This is a young sommelier's adventure through wine, liquor and the world. You will find no ratings here. You will find somethings that are sometimes geeky, sometimes irreverent, and always presented in my own unique (and dyslexic) way. Hopefully, the content inspires exploration, a sense of adventure, a good icebreaker for conversation, and even a good sense of humor about the magical juice we call wine, the insane elixirs of ting the world of liquor, and the culture surrounding all of it. .

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Is Bourbon the New Pinot?

"It's a small batch bourbon, byproduct of Prohibition days."

Recently there have been times when I have sauntered up to a bar, ready to quench my thirst with a
lovely sip of America’s Native Spirit, only to be met with a barrage of questions bordering on judgment. I order one of my favorites, which happens to be Bakers, and instead of asking if I prefer my drink neat or with a few cubes, I am instead prodded with the offer to sample a smaller, more obscure whiskey from who knows where. Me being who I am, I most always oblige the taste to help satisfy my curiosity and expand my understanding. Unfortunately, more times than not I am met by an unrefined or unbalanced whiskey that leaves me feeling less than impressed. To be clear, I love that people are delving into the age old art of distillation and pushing the boundaries of liquor in general. But I am wary of when that experimentation is done to the sacrifice of quality.

 In 2004’s Sideways, Paul Giamatti portrayed Miles Raymond, a failing writer who found refuge from his loneliness and cynically depressing view of the world in the beauty of wine, particularly the fickle Pinot Noir. Putting personal review of the movie aside, it had a very interesting effect on the wine industry, often referred to as the ‘Sideways Effect’. During a tirade in the midst of his Pinot soaked journey, Miles exclaims “I’m not drinking fucking merlot!” and with that one simple line the once ubiquitous merlot dropped off the face of the earth and pinot became the new darling of the emerging wine populace.  Every wine bar began carrying more Pinots by the glass and bottle than ever before and people began blindly ordering it with not interest of its classic flavors and history. Many wine drinkers flocked to the newest star winemaker or region of day and so was born the new wave bottlings of unbalanced and lazy pinots that began to deflate the decades of trial and error successes that had just been gaining devotees of pure pinot noir.  A similar trend seems to be surfacing with bourbon, just in a slightly more concentrated way. We are seeing a rise of “small batch” and single barrel bourbons that are taking over from some of the mainstays of yesteryear who fought tirelessly to create and hone their skills for generations.

It is hard to go into a bar these days and not see a whole back bar full of different whiskies. There are whiskies from all over the world, made of different grains, aged different ways, using different barrels, and each pushing the boundaries of what came before. One of the fastest growing sectors of these whiskies is bourbon and more people are drinking bourbon now than ever before. In fact, Bourbon is now in such high demand that some distilleries cannot keep up and are having to make tough choices on how to give their loyal drinkers the bourbon that they love so much (yes, Makers Mark is a great example this year and no I don’t really want to talk about it). With this growth we are seeing the rise of the small distiller again, harkening back to Pre Prohibition when there were over 200 distilleries in the state of Kentucky alone. While this is an exciting time for those of us who love to try new things and explore what people are making, it does beg the question as to how much is too much and when have we overextended ourselves and forgotten about the consumers? What is the point where we have gone so far that people are turned away and begin returning to the classics or drinking something else entirely?

Micro distilling has a great history in the US. The very first licensed distillery was outside of Boston and used to make rum. But making alcohol was a huge part of our culture before then. Pioneers brought their distilling history with them to the new world, using native grains such as corn to begin making their homemade hooch. As the population grew, so too did the demand for alcohol as well as the necessity of regulating its production. Alcohol was the very first thing to be taxed by the US government, causing a small skirmish in Pennsylvania call “the Whiskey Rebellion”. It has been the subject of great debate, the constant in important decisions throughout history, the product that caused historic events such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and the thing that has helped white men dance for years. The history of alcohol, especially whiskey, is a colorful and eventful one in this country, so much so that it is far too vast for me to go over in this post. I say all of this because we are currently experiencing a renaissance in distilling and alcohol culture that we have not seen since Prohibition. More people are trying their hand at distilling, classic cocktails are coming back and evolving at a rapid rate, and people care more and more about what they drink than ever before. This brings me to the question that I have been asking and want to address; With this flux of new distilleries, are we really getting quality over quantity?

