Max Lunch Club – Estate Wines of South Africa

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FRIDAY APRIL 29, 2016

Max’s Oyster Bar is pleased to announce the next installment of
The Max Lunch Club
Featuring
Estate Wines from the Western Cape of South Africa

Guest Speaker:
Sara Ryan – National Wine Manager, Cape Classic Imports

Since 1992, Cape Classic has been the leading importer for fine estates
from South Africa’s Western Cape wine region. Selections include some of
the oldest estates in the region to some of the most modern and newest offerings.

To learn more about Cape Classic Imports, visit their website.

Friday April 29
12:45 arrival | 1:00pm lunch

MENU

FIRST
Raats Chenin Blanc Original, 2014
Crab Samosa – hearts of palm, spiced yogurt

SECOND
Indaba Mosaic Red, 2014
(Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot)
Cape Malay Fish Curry – Cod, roasted garlic, basmati rice, cilantro

ENTREE
Kanonkop Kadette, Stellenbosch, 2013
Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Lamb Pie Bobotie – tamarind, almonds, golden raisins, sweet potato

SOMETHING SWEET
Jam Jar Shiraz Spritz
Crunchie – oatmeal cookie bar

$42.00 per person
(not including tax or gratuity)

Please call for reservations
860.236.6299

max’s oyster bar | 964 farmington ave. | w. hartford, ct 06107 | @maxsoysterbar

Max’s Lunch Club with the Owner of Mohua Wines from New Zealand – 7/17

Max Lunch Club Logo-3

Max’s Oyster bar is pleased to present the

July Edition of Max’s Lunch Club

mohua-wineFriday July 17th , 2015
12:45pm arrival, 1pm seating

Featuring the wines of
Mohua & Peregrine Wineries, New Zealand
With Special Guest Speaker, Fraser McLachlan, Owner

Fraser McLachlan

Mohua Wines is a privately owned New Zealand winery, specializing in the production of premium Sauvignon Blanc from the world renowned Marlborough region and Pinot Noir from stunning Central Otago. Established in 2009, Mohua Wines is run by two generations of the McLachlan family, Lindsay and son Fraser, who are actively involved in all aspects of the business and share an unconditional commitment to producing premium quality wines in a manner which preserves the environment and natural beauty of the land for future generations.

Reception
Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, 2014, Marlborough

Course 1
Steamed Cape Cod Mussels
kiwi, pineapple, coconut curry sauce
Peregrine Sauvignon Blanc, 2014, Central Otago

Course 2
Oak Leaf Farms Goat Cheese Crostini
fava beans, smoked duck, arugula, fava beans, aged balsamic
Mohua Pinot Noir, 2012, Marlborough

Course 3
Grilled Lamb Loin
Belltown Hill Orchards cherry couscous, mint-sweet pea sauce
Peregrine Pinot Noir, 2011, Central Otago

Dessert
Fresh Berry Pavlova

$37.50 per person
(not including tax or gratuity)

Please call Max’s Oyster Bar for Reservations
860-236-6299
964 Farmington Avenue | West Hartford, CT 06107

Icons of Italian Wine Dinner at Max a Mia, Avon

Icons-of-Italian-Wine-at-Mia-EDIT-1 copyby Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group

Masi-agricolaI am very pleased to announce that the team at Max a Mia in Avon, will be hosting a very special Italian wine and food pairing dinner with not one, but two great personalities from Italy.  On tour across the United States, the two Nozzole-wine-logoguests are making a stop over in Avon to give you and our other guests some great insights into their respective wineries and regions.  Raffaele Boscaini, of Masi Winery in the Veneto will be on hand, as well as Giovani Folonari, who along with his brother, is one of the great winery owners of Tuscany, with such wineries as Nozzole, Campo al Mare and Cabreo.  This promises to be great evening for Italian wine lovers.  Menu prepared by Executive Chef David Stickney of Max a Mia.  See the menu below…

Max A Mia Presents
ICONS OF ITALIAN WINE
Wine Pairing Dinner
With Special Guests
Raffaele Boscaini, owner of Masi Agricola in the Veneto
and
Giovanni Folonari, owner of Folonari Estates in Tuscany

Monday September 8, 2014
Reception 6:30pm • Seating 7:00pm

Reception
Ahi Polpettini, Golden Raisin Jam/ Acacia Honey Marinated
Berkshire Pork Risotto Cake/ Grappa Cured Gravlax, Crostini, Tobikko Crème Fraiche
Masi Masianoco Pinot Grigio & Verduzzo Delle Venezie IGT, 2012

