Patio Dinner at Max A Mia – June 17 Wine from Piedmont

We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Summer Patio Dinner Series at Max A Mia in Avon, will kick off with a regional dinner focusing on the wines of Piemonte in Northwest Italy, featuring the wines of Marchesi di Barolo, one of the most historic properties in the entire region.

It is at Marchesi di Barolo that the modern style of Barolo was created in the mid-1800s, and is today where innovation and tradition combine to move the region forward with stylish wines.  Chef David Stickney from Max A Mia has created a pairing menu that highlights his modern approach to classic northern Italian cuisine served along the selections from Marchesi di Barolo.  David Rudman, Wine Specialist from Brescome Barton, Inc, will be on hand to discuss the wines.  This is the first of a monthly series at Max A Mia, and the plan is to hold the dinner on our patio, which seats about 40.  Please make your reservations early as we expect this event to sell-out quickly.

Max A Mia Presents an Italian Regional Wine Dinner

Featuring Piemonte and the wines of Marchesi di Barolo

Monday June 17, 2013 – 6:30

With Special Guest David Rudman of Brescome Barton, Importers & Distributors

I

-Marchesi di Barolo Gavi, 2010-

Veal loin carpaccio, morel mushroom salad,

ruccola, tonatto aioli, Reggiano cookie

II

– Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Monferrato Maraia, 2010 –

Cacciatorini agnolotti,  green onion pesto, cured

 olives, castelmagno cheese

III

– Marchesi di Barolo Dolcetto d’Alba Madonna, 2009 –

Cotechino & carnaroli stuffed quail, crispy

lardo polenta, bing cherry fresca

IV

-Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cru Sarmassa, 2006 –

Braised Piemontese oxtail, saffron spatzle,

horseradish greens, marrow demi

V

-Marchesi di Barolo Moscato d’Asti Zagara, nv-

Fritto misto dolce, nutella brodetto

$68.00 per person, not including tax & gratuity

Seating will be on the patio and is limited.  In the event of inclement weather the event will be held in Max a Mia’s main dining room.

Please call Max A Mia in Avon for reservations

860-677-6299

70 East Main Street, Avon, Ct

Max Family Cuvee White – Just In Time For Summer

By Brian Mitchell – Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of travelling to Sonoma and Napa Valleys to visit with some wineries and to spend some time with the winemakers for our Max Family Cuvee wines.  The news at this point is that we will be introducing a brand new wine to the mix at each Max location, hopefully in just a few weeks.  This wine is the innaugural vintage of Max Family Cuvee White – a Sauvignon Blanc heavy white blend that also has some Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Viognier in the mix.  

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend a few hours with Zach Long, the winemaker responsible for making the Max Family Cuvee White, as well as head winemaker at Kunde Estate, located in Sonoma.  The white Cuvee will carry a Sonoma appellation, which is different than the red with a Napa designation, and this is the region that Zach Long likes and knows the best.  When we were putting the first blends together back in December and January, we were initially working with the Girard team that makes the red Cuvee, but I wanted something a bit different and knew that the same company that owns Girard, also works with Kunde.  I liked the wines from Sonoma for their soft fruit and fleshy palate style and was hoping that we could get the same style for the white Cuvee.  Eventually we found some wines that seem to fit what I was looking for and so now our Max Family White will be made at Kunde Estate, the best option for this style of wine.

Zach Long, winemaker for Max Family Cuvee White Blend

On my visit, Zach took me on a tour of the property which is over 100 years old and is more than 1600 acres situated in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain, just south of Santa Rosa.  Kunde produces Sauvignon Blanc as a large percentage of its regular out-put, and Zach showed me the exact vineyard blocks that make up our white Cuvee.  These are older blocks that often will held for reserve level wines.  Kunde Winery grows a range of grapes varietals, both red and white, and with so much soil and topographical diversity, this gives them tremendous resources when it comes to having many options for blending.  Red and white grapes are grown on both flat vineyards and hillsides that range over 1500 feet in elevation.  Having this much diversity, it is possible to get multi-layered complexity in wines, adding depth and character to just about everything made here.

