Best Kept Secret: Secret Cellars Paso Robles Cabernet 2013

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On the docket: 2013 Secret Cellars Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Poured into: Wine & Whiskey Country snifter

S:  A deep, inky body with a red-pink meniscus.  No legs.

A:  Dark red fruit and hints of cassis.  A touch of alcohol and subtle oak and vanilla.

T:  Initial sweetness and a burst of dark cherry and currant.  A hint of vanilla.  Fruit-forward.

F:  Supple, soft.  Refined, ample tannins that provide structure and a bit of grit, nothing scathing.

O:  Paso Robles cabs deliver excellent fruit and tannin.  This wine is no exception.  Let it sit for a bit and really get a sense of the luxury inside this bottle.

Suggested food pairing:  Black and blue filet with caramelized onions and mushrooms with a bleu-cheese butter sauce.  Want to go off the beaten path?  New York-style cheese cake.

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Nice to Wheat You: St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

St_Ambroise_Apricot_WheatOn the docket:  16 oz. can of St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn craft glass

S:  Amber-orange with a crystal hue.  A off-white head that forms, fluffy and tall but sinks after a minute.  A small cap sticks around.  Lazy bubbles climb to the top.

A:  The biggest portion of the aroma comes from the bright apricot aroma.  Also present is a subtle tartness from the wheat, plus a hint of fruit and herbal notes from the Willamette and Golding hops.  Straightforward and pleasing in its simplicity.

T:  Apricot fruit up front, and an initial sweetness.  By mid-palate though, it starts to dry out.  Similar to the aroma, there’s a slight tartness imparted by the wheat.  This is by no means sour, just an added layer of complexity.  Certainly on the malty side of the spectrum.  However, there is a dryness to the finish (give it a minute to develop).

F:  Medium-light body, Gentle, smooth carbonation.

O:  Pleasant, simple, refreshing fruit beer that isn’t brash and citrusy.  Fans of peach and nectarine flavored beers may also enjoy this one.

Suggested food pairing:  Baby spinach and arugula salad with cracked pepper, thin-cut pork chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce, fruit tart, peach cobbler

Orange You Glad I Said Bolero? Bolero Snort’s Orange Cream Pop IPA

On the docket:  16 oz. can of Bolero Snort’s Orange Cream Pop IPA (brewed with lactose, orange zest & vanilla beans)

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn craft glass

S:  Honey-gold or Ticonderoga pencil, supporting an off-white head.  It sits around for a while, great retention.  Lacing is thick and doily-like.  Mostly translucent but clear.  Tiny bubbles well up from the base of the glass.

A:  Bright orange citrus and a touch of vanilla stands out first, with a slight pine and subtle sweet malt.  Excellent aroma, could sniff this for the dog days of summer.

T:  Much like the aroma, the orange zest comes through immediately, plus a small dose of pine.  Midway through the malt comes in, simple with a water-cracker starkness.  This is also where the gentle sweetness from the lactose helps to balance out the bitterness of the hops.  The vanilla is in there somewhere, helping your mouth think that you’re cooling off with a creamsicle.  With a crisp and bitter finish, this one makes you reach for more.  Without a doubt an IPA.

F:  Medium body, with some fluffiness.  Finely attuned carbonation.

O:  Intriguing take on an IPA that’s well executed.  It does conjure images of that white van and unforgettable loud-speaker jingle, standing in line, and finally handing over a few dollars for Good Humored relief from the blistering summer sun.

Suggested food pairing:  Green salad with mandarin oranges, chicken and vegetable and mozzarella kabob skewers, fruit salad, fruit tart, ambrosia

The Key of L# (sharp): Freewill’s Key Lime Lambic

Free_Will_Key_Lime_LambicOn the docket:  475mL bottle of Free Will’s Key Lime Lambic

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn stemmed craft glass

S:  A nearly lemonade-golden yellow, slightly hazy body spills into the glass, with only the faintest stark-white head.  Tight clinging to the outside rim, consisting of small and medium bubbles.  More bubbles lazily rise to the surface from the bottom of the glass.

