Sebastiani Cabernet

The historic Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, founded in 1904, is one of the few wineries that persevered through Prohibition thanks to founder Samuele Sebastiani. After Bill Foley purchased Sebastiani in 2008 he dialed down the production to concentrate on making high-quality wines with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2016 Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Vinmark and Della Vista Vineyards located next to the Russian River enjoys a warmer climate than that of Sonoma and is endowed with complexity and distinct mineral notes. After aging in 14 months in new and one-year-old French oak barrels, the wine has ripe and round tannins with flavors of black cherry, baking spices and dried herbs. The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast is a medium-bodied Cab made from grapes sourced from vineyard sites within Lake County and Sonoma County. Aged in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels, small portions of Merlot, Sirah and Petite Sirah were added for balance, aromatics and flavor. The palate presents notes of blackberry, plum, currant and toasty oak with a finish of dried herbs and chocolatey tannins. 


Porter’s Small Batch Rye

Prior to Prohibition in 1919, rye was the most popular form of whiskey in the US, and in recent years has been going through a resurgence. Just released in May, this rye is blended and bottled by the 10-year-old Ogden’s Own Distillery in Ogden, Utah, and is a blend of 95% small batch rye aged for over three years in heavy charred, new oak barrels, combined with 5% barley at 111 proof and blended down to 90 proof with the distillery’s signature water blend. A nice touch is the label, which is actually printed on wood veneer, and if you look carefully you’ll see the fiery face of Orrin Porter Rockwell (bodyguard of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young nicknamed “The Destroying Angel”) on the back side of the bottle peering through the glass. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about excellent spirits coming out of Utah, and based on my positive experience with this and previous expressions I’ve tried, it surely won’t be the last. 


The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 8 and Master Vintage 1993

Coming out of Scotland are two releases from The GlenDronach and acclaimed Master Blender Rachel Barrie that speak to the historic distillery’s mastery of sherry cask maturation: The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 8 and Master Vintage 1993. The eighth release of the Cask Strength Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is matured for ten years in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks and is bottled at 61% ABV. Barrie explains, “Casks were individually selected, combined and bottled at natural cask strength to deliver maximum character and depth…and is incredibly rich and full-bodied, the result of years of slow maturation.” The Master Vintage 1993 is derived from casks laid down in 1993 and bottled at 48.2% ABV, of which Barrie says, “With a quarter of a century slowly maturing in our renowned Andalucían casks, it has developed profound layers of depth and complexity, leading to an exceedingly long, voluptuous and memorable finish.” As is the case for all The GlenDronach expressions, these two Scotch whiskies are non-chill filtered and absorb color naturally over time from aging in Spanish oak. The GlenDronach is one of Scotland’s oldest licensed distilleries, dating back to 1826. 


Stone Xocoveza

First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe was named the winner of Stone Brewing’s annual homebrew competition, this winter favorite is released every year just in time for the holidays. This chocolaty, winter-spiced 8.1% ABV Imperial Stout is a rather complex take on Mexican hot chocolate. Infused with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, there are multiple layers of flavor, with cocoa and cinnamon bursting forth upon your first sip and coffee, nutmeg and vanilla following, and heat from the peppers in the finish balanced by sweetness that manages to temper without being syrupy.