Pisco is at its simplest, is Brandy from Latin America. Pisco is Aguardiente, the word comes from the Latin “Agua” for “water” and “Ardiente” meaning “fiery” – Fire Water. Simliar to Brandy, which is short for Brandywine, from the Dutch expression for “burnt wine” or distilled wine.
Most nations in Latin America claim proprietorship of Pisco and that has lead too many arguments, from the halls of academia to the tables of tabernia. Peru claims the beverage got it’s name from the Peruvian town of Pisco. Chilean linguist Rodolfo Lenz said that the word pisco was used all along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Arauco to Guatemala, and that the word would be of Quechua origin meaning “bird”. Most convincing (to me) is Chilean linguist Mario Ferreccio Podesta’s theory, that the etymology to which pisco was originally a word for a mud container, much like amphora.
The Spaniards introduced distillation almost as soon as they arrived. In the Viceroyalty of New Spain vineyards were introduced by missionaries wherever they could get Vitis Vinerfera to grow. and the late 1500’s there were vineyards producing wine commercially from modern day growing regions like Chile in the south to California in the North . So significant and threatening to the Spanish mercantilist that in 1595 the Spanish Crown banned the establishment of new vineyards in the Americas to protect the exports of its native wine industry.
By the 17th century Pisco was being exported including back to Spain and Portugal for fortification of wines. By the 18th century Pisco represented almost 90% of the grape beverage produced. During the California Gold Rush Pisco became a hit in San Francisco.
Pisco is made in an alembic Pot Still, just like Spanish Brandy or Cognac. It is distilled to between 60 and 80 proof with some Gran Pisco coming in at 86 proof or more. There are eight approved grape varietals, Muscat is by far the most popular grape because of its aromatics followed by Torontel and Pedro Ximenex. Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels of “glass, stainless steel or any other material which does not alter its physical, chemical or organic properties”.
Peruvian Pisco must be made in the country’s five official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) departments—Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna (only in the valleys of Locumba Locumba, Sama and Caplina). Chilean Pisco must be made in the country’s two official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) regions—Atacama and Coquimbo. The right to use an appellation of origin for pisco is hotly contested between Peru and Chile. Peru claims the exclusive right to use the term “pisco” only for products from Peru. Chile, regards the term “pisco” as generic, and it argues the spirit is simply a type of alcoholic beverage made from grapes.
Pisco Punch was made famous by Duncan Nicol at the Bank Exchange Saloon in San Francisco. Nicol was the last owner of the Bank Exchange when it closed its doors permanently in 1919 because of the Volstead Act.
Duncan Nicol invented a pisco punch recipe using: pisco brandy, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and distilled water.
Simple Pisco Punch
2 ounces pisco
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 ounce pineapple Juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 15 seconds. Double strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange twist.
One bank Exchange regular said, “It tastes like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.” Others said “it makes a gnat fight an elephant.” Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine wrote in 1937: “In the old days in San Francisco there was a famous drink called Pisco Punch, made from Pisco, a Peruvian brandy… pisco punch used to taste like lemonade but had a kick like vodka, or worse.”
Pisco found many fans during its heyday. In Rudyard Kipling’s 1889 epic From Sea to Sea, he immortalized Pisco Punch as being “compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”
Pisco has found fans in a new generation of Mixologist and imbibers. The clean nature of the bandy makes a nice base for cocktails. Here is a modern update on Punch from me.
Lenny’s Pisco Parlor Punch
3 ounce Barsol Pisco
1 ounce Lime Juice
½ ounce Lemon Juice
1 ounce Small Hands Pineapple Gum Syrup
½ ounce Velvet Falernum
Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cherry or pineapple or both.
Velvet Falernum is a longtime staple item of resorts and bars in Barbados, and today for its use in Tropical, Tiki and Caribbean drinks such as the Rum Swizzle, Mai Tai and Zombie. Made from an infusion of spices and lime juice into sugar cane syrup and Barbados Rum.
Small Hands Gum Syrup is about as close as you can get to Duncan’s original.
