12.06.13_______________________________________________

Liquor That Used To Be Medicine


 

Fermented beverages infused with medicinal herbs have been around for thousands of years. Remains of ancient Chinese and Egyptian vessels, some dating back to 7000 BC, contain traces of herbs and resins that were present in fermented beverages. A compilation of Egyptian medical texts known as the The Ebers Papyrus contains numerous magic formulas and folk remedies that were prescribed by early healers. The Ebers Papyrus has been dated about 1550 BC but much of the information is considered to date back even further.

One of the most common ingredients in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Greek medicinal beverages is wormwood. Wormwood is, of course, the most notorious ingredient in that most notorious beverage known as Absinthe. Wormwood wine has been prescribed by  proto-Doctor Feelgoods since the dawn of civilization. And although thousands of years would pass before actual Absinthe came along, the groundwork for this and many aromatized wines was initiated.

Much of this work was done by early alchemists and it is noteworthy that the Muslim alchemist named Jabir ibn Hayyan, is widely believed to be the inventor of distillation. This happened some time in the late eighth or early ninth century. Since then mankind has been enthralled with alcoholic potions.

Italian vermouth and chinati evolved from tonics that were produced in local pharmacies. Absinthe and genepy, (Chartreuse being the most well known genepy) evolved from folk remedies in the Alpine region of Europe. Even the creation of gin is attributed to a Dutch physician in the mid-17th century, although it probably had been around for at least 100 years prior to that date.

Below are a few examples of liquor that used to be medicine. For more on this topic, tune in to KCRW 89.9 this Saturday, December 7, at 11 AM to hear me talk with Evan. Or check out Evan Kleiman's "Good Food" blog at KCRW.com.

 

Chartreuse VEP

One of the most compelling liquids on the planet. Supposedly the recipe was presented to the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the early 1600's. That recipe is supposed to be the work of one or several alchemists. It belongs to the family of liqueurs called genepy, that are common in the region. Some 130 herbs, plants, flowers and other "secret ingredients" are employed in a formula that is given to only two monks. Originally an "elixir for long life." Aged in barrels for 10 years. $160.00 Liter

Barolo Chinato G.D.Vajra

Chinato is a wine based liqueur made from Barolo wine, plant extracts and spices. Again local mountain herbs and orange zest are used in conjunction with Chinchona Calisaya (quinine). This beverage has long been considered to help with digestion and to have decongestive powers. Pleasantly bitter and sweet with warming spices. Usually served after dinner. $67.50

Bols Barrel aged Genever

Genever is the Ur Gin, differing from its English counterparts in that is is distilled from a malted grain mash, roughly a primitive beer that is the base for distilling whisky. If your genever reminds you a bit of a mild whisky, this is why. Then it is distilled with aromatic herbs, predominantly juniper. It is sometimes aged in wooden barrels for 1to 3 years. Lower in alcohol than London Dry. Often served chilled with a beer chaser. Genever, like is Scandinavian cousin aquavit, is actually a good accompaniment to food. $42.00

Anchor Distilling Company Genevieve

An unaged American genever. Distilled from a grain mash of wheat, barley and rye malt. They use the same botanicals as they do in their  highly original Junipero gin. The result is quite different from the Junipero due to the almost whiskey like flavor of the base spirit. Fascinating. $57.50

Dolin Genepy des Alpes

Genepy is a category of liqueurs made in the Alpine regions of Europe. Genepy is another name for wormwood and so takes its name from that plant, but numerous other herbs are employed. The recipes are always closely guarded secrets as is the case here and also with Chartreuse (which falls into the category of genepy) made by the Carthusian monks. The monastery is just down the road from the Dolin facility. Complex herbal notes abound. It should be said that this is not bitter or anis driven like Absinthe. It resembles a milder version of Chartreuse. $30.50


Linie Aquavit

Aquavit is a Scandinavian distilled spirit flavored with herbs and spices, usually caraway dominates the blend. That's dictionary. In truth, this is to Norway, what tequila is to Mexico. Put it in the freezer and do shots, chased with beer. It's fantastic with food, particularly Scandinavian holiday fare like meatballs, pickled herring and gravlax. But please, do not operate heavy machinery after coming in contact with this liquid! $33.25


Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

This is the original vermouth. It is a wine based spirit, flavored with herbs and spices. Wormwood was one of the original components. (Vermouth comes from the German word, vermouth, or wormwood.) This is not like regular sweet vermouth. There is intensity, complexity and concentration that is unique. This is becoming popular with today's uber bartenders and mixologists. $30.25 Liter $16.00 375 ml


Bonal  Gentiane-Quina

Bonal is a French aperitif made with a combination of gentian root, herbs from the Chartreuse mountains and quinine (quina), in a fortified wine base. This would be called an amaro, like Averna or Fernet-Branca, if it hailed from Italy. Serve this chilled; neat, on the rocks or in cocktails. $20.25

 

 

 

 

5.16.13_______________________________________________

Austrian Wine Month


The Line-up for Sunday 5/19

 

We are happy to be joining wine merchants nationwide in celebrating Austrian Wine Month. In addition to including various Austrian wines in our weekday tastings we are featuring an All-Austrian tasting this Sunday, May 19 at 3pm. Three of the five wines to be tasted are making their debut appearance at SLW including a St. Laurent from Brigitte and Gerhard Pittnauer, brought in to California exclusively for this event. Food pairings will be Austrian inspired dishes by Heirloom LA. The cost is $20

Wines to be tasted are:

Sommer Riesling Bergweingarten 2009
Tegernseerhof Riesling Terrassen 2011
Knoll Ried Loibenberg Gruner Veltliner Smaragd 2007
Pittnauer St. Laurent Dorflagen 2011
Schiefer Blaufrankisch Sudburgenland 2011

This tasting is by reservation only. Call the store to reserve: 323 662 9024.

Austrian wines will also be available by the glass throughout the month of May.

4.20.13_______________________________________________

Exclusive Malts Tasting at The Griffin 4/23



Join us for a special Scotch Whisky tasting at the Griffin, next Tuesday, April 23rd at 7PM. We will be tasting 7 very special malts from the Exclusive Malts Collection. To lead the tasting we are pleased to have David Sirk, owner/ founder of The Creative Whisky Company. These whiskies  are extremely limited and sought after.

Attendees will receive a 15% discount off the regular retail price if ordered the night of the tasting.

To be tasted:

Aberlour 2000 12 year
Ardmore 2000 12 year
Mortlach 1995 17 year
Clynelish 1997 15 year
Glen Grant 1992 20 year
Littlemill 1988  24 year
Bowmore 2001 11 yr


Place The Griffin, 3000 Los Feliz Blvd  Los Angeles, CA 90039

Date   Tuesday, April 23

Time   7PM sharp

Cost  $35  Cash Only Includes hot and cold appetizers from the Griffin’s chef, Ryan Miller.

THIS EVENT IS BY PHONE RESERVATION ONLY.

Call Silverlake Wine to confirm: 323-662-9024

Please to not call The Griffin for reservations.

http://www.creativewhisky.co.uk/whisky.html


 

 

3.12.13_______________________________________________

The Silverlake Wine Insulated Tote


This bag is worth its price simply for what it does not have:

  1. Designer fabric in choice of ugly patterns and colors.
  2. Simulated leather trim.
  3. Imitation antique brass fittings.
  4. Chintzy picnic accessories.
  5. Cheap, malfunctioning corkscrew.

Our bag is: Custom designed to hold two or three bottles, including tall, German or Austrian Riesling bottles. The interior divider can be removed so it will hold three bottles. With a little ingenuity you can get a magnum bottle to fit. It comes with two freezable gel packs and has been tested on a 95 degree day to keep wine cool for at least three hours. It has a front pocket for your newspaper or Wine Advocate. Made in America; California, actually, so lowish carbon footprint and no sweatshop guilt.

$46

 

12.08.12_______________________________________________

Coupe Champage Glasses


Imagine you are Don Draper, or dating Don Draper. Now, would you serve your Champagne in those dumb, tall, skinny glasses? Or would you put it in a voluptuous, curvy coupe. (This is the style of glass that was often pictured surrounding a naked girl in 50's and 60's male hegemonous iconography.) This disgustingly chauvinistic image was not the fault of the glass, and they look cool so why not add a couple to your Champagne Gift Box? Or, to your bar?

