Decatur Wine and Spirits The Vintage Voice

Volume 2, Issue 3 — March, 2007


In This Issue
Editor's Note


Popping the Cap; It’s an American Craft

Don’t Break for the Fake

Featured Product


Drink Recipe: Caipirinha

Drink Recipe: Irish Flag

Upcoming Events
Mar 8-11: SEC Basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome

Mar 10: California Nouveau Wine Dinner, North Georgia Mountains

Mar 10: Atlanta Beer March Meetup at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur

Mar 13: Brew Crew trip to 5 Seasons Brewing in Sandy Springs

Mar 13 - Apr 17: Introduction to Wine, Part I at the Atlanta Wine School

Mar 15: Tour of Galleries visit to Boswell Gallery in downtown Decatur

Mar 17: Saint Patrick's Day

Mar 20: Kate’s Club Dinner of Champions, Honoring Atlanta Falcon Patrick Kerney

Mar 21: "Wine & Chocolate" at the Atlanta Wine School

Mar 22-24: High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Mar 31: 2nd Annual Atlanta Pride Wine Tasting

Mar 31 - April 2: Final Four NCAA Basketball Championship at the Georgia Dome

Featured Product
Leblon Brazilian Rum
LeblonLabeled as a rum but more like a Cachaca (i.e. sugarcane juice), Leblon is distilled in Brazil but is then shipped off to France for aging in Cognac casks. This resting helps ratchet down some of fiery aspects that typically plague Cachacas. As a result, Leblon is a perfect substitute for rum in popular citrus drinks. But it is best enjoyed in a Caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil. The Caipirinha typically is made out of cachaça, lime, ice and sugar. Not as fru-fru as a Mojito, but still reminiscent of the South American hit drink, the Caipirinha is a perfect way to greet summer with something a little different. It was the Gold Medalist in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2006. Our price: $26.99.

Ales, Lagers & Hybrids:
the Flavor Sensations

Ale is brewed from barley malt with a quick-acting, top-fermenting yeast, giving a sweet, full body and a fruity, and sometimes a butter-like taste. Most ale contains some herb or spice, usually hops, which imparts a bitter, herbal flavor which balances the malt sweetness. Ales include:

  • Belgian Ale
  • Brown Ale
  • English Bitter
  • Lambic & Sour Ale
  • Pale Ale
  • Porter
  • Stout
  • Wheat Beer

Lager Is brewed in cool conditions using a slow-acting, bottom-fermenting yeast, and then stored or "lagered" for a period in cool conditions to clear away particles and certain flavor compounds to produce a clean taste. Lagers include:

  • American Lager
  • Bock
  • European Lager
  • Pilsner

Hybrids of ales and lagers take many forms, and sometimes are brewed with fruits or specialty ingredients, or through special processes. Hybrids include:

  • Alt
  • American Special
  • Barley Wine
  • French Ale
  • Smoked Beer
  • Strong Ale

Wine Club Selections
Wishing Tree 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay
Wishing Tree is a Western Australian winery, which makes wines of exceptional value. This unoaked Chardonnay is a refreshing wine with peach, apricot, apple blossom, and stonefruit flavors. The flavor is further enhanced by a citrus tang and mineral notes of subtle dry spices. An 88 rated wine by Robert Parker, “It should be remarkably flexible with an assortment of food," according to the expert reviewer.

Winery: Wishing Tree
Vintage: 2006
Varietal: Chardonnay
Appellation: Western Australia
Price: $12.49
Rating: 88 pts. Robert Parker

Barnard Griffin 2004 Merlot
Barnard Griffin's Tulip Label wine, is one of Washington's most easily recognized wines. The Tulip Label was introduced in 1983 and is now distributed throughout the U.S. This wine is a blend of several of the best Columbia Valley Appellation vineyards. After having won the gold medal in the 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the 2004 Merlot went on to receive an 89 pt. rating from Wine Spectator. This 2004 Merlot is a deeply colored and generous wine with aromas of black currant and blueberry along with moderate tannins and a good acid backbone. There is also a healthy dose of deep oak that helps layer the flavor in the bottle.

