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Jul 26, 2016
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Drink This Weekend Edition: Underrated wines

Thursday, July 14th, 2016




Pick up any wine magazine, and you’re bound to find wines ranked on a 100-point scale. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get below a certain score, and as with any subjective topic, the numbers are somewhat arbitrary – there is no standardized method for ranking. Some critics describe the process as 10 points for nose, 10 for color, 10 for palate, 10 for finish, 10 for overall impression and the remaining 50 simply for existing.

I find this degrading to vintners and winery teams. Most wines depend on weather, luck, timing, hard work and perseverance. They should be enjoyed as a moment in time, appreciating the product and its complement to your meal or your experience. I love a serious, complex bottle paired with an amazing meal, but I equally love an easy-drinking, quaffable wine on the patio with friends.

I taste quite a bit of wine, and I’m not sure I can tell you if any wine has a score able number for any ‘characteristic.’ Characteristics are subjective; a cloudy wine might upset you, but excite me. I’ve sold 100-point bottles to happy clients, and other underrated bottles that resulted in the same level of enjoyment. The only opinion that matters is the one belonging to the person who paid for it.

When hunting for an underrated bottle, look for wines made in a little known area where real estate is cheaper. It’s hard to find underrated wine from Napa Valley, California, but some Missouri wines or wines from lesser known regions of France’s Loire Valley are well worth the effort to find. Here are two such hidden gems:

1. Claverach Farm Pét-Nat sparkling rosé: Made by Claverach Farm’s Sam Hilmer, this wine is fizzy and wild with a beautiful nose of flowers and bright berries. It is dry and complex on the palate with refreshing bubbles.
$25, available at Starrs

2. Champalou Vouvray chenin blanc: This is a fine example of what the Loire Valley can do. Minerals, dry hay and apricot notes are followed by a hint of floral and matchstick. It is dry, rich and enjoyable on the palate.
$18, The Wine and Cheese Place

Drink This Weekend Edition: 2 picks from Firestone Walker

Friday, June 17th, 2016



The Side Project Cellar team just returned from Paso Robles, California after attending the fantastic Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest. What a weekend! (A quick humblebrag for our team and the St. Louis beer scene: Side Project Brewing won the People’s Choice Award for best in show!)

California is crawling with amazing beer up and down the coast, but there is something special about Firestone Walker. They excel at nearly everything; great barrel program featuring complex high gravity beers (Look for some fun ones at a Firestone Walker tap takeover at Soha Bar & Grill on Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m.) and sours, ridiculous West Coast IPAs, and a pretty rad hoppy Pilsner.

If you have yet to visit California’s Central Coast, I strongly suggest putting that on your to-do list. But in the meantime, go out and find some Firestone Walker canned freshies for your weekend enjoyment.

1. Luponic Distortion No. 001 is Firestone Walker’s revolving IPA series in which they experiment by showcasing different hops. The first in this series is ripe with notes of tropical fruit, West Coast dankness and vibrant citrus, all while boasting a clean and dry finish. Look for No. 002, with it’s a new hop profile, to hit stores early July.

2. Pivo Pilsner is Firestone Walker’s nod to European Pilsner tradition. This dry-hopped beer is beaming with floral notes, a little herbal spiciness and a classic Pilsner malt finish. Clean and refreshing, this beer goes perfectly with just about anything.


Katie Herrera is co-founder of Femme Ferment and manager of The Side Project Cellar.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Schlafly 1616 at Shakespeare in the Park

Friday, June 3rd, 2016




If it were up to me, I’d have called it Shakes-beer. But was up to the mindful brewers at Schlafly, who dubbed their Shakespeare Festival St. Louis beer 1616 in honor of the 400th anniversary of The Bard’s death.

You won’t find this Schlafly creation in stores or at bars. Instead, its available on draft at select Shakespeare Festival events like Shakespeare in the Park, which debuts A Midsummer Night’s Dream tonight, June 3, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park.

Schlafly set out to create an easy-drinking, 5.5-percent ABV beer perfect for picnicking prior to the show. The crisp, unfiltered lager is brewed with bright Mandarina Bavaria hops. 1616 starts fresh and hoppy, but finishes smooth and malty with just the right amount of citrus complexity. It clocks in at a food-friendly 25 IBU, equally suited to be sipped with fried chicken or a light salad.


Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 botanical beers to sip in May

Friday, May 20th, 2016



Now that we’re spending every available moment outdoors, reach for less assertive, more refreshing beer styles brewed with botanical ingredients like flowers and herbs.

