Category Archives: PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

We hope you enjoy the October Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits.

Autumn is finally here with its glowing gold colors all around, and it is one of the best seasons to be in Tuscany. Between September and mid-November you can really enjoy this region and its countryside taking on a different pace. Even big cities like Florence and Siena aren’t crowded with zillions of tourists and you are able to get a glimpse of true Tuscan authenticity.new balance basketball

Talking about Toscana with all its history, art and beauty can become overwhelming. So much so, the term ‘Stendhal’ syndrome’ originated here – which is described as becoming so overwhelmed by beauty (particularly as it pertains to art) that one is overcome with rapid breathing and heart rate, dizziness and sometimes even hallucinations. Dante, Leonardo, Giotto, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, the Medici; they all came from here. This month we will journey to ‘la mia Toscana’, or my Tuscany, where I used to call home. I hope you will enjoy the trip.

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley


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Toscana, a.k.a Tuscany is part of central Italy. Firenze is the regional capitol with nine provinces (Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa e Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena). The main economy of the region was agriculture until the 1960s, followed by what is called Boom economico (the economic and industrial expansion at the end of the 1950s). After that, many people that used to farm left for higher paying jobs in safer industries, leaving the countryside abandoned and neglected. It severely affected the wine production in the land of Sangiovese. It was not until the passionate and wealthy people from northern Italy started to rediscover Chianti that the renaissance of Tuscan wine restarted. Germans, Swiss, English and then Americans soon were buying even the most decrepit estates and bringing them back to a second life. Only a few Tuscans were able to preserve their properties, the noble Florentine families who have owned the land for centuries. Nowadays we see a more democratic distribution of the wine production, with younger farmers interested not only in the vineyards but also in agriculture other then grapes.url
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My family and I arrived in Toscana in 1960, leaving our hometown near Napoli. We left the south searching for a better life, and arrived in the countryside north of Firenze in a town called Prato. Not the fancy hilly Tuscany of many books and tourist pamphlets but a humble and active working community whose main occupation was textile production. Outside of town was an agricultural world with its rhythms and hard work ethic. The people, the food, the landscape – was all so different from where we come from. I was only four, but I distinctly remember feeling the difference and I felt in love with this region right away.
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Nowadays only a few patches of field have survived: industrial buildings and factories cover the rest. I was lucky to have witnessed the last of that agricultural world. Where my parents and I were living was mostly in the countryside, next to farmers and their land. When I wasn’t at school I was following Corrado, the old farmer, around the field or in the stable, where he had cows and pigs. I was helping carrying wheat to the combine in June and with harvest in September. Crushing grapes in the barrels on the wagons and taking them to the cellar. I still remember the smell of the must starting to ferment. The last day of the harvest there was this huge dinner with all the workers seated at this long table set in the farmyard. Great food, wine, and many stories the old farmers knew. After the ‘vendemmia’ it was time to prepare the land for the following season, so we would plow the fields. I can see the tracks of fresh soil dark, dense, almost wet and with intense smell of fresh clay.
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Now everything has changed and if I want to see a countryside that reminds me of my younger years I go toward the west side of Prato’s flatlands. Carmignano lies on the hills below the Montalbano ridge. The mountain systems divide the provinces of Prato and Pistoia from the western part of Florence province and the lower Valdarno valley toward Lucca, Pisa and Livorno.
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The hills are no less charming than those in Chianti or Val d’Orcia. The Medici family chose Poggio a Caiano and Artimino for two of their most beautiful villas for good reason. Easy to reach from Florence, clear visuals on the valley below, pleasant weather to escape the cold winter and the humid hot summer in the city. I recommend visiting if you are planning a trip to Italy, get a car and drive to those places and you sure will be rewarded with an enriched experience.

Conte Contini Bonaccossi, Trefiano, Carmignano Riserva DOCG, 2007
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The Capezzana estate was purchased by Count Alessandro Contini Bonaccossi from Marchese Niccolin in the beginning of the Twentieth century when he moved back from Spain with his family. He had made his fortune with a successful business in antique trades. Capezzana is situated in the commune of Carmignano in the province of Prato, 20 km from Florence, on the slopes of Monte Albano and close to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
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The Tenuta Capezzana estate comprises 670 hectares, of which approximately 100 acres are vineyards and 140 acres olive groves. The estate is home to a Renaissance Villa with an adjacent farm, it has historic cellars beneath the complex which date to the 16th century, a modern olive mill and a huge “Vinsantaia” (where Vin Santo grapes are dried), above the cellar.  The “Tinaia” (fermentation cellar) was built in 1938 by Giovanni Michelucci, who was one of the most innovative architects of the 1900s, having designed both the Florence train station and the church of San Giovanni Battista on the Autostrada del Sole near Florence.

After the war in 1945, Count Alessandro’s son Ugo earned a degree on farm management and joined his father on pursuing excellence in wine production along with the other cultures such as olive oil, wheat and fruit trees. The Tenuta Capezzana estate is divided into three parts and incorporates more than 120 sharecropping farms, producing high quality wine and oil.  Today, Capezzana is in the almost unique position of having bottles dating back to the 1925 vintage.

Wine production in Carmignano dates back to the Etruscans and later the Roman period. Carmignano was designated in 1716 by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici as one of the four best areas for wine growing in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany – Chianti, Pomino and Valdarno Superiore the other three. The ‘Motu proprio’ Decree and ‘Bando’ laid down precise rules for production, set out geographical boundaries and regulated trade for the wines from these areas, thereby making up the first “D.O.C.” in the world. The Carmignano wine disciplinary allowed the use of Cabernet Savignon because this varietal was introduced here by Caterina de’ Medici in the Sixtieth century when she was queen of France, and the grape is still called Uva Francesca by the old farmers.
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Trefiano Carmignano Riserva is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Uva Francesca and 10% Canaiolo. The harvest occurs between the end of September and beginning of October. All the grapes are handpicked. The initial fermentation takes places in stainless steel tanks, followed by malolactic fermentation in French oak where it ages for 16 months, followed by another 12 months in the bottle prior to release. The wine presents a rich ruby color with purple highlights. The nose offers dark fruit and spice nuances with fresh hearty notes. The palate is elegantly wrapped with ripe fruit and berries. The tannins are smooth with a long finish. Pair with Sedani alla Pratese (see recipe), grilled meat and aged cheeses.

Assolati, Dionysios, Vermentino, Toscana IGT, 2013

The Assolati estate has a different history from Capezzana. Here are the humble grandparents of Loriano Giannetti. Farmers who acquired this small property in the 1950s and through hard work and perseverance cleaned a large area covered with Mediterranean shrubs to uncover the fertile soil underneath.

Assolati is located in the hilly west side of Mount Amiata near Montenero d’Orcia, in the province of Grosseto, not far away from Montalcino, Pienza and Siena. Loriano and his family are dedicated to the vineyards as well as raising the indigenous Chianina cows, famous for their tender and exquisite meat and used for the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This two inch Florentine steak is a must for meat lovers and can be eaten only in Toscana! Besides farming, the Giannetti’s are running a beautiful agriturismo in their restored casale that faces the valley below toward the Maremma. The main grape grown here is Sangiovese with a small amount of Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Cabernet for the reds, along with Vermentino and little Chardonnay for the whites.

The ‘Dionysos’ Vermentino is a simple yet beautiful wine crafted with the same care and passion dedicated to the reds. The vines are growing on mix of clay and calcareous soil that provide a nice vein of acidity and minerality to the wines. Yellow stone fruits on the nose and mouth with a citrusy touch. The grapes are harvested manually in late August/beginning of September. After a gentle pressing the wine goes through cold maceration and fermentation in stainless steel tanks, where it rests for six months before bottling. This Vermentino would be a great pairing for squash or pumpkin soup, and an absolute hit with fresh cracked Dungeness or a Crab Louie Salad.

