Up in the Balcony

Some people may not even know what a balcony is, the multi-plex movie theaters don’t have them, and most local neighborhoods don’t have a movie house either.  When I was a kid, my local neighborhood had two on one block and there were another six or so within a couple of miles. We went to the Redford Theater for a double feature.  First, I have to explain that the Redford was built when movie houses were shrines to the cinematic arts, and now this theater is in an old community in Detroit and is managed and run by an all-volunteer staff; and they even make real popcorn and they have a pipe organ. We sat up in the balcony and watched two films made in 1932 when films were racy and eventually the Hayes Office developed teeth and scripts were censored, before the film was filmed.  Think of the problems that developed because of “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and the amount of cleavage that Jane Russell could show, because of the Hayes Office.

We started the evening off at John Cowley & Sons Pub in Farmington, Michigan as we both felt like having a burger, and we have frequented this establishment many times, they even have curated wine and food nights, which we have never tried, as it usually conflicts with other planned events.  As we started looking at the menu, my Bride decided that she wanted one of the special menu offerings for the night, a Walleye Dinner with Sweet Potato Fries and Broccoli. I stuck with my guns and had their Downtown Dublin Burger of a half-pound Angus burger with Corned Beef, Caramelized Onions and Thousand Island Dressing.  We also had a Hot Chocolate Lava Cake that we shared afterwards. 

Since my Bride had backed out of the burger, she told me that she was going to have a Spanish Coffee with her fish dinner, especially since it was so chilly outside.  I was undeterred and had a glass of Finca El Origen Reserva Malbec Valle de Uco, Mendoza 2019.  Finca El Origen is a relatively new winery as they were founded in 1996, but located in a great location as they are in the Valle de Uco, which is a defined region in the much larger Mendoza district of Argentina and Malbec is the King there. The winery is owned by Vigna Santa Carolina of Chile.  This wine is from a single vineyard Los Chacayes.  Fermentation was for two weeks and thirty percent of the juice was aged with French Oak contact for six months, and I must surmise that the balance was aged in Stainless Steel.  The wine had notes of red fruits and vanilla, but on the palate, it was more black fruits and spices with full tannins and a medium finish of terroir.  After dinner we were off to enjoy the two titillating films.       

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Club Selections – January 2022

This is the time of the year that one wants to cocoon in the house with the cold and snow, but The Fine Wine Source has their monthly Club Selections and that is worth getting all bundled up and braving the elements.  Joining the Club was a no brainer, there was no up-front costs, they just bill the credit card once a month and I go and collect two bottles of wine, one representing the Old World and one representing the New World. 

Fattoria il Muro “Violato” Syrah Rosso di Toscana IGT 2016 represents the Old World for this club selection.  The estate of “il Muro” has been in the Pancaro family for over two centuries and has always been for wine cultivation.  The location is perfect as it is the heart of Tuscany with moderate temperate climate and soil of loose marl and limestone; and not far part of the Alpe of Poti, part of the classic bicycle Tour of Italy “Strade Bianchi” held every March.  The estate is sixty-five-hectares of mainly vineyards and olive groves.  Though they have been producing wine for over two hundred years, it was only in 2011 that they labeled their own wine. The name of the wine is for the deep purple of the Syrah wine and the label features splashes and stains of the wine.  The juice was fermented in Stainless Steel and then aged for six month is large chestnut barrels.  The wine is described as having notes of both red and black fruits along with black pepper and violets.  On the palate it is full bodied with silky tannins and a long finish of terroir; and recommended for big, hearty meals and tomato sauce dishes.

