#Beer Between #PinotNoir at #IPNC Thanks To #HeaterAllen

After half a day of blind tasting variant Pinot Noir clones, followed by all of Winter Hill Wine Estate’s reserve wines paired with a lunch, the snappy light maltfest Bohemian Pilsner from Heater Allen cools things down. 

 Yes, this may be the 50th International Pinot Noir Celebration, but sometimes,  you just need a solid lager from the brewer.

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Coffee After a Day of #PinotNoir at the #IPNC

The best part of the International Pinot Noir Celebration must be the free Cappuccino.  

 Thank you Nossa Familia! 

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La Trappe Trappist Beers, New Year’s Day and Eindhoven, Holland

165 days of rampant, alcohol-filled travel across Europe’s major wine, beer, and spirit regions lands us in Holland.  Our EU Austerity Drinking Tour has overwhelmed our knowledge of the wide variety of drinks culture Europe offers us.

EU Map New York To Eindhoven TEXT Day 165Our train from Cologne (Koln) reaches the town of Eindhoven.  It looks sleepy, but explosions punctuate the quiet.  It may be midday. It may be December 30th. But New Year’s Day is near enough to blow something up.

Holland is our 12th country in 6 months.  We have stayed with strangers at every home and hostel.  Finally, today, family friends Tineke and Dirk pick us up from the station. No more dragging luggage across miles of cobbles in the rain.

We arrive at their meticulously clean, lovely home. I last spent New Year’s here over twenty years ago (during the first sequel of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies).

Much has changed. Their expansions and window bays light up the place. Their sons have moved out. Yet, it remains as warm as I remember.

New Years Tineke Dirk HollandA trip into town lands us in the grocery store. While Dirk meets with the local butcher, we pick up many many beers from Holland’s only Trappist Brewery: La Trappe:

La Trappe Beer ShelfAs one of eight Trappist breweries (Belgium harbors the other seven), monks brew the beer, and proceeds only finance the monastery and non-profit charities. Granted, aging Le Trappe has teetered on the edge of becoming over-commercialized by owners Bavaria. Yet since 2005, Trappist regulations have kept them true-er to their creed.

Armed with beer, meat, and vegetables, we return home.

Eindhoven Feast Holland With dinner preparations underway, we sample Holland’s Trappist brewery.

We start with Trappe’s Witte aka wheat beer (€4.50/750 ml). This is the only unfiltered, bottle-fermented Trappist wheat beer.

APPEARANCE: looks a hazy, medium plus gold amber, with a thin white head. AROMAS: smell intensely of lemon peel, white tea, honey, and cooked white beans. PALATE: feels off dry, bright and tart with acidity, mildly bitter, moderately alcoholic (only 5.5%), with a medium body. FLAVORS: do not overwhelm, but present light orange juice, cardamon, vanilla sugar powder, and those white beans again. Medium plus length.

La Trappe’s rare Witte is Very Good (4 of 5). It is mild, easy, yet complex and a bit wild.  It echoes our (slightly hungover but forgiving) walk through a nature preserve the morning after.

Endhoven Tracy Tineke Dirk WalkBut back to our diner.  Smells of cooked spinach, garlic, sausage and fantastic-ness waft about.

Next up: La Trappe’s Tripel (€1.19) The APPEARANCE: looks a bright, clear, golden amber, with an off white, fine fizz. AROMAS: blast massive amounts of hot honey, green minty hops, vanilla, and white smoke. PALATE: feels dry, notably acidic and bitter, warmly 8% alcohol, with a rich body. FLAVORS: taste strongly of vanilla cream meringue, white smoke, grapefruit, honey. Medium plus length

Trappe’s Tripel is warm and round yet wonderfully zippy. Very good (4 of 5).

Now for something darker: La Trappe’s Dubbel (€1.19)

La Trappe Dubbel HollandAPPEARANCE: looks a clear but deep, ruby amber, with a thin cream-colored lace. AROMAS: Christmas dominates our noses with red apple, cinnamon, malt, and caramel. PALATE: feels mellow, less acidic, mildly bitter, but warm with 7% alcohol, making for a plump, medium plus body. FLAVORS: of apple, dark rye bread, dry cinnamon powder, vanilla, and steely mineral last an extra intense, medium plus length.

