Hall makes tasty Napa Valley wines

Hall Napa Valley currently produces about 120,000 cases of wine per year. They have been making wine in Napa since they opened their winery in 2005. Just this spring, the Halls launched a new facility in St. Helena. This new winery and tasting room was built on a site that has a 150-year history in Napa Valley wine making. The Halls still maintain their original, intimate location in Rutherford and continue to make some wines there, but the new facility allows them to host a variety of events as well as have more people visit and taste wine on a daily basis. On a recent trip to Napa Valley I stopped at Hall St. Helena, toured their new facility and grounds, and of course tasted through their current portfolio. Here are some wines from their Napa Valley collection that I enjoyed. These selections are widely available all over the country.

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Hall Napa Valley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc – All of the fruit for this wine was sourced within Napa Valley. It’s composed of entirely Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel; there was no oak influence on this offering. It has a suggested retail price of $24. Bright, ripe gooseberry aromas practically explode from the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus and stone fruit aromas abound as well. The palate is rich and refreshing with both tropical and citrus zest flavors playing big roles. Hints of crème fraiche, white and green peppercorn and a touch of grass mark the finish, which is clean and crisp with racy acidity. The Hall Sauvignon Blanc will work equally well paired with light summery foods or all by itself as an aperitif.

Hall Napa Valley 2011 Merlot – The fruit for this wine was sourced at two vineyard sites within Napa Valley. In addition to Merlot (95 percent), it contains some Petit Verdot (5 percent) as well. After fermentation, it was aged on French oak for 20 months; 45 percent of the barrels were new. This Merlot has a suggested retail price of $33. Bright red cherry aromas are supported by bits of spice on the highly engaging nose of this Merlot. The palate is stuffed with both red and black cherry, as well as chicory and black tea characteristics. Kirsch liqueur interspersed with hints of sweet chocolate are in play on the above average finish. This is a fine example of Merlot that is loaded with varietal character and has terrific structure. It’s delicious now and will drink well over the next five years.

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Hall Napa Valley 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – This offering is composed of fruit sourced throughout Napa Valley. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (91 percent), some Merlot (8 percent) and Petit Verdot (1 percent) were blended in. After fermentation it was barrel-aged over 18 months in exclusively French oak; 55 percent of the barrels were new. This Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $50. Roasted coffee and berry aromas are prominent on the nose here. Blackberry, cherry and wisps of mission fig make up the substantial palate. Earth and gingerbread spices, along with a bit of brown sugar, all emerge on the persistent finish. Napa Valley Cabernet comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. This is a substantial one for the $50 category. It’s delicious now and will evolve and drink well for six to eight years.

The most important thing to me about these wines it that they are each a fine and genuine reflection of Napa Valley. Each individual offering speaks not only of the grape variety in question, but also of the place the fruit was grown. To varying degrees these are varieties Napa Valley is well known for. Cabernet Sauvignon is king there, and this selection is made in a classic style. Sauvignon Blanc has been hugely popular in Napa for years, but still it’s on the rise. Where most every tasting room seemed to once have a multitude of Chardonnays (many still do of course), it’s increasingly common to see multiple expressions of Sauvignon Blanc at one winery. Merlot — when done right, like this example — can be as well structured and complex as good Cabernet. These wines from Hall are also fairly priced for the quality they represent. And their wide availability helps make them solid go-to choices. In addition to these wines, Hall produced a range of selections in what they call the Artisan Collection. This higher end tier features vineyard designate as well as proprietary wines. So if you’re looking for genuine Napa Valley Wine, Hall should be on your radar.

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Drink of the Week: The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

Selvarey Hemingway Daquiri.It’s a good drink, a true drink, an honest drink. Okay, I’ll skip the lousy Hemingway parodies from now on, but you should be nevertheless be prepared for a bit of extra exuberance as this week’s selection is a genuine treat, which is no surprise as it’s one of many versions of a true cocktail classic. It also comes with a dandy free bottle of very good rum for yours truly.

In case you out of touch with the latest in the booze world, fine rums are all the rage right now and Selvarey white rum is one tasty example. (DOTW already featured its delicious sister chocolate-infused cacao rum a couple of weeks back.) Moreover, just as Avion tequila benefited from an endorsement from the fictional movies stars of “Entourage,” Selvarey has a little bit of star appeal of its own, courtesy of the involvement of singer-songwriter Bruno Mars.  Don’t think for a minute, however, that this is just a matter of so much fake alcoholic tinsel. As Oscar Levant would say, underneath the fake tinsel you’ll find the real tinsel and Selvarey is the real deal, a flavorful but straightforward and smooth white rum that’s definitely at least one or two cuts above what you’re probably used to.

