Drinking in pursuit of the Level 2 Sommelier Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers
The name Wind Gap is an ode to the fractures of land along the California coastline which allow fog and cool ocean air to impact vineyard sites; this estate is placed on one of six such wind gaps in the state. For this wine, the word Soif was chosen - a French word which translates to 'thirst' - and the hands-off, European style depicted in this wine is undeniable.
Subtle nuances of baking spices and blackberry dance around bold, dark fruits while tart cherry helps lay foundation on the palate.
Crushing grapes by foot, whole-cluster fermentation and the use of native yeasts are all points of pride for Wind Gap, and together they help produce vibrant wines with highly-drinkable characteristics.
It might be smart to buy more than one, just so you don’t go thirsty.
2015 Soif (SRP - $30)
4 & 1/2 swirls
Good things take time, and they often require a little digging. The folks at Lioco scour the coast of California for optimal vineyards to source their fruit, and from there a rather non-obtrusive practice is taken in getting the fruit into the bottle.
Sativa is one of their creations - its fruit sourced from Pine Mountain in the Mendocino mountains from dry-dry farmed vines with southern exposure - and it is made up of 100% Carignan grapes.
The energy in this bottle is sure to wake up your senses. With grapes hand-picked by an 86 year-old man, named Jim McCutchen, Sativa is a layered, yet focused wine with fruit attributes of blackberries, cassis, and violet and floral components on the palate. More simply, it has an uncanny resemblance to fresh blueberry pie.
100% whole cluster fermentation and foot treading are among the natural practices taken in making this wine; Lioco also cites European influences in their wine-making technique across the board. The production is rather limited but if you can get your hands on a bottle, odds are you'll remember it.
2014 Sativa (SRP - $30)
Like one might do to an actual mango, the instructions at the top of this beer are to 'roll or oscillate before opening'. From the can design to the actual flavors present in the beer, this Dagger Falls Mango IPA from Sockeye Brewing in Idaho brings out fond memories of peeling away a ripe mango and consuming down to the seed.
Barely ripe mango hangs around on the nose, while the condition of the fruit is 'just right' on the palate. The body is clean, and the flavors are juicy with a piney finish. Relatively one dimensional, the profile on the beer leans heavy on mango, but as it progresses the fruit and the hops mend together to create a mostly balanced experience.
Unlisted on the can, the 6.4% ABV is sneaky on this highly session-able.
Perhaps to no coincidence, this New England style beer by Marz Brewing could be seen as ‘a little dry’ but with the redeeming quality that at the very least you know where you stand with it from start to finish.
Into a glass Crazy Straws pours a golden hue with a big head and a heavy haze of cloudiness. Faint showings of fruit from mango notes appear on the nose but mostly the presence of hops stands out. The body is considerably clean with hints of strawberry and pine on the palate; subdued fruit takes second to the dry hops while the finish includes a slight residue of barnyard. Easily consumable and a little heavier on the alcohol, this Chicago brewed beer isn’t anything out of orbit but It sure seems like it would be ‘wicked’ fun to drink out of a colorful crazy straw.
(ABV: 7%) (Availability: rotating)
The Pacific Northwest will never be Burgundy, but it is about as close to the prized sliver of France as any wine producing region of the United States will ever be. In Dundee, Oregon, a winery by the name of Winderlea focuses on producing Pinot noir and Chardonnay in small lots with minimal intervention - sound familiar?
Winderlea's chardonnay sees a little under one year in French Oak, which allows a compromise of fruit - citrus and ripe pear - as well as a body that is creamy, round and laced with notes of toasted sweet bread, to shine. The minerality is also assertive enough to give this wine an edge.
As the shift toward new-old world styles of wine making continues to grow in the US, this wine is a prime example of what happens when that marriage is achieved.
2011 Chardonnay - (SRP - $38)
When a word like 'Consecration' is tossed onto a label, there's reason for pause. Russian River Brewery out of California releases this sour Dark Ale (aged in American oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants) in limited quantities and by season. While I wouldn't go so far as to decree this beer worthy of the veins of a holy one, it does have a few rather transformative qualities that deserve some praise.
Vinegar and sour prunes mend with underpinning notes of wood and nuts, together creating an uncanny resemblance to the ever-popular Worcestershire sauce. But, this beer has more than just a strikingly similar profile to a table condiment.
The aforementioned layers unfold to reveal cedar from a humidor and that nuttiness leans closer to the kind found in a Fino sherry. With some time in the glass, faint notes of smoke and damp earth also emerge, though the sour bite and dark fruit don't fail to hold up.
Consecration would be able to hang with some tangy, sharp cheeses or simply be enjoyed by the 'sour heads' of the beer world. Either way, it's complex and obscure and suited for any special occasion.
(ABV - 10%) (SRP - $14)
Odell's catalogue is filled with seasonal fliers and creative limited releases that are worth the gamble, but their year-round staples like Drumroll and 90 Schilling are what folks around the country have grown to know and adore.
Enter the new kid on the block. Dubbed a 'fresh grind ale', Rupture boasts freshly ground hops, which is done to fully extract the lupulin oils as they are ruptured during the process - the result is a vibrant, balanced beer that is neither hop or fruit driven.
