Kiuchi Brewing

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a very special 193-year-old brewery.

They have never closed, and have been producing continuously since 1823, so how can they be 20 years old?

The answer lies in what is being brewed, and in some of the most innovative, thoughtful, and delightful products that we are proud to carry on our shelves. They all come from the Kiuchi brewery, who from their home in Japan send us charming, thoughtful sakes which they’ve brewed since the early 1800s, and mouth-watering beers which they began brewing 20 years ago.

We’d love to share a few of our favorites with you, in the hope that you find some new favorites for yourself.

The Sake

Kiuchi sake has been brewed for a long, long time, with a sustained commitment to quality ingredients and traditional methods. Their careful processing coaxes wonderfully floral, fruity and nutty aromas from the rice, along with a beguiling mouthfeel that demands to be savored. As always, sake is best enjoyed with good food and better company.

Here are some of our favorites from this venerable house. What’s great for beginning sake drinkers is that Kiuchi makes the following sakes available in sample sizes. Five of their best are sold in a pack of 200ml bottles.

Asamurasake – ‘Morning Purple Red Rice Sake’ is made from a very unique red rice, and is indeed reddish-purple in color, with a very light spritz and refreshing berry flavors.


Tarusake – Sake slowly matured in Akita Cedar barrels. Look for flavors of white pepper, citrus zest and, well, cedar.


Kurahibiki – A complex sake made with ‘Yama Danishiki’ rice, specifically bred for sake brewing. A sophisticated sake with flavors of honeydew melon and lychee fruit.

The Beer

Kiuchi began brewing beer in 1996 under the Hitachino Nest label, along with their iconic owl.

Led by their stalwart White Ale, their brews are typified by fresh spins on style, with a uniquely Japanese twist that intrigues your taste buds without shocking your sensibilities. If you’re lucky enough to find any of these beers on tap – drink them! Since we aren’t always so lucky in our draught choices, here are some of our favorite award-winning bottles:


White Ale – A Belgian-style witbier brewed with the subtle additions of coriander, nutmeg, orange peel, and fresh orange juice. Remarkably refreshing!

Anbai – Anbai means ‘salty plum,’ an apt name for this take on a German gose. The brewers ratchet up the alcohol on their White Ale recipe to 7% and add Japanese green sour plums and sea salt. Sounds odd, but the slightly tart and flinty flavors are explosive and addictive.

Red Rice Ale – An ale comprised of barley and red rice, fermented with sake yeast. The result is a malty brew, with a pleasantly earthy finish. It’s one of our favorite food beers, as it marries perfectly with all manner of meats and fatty fish.

Dai Dai – A dry IPA brewed with the peel of the ‘Fukure Mikan’ fruit, a wild Mandarin orange which is cultivated near the brewery. As with all Hitachino beers, it’s neither too bitter nor fruity, with all the flavors in balance.

Sweet Stout – An English-style milk stout, with decadent flavors of coffee, chocolate and roasted nuts. Not a dark or bitter stout, but a pleasantly sweet brew perfectly suited to dessert.



Paso Robles Wines are a “Force of Nature”

The labels had us at hello.

The art was graphic, powerful, densely colored, and letterpressed onto textured paper on heavy black bottles.

We had to try them.

To our relief, the wine inside the bottles matched their intensity and originality. And we bought a bunch of them. Can’t miss them – they’re on display in the middle of the store through mid-November.

They’re the Force of Nature wines, made from fruit grown at Mossfire Ranch in California’s Paso Robles. The area has been bubbling up on the radar screens of real wine aficionados for some time now. Yes, some the wines from this central coast region can be overly big and juicy, but due to 40 degree diurnal shifts which chill down the warm Paso air at night, many of the better-crafted wines are taut with acidity.

Enjoy these rockin’ wines while binge watching Luke Cage, or hanging out around a fire pit, telling ghost stories deep into the night. We’ll be doing just that.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This big beauty of a wine is concentrated and lush, and finishes with a subtle smoky wet-earth notes. Rob Murray, the gent who grows the grape, describes the wine as having a “farmer’s fist full of blueberry pie sprinkled with cinnamon spice.” This time of year? Yes please.

