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  • Flor de Caña Rum: Benefiting From Nicaragua Most Active Volcano

    Posted: 2018-08-14 12:47
    Over 125 years ago in 1890, Francisco Alfredo Pellas built the first distillery of what was to become Flor de Caña at the San Antonio Sugar Mill in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.  Its location at the base of the most active in Nicaragua (San Cristobal volcano) provides a multitude of favorable conditions to creating a  fine aged rum. It starts with the rich volcanic soil where the sugar cane benefits from the warm, hydrated, and vitamin-rich soil  which also is naturally protected from insect predators and erosion.  Second, the distillery is able to use enriched volcanic water in distillation that not only contains a bit of calcium, magnesium and sulfate but is also filtered from impurities by the volcanic rock. And finally the hot volcanic climate exposes the small (180 liter) white oak barrels to varying levels of heat during the again process. 

    I recently purchased two versions of their rum, the Flor de Cana 12 Year ($34) and the Flor de Cana 7 Year Gran Reserva ($18). As expected the 12 Year is much more integrated with a honeyed nuts and caramel aroma, sweet almonds and buttery vanilla in the middle, and finishing with a toffee and lingering smokiness. On the other hand the 7 Year had a more dispersed profile and more petrol but many of the same characteristics including more tropical notes. So pick your price point.
  • Campania's Feudi di San Gregorio: Aglianico & Falanghina

    Posted: 2018-08-11 07:00
    Many of the worl'd great wine regions contain a fair amount of volcanic soil and that includes the numerous DOCs in Campania - residing under the shadows of Mount Vesuvius.

    Over 20 years ago the Capaldo and Ercolino families established Feudi di San Gregorio in the tiny village of Sorbo Serpico in order to produce wines from indigenous grapes well suited to the porous volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius.  These high-altitude slopes also provide mild winters, long growing seasons with dry, hot summers, an abundance of sunshine, mild winters, large diurnal temperature variations -- all help to slowly mature the grapes and retain abundant acidity. The vineyards are situated in Campania, the "shin" of Italy's boot and anchored by its capital Naples. It is one of Italy's oldest wine regions - influenced by Greeks, Romans and Byzantines as well as possibly pre-Roman civilizations.  Aglianico is the most important grape variety and it grows throughout Campania, but particularly where the coastal Mediterranean breezes blow in from the Tyrrhenian Sea to cool the grapes in the evening. Further inland, the Falanghina grapes grows where there is more rainfall providing more fragrant notes. Recently I received two of these wines Feudi di San Gregorio that showcase the true nature of the region and the grapes. Cheers.


    2017 Feudi di San Gregorio Sannio Falanghina DOC ($22.99)
    Sannio is a DOC region within Campania situated in the hills north of Naples but still influenced by Mount Vesuvius and the DOC requires that the grapes be sourced from hillside vineyards. Thirteen years after Sannio gained DOC status, Falanghina del Sannio gained DOC status in 2010 as Falanghina was singled out as a key grape variety. This wine is fermented and aged in stainless-steel - the later on its lees - providing the clear characteristics of the grapes along with needs depth and texture to balance the wine's freshness. The floral aroma is intense followed by abundant stone fruits and finishing with racy mineral acids. A summer treat.

    2017 Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico Irpinia Aglianico DOC ($19.99)
    Situated west of Naples under Mount Vesuvius, Irpinia gained DOC status in 2005 and the grapes for this wine were gown between 1,000 and 1,600 feet above sea level in porous soil saturated in ash and fallen pumice. Rubrato translates to "brilliant ruby" which is immediately apparent when pouring a glass.  The wine encounters no oak treatment and is aged eight months in stainless steel and a minimum six months in bottle before release.  Thus the wine displays Aglianico's naked character - fruit forward dark cherries and plums, black pepper and tea, with a mildly silky depth and a fresh, spicy finale. This is some amazing juice - straight juice.
  • #CoolDownwithCariñena #Wine: “Crafted in Stone”

    Posted: 2018-08-08 07:00

    Cariñena is not only the second oldest region in Spain, but is also home to its own varietal and appellation.

    Cariñena (Carignane) is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) located in the Ebro Valley of Aragón midway between Barcelona and Madrid that was designated in 1932 although it's winemaking traditions can be documented as far back as the early 15th century. In fact the region's vines survived the devastating European Phylloxera epidemic because the lousy mite that caused the disease couldn't survive the soil's stoney and sandy nature and a marketing mantra “Crafted in Stone” is now utilized. Grape quality is not only maintained from these well drained soils but also the large diurnal temperature swings due to the region's elevation, proximity to the Ebro River and the Cierzo winds. These factors help the Garnacha, Cariñena, Mazuelo, Tempranillo, Viura, Chardonnay, and Parellada grapes develop character and retain acidity. Today the Cariñena wine region boasts 1,600 growers; 35,000 acres of vines; with many of theses small growers belonging to cooperative wineries. I recently received two white wines and a rosé that the refreshing nature of wine from this region as well as a Cariñena Regional recipe.  It's time to #CoolDownwithCariñena. Cheers.

