Some Bourbon Gift Ideas

With the holidays upon us, I will be spending the next 20 or so days sharing ideas for the whiskey lover in your life, or your personal bar cart. You will see a little bit of everything spirits related.   I hope to give you a lot of ideas for that last minute shopping, or those stumped for ideas. I made 2 stops over the weekend that were whiskey related and found some good deals that would make for good gift giving or just generally stocking up.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has always been known for their wine selection and wine bargains such as “Two Buck Chuck.” In California, and other states that allow it, have started carrying more spirits and I was intrigued by 2 in particular. They have their own Trader Joe’s branded Bourbon. It’s a fun bottle and label and has a beautiful deep mahogany color. There is no information on the bottle as to who distilled and bottled it. But I was told by one of their associates that she looked up the distillery code on the box and it is Buffalo Trace. When I got home I compared the color to the bottle of Buffalo Trace I have and it looks similar. At a price point of $14.99 it is certainly worth the risk. If not a great sipper at $14.99 it is still a good mixer. I will review in an upcoming blog, I haven’t opened it yet.

TJ Bourbon on Shelf

TJ Bourbon

The other is the Trader Joe’s Branded bottle of Glen Moray 14-year old Single Malt Scotch. Where do you find a 14-year old scotch for $29.99? My Aunt Pat loves Glen Moray and swears by its taste and finish against many other single Malt’s. I have to take her word for it, I am not a single malt guy.

The second stop I made was Total Wine. Total Wine has a totally amazing selection of wine. They also have a huge selection of spirits, and particularly whiskey of all kinds. During my visit i picked up one of my favorites to keep around for mixing – Evan Williams Black.Great to have handy for holidays parties! A 1.75L is on sale right now for $14.99. Stock up for the coming year at that price. Whiskey Advocate Magazine picked Evan Williams Black as their best bargain in bourbon a few years ago. The article suggested at the price point you can’t beat it for sipping or mixing. It’s a good bourbon, and for the holidays if you are making holiday cocktails it will go a long way at that price.

Evan Williams Black

They also have Elijah Craig Small Batch for $24.99. Whiskey Advocate just picked Elijah Craig Small Batch as their #1 Whiskey of the Top Whiskies in the world for 2017. Need I say more? Why are you still reading my blog and not in the car?

Elijah Craig

I strolled over to their wine section looking for whiskey barrel finished red wines. Are you seeing a theme here? I immediately saw a gift box from Cooper & Thief. It’s a bottle of their red wine blend in a box with 2 rocks glasses. On the box it says, “Red wine stashed in bourbon barrels. Enjoy in whiskey glasses.” I thought that was very creative. Why not enjoy a wine finished in bourbon barrels in whiskey glasses, makes sense to me? And they are good looking etched glasses to boot. This set sells for $30.99. I first saw this California wine in Richmond when we were visiting our daughter. Total Wine’s description of the wine is, “A daring red blend aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels which produces a complex and smooth, well-rounded wine. Dark and jammy with bourbon-inspired flavors that give way to soft tannins and a long, lingering finish.”

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My last offering today is 1000 Stories. You may have seen it elsewhere it has a very broad distribution. I bought several bottles the first time I saw it and I love it. It’s a bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel. They have an American Bison on their label and 1000 Stories is involved in American Bison conservation. To bring the story home, bison used to roam Kentucky, and the Midwest. To me, aging the wine in bourbon barrels, and having a silver bison on their beautiful black label brings it all home for me.

1000 Label

Happy shopping! Let me know what great gift ideas you have, or see, while out on the trail.  I am heading back out later tonight. I will let you know what I find. Cheers, and stay tuned.

 

 

Bar Review: Vino Nostra (Fullerton, California)

Wine Bar Review, WINE BAR REVIEW?

I know exactly what you are thinking, this is a BOURBON blog. Well, one has to diversify at times and this is that time. We have friends and relatives who own wineries, wine bars, restaurants, and craft breweries. I have to give some quality time to my friends of the grape and hops.

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On Saturday we stopped by Vino Nostra, a wonderful “Retail, Beer, and Wine Bar” in Fullerton, California. We were there to pick up our June Wine Club bottles. Vino Nostra is the creation of Dena and Kevin David. Dena has been involved in the wine and restaurant business for years and she has put that knowledge and experience to good use.

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On their website they have the following quote:

“Grapes. One of the crops that helped found northern Orange County. Grapes and wine, in part, founded Fullerton, and in that tradition, Vino Nostra was created.”

The Wine Club (which is filling up quickly), is unique in that Dena selects 3 unique wines for you quarterly and as part of the club there is a private reception to pick up your wines where you can taste them while enjoying small bites, cheese, fruit, and this month we enjoyed some delicious tri-tip sliders!

