Archive for September, 2009

Bourbon Heritage Month

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

As we move into October, we say good-bye to Bourbon Heritage Month. On August 29, 2007 the Kentucky Board of Tourism announced that the US Senate had approved the measure to designate September ‘Bourbon Heritage Month.’ Well, what exactly does this mean? Basically, it is a month long celebration of ‘America’s Native Spirit’, culminating in the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown. It’s also a damn good excuse to drink bourbon, talk about bourbon, and learn about all the culture, people, and history that surround the spirit.

So, what is bourbon? In order to be called bourbon, a spirit has to meet the following requirements:
(1) The primary ingredient must be corn (at least 51%)
(2) Must be distilled at no greater than 160 Proof
(3) Only new, charred, white oak barrels should be used for aging
(4) Be aged at least two years to be called a straight bourbon whiskey
(5) The spirit must go into the barrel at no more than 125 Proof
(6) Only water can be added to adjust the Bourbon to the appropriate bottling strength…nothing else.

Also, while bourbon is a distinctly American spirit, it is not necessarily strictly Kentuckian. (Is that a real word?) Although most bourbon is made at one of the few active distilleries in Kentucky, it doesn’t HAVE to be in order to be called bourbon. So what really makes bourbon distinctive from other types of whiskies — say Rye, Scotch, or Irish Whiskey — is the mash bill (i.e. a majority corn, with a proportion of malted barley and wheat OR rye), and the barreling (new, charred white oak barrels). Kentucky bourbon also traditionally uses column stills versus pot stills (with the exception of Woodford Reserve), and this contributes to the flavor as well.

But, what makes one bourbon unique from another? There are a number of factors that will contribute to a different taste, feel, and smell from one bourbon to the next. Here is a — by no means comprehensive — list of some of the factors that differentiate bourbons. It is helpful to know, if only to pinpoint why you like a particular bourbon, and help you to find other bourbons that you will like!

(1) The proof. Bourbons will run the gamut from 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume) to 140+ proof. Find out what proof you like. You can always add a bit of water or an ice cube to get down to a desired proof, but you can’t boost one that’s too low.

(2) The distillery. You will certainly get general deviations from one distillery to the next (type of still, location of warehouses, etc.), though people are always surprised by how many different expressions of bourbon can come out of the one distillery as well. Pappy Van Winkle and Buffalo Trace are both distilled at the Trace distillery; Four Roses distills Bulleit bourbon; Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden all come out of the Jim Beam distillery. More important than the actual distillery are the choices that the distiller is making…

(3) The small grain. Bourbon is made of a majority corn, a percentage of malted barley, and then either rye OR wheat. The rye or wheat in a bourbon is referred to as the ‘small grain’, and whether a bourbon has wheat or rye for its small grain often makes a big difference in terms of flavor profile. Bourbons with rye as the small grain (the more common variation) tend to be spicier and more robust, while ‘wheated bourbons’ (as bourbons with wheat as the small grain are called) tend to be sweeter and softer. These are, of course, generalizations that don’t always hold true, but a good jumping off point. Some of the most famous wheated bourbons are Maker’s Mark, Pappy Van Winkle, and Weller.

(4) The mashbill. Each distillery has its own unique mashbill, which is the percentage of the corn, malted barley, and small grain in the mash. The proportion of the grains will make a difference in the flavor profile: a high percentage of corn tends to make a bourbon sweet and round; rye can add spice and body; wheat can add softness and delicacy; and malted barley has its own unique grain flavor profile that can take center stage or fade in the background. Bulleit, for example, proudly markets itself as having the most amount of rye of any bourbon on the market.

(5) The age. It is an interesting (and fun!) experiment to run through the different age statements of the same bourbon. Take Pappy Van Winkle, for example. If you wanted to, you could taste the 10 year (at two different proofs), the 12 year, the 15 year, the 20 year, and the 23 year all right next to each other. You will see, as a bourbon ages, it softens out a bit. The edges round, the spice recedes, and secondary nuances and flavors emerge in their place. Dried fruit. Tobacco. Leather. Most people find that they like bourbon around a certain age. For some people, the older the better. Others might like a bit younger bourbon.

Stop by your local LUSH and taste some bourbons with us. Find a new favorite. We celebrate bourbon every month of the year.

Posted by Jane.

The Wizards of OZ

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Thirsting for Aussie wine and wildly exciting times at your favorite wine shop?  Well, we have the Wizards on call and slated to raise a ruckus at LUSH.  Drink up and sip with us and a handful of the world famous winemakers at a complimentary wine tasting and edumacation in all things fermented from Down Under.  Choose your LUSH location and your particular yummy, juicy poison…luscious refreshment from Longview Vineyard and racy, spikey wine from Pikes…OR…quirky, funky Hay Shed Hill with classics done with a twist and the circus freaks of Vinaceous with a side of prim and proper Maude.

