I bought my girlfriend a bottle of Paul Masson Grande Amber VSOP as a housewarming gift for an apartment she moved into almost a year ago, but we didn’t open it until moving back in together this summer, and it was worth the wait.
Grande Amber is a sweet brandy / cognac blend, graded VSOP as the brandy was cask-stored for at least four years prior to bottling — VSOP stands for, literally, Very Superior Old Pale. I can’t find a reliable rating source for brandy / cognac blends, so if you happen to read this and can point me to a good site, feel free to leave a comment. In my opinion, though, Paul Masson’s Grande Amber is one of the best brandys available in grocery stores, beating out the rest of the Paul Masson family — as well as regulars such as Christian Brothers — in taste-for-price. It mixes well with ginger ale (we typically use Vernor’s, which has a darker, rootier taste than either Schweppe’s or Canada Dry) and at 40% alcohol by volume, it won’t leave you staggering drunk after a few tumblers.
Some interesting notes about the Paul Masson brand, pulled lazily from this Wikipedia entry:
Masson is a native of France who became interested in California wine-making. Masson’s brand is most well-known as a vintner, and the brandy came along after Masson’s death and the purchase of the label by the Canandaigua Wine Company. Orson Welles did television and radio ads in the 1970′s for Masson, promising that “we will sell no wine before its time.” Grande Amber has its own web presence, separate from the wines, at Paul Masson Brandy. The original Masson Winery is maintained by the National Park Service in Saratoga, California.