Washington wine country the place to be

The first winery license in the state of Washington was issued in 1962 when Columbia Winery was founded as Associated Vintners.

Now, just 45 years later, it has its 500th licensed operation, Sweet Valley Wines of Walla Walla. David McDaniels, one of three business partners, said, "We are honored to be a part of the wine industry in Walla Walla. So many others have led the way. What they have done will give us the opportunity to succeed. We look forward to continuing the legacy of producing world class wine for all to enjoy."

Washington, second only to California in U.S. winery rankings by state, had just 20 wineries in 1980 but that number has been on a steady increase since then, hitting the 155 mark by 2000, then adding 350 since then. There are nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) throughout the state.

Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, said in a statement, "As we pass this milestone, we are thrilled about the future for Washington wines. We aspire to become one of the top wine producing regions in the world, and we believe that our course is solidly set to achieve that goal."

The state's wine industry is not dependent on individuals to begin operations entirely on their own. There is a state-supported winery incubator building at the Walla Walla Regional Airport that is slated for expansion.

The state legislature has approved $500,000 for two more facilities, and the Port of Walla Walla is expected to add another $150,000. The Port's target is for five startup winery facilities designed for embryonic winemakers.

The buildings are designed for bonded wineries that produce about 1,000 cases annually as part of their business models. Tenants are accepted on a six-year residency plan, after which they must leave to make room for more startups.


Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails
Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance
Experience Washington
Washington State Travel & Tourism


Did your hangout make the top 100?

Of all the gin joints in all the world, or at least in the country, which did the editors of Nightclub & Bar Magazine choose for this year's top 100?

Nightclubs and bars from all over the U.S. were chosen based on a number of criteria, say the editors, "including annual revenues, marketing and advertising effectiveness, promotional expertise, uniqueness to market, food and beverage programs and much more. This list is not a ranking of just the most high-end, of-the-moment nightclubs. Instead, it is a dynamic mixture of clubs, neighborhood bars, sports bars, family-oriented venues and more that for one reason or another deserve notice."

The following bars and clubs, listed in alphabetical order, made the Editors' Choice Top 100 for 2007. The city designated for each is the city in which it is located, or, if the concept has multiple locations, the city of its first location.

