Our Maker’s Mark Private Select Barrel has arrived!

by Tom

The wait is finally over: we have received our Maker’s Mark Private Select Barrel! Maker’s Mark has one of the most interesting single barrel programs ever where you can customize a ring of staves that are dipped into the barrel for a finishing time period of nine weeks. A few years ago we landed on the perfect blend of staves for our palates. With the addition of ten staves with five different staves to choose from, there are a daunting 1,001 different possible combinations.

The Staves to Choose From

The five staves made specifically by the Independent Stave Company to choose from are the following:

  • Baked American Pure 2- the only American Oak in the bunch, giving it brown sugar, vanilla and spice.
  • Seared French Cuvee- This stave is ridge-cut and seared with infrared heat, this stave gives off toasty caramel.
  • Maker’s 46- the classic. This stave gives off dried fruit and caramelized spice.
  • Roasted French Mocha- toasted on high heat in a convection oven, giving off big maple, chocolate, and toasty char.
  • Toasted French Spice- toasted on both high heat and low heat giving off smoke and cinnamon spice.

 

The F44 Private Select Single Barrel

As you can tell, we had a long and arduous task ahead of us. Blending up different combinations of staves to see what we liked best, I mean twist our arms, right? We quickly realized Maker’s Cask Strength is nowhere as sweet as classic Maker’s Mark, so we went for a more creamy and fruity profile while also falling head over heels for the Roasted French Mocha staves. We ended up with the following:

  • 3 Baked American Pure 2 staves for Vanilla
  • 4 Roasted French Mocha for chocolate and maple
  • 1 Maker’s 46 for cherry
  • 1 Toasted French Spice
  • 1 Seared French Cuvee

Here’s the exciting wrinkle, unless you have used our beloved French Mocha Staves in a past recipe, you cannot use it use it. It was been retired and archived so you can only use it in past recipes, so this is the only place to grab this special bottle we have cooked up for you!

Bottled at 109.1 proof,  it smells like chocolate covered cherries and tastes like creamy caramel and vanilla, but why don’t you stop in and grab a bottle and see what you think?

Spooooooky Cocktails!

 

We’ve got some spoooooky cocktails for all your Halloween shenanigans!  Some might push you to try something a little more complicated, but don’t be scared!  They will be worth the work.  And some will be perfect to share with friends at your next séance or ghoul gathering.  Let those skeletons out of your closet, it’s time to party!

Violet Delights 

  • ½ oz Liber & Co grenadine
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz Empress gin (must use for the color)
  • Fever Tree Club soda

Fill a highball glass with ice, add grenadine, lemon juice, gin, top with soda water and a cocktail cherry.


 

Kitchen Witch Smash 

Mezcal is the star this week for a spooky smoky cocktail.  This one is a little extra work but will be worth it!  For an extra witchy vibe, repeat a mantra or set some good intentions while you muddle your ingredients.  Or hex someone, we won’t tell.

  • 8 fresh blackberries, plus more for topping
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, plus a sprig for serving
  • Juice from half of a lemon
  • ½ oz Código Agave Nectar
  • 2 oz Lu Luna Cupreata Mezcal
  • a couple dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters
  • Fever Tree Club Soda

In a mixing glass, add blackberries, rosemary, lemon juice and agave nectar. Muddle the ingredients together, squishing everything to release the juices.  Add ice, along with the mezcal and orange bitters.  Stir for 20 seconds and strain over ice into a mason jar. Top with club soda and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

 


 

Phantom Vehicle

By now you probably have some apple cider sitting in the fridge ready for a new spin.  Here’s a fun fall take on the classic sidecar.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try this warm during your next chilly evening by the fire.   Or if you’re feeling lazy, simply warm up the apple cider, add cognac, and top with whipped cream for an easy treat.

  • 2 oz. fresh apple cider
  • 2 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon peel and Griottines brandied cherries, for garnish

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker, top with ice, and shake until the shaker starts to frost and feels very cold to the touch (20 to 30 seconds).  Strain into a coupe glass and top with zest and brandied cherries.