 

Sedani alla Pratese

(Stuffed celery Prato’ style)

This is a classic example of a cucina povera dish. Using left over meat and ingredients that are cheap and available. That said, this preparation requires time and attention.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Prepare a tomato sauce, with or without ground meat enough for 4 serving

8 large celery stalks, about 2 inches wide at the bottom

200gr ground veal

150gr chicken livers, chopped

200gr ground mortadella

4 eggs

2 garlic cloves chopped with a spring of parsley

Black peppercorn, freshly grounded

Nutmeg freshly grated, plenty to smell

Parmigiano

2-3 tbsp. of flour

Breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

Salt

  • Cut the celery by the root side about 4 inches long and blench in plenty hot salty water for 10-15 minutes along with some celery leaves
  • Drain the celery and set them on kitchen towel, cover with another towel where we place a cutting board with some weight, to help squeeze the excess water
  • When the celery are cold and drained remove the stringy parts
  • In a bowl mix the ground veal, chopped chicken livers, mortadella, 2 eggs, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • Scoop the mixture in the 8 wide celery pieces, using the other one as cover
  • Tie the two pieces of celery with kitchen string on both end and let rest for 20 minutes
  • Using the other 3 eggs, flour and 2tbsp of olive oil mix together to obtain a batter enough dense to coat the celery
  • In a fryer or cast iron pan, using high heat vegetable oil, fry the stuffed celery, being careful do not overcrowd the pan
  • Fry the celery for about 10 minutes, until they get a golden color. Let them rest on paper towel to lose some of the oil
  • Transfer all the celery in a large pan, with the tomatoes’ sauce and cook for about an hour over low flames
  • Serve two celery in each plate, scooping on top some sauce

Now, tutti a tavola, it is time to eat!

BOM Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for August. This month, we look at English craft beer from two different angles. In Coniston Bluebird Bitter, we’ve got a fairly traditional British beer, but its high bitterness takes it a shade beyond the balanced approach of so many British bitters, and the brewery, which opened in 1995, is one of the pioneers of the English beer revival. The second beer for this month is Modus Vivendi, The Wild Beer Company’s flagship English old ale soured with wild Brettanomyces yeast and aged for months in used wine and bourbon barrels. It taps into a sourness more famous in Belgium and the US, but with a yeast that is wildly English.nike free 3.0 v2

Cheers!

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

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It’s 2015, and English craft beer brewed has fully come into its own. It’s making waves in pubs, shops, and the media, and the beers are even starting to make their way to the US. In 2014, Britain had about 1,300 breweries, and most of them stick to traditional English ales (which are “craft” in their own right, having never slid entirely into industrial mediocrity the way American beer did prior to starting the craft revolution). Traditional English ales are often about balance, subtlety, and, well, tradition. The English craft brewers of today are brewing with American hops, higher bitterness, wild yeasts, non-traditional ingredients, while cobbling nooks for their oak barrels and second-hand dairy equipment and revitalizing urban cores and country barns alike. Frankly, English craft brewers are hard to differentiate from their Yankee counterparts, which shows how far craft beer culture has come in what many regard as a stodgy, albeit high-quality, beer culture. The more esoteric and extreme beers didn’t happen overnight, though, and pioneering breweries like Coniston Brewing Co. helped lay the foundation for flashier brewers like The Wild Beer Co.

Bluebird Bitter Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston, Cumbria, UK   4.2% ABV   
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ConistaBrewing Tucked in the center of the cozy town of Coniston in the Lake District National Park is Coniston Brewing Co., nestled on the shore of Coniston Water (that’s English for “lake,” to you and me). Ronald and Susan Bradley owned the Black Bull, the town’s 400-year-old pub, and in 1994 they opened a small brewery in a building behind the Black Bull in order to provide fresh beer for the pub.
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They hired their son, Ian Bradley, as brewmaster, and retained brewing consultant David Smith to write the recipes. Within just a couple years, David’s flagship bitter recipe brewed by Ian won Britain’s highest beer award: it was crowned Champion Beer of Britain at the 1998 Great British Beer Festival. The beer is a triumph of English malts, English hops, and English yeast: incredible biscuity maltiness from heirloom Maris Otter malts mingles with orangey, earthy bitterness from classic Challenger hops, while subtle poached pear aromas from the yeast soften the bitterness and garnish the malts. I was surprised to learn that Bluebird’s name is actually more macabre than bucolic: “Bluebird K7” was the rocket boat piloted by daredevil Donald Campbell, who died in 1967 in a famous boating accident at 300 miles per hour on Coniston Water.
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Virtually every British brewery brews a “bitter,” often called an ordinary bitter to distinguish it from the brewery’s slightly stronger bitters, which in turn sport names like best, special, premium, and extra special. While Bluebird Bitter does, in fact, taste bitter, not all bitters are markedly bitter. Bitter, as a style of ale, earned that moniker in the 1930s and 1940s, decades after porter and IPA had had their heyday and wartime rationing and ingredient taxation had reduced much English beer to low alcohol and low bitterness levels. In a time of fewer and fewer beer choices, English pub-goers ordered either “mild” ale or “bitter” ale, two colloquial names that eventually coalesced into distinct beer styles.
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While Bluebird doesn’t set out to be a self-styled “craft beer,” it shows its crafty soul in upending a complacent English beer cart, a beer envisioned in a 1990s brewpub as a single-hop beer charged with the boldness of more than 35 bitterness units (more than most pilsners). If Bluebird was a wake-up call to the steadily diminishing character of English ordinary bitters, Coniston used its momentum and offering more craft brewery calling cards, such as a slightly stronger Bluebird XB with American-grown Mount Hood hops, a crisp, decidedly un-English Continental pilsner, as well as a towering, 8.5%-ABV barley wine (which was crowned Champion Beer of Britain in 2012). But it all started with Bluebird Bitter, still a classic expression of characterful English brewing.
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Pour Coniston Bluebird Bitter in a large glass and make sure sure you let it warm up a bit from refrigerator temperature. Like many English ales, it’s way too tight at fridge temperature, and only shows its soft maltiness and the fruitiness of its hops and yeast when it’s warmer than 45 degrees; 55 is perfect. It’s a gorgeous burnished orange color with a persistent white head of foam. It smells like pears, dried orange, biscuits, and a hint of waffle with butter and maple syrup. A sip of it greets your palate with pronounced, black-tea-like bitterness, a bright Pippin apple freshness, along with dashes of bread dough, woody thyme, and ginseng. Complex, savory yeast flavor and a whisper of salty, sulfate minerality accompany the finish. It’s light in body but bready at the same time, amazingly smooth and plush for only 4.2% ABV (on cask in Britain, it’s even lower alcohol at 3.6% ABV). Pair this, as brewer Ian does, with fish and chips, or else enjoy its versatility with cheeses, veggie lasagna bianca, saag paneer, or falafel and baba ghanoush. In addition to fried food and cooked veggies, it finds great harmony with minerally foods like asparagus, artichokes, and even seaweedy ramen and hijiki salad.
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Modus Vivendi The Wild Beer Company, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK   7.0% ABV