230 Fifth - New York, NY
40 Watt - Athens, GA
8150 - Vail, CO.
The Abbey - Hollywood, CA
AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar - Destin, FL.
Aria - Boston, MA
Avalon/Spider Club - Hollywood, CA.
Beach Bar at the W - San Diego, CA
B.E.D. - Miami, FL
Billy Bob's Texas - Fort Worth, TX
Blue Martini - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
the bosco - Ferndale, MI
Body English - Las Vegas, NV
Bombay Club - New Orleans, LA
Broken Spoke Saloon - Sturgis, SD
Brother's Bar & Grill - Lacross, WI
Butter - San Francisco, CA
Cabo Wabo - Lake Tahoe, NV
Casbah - Atlantic City, NJ
Cherry - Las Vegas, NV
Chilkoot Charlie's - Anchorage, AK
Coyote Cantina - Santa Fe, NM
Coyote Ugly - New York, NY
Crobar - Chicago, IL
The Crocodile Café - Seattle, WA
Diablo's Downtown Lounge - Eugene, OR
e4 - Scottsdale, AZ
Eight 75 - Biloxi, MS
El Gaucho - Seattle, WA
Elements the Lounge - Seabright, NJ
ESPN Zone - Baltimore, MD
Excalibur - Chicago, IL
Fadó Irish Pub - Atlanta, GA
Flatiron Lounge - New York, NY
The Flying Saucer - Memphis, TN
Fox Sports Grill - Scottsdale, AZ
Galapagos Art Space - Brooklyn, NY
ghostbar - Las Vegas, NV
Good Hurt - Los Angeles, CA
The Green Parrot - Key West, FL
The Greene Turtle - Ocean City, MD
Ground Zero Blues Club - Clarksdale, MS
The Helix - Washington, DC
House of Blues - New Orleans, LA
Iguana's Cantina - New York, NY
Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce - Hollywood, CA
JET - Las Vegas, NV
Kahunaville - Las Vegas, NV
Key Club - Hollywood, CA
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop - New Orleans, LA
The Library Bar & Grill - Tempe, AZ
Light - Las Vegas, NV
Lotus - New York, NY
Louie's Backyard - South Padre Island, TX
Mango's Tropical Café - Miami, FL
Mantra - Milwaukee, WI
Marquee - New York, NY
McGillin's Olde Ale House - Philadelphia, PA
Mercy Wine Bar - Addison, TX
Midnight Rodeo - San Antonio, TX
Mie N Yu - Washington, DC
MIXX - Atlantic City, NJ
mur.mur - Atlantic City, NJ
The New Crown & Anchor - Providencetown, MA
The New Sheridan - Telluride, CO
Ocean Club - Honolulu, HI
Pangaea - Hollywood, FL
Pat O' Brien's - New Orleans, LA
Pavilion Bar & Café - Charleston, SC
Pin-Up Bowl - St. Louis, MO
Pink Elephant - New York, NY
The Playboy Club - Las Vegas, NV
Pure - Las Vegas, NV
Purple Moon - Flint, MI
Rockit Bar & Grill - Chicago, IL
Ruby Skye - San Francisco, CA
rumjungle - Las Vegas, NV
Sharkeez - Huntington Beach, CA
Sherlock's Baker Street Pub - Houston, TX
Sloppy Joe's - Key West, FL
Snatch/Suite - Miami, FL
Stingaree - San Diego, CA
Stubb's Bar-B-Q - Austin, TX
Studio 54 - Las Vegas, NV
Tabú Ultra Lounge - Las Vegas, NV
Tangerine - Las Vegas, NV
TAO - Las Vegas, NV
Therapy - New York, NY
Tini Bigs - Seattle, WA
Tipitina's - New Orleans, LA
Tongue & Groove - Atlanta, GA
Tryst - Las Vegas, NV
VICCI - Austin, TX
Vine Street Lounge - Hollywood, CA
The Viper Room - Los Angeles, CA
Walnut Room - Philadelphia, PA
Whiskey Blue - Los Angeles, CA
Worship - Atlantic City, NJ
Yard House - Long Beach, CA
Zinc Lounge - Manhattan Beach, CA


Any way you put it, be careful in Mexico

Double-click on map to enlarge



It for the first time includes to the port and that city

The government of the United States emitted a new alert for the Americans who wish to travel to Mexico, due to the recent acts of violence derived from the drug trafficking.

In this occasion he entered to the port of Acapulco and Monterrey in the list of risk for the residents or American visitors to this country.

In the public warning emitted yesterday by the Department of State reference to the danger in these cities becomes, in addition to the organizations that already had been mentioned in previous announcements, like Tamaulipas (particularly New Laredo), Michoacán and Baja California.

“In the recent months murders have happened type execution of Mexican civil employees in Tamaulipas (specially New Laredo), Michoacán, Baja California, Guerrero (particularly Acapulco), Nuevo Leo'n (specially the zone of Monterrey) and other states”, are indicated.

The text includes a special recommendation for the city of Oaxaca, in which it asks the Americans to review the conditions before traveling to that site, since many of the problems that caused the protests the last year have not been solved.

Perhaps that's why you have to pay special attention to the nuances of language. The preceding news story appeared in Spanish in Mexico's El Universal newspaper and was translated into English on its Web site today.

It was based on the following "public announcement" from the U.S. Department of State:

Office of the Spokesman

This information is current as of today, Fri Apr 20 2007 17:15:40 GMT-0400.

This Public Announcement advises U.S. citizens on security situations in Mexico that may affect their activities while in that country. This Public Announcement supersedes previous Public Announcements for Mexico dated January 18, 2007 and September 15, 2006. This Public Announcement expires on October 16, 2007.

Narcotics-Related Violence - U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Violence by criminal elements affects many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas. In recent months there have been execution-style murders of Mexican officials in Tamaulipas (particularly Nuevo Laredo), Michoacan, Baja California, Guerrero (particularly Acapulco), Nuevo Leon (especially in and around Monterrey) and other states. Though there is no evidence that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, Mexican and foreign bystanders have been injured or killed in some violent attacks demonstrating the heightened risk in public places. In its effort to combat violence, the Government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

In recent years dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Nuevo Laredo with more than two dozen cases still unresolved and new cases of kidnap for ransom continue to be reported. No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Drug cartel members have been known to follow and harass U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles, particularly in border areas including Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros. U.S. citizens who believe they are being followed should notify officials as soon as possible. U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which are generally more secure. It is preferable for U.S. citizens to stay in well-known tourist destinations and tourist areas of the cities with more adequate security, and provide an itinerary to a friend or family member not traveling with them. U.S. citizens should refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.