For the Max Family White Cuvee, we went back and forth on a umber of different options, finally settling on a  blend that is Sauvignon Blanc based with smaller percentages of Gewurztraminer, Viognier and even some high acid Chardonnay to build in extra mouth-feel.  I personally get a great response when I serve Sonoma Sauvignons because they tend to bring together the best of what Sauvignon can offer in cool climates like New Zealand – fresh tropical fruits and racy acidity, but also show some restraint that is more common to Loire Valley Sauvignons from France.  Balanced and fruit forward this wine will work well with what Max does best, such as fresh seafood as Max’s Oyster Bar, Max Fish, Max’s Tavern and Max Downtown, or great Asian influenced dishes at Trumbull Kitchen, to the salads and lighter fair at Max Burger and our Italian locations.

The label has been approved by the Federal Government and we are now awaiting CT and MA State approval.  We hope to have this wine to our restaurants by the middle of June and serving it year-round.  We are planning a kick-off party to launch this great addition to our Max Family, details to follow as soon as we have label approval and know the dates for shipping from Sonoma.

Max Family Cuvee Red (Napa Blend) – New Vintage Update

By Brian Mitchell – Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group

Lat week I had the opportunity to visit the Napa Valley in Northern California, and one of the people/places I visited was the winemaker and facility that produce our Max Cuvee Red Blend.  The winemaker is Glenn Hugo, the lead winemaker for Girard Winery, which is a Napa focused winery that has been in existence for over 30 years.  Glenn has been the winemaker at Girard for the past six years and has been responsible for all but the very first vintage of Max Family Cuvee Red.  

This was the first year that I traveled to Napa to work on the Max Cuvee, and when I received the directions for the winery it was not a Napa address, which I was expecting, but instead a Sonoma based address.  Now, I kind of knew what I was going to be seeing, but it was interesting to actually see where the wine is produced – essentially it is in a  large warehouse facility that is home to about 20 different “wineries” and is in an industrial park in Sonoma.  If you are picturing an idyllic farm house winery situated among rows of vines somewhere off the Silverado Trail, you have the wrong image of what a winery might be.  This building is a long warehouse that is broken into “suites” (sections) where a lot of wine-making is taking place – Girard and Max Family Cuvee among them, as well as notable neighbors Patz & Hall.

Even though the wine-making is done in this less glamorous location, the Girard Winery does not down-play this.  In fact, they are proud of the fact that this location allows them to produce wine in both an economical and environmentally efficient manner.  By having a smaller more compact facility, with shared resources and minimal maintenance, the costs are lower than having to maintain a big fancy show-room winery.  Plus they have the ability to use necessary equipment and other resources to make great wine – things that may not always be available on a farm-style winery.  For instance, Glenn Hugo mentioned that the water they use at the facility is reclaimed, filtered through their equipment after use and is actually returned to the city of Sonoma cleaner than when it came in the winery.  It also should be noted that the “winery” part of the winery looks and functions just like any winery, warehouse or stand-alone.  They have all the equipment and space (even more perhaps) than at most of the wineries I have visited, including a lab, ferment and storage tanks, bottling line, and hundreds and hundreds of barrels for aging.  No difference, just not as pretty.

Glenn Hugo - Max Family Cuvee Winemaker

But what comes out of the winery is as good as any comparable facility and priced wines. Glenn spent the better part of the morning walking me through barrel samples of Chardonnay, Grenache (his own label), multiple lots of Zinfandel and other varietals, as well as the new 2011 lots of wine that will ultimately make up the blend for the next vintage of Max Family Cuvee Red.  If you follow the wine media at all you have probably heard that 2011 was a challenging year in Napa Valley.  The weather was not as warm as is typical, and the ability for many to get fully ripe and mature grapes that will shine with big fruit and tannins was not easy.  But this is where the strength and resources of a wine group like Girard comes into play.

