Going home: Red cups and ribs

image

image

I recently went home to Virginia to visit the family.  My parents are getting up there in years and other relatives are dropping like flies.  I met up with friends from high school, toured the Capitol with Hill, and we even had time to hit a couple of the local wineries. Pearmund and The Winery at La Grange. The tasting room at La Grange is circa 1790.

The one thing I looked forward to is hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law.  Naja and Biggie (his nickname is fitting), epitomize values we were raised with.  Family, friends, love and humor.  All are present in their home all the time.  Also present in their home all the time Is food.  Biggie loves to cook and I love eating Biggies cooking.  Ribs, chicken, mac and cheese, collard green, potato salad, all the standards we love.  Everyone has their own recipes for sauces and cooking techniques but no one will share.  Biggies is no different.  He made a flank steak that was marinated in one of his concoction, absolutely delicious.  He still hasn’t told me what was in it.  Even if he did, I wouldn’t tell.

This visit, the cocktail was Zaya  Rum and coke.  I like it with diet coke.  If you have not tried it, you will appreciate the vanilla and oak notes and smooth finish.  To me, the diet coke does not over power or cover the characteristics of the rum. 

Artist talk about the love, sweat and pride they put into their creations.  Biggie is no different, except for the sweat.  You can taste the love for his family and his pride in every bite.  I’m getting homesick thinking about it.  Until my next visit, love your family and be good to them.    -Brax

Silverado Trail part 1

I have decided to challenge myself, this summer, to visit all the wineries along the Silverado trail.   I know i know.  It is an ambitious under taking, that will be limited by hours of operation and state DUI laws.  But I am up for the challenge.  I have no plan or order in mind.  My wine glass will be my guide.  I will keep it Short and sweet and try to help you decide if the winery is worth a visit or not.  The first three on this adventure, I believe,  are all worth a visit. Black Stallion and Darioush have beautiful tasting rooms. Darioush is modeled after an ancient Persian palace and all the stones were imported from Iran.  First stop, Black Stallion.

Black Stallion.  I did the all red tasting.  We started with the 2013 los carneros Pinot Noir. $35.

image

Black fruit and spice.  Aromas of black cherry.
2012 Napa Valley Merlot. Dark fruit and oak on the nose.  Silky black cherry on the tongue lite tannins. $40.
2012 Napa Valley  Syrah. Aromas of spice and blackberry.  Medium body wine with flavors of berry fruits and hints of vanillla. Nicely balanced. $40
2011 napa valley Cabernet sauvignon. Bold black fruit on the front incooperated into a medium bodied wine. A little dry for my tastes but still enjoyable.  $75.  Next stop Darioush. Continue reading

Arizona…Not Forgotten

It’s been a while, ok it was August, since Troya and I visited Arizona. I know, that was my first thought too, AZ in Aug, that’s not very smart. But off we when to Sedona for a little well deserved relaxation and time together. I have been to Phoenix several times and I have to admit that my impression of the state was influenced by what you see in and around Phoenix. I had seen pictures of other parts of the state, most notably Sedona, but in my mind AZ had heat, Saguaro’s and, well, heat. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on several levels.

First of all driving up to Sedona from PHX airport is a trip I recommend. You get a real feeling of how not all desert is the same and you can definitely tell when you are in different parts of the state. Then, when you get to the Sedona area and see all the red

rock mountains rising up from the desert floor you know right away why this is considered a special, and for many people a spiritual, place. The resort we stayed at, L’Auberge de Sedona , was an incredible place with individual cabins overlooking a brook with running water and surrounded by tree’s and greenery, yes all this in AZ in IMG_20140807_174748726Aug. Can’t find that in California in August. Each cabin had its own deck and outside shower, Troya’s favorite part.  While it was hot, mid to upper 90’s, it never felt uncomfortable or limited us in doing anything (it’s a dry heat, right). Not only did not I expect our resort to be right on the brook, with an outdoor eating and imagelounge right on the banks, but I also did not expect water (outside of needing more while poolside) to play a major theme for the whole trip, from our afternoon picnic and wine sitting on the shores to a slow water river rafting trip with Verde Adventures. They also offer Wine tasting tours. What, you say, wine and rivers in Arizona?

And this brings us to the second big surprise of the trip. I knew that some people were making wine in Arizona but I have to IMG_20140808_140434903admit that I imagined it as roadside swill with little character. With the smile that comes with humble pie I can say that they are doing some truly amazing stuff with their wines. To appreciate AZ wine you will have to put aside your pre-conceived notion of what Arizona is and what it is not. Yes, Phoenix is Phoenix and I will not try to change that perception, but not one is growing grapes in Phoenix and not all of AZ is the valley of the sun. The state actually IMG_20140808_152429759_HDRhas many different climates and soils, all the ingredients for terrior. And while wine has been made in the state for many years at this time the big production wineries have been slow to take advantage. That means that the wines you do find here are generally smaller production with all the good and bad that comes from that. We spent our “wine tasting” time in the Cottonwood and Jerome area of the Verde Valley Wine Region. We did find some pretty bad wine, but IMG_20140808_153428243_HDRwe also found some really amazing wine with more flavor, layers and character then I would have ever expected. Caduceus Cellars really stood out with some amazing Rosé and one of the best Sangiovese’s  I have tasted. The highlight of the day was spending time at Passion Cellars IMG_20140808_161608651_HDRand getting to meet Cody Burkett, aka The Wine Monk. Passionate and entertaining, he was able to give a very concise overview on the history and business of Arizona wine. It’s a budding industry there but do not be surprised if they start making some noise and giving Cali a run.

