Who do I see and taste in a glass of Ruchè?

Here I am getting ready for another upcoming wine tasting/seminar and I’m already thinking about what my notes will reveal.  Will I see a person in one of those wines next week?  Now that I’m fully aware of this “thing” that happens every now and then I think I’ll do a brain dump on the last person I saw in a wine before I get a pile up of people 🙂  By the way, I’m still trying to figure out if I associate a type of person with a varietal.  So far nothing, but I’ll keep putting my thoughts down, but if you think this content is strange, move onto the my last post about Santorini.

A few weeks ago, my pal Kirk Peterson brought over a bottle of Ruchè (La Miraja Ruche’ Di Castagnole Monferrato) , which is a grape grown in the Alto Monferrato  in Piemonte, Italy.  I’ve never had this varietal before, so naturally I was excited and interested.

Handing me a glass, he said, “Here, try this. It’s rrrrrrukay!”

Delighted by his enthusiasm, I immediately gave it a swirl and took a sniff. Right away, I took in its extraordinary and magnetic floral intensity, which started to present a person. But who was she?  Part of me ignored the vision of this girl from an Eastern Europe, dressed in a rust-red velvet tea-length dress with flat smooth, satin slip-ons.  The other part of me just wanted to savor this wine, re-join the conversation and forget about the girl because really, who cares?

But, back to the girl.  The vision always presents itself as a still image of a person in some form of action.  This girl is sitting at her piano, which  isn’t the jet black shiny type. Instead, it’s crafted of distressed marled wood of sorts and the setting is not at a concert hall, but rather a practice room either in a basement or music school.  This is a girl with long and thick mahogany hair is probably playing  Baroque but could also be playing rock ‘n roll from a legendary British band for variety, which could be why her talent is slowly getting recognized and taking her outside of her tiny speck of a  town.  I’m just guessing this, as I don’t actually hear anything.

Her eyes are green with lots of dark pigments of earthy-brown and ochre.  She has a small mouth with a dab of semi-sheer tint of red on her bee-stung lips. Her hands are youthful and skinny, but her fingers are long and strong, precise and determined. I was intrigued by how delightfully aromatic this wine is and how unique and funky it is on the palette. Certainly, a contrast from nose to palette.  I’m not certain it’s a wine for everyone’s taste, but I think she is a delicious experience.

Enjoying La Miraja Ruche’ di Castagnole Monferrato at Otto inside The Venetian Las Vegas.

Then I had the opportunity to taste her again this past weekend. She was much more pronounced this time – 17 and half years of age to be exact, from Eastern Europe, like I thought earlier – either Bulgaria or Romania.  She’s the only child of older parents.  The family’s hope is for her to become a well known concert pianist.  She’s not as concerned about it, though.  There is some tension in the family. Not sure why I see this – perhaps something tragic happened in the past?  I sense there is some complexity in her history, and it shows in her hands. And I’ll just leave that alone right there.

As for the wine, I’m not sure if it has any correlation to the person, but it’s a light to medium bodied wine, young, pretty, nervy, gutsy, mysterious, passionate, vibrant, yet melancholic at times.  Downright delicious.

See?  I told you I can’t describe wine like the somms.

And oh, I saved the original bottle (empty since that day) Kirk gave it to me and just took a sniff. Roses.  My son described it like the crushed pink rose petals that are inside the sachet bags.  Yep.

NOTE:  When I took a picture of the bottle for this post, I noticed the girl on the label. I knew she was there all along, but I never paid much attention until today.  Admittedly, she’s not quite the person I see, but I’m going to contact the producer and find out who the girl on the bottle is.

Santorini: Hues Beyond Whites & Blues

Striking and charming whitewashed buildings topped with azure-blue domes are perched on sheer caldera cliffs that soar out of the Aegean Sea. This is the Santorini that many people are enchanted by.  But, to go beyond the postcard is to discover the true beauty and colors of this volcanic island.

