Australia’s Wakefield Estate delivers a diverse collection of wines

Wakefield Wines is one of 12 members of Australia’s First Family of Wines. This group of families owned wineries can each boast three or more generations in Australian wine. They hail from regions representing four different states, and collectively, they have more than 5,550 hectares under vine. After tasting some offerings from each family at an event a few months back, I decided to take a deeper dive and look at the wines from Wakefield. Here are my thoughts about six excellent, well-priced current releases from them.


Wakefield Estate 2014 Riesling ($17)

All of the fruit for this wine (100 percent Riesling) was sourced in the Clare Valley. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel with a range of select yeasts. Lychee fruit and hints of linseed oil emerge on the vibrant but even-keeled nose. The palate shows off orange peel, lemon zest and apricot flavors. Tart yellow melon, hints of Granny Smith apple and spices such as cardamom and white pepper are present on the finish. This gloriously dry wine is an excellent example of Riesling. It’ll pair as well with Indian dishes as it will with pork loin roasted alongside apples.

Wakefield Estate 2014 Chardonnay ($17)

Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills is the source for the fruit. Most of it was fermented in a combination of new and used French oak. A small amount was fermented in stainless steel with wild yeasts. Stone fruit and Golden Delicious apple aromas dominate the nose here. Anjou pear and continued apple rule the day on the palate. Yellow peach, bits of spice, and gentle hints of crème fraiche are all in play on the substantial finish. There’s simply an avalanche of fresh fruit characteristics in play in each component of this wine. For $17, you’re getting a lot of Chardonnay character here.

Wakefield Estate 2014 Pinot Noir ($17)

All of the fruit for this wine, which is entirely Pinot Noir of course, came from the Adelaide Hills. After cold soaking, the wine was fermented at warm to hot temperatures in stainless steel, utilizing yeast strains intended specifically for Pinot. Aging in one- and two-year-old French oak followed. Wild strawberry, black cherry and wisps of toast are all apparent on the nose. Red and black cherry characteristics dominate the palate along with a nice spice component. A hint of cherry Jolly Rancher, as well as pomegranate, are in play on the finish, along with substantial bits of earth. Firm acid and good tannins mark the structure. At under $20, this is a steal in the Pinot world.


Wakefield Estate 2014 Shiraz ($17)

The Taylor Estate in the Clare Valley was the source of the fruit for this Shiraz. After fermentation, it was aged in American oak for 12 months. Big, red and black fruit characteristics emerge on the boisterous nose here. The palate is studded with similar characteristics, as well as bits of espresso and dark bitter chocolate. The long finish is spice-driven and loaded with additional fruit elements such as blackberry and raspberry. This is a fruit-driven Shiraz that is also proportionate and even keeled.

Wakefield Estate 2014 “Jaraman” Chardonnay ($25)

As is the process with the Jarman line of wines, the fruit comes from two distinct growing regions: Clare Valley (55 percent) and Margaret River (45 percent). Fermentation and aging took place in tight-grained French oak. Yellow fruit aromas are joined by bits of linseed oil and a hint of toast on a slightly austere nose. Classic apple and pear characteristics light up the palate, which is stuffed with tons of fresh, eager fruit flavors. The notably long finish shows off continued orchard fruits as well as bits of pineapple and papaya. The oak in play here adds nice complexity without being obtrusive. This is an extremely complex Chardonnay for the money.

Wakefield Estate 2013 “Jaraman” Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)

The fruit for this entry in the Jaraman line comes from Clare Valley (55 percent) and Coonawarra (45 percent). After fermentation, it was aged in a combination of new and previously used French oak. Dark fruit and savory herb aromas abound on the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is lush and loaded with dark fruit, copious spices and bits of mineral. Toast, earth, hints of vanilla and lots more fruit flavors are all in play on the above-average finish. Firm acid and tannins mark the structure here. What I like most about this Cabernet is how fresh and refreshing it is.

If your mind and taste buds think of Australia only in terms of overripe fruit bombs, think again. There are a lot of really nice wines loaded with character and made in a balanced manner coming from Australia. Each wine noted above is not only true to the grape in question and the area or areas it’s grown in, but theya lso each represent better than average values. We’re at a point in time where many wine drinkers don’t realize the bounty Australia has to offer. Get a jump on them and drink these tasty, well made, wonderfully priced wines. If you have yet to reconsider Australia, the time is now.

