Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Wines

This coming weekend is one of the "big 2" holidays for Christians. It's also one of the holidays where most other folks who are on-the-fence about it dust off their finest duds, comb the kid's hair, and drag themselves to church. Regardless of bunnies, chocolate, and Easter Egg hunts, the holiday still holds great religious significance, and many people get together for a feast on Sunday. We will be hosting a get together of about a dozen people in our home, and since it is our home, wine will be served.

This begs the question: What wine is appropriate to serve on Easter?

I tend to think of Easter wines much in the line of Christmas wines, since many of the same foods are being served. Most people have either a ham or a roast, as well as various potato or green bean inspired sides. That being said, I would suggest a combination of: Bubbly, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. If you have enough people to bring all of these, it will make things pretty easy and user friendly.

Bubbly, whether it's Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, or from New Mexico will go great with most of the foods. It's also a great way to start a celebration (plus, if you are eating before noon- just throw some orange juice in there, and BAM- a drink that's perfectly acceptable in the morning!). Look for Gruet, Feuillatte, Codorniu, etc.

I say Chardonnay because most people can find one that they like- don't go too crazy on the oak, just find a nice middle of the road one from Central California or Chablis, and you will be doing fine. Good choices are Leese Fitch, Ramey, Crios, or any of dozens of others.

Riesling, especially one that has a touch of fruity notes or sweetness to it, is usually a crowd pleaser- plus it goes fine with that disgusting sweet potato salad with marshmallows on top. Try Monchhof, Richter, Rudi Wiest, or Von Hovel.

Pinot Noir is my choice for ham. It is usually lighter bodied, and has an elegance to it. Be careful when shopping, as these have gotten expensive. Check out Saintsbury, Loring, or just about anything from Burgundy.

Cabernet it my choice for roast. It is generally bigger, bolder, and can stand up to the flavors presented in the heaviest dish, even if horseradish is in the sauce. This is an area where a lot of wineries have been dropping their prices, so it's easy to find deals out there right now. Some favorites are Snowden, Larkmead, Conn Valley, and Carter.

Whatever you choose, just relax, have fun, and save me one of those Cadbury eggs.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dorm Room Dinner, Redux again

Last night's Dorm Room Dinner at 33 wine bar was good. In fact, it was very, very good. Chef Jim Fiala, of The Crossing, Liluma, Acero, and Terrace View fame took what could have been a campy slant at dorm food, and knocked it over the fence.

The first course was (not Liptons) French Onion Soup- although it is pretty hard to screw this dish up, this particular one was rich, delicious, and I could have eaten a bucket-full of it. He wasn't so heavy handed with the cheese as other restaurants have gotten recently

Next was (Not Mrs. Pauls) Fish and Chips- This course caused some debate in the room. It was sort of a fish puree on a potato chip. Flavor-wise, it was delicious, and tasted just like a fish stick. Texturally it was a bit strange. I loved it, but others in the room were a bit weirded out.

Third was (Not Uncle Bens) Rice n Beans- a bean puree served on a crostini, and a fried risotto ball. The dish was probably the furthest that Chef Fiala strayed from the true "dorm food" format, but each component was delicious. My wife liked the pureed beans a lot- I did too, as I remember eating lots of bean dip in college!

Fourth ws probably our least favorite dish- the "Mac n Cheese". This was pretty straight forward, but the cheese sauce seemed a bit scorched. Chef Fiala even told me that it was, and that he was the least confident about that course.

Fifth was a (not Pillsbury's) Toaster Strudel- Filled with Lamb, and drizzled with Basalmic Vinegar, this was our table-mate's favorite dish. It had a richness to it, and the sweetness from the Basalmic that was really fun to eat together.

The last course sent this thing into overtime. He did a (not Ore Ida) "Loaded Baked Potato"- basically, home made icecream, rolled in Cocoa powder, and topped with bacon and pistachios, to truly look like a baked potato. Many people were saying that this was the single best dessert that has been served at any of the Dorm Dinners. It's hard to disagree.

Wow- What a great night with my wife and friends! I won't even go into the wines we drank (K syrah and Jayson).