 

 

 


 

Cachaça Zombie 

Trick or treat!  What’s this new creature at your door?  It’s cachaca, a Brazilian liquor made from distilled sugarcane juice.  This cousin of rum is a little funky and earthy and makes for a great cocktail.  But don’t worry, after a few of these you’ll be the fun kind of zombie not the brain eating kind.

  • 2 oz Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
  • 1/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
  • 1.5 – 2 oz On the Fly Tropical Cocktail Mixer
  • 1 dash Angostura or Bittercube Trinity
  • Absinthe rinse (optional but recommended)
  • lime wedge and mint sprig, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Rinse an oversized whiskey tumbler with absinthe, add crushed ice, and pour in your strained cocktail.  Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

 


 

Spooky Sangria 

You probably still have some apple cider; we all make the same mistakes every fall, nobody is perfect.  So here’s a great recipe to share with your ghoul and goblin friends at your haunted gatherings.  Use up that cider and that dusty bottle of pinot grigio you never got to in the summer, and bring the shenanigans to the party!

  • 1 bottle pinot grigio
  • 2.5 cups apple cider
  • 1.5 cup Schweppes Club Soda
  • .75 cup Velvet Falernum liqueur
  • 3 honey crisp apples chopped
  • 3 pears chopped

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir, and chill for one hour before serving.

The France 44 Uniform: A Cocktail

by Tom

Guys, our events team has fallen in love with a cocktail. Over the past few weeks our desks upstairs have been buzzing and we felt the need to share it with you guys. Somewhere in between a Last Word, Margarita, and a Negroni, lives what we’re calling The France 44 Uniform. It can go by a different name, but you’ll have to come in and ask to find out. We have changed up the ingredients a few times to find the exact right mixture of libations that also align with business ethos. It’s easy to make and comes in four equal parts so there is no math involved in this endeavor. Definitely our end of summer cocktail, balancing summer and fall flavors, keeping things herbaceous and refreshing. Here we go: 

The France 44 Uniform

In a cocktail shaker combine:

  • 1oz Banhez Mezcal, a beautiful agave spirit made by 36 families in a co-op in Mexico with the right amount to citrus and smoke perfect for any cocktail. 
  • 1oz Vikre Herbal Liqueur, much akin to Yellow Chartreuse but cheaper, locally made in Duluth, and readily available. It is bright and herbaceous, filled with notes of Chamomile, Thyme, honey, douglas fir, and mint. It gives off incredibly complex fall vibes. 
  • 1oz Negroni Aperitivo Sixteen, our new favorite Aperol replacement. Just a pinch more rich and bitter than Aperol and locally distributed. It also has some rhubarb which we love. It’s our new go-to for spritzes and lighter style negronis.  
  • 1oz freshly squeezed lime juice, which at this time of the season, is one whole lime. 

Since this drink has fresh citrus, shaking it over ice and straining it is the best way to wake up all the flavors. While this is easily batchable for a party, it should be made the same day of the party since it has all that fresh lime juice. Or batch it early and add the lime juice later. This drink will transition you from Summer to Fall effortlessly, let us know what you think! 

France 44 Single Barrel Bourbon Picks!

by Tom

We’re Kicking off Bourbon Heritage Month Early! The two single barrel bourbons that we picked out from our recent trip out to Kentucky are here! We couldn’t be more excited to share these both with you. Check them out below. 

Tom’s Pick: Rebel Wheated 120 Proof Single Barrel Bourbon 

We just received one of the first barrels of Rebel Single Barrel Bourbons to hit the state of Minnesota! This Single Barrel of Rebel we picked out is wheated, meaning they took out the classic spicy rye grain and replaced it with wheat as the secondary sweeter, softer grain. I’m always on the hunt for good wheated bourbon, and it’s not always easy to find. There are always two staples: Maker’s Mark and Larceny, then there are the mysterious unicorns in Weller and Van Winkle which are impossible to find. This barrel reminds me a lot of Larceny Barrel Proof, another rare bourbon we seldom get. Bottled at 120 proof, this bourbon is both bulky and silky. Bold vanilla and caramel on the nose with an extremely textured oily mouthfeel that coats the palate. The finish has a warm apple with just a hint of cinnamon baked in. With water added, the caramel tones brighten up and the oak spice finally comes through on the finish. Adding an ice cube unlocked a shocking level of complexity tying together the vanilla, oak spice, and fall apples.                                                         

