To Oak or Not to Oak?

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To Oak or Not to Oak?

Anyone who is well acquainted with this popular white wine knows its reputation for being either "oaky" or "not oaky" and this is understandable. The Chardonnay grape is considered “the” white grape and it is cultivated in a number of regions around the world.  American Chardonnays have traditionally been more oaky while the French version less so.


More often than not, Chardonnays are fermented in oak barrels or will even have oak chips added to the fermentation process, which gives the wine that vanilla or toast flavor. As for that “buttery” nose you find in many Chardonnays, it’s due to the malolactic fermentation process in which the harsher malic acid present during fermentation (tart like a Granny Smith apple) is converted into lactic acid which changes the profile of the wine into one that is smoother, softer. More and more Chardonnays today are aged in stainless steel which will feature a higher level of acidity. But enough of the technical.  Let’s introduce you to one of our California Chardonnays: MATCHBOOK CHARDONNAY 2014.


This wine is creamy with a hint of the buttery nose, along with detectible notes of pear and melon and nice vanilla making for a wine that is rich and ripe. Produced by a small family owned vineyard in the famed Dunnigan Hills of Napa California, Matchbook received 88 points out of 100 from the respected Tasting Panel Magazine. Aged for eight months in “Old Heads” oak barrels used in past vintages, there is less oak extracted allowing for a brighter, crisper flavor of the grape to come through. Excellent with any soft cheese or a rich pasta, like Alfredo. So come on in to meet and greet this great summer wine and compare it with some of our other Chardonnays that have a different tale to tell.

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Crémant - Champagne's alter ego

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Crémant - Champagne's alter ego

Graduations may be over but there are still other occasions to celebrate; anniversaries, birthdays, engagements, welcoming a new neighbor to Newburgh. And nothing can help set the mood more than Palate’s Crémant de Loire Domaine du Vieil Orme, ($20) the fraternal twin to fine champagne.


Crémant is a French sparkling wine, drier than Prosecco. Since it is not cultivated in the Champagne region, it cannot technically be called by that name.  Yet, by law, it must be made in the “méthod champagnoise,” the exact same way as champagne.  It must be made from the same grapes as champagne and must have a second fermentation in the bottle. There are about ten different regions that produce their own crémants. This one from the Loire is among the finest.


Our Crément de Loire comes from the venerable Domaine du Vieil Orme (Estate of the Old Elm) established in 1849. Located in the Loire Valley, the terroir of the estate is clay and limestone, ideal for the Chardonnay grape which is the single one in this Crémant.  Pop the cork and find yourself pouring a bubbly wine that is creamy and luscious, featuring a “soupcon” of honey with a bright, crisp acidity. Let the bubbles tickle the nose and tingle on the palate.  Drinking this Crémant de Loire demands a toast, if only to itself.


This elegant festive wine is ideal as an apéritif, stimulating the appetite for what is to come, or is excellent with a rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel or shellfish.  It also is an appropriate partner for those dishes with rich French cream sauces.  


So, come in and begin your celebration with us at Palate. Then continue at home where your guests will surely ask for more, which mean two bottles are always better than one.

 

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The Gin Bin

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The Gin Bin

This week, we are featuring a crystal spirit which is enjoyed most on those languid summer afternoons and lingering evenings. It conjures up images of Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway or Marlene Dietrich.  In film, it was immortalized in the 1930s by the “Thin Man” and later in the James Bond films. I’m referring of course to Gin, that mysterious elixir that often baffles the consumer. It is the ideal mixer, whether you are having a martini, a Gimlet or my favorite of all, the heat breaking Gin & Tonic.  Served in a tall well chilled glass, the spiciness of the gin embraces the bitterness of the tonic both of which are accented by the zest of the fresh lime (or lemon can be used as well). I can’t think of any other summer cocktail that plays so well with every part of the palate.


In the US, vodka has taken the front seat for a long time but fortunately, gin has been tiptoeing out of the shadows and finding its way into our glasses once again. Many drinkers are intimidated by the complexity of gin and go for the straight forwardness of vodka. What exactly is the difference between gin and vodka?  Ah, it’s those aromatic botanicals that give the gin its own distinctive character. Classically, the main botanical was and still is the king of gin botanicals- the juniper berry. In the art of distilling gin, the botanicals are the paint, the still or pot, the brush and the distiller is the painter.  Today, small distillers are producing a wide range of gins which include an incredible flavor profile: coriander, elderflower, citrus peels, lavender, cardamon, cassia bark and orris root.  


At Palate Wines & Spirits we have a “gin bin” which offers a select but wonderfully varied range of gins.  Two are featured here. Broker’s Gin ($27) can be immediately identified by the black bowler hat that sits on top of the bottle. This fine English gin is excellent for either the martini or the G&T.  Broker’s has been made for over 200 years, outside the English city of Birmingham. Distilled in traditional copper pots, its pure spirit is derived from English wheat and makes use of ten different botanicals which come from all over the globe, though as a traditional gin, the juniper berry will predominate.  Choose a good tonic for your G&T and a fine vermouth for your martini (try our French vermouth, the Dolin dry white) but remember, there is an argument over how much vermouth should be added to the gin, and should it be stirred or shaken? Winston Churchill said the only way to make a martini was with ice cold gin and a bow in the direction of France.


Our second featured gin is distilled closer to home: Vermont’s Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin ($43) made from its own grain and farmed honey. This company is deeply rooted in the agriculture and beekeeping of Vermont and committed to ecological sustainability. Their unique gin is distilled from local grains, either corn, wheat or barley    , and its formula is that simple, pure grain spirit and zesty juniper berry. Then, after distillation they add local, raw honey, just before bottling.  This lends a special floral quality to the gin that will vary depending on the season and flower. You may think the honey will come on too strong but it doesn’t.  It rather serves as a perfect compliment to the juniper berry. This is a fine tuned gin.  Caledonia Spirits offers its own list of recommended cocktails but I find it marvelous on the rocks just sipping as is.

We sell other gins as well, each with its own story, so please, come in this week and we can discuss, if not gins, then our wines, one of which will be singled out next week for special attention…

 

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Introduction to Summer

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Introduction to Summer

Summer… a time for relaxing and just kicking back, whether on the deck, in the garden, or at the shore. Whether the air is warm and breezy with blue skies overhead, or lazy, hazy and humid, it's time to gather with friends around good food and, of course, good wine. Here are thoughts on the subject. 

We are featuring three wines here at Palate to help get your summer events in gear; a hearty red, a crisp white and a light pleasing rose. As to how many glasses of each, just remember: "People who wonder if the glass is half full or half empty miss the point. You can always refill it".

Our featured red is a Tuscan standout, a remarkable Chianti for the price ($15). The 2014 San Enrico Tenuta La Gigliola is 85 percent Sangiovese and 15 percent Canaiolo Colorino with great color and soft tannins, while maintaining rich fruit aromas characteristic of the two grapes. Taste the peppery note making for a fine, long finish. Great with bar-b-que, steak or hearty pasta dishes.

Our featured white comes from Austria, the 2015 GV Gruner Vertliner ($13). This is a wine that should be drunk early and often. This ideal summer wine is Austria's most famous white, young and crisp with a green and herbaceous flavor and an acidity that explodes in the mouth. You'll find this Gruner Vertliner an ideal companion for salads, seafood or light pastas. It is one of the few wines that can be paired with asparagus or artichokes, grilled or steamed. And of course it is great for just sipping.

No wine is perhaps as strongly tied in with summer than a fine rose and we have one of the best: our 2016 Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence ($16). This luscious rose is made from grapes typical of southern France: Grenache, Syrah Cinsault, Cabernet Saivignon and Mourvèdre. Quite a mouthful there, but oh, what a delight on the palate. Just enough acidity to stimulate, and a delicate hint of citrus that softens as it goes down. This is a wine that stands on its own for just pouring and sipping, again and again until, whoops, I guess we finished that off... As you recall that that glass is refillable... Domaine Houchart Rose is a good friend with oysters, shellfish or a zesty chicken salad, or as an apéritif with almonds or olives.

So come on in and hear some more about these enjoyable selected wines. Conversation, humor and learning a little about wine is also part of the experience at Palate Wines & Spirits. We'll all enjoy. A bientot.

Yaakov Sullivan

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