Bodega San Isidro dates back to the 1800’s. However, the most remote documents retrieved from the local town archives date back to 1919. In 2005 Bodega San Isidro became the top exporter of Pisco of Peru, being the first company ever to export one solid 20’ container of Pisco in Peru’s history. BarSol specializes in piscos produced with Quebranta, Italia and Torontel Grapes. They are produced in both styles, a) straight pisco and b) Mosto Verde Pisco. An “Acholado” pisco is also made, from a blend of piscos from the 3 single grape varietals.
I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais, the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.
“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.
Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.
At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.
So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!
At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.
Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.
Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).
Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.
We also tasted, for the first time:
Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.
Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.
Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.
Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.
Arnie Millan is Esquin’s European Buyer. In July, 2014, Arnie was featured in the Seattle Times as “The Finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”
A Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. While you may use any whiskey of your choice my personal preference is for Rye. The cocktail is usually stirred then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a Maraschino cherry. In a cocktail so simple the ingredients are of utmost importance.
212 is the area code for Manhattan, and also the recipe. 2 parts rye whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth and 2 dashes of angostura Bitters.
As far as Rye goes there are many great Ryes out there. Michters, Bulliet Rye, Sazerac Rye, even Basil Haydens; my personal go to is Old Overholt Rye. It was first recommended to me by Super Star bartender Amanda Reed. I had always kept OH around for years, but her recommendation only confirmed my own feelings.
Old Overholt, said to be America’s oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey, was founded in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1810. Henry Oberholzer (Anglicized to “Overholt”), a German Mennonite farmer, moved to West Overton, Pennsylvania, on the banks of Jacobs Creek in Western Pennsylvania in 1800. His family came from the area of Germany which specialized in distilling rye whiskey, and Henry took up the tradition. Since its founding Old Overholt fans have included everyone from Gunfighter and gambler Doc Holliday to Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant and U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a fan.
Whisky writer Jim Murray said “creamy nose…citrus notes…very hard rye…momentarily moist and sweet before going on to perfect the driest, crispest finish of its genre”. And that is what you want in a Manhattan, I find most Bourbons to be too sweet once you add the Vermouth.
It used to be that the standard was to have a great whiskey and simply threaten it with Vermouth. It used to be that the quality of vermouth available to bartenders was so low that many would just wave the bottle of vermouth and threaten the cocktail with it. Some would just do a rinse of vermouth or sometimes use an atomizer to mist the cocktail like it was perfume.
Today, we are in a vermouth (and Amaro) renaissance. There are literally hundreds of different vermouths on the market in a wide variety of sweetness levels and spice profiles. But I still love the Carpano Antica Formula. Antonio Benedetto Carpano is the individual traditionally credited, posthumously, with inventing what we know today as red Italian vermouth. The Carpano brand was formalized some years later by Carpano’s nephew. This distinctive and powerful aromatized wine should be considered a standard component in any respectable bar.
“Rich, fruity and enticing, this sweet vermouth is warmed with notes of fig and dried cherries, and just faint hints of spiced gingerbread and bitter orange peel. Drinkable solo as an apéritif, or use it as a cocktail-mixing favorite. (KN)” –95 points Wine Enthusiast
Bitters the traditional Angostura is fine. I like Scrappy’s Orange Bitters, the bit of orange is a nice complement to the sweet Vanilla in the Vermouth. But use what you like, Chocolate Bitters is cool and different.
And lastly don’t use cheap nasty Maraschino Cherries! Spend less on the whiskey and you have a budget to spend on good vermouth and real cherries!
The OG Maraschino cherries, called Luxardo cherries. Before it became known for its preserved cherries, Luxardo was a distillery on the coast of what was once an Italian province, but is now modern-day Croatia. Founded in 1821 by Girolamo Luxardo, an Italian consul in that region, the company made its name with a cherry liqueur called Maraschino, which Girolamo based on a medieval spirit. The liqueur was made from sour Marasca cherries and made by distilling the fruit’s leaves, stems, pits, and skins. It’s those pits, by the way, that give the liqueur its characteristic nutty background flavor, which is often mistaken for almonds. They are in the same family, drupes. In 1905, the distillery started selling cherries candied in a syrup of Marasca cherry juice and sugar, thus creating the original Maraschino cherry.
