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American Whiskey Club: Quarter 3, 2015

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the American Whiskey Club tasting notes for quarter three. For this quarter we’re excited to feature two new single barrel selections, chosen exclusively for PlumpJack. This time we’ve sourced barrels from Old Forester and Jefferson’s, both first timers to our private collection line of whiskies. One is an old established stalwart in the bourbon industry, the other an up and coming entrepreneur, both with long generational whiskey heritages. Un-complicated and tasty, these whiskies are perfect for summertime sipping and cocktails. Enjoy!

Josh Thinnes, Whiskey Buyer PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel Selection
Distilled by Brown-Forman Distillery, Shively, KY
Bottled December 10, 2014 – Barrel yielded 228 bottles at 45% abv (90 proof)
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Downtown Louisville was a bustling port city in the mid 19th century. Situated right on the banks of the Ohio River, it was a hub of shipping commerce situated on the boarder of the North West and Southern territories, tons of commodities floated up and down the Ohio River on flatboats, sometimes up to 40 feet long. Corn, wheat, cotton, meats, produce, lumber, fur, seeds, honey, of course whiskey, and many other goods were shipped on over 3,000 flatboats a year, increasingly so up until the mid 1850s. By 1830 Louisville passed Lexington as Kentucky’s largest city with over 10,000 residents and the city continued to grow during the railroad era. Low quality un-aged whiskey predominated the market, and it was usually adulterated with flavoring agents like tobacco and molasses (or worse) to make up for the age. Around the late 1860s, George Garvin Brown, a young pharmaceutical salesman from Kentucky saw the obvious need for consistent and reliably good whiskey that remained pure after distillation. He saved about $5,500 and together with his brother opened the J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery, which promptly began distilling and aging bourbon. Conveniently they began distribution initially to pharmacies for use as a medicinal product. The name chosen was ‘Old Forrester’ (originally with two r’s), the name reportedly inspired by Dr. William Forrester, a physician who initially endorsed the product. The first commercial batch was launched in 1870, under the name ‘Old Forester’.
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By 1902, J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery underwent a series of partnership and name changes, eventually ending with George Garvin Brown owning about 90% and George Forman owning 10% of the new company re-named Brown-Forman & Co. Whiskey times we’re booming and they relocated to West Main Street in downtown Louisville on a strip of buildings that become known as ‘Whiskey Row’. What followed was a decade or so of stupendous growth in the whiskey industry that coincided with debauchery, crime and a temperance movement that eventually meant prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Only ten federal permits to distill alcohol were granted during prohibition, one of which was obtained by Brown-Forman in 1920. Having survived prohibition makes Old Forester the longest standing bottled bourbon to this day. The company is currently involved in a $50 million dollar project to build an urban distillery and visitor center in historic downtown Louisville in the very same strip that once was home to its founding father.

For now, Old Forester whiskey (along with Early Times) is made at the Brown-Forman Distillery on the southern outskirts of Louisville. They bottle a range of four different expressions; Old Forester 86 proof & 100 proof, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Old Forester Single Barrel. All products are then aged and bottled at its sister distillery, Woodford Reserve. The mashbill is the same as Woodford’s – 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley – though the distillation is different. Old Forester Single Barrel is reserved exclusively for private bottling only and is bottled at 90 proof, usually yielding about 220 bottles or so. The nose showcases aromas of spices, stone fruit like peaches and apricots and bitter orange peel and vanilla bean. The palate is a continuation of the nose, with further notes of mango, pepper, vanilla and wood spice. Not a shy, nor a shabby sipper, this whiskey shows best in a properly made old fashioned cocktail. The spice in the whiskey with the sweetness from the sugar chilled and topped with an orange rind is perfect on a weekend afternoon while firing up the grill.
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Try this recipe for instant gratification: In a mixing glass put three to four full shakes of angostura bitters along with a half-ounce of simple syrup and 2 ounces of Old Forester whiskey. Fill with ice and stir for thirty seconds or so. Pour into a citrus zested rocks glass over one fat rock of ice.
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Jeffeson’s Reserve ‘Very Old, Very Small Batch’ Bourbon
Bottled by McClain & Kyne, Louisville, KY
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel #482 yielded 216 bottles at 45.1% abv (90.2 proof)


