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From A Wine Lover’s Bucket List: Eve Bushman spends a week touring and tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape

From A Wine Lover’s Bucket List: Eve Bushman spends a week touring and tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape

What’s on your Bucket List?

While a normal person wants to check off going to Mars, driving a racecar or meeting a president, wine writers have lists that almost always include visiting wineries in far off places. Having Shiraz in Australia, Tempranillo in Spain, Chianti Classico in Italy and Malbec in Argentina are on our lists, but top of the list for me has always been France. I had two days in Bordeaux years ago and a week in the Garda DOC in Italy that just wet my whistle for more, so when a small group of wine writers was being put together, to visit Chateauneuf du Pape for arguably the best Rhone wines in the world, I poised my pencil over my list and made a huge mark – YES, please, take me! 

Quick travel tips: Bottles are priced much less at the source, even with shipping costs; we saved in buying a case to have sent home. If you can’t get winery appointments, or don’t have the time, we found several tasting rooms in town – as well as several places for meals. None of us in our party spoke fluent French, and though it would have helped, we were fine communicating in English. You can drive your own car, on the right side of the street, but there are many roundabouts, toll roads and narrow roadways.

Eddie Bushman at Pegau

Eddie Bushman at Pegau

Domaine Pegau

Our first day in France began with a sunrise at our friend’s Villa in Monoblet. From there we traveled 90 minutes for a tour and tasting at Chateau (wines labeled from the Cote du Rhone area) and Domaine (Chateauneuf du Pape area in Rhone) from Pegau. We have a few Domaine Pegau wines in our cellar and really looked forward to visiting the real deal.

From our host we learned that there are five towns in Chateauneuf du Pape that produced 95% red and 5% white wine grapes. They use 13 grape varieties and any given bottle only has to use one grape. Pegau – properly pronounced as “Pay-Go” – uses all 13,  including blending white with red grapes. For their Cote du Rhone property Pegau makes 44% red wine and one Rose wine. 

We learned that they are an old school winery, as far as winemaking techniques. When finished wine is ordered only then is a bottling truck ordered and labels created. (There are different laws for different labeling around the world, so that is the reason they have to wait to print the labels.)

 

Only old oak is used for aging and some barrels are 90 years old. Stainless steel tanks are only used for their white wines; some high-end whites also spend time in wood barrels and concrete eggs. They do not de-stem any of the wines, which for me meant that the terroir would show earthiness and tannins. 

 

Now, onto the tasting!

We sampled two Chateau Pegau Vallee du Rhone and two Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape, a white and red in each category, aged between 2019 and 2021. My personal preference on these leaned more toward the Chateauneuf du Pape wines and of particular note was the 2019 Cuvee Reservee that used all 13 Rhone grapes and 80% of that was Grenache. These wines were priced between 10 and 45 euros – which is pretty close to the same in American dollars. 

 

Instagram: @Domaine_Du_Pegau 

Website: https://pegau.com/

 

Roger Sabon Wine glass

Roger Sabon Wine glass

Domaine Roger Sabon

 

Next up we visited Chateauneuf du Pape’s (CDP’s) Domaine Roger Sabon for a tasting.

Our host explained that this past summer they experienced drier weather producing smaller berries over 18 hectares. Sabon, like Pegau, has both a Domaine for the CDP wine area and a Cotes du Rhone label. Five percent of their appellations are producing white wines. They blend before aging, have four different soil types and also have a distillery. All of their wines are at least 70% Grenache and are aged in large barrels. 

 

For the tasting they offered us new and older wines, including wines from the Lirac appellation – not in Chateauneuf du Pape – with amazing aromatics and flavors. 

 

My favorites were a 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve that had just been bottled in March and contained 80% Grenache and the remaining 20% was made of Syrah and Mourvedre – the classic GSM blend. I noted delicate fruit aromas and subtle fruit flavors – red to blue fruits – as well as a pepperiness. 

 

My second favorite was the Prestige label, a 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape that was all black fruit, cracked pepper and earth that had a nice sweet spot. That blend was also a GSM. 

 

My ultimate favorite of the day was the final wine we tasted: the 2012 Prestige that had huge aromatics with earth, mint, dark fruit and an extra long finish. It was a real treat to be treated to an older vintage as it showed how well these wines did after a decade of aging.

 

Instagram: @Roger.Sabon 

Website: http://www.domainerogersabon.com/en/

Domaine de la Mordoree

The next day we went to Domaine de la Mordoree for an extensive vineyard tour – with the most amazing rocky and sandy soil that walking on it was difficult. The idea of the roots below, struggling for water that made them strong, left a huge impression on me. I had never seen this kind of large rocky terrain in a vineyard before. And the sandy sections were so pure and soft, it was quite a difference. The vines are between 40 and 60 years old. 

 

Farming in the Domaine was certified organic in 2013 and is now also biodynamic. There are 30 workers brought in for nighttime harvests every year. The father and head of the household had died, and the mother and daughter “continue in a masculine world” according to our guide. 

 

After the tour we had a tasting of their new white, rose and red wines. My first favorite was the 2019 La Dame Rousse – Lirac, also known as “The Red Lady” on their website, which was 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Very dark berries, forest floor, tannin, dry and spicy and with a price tag of only 14.50 Euros. My second favorite was their 2020 La Reine de bois Chateauneuf du Pape that was rich, velvety, smooth and balanced. Top notch indeed and 56 Euros.

