Of all the world’s wine producing regions, one that has seen some of the most excitement and innovation in recent years is Languedoc-Rousillon in the south of France. The single largest wine-producing region in the world, it stretches along the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border to Provence. Vineyards were planted in the area by Greek settlers as far back as the fifth century BC. Known for high-quality wines for most of its history, in the late 19th century the region became a source for cheap, mass-produced wines. However, Languedoc-Rousillon has recently seen a return to the greatness it formerly enjoyed.
The grapes featured in the wines of this region are much the same as those in another famous region of southern France, the Cotes du Rhone. Grenache, carignan, syrah, and mourvedre are the primary reds, while viognier, chardonnay, roussane, marsanne, and picpoul are some of the most common whites. Chenin blanc and mauzac are also used (along with chardonnay) in the sparkling wines. In face the production of sparkling wines here predates that of its famous cousin Champagne.
Here are a few wines to look for: the 2011 Abbaye Sylva Plana ($25.99) from Faugeres features a medium body with flavors of sweet berries, pepper, and bay leaf. From the Cotes du Rousillon, the 2009 Les Dentelles by Thunevin-Calvet ($39.99) has notes of licorice, plum, chocolate, and violets. Another great value from the Cotes du Rousillon is the 2011 George by Domaine Puig-Parahy ($19.99) with flavors of black tea, blueberry, and a pronounced mineral character. Another favorite is the 2011 L’Equilibre from Villa Symposia ($19.99). This wine has a great savory quality with sage, juniper, dark cherry, and black raspberry.
And, now is the perfect time to stock up on your favorite French wines and try some new ones as well. For the month of October, all French wines are 20% off when you mix or match six or more bottles. See you soon!
Like many Texans, I am a big fan of tequila. Whether in cocktails or sipped neat, the complexity of this noble spirit embodies the flavors of the Southwest. However, there are a number of factors that have made the production of high-quality tequila problematic in the last couple of decades.
Part of this problem lies in the nature of the agave plant itself. The agave plant takes from six to ten years or more to reach maturity. This means that tequila producers must gauge how much agave they need years in advance. Plant too few agave plants and there is a shortage. However, plant too much and there is a glut of agave on the market. Too much agave, and it can cost more to harvest the plant than can be recouped by making tequila. This is especially problematic for small producers.
Another issue caused by the mass planting of agave is one that is seen in other mass-produced crops: the problem of large-scale monoculture. Since real tequila can by law only be produced from 100% blue agave, entire agave plantations are often planted with clones of the same plant. This leaves them dangerously susceptible to disease and infestation.
Also problematic part of the equation is economic. Traditionally, agave is harvested by highly skilled workers known as jimadors. This is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Economic factors have caused many of these jimadors to migrate north looking for more profitable endeavors. Their traditions are slowly being lost. This may be the saddest problem of all.
So, what can we a consumers do to combat these issues? This is definitely a thorny question. Above all, insist on pure agave tequila and avoid mixto tequilas that can be produced from other agricultural products. It’s up to all of us to preserve this classic spirit for the generations to come!
These days in Texas, the margarita is the cocktail that rules the summer. But there is another spirit that epitomizes summertime and beach culture dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. Pioneered by the restaurant concepts of Donn “The Beachcomber” Beach in Hollywood and “Trader” Vic Bergeron in Oakland, the Tiki concept really took off when servicemen came home from the Pacific after World War II. Beach and Bergeron’s restaurants featured Polynesian food and décor along with rum and juice cocktails that appealed to the Hollywood crowd and spawned countless imitators.
If any cocktail epitomizes Tiki, it is the Mai Tai. Both Beach and Bergeron have laid claim to this beverage, but there is no doubt that it is delicious! Over the years, this classic has grown to include more and more ingredients but sticking to a simple recipe yields the best results. Start with 1.5oz aged rum. Add ½ oz overproof white rum, 1/2oz orange curacao, ½ oz orgeat syrup (an almond syrup that is essential), and ½ oz lime juice (there is no substitute for fresh squeezed). Shake and strain into a tiki mug (or Collins glass) filled with crushed ice. Then, float a healthy pour of blackstrap rum. Garnish with mint sprig, lime wedge, and sugar cane stick for the real deal.
