A Tale of Two Tasting Rooms
“The Flying Trunk,” by Hans Christian Andersen, is the tale of a merchant’s indigent son, who shunned by his inner circle, is given a decrepit trunk, an apparent hint that he is no longer welcome in their affluent community. However, this trunk has a special power – it is able to fly. The merchant’s son uses the flying trunk to escape his past and travel to “the land of Turkey,” where the trunk gives him access to a princess that he is able to woo with a tale rich in tradition, nobility, and humor. After he wins the princess’s hand in marriage, the merchant’s son puts on a spectacular firework show, in which he damages his trunk, making it impossible to ever see his bride-to-be again and subjugating him to the life of a vagabond who tells tales to tourists and passersby. The fairy tale is a lesson in humility and simplicity.
In many ways, the tasting room for Flying Suitcase Winery is simple and humble, embodying the European aesthetic of the winery’s two founders and co-owners – Vikki, who is Scottish, and Anders, who is Danish. However, the wines are anything but humble. Their white wines abound with tropical notes and aromas while their reds are heightened by the earthly accents of spices, berries, and stone fruit. In many ways, every wine on their tasting “itinerary” embodies the sense of wonder and exoticism of their namesake fairy tale.
Armstrong Brewing is an up-and-coming business with strong connections in its local community, and we exemplify that philosophy in choosing our suppliers and partners. We are proud to serve Flying Suitcase wines in our taproom for our guests who are less inclined to try one of our 16 rotating taps or those who want a wine created with the same intentionality and care as Armstrong’s beer. On the other hand, why not try both!
Most beer aficionados are familiar with the alphabet soup of brewing – ABV, IBUs, SRM, and the like – but with more and more collaborations between breweries and wineries, they should become more familiar with an acronym important in viticulture – AVA. American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) are distinct wine-growing regions with their own unique weather, soil, and geography. California has the largest number of AVAs in the United States, making it the largest wine-producer in the country and the fourth largest in the world. Well-known AVAs include Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Carneros, and Lodi.
Flying Suitcase’s Chardonnay, for example, is made from grapes grown in Appellation St. Helena, a small wine region in the northern part of the Napa Valley AVA. Unlike beer-making where the brewers can tweak the types of malts and hops to achieve a distinct flavor, vintners are at the mercy of a combination of weather and soil for their wines’ flavor and aroma. Indeed, in many cases, vintners are only able to add their own through the barrel-aging process or through the complex blending of different varietals (for example, Flying Suitcase’s Le Chaland is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache). Due to its unique geography, Appellation St. Helena contends with a wide range of temperatures throughout the year. This fluctuation is most prominent as the valley transitions from the heat of the day to a much cooler, breezy night, which is the result of the geography’s “funneling” of cool air from the coast and bay. As the ASH website attests, “This helps the fruit develop ideal balance and acidity – [the] appellation’s trademark.”
Flying Suitcase ages their Chardonnay in both stainless steel and oak, making it palatable for wine-drinkers who tend to avoid wines on the oakier side. They describe their Chardonnay as expressing “tropical aromas of pineapple, flavors of pear, green apple and a hint of mandarin orange.” In many ways, this “tropical” wine embodies the essence of the winery itself – a journey from the everyday to a far and exotic land.
Armstrong is proud to pour this Chardonnay, along with Flying Suitcase’s Syrah Rose, in our taproom. Unlike the Chardonnay, the rose is made from grapes grown in the Shenandoah Valley AVA of the Amador County wine region, a more obscure wine-growing region located east of Sacramento. Amador County’s terroir – the entirety of a wine region’s natural environment – is “rocky and well-drained” and the region experiences similar temperature fluctuations as Napa Valley – warm days and cool nights that can have ranges up to and over 30 degrees.
Flying Suitcase’s Syrah Rose is “not your typical rose,” as described by the winery. The vintner ferments the wine longer than is traditional, creating a rose that is much drier than others. The rose is slightly tannic, and characteristic of the Amador Valley, slightly acidic, highlighting flavors of caramel and cantaloupe.
In addition to pouring Flying Suitcase wines in our South San Francisco taproom, we are proud to barrel-age one of our most popular beers – Rosie – in their barrels. Rosie, the sister beer to Naomi (another one of Armstrong Brewings’ most popular beers), is a Belgian Strong ale brewed with blood orange and rosemary, and it is aged in a Flying Suitcase Barbera barrel, which will give it a slight red hue and will accentuate the flavors from the blood orange.
Armstrong is a different kind of brewery. We are committed to creating high-quality, small-batch beers that are unique and flavorful, and we strive to give our guests something distinctive, magical if you will. Flying Suitcase brings that same intentionality and magic to their wines, and we encourage you to give them a taste while visiting the taproom, and if you are ever in the San Carlos area, it is worth the trip to Flying Suitcase’s tasting room. Like their logo, which is a suitcase being lifted away by a flock of birds, guests will enjoy wines that will challenge their expectations and elevate their tastes, all in the comfort of a tasting room that transports guests from the industrial surrounding of San Carlos to the chic aesthetic of Europe.
About Armstrong Brewing Company
Armstrong Brewing Company was South San Francisco’s first post-prohibition brewery, making it the oldest brewery in town. Located on Grand Avenue in the historic downtown district, the brewery and adjoining taproom are steeped in the history and ethos of South San Francisco - The Industrial City. Industrious and innovative, Armstrong Brewing designed and built a one-of-a-kind brewing system and strives for the impossible beer: truly balanced, always interesting and never boring. The 16 taps are ever-rotating with small-batch, handcrafted beer - sometimes barrel aged or kettle soured, other times simply experimental. Come enjoy.
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About Flying Suitcase Wines
Established in 2013, Flying Suitcase Wines is a winery and tasting room based in San Carlos, California. The family-friendly tasting room is open every weekend where you can sample award-winning wines from Napa, Amador, Sonoma, Lodi and more.