    2017 Corona  D Aragon Garnacha Blanc D.O.P. Cariñena - includes some Chardonnay - lemon and fresh pear on the nose, stronger grapefruit and shades of minerals, before finishing with a fresh finale.

    2017 Paniza Viura-Chardonnay D.O.P. Cariñena - this is a 50-50 blend of the two grape varieties that provides citrus, cream, and softness before leaving with a lingering and lively finish.

    2017 Bodegas San Valero Particular Garnacha Rosé - is all berries throughout the experience, depth and minerals, and lively refreshing acids.
  • A Quad of New #VACraftBeer For Our #VABreweryChallenge

    Posted: 2018-08-06 08:09
    Creative destruction resides in the NOVA craft beer market as one brewery closes several open to take its place. And we recently visited four infants in Northern Virginia.  During a previous wave of new openings Brian Reinoehl visited Bad Wolf Brewery in Manassas and felt the bug.  He and partner Michael Frizzell spent the next five years immersed in the beer industry starting with a one-barrel system and eventually selling their IT business to open Audacious Aleworks (#60). They had intended to open in the Mosiac District where Caboose Brewing will soon open their second facility but found the City of Falls Church a more cooperative environment.  They officially opened about a month ago slowly increasing their portfolio to the present 15 beers.  That means plenty of opportunities to find one you like and I did with the Westminster Bridge ESB -- feels like sitting in a British pub.  Other solid beers are the Pretentious PorterKings Chance Saison, 7 Evil Exes Sour, and Conviction IPA.


    Ashburn's House 6 Brewing Company (#61) was instantiated by a similar passion for craft beer this from volunteer firefighter, Rolando Rivera -- not surprisingly some years spent at Station 6.  However, Rivera took a less prolific model and opened last weekend with just four beers on tap.  And these beers are fantastic. The 4.6% El Bombero Kölsch is a light and fresh beer well suited for the cyclist venturing  off the WO&D.  The Firebreak Session IPA weighs in at a similarly low abv and packs plenty of flavor for this session beer.  The same is true for the ridiculously tolerant Off Duty English Mild (3.7%)  where the malt and caramel meld into a delicious beer. And equally so is the Smoke Eater Smoked Porter where the chocolate transitions to a rauchbier finish. Fantastic.


    Our next stop, Phase 2 Brewing (#62), is a tiny brewery - a nano's nano - that pours to house brewed beers at Brew LoCo, an independent coffeehouse and homebrew shop opened in 2014 by sisters Cathy Frye and Mary Battaglia.  They normally have two or three beers surrounding their nitro coffee tap and during our visit it was the Mango Mama DIPA and Lunar Eclipse Imperial Stout.  Both weigh in at 8% and are quite interesting with the DIPA tasting like Werther's Original and the stout a nutmeg chili chocolate beer.  Quite interesting.

    Our final stop, Rocket Frog Brewing Company (#63), has made a quick name around town and we visited the Sterling brewery to discover if its more than a flying frog. Twin brothers David and Richard Hartogs leveraged an affinity for Dogfish Head, a Belgium heritage, and another brother's west coast palate to create a well balanced lineup.  These dozen beers can be viewed on UnTappd and are worth a short detour off the WO&D to investigate. Start with their sours as their Warp Dive and Warp Drive w. Cherries are not over the top, just tastefully done. The Wallups Island Brown Ale and Croak at the Moon Saison are spot on regarding style but the Paper Wings Pale Ale was easily my favorite.  And for dessert finish with the Space Port Porter and he same on nitro.

    And as always these breweries can be visited easily using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Sorry iPhone 11 iOS and iPhones 5S and greater users. Cheers.
  • A Beer Bloggers Guide to Loudoun County

    Posted: 2018-08-03 08:25
    Hosting the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference provides the opportunity to leverage media influence to further position Loudoun as a must-visit craft beer destination alongside former hosts including Asheville, San Diego and Portland, Oregon - locations that have already gained national recognition for their robust craft beer scenes,” Visit Loudoun VP of Marketing Jackie Saunders

    Over the past 15 years the wine industry in Loudoun County Virginia has gained wide recognition for producing consistently high quality wine.  This process was kick started by hosting a DrinkLocalWine.com conference and Wine Bloggers Conference excursion in successive years in 2010-2011.  The Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association is expecting a similar result for their emerging craft beer industry as they host the 2018 Beer Bloggers Conference August 10th-11th to augment the LoCo Ale Trail. Again from Visit Loudoun VP of Marketing Jackie Saunders: “Loudoun is a leader in Virginia’s craft beer industry and this conference provides a platform for the LoCo Ale Trail and our 25-plus breweries to get in front of top craft beverage writers who can take the Loudoun and Virginia story to a national level.”

    Photo courtesy of Vanish
    Farmwoods Brewery
    The county is home to 30 breweries and tasting rooms ranging from pioneers like Lost Rhino Brewing Co. to nanos like Loudoun Brewing Company and Black Walnut Brewery, with a few farm to glass breweries in between. The county believes the later are vitally important for economic development as they not only preserve open spaces from housing construction but all help spur the local agriculture economy. Attendees will visit one of these farm breweries, Vanish Farmwoods Brewery, during the Friday night Loudoun County Reception & Dinner. eight-five percent of the county's breweries will be pouring and the host brewery will be pouring a "ton of variety of great beer!" says Tommy Skelly -- Director of Marketing, Sales, and Taproom Operations. They will have over 20 beers on top covering as many styles as possible and this time of year expect am IPA and Sour heavy lineup and Skelly emphasizes that their Lime Gose has been a hit.