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Louisville native, entrepreneur and bourbon export Trey Zoeller founded McClain & Kyne in 1997. Trey’s past relatives had a long history of distilling, sometimes illicitly as evidenced by an 8th generation grandmother who was arrested for moonshining in 1799. Trey, having strong connections in the whiskey industry, but no distillery by which to make it, launched a range of bourbons and ryes that he would blend himself from stock that he purchased. He decided to name it Jefferson’s, loosely inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s experimental spirit and known good taste. The brand began with a Reserve line then branched into a line of older more select whiskies called Presidential Select. It was an immediate success, as some of them contained whiskey produced at the famed and silent Stitzel-Weller distillery (think older Pappy Van Winkle). Those whiskies, like the Presidential Select 17yr and 18yr bourbons are now extinct, except for trading floors of secondary markets where they fetch astronomical prices upwards of ten times their release.
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Alongside occasional special release bottling like Ocean and Chef’s Collaboration and Presidential Select they bottle a Small Batch, Reserve Very Old Very Small Batch and a Rye. All of the whiskey is purchased and then blended and bottled accordingly or in this case, further rested in another barrel for single barrel purchase. The whiskies that make up the Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old, Very Small Batch are most likely between the ages of 10-15 years old. The producer of origin is un-known for sure, and varies between the line up, but multiple producers do go into each bottling.
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This barrel #482 of Jefferson’s Reserve yielded 216 individually numbered bottles. When lined up against other potential barrel selections offered as well as non-single barrel official bottling of Jefferson’s Reserve, this was a clear stand out favorite amongst us all, with more depth and pronounced character in all three key areas of analysis – nose, palate and finish. The whiskey pours a hue of orange-brown and elicits aromas of vanilla, tobacco, leather and oak spice. Savory in the nose it continues on the palate with a very silky texture greeting you with flavors of lemon and bitter chocolate followed by more earthy flavors of tobacco and wood succeeding each other on the finish. This stuff is easy to drink because of the balance and texture. It starts off sweet and chewy but finishes dry and spicy, kind of like a bold new world wine. It is perfect neat as is, but wouldn’t mind you splashing it over ice. It also makes the perfect accompaniment to a Monte Cristo or mild cigar, where the flavors dance in harmony developing a sum greater than its parts.

BOM Club Tasting Notes: July 2015

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               PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for July. This sunny, summer month we turn to gose, a German style of sour beer. Gose has quickly become a trendy beer with zesty, savory sourness. Let’s raise a couple glasses of gose this month, tasting a clean, precise, session version from Off Color Brewing in Chicago, and sipping an artful, barrel-aged version from Colorado’s Paradox Beer Company.

            Prost!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone
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Back in January of 2012, we featured a newly imported beer from Leipzig in this Club. At the time, it was a rare sighting of an esoteric sour German beer style, and I was excited to give the beer some daylight. The beer was Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery’s Gose, resurrected and brewed by a pioneering craft brewery in the center of Leipzig. Leipzig’s beer culture had somberly deteriorated during its time in the Eastern Bloc, and Soviet culture and pilsner economics had turned this city — home to dozens of gose taverns in the 1800s into a tomb for this tart, spiced ale.
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Gose (pronounced GO-zuh; different from Belgium’s gueuze, which is pronounced GEU-zuh) is a low-alcohol, low-bitterness, slightly sour, spiced wheat ale. Gose derives its name from the town and river where the style coalesced: the town of Goslar, on the Gose River, 100 miles from Leipzig. Goslar was a salt mining center in the Middle Ages, and its well water is naturally a bit salty. In addition to brewing with this salty water, beer in pre-industrial Goslar and Leipzig was fermented in part by bacteria that produce lactic acid. Thus, for centuries the wheat beer from this area was slightly salty and slightly sour. Historically it was common to add spices to beer, and dash of coriander became a common addition to gose. As Goslar’s mining economy faded and Leipzig became a larger, industrial city, the center of gose consumption moved to Leipzig in the 1700s. Unfortunately, in the 20th Century wars and Soviet occupation were not kind to East German breweries, and between 1945 and 2000 gose was only intermittently brewed.

