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  • Ballparks & Brews: St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium

    Posted: 2017-07-28 14:02
    The 2017 MLB season was reaching it's zenith when we visited one of the iconic franchises: the St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, and of course beer - mostly Anheuser-Busch Inc beer. In fact, the River City was the origin for blending beer and baseball for the working class when Chris Von der Ahe founded the St. Louis Browns and the American Association. With The Beer and Whiskey League, Von der Ahe introduced Sunday games, low ticket prices, and cheap beer.

    Sunday games persist, but cheap tickets and beer are rarities at today's MLB ballparks. And at Busch Stadium, InBev and Bud are obviously the King of Beers. This virtual monopoly spills over to the neighboring Ballpark Village where Anheuser-Busch Inc, Goose Island Beer Co., and Stella are your primary choices.  However, there are exceptions. Schlafly Bottleworks has a strategically placed stand at the ballparks entrance from Ballpark Village where their Kolsch and Pale Ale were my two favorites.  Sadly, inventory fluctuated over the two games and often these kegs were kicked.  A more constant option was the convenience styled hot dog stand in center field where the beer cooler housed several area micro-brews.  German styled beers are prevalent like the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Zwickel and Stammtisch and the The Civil Life Brewing Company German Wheat. The cans sold at the stadium are quite unique as the entire top peels back.


    Craft beer is also available in establishments surrounding the stadium.  Our hotel carried several Schlafly Bottleworks and 4 Hands Brewing Co beers with the latter's Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown my breakfast beer of choice.  4 Hands is located just south of stadium and while walking their to visit using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder we were distracted by the live music emanating from the Broadway Oyster Bar.  And with the 4 Hands Incarnation IPA and Prussia Berliner Weiss on tap; as well as more Urban Chestnut, Schlafly, and Perennial Artisanal Ales; we failed to head further south. However, we did visit Alpha Brewing Company when returning to the hotel.  This small micro specializes in sours, mostly barrel aged sours in wine barrels.  Whereas the others enjoyed their Atheist Ale IPA I was fixated on a sour flight of Troll Wheatwine, Natural Selection, Apocrypha, and Grape Brett.  The last two were fantastic, the highlight of the weekend so if you enjoy sours, add Alpha to your itinerary. Cheers to St Louis, Von der Ahe, and Ballparks & Brews.
  • John Adams Would Have Enjoyed Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

    Posted: 2017-07-20 18:04
    "I went last night to the Ball, where the Company Suffered more by the cold which was excessive than I ever knew any Company suffer in my Life. The Dancers only were comfortable. I came home and went into a warm bed and had a fine Perspiration, occasioned I believe by my drinking three Glasses of Madeira Wine at supper and two more after I came home, which has relieved me from all cold and I feel very well this morning. The Company owing to the Weather was not large."  Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 February 1799
    It's common knowledge that the founding fathers enjoyed their Madeira, a fortified dessert wine produced in the Portuguese archipelago of  Madeira.  Our second President was extremely fond of this beverage and recently A Museum Just Uncovered 221-Year-Old Wine Meant to Honor John Adams's Presidency.  One reason behind their affection for Madeira was that the wine was also able to travel long distances without spoiling. And in fact, the long sea voyages actually transforms the flavor of the wine by exposing it to heat and movement.

    In contemporary times Madeira winemakers mimic sea voyages by heating the wine.  "The wine is placed in stainless steel vats that are heated via a serpentine method. Hot water, at a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees Celsius [or approximately 115 °F], runs through this serpentine system for a period of never less than three months. Once this heating process ("estufagem") is completed, the wine is subjected to a rest period ("estágio") of at least 90 days in order to acquire the conditions that will make it possible for the oenologist to finish the wine so that it may be placed in a bottle with the required quality guarantee."

