Monday, September 23, 2013

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Zinfandel Wine Tasting - Houston, TX

On September 13th I had the privilege to attend a wine tasting at the famous Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston, TX.  The event was well organized and enjoyable- akin to being invited into a neighbor's living room for a drink.  It was held in a private room right off the dining room. There were five tables set up inside  the room, each with four tastings of a Zinfandel wine.  A sommelier walked guests through each tasting at their respective tables.  A lovely presentation of charcuterie, cheeses, fresh honeycomb, and crusty bread was prepared to enjoy with premier bottles of Zinfandel chosen for the evening.  Servers, dressed crisply in white shirts and long black waiter aprons, were also walking around, offering guests nibblies like seared duck and sweet potato, quail wrapped in bacon, and fried chicken on a stick.  The fine, hot hors d'ouevers definitely helped to accent the elegant wine that we were sipping.

Some highlights and tasting comments from the evening are as follows.  I found the A. Rafanelli 2011 Dry Creek Valley to be a watered down, but smooth tasting wine.  I greatly enjoyed the Mounts "Old Vines" 2009 Dry Creek Valley Wine which tasted of very dark, black fruit and was very robust.  Other highlights include a Robert Biale "Monte Rosso" 2009 Sonoma Valley which was spicy yet smooth, and tasted aromatic and fresh.  The most elegant wine I tasted was a Hartford "Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard" 2011 Russian River Valley which had the dual benefit of having the aroma and flavor of oak and wood.  If you are looking for a wine which literally feels like drinking silk then the Chase "Hayne Vineyard" 2009 Napa Valley is the choice for you!.  Or if you prefer a wine that is as soft as velvet on the palate try the Elyse "Black-Sears" 2009 Napa Valley.  For a fully luxurious experience bring home a bottle of the Turley "Dusi Vineyard" 2011 Paso Robles.  This beautiful wine will be sure to take your next evening to great heights.

The Pappas chain is known for their sommeliers, elegant atmosphere and diverse wine menu.  If you are looking to experience many new wines in one night then I suggest you attend the next tasting event!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Four Roses Distillery-Kentucky

Another trip down the bourbon trail and I can't say that I mind.  The latest visit was to Four Roses Distillery which resides in Lawrenceburg, KY.  Their product has a unique taste and flavor although they, of course, adhere to the normal laws for creating bourbon.  All bourbon must be distilled in new, charred, oak barrels and be distilled from a mash which is at least 51 % corn.  When bourbon leaves the still it must be no more than 160 proof and when it enters the barrel it cannot be higher than 125 proof.  All bourbons must be at least 80 proof in the bottle.

Four Roses has their own twist on this traditional process.  They have 10 distinct bourbon recipes and 5 proprietary strains of yeast which they use to create their signature flavors.  All of their bourbon ages for at least 5 years. The other key difference at Four Roses is in how they age their barrels. While most distilleries age their barrels in tall warehouses, Four Roses uses only single level warehouses.  In multilevel warehouses the barrels must be rotated since the temperature at the top and bottom of the warehouses creates different flavors of bourbon.  Four Roses prides itself on having barrels that do not need to be rotated, thus ensuring a greater consistency of flavor.

The tour at Four Roses was one of the best I have completed by far, as guests actually get to ascend the warehouse floor and look right down into the stills of bourbon as well as the tanks of mash.  It really feels like you are part of the process.  Additionally, both the tour and the tasting at this distillery are free!  And although, Four Roses does not have the innate Kentucky beauty that is found when visiting Woodford Reserve, it does have a lot of charm, since the buildings were designed with Spanish architecture and are immaculate.

In the tasting session, guests have the opportunity to taste Four Roses Yellow Label, Four Roses Small Batch, and Four Roses Single Barrel.  The nose of the Yellow label is fruity and spicy and the taste has mellow notes of apple.  The Small Batch bourbon also smells spicy and fruity but has a much creamier and smoother taste than the Yellow Label.  

The Single Barrel is the finest bourbon with a nose smelling fruity and earthy and a taste of caramel and mahogany wood.  This bourbon is exceptionally smooth.  The Single Barrel comes only from one recipe of bourbon and as the name implies, comes out of one barrel.  The Small Batch bourbon is created from 5 distinct recipes while the Yellow Label is a blend of 10.  Like with any bourbon, the flavors from barrel to barrel vary greatly even within one distillery.  So a Single Barrel recipe always has a unique and pronounced flavor with its own character.
Bourbon mash with yeast added

Four Roses is a thriving distillery in Kentucky today and they welcome visitors.  The drive is about 40-50 minutes from Louisville and definitely worth the trip.  (The bourbon is worth the trip too) Bottoms up!