POSTED ON NOVEMBER 5, 2008:
The harvest table welcomes malty flavors, rich hues and ripe substantiality
Beyond beer, the Tulsa market has a number of new liquors, malt beverages and wines worth noting this autumn and winter. We sampled three beverages from Merchant du Vin Corp. that we thought were perfect for this crisp harvest season.
Samuel Smith's Organic Cider, produced in the United Kingdom from organically grown apples, is an ideal seasonal beverage. Ciders have always been popular in the UK, and they are gaining attention in the States. Ciders are naturally high in antioxidants and are gluten-free. Samuel Smith's cider has rich clarity and a light body. It has a refreshingly crisp, clean flavor with a dry finish. What a fine bouquet of fresh apples!
Lindemans Pomme Lambic (apple juices and natural flavor) and Kriek Lambic (black cherries) were two Belgium malt beverages that boasted enjoyable fall flavors. Lindeman's Pomme is a lambic made from local barley, unmalted wheat and wild yeast. After spontaneous fermentation, apples are added, creating a secondary fermentation and yielding a beer of exceptional flavor and complexity. This beverage has a light body and is very smooth to the palate with light green apple tartness that only the fall harvest can produce.
Kriek is also a lambic made from local barley, unmalted wheat and wild yeast. Again, after spontaneous fermentation, black cherries are added. Samplers enjoyed the exceptional bouquet of harvested cherries. It is sparkling, smooth, fruity and refreshing.
A new, revived group of tasters gave their initial thoughts and opinions on our array wines and liquors. New wines were sent to us for sampling and our tasters were quite pleased with the selection. We deemed all of them worthy of sampling, sipping and serving.
St. Supery 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley is 100 percent Sauvy. Showing off the exceptional taste of the fruit, there is no oak interference. Take note of ruby grapefruit and fresh lime aromas. Enjoy the zingy finish!
We swirled, sniffed and sipped two wines from Geyser Peak Winery, Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. This winery is in the heart of the famed Alexander Valley. The taste profile for the Sauvignon Blanc is gooseberry and grapefruit flavors, beautifully balanced by clean, crisp acidity. This one would pair well with seafood or as an apéritif. The Cab taste profile is of black cherry and cassis flavors and vanilla nuances with a long, rich finish. The vanilla is noticeable, and the rich, dark ruby color is exquisite.
Another Cabernet Sauvignon sample was a 2005 from Hess Allomi Vineyard. This Napa Valley vineyard, named for the original Spanish land in which it is located, produces grapes that create a wine with bright red fruit and rich tannins. We found this wine exceptional; richly smooth and satisfying, this wine is perfect alone or with mature cheeses and red meat.
Gnarly Head Chardonnay vintage 2006 is a full-bodied Chard offering waves of flavor. Its big and bold flavors are perfect for serious foods such as Tex-Mex, Thai and blackened dishes of fish or chicken.
Another wine worthy of note is Bex Riesling 06. Packaged in a sleek bottle, this wine has just enough sweetness to drink alone or with a meal. It has a refreshing slant to it that is attractive, together with the notes of honey and pear--even a peachy flavor can be detected. Great fully chilled.
Two others sampled were exceptional. Lost Angel Muscat Canelli 2007 is a naturally sweet wine. Cellared and bottled by Sapphire Brands of Paso Robles, Calif., we found this wine very aromatic and fruity with hints of apricot, guava and honeysuckle. It has a light texture and feel and is ideal for an after dinner wine. Enjoy the sweet lasting finish.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs, a Columbia Valley sparkling wine, is a perfect celebratory drink. This dry-to-medium dry wine is made primarily with Chardonnay. This elegant vint has pear and pineapple aromas with flavors of green apple that linger on the palate. The finish offers flavors of toasted coconut.
Several new coffee liquors were supplied to us for sampling from Republic National Distributing Company. We've bean waiting for something different.
We began with the very, very high-quality Patrón XO (extra old) Café, imported from Mexico. This is an ultra premium tequila coffee liqueur. XO Café's blend brings out the flavor of tequila with pure coffee essence to create an unforgettable liqueur. It's an excellent sipper for after dinner.
