My family recently cruised up the East Coast aboard an enormous ship called "Celebrity Summit." Stopping at ports in Maine and Canada, I tasted local beers in Portland, Bar Harbor and St. John. At Halifax, I enjoyed (endured?) the strangest tour of all time at Alexander Keith Brewery — which was (if possible) a bit too long on singing, dancing, flirty wenches in period costumes.
At Vanguard Distributing's recent wine trade show, I got to meet Jose Pastor, the 29-year-old face of his family's Spanish wine import business. With his tinted rectangular glasses and baseball cap hiding what appears to be a thick head of unruly black hair, he could easily pass for the Food Channel's newest hipster celebrity chef.
Chatting with the Lebanese owner of a halal grocery, I casually mentioned Chateau Musar, a highly respected winery in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. A smile spread across his face. "But I cannot sell them, of course," he said. "I should not even be talking about them!" For Muslims, alcohol is haram (forbidden).
America's puritanical streak runs red hot regarding alcohol. That's why the drinking age was raised to 21, legally acceptable blood alcohol levels are continually lowered and "sin taxes" on liquor are skyrocketing. Many of these initiatives are intended to keep "kids" (i.e., voting-age consumers between 18 and 21) safe from that ol' demon liquor — including two newer efforts.
Recently Seamus Campbell and Robin Goldstein, experienced wine/beer educators, released 'The Beer Trials' (Fearless Critic Media), in which 250 beers are rated on a 10-point scale within 11 categories. Of course, these are't the first beer ratings, but this duo sets themselves apart by tasting everything blind, allowing their panel to judge products on their own terms.
I'm reading Dava Sobel's 2006 tour de force 'Galileo's Daughter,' an engrossing depiction of the great mathematician's ideas and trials as well as his tender and loving relationship with his illegitimate daughter, Soer Maria Celeste. After Galileo was imprisoned by The Vatican for supporting the Copernican "hypothesis" that Earth revolved around the sun, Maria Celeste managed the family's Tuscan property, and their correspondences touch on the mundane details of daily life, frequently including wine.
News Flash! I have an affinity for esoteric wines from little-known regions. As a result, I tend to assume a lot of wines aren’t sufficiently “interesting” to sample. So when an opportunity recently arose to attend a dinner featuring the wines of well-known California producer Rodney Strong, I was dismissive.
I just found a PC/MAC game — Winemaker Extraordinaire (Masque, $20) — that challenges players to build “a winemaking empire!” Now, it’s been frequently said that “the surest way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large fortune.” So, on its face, I didn’t figure this game would be too realistic.
Each year as a child, I sat glued to the couch when ABC's 4:30 movies repeated its Edgar Allen Poe Week. 'Tales of Terror was among my favorites, comprised of three of Poe's shorter works, including 'The Cask of the Amontillado.' Of course, I had no idea then what Amontillado sherry was ... but today I have a real appreciation for the grownup drink.
In summertime, I prefer lighter, crisper white wines that provide relief from the heat and humidity: New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Australian dry Rieslings, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, real (French) Chablis. We drink these wines with utter abandon — especially because they pair so well with the lighter fare served during warmer months.
Where I grew up in New Jersey, there were plenty of ski areas within easy driving distance, but the quality of the trails and the length of the lift lines always left something to be desired. It might take 15 minutes to hurtle down a dangerously crowded, icy slope from the summit, and then you’d have to wait another half hour or more in the bitter, biting cold for another run.
Believe it or not, it's almost Thanksgiving, and once again I recommend planning ahead for your beverage purchases. Picking out the wine and beer is one task you can accomplish well before the holiday, when you might be busy with more pressing tasks like procuring the perishable side items and brining your bird.
When I look at a wine list or scan the bottles behind a bar, I look for the unfamiliar — and not just unfamiliar. In fact, the weirder the better.
So when I’m confronted by a list of Napa cabs and a shelf full of easily recognizable Russian vodkas, I opt instead for a seasonal beer on tap. At least I know it will disappear soon enough.
I just finished A.J. Jacobs' 'The Year of Living Biblically,' which recounts his adventures living strictly according to every law found in both the Hebrew and Christian testaments. When his wife becomes pregnant and asks him to swear off booze with her, the biblically mandated rules concerning alcohol consumption become an issue. He decides that scripture ultimately favors imbibing but agrees to water down his wine a bit.
On a recent family trip to England I tasted a number of wines that warrant some discussion. On the Delta flight over (which was an absolute clusterfuck that arrived more than six hours late and included an unscheduled maintenance stop in Atlanta), they offered a choice of two red wines, each of which was virtually undrinkable. This was particularly surprising to me in that highly-respected wine pro Andrea Immer Robinson serves as their high-profile Sommelier, supposedly testing every wine in flight to ensure that they show well at every altitude.