Have you ever wondered why we call it bourbon? Or how on earth it’s different from Scotch, Irish, Canadian, or rye whiskey? You’re not alone! The source of the name for America’s favorite whiskey is popularly disputed. Often it’s attributed to Bourbon County in Kentucky, the state most famous for producing the spirit, but other theories suggest it comes in fact from the French Bourbon Dynasty or raucous Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Unless you’re a budding bourbon historian, your guess is as good as mine. Of course, there are some things we know for sure. To start, we know that Elijah Craig—Baptist minister, distiller, and inventor of the paper mill and ropewalk—was the first to age whiskey in charred oak casks.
Before I could even buy wine, I loved food. Like really loved food. (Thank you insane metabolism!) After I started working in wine stores, it was only natural to combine these two passions. It's so satisfying to spend an evening cooking something delicious from scratch and then pick out the perfect matching bottle. The skill also comes in handy dining out with friends or impressing a date—it's the gift that keeps on giving. Plus there's no better excuse to explore new countries, regions, and grape varieties instead of relying on safe old favorites. Choose your wine based on your meal and your mood!
I get a lot of funny looks when I suggest Greek wines. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown, a lack of familiarity with strange-sounding grape names and regions. My simple question is: Would you turn down a date with someone absolutely perfect just because he or she had an unusual or hard-to-pronounce name? Of course not! You’d commit that name to memory; you’d scribble it in the margins of your grocery list; you’d type it way too many times into Facebook’s search bar. All stalkerishness aside, that’s more or less how I feel about Dalamára’s Xinamavro, a rustic, hearty, and thoroughly underappreciated red from Naoussa. Just give it a chance; after all, this glass might hold your next great love.
Bloomer Creek wines are a staple at Appellation, representing the best of what the cool climate Finger Lakes has to offer. Nestled between the lakes of Seneca and Cayuga, home to myriad gorges and many college students, the winery specializes in stunning Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and light-bodied reds. Even better, these are “natural” wines, a term and approach uncommon elsewhere in Upstate and Central New York. Kim Engle and Debra Bermingham—proprietors, farmers, and winemakers—on the other hand, have been growing natural wines going on two decades!
Many of our favorite wines at Appellation share a common denominator—their winemakers’ abiding passion. We’re all about wines that show respect for the integrity of their grapes, as well as their local (not to mention global!) environments. With care, and by avoiding artificial means of production, comes wine with pure, essential flavors and food-worthy balance. Take, for instance, the wines of William Allen, proprietor of Two Shepherds.
This Friday, February 12th, Gideon Beinstock—of Clos Saron and Renaissance fame—will be in-store pouring his wines. Let me repeat myself. Gideon Beinstock, my absolute favorite winemaker, will be in our store. Rejoice! Look, it’s always special opening a single bottle of any rare, limited-production wine. It’s even more special when you’re a total fanboy, and when you’ve spent the last six months doing your best to consume his entire production.
So go the lyrics of The Drifters 1961 hit love song of the same name. Now, while this newsletter has nothing to do with early American doo-wop music, it has everything to do with a little bit of southwestern French soul. Stay with me.
Every bottle of wine has its own story, a complicated tapestry woven from history, geography, meteorology, agriculture, chemistry, cuisine, and artistic vision. You’ve stopped into the store, heard the stories from us, even tasted the wines—but wouldn’t it be interesting to chat with the vignerons themselves, whose talents and passions have been poured into the bottles you’re bringing home? (See what I did there?) That’s why, whenever possible, we bring in producers to share their own wines with you. From them, you get to hear the fascinating narrative behind a particular wine from the world’s foremost expert on that individual bottle.
In the past, people tended to view wine the same way they viewed buying their weekly carton of grocery-store Tropicana. When purchasing it from their local Gristedes, they expected an identical product each and every time. Sure, oranges come from trees, but do you know anyone drinking artisanal vintage OJ? Until recently, this overly consistent approach to production and consumption was the norm—especially in the New World—and even today many corner bottle shops offer row after row of mass produced, highly adjusted bottles with their familiar brand names. But grapes, after all, are an agricultural product, and thus wines should reflect year-to-year changes in temperature, precipitation, soil, available fruit, time of harvest, and so on.