Happy Hour: Charles Smith Charles and Charles Rose

Oh, pink wine. People are so nasty about you. I would know: I used to be one of them. Pink wine conjures images of your trashy aunt pouring Splenda in the chardonnay at the country club because they didn’t have white zinfandel. I was totally willing to pile on before I discovered my grave error.

My child, there is another way.

Full disclosure: I picked this one for this week since it's the 4th of July still kind of and look at the cute label!
Full disclosure: I picked this one for this week since it’s the 4th of July still kind of and look at the cute label!

I’m here to tell you that there’s about nothing nicer than an ice-cold glass of the good stuff on your porch in the summer. I had a change of heart about rose a couple years ago when a slightly older, very chic friend of mine made this her signature summer drink. That seemed all fine and good, but she had somehow also managed to talk her boyfriend into this. Not to say that women have suspect palates, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a straight man sipping pink wine in a public place unless it is really really good. I figured they were on to something, and whatever, I kinda wanted to be just like them.

So I dug around, tried a bunch, and this here is the place to start on the path to rose enlightenment. The 2012 Charles and Charles Rose clocks in at about $12 a bottle and is a nice syrah/mourvedre blend with a touch of grenache and cinsault thrown in for good measure. You get a good hit of strawberries and roses and maybe a little cherry on the nose, but it rounds itself out with some kind of…I don’t know…herbal minerality? It’s not too sweet, contrary to what your previous encounters with this sort of thing might have been like.

It’s easy to imagine yourself sipping this over a late dinner of a grilled halibut steak and then turning to your dreamy companion and being like, “hey, let’s just run naked in to the ocean” and so you grab the remaindered bottle and do just that. Even if you live in Kentucky (landlocked), are single (kinda weird to do alone and weirder to do with your imaginary friend), and actually eating Chicken of the Sea (because hey, halibut is expensive). Just a thought experiment.

So have you tried this? What are your thoughts on Charles Smith wines? What are your feelings on rose? Come on, I want a fight in the comments.

Happy Hour: Bombshell Blonde

I super dig this can.
I super dig this can.

I do love a good dive bar after work on Friday. The Tattooed Moose is 2 blocks from my office, has a sandwich called “the Thanksgiving Leftover” and proffers several dozen beers.

The Bombshell Blonde is a Southern Star American Blond Ale and runs you about $3.50 a can. It’s rich and creamy, and has this great bread-y taste. It’s a little maltier than your average ABA, but it went well with the duck club sandwich I had. I won’t say it’s the best blond ale I’ve ever had, but it was well above average and affordable. I recommend.

What are you drinking to welcome the weekend?

Happy Hour: Rocket Girl Golden Lager

I think I may have mentioned this when I did my Asheville guide a few months ago, but a lady can drink some pretty incredible beers in the Paris of the South.

And, lo, this is not one of them.
And, lo, this is not one of them.

This week’s happy hour brew comes from the high-on-quality-low-on-charm Asheville Brewing Company. The Rocket Girl Golden Lager, which you apparently cannot buy anywhere online, is exactly what it sounds like: a light lager.

I’m not going to sing the RGGL’s praises; it’s just okay. Maybe a 6 on a scale of 10. It’s really, really light, not at all hoppy, and has pretty low carbonation. Since it’s low ABV (3.2), it goes down very, very easy. It’s not hard to imagine drinking a lot of these over the course of a bonfire/party/NASCAR race/bar mitzvah.

So where does this beer fit into your life? Well, maybe you’ve got family coming who really really really won’t drink anything other than, like, Miller High Life, or maybe you’ve just mowed the lawn (I’ve never done that, but I can imagine)? This is a great, microbrew alternative to a PBR, a Falls City, or a Natural Lite.

Have you had this one? What’s your light beer of choice?

Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia

Oh, college. I remember you sometimes-fondly, often not-so-fondly. See, I was bad at going to college. I got good grades and had friends, but I loved Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson, and the idea of UVA more than I loved College: The Experience. Toward the end there, one of my peers described me as less a student and more a “townie who takes a lot of classes,” which I think was supposed to be an insult but was definitely true. I lived far from Grounds, worked far from Grounds, and cultivated relationships with long-time Charlottesvillians. I was glad I did that then, and I’m glad I did that now.

This guide grows out of an email I initially wrote to my friend Gill entitled “places for your to go and see and be and do in charlottesville, the nicest town in the entire world.” Gill was trying to impress his U.Va. grad wife by taking her to some places she hadn’t been in Charlottesville, and apparently this list helped.

This will be your face the whole time you're there.
This will be your face the whole time you’re there. It was my face for most of it.

I have virtually no photos from when I lived in Charlottesville that aren’t of my friends and me in younger, thinner, drunker, more beautiful days, because I left there in 2010, before the spread of smartphones. I’ve been back many, many times, but the photographs from those trips, too, are just a nostalgia binge. I’ve dug up a few good ones for you, and those are with the tips I’ve wrangled for you after the jump.

Continue reading “Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia”

Happy Hour: Benvenuto de la Serna Malbec

It is time, once more, for me to bring you a delicious adult beverage! 

Taken from inside a dark bar, but trust me.