    One historical producer is Blandy's Madeira, a family owned winery that has been operating continuously for over two centuries. In 1989 they partnered with the Symington Wine Family to form the Madeira Wine Company (MWC).  MWC utilizes two maturation processes. The first is called Armazém de Calor where the wine is "stored in large wooden casks in a specially designed room outfitted with steam-producing tanks or pipes that heat the room, creating a type of sauna. This process more gently exposes the wine to heat, and can last from six months to over a year".  Second, during the aging process the wine is aged " in seasoned American oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the casks of this wine are gradually transferred from the top floors of the lodge, where it is naturally warmer, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where it is cooler. During this totally natural ageing, the wine underwent regular racking before finally being bottled".

    As a side note Madeira wine can be made from the following grape varieties: Tinta Negra, Sercial,Verdelho, Terrantez, Bual (Malvasia Fina), Malvasia (usually Malvasia Branca de São Jorge).

    To celebrate the 4th of July (yes, I realize the tardiness of this post), I received a sample bottle of their Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira ($29). The wine is named after the vat of wine that the Duke of Clarence drowns in in Richard III. And it clearly satisfies the founders affinity for Madeira wine. Dried fruits is the initial dominant flavor, followed by raisins and subtle chocolate. The sweetness is neither gritty or jammy and the tangy acidity balances the sugar seamlessly. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and am sad to see it disappear.  Cheers to Adams, the 4th, and Madeira wine.
  • Wine Sample: Abadia Retuarda Seleccion Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León

    Posted: 2017-07-15 08:29
    The Abadía Retuerta winery launched in 1996 during Spain's Ribera del Duero explosion onto the world market. Although relatively young, the winery inherits a long tradition of winemaking as the winery and vineyards are located on the former site of the 12th century Santa Marie de Retuerta Monastery in Sardón de Duero. Along the banks of the Duero River, "the monks of the order of Saint Norbert were given terras et vineas (land and vines) in Duero Valley and the second abbot brought the first French grape varieties from Burgundy that were planted in this famous Spain wine region. Since then, the land of our estate has been dedicated to the vine, to silence and to devotion."

    Abadia Retuerta farms these same vineyard sites which today is located within the heart of the "Golden Mile", a "privileged strip of land it shares with some of the Ribera del Duero's most illustrious wineries...". Despite the fact that Abadia Retuerta could produce wines under the prestigious D.O. Ribera del Duero label, they chose instead to use the broader Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León classification that allows them to be more flexible in the grape varieties and percentages included in the final blend.

    For instance, D.O. Ribera del Duero labeled red wines requires a composition of at least 75% Tempranillo, with the remaining proportions divided between Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However the 2013 Abadia Retuarda Seleccion Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León ($30) is composed of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 10% Others (such as Merlot & Petit Verdot). Apparently the Syrah adds additional strength the the wine accompanied by the richness of Tempranillo and the elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine does however follow the D.O. Ribera del Duero regulations for aging Reserve wines spending over 12 months in oak and two years aging in the bottle. This is a fantastic wine, intense with aggressive red fruit, well integrated tannins and fresh acidity. The finish includes a hint of smoke and spice. However I feel that drinking this wine young is an injustice and the wine will gain elegance with more time in the bottle. Cheers to Abadia Retuerta and the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León.
  • Symington Family Estate’s 2015 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim

    Posted: 2017-07-12 10:39
    Symington Family Estate’s Dow Winery is known for their Port being a historical producer of Portugal's signature fortified wine. But for many years Symington has been producing a dry red table wine from the same Bomfim used in these ports and sharing the wine with friends and family. Eventually they released this wine commercially and this month I received a sample of the 2015 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim ($13).  This wine is made from traditional Portuguese grapes Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), all grown in the Duoro DOC. This region is centered on the upper Douro River and it's Mediterranean climate is sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influences.  This is a juicy wine, dominated by dark fruit (plums and dark cherry) and acidity. Despite only having medium tannins, this wine benefits from a little breathing. The freshness remains but the acidity becomes more in balance with the fruit and wet stone minerality. The suggested pairing is Chouriço, so pick your sausage. Cheers.
  • The Latest from “Wines of Altitude” with Amalaya Wines & Bodega Colomé

    Posted: 2017-07-09 09:11
    Last July I covered Wines of Altitude featuring two wines each from Amalaya Wines and Bodega Colomé, each members of the Hess Family Estates. Both wineries grow and source grapes from the Salta Province of NW Argentina - one of the highest viticulture regions in the world where vineyards are situated 5,500 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea level. This high altitude provides intense daytime sunlight and cool nights that help better retain the acidity and concentrated fruit characteristics of the grapes - predominately Torrontés and Malbec. There are actually three varieties of Torrontés: Torrontés Riojano (the most common), Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino.  Each are believed to be separate crossings of the Mission grape and Muscat of Alexandria. This June I received the current vintage of the previous wines and will compare and contrast below.

