Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Get Lit with Bong Vodka


Missing your college days? Want to let your inner millennial out for a night? Bong Spirit Vodka is the way to go.

Bong Spirit Vodka

Copyright 2006 by Aaron Tang, licensed under CC by 2.0

Bong Spirit Vodka is about youthful energy, from its playful packaging to its Instagram. This is a product made specifically with the millennial generation in mind. Its eye-catching and over-the-top design stands out from its more staid and traditional shelf-mates in the liquor store. This is a statement piece, one to put out on the table at parties to get people talking.

But while Bong Vodka makes a great conversation-starter, it's not all flash. There's real substance under its drug-culture exterior.

Bong Spirit Vodka has won a few awards over the years, which proves that it should be taken seriously. It won Platinum Best in Show at the SIP Awards International Spirits Competition, The Gold Award (91 points) at the International Review of Spirits Awards, and First Place at the 22nd Annual Beverage Dynamics.

This vodka is distilled six times through a dual distillation process. Next, it's filtered four times through a sheet, candle, and charcoal process. This is all using a 175 year old recipe passed down through five generations of distillers from Holland. This pedigree combined with its clear reference to drug culture reflects the blending of tradition and youthful change found throughout the Netherlands and Europe as a whole.

Cities like Amsterdam are an eclectic mixture of old and new architecture and culture. The oldest building in Amsterdam was consecrated in the early fourteenth century, and yet it exists today in a city also dotted with skyscrapers and modern office buildings. The city itself has a rich history that has spanned 800 years. When people think of today's Amsterdam though, they are more likely to think of the carefree spirit that comes hand in hand with a thriving tourist industry supported in part by legalized marijuana.

Amsterdam

Copyright 2005 by Ricardo Liberato, licensed under CC by 2.0

Bong vodka fully embraces the millennial spirit. The website says "Today’s Millennial vodka drinker is looking to challenge the status quo. Bong Vodka is for those who are not afraid to challenge authority." This youthful anti-authoritarianism makes it a standout liquor brand. It's brash and overt. So what if it isn't elegant or reserved? So what if it references drug culture and parties?

Alcohol is an integral part of social life, particularly for young people who want escape the stressful atmosphere of college or entry-level jobs. This is the perfect answer to that millennial desire for escapism: a liquor that is good quality without taking itself too seriously.

Plus it'll really step up your social media game.

You can buy some here: Bong Spirit Vodka

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Weller 12 Year: Gone Without a (Buffalo) Trace


A bottle of W.L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon is like tickets for Hamilton on Broadway: hard to find but well worth the wait.

Weller 12 Year

Copyright 2015 by Peter Anderson, licensed under CC by 2.0

Weller 12 year has skyrocketed in both popularity and price in recent times. From the numerous awards it has won over the years, that's not entirely surprising. But Weller 12's popularity is also part of a larger trend in liquor which is affecting whisk(e)y sales around the world. We are in the middle of what Fortune calls "The Billion-Dollar Bourbon Boom." From 2009 to 2014, bourbon sales increased at an unexpected rate of 6.75% per year - three times the sales increase from 2002 to 2007. Now, in 2016, bourbon remains a trendy purchase for millenials. Everyone wants to get their hands on a bottle of quality bourbon, and Weller 12 is an excellent bet.

From the rich amber hue to the elegant bottle, Weller 12 stands out on a shelf with an air of understated grace. This wheated bourbon (meaning its mash bill contains wheat instead of rye) has a soft yet bold flavor. Pop it open to experience what Buffalo Trace Distillery calls "aromas of lanolin, almond, creamed corn and toasty vanilla."

Buffalo Trace's Sign

Copyright 2009 by Carl Wycoff, licensed under CC by 2.0

Buffalo Trace is about as all-American as you can get. Benjamin Harrison Blanton started distilling whiskey on the site in 1811, when Kentucky was still new to the union. Over the course of a century and some change, the distillery changed owners and names many times. It endured a fire, flooding, and prohibition, during which the distillery was allowed to remain open to produce "medicinal whiskey." It was rechristened "Buffalo Trace" in 1999 for the local railway line that had followed the tracks of migrating bison centuries prior. The distillery continually produces great products, from the eponymous Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the coveted classic: Pappy Van Winkle. Weller 12 is a strong part of Buffalo Trace's team of bourbons, and one that should satisfy the palates of both connoisseurs and casual liquor enthusiasts.

