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Re-Opening Chaos and an OR Pinot Sale…

June 30, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits:

 

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Wow Free Rangers,
Yesterday was a trying one;
the last three days, really. 

Wow cr@p, this week got away from me. I had gotten used to actually taking one day off per week- it only took a global pandemic to get me there- and now we’re back at it very near full time. We’re still re-acclimating as we head into the sweltering Dog Days.The semi-re-opening going on out there has the greater populous in a bewildered state, such that we’re being forced to beg certain patrons to enter the shop, who then expect us to apologize for everything we’re doing here, at the same time.
Example:

INT: DAY. – FREE RANGE WINE 
It’s the first day of New York’s Phase 1 reopening, the global pandemic still rages. A woman opens the front door, enters halfway, and holds the door open as she speaks, in a hurried, concerned tone. Two shopkeepers are inside, wearing face masks.

Costumer: Are you open?
Me: Yes.
Customer: I can come in?
Me: Yes, please.
Customer: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, we are open for business, you’re welcome to come in. We’re wearing masks, and maintaining social distance. Is there anything I can help you find?
Customer: (Still standing in the open doorway, holding the door open.) Aren’t you supposed to have the door open?!
Me: It’s actually illegal in New York City to keep the door open with the air conditioning running (and we have to keep it cool in here because of the wine).
Customer: No, it’s not.
Me: Yes, it really is. (Exits stage right.)

Nothing good ever happens at the corner of ignorance and certainty, so I fled to rock some inventory in the cellar and left the endlessly patient Derek to continue the conversation at surface level. I genuinely don’t know if she ever made it all the way into the shop, or if she purchased anything.

And I understand that quarantine hasn’t been fun for anybody, and that lots of folks are stir crazy, but going into a retail store to be entertained, or because you’re bored, and have no intention of buying anything- during a global pandemic– needs to stop. Two guys came in yesterday, asked for a specific, somewhat obscure product, which we have, and we said so. They discussed gleefully how our price was better than the last one they were able to find. They then asked more questions, about an even more esoteric product (that is no longer being produced!) which we also still have, because I’m a hoarder of such things. They then told us what a great shop we have, and left with nothing. I just don’t get it. Encouraging words are nice, but I am unaware of any landlord in the western world who accepts them in lieu of rent.

We’ve been avoiding it, but 3 days into the semi-re-opening of NY, and it seems we have little choice but to post fairly strict bold face rules on the front door. To the vast majority of you who make our daily lives more pleasant, and to the 99.9% of you who wear face masks, I apologize in advance, but the obliviousness and entitlement we’ve seen in the last few days is raising the collective blood pressure in here to an untenable level.

We’re back to fairly normal hours, which look like this (until further notice):

Mon – Thurs:              1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                    1 – 8pm
Sunday:                      1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

The website is running well, and each week contains more items, new and old: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Thanks for tolerating the rant, we’re a little frayed in here. Just for that, we’ll bring back the Brittan Pinot Noir 2015 sale, one of our most popular ever. I am of the belief that this exquisite wine is in the 99th percentile of quality per dollar world Pinot at its full retail price, and it’s one I collect personally. It’s live on the website right now, no coupon code necessary!
** Through next Monday, as supplies last! **
sale:          retail:
Brittan Pinot Noir Basalt 2015                      $29            $39

Deep breaths,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Death, Taxes, and Dad Whiskey

June 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits:

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Hello Free Rangers,

So much for the waning pandemic. By the end of the week, a number of states had certified a record rate of new cases, and as much as the Orange Orangutan in the Oval insisted that the virus would ‘disappear like a miracle’, the warmer weather has not cooked it away. At this point, it’s abundantly clear that the national policy on the matter is to continue to do nothing, besides ensuring that none of us will ever know where the bulk of the stimulus funds have gone. Regardless, we’re still hanging in, doing what we do here. Hanging in is the new kicking ass.

