Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent taste discoveries.
Whether you’re perusing a bar menu while traveling or stirring up a cocktail at home, let our guide lead to new flavor destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
The 2020 holidays may be more isolated than usual, but you don’t have to give up everything: Treat your taste buds to add some cheer to the season.
This series typically features ‘adult beverages,’ but while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic we’ve helped break up the monotony of our at-home routines by sampling several new snacks and non-alcoholic drinks as well. This post includes a mix of our most recent favorite discoveries.
2019 Dry Creek Fumé Blanc, the California winery’s 48th vintage of this varietal, is a blend of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. Bright and refreshing, it offers notes of lemon, lime, nectarine, fresh-mowed lawn, cucumber, minerals, and pepper. Pair it with salads, poultry, seafood, and cheese. Retails for approx. $16.
ChocoVine is a smooth blend of chocolate and red wine. Four versions are available, we sampled the original: Dutch chocolate with French cabernet wine. Smooth, creamy, and sweet, it’s a decadent after-dinner treat. Though it pours thinner than chocolate milk, it has a surprising (in a pleasant way) viscous mouthfeel that’s silkier than anticipated. On the palate, the chocolate flavors dominate while wine lingers in the background. The finish lingers on the alcohol heat—so while you’ll want to serve this drink cold, it does warm the palate. Enjoyable on its own, you can also mix it into a cocktail. Retails for approx. $13.
We continue to be impressed by Cameron Hughes wines. This “direct to consumer” business model is especially ideal for current times. Cameron Hughes sources wine; he’s not a producer. He doesn’t own vineyards or a winery but rather focuses on finding great wines and negotiating the best prices for them. We sampled three recent releases, all of which recently won a gold medal at the Sommelier Challenge.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 735 Santa Barbara Cabernet Sauvignon offers a luscious blend of berries, plums, cranberries, cedar, nutmeg, clove, and a bit of mint. Medium-bodied with a mouthwatering balance of acidity and tannins, this slightly sweet wine is enjoyable on its own as well as with food. Retails for $16.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 730 Lodi Zinfandel is aged in French oak barrels, which contributes a woody note to the aroma and flavor lineup that also includes plum, port-like raisin, leather, portobellas, and cocoa. Pleasant with soft tannins and balanced acidity. Retails for $13.
2018 Cameron Hughes Lot 729 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has notes of strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, cola, anise, fresh-tilled garden, and stewed mushroom. Velvety tannins give this scrumptious wine some heft. Retails for $16.
Denomination of Origin (DO) Rías Baixas is renowned for the Albariño grape, an indigenous variety that produces some of the world’s foremost white wines. Located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, the DO was formally established in 1988 and is divided into five sub-zones. Albariño has always been the flagship of this coastal region. In Rías Baixas’ climate, Albariño shares the same mineral-rich soils and cool climate as the world’s leading white wine regions, including Loire Valley, New Zealand and the Rhine. We sampled three bottles of this what’s one of our personal favorite varietals. Albariño is very versatile and food friendly; during the holidays keep it on hand to pair with salads, soups, seafood, poultry, and cheese dishes.
2019 Veiga Naum Albariño from Salnés Valley has fruity-floral aromas and explodes with flavors of apples, pears, and peaches alongside a hint of minerality and saltiness. Vibrant, structured, and pleasant. Retails for approx. $16.
2019 Robaliño Albariño is made using grapes from the Condado do Tea sub-zone of Rías Baixas. It boasts notes of grapefruit, apricot, cashew, and summer savory. Luscious with a lingering finish on baked fruit and chalky minerality. Retails for approx. $19.
2017 Castro Martin Albariño is made using grapes plucked from vines that are an average age of 50 years old in Salnés Valley. With notes of white peach, Asian pear, lemon zest, minerality, and a hint of salt, this balanced wine is a crowd pleaser. Retails for approx. $20.