So this summer, consider going Caribbean/Hawaiian style and reach for the rum shelf. Compared to other spirits, high quality rums represent great value. Enjoy on the rocks or blend into Tiki drinks to perfect your next poolside or lakeside party! For more TIKI, visit us at Twin Liquors the first week of August for our Tiki Week featuring Tiki 101, Recipes and More!!
It’s summer. It’s Texas. It’s hot. You need something cold. You need something crisp and refreshing. You need a glass of white wine! But instead of reaching for that same old sauvignon blanc or chardonnay (as delicious as they are), try picking up something fresh and new to you.
There is a whole world of wine choices out there, so where to begin? How about a Picpoul de Pinet from the South of France? Hailing from the Languedoc region along the Mediterranean coast, the picpoul grape produces crisp, clean, citrusy wines that are the perfect pairing for oysters or other light seafood. Try the Domaine St. Anne Picpoul de Pinet ($12.99).
Moving west across Spain along the northern border of Portugal, we come to Monterrei. One of the indigenous grapes of the region which has recently seen a revival is godello. A bit richer than sauvignon blanc but lighter than chardonnay, the godello grape produces wines which are a great fit with grilled chicken or pork chops (perhaps with a mild chimichurri. Look for Atalaya Do Mar, which is aged for 2 months sur lie and features flavors of melon and slate with spicy notes ($12.99)
Feeling a little more exotic? Pick up a chenin blanc from South Africa. Chenin blanc can be made in styles ranging from dessert-sweet to bone-dry. For summertime, I like something dry but with lots of ripe fruit. The Riebeek Cellars Chenin Blanc ($11.99) from the Swartland region is packed with tropical flavors, but is balanced by a crisp, vibrant acidity. Enjoy with grilled mahi-mahi with a mango salsa.
So for your next picnic, dinner on the patio, or just an afternoon by the pool, get away from the same old-same old and go exploring! There’s more great wine out there than there’s ever been before.
If you are a fan of locally produced whiskies, then you are living at the perfect time. In the last few years Texas distillers have made their mark on the world stage by producing excellent spirits of all kinds. From the Red River to the Rio Grande, our state has become a whiskey lover’s paradise!
The man who deserves a lot of the credit for the Texas spirits revolution is Dan Garrison of Garrison Brothers Bourbon. From the start, Garrison has championed the “grain-to-glass” concept. They use Texas-grown corn, distilled in Hye, TX, and age the whiskey for two years in oak barrels. It makes for a rich, full-bodied whiskey with flavors of nutmeg, butterscotch, and vanilla with a long, smooth, buttery finish. This is definitely a whiskey to drink straight or on the rocks.
Herman Marshall is another fantastic distillery operating out of Garland, TX. Like Garrison Brothers, Herman Marshall makes their whiskey from scratch. They produce a bourbon, a rye, and recently introduced a single-malt expression. In 2013, their bourbon garnered a silver medal and 93 point rating from the American Distilling Institute. It features warm, creamy vanilla and dried fruits with nutty components and a long finish.
And right here in Dripping Springs Swift Single Malt Whiskey is rapidly becoming a Texas favorite. Nick and Amanda Swift spent a lot of time in Scotland in order to bring that nation’s whiskey-making tradition back to their native Texas. Starting with 100% Scottish two-row malted barley, they double-distill in copper pot stills before aging in Kentucky bourbon barrels and Spanish oloroso sherry casks. The nose is sweet and malty with notes of peach and apple. This is a young whiskey, but Swift has barrels in reserve and they will release older whiskey when ready. Another exciting project they have in store is a whiskey finished in French Sauternes barrels.
It’s an exciting time for Texas whiskies so be sure to pick up a bottle the next time you come see us!
In the world of wine, the arrival of spring means the arrival of a fresh vintage of rosés. From all over France, Italy, Spain, the US, and just about every other wine-producing nation the various shades of pink come rolling in just in time to pair with your favorite warm-weather treats. But these aren’t the sweet mass-produced corner-store wines you may be familiar with. Instead, these are drier-style wines from the world’s greatest wine-producing regions and artisanal winemakers.