Besides tracking empirical data through trusted online sources, I’ve recently limited my non-print news intake to Chris HayesMajority Report, and The Michael Brooks Show. There’s a fine line between staying up to date, and infringing on one’s own well-being. As with most other things, moderation seems to be the key. With the constant bombardment by unchecked sources of information, it’s also important to watch videos online, taken in real time at street level. And what cops continue to do, even when they know they’re being recorded, is a daily reminder of the profoundly untenable level of impunity under which they currently operate. Remain calm, know your rights, and record everything. If you have the means, it also can’t hurt to support the ACLU.

Regardless of all of this, I can confirm that the whiskey still works. Scroll to the bottom for a list of sale-priced brown spirits on our site, now through Fathers’ Day, as supplies last.

Speaking of the website, Derek has noticed a very high percentage of people creating new passwords directly before ordering. Have any of you had problems logging back in after an initial site visit, or are you just logging in from a different device (where your password isn’t saved), and have to create a new one to gain access? Please let us know, as we’re constantly striving to make online checkout as seamless as possible. Most of this week’s new items are on the older and rarest ends, but our new lowest priced dry rosé was also just added, so there’s something for everyone: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

We are slowly returning to a more normal schedule, but still wearing facemasks, practicing social distancing, and requesting (ie. insisting) that our customers do as well. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I enjoyed asking the couple to leave today, who removed their masks to make a phone call (in front of the no cell phone sign), while others were waiting to get into the shop. Not my finest trait. Know thyself.

This week’s Open Hours look like this:

Mon – Thurs:            1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                  1 – 8pm
Sunday:                    1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

And now, for making it this far, here’s our deal of the week:
*** Through Fathers’ Day, web only, as supplies last! ***

Top whisk(e)y picks for Fathers’ Day:

Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr  $29     $36
Writers Tears gift set                                   $37     $44
Classic Malts Gift Set 3 x 200ml                $49     $59
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon (B519)   $66     $75
Booker’s Bourbon ‘Beaten Biscuits’           $79     $89
Tullamore Dew 18yr                                     $99     $115
Yamazaki 12yr                                              $115    $139
Hakushu 12yr                                                $149    $185
Dalmore 18yr                                                $195    $249
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon (2015)  $229    $299
Hakushu 18yr                                               $425    $525
Talisker 25yr                                                 $499    $599
Redbreast Port Cask 27yr                           $499    $599

Happy hunting,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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“Oh, you mean a store pick?”

May 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits (not sure why this didn’t post last week):

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Hey Free Rangers,

Let’s skip the apocalypse talk this week (we all know what’s going on- and/or not going on), and head straight for the rare Bourbon deal of the week, about which we are fairly excited. But first, let’s talk about (whiskey) bottle hunters. There’s a breed of whiskey bro who only want the rarest blue chip bottles of which they’re already aware (Stagg, Pappy, Weller 12), or the latest tiny production darling of some blog, and only at the lowest price in the country. They’ll ask price quotes on 10 or 20 rare bottles, then tell us how much less they paid at some warehouse liquor store in a flyover state (or central Jersey), and often they buy nothing. These same guys are completely uninterested in our exclusive single barrels. And it’s hard to take somebody seriously who claims to be motivated by scarcity and intrigue, but has no interest in a single barrel Elijah Craig 8yr for $36, and the 217 bottles stacked here are the only that will ever exist on Earth: a rare variation on a classic Bourbon (with an age statement) for 36 bucks. “Oh, you mean a store pick,” is the response. Neither of us are impressed. *It should be noted that web site prices on those big ticket items are often flexible for anyone in our system, who has purchased whiskey with us before. 

We’re quite excited about our new exclusive Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr Bourbon, and we still have a bit of our previous, Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 10yr. We’re offering a coupon code for 1 bottle of each 8yr and 10yr for $59 (normally $78). Click here: Elijah Craig Exclusives Deal! *
** This week only (limit 6 per customer) ***

Once again we’re closed Monday this week.
The rest of the week’s Open Hours are status quo:

Tuesday:            Pick-up only! 1 – 7pm
Wednesday:       Pick-up only! 1 – 7pm
Thursday:           Open 1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:            Open 1 – 7pm
Sunday:             Open 1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

Lots of great new (and old) bottles added to the web site this week, and we’re always happy to discuss anything you see and/or specifically don’t see there: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com
More fun with rare whiskey ahead.