$11

 

12.07.12_______________________________________________

Christmas Cocktails

Growing up a Minnesotan of Norwegian descent, there was a big emphasis on the Christmas holiday. After all, when it's that cold and dark you can see appeal of anything that smacks of light, warmth and levity. Unfortunately, in my extended family, there were a lot of teetotalers and so I had to learn some of the Scandinavian traditions from friends. One of those traditions is the Aquavit toast. In Scandinavia, Aquavit is an extremely popular beverage. Basically it is a neutral spirit flavored with caraway and herbs and is best described as Nordic Tequila. Of course, my favorite is Linie, a Norwegian distiller. This liquor is sailed across the equator and back before it is released to sell. I don't know why this would make a difference but it tastes the best to me. Scandinavian folk like to toast a lot, so a lot of Aquavit gets consumed. The bottle is kept in the freezer, or frozen in a block of ice. We pour the liquor around in shot glasses, or little stemmed glasses of about the same size. Everyone raises their glass and says “Skoal!” There is usually a beer chaser to follow. It is important to make eye contact during the toast as it is considered rude not to. Bear in mind, should you decide to blow off the eye contact, that the word “skoal” derives form the Viking practice of drinking from the defeated (and decapitated) enemy's skull.

************************************************************************

Grandpa Einar's Christmas Gløgg

I had a couple of requests for this recipe from last year's December newsletter so here it is.
As mentioned above, there was not much alcohol consumed in my family. I got a taste for Gluehwein (hot, spiced wine) during a couple of winter visits to Berlin and decided to look into Gløgg, the Norwegian equivalent. I experimented with a few recipes that were good, but then on a visit to my mother's house, I was looking through a box of family relics and found an old notebook that had belonged to my grandfather, Einar Joakim Olsen. It was in Norwegian so I couldn't really read it, but at the top of one of the yellowed pages was the word Gløgg. (It has been referred to, obliquely, that Einar was not completely against alcohol. In fact, when he wanted to have a little bump, he had to go down in the basement so as not to bring shame upon the family.)
My mother helped me out a bit with translating the notes. The good thing was that there were a few ingredients that made this recipe unique, such as juniper berries. There were no exact proportions so I did a little tinkering on my own. Here is the result.
You will need:


One bottle of medium bodied red wine
8oz.Port
4oz.Vodka (optional)
2 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
4 cloves
6 juniper berries
4 black peppercorns
4 cardamom seeds
2 wide strips of orange zest (make sure to trim off the white stuff next to the peel)
Raisins and blanched almond slivers
Tie the spices in a piece of cheese cloth.
Heat the wine and port until it just starts to boil and then reduce heat until the mixture is just steaming. Add the spices and orange zest. I usually let this sit for about 20-40 minutes. Taste and see if you would like it sweeter. If so, add white sugar to taste.
Add the almonds, raisins and vodka and leave on the heat for another 10 minutes.
Put a tablespoon or so of raisins and almonds in a demi-tasse cup. Ladle in the Gløgg. Traditionally this is served with a small spoon to eat the raisins and almonds.

*****************************
The Mystique of Eggnog

I was in big demand at Christmas parties for a few years, because I developed a skill at making eggnog from scratch. Although I professed my recipe was a secret I think I got it from a magazine. The process is slightly involved and if you can do it with aplomb in front of a crowd, it will win you much admiration. You can also do it ahead of time with the excuse that eggnog needs to rest a day to get the best flavor. (This is actually true!) For your first time I suggest you make a practice batch, as there are a few tricky parts dealing with adding the spirits to the eggs properly. And, of course, you must taste the practice batch, which is fine and honorable work.

12 eggs
3 pints heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg (don’t be lazy, get a whole nutmeg and grate it yourself)
1 cup Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1 cup Matusalem Rum
2 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and lemon colored. This will take some time so use an electric mixer if you have one. Add the liquor slowly, while beating at slow speed. Put the egg yolk and liquor mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
After the mixture is ready, beat the egg whites until they form a peak that bends slightly. Whip the cream until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Chill one hour. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg.  Keep a whisk handy because unlike supermarket eggnog, this will separate and will need to be mixed up from time to time.


Feel free to appropriate this as your secret recipe. I will mention that the reason people liked my version so much, was that it was mightily fortified with spirits, and ultimately, this is the element that will make even the most stressful family gathering bearable, and the most awkward office party fun. - George

 

 

7.28.10_______________________________________________


The Trevino
By Talmadge Lowe


1 oz Benromach Scotch
1 oz Averna
1/2 oz Sugar Cane Syrup
2 dash Xocolatl Mole Bitters
1 Luxardo Cherry

Pour all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, strain
into a Martini glass.

Named for the famous Mexican American golfer Lee Trevino.
It's bitter and sweet and spicy, just like golf...and life.

Photo by Tara Maxey/Heirloom LA.


5.10.10_______________________________________________

What is Natural Wine, and Why Should I Care?

When Lou Amdur asked me to get involved in a week devoted to natural wine I was struck by the fact that it was a particularly democratic (not in the partisan sense) idea. Even those of us who lurk sullenly at the shadowy edges of the vinosphere usually wait for some organization to initiate this type of event. To think that you could just call some guys (non-gender specific guys) and do it was kind of liberating. Also the fact that there is no one to answer to makes it a lot more fun than being hamstrung by The Man. The events are all around town and don’t require any particular affiliation or erudition. It just sounds like fun. Without having done any research whatsoever, I feel pretty confident saying that a solid 75% of wine drinkers do not know, or want to know, anything about natural wine.

This is healthy. We need a good amount of mainly disinterested parties out there to keep the Poindexters of wine culture from spinning out of control. After all, wine should be mainly about pleasure. I have spent too many years of my life trying to demolish the “old boys school of wine snobbery” to tell anyone what they should, or should not, be interested in. Also, for those of us committed to geekery, we need sub-groups who honor and covet very different wines and wine experiences, so that each of our sub-groups can snipe at the other and burrow even deeper into our own little faction. That said, this natural wine thing is gaining a good deal of interest. I know a lot of the folks who sell wine to restaurants and retailers are probably beginning to chafe a bit when they suddenly hear their buyers asking the question, “Does the producer inoculate, or do they use ambient yeast?” When wine reps chafe, you know there is a trend on the rise. Yeast is everywhere, and wine that uses the natural, ambient yeast, instead of commercial yeast, is more “of the place.” In other words, yeast is part of the terroir. Most of the bio-dynamic people are in the ambient yeast school, so this is nothing new, but the term “natural wine” is being used more often. So, what exactly is it?

As the week passes, I have in mind a few questions that I will be asking. I am not looking for a particular answer and have no axes to grind, so my questions are sincere. I expect to get a few opposing opinions, which is always fun.
Is wine “natural” if it is made from organic or bio-dynamic grapes, is harvested and racked and bottled by lunar cycles, but uses cultured yeasts?
Is it “natural” if it uses ambient yeasts and the élevage is non-interventionist, but is made from conventionally grown grapes?
Why do some “natural” wines have a slightly sour, yeasty taste and others don’t?
Sometimes I enjoy the taste mentioned above and in many cases I don’t. I know without a doubt 10 years ago I would have thought of this as a flawed wine. When is that taste a “flaw” and when it is the “right” taste.
What is a flaw? How relative is it?
Why should I care if my wine is natural?
These are a few things to think about. If you have more questions why not post them on the website to stir the pot. Hopefully we will all learn something.

 

4.20.10_______________________________________________

Rare Grapes

"Here is a list of the wines made from rare grapes, that George talked about on good food."

http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/gf/gf100417recycling_water_meat

Di Barro Rouge Vallee D'Aoste Touvien 2008 $22.50

This is the only blend. The grapes are: Petit Rouge, Premetta, Fumin, Vien de Nus, Mayolet, Cornalin, & Vuillermin.

Derose Cabernet Pfeffer 2007 $24.00

 

Pfneiszel Kekfrankos 2007 $14.25

 

Huber Dornfelder 2006 $24.00

 

Biancale di San Marino 2007 $13.75

 

4.10.10_______________________________________________





Resveratrol, Wine and Health


We are always excited to hear of the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Of particular interest are the promising reports about the benefits of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. A Harvard study found that:

"The "healthspan" benefits we saw in the obese mice treated with resveratrol, such as increased insulin sensitivity, decreased glucose levels, healthier heart and liver tissues, are positive clinical indicators and may mean we can stave off in humans age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, but only time and more research will tell.