I
Oak Grilled Stonington Calamari, Living Cress, Mission Figs, Lemon-Chive Oil
Tenute Del Cabreo La Pietra Chardonnay Di Toscana IGT, 2012

II
Porchetta Fagottini, Pulled Prosciutto Ragu, Sheeps Milk Ricotta, Nutmeg
Tenuta Campo Al Mare Bolgheri DOC, 2012

III
Wood Fired Veal Ribeye, Gatto Di Patate,
Marinated Asparagus “Tagliatelle”, Bing Cherry Jus
Tenuta Di Nozzole Il Pareto Toscana IGT, 2011

IV
Local Cheeses, Quince Paste, Jones Apiaries Honeycomb
Masi Mazzone Amarone Delle Valpolicella Classico DOCG, 2007

$95.00 per person
(not including tax or gratuity)

Please call Max a Mia for reservations
(860) 677-6299

Meet Raffaele Boscaini:


Meet Giovanni Folonari

Marchtoberfest @ Max’s Tavern March 8th

marchtoberfest 14

We are very pleased to announce MARCHTOBERFEST, our newest Beer Fest at Max’s Tavern in Springfield.  We have contacted our best and favorite breweries and beer vendors to pour some great beers (see the growing list below) on Saturday March 8th, from 2-6pm.  A fun afternoon full of regional and American craft brews as well as some delicious Max food, music and fun.  All to benefit a great cause – the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield.logo_news1

Participating breweries (as of 2/14/14):

Innis & Gunn (Scotland)

Sam Adams (Boston, Mass)

Spencer Trappist Brewery (Spencer, Mass)

Old Burnside Brewing (East Hartford, Ct)

Berkshire Brewing Co (South Deerfield, Massachusetts)

Shipyard Brewing Co (Portland, Maine)

Foolproof Brewing Co (Pawtucket, Rhode Island)

Rising Tide Brewing Co (Portland, Maine)

Thomas Hooker Brewing Co (Bloomfield, Connecticut)

Grey Sail Brewing (Westerly, Rhode Island)

Peak Organic Brewing (Portland, Maine)

Baxter Brewing Co (Lewiston, Maine)

Tröegs Brewing Co (Hershey, Pennsylvania)

Oskar Blues Brewery (Lyons, Colorado)

Wachusett Brewing (Westminster, Massachusetts)

Sixpoint Brewery (Brooklyn (Redhook), New York)

Anchor Steam Brewing (San Francisco, California)

Clown Shoes Beer (Ipswich, Massachusetts)

Newburyport Brewing Co (Newburyport, Massachusetts)

Stone Brewing (Escondido, California)

Longtrail Brewing (Bridgewater, Vermont)

Otter Creek Brewing (Middlebury, Vermont)

Wolaver’s Organic Brewing (Middlebury, Vermont)

Narragansett Brewing Co (Narragansett, Rhode Island)

Belfast Bay Brewing Co (Belfast, Maine)

Coronado Brewing Co (Coronado, California)

Westfield River Brewing (Westfield, Massachusetts)

California Cider Co. ACE Ciders (Sebastopol, Ca)

 

Tickets are $40 per person with a portion of the proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Springfield.  Buy tickets for Marchtoberfest on the Max Restaurant Group Website, at Max’s Tavern Springfield, or Max Burger in Longmeadow, Mass

Click here for more information and to buy tickets

 

Thursty Thursdays @ Max Restaurant Group

Thursty_Thursdays_logo_IIAt Max Restaurant Group we are very pleased to announce a new initiative at each of our locations: Thursty Thursdays @ Max.  Come into any Max location on Thursdays and discover a great special only available that night.  Each month our locations will have new promotion that will be available on Thursdays.  These will change from week to week and month to month, so check back here or subscribe to our Social Media sites to get the latest updates on what we are offering.  Some of the creative offering may include drink and food specials, half-priced wines, or special tastings – the choices are limitless and are designed to give our loyal patrons another great reason to join us.  Whether you are winding down your week or getting your weekend kicked-off, this is a great opportunity to discover the fabulous sections of beers, wine, and cocktails at each of our locations.  Thursty Thursdays @ Max, just another great reason to join us.