If you can get into the next Dorm Dinner, you should.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spanish Brandy at Ron Burgundy's house

On Friday night, my buddy Scott invited a bunch of us over to his house. Let me first start by saying that this place almost defies description. Technically, it is his uncle's house. His uncle is a single, retired government official that got the house in the mid seventies. When I say that the place is like a time-warp, I'm not kidding. He decorated the place up until the early 80's, and hasn't updated a single thing since then. This place is amazing! The upstairs is straight out of a Miami-Vice beach condo with white curved couches, a projection tv, and gold-plated nautical themed stuff everywhere. There is a pool complete with waterslide, several concrete statues surrounding it, and literally 18 places to sit.

The basement is just another level of stupendous. I think it was designed by Ron Burgundy. The carpet had to have been taken out of the Mirage casino. There is billiards, ping pong, darts, skee-ball (yes, you read that right), a fully stocked bar, six couches (a blacklight would be a bad idea in this room) and a Christmas tree that remains fully decorated year-round. Needless to say, it is quite the place to have people over.

What to open on this special occasion? How about the bottle of Brandy that someone gave said uncle decades ago! We opened a bottle of Gran Duque d'Alba brandy, from Jerez, Spain. This comes from the same area that they make Sherry, but it's not the same stuff. It is 10 year brandy that has been aged in oloroso barrels, and taken through a solera system for consistency. I'm normally not a brandy guy, but this stuff was delicious. It had a caramel and hazelnut note to it that were silky and it went down incredibly smoothly.

If you ever see a bottle, pick it up (Retail is roughly $50), and bring it over. Ron awaits.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Therapeutic Value of a Bottle of Wine

Yesterday sucked. The weather was nasty, my dad found out that his cancer is possibly back, and a good friend lost his job. It was one of those days that you just want to get back in bed, throw the covers over your head, and hide from the world. My wife and I were both in terrible moods when she got off work. However, this was about to change. We met up at a wine bar, cracked a bottle of riesling, and suddenly the sun started peeking through our mental clouds. Over the next couple of hours, we shared two bottles of wine, some pizza, and some laughs with friends. Yeah, even on a day like yesterday, we were able to laugh!

It just goes to show you that there is something about gathering around a joy in your life- be it wine, a board game, a hobby, or anything- with friends that can make even the worst day seem a bit brighter.

A big shout out to Jeff, Mike and Dylan at 33 wine bar for helping us out. You guys are awesome.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Screw Cap Trauma

Today, I got a call from a guy that wants to buy some wine. We went down the list, and he asked if each of the wines he wants are finished with cork, or with a screw cap. I answered for each of them, and he let me know that under no circumstances does he want wines with screw caps. "People just think they're cheap" was his defense.

For goodness sake, people! What have I been saying? Screwcaps are perfectly fine to drink out of, and there are some very high quality wines that are using them now! We are no longer in the days where the only things with these closures are jugs of Riunite, and handles of Mateus.

Don't Fear the Screwcap!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What makes a wine great?

I get asked this question a lot. With the advent of the critical system of wine, judging on a 100 point scale, it brings to mind the next question- "What differentiates an 80 point wine from a 90 pointer, from a 100 point one?" Good question. Here's my version of the answer- it's multifold.

A wine must have balance in order to be great. Simply put, no single aspect of it can be too far out of whack. It must have fruit characteristics, but not only those- there should be some semblance of secondary flavors, be them earthy, spice, or mineral. White wines must have some acid, but not so much it's stripping the enamel off your teeth. Red wines must have some tannin, but not too over the top. The temperature must be right- probably a bit cooler than you normally get on your reds, and a bit warmer than you normally experience on whites. Finally, the alcohol has to be in check. You should be able to sense it, but not have it burn the back of your throat.

This is harder to define. A wine should have something about it that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up just a bit, in order to be great. I have always referred to this as "lift", and it usually is tied to the acid/fruit balance. Some scientists have attributed this to barometric pressure, which is just a wee-bit hard to control.

The Situation-
Getting away from the critical acclaim a wine draws, the situation that it is drunk under has a lot to do with the greatness of a wine. If it matches the food perfectly, and you are with loved ones laughing and enjoying yourselves, a wine tastes much better than if you are blind tasting it in a stark white room, everyone being quiet. I get this all the time- people who go on their honeymoon, and drink some everyday glass of wine looking over a gorgeous vineyard at sunset, and think it is the best damn thing they have ever tried. Those same people come home, buy the same bottle of wine, and try it when they are preparing their taxes, and wonder why it doesn't taste the same. The smell, sights, noises, everything of the experience plays into how you enjoy a wine. Also, don't discount food and wine pairings. Try as you may, a wonderful, bold, silky Barolo is going to taste bitter when you drink it with asparagus, or with something really sweet.

