Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022: Favorite Wine, Spirit, Sake & Drink-Related Items

What were some of my favorite Wine, Spirit, Sake & Drink-related related items of the past year?

As 2023 approaches,  it's time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. I've already posted the first of my annual Favorite Lists, Top Ten Wines of 2022. It's time now to cover my Favorite Wine, Spirit, Sake and Drink-Related Items

This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of compelling and memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year. This is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. For more wine related items, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.


Favorite Discount Wine Stores: Consumers always want bargains, excellent value wines which won't stretch their wallets. You can buy the cheap, mass-produced commercial wines which can be found in almost any wine store or, instead, you can seek out excellent, value wines which put to shame those cheap wines. Certain discount wine stores provide not only excellent prices but also an interesting selection and good service. I want to highlight two such stores which continue, year after year, to do an especially good job, places where I go to seek bargains: Bin Ends in Braintree & Needham, and Rapid Liquors in Stoneham. Shop at any of those stores and you won't be disappointed. As an example, a couple months ago I found an excellent Spanish Xarel-lo white wine at Bin Ends in Needham for only $6! Even at three times that price, it would have been an excellent buy. 

Favorite Wine Stores: This is a small list of wine stores which consistently impress me with their selection and service. Each shop is worthy of your patronage and wine lovers should make the effort to visit these places if you have not done so yet.
Malden Center Fine Wines in Malden (Excellent Sake selection)
Lower Falls Wine Company in Newton Lower Falls
Wine-Sense in Andover
Wine Press in Brookline and Wine Press in the Fenway
Streetcar Wines in Jamaica Plain
Marty's Fine Wines in Newton
Croatian Premium Wine in Boston (Only an online store, but you can get their wines delivered to you, all across the country, with a great selection of Croatian wines)

Favorite Vermont Wine Store: The Meditrina Wine & Cheese shop, in Chester, Vermont, is an excellent place with a very compelling beer and wine selection, and some gourmet foods. It's a small store, but there's plenty of food and drink available, filling the shelves floor to ceiling, and I bet you'll find plenty to tantalize you, including plenty of natural wines, small production wines, and other intriguing wines, They have wine at all price points and any wine lover will find much of interest. This well-curated selection would be impressive wherever it was located. I visited them again this summer, buying a few interesting wines, as well as some gourmet potato chips. 

Favorite Restaurant Wine Lists: I want to highlight a few restaurants which offer some intriguing and excellent wine lists. 
     Krasi: With the largest Greek wine list in the country, you'll find almost any type of Greek wine you could desire. There are so many excellent options that you might have difficulty selecting a bottle, but the sommelier/wine director, Evan Turner, and staff can help guide you through the intriguing list. Expand your palate and explore the wonders of Greek wine. Plus, Krasi now sells their wines at retail, so if you enjoy a bottle for dinner, you can buy a bottle and take it home with you. This is such a great option, and I bought a couple bottles during my last visit to Krasi. 
    Nightshade Noodle Bar: Their eclectic, well-curated wine list has primarily more natural wines from small producers. There's plenty of interesting options available, and the wines pair very well with their delicious cuisine. The list changes fairly regularly, and there's always something new to tantalize your palate.  
     Pammy's: Their wine list is mainly Italian but with some other unique wines, from places including Vermont, Oregon, Washington and California. Plenty of excellent options, including a number of Orange wines, and plenty of Nebbiolo as well. 

Favorite Wine Dinner: This past spring, A Tavola in Winchester held a Sicilian wine dinner which was stellar. The wines were superb, several making my Top Ten Wine List of 2022, and they paired very well with the delicious foods prepared by Chef Carli, from Chicken Fried Quail to Rohan Duck. It was a fun atmosphere as well, with Ciro Pirone, of Horizon Beverages, regaling us with interesting and humorous tales of Sicily and the wines. A Tavola holds a number of wine dinners each year and you definitely should check them out. 

Favorite Wine Event News: Next year, the Boston Wine Expo returns. This major wine event, for the public and industry, will be held March 25 & 26, 2023, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are now available, although the full schedule for the event has not been posted yet. For example, there will be wine seminars although there isn't any information about which ones will be held. With a different venue and date, I'm very curious as to how the new Wine Expo will be, after its absence in recent years. Once they post more details on the event, I will provide that info on my blog as well. 