Here is brief description of some of the promotion we are featuring throughout the month of February…

Max Amore in Glastonbury will be offering 1/2 priced bottled wine every Thursday night in February.  Yes, that is right, every bottled wine on the list will be 1/2 priced from its normal offering.  A huge savings and great way to try many of the top wines we carry.  Max Amore’s Italian focused list has selections from every major wine region in Italy, plus favorites from California, Washington State and beyond.  Come in and discover your new favorite along with the spectacular menu from Chef Ted Burnett.  Discount applies to bottled wine selections, only.

Max’s Tavern in Springfield will be offering the Round Trip Tasting Flight consisting of a beer flight paired with a slider flight- all for an amazing $6.  Pick your favorite brews or try something new: offer includes three beer samplers in one of our famous Max sampler glasses served along with a flight of one of our famous beef, pork and chicken sliders.   Not a bad way to start the evening.

Max Fish in Glastonbury will be offering a 1/2 dozen fresh oysters along with a pick your draft selection, all for $9.  There are few better combinations than fresh, briny oysters and craft beer – get them both at a great price on Thursdays at Max Fish.

Max A Mia in Avon will be offering for Thursty Thursday Vino e Salumi.  Each Thursday in February we will pick a new wine from our list and offer it by the glass along with a Chef’s selction salumi plate – all for $15.  And we are not messing around wit the wines here as we want to showcase the best of what we have.  This Thursday we will be pouring the fabulous Prudittori di Barbaresco 2008 Barbaresco, one of the most famous selections from Piemonte, and a truly delicious wine (normally sold for $20 / glass), along with a classic salumi plate put together by chef David Stickney.

Max Downtown in Hartford will be offering a new selection from its Wine by Coravin list.  If you are unfamiliar with the new Coravin device, and you are a wine fan, you need to discover the flexibility it allows us in offering more selections by the glass.  The Coravin is essentially a mini-cruvinet system, which allows us to literally tap a bottle of wine without removing the cork, replacing the air inside the bottle with inert gas as we remove the wine for you to taste.  This means we can tap and offer a large selection of wines without any adverse effect to the wine remaining in the bottle.  This week we will be featuring the fabulous Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, 2010, one of the most highly regarded California wineries, at he unbelievable price of $18 per glass!  Rarely offered by the glass, here is a great opportunity to taste without committing to a full bottle.

Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford will be offering a regional pairing of Local Brews and Local Seafood.  Each week in February we will pick a New England region and pair a selection of local seafood along with a local craft brew from that area.  Starting this week for Thursty Thursday @ Max, we will be promoting Bluepoint Brewing Co from Patchogue, NY, along with a 1/2 dozen plate of Bluepoint Oysters, all for $9.  What better way to celbrate local farming than with local seasonal products and great local brews.  Upcoming specials will include Thimble Island Brewing with Thimble Island Clams, Narraganset Brewing with Rhode Island Oysters, Harpoon Brewing with Massachusetts Oysters, Maine Brewing Company with Maine Lobsters , Rogue Ale with Washington State Oysters, or whatever combination we can think of.

Max Burger in West Hartford will be offering 1/2-Priced Cans for Thursty Thursdays @ Max in February.  C’mon in and take your pick of any of our canned brews and get them at a 50% discount, all day and all night.  The canned beer has made a huge return among craft brewers in the past few years as many people have discovered that fresh beer really does taste better this way.  One of the most damaging things for beer is light and the can provides the perfect vehicle for getting all the flavor the brew master intended to your glass (or just from the can).  We agree and we also like the fact that this is a lighter and more eco-friendly way to transport beer.  We have a growing selection of great canned brews fro across America, so join each each Thursday in February to taste your way around the canned section.

Trumbull Kitchen in Hartford will be featuring a Blue Agave Maragarita & Tapas for $6. The TK classic El Jimador Blue Agave Margarita (one of our most popular drinks from the catalog), pair it with Chef Torla’s  Pueblan-style Mole Poblano – tortillas, pumpkin seeds, queso fresca. All for $6, this Thursday.  We love making tequila drinks and El Jimador is a great selection which we use for our standard drinks selection – it is made from 100% Blue Agave, and has a rich, salty, smokey taste, perfect for making classic styled margaritas.  This drink has a touch of blue in it to add a twist to the classic.  Perfect for the Mole Poblano.