Starbucks Coffee Liqueur was a decent runner-up. Made with its famously well-roasted coffee beans, the drink is good for sipping or in a cocktail of choice. We thought it would be great for sipping on a cool winter night. Starbucks Cream Liqueur, in a cream colored bottle, was even smoother than the coffee liqueur. The cream blend exudes a sweet, rich coffee flavor; it's smooth and indulgent--over ice or mixed. If you like Bailey's or Carolan's you'll like these in your caffeine cocktail.
From the original coffee-flavored favorite, we welcomed three new Kahlúa liqueurs: Hazelnut, Mocha and French Vanilla. We rated the mocha flavor the highest of the three. Made with a blend of 100 percent Arabica Coffee, natural vanilla and real dark chocolate, the liqueur tasted exceptionally smooth--soooo easy to drink. The hazelnut won second place. It has the color of molasses with a roasted decadent, nutty flavor. The French vanilla would also be a fine after dinner drink, but we found it extremely sweet.
Another fine after dinner drink new to the market is Casoni's Limoncello di Sorrento. Made using the traditional Sorrento recipe, the historic drink is completely natural. It's exquisite chilled and should be sipped in an appropriately attractive glass.
Two new vodkas provided for us by Select distribution were thoroughly enjoyed. Sobieski Vodka, a product of Poland introduced at our annual Absolute Best of Tulsa party this summer, and Uvix Vodka, from Italy, were two brands our sample group enjoyed.
Poland invented and perfected the making of vodkas, which are best made of potato sugars, and the Sobieski was no exception! Our tasters found it very smooth, and the design of the bottle suits the spirit inside -- sleek and distinguished.
The Uvix offered a very different flavored, produced, as it is, of Italian grapes. This vodka would be better as a mixer with orange juice, therefore cutting off the strong edge. We thought it was more like a grappa, as it had a noted sweetness.
Glazer's provided us with a few new items for sampling, one being Zwack Liqueur. A product of Hungary, Zwack will cure what ails 'ya. Made with 40 different kinds of medicinal herbs and spices, it has a bittersweet, yet attention-getting taste. We detected a dominant taste of anise. The liqueur goes through a six-month aging process in oak casks (drinkers beware: this might happen to you after drinking too much of this). Surely it will ward off any seasonal germs.
Still Standing, or Sitting Now
Four rums required our tasting next. We ranked them in this order. First place, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. Made with a select blend of Puerto Rican rums and spices, this well-known rum was quite satisfying. The spices just give it enough variance to be seductive in any cocktail--or just sipping alone over ice. The Black Cask 100 Proof promises to warm anyone after a few sips. Beware mate, it's exceptionally smooth.
Second favorite among the rums was the delightfully light and sweet Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Key Lime, made likewise with Puerto Rican rum. Sailin' with the Captain, lite, matey. It is recommended to be enjoyed on ice.
Tommy Bahama White Sand Rum and Old Mill Gold Rum tied for taste. Tommy Bahama rum aligns itself with all things beach themed. It's tall, sleek bottle shows off its crystal-clear contents. It is smooth sipping rum. Distilled and bottled in Barbados, White Sand is aged in small batches for at least two years in oak barrels. With hints of tropical fruit, it's a smooth entry with a clean finish.
Old Mill Gold Rum was developed in the American Northwest more than 60 years ago. This rum ages in charred American oak barrels between two to four years; the result is smooth, yet bold. Sophisticated rum drinkers will appreciate this fine product.
Two bourbons were offered to the tasting panel, the popular Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and new-to-the-table Four Roses Bourbon.
Our tasters said the Knob Creek (small batch aged 9 years) was ideal for drinking straight up or on the rocks. Don't waste it on mixing; it is smooth, distinctive and enjoyable as is.
A good 'ol Kentucky bourbon, Four Roses was an effortless, mellow product. Rich, fruity flavors and carefully selected grains spend years maturing gracefully inside the barrels. We also recommend this bourbon straight up, on the rocks or as a great mixer.
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