It is now time for the final post of my review of 2008. Part 3 concentrate on my wine and alcohol favorites of the past year. This is certainly not a complete list. It is more a sampling of memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year.
Favorite Store for Saké: Only open for a year, Sakaya in New York City is an exceptional store that sells almost only Saké, as well as some Shochu and Plum Wine. The owners, Rick and Hiroko, are both personable and very knowledgeable about Saké. They have a great selection of Saké and I have not been disappointed anything I have bought there yet.
Favorite Italian Wine Store: Also in New York City, Italian Wine Merchants is the place for excellent and hard to find Italian wines. It is a beautiful store where proper wine storage is a cornerstone of their service. They have many interesting classes and their newsletter are very informative.
Favorite New Local Wine Store: Bin Ends, a discount wine store in Braintree, is a must visit for any wine lover. With some of the best wine prices around, their diverse selection and knowledgeable staff, make this a worthwhile trip. They also created Twitter Taste Live, which I previously mentioned as one of the significant wine events of the past year. In these rough economic times, this is the type of store that you should patronize.
Runner Up for Favorite New Local Wine Store: Salem Wine Imports, a boutique wine store in Salem, deserves recognition. It has an excellent selection of wine and Eric, the owner, knows plenty about wine and is personable and friendly.
Favorite Existing Local Wine Store That Is New To Me: Though it has been around for two years, I first visited Wine Sense, a boutique wine store in Andover, this past summer. With a vibrant and passionate owner, Samanta, this store is small but has an intriguing selection of wines. If you want to try wines that are less common, but excellent, then stop by this place.
Favorite Wine Dinner: The Rabbit Ravioli was one of the highlights of the special wine maker dinner at Il Capriccio in Waltham. Christoph Künzli, the wine maker of Le Piane, was present and helped explain the wines that paired with each delicious course. It was an amazing dinner with several amazing wines.
Favorite Wine Maker Tasting: Abe Schoener, wine maker at the Scholium Project, was a fascinating person with some diverse and intriguing wines. He is the Socrates of wine making, on an eternal mission to question the established traditions of wine making. I look forward to his new projects, to taste the next phase of his wines
Favorite Winery I Visited: While touring Long Island, I visited Paumanok Vineyards and it thoroughly impressed me. I tasted numerous delicious wines, including my favorites, their 2007 Paumanok Chenin Blanc and 2005 Petit Verdot Apollo Drive Vineyard Limited Edition. These wines were as good as any wine made elsewhere in the U.S., and definitely show the potential of Long Island wines.
Favorite Wine Magazine: WineS Magazine, first published in October 2007, concentrates on education about wine rather than wine reviews. For those new to wine, or anyone seeking to learn more about wine, this magazine would be extremely beneficial. It is easy to read and understand, and contains many of interesting articles and features. It fulfills a niche that no other wine magazine really addresses.
Runner Up for Favorite Wine Magazine: Decanter, a British wine magazine, has impressed me lately due to its extensive coverage of many less common wine regions, often ignored or marginalized in other wine publications. Plus it has an excellent wine cartoon in every issue.
Favorite Wine Fact: One of my favorite grapes is Pinotage and I finally learned the correct way to pronounce it. I had been pronouncing it incorrectly for years so it was fascinating to learn my error. And it is an error committed by many others too.
Favorite Wine Biography: The Widow Clicquot was a compelling biography and history book about woman who left an indelible stamp on the history of champagne. It is easy to read and you will speed through each chapter, savoring the anecdotes and facts about an impressive woman.
Favorite Alcohol Book: If you want a fascinating and comprehensive look at the history of wine, beer and spirits, then you must read Drink, A Cultural History of Alcohol. This thick book covers alcohol from all over the world, from ancient times to modern. I learned so much from this book, as would any reader. I highly recommend this book.
Favorite Tequila, High-End: For Tequila costing over $100, the Don Julio 1942 Tequila was superb! Super smooth, lots of interesting flavor, and in a cool looking, agave-shaped bottle. I enjoy this tequila better than some others tequilas that cost even more.
Favorite Tequila, Regular: For regular Tequila, including Blancos to Anejos, my favorite new brand is Partida Tequila. Smooth, flavorful and complex, these tequilas are as good, if not better, than the other popular labels out there, such as Patron. They can be found in Massachusetts now so check them out.
Favorite Rum/Cachaca: This was an easy choice. Beija, a Brazilian cachaca or "virgin cane rum," was developed by two Boston entrepreneurs and they created an amazing spirit. With a very distinctive herbal taste, Beija is also very flexible and can be used as a base for a wide variety of cocktails. I even enjoy drinking this straight, on the rocks.
Favorite Liquer: Also with an intriguing herbal taste, St. Germain is versatile liquer that is very sweet on its own but mixes well with other items. The St. Germain Cocktail makes a great summer punch and is very popular with many people I know.
Favorite Vodka: A premium vodka made from rice? Yes, Kissui Vodka is a Japanese vodka made from rice and it is excellent, very smooth and clean. I can easily drink this just on the rocks. It would be a shame to hide this vodka behind any mixer. It is somethin to savor on its own, and is comparable to any other premium vodka on the market.