The New World is represented by Fess Parker Frontier Red Lot 211 Central Coast NV. Now, you have to understand that when I hear Fess Parker, I immediately think of Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett and later on as Daniel Boone.  He left Hollywood and went into real estate and did extremely well.  In 1988 he purchased the Foxen Canyon Ranch of seven-hundred-fourteen-acres and had originally planned on running cattle and a small vineyard with a potential winery for his children.  He was successful in all his endeavors and his children are both hands on with the winery.  This wine is a blend of thirty-two percent Syrah, twenty-three percent Grenache, sixteen percent Sangiovese, twelve percent Zinfandel, twelve percent Merlot and five percent Alvarelhao (Alvarello).  The wine carries the Central Coast AVA as the fruit is from the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles and Central Coast vineyards.  The wine is not listed by vintage, but the Lot Number does change, I guess after each bottling, and there was just under five-thousand bottles produced of Lot No. 211.  The wine is described as having big, rich fruit flavors and spice.   Notes of black plum, cedar, hickory and blackberry.  While on the palate flavors of red cherry, boysenberry, tobacco and grilled herbs with spicy, earthy tones.  The wine was described as the perfect “Tuesday Wine.”     

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Another Dinner at Chartreuse

The Park Shelton is not normally convenient for us, but it is ideal when we are on the grounds of Mid-Town, where the museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts where we had just left, and the campus of Wayne State University.  This was a hotel back in the day, famed for having Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo living there, when he was painting the masterpiece of a mural on the walls of the DIA glorifying the automobile and the assembly line. The hotel was opened in 1926 as the Wardell Hotel, named after Fred Wardell of the Eureka Vacuum Company. Later it became part of the Sheraton group, originally as the Wardell-Sheraton, then later as the Park-Sheraton. When it ceased to be part of the Sheraton group it became the Park Shelton and it went from a hotel to an apartment building and now condominiums. Some of the famous celebrities that frequented there were George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Bob Hope.  There is a charming bistro on the main floor of the hotel, named Chartreuse and they probably have the largest collection of Chartreuse in the state.

As we were seated, we were informed that we could only dine for ninety minutes, which seems to be the norm, since the draconian rules of dining out have been removed by our harridan.  Dinner at Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails is fun, as it is a tapas style restaurant and they tend to bring out dishes as they are finished, rather than a set order and the meals are designed for sharing.  I will relay the dishes as they appeared at the table.  The first dish that arrived was the Potato Pierogi, with Corned Beef, Brussels Sprout Salad, Beer Mustard and Sour Cream.  We had just finished this plate when three dishes arrived simultaneously.  We had a plate of Grilled Broccolini with Romesco Sauce, Scallions and Duck Skin.  Scallops with Chestnut, Blood Orange, Pomegranate, Apple and Oxalis.  Tortellini with Duck Confit, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, Leeks in a Cream Sauce.  So, we both asked for a side plate and created our own plates.  They had several fun desserts, but we decided to split one as we were quite full, so we had some coffee and the Lemon Pistachio creation of Lemon Curd, Mascarpone Mousse, Roasted White Chocolate, Blood Orange and Mint.  And it seems that we had time to have another traditional pose with the distinct background walls in chartreuse; and I take lousy selfies. 

Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails prides themselves on their selection of Chartreuse, unique cocktails and a tight and curated “organic” wine carte.  As I was studying the menu, I was trying to juggle different dishes for a wine, and then I just selected some bubbles.  I mean, how many people have told me that they enjoy bubbles with any dish.  We had a bottle of Jean-Francois Quenard Cuvee Entre Amis Cremant de Savoie Brut Zero NV.  Cremant de Savoie is the eighth region to get the Cremant designation in 2015, prior they had to be labeled Vin de Savoie Cremant.  In 2018, there was a total of fifty-seven hectares among a possible forty-four villages that can produce the wine.  In the region there are several Quenard families, so the first names are also listed on the labels. The family domaine of Jean-Pierre and Jean-Francois, has been handed down by family since 1644.  The family estate is seventeen hectares on a mix of clay and limestone grounds.  The wine is made of sixty percent Jacquere, twenty percent Pinot Noir and twenty percent Chardonnay; Jacquere is an indigenous grape and must make up sixty percent of the blend.  The initial fermentation and then the malolactic fermentation is done in Stainless Steel, then bottled and aged on slats for fifteen months with no additional dosage; though by law this wine can be made up to demi-sec depending on the market.  The wine was a pretty gold color with small bubbles.  Notes of cut grass and apples, with a delightful acidity with plenty of freshness, and a nice finish that just wanted you to have another taste.  A very pleasant wine with the assembled plates that we enjoyed.    