As the only inhabited volcano cauldron in the world, Santorini is already special. Sitting  half way between Athens and Crete, its crescent shaped island offers an astonishing array of contrasts.  There are jagged rocky promontories and smooth downhill slopes to the Aegean Sea, arable land crawling with volcanic rocks, deep ravines that break up the scrubby plains and the fertile slopes, grape vines trained in curious shapes, which from above, look like green sea stars invading the land.  And the sea that surrounds the island is clear, blue and calm.

Boat “lockers” are carved into the cliff walls on Santorini
What was once a round island, the center is now filled with water and remaining volcanic islands.
Aerial shot of Assyrtiko vineyard in early summer.

To scour the land by foot is to notice that volcanic rock is everywhere. From red sand beaches at Red Beach and black lava sand beaches in Perissa, the island’s colors are the product of nature’s wild side.  Santorini is essentially what remains from an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single, round island. It is the most active volcanic center in the South Aegean volcanic arc.

On the island’s beige, rolling plains, the wine country extends from the interior to the caldera’s edge.  At the ground level, heavy, black, semi-shiny, angular, fist-sized rocks dot the land.  Considerably smaller porous black pebbles and light and airy white pumice stones crunch under the feet like puffed rice. Walking between the vines, the whiff of salty air, mixed with the scent of ash,  blows from the sea.

It is this land that Santorini has built its reputation in the international wine market. Its aged vines, some a few hundred years old, were unharmed by the phylloxera louse which couldn’t stand a chance in this soil.  The island produces four classic varieties: the white Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, and the red Mandilaria. And it’s no coincidence that they go so lovely with the food.

The wines of Venetsanos Winery.

But, Assyrtiko remains the dominant cultivar on the island, accounting for roughly 75 percent of the total terroir. It is considered the choice white grape for its ability to produce a variety of styles, from the fresh and crisp, to complex and aged, sweet and semi-sweet, to sparkling.

No one knows for sure where Assyrtiko came from, except that it has been prolific on Santorini for hundreds of years continuously.  And, it’s delicious.

The indigenous grape, Assyrtiko, grows in its “basket” at Venetsanos Winery

The vines, too, are unique to the island.  Each vine is trained in the shape of a coiled basket (or kouloura).  In the summer the “baskets” are covered in bright green leaves and within their embrace, the grapes ripen while being protected from the blasts of sand borne by the strong Etesian winds, which would knock the buds before bud-break otherwise.

Finally, from the ground to they sky,  sunsets streak the strata with colors ranging from spring lilac to plum and eggplant, and marigold to amber, as the golden sun sinks into the shimmering sea, only to rise for another glorious day tomorrow.

On Santorini there is no definition of time. It’s a magical destination worth visiting again… and again.

Aerial shots provided by @ReadyFinetti @Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I drink wine, people show up

He’s 40ish, Peruvian (maybe), dressed in slouchy indigo jeans and a chambray shirt, standing in broken-in Birkenstocks. And, he is stressed from a recent marital breakup. While this sounds like a person, in actuality, it’s typical of how I describe a wine sometimes. I see people when I taste wine.

Looking back, I think my earliest recollection of describing a person when tasting wine is when I wrote a short piece on amarone and described her as a beautiful woman from Veneto. I suppose others would agree that my attempt to “humanize” amarone was pretty accurate. However, at the time I wrote it, I wasn’t aware of seeing anyone in particular; this was just a creative writing exercise and I just felt like describing amarone that way. But, since then I’ve been increasingly seeing images of people in my mind when I taste wine. Could this be a form of synesthesia?

I’ve told a few people about what I see when I drink wine, just to examine their reactions, and I’ve generally received positive remarks with a little wonder of “is this girl loopy?!@*#” in the backs of their mind. I get it, because rather than coming out with a description like “lemon peel, crushed rock and saline,” my descriptors are “freckle-faced, youthful 15-year-old girl, whose parents own a bakery specializing in fruit tarts.” I  do think it’s rather bizarre and almost embarassing, so and I’ve been banishing this reality for fear that I’d get dismissed as crazy and, you know, scrutinized.

But the reality is, I do see people – from all walks of life, people I’ve never met –  appear when I taste wine.  So I thought, “why not?” Let me just pour my self-conscious thoughts of wackiness (hardly sophisticated like my wine peers) in my personal blog.

