Wednesday, February 27, 2013

SoCo Barrel Tasting 2013

Over the next two weekends, Sonoma County and the Wine Road in particular will celebrate one of their most successful events, Barrel Tasting. Two full weekends of wineries opening their doors for this passport-style event and have options to taste current vintages still in the aging process. If you are so inclined, many offer great discounts on “futures,” purchasing and committing to wine that has yet to be released. However, this is also one of the most controversial events in Sonoma County.

Barrel Tasting Weekend draws hundreds, if not thousands of visitors from all over the country. Many visitors return ever year to their favorite winery to purchase deeply discounted wine and stock their cellar for the coming years. Unfortunately, the relatively inexpensive tickets ($30-$50 for a weekend) can also attract many visitors who take advantage of the passport style event and over indulge while being transported to and from each winery in a bus or limo. This is, however, a small percentage of those who go to enjoy the weekend, yet they get the most publicity.
Last year, I wrote some heated posts, directed at Santa Rosa Press Democrat (SRPD) writer Peg Melnik who year in and year out criticizes the Millennial generation and their attendance at this event. Without acknowledging the money spent by the Millennials or the fact that the Millennials are the future of the wine industry, it never fails that the SRPD’s coverage of the event is more negative than positive. Seriously....check back after this year's event and you will see virtually identical posts from previous years.

I was unable to cover the event last year but this year will be out in the field reporting live for WestToast and getting to the bottom of this. While I have no doubt that some young people take advantage of the event and drink way too much, I contend it is not just the younger generation doing this. I also argue that regardless, wineries must find ways to embrace the younger generation because they are the up and coming wine consumers.

This year, the event is over March 1-3 and March 8-10 and with over 100+ wineries participating each weekend, this event is something not to be missed. Not only will there be plenty of fun and games at the wineries, but what a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what the future holds for Sonoma County wine. Advance ticket sales have ended but be sure to check out how to still get your hands on some tickets, maps, and a list of participating wineries.

If you can’t attend, surely check out the WestToast Facebook page and/or follow me on twitter at @jesserandrews and @westtoast.


Monday, February 25, 2013

An Enemy Lives Among Us.

1 comment
My heart is breaking and actually has been breaking for about two months now.

"But what could possibly be wrong?" you all are wondering I am sure.  My answer, plain and simple...YEAST!

"But...Micheal...this isn't that kind of blog..."

Oh but it is, and let me regale you with a tale of how yeast, has ruined me.

At the end of the summer and beginning of the autumn, I was spending a considerable amount of time in the Puget Sound area, some for pleasure, some for work.  During some downtime from work, I decided to purchase some bottles of beer to prepare for some posts I had ideas for.  Among the ones I purchased were two from Elysian - Dark O The Moon to do for an autumn post and The Great Pumpkin for a Halloween post.  From Deschutes, Chasin' Freshies - I had the idea to make this largely satirical post, about the start of the academic year that might seem mildly inappropriate only if you didn't pick up on the satire.  

Oh the plans I had, the grandiose plans for the perfect posts.  I had even spoken with my colleague Chris about it since I was also saving a bottle of Abyss.  It was going to greatest triumph (of the season).

I brought the bottles back to my place and put them into the refrigerator because I didn't want them to go "bad."  Well the autumn turned out to be a much busier semester than I could have ever imagined this year, and I am not sure why.  But the next thing I knew, it was time for Winter Beer Month.  I realized I hadn't done my autumn posts, and figured I should take a look at my beers and make some real plans for their consumption and reviews.

I went to my refrigerator, the same appliance I trusted to hold the beverages safe, cold, and ready for the time when they were to meet my palate, and you won't believe what I found and saw in the fantastically chilled brown bottles (or maybe you do, if you are even remotely more familiar with the properties of beer than I am).

I dropped to my knees cradling the bottles in my arms.  The rain pouring down on me like it was cleansing me of the evil I had done.  The thunder so loud, yet still so soft that it couldn't cover the sounds of my screams of anger and discontent.  The lightening, illuminating me in my kitchen, giving only glimpses, nah, mere seconds of the pain my soul was in.

I moped around telling Josh and Chris of the loss I had suffered and explaining that I wasn't sure how I would heal from this great loss.  The bottles and their contents and that evil yeast remain my refrigerator.  A part of me isn't sure which one of them is to blame, who should I really wish the end of - my refrigerator and or the yeast.  I continue to search for a solution, but I wonder, can my heart ever really go on?

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Full Sail Nut Brown and a Sandwich

A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to work a 4-10 schedule, resulting in delicious three day weekends.

That glorious summer, my Friday routine consisted of little more than sleep, laziness, delicious sandwiches, and beer.  That's living. Religiously I would wander down to Natalia & Cristoforo's, my favorite Italian deli in Corvallis, OR, and grab an Italian baguette sandwich to enjoy with the beer of the day.

Feeling particularly reminiscent this weekend, I was jonesing for a delicious sandwich and some cool, crisp beer and the Ballard Market delivered.

After picking up some hot soppresseta, roast turkey, and a baguette, the beer aisle was calling my name.  Almost immediately, I noticed that Full Sail beers were on sale and the Nut Brown Ale looked interesting.

A six-pack in hand, I headed back to my condo to make a delicious sandwich and get to work.

