Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Drink of the Week: Blue Lady Tea

The Blue Lady is one of the world’s most famous ghosts. There’s a Blue Lady who’s said to haunt a cemetery in Nashua, New Hampshire; another shows up during hurricane season at a lighthouse near Hilton Head, South Carolina. Perhaps the most well-known Blue Lady is believed to reside (if that’s the right word) at the Moss Beach Distillery in Moss Beach, California, still pining for her lover, a piano player in the distillery’s bar during Prohibition. Whatever the legends, our favorite Blue Lady is a delicious black tea flavored with passion fruit, grapefruit, orange and grenadine. Unlike some flavored teas, the fruit here supports rather than overwhelms the richness of the premium Ceylon tea leaves. We like it with just a touch of honey and think it's the perfect match for a spooky night of ghost stories. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Harvest Report, Part Two: Punching and Pumping

The one thing I didn’t expect to notice when I returned to Boedecker Cellars’ winery was the one thing that hit me first: the aroma. Last weekend’s bright fragrance of sticky-sweet grape juice had been replaced with the effervescent essence of fermentation. The air was almost fizzy, like the tiny bubbles that tickle your nose when drinking a glass of Alka-Seltzer, and laced with nuances of black cherries and lavender. Half of the 20 tons of Pinot Noir grapes evenly distributed in neat rows of four foot-by-four-foot bins on the winery floor were actively fermenting. Walking past, I could hear them quietly hiss as the yeast converted the grape sugars into alcohol, releasing the whispering carbon dioxide along the way. With bins strategically placed less than a foot apart on the winery floor, it was obvious that forklift-driving lessons were out of the question. This weekend, I was to be schooled in the art of punch-downs and pump-overs, which is wine-speak for extracting color and character from the grape skins and circulating the juice from the bottom of the bins to the top.

Labor-intensive but rewarding, punch-downs require you to take what looks like a long metal plunger and literally punch down the cap of grape skins that rise to the surface as the juice starts its fermentation process. I grabbed my plunger, headed to the first bin and, like a kid scaling a jungle gym, tucked my foot into the small ledge halfway up the bin and pulled myself to the top. For a moment, I thought I would fall into a vat of fizzing grape juice, but I quickly found my balance and pushed the plunger into the mix with all the upper body strength I could muster. The aromas of sweet grape soda and ripe blackberries wafted up to my nose as the skins were pressed back into the juice.

Pump-overs require less acrobatic skill, but more of an ability to untangle yourself from yards of hosing, while you pump juice from the bottom of the bin over its cap on top. An elongated cylindrical metal colander, known as a torpedo, is placed deep into the bin of juice, and the top of the torpedo, rising just barely above the surface, is attached to a long hose. With the help of an electric air compressor, that hose sucks and strains the juice through the torpedo at the bottom of the bin and pumps it out a spigot and onto the cap, aerating and circulating the juice from the bottom to the top.

With about 30 bins in the winery—most getting punched down and pumped over at least once a day—after three days I was tired and ready for a shower. By weekend’s end, purple wine stains traced every crack in my dry hands, and bruises from failed attempts at scaling wine bins dotted my shins. I left exhausted, but exhilarated, and ready for a nice, cold … beer.

Stay tuned for next week’s report on turning red grapes into white wine.

—Tracy Howard

Friday, October 24, 2008

Drink of the Week: Widmer Brrr

It's definitely getting chilly outside, so it seems like the perfect time to cozy up with a winter ale. Obviously the clever name of this beer caught our attention first, but there's much more to it than that. This is Widmer's first new winter ale in four years, and while it has a relatively high ABV (7.15%), it's nice and smooth with a delicious balance of maltiness and hoppy bitterness and some winter spice to add more complexity. It will be available in 17 markets across the U.S. from next week through the first week of January, and as a fun bonus, every six-pack comes with a handy gift tag just in time for the holiday party and gift-giving season.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wine Harvest Report

Stewart Boedecker and Athena Pappas are two of the nicest people on the planet. Not only have they allowed me full access to their brand-new urban winery in Northwest Portland’s industrial neighborhood, and home to their label, Boedecker Cellars, but they’ve agreed to let me work and get my hands dirty during this year’s harvest. Which brings me to this first Harvest Report. For the next few of weeks, I’ll be posting a quick summary of the past weekend’s work for a behind-the-scenes peek into a bustling urban winery at the height of the harvest season. Not having any experience working inside a winery (or, alas, with heavy machinery), I was a little unsure of what to expect, but Stewart and Athena were quick to make me feel at ease (even after I crashed the electric pallet jack into a 1.5-ton bin of sorted grapes).

