Can’t get enough bourbon…

This evening, I was in the mood for some Southern comfort food, so I made a Bourbon glazed meatloaf. I added 2 cups of extra Sriracha because I like it spicy…..SUCCESS!!!  I paired the Boulevard Smokestack Series Bourbon Barrel Aged Quad, which is aged in bourbon barrels with cherries.

At first, I was hesitant with the pairing, as I did not want to be overwhelmed with bourbon, but it turned out to be a match made in heaven!!  I used cherry preserves in the recipe, so this blended nicely with the cherry notes in the Quad.

This 2014 vintage beer drinks amazingly now, but I’m going to buy several more bottles to cellar for later enjoyment.  I highly recommend this quad!  At 11.8%, the alcohol is surprisingly not overbearing, even when drinking this beer without food. The subtle cherry, toffee, and vanilla notes will leave your palate happy!


Moroccan Lamb Chops + North Mountain Brewing Kaiserlich DunkelWeiss = Pure Bliss!!

This week, while trying to clean out one of our many fridges and freezers, I came across some lamb chops.  I found a fabulous recipe that I thought would pair nicely with my growler of DunkelWeiss I brought back from Arizona…and boy was I right!!!

Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce paired with North Mountain’s Kaiserlich DunkelWeiss.


North Mountain’s Kaiserlich DunkelWeiss is an excellent representation of the style, boasting a 7.9%  ABV, this one is great for keeping you warm on those cold winter nights.  This DunkelWeiss stays true to the Weiss style, with the slight weight and flavors of clove and spice.  The clove in the beer is a beautiful companion for the cloves and Moroccan spice blend of this dish.

I served the lamb chops with a drizzle of Moroccan Barbecue sauce and the mint chutney (which was also used to marinate the chops) over a bed of curry couscous.  To make the couscous, see below:

Curry Couscous:

1 Tbsp of chili garlic oil

1 box of Far East plain couscous

2 cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup of diced carrots

1/2 cup of fresh peas

1/4 cup of diced onion

1 Tbsp of curry powder

1 Tbsp of roasted cumin

Heat oil at med-high heat. Saute diced onions and carrots until slightly tender, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add in couscous and lightly brown with vegetables.  Add chicken broth, curry powder, cumin, and peas then bring to a boil.  After mixture comes to a boil, cover and remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes and serve. Enjoy!!

Barbecue sauce will make more than you need, so freeze the remainder for later use or drizzle over a grilled meat of your choice.

See AZ Breweries post for more information on North Mountain and other Arizona breweries.

RayLen Vineyards and Winery Double Gold Vertical Tasting…and Other Adventures in the Yadkin Valley

Highly awarded RayLen Winery

RayLen Winery

RayLen Winery released its 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon on January 16, 2015.  They hosted a Double Gold Vertical Tasting on Saturday, January 17, 2015, which I was fortunate enough to attend.  Marketing and events manager, Erin Doby, led a group of winetasters, including myself, through a tasting that included 2012 and 2013 Merlot, 2012 and 2013 Carolinius, 2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 and 2013 Category 5.



The private tasting allowed me to do a side-by-side comparison of some of RayLen’s most prestigious wines.

photo82012 and 2013 Merlot:  The 2013 Merlot, not yet released to the public for sale, was bottled 4 months ago.  This 100% Merlot has a ruby-burgundy appearance with a nose of strawberry, blackberry, and cherry.  On the beginning to mid-palate, you will enjoy a mouth-coating flavors of dark cherry, oak and smooth tannins.  The 2012 Merlot, which is less oaked than the 2013, shows a garnet appearance with slightly opaque edges.  This Merlot-Petit Verdot blend is pleasant on the beginning of the palate, but falls of slightly mid-palate.

