20081231

LOOKIN' FOR ADVENTURE?

Get out on the highway. The online highway, that is. Just click here and go to the list of the latest events around the nation involving your favorite beverages.

20081229

NY wine sector leery of governor's plan

Gov. David Patterson's proposed budget and accompanying changes in taxes and funding various parts of the economy has the state's wine producers in a tizzy.

In an interview with Channel 36, WENY-TV, Seneca Lake Winery Association Executive Director Paul Thomas (right) says the proposal is frustrating, but it's not as devastating as the governor's proposal to eliminate most of the spending for promoting the sale of wine, grapes, and apples.

Click here for the video report and accompanying text version.

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20081226

Kentucky wine shipping law overturned

Unless the state continues to wage war on its own consumers, a Christmas Eve ruling by a federal appeals court will stand, making Kentucky allow out-of-state wine shipments into the state even if the purchase was made via telephone or online.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 2006 decision from U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III that knocked down the state law prohibiting shipments of such wine purchases from out of state.

Cherry Hill Vineyards owners Jan and Mike Sweeney (above) filed a lawsuit that allowed the three-judge panel to rule on the case. They said Kentucky's in-person purchase requirement violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and illegally gives preference to Kentucky businesses over out-of-state merchants.

Cherry Hill Vineyards is located in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The 12,000 square foot winery produces about 7,000 cases of estate-grown pinot noir each year from grapes grown on its 90 acres, as well as some pinot gris and pinot noir dry rosé.

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Wine: It's not just for heart health anymore

A Peekskill, NY, man who claims he was a licensed orthodontist in his native Ecuador has been arrested and charged with operating an illegal dentist's office in the kitchen of his home and giving patients wine from a jug to help them cope with the pain.

Carlos Flores (above) was picked up two days before Christmas when police raided his home located about 30 miles north of New York City. The word on his activities came from a man who had to be hospitalized after Flores broke one of his teeth during an extraction.

Police, who seized a dentist's chair, drugs and orthodontic equipment, said Flores is being charged with practicing dentistry without a license. They said his patients mostly were poor Hispanics.

While wine is not recommended as a painkiller, some types have long been shown to have positive effects on human health.

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20081225

Avoiding scientific disaster

What happens if you vigorously shake an unopen bottle of champagne?

I have no idea why anyone would do that, but the Swiss newspaper Le Matin reports that Friedrich Balck of Clausethal Technical University in Germany found that a vigorously shaken bottle of champagne with a pressure of 2.5 bars (a bar equals 1kg per square centimeter) expelled its cork at 40 km/h. In American, that's 24.8 mph.

If you left the bottle unshaken in the sin for a while prior to opening it -- again, I have no idea why anyone would do that, the speed of the expelled cork could reach 62 mph.

To avoid such silliness during holiday festivities, follow these guides I've previously posted but now feel the need to reiterate:

• Remove the wire cage and foil covering the cork.

• Point the bottle away from everyone, including yourself. It is under tremendous pressure, so it can be a dangerous missile.

• Put a dish towel over the top of the bottle and, with your hand under the towel, grasp the cork firmly.

• Hold the cork steady and turn the bottle. The cork will slowly disengage.

• When the cork comes out, keep the towel over the bottle opening for a moment to preserve the gas and the champagne.

• Pour into champagne flutes and enjoy.

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Great moments in governance

New York State's convoluted, outdated and otherwise embarassingly pathetic regulation of the sales of wine, beer and spirits continually serves up examples of things that need to be fixed.

The latest came in Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester, where the state says Mike Palmeri's Marketview Liquor store committed an unforgiveable, unthinkable and inhuman act.

It sold wine gift bags.

Oh, the humanity!

Palmeri is allowed, as a duly licensed vassal of the Empire State government, to sell wine. And wine glasses. And wine bottle stoppers. And wine corkscrews. But, it is prohibited from selling a gift bag to put the stuff in. If you do that, Palmeri has learned, you're in line for a $10,000 fine for running a second business! -- according to the ludicrously inept State Liquor Authority.

He could, I theorize, have given the bags away and probably tacked an additional charge on some of the other items he's allowed to sell as a way of making up the difference.

Palmeri told WSYR-TV he had no idea the law existed.

“I was incredulous, and I took everything down. I stopped doing it," says Palmeri, a standup guy who says he doesn't blame the state because "ignorance of the law is no excuse. It's like saying you didn't know what the speed limit was. I violated the statute. I think it's pretty ridiculous, but the state needs money so they're looking for every possible way of getting it."

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20081222

Mead on the rise in bucolic Vermont

Vermont is known for its gorgeous scenery, great skiing, small population and very little government involvement in residents' lives. That tends to make it the sort of place that attracts, or holds, people with a do-it-yourself attitude.

Take what some of them do with honey, for example. The Vermont Beekeepers Association estimates there are 1,200 beekeepers tending 9,000 hives that produce 700,000 pounds of honey a year. That's a lot of honey to use in cooking and as sweeteners and toppings, so there is plenty left over for other purposes. Take mead.

Yes, the favorite of the Middle Ages continues to thrive in some areas. Rather than being simply an oddity produced by the occasional winery, in Vermont it's a growing field of endeavor.

As reported by the Vermont Times-Argus newspaper:

"Before the French chemist Louis Pasteur, there were the gods, and the mysterious means of turning honey into wine was seen as a gift from the heavens. Long-ago English speakers, both enamored of and bemused by the act of fermentation, dubbed the process simply 'god is good.' ...

"In Vermont, mead makers, from amateur home brewers to small-scale commercial producers, are experimenting with the age-old elixir, adding a touch of Green Mountain flavor.

"It's part of a recent renaissance for the brew, says Todd Hardie, owner of Honey Gardens in Ferrisburgh, which produces raw honey, mead and other natural honey products. In a climate ill suited to grapes for wine and barley for beer, mead — like Vermont cider — holds a particular appeal."

[Go here for the full story.]

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20081221

KY group joins push for wine in grocery stores

With New York State on the verge of allowing wine sales in grocery stores, the spotlight is being turned up on the 14 other states that do not allow such a thing.

