Manel Avinyo, winemaker at Clos Lentiscus, is a very passionate man with strong opinions on wine and life. But, you must be passionate if you are going to follow biodynamic winemaking practices. The Hedonista wrote up an excellent review of our time with Manel. I on the other hand will simply share a hilarious video recorded by Bucket List Journey of me finding the energy.
I was lucky enough to visit Spain recently. After spending a couple days in Barcelona (pictures and stories to come later), I joined a group outside the city. Our mission was simple - drink all the cava.
One of my favorite wineries on the visit was Mascaró. Like most of the wineries we visited, it is family owned. They are led by the matriarch Ms. Monserrat Mascaró, Co-owner & Oenologist.
We were led on an amazing tour by one of the staff, Maria, who explained that 30% of the business was cava related. About 40% of their cava is consumed in Catalonia. They produce about 100,000 bottles of cava and 300,000-400,000 bottles of brandy a year.
The wines and cavas are grown in Mascaró’s Mas Miquel vineyards.
The facility we toured was considered an urban winery located in the downtown area of Penedès. The location was along a path that linked the city center to the train station.
One of my favorite cavas was Cuvee Antonio Mascaró. It is a Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature which means no dosage added with an aging time of 30 months or longer. This cava could be enjoyed as an appertif, but paired spectacularly with our lunch. The nose was aromatic with nutty and some minor floral notes. The cava danced in the mouth with fine bubbles and creamy notes. Would you believe it is super affordable as well?
I ended up buying a bottle of the Brandy X.O. Ego. I knew I would be hard pressed to find he something of that quality back home at the same price point. It was incredibly smooth and refined with slight vanilla and toasty notes.
I am super excited to be traveling with Wine Pleasures as part of the Cava Blogger trip! Wine Pleasures produce an electronic book with the 50 great Cavas each year. Last year’s version is available for download here.
Look for pictures, video and posts about all my fun in Spain during October. I am also going a little early to enjoy Barcelona. Feel free to leave comments on suggestions on what to do, where to eat and drink while in Barcelona.
If it’s fall it means it’s time for all the pumpkin beer. Some people hate on pumpkin especially pumpkin beer and fall in general. Many like to make jokes about white girls in yoga pants. My feelings about the hatred of pumpkin and fall can be summed up as -
To further elaborate - I like pumpkin and I like fall. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. We would wear sweaters and pretend we actually needed them when it was 60 degrees out.
I ended up having some friends over to enjoy pumpkin beer. French Twist DC posted her own tasting notes as well as history of pumpkin beer and Girl Meets Glass shared her pumpkin beer thoughts too.Beerbecue participated virtually with the Haybag as he was busy with 2.0. Bill Jusino also tweeted some of the fun. There may even be a DC Beer post on pumpkin beer. Another friend who is in Annapolis did her own pumpkin beer tasting and posted her thoughts. I also found the Great Pumpkin Beer Review with detailed reviews of several pumpkin beers.
There are still pumpkin beers available for purchase at many retail establishments, but I would start buying anything you like now as well as Oktoberfest and marzen. I have waited until October or November and places are sold out of many of the best.
On to my tasting notes-
Epic & DC Brau’s Fermentation Without Representation Collaboration Beer - I loved this one. I found it more balanced with the right about of spice, but still pumpkin flavor. By that I mean, it wasn’t like drinking pumpkin pie.
Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale - I am not sure if it was me or what, but I got strong buttery flavors. It was overpowering. It came off as sort of caramel popcorn. I have a second bottle to try later.
Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale Gruntled Pumpkin - This was not a crowd favorite. It came off as more gourd and squash like. When I drank it on it’s own, the first taste was clover and gourd smacking me around.
Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale - Here was another example of pumpkin beer being more balanced and not simply pumpkin pie in a bottle. It was slightly hoppy and slightly spicy as maybe corriander on the finish.
Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin - It looked light in the pour, but definitely packed a punch. It was more malty like I normally enjoyed. It had more caramel notes with the pumpkin spice flavors popping through.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead - Our group did not enjoy this one. The spices were overwhelming in a harsh way.
