As you may know, in Iowa, the State itself is the only distributor of spirits — defined as beverages above 22% alcohol by volume, or any beverage distilled from grains, cactus, or molasses.
On the other hand, a private enterprise can import spirits into Iowa, with the arrangement that the State will wholesale them (at a substantial mark-up) — providing said enterprise procures the proper licenses (in our case, obtaining three additional licenses over and above two previously held).
SO. Best Case Wines recently started importing artisanal spirits. Hoorah ! First, the Armagnacs. Château de Millet in Gascony is, first and foremost, a six-generation producer of Armagnac. We have been working with their white wine, a Colombard/ Ugni Blanc blend — in my view, the single best-value white we offer — for over five years now, but it is in Armagnac that François Dèche and his daughter Laurence most invest their hearts & souls. And now — for the first time anywhere in the United States — their Armagnacs are available to Iowans. Distilled entirely from the ancient grape variety Baco, these Armagnacs (the VS aged two years, the VSOP aged five years, the XO aged between 15 & 25 years) are sublime: smooth, nuanced, complex, delicious. I cannot think of a finer way to cap an evening meal.
Armagnac is far less well known than its more northerly analogue, Cognac. Don’t get me wrong, I love good Cognac too. But I find Armagnac richer and more sublime and frankly more satisfying — with notes of dried fruits, flowers, nuts, cocoa. Here is one journalist’s take on why Americans should be drinking more Armagnac:
We have also just recently begun working with two Eaux de Vie from our Alsatian wine supplier, Charles Baur. The winery has been making brandies for a long, long time, but again, Best Case Wines is the first importer of these products into the United States.
Many winemakers all over France will make a “fine” brandy alongside their wines. Thus if you travel to French wine country, after dinner you may be offered a “Fine de Champagne” in Champagne, or a “Fine de Bourgogne” in Burgundy. So the first of our Alsatian brandies is a Fine d’Alsace — twice-distilled from Baur’s Alsatian wines, then aged a minimum of 10 years in barrel before release. Expect notes of caramel, almonds, spice, and flowers.
The second Eau de Vie from Charles Baur is their Poire William. Whenever I dine out in France, this is how I hope to end the meal. Charles Baur Poire William is twice-distilled from juice of perfectly ripe William pears (called Bartlett in the U.S.) — around 30 pounds of pears in each bottle! — and aged at least six months in glass demijohns, clocking in at 45% ABV. You couldn’t possibly find a purer, more concentrated expression of pear essence than this eau de vie, to be enjoyed in small quantities very chilled after a meal.
These small-batch artisanal spirits are a superb treat, available only in the state of Iowa. Made and imported only in tiny quantities, these are special-order items perfect for holiday enjoyment or gift-giving.
It is not always easy to find artisanal niche spirits in a spirits-controlled state like Iowa (although I hasten to add that State officials have been consistently professional and helpful in working with us as we bring these items into Iowa). If you are interested in obtaining some of these spirits for yourself or as gifts for discerning friends, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you find available supply channels.
Wishing you all a spirited holiday season! Cheers.