News & Events

Cream Cocktails: Lower A-Bee-V's Knees


- 1 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
- 2 oz Cirelli NV ‘A + Bees’ Mead
- 1 oz Lemon juice
- 1 oz Honey

Directions: Add all ingredients besides the A+ Mead (for topping later) with ice to tin, give it a quick shake and strain over a large cube in a Collins glass. Top with about 2 ounces of ‘A + Bees’ Mead. Garnish with a fresh cut piece of raw honey comb.

Cream Cocktails: Jambe de Bois


- 1.5 oz Pineapple-Tepache and Banana infused Bounty Spiced Rum (see below)
- .75 oz Bordiga Aperitivo
- .75 oz Mata Sweet Vermouth

Directions: Add all ingredients to mixing glass, stir, julep strain to a coupe or over large ice cube in rocks glass.

Bounty Spiced Infusion:
Using the spent pineapples from the Pineapple Tepache Honey Syrup and 3-4 super ripe bananas, muddle together in a cambro and pour a liter of Bounty Spiced Rum over it. Cover, let sit for 2-3 days, fine strain through cheesecloth, and poured back into the bottle.

Cream Cocktails: The Coffee Martinez


Martini drinkers lean in, we’ve got a different type of birth story for you this holiday season. Before all the gold got dug up and Californian’s started making wine instead, a miner en route to the East Bay city of Martinez made a pit stop at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel. Perhaps he was looking to celebrate his newfound fortune, or maybe he was trying to soften the woes of an unlucky 49er. Either way, legend has it that he asked the bartender to serve his Vermouth with Old Tom Gin (or, a Manhattan with Gin instead of Whiskey). What would eventually become the town’s namesake cocktail, the Martinez was officially transcribed in 1884’s O.H. Byron’s Modern Bartender’s Guide. Part Manhattan and part Martini, the Martinez is a 50-50 ratio of Gin and Sweet Vermouth with a few dashes of orange bitters and often Maraschino Liqueur. Malty, simple and a little bit sweet, the vintage Martinez is a classic.

For our riff on the Martini’s sweeter forerunner, we added a coffee bean infusion, adding a darker, more masculine quality to deepen the cocktail for winter.

- 1.5 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
- 1.5 oz Mata Tinto Vermouth infused with coffee beans (see below for details)
- .25 oz Bordiga Maraschino Liqueur
- 2 dashes bitters

Directions: Combine all ingredients into your favorite mixer. Add ice, stir 40 revolutions with a bar spoon. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with orange rind.

Pour 150ml of Mata Tinto Vermouth into a small mason jar. Measure out 30ml of dark roast coffee for a 1 to 5 part coffee to liquid ratio (we used Collectivo Coffee). Let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Yields approximately 3 servings

Viognier - It's What's for Winter!

Viognier.jpgTextural, aromatic and singing of stone fruit and citrus, Viognier is a no-brainer for cold weather pairings. Like many of our favorite grapes, Viognier came quite close to obsoletion during the mid-20th century. Traditionally grown in the northern Rhône Valley, where it can be found co-fermented into Syrah-based wines, plantings of the grape dwindled during the mid-1900s. Grown on the region’s extremely steep terraces, the low-yielding, late ripening fruit proved difficult to cultivate and prone to mildew. While at its heart a delicate and dry wine, when produced on the cheap, Viognier wines can be intensely aromatic - near cosmetic - and overly sweet. By the late 1960s, just under 40 acres of Viognier plantings remained.

Over the past few decades, however, Viognier has been on a major comeback kick. During the late 20th century, the white Rhône variety made its way out of France and over to the sunny regions of Australia, Italy and California. Somms, winemakers and consumers alike caught on. Over in the Sunshine State, plantings increased from 100 to over 2,000 acres today.

This newfound love for the fruit comes as no surprise - when made well, Viognier wines are complex, vibrant and light on their feet. While a bit more difficult to pronounce (it’s vee-own-yay), Viognier is a solid sell to convince that die hard Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc BTG drinker to live it up a little bit. Ranging in taste and profile, Viognier is a fantastic pairing for creamy cheese plates, seafood and spicier curries (it can take some heat!). If aged in new oak, the wines are creamier and less acidic, with notes of baking spice and vanilla (think Moroccan chicken). When aged in neutral oak or stainless steel, the wines are instead floral and fruit driven, with flavors of peaches, apricots and tropical fruit and a bit more acidity (butternut squash gnocchi with sage brown anyone?).

