Travel

Feast of Seven Fishes

Silence is the first thing you hear waking up to a freshly fallen snow. These are my earliest memories of the winter season. I can remember clearly, playing hockey on the creek as a child. As a young adult, I worked in the apple orchards on snowshoes. Both of these scenes may be the most serene I have ever experienced. Now, each winter season as an adult I can easily access these memories just by closing my eyes.

Let’s fast forward to my present life in the Texas winter. Naturally, the world has become smaller over the years. I have experienced many new things and met many new people from a variety of backgrounds. Good friends of mine with ancestors from the Campania region of Italy celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes, a popular American-Italian Christmas celebration. My fiancée and I are more than excited to be a part of this meal. This gives us the opportunity to drink wine and eat food that has been designed to go together over many generations. Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino for the whites, both mineral driven wines with some stone fruit qualities. Aliganico for the red, a versatile grape, I reach for the lighter bodied versions for a meal with such a wide variety of dishes. These pairings are natural, no need to complicate things. With this food, and this wine, we can experience history all while enjoying ourselves around a table. And, what Italian-American celebration would be complete without the music of Louis Prima!

One of the main reasons I started studying wine is that I was attracted to the thought that something could connect so many different disciplines. Wine speaks of region, cuisine, geography, science and history just to name a few. It connects us to the past, makes the world smaller. It has the ability to take you from Campania Italy, to Cedarburg, Wisconsin all while living in Austin, Texas.  Don’t forget, at the end of the day, wine is about enjoyment! So gather around the table with friends and family and experience more than just a bottle of wine, taste the history.

Cheers,

Cale Thibaudeau
Store Manager
Twin Liquors in the Hill Country Galleria

Tiki Time!

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!!

Italy

Italy, a small country with such a big array of wine! Yet, ask the average person what wines Italy makes and the most common answer is Chianti.  That’s the same as saying that Texas is all about cowboys. True, to some degree, but Italy is much more than Chianti.  It is impossible to do justice to the breath of Italian wines in a short blog post, but we can at least talk in broad terms about the regions and red wines. Continue reading

So if you’re ever in the islands . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had the singular pleasure of doing a bareboat vacation in the British Virgin Islands for eight days at the end of May 2010.  Judging by the response I got to my Facebook postings, a lot of friends, customers and family (that seems redundant) of Twin Liquors have been there before me. There are so many things to see and so much Rum to drink, that it’s hard to pack it all in. Even an extended week was not enough.  The British Virgin Islands are a place that draws people from all over the world.  It would be hard to see it all without having the freedom to move about that a sailboat provides.  I have been to Grand Cayman and to Hawaii on land based vacations in the past.  That works fine for those places.  To truly experience the BVI demands that you do it from the deck of a boat.  Seven of us were on a forty-one foot Catamaran for eight days.  It was a perfect platform with the perfect crew.  We went from Virgin Gorda on the eastern extreme to Jost Van Dyke on the western extreme.

Each island is different, with different geological formations, snorkeling, restaurants and bars.  Places like The Baths, The Bubbles and Monkey Point all are familiar to anyone who has visited this wonderful place. Which brings me to the point of this blog.  So, if you’re ever in the islands and you make it to Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, stop in to the world famous Foxy’s Bar.  Crews from all over the world stop by to see Foxy, who holds court on the beach in the shade right outside his open air bar and restaurant.  The parties here are legendary. There are reminders of visitors from around the world in the form of boat flags, baseball caps and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt-shirts, all signed by the crews of visiting boats and hung from the ceiling and walls of the bar.  If you look Just to the right end of main bar, above and facing the end of the bar, there is a “Twin Liquors, Authentically Austin” T-shirt.  I invite all of the Twin Friends and Family who make it there to bring a marker and add your name to the shirt and the date you were there.  Be sure to take a picture of the event and forward it to us.  I like to see enough participation to create a section in our website with pictures of this t-shirt and others that I plan to post elsewhere in the world.  If you are planning a trip to the BVI, send me a note and I will be glad to share my experience in detail.

What does it take to make great Washington wine in Walla Walla?

wallawallaBy Brenda Audino

Climate, soil, grapes and people…

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Walla Walla in an effort to better understand what makes Walla Walla wines unique.
 
