Sipping Sonoma: A Visual Wine Journey

by TK Mehlhaff

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Sonoma County in California with a group of fantastic restaurant owners from the Twin Cities. I was invited by Libation Project, a local distributor. My main objective was to gain a firsthand understanding of the wine production process, beyond what I had seen in books. I am extremely happy that I decided to go!

On the first day of the trip, we visited Vinca Minor Winery and had the opportunity to meet the owner, Jason Charles. We began our tasting right after arriving, which was a great way to start the trip. Later, we had lunch at a restaurant near Tamales Bay, where Chris Christinsen from Bodkin’s joined us to share their wines. Following that, we visited Reeve Vineyards for another tasting. To celebrate our first night, we enjoyed a BBQ and pool party with the Reeve crew. I stayed at the Reeve’s villa throughout the trip, which offered the most breathtaking view imaginable.

On the second day, we visited Larkmead Winery in Calistoga. There, we had a tasting with Joe Corsini and he gave us a tour of the vineyards. Afterward, we had lunch at Marine Layer Winery in Healdsburg with Rob Fischer and Baron Ziegler. During the lunch, we had the opportunity to taste a variety of different wines. Later on, we went to another location, Monte Rio, where we did a tasting with Patrick Cappiello. The wines we tasted had unique and interesting aromas, which added to the experience in a positive way. We concluded the day with a tasting and dinner at the home of Gail & Doris Wines’ owner, Dan O’Brien. From his backyard on the hill, we had a beautiful view of the vineyards in the distance. The night ended with delicious food, excellent wine, and great company.

On the third day, the group met with Sam Sheehan to do more tastings of Poe, Mommenpop, and Ultraviolet. Surprisingly, Mommenpop turned out to be a fortified wine and quite an interesting one to taste. After that, we visited LaRue Vineyards to meet Katy Wilson. This is where I bought the wine for my colleague’s wedding gift, which speaks volumes about the quality of this vineyard. It was a truly fascinating experience. And to top it off, we had an amazing lunch at Scribe Estate with brothers Mariani and Matt Ahern. They have exceptional vineyards and a wonderful team of chefs who prepared delicious food and dessert to bid us farewell before we flew back home.

Hats off to Libation Project for organizing this entire trip.

Overall, on this trip, I felt like I learned a lot by seeing things for myself. As a Deaf person, visual learning is important. I use American Sign Language as visual language. And on this trip, I was able to understand winemaking in a whole new way by seeing it happen firsthand – you just can’t get that in a book. 

For instance, at Reeve Villa, where I stayed, I had the privilege of waking up to a breathtaking view. The elevation, fog, heat, and wind all became much clearer to me in terms of their impact on the grapes!

There were a lot of GREAT wines I tasted. I would recommend the Reeve Ya Moon Pinot Noir – it has a very light body yet it drinks lively! Another great wine was the Reeve Libertine #8, a red blend. It is made of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet, and small amounts of Cab Franc + 1/6 previous vintages. The nose shows aromas of eucalyptus, oak spice, tart black cherry, and gentle spice. The palate has a presence to it with cherry, blackberry, oak, and spice.A couple more suggestions:

  • 2021 Blood Root Rose of Pinot Noir: great wine for summer; refreshing and light to drink. I picked up flavors of strawberry and raspberry and fresh lemon zest with little herb of bay and thyme. This edition of rosé comes from three vineyards located in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations.
  • 2019 LaRue Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak: This wine is tasty and enjoyable! It showcases strong notes of cherry and cloves, which are derived from 20 months of aging in French Oak (33% new). The wine offers a plethora of aromas, including black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. I also detected earthy notes of mushrooms, with hints of violet and vanilla. The flavor is incredibly satisfying, with red fruits such as cherry, pomegranate, and strawberry, as well as hints of forest floor and toasty oak. The acidity and tannins of this wine complement each other nicely, resulting in a smooth and long finish.
  • Marine Layer has all great varieties and one that stands out is the 2021 Aries Chardonnay. Usually I don’t like Chardonnay but I really enjoyed this one and wanted to share it for those of you who are skeptical of Chardonnays. Light straw in color with strong aroma out of the glass, fragrant of lemon peel, green apple, along with a subtle nuttiness. On the palate, the wine hit a lot of notes of citrus from lime to orange with fresh acidity and stony minerality. You can detect vanilla spice and nutty honey from aging in barrel.
  • 2021 Gail Doris Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorites. Very expressive aromas of eucalyptus, violet, and cocoa are balanced by the tannins and acidity in the wine. Flavors of blackberry, violets and blueberries were also revealed on the palate very well. The wine was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 20 months, sur-lie, in neutral oak barrels and bottled unfiltered.