Botanicals can be added to beer through a variety of methods before and after fermentation. Some brewers like to add botanicals toward the end of the boil during the brew, while others prefer to steep them like tea, post-fermentation in the bright tank. Botanicals can add color to beer (i.e. see beers brewed with hibiscus flowers) and accentuate the fruit, herb and grass notes of hop and yeast expression.

(Looking to fire up your taste buds instead? Click here to check out Herrera’s 4 chile beer picks.) 

The local brewery scene has played with botanicals for years. You may be familiar with Perennial Artisan Ales flagship Saison de Lis (Belgian-style saison with chamomile flowers), 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s flagship Single Speed (American blonde ale with jasmine flowers) and 2nd Shift Brewing’s seasonal Hibiscus Wit (Belgian-style wit with hibiscus flowers). These are all beautiful, easy-drinking beers complete with thirst-quenching characteristics to rejuvenate your senses. Acquaint yourself with these local, botanical-driven favorites and then find these fun seasonal releases from some of my favorite breweries.

1. Boulevard Hibiscus Gose is a tart, zesty German-style wheat beer. Brewed with salt and coriander and then steeped on dried hibiscus flowers, this beer presents itself with bright acidity, mellow sweetness, and a crisp finish.

2. Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire Beer iO Saison, brewed with a bouquet of rose hips, rose petals, and hibiscus, is the definition of delicate. Beautiful, soft floral notes are the highlight of this incredibly light, soft farmhouse ale.

3. Perennial Hopfentea pairs rose hips, hibiscus, and lemon grass with mango, papaya and orange peel for a satiating and tart German-style Berlinerweiss. Juicy tropical fruit is balanced by vibrant floral notes on the palate and is sure to make your taste buds dance.

4. New Belgium/Hof Ten Dormaal Collaboration Lips of Faith – Golden Ale is a light-bodied, yeast-forward and refreshing beer brewed with wild carrot herbs. A touch of banana on the nose accentuates the soft fruit notes and mild grassiness on the palate.


The Weekend Project: Dark & Stormy, two ways

Friday, May 13th, 2016



After a busy day of spring cleaning and yard work and the warm air begins to settle in, we find ourselves daydreaming of summer vacation. And while the dog days of summer and a Caribbean cruise are still a long way off, we can find some consolation in the cool refreshment of a Dark & Stormy made with homemade ginger beer. And don’t sweat the DIY; the effort required to make ginger beer is about as taxing as a lazy afternoon on the beach.

Nonalcoholic ginger beer can be made in two ways. First, you can make a sugary solution to feed yeast, which provides natural carbonation for your sparkling beverage. Second, you can make an intense ginger simple syrup that is finished with a splash of soda water.




The first method isn’t complicated, but it does require 24 to 72 hours and a little space in the refrigerator. You also need to be around every 12 hours or so to gently loosen the lid and allow some of the gas to release, otherwise your science project will explode and the clean up will be a very different sort of weekend project. The ginger syrup takes less time and can be refrigerated several months and added to almost any iced tea or summery beverage for a little extra sparkle in your summer.

The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the ginger beer or make the ginger syrup.
Day 2: Refrigerate the ginger beer or make a Dark & Stormy with ginger syrup.
Day 3: Make a Dark & Stormy with ginger beer.




Ginger Beer
2 quarts

8 cups water, divided
Juice of 2 lemons
1 lemon peel
1 cup ice
¼ cup fresh grated ginger
1 star anise
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Champagne yeast*

• Day 1: In a medium stockpot, bring 4 cups water, the lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger, star anise and pepper to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar, stir until it is dissolved and remove from heat. Add the remaining 4 cups water and ice and allow it to cool until it warm to the touch, about 110 degrees.
• Stir in the the yeast and place in a cool, dark place at least 3 hours or overnight.
• Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard the solids. Funnel the liquid a clean plastic 2-liter bottle and cap.
• Ferment the ginger beer 12 to 24 hours, carefully opening the bottle every 12 hours to release pressure.
• Day 2: Pour the ginger beer into glass bottles with swing stoppers attached or growlers and refrigerate. Ferment another 24 hours, carefully opening the bottles every 12 hours to release pressure. (Note: Continue to open the bottles at least once a day as long as the ginger beer remains in the refrigerator to avoid a build up a pressure and potential explosions.)

Dark & Stormy (with ginger beer)
1 serving

3 oz. homemade ginger beer
2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
¼ oz. lime juice
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 3: Pour the ginger beer, rum and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.




