Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Food Friendly Beer

Pangaea: Not your everyday pale ale. In fact, I think this beer creates its own style category.  When someone asks me about it, I have a difficult time describing it in few words. Light in color in body, ginger on the palate, slightly spicy and a crisp, clean finish. The best part about it is that it’s one of those rare beers that pairs perfectly with food.

The story goes, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head was watching a dinosaur movie with his son in which they were talking about the land mass before it separated into continents, called Pangaea. Sam was inspired to create a beer that would symbolically “put the world back together.”  In doing so, the ingredients are brought together from every continent in the world. Crystallized ginger from Australia, basmati rice from Asia, muscavado sugar from Africa, quinoa from South America, yeast from Europe, maize from North America, and my favorite, water from Antarctica make up this diverse, worldly recipe. They actually contacted the US Military base stationed in Antarctica in order to buy iceberg water. Pretty creative thinking with this one.

Pangaea is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of foods. I had it the other night with sushi, a very difficult food genre to find a compatible beer. The ginger acted as a wonderful palate cleanser and the light, low hop content left a clean finish. The pickled ginger that comes as a heap on the side of your plate is meant to cut the saltiness of the soy sauce and hotness of the wasabi. Pangaea takes its place just fine, and what makes it even better is that it’s beer! It would also pair wonderfully with holiday meals where turkey, prime rib and ham are the main course. It is not so heavy that it would overpower your food, yet not so light that you don’t notice it. If you are a beer drinker, this is the equivalent of a wine drinker’s “food friendly wine”. And with 7% alcohol, you won’t fall over if you finish the whole bottle yourself.

Pangaea is a Limited Release only found in the Fall. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. As Sam Calagione says, “Good luck trying to find Pangaea”

Dogfish Head Pangaea Limited Release 750ml: $10.50

As luck would have it, Pangaea can  be found at Decanted Wines at 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108


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A Truly Arrogant Ale

“This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to a safer and more familiar territory — maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.”

This beer tells you that you won’t like it. It belittles you before you even take your first whiff. And that’s exactly what I like about it. It’s a true craft beer drinkers beer. Big and bold, full of hops, this American Strong Ale is one of my staple favorites. Amber in color, big on flavor, probably a little much for a newbie beer drinker, but perfect for the pros.

Located  in Escondido, California, Stone Brewing Company was founded by Steve Wagner and Greg Koch in 1996. Passionate about craft beer, these two friends teamed up as brewer and business man, creating a legend. I’ll let them sum up who they really are, because frankly, they do it best:

“We are a small, honest brewery with unrealistically high, yet cantankerously unwavering, standards. We concentrate on creating the most satisflying, big character ales imaginable, by using only the finest natural ingredients. And lots of ’em!”

Quick Facts:

I know they sound tough with their big scary beers, but they do appreciate the environment like true Californians. In 2008, they covered the roof of the brewery with solar panels, which cut operating costs in half.

Stone  started out with 400 barrels per year in 1996 and in 2009 they were up to 98,500 barrels per year. They were listed in the top 100 fastest growing San Diego businesses in 2004, 2005, 2006 in the San Diego Business Journal. They must be doing something right!

Stone features 8 year round beers and an assortment of limited and special releases as well as collaboration releases with Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing Companies. More information on their portfolio visit http://www.stonebrew.com

Beer Advocate Rating: A-

Arrogant Bastard Ale 7.2% ABV, 22oz $5.75

You can find Arrogant Bastard as well as other craft beers at Decanted 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108 or online at http://www.decantedwines.com

New Mexico’s Gruet Sparkling Blanc de Noirs

Ever tried a wine from New Mexico? How about sparkling wine from New Mexico? Gruet Winery, located about 170 miles south of Albuquerque is putting New Mexico on the wine map.

So how good can a sparkling be from New Mexico, you ask? Well, it starts with with a great pedigree. Founder, Gilbert Gruet was born in France and produced true Champagne at his Champagne house, Gruet et Fils, before re-locating to the United States. In 1983 Gruet and his wife ran into European wine makers who had successfully planted vineyards in the New Mexico mountains, at an altitude of about 4300 ft. With inexpensive land and a desire to experiment with uncharted territory, Gruet brought his passion for Champagne style sparkling wines to an unlikely region of the United States.

Altitude can work in a wine maker’s favor. It works in Mendoza, why not New Mexico? Hot daytime temperatures that drop dramatically at night allow the grapes to ripen slowly. With a dry climate and sandy soil, there is minimal concern for rot, and the ability to farm without the use of pesticides makes this area ideal for the fickle Pinot Noir grape. Gruet makes both still and sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as a small production of Rhone style Syrah.

One of our favorites for taste and wallet friendliness is the sparkling Blanc de Noirs. This non-vintage Pinot Noir has an earthy nose that leads into a crisp palate with wonderful fruit on the finish.