Winery: Bernard Griffin
Vintage: 2004
Varietal: Merlot
Appellation: Columbia Valley
Price: $19.49
Rating: 89 pts. Wine Spectator

Steltzner 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
You will not find a rating on any of the Steltzner wines. The winery, located on a small parcel of land in the heart of the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, California, doesn’t submit its wines for review by Wine Spectator. But everyone would still agree that Steltzner makes some of Napa Valley’s most distinctive Cabernets and Merlots. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception. The wine is a brilliant deep red color with sweet and smoky aromas of black cherry, cassis, unsweetened chocolate and vanilla and hints of cedar. The silky, expansive palate evokes a medley of ripe blueberry, blackberry and cherry flavors, woven with notes of smoke and tobacco. Supple tannins highlight a long, full finish, accented by a range of dried currant, white pepper, vanilla and cream. This wine can be enjoyed now or will reward cellaring for 2-3 years.

State: California
Winery: Steltzner
Vintage: 2003
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Stag’s Leap District
Price: $34.99
Rating: N/A

Sterling 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
The grapes for this Cabernet Sauvignon come primarily from selected vineyards in the Napa Valley. The individual lots for this wine were fermented separately in temperature-controlled stainless steel with three pump-overs daily. After being blended, the wine was aged for another 12 months in toasted French and American oak barrels. Dark ruby in color, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon opens to spicy notes of raspberry and black cherry with hints of cedar and toasty oak. Flavors of briar, blackberries, raspberries, hints of roasted coffee and an earthy, savory spiciness coat the palate, and lead to a long, elegant finish. The mouth-filling tannins make this wine a perfect accompaniment to barbecued steaks and lamb chops, as well as richer pasta dishes and ripe cheeses. “An exceptional value in Napa Valley Cabernet. Drink now through 2008,” recommends James Laube of Wine Spectator, who gives it an 88 pt. rating.

State: California
Winery: Sterling
Vintage: 2003
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Napa Valley
Price: $24.99
Rating: 88 pts. Wine Spectator

Club Cigar
The Padilla Miami
Selected as one of Cigar Aficionado’s top cigars for 2006, the Padillia Miami is a Cuban style cigar crafted in Miami, Florida. The cigar is made from 100% Cuban seed tobacco grown in Nicaragua and features a Cuban Corojo seed wrapper. The cigar is the creation of the Padilla family, which began making cigars at the turn of the last century. Heberto Padilla, who immigrated to Cuba from the Canary Islands and became one of Cuba’s foremost writers, started the brand in honor of his ancestors. Today, his sons, Ernesto and Carlos, continue the family tradition in a style that would more than honor their father

Strength: Full
Wrapper: Cuban Corojo seed
Size: 5 x 50
Filer and Binder: Criollo and Corojo from Nicaragua
Price: $9.49


Editor’s Note
With St. Patrick’s Day rapidly approaching and the warmer weather almost upon us, it should be no surprise that our thoughts in this issue turn to beer. But while Guinness in a bottle might be “brilliant” (no argument from us here at the store), there are many other exciting prospects.

shamrockIn “Popping the Cap: The New American Craft,” we explore some of the newer options made possible by the 2004 law raising the maximum alcohol content from 6% to 14%. As the author notes, besides the higher alcohol content… “the greater attraction” arguably is the wider variety of flavors that these stronger brews made possible.

Still, summertime and spring are not solely about beer. In fact, a good number of reasons for smoking a cigar are typically springtime and summertime events such as weddings, graduations and best of all, vacations!

But before you buy that Cuban cigar in the Caribbean… you better read on. Sure; you undoubtedly will get away with smoking the “Cuban” abroad… But is that cigar a real Cuban or a fake? Odds are that many of these cigars are counterfeit given the lax penalties for counterfeiting.

In “Don’t Break for the Fake,” we outline the risks and provide some suggestions for distinguishing the real Habanos from the fakes.

In keeping with the warm weather theme, our featured product this month is a rum that was tailored for a hot South American drink, the caipirinha.

Once again, thank you for subscribing to the Decatur Wine & Spirits’ Vintage Voice. We truly appreciate your patronage.

Popping the Cap; It’s an American Craft
When Georgia raised the maximum beer-alcohol content from 6% to 14% in 2004, a new wave of microbrews and international beers became available, ranging from home brewed concoctions to those brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium.

But the higher alcohol content is not these beers’ greatest attraction. While packing more punch than a Budweiser (5%), these beers also cost a few more dollars in that they are more expensive to brew and import (making them less than ideal for just getting your drink on).

The greater attraction arguably is the wider variety of flavors that these stronger brews make possible. As a result, a number of better priced American alternatives can be found to the traditional, more expensive imports. They make a great introduction for those wishing to experiment with these unique but stronger flavors.