When a trip down to Kentucky presents itself, you always pull the trigger. We stayed in Bardstown, a quiet town situated 41 miles south of Louisville. It’s one of the biggest hubs for bourbon in Kentucky. It’s perfect for making bourbon due to its high elevation that leads to optimal temperature fluctuation for aging and its many limestone springs used as their pure water source. If you ever hit the bourbon trail, please feel free to come in and talk to Tom to get tips and ask questions! Large bourbon hubs such as Bardstown and Frankfort are smaller towns even though Frankfort is the ironically the capital of Kentucky. We love going down to bring our customers back awesome whiskey we otherwise could not get our hands on as well as figure out the tips and tricks of the bourbon trail!                                           

This bourbon absolutely shines in a mint julep. Its caramel and vanilla come through with the crushed ice taming the high proof. 

Rebel Mint Julep:

  • 1/4oz simple syrup 
  • 2oz Rebel Single Barrel Bourbon 
  • 1 small bushel of 6-8 small mint leaves 
  • Pebbled/crushed ice 
  • Copper/metal cup (optional but does help with keeping everything ice cold.) 
  • Garnish: more fresh mint 

Instructions: combine the simple syrup and mint at the bottom of the glass and GENTLY muddle. You aren’t smashing the mint into salad, you are waking up the essential oils of the mint. Add bourbon and pack the glass with fresh ice and stir till the glass is chilled. The garnish is important, you want to slap the mint a little to get that mint going becoming more fragrant. Plus its fun. Place the mint across from your nose so it’s the first thing you smell when you go to take a sip. Enjoy! 

Tashi's Pick: Ezra Brooks 120 Proof Single Barrel Bourbon

Tashi here to talk about our Single Barrel of Ezra Brooks! I wrote all about our trip to Kentucky back in April, which you can read here. I tried to keep our Luxrow barrels a secret and I’m sure ya’ll figured out that’s where we went based on the photos, but here we are: the big reveal! This was my first trip with France 44 and my first time on the bourbon trail.  I was pretty nervous at our tasting, even though I came prepared having just finished my WSET Level 2 Spirits Certification. It was a huge privilege to accompany Tom, and for him to agree with my Ezra Brooks pick. So this is my baby, truly Tashi’s pick.

I enjoy this single barrel the most after I’ve let it breathe for a while. This one is gonna hit ya with some rye spice immediately either way, but have some patience and you won’t regret it. On the nose I get vanilla and toffee, on the palate caramel and spice with a warm lingering finish. Once it’s opened up I akin it to fresh baked coffee cake. I think this single barrel is gonna surprise you! I hope you venture for a bottle and please let me know what you think of my pick, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Summer Whiskey Cocktail Recipes (And Our New Single Barrel!)

by Tom

Elijah Craig Rye Has Arrived… With the 11th France 44 Signature Cask Strength Single Barrel to Boot!

Elijah Craig Rye

Heaven Hill has finally come to the Minnesota market with their brand new rye whiskey! Joining their signature Rittenhouse and Pikesville brands, the new Elijah Craig is a “low rye content” rye whiskey, with just 51% rye with a larger than normal 35% corn content. This helps balance out its herbaceous edge with sweetness around the corners. It is a rye with bourbon tendencies, bridging the gap between the two. Orange rind and fennel spice burst off the nose with a fantastic rounded finish of rounded vanilla and toffee on the finish. Yes, this is a perfect whiskey for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, but with the weather being swelteringly hot, Let’s look to more cooling drinks such as Mint Juleps and lemonade punches! 

Elijah Craig Mint Julep 

  • 1/2oz Prohibition Simple Syrup 
  • 4 Mint leaves
  • 2 1/2oz Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey 
  • Crushed ice 

Add the simple syrup and the mint leaves to a cold glass. Gently muddle. Add the Elijah Craig Rye and the crushed ice. Stir until combined. Garnish with a sprig of mint.  Refresh yourself!

