Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Irresistible: St. Cecilia Society Punch

It's been a while since our last post, a length of time in which we've been kept preoccupied by plans and preparations for the holidays and the close of 2011. December is traditionally a crazy time in the wine and spirits industry. We're encouraged by reports from our colleagues and hope that this holiday season is a very successful one for Rhode Island businesses.

The plan is to upload a holiday themed Fa la la la la post toward the end of this week or early next. Today, though, I wanted to share a delicious punch recipe that may come in handy should our readers be hosting a festive gathering over the next few days, weeks, months, ect.. The recipe is for a St. Cecilia Society Punch  (although attendees of the Wine Wizards holiday party on December 4th will remember it as something quite different) and it came to me from Darby O'Shea and, through her, Fine Cooking.

According to Wikipedia, the St. Cecilia Society was founded in Charlestown, South Carolina in 1766. Established as an organization for patrons of music, the society flourishes today as one of the oldest and most exclusive social institutions in the South. Apparently it is best known for hosting elegant dances, and what's a ball without a generous bowl of punch?

So, without further ado, here is our highly recommended punch recipe for your next festive gathering, which can be easily doubled.

St. Cecilia's Society Punch

2 medium lemons, thinly sliced
3/4 cup brandy
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tea bags green tea
3/4 cup dark rum
1/2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, sliced 1/2 inch thick, and cut into small wedges
1 750-ml bottle dry sparkling wine, such as Le Berceau Blanquette de Limoux from the Wizards' portfolio, chilled
6 cups sparkling water, chilled

Put the lemon slices in a large bowl and pour the brandy over them. Let macerate at room temperature overnight.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the tea bags and let the syrup cool.
At least 3 hours and up to 6 hours before serving, combine the lemons, brandy, syrup, rum, and pineapple in a large pitcher or bowl. Chill in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, pour the punch into a large chilled punch bowl with a block of ice. Add the sparkling wine and sparkling water, and gently stir.

... and then toast your nearest and dearest and enjoy your holiday celebration!

William Holbrook Beard (American, 1824-1900), “Santa Claus,” ca. 1862
oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 in., Jesse Metcalf Fund,

Monday, November 21, 2011

What We're Drinking: Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy KHZ

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway,
Thanksgiving comes again!

unknown author

Photos courtesy BCZ

In addition to the baking, roasting, mashing, and zesting that occurs here on Thanksgiving Day is the ever important pouring. Although we are likely to offer more than these selections on Thursday, we wanted to share a peek of our libations menu with you before being swept up in all of our last-minute preparations both in the office and the kitchen.

Our first selection is Cuilleron Viognier from France's northern Rhone Valley. Established in 1920 by current owner and winemaker Yves Cuilleron's grandfather, the estate consists of a cellar in Verlieu and vineyard holdings in Condrieu, Saint Joseph, Côte-Rôtie, Saint-Péray, and Cornas. Yves' vinification principle? "Faire le plus simple possible." Keeping things as simple as possible includes incorporating local traditions at Caves Cuilleron, thus all of the grapes are hand-picked and sorted and natural yeasts are allowed to instigate fermentation. In the case of the Viognier, the grapes are pressed, allowed to settle with the must for 24 hours, and then moved into temperature controlled stainless steel vats, where alcoholic and malolactic fermentations take place. The wine is then aged sur lie for six months in French oak barriques and stainless steel.

The 2010 vintage is described as having a varietally appropriate nose of apricots and peaches with a well-balanced fresh and fruity palate and finish. Served chilled, Cuilleron Viognier will be lovely with our Thanksgiving meal.

Our second selection is a Copain Pinot Noir from California's Sonoma Valley. New to the Wizards' portfolio, Copain Wines are made by Wells Guthrie to be firmly rooted in California but with sensibilities from the European wine traditions he so admires. Robert Parker has remarked in The Wine Advocate, "One of my favorite California wine producers, Wells Guthrie, like a champion truffle-hunting dog, seems to unearth top vineyards for his wines." Josh Reynolds of International Wine Cellar  has said, "These were among the most vibrant and precise wines I tasted during my Sonoma tour."