 

Instagram: @Domaine_Mordoree 

Website: https://www.domaine-mordoree.com/?lang=en

 

Domaine Andre Brunel and le Clos du Caillou

 

Our next day in Chateauneuf du Pape was spent at Domaine Andre Brunel and le Clos du Caillou! At Andre Brunel we learned that the namesake had passed away in February and his son Fabrice, Andre’s longtime apprentice, then took over as winemaker. Some of the Grenache vineyards are 135 years old. One other interesting fact is that in a recent blind tasting of a 1959 Andre Brunel vintage the wine was thought to have been a Burgundy instead of a Rhone! 

Domaine du Grand Tinel wine glass

We tasted in the winery, during a day of noisy pressing, but it didn’t keep us from enjoying several wines. Along with their Chateauneuf du Pape label we also sampled blends from their Cotes du Rhone Villages. My favorite was a 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Cailloux that was a 60% Grenache blend with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The wine had been aged in a Burgundy barrel.

 

Onto le Clos du Caillou where some of their wines are grown within the CDP boundaries and some are outside of it in Cotes du Rhone territory. The Cailloux area, mentioned above in a wine from Andre Brunel, is just outside of CDP but has the same soil and terroir. Some of their vineyards have sandy soils and some are pebbly.

Their Grand Reserve wine is their most famous and comes from pure sandy soils, which for the winery means:

“elegance, fine tannins and aging potential.”

 

Eddie's Telle Clos du Caillou bottless and quartzegraph

le Clos du Caillou bottless and quartz

Their new winery, Domaine de Panisse, began in 2020 and the wines have all sold out. In 2007 they went organic and were certified as so in 2010. They are also biodynamic but are not yet certified for that distinction. Grenache is their number one produced grape, followed by Syrah, Mourvedre and other Rhônes. They only work with used barrels. 

 

We tasted seven wines and the most memorable one for me was the Les Quartz Rouge – Chateauneuf du Pape 2020 for its fresh red fruit, richness and smooth balance. The grapes used – 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah – came from the vineyard that just happened to be just outside of the Chateauneuf du Pape region. Our host said the wine had a 20-year aging potential. The wine was priced at 55 Euros. 

 

Instagram: @Domaine_AndreBrunel @ClosDuCaillou  

Websites: https://domaine-andre-brunel.fr/

https://www.closducaillou.com/

 

La Barroche winery

La Barroche winery

Domaine la Barroche and Château Mont Redon PLUS The Terroir and Castles

 

Next up we visited Domaine la Barroche where the sandy soil with quartz stones took over the vineyards. The same 12 people do the harvest every year; and the group also sorts the grapes in buckets by hand for the 2,000 cases of wine they produce a year. During the de-stemming process they discard any too-dry berries. Then, later, the winemaking process is “like slow cooking at low temperatures” according to our host.

 

We tasted wines from their Liberty (stones), Julien Barrot (signature) and Fiancée labels. Every wine I tasted I noted as distinguished: the 2020, 2019 and 2016 Julien Barrot Chateauneuf du Pape, 2020 Liberty blend and the 2020 Fiancée Chateauneuf du Pape.

 

Chateau Mont- Redon

Before our tasting at Mont-Redon I took a few moments to look over their colorful brochure and large maps.

I read,

“The secret of our skill is hidden in the poor soils in which the vines grow.

Originally the Alps, Chateauneuf du Pape, round puddings stones are what make our wines special.

Our Lirac and Cotes du Rhone are at their best on the plains, also stony, neighboring those of Chateauneuf du Pape.”

Château Mont Redon will be celebrating their 100-year anniversary next year, with the same family at the helm since 1923!

 

We tasted a 2021 Roussanne Viognier Reserve Cotes du Rhone, 2020 Oratoire St. Domaine Martin Rhone Valley, 2020 Lirac GSM, 2018 Reserve Gigondas and a 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape. Learned that they don’t export their wines until they are at least five years old – as the U.S. consumer is not known for aging their wines – and we should be buying the 2019s now. 

 

Terroir tour Day Courtesy A 2 Pas des Vignes Hebergements and Spa

 

Next up was a fabulous tour of the different rocks – including beautiful quartz – and different soils all throughout the Cote Du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape with Nicolas of “A 2 Pas des Vignes Hebergements and Spa”! (He and his wife Emilie own four homes to rent, and a spa on the premises.) Castles – all minutes away – include the Pope’s Palace, Chateau de Vaudieu, Chateau La Nerthe and Hostellerie du Château that also has a lovely restaurant. I highly recommend a stay at 2 Pas as the pricing is more than reasonable as well as being in the center of Chateauneuf du Pape. Nicolas offered us the tour, though he is not a tour guide, but I also suggest a tour so that you can get more of a sense of the terroir and history. 