To help understand a little about where I’m coming from, I feel I need to define two phrases; “small batch” and single barrel. Single barrel is quite a simple one. It means that the whiskey in that bottle has come from one single barrel. “Small batch” is a little harder to define.  Each distillery has its own ways of aging and producing their whiskey. There are different ways of making sure that you are getting a consistent style for each “batch”. “Small batch”, which was really first coined by Beam when the “Small Batch Collection” was conceived by Booker Noe in 1992 (the collection is made up of Bookers, Bakers, Knob Creek, and Basil Hayden), refers to the use of a smaller number of barrels or barrels in specific parts of the warehouse to give a different style of whiskey. In other words, this term is entirely subjective to the distillery itself. There is no law governing what the term has to refer to. It is for this fact that I actually worry some about the future for some of these smaller whiskeys.

Now, before I go too long winded, as I fear I may have already done, I will simply say this to close this conversation out. I hope that bourbon is not becoming the new Pinot, being blindly ordered simply because it is the IT thing to do without thought for its origins or taste. Rather, I hope that it is being requested to explore and try new things, expanding ones understanding of what makes it so special and interesting. I encourage that thirst for knowledge and understanding and promote that. I also hope that the same goes for those who are making the whiskey; not making it because they can but because they have something to offer and a way to help American whiskey grow and thrive. All I’m attempting to do in implore that we remember the history behind bourbon and enjoy this resurgence of such a great thing, and say to Sideways “I will drink fucking merlot and I’ll like it”, especially if it is the 1961 Petrus he drinks from a paper cup near the end of the movie.

With that my friends, I bid you happy sipping (but of course do implore the doing of such responsibly). 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Need of Your Creative Minds

Hello to my loyal readers and followers.

As some of you whom I know personally know, I have been working for Beam Global for about 7 months. The reason that I tell you this is that, while I still love wine and all that it brings, I want to expand the blog to be able to include some of the experiences, knowledge, and culture that I find in my travels and time with liquor. My outlook and presentation will not change, and I will still talk about wine from time to time.

Given that I will be talking some about liquor as well, I have been playing around with the idea of changing the name of the blog to reflect the broadening subject of this site. So I turn to you, my wonderful readers, to help me. I am looking for ideas that reflect the spirit of the blog, from your perspectives, that would show the wider idea of it.

Send me your ideas. I look forward to hearing them and I want to thank you for continuing to read and follow One Young Somm!

Thank you all!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sipping the Germs away

So, as the title of the post might suggest…I’m sick. No one likes being sick and as much fun as the Nyquil and EmergenC are, figuring out how to cure what ails you with more “homeopathic” methods can make being sick at least slightly more amusing.

I know saying that alcohol can assist in healing will upset some people. They will more than likely state that alcohol actually weakens the immune system and makes sickness last even longer. To that, I make two cases. My first is to point out that a lot of the modern medications out there actually include small amounts of alcohol. Secondly, I am speaking about this from two perspectives: the assumption of moderation and the historical use of alcohol for healing. So, with that little argument set aside, lets talk a little about the history of healing with alcohol.