Red Blend

Comprised mainly of merlot, with bunches of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite sirah mixed in, the wine’s deep purple color matches its intense ripe, dark-berry fruit flavor. There’s that acid at the end, balancing all that jammy goodness. Pro-tip: for full deliciousness, decant one hour before serving.

Dusty and floral, this atypical Paso Robles zinfandel fills your mouth with smooth cherries, rhubarb, chocolate and peppercorn. Its’ zippy acidity keeps those exploding flavors at bay, thankfully, and helps make this a superb bottle for steaks, burgers and tagliatelle bolognese.

A powerhouse chardonnay made from fruit grown at the Murmur Vineyard in Santa Maria, just 12 miles from the Pacific coast. Tangerine peel, white peach and jasmine aromas jump out of the glass. Big, round flavors of kiwi and passion fruit lead to a juicy finish with a palate cleansing citrus minerality. Gulp-able for sure.



Bottles’ Hot Spiked Cider

Cider Drinking. It’s a rite of passage for us New Englanders. It pairs well with football watching, apple picking, pumpkin carving and post leaf-raking relaxing. Bottles’ go-to version is a grown-up affair, made strong with a slightly-boozy cider and a few drops of allspice dram*. Fill a thermos of the warm concoction before heading to the game, or let it simmer in a crockpot when your house is full of friends.

We’ll be making a great big batch of it in-store on Saturday, October 15th for you to enjoy, alongside crazy good cider donuts from Greenville RI’s Appleland Orchard. We hope you can make it in, between 1-3pm, for a Bottles’ taste of fall!

*Allspice dram is a slightly bitter, strongly spiced rum-based liqueur. It’s infused with the allspice berry, which lends the spirit warm, winter-spice nutmeg-y/cinnamon-y flavors. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram is a Bottles’ best seller.


Bottles’ Hot Spiked Cider
Yields ~ 4 cups

1 btl (22 oz.) Doc’s Original Apple Cider
1/4 cup (2 oz.) St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1 cup (8 oz.) apple cider (non-alcoholic)
1/2 cup (4 oz.) water
1 diced apple
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Have fun with these ingredients, and adjust to taste. You could add maple syrup or brown sugar for sweetness, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom for pumped-up spice, or more dram for a more bitter-herbal flavor.

Stovetop method:
Simmer the chopped apple in allspice dram until the dram begins to reduce and thicken. Add Doc’s (or another hard cider of your choice), non-alcoholic cider, cinnamon stick, and water. Turn heat to high, stirring often, until liquid is just about to boil. Set to a simmer and cook uncovered for at least 15 minutes. The longer it simmers, the richer the flavor!

Crockpot method:
All of the ingredients can go in at once with your crockpot set to low for 3 hours or high for 1.5 hours.


Appropriate Drinking

Heading to Trinity Repertory Company to see Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “remarkable and devious” (The New York Times) new play? Jacobs-Jenkins, one of three recipients of this year’s MacArthur Genius Grants, is considered one of the theater world’s most important young creatives, and his Appropriate was the winner of the 2014-2015 Obie Award for Best New American Play.

It is — on the surface — an homage to the classics of the American theater canon, say our friends at Trinity. In this biting comic-drama, the estranged members of the Lafayette family return home to their run-down Arkansas estate after the passing of the family patriarch. As they sort through a lifetime of mementos, they discover a gruesome relic that turns their reunion into an escalating series of shocks, showdowns and revelations.

Intrigued? We certainly are. We’ll be in the audience awaiting the revelations. And while there, we’ll for sure be drinking one (or more) of the beverages TRC Artistic Director Curt Columbus has deemed appropriate for “Appropriate”.

Herewith, Curt’s “Appropriate” Picks:

Pine Ridge
“This unique blend (chenin blanc and viognier) is an affable, easy drinking white, with surprising fruit flavor and finish. Like the play and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ writing, this wine will have you coming back for more.” – c.c.

Tintero Bianco
“ A delightful, refreshing white wine, one that is also zesty and fun.  This white wine, called simply ‘Bianco’ (white), is the perfect choice for an evening of dark comedy about race.” –c.c.

