Thursday, February 26, 2015

Let us speak of Teroldego Rotaliano...

Let us speak of Teroldego Rotaliano.  Let us specifically speak of the Bottega Vinaia Teroldego Rotaliano 2006 from the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy.

Or, as a wholesaler said when I inquired about the wine from her vast portfolio, "Congratulations, you've apparently selected one of the most...esoteric...of the thousands of wines we have available."

I'm nothing if not esoteric.

I jumped on this wine without hesitation as I was building a wine class on Italy for my college students. It's not easy to find Teroldego, and it's even more difficult to find a well-aged, moderately priced, high quality Teroldego.  The Bottega Vinaia Teroldego Rotaliano 2006 was a relative steal!

Bottega Vinaia is the creation of Anselmo Martini, head winemaker at Cavit in northern Italy, more famous for producing vast quantities of jug wines and modestly priced quaffers.  Martini envisioned a company that could specialize in identifying and sourcing particular vineyards from the Trentino-Alto Adige that showed a long-term, consistent record of quality, and offering them under the 'umbrella label".  This scheme required the dedication of a winemaker who could use his contacts to help him set up a special relationships with a range of different growers.

As Palm Bay Importers, who handles the winery for the U.S. market, explains, "Starting in the early 1990s, Martini sought to explore the optimum potential of a handful of extraordinary vineyards in northern Italy’s Trentino region that, year after year, consistently produce the highest quality grapes. This select group of family-farmed vineyards is the source of Bottega Vinaia, an exceptional line of artisan wines that reflect the authentic qualities of the Trentino terroir. 
Thanks to Martini’s passion and tireless drive, Bottega Vinaia has swiftly joined the ranks of Italy’s top-notch premium wine producers. They currently feature an impressive range of the Teroldego Rotaliano, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Lagrein."

The Bottega Vinaia Teroldego was a deilicious treat for both the class of combined newbies and moderately sophisticated students as well as the experienced instructor (who could easily be referred to as 'jaded").  The age of the wine helped; tasting a 2006 of Teroldego allows a certain amount of mellowness that a younger version simply would not have. The innate qualities of Teroldego show superbly here, with rich berry flavors, dark plum notes, bright acidity, and a light touch of spice to perk things up a bit.

The students enjoyed the wine so much that a subsequent call to the wholesaler was required to find where the students might buy it.  That generated the 'esoteric' comment, since the wine was not generally available in retail, only at a one restaurant and a catering firm.
It's the eternal dichotomy of good wine in this day and age:  we are exposed to a greater range of wines from around the globe than ever before in history, yet we may never see or taste many of those wines because of their limited availability, inability to pay for marketing

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Going Rogue (Valley): Red Blanket Tempranillo, Red Lilly Vineyards

Dining in Medford, OR, recently---and yes, that's possible; there are some good restaurants there, although few and far between--- and came across a delightful little wine from the Rogue Valley/Applegate area of Southern Oregon.

Bolander's Lilly
Photo from Red Lilly Winery
Red Blanket is a bright and engaging blend of 79% Tempranillo and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon from a tiny winery named Red Lily Vineyards.. You could literally call it a "Mom and Pop" winery, since the owner's (Les and Rachael Martin) are, and Mom and Pop named their vineyard partly for the beautiful Bolander's Lily and partly for their precocious daughter).

Red Lily Vineyards has its own label of eponymous wines, focusing on Tempranillo, red blends, Verdejo and rose', but the Red Blanket is a whimsical, and entirely delicious "other label"---and I suspect it exists to allow the owners to tell a famous local folk story.
The Red Lilly Label
Photo by Red Lilly Winery

The Red Blanket Tempranillo 2011 is charming, soft, and plush without being over-manipulated.  Fresh juicy red fruits of Tempranillo abound, but are enhanced by the bolder aromas and structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon. As it develops in the glass, the Red Blanket shows a whiff of spice and a suggestion of sweet pipe tobacco. It's a marvelous food wine, handling chicken, brisket and even a roasted fish with wild rice risotto without a problem.

Beyond the folksiness, Red Blanket Tempranillo delivers.