Oaxaca City - U.S. citizens traveling to Oaxaca City should be aware that from May to November 2006, protests in Oaxaca City became increasingly violent resulting in at least nine deaths. On October 27, 2006, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in Oaxaca City as a result of the violence and disorder caused by ongoing civil unrest in the city. Many of the issues that were the basis for the protests remain unresolved. U.S. Citizens planning to travel to Oaxaca City should check on current conditions before beginning their travel.

Demonstrations - Demonstrations occur frequently throughout Mexico and are usually peaceful. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence unexpectedly. During violent demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas. Since the timing and routes of scheduled marches and demonstrations are always subject to change, U.S. citizens should monitor local media sources for new developments and exercise extreme caution while within the vicinity of any protests. The State Department reminds U.S. citizens to avoid participating in demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by Mexican authorities. The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and such actions may result in detention and/or deportation.

For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the Mexico Consular Information Sheet at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers from Mexico, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). American citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to register with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the State Department's travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: ccs@usembassy.net.mx. The Embassy's Internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/.


Tale tales and tastings on the Whiskey Trail

William M. Dowd photos

This statue of Booker Noe, legendary master distiller and grandson of Jim Beam, holds a place of honor 
on the main lawn at the Jim Beam Distillery in Lynchburg, TN.

The Labrot & Graham Distillery has something probably no other bourbon maker can boast about.

No, not the copper pot stills. True, they are reputedly the only such devices among the nation's bourbon distillers, handcrafted in Scotland by A. Forsyth & Son Ltd. And, no, not the fact that the distillery's Woodford Reserve bourbon is the only triple distilled bourbon made in Kentucky.

Master distiller Chris Morris
What it also has is a grave containing a human torso buried with two legs, three thumbs and no head.

The missing head was the result of an industrial accident; the extra thumb came from a distillery worker who lost it in an accident, didn't think there was much sense keeping it in his pocket, and tossed it into the grave before it was covered up. That, at least, is the gist of the way master distiller Chris Morris  tells the tale. No doubt an archaeologist in the far distant future is going to have some strange thoughts after happening on this site. And, don't even get me started on the ghost of the girl who died in a fire in the big house on the hill.

Woodford Reserve, named for the county in which its tiny hometown of Versailles (pronounced ver-sails, rather than the French vehr-sigh from which the name is taken) is located, is only the latest name for the facility that lays claim to the title of Kentucky's oldest bourbon distillery. It has been that since 2003, although the Labrot & Graham name that preceded it still is alive in some aspects of the operation.

It is located in the heart of Kentucky's famed Bluegrass country and maintains a relationship with the thoroughbred horse racing community through various business sponsorships, including being the "official bourbon" of the Kentucky Derby.

The present distillery is largely maintained on 72 acres in a series of sprawling stone buildings, such as the distillery itself, dating from the 19th century and one reason the complex has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The original distilling works was built in 1812 by Elijah Pepper, then became the Oscar Pepper Distillery, then the Labrot & Graham Distillery in 1878 through 1941. Brown-Forman, now one of the world's largest alcoholic beverage companies, bought it in 1968, sold it in 1971, but, in a burst of renewed interest in bourbon making, re-purchased it in 1994, spending more than $7 million to restore and refurbish it.

The history of Woodford Reserve is not unlike that of the nation and the industry. Growing in fits and starts, leaps and bounds, straddling epochal events in the history of a still-young country, bouncing back from such seeming industry death-blows as Prohibition, yet always persevering.

That is what makes a trek along the American Whiskey Trail so fascinating.

Throughout the country, tens of thousands of visitors annually visit various wineries that cooperate in tourist-oriented wine trail groupings. Each trail has its individual attractions, but all emphasize winery visits, festivals, B&Bs, dining, sight-seeing and the like. The American Whiskey Trail is a much longer trek to fewer places, but a fascinating concept nonetheless.