Nicolas from A 2 Pas des Vignes Hebergements and Spa

Nicolas from A 2 Pas des Vignes Hebergements and Spa

Instagram: @DomaineLaBarroche @ChateauMontRedon

Websites: https://www.domainelabarroche.com/

https://www.chateaumontredon.com/

 

Instagram: @a2pasdesvignes 

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/a2pasdesvignes 

 

Domaine du Grand Tinel bottle shot

Domaine du Grand Tinel bottle shot

Domaine du Grand Tinel, Domaine Saint Prefert Et Domaine Isabel Ferrando and Vieux Telegraphe

 

My final installment from my time in Chateauneuf du Pape is a visit and tour at Domaine du Grand Tinel that’s been making wine for 7 generations! (My husband Eddie covered me for another day – see his coverage from Domaine Saint Prefert Et Domaine Isabel Ferrando and Vieux Telegraphe below.) 

Lucien Jeune, born in 1904, is known for two things, first he passed a law forbidding UFOs from landing in the vineyards – making the area more appealing to inquisitive tourists – and he was also mayor for 25 years. Grand Tinel began in 1972, combining estates owned by Lucien Jeune and Georges Establet, when their children married in 1968.

Domaine du Grand Tinel wine glass

Domaine du Grand Tinel wine glass

To this day harvest is all done by hand, the have two wineries from two different terroirs: Domaine du Grand Tinel and Domaine de Saint Paul. They don’t make all of the white Rhone varieties, and they focus on the three major reds: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Some of their vines are over 100 years old. They only use new oak barrels for the whites and used for the reds. Wine is sold through Negotiants, mostly to the private sector of French buyers. Bottling and labeling is done in house. 

 

These were my favorites from the tasting: The 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, the 2020 Cuvee Cotes du Rhone (Roussanne based), Domaine Saint Paul 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape (Grenache and Syrah based, 70 year old vines), 2018  L’insolite (100% Syrah) and 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Heres (100% Grenache).

 

Eddie and friends (I was back at the Villa with a cold) visited Domaine Saint Prefert Et Domaine Isabel Ferrando and Vieux Telegraphe…these are his memories of the day: 

Eddie's Telegraph

Eddie’s Telegraph

My day began at Domaine Saint Prefert and with an introduction and discussion with owner Isabel Fernando, and a tasting of the latest vintages. The 2021 Blanc Famille Isabel Fernando Chateauneuf du Pape was a great sample of their wines. The 2020 Colombis from Chateauneuf du Pape was outstanding as well.

Saint Prefert Isabel Ferrando

Saint Prefert Isabel Ferrando

 

The afternoon brought us to Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe. Vieux Telegraphe has been a family run winery since 1891. The sixth generation of the Brunier family is continuing the tradition of making excellent wines. Daniel Brunier gave us a wonderful tour and explanation of their winemaking style. The tour included a walk through their newly constructed caves for wine aging and storage.

 

The tasting began with Clos Roquete, a very approachable wine made from 33% Roussanne, 33% Clairette, and 34% Grenache Blanc. This wine was so good, we bought a bottle for dinner that night. The 2020 Blanc was outstanding as well.  We tasted the entire flight ending with the 2019 Rouge Chateauneuf du Pape made from 65% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah, with Cinsault, Clairette and others at 5%. As a special treat, Daniel opened their 2010 rouge Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine was truly a standout in all the wines tasted on the trip so far. The wine had aged well and still had the ability go age a couple of dozen more years. Many Vieux Telegraphe wines were included in the case we had shipped home.

 

Instagrams: @DomaineDuGrandTinel @isabelferrando_stprefert @VieuxTelegraphe

Websites: https://www.domainegrandtinel.fr/en/#historique

https://www.st-prefert.com/

https://www.vieux-telegraphe.fr/

 

Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.

 

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Perfect Passover Wines ? We asked Kosher Expert for Lehigh Valley

Perfect Passover Wines ? We asked Kosher Expert for Lehigh Valley Passover 2024

Passover starts Monday April 22 at sundown and ends April 30th. But today’s conversation is about the flavors of Seder dinner.  

Jay Buchsbaum

Royal Wine and Kosher.com’s Jay Buchsbaum visits to talk about flavor, tradition, tastes for every family member and what’s exciting in the wine world for 2024.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

Joe Winger: Jay, welcome back.  I appreciate that you’re returning.  Last time was great and we learned alot.

Jay Buchsbaum: Thank you for having me. Wow. This is great. So getting invited back for a second date, that’s really cool.

Joe Winger: Passover is just around the corner and we want to talk about different over wines to enjoy during the celebration and some great wine pairings.

I wanted to start off with what might be one of the popular new bottles – Carmel Black Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Buchsbaum:  It’s very hot and the reason it’s very hot is because people want something that’s rich and flavorful, especially the American palate, what we call the New World style.  

Opulence, fruit forward, but they don’t want to spend a fortune like you’d have to from some fancy vineyard in Napa or from Judean Hills. When it comes to Israel or the Golan Heights, and this is one of those wines where they’ve put together this at the beginning of opulence, lots of fruit forwardness, 14 months in oak and about $25.

So it’s really one of those really wonderful wines. What I noticed, and they say they forgot to do it, but I noticed that it does not have an appellation specific, except for Israel.  The reason I believe the winemaker did that –  I don’t know for sure – he talks about it on the back [of the bottle] that they brought the grapes from some of the finest vineyards.  He chose small amounts [of grapes] from the best vineyards from different places and put them all together, carefully crafting it so that it’s big and rich and flavorful and still under $30 bucks.