So here I was sitting with all these sommeliers at a German riesling tasting last month.  And like a good journalist, I was taking notes of the presentation and describing the flavors and aromas of each wine.  Admittedly, I’m not the best at identifying these things yet, so usually my notes are sparse followed by a number of question marks (still need help with this, friends). Anyway, I was enjoying this lovely tasting and at the end of the hour, I noticed that some of my notes were descriptions of people, not the wine’s flavors and aromas. Stunned by my scribbles, I carefully flipped the page so that nobody else would notice.

A  little nutty, you say? Because I think it is.  And, I really don’t know where this is coming from.  I don’t experience this with other beverages or foods, and I don’t need to have any background on the wine that I’m tasting before someone appears in my mind.  As long as it hits my palette and my olfactories, she/he is there – with a least half the wines I taste.

So when you ask me what I’m tasting and smelling in a wine, I’ll struggle to come up with an acceptable description, like “passion fruit, banana, lemon curd and slightly effervescent…” But, don’t judge when I say she’s is in her mid-40s, tan or olive skin, former surfer, but now mother of three who lives in a beach house provided by her husband who is never, ever home.  Once extremely frustrated, she’s now rejuvenated and resilient, pouring her emotions into her new love – oil paining.  By the way, that was the Pfeffingen Scheurebe Trocken 2016 from Pfalz.  And, yes, she was vividly delicious!

So yeah.

Popping the tops of wine in cans

Marisa Finetti and Kirk Peterson

Yeah, put your pinkies down.  We’re talking about wine in cans, and generally speaking, when it comes to drinking – especially wine from a can- it’s a good strategy to not overthink it. Take for example Francis Ford Coppola’s packaging for Sofia Blanc de Blancs, which practically says, “I’m sipping on sparkling wine through a straw out of a mini sized hot pink can, and I’m just going to go with it.”

Oregon’s Union Wine Company markets their Underwood-branded canned wines with YouTube videos that poke fun at oenophiles who over-analyze their beverage.

Paso Robles-based Field Recordings winery packages their wine in tallboy 500 ml cans which recommend drinkers to enjoy by tonight, tomorrow & this weekend.

Finally, the The Infinite Monkey Theorem says their “ridiculously good wine” is made in a back alley of an art district with grapes sourced from the western slopes Colorado. Kind of like the idea that monkeys randomly pounding on a typewriter are capable of producing the work of Shakespeare. We get it.

These eco-friendly, recyclable, portables are the ultimate “take anywhere” beverage, but how do they taste? Here’s a virtual tasting:

1.     Union Wine Company – Underwood

Rosé
Comparatively pleasant due to its lack of flavor, akin to drinking slightly fizzy alcoholic rose water.

Pinot Noir
Virtually devoid of aroma, which is notable for a wine claiming to be made from an aromatic varietal. Light, yet quaffable.

Buy: Trader Joes $7/can
unionwinecompany.com $28 4-pack

2.     Field Recordings
 

Alloy Wine Works – Pinot Noir
Lean on the palate and candied on the nose with strawberry aromas that are decidedly Twizzler-like and confected. The first impression is more reminiscent of Beaujolais than Pinot Noir but with a slight chill the wine is pleasant and drinkable.

Fiction Red
This Zinfandel-based blend was definitely one of the best wines of the lineup. Aromas of ripe red raspberry and black pepper supported by a smooth texture and ample concentration of flavor. If you didn’t witness it being poured you probably wouldn’t suspect that it came from a can… which would be a solid gauge of success for a canned wine company.
Buy: fieldrecordingswine.com $30-40 4-pack

3.     Infinite Monkey Theorem


Red
What this wine may lack in concentration it makes up for with sheer unpretentious drinkability. Medium bodied and relatively refreshing for a red wine with dark red fruit and suggestions of savory herbs that make this wine one of the better wines of the tasting.

Moscato
With a nose full of peaches and white flowers this sweet semi-sparkling wine basically delivers what it promises: Moscato in a can.

Buy: infinitemonkeytheorem.com, $15 4-pack

4.     Sofia Mini Blanc de Blanc
The only sparkling wine of this tasting, it seemingly appeals to a niche “Sex in the City” crowd – wanting a grown up drink.  Made of pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc and muscat, it comes in an adorable little can, complete with a bendable straw.
Buy: Target, $17

Like their bottled brethren clearly not all canned wines are created equal but don’t judge a wine by its container, there is real wine to be found in cans if you’re willing to search it out.

This piece originally appeared in VEGAS SEVEN http://www.vegasseven.com

Growing up with whisky

Dad loved whisky so much that he named his German Shepherd, Whisky. And when his beloved canine crossed the rainbow bridge, he named the next dog Whisky, too. As you can imagine, I was around Whisky a lot – the dog(s) and his favorite spirit.

As an only child, I was carted around to many social functions with my parents.  Dad was an advertising executive in the 60s and early 70s, working for a mega agency, J. Walter Thompson, out of the Tokyo office. (And if you ever want to know what that lifestyle was like, just watch an episode of Mad Men.)

As a result, I was around a lot of adults, adult foods and adult drinks. I was also exposed to many brands, but the one that stood out most from those days was Suntory, Japan’s first whisky distillery.

In Japan, the whisky highball was the drink. Because whisky was mixed with a great deal of club soda and ice,  it was easy to enjoy many glasses of them. And so as the night went on at these gatherings, I’d hear giggles, then bursts of laughter, quick exchanges in both Japanese and English languages, and of course, the ice clinking against their glasses. It must have been refreshing.

Thirty-five years later, I hadn’t given this drink a second thought, until I attended  Now Drink This Live, a series of immersive spirits-tasting experiences on the Las Vegas Strip, hosted by award-winning spirits writer Xania Woodman with special guest educators.

This particular evening her guest, Suntory’s U.S. brand ambassador Johnnie Mundell, took us on a virtual tour to Suntory’s first distillery, Yamasaki, located in the Osaka prefecture. He taught us everything we wanted to know about Japanese whisky, the history, the culture and the brand. He also introduced us to Toki, Suntory’s newest groundbreaking blended whisky.

By the end of the evening, I was completely enchanted. Not just from sipping Japanese whisky, but from the overwhelming resurgence of the fondest memories I had of my dad.

Ironically, the word “Toki” means “a connection in time” in Japanese. Whoa, I’ll take it as a sign!

The quality of the ice and water make all the difference.

The next day, I visited my mom’s house and I took notice of all the Suntory bottles she had saved over the years.  According to her, these were very rare and special gifts given to dad during his days in the advertising business.

750 ml. Released in 1989
An incredibly rare, “60 month old” Yamazaki single malt from Suntory bottled for the Japanese market. Circa 1970s

Indeed, that night was very special for me. I always embrace these educational experiences, as they further my education and appreciation for the field of food and beverage writing. But I had no idea, it would offer such a convergence of intensity and harmony. Needless to say, the next time I come up to the bar,  I’ll be ordering a whisky highball and having that drink that dad and I never had a chance to enjoy together. I know he’ll be there in spirit.

How to make the PERFECT Japanese Highball (courtesy of SeongHa Lee, lead bartender, Zuma in The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, who was a bartender at a Suntory Bar  – Keihan Kyobashi Hotel, Osaka, JAPAN)

  
Danielle DeBruno Photography

  1. Fill a clean highball glass with ice to chill the glass
  2.  Discard the ice and melted water
  3. Fill the glass with GOOD (clear, not cloudy) ice
  4. Add 1.5 oz of Suntory Whisky
  5. Stir 12 and a half times
  6. Add club soda along the glass to the top
  7. Stir 2 and a half times
  8. Say “Kanpai” and drink with friend

Bocce & Bottles 2016

For a long time, the game of bocce was purely for old Italian men. They wanted to get away from the wives and kids so they could smoke, cuss, scratch themselves when they wanted to … you know, the court was where they could do this all freely.   After all, women would just take the fun out of everything, right?

balls

These days the game of bocce has evolved to gather all ages, all genders, all abilities, making it one of the most social games, and it has truly become a personal favorite of ours. With a glass of wine in one hand, a ball in the other, it’s a symbiotic relationship that fosters hours of entertainment and laughter.