Evidence of early liqueurs date as far back as the 10th century, where herb and fruit elixirs were used as medicines by ancient civilizations.  This tradition was carried through many centuries later into some of the most well known cocktail ingredients of today. Two such ingredients were Benedictine and Green Chartreuse. Both of these were made by monks and thought to have medicinal applications long before they became ingredients in modern cocktails. The next thing to examine is bitters. Most bitters are made from an alcohol base (Fee Brothers is the most well known non alcoholic bitter). For years, they were sold at pharmacies as cures for everything from stomach sickness to headaches. Bartenders to this day believe in the power of bitters for hangovers and stomach ailments. To put an even more modern perspective on the healing powers of alcohol, we examine the history of rum. Until 1970, the Royal Navy gave out high proof rum rations as a way to combat disease, though over the years the rations decreased because of the adverse effects of alcohol on the performance of the sailors. This just goes to show that the tradition of using alcohol for medicinal purposes has been a common one for centuries and I figured, why not try some things to help me kick my cold.
For this, I decided to make a few cocktails using some of these classic “healing agents” and show you a few that might help you feel a little better while all bundled up.
The Hot Toddy
This classic winter drink is great for keeping you warm. There are a few ways of making this drink. The instructions are below:
 1 ½ oz of Irish whiskey (Greenore is my favorite), Bourbon (like Makers 46 of Bookers) or Rum (Cruzan Black Strap is my favorite)
¼ lemon
¼ oz honey
1 tea bag or fresh baking spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice
3 oz hot water

In a mug or Irish coffee mug, pour the honey, lemon juice, and liquor of choice in the bottom. In hot water, either steap the tea bag of the spices (or both for more intense flavor) for 3 minutes. When it is ready, pour of the mixture in the mug and stir. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and either a lemon wedge or twist. Sit back and sip.

The Cartesian Sure

Named for the monks who gave us Green Chartreuse, this cocktail is an instant feel better. This is one of those magical cocktails that I’m convinced would heal a broken leg if you poured it on it.

1 oz Irish Whiskey (again, for this I use Greenore)
1 oz sweet vermouth of choice
1 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Combine these ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on low heat, until steam starts to appear. You don’t want to heat too much or the alcohol will burn off. Once warm, pour into a glass that is safe for you to grip when warm.  Then sit back, relax, and let the healing powers take over.

Ginger Toddy

This combines the healing power of ginger and bourbon. Can’t really go wrong with this combination.

1 oz favorite bourbon (I used Bakers for this)
½ oz ginger beer
¼ oz honey
Squeeze of lemon
Hot water

Combine ingredients in mug Irish Coffee mug. The ginger beer measurements can be altered depending on how much of the ginger spice you want in your drink. The kind of ginger beer also matters to for the taste. Some are more sugar based and others carry more of the spicy nature of ginger. Garnish with candied ginger or orange twist.

Hopefully these give you some ideas on how to feel a little better as the weather gets colder and the germs start to roll through the office. Stay healthy, drink smart, and happy sipping as always! Cheers. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Openin’ it Old School!!

There are numerous stupid human tricks involving different ways to open a bottle of wine. I have seen people do it with a phone book, a high heel, hell, I even did it with a fork once (no at all advisable by the way!) On a recent trip to Napa and Sonoma, I decided to try my hand in opening a bottle the way it used to be done.

We have all see the pictures of the old school cork screws. I even have one as a tattoo. They all consist of the same thing; the screw and a handle at the top with which to pull. The one thing they lack that most modern cork screws have is a fulcrum, or point at which the person opening the bottle has leverage on the cork and can open it easily.

I got my hands on a fairly simple one from the late 1800’s and decided, since I collect them but had never used one, that it was time for me to experience this. Now, mind you, this is how sommeliers used to have to open bottles and there is no graceful way to do this. You have to put the bottle between your legs and pull hard enough to get the cork out, but not hard enough you pop it out and spray wine everywhere. Well I achieved the later, but broke the cork in the process and had to then be even gentler, which is not always my forte. As a matter of fact, I am not for my strength, not my finesse.

Enjoy the video and the laughs that may ensue. And stay turned for the next article and as always, drink up!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A little love from Burgundy complements of Albert Morot

I think that is it has been well established that I have an affinity for wines that are unique, interesting, fun to talk about, and are all around just kind of bad ass. Well, this wine certainly fit all of those characteristics and is also a really great introduction to Burgundy for those who are a little scared by it (and for those of you who are, fear not; you are not alone in that fear).

