Category Archives: Spirits

Product Review: SIA Scotch Whisky

Kickstarter. what can’t it do? Whether you’re looking for a reboot of some random TV show by people who already have plenty of money but don’t want to risk their own or just some delicious potato salad, it’s there for you. While potato salad is great and all, someone decided that it was time to use the voice of the people to make scotch. (The team here at SDD was totally behind it.)

Carin Luna-Ostasekski took it upon herself to use her Kickstarter funds to create SIA Scotch Whiskey, a “brand for consumers who don’t even know they like scotch yet.” This is notable not just because she has entered a traditionally male-dominated segment of the spirit industry, but she is also doing it in San Francisco. I can’t do her full story justice here, but you should definitely check it out at siascotch.com.
TL:DR – creative type gets an itch to learn the ins and outs of something, works hard and creates a great spirit.

All of the media materials sent talked about how the goal of the product was to be versatile and approachable – not just the old, smoky, peaty stuff that makes some folks drool and others cringe and reach for the nearest cocktail menu.

IMG_4139So, with this in mind (and me badly in need of a drink at the end of the work day), I poured a glass neat and took a few sips. The vanilla taste was immediate, but it sipped much more smoothly than most and didn’t finish too strong. After a few more sips, it was clear that I had a great sipping scotch. Just to see what happened, I poured a bit more and added a drop of water and the flavors opened a little bit with some toffee notes coming out under the vanilla. I also put some on the rocks and was very happy with that as well.

I was imagining a ton of cocktail recipes with each sip – especially for fall. In fact, I’m planning to revisit a few recipes at a later date, but I was so happy drinking this neat, I didn’t want to stop. And for me, that’s probably the best endorsement I can give it.

I’ll go ahead and say it … we’re dealing with a gateway spirit (in the best way possible). I’m not sure how much a scotch purist will like this scotch, but this is a perfect spirit for someone looking to bridge between the standard Maker’s/Jack/Crown frontier into something different. If you like the standard North American bourbons, I’d definitely recommend grabbing SIA on your next trip to the store and seeing if it opens your palate for the heavier end of the spectrum.

To learn how to order or find places to buy SIA or enjoy a cocktail, visit http://siascotch.com/buy/.

Troy & Sons, Now Available in Dallas

A couple weeks back, I had the opportunity to meet a true dynamo, Troy Ball.  She’s a horse riding, blonde haired, mother of three who makes moonshine in Asheville, NC and a spark plug to boot.  (Like, the kind of person I’d really like to be friends with.  Like … actual friends that go to brunch and watch “Scandal” together.)


Her distillery is at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Asheville and they have family members that actually work there.  They even use white corn sourced from a local farm to make their spirits.  Troy & Sons’ moonshines were created when Troy learned that most back woods moonshiners (can I say that?) keep the best of each batch of moonshine for themselves and sell of the harsh leftovers.  So, she decided to make good moonshine and give the people the best of it.  (Nice.)  The smoothness of all the T&S moonshines is incredibly surprising.  We sipped each before trying them in cocktails, and both ways were enjoyable.

Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine |  The mildly sweet flavor of Platinum isn’t too powerful but still stands up nicely in cocktails.  Unlike the name “moonshine” suggests, it doesn’t burn at all.  The Platinum is also in a beautiful bottle (that I’m stoked to add to my new bar (cart) when I get it!)
80 proof, $29.99 for 750ml

Troy & Sons Oak Reserve Moonshine | While it’s bottled similarly to the Platinum, the flavors couldn’t be more different thanks to its six months of aging in bourbon barrels*.  The short aging gives it a light amber color and slight flavor notes of caramel with a touch of pepper.  It is smooooooth (oh baby) and was delicious in the cocktails that we were given during the tasting dinner.
80 proof, $39.99 for 750ml

Blonde Whiskey | The first of their “Blonde” line options, it is made from “the best grains of the old world to the latest in distilling technology.”  The flavor is sweet with notes of vanilla, caramel, and honey earned during its 1.5 year aging in custom honeycomb barrels.  This deliciousness SHOULD be sipped on its own, tainted only by the two cubes of ice (tops) if you MUST.
80 proof, $42.99 for 750ml

TROY & SONS – NOW AVAILABLE IN DALLAS
website | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Online, available (at least) at Lark on the Park

*Troy told us the story about how she visited a well-know whiskey distillery and convinced them to give her their used bourbon barrels to age their Oak Reserve.  She ended up saving their butts by connecting them with a barrel supplier when they needed new barrels during the barrel shortage (yes, there’s apparently a barrel shortage in the US).  (Disclaimer: I think that’s the story.  I heard it from the opposite side of the table after three tastings and four cocktails.)

