Harpoon Chocolate Stout

When I was a kid making chocolate milk, sometimes I’d go a little heavy on the syrup. Like a solid layer of syrup stuck to the bottom of the glass kind of heavy.

Harpoon’s limited edition Chocolate Stout is that kind of heavy too. We’re talking pure chocolate smell, taste, finish, everything. I’ve already mentally prepared myself to make it my new #1 dessert beer.

I enjoyed this on tap, and it’s available until January in six packs and Harpoon’s mixed 12 packs. The chocolate stout poured out rich and creamy, with a fine frothy head that exuded chocolate scents.

The aromas matched the chocolate flavors exactly. This beer is smooth, with a fair balance of chocolaty sweetness and bitterness. It’s a tango between cocoa nibs and coffee really.

After the rich chocolate syrup flavors, there is a pleasant little toasted edge that lingers in the finish.

Harpoon Chocolate Stout is a great chocolate lover’s beer, with full chocolate that is enough without being too much. Full-flavored, with a medium body that doesn’t weight itself down.

This is a perfect nightcap beer. I’m leaving one of these out with some cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. (Can you say new flat screen TV? I think this beer can seal the deal!)

Aruma Malbec 2010

The Malbec grape has a rich history, as do the joint producers of Aruma, Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena.

Malbec was widely grown in France, particularly in Bordeaux, until 1956. That year there was a devastating frost that nearly wiped out the crop, and in the subsequent plantings the grape was passed over by growers in the region. While the French still use some Malbec, it is now famous as the “It” grape of Argentina.

Aruma is produced in Argentina’s Mendoza region, by Nicolas Catena of Bodega Catena Zapata fame, with Barons de Rothchild (Lafite). Catena is one of South America’s largest wineries, and was named New World Winery of the Year for 2010 by Wine Enthusiast. Not to be outdone with awards, Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) is by far one of the highest regarded winemakers in the world, producing Premier Crus in France since 1855.

A match-up of this magnitude would be similar to Superman and Batman working together to fight crime. The outcome, Aruma Malbec, is simply outstanding.

When first pouring Aruma, you cannot avoid the rich, aromatic scents of floral berries that envelope the glass. The scents are matched by luscious, deep flavors of blackberry and black cherry. The fruit is full, and accented by the lightest notes of cocoa.

Aruma’s finish sticks with you, leaving traces of ripe raspberry that draw you into another sip. Overall, it is an intense, satisfying Malbec, that is very graceful. If you have never experienced a Malbec, this is a pure expression of its fruit. Aruma is truly beautiful.

Malbecs are easy to cook with, pairing with anything that comes off the grill – steak, pork, and even barbeque. Cheers!

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Riesling

One of the most exciting/frustrating times of year for the foodie is just about to start – the holiday season. It is again time to frantically make arrangements, set tables, make centerpieces or tablescapes, and to create balanced and well-paired menus.

Let’s assume that everything goes off without a hitch. How do you pair a wine with turkey, turducken, ham, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie?

You pick a wine that can spread itself out like a shotgun blast. You’re bound to hit something.

Enter Wolf Blass Yellow Label Riesling.

This Riesling is light and fresh, with lots of apple and pear flavors that can roll right over that big turkey. Little bits of sweetness with the lemon and lime accents match up with the glazed ham across the table. The finish has enough snap to clear your palate of stuffing, and to make room for dessert.

Another great feature that is worth mentioning is that Wolf Blass’ Yellow Label line is affordable. Pick up a few, and seize the opportunity to catch up on all the good gossip that your aunt from Virginia seems to know!


Carton 077XX Double IPA

Carton Brewing Company is one of the newest additions to the craft beer scene and hails from Atlantic Highlands, NJ. The Carton brothers, Chris and Augie, teamed up with a friend and brewer, Jesse Ferguson, to create exciting, boldly flavored beers that are full of Jersey Pride.

The 077XX is a Double India Pale Ale brewed with the West Coast style IPA’s in mind. 077XX is full of hop-forward flavors, while still being balanced by East Coast sensibility. Opening with a slightly herbal nose, this IPA gathers up flavors of gentle pine and lemon that build and build.

The body becomes more astringent and piney, with hints of soapy residue. The bitterness of the hops lingers for a long mouthfeel. A true East Coast IPA would have balanced the hops with a stronger malt frame, so a tip of the hat to the Carton Crew for sticking with the more forward West Coast verve.