Save Your Washingtons—Buy American
Once upon a time the jokes about American beer made by Europeans and Canadians were perhaps justifiable. Today however there are more than 1,400 breweries in the U.S. and exponentially more brands, according to the Brewers Association.

The continuing growth of craft beer entered double-digit territory in 2006, with sales by craft brewers up 11.7% by volume, based upon industry data.

This thirst for American craft beers has been fed by the frenzy for higher alcohol beers and sustained by the introduction of award-winning concoctions, says Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association, which tabulated the industry growth data.

The Suds—Not Duds
Unfortunately, craft brewery brands are almost never national in their distribution. But fortunately, the selection in Georgia is expanding due to both local brewers and a number of other craft breweries that recently have (or are planning) to enter the market.

Examples include:

The Lagunitas Brewing Company — Founded in 1994, this brewery is best known for it’s irreverent approach to business along with it’s higher alcohol craft beers.

For instance, the brewery's license was suspended for 20 days in 1985 for the use of marijuana at one of the brewery's parties. But instead of hanging their heads in shame, the brewery chose to commemorate the event by producing the "Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.”

Despite the brewery’s irreverent attitude toward the authorities, it does brew some unique and delicious beers. Among those is the “Brown Shugga.” At 9.9% alcohol, this beer packs a whallop! The base is a barley wine to which slightly burnt brown sugar is added for a hint of sweetness.

The Ommegang Brewery — Founded in 1997 in upstate New York, not far from the birthplace of baseball, Ommegang brews Belgian-style ales at American prices. Among those are the rustic-style Hennepin Farmhouse Saison “farmhouse” golden ale and the Three Philosophers, a quadruple Belgian-style ale with a strong malty flavor that is enhanced by the addition of a cherry lambic.

The Avery Brewing Company — Incorporated in September 1993, Avery is the product of a home brewing experiment by Adam Avery, who set out to perfect the recipe for amber ale. The brewery today produces several Belgian-style ales as well as award winning stouts. Among those is “The Czar,” an award-winning Russian imperial stout. This beer features the rich tastes of toffee, mocha, sweet molasses, and candied currants with a hint of anise. Available until the end of March, the Avery Czar is well worth storing for a rainy day in that it will age in the bottle and become denser and more complex with age.

Additional options include the better-known concoctions of Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada along with the clever stylings of local breweries such as Sweet Water of Atlanta and Terrapin of Athens, GA. Each of these breweries makes unique seasonal, higher alcohol beers well worth trying and stocking.

Dogfish HeadBut perhaps the most exciting introduction in Georgia to date has been the recent addition of Dogfish Head Brewery from Milton, Delaware.

Founded in 1995, Dogfish Head is best known for it’s “experimental” beer making methods and it’s use of unconventional ingredients such as green raisins. The brewery’s signature products are the Indian Pale Ales, which are passed through a large plastic tube filled with raw hops. The alcohol in the beer lifts oils off the raw hops, adding even more hop flavor to the beers.

In fact, craft beer has become a great American success story and today, it is the U.S. craft brewers that are being watched, emulated and celebrated. But while the true quality of a beer may be best judged by flavor… it also doesn’t hurt to save a dollar or two in the process, making the American craft beers a true value proposition for trying something a little different.

Don’t Break for the Fake
March and April typically signal the time for “Spring Break.” And while traveling abroad, it is often difficult for the American cigar aficionado (or even the novice) to resist the temptation of smoking a real Cuban cigar.

Cuban cigars are, after all, one of life’s most indulgent luxuries with production each year falling far short of worldwide demand.

The problem is that this dynamic demand has created a substantial market for cigar counterfeiters. And in today’s world of laser printers and computer generated graphics, the counterfeiters can easily convert a cheap bundled cigar into a $20 Cuban Cohiba.

Caveat Emptor
The counterfeiters are driven by the rather lax penalties for being caught. In many cases, the penalties are non-existent and unlike the illicit drug trade, the cigar counterfeiter faces a relatively low risk of getting shot by an irate buyer.

However, the consumers largely are responsible for allowing this black market to flourish in that most people cannot discern between a real Cuban cigar and a fake one.

A box of Cohiba Cuban cigars

The Devil in the Detail
The good news is that there are a number of rules one could follow to identify a counterfeit Cuban cigar. All it takes is a little attention to the details on the exterior of the box to the interior of the box and cigar itself.

