Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ultimate Spirits Challenge winners announced

Final results were released Wednesday for the 7th annual Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC), held at the Ultimate Beverage Challenge Evaluation Center in Hawthorn, Westchester County.

Noted writer F. Paul Pacult, the judging chairman, said, "One of the many advantages of having our own year-round facility is that instead of having to judge hundreds of spirits entries over a couple of days like other spirits competitions, we can take the time to break each category down into small flights. This means that USC judging panels focus on each flight with greater in-depth attention, resulting in more accurate assessments. We don't take shortcuts which is perhaps why USC experienced a 20% increase in entries this year."

Full results in all categories are available online. The Chairman's Trophy is the top award in each category. Here are those winners:

Alessio Vino Chinato

Yushan Cellaring 6 Years Old Kaoliang

• American: Bartlett Spirits of Maine Pear Eau-de-Vie
• Armagnac: Dartigalongue Grande Eau-de-Vie 25 Years Old Bas Armagnac
• Calvados: Roger Groult XO Pays d'Auge
• Cognac: Pierre Ferrand Reserve Double Cask
• French Brandy: Monteru Double Wood Triple Toast Finish
• Grappa: Poli Sarpa di Poli
• Pisco: Porton Acholado
• Spanish Brandy: Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez

Novo Fogo Tanager

• London Dry: Tanqueray
• World: Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin

Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire

Rey Campero Tepextate Joven

• Rum: Appleton Estate 21 Years Old
• Rhum Agricole: Clément VSOP
• Spiced Rum: Don Q Oak Barrel

• Blanco: Tequila Cabeza
• Reposado: Partida
• Añejo: Blue Nectar Founder's Blend
• Extra Añejo: El Tesoro Paradiso

Whisky - Canada
Lot 40 Canadian Rye WHISKEY

Whiskey - Ireland
• Blended: Jameson 18 Years Old
• Single Pot Still: Yellow Spot 12 Years Old
• Single Malt: The Irishman Small Batch

Whisky - Japan
Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt

Whisky - Scotland
• Blended: Buchanan's Master
• Blended Malt: Usquaebach An Ard Ri Cask Strength 2016
• Single Malt-Highland: Glengoyne 15 Years Old
• Single Malt-Island: Highland Park Valkyrie
• Single Malt-Islay: Laphroaig 10 Years Old
• Single Malt-Speyside: BenRiach 20 Years Old

Whiskey - United States
• American: Wild Turkey Forgiven
• Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch
• Rye: Hudson Manhattan Rye
• Single Malt: McCarthy's Oregon 3 Years Old

Whiskey - World
Paul John Peated Select Cask Indian Single Malt

Whiskey - World - Flavored
Catskill Provisions New York Honey

iichiko BLŪ

Alessio Vermouth Chinato

Flavored: Van Gogh Dutch Caramel
• Unflavored: Purity

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Update: 'Sneak preview' for former Bradley's Tavern in Troy

A well-lit venue
UPDATE (3/30/17): Entrepreneurs Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine will host what they term a "sneak preview" of The Bradley, their latest downtown Troy project, at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The former Bradley's Tavern is located at 28 4th Street.

(Originally published 1/18/17)

No huge public announcement, but new owner Vic Christopher this evening posted this interior photo of the former Bradley's Tavern in downtown Troy, and referred to the venue as "The Bradley."

The spruced-up former dive bar that he and wife-business partner Heather LaVine purchased late last year has been open for only one day since then -- during the city's annual "Victorian Stroll" festival.

Christopher said after that several names were under consideration, including keeping Bradley's Tavern, perhaps resurrecting its original name -- Dempsey's Bar & Grill, or something entirely different.

No opening date has yet been announced for The Bradley, located at 28 Fourth Street.

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Researchers seek genetic clues to help grapes survive cold

Al Kovaleski visiting the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan. (Chris Kitchen/University Photography)
From the Cornell Chronicle
Months before northern vineyards burst into their lush summer peak, the delicate grape buds holding the nascent fruit in its tiny core must first withstand the freezing onslaught of winter.

Understanding how grape buds respond to subzero temperatures is of paramount concern to vineyard managers in New York and other northerly grape-producing states. Some of the more popular varieties used in the wine and juice industries can survive temperatures far below the freezing point of water. By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

Horticulturists have long relied on traditional methods to study freezing in plants. Now a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is using powerful technologies on campus to explore in new ways the cellular mechanics that allow grape buds to survive brutal cold. The research has implications for vineyard economics, especially as climate change opens more northerly land for cultivation and current growing regions experience more extreme weather.
Go here for the full story.
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Wine legislation roundup: 50 states, 50 sets of rules

From Wine Spectator
With all the recent drama in Washington, DC it can be easy to forget that hundreds of lawmakers in state capitols are busy drafting and debating bills that could impact their constituents -- that's you.

The 2017 legislative season is currently under way in most states. And ,because the 21st Amendment to the Constitution delegates much of the power to regulate alcohol to the states, there are plenty of proposals that could change the way you buy and consume wine and other alcoholic beverages.

From the endless direct shipping wars to changes in blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving to excise tax increases and exemptions to diapers and wine ice cream, here's a guide to the proposed laws now under debate.

Go here for the state-by-state update.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A popular pre-Prohibition KC spirit makes its return

After what could be termed a lengthy hiatus, a once-popular Kansas City whiskey that had been sold nationally is back.

A little thing called Prohibition halted production of Monogram Whiskey, but local distiller J. Rieger & Co., whose founder's ancestors made the spirit, has resurrected it and this week is releasing the first 1,000 bottles of Monogram Whiskey 2017 Oloroso Bota.

How many more bottles will be produced is unknown. The determining factor in making this particular whiskey expression is the use of old sherry botas (barrels) and how long what they have on hand will continue imparting the desired color and flavor to the corn-and-rye whiskey.

The Kansas City Star has a good take on the whole project. and you can access it here.
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'NY State of Rosé' an international tasting event

Fans of rosé wines, and there seem to be more of them all the time judging by various competitions and news items, will have an opportunity to compare those from New York State with those from several other countries during the "NY State of Rosé" tasting event in Manhattan on Thursday, April 27.

The tasting, organized by New York Wine Events, will be held at the Union Square Ballroom from 7 to 10 p.m., with a premium 6 p.m. access reservation available. They promise a line of rosés from New York, France, Italy, Brazil and Slovenia, with several others to be announcd on the website closer to the date of the event.

Winemakers, wineries, and various importers and distributors will be on hand to pour samples and to discuss the wines with attendees.

For those unfamiliar with rosés (pronounced row/zays), that type of wine is created as the skins of red grapes touch the wine for just a brief time. While some red wines ferment for several weeks on their red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red in just hours. The winemaker has total control over the wine's color, removing the red grape skins when the wine reaches the desired shade.

New York's Bridge Lane Wine, Brotherhood Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, The Lenz Winery, Palmer Vineyards, Sannino Vineyard, and Wolffer Estate Vineyard with its rosé cider will participate; 13th & Third Wines will pour its California selection with New York roots; Maiden + Liberty will present a French-American rosé; Uncork Brazil will feature the country's Miolo Wine Group and Cave Geisse Winery, plus a bonus rosé from South Africa's DeBos Handpicked Vineyards; Laureate Imports will pour a Slovenian selection and XV Exclusives will sample rosés from France and Italy.

"Rosés have re-emerged as a summer selection of choice by millennial drinkers as well as other age groups who have already enjoyed the wine's flavorful, refreshing taste throughout the years," said Sam Kimball, founder of New York Wine Events. "We've designed this boutique tasting around a sampling of top global selections as well as some amazing domestic rosés that guests can sample and chat about directly with the winemakers, for a truly personal experience."

 Light catered fare will include bread, cheese and cracker selections to accompany the wines. Additionally, New York artisanal food companies Beecher's Handmade Cheese, Ends Meat, and Drunken Fruit will be sampling their specialties and also have full-size items on hand for guests to purchase.

Tickets, available online, start at $49 with early admission priced at $89. The Union Square Ballroom is located at 27 Union Square West (between 15th and 16th streets), just off Union Square Park.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Amorici Vineyard's Messina creates an 'off-premises' label

The newcomer
Amorici Vineyard sits near the border between Washington and Rensselaer counties, but its newest wine says "North Fork of Long Island" on the label. Wassup?

Owner-winemaker-chef Joe Messina is having his new line, called Bacchus Trust Select, made by other wineries to his specifications. The first wine in the series is a 2014 gewürztraminer made from Long Island grapes.

The wine is available, like the dozen or so he produces under the Amorici name, for $25 a bottle at the vineyard, located at 637 Colonel Burch Road, Valley Falls. And, it also is available at shops that normally carry Amorici wines.
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Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

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Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch experiment comes ashore

Depending on where you have been traveling in the past year, you may have come across the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch release of Red Rye Finish. Now, the line officially has hit the U.S. market with the introduction here of the brand's Triple Grain American Oak.

The Blenders' Batch portfolio was created to market a few of the hundreds of experiments the distiller tries out. The Triple Grain American Oak, for example, comes from focusing on the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavors on Scotch.

Says the distiller of the newcomer: "Aged for at least 10 years in American oak, including bourbon casks, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Triple Grain American Oak is crafted using five whiskies including grain from the now-closed Port Dundas distillery and malt from Mortlach on Speyside. This combination creates a whisky that is uniquely smooth, with notes of sweet fresh fruit and gentle spice. This style of whisky is excellent as the foundation for classic and signature cocktails.”

Jim Beveridge, Walker's master blender, explained in a prepared statement what the thinking was  behind the Blenders' Batch program.

“Experimentation is the key to innovation and has been at the heart of Johnnie Walker from the very beginning. Our founder John Walker’s first experiments were with flavors inspired by teas and spices from the New World. Walker’s first blends weren’t bound by the traditional styles of particular whisky producing regions in Scotland, but were experiments in flavor using casks from all over the country and later the world. What we’re doing today is what we’ve done for nearly 200 years and we are thrilled to be opening our doors, allowing people to experience the vast array of flavor experiments happening every day.”

This limited-supply blend will retail for about $30 per 750ml bottle. Walker plans to make future releases of experimental blends.
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Brewpub part of latest Troy warehouse renovation project

A brewpub and apartments are targeted for this former paint factory.

Another brewpub is in the works as part of a multi-use renovation of yet one more former warehouse in Troy, a city known for such conversions and for a growing number of such drinking establishments.

This one is located in the North Central neighborhood at 669 River Street, on the north side of the street between Middleburgh and North streets. If all goes well with the estimated $2 million project -- still in the conceptual stage, but expected to also include 13 apartments and/or offices on the upper floors -- it will join the neighboring The Hangar On the Hudson event and concert space and The Ale House as part of an embryonic entertainment neighborhood.

But, even if all the necessary permitting goes through quickly, don't get ready to drop in for a cold one anytime soon. The company that handled the sale of the 30,000-square-foot brick structure advertised it as "without heat, electric, plumbing and in need of serious repair and rehabilitation. It is not a property for an inexperienced builder/developer/users." At one time, the building was home to the William Connors Paint Manufacturing Co.

The city's Zoning Board recently approved an application from a Cohoes business entity called 669 River Street LLC for a major variance for parking. And, the full project is on the Planning Board's Wednesday agenda. The LLC is a partnership of Mike Phinney and John Haynes, who are partners in The Local Pub and Teahouse in Saratoga Springs, and Brian McCandless.
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Celebri-Quote: Kathie Lee Gifford

Kathie Lee Gifford
• Most of America is familiar with Kathie Lee Gifford from one of her endeavors -- TV host, commercial spokesperson, producer, singer-actress, and so forth. But, now she has loaned her name to a line of wines produced by Scheid Family Vineyards of Monterey, CA. Here are a couple of her comments in an interview with Connecticut Magazine.
Q: You have had so much success, but is this a case of getting better with age?

A: It has nothing to do with age, but an opportunity to do something new. I was approached about getting involved in working with the Scheid family and its wines, and I thought “Why not?” But, I am not the kind of celebrity who lends my name, takes the money and runs. I wanted to be a partner in it and be part of it. The Scheids make excellent wines, although honestly, I wasn’t familiar with them at first. I had given up on California wines. The California chardonnays that I had loved had become so oaky, thick and heavy, they looked like a urine specimen. When we talked about it, the Scheids said, “We can make a chardonnay wine like you remember.” They did and we came up with a label and then we went on to do something again, this time a red blend. And have just kept going.

Q: Do you consider yourself a wine expert now?

A: No, not an expert, but I know what I love and I don’t compromise on that. It’s a hard business to break into. And, most celebrity wines aren’t successful. I was excited with the pinot grigio we introduced last year and then a pinot noir that is very unique. The new craze is a white blend with like 10 wines in it, and that’s our new baby coming. The name will be Bountiful. ... Because of the shortage of cork, our wines have screw tops. Our tagline is “Too easy to open, too hard to put down.”
Looking for more Celebri-Quotes? You can find them in this archive.

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Hill Farmstead Brewery hires Otter Creek's brewmaster

Mike Gerhart
The Vermont brewery named by the influential website RateBeer the world's best brewery three years in a row has enlisted an iconic brewmaster from another Vermont company.

Mike Gerhart, the brewmaster at Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, has joined the Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Gerhart is seen in cartoon form on most Otter Creek Brewing labels and cans with long hair, a tie-dye headband, a VW bus and his dog. Gerhart also was brewmaster at the Shed Brewery in Middlebury.

Hill Farmstead's next release, scheduled for Wednesday, is Birth of Tragedy: Kochere, an imperial porter brewed with honey and aged in apple brandy barrels on Kochere coffee from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

"We have chosen two barrels of Birth of Tragedy as the base for this single origin coffee experiment," the company said in  an announcement. "After aging for 20 months in apple brandy barrels, we conditioned the beer atop Ethiopian Kochere coffee beans sourced and roasted by The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, Denmark.  These friends long ago changed our worldview as to what coffee could be.  After months of bottle conditioning, the beer is ready for release."

It will sell for $20 for the 375ml size, limit 1 per person. The brewery's bottle release policy is available online.
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

State-supplied alcohol at park sparks Long Island opposition

Under-development visitors center. (Drawing provided by NYS Parks Dept.)

Ever-expanding efforts by the Cuomo administration's Taste NY program that promotes foods and beverages produced in the state are running into some local opposition on Long Island.

The under-construction Hallock State Park visitors center on the North Fork's Sound Avenue will sell alcoholic beverages and visitors will be able to drink them on-site, according to a document just released by the  New York State Department of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. The patio and picnic area adjacent to the center will designated by the department to allow alcohol consumption, the document says.

The department's document said that while it prefers the Taste NY concession to be operated by the holder of a farm winery, brewery or cidery license, “there may be multiple liquor licensing options available to an interested party and all proposals are encouraged.” That nicety is because the Cuomo people have been encouraging "branch office" licenses, and touting the growing number that have been approved.

The concession will occupy a 600-square-foot room in the 3,800-square-foot visitors center structure now under construction in the winery-rich area. Hallock State Park Preserve, formerly Jamesport State Park, is a 225-acre park and nature preserve that straddles the North Fork towns of Riverhead and Southold in Suffolk County.

The building also will have an exhibit area, a community room, 20 parking spaces and bathrooms accessible from both outside the building and inside.

Local officials and some residents had expressed concern that the visitors center had  essentially been regarded as a “rest stop,” but news of the state wanting the concession to sell alcohol — and allowing it to be consumed there — surprised and alarmed both Riverhead and Southold town supervisors.

“Clearly this is a rest stop,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “Now we have a rest stop with a bar. That seems like an odd combination -- a rest stop in a public park serving booze.”

And, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell also had objections, saying, “It’s highly irresponsible for a state agency to actually promote drinking given the preponderance of it already out here. Will they provide money for the DWI checkpoints we will need to add?”

For those keeping track of such things -- because they do make a difference even though in an ideal world they should not, the governor is a Democrat and both supervisors are Republicans

According to the community news website RiversideLOCAL, "Southold Town saw its liability insurance cost increase by more than 44% after its longtime carrier declined to renew the policy this year. The insurance company, faced with large claims arising out of the fatal July 2015 limousine crash in Cutchogue that claimed the lives of four young women on a wine tour, cited increased risks associated with the thriving North Fork wine region."

The website also noted that Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director for state parks, at a March 3 public meeting in Riverhead said, “We’re not going to be in any way competitive with local establishments. Our concessionaire, in our mind -- our vision is they would offer coffee, maybe some sandwiches made locally, not on premises -- a grab-and-go. It would offer things like honey that oftentimes are not offered throughout the community but are made in the community. That’s what the concession is going to be about.”

No mention was made of the potential sale and consumption on premises of alcoholic beverages.

The two town supervisors also have taken issue with the design of the center which, they say, does not provide proper traffic flow, turnaround areas, or other safety factors. And, the state has denied their requests for financial assistance in upgrading that area of Sound Avenue.

“Only under Governor Andrew Cuomo,” Riverhead's Walter said. “From the road signs to the rest stop, his complete lack of respect for the local municipality is just awe-inspiring.”

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Erie Canal theme for Hudson Valley Hops event

"Beer & The Eric Canal," marking the bicentennial of the groundbreaking for the historic waterway, will be the theme of the 6th annual "Hudson Valley Hops" event.

The celebration of the history of brewing in the region and of today’s craft beer industry will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Albany Institute of History & Art. Admission is $35 or $30 for museum members in advance by calling (518) 463-4478 extension 412, or by going online. Prices are $5 higher at the door.

In addition to offering samples of local craft beers, the event will include talks by beer historians and brewing experts, an exhibition of historic beer artifacts and photographs, and a tasteoff of IPAs from such regional breweries as Brown's Brewing, The Beer Diviner, Argyle Brewing, Chatham Brewing, C.H. Evans/Albany Pump Station, Green Wolf Brewing, Rare Form Brewing, Rip Van Winkle Brewery, Shmaltz Brewing, and S & S Brewery.

The Albany Institute is located at 125 Washington Avenue in downtown Albany.
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Brewery LaHoff development just waiting on the weather

Site of the in-development farm brewery. (Photo provided)
If the weather and all other factors cooperate, the next brewery to open in the Greater Capital Region will be in Coxsackie. Well, Climax, to be specific.

At what will be called Brewery LaHoff, they're waiting for a warm spell so some concrete can be poured at the Vedder Road site just off Route 81. This recent photo shows the current condition of the venue.

The company was incorporated in Greene County in November 2016 by Andre Latour, who will be owner and brewmaster of the four-barrel brewery located on an old dairy farm and orchard site. Latour tells me the brewery and tasting room "is going to be located in one of the existing barns on the property. I don't have an exact age of the barn. It is believed to be about 117 years old. A hop yard also is in the plans, and we intend to clean up the existing orchard on the property and plant some new trees."

Latour began the process about 11 months ago with site engineering, zoning and local review. Construction began in late fall should be wrapped up within the next two months, and the brewing system should be arriving by June.

"Originally, I was shooting for a September 1 opening," LaTour said, "but it might not be until mid to late Fall. It will just depend on the licensing approvals."

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