The Irish say they invented whiskey. So do the Scots. It matters intensely to them, not so much to us. We can be glad for both. To me, Irish whiskey is sweeter, smoother – but that’s a matter of personal taste. Tullamore Dew of Dublin, Ireland, has just released a new 10-year-old whiskey that’s particularly nice. Spicy, malty aroma with hints of orange zest; extra-smooth from aging in Spanish and American oak casks. Highly recommended, $35 a bottle.
I was going to tell you about all kinds of Halloween wines, like Dracula Syrah, from Vampire vineyards in California. Then I realized you probably can’t find them in local shops, and you don’t have time to buy them online.
So I will tell you instead about some spooky drinks that you can make from materials available closer to home.
For the kiddies, it’s easy. Just make your own punch from a gallon or so of 7-UP mixed with cranberry juice, frozen drink mixes, pieces of fruit -- whatever else you have on hand -- and put it all in a punch bowl with a big chunk of dry ice. The dry ice will create an eerie, icy fog.
Where, you ask, do you buy dry ice? Go to www.dryicedirectory.com and punch in our area code, 305, and it’ll list a dozen places. Warning: Don’t put little pieces of dry ice in individual glasses. It can burn.
Speaking of burning, you can turn just about any cocktail into a flaming witch’s brew by ladling a tablespoon of 151-proof rum on top and lighting it. It works great in the dark. But please, please be careful. And have the sense to put it out before drinking. You’d look funny without eyelashes. In fact, check out this safety website before starting.
For a really clever adult Halloween drink, make an eyeball martini. It’s from www.whattodrink.com. Mix your favorite martini and pour it in a stemmed glass. Take a radish, hollow it out and stuff an olive inside. Then peel alternating stripes into the red skin of the olive so it looks like a blood-shot eyeball. Put in a bunch of them. There’s a picture of it on their website. If that doesn’t gross out your friends, I don’t know what will.
About 100 miles south of Santiago, in Chile's central valley, is a winery called Casa Lapostolle. The soil, the climate and the vineyard workers are Chilean.
Everything else is French: the winery, above, the owner, the chief wine consultant, even the grapes, albeit a century or more removed.
Ninety-seven percent of the wine is exported, to the United States, England, Russia and beyond. Few Chileans ever taste it.
"Only the wealthy people in Santiago can afford it," says Jérôme Poisson, a French-born winemaker at Casa Lapostolle who is on a U.S.tour this fall.
"Chile was never a big wine-drinking country like Argentina," Poisson says. "They drink beer or pisco or boxed wines."
Chile's loss is our gain. Casa Lapostolle wines are great values for the money -- from the crisp and fruity $10 sauvignon blanc to the smooth and powerful $25 Cuvée Alexandre to the shifting, complex, even savory $70 red blend of carmenère, merlot and cabernet sauvignon called Clos Apalta.
The wines are the products of strong personalities, beginning with "flying winemaker'' consultant Michel Rolland. The Bordeaux winemaker guides more than 100 wineries worldwide -- and sometimes is accused of minimizing the natural differences among their products by his insistence on super-ripe grapes and extensive aging in powerfully flavored French oak barrels.
"He visits three or four times a year," says Poisson. ‘‘Once before the harvest, then two or three times during blending."
Blending decisions are made by Rolland, chief winemaker Jacques Begarie and French winery owner Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle.
"You need a strong personality to work with Michel Rolland," says Poisson. "But she [Alexandra] wants thelast word in blending."
For example, in the 2006 vintage, the $70-a-bottle Clos Apalta wine wasn't quite up to her standards. Poisson suggested demoting some of its grapes to the $25 Cuvée Alexandre merlot eventhough it would cut Clos Apalta production from 6,000 bottles to 3,000.
"She said, ‘Go ahead.' Shehas to take a long-term view of creating only the best quality."
So here’s a tip: If you can score a bottle of the 2006 Cuvée Alexandre Merlot, it'll have some pretty high powered grapes. You read it here first.
• 2008 Casa Sauvi-
gnon Blanc, Rapel Valley
(90 percent sauvignon blanc,
10 percent semillon): Crisp
and fresh, almost spritzy;
intensely fruity with flavors
of melons and minerals; $10.
• 2005 Casa Lapos-
tolle Cuvée Alexandre
Merlot, Apalta Vineyard (85
percent carmenère, 15 per-
cent Merlot): black plums,
mulberries and bitter choco-
late; smooth, ripe, opulent;
long finish; $25.
• 2004 Casa Lapos-
tolle Clos Apalta, Rapel
Valley: complex, shifting aro-
mas of tar and roses; flavors
of mulberries and licorice;
big, ripe, smooth tannins;
long finish; $70.
• 2007 Casa Chardon-
nay, Casablanca Valley: hint
of oak and mint; tangy tan-
gerines, ripe fruit; tart finish;
• 2007 Casa Merlot,
Rapel Valley (85 percent
merlot, 15 percent cabernet
sauvignon): black cherry and
herbal aromas and flavors;
ripe tannins, long finish; $13.
• 2006 Casa Cabernet
Sauvignon, Rapel Valley:
aromas of cassis, aged meat,
iodine and oak; flavors of
black cherries and espresso;
firm tannin; good steak wine;
Now, you have to be careful with pisco, the grape brandy distilled in Peru and Chile. It tastes deceptively mild, with flavors of vanilla and minerals. It’s particularly smooth when made into the iconic drink, the Pisco Sour.
But it’s 40 percent alcohol, just like bourbon or scotch, and it’ll getcha if you don’t watch out.
Pisco’s history is disputed between Peru and Chile, even though there’s a town called Pisco in southern Peru. But it seems that Spanish conquistadores in the 1550s planted grapes in southern Peru. The best grapes went into export wine. The lesser grapes were given to local growers, who fermented them, then distilled the result into pisco.
Nothing wrong with that. The equally potent grape-based liquor called grappa in Italy and marc in France is fermented and distilled from from the stems and skins left over when the grapes are pressed.
Anyway, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Hollywood Vine, 2035 Harrison St in Hollywood, two piscos will be poured at a free tasting that’s part of this month’s Artwalk. Herble Loebl, owner of Montesierpe, one of Peru’s oldest Piscos, will pour his own pisco as well as the pisco from Viña de Oro.
The oil paintings of Rodrigo Picado are also on display.
Call 954-922-2910 or see hvine.com
Did you know that Amstel Light has 3.5 percent alcohol, while a regular Budweiser has 5 percent? Or that a 1.5-ounce shot of Capt. Morgan’s Original Spiced rum has 86 calories, while a shot of Seagram’s Gin has 120?
There are a number of surprises in a chart titled Alcohol Facts just released by the Consumer Federation of America.
The Washington-based consumer group is putting out the list because it says the federal government has failed to do so despite 30 years of prodding.
“We think this is important information, and consumers don’t have it now,” says CFA spokesman Chris Waldrop.