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More importantly it’s a great spot to try a huge selection of unique wines and craft beer. They have small bites available daily. With very friendly owners and staff its always warm and welcoming. Dena has been creative in having Tastings and Tacos on the 1st Tuesday of the month, regular Thirsty Thursdays, and the 2nd Sunday of the month an “Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social” with some cider for the ice cream.  They are also one of the hosts the Fullerton Art Walk.

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Vino Nostra is open Tuesday through Sunday until 10:00 PM, opening times vary by day. It’s a short walk for us, but worth the drive from your home or office. Give it a try and you will discover one of the best spots in Downtown Fullerton!

Bar Review: Yard House – a “mile” of enjoyment

Lynn and I love to go to Yard House in Brea, CA for their happy hour cocktails, appetizers, or dinner. After we walk across the street to see a movie. Yard House is a wonderful place to enjoy your normal spirit, a craft cocktail or one of their over 125 beers on tap! They have  a great assortment of everything from beer and wine, to spirits and cocktails. They also serve fun and tasty appetizers and main courses. We have never had a bad meal there and I should own stock in the Brea location we go so often. To top it all that off there are big screen TV’s everywhere to watch sports, and they have a great enclosed patio when you want to sit outside.

Back to Happy Hour. Their happy hour is Monday to Friday from 3:00-6:00 PM and they have a “Late Night Happy Hour” from 10:00 PM – Close. Their happy hour has domestic pints and well drinks for $1.00 off. Import pints, wine, craft cocktails, and call spirits are $2.00 off. Martini’s $3.00 off and half yards $4.00 off. There are 26 different appetizers that are discounted and if I tried to list the ones we like most, I would list most of them. You can’t miss with the chicken lettuce wraps, pizza’s, Poke Stack, Moo Shu egg rolls, and the onion ring tower to name a few. They have some huge booths that hold 8-10 so take some friends and make it a party.

If happy hour is too early for your schedule, make a night of it with dinner and some of their terrific cocktails, wine, or beer. Their entrees are as good as their appetizers. They have a wide variety of options including salads, pizzas, seafood, steaks, burgers, street tacos, and the list goes on and on. My favorites are the chicken enchilada stack, Southern fried chicken breast, mac+cheese2. We always start with cocktails. My favorite is an solid “Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned,” and Lynn usually gets an “Old 43” which is made with Woodford Reserve, Licor 43, Citrus Agave, and Orange Bitters.

I like to drink a Kronenbourg 1664 with my dinner. We drank Kronenbourg 1664 in St. Martin on an anniversary trip 30 years ago and I haven’t seen it anywhere else on tap in Southern California.

Yes, this was an unpaid advertisement but when you like a place this much you have to share it with friends, family and blog followers!

My Bourbon Mecca

You might be a fan of a special store, techies and my kids love the Apple Store. My wife, a big fan of Nordstrom. Me – I love to shop for bourbons. My go-to store is Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California. I love to go there and browse for that new release from a favorite distillery, or just to look for something I’ve have always wanted to try. I love to look at the selection, packaging and graphics.

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Hi-Time Wine Cellars is my bourbon store of choice because whatever I am looking for they have. The same is true for most any liquor and wine. They have it, and if they don’t they’ll get it for their customers.  I was there a couple days ago to pick up my 2016 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bottle (read my write up about its release here).

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I was wandering around the store looking at all the bourbon, scotch, and whiskey (whisky if you are an import) on the shelves. There is so much rich history and life in those bottles. Many began their journey 15, 20, 23, even 30 or more years ago.

While there I spoke with Keith Hanson their liquor buyer. His knowledge of the industry and their inventory will blow you away. On another occasion I spoke with Holden, who was helping someone get a 20-year-old bottle of Pappy out of the case. Both Keith and Holden are great to work with.  In California we have a 3 tier system. The stores have to buy from a liquor distributor, who has bought the product directly from the distillery. Young’s Market is one of the distributors Hi-Time deals with for many of the brands they carry.

Now back to the Pappy. Not only do they carry new bottles but they do purchase bottles from collectors for resale. I took a few pictures but unfortunately through the case they are not the best. If you need that special bottle for a client or best friend, this is your place (for a price).

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention they have an equally awesome selection of Champagne. A few years ago Lynn and I stayed at a little Maison in Ludes, France called PloyezJacquemart. While there we had the opportunity to try their champagne and fell in love with it.  Hi-Time carries the champagne and they are one of the few in the US who have it, so we are also regular visitors to restock on this special champagne.

Ever since getting more into bourbon, and bourbon collecting, Hi-Time has become my go-to place (my bourbon mecca). For those not located in Southern California, I highly suggest finding your go-to bourbon place. While this is hard for people living in places with state controlled liquor stores, there still is definitely a utility to developing a relationship with your local state-run store. The managers, just like at a store like Hi-Time, will let you know when new products are coming in or there is something you shouldn’t pass up!