Glasses of Pine Ridge and Tintero Bianco are available to drink during the show. And 20% of the sale of each wine purchased at Bottles throughout the duration of the production will be donated back to the theater.

Bottles is Proud to be the Official Sommelier of Trinity Rep!


Top 9 Wines for Fall


We’re not going to lie: Though we love our rosés (we really do), more than a few of us were happy to see our massive stock of them dwindle away at summer’s end. And though we’ll always have a robust rosé showing in store (especially at Thanksgiving) we’re all ready to change our seasonal wine wardrobe.

Feel the same way? Dive into Josh’s fall wine picks and welcome New England’s cool, sweater weather season.


2004 Chateau La Vielle Cure, Fronsac, France
From one of the most beautiful appellations in France, this tasty blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon gives you the profile and structure of a well-aged Bordeaux – but at a fraction of the price of other Right Bank selections.

Chateau de Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone, France
I love the wines of St. Cosme (say “comb”). The region is among the world’s most consistent producers of quality juice. This is the perfect red to keep around for any occasion, from friends just stopping by to a great Sunday dinner!

Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
The archetype for Argentine Malbec! Laura Catena now has the reins of the winery, and along with winemaker Alejandro Virgil they produce the region’s most consistently outstanding wines. Give an old friend another try.


Casa Brancaia ‘TRE,’ Tuscany, Italy
One of the early Super Tuscans, TRE from Brancaia has the profile we have come to expect from the category. The Sangiovese grape gives TRE a sanguine and distinctly ‘Italian’ feel, while the Merlot rounds it out and makes for a nice, complete wine.

Orowines “Blue Gray,” Priorat, Spain
A gateway drug for those Napa-drinkers who want to experience Spain! Wines from Priorat have the structure and balance that new world wine-drinkers look for, while not losing a distinctiveness that is truly unique. Priorat wines tend to have a bit more depth than a lot of other old world wines, without being overly dry.

Pine Ridge, California
A longtime favorite of mine, I tend to always have a bottle or two on hand in case of company. A light blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, this wine is more floral than sweet – and still has some acid to it to create a nice balance. Perfect for entertaining or casual deck-sipping!


Masciarelli Wine Company, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Italy
Another old friend – I have sold this wine since the very first wine shop I worked in. A fabulous value, this bottle is a solid dry white that is similar to a Pinot Grigio but with more structure and acid, and without having that metallic finish you can sometimes find in budget Pinot Grigio.

Hugel et Fils, Pinot Blanc, ‘Cuvee Les Amours,’ Alsace, France
If ever there was an underappreciated grape, it’s Pinot Blanc. The most widely planted grape in Alsace, it makes a great all-purpose white wine that can be used for anything. If you’ve never tried a Pinot Blanc, start with Hugel – they know what they are doing. They’ve been making wine since Providence belonged to the Algonquian!

Sandhi Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, California
The Sandhi story is far too complex to recount here, but the wine is an outstanding example of what happens when great winemakers, growers, and critics get together to create a world class wine! Green apple with lemon characterize this wine – definitely not a Cali oak bomb!

Happy Fall!



Wine to Pair with Roasted Cauliflower Soup


photo credit: Edible Rhody

With cooler, fall nights upon us, the soul starts to crave rich, creamy, nourishing soups. Ben Lloyd, Chef-Owner of The Salted Slate (just a hop and a skip from Bottles) has a satisfying roasted cauliflower situation that fits the bill. He’s shared his recipe in the current issue of Edible Rhody, and we’re happy to re-post it here, along with our wine pick, the Palagetto Vernaccia “Santa Chiara” DOCG.

Made from 100% Vernaccia grapes grown in the town of San Gimignano in Tuscany, this beautiful white is crisp enough to cut through the soup’s rich creaminess, and steely enough to match the cauliflower flavor. Its touch-of-fruitiness on the finish plays nicely with the hazelnut, too.

Says Chef-Owner Ben Lloyd, The Salted Slate, Providence: “Roasting the vegetables for this recipe converts starches to sugars more thoroughly than boiling them, creating a deeper and richer soup with more cauliflower flavor.”

