WINE 2007 Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon, California; $14 This wine has become much more affordable in the past few years, but the big surprise is the quality has increased tremendously. It was always an excellent bottle of wine, but now it is truly exceptional for the price, delivering loads of fruit and structure in each sip. The aromas of black fruit and subtle notes of oak fill the air as soon as it hits the glass and lead into a full-bodied and hearty cabernet tasting experience. Layers of blackberries, dried plums and rustic black fruit are framed perfectly by notes of herbs and oak in each sip. The softness of the fruit glides across the tongue and lingers on the finish. There is a nice dryness from the tannins that does not overpower the taste buds and would make this wine perfect for a juicy steak, allowing the fat to soften the wine even further. Some other menu ideas would be lamb chops or grilled kabobs, which would perfectly draw out the fruit and herbal notes in the wine.
BEER Sierra Nevada Brown Ale, California; six-pack, $8 Sometimes with brown beers it’s a mixed bag — they can be heavy or dark in color but thin in flavor. This ale stays true to a classic ale style. It pours with a nice creamy white head and a terrific chestnut brown color that releases aromas of caramel, nuts and roasted malt. The flavors are warm and soft with notes of dark chocolate, roasted nut and sweet butterscotch. It has the perfect amount of sweetness and bitter notes to balance out the carbonation. It’s truly delicious and extremely well crafted, making it a perfect beer for almost any occasion. It would work well with grilled meats or even gumbo, allowing the dish’s spices and tomato notes to balance out the roasted notes in each sip.
SPIRIT Van Gogh Blue Triple Wheat Vodka, Holland; $27 Here’s another classic vodka from a company known for making some exceptional flavored vodkas that showcase the true essence of the flavor, not an artificial copy. But this is a unique twist on a classic straight vodka, made from three international wheat sources from France, Germany and Holland. It is then triple distilled to produce a clean, crisp vodka with no harshness. On the nose you can pick up the subtle notes of wheat and a slight grassiness, but the flavors are clean with a touch of heat on the finish. Served slightly chilled, it goes down as smooth as silk and is perfect with a twist or a couple of olives. This is the pure essence of what vodka should taste like, but it doesn’t break the bank.
Lain Bradford is a wine writer and reviewer who has achieved his first level master sommelier certificate and is working toward his Certified Wine Educator degree. He only writes about beverages that are available in South Carolina and Georgia. Follow him on Twitter under the name “winereview.”