Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Visit to Napa

Over the Valentine's/President's Day weekend we paid a visit to the Napa Valley and a couple of local breweries for some mid-winter inspiration. One of the stops was Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. The owner and brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo, showed us around on a busy Friday afternoon. His 50 barrel system was pretty impressive, but nothing compared to the moment he rolled up the door to reveal "The Barrel Room." This is where all the magic happens for the oak-aged beers and where the sour beers take shape. We made it over to the pub too, where they were pouring the recently released Rejection, a Belgian black ale, and a barrel-aged sour beer called Consecration, which was infused with black currants. Both were mighty yummy. Rejection reminded me quite a bit of our Noir von Boorian. Not bad company to keep with the 1999 Small Brewing Company Brewmaster of the Year!

We also toured a few wineries and explored a couple of caves chocked full of oak barrels. These were wonderful to see and to sample. At Sinsky we walked through their extensive cellars dug into the hillside of volcanic rock. They produce their wines bio-dynamically and have a wonderful sampler flight that comes with small morsels of cheese, nuts, and olives to complement their fine wines. Del Dotto winery goes one step further on their tour, giving patrons the opportunity to sample directly from the barrels in their hand-hewn damp and romantically moldy caves. Getting to taste the same juice from a number of different barrels of different origin and degrees of toast helped drive home the more subtle points of just what wood does for wine (and beer). It will be good to apply some of that knowledge to the projects in our brewery's basement back in Burien.

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