POSTED ON MAY 19, 2010:
Long, Cool Summer
Wines and liquors are a great compromise for non-beer drinkers
Although summertime definitely brings with it brews to have poolside or at the barbecue pit, not everyone loves to partake in that drinking tradition. Many others enjoy a nice wine in the summer evening or a liquor for a picnic.
While some master tasters of brews sat down to go over the newest line of beer for the summertime, we brought together a group to sip over spirits and another group -- composed of members of the Tulsa Wine Tasting club -- to swirl and taste new wines. From their comments, we recorded the stand outs and stand asides from each tasting.
For the spirits, there were three clear favorites as well as some other less than favorable liquors present.
The overwhelming top choice was the Patron XO Café. This tequila drink is a premium coffee liqueur that, according to its website, "is excellent for sipping as well as a premium ingredient in a cocktail or as a unique and delicious dessert topping." The panelists shared similar sentiments.
The dark brown liqueur exhibited an espresso or regular coffee aroma. In its taste test, many of the panelists felt a bit deceived as it was truly sweet and delivered a nice coffee flavor as well. According to Patron's website, the high proof content (70) is what gives it a flavor essence of coffee as well as premium tequila.
One of the panelists said that they would enjoy it for a good morning pick-me-up, even though it might actually slow you down. Another said that it would be a good drink to carry in a flask (if you're wanting to keep a secret) as well.
The next top stand-out made our group bow to its excellence. Crown Royal's newest family member -- Crown Royal Black -- knocked over the crowd with its whiskey charms.
The Crown Royal Black gave off an intoxicating, sweet smell, and its spicy flavors leave a little tingle in your mouth and lips. In its recent release, Crown Royal said, "It's a darker, deeper-bodied, more robust whisky blended at 90 proof and aged in charred black oak barrels."
Even with a more concentrated flavor, panelists thought the drink was smooth, sweet and earthy. However, it definitely is not a drink that you would want to start off an amateur drinker with.
Not everything stood up to its popular acclaim with the panel, though. St. Germains is a French liqueur that is made naturally from elderflowers, but the panel felt that those flowers were bittersweet.
Many of the panelists said that it tasted sweet but with a bit of an "old fruit" flavor, too. However, there's another French liqueur that didn't make it past a one-star rating with any taster.
Domaine de Canton was the unanimous least favorite of the night. The ginger liqueur started off on a bad foot as all of the panelists said the aroma gave a smell of cleaner, more specifically "409 disinfectant." The taste that followed yielded pretty much the same result, as two of the panelists couldn't even finish the sip. Therefore, the warning has been issued: Drink at your own discretion.
From that low point on the totem pole, we can only move up.
A treat that several kids and adults enjoy during the summer is the succulent, juicy taste of a watermelon. That's what makes the Marie Brizard Watermelon Liqueur a perfect summer liqueur -- sorry, kids, not for you, though. Whether for a hot, summer day or a picnic or family reunion, the watermelon liqueur would be the perfect cap to the season.
Moreso known for its quality wines, the Bordeaux-based company of Marie Brizard is also known world-wide for its liqueurs and drinks made from spices, fruits and other plants.
Although a couple of panelists found this to be more of a "girly" drink, it still received high marks for its melon taste as well as its smooth finish.
A spirits list wouldn't be a spirits list without the taste of vodka.
Usually a pretty bottle could mean the drink inside is very good or not-so-good. Fortunately, Ultimat vodka turned out to be pretty and tasty.
A native of Poland, this vodka is distilled with potato and grains. While all of the panelists noted, "It burns," most admitted it's a vodka in its truest form.
On the other end of the vodka spectrum, Absolut Berry Acai, Ty Ku and Tito's Vodka did not come close to the "Ultimat" experience. The Berry Acai presented a very enticing aroma, but upon taste, it not only burned the nostrils and the mouth of panelists, many said "it lingered for awhile."
Ty Ku fell into the category of a pretty bottle with a horrible taste as everyone agreed, "it tasted of pen ink." Tito's, on the other hand, seemed to be just a cheap vodka that doesn't need to be handmade. That brings us to our final spirit.
This liquor is notorious across the country even being banned in several countries for its high alcohol content that ranges normally between 50 to 75 percent.