There is a whole new world for people who want to learn about wine and the wine industry, I highly recommend you travel and take a wine tour! It is worth your time to explore and understand better about how to grow grape and make wine. I want to share my story to educate people that as a Deaf person, I can enjoy wine in many languages. If I can, I am sure you can find a way to enjoy wine as well, it’s never too late! Don’t let any barriers stop you from living to the fullest!

We LOVE Hard Cider!

by Melissa Waskiewicz

As anyone who has read my blogs (opinions) before, you know that Milk and Honey is the local cider that introduced me to the world of local cider and craft cider as a beverage. I still feel the love for them and all cider they create. But for this blog, I wanted to introduce you to the other local cider makers you can regularly find in our cooler. 

We carry an average of 12 local (MN and WI) cider makers in the store. Each brings something different to the cooler and many of them have seasonal flavors that come and go. This gives us a great variety of ciders to choose from that can’t be found elsewhere while giving us all a chance to enjoy local goodness. 

Easton Cider is based out of Minnetrista at Minnetonka Orchards. They are one of the newer cider makers and are in very few retail locations. We are one of those lucky few and currently carry their Apple Blend and Blueberry Blend ciders.  If you like Blueberry, you will enjoy their Blueberry Blend. 

Keepsake Cider is based in Dundas. All of their ciders are wild fermented which means they leat the natural yeasts on the apples do all the work rather than adding a produced yeast. We carry seven of their ciders currently. Their Sunset Dry is a treat! It is cider aged on grapes and berries.  

Loon Juice is in Spring Valley. They promise no loons are used in the making of their cider. We currently are carrying their Flagship, Extra Juicy, and Honeycrisp Haze. This is a great choice for people who like sweet cider without a lot of excess sugar. 

Maiden Rock comes from just across the river in Stockholm, WI. They have been growing apples that they make into cider for almost 25 years. We carry their Honeycrisp. It’s on the sweet side, and quite refreshing. 

Milk and Honey can be found in St. Joseph. They have been making cider for 12 years and are definitely one of our most popular brands. At this time, we have eight of their ciders, including their new non-alcoholic cider. Something fun to try from them would be their Bagnum which is 1.75L of still cider that really shows how closely wine and cider are related.  

Minneapolis Cider Company is, as you can guess from the name, here in Minneapolis. Their urban cider house is a great place to visit (and play pickle ball) when you have a chance. In the meantime, you can grab one of their five ciders we are carrying to take home and enjoy. Their Brut makes a great cidermosa (mimosa using cider instead of bubbly wines.) 

Number 12 Cider is another urban cider house we have here in Minneapolis. They started out on a farm and came into the city to expand their tasting room and their production. Five of their ciders can be found in our cooler these days. Siren is really unique with its use of pomegranate in the cider. 

Restoration Cider is another WI maker based in Madison. It is a Veteran owned company that donates a percentage of proceeds back to saving streams. They have a Driftless Dry, Door County Cherry, and Central Sands Cranberry. The Cranberry is a tart cider that is perfect for sitting by a bonfire. 