Beer is generally made from four ingredients: water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. Brewers Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis founded The Wild Beer Company to brew each of their beers with a “5th ingredient,” be it fruit, oak, or time. When they became drinking buddies, Cooper was training to be a certified Beer Sommelier (a European Cicerone equivalent) and Ellis was an out-of-work California chef who had moved to the UK to marry his English girlfriend. They homebrewed and mused over pints, finally having their eureka! moments while drinking Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and George Gale’s Prize Old Ale. La Roja, from a Michigan craft brewery, was oak-aged, winey, toasty, delicious and beguiling; Gale’s Old Ale is sherryish, toffeeish, and tastes like dates dipped in wine. These are beer flavors and attitudes Cooper and Ellis decided were too rare in England, so they opened their own craft brewery to do something about it.
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To harness the ever-elusive 5th ingredient, Cooper and Ellis tap into a variety of influences, including Ellis’s culinary training, Cooper’s knowledge of beer history, and the terroir of Somerset’s dairy and apple country, south of Bristol and Bath, where the brewery is located. Their proof-of-concept beer is aptly called Modus Operandi, though in the States it’s sold as Modus Vivendi (I can’t find the reasoning online, but my guess is that Ska Brewing Co., Colorado-based brewer of Modus Hoperandi IPA, encouraged the renaming). Modus Operandi/Vivendi is based on a traditional English old ale, a chewy, malty, toffeeish ale often brewed as a winter warmer. Old ales age well, and they tend to develop some winey, sherryish acidity with age, sometimes with a tinge of Brettanomyces yeast. Brettanomyces is Latin for “British fungus,” and while Belgium is more famous for its Brett-influenced sour ales, when Brett was first identified under a microscope, it had been harvested from aged English old ales and stock ales, which often have subtle scents of cellar, wool, and dust (and sometimes pineapple or Juicy Fruit flavors) and a touch of lactic acidity. The barnyardy and horsy flavors Brett is known for are from Brettanomyces species cultivated in Belgium; the British strains on the other hand tend to be less feral in flavor. In 2012, Cooper and Ellis toured the orchards near their farm brewery, picking apples and fermenting them into cider using only the wild, indigenous yeasts and beneficial bacteria on the apple skins. Then they pitched the resulting mixed yeast-bacteria culture into their first batch of old ale and let it age for 3 months in barrels, allowing it to transform into the mature, sour, oaky, terroir-driven Modus Operandi/Vivendi. They first used bourbon barrels for the aging, but found the finished beer lacked some of the desired fruitiness and complexity, and now they age in a mixture of bourbon barrels and red Burgundy wine barrels from Le Grappin. In a 2014 interview with The Grill And Barrel blog, Ellis summed up Modus Operandi quite nicely: “It is the beer that Andrew and I built the brewery to brew and we are only now getting to know that beer.”
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Modus Vivendi pours an attractive garnet brown-mahogany beneath an off-white head of fine bubbles. Immediately, the bouquet promises a complex beer, showing scents of strawberry, hazelnut, chocolate, sherry, licorice root, and rooibos tea. On the palate, it invites you more deeply down the rabbit hole, showing sourness like goat cheese and Balsamic vinegar, the brambly earthiness of an aged red Rioja, and echoes of once-raisiny, once-toffeeish malts that have fermented to a tart, winey dryness. Barrel-aging has dropped out the classic balance and malty treacle of this English stock old ale, and it has emerged from the chrysalis poised, lean, and muscular, trading tradition for attitude in a brave new world of English beer. Pair this beer with rich, earthy dishes, like roast chicken with mushroom sauce, apples and sheep’s milk cheese, New England clam chowder, or Issan-style catfish — sweet, sour, salty, and pungent with garlic and fish sauce.

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

We hope you enjoy the August Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits. With its characteristically shaped heel of a boot at the tip of the Italian peninsula – Puglia has a similarly long history with wine like the other southern regions. The region has benefited from cultural and commercial exchange with the Greeks due to the close vicinity of its coasts with the Hellenic civilization. The particular geography of this territory was perfectly suited for the two main Mediterranean crops: olives and vines. There are still orchards of millennially old olive trees in the region. These beautiful monuments of nature are worth the trip there alone – the wine is the bonus.stephen curry blue and yellow shoes

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist

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Puglia a.k.a. Apulia, is located in the south eastern region of Italy. The geography of the area is mostly flat with a big plain called Tavoliere that covers just over half of the territory, leaving the other half full of rolling hills and a few scattered mountains. With almost 500 miles of Adriatic coastline, Puglia is a region with lots of coastal development. The weather is typical Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and mild winters and very low precipitations. With the Adriatic Sea on the east and the Ionian Sea to the south, it borders with Molise in the northwest and Campania and Basilicata along the western boarder.
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The wine history of Puglia has been less noble than the olive cultivation because up until just a few decades ago the grapes where pushed to massive production. Long months of hot weather in a flat lowland area produced grapes rich in color and sugar. That meant they were traditionally used in blending wines to add body and alcohol to other non-mature grapes. Today the quality standards are up to par with the more advanced regions. There are six major provinces: Bari (the regional capitol), Foggia, Andria-Barletta-Trani, Brindisi, Taranto and Lecce – containing about 25 D.O.C.’s. The most planted grape varietals are all red and indigenous to the region, such as Primitivo di Manduria, Malvasia Nera, Negroamaro and Uva di Troia – which legend says was brought over by Diomedes who came to Italy after the fell of Troia. They also plant some Sangiovese, Barbera and Montepulciano. White varietals are found in lesser quantities, and you will find Fiano, Malvasia, Verdello, Coda di Volpe and Trebbiano.
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Cantine Menhir Salento, Sale, Salento IGT, 2013
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Salento, in the southern part of Puglia, has become one of the major tourist destinations in the last few years. It includes the entire province of Lecce and is full of the finest Baroque architecture. The pristine sea, the food, and laidback lifestyle help to attract people looking for places not totally exploited by commercial tourism. Here you will find Cantine Menhir, a winery owned by the Marangelli family in Minervino di Lecce, located very close to Otranto in the extreme southern part of Puglia. The vineyards are situated on 25 acres along the fertile coastal strip of Laghi Alimini adjacent to the Adriatic Sea. The Alimini Lakes are part of a protected natural wildlife reserve rich with rare species of flora and fauna.
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Marangelli has planted Primitivo, some vines as old as eighty years, along with Negramaro, Malvasia Nera, Fiano Minutolo and Malvasia Bianca. In honor of the connection with archaic traditions deeply rooted in the territory, they named their property Menhir (from the Breton words men and hir meaning long stone). The area is full of Neolithic relics.

Sale is made from 50% Fiano Minutolo and 50% Malvasia Bianca. Fiano Minutolo is an aromatic varietal not related to Campania’s Fiano. Malvasia Bianca is another native Puglia grape, different than the Malvasia Moscata of Piedmont. The vines are planted on red clay soil. The harvest is done manually in the early morning hours at the beginning of September. Soft pressing and fermentation takes place at controlled temperatures for 60 days. The wine then spends 4 months on the skins, sur lies, and another two more in the bottle prior the commercial release.
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Sale, which means salt in Italian, here is short for Salento, but it is aptly named because this wine has certain salinity qualities to it. The nose is surprisingly rich with yellow and white flowers; stone fruits such as peach and apricots also come to mind. Notes of acacia flowers, elderberry, dry oregano and a whiff of seaside air permeate from the glass. After a few initial sips, the sensations are supported with a refreshing acidity. This wine brings to mind a warm late afternoon, after a day spent on the beach. It pairs well with grilled octopus and boiled small potatoes, dressed all with quality olive oil, parsley, garlic and a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt flakes.

