Monday, April 10, 2017

Toast the Ghost

Standing in a cemetery across from a distillery doesn't really sound like the type of tour introduction one might expect, but that's exactly how our recent visit to The Glenrothes began. Ronnie Cox, Brands Heritage Director, stood amidst the headstones memorializing denizens of the village of Rothes and told us a ghost story.

The distillery was founded in 1879, and the building that now houses the big-bellied pot stills producing this magical elixir was once its malting floor. That malt house was converted to house the stills in 1979.

At the turn of the 20th century, an orphan boy named Biawa "Byeway" Makalaga was found under a bush in Africa by Colonel Grant of Rothes. Grant brought "Byeway" back to Scotland to be raised in his hometown. The young man grew up to be the Colonel's helper and a well-known figure in the village, playing on the local football team. "Byeway" passed away in 1972, seven years later when the former malting floor was renovated and the new stills installed there were two reports of his ghost appearing in the still house.

The distillery brought in a local professor to investigate, he found a disruption in an energy line that was caused by the new stills installation, this led him to walk to a specific gravestone across the road, 70+ yards from the still house, and after a brief moment of conversation he returned and said the situation had been resolved amicably. The gravestone was that of Biawa "Byeway" Makalaga, and his ghost was not seen again.

The legend of The Glenrothes continues, and why not pick up a couple of bottles so that next time you want a fine Scotch Whisky you can raise your glass and "toast the ghost", in the tradition of Rothes, Scotland.

  Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky Speyside

  Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky Speyside

 1999 Signatory 'Glenrothes' 16yr Single Malt Whisky

Friday, March 17, 2017

Just Say No To Green Beer

Image result for green napa valleyAfter several months of rain here in Napa, the sun has finally come out and light is refracting off of water droplets on grass so green it isn’t in the Crayola box.  Glowing, electric green.  The kind of green where you might see a leprechaun jump out of claiming that the mustard flowers are really a pot of gold.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and here at Bounty Hunter we are seeing green.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and what began as a remembrance of his death has become a holiday to honor Irish heritage in the United States.  Often celebrated respectably by drinking a lot of a Guinness and Irish Whiskey, and not so respectably by pouring green food coloring into everything in sight.  Here in the U.S, we love to dye food, who among us has not eaten green eggs and ham or drunk green beer from a green keg?  One of our wine scouts even had green Sparkling Wine in an unnamed tasting room.
Here at Bounty Hunter, we love Irish Whisky, but we want to help you do better with the green beverages.  Admittedly French rather than Irish. Absinthe and Chartreuse come by their green hue more honestly than green beer.

Sometimes called the green fairy for its reported hallucinations, Absinthe is an herbal spirit that tastes like licorice and packs a high proof wallop.  The traditional way to drink it is by dripping water very slowly into it until it turns green and milky.  We would also recommend slowly pouring Sparkling wine into it for a beautifully green glass of bubbles. 

Image result for vieux Pontarlier Absinthe Francaise Superieure

Chartreuse is a liquor made with 130 plants and flowers by French monks from an ancient recipe, it is the perfect thing to drink very cold after your corned beef and cabbage.The one we carry is not only green but aged for an extra time in French oak.

Here at Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits, we wish you a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day and want to help you just say no to green beer.  For the non-traditionalists among you here are two deliciously green spirits for you to try. 

Distilled using only locally grown wormwood, we’ve found the pinnacle of absinthe. As fragrant as it is bright, there are notes of spice, alpine herbs, and fennel. Add water and watch the louche create a milky, opaque color that draws out more complex aromatics. Looking to expand your horizons and give Absinthe a try? This is where you should start. 130 proof

The elixir of long life, Chartreuse is made of a secret recipe that has been handed down to each generation of Carthusian monks since 1605. The V.E.P. is a selected portion of the traditional recipe aged for an extra time in French oak casks. Intoxicating aromas of tarragon, fennel, and coriander are woven together with deeply concentrated flavors of mint,citrus and sage. The most powerful attribute occurs at the finish, as each component melds into one harmonious distinct flavor, leaving you green with envy for another sip, chanting is optional.