Sociable Cider is the first to make cider in the city. They have a very large variety to choose from that includes a handful of regulars and rotating seasonals. We have seven of their options available. If you want to have a last taste of summer, grab some Beach Cruiser Tropical Cider before it’s gone! 

String Theory comes to us from a private orchard in WI. They spend three years (!!) producing each bottle of cider for our consumption. New to the market, we are happy to have them join our selection. We are carrying the three offerings they have which are Pirouette, Picnic, and Meadow Lark. The staff all varied on which their favorite is, so you can get one of each and let us know what you think.  

Sweetland Orchard is down in Webster. Gretchen and her team have been making rustic ciders for years and we are proud to carry six of them. You can taste the orchard in each sip. The Cherry Rhubarb is a great cider to bring to gatherings and share with friends. Fun fact – our Cheese Shop is a drop off location for their CSA! Want to sign up?! Click Here!   

Wild State is located in Duluth. They are full of flavor and fun! We currently have six of their ciders available. They have a great variety pack that you can get if you can’t choose which individual flavor you want. 

Though not available for a few more weeks, we do have one more local cider coming back to the store. Crispin is making its return to the market thanks to Minneapolis Cider Company. They will launch with their Original, an Imperial (higher ABV) and a Mango Mimosa. Look for those in the cooler in October!  

 

Of course we have a lot of great national and international ciders as well as these locals, but I want to make sure you know what you can get from “your own backyard” in the cider section. 

September Spirit of the Month: Bourbon!

bourbon barrel

by Jake Rollin

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, so we thought it’d be a great time to make bourbon our France 44 Spirit of the Month! 

The history of bourbon can be traced back to when European colonists first settled in America. They brought with them a love of distilled spirits, but lacked the ingredients to make what they had been distilling in Europe.

Corn, however, was abundant in America and gradually began to be used for distillation. Early American whiskey consisted of mainly rye with corn as a secondary ingredient. By 1770, the bourbon we have come to know began to take shape and corn became the main ingredient.

Today, “bourbon” is defined as a spirit made in the United States (not just Kentucky) with a mash bill of at least 51% corn. The whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, though there isn’t a requirement for how long it must be aged. For a label to read “straight bourbon,” the whiskey must be aged for a minimum of two years. Terms like “bottled-in-bond” are simply stricter requirements beyond the base requirements.

The bourbon “mash bill,” which is essentially the grain recipe for whiskey, varies from brand to brand, but is generally made of corn, rye, and malted barley. Wheated bourbons contain wheat rather than rye and generally have a softer, sweeter palate. 

Bourbon was named the national spirit of the US in 1964. There are a huge number of brands and producers, all with varying mash bills and styles, and countless cocktails are centered around bourbon, including classics like the Old Fashioned and the Mint Julep. Below are some of our favorite bourbons, both for sipping straight or mixing into a cocktail! 

Four Roses is based in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and was officially founded in 1888, with its current distillery being built in 1910. Four Roses has ten distinct recipes they use for their bourbons with various four-letter combinations (OESK, OESV, etc.) The Small Batch offering combines four of these ten recipes and is aged between six and seven years. The result is a smooth bourbon with rich caramel and soft notes of ripe red fruits. This is one of our favorites for cocktails but it’s excellent to sip on as well. 

New Riff is a relatively new distillery in the bourbon world, established in 2014. However, don’t let that fool you; this bourbon is just as nuanced as any of the big brands. Following the guidelines laid out by the Bottled-in-Bond act of 1897, New Riff bourbon is aged a minimum of four years and bottled at 100 proof. Their high rye mash bill creates a wonderfully complex palate with rich notes of caramel and vanilla followed by a lasting finish of clove and white pepper. Try it in your favorite cocktail or on its own, we think you’ll love it. 

