SPIRITS TREND: VERMOUTH RESURGENCE
Like so many other delicious beverage alcohol categories, vermouth is enjoying a renaissance among the young and hip, new wave of drinkers. Once considered a humble cocktail ingredient and too often an underappreciated bottle that would sit at the back of the fridge or liquor cabinet for months, vermouth is now the star of many drinks. The craft cocktail movement is to thank, with troves of bartenders diving head first into in-depth education. With their strong understanding of vermouth as a fortified infused wine, the doors of possibility for its use have been opened. Not only are small production vermouths from Europe gaining favor, but right here in the USA from California to Brooklyn New York, small start-ups are coming out with hand crafted batches of specialty vermouth.
CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY ULTIMATE WINE CHALLENGE: CHAMPAGNE MARION-BOSSER PREMIER CRU EXTRA BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS 96 POINTS $51.99
This stunning champagne from the Marion-Bossier family is well deserving of our Chairman's Trophy award. The mother-daughter team, Bernadette and Elodie, are the current women at the helm coming from a long lineage of winemaking women in their family. Supreme care is taken at each step from the growing of the grapes, to the three year minimum lees aging, through to bottling. The low dosage of this champagne allows the purity of the grapes to shine through while keeping each sip elegant and refreshing for a modern palate that prefers less sweetness.
Tasting Note: The pinpoint mousse is delightfully prickly, clean, and refreshingly acidic. First nosings discover multiple layers of baker's yeast, sourdough, buttered toast, and lemon peel. In the mouth, the flavor profile explodes with stone dry, seed-like tastes of ripe grapes, citrus, sesame seed. The silky texture elegantly wraps the entire sensory experience with substance and class. Top-notch
WINE TOPIC: A CONVERSATION WITH ELODIE MARION OF MARION-BOSSIER
“I was always tasting with my parents, and we also had a holiday house in Burgundy, so I learned from the best of the best,” recounts Elodie, who originally went to Paris to study medicine. After realizing that becoming a medical doctor was not for her, she decided to return to her family roots. As the 5th generation of women winegrowers, she is proud, “we always found a way to keep the vines family-owned, even if that meant having to rent them out.” To her the champagnes are about elegance, finesse and creating wines that satisfy the evolving modern tastes. As the only woman in her local tasting groups and wine panels of her community, she is an invaluable member to the French wine world, and a great winemaker besides.
ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE PERSONALITY: DALE DE GROFF
Dale DeGroff has been an essential member of USC's esteemed judging panels from the beginning. What he values most is the possibility to continue learning: “Tasting at this level requires tremendous focus, an open mind and a large dose of humility. The USC judges keep each other honest and we learn from each other every time we meet.” Like so many others of the USC judges, it's the people that keep him coming back: “USC gives me the opportunity to work with friends who are professionals at the highest level. We take the work very seriously but not ourselves.” When not judging for USC Dale is busy consulting on beverage menus nationally and abroad and working with his wife Jill on their brand of bitters, Dale DeGroff's Pimento Bitters.
Catch Dale in person at the upcoming On the Town, a history of the cocktail in songs, cocktails and stories at Catherine Lombardi Restaurant in New Brunswick, New Jersey on November 28th.
CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE: LONE ELM TEXAS WHEAT WHISKEY 95 POINTS $49.99
One of our highest scoring American Whiskeys comes from Forney, Texas where the distillers take pride in their local products. Carefully sourced local winter wheat is the base for their spirit, combined with rainwater that is collected with a proprietary system that treats the water while feeding it directly into the distillery. The spent mash is returned to their partnering farmers to use as fertilizer as part of the distillery's commitment to local sustainability. Carefully crafted from beginning to end, the attention to detail is evident from the robust and clean flavor of the whiskey.
Tasting Note: Eye pleasing orange/copper color. Smells of Wheat Thin crackers, baker's wax paper, corrugated cardboard, with nuances of aniseed, palm oil, sesame seed, coriander. Taste profile is significantly sweeter, juicier than the aroma led on, offering succulent, nearly ambrosial flavors of dried cherry, dates, black raisins. Hearty, oily finish.
Ultimate Beverage Challenges 2016
Ultimate SPIRITS Challenge – Judging Begins March 7, 2016. Entry forms available January 5, 2016. Deadline for receipt of forms, samples and payment is February 26, 2016. More info.
Ultimate WINE Challenge – Judging Begins May 16, 2016. Entry forms available January 5, 2016. Deadline for receipt of forms, samples and payment is April 29, 2016. More info.
ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE 2015: Full results.
ULTIMATE WINE CHALLENGE 2015: Full results.