The tricky topic of “pairings”

One of the most common things I get asked when I ask about new content and things people would like to see more of is pairings. Cigars and spirits, cigars and wine, cigars and foods, etc. This is not only one of the most requested topics but it is by far the hardest topic to do. Simply by the sheer numbers of combinations that are available to us I would venture to say would be in the billions. Which, when you consider it, is a very good problem to have! If we only had 5 cigars and 10 spirits to pick from, it would be no problem.

I will be the first to admit that the topic is one that really appeals to me as I love to try new things but the overwhelming number of options make it a challenge I am not sure I want to tackle. Not only that, it is also highly subjective. Much like cigar reviews, it comes down to each individual. You may find certain flavors and notes that I simply just don’t get. Lord knows I read reviews and wonder what the hell is this person smoking because I have never gotten Lucky Charms Marshmellows covered in Dr. Pepper in my cigar profile…ever. Not even smoking an Acid.

My other thought about this topic is that I am honest enough to admit that my palate is not well rounded enough, IMO, to do the topic a lot of justice. Not saying that I wouldn’t be willing to give it a shot but just know that it may not be of much value. Again, a super subjective topic. I have done bourbon tastings and cigar tastings with friends and rarely to we all agree on the notes and flavors. While we may find some common undertones and primary notes, the subtle differences varies greatly across the group.

Another thing to consider with pairings is your own personal range and likes. As someone with a heavy palate that really enjoys medium rare steaks, red wine, bourbon and maduro cigars as my go to options I am going to have a real challenge doing pairings on things like Connecticut’s with white wine, beer or vodka. While those may make for some absolute dynamic pairings, I am not sure I would be able to enjoy them.

I have a ton of respect for people like James Brown of Black Label Trading Company and Black Works Studio that was heavy in the wine industry and has trained his palate as a sommelier. I believe this is what makes him so successful as a cigar blender. That is someone who I think would provide some serious pairing options because of his experience.

Another thing that plays a HUGE factor in creating perfect pairings has nothing at all to do with taste. It has everything to do with experiences. I can remember one of my most favorable pairings was something I rarely even drink and when I do, the first few sips are terrible. I was at a work conference in Scottsdale, AZ with my now current boss (we had just met for the first time) and he found out I was a cigar guy. He was a scotch guy. I am not. I am a bourbon fan but scotch has not been favorable to me. I gave him a cigar and he purchased us a Lagavulin. For those that know, or don’t, this is like drinking campfire smoke from the heavy peat. Drinking it now, it takes me a few sips to ease into it and I wonder what the hell was so different about it from what I remembered. What I remembered was that drink, in AZ, paired with a Padron 1964 maduro and the atmosphere and conversation was one of the best experiences I have had, making it one of the most memorable pairings in my recollection.

To sort of wrap this up a bit, my suggestion is to try different things, take notes on each. Write down pros/cons, likes/dislikes of the cigar you are smoking and whatever you are pairing it with. As you experiment I think you will find trends and patterns in the flavors and profiles of things you like and you don’t. If you have a cigar that you absolutely love and a wine or spirit that you absolutely love, try pairing them if you don’t already. I have done that in the past and have been really disappointed in the findings. Sometimes the flavor combinations actually overpower or work against each other. Once you have put together a solid list of 5 or so choices, switch them up. Try a cigar you had more pros than cons and pair them with a drink you maybe had more cons that pros and see if anything changes. It’s a super challenging and fun thing to do. Keep making tweaks and changes to your pairings until you lock one down that you absolutely enjoy. Then start all over. Lol. That is the game and that is what makes it such a fun and interesting topic, Variety is the spice of life and we are blessed to be able to sample so many different things. Stop smoking the same cigars you always have, stop being the “I’m a XYZ man/woman, I only drink this or smoke that”. Life is too short to be narrow minded. If you have some favorite pairings, please feel free to comment and share.

Thanks for reading and following. Make sure you share this article with friends and follow us on Social Media. Until next time, #LongAshesFullGlasses

Argyle 2014 Knudsen Vineyard Brut

As much as I love whiskey, it’s usually wine Wednesdays at my house. It’s been awhile since I’ve had some champagne, so I figured why not? I decided on a Brut from Argyle Winery. Here in Oregon, Argyle Winery is known for their champagnes. They were founded in 1987 by Rollin Soles as he wanted to capture the unique terroir of the Willamette Valley in a sparkling wine. Argyle sources their grapes from the Dundee Hills AVA and Eola-Amity Hills AVA. This Brut is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and aged in 100% neutral oak barrels.