    Calumet Farm was a dominant name in the horse racing world long before they stepped into the bourbon arena. In 2013, Calumet launched their line of bourbons, specializing in whiskies with age statements of eight years or more. Their 16 year offering is the oldest one they’ve offered yet, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Rich smoke leads on the nose, followed by lighter aromas of toasted almonds, with cherries and citrus revealing themselves as the bourbon breathes. Light rye spice followed by deep fruit flavors dominate the palate. The finish is soft, with light smoke and toasted wood notes. This is a true masterclass in bourbon that any afficionado should treat themselves to at least once. 

    The Peachy Keen Bourbon Sour

    Bourbon and peach are one of those flavors combinations that always seems to be a crowd pleaser, and this is no exception! Four Roses Small Batch brings a wonderful base of caramel and vanilla that, when combined with the peach, creates almost a peach cobbler flavor. The lemon juice lifts everything with bright acidity, and the simple syrup makes all the flavors pop and adds some body to the cocktail. Perfect for the last few weeks of beautiful Minnesota weather! 

     

    2oz Four Roses Small Batch 

    1oz Lemon Juice 

    0.75oz Mathilde Peach 

    0.5oz Simple Syrup 

     

    Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass with ice or straight up into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 

    Summer’s Not Over Just Yet!

    Birdeye view of picnic with baguette, cheese, drink

    It’s hard to believe that it’s already the last week of August. Time to fit in all the last minute summer bucket list items, the kayaks and bike rides and hikes. But also time to relax, hammock, go to the beach, picnic in the park. So between your outdoor adventures, trips to the state fair, and trips to target to pick up all of the school supplies, we encourage you make time for a relaxing picnic this next week. And luckily, we’re here with the perfect beverage recommendations for just that.

    Bell’s Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. 5.8% ABV.

    Brewed with premium 2-row barley, the finest American hops, a touch of flaked corn, and Mexican Lager yeast. A true Mexican Lager with a hint of lime. 4.8% ABV.

    The Zenn Clusterfruit is a THC Tonic flavored with mango, passion fruit, pineapple and pink guava. The fruitiness screams summer and 10mg of THC per can guarantees a relaxing, summer afternoon.

    This Sauvignon Blanc is super fresh and zingy with bright lemon citrus, chalk and wet stones. It’s a medium-bodied, transparent sauvignon with a taut palate. Dry and delicious!

    This is the perfect summertime red. Delivering bright red currant fruit, rose petal aromas and chalky minerals, this is made of the indigenous grape Cianoros, which tastes like Nebbiolo without the tannins or a richer version of Schiava. This is delicious served with a slight chill.

    This bagged cocktail screams boat day. One pouch serves 12 fruity, light cocktails at 12% ABV. The bright, citrusy grapefruit and zingy ginger will leave you coming back for seconds and thirds. Just chill the pouch, shake, and serve out of the convenient pour spout!

    Hayman’s Vibrant Citrus Gin has a rich juniper backbone complemented by the vivid aromas and flavors of distilled citrus: mandarin, pomelo, kumquat, and Persian lime. The depth and brightness of this gin is the result of distilling the sun-dried fruit peels together with the classic ten Hayman’s botanicals, as part of a unique two-day process. Bring a bottle of Hayman’s Vibrant Citrus and some Light Tonic on the go for an easy, refreshing cocktail that screams summer.

    Strawberry Basil Smash!

    We’re excited to be carrying Tattersall’s new Rosso Gin in the shop! Tattersall released this limited edition gin last month, and they only produced about 2000 bottles of it, so you better pick one up while you have the chance!

    For the base gin, Tattersall partnered with Indeed Brewing to use some of their Mexican Honey (you all know the iconic Mexican Honey Light!). Then, they added rose petal and violet as well as strawberry and raspberry to this batch. The honey brings out the floral fruitiness, producing a gin with a touch of sweetness and a lovely aroma. It screams summer, both in appearance and in flavor. 