As for the folksiness, here's the story:  Jacksonville, OR,west of Medford and I-5 in the Rogue River Valley AVA, is a quaint and bucolic little town---more like a village---preserved to showcase the rugged days of the mining boom of the 1800s.  There was gold in them thar hills, and plenty of prospectors who were willing to placer mine to get it.  Now that mining and lumber are both languishing, one of the few remaining enterprises showing success in the area is the boom of vineyard land and wineries.

The story of the legend of the Red Blanket Mine is charming folksiness in the best tall-tales tradition of the American West. A lonely, reclusive old miner was found dead one day in his ramshackle cabin, clutching a mysterious scribbled note that indicated he had found the big strike, a spot where the gold was just waiting to be harvested from the rugged hills. The note did not tell the location of this find, but said that the miner. before trekking back home, had marked the spot by tying his old red blanket on the branches of a large tree.

A wild search commenced, with hundreds of locals tromping through the hills and valleys in search of the elusive red blanket.  Which no one ever found.  It became the legendary and lost Red Blanket Mine.  Look closely at the label and you will see, at the bottom-most right branch, a small patch of a tattered red blanket.

I suppose the Lost Red Blanket Mine finally did yield up its wealth in a way; not with gold of the 1800s but with the abundance of the vineyards in the 2000s. And Red Lilly Vineyards is harvesting that gold.

The Red Lilly Vineyards
Photo from Red Lilly Vineyards
 The Red Lilly/Red Blanket wines are made in small quantities and are available at the winery and in some local stores and restaurants in the immediate area, but are not distributed out of state.  If you're not from there, or don't go there (which you should; it's beautiful), your only means of acquisition is to contact the winery; they do have a wine club with mailings four times a year.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Let us speak of Ruché

Photo: Hoke Harden

Let us speak with fondness and respect of Ruché.  Or to be correct and giving due credit, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, an altogether delightful and charming red wine, unpretentious yet satisfying, amiable and accommodating, either as a sipper or a dinner companion.

Ruché (pronounced roo-kay) also allows me to trumpet my sincere belief that this is the best time in history for wine drinkers, as there is more wine from more regions encompassing more styles from more places around the world than ever before, and most of it is available in a wine store near you.

Ruché is only recently available---possibly because it is one of Italy’s smallest production wines (it got as low as a total of 125 acres before the end of the century), exists in one place only (the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy), was always obscure and depended almost entirely on local consumption. It is also recently available because of the surge in demand for ever-more-esoteric and “undiscovered” wines. Fortunately, the growers in Piedmont were dedicated enough to their homeboy grape they began expanding and improving production early enough to satisfy the demand for what they dub “The Prince of Piedmont Reds” (the undisputed King being Nebbiolo).

One of those foresighted producers, Vigneti é Cantine EnricoMorando, expanded the plantings of Ruché significantly.

It’s a “rustic” style---which means to say, not glamorous, the kind of wine that never fetches high prices or the notice of the wine critic cognoscenti, the kind of wine that provides great pleasure but is not ravishing, full of bravado and bombast, epiphanetic.

I say you take your epiphanies where you find them.

Ruché /Vigneti Enrico Morando
Ruché is that rare creature, often sought, rarely found, an almost extinct autochthonous variety (I could have said indigenous or even local, but I like saying and writing ‘autochthonous’ because it’s a neat word).  Or perhaps not; there are arguments that it comes from Bourgogne, but really, who cares all that much anyway?  Fact is, it exists only in the Piedmont, and there only in two small provinces and a spare handful of villages.  Any way you look at it, it’s rare, virtually unknown, and only now emerging into a quite crowded marketplace of wine.

Which means, of course, that you should pounce on it. I say that, mind you, with great ambivalence, fully aware that if you take the advice and buy Ruché and come to love it as I have, it will seriously deplete the already minor amount of this lovely wine for me to consume.

The pictured wine, most recently consumed subject of this article, was Ruché de Castagnole Monferrato DOCG by Enrico Morando, 2011.  It was consumed at Coppio in Portland with some terrific pasta. Coppio’s wine list cooed that the Ruché was “one of the coolest wines we’ve ever served! Perfumed, dry, earthy, complex”.

It was all those things, and more.

Lightly dusted with fresh, fine ground black pepper, and mouth-watering tart berry fruit just underneath, with the lean, focused fruit acidity providing structure without resorting to tannins which are light. There’s an explosion of fruit on the first sip, mingled with some intriguing herbal notes, almost but not quite like Provencal ‘garrigue’, hot and dusty and ever-so-slightly resinous, the perfume of rose petals and fragrant dried flowers, mixed in with a solid core of spiciness to add yet another taste and texture layer. Think marinated spiced sour cherries and you wouldn’t be far off.

