The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2013

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Carlo Cavallo, owner of the Sonoma-Meritage Oyster Bar & Grille in downtown Sonoma, CA. It's not likely he'll sit back and relax, because spirits are a business in the Sebastiani proile now. "We see the brown spirits as red hot," Sebastiani says in his role as President of 35 Maple Street, the spirits division of The Other Guys wine company. They have Uncle Val's Botanical Gin and Masterson's Straight Rye CanadianWhisky—a Double Gold winner at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition—and now they offer Kirk and Sweeney Rum, named for a Prohibition-era schooner and made in artisanal style from Dominican sugarcane and aged for 12 years in American oak. The enterprise may not be as much of a departure as it seems, though, because when the irst Sebastiani, Samuele, arrived in this country, "he had all sorts of things going on," August says. "He started at a quarry up in the hills, then had the theater here in town, a bunch of real estate, a cannery and obviously a small winery, but that was just one of many things." So there is heritage behind the Sebastiani entrepreneurship. Still, it's a long way from making a beverage that is supposed to be consumed with food to one that is meant to stand on its own, but again, the links are stronger than irst impressions imply. "I saw and was intrigued by the number of restaurants that had a dessert drink list," Sebastiani says. "You ordered a glass of rum after dinner, and they brought it to you in a snifter. It wasn't a rum and Coke; it was [like] a brandy." Even though he's from a winemaking family, August doesn't consider himself a farmer. "Myself and my dad, we don't have the big toe that tells us when it's about to rain," he laughs. "We consider ourselves urban rats." Beaches hold little appeal for vacation getaways. "I'd rather eat my way through New York or Chicago," he says. So making a spirit that its into the big-city world of speakeasies and cocktail clubs comes quite naturally. It's also itting that one of America's great names in wine has partnered with one of the great Dominican Republic names in rum, Bermudez. One of the famous three "Bs" of the Dominican rum trade, the Bermúdez rum line traces back to 1852, although the family lineage is much older. Reputedly, a Bermúdez accompanied Christopher Columbus in his exploration of Hispaniola.   And it turns out that Sebastiani's home town of Sonoma has become quite a ine place to do some explorations of rum. Carlo Cavallo, owner of Sonoma-Meritâge Oyster Bar & Grille, just off the historic town square, is an aicionado, and his enthusiasm and knowledge have attracted a following. "We sell more rum than any other place in the whole North Bay," he says proudly. Cavallo will do rum tasting lights for customers, illustrating the different lavors and styles associated with the different regions of origin. And the Kirk and Sweeney? "It's a complex, nuanced, well-balanced rum," he says. "A good rum's got to have that balance." Today Cavallo has made a Berry Mojito, using Kirk and Sweeney with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and a bit of mint. Some agave nectar, a squeeze of lime and all is good to go. That the rum is doing so well on-premise at Meritâge will be welcome news for Sebastiani, because he sees great opportunity there. "My family's got a very hard-earned reputation in wine as being retail-driven," he says. "But the spirits portfolio has really given us an opportunity on the on-premise side of the book." And Kirk and Sweeney's standing has to beneit from it being a local Sonoma story, too. A story about a local guy who made good . . . again.    may 2013 / the tasting panel / 81

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