WEDNESDAY, September 23rd, 2009

6-8pm

University Village: 1257 South Halsted [Peter Bentley of Pikes and Mike Saturno of Longview].  RSVP – 312.738.1900, erin@lushwineandspirits.com

AND

Roscoe Village:  2232 West Roscoe [Michael Kerrigan of Vinaceous/Hay Shed Hill and Dan Dineen of Maude].  RSVP – 773.281.8888, rachel@lushwineandspirits.com

“Mine Eyes do Smell Onions” – OR – Rogue Valley Wine

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

What a great line. Lafew, an emissary of the King of France, says these words in a tender moment at the end of Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well. Lafew, a rather rigid and impersonal sort, shows his soft-side (as well as his desire to hide said side), by blaming his tears on onions. This line also displays the culinary and gustatory thread through many of Shakespeare’s plays: from [spoiler alert!] Tamora eating her own sons baked in a pie in Titus Andronicus to the illusory feast of the sprites in The Tempest.

Stick with me: I’m getting to the part about wine. For me, the link between food and Shakespeare has always gone beyond the text. Every year, no matter on what corners of the earth we might be, my family meets to spend a few days together at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. We hunker down and cram many plays into few days (9 plays in 5 days this time!), and spend the rest of the time strolling around town, cooking together, and going out to eat.

This trip, I made it a special point to try some of the locally made wines — not from Willamette Valley, further north in Oregon, but from the Southern wine growing regions: Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley, Umpqua Valley. Southern Oregon is much hotter than Willamette, meaning our thin-skinned friend Pinot Noir cannot survive here. Instead, I saw a lot of Rhone grape varieties, as well as a spattering of Spanish, Italian, and Alsatian grapes.

For our second dinner in town, we decided to stay in and cook at the little historic cottage we were staying in (I know, it was a very precious week). The menu: mixed green salad with tomatoes, cucumber, garbanzo beans, and balsamic; watermelon and cantaloupe salad with feta cheese, red onions, kalamata olives, lime, and balsamic (a Mitch Einhorn specialty); and pesto-lemon chicken.

After an unnecessarily long but delightful period of deliberation  in the local wine store, I selected a few wines. The first sounded too interesting to pass up: a DRY Gewurztraminer from the Rogue Valley. I’m a sucker for Alsatian grapes, especially when done in a dry style, and the 2006 Foris Gewurztraminer did not disappoint. Not quite as dry as advertised, with a touch of sweetness of the front palate. Aromatically fascinating, with notes of beeswax, paraffin, rose petals, and lychee that continue on the palate. The characteristic Gewurz spiciness was tempered by a fresh floral note. A great pairing with the watermelon salad, especially against the sweet/spicy red onions (which, yes, were certainly smelled by my eyes).

Knowing fully that my parents would not care for a Gewurztraminer, no matter how dry it claimed to be, I had to get a fuller, drier, lower-acid white with a touch of oak on it. Bingo! A Rhone-style white from the Applegate Valley, the 2008 Cowhorn ‘Spiral 36′ is a blend of Viognier (35%), Marsanne (30%), and Roussanne (35%), and is certified biodynamic to boot. Plump, slightly oily and round, with subtle floral notes, some nice apricot and peach flavors, and an undercurrent of vanilla cream. The parents loved it, and it went smashingly with the food.

The last wine had to be red, and trying to get a lighter red from Southern Oregon was not proving to be an easy task. A Grenache caught my eye, but I was leary: warm-weather Grenache can sometimes be a flabby, light-but-lifeless fruit bomb with way too much alcohol. This one, however, only had 13% (low for both the grape and region), so I decided to give the 2007 Boedecker Grenache from the Rogue Valley a whirl.

This is one of the drier, lighter, more Pinot-esque New World Grenaches I’ve had. Sweet/tart black cherries and blackberry fruit on a lean, lithe palate. Lilacs and a spicy element (white pepper? clove?) filled out the palate. Pretty, balanced, and interesting. A perfect choice.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality and value of wines from Southern Oregon. Unfortunately, because most of its wineries are so low production, we don’t see too many in Illinois. LUSH has carried wines from Abacela and Brandborg (two of the regions larger wineries), but we don’t routinelly taste many Southern Oregon wines. I’m hoping this state of affairs will change, but until then, I will have to be contented with the sense memory of chopping red onions, eyes brimming with tears, and sipping on some Southern Oregon Gewurz. Shakespeare on the brain; Rogue Valley on the tongue.

Posted by Jane.