A:  Green with envy?  This one boasts boatloads of limeade, tartness, and a hint of funk.  Fairly one-dimensional, but very fragrant and refreshing aroma.

T:  If you’ve ever eaten key-lime pie, with that mandatory meringue topping, imagine that with a spritz of carbonation and the tartness of a sour lime candy, and you have yourself Freewill’s lambic.  The malt and hops are overshadowed by the puckering citrus.  Crisp.  Let this one warm just a tad in order to experience the subtle malty sweetness, which shows up oddly enough, on the finish.  Want a little less twang?  Pull air through your mouth as you would with wine, the aeration softens it up.

F:  Light to medium-light.  Tingly, biting carbonation does a major scrub-job on your tongue.  Awesome for a hot day.  Try this over a gin/vodka gimlet.  Long finish that morphs slowly from citrus to just a hint of grainy sweetness that emerges on the lips.

O:  Certainly tart and sour, but flavor-packed and refreshing.  Noted on the website, all natural flavoring and no back-sweetening (post brewing).  Perhaps a beginner or intermediate sour beer, and a definite must-try for Key lime pie lovers and sour fruit candy eaters.  Warheads anyone?

Suggested food pairing:  Summer salad with blood or mandarin oranges and arugula, jerk chicken, Thai, Vietnamese or Indian food, and sure, Key lime pie with a homemade graham cracker crust.

MAGnificent IPA: Dogfish Head’s Romantic

On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Dogfish Head’s Romantic Chemistry IPA (brewed with mango, apricot and ginger)

A:  Ripe mango greets the nostrils.  The apricot is reminiscent of peaches in syrup you ate as a child in elementary school, sweet and fragrant.  The ginger however, is a little more hidden, manifesting as a slight spice kick.

S:  Amber-orange and wonderfully clear, the body fills out the glass and sports a bone colored head that builds high.  After it settles down, it still has some density, sustaining as a half-inch cap.  Lacing is viaduct-ish, with arched legs.  A long continuous trail of bubbles rise to the top from the base of the glass.

T:  The fruit shows up all at once, and lingers for quite a while.  Mid palate, the malt shows up briefly, a cracker-clean sweetness.  The finish is both juicy and drying, the fruit persisting all the way through to the end.  This is also where the ginger is easiest to detect, providing a spicy kick in addition to the hops.  Though bitter, it’s in order to bring contrast to what could be an overly-sweet fruit beer.

F:  Medium-light, with just a hint of smooth creaminess.  Carbonation is moderate and provides a nice scrub, urging you to take another sip, and then another.

O:  If you enjoy fruity IPAs, then this will be love-at-first-sip for you.  The ginger adds a nice contrast, balancing out the sweetness provided by the fruit.  An enjoyable fruit IPA, and something to offer someone who only thinks IPAs are nasty, hoppy, and bitter.

Suggested food pairing: Arugula salad with vinaigrette dressing and blood oranges, Roasted duck with orange coulis, fruit tart, creamy cheddar cheese

 

A Tangerine Dream: Green Flash’s Soul Style IPA

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On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Tangerine Soul Style IPA

poured into: 6 oz wine glass

S: Sienna colored body with an off-white head. It builds, then slowly recedes. Great lacing. Cloudy body that… wait… is that actual tangerine rind? Why yes, it is.

A: A tangerine dream! Sweetness from a clean, simple malt backbone. Tangerine for miles and miles, it’s like I was standing in the orchard.

T: As anticipated, plenty of tangerine in the flavor. Very present, but very authentic-tasting. No shortcuts used here! Mid-palate provides a bit of doughy malt, while the finish is a touch tangy and citrusy, though not very bitter. Juicy, like freshly squeezed fruit.

F: Medium-light body, prickly carbonation. A long, juicy finish of, you guessed it… tangerine. Wow.

O: Highly enjoyable fruit-forward American IPA. Excellent flavor and aroma.

S: 4 A: 4.5 T: 4.5 F: 4 O: 4.25

Pairs with: mandarin orange salad, Hawaiian pizza, chicken kabobs, Thai or Indian food