The nose has a prominent apple aroma, and some mild acidity. My first few sips were tart, with some mild sweetness and not overly dry. Every addition sip had a well balanced tartness, low acid, and very mild tannins. There is apple and pear notes on the palate, along with prominent fruit aromas throughout. The carbonation is very well balanced, not overwhelming like some champagnes.

Overall, this Burt is a very drinkable champagne for everyone from beginners learning their palate to connoisseurs of fine wine. It averages $50 a bottle, and Argyle produced 1450 cases in 2014. I know you’re able to find Argyle wines relatively easy up and down the West Coast, and I’ve seen them in stores such as Safeway/Albertsons, Whole Foods, and Costco. I’d recommend pairing this with apples, pears, and raspberries along with creamy cheeses like Brie. It would also pair well with fish and shellfish, especially lobster.

Cana's Feast 2014 Grenache

Taking a break from bourbon and cigar pairings, I decided to try a red wine pairing instead. Red wines are often under estimated as a good pairing for cigars, and offer a more complex pairing when paired correctly. Living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I’m spoiled with numerous renowned wineries producing many varieties of wine.

I decided to try a 2014 Grenache from Cana’s Feast out of Carlton, Oregon. They source their Grenache grapes from the Columbia Valley AVA, which is known for producing more fruit forward wines like California, yet keeps some of the balance and structure of European wine. Cana’s only bottled 54 cases in 2014, making this wine a little harder to come by. I paired the Grenache with a Chapo from Traficante Cigar Company. If you haven’t heard of them yet, they’re definitely worth checking out.

After opening the bottle and letting it breathe for 30 minutes or so, the first few sips have a mild fruitiness to them. The draw is good on the first third of the cigar with hints of spice, and the wine compliments the predominant tobacco flavor while the cigar brings out the fruitiness.

During the transition from the first third to the second third, I noticed a slight cocoa flavor from the cigar. The spice is more prominent throughout the second third, and the fruitiness of the wine really shines. The wine’s talc like tannins are starting to be brought out by the cigar.

At the very end of the second third, the wine helps brings out a mild musky tobacco flavor with a pleasant leathery/earthy aroma. The last third of the cigar elevates the wine’s earthiness, while having a very smooth finish.

Overall, the wine has just enough tannins to create a pleasant balance where it doesn’t overpower the taste of the cigar. For $28 a bottle, it’s a good bottle for beginners exploring their palate, or for someone with a more sophisticated palate to enjoy on its own or with a nice cigar.

2008 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

7 Hills Vineyard Reserve

Walla Walla AVA

There’s nothing like a nice glass of wine after a long work week. I decided to crack a bottle I’ve had aging for a few years, and was I surprised. A little background on the region before I review this awesome wine.

Tamarack Cellars is based out of Walla Walla, Washington. The majority of the Walla Walla AVA is in Southeastern Washington with the remaining third in Eastern Oregon. The AVA is predominantly known for its sweet onions, but also produces some incredible wines. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most commonly grown grape, followed by Merlot and Syrah. It is one of the warmest wine growing regions in Washington and Oregon, helping to create bigger and bolder reds. The wine itself is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Carmenère.

After letting the wine breathe, the nose was peppery with some acid. On the initial swirl, the wine left strong legs on the glass, and had a dark, deep color.

My first few sips of the wine were dry, had a slight fruitiness that cabs are known for, with hints of cola, and the tannins were incredibly smooth.

The after taste had some pucker from the tannins, and a silky yet mild fruitiness that lingered.

Every additional sip had hints of minerals, and the tannins became even smoother. The legs stayed as strong as they were on my initial swirl of the glass. It turned out to be a very smooth and easily drinkable wine with a mild fruitiness that would pair well with a nice grilled steak or full bodied cigar.

Since the wine is 10 years old, I’m guessing it’s pretty hard to find a bottle unless the winery held on to a few cases for their library. It cost $50 a bottle back in 2008, so if you can find a bottle now, it wouldn’t shock me to see it going for upwards of $80.

Changes on the way…Stay tuned

As we continue to expand and grow I have decided to bring on some help. If you are not yet a member of our Facebook group, hit us up and join the club. I will be bringing on reviews from other people to keep content coming. I am also working with a couple of people to bring in reviews of craft beer and spirits (mainly whiskey/bourbon). My goal is to bring as much content to you as possible and keep thing interesting.

If you have any suggestions on content you would like to see, please feel free to reach out here and let me know. I look forward to what’s next and I hope you will keep up the support.

Thanks for the support! Long ashes and full glasses friends!