So now you're convinced: you need to try this bourbon. The only problem is that you've never seen it in a store before. Weller 12 is so hard to come by because Buffalo Trace only puts out a limited number each year. What's more, the current batch of bourbon was placed in barrels 12 years ago - well before the recent Bourbon Boom piqued the interest of so many people. Weller 12 is aged far longer than other wheated bourbons and the distillery puts a lot more care into the overall quality of its product, rather than the quantity they put out every year. This attention shows - many people compare it to Pappy Van Winkle, the even more elusive Buffalo Trace bourbon with a cult-like following. So while Weller 12 might be somewhat scarce right now, it is certainly worth the wait.

You have a few options to track down a bottle of Weller 12:
1. Check online retailers.
Since only a few Weller 12's are released every year (though that number is slowly increasing according to the AMA Buffalo trace did on Reddit), you may have to do some searching to find a retailer that has it in stock. However, some stores offer a chance to click and join the waiting list, which will alert you when the product comes back in stock.

2. Live in Texas (No, really)
According to Reddit user /u/cookmundo, "W.L. Weller has always been a steady seller in Texas. The Weller 12 was sometimes out of stock, but it could always be found in small, out-of-the-way liquor stores. The main reason it doesn’t sell even more is that the predominant taste in many parts of the state, for reasons that aren’t clear to me, is Canadian Crown Royal." So for all you Texans who want to pick up a bottle of Weller - you're in luck! For those of you who don't live in the Lone Star state, you're better off searching for a bottle online.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Lucas Winery

If you were intimately involved in Opus One, took all that knowledge you learned from both the French and American sides of that endeavor, and then started your own winery using that knowledge but focused on Zinfandel, you would have The Lucas Winery.

Dinner Time At Lucas Winery

Lucas is a beautiful family winery in Lodi. The vines were planted right after prohibition, and they pick the Zinfandel on the early side to make it more food friendly. It's aged in French oak for fourteen to sixteen months before bottling. Part of the vineyard has been organic since 2009.

They make more than just classic Zinfandel. A standout for me was the Lucas 2015 Zin Blossoms, a very sophisticated and dry Rose Zinfandel with a great finish.

Lucas 2015 Zin Blossoms

The winemaker, Heather Pyle-Lucas has another vineyard called Tangles where she does everything herself from growing the grapes to making the wine.

Unfortunately she never quite put the energy she needed to in the part she liked least, the sales and marketing. I guess there's something about taking the wine from restaurant to restaurant trying to make a sale that was unappealing to her.

I believe the last year Tangles was bottled was 2010. That seems a shame to me. Hopefully she'll make Tangles again soon.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Wine Spectator Effect

2015 saw a lot of growth for 1000 Corks.

First we gained a lot more users. This meant we had to handle a lot more searches.

And there were many new wine and spirit stores that put up websites in 2015. Since we have to crawl them all, in order to be the most comprehensive search engine, that also meant a lot more load.

As a result we really began to outgrow our servers. When we had lots of users searching, our response times were definitely slower than we would have liked.

For example whenever I got a new Wine Spectator in the mail, I knew that the servers would be extra slow for a while, because all their readers would be busy searching for the wines that the editors' most liked that issue.

And don't even get me started on their Top 100 issue. I had to monitor everything very closely to maintain the performance we wanted as we were hit with a flood of searches.

So to solve this we went out and built a new server from scratch. We've named it baga1, after the Portuguese grape, baga.

The server is running our database, Postgresql. It's the third server we have in our colocation facility.

Insides of a 1U Server

As for baga1 it features:

- A really cool low power Xeon D-1540 chip with eight real cores

- 10-Gigabit. This is our first 10-Gigabit computer, so it's still hooked into everything at gigabit speeds.