Joe Winger: That sounds amazing. What are some good food pairings that you’d recommend with it?

Jay Buchsbaum: A roast would be great. On the first and second night of Passover, we don’t officially roast anything because we don’t want people to think that it was a sacrificial lamb that was done in Egypt because we don’t have it today yet.

Until the reestablishment of the temple on the Temple Mount at some future time. 

So people cook a roast in the oven, it’s not barbecued. That’s what they’re talking about from a historical, spiritual sense –  but a delicious roast, maybe chicken marsala, where you have mushrooms and caramelized onions, you have a really rich flavor to go with that.

A lot of the Sephardic foods are like that too. We talked about traditional foods. Traditional foods from where? Sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s Middle Eastern, and sometimes it’s Sephardic.

Lots of seders have a mix of all [cuisines] because you have melded families.

 

Joe Winger: Royal Wine currently has a wide roster of wine suggestions for Passover  Something for every adult at the table, from Grandpa to 25 year old Grand-daughter and her boyfriend.

 

Jay Buchsbaum: That’s a great point.  I’m going to give you the last one first only because I thought this was so much fun when I thought about it and I actually might do it. 

Let’s say the boyfriend is coming over. He wants to bring you something and he doesn’t know what to get you because, he’s not that observant..

So I thought, why don’t you end the meal with something Sparkling. The Momentous Rosé. That might be fun. You go out with a pop, so to speak. There’s Vera Wang’s  Prosecco Rose that’s also wonderful.   Both around $20.

But if you want to go really high end, why not go with the Rothschild Brut Rosé from Champagne, which is magnificent.  It’s 100% Pinot Noir, and about $100 a bottle.

So you have great diversity and  accessible and quite delicious sparkling wines.

Grandpa, or if you have a real fine wine guy. You have beautiful wines from the Rothschild vineyards, the Haute Medoc. which is in the upper $30s, and then you even have Grand Cru’s LesCombes, Grand Cru Margaux as an example, and some amazing wines from the Herzog Winery in California like the Alexander Valley Herzog Reserve, or the Napa Valley Herzog Reserve.  

We have a beautiful Lake County Reserve Cabernet from California. Big, opulent, delicious, mouth filling. 

I start my Seder usually with a rosé.  The reason for that is because you’re starting your Seder, having eaten nothing pretty much since the morning. So you’re on an empty stomach and the tradition is to finish at least the first glass. So I try to start with a rosé.  It’s a little lighter, a little lower in alcohol, a little lighter in texture and, and I like to start with an Israeli wine first.

Joe Winger: Iis there a hidden gem as far as just high quality with amazing value?

Jay Buchsbaum: There’s a really wonderful wine from New Zealand.

It’s a white wine, not a red wine. It’s made by the Rothschild family, but it’s made in New Zealand, called Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc. Less than $30 for sure.  Fresh, sweet lemons, but with enough acidity and structure, almost like a palette cleanser.

Joe Winger:  Anything that you’re looking forward to in the next few  months that wine lovers should be getting excited for?

Jay Buchsbaum: We were missing rosés from Israel for a whole year because of the sabbatical year. We skipped that vintage of roses, and so they’re back for the first time in 24 months for this Passover.

I love some of the new Italian wines. One of them to take a look at is Cantina Giuliano.  it’s a boutique winery. They make 3,000 – 4,000 cases maximum. It’s run by a young couple and I just had them over at my house for Sabbath Shabbat.  His wines blew people away.

I think the most exciting thing is our new winemaker and what our new winemakers is doing with our grapes. His selection and his final product over at the Herzog Wine Cellars. And that could be

Our new winemaker, his name is David Galzignato. He’s with us about three years and he has a background that is with some of the finest and smallest, medium sized boutiques. 

He was going to be moving to France, going to go for his MW [masters of wine] and they asked him if he’d come and consider working with us and he did. He has been making literally blow your brains out wonderful wines so our Napa Cabernet, our Alexander Valley Cabernet are just up and down the line, the wines, especially the reds are just rich and opulent.

He got Joseph Herzog to buy a visual sorter, they range in cost between a $100,000 – 1 million dollar machine.

What they do is when the grapes come in [during harvest] and there’s something called sorting tables.

Done by hand [vineyard workers literally sorting through the harvested grape bunches, looking for]  damaged or a little beat up or whatever, and they only allow the perfect grapes to go through. 

This visual sorter does this electronically by computer, so nothing is missed, zero. As a result, the grape quality is much higher

Famously said in The New Yorker Years ago, “There’s only three things that matter in good winemaking. Good grapes. Good grapes. Good grapes.”

So, the fruit that we get and the fruit that we end up making wine out of is literally the most important thing.

By using these kinds of methods, which are not inexpensive. But the quality is through the roof. We’re looking to make a 100 point wine one of these days and I think it might we might get close this year. 

Lehigh Valley is Cocktail Heaven! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Lehigh Valley is Cocktail Heaven! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Today’s conversation is with Ryan Fleming from Madre Mezcal.  The LA nightlife veteran reveals his time working behind the bar in some of Southern California’s hottest spots, as well as the inspiration that got him to travel to Mexico, discovering Mezcal. 