Vanlice Rye Punch 

  • 4oz Locally Made Vanlice Vanilla Essence Lemonade 
  • 2oz Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey 
  • 2 Dashes Angostura bitters 

Fill a highball glass with ice (crushed or cubes) add the lemonade and Elijah Craig Rye. Stir and finish with bitters. 

Elijah Craig Cask Strength Single Barrel

Our record-breaking eleventh Elijah Craig Single Barrel has arrived! We were lucky enough to pick out our second cask strength barrel of the year. We love to hand select single barrels whenever we get the chance, bringing the highest quality whiskey exclusively to our customers. This eight year old single barrel is filled with dark fruits of raspberry and cherry with a hearty oak back bone. It is an intense 126.7 proof uncut from the barrel and could use and ice cube or a few drops of water for it to open up. We pick out a few dozen single barrels of bourbon and rye a year, hand selecting the best we can find. Upcoming barrels include Ezra Brooks 120 Proof Bourbon, Rebel 120 Proof Wheated Bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye, Stellum Bourbon and Rye, Four Roses, and a Maker’s Mark Private selection.  

My favorite recipe for our France 44 Single Barrel Selections: 

Ingredients

  • 2oz Single Barrel Whiskey 

In a Lowball or Glencarin Glass (the perfect spirit glass) add the Elijah Craig Single Barrel and enjoy neat, with a few drops of water, or an ice cube.

Anyway you prefer, just enjoy yourself! 

Summer Ginspiration

by Tom

Looking for some Ginspiration? We have you covered!

The weather is finally warm, the sun is shining, and gin season is in full swing. We’ve all got our stand-bys, go-tos, and classics for gin cocktails, but if you’re looking for something different to spice up your gin game, we’ve got a few fun ideas…

Hakuto Japanese Gin

Japan has emerged as a prominent location for a few of our best selling gins. A few follow very similar botanical builds: yuzu peel, sansho pepper, green tea, and cherry blossom. Two things separate The Hakuto: Japanese Nashi Pears and the intensity of the yuzu peel. The nose has huge citrus zest and the pear comes across afterwards cooling it off a bit. It works great with lime and a splash of tonic or soda but where it really shines is in a negroni. The citrus and fruit show up well wile being accented by a lighter bitter like a Cappelletti or Negroni Aperitivo. Here’s a recipe:

The Hakuto Negroni

  • 1oz Hakuto Gin
  • 1oz Fot-Li Spanish Vermut
  • 1oz Negroni Apertivo (similar to Aperol, but better!)

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe or rocks glass, and add a twist of citrus peel.

Bimini Coconut Gin

Bimini is a gin distillery out of Maine making a fresh take on American gin where they are toning the juniper down while enhancing flavors of grapefruit, coriander, and hops. Bartenders took notice of the gin’s citrus-forward flavors and began substituting it for light rum in tiki drinks, leading the company to make a coconut fat-washed version of their gin (essentially, the gin is combined with coconut oil and strained).  This is not a coconut bomb, no fake flavorings or additives have been added. It is fresh and tropical but still very much gin. It makes killer classic cocktails, gin and tiki alike. Here’s a recipe for an Army Navy, a gin riff on a Mai Tai:

Bimini Army Navy

  • 2oz Bimini Coconut Gin
  • 1oz Lemon Juice
  • ¾oz Liber & Co. Orgeat (basically almond simple syrup)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.

Cotswold Old Tom Gin

Old Tom Gins have a complicated and storied past, but to boil it down, they date back to the 18th century when England was consuming boatloads of poorly-made gin. Many were sweetened with a pinch with sugar or licorice root just to soften their rough edges, but the sweetener also nicely balanced the citrus and juniper flavors. The name “Old Tom” now can connote a wide range of styles, including some that are barrel-aged, but almost all are richer and slightly sweeter than your typical London Dry. Cotswold is a fresh take on an old classic, using licorice to lend a soft sweetness, a bit of fresh ginger, orange citrus and classic cardamom. It’s perfect on its own but it also makes a stunning gin and tonic and a super refreshing Tom Collins. Our pick is the ultimate old-guy drink, gin and bitters:

Gin-n-Bitters

  • 2oz Cotswold Old Tom Gin
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass with a large ice cube.

