then filled with quartz and buried again  during the summer season. At the end of the season the horn is dug up and the contents are mixed with water and sprayed over the vineyards at daybreak the following day.
  3. Next a stag’s bladder is stuffed with yarrow flowers and left to hang during the summer season.  This is then buried at the end of the season and then unearthed at the end of the following spring. Mixed and sprayed over the vineyard.
  4. Following this, a cow’s instestine is stuffed with chamomile flowers, left to hang in the summer sun, buried over winter, and removed at the end of the spring. Once again mixed and sprayed over the vineyard.
  5. If you’ve run out of cow viscera at this point, fear not. You will need only a pair of thick gloves for this next step. The prickly flowers known as stinging nettles, which are known to contain histamines that produce an excruciating sting when touched, are then buried in the summer and dug up the following autumn. Once again, mixed and sprayed.
  6. Hopefully you didn’t toss out our old friend the cow’s head away after inviscerating ole Bessy. The head of a farm animal is necessary for the next step in the process.  For this step, oak bark is placed inside the skull of said farm animal and is buried in water-logged soil over winter and then dug up.  As always, mixed and sprayed over the vineyard.
  7. For the next step, one is to stuff dandelion flowers inside of a cow’s mesentery and this is left to hang in the summer sun, buried at the end of the season, and dug up the following spring, mixed and sprayed discarding the organ afterwards.
  8. Valerian flower extract is then mixed and sprayed over the vineyard.
  9. Finally a horsetail is extracted of its juices and this is sprayed over the vineyard. (Note: the plant, not an actual horse’s tail is used for this process. Don’t worry PETA can’t get you for this. No Seabiscuits were harmed in the making of this extract.)

After vintners have followed each of the preceding preparations thoroughly and accurately they would now be considered eligible.  Yes that’s right, “eligible”. It isn’t certain that they will be granted the title.  So in addition to combating nightmares of headless cows and man-eating stinging nettles, the would-be biodynamic vintner must also combat the stress of possible rejection from the Biodynamic governing body, Demeter.

So remember, next time you’re out and about selecting that wine that pairs perfectly with dinner that evening or just a conversation between friends, keep in mind how much went in to providing you with that stunning and complex bottle. Or don’t, lest you have the same nightmares as the vintners (lucid dreamers exempt).

Great selections from biodynamic farmers available here at Amanti Vino:

Robert Sinskey “Aries” 2009 – $29.99

Villmart & Cie Grand Cellier NV – $74.99

Francois Chidaine Vouvray 2009 – $23.99

Quivira “Fig Tree” Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – $19.99

— Chris Dunaway

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The Caribbean Manhattan

I love Manhattans. I love them so much that I even drink them in the summer. However, I am someone who enjoys variety. It’s the spice of life.  But I am also someone who loves the old classics. The Old Fashioned, the 7 & 7, and obviously the Martini come to mind. A gin martini. I do feel that it’s my job (literally) to point out that there are a lot of “mishugana” martini’s (vodka “martinis”) being poured today. But that’s another blog altogether.

A revolutionary idea?

Anyway, I am going out on a limb here. I am changing the primary ingredient in the classic Manhattan. Boy howdy! Do away with your favorite Rye or Bourbon and substitute in the Clement VSOP Rhum Agricole. It works great. Don’t believe me? Try it. It took me hours and hours of mixing to figure out something so simple, yet so complex. Who else would do something like that? In my defense, I only changed one ingredient (albeit the most sacred). But who knows… this may start a worldwide trend. It may change lives. Kentucky may riot.

So…does this really justify the spending of an inordinate amount of my very precious time?  Either way.

The Caribbean Manhattan

  • Clement VSOP Rhum Agricole (2 parts) Arguably the finest rum producer on the market today. This VSOP tastes remarkable like a rye whiskey with sweet notes of vanilla, cinnamon and roasted banana. It works! – $39.99
  • Carpano Antica Vermouth (1 part)Hailing from the old country (Italy…we are in Northern New Jersey), this vermouth’s profile is slightly more herbal than most. Adding complexity and not sugar. – $35.99
  • Luxardo Amarascata Jam (One scoop) – Made from the finest Luxardo cherries, these preserves are a bit drier than the liquor making it a perfect complement to a drink that shouldn’t be too sweet! – $19.99
  • Regan’s Orange Bitters (a dash or two) – Some of the best Orange bitters on the market, with a tart, “rindy” flavor.  – $6.99

All products are available at Amanti Vino!

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The Barolo Rules

10.) The Barolo MUST remain in the cellar for at least 25 years, to let the tannins integrate properly.

9.) The Barolo must remain in the cellar for 25 years, barring unexpected celebrations.

8.) Twenty-five years seems a tad unrealistic. Call it 12.5.

7.) 12.5 is such a messy number. Let’s make it an even ten.

6.) The Barolo was made by a modern producer. 5 years.

5.) I heard that decanting can take years off a wine — 2.5. Tops.

4.) Is there really that much of a difference after 2.5 years?

3.) No. A year — definitely a year, barring unexpected celebrations.

2.) Isn’t everyday a celebration? (Pop!)

1.) The Barolo Rules.

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Why didn’t I think of that?

There are so many good ideas that can literally change your life.  And these ideas are everywhere.  Millions of them. The only problem I see is that the really good (lucrative) ideas are right in front of your face. Too close. They are so obvious that you mentally dismiss the thought before you even realize you’ve overlooked it.

In my particular case, I think I would actually need the  “Luggage On Wheels” idea to hit me over the head with a tack hammer before I even processed the concept. And that’s how I see Charbay Distillery.

Now that's real beer in there...

To the best of my spirits knowledge (which is journeyman at best), they are the only, or at least the only brand that I’ve heard of, that actually distills whiskey from a true, drinkable beer. Everyone else uses an undrinkable “wash”.

Come on now.  Has no one else thought of this? I know I didn’t. And I’m a smart guy. At least that’s what I tell myself to keep my confidence levels reasonably high.

 Don’t get me wrong. I admire Charbay. I carry two of their products. They are  fantastic.  I actually spoke with Marko, the head distiller, a while back on the phone and he was super cool. He told me all about their new releases that they had planned (Look out for a whisky distilled from Racer 5 IPA coming this Fall). But are they really the first to do this?

You (I) mean to tell me that in the history of the world, not even in Scotland, where the line between drinking and religion is acutely blurred, that a back country moonshiner has never dabbled in this?

 Please comment.  Enlighten me. I love whiskey. I could have been a millionaire…still might be.

 To learn more about Charbay Distillery visit our Facebook page.

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