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Friday, August 22, 2014

Michigan By The Bottle, Michigan Wineries Partner For Second Metro Detroit Tasting Room

View of Grand Traverse Bay from Old Mission Pe...

View of Grand Traverse Bay from Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, MI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The founders of Michigan By The Bottle, a website/online community promoting the Michigan wine industry, are teaming up with eight wineries from throughout the state to establish a second collaborative wine tasting room in Royal Oak.

Located on Woodward Ave., just south of Webster, the Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room will offer tasting flights paired with small bites for a nominal fee, plus take-home wine sales by the bottle and case. The facility also will carry various Michigan-made snacks and products, and will host events like winemaker meet-and-greets, art exhibits, food and wine pairing sessions, wine education classes and more.

With all state and municipal licensing and approvals in place, buildout on the space began the week of Aug. 18. Nov. 1 is targeted for a “soft opening,” with a more formal grand opening celebration to follow.  

The first MBTB Tasting Room in Shelby Township last December was the first in the state to open a tasting room under this collaborative concept, which links multiple previously unaffiliated wineries under a single roof. The Shelby location has been extremely successful and warmly welcomed by the surrounding community, prompting the expansion into Oakland County.

At the Royal Oak location, two additional partner wineries are being added to the six already involved in the Shelby Township site. The eight partner wineries are excellent examples of Michigan viticulture and viniculture, all using estate-grown and/or locally sourced fruit. They are:

  • 2 Lads Winery (Traverse City)
  • Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson)
  • Chateau de Leelanau (Suttons Bay)
  • Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs)
  • Gill's Pier Vineyard & Winery (Northport)
  • Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City)
  • Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson)
  • Verterra Winery (Leland)

Michigan By The Bottle was founded in 2009 by Shannon and Cortney Casey of Macomb Township, promotes the Michigan wine industry through video features, podcasts, articles, tasting notes, winemaker interviews, event listings and more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fenn Valley Winery: Southwest Michigan Winery Visit

FV 1Winery report by TWAV Tasting Team Member Dr. J

Another favorite winery stop of my wife and I is Fenn Valley.  This is truly our favorite winery; the one that really got us into wine back in 2008.  We learned of a tour through the vineyard where you get to stop alongside various grape varieties and taste the wine that comes from those grapes.  These tours are very popular and sell out most of the time.  This was the case on our very first visit so we learned to book ahead of time.  We had no idea this would become a tradition to look forward to every year.

FV4A group of 21 of us gather onto a canopied wagon with bench seating as we are pulled through the vineyard by a tractor.  We were led by Brian for a very in-depth look into the winemaking process and the grapes as they make their way from the vine into wine. 

The first stop of the tour is next to the Pinot Grigio.  This wine is super clean and crisp with stone fruit notes.  Looking to the other side of the path, one sees the Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a newer varietal to Fenn Valley and not a common find in Michigan.  The cooler region Sauvignon Blancs tend to have more of a grapefruit character over the warmer weather “grassy” examples and this one follows suit.  I liked this one even more so than last year’s so they are really starting to dial it in.  The third wine of the stop is the Edelzwicker or “Noble blend” consisting of Riesling and Traminette.  An annual favorite of ours and anyone we share the wine with, Edelzwicker is wonderfully fruity and floral and will pair well with spicy foods or simply on its own.

FV2The next stop involved getting out of the wagon to experience two different Rieslings between the vineyard rows.  First is the dry Riesling with peach, apricot, and a nice clean finish.  Dry versions of this wine are becoming more and more popular in Michigan.  The dry Riesling was followed up by a semi-sweet offering.  While I tend to find myself preferring the dry versions, this one was my favorite of the two.  With a residual sugar of 2.01%, the alcohol is slightly less due to stopping the fermentation process in order to capture this hint of sweetness.  The perfectly balanced acidity keeps the sugar in line for a wonderful summer sipper.