La Trappe’s Dubbel is very good (4 of 5) and paired brilliantly with the Dutch pastries we devoured.

Dutch Christmas PasteriesEnough light fare, time for something bolder: La Trappe Quadrupel.

APPEARANCE: a slight haze adds to the medium plus intense copper amber color, and thin veil of white fizz. AROMAS: glow with orange carrots, golden apples, hot ethanol, anise, and cardamon spice. PALATE: off dry with alcoholic sweetness, some acid, some tannin, frickin’ high alcohol 10%, and a rich, full body. FLAVORS: taste intensely of carrot cake, tart apple, and anise that last forever.

Their Quadrupel is too alcoholic to be outstanding, but proudly remains Very Good (4 of 5).  Full and tipsy, this Quadrupel is as loud and boisterous as the building fireworks here on New Year’s Eve (where I drop my ipod again…first time since Barcelona)

The morning after reveals the damage:

Endhoven Fireworks AftermathBut finally, something a bit more serious, La Trappe’s “Isid’or”: named for their first brewer on their 125th anniversary.(€1.30 30cl).

APPEARANCE: looks a hazy, copper amber, with small fizz, and a white head. AROMAS: exude various florals, grapefruit hops, anise, and violet. PALATE: feels dry, with medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus alcohol 7.5%, yet a restrained, medium body.  FLAVORS: exude an insane balance, with pronounced but delicate flavors of gorgeous fresh peach, pear, loads of florals, hop greenness, and a long, dark honey finish.

Isid’or is an Outstanding treat (5 of 5). Our last day in Einhoven, Dirk takes us to Van Eyck’s Winecellars: probably the greatest wine shop we see outside of France.

Van Eck WinshopInside, I find more wines from Domaine Taille Aux Loups than I knew existed…and this ain’t Southern France:

Taille Aux Loups Dutch wine wallVan Eyck’s is a gem in a town you would never expect.

But more than that, getting to meet Tineke and Dirk’s grandchildren means far more than a few bottles.

Pim Dirk sonThey play my brother’s audio recording of a children’s Christmas book that he sent recently. His familiar English sounds strange yet comforting from so far away.

Our handful of days in Eindhoven reinvigorate us for the last month of our trip.  Helping a granddaughter to draw a cat and rabbit, wandering the town’s sleepy center, eating fantastic food, drinking wild, rare beers: all of it reminds us why we travel.

Aaron Eindhoven


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Thirsty Thursday: Frappato by Nanfro from Sicily 2011


Caramel Crunch FrappuccinoNo, no, no, NO!

Not that syrupy, sticky cup of brown disappointment that suburbanites consider a meal replacement, even coffee, or worse, Italian.

No. Not Frappuccino. Frappato: the grape.

frappatoThis grape, an ancient crossing of Sangiovese and something else, plays second fiddle to its bigger blending buddy Nero d’Avola (in Cerasuolo di Vittoria) in Sicily.  Frappato alone usually feels light, tastes tart, and smells grapey.

But in the hands (and casks) of Nanfro, it is more than a blending grape. They farm 37 organic hectares, with one Frappato vineyard, harvest at 4 am, then utilize modern soft presses, temp-controlled ferm tanks, and a mere 6 months aging in concrete tanks.

Nanfro FrappatoAntica Tenuta del Nanfro, Frappato, Sicilia IGT 2011 vino biologico

APPEARANCE: a coppery clear rim deepens into a medium intense ruby core.

AROMAS: Bold cherry cola, flecks of blueberry, dried rose petals, ash and hot petrol stain my nostrils.

PALATE: It feels bone dry, with edgy medium plus acidity, mild fine dust tannins, noted alcoholic warmth, and a medium body. This is a ballet dancer who has done weight-training: all sinews yet silken and elegant.

FLAVORS: Up front soft cherry liquor twists bright with pickled lemon peel, sliding into sea salt, tobacco ash, dried petals, and iron rust that lasts a medium plus length.