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Cars as Art with Wine in Detroit

Detroit is surrounded by art, in more ways than you can imagine.  My Bride and I needed a date day, and the cinema didn’t do it.  We both enjoy museums and we have one of the leading art museums in the country, the Detroit Institute of Art; and they were having a special exhibit “Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 195-2020.”  How could we resist, plus all the classic art and sculpture, it was an easy decision.  I am glad that I went online to check the hours, as a leftover precaution from the state, we had to book a time slot to visit the museum on line, you can no longer just go there on a whim.  Even me, who is not that adept on the computer book our tickets, and then I called a restaurant across the street from the museum and got a reservation, so we had a big date all lined up. 

Oh, and if you go, the main entrance behind Rodin’s “Thinker” is only an exit now, and we had to walk around the block to a side entrance. We went to see, several of the galleries first, in fact, all of the galleries were open that day, except for the famed puppet gallery, which I always have found fascinating from my days of youth.  I noticed that a few choice pieces were out on loan to other museums around the world for special exhibits that they were hosting; some of the pieces are that amazing.

We finally got to the “Detroit Style” and they not only had some classic cars, there were also so very exotic prototype cars, that still look awesome.  The Fifties and the Sixties were spectacular times for Detroit cars, as the cars were sensational in appearance, and every brand was distinctive.  Another great aspect was the artwork on the walls, done by the artists and design people at the “Big Three.”  I am not a car geek, but I sure enjoy looking at a car that has style and pizzazz, even if my Bride complains that the car I had when we met was more like a yacht, but it was sure comfortable and classy; she complained that she couldn’t see what was in front of the car, or behind it, because the two deck lids were so long.  I was a clothier in Dearborn, and we had plenty of auto execs coming in to dress for business.  There on the walls were customers of mine, with their artwork in all of its glory.  So, maybe I was a bit geeked up.

After that exhibit, we decided to have a glass of wine, and to let my Bride relax a bit, as she is still using her “Moon Boot” until she gets the all clear from her physician.  We went to the Kresge Court for some refreshments, named after Sebastian Spering Kresge of S.S. Kresge’s 5 & 10¢ Stores, which later became Kmart’s.  When I was a kid and played hooky at times, the Kresge Court was actually open in the middle of the museum, but since those days it has been enclosed from the elements and for years, my Bride used to go to the Brunch with Bach sessions.  I do digress and get carried away.  While my Bride found us a table, I went to order the wine.  I was surprised as I was behind a very nice professional looking couple and when they got to the cashier, they each paid for their own orders (I guess dates have changed since my day).  I selected two different white wines for us, and when the lady saw what I was doing, she allowed me, after the first photo to get a photo without the plexiglass partition.  The first wine I had poured was Babich Wines White Label Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2020 and the winery is an historic wine estate based in Auckland, New Zealand.  It was established in 1916 by Josip Babich who arrived from Dalmatia (Croatia).  Babich owns properties in many of New Zealand’s major wine districts.  In 1987 they built a winery in Marlborough, where most of their present-day operations are done.  The fruit for this wine is harvested from various vineyards.  The juice was fermented in Stainless Steel tanks, and they use a mix of wild and inoculated yeast, and then the wine is blended together.  The wine offered the notes of grapefruit, mandarin and tropical floral.  The wine was fresh and bouncy with grapefruit, passion fruit and a touch of bell pepper with a soft finish.  My Bride chose this wine.  The other wine that we had was Storypoint Vineyards Chardonnay California 2018.  The fruit is harvested from Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties.   Each lot was fermented separately in a mix of Stainless Steel and French Oak.  A nice gold color with notes of apple and white fruit, and just a classic California Chardonnay with butter, vanilla and caramel with a soft finish.  The perfect way to divide our museum visit.       

