The one way to make drinking wine even better is to help out a great cause while doing so. This week – from Friday, May 27th to Thursday, June 2nd – Hinsdale Wine Cellars will donate $1 for every bottle of wine sold to the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society in honor of Memorial Day.
Since 1904, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society has been a pivotal organization to nearly 4 million Sailors, Marines and their families. When disaster strikes, this is the organization they know they can turn to. It has a history of helping out when times get tough and has become an extended family of sorts to those in the Navy and Marine Corps.
Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society
For more than a century, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society has provided financial, educational and other assistance to its constituents when they need it most. In partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps and with hundreds of volunteers, it has provided important educational scholarships, special health care programs and interest-free loans and other financial assistance, often in emergency situations.
During this past year of nationwide financial upheaval, it should come as no surprise that Sailors and Marines were not immune to the crisis. Last year, the organization provided $50 million in financial assistance. One in every five active duty Sailors and Marines turned to the Society for financial assistance, translating to nearly 100,000 financial cases. And another of the organization’s important resources, a visiting nurses program, continued to follow more than 1,000 wounded warriors, making more than 17,000 contacts in 2010.
After the earthquake in Japan, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society provided service members with financial assistance associated with required evacuations. This is the group that has provided support to Sailors and Marines in countless other disasters too, including the attack on the USS Cole, 9/11, and hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and fires literally around the world.
How you can help…
Hinsdale Wine Cellars has made it easy for you to help. For every bottle of wine you buy this week, we will donate $1 to the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society. Of course, if you want to add to our collection and provide an additional contribution, that multiplies the impact we can all make together.
It’s easy for Memorial Day to be overshadowed by picnics, the opening of swimming pools and the Indy 500. However, Memorial Day is a day to remember our fallen heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It is also a time to look at how we can help those who are still with us who have chosen a career that too often puts their lives on the line. I hope you will join us at Hinsdale Cellars this week in supporting the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society. To learn more, visit http://www.nmcrs.org.
– Sean Chaudhry
Wine lovers long ago learned that vines that get special attention yield the best wine. Artisanal winemakers will plant vines tilted in just the right direction for proper sunlight, checking them daily to ensure growth is as expected. They walk the vineyards themselves, touching the leaves and fruit, evaluating the plant’s color and structure, and perhaps squinting their eyes as they size up the vineyard as a whole to determine when it is best for harvest.
That is why it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that when beers are given this same sort of attention, they too become works of art to be enjoyed by all the senses. Call them what you want – craft beers, microbrews, artisanal beers – they are the malt beverages that are rocking the beer world, thanks to the creative and attentive route these beer makers have taken.
Take me to Belgium, please
For me, the masters of the “craft” beer are the Belgians. Beer connoisseurs know it for its wide array of beers which number more than 500 and provide a beer-tasting experience far different than traditional pilsners and lagers. Whether it is the sour-tasting Geuze, a cherry-flavored Kriek, a Hoegarden “white” beer or the many monastery brews like Westmalle, these beers are a defining part of Belgian, and specifically Flemish culture.
Visit Belgium, and one quickly learns that the monks have long been at work developing beer that is unlike anything else in the world. Some say that monasteries got started in the beer business when water wasn’t safe to drink, so they made and drank beer instead.
Whatever the origin, Belgian monasteries make wonderful, albeit sometimes very potent Trappist ales. Belgian golden ales, such as Duvel, Piraat and Delirium Tremens, have a uniquely aromatic delivery that is almost as heavenly (no pun intended, Duvel Fans) as their unique almost floral taste. For the unacquainted, the potent nature of these brews can come as a surprise, but gosh darn it if they aren’t some of the most delicious beers I have ever had. But Belgium has is a universe of unique beers, and I believe it is because the beer culture is quintessentially “craft,” nearly all being made in smaller quantities with personal attention and an eye toward creating unique beer experiences. In my mind, most Belgian beers provide an experience that is about as faraway from pilsner as one can find him or herself. BTW: Delirium Tremens was voted best beer in the world in 1998, so seriously—this is good stuff.
