Monday, June 29, 2015

Wine Notes - Lost in Translation

Sometimes something gets lost in translation – that’s why we opt to use the term in the native tongue when we write about wine. It’s less about pretense and more about being accurate. But sometimes we all need a little cheat-sheet to get on the same page. Here are a few French terms that could use a bit of expansion.

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC): Indicates the official place-name of where the grapes were grown.
Château: A wine estate.
Cru: A vineyard, a village, or perhaps a wine estate.
Cuvée: A blended wine.
Domaine: A wine estate, often smaller than a château.
Millésime: Vintage.
Mis en Bouteille au Château: Estate-bottled.
A votre santé!: To your good health (cheers!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Don Wetherell – Triple Threat

New life has been breathed into our operation with the addition of Don Wetherell as our new Vice President of Restaurant Operations.

A New England native, Don is a triple threat – classically trained in restaurant and hospitality management, and seasoned by years of experience in both small and large restaurant establishments alike. Most recently, Don spent several years at Redd Wood in Yountville, and before that, nearly two decades with the Hillstone Group (that runs the iconic Napa dining spot on Highway 29 in the heart of the Napa Valley, the Rutherford Grill).
A Penn State grad, Don didn’t set out to be in hospitality. His sights were on a degree in Exercise Physiology, but after taking a leap year in Vail, Colorado, where he worked in the restaurant industry, Don returned and enrolled in Penn’s Hotel and Restaurant Program.

Don jokes that in his formative years, “I did time at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires” (the super luxurious spa resort in western Massachusetts), where he worked as an outdoor guide. But his real inspiration comes from his mother, who had the opportunity to purchase a restaurant when Don was just a tyke. “She’s celebrating 40 years in business this October,” he says proudly.

Don’s been on the job almost six months now, and is currently helping to run the restaurant, work the floor, learn the culture, facilitate the management team and generally “tighten up service.” The best part of his new role is the “life/work balance” it affords him. Don not only tackles the day-to-day race of running our Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, he’s a dedicated husband to a lovely wife and father to his toddler son, both of whom eagerly command his free time.

Back to shop talk, Don tells us he’s excited about “this block” referring to Bounty Hunter’s new building site at the corner of First and Main Streets in downtown Napa. It’s a blank slate, and it will be our mother-ship property. “I can’t wait to grow into our new digs,” he says, “I think of all the things we can do when we have the luxuries of a full kitchen, a sauté station and more real estate in general.” Being the detail-oriented type that he is, Don doesn’t see the devil in the details but rather the opportunity for improvement. Some might think it daunting, but Don just smiles….

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It's Mystery Case time!

As Norman Bates said in Psycho, "Everybody goes a little crazy sometimes." Well call the sanitarium and start booking us rooms, because after this offer drops, we're gonna be escorted out of the building in straightjackets. It's Mystery Case time!

Here's the deal. There are three categories that you may request: $299.99, $599.99, or $999.99. The cases will include 10 bottles of red and 2 bottles of white, and the contents in each case are GUARANTEED to be of higher retail value (25% or more) than what you are paying. Each case INCLUDES GROUND SHIPPING in the price, and provenance is guaranteed. It's our way of saying "thank you" for supporting us over the years.

Now here's where it gets really interesting. After 20 years in business, we've acquired some pretty special bottles that have found their way into our inventory. What if we told you that 36 lucky cases are going to end up with one of these "JACKPOT" bottles? Whether it's the 100-Point 2012 J. Daniel Cuvée from Lail, 2013 Raphet "Clos Vougeot" Grand Cru, 2010 Château Lafite-Rothschild , 2011 Remoissenet "Le Montrachet" or a few other special gems from our stash, each one of these JACKPOT bottles is a cellar treasure of the highest order. You will know if you receive a "JACKPOT" bottle as they will be wrapped in gold tissue paper. We ask that the JACKPOT bottle recipients post a photo with their JACKPOT bottle to our Instagram account so we can see you with your prize.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mad Fritz Tap Takeover

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ is thrilled to announce a “Tap Takeover” by Mad Fritz Brewing Company on Saturday, June 27th, from 11:00am until the kegs are gone. As one of only a handful of places to offer Mad Fritz's creations, and the only spot in downtown Napa—it’s hard not to be excited.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience any of Mad Fritz Brewing’s concoctions, they are certainly turning the beer world on its ear with a revolutionary approach to the entire process.  Born from years of winemaking, and more importantly a deep love for frothy, cold beer—Mad Fritz brews beers featuring specially sourced water from ultra-premium aquifers, springs, and wells.  In addition, they utilize estate grains and hops as well as custom malting to their exact specifications.  The result is a truly remarkable beer of unparalleled craftsmanship from start to finish.

Our featured beer and the highlight of this event is a special edition of Mad Fritz’ “The Kite, Frog and Mouse” Rye Ale using well water from Calistoga. The beer was then aged in some of our own bourbon barrels that were used for our custom spirits program.  