With barely noticeable rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures in September and October, Willamette Valley winemakers are opting to let their fruit hang on the vine longer this year then with previous vintages. Last weekend, 11 tons of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon were trucked into the Boedecker winery, while another 10 tons of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are still waiting on the vine. Stewart and I took a side trip Friday afternoon to check in on fruit at Anderson Family Vineyards in Newberg, Oregon, and tasted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Boedecker’s south-facing block. The Chardonnay is bright with good acidity, while the Pommard-clone Pinot is light and floral. Boedecker plans on having this picked in the next couple of days.

Sorting Pinot Noir from Momtazi and Carlton Hill Vineyards off the conveyor belt was quick and easy; the whole clusters were dark and juicy with barely any botrytis-infected fruit to separate out. Their de-stemmer, which was assembled just 12 hours before the first fruit arrived last week, gently plucks whole grapes from the stems and carefully drops the fruit into 4x4 foot plastic bins, from where the grapes will await fermentation, which I’ll get to experience this weekend.

Tune in next week for Harvest Report, Part 2: Forklift Driving Lessons and Fermenters!

—Tracy Howard

Friday, October 17, 2008

Drink of the Week: Cointreau Noir

Specialty liqueurs have been garnering a lot of attention over the past couple of years. Some of them, like batavia arrak or creme de violette, have entered the U.S. market with much anticipation, giving us the chance to discover and enjoy a variety of vintage cocktails. Other liqueurs have remained constants in the cocktail world, in both classic and contemporary recipes. Cointreau is a perfect example. So we were intrigued by the recent release of Cointreau Noir, which unlike Cointreau, is designed more for sipping than mixing. But in the tradition of many new and old liqueurs, sipping this liqueur neat is the best way to enjoy it anyway, particularly for the price. A blend of Cognac and orange liqueur, Cointreau Noir balances bitter and sweet flavors with a touch of spice and rounded notes of vanilla, honey and, of course, orange. It's a great addition to a home bar, and a perfect gift idea for your favorite imbibers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New York in November

We're so excited about a few upcoming events in New York that we invited our Tasting Notes e-newsletter readers to get in on the fun and enter to win a weekend in the Big Apple, complete with accommodations for two at Kimpton's four-diamond Muse Hotel, tickets to TastingsNYC, the gourmet tasting event of the fall at Pier 94 (including admission to the International Chocolate Show) and exclusive tickets to the Martin Miller's Gin Masters Competition, pitting legendary U.S. and U.K. bartenders against each other in a fun-spirited competition to find the best gin cocktail.

To enter the giveaway, we asked readers to vote for their favorite Martin Miller's Gin cocktail, and we received nearly 500 responses. The number one pick on our list of five nominees? The bubbly French 75, followed closely by the Aviation, which was the pick of our randomly drawn winner, L.A.-based blogger H.C. So. Third place went to the Classic Gin & Tonic, followed by the absinthe-kissed Monkey Gland and surprisingly, the Classic Martini finished last. We also received some great original recipes.

In honor of our winner, here's a recipe for the Aviation that's sure to please:


1 3/4 oz. Martin Miller's Gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
Ice cubes
Tools: shaker
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: maraschino cherry

Shake ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish.

Note: Early printed versions of this recipe call for 1/4 oz. of crème de violette, which adds a lovely flavor and color to the drink.

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway, and congrats to our winner. If you didn't win this time, be sure you're on our e-newsletter list, because every issue includes recipes, news and special giveaways (and we never, EVER share your information). And if you're in the New York area next month (Nov 7–9), be sure to check out TastingsNYC for the delicious samples, from beer and cheese to Champagne and caviar.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Tribute to Papa Pinot

Here at Imbibe, we were all saddened to hear of the recent loss of David Lett, pioneer of Oregon winemaking and founder of Eyrie Vineyards. Lett, 69 years old, died at home in Dundee, Oregon, last Thursday. Known to many as “Papa Pinot,” Lett arrived in the Willamette Valley in 1965 with 3,000 vine clippings and a vision. Over the years, his brilliant and graceful Pinot Noirs would convert even the most stubborn critics, while his drive and dedication to Willamette Valley winemaking would become a model followed by many Pacific Northwest wine growers. Lett leaves behind a legacy of Oregon winemaking and a legion of friends. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and loved ones. He will truly be missed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Upcoming Wine Events

Wine enthusiasts around the country can look forward to a number of great wine events coming up next month. From November 12-16, the San Diego Wine & Food Festival will be showing off more than 150 wineries, as well as a variety of specialty foods, celebrity chefs, wine dinners, cooking classes, wine tastings, and live and silent auctions. This is always a fun event to check out, and the weather and location can’t be beat. Tickets to the Grand Tasting on November 15 are $100, and they’re going quickly, so be sure to get yours soon, and for more info, check out their website.

