Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lenne Estate #Winechat

I think it's very cool that Stephen Lutz, owner of Lenne Estate, manages all the vineyard, winemaking and business aspects. Lutz previously worked at Beringer, Franciscan, Inglenook, Vichon, Merryvale (Napa) and Chateau Benoit and Anne Amie (Oregon), so he has a wide range of experience and it shows in the wine.

Lenne Estate Pinot Noir

The Lenne Estate vineyard shares a ridge with Willakenzie Estate, Deux Vert, Shea, Solena, Roots and Penner-Ash. We had the opportunity to taste a few of the others at a Portfolio tasting earlier this week, and there seems to be some similarities between them, in a very positive way. The vineyard was planted between 2001-2004 at an elevation of 375-575 feet, with 2,084 vines per acre. The philosophy from the beginning has been to dry farm, forcing the roots deep to look for water and nutrients.

Tasting Notes:
2010 Pinot Noir: cold soaked 5 days; fermented, then aged for 11 months in French oak barrels; ruby red color with mahogany edges; violet, tomato, green tea, and earthy aromas; rhubarb, oregano, olive and mushroom flavors into a cinnamon and black pepper on finish; satiny texture with moderate tannins; cork closure; 225 cases produced;  SRP $45.00. Could probably use a few years in bottle, if not more - this is one to buy and lay down to taste the progression.
In a related matter, if you love Oregon wine, you can become an investor in a proposed 12,000 case custom crush wine facility at Lenné. More information on the Lenne Estate Investment webpage.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recommended Reads: Craft Beer and Provence

We get offered a variety of books to review, some interesting, some not so much. Pretty much anything food, wine, or craft beer has the possibility of transporting you to places you want to be. These books were a welcome source of escapism this brutal winter, along with teaching me a bunch about what they were written about.

Hoosier Beer

Hoosier Beer: Tapping Into Indiana Brewing History, by Bob Ostrander and Derrick Morris, is one of the most fastidiously researched books I've ever read, full of minutiae, facts, and stories. Even with such an esoteric subject, this seems as comprehensive as a school textbook, with a minimum of the possibly dryness. See where and how beer was brewed in Indiana, and what that also meant to the surrounding states.

Chicago by the Pint

Chicago By the Pint: A Craft Beer History of the Windy City, by Denese Neu, is almost a disappointment at first, because it's not about the beer, but then you realize how much history surrounds the locations of these breweries and it turns out to be pretty interesting. As the author points out, this is a history book to be read while sitting in the brewery tasting room and contemplating one's surroundings.

Audacity of Hops

Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution, by Tom Acitelli, is far and away the best single book I've read about the history of craft beer making in the United States. Part research paper, part oral history, the author takes us step by step from the very humble beginnings of a few out there guys who wanted to bring back good beer to the now confusing world of what exactly is an American craft beer. Amazingly researched, deeply addictive reading, this is a craft beer primer that every aficionado should read and then re-read.

Provence Food and Wine

Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living, by Francois Millo and Viktorija Todorovska, is exactly what the doctor ordered to dispel any gloominess brought on by the polar vortices experienced this Midwestern winter. Beyond being a beautiful little paperback book, it's a useful primer on the land, wines, and food of this dream land in the south of France. If you're not inspired to live a more gracious life after reading this treat of a book, you may be too far gone to be rescued.

Disclaimer: These books were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Flippin' Sweet and Craft Beer

Our road trip to Breckenridge for Spring Break was a pleasant surprise this year. The kids were flat out awesome in the car, which is a victory in and of itself. We didn't even have to bribe them with movies in the car or anything. I think a big part of it is that we try to stop every few hours, either to switch drivers or to fill up with gas, and we make sure the kids jump out and get moving: jumping, climbing, running. Definitely breaks up the possible monotony.

This year another pleasant surprise was Kearney, NE. We usually stop in Lincoln, but this year there were literally no hotel rooms available to accommodate our family. So we pushed on a bit and ran into some luck. Kearney is the home of a large regional state university, so there is a bit of culture thrown in as well as better dining options. The rest is typical strip malls.

The Flippin' Sweet

On the way, we stopped for dinner at The Flippin' Sweet - a semi-hipsterish almost-dive pizza joint, with some fun design ideas and good food. Seat yourself if you can, not a lot of chairs available, but they have take-out as well. Write down your order on the handy forms, take up to the kitchen and get ready. (But not with a beer - Flippin' Sweet has no liquor license, which is really the only negative about the whole experience.) A friendly neighboring table suggested the mac 'n' cheese for the boys, which we ordered and all loved, and also told us that the servings were big. They were not kidding. While the owners say a calzone will feed 1-2, they are so huge that 4 people could easily be happy sharing one.  Order 2 for 4 people only if you want to take it home. One other problem is picking just one (or 2), as there are SO many options!

The Flippin Sweet on Urbanspoon

Thunderhead Brewing Company

On the way back home, we stopped in Kearney again, and I got to slake my thirst for Nebraskan craft beer at Thunderhead Brewing Company. Get a flight of beer ($1.50 a large taste of 5 beers), order the Nachos (yes, $15 is a lot for a plate of nachos, but it's a big plate). Calzones are undersized for the price, but tasty. Spuds are on the pricey size as well, but huge potatoes and plenty of toppings make it easier to swallow the cost. But really you're here for the beer. Housed in a former Schlitz saloon, the building was forbidden from selling alcohol after the saloon closed, but only for 20 years, so Thunderhead is good to go. The beers are well-made and cover a wide spectrum - beyond more typical craft brews, I tried a peach option as well as a jalapeño one, both better than you would think.

Thunderhead Brewing on Urbanspoon

If you find yourself in Kearney, visit The Flippin' Sweet and Thunderhead Brewing Company for better-than average food and drink. Don't order too much, because this is the Midwest, and portion sizes are ENORMOUS.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Craft Beers and Microbreweries Infographic

Craft beer is becoming big business, though still a small part of the overall beer market. Having a Boulder Beer Shake Chocolate Stout with dinner the other night, I was amazed to see people still ordering Bud Light when craft beers were available. No accounting for taste. Or cost. Craft beers, while undeniably more tasty, often are also more expensive to drink. One way to somewhat mitigate this is to try home brewing. Basic equipment kits start around $50 (depending on complexity and capacity), and you can expect to spend about $50 in materials for 5 gallons, or about 2 cases of beer. Here's a fun info graphic about the business of craft brewing and how to get started brewing at home:

Business of Beer

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