If you are a traditionalist, we also have some delicious Irish Whiskies. 


This whiskey is a fitting homage to the legendary literary history of the Emerald Isle. A most uncommon blend of pure pot still and single malt whiskey, recalling the whiskeys of the 19th century with honey, sweet orange blossom and a spicy hint of ginger and oak to the finish. Try on the rocks with soda, James Joyce’s drink.

The Irish Whiskey for the Bourbon lover. While lacking an age statement, it is matured in CA Cabernet barrels for around 4-6 years, the ripe fruit aromas mesh nicely with hints of coconut and banana, a touch of mint, and butterscotch. Long and flavorful on the palate with hints of caramel, honey, and tree fruits - just like a punchy young bourbon, this one packs an Irish, bare-knuckle finish that will leave you breathless.

Usually yellow spots aren't always a good thing, but in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. Aromas of ripe peach, cracked black pepper, nutmeg and clove lead into a decadent palate of honeyed citrus, milk chocolate, red apples and crème brulee to create a special bottle of Irish delight. A long and complex finish of sweet red fruits and toasted barley make this an absolute pleasure to imbibe. If Irish eyes are smiling, it’s because their lips have been graced with this delectable whiskey.

West Cork Distillers was founded in 2003 and has patiently bided their time while these casks matured in the cellar. Triple distilled in a pot still using only Irish grown grain, this single malt is exactly what we've been waiting for in Irish Whiskey. Aged 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels and finished for nearly 6 months in rum casks sourced from Caribbean distilleries. A bounty of flavor with cracked hazelnuts, citrus and a sweet cereal grain from nosing and through the mid-palate. The finish is long and loaded with overripe mango and a taste of the tropics. Bringing together two distinctly different latitudes in one bottle, this is one to savor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Sweet Pairing: Girls Scout Cookies, Wine, and Spirits

Napa Valley is still a place where Girl Scouts come to sell cookies at your door.  There’s always a table in front of Sunshine Market in St. Helena, and there’s no doubt we have a tough time going in without buying some cookies.  This time of year girls all over the country are learning how to run a micro business and building up teamwork with their peers.  Here at Bounty Hunter, we are fully supportive of girls learning to be entrepreneurs, partly because we have developed a wicked Thin Mints habit.  Seriously, we just opened a sleeve this morning and now it’s gone. 

Since we are all in the Girl Scout cookie boat together, we asked our Wine Scouts to be Cookie Scouts and tell us their favorite cookie pairings.  The first thing we learned is that there are two Girl Scout cookie bakers. If you’re like Tom Miller and grew up in Texas, you remember a cookie called Caramel deLites, while if you’re a California girl like Rachel Kau-Taylor, you called the same cookie a Samoa. 

Because cookies are so sweet, they present some real obstacles to successful wine paring.  Many wines have qualities like tannin and acid that are softened by age or decanting or thoughtful contrast pairing that is enhanced by sugar.  We often think that because this red wine tastes like raspberries it will go with chocolate because chocolate goes with raspberries.  Instead, the sugar plays up the tannin in the wine and suddenly the inside of your chocolatey cheeks are stuck to your tannin covered teeth.  It’s not delicious, and your Wine Scouts believe you deserve to have a better experience. 
Here is a rule of thumb to help you pair with all sweet treats, and your Wine/Cookie Scouts professional opinion about what you ought to drink with the cookie gold inside those brightly colored boxes. 

Remember: Keep the wine as sweet as the cookie. Sugar is the aforementioned tannin and acid enhancer, if you keep the wine as sweet as the cookie, the wine and the cookie will complement each other. 

Sam Miller: 2007 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes with Samoas 
(AKA Caramel deLites)
Chateau d’Yquem is the liquid gold of Sauternes.  It overflows from your glass with honeysuckle and apricots. It's expensive because the grapes shrivel on the vine and the amount of juice is minuscule.  It is a lion among dessert wines.  If you want to have the most decadent Girl Scout Cookie experience, Sam says, “The caramel character in the wine will match perfectly with the caramel/coconut/chocolate flavor of the cookie. 

Jeremy Jones: Bounty Hunter 10 year Cask Strength Bourbon with Tagalongs (AKA Peanut Butter Patties)
Jeremy’s definitive answer to the difficulty of pairing sweets with wine is to skip the wine and head straight for Bourbon.  He says, “Bounty Hunter’s ‘Cask Strength’ bourbon whiskey has the perfect integration of oak showing cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted coconut.  These oak spices harmonize with chewy caramel and fresh vanilla bean that pair perfectly with the crunch of the vanilla cookie, creamy peanut butter and rich chocolate that make up the famous Peanut Butter Pattie Girl Scout Cookie.”

Lee Reinsimar: Craneo Organic Mezcal with Thin Mints
Lee takes the same approach, pairing a hot spirit with mint to cool you off.  “The underlying smoke character with the grapefruit, cotton candy and grassy notes in the Mezcal will marry well with the coolness of the chocolate-covered Thin Mints.”

Chelsea Hamilton: 2014 Streamside Moscato with Savannah Smiles
Chelsea is dreaming of summer and there is nothing better on a wine country summer day than sitting on the back porch with an ice cold glass of Moscato and a plate of Savanna Smiles.  She says, “The sweet lemon in the cookie actually makes the wine taste a bit less sweet and more refreshing.  The effect is like the perfect glass of lemonade.” 

Tom Miller: Mother Earth Brewing Company ‘Sin Tax’ Peanut Butter Stout with Do-si-dos (AKA Peanut Butter Sandwich)
Tom is one of our resident beer aficionados, and when we asked for a pairing he quoted H. Simpson, saying “Beer… sweet beer.”  We have to agree that the Mother Earth Sin Tax Peanut Butter Stout with the Do-si-dos is about the richest sweetest thing we can imagine.  This is for people who love the sweet in sweet beer. 

Sandro Morro: 2014 Emmolo Merlot with Girl Scout S’mores

The Girl Scout S’more is new this year and celebrates 100 years of Girl Scout cookies.  Emmolo Merlot is super plush with soft tannin.  It tastes like black cherries and ripe plums.  You’ll think you are eating s’mores after a day of berry picking, and what’s better than that?  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Valentine's Crush

With Valentine’s Day here, it’s always fun to nurse a little secret crush, and here at Bounty Hunter, we are crushing hard on Burgundy.  In particular on Cyprien Arlaud, who came to visit us the other day in our downtown Napa tasting lab.  Cyprien has everything you want in a crush he’s tall with sandy blond hair and a massive passion for biodynamic farming and winemaking.  In perfect French-flavored English, Cyprien transported us to his family’s farm in the Cote d’Or.  As we tasted his wine we could reach out and feel the close spacing of the vines and hear the clomp, clomp of his sister Bertille’s horses, plowing between rows. 

Sometimes when people think of Biodynamic farming they imagine witches dancing around in the moonlight and burying a ram’s horn, as though it is more religion than science.  When Cyprien talks about converting to biodynamic farming practices, he is rational not romantic.  He stopped using pesticides because he likes to whole cluster press and felt that you could taste the chemicals in the stems.  He started plowing with draft horses because his vines are close together and he found that a tractor compacted his soils so much that water did not find its way to the vines roots.  Everything is based on trial and error and finding the perfect balance between freshness and ripeness in his grapes. 

As hands on as Cyprien is in his vineyards, he is learning to have a light touch in the cellar.  He told us that initially he put everything into new oak and tried to manipulate the wine because he thought that was what people wanted.  Quickly he discovered that he didn’t love the result.  His wines now are lightly spiced and ethereal, with beautiful red fruit.  He is always seeking that balance between ripeness and freshness, and oak is a partner rather than something to overwhelm the wine.

Domaine Arlaud is above all else a love story.  The vineyards were a wedding present for Cyprien’s grandparents from his grandmother’s family, and now they are Cyprien’s labor of love.  Burgundy is the perfect thing for Valentine’s Day.  It’s light and scented with rose petals and strawberries.  So make some Salmon with wild mushrooms, or put together a classic Coq Au Vin, pop open one of the bottles below and enjoy.