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Drink of the Week: The Delmonico

Image ALT text goes here.The Internet tells us that there are over 611,000 full service restaurants located in the United States. We’ve all grown-up with the idea that, pretty much wherever we are, there will always be a meal, and perhaps a bit of relaxation, to be had at a sit-down establishment of some sort. That wasn’t always so.

Cooking for other people has to be one of the world’s oldest professions, but the restaurant somewhat as we know it is a relatively modern invention going back only as far as 18th century France. The identity of the first true restaurant to open here in the New World nation of the United States is probably a mystery, though the old Delmonico’s in New York claims the mantle of the first restaurant allowing customers to order items a la carte, as opposed to getting an entire meal for a fixed price. While countless establishments in New York and nationwide still bear the Delmonico’s name and serve alleged representations of the famed Delmonico steak (whatever that is), there is a lot of confusion about what the name “Delmonico” actually signifies. There is slightly less confusion about exactly what is or was the restaurant’s presumed house cocktail. Still, I can’t tell you who invented the Delmonico, but I can tell you that I’m stealing my recipe from the same place as last week.

This is a fairly serious drink for fairly serious drinkers. Not a lot of sweetness, but — as Robert Hess points out — quite a few botanical flavors courtesy of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth, plus a bit of grounding from brandy. It’s a nice change of pace for martini lovers and others who don’t need their cocktails to envelop them in a haze of familiar flavors. In other words, it’s a drink for grown-ups.

The Delmonico

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 lemon or orange twist (highly desirable garnish)

Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or a mixing glass. Shake or stir according to your preference — I did it both ways — and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the citrus peel and prepare yourself for an adult cocktail experience.


Because I didn’t feel the desire to go out and spend a bunch of cash on delicious high-end vermouths I sensed might not work anyways, I stuck to good old $4.99-for-a-small-bottle Martini for both my sweet and dry vermouths on the Delmonico. My brandies were Martell and Raynal — not very different. I nevertheless did try the Delmonico several times with a few different gins, both stirred and shaken. Shaking made for a more easygoing, but less interesting drink. Bombay Dry worked well — producing a very complex and adult but nevertheless tasty brew, and I suspect that Beefeater, Robert Hess’s very similar choice, would work about the same. Plymouth Gin added a slightly sweeter note and was just fine.

Still, the surprising best result turned out to be the cheapest gin I used, James Bond’s favorite, Gordon’s. It’s a nicely smooth gin that can work very well in a martini since it’s floral element isn’t overly pronounced. Here, it allows the sweeter flavors to coexist more peacefully with the remaining floral notes of the gin and dry vermouth.

Finally, David Wondrich circa 2007 has an interesting alternative take on Delmonico with slightly less gin and Angostura instead of orange bitters. It’s not bad, either.


Product Review: Bud Light’s Bud-E Fridge


The most difficult part of ushering the new Bud-E Fridge into my life was fitting it into my car. Once that was sorted, the smoothness took hold. The Bud-E Fridge will gently force your life to conform around your love of Bud Light.

This month, Bud Light launched the ultimate in smart technology innovation: the Bud-E Fridge. It’s a first-of-its-kind home smart refrigerator that enables you to view real-time information from your fridge via your phone, no matter where you are.

Developed from the ground up by Bud Light, the Bud-E Fridge provides you with real time updates – including the number of Bud Lights in your fridge, temperature and even when your favorite sports teams’ games are approaching – to make sure you never run out of Bud Light.

The interesting thing about the Bud-E fridge is the way people reacted to it. Without alerting house guests of its presence, I ushered them into my living room quietly to gauge their natural, organic reactions, and every single person smiled and laughed immediately when they saw it. Half of them asked for a Bud Light, which I happily served.


The coolest physical feature of the fridge is the LED readout on the outside front of the door, which displays the exact number of Bud Lights you have in your fridge (seven at time of publication) at that exact moment in time. Go ahead, help yourself to a BL, and let the door close. Notice anything? The Bud-E fridge LED readout subtracts from your overall total and makes a sad sort of “wah-wah” sound as the number decreases.

The coolest non-physical feature is the Bud-E app. From your smartphone, numerous features are available. You can see exactly how many Bud Lights are in your fridge to plan a potentially necessary trip to the store, and the Bud-E Alarm sends a push notification that lets you know when someone is getting into your fridge and reducing your precious stock of ice cold beer.

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Drink of the Week: The Captain’s Blood

the Captain's Blood.You’ve never heard of the Captain’s Blood and, until about 24 hours prior to when I began writing this, it didn’t register with me, either. I stumbled over this variation..I’m tempted to say “improvement”…on the classic daiquiri in Robert Hess’s trusty 2008 “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” though this precise recipe is actually from Hess’s vlog.