The Trail, sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS), includes seven historic sites and six operating whiskey distilleries spread over a five-state area from New York to Tennessee by way of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky.

If that seems a slightly awkward construct, perhaps it is. But it shows the erratic progression of whiskey making throughout America history.

From the north, the American Whiskey Trail begins at historic Fraunces Tavern Museum in Manhattan where Gen. George Washington bade farewell to his troops in 1783 and ends at the site of the new George Washington Distillery Museum on the grounds of private citizen Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Va. There they refer to that site as the gateway to the trail. Geographic chauvinism obviously is dictated by where you live, one supposes.

Numerous historic stops on the Trail have a George Washington whiskey connection. The Trail includes Gadsby's Tavern Museum in Old Town Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where early American leaders often met to discuss issues of the day and where at least twice Washington attended the annual Birthnight Ball held in his honor.

I found it intriguing to stroll around the two-building complex, within sight of the nation's capital yet with the echoes of long-ago formal dances and ribald debates over tankards of ale, beer and whiskey still emanating from the wooden floors and plaster walls.

The Trail also hits the Woodville Plantation in Allegheny County, PA, built by Gen. John Neville, a Revolutionary War figure and close friend of Washington, and the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park, PA, which was a focal point of an 18th century dispute in which President Washington dispatched troops to enforce federal law taxing distilleries and whiskey.

An array of whiskey artifacts at the Oscar Getz Museum.

Other historic sites are the Oscar Getz Museum in Bardstown, KY, which has a collection of rare whiskey artifacts dating from pre-colonial to post-Prohibition days, and the West Overton Museums in Scottdale, PA, a former distillery center and part of what is billed as the only pre-Civil War village in Pennsylvania still intact.

Among the first Europeans to practice their whiskey making skills in this country were Scotch-Irish farmers in western Pennsylvania.

They were not alone in distilling whiskey, but they were among the feistiest and most productive. When the Continental Congress put a tax on whiskey production, they refused to pay, thus touching off the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 to 1794.

So acrimonious was the dispute that President Washington sent troops to quell the uprising. When the whiskey makers continued to resist, he and Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson cooked up a deal to break up the concentration of resistance. Jefferson offered 60 acres of land as an incentive for moving to the Kentucky region (then part of Virginia), building a permanent structure and growing corn.

Many took advantage of the offer but found that no family could eat 60 acres' worth of corn a year, and it was too perishable to ship out for sale. The Scotch-Irish instead used it to make whiskey in place of much of the wheat and rye they were used to employing. Coincidentally, the presence of massive limestone formations, part of an underground shelf that extends from southern Indiana down through Kentucky and Tennessee, filtered and "sweetened" the water, which helped make a smoother distilled spirit, the one that came to be called bourbon for the Kentucky county in which it was produced.

The definition of whiskey, by the way, is a liquor produced from the fermented mash of grains such as barley, corn, and rye. That would include the likes of Canadian or Scotch whisky (no "e''), Irish whiskey, rye and bourbon.

Bourbon, however, is a special case. All bourbons are whiskies, but not all whiskies are bourbons. The legal definition of bourbon was codified in 1964 by a congressional resolution requiring that it be a minimum of two years old, at least 80 proof (40 percent alcohol), made from a mash of at least 51 percent corn (most distillers use at least 70%), and aged in charred new American oak barrels, from which the once-colorless distillate draws its amber color and vanilla and caramel flavors. The Tennessee whiskies -- Jack Daniel's and George Dickel, for example -- begin as bourbon but then are put through a charcoal filtration process that leaves them in a niche of their own.

The operating distilleries open to the public as part of the Trail are Jim Beam in Clermont, KY, Maker's Mark in Loretto, KY, Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, KY, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, KY, George Dickel in Tullahoma, TN, and Jack Daniel's in Lynchburg, TN. It also includes two rum distilleries in Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands.

A touch of irony: Today, no bourbon is produced in Bourbon County.


It's all in the wrist in creating the signature hot wax drip on a bottle of Maker's Mark. Dip, pull back, twist, 
and put it down as the assembly line rolls on. Shades of Lucy and Ethel working at the candy factory.