Gruet Blanc de Noir $12

The rich and toasty character of our Blanc de Noirs is balanced and superb. Aged for two-year minimum, the palate is developed and shows rich complex flavors. The amazing berries aromas and the creamy texture play a leading role and create a great finesse.

Winemaker’s Note: A fine salmon color, aggressive mousse and a lovely fruity wine with plenty of immediate charm and toasty aromas. There is also an explosive juicy flavor of raspberry.

Look for Gruet at Decanted Wines located at 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Suite 21, Naples FL 34108 or online at http://www.decantedwines.com

What Do You See in Your Bottle

They say that wine is a reflection of the winemaker.  But how many winemaker’s actually wrapped their bottle in a mirror so they can see that reflection?  Chris Ringland, a premium Australian winemaker, and Dan Philips, his business partner, are anything but typical in the wine industry.  Their portfolio of Australian wines, R Wines, has made a name for itself not only for the high quality and ratings but also the obscure packaging.

Many people recognize the name and label of R Wines’ largest production wine, Bitch.  The shocking name made its entry to market easy and recognizable.  R Wines also encompasses some other popular brands including Marquis Philips, Roogle, 3 Rings, along with 13 other, smaller production labels.  Always searching for small production gems, we focus a bit more in those ‘other 13.’  One of the highest quality (and highest priced) wines available from R Wines and Ringland is called Anamorphosis.

R Wines AnamorphosisAnamorphosis ($175) is 100% Shiraz from Kalimna in the Barossa Valley (one of my favorite Shiraz regions) in South Australia.  Sourced from 40  to 100 year old vines, the wine was aged in the very best French oak barrels for 30 months.  This wine is a beauty, displaying characteristics of black currants, blackberry, raspberry and a slight hint of huckleberries.  The intense flavors are great now but definitely having aging potential over the next 5 – 10 years.  Jay Miller, a wine critic from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, describes the wine as “Voluptuous, thick rich, and full-bodied, it is a powerful yet seamless expression of Shiraz from a great terroir. It will age effortlessly for 20 years but can be enjoyed young because of its mammoth fruit. It is a winemaking tour de force.”  The 2005 vintage was rated 96 – 99 points by Miller for The Advocate.

But that’s not the most interesting part.  Anamorphosis, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is an evolutionary increase in complexity of form and function, or an image that appears distorted unless it is viewed from a special angle or with a special instrument.  Ringland’s Anamorphosis is both of those definitions.  One could argue about the first debating how complex the wine itself is and whether or not it is ‘evolutionary.’   However, the bottle of Anamorphosis is that distorted image.  The bottle of Anamorphosis is wrapped in a circular mirror.  When shipped to a retailer (or customer), it arrives with a poster.  The poster has a number of undiscernable, circular beige figures.  But when the mirrored bottle is placed on top of the poster, Zeus himself stares back at you.  Wild.

So does Chris Ringland believe that a reflection of himself resembles the god of all Greek gods?  I don’t think so.  But it is a great, great wine with a bonus of ingenious packaging.  Unfortunately, in the last few weeks we have heard rumors that R Wines will no longer be producing wine starting with the 2010 vintage.  So we plan on grabbing as much as we can while we can.

For more information on Anamorphosis or how to buy, click here.

Does Barometric Pressure Affect Your Wine?

For those of you who live in Florida, you know how much the weather can fluctuate from day to day. One moment it will be sunshine and blue skies, the next moment the sky opens up and dumps buckets of water. Then within minutes,  as if nothing happened, the clouds part and the sunshine’s back.  With Hurricane Earl bearing down on the East Coast, the humidity that has been oppressive for the past few months is now being sucked away into the giant storm. Not that we wish ill on anyone affected by the storm that’s raging off the Eastern seaboard, but it sure is nice to see the barometer drop a few millibars and the humidity percentage down to a reasonable number. Usually when the barometer drops, especially in Florida, look out because a storm is brewing. But  today the humidity is unusually low  at 45% with beautiful blue skies and no sign of those ominous thunderheads.

So does this mean it’s a good time to break into some of your favorite red wines? Absolutely!

Low pressure and low humidity is not going to do much for your white wines, but you may notice a significate difference in your red wines. Now, this hasnt been scientifically proven, not that I know of at least. But expert wine drinkers agree that a glass of the same wine can taste quite contrary when served during different weather situations. If you tune your taste buds in, you will find that your reds will taste crisp and cool in a low pressure, low humidity setting. Adversely, those reds are going to taste heavy, warm, flat and alcoholic when the weather is high pressure, high humidity. Is it because the atmospheric pressure is weighing down your wine, making it taste vapid and lifeless? Well, I’m not a scientist so I am not going to try and answer that. Just remember to pay attention to the barometer. This Labor Day weekend may be the perfect time to bust into the cellar and drink that Bordeaux you’ve been saving. Otherwise, during the typical Florida summer heat, stick to the light whites. They will surely refresh your palate and don’t seem to be as affected by the humidity.

Decanted is located at 1418 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples, FL 34108. For more information and schedule of events, visit http://www.decantedwines.com