Ginger Syrup
Adapted from a recipe by Planter’s House’s Jamie Kilgore
3 cups

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
2 lemon peels
½ cup grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp. white pepper
2 star anise

• Day 1: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot, stir all the ingredients to a simmer over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved and the ingredients have had a chance to steep, about 10 minutes.
• Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool and the aromatics and ginger to infuse for 1 to 3 hours.
• Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth; discard the solids. Pour into an airtight container and store, refrigerated, up to 3 months.

Dark & Stormy (with ginger syrup)
1 serving

2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
½ oz. ginger syrup
¼ oz. lime juice
Splash of soda water
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 2: Pour the rum, ginger syrup and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then top with soda and gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.

*Champagne yeast can be found at most homebrewing supply stores.

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Peabody at Element

Thursday, May 12th, 2016



We’ve got spring fever, and it will take more than a quinine-filled G&T to cure us. The new Peabody cocktail at Element is just what the doctor ordered. Inspired by the classic South Side cocktail (which pairs gin with lemon, simple syrup and mint), The Peabody loses the mint and brings a soft floral sweetness with lavender-infused simple syrup and elderflower liqueur. It’s mildly sweet-tart, as if something as bold, bright Last Word was diffused through three layers of white muslin. Find your best floral sundress or linen suit and pair with muted spring sunshine on the Element’s rooftop patio.



Drink This Weekend Edition: Luca Wine Dinner at Annie Gunn’s

Thursday, May 5th, 2016



There aren’t many resumes as complete as Laura Catena’s. She’s a fourth-generation winemaker, holds degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities and has (literally) written the book on Argentine wine, Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina.

Catena, who will host her only U.S. wine dinner at Annie Gunn’s this Monday, May 9, is both owner-vintner of Luca Wines and managing director of her family’s Botega Catena Zapata vineyard. Here, she shares her thoughts on the growth of Argentine wine and the growing international market for malbec.

You have a family history in wine, but you pursued other careers before this one. Why did you return to the wine industry?
When I was deciding what to study, my vision was to do a profession that could help people. At that time I thought, “How can you possibly help people by making wine?” I’ve changed my mind (since then). This wine revolution has brought about great prosperity to Argentina and the region. It’s helped people have better schools and roads. I’ve gone full circle from wanting to leave the nest to making something as beautiful as wine and knowing it is an important contribution.

To what do you attribute the increased popularity of Argentine malbec?
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Argentina had this huge wave of immigration that multiplied the population by four or five times. Most immigrants were Spanish or from the Marche region in Italy. They were used to drinking European style, having wine with lunch and dinner.

My father, in the 1980s and 1990s, was a visiting scholar and saw what was going on in Napa, with people making wine as good as the French. He said, “I want to make great wine in Argentina that can compete with the best in the world.”

What is the most common misconception about Argentine wines?
For one thing, many people think that malbec just showed up. Not only is it an ancient grape, it’s the principle grape in Argentina. It’s not some kind of brand-new thing. We’ve been making since 1800s. The second thing is that malbec can be very diverse. It can be aged or blended and can taste totally different depending on where it comes from.

How do different malbecs taste?
If it’s from cool climate, it will taste more mineral with more violet-black fruit aroma. They’re more elegant than jammy (when grown in a) high, cool climate. Grown in warmer climates, malbec is syrupy with more ripe fruit aroma. They’re equally delicious but in a different way … but all malbec is aromatic and smooth.

How do you describe your Luca Wines?
I work really hard to make wines that have exuberance but are not too syrupy. I want it to be exuberant and elegant at the same time, and (I want it to) go well with a lot of different kinds of food. I’m not big on picking ideal food and wine pairings. You should go with drinking what you feel like drinking that day.

Where do you see the wine industry as a whole ,and specifically the Argentine wine industry, going in the next five to 10 years?
People will learn more about malbec and be able to taste from different regions. It’s like cheese. Once you get into cheese, you want to try different kinds of cheese. People will get into different regions of malbec. … If drinkers start asking for and buying these other varieties, places will carry them.





Drink This Weekend Edition: Beers from Logboat Brewing

Thursday, April 28th, 2016



While our local scene keeps blossoming, beer culture is growing rapidly across Missouri, and it’s producing some phenomenal breweries like Logboat Brewing Co., which launched in The Lou this month.

The Columbia, Missouri brewery opened its doors to the public in spring 2014, and in two short years, the Logboat team has earned national attention for its delicious suds. Its Mamoot Mild won a silver medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival in the English-style mild category. The following year at GABF, its Bear Hair took gold in the Belgian-style blonde or pale ale category, and Mamoot earned a bronze medal for the English-style mild once again.