The Ruché made a profound first impression, but became amazing when exposed to the foods, a wide-ranging array of Italian-Piedmontese pastas, rich with mushrooms and olive and herbs. 

Photo: Vigneti Enrico Morando
More than most wines, the Ruché has a curious ability to adapt its texture as well as its flavor to the food.  Pillows of gnocchi, flat wide ribbons of chewy meaty pappardelle, delicate purses of spicy agnolotti---the Ruché handled them all, and fitted itself to all, with surpassing ease.  It accompanied and accommodated even a firm herbed whitefish without any difficulty.  

It is a chameleon of a red wine; lean, medium-bodied, tart, fruity, herbal, spicy, and most of all, precisely balanced in all its facets.

Photo: Vigneti Enrico Morando
This is definitively one of the most “Italian” of wines: lean and mean, focused and intense.  No gobs, no pillows of flavor, no raisination, no tricks to plump up the wine or jam up the fruit. If that’s what you like, go elsewhere; but if you want a wine made for table, made to go with delicate and hearty food, and is an absolute pleasure to drink: this is the one.

Good luck.  If you find some, make sure you get there before I do, or it won’t be there anymore.  If ever there were a dependable, reliable, easily affordable house red that over-delivers in every way, Ruché de Castagnole Monferrato is that wine.

Friday, November 28, 2014


I have had the fortunate occasion of being able to enjoy a string of lovely wines lately. They were from widely spread areas, encompassing a variety of varietals, both as monocepages and blends, and usually accompanied a broad representation of food styles and flourishes.

The only thing these wines shared, in fact, was subtle enough to not be immediately noticeable: these were wines that did not glitter.

There is a category---and a very healthy category, praise be to Bacchus---of wines that do not vogue in the spotlight.  They don’t demand or command celebrity attention. They don’t crowd everything else off the table, and they don’t dominate the discussion. These wines usually don’t appear in curated collections or get featured in mailing lists.  You don’t have to join clubs and kiss up, and you don’t have to mortgage your house to afford one bottle of these wines.

What wines are these?  Well, to give you an idea, here’s a short list, plucked from memory, of the wines I’m talking about:

Bodegas Beronia Rioja Alta
Lapierre Raisins Gaulois VdP (Beaujolais)
Can Feixes Blanc, Catalunya
Cellers Can Blau, Tarragona
Ribolla Gialla I Clivi, Friuli
Sanct Valentin Sauvignon, St. Michael-Eppan, Trento

Provençal Rosé
They do not glitter.  But they surely satisfy.  And when you stop to think about that---and you should---you realize the not very profound idea that these are your “value wines”---not in the sense they are inexpensive, for even these non-glitter wines can be a touch pricy, but in the real sense that they are valuable because they are satisfying, reliable, consistent.

And in almost every case---certainly every instance of late for me---these wines have charmed because they are so accommodating with food, whether it’s ‘per picar’ finger snacks or sumptuous multi-course meals.

Any of these can be fine without food, of course. Their honest amiability guarantees that.  It’s that the wines embrace the foods, and vice versa, that turns a pleasant wine into an admired companion, thus elevating the merger to a higher complimentary level.

These are wines that don’t shout; they murmur. They don’t grandstand or showboat. They do not strive to be outrageous, exaggerated, over the top blockbusters, and they don’t attempt to be so bombastic as to command attention  and points.

And I am thankful.

Here’s one in particular I am thankful for today:

Falanghina Dei Feudi di San Gregorio
What to serve as the white wine for the most difficult food and wine pairing dinner of the year.  With the cacophony of flavors on the table at Thanksgiving, you have two choices, either to ignore the situation entirely and simply pick out a good wine, or make a careful, deliberate decision to throw a wine as a sacrifice in the great coliseum of flavor overload (little Greco-Roman metaphor there).

I did both.  Pick out a good wine?  Check.  Carefully select a wine that would be quite satisfying but would also deal with the flavor assault without particular difficulty, remaining, light on the palate, lively, refreshing and, above all, drinkable?  Check.