A distillery worker at Woodford Reserve rolls out American white oak barrels just filled with new bourbon 
whiskey prior to loading them up for placement in aging houses elsewhere on the grounds.

Lynn Tolley, great-grandniece of Jack Daniel and one of the distillery's official tasters, also conducts tastings for 
special guests and runs the historic Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House restaurant in Lynchburg, TN.

A public room on the first floor of historic Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria, VA.

A tour guide explains the grain mixture that goes into creating sour mash at the 
                                                                                George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, TN.

Music is as much a part of rural life along the American Whiskey Trail as is whiskey. Here, Hickory 'n' Friends 
play some bluegrass for visitors at the Jim Beam guest complex in Clermont, KY.

Master distiller Jimmy Russell (right) shows visitors a fermentation vat being filled 
with mash at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.

All the bourbon produced at Maker's Mark in Loretto, KY, runs through these collectors 
before being put into barrels for aging.

A sight to gladden the heart of any bourbon fan: Bottle filling time at Maker's Mark.

The chemical reaction going on in this 20,000-gallon cypress plank fermentation vat 
results in a substance resembling cooked oatmeal.

                                         Actor William Sommerfield, in the person of George Washington, greets an invited crowd to the 
grand re-opening of the rebuilt whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon, VA.

• American Whiskey Trail
• Fraunces Tavern Museum
• Gadsby's Tavern Museum
• Woodville Plantation
• Oliver Miller Homestead
• Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History
• West Overton Museums
• Dowd's Guides hone page


A new water taxi for an Old Town

Washington, DC, and Old Town Alexandria, VA, both are major tourist draws. The problem with trying to see both is that most people don't like braving auto traffic to get back and forth across what separates them -- the Potomac River.

Next spring, they'll have an alternative: a water taxi service.

Two new 99-passenger boats will link Old Town with National Harbor, the 1.25-mile-long waterfront development under construction just south of the Wilson Bridge in Prince George's County. The service, operated by the Potomac Riverboat Co., will begin daily service next April, running 20-minute trips on the half-hour between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

National Harbor is a 300-acre, mixed- used development that will include five hotels -- including the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, the largest such facility on the East Coast, thousands of residential units, tree-lined promenades with scores of shops and offices, and a marina.

The Potomac Riverboat Co. has been operating on the Potomac for more than 30 years. It already has a five-vessel fleet providing water taxi service, cruises and charter trips between Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Georgetown and Mount Vernon.

The Fun Side of the Potomac
Historic Alexandria
Walking Tour of Old Town


Run Four (the) Roses in New York City

Long, long ago, in a market not so far away from where I now live, Four Roses was a commonplace whiskey brand. I can still recall seeing it on the bar shelves at the homes of family friends, and pictures of it in magazines and on bulletin boards.

Even today, Four Roses ads, such as the 1954 version shown here, are popular with ephemera collectors and auction house regulars.

This particular Kentucky bourbon wasn't of interest in my household, where Dad was a strict Jim Beam and I.W. Harper man, but it was available in enough places for me to sample a sip or two in my maturing years.

But Four Roses, although made in Lawrenceburg, KY, had not been sold domestically in decades and wasn't re-introduced to Kentucky's limited retail market until five years ago. Its primary market was Japan -- fittingly enough since it is owned by Japan's Kirin Brewery Co., which bought it in October 2001-- and Europe.

This week, Four Roses came back in New York City, where I first encountered it lo those many years ago.

It will be available in small-batch and single-barrel versions at a limited number of restaurants, bars and liquor stores as part of an expansion campaign.

Jim Rutledge, master distiller, said today in a statement, "The relevance of New York is important as we re-establish Four Roses in the U.S. Our barrel inventories have increased to the level that can now support the introduction of Four Roses bourbon into other select markets.”


New Mount Vernon enterprise barrel of fun

William M. Dowd photos

MOUNT VERNON, VA -- As the white-gloved volunteers carefully doled out tiny pours of the surprisingly golden liquid into tiny plastic cups, the tall, white-haired man regally strolled the ground accepting congratulations and handing out compliments to his staff.