The third stop got us into the reds.  Cabaret Rosé was the first pour and is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Crisp and fruity strawberry notes make for a refreshing patio wine on a hot day.  Now it was time to get into bolder, dry red wines; the Merlot and Meritage.  The Merlot is a reserve version meaning “of high quality”.  The oak is apparent with smokiness and cherry.  The Meritage is another favorite of mine and contains a blend of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Merlot.  These three varieties meld together for notes of fruit, spice, and earthiness all in one.

FV3The last and final stop was the hybrid section of the vineyard.  Yet another favorite, the Capriccio was passed around.  This non-vintage wine is a blend dominated by Chambourcin with small portions of Cab Franc and Merlot.  Whether you prefer dry or slightly off dry reds, this is a perfect middle of the road wine that both sides can agree on.  And for those that like the sweet wines, we finished with two excellent examples that most anyone can enjoy. 

The Late Harvest Vignoles happened due to perfect weather conditions favorable to Botrytis “Noble rot” in 2012.  There is pronounced apricot flavor as expected with a Botrytis wine and notes of pineapple and butterscotch.  At about 5.5% residual sugar, the sweetness is once again kept in check with nicely balanced acidity.  The grand finale was the Vidal 42 Ice Wine, which recently won a double gold medal.  A rich, almost syrupy character leads to fruit cocktail in a glass and a nice long finish.  You don’t have to like sweet wines to truly appreciate this gem.

For $8, you get all of this, a logo glass, and a $5 off coupon towards the purchase of four bottles of fine Michigan wine.  There isn’t anywhere else you can get the up-close and personal experience for the price, which is close to the tasting fee that many wineries charge in the tasting room alone.  Tours can be booked online.  Fenn Valley is where it all started for me, and there isn’t anyone in the state who does it better!


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: August 20-23, 2014

Preparing a flight of wines at a tasting bar

Preparing a flight of wines at a tasting bar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Wednesday, August 20
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Nominal fee per sample or flight.
Thursday, August 21
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample or flight.
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. ¡Viva España! Many people still don't know that Spain is pumping out some of the very best wines in the world, and that they are most definitely masters of the value game. It's not just about Rioja anymore. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
Friday, August 22
Toledo Museum of Art, 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine by the Glass Pavilion. Princess Gamers’ Grapes: Casual to Hardcore. Enjoy four wines and light snacks at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448.
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.
Saturday, August 23
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. The Best American Wines You Didn’t Know Existed. When people think about winemakers pushing the edge, they tend to focus on Europe - and often for good reason. But, more and more, winemakers across this country are trying unconventional grape varieties, extreme old vines, biodynamic winemaking, and interesting cellar techniques. This is a chance to see the cutting-edge of American wine making. Nominal fee per sample.
  • Tres Belle Wine and Martini Lounge, (419) 874-4555, 3145 Hollister Lane, Perrysburg (Levis Commons).
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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wine Aficionado Shares Tips for a Full-Bodied Experience

A glass of Oregon Pinot gris

A glass of Oregon Pinot Gris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slide over, sweaty mug of brutish beer; wine has stepped up its game!

In the past two decades, zins, cabs and chardonnays have soared in popularity among imbibing Americans. The preference of just one in four in 1992, its now the alcoholic beverage of choice for 35 percent of us, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. At the same time, beer has taken a tumble, from the favorite of nearly half of us to just 36 percent.

“Wine is an adventure in a glass – something other cultures have recognized for centuries,” says Howard Kleinfeld, author (as Howard K.) of “Dial M for Merlot,”, a fun novel about a lovelorn nerd whose world snaps to life with his first wine tasting.

“For a long time in this country, we viewed wine as an elitist beverage. Just to be eligible to uncork a bottle required a scary level of sophistication. I have great respect for connoisseurs and the sommeliers, but if you’ve ever attended a wine tasting, you quickly see wine is actually the great equalizer.”

For those who’ve never visited a vineyard or sipped a Gewurztraminer, Kleinfeld offers these tips to free up your palate -- and your psyche -- for a full-bodied experience.