Wine Tasting: Robert Craig 9/17/09

Friday, September 11th, 2009

This just in, Pure Wine Co is bringing in Mr. Robert Craig, the vintner himself, to schmooze at Lush on Roscoe.  Kick it with a real life winemaker.  Based in Napa Valley, this gentleman crafts some serious Cabernet from Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain and the like…as well as Chardonnay from Durrell.  We will be accepting paid pre-orders at the tasting.  Come thirsty!

Thursday , September 9th, 2009

6-8pm

Roscoe Village LUSH : 2232 West Roscoe, Chicago, IL  773-281-8888.

Free!  However, we very much appreciate your kind consideration with a prior RSVP.  rachel@lushwineandspirits.com

Swan Creek Chef Auction

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Recently, a local farmer suffered the tragedy of having his truck and all his produce burst into fire.  To help him out, 15 Chicago chefs donated a private, in-home dinner to an online auction on Twitter.  All proceeds directly benefit Swan Creek Farms and help the farmer to get back on the streets delivering delicious goods to our favorite dining establishments.

It just so happens that Carrie and Joe Becker bid on the dinner with Chris Pandel of The Bristol.  And, it just so happens that Carrie and Joe Becker are dear friends of the Lushes.  Ms. Erin, Ms. Jane, and Ms. Rachel were graciously extended an invitation to join in the dining and drinking extravaganza.  Of course, it was BYOB(more…)

Random Snippets: Edition #4

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

by Rachel

Just got word…Rioja, Spain will allow bottlings of Chardonnay to be labeled as Rioja beginning with the 2010 vintage.

Mission Ploussard: Drink it.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

by Rachel

Get your WINE GEEK on: Grape of mystery…
Ploussard is on my mind. One of the lushes has requested a number of specific bottles, from a specific producer…a bottle she drank at a restaurant in New York City. So, I consider it a personal mission to track this wine down.

-2007 Philippe Bornard ‘Point Barre’, Arbois Pupillin, Jura, France-

So, I do know that Jura, France is a fairly small wine region 80 kilometers east of Burgundy, tucked into the Alps, just outside of Switzerland. Other than that, I have sipped on Chardonnay from Arbois, the town on the north side of the Jura wine region, as we currently offer a delicious bottling by Rijckaert. Super tasty. But, I digress. This intriguing and complex little place apparently only grows Chardonnay and Savagnin as the official white grapes and Ploussard/Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir as the official red grapes. And, vin Jaune, a wine very similar to Sherry, is another bizarro traditional libation. Wha? Labeling is a bit wonky, too, but I will not accost you with nitty gritty details, but do inquire if you would like more details.

Every so often, us Lushes will stumble upon a grape that we have never previously tasted, and very rarely something we have not heard of, but it’s not everyday that the complete trifecta of obscure, and tiny, wine region jumps us on knowing the grapes and style of wines, too. Back to my focus, the elusive Ploussard…red wines, vinified as such, are often pale enough and labeled as if they were pink. Yep, confusing. The soils range from limestone to clay and marl, the gently rolling Jura hills begin reaching taller into the Alps. The cool climate produces bouncy, lightly tinted, but fairly high acid, tannic reds. The reds are aged in large, old oak foudres and often bottled and released prior to the whites. Ploussard, although I have never tasted and therefore can’t really personally attest to this, but trust the tasting notes of those familiar with the region and the grape, tends to taste of raspberry or red currant, and smoke, and may show oxidized characteristics. And, apparently, the wine pairs smashingly well with charcuterie and smoked sausage.

Basically, I have now discovered that at least one bottling of Ploussard from Arbois lurks in Chicago, but not the label I am searching for and I still have yet to taste this curious beast. So, bring it on! Can you assist with my obssession?! I want.

Drinking at Work: Israel

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Happy Thursday, y’all! To celebrate the approaching weekend (and my victory over a tower of boxes), we’re popping open a few bottles. Stacking, cleaning, sniffing, slurping…it’s all in a day’s work at LUSH.

But, what to open? Something eccentric…something not often had…something, perhaps, WHITE, to juice what feels like the last days of summer…aha, perfect! Two new whites from ISRAEL. These beauties have just landed in the country and have promptly found a home at LUSH, friend to all wines novel, obscure, and delicious.

Chilled and opened: the 2008 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Tulip Winery ‘White Tulip’. The former is from Galilee, in the high basalt land of the northern Golan. Fresh cut grass and white grapefruit on the nose, with a light, bright body. Only 11.4% alcohol, which makes me happy (and would make me even happier after the second glass). A delightful wine.

The ‘White Tulip’ is a blend of 60% Gewurztraminer and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, from the upper Galilee. Floral and earthy on the nose. Like muddy lilacs. Maybe with a little bit of honey and pear skin. A little prickly acid on the front palate that mellows out. Sweet spices on the mid palate (Cardamom? Cinnamon?) that dry out on the back. Very clean, but lingers in the upper reaches of the mouth. Delicious!

Posted by Jane.