The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2018

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I n the December 2017 issue of The Tasting Panel, we spotlighted a pioneering example of the emerging trend toward aging wine in spirits casks: Cooper & Thief's Bourbon Barrel–Aged Red Blend. To put it mildly, the release has proven the kind of commercial success that bears repeating. According to Cooper & Thief Vice President of Marketing John Seethoff, Cellarmaster Jeff Kasavan was so "thrilled by its reception" that he went all in on developing its sequel, through which he was determined "to explore how spirits barrel–aging could enrich the flavors of a white wine." The inspired result promises to be yet another gamechanger. As with the flagship red, Kasavan approached his new project from the outside in—using wood rather than grape selection as his starting point. Seethoff explains that in "seeing tequila's recent rise in popular- ity," Kasavan deliberately selected barrels from acclaimed producer Casa Noble, which ages its añejo expression for a full two years (rather than the one-year minimum). The winemaker felt that the "subtle heat and toasty vanilla flavors" the used casks would impart over a three-month aging period would highly complement the "refreshing acidity and citrus notes" of one of his personal favorite varieties: Sauvignon Blanc. The grape now constitutes 78% of the final blend, supplemented by 12% French Colombard for a touch of "stony minerality" and a 10% mix of predominately Sémillon. Seethoff says the latter "adds to the structure and weight on the pal- ate" with other white grapes that shall remain nameless, he teases. "Let's just say they're a mischievous blend that helps push the style in a minerally, lime-y Margarita direction," he adds. The comparison to a potent cocktail makes sense consider- ing the new release weighs in at a whopping 16.5% ABV. Seethoff acknowledges the "key point of differentiation": "It's part of our overall brand proposition and a key attribute for this style of wine," he says. The effect is heady indeed, but the wine's cool green zing balances its spicy warmth with an ease that lends itself to experimentation at the table. "Kasavan specifically suggests pairing it with grilled lime-cilantro shrimp, poached swordfish, and fish tacos" as well as quinoa salad and pastas like fettuccine alfredo, Seethoff says. Other fun possibili- ties include milder Mexican dishes like enchiladas suizas or chiles en nogada (stuffed poblanos in creamy walnut sauce); corn pie laced with cheddar; or carciofi alla giudia (Roman-style fried artichokes). With triumph number two in the bag, what's next for the Cooper & Thief team? For now, they're keeping mum . . . but experience suggests the best bet is to expect the unexpected. INNOVATIONS Cooper & Thief Strikes White Gold THE ALCHEMY OF AGING NAPA VALLEY SAUVIGNON BLANC IN CASA NOBLE TEQUILA BARRELS PHOTOS COURTESY OF COOPER & THIEF Cooper & Thief Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc spends three months in Casa Noble Tequila Añejo casks. 56  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2018 by Ruth Tobias

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