2012 and 2013 Carolinius:  The 2012 Carolinius is actually a non-vintage wine because it also contains 2011 Petit Verdot.  This garnet colored wine with a black cherry nose can no longer be purchased at the winery, as its supply has been depleted.  You may be lucky enough to try this one if you attend a special event, such as a Double Vertical tasting.  The 2013 Carolinius is more oaked than its 2012 predecessor.  A blend of Petit Verdot presents a garnet color with a nose of dark fruit, oak, and woody notes.

photo2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon:  The 2012 Cabernet, garnet in color with a nose of earth, oak, and stewed cherries, presents strong tannins, dark smoky fruits, and a pleasingly smooth finish.  This vintage is 92% Cabernet with approximately 8% Petit Verdot.  The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is equally as pleasing, with a ruby appearance and a nose of blackberry and slight oak.  This vintage brings nice flavors of dark fruit, tobacco and oak with a nice balance of tannins.

2010 and 2013 Category 5:  The 2010 Category 5 is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 10% Syrah.  Burgundy in color with a nose of musty, dark berries and oak, this blend presents nice tannins and a pleasant finish.  The 2013 Category 5 is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 7% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot.  Ruby in color with slight oak, vanilla, and cherry on the nose, this red blend will leave you with a pleasant blend of strawberry and slight spice on the palate.  The 2013 Category 5 is the last vintage that will contain Syrah.  RayLen decided to pull the Syrah vines because they were not producing enough (only 1/2 ton per acre).


After the Vertical Tasting, I sampled a few wines in the tasting room.  RayLen offers 5 flight options, so I opted for the Reserve Flight ($10) plus a few extras.  On the flight, I sampled the Sparkling Brut, 2013 SMV (South Mountain Vineyards) Chardonnay, 2011 Eagle Select, and 2013 Petit Verdot.  The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was also on the flight, but I did not taste again.

The Sparkling Brut had a nice effervescence and mouthfeel.  A great bubbly treat with light bubbles and slight notes of citrus.  The 2013 SMV Chardonnay used grapes from South Mountain Vineyard in Morganton, NC.  This oaked Chardonnay had a slightly oaky nose, with the buttery, vanilla, slight citrus notes one would expect from a quality oaked Chardonnay.  The 2011 Eagle’s Select had a ruby red color with a nose of cedar and rose.  After 22 months in oak barrels, the Eagle’s Select was one of my favorites of the day–and with a price point of $24.99, it’s a great wine to stock up on for now and for later.  The 2013 Petit Verdot had a nose of leather and subtle oak.  This luscious wine is another great addition to any cellar.

The other various wines, which I selected from other flights, included the 2013 Barrel aged Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Franc and the 2013 Rose of Cabernet Franc. I am a sucker for a great barrel-aged Chardonnay, as long as it does not overwhelm the senses with oak and butter.  This Chardonnay was fabulous, but not offered on the regular tasting menu.  If you’re at RayLen, ask if there is one available for tasting.  You won’t regret it!  The 2013 Cabernet Franc and Rose of Cabernet Franc were equally pleasing.  The Rose, which was on the skins for 3 days, has flavors of red berries and strawberry jam.  It has a pleasant balance of fruit with slight tannins, making this Rose one for those who appreciate a great rose that is not so sweet.

Another intriguing fact about RayLen Vineyards is their use of solar power in the winery.  This is a shining example of using renewable resources in a business to reduce carbon footprint.


Carronni’s Hand Crafted Creations

In the tasting room of RayLen, I was also fortunate enough to try some delicious hand-crafted creations by the mother-daughter team from Marion, NC who make delightful hand crafted cheese wafers (imagine a cheese straw, but in wafer form), pita crackers, and dips.  I, of course, had to sample them all!  The pita crackers come in 5 varieties (Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, Perocino and Rosemary, Mediterranean Kalamata Olive, Asiago and Parmesan, and Gorgonzola & Herb,) which can be enjoyed on their own or with one of the delicious dips. All the pita crackers are made with fresh herbs and aged cheeses.  The cheese wafers come in three delicious flavors: Pecorino & Rosemary, Smoked Gouda & Cheddar, and Asiago & Parmesan.  I highly recommend any and all of the cheese wafers.  I could probably eat a whole package in one sitting!  Finally, the dips prepared by the Carronni’s included Havarti Dill with Horseradish, Sun-dried Tomato Hummus, and Smoked Gouda spread (with extra sharp cheese, Worcestershire, and Sriracha).  I brought home a container of the Smoked Gouda, but they were all amazing.  These fine ladies also cater as well.