    This gin is the perfect compliment to fresh fruits and herbs. If you follow us on Instagram or shop in our store, then you must know by now about our new rooftop garden. We love to talk about it – we’re growing all sorts of herbs, fruits, and veggies up on the roof, including sweet little strawberries & more basil than we could ever use! Those two inspired this cocktail. The strawberry Basil Smash is perfect for anyone who loves fruity drinks. Here’s the recipe: 

    2 oz Tattersall Rosso Gin

    1 oz Lemon Juice

    ½ oz Simple Syrup

    2 Strawberries

    2 Large Basil Leaves

    1. Muddle the strawberries and basil with simple syrup in your shaker.
    2. Add lemon juice, gin, and lots of ice. Shake very well. 
    3. Serve over ice, and garnish with a sprig of basil! 
    Pink cocktail, garnished with basil, sits in front of a bottle of Tattersall Rosso Gin.

    August Spirit of the Month: Rum!

    by Tom Schneider

    With National Rum Day nestled in the middle of August, we thought now would be a fantastic time to highlight one of the oldest spirits on Earth!  

    Rum has been produced all over the world, wherever sugarcane has been cultivated, with fermentation dating back to New Guinea around 350 B.C. or earlier. The original concept was simple: ferment and distill excess sugarcane that had not been utilized for agricultural consumption. 

    After people acquired a taste for rum, it became a thriving industry in the 17th century, with its roots dating back to the 15th century in Brazil in the form of Cachaca. 

    Many forms of sugar can be distilled. Molasses produces a sweeter style of spirit, while raw sugarcane produces a dryer, earthier spirit that became popular in Martinique thanks to the French. During the boom of colonial trade patterns, the sugarcane industry shifted towards selling bulk supplies to Europe and the United States, where they were aged and bottled. 

    Rum is a truly global spirit, with regulations varying between countries, villages, and even companies. This ambiguity has led to confusion regarding the terminology used and what can and cannot be added to rum in its pure bottled form, including sugar, coloring, and other additives. In this article, we have highlighted some of our favorite rums that are free of additive sugars, as well as a brand new ready-to-drink daiquiri that we found to be exceptional. We would love to hear your thoughts! 

    Plantation is a rum company based in France made by Pierre Ferrand, a famed cognac house that blends and bottled rums from around the globe. Xaymaca is a blend of 100% pot still rums that show Jamaica’s famed style of “funk”. This funky flavor is called “Hogo coming from the term “Haut Gout” meaning high taste which comes across as caramelized fermented pineapples and over ripe bananas. Since this rum has zero added sugars, they have dubbed this “special dry,” you really get the true tropical fruit notes without the added levels of sweetness. This rum is best suited for classic Mai Tais and Daiquiris. 

    Faraday is named after a famous cable ship that ran the first transatlantic telegraph cable from the U.S. to Europe in 1874. The ship later laid cable all over the world and spent much of her 50-year life working in the Caribbean, connecting the world via telegraph. This beautiful gold rum is a blend of three West Indian rums from a mix of family-owned and environmentally conscious distilleries: 

    • 5 year from Barbados giving off caramel and oak spice 
    • 5 year from the Dominican Republic adding butterscotch and vanilla 
    • Unaged Rum Agricole from Martinique adding citrus zest and a grassy finish 
    Faraday’s result is a unique blend of styles that creates its own signature flavor, neither overly sweet nor heavy. This makes it a perfect choice for both whiskey and rum drinkers alike, and it is well-suited for classic rum cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. It is best enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or mixed with lime and ginger beer. 

    Canned cocktails have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many high-quality options now available. In the past, we were skeptical of ready-to-drink classic cocktails and only carried products that truly impressed us. Tip Top’s Daiquiri knocked our socks off. Despite its small size, this can is packed with all the flavor of a classic daiquiri, made with Jamaican rum, packed with pineapple and blended with lime citrus and a touch of sweetness. Bring these cans to the lake, the movies, or the park! 

    France 44 Signature Rum Cocktail Recipes

    1.5 oz Plantation Pineapple Rum

    0.75 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

    0.75 oz Lime Juice

    0.5 oz Orgeat 

    Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake briefly. Strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice and float an additional 0.5 oz of pineapple rum on top. Garnish with a lime wheel. 

