Friday, January 30, 2009

Tequila - Blanco tasting

My friend Rob and I got together for a blanco tequila tasting. As a longtime admirer of the fresh citrusy agave notes in blanco tequilas, I have been wanting to sit down and take some tasting notes and do a comparative rating:

The contenders:

  1. Herradura Silver ($30, 40% vol.)
  2. Don Julio Blanco ($36, 40%vol.)
  3. Partida Silver (42, $0%vol.)
  4. Patron Silver ($40, 40%vol.)
  5. Casa Noble Cristal ($36, 40%vol.)
  6. Siete Leguas Silver ($NA, 40%vol)
  7. Don Eduardo Silver ($33, 40%vol.)

Pictured L-R: Casa Noble, Don Eduardo, Don Julio, Herradura, Partida, Patron, 7 Leguas

Folllowing is a tasting note summary for each tequila with final scorings/rankings at the end. Tequilas were tasted blind (thanks to some help from Julie) along with some Sangrita, and were rated on a 50-100 scale. There was some discussion during the tasting to describe and compare some of the taste profiles.

#1 Herredura Blanco
Matt's Notes
Nose - something off, a chemical aroma, flawed
Taste - more of the same
Finish - peppery, spicy
Score: 70-

Rob's Notes
Barf/Charitably papaya on the nose. Some cedar, woodsiness
Score: 75

#2 Don Julio Blanco
Matt's Notes
Nose - very round, vanilla, beeswax
Taste - full bodied, vanilla, dulce de leche.
Finish - smooth, round
Score: 93

Rob's Notes
Full-bodied, chardonnay oaky nose. Caramel initially on the palate, unctuous mouthfeel.
Score: 95

#3 Partida Blanco
Matt's Notes
Nose - delicate, citrusy
Taste - not a lot of flavor development. Agreeable, but not a lot of character.
Finish - hot, not too complex
Score: 88

Rob's Notes
Lighter, not much flavor. Hot & peppery finish. Agreeable.
Score: 88

#4 Patron Silver
Matt's Notes
Nose - Citrusy
Taste - citrus, vanilla. Medium-bodied (less body than #2)
Finish - long, smooth
Score: 92

Rob's Notes
Lighter - refined. Smooth finish. Great agave flavor.
Score: 91

#5 Casa Noble Crystal
Matt's Notes
Nose - Vegetal
Taste - More vegetal elements
Finish - medium length
Score: 89

Rob's Notes
Bland. B.O. on the nose. Wet newspaper, vegetal flavors.
Score: 80

#6 Siete Leguas Blanco
Matt's Notes
Nose - wet cement
Taste - more wet cement
Finish - long, cementy
Score: 86

Rob's Notes
Not much on the nose. Somewhat indistinctive but pleasant flavor. Pepper and wet cement on the finish.
Score: 89

#7 Don Eduardo Silver
Matt's Notes:
Nose - mostly vanillin. Buttered, steamed cauliflower.
Taste - full-bodied agave, citrus vanilla
Finish - medium length
Score: 90

Rob's Notes
Full mouthfeel, creamy finish. Minerally, pleasant.
Score: 90

Summary Ranking
#1 Don Julio Blanco (93/95)
#2 Patron Silver (92/91)
#3 Don Eduardo Silver (90/90)
#4 Partida Silver (88/88)
#5 Siete Leguas Blanco (86/89)
#6 Casa Noble Crystal (89/80)
#7 Herradura Blanco (70-/75)

All of these tequilas were enjoyable with the exception of the Herradura Blanco which has something off in the nose and palate which both of us considered flawed and discounted the score accordingly.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I never really liked the taste of Rose's grenadine. Besides the high fructose corn syrup and obfuscatory list of ingredients, it just doesn't really taste like anything. Since the Sangrita recipe that I chose includes grenadine, I took the opportunity to do some research into what grenadine really is - pomegranate syrup. After reading through several recipes, many of which involved cooking, I decided that I would try something as fresh as I could, but without the hassle of actually trying to juice a real pomegranate (which I'm not ruling out trying in the future).

