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  • Pinot Noir Summit Moves to New Location

    Christian PicmonkeyChristian O'Kuinghttons of the Atlantis

    TASTE News Service May 22, 2015 – After 12 years in San Francisco, the annual Pinot Noir Summit is moving. Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine has announced her organization has entered into a partnership with the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa to host the event in Reno on July 24th and 25th. Under the direction of sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons the Atlantis is recognized for an exemplary wine program.

    The Pinot Noir Summit, the culmination of the Annual Pinot Noir Shootout competition, has become the largest competition of Pinot Noirs in the wine world. For the past three months over 450 Pinot Noirs have been evaluated by the Affairs of the Vine judging panel.

    Each wine is tasted blind at least twice in a series of tastings by these professional judges. No more than 32 wines are evaluated during a single session. This approach assures that each wine is assessed fairly with clarity, concentration and without palate fatigue. The best of the best are judged at the Pinot Noir Shootout finals on May 30th in San Francisco.

    The inaugural Summit at the Atlantis in Reno will recognize this year’s top wines and producers as part of a two day celebration. Though events on Friday the 24th are limited to those in the wine trade, consumers are invited to enjoy Saturday’s schedule. Included are morning seminars about this varietal, followed by a Pinot-pairing lunch. The afternoon features a unique tasting billed as the Wine Lovers Pinot Noir Challenge, in which attendees will blind taste (taste without knowing the producer of the wine) and rate 40 of the top wines as selected previously by the professional judging panel. Results of this judging by consumers will be announced at a Grand Tasting & Awards ceremony in the evening.

    “I learn more each year and bring that knowledge to the next Pinot Noir Summit making it better than the last,” commented organizer Barbara Drady in predicting this year’s event to be the best yet.

    Editor’s note: More information about the 2015 Pinot Noir Summit and the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa can be had by visiting Affairs of the Vine and Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

  • May 22, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

    Framboise bottle Picmonkey

    Framboise (N/V)


    Pacific Rim


    Alcohol: 16.5%

    Suggested Retail: $14 (375ml)


    “We could smell the essence of raspberries the moment the cap came off this bottle. When poured into just one glass, this non-vintage (NV) fruit wine provided a perfume for the whole table. There was a lushness—almost a viscosity—in the nose that was repeated in the taste.

    “The fruit, fortified by grape spirits, comes from the state of Washington. Two varieties of raspberry are used; Morrison (80%) and Meeker (20%). With a residual sugar level of 20%, it is quite sweet. Though two-to-three percentage points higher in alcohol than a typical table wine, there’s no unpleasant heat to the finish. However, though it tastes great, a sip of this wine is really a mouthful.

    “The Pacific Rim Framboise seems like a quality product, albeit an unusual one. And how would you use this wine? Well, you could serve it chilled as an after-dinner drink, as you would a digestive or a glass of Port. You could also mix it with carbonated water for a sophisticated, lightly-alcoholic drink, or enhance a white wine by adding an ounce or two, as you would add cassis to make a Kir.”

    Food Affinity: “It’s hard to imagine just pouring a glass of Framboise to accompany any savory dishes, but a small glass of it might be a delightful companion to a simple dish of vanilla ice cream or a slice of raspberry cheesecake. It could also enhance an experience with a good chocolate mousse.”

  • May 22, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

    ruination 2 Picmonkey

    Ruination 2.0


    Stone Brewing Co.

    Escondido, California

    Style: Imperial or Double IPA

    Alcohol: 8.5%

    IBUs: 100+

    Serving Style: 12 and 22-ounce bottles and kegs (our sample from draft)

    Availability: Year-round throughout the West Coast


    Appearance:   “Clear golden color with creamy white head.”

    Aroma:   “Hugely hoppy. Oodles of citrus and tropical fruits.”

    Taste:   “Big in one sense, in that those hops (Citra, Simcoe, Azacca, Magnum, Nugget and Centennial) are so prominent. However, it drinks easy—almost ‘sessionable,’ but at this alcohol content, you wouldn’t want to pour down more than a couple of glasses. Piney and resiny, it’s quite bitter (check this IBUs), but will please a lot of fans of this style.”

    Food Affinity:   “At first it seems difficult to figure food pairings for a beer this big. However, even at eight-point-five, it’s about 40% less alcohol by volume than the average table wine. Maybe we have to think more creatively. Perhaps a full-flavored fish, such as salmon, napped with aioli or a lemon and butter sauce.”

        --guest review by George Lane, a Brit who remembers that IPA means India Pale Ale


    Editor’s note:   “At the time of this review, four beer fans were sampling 6-ounce glasses of both the original Ruination and its 2.0 replacement version. Three of us preferred the ‘old’ Ruination, considering it better balanced. The fourth taster liked the in-your-face assertiveness of the new 2.0 (obviously, our limited consumer sampling was less than ‘scientific’, but did generate a lively late afternoon discussion).

    "Some of us wondered why the brewery would keep the name of a proven crowd-pleaser, but change the recipe. Would this be another marketing disaster like the ‘New Coca Cola’ of some years ago? At this point nobody can say for sure, but visiting Stone’s website we found that the brewery’s rationale was pretty strong (hops not available when the first Ruination came on the scene, changing tastes of the craft beer lover, etc.). Apparently, they’ve put a lot of thought into the change and had good responses from consumers who sampled test recipes prior to introduction of the new product.

    "You can get a much fuller explanation by visiting stonebrewing.com yourself (they also have pairing suggestions for foods in all categories of a multi-course meal, as well as cigar selections to accompany the Ruination 2.0)."

  • May 15, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

    Green Flash soulstyle taphandle Picmonkey

    Soul Style


    Green Flash Brewing Co.

    San Diego

    Style: IPA

    Alcohol: 6.5%

    IBUs: 75

    Serving style: Kegs and 12-ounce bottles (our sample from draft)

    Availability: Throughout the Far West.


    Appearance:   “A darker shade of gold. Big white head that recedes in a while.”

    Aroma:   “Really intriguing. There’s a bit of malt in the background, but there’s a big nose-full of citrus and floral. (brewery says hops are Citra, Simcoe and Cascade). The aromatics really catch your attention.”

    Taste:   “Some of the malt makes its presence known, but the hops predominate. There’s a mouthful of flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm you. Tropical fruit and citrus flavors are bright and the beer finishes cleanly. Seems like you could enjoy several of these without their beginning to cloy.”

    Food Affinity:   “Chips with a freshly-made mango salsa. Grilled swordfish steaks dusted with crushed hazelnuts, cracked black pepper and served with lemon wedges.”


    --reviewer Bill Schreiber remembers drinking Bohemias at the Sunset Club in Barra, while waiting (in vain) to see a green flash at end of day.