Girard is one of the wineries owned and operated by Vintage Wine Estates, a winemaking group owned by industry veteran Pat Roney.  Because they have multiple labels and work with so many wineries this group has a lot of vineyard resources to draw from, and this gives them the ability to make very consistent wines year in and year out – even if the weather is less than perfect.  Max Family Cuvee Red is made from various lots sourced throughout Napa Valley, including vineyards in the Napa Valley proper, some mountain fruit as well as vineyards located in outer vineyard regions like Pope Valley (still part of Napa, though).  By sourcing from these locations, where the affect of temperature and other climate conditions is not always the same, the winemaker is able to really practice his craft and put his blending skills to the test.  When I spoke to Glenn about this he said 2011 was definitely going be a year for the winemaker’s “art”.  By which he meant that he was having to be very selective and careful about how and what he was blending, but that the end result should be very similar to what we have come to know and expect from Max Family Cuvee.

When I tasted through the lots I could see the impact of the vintage  but could also see how changing the varietal blends on a  percentage basis could impact the overall feel and taste of the wines.  I found the 2011 varietals to be colorful, flavorful and have the aromatics that I am looking for, some of them did have a bit less mid-palate resonance, which is a trademark of the Max Cuvee.  We discussed this and tasted some other lots of wine, specifically the Syrah and Cabernet components, which will be used to build more mouth-feel and texture.  The Merlot was delicious – full of cocoa and cherry.  The Malbec was deeply colored and brought added richness.  The Cabernet Franc was beautiful and aromatic. The Petite Verdot was tannic and intense, so will be used sparingly for backbone in the wine.  We will not have a final assembly to taste and sign off on until mid-June, and will go to bottle in July, but I expect that the 2011 Max Family Cuvee Red will be as smooth and rich as the past vintages, delivery every bit of complexity and length as we have come to expect.

I think it is important to understand that Max Family Cuvee Red is a “real” wine, not just a contract wine with a label slapped on it sold to anyone.  Since it was first conceived six years ago, there has been input from the Max team on how the wine should be styled and any changes that we feel need to be made to make it better.  By going out and tasting directly with the winemaker, helping to select the exact lots and the exact blend for this wine, I am taking my own experience as well as direct guest feedback to the winemaker and giving him this critical information on how to create each year’s blend.  This is something that not a lot of restaurants do.  We sell a lot of Max Family Cuvee, and I want to make sure it is the best wine for the money.  By working with Glenn and the rest of the team at Girard, I feel confident this is the case – hopefully you agree.

That was the morning.  That afternoon I went to meet the winemaker for our new wine, the Max Family Cuvee White Blend.  Check out the next post to get all the details on this wine, which is just about to arrive for us.

Cocktail Trivia – Derby Day & The Mint Julep

With Derby Day upon us, I thought I would take a moment to discuss the history of a category of drinks that are popular this time of year, namely the SMASH, of which a Julep is one variation.  Traditionally a smash would have been a drink with ample crushed ice, mint, a strong base such as whiskey, and some fruit for added sweetness.   The Mint Julep first appeared sometime around 1800 (or maybe earlier), and was a drink that was one of a number of variations on the smash theme.  In fact, these drinks may not have always included Bourbon, but any spirit such as brandy or rum.  Along the way the smash and the julep parted ways so that now the smash is relatively unknown and juleps are mainly known for the minted styles.  The little problem is that juleps are really only thought of around this time of year as they have been associated with the Kentucky Derby since 1938, when Churchill Down’s began selling it as a signature drink in a souvenir cup – it sold for $.75 a drink.  Today, the Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event. At Max’s, by making the most of quality fresh ingredients, plus mint, which almost everyone can enjoy, we can offer a quick, delicious and refreshing warm weather drink option that can be enjoyed anytime of the year, not just the first Saturday in May.


This year, three Max locations will be featuring the Mint Julep as part of Derby Day specials.  Max Downtown (Hartford), Max’s Oyster Bar (West Hartford) and Max’s Tavern (Springfield) will each be hosting Derby Parties for those who love the races and want a touch of Southern refreshment while watching the races.

 

For the perfect Mint Julep you will need some fresh mint, crushed ice, a good bourbon (Woodford Reserve or Wild Turkey are suggested), and some simple syrup.  A julep cup is classic for this drink as it holds the coldness from the ice very well and gets all frosty when you stir the drink.

2 oz. Bourbon of choice

1 oz. Simple Syrup

1 Fistful of Mint

Muddle the mint in the simple syrup in your julep cup or a regular low-ball glass, add bourbon, fill with crushed ice and stir till the outside of the cup/glass get frosty.  Garnish with a ‘spanked’ mint sprig.

