The Best Wine I Drank In 2013: Montague Red Wine 2009

Source: B.D. Fischer
Source: B.D. Fischer

by B.D

Wine isn’t like a book, or a movie, or an album. Actually it’s like all these things, but not in this sense: It’s nearly incoherent to proclaim a wine of the year. The reasons, I hope, are obvious—the vagaries of vintage release, the logistics of distribution, the need for cellaring. However, we are in the awards season, and so it seems appropriate (if a bit belated) to discuss the best wine I drank in 2013.

A word about what this means: I am not including any “special” wines in this calculation that were either especially expensive (~$64) or especially old (~2005). The point is to anoint a wine that became readily available in 2013, or not too much prior, and that might be finding its way into drinkers’ hands now.

That wine is Montague’s 2009 Red Wine, a Rhone blend from Red Mountain, one of Washington’s elite American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The understated name is consonant with a label designed for soporificity as well as the wine itself—witness the choice of a Syrah blend when it was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain that received Robert Parker’s only non-California American 100-point score. Not loud, it nevertheless speaks for itself in a clear and present tone.

Although it includes Counoise, a grape rarely found outside of France, this is a New World wine through and through. Fruit forward but not obnoxious, the nose also reveals the alcohol, high but not obnoxious at 14.5%. It is less earthy than most Rhones, but perhaps even more peppery. The tannins, also, are New World, light with crushed velvet. The balance is close enough to perfection. I am finishing the last of my six bottles now, having drunk it with Mad Men parties, steak au poivre, and lazy summer afternoons. It complimented and improved them all.

Interestingly (to me), my enthusiasm for this wine is not the consensus; its average score on Cellar Tracker is only 88.5. I can’t help but wonder if this is a reflexive response to price, for I have saved the best for last: $13. According to Jon Rimmerman, the source for my stash, the long game is a move into the $30-$35 range. And it will still be worth it.


Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Bushmills Irish Honey Liqueur, and Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur

Barenjager LiqueurBushmills Irish Honey LiqueurWild Turkey American Honey Liqueuer

The winter cold season is upon us, and we are making toddies nightly. A measure of booze, a slice of lemon (pestle it in the booze), some honey, and steaming water atop it. Simple.

Some time back, we gave a glowing review to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey Liqueur. It works just fine for toddies.

But, JD is not the only honey hooch worth trying. Here are three other options that we have used lately. All of these honey liqueurs might be purchased through our preferred online retailer.

Barenjager (70 proof; $25  bottle) is a classic. It is a nice mixture of sweet honey and intriguing herbs. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at

Bushmills Irish Honey (70 proof; $24) is a new entrant to the market. It shows mild honey and the unmistakable Bushmills’ grainy flavor. (Rating: Good) Read more at

Wild Turkey American Honey: (71 proof; $22) also is fresh to market. It is the most flavorful of the three, with a fat Bourbon aroma and honey playing a distant second fiddle. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at


Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 107 Proof

Old Weller Antique 107 ProofThis is a fine Bourbon, and a great Bourbon for the price. We picked a fifth of it up for a mere $24.

At 107 proof, this wheated Bourbon is not for the novice. It is 107 proof and intense. It does not aim for the sweet and gooey Bourbon profile.

In our experience, Old Weller Antique is best served neat, perhaps two ounces at a time, in a shot-type glass.  Add a few drops of water to cut the oomph.

This whiskey chows notes of caramel, burnt apple or apricot, mild vanilla, and barrel. (Rating Very Good)

Both and spoke well, but not fawningly, of it.

Old Weller is made by the ever-impressive Buffalo Trace Distillery of Frankfort, Kentucky.

You may shop for a bottle online here.



Fuchen Herbal Liqueur

Fuchen LiqueurYou likely will notice the bottle to the left is nearly gone.

It isn’t because we accidentally spilled it. Nor is evaporation to blame.

The truth of the matter is, we liked this intense, bitter, herbal liqueur.  We really, really liked it.

Fuchen’s website offers a variety of recipes, but we enjoyed a shot or two of it mixed with tonic water. It’s a crisp, cooling drink on a balmy day.

But go easy with those drinks—Fuchen is 80 proof, and if you can easily take too much and find yourself goat dancing. (Rating: Very Good)

You may read more about Fuchen at, and you may shop online for a bottle at


Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur HHNot too many years ago, the price of fine tequila began skyrocketing.  In part, increased demand was to blame.  Oh, but we also were told that there was an agave shortage.  Yikes—might we run out of tequila

Today, one can find agave nectar jars in the grocery store (spread it on toast!), and there also is agave liqueur being sold. Funny how quickly things change!

Mariposa  (60 proof) is an agave nectar liqueur that contains rose oil and gardenia. Mariposa was cooked up by the folks at Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Whiskey drinkers will recognize that name—Heaven Hill makes Evan Williams and other fine brands of Bourbon. Whether this liqueur is made in MExico or Kentucky or where is hard to discern—the bottle’s label does not say.

The Wall Street Journal reported that agave nectar is significantly sweeter than sugar.

We believe it. One taste of Mariposa and we nearly gagged on the intensity. Sure, the rose oil and gardenia flavors were present, but the sweetness overwhelmed our palate. (Meanwhile, Forbes gushed over this  product.)

The bottle suggests putting a measure of Mariposa in a glass of bubbly.  That might work.  But, for the time being, we are steering clear of this booze.  (Rating: Not Good)


Templeton Rye Whiskey

Templeton RyeSay “whiskey” in America and the first state that comes to mind is Kentucky. This is not surprising, seeing as Kentucky has become synonymous with Bourbon, which has expertly advertised itself as “the spirit of America.”

The assumption that if it is whiskey then it is made in Kentucky is a fairly recent phenomenon. As we pointed out in Whiskey: A Global History, a century ago Kentucky lagged behind other states, including Indiana. And let us not forget that Bourbon can be made outside of Kentucky and it is.

And Indiana, believe it or not, is the state where Templeton Rye is distilled. Now that might confuse you, seeing as the Inter-Tubes is aflood with talk of Templeton, Iowa being the whiskey’s namesake. Which it is.  But Templeton Rye is produced by Lawrenceburg Distillers of Indiana.

Anyhoo, this 80 proof whiskey is aged 4 years in new charred oak barrels. It is a little mild, compared to some of the young, wild ryes out there. Templeton Rye offers caramel, toffee, and light black pepper notes. It is tasty, and we encourage you to enjoy it neat so as to appreciate the full range of flavors. (Rating: Very Good)

You may read more about Templeton Rye at At present, it is distributed in a limited number of states.

Our preferred online retailer is selling it here.