There are many wines that make an excellent start to the meal as an aperitif. Your wine aficionado may want to drink Champagne, but there is a good alternative that’s less expensive, especially at this time of year. When we eat outdoors, we focus on appetizers or small plates, and eat lighter foods. This is typical of the lifestyle in Spain, where they drink Cava.
Cava is a sparkling wine from Northeast Spain that has come full circle in the wine consumer’s appreciation. It was very much in fashion 20 years ago, but fell out of favor when locally produced sparkling wines, Prosecco and French Crémant, displaced it in the market. Prosecco has become especially popular, but to understand Cava it is best to describe how it differs from that Italian bubbly, and to look at the production methods of both wines.
There are seven generally recognized methods for making sparkling wines, but the two most popular methods are Champagne and Charmat (also known as “cuve close,” or Tank). Cava is produced by the Champagne method. The words Metodo Clasico or Metodo Tradicional will be found on the label of Cava as a legal reference to that method. The term “Champagne method” is not allowed on a bottle of Cava since Spain is part of the European Union, and it respects that legally protected appellation of France. So what is this special method that applies to Cava and Champagne? And how does it affect the taste of the wine? Continue reading
It’s an all too familiar story. A person with a casual interest in wine is served that epiphany wine, a wine so good their eyes are opened to what wine is all about. And then begins that precipitous descent into the depths of wine geekdom.
One of the rules that geeks learn early on, when searching for that next epiphany wine, is not to be fooled by the appearance of a wine store. Oftentimes, the grittiest, most unostentatious of wine shops will harbor unknown wine treasures. Invariably, there is someone behind that shop who has an abiding interest and passion for fine wine. That characterization fits Kokoman Fine Wine and Liquor in Pojoaque to a T. It’s not much to look at when you enter the front door, but take that sharp turn to the left and all sorts of wine treasures are there for the taking. And the mind behind it all is none other than Keith Obermaier, a fixture on the New Mexico wine scene for a good many years. Continue reading
Pulling into Kaktus Brewing Co. feels like pulling up to a friend’s house, where the only plans for the evening are catching up over a beer on the back porch. Wedged between the susurrus of commuter traffic on I-25 and the Rio Grande in Bernalillo, the locale is bordered by a coyote fence bedecked with Crayola-hued doors and a prickly pear cactus mural. Nearby, royal blue chairs perch in a tree as though cast there by an artistic hurricane. The covered patio invites visitors to gather on couches and benches. Inside, they belly up to a blonde wood bar for one of the breweries craft creations. There are no TVs with baseball games blaring—an intentional choice to encourage conversation. The only background noise here is the occasional crow of a rooster.
In the greater Albuquerque area, a place saturated in good beer—there are more than 40 breweries/taprooms and counting—Kaktus is staying purposely small. Other breweries, like relative behemoths Marble Brewery and Tractor Brewing Company easily outpace the brewery’s German-made two-barrel system and 500-barrell-a-year production, but co-owner Dana Koller is unconcerned. “We want to be community based and a neighborhood place,” he says. Its vibe is friendly and eclectic, from the ambiance of its residential setting, to its neighborly values and sundry creations. Continue reading
The adage says it takes a village. Greg Menke, owner and chef of Beestro, The Hive Market and The Root Cellar, contends it’s not a village it takes—it’s a hive. That’s the model for effective, healthy communities—ones that renew and aid their landscape rather than deplete it—he’d like to see adopted. “The bee is really just a metaphor for how to live locally, live sustainably and give more than you take,” Greg says. And he’s taking over one storefront at a time on East Marcy Street to import it.
Greg inherited his infatuation with honeybees from his grandfather, an aeronautical engineer who studied honeybees and honeycombs, and applied those principles for lightweight strength to his work. Pouring through his grandfather’s old journals and workbooks, he found inspiration and answers to questions he hadn’t known he had. He’s come to see bees, providers of honey and beeswax for candles, as an emblem of sweetness and light, both of which are in need of spreading.
In Greg’s own work, those ideas have manifested in the form of the honey-centric businesses that have grown in recent years off the established lunch spot, The Beestro, which opened six years ago. The Hive Market, which opened in November 2015 in the former home of the Blue Rooster and the Rouge Cat, began as a holiday pop-up shop themed around “gifts from the hive.” The aim was to take a test run at the space and the idea of a store centered on honey-based products. It worked. Continue reading
Duggan’s Coffee; The OpEd breakfast burrito
Full disclosure: I drank decaf for years and then I saw the light roast. Now, I really know my beans. Although we have many chic new coffee cafés here in Albuquerque, let me tell you about the java joints that know how to brew it up old-school. They all have Wi-Fi and are open seven days a week unless otherwise noted.
Because coffee doesn’t count as breakfast (I’m told), I head for Duggan’s Coffee. Wedged into a row of storefronts, it reminds me of living in New York City—not Manhattan, more like Queens or Staten Island. Duggan’s neighborhood has its arms around Presbyterian Downtown, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College Main Campus and all of those bleary-eyed commuters on their way to the ART-exhausted businesses along Central. Continue reading
Hotel Chaco, on of Albuquerque’s top rooftop spots
With bright, sunny days that ease into cool, clear evenings, Albuquerque’s weather earns its much-lauded reputation this time of year. ’Tis the season for the outdoors, from shopping in plein-air farmers markets to imbibing on patios. With their lofty vantages, rooftop terraces level up the favored bar pastimes of people-watching, city-viewing and stargazing. Here are a few spots that offer a breath of fresh air. Continue reading