Absinthe Verte contains 38 percent alcohol, and it split the panel in two.
Its green appearance looks like it could "hulk" a person out, and the taste of it very well could. Two of the panelists felt that it was tasty. One panelist offered, "If you like Jagermeister, then this is for you."
On the other side, other tasters thought that "you should try at your own risk," as its black licorice flavor turns into a burning sensation very quickly.
Moving out of the spirit territory and into wine country, the Tulsa Wine Club tasters followed a similar pattern; they had determined winners as well as their not-so-favorites. Many of them were neck-and-neck near the top, so let's work our way down the wine trail.
The very first wine out of the gate was talked about the entire evening, and it had an extremely fun name. Monsters, Monsters Attack! by Some Young Punks offered a taste that all four wine enthusiasts raved about. The 2009 Riesling exuded a fruity, fresh and crisp taste and aroma that finished easily. One panelist said, "It's a great summer wine," and said it could be easily paired with light and salty snacks such as cheese and crackers.
As a part of the T'N'T series of the Punks group, the group writes on its website that, "A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem, bottled up for far too long, breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city ... We didn't make enough to write tasting notes."
Another top contender flew from Italy to make it to the panelists taste buds -- not literally, but the wine is from Italy, more specifically the LVNAE Cellars winery. LVNAE Colli de Luna Vermentino doesn't have a great deal of information, rather a great deal of information in good English, but the tasters were head over heels for this one.
The high acidity and floral flavor comprised a great finish for the wine, and many rated that this one could best be enjoyed with a plate of seafood in front you, too.
Not everything in white wine is as sweet as these, though. Local vintner Chris Girouard began a Tulsa Deco wine series that pays homage to the Tulsa deco architecture around town.
His newest release, which makes its debut in June, is the Atlas Life Chardonnay, and it didn't make that big of a splash on the tasters.
Not only did it leave a burning aftertaste for many of the panelists, but it also "tasted like cough syrup" to a few.
This wasn't the worst of the collection, though, which took the honor on the red side of the tasting.
From there, the panel left white wine country to explore the redder side of things and liked some of what they sipped.
The 2007 Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir won over everyone with its fun feel.
After a long day at work and once the summer sun begins to set, this wine would make a good comfort wine -- rather a good everyday wine, as our surveyors said.
The California native wine has been in production for more than 10 years, and it boasts a wine that provides an easy-drinking experience as well as a good value, which many of the panelists picked up on by its taste. Plus, if you're an amateur wine drinker, this would be a great ice breaker, said another panelist.
The dusty rose appearance as well as the excellent body and fruity, earthy overtones of the taste won over the panel and probably will win over several others.
Not everyone was such a winner in the eyes of the panel. One wine hit rock bottom of the pile for its overtly sweet taste, which actually coincides perfectly with its name.
Sweet Vines Cabernet Sauvignon left many of our panelists stumped on its origin as well as the type of wine. Almost all agreed that it was an Oklahoma wine, and all made various guesses as to its type.
It actually hails from California and sticks to its saying of "Sweeter Wines from Sweeter Vines." All of the panelists found this wine to be "incredibly sweet" as well as "very heavy." It was unanimous that this was the least favorite of the evening.
Moving up the list toward the middle of the list is the Williamette Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir. The tasters didn't have a lot to say for this one. It wasn't a favorite nor the least liked, but it did carry an earthy overtone that many complimented. Unfortunately, it was a bit sour and had an acidic finish. According to the vineyard's website, it would complement medium cheeses, wild salmon and roasted duck.
The final wine, and the last red wine, that won our panelists over unanimously and made them fall in love was the Girouard Vines Tulsa Deco Fire Alarm Red.
Bouncing back from its earlier rating, the Petite Sirah is inspired by the art deco design of the Tulsa Fire Alarm Building and is a blending of California grapes as well as flavors of blackberries, black cherries, licorice, cedar and black pepper.
Panelists said that the wine was a beautiful deep purple and was one of the heaviest wines of the evening. They also said that it would pair well with pasta, pizza or even a summer barbecue dish.
Whether you prefer a brew over wine or a wine over liquor -- remember your drinking rules -- the summertime brings a little something for everyone to try.
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