Falanghina is the grape,  Campania is the place. Feudi di San Gregorio is the winery.  Falanghina, purportedly from Greece originally, is a premier variety best grown on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Campania, outside Naples.  It is said to be the base for the legendary “Falernian,”most famous wine of the antique Romans.

In the hands of Feudi di San Gregorio winery, Falanghina is a superb non-glitter wine.  Mostly an abbondanza of fruit---apples, pears, pineapple, even banana---the rest is delicate white flowers supported with mouth-watering citrus acidity and crisp minerality.

This is downright enticing wine, difficult to drink in restraint, simply because it smells so fresh and vital with flower and fruit, is lively on the palate, and lingers delicately, never heavy, never dull in the long finish.

The turkey, the fat-dripping gravy, the herb-laden stuffing, the cranberry with orange zest, the sautéed onions and green beans, the sweet potatoes and brown sugar?  Hey, don’t worry about it.  This wine handles all of those, singularly or together, with aplomb (which translates in youthspeak as “Dude, not a problem. It’s all good.")

And it is. All good.
Vin Rouge de Luberon

Friday, November 7, 2014

Apologia certatim iudicandum

Bad Manhattan!
Shaken with foamy skim.
Not clear.
Cheap cherry.
Apologia certatim iudicandum---which is Bad Schoolboy Latin for "an explanation of judging cocktail competitions".

I was asked recently, in a very serious and respectful “I would really like to know and understand” manner, why cocktail competition judges make the decisions they make.

Immediately on the heels of that question another person queried, “Yeah, why did you pick that cocktail as a winner and not the other one, because I think the other one tasted better.

Lots of answers to both those questions...although they are really the same question.

•The competition rules:  every competition has its own set of rules which the judges agree to adhere to.  Occasionally the judges may not like the parameters as stated or the specifications for judgment, but they are duty bound to follow those rules by agreement.  In one competition judges were instructed to give a range of points to the bartender’s “je ne se quois”. How do you assign relative points to 'je ne sais quois"?

•What the judges are looking for---what they are tasked to look for---can be very different from what a consumer is looking for in a cocktail.  It is not enough to say, “Wow, that tastes good so it should win.”
Perfect gin martini with
an exquisite simple garnish.

•Some questions judges may be asking:

--How easy would this drink be to make? 

--How much preparation time would it take? 

--How difficult would it be to source the ingredients?

--How much would the drink cost versus what a bar could charge---because bartenders are there to make a profit for the bar with their skills and their time.

Dale DeGroff Jack Rose.
One perfect rose petal.
Why they call him King Cocktail.
--Would you want to drink more than one of these?

--Would you order this drink if you saw it in front of someone else? 

--Does the garnish fit the cocktail? Is it cumbersome or fussy? Is it appropriate?  At one tiki-style competition a bartender plopped in an entire nosegay of pungent tropical flowers into the glass; the judges had to negotiate the shrubbery just to taste, and the flowers were so pungent they could not identify the base spirit being used.

--Can this cocktail be replicated? Could you make this drink faithfully at your bar, or at home,
Wee bit over the top?
And how would you drink it?
without too much fuss?

--How does the bartender look, and how does he present himself? (Personable, informative, knowledgeable, eye contact? )

--Does the bartender set up his space (mise en place) properly for efficiency? Does he come prepared? Does he react quickly and easily to unexpected problems?  Does he have good technique.  In short, does he appear to be professional, or is he making it up as he goes along?

Too much garnish?
Ah, but what if it is
a Pimm's Cup? (It is.)
•If the competition is brand-sponsored, does he use the brand to good effect? Every judge has experienced a drink where the sponsor brand wasn’t even evident in the finished cocktail. Don’t make a smoky/peaty Islay scotch cocktail in a gin sour competition.  And for heaven’s sake, do not use the brand’s greatest competitor in the same drink: remember, if the cocktail wins it will be used in public relations and brands don’t care to advertise their major compeitors in their cocktails.

•Something often overlooked by competitors, who in their zeal strive to impress the judges by going over the top in their creations, is that a good judge is constantly looking not for extravagance but balance.  A judge values harmony of ingredients over garish display almost every time.

