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.