Copain offers a range of varietals at three different levels: Tous Ensemble Blends, Les Voisins Blends, and Single Vineyard Wines. Our Thanksgiving selection will be Les Voisins Pinot Blend with a medium-light body, crisp acidity, and red fruit notes on the palate with low tannin.

And for our third selection... cider! If The New York Times' Eric Asimov says he's going to have Farnum Hill Extra Dry at the ready on Thursday, you know it's a great choice. You can read about Asimov's other alternatives to wine for Thanksgiving here. Please visit our October 6th blog entry to learn more about Farnum Hill and our excursion there in August.

Photo courtesy KHZ
We hope that these suggestions have been interesting and helpful.

Photo courtesy KHZ
We wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Irresistible: Nocino della Cristina

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is just over a week away. Hints have been dropped by the turning of our calendar pages to "November" and a few fleeting moments of seasonably appropriate weather, but you're certainly not the only one feeling caught a bit off guard. So if we may, let us suggest something delicious to add to your holiday menu and sip along the way. Nocino della Cristina is sure to make your planning process highly enjoyable!

Nocino della Cristina is a walnut liqueur from Napa Valley's Oak Knoll district. 100% natural with no artificial colors or ingredients, this Nocino has been described by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as "stately, concentrated, luxurious," delicious enough to earn a Superb/Highly Recommended rank with 90-95 points.

Monteverdi Spirits makes this artisanal liqueur with distilled Napa Valley grapes and walnuts then infused with carefully selected ingredients sourced from producers in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Enjoy on its own or as an accompaniment to dessert, especially those with a fruit and/or cream component. Our colleague poured Nocino della Cristina over simple vanilla ice cream and I found myself in heaven. Mmmm!

Nocino also adds silkiness and complexitiy to cocktails and coffee drinks. Here are a couple of cocktail recipes developed on the West Coast for your walnut liqueur pleasure...

NEGRONI UMBRIA from Angele in Napa
1 oz Nocina della Cristina
1 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 oz Campari
Stirred with ice. Serve up or on the rocks with an orange twist.

CRISTINA by Gary Regan at the San Francisco Chronicle
2 oz Nocino della Cristina
1/2 oz Belvedere Cytrus Vodka
Stir on ice and serve up.

209 HARVEST by Press in St. Helena
1 oz Edge Hill Port
1 oz Nocino della Cristina
1 oz No. 209 Gin
Muddle with orange wedge and shake over ice.
Serve in a martini glass with orange wheel garnish.

Please ask your sales rep for additional recipes.

Our suggestion for you: Nocino della Cristina
Feeling better about the next week? We certainly hope so!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the News: Errázuriz

Will Lyons of The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted Chile's Errázuriz wines in an article entitled "Cultivating Pinot Noir." The feature began with a quick discussion of pinot noir, including the requisite reference to the film Sideways (who here's ready for a new movie about wine?). Lyons then quickly shifted into a profile of Viña Errázuriz's winemaker Francisco Baettig and the additional varietals cultivated by the estate in the Valle de Aconcagua. 

Viña Errázuriz was founded in 1870 by Don Maximiano Errázuriz with the finest clones from France and a great deal of vision and perseverance. One hundred thirty years later, his descendant Eduardo Chadwick has steered the winery into the twenty-first century while upholding long-standing estate traditions. "From the best land, the best wine," a philosophy scribed by Don Maximiano, rings true with Errázuriz's vineyard and winemaking practices today.