Before I get too much into the wine, how about we settle the fear slightly, or at least go over a little info so that the fear might subside. Consider this your nightlight. Let’s start with the basics. Burgundy is a region in France known mostly for their lush, delicate, and somewhat feminine pinot noirs and their many complicated styles of chardonnay (my favorite of which is Chablis, but that will be another article). Their wines are lauded as some of the best in the world, and most of the time that distinction can come with a hefty price tag. There are many different sub regions in Burgundy, but for today’s purposes we will be focusing on one: Savigny-le-Beaune.

I will now warn all that the following section is a WINE GEEK RED ALERT section. If you wish, skip to the next section and read about the wine itself (and don’t worry, I will not be offended in any way shape or form). Savigny-le-Beaune (mostly refered to  as Savigny, which I will do for the remainder of the article) is in the larger region of Cote du Beaune. It has 22 vineyard sites that grow grapes classified as premier cru and all of which are delicious. From here, if you are interested in knowing more about Burgundy, I encourage you to do a little research on your own. It is a great region and full of wine history, but is horribly complicated to get down and I feel like I am boring myself by getting into the details. If you have question, feel free to contact me and I will do everything I can to answer them. Now…to the good stuff.

Albert Morot is a bit of a nut job (and don’t we all love a crazy man making our wine?) His wines are super traditional in terms of growing style and wine making. However, that is where the tradition stops. His wines are bruisers and right out of the bottle are as tight as a kid’s grip on their blanket on the first day of school. Upon first opening the wine, the fruits are muted and overpowered by earth and Christmas spices. The fruits decide to show up fashionably late to the party, about an hour in.  When they do, they come in with a bang; bright, vibrant, and young, like the attractive person at a party that turns everyone’s head.

The cool thing about this wine is the fact that the next day, it was even better. I decided to leave it out on my dining room table with just the cork in it and see what happened, which is not an advised way to save wine. The next day, the fruits had darkened, the flowers had wilted and yet magic was still in the bottle. This is a wine that, while not a P Funk Allstar, is certainly one that will make your eyes widen a little further when you drink it. Luckily, the price tag won’t.

One bit of self promotion. If you are not already, follow me on twitter and facebook. The facebook page will have a lot more pictures, while on twitter you can get my up to the second where abouts, what I’m drinking, eating, or ranting about. The links for both of those are to your right, but I’ll leave them here for you as well. And tell your friends!!! Drink up!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another wine geek video, and this one is amazingly cool

Ok, I know that the last few posts have been more on the wine geeky side of things, but you will have to bare with me a little bit; I will get back to the my Anti Fancy Pants ways soon.

This video is something you may never see again, unless you ever meet Fritz Hatton. For those who don't know who he is, and in some ways I really wouldn't be shocked if you didn't, Fritz Hatton, is owner of Arietta winery in Napa Valley. He is an avid wine expert himself and also a complete classical music buff, so much so that his wine, Arietta, is named after the Beethoven's 32nd sonata and it's "arietta" movement.

Now, I tell you that to tell you this: the video you are about to see is a video of Fritz himself playing the very piece of music for which is wine is named. It was certainly a special thing to be able to hear the very man responsible for the name of the wine play that piece. Enjoy and again, I promise that less geeky stuff is to come! (and by the way, I do need to apologize for the video quality...not the best I've taken yet)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wine Geek Video

Ok, I will not say that this post will be the most interesting thing ever, but it is still kind of fun to see. For those people who have read the blog for a while, you have possibly seen a video of me opening a bottle of sparkling wine under water. The video of the Movia opening wasn't the easiest to see, so hopefully this one will be.

On a recent trip to Sonoma, I visited Donkey and Goat winery. The owners, Jared and Tracey were extremely welcoming and they had one of the coolest tasting rooms I've seen in some time, with graffiti art from a local artist adorning the wall above the bocce ball court. As we tasted through their wines, they mentioned a bottle that they made to be opened under water and I couldn't help but ask to do it. Below is the video of me doing it. Hope you enjoy and please visit their website that will be linked at the bottom of this page.

Once again, please visit the website for the winery and learn more about this husband and wife team: Donkey and Goat