I Was A Somollier Once, And Young…

When I was a wee little lad, of thirteen young years, I was called upon to choose my first wine. I was on vacation in Ecuador, and the restaurant that we went to had a wonderful wine list. They had inexpensive wines, and they had very, very nice wines. They had Chilean wines, Argintinian wines, Brazilian wines, Peruvian wines, even Ecuadorian wines. What about European wines? Vinos Norteamericanos? Ahm…No such luck, and my luck was that my aunt and uncle had no idea about South American wines. So, after deciding a grape, as the only Spanish speaker, it fell to me to choose the wine. Then something caught my eye: diablo. The Devil. How could I resist?

“Castillero del Diablo,” I said, in my best Sevillian accent. “El cab-ar-net so-vig-nan.”

Wow, what an order. Anyway, I decided to revisit the choice. I have had this wine in the interim, so when I went to the package store to pick up a bottle, I got some pretty major sticker shock. I remember the wine being about $6 per bottle. I found it to be double. Now liquor tax is much higher in Boston than Chicago, and I’m sure we always got it on sale, but anyway, I tasted this again with dinner tonight, and, again, I was quite pleased. My first choice was a good one. Hopefully the first of many.

A glass of good wine.

A glass of good wine.

Concha y Toro Winery: Castillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Chile)

Tasting Conditions: I drank this vintage after a lazy day watching the games of the 29th Olympiad just before dinner. I used a six ounce red wine glass for the tasting. After opening the bottle, I allowed the wine ten minutes in the glass to breath.

Eye: This wine is almost black in the glass with just a hint of dark ruby. It truly gives additional meaning to the term “wine dark sea.” A swirl revealed the wine’s very stubby legs. The bottle is quite elegant as befits the reserve du chateau with the “Castillero del Diablo” logo of a stylized devil quite prominent, being on the seal, the label, and even embossed on the bottle.

Nose: While grape was dominant in the aroma, oak was also quite prominent. Behind that, there was a hint of orange zest and just a touch of must which promises a wine on the sweeter side.

Mouth: This was a wonderful tasting wine. The taste started out with just a hint of lemon juice, though not quite so sour. The flavour blossomed into a medium bodied grape with a fairly medium body. The finish revealed the somewhat clichéd bell pepper notes. It was much less astringent than I expected, or perhaps feared. Continued sipping suggested some notes of spice, specifically clove and cinnamon.

Conclusion: I am not sure I would buy this bottle again, but only because I tend to stick under the $10 mark, admittedly a tough challenge in Boston. However, with that said, were I spending what they ask, I might well take in a bottle of the Diablo. If this wine was half as good when I first chose it in Ecuador almost a decade ago, I made a good choice.

This is the last of four posts I am presenting for the fourth anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday. You can read the others from the original post, which you can find here.

I hope you have enjoyed this little spectacular,

The Scribe


Kosher Wine Is Drinkable, I Swear

Well, originally, I was going to compare that most wonderful elixir produced by Jews, Manischewitz Concord Grape with a real, drinkable kosher wine produced by Alfasi, a Chilean producer of kosher wines named for a famous rabbi of early second millennium. Based in the Malbec valley they produced quite good, and surprisingly inexpensive wines, all of them made from grapes that were actually intended to go into wine: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, as well as chardonay and more lately syrah and pinot noir. Unfortunately I was undone by the vagaries of distribution. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Alfasi gets distribution to Massachusetts. However, if, for whatever reason you need a kosher wine, either for your own consumption or as a hosting gift, this is a good choice. (Others include Barkan, Chateau La Crock, and many others.) One thing to be careful of. Many kosher wines (including, as of some time in the last eight years, Alfasi) are “mevushal.” For a wine to be “mevushal” it needs to be increased to boiling point. For modern firms, it means bringing to boiling point for a fraction of a second, but the more traditional producers will boil the wine for an extended period of time. If you are pagan and carry wine that is not mevushal it ceases to be kosher. If you are Christian, Muslim, Druze, Bahai, or any other kind of Abrahmic monotheist, you’re in the clear. Don’t ask me the reasons. They are quite complicated. On the other hand, Maneshewitz is widely available, so, with that, I give you the review.

A Glass of Manischewitz

A Glass of Manischewitz

Manishewitz Wine Co.: Concord Grape (Non-vintage)

Tasting Conditions: I had this non-vintage after dinner mostly to taste it as I only had a scant glass. The bottle had been opened a day or two ago, but I would judge that the screw top, high sugar content, and refrigeration probably prevented most damage. I drank the wine from a red wine glass of about six ounces.

Eye: The wine was a dark candy-apple red in the glass, and was quite clear. I was unable to get legs to form. The bottle was unconventional for wine, as it was squared off. The label was a little on the cartoony side for me with a large Technicolor grape bunch.

Nose: The nose was quite sweet with notes of honey, strawberry, and grape. Surprisingly, I did not get any mustiness, which I have found quite characteristic of most wines. In fact, it seamed to have more in common with port, than with most other vintages.

