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Spring Cleaning

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My mug runneth over this week with barroom bric-a-brac'odds and ends of wine recommendations and more on a myriad of Post-it Notes I’ve been meaning to pass along:



Have you come across Monkshine beer yet? The trendy black-box packaging caught my eye recently, so I picked up a six-pack. The beer is described as “Belgian Style Pale Ale,” but there wasn’t much additional information on the box. What intrigued me was the beer’s origin: Salt Lake City. Well, it turns out that Monkshine is produced by Four Brewing Company, which is the “developmental” branch of Utah’s Uinta Brewing Company. According to Uinta’s Steve Kuftinec, the branch is “focused on resurrecting Old World styles of beer and modernizing them with an American ‘twist.’” In the case of Monkshine, Uinta uses Old World yeast from Belgium, which gives the beer its clove/banana/coriander essence. However, the grains and hops in Monkshine are American all the way. The result: an Old World/New World “Belgian” Pale Ale that some like and others loathe. I find Monkshine to be an easy-drinking, very appealing and flavorful beer but I’ve seen others call it “awful.” If you’re looking for an “authentic” Belgian beer, this probably isn’t it. But I recommend trying it for what it is: A unique and tasty Old/New World hybrid, perfect for sipping on the porch in spring or summer.



One of the more appealing bargain wines I’ve enjoyed lately is part of John Larchet’s The Australian Premium Wine Collection portfolio: Hewitson “Miss Harry” 2004. This well-crafted wine is made mostly from 80-year-old dry grown and ancient Barossa Valley grapes: 44 percent Grenache, 43 percent Shiraz, 13 percent Mourvèdre. The wine is named for winemaker Dean Hewitson’s daughter Harriet, and I can only hope that she’s as bright, fresh and vibrant as her namesake wine. Loaded with dark fruit, silky smooth and with a looooooong finish, Hewitson “Miss Harry” 2004 is a good value at $19.95.



A wine new to Utah stores, Cuevas de Castilla Con Class Rueda 2004 ($8.35) is a subtle charmer and another terrific summer porch wine. This light-bodied white is tank-fermented (no oak) and bottled early to preserve freshness. Indeed, it’s a zippy, fresh tasting wine with lots of citrus and melon notes. Made from 80 percent old vine Verdejo and 10 percent each of Sauvignon Blanc and Viura, I think Cuevas de Castilla Con Class Rueda would be a perfect pairing partner for any summer seafood fest.



Restaurateur/chef Greg Neville is “thrilled to announce” that both Pine and Lugano restaurants have been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2006. In addition, on May 24, Pine will host a six-course dinner focusing on Napa Valley-inspired fare and vineyards as part of Pine’s ongoing Regional American Dinner Series. The evening will feature Raymond Vineyards and Scott Harvey Wines. The cost is $45 per person for the dinner and $30 for optional wine pairings. For reservations, phone 288-2211.



Big Easy Cocktails: Jazzy Drinks and Savory Bites from New Orleans ($15.95) by Jimmy Bannos and John DeMers is a nifty little collection of NOLA-inspired cocktails, along with recipes for kicked-up bar snacks like Gator Tators, Crawfish Crescents and Jalapeño-Cheddar Blasters. Each cocktail comes with “Recommended Listening” (for instance, Pousse Café and Smiley Lewis’ “Blue Monday”), and a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

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