If you’re at RayLen, I highly recommend sampling and partaking in these great treats to accompany the fine wines at RayLen.


Misty Creek Vineyards

Next on our trek, we visited Misty Creek Farm and Vineyards, also located in Mocksville.  Owner and winemaker Barry Nichols led us through their 11 wines, with a dry flight and a sweet flight.  Barry started making wine since 1969, while working for NASA.

Although I tasted all 11 wines, my favorites were:

2009 Chardonnay- This stainless-fermented Chardonnay was one of my favorites at Misty Creek. It was crisp and refreshing with citrus, apple, and tropical fruit notes.

2011 Rose- After spending 3 weeks on the skins, this rose has a beautiful color and soft tannins that make it a perfect wine for sipping or with a meal.

Chamberry- Although I am not a sweet wine lover, the Chamberry was a nice, complex wine without a cloyingly sweet taste.  With a nose of cranberry, raspberry, and raisin, this wine delivers a bold, bright taste.  Chamberry is made of 100% Chambourcin and is sweetened with 6% sugar.  This wine could be enjoyed both cold and at room temperature.  It’s so tasty, I would use it to top a fresh pound cake with berries or as a reduction for a lamb dish.


Hanover Park Vineyards

We attempted to visit Hanover Park Vineyards, however we arrived at 5:05.  Since there were several cars in the parking lot, we inquired about doing a quick tasting.  When we entered the tasting room, we were rudely greeted by the bartender and told that they were closed, despite customers still being inside.  We explained that we got lost in all the dead-end roads and un-named highways in the area and that the poor cell service deemed our navigation useless.  We met a reply of “your phone should work fine out here, mine does.”  Let’s just say we won’t be visiting there again. If you plan to go, plan to be there early!

Medaloni Cellars

Our final stop was Medaloni Cellars, where we were greeted by a beautiful sunset, customers enjoying a fire on the patio, and a very serene setting with several rustic-looking buildings and a sprawling 22 acres of land blessed with 5 acres of vines. Medaloni offers space for private events, hosts classes (such as the upcoming Riedel Glass Seminar on February 8), and even has 3 cabins available on the property for an overnight excursion.


During my tasting, I was able to sample 8 of Joey Medaloni’s wines, including Fate Chardonnay, Signature Series Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, Lot 14 White Blend, Signature Series Rose, 2012 Merlot, Carignan, and a private label Chardonnay.

The Signature Chardonnay is Medaloni’s flagship wine, aged in 100% French oak barrels, demonstrated the buttery, oaky flavors expected from an oak aged wine.  The Fate Chardonnay is a blend of stainless and oak-aged, which presents a nice marriage of the two styles.

123Other notable wines included the Lot 14, which is a blend of Kerner, Gewurztraminer, Bacchus, and Dry Riesling.  This slightly oaky blend leaves your mouth with a crisp, citrus finish that is a pleasant wine to enjoy year round.  The Carignan is a French varietal, not generally seen bottled on its own.  This wine provides a nice blend of tannins with jammy fruit flavor.

Overall, my tour of the Yadkin Valley wineries was a pleasant experience.  There were some great wines and I met some great people. I look forward to finishing the Yadkin winery trail and exploring other wineries in the area.


January 16–National Spicy Food Day!

Ginger Chili Scallops and Allegash
Ginger Chili Scallops and Allegash

January 16th was National Spicy Food Day, so in honor of such holiday, I wanted to share a food and beer tasting I created for dinner that evening. I paired Ginger Chile Scallops, green peas, and butter-pepper crusted baked potato with Allegash White Ale.