Not just another spring afternoon at Mount Vernon, especially not with the presence of the Father of Our Country, in the costumed person of William Sommerfield, and his distiller James Anderson, played by a very convincing Terry Burgler who had the surreal experience of chatting with "his" own great-great-great-great-great nephew who was paying a visit.

"I can't believe how tall the family has become over the generations," Burgler remarked to me with a grin. "It must be something in the water -- or in what we do with the water."

This particular day was the one on which George Washington's rebuilt whiskey distillery was to be opened, receive its special sales license from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and receive visitors of all sorts, from media to politicians to volunteers and neighbors.

Perhaps most important were the costumed master distillers from whiskeymaking operations throughout Kentucky and Tennessee who have been working together for several years to get the historic operation up and running after an absence of 193 years following a fire that burned it to the ground.

Washington is commonly known as "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Most people don't know he also was among the first successful commercial distillers in the colonies and then the new nation.

Washington's 22,250-square-foot facility located next to his four-story stone gristmill, which itself opened to the public in 2002, three miles from the main mansion house was huge by the standards of his day. He and Anderson, a Scottish immigrant, oversaw a distilling operation that turned out nearly 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey a year compared to the average output of 650 gallons from other Virginia distilleries.

The distillery, which housed five copper pot stills that were used year-round, began operation in February 1797 and Anderson and his son, aided by six slaves, continued its work after Washington's death in December 1799 and Martha Washington's death in 1802. Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, inherited the distillery and the Andersons moved away. The last recorded distillations were in 1808.

The project was largely underwritten by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) and its member companies, with the support of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, to the tune of $2.1 million.

Some whiskey had been produced before the distillery reconstruction was completed, and that was what was being doled out that day. My tasting notes on the small samples showed some pleasant surprises.

"Remarkable color for something only in the wood for a year. ... Obviously, the maturation process had been sped up by using small, 10-gallon casks which surround the raw whisley with very accessible oak. ... Fine nose, promising spciness and herbal nuances. ... Much of the expected initial heat usually present in young whiskey was missing, leaving a warm yet palatable initial taste, along with the expected spice from the rye grain, and a satisfactory finish. ... All in all, a definitely promising young whiskey that I'd love to re-taste a year or two from now."

Virginia usually allows only stores operated by its Alcohol Beverage Control to sell distilled spirits. State Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller, original sponsor of the bill that had to be passed to license Mount Vernon to sell its whiskey, was among the guests at the grand opening.

"I'm pleased to play a role in revitalizing a piece of Washington's legacy. We recognize the importance of keeping Washington's spirit alive -- in all respects," she said.

Washington's neighbors in nearby Alexandria, now a suburb of Washington, DC, were interested in his spirit and spirits as well. Much of what he and Anderson distilled was sold in Alexandria stores, particularly George Gilpin's general store. What was peddled in those days wasn't moonshine because it was a decent quality spirit -- 60% rye, 35% corn, 5% malted barley, but it was generally unaged and, therefore, colorless.

The Mount Vernon operation also turned out apple, peach and persimmon brandies, vinegar and some specialty whiskies such as a "rectified" style that was filtered to remove impurities, and a cinnamon-flavored style. The common whiskey cost 50 cents a gallon, the rectified and extra-distilled about $1 a gallon, and brandy $1 and up.

Whether the rebuilt distillery will turn out more than the basic rye whiskey will be known as the project matures. It is a completely functioning distillery, probably the only one in the world using an authentic 18th-century process, housed in a three-story brick, stone and wood structure with one floor devoted to an embryonic whiskey museum.

Everything has gotten off to a flying start on the manufacturing end, thanks to the efforts of master distillers and blenders Jerry Dalton (Jim Beam), Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey), Chris Morris (Woodford Reserve), John Lunn (George Dickel), Gerald Webb (Diageo North America), David Pickerell (Maker's Mark), Ken Pierce (Barton Brands) and Joe Dangler (Virginia Gentleman).

While they've gone back to their real-life jobs, costumed distillers will be working at Mount Vernon each day April through October. Small bottles of Washington's whiskey will go on sale on premises, probably in mid-summer.