- 1.2TB Intel 750 SSD. This is the fastest non-enterprise SSD available. It's about five times faster than a normal SSD.

- 128 GB RAM. You can never have too much RAM. Our two other servers have a total of 48 GB of RAM, so it's really nice to have so much extra memory.

Hopefully this will carry us through the first half of 2016. Meanwhile we're already planning what new hardware to buy come Spring.

Photo credit: Craig Wyzik (Cropped from original - Creative Commons).

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Terroir Champagne – Fact or Fiction

Caroline Henry for 1000 Corks

The word "terroir" has been creating waves in the wine wine world for the last few decades. While it was traditionally more associated with the old wine world, Europe, winemakers all over the world have been jumping on the bandwagon.

Even in Europe, some regions which originally were not very much terroir focused have been drawn to the concept. Why is this? I believe it is the perfect term to use when one is trying to distinguish oneself from others; it is also a term consumers have started to understand and look for when they want something more unique.

Looking for Terror in Champagne

The original terroirists are the Burgundians – whose appellation system is completely terroir based, and who more recently are awaiting Unesco Heritage Protection for their Climats – the name they use to describe their terroirs.

Just north of Burgundy, the Champenois also applied for Unesco Protection for their terroir, even though the the notion of terroir is a lot less intrinsic in Champagne than it is in Burgundy.

So can we speak about Terroir in Champagne – and if yes till what extent?

There definitely exists a notion of terroir in Champagne, but this is in a more generic sense; it includes among other things the chalk subsoil, the continental climate, and the vineyard slopes.

But even if it is generally accepted that unique regional terroir is what made Champagne so famous, there is a general reluctance to talk about terroir on a more local or micro level. This is because the focus has always been on the blend and the savoir faire of the chef de cave.

Even the Grand Cru system is based on a village rather than vineyard/lieu dit level. This is because the average size of a champagne vineyard plot is 0,012 hectares. Yet it is also known that some vineyards or lie dits are more special than others, and the wines coming from these places are very expressive and unique.

One of the most famous examples, as well as being the first example of a single vineyard Champagne, is Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses, which was first made in 1935.

It is a very steeply sloped south facing vineyard next to the canal in Mareuil-sur-Ay. The exposure alone makes it probably the most sun drenched place of the region, and it is one of the reasons Phillipponnat can make a single vineyard vintage Champagne year after year. This Champagne is also one of the most sought after by connoisseurs.

Caroline and Selosse in Champagne

But does one have to choose between terroir and blend?

In fact no – the Clos des Goisses is a blend of two grape varieties, and several barrels, even if the origin is one actual place in one particular year.

Another expression of terroir champagne is a blend of several vintages of the same vineyard or lieu dits together. This will give the expression of a place over several years - the most famous examples here are probably the lieu dits by Anselme Selosse.

And of course there are Terroir Champagnes which are the expression of a vineyard, across different varieties and different years – like the Cuvee Louis by Champagne Tarlant for instance.

But blended or not, the general rule of thumb is that there are very few bottles of Terroir Champagne made. The first reason, which we already mentioned, is that the lieu dits or vineyards are quite small, which restricts the quantity.

The second and more important reason is that in order to make Terroir Champagne the soil in the vineyard needs to be alive. It is very difficult to give a unique expression of a polluted, dead place. While this may seem obvious, it is unfortunately quite exceptional in Champagne.

In the words of Isabelle Legeron, MW, "the region is one of the most polluted wine regions in the world". Since the business of Champagne is more focused on quantity than quality there also are very few incentives to farm more environmentally friendly. In general this way of farming means lower yields for more work.

And we have to remember that the bulk of the grapes are farmed by grape growers who are paid by the kilo and sell their crops to the Champagne Houses; they in turn will make quite standardized high volume Champagne out of them. Right here is yet another reason why there is so little focus on terroir Champagnes.

To recapitulate, Terroir Champagne does exist. In fact it is actually quite sought after, especially by more enlightened sommeliers, wine store owners and wine lovers with a preference for more natural wine.

And the fact that there is very little of it made adds to its desirability. That is why this type of Champagne is in fact the real luxury coming out of the region.