First the climate in Eastern Washington is the complete opposite of Western Washington.  We all know that the area around Seattle is cool and rainy most of the year.  The area around Walla Walla though is hot and dry.  Rainy Seattle gets about 35 inches while Eastern Washington is considered more of a dessert with rainfall ranging from 6 to 12 inches a year.  This contrast is due to the Cascade Mountains protecting Eastern Washington from the rain coming off the Pacific Ocean. Continue reading

Spain: Part two

Part one of our look at Spanish wines explored the rich history of Spain’s wine. Now we look to one of Spain’s particular wine regions and how the wines evolved there. Spain had developed an appellation control system to help ensure the quality and regional heritage of wines. Only one of the Spain’s regions has attained the highest ratings: Denominacion de origen Calificada.

This rating denotes a wine region that meets a “supper category” for quality and consistency. It was granted, in 1991, to the best-known wine region in North Central Spain, La Rioja. This region is known around the world for its rich Tempranillo wines.

The core of the name “Tempranillo” means “early.” This red grape ripens weeks earlier than Garnacha. Early Tempranillos were not oak-aged and were big fruit bombs, “fat” (low in acidity) and had to be consumed young. In the mid-1800s, a Spanish winemaker returned from a stay in Bordeaux, bringing with him French winemaking methods, new oak barrels, and a couple of well-known French grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These French grapes are still considered experimental but contributed greatly to the complexity of the mostly Tempranillo-based wines.

The main grape, blended in the smaller quantities with Tempranillo to add the acidity it needs for long life, is Garnacha, known in France as Grenache. The addition of this grape, along with aging in new oak, elevated Rioja wines to a new level of quality. The wine’s name tells the story.

“Crianza” requires a minimum of six months of oak aging, and must not be released earlier than two years from harvest. “Reserva” needs a minimum of one year in oak, and three years before release. “Gran reserva,” only allowed in the best years, requires a minimum of two years in oak, with its earliest release coming in the sixth year after three years in bottle aging.

There are many inexpensive Tempranillo wines, expensive Gran Reserva and many great bottles in between these extremes.

Be Adventurous

SouthAmericaMapSmallI confess. I’m a slave to Cabernet Sauvignon. If I could drink only one wine for the rest of my life, it would be Cabernet. Thankfully, we are not bound by limits and as much as I love my Cabernets, I do need a change to keep myself from tiring of it. I am always on the prowl for new wines to experience.

Recently, my searching has led me to exciting wines from Spain and South America. There are a multitude of single varietals and blends out there that are luscious and priced in the $15 range and below.

The dominant grapes in these blends are:

Malbec: A Bordeaux blending grape that has taken on a new life in South America. Expect flavors of ripe plum, softer in character, closer to Merlot than Cabernet.

 

Tempranillo: This is Spain’s answer to Cabernet; big plum and blackberry character with complexity and tannins that can rival Cabernet.

 

Grenache: Another French grape that has found a home in Spain. Known in Spain as Garnacha, this is the softest in flavor and color of the three. More prone to aging quickly, this is fruity wine meant to be consumed while it’s young. Black currant is a primary flavor signifying its tendency to oxidize quickly.

 

These wines are exciting on their own and even more enticing when blended with Cabernet, Syrah or other grapes to add to the complexity and enjoyment. Surprisingly, many of these wines are under $10 a bottle! These wines can be paired with anything from steak to enchiladas and are great evening porch sippers. So be adventurous! Shake up your taste buds a little. You may find a new favorite.

Farewell to Spain

I have enjoyed our virtual visit with Spain’s wines and will use this final installment to discuss the wines outside of Rioja. It will be hard to cover all of the areas, so I will focus this article on the wines that are perfect for hot weather and the foods we enjoy in the summer.

Rias Baixas: The area in extreme Northwest Spain above Portugal along the coast. This is an area that lives with the sea. Its most famous wine is a white called Albarino. Softer fruit and good acidity make this a summer porch sipper and a first choice for shellfish or anything else from the brine.

Penedes: This is the area along the Northeast coast near Barcelona in Cava County. Cava is Spain’s full “Methode Champenoise” or Champagne district. Made in the true Spanish style using Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello grapes, Cava doesn’t carry the creamy texture that Chardonnay brings to French sparklers. But the style, once again, suits the cuisine. Crisp, with bright acidity, Cava is a great food wine and can be enjoyed with salads and seafood.