One of them is Kentucky, and this report from the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer tells us a movement is growing to join the majority of states:

"Kentucky ... does not allow wine sales in grocery stores, but a coalition is looking to change that soon. The Kentucky Food with Wine Coalition announced December 16 that more than 100 Kentucky supermarkets will hold a petition drive to gauge support for allowing them to sell wine. The drive will help the coalition's effort to allow wine to be sold in groceries, spokesman Luke Schmidt said.

" 'Ultimately what we want to be able to do is to demonstrate that consumers across the state want to see this law change'," Schmidt told the Messenger-Inquirer.

"But traditional liquor stores don't want Kroger, Houchens and other grocery stores jumping on their wagon. Changing the law would give grocery stores an unfair advantage, said Karen Lentz, a lobbyist for the Kentucky Liquor Retailer Coalition.

" 'It's the fact that they can already do this, as long as they comply with the current rules that are set out for anybody who sells wine', Lentz said. 'This is a heavily regulated product that should remain heavily regulated'."

"Rep. Larry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, filed a bill this year to allow for the expansion of wine sales to grocery stores. The bill made its way to the House Licensing and Occupations Committee but didn't receive a hearing.

"As Kentucky farmers make the switch from traditional crops, particularly tobacco, to grape and wine production, allowing wine sales in groceries will be a benefit to Kentucky's agriculture industry, the coalition argues.

" 'It's early, but my understanding is that it's been very positively received by shoppers,' Schmidt said."

" ... At least 40 grocery stores in Kentucky already sell liquor, but they have to abide by the same rules as liquor stores, like having the liquor and wine section accessible only through its own entrance, Lentz said."

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20081219

Drawing a conclusion

John DeRosier, the editorial cartoonist for the Times Union newspaper in Albany, NY, didn’t leave any doubt in today's cartoon about his stance on the proposal by Gov. David Patterson to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

The proposal, which the governor estimates will significantly increase state revenue through licensing and taxes, is under fire from liquor stores which have always had that niche as their exclusive province in New York State.

Thirty-five other states already allow groceries to sell wines.

Click here to see the full cartoon posted on the blog I write for that newspaper.

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20081218

A beer drinker's guide to holiday champagne

From the "Dowd On Drinks" archives, updated:

So there you sit, in your latest ugly Christmas sweater that already has a splotch of holiday gravy on the front, wondering how to avoid looking like a schlub when you uncork the champagne you've been assigned to purchase for the next family inquisition commonly known as New Year's Eve.

You like your bubbly, of course, if it says Bud Lite on the label. What do you know about that frou-frou French stuff, and who wants to spend that kind of money on something that tickles your nose and tastes sour anyway?

If you know champagne is French, you may be farther ahead than you realize. The rest is a simple matter of getting educated. Quickly. Since you're running low on shopping days to get ready to toast the arrival of 2009, sit up straight and pay attention.

True champagne comes from the Champagne region in the northeastern part of France which jealously protects the name "champagne'' worldwide. That's why the phrases "champagne style'' and "methode champenoise'' appear on a lot of non-French labels. (See how much you've learned already?)

Champagne doesn't taste sour. Crappy champagne does. However, it does have quite a range from tart to sweet.

There is something called "liqueur d'expedition'' which is used to top off bottles after the sediment has been removed. Because it contains varying amounts of sugar and some reserve wine, the sweetness of the finished product will vary and determines the style of the champagne.

The most common style is brut -- there is an extra or ultra brut, but you'll rarely see it, especially in the U.S. Brut has 0 to 15 grams of sugar per liter. Then comes extra sec with 12-20 grams, sec at 17-35, demi-sec at 35-50, doux at more than 50 and also extremely rare. You're usually dealing with brut style in this country, and it's a versatile wine for meals, desserts or just quaffing.

Champagne prices range all over the place, such as $15-$22 for a palatable low-end wine to $30-$60 for the better ones without having to sell your first-born to pay for even more expensive ones. My favorites are Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin ($39.95) and Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut ($30) among the affordable imports and Chateau Frank 2000 Blanc de Noirs from the Finger Lakes ($29.99) among the "methode champenoise'' domestics.

What should determine the price is what's in the bottle. A non-vintage wine, usually denoted by the letters NV on the label instead of a vintage year, is a blend from several different years. Vintage wines are produced from a single year.Most champagne houses will designate a vintage only if they think the grape crop from that year was special. Otherwise, they blend their product to meet a certain standard. Vintages are more expensive.

Some of the other top-tier French champagnes are Taittinger, Moet et Chandon, Bollinger, Cristal, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon. The French-owned Roederer Estate winery in California also produces some nice bubblies.

Champagnes do not have to be golden, as the movies would have you believe. There are champagnes ranging in color from nearly white to deep gold to rose or bright pink. It all depends on the manufacturing process.

There are champagnes made entirely from black grapes (blanc de noir) such as pinot noir and pinot meunier and champagnes made entirely from white grapes (blanc de blanc) such as chardonnay. The rose wines are made by allowing a little more contact with the red grape skins than usual or, in a few cases, even introducing a touch of red wine to the process.

Champagne is best served as cold as you can get it without putting it in the freezer. That helps maintain the bubbles after opening. And, speaking of opening, a bad job of doing that can ruin the whole thing. Just keep a few things in mind:

• Remove the wire cage and foil covering the cork.

• Point the bottle away from everyone, including yourself. It is under tremendous pressure, so it can be a dangerous missile.

• Put a dish towel over the top of the bottle and, with your hand under the towel, grasp the cork firmly.

• Hold the cork steady and turn the bottle. The cork will slowly disengage.

• When the cork comes out, keep the towel over the bottle opening for a moment to preserve the gas and the champagne.

• Pour into champagne flutes and enjoy.
A champagne haiku

Champagne bubbles rise
like tiny moths to light bulbs
here's to you my dear



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Aussie claims world's healthiest wine

From the UK's Times Online:

An Australian doctor has created what he claims is the world's healthiest wine which cleans your blood vessels even as you drink it, actively reducing your risk of heart attack.

Philip Norrie, a Sydney GP and former winemaker, has produced a wine with 100 times the amount of resveratrol, the antioxidant credited with giving wine its health giving properties, as normal wines.

[Go here for the full story.]