Favorite Cocktail Spots: 
     Nightshade Noodle Bar: Besides their cool wine list, the restaurant also creates numerous tasty and inventive cocktails here, such as the Nightshade Mai Tai,  Saigon Cigar Club, the Nha Trang Beach (with Mezcal), and Coconut Margarita. They also make custom Spritz cocktails, recently making one using Bully Boy Amaro which thoroughly impressed my dinner companion. On their dessert list, I love the Thai Tea, a small Thai Tea Mai Tai, and I try to order it every time. The cocktails are creative, well-balanced and delicious. 
    Row 34: In Burlington, this exquisite seafood restaurant makes some delicious cocktails, such as the Westward Winds, a Baijiu cocktail, and They Reminisce Over You, which is made with rum and Manzanilla sherry. 
     Hecate: I haven't visited this cocktail bar yet, which is located under the Krasi restaurant, but I'm very intrigued, and their cocktail menu looks quite inventive. It's on my short list of spots to visit in 2023. 

Favorite Baijiu Cocktail: At Row 34, The Westward Winds is made with Oaxacan rum. Ming River Baijiu, passion fruit, lime, and Campari. It was delicious and well-balanced, not overly sweet (with hints of bitterness) and with rich fruity flavors, and the taste of the Baijiu shined through. Refreshing, it was a touch of the summer during this cold winter. And it's also a very good example of the potential of Baijiu in cocktails.

Favorite Sherry Cocktail: At  Row 34, They Reminisce Over You, made with Plantation Single Cask 2009 Long Pond Rum, lime, demerara, manzanilla sherry, and tiki bitters. This cocktail was well balanced, not too sweet, with a delicious, complex taste of tropical flavors, salinity, and citrus. As a lover of Sherry, I love cocktails where it is a component.

Favorite Mezcal Cocktail: At A Tavola, the Killer Bee cocktail is made with Madre Mezcal, lime, and honey. It was refreshing, with only a hint of sweetness, some tartness from the lime, and the nice taste of the Mezcal. A fine way to start any meal.

Favorite Rum Cocktail: At Wusong Road, they offer a variety of Tiki cocktails and I opted for the Mai Tai. It was made with Jamaican, Guyana and Martinque rums, almond orgeat, curaçao, and lime, and served with a metal straw. Most other places that offer a Mai Tai don't make it with such a different selection of rums, instead using much more common and less expensive rums. I enjoyed the complex taste of the Mai Tai, which was refreshing, with a noticeable alcohol content (but not overly so). And at under $11, this was also an excellent value. 

Favorite Beer: From Channel Marker Brewing in Beverly, I thoroughly enjoyed their Propeller, a Cherry Vanilla Popsicle Style Sour Ale. This beer has a 6.3% ABV, and is said to be a "Sour Ale brewed with sweet cherry, tart cherry, vanilla beans and milk sugar." This ale has a deep, rich pink color, and when you took a sip, the front of your palate was struck by bright cherry flavors, with a hint of tartness, The flavors then transformed in your mouth, finishing with creamy vanilla notes, and the cherry taste became more subtle. I was enamored with how the delicious flavors evolved over my palate. In addition, it presented with only a mild hint of sweetness, which pleased me as well. Highly recommended!

Favorite Daiginjo Sake: While dining at Yakitori Totto, I enjoyed the Kaku Rei Daiginjo ($120), which was produced by the Aoki Brewery, that was founded in 1717. The Sake was made from the famed Yamada Nishika rice, which was milled down to 48%. It was an excellent Sake, with delicious peach and apple flavors, a touch of steamed rice, a nice body, and a lengthy finish. It was smooth and tasty, and went well with the various grilled meats.

Favorite Canned Sake: WeSake is a canned Junmai Ginjo, likely produced by the Hakutsuru Brewery, a 280 year old brewery in Kobe, Japan. The rice for this Sake is grown in Tagocho, by local farmers, although the type of rice is not identified. The rice was polished down to at least 60%, and the Sake is also vegan friendly, sulfite free, gluten free, and non-GMO. It was quite tasty, being smooth and medium-bodied, with pleasant flavors of melon, steamed rice, and tropical fruit. I enjoyed it chilled with a dinner of Sockeye Salmon, and it has more body than many other Ginjo Sakes, and I think it would taste well warmed too.

Favorite Sake Educational Resource: For some of the latest and most fascinating current information about Sake, you need to read the Sake Industry News by John Gauntner. Each twice-monthly issue contains numerous intriguing news articles, sure to interest all Sake lovers, and with information you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. I've learned plenty from this newsletter and eagerly look forward to each new issue. There's not enough Sake news available out there, and Gauntner is filling a much-needed niche. If you're interested in Sake, you definitely should subscribe. 

What were some of your favorite Wine, Spirit, Sake & Drink-related items this year?

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