Je Nais se Quoi
There's a "certain something" that some wines have, and others don't. I don't know what it is, but when you experience it, you will understand what I'm talking about. It's the thing that you experience when you try a beautiful, handmade, cared-for wine that separates it from the junk that is being pumped out a million cases at a time. Notice that I did not mention price anywhere in this list. Price is irrelevant to the greatness of a wine.

The cool thing about wine is that it is always changing. Just when you think you have maxed out on an experience, one blindsides you that you think "wow, this could be it...the best". Or, you try a 100 point wine and think to yourself "really good, but not perfect". That is the thrill of the hunt, and why I love this industry.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Death's Door, Redux

On Friday, I mentioned that I would be trying the products from Death's Door. Man, am I glad I did- these are three liquors that will be on the scene in STL very soon, and I'm excited about it. "Death's Door" is the name of the passage of water between mainland Wisconsin, and Washington Island in Lake Michigan (a tad north of Green Bay). The reason that the distillery named it that is twofold: they grown the wheat on 1200 acres (all certified organic) on Washington Island, and the name is hard to forget. So, goofy names aside, how are the products?

We'll start with the Vodka. It is triple distilled, made from the locally grown hard red winter wheat. Although vodka is supposedly "colorless, tasteless, and odorless", this one is an exception. There's a subtle vanilla creaminess to it, and you can get just a hint of the wheat grain on the finish. Ketel One beware- you have been replaced in my heart, and my glass.

The Gin is just flat out killer. They use only three botanicals: Fresh Juniper berries (instead of the dried ones that other distillers use that cause a bitterness to Gin), Coriander, and Fennel. All three botanicals meld well together, and you get a clear sense of what they are trying to do. Think Bombay Sapphire, only much much smoother.

The third product they make is a bit of an oddball- White Whiskey. Made from mostly wheat, and some malted barley, it is rested in stainless steel for a couple of weeks, then finished in oak for 72 hours. The taste is hard to describe- it's definitely whiskey-like, but then again, not. I would liken it to a really good silver tequila. I don't know how it will be for a sippin' whiskey (more research needs to be done), but I had it in a white manhattan with Dorin Vermouth, Benedictine, and orange bitters- it was delicious!

So, be looking for Death's Door soon in the Lou. I know Wine and Cheese Place, Wine Merchant, Taste, Pi, Atomic Cowboy, and Herbies have all said they were going to pick some up.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Death's Door

No, I'm not sick. Death's Door is the name of a new boutique vodka, gin, and white whiskey brand that I will be trying today. I met with the owner, Brian Ellison, last night for drinks- really cool guy, and I hope his products taste great!

I will have a longer, more involved post tomorrow regarding the products, but for now check out their website:


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who was Saint Patrick?

Today is Saint Patrick's day. Americans celebrate by wearing or painting Kelly Green on their bodies, drinking Guinness, and watching parades. I did a quick search on who Saint Patrick was, and found a couple of interesting facts:

- Saint Patrick wasn't even Irish. He was born in Britain. When he was a teenager, he was taken as a prisoner by Irish raiders, escaping 6 years later. In his 20's, he felt a calling back to Ireland, where he worked as a missionary until he died.

-He used a shamrock as his way of explaining the Holy Trinity (God, Son, Holy Spirit) as being three-in-one.

-The belief that he "drove out all the snakes in Ireland" probably refers to his preaching against the Druid pagans of the time, whom used the snake as one of their symbols.

-He probably didn't drink Guinness, ride on a float in a parade, or run around with Leprechauns.

Well, that's all for today. I'm off to Dogtown, to see what all the fuss is about.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I wanted to let you all know about a new winery that I have been tasting, that I kind of like. The wines are from the Carta Vieja winery from Chile. They make fairly inexpensive, varietally driven wines that are cool for a couple of reasons. First of all, the people making the wines are the seventh generation of the del Pedregal family that has been in the industry. I find it amazing when someone is making wine like their Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather did. Secondly, the wines are inexpensive- the "regular" line is about $9 retail, and the "fancy" cab is about $15. The next reason I like them is because they are from the Loncomilla Valley. "Where is that?" you might ask. Don't worry, I had to ask the same thing. It is a small tributary that flows into the Maule River in the Maule wine growing region- the furthest south of all Chilean regions.