Brasserie McAuslan’s St-Ambroise Citrouille - It was light and had minimal nutmeg notes. It was very smooth, but not that impressive.
Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin - I really enjoyed this beer, but didn’t really consider it a pumpkin beer. It was toasty with great caramel and nutty flavors. I just didn’t get any pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavors.
Flying Dog Brewery, The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - This was a crowd pleaser. It was a dark color poured, but not very heavy. Plenty of clove notes.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - This is always another popular pumpkin beer. It’s lighter and more on the pumpkin pie scale with a lot of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg notes.
Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac Pumpkin Ale - This is a middle ground pumpkin beer. It is also lighter with more sweetness in the form of clove and nutmeg.
Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter - The pumpkin is slightly overpowered by the porter in this beer. It came off as more muted.
In the end, taste is subjective even your own. I find that depending on what I am eating, the weather and even the type of day I had that my taste in beer will change. I may go for a second round of some of these beers especially when it gets a little cooler.
I survived DC Beer Week, but just barely. DC Beer Week is a great time celebrating what the DC area has to offer. DC Beer among other outlets provided information on some of the best events of the week. DC Beer is a great site to follow year round for events, discussion of beer and all beer related things.
Sunday, August 11th began with an early wake up to get ready for the day. I dragged my tired ass to Chocolate City to begin my Brewery Tour that included six DC and VA breweries. We began at about 10:00am with First Coast Bohemian Pils. As one of my new friends on the tour said, “This is a great morning beer.” It was light, crisp and great introduction to the day.
We hopped on the bus and moved onto DC Brau. DC Brau continues to have a soft spot in my heart. I went with Exquisite Corpse and Heurich’s Lager. The Exquisite Corpse was proposed by the Beer Director at Pizzeria Paradiso and is a collaboration among Greg Jasgur, Sam Fitz of Meridian Pint, Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Jeff Hancock of DC Brau. It has great aromatics with citrus notes, effervescent and very clean taste and dry finish. It was very refreshing. I fell in love with the Heurich Lager. I have never tasted a lager like that. The nose isn’t as big with just a hint of sweetness. It really shines through the palate changing flavors from slightly spicy to somewhat sweet with a great texture.While there, I also secured my shirt for my AMAZING air guitar performance of “Livin’ on a Prayer” at Solly’s.
Next stop was the new Blue Jacket. We were greeted with water. Yes, I was very happy to have some water. Being this is Blue Jacket they presented our beer tasting in some serious stemware. They had a microphone set up and serious staff mingling about. They poured only one beer their kolsch. Greg Engert spoke about the history of the space and their goals upon opening. He also offered some tasting notes on the beer. He’s a genius who when speaking is comfortable discussing medieval history to architecture to tasting notes in a beer and more. He’s just a fascinating guy who never comes off condescending.
We proceed onto Port City in Alexandria. I tried the Derecho Common and Downright Pils. Both are pretty solid beers. The Derecho Common had some mild fruitiness and mild maltiness. At Port City we had a shortened version of a tour.
After Port City, we headed to Mad Fox. As we entered I ran to the bar and ordered a bacon and cheese burger with fries. Food was necessary. I grabbed some of our sample beers including the Broad Street IPA. It was a pretty solid IPA with some piney notes and light citrus. At the bar I ordered the Mason’s Dark Mild. It offered what I love from a beer and gave me something to enjoy with my food at an ABV that allowed me to chill out. It was not too heavy, chocolate, malty and somewhat roasty flavor.
We jumped back in the bus and headed off to Three Stars Brewery. Dave warmly greeted us right away. I asked for the Lime Basil Session Saison and then sampled the Peppercorn Saison. I am loving the Lime Basil. Guess what it tastes like? That’s right unicorn tears. No, but it’s really perfect for the insanely hot weather and has all these spice notes that are well balanced. Dave led us on a brief two part tour of the history of Three Stars and their process. I love hearing about the early days with him and Mike and seeing how far they have come. I can’t wait to see where they are in the next year or two.
It was a great tour and I really hope more maybe smaller versions can be organized.