If you happen to be in Columbia this summer, be sure to swing by Logboat’s tasting room, featuring a killer outdoor space and knowledgeable staff. In the meantime, get to know this brewery and the people behind it at three St. Louis area-events this weekend:

1. Thursday, April 28: Logboat tap takeover and a surprise cask release to celebrate the first St. Charles County Craft Beer Week at Mike’s Grill & Tap in O’Fallon, Missouri starting at 5 p.m.

2. Friday, April 29: Another tap takeover and a surprise cask release at Whiskey Ring on Cherokee Street starting at 4 p.m.

3. Saturday, April 30: A celebration of all things canned beer, the Global Brew Can Jam in Rock Hill features Logboat, as well as 4 Hands Brewing, Odell Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewery. This event kicks off 11 a.m. at Global Brew in Rock Hill.

Can’t make it this weekend? Keep these flagship Logboat brews stocked in the beer fridge this summer and be on the lookout for fun, seasonal releases.

1. Snapper IPA: A slightly dank aroma and a light, caramel malt backbone give way to and highlight a palate nuanced with resin, pine, citrus and stone fruit. Medium body and balance make this 7.2-percent beer incredibly crushable in the can.

2. Lookout Pale Ale: If the can art doesn’t sell it (It is the most rad can art ever.), then the perfect balance in the hops and malt will. This 5.5-percent American pale ale is refreshingly crisp, clean and citrusy with just a touch of floral.

3. Shiphead Ginger Wheat: If you’re looking for your summer patio friend, you have found it. With a light and fluffy body, this 5.2-percent beer has a touch of lemony brightness and is spiced with Peruvian ginger.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Gertrude Pine at Taste

Friday, April 22nd, 2016



With spring cocktail menus popping up like the weeds in my garden, there’s plenty of incentive to put on your good shoes and get out there. Although Taste’s spring menu will be fully unveiled in the coming weeks, stop in this weekend for a sneak peek and order the Gertrude Pine. This shaken concoction features a base of Wild Turkey 101 and Camus VS Cognac, but this is no winter holdover. The addition of velvet falernum and Don’s Mix (simple syrup infused with grapefruit juice and cinnamon) sweeten the pot just right, while lime juice gives balance.

The depth of flavor in this spring sipper comes from the Alps. Zirbenz pine liqueur has a deceivingly nondescript nose, but packs a piney punch by itself. In the capable hands of the crew at Taste, the pine liqueur gives a subtle botanical depth that rounds out the cocktail. With a light, citrusy nose, the Gertrude Pine starts a touch tart but finishes pleasantly – but not overly – sweet and spicy.



Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 roses to transition to spring

Friday, April 15th, 2016



Gorgeous weather, the return of baseball and the annual transition from heavy winter reds to light, bright roses are all signs of spring in St. Louis. Here’s why you should think – and drink – pink this spring and summer.

Simply put, rose wines incorporate some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify as red wine. These wines are made three different ways. Some are made like red wine, where the juice remains in contact with the skins to extract some color and flavor. Others are made using the saignée, or bleeding, method requires syphoning off juice intended for red wine before it extracts too much color and fermenting it. Finally, winemakers can simply blend red and white wines to produce the desired color and taste.

Roses color and flavor vary greatly is fun realm of wine to explore. Most roses are dry, but they show bright fruit flavor, and the best have an intensity and balanced acidity as well. Look for bottles from Cotes De Provence, Corsica, Tuscany, Spain and of course, California and Oregon. Here, my top three rose picks for this weekend:


1. 2015 Chateau Thivin Beaujolais Villages rose is a great bottle made from Gamay grapes that produce bright, crisp wine with flavors of strawberry, flowers and minerals. This is a very pretty, enjoyable wine perfect for an afternoon of outdoor events.
$20. Available at Cork & Rind

2. Biodynamically farmed grapes with very little skin contact give Red Car Rose of Pinot Noir a light shade of pink. This is wine with finesse, featuring pink grapefruit and cherry notes and bright acidity. Fish dishes are perfect for this delicate sipper.
$19. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton

3. There are “unicorns” in the wine world. The wines by Frank Cornelissen are such rare beauties – difficult to find, yet well worth the quest. Naturally made in Sicily on the slopes of Mount Etna, this intense wine exhibits a distinct sense of place. It is best served decanted, as it is truly unfiltered. The newest vintage will be released mid-summer; keep an eye out for one of the most interesting roses available.

Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as shop manager of Cork & Rind.

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