The aroma, flavors, science and food pairings for Mezcal.

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal's Ryan Fleming

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal’s Ryan Fleming

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our YouTube Channel.

 

“…I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever sold it…”

Joe Winger:  Can you share the behind the scenes or how the brand itself was created? 

Ryan Fleming: I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever even sold it or made a dollar doing that. So I got to actually meet Ron Cooper, who is the legend that started the Del Maguey label back in 2011.

I got to drink rabbit Pachuca with him and all these other amazing things. The reason I bring him up is he’s a kind of one of the people that we look up to, how to sustainably bring a brand and how to create culture that crosses boundaries in a sense. 

He has a beautiful book that I recommend anyone to read if you haven’t read Ron Cooper’s book.

But we share a similar story. One of our founding partners, Tony Farfalla and one of my good friends, Stefan Tony’s an artist and he was literally traveling through Oaxaca doing documentaries and embracing the art and culture. He happened to meet Jose Morales, which is the first family we ever worked with.

If you have original bottles of Madre [Mezcal] before the labels have changed, it used to say Jose’s name on the bottle. 

So Tony was bringing bottles back to Brooklyn in plastic water bottles and it snowballed. His friends in Brooklyn were like, this stuff’s great. Started out in plastic water bottles in 2014. I think it was 2016 when our first glass bottles actually came by and we became like of a more legit brand and company.  But it started with Tony and Stefan; and they brought on our CEO and COO, Chris and Davide.

Chris actually is one of the founding driving forces in the electronic scene in the 90s in Europe. Chris comes from a very artistic, music based background. Then he went on to work for some bigger alcohol brands in the vodka world. 

madre mezcal

Davide, who is our COO, my direct boss, who I love, is Italian and his whole family built furniture and he got his big break by importing and bringing furniture over [to the United States]. He also works with a beautiful high end apparel line. 

“…everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label…”

So everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label. Just not wanting to make a quick buck and actually make something we can stand behind and believe in.

As the families now blossom into four, we use three: the Vasquez family, the Blas family and the Morales family are our three main producers for our red and black label, which most people are familiar with. 

We just brought in Moises and he’s actually from Santa Catarina Minas.  That’s a little town where all they really make is their production. It’s a town known for nothing but clay pot distillation. So if you actually use a copper pot in, in Manera and Santa Caterina Minas, you’re looked at as what are you doing? That’s not what we do here. 

He’s our last and newest producer and he may be the most cowboy of them all, and he’s my favorite.

When you get to Tlaxcala, you have to walk over like a little rope bridge over like a river and stuff into the hills of Minas to see his production, and he’s got his grandfather’s old still, and he’s got his mom’s little kitchen that he wants to reopen, and it’s like a restaurant. But if you and I were to look at it, it just looks like a backyard set of tables and chairs with a cooking center.

No, this is a restaurant for the village. It’s really beautiful down in Minas. I recommend everyone, if you get a chance to go down there, it felt like the jungles in Costa Rica, cause it’s up near the hills and it’s just so green and lush up there.

 

“…I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years …”

Joe Winger:  What got you down there? Was it for a vacation or for Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

So I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years and I worked for the Houston Hospitality Group for over a decade, helping run programs and menus. I worked for a couple other restaurants, but I used to work for Stillhouse Whiskey, which many people remember the terrible flavored moonshine in a gas can.

Yeah I actually sold that. I did pretty well, there was always one flavor that someone loved. I had the mint chocolate chip and I would keep it in the freezer to take care of my sweet tooth when I didn’t have ice cream. So that’s how it started.

My buddy, Stefan, who’s one of the founding partners goes, “Hey, we got this Mezcal company.”  I was just basically consulting for free lunches. 

One day he goes, do you want to go to Oaxaca? And I went, absolutely. 

I familiar with going down to Mexico city, but I’d never been as far South as Oaxaca. So I jumped at the chance.

[Meanwhile] we all got an email from Stillhouse saying “Hey, I know things are being shaken up right now, but trust me, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” 

That weekend, apparently the whole team got laid off, but I didn’t get the email untll I came home Monday. They’re saying, “Ryan, are you going to be okay? Do you need help finding work?”

So I went down to Oaxaca, met the families, broke bread with Jose Morales, got to meet his mother who blessed the roast and cooked us dinner.  They offered me a job.

That was started my journey about six years ago with Madre [Mezcal ]and I’ve been with him since.

Fleming motions to tattoos on his arms and hands.

Discovering Madre Mezcal

I have it tattooed on my hand right here. I have it tattooed on my palm right here. And I think I have another one on the inside of my leg too. We do tasting events and we’ll have pop up tattoo artists all the time.

 

Tequila vs Madre Mezcal

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned the tastings and the education.  Are there quick lessons that you teach the most often?

Ryan Fleming: 

Basic production, culture, financial, environmental and economic sustainability. 

I don’t think people understand that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.  Everyone thinks the Mezcal boom must be bringing so many jobs, but it really only affects about 20 – 40,000 people that live in Oaxaca for the production, 

Mezcal is great because it does bring some financial sustainability to the families. Jose started off driving a taxi to pay his bills and now he’s making Mezcal in his family’s tradition.  His whole family, his cousin, his uncles, they all make Mezcal for a living now.

