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Vail Daily Red White and Brew: Cat pee in a bottle

Daily staff reportnewsroom@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado

My first love is beer. Malted hops and barley get me going like a cheap date on prom night. I’m not ashamed. So on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I popped in to one of my favorite breweries and took a look around. The tour included a stop in the tasting room, a tiny little chamber divided into four or five cubicles, each with some counter space and a perplexing little paper wheel taped to the wall. I studied the pie-pieced chart as our guide explained that this was a flavor wheel. Each section had a technical term for a flavor or aroma and a dumbed-down description for the average tasting-room lummox. My eyes wandered across the wide variety of savory to sweet possibilities: vanilla, smoke, earth, fruit, spice … cat pee. Come again? I implored the tour guide to tell me how that one ended up as an option. What beer master in his or her right mind would head off to work one day thinking, “I’d like to make a beer that tastes like my favorite feline companion completely missed her litter box and went straight for my pint glass.” The guide said cat pee was far from a wildly popular component of most beer flavor profiles but that it was infinitely more common to discover when uncorking a chardonnay.Welcome to the Blackstone Chardonnay, flavor population: cat pee. I am astounded and slightly disgusted. Not that I’ve ever directly sampled cat pee, but anyone who’s smelled it knows that it bombards your olfactory to the point where you can imagine you are tasting it: acrid, eye-watering, awful. Why would anyone do this to a wine? Browsing the online literature detailing this phenomenon, I am not alone in my assessment that this is a travesty. I desperately tried to seek out other characteristics the winemaker was attempting. After all, nothing in the notes had prepared me for my first impression. But like most first impressions, it was hard to get past. I commend you if you are more forgiving on this one than I was.This wine sells for $10.99 to $12.99 and can be found at Avon Liquors, Beaver Liquors and Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits.Krista Driscoll, Daily Staff Writer

First, let’s give Sam Adams credit. Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch was among the first people in this country to embrace “craft brewing,” the art of making flavorful, distinctive beer in small batches.Koch’s been successful beyond imagining, to the point that most people in this country know about Sam Adams, even if they’ve never tried one of the company’s beers.And there’s an ever-expanding roster of those beers, from the flagship Boston Lager to seasonals to one-off batches to the ridiculous, amazing, wallet-emptying and scarce Utopias. Some of these brews are amazing – the Utopias and the barrel-aged brews – most are pretty darned good, and some… well, let’s talk about the better brews.Sam’s seasonal Oktoberfest is one of the pretty darned good beers Koch’s crew creates. It has a rich copper color and a fairly hearty head, with carbonation that bubbles up from the bottom of the glass all the way to the last gulp.The flavor opens up as the beer warms up out of the fridge, too. That’s a good thing, because the first few tastes are a little bitter and thin. The malt character really opens up if you give this Oktoberfest a few minutes to breathe in a glass.So this Oktoberfest falls short as a tailgating beer, but it’s pretty rewarding if you just sit down as the sky darkens and enjoy a few moments with a good beer.Even after this Oktoberfest opens up, it still doesn’t have the depth of flavor of, say, Paulaner’s fall beer, which remains the best I’ve had.But Paulaner’s recipes are centuries old. Jim Koch’s crew has been in this business less than 30 years. For a newcomer, these guys do fine work. Sam’s Oktoberfest is a good brew, and well worth your time to explore, but for my money, it’s hard to beat the Germans.This beer sells for $8.49 to $8.99 per six-pack or $15.99 to $16.29 per 12-pack and can be found at Alpine Wine & Spirits in Vail, Avon Liquors, Beaver Liquors in Avon, Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits, Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards, Village Warehouse Wines in Avon and West Vail Liquor Mart.Scott N. Miller, Daily Staff Writer

Never trust a wine label. I’ve been told wineries hire silver-tongued fluff writers to create the descriptions on the backs of most bottles, often having not the first clue what the contents are really all about. This is how you end up with descriptors such as “cheerful,” “elegant,” “harmonious.” What on Earth do any of these have to do with an inanimate liquid made of crushed grapes? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Which makes labels really unhelpful when choosing a wine and even more unhelpful when trying to decipher what the winemaker was possibly thinking when dumping it into a bottle and throwing a cork in it.Case in point, this Clos du Bois Pinot Noir. There seems to be a massive disconnect between whatever idiot deigned himself to spout some label drivel and what was actually in the bottle. A touch of acid and a disappearing finish made this wine pretty lack-luster. I was able to pick out a bit of spice, but the vanilla and oak flavors described on the label completely eluded me. In the glass, this pinot noir was a deep, blackberry red color, easy to drink and easy to forget.I paired this wine with a spice-rubbed veal chop topped with sauted tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. The juicy richness of the veal brought out a bitterness in the wine that wasn’t too appealing. Whichever marketing genius scribbled out the label recommending this match must not have had his head screwed on tightly enough. The actual winemaker’s notes endorsed a much more delicate pairing of salmon for this one, even going as far as saying that this was a “food-friendly” wine. I would probably disagree, but maybe that’s because I chose the wrong accompaniment and I’m still a little melancholy about it. So much for truth in advertising. The suggested retail price for this wine is $15. Find out more at http://closdubois.com.Krista Driscoll, Daily Staff Writer


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