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NY raising the price of raising a glass

New York State is so strapped for cash, Gov. David Patterson is dusting off a lot of old ideas to raise money. Among his proposals for the new year, which still need to be debated and voted on by the state legislature, are numerous ones that will affect the beverage consuming habits of state residents.

Chief among them is his proposal to allow sales of wine in grocery stores, which would put New York on the same page as 35 other states that already allow it. Until now, strong lobbying by liquor store owners and their allies in state government has kept the lucrative slice of the market all to themselves. The usual posturing and debating now will ensue as the matter is debated.

Other beverage-related plans in Patterson's 2009-10 budget proposal:

• An increase in the excise tax on wine and beer from 18.9 cents a gallon for wine and 24 cents a gallon for beer to 51 cents a gallon for both.

• Increasing the tax on flavored malt liquors.

• Raising the sales tax on fruit drinks and non-diet sodas with less than 70% fruit juice by 18%.

Paterson delivered a balanced Executive Budget, more than one month prior to the State constitutional deadline, which would eliminate the largest budget deficit in state history -- a $1.7 billion current-year shortfall and a $13.7 billion 2009-10 deficit.

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20081214

A bailout for wine lovers

Now that big banks and financial firms have been promised bailouts with taxpayer money and the Big 3 of automaking is angling for the same, other entities are contemplating asking for bailouts, too.

You, as an individual, beleaguered, taxpaying citizen, can get one.

Crushpad, the California custom wine facility, has come up with Bailout Wine. It's a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which will sell for $39 per bottle.

So, you may ask, what's the deal with the bailout?

For every 100-point drop in the Dow Jones average from the date of purchase to the projected bottling date of August 14 2009, Crushpad will take $2 off the bottle price. If the Dow rebounds, the $39 price stands.

Only 500 cases of Bailout -- which has a bull and a bear battling on the label -- will be produced. The wine will be shipped after it is bottled next summer.

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20081213

Moet buys champagne house

Moet Hennessy, LMVH's wines and spirits group, has purchased the Montaudon champagne house.

The Reims, France, company was founded in 1891. The family business recently invested in a new production site at Croix-Blandin.

Montaudon joins LVMH's portfolio of champagne brands that include Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Krug, Ruinart and Mercier.

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Napa's COPIA may be defunct

April L. Dowd photo

From the San Francisco Business News:

A U.S. bankruptcy court judge has rejected Napa (CA) food and wine center COPIA’s attempt to line up an emergency $2 million line of credit, a ruling that appears to spell the end of the Napa non-profit, which has about $80 million in debts.

The 7-year-old company, seen by many as a failed attempt to take advantage of Napa’s food and wine culture, was initially bankrolled by the late wine industry icon Robert Mondavi.

“At this time, it is highly unlikely that COPIA will continue in any form other than to orderly wind down operations,” CFO Joe Fischer said in a recent e-mail reported by the Napa Valley Register. The San Francisco Business Times was unable to reach officials for comment.

Copia shut its doors in late November, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Dec. 1.

Its bond insurer, ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., and bond trustee Bank of New York Mellon objected to the line of credit request, according to a report Wednesday in the Register, one of Copia’s unsecured creditors. As a result of Judge Alan Jaroslovsky’s ruling, the company, also known as the American Center For Wine, Food and the Arts, appears ready to go out of business.

The organization’s bankruptcy filing listed 385 creditors. It reportedly owes $78 million to financial institutions and $2 million to other entities. A bankruptcy court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 19."

[Go here for my earlier report on the situation.]

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20081205

Michigan seeks ban on direct shipment

Michigan consumers no longer will be allowed to have wine purchases shipped directly to them by retailers in any state if new legislation is passed by both houses of the state legislature..

The legislation, passed 97 to 9 by the House on Thursday and which now goes before the Senate, is in response to a federal court decision that opening up Michigan’s market to retailers from all over the country.

The legislation is supported by Michigan's Liquor Control Commission and by the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. Both bodies have said they want to control access to alcohol.

[See related wine legislation stories here, here and here.]

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20081204

75 years since The Noble Experiment fizzled

There is something about Americans that requires special treatment of anniversaries ending in the numbers 0 and 5.

Rarely do we make a big deal about the fourth anniversary, or the ninth, or even the 24th of some event. Ah, but let us get busy when it comes to the fifth, 10th or 25th.

So, imagine all the hoopla that will be going on around the country tomorrow, Friday, December 5 -- the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Let the happy hours begin!

Officially, the prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, with a rare few licensed exceptions, was a result of the National Prohibition Act of 1919 -- commonly called the Volstead Act, after U.S. Rep. Andrew J. Volstead, R-Minnesota, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and sponsor of the bill that went into effect in 1920.

This came about in a period in our history in which religious organizations and anti-drinking societies abounded and had plenty of political clout. Chief among them were the American Temperance Society, the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League, all of which had gained phenomenal political clout.

According to the National Archives, "Between 1905 and 1917, various states imposed laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages. ... In 1917, the House of Representatives wanted to make Prohibition the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Congress sent the amendment to the states for ratification, where it needed three-fourths approval. The amendment stipulated a time limit of seven years for the states to pass this amendment. In just 13 months enough states said 'yes' to the amendment that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic liquors.

"The amendment worked at first, liquor consumption dropped, arrests for drunkenness fell, and the price for illegal alcohol rose higher than the average worker could afford. Alcohol consumption dropped by 30% and the United States Brewers' Association admitted that the consumption of hard liquor was off 50% during Prohibition. These statistics however, do not reflect the growing disobedience toward the law and law enforcement.

"The intensity of the temperance advocates was matched only by the inventiveness of those who wanted to keep drinking. Enforcing Prohibition proved to be extremely difficult. The illegal production and distribution of liquor, or bootlegging, became rampant, and the national government did not have the means or desire to try to enforce every border, lake, river, and speakeasy in America. In fact, by 1925 in New York City alone there were anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasy clubs.

"The demand for alcohol was outweighing (and out-winning) the demand for sobriety. People found clever ways to evade Prohibition agents. They carried hip flasks, hollowed canes, false books, and the like. While Prohibition assisted the poor factory workers who could not afford liquor, all in all, neither federal nor local authorities would commit the resources necessary to enforce the Volstead Act. For example, the state of Maryland refused to pass any enforcement issue. Prohibition made life in America more violent, with open rebellion against the law and organized crime."