Enter POM 100% pomegranate juice. Although it is "from concentrate" it only lists as its ingredients pomegranate juice and natural flavors. Also according to the POM website, it:
  • contains no added sugars, preservatives or colors
  • is a good source of potassium
  • is gluten free
  • is flash pasteurized to retain both flavor and nutrients
  • is certified kosher
One recipe suggested equal parts POM and sugar, so I did some math to compare sugar levels. Using a 1:1 juice to sugar ratio yields a syrup with 28g of sugar per oz. Rose's has 21g of sugar per oz. Not exactly what I was looking for, so instead I opted for a 2:1 POM juice to sugar recipe which has 16g of sugar per oz. All you do is add the sugar and shake vigorously until it dissolves.

You are left with a bright, fresh syrup which tastes like pomegranate with the acidic tang and a little bit of tannin from the skins. I tasted the Rose's next. It tastes of cloying candied sweetness, with no real discernible fruit flavor and certainly lacking that crisp acidity you get from the fresh version. It reminds me of the results from my homemade version of Trader Vic's Passion Fruit Nectar.

I made about 6 oz in this first production batch which should make several batches of Sangrita. It will be interesting to use this recipe in some tropical drinks when milder temperatures arrive.

Pomegranate Grenadine
2 part 100% pomegranate juice
1 part cane sugar

Combine ingredients into a glass container and shake vigorously until sugar dissolves. Store in refrigerator. Shelf life TBD.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Sangrita - the essential ingredient for a "tequila completo"; a sidecar, if you will, to be served aside a fine tequila and sipped alternately. I first heard of sangrita in David Rosengarten's tome "Taste" which has a great section about wine and spirits. He does not offer a recipe, but rather shows a picture of a bottle of Don Julio reposado alongside a bottle of commercially produced sangrita (from Sauza). Also, David introduces the term "tequila geekos"

Although at least a few commercial products are available in SC most notably Viuda de Sanchez, I decided that this is something that should be homemade from fresh ingredients. After doing quite a bit of web searching and running across several different types of recipes and zealots arguing about whether sangrita should have no tomato juice or be all tomato juice, I came across a recipe from Rick Bayless that felt right. Rick has a show on PBS called "Mexico, one plate at a time" that is pretty good - he seems to appreciate and enjoy Mexican culture and to develop authentic recipes. Anyhow, I've made this version and I like the flavor and find it to be an excellent partner to a great blanco.

Sangrita #1 (and only for now)
1/2 cup orange juice
4t grenadine
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2t hot sauce (I used Pico Pica)
1/4t salt

I'll probably experiment some more in the future. I think that it could use some more spice, but definitely not more heat. I do not like a lot of heat with tequila. One recipe I saw used grapefruit juice - worth a try for sure...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wine Tasting - Paso Robles - December 2008

Calcareous - (nothing too notable)
Jada - A new find (on Vineyard Drive, West side), I liked the Mirror syrah/cab blend the best
Denner - 2005 Syrah is still my favorite, preferred over the 2006 and the ditch digger blend. Also enjoyed the 2006 Dirt Worshipper (95/5 Syrah/Viognier) which was very good if a bit wild.
Linne Calodo - Love the wines of Linne Calodo, but this was not a good tasting experience. The room was packed, the wines were too cold, the pours barely coated the glass... The worst bit was finding out that the "Leona's" blend was to be discontinued as Leona's vineyard had been infected with blight. That had been my favorite in 2005 and 2006, preferred even to the Cherry Red. Their Nemesis syrah is incredible (the 2004 was one of the best I've had) but at 95% and no discount, it's too steep.
Turley - All '06s - tasted Juvenile, Old Vines, Pesenti, Dusi and Ueberroth. Juvenile tasted young as usual. Old Vines is good. All three single vineyard bottlings were excellent with an edge to the Dusi (Dante).
L'Aventure - What can I say - this place puts on a good tasting! We were serviced by Jay who we saw during our last visit - a freindly guy who knows the wine and gives you a solid pour that you can swirl around the glass and really get into. The 2006's are stunning. I was blown away by the Estate Cuvee as well as the Cote a Cote (I did not care as much for the 05 Cote a Cote last time). I bought the second to last bottle of the Estate Cuvee. Also they were tasting their Cabernet, a somewhat rare treat in the tasting room I believe. Wow dense, dark and rich, but built for aging. I think Parker was closer than Spectator on his ratings of these gems. The wines are expensive here, but the quality is top notch.