Cadiz: Located in the far South coastal area, this is Sherry country. The roots of Sherry making go back 3,000 years. This is a fortified wine of different styles. Think dessert, serve these cold. The main Sherry styles are:

Fino: Light, delicate and dry. Should always show the aroma and character of the “Flor,” a strain of yeast that sets sherry apart from other fortified wines.

Amontillado: With age, a Fino Sherry develops an Amber color and at eight years in the cask becomes an Amontillado with a nutty character and more body.

Oloroso: “Fragrant,” the name describes the style, heavier body without the Flor influence. Many are sweetened and drink closer to a Tawny Port.

Palo Cortado: A Fino that lost its Flor on its way to becoming an Oloroso. Only one in 1,000 barrels becomes a Palo Cortado.

Pedro Ximenez: Usually produced as a sweetening agent. Can be released in limited quantities. Usually old, dark, rich and powerful with deep raisin character.

Spain’s wines are, for the most part, still a bargain and fit well for summer drinking in Texas. Talk to your local wine expert to find some new summer favorites.

Spain: Part one

From this small beginning, Spain’s wine industry now has more area under vine than any other country in the world. Despite this, Spain is fifth in the world in wine production. Spain is a land of high plateaus ringed by mountains and crisscrossed with rivers. The elevation of Spain’s growing regions, from 1,600 feet to over 2,600 feet influences growers’ choice of grapes. They must produce well at altitude in an arid climate.

One World wine grows up around the cuisine and culture of people drinking it. Spain has several large areas defined by climate, food and culture. These factors drive the wine style in each area. Overall, until the early 1970s, Spain produced a massive amount of low-quality bulk wines for export. During the mid- to late-’70s, the Spanish wine industry underwent a massive transformation. Overproduction was reserved; better quality vines were planted. By the end of the ’80s, Spain had gained new respect.

Across the country, from the white wines of the Northeast, to the reds of North Central, through the Sherries in the South, Spain is producing and exporting quality wines. We look at some of those wines during our next visit.

I heart NY

ateam2A Twin Liquors group of 8 was hosted in Manhattan last weekend by the Sidney Frank Company-the fabulous folks who bring you Jagermeister and Tommy Bahama Rums! And what a weekend it was…they pullled out all the stops with a great Hotel, a free day to sight see, a trip to Yankee Stadium to catch one of the last games in that historic venue and dinner at a fantastic NY city haunt-Scallinatella. I could go on and on about the whole weekend in detail, but you’d be jealous, so let me just comment briefly on what we ate and drank.

First off, on my free night, I chose to dine at Esca, Mario Batali’s fish inspired restaurant. Three hours later and many little courses…the pairing that stood out was the Valpolicella paired with squid ink risotto stuffed into a whole squid and grilled. OMG! The briny, rich, slightly charred dish complemented by the bright acidity and rich fruit of the Valpol was a party in my mouth. That whole meal was a night to remember…apart from the great food…we ordered 5 different wines by the glass to accompany all the different dishes and it was a great success.

On day two, while being treated to the Yankees game, situated in a fantastic sky box, catered to the nines…I have to say that I had a terrific pairing of Hot Wings, Sausage & Peppas’ and of course the dog & kraut with beer, beer, beer. Isn’t that always a great pairing though? It truly was a fun game…the Yankees finally won in the bottom of the 13! Talk about extra innings, whew!

That night as a group we dined at Scallinatella…we were served all sorts of dishes from stuffed zuchini blossoms to black truffle fettucini alfredo, from lamb chops, to veal chops and from tiramisu that would make your toes curl to stracciatella-and yes, I had a bite of everything! There, Pinot Noir was the wine of the night…we must have gone thru a case. It just (line) drives it home (no pun intended), that Pinot Noir is an all around food friendly wine…it paired beautifully with everything. We closed the restaurant down with shots of Jager and Grappa…what a combo.

All in all it was 48 fabulous hours in Manhattan, eating and drinking the whole weekend thru…how could anyone not heart NY?!

Twin Liquor associates descend on Napa and Sonoma

NapaIt’s not often that such a large group of Twin Liquors’ managers and associates can get away to wine country together, but this week we did!  There were ten of us and two Republic National Distributing representatives, our beloved drivers, who descended upon California last Sunday.  We were able to eat, drink and still learn a thing or two about wine while in Napa and Sonoma for 2 ½ days. Continue reading