Finally, the political pendulum swung far enough in favor of ridding the nation of what came to be called by some "The Noble Experiment." As many anti-Prohibition organizations popped up as had anti-drinking groups. The Democratic Party platform in the 1932 election included an anti-Prohibition plank and Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for the presidency promising repeal, which occurred on December 5, 1933.

The popular vote for repeal of prohibition was 74% in favor, 26% opposed. Thus, by a 3-to-1 margin, the American people rejected Prohibition. Only two states opposed repeal.

Crowds raised glasses and sang "Happy Days are Here Again!" and President Roosevelt, referring to what he called "The damnable affliction of Prohibition," sipped a martini at the stroke of midnight, what was widely reported as the first legal cocktail since Prohibition began.

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20081202

Massachusetts wine rules changing

Massachusetts consumers may soon be able to order wine online from anywhere in the country.

U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel ruled that the state's restrictions on direct shipments of wine purchased over the Internet discriminated against out-of-state wineries. His decision was based on a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says states cannot prohibit out-of-state Internet sales if they allow in-state wineries to ship their products directly to consumers.

The attorney general's office is deciding whether to appeal Zobel's ruling.

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Napa's COPIA center bankrupt

April L. Dowd photo

The bad news: COPIA:The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts that has been closed for several weeks, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The good news: It will reopen during the reorganization period.

The center, located in Napa, CA, said restructuring through a Chapter 11 filing will provide six months to achieve long-term sustainability. In the filing, Copia estimated its outstanding liabilities between $50 million and $100 million.

"We recently have taken intensive measures to overcome our deteriorating liquidity position," Copia CEO Garry McGuire said in a statement, referring to cost-cutting by making Copia less of a wine and food museum and more of an education institute.

Copia was the brainchild of wine pioneer Robert Mondavi, who died in May at age 94. It has been financially troubled since its 2001 opening as a facility that includes museum exhibition space, a restaurant, expansive gardens, meeting rooms and art galleries. It has been closed in recent weeks, but will reopen during the restructuring.

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20081201

All things cider, and how to taste them

I've been getting a small but steady trickle of inquiries about ciders lately. Perhaps it's that time of year when so traditional -- at least English traditional -- a drink gets into the mind along with other autumnal things such as turkeys and cranberries and yams.

Anyway, because of this renewed interest in true ciders and how to taste them, I've taken the following 2007 story from my archives to help quench that thirst for knowledge.



William M. Dowd photo

There are few plants on the Earth that somewhere, some time, somehow, someone hasn't tried turning into an alcoholic beverage.

From Egyptian pharonic dynasty beer that was so thick with fibers and seeds it needed to be sipped through a reed straw to today's multiply-filtered, pasteurized craft brews. From accidentally fermented grapes and other fruits that led us to today's fine wines. From rough, raw alcoholic drinks to today's premium spirits. And from semi-sweet to extra dry fermented apple cider of the Middle Ages to -- well, to the semi-sweet to extra dry fermented apple cider of today.

Let's talk about that.

Cider is truly an ancient drink. It is neither wine nor apple juice nor what today passes for commercial cider in the United States, that overpowering stuff made from sweet dessert apples, often goosed up with bittersweet apple concentrate and loaded with high fructose corn syrup in the manner of most soft drinks. In the U.S. we tend to call the original version "hard cider" to differentiate it from the non-alcoholic version. Elswehere, it's just plain cider.

Traditional cider, higher than beer in alcohol content but lower than wine at about 6.5 to 8.5 percent -- meaning in the 13 to 17 proof range, is made in various parts of Europe from apple strains with which the average consumer is not familiar: Somerset Redstreak, Medaille d'Or, Bulmer's Norman, Kingston Black and Dabinett, for example. You won't find such popular eating apples as Macintosh, Delicious, Granny Smith, Cortland and the like in anything considered a fine cider.

There even is a pear cider, known as perry, much less popular but traditional nevertheless. It has been made for centuries in Britain, particularly in the west and in Wales, and remains popular across the English Channel in the French region of Normandy and up north in Sweden. It is made virtually the same way as apple cider, usually with an 8 percent alcohol volume, which means 16 proof. The most common UK cider pear is the Blakeney Red, not an appealing eating fruit but just right for cider.

A mutual acquaintance put me onto Farnum Hill Ciders, made at Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, N.H., near the Vermont border. He touted it as an excellent example of traditional European cider making, "not at all sweet like the usual ciders you get in supermarkets. More like a selection of wines."

Farnum Hill, owned and operated by Stephen Wood and Louisa Spencer, has been growing what they refer to as "real cider apple trees" for the past 16 years. Their crops are heirloom variety apples that were cellar staples in colonial times or in common usage in Europe, but now rarities here. Esopus Spitzberg, Yarlington Mill and the aforementioned Kingston Black, Medaille d'Or and Dabinett allow Wood to turn out a wide variety of ciders, each with its own nuances.

I convened a four-person panel to sample and evaluate a quartet of Farnum Hill ciders -- a sparkling trio of Farmhouse, Semi-Dry and Extra-Dry and an Extra-Dry Still.

Cider makers tend to speak of their products as winemakers do of theirs, and urge them to be consumed with food. We set up our tastebuds with a light tapas assortment -- chicken satays with spicy peanut sauce or dots of wasabi, stuffed mushrooms and assorted cheeses (an eight-year-old Canadian cheddar, a raw cow's milk gruyere called L'Etivaz from Switzerland, and a raw whole sheep's milk Abbaye de Belic from the Aquitaine province in the south of France).

Wood suggests, "When you taste, it might be best to avoid interspersing our ciders with sweeter ones, either European or American. Certain juxtapositions could be cruel to some or all."

While I understood his concern about interspersing, I disagree that there should be no comparison. We had small glasses of another New England product with our tapas, a tasty, sweet sparkling "American Cider" called Johnny Mash. It's a 12-proof, oak aged beverage created in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts by Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards near the village of Richmond. Because it is more akin in taste with commonly-found American ciders, it offered a good baseline for comparison of the dry European-style Farnum Hill ciders. And, it has performed exceedingly well in cider competitions for more than a decade.

