Wine and beer reviews in the Vail Valley |

Wine and beer reviews in the Vail Valley

Daily staff reportsnewsroom@vaildaily.comVail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Caramie SchnellShock-Top Belgian White

Its fashionable among beer snobs to trash-talk the big American breweries. But you know what? There are dyed-in-the-wert beer guys working at the big breweries.A team from Anhueser-Busch, Michelobs giant parent company, sends a team every year to Vails Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival. And Michelobs specialty beers are actually pretty good, if not up to the standards set by the cream of the nations craft brewers.Shock-Top is in that tradition. Its got what youre looking for in a Belgian white a nice cloudy color, a wheaty body and plenty of citrus flavors that dont overpower the rest of the brew. OK, so Shock-Top lacks the tastebud-tingling ker-pow! of, say, Averys White Rascal (my very favorite Belgian white). The Michelob product isnt supposed to have it. Remember, were dealing here with a niche product from a company that sells oceans of the kind of beer the snobs love to hate. The folks at the Michelob skunkworks have to make a business case for their special products if theyre ever going to see the light of day, which means that these beers have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.In that, Shock-Top succeeds. Its not going to put off anyone who decides to be a little daring when they see the Michelob name on the bottle, and it might just send some folks on their own beer adventures. We all have to start somewhere.So what do we have here? Beer geeks might turn up their noses, but if youre looking for a solid Belgian white, and can find Shock-Top for a few dollars less than a six-pack of the high-priced stuff, its well worth your time.You can find this beer at Alpine Wine & Spirits in West Vail, Avon Liquor, Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards, West Vail Liquor Mart and Pier 13 Liquor in Eagle-Vail.Scott N. Miller, Vail Daily Business Editor

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker, poet Ogden Nash famously said. You can get both the candy and the liquor with Ballatores spumante sparking wine. Its sticky sweet flavor will delight anyone with an uber sweet tooth, but keep it away from those who dont profess undying love for drinks like white zinfandel and hard cider. For those who rarely partake in alcohol, this is also an excellent beginner drink. It is the soda pop of sparking wines. If your sweetheart subsists on a diet of Jolly Ranchers and Mountain Dew, this might be the perfect bottle to pop open on Valentines Day. And if too many bubbles tickle your nose, not to worry. This sparkling wine has less than average fizz.The golden drink yields a bouquet similar to the Fanta soft drink lineup — candied apples, grapes and oranges. The taste is similar, but youll get to feel like a grown-up because at 8.2 percent alcohol, youve got to be 21 to buy this bottle. The Ballatore camp recommends the spumante as an aperitif or with dessert. I agree that it would pair reasonably well with sweet dessert dishes, but stay away from the cheese if youre indulging in this sparkler, or any other savory dishes for that matter. It does well combined with orange juice or in other champagne cocktails. At about $8 for a 750 mL bottle, it a fair deal and wont break the bank, but you can also find something that wont give you a cavity in the same price range. You can find this sparkling wine at Avon Liquor, Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits, Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards, West Vail Liquor Mart and Pier 13 Liquor in Eagle-Vail.Nicole Frey, Vail Daily Staff Writer

A $10 bottle from one of the mega-wineries wouldnt typically inspire much anticipation, and thats the case here. This Meritage from Robert Mondavi is drinkable just, but it doesnt go much beyond that. A blend of five different grapes (mostly Cab), its a decent stab at a Meritage and contains some of the properties one looks for: complex oak and plum flavors with hints of berry and a smooth finish that still stands up to rich foods.But there are so many other reasonably priced Meritage wines out there why not try one of the better ones?Meritage is a relatively new name for an old style of wine based on French Bordeaux. Since Bordeaux wines are typically a blend of several different grapes often Cabs and Merlots California winemakers wanted to do the same with some of those varietals. But they couldnt call the resulting wines Bordeaux and so settled on the name Meritage in 1988. (They held a contest, in fact, and Meritage a blend itself of merit and heritage was the winner. Pronunciation is meant to rhyme with heritage.)So, like Bordeaux, if you buy a Meritage youre getting a bottle made under certain rules contained in the Meritage Associations licensing agreement. Principally, the blends are limited to Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec for reds and Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Vert for whites. Since lesser blends are often labeled table wine, the idea was for higher-end blends to bear the Meritage label.So endeth the (Wikipedia) lesson. Skip this Mondavi and spend a few more bucks for the Sonoma County Lyeth, 2005 or 06.You can find this wine at Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits and Village Warehouse Wines in Avon.Alex Miller, Summit Daily Editor

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