Wines for Spring

By Amy

Every year around this time, we Minnesotans go wild for spring.  We’re out in shorts, polar plunging, hitting any patio that has chairs and braving Twins games at frigid temperatures.   We’re starved for warmth and sunshine and it’s gone to our heads.  And, despite the fact that ‘spring has sprung’, our weather has a mind of its own.  Ice, snow, thunderstorms and wind leave us in a constant state of flux, unable to let go of the ice scraper for fear that spring might not make it.

Fortunately, the sun is shining today and I’m going to call it.  The time has come.  Time to finally put away your winter coat and while you’re at it, put away those winter wines.  Let the fresh flavors of spring emerge and carry us through to warmer days.  

My tastes have started to shift and I’m craving the light, vibrant flavors of spring more than ever.  The flavors of a farmer’s market trip with asparagus, spring greens, ramps, watercress, morels and fresh herbs.  The freshness of spring cheeses and the scent of tulips just burst from the ground.  The zingy, refreshing wines of Sauvignon Blanc, Silvaner, Gruner Veltliner, rosé (although I enjoy the pink stuff year round) and light fresh reds.

Drink these 4 fresh wines to shift your mindset to spring, no matter what our Minnesota spring throws your way:

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Schplïnk! Gruner Veltliner | Austria

Yes, you can LOVE a boxed Gruner Veltliner called Schplïnk! How can you not love the bright yellow box, crazy graphic and 80’s block font. This chuggable white wine is organically grown by 11th generation winemakers in the Weinvertal region of Austria. Austria is Gruner Veltliner’s homeland and here, the grape shines its brightest. Green apple, citrus and herbal notes abound from this zesty wine making it the patio pounder (no patio required). // $37.99

Pfefingen_-_Scheurebe__74459.1617216422

Pfeffingen Dry Scheurebe | Pfalz, Germany

Spring is right time to explore the lesser known (and much-loved) aromatic, white grape variety of Scheurebe! Pronounced Shoy-ray-bah. This zippy example from Weingut Pfeffingen is reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc in all the right ways. Bright notes of pink grapefruit, guava and papaya accented with tarragon and sweet chervil on the finish. Pfeffingen has been producing wine for hundreds of years and is well loved for their wines AND the unicorn on their label. Everyone should have their own unicorn wine. A perfect pairing for spring salads, grilled peaches, and freshwater fish. // $21.99

g-d--vajra--rosabella--rosato

2021 G.D. Vajra ‘Rosa Bella’ Rosé | Piedmont, Italy

New to the France 44 shelf, this rosé is a staff favorite and one of the first to sell out each year. Vajra’s lip smacking ‘Rosa Bella’ is lifted and tart with floral aromatics and notes of rhubarb, blood orange and juicy strawberry. Refreshing on its own or as a spritz (with the addition of a grapefruit sparkling soda water), this rosé will have you ready for your first garden party of the season. // $19.99

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Hammerling ‘The Wild One’ Cabernet Pfeffer | California

Recently, there’s been some buzz around the obscure grape variety, Cabernet Pfeffer. Nearly extinct and also known as Mourtaou, there are just a few acres of this long lost grape planted in the world. Thank goodness that our friends at New France Wines were on the lookout and connected with Josh Hammerling at Hammerling Wines to bring us this Califonian grown babe. ‘The Wild One’ is a refreshing, medium-bodied red wine with a bit of tannic grip, ripe cherry and spice. New to the market and just the thing for your spring grilling adventures. // $32.99

Ribera y Rueda: Spanish Wine Deep-Dives

WINE & CHEESE PROMO

 

In an effort to get more incredible Spanish wine in your life, we’re running a special wine + cheese promo from April 1-15!

Buy a featured wine from Ribera del Duero or Rueda in the liquor store, bring it to the Cheese Shop to have a cheese paired to it, and receive $3 off your cheese purchase.

Plus, you’ll get a chance to enter to win a trip to Spain for the ultimate wine tour!

What comes to mind when someone mentions Spain? Flamenco dancers, bull fights, Salvador Dali, paella and siestas are all acceptable answers. But what about Spanish wine?

It’s reasonable to suggest that France and Italy have Spain well beat in terms of recognizability, and you wouldn’t be alone if you couldn’t name any Spanish grapes off the top of your head, even though Spain is #1 in the world for vineyard acreage. We usually head to the Spanish section when we need a cheap, fruity red for sangria or mulled wine, or easy-on-the-budget Cava bubbles for mimosas.

But Spain is so much more intricate than that, so we’re highlighting two regions over the next two weeks to showcase how uniquely characterful Spanish wines can be. We’re moving onto one of Spain’s most underrated regions this week: Rueda.

Rueda

The small(ish) region of Rueda is often overlooked. It’s sandwiched between a few different red wine regions, most with arguably more recognizability than Rueda. But Rueda is white wine country, and the grape to be aware of here is Verdejo (ver-DAY-yo). It takes up nearly 90% of vineyard plantings in Rueda, almost all of which are farmed organically due to Rueda’s warm, dry climate.

But the Verdejos of today are vastly different than anything you’d find even three decades ago. The traditional style was to make Verdejo oxidatively in wooden casks, and was reminiscent of Sherry: baked fruit, nutty, and definitely not the fresh and crisp style we know Verdejo to be today. There are a couple wineries that hang onto this old-school oxidative tradition, but the vast majority of winemakers today use temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to make sure their Verdejo is crisp, clean, and refreshing.

Check out the wines below for three different takes on Rueda Verdejo:

Naia Rueda Verdejo

Naia is the perfect introduction to modern Verdejo: perfectly-ripe fruit notes of peach, nectarine, and lemon burst out of the glass with a rounded texture from some lees aging, and a hint of salinity and fresh herbs on the finish. // $17.99

Nisia Old Vines Rueda Verdejo

Coming from 80-year-old vines that are sustainably farmed, this Verdejo has intense notes of lemon curd, passionfruit, and tart apple for an extra-zingy sensation. Rich yet with great acidity and a long finish. // $17.99

Pago del Cielo 'Celeste' Rueda Verdejo

Made by the Familia Torres family, this high-quality Verdejo is on point with great minerality and high aromatics. A lighter-bodied version of Verdejo, but never lacking in power or flavor. // $22.99

Even though the current style of Verdejo may be newer to Rueda’s wine ethos, their winemaking history goes back just a bit farther–back to the 10th century. Small family growing operations have been the backbone of this region for centuries, and that remains true today. The bright fruit and balancing acidity make Verdejo a fantastic pairing wine with a variety of cuisines, including shellfish, salads, and Asian-inspired dishes. Or, try them with one of these tried-and-true recipes:

Try it with:

Rueda wines also are a great match for young Manchego, fresh goat cheeses, and some ash-coated cheeses too. Stop by the Cheese Shop for a perfect pairing with your Rueda of choice, and get your promo pricing on it until April 15th! Visit Ribera y Rueda’s Recipes & Pairings page for even more culinary ideas.

Ribera y Rueda: Spanish Wine Deep-Dives

WINE & CHEESE PROMO

 

In an effort to get more incredible Spanish wine in your life, we’re running a special wine + cheese promo from April 1-15!

Buy a featured wine from Ribera del Duero or Rueda in the liquor store, bring it to the Cheese Shop to have a cheese paired to it, and receive $3 off your cheese purchase.

Plus, you’ll get a chance to enter to win a trip to Spain for the ultimate wine tour!

What comes to mind when someone mentions Spain? Flamenco dancers, bull fights, Salvador Dali, paella and siestas are all acceptable answers. But what about Spanish wine?

It’s reasonable to suggest that France and Italy have Spain well beat in terms of recognizability, and you wouldn’t be alone if you couldn’t name any Spanish grapes off the top of your head, even though Spain is #1 in the world for vineyard acreage. We usually head to the Spanish section when we need a cheap, fruity red for sangria or mulled wine, or easy-on-the-budget Cava bubbles for mimosas.