    There are also two other breweries hosting events Lost Rhino Brewing Co. and Crooked Run Brewing Sterling.  Lost Rhino was the first post-Old Dominion Brewery in Loudoun and were pioneers in not only starting their brewery but the first in the county to adopt canning. Their Rhino Chasers Pilsner and Face Plant IPA are well distributed and popular brews. Crooked Run started as a nano brewery in downtown Leesburg (see next paragraph) and quickly gained traction for their creative recipes. As demand increased they opened a larger facility where they are hosting a pre-conference lunch and tour excursion Thursday afternoon. Just hope that the Neopolitik Milk Stout and Double Vibes Berliner Weisse hasn't kicked.

    For attendees who have flexible travel plans or who are arriving or departing with extra free time, then consider a walking brewery tour of downtown Leesburg.  Park or get dropped off near Market Station where both Crooked Run Brewing and Wild Hare Cider are located adjacent to each other. This is the original location of Crooked Run where they produce small batch and experimental beers and always something interesting n tap.  For a change of pace Wild Hare offers delicious hard ciders particularly their dry-hopped Hopscotch. Heading towards the Government Center Bike TrAle Brewing is on the left of Loudoun Street incorporating a bike theme (yards from the WO&D bike trail) with a nice range of styles. Take a left on Church street to discover the hidden oasis of Black Walnut Brewery or continue up Loudoun and hang a right on King Street to sample the European portfolio of Black Hoof Brewing Company. Then take a right on Edwards Ferry then E. Market past the historical Marshal House to Loudoun Brewing Company. Patrick Steffens can only brew eight beers at a time from his 160 recipes so the lineup is always in flux. And on your return walk, munchies are available at Mom's Apple Pie Bakery.  And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will assist in your beer travels. Cheers.

Featured Visit

Rose Bank Winery; Newtown, Pennsylvania - Sunday, August 17, 2008
After a day playing at Sesame Place, it was time for the adults to have some fun, so we ventured only a few mile north to visit Rose Bank Winery. A member of the Bucks County Wine Trail, the winery first opened in 1984 as In & Out Winery. Mike Selesnick owned and operated this venture until 1999, when he decided to retire to Florida. Dave Fleming, a neighboring produce grower, had been thinking about branching out into vineyards, so he purchased the property. This action probably saved the historic farm from development and Fleming renamed the farm after the original William Penn land grant: Rose Bank Farm. In fact, the property resides on a parcel of land originally deeded by William Penn to his daughters. The manor house was built in 1719 and is one of only 25 dressed stone buildings constructed in Bucks County. The existing barn was built in 1835, although Fleming lost half the barn in a fire a few years ago.

When Dave Fleming purchased the winery, he had zero experience growing grapes and wasn't even a wine drinker. Mike Selesnick worked with him for a year, while he learned all aspects of running a winery and vineyard, then remained as a consultant even after relocating to Florida. Mr. Fleming also earned a degree in Enology from U.C. Davis from a correspondence course. Since taking over, the product offerings and quality have increased and Rose Bank Winery was awarded their first Gold medal in the 2008 Keystone Wine Competition for their Mulled Apple wine. The winery and vineyard also follow organic practices, where manure is used for fertilization and nets cover the vineyard.

The tasting facility is located in a new building which also holds both the wine making and fermenting tanks. The winery also hosts weddings inside the tasting room or in the historic barn, depending on the size of the party. During our visit there were over a dozen wines available to sample. To satisfy their market, most of the wines are made semi-sweet or fruit wines, but we started with a few of their dry reds. The De Chaunac is a light bodied wine whereas the Chancellor Royale was fuller with an oakier finish. Both were good, but our favorite was the upcoming 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a full bodied wine - with some oak - and a flavorful, smooth finish.

We really liked their white wines, particularly the Vidal Blanc - the 100% varietal and the Nouvelle. Both are made from estate grown grapes and made semi-dry, the difference is that the grapes in the Nouvelle are pressed almost full cluster - just the stems are removed. We left with a bottle of each of these wines. We also liked their Cayuga - it has perhaps the most flavorful that we had previously sampled. The final white was the sweet Niagara - we loved the wine's aroma - a good representation of the grape. The same holds for their Concord, the best part being that its sweet - but not overly so.

Rose Bank offers several fruit wines, besides the aforementioned Mulled Apple. This wine suits as more for winter, but apparently others prefer it year round. The Cranberry was our favorite - but may not be for everyone because of its tartness. The others were fruitier and there's a fruit for everyone: Blueberry, Blackberry Strawberry, Peach, and Red Raspberry.

We enjoyed our visit and hope to return in the Fall to spend more time at the winery and to explore the Bucks County Wine Trail. The area provides examples of both American history and excellent produce.

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