We will also be pouring “The Wind and Sun” Golden Ale.  Mad Fritz’ rendition of a Belgian Strong Ale with saison yeast aged in third use French oak Chardonnay barrels. Water sourcing for this delightful offering comes from St. Helena. For the mash bill, we see Copeland barley sourced from Fallon, Nevada. For a bittering and balancing element, Glacier Hops were chosen from Clearlake, CA.

Finally, “The Old Man and Death” Imperial Rye Stout is the darker offering for our valued guests. This beer uses a 2 row barley called “Full Pint” bred by Pat Hayes at Oregon State University. This special barley was grown in Brownsville Oregon, and micro-malted in Colorado.  The final component to the recipe is rye grown in Fallon, Nevada and micro malted at Rebel Malting in Reno, Nevada. Ivanhoe hops from Clearlake are used to balance the hefty malt bill.

We are truly honored to have the chance to showcase the immense talents of Nile Zacherle and his up-and-coming craft brewery or as they call it “Ultra Craft.” Once we open the taps, we won’t stop pouring throughout the weekend until the beer is gone, so come on down and get your hands on them before the well runs dry.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dinner with a Whiskey Legend

It’s not every day one gets to have dinner with a legend. Master distiller Dave Pickerell, of WhistlePig Rye, hosted a dinner last Friday for which we were lucky enough to snag a ticket.

Dave was the distiller at the helm of Maker’s Mark when the company (pardon the pun) made their mark on the whiskey world. He drove the brand from craft distiller to production behemoth – over 1.3 million cases at the time of his departure. Known for its consistency and approachability, it is still one of the top brands in the bourbon category. After leaving Maker’s Mark in 2008 he worked as a consultant for a variety of small craft distilleries.

By 2009 he and Raj P. Bhakta (owner of the WhistlePig farm) developed a plan to return Rye Whiskey to prominence in the USA. The highly anticipated “Old World Finishes” series is one of the ventures WhistlePig is using to do so. The whiskies are 12 year old rye finished for 3-4 weeks in barrels used for different old world fortified and dessert wines. The series releases are each finished barrels formerly holding Sauternes, Port, and Madeira. The final release is a marriage of the three. The proof is in the glass, these whiskies are worthy of some serious recognition.

Throughout the meal Dave answered questions from the diners and talked about the approach he took with the “Old World Finishes” series. After hatching this plan he proceeded to source two shipping containers full of different barrels from Europe. Once the rye was aged he put them in front of  his contemporaries – a series of focus groups, predominantly made up of bartenders from around the country, helped shape the program into what it is.

Dave relied heavily on this input regarding the final products. He likened the final bottling of the project to an orchestra with each type representing a different part of the symphony. The Port finish, with its rye spice, Christmas fruits and a dark chocolate finish is the base of the orchestra. The Madeira finish has loads of peppery spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and other baking spices are abundant and this is the most powerful of the three and represents the woodwinds, which drive the orchestra. The Sauternes finish is the softest in many ways, showing apricots and other stone fruits, hints of rye spice and a delicate feel on the palate, accenting the other two much the way the string section does. The marriage bottling is the orchestra as a whole and tastes as such, you get those delicate hints from the strings, the power of the woodwinds and the foundation of the bass instruments as represented in all 3 whiskies individually. Each whiskey stood out from the pack of what is on the market today for the rye. Each also paired quite well with the dishes presented. The most complete pairing being the amuse course of foie gras torchon with the Port finish.

A thoroughly enjoyable meal with great conversation and a learning experience about WhistlePig that is unparalleled, this will not soon be forgotten. And keep an eye out for any release from this distillery, they really are bringing Rye to the fore. The “Old World Finishes” are available only in restaurants and bars. You can find your shot at the Bounty Hunter Smokin’ BBQ and Wine Bar in downtown Napa, CA.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rosé Wines – Pretty in Pink

In the heat of summer is there anything more perfect than a glass of rosé? Rosés are made in most wine regions around the world where red grapes are grown, for the simple reason that not every occasion (or season) calls for a red wine. Sometimes we just need to lighten things up a bit, or make room for something a bit more refreshing than a bold red.
Rosés can come in a variety of colors depending on the grape variety and method of production. Also coming into play is the original color of the skin of the grape and how long the juice was allowed to stay in contact with the skins before being pressed off. As an example, Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine is a white wine made from red grapes but the juice just didn’t spend enough time on the skins to take up the color.
Not all rosé wines are saccharine-sweet either. Some are austere and bone-dry, others have the perception of sweetness, and still others are decidedly viscous and make for a decadent dessert on their own. The level of sweetness is both a function of winemaking decisions (a winemaker can halt fermentation to purposefully retain some sweetness) and geography. Areas such as Chablis, Champagne, and some parts of New Zealand might be too cool to ripen red grapes with as much sugar as California’s Central Valley. The cooler the climate, the less easily grapes will achieve optimal ripeness/sugars for fermentation. 