But Spain is so much more intricate than that, so we’re highlighting two regions over the next two weeks to showcase how uniquely characterful Spanish wines can be. This week we’re starting with Ribera del Duero, which produces the most prized bottles of Tempranillo in the world.

Ribera del Duero

If you’ve ever wandered around our Spanish wine section, you’ll know that a vast majority of it is red. And if you were to pick up any random bottle of Spanish red wine, the chances are good that it’ll contain at least some amount of Tempranillo—Spain’s premier red grape. It’s called by a variety of names depending on which region you’re in, but in Ribera del Duero it’s known locally as Tinto Fino. 

Tempranillo, like any other wine based on the climate, soils, winemaking traditions, etc, comes in a variety of styles. It can be fresh and juicy, silky and spiced, or dark and brooding. Ribera del Duero is known for its hot climate, low rainfall and high elevation vineyards, all of which add up to dark, full-bodied, intensely flavored wines.

Check out the wines below for three different takes on Ribera Tempranillo:

Protos Tinto Fino

This 100% Tempranillo is the perfect introduction to the full-bodied red wines from Ribera del Duero. It was aged in used French and American oak, giving it just a hint of vanilla and spice that highlights the dark fruit notes. // $17.99

Viña Sastre Crianza

The Crianza designation means that this wine sees at least a year of aging in oak barrels and undergoes a strict quality control process, making this an exceptional, age-worthy wine. Rich, ripe blackberry, black cherry, and toasted barrel mark this standard-bearer. // $35.99

Pingus 'Psi'

Psi is made by Dominio de Pingus, one of the heralded estates that helped put Ribera del Duero on the map for premium quality wines. Pingus makes this wine in conjunction with small local-area farmers, working with them to instill knowledge and the importance of thoughtful farming and high-quality fruit. // $35.99

Ribera del Duero is a small region, and it follows that most of the wine production here is also on a pretty small (and ridiculously high-quality) level: 75% of the grapes are harvested by hand, and many come from old vineyards that simply don’t allow for machine work. Ribera del Duero is also known for its stately castillos, dominating the landscape and adding to the majesty of the region. They’re also pretty serious about their tapas and lamb dishes, so check out the recipes below for your next Spain-inspired dinner:

Try it with:

Ribera wines also are a great match for aged Manchego, creamy blue cheeses, and clothbound cheddars—and don’t forget to include some Jamon Serrano and chorizo on your board too when you visit the Cheese Shop for your promo-priced cheese pairing. Visit Ribera y Rueda’s Recipes & Pairings page for even more ideas!

Check back next week for a dive into one of Spain’s best-kept secrets: the wines of Rueda.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Recipe

Whether you’re creating a restaurant-worthy Valentine’s Day dining experience at home, throwing a Ystävänpäivä get-together with your pals or just practicing a little extra self care, you’ll need a few ingredients to make February 14th a success:

•  SPARKLING WINE. We drink bubbles year-round here, but Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to dive into something a little “extra.” We’re helping you out by giving you 10% off all bubbles this weekend, both in-store and online. Check out a few of our favorites below:

•  CHEESE. We’ve done the hard work of sifting through millions of potential wine and cheese pairings to come up with the best of the best. Check out our collaborations with the France 44 Cheese Shop in The Pairing for suggestions and nerdy cool product info.

•  CHOCOLATE. Whitman’s Samplers will always have their place in the age-old traditions of Valentine’s Day. But if you don’t want to play chocolate Russian roulette, let the Cheese Shop take away some of the guess work and suggest one of their amazing bean-to-bar chocolate bars. 

beantobar

•  THE ONE-STOP SHOP. If you’re running out of time to create your personal one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day experience, we’ll take care of all the details–from flowers to caviar. Click below to check out the Cheese Shop’s incredible Valentine’s Day pre-order menu, do all your shopping in one fell swoop, pick up your bundle on Monday, and indulge. Even Cupid would be impressed.