 Tenute Rubino, Torre Testa Susumaniello, Salento IGT, 2012
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In the mid-80’s the Rubino family started the acquisition of several parcels of land and began building their farm, stretching from the Adriatic coast to the hinterland of Brindisi. Tommaso Rubino was one of the first to understand the potential of Salento. His son Luigi followed his father’s footsteps in the beginning of 2000 when he took on the leadership of the family business. He set out to upgrade and modernized the winery, with a focus on promoting the quality of the indigenous grape varieties of Salento: Malvasia Bianca, Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello. Luigi also understood the possibilities other grapes can add to their panel of wines, so he planted some Montepulciano, Aglianico, Alicante, Vermentino and Chardonnay. There are four estates on their property, Jaddico, Marmorelle, Uggio and Punta Aquila, all planted with the same varietals in different soil compositions and microclimates – all individually reflecting wines produced from each estate.
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Luigi Rubino dedicates the same passion for each wine he makes, but there is a special spot in his heart for Susumaniello. This varietal doesn’t have the respected pedigree of some other southern red grapes such as Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Primitivo. Matter of fact, it has been treated as the workhorse vine of Puglia, or more accurately the loaded donkey of the regional viticulture. Susumaniello has been thought to be of Dalamatian origin but recent DNA test shows that it is the result of crossing Garganega with Uva Sogra, a varietal now extinct. The name Susumaniello means in Apulia dialect to ‘load up the donkey’. The vine produces a huge number of grapes if not properly pruned or stressed. When these vines receive the proper care, they reward you with a wine that shows depth and elegance that is usually unexpected by other big southern reds.

The Torre Testa Susumaniello fruit comes from the Juddica estate, situated on over 123 acres of loose sandy limestone terrain, providing the perfect drainage of any excess of water and letting the roots thrive by reaching nutriments in the sub soil. The oldest vines were planted in 1930. This wine shows a deep and dense dark red garnet color with violet reflections in the glass. As Torre Testa opens up, it shows you the multilayers of perfumed dark fruits; cherry, blackberry, black currant jam and brandied plums. Spices like cinnamon, clover, nutmeg emerge when you swirl it in the glass. This wine is rich and intense, with notes of dark chocolate on the finish. This ‘little donkey’ goes a long way, providing solid enjoyment after being opened for a few days. Big wines like this need intense flavors in food. Pappardelle with sausages, Penne with cinghiale sugo, grilled meats and aged cheese such as Canestrato Pugliese DOP will all make exquisite pairings.

Tiella alla barese

(Rice, mussels & potato pie)

Paired with the Cantine Menhir Sale

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This recipe takes its name from the baking pan used to cook the dish. Tiella is a commune name used in the southern regions of Italy, and each one has its own version of it. The tiella is a low rim pan with a cover. It could be a clay, ceramic or metal pan. In the past it was the only dish cooked by farmers during the week, when time and ingredients were scarce, basically one dish meal. Tiella alla barese is a recipe from Bari, Puglia’s capitol town. This dish is fun to make, a feast for the eyes and the palate.

 

Ingredients (serves 4)
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1 Kg Mussels
500 g Potatoes
500 g Tomatoes
1 white onion
1 garlic clove
1 spring of parsley
300 g rice (superfine Arborio or Roma)
100 g Pecorino or Parmigiano, grated
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Clean the mussels under cold running water pulling the beard and scraping each one. Then open the mussels with a flat blade knife reserving the liquid. If it’s too hard you can get the mussels in a pan under high flame for 2 minutes until they start to open. Discard the top shell and keep them face up.
  • Slice the onion very thin, then potatoes and tomatoes (~ 1/8th inch)
  • Rinse the rice and the potatoes if you don’t like to starchy.
  • Chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Drizzle the olive oil in the baking pan
  • Start to build the pie by placing the onions on the bottom of the dish, and then fan the potatoes to cover the dish, add the tomatoes on top, then sprinkling with garlic and parsley.
  • Set the mussels face up, and add the rice over the mussels.
  • Slowly pour the mussels juice on the side of the pan.
  • Build another strata of potatoes, tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle the cheese and finish with breadcrumbs
  • Pour slowly enough water to cover the rice but not the cheese and breadcrumbs!
  • Set in the oven at 400F for 1 hour.
  • Let rest 10 minutes and serve.

 

 

Park It: Our Favorite Screw Cap Wines

In 1997, PlumpJack made the bold decision to bottle its finest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon under the screw cap closure in an effort to maintain only the highest quality wine. PlumpJack made the decision to bottle half in cork finish and half in screw cap. It was the first luxury brand that took the risk and chance at this form of bottling.

“With screw cap wines you are getting something that is very consistent, no influence of TCA, and bottle uniformity throughout the entire lot. When PlumpJack went out on this quest to use screw caps, there was resistance and supporters.”
– Jeff Owens, Winemaker at Odette Estate 

Once thought of as the enclosure for only cheap wines, screw caps are becoming a viable alternative to corks for wines at every level and price point. The beauty behind the screw cap is the best way to ensure that every single bottle that you open as a consumer is exactly as the winemaker intended. PlumpJack took the leap and now screw caps are sweeping the industry. Whether you are enjoying an afternoon in the park with friends or a nice dinner with a loved one, the following are a few of our favorite screw cap wines.
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CADE Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 2014
Our 2014 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc has a nose that is filled with aromas of green apple, lemon, lime, honeydew melon, white peaches, white flowers, grapefruit, lemon meringue, and canteloupe. There is great viscosity and weight in the palate followed by a vibrant acidity on the finish that gives the wine a juicy mouth-watering presence. The wine has flavors of grapefruit, orange zest, kiwi, toasted almonds and a mineral/flinty edge.
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Sacred Hill Orange Label Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
Most people associate New Zealand with sauvignon blanc but the region is proving it is more the just a one trick pony by producing great wines from other grape varieties as well, including pinot noir. The Sacred Hill Pinot Noir pours a radiant color of pale garnet with aromas of wild strawberry and cranberry mixing with savory notes of fresh mushroom and dried herbs. The palate reflects the aroma with ripe red fruits, an underlying earthy complexity, and a refreshing finish.
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Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2014
New Zealand was the first to adopt the screw cap en masse and today almost every single wine from that country uses screw cap enclosures, including the Fire Road sauvignon blanc. Light bodied, dry and crisp, this wine is full of the typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flavors of grapefruit, passion fruit, and melon with a pleasing thread of herbaceous goodness. Best enjoyed with seafood, pasta, white meats and summer salads.

Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2012
German winemakers have been among the first in Europe to embrace the screw cap revolution and it is now common to see a Riesling from Germany with a screw cap enclosure. The Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2012 is among our favorite screw cap Riesling in store at the moment. The nose on this wine presents intense tart stone fruits, green apple, a hint of orange rind, and plenty of slate. The palate is bright with powerful acidity balanced by just enough sweetness with a green apple and mineral finish.
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Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2009
Randall Grahm has been doing things differently since he began Bonny Doon Vineyards in 1983, putting screw caps on his wine is no exception. Bonny Doon was among the first in the US to adopt the screw cap for premium wines. The dark color Le Cigare Volant is reflected in dark aromas of char, tobacco, dried herbs and subtle notes of earthy-mushrooms. Tart red berry notes, particularly cherry and cranberry, balance the dark aromas making this a deeply complex wine. The savory and tart combination continues on the palate with the addition of dark currant and spice tones leading to a medium finish. 
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PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay 2014
A list of our favorite screw caps wines would not be complete without mentioning one of our own. In 2000 PlumpJack bottle half the 1997 Reserve Cab in screw cap and the other half in natural cork. We’ve continued bottling a number of our wines with screw caps in a commitment to maintain only the highest quality of wine, including our reserve chardonnay. This wine opens with fresh green apple and Bartlett pear on the nose, with some tropical notes as well. The palate has a beautiful, bright, lively acidity, which is balanced by the creamy, rich texture. A touch of oak gives the wine traces of vanilla, flint, and spice. Check out Robert Parker’s reviews on this wine and other PlumpJack Wines.
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All these wines are available at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits, Noe Valley.

