An Armenian Wine Dinner is Planned

When I am on social media, I very seldom