25 Aug 2014

Rum Tasting On Vacation: A Delicious Change Of Pace

We are definitely Rum lovers when it comes to our preferred spirits and so we were very excited to be invited to a Rum Tasting a few weeks ago by Celinda from Mer et Soleil at the Noble (Halifax's Secret Speakeasy below the Middle Spoon).  We had never attended a formal spirits tasting before but we thrilled to check it out.  Upon arrival the owner led us downstairs (without asking for the secret password mind you) and through the kitchen, to an industrial door that opened into an amazing space of intimate lighting and shelves of old books.  Just beautiful.  We had heard of the place but never been, so it was great to finally check it out.

Upon arrival we were introduced to Nicolas Villalon the Brugal Rum Brand Ambassador who offered up one of of three handmade cocktail choices; a Rum & Fever-Tree Tonic, a Rum Manhattan, and a Traditional Rum Daiquiri.

Shannon had the Rum & Tonic and I tried the Manhattan.  Both handmade and both delicious.  In fact, I went back to Nicolas to try the Daiquiri and again awesome.

Craft Cocktails by Nicolas Villalon and Brugal Rum
Craft Cocktails made by Nicolas
We mingled with some other local Food Bloggers and were able to enjoy our cocktails and the space while nibbling on some nibbles from the Middle Spoon kitchen like Pulled Pork Sliders which were delicious.  After our cocktail tasting we were moved to the tables to try the Rums in a more traditional Rum tasting.  Each table was adorned with four tasting glasses for each chair and a sharing plate of meats, cheeses, nuts, and popcorn to try with the Rum.

Nicolas then gave us the rundown on the process that Brugal uses to make their Rum in the Dominican Republic.  He gave us some great details on the process and how it is different from what we might consider more high volume Rum producers.

He then taught us the difference between tasting spirits and tasting wine.  I clumsily stuck my nose in the glass and got blasted by nothing but alcohol.  Rookie...

We were told about holding your nose close to the glass but breathing in through your mouth and nose to allow for the alcohol to dissipate slightly so you can literally taste the smell of the Rum.  It was advice that worked perfectly.  We then proceeded to sample the following:

The Especial Extra Dry  (White Rum that isn't really white.  It's barrel aged and then charcoal filtered three times which removes the colour)

The Anejo (A blend of aged Rums up to 5 years)

The Extra Viejo (XV has additional aging from 8 years and beyond)

The 1888 (This rum is aged in American oak then further aged in Sherry casks - the best one that we could afford at $71) 

We were then treated to the following Special Rum:

Singlo De Oro (Special aged Rum that comes in at $130) - really, really nice but surprisingly we liked the 1888 better. 

Nicolas then told us about an even more special Rum - The Brugal Family Grand Especial Private Stock (The BEST of the BEST from the Brugal Family stocks, only 500 bottles produced TOTAL - NS gets 3 at $1500.00 a bottle)

Such a cool experience in a really awesome atmosphere.  Thanks again Celinda!

Keep on tasting!

Chris & Shannon

30 Jul 2014

Wine Review - 2013 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Exclamation Point: Crisp White For Hot Weather (P)

This wine was another of the wines provided to us recently.  We have tried a couple of Verdicchios in the last couple of months and this one is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.  According to Wikipedia, Castelli di Jesi, located around the commune of Jesi in the Ancona province, is the larger of the two areas for Verdicchio and tends to produce a higher volume of wine.

When you know more about where a wine comes from it gives context to the tasting and we like context.

This wine has a straw colour to it and has relatively slow legs in the glass.  That said, it is a very clear wine and looks like it should be a crisp wine when you hold it up to the light.  Does that hold up on that palate? We shall see.

The nose is strong with apples and quince with a subtle citrus peel undercurrent.  We really like that.  The nose certainly stands out on this wine.  The apple and quince notes are fantastic which give it a New World smell.  If you told us it was Unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio we would buy into that on the nose.

The structure of the wine is somewhat thin and guess what, tart/crisp.  It does not start sweet but has a hint of sugar on the mid-palate with more of that quince flavour.  On top of that, layer in honey with a little flint and you have a pretty solid wine.

   Tasting Notes: Score:
Sight (0-5) Straw coloured and clear and looks like it should be crisp on the palate. 4.0
Smell (0-5) Strong apple and quince nose with citrus notes. Lovely. 4.25
Taste (0-10) Thin and tart/crisp with a slightly sweet mid-palate showing more quince and honey with a flinty finish. 8.0
  Total: 16.25 / 20 (81.25%)

So, yet again at $14 locally this comes to the table with a strong Quality to Price ratio.  That alone makes this a worthwhile purchase.  Hot weather and cold wine makes a magical combination and this wine would hold up to picnic food or a planked salmon from the grill.  Very nice.

Keep on tasting!

Chris & Shannon

25 Jul 2014

Wine Review - 2012 McManis Petit Sirah: The Smell Of Cali In A Glass

2012 McManis Petit Sirah
McManis Vineyards Petit Sirah
We were upsold this wine at our local Liquor Store by a staffer who seems to really know his stuff as being "the best $20 wine in the store". When you use that kind of language with us, it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. We'll just see about that.

Challenge accepted!

Little did he know we have a soft spot for good California wine and we waited a little while before opening this one.  When we did, let's just say our skeptic minds were in full effect.

Long story short....okay, he was right.

The look of this wine like a Malbec when you pour it.  Very deep purple colour with a Welch's look to it and though it is that dark, it doesn't look thick.  The legs are speedy and it has a much more medium bodied look to it.  The colour makes it look interesting and we like that.

Where this comes alive is the awesome nose as it smells like California.  That rural and floral nose transports us to Northern California.  We get big violets on the nose combined with orange blossom honey with little vanilla bean mixed in with some raisins.  Complex and bold...it just rocks.

This wine has round tannins that are mouth-watering and though it's slightly thin on the tongue, it has a nice mouth feel and great structure with a tart finish.  Full marks on the residual sugars which do not overwhelm that palate and allows the fruit to come to the surface.  On that level we get plums and bing cherries which make this a delicious wine.  Awesome tasting experience.  Top drawer stuff.

   Tasting Notes: Score:
Sight (0-5) Very purple wine, very reminiscent of Malbec 4.25
Smell (0-5) Amazing nose that smells of California with violets, honey, vanilla, and raisins 4.75
Taste (0-10) Round with a tart finish and great structure. Plums and bing cherries dominate on this delicious wine 9.0
  Total: 18.0 / 20 (90%)

This is really a great wine at $20 maybe the best in the store.  At $30 it would still be worth it.  Great selection and challenge complete.  Well played...

Keep on tasting!

Chris & Shannon