We’ve got enough Viognier to last the winter (and that annual surprise snow in May). Check out some of our favorites below!

Montrose 2018 Viognier, Cotes de Thongue
The Domaine Montrose Viognier is purposely atypical; it is livelier and less exuberant than those produced in the region. We like it for its freshness and most importantly for its balance. The nose shows exotic fruits, mango, and cut hay. Enjoy chilled on its own or with fish, shellfish, Asian food, Indian food, and cheeses.

La Clarine Farm 2018 Viognier, Sierra Foothills
Every once in a while, the stars align, the vintage is (nearly) perfect, and the Viognier is flat-out spectacular on its own. Hank saw this immediately as the wine started to ferment. The 2018 vintage has amazing aromatics and the perfect balance of exuberance and subtlety. This is an awesome, delicious white for Fall drinking!

Yves Cuilleron 2018 ‘Les Vignes d’a Cote’ Viognier, Collines Rhodaniennes IGP
The Cuilleron family domaine, located in the hamlet of Verlieu (part of the town of Chavanay) was founded in 1920. Yves assumed full ownership and direction of the domaine in 1987 and, since that time, has built an entirely new facility while at the same time acquiring additional vineyard property. This Viognier features intense floral, fruity and vegetal notes on the nose. Dry, smooth and broad on the palate.

Rostaing 2017 ‘Les Lezardes’ Viognier, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
Jeb Dunnuck, 89 pts (12/20/2018)
“Starting with the 2017 Les Lézardes Blanc, it has terrific Viognier character in its floral, peach, and apricot aromas and flavors. This medium-bodied, light, elegant white just begs to be drunk, and it should keep for a year or three.”


Illinois Trade! You’re invited for Bubbles, Fried Chicken & Waffles!

Corks popping from 10am to 12:30pm.
A wide array of sparkling wines will be open for tasting:

  • Cream Imports (Bereche, Laherte Freres, Vadin-Plateau, Raventos i Blanc, and more)
  • Rosenthal Wine Merchant (Rosenthal Wine Merchant imports authentic, terroir-centric sparkling wines from France, Italy and Spain. These prestigious producers walk the line between tradition and idiosyncrasy. John Paine will be showcasing a large selection of terroir-centric sparkling wines from the Rosenthal book that is available for special order this fall.)
  • Champagne Lanson (Founded 16 years before the USA, Champagne Lanson is one of the oldest, family-run Champagne houses. Over the years, the winemakers behind this famous label have carefully perfected their art, passing down the secrets of their craft from one generation to the next. Thibault Marronnier will have the whole Lanson line open along with some special order items available this fall.)

711 N Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60642
(3 minutes from Chicago Blue Line, 7 minutes from Grand Blue Line)

Trade Only Please; RSVP requested to

National Vodka Day: Valentine Distilling Co.


Over on Lake Eerie, Valentine Distilling Co. wants to talk to you about water. This past April, the Michigan distillery announced their 10-year sustainability initiative, beginning with a large scale water reclamation project. During the late spring, Valentine completed an installation that will re-claim up to 98% of water used during production. With five liters of water for every one liter of vodka, this new investment is saving up to 2,000 gallons a day, amounting to just under 5 million gallons a year. It doesn’t stop here - through their Farm to Bottle to Farm program, Valentine gives all of their spent grain to local farmers to use as cattle feed. LED lighting has replaced all incandescents in the distillery, and future plans include solar and wind power for the facility and cocktail lounge.

Valentine owner and Michigan-native Rifino Valentine believes that this investment in product, community, and future sustainability are critical steps in his fight against mass-produced spirits. As a young trader on Wall Street in the early 2000s, Rifino saw how beholden corporate America was to turning profits in the fastest and cheapest way possible. A dirty martini drinker himself, it was during this period that Rifino began to notice of all the import labels on the top shelf. Filled with additives such as Glycerin, Citric Acid & Limoene as the cheap and easy way for body and mouth feel, the mass produced stuff from the States just wasn’t cutting it. Where was the high-quality, hand crafted American vodka?