PlumpJack made the bold decision to bottle its finest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon under the screw cap closure in an effort to maintain only the highest quality wine. Watch the video and learn more behind this innovative journey. WATCH HERE

Summertime Beers You Need to Try

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley


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Summer, the ideal season to crack open a cold beer and enjoy the sunshine. Beer is tailor made for this time of year, a time full of festivals and parties. From pilsners to lagers to summer ales and saisons the flavor possibilities are endless. Allow me to show you some of my personal favorite beers to enjoy during the summer season.
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Stone Brewing Company: Delicious IPA
Stone Delicious IPA is an intensely citrusy, bitter beer that caters to today’s modern hop heavy tastes. This beer pours a beautiful golden hue with a light body. Sporting a slight spiciness this beer is a great beer to enjoy at a BBQ. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops bring magnificent lemon candy like flavor to the palate. Stone Delicious IPA is a perfect pairing with pulled pork or a spice rubbed pork loin.
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Stillwater Artisanal Ales: Cellar Door
White sage graces this beer in both taste and aroma, which is then joined by a wonderfully pleasant taste of tangerine and valencia oranges. This beer finishes dry and crisp making it perfect for a hot summer day.
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Modern Times: Fortunate Islands
Characteristically this beer shares a lot of similarities of an uber hoppy IPA and an easy drinking wheat beer, a large dose of Citra and Amarillo hops give this beer a huge rush of tropical hop aromas; fresh mango, tangerine and passion fruit tones will take you back to that tropical vacation. You will feel as if you are back on the beach sipping a cold glass of sunshine.
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Prairie Artisan Ales: Funky Gold Amarillo
Funky Gold Amarillo is a dry hopped sour ale which is a blend of Prairies sour golden ale and a whole bunch of fresh Amarillo hops. The result is a beer that is a mix of tropical fruit and pure prairie funk. Peachy notes are swallowed by big orange citrusy tones, notes of white wine can be found in both the flavor and aroma. This beer is perfect to enjoy as the sun starts to set and the colors of the sky turn bright and colorful.
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Baird Beer: Temple Garden Yuzu Ale
This beer pours a hazy amber peachy color, a delicate aroma of orange and tangerine play with your senses. The flavor is similar to candied citrus making this beer an excellent pairing for fish tacos on the beach, ceviche, or a bright summer citrus salad. The yuzu fruit adds a lemon cream aroma and flavor to the beer making it perfect for a warm summer day.

– Joshua Thinnes
General Manager and Wine & Spirits Buyer, Noe Valley Location

Love beer or need to send a fellow beer lover a gift? Then order PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Three Cheers for Beer in a Bucket gift basket. This perfectly curated gift comes with three kinds of beer, plus delicious snack pairings.

Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes: 2015

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Alexander Murray & Co Ltd ‘Highland Park’ 13yr
Distilled in 2000 at Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
Bottled by Alexander Murray & Co Ltd at cask strength 56.1 % abv

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Summer is in finally here, and we have the second quarter Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes for you! We’re excited to be featuring another new broker bottler to the Scotch Club, Alexander Murray & Co Ltd. While they specialize in custom label bottlings for individual customers and businesses like Trader Joes and Costco (Kirkland), they also bottle their single malts under their own name. We tasted nearly 30 expressions and this was one of our favorites. It didn’t hurt that it was one of few that were bottled at cask strength! Highland Park is a favorite of many regular scotch drinkers (myself included). The last time we featured an expression from Highland Park was in our inaugural release of the Scotch Club in 2007. While most of the core expressions of Highland Park are matured in sherry casks, this one was matured entirely in bourbon casks, making it daytime appropriate and summer approved.

 Sláinte,
Joshua Thinnesnew balance 992

The island of Orkney is simply a magical place. Definitely not British, not really Scottish, as it was a Norse settlement for more than 700 years until it was assumed by Scotland through a marriage. Civilization has occupied this land since 8000 BC. Orkney, along with all the other Hebridean islands including Islay remained loyal to Norway until the 13th century. In 1262 Angus Mor, the Lord of Islay, fighting alongside the Vikings lost control to Scotland in the Battle of Largs. Scotland needed the land for strategic naval positioning fighting off the Danish as they settled on lease terms with Norway. Later in the mid-1400s, after years of unpaid rent to Norway’s King Christian I, Scotland’s debt was forgiven in exchange for the marriage of Scotland’s King James III to Christian’s daughter. The next 300 years solidified a Scottish Norwegian alliance that resisted countless attempts at Danish overrule to no avail. Though Orkney had officially become part of Scotland, most Orcadian people never considered themselves Scottish, and the islands have truly a distinct feel.
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Kirkwall, Scotland

                            Kirkwall, Scotland


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Highland Park distillery was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson. The famous 18th century rogue smuggler set up shop on the former site of an illicit still that had been in operation for decades before. Ironically, in the basement of a church where he was a preacher that once stood on the site. It was known as ‘High Park’ for its location on a hill above the town of Kirkwall. In one telling story, it is said that Magnus got word of an imminent inspection by the local exisemen John Robertson, looking for evidence of whisky smuggling. He quickly assembled some of the parishioners and moved all the barrels of whisky from the cellar into the church, where they put coffin lids over the barrels, and draped them with white funerary shroud. When the taxmen arrived, the mass launched into a roar of loud and soulful mourning. One of the parishioners mumbled to the visitors “smallpox”, and just like that, Robertson bailed without completing his search. Eunson was finally arrested in 1813, and as irony would have it, the distillery was sold to the same tax excisemen John Robertson, who promptly turned it legit and began legal distillation. Highland Park distillery has been in continuous operation ever since. Today Highland Park along with sister distillery Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group. And both are renowned amongst collectors and drinkers alike as one of the best, most well-rounded drams.
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Highland Park also boasts the title of northernmost distillery in Scotland. The distillery’s location in the Orkney Islands provides a setting that encompasses the very best of all of Scotland’s distilling regions. The Orkneys are now considered a part of the Highlands, and its whiskies share many of the traits of the more familiar highland distilleries, like aromas of heather, wildflowers and honey. The barley for their whisky is malted and then slowly kilned dry over a period of 5-7 days using peat smoke, imparting a slight smoky quality to the whisky, although this peatiness is not nearly as strong as malts from Islay. They are one of the few distilleries peating their own barley, up to 20% nowadays. The island location also exposes the whisky aging in cask, to strong breezes and storms coming off of the North Sea, imparting a slight saltiness on the whisky as it matures. Whisky at Highland Park is aged predominately in used Sherry casks, which imparts a vinous, fruity quality to the malt, as well as a touch of sweetness (although this particular bottle saw no Sherry cask).