The final reason I like these wines is for what they aren't. Most of the time, Chilean wines (especially the cabernets) have this weird green pepper, vegetal thing going. These wines don't have that- and it's a good thing. The Prestige Cab (the fancy one), has really cool notes of cocoa, tobacco, and currant that make it a pleasure to drink with any sort of meal.

Check them out soon! I know Kayas carries them, as well as the Wine Chateau. Scape restaurant pours the less expensive cab by the glass for banquets, and I have heard that Jeff at 33 might bring the Prestige Cab in soon (**wink, wink, nudge, nudge**)

Cheers! I hope your week is going splendidly.

Tomorrow- what's all the hype over St. Patty's day, anyway?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Recap of Saturday Night

The Saint Louis Wine Therapy group met on Saturday night for a double blind (meaning, not only were the wines covered up, but we didn't know whose wine we were trying) tasting. Here are the wines, and my brief impressions:

The Whites:

2006 Xarmant Txakolina- really cool, bright, refreshing wine from the Basque area of Spain

2001 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Goldert Muscat- Stunning. My favorite white wine of the night.

2007 Bastianich Fruilano- this wine threw everyone for a loop- pretty delicious, and funky- nice herb note in it.

2001 Mebmer Gewurtztramier Spatlese- the petrol on this one made everyone think "Riesling". Really good wine.

2008 Guigal St. Joseph Blanc- the first time I had ever tried a St. Joseph Blanc. Cool, a touch of oaky spice, delicious- not sure if it's worth the $$ though. I had it pegged for white Burgandy

2008 Fetish "V Spot" Viognier- decent new world style viognier- drank a bit hot

The Reds (All Grenache based wines)

2006 Yalumba Bushvine Grenache- decent everyday style drinker. More elegant than I thought it would be

2003 Willow Creek Cuvee- I had never heard of this winery before. It opened up into a silky smooth, wonderful wine

2003 Doix Priorat- Good, but not worth the $$

2005 Yangarra High Sands- Wow, this was a Rocket Fuel type of wine- absolutely massive. Some really liked it, it's just not my style

2007 El Burro "Kickass Garnacha"- This wine sucked. Terrible.

2006 Mas Doix Salanques Priorat- my second fave red of the night. Really nice little wine- balanced between old world earthiness and new world fruit.

2005 La Pialade CDR- From the town of Chateauneuf du Pape (and uses declassified vines). This was my favorite red of the night- easy to drink, yet had complexity to it. Wonderful example of what can be done with quality grapes in the Rhone.

2004 Le Vieux Donjon CdP- For some reason, I just can't make myself be a fan of their wines. They tend to drink to hot for CdP- it's like they try to add some new world flashiness to a traditional concept, and it just doesn't work.

Overall, it was another really fun night with a great group of people. A thousand thanks to Jeff at 33 for letting us host there, and for having his guys Dylan and Mike take great care of us.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Saint Louis Wine Therapy

It all started over Memorial Day last year. I got a phone call, saying to be at a certain location at 8:00 pm. Bring two bottles of wine, and cover them up. Price point, varietal, country, etc didn't matter. I walked into a room with 6 other people that had been given the same directions. Little did I know that I was being thrust into something that would change my social, and wine drinking, life forever.

That night, the Saint Louis Wine Therapy group was born. We didn't know it at the time, but since the original meeting of those 6 fuzzy minds, the group was about to take on a life of its own. The group has now swelled to about 8 couples, records are kept, we meet once a month, there are themes, and sorry- you can't come unless you are invited.

The intention of this group is to get together to blind taste wine. We often have a varietal (this weekend, for example, the varietal is grenache) for either red or white, then the other color is a "wild card". Price points don't matter, we have had people bring everything from two buck Chuck to bottles costing hundreds. Once the wine is poured, we try to determine vintage, varietal, country of origin, and retail price point, just by swirling, sniffing, sipping, and guessing. The cool thing is that we have gotten beyond just drinking wine together. The people in this group I now consider good friends. We laugh, cry, celebrate, and mourn together. One gal is pregnant, another couple is moving. We have inside jokes, and we even have gotten better at guesing what a given wine is- simply by who brought it and knowing their proclivities.