Now all that may not sound appetizing, but nothing does after a Frappuccino. Drinks should not always be desert. We need to occasionally put our serious suit on. Try a straight shot of espresso. Let it snap you back to what dry, roasted, black caffeine can taste like.

Lucky for us, Nanfro’s Frappato is not so serious. It is still that ballet dancer: silky, easy, yet athletic. We can thank the grape’s minimal tannins and no oak. With a bit of chill, Nanfro’s Frappato makes for a great, slightly serious, summer red. Seafood, fresh water fish dishes, or a fresh tomato marinara (go light on the garlic) will sing.  Very Good (4 of 5).

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More Kolsch and Romans in Cologne (AKA Koln) and (finally) German Riesling

As last Monday’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour hinted at (click here), Cologne -like its beer, Kölsch, like its history- is very complex. Walking the city increases this impression. WWII literally firebombed the city into a burnt pancake. Buildings look painfully dull, grey, modern.

Yet near our stay, the most magnificent Mosque mothership from Mars greats us.

Mothership Mosque Cologne

Deeper, a Nazi nod to Cologne’s Roman colonial days points us to the only standing survivor of WWII, Cologne Cathedral:

Cologne Lupa BasilicaThe Cathedral looks vast and blank inside, so we go underground. The antiquities museum sends us deeper and deeper into Cologne’s colonial past. Grave markers loom stories high, reconstructed dining halls look straight out of Pompeii, and this mosaic makes your IKEA rug look like a piece of…:

Tracy Cologne MosaicOverwhelmed, I recline awaiting a drink:

Aaron Lounging Cologne MuseumGrape and wine-themed lamps, bottles, and frescoes are everywhere.  After a sea of fine glasswares and tombstones with wholly un-Roman gods, we pop outside and pop back beneath the cement and into the sewer.

Aaron Cologne SewerLuckily, this sewer just houses tourists.  Connected is the massive Praetorium or Governor’s palace, ironically discovered beneath the new town hall construction during 1953. This cut glass cage cup was wicked cool as well.

Cologne Cut CupWith drinks on the mind, we could use one.  Another Kölsch please.

Brauerie Malzmuhle Koln KolschUnlike last Monday’s Kolsch from Pfaffen, Malzmühle (malt mill…clever) creates a similar yet different beer. APPEARANCE: looks a clear, lighter gold, with microscopic fizz, and a thin white head. AROMAS: smell bight and bountiful with intense honey and lemon. PALATE: feels dry, tart, gripping, mild in alcohol (4.8%), and medium bodied and carbonic. FLAVORS: taste medium plus and punchy, with pure, fresh flavors of honey, bright hoppy grass, and a slight white malt core that carries on a medium plus length.

Malzmühle is Pfaffen’s younger, sharper, more witty sibling. Served with a Teutonic shrug and a nod, it is very good (4 of 5).

With the sun setting on Cologne’s Cathedral, we say goodbye to Germany.

Cologne Cathedral SunsetWait! This is a wine blog. Ain’t no way in high heaven can we end on beer.

The Romans may have made wine this far North. German’s have since, however, tended to warmer pastures South of here. To the Pfalz!

Christmann Riesling PfalzA. Christmann, AC, Riesling Trocken, Pfalz, Germany, Bio. €13.99

APPEARANCE: a pale, waifish, lemon gold color. AROMAS: pounce with developed, high octane punches of kiwi, peach, smoke, and slate. PALATE: feels only slightly forgivingly off dry, but with high, cracking acidity, mild 11.5% alcohol, an unexpectedly medium plus body. FLAVORS: interrupt all thought with smoking beeswax candles, fuzzy peach, lime, and slate flavors that last an immense length.

This is viscous and fullsome, if a bit loud. A. Christmann has made a very, very good nearly outstanding Riesling (4 of 5). It can age but drink it now.

That feels better.

Thank you Germany. Next Monday, New Year’s Day in Holland!

Oh…and if you were wondering, yes, Cologne did originate from Cologne.


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