Cigar Review: Cuesta Rey 898 Cabinet

The Cuesta Rey 898 cabinet is a 7  X 49 cigar with creamy, mellow flavors made from the famous JC Newman and Fuente family is alwayas a favorite of mine.  A cameroon wrapper gives a slightly toothy edge to the mellowness from the Dominancan binder and filler.

I just discovered that there is a maduro version of this cigar!

I picked up my first 898 Cabinet at a shop I refuse to name and sat down with it.  The burn was good, even and the draw was a little tougher than other Cuesta Rey’s I’m used to (like the #60 torpedo) but for the price on a mild to medium bodied cigar, it can’t be beat.  Smoke time was about an hour and a half but you have to remember my smoke time is going to vary depending on where I am smoking at.

Buy from JR Cigars

Wine Review: Silver Creek 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Picked up this wine for what seemed like a steal at Grocery Outlet. I think we paid less than $5.

Anyway, really light red color, strong berry nose with an extremely light body and short finish. This is NOT a typical cabernet but wasn’t overpowered by the rosemary salt hamburgers I served with it.

As far as wine reviews go, this is on the lighter side simply because the wine wasn’t so massively impressive, but again, it was a Grocery Outlet buy. Those tend to be hit or miss.

new cigar shop in Oakland!

Wednesday I was at Grants smoking with some of the regulars and on our way out I was talking to Mike about local places to smoke in Oakland, saying that as a rule there ARE none I could go to unless I brought my own smokes.

He turned me onto a new place that was supposedly having a grand opening Friday the 6th on 14th and Franklin that actually had a small room in the back to smoke at.

Today I popped in to Tobacco Road just to check it out.  I met the owner’s son Marcus, walked into the humidor and found stuff at reasonable prices (Romeo y Julieta 6X54 Havana Reserve for $7.23 or thereabouts vs Grants same size stick at almost $9.) among other things.  Marcus told me they had a room behind the humidor for smoking and showed me.  I asked if I could ilght up and sit for a spell, he was cool with that.

So I lit up, and another older gentleman came in and was talking to Marcus.  Before long we were all talking about other shps in the country and in California.  Then Marcus’s mother Kathrine came in and greeted us.  She’s the owner and a very relaxed, cool woman.  With a background of real estate, a passion for family owned business and a desire to treat her clients right, she seems to have put together an honest business and given Oakland something it desperately needs:  A smoking lounge without fear of the anti smoking police, need for hush hush conversation (ie I can talk about my fetish writing openly) and a cozy environment.

We talked for about an hour about her passion, plans for the shop and how we can grow the business from the cigar side.  The front of teh store is clean but is basically a “cigarette shop” front but once you pass the front counter you’lls ee the walk in humidor, a few accesories on display and then down the hall come to the lounge.

Tonight I walked in and things were stil out of place as they were putting the finishing touches on things, but after about an hour I calleda friend of ine to come down and smoke with me.  He picked up a Macanudo and a Hoyo De Monterrey at better prices than Beverages and More AND the cigars were fresh.  MIke sat down in one of the large leather chairs, lit up and we takled for about an hour and a half before they closed.

The selection included Rocky Patel’s Edge and Edge Light, RyJ, Macanudo, H. Upman, Oliva, Sancho Panza and a few others.  The humidor is not as large as Grants but Kathrine assured me that they’re ordering, expanding and going to carry more brands as they develope a loyal following.

The beauty is, like Grants I can bring in my own alcohol as long as I don’t act a fool.  Meeting Kathrine and her son reminded me of when I first sat down at La Salle when it was still open when Roy Bird (formerly of the Harlem Globetrotters) welcomed my gf and I in to have a smoke and a drink.  She’s not “old white man stuffy” but warm and friendly.  And open to questions and ideas for helping the community.

I like that.

Friday the 6th is their grand opening party and they’re located at 417 14th St. ni Oaland just off 12th Street BART station.  I’ll still frequent Grants because that’s comfortable and the cigar selection is larger, and the people really make it what it s, but this is closer and I can feel a warmth from it already.

Btw, for those interested, Tobacco Road has their own cuban seed brand of cigars that will be available for purchase at around $6 a stick.  I have yet to smoke one but once I do, you’ll hear of it first, here!

I hope to see you all there sometime!

PORT Review – Belo Cotta Vineyard 1998

ort can’t be made in California, but I was amazed when I found this bottle of port for $4 at Grocery Outlet a few months back.  I picked up a few bottles just for kicks, figuring that it’s probably past it’s vintage and would just be dumped but I secretly had hoped for a zinger.

While I didn’t get a HUGE win, I did get a port that’s deep purple in color, has a nice, velvety structure, probably from the zinfandel blend (also added is touriga, tinto cao and Sousao) that create a nice ruby port-style with character.  The port is a syrupy dose of heaven for not too much money if you can find it.