Flight Song

I was excited to receive my latest SDD delivery of Brancott Estate Flight Song wine. Anytime wine is delivered to my front door is a good day in my book!

I got to taste a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. I would have never guessed these were low calorie wines and I was sold on the taste immediately. This isn’t like a “diet” version of wine by any means. According to Brancott Estate, “these wines are twenty percent lighter in calories in comparison to a traditional glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. The grapes are harvested earlier than usual so that it is naturally lighter in sugar, calories, and alcohol content.”

The Pinot Grigio will be a staple in my wine refrigerator from here on out. Each 5oz serving is an average of 87 calories. (Most wines average 123 calories/5oz.) It has a fruity, tart taste that reminded me of green apples. This wine was light and refreshing, which was perfect for a warm day.

I’ll say that I usually don’t enjoy Sauvignon Blanc wine, but Brancott Estate did a great job on this wine as well. It did not taste “diet” or watered down either, even though it is also naturally lower in calories. Each 5oz serving of this variety has an average of 88 calories.

In summary- try this line of wine, you won’t be sorry. For those of you who have a slight guilty feeling when pouring that extra glass of wine, this is for you. Think of it as your 100 calorie snack.

Retail Price: $14.99 ($11.57 at Spec’s)
brancottestate.com | facebook | twitter

*Disclaimer- I received these bottles compliments of Brancott Estate.

Afternoon Wine Tasting at Mercy Wine Bar? Wine-Not?

A few weeks ago I attended Mercy Wine Bar’s Passport to Rioja tasting series, featuring wines from the Rioja wine region. The event allowed us to taste a full spectrum of Rioja offerings, including centenary wines, classic modern styles and collector’s wines.

A little background on Rioja Wines: Rioja is a wine region in Spain that is famous for it’s Tempranillo wines. Tempranillo is an Old World wine that pairs well with food. (Obvious,but for real. I was craving a steak dinner after the event!) In terms of flavor, Rioja wines vary from more fruit-forward to silky, smooth with a bit of spice. To learn more about Rioja Wines, check out RiojaWine.com.

photo-2About the Event: There was no twisting my arm needed to get my RSVP. So on August 19th, I happily dashed up the Tollway to their Addison location.

Every table at the tasting featured several wines from different winemakers in the Rioja region. The event was thankfully relaxed and intimate, so I was able to learn about each wine I tasted. There were several wine retailers and restaurateurs in attendance (which made me feel prettyyyy fancy) who all seemed to be intrigued and impressed by the wines represented — which even further reassured me that I was about to be blown away.

The Wines: For your sake, I won’t go into every wine I tasted in this review. In short: I felt spoiled to be able to try the best of the well-known and typical varietals from Rioja, as well as explore some blends and whites that I didn’t even know existed.

The Reds: I was able to try some vintage and reserve wines from Faustino, including one from 1964! I also fell in love with Palacios Remondo’s La Montesa which uses organically-grown grapes making a light and delicious tasting blend of Mazuelo Tempranillo and Garnacha; a perfect red to sip out on a patio in the summer. As the gentleman at the tasting table put it, “It has a great slam ability factor.” (Yes, he said that.)

For White Wine lovers: The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the event for me was how much I loved the white Rioja wines, made from Viura (or Macebo) which is a Spanish white grape variety … and a severely underrated one at that! They tasted full-bodied and substantial light and refreshing; somewhat like a Sauvignon Blanc but less sour and less fruity. I especially enjoyed the white from Milflores (the bottle is gorgeous too).

Food: Thankfully, with all that wine tasting (I couldn’t get the hang of the spittoon), they passed around several delicious hors d’oeuvres such as Risotto Balls and Smoked Bruschetta (which is Smoked buffalo mozzarella, garlic olive oil, marinated tomatoes, and balsamic reduction).