While the classical regions of Europe supply many fantastic rosés, the world’s newer winemaking regions are doing their best to join the party. While South Africa has a long history of wine, but the Mulderbosch Rosé from the Coastal Region may be new to many consumers. One thing that makes this one unique is that it is made from 100% cabernet sauvignon grapes, yielding a fuller bodied wine. Grapes are harvested on the early side to preserve acidity levels. Flavors are of strawberry and grapefruit with a touch of minerality. The wine is a great partner for grilled salmon or tuna. At $12.99, it represents fantastic value.
The history of wine in Lebanon goes back even further, for several thousand years. But thoroughly modern in style, Ixsir Altitudes rosé ($13.99) is reminiscent of the rosés of Provence. A blend of syrah and caladoc (a cross of grenache and malbec), the wine is full of fresh floral aromas. With bright berry flavors, the wine pairs nicely with lighter cheeses, salads, and BBQ pork.
A New World region that is producing world-class rosé is Oregon. Justifiably famous for its red pinot noirs, some of this juice goes into production of rosé wines. Elk Cove Vineyards ($16.99) makes a delicious example. 2014 was a stellar vintage in Oregon, one of those rare years when quality and quantity were both excellent. With a beautiful dusky color, the wine is bursting with tangerine, cherries, and spice. Try this one with poached salmon, roasted chicken, or sushi.
Whether firing up the grill or reaching for something refreshing before dinner, rosé wines provide a tasty warm weather treat. Be sure and ask for some on your next visit!
Perhaps no other European nation has a long a history of cultivating vines for wine production than Italy. Archeological evidence points to viticulture as far back as the 8th century BC. When colonizing Greeks arrived they dubbed the land Oenotria, the land of wine. With over 300 DOCs (delimited wine producing areas) and nearly a thousand different varieties of wine grapes, one could literally spend a lifetime exploring the wines of Italy.
With Spring upon us and Easter approaching, the season for sparkling wines is certainly here. While Prosecco is certainly Italy’s best known sparkler, there are several others that certainly deserve attention. Produced in the northern region of Lombardy, Franciacorta may be Italy’s greatest sparkling wine. Made in the same traditional method as Champagne (secondary fermentation in the bottle), it tends to have a little rounder profile due to the warmer climate the grapes are grown in and dosage is usually unnecessary. Produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir, Franciacorta also undergoes a similar aging regimen as Champagne: it may not be released until at least 25 months after harvest and 18 of those months must be spent in contact with the lees in the bottle. Bellavista is a label to look for.
Near Franciacorta in the north is another sparkling wine hotbed: the Trento DOC of Trentino. One favorite is the 100% Chardonnay version produced by Ferrari. It displays beautiful apple and stone fruit aromas with toasty, bready notes. It represents a great value in the world of sparkling wine.
One of my absolute favorite wines to enjoy with all kinds of food is the lightly carbonated red wine Lambrusco. Not so long ago, most Lambrusco sold in the US was very sweet and was more like a fizzy alcoholic kool-aid. In the last few years, that has changed. Versions are now available that are dry or slightly off-dry that possess a bright, fruity character along with a slightly bitter note. Vecchio Modena from Cleto Chiarli is a delicious example. There is an array of distinctive, affordable Italian wines out there the likes of which has never been seen. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and find your new favorite!
It may surprise you (or it may not), but in the last couple of year Dripping Springs has become a focal point for Texas distilling. Following the trail blazed by Tito’s Vodka in Austin, more and more distillers have decided to move out to the Gateway to the Hill Country.
The first to set up shop here was San Luis Spirits in 2007. They are best known for their Dripping Springs vodka. Distilled from corn in small 50-gallon batches using copper pot stills and artesian spring water from the Hill Country, it is lush and balanced with a very smooth finish. They also produce an orange vodka made with hand-zested Texas oranges. One of my favorite ways to enjoy their vodka is in a Moscow Mule. Start with a tall glass, fill with ice and add 1.5oz of vodka. Top with ginger beer (I recommend Fever Tree), add a squeeze of lime and it’s refreshment time! They have also recently introduced a gin. The gin is juniper forward without tasting like a Christmas tree. It has soft floral notes and uses citrus from the Rio Grande Valley. It makes a fantastic Martini.