All this looks very good. There are some drawbacks, however. I found this on the Mayo Clinic website:

"Most research on resveratrol has been conducted on animals, not people. Research in mice given resveratrol has indicated that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease. However, those findings were reported only in mice, not in people. In addition, to get the same dose of resveratrol used in the mice studies, a person would have to consume 100 to 1,000 bottles of red wine a day."

So, this is a bit of a problem. Let's say, to be on the safe side, you start out drinking only 250 bottles a day. Well, you can't drink when you sleep, so that cuts out 7 or 8 hours (unless you set an alarm to wake you up a couple of times a night for a quick bottle or two).

If you decide to sleep straight through,this means you are going to have to drink around 14.7 bottles an hour while you are awake. Assuming you are still in your working years, you obviously won't be able to drink like that on the job. Most likely you will need to cut down to about 4 or 5 bottles an hour. You could make up some time by taking public transportation to and from work, consuming 20 or 30 bottles en route, but as you can see, you will have to be quite dedicated to consume what is still a relatively low level dosage of resveratrol. This doesn't take into account the financial strain this type of regimen could exert.

While we really can't help you with the logistics we can offer you a resveratrol diet discount on purchases of over 1000 bottles a week. See us for details.

We carry three wines that are known to be particularly high in resveratrol. Perhaps you could experiment with a lower dose.



Citluk Vranac 2007 Bosenia & Herzegovina $12


Santomas Antonius Big Red Reserve 2004 Slovenia $32


Santomas Big Red 2006 Slovenia $18.25

 

3.12.10_______________________________________________

SIX PICKS

(An hommage to J. Peterman)

Six Picks

These are the wines the guy in the hat drinks. You know the one. You have seen a black and white photo of him sitting outside at a table, somewhere in Europe. The hat is either a beret of a snap brim. Always black. He is either skinny or overweight and he does not own any stemware, or Riedel "O" series stemless. His glasses used to have jelly or something in them. He drinks simple, tasty and authentic wines. He doesn't shop for them. He gets them from the guy in the other hat, down the road.

Primitivo Quiles "Cono 4" 2008 Spain $12.25

A monestrell (mourvedre) from Spain. Usually fuller bodied but in this case almost pinot noir weight. This has pleasant texture and elegance but does not require a wine PHD to enjoy. The guy who makes this wine\92s first name is Primitivo. He almost certainly has a hat.

Vignetti Massa "Fusco" Barbera 2008 Italy $13.75

Rich and grapey with a slightly earthy character. Low in acid but not flabby. Also the label is really a back label, so no label.

Quinta Do Correio Vinho Branco 2008 Portugal $9.50

This is a blend of indigenous Portuguese grapes that comes of like a white rhone blend. It's dry, aromatic and flavorfull with lots of minerality.

Para Silverlake (or Bear Wine) 2007 Montery County $13.75

Our own wine. We made this custom blend to be the kind of wine you don't have to think about. Smooth, medium bodied and delicious. We have been pleased that people have responded to it as we hoped they would, hat or no.

4000 metres Blanc de Morgex et La Salle 2008 Italy $21

This wine is from northern Italy, tucked in by France and Switzerland. That's why the lable is in French. The actual name of the winery is "4000 metres Vins d'Altitude." If you name your winery that you have to be a little nuts in a good way. This wine actually tastes a little nutty. Also green apple fresh and crisp, like an alpine breeze.

Bracero* $14.25

We have two taquilas; silver and reposado, that have the dusty, wild taste that only tequila made from 100% blue agave can have. Not too subtle but smooth enough to drink straight. Flavorfull enough to mix.

* This is drunk by the guy in the white, straw cowboy hat.

2.23.10_______________________________________________

Back from a fantastic trip to New York. Met a lot of interesting people and tried some great Italian wines at Vino 2010. The weather co-operated with my perverse desires by delivering a full on blizzard while I was there.That day I tromped around lower Manhattan in the howling gales and drifts of the cold,white stuff. Picked up some books at the Mysterious Bookshop, wine at Chambers St.Wines and lunch at Columbine.

Back in LA lots of good things are happening as well. On Monday night I attended a wine dinner at Lou where the guest of honor was Georgian winemaker, Gogi Dakishvili from the Vinoterra Winery. We tasted through the full lineup 4 whites and a red. These are truly unique wines made in amphora (clay vessels large enough for a man to crawl inside). The Republic of Georgia is home to the worlds oldest winemaking culture, going back, by some  accounts, around 9000 years. These wines are from unique varietals native to Georgia. At the moment we only have Tsinandali and Kisi (white) and Saparivi (red) in stock, but  more is on the way. The whites have apple, honey and walnut flavors, wheras the red has a dried  cranberry flavor finishing with a slightly smokey tinge. Altogether fascinating, as was  the opportunity to meet Gogi and the owner of Vinoterra, a German gentleman by the name of Burkhard Schuchmann.

I would encourage you to follow this link for the inspiring story of Vinoterra.

 http://www.schuchmann-wines.com/en/index.html 

Also, if you  cook try the recipies  at the following link. They will make the wines shine.

http://georgiantaste.blogspot.com/

2.3.10________________________________________________

COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

The Italian Swizzle by Talmadge Lowe

1 oz Smith and Cross Navy Rum
1 oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
2 dashes Angustora Orange Bitter

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
Then pour ice and all into an glass (single old fashioned or high ball work best) and garnish with a lime peel...or an orange peel, if you happen to have some oranges around the house.

 

 

 
Spice Station
There are plenty of places in Silverlake to acquire herb these days, but what about herbs, you know, for cooking.  Now there is a new spot in Silverlake to acquire an extensive variety of high quality herbs and spices.  It's called Spice Station, and it's at 3819 West Sunset Boulevard, just east of Sunset Junction.  You'll go through a narrow alleyway, and down a flight of wooden stairs into a hidden courtyard.  The story is full of everything you need to prepare all your favorite exotic dishes.  There are sample jars available so you can smell, and even taste before you buy. I stopped in the other day S to pick up some spices for my homemade aquavit project and was amazed at how different something as common as carraway can be when it's really fresh and of high quality. Spice Station is destined to become a necessary stop for all you foodies out there.

 

9.28.09________________________________________________

 

Transition to Green Club

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to speak at the Glendale chapter of the Transition to Green community club. This is a grassroots organization dedicated to learning, at the local level, how to make a transition to greener living.

We touched on a lot of topics, too many to go into here, but I made up a partial list of organic and bio-dynamic producers that we have in the store. Those listed below will come and go but we always have a good assortment.

 

Chateau de Pinet (Languedoc)
Marea (Sicilia)
Puelles (Rioja)
Chateau la Liquiere (Faugeres)
Kirios de Adrada (Ribera del Duero)
Weingut Hofer (Austria)
Bernard Ott (Austria)
Borie La Viterele (Saint-Chinian)
Breton (Loire Valley)
Roagna (Piedmont)
De Tierra (Monterey)
Copain (Sonoma)

Below are listed some interesting wine links that will provide you with some information on green issues relating to wine, as well as good general information.

www.demeter-usa.org
www.organicwinejournal.com
www.thewinedoctor.com
www.wineanorak.com
www.vinography.com
www.wine-economics.org/workingpapers/AAWE_WP09.pdf
This link goes to a paper on wine's carbon footprint, but I saw a lot of cool stuff here including a paper on whether people could tell the difference between pate and dog food!

 

9.23.09________________________________________________

COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

Daiquiri No. 4* by Talmadge Lowe


1/2 oz El Dorado White Demarra Rum
1/2 oz Rhum Barbancourt Reserve Especial
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 Orange Juice
1/2 oz Aperol
2 dashes Angustora Orange Bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker.
Shake vigorously.
Pour with ice into a tumble.
Garnish with a "half-moon" lime wheel.

 

8.23.09________________________________________________

THE ROSÉ SLUSHY

Hot summer nights call for drastic action. Here's a fun way to stay cool. Put your bottle of rose in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Check on it from time to time as freezers vary in temperature. When the wine has become semi-solid (you can see some ice and some liquid inside) take it out and open it up. You may need to put a chopstick or spoon handle in the bottle so you can pour. That's it! Be careful, this goes down easy.