Our tasting notes:

Farmhouse Cider: This is a pale gold, light bodied slightly sparkling cider. It wasn't overwhelmed by the tapas and cider that came before it, but it put our panel in the right frame of mind: i.e., don't expect a big apple bang on the palate the way we've been conditioned to expect from American-style ciders. Mid-palate apple taste, but not from start to finish. Farmhouse would be nice with mild foods, but overwhelmed by anything spicy.

Semi-Dry: A slightly more apple-y taste, but with hints of tropical fruit. Tarter than the Farmhouse, very subdued nose. If you fool with it long enough, you begin to extract more taste. Although the maker calls it "a happy companion to most foods," our panel disagreed, noting it worked best with a bit of sliced apple and the gruyere that helped coax out the flavor.

Extra Dry: This one was a hit with all involved, possibly because of the more forward taste of apple, a fragrant nose one of our tasters said is "closer to the kind of balance you'd expect from a good wine." Here again, we disagreed with the maker's evaluation that it would be "a palate-cleansing friend to most foods, except perhaps desserts." We felt it would go well particularly with desserts because, of the four Farnum Hill ciders we tried, this one stood up best in all categories -- golden color, full nose and body, and a long, pleasant aftertaste.

Extra-Dry Still: Not a hit with anyone. We found it pallid by comparison to its companions, too acidic and, as one put it, "it would benefit from a spritz."

Farnum Hill has seven different ciders, some of them seasonal. Because apple quality varies season to season, there will be some variations in the ciders from year to year, much like grape quality affects wine whereas other alcoholic beverages are far less beholden to the crops used in their creation.

In essence, this tasting went about the same way most do. Individual values and tastes created some division among the panelists, but the best was deemed best by all and the weakest weakest by all.

One other thing we all agreed on was that cider should be anything but a forgotten beverage of choice when it comes to food pairings, no matter the season. It deserves being returned to the esteem in which it once was held in this country, and offers a distinct alternative to the everyday drinks we consume.

[Go here, here, here and here for other cider stories.]

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Chateau Latour sets auction record

Sometimes people do get carried away in the excitement of an auction. That may be what happened on Nov. 29 at the first Christie’s International wine auction in Hong Kong in seven years.

Pre-event estimates predicted a 12-bottle lot of 1961 Chateau Latour might bring HK$650,000. Instead, it sold for a record HK$1.32 million (US$170,320).

The bottles were bought in the Nov. 29 event by an Asian private collector Christie’s didn’t identify. Another two lots of Latour 1961 were the second- and third-most expensive items at the auction. Of the 246 lots offered, 231 sold for a combined HK$31.5 million.

The Hong Kong government last February abolished duties on wine, thus cutting the costs of trading and storing bottles in Hong Kong to encourage more Asian collectors to move their wines from current trading centers such as London.

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20081126

The party's (kind of) over

From MSNBC.COM

New York's business media discovered a tangible consequence of the financial crisis last Friday: no more free drinks at their annual black-tie gala.

Unlike years past, the cocktail hour that preceded the Financial Follies dinner came with a price tag. Mixed drinks and wine cost $11. Water cost $6. The reason? The New York Financial Writers' Association, which holds the Follies at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, could not get anyone to sponsor the $25,000 tab.

"I really think it was a sign of the times," said Jane Reilly, executive manager for the association, which holds the Follies to raise money for 10 $3,000 scholarships and to pay for the group's existence.

The loss of funding of the Follies symbolizes the crisis facing not only Wall Street but many media organizations suffering from falling advertising and, in the case of many magazines and newspapers, circulation.

Some of the financial institutions and the companies that work for them, such as public relations agencies, have disappeared. Those that survived are struggling. A number of magazines have closed or cut back, and many newspapers have reduced business coverage and fired employees.

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20081124

Letters: Seeking Terra Leone Ammos Reserva

Good day:

I have been searching for Terra Leone Ammos Reserva 2005 in Canada but have been out of luck. Do you have any contact information for people who deal with this wine?

Trevor Finch
Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority
Special Orders


Trevor:

This wine was, as you may have seen in my posting on the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, earned a Grand Gold (scoring between 96 and 100 points on a 100-point scale) in this year's event.

It's a difficult find outside Greece. I have had no luck locating it in my part of the States, but I believe you can get it online through Global Winestocks, which handles other labels from the same producer, Palivou Estate.

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20081123

This wine goes to school

You've probably heard of an "educated palate." At Cal Poly Pomona, they take the phrase seriously.

The university has just released its first private label wine, Horsehill Vineyards, which was bottled for it at a winery in Temecula, CA.

The zinfandel wine is a result of a seven-year project. Faculty and students planted and tended the vines in a pair of on-campus plots, using cuttings from plants that are up to a century old.

"This harvest is the first harvest the grapes were mature enough for winemaking," Lisa McPheron, director of communications and external relations for the Collins College of Hospitality Management, said in a statement.

The wine goes on sale Tuesday at $14 a bottle, only at the university's Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. Proceeds from sales will be used to support future grape harvests and a vegetable garden project spearheaded by the two colleges, according to a university news release.

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20081117

Burgundy prices dropping

Burgundy lovers awaiting the results of a traditional auction that usually helps establish market prices will be happy about this year's results. Producers may not be.

The Beaune Hospices auction, held in Beaune, France, features a centuries-old tradition of bidding for the final lot until two candles flicker out. Bids there traditionally set price trends for the latest vintage. This year, the weak global economy and extensive storm damage to wine grapes in eastern France combined to lower prices.

While the United States market for Burgundy wines remains relatively strong, exports to the UK fell 16% by volume, and 10% by value, in the first 10 months of this year. Nearly half of all Burgundy wine is exported.

"We have seen prices come unstuck since September and to a lesser extent since June," Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the federation of Burgundy wine traders and producers, told the Reuters news service. "We are worried but not pessimistic. We got through the 1991 crisis which was much worse. Now we have lower interest rates and the dollar is strengthening, which could help us."

James Thomson, a Scottish hotel and restaurant owner, had the winning bid of 50,000 euros ($63,257.50 US) for the final exhibit, a 228-liter oak barrel of Pommard Premier Cru red wine. Such a barrel, which will provide about 300 bottles, sold for 65,000 euros last year and a record 200,000 in 2006.