Max Burger in Longmeadow, Ma, will be holding a Specialty Brew Tap Night, for Thursty Thursdays @ Max in February.  This week’s tapping will feature the very special and rarely offered Founders Brewing Imperial Stout, and imposing creature at 10.5% abv, but a great treat on a cold night like tonight in Western New England.  Brewed with ten varieties of malted barley, this stout is smooth as silk, yet complex and rich in body.  We will be tapping at 5 pm, so come in and treat yourself to one of the finest Stouts in America from one of the top American craft brewers.

 

Hélène Jaume Domaine Grand Veneur Wine Dinner Feb 5th @ Max Fish

y86fho0PAIiGLTgLma1WfDdRPbpor6gXzIbc1cza3Wh-IyEsFnqrtyHBpDOabhg4P77Fdn_INq-e9YkxwHpV5pGr8oISLU9b13ugnaHkNLvy3_VrfTR9S7UZQICX-QAqDzbMFOT0g38G=s0-d-e1-ftSome of the best and most interesting wine events we do often include personalities directly from the winery or vineyard.  For this event we have the great pleasure to welcome Hélène Jaume from Domiane Grand Veneur, one of he most exciting producers from the Rhone Valley in Southern France.  The family Domaine dates to 1826, and is currently run by Alain Jaume, Ms Jaume’s father, along with her two brothers.  A rare opportunity to visit inside a fabulous estate, she will guide our guests through the finely crafted and focused Rhône wines paired along with the cuisine of Chef Robert Peterson of Max Fish.

Rhone Valley Wine Dinner featuring
Domaine Grand Veneur Dinner and
Guest Speaker Helene Jaume, 2nd Generation winemaker

Helene Jaume

Wednesday February 5, 2014

Reception: 6:30
Domaine Grand Veneur Voignier, 2012
Scallop Crudo, cucumber, seaweed, ruby grapefruit
Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, bean sprouts & bok choy

Seating: 7:00
First 
Domaine Grand Veneur Voignier, 2012
Poached Red Snapper, mussels, orange peel & saffron broth, fingerlings, fennel

Second 
Domaine Grand Veneur Vacueyras, La Garrigue, 2011
Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna, winter squash Spaetzle, Brussels sprouts, tarragon

Third 
Domaine Grand Veneur Lirac Clos Sixte, 2011
Wild Mushroom-Barley Risotto, braised oxtail, bone marrow jus, crispy kale

Fourth 
Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf du Pape Les Origines, 2010
Pepper Crusted Lamb Loin, lamb shank bourguinon, baby roots, sweet potato puree, garlic bread crumbs

Fifth
Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf du Pape, 2010
Cheese Course, pressed fig, smoked almonds

Dessert
Truffles & Hazelnut Cream Puffs

$95 per person plus tax and gratuity

Please call Max Fish Glastonbury for reservations

860-652-3474 (FISH)

Click here to visit the Max Fish website

Max Burger WH Brewery of the Month: Hooker (Bloomfield, CT)

Max Burger CircleEach month Max Burger of West Hartford selects a brewery to feature and showcase special beers and drink nights around.  For the month of July, the select Brewery of the Month is Thomas Hooker Brewery of Bloomfield, CT.  The Max Restaurant Group has a close working relationship with the Hooker staff as they brew the Brewtus Maximus American Pale Ale, which is the house beer at the Max Group and the Pale Ale selection in the Hooker beer line-up.

hooker logoAside from Brewtus Maximus, Thomas Hooker beers will be on feature all month.  Plus, there will be a special evening on Wednesday July 17, featuring small batch variations on some of Hooker’s regular beers, including a Rauch style Helles.  The guys from Hooker came over to Max Burger last week and smoked some malts in the smoker at the restaurant.  They have used this custom smoked malt as an ingredient in this very limited production version of the Munich Helles Rauch Bier, which is a “lighter” style smoked lager beer perfect for summer and smoked/grilled meats.

Here is how the brewery describes the beer – Munich dark, pilsen and vienna malts blended with special grains smoked right on site at Max Burger. This light style lager has a smokey flavor with a bready finish. This sessionable lager is sure to please a variety of palates.  ABV 5%

The concept for this style and the quality of the Hooker products can be attributed to the two brewers at the company.  These are two young but experienced brewers that have recently joined forces at Hooker and are making huge strides in quality and taste improvements.  They have a smaller brew system for making variations on their regular line plus some test batches.  The future is bright for Thomas Hooker Brewery and their brewmaster, Stephen Andrews, and his assistant Sean Piels (see their bio’s below).

SpinsterAnother Hooker beer that you will find on draft throughout the month at Max Burger is the Hooker Spinster XPA – the Spinster name comes from the fact that this is a single hop varietal Ale, hence the Spinster…Single…get it?  Tasty though, not mean and nasty.