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In the past 3 years, a hundreds of American craft brewers, and even handful of new German breweries, have added gose to their line-up and gose’s future is looking up. Not for the first time, the exuberance and growth of craft beer in the US saved a style. (Last February, Thrillist published an article claiming craft beer had jumped the shark in embracing gose; I hope you’ll disagree after tasting this month’s beers.) Fitting nicely into the fast-growing thirst for sour beers, gose has helped add diversity within the sour beer range. Gose satisfies a demand for sour beer in a faster, less-expensive production cycle. I call it a “fresh sour,” since it doesn’t take any longer to ferment than a non-sour beer, and it’s meant to be drunk fresh and not be aged. Just as yogurt and bread dough will sour within a couple days, gose wort turns from wheaty and bland to zesty and tart within just a few days, courtesy of fast-souring lactobacillus bacteria. The beers lack the complexity of a lambic or a wild ale, but just a few weeks after brew day, they’re in mugs out in the marketplace, while more complex sours sit in barrels (and on brewery ledgers) for months or years longer.
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Gose is also press-ready — freedom in a glass — as American brewers play with this spiced, sour style that had lingered as a non-compliant, red-headed step-child appendix in Germany’s Reinheitsgebot brewing culture. This side of the Pond, hey: adding verboten spices and flavors, is, in a way, what American craft beer is all about! The most successful American contributions to beer history are all upsets to established beer recipes: look at steam beer (brewing lagers at warm San Francisco temperatures), American lagers (sneaking corn and rice into pilsner’s malt bill), and American pale ales and IPAs (using bold, brash American hops in place of delicate, refined European hops). Where the Saxons stopped at salt and coriander in their gose recipes, Yankee ingenuity is infusing goses with delicious blasphemies like cilantro, lemon verbena, hibiscus, marionberry, and sumac.
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Troublesome Off Color Brewing, Chicago, Illinois, USA 4.3% ABV
Much like bakers, Off Color’s brewmasters John Laffler and Dave Bleitner keep a couple lactic fermentations in their Chicago brewery. A baker calls it a sourdough starter or a mother, and pinches off a portion of this sourdough to knead and bake into that day’s sourdough bread, and replenishes the mother with some fresh flour and water to be soured overnight for the next day’s bread. That concept is alive and well in liquid form at craft breweries like Off Color. In two rigged “farmboy” tanks, Laffler and Bleitner keep a population of lactobacillus bacteria happy, borrowing some lactically-soured beer from time to time in exchange for keeping those sour tanks topped up with fresh wort on brew days. Lots of breweries (not the majority, but not a few) keep “lacto beer” on hand to blend into the mash tun, into the wort kettle, and into fermented batches of beer — in small and large amounts, tweaking pH here and adding bready, yogurty tartness there. German brewers do it, too, and in concert with pasteurization, it’s a valuable way to add a hint of refreshing acidity without letting a beer become more sour during its time in the bottle. For Troublesome gose, Laffler and Bleitner hew to the modern German approach, brewing a base plain wheat beer, harvesting and pasteurizing the exact right amount of lacto beer for blending, and adding it to the wheat beer along with salt and coriander to create a subtle, precise, refreshing beer. It’s the perfect biergarten beer, whether you’re in Leipzig, The Loop, or on Lombard Street: drinkable (gulpable, really), refreshing, and great with sunshine, sweat, and sausage.
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Troublesome is a hazy, pale straw color, pouring into the glass beneath a fleeting white head. It smells supremely doughy, with faint hints of orange peel, meyer lemon, and hay. It’s the ultimate refresher, drinking easily with slight sourness, saltiness, and woody spice. It explores tastes that most beers ignore: it’s a balance of sour and salty (both of which tease the faintest sweetness from the dry malts), rather than being a tangle of bitterness and residual sugar as most beer styles are. Though it’s low in alcohol and sweetness, its mouthfeel isn’t thin, instead offering nice breadiness to chew on (it is a wheat beer, after all). Troublesome shows gose’s softer side, and is a supremely refreshing craft beer that can be the beer geek’s quaffer or the quaffer’s geeky beer. Drink it with a burrata salad, a plate of sushi, bagels with schmear, lox, and capers, or a Chicago hot dog.
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Skully Barrel No. 25 – Salted Sumac Gose
Paradox Beer Company, Woodland Park, Colorado, USA 7.6% ABV