As good as the booze is, this week’s cocktail is even better. I’m actually pretty new to the Hemingway Daiquiri. A regular daiquiri — made with fresh juice, a little sugar, and no blender — is a delight. A Hemingway daiquiri is, however, something else. I can see why the great novelist might have dug this drink when it was first made him for him by Havana bartender Constantino Ribalaigua. At least in the Selvarey version, it’s a terse rhapsody in a glass.

The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

1 1/2 ounces Selvarey white rum
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 grapefruit slice or decent maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake as vigorously as Mr. Hemingway searched for just the right words, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass (coupe or martini style). Toast your favorite Hemingway novel or film adaptation. (In my case, I guess that would probably be “A Farewell to Arms” for the book and “To Have and Have Not” for the film adaptation…even if Hemingway himself hated the book and I’ve never read it, it’s damn fine movie.)

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If you’ll look online you’ll see that the basic ingredients of Hemingway Daiquiri almost never vary, but the proportions are constantly in flux. It’s a great excuse for me to revisit this drink later on so I can try messing with the proportions myself.

Nevertheless, this time around I stuck with the Selvarey basic recipe, but I messed around a bit with the brand names. For starters, I was so bold as to try a couple of very well known Brand X rums — one a super-reasonably priced big name and the other a premium brand, beloved of cocktail classicists. Predictably, the latter was somewhat superior to the former, but I’m sure the Selvarey people will be delighted to hear that their rum really did produce the best result of all, smoother, more complex and flavorful.

The really interesting result, though, was when I switched out the brands of maraschino liqueur…which I once again remind you is in no way to be confused with the red syrup in a bottle of supermarket maraschino cherries. Luxardo is the brand of choice these days for the wondrous very sweet, slightly bitter cherry liqueur and it works just great in a Hemingway. However, since I also have a bottle of value-priced Maraska maraschino on hand, I was duty bound to give that a whirl. It was even nicer when I departed from Selvarey’s recipe and substituted the grapefruit slice garnist for a much better than average maraschino cherry (Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino).

Though the consensus among cocktail cognoscenti appears to be strongly in favor of Luxardo, I’ll be damned if the version with Maraska wasn’t notably superior. It was already a highly refreshing, almost perfectly balanced bittersweet beverage, but now there was something more. I’d say it added a lovely, slightly sweet, indescribable sheen that took the Hemingway daiquiri to a whole new level. Not bad, considering I purchased my Maraska, which is admittedly not always easy to find, for about half as much as the $30+ you’ll usually pay for Luxardo.

Life, as Hemingway might, say is full of surprises. Actually, it’s possible he’d never say that but, in this case, it would be true.

  

Drink of the Week: The Laphroaig Suntanned Scotsman

he Laphroaig Suntanned Scotsman.There are some drinks that seem to be endlessly adjustible. Some might prefer their martini’s super-dry, and I might like a Fifty-Fifty but, at either extreme or somewhere in the middle, a martini can always be a perfectly lovely drink if made with some love.

Not so for other drinks, which admit of no variation. Make it with the just the right ingredients, it works. Try anything else, though, and the thing becomes kind of a revolting mess.

Not surprisingly, a drink being promulgated in connection with the “opinions welcome” publicity campaign of the rather fascinating, kind of delicious, and definitely ultra-smokey Laphroaig Ten-Year Old Scotch Whisky is likely to fall into a category where dogma is required. Trust me, make this drink exactly this way and it’ll be good — though definitely not for everyone — make it any other way and, well, you will wish you hadn’t.

The name of this colorful beverage might evoke images of Groundskeeper Willie and the great Billy Connolly, but they’ll be having the last laugh should you dare to mess with today’s drink.

The Laphroaig Suntanned Scotsman

1 1/2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year Old Scotch Whisky
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice (unsweetened, damn it!)
1 pineapple slice (non-essential but highly desirable garnish)

Get a highball glass and fill it with ice. Add the smoke-laden Scotch, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice…in that order. Resist the impulse to stir, but do add a pineapple slice. Prepare for a drink that’s both seriously refreshing and definitely not for the faint of heart. As for the toast, I’d normally suggest someone or something Scottish but this odd, sad week, I’ll give you a choice of Robin Williams or the great Lauren Bacall.

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I was told I could try this with which ever kind of cranberry juice I liked, sweetened or unsweetened. I tried it both ways and it was a night and day kind of a thing. With unsweetened cranberry juice the mix of tart, bitter, and slightly sweet flavors was challenging, but really quite refreshing. A drink for sophisticates who don’t mind some moderately healthy ingredients in their cocktails.

With the sweetened Ocean Spray stuff, however, “ugh” is the first word that comes to mind. It was pretty much that revolting mess I talked about earlier. More surprisingly, I also experimented by trying this with a Brand X Scotch that’s not bad at all…except, it appears, in a Suntanned Scotsman. In this case, if the drink isn’t made with Laphroaig, as Mike Myers might have said, it’s crap!