marisa

Finally, this year, we hosted our first annual “Bocce & Bottles” tournament.  The games got quite exciting!  Those with even the most minimal experience were able to get right next to the pallino. More vengeful players strategically knocked their friends’ balls out of the way. And when two balls were in question, we’d unravel the string from the copper cup to determine whose ball was closer. Yes, so much fun!  We are so fortunate to have such wonderful friends. Times like this is worth capturing and sharing. Here are photos (taken by Shawna Quenneville) to re-cap the event…

THE PLAYERS:group-shot

(L-R): Ada Feliciano, Craig Finetti, Eduard Ajdini, Marisa Finetti, Lisa Ajdini, Alison Bradley, Bill Bradley, Michelle Tenazas, Jared Cooper, Corinne Leo,  Liz Davar, Henry Davar, Kirk Peterson and Allison Bernhardt (George Chambers and Mini not pictured)

kirk

dinner

img_1579

craig

cup
“Cup the ball” with our homemade measuring device.

img_1593

cooper

gathering

scoreboard

img_1612

alison
Looks like victory!

michelle

group

THE BOTTLES:

wine-on-table

the-bottles

more-wine

opening-bottle

glasses

Egly-Ouriet, Brut Tradition, Grand Cru NV
Wind Gap Trousseau Gris 2013
Giovanni Rosso, Barbera, Donna Margherita 2014
Contratto For England Rosé 2008
Contratto Millesimato Extra Brut 2010
Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette 2013
Chateau Tourans Saint-Émilion 2010
Nigl Grüner Veltliner 2005
Unanime Gran Vino Tinto 2012
The Prisoner 2014
Contadi Castaldi Rosé Franciacorta
Chateau Touran Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Portal Reserva Douro 2010
Leeuwin Estate Riesling 2010

THE FOOD:
An array of delicious food brought by friends, plus local restaurant favorites, like Daily Kitchen’s family meal, which included Brussels sprouts, macaroni & cheese, Mary’s all-natural rotisserie chicken, Certified Angus tri-tip beef, kale salad and flourless chocolate cake.

dinner2

daily-kitchen-chocolate-cake

plates

eating2

eating

Chicharonnes from China Poblano
Chicharonnes from China Poblano

THE WINNERS:

medals


1st Place – Liz & Henry Davarimg_1586

2nd Place – Lisa and Eduard Ajdini
eduard

3rd Place  – Yours truly – Marisa & Craig Finetti

 

Photos:  Shawna Quenneville

Seattle’s Spinasse Charms the Palate and Soul

The moment I arrived at Spinasse (pronounced speh-nah-say), in the gastronomically-gifted Capitol Hill area of Seattle, I was in love.  On the street level of this handsome, multi-storied brick building,  an intimate spot welcomes us with charming outdoor seating consisting of wooden plank tables, surrounded by a whimsy of colorful chairs.  An old-world iron sign hangs above the quaint entrance door, of which the window is tastefully etched “Cascina Spinasse.”

Spinasse_sign_

A peek through the glass is like looking into a rustic Italian farmhouse. Wooden trestle tables with knotty imperfections imply generations of celebrations with suppers and wine that had been consumed around them. Soft and delicate ivory lace curtains grace the front windows, wrought-iron chandeliers illuminate the cozy space, and mismatched wood and marble countertops suggest a sense of history and soul.  Any more rustic, and I’d have arrived by wagon.

We sit in a cozy corner table next to the window,  but this isn’t a quiet dinner spot at the 8 o’clock hour by any means. Conversations just inches away give the entire space a comforable, convivial vibe.

Spinasse Door Love and Relish

I knew that Spinasse was one of those places that is hotly acclaimed by fervent foodies. It’s easy to understand why, with robust platters of pan-roasted rib eye with plums and spring onions, lovage and balsamic, to a light arugula, fennel, prosciutto cotto and green bean salad with cherry tomatoes and fennel maioneses – everything is lovingly prepared, oiled, and seasoned.