There’s so much culture behind it. Even the old argument of did the Spanish bring over copper stills and that started distillation or does it go back to the Aztecs and Mayans? Because they found distillate and pottery from 3000 years ago. It’s those little nuances.

People really like to talk about the environmental, but giving back to the people down there by not just buying product, but giving them some ownership, which Madre does do, so that everyone has a little bit of skin in the game.

So I think Sustainability, whether it’s environmental, economical, cultural, and production. Those are the things I really like to talk about.

Joe Winger:  What is the basic difference between mezcal and tequila? Or is it more complicated?

Ryan Fleming: 

You could say production techniques, additives, mass production are probably the three biggest differences. 

Tequila can only be made with one agave. It’s a blue weber.  Mezcal can be made with the other 47-ish varietals, and that number is always fluctuating, based on classification and family genius.

Production is the big one. Tequila is made in massive factories and made with either chemicals or steam for the most part. 

Whereas mezcal is actually made by hand, roasted in an earthen oven. The biggest thing that separates Tequila and Mezcal is the 1% additive rule.

Tequila can have up to 1% by volume additives, and they don’t have to tell you. That’s why certain large brands will say 100% Agave, but it’s full of additives, because it doesn’t take much  with modern chemistry. Just a couple drops of glycerin or vanilla extract to change the flavor and hide  all the nuances.

Mezcal can’t have any additives by law. 

Joe Winger: Can we walk through the roles and responsibilities between the families that produce Madre Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah, the four families. Let’s start with Jose Morales. Him and his brother both make mezcal. Now they produce for us in the US exclusively. We encourage all of our families to continue making mezcal to trade. They use it for a local economy.

Every time I go down there, [their operation is growing].  When they started, they had three stills. Now there’s 12 up and running and they have solar power.  It’s just so crazy to see how much the transformation has happened. 

The original recipe, the blend of cuishe and espadine at 90 proof, that’s his family’s recipe. So we expanded that and we brought on Carlos Blas and the Vasquez family. Unfortunately, Natalio the father passed away a couple of years ago.

His daughters are now producing in the family’s tradition and we take whatever we can from them. 

But what we do, that’s a little bit different is, we started out when it was just Jose, he was making the blend himself. Now we have them make the espadine and the cuishe separately.

All three families are part of the process. Sometimes we just get cuiche from Jose. Sometimes Carlos makes all the espadine, but Carlos is like a master blender. 

We blend a cold style like Scotch does. Even though it’s not the most traditional way, all the distillation and process is as true as it can be.

But by blending post distillation allows us to keep consistency, which was a huge problem because every batch with your wild fermentation, your wild yeast and all these beautiful nuances, it’ll be inconsistent as you grow as a brand.  It was hard for us to keep consistency.

But by blending multiple terroirs and three different families’ production, we can keep a consistent product that tastes the same as well as expanding and bringing on more families to help instead of just going to a large factory house and not making what I would call “traditional Mezcal.”

Joe Winger: So focusing on your background, you mentioned that you’ve been a bartender in the LA nightlife.  Any memorable adventures or lessons you can share?

Ryan Fleming:

There are some stories I could tell that I probably don’t want to share publicly. But there are some amazing stories I can tell.

One of the oddest experiences I’ve ever had, I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, which is one of the most famous bars in the Hollywood nightlife in the past decade. 

Paul McCartney showed up at our door. 

But because our staff is younger and our door guys are a little bit younger, they thought it was an old weird British man that just showed up and they turned Paul McCartney away from the door.

‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’?

He was like, do you know who I am? The guys [were like] ”We don’t care.” Like straight up, blowing Paul McCartney off. One of our managers came out and was like, ‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’? And they’re like, wait, the guy from the Beatles?! 

My manager ran out, “Please come back,” and Paul had a great time at the bar. We got him a special little area to sit down. It was a packed Saturday.  It’s not a nightclub where we have gated off [areas]. Even if you reserve a table, people are inches away from you where you’re sitting at your table. 

Justin Bieber showed up one time and everyone went nuts.  He comes in, walks around, does a loop, comes out and goes, “I thought this was a hip hop club.” and just left.

It was a 1970s themed bar and we played nothing but 70s music. 

The dichotomy between the two different generations and to see them all melt into one location was one of the coolest things about working at that bar. 

 

Joe Winger:It’s so crowded because it’s so popular.  The Houston Brothers always do such a good job.

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah.  The cocktails are still really good too. For as much volume as we used to do there, the biggest thing is how can I make a really beautiful cocktail that’s still cost effective and doesn’t take 12 steps. We got really good at batching stuff and figuring out how to infuse things.  Luckily our back of house was just the most amazing.  Mariano is the best barback I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s still there. 

He is just a workhorse that got all the infusions. He would cook, he would infuse all of our products and he was just great. Even if we just did a jalapeno infusion on our tequila, if it got too spicy, he could break down the ratio and water it down with more products so that we could keep the spice level approachable.

Joe Winger:

What is the secret to high quantity yet high value cocktails? 

Ryan Fleming:

Batching is definitely the way to do it. Any of your alcohols that are shelf stable, you want to put all of those in the proper ratios in a bottle.

