Friday, April 29, 2016

Trader Joe's $4 Emma Pearl Pinot Noir returns!

Famous Last words: I was at a Hillary Fund Raiser this week and they were pouring it.

"There is too much fruit and too much alcohol to be an old school Pinot Noir, but the Emma Pearl does drink well. At 5 bottles for $20, the Emma Pearl would make an outrageously good party wine, if you have a wedding or a reunion coming and want to impress on the cheap, it is hard to do better. When TJ’s sells out of the Emma Pearl Pinot, it is gone for good, it will not be available at this price again"
Clever Girl Reviews by Erin

 "I don’t drink a lot of red wine in the summer, but we’ve had some dips in the normal temperatures enough for me to start craving it again. The Emma Pearl 2013 Pinot Noir is light bodied and a nice easy wine for a BBQ or simple dishes. At first I thought the wine was off like it had gotten too hot and turned vinegary. Turns out it was just a little to chilled and it got deeper and plusher once it warmed up some.

The Emma Pearl 2013 Pinot Noir  is 14.5% ABV so you might want to reserve this one for the weekend. We chilled this wine down to 55 degrees, but it showed better slightly warmer. We used standard red wine glasses for tasting and our trusty Vinturi to make sure it was ready to drink right away. When I opened the bottle I got a massive note of chocolate and raspberry. The wine is a dark violet with a light red brick rim."

 Full Review at this link:

Tasting Notes
Name: Emma Pearl
Vintage: 2014
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Region: California

A red wine. Clear and bright with medium intensity. Deep ruby color at the core graduating evenly to crimson at the margins (translucent at the core). Very long legs, which is in line with the 14.5% alcohol listed on the bottle.
On the nose: Clean and no issues. When I opened the bottle, poured and smelled straight away the first thing that hits is the alcohol, almost to the point of being over bearing. It is a medium (-) intensity wine . Cherry with a hint of raspberry and cranberry. Definitely appears young on the nose and lacks some complexity. Some hint of clove and minerality. Smells a little like rain on cement. I also get a little orange peel – like something bitter (almost like smelling the remnants of your glass of Cointreau the next day).
On the palate: Dry. Lively cherry/strawberry with a hint of smoke. Some oak coming through but not overbearing. Medium to Medium (+) tannin levels and and medium (+) alcohol, which detracts from the smoothness usually associated with a lot of Pinots. Medium (-) body and and medium to medium (-) intensity. It lacks balance – a quick blast of fruit but then lacks depth. Short to medium (-) on the finish, although, I do get a little (and I mean a little) licorice/aniseed.
Overall observations: reasonably drinkable. Has a good amount of fruit up front. I would probably pair this wine with pork or something with a fairly high fat content. Would work fairly well with charcuterie. I think it is reasonable, given the price but $4.00 would be pushing the outer limits of this wine.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dewar's Highlander Honey: Why Just Adding Honey to Scotch Whiskey Sounds Like a Good Concept.

 When someone offered me a taste of Dewar's Highlander Honey, I thought I was tasting another version of a traditional, blended Scotch Whiskey. I was wrong: I was wondering into a minor controversy among traditional Scotch drinkers. Nothing is simple in the world of Scotch drinkers.

"The market for flavored whiskey has seen some significant growth and attention recently with a number of products of varying quality hitting the market. Many of these flavored products have come from American Whiskey producers including Tennessee Honey from Jack Daniel’s, Red Stag from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey American Honey, and Fireball from Buffalo Trace.
Honey is one of the flavors that is naturally apparent in some whiskeys: it comes through the interaction of the spirit with the barrel, which is also where you get vanilla, caramel, and many of the spices in whiskey like cinnamon. Honey is a natural choice for spirit companies when they’re looking at adding flavors to their whiskey.Combining malt whiskey along with honey and other flavorings isn’t anything new – Drambuie has been doing this in the liqueur space since the 1800’s. "

 So?  What went wrong?