Mercy Wine Bar’s Passport to Rioja tasting series was a truly unique experience that forced me out my Pinot Noir and Savignon Blanc comfort zone to learn and taste the best of the best wines from a historically rich and renowned region in Spain. I’ll be back soon, Mercy Wine Bar, to try a glass (or two) of something new and unexpected!

TIP: Mercy also will sell their wines to you at retail price. So be sure to grab a glass of Rioja wine at Mercy Wine Bar next time you are up in Addison and then take a bottle home with you!

Ole!


MERCY WINE BAR

5100 Belt Line Rd #544, Dallas, TX 75254
(Located in the Village on the Parkway, at the southeast corner of Beltline and the Dallas North Tollway, between Sebastian’s Closet and Blue Mesa.)
(972) 702-9463
mercywinebar.comFacebook | Twitter

Hours of Operation:

  • M-W: 11:00 am – 12:00 am
  • Th-F: 11:00 am – 2:00 am
  • Sat: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
  • Sun: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am

HAPPY HOUR SPECIAL | 4pm – 7pm daily
$5 wines by the glass (choice of 11 different wines)

 

About Mercy Wine Bar:

To be honest there is a lot of big chain restaurants and bars up in Addison, so Mercy Wine bar is a perfect antidote, with its small, cozy setting and unique wine and food selections. This award-winning Dallas staple is a great place to go grab a glass of wine before or after an event up there.

 

Chopin Vodka

Upon my latest Susie Drinks Dallas delivery I immediately thought, “Yay vodka! Let’s make some drinks and kick off this weekend early!” Mind you it was only Tuesday and this was much needed. Then I figured I should skim the label and, to my surprise, I held potato vodka in my possession. Chopin Potato Vodka to be exact.

(Potatoes and I have a longstanding relationship. Mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, potato gratin, baked potatoes, potato skins and all the other which ways potatoes come …I love them all.)

Chopin came to the U.S. market in 1997 from Poland and has notes of vanilla, green apple and that ever-so-alluring earthy finish. It comes crafted from potatoes grown naturally (good news for all your organic, non-GMO sticklers), yeast and purified artesian well water. It takes 40 potatoes to make one 750 ml bottle of vodka. (That’s like … a whole sack’a’potatoes.)

I’ll break down the process for you: Cleaned and left unpeeled, the potatoes are pressure-cooked to create a “mash,” which ferments for three days. The fermented mash is distilled four times, creating an almost 100% alcohol spirit, which is then transported to Chopin’s bottling plant in nearby Siedlce, Poland. Here, it blends with artesian well water and filters five times before its final destination of master distiller Waldemar Durakiewicz.

Additionally Chopin produces a Rye (2011) and Wheat, the newest addition. Rye holds a medium body with hints of spice and aromas of rye dough. Wheat offers a bread dough nose with hints of honey and butterscotch. Basically, it sounds like you’re drinking a breadbasket. I would say that assumption rings fairly true, but it’s an interesting flavor profile that grows on you the more you give it a chance. The Rye and Wheat are close in flavor profile, but I felt the Potato finished smoother with less of a bite at the end.

The trio comes best served as the base for cocktails like martinis with extra olives or with a splash of cranberry and soda with lime.

Here’s a recipe for a “Chopin Cuban” using the Potato Vodka that I deem completely necessary as summer cocktail season winds to a close.

Chopin Cuban
3/4 tsp. sugar
3 fresh sprigs of mint
3/4 oz. lime juice
5 large ice cubes
2 oz. of Chopin Potato Vodka
a splash of Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne.

Crush sugar, mint, and lime juice. Add ice cubes and Chopin Potato Vodka. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Top with a splash of Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne.