Instead of grabbing a modifier and your base spirit and another modifier, you’re grabbing one bottle with a special tape at the bottom, so you know which cocktail it goes to and then all your fresh stuff. 

You can’t batch the fresh stuff. It has to be separated because you put citrus in something and it goes bad in three days.  Now the whole batch is bad. So keeping your fresh stuff separated.

Joe Winger: Back to Madre Mezcal.  Obviously the bottles themselves are where all the power is.  So let’s talk about labels and taste profiles.

Ryan Fleming:

People love our labels. Our branding is top notch. It’s one of the first compliments we always get. “Oh my God, I love your branding.” 

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Looked at Oaxacan culture and some other like medieval culture and combined the art from the two.

As far as the red label it’s the woman on the bull. It’s a really beautiful message of Mother Earth coming down and starting to share humanity and move across the world to plants and spread love.  That’s why she’s on the bull.  It’s the combination of animal, Mother Earth, and humans. 

Madre Mezcal Espandin

Madre Mezcal Espandin

The black label is a beautiful logo of a woman on the ground.  She’s planting and spreading the seed of life that gives us agave and flowers and fruit and vegetables and everything else.

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

The ancestral is this beautiful clay bottle with old clay vessels from Greece that carried wine with the fluid coming out and it’s supposed to celebrate the ancestral way of making mezcal and clay pots and clay distillation.

I always love telling the story of people who say mezcal is not supposed to be aged, which is a true-ish statement in my opinion. But back in the day, everything got transferred in barrels. So Mezcal would accidentally get aged in barrels because it would travel from town to town on horseback after the product was made.

So the idea that Mezcal was never aged is it wasn’t aged on purpose. 

Mezcal was accidentally aged in wood. The traditional way that people would age Mezcal is in glass and they would hide it underground. 

I always tell people, if you have a beautiful bottle of Mezcal, you should open it and take it out and put a wine cork in it, or at least crack the bottle and get some air because it really lets alcohol open up and aerate.

Mezcal benefits from a resting period. Pouring it in a nice open glass, like a snifter or a wine glass, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes will really open it up.

Madre Mezcal tasting notes 

Madre is designed to be less smoky. I really hate the term smoky. I like the word roasted because what you’re tasting is like barbeque.

You’re tasting the roasting of the agave and the charcoaling and the burning of the outside agave which will affect the sugars, the caramelization.

Madre really was designed to be a more approachable mezcal. We call ourselves ”The gateway to the category.” 

We want to bring people from tequila over to Mezcal so you can explore what agave spirits also have to offer. 

It’s bright, clean, and smooth. I always compare it to a really nice, made tequila.

Our Espadine is actually a close cousin of [tequila’s] Blue Weber. It tastes really bright, clean and smooth.  But you’re going to get some of that minerality and smoke in the end. 

Like easy drinking with some earthy aromas. 

Joe Winger:  That night when I met you, what you handed me was my first taste of the night. I love that it was so pure and smooth.  It didn’t clog up my mouth for the rest of the night.

Ryan Fleming: 

I’m like you. I want to have 2-3 cocktails a night. Not just one and my palette’s done. 

Our Espadine to me is a 2-3 second palette.  It clears up and you get like a breath and it’s fading.  Our Ensemble goes on for 10- 12 seconds.  From sweet vanilla to chocolate to mineral and then to smoke.  Then the smoke fades and you get just a really beautiful, crisp.  It’s viscous. You can feel the oil in your mouth when you swirl it around and it makes the best Negroni.

Joe Winger:  Let’s talk about food pairings.

Ryan Fleming: 

I want to know if this caught you off guard, but it’s Italian food.

Very rich foods. These beautiful Mezcals are light and almost floral and fragrant, It cuts through the richness and creaminess of food.

That’s why mezcal and chocolate are consistently paired together, but that was just way too easy. There’s always mezcal chocolate pairings, but like a really nice Italian dish, something creamy and rich, like an Alfredo or a really well done piece of pizza, like a margarita or a white sauce pizza.

“…I want to know if this caught you off guard, but…”

We are working on doing some [pizza] pairings with some places in LA.   Do a different slice of pizza with three different cocktails of Madre and then have a tasting at the end.

Chocolate has a big part of Oaxaca too. You can’t not have some chocolate and mezcal at the end of the night. 

Espresso martinis are so hot again right now. Try making one with mezcal instead of vodka and just [see] how coffee helps open up the agave and the notes, and you’re going to get so much more going on in your cocktail.

If you pair a nice espresso martini with  beautiful, dark chocolate from Oaxaca.  That is your final cocktail at the end of the night, it won’t let you down.

Joe Winger:  You mentioned replacing Mezcal with vodka in a martini, are there any traditional or more common cocktails we should also try replacing Mezcal in?

Ryan Fleming: 

When I tell you this, it may blow your mind. Most gin cocktails are a little bit better with Mezcal.

There are certain times you need botanicals, but a lot of really good classic gin cocktails, if you sub them for Mezcal, are absolutely fantastic. 

Joe Winger:  I’m shocked because most gins have such unique aromatics.

Ryan Fleming: 

Which Mezcal has so many of those same unique terpenes going on that it changes the cocktail, but it works.

So instead of having botanicals, you have all these beautiful vegetal and mineral notes that just come from agaves. 