The pasta is capable of achieving density and delicacy at the same time, in the fine hand cut egg pasta (tamarin) with butter sage – a classic Spinasse dish – or hearty cavatelli with beef short rib and shoulder ragu with marinated cherry tomatoes and parmigiana.  Everything is a masterpiece that pays homage to northern Italian region of Piemonte (Piedmont),  under the creative and passionate direction of Executive Chef Stuart Lane.

Lane attended the Italian Culinary Institute in a castle in Piemonte at Costigliole d’Asti.  He later staged at the Hotel Monte del Re in Dozza Italy outside of Bologna in the heart of Emilia-Romagna.  While there, he crafted tortellini by the thousands and was immersed in the Italian food culture. Today, Lane oversees the menus at Spinasse and the adjacent casual Italian eatery and bar, Artusi.   He is passionate about Piemonte, and you can taste it in the food and in the wine.

Photos by Suzi-Pratt.com
Executive Chef Stuart Lane Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com
Egg fonduta _Spinasse
Uovo con fonduta – poached egg with parmigiano fondue and fried sage.
Prosciutto di Parma_Spinasse_Love_and_Relish_Blog
Pio Tosini 14 month aged prosciutto with cantaloupe and laudemio olive oil. Green bean salad with prosciutto cotto.

handmade pasta

Spinasse-31
Tarajin al burro e salvia – Hand-cut egg pasts with butter and sage. Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com
Agnolotti di melanzana
Agnolotti di melanzana – eggplant and anchovy agnolotti with peperonata and parmigiano.

handmade pasta Spinasse

Spinanasse-33 pasta
Cavatelli al ragu di manzo – Cavatelli with beef short rib and shoulder ragu with marinated cherry tomatoes and parmigiano. Photo by Suzi-Pratt.com

Barbaresco

Spinasse_Love_and_Relish_Blog
Mascarpone cheese cake with huckleberries.

Overall, the experience is one to remember. The interior is charming and picturesque, with the kitchen-view dining as a portrait in craft, as well as a warm welcome to this old world space. Spinasse is one of Seattle’s most delicious places. I can’t wait to go back.

Meet “Red,” my un-welcomed drinking partner

Ask anyone who has spent enough time drinking with me and they’ll tell you that before long I’ll ask them, “Is my face red?”  I know it drives them crazy, but I have to say, the idea of having “Asian Flush” is something I get quite anxious about, because not only is it unattractive and physically uncomfortable, a candy apple red face would generally appear that I’m drunk, when I’m not.

Patiently, they always say what I want to hear, which is, “No, it’s not red.”  But, I never believe them; I know that “Red” has arrived (or will very soon) because my face (and entire body) is flushed and she always arrives after I’ve had some alcohol.  And when I say “some,” I mean just a few sips. That’s all it takes to turn this girl, who started the evening in complete composure into an insecure walking red beacon, as if calling attention to everyone around.   It’s done.  “Red” has made her entrance.  She is going to stay for the rest of the night, and I never invited her.

“Red” also brings along the dreadfully numbing and buzzing sensation that I get deep in my ears, and this feeling as though my ears are going to pop off like Mrs. Potato Head after she’s been thrown across the room by a tantrumming two-year-old.  Crazy, I know.   It’s generally a miserable feeling, but not nearly as miserable as knowing that “Red” has arrived.

Why do I turn red and you don’t?  Alcohol is broken down in two steps.  Sadly, I get stuck at the end of the first step.  Without getting too scientific, once alcohol enters the body, it breaks down to aldehyde (step one).  Actually, in 80 percent of Asians, this step happens faster than the rest of the population. Then, aldehyde – which is toxic – breaks down further into harmless substances, with the help of an enzyme (step two).  I’m missing this magic enzyme.

The aldehyde that is left stuck in my body after the first step  dilates my blood vessels, essentially turning my skin red. So yeah, that’s the reason for my red face. I’m not drunk. I’m not angry. I’m not holding my breath. I’m not bashful. I’m just stuck with “Red,” the unwanted visitor who invariably arrives late to my party.