•While most judges are chosen to be as non-partisan and independent as possible, and ideally should be people with great understanding of the industry, many aren’t. Those are chosen for their celebrity status (radio personality, sports star, local writer), and may or may not know anything about the spirits or cocktail business.  But even those folks are given basic ground rules and scoring ranges so there is at least some discipline to the choice of winners. Plus, they’re usually sitting alongside an experienced judge just in case.
A remarkable award winning Cognac cocktail by Adam Robinson.
Clarity, precision, explosions of flavor, perfect balance, and maintaining the
integrity and presence of every ingredient in the drink. Quickly made, perfect procedure,
and simply garnished, served in a specially selected glass.
(And he used Cynar, an artichoke-based bitter liqueur from Italy...and made it work!)

•And if you believe non-trade judges are critical, the professional United States Bartenders Guild member-bartenders that judge, and the USBG rules they are instructed to follow, are precise, highly detailed, and brutal. With USBG rules, even a well-designed cocktail may be deemed a loser because procedure and protocol weren’t followed or the bartender was slack and careless in some regard.  They hold themselves to higher standards than non-bartenders do.

In any competition, it pretty much comes down to an aggregation of things that will eventually determine the winner. One thing for sure: it’s never a casual decision.  The bartenders take it seriously; the judges take it just as seriously.

Three drinks are from a recent tequila exhibition in Portland:

By Cori-Lynn Black. A tequila sour with
floral notes. She used violet flavors, then garnished with
bitters and a single flower petal floating
on top of the egg white foam.

From Sarah Rehman, the Dulce Brujeria.
Sarah made a bright, crystalline yellow drink then enhanced it
by sprinking a small dash of Indian Saffron and letting the
tendrils of the spice add color and flavor and aroma.

A tequila sour from Laura Lindsay, incorporating watermelon juice, pepper spice, salt,
basil and sour.  Each part of the garnish reflected an ingredient of the cocktail.

And that's only three competitors.  Out of 6.
Still think cocktail judging is easy?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Abacela Vineyards: Umpqua Terroir/Spanish Varieties make oustanding wines

As with many wineries, it started with an idea which turned into a passion, then morphed into a dream which was turned into reality.  Of course, all this took many years of hard work and sacrifice, but that’s what happens when you make your dreams come alive.

Earl Jones got an early…um, jones…for Spanish wines, especially the succulent red wines from Rioja and Ribera. At first he had little idea and even less concern for what the wines were: he simply enjoyed them, whether alone or with food…especially with food.

As his interest in the wines developed, and he learned about Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albariño and other Spanish varieties, he began to wonder why they weren’t represented in the American wine scene---did they not fit the climate or terroir; did they not have the capability to produce outstanding wines in other places; and why wouldn’t they?  These questions led Earl to investigate even further, and eventually he decided to follow the idea/passion/dream of developing these varieties in the Pacific Northwest, finally settling on the beautiful but then far-off-the-beaten-wine-path of the Umpqua Valley in Oregon.

Fast forward twenty years and Earl, his wife Hilda, and their two daughters are celebrating the “overnight success” of an outstanding winery, Abacela Vineyards, and their championship, gold medal, tasty-as-hell wines, which are led by Tempranillo, those Rioja and Ribera reds that Earl enjoyed so much, the brick and mineral-driven Albariño white, and a Garnacha Rosé that are astonishingly good and entirely delectable.  There are other varieties present in the vineyards and in the wines----Syrah, Malbec, Dolcetto, Viognier, even some Petite Verdot---but it is the Spanish varieties that are most compelling here.

There are now two Tempranillo wines, the Estate and the Fiesta offering.  The Estate is the more conservatively robust and stately of the two, more akin to the idee fixé of Rioja and Ribera.  The Fiesta Tempranillo is the more approachable of the two immediately upon release, grapy and gulpable and made so as to soften up the tannins and make the wine smoother and silkier, but more in a Spanish way than a traditional jam-centric California style.  There’s still lively acidity, black fruits and spiciness here, and no hint of overconcentrated  jamminess.  It is compulsively drinkable: one sip and you want the whole glass, and a refill, and then another bottle.  There’s no tannic bite or scratchiness either, due to the choice of the grape lots and the barrel regimen, with 17 months of a combination of old and new barrels, using a combination of French and American oak. (Interestingly enough for wine geek types, the Fiesta actually reminded me of the Mencia/Bierzo reds, even though that’s a different Spanish variety; it made the wine even more drinkable.)