Allegash White is a witbier brewed in Portland, Maine.  Similar in style to a Belgian wheat, this unfiltered beer blends flavors of wheat and spice to create a lovely accompaniment to the spicy ginger scallops.  The wheat is subtle enough to allow the spice of the meal to shine while still holding up in complexity and body to this sweet and spicy meal.


Mystery Brewing: Release of Alexandre

On January 10, 2015, Mystery Brewing released the 3rd in their Literary Greats Series. Each quarter, Mystery releases a new Literary Greats installment.  The other installments of the Literary Greats series include Sophocles and Admiration.  On my visit, I was fortunate enough to have a tour given by the Founder and CEO of Mystery, Erik Lars Myers (check out his book, North Carolina Craft Beer and Breweries).  As an added bonus, the business partner and chemist, Andrew Turner for the brewery was also on the tour.

The newest release, Alexandre, was exceedingly pleasant on the palate.  Alexandre is a 100% Brett Saison with lime leaves and sage. Boasting a hefty 8% ABV, this is one of Mystery’s highest alcohol beers.  It is an excellent drink now, but I’m holding on to a bottle or two for a bit to enjoy later!

photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

Mystery Brewing presents a unique concept.  It is a rustic-style brewery that was started in 2010 as a result of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.  The brewery concept was so well-received, the Kickstarter campaign raised $44,000 to start the brewery. Mystery is a seasonal-only brewery brewing all unfiltered beers.  They have no flagship beers, however they offer a variety of seasonally-appropriate beers which can be enjoyed each year during their given season. If you’re looking for a light, refreshing summery pilsner, Mystery is not the place to go; however if you are looking for excellent seasonal beers carefully planned to mirror the beer styles of the season, Mystery is your brewery!

MB menu

Brewery Tour

While on the tour, I was able to enjoy several of the beers, which made for an even more delightful tour.  Erik was very knowledgeable about the ingredients used to brew their beer, the process of moving the brews during each stage of production, and the equipment.  It was very interesting (but at times a little too over my head in the science department) to hear about the process of creating the yeasts used in the beer.  In fact, Erik has created his own proprietary strain of yeast that was once in a bottle of Dupont Saison de Miel.  This proprietary strain went through many batches and several mutations before Erik perfected his yeast.

Of the beers available at the brewery, listed above, my favorites were Six Impossible Things and Alexandre.

The Public House

The Public House, located just around the corner from the brewery, offers a wider selection of Mystery’s beers.  They also offer small plates, including olives, jerky, and cheese and meat plates. Hillsborough BBQ is located a few doors down from the Public House if you’re in the mood for a little more substantial accompaniment to your beers.  Hillsborough BBQ and the Public House have a “symbiotic” relationship, so patrons of the Public House can order BBQ and it will be delivered to the Public House.  The small plates and BBQ looked great, however I was so full from all the tasting, I was unable to try any food this visit.

I was, however, able to try all of the beer selections offered at the Public House.  They have 1 cask in the Public House, and beers are rotated periodically into the cask. I sampled all 10 beers available at the Public House.  Find information on some notable brews below:

Memorial Day 2012 Wild Saison- One of my favorites!  Aged in 2 barrels with 2 yeasts.  This beer was a collaboration between Mystery and Haw River Farmhouse Ales. It had an effervescent mouthfeel with a sweet and tart flavor.  I proclaimed this beer “Sweet-Tart Champange.”

Fantine had a very nice balance of hops

Thornfield’s End- notes of smoked meat with a sweet taste mid-palate.  It was very enjoyable.

The White Queen Bids Farewell- a nice blend of coffee and caramel, but it had a somewhat watery mouthfeel. Perhaps a little more time in the bourbon barrel would have made this one even more pleasing.

