As the latest round of privatization talks ramp up in Harrisburg (don’t hold your breath), it’s worth noting that occasionally the PLCB does something decent. I mean, it’s still a archaic system filled with draconian rules, the selection is generally unreliable, and the state stores are basically devoid of any personality whatsoever, but sometimes the combined purchasing power of the state does lead to a good deal or two. In particular, the Chairman’s Selection program seems to offer some pretty deep discounts on select bottles of wine. On the whole, I’d much rather be able to find what I’m looking for than be at the mercy of the Chairman’s whims (he says, as if he buys a lot of wine), but sometimes that guy selects something fun.
Enter Feuerheerd’s Ruby Porto Reserva. I’ve seen this bottle around before (at least, I think this is what it was), the military stencils on the bottle are quite eye catching, but the price (around $30) was a bit too high for a reserve port (I went over the various port designations last year). Thanks to the Chairman, we’ve got a nice 50% discount going on here, with the bottle now selling for $14.99. I won’t leave you in suspense, if you like port and live near PA, it’s worth stocking up.
It’s a little hard to come by info on Feuerheerd (no official website I can find, not even a Wikipedia page). Founded in 1815 as part of a series of businesses for Dietrich Feuerheerd, it’s changed hands a few times since then, and came to be focused on port. These days, they appear to be a mid-list shipper when it comes to Vintage port, but this reserva is quite good. I’m not going to proclaim myself an expert, but it’s probably my favorite expression of reserve yet (with close competition from Graham’s Six Grapes). Thanks to the chairman, I can’t imagine a better deal on port ever coming to pass. Let’s take a closer look:
Feuerheerd’s Ruby Porto Reserva – Pours a very dark red color, purple around the edges, a little glint when held to light, nice legs. Smells fabulous, lots of fruits, plums, berries, and the like, with some oak, and maybe something more earthy, like leather or tobacco. Taste is very sweet, rich, tons of dark fruits, plums, cherries, berries, and the like, a hint of oak, spice, and booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, chewy, very sticky, a bit of boozy warming character, but very soft for a port. Overall, well balanced and very well crafted, certainly one of the better ruby reserves I’ve had, though it lacks the true complexity of a vintage porto. On the lower end of A-, a true competitor to Six Grapes (my current go-to), if not a superior option.
Wine Nerd Details: 20% ABV bottled (750 ml, about a week after opening). Drank out of a copita glass on 1/1/15. 2014 vintage.
Beer Nerd Musings: I wonder if anyone’s ever tried to make fortified beer. I know there are a number of techniques that will yield super-high alcohol in beer, but nothing that uses a similar process to Port or Sherry. I suppose you could argue that a big, barrel aged stout or barleywine is a close approximation. After all, you’re basically adding a small proportion of spirit to the beer (and for the most part, fermentation has stopped once it hits the barrel). Not quite fortified in the manner of Port, but along those lines perhaps. A quick googling reveals the practice of Needled Beer, basically beer spiked with spirits of some kind. Apparently the drink of choice for only the lowest sorts. And hey, looky, Great Divide made something called Needled Beer, a 20% ABV barleywine. That sounds rather more like it. Of course, there’s only one checkin, and it doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else (even Ratebeer or Beeradvocate), but hey, it’s something.
I’ve been considering an oak aged homebrew that used port instead of bourbon (I’m thinking Wee Heavy as the style, but may resort back to barleywine or stout again), and given the price point on Feuerheerd’s, it might be worth picking up an extra bottle for that purpose.
So there you have it, my first non-beer review of the year. Not sure if I’ll be tackling any more Port this year, but maybe I’ll grab a Tawny before the 40 days are up (Since I haven’t really written about them before and I honestly haven’t drank that many of them, that would probably work). I’ll be keeping the lid on any Vintage ports I own for a while, but maybe next year… In the meantime, there will be some bourbon reviews next week, and at least one beer review while I’m at it. Stay tuned.