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Archive for the ‘Beverages’ Category

Bandol Blanc from Château de PibarnonWe’re welcoming the first sunny weeks of spring with magnums of elegant white wine from Provence. This minuscule production Bandol Blanc from Château de Pibarnon is a blend of mostly Clairette and Bourboulenc with some Roussanne, Ugni Blanc and small amounts of other white grapes including Viognier. Wonderfully aromatic with pear, peach and acacia flower aromas, it’s dry and fairly rich on the palate with more peachy-apricot fruit and a bit of salty spice. This lovely wine really lingers with a long, smooth finish. (more…)

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Quinta do Infantado Tawny PortPorto, or “port” as it is known in English, is made in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. There are many grapes port-makers are allowed to use, but the most common are Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Touriga Francesca and Touriga Nacional.

Port was a byproduct of the ongoing wars between France and England. Without wines from France, the English were forced to look elsewhere to satisfy demand. Portugal provided a good alternative, but the long boat trip from Portugal often resulted in spoiled wine. To combat spoilage, winemakers began adding high-alcohol aguardente to their wines to stop fermentation, leaving a more sturdy, higher alcohol wine with some residual sugar. These new fortified wines could make the trip no problem! (more…)

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El Maestro Sierra Amontillado SherrySherry (“Xerez” in Spanish) is made in the region of the same name on the southern tip of Spain near Gibraltar. There, Palomino grapes are grown on chalky soils called albariza. The grapes are fermented into dry wines, then fortified and placed into large, 500L oak barrels. Some of these barrels develop a thick layer of yeast called flor (literally “flower”).

Flor is naturally occurring, unpredictable, and can’t be induced or controlled once it occurs! When it does form, the wine ages underneath without oxidizing, resulting in what is known as a fino Sherry. If the flor forms, but then dies off or doesn’t develop, the wine, if deemed rich and robust enough, is fortified a bit more and then allowed to slowly oxidize and become an amontillado. If a flor does not form at all, the wine will be fortified further and will be aged in wooden barrels to become a richer and darker oloroso Sherry. In the case of amontillado and oloroso styles of Sherry, exposure to oxygen turns the wine a coppery color, and encourages the development of toasty, nutty aromas. Yum. (more…)

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Nikolaihof Elderflower SyrupJust in time for the steamy weather – our shipment of Nikolaihof elderflower syrup has arrived from Austria. Many of you have seen this syrup on our shelves before and, I hope, have had a chance to try it. Nikolaihof makes stunning Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings but now is the time for a taste of their heavenly hollerblüten or elderflower syrup.

Nikolaihof, in the beautiful Wachau region along the Danube, is the oldest wine estate in Austria and is now run by the Saahs family. The earliest known reference to winemaking on the estate dates back to 470 AD, and the Saahs still use a wine cellar built by the Romans. The entire estate is run according to biodynamic principles. As a result, the Saahs plant and harvest according to the moon calendar and use only homeopathic treatments for the grapevines and other plants. (more…)

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Darjeeling Teas

Over the past few months, Julia, our tea buyer, has been working hard to refine and focus our tea selection. Among the companies she works with is Dammann Frères, an impressive, third-generation French company that specializes in blending fine, loose leaf teas.

We just received in a shipment from Dammann Frères and asked Julia to share her top five picks with us. A lot of difficult decision-making was involved but, ultimately, she narrowed down her picks to the below – a selection of teas that encompass a variety of styles, flavor profiles and countries of origin. (more…)

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This week we’re highlighting one of our favorite French liqueurs, the inky black currant flavored Crème de Cassis de Dijon. These sweet little bottles of crème de cassis are made in Burgundy by Briottet, a company run by the Briottet family in the town of Dijon since 1836.

Briottet Crème de CassisBriottet makes their crème de cassis with only “Noir de Bourgogne” black currants. The word “crème” signifies that the liqueur is made from macerated, real fruit rather than flavorings and, the addition of the name Dijon means that the currants (“cassis”) used were grown only in the commune of Dijon. These currants are picked quickly at their peak ripeness and are immediately immersed in alcohol where they macerate for 3 months. Sugar is then added to balance out the tart flavor of the currants – it also makes the liqueur syrupy. Upon completion, crème de cassis has about the same alcohol content as port. (more…)

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I recently visited Barrington Coffee at their roastery in Lee, MA, in the heart of the Berkshires. Roastmaster Brian Heck, along with fellow coffee alchemist Paul, guided me through Barrington’s process of coaxing the delicate aromas and fine flavors out of their unroasted, green coffee beans. It takes an artisan’s practiced touch, a connoisseur’s critical taste, and a farmer’s dedication to his crop to create the consistently outstanding coffees Barrington is known for.

Green coffee beans starting to roast

Brian began by guiding me through the roasting process, from bag to finished bean. Barrington Coffee has three roasters, the largest handling up to 60 lbs. and the smallest able to roast as little as 1/4 lb. at a time. When I visited, Brian and Paul were manning all three roasters, producing select origin as well as blended coffees. (more…)

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Giovanna Tiezzi of Pacina (left) + Gemma

With Giovanna Tiezzi of Pacina

As Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge’s wine buyer, the long-awaited arrival of spring means traveling to Verona for Italy’s most significant wine expo, VinItaly. The enormity and intensity of the show are both invigorating and challenging as it offers an expansive view of Italy’s wine scene, not only with thousands of indigenous grape varietals, but also with a genuine diversity of both terroirs and winemaking styles. Feeling overwhelmed is unavoidable. (more…)

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Domaine de Montbourgeau Macvin du JuraTime out from cheese for a brief note about one of our new favorite wines, a curious liquid called Macvin du Jura. Ours is made by Nicole Deriaux, the 3rd generation winemaker at Domaine de Montbourgeau, a wonderful little winery whose L’Etoile we have stocked in the past.

The lovely elixir that is Macvin du Jura is made from the juice of a combination of red and white grapes to which the local Marc (“mac”) or grape brandy is added. This addition fortifies the sweet juice with alcohol and stops fermentation. The “wine” is then aged in oak casks for several years to develop and integrate the flavors. (more…)

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A Matter of Taste

I recently read a blog post titled “What’s the Point?”. I was directed to it via the New York Times Diner’s Journal Blog.

It’s worth a read but the opening paragraph gives you the gist:

I didn’t start this blog as an outlet for my rants but I have to complain a little bit. I’m over winemakers who have any agenda other than taste; those who want to make ‘natural wines’ or who set out to make wines which embrace some sort of philosophy. I know that we are all Children of the Earth, that we have only one planet and that we should treat the soil and groundwater (and each other) with respect. …but the next time I meet with a winemaker who claims to be driven by the will to be a ‘Steward of the Land’ and to ‘Express the soil’ I may just have to excuse myself. Call me ‘old fashioned’ but isn’t taste the point?

While I empathize with the frustration of being marketed to, doesn’t everyone who makes something have an agenda or a philosophy that drives what they do? Would you really want it any other way? Most producers I know set out to make the best tasting product they can, but they also consider the means they employ to get there. In my mind, it is imperative that retailers and consumers alike evaluate products on the basis of both taste and philosophy. (more…)

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