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Monday, June 30, 2008

Tastings: In the spirit of July 4, buy and drink American


Seek out wines and vodkas made in the U.S


By Lisa Ramirez
For the Times Herald-Record
June 29, 2008

The Fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate the wonderful wines and spirits produced here in the U.S.

So we asked our local experts to share their recent American discoveries, just in time for the festivities ahead.

Tim Free, the wine consultant at Mid Valley Wines and Liquors in Newburgh, suggests stocking up with several American wines.

"For an important holiday like the Fourth of July, which this year marks the beginning of a long weekend, it's a good idea to have a few diverse wine picks on-hand for whatever occasion might develop," Free says. The shop is hosting a July 4 wine tasting (4-7 p.m. Friday) featuring his picks.

Whites, pinks and reds

In whites, Free suggests the 2007 Benmarl Traminette, a varietal from New York's Finger Lakes ($14.99/$12.99 on sale). "This is a new grape hybrid that hits on all cylinders," he says. "It has intense flavors and is fairly crisp. Pair it with flavorful preparations of fish or fowl."

In pink, Free likes the 2007 Stringtown Rosé from Oregon ($13.99/$12.49 on sale). "This is a nice, dry and fairly full-bodied pink wine that shows a lot of fruit," he says.

And in red, Free recommends the 2006 Jigsaw Pinot Noir from Oregon ($19.99/$16.99 on sale. "Oregon pinot noirs are among the best in the world, and many of them are priced to match. This one, in contrast, is a nice value and a great summer wine," Free says. "It has a fresh taste, is not heavy, and not overly-oaky."

For a sparkler, Free likes California's Jordan J20 Brut NV ($19.99/$16.99 on sale).

"(It) is shockingly good for the price," he says. "It's a great celebratory wine that has enough fruit to taste good while just sipping on its own, but it can also stand up to food, particularly finger foods like tapas and hors d'oeuvre."

Try A Donkey and Goat wine

The wines of A Donkey and Goat Winery of Berkeley, Calif., inspire Michael Taiani, a Pine Bush wine consultant and owner of Wines by the Glass.

"What could be more parallel to the freedom and spirit of the Fourth of July than to live the American dream?" Taiani says. Tracey and Jared Brandt, he says, quit their day jobs to pursue their dream. In 2001, the husband and wife left their technology jobs and went to France to study wine.

"(They are) the 'donkey and goat' behind these sustainable farmed and artfully produced wines," he says, which are in their seventh vintage. The wines are available in shops, some restaurants, and online at www.adonkeyandgoat.com.

Go vodka

For Marcus Guiliano, the chef and owner of Aroma Thyme restaurant in Ellenville, small-craft American vodka exemplifies the independent spirit.

"American vodka has begun a revolution in the past 10 years (and) America is now home to some great vodkas," he says.

"We love Hangar One from Alameda, Calif. They set up shop in an old airplane hangar, thus the name. Besides great straight vodka they make an incredible raspberry from Fraser River raspberries. Don't overlook their Mandarin Orange Blossom, Citron 'Buddha's Hand' and Kaffir Lime. (They) infuse real fruit," he says, adding, "Not many vodka companies actually buy real fruit for their vodkas. Most buy an essence or natural flavor."

Also from California is Charbay, which Guiliano describes as "one of the elite vodkas that buys real organic fruit to make vodka. They only make the fruit-infused vodkas when that fruit is in season. So the Meyer Lemon as well as all the other flavors are only made once a year. They run out quickly."

A cuke for you

Guiliano also suggest Square One Organic, which he says is a "huge hit" at the eatery.

"Their new cucumber flavor was an instant success muddled with fresh cucumbers and basil," he says.

Other recommended American brands include the Johnny Love Aloha (pineapple and coconut); Prairie, an organic corn vodka from Wisconsin; Glacier Vodka from the Tetons, made from potatoes; Chocoraspberry from Hamptons Vodka ("makes a great dessert martini"), and the unusual flavor lineup from Modern Spirits, which includes Celery Peppercorn, Grapefruit Honey and Black Truffle.

Each week, we ask wine and spirits professionals for advice. You don't need to own a shop to join the conversation. Wine and liquor lovers are welcome. E-mail Lisa Ramirez at Lmjramirez@hotmail.com.

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