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Sunday Serendipity
J Vineyards and Winery Pear Liqueur

By Stephen Eliot

A couple of nights back when the Thanksgiving meal was done and my guests and I backed away from the table in abject surrender, I went looking through the cabinet where I hide my special tipples in search of a bottle or two that might ease our collective guilt about once again forgetting our promises to not overeat. Hiding there amongst the Cognacs, Armagnacs, old Rums and the like sat a small bottle of Pear Liqueur made by one of our favorite sparkling wine makers, Russian River Valley’s J Vineyards and Winery. When the limited production item first appeared a few years back, I remember being much impressed, but as time passed and new bottles came and went, my bottle was pushed to the back of the shelf and largely forgotten. Well, I wish all reunions were as happy as that which followed, for a little post-prandial glass of J’s liqueur was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered.

Made from a base of twice-distilled alambic pear eau de vie that was given ten years of aging in 90 gallon French oak barrels then cut with rainwater to 30% alcohol and lightly sweetened, the liqueur is neither so sugary as to be cloying nor as hot as unadulterated eau de vies are wont to be. It is a lovely, carefully crafted, after-the-meal sipper that captures the absolute essence of fresh pears with deft touches of caramel and vanilla adding notes of quiet complexity. It is altogether delicious drunk neat, but its use as a flavoring agent in sauces and mixed drinks strikes me as being limitless. The winery’s website, in fact, offers several cocktail recipes created by winery Executive Chef Mark Caldwell to show off the liqueur, and among them is an intriguing version of eggnog that is now on my list of things to do this holiday season.

A quick check on the Internet showed that it is still available both at the winery and selected retailers alike. While a bit of diligence will find it priced here and there below the winery’s listing of $40.00 for the 375 ml bottle and $70.00 for the 750ml, the winery will ship to California addresses for those unable to find it in their home markets. Either way, it is well worth the search and fills a unique and most tasty niche among fine artisan spirits.

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