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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The New(ish) Normal

April 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that went out to our Free Range list last night:

Howdy Free Rangers,

We’ve been hearing this thrown around a lot: The New Normal. At this point, I take that to mean uncharted territory in every direction. Around Here, the website orders and pick-ups have been going fairly well, thanks to Derek and all of you. To get back to a little more of our usual normal, scroll to the bottom for a mini-Secret Whiskey List, of otherwise unpublished sale-priced whiskey. As many restaurants and bars aren’t ordering the volume they once did, we have access to bottles and cases that we’d normally only get a tiny taste of (or none at all), and I like to pass on discounts to you fine folks, when we can.

Now, for today’s moment of levity (and/or absurdity), which comes via Hila, who works with us when she’s not writing songs, making videos, or performing at House of Yes. Please enjoy: Quarantine Tips from Hilly & Nilly

We are still maintaining our limited days/hours schedule and are open Thursday – Sunday 1-6pm (at least). As always, please check out the web site www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com and/or call 718.643.2250 to place orders and/or ask any questions you may have. Again, most of our staples are visible online, but much of the old and rare is not yet there.

Stay hydrated, take care of yourselves, and be excellent to each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

This week only, as supplies last!
**These prices are not online, reply here! Sale     Retail
Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon        $39     $49
Bowman Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon       $49     $59
Bowman Brothers Port Barrel Bourbon          $49     $59

Delaware Phoenix Bourbon 375ml                 $28     $38
Delaware Phoenix Rye 375ml                       $28     $38

Eagle Rare 10 Year 1.75L                             $67     $85
EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon                     $49     $65

Hibiki Harmony                                           $79     $89
Suntory Toki                                               $36     $45

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Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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Riders on the Storm

March 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that went out yesterday, for those keeping score:

Hello Free Rangers,

Another beautiful day in the apocalypse. I know most of you haven’t been thrilled with the weather lately, but I spent three of my favorite years in Seattle, and I find these grey days comforting, especially yesterday while making deliveries through that misty rain that doesn’t actually penetrate the clothing. I’ve gone through phases of fairly serious anxiety over the last few weeks, as I’m sure many of you have experienced. While I stay up to date, through factual alerts from a variety of online sources, I’ve all but stopped watching the news, which seems to have helped my overall morale. The most complete and honest assessment that has made me feel like I have a reasonable grasp on the situation came from Dr. David Price, a critical care pulmonologist at Weill Corner in Manhattan. It is one of the finest medical institutions on Earth, and is currently treating a significant number of the most serious cases in our City. I highly recommend a watch: Dr. David Price 3/27/2020

Big Thanks to everybody who has been using the website, calling in orders, and generally helping us to help you, without prolonged contact. And apologies to anyone with whom I’ve been short(er than usual). We are still getting a handful of people per day coming in because they’re bored (their words), or just to look, and/or ask random questions about generic factory products that we would never carry: How much sugar is in Bacardi Limon? Do you know if Jack Daniels vegan? I am trying to reason my way around it, but we may have to move to a pick-up only policy, for the days that we are open. More on that as developments unfold.

Regardless, we are closed again this week, today (Monday) through Wednesday, and will again be open Thursday though Sunday, 1- 6pm (at least). Please continue to use the website, for reference, pick-up orders, and limited local delivery, and we will continue to keep its inventory as up to date as possible (and continue adding more of the old and rare items): www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com And you’re always welcome to call the shop directly: 718.643.2250

I know it won’t be any time soon, but I very much look forward to being able to again host in-store tastings, and share with you, all the fun things we’ve discovered recently. Aside from everything else, it’s still an exciting time to be doing what we do. There are some wonderful things going in the worlds of vinification and distilling out there in the world, including some truly exemplary work happening right here in Brooklyn.