Information on Belo Vineyards can be obtained by emailing them at belowwine@msn.com

A little info:  Belo Wine Company is owned and operated by winemaker Terence Dewane. He has been making wine commercially in Napa since his first vintage in 1992 which was merely a barrel. It is always an extremely rare treat for us to try dessert wines from Napa because there are so few producers here who specialize in the “sweet stuff”. Belo’s main specialty is premium Port wine.

Again, this was a very pleasant surprise from a California producer of port – not because good port can’t be produced in California (see Westover Cellars in Castro Valley) but because it’s not a typical style that we see in wine.

CIGAR REVIEW: Padron 4000

I’ll have to admit, this is my go to cigar when I’m at Grants and can’t make up my mind.  For the money, EVEN with the higher taxes in California, this cigar is priced at around $10.40 (tax included) and is a 6.5 X 54 stick that boasts a dark wrapper which is a little veiny but still has that gritty character that up close looks tasty.

Upon firing it up, spice notes and leather are clearly present.  The draw is open like the lower Padrons (2000 and 3000) but the cigar burn time is much longer.  Light gray ash and a pleasing aroma from the smoke make for a good visual.  As the cigar burns, the leathery flavors turn earthy and the spice mellows.  I usually end up chewing these cigars, just because at the end of my day as a writer I need to stay away from the keyboard as LONG as possible and this cigar generally provides me with almost 2 hours of smoke time.

This is one of the first Nicaraguan cigars I’d ever smoked and enjoyed.  It’s a full puro – meaning all the tobaccos come from a single country and will give you a feel for the land, similar to terroir in wine.

I typically like to enjoy this cigar with a smooth scotch, probably Glenfiddich.

WINE Review Ramsay 2007 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine was one I’d tried many years ago and I guess I was just stupid. I didn’t like it. But the palate grows and changes with age and also,I was at a wine/cigar event in League City. Chances are I hadn’t eaten enough and I’d smoked too much because I remember coming home and passing out.

Tried a bottle tonight and picked up deep cherry/berry flavors, a chewy mouth feel, nice tannins, definite structure and something that accompanied chicken and rice stew pretty well. the finish was medium to long, I’m still tasting it now as I finished my last glass ten minutes ago.

For $16, not a bad wine though do check around because a deal can be had if you’re willing to look a little.

We picked it up at Grocery Outlet in Oakland for around $7 a bottle.

Website

from the website:

Starting in 1989, Kent and Celia launched a second brand, called “Ramsay” – Celia’s maiden name – which was originally intended to focus on some ‘less-than-usual’ varietal wines. But as time passed, the Ramsay brand has taken on an entirely different identity, that of a true ‘second label’. Best known for its high quality, but lower-price, Ramsay Pinot Noir is often poured by the glass in wine bars and restaurants. The Ramsay-brand line also includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Merlot.

I’d love to see next year’s release.

CIGAR REVIEW – Tatuaje Drac

This limited release cigar only comes to a select number of tobacconists in the country and Grants in San Francisco was on their list this year.

The folks at Grants planned a little release party complete with mimosas, beer and those nasty vodka and tomato drinks I can’t understand, along with sample packs (for sale) of various Tatuaje cigars, including the Boris and the Drac.

Dave convinced me to try the Drac and so at $15 a pop, I gave it a whirl. Clipped the torpedo end, looked it over and found nice construction. A dark maduro wrapper with Nicaraguan filler lent a mellow earthiness with a rich flavor I couldn’t place but enjoyed for almost 2 hours over good conversation. The cigar had a slightly tough draw but the flavor profile made up for it. The burn was even, smoke not a lot, but a white.

I followed that up with a Brickhouse, a new cigar released by the JC Newman folks (favorite of mine) that had a Honduran wrapper and a Nicaraguan filler. Pleasant spices completed with a smoothness for those accustomed to JC Newman’s usual brands (Cuesta Rey, Diamond Crown) and a pleasing taste with a lingering finish.

Both cigars complemented each other as one didn’t overpower the other as in the case of smoking a Padron and an ambos mundos (made by the Tatuaje people)

Wine Review: RDLR Mendecino Syrah 2002

While sitting at Occidental in San Francisco, I fired up an Ambos Mundos (made by the same people who make Tatuaje) and had asked Jack for a robust wine to defend against the cold wind.  The wine he and another guy suggested was the RDLR 2002 Syrah.

First off, to get a bottle this old and have it still be drinkable AND at a reasonable price is amazing.  (Buy from WineBuys.com) 750 ml for $16.50 from Wine Buys.com site.

Second, the notes were solid.  Dark Purple in color.  Flowing berry flavors with a light mouthfeel  that suggested softening of the typical California Syrah elements to help create a wine with a medium finish.

The wine might not hold up another few years, but it’s certainly one worth drinking.

Hell, it even help up as a nice followup for the Hoyo De Tradicion and Elmer T Lee bourbon I had just beforehand.