Friday, March 14, 2014

Are You Summer Ready?

By Billy Sanchez

It is time we gladly say farewell to the copious amounts of snow and ice.  As the sun begins to melt winter’s frigid breath, we welcome new beginnings and fresh starts.  Now, no longer confined and housebound, we are free to relish life.  

This is how I picture my release into summer. 

The beach is my heavenly escape.  I plunge my toes beneath the sand, allowing each toasty grain to analyze me as it absorbs me like a second skin.  A glowing sun hangs lazily atop an endless sea of blue sky.  My skin is alive with the warming touch of the sun’s golden fingers.  My nose soaks up the salty breath of the ocean, rejuvenating my body from the inside as I recognize it as the scent of pure freedom.  The sparkling and foamy waves crash out an infectious melody of fizzing bubbles.  I cling to its hypnotic song like a helpless child dependent on its mother.  A few seconds pass, but feel like an eternity of subliminal bliss, I begin to realize I am missing something.  That something is an enormously crucial element, what should I be drinking?  So I must ask you, are you summer ready?  
   No matter how you celebrate summer, that flawless drink will enhance any environment.  Renzo and I have relentlessly tasted and rated beverages at work and on our free time for your future enjoyment, which ensures you see the best bottles on our shelves.  Sometimes trying eight up to twenty spirits in one sitting can be a palate-wrecking burden, but when a spirit attracts our attention, we are overjoyed and cannot contain our excitement.  We are proud to announce this year’s picks to set you up for a successful and tasty summer.  The following choices will make you summer ready. Cheers!   

Renzo and I have daily discussions about which coast makes the best IPA’s (stand by for a blind West vs East IPA tasting blog in the near future). Living in San Diego, I am a believer in West Coast hop usage for their beers.  Renzo obviously stands behind the East Coast breweries and their fine beers.  Maybe we can meet half way and agree, say the Mid-West?   First on the list is Stone’s Go To IPA.   

Stone Go To IPA $10.99 a 6 pack
Stone did a great job with this session IPA and it is clearly reflected by the name.  This new release (March 2014) has 4.5% alcohol and 65 IBU’s and will be a big hit at BBQ’s and beach drinking.  The nose brings many floral notes mixed with big fruit a spritz of lime, which is Renzo’s favorite part to this beer.  The body is refreshing to the point your taste buds ask for more, which is unlike Stone and their philosophy of big and in your face.  They clearly showed restraint with the hops, and we see it is a perfect day drinker.  My favorite part was the finish, which is mellow and elegantly lingers.  It lacks an over the top big resin and hoppy finish, super subdued and clean.  

Lambrucha by Vanderg & DeWulf 750ml $11.99

For those who are unable to visit the beach this summer, here is a beer that has beach components to jump-start your summer senses.  This spectacular beer blends the marriages of two yeast strains, Kombucha and Lambic. The nose brings fresh cut jalapeño rind, rosemary, and beach mist. Your palate feels refreshed with crisp tartness and sour components of lemon zest, and Cedar. It finishes with a subtle spicy bite.
Previously, this had been my Beer Pick of the Week, so I naturally had to revisit it.  Like an old friend, I was not let down and it once again showed amazingly.  I found a perfect cheese for pairing, which allowed the best flavor profiles of the beer and cheese to be highlighted and not restrained. Comté is a firm, raw cow’s milk from the Jura Mountains of France.  The Comté carried by Fairfield Cheese Company is aged by the affineur, Marcel Petite.  Traditionally this alpine style cheese is sold aged under a year, but this particular wheel is a special reserve that has been aged out 2 years.  The small batch of wheels lucky enough to be chosen undergo continual testing to make sure that they will further develop, like wine; cheese can often have a flavor peak.  Descriptive notes:  nutty, brothy, creamy, savory with the protein crystals.  Walk next door and pick this Comté to set up your own pairing. 

Fortaleza Blanco $48.99
Throw all other tequila experiences from your memory and try this gem. The artisanship shimmers from within and outside the bottle. Packaged in a masterfully contoured and textured hand blown glass bottles with a Pina as the bottle topper.  Attention to detail oozes out of every facet.  As soon as you touch and handle this bottle, you feel a part of something special.  It hails from the lowlands of Tequila country, and spends its whole life on the estate.  The 7-8 year old blue agave is harvested and cooked in meter thick brick ovens for 36 hours.  Once the agave is ready, it moves onto the mill and crushing portion of its journey, where it is washed with the pure spring mountain runoff from the Volcan de Tequila (Tequila’s very own volcano).  The remaining agave fibers are fermented for 5 days in small wooden vats.  This leads to a minor dry wood taste on the palette. The nose is chock full of lightly salted fruit, mainly pear, apricots and dried pineapple.  It flows down ultra-smooth and leaves no bitter aftertaste.  The finish is silky smooth with hints of pepper and no harsh alcohol punch.  This great sipper blows other Blanco’s out of the water.   If you are using it as a mixer, your margarita will reach a new rung of deliciousness.  Especially with margarita season begging to enter the rotation, Fortaleza has impeccable timing.

Zafra 21yr Rum $48.99
My friend who works at a high-end wine and liquor store in Los Angeles sent me this bottle.  As soon as he tasted it, he sent me a text, followed by a phone call, and finally a box with a bottle of Zafra was at my door 2 days later.  I opened up the bottle for Renzo, Patrick, and I and we fully understood why my friend loved the rum.  We were floored by its overall flavor that we looked up the distributor to place an order for Harry’s shelves.  This spearheads the main reason why Renzo and I drink.  The feeling we get when friends and strangers can come together to share any type of alcoholic beverage.  We are beyond ecstatic to include this to our summer list.  This rum is the sole representation from Panama within the store. Upfront, the nose is nutty and caramelly.  Once it opens up, vanilla makes a light appearance.  On the tongue, you experience chocolate, cocoa powder, and fine brown sugar.  Once you are finished, your confused taste buds ask you, was that rum or was that a bourbon?  That is what we love about this bottle, it is deeply three-dimensional. Paired with smoked Gouda, the rum backbone is coaxed out and comes through with sugar and coffee.   The desert side is uncovered with their Black Lava Cashews, where it travels to a sweet, desert dimension of Amaretto.  Our advice, take this bottle home for one week and come back in and tell us what you think.  We have pairings that will give your bottle diversity and legs for the long run.

Downeast Cider 4 pack $8.59 
I cringe every time someone suggests drinking cider, be it male or female, but this was a pleasant and an eye opening surprise, regardless of your gender, you will agree.  The cider is unfiltered, raw, and is gluten free.  Coming in at 5% alcohol, it is crisp, refreshing, and light; this will quench your parched tongue. Not overly dry nor sweet, it is super balanced.  Being in cans, it begs to join you to the beach. 

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