Stay hydrated, take care of yourselves, and be excellent to each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
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Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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Life During Wartime

March 25, 2020 Leave a comment

This is the e-mail that went out to our Free Range e-mail list 3/23/2020 (links in this one were included in the the original e-mail), after which we’re officially caught up and Free Range e-mail blasts will be posted here, shortly after going out to our shop subscribers:

Hello Free Rangers,

On my tougher days I try to remind myself that, unlike a lot of people in the world, I didn’t wake up this morning in a war zone, or in a region on fire, or completely displaced from everything I’ve ever known. There have been a lot of days like this recently.

All told (tolled?), I am well aware that I am one of the lucky ones. While so many people are out of work and/or losing their businesses, we continue to thrive (gratefully!) amongst this wonderful neighborhood that helped us get off the ground seven years ago. I’m saying this now, as a few people have asked if they could buy gift certificates from us, seemingly to help infuse cash now for future products, rather than for gift giving. It warms our hearts to know that many of you feel this way about us, but having been deemed a necessary business, we’ve been able to stay open, and are doing quite well, by our own historical standards. And just to reiterate, while we are closed today through Wednesday, we will be open Thursday through Sunday 1-6pm (at the very least). Rest assured, everyone who works here will continue to be paid their usual full-shift amounts, regardless of hours worked, besides Derek, who will get a sizeable overtime check for his many hours of invaluable service this week.

Many local businesses are not fairing so well. Our buddy, Kareem, next door at Absolute Coffee is staying open, for take-out only. He is a hard-working, highly moral, multi-lingual immigrant just trying to live the dream, and his landlord seems uninterested in helping at all through the current crisis. So, if you need to stretch your legs, without straying too far from home, please go grab a cup of coffee or tea from him, and/or some of his delicious coffee beans to go, which he’s happy to grind for you on the spot, if you don’t have the ability at home.

You can also support our fine friends at French Louie (and Buttermilk Channel) by purchasing a gift certificate from them, and/or support their out-of-work staff(s) by donating to a fund set up to help them out: Here.

Now, for your amusement, by request from a number of you, the following were our two worst customer experiences (only two bad ones, really) since I last wrote:

1) A woman came in looking for Moscato. “Well, that’s easy,” I tell her, “as we only have one, but luckily for you, it’s quite tasty. It’s a frizzante, so it has a light bubble to it, and that quintessential white peachy sweetness. Foris was a true pioneer in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon and have been there since 1971, when they…”
“I’ve had that one,” she interrupted, “It’s bad.”
“Oooookay,” I replied and went back to restocking our decimated shelves, not bothering to explain to her the difference between her personal taste and empirical quality. I returned from the back, many bottles in hand to find her on the phone, standing directly between all 4 of our new no cell phone signs, and pointed to the one directly in front of her, at eye level, saying as gently as humanly possible, “We have a no cell phone policy.” She rolled her eyes at me, and left.

2) Two women came in the shop, with two spaniels (whom we offered treats, but their humans neither looked at us, nor offered response). Both Derek and I offered to help, separately, and were declined. The pair walked back and forth between the fridge and the shelves, taking up space, and making social distancing impossible. We both pleaded with them to do their shopping on the wall, and assured them that if they intended to open the bottles right away, we’d be happy to get them one from the fridge. They continued doing as they pleased, and then planted themselves in front of the fridge, as a pack, completely blocking the front door. Eventually, they left in a huff, and went home to leave us a 1-star Yelp review. Naturally, I replied publicly. Although, the review was so short that it very well could have been the lady from the previous incident. Whoever it was, she has literally never left a review above 1-star for any business.

Stay strong, keep hydrated, offer help to everyone to whom you have access, and take care of each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Holy F@ck…

March 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that originally went our to the Free Range Wine & Spirits list on 3/18 (with a few added links):

Ladies, Gentlemen, Children of all ages (over 21 years),

I’ve said this for many years, but it is truer today than ever before: Any day you can you can walk away from is a good one. It’s getting really real out there. Unless genuinely forced to close our doors, we will remain open, though days and hours will be limited.

