Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Uprising American Single Malt Whiskey From Sons of Liberty Distilling (RI)

Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., South Kingstown, RI
Uprising American Single Malt Whiskey  40%

I first tasted Sons of Liberty at a massive whiskey tasting show in Manhattan before I ever knew anything about them. I didn’t know where they were from or who they were. And out of more than 100 whiskies that day, their products stood out! Done!

Now, having lived in New England, I loved that they were located in South Kingstown, near Charlestown and Exeter and Narragansett. So that cemented it for me. I have been going to those towns since I was a kid. I’ve been writing about wines, beers, and spirits from the region for more than a decade. So the rest was easy.

Sons of Liberty, of course, we a secret society of citizens in the American Colonies, that organized in an attempt to protect the rights of colonists and to oppose unfair taxation. There’s was the famed motto, “No taxation without representation.” Enter Mike Reppucci who thought it would be a good idea to try to make world class whiskey in New England. He founded Sons of Liberty Distilling.
“A little known fact, even among regular whiskey drinkers, is that all whiskey starts as beer,” says Mike. “For years, craft brewers have been producing outstanding seasonal brews, and we saw the opportunity to advance the trend to American craft whiskey.”

That’s when Mike turned to the famed master distiller Dave Pickerell to begin experimenting with recipes using different beers. They finally settled on a stout, which featured 100% barley malts such as Chocolate Malt, Crystal 45, and Biscuit malts among others.  They double distilled the beer after it was finished. The aged the distillate in a combination of new, charred American oak and toasted French oak barrels, to give it added complexity.

Nose: Cocoa and coffee come through, along with apples and figs, vanilla and caramel.

Palate: Apple, cocoa, vanilla, caramel and honey all come through. A hint of spice comes through at the end. The finish though is surprisingly vanilla and cream and finishes dry and clean. To me finishes lighter and drier than it smells. Maybe because the roasts suggest it, I was expecting a bit more brown sugar? But that it being picky. This is a wonderful whiskey. Well executed. Beautifully done. Like me, when I first tasted it, it will open your eyes! Strike another blow for the Sons of Liberty and for Rhode Island!

Battle Cry is another exceptional single malt whiskey, but that's a review for another time!

For more single malt whiskey, click below!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nashoba Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey - Amazing Single Malt From Massachusetts! (MA)

Nashoba Valley Winery & Distillery
Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey 42%

Located in the heart of Massachusetts’ apple country, Nashoba Valley Winery is a stunning hilltop orchard overlooking the charming town of Bolton. They first started producing fruit wines in 1978, and since then have gone to produce fine food wines, beers, and fine spirits. The family-owned orchard and farm, not only boasts all of those, but a restaurant as well.

I went with friend Richard Srsich (foreground) and Bill Rotondi and MaryBeth Robinson-Morello... 

...and Hudson Valley wine authority and author Stephen Casscles.

Nashoba Vallley Winery has won more than 100 national and international medals, and the has received accolades from such noteworthy publications as “Boston Magazine”, “Wine Enthusiast,” “Cooking Light,” ”Food & Wine,” and “The Yankee Magazine.”

"I remember sitting down with my wife and saying, 'We'll spend $60- or $70,000 and after 10 years we might start getting some of it back,'" owner Richard Pelletier told Eric Felton of the Wall Street Journal. "At least the kids are young," he joked with his wife, "so at the very least, years from now we can have an open bar at their weddings." Felton noted that Mr. Pelletier kept “the oldest barrel in his living room, where he [could] easily steal tastes and keep tabs on its progress.”

Nashoba started distilling in 2003. They laid down their first two casks of whiskey in 2004. They laid down 5 in 2005. And they’ve been laying down 20 barrels a year since 2006. They released their Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey for the first time on November 14, 2009. The first two batches produced 600 bottles. They use barley, and the batch sizes have fluctuated, as is normally the case with small micro-batch distilleries.  