CHOPIN HAND MADE POLISH VODKA

www.chopinvodka.comFacebook | Twitter

 

**Disclaimer: I received this boozy bottle of potatoes for free from Chopin Vodka**

Astoria Caffe & Wine Bar

Truth be told, I find wine to be a bit intimidating. I can’t do what sommeliers do. I’m a beer guy. I have no idea how to really even “taste” wine as a professional would, seeking out hints of boysenberry (what does boysenberry even taste like???) or a lingering aftertaste of leather or graphite (whaaa?). I couldn’t tell you if a wine should be older or drunk the same year it’s made, and I have no idea of the “terroirs” associated with different wines. (Wait … since when are dog breeds involved in wine-making???) Nevertheless, the staff at Astoria Caffe & Wine Bar in Addison Circle makes me feel like a pro and helps me get to just the right glass (or three) of vino.

Wine and CheeseI recently had the chance to visit this corner bar with the wife for a light dinner of wine and cheese (which is totally acceptable). This wine bar is family-owned, completely unpretentious, and boasts a diverse selection of wines and a small, well thought-out menu. It’s the kind of place where you can see yourself being a regular. For those who aren’t big wine drinkers, don’t fret, Astoria stocks a selection of domestic and imported beers, too.

For the casual wine drinker who doesn’t want to an entire bottle (or the indecisive), there are plenty of choices available by the glass. I thought that the prices for both glasses and bottles of wine were quite reasonable. If you’re looking for something in particular or just need help with a recommendation, the staff is eager to help and knowledgeable about the bar’s offerings.

Astoria is intimate and cozy, allowing one to quickly feel right at home. The interior has a dozen or so small tables as well as a dog-friendly front patio surrounded by lush trees. This wine bar attracts an eclectic mix of patrons that range from the mature wine snob to young couples to hipsters. Those looking for a great first date spot in Addison or those simply looking to unwind with a glass of good wine in a relaxed atmosphere can look no further.

Whether you’re an experienced wine buff or an amateur like me, there’s a lot to appreciate at Astoria Caffe!

ASTORIA CAFFE & WINE BAR
astoriacaffe.com | (972) 239-5853
15701 Quorum Drive, Addison, Texas 75001
Facebook | Instagram: @Astoriacaffe_Winebar | Twitter: @Astoriacafewine

Happy Hour: Daily from 3pm to 7pm

  • Monthly bottle specials
  • Live-music on select nights

 

Grapevine Wine Tours

So … I’m all about unconventional outings–for dates, girls’ nights, and Tuesdays.  Sometimes it’s nice to get out of dodge and head to the ‘burbs, and Grapevine Wine Tours offer a fun evening away from the Big D that highlights Grapevine’s wine options.

I was lucky to join a group of media people on a wine tour on a Wednesday evening.  The group met around 5:30pm and piled into one of their small, air conditioned busses to visit three wine-centric stops in Grapevine led by a GWT representative who fed us fun facts about the city of Grapevine and its wine offerings.  (Fun fact: Texas is the 4th largest wine producing state!)  Each tour will visit three of the seven partners in Grapevine, some vineyards, some tasting rooms, and some restaurants.  The tour lasts around 4.5 hours and always includes a meal.

Our group’s itinerary was:

  • Homestead Winery – this cute, little home close to Downtown Grapevine produces wine from vines grown in Ivanhoe, Texas.  The owner of the winery walked us through a tasting of their wines (15+ — yikes).  They have some wines that are incredibly unique and were happy to talk us through the flavors and nuances of the wines we were tasting.
  • Delaney Vineyard – this vineyard is the only local vineyard and boasts 10 acres of vines, a winery, and gorgeous tasting room onsite.  We were treated to a tour of the entire site and a tasting of their offerings.  (I left with a bottle of wine from their gift shop … because I have a shopping problem.)
  • Winewood Grill – we enjoyed a three-course meal at Winewood, complete with suggested wine pairings.  I opted for the BBQ ribs, and it was a solid choice.  They had live music in the bar, which was a nice bonus.

GWTs will coordinate with your party to determine an appropriate itinerary and pick-up location (at one of three Grapevine hotels, Embassy Suites Outdoor World, Hilton DFW Lakes, or the Gaylord Texan).  Each tour is customized based on your group’s size and preferences.

Call 817.259.WINE (9463) or visit www.GrapevineWineTours.com for tour prices, schedules, group rates and other details.
Tours typically cost $79.50-89.50.  You can save 10% discount on a lunch or dinner tour using the code BLOG10 (offer expires 9/1/14).

****I was invited to experience a Grapevine Wine Tour free of charge.****