According to word that has come down from the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices, as long as we reduce our staff by half, and discourage people from gathering here, we can keep the business going. If cops or military show up, and inform us that we are closed, then we will be. Otherwise, going forward, we will be closed Monday – Wednesday, and open Thursday – Sunday 1-6pm.

In the name of discouraging gathering and/or lingering (and for our general collective sanity) we have instituted a NO CELL PHONE USE policy in the shop. Most people have been pretty cool about this request. And for those few who have been shocked and appalled at being politely asked to take their call outside, I’m guessing you’ve already unsubscribed and aren’t reading this. And quite frankly, if at a time like this, you can think about how put out you are by not being able to stroll around our little shop on the phone, you should probably go that terrible over-priced spot on Smith Street. You can do anything you want in there, because they don’t care about you.

Thank you all for the kind words and continued support and encouragement, we quite literally wouldn’t be here without you. Be safe, and take care of each other.
Also, take care of your shoes (if you’ve never been a Phish fan, you won’t get that one).

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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329 Alantic Ave
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Op-Cred: Do Not Drink This Story

March 26, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to make sense of Bianca Bosker’s loathsome piece in The Times on engineered swill wine since it first darkened my inbox. I get that it’s opinion, but any editor who lets this kind of crap slip by should be ashamed. If there isn’t a better point to be made, maybe give that space to another writer, or even a remotely entertaining ad. I read a smart and fairly measured response by Rachel Signer, and very much enjoyed Eric Asimov’s sober assessment via Twitter. So now that the rest of the wine world has moved on and no longer cares, here goes.

What irked me so fiercely about that absurd defense of shit wine for schmucks is that it posed industrial engineered plonk in a direct continuum with the current natural wine fad. This completely disregards a profound array of good, honest, tasty wine that is neither, to no discernible useful end.

Many great winemakers are doing things right, being relative stewards of the earth, but still choose to intervene in the process, and/or add a tiny amount of SO2 for stability. These are very often the most consistently pleasurable wines on the market, and are completely ignored by this absurd piece of clickbait penned by the self-styled Cork Dork (a title ensuring that I’ll never read the book). It’s about wine and wine people, not the life and times of the Quercus suber, yes? Oh, I get it; it rhymes, and it’s easy to remember. Anyway, many climates require a little help to produce viable grapes, even if not necessarily every season, and many wines need a little stability so they don’t continue to ferment (or immediately start deteriorating), such that every bottle in the same case tastes different. Neglect and chance are not viable winemaking techniques.

Besides being the ethos of many wonderful dedicated juice artists ‘natural’ is a buzzword used to sell stuff, just as is ‘organic’, and to a lesser extent, ‘biodynamic’. The best of natural wine is most definitely a wonderful and welcome movement, but it’s also a trend to be generous, and a fad if we’re being honest. Many natural wine purists don’t differentiate between good/tasty/balanced natural wine and brutally acidic, unstable, undrinkable crap that happens to fit the criteria. Natural does not mean good, and never will, just as literally will never mean figuratively, no matter how many language shredding Philistines use the terms interchangeably.

Marketeers continue to confuse people for their own obvious ends. More often than I’d like, I’m faced with a customer demanding sulfite-free wine. When I gently (sometimes not so gently) explain that the process by which yeast turns sugar to alcohol also creates sulfites (naturally!), they often look at me as if I’ve just told them, “Your god is dead.” One customer simply told me, “That’s not true”. Since nothing good happens at the intersection of ignorance and certainty, I suggested that she shop somewhere that doesn’t mind lying to her, to preserve her fragile false reality, in order to make a sale.

Is organic farming and biodiveristy in soil a good thing for wine and for the earth? Yes, absolutely. But farming and winemaking are very different endeavors, and both are required to get fermented juice into a bottle. And there are many wines that are organic and/or natural that just plain suck. A shocking percentage of walk-in cold calls to my Brooklyn retail shop are by reps spouting off about how natural and organic their wines are. Which immediately begs the question: Are they any good?