This quest for great domestic product inspired Rifino to study distilling at Michigan State University. With micro-distilleries just catching on, Rifino seized on the opportunity to actualize his vision for an additive free, artisan distillery. In the midst of Detroit’s bankruptcy, where better suited for a renaissance with hand crafted American manufacturing than Motor City? Valentine opened Valentine Distilling Co. in 2007 as the antidote for the city’s decline and as a fight back against mass-produced spirits, and the first bottle hit the market in 2008. Quality grain, copper stills and dedicated distillers remain fundamental pillars for Valentine’s small batch spirits, and today, there are hundreds of artisan distillers across the country following their model and reclaiming quality in American spirit production. Valentine’s transparency in sustainability is another example of Valentine’s progressive leadership in the spirits industry. At a company that stands for responsibility in craft, Rifino believes that an investment in sustainability is not only a natural step, but a critical move, and we are excited to see the actualization of their initiative over the following decade.

“I have a simple philosophy: everything that I do must be done with quality in mind above all else, the way it was meant to be done. I’ve always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one of kind items that stand the test of time. In distillation, this means selecting the best ingredients, distilling in small batches, and taking care in every single step of the process. I take great pride in using old world techniques, techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. There are no computers controlling the stills, just my sense of taste and smell to determine the cuts.” - Rifino Valentine

Vodka Berry Bramble Swizzle
2 oz Valentine Vodka
3⁄4 oz Lemon Juice
1⁄2 oz Simple Syrup
Fresh Raspberries, Blackberries, Myrtle Berries (Go Nuts!)
Float of Lucien Jacob Crème de Cassis

1. Muddle lemon juice, simple syrup and berries in a tumbler
2. Add vodka and ice, shake
3. Strain over crushed ice
4. Float Lucien Jacob Creme de Cassis
5. Garnish with a mint and more berries

La Clarine Farm: Four New Releases for Fall Drinking

LaClarineFarmFallReleases.jpg A Note from Hank:
Hard to fathom that Fall (and harvest) is already here! We’ve been very busy over the last two weeks bringing in grapes, and we are pretty excited by what we are seeing, smelling and tasting so far. The grapes are taking their time to ripen, and it is looking like this year’s wines will be lower in alcohol, and very very tasty! Fermentations are fairly quick this year, and the wines are already starting to show some wonderful flavors. As of today, we are about half-way done, and if the weather cooperates, this will be remembered as a quite pleasant harvest. In the meantime, here are four new wines to get you through the Fall and early Winter months. A delicious Viognier, a new vintage of our skin-macerated Albariño Al Basc, the final vintage of the Piedi Grandi, and a new autumn house wine, B-Sides. Details below.

- Hank, Caro, dogs, cats & goats

La Clarine Farm 2018 Viognier, Sierra Foothills:
Every once in a while, the stars align, the vintage is (nearly) perfect, and the Viognier is flat-out spectacular on its own. Hank saw this immediately as the wine started to ferment. The Viognier fruit was manually harvested, whole cluster pressed and co-fermented in tank with native yeast. The 2018 vintage has amazing aromatics and the perfect balance of exuberance and subtlety. This is an awesome, delicious white for Fall drinking!

La Clarine Farm 2018 ‘Al Basc’ (Albarino Skin Contact), Sierra Foothills:
The 2018 vintage of La Clarine’s skin-fermented and skin-macerated Albariño was whole cluster fermented in an open-top fermented. Hank leaves the wine until the following Spring, then gently racks (no pressing). It was bottled unfined and unfiltered with all of its cloudy, intense glory.
Pairing Notes by Hank:
“The Al Basc is amazingly flexible with a large variety of food choices. We’ve paired it with fish, meat and cheeses, all of them delicious together. 
I suspect that wines like these will age pretty much forever. We’ve had bottles open for weeks that showed few signs of degradation, but rather gained depth and complexity. (I wouldn’t recommend the “bottle opened for weeks” as a regular practice, though. We experiment so you don’t have to.)”

La Clarine Farm 2017 ‘B-Sides’:
This Mourvedre and Syrah duo came about after Hank had blended together his 2017 Funky Drummer. There were several lots of really delicious wine that didn’t make that blend, so, taking his cue from the musical inspiration already in the air, Hank decided the A-side cut (Funky Drummer) needed a B-Side. Everything was whole cluster fermented and aged in tank before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The B-Sides is bright and full of energy, showing lovely flashes of smoke and soil. There is a slight autumnal feel to the wine, like the warm glow of late afternoon, low-angle sunlight through golden/red tree leaves, spilling through your living room window. This is the perfect red wine for Fall drinking.

La Clarine Farm 2017 ‘Piedi Grandi’ Rouge, Sierra Foothills
Piedi Grandi’s name stems from the first vintage of the wine, which was foot crushed by Hank’s friend and his daughters. The friend, John, is a big dude with big feet. ‘Piedi Grandi’ or big feet was named in honor of him.

For the 2017 vintage, Hank has returned to what he considers to be the ideal ratio of Nebbiolo to Mourvedre - about 60:40. The 60:40 ratio allows the Nebbiolo to show its best characteristics (floral aromas, a bit of tar and roses really, and those amazingly energetic, fine-grained Nebbiolo tannins), while the Mourvèdre plays the important support role (mid-palate presence, approachability, and a bit of spice). In short - the Nebbiolo provides the flash, and the Mourvedre makes it drinkable in your lifetime.

After 2018 provided zero Nebbiolo for La Clarine Farm (thank you so so much, Jack Frost), Hank has decided to take a break from this one. So, this will be the last vintage of the Piedi Grandi for the foreseeable future.Sorry to see it go, but so happy it’s going out on such a high note!

Digging Beaujolais? Check out Bardolino.

Digging Beaujolais? Check out Italy’s Bardolino.

Sitting at the base of the alpine foothills on Lake Garda’s eastern shores, the Bardolino D.O.C. ranks pretty high on the list of vineyards with a good view. The region got official D.O.C. status in 1968, the same year as it’s slightly more famous neighbor, Valpolicella. Just over 6,000 acres of vines make up this small D.O.C., where plantings consist mainly of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Typically unoaked and rent week friendly (drink ‘em young folks!), grapes are traditionally blended into a rosato, called Bardolino Chiaretto, or a chillable, light-bodied red that is delicate and refreshingly uncomplicated, characterized by its red, ripe fruit notes with a bit of spice on the finish.

Located in the very heart of Bardolino production, Le Fraghe’s Matilde Poggi has become one of the most regarded winemakers of the region. Poggi’s roots run deep in the town of Affi, which sits just east of Lake Garda and south of Monte Baldo. The property and it’s 15th-century stone farmhouse have been in the family since 1880, and in 2013, Matilde was elected President of the Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers).

Now three decades in since her first harvest in 1984, Matilde’s wines show everything there is to love about the Bardolino region. Fresh, fruity and easy to drink, while still delicate and refined, they are the ultimate picnic/party wines. This refreshing elegance can be attributed to Poggi’s philosophy in the field and in the cellar. The estate’s 28 hectares, which consists mainly of Corvina plantings, followed by Rondinella and Garganega, have been farmed organically since 2009. Indigenous yeast are used from the vineyards but not in a spontaneous way; Matilde makes a small batch fermentation from the vineyard and then inoculates the rest of the harvest with that yeast. Fermentations are very cold and slow to increase complexity and fresh flavors.
Read more! Wine Spectator: Bardolino? Seriously?

Le Fraghe 2017 ‘Camporengo’ Garganega, Veneto IGT
Garganega is the principal grape variety in Soave, an area about less than an hour from Le Fraghe. The grape is indigenous to the area. This fresh, attractive white wine shows aromas and flavors of apple, almond, herbs, and a hint of white peach. The palate is notable for its full body, excellent progression, and overall harmony. This is a great everyday bottle of white wine. Camporengo Garganega is delicious with first courses of seasonal vegetables and fresh seafood.

Le Fraghe 2018 ‘Rodon’ Bardolino Chiaretto (Rose) DOC
91pts by Wine Enthusiast (7/1/2019)
A blend of organically farmed Corvina (80%) and Rondinella (20%), this elegant rosato opens with enticing scents of spring field flower, aromatic herb, ripe peach and a whiff of baking spice. Smooth, bright and juicy, the savory, easy-drinking palate offers wild red berry, tangerine zest and a hint of white pepper alongside tangy acidity.

Featured in: by Tom Hyland (2018) by Jon Bonné (2018) by Jon Bonné (2014)

Le Fraghe 2018 Bardolino DOC
The Bardolino has a complex bouquet, with fruity essences such as sweet-sour cherry and blueberry, and spicy nuances of cinnamon and black pepper. The distinctive hallmark of this wine is without a doubt the elegance that one experiences on the palate. Although this is a standard-label wine for near-term enjoyment, it displays a remarkably soft suite of tannins and a lovely balance between a judicious acidity and full, savory flavors, characteristic of wines of this area.

Cream Cocktail: Whiskey Sour

Ransom Wines & Spirits, founded by Tad Seestedt in 1997, is an artisan winery and distillery located in McMinnville, Oregon. Tad named the operation Ransom to represent the debt incurred to start the business; Tad was paying his own ransom to realize his dream.

Initially, the distillery made small amounts of grappa, eau de vie and brandy. The production of small batch, fine wines started in 1999. In 2007, Tad took up the craft of grain-based spirits, adding gin, whiskey and vodka to the lineup. In 2010, Tad combined his crafts of winemaking and distilling to create his first dry vermouth.

Ransom sources local and organic grains for their spirits where possible. Tad mashes and ferments the base wort on site weekly in small batches. The spirits are distilled in a hand-hammered, direct-fired French alembic pot still. Tad makes all of the selective cuts by taste and smell, without the use of computers or robots. This labor intensive, traditional method of distillation retains greater aromatic intensity and body from the raw materials they select with such great care.

The pot distilled, handcrafted Whipper Snapper represents Tad’s endeavor to utilize and combine the best of production methods, and technical approaches to making bourbon, scotch, Irish whiskey, and Dutch corenwyn. The Whipper Snapper cannot be placed in one category of whiskey. It is clearly different from any one single style, with the best of the parts from several distinct styles. Although the mash bill is most similar to bourbon, it is quite heavy on malted barley, and aromatically is more similar to a highland scotch or Irish whiskey. It is intended for sipping, mixing in cocktails, or just plain drinking.

Whiskey Sour

2 oz Ransom Wines & Spirits ‘Whipper Snapper’ Whiskey
3⁄4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
one whole Egg White

Add all ingredients to tin without ice, dry shake, add ice, hard shake, strain into coupe or rocks glass

Cream Cocktails: Fancy Grappka Lemonade


Turning lemons into lemonade the Italian way, by distilling grape pomace into an even boozier digestif. When it comes to alcohol, Grappa is just about as zero waste as you can get. During the winemaking process, grape juice is pressed out and fermented, leaving behind skins, pulp, seeds and stems. While many consider this pomace to be waste, legend has it that a particularly thrifty Roman soldier discovered that these leftover grape remnants were in fact packed with flavor and aromatics, and could be boiled, distilled and extracted for alcohol.

This recycled grape must elixir is now a protected name under European law, and is widely produced and consumed across Italy. Typically ranging from 35-60% ABV, the potent and boozy Grappa is frequently served as a digestif or mixed straight into coffee, called a caffè corretto or “corrected coffee.” Although it got a bad rep in the past as Italy’s moonshine, in recent years, Grappa has become more popular in American bars and restaurants, where it has been recognized for it’s great potential in cocktails.

Grappa is coming up on it’s moment here in the states, and Ransom Wines & Spirits has some of the best home grown stuff you can find. Ransom’s Tad Seestedt released his first Grappa in 1997, and has been making it in limited production ever since. Based in the Willamette Valley, Ransom’s Grappa is carefully crafted to an unparalleled standard of quality. Aromatic white varieties are harvested at optimum ripeness and lightly pressed. The free-run juice becomes wine while the pomace, which still holds a high percentage of juice, is used for the grappa. The pomace is covered with water, lightly pressed and distilled in alambic copper stills. The resulting Grappa is an elegant, effusive expression of both the varietal character of the grapes and the time-honored traditions of fermentation and alembic distillation. An ethereal, inviting nose showcases elderflower, heirloom pear, and tea rose. Hints of stone fruit and cassia show on a long, elegant finish. Drink neat, pour into your coffee, or add to your bar as your new favorite mixer.

Fancy Grappka Lemonade

1oz Valentine Vodka
1oz Ransom Wines & Spirits Grappa
.75oz Lemon Oleo Sacchrum
Check out Difford’s Guide for the ultimate Lemon Oleo recipe
.25 Lemon Juice

Shake, strain over Ice in Collins glass.

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