The Highland Park that you hold in your hands was not bottled by the Highland Park, but by independent spirits bottler Alexander Murray & Co. As we’ve discussed before, prior to the last quarter of a century or so, almost no Single Malt Scotch was bottled with the intention to be consumed straight. Nearly every cask of whisky was sold to the blending houses, who, according to their house style, would blend dozens of different single malts, along with more neutrally flavored grain whisky, to achieve their house style. Frequently these blends will contain in excess of 50-60 different whiskies, each used sparingly to lend a bit of their character to the final product. Starting in the mid-1800’s, specialized wine & spirits brokers, and even a few licensed grocers began purchasing casks that they thought were especially distinctive. These merchants would bring the whole casks to their shops, and display them on site. Their customers would come in, frequently bringing their own flasks, bottles, or other containers, and buy their whisky by the liter, tapped straight from the barrel. When the bottling of whisky became cheaper and more commonplace, these merchants switched over to selling their whiskies by the bottle, so that they could market their products to a larger audience than just their local customers.
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After distillation, the ‘new make’ spirit was filled to what is known as a refill American hogshead: a barrel of specific size (a hogshead is 66 US gallons, or 250 liters) that was previously used to age Bourbon whiskey in the United States. According to law, bourbon must be aged in brand-new, heavily charred casks. After bourbon is bottled, there are a lot of used barrels left over that are of no further use to the Bourbon distiller. Most are sold to Scotch distilleries, as the more neutral qualities of used wood are great for the milder, subtler Scotch whiskies made of malted barley. This type of barrel will slowly lend its color to the aging Scotch, without imparting any overt oaky flavors. This whisky is lightly peated, providing just a hint of smoke on the nose and palate. The nose expresses an unmistakable Highland Park quality of orange, honey and heather that is further developed on the palate. Flavors of spiced orange, burnt orange peel and heather linger on the finish. Every sip conjures aromas of zested orange and memories of summertime flowers while aromas of salty seaside air permeate. At cask strength the finish is spicy but with the addition of a dash of water the flavors really open up and develop. I’ve also noticed that as I drink the bottle past the shoulder mark the whisky continues to open up and develop. This whisky is a perfect summertime sipper – light enough to sip in the sunshine while still being expressive and full of character. If it gets hot out, try it with splash of chilled soda water with an orange twist. Enjoy!
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PJWine&Spirits

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

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We hope you enjoy the June Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits. In the northwestern corner of Italy nest a tiny jewel of region. Tucked above Piemonte, surrounded by the Gratian Alps in the north, where it shares a border with France and Switzerland. The Monte Bianco, or Mont Blanc, towers over the valleys’ region at 4,810 meters (15,781ft) making this mountain the highest peak in Europe and the 17th in world. Valle d’Aosta is more renowned for their naturalistic beauty, striking alpine range, bringing thousands of rock climbers, alpine skiers and avid excursionists into the region. Beautiful castles dot the valleys, 72 in the main valley alone, built between the II and the XVI centuries. The castles are one of the principal attractions for tourists. The wine is a pleasant and unexpected surprise, as it is hard to imagine this place suitable for growing vines, but Valle d’Aosta produces some very fascinating and unique wines. Get your hiking boots on, and let’s start to climb up to reach the wine region at the top of the world.mens nike air max

 Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valleynike air max junior

Valle d’Aosta a.k.a. Vallée d’Aoste, was originally a big glacier, when the glacier receded it left a wide valley furrowed by the river Dora Baltea that cut across the region for 100km (62mi). This mountain territory, 3268 km2 (1261 square miles), with a population of 126.000 inhabitants, makes the small and less populate region of Italy. Aosta is the capitol and also the only province, and has been populated since the 4th century B.C. by Celt tribes until the Romans annexed it 25 B.C. Always in constant commercial contact with their neighbors, France, across the Alps made the Valdostani a bilingual ethnic group where French is spoken equally if not more than Italian. The Fascists forbide the use of French language in the schools and in the press, and for this reason Valle d’Aosta was not a fertile ground for Mussolini and his ideology. The opposition to the dictatorship was strong. In 1948 the region acquires the Autonomist Regional Status that grants the right of self-government, though still part of Italy. Nowadays we have a total of five regions in Italy that benefit of the same legislative powers; beside Valle d’Aosta also Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Sicilia and Sardegna are elevated to this status.
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Who would have thought you could plant vineyards at 4,000 feet and make wine too? The geography is alpine, high peaks, and temperatures below zero most of the year would discourage any sane vintner. Not the Valdostani. They terraced the steep slopes with walls of rocks and bricks to contain the scars terrain formed by glacier alluvial soil of rock moraine and sand. The vines did the rest of the job, digging deep in search of nutriments they also helped to keep the soil from getting loose and prone to slide downhill. Working the land in this condition requires giving up the support of mechanization and industrial technologies, all the job in the vineyards is up to the farmer’s arms and legs. The terrain often reaches inclines up to 30% requiring you to be more of a climber than farmer. Many call this ‘Viticultura Eroica’, which can be accurately translated as ‘Extreme Viticulture’.
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Valle d’Aosta produces 0.1% of the total Italian wine production, making of about 1 million bottles on an area apt to cultivation of 1290 acres. What makes those wines more alluring is their unique peculiarity. We’ve already talked about the many grape varieties of each Italian region, here are even more. Grapes that are limited only to this specific area and you wont find them elsewhere. White grapes: Prie’ Blanc, Malvoisie, Petit Arvine. Red grapes: Cornalin, Mayolet, Petit Rouge, Premetta, Vien de Nus and Fumin. There also other important grape such as Nebbiolo from near by Piemonte, here called Picotendro. Gamay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay are cultivated as well. 
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Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley, Italy


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Pavese Ermes, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, Vallée d’Aoste 2002 D.O.P.
Ermes Pavese is a youthful grower in the commune of La Ruine just outside of the town of Morgex in the high Alps, just minutes from the summit of Mont Blanc.  Pavese works with the native grape known as Prié Blanc. This is the old varietal of the region was first mentioned in documents dated in 1691. The name probably refers to the wine’s use in Sunday Mass by priests (priest, in French). Starting with barely two hectares of vineyards, situated at about 1200 meters (~4000feet) a.s.l., Ermes has gradually expanded his holdings in this high altitude zone. He now produces three versions of Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle. Besides the bottle that we’ve selected, Ermes makes a version barrel aged and a dessert wine. Basically an ice-wine, the grapes are harvested in December when temperatures are between 17 and 14 Fahrenheit. Because these vineyards are so isolated, Pavese has been able to work with the original, pre-phylloxera rootstock since that parasite never infiltrated this area, because of the high elevation and sandy soil, when it came sweeping through Europe at the end of 1800. To understand the difficulties and the hard labor required in making wine here, you must understand that in order to plant vines the farmers have to remove all the rocks that cover the terrain until they get to the soil. Removing them manually, one by one. This labor of love produces wines that are the pure expression of this terroir. Nervy, crispy and racy with minerality that speaks of glacier and moraine rocks.
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Pavese Ermes

Pavese Ermes

Pavese Blanc de Morgex fruit is harvested between the end of September beginning of October. All the clusters are softly pressed, vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks and then filtered and bottled. This wine in the glass has a bright clear yellow straw color with golden reflections. Aromas are clean, the palate loaded with fresh acidity with a whisper er of aromatic herbs such as thyme and chamomile, floral notes of hawthorn, white fruit tones, pear Williams and yellow plums. The finish is long with accents of white pepper notes. Perfect as aperitif, it also works great with fish and white meat dishes as well with semi-firm aged cheeses.
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La Cantina di Cuneaz Nadir, Badebec, Rosso-Vallée d’Aoste 2012 DOP
Nadir Cuneaz is a young and enthusiastic wine maker, driven by a passion for his land, he puts all his energy into the vineyards owned by his family for over a century. The Cuneaz family has a mere 0.5 hectares near the town of Gressan, in the southern part of the region, reflecting a local mix of grape varieties, some of which were planted over 100 years ago. All the work in the vineyards is rigorously maintained and manually done by hand. The harvest usually happens at the end of October to allow plenty of time for the fruit to reach maturation. The grapes harvested earlier are left to dry for a couple of weeks until they achieve the right sugar concentration and then combine together for the vinification. The wine spends then one year in barrels in the cellar, which also serves as one of the rooms in their home.