To open a natural wine exclusive shop, bar, or restaurant, and leave wine off the list because of a pinch of SO2 seems to miss the point. There’s a huge difference between adding a little tartaric acid, deliberately manipulating the amount of water during vinification, or using a small amount of egg white to clarify (sorry [not sorry] vegans!), and straight up dumping flavor changing additives into an otherwise finished wine. There are many many wines that aren’t 100% natural, but are doing things mostly right, aren’t raping the Earth with chemicals, and are producing accessible, pleasurable wines.

There will always be purists, and I will always feel sorry for them and their dainty palates. If you ONLY drink Burgundy, or Italian wine, or natural wine, you’re just missing out on piles of pleasure by drawing hard lines where they might not need to be. It’s just as vexing as those who only drink un-oaked Chardonnay and insist that any wood is poison to that venerable varietal, when convincingly enjoyable wines exists on either side of that arbitrary fence. And the very best examples often display some creaminess, but without buttering over the fruit, and maintaining vibrant acidity. I would call it balance, but that term too has had a big steamy pile of dogma dumped on it by those seeking to define (and control) a categorized commodity.

Most wine consumers I encounter- the vast majority of customers at our fair shop- just want to drink something that tastes good and doesn’t have chemical crap dumped into it. Luckily for them, we feel that way too, and have lots of love for everything ignored by Bosker’s ill-conceived two treatises of wine. Beyond that noise, don’t ever believe anyone who tells you there’s only one way to make or enjoy great wine. And if you really want to drink a bunch of syrupy chemical crap, just go have a Coke and a smile, but don’t bother writing an article about how good you think it is.

Theory Kitchen, Sad Cowboy Music, and Giving a Shit

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Duck 2 ways Theory Kitchen 4-2016If necessity is the mother of invention, then the mother of inspiration is a deadline… for something else. I’m on the precipice of a comprehensive inventory and professional off-site storage project that will see 200 cases go out the door of my shop- via the cavernous basement, which is far from the front door- and all I can think about is how many blog posts behind I am.

It’s late and I’ve just been to a Theory Kitchen event, and I am again reminded that giving a shit (and attention to detail) goes a long way. The kid who runs the show is the same age now I was when getting obscenely high and paying my rent interviewing (and photographing) musicians, writers, and artists for print magazines back before Seattle died. The ‘90s were a magical time for getting away with it in America (RIP HST!).

K Vintners Morrison Lane '01 4-2016I’m drinking, amongst other things, a K Vintners Syrah Morison Lane 2001. Full disclosure, I love the wines of Charles Smith. I haven’t particularly enjoyed the company of the man himself (though I’d certainly give it another shot- over the right Chateauneuf du Pape), but his wines are very good, on the low end, and expansive and otherworldly, at their very best. But it’s clearly on the back end of its plateau. Those dusty tannins and that distinct apply dryness in the back will, over the next few years, head toward the predominant front note, on its way to becoming deep, slightly cloudy, brick-toned water, if stored properly, and eventually a sullen dry vinegar. On the off chance you have any in your cellar, drink it sooner than later.

I’ve been in a prolonged phase of sad cowboy music, the like of which I haven’t seen since first discovering Townes Van Zandt, however many years ago that was. And these days I can’t stop listening to The Dave Rawlings Machine’s Nashville Obsolete. Just now, writing that down, I almost dropped a tear. It’s a good goddamn record, in an era that’s goddamn short on good goddamn records. I’ll admit to having erased “Candy” from the album on my iphone, and it really does feel kind of silly and extraneous amongst the incisive story telling, verse, and chord progression of “The Weekend”, “Shorthaired Women”, “The Trip“, and “Pilgrim”.

Pig Crispy Theory Kitchen 4-2016Three hours after first opening, this wine- K Vintners Syrah Morison Lane 2001- really smells, in the glass, like a Hermitage twice its age, and the palate really isn’t that far off, minus the nod toward animalia. Deep blackberry fruit, earth, tar, basalt, ancient woodland herbs; an encompassing, pensive mouthful. A pleasantly dark way to end an evening. Thanks for that, Chuck.

