As the seasons change once again to cooler weather, menus change. Impending holidays arrive. New products from Corti Brothers should entice you to celebrate that change. Fall is the time of new products: new wines, different fruits and vegetables, dishes different from seasons just passed. I look forward to them and hope you do too. The new products in this newsletter should delight, if not surprise, you.
Brillat-Savarin, the French author of La Physiologie du Gout wrote in the early 19th century : “The discovery of a new dish does more for the well-being of mankind than the discovery of a new star.” I don’t know about the statement’s validity, but can assure you that the creation of a new gin quickens the pulse of the gin drinker. And here you have a new gin.
Gin № 209 is the creation of Leslie Rudd, a gentle, larger than life personality, owner of Rudd Vineyard in Napa Valley, and the Dean and Deluca stores, among other things. Having bought the Edge Hill property in St. Helena that had its original distillery, № 209, from pre-Prohibition days, and not able to re-open it in St. Helena, Rudd merely went to San Francisco, found an adequate space in Pier 50, south of the Bay Bridge, and began distilling what he conceived as the perfect gin. After much money, tasting and time, GIN № 209 is finally on the market.
GIN № 209 is a classically produced distilled dry gin with the botanicals being put into the “gin head” of a copper pot still and the gin distilled in this fashion. The botanicals are in the classic English gin tradition with the addition of several notes to make the flavor balanced, aromatic and not too flowery. Not only juniper tasting, hence the name “gin,” (from the French genièvre for juniper), GIN № 209 has a complex scent and flavor, yet is soft and delicious, particularly if drunk straight.
Bottled at 92 proof, GIN № 209 has a softness that belies its complexity. I would even go so far as to say it is a gin also for non-gin drinkers. Gin aficionados will probably see a similarity with the now defunct Malacca Gin, which showed brilliantly for a short while and then was done away with. For Malacca Gin lovers, here is the next best thing, GIN № 209.
Bottled in a clear glass, embossed, 750ml “case gin” bottle with square, sloping sides, the bottle is dramatic, definitely standing out from the array of other gins on the market.
I do enjoy a well made martini cocktail as an aperitif. It stings the tongue with its coldness. The incisive pungency of excellent gin together with the floweriness of dry white vermouth, make a harmonious whole. GIN № 209 is a very fine gin for an excellent martini. You might also try some of the martini’s ancestors, a Martinez cocktail, gin and It, or even a Pink Gin with GIN № 209. Some of these old cocktails made with GIN № 209 warrant our renewed attention.
I think it can fairly be said that not only was the Rhone Valley responsible for the increase in syrah awareness in California, but that the rise of Australian shiraz, in its many forms, has given further impulse to syrah making it, since 1974, an important new grape variety in California. It seems that syrah is going into the ground everywhere and some of the wines are indeed terrific.
I would like to point out two which we have in stock that could be considered classic, iconic wines for shiraz. (Please remember that syrah and shiraz are the same variety, just different names, while petite sirah is not.) The two wines I recommend to you are Best's Great Western Bin 0 Shiraz, and the flagship wine of Thomas Hardy and Sons, Eileen Hardy Shiraz.
Best's is an old family winery in the area of Great Western, now preferred to be known as Grampians, while Eileen Hardy is a composite of the best shiraz wines of Hardy’s, generally coming from South Australia. Both wines are powerful in flavor and will take bottle age, but they can be drunk with great pleasure now. We made a special purchase of the Eileen Hardy wines and offer them at a very special price.
Both wines figure prominently in James Halliday’s Classic Wines of Australian and New Zealand. In his work, James writes “Best’s Shiraz is a classic example of wine made so as to emphasize the character of the terroir and the quality of the vintage. It is made with care but without artifice.”
Of Eileen Hardy, he writes: “In 1970 Thomas Hardy decided it would honor the matriarch of the Hardy clan by naming the best red wine of the vintage in her honor...the Shiraz continues to come from the best, and usually oldest, vineyards–thus giving the wine power and concentration...”
In Australian fashion, the first named area or variety is the predominant one in the blend, so that the 1997 Eileen Hardy is all McLaren Vale fruit; 1998 from McLaren Vale, Padthaway, and Clare fruit; 1999: McLaren Vale, Clare, Padthaway in that order. In each vintage the grapes are fermented in small, open topped fermentors and basket pressed. The wine is a minimum of 36 months old on release, of which 18 to 24 months is spent in a combination of new and used oak.
In the fall, full bodied red wines become more and more appealing. This series of wines, with great fruit intensity and long, rich flavors, are just the thing for red meats, game, and even the occasional full flavored fish. I recommend that you try them to see what heights Australia can reach with shiraz. I think you will find them inviting, seductive, and delicious.
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