The Nut Brown Ale is part of Full Sail's Pub Series -- a rotating series of ales that previously only were available in the Hood River brewpub.  A limited edition ale, the Nut Brown is available only.  As described by the brewery:
After a long day on the mountain carving turns in deep powder, snowboarders and skiers make their way down the mountain to warm up and relive all those great runs in our pub. Our British style nut brown ale helps fuel the stories of deep powder and epic yard sales. The combination of 2 row pale, crystal and chocolate malts impart an array of malt and chocolate flavors in a medium bodied ale with an extremely smooth palate. Fuggle and Mt.Hood hops contribute a slightly spicy aroma and finish to complement this beer’s malt character.
The sandwich made, an apple on the plate, and my butt in the recliner...I was ready to taste the beer.

Brewery: Full Sail Brewing Company
Style: Brown Ale Rating: 83, Good Rating: 88 Overall
Serving: 12oz Bottle
ABV: 6.0%

Appearance:  An inviting dark brown with translucency, the Nut Brown poured with a moderate head that indicated some nice carbonation.

Smell: Sticking my nose in and taking a big old whiff, the malt presence on this beer was immediately evident. I pick up a little bit of yeastiness as well. I could tell by the nose that this beer was destined to be an easy drinking session beer.

Taste: My first sip confirmed what I had smelled; the Nut Brown was a smooth, nutty and refreshing beer with a little bit of character to back it up. A lingering malt profile, the medium carbonation makes for a refreshing late winter or early spring beer.

Paired with my delicious sandwich, this beer definitely got the job done. I'm excited to see what's next in the Pub Series.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Sick Sucks: Or How to Make the Best Out of a Bad Situation

I have been sick steadily and reliably since the start of 2013. It started with a cold, which morphed into Pneumonia, which tapered back into a cold, which shifted into a sense of wellness that came crashing down around my ears - or into them, as I now have an ear infection. If you are not excited to hear about this because you wanted to be reading about fun fun wine, beer, and spirits, know that I am even less enthused.


I don't do sick well. When I am well I live off of 7 hours of sleep or less. I run for miles. I charge into life with boundless energy, and I don't stop until I am sitting on a bar stool with a nice brew so that I can chat into the wee hours of the morning. When I am sick and I need to sleep, rest, relax, take it easy, I start to behave like a border collie who hasn't had a walk in a few days - badly. Help me if I ever get truly, long-term, sick. I don't know what I would do with myself. 

This is me 3 days after my walking pneumonia diagnosis. I'm walking aren't I?

Yeah yeah, I know - this sickness has likely dragged on because I am not willing to take it easy enough to kick it. I have been sleeping. I have only been climbing on Mt. Hood once, and I have not been out to the bar at all. The last of those makes me sad because I don't get to try new things, and I don't get to write about them here.

I tweeted this week in a joking fashion that I was doing a side-by-side tasting of Emergen-C Super Orange, and Tangerine. I had a box of the Tangerine, and my roommate Annie had the Super Orange, so I thought it would be funny to taste both (clearly I was feeling West Toast withdrawals).

These are the things I do when I am bored. I guess it beats what a border collie would do. When Josh tweeted back at me that I should write it up I thought "why the hell not?" After all, I have not posted in quite a while. 

The first difference I noted was that of color. Emergen-C does not use food dyes, but whatever was in the Tangerine brought out redder notes in the soft orange fizz. Perhaps whatever it was had to do with acid, because the Tangerine had a more acrid bite to it, and the Super Orange was much softer and sweeter. Neither really tasted like what they said they were - but really, was I expecting them to? The mouth feel on the Super Orange was smoother and more pleasant. Annie tried them both, and said she preferred the Super Orange, which I guess is a good thing since that one was hers.

All in all the tasting was just what the doctor ordered - a little ray of fun and tasty sunshine in the life of a sickie - and, with 3200% of my daily vitamin C, I am hoping that I will be back to tasting some other beverages in the near future!

Monday, February 11, 2013

SWFE: A Showcase for Wine and Food

Do you have plans for Sunday, February 24, 2013 yet?


Boy have we got the deal for you!

If you're located anywhere in the greater Puget Sound region, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience  presented by Snoqualmie Casino is the place to be. Founded in 2009 the SWFE "is the premier showcase for wine and food in the Northwest. Experience a world tour of wine, beer, spirits, and all things culinary."

Seattle is host to a number of wine, beer, and spirits events over the course of the year, but there are two things that make the SWFE unique in our book:  the food and drink selection, and, the charitable mission behind the event.

While I'm about as big of a fan of Washington wine as they come, sometimes it's nice to branch out a bit and that's exactly what SWFE allows you to do.  Unlike many festivals, SWFE has the full complement of Washington wine, plus an impressive selection of Oregon, Idaho, California, and international wines.  Add to that a nice array of beer, cider, and spirits, from throughout the Pacific Northwest, and you've got yourself a party.

More interested in the food part of the experience?  They've got you covered there as well.  SFWE features over 25 "eats" from some of the biggest names in the region.  I'm already drooling reading about the Guinness pot de creme with whiskey whipped cream and chocolate pops that Macrina Bakery & Cafe will be serving.

So about this charity thing.  SWFE partners with The Giving Grapes Foundation to give a little back to the community:

The Giving Grapes Foundation is a 501c3 organization that assists local charities who provide financial assistance to service industry professionals who have to take time off work due to injury or illness. In 2013, The Giving Grapes Foundation has selected Big Table as it’s non-profit of choice.

Big Table exists to transform the lives of those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry by building relationships around shared meals and caring for those who are in crisis, transition, or falling through the cracks. This community and care are open to all in the industry without condition.

So, there's really no reason to *not* go to SWFE, and in fact, I can think of hundreds of reasons why you should. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets for $55.00; we'll see you there!