(ABOVE: Clear whiskey distillate runs from a collector barrel to a wooden chute leading to storage casks in the basement of the distillery.)
George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill
Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
American Whiskey Trail


Chavez vs. the spirits

If you're visiting Venezuela between now and Monday, April 9, don't expect to find it easy to get a cooling gin and tonic or cachaça in the afternoon.

President Hugo Chavez has banned the public sale of such beverages before 5 p.m. until after Easter Sunday, supposedly to reduce road deaths caused by drinking and operating vehicles in the traditionally heavy Easter week traffic.

There may be something to the safety idea. Venezuelans are known as two-fisted spirits drinkers, and in 2006 ranked seventh in the world in the importation of Scotch whisky, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Not that imbibing has halted in the capital city of Caracas. The Reuters news service notes "It is almost as easy as ever to get a drink in Caracas, although bartenders have to be careful. In restaurants, beer or whiskey bottles are removed from tables, and some even serve wine in coffee cups."

Chavez, whose "reform" moves usually have an anti-United States angle, says whiskey drinking is an affectation of the U.S. He already had cracked down on the illegal but popular practice of selling beer and rum from trucks in public and drinking on the streets.

CIA Worlds Factbook: Argentina
• Think Venezuela: The Tourism Directory

TAP New York is ... on tap

New York's longest-running beer and food event will mark its 10th anniversary later this month.

The annual TAP New York extravaganza, sponsored by the Hudson Valley Beer and Food Festival, is scheduled for the weekend of April 28-29 in the base lodge at Hunter Mountain in the Catskill Mountains.

Although the organizers stress this is a food and beer event, the craft brewers bringing in their beers to compete for the Matthew Vassar Cup and the F.X. Matt Memorial Cup are the main drawing card.

The list of confirmed brewery participants (LI denotes Long Island):

• Black Forest Brew Haus & Restaurant, Farmingdale, LI
• Blue Point Brewing Co., Patchogue, LI
• Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown
• Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
• Brown's Brewing Co., Troy
• Butternuts Beer & Ale Co., Garrattsville
• Chatham Brewing Co., Chatham
• Cooperstown Brewing Co., Cooperstown
• The Defiant Brewery, Pearl River
• Gilded Otter, New Paltz
• Great Adirondack Brewing, Lake Placid
• John Harvard's Brew House, Lake Grove, LI
• Heartland Brewery, Manhattan
• High Point Wheat Beer Co., Butler, NJ
• Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca
• Keegan Ales, Kingston
• Kelso of Brooklyn
• Roosterfish Brewing Co., Watkins Glen
• Saranac/Matt Brewing Co., Utica
• Six Point Brewery, Brooklyn
• Southampton Publick House, Southampton
• Southern Tier Brewing, Lakewood
• Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec

The event began in 1997 as the Hudson Valley Beer and Food Festival, originally hosted at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. As it outgrew that venue, it was moved in 1999 to Hunter Mountain.

The food theme this year will be the best of the past decade.
Town of Hunter
Guide to the Catskill Mountains


Read all about it! (for a price)

William M. Dowd photo

LEDYARD, CT -- As she flipped through the "complimentary" copy of The Providence Journal left at the door of our guest room at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino, my wife shared with me what she considered the hottest story in the newspaper.

"Look at that sticker," she said, pointing to a square piece of paper attached to the front of the third section. "I thought this paper was supposed to be complimentary for guests."

The note informed us, "A copy of the Providence Journal is included with your stay. If you do not wish to receive the newspaper, please contact the front desk for a $.13 refund daily, or a $.50 refund on Sunday."

Regretably, this is a legitimate gimmick, although a cheesey one. It does nothing to benefit the consumer who is placed in the position of first ascertaining that he or she is being unexpectedly charged for something then having to take action to change the situation or end up footing the bill, small though it is.

Under the industry's Audit Bureau of Circulations rules, newspapers can sell bulk batches of their product at half-price and still count them as individually full-paid circulation.

What this boils down to, dear traveler, is that this 50-cent newspaper actually went for only a quarter to the Indian casino hotel, and it passed along more than 50% of its discounted price to its guests. Human nature being what it is, they no doubt figured, correctly, that few people would ever ask for their 13 cents back. So, it was a great deal for the newspaper and the resort.

Just a tip for one more thing to keep an eye on during your travels.

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