Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Firkin Restaurant, Libertyville

Some time ago, we were in the area, so decided to stop in at Firkin for a dinner. We weren't sure what to expect, but it wasn't what we expected, in a good way. First off, it's a long narrow bar that is crammed full of furniture, knick-knacks, and decorations that obviously change according to season or celebration. An open kitchen is tucked away in the back, with a bar taking pride of place, front and center.

Firkin Restaurant, Libertyville

Huge assortment of unusual beers (plenty of local choices, hurray), so easy to pair with a very eclectic menu that is always changing. Check out artisanal cheese and sausage offerings, warm and cold appetizers, burgers (grass-fed beef, yahoo!) and sandwiches, or go big with an entrée. Make sure to take a look at the Specials available, super creative and definitely tasty sounding, always. If by chance you're not full up after the large dinner portions, take a gander at the dessert menu, lots of options there as well.

Kids aren't left out (though there's no kids' menu) with basics like mac and cheese available, as well as a fun assortment of sodas that go well beyond cola and root beer.

You might come for the beer experience, but it's worth a trip for the food as well. Family-friendly, reasonably priced, and incredibly tasty, you'll be planning a return trip as you sit there.

Firkin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cycles Gladiator 2014 Wines

Last week, I was invited to participate in a virtual tasting featuring the 2014 wines of Cycles Gladiator. Since it was my birthday, I was unable to attend, but the nice folks at Charles Communications set me up anyway - much appreciated! I'd had their wine some years ago, but the quality and name went downhill, so it was removed from consideration for some time. Spoiler alert: I'm glad I got re-exposed!

Cycles Gladiator

Adam LaZarre grew up near the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, in a family interested in wine. After a stint in the Navy, he attended California’s Fresno State’s Department of Viticulture and Enology, worked for a few wine companies, then started Cycles Gladiator in 2005. He used an iconic image of a naked, curvy blonde siren on a bicycle to attract as many wine lovers as possible to Cycles Gladiator wines. Philosophical differences took Adam elsewhere, but when Wine Hooligans acquired the brand in 2013, he returned to helm the new course. A renewed focus on the Central Coast of California led to long-term sourcing agreements - this allows Adam to selects the vineyard, oversee the farming, and maintain control over every aspect of winemaking.

Tasting Notes
Petite Sirah: 82% Petite Sirah, 18%Syrah; Central Coast grapes; aged 15 months in new American oak; deep opaque purple; dark plum, cassis, and tar aromas; dark fruit, earth, and red raspberry flavors; luscious mouthfeel with nice acidity and a nice tannic finish; twist off closure; SRP $11. Such a pleasure to drink, perfect with a burger topped with peppered cheese and grilled onions with garlic.
Chardonnay: Central Coast grapes; aged 70% stainless, 20% new French oak, and 10% new American oak; golden straw color; lemon, green melon and white floral aromas; muskmelon, pear and lemon flavors; creamy mouthfeel with a nice acid backbone; twist off closure; SRP $11.
Pinot Noir: Central Coast grapes from the Chular Canyon and Los Alamos Vineyards; aged 13 months in 22% new French, 5% new American, and balance neutral oak; light red ruby color; earthy dark fruit, cassis, green herb aromas; dark cherry, toast, and pomegranate flavors; light bodied, pleasant mouthfeel, with decent acidity; twist off closure; SRP $11.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Central Valley 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Syrah; picked from 3 vineyards, fermented separately, then blended at 6 months; 30% aged in 18% new French and American oak, with balance in neutral oak; dark cherry red color with ruby highlights; initially not much on the nose, then dark plum, wood and tart red berry aromas; dark berry, then red berry flavors; LOTS of tannins throughout into a mildly puckering finish; twist off closure; SRP $11. Probably my least favorite of the bunch, but I prefer fuller, more fruit-driven Cabernets - this is for those that like a more austere style.
If you tried Cycles Gladiator back in the day, then went away, it's time to come back. These are well-crafted wines that feel and taste true to their provenance and winemaker. Great quality to price ratio (QPR). If you were unable to attend the virtual tasting, it can be accessed via the Brandlive website.

Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ritual Wines

A few weeks ago, I participated in Charles Communication’s BrandLive virtual tasting that featured Ritual Wines with winemaker Rodrigo Soto. Rodrigo is both highly knowledgeable and passionate about creating amazing wines in Chile. Well worth watching the replay.

Part of the Huneeus Vintners Chilean portfolio of wines, Ritual is the Huneeus family’s original, flagship estate on the extreme eastern edge of the Casablanca Valley in Chile. The property, along with the rest of the Huneeusholdings, is being converted to 100% organic and eventually biodynamic, a strong statement for sustainability and the portfolio's future.

Ritual Wines


Tasting Notes:
Sauvignon Blanc 2015: aged in 30% neutral oak, 30% concrete eggs, 40% stainless steel tanks; light, light yellow; bracing aromas of melon, starfruit, white currant, and citrus; more muted in flavor with vanilla,butter, red grapefruit, and flint; pleasing mouthfeel with nice acidic finish; twist-off closure; SRP $18. Paired beautifully with homemade stir-fry.
Chardonnay: aged in 30% neutral oak, 30% concrete eggs, 40% stainless steel tanks; light yellow; pineapple, pear, and white floral aromas; banana, vanilla, and citrus flavors; medium mouthfeel; balanced wine with good acid; twist-off closure; SRP $20.
Pinot Noir 2015: aged in 10 months in french oak, 30% new; ruby red color; bright red berry, plum, and tar aromas; smoke, toast, dark berries, and herb flavors; cork closure; SRP $20.
Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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