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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Wine Wednesday: Hop in the Dark

Cascade hops at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. Photo by Leah Greenstein.

Sure it's "Wine" Wednesday, but it's raining and I spent most of the night dreaming about beer. Beer from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, to be specific. Deschutes has been brewing craft beers since 1988, back when Bend was just a small Central Oregon town in the high desert foothills of Mount Bachelor and the term "craft beer" hadn't been invented yet. They started out with three beers: Black Butte Porter, Bachelor Bitter and Cascade Golden Ale. It's that first beer, the Black Butte Porter, that got me interested in beer, with its incredibly balanced but rich profile full of espresso, cocoa and a hint of hoppy bitterness. It quickly replaced Guinness as my beer of choice.

These days, Deschutes brews a lot more beer, but still pays the same careful attention to all of their beers that they did to those first three. And all of their beers are remarkably balanced, showing more restraint than many of their West Coast brethren. All of their beers go through rigorous quality assurance testing and are bottled and shipped from their brewery in Bend to guarantee that it's as fresh as can be when shipped. 

Hop in the Dark (22oz $5.99) is an experimental brew, made not at the main brewery on the Deschutes River in Bend, but in small batches at the brewery's Bend and Portland brewpubs, where they could get the immediate feedback of dedicated customers. (Sitting at the bar at the Bend brewpub you would think that everyone worked there with how passionately they talked about the beers. Visit - and try the amazing Reuben with homemade sauerkraut and Black Butte rye bread with your pint - you won't regret it.) Anyhow, this is a "Cascadian Dark Ale" or a black IPA, with roasted malts that round out the edges and give a tan to their traditional India Pale Ale. For me, it has some of the subtle coffee notes of the Black Butte Porter with an oaty undercurrent to match up to the bitter citrus and floral hop notes that dominate this beer's nose. A must try for any beer fan.

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