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Willie Newman and Tre Son Winery

I remember the first time that I tasted Tre Son wines, was at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan back in 2018 and I was told that it was an exclusive to the wine shop.  In August of 2021 was the next time that I tried the wine, and it was an impromptu tasting with the owner of the winery and the first time that I met Willie Newman.  There is something about tasting wine and chatting that just makes a moment special.  Now it is hard to believe, but it was actually in November of 2021 that he hosted a formal wine tasting at the shop.  Considering that I publish an article every other day, it sounds amazing that I am just getting to these wines and tasting. 

All of the Tre Son wines come from the 4 Hearts Vineyard.  We started with the Tre Son Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2018.  The wine was aged for six months in a mix of new and neutral French Oak barrels. It was a full-bodied wine with notes of dark fruit and spice and a very balanced fruit and tannin mix, and then my notes scream terroir.  You know that I get excited about wines that show great terroir.  I don’t know if the terroir is more pronounced, because they use dry-farming techniques, but I was a happy camper.  This was followed by a tasting of his 4 Hearts Vineyard “Private Stash” Cabernet/Petite Sirah 2012 (twenty percent Petite Sirah).  This was not for sale, as he brought some bottles to let the tasters see how well his wines do in a cellar.  I really appreciate tasting older wines, and through the course of years, I have discovered that others do not, but this wine to me was very rich and multi-layered and the terroir had a very nice long count. 

Then we had a glass of Tre Son Zinfandel Paso Robles 2018, and the bulk of the vineyard is devoted to Zinfandel.  The wine is aged for twelve months in neutral French Oak to allow the grape to shine as opposed to the spices inherent in the oak.  This was a nice chewy wine offering notes of black fruit and pepper, and while delivering notes of black cherry and plums, it was not a fruit bomb that keeps me away from Zins to this day, but it really packed a nice finish of terroir.  Then Willie poured his 4 Hearts “Private Stash” Zinfandel 2014 and once again, this was not for sale, but to show how well his wines were cellaring.  The first commercial vintage was 2009, and the “Private Stash” appeared in 2010.  This wine was still offering all the notes of the 2018, but the wine had mellowed and was layered with textures and richness, plus that long finish of terroir.  Finally, once again, not for sale, but as a learning experience, we had the 4 Hearts (“Private Stash”) Zin 2010; as the bottle only had masking tape and a magic marker written label.  All of the Zinfandel wines were aged for twelve months in neutral French Oak and while I am no maven, especially on Zinfandel, this wine was totally mellow with the fruit mixing with the tannins and for very young vines, this wine made me perfectly happy.  It was indeed a special event at The Fine Wine Source and the crowds that gathered were all enjoying the moment. 

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Willie Newman and Some Wines

I was attending a wine tasting at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan.  I realize that is not that unusual, because I tend to write about tastings often when I am there. This was a special day, as Willie Newman was there representing not only his wine, but his neighbor and business partner’s wine as well.  I have actually met Willie, a couple of times at the wine shop, as he still lives in Michigan and has started a winery, in anticipation of his eventual retirement.  I say more power to him, in my retirement I am lucky to handle writing my blog, but I also think that I am older than Willie.  Some days I think that everyone is younger than I am. I had a chance to try a wine from Dunning Vineyards and several wines from Tre Son Winery.

Tre Son Winery is the label from 4 Hearts Vineyard in Paso Robles.  My wine shop helped designed the label and helped secure the proper paperwork in the Byzantine labyrinth that is how Michigan is able to sell wines.  The vineyard was bought in 2004, which at the time was a walnut ranch, and the first fifteen acres of thirty-seven were planted in 2007, of which ten acres were Zinfandel.  The vineyard is owned by the gentleman Willie Newman who hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan who now divides his time between Michigan with his current business and residing in Paso Robles which will eventually be his retirement home and business.  The 4 Hearts refer to his wife and his three daughters.  When one considers the tender young age of this vineyard, it is well respected by some other wineries that use their fruit.  Some of the wineries listed by the vineyard include some of their earliest purchasers like Dunning Vineyard, Saxum Vineyards and Venteux Vineyards and many others.