8.16.09________________________________________________

COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

The Lindy by Talmadge Lowe

The Lindy is basically a spin on the classic gin cocktail the Aviation, but done with Bourbon. Talmadge named it afted Charles A. Lindbergh (whose nickname was Lindy), the great American Aviator who was the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from the USA to Europe.

The Lindy
2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
Pour in to an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a Luxardo Marashe Cherry.
I also like to drizzle a little of the syrup the cherries are soaked in on top the the drink.
And smile.

 

6.6.09_________________________________________________

COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

The Summerfruit Sidecar by Talmadge Lowe

We have instituted a new cocktail of the month portion of our newsletter page and to kick it off we have a summer inspired cocktail crafted by our favorite resident mixologist, Talmadge Lowe. All fruit was sourced from the Atwater Village Farmer's Market. If you like this drink you should try to wrangle an invitation to one of his invite-only cocktail parties...

Summerfruit Sidecar

1 ripe medium sized peach

1 ripe medium plum

1 ripe medium nectarine

Slice and remove the pits skinning the peach and the plum. Then put all fruit into a small pot with 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup water. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, stir and let simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off and use an old fashioned potato masher (or whatever’s handy) to muddle and mash the now-soft fruit into the gummy syrup. Once you have separated the fruit adequately, turn the heat on low and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat, remove the pot from the stove and let the summerfruit syrup come down to room temperature. Refrigerate.

Now for the fun part:

2 oz Badel Brandy

1 oz Triple Sec

1 oz lemon juice

1.5 oz Summerfruit syrup

A splash of Aperol

Shake with ice, vigorously, in a cocktail shaker and pour into a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim.

Garnish with a fresh slice of peach or plum and a small lemon peel

2.6.09_________________________________________________

The Age of Allocated Beer
(or how to roll big for very little money)

If you could go back in time to when your grandfather was young, one of the things he wouldn’t have believed is the age of allocated beer.

“You mean to tell me that only certain stores will get some fancypants beer and they will only get a couple of dozen bottles? You gotta be kiddin me!”

But think about it, how often do you get to try something that is top-of-the-line, almost custom made, and get away for less than $20. With craft beer getting ever more sophisticated, it is still possible to get the very best for this price. While this might seem expensive for a beer, you have to realize this is not exactly Budweiser. The new craft brewers are experimenting with spices and yeasts; they’re hopping and malting, constantly testing the limits of what can be done to give us new beer experiences. All it requires to get the best, limited, cutting edge brews is the interest and fortitude to seek them out. April is the head beer hunter at the store and is always looking out for what is on the horizon. She continually seeks out the best and the rarest so keep your eyes peeled on the beer refrigerator.

Here are a few of the current craft beers in that extra special category. To talk about these individually is really more about the idea of craft beers than the beers themselves, because everything here is in pretty short and supply and may well be gone by the time you get around to reading this. But don't worry, something new is always coming in. If you find yourself captivated by these cutting-edge, craft beers, let us know what you would like. Or ask us to notify you when something new comes in.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company 20th anniversary Imperial IPA - So popular last year that they brought it back in limited release. More alcohol, more hops, more varieties of hops, just less beer. $6.00

Stone Cali-Belgique India Pale Ale - This one is super rare and the story is complicated. The gist of it is that while cultivatilng a strain of Belgian style yeast in a mini batch of beer, they discovered that the “host” beer was actually very special. After a little tinkering they came up with this unique micro-batch. Move quickly on this one. We got 24 bottles. $5.00

Allagash Grand Cru - Allagash Grand Cru is a seasonal winter beer. This special, deep-golden colored beer is brewed each year in limited quantities. It has a full, yet refined malty palate and a gentle fruit and spice aroma. $9.00

Allagash Fluxus - Another year, another batch of Fluxus has been brewed to mark the change and growth of Allagash Brewing. With a new and different recipe, our 2008 batch is a double white beer brewed with spices and fresh grated ginger. A double white beer calls for twice the amount of malted and raw wheat, which casts an elegant cloudiness over this mango-colored beer. The aroma boasts of herbal and minty notes, as well as hints of clove and candied ginger. Fluxus offers a perfectly balanced flavor with a warm, clean finish and a lingering spiciness. $15.00

Green Flash Grand Cru - Grand Cru is a Belgian Style Dark Ale inspired by traditional Abbey Ales.Grand Cru delivers rich, malt flavors with a slightly elevated hopping and increased complexity from two different yeast strains. $8.00


1.12.09_________________________________________________

DIY Wine Tasting

When people ask me how I learned about wine, I always answer honestly, “By drinking a lot of it.” If you're not in the wine or restaurant business, this can be a daunting task. The way many wine professionals increase their knowledge is to form tasting groups. If you can find four or five friends that would like to improve their knowledge of wine, this is an excellent way to begin.

It is important to determine if everyone in the group has the same level of interest. In other words, you have to decide if it's a party or an actual learning situation. Wine tasting parties are fun, and can expose you to wines you have not had before, but as a learning experience, they're not very effective. Here are a few guidelines to help you put together your own wine tasting group.

First of all limit the number to no more than six. It becomes difficult to communicate if there are too many people in the group. Then decide upon an agenda. For example, will you start with white wine or red wine? It probably makes the most sense to explore several grapes of the same color, so you can compare and contrast more easily.

Let's say we're going to start learning about red wines, and we decide upon Pinot Noir as the subject of our first tasting.

You will need four bottles of wine; three bottles of Pinot Noir, and a fourth bottle of some other, distinctly different, varietal. It works best if one person purchases all the wines to avoid any overlap. What you are looking for in these three wines is what is called “varietal correctness.” There are certain wines that exhibit the most easily recognizable character of a particular grape. In other words, what you are looking for is the most Pinot-like Pinots. It would be a good idea, within these parameters, to pick wines from three different regions. That way, you can see how a different terroir can affect the grape's taste. The fourth wine should be tried after you have finished with the other three. Something like a Cabernet or Syrah would be ideal. After you have tasted three wines that are very similar, the contrast between the Pinot Noir and the Syrah or Cabernet will be quite apparent and will add to your understanding of what Pinot Noir does not taste like.(Don't try to do more than four at a time until you are much more familiar with wine, doing too many will just be confusing.) It's also a good idea to make sure you are buying at a store where the staff can direct your purchases in a meaningful way. I would recommend Silverlake wine, but that's just me.

Each guest should bring four wineglasses, and a notebook, to record their thoughts on the different wines. It would be best if all four glasses were similar in size and shape. We use the Riedel Oueverture red wine glass at our tastings and find they work well for either red or white wine. Everyone should have a glass of water and have a dump bucket available in case some people can't finish their glass.(Ha, ha) You should also have some French bread. It's best not to have cheese or any other type of food during the tasting.

Pour about an ounce and a half to 2 ounces of wine into each glass. You can easily identify the wines by putting a number on each glass. Put a corresponding number on each bottle, so you won't get confused. We mark our glasses with a sharpie. It's actually easier to take off than the residue from a sticker.

The rest is really pretty easy. Smell wine number one and try to think about what the aromas might remind you of. Then taste the wine and think about how it tastes. As you move through the wines you will begin to see similarities and differences. In the beginning, it's best to get your own ideas first and then discuss them with the group. This is because once someone says the wine smells like bananas, it will smell like bananas to everyone. Don't think about what the wine is supposed to taste like or smell like. What it smells like to you is what it smells like. Someone else may have another idea. And that's what makes the world go 'round. You will eventually learn to swirl the wine in the glass. This is not just done to look cool, it actually spreads a thin sheet of wine around the inside of the glass. As it evaporates the aroma is much more intense that wine that is just sitting still. After you taste a lot of wine you will unconsciously swirl everything in a stemmed glass.


When you read about wine tasting, there will be a certain amount of time spent on examining the color and clarity of the wine by holding the glass up to the light or against a white tablecloth. While there is a certain amount of enjoyment to be had enjoying the color of a beautiful wine, believe me, you will look like a dork if you spend any time doing this. In fact, the first sign of someone who doesn't know too much about wine is how much time they spend “considering” the wine before they drink it. As Randy likes to say, “It's all just grape juice.”