The simple syrup can be made with plain sugar (2:1 water to sugar ratio), or can be made as a mint syrup (just simmer some fresh mint in the water for 15 minutes before straining and adding the sugar).

 

 

 

Southern Tier LIVE Pale Ale now at Trumbull Kitchen and Max Burger WH

Bottle conditioned ale is always a great choice as the inclusion of living yeast cells does any number of things to the beer over time – primarily adding complexity to the aromas and flavors.  This beer is called LIVE because those little yeasty guys are added to the bottle just before capping and they continue to make the beer so much more interesting as time goes by.  

This is a relatively new additional to the year-round selections from Southern Tier, a brewery that I have come to enjoy more and more as I taste through their products.  We have added this lovely Pale Ale to the lines at Max Burger West Hartford and Trumbull Kitchen this week, and will keep it rotating in from time to time at our other spots.  It just tastes great, is not heavy or full in style and is about as interesting as it gets.

Southern Tier Brewery operates out of Lakewood, NY, and has been making beers since 2002.  We rotate their beers through our lines on a regular basis.  You can check out their website at this link:  http://www.stbcbeer.com/

Cheers, Brian Mitchell

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.

Ask The Wine Guy…What Is Malolactic Fermentation?

By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director for the Max Restaurant Group

Recently I was asked about a term that comes up quite often in wine education and on wine technical information.  It is a process of production that is used by wine makers to affect the style and feel of wine.  The term is Malolactic Fermentation.

Malolactic Fermentation, or ML for short, is a secondary “fermentation” process that happens to wine if allowed, but is often used purposely to create a certain feel or style to the wine.  Technically this is not an actual fermentation, but the process resembles a ferment due to the fact that carbon dioxide is released, thus the name has stuck since first scientifically described.  We often hear this term associated with Chardonnay wines, but many people do not realize that just about all red wines go through the process.  The reason for this is that ML is a process where malic acids, which are naturally occurring in grapes and which are tart or even harsh depending on the level, is converted to softer lactic acids.  This is done by a bacteria called Lactobacillus and is completely natural. 

Malic acid is present in a lot of fruit, it is one of the fuels fruit-plants use to grow and ripen as well as protect the young fruit from predators.  It has a tart, sharp feel; much like a Granny-Smith apple is tart and crisp.  This is one aspect that gives many crisp white wines their “bite” or edge, as many people describe.  The plant uses the malic acid as energy and converts it to sugar as the fruit ripens.  Often malic acid is present in grapes at harvest – both red and white grapes.  The process of ML ferment then converts the harsh acids to softer (think yogurt) lactic acids.

After the primary (alcohol) fermentation is complete, the winemaker will decide if the wine should go through ML, and if so should all or only a percentage of the wine.  It should be noted that just about all red wine goes through ML.  If this was not the case then the wines could be harsh and challenging to drink – think Beaujolais Nouveau.

With respect to white wine, though, it is the winemaker’s decision to allow all or some of the wine to go through ML.  A young crisp stylistic wine, such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, will not see any ML.  The appeal of a wine such as this is that intense freshness that the acid brings to the wine.  Conversely, a full-bodied chardonnay from California might see a lot of ML, which will soften the style, create richness to the feel of the wine on the palate and even give some buttery flavors.  Malolactic Fermentation is a process that is often spoken about but not always understood.  By tasting wines that are using ML to varying levels it becomes much easier to understand and even detect on your own.  Here are some examples to try that have no, partial and full ML.