This beer starts out with notes of white peach and grapefruit on the palate, with a clean sweep of hops and pine to round out. Pouring a light gold, this beer beckons for a glass.
Its body is lean, clean and crisp. Like the nose, the first few sips usher in notes of grapefruit; tangerine can also be found toward the back-end on the palate. Not particularly layered, the depth of this beer is rather limited but fits all of its desired flavors into one sip; hints of citrus and pine blend together to create a refreshing drinking experience.
The 6.0% alcohol is well disguised, and 'just having one' can quickly turn into two - although three is a perfect amount.
(ABV - 6.0 %) (SRP - $9.99)
Keep it coming, that's what I say. Admittedly, rose wines seldom spark some revelation or even resinate beyond the evening for me, but there are exceptions to every rule.
The land plot, located in Napa Valley, utilizes high elevation plots and the region's cool climate to extract strikingly high acid levels; ultimately that characteristic made this Keep Rose more of a thinker than just a drinker.
Sour cherry and ripe pineapples dominate the nose - among the intrinsic herbal and lavender notes - while fresh strawberries and key lime dance along the palate.
This wine calls for food, but it's the balance between rich and racy which makes it so darling.
2016 Rose (SRP - $23)
It starts with the water, and from there Colorado craft beer seems to have an edge on other states when it comes to producing consistently drinkable brews (this theory continues to be tested).
Ska Brewery, out of Durango, CO, iconizes a few of their hop-forward beers with a trio of suited men with oranges for heads. This IPA - Modus Mandrina - sits at a deceptive 6.8% abv., and can very easily go to your head if you try drinking all six in one sitting.
An enticing palate includes juicy, fruit forward notes of orange and orange peel up front, while the beer rounds out with a piney edge to keep true to its Mandrina Bavaria hop roots. That juiciness, however, isn't over-concentrated or sappy like some fruit-centric ales, and instead works with the inherent tangerine and citrus notes of these particular hops to create a balanced, and still refreshing, drinking experience.
Modus Mandrina is not everywhere, but if you can find it on the shelves this beer is worth the money.
(ABV: 6.8%) (SRP - $9.49 - we got ours on sale for $7.99)
Russian River Valley is world-renowned for its Pinot Noir, as it is stylistically unique from other Pinots around the world, yet varietally accurate and pointed. This particular wine from J Vineyards in the RRV boasts characteristics of a wine that begs for a companion - notes of deep cranberry run rampant among the elements of a wet forest floor after a good rain. The nose indicates that this wine is bright and fruit forward with notes of cola and overripe cherry. An underpinning of smokey notes pair with the mushroom quality to give this wine depth and character. Set to be drank right away, this wine could stand some time to rest and unwind a bit.
(ABV: 14.6%) - (SRP: $30) - 2015 Vintage
Literally translating to "Day of Thirst", this wine under the name of 'Jour De Soif' from the Loire Valley is an elegant example of un-filtered Cabernet Franc. Brimming with energy and complexity, this wine employs native yeasts and shines with flavors that are not bruising but rather juicy and graceful with depth and clarity.
One whiff would evoke memories of walking through a garden lush with wild berries after a rainfall - wet dirt hides below dark fruit and an herbal after note.
Tasting brings out similar elements - particularly a pinch of sour cherries and dark plum. Green pepper and thyme strike through, meanwhile.
She's a little dirty, but boy is she pretty.
While the body leans on the lighter side, faint tannins and a marked acidity are ever present. Drink it with light fare like ceviche or soft, mild cheeses. Thirst for this one, she's worth the money.
2015 Gauthier Bourgeil Jour De Soif
(SRP - $17)
In Montana, there's an actual thing called 'Shake-a-day', and it's a bar-dice game. Players put down fifty cents to play and try to roll five of a kind - the reward being a pot of money. Well, the brewers at Big Sky Brewery might have rolled a few rounds but they hit this beer right on the money.
An American style IPA, brewed with Pacific Northwest and Australian hops, this beer is far from aggressive and utilizes a clean, crisp finishing note that resembles more of a lightly hopped lager than a hop-loaded IPA. Its lean body fools one into thinking it's closer to 5.7% ABV instead of 7.5%.
Notable fruit flavors were ripe pineapple, candied peach and apricot, which revealed themselves on both the nose and the palate. A woodsy after-note rounded out the finish, but no single element of the beer was over-concentrated or too heavy-handed.
Shake-a-Day is easy drinking, full of flavor and loaded with alcohol; two is better than one.
An Alsatian sparkling wine that deploys Champagne method, this blend of Riesling and Pinot Blanc grapes creates an elegant drinking experience at a fraction of the cost of traditional Champagne. Beaming with brightness and alive with acid, the notes of green apple, toasted bread and candied fruit show from the nose to the palate. Further rounding out the palate is a defined minerality and sharpness that gives the wine structure and depth. Selected for New Years Eve and then consumed on many nights following, this easy-drinking wine deserves a bookmark in the catalogue and is recommended for any wine drinker looking to get the most out of their money.