When one of the top producers in Morey-Saint-Denis goes biodynamic and invests in one of Vosne's top Premier Cru vineyards, we certainly take notice. Cyprien and Roman Arlaud crafted a dynamite "Petits Monts" in 2013. This vineyard, just above the grand cru Richebourg and adjacent to the mythical Cros Parantoux, is known for powerful, exotic wines, and this is loaded with violets, sandalwood, savory black cherries, cinnamon, and roses. Don't miss this one - we snagged just a few cases.

The "Aux Réas" vineyard is a rather large village vineyard just south of the town of Vosne-Romanée, which is home to the greatest Pinot Noir vineyards in the world, such as Romanée-Conti and Richebourg. Its name refers to this vineyard's longstanding planting with vines, with Réas meaning "furrows" or "rows." See if you can spot Vosne's signature exoticism and Asiatic spices in this one.

“Aux Cheseaux,” a name referring to old stone houses, is a terrific Premier Cru that is but a mere chip shot from the Grand Cru Mazoyères-Chambertin. This is Pinot Noir at its most regal: dark morello pie cherries, mushrooms, underbrush, and faintly saline marine notes have their fingerprints all over this one.

A family affair, Cyprien Arlaud, brother Romain, and sister Bertille run this fabulous domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis with exactitude and strictly adhere to biodynamic farming. They plow all of their vineyards not with tractors, but draft horses, one of whom is named Oka! This is the herbaceous, earthy, bright red-fruited side of Pinot Noir. It will come alive with a slab of pork pâté, triple cream cheese, and a hot baguette.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Day at Reynolds Family Winery

Mustard is beginning to raise its golden face toward the sun here in Napa, it’s the first harbinger of spring to come, and it means that it’s time for the Bounty Hunter to take the Wine Scouts up the Silverado Trail to Reynolds Family Winery.  Steve Reynolds is like your favorite mad scientist uncle, who plies devotees with a shot of tequila before wine dinners then turns around and explains that, “texture is the wild west of wine making,” and color molecules are the key.  He leaves you feeling like you should be out there x-raying your grapes in the vineyard you don’t own yet. Tasting with him is like being invited to the private winemakers club.

Steve’s first vintage was a study in persistence.  In 1995, while still working as a dentist, he and his wife Suzie bought an old chicken ranch just below Stags Leap.  They cleared the land, planted vines, and in 1999 were ready to harvest their first grapes.  Steve rented a neighbor’s barn and started crushing.  A dentist by day, winemaker by night sounds like our version of a comic book Super Hero.  Then, as often happens, life rushed in. The helpful neighbor let him know that his barn actually wasn’t zoned for winemaking, and he’d have to move the whole production line.  Wine making in the best conditions is a full-time endeavor.  Steve quit the dental practice and we’re glad he hasn’t looked back.  His wine, Persistence, is the legacy of his beginnings in the Napa Valley.

When you start chatting with Steve, his passion for the science of wine making is immediately apparent.  He has pioneered a process where he uses ozone gas to create a wine with no added sulfites and more antioxidants.  We can’t make any health claims about it, but the wine is called The Quote.  Ask for it if you find yourself in the Reynolds Family tasting room and need a boost. He also uses a process called “wine x-ray” to check his phenolic concentrations.  Which is a geeky way to say that he has more control over the mouth-feel of his wines.  He loves to create bottles with upfront fruit and beautiful tannic balance that are going to be both delicious on their own and make food taste spectacular.

Reynolds Family Winery is only open by appointment but they are always delighted when customers come to them from the Bounty Hunter.  We had the RFW Tour and Chef’s Pairings, which includes a walk through their vineyards, a tour of the barrel room, and a sit down tasting with wine and cheese.  If you are in town in the summer, watching river otters in the pond off their patio with some of their Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

Here’s a rundown of some of our tasting, all of these are available by clicking on the wine names below.

A classic, textbook Merlot from the Annapurna vineyard in Stags Leap District, this wine has all the earthy elegance of that appellation combined with plush, low-acid black fruit and baking spices. The rock facade of the palisades reflects the heat of the sun onto this vineyard, causing temperatures to rise more quickly than in neighboring vineyards; this gives the wine considerable power for a Merlot - 10% Cabernet blended in helps too!