Let me elaborate – currently there are barely seventy certified organic producers, yet the region counts more than 15,000 winegrowers. Together with a few other producers who work in a real sustainable way, the total production of Terroir Champagne is somewhere between seven and ten million bottles a year, which is a fraction of Champagne’s total production of around 345 million bottles a year.

We can surmise that the total production of Terroir Champagne (when all producers are added) could be around the same as the total production of the prestige cuvee Dom Perignon. The biggest difference between the two remains the way the vineyard is farmed.

If we were to put this in regular or still wine terms one could argue that Terroir Champagne is the equivalent of natural wine – both are just as dividing, with people either passionately loving or hating them. But as with natural wine, more and more people are drawn to them.

About Caroline

Caroline Henry is the only English speaking journalist and wine writer based in Champagne. She regularly contributes to wine-searcher.com, Decanter, Palate Press and Snooth.

Over the last three years she has been specializing in the wines of Champagne. She teaches on the subject of sparkling wine in several wine programs in France and abroad and is also part of the research team of the Pole Champagne at the Reims Management School.

Caroline is a sommelier certified by the Court of Sommeliers in London as well as a wine location specialist on Champagne. Natural, organic and biodynamic wines are her great passions besides Champagne. She aims to publish the first book on environmentally friendly produced Champagne in September 2015.

To find out more about her book project please visit IndieGogo.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Coravin: Worth It?

Luiz Alberto for 1000 Corks

I am not a big wine accessory lover. All I need is a corkscrew and a glass. However, after listening to the hype, reading the reviews (not all positive), and seeing it in action at a blind tasting, I broke down and purchased a Coravin.

I open many bottles per week, sometimes per day, and I am ashamed at how much wine goes down the drain. Being generally dissatisfied with the “wine preservation” systems currently available, I felt the $299 plus an additional $40 for replacement argon canisters more than made up for the cost of the waste.

Coravin

The main motivation was to be able to access many different bottles of wine for blind tasting practice without “wasting” the entire bottle. In my experience, the Coravin has been an extremely useful tool because it allows me to taste and re-taste a wine over the course of a few months (perhaps years) rather than a few days. But is it for everyone and is it for every wine?

One could argue that the Coravin is probably the most revolutionary product in the wine industry since the glass, bottle, and cork. It is not an opener and not a preservation system, but yet, it is a happy marriage of the two.

Here’s how it works: The beauty of the system is that the original cork remains in the bottle and oxygen is not allowed to enter the headspace.

The cork and capsule are pierced by a medical grade needle which comes in 3 different gauges: fast, standard, and vintage. The fast needle pours a five ounce glass in 16-20 seconds and the vintage in 30-33 seconds, when normally it would take 5 seconds.

Once the cork is pierced, the user presses a button for 1-2 seconds which dispenses the argon gas (an inert gas which is widely used throughout the wine making process to prevent oxidation). The gas pressurizes the bottle forcing the wine up through the needle and into the glass. Once the desired amount is poured the needle is withdrawn and the cork magically reseals itself unless the cork is defective.

Portion control and preservation are the biggest benefits. Imagine being able to serve a glass of the perfect pairing with every course, from lightest to heaviest, without having to open six bottles?

This technology allows #winelover-s to check on the health and evolution of the wines aging in their cellars one mouthful at a time rather than playing the guessing game checking on one bottle at a time. It also benefits restaurants who aim to profit from greater diversity in their by the glass programs.

With this technology, on premise establishments can now have the opportunity to feature their entire list by the glass and there is no pressure to sell the remainder of the bottle because it is completely preserved. An additional benefit, no more broken corks!

Coravin

Of course, there are the skeptics. “Doesn’t ‘accessing’ wine kill some of the romance of decanting?”. I don’t see how decanting is all that romantic anymore. Sometimes for blind tastings for my MW studies I would have 3-4 decanters on the table. I think the clutter detracts from the real romance of the wine.

Now I can have 12 glasses, but not 12 full bottles to finish. That being said, there are wines that must be decanted for aeration or to remove sediment, like a vintage Port. For those, I typically use a Bev Wizard or another portable aerator. Long corks are problematic if the needle cannot pierce through.