1 large Spanish onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, halved and roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium head cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed and roughly chopped
6 cloves peeled garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground white pepper
4 tablespoons (half stick) unsalted butter
2 fresh bay leaves (or substitute dried)
5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
¼ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely minced chives
3–4 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Hazelnut oil (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 425°. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of white pepper. Place them on a large baking sheet in the oven. When vegetables are roasted but not too browned (about 15 minutes), remove from oven.

In a medium sauce pot melt butter and add roasted vegetables along with 2 bay leaves. Add stock to cover the vegetables and add 1 tablespoon salt.

Bring to a boil then quickly reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves.

Purée soup in a blender, then add yogurt and cream. Quickly pulse soup to distribute the cream and yogurt. Optionally, strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve for a more refined velvety-textured soup.Return to pot and season with salt to taste.

Serve in warm bowls topped with minced chives, a sprinkle of the hazelnuts and a few drops of hazelnut oil.

Yields approximately 2½ quarts  of soup.

Bon Appetit, and Cheers!

Eric’s Top Kosher Wines

The 2016 High Holidays are almost upon us, which means Eric’s been tasting his heart out in selecting the newest and best kosher wines for your table this year.

We’ll be opening several of them at a special Kosher Wine event in store on Wednesday, September 28th from 5-7.  We hope you can join us so that you can judge which will work best for your holiday feasts.

Herewith, Eric’s picks!


Dalton ‘Yuvalim’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Galilee, Israel – Velvety smooth texture with light tannins and lots of nice ripe berry flavors make this a great party wine. It’s equally as comfortable by itself as it is with chicken, steak or pasta. Yuvalim in Hebrew means “little stream”; the idea represents the little streams and tributaries that meander throughout the Galilee. Wander in and pick up a bottle. $21.99
blancLouis Blanc Cotes du Rhone, France – This is the bottle for those looking for a dry wine this season. It’s everything that you would expect in a savory, full packed Mediterranean Grenache/Syrah blend: fruit driven aromas and flavors of black fruits, cherries and black pepper. What’s more, it’s soft and round enough to have with your favorite egg dish like an Arugula and Fontina Frittata.  $15.99

Hacormim Collage Red, Judean Hills, Israel
– If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter for the holidays, I’d recommend this semi-dry beauty. It’s jammed with blackberry and raspberry flavors, and pronounced, dark chocolate undertones.This wine is great for those looking for something sweet this holiday season; it’s superb with brisket that has been cooked with raisins or plums. $13.99

Hai ‘Patriots’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Judean Hills, Israel
– A rich, bold red for heavier dishes like roast beef and lamb. It has dark, well extracted black currant and cherry flavor, and a velvety smooth texture with none of the bite that one can get from big wines like Cabernet. $15.99

…and the following are so new to Bottles, they didn’t make it in store in time for our photo shoot. We’ll surely have them on our shelves by the time you read this post!

Butcher’s Daughter Muscat
 – A sweet(er) wine for a sweet year!  We know that sweet wine doesn’t normally float most people’s boats, but this one is truly lovely. What makes it so good is not only the flavors of super ripe red apples, but also the amount of zippy liveliness that balances out the sweetness.  Great for washing down apples dipped in honey!  $16.99

Butcher’s Daughter Chardonnay – Sweet wine not your thing? This is the perfect white to go with Holiday fare. It’s rich and full of ripe apple and pear flavors. It isn’t a oak and butter bomb like many Cali chardonnays can be.  A great value at $12.99!

Butcher’s Daughter Merlot – This very well made wine from the south of France has broad appeal and can stand up to nearly any food pairing that you throw at it.  Soft and lovely with dark berry flavors and hints of mocha.  $12.99

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year. L’shana Tova!”

-Eric & the rest of the Bottles team

Old Forester’s Enduring Appeal

By now, most of us know that Bourbon, as American as Jazz or Apple Pie (with a slice of melty Vermont Cheddar, thank you very much), has reached a new and unprecedented heyday.