If you want to start something like this, it's easy. Just call up your friends, buy some brown paper bags to cover the wines, and break out the glassware. Trust me, you'll love it!

Let me just say emphatically that I love the Saint Louis Wine Therapy folks, and I'm glad we all got the phone call that inauspicious Monday night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Today, I would like to take a brief look at a grape that has been popular for hundreds of years in Europe, and getting more popular here in the U.S. We will look at Grenache.
Being grown in most parts of the wine-growing world, Grenache has long been a favorite wine of winemakers for blending. It produces low-acid, potentially high alcohol wines with a propensity towards raspberry, bing cherry, and plum flavors. It is extremely popular in Spain (where it often goes by the name Garnacha), and is often blended with Tempranillo. One source tells me that it is the most widely grown red grape in Spain, but I have been unable to verify that fact.
It also grows extremely well in Southern France- you see a lot of them coming out of the Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, and the Southern Rhone. In Chateauneuf du pape, it is the main grape in the blend, but can be mixed with up to 12 different grapes. The Rose's of Tavel are often predominately Grenache.
Besides California, you can find grenache grown in Algeria, Australia, Corsica, Israel, Morocca, and Sardinia (where it is called Cannonau).
You know something has a decent reputation in California, if the big guys start growing and cultivating it. In fact, these wines were even on the cover of the new Wine Speculator....I mean Spectator. If you can afford them (and if you can find them), there are amazing examples of grenache from Saxum, Alban, Sine Que Non, and Clarendon Hills.

I will give a report on this subject further, as I'm going to a grenache blind tasting on Saturday.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Price Pointin' at you

One thing that the general public isn't privvy to are the price battles that go on in the wine industry. Wineries think that their wine is worth a certain pricepoint. If a retailer puts it out there too high, nobody will buy it. If they put it out there too low, the winery feels that their brand is being devalued. This is partially how the wineries price their wines to the distributors. They assume that the distributor will take about a 30-40% increase on the brand, and that the retailer will take another 20-50% increase. For example, say Sippinstl winery decides to release their "Mississippi Cuvee Chardonel" to a distributor at $10/bottle. The distributor will probably sell it to their retailers at $14. The retailer will then put it on the shelf at $18.99. This is a normal markup scheme.

The problem lies with the huge availability of information. With wine searching engines like out there, customers can price shop all over the country, and make decisions based on those searches. Assuming the winery is charging all distributors the same (they probably aren't), most distributors will do the normal margins. However, sometimes, the distributor will drop the price of the product to move it a little faster out of their inventory- let's say they cut their margin and sell it at $12. This means that the retailer has one of two choices- they can either leave the price at $18.99 and pocket the extra $2, or they can sell it at $15.99, being the lowest price in the country. Then Joe Customer sees it on Wine-searcher, and buys it all up.

Situations like this lead to uncomfortable conversations for all involved. In fact, I have to have one of those conversations today. I have a retailer that put a wine online at $24.99. The winery feels that their price point should be above $30. The winery has asked me to talk to the retailer about raising their price. The retailer will complain. I understand both sides. The winery is selling a luxury product. They want to make sure that the price stays up, so the penache of their brand remains high. However, the retailer simply wants to move some product. They cut their own margins a bit, and priced the wine out as they see fit. Heck, this is America. If someone wants to take less margin on a bottle of wine, but sell more bottles of wine, that's their right. The winery just may have to deal with the fact that the fair market value of their wine has dropped. But, then again, if the retailer doesn't change it, the winery might get upset, and cut back our allocation of this fairly hard-to-get wine the next time around.

That, my friends, is a lose-lose for me, and a win for anyone buying the wine this week!

Cheers! Tell your friends about my blog. I'm back.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Makin' it count

Some of you know that my wife and I have recently started a health and fitness program called Ninja Fingers. You can check out the blog at As a result of doing this program, I have had to change some of my daily habits, especially when it comes to drinking. As an example, here is a typical day for a wine salesman:

Go around and see accounts, tasting them on wine- normally you taste with them, and very few spit. Over the course of a 6 or 8 hour day, it's easy to consume two glasses of wine.

Stop by an account at the end of the day, and have a beer or two.

Go home, while eating dinner, you notice that you have a couple of sample bottles open and have a glass of wine with dinner.

After dinner, you are sitting there watching TV, and the bottle is still partially full- you aren't going to take the same sample around tomorrow, and it would be wasteful to dump it out, so you finish it, having another glass.

Using the following list, you can determine roughly how many calories are in typical drinks. Remember, if you are into hard alcohol, the mixers very quickly add a lot of calories, especially coke, tonic water, or margarita mix!

Wine: About 100 Calories per glass
Rum/Vodka/Gin- About 65 calories per ounce
Bourbon/scotch/whiskey- about 100 calories per ounce
Regular beer- ranges from 200-400 calories per pint
Light beer (if you can actually drink it)- 100-150 calories per pint

If you run the "typical day" through the calories posted, it is easy to see that a salesman might consume an extra 800 calories per day, just from their drinks!

This obviously is a far-fetched example, as most people (including myself) don't do each of those things every work day. However, I have found that by simply spitting during the day, skipping the after-work beer, and only having a glass of wine with dinner, I have saved myself quite a bit of caloric intake. As a result of cutting back during the day, a healthier diet, and some moderate exercise, I have lost 25 lbs in the last two months, and feel great.

Just something to think about. I appreciate all of my readers, and want to keep you alive, so you can keep reading!


Monday, March 8, 2010

100 Point Wines

On Saturday night, I had a "first" in my wine career. For the first time, I tried a wine that was rated a perfect 100 points by a wine critic. My friend Tony just found out that he and his wife will be moving to Houston, to accept a job that he has wanted for a while. Naturally, this was a bittersweet cause for celebration. Another friend that happens to be of financial means decided to order a 2002 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar at 33 Wine Bar. I don't know what he paid for it, but it was a lot. Current pricing on starts at $330/bottle, if you can find it.

I pictured my first time trying a 100 point wine as having an out-of-body experience. I don't know if I expected an angel riding a unicorn to come through and give me a foot massage while I swirled the nectar of the gods in a gold-plated glass or something, but it didn't happen. Now, don't get me wrong, the wine was good. It was damn good. The cedar and cigar-box note that was in the nose was almost tangible, and I could only describe the wine as "sexy" to those around us. However, it just wasn't the life-altering experience that other wine geeks talk about. I guess this is all to say that I really confirmed that you should only put a little stock in wine ratings. They are an objective number put onto a subjective matter. In other words, one one particular day, one particular person thought that this wine was the "perfect example" of Napa Valley Cabernet. On Saturday, I personally didn't.

You know what deserved the 100 points? The evening. This was one of those times where there were about a dozen of us sitting around a table, everyone laughing and celebrating with our buddy that is going to leave us. Great wine was poured, old jokes were rehashed, new stories were told. The funny thing is, we could have been drinking $6 bottles of Aussie Shiraz with dancing koalas on the label, and it would have been just as fun.

That, my friends, is unicorn worthy.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Sorry to all my readers for the lack of posting.

This one is for Jim.

Today, I would like to talk briefly about Charteuse. Not the color, but rather the liqueur. You will normally see it on the back bar of most restaurants, it will be next to the Galliano, and it is one of those items that most bars buy a bottle of that never gets used in the first 4-5 years they are open.

However, with the onslaught of "traditional" cocktail menus and bars popping up, it has started to gain a bit of steam, and warrants mentioning.

Chartreuse is a wine based liqueur, produced in France, that uses a blend of 130 different herbs and flowers. It was originally developed by a monastic order in the mountains of France in the early 1600's as a medicinal way to prolong life. Through the centuries, the monks that produced it saw many trials, including getting kicked out of the country twice (they holed up in Spain when necessary), having the government abscond with all of their property, and having a mudslide destroy their facility. The recipe for the elixir has survived though, and is currently produced in the town of Voiron. The only two people that know the recipe are two monks that help with the production of the liquer.

There are a couple of different Chartreuses made- the yellow version (colored with saffron, ringing in at about 40% alcohol- the sweeter version), the Green version (colored with chlorophyll, 55% alcohol, and the one that the color was named after in the 1800's), and a higher end, oak aged version called VEP (comes in both green and yellow).

Having tried these, they are really interesting. They are definitely herbal, with licorice notes coming out. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Galliano or Absinthe. At a great restaurant called Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, MA they used to make a martini called the Madame X, that had Lemon Vodka, fresh lemon juice, yellow charteuse, and champagne. It was delicious!

So, go get your French Monk vibe on, grab a bottle of Chartreuse, and enjoy