The following is an abbreviated list of details one could check to help ID the real thing.

The Exterior

  1. Check for the Warranty Seal— Every box of Cuban cigars since 1912 has received a Cuban tax stamp, which generally is affixed to the left front edge. Since Cuban cigars are in high demand, the seal should be newly updated have a good registration of print.
  2. Check for the Habanos Chevron—The Chevron is a label featuring a black silhouette of a tobacco leaf. This seal will be on all boxes of Havana cigars exported since 1994.
  3. Look for the Hallmarks—The hallmarks are not ink stamps. They are burned-in marks that identify the exporter, and announce that the cigar was made in Cuba by hand. The Hallmarks include:
    1. Habanos s.a.—This the name of the Cuban company which exports Havanas.
    2. Hecho En Cuba—This words were added in 1960
    3. Totalmente a mano—This branding, meaning “totally by hand,” was added in 1989.
  4. Look for the factory and date stamp—Habanos places a date stamp on each box.
  5. Look for the import stamp—For instance, boxes from Canada should have a white and purple “duty paid” sticker. Since duties are charged worldwide on luxury items, these import stamps should be on almost every box purchased outside of Cuba.
  6. Look for “Surgeon General’s warning”—Many nations generally require that all tobacco products carry a general health warning. If this warning appears on other tobacco products, then it should also appear on any imported box of Cubans.
  7. Look for wear and tear—Various Cuban brands and sizes are packaged in specific boxes. Rather than replicate these boxes, counterfeiters often recycle used boxes.

The Interior

  1. Look for the parchment with the Habanos logo—Inside the box there will be a rectangular piece of parchment with the Habanos logo and storage recommendations. These instructions should appear in four languages: Spanish, English, French and German.
  2. Avoid cigars in cellophane—Except in the smaller, multi cigar Petacas style packages, the handmade Cuban cigars are never wrapped in cellophane.
  3. Look for the cedar separator—All the dress boxes and cabinet boxes should have a plain cedar separator between the levels of the cigars. Cabinet cigars will also have a top sheet featuring the brand’s logo.
  4. Look for the paper flap—The dress boxes, except those with tubos, will also have a paper flap attached to the front typically featuring a second brand logo.
  5. Look for symmetry—All the bands should be in a near perfect line and the color and registration of each ring should be consistent.
  6. Look for the yellow ribbon—The cigars in the cabinets with sliding lids should be tied with a yellow ribbon imprinted with the brand and name.
  7. Avoid any hint of ammonia—If you notice an ammonia order, the cigars are fake.

Examining the cigars

  1. The cigars should be of uniform color
  2. The cigars should be the length specified by the vitola (or type), including the ring size.
  3. The cigars should be well made with solid bunching.
  4. The cigars should have very fine veins, if at all. Cuban Corojo wrappers rarely show veins.
  5. The foot should have a clean cut with no chipping
  6. The cap should be a triple cap. In other words, you should be able to see three fine rings around the cap from where the wrapper was rolled to the tip and then trimmed to be wound back in the same direction down the cigar.

But most importantly, the number one rule is to be cautious. Many fakes are sold in reputable establishments and often without the knowledge of the store owner. As a result, the best safeguard is to remain on guard.

Recipe: Caipirinha
flagThe national coctail of Brazil, there are many variations on the Caipirinha. This recipie will get you started with the basic formulation. See the Leblon website for other ideas.

1 2/3 oz Leblon or Cachaça
1⁄2 fresh lime cut into 4 wedges
2 teaspoons sugar

Place lime and sugar into old fashioned glass and muddle (mash the two ingredients together using a muddler or a wooden spoon). Fill the glass with ice and add the Leblon or Cachaça.

Recipe: Irish Flag
flagA great conversation piece for St. Patrick's Day, and a classy alternative to green beer, the Irish Flag combines two of Ireland's favorite drinks with the greenest of liqueurs to make a unique layered drink resembling the flag of Ireland.

Green creme de menthe
Irish cream (such as Bailey's)
Irish whiskey (such as Jameson)

In a shot glass or cordial glass, carefully pour ingredients in the order given, so that each floats on the preceding one. You may wish to use the back of a tablespoon to break the fall of the liquids as you pour, so they won't intermingle. Some people prefer Grand Marnier for a redder top layer, but whiskey is more in the spirit (and more compatible with the mint).


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