Overall, the 077XX is a fine offering from the newly minted brewery. While the flavors may be lighter than those offered by other DIPA’s, this one carries a heavyweight punch on a welterweight frame.

Find out more about Carton Brewing, which opened in the summer of 2011, at their website.

Sixpoint Autumnation

Autumn is upon us once again.

The leaves are crunchy, raining down in their reds and oranges. Each night is crisp and clear, offering up a sprinkling of sparkling stars. Under both the leaves and sky, the masses of hooded sweatshirt wearing beer enthusiasts have survived the swell of Oktoberfest, and are saving the last few bottles of pumpkin beer for Thanksgiving.

The more seasoned drinkers also recognize this as the harvest time, which is a time for fresh ingredients (particularly hops).

Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery pays homage to the duality of the fall with Autumnation, a beer that at once offers condolences for the passing of nature’s bounty, while still reaping its abundance.Sixpoint Autumnations

Autumnation is a wet hop brewed beer that is accented by seasonal favorites like pumpkin and spice. The fresh hops offer a floral bitterness that is light and crisp while still being assertive.

It is quite refreshing, with the hoppy flavors seamlessly mingling with, and then succumbing to, the accenting spice and pumpkin notes.

Autumnation’s flavors cycle like the temperatures of October afternoons:  a pleasant crispness that grows more substantial, and is then released by a new day.

Autumnation is available now for a limited time. Don’t be afraid by the packaging – good beer does indeed come in cans!

Gonnent Cotes du Rhone Red

One of the most important parts of a wine, especially a French one, is the label. The wines of France are notorious for not telling the drinker what he or she is specifically drinking. They will tell you the region and classification, though, and then expect you to demystify your selection from there.

The 2007 Gonnent Cotes du Rhone is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault grapes, all estate-grown in the Rhone region of Southern France. Cotes du Rhone, as a classification, is the lowest of four for the Rhone region, and are all mainly based on the Grenache grape, and typically use Syrah and Mourvedre blended in to fill out the gaps and make these wines a great gateway into French wine enjoyment.

For the 2007 vintage by Gonnet, Cinsault was used to add softness and richness to the wine’s aroma, which is full of plump raspberry and cherry fragrances. The fruit in the body is supple, with almost jammy cherry and plum flavors that mingle across the palate. There is a slight minty edge that frames the fruit before it gets too wild, letting the flavors linger gracefully, like party guests who know when it is time to leave.

The Gonnent Cotes du Rhone is a surprisingly elegant, fun red wine that displays the best of what a French wine can offer, especially to novice wine drinkers and burgeoning Francophiles. Complete the French experience by pairing the wine with French Onion Soup.

Leffe Brune

Now owned and brewed by InBev Belgium, Leffe beer originated from the abbey of the same name in southern Belgium, which was founded in 1152. Monasteries throughout Europe, especially in Belgium, are famous for beers that have been produced using the same recipe and locally sourced ingredients for centuries. Only recently have major corporations stepped in, distributing these fermented gems worldwide.

Leffe Brune is only the second beer, of the nine produced, to reach the American shores, joining Leffe Blonde. Brune is a terrific example of the Belgian dark ale style, offering warm aromas of bready Belgian yeast and light notes of caramel. These aromas mirror the beer’s wonderful flavors of dark sugar, banana, and toffee. Exceptionally smooth, and accented by traditional clove and coriander spices.

This beer should be a staple in everyone’s fridge, right next to the Camembert cheese that pairs so well with it.

Vino Con Brio Estate Matzin Old Vine Zinfandel, 2006, Lodi, California

Vino Con Brio Winery offered roughly 5000 cases of 15 different varietals in 2011. Owned and operated by the Matson Family in Lodi, California, Vino Con Brio’s Matzin Old Vine Zinfandel is an estate grown red that has been highly rated by the likes of Wine Spectator and others for the spectacular juice that is produced by the 66 year old vines.

The 2006 bottling was the Matson’s eighth vintage and offers gentle blackberry and green pepper aromas. These open to supple plum and currant flavors. An edge of spice and acidity frame its fleshy fruit. This Old Vine Zinfandel’s finish is long lasting, with haunting cherry notes.

The Matson Family recently retired from wine making in June of 2011, selling the vineyards to Mettler Family Vineyards. Their wines are still widely available, and are excellent for pairing with pizza, turkey, and good friends.