1.  What’s the best wine?
You’ll find all kinds of lists purporting to distill the top 10 or top 100 best wines of the thousands upon thousands of new releases each year. They are a wonderful resource for information and a great starting point, but there is no substitute for personal exploration.
“The best wine is always whatever’s in your glass at the moment,” Kleinfeld says, “unless whatever’s in your glass makes you grimace, in which case …”

2.  Don’t drink it if it doesn’t make you happy.
Life really is too short to not make the most of every moment – and every sensual experience.
“I learned that in 2007 when I was diagnosed with throat cancer at, what I felt was, a very young age,” Kleinfeld says. “I got through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with the love and support of my family and friends, but I lost my sense of taste for a few years.”
Cancer-free and with all of his senses intact, Kleinfeld says he has resolved to enjoy every sip of life.
“Don’t waste your time on wine you don’t enjoy. Save it for cooking,” he says. “Drink something that puts a smile on your face. And remember – there are all kinds of smiles.”

3.  Go ahead and shell out $50 or $100 on a wine you just have to taste again.
A lot of us think California and Napa Valley when we think domestic wines, and while The Golden State is the No. 1 producer in the country (followed by Washington, Oregon and New York), every state now has wineries. That means that wherever you are, there’s a wine tasting room within driving distance.
“If you go to a wine tasting and you sample something you absolutely love, something you know you want to taste again – maybe with a steak, which they don’t usually have at wine-tasting rooms, go ahead and buy it,” Kleinfeld advises.
“Forget that it costs three or four times what you (might) usually spend for a bottle of wine. Splurge. See tip No. 2.”

4.  Forget the red with meat, white with fish and chicken rule – unless it works for you.
The idea of pairing red wines with red meats has to do with the bolder flavor of both. Fish and chicken tend to have milder flavors, as do many white wines.
“But there are so many exceptions to those ‘rules’ you may as well just toss ‘em,” Kleinfeld says. “They don’t take into account the range of flavors of meat, fish and chicken, especially when you consider all the different ways they can be prepared. And if you’re not a fan of Riesling, for instance, you won’t like it no matter what you pair it with.”
Be an adventurer, he advises. Open a few different varieties of wine when you sit down to eat and explore different pairings.
“The entrees and wines you best enjoy together are the perfect pairings for you.”

About Howard Kleinfeld (Howard K)

Howard Kleinfeld is a full-time wine enthusiast, part-time foodie, and first-time author. His new novel, “Dial M for Merlot,”, written under the pen name Howard K, follows a 30-year-old math whiz’s intoxicating journey of wine discovery. Kleinfeld is a longtime singer-songwriter whose compositions/productions for advertising, TV shows and indie films have earned him Emmy, Telly and Addy, awards.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hickory Creek: Southwest Michigan Winery Visit

Hickory Creek WineryWinery Review By TWAV Tasting Team Member Dr. J

It has become an annual tradition for my wife (Casey) and I to take our girls to South Haven, Michigan to stay with her side of the family for a week of fun.  This is right near the heart of the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.  Casey, myself, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law take a day to visit the wineries of southwest Michigan in the Berrien Springs and Buchanan areas. 

LinsayWe started our trip at Hickory Creek.  This winery is one of the farthest south of the tour and we had only been there once before.   We were instantly greeted by our wonderful, friendly hostess, Linsay.  She was quick to tell us that there is a $5 fee for five tastes but “I usually serve more than that.”  I knew immediately that it was going to be a great visit. 

The first wine was the 2011 Pinot Gris.  This wine has been highly awarded.  With a nose of flowers, fresh spring, and lots of fruit, this Pinot Gris ranks right with the best of the Pacific Northwest.   

Next was the 2012 Gruner Veltliner.  This is an Austrian grape that you won’t find too many examples of in the Midwest.  It was very pleasing with notes of hay and white pepper.

There were two offerings of Chardonnay; the 2010 Zero Oak and the 2011 Oaked.  The 2010 was more acidic with passion fruit while the 2011 was smooth and creamy with stone fruit, honey, and hints of the oak.  The group unanimously voted for the buttery, oaky version.

Moving on to the reds, the 2012 Cab Franc Rosé was poured.  This had much more body than your typical rosé.  It was a little darker in color and very flavorful, noting vanilla and strawberry.