Here is what they says about this one…

Dry Hopped Spinster XPA (cask conditioned)- We took our newest creation, the Spinster XPA, and dry hopped with Mosaic and Citra hops. The unfiltered XPA’s citrus aroma from late addition Summit hops blends with the Mosaic’s mango and lemon notes as well as the Citra’s tropical tones. ABV 4.8%

Meet the Brewers…

Stephen Andrews – Head Brewer

A graduate of Chicago’s World Brewing Academy International Diploma in Brewing Technology Program at Siebel Institute of Technology and Doemen’s Academy in Munich, Germany, Stephen also has a degree from the London based Institute of Brewing and Distilling. While studying and training as a brewer, Stephen’s travels have brought him to Bavaria, Austria, Belgium, England and an expansive tour of Germany. During his time in Germany, he trained in authentic German styles using a 7 barrel Steinecker brewing system. Back in the states, this Simsbury local joined the Thomas Hooker team in early 2011, where he has brought a wealth of creativity and brewing knowledge.

Sean Piel – Brewer

A graduate of Brewlab School of British Brewing Technology, Sean first found his passion for beer home brewing with his father at a young age. After attending Brewlab, Sean traveled to Belgium, Scotland and Ireland. Sean ended up spending time living in England and Germany to learn about different breweries, techniques of brewing and different beers. He rounded out his stay in Europe with a year long internship at Stoettner Brewing Company in Pfaffenburg, Germany. Upon his return to his native Connecticut, Sean came on board as a brewer at Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in the end of 2012.

 

Interview with Greywacke Winemaker Kevin Judd

Tom Cannavan is an English wine journalist,  blogger, and TV/Radio host.  He recently interviewed Kevin Judd, the owner/winemaker of Greywacke Wines in New Zealand, and I thought I would share a bit of this interview with you.  Kevin Judd was on the scene in the early days (1980s) of modern New Zealand wine-making  and was responsible for helping launch Cloudy Bay wines, which in turn helped to launch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on to the world scene.  More recently, Kevin has gone on to create Greywacke Wines, which for my money are some of the best values and best tasting New Zealand SBs out there, as well as some of the best SBs from anywhere in the world, period.

We are currently featuring Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, at Max Downtown in Hartford and Max Oyster Bar in West Hartford, and as long as availability holds up I plan to run at other locations throughout the summer months.

You can see Tom’s website here: http://www.wine-pages.com/tom-cannavan.html

Enjoy the interview below – Thanks, Brian Mitchell

 

Tom Cannavan, 03/13

In 2011 I met up with Kevin Judd in New Zealand and published a little tasting profile of his exciting new project, Greywacke. Winemaker at Cloudy Bay for over two decades, Kevin had launched Greywacke to huge critical acclaim in 2010 as a ‘négociant’ operation, borrowing winery space and using fruit he buys from long-standing friends and associates, all coming from mature vineyards within the central Wairau Plains and the Southern Valleys of Marlborough.

In February 2013 Kevin was in the UK, travelling around the country with his importer, Liberty Wines, and I was delighted to meet up with him for lunch and a tasting of his current releases. Two years on and it is status quo for Kevin terms of his business model, with a seven-wine range, still made in facilities borrowed from Dog Point Vineyards and sourcing fruit mainly from vineyards owned by Ivan Sutherland, ex-Cloudy Bay colleague and co-owner of Dog Point. But much else has changed: the phenomenal success of Greywacke has taken Kevin a little by surprise, with demand for the wines outstripping supply, and now selling in 25 different world markets.

 I asked Kevin why he took the decision to rent cellar space and buy in fruit. With a wry smile he shrugged and confessed “Because I had no money.” Kevin left Cloudy Bay after the 2009 harvest, an important milestone for him as it marked his 25th harvest as winemaker there. His resignation was amicable, but it is pretty clear Kevin had tired of the corporate life (Cloudy Bay is part of luxury goods empire Luis Vuitton Moët Hennessey). “Now I share a lot of the backroom stuff with Dog Point,” he tells me, “but I don’t have all the bureaucracy and big business structure to deal with – it’s me, my wife Kimberley and one assistant doing the paperwork.” He sums it up in six words: “Greywacke has got to be fun.”

 How long the fun can last if Greywacke’s success continues is a moot point, but I also asked Kevin about the fresh winemaking start he had in 2009, quitting Cloudy Bay after 25 years and immediately launching his own label. “When I left Cloudy Bay I wanted to harvest fruit at the riper end of the spectrum, with lower yields, all the fruit on Scott Henry trellises, and doing things a bit differently.” I asked if level of ripeness was the main difference between Cloudy Bay’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc, and his own, but there are other differences: “I ferment 10% in barrel, and we use wild yeasts.” Even more interesting in some ways is the ‘wild’ cuvée of the Sauvignon Blanc, 100% barrel fermented with wild yeasts. “I guess it is somewhere down the same road as Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko,” Kevin explained, “but not as far down.” I also asked if he had thought of adding some Semillon to the blend (as was the case in early vintages of Cloudy Bay), but he was pretty firm in his response: “If we had the right clones we might, but Semillon is too heavy yielding in Marlborough and can be pretty ugly.”

All of Kevin’s fruit is sourced in Marlborough, with no thoughts of taking fruit from other New Zealand districts (“We’re a Marlborough label,” he says emphatically). That includes his Pinot Noir. Given that this operation started with a blank piece of paper, and he could theoretically buy fruit from anywhere, I wondered why he did not consider sourcing Pinot from Martinborough on the North Island, or from Central Otago further down the South Island, both established Pinot hot-spots with huge reputations. “Now that we’ve got the Southern Valleys coming on stream with Pinot in Marlborough, I think we have the potential to grow it as well as anywhere in the country,” says Kevin. The Southern Valleys is a cool sub-region, with silt, gravel and clay soils and a relatively long ripening season. “I think we’re a lot closer to Martinborough in style than Central Otago,” Kevin adds. “We were slow off the mark with Pinot and we planted in the wrong places, but that has changed.”

Kevin’s Chardonnay has been a runaway success, and has given him the headache of sourcing enough fruit of the right quality. “I even placed ads in the local newspapers,” he tells me, “looking for mature vineyards planted with the Mendoza clone, but there’s just nothing about.” The Mendoza Chardonnay clone is famous for its ‘hen and chicken’ habit of uneven sized berries, but Kevin is 100% convinced of its quality in Marlborough. Like the “Wild” Sauvignon Blanc, it is fermented only with indigenous yeasts, whole bunches being vinified in French oak barrels.

Sauvignon Blanc remains Greywacke’s – and Marlborough’s – undoubted headline act, Kevin’s two bottlings accounting for 70% of production. I quizzed him on whether the image of Marlborough Sauvignon had been irreparably damaged by huge, industrial scale plantings and a spate of big harvests, that led to tumbling prices – the nadir hitting £4.99, even £3.99 on promotion a few years ago. “There are still a few of those ‘get rich quick’ operators about,” he admits, but also he believes the steam has gone out of that: “and it’s finite,” he reminds me, “Marlborough has more or less all been planted.”

Ask the Wine Guy…The varietal Malbec, did it originally come from Argentina and why is it so good?

by Brian Mitchell

In my wine education plan, Malbec is considered to be one of the “other big six” grape varieties, by which I mean that it is not one of the six most common varietals, but is a significant enough player that we can place it among the very top selling and most important grape varietals to learn about.

Malbec’s traditional home is not Argentina, but in fact is France.  In France, many regions – including the Loire and Burgundy wine areas – would have grown Malbec, but it is in the southwest that it is best known; Cahors being the principle area where the grape is known as Côt.

Today, most people would associate Malbec with Argentina, and specifically the Mendoza region, but why?  In the early and mid-1800s, when many immigrants were leaving Europe and settling in the New World, they would take familiar things with them, such as grapes, in order to reproduce “home” as much as possible.  Argentina has a population

that is 90% European in origin and so wine is huge part of the culture.  Malbec was brought to Mendoza along with many grapes, but the climate is especially suited for this grape.  Mendoza is at a high elevation (3000’+), which means lots of sunshine.  Malbec is a relatively thin skinned grape that ripens on the early side.  This means that by the time the harvest rolls around, the Malbec grapes can be a bit over ripe in both sugars and tannins, and thus produce some intense and even hard wines.

In high elevation growing areas of Argentina, the warm, dry days and cold desert nights allow for the growing season to be extended which in turn allows for full (but slow) ripening of the grape’s sugars as well as the grape’s tannins.  The effect is that the wines made in Argentina are often more juicy and softer than the wines made in France.

Another interesting point about the Malbec grapes of Argentina is that much of the genetic material that is used in Argentina is descended from grapes brought to the country in the early and mid-1800s, well before the plague of phylloxera destroyed much of the European vineyard area.  With Argentina’s relative isolation in the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, this genetic grape material was not diluted or crossed with outside varietals, and so the grapes growing today are more closely related to the grapes originally grown in France than those grown there today.  This purity of the grape DNA could also account for the difference in styles of wines from the two countries.

Malbec vines are perfectly suited to growing and producing the wine styles in Mendoza and other regions of Argentina.  Fruity but not flabby, smooth tannins, not harsh or heavily astringent, dark fruits flavors that go well with cuisine, especially grilled meats, and a smooth overall style.  Plus the prices are relatively low as the land costs and labor costs are favorable in Argentina.  All of these factors make Malbec a great choice to accompany almost any meal.

Look for these great Malbecs being served at MAX locations…

Trumbull Kitchen offers the Tinto Negro Malbec. Which is a great style produced by two longtime Argentine wine industry pros, each of whom spent many years working together at Catena Zapata.  Dark fruits, fleshy mouth-fell, this is a great style that is easy to drink.

Max Burger in Longmeadow offers the Bodini Malbec, which is imported by one of the top firms working with wines from Mendoza, VineConnections.  Super easy style with a soft, round attack followed by smooth black fruits on the finish.  Great for burgers.

For something a bit more upscale, Max Downtown offers the Bramare Malbec from Vina Cobos, owned and produced by Paul Hobbs, the famed California winemaker who has been making wine in Mendoza for over 20 years.  This wine competes with any of the top wines from the region as well as top wines of the world.  A full but balanced style that is elegant, smooth and very deep with flavor.

Spirits Education – St Patty’s Day Edition: Irish Whiskey

In the 19th Century, Irish whiskey was one of the most popular whiskey style in the world.  Its lighter style – due to typically being distilled three times – and lack of heavy peat flavors often found in Scotch, made it an enjoyable and even elegant style of whiskey compared to many styles of the time.  Then three things happened to curtail availability and eventually its popularity: World War I, the Irish fight for independence, and Prohibition in the US.

With the outbreak of WWI, much of the shipping and trading of goods was curtailed for obvious reasons, and this resulted in a decline of sales for Irish Whiskey.  Up to WWI, Ireland was part of the British Empire, but then the Irish War for Independence (1919-1921), and resulting independence, cut Ireland off from access to London and the major trading that resulted by being a part of the empire.  ,Irish Whiskey was essentially replaced by Scotch as the favored whiskey of the Empire.  Then with the enactment of Prohibition of alcohol in the US (1920-1933), which was a major market for Ireland due to the vast number of Irish immigrants living in the US, Irish Whiskey was nearly knocked out of existence.  By the end of WWII, the industry was in shambles with the effects of these events lasting even to this day.

Did you know that y the 1960s, Ireland only had 3 commercial distilleries?   Two in the Irish Republic (Midleton and Cooley) and one in the North (Bushmills).  All three produce pot stilled whiskies, while Midleton and Cooley also do grain whiskey in column stills.

Irish whiskey is distilled three times, which is the feature that gives it its lightness and smoothness, especially when compared to Scotch, which is usually double distilled.  The other distinction with Irish whiskey is the use of roasted malted and unmalted barley in the grain mash.  Most whiskey is made using malted barley plus other grains, but few are made with unmalted grains.  The use of these grains contributes to the richness and smoothness of Irish whiskey and is what helps to define it as a world class style along with Scotch and Bourbon.

The other significant distinction between Irish and Scotch whiskey is that many Scotch whiskies rely on peat for flavoring to a certain degree; Irish whisk is almost never peated, thus reinforcing the lightness.

Jameson is the major player, with brands such as Bushmills, Powers, Red Breast, Tyrconnell and Tullamore Dew (to name a few), also being quite popular.  Today there are over 100 Irish whiskey brands on the market with new ones being added each year.

The new interest category for Irish whiskey is the aged category.  By law, all Irish Whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years before release, but some are aged much longer to increase the smoothness.  Many people look for Scotch and Bourbons that have been barrel aged for many years.  Today, it is possible to find Irish styles that are aged extensively.

Jameson 18 year old and Red Breast 15 year old are just a few examples of this style.  With aging in barrel for such a long time, the whiskies have an opportunity to mellow and take on really complex, smooth qualities that are appreciated by whisky lovers around the globe. 