The OG Manhattan
2 ounce Old Overholt Rye
1 ounce Carpano Antica Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters (or Orange Bitters)
1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
1 cup Ice cubes
Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing Pint glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
The story of pilsner starts in 19th century Bohemia when a Bavarian monk smuggled a special yeast to a brewmaster in Pilsen. The world’s first blond lager, the original Pilsner Urquell, is still produced there today.
The story of pFriem Pilsner starts in the Pacific Northwest, Josh Pfriem a Seattle native who’s love of beer sent him bicycling around Belgium, concocting batches in a shed in his backyard, tracking down the best brewers around and needling them for information. He spent most of his early years divided between skiing and home brewing. His first real job was at the Utah Brewers Cooperative and he was hooked.
He worked at the legendary local Will Kemper’s Chuckanut Brewery before landing at Full Sail in Hood River, OR. While in Hood River he met his future partners, Ken Whiteman and Rudy Kellner and that lead to pFriem Family Brewers. They shared a deep love of family, the Columbia River Gorge and of course, great beer — but more importantly, each brought his own unique skill set to the table, creating the means and vision to not only make great beer, but to operate a great business. In August 2012, pFriem Family Brewers opened its doors for the first time, and the three founders realized the beginning of their unique dream.
Today, pFriem is on just about everyones Top list of great PNW Breweries. They stand apart in their crafting of world class Pilsner. Pilsner might be ubiquitous in the macro lane. But, it takes a deft hand and dedication to make great craft Pilsner. Josh Pfriem does just that.
“Aroma of fresh grass and flowers and a touch of honey. While there are no monks involved in this pilsner, there is still a crisp and spicy finish.”
Served at: 40 – 45° F
Hops: Perle, Saphir, Tettnang, Spalt Select
Malts: Gambrinus & Weyermann German Pilsner, Carafoam, Acidulated
“Red Moutain has established itself as not only Washington’s premier wine-growing region, but one of the finest in the world.”
“Red Mountain has established itself as not only Washington’s premier wine-growing region, but one of the finest in the world.”
— SEAN SULLIVAN, WINE ENTHUSIAST MAGAZINE
Red Mountain has made its name by growing some of the best Cabernet in the state. Now, many other grapes are grown here but many of the most highly regarded bottlings in the state are sourced in part or exclusively from here. The highest scoring Cabernet from Washington in Wine Spectator came from Ciel du Cheval, the 2007 Grand Reve Collaboration (97 pts).
The Wine Advocate just gave the 2014 Quilceda Galitzine Vineyard a perfect 100 pt Score! “The utterly spellbinding 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Galitzine Vineyard is 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that was brought up in new barrels. Bravo to the team at Quilceda! This is a sensational vintage from Quilceda’s Paul and Alex Golitzin! Both the classic Columbia Valley Cabernet and the Galitzine Vineyard are sheer perfection.” Jeb Dunnick
The Red Mountain AVA is located on a southwest-facing slope in south central Washington, a little more three hours from Seattle. At just over 4000 acres it is the smallest wine-grape growing region in Washington. I always tell people that it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation. Even for Columbia Valley it has a unique combination of diverse geology, gentle south slope, consistent winds and happens to be the warmest spot in the state for grapes.
But, years ago (1972), two men, John Williams and Jim Holmes, pioneered grape growing in the area. Everyone thought they were crazy. Even the engineer they hired to dig the well thought they were a couple of crazy “boys”. In 1975 they planted grapes. “It was a good spot, and best of all, we could afford It.” says John Williams. Eventually they would plant another vineyard, Ciel du Cheval (see above), the partnership ended in 1994 very amicably both families remain friends to this day and both went on to great things.
