Drink Chenin - Single varietal tasting

#DRINKCHENIN is a worldwide event that was featured in 12 US cities and South Africa and beyond on June 17, 2016 which seeks to spread the word about this versatile varietal.

Remember our single variant tasting with Margarita Madness article? Here is a spin-off of that concept, but instead of tasting a single cocktail recipe replacing ingredients one-by-one, we are tasting 12 wines made from the same grape: Chenin Blanc

Ever wonder what 100% chenin tastes like from wineries around the world? In celebration of #DRINKCHENIN, The SE Wine Collective in Portland, Oregon provided the ultimate "drink & learn" environment where you could taste from 3 featured regions: Pacific Northwest, the Loire Valley in France, and South Africa (which I hear is currently the largest producer of chenin blanc). There was even a single vineyard variant where 2 different winemakers harvested the same lot to create two wildly different wines. Fascinating!

The range of flavors shattered my prejudices of what a chenin could be. I knew there would be sweet and some dry, but all the steps in-between delivered a range of floral, crisp, earthy, stone-like, and minerally notes. Sometimes the bright acidity would strike hard and fast on the tongue, other times it was a subtle tingle at the finish. Good work team! My tastebuds were startled, seduced, and surprised every step of the way.

Tasting a single varietal over and over again is a great way to build your taste memory, and to be able to pull that profile out of your storage bank of flavors from your brain. I highly recommend this method for someone who says "I don't like X varietal" since there is such a range, how can one discount the entire grape based on one try? If you still don't like Chenin Blanc after trying this dozen then maybe you have your case made.

From the Pacific Northwest:

 Division Wine Co's Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe were inspired by her Godfather's chateau in L'isle verte for their Chenin Blanc in the heart of the Loire Valley in France, and she tells me that "most people would be surprised to know, chenin pairs nicely with a big juicy pork chop". Also featured from Washington was Lobo Hills, whose 2014 Chenin Blanc from Roth Rock Farm made the Compass Wines Feburary 2016 publication "Top 5 whites of 2015". Also present was ORR Wines, and specs for their 2015 old vine Chenin Blanc can be found here. Lastly, Avalon Wine, Inc, whose "expertise is small production Northwest wines, coupled with hand selected wines from around the globe". 

From France:

Le Sot de l'Ange's Sec Symbole hailing from the Azay le Rideau AOC, which is only about 60 hectares in size, producing a cheeky label from a notoriously old world region. Savennières from Domaine du Closel,  which explained that this cuvée "remains in tanks for 9 months on the lees in total absence of oxygen". Chateau de Brézé Clos David, a Saumur white wine. La Lune, which is named for the crescent shape of the vineyard, earned 94 points from Wine & Spirits in 2012.

" In the 1600’s, the white wines of Château de Brézé were so well known that throughout Europe they were referred to as “Chenin de Brézé.” "  

From South Africa:

Secateurs, where "The vines are unirrigated and farmed as biologically as possible" M.A.N. Family Wines which is surprisingly an acronym for 3 women's names: Marie, Anette, and Nicky Luddite Chenin, made by The Luddites, who "apply a technology-resistant philosophy to their methods". Spice Route "With only a quarter of the land planted under vine, only the best soils  of the farm were chosen to plant suitable grape varieties"


Par La Racine

This week marked my first (and hopefully not my last) major cocktail competition, and I am still coming down to Earth. From all the talent and energy at the event, to the inspiring cocktails, and wonderful support staff, it was truly an unforgettable experience. I couldn't have done it without the guidance of the Oregon Bar Guild, Steve at Creative Ice, and 5 O'clock Rocks. Without further adieu, I'd like to share with you my submission for Bombay Sapphire's Most Imagninative Bartender 2016: Par la Racine

Par La Racine is part of a French Expressions "Manger les Pissenlits par la racine" which translates to "Eat the Dandelions from the Roots". The only way you can eat a living plant from the roots is if you are, in fact, underground, and facing up. This expression is a nice colloquialism to describe someone who is 6 feet under. 

My inspiration evolved around the concept that alcohol was used medicinally for centuries. By using blessings like "To your health", in French "Santé", and Spanish "Salud", alcohol is still used to celebrate our health today. The ingredients used in this cocktail were developed and chosen with quality and healing in mind. We will all be in the ground one day, we need to respect the things we take from the Earth, as we're all part of it.

Kombucha: Probiotics are great for the microbiome and gut health, aids in digestion
Lemonbalm Herb: Calming herb, used for anxiety, and as a sleep aid
Beetroot Concentrate: Circulation, blood pressure, and increases blood flow
Vanilla Bean: improve cognitive performance
Dandelion Root: Lowers inflammation, and boosts immune system
Flower Dew Essence: plant-energy, used for healing

With this cocktail I tried to combine my parallel careers in hospitality and holistic health, it represents myself, my experiences living in France, and my philosophy to "Eat & Learn, Drink & Learn". This drink represents all my aspirations to motivate people to care about what they put into their bodies. 

Santé !

Weekly Whiskey - Big Bottom 111 - American Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Hillsboro, Oregon is just a stonesthrow away from Portland, and not a suspecting place to find a distillery of this caliber. Equally surprising is the name Big Bottom, which arose from a political battle in Washington D.C. to protect over 100,000 acres of land on and around Mt. Hood, through the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act which was signed into law by President Obama. This act is protecting Big Bottom area as a wilderness habitat and old growth forest. Named after this conservation area, Ted Pappas opened the distillery in 2010, which now pushes out a variety of spirits including: Gin, Brandy, Whiskey, Rye, and Bourbon.

The thing I love the most about this distillery, is their focus on finishing their products using wine and port barrels. Especially notable is their warehouse series (sold out, sorry folks) which they used barrels ranging from Syrah, Mourvedre, Zinfandel, and Rhône casks to age their spirits. Relying on the wine industry for fresh barrels, which I imagine can be a logistical nightmare depending on the season, gives Big Bottom a unique branding and business model.

The Lead Distiller, Travis Schoney, comes from a whiskey background and once worked for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in Utah. He was once the Assistant Distiller at High West Distillery, which you may remember from my Weekly Whiskey article about their Bourye

The 111 proof variation is "Gone but not Forgotten" on their website, so if you're lucky enough to  see a bottle on a shelf somewhere, please please please try this before it really is gone.

I was lucky enough to find the exact specs of this from a comment Ted himself left on  Breaking Bourbon Whiskey Blog:

The bourbon used was a 2006 bourbon bottled in 2014 so it was a few months shy of 8 years old. The group of barrels used for our 111 came from an allotment that we got in 2011 and had a rye content of 36%. During the time we had it, there was a summer of hot temps and two of somewhat typical of Oregon - mild for the most part but the temp in our storage was elevated enough and overall gave the barrels a good experience of all four seasons. 

From Big Bottom: 

Aged over 6 years in new white oak, the next generation of bourbon showcases the bold flavors that come with a 111 proof whiskey. The higher proof pronounces the traits of vanilla, caramel, cloves, allspice and honeysuckle on the palate resulting in a long, robust finish. This product was recently awarded a Gold Medal at the 2014 Great American Distillers Festival.

You can find Big Bottom cocktail recipes here