You can find a top tier of great Irish Whisky at Max Downtown.  We now feature the following:


Jameson 18 year
– this is a full-bodied whiskey with rich flavors of sweet oak, vanilla, but hints of citrus and spices build through the complex finish.

Redbreast 15 year
– this is a pure pot stilled whiskey, which makes it a throw-back to the great styles of the past.  Wonderful tones of caramel and nuts with spice on the finish, plus a velvety smooth over-all style that is distinctive and delicious. vanilla, but hints of citrus and spices build through the complex finish.

 

Bushmills Black Bush – no age statement here, but a blend of whiskies aged upwards of about 7 years.  What sets this whiskey apart is the wood used for aging – mainly used oloroso sherry casks and bourbon barrels.  The effect is an added intensity of darker flavors, all derived from the richness of oloroso sherry (the fullest and richest style of sherry) along with the toasty sweetness of bourbon.  Complex and lovely.

Recap: Stone Brewery Dinner at Max’s Oyster Bar

Last night, nearly 60 patrons had the pleasure of enjoying a fabulous meal and presentation at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.  Chef Scott Miller went all out with a round the world assortment of dishes that played off the flavors and styles of the strikingly good brews from Stone.

As our guests entered everyone was given a pretzel lei to enjoy and nibble on while the rest of the guests arrived.

First course was paired with the Stone Levitation Ale, a fabulous style that is a bit easier on the alcohol at 4.5% abv, but big on flavor with rich maltiness and fresh citrusy hops.  Chef Miller paired this with a Hiramasa Crudo (King Fish) with some foie gras powder and freeze dried strawberries.  Our guests knew they were in for a treat last night after seeing this dish.

Coming up next from Stone was the Stone IPA, really their flagship brew and one that is easily identifiable as a classic.  This beer is what IPA, especially West Coast IPA lovers, are looking for.  Full on hops with a smooth undertone of maltiness.  At 77IBUs there is nothing shy about this, but it drinks great and you are

usually not aware of the 6.9% abv.  Chef Miller paired this with a take on a classic Mexican dish called a Chilaquiles, a dish often served in the morning or for brunch as its often meant to use up left-over tortillas and other ingredients.  This was a perfect foil for the Stone IPA, though and with the addition of a soft boiled egg, its was just decadent enough to make you feel really good.  Smoked chorizo was a nice touch as well.

For the third course, the Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale was up, and this is one of the fan favorites.  At 8.7% abv and 90 IBUs, there is nothing really being held back with this brew.  Full on hop aromas, rich malt and nutty flavors, though surprisingly clean drinking for such a big brew.  Chef took this intensity of hops in the beer and played off that with a little twist that complimented the flavors and tingled the senses.  Pine needle smoked pork jowl with some lime and an assortment of Vietnamese styled pickles, plus just as the dish was to hit the table we flamed the fresh pine needles to boost the aromatics even more.  Fabulous aromas and taste with this dish.  The whole room smelled of smoky, woodsy pine and hops.

For the entree course guests were treated to a unique take on the “Chicken Fried Steak”, where Chef Miller took a short-rib and wrapped it in chicken skin before cooking.  Bringing the crispness of fried chicken and the richness of well braised short rib together in one satisfying bite.  With the addition of a southern waffles and white gravy, the dish was full-on delicious and flavorful.  For this dish we poured full pints of the Stone Enjoy By 4.10.13, a limited release ale that is only available for a very limited time and then it is gone for good.  Bright and hoppy, this was a smooth and crisp style and paired perfectly with the chicken fried ribs.

I think for me the favorite dish of the evening had to be the last.  This was such a  great combination and both the beer and the dessert were better for the flavors in each.  Chef Miller put together this decadent, but easy to eat combination of baked apples, Caramel and Rogue Creamery Rogue River Blue cheese that was visually and flavor-wise delicious.  The caramel tuile made this look like a million dollar dish, and the taste was right on. Paired wit the Stone Old Guardian 2013, a barley wine style ale clocking in at 11.4% abv, the combination was the perfect way to end a fabulous dinner.  The cheese was perfectly light and heavy at the same time while the beer was sweet and biting.

If you happened to miss this event, Max Restaurant Group will see Stone Brewery again at the Trumbull Kitchen Brewfest on March 16, in Hartford and then again with Wednesday Sampler night at TK in April.  Jeff from Stone always brings out limited and small production stuff when he comes in so don’t miss these great events.