“It’s paranoia (about hard liquor). There are no books about how to make rum, but thousands on how to make beer and wine. Distilleries have to glean information on their own and learn it themselves,” Pelletier told the Telegram (Worcester, MA). “For all intents and purposes, the process of making beer, and the whiskey wash (a byproduct of beer) are the same processes. The temperature is different, and some of the grains are different. The whiskey wash is distilled after that.”
The thing you have to love about Stimulus is that it is absolutely a product of place, like few others in the nation. Their malt whisky is produced, aged, and bottled at their distillery in Bolton, Massachusetts. They make the wash for distilling. They distill it right there behind the tasting room bar. It is aged in new whiskey barrels as well as in their own, previously used wine barrels, for cask finishing. Then, they have several of their whiskey barrels cut up, and the small chucks are used as the stopper in the bottle! That’s intense!

There is a funny story about the origins of the packaging. The whiskey was originally named for the stimulus packages that were given out in the early 2000s, which was partly how the still was funded. As a tongue-in-cheek homage, the distillery first submitted the name to a partisan, conservative governmental board, which rejected it, saying that “Stimulus” sounded more like a drug than a whiskey. Disheartened, Pelletier and his team regrouped and came up with a whole new name and package for approval. But just before presenting it for the second time, he realized that there were new names on the approval board who had never seen or heard about the old package. They submitted the old package again, and this time it came through with flying colors, proving that all politics is local…and timely.

Color: Rich golden 
Nose: Lots of fruit up front. Apple. Pear. Red fruits. Slightly floral. Spices. Toast. Vanilla.
Taste: Medium bodied. Apple, pear, and light red fruits all come through. Hints of honey, apricot, and spice all come through with lovely mouthfeel.
Finish: Smooth, easy finish. Lingers nicely, lightly. Fine.

A wonderful whiskey you need to try!

Also, if you're looking for more Single Malt Whiskey click below:

Howard Bursen is Making the Best St. Croix on the East Coast at Sharpe Hill Vineyard (CT)

Sharpe Hill Vineyard is an award winning winery in Connecticut's Quiet Corner! Sharpe Hill Vineyard wines have been awarded more than 250 medals in International tastings. Founded by  Steven and Catherine Vollweiler, the winery is located in the town of Pomfret - just minutes from scenic Route 169 and from the Putnam Antiques District. The winemaker Howard Bursen, part of the old Finger Lake wine mafia (you should see him play banjo alongside Peter Bell of Fox Run and Dave Whiting of Red Newt!) is the incredibly talented winemaker there. I have written about him often. He makes some incredible wines quietly there in Connecticut.

Buy St. Croix Grapevines

St. Croix is a relatively new wine grape. This hybrid grape cultivar was produced in 1983 by Elmer Swenson, a pioneering grape breeder who introduced a number of new cultivars that are hardy in the Upper Midwest. It was introduced by the University of Minnesota.

St. Croix vines are vigorous and produce medium sized, somewhat loose clusters of grapes. It has moderate to good disease resistance, and is hardy to -28°F or better. St. Croix grapes produce medium to full bodied, dry, deep red wines with low tannins, good fruity aromas, and have currant and other dried fruit flavor aspects. Production often employs oak barrel ageing to add even more complexity to the wine’s bouquet and flavors.St. Croix produces wines that have been compared to a light to medium burgundy. Sugar content and tannins are low at maturity, but St. Croix has been used both as a varietal and for blending.

But I will be blunt, I have tasted few St. Croix wines I like....even a little bit. But that's where Howard Bursen come sin. I met him several times in the last few years at the Eastern Wineries Exposition. And there, he bade me try his versions of St. Croix. And I have been won over by the grape being handed by this incredible vintner.

Now, one thing to do with a red grape that winemakers sometimes do, is they make a rose out of it. But few people I've met have done so with St.Croix, as they have fallen in love with it's deep color, and their desire to make a big, dark California style wine with any new grape they find. Howard took a different tact. In the summer of 2006 Sharpe Hill released their Dry Summer Rose. The Sharpe Hill Dry Summer Rose 2014 was made from St. Coix grapes and a touch of blended white wine. The wine  was a lovely pink/salmon wine, with a big nose of classic strawberry and bright cherry, and a hint of citrus. It was dry and bright and refreshing. An amazing, fun, lovely dry summer rose! This was the best St. Croix I had at the time, and Howard blanched. He had something else to try! 

Howard pulled from his bag of tricks a wonderful, full bodied, estate grown St. Croix which was a 100% estate wine. The color was impressive, and I clenched my teeth ready for an acidic affront to red wine, with cloying flavors. Wrong!!!!! This was a lovely, dark Rhone-ish red, with dark cherry, dark cassis, and hints of raspberry and plum, vanilla and a dash of white pepper. 


I tasted the wine with Michael Kaiser of Wine America and Danny Klein, Regional Vice President, American Wine Society at the blogger's table at the Eastern Wineries Exposition. Both were equally impressed with the rose'.

Shapre Hill has been a quality producer in Connecticut and on the east coast, and Howard continues to improve upon past successes. A winning combination! Get up to Sharpe Hill and try these wines. These wines were easily the best versions of St. Croix I have had on the east coast so far!

Moustache Brewing - Good People, Good Beer! (NY)

So I went with good friend Lenn Thompson from The Cork Report on a quick tour of the North Fork. In between wineries, we decided to hit Moustache Brewing, which I'd read about but mever experienced.

Matt and Lauri Spitz are the co-owners of Moustache Brewing in Riverhead, NY, on the North Fork. It is a 7 BBL microbrewery the supplies Long Island and New York City area with fresh, local and handcrafted beers. Let's just say from the begining I loved this little brewery!!!! I tasted about seven different beers, and I loved all of them. Hard to do, because I rarely like everything in a single tasting. Especially with beer. But I was astonished at the dexterity Moustache has expressing different styles with flair and flavor!!!!!

Moustache Brewing Winter Coat Winter Warmer 6% ABV  was a winter warmer brewed with cinnamon, clove, ginger, and clementine peel. This was absolutely outstanding, and one of my favorite beers of the entire tasting. Enthusiastically took home a four pack of this without question. Amazing! 

You'll Shoot 'Yo Rye Out Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
7% ABV  Moustache Brewing Co.  Riverhead, NY  
Brewed with a S@#$ ton of rye

Moustach Brewing Lawn Cream Ale 4.7% ABV  was one of those beers at Moustache I was referring above. I generally loathe cream ales. But Moustache creme ale had lots of great flavor and balance, and was refreshing. I liked it so much, I actually bought a four pack of this as well! Incredibly drinkable and not cloying, but bright and easy to drink.   

Moustache Brewing IPA Double Dry hopped with comet and amarillo was one I was afraid of. I like IPAs but I am over whelmed by the hoppiness in the current American craft brewing.So I gritted my teeth, an tilted back the tasting cup. I was pleasantly surprised. There was lots of grain and taste, as well as the hops. Incredibly taste-filled and hoppy beer. Excellent balance!!!!

Milk & Honey a brown ale, and Wanderlust ESB were both also excellent!!!!!!

There were only two things I was unhappy about during my visit to Moustache Brewing. First, was that we had to leave. And secondly, that it's o far away from where I live. Fantastic brewery. Absolutely terrific!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

City Scape Pineapple Riesling Surprisingly Delicious (SC)

City Scape Winery is located in Greenville, South Carolina. It is a wonderful little winery, picturesque and pretty, with a custom crush component, and a winemaking supplier to local home vintners. Josh and Deb Jones, purchased Cirty Scape Winery from the previous owners, Wayne and Anita Tamme, in late 2015.

"It all started on a cold, rainy day in the fall of 2009. Stuck inside on the couch with nothing interesting to do, we started to be plagued with a condition that we loathe most in life called “boredom.” We decided to confront the issue head on and started to think of some creative things to do... After doing our research we decided that we were ready to take the plunge! We were delighted to find that there was a local winery and winemaking supply store near our home in Greenville, South Carolina. We pulled up to “City Scape Winery” and were greeted by owners Wayne and Anita Tamme who were sweet, charming and knowledgeable. Hours later, we walked out with the proper wine making supplies and our first wine making kit. Little did we know that this action would change our lives. Six years later our little hobby turned into more of a lifestyle. We have made dozens of wine varietals in many different styles and methods. In 2012 we made ten different types of wine for our wedding (125 bottles)." And they've been doing it ever since.

I first tasted City Scape Pineapple Riesling at the Eastern Wineries Exposition 2016 with Michael Kaiser and Danny Klein at the blogger's station. Josh and Deb proudly brought their bottle by for tasting!


City Scape Pineapple Riesling is a semi-dry Riesling that is fermented with fresh pineapple juice. Michael and Danny and several in attendance looked askance at this, but e all took a sip. Wow! It was a lovely, light Riesling with a touch of pineapple. One would have thought it would be this awful, candy-like experience, like Lifesavers with wine. But no, it was a delicious, light, highly acidic wine with a pretty nose of pineapple and apricot and peach, with a lovely, zesty finish. Actually, it was very, very well balanced, and a huge and pleasant surprise for us all! A great, honest wine that would be excellent with cheeses, salads, or for just sipping! Great job Josh and Deb!!!!!! Fantastic!

p.s. Josh and Deb sorry I am so far behind Apologies!

Link to them here:  https://cityscapewinery.com/

Mt. Zion Orchard Aronia Wine - A Pleasant Surprise From Maryland (MD)

Mt. Zion Orchard is a farm located in Marydel, Maryland.  Owner Gerald L. "Gerry" Godfrey's Aronia wines are crafted on his orchard farm in Caroline Country, Maryland and branded with the family Mt. Zion Orchard label. It's family run. 

They grow Aronia. What the hell is aronia? This, from Wilipedia: 
Aronia is a genus of deciduous shrubs, the chokeberries, in the family Rosaceae native to eastern North America and most commonly found in wet woods and swamps. The genus is usually considered to contain two or three species, one of which is naturalized in Europe. A fourth form that has long been cultivated under the name Aronia is now considered to be an intergeneric hybrid, Sorbaronia mitschurinii.

Chokeberries are cultivated as ornamental plants and as food products. The sour berries can be eaten raw off the bush, but are more frequently processed. They can be found in wine, jam, syrup, juice, soft spreads, tea, salsa, chili starters, extracts, beer, ice cream, gummies and tinctures.[9] The name "chokeberry" comes from the astringency of the fruits, which create a sensation making one's mouth pucker.

Chokeberries are often mistakenly called chokecherries, which is the common name for Prunus virginiana. Further adding to the ambiguity, a variety of Prunus virginiana is named melanocarpa, readily confused with black chokeberry, commonly referred to as "black chokeberry" or "aronia". Aronia berries and chokecherries are both high in polyphenolic compounds, such as anthocyanins, yet the two plants are distantly related within the Rosaceae family.

Mt. Zion makes 4 wines:
Skinny Oak Aronia Wine.  Fermented on the skins and lightly oaked, Mount Zion Orchard Skinny Oak Aronia Wine is a dry red that pairs well with sharp cheese, savory dishes, or dark chocolate.

Party Foul Aronia Wine,  Party foul is Mount Zion Orchard’s sweeter finish for our Black Aronia wines. It would be a shame to spill (a party foul) this off-dry to semi-sweet red wine.

Whole Notes Aronia Wine,  Black Aronia fermented whole to bring out all the flavor notes. We have some cases of this full bodied dry red where no sulfites were added during the winemaking process; however, sulfur does occur naturally in all plants.

Duet Apple Wine and Aronia Wine,  Duet is a Blend, two-thirds apple wine and one-third black aronia. Though red in color; Duet is more akin to a white wine, albeit with more tannins. A little lighter than the all aronia wines.

I met Gerry at the Eastern Wineries Exposition 2016. I was manning the blogging table when he approached. I was with a number of other folks who sat with me there.

Now, I will tell you that I, and a number of other tasters, were extremely skeptical when Gerry approached the table. That said, we drank the wine, cautiously. But there was no need for our concern. The wine was alike a dry cassis. A hint of sweetness, but a very elegant and very drinkable wine!!!!We were all pleasantly surprised (and not a little bit relieved). The wine was very tasty!!!!!!

And indeed, as the back label explains, it would go very well with cheese, especially any kind of cheddar would be excellent. A very, very nice and surprising wine!

p.s. Gerry, I owe you one. This review is waaaaaaay late! Well done, sir!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Roanoak Vineyard - Always Great to Be Here (NY)

Richie and Soraya Pisacano started Roanoke in 2000. Rich planted a Chardonnay vineyard with Steve Mudd in 1983, and also grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Soraya Pisacano is the President is the architect of the business plan. Roanoke's lead winemaker is Roman Roth who has been making wine since 1992 on Long Island's East End. Winemaker Miguel Martin is the driving force behind their white blends. Quite literally, few winemakers in the US can match his aromatics. 

With Jennie Spencer and Lenn Thompson of the CorkReport

I met Jennie Spencer for the first time, She has ten years of experience in the Long Island wine region, and she was fantastic. She was incredibly welcoming and knowledgable, I arrived with Long Island and New York wine scribe Lenn Thompson from the CorkReport.com. He has been writing about Roanoke Vineyards since their beginnings. Roanoke Vineyards was the first two have two tasting rooms on the island dedicate to two different sets of clientele. There's the one open to the general public on Love Lane in Mattituck. And then there's the Wine Club Members ONLY tasting room at the vineyard on Sound Avenue. My friend Lenn is a case club member, so we were welcomed at Sound Avenue by Jennie.   

Roanoke Vineyards Infinite Possibility 2015 is a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Pinot Blanc, and a touch of Chardonnay. It was another fantastic aromatic white from Miguel Martin. Big tropical fruit upfront in this bright, light white with a zesty, clean finish.

Roanoke Vineyards Unfiltered Rosé 2015 is a limited production rosé made from Cabernet Franc. This light, light pink wine is unfiltered and unfined wine that explodes with bright fresh strawberry and light bright cherry, and laced with bright lime zest. An elegant and delicious rose wine.

Roanoke Vineyards Merlot 2011 is a medium red wine, with notes of big dark ripe cherry, blackberry, and dried cherry, with nice mineral/slate notes and some earthiness. Very, very nice red. 

Roanoke Vineyards Marco Trulio 2013 is named after Soraya Pisacano's father, Marco Tulio. This has always been my favorite wine of the Roanoke Vineyard lineup and continues to be today. I loved this wine all over again. This is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. A complex and balanced wine with cherry, raspberry and cassis, hints of mineral, some earthiness, but in credibly layered with hints of mocha and vanilla, and a great finish. It's a great food wine and goes with a wide variety of dishes. I have served this wine numerous times and to the biggest wine snobs, and always gotten an enthusiastic response.I absolutely love this wine! 

Winemaker Roman Roth and grower Rich Pisacano have made the Roanoke Vineyards The Hill 2013 form a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.The uniqueness of this wine is that the grapes are blended before crushing. This is Roanoke's field blend. The idea is that the flavors of these two grapes begin to integrate right from the very beginning. Approximately 65% Cab Sauv and 35% Cab Franc  It  is a big red wine with a powerful nose of black and red currants and stewed red berries, mocha, and a nice mineral layer underscoring some earthiness as well.  This is a wonderful wine. My second favorite from their line up which made it to my personal cellar.I loved it!

With their all-star line-up, Roanoke Vineyards continues to make some of the best white and red wines on the North Fork. Love their line up , their winemakers, and their tasting room staff! Always, always impressed when I leave Roanoke!