    How do you take a cocktail that screams “summer” and make it even more summer-y? Add in some pineapple! Plantation Pineapple Rum is a fantastic addition that take this cocktail in a new direction! Served up on crushed ice, nothing beats this one on a hot day!

    Our take on a classic daiquiri…

    2 oz White Rum

    1 oz Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur

    0.75 oz Lime Juice

    Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

    The Daiquiri is an easy, classic cocktail, and the addition of the Chinola passion fruit liqueur takes it to the next level. The bright, slightly tart flavor of the Chinola pairs incredibly well with the rum and lime to create a new twist on a summer favorite!

    Summer is fleeting in Minnesota so let’s make the most of August with some rum drinks on the patio at your next get-together or barbeque! 

    Demystifying Wine Icons

    bunches of white grapes

    written by Karina Roe

    icon (ī-kän): a thing widely admired especially for having great influence or significance in a particular sphere 

    Over the years, it’s been my personal mission to take wine down off the pedestal and make it more approachable to more people. After all, wine at its most basic level is just alcoholic juice made from crushed-up grapes that were grown by a farmer. There is no literal magic involved with winemaking—we’re the ones who assign magic to wine. 

    With that notion in mind, it’s curious to entertain why some wines are “better” than others—why they cost more, why there’s more demand, why they’re higher quality, why you’re supposed to enjoy drinking them more. Why does the world know about Sancerre but not about Frontenac Gris? Why did you pay (thousands) more for your DRC than I did for mybox wine? Some of those questions have obvious answers, but some of them don’t.  

    The wine world has built up its own canon of wine “icons” over many hundreds of years. Some of these icons have historical or geographical significance. Others have become icons because their consumption and popularity were influenced by an important ruler, center of commerce, or fashion trend. Sweet wines, for example, have had a particularly strong presence in the “icons” category, simply because the taste of sweetness many hundreds of years ago was rare and very prized (especially to northern Europeans).  

    There’s much to be said about making wine more accessible and less stuffy and exclusive, and part of that accessibility comes by way of education. Learning the history and process behind these iconic wines (as well as the conflated stories and myths)provides insight and connection as to why they’re iconic. It also gives you the agency to make your own decisions about these wines and the structures they exist within.  

    We’re featuring a fascinating lineup of these “icons” in our upcoming “Decadent White Wine Icons” class on August 16th, where we’ll learn how to deconstruct the mystical aura around these wines before building them back up and returning the magic to them. We say in every one of our classes that there’s no such thing as a dumb question (only the one left unasked), but that’s even more prevalent in this particular class. This unique class is all about asking “why” these wines are the way they are, so come prepared to have some fantastic, in-depth conversations while tasting some of the most heralded white wines from around the world—and learn to assign your own magic to them. 

    The World of Pét-Nats

    written by Karina Roe

    This ancient method for making sparkling wine has become extremely popular over the past several years and has become a go-to for those looking for exciting new flavors and textures in their wine. From having a handful of bottles on our shelves to now dedicating an entire section (and wine class!) to this category, it’s clear that Pét-Nats are more than just a passing fad. Although “Pét-Nat” is a loosely defined term, wines labeled as such often (though not always) follow these general rules: 

    • Made using the Ancestral Method (part way through the first fermentation the wine is bottled and then the 1st fermentation finishes in the bottle resulting in carbonation) 
    • Bottled unfiltered/without disgorgement. Yes, there may be sediment or even chunks in your wine! It is harmless and will settle to the bottom of the bottle if undisturbed. (Or, do a gentle shake before opening to get it fully integrated!) 
    • Topped with a metal crown cap instead of the traditional sparkling wine cork. 
    • Often slightly lower in alcohol 
    • Less carbonation than traditional method sparkling wines like Champagne 

    But just like any wine category, Pét-Nats vary widely in color, aroma, texture, and flavor: They can taste sour and funky like your favorite kombucha, or they can be reminiscent of a traditional sparkling wine. They can be bone-dry or semi-sweet. But as long as you like a little bubble to your wine, you’re sure to find a Pét-Nat that fits your palate.  