12.6.08_________________________________________________

Christmas Cocktails

Growing up a Minnesotan of Norwegian descent, there was a big emphasis on the Christmas holiday. After all, when it's that cold and dark you can see appeal of anything that smacks of light, warmth and levity. Unfortunately, in my extended family, there were a lot of teetotalers and so I had to learn some of the Scandinavian traditions from friends. One of those traditions is the Aquavit toast. In Scandinavia, Aquavit is an extremely popular beverage. Basically it is a neutral spirit flavored with caraway and herbs and is best described as Nordic Tequila. Of course, my favorite is Linie, a Norwegian distiller. This liquor is sailed across the equator and back before it is released to sell. I don't know why this would make a difference but it tastes the best to me. Scandinavian folk like to toast a lot, so a lot of Aquavit gets consumed. The bottle is kept in the freezer, or frozen in a block of ice. We pour the liquor around in shot glasses, or little stemmed glasses of about the same size. Everyone raises their glass and says “Skoal!” There is usually a beer chaser to follow. It is important to make eye contact during the toast as it is considered rude not to. Bear in mind, should you decide to blow off the eye contact, that the word “skoal” derives form the Viking practice of drinking from the defeated (and decapitated) enemy's skull.

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Grandpa Einar's Christmas Gløgg

I had a couple of requests for this recipe from last year's December newsletter so here it is.
As mentioned above, there was not much alcohol consumed in my family. I got a taste for Gluehwein (hot, spiced wine) during a couple of winter visits to Berlin and decided to look into Gløgg, the Norwegian equivalent. I experimented with a few recipes that were good, but then on a visit to my mother's house, I was looking through a box of family relics and found an old notebook that had belonged to my grandfather, Einar Joakim Olsen. It was in Norwegian so I couldn't really read it, but at the top of one of the yellowed pages was the word Gløgg. (It has been referred to, obliquely, that Einar was not completely against alcohol. In fact, when he wanted to have a little bump, he had to go down in the basement so as not to bring shame upon the family.)
My mother helped me out a bit with translating the notes. The good thing was that there were a few ingredients that made this recipe unique, such as juniper berries. There were no exact proportions so I did a little tinkering on my own. Here is the result.
You will need:


One bottle of medium bodied red wine
8oz. Port
4oz. Vodka (optional)
2 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
4 cloves
6 juniper berries
4 black peppercorns
4 cardamom seeds
2 wide strips of orange zest (make sure to trim off the white stuff next to the peel)
Raisins and blanched almond slivers
Tie the spices in a piece of cheese cloth.
Heat the wine and port until it just starts to boil and then reduce heat until the mixture is just steaming. Add the spices and orange zest. I usually let this sit for about 20-40 minutes. Taste and see if you would like it sweeter. If so, add white sugar to taste.
Add the almonds, raisins and vodka and leave on the heat for another 10 minutes.
Put a tablespoon or so of raisins and almonds in a demi-tasse cup. Ladle in the Gløgg. Traditionally this is served with a small spoon to eat the raisins and almonds.

*****************************
The Mystique of Eggnog

I was in big demand at Christmas parties for a few years, because I developed a skill at making eggnog from scratch. Although I professed my recipe was a secret I think I got it from a magazine. The process is slightly involved and if you can do it with aplomb in front of a crowd, it will win you much admiration. You can also do it ahead of time with the excuse that eggnog needs to rest a day to get the best flavor. (This is actually true!) For your first time I suggest you make a practice batch, as there are a few tricky parts dealing with adding the spirits to the eggs properly.

12 eggs
3 pints heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg (don’t be lazy, get a whole nutmeg and grate it yourself)
1 cup Joshua Brook Bourbon
1 cup Matusalem Rum
2 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and lemon colored. This will take some time so use an electric mixer if you have one. Add the liquor slowly, while beating at slow speed. Put the egg yolk and liquor mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
After the mixture is ready, beat the egg whites until they form a peak that bends slightly. Whip the cream until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Chill one hour. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg.  Keep a whisk handy because unlike supermarket eggnog, this will separate and will need to be mixed up from time to time.


Feel free to appropriate this as your secret recipe. I will mention that the reason people liked my version so much, was that it was mightily fortified with spirits, and ultimately, this is the element that will make even the most stressful family gathering bearable, and the most awkward office party fun.

 

10.16.08_________________________________________________

Gerhard and OTT

Stefan Gerhard

This is the time of year when we see lots of new labels in the store. Two of my favorites have just arrived.

First off, let's talk about the wines of Stephan Gerhard. He comes every summer with our friend Dale Sharp to show us his newest releases. We know there will be a wait for these wines, and that when they arrive, they will be even better than when we tasted them. Gerhard is not one of those fancy winemakers that comes in with his reputation preceding him. His demeanor is humble, but intense. He always speaks for himself, even though his English is not perfect. I think this is one of my favorite things about him. He knows that he can express what he means better than anyone else. Gerhard's wines come from the Rhinegau, my personal favorite region in Germany.

The 2005 vintage in the Rheingau was one of the longest growing seasons in two centuries. Gerhard allowed their vineyards this additional time to ripen and mature. The longer the grapes stay on the vine, and more complexity is imparted. This is good for us. I have tasted Gerhard's wines from miserable vintages, and they have been wonderful,so these wines are truly something to look forward to. We have only a very small amount of his delicious Rieslings in stock and if you like Riesling, I would recommend you buy at least two; one to drink now, and one to save for a few years. These wines will certainly improve with time in the cellar.

 

Bernard Ott

It is great pleasure to finally see the wines of Bernard Ott in the American market. I tasted these wines at two different wine fairs in Vienna. The first time I had them, I knew they were something special. At that time Ott had no American distributor. Two years later,in Austria, I tried them again and was also impressed. This time there was a lot of talk about who was going to import the wine. But again, they failed to materialize in California. Then, a couple of years ago, a distributor named Bill Maher got in contact with us to show us his Austrian portfolio and lo and behold , there were the wines of Bernard Ott. He has converted his holdings to biodynamic viticulture and continues to work diligently to make each vintage better than the last. At this point, I understand he is quite the celebrity in Austria .This is strictly due to his winemaking skills, and not any secret rendezvous with Paris Hilton. He was also named winemaker of the year by Falstaff magazine, Austria's most prestigious wine journal. Again the supply of these wines is limited, and the prices are good.


9.29.08_________________________________________________

SILVERLAKE WINE SELLS BABIES !

 

TUTHILTOWN BABY BOURBON AND MANHATTAN WHISKEY

 

Last spring we got a visit from Ralph Erenzo, one of the partners in Tuthilltown Spirits. Tuthilltown is a micro distillery in New York's Hudson River Valley, owned by Erenzo and his business partner, Brian Lee. These guys are obsessed, self-taught distillers who produce a line of spirits in a converted a granary in upstate New York.

When they say micro they mean it. There are only about 500 bottles per batch and the bottles are 375ml, or half bottles in English. . The bourbon is made from 100% New York corn. It is double distilled and aged in small (three gallon)barrels. These whiskies are only aged for a few months so the small barrels are used to speed up the aging process.

We had the opportunity to taste through his products at the time of his visit and have been anxiously awaiting their arrival. Now they are here. We have two of the whiskies: Baby Bourbon and the Manhattan Rye. The Bourbon is warm and spicy with a slight cedar tinge (think cigar box), while the Rye is fiery with hints of clove.

There were originally around 1,200 distilleries in New York before prohibition so it is probable that the original "Manhattan" was made with New York rye. Try these babies before they go away.

By the way the football is for scale. These are half bottles. $50 each.


8.15.08_________________________________________________

Batavia Arrack and Other New Arrivals

Van Oosten Batavia Arrack

We are really excited by a couple of new products that have just come into the store. First let's talk about Batavia Arrack. Batavia Arrack is a spirit that was quite common prior to prohibition. In fact, in the early days of the cocktail, it was a staple in many of the most popular drinks. Today, it has all but disappeared in the US. We came across a bottle through our old friend,Tenacious Dean. Rumor has it that Dean was once an arms dealer in the Far East.. While sweating out a bout of malaria in Indonesia, a local dukun recommended that he try some of the local spirit called Arrack, a distillation of fermented sugar cane and red rice. Dean was on his feet in no time. He at once gave up his wicked ways and began preaching the gospel of Batavia Ar ak. At least, that's how we heard it.