The rest of week was kind of a blur. I hit up Big Hunt on Tuesday with stops at Pizzeria Paradiso and Scion where the Flying Dog event was held. I enjoyed several delicious beers with new and old friends. At Big Hunt I was able to try the Allagash James Bean. It’s amazing when you look at the color and then the taste is so different. It felt silky, chocolate, some roast elements.
Another night I skipped DC Beer Week activities to enjoy some amazing cocktails with FEW and friends. More on that and my gin class with Caledonia Spirits another post.
On Thursday, I headed with friends to celebrate at Smoke and Barrel for a Neil Young themed DC Beer Week event. I started off with Allagash Golden Brett, which I described as funky deliciousness. Their food is spectacular. I ordered this yummy sausage sandwich and my friends ordered their BBQ platter with sweet potato fries and grits. At some point, I ordered a round of Bulleit bourbon because Thursday.
After leaving Smoke and Barrel, I convinced most of the crew to hit Millie & Al’s. Of course the skeleton danced and I made everyone do two $1 Jell-O shots. Afterwards, the karaoke began. We signed up for numerous songs including “You Can Go Your Own Way”. That’s where I decided to drop to my knees and slide to my friend. I still stand by that decision even though I left a part of my knee on the floor.
Yesterday my body finally informed me that we were sick and I decided to take an easy the rest of the weekend.
Don’t call it a comeback…
I was lucky enough to win a dinner at Oyamel from a Facebook contest. Friends and co-workers have made fun of me saying I have good luck. I don’t think that’s the case considering I was unemployed/underemployed for about 3 years. It’s more at some point things have to stop coming up Milhouse and come up Christina.
I started off the evening with an AMAZING cocktail in the bar. I ordered the sagrado corazon and it did not disappoint. It had hibiscus ice (say what) with toasted coriander and cilantro. I met Bonard Molina of Mayalen. They import and distribute the amazing tequila (Tequila Real) and mezcal (Banhez Mezcal) that we had paired with our dinner.
Bonard is an amazing person who like so many others is pursuing his passion. He works a regular gig to pay the bills and support his family while his import business blossoms. I was lucky enough to meet his mom (ADORABLE), sisters (they are also part of his business) and brand ambassador. The brand ambassador is a great guy who was wearing an ironic shirt to dinner. The ironic shirt was one that I actually own too.
The dinner had an appetizer, four courses and a dessert. Each course contained two to three small plates accompanying the course. We started with the Banhez Limited Edition: Oaxacan Fruit. It was a great starting point with slightly smoky notes, but a great fruity element and smoothness.
Throughout the dinner, we were presented with a history of the spirits, stories of the farmers in Mexico as well as a discussion of the tasting notes. Bonard and his company focus on not just obtaining a great product, but working with farm cooperatives to ensure fairness. They brought the head of one of the farming cooperatives in to talk about his passion, harvest and more. I asked about the inheritance law as I was curious about farm lands. He informed me that many young people have left the area to seek employment either in America or a larger urban area like Mexico City. If they are around, land goes to the male in the family. I was kind of taken aback as I knew that was common practice in many other cultures, but didn’t think that was the case in Mexico.
We started with the Tequila Real Silver, which was very clean and smooth. It paired well with the shrimp and tacos with mushrooms.
We moved onto a delicious raw beef dish, oysters and salad. It was paired with Banhez Espadin/Madrecuixe Blend. This was my favorite. It combined a great smoky element especially on the finish with fruit flavors and a salty element. It made perfect sense with the oysters.
We moved onto the baby squid (BABIES) and pork loin paired with Tequila Real Anejo. As they explained,there are various aging periods for tequila. Anejo is aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels. Barrel aging when done right, really adds value and maturity to your product. It had this great smoothness with caramel and spiced notes from the aging.
We moved onto lamb chops and a rice dish with corn truffles, queso fresco and epazote herb oil paired with the Banhez Tobala. The Banhez Tobala had an amazing nose with great spice notes like baker’s spice flavors.
As the dinner took longer than expected it was at this time Man Friend was done. It was about 10:30pm so I can see wanting to go home. Anyways, I thanked our generous hosts and we sprinted to the metro.
I have been having a good amount of fun lately and haven’t blogged enough. What? Shocked? Yeah, well sorry I am so busy kicking ass and taking names.