One of the most popular beer styles seen among craft beer makers is the India Pale Ale. And there’s a good reason for this: it’s damn good, and the category seems to have a lot of latitude. The question many may have is how is India involved in this wonderful group of beers. Considered a subcategory of the Brits’ pale ales, the IPA dates back to the 1700s when the British sent beer to their troops in India, loaded with extra hops and alcohol to preserve it better for the long ship ride there. Those characteristics in IPAs are still true today. Versions like that from Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Chinook are described as being American IPAs, which differs slightly from the British style. However, other than their usual hoppy nature, IPAs, American or otherwise, are not a consistent entity. Stone IPA, for example, is dry hopped for an extra two weeks to develop its own unique taste and aroma. And thankfully that creativity resulted in great beer that earned it a 100-point rating from RateBeer.
Pub Lovers Unite
Craft beers were made for pubs. But short of enjoying a Euro pale lager while singing rounds of O’ Danny Boy at the corner tavern, we can try to replicate that enjoyment at home or with friends with the bottled variety as well. The nice thing about craft beer is that it can cater to the specific tastes you enjoy in your beer. If you like your beer more malty, Double Bastard Ale might be just the one for you. If you like one of those floral, less carbonated British lagers, then you might prefer a Samuel Smith. They key, most likely, as you explore this ever-expanding market is to know what you like. Beer tastings and taking advice from people you trust can lead you to your new favorite brew. For folks who like variety in their beer, craft beers are a boon because they are only going to grow.
I live in Germany where all beer is local so distribution can be minimized. Beck’s beer may be big up north where it is made, but it is nearly impossible to find here in southern Germany. And that’s okay because we have Stuttgart-made beers that are equally good or better that don’t have to be shipped cross-country. So, as microbrews grow and we have more local options, we have the opportunity to pop open a cold one and even feel good about doing our part in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It’s a bit of a leap, but what the heck; I’ll drink to that.
It’s tough being an “A” student.
At least that’s what we always told our parents who pushed us for high marks. And for a winemaker, it’s even tougher to score high marks on her wines when she is, after all, trying to temper Mother Nature and harness the sun, rain and soil to produce breathtaking “nectar of the Gods.”
But that is exactly what Susana Balbo has done, producing wines that reviewers consistently score in the 90’s. Whether it is her signature Malbec, Brioso and Cabernet Sauvignon or her “offspring” Crios wines, like the Torrontes and Rosé, they rate 90+ points, and critics seem to gush about one of the most well-known and well-respected Argentine winemakers to date.
“Susana Balbo is to Argentine wine what Martha Stewart is to homemaking and Oprah Winfrey is to media in the United States,” wrote Vivianne Rodrigues on Reuters Life earlier this year.
In fact, Susana has come a long way from her enology degree that she earned in 1981. Much of her career was spent traveling around the world to help others create great wines in places like Chile, Australia, Spain, France, South Africa and California before she and her husband, Pedro Marchevsky decided in 1999 to create their own winery, Dominio del Plata, in Argentina. Today, Susana is president of the trade group Wines of Argentina, which represents more than 170 wineries.
Listening to nature
As a biodynamic winemaker, one of Susana’s guiding principles is sustainable agriculture. That means not only organic farming of a current harvest, but also taking a long-range approach to the land and local community to protect natural resources such that viticulture continues to thrive in this region. Additionally, Susana is known for her detail-oriented approach to winemaking. From planting to water management to blending decisions, she refuses to overlook any detail that can make a wine transcend from just good to really great. And it is likely her obvious passion for this profession that has taken her there.
It is no accident that Balbo and her husband chose Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, as their winery home. An area noted for its warm summer days and cool nights, Mendoza provides well-draining, sandy soil that is as close to perfect as it gets for making wine, despite some pretty fierce hail storms. Through a high-trellising system for grape vine stability and biodynamic farming, the grapes here benefit from a long growing season that leads to wines with Balbo’s characteristic great color, flavor and nose.
In addition to Balbo’s super premium or signature labels of Susana Balbo, Ben Marco, and Nosotros, she has become popularly known for her more moderately priced “Crios” line. Crios means offspring in Spanish, and she has said that she chose this name because these wines weren’t quite as grown up as her others – more brashly fruit forward and to be enjoyed younger than her signature wines. Regardless of the label, one thing is clear when experiencing Susana Balbo’s wines: hard work, knowledge, passion and an instinct for producing fabulous wine are undoubtedly a winning combination.
Interested in tasting some of Susana’s fine wines, then you are in luck; Susana Balbo is in Hinsdale! A reservation-only tasting is scheduled for Friday, August 27th, 6-8:30 p.m. at the Hinsdale Wine Shop. The $20 entrance fee will be applied toward your purchases. To make reservations, call 630-654-9862.