MB Flight Mystery Menu

Starting the New Year in Phoenix

I was fortunate enough to spend a week in warm, sunny Phoenix at the end of December and ring in the New Year in sub-freezing temperatures.  Yes…..FREEZING in Phoenix!  While on my visit, I visited 4 breweries and an amazing cigar lounge with coolers of great craft beer selections.

Desert Eagle Brewing Company

Desert Eagle Brewing Company opened its taproom in October 2012 in downtown Mesa. During my visit, Scot Walker, sales and marketing manager, sat with us as we sampled beers and gave me some perspective on the unique aspects of Desert Eagle. Owner Joe Campbell pays homage to his German heritage through the style of beers brewed.  Desert Eagle prides itself on using only flowering hops in its brewing process, making it one of three West Coast breweries (along with Sierra Nevada and Deschutes) to opt for whole cone hops as opposed to hop pellets.

Of the beers tasted, I was pleasantly surprised by the Black Cherry Blonde Ale and the Baja Pilsner. I generally don’t expect much from pilsners and fruity beers, however the Black Cherry Blonde Ale was very tasty with subtle hints of black cherry.  The fruit was not overpowering, but it offered a nice hint of fruity flavor.  The Baja Pilsner was a great summer-sipping beer.  Despite the frigid Arizona temperatures, this pilsner was an excellent representation of the versatility of this brewery.

DE MenuDE1

My flight at Desert Eagle.  Included Main Street Blonde Ale, Golden Eagle Wheat, Dunkelweizen, Red Mountain Ale, Holiday Hooch, Black Talon R.I.S., Buzz Bomb IPA, Baja Pilsner, Black Cherry Blonde Ale Gentlemen’s Porter, Pumpkin Dunkel and Pomegranate Wheat.

O.H.S.O. Nanobrewery

O.H.S.O. (Outrageous Homebrewers Social Outpost) is indeed a unique concept!  O.H.S.O. is a brewery where you brew it, name it, tap it and drink it!  Where else can you find a brewery where you get to use state of the art equipment, have a brewer’s input if needed along the way, and get to tell your friends to come out and drink YOUR beer?  O.H.S.O. also brews its own beer and offers a wide range of guest taps to meet all your beer-drinking need.

Owner and Director of Hoppiness Jon Lane is friendly and welcoming.  He was happy to show us around the brewery and explain the brewing process.  I highly recommend O.H.S.O. if you’re looking for a brewpub that offers the most creative and innovate tastes in beer.  O.H.S.O. is soon opening a distillery.  I can’t wait to visit that as well on my next trip to Arizona.

OHSO outside OHSO logo OHSO Stands for...OHSO bar inside

OHSO Brews

An example of the upcoming homebrewers and beers at O.H.S.O.

North Mountain Brewing

North Mountain Brewing hosted a vast array of quality beers. With 12 of their own beers on tap, it is easy to find something that pleases your palate.  C.R.E.E.M. , a golden ale brewed with oats, rye, and Arizona wildflower honey, is North Mountain’s flagship beer.  North Mountain’s Diogenes IPA, which uses HBC342 and New Zealand Waimea hops, is the a close second for customer favorite.

One notable beer at North Mountain is the CYRious Double IPA. Boasting an IBU of 211, this high gravity, heavy IPA is like nothing you have ever experienced.  The brew is a replica of Eric Cyr’s 2013 Great Arizona Homebrew Competition best of show winner.  Eric collaborated with North Mountain’s owner and brewer, Rob Berkner, to recreate this sensation.

The brewery’s menu looked amazing, however I arrived after the kitchen closed.  I look forward to trying out some beer-centric foods designed to highlight and enhance the beers on tap.

The beers I sampled while visiting North Mountain Brewing included:

C.R.E.E.M.- flagship golden ale brewed with honey

Hefe Endings- a nice hefeweizen with notes of banana and cloves

CardinAle Red- a slightly hoppy red with hints of malty goodness

N’erotic Belgian-a high gravity Belgian-style beer that fits nicely between a Trippel and a Quadruppel.  We will call it a 3.5!