Basically unsellable throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, when bottles of Pappy Van Winkle gathered dust on store shelves, we now can’t seem to find (or drink) enough of our favorites. New brands show up every day, while stalwarts continue to grow almost unchecked in popularity each year.

Throughout Bourbon’s rocky history, through the boom times and the bust, through prohibition and the current craze for anything brown, there is one brand that has somehow weathered the storm intact: Old Forester.


The first Bourbon to be exclusively sold in bottles (as opposed to being dispensed from a barrel) to ensure authenticity and quality, Old Forester is also the oldest continuously produced brand in America. During prohibition, it was one of 10 brands allowed to produce whiskey for ‘medicinal’ purposes – probably due to its claims of superior quality from their sealed bottles, which were usually sold out of pharmacies. There aren’t many brands with that claim to fame, and it’s a testament to Old Forester’s flavor and broad appeal.  

The best part is Old Forester remains an affordable option on our shelves. Each of its five offerings over-deliver for the price of admission, and all of them can be enjoyed equally neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktails. If you’ve never tried one of their Bourbons, come by Bottles and pick one up. We’d love to chat and get you safely home with an affordable, approachable, delicious bottle of pure Americana.

Old Forester 86 Proof
The workhorse. Simple & dependable, Old Forester 86 is at home on a Tuesday night over a handful of ice. A little fruity, with a short and clean finish, it won’t get in the way of all the heady aroma in a classic Mint Julep.

Old Forester Signature 100 Proof
The stalwart. The difference, as the name would suggest, is in the proof – but what a difference. The extra oomph adds a layer of complexity and nuance to the whiskey, bringing out bright spicy rye notes and hints of brown butter and leather. That heat balances perfectly in a Manhattan, especially with floral Peychaud’s bitters and fruity Alessio vermouths.

Old Forester 1870 Original Batch
The throwback. A tribute to George Brown’s original recipe, sourced from three different distilleries and blended to his specifications. Today’s 90 proof release is comprised of whiskey from three distinct warehouses at three separate proofs. The result is a soft Bourbon, full of subtle clove, cinnamon and citrus flavors. This is the Bourbon for a night with good company and the lingering sunset of one of the season’s last grill sessions.  

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond
The powerhouse. Minimally filtered, and bottled at 100 proof, it’s a robust, intense, spicy kick to the palate. A splash of water, a big honkin’ orange peel, a giant ice cube, and you’re in heaven. Pairs best with Saturday nights and subsequent lazy Sunday mornings.   

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
The Bedeviler. Old Forester was one of only 10 brands allowed to distill and sell whiskey during prohibition for ‘medicinal purposes’. In a tribute to the style of the time, Old Forester 1920 is bottled at 115 proof (!), just as it would have come out of the barrel a hundred years ago. Bright and hot, with spicy rye flavors, this Bourbon wants a splash of water to temper the heat. Enjoy in small, lingering sips…

Old Forester Cocktails

By now everyone knows how to make a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Mint Julep, right? Here are a few fun, different, and interesting recipes to try with Old Forester:

The Old Forester Prospector:
2 oz. Old Forester 86 Proof
¾ Oz. Honey Syrup (mix 2 parts honey to 1 part hot water. Let it cool & use in cocktails, tea, water, coffee, glazes, sauces, etc…)
¾ Oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Shake everything over ice & strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a big lemon peel.

Modified Toronto
2 Oz. Old Forester 100 Proof
¼ Oz. Fernet Branca
¼ Oz. Simple Syrup (or the honey syrup you just made!)
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
(optional) – pinch of sea salt

Stir all ingredients over ice & strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange slice.

Bourbon & Ginger
Make it as spicy or sweet as you want with your choice of Ginger Ale. For the daring, try this:
1 Oz. Old Forester 86 Proof
4 Oz. Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
2 Dash Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

Drop bitters, then Bourbon, & finally Ginger Beer over crushed ice in a big glass. Drink deeply, my friends.



Nick’s Spanish Adventure

Garnacha growing in the extreme desert conditions of Jumilla.