I love love love a malbec. My darling friend passed his sommelier course this week, so when we went out to celebrate, we naturally let him pick the wine. The 2007 Benvenuto de la Serna was his choice, and I enjoyed it. It’ll run you about $16, but it drinks like something wayyyyy pricier. 

It’s got a lot of layers to taste through– you get a little bit of red berries (more like, um, craisins than raspberries, though), some leather, coffee, chocolate, a little herby stuff, and some other things I can’t quite put my finger on (my som says that’s cheese, but I don’t believe him). It’s not to acidic, and it’s very big, so pair it with something that can stand up to that much.

Have you had this? What are you dipping in to to celebrate your 48 hours of freedom? 

Perfect Martinis

To celebrate the return of Mad Men and the approach of everyone telling me it’s clear liquor season (approx. 2 weeks), I thought I’d share my recipe for the perfect martini.


This should cover it. My garbage disposal’s preferred brand of gin is Bombay Sapphire.

Happy Hour: 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat

Sorry if half-eaten food is kind of gross to you, but you need to see this.

It's not THAT gross. You eat food, too.
It’s not THAT gross. You eat food, too.

Picked up the 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat beer on a visit to Mission Chinese this weekend and I am here to tell you this is the feel-good hit of the summer. I am growing pretty weary of this endless-winter-snow-flurries-seeing-your-breath-at-noon nonsense, so I decided to ignore the weather and get a fruity summer beer. This definitely worked (it’s warm now), sort of like pretending to ignore boys so they’ll notice you was a very effective strategy in middle school.

Crisp, dry, and very light on the melon– this drinks like a dream and has a pretty low ABV (4.9%), so you can have more than one. I personally loathe getting a fruit beer that tastes more like Hawaiian Punch (and no disrespect to HP, but there’s a time and a place for everything), so I was pretty delighted to try this.

Also, it kept my mouth from igniting during lunch, so that was also a plus.

I looked around on the internet for where you can pick it up, but came up short, so I guess for now you can buy it on eBay by the can.  Do you know where to get this? Are you into it? Into fruit beer generally? Tell me.

Luck of the Irish

I have never had a hangover in my life, and apparently that’s genetic, but if you’re choosing to drink green beer tonight (and if you are, I hate you), maybe watch this first.


Happy Hour: Founder’s Red Rye Pale Ale

I just have to get to tomorrow and then I’m on vacation. That’s what I told myself when I sat down to lunch today and ordered a gouda/havarti/pepperjack grilled cheese and this little wonder:

70 IBUs of salvation.
70 IBUs of salvation.

Are you into Founders? Because you should be. I’ve only ever had their pale ales, and I don’t really need to know anything else about their ish.
The Red Rye Pale Ale is everything an IPA lover should theoretically love– really bitter, citrusy hops, a little bit of caramel, and a good, creamy mouthfeel (oh, gross. Sorry I said that.). I can’t really explain this, but it felt almost healthy to drink it; maybe it’s the herbal quality the hops have? Either way, I’m going to chalk it up to health food.
And it goes great with grilled cheese sandwiches, so it’s a perfect match for today. I feel better already.

So are you into Founders? IPAs? Are you pissed because you thought this was going to be another post about wine and you really don’t “do beer”? (If the answer to that last one is “yes”, next week is going to be hard on you.)

Happy Hour: Rowan’s Creek bourbon

Fun fact: I got my master’s degree in bourbon. That is both a true fact (diploma currently at frame shop) and a useful one. It also means that you must, at all times, take my word on bourbon. I’m going to talk a little trash for a sec. Is your favorite bourbon Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve? That’s nice. To quote Macklemore, I call that getting tricked by a business. Maker’s and Woodford have their places and are both quality products, but you’re paying for their marketing. They’re young bourbons, aged just a couple years,  and you’re paying a premium price. You could be drinking a 12 year for less than half the price. Also, “small batch” is a completely meaningless label. I could throw a “small batch” label on a bottle of Kentucky Tavern and no one could say a damn word about it. 

Okay, I’m off the soapbox. I really do believe the best bourbon is the one you like the best, but it makes me cuh-ray-zee when people won’t try something new because they’re sure a four-year-old bourbon with a certain label is better than…say this one:

Please ignore the Comic Sans label and trust me.

So this is Rowan’s Creek. It runs you about $35 a bottle and has distribution in most states. It’s a 12 year, and is a Kentucky Bourbon Distillers product. A fun fact about Rowan’s Creek is that it takes its name from Judge Rowan’s farm, the very farm that Stephen Foster‘s My Old Kentucky Home is allegedly about.

ANYWAY, now for the stuff you care about! One of my buddies described it as “velvety” (this may or may not be the same guy from last week, to remain anonymous), but I would lead with maybe…fragrant? Odoriferous, to me, connotes that it smells unpleasant, but it really is one of the nicest-and-strongest smelling bourbons on the market. You get a ton of fruit and spice in every sip, and the flavor lingers with you for quite some time. It’s a medium-bodied bourbon for sure, so I would enjoy it before dinner, not after. After dinner, you’ll be a little wine-drunk and maybe considering pie, so this is not for then. You want to taste all the pears and honey and lemons, plus the usual leather/oak/vanilla stuff you usually get. 

Give it a shot! There’s a greater-that-fifty-percent chance that you can purchase this fine, fine product in your state. Let me know what you think.