Recently making a big splash was the opening of a beautiful new facility by Deep Eddy Vodka. Over 3000 square feet, the distillery features a tasting room and covered patio with a fantastic view of the Hill Country. In addition to their original vodka, Deep Eddy produces cranberry, ruby red grapefruit, sweet tea, and lemon flavored vodka. The lemon vodka, their newest flavor, is great mixed with club soda or Topo Chico and is sure to quench your thirst as the mercury starts to rise. One of my favorites it the sweet tea vodka mixed with fresh lemonade.
Coming soon to the neighborhood is Treaty Oak Distilling. Producers of their eponymous rum (also available in a barrel-aged reserve version), Starlite Vodka, Graham’s Texas Tea (a sweet tea vodka), Red Handed Bourbon, and Waterloo Gin (also available in a fantastic Antique barrel-aged version), Treaty Oak is sure to have a spirit that will tickle your fancy.
Here in Texas, there is really no excuse not to drink local!
No beverage says “Happy Holidays!” like champagne. The sound of the popping cork and foaming liquid, the tiny bubbles streaming from the bottom of a tall fluted glass, and the powerful yet delicate flavors: these are the tell-tale signs that the time to celebrate is here. Whether in the style of a lighter non-vintage bottling or majestic tete-du-cuvee champagne, this is the drink for good times.
The world’s best-selling champagnes are those of the large maisons: Veuve-Clicquot, Mumm, Moet & Chandon and Perrier-Jouet, among others. One of my favorites is Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut. A fresh tasting bubbly consisting of a large percentage of pinot noir, this is full of apple and pear aromas with hints of citrus. I think of Piper as the perfect aperitif or brunch champagne: crisp and lively, begging you to take another sip.
Quickly growing in popularity are the so-called grower champagnes. These wines a produced by wineries that own and cultivate their own vineyards, as opposed to the larger houses who purchase grapes from farmers throughout the region. Amongst these, L. Aubry Fils is one I find to be outstanding. The wine geek in me appreciates the fact that their non-vintage brut contains a large percentage of Pinot Meunier as well as the ancient and nearly forgotten varietals Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Fromenteau. A very low dosage (sugar solution added to kick-start secondary fermentation in the bottle) means this wine has a steely frame with floral and citrus aromas followed by rich flavors of toast and candied lemon zest. This is truly a wine to savor.
Want to really go for the gusto? Champagne’s top-end cuvees are some of the world’s finest wines. One of the first wines that really stopped me in my tracks is Salon Blancs de Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay, Salon is only produced in exceptional years (approximately 4 times a decade.) This champagne is typically aged for 10 years in the bottle before release. A paragon of complexity, Salon exhibits aromas of toasted almond, biscuit, candied ginger, citrus and fresh white flowers. This is a wine that will make you say “Wow!”
This holiday season, enjoy your time spent with family and friends and enjoy plenty of one of the world’s finest beverages—Vive Le Champagne!!!
For some folks, few words inspire more dread than “tequila”. For me, the opposite is true. I find that few other spirts have the complexity, diversity and sense of terroir of good tequila. Today, consumers have access to more high quality tequila than could have been imagined just a decade or so ago. So, there is no better time to re-acquaint yourself with this ancient and noble spirit.
When it comes to American horse racing, no race compares with the tradition and pageantry of the Kentucky Derby. Run every year since 1875, the Derby is as well known for its sartorial splendor and winner’s blanket of roses as it is for the race itself. One of the most famous, and my personal favorite, traditions associated with “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is the Mint Julep.