    Amalaya translates to "Hope for a Miracle" from the native Calchaqui Indians and the grapes are harvested from the Finca San Isidro Vineyard and Las Mercedes Vineyard.
    • 2016 Amalaya Blanco ($12; 85% Torrontés / 15% Riesling) This release has the same grape composition and Finca San Isidro vineyard source as the 2015 release.  The wine is also as refreshing with more citrus and minerality - a little sugar - and a tremendous deal at this price.
    • 2016 Amalaya Malbec ($16; 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Petit Verdot) The 2016 version replaces Syrah with Petit Verdot; expands the vineyard to both Finca Las Mercedes and the Calchaqui Valley; and maintains a similar oak regime (25% aged 8 months in French Oak). The two are also very similar on the palate so let me reuse my descriptor: this wine is fruit forward and smooth there's a dusty, spicy, and vanilla character resulting from the oak. The finish is very easy, very easy. 
    Bodega Colomé primarily sources fruit from four vineyards. The winery and Colomé Vineyard are located at 7,545 feet above sea level and operates three other vineyards ranging from 5,750 (La Brava Estate) to 10,200 (Altura Máxima Estate) feet above sea level. This last could be the highest vineyard in the world.
    • 2014 Colomé Estate Malbec ($25) This release is also 100% Malbec and produced from grapes grown at all four vineyards.  This wine is denser, more full bodied with dark fruit and a velvety complexion. The finish shows white pepper, acids, and once again noticeable, but approachable tannins.
    • 2016 Colomé Torrontés ($15) Like the 2015 release, this wine is 100% Torrontés harvested from 30 - 60 year old vines from throughout the Calchaqui Valley and shares the same wine making methods. It also shares most of the characteristics of the previous year with the abundant floral and Muscat aromas, plenty of stone fruits, grapefruit, and refreshing acidity. A fantastic wine.

Featured Visit

Franklin’s Brewery; Hyattsville, Maryland - Saturday, December 26, 2009
For some reason the day after Christmas I was craving beer so I headed to a local microbrew on the other side of the beltway: Franklin’s Brewery in Hyattsville, Maryland. The venue is located in a historic area that is somewhat on the decline, but from what I discovered, customer travel frequently from Washington D.C., nearby College Park, as well as local neighborhoods. The building was constructed over 130 years before as a blacksmith and carriage shop. And since 1910 it has served the community as a hardware store - turning into Franklins in 1992 with the brewpub added ten years later.

Today the brewpub was serving nine beers and I sampled each. For those hop heads, this is your place. A majority were hop infusions: the Sierra Madre Pale Ale, Private I.P.A, Anarchy Ale, and the Mission Accomplished. These beers are definitely more suitable for pairing with a meal - which the hops a great palate cleanser. My favorites were the Imperial Stout and the Twisted Turtle Pale Ale - the later an English-style pale ale made correctly in that style using Crystal and Pale Ale malts and Magnum and East Kent Goldings Hops. The finish was mildly hoppy - but lingered - a true English ale. This beer was also served using their nitro system - creating an even more English feel - soft and creamy. The Imperial Stout tasted as expected as well - a little high in alcohol but balanced by the dark flavors. In fact, most of these beers fit their billing, the Sierra Madre Pale Ale was a west-styled pale ale and the I.P.A. extremely hoppy; except for the Bombshell Blonde - billed as a Kolsch - wasn't as hoppy as expected and seemed to be more of a lager than ale. But in sum, these are good beers - and its nice to find a non-chain microbrew in the area. We will be back - particularly before or after trips to the University of Maryland basketball games.

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