As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Haute South

Chilly one day, then balmy bluster the next – that’s what I’ve come to expect out of early spring here in good ole GA. While this back and forth flip flopping of air temp challenges wardrobe decisiveness, it presents a somewhat unique opportunity for those of us that really enjoy a wide variety of beverages. Many times, I begin my day with the trusty Braun grinder, a French press and some good shiny southeastern Asian beans. I work my way through the obligatory “gots to cuz I live in the ATL” Coca-Cola, on through the mid-day “gots to cuz I live in the ATL” ice tea, and then back to the java in order to build the necessary foundation for the après sun festivities.

And the sun did go down last week on the not-so-suburban township of Decatur. Like a number of other micro-locales inside 285, I think of Decatur as an “inburb” and really in a league of its own: a true-to-itself, small- town hot spot that uniquely provides a “walking neighborhood” and an in-town shopping district all in one. Decatur-proper boasts a real limestone courthouse with pigeons, coffee shops, homeless people that you’ll come to know by name and a slew of gift stores that flank the oddly Midwestern structure on all but one side. Around the square, the adjacent streets are littered with similar retail storefronts and eateries that are both inviting and full of charm.

On this eve, the warmth stuck around so we opted to leave the coats in the car. It was Super Tuesday 2008; feeling rebellious and a bit pudgy, I felt as though I needed something to restore confidence to my sense of masculinity. I opted for a “schnnotz” of bourbon, silently toasted my candidate-of-choice and asked for some Blanton’s. Blanton’s, while not commonly available, can be found at a few of the better liquor merchants and full-service restaurants. They have has a fantastic website with one of the most creative uses of Flash I’ve seen in a while. Take a look –

In any case, Blanton’s was the first American single-barrel bourbon. This essentially means that, yes, they did it first, but more importantly, there is no blending. For those of you that know about barrels and their relationship to wine, you know you can take the same juice from the same parcel and pump it into three barrels from the same cooper all resting in the same corner of the cellar. In the end, you get a reasonably different result from each. For this reason and others, after barrel grading, winemakers craft a final blend from a variety of barrels each lending its own subtly distinctive personality to the finished wine. In the case of single-barrel bourbon like Blanton’s, the goal is singularity and distinction rather than “distillery-style,” as is the case with many scotch houses and blended whiskeys. Blanton’s is packaged in a super cool soccer ball shaped bottle with barrel number, ageing information and a hand written signature that imparts a good artisan appeal. Here is a good example of a righteous package and even more righteous juice. That’s 360-degree crafting in my book – inside and out! Home runs on both are something that most producers, whether wine or spirit, don’t always get.

An enduring bouquet offering melted sweet scents of buttered popcorn, light toffee, maple and lanolin. The grain-like palate entry is balanced by a sappy flavor; at midpalate, it’s focused, sweet, oaky, full of maple and sultry seamlessness. The finish is my favorite and feels less sweet with strong vanillin oakyness and more lingering sappy resin.

A good bottom weighted hunk of crystal, an oversized cube or two and a glugging pour of Blanton’s is just what the doctor ordered. You get what cha pay for, as they say.

No comments: