In the wine editorial world, there are highly paid and sought after professionals with insured noses and a knack for finding flavor profiles in every wine they review. Their opinion could elevate a winemaker to celebrity status or scar their reputation. November is month which Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year are announced. Retailers, restaurateurs, and collectors anxiously wait for the list. We often hear wineries discredit the ratings and choose not to have their wines reviewed. Regardless if wineries disagree with the reviewer’s personal taste or believe there’s favoritism in the system, wine ratings help move wine out of distribution and into the consumer’s hands. There are draw backs to an outstanding rating because it causes a buying frenzy and ultimately a price increase.
We follow Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, a type of Consumer Reports guide. A ‘Parker-esque extraordinary’ review will most likely be full body with in-your-face-flavor. We also follow Wine Spectator’s reviews which tends to favor the more elegant and finesse style of wine. Their ratings for same wine are noticeably a polar opposite. One will love the wine and give it a monster rating while the other will be more ho-hum about it.
Rarely does one purchase wine solely on reviews and ratings, but we appreciate them because consumers like to know what they are buying and have confidence in their purchase.
Category : Blog
Why we do support TACA: Talk About Curing Autism? Do we have autism in our family? To our knowledge, no. Then why are we so passionate about supporting TACA? Why does SWAM want to Talk About Curing Autism? TACA is a family oriented organization. What do I know about parenting? More so, what do I know about being a parent with a special needs child? SWAM is a liquor store; so, how does supporting TACA relate or even benefit the business? It’s a simple answer. We support TACA with all our heart because we want to. Plain and clear. There are no money angles and no social ladder climbing. We don’t have a story that people want to hear. We believe in the TACA mission, we empathize with the TACA families and we know they are underfunded.
What I have learned about autism and TACA since working with Debbie Zimmerman.
TACA is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, resources, education and support to families affected by autism. Autism is a devastating neurological and biological disorder that affects children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years of age. It is characterized by challenges in five key areas:
· Social skills
· Medical Issues
Currently autism affects 1 in every 91 children today, and 1 in every 58 boys. It is an epidemic.
TACA believes in early diagnosis, intensive therapies and medical intervention for children affected by autism. With early intervention, medical treatment unique to each person’s needs, and necessary support services for families many children can improve greatly and some can recover from their autistic symptoms. We believe the future is not defined for many children affected by autism. Hope and recovery is possible.
Most Common Misconception About Autism:
The common misconception with autism is that all autistics are like the actor Dustin Hoffman in his portrayal in the movie Rain Man. His character possessed an amazing mathematical skill of adding enormous amounts of objects or counting cards in a deck. This example is a Hollywood portrayal and is not the case with all individuals affected by autism. His performance is to be applauded, but it was only that: a performance, and should not be considered as an example of autism today.
Please read this article…
Growing Old with Autism, Time Magazine Article
Take the first step to understand autism and you’ll understand why we just want to help.
Category : Blog
Top Five on What’s Hot
5. Dessert Cocktails
3. ‘Craft’ anything
2. Home Bartending
1. The Prohibition Era
The Europeans have the Renaissance and the Americans have Prohibition, an era of severe regulation and controversy, a topic that can be debated for another time. Prohibition was a necessary unnecessary, as a woman I should be grateful or there would be no SWAM. Prohibition was a benchmark in time targeting one issue, the world of alcohol.
Today marketing “Prohibition” or “Pre-Prohibition” on labels is becoming a hot selling brand to a generation who never experienced a wide scaled intolerance. It suggests a time where distillers went ‘underground’ and produced ‘small batch’ products like whiskey, gin, and rum. Some have survived the drought and have become very prominent more so in the Bourbon business. However, it’s the next generation of distillers that are changing the perspective on how spirits are distilled, barreled, and aged. The new generation distilleries are reviving species of grain and plants that where on the brink of extinction but commonly used during pre-prohibition. Also, craft distilleries are barreling in smaller casks and turning out younger distillates with a lot of intense flavors and higher alcohol proof. Pre-prohibition recipes are being reproduced in small high quality batches but come with a hefty price tag. Nonetheless, the timeless era of Prohibition is evolving into a modern day demand.
Mixologists are recreating recipes from the Pre-Prohibition timeline while drawing in a new generation to appreciate a crafted cocktail. It’s cool to be classic.
Check out our demonstration of Classic Bourbon Cocktails from SWAM’s PREP!
Category : Blog
It’s been only five years in the liquor business and I have all ready have customers come to me with concerns that they are allergic to alcohol. I’m no doctor and in no position to explain what’s happening, however, it sparked a curiosity to do some research.
First of all, there’s the misnomer on calling it an Alcohol Allergy when in actuality it’s an Alcohol Intolerance. We assume that we are allergic to alcohol because of the reactions we suffer. However, very few are allergic to just alcohol. Whereas, many are intolerant to alcohol. Alcohol Intolerance occurs when your body does not have the proper enzyme called Aldehyde Dehydrogenase or ALDH to break down the toxins. Symptoms includes: ’nasal congestion, warm red itchy skin, worsening of pre-exsisting asthma, runny or stuffy nose, headache, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, or abdominal pain.’ ~ Mayo Clinic.
Many blame sulfites as the cause for their discomfort or hangover and therefore cannot drink red wine. There are higher concentrations of sulfites found in white wine than in red. It helps the white wine from turning brown. Red wine have more natural preservatives from the tannins found in the skins of red grapes. However, sulfites found in wood casks that store red wines for a long period of time can result in higher levels. Sensitivity to sulfur dioxide or other preservatives is related to alcohol intolerance. There is also sensitivity to histamines. Histamines are produced in beer, wine, and spirits due to the fermentation process. Histamines need ALDH to metabolize and therefore the lack of ALDH causes the allergy-like symptoms. Food allergies can result in an intolerance to certain alcoholic beverages. When alcohol like wine and beer is ‘fined’ or clarified with proteins like egg whites or fish bladders, allergic reactions are due to that particular process. In addition, there are people who are gluten sensitive and allergic to wheat, rye, and barley produced alcohol. However, careful choices in alcohol consumption will less likely to result in an allergic reaction. Food allergies does not mean an intolerance to all alcoholic beverages like having an ALDH deficiency.
In reality many do suffer from alcohol intolerance due to genetics more specifically from Asian descent. Also, there is a growing number who believe they are becoming alcohol intolerant. So is alcohol intolerance degenerative? The body’s organs do breakdown and the liver is the main organ responsible for breaking down alcohol. Is it because one is losing ALDH or is the liver becoming more fatty? I’m not an expert but I know I’m not the same consumer as I was twenty years ago.
There is good news on the horizon for those who suffer from Alcohol Intolerance. An interesting read from the Wine Spectator announced a possible cure. It would open up a whole new world to those who long to appreciate a glass of wine, chug a beer, or sip an XO cognac. Crossing my fingers it will be available soon.
Category : Blog
Gluten Free products are filling the market in many areas especially in liquor. I truly sympathize with people who are allergic to gluten because I am a glutton for gluten especially in alcohol. Gluten is a type of protein commonly found in rye, wheat, and barley. But after some research, I’ve learned that people who suffer from celiac disease do not need to worry about distilled spirits because the gluten is removed in the distillation process. So why all the marketing for Gluten Free?
To be Gluten Free means to have a dedicated distillery or brewery that would prevent cross-contamination from a distilled product with gluten material. Also the final product will not have added gluten additives like barley malt for coloring or flavor. To assume that all distilled spirits are safe to consume by celiac patients is not advisable.
A couple vodkas recently added to the gluten free brand names Tito’s Vodka and Krome Vodka
Category : Blog
Am I the only one not getting on board about writing wine reviews? In my business, I write just about everything else but WINE. What’s wrong with this picture? I love wine and I love to sell wine. However, there is a style of writing a wine review that I have not quite expanded my vocabulary to contribute writing a blog. My notes from an industry wine tasting reads with redundancy and a lack of creative descriptors. This is from my notes..
-Juan Carlos Lopez, Winemaker
-Stainless and old oak
-nice, spicy nose
-lots of body
-91 pts. Robert Parker
Now read the winemaker’s notes regarding the same wine…
100% up to 80 year old vine Garnacha.” The Artazu project was created by the legendary winegrower Juan Carlos Lopez de la Calle of Rioja’s famous Artadi estate. The goal was to take the same quest for varietal purity that Juan seeks in Tempranillo to the Garnacha varietal.” The small village of Artazu in the northernmost zone of Navarra was chosen for its extraordinary old vines of Garnacha producing wines of dark, peppery fruit with amazing balance and soft tannins.
This Thursday, September 15, we are sampling Kosher wines. Something I want to write about since it’s different. If you have and opportunity on Thursday evening from 5-8pm, come down and help me write my first wine blog.
Category : Blog
I am obsessed about bitters. If there’s one spirit that I have to have in my personal bar other than whiskey, it would be bitters. I first came to love bitters when I had a bad case of hiccups. My friend splashed Angostura bitters on a lemon wedge and that was the end of the hiccups. The taste had an unusual, herbal bite. I enjoyed that sensation of stimulating my saliva glands. Now, the medicinal elixir-cure-all is a part of my dining out routine. Some of my favorite bitters are…
Campari, an Italian aperitif, is an infusion of herbs and fruit. Historically, the distinctive bright red color was produced from crushed cochineal insects which carmine dye is derived. I prefer to sip my Campari neat and after dinner. It helps ease digestion after a full meal. Most fine dining restaurants will have Campari available.
Bonal, a French aperitif, is ‘an infusion of gentian, cinchona (quinine) and renown herbs of the Grand Chartreuse mountains in a Mistelle base.’ I prefer mixing Bonal with a rye whiskey. It’s a classic cocktail that is making a come back with the rise of mixologists behind the bar.
Amaro, an Italian digestif or after dinner drink, is a maceration of herbs, roots, bark, flowers, and citrus peels in alcohol. The maceration is normally aged in casks to soften out the flavor. I prefer to sip an amaro neat as well. There are many producers of amaro and one of my favorites is Zucca.
Peychauds, originally an apothecaric tonic made famous in New Orleans, is now produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. Bitters are a key ingredient to the Sazerac and Old Fashion cocktails. Another famous and one of the oldest surviving producers of aromatic bitters is Angostura. At one point Angostura ran into a shortage NOT because of the ingredients. There was shortage on BOTTLES. The worldwide shortage led to rationing and hoarding. Problem solved, they found a new supplier and Angostura is back on track.
Cocktail Bitters, like Peychauds but with flavoring ingredients suitable for pairing with clear or brown spirits, enhance drinks with a simple dash. For example The Bitter Truth, from Germany, has a Xocolatl Mole Bitter or Chocolate Bitters to spice up the flavor of an aged rum or reposado tequila. The citrus bitters like lemon and grapefruit pair well with a clear spirits such as vodka, gin, and silver tequila.
September is Bourbon Heritage month. PREP! September will creating the classic cocktails using bitters.
Category : Blog &Spirits
“Yakudoshi means the years of calamity. This is a Japanese belief that people at the ages of yakudoshi are likely to experience misfortunes or illness. It is generally believed that men’s yakudoshi are the ages 25, 42 and 61, and for women 19, 33 and 37, though there are local and historical variations. One’s yakudoshi is measured by adding one to the actual age.”
Yakudoshi especially for males who turn 41 years old is a big deal in Hawaii. Large parties with family and friends are expected. Unfortunately the females don’t receive such a large celebration. Auspicious decorations symbolizing long life, strength, and prosperity are a necessary part of the celebration. It’s what differentiates a Yakudoshi birthday from other birthdays. Folded red cranes and bamboo represent the more traditional symbols.
A formal Yakudoshi requires folding and stringing one thousand red cranes. The menu would include red mochi and Tai (red fish) and the birthday male would wear a red silk robe.
Yakudoshi is a Japanese tradition that evolved to something more local. The people of Hawaii truly embraces cultural traditions that everyone is welcomed to celebrate as their own. At SWAM, we take the stress out of creating, finding ,and putting together Yakudoshi centerpieces and favors. All are one of kind. Pictured above is a one of kind main table centerpiece.
Category : Blog
Every other week, SWAM gets solicited for a donation. SWAM is philanthropic to a certain extent. We are conscientious about who we donate to and committed to support year after year. However, we have trouble donating to organizations that have a conflict of interest. These organizations are admirable without a doubt, however a mass fundraising mail out without consideration about who you are soliciting to has some degree of arrogance. SWAM recently received a request for donation letter by MADD. I felt annoyed that this Special Interest Group would ask my small and struggling business for a donation. You may say, how dare SWAM not support a worthwhile cause like MADD. Shame on SWAM. Really? Look at it from a liquor business point of view. This argument is not about drunk driving and health issues, it’s about taxes. We may be a ‘young’ business to ‘old boy’ network of names printed on the left side of the MADD letterhead, but we are not eager to contribute to an organization that wants to make it harder for SWAM to stay in business. Remember, we retail in fine wine, spirits, beer, cigars, and accessories associated with them. We don’t sell groceries, paper goods, or pharmaceuticals to offset the cost. MADD supported the proposed Liquor Tax increase SB1289 (Scroll down and you’ll see their letter. Scroll more and you’ll see SWAM’s petition for Opposition). If taxes need to be raised then everyone should pay them not just the few.
Another solicitation came from a liquor distributor asking SWAM to be the ‘sponsoring retailer’ for the American Cancer Society’s fundraising event and tried to influence me that their purchase would give my business a needed boost. We declined the offer stating the same reason, taxes. SWAM is proactive in our opposition towards raising taxes regarding liquor and tobacco. We write letters to our representatives, testify at hearings, and join organizations like Cigar Rights of America. We don’t want our effort to be in vain because we need the money.
Nonetheless, SWAM and MADD agree that drinking alcohol then driving and underage drinking are unlawful, dangerous, and preventive. Also, we do support the fight against cancer and other illnesses. Everyone knows someone who is fighting or lost their battle with cancer. No one is immune to health issues. We all have something worth fighting for. We all need support from the private industry, but it could help to have someone edit the donor solicitation list before mailing out the letters.
Category : Blog
At SWAM, a very common question customers ask “Can you bring in this wine or this beer?” If I’m unfamiliar with the brand, then I would answer, “Did you find it in Hawaii?” Normally, their answer is no. Why can’t retailers buy direct from the winery/brewery/distillery? If it’s a guaranteed sale and there is a consumer demand, then why not? The answer is Hawaii follows the Three Tier System of Alcohol Distribution. All businesses that have a Hawaii State Liquor License must abide by the law that requires purchasing alcohol through a distributor in state. And the distributor cannot sell directly to a consumer.
Cherry picking favorites from a brand’s portfolio is convenient for the consumer but not for the industry. One example is many customers ask for Fat Tire Beer. Fat Tire is one out of the 31 beers New Belgium Brewery produces. In a business perspective, New Belgium is not going to send the distributor just the Fat Tire to sell, it’s the other beers that come with the package. Same with wine, a distributor commits to the winery on how many different varietals to carry and secures business placements to support the brand. Hawaii’s geographical situation is a consideration towards cost. Shipping product to Hawaii is expensive when factoring in the fuel surcharge, cost of refrigerated containers, and labor. A distributor decides if it’s worth it.
There are exceptions to the law for example, wineries are allowed to sell their wines directly to the consumer. However, don’t expect to buy the wines from the winery at a wholesale price. A winery/brewery/distillery will create a private label for retailers and restaurants but the product still needs to be cleared through a distributor. Why is it that only certain wineries ship to individuals in Hawaii? In 2006, the state passed a bill regulating Direct Shipment of Wine by Wineries. In a nutshell, if a winery wants to sell to an individual, they are required to obtain an annual permit and pay Hawaii’s General Excise Tax. Thus, there are wineries that don’t want to pay for a permit and Hawaii’s taxes. The winery decides if it’s worth it.
Regardless of all these laws and regulations, it’s in place to protect businesses and insure that taxes are being paid to the State of Hawaii. It may frustrate the consumer but if having that wine or that beer is a must, there’s always an internet store or space in a visiting relative’s luggage.
Category : Blog