The wine we’ve selected is composed of 90% Petit Rouge with small amounts of Fumin and Vien de Nus. The wine hints at the passito element, with rich, ripe fruit. Open the bottle, pour a glass and let the olfactory sensations bring reminders of mountain fruits and herbs. There are dark, sweet notes of blackberry, complimented by alpine flowers that reflect the position of the vineyards. The rich, balsamic notes of stone ripe fruits envelopes the palate with a soft, warm alcoholic accent well supported by a fresh and sapid structure. The name of this wine ‘Badabec’, comes from the mythical monster that is said to roam the forests above Gressan and occasionally feast on misbehaving children in the village! The perfect match for this wine is the Soupetta di Cogne (see recipe below).

Soupettas di Cogne (Cogne’s soup)
This dish, as all the Valdostana traditional cuisine are made with the few ingredients available in those remote valleys in the past when long winters made impossible any contact and exchange with the regions around. You may not think this recipe as a summer one but after a long day of hiking in the high elevation I can ensure you’ll be very hungry and something like this will put you in the right mood.

Ingredients (serves 4):
500 g fontina* cheese cut in ¼ inch slices
200 g butter
500 g rice
2 and 1/2 cup beef broth
1 kg stale rye bread
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
Salt

1. Cut the bread in ½ inch slices and fried in 100 g of butter until the bread has a nice golden color.
2. In another pan, with 50 g of butter cook the rice as you do risotto, adding slowly 2 cups of beef broth and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium-high heat until the rice is almost done, 15-20 minutes.
3. Using a baking pan, start with strata of bread, then rice and top with slices of fontina. Repeat the process until all the bread, rice and cheese is used finishing the last top with fontina.
4. Pour now over the half-cup of remaining broth, melted butter and the nutmeg.
5. Bake in the oven at 375F for 4 minutes and serve warm.

* Fontina is the most famous regional cheese. It get its name from the pasture area called Font.

Cocktail Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s cocktail club tasting notes, featuring Seven Stills and McVicker Pickles. June marks the beginning of summer. With longer days, abundant sunshine and a bounty of fresh produce it doesn’t get much better than summer. Summer also means the arrival of fresh tomatoes into the markets, and we can’t think of a more useful way to celebrate than with Bloody Marys! The products featured this month are made by local San Francisco producers, Seven Stills and McVicker Pickles and contain everything you need to create an instantly delicious Bloody Mary.

Cheers!
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

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Image from @sevenstills via instagram

Seven Stills was officially founded by Tim Obert and Clint Potter in January of 2013.  It began as a conversation over drinks at Dobbs Ferry in early 2012. Clint had explained the process of distillation and how whiskey is traditionally made from a low quality beer.  Tim, an avid homebrewer thought, “Why don’t we buy a still and see what happens if we distill my homebrews?” They spent the next year creating over 30 different whiskeys before realizing the results were too incredible to squander. They decided to start a company specializing in whiskeys made from craft beers.
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They chose to name their brand Seven Stills, after the seven hills of San Francisco. In order to get up and running they launched a vodka line, produced on Treasure Island at Treasure Island Distillery. The vodka provides an easy canvas for mixing and sipping alike. Ever since they launched their vodka line we’ve talked about a feature with Bloody Marys in the cocktail club, so we’re excited for this release. The packaging you see here is brand new, this batch bottling hot off the press (still).
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Born and raised in Kansas, Kelly McVicker learned all about pickling and canning from her grandmothers, Margarett and Harriet. When she moved to San Francisco she brought her family tradition with her, and soon found herself haggling over boxes of cucumbers at the farmers market. In 2012, Kelly launched McVicker Pickles, after winning first place in three categories at the 2012 Eat Real Festival in Oakland. Kelly launched McVicker Pickles to bring her love for canning and pickling to the masses, creating updated versions of her family classics. She also teaches pickling classes at Workshop in San Francisco.
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Canning Classes with McVicker Pickler


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After taking a pickling class at Workshop late last year, we got inspired to collaborate with Kelly and feature her pickles as accompaniments to a Bloody Mary themed cocktail club selection. When we approached her about the pickles, Kelly mentioned that she, along with friend Gillian Fitzgerald (of Virgil’s Sea Room) could create a shelf stable Bloody Mix come tomato season. This Bloody Mary mix has evolved over time with lots of experimentation and tinkering. Super accessible, the mix is a little bit spicy, a little bit briny. After McVicker unloaded 20-30 jars at the Maker Faire in San Mateo a couple weeks ago, Proud Mary Mix was officially born.
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BOM Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

 BOM Blog Post Banner            PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for June. We’re shining a spotlight on the updating of established craft beers. Meet Lagunitas CitruSinensis Pale Ale (a variation of New Dogtown Pale Ale) and Green Flash’s new West Coast IPA. Based on brands that have been brewed for a combined 32 years, these veteran breweries are recalibrating to the ever-shifting, ever-growing craft beer market. It’s fascinating and instructive to witness these beers rebrand and experiment in today’s craft beer scene.air jordan one