 

 

 
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Gose is the inspiration for Paradox’s Skully #25, but it breaks the mold in some anachronistic ways, both into the past and the future. This is to be expected from a brewery whose ethos is to be “unflinchingly wayward.” Gose is normally a clean, stainless-steel-fermented wheat beer bolstered by salinity and tinged with simple acidity; charting a new path while borrowing from age-old traditions, Skully #25 (like all of Paradox’s beers) is entirely fermented in oak by a host of wild Colorado yeasts and bacteria. This slow, rustic fermentation in used chardonnay barrels produces the style’s requisite lactic acid, but also imparts depth, complexity, and structure that take this beer beyond the clean lines of a Germanic beer. The beer’s tartness is accompanied by the wild microflora’s earthy, barny hints of wet wool and goat cheese. Also, rather than showing other goses’ snappy finish, Skully #25’s aftertaste is a lingering, wheaty breadiness layered with the oak’s slightly drying tannins and oxidized softness. Rather than relying on the woody, lemony hints of coriander for aroma, sumac is used to show hints of lemon blossom and a wind-swept, piney, thyme-like scent (it reminds me of the garrigue scent that’s prized in coastal Mediterranean wines) along with lip-smacking, sour berry hints like red currants, all while sea salt mixes with oaky toast to evoke a beachy, sandy element.
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Brewer and blender Jeff Airman drew inspiration from sumac when he enjoyed its complex flavors on a trip to Istanbul. For Airman, the “challenge was to bring all these ideas together in liquid form while creating a balance between them that kept nothing in the shadows.” White wine barrels, coolship, wild yeasts and bacteria, sumac, sea salt, lactic acidity, sour beer from Rocky Mountain Foothills via Goslar and Leipzig. That’s quite a list, and fraught with potential for over-exuberance, gimmickiness, and imbalance. But a taste of this beer reveals that it’s all there; balanced, complementary, graceful, and delicious.
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Skully Barrel No. 25 pours a golden orange hue topped with an attractive, sturdy head of foam. Its bouquet is complex, like a walk through an open-air market in Casablanca or Guadalajara, wafting scents of sourdough, corn masa, pomegranate, pineapple, herbs, and spices, amidst a breeze of beach and barnyard. A sip brings in a wave of smooth, salty, lactic sourness that’s supple and supported by oak tannins. On the mouthfeel, the hardness (from salt, acid, carbonation, and tannins) is perfectly balanced by the creamy nature of the lactic acid, the bready wheat malt, and the smooth oxidation from barrel aging. Skully #25 sidesteps the simple, freshness of a traditional gose, but wayward Paradox has crafted a delicious, savory, supple sour ale, expanding along the way the conversation around what a gose can be. Serve it alongside a board of salumi and aged sheep’s milk cheese, or pair it with Moroccan-style couscous with apricot, za-atar, and harissa. It especially loves all kinds of fish, including olive-oil-poached tuna, clams in Chinese black bean sauce, and even uni draped over garlicky pasta.

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
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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.