How thoughtful of the folks at Abacela: when you go to the winery (and you should; it’s a great stop off Interstate 5 just southwest of Roseburg in the Umpqua) you can buy the Fiesta for popping and drinking right away while the Estate is sitting quietly for years getting more and more impressive.

Abacela has won a slew of gold and platinum medals and a whole wall of “best” awards. They deserve every one of them.  It’s a lovely story of the idea/passion/dream-come-true saga of a couple of supremely nice and dedicated people making some great wines for us to enjoy.

You should have some Abacela in your wine rack.  If you don’t, go get some.  You can thank me later.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Irish Coffee at the Raven & Rose

I’ve posted something on this elsewhere, but it bears sharing here as well.  When something is done so well that it represents a serious improvement on a classic, attention must be paid.

We stopped by the Raven & Rose restaurant in Portland for lunch not long ago. Neon Dave Shenaut, formerly peripatetic bartender who has settled in perfectly for a long gig at R&R and The Rookery Bar upstairs, was manning the bar for the lunch rush. Lucky us (although it also must be said that the entire crew is as savvy and well-trained as can be; they all unfailingly know their repertoire and execute it flawlessly).

Purely on a whim, and totally out of character for me, I ordered an Irish Coffee.

I rarely---and I mean rarely as in almost never---order Irish Coffee when dining or drinking out. It is such a glorious drink when done well, but so painfully rare is it to see one done well that I gave up hope long ago and just stopped ordering them.  Disappointment can do that to a guy. I make better Irish Coffee at home.

As with any simple drink---a Manhattan, a Martini, a Negroni---success depends on using good ingredients and then combining them in a precise way.

Newsflash: a good Irish Coffee is not made by pouring cheap bottom-shelf Irish Whiskey in a cup of coffee, stirring in some sweetener and glopping up with a spray can of whipped cream. And it is most definitely not enhanced by adding some sort of syrup or caramel drizzle on top.  I even had one served in a tall ice cream goblet, with Bailey’s Irish Cream mixed in and a maraschino cherry on top. That wasn’t an Irish Coffee, that was a tragedy.

The best classic Irish Coffee I ever had---and no, it wasn’t at the Buena Vista in San Francisco---was double-strength hot black coffee, muddled Demerara molasses brown sugar, Jameson 1780 and very lightly aerated heavy cream.  It was the way it was made, though, that made it great: when the whiskey, brown sugar and strong coffee were ready, the bartender eased the heavy cream slowly over an inverted spoon so it rested gently on top of the coffee, not mixing with it.  The entire idea of the Irish Coffee is to sip that pure sweet butterfat cream, then catch the sudden delicious jolt of heat, black coffee, malty-rich sugar and the bite of Irish whiskey all at once.

My gamble at the Raven & Rose wasn’t that much of a gamble. I had seen Shenaut make hot cocktails before and he has a knack for it. The bar also has established a sterling reputation for precisely made and beautifully executed drinks. So it was worth a plunge.

But what I got far exceeded my expectations.  Shenaut uses good ingredients, he mixes them properly---but then goes a magnificent step further. Good Irish whiskey, Demerara sugar, heavy cream, all good. But instead of a regular brew, or even extra strong coffee, he uses a long espresso pull of Spella Italian Roast coffee.

When you take that first cautious sip there is all you expect in the rush of sensation---but more!  The espresso richness comes through forcefully, with that characteristic brown crema curling up around the edges, crema on cream, chocolaty, smoky and slightly bitter and oily-rich, adding an entirely new layer to an already fantastic drink.

As a lovely final touch, Raven & Rose serves it up correctly, in a clear glass stemmed and handled cup…because a good part of the appreciation of an Irish Coffee is the visual, seeing that pure thick layer of cream floating on top of black coffee in a layered yin yang of contrast, with three glistening roasted coffee beans resting gently on the white foam.

It’s the best Irish Coffee I’ve had in the U.S.  Better even than my own, which is pretty damned good.

What’s the best ever?  That was in Ireland and it was the best…well, it was the best because I was in Dublin, just off O’Connell Street, and it was the end of a single glorious month spent wandering around one of the most beautiful and compelling places on the face of the earth, and my head was full of Borstal Boys and revolutions and I was drunk on Yeats and Joyce, O’Connor and O’Brien and O’Flaherty,.  Guess you had to be there to know how good that particular Irish Coffee was.