Kaiserlich Dunkelweiss- an excellent representation of the style, boasting a 7.9%  ABV, this one is great for keeping you warm on those cold winter nights

Grooving with a Pict- a Scottish ale that is sure to satisfy your love of malt and smoke

Octomalt- a unique blend of 8 malts and 4 hops make this “Mother of all Beers” satisfying and noteworthy

Diogenes IPA- called the “second flagship” by the owner, the beer was named after a Greek philosopher who carried a lantern during daytime.  Diogenes blends 2 unique hops, HBC342 (an experimental hop with mild citrus and tropical notes) with New Zealand Waimea hops (known for its versitile uses and intense citrus fruit flavors)

CYRious Double IPA -described above

Barking Pumpkin Ale- a mouthful of fall goodness, brewed with a blend of pumpkin pie spices, espresso, vanilla beans, caramelized brown sugar and Belgian chocolate–how could you NOT want a taste of this fall favorite?

Spiral Man Oatmeal Stout- named in honor of the petroglyphs in North Mountain Park, this oatmeal stout’s dark smoothness was a pleasure to taste

N.I.B.-named in tribute to the nib of Geezer Butler’s pencil, check out this Black Sabbath hit and you’ll understand.

**Note….curiosity led me to look into the brewery’s description, “nib of Geezer Butler’s pencil.” N.I.B. is actually a love song written by Black Sabbath.  Lyricist Geezer Butler stated in a 1992 interview that nib actually refers to drummer Bill Ward’s (whose nickname was Nibby) pencil-shaped goatee, which reminded him of a pencil nib. According to Songfacts,  the band had not come up with a name for the song, so Ward’s nickname (a joke about his goatee), was deemed the song’s name.

NM5  NM1

NM4               NM3 NM2

Fate Brewing 

Fate Brewing Company, a fairly new competitor in the Phoenix area craft brewing market, brews small-batch beers with a focus on unique and unusual brews. Although I was unable to dine on this visit, the wood-fired pizzas look AMAZING!!  The beers were excellent, with a few notable brews.  Unfortunately, my two favorites were not available for growler fills.

Beers tasted:

Cream Ale

Irish Red

American Brown Ale

Nelson International Pale Ale

American Pale Ale

American Wheat IPA

Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale

Extra Stout

The three most notable beers were the Nelson International Pale Ale, American Wheat IPA, and the winner of the evening…Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale.

I found the Nelson International Pale Ale interesting because it offered a unique style and flavor that is not found in many beers I have tasted.  The beer was a single-hopped pale ale with New Zealand Sauvin hops, which gave it tropical notes.  I am growing to love the New Zealand, tropical-style hops. This is an interesting hop that I have not experienced prior to this beer.

The American Wheat IPA was also a unique style.  It had a great blend of crisp hoppiness with the bread-like characteristics of a wheat.  The American Wheat IPA incorporates a well-rounded hop blend consisting of Amarillo, Chinook, Citra, and Columbus with wheat and flaked oats.

LAST, but definitely not least–the Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale.  AMAZING!!  Fate definitely brewed a winner here!  A kettle-soured ale with Brett Brux, refermented with Riesling must, then slightly hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops and finally aged in chardonnay barrels.  Quite a complex brew that left me wanting more.

Fate also has another award-winning beer, which sadly, was not available upon my visit.  The seasonal (October-December) Candy Bar Milk Stout is brewed with cocoa nibs, sea salt, vanilla bean, and honey-roasted peanuts.  Move over Snickers– I can drink my candy bars at Fate!

Magnum Cigar Lounge

Tucked away in the midst of a shopping center, you’ll find Magnum Cigar Lounge.  This unassuming shop is home to a wide selection of craft brews, as well as an extensive walk-in humidor filled with a vast array of stogies.  The selection of scotch and whiskies is like none other.

Arizona’s craft beer scene is growing and I look forward to following the new and exciting developments in the industry!