Two Pinot Noirs followed with a 2009 and a 2010.  What a difference one vintage can make!  The 2009 was fruity and peppery.  The 2010 was more earthy and smoky.  Both were very fine examples and the group chose the 2009 as their favorite.

We finished with a pair of Cab Francs.  The 2008 is the epitome of this varietal as a standalone; nose of cherry and coffee with smoke and pepper on the palate and soft tannins.  This grape is so good, I don’t know why there aren’t more single varietal bottlings outside of the Midwest.  The last wine is a non-vintage lightly sweetened Cab Franc called Rouge Doux.  It brings loads of blackberries with balanced sweetness and acidity. 

Hickory Creek offers an extensive list of quality wines, some of which I did not have a chance to mention.  This is certainly a must-stop winery if you are in the area or want to make a special visit.  Come see Linsay.  She makes Hickory Creek Winery what a wine tasting experience is all about!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Observations From A Wood County Fair Wine Judge

Wine JudgingFor two different wine competitions I've had the honor of serving as judge. My first experience was at the Indy International Wine Competition. This is a world class competition with internationally acclaimed wines, world-class judges and an army of volunteers. Volunteers in white lab coats roll out wines in scores of wine glasses each of which are marked with a code. The captain of the judging team, of which there are several, communicate with a set of differently colored flags.

I recently served on the Wood County Fair homemade wine judging panel along with Mike Gregg and TWAV tasting team member Dr. J. This was my second time. The three of us judged 180 wines in a period of about three hours. It certainly is a much different setting.

At the county fairgrounds, we judged our wines in front of the winemakers. Each of us tasted through a category (combinations of red or white, sweet or dry, grape or non-grape and the novelty categories). In some cases this could be up to 14 wines. When we decided on the winner of the category, we stood up and announced the results.

For survival, you must swirl, swish in your mouth and then spit. For me, I need to swallow a bit of wine to get the full effect. In most cases this is a micro-sip to confirm the impressions of smell and taste.

Some recalibration is necessary, because you are not comparing premier cru from Bordeaux. These wines can be quite good, but they are typically wines you pair with a sunny afternoon on the patio and not tuxedos and caviar.

In the non-grape category, I had the chance to taste wines made from cherries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red and black raspberries, and elderberries. One of the very best combinations is strawberry and rhubarb.

The winemakers at the Wood County fair really have a way with blush wines. They were crisp and refreshing and the colors were a delight to the eye.

After we had chosen the winners in each category, we then moved to a “taste-off” to select the best red, the best white and the best of show. The best of show went to a sparkling blueberry wine. Darn right it was good!

The winemakers and audience then had a chance to sample the entries during a reception. This is a great way to end a wine competition.

My post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the novelty wines. The category included two jalapeno wines and a Pina Colada wine. I applaud the creativity, but won’t be stocking up on them anytime soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Natural, 2010 California Red Table Wine

The NaturalThis wine came to me in a “mystery case” from an online retailer. The case, or actually this wine, is still a mystery.

The wine is made by Plata Wine Partners, a company that produces start up and private label wines. For example, they developed the Buccaneer line of wines for the large BevMo chain.

Plata has access to more than 25,000 acres of California wine grapes. In addition to having some talented winemakers, they have a stable of designers and a packaging team that can take a wine from concept to the bottle.

That being said, I really got no closer in determining the details on this wine. I usually do investigation online to see if there are data sheets from the winery or other stories when I prepare a review. In this case, nada.

I will say that we enjoyed it at a BYOB party on the porch of a historic home in Bowling Green with about 50 other people. The weather was perfect and the The Natural was a sipper that worked well while juggling a wine glass and a plateful of finger food.

“The Natural” is a baseball themed movie with Robert Redford and there is a turn-of-the-century baseball player on the label. For about $10 I wasn’t expecting a home run. I think I got at least an RBI single, though.

It’s a smooth wine with ample red berry flavor. Not much to speak of in the tannin department. A good guess is that this is a California Zinfandel blend and it is certainly the equal of other red blends in the under $15 department.

Rating: 2 of 5  Value: 2.5 of 5

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: August 13-16, 2014

English: PV wine bar

Wine bar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Wednesday, August 13
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. The Mollydookers are Here! The Mollydookers are Here! Four 2013 vintage Mollydooker wines from Australia to taste. 1. "The Scooter" Merlot, 2. "Two Left Feet" Red Blend, 3. "The Maitre D'" Cabernet Sauvignon, 4. "The Boxer" Shiraz. Nominal fee per sample or $12 per flight.
Thursday, August 14
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. Closeouts in August? Yes! 1. 2012 Gauthier – Sauvignon Blanc – Napa, 2. 2009 Riondo – Rosso – Veneto, Italy, 3. 2012 Tarima Hill – Monastrell – Alicante, Spain, 4. 2008 Jade Mountain – La Provencale Red Blend – Sonoma. Nominal fee per sample or $5 for flight.
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. What's in a Name Tasting: 1. Shebang White – California, 2. Ship of Fools – Mission Peninsula, Michigan, 3. Blindfold White – California, 4. Muddy Water Pinot Noir – Waipara, New Zealand, 5. Sin Zin – Alexander Valley, California, 6. Playtime Red – Lake County, California, 7. Horseshoes & Handgrenades – Dundee, Oregon, 8. India Ink Red Kuleto – Napa. Nominal fee per sample.
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Goin’ South. We're going south of the equator this week on a wild wine ride! Drop in and taste terrific wines from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand! Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
Friday, August 15
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.
Saturday, August 16
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. The Loire Valley of France. If there is one region of France that flies under the radar, it is the Loire Valley. It is home of much of the world's finest Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc as well as great Cabernet Franc and beautiful dessert wines. Nominal fee per sample.
  • Tres Belle Wine and Martini Lounge, (419) 874-4555, 3145 Hollister Lane, Perrysburg (Levis Commons).
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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Arizona Stronghold 2011 “Mangus” Red Wine

AZ stronghold

If you’ve never had a wine from Arizona, you are not alone. I never did until the recent Wine Blogger Conference and I was intrigued. When I had the chance to pick a bottle from Arizona Stronghold Vineyards recently at Churchill’s, I didn’t hesitate.

Arizona Stronghold wines come from the land of Apache Chief Cochise. Winery owners Eric Glomski and Maynard Keenan believe that the soils and climate of their vineyards stand up to the best in the world.

Their winegrowing effort is all about elevation. They’ve found what they believe to be the perfect “Mediterranean Band” in the mid-Arizona elevations between the heat of Phoenix and the cold of Flagstaff.

Mangus is their Super Tuscan blend featuring 69% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. It checks in with a 14.5% alcohol level.

This wine has plenty of lush fruit with cranberry and dried cherry being prominent. On the palate there are some dusty spices that give it a rustic appeal and elevate the quality of the wine. Mangus is a very enjoyable wine.

Mangus has a retail price of $24.99. An Arizona Stronghold Cabernet Sauvignon was also available at Churchill’s in Perrysburg. I suggest you saddle up and try one of their Arizona wines.

Rating: 3 of 5  Value: 3 of 5

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Prosecco Brunch Scheduled August 24 At Churchill’s Briarfield Location

Wine service pouring a glass of the Italian sp...

Wine service pouring a glass of the Italian sparkling wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A gourmet Prosecco brunch will be held Sunday, August 24, at Walt Churchill's Market Maumee, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. The wines of the Bisol family will be featured.

Prosecco is a white wine grape grown primarily in the eastern part of Italy’s Vento region. It is famed for its sparkling wine. The best-known Prosecco comes from the wine region of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. The finest Prosecco is labeled Superiore de Cartizze. The Bisol family has farmed since the 17th century, making wine on their estate since 1875.

A five-course meal prepared by celebrity chef Bill Kolhoff will be served. The cost is $75 and the event begins at 12:00 noon. Call Austin Beeman for reservations. Seating is limited.