If It’s Not Scottish, It’s Crap!!! by shundriad

  

Drink of the Week: Pago Pago (a la Selvarey)

Image ALT text goes here.If you’ve been reading these posts regularly you know that I tend to lean strongly towards anything that makes good cocktails easier, simpler, or cheaper.

Today, I’m here to tell you that the bottle of the Selvarey Cacao Rum I was gifted with by the gods of publicity is something of a deal at it’s midline premium price and at a lower than average 70 proof.  That’s because it’s a truly tasty, yet tasteful, flavored spirit with a fine chocolatey flavor that will work for a lot of people sipped neat or just on the rocks, even if they’re the sort who normally would never drink anything straight up. It’s also true because, as a rather chocolate flavored rum, it’s something of a twofer in that it can seemingly be used in any cocktail that ordinarily calls for both white rum and the ever popular chocolate flavored liqueur, creme de cacao.

Which leads to this adaptation/simplification of a drink more commonly made not only with rum and chocolate liqueur, but muddled pineapple slices. That sounds lovely enough to check out here some time but, for today, we’re keeping it simple with a drink that is both lively, complex, chocolately and floral, thanks to a dash of green chartreuse. It’s pretty nice.

Pago Pago (a la Selvarey)

2 ounces Selvarey Cacao Rum
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce green chartreuse
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar
1 lime wheel (moderately optional garnish)

Combine the chocolate rum, lime juice, chartreuse (a floral liqueur beloved of fancy tipplers everywhere), and sweetener in a cocktail shaker with a lots of ice. Do the natural thing and shake it within an inch of your life and pour the result into a chilled cocktail glass. I know I usually give you something to toast, so let’s salute the capital of American Samao, which probably has nothing much to do with this drink but I’m sure it’s very lovely.

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I made this drink a a number of times. Aside from the time I found myself lime-less and used lemon juice instead (not bad!) I didn’t mess around too much with this drink, except for trying out superfine sugar instead of simple syrup.

1/2 ounce of Master of Mixes simple syrup has forty calories while a tablespoon of sugar has 38 calories but removing the small amount of water from the mixes results in a slightly sweeter beverage that I found slightly more balanced. I guess you could call that a win-win, very much like the drink itself.

  

Rutini Trumpeter offers delicious values from Argentina

I don’t know about you, but Malbec is the first grape that comes to mind when discussing Argentina. It’s their signature varietal and as such has received some serious attention over the years. When it’s done right, Argentine Malbec is as good as examples from anywhere in the world. That said though, there’s a lot more to Argentine wine than just Malbec. When I started drinking wines from Argentina in the mid 1990s, it was Cabernet Sauvignon that got my attention, Chardonnay soon followed. The point is that while the Malbec gets most of the attention, there’s a lot more to love. In the value category in particular, Argentina offers a wide swath of affordable wines. Here’ are four from Rutini Trumpeter that offer varietal character and value to boot.

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Rutini Trumpeter Chardonnay – The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Mendoza region of Argentina. It’s a 100 percent varietal wine, and 30 percent of the fruit underwent malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation process that converts the harsher malic acid to softer lactic acid). It was aged in a combination of new (50 percent), once-used (25 percent) and twice-used (25 percent) French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Apple and kiwi aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate features both orchard fruit and pineapple characteristics. Both yellow and green apple flavors are in evidence on the finish, along with hints of limestone and white pepper. This is a clean, crisp Chardonnay, loaded with pure fruit. It would be a great choice to drink all summer and fall.

Rutini Trumpeter Cabernet Sauvignon – All of the fruit for this wine was picked by hand in the Mendoza region. It’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and all of it underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged in a combination of new American (40 percent) and used French (60 percent) oak over a period of 9 months. It has a suggested retail price of $10.09. Red plum and black raspberry aromas are prominent on the nose. Those fruity characteristics carry through to the palate where it’s joined by hints of black raspberry and cherry. Vanilla bean, black pepper and a hint of cardamom are all in evidence on the finish. This wine is loaded with eager fruit flavors. It’s fresh and appealing; drink it in its youth for maximum pleasure.

Rutini Trumpeter Malbec – This 100 percent Malbec wine was produced using fruit sourced at the Tupungato vineyard in Mendoza. It underwent malolactic fermentation. Barrel aging took place over 7 months in a combination of new and used French and American oak. It has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Red raspberry and a hint of crème fraiche tell the story of the nose on this fruit-driven Malbec. The palate is juicy and studded with more of those characteristics, as well as red cherry and a hint of super ripe red wild strawberry. The finish shows off wisps of sweet cocoa and continuing fruit flavors. Pair this wine with something off the grill for a delicious pairing.

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