Sublime in its simplicity, the julep is one of the oldest cocktails in existence. It includes only four ingredients: Bourbon, mint, sugar and ice. Some folks may vary the technique, but the ingredients should NOT be messed with! Start by muddling a sprig of mint with ½ oz. simple syrup in a highball glass (or a pewter mug, if you’re lucky enough to own one.) Add 1 oz. of Bourbon and fill glass with crushed ice (NOT ice cubes!) Stir until the glass is cold and frosty. Then add 1 more oz. Bourbon and top glass off with crushed ice. Stir again until glass is really frosted. Garnish with another sprig of mint and serve with a straw. For the most aromatic results, give the mint a good smack in the palm of your hand. Wasn’t that easy?
If you’re making a large number of juleps, try using mint-infused simple syrup so you don’t have to spend so much time muddling. This is super easy to make as well. Chop 1 ½ cups of fresh mint. Bring mint, 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to boil in a saucepan. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the solids so you get all the mint flavor. Allow to cool. This syrup will keep for a couple of weeks.
Now you are ready for Derby Day. Break out the seersucker and a fancy hat and enjoy a true Southern tradition!
— Tim Holloway
When I moved to Austin in 1997, the Texas craft beer scene was still in its very early days. For most people, Texas beer meant Shiner Bock or Pearl. Craft beer selections were pretty much limited to Live Oak, Celis (for a brief shining moment), St. Arnold, or a newcomer called Real Ale. There were also a handful of quality brewpubs: the sorely missed Waterloo and Bitter End (my first long-term job here) and the still going strong Draught House. Growlers to-go were still a distant dream, and if you wanted a really good selection then you were on your way to the Gingerman.
Fast forward to today. There are over 70 breweries in the state (with more firing up their brew kettles every day, it seems), with at least a dozen in Central Texas alone. In 2012, the Texas craft brew industry added $2.3 BILLION to the state’s economy. In addition to sheer volume, the types of beer being brewed has expanded greatly. Back then most brewers made a pale ale, an amber and a lighter blonde-type ale. Live Oak was (and still is) also well known for its authentic pilsner and hefeweizen. And while there are still great examples of these styles being produced, some of today’s brewers have become quite specialized. Some focus exclusively on Belgian-style beers such as dubbels, tripels, lambics, bieres de gardes and farmhouse ales. Twisted X Brewing in Dripping Springs concentrates on Mexican styles. Nearly all of the world’s beer styles are represented. You can literally tour the world of beer while just drinking local. And some brewers are creating their own styles of beer that don’t fit neatly into any established category. Now that’s what I call a great state of affairs here in the Great State of Texas!
When was the last time you visited one of our Texas wineries or cracked open a bottle of Texas wine? I bet it’s been too long. Our state has a long history of wine production, going back to Spanish missionaries in the late 1600s (long before California!) Continue reading
As autumn finally settles over Texas, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The air-conditioner is no longer running around the clock, the nights are crisp and you can finally use the patio again. It is also time to make preparations for the upcoming holidays. Probably the most common question I get this time of year is, “What wine should I serve with my Thanksgiving dinner?” Here are some wines that will do justice to the spread that you (or someone, anyway!) have worked so hard on.
As the weather begins to cool (a little bit), my thirst begins to shift to the brown spirits. And there is no more American spirit than bourbon. Indeed, by definition, bourbon must be produced in the US. There are a few other requirements that must be met to call spirit bourbon. It must be produced from at least 51% corn. It must be aged in charred, new oak barrels. And it must be distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into barrels at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof. To be labeled straight bourbon, it must be aged in barrel for at least 2 years and be free of any added flavor, color or spirit. Most bourbon is produced in Kentucky, although that is not a requirement.
Ah, August in Texas, is there anything finer? Ok, so maybe there is, but fortunately there are countless ways to chill down. And, when it’s this hot, a cold glass of white wine is just the thing. I typically stay away from heavier whites like chardonnay in favor of something light and crisp.
One great option is Vinho Verde from Portugal. They are typically very light in body with citrus and green apple notes. A light floral aroma is also common. Relatively low alcohol and a very light effervescence make this the perfect wine for the pool-side. In addition, they typically cost less than $10. What more could you ask for?
Tim Hollaway, Manager of Twin Liquors #47, was featured in Austin In The Loop, June 2013 issue. Read the article below or check out the entire publication here. Continue reading
As the days get cooler and the nights get longer… reach for those spririts of darker color! Continue reading