No Malolactic Ferment

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 (Marlborough) – intense crispness and typical pungency of flavors found in Kiwie SBs.  Fresh acidity.  Find this wine at Max’s Oyster Bar

Partial Malolactic Ferment

Stulmuller Chardonnay, 2010 (Alexander Valley) – this wine sees 45% ML, which creates a style that is both rich and bright at the same time.  The acidity giving lift to the wonderful round flavors of the chardonnay.  Find this wine at Max Amore

Full Malolactic Ferment

Jean-Clause Thevent St Veran Clos de L’Hermitage vieille vigne, 2010 (Maconnais) – richness of this chardonnay derives from the age of the vines and from full ML.  Find this wine at Max Downtown and Max Fish

Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma Valley, 2010 (Sonoma) – rich and full, but as this comes from a cool climate region the wine is balanced and elegant.  Definitely for those that like a little bigger style wine.  Find this wine at Max’s Oyster Bar

New Chablis By-The-Glass at Max Downtown

The Dauvissat family has been hand-crafting wonderfully precise and complex Chablis for many years.  This is a fabulous style from a great vintage.  We are very pleased to be able to offer this wine through the Spring, although supplies are fairly limited and we will run out by summer.

Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat
Chablis Saint Pierre, 2010
Sebastien Dauvissat works a two hectare parcel of vines at the village level. The vineyards are situated on the “back side” of the 1er Crus. The soil here is infused with a particularly high percentage of limestone which permits this cuvée to make a clear statement of its origins.

Jean Dauvissat, and his son Sebastian, are the most recent in an extended line of the Dauvissat family that has been in possession of this notable domaine since 1899. The cave is positioned under the family house which dates from the 17th century and where the road to the hamlet of Chichée begins. The first formal bottling of wines under the Dauvissat label occurred on a limited scale in 1963. Then, in 1978 and 1979, Jean Dauvissat increased production to 3,000 bottles per annum. The physical expansion of the domaine under his management, along with ever-increasing quality and accompanying renown, has resulted in the cessation of sales to negociants and the bottling of the entire annual production of approximately 50,000 bottles. An unfortunate accident resulted in the untimely death of Jean Dauvissat several years ago. Sebastien Dauvissat continues the work of this historic domaine in collaboration with Evelyne Dauvissat, Jean’s wife. The domaine encompasses slightly less than 10 hectares of vineyards. The Grand Cru vineyards are south-facing; the 1er Cru vineyards have a full southeast exposure; and the village property faces northwest. All are hillside sites with an “argilo-calcaire” soil composition heavily marked by small stones that provide for excellent drainage. Of course, the entire vineyard surface is underlain by the Kimmeridgian limestone that makes Chablis one of the most unique wine-producing areas in the world.

The domaine encompasses slightly less than 10 hectares of vineyards. The Grand Cru vineyards are south-facing; the 1er Cru vineyards have a full southeast exposure; and the village property faces northwest. All are hillside sites with an “argilo-calcaire” soil composition heavily marked by small stones that provide for excellent drainage. Of course, the entire vineyard surface is underlain by the Kimmeridgian limestone that makes Chablis one of the most unique wine-producing areas in the world. Harvest levels vary extensively according to age of vines and vintage conditions. Levels for the village wine may reach 60 hectoliters per hectare in particularly generous years whereas the 1er Cru vineyards usually yield approximately 45 to 50 hectoliters per hectare. However, the old vines section of Vaillons (composed in large part of vineyards in excess of 65 years of age) frequently yields less than 25 hectoliters per hectare. The other vineyards are planted to vines between 20 and 40 years of age. The cellars of the Dauvissat domaine are equipped with the most modern materials. Fermentation and elevage of the village and premier cru wines occurs for the most part in stainless steel. The old vines cuvee of Vaillons and the Les Preuses are partially barrel fermented and barrel aged with about 25% of the oak being new. The wines are traditionally bottled 18 to 20 months after harvest. On occasion, certain of the other 1er Crus may pass part of the elevage in barrel as well, particularly when harvest levels are low.

New Rhone Red By-The-Glass at Max Downtown

We have just added this wine on by the glass at Max Downtown.  The Jeune family is one of the most highly regarded Rhone producers and we are very excited to be featuring this wine.  We will have it available through the Spring, while supplies last.

Domaine Monpertuis
Vignoble de la Ramiere Vin de Pays du Gard “Cepage Counoise”, 2010

Paul Jeune winemaker
This wine is fermented and aged in cement vats and is composed almost exclusively of the Counoise grape variety, one of the thirteen varieties permitted to be used in making Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Supplemented by just a touch of Alicante, this wine is usually bottled 18 to 20 months after harvest and offers a full-throated roar of the garrigue that so defines the wines of this region: the wild herbs and slightly animal notes that make this modest wine so full of character. A majority of this wine is destined for the US market (24,000 bottles).