A Suitcase of Lightning

June 30, 2015 1 comment
Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

While in New Mexico, I became aware of Taos Lightning Rye. Both the craft whiskey thing and the sourced whiskey thing (aka I’m not telling you where the juice is from or how long it was barreled) are getting out of hand. A lot of new whiskey is super-hot brown firewater and there will be a serious reckoning and culling of the population in the coming years.

Taos Lightning, it turns out, is a product of KGB Spirits in Santa Fe, NM. I purchased a number of different bottles from Total Wine and from Jubilation in Albuqurque, the latter of which was offering 2 different exclusive single barrel bottles, at very reasonable prices. If you’re in town, don’t let the odd location and prison-barred windows fool you, Jubilation is an excellent shop for spirits (I honestly didn’t check out their wine selection, but they did acquire a bunch of Merkin Vineyards wine for my neighbors’ wedding- of which I highly approve).

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Now, the juice: Taos Lightning Rye 5yr is visually attractive, a medium reddish deep golden brown. A fairly sweet round nose gives way to a sweetly vanilla palate, a touch of bright cherry fruit to the mid-palate, and a nice spicy, medium-hot finish. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Willett’s excellent 4yr Rye– which is amongst the highest praise one can give a younger rye. According to co-founder, John Bernasconi, “All current whiskey was sourced from Lawrenceberg and the 15 year had the Jos. Seagram’s stamp on barrel. We are about to switch to house made with San Luis, CO grain. The aging in NM along the Rio Grande is what gives these products their uniqueness. We have a high elevation, low humidity climate and the river brings constant air flow exchange.” With so many shady stories in the current US whiskey market, we very much appreciate the candor, and anxiously await tasting what comes next from the fine folks at KGB Spirits.

And now, the case…

I was sufficiently smitten with the Taos Lightning 5yr that I was on the hunt for a styrofoam 12-pack shipper, common in the wine shipping world. However, the incoherent and arbitrary nature of state liquor law has left Albuquerque stryo-shipper-free. It’s illegal to ship wine or spirits within the state of New Mexico, let alone to the outside world. Albuquerque is a scorched barren wasteland, where the food sucks, people drive ridiculous cars, and a law abiding citizen can’t get a styro 12-pack. If the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce would like to sponsor this blog, they know where to find me.

Next, at the absurd yet demure, banal megaporium of intoxication that is Total Wine in Albuquerque- I love this town- I ask if they have anything suitable to safely transport at least a dozen bottles through the meathook paws of JFK baggage handlers. There is something they tell me, it’s a rolling travel suitcase fitted with styro insert, cut for .750ml wine bottles, 12 of them. The only one left in stock is the floor model, they’d be happy to take 10% off the sticker price for the pre-scuffed exterior shell and slightly stained interior fabric. Five minutes later, I was in a parking lot, cramming copious piles of fine New Mexican and Californian rarities into my new VinGarde Valise.

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

First, the idea is great: it’s a rolling suitcase containing 6 inserts, each cut to hold and protect 2 bottles each, such that one can remove as many or as few as necessary to adjust to any clothing and toiletries needed for the journey. But I was already out on the road and had my regular suitcase in hand, and used my new VinGarde Valise to full bottle capacity. Unfortunately, the follow-through is not nearly so inspired as the concept. The materials are fairly flimsy, the foam inserts made to separate the two halves aren’t even cut to the same size (one doesn’t fit at all such that the case will not close), and the bottle slots are cut to a fairly impractical stencil, unless they intend one only to carry obscure sherry. It’s one thing if the owner is going to be extremely careful with the cheap zippers, but on its maiden voyage, mine was tossed by the TSA, and returned to me in less than new condition (and containing the requisite slip letting me know my privacy had been violated). The guts of the bag are poorly constructed of insubstantial materials, and while not space efficient, I’d still recommend a much less expensive styro 12-pack shipper over this unit. Simply put, VinGarde Valise have a long way to go to make the quality of the case fit its $200+ price tag.