The first Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sold to Preston. Winemaker is Rob Griffin, now of Barnard Griffin Winery. “The conventional wisdom in the late 1970’s was that Washington was a first class white wine region with limited prospects for reds. My opinion on this point was permanently changed in 1978 with the opportunity to crush the first crop from Kiona Vineyard on Red Mountain. The depth of color and fruit intensity was definitely a revelation as to the potential for Washington Merlots and Cabernets. The fruit yielded wines of tremendous depth and intensity, real diamonds in the rough and a foreshadow of great things to come.” – Rob Griffin.
“For decades the Williams family has been farming classic varieties on Red Mountain, one of America’s great AVAs. They know the land like few others do, and their grapes reflect it.” Bob Betz, Master of Wine
Kiona is a family farm. Today, the third generation works the farm and makes the wine. They sell to the best wineries in the state and keep some of the best fruit for themselves. Today, all the land that can be planted with grapes is. But, one of the benefits in being the first to plant is that they can produce truly world class wine that is remarkably affordable.
Kiona Estates Cuvee 2014
A new wine from some of the oldest grapes on Red Mountain (plus some Columbia Valley fruit). The Columbia Valley components bring acid, fruit, and drinkability, while the Red Mountain additions contribute depth, structure, and color. This is a terrific blend of Estate fruit, primarily Cabernet and Merlot with a little Syrah thrown in for good measure. This wine packs serious punch for the price! Holds up to wines twice or even three times the price!
Vineyards: 34% Vista, 23% Nine Canyon, 17% Emory, 15% Kiona Estate, 7% Heart of the Hill, 4% Ranch at the End of the Road
Composition: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre.
Now you can spend more money if you want to. But a wine of this provenance is rarely seen at this price point.
I can’t remember when I started drinking Gloria Ferrer. Gloria Ferrer was one of the first domestic sparkling wines that my friends in the industry took seriously. It was delicious and affordable and so it ended up at a lot of our parties and celebrations. Gloria became so ubiquitous that we ended up on a first name basis. Gloria was our de facto bubbly and our lives were made better because of it.
Gloria Ferrer was founded in 1982 by the Ferrer family as their primary venture into California winemaking. Owners of Freixenet, one of the big Cava producers in Spain, the family’s lifelong dream was of producing wine in the United States. The winery was named after José Ferrer’s wife, Gloria. The couple continue to run the winery together to this day.
Gloria Ferrer’s wine making mission is: To capture the full expression of the distinctive Carneros terroir in wines made to pair perfectly with food.
Gloria Ferrer ‘Blanc De Noirs’ NV is just about a perfect food wine as you can find. This is delicious and elegant sparkling wine made from Carneros Pinot Noir. Its sweet, sunny fruit and gentle precision feels properly Californian. The texture is soft and polished, lasting on a clean chamomile scent that will keep you coming back for more. “Vibrantly floral strawberry and gingerbread aromas pair with crisp red apple and spice flavors that bounce along the finish.” 90 pts Wine Spectator
Which brings me to food. This wine is delicate enough for lighter fare but has the ability to pair with Steak (Surf and Turf anyone?) The richness of the Pinot Noir makes it perfect for richer seafood dishes. Crab Ravioli, Coquilles St Jacques, Seafood Fettucine.
A lovely and elegant dish that will liven up any dinner party is Crab Bisque. It is relatively easy to make and can stretch one crab a long way. You can find Dungeness Crab from around $9.99 a pound for 1 to 2 pound crab. Paired with a Sparkling Blanc de Noir you have a perfect night.
Dungeness Crab Bisque
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large crab cooked and meat removed, shells roughly chopped
*** Mire Poix
2 onion, finely chopped
2 small carrot, finely chopped
2celery stalk, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
4 cups water
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup medium-grain rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup Pernod
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup heavy cream
water, as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large sauce pan combine half of the mire poix and crab shells add bay leaf and garlic. Cover with water (4 cups). Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until soft
- Add the stock, wine, rice, tomato paste, Pernod and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Puree the mixture in a blender until very smooth. Add cream. Thin with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Strain through sieve into a clean sauce pan.
- Return to heat and bring to a simmer.
- Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cooked crab and chives