Spirits of Mexico

 

It must be Christmas in September.  I am (If you didn’t already know) a huge tequila fan.  So, when a friend told me about an annual tequila event in sunny Del Mar, I got packed and headed to the airport.  The Spirit of Mexico: Mexican Spirit Tasting Festival is an event I will return to every year.  This year it was held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds next to Del Mar Race Track.  It was a great location for a great event.  Over 30 vendors pouring their best Tequila, Mezcal and Rum from Mexico.  Some of the vendors were small distilleries only producing 1000 bottles.  The big boys, like Herradura and Milargo, were also there.   As I walked into this event, I felt like a kid about to open all his gifts under the tree.  My sights were set on tasting ALL the  spirits being poured.   In the end, I ran out of time not enthusiasm.  It was speed dating with 30+ lovely ladies.   Of all the lovely ladies I dated that day, these were my favorites:
U4rik Tequila.  Just launching in the US and international markets.  Smooth…hints of lite vanilla, oak and agave.  100% puro de agave.
Don Fulano. 100% puro de agave.  Reposado.  Full oak, agave nose.  Mouth; agave on the front, smooth finish of French oak and caramel.
El Cachabilla.  1000 bottles in US.  Small production from  Tequila Mexico. 100% agave.  Extra anejo…yeeeeaa!!!  Double distilled.  All the hint of agave, oak, vanilla, caramel and lite smooth tannins.
T1.. Blanco ultra fine.100% de agave. double distilled, triple filtered.  The  Reposado looks and smells like a Blanco but has classic Reposado flavor.  Anejo.. agave and pineapple goodness.
T1. “Tears of Horona”. Double distilled extra Anejo.  The nose was of wood, tobacco. and agave.  Mouth;  Orange blossom, agave and caramel.  Nice…
On a side note, T1 is a creation of Master Distiller German Gonzalez Gorrochotegui.  Master Distiller of Chinaco.  T1 is his new brand.
Mexican moonshine.  Double distilled, triple filter in Kentucky oak whisky barrels.  18 months  in barrels, 100% puro de agave.  Nose of honey, wood and agave. Mouth; agave, tobacco and balanced tannins.
Critalo Tres Marcos..  Extra Anejo. The nose is awesome pineapple sweetness. There is smoke and caramel on the tongue.   Really good. The 3-5-7 blend is a blend of three-year old, five-year old and 7-year-old tequila.  It had a  strong agave nose.
The price point for these ranged from $45 to $80.  Well worth the investment.  The following also deserve mentioning.
Cantina Fortaleza.  Resposado. Nose of agave and pepper. 100 % de agave. Mouth;  Lite pepper, agave and oak.
La Gran Senora..  Jenny Riviera line of Signature tequila .  Reposado, 100 % de agave.  Agave front, full agave and tannins on the finish.  I was not  a fan of the Reposado but I did like the Anejo.  It had a nice vanilla agave nose. Agave on tongue with lite tannins.
Casa amigo.  Reposado, 100% agave. Agave, vanilla on the  nose. Mouth; Full agave and tannins on front and back. The  Anejo was the same with a little more oak on the finish.
Dirty Tequila Liquor.  Pineapple and cinnamon.  Tequila version of fireball whisky.
Tequila Celestial.  100% puro de agave.  The Reposado had heavy tannins and agave. The Anejo was the same but with smoother tannins and oak.
In the end, I had the opportunity to meet some of the best tequila makers in the world and taste the results of their hard work.  I can’t wait to see what is under the tree in December.

When in Vegas……………

IMG_20140725_200042170_HDRI cannot say I a Las Vegas kind of guy. Swank I am ok with, decadency, not so much. I am not a gambler and while the people watching is unparalleled, I do not find much else to look forward to when I come to Vegas. That is until this trip. It started with a conversation with Tony at work. He mentioned he had just come back from Vegas and I said I was just about to leave. When I told him that I was staying at the Cosmopolitan, he started to tell me about a little known pizza place on the second floor. “It’s right next to Holstein’s” he said, “the place with the best burgers in Vegas”.  “Would you walk past Holstein’s to get the pizza?” I asked. “No” he replied.  Well, that’s and easy decision I thought.

So in I walked, expecting a typical well hyped Vegas meal with little to show when all IMG_20140725_185843648was said and done. I sat at the bar and was instantly greeted by Toshi. He started to tell me about the over 100 beers they had available and then asked what I was interested in. I told him I was interested in a stout. He listed off several they had available and then asked me to wait. He returned with a Left Coast Ale Epeteios Imperial Stout and said I would not be disappointed. How could I refuse, and I am glad I didn’t. A very nice, deep flavored stout with coffee and dark chocolate flavors and a clean finish. He then proceeded to recommend several burgers on the menu that would pair well with my choice of beverage. I choose the The Fun-Ghi , a beef Patty with truffle marinated portabella mushrooms, caramelized Onions and gruyere cheese. I am well versed with wine and food pairing, but here was a BEER and food pairing that made me stop, smile, and slowly enjoy every bite. I can honestly say it was the best burger I have had and the pairing made it a meal to remember.

Thank you Toshi for the hospitality, recommendations, and reminding me how good beer and food pairing can be. I will be back!