We started off with Dunning Vineyards Chardonnay Paso Robles/ Willow Creek District AVA 2018.  Bob and Jo-Ann Dunning are the winemakers and owners of this forty-acre estate which was established in 1991 on the west side of Paso Robles.  The winery produces about fifteen-hundred cases a year using several different varietals.  This Chardonnay wine is produced in the classic Burgundian style with full oak barrel fermentation and sur-lees aged for one year.  It was a delightful wine with notes of pear and citrus, nutmeg and vanilla.  The wine had a nice creamy taste with balance acidity and layers of flavor that opened up and finished with a nice medium finish of terroir.  I knew that I had to take some of this wine home for my Bride, who could not attend the tasting.  

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Blame it on the Pacific Supply Chain

We went out to celebrate a birthday and we met another couple at a chain restaurant located in a very large shopping mall.  They were doing quite a bustling business, and that particular mall, I am sure has survived all that has been tossed at them for the last almost two years.  After we were seated and they handed us the menu and the wine list, I was telling them stories about how we were having difficulties at a restaurant getting some French wines, so I figured that I was going to stay with a domestic wine.  There was a Pinot Noir that we just picked up a six pack for the house from our wine shop, that I was very pleased with, and even in a restaurant the price was reasonable.  I asked our waitress what the asterisk after the wine designated and she said that it was one of the most popular wines in the chain and they always had the wine.  She returned rather sheepishly and said that they were out of the wine, Déjà vu?  I saw a California Merlot that I had heard about, and she went to get it, she came back and told us that the beverage manager was getting it, because it was way in the back.  She sheepishly came back again and told us the wine was not available and she had a different bottle and told me that the wine was a bit more expensive, but it was just like the wine that I asked for, and I told her that it was the same grape, but it was from a different state.  I told her to leave the bottle and have the manager stop by. 

We had a wine that was going to work.  We started by ordering some appetizers, they ordered a Mexico City Spinach Con Queso with tortilla chips and we ordered an Avocado Bomb with Hawaiian tuna, crab salad, avocado, unagi sauce and Sriracha mayonnaise with tortilla chips.  The other three ordered a Caesar Steak salad off of the special menu for the day.  I went with one of the specialties of the chain and got some Baby Back Ribs and the waitress told me, that they don’t have the ribs, so I ordered a Crispy Chicken Platter and I got breaded chicken tenders.  It was food. 

Eventually the Beverage Manager appeared with a “Sharpie” in his hand, and I asked him why they couldn’t either draw lines through the wines that they don’t have or just print a current wine list, and he informed me that “Corporate” would not allow either option.  He told me that there was a total bottle neck at the ports on the west coast and they couldn’t get their orders.  I was surprised to hear that California and Washington use cargo ships to ship wine domestically.  We had The Hogue Cellars “Genesis” Merlot Columbia Valley 2014.  The Hogue Cellars were founded in 1982 in the Columbia Valley of Washington State.  The wine carries the larger designation, as the fruit is harvested from Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, and Yakima Valley, as well as Columbia Valley.  The grapes began fermentation in Stainless Steel and then aged for six to twelve months in American Oak, of which twenty-five percent was new.  The wine is basically Merlot, with some Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon added to round it out.  The wine offered notes of red fruits with cinnamon and vanilla.  On the palate it was full and rounded with black cherry, vanilla and pepper; and a nice medium finish of oak.  Our company and the wine were the high point of the meal for me.      

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New Year’s Eve 2021/2022

It was dubbed the original “Amateur’s Night” by one of Hollywood’s most famous bad boys, Humphrey Bogart, who created the Rat Pack that eventually came to be associated with Frank and the boys.  A different era, a different lifestyle and I do miss those days.  I remember when you went to a nightclub and you got a table for the evening with dinner, drinks and dancing to live music.  Now the restaurants will try to have several turns of a table by midnight, if they even stay open that late.  Years ago, even before my Bride became my Bride, she had decided to have New Year’s Eve at her house and invite her family over, so that no one should have to incur a major expense for a limited menu and mediocre service, unless they were so inclined.  It worked great for decades and then the evening went to the dogs; literally.  Two of her sisters got new puppies and the puppies are not really trained and they are high strung and the puppies could not spend a night alone, so the venue was moved to a home that had one of the puppies.  My Bride was not thrilled, especially after she had me work so hard to get the remodeling done in the living room and the dining room for the party.