Booch in yer Bouche: Taste-testing Kombucha

I won’t forget the day when my neighbor carefully peeled off a layer of rubbery slime from her fleshy live culture, handed it to me in a jar with a splash of cool tea, and encouraged me to home-brew this stuff called kombucha (thanks).  She claimed it was a miracle drink, yet after weeks of entertaining this fermented tea “experiment,” I decided, nah. All this trouble for something that just isn’t creating miracles. Nor, did it taste any good. I prefer my tea with cream and sugar, not microbials, thank you.

Now, ten years later, with grocery stores featuring fermented products, such as kefir and kimchi, kombucha, a sweet-tart effervescent tea brewed with a culture of yeast and bacteria, is fast-becoming a drink that is moving from the natural food isle to the mainstream. I decided to give it another try, but this time, I’d purchase already-made kombucha.

I coaxed my husband, Craig, to partake in a kombucha tasting. Surely, he can remember our kombucha trials back in the day. He was patient and open-minded, almost methodical.  He would handle the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) with extra clean hands and prepare just the right amount of tea, before securing the cheese cloth over the 8-quart, food-grade bucket.  After fermentation, he’d carefully peel off the  “friendship” layer that had grown over the week, and try to pawn it off to friends, just like our neighbor did to us. He stills gets the shakes to think that we’d actually offer what he calls “SCOBY’s placenta” as a gift of health.

I also grabbed our friend Kirk Peterson, who is like the ultimate tasteBUD.  If he were one of the X-Men, he would be “Olfacto,” with his hyper-sensitive olfactories effortlessly tearing apart and exposing subtle smells and flavors in their futile attempt to hide in food and wine.  For sure he’d enlighten us.

So, we knew that kombucha had been passed around the globe from culture to culture (pun intended) as an elixir, claiming to provide a string of healthy perks, from aiding digestion, to promoting vitality.  None of them are at present scientifically verifiable, however. We wondered why kombucha was becoming so popular. Perhaps it was all in the taste.

Original

First up was Health-ade’s  Original. (Calories: 30-40/ bottle Sugar: 2-3 g/bottle Alc: < .5%)

Contained in an old-time pharmaceutical bottle, the kombucha tasted like a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.  It also smelled slightly of bruised apples, was lightly carbonated, and wasn’t too different from the home brew we used to make.  We also tried the pomegranate-flavored version, which tasted similar to the original, but with a sour cranberry-esque aspect.

Pomegranate

GT’s, Classic-Original(Cals: 60/bottle; Sugar: 4 g/bottle) which requires an ID at checkout for its elevated alcohol (higher than .5%) , was darker in comparison to Health-ade. It was more aromatic, with a powerful odor of fresh fermentation, higher fizz and acid, and overall more flavorful.

GTs classic originalAlways hoping for the flavored version to be better,  we also tried GT’s Strawberry Serenity, which is made of raw, organic kombucha and strawberry puree.  Personally, this drink didn’t take me to any California strawberry farm.  Kirk described it best, “The bruised strawberry character to the framework of the Original honestly seemed out of place, like the last sad basket of strawberries at the market no one will buy.” Ouch!

gtstrawberry

 

Moving on,  we then tried Kevita (Cals. 35/bottle; Sugar 8 g/bottle; Alc. < .5%).  This brand does not offer an original flavor, so we tasted two flavored ones, the first of which was Lavender Melon. It definitely smelled like a lavender sachet and it was somewhat sweet on the palate, thanks to the addition of stevia, but, “it was rather artificial tasting for an “all natural” type of product and it tasted eerily like Grape Zotz – those fizzy candies you used to eat as a kid and forgot about until just now.”

Kevita LavenderMelon

Finally, we tried Kevita’s Pineapple Peach.  Tasting quite sweet, we also found that the flavors were very much at home against the backdrop of kombucha. In terms of being the most accessibly-flavored, this was clearly the winner of our tasting. Nothing like saving the best for last.KeVita-Master-Brew-Kombucha-Pineapple-Peach

So, do we like our tea with cream and sugar, or perhaps with a dose of live bacteria?  Let’s be honest.  We like fermented things, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, miso – all good – but all fermented things considered, we prefer fermented grape juice.