Up the coast in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the annual Wine Country Thanksgiving will be held on November 28–30. This is a fantastic opportunity to tour some of Oregon's best wineries, some of which only open their doors to the public over this particular weekend. More than 100 wineries participate, and festivities include tastings of new releases and older vintages as well as barrel tastings, specialty foods and sales of limited-run wines. If you're visiting Portland over Thanksgiving, or you have family in town, this is always a terrific way to enjoy the holiday weekend.

Heading across the country, the first annual Phiz Fest will be rolling out in—where else?—Philadelphia. This unique event will showcase the variety and versatility of Champagne, and it will be a fun chance to see how well Champagne can be paired with an array of foods. The festival happens on Thursday, November 13, from 6–8:30 p.m. Tickets are $55 in advance, $65 at the door. For more info, click here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drink of the Week

We're in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, which kicked off yesterday, and has already proven to be an incredible showcase of American craft beers (not to mention an astounding showcase of nearly 50,000 beer enthusiasts). With about 1,800 beers on hand, the task of tasting can be a little daunting (we know, tough work!), but we're discovering some amazing ales, which brings us to today's Drink of the Week: Iron Hill Brewery's Saison du Hill. We tasted several great beers at Iron Hill's booth yesterday, but this Saison was a standout. Rugged earthiness is perfectly balanced with some fruit and spice, and like any good farmhouse ale, Iron Hill's Saison Du Hill is perfectly refreshing. The only bad news is that like many of the beers here at GABF, distribution is limited, but if you live in Pennsylvania or Delaware, the brewery has six locations.

If you can't get your hands on this particular Saison, check out your May/June 08 issue of Imbibe, which includes a roundup of other delicious farmhouse ales. Brewery Ommegang, which is also at GABF, produces another terrific Saison (Hennepin) that has national distribution.

UPDATE 10/11: Iron Hill's Saison took home the gold medal in the Saison category at the awards ceremony in Saturday's session of the Great American Beer Festival. Congrats!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

October’s Where to Drink Now

Capitol Hill is abuzz with the recent opening of D.C.’s Peregrine Espresso. Long-time coffee enthusiasts (and husband–and-wife team) Ryan and Jill Jensen opened the doors to this highly anticipated café a little over a month ago (the location was formerly occupied by Murky Coffee), and coffee geeks and morning commuters alike have been waiting in line for a taste. Individual pour-over brewers deliver fresh cups of Counter Culture coffee while premium teas satisfy those who prefer leaves to beans. Pick up a cup of El Salvador Finca Mauritania to go, or grab a seat and take advantage of the free wi-fi; either way, Peregrine is definitely worth the buzz.

Coordinates: 660 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.; 202-629-4381; peregrineespresso.com

Friday, October 03, 2008

Drink of the Week

Natural, organic and biodynamic wines continue to gain momentum as many of today’s growers reject chemicals in favor of more eco-friendly farming practices. In the latest issue of Imbibe, writer Pameladevi Govinda digs deep into the esoteric world of natural winemaking and makes mention of a few of her favorite natural producers along the way. Which brings us to today’s Drink of the Week: Paul Dolan’s 2005 Zinfandel is a vivacious and juicy wine, with flavors of dark berry jam and a distinctive cracked pepper spice. Vinified from organically grown grapes from both Mendocino and Amador Counties in California, this Zinfandel sees 11 months in the barrel, and once bottled, it shows wonderfully complex character. Try it with a brick-oven pizza topped with prosciutto, or a soft, sticky cheese, like tallegio.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cafes & Cocktail Parties 2.0

The social networking movement has been gaining momentum for sometime now. First there was Friendster, MySpace and Facebook with their millions of members, but now we're seeing smaller more specialized social networks popping up for every interest, including drinks—ranging from sites dedicated to enthusiasts to ones set up for industry folks.

We profiled collaborative wine review site Corkd.com in our Sep/Oct 2006 issue, and others have emerged since, including OpenBottles, Adegga, Cruvee and VinoShipperSocial, which connects winemakers to enthusiasts.

For beer, there's the Aleuminati (check out Imbibe staffer Siobhan's hops picture up in the header this month), BrewSocial (part of the livingsocial.com network) and even a network for keg fans at Kegerator. Coffee has an active social network in Barista Exchange, open to pros and enthusiasts alike. On almost all of these sites there are sub-groups dedicated to special styles of beer, wine and coffee, depending on your preferences.

If you're already on Facebook or MySpace, you can seek and find groups dedicated to just about every type of drink from absinthe to tea. And while you're there, check out our pages and, of course, become our friend.

So what's your take on social networking? Have any favorites?