We had to schlep all the food to another location, we were back in the catering business, it seemed.  The logistics of getting all of the insulated chafing dishes ready, the portable refrigerator and all of the dishes semi-prepared, to be finished at the new venue.  The smells from the trunk and the back seat of the car smelled wonderful, it took a lot of will power, not to stop and grab one of the many bottles of wine that we were also shlepping and just have a picnic out in the middle of the day.  Of course, my Bride still had the luxury of walking around with her orthopedic “moon-boot” and she was frazzled; then there was the effort of some to see who could show up the latest, so that food could be reheated.  Then they were still bringing Christmas gifts for people that didn’t get their Christmas gifts at Christmas time, some had a bona-fide as they were out of towners. My Bride and one of her cousins took it upon themselves to clean up the entire kitchen mess, so that the younger family members could sit and watch television.  Then there was an accident and one of the sisters fell down the staircase and broke her nose.  My Bride was worn out, upset about the fall (and I was afraid that it was her) and tired and she had me load up the car and we drove home a little after ten. 

We had started off the evening with a couple different of our go-to white wines to get the festivities off on the right note. I opened up a bottle of Silver Mountain Vineyards Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands 2006.  Silver Mountain Vineyards is “hidden high in the Santa Cruz Mountains” and operated by the founder winemaker Jerold O’Brien.  It was established in 1979 and is in an elevation of 2,100 feet and has a view of Monterey Bay and the surrounding redwood forest.  The winery is organic and has limited production and the wines are either sold through their onsite tasting room or from their website. I am sure that I received this wine from “A Taste of Monterey” as the winery has limited production and any notes that I had, are no longer here.  I have never had a bottle from this winery, but I have enjoyed other Pinot Noir wines from the Tondre Grapefield which is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA and I have had some of the best New World Pinot Noirs from this district.  This wine was no exception, as I opened the bottle about an hour before dinner and it had a beautiful deep color and offered a nose of cherries, blueberries and spice.  There was still some fruit, at fifteen years of age that was very impressive and the tannins were very mellow and there was still a nice medium length finish of terroir.  The other wine that I opened was Blason D’Issan Margaux 2015 which is the second label of Chateau D’Issan, one of the Third Growths from the legendary Classification of the Medoc in 1855.  Blason is a French word for “coat of arms” and I guess that is a nice way for them to list their second label.  Chateau D’Issan is from the commune of Margaux and it is one of the districts that I totally enjoy, encountered the most and probably drank the most or it may be tied with Pauillac.  The Chateaux is rather legendary and has been recorded in history as the wine served in 1152 at the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. The best word in my mind to describe the great wines of Margaux is silky, I know it is a rather ethereal word, but it just seems like the perfect word when describing certain beverages.  The major difference between the first and second label, since all the fruit is from the same estate, is that the fruit harvest for Blason is from the younger vines, and since they started making this wine in 1995, as an alternative wine that is more fruit forward and drinkable much earlier.  One hears of some of the leading Margaux wines still being in their prime from the earliest years of the last century.  This wine is sixty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance is Merlot.  The Blason is aged for fourteen to sixteen months in oak, of which a third is new, the blending and the aging is slightly different compared to the first label.

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A Friend Over for Christmas

As I have stated over the years, my Bride loves to invite people over for dinner.  She always is concerned that if they are a widow or a widower that they are not eating properly.  The Mother Hen syndrome, I guess you can call it.  It is fine with me, because she gets to stretch a bit with the culinary skills, that if it is just the two of us, she might decide to go with an easier dish. 