In any case, Batavia Arrack is now available in small quantity. The aroma and flavor of the Spirit are somewhat similar to a cross between regular white rum and grappa. When I first tried it, I was intrigued but not convinced that I would actually enjoy it. After a little study I found that the liquor is generally not consumed by itself, but used in combination with fruit juice and other spirits, most commonly in a concoction called Swedish Punch. Some people think of this as the original Tiki drink. Recipe to follow. $34.00

Swedish Punch
2oz. Batavia Arrack
½ oz. Rum
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup
3 oz. Water*
Ground Cardamom or Nutmeg*

Some people use tea in their punch in place of water. I tried it with a jasmine tea that I thought gave a nice flavor. To avoid the texture of ground spices you can steep the cardamom or nutmeg in the tea for a while. Remember if you are making a slightly stronger version of tea (it will be diluted by ice) add more tea, don't steep it longer, as that will make it bitter.

 


The Scarlet Ibis

The Ibis is a Haitian rum made especially for Death & Co., one of the most esteemed cocktail lounges in the country, located in New York City. We were able to procure a few bottles to sell at the store. It is a blend of small cask rums aged from three to five years. It has an amber hue and classic caramel and brown spice flavors. This rum was specifically designed to be mixed in cocktails so it is a must have for your bar. $34.00


7.28.08_________________________________________________

1988 Orion & Slovenia/Croatia

 

Tasting Thackrey 1988 Orion

 

First off the above pictured bottle is NOT the '88 which I failed to save for a photo opportunity. The old bottles had a very simple blue/gray label in the style of the present Pleiades. The story in a nutshell is if you have acquired any bottles of Sean Thackrey's wine, everything we experienced the other night points to the fact that they are in it for the long haul.

I had a bottle of 1988 Orion (at this point it was all, or mostly, Syrah) that I had purchased about 5 or 6 years ago and was saving for the right occasion. This goes contrary to the advice I give to all of you out there about not letting your wine go south because it was too special to drink. I had been thinking about this very thing and when our friend, Joe bought our last bottle of 03 Coche-Dury Meursault it was the inspiration for cracking the Thackrey.

Matthew and I both had the night free so Joe, Matthew and myself decided to go out for dinner with the big guns. The Orion was not too impressive when we opened it so we brought an a bottle of Jouget Chinon as a backup.

At dinner, during the first course, the Coche was really singing, but by no means at it's prime. We tried the Orion again but pretty much wrote it off as over the hill and drank the Jouguet. When we were done with our entrees I tried the Orion again and it was a different wine. It had suddenly opened up after two and a half hours and was reminiscent of a great, old Cote-Rotie.

Two lessons learned: give the potentially great wine plenty of time in the decanter (general rule) and Sean Thackrey's wines are world class.

As a footnote, Thackrey once told me that his wines are good for about 3 years after release and then go into a "dumb phase" for 7 years, more or less.

Slovenian and Croatian Wine Tasting

Last Sunday we did a tasting of Slovenian and Croatian wines with Frank Dietrich, owner of Blue Danube Wine. Blue Danube imports Austrian, Slovenian, Croatian and Hungarian wines and has one of the most exciting portfolios out there. We did three whites and two reds and the response was extremely positive. In the days of the weakened dollar, there is a lot to be gained by being brave and trying new things. We tried Krizevci Grasevina,Bibich Debit, Kogl Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris), Bibich Reserva, a red blend of Babic, Plavina and Lasin (3 grapes that are all relatives of Zinfandel) and a Refosk from Santomas. Come in and let us turn you on to these exciting wines at great prices.

We were also proud to be joined by Mark Ryavec, former Consul Gereral from Slovenia. He has brought to our attention a truly special wine and food tour of Slovenia through Insider's Slovenia. There was a glowing article by Keith Bellows in National Geographic Traveler magazine about a similar tour he took. Check out the links below for info on the tour and some great information about the country.

This is the Insider's Slovenia website.

http://www.insiders-slovenia.si

This is a PDF specifically about the tour. FYI, it's a big file.

http://www.insiders-slovenia.si/files/File/Insiders%20wine%20tour.pdf

 

 

7.5.08_________________________________________________

Simple Cocktails

 

 

The resurgence of interest in cocktails has become quite apparent at silverlake wine.
We are constantly researching new and existing spirits in order to bring you the unique, high quality products you have come to expect from us. This process, grueling and time consuming as it may be, is part of our pledge of excellence.

For example, a few days ago I had surgery on my foot and am under doctors orders to stay off it. While this might be disheartening to some, my philosophy is: “When life gives you lemons, make a Tom Collins!” I decided to buckle down and use my time wisely. Today I must have tried five different gins, ten tequilas, an absinthe and three rums. Not to mention bitters, cocktail onions, maraschino cherries...well, the list goes on and that's only today.

A lot of the cocktail cannon goes to exotic and complicated drinks with arcane ingredients and complicated procedures. These drinks are fun and certainly have their appeal, but for many of us, they are better left to the pros, i.e., “I like to watch movies, not make 'em.”

In that spirit, here are two simple drinks that anyone can make.

The Dry Gimlet


When I moved to Los Angeles I tried to immerse myself in some of the history of the place. I re-read some Raymond Chandler novels and a biography, as a stepping off point. I would drive around looking for the sites where his novels took place, his favorite haunts, etc. One thing I ran into in a biography was that he had a fondness for gimlets. I had always hated the drink. Too sweet and you couldn't taste the gin, but I figured if it was good enough for Chandler... I began experimenting with using less Rose's lime. Beefeater was my gin of choice so I naturally used that. The dry gimlet was better, but still not exciting. Then one day I was picking up some gin and the store was out of Beefeater. I had never tried Boodles so I took a bottle of that instead. I liked it a lot in gin and tonics but not so much for martinis. Then I used it for the dry gimlet and it was perfect. The heavier texture and exotic aromatics were heightened, rather than stomped on, by the Rose's. A "gimlet" is a sharp tool used to drill small holes. Keep that sharpness in mind while making the drink.

You may have your own theory about which gin goes with what drink. That's part of the process. A drink can be made in exact proportions with alternate brands and it will be completely different.

2 ½ oz. Boodles Gin
1 tbs. Rose's Lime


Stir in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a martini glass. You can garnish this with a lime wedge but I like it without a garnish. I think it distracts from the visuals. You should have to look closely to perceive the pale, greenish tinge. (pictured above)

The Half and Half Vermouth

This is a very simple aperitif that is excellent to have before a dinner where you may be consuming a special bottle of wine. Cocktails can sometimes numb the palate with their sweetnes and high alcohol. The half-and-half vermouth is a tasty drink which is not too sweet and lower in alcohol than your average cocktail. I like Noilly Prat, sweet and dry for this drink.

1 ½ ounces dry vermouth
1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth

Pour over ice in a small rocks glass, add twist of lemon and stir gently.

5.16.08_________________________________________________

The Sulfite Question

We frequently get requests for “sulfite free” wine. Some people get headaches or other unpleasant reactions from drinking wine and usually feel that sulfites are to blame. This may be due to the sulfite warnings on wine labels or just the conventional wisdom which, in this case, is in error. Here are a few words on sulfites and some other potential troublemakers.

First off, all wines have sulfites, they occur naturally in the fermentation process. If no sulfites are added they will still occur in concentrations of about 8-12 parts per million. The legal maximum sulfite level for U.S. wines is 350 parts per million, with most wines averaging about 20-50 parts per million.

Wine makers add sulfites to inhibit the growth of certain yeasts, mold and bacteria. Sulfiting can also help prevent oxidation and unwanted second fermentations which can cause the wine to have a slightly fizzy character. Most wines without sulfites added will be unstable resulting in a very short shelf life.

Generally speaking, producers that use organically farmed grapes tend to add very small amounts of sulfites in keeping with their philosophical outlook, but it should also be noted that many artisanal wine makers, organically inclined or not, take such great care in the winery that there is little need to add large amounts of sulfites. In these types of wines you may see sulfite levels in the neighborhood of 15-20 parts per million. As a point of comparison, dried fruits, such as raisins, usually contain up to 250 or more parts per million of sulfites.