Ole Smoky Distillery has four new, ready-to-drink canned cocktails made using Old Smoky moonshine available in four flavors. Convenient and refreshing with that signature moonshine kick, our personal favorite is Blackberry Lemonade with its harmonious berry and citrus flavors. But we wouldn’t pass up sipping Apple Pie Ginger (sweet yet zingy), Mountain ‘Rita (tart and salty), or Mountain Mule (citrusy with a kick of ginger). Retails for approx. $13 for a 4-pack of 12 oz. cans.
Monster Energy introduces the new Khaotic to its Juice Monster line. Khaotic, a Version 2.0 of its popular Khaos label, has lighter flavor yet is still a mix of citrus juice and energy blend with 160mg of caffeine per can. Orange is the dominant flavor in the mix. Also new to the juice line is Papillon with soft flavors of peach and nectarine mixed with the same energy blend. Retails for approx. $2.25 per 16 fl. oz. can.
Magic Bullet is labeled as an “anti-hangover” dietary supplement. Press materials suggest it’s “your liver’s new best friend” that ensures you can “drink some, enjoy yourself, and remain productive the next day.” Our review is limited to the taste of this all-natural, caffeine-free, vegan, gluten-free, blood orange-flavored drink. It is lightly carbonated with dominant notes of blood orange. Sipped straight from the can it does have a slightly more viscous mouthfeel than standard sodas, perhaps thanks to ingredients like broccoli powder and extracts of milk thistle, turmeric, grape seed, Schisandra berry, yellow dock root, and decaf green tea, to name a few. It’s enjoyable sipped on its own over ice or mixed into a cocktail, such as the Fireball Bullet (pour 1.5 oz. Fireball and a half can of Magic Bullet over ice, garnish with an orange slice and enjoy each sip of “Christmas in a Glass.”) Retails for approx. $30 for a 6-pack of 8.4 fl.oz. cans.
San Diablo Artisan Churros offer a new way to treat yourself or a loved one with a home delivery. The “Take & Bake Churro Kit” makes the scratch-made churros that Utahns have loved since 2016 available for shipping nationwide. Entrepreneur Scott Porter developed the kit as a COVID-19 business pivot to bring “heaven sent, wicked good” award-winning churros safely to homes across the U.S. According to press materials, these are “the only nationwide purveyor of gourmet fresh filled churros that delivers deep-fried happiness on demand.” Each kit includes a devil’s dozen (13) of pre-made and chilled mini churros that are ready to reheat, fill, and devour. The churros have been golden fried then coated with sugar and cinnamon; follow the kit’s reheating instructions for best results. They have hollow centers, into which you can squeeze any of the sauce options (though if you prefer to dip, that works, too): dulce de leche, Nutella, sweet cream, lemon curd, and raspberry. Here at Getaways for Grownups global headquarters, we’re all about the scrumptious dulce de leche and Nutella sauces. Seasonal flavors and savory churros are also available. Prices start at $23.99.
Vesta Chocolate is a bean-to-bonbon craft chocolate factory and café based in Montclair, New Jersey, launched by chefs-turned-chocolatiers Roger Rodriguez and Julia Choi Rodriguez. The husband-and-wife duo start by making chocolate from organic cacao beans, then transform it into bonbons, baked goods, spreads, bars, and other treats. We sampled three bean-to-bar chocolates: 84% organic dark from Belize, 49% organic single original dark milk from Belize, and 78% organic dark from Guatemala. Even at the high percentages, the balance of sweet and bitter flavors impress. Kids may adore sugar bombs, but refined grownup palates will feel respected and pampered with each bite of these. Holiday gift packages include bon bons, peppermint bark, hot chocolate, brownies, and chocolate chips, are priced from $5 to $185.
Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for a 750ml bottle.
Be a responsible grownup: Never drink and drive.
Responsible grownups wear face masks when outside of their own home during the coronavirus pandemic. Need to up your mask game? Consider ordering some fun masks from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Product samples afford the research opportunity but do not sway opinion.