I won a free cheese and beer tasting at Righteous Cheese located at Union Market. How? See the statement above. I also won a tequila and mezcal dinner that you should expect to read about soon among other things.
The cheese tasting theme was “Backyard Cheese and Craft Beer”. We tasted -
Stillwater Cellar Door (Westminster, Maryland)
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca (Dexter, Michigan)
Great Lakes Wright Pilsner (Cleveland, Ohio)
Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (Kalmazoo, Michigan)
Coach Farm Triple Creme (Goat - Pine Plains, New York)
Cave-Aged Marisa (Sheep - La Valle, Wisconsin)
Beecher’s Flagship Reserve (Cow - Seattle, WA)
Billy Blue (Goat - La Valle, Wisconsin)
Carolyn Stromberg led the tasting. She’s amazing as an instructor. She was really dynamic as a speaker and provided this great overview along with tasting notes. I am always amazed at people who speak with such comfort and passion. It makes it really interesting to sit and learn.
She had us do a more professional tasting. We rated the cheese and beer matrix style - each beer versus each cheese. We rated each combination between -2 to +2 depending on how much we enjoyed it.
I enjoyed the triple creme with Stillwater Cellar Door. My favorites were Beecher’s Flagship and Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA and Billy Blue and Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca.
As we tasted each cheese along with combining them with mustard seeds, bread and candied pecans we also talked about our thoughts. When we were finishing the tasting Carolyn asked us to share our favorites.
Before leaving I made sure to buy some burrata as it’s made from unicorn tears and love.
Last week I joined my fellow #tasteagents and other guests at the Bottlenotes Taste Around Town launch party at Veritas. It was a great time with new friends like Vine Me Up and old friends who always get me into trouble (or I get them into trouble…whatever). We sampled wines from Chateau Montelena, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and the Rhône Valley region of France. I apparently got in trouble as I thought there would be a white Rhône available as I was really feeling a Marsanne. The staff at Veritas always maintain that great balance of high quality, but friendly nature. I spoke with Jamie (GM/Sommelier) and he let me taste this amazing Washington State Marsanne. I need to go back to finish that bottle. After I drank that and was asked by the Bottlenotes staff “why are you here if you don’t like the wines” I began my tasting journey. (Side note - yes that is how she welcomed me to the event).
The wines were average. I was hoping considering the many affordable and well done Rhône Valley wines that are available there would be more options. Alas, there was only one, which I think was the best out of both Chateau Montelena and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Chateau Montelena wines were their more mid level wines such as a classic California chardonnay with more oak integration and balance.
Rum, More Rum
Friday I decided to paint the town red with a couple friends including the Amazing @BEXwithanX. We started off at Hogo for our own tiki party. We each had an amazing rum based cocktail and then moved onto the rum punch. THERE WAS A FIRE ELEMENT. We spoke with the manager there who then offered us shots of barrel aged Atlantico rum. We sipped on it and loved the the vanilla notes and spice added by the barrel aging. The fun continued at Busboys and Poets (always go for the nachos there especially while tipsy/drunk), Irish Channel (where I may have told off guests who were rude to staff) and finally Del Campo. Del Campo has a wonderfully put together drink menu that was designed by the amazing JP Caceres. I loved both pisco drinks. I ran into Taha (all around rockstar) and Chef Isabella. In my infinite wisdom at the time Idecided to buy us all a round of Willet potstill (which really is quite tasty). Chef Isabella turned his down so I did it and then I said things in Miami Spanglish that made me realize that I should probably go home.
Twilight Tuesday hosted by Timur and John Michael held a special Tuesday edition at Penthouse Pool Club for Pride. Normally, Penthouse Pool has a wait list and is more than I can afford unless I sold some valuable organs. But as part of Twilight Tuesday all were welcomed to come and lounge by the pool. We decided to be super fancy and rent a cabana. The only requirement to rent a cabana was spend $100 minimum on food or beverage (with approximately 6-8 people fitting in a cabana). Umm…done and DONE. We popped open a few bottles of sparkling including Gruet Rose.
At some point a few of us were in the pool and decided to play chicken.