"While there are many honey and whiskey options on the market, Dewar’s Highlander Honey is the very first modern honey flavored whisky to come out of Scotland. Whisky in Scotland is highly regulated and even though there’s a historical basis for flavored Scottish whisky, it isn’t something we’ve seen on the modern market.  This is one of the reasons why there was a bit of a stink around the announcement and release of Dewar’s Highlander Honey from the Scotch Whisky Association (notice that whisky isn’t in the name). The final labeling reads like a complex legal explanation: “Dewar’s Highlander Honey – Dewar’s blended scotch whisky infused with natural flavors, filtered through oak cask wood.” The whisky in the Dewar’s Highland Honey is Dewar’s White Label, a blended scotch featuring up to 40 different malt and grain whiskies, and flavored with honey from Aberfeldy, Scotland, as well as a few undisclosed “natural flavors.”
Dewar’s Highlander Honey (40% / 80 Proof, $23.99) – still smells very much like Dewar’s White Label. The nose has light lemon, orange, peach, malt grain, and honey with an undercurrent of oak. The notes in the nose aren’t very well integrated and there’s a slight artificiality to it. The entry is very flavorful, leading with the classic bright citrus that is a hallmark of Dewars, with an undercurrent of lush honey flavor balanced by a nice oak spice, orange, and peach. Things get kind of hot and spicy in the midpalate where Dewar’s shows off its youth and grain whiskey content. It’s this midpalate that’s always turned me off from Dewar’s, and the addition of the honey and flavors don’t really mitigate it much. The extra oak in the equation actually serves to enhance the spirit’s existing heat. The finish is medium and dry with the lemon and honey notes carrying on. While the finish starts in an interesting space, it ends poorly as the honey dissipates and the impact of the young whiskey really is apparent."

 Look at the label closely by clicking on the label photo above.
 What angers Scotch Drinkers is that it is NOT Scotch.

"Dewar’s Highlander Honey. Just fucking don’t. Seriously. I will write this whole review, and tell you all about this war crime of a spirit drink, and their process, and their website, and what we thought it tastes like, and all the rest of it, but it’s extremely important that you never fucking drink or buy this. Not even, don’t. Do fucking not.  We last saw Dewar’s during the post-holidays cheap-off, where we hated their blend right in its face and it lost badly in the subsequent BattleScotch! Royale.  Maybe we just don’t like Dewar’s, we didn’t really like Aberfeldy either, so at least we’re consistent. Or Dewar’s is. Or we both are. Whatever."  ..."And that’s where we start to truly have issues with these flavoured whiskies. It’s not sobbishness about the idea of flavouring whisky. It’s that they’re not flavoured with anything but chemicals. They’re pop. They’re junk. No judgement, but know what you’re drinking, right? Looking up the ingredients of natural flavouring sends you into the tinfoil-hat-wearing end of the internet with suggestions of everything from alcohols and esters etc to MSG and aspartame. And the category “artificial flavours” might as well say “anything”. Honey is the last ingredient on the list, which I think means legally it only had to be seen by a woman named Honey on its way out of the building." ... "

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wine Color: You’ll never look at a glass of wine the same way


Beyond Red, White and Rosé: Wine Color Decoded

Much can be gleaned from a glance at a wine, including its age, texture, alcohol level and sometimes grape varietal. You’ll never look at a glass of wine the same way

 "The most basic fact about a wine is, of course, its color: red, white or rosé. But a red wine isn’t just red. It can be crimson, ruby, garnet or cherry. Sometimes it’s even a bit brown or orange. A white wine is never truly white. It may be almost colorless, gold, slightly green or yellow. Rosé wine comes in a great range of color, from pale rose to salmon, peach, even vivid pink."   Lettie Teague

I highly recommend reading Teague's WSJ column on Wine, and this is a good example of why.
If you are serious about wine appreciation, color is a good start. Read more at the link above. Watch more at the link below.

See wine videos and more from Off Duty at Email Lettie at 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Well, Texas remains a RED GOP state. Time to celebrate. Time to to regroup. Time to Rock and Rye.

Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye (42% ABV / 84 Proof, $28.99)  is made by macerating six year old straight rye whiskey with lemon, grapefruit, and orange peels, rock candy, honey, and horehound. The bright citrus of Slow & Low leaps out in the nose with the orange and lemon leading the pack. This citrus is well integrated with the rye note which reads both as spicy and slightly floral. The horehound gives the nose a subtle earthiness which helps bring all the other elements together. The entry is a lot less sweet and and a lot more spicy than we expected from a Rock and Rye

Read more : http: //

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Busch Signature Copper Lager : "A pretty good beer... I believe I have found my new go to beer."