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Five wines for the holidays

As the holiday season approaches, selecting wines plays a big part in meal planning.

For some people, that’s a fun chore. For others, it’s a nightmare. For both ends of this spectrum, and for those in between, here’s a “five for the holidays” range of wines with markedly different styles and price points. And, since we do eat more than turkey and ham during the holidays, these choices reflect that as well.

• Chateau du Rouét 2007 Cuvee Reservee

This traditional rosé comes from a winery whose chateau was owned by the Marquis de Villeneuve, supplier of wines to the court of Louis XVI. I tried it during a lunch at the home of Jeffrey Gimmel and Nina Bachinsky–Gimmel, owners of the trendy Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, NY, a small riverside city just north of the Big Apple.

This is a blend of grenache, mourvèdre and cinsault grapes, made by the first crush after cool skin maceration. That makes it a good accompaniment to any strongly-herbed dishes, such as the thyme-coated rotisserie poulet that was central to our meal.

Unlike the watery rosès that flooded the domestic market in the '90s and thereby ruined the category for a lot of first-timers, this is a full-bodied wine that goes well with anything from the lightness of a spring salad of lovage, chive blossoms, goat cheese and English peas to a layered potato-bacon pie.

The delicate pink color hints of the tastes to come -- lightly fruity cassis and raspberry. Not much length, but a serviceable wine for meals.

Suggested retail price: $16.

• 2007 Simonassi Malbec "1922"

Malbec was long a minor French blending grape. Some years ago some enterprising Argentinean vintners decided their high country vineyards would be ideal for the grape they thought could stand on its own. They were right, and its popularity has been steadily growing.

This bold, rich purplish wine is visually inviting. I tried it at the Vin Santo wine and tapas bar in Latham, NY, just outside the capital city of Albany, along with a series of small plates of grilled chorizo and game sausages, New Zealand lamb chop “pops” marinated and grilled and served with Israeli couscous salad, a forest mushroom strudel and an ahi tuna sashimi served with crisp seaweed, pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

In the course of polishing off these treats, the Malbec kept opening and softening, releasing deep notes of black cherry, plum and warm spices, making it a perfect accompaniment to each item.

Suggested retail price: $19.

• Arboleda Carmenère 2006

This rich, lush wine comes from a Chilean boutique winery located in the Colchagua Valley. It is 100% carmenère, the country's major grape.

This mid-May '06 vintage was an excellent one and this particular wine is a prime example of it. It is a big, deep-violet wine, 14.5% alcohol by volume, that begins with a pleasing assault on the nose of tobacco, cinnamon and black tea.

That complexity continues on the palate with notes of cocoa and stone fruits -- plum, black cherry and the like -- and berries plus just a touch of sweetness. Touches of cedar and vanilla imparted by the cask aging also can be discerned, and the long finish develops into a drier level of the tobacco and unsweetened chocolate.

I matched it at a home dinner with a pork tenderloin roasted in a honey-mustard sauce, sided with brown rice, steamed cauliflower, and a cold, bitey side dish of diced tomatoes, cucumbers and jalapeños marinated overnight in herbs and rice wine vinegar. The wine both stood up to and complemented each dish.

Suggested retail price: $16.

• Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2003

Cotes du Rhone wines are big, bold and meaty, perfect for a flatiron prime beef luncheon I had with Dale Miller, one of those rare Certified Master Chefs, who is executive chef and general manager of the stately Inn at Erlowest on New York's picturesque Lake George.

This is a French red as big as its formal name: 2003 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet de Beaucastel. It's a blend of mourvédre, grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes, unfiltered and bursting at the seams with flavor.

I particularly like the fact that the bouquet keeps opening once poured, enhancing the notes of leather, pepper and ripe fruit. It complemented not only the sliced flatiron prime, but the vegetable terrine, grilled asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes it accompanied at the luncheon. A splash of the wine added to the steak juice reduction tied it all together.

Suggested retail price: $34.

• Bloomer Creek Vineyard 2006 Reserve White

Bloomer Creek Vineyards, located in Hector in the Finger Lakes, was founded in 1999 by Kim Engle, a veteran winery manager, and his wife, artist Debra Bermingham, and went into full production in 2004. I tried this wine with an elaborate luncheon prepared by noted Indonesian chef Yono Purnomo, owner of the prestigious Yono's restaurant in Albany, NY.

It was my first intentional sampling of this product of New York's Finger Lakes region. I had voted for it as "Best of Class: Blended White Wine" in a blind-taste judging during the 2007 New York Wine & Food Classic.

This experience was just as positive. Engle's offering is an Alsatian-style Riesling blend that is at once fruity and pleasantly acidic. In other words, a Riesling that doesn't take itself too seriously but pleases nonetheless.

Kiwi, peach and a touch of pineapple come through in the middle range, and the lingering impression paired well with the Indonesian fare I consumed along with the wine: a boldly-sauced sautéed pork tenderloin, spicy shrimp and a noodle dish with chicken, shrimp and vegetables all were beautifully complemented by the wine.

Suggested retail price: $12.

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20081116

Letters: When will my apple juice become wine?

Hello Bill:

I have a question and I believe you are the man who would have an answer.

I have been given some apples and I made apple preserves with some of them and with some I made homemade vinegar, like my grandmother did when I was a small child. I can't wait until it is vinegar and I can taste it. This is the first time I have done this. But, I also tried another first: wine.

With some of the apples I juiced them so they could turn to wine. I was wondering if you could tell me how long this process takes. I only made just a couple quarts. I wanted to try it so I could marinate a roast in it. A family member told me ... that gives the roast the best flavor and it is so tender.

... I have no clue when my apple juice will be wine. So, could you please tell me when I can expect this?

Thank you, and God bless you, and have a wonderful day.

-- Wanda Ridpath, Virginia

Wanda:

This question is a little tricky because I'm not familiar with (a) the types of apples you used, (b) what sort of container (wood, metal, plastic, etc.) you put the apple juice in, (c) how ripe the fruit was before crushing, and (d) how much sugar and yeast you used, among other questions.

Generally speaking, the quickest methods of making fruit wines need at least 3-5 months of aging to be sure the fermentation process has been completed. Obviously, this isn't a quick process since the aging comes only after a variety of other steps have been completed.

Your best bet, no doubt, is to get a book on fruit wine making from a book store or home brewing supply store. It will explain in detail the chemistry of the process, the hygiene you need to use, and the complete timeline for creating your own wine.

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20081114

Plan your Repeal celebration

December 5 will mark the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Throughout the alcoholic drinks industry, parties, gimmicks and general hoopla will ensue.

If you're interested in an update on your Prohibition, Repeal or current alcohol laws information, or want to host your own Repeal Party, go to ProhibitionRepeal.com for some help.

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20081113

NYC home to world's first organic bar

You've got to love a restaurant whose motto is "Changing the world one meal at a time." That goes for its cocktail list, too.

The venue is GustOrganics, a New York City cocktail lounge and restaurant (519 Avenue of the Americas at 14th Street). It claims to be the nation's first fully certified such establishment, and has the credentials to support it:

• All dishes made only with organic U.S. Department of Agriculture certified Ingredients.
• Certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.
• Certified green restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association.

But above all, for the purposes of what this site deals with, GustOrganics is the world’s first USDA certified organic bar.

Alberto Gonzalez (seen above), a native of Argentina, is the owner of GustOrganics. He notes that all drinks -- hot, cold and alcoholic -- are free from chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, artificial flavors and drink enhancers.

"We have only USDA certified organic spirits, wines and beers," he said. "All these products are produced according to the USDA's National Organic Program. On top of this, our cocktails are made featuring fresh organic fruits and vegetables. ...

"The only two ingredients that are not organic are the water and salt because they are minerals and by definition cannot be organic. We use sun-dried sea salt only and that means no additives. We have our pure water that is New York City water run through a UV lamp that kills all the bacteria and after that we run it through a top notch purification system that takes out all the bad metals, keeping the good minerals."

The signature cocktails at GustOrganics are priced in the $12-$14 range, typical for Manhattan drinks. Some of the top sellers:

• Dulce de Leche Martini: dulce de leche, espresso coffee and vodka.
• Pura Vida Daiquiri: strawberries, bananas and rum.
• Fresquito: fresh mangos, fresh squeezed orange juice and vodka.

What made Gonzalez decided to establish a base for his organic foodie and drinks efforts in Greenwich Village?

“New York is one of the most sophisticated societies in the world, but I didn’t like the food," he says. "It wasn’t fresh. When I used to stay here for business, I noticed I was more tired, lacked energy, and gained a lot of weight. I realized I took for granted the freshness and quality of the food in Argentina.

"I developed this restaurant with New Yorkers. They are the ones who helped shape this idea.”

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Restaurant wine industry goes digital

The latest gizmos in wine technology are found neither in the fields nor in the fermentation rooms.

They range from projected wine lists to wireless handheld devices to tablet PCs, part of the digital revolution in the restaurant wine industry, according to "The Wired Wine List," Kara Newman's cover story in the November issue of Sommelier Journal.

The story begins this way:

"It’s Thursday afternoon at the Time Warner Center on New York’s Columbus Circle. Up on the fourth floor, where high-end restaurants such as Per Se and Masa reside, tourists and shoppers are starting to circle the wagons, dinner on their minds. They take laps around the floor, inspecting the menus encased behind glass. When they reach the 10-foot-high wall of light boxes that encloses Clo, a tiny, free-standing wine bar in the middle of the area, each one stops, straining mightily to peer inside.

"At 3 p.m., an hour to opening time, Clo doesn’t look like much. A long, communal table spans most of the space, cluttered with open wine bottles, half-empty glasses, handbags, laptops, and the remains of someone’s lunch. But by 3:30 p.m., the transformation begins: the table is cleared, everything is secreted behind cabinets built into the walls, and the staff wipes down the surface, now identifiable as pristine white Corian.

"With the visual clutter removed, it’s easier to notice that the walls are lined with Enomatic wine-dispensing machines, where customers can self-dispense wine by the glass, Automat style, using prefilled purchase cards. The illuminated slots for the Enomatic cards pulse with light, and the backlit wine bottles glow softly, resembling a quieter version of Atlantic City’s slot machines.

"3:55 p.m.: Five minutes to opening. The lights are dimmed, and a projector from above is flipped on. Up close, I can see pictures of tiny wine bottles projected on the communal table. Owner Andrew Bradbury shows me how it works: holding one finger above a wine-bottle graphic opens a larger display, revealing the label and information about where the wine was made, the grape varieties, and a few notes on style and taste. He skims along the tiny pictures, like a pianist running his hand across a keyboard, and the bottles obligingly whisk aside to show another array of tiny bottles.

"Is this the future of wine bars and wine lists: everything computerized and automated, from arrival to order? The answer is yes— and no."

[Go here for the complete story.]

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7 golds may have decided MD's best winery

Quick. Name the best winery in Maryland.

OK, name any winery in Maryland.

While the state isn't among the powerhouse wine producers, and thus has relatively little recognition outside its own borders, it has been producing some very respectable wines in recent years.

The results of this year's Maryland Governor's Cup Competition puts forth at least two candidates for the unofficial title of Maryland's best.

Black Ankle Vineyards of Mt. Airy, about an hour's drive west of Baltimore, took the top prize, its Crumbling Rock 2006 red blend securing the Governor’s Cup Award after winning the "best red" gold medal. The wine, which retails for $40, is a blend of 38% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. There were 525 cases produced.

However, Black Ankle may have to take a backseat to Boordy Vineyards, which pulled down golds with seven different wines: Cabernet Franc 2006, Chardonnay 2007, Eisling 2007, Petite Cabernet 2006, Riesling 2007, Seyval Vidal Chardonnay 2007 and Tango Peach 2007.

Boordy (seen above), a 230-acre facility, is located in Hydes, which is a mere 15 minutes north of the Baltimore Beltway in the Long Green Valley. It was established in 1945 by the R.D. Deford family, which makes it the state's oldest family run winery.

The other class winners:

• Best White: Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Pinot Grigio 2007
• Best Rosé: Elk Run Vineyards, Gypsy Rosé
• Best Off-Dry: Elk Run Vineyards, Gewurztraminer 2007
• Best Fruit: Boordy Vineyards, Tango Peach NV
• Best Dessert: Boordy Vineyards, Eisling 2007
• Best Specialty: Loew Vineyards, Country Classic NV

Other gold medalists:

• Basignani Winery, Erik’s Big Zin 2006
• Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery, Merlot 2006
• Cove Point Winery, Pinot Noir NV
• Cygnus Wine Cellars, Cabernet Franc 2006
• Elk Run Vineyards, Gewurztraminer 2007
• Elk Run Vineyards, Gypsy Rosé
• Fiore Winery, Riesling NV
• Frederick Cellars, Riesling NV
• Loew Vineyards, Country Classic NV
• Loew Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc 2007
• St. Michaels Winery, Pinot Grigio 2007
• Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
• Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Chardonnay Reserve 2006
• Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Merlot 2006
• Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Pinot Grigio 2007
• Woodhall Wine Cellars, Cabernet Franc 2007
• Woodhall Wine Cellars, Sangiovese 2007

Go here for the full list of all medal winners.

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20081106

Letters: What's my '26 Boyd-Cantenac worth?

Mr. Dowd:

I’m trying to find out the value of a bottle of wine I have and cannot seem to locate the value anywhere. Hopefully, you may help.

It’s a 1926 France Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux. It was shipped by Hudes & Fils Vintners and also on the bottle is Proprieters: Fernand Ginestet.

I think this is all but was wondering if I should hold on to it or enjoy it! Thank you.

-- Margaret Buatte, Richmond, VA

Margaret:

You're fortunate to have come into possession of such a wine, assuming it has been protected from extremes of temperature and light since it was bottled 80-plus years ago.

Bottles of this vintage Margaux have been selling for anywhere from $325 to $400, to the best of the data I've been able to uncover.

Chateau Boyd-Cantenac is an old name in the French wine industry. It was named for Jacques Boydi, a nobleman who lived in Bordeaux. He purchased the property in 1754. The chateau has had only a few owners since then. Since 1932 it has been owned by the Guillernet family, which also owns Chateau Pouget. It has had a winery separate from Pouget since 1982.

Despite its age, Boyd-Cantenac wines are respectable but not among the upper echelon.

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20081101

Letters: What are some cider tasting terms?

Mr. Dowd:

Some friends and I want to hold a cider tasting. I've looked on the Internet for ideas and found your site. Very interesting.

What I've been looking for is a list of terms that could be used to describe cider. Can you help me? I've used similar lists for beer and wine, and they help the tasters describe what they are experiencing.

Thanks.

--Tom King, Clemson, SC

Tom:

For any cider tastings I've held or participated in, there are several key terms to enjoying/judging such an event. Among them:

• Acidity: The "tang" of the cider tells a lot about the particular apples used, the alcohol produced in the maturation process, and the smoothness of the filtration (if any).

• Purification: Some ciders are unfiltered, some are filtered one or more times. Depends on one's taste which one is the preferred method. However, if a cider is filtered, its clarity of color and mouthfeel should be judged.

• Pairing: Does the cider go well with foods and, if so, what types?

I assume you've read some of the things I've written about ciders. Here are several links in case you haven't: (1) and (2).

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International panel picks Bulgaria's best

Photo provided

Bulgarian wines don't take up a lot of space in most shops, but the ancient Eastern European nation has a fairly strong wine industry.

Bacchus, the Bulgarian wine and gourmet culture magazine, convened an international panel of wine experts to rate the country's wines. Emil Koralov, Bacchus special projects director and one of the originators of the competition, said “These top 10 wines, as rated yesterday, are the best, according to us, at the moment. Ultimately, dégustation is a subjective process.”

Of the three white wines and one dessert wine that made it into the top 20, none figured in the top 10.

“Bulgaria is still a red wine country,” said Bacchus wine editor Julia Kostadinova. “We hope that that will change for next year.”

She noted that for most of the international members of the jury, the evaluations were their first experience with Bulgarian wine. Their consensus was that Bulgaria winemakers would do well to emphasise the native grape varieties such as Melnik, mavrud and rubin -- the reds -- or dimyat and misket, the whites.

Here are the top 10, in alphabetical order, selected from among more than 250 wines sampled from Oct. 15, 2007, to Oct. 15 this year:

• Enira Reserva 2006 (Bessa Valley)
• Maxxima Private Reserva 2003 (Maxxima Cellars)
• Nobile Rubin 2006 (Logodaj)
• Question Mark 2007 (Katarzyna Estate)
• Roto 2006 (Terra Tangra)
• Santa Sarah Privat 2006 (Santa Sarah)
• Solitaire Elenovo merlot 2006 (Domaine Boyar)
• Terra Tangra Cuvee 2006 (Terra Tangra)
• Terra Tangra Grand Reserva 2006 (Terra Tangra)
• Vinissimo American Barrel 2006 (Rachev & Son)

According to the Sofia Echo, Bulgaria's capital city English-language newspaper, the roots of the nation's wines can be traced back in history to ancient Thrace and the Greek god of wine Dionysus.

"The territory occupied by Bulgaria today was one of the regions where many wine traditions were founded during this period of the Hellenistic world. The cultured vine is said to have first been grown in Central Asia. The earliest traces of its origin within what is now Bulgaria go back 3,000 years."

You can get the full story here.

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20081030

Mmmm, North Carolina sake

Asheville, NC. America's sake capital?

That may be stretching possibilities, but you have to start somewhere. So, Asheville brewer Mike Karnowski is setting out to make a variety of sakes, seasonal and otherwise.

Karnowski, assistant brewmaster at Green Man Brewing, has a background that includes rum making as well as beer. Sake seems a good next step since some regard the rice-based drink of Japanese origin as as wine, some as beer.

The details are here, on the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper's Web site.

SakéOne, an Oregon operation, claims to be the only American-owned and -operated sake maker in the country.

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Hotel wine MacGuyver

Fellow drinks writer Camper English, a San Francisco-based fellow who writes a blog called "Alcademics," has this anecdote that I found a hoot. It begins:

"Say you find yourself in a hotel room on a cold London night, caught in a bout of sleep-free jetlag, but prepared to take the edge off with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, you forget to bring a corkscrew. You don't have any cash to tip room service for bringing one up. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO? I can tell you what I did tonight."

Interested in how the story comes out? Go here and enjoy.

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