Never has a name so aptly described a wine, as this big and bold red blend is bursting at the seams with intensity. Inky purple in color, aromas of crème de cassis, cherries, black pepper and herbs lead into a mouthful of jammy blue and black fruits and chewy tannins that grab a hold of your senses and don't let go. If you're looking for unadulterated Napa decadence in a glass, you've come to the right place. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot.

From the family holdings just south of Stags Leap District, this is a gorgeous 2014, loaded with aromas of cassis syrup, mocha, marzipan, and black cherry jam. It is ripe and forceful on the palate, just a perfect foil for something like a prime rib sandwich with sundried tomato aioli. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot, raised in only 20% new oak! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Gift of a Gift

It’s become somewhat rote, but the old adage applies when it comes to the holidays: “’Tis better to give than to receive.”  The reasons for this are many, but perhaps the most important is to show those you care about that you recognize and appreciate what they bring to your world.  This can be especially true in the professional realm, where you’ve hustled all year to make your numbers, spent hours building rapport with your clients, and worked hand-in-hand with your team to ensure that you can be the best at what you do.  With the end of the year looming, don’t overlook an opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Take that additional step to cement your reputation in the minds of your clients, prospects and colleagues. A gift with gratitude is often the difference between respected world-class professionals and everyone else.  Show your customers and fellow corporate comrades your appreciation this season.

Afraid you don’t have enough time to choose that perfect present?  That’s where a seasoned gifting professional like a Bounty Hunter Wine Scout comes in.  We call upon decades of experience catering to our corporate clientele, combined with deep wine and spirits expertise, to find the perfect gift for everyone—at any budget.

Here’s our protocol:

               The Wine Scout works with the client to hammer out a budget and a list of recipients and addresses.

               We respond with a proposed package of wines or spirits for the budget that create maximum impact for the recipient.

               The client provides a gift message, which we print on an elegant card, or they can provide individualized gift cards of their own, which we insert into the top of the box to ensure that the message is received precisely the way it was intended.

               The order is sent to our warehouse, into which no product is accepted - nor does anything ship out - if it’s not perfect. Our staff opens every case and performs a detailed QC process on every bottle before giving it a literal seal of approval. This practice includes a visual inspection of the bottle looking for any defects, label or foil damage, and checking for leakage. We have a check and balance system that means that every shipment is checked no less than 3 times. Therefore our clients and their recipients never receive anything less than a perfect unboxing experience.

               Once the shipments are deployed, managing expectations is essential. Our Wine Scouts review the UPS tracking list of recipients to see if there have been any delays in the package deliveries, and inform the client of any problems and a timeline for resolution. It’s like having your own personal assistant running interference for you, even contacting your recipients directly when necessary.

Bounty Hunter’s fanatical emphasis on customer service and satisfaction requires that we consider the customer’s needs on multiple levels during the holiday season.

So this year, ask yourself, “Will this gift be treasured and memorable or just add another layer of stress to my already hectic holiday season? Does the gift enhance my own personal reputation or my company’s brand? Have I maximized my budget to come up with a gift that my clients and colleagues will savor and remember?”

If all of these considerations are important to you, reach out to us here at Bounty Hunter, and we’ll handle the rest!

From all of us here in the Napa Valley, we wish you a Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bounty Hunter’s BBQ Baked Beans

We asked Chef Nick from our downtown Napa Wine Bar and Smokin' BBQ for a quick and easy meal for a cold winter night, and his answer was immediate: “There’s really nothing like a long-simmered pot of baked beans.” 

Check out the recipe and try it out yourself! 

1 lbs Rancho Gordo Myaocoba beans – washed and soaked for 6 hours
½ C bacon - diced
½ C bacon fat
½ C yellow onions - diced
4 cloves garlic - diced
8 C water

Wet mix
¾ C ketchup
¾ C molasses
1 T Worcestershire
1/3 C yellow mustard
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne powder
¾ C light brown sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 T Kosher salt

Sauté the bacon in a large stock pot with the bacon fat for 3-5 minutes. Add onions and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the beans, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the wet mix and simmer 2-2 ½ hours. Enjoy!