Mouth: In the mouth this wine was redolent with, well, grapefruit notes, but it also had the honey thing going on as well as berries. The most noticeable thing about it though was the overwhelming sweetness. It tasted more like grape syrup than anything else. I did notice a curious orange note on the finish. I was also surprised, given the sweetness, at the lack of body.

Conclusion: I was surprised by this wine. I remembered this as being atrocious. It was almost (emphasis on almost) drinkable. It could make an inexpensive, though not wonderful, replacement for ruby port. However, it would not be my first choice for drinking, in general.

See you tomorrow,

The Scribe

Infusing…This Time With Wine

Welcome back to day two of the Wine Blogging Wednesday Fourth Anniversary Spectacular. Today we are covering sherry peppers. This is really only the first post on the project, as it will take about a month to infuse. Thus, this is my first Dramproject. That’s right every month or so I will be undertaking a month long project, and posting on it regularly. This month, it’s sherry peppers, and while it will likely often be an infusion, it may be brewing my own beer, or simply finding the perfect version of a given cocktail. So, without further ado I give you:
Everything needed for step one laid out and ready to go.

Everything needed for step one laid out and ready to go.

August Dramproject: Sherry Peppers

For those of you who are familiar with Bermuda, you are also familiar with that most wonderful of Bermudian condiments: Sherry peppers. Since I have been cooking regularly, I have found that I am almost unable to cook without my secret ingredient, the aforementioned sherry peppers. They are quite hard to come by in the States, and I didn’t get to Bermuda this year.

What to do? Well, I could just get off my lazy butt and, you know, make them. In addition, Outerbridges, the only company which makes sherry peppers commercially (as well as rum and sherry-rum peppers) gets quite the pretty penny for them: $7 for a five ounce bottle or $23 for a

fifth. On the other hand, I can make a batch of about half a liter of peppers for under ten bucks, and about ten minutes of my time. Moreover, I can then customize the sauce to my liking.

Sherry Peppers (Basic Recipe)

  • 2 c. – Sherry (Amontillado, preferably, just stay away from cream sherry)
  • 3-6 – Hot Peppers, quartered (Bird peppers or Scotch Bonnets would be traditional, but go with what you like.)

Allow to steep for at least two weeks, and up to a month, then strain and bottle.

There you go. Simple, easy, and while it takes a while, it barely takes any active time. However, I wanted to get a bit more flavour out of my sauce. If it was really that easy, the Outerbridges would be out of business. To get a bit more flavour out, I used a mix of peppers, and added a little more spice:

Scrivenal Spiced Sherry Peppers #1

  • 640 mL – Sherry (Taylor Gold)
  • 1 tsp – Ginger root, grated
  • 1 – Scotch bonnet pepper, quartered
  • 2 – Jalapeno peppers, quartered
  • 25 – Cloves, whole
  • 1 nut – Nutmeg, coarsely crushed
  • 1 stick – Cinnamon
  • 10 – Peppercorns, whole

Put ginger root, peppers, and sherry in airtight jar and allow to infuse for two weeks. Add cinnamon stick and peppercorns, and infuse for two more weeks. Add cloves and nutmeg and infuse for one to two days. Strain, season appropriately, and bottle.

All the ingredients in the jar and steeping.

All the ingredients in the jar and steeping.

That is the recipe I am following. Hopefully it will work out. I am hoping to get more complexity out of this batch, preferably something which I can also use as cocktail bitters.

This is the second of four posts I am presenting for Wine Blogging Wednesday. You can read the others from the original post, which you can find here.

This is the the first of several posts documenting my August Dramproject.

Well, that’s all I got. Enjoy,
The Scribe

Wine Blogging Wednesday: The Spectacular

First off, for those of you who are new to the Dram, welcome. This blog chronicles my experimentation with liquor of all types from beer, to booze, to wine. (There is no synonym for wine that begins with a “b” so sadly I could not continue the alliteration.) This month is wine month here at the Dram in honor of the fourth anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, so come, make yourself comfortable, and stay a while.

Four years, wow. That’s a long time on the internet, and even though this is my first post, I am going to make a spectacular of and instead of one posts, as would be usual, I am going to post one post per day for four days. This also quite handily gets around me having three major wine uses in my early life (which might explain my incipient unhealthy fascination with alcohol). So, over the next three days, look for the following posts.

  • Sherry peppers. During my childhood in Bermuda you could get this wonderful condiment anywhere and most families had their own secret recipe. Well, I’m experimenting with my own, since you can’t get Outerbridges in the States very easily.
  • Kosher wines, the highs and lows. As Jews, kosher wine was de rigour at many functions and here I will explore two: Manischewitz concord grape, and Alfasi, a quite acceptable Chilean vintage.
  • My first wine pick. When I was vacationing in Ecuador at the tender age of thirteen, I chose my first wine: Concha y Toro’s Castillero Del Diablo. I’m going to revisit this choice and see just how good or bad it was.

There you have it. My three entries into the world of wine. Check back to this post to get updates, or just stay current on the blog.


The Scribe