Also, it doesn’t work well on synthetic corks because they don’t reseal like the natural corks do. And, obviously, screw caps and sparkling wines are out of the question.

Can anyone use this device? Yes, but it does take some practice to properly insert the needle and dispense the appropriate amount of gas.

Should you use it for every pour? Yes, you can, but I don’t recommend it. Approximately 1% the world’s wines are intended to be aged. Most wines available on your average retail shelves are intended to be enjoyed upon release, or within 5-7 years of bottling, without gaining further complexity in the bottle. Can you use the device on these bottles? Absolutely!

If you’re a #winelover that likes to have only one glass per night, this is a valuable tool. However, if you are taking more than three pours from an everyday drinking wine, it makes more sense to pull the cork. The system does have an accruing cost.

The initial cost is compounded by the cost of the argon canisters. They are small and cost roughly $10 each to replace and I am not sure if they are readily accessible at the local hardware or retail outlet. The system uses specially designed gas canisters. Recycling and disposing of the gas cylinders may be restricted depending on where you live.

Each canister has enough gas to dispense 15 five-ounce pours. This adds approximately sixty-five cents to each glass of wine. If you are using the device with every glass of wine you consume, you will be replacing the canisters often. I have become accustomed to using the device only when benefits of “accessing” the bottle outweigh the cost of opening the bottle.

Earlier this year the company issued a voluntary, temporary cease and desist because there were 14 cases where pressurized bottles broke even under low pressure. After an investigation the design engineers found that under regular circumstances this should never happen and concluded that the bottles that had broken must have been defective.

Defective bottles are obviously out of Coravin’s control. The company issued remedy kits to all of its customers that consisted of a “bottle sleeve” which, in the case of a break, protected the user from the glass. This is now included with the unit.

Does it work? Yes! I have used it on several bottles of wine for blind tastings and gone back and tasted again a couple of weeks later and the wine has experienced absolutely no oxidation. No change at all, really, which makes me wonder, how does this change the natural development of the wine?

Wines that are intended to age are living BREATHING things. They need a slow and steady diet of oxygen, which enters through the cork in order to develop the full spectrum of flavors and structure that nature and the wine maker intended. Does the argon escape through the cork over time? Will the exclusion of oxygen alter the way the wine would have developed?

This is new technology so the jury is still out, but I have found it very useful. I would highly recommend it to any #winelover.

Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking by Roger Waters

If you know me, you probably have already heard that one of my favorite rock albums ever is The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking by Roger Waters (the first solo album from Pink Floyd's bass player and lead singer). Just like the story told through the songs of the album released in 1984 of a married man's disperse thoughts during a road trip through Central Europe, there are pros and cons for everything in life…

So, before you make up your mind if you are going to buy one, here are the ones for Coravin:

Pros:

+ No pressure to drink more than you want. The remainder of the wine won't go bad.

+ It's a great tool for wine students. Many blind tastings per day are possible.

+ It's great for pairings. You can start with a light white wine to pair with your appetizer, a big Cab with your steak, and so on…

+ Works really well for restaurants. They now can have a much wider range of wines by the glass.

+ It helps tremendously if you receive many wine samples.

+ No problems noticed with natural corks. They seem to reseal almost immediately.

+ Works well for groups of people with different tastes. You can pour your guests exactly what they want to drink.

+ Helps with large size bottles (Magnums and larger).

+ No degradation in the wine noticed after a couple of months. However, I’m not sure yet how the wines are going to develop (or not) after a few years.

Cons:

- The canisters of Argon are small and have to be replaced constantly.

- It doesn't work well with synthetic corks. They leak after the needle is inserted.

- Obviously, it doesn’t work with screw caps.

- Pouring is slow with the standard needle.

- It can be problematic for long corks as they may be a little longer than the needle.

- Bottles may break (apparently it happened on a few occasions), so a bag for protection is included with every unit.

Special thanks to Luiz Alberto for this article. If you aren't following him on twitter, @TheWineHub, you are missing out.

The Original #Winelover

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