Earlier this summer Bottles’ Wine Director Nick Shugrue traveled throughout Spain, visiting several vineyards and essentially having the time of his life. We’ll be tasting many of the wines he had while in Spain in the store on Saturday. Following are excerpts from his travel journal.

We started in Vigo which is up in Galicia, in northwest Spain, known for incredible seafood and the Albarino grape. We were in a small seaside town called Cambados, which was kind of New England-like (humid, coastal, picturesque) but with big, old palm trees lining the main boulevard.

In Cambados we had an insane lunch with mountains of shellfish, razor clams, octopus and whole grilled fish. One of the region’s delicacies is the Percebes or “goose foot barnacle.” It’s a prehistoric, scary looking type of shellfish that I’m glad I tried, but won’t be having again. With lunch we drank a ton of really great Albarino wine. Galicia is Albarino country – it’s what all the locals drink, given how well it pairs with seafood, giving credence to the “what grows together goes together” adage. I visited a few wine shops, and really, all they sell is Albarino with maybe a few red Mencias, a wine made inland in the mountains from the grape of the same name.

The Galician regional delicacy Percebes, or “goose foot barnicle,” with Nick’s empty glasses of locally-grown and made Albarino.

Later in the day we visited the beautiful Lagar de Condesa winery, where lots of the Albarino wines are made. The Kentia was my favorite, super fresh, vibrant and lively. At de Condesa they are experimenting with giant egg-shaped fermenting tanks that many high-end, cutting edge wineries all over the world are using. Many winemakers feel it’s the perfect vessel in which to ferment because the shape of the egg makes the wine naturally convect, continually stirring the lees on its own, not mechanically. It allows for more skin contact with the juice and produces wines with more body and complexity. Really cool. 

Nick next to the egg-shaped fermenter at Lagar de Condesa.

Next we drove southeast to the desert region of Zamora. I felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Zamora is the giant all encompassing zone that includes the famous wine region of Ribera del Duero. Here we drank some great Tempranillo, Mencia and also a “Prieto Picudo” which is an obscure grape from Zamora that I’ve never seen stateside. It’s a bit Dolcetto-ish but juicier.

But the most interesting bit about Zamora is its desert landscape! It’s amazing how anything can grow in such arid conditions, just unbelievable. With no irrigation! Here we went to one of Juan Gil’s oldest vineyards where the vines are over 100 years old, growing in sand. It was the weirdest thing. I felt like we were on a sand dune. The wines produced from these ancient vines and in these rusty, red-ish brown soils were outstanding. Really rich and concentrated. The stand out wine of the day was Rejon Tempranillo grown on 130 year old vines.

A 100+ year-old vine growing in Zamora’s sandy soils.

We later visited another of the Juan Gil winemaking facilities in Rueda, which was about an hour’s drive from Zamora. It was a little less arid here, and the soil was made up of larger grains very much like gravel. One of the stand-outs here was the Shaya Verdejo, which is partially sourced from 110 year old vines. It was a delicious, very typical Verdejo – medium bodied and a bit more lush. We finished that day in a town called Segovia. One of the prettiest cities I have ever been in. The town is cut in half by a giant Roman aqueduct. Stunning. 

Verdejo growing in the gravely Rueda soil.
The Roman aqueduct in the ancient city of Segovia.

The next day we were off to Jumilla in the extreme southeast, so the opposite corner of where we started and home to the Juan Gil headquarters. We’ve carried the Juan Gil wines in store in the past to great success but I honestly have a new appreciation for them after visiting the vineyard. It’s an amazing place full of beautiful contradictions. In this rocky, barren landscape there’s a garden with several 900 year old (!) olive trees. Yet inside the winery, which is underneath a large mountain, is one of Juan Gil’s massive, cutting edge, state of the art wineries, which houses four-story high fermentation tanks.

900-year old olive trees at the Juan Gil headquarters in Jumilla.

The modern, steel fermentation tanks at the Juan Gil winery.