Hola, Don Maximiano!
Hola, Francisco!
 Will Lyons was especially impressed with Errázuriz's 2009 Single Vineyard Carménere and profiled it in the "Drinking Now" section of his column. In his words, the wine "really shone, with a deep, luscious character, bags of fruit and the sort of complexity one wants from a wine at this price." Deep ruby with a lusciousness in the nose, Errázuriz's Carménere stands up well to the stews and red meats that we all gravitate toward as the temperatures drop in the Northeast. As Lyons remarks, it is "a suberb wine for those cold nights ahead."
Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Single Vineyard Carménere
Wild Ferment Chardonnay

Stephen Tanzer has also favorably reviewed the 2009 Single Vineyard Carménere. In his tasting notes he remarked, "packs a solid punch but this wine is quite elegant and seamless." He bestowed a 90 point score upon the wine as well as 90 point scores for the 2010 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and 2009 Wild Ferment Chardonnay.
Incorporating the twenty-first century into the 130 year history of Errázuriz

Please visit The Wall Street Journal online to read Will Lyon's full article and contact your Wine Wizards rep or favorite wine shop for more information about these delicious, appealingly priced wines.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Land to Hand, Vineyard to Bottle: The Wines of Charles Smith

We are absolutely thrilled to have recently added the wines of Washington-based Charles Smith to our portfolio. Food & Wine's 2009 Winemaker of the Year, Charles epitomizes the opposite of what we have come to expect in the industry. With a deceivingly cavalier attitude and colorful past--one of his former pursuits includes managing rock bands in Scandinavia--he has become a force on the international market. The cult following that has developed around Charles makes perfect sense when you consider his portfolio of wines. 90+ scores are consistently bestowed upon them by the likes of The Wine Spectator, Wine EnthusiastWine & Spirits, Food & Wine, Stephen Tanzer, and Robert Parker. Oh, and did I mention he's self-taught?

I, for one, love his logo.
In the words of Gastrotommy, September 2011:

"What I also discovered along the way was that Charles was not simply a guy with crazy hair that likes to get down like he’s going to prison tomorrow (really). He is really smart. He has a tremendous amount of respect for the great old world wines from Europe. He understands and executes marketing strategy as well as anyone in the world. Furthermore, he never compromises his values to gain favor. Ever.... So, you are looking for something that totally rocks that you can find anywhere? Check out Charles Smith’s wines."

From Charles Smith Wines:

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010 - A Wine Spectator Best Value at 90 Points
100% Riesling, Evergreen, Columbia Valley
Described as "vivid, distinctive, and immensely appealing for its juicy Winesap apple, apricot, and citrus flavors, finishing with zing to balance the sweetness" in Wine Spectator's Advance 11/30/11 Issue.

Boom Boom Syrah 2010 - Just Released!

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2009
90.6% Merlot, 9.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
Described by Charles Smith as "pure velvet: milk chocolate, wild blackberry, baking spice, rose oil... beautifully perfumed Washington in a glass."

Eve Chardonnay 2009
100% Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
Described by Charles Smith as having "aromas of rose petals, lavendar, and wet stone.... Stonefruit, honeyed ripe apple, sophisticated and pure with nice acidity and a hint of mineral on the soft finish."

Chateaux Smith Cabernet Sauvigon 2008
82% Cabernet Sauvigon, 12% Petite Verdot, 6% Syrah, Columbia Valley
Desribed by Charles Smith  as "super smooth [with] cedar, Rainier cherry, dark rose. A Washington Cabernet with a real sense of place."

Wine Wizards also represents the K VINTNERS portfolio and SECCO, a collaboration with Charles' wife and her sister of sparkling white and rose blends from the Prosecco region of Veneto, Italy. More on those in a future post.

Charles Smith's wines are easily identified and are making their way through the Rhode Island market. We hope that you will get behind the brand, join the movement, embrace the black and white... in our opinion, the wines are worth it.

Images and background check courtesy Charles Smith Wines.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Out in the Field: Farnum Hill Ciders


Farnum Hill Ciders at Poverty Lane Orchards

Our team hit the road to New Hampshire one late-summer Friday. Our destination was Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, home to Farnum Hill Ciders. The setting there is classic New England: large white farmhouse, a series of clapboard barns, and fruit laden trees in mowed orchards. The picturesque setting was the perfect backdrop for meeting the team behind Farnum Hill, tasting their critically acclaimed products, and absorbing the history and techniques of cider making.