France: In Provence, rosés range from salmon-hued to pale pink. Common descriptors for these wines are in the red berry range; strawberry, raspberry and bright acid, with citrus notes. Loire is home to one of our favorite pink wines, Sancerre, steely, bright, mineral-laced and endlessly pleasing. Champagne: Made from Pinot Noir (and perhaps Pinot Meunier), blushing Champagne is a real chameleon that pairs well with all sorts of cuisine.
Sonoma: Close to the Pacific Ocean’s cooling influence, pinks from here range widely in style, from austere to fruit-kissed.
Napa: Of course we’re partial to our own back yard. Some of our favorite local producers of rosé are Monticello Vineyards and Robert Sinskey Vineyards.  Next time you're in Napa, check them out and you can continue your, ahem, research.… Happy learning!

Invest in Your Seller

In a world where “who you know” dictates all, the power of the relationship is more prevalent than ever. Whether it’s the merchant at the weekly Farmer’s Market that you buy your groceries from, or the local neighborhood butcher that’s been slicing you and your family prime cuts of meat since you were an infant, the reliability of that individual is paramount when it comes to helping you make decisions. You trust them to find you great product, provide excellent service, and present it at a price that reflects the quality of what you are purchasing, while respecting the work that goes into sourcing and delivering those goods. But what about your wine buying experience?

Every night, wine drinkers alike walk into their cellars and ask themselves, “What am I drinking tonight?” As you peruse your shelves, do you already know what bottle you’re looking for, or do you spend 10 minutes pulling out multiple options in hopes of discovering the gem for that night’s events? Do you really have an intimate knowledge of all the bottles you have? Were they all purchased from trusted sources? Can you be sure every bottle will deliver and show the way you want it to for your guests? These are honest questions, and if you answered no to any of them, don’t be alarmed… it’s time to invest in your seller!

In a day where wine stores are popping up all over the country and wine bars have become the latest rage to hit every downtown, urban or suburban environment across the country, do you feel comfortable walking into those places and making the right choice? Not every store is created equal, and not every merchant stands behind their product in the same way. It is imperative that the person you buy your wine from has your best interests in mind! The best merchant asks questions, gathers data, and provides suggestions based on your palate, preferences and goals. Think of them as the portfolio manager of your liquid 401K… they should be invested in your success and helping you achieve your goals. If they are not committed to your continual enjoyment and education of wine and spirits, are they the right person to be selecting which beverages you choose to imbibe? Are they making decisions for you or for themselves? Your merchant should be a trusted advocate: a person who stops at nothing to make sure you get what you want, when you want it, and backs up the purchase with the service you deserve. And when they deliver, the trust that is formed is a special bond that promotes growth and development in that relationship.

Your Bounty Hunter Wine Scout is that merchant. They are there for you. They back your play, validate your concerns, have the knowledge to answer your questions, give you access to the juice you crave and work tirelessly to fix any problem that arises. You can’t say that about the buyer at your local supermarket or any random website that promises “great stuff” at exceptional prices. Will they stand behind the bottle if it’s damaged or corked? We have always set the standard for what the merchant/customer relationship should be about and we have no intention of changing our philosophy any time soon. Trust in us, and in turn, we will help you build the cellar of your dreams. Invest in your seller and the rest will take care of itself.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Greetings from Napa

As of this writing, our hopes for spring rain haven’t yet come to fruition. This summer is already shaping up to be another dry one. We’re in our fourth year of drought here in California, but, chin up – many of our favorite winegrowers are braving the storm (pardon the pun) quite well. That’s why the smart ones have reservoirs.
Mark S. Pope at the Bounty Hunter
Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ

The good news is that, unlike walnuts or broccoli, grapevines can thrive with minimal water. Some would even argue that the fruit is better that way. There’s a reason that growers champion “dry farming.” Heck, it’s illegal to irrigate vineyards in most of Europe. When the roots of a vine can literally crack rocks as they burrow underground, it’s pretty clear they’re tough customers. Wine grapes are looking a bit more like a water-conscious crop now, aren’t they?

We can’t believe it, but this year’s already half gone. Here in Napa, we’ve been busy tending our own vineyard plots, babysitting our barrels and spiffing up our Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ joint. We’ve even started crafting our own Bounty Hunter barrel-aged cocktail. Word got out, and the first release was so popular we sold out in three days! We went back to the barrel and now we’re working on the next incarnation – it may very well be available for sipping at our downtown location by the time you’re reading this. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Speaking of coming a long way, the hills are alive! The vines awoke from their slumber early this year, and while many of the locals were worried over potential frost damage, the chill largely didn’t materialize. Now the Valley is streaked with swaths of bright green vines laden with tiny bunches of what will become this year’s harvest before we know it.

It may be one of the most photogenic times of year around here, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Come on out and enjoy the California sunshine, and don’t forget a visit to savor our well-stocked cellar and tasty morsels at our downtown digs. You can say hello to our new GM Don Wetherell and our Alabama “Q” specialist, Chef Nicky. Give those boys a firm handshake and tell them we sent you. Until next time…

Mark Steven Pope
AKA The Bounty Hunter
Founder & CEO
Bounty Hunter Wine & Spirits