            Cheers!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

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            Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, likes to quote a professor from the design school he attended in the 1980s: “A product is frozen information.” A product like a single beer is a snapshot within the larger continuum of beer, and breweries use their beer brands to continually broadcast the same information over and over again because the beers’ messages are valuable to the brewery and (they hope) to the consumer. But as some craft beer brands are going on 30-35 years old (and grandaddy Anchor Steam is at 50), these breweries are confronted with the need to keep their information, message, and commentary resonant. Some breweries are now altering core brands to freeze the information into a new snapshot.
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Craft beer is booming right now all over the United States. New breweries are opening at an amazing clip of more than one per day, and the craft beer’s share of the American beer market is in double digits. The growth is led by brewers new and old — with both new neighborhood upstarts and established regional brewers building second and third breweries, sometimes in the same town, sometimes across the country (including Lagunitas), and some (like Green Flash) partnering with breweries in Europe. The challenge for established breweries is to keep their core brands perpetually trusted and enjoyed by a market that’s faced with new breweries and new brands at every turn. There are a hundred approaches to this challenge (or opportunity) and no single recipe for surefire success. But a couple recent beers from Lagunitas and Green Flash offer a couple strategies. For Magee, it’s an opportunity to check back in with craft beer’s “community and passion element,” he believes, “because that is the engine behind it . . . that replaces imagery and artifice.”
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CitruSinensis Pale Ale Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California, USA 7.9% ABV 
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Keeping up with the consumer clamor for new one-off beers, in 2015 Lagunitas is brewing and promoting its “One Hitter Series” of beers. Brewed once, sold once, and get ‘em while they’re hot, cause when they’re gone, they’re gone. For June, their One Hitter is “CitruSinensis” Pale Ale, what the brewery calls “a wheatier version of our New Dogtown Pale Ale,” spiked with with blood orange juice. First brewed in 1994, Dogtown Pale Ale struggled to compete with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and so Magee put all his chips into brewing an IPA at a time before IPA was a proven seller. Dogtown Pale Ale has been a core brand that’s played second fiddle to Lagunitas IPA ever since. The brewery rewrote the recipe about 5 years ago, re-releasing it as New Dogtown and infusing it with more dry hops, creating a incredibly delicious pale ale that, nonetheless, still lags in category sales behind stalwarts like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Deschutes Mirror Pond. In the interim, Lagunitas has opened a new brewery in Chicago and has just announced plans to open a third brewery in Los Angeles County, and Magee has kept his incredibly successful IPA’s recipe and message consistent, leaving room to experiment with (New) Dogtown Pale Ale.
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The current experiment is a new riff on several craft beer successes, proving that there’s never too much of a good thing. Citrus sinensis is the biological name of the common, sweet orange, including blood orange cultivars. The brewery juiced a Sicilian variety of blood orange known as sanguinello, evaporated the juice’s water content so as not to water down the beer, and added it to a batch of New Dogtown. The ale yeast fermented the juice’s sugars, upping the beer’s ABV to 7.9%. Of course, the blood orange aromatics dovetail beautifully with the hops’ already citrusy, grapefruit aromas, but the pleasant surprise for me is how much the juice’s citric acid contributes to lightening this big beer’s palate, recalling the soft tartness of a gose and making a zesty, refreshing American craft beer version of a German Radler (German bicyclists’ classic post-ride mix of beer and lemonade). The “wheatier” part of the recipe is a move borrowed from Lagunitas’s successful wheaty IPA, Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin — the wheat adds a dash of refreshing acidity and a bready backbone to the beer. Magee is, among other things, craft beer’s visionary and hippie Bard, and to borrow one of his own quotes: “The soul in the brand’s initial incarnation has moved on to other realms.”
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CitruSinensis pours a slightly hazy, light orange color, capped by a head of white foam. (Some yeasty, orangey goodness has settled at bottom of the bottle — be sure to pour it all!) Jumping from the glass are aromas of intense orange, with hints of raspberry and marionberry (from the blood orange), along with fresh pine, hempseed, and cannabis from the hops, and a whisper of toasty malt. A sip reveals a tart, bitter-sweet ale with layers of orange and resiny bitterness. The mouthfeel is smooth and wheaty, while the OJ adds a refreshing, lip-smacking kick. Citrusy aromas of American hops are the soul of an American IPA, and CitruSinensis is an exploration of these aromas writ large, but instead of amplifying them with brazen additions of hop flowers, it’s a study in citrus from the genuine article, and it’s some of the best blood orange I’ve tasted. Pair this beer with salty, savory, crispy foods that could use a spritz of citrus — fried calamari with lemon aioli, steamed artichoke with ranch, or grilled swiss cheese sandwich with garlicky, sautéed kale.

West Coast IPA Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California, USA 8.1% ABV

Green Flash’s portfolio of beers is an ode to IPA. Other than their double stout, their ultra hoppy red ale, and an occasional one-off, you’re hard-pressed to find a beer without IPA on the label, from session IPA all the way up to Triple IPA. (They did just open up Cellar 3, a facility dedicated to barrel aging and blending, so we’re sure to see some new creations bubble up from there in the future.) The brewery first brewed West Coast IPA in 2004 and trademarked the name in 2010. They called the beer an IPA, but with its 95 bitterness units balanced by 7.3% ABV, this was an ascerbically epic IPA/DIPA hybrid masquerading as an IPA. Green Flash has made its name by brewing beers that break a style’s upper limits, even calling its 30th Street Pale “an IPA on any other street.” (It’s dedicated to the main drag that connects the city’s beer-focused North and South Park neighborhoods.) It seems that 2014 brought a spirit of recalibration to Green Flash, and West Coast IPA is labeled a double India pale ale, now officially out of the double IPA closet. The new label for 30th St. Pale Ale upgrades it to an IPA (at 45 IBUs and 6.0% ABV, it’s close to the marks for Lagunitas IPA), while the new Soul Style IPA splits the difference at 75 IBUs and 6.5% ABV.
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There’s more to a beer than numbers, and there’s even more to the perception of bitterness than IBUs. Brewmaster Chuck Silva has beefed up West Coast IPA a bit with more alcohol, from 7.3% to the current 8.1%, courtesy of about 10% more malt. He introduced a fifth hop into the recipe, adding Citra to the line-up of Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade, creating an even more robust cocktail of hops. You can ignore the language on the label that lists the hops’ roles as convenient and tidy. The language on the label isn’t insincere, it’s just necessarily oversimplified. The fact is all five of these hops share cross-over aromas of citrus, pine, and flowers, and any of them can be pungent if you boil them long enough. The aromas of each hop are different in different applications: Simcoe are undoubtedly tropical, as are Citra, and Centennials usually smell to me like white flowers, but with a steely, metallic edge. Columbus are prized for their grapefruity, piney, resinous quality, but they often bring garlicky, oniony hints, too, which Silva, a master of hops, deftly avoids.

West Coast IPA, the double India pale ale, pours a rich copper color beneath a lasting white head. The bouquet shows what this beer is all about: heady aromas of pine, orange blossom, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, mint, and cannabis, with just a whiff of malty bread crumbs. Drinking it brings a tide of bitterness that’s only partially tempered by the lush fruity flavors. Visions of pink grapefruit Jelly Bellies and candied orange peel duke it out with masochistic nibbles of pine cone and lemongrass soap. Malts provide slight almondy, bread crust flavors, while providing the backbone to deliver a fountain of hops. This beer is more than just an overly exuberant hop bomb, and the subtlety of its malt lends the beer the cleanness and leanness of a San-Diego-style IPA, while its towering hoppiness shows some elegance by avoiding hops’ less appealing garlicky, oniony, and leafy vegetal flavors. This double IPA pulls no punches, focusing on the task at hand: delivering tons of citrusy hop bitterness. For food pairing, go for rich foods that can handle a lot of aromatics (herbs, spices, citrus, etc.). Chinese orange chicken, duck tacos, scallop ceviche, hominy-studded posole, or Moroccan tagine would all be great. For dessert, make an orange-creamsicle-inspired beer float by adding scoop of vanilla ice cream to a glass of this beer (trust me — it’s dirty, wrong, and delicious).

PJWine&Spirits

Father’s Day Gifts that Will Prompt High Fives


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No more boring ties, bbq tools or golf balls, here are five gifts that will put a smile on dad’s face. He’s your go to guy, someone you can always count on to have your back. This Fathers Day PlumpJack can help you show Dad you care, because your dad deserves something awesome.
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1. Whisky, Wine & Beer, OH My!
Choose from so many great PlumpJack Wine & Spirits clubs, like our American Whisky Club, Gin Club, or Beer Club.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
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2. Fly Fishing in Tahoe
Spoil dad with something relaxing and outdoorsy. Book the Fly Fishing Package at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn that includes private casting lessons and guided fishing on private, stocked ponds with famed fly fisherman, Matt Heron. Plus welcome snacks and wine in your guest room.
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3. Forego Brunch and Opt for Cocktails
Spend a night sipping manly cocktails, at one of San Francisco’s Hottest New Bars in mid-market.
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4. Gift Kits with a Kick
Choose from a number of great Cocktail Kit choices, including some classics like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned or a Sazerac.
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5. Burger & Wine: A Perfect Pairing
Indulge in two balboa burgers with the suggested toppings of blue cheese, bacon, and sauteed mushrooms, perfectly paired with a bottle of 2012 Adaptation Petite Sirah for $100.00
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6. PlumpJack Gift Baskets
Gift baskets don’t have to be a drag to receive, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits has gift baskets that will be sure to please Dad. From the Build a Better Bar Basket to the Three Cheers for Beer in a Bucket, our hand crafted baskets are loaded up with premium items.
PURCHASE ONE