In the orchard

Farnum Hill Cider fulfills the true meaning of the word "cider:" an alcoholic beverage fermented from apples, exactly as "wine" is fermented from grapes.  So don't expect these ciders to taste like apples, just as you don't pour a glass of wine with the expectation that it will taste like grapes. With 6.5-7.5% alcohol, Farnum Hill Ciders tend toward the dry, sharp, fruity, and bountifully aromatic. These are not the sweet, artificially-flavored, mass-produced ciders of supermarket infamy. They represent a return to the craft and horticulture of distinctive American orchard-based cidermaking.

Proprietor Steve Wood has been at Poverty Lane Orchards since 1968. He has passionately studied the history and techniques of cider making while experimenting with his orchards and processing line. His dream is to see cider consumed with the thoughtfulness and enthusiasm dedicated to wine and craft beers. As he and other members of the Farnum Hill team mentioned throughout our visit, they strive to overcome the preconceived notions of cider as a sweet and appely autumn beverage and work hard to present Farnum Hill cider as a seasonless beverage with complexity, acidity, and palette appeal.

An apple not for eating, but for pressing, fermenting, and drinking

The influences of terroir are embraced by the Farnum team. They strive to make ciders that take on the character of the 80 acres of Poverty Lane orchards. In the words of Farnum Hill: A four-month growing season, heavy glacial soils, extreme temperature swings in Fall between day and night all, along with October frosts, contribute to intensification of flavors here. In general we find most concentrated, nuanced flavors come from the later-picked varieties, harvested late October. We believe that frost injury to the spur leaves of the fruit causes a sudden rush of photosynthates into the apple flesh, just before harvest. Meanwhile, a few earlier-ripening varieties seem to enjoy our compressed growing season, and produce juice with consistently admirable character.

Apple varietals with the occassional Odd Ball

Apple varietals such as Kingston Blacks, Foxwhelp, Medaille d'Or, and other heirlooms are carefully cultivated. In fact, during our tour through the orchards, Steve whipped out his clippers and began pruning the tree that we were discussing.

Our tasting that afternoon took us through many of these varietal ciders. While feasting on hearty cheese sandwiches in the barn, we tasted from glass beakers to breakdown the ciders' various elements before taking the opportunity to blend the different beakers into our glasses. We also tasted from barrel and bottle. As Farnum Hill explains, Very few cider apples will make a satisfying finished cider on their own. Diversified orchards and expert blending are critical to doing cider right.

Howard Mahady, Farnum Hill's Steve Wood, Nick Zeiser,
Bob Goulet & Don Murphy

We enjoyed a very full afternoon at Farnum Hill. Please visit their website for more information or talk to one of us. We hope that you will pick up a bottle or two of Farnum Hill Cider on your next trip to your favored wine/beer/spirits shop!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joe Dressner: 1951-2011

It is with heavy hearts that we reflect upon the death of Joe Dressner, a close colleague and friend of Wine Wizards. Joe was a highly regarded wine importer with a focus on wines from the "Old World," including France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The wines imported by Louis/Dressner Selections are generally made by small producers who do not incorporate chemicals or additives to their practices in the vineyard, winery, or cellar. Producers represented in our portfolio include Château d'Oupia, Domaine de la Pépière, and Quinta do Infantado.

Please visit the following sites to learn more about Louis/Dressner Selections and the legacy that Joe has left behind:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

At the Start

We are thrilled to launch this blog at the start of the autumn season and on the eve of our fall portfolio tasting. Our hope is that Musings of Wine Wizards will serve as a source of information and support for our clients and, in turn, their customers and the culture of wine within the state of Rhode Island. Tasting notes, thoughts on the industry, documentation of our time in the field, and links to articles will appear in the near future. We hope that you will engage with us and enjoy.

Cheers to the start of the season!

Members of the Trade: We look forward to seeing you at our warehouse tasting on
Monday, September 26th from 2-6pm.
Please contact your account manager or the Wine Wizards office (401.624.3710) with any questions and for directions.