"Today I’m beer slumming. I was caught unprepared and far from a decent beer emporium. So I stopped by a neighborhood corner store and perused the single bottle selection. I didn’t want to go with a Bud Light, or Miller Lite as I’ve had those many times before. There were ample options of malt liquors including 40oz bottles, which I hadn’t seen since my college days. After 5 minutes of searching, which in that store full of regulars made me stick out like even more of a sore thumb, I decided I would have to settle for a Bud Light after all. Then I saw it, a Busch Signature Copper Lager. It’s a beer I have never tried before, it has a higher alcohol content than the other beers and most importantly for today was 20 cents cheaper. I grabbed it, paid with the $2 cash I had on hand which is quite rare and even got some change back. I now had a 25oz can of beer like substance to enjoy while sitting outside and reading a book, or as it turned out writing up this review." 

This is how Beer Blogger Brandon Fischer begins his blog post experience with the beer that I picked up this afternoon on the way home from the grocery store on a hot, dog day in Texas.

I had stopped at my local 7-11 to fill the gas tank, and decided to go inside because I was wanting to get a single can of Blue Moon Belgian White. I first tired this beer after the Obama Beer Summit at the White House: I liked it. In New Jersey last year I had it again in a chilled glass schooner with an Orange Slice, which actually improved the favor of the beer. And recently at one of the local Texas Democratic Fund raisers, I pulled a random can of beer out of a iced tub of mixed beers and rediscovered the pleasure of Blue Moon Belgian White beer on a hot Texas evening. But I was not having any luck finding anything but $10 six packs in bottles in stores. What I found in the beer cooler of my local 7-11 was a new cheap beer favorite.

Busch is what I associate with a very  bitter brew that my father favored in the Summers of my childhood, not something that I wanted to drink again. The Busch Signature Copper Lager  in a 24 oz. tall boy stuck out a like a gold tooth among all the blue and silver cans of Busch and Budweiser singles. Its orange/yellow  color reminded me of how Blue Moon looks in the glass, so I picked it up and a quart of whole milk that I forgot at the store earlier. I was bit surprised that it only cost $1.99 when it rang up.

At this point my  shared shopping experience for  Busch Signature Copper Lager diverges from that of Mr. Fischer. So, let me find a different blog reference. At the top of any Google search on beers is

BeerAdvocate (BA) "a global, grassroots network, powered by an independent community of beer enthusiasts and industry professionals who are dedicated to supporting and promoting beer. Based in Boston, BA was founded in 1996 by the Alström Brothers, Jason & Todd, who provide the site as a free resource to ...

Wake the masses to better beer options.
Give beer consumers a voice.
Empower them to learn, share, and advocate.
Rally to support the beer industry.
Put the Respect back into Beer.

"Respect Beer." is their motto.
Here is the collective wisdom of their contributor evaluations of Busch Signature Copper Lager

 Let me quote a fellow Texan off the list: wejohnsn Texas
3.55/5   rDev +12.3%
           Look: 4 | Smell: 3 | Taste: 3.5 | Feel: 3.75 | Overall: 4

Big surprise here. I had been looking for something between a mild IPA and a cheap lager. This is it. darker in color than expected and the taste was light enough to refresh but strong enough to wake up my taste buds. Poured into a 16 oz mixing glass from a can. $4.99 for a six pack and more alcohol than most cheap American lagers. tastes better than Budweiser, Miller and the value menu brews. looks like a beer instead of light straw stained water.

Good job with this one: at room temp tastes bland but cold it's really good!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jameson vs Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Having tried both last week, and coming to conclusion I liked the taste of Bushmills better; I wondered what is the difference between the two? And, I found a great bit of whiskey history from Jeffrey Morgenthaler who writes on Bartending and Mixology from Portland, Maine on his blog "Ask Your Bartender" at the link below.
"My South Side Irish Chicago Dad always told me that Jameson was the Catholic whisky and that Bushmills was the whiskey made by “the damn Protestants”. Now this character I met at the bar is trying to tell me it’s the other way around. Help! Who do I believe, the man who raised me, or some drunk I met in a bar? You can see why I am confused."