We started off with an assortment of hard and soft cheeses with crackers.  We had s Smoked Jarlsberg and a Smoke White Cheddar with Horseradish; the horseradish must have taken lessons from Wasabi as it really cleared the sinus cavities and caught everyone’s attention.  She also baked Brie with a Caramelized Onion topping.  Just some easy to enjoy munchies. The Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir Rose Michigan 2020 is a “dry wine made in a fruit-driven style.” Pinot Noir is the red varietal that the winery has had the most success with, which is interesting as it is one of the fussiest grapes around.  This wine I can venture to say was completely done with Stainless Steel, as they were going for the classic fruit flavors of strawberries and ripe cherries, with a trace of terroir and a bright finish.  It was very refreshing even during the Christmas season, as I think that it is a fun wine with appetizers and conversations.

We started off with her Caesar Salad, which is always a winner for me, as well as for anyone that has a chance to try it.  One of my favorite aspects is that instead of using croutons, she pan-fries bread crumbs to use as a topping.  She made a Pork Tenderloin that she marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary and then roasted it, along with some garlic-smashed potatoes.  She finished off the meal with some fresh baked Christmas cookies, along with a tin holding more cookies to take home with for our guest.  With pork dishes I tend to go back and forth between red and white wines, depending on my mood.  I know that doesn’t sound authoritative, but it is just the way I am.  I opened up a bottle of Azienda Agricola Ottella “Lugana” DOC 2020.  In 1964, the family discovered a book about a winery in the region that grew Turbiana at the turn of the last century and they really got into the project and by 1967 Lugana DOC was created with the local grape Turbiana.  This was also the period that the winery was growing and creating their own brand.  The name Lugana refers to the clay vessels that the winery that they read about used for aging their wines.  Verdicchio is probably the most planted white varietal in Italy, and there are wineries that are striving to restore the honor that the grape has lost in the past fifty years.  Some of the other names that will be used instead of Verdicchio is Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano di Lugana, Trebbiano Valtanesi, Marchigiano and Turbiana di Lugana.  The wine uses soft pressing of the whole bunch, and some with gentle destemming by oscillation.  Then temperature-controlled fermentation for five months on fine lees.  This wine had the straw color, with the telltale marks of quality Verdicchio, which is notes of almonds, honey and marzipan and high acidity with a touch of lemon and grapefruit in a crisp, dry finish.  I thought it was utterly charming with the dinner, and I guess our guest and my Bride did as well, as that wine disappeared or evaporated, I am never quite sure. 

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Black Star Farms Winter Club Selection

Black Star Farms is rather unique in that it has vineyards and tasting room facilities on both peninsulas, so that they are kind of surrounding Traverse City which is kind of the focal point for all of the wineries in the area.  In 1998 Black Star Farms purchased Sport Valley Farm which was a one-hundred-twenty-acre equestrian facility, and the stylized black star was part of the architectural décor in the main house.  In their Twentieth year, they were honored to receive the 19’th Annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge (CIRC) -Best Wine of the 2018 Challenge and only the second time an American wine came out on top.  It has only been about four years or so, that we joined their club, which we had no intention of doing, but we went there to purchase some wines, after having them at a Michigan resort and we were dazzled by the enthusiastic and professional wine representative that was pouring some wines for us to taste. 

The first wine out of the carton was Black Star Farms “Arcturos” Merlot Michigan 2017.  The wine carries the Michigan AVA, because the fruit for this wine comes from their Capella and Isidor’s Choice Vineyards which are located in two distinct AVA regions on each side of the city of Traverse City.  There is a dearth of information from the winery, but they have been producing a Merlot wine for several years, even though it is a finicky varietal to grow successfully in Michigan, I will venture to say that the wine was probably aged in oak for about sixteen months.  They are describing this wine as offering blackberry and plum notes with a hint of oak and dark chocolate.  They also say that the wine has a velvety texture and mild tannins and could actually age for five to ten years.  It will be interesting to see.  

The second wine out of the carton was their Black Star Farms “Blushed” Dry Sparkling Rosé Leelanau Peninsula 2018.  The wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Marquette.  The wine is produced in the Methode Traditionnel with only a half of one percent residual sugar.  They have offered that the wine has flavors of red raspberries, Montmorency cherries and lemon tart and should offer a cellar life of three years.  It will be an interesting wine to try, as we have not had a sparkling wine from Black Star Farms.   

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