    And if you’re not sure where to start, our Pét-Nat Party happening on August 8th is the perfect way to dive into this exciting collection of wines! You’ll get to learn the art behind Pét-Nat production and the unconventional techniques involved as you taste through some of our favorite producers. After a short guided tasting, you’ll enjoy a casual tasting environment at your own pace while you nibble on cheese and snacks. Seats are filling up fast, so don’t wait to register! Below are a couple class features that you can look forward to: 

    Statera Cellars is owned and operated by two good friends in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The base Chardonnay for this bottle was fermented in half neutral French oak and half tank until nearly dry, then put into one large tank to go through the rest of fermentation to achieve a well-balanced, salty, delicious, and quaffable bubbly. 

    This is part Pét-Nat, part “chillable red” and is made entirely from a light, high-acid red grape called Grignolino. Poderi Cellario hails from Italy’s Piedmont region—also home to heavy-hitters like Barolo and Barbaresco—but the younger generation presents “La Grinozza” as an alternative to introduce a wider wine audience to all the styles Piedmont is truly capable of. 

    July Spirit of the Month: Agave!

    Green & red drawing of an agave plant

    written by Jake

    When you think agave, you probably instantly think of Tequila. The history of Tequila goes back thousands of years. Before it became the distilled spirit we know and love today though, it started out as something called Pulque. Pulque is a milky white fermented beverage made from the fermented sap of the Agave plant. It’s believed to have been consumed as early as 1000 B.C. by the Olmec people. When the Spainards arrived in Mexico, they began distilling the Pulque and the first iteration of Tequila (or more likely Mezcal) was born. 

    Tequila

    There are several strict rules surrounding Tequila. Tequila must be made using only Blue Weber Agave. Tequila can also only legally be made in the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Agave based spirits can be made in other places, they just can’t be called Tequila.  

    The other big thing to watch out for in the Tequila industry is whether or not Tequila has additives. The main additives that are used in the industry are various sweeteners, vanilla, citrus, or oak flavorings, and caramel coloring. If a producer keeps the amount of additives below 1%, they don’t have to tell you they’re using them. Additives don’t necessarily make Tequila bad, but the lack of transparency in the production of the product can be frustrating. Luckily, there are many brands that are certified additive free (ask one of our staff members about our “Additive Free Tequila section”). Here are a couple recommendations for our favorite additive free tequilas: 

    Tres Agaves is an excellent, certified additive free producer. Their Blanco Tequila is bright and citrusy, with some white pepper notes on the finish. It makes an excellent Margarita and is even good enough to sip on straight! Try it in a France 44 Passion Fruit Margarita! 

    Mijenta is an additive free, sustainably made Tequila. Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero, has worked incredibly hard to create a Tequila that is both sustainable, and representative of the unique terroir of the Jalisco highlands. She has succeeded in creating an intensely aromatic and flavorful tequila that brings waves of citrus, honey, and melon flavors. This one is truly a spirits team favorite. 

    Mezcal

    While tequila can only be made using a single type of Agave, Mezcal can be made using 30 different types. This allows for a wide range of flavors in Mezcal, ranging from briny and smokey to bright and fruity. The Mexican state that produces the most Mezcal by far is Oaxaca, but there are 12 total states that can make it. Mezcal can also be made with multiple types of Agaves in one bottle, allowing for Mezcaleros to play with flavors as they see fit. 

    An ensamble between Espadin and Barril Agaves, Banhez is fantastic for sipping or mixing. The different agaves create a beautiful flavor profile that has notes of tropical fruits with a hearty, smokey backbone. This is a great Mezcal for newbies and Mezcal veterans alike. Try it in our France 44 Uniform cocktail! 