While there, we also got to see a vineyard where their Monastrell is grown. Again, super extreme growing conditions here, which they allude to on their label. It’s really hard to believe wine can be made in this region! The soil and terrain is a desert of jagged sharp stones, rocky cliffs, plateaus and canyons. On the front label of the Honoro Vera Monastrell there’s an image of a vine growing through a white rock. When the vineyards that produce these wine were planted over 100 years ago, the farmers had to remove about a meter of these jagged rocks, until they hit a slab of chalk/limestone. They then had to drill a hole through the limestone to plant the vines. They did this so that the roots could get nutrition and water. The wines all have this hard but delicious mineral edge to them because of the influence of the limestone. It was really cool.

Later in the day we drove to the region next door called Almansa. Here we toured Bodegas Atalaya and met Pepe. Pepe was certainly a highlight of the trip. This round, jovial, amazing man gave us a tour of the rocky vineyards and desert landscape in his old Land Rover Defender. What a day! Atalaya mostly works with the Alicante Bouchet grape which in this region is called Garnacha Tintorera (due to EU laws). Alicante is a black skinned grape and one of the only grapes that produces red juice when crushed.

Nat Saywell of MS Walker, Atalaya’s Pepe and Nick, prior to touring the vineyard in Pepe’s Defender.

On day 5 of our trip we drove up the coast to Montsant and Priorat, closer to Barcelona. The landscape was incredible. We visited the Cellars Can Blau which sits in this bowl surrounded on three sides by mountains. Here we had what was probably the best meal of our trip: A chef brought to our table a huge cast iron skillet full of sunnyside-up eggs. In the middle of it was a mountain of truffled potatoes. He placed it on the table and began tossing. Unbelievable. It was served with Blue Grey Priorat and the Can Blau wines. Big, stunning wines grown in sandy mountainsides. Just beautiful.

The skillet filled with egg and truffled-potatoes. It was mixed tableside prior to being served.

We finished the trip with a day in Barcelona. What an amazing town. The Sagrada de Familia church (a World Heritage Site), Gaudi Park, the famous outdoor market La Bouqueria and Flamenco. A great way to end a trip I’ll never forget.

Join us on Saturday, August 27th, as we taste several of Nick’s favorites from his trip, including Blue Grey Priorat, Kentia Albarino and Shaya Verdejo.

How To Make Simple Cocktails That Taste Anything But

No muss no fuss.

That’s our mantra in these torrid times, which is why we’re crushing hard on locally-owned and operated Bootblack Brand’s line of all natural cocktail/soda syrups. They’re made by Paul Kubiski out of Hope & Main, the culinary incubator in Warren. His roster currently consists of two killer flavors, both of which are deeply layered with sweet, savory and citrus ingredients that meld into one complex cocktail or mocktail when mixed with a beverage of your choice.

Paul launched Bootblack Brand with the super popular Ginger, Cardamom & Lime syrup, which is great when mixed with bourbon or rum. With vodka it’s a heady Moscow Mule. When splashed into tequila it makes a spicy riff on the basic margarita. We also love it plainly mixed with iced-tea, and with selzer, it makes an outrageous ginger ale.

He recently released his second flavor: Cranberry, Jalapeno & Lime, which is a true treat with tequila and/or mezcal. It also sings beautifully with whiskey, vodka and gin. At its most simple, we love splashing it into a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade.

Both make quick work of a Monday night cocktail at home, and really shine when used in a welcome/signature cocktail for gatherings of a handful or more of friends.

For a truly simple, one-minute cocktail/mocktail, Paul suggests mixing 3 parts spirit or seltzer to 1 part syrup, and adjusting amounts to suit your taste.

And for the days when you have a touch more ambition, Paul recommends the following two recipes (both of which are included on their respective bottles).

3 Compadres
2oz bourbon
.75oz Ginger Cardamom Lime syrup
.5oz Ferent-Branca
3 dashes orange bitters
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange twist

Add bourbon, syrup & Fernet to a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over a large cube. Float with the bitters and the twist.

Smokey Summer
1.5oz Tequila Reposado
.5oz Mezcal
1oz Cranberry Jalapeno Lime syrup
.5oz Lime Juice
Splash of seltzer
Salted lime wheel

Add tequila, mezcal, syrup and lime juice to a shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice. Add seltzer, stir gently, then add lime wheel.

Cheers to another local Rhody success story!