Some people, including those with asthma, are highly sensitive to sulfites, but usually their symptoms will more likely be a difficulty with breathing and not with headaches. Sulfites are not the only suspects. Some other potential headache inducers are histamines and tannins, found mostly in red wine. Studies conflict on the probable effect of these compounds. The bottom line is that there are a lot of reasons for negative reactions to wine and they vary from person to person. The best advice is to experiment (gently) with grape varietals, producers and regions until you find what works .

 

3.8.08_________________________________________________

The Sommelier Is Not Your Enemy


Most articles about ordering wine in a restaurant start out by pitting you against the condescending waiter or arrogant sommelier and giving you tips on how to put them in their place. This is the worst possible advice. From years of experience as a waiter and sommelier I can tell you it is a much better strategy to make friends with the staff. A good server will be trying to make you happy, not only to get a better tip, but also to make his or her life easier. Most of the sommeliers I know are intent on being helpful to the customer. They take personal pride in their wine lists and are genuinely happy when a guest is pleased by their choice. Food servers vary in their level of wine knowledge but it’s a good sign if he or she seems confident and prepared. Ask a few menu questions before you get on to the wine. If they don’t seem to know the menu they probably don’t know much about the wine list either.

Develop a little wine vocabulary

Sometimes communicating about wine can be difficult. If you have a few words of wine vocabulary it will help you a great deal. Here are some of the most important ones:

Tannin: A puckery feeling on your tongue and in your mouth that makes you feel like you need a drink of water. The failsafe method for experiencing tannin is to take a wet tea bag, squeeze out the water and put it in your mouth. That feeling is tannin.

Acid: This basically means sour like lemon juice. A negative word for this would be sharp or acidic (like vinegar). A positive word would be tart or crisp (like a granny smith apple).

Dry: This refers to the lack of sweetness or residual sugar. A dry wine does not taste sweet. (Note: although tannin makes your mouth feel dry, this is not how dry is used in this case.)

Fruity: The smell or taste of fruit. A fruity wine is not necessarily sweet. This requires a little abstract thought experiment.
            a. Honey has a very distinct flavor and is quite sweet. Think of the flavor and smell of honey and now mentally subtract the sweetness. This is how something might smell sweet but not be sweet.

Big/light... full/thin: A big or full wine is to cream as a thin or light wine is to skim milk.

Smooth or Round: A wine that does not have too much tannin or too much acid. This is a little subjective because what might be too much for one person could be not enough for another, but generally this will work.

These terms should get you a long way if you use them correctly.

Make a comparison

This can work well if both people know the wine in question. “ I have had several Turley Zinfandels in the past and have always liked them. Do you have anything like that?”
This doesn’t work if the server doesn’t know the wine or has a totally different sense of that wine. If you said, “I don’t like Turley Zinfandel because it is thin and too acidic,” I would be confused because most people would experience those wines as big, fruity and sometimes a little sweet.

Let them know what you want to spend

Don’t be coy about the price.  There should be good wines in all price points. The art of helping someone choose wine is making sure they are not made to feel uncomfortable. If the server says he has the perfect wine and it is less than you are willing to pay, it’s a good sign. If you are offered something that is just a few dollars more than your price with a strong recommendation, that’s OK too, as long as the server doesn’t push it. If you are with a guest and don’t want them to know what you are spending, point to a price on the wine list while discussing the wine with the server. This indicates what you want to spend without discussing money. If the server tries to pressure you to spend a great deal more than you want to, just be firm and say no.

Don’t show off

There is more to be lost than gained by showing off. It usually embarrasses at least one person at the table and wastes time that might be better spent enjoying the meal. Also, showing off usually reveals more of what one does not know than what one does know.

Here is “the tasting of the wine” ceremony as it should go down.
 
The waiter or sommelier opens the bottle, puts down the cork (or, even better, doesn’t) and pours a little wine in your glass.
a. You ignore the cork, (unless you later feel the wine might be bad) and swirl the wine for no more than 5 seconds.
b. You smell the wine for no more than 5 seconds.
c. You then taste the wine for no more than 5 seconds

Any more than fifteen seconds total and you are starting to show off. The tasting process is only meant to determine if the wine is sound, not to get your detailed critical assessment. If, after tasting the wine, you think it is corked or has some other flaw, ask the server to try some. If he or she thinks it is OK, you may be asked to give the wine a few minutes to open up (no more than 10 because, after all, you aren’t doing a science experiment here). You are well within your rights not to do this, but if you have a good feeling about the server and your food is not on the table, you may elect to see if the wine opens up.  After a few minutes, if you still think it isn’t good, send the wine back and order another bottle.

Don’t be afraid to send the wine back

If you don’t like the wine, make it known to the server immediately during the tasting ritual. If you missed something when you first tasted the bottle, don’t drink it! Drinking wine you don’t like is no fun and you aren’t dining out to have a bad time. Also, if you drink the wine, you have tacitly accepted it. Call the server to the table and discuss the problem.

As stated above, the preliminary tasting is just to determine if the wine is without flaws. In days gone by, if the wine was sound but you hated it, it was yours and you were paying for it. Today things have loosened up a little and many restaurants will take back a bottle, even a sound one, if the customer is not enjoying it. I would say, if the server makes a strong recommendation and you don’t like it, the wine should be taken back. If you order a bottle against the server’s advice, it’s definitely on you. In the middle, it’s a bit of a gray area. If you don’t like a bottle and the restaurant takes it back without charge, thank them, order a bottle of something else, and everything should be fine.  Just try not to push it. I once had someone send back three perfectly good bottles before reluctantly accepting the fourth. This was not OK.

That just about sums it up. Unless you know exactly what you want, assume the sommelier is your friend. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be embarrassed about what you don’t know. The sommelier probably doesn’t know how to fly a jet or write a legal brief.

2.5.08_________________________________________________

Ladies and Gentlemen... the Sazerac Cocktail

In honor of Mardi Gras, here's a recipe for a famous cocktail from the city of New Orleans.

Take two heavy-bottomed 3 1/2-oz. Bar glasses; fill one with cracked ice and allow it to chill. Place a lump of sugar with just enough water to moisten it in the other glass.

Crush the saturated lump of sugar with a bar spoon or blunt object that will not break the glass.

Scream loudly for five seconds.

Add a few drops
of Peychaud's Bitters, a jigger of rye whiskey, several lumps of ice and stir briskly.

Empty the first glass of ice, dash in several drops of Herbsaint, twirl the glass rapidly and shake out the absinthe. Enough of it will cling to the glass to impart the desired flavor.

Strain into this glass the rye whisky mixture prepared in the other glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass, but do not put it in the drink. Do you understand? Do not, for any reason, put it in the drink!

 

1.8.08_________________________________________________

January Newsletter

The new year is upon us and we wish you all a good one. In case you haven’t been in lately, we have expanded the size and selection of our store and added an ever growing collection of spirits. Here are just a few items to pique your interest. This is by no means our full selection so please stop by to check it out.

 

Absinthe

is the mysterious potion that has been credited with heightening the senses, producing hallucinations, destroying the central nervous system or all of the above. Its purported inventor is a French doctor named (ironically) Pierre Ordinaire. It is also credited to a pair of French sisters who developed the recipe prior to Dr. Ordinaire but were not as successful as entrepreneurs. Much of absinthe’s legendary status is due to the famous eccentrics and artists who consumed it; among them Toulouse-Lautrec, Hemingway, Baudelaire and Lafcadio Hearn, among others. The secret ingredient of absinthe is an herb called wormwood which produces a chemical known as thujone. This chemical is credited with the hallucinatory and detrimental effects of the liquid. Today, however, most experts agree that the extremely high alcohol probably did more damage than the thujone. Absinthe was banned in Europe around 1910 and was made legal again in Switzerland in 2004. Recently absinthe has been made legal in the US and we are happy to have the Swiss made Kubler absinthe($51.75) in stock. We had some of the California made St. George Absinthe in but it sold out in about 15 minutes. S., George is a small producer but we expect more to arrive soon. We are looking forward to bringing in new brands all the time so stay tuned. We also have absinthe glasses and spoons to make your experience complete. For more detailed information about absinthe and other decadent pursuits go to www.lividlookingglass.com a local online business and some fine people.

American Whiskey or Whisky

George Dickel has always been a personal favorite of mine. It seems a little dryer than Jack Daniels and a little spicier, like a rye. We have the George Dickel “Barrel Select” ($40.00) in stock right now. Each year the Dickel Master Distiller chooses ten barrels that he deems special and sets them aside for 10-12 years. The result is a smooth sipping*whisky that won’t disappoint anyone in the mood for some fine Southern brown juice.