    Classic Margarita Recipe

    • 1 oz lime juice
    • 0.5 oz simple syrup or agave syrup
    • 0.5 oz orange liqueur
    • 2 oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila

    Add all ingredients to shaker filled with ice. Shake about 15 seconds until well chilled. Pour with ice into class and garnish with a lime wheel.

    2023 Cabin Crushin’ Beverages

    Margarita in a glass with lime wheel and pink umbrella, in front of a bottle of Margarita mix and a can of Indeed Mexican Honey Light

    This holiday weekend, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite refreshing beverages, to inspire your festivities. Here’s what we’ll be drinking this weekend!

    It’s everything a great craft pilsner should be. Crisp and snappy with a solid backbone of hoppiness. It’s been our #1 selling pilsner in the store for many years now, and I just never get bored with it.

    11.5% ABV, lightly effervescent, and $11. Need I say more? Raza is an infinitely crushable wine from Portugal that has some lovely tropical notes backed up by great acidity. It’s a year round favorite for me personally, but it’s truly meant for summer!

    It’s crisp, refreshing and my go to when I’m on my dad’s boat fishing and hanging out.

    Goes down so easy, my go-to summer beer. V crushable.

    The idea of a watermelon beer puts a lot of people off right away—and rightfully so—but hear me out! This light-bodied wheat beer has just a hint of natural watermelon flavor—no Jolly Rancher notes to be found. Ice cold, it’s sooo refreshing and honestly too easy to drink. It’s been in their lineup for over a decade at this point and remains a nostalgic favorite for me. Giesenbrau Bier Co “Hildy’s Helles” – This New Prague brewery has been around for years, but their recent rebrand captured my attention as an unabashed can nerd. Fortunately, in this case, the gorgeous cans happen to contain some delicious brews! This Helles lager is the standout hit of my summer, but you can’t go wrong with any of their beers in my opinion.

    Un vino frizzante! This liter bottle is all you need to please your entire crew — from the geeky cool-kid wine nerds to the no-nonsense folks who “just want wine.” Spritzy, light, and fresh, this Grignolino from Piedmont is perfect by itself or with any summer fare. Did I mention it’s in a liter bottle?

    Pour over rocks, garnish with an orange slice, put your feet up and imagine you are soaking in the Catalan sun.

    This low ABV bottled spritz is perfect for enjoying in the summer heat. Citrusy orange flavors dominate with a lively effervescence and a touch of bitterness, it tastes like summertime in a glass. Grab your sunnies, a floatie, and enjoy this delicious libation on the lake!

    I’m in a pet-nat phase this summer, and Ercole’s is a perfect easy-drinking, somewhat sweet pet-nat. It’s full of red fruit flavor with just that hint of funk associated with pet-nats that keeps you on your toes. Perfect to sip on the porch while enjoying a nice piece of cheese. 

    Affordable, low alcohol, smooth, and refreshing.

    This beauty is the Hazy IPA of wine. It is a lightly unfiltered skin contact white blend that tastes like a rose smoothie. Lush and dense peach, apricot, and tangerine flavors dance across your tongue and don’t stop until the bottle is gone.

    A true cabin crusher! If it’s hot out I want nothing more than something simple, clean and refreshing. I love craft lagers and IPAs but after a long day in the sun, Banquet hits the spot. Plus it’s brewed with Rocky Mountain water!

    Rob, the self-proclaimed connoisseur of peculiar tastes, insists on Hamm’s Beer as the ultimate summer beverage, with a conviction that can rival a penguin’s commitment to sliding on ice. His reasoning? Picture this: as the sun kisses your skin with its fiery rays, a can of Hamm’s materializes in your hand, emanating a cooling aura like a mythical frosty orb. One sip transports you to a tropical oasis where pineapples harmonize with hops, and palm trees sway in syncopation with the carbonation bubbles tickling your tongue. Rob’s whimsical recommendation defies logic, but who are we to deny the summertime enchantment of a whimsical Hamm’s adventure?