Domaine Monpertuis
The Domaine de Monpertuis has been in the hands of the Jeune family for six generations. In fact, the records of the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape show that Pierre-Paul Jeune, a local vineyard owner, was born in Chateauneuf in 1775. Each successor in the Jeune family added bits and pieces of vineyards to the expanding whole of the estate so that the current owner, Paul Jeune, now farms a total of thirty hectares, some owned as proprietaire and a portion worked under the share-cropping system of metayage and fermage. The holdings are scattered amongst 48 separate parcels throughout the boundaries of Chateauneuf du Pape and extending on the western side of the Rhone River. The wide variety of soil types and exposures amongst the parcels in Chateauneuf give Monpertuis the resources to craft a classic version of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in both red and white.

Jeune has the remarkable good fortune of having a majority of his vineyards planted to vines between 60 and 130 years of age. The remaining vineyards generally are between 25 and 60 years, except for some new plantings of white varieties like Roussanne. The multiplicity of parcels spread across Chateauneuf imparts a classic character to the wines of Monpertuis, absorbing the nuances of each soil type of the appellation. However, the heart and soul of the domaine lies within three primary parcels, all within the village confines of Chateuneuf: La Croze, Le Clos de la Cerise, and Monpertuis. Although Chateauneuf-du-Pape may be composed of 13 individual varietals, the Domaine de Monpertuis relies most heavily on the Grenache grape and the vineyards are heavily planted to this noble variety. The vineyards are worked according to the principles of organic viticulture. On the western side of the Rhone, in the Gard district, Jeune works the “Vignobles de la Ramiere” from which vineyards he produces two wines: a Vin du Pays du Gard “Counoise” and a Cotes du Rhone. This site is near Monfaucon which is not far from the Tavel and Lirac appellations. These vineyards, as well, are farmed organically. All vineyards are hand harvested. The white varieties are picked early to preserve acidity and aromatic intensity and are fermented separately according to grape variety under controlled temperatures. For the red wines destined for the US market, the grapes are either not destemmed at all or are only partially destemmed. This is an ancient practice.

 

Imported by Neal Rosenthal (no relation to Rich) aka: MADROSE

http://www.madrose.com/index.php/france/cotes-du-rhone-south/domaine-monpertuis#vin-de-pays-du-gard-“cepage-counoise”

Max Downtown Adds Two Limited Production Whisk(e)y

This week at Max Downtown, two new Whisk(e)y were added to the library offering of specialty spirits.   I say Whisk(e)y with the (e) because one of these products comes from the USA – High West Distillery from Park City, Utah, and the other comes from Scotland – the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland.  The practice for spelling whiskey without an “e” is common in Scotland and some of the Commonwealth regions, so we must adhere to this.  It just helps to tell them apart a bit easier.

The first product from High West is the fourth whiskey we have from this unique and quite frankly compelling producer in Utah.   This product is the American Prairie Reserve Whiskey, which is a blend of two whiskies; the first of which is aged about six years and is composed of about 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley, while the other portion is from ten year old whiskey, which is composed of 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley.  You will not see an age statement on the label of this whiskey, as it is illegal to do so when there are blended ages such as this, but you will find a truly balanced and deeply flavored whisky that hits the palate with rich flavors of sweet oak and grains, with a smoky and soft finish.  Really one of the finest that we have tasted from this distillery to date.  Available for a limited time. basically while supplies last, which is usually not very long as aged whiskies are becoming more and more of a challenge to acquire.

The second whisky that was acquired by Max Downtown this week is the Glenmorangie Ealanta.  This Scotch is a beautiful whisky that is part of a very limited production range called the Private Edition.   It isa 19 year aged whiskey that has spent its time in virginAmerican oak casks sourced primarily from Missouri.  The affect of this style with so much age is an ultra-smooth, richly flavored whisky with deep flavors of orange peel, brown sugar and roasted almonds.  The expression is almost unique in the world of Scotch, or whiskies in general.  Extremely limited production, this whisky will go quickly and be gone forever.