It’s apparently a fairly old drink, and it’s name — quite probably drawn from the 1922 Rafael Sabatini pirate novel and/or its swashbuckling 1924 and 1935 film adaptations — suggests a prohibition or post-prohibition provenance. Yet, even among lost beverages, the Captain’s Blood is a bit of a dark horse. Among the better known cocktail tomes, it only appears to have shown up in David A. Embury’s 1948 “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” The Embury recipe is severe indeed — the sweetest ingredient is dark rum. Fortunately, the Robert Hess version has just the right amount of sweetness.

The Captain’s Blood

1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 lemon twist (optional, but desirable, garnish)

Combine the rum, juice, syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. (If you’re having a hard time measuring a mere quarter ounce, note that 1 and 1/2 teaspoons, i.e., half a tablespoon, is the same  as 1/4 ounce.) Strain into a chilled, smallish cocktail glass and add your lemon twist if you’ve got it. Try not to drink this one too quickly, as it has a lovely aroma, but it tastes good enough that you might find it gone in about 45 seconds anyway.


My first night out, I tried this drink with several different premium brands — Bacardi 8 (Robert Hess’s choice), Gosling’s Black Seal, and my old pal Brugal 1888, and the results were consistently very, very good. Later selections were a bit less stellar. Papa Pilar’s absolutely delicious dark rum seemed to overpower the thing while, conversely, Flor de Cana dark rum seemed a wee bit dry.

And there’s no getting around the seafaring connotations of this drink which has made it an occasional offering at tiki themed bars, though mostly in highly adulterated versions, I suspect. You can find recipes online that call for super-sweet Rose’s Lime Juice or maraschino. Who knows, they might not be bad. On the whole, however, I’m not in any mood to mess with the Captain’s Blood.


Drink of the Week: The Anti-Americano

The Anti-Americano.People who know me in real life know that, if there’s a way to worry about something, I’ll find it. However, one thing I never worry about is running out of cocktails to write about for these blog posts. It’s not just that people have been making up new drinks since well before the Industrial Revolution, it’s the fact that making up a new cocktail is absurdly easy. Find a great cocktail, switch out one or two ingredients that work about as well, and voilà, you too can be the creator of a mixological milestone (that no one will probably notice).

This week’s drink is a definite case in point and I really shouldn’t claim any kind of ownership because lots of people must have made this drink before…I just can’t find any evidence of it. It’s a very simple spin on the previously featured the Americano and the Aperol Americano; it’s also a sequel of sorts to my earlier putative creation, the Ugly Americano.

Of course, just as the Ugly Americano wasn’t particularly ugly, the Anti-Americano isn’t anti anything. It’s just that this child of the Cold War can’t resist having fun with the political expressions I’ve grown up with. The drink itself though, is as far from controversy as anything alcoholic is likely to get. Whether you like your drinks sweet or sour, hard or light, own a moth-eaten Che Guevara t-shirt and quote Noam Chomsky on an hourly basis or adorn your home with pictures of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, you’ll likely dig this one.

The Anti-Americano

1 or 1 1/2 ounces Aperol
1 or 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
Soda water (to top off)
Cocktail cherry (somewhat desirable garnish)

Combine the vermouth and Aperol in a highball or Collins-type glass filled with plenty of ice if your using 1 1/2 ounces of booze, if it’s just one ounce of Aperol and vermouth your using, then you’ll do it in a rocks glass. Top with soda water and toss in a cocktail cherry. Try not to sip it all down too darn fast but, if you’re like me, you probably will.


I started down the Anti-Americano road because I wanted to use up a tasty open bottle of Vya Extra Dry Vermouth in my fridge before it went the way of all vermouth and stopped tasting as good. It seemed like it needed a garnish and I initially didn’t have an orange on hand, so I opted for a cocktail cherry over the traditional Americano orange slice.

Combining fizzy water with the dryness  of the Vya and the fruity, complex sweetness of Aperol, a favorite product of mine that’s been described as “Campari with training wheels,” made for a predictably refreshing, fruity, and balanced beverage. It still worked when I ran out of Vya and replaced it with inexpensive but always acceptable Martini Extra Dry.

The only thing that seemed to harsh the low-key cocktail mellow ever so slightly was losing the cherry and adding the orange slice. Don’t ask me why, but I guess the Anti-Americano just doesn’t want to be too much like the Americano.


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