I was wondering when someone would ask this question. The truth of the matter is, the age-old faux-pas of ordering Bushmills for fear of supporting English aggression and offending the Republic of Ireland is about as Irish as corned beef – which is to say, not very Irish at all but rather Irish-American (Sorry, kids, corned beef is a Jewish invention).

Anyway, both of your sources are wrong, but at least your father got the order right. The widely-accepted Irish-American version is that Jameson is Catholic whiskey and Bushmills is Protestant whiskey. But that’s merely based on geography: Bushmills is from Northern Ireland (a predominantly Protestant region) and Jameson is from Cork – Catholic country. Jameson was pretty much founded in 1780 when John Jameson – a Scottish guy – purchased the Bow Street Distillery, which at the time was one of the biggest distilleries in Ireland. Now, it’s important to note that the Scottish Reformation occurred in 1560, so odds are in favor of the founder of the Jameson distillery, being Scottish, was a damn Protestant. Bushmills, on the other hand, was officially licensed in 1608 by King James I (of Bible fame) and despite of its location deep in the heart of Protestant country (and this next bit is straight from my local Bushmills rep, so take it or leave it) has a Catholic as a master distiller. According to everyone I’ve spoken with on the subject, you only really find this debate in the States, where Irish-American support of the Republic can sometimes be blind and often fueled by the very product we’re speaking of. But none of it means much, anyway: both distilleries are owned by huge international entities: Jameson by French liquor conglomerate Pernod-Ricard, and Bushmills by the English firm Diageo. As for my preference, I tend to like the lighter Bushmills as it’s the first Irish whiskey I discovered years ago, and I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of Jameson from time to time. But my personal preference is Redbreast, a twelve-year pot still Irish whiskey produced at the Old Midleton Distillery and a real delight to sip while enjoying a late-night Irish breakfast of sausage, egg, pudding and soda bread. Delicious.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The time has come to buy the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2012 at its lowest price and greatest favor at your local store...

Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2012: Affordable Wine at its best age that is Good for You!

  At $8 a bottle at my local Tom Thumb in Dallas, Texas: This is a real wine value for Texas Democratic gatherings this month....

I liked the Cheapskate Wine Review of this wine...

      "Smoking Loon, it appears, is sort of the Kevin Bacon of the wine world-you know-the game where you can get from anyone to Kevin Bacon in less than five moves. Looking into the family tree of the Smoking Loon brand, it quickly becomes apparent that, in moving up from the roots of the tree, the trunk twists and divides and vees, and the branches go out in many directions. Smoking Loon is the sibling, or half-brother, or cousin of lots of other labels. Its produced by Don Sebastiani and Sons, which also makes Pepperwood Grove, and The Crusher, which I’ve seen on shelves, and a few others I’ve not seen. The company came to be when Samuele Sebastiani, who emigrated from Tuscany to the U.S. in the late 1800′s made his way to Sonoma and started a winery making mostly bulk wine. In the 1940′s, they focused on their own name brand affordable wines. In the 1980′s, with patriarch Samuele’s grandson Don, a former California assemblyman, now at the helm, they grew into an eight million case annual behemoth through a partnership called Cecchetti-Sebastiani Cellar. That companie’s labels include Vendange, Nathanson Creek, and others, plus the Turner Road Winery. All that was sold off to what it is now Constellation, and Sebastiani again became a family owned and run winery in Sonoma. Strangely, the Sebastiani label on wines I see on Store shelves, is not part of Don Sebastiani and Sons, but is owned by Foley Family wines. Their portfolio of around 10 labels, Don and Sons lineup of around 8 names, the Turner Road names, plus their adoptive Constellation cousins make this a nearly infinite spider web of connections. Like Kevin Bacon."

   "Ok, ok., the wine….lighter in color than some, more transparent-typical of Pinot Noir. Reddish, not deep, dark violet. Also light on the tongue. Not without any tannin, but no astringency or bite. Fruity. A wine cliché, which I try like Anthrax to avoid, is “fruit-forward” but that’s the words that come to mind here. Berries. A little spiciness. Very enjoyable. Certain foods scream for Pinot Noir-Salmon, Turkey, the other white meat, grilled tuna. The Smoking Loon makes an excellent candidate. And you can connect it to Kevin Bacon in five steps."  READ MORE REVIEWS of affordable wines at Cheapskates Wine Review: