Tasting Hendricks Gin

Hendricks GinI’ll admit it, I’m not that familiar with Gin. I like it, and I used to order up a Sapphire tonic when dining out, but I just haven’t given it that much thought: until recently. On a recent trip to Idaho, I was introduced to the world of premium Gin’s at a fine little establishment called Bardenay’s. The Gin that is distilled on premises gets 11 different botanicals added to it, and believe me, it’s fantastic. In fact, I spent a good part of the trip trying to buy it. (Idaho’s liquor laws are annoying.)

That little experience opened the door for me to accept an offer to try Hendrick’s Gin as a press Sample. All I can say is WOW! Welcome to another lever. This Gin is fantastic, from the awesome bottle, to the smooth mouth feel and aromatic nose, this spirit has it all. The note included says to enjoy as a Martini or with tonic, but I would recommend first putting a little bit on a spoon, let it touch your lips, and then try to decode the complex nuances found within. In fact, a small amount would work great out of a small wine glass.

Distilled in small batches in Scotland, this Gin is quite unique. The companies website explains the process:

Instead of crudely boiling its ingredients, the Carter-Head “bathes” them in vapours. By keeping our eye on the round windows, we enforce the slowest possible build-up.

This makes an enormous difference in flavour. The more leisurely the distillation, the smoother and more thorough the instillation. This is especially critical when dealing with the peculiar orchestra of botanicals that makes Hendrick’s Gin so extraordinary.

In addition to some standard and proprietary infusions, Henbdrick’s Gin also gets touched with Bulgarian rose petal oils, and cucumber of all things. These subtle additions add a refreshing and pleasant flavor and aroma.

So, there you go. Try it, but only tell a few good friends. If to many people find out about this, we might not have enough for ourselves.

Notes: Hints of juniper, rose petal and cucumber greet and refresh your nose. A smooth mouth feel leads to a lingering finish where a bit of heat can be felt on the back of your palate. Fantastic on it’s own, in a Martini, or with a slice of cucumber and a splash of tonic (I like the Whole Foods organic brand made with cane sugar).
ABV: 44%
A (94- 96 pts)
Price: $30

Website: HendricksGin.com

Cameron Hughes Latest Releases Reviewed Winter 2007

Cameron Hughes Holiday 2007 Lot releaseLet’s cut to the chase, as I’ve written about Cameron quite a few times before. (Feel free to search)

The following are my reviews of his current releases and a couple of bottles that I previously reviewed that were corked. As always, I taste the wines twice, sometimes three times: first upon opening, second after 1/2 – 1 hour, third after 1 hour.

Lot 33 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District
Price: Sold out
ABV: 14.5%
Notes: This limited 500 case production wine sold out already, but I have no idea why. The nose is cloying, with hints of licorice & tar. This lackluster wine is boring on the palate and finishes with minimal raspberry notes.
Score: C+ (78-80 pts)

Lot 35 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville District, Napa
Price: $14
Abv: 13.8%
Notes: This wine is pretty forgettable. It’s raspberry, earth, and leather nose is very hard to smell. A medium to thin body with mediocre tannins, this is definitely not the best juice the area has to offer. Perhaps it will improve over the next few years, but I’d say your money was better spent on a different lot.
Score: B- (80 pts)

Lot 36 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford, California
Notes: This ruby purple wine opened up after an hour to reveal dark chocolate, cherries and blueberry, but a whiff of green bell pepper just upon opening. The medium bodied texture gave way to a tannic finish. This wine needs some time in bottle, but is not a bad effort. Drink 2009 – 2012.
Rating: B (84-86 pts)

Lot 39 2005 Shiraz Barossa Valley, Australia
(90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier)
Price: $12
Abv: 15%
Notes: Here’s a good mid week wine. The ruby colored effort has a dusty nose with hints of cherry and raspberry. The medium bodied finish is a bit tart, so I’d pair it with food as opposed to drinking it alone. Drink now.
Score: B (84-86 pts)

Lot 43 2005 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
(80% Zinfandel, 15% Syrah, 5% Petite Syrah)
Abv: 15%
Notes: I was a bit disappointed by this wine as the nose seemed pretty nice, but the fun pretty much stopped there. It is a bit thin and tart with a cranberry like finish. This bottle was a bit hot and lacked depth and character, but would be fine as a tweener opened over the next few years.
Score: B- (80 pts)

Lot 47 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley
(80% Cabernet, 20% Merlot)
Price: $20
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: Here is your winner! This beautiful wine is pure Napa Valley and reminded me of 40 – 60 dollar wines of the same caliber. The dark purple color envelopes the glass and draws your nose in, greeting it with blackberry, vanilla, and a touch of toasted oak. The round tannins are supple and refined, yet stand up on your tongue and declare that this is a very well done effort. Drink now or over the next 5 years. This is the best wine of the group. Unfortunately it’s very limited, with only 400 cases available so snatch it up now. (Update: this wine is sold out on the website, possibly some left over in Costco)
Score: A (92 – 94 pts)

Lot 48 2005 Meritage Napa Valley, CA
(80% Rutherford, 20 % Oakville, [50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet, 15% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot])
Price: $12
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: For those of you that are drawn towards a more earthy, less fruit forward wine, this is the bottle for you. A very nice nose with leather, tobacco, and earth that transforms into a touch of plum on the medium bodied well textured palate. A very nice finish that lingers for 30 seconds plus.
Score: A- (90-92 pts)

Lot 57 2006 Chardonnay Carneros, Napa Valley
Price: $12
Abv: 14%
Notes: This wine comes nowhere close to the Rombaueresque Lot 30 that was a huge bargain. This effort is very acidic and reminded me more of a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay, with a palate that is overpowered by lemon zest and oak.
Score: C+ (76-78 pts)

Note: It seems that prices have crept up over the past year, which would be fine if quality had done the same, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Continue to check back here, or sign up on the right to receive updates via email so you don’t get burned by a ho-hum bottle in the future.

Ten Champagne / Sparkling Wine Tips

Champagne bottle PhilipponnatWith a little help from a press release (which I need these days thanks to a busy schedule), enjoy this post prepared by Rubenstein Communications, Inc.

It’s Bubbly Season:

Ten Tips to Enjoying Champagne Like an Expert

‘Tis the season when more than 40 percent of the year’s champagne bottles go a-popping! Champagne is the wine of celebration, love and romance but it need not be reserved only for these special occasions. As the most versatile and magical wine, Champagne connotes the good life and marries well with a host of foods – much more than most still wines. Plus, it makes a great statement. So, serve it up anytime.

Here are ten tips to enjoying Champagne like a pro, according to world-renowned Champagne expert Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, just out in paperback (Vintage).

1. $20 to $40 Buys a Delicious Bottle of Bubbly: You don’t need to break the bank for a delicious bottle. Good sparkling wines (from California, for example) cost just under $20. True Champagnes – from the Champagne region of France – can also be very affordable, with non-vintage selections (no year on the label) in the $25 to $40 range.

2. Champagne is Ready When You Are: You don’t need to be a wine expert to serve champagne. Because Champagne is ready to drink whenever the Champagne house releases it, you don’t have to worry about it being too young, to raw, too tannic, etc. Plus, a non-vintage Champagne is actually a blend of multiple vintages, yet another reason not to sweat the details.

3. Try Champagne with Breakfast or Brunch… Champagne is a natural with meals. For breakfast or brunch, it pairs well with breads and croissants, as well as egg dishes including omelets filled with veggies, cheese or salmon.

4. …And Dinner: Sparking wine is an excellent choice for dinner. It pairs beautifully with any entrée and also eliminates the oft-confusing process of choosing between a red or white. With seafood, fish, chicken or even red meat, select a more full-bodied Champagne. For a festive meal, a rosé (pink) Champagne is a trendy choice. If you are in the mood to splurge, buy a vintage champagne (with a year on the label), which has greater complexity due to a few more years of aging and perhaps a finer selection of grapes.

5. Think light for an Aperitif: If you are planning to serve Champagne as an aperitif, ask your retailer for a light or medium-style sparkling wine that will go well with any appetizer, from olives to nuts to chorizo to cheese to caviar.

6. Dry vs. Extra Dry: Serve a brut (bone dry) Champagne if you plan to drink it as an aperitif or with a meal. Serve an extra dry or demi-sec Champagne for dessert as both are slightly sweet.

7. Chill Out: Champagne is properly chilled in just 20 minutes by putting the bottle in a bucket filled with ice and water. No freezer, please as it will suppress the delicate flavors! A few hours in a refrigerator is okay, but you don’t want the wine too cold.

8. Open Up: No need to be intimidated: Opening the bottle is actually very easy! After releasing the wire muzzle, hold the cork firmly with one hand and slowly turn the bottle – not the cork – from the bottle’s waist or below. The cork will come out easily with a soft pop and with no loss of froth and sparkle. By the way, it is considered gauche to send a cork flying.

9. Glassware is Key: Throw away those saucer-shaped glasses – they dissipate the precious bubbles. Use flutes or tulip glasses. Also, glasses should be filled about two-thirds, and super clean as soap residue or dirt also dissipates the bubbles.

10. Sip It: Drinking Champagne means sipping. Don’t gulp down Champagne as all the drama is in the glass and the bubbles that dance for you. Plus its elegant flavors like to tickle your palate.

Oscar Wilde said that only those without imagination can’t find a good reason to drink Champagne.

Note: My favorite Champagne bargain, as I’ve mentioned before, is Champagne Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut for around $35 USD [Website]. You should be able to find it in your local fine wine shop, not the big grocery stores.