*George Dickel whisky is spelled in the Scotch manner (without the “e”) because the original Mr. Dickel felt his whiskey had the complexity of a Scotch.

Stranahan's is an extremely small distillery in Denver, turning out some exceptional American whiskey. For those of you who like a sweeter, oakier style, this is one to try. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey ($60) is named after one of the three partners, George Stranahan, who also happens to own Flying Dog Brewery which is situated right next door to the distillery. This is very handy because the distillery uses a barley wash concocted by the folks at the brewery. Incidentally, we met a film maker who is making a documentary on American whiskey makers and he did a segment on these guys.

Michter’s Single Barrel Rye Whiskey ($45.25) is a wonderful example of classic American rye. The original Michter’s distillery was started in 1753 and supposedly supplied the spirit for Washington’s troops during the revolutionary war. This makes it the oldest commercial distillery in America, distilling whiskey before there really was an America. It went out of business in the 1980’s but has been revived by a company called Chatham Imports. Some true aficionados that are familiar with the old Michter’s claim the new version in even better. I never had the original but I can vouch for the fact that this dry, spicy liquid is a superior drink. If you have never had rye whiskey, or have only tasted the more readily available examples, you should definitely not miss this.

Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados

We have some wonderful Cognacs and Amagnacs in stock but I want to focus on Calvados because it is the least known of the three.

Calvados is most commonly a brandy made from apples. Right away people jump to the conclusion that it is sweet. Wrong. Grapes are sweet. Cognac is made from grapes, but Cognac is not sweet. The same is true of Calvados. Its general character is similar to Cognac or Armagnac but it has the wonderful aroma and flavor of apples. If you have ever walked though an apple orchard in the late fall you have experienced something similar to the aroma. This is a spirit that will please anyone who enjoys brandy and has shivered a bit on a cold night and needs something to warm them up. We have the Lemorton Calvados ($47) which is made from apples and pears, and the Christian Drouin Couer de Lion ($49) made entirely from apples.

For more detailed information we will send you to Charles Neal’s website. He is the man who wrote the book (literally) on this stuff.

We are always looking for new ideas so if there is something you have tried and liked please drop us an email or stop in and tell us about it.

10.05.07_________________________________________________

October Newsletter

 

Gritsmania

Silverlake Wine will never forget the Great Grits Rush of 2005. There was an article to be published in the LA Times about grits and we happened to be good friends with the folks at Anson Mills, millers and purveyors of heirloom grain products. We agreed to carry the grits so there would be somewhere to buy them on the eastside. We got 50 packages and figured we would all be eating grits for a while. To our surprise we were barraged with orders and had to get two more shipments. Apparently there are a lot of grits lovers out there.

Anson Mills products are cold milled and must be refrigerated. We don’t have the space to store them properly so we can’t carry them on a regular basis.

Now, however, they have a great new website with recipes and some very interesting background information on their products and antique grains in general. Glenn Roberts (pictured above) is an endless well of knowledge on this topic so if you are at all interested in grains, cooking or culinary history, you should check this out. You can purchase Anson Mills products online with a minimum order of four 12 oz. packages. They have several different types of grains in addition to the grits. Store them in your freezer and you’re all set.

Here’s the website: http://www.ansonmills.com

Anson Mills products can also be purchased locally at Surfas in Culver City.

8824 National Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-4770

 

Saturday is Off Ramp day!

Off Ramp is KPCC's radio magazine that covers all (well, almost all) aspects of life in Southern California. John Rabe hosts and Queena Kim produces and reports. Tomorrow (10/06) they have an interesting segment on Joe and Heather D’Augustine who happen to have a vineyard in Echo Park. Off Ramp airs Saturdays from 12:00-1:00 pm and on Sundays from 8:00-9:00 pm. Or go to the website.

http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/

 

 

Autumn's New Book

Elliott Smith is the title of the new book by our friend, Autumn DeWilde. You can probably guess the subject matter. It has great photos, interviews and ephemera (including a CD of unreleased live recordings) and gives you a real feel for the commonplace that is often missing from celebrity photo books. Autumn is the anti-paparazzi. She’s the kind of photographer that artists feel comfortable with, which is apparent in the photos. There is accompanying text by Beck and Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie. It’s published by Chronicle and should be easy to find.

http://www.autumndewilde.com/

George's Jukebox

Here are a few albums that are getting a lot of airplay at silverlake wine lately. Two are from the always interesting New West Records.

“Dwight Sings Buck” is the upcoming Dwight Yoakum release that features Dwight singing some of his favorite Buck Owens songs, hence the title.

When I was growing up in Minnesota my dad had some jukeboxes in a few local cafes and VFW halls. Once a month, when I got home from school, we would go change out some the old records for new ones and empty the coin boxes (my Dad’s allowance). I particularly remember the fall nights when the sun would go down early and we got to have hamburgers and Cokes with a side of neon and twangy guitars. This was back in the ‘50’s and '60’s when there was a lot of classic country and rockabilly music being made. I particularly liked Buck Owens and his Buckaroos, probably because I was a kid and they had a funny name. There was also something a little comical in the way Buck Owens delivered even a serious song.
I went off to college and kind of forgot about Buck for a while but listening to this CD really brought me back. Great renditions of great tunes. You can tell the music’s good when you see people in the store doing little, unconscious dances to it.

 “Washington Square Serenade” is my favorite Steve Earle album since "Guitar Town." Lots of energy here and great melodies that I was humming after the first listen. The record is more or less acoustic but with some interesting production touches that keep things in the 21st century. You may or may not like Steve Earle but he writes lyrics like the Swiss make watches. I’ll bet his grocery list is a thing of beauty.

Also in heavy rotation:

Under the Blacklight-Rilo Kiley

The Warning- Hot Chip

The Mix Up-Beastie Boys

 

 

 

8.16.07_________________________________________________

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

 

SPEAKING OF VINTAGES

Wine geeks all over the world are very excited by the 2005 vintage. It seems like a repeat of 1990 where everything from everywhere was good.

This is the time of year when those of us in the wine business keep our ears to the ground to see what the current vintage will bring us from the world's various wine growing regions. That said, sometimes too much can be made over critical judgments that rate an entire vintage great, good or poor. At Silverlake Wine we try to keep an open mind and make our decisions by knowing the producers and tasting the wines. Many times vintages that are rated as poor or mediocre are re-evaluated and upgraded as the wines mature. Conversely, some vintages that show well at release fall apart in time.

Also, the most powerful force influencing the public's perceptions of vintages is the wine press. Obviously something has to be said relative to what happened in a given year and wine critics are paid to give their opinions. You, however, are not under any obligation to take their every word as gospel. For example, take a wine from the same producer in two different vintages. Wine #1 has a rating of 95. Wine #2 has a rating of 98. Both from the same critic . Wine #1 is from a vintage that this critic has called "the vintage of the century." Wine #2 is from a vintage the same critic considered to be a "correct" vintage. Which is better?

If you follow the critic's judgments slavishly you have to come to the conclusion that the 98 point wine is best, but in my experience, most people would pick the 95 point wine because it is from a “better” vintage. The choice is contradictory because they are choosing the vintage over the score. If you buy this critic's judgment a 98 is a 98 even if it is a terrible year.

A healthier way to look at vintages is that they are simply different. Some show well early, which is great, because it gives you something to drink while the other ones evolve. Others that may be tannic or closed at first will be getting better and better while you drink the more forward vintages.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the Southern Rhone

One area that did exceptionally well in 2005 was Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This is one of the great wine regions of France,and the world for that matter. The wines are, to use Robert Parker's word, hedonistic. If Burgundy is the spirit and Bordeaux is the mind then most certainly Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the body. This is the wine they won't let into Heaven so if you are planning to go there, drink up now. We recently tasted a number of the '05s and they were tremendous. The wines ran the gamut from jammy, soft, red fruit flavors to plummy,earthy and leathery ones, but the thread running through them all was great structure. Even the wines that weren't particularly my cup of tea were so well put together I had to admire them. I can't imagine that there isn't at least one CDP for everyone. We have several 2005 Rhones in stock and will be getting more in all the time.

 

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