Joe Winger:  What are the biggest misconceptions in the world of Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

A lot of people have a misconception, especially on the trade side, that we have grown exponentially. It’s been a lot of hard work. People think we have this massive team behind us.  There’s less than 20 of us on the whole team. That includes our team down in Oaxaca, who  watches over manufacturing and production for us down there. 

We don’t have an office.  We have a little tiny apartment in Venice for meetings.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating a small brand. It’s just a lot of people working hard to create beautiful Mezcal, especially the families. 

People [unfairly comparing it to] tequila.  What do you mean, we can’t get more? Why is it so expensive? We have people going out hand collecting wild agaves and harvesting espadine.  All of that is hand cut, hand chopped.   I’ve hand cut agaves with the families.

None of this is industrialized or mechanized like tequila. 

Appreciate every drop of mezcal you have, because someone put a lot of love and labor into it.

Joe Winger:  Ryan, as we wrap up, let’s talk about where can learn more about Madre Mezcal? 

Ryan Fleming: 

We have a beautiful Instagram.  Madremezcal.com is our website. 

We also have this Instagram called mezcal. Learning and it’s a little short videos and little blurbs to talk about production, families, history, and culture. It is focused on Madre, but it’s not just Madre, it’s Mezcal as a whole.

If you want to know more about our families who produce, where it’s made, you can find all that information on madremezgal. com. 

Our bottles are in most of your nicer bottle shops, liquor stores. In California, we’re lucky enough to be in Trader Joe’s for the Espadine and Whole Foods has our Ensemble.

If you can’t find it,  go to madremezcal.com and we ship bottles to almost every state in the U S.

We’re in nine countries, too. Australia. All over Europe, Costa Rica.  We’re working on Japan and South Korea as well. So I’m just excited to see the culture of mezcal just expand beyond just America and see how excited because I, when I talk to people that are in London or, people in Australia, and they’re so excited about the idea of being able to get mezcal.

Joe Winger: What is the future for Madre?

Ryan Fleming: I can’t tell you about the big one.

But, [exciting things for] our Ancestral, which is pretty new and every batch of that’s going to be hand numbered and labeled.

We’re going to start doing small batch productions that will be very limited. Then the desert waters, which we have ready for summer. 

To learn more about MadreMezcal, visit MadreMezcal.com. Find them on Instagram at MadreMezcal

 

Lehigh Valley wants Caffeine: Nitro Black, Double Espresso, Flat White! Chameleon Organic Coffee Introduces Ready-to-Drink Cold-Brew Cans

Lehigh Valley wants Caffeine: Nitro Black, Double Espresso, Flat White! Chameleon Organic Coffee Introduces Ready-to-Drink Cold-Brew Cans

Chameleon Organic Coffee®, the original purveyors of handcrafted bottled cold-brew coffee, today announced the expansion of its ready-to-drink category with the debut of four ultra-convenient 8 oz. cold-brew cans.

Handcrafted with 100% organic beans, Chameleon’s new ready-to-enjoy canned cold-brew line features four distinct flavors with sweetened and unsweetened options.

Each delivers unparalleled convenience by offering sustainably sourced coffee in a shelf-stable format, providing optionality for retailers and customers alike.

“We recognized the growing demand for variety and ease of convenience in the RTD coffee segment without compromising on quality and flavor,”

Andy Fathollahi

CEO of SYSTM Foods

“Our new canned cold-brew line provides our loyal customers with another delicious, no-prep option to enjoy their daily coffee ritual on-the-go, anytime.”

Each 8 oz. can contains approximately 130mg of naturally occurring caffeine, providing the perfect boost on the move or at home.

Flavors include:

Nitro Black: Chameleon’s first nitro cold-brew offers a smooth, creamy experience in every sip.

Double Espresso: Bold and smooth organic cold-brew made with dark roast espresso beans delivers a flavorful kick.

Sweetened Black: Black cold-brew lightly sweetened with just the right amount of organic cane sugar.

Flat White: Black cold-brew blended with whole milk creates a traditional flat white experience with a creamy, velvety finish.

The upcoming line complements Chameleon’s existing portfolio of award-winning products, including a variety of organic ready-to-drink 10 oz. cold-brews and 32 oz. multi-serve concentrate cold-brews; each handcrafted to match every mood.

Launching just in time for summer, Chameleon’s Nitro Black, Double Espresso and Sweetened Black 8 oz. canned cold-brews will be available for purchase online at ChameleonCoffee.com and Amazon, as well as at select retailers nationwide starting June 2024 with Flat White availability to follow.

For launch updates, please visit ChameleonCoffee.com.

About Chameleon Organic Coffee®
Founded in 2010, Chameleon Cold-Brew is Austin’s original purveyor of bottled cold-brew coffee. Providing a one-of-a-kind, completely customizable coffee experience, Chameleon uses certified organic, responsibly sourced coffee. Chameleon’s proprietary brewing process produces a super smooth, less acidic, highly caffeinated coffee that can be enjoyed hot or cold. The brand’s portfolio of organic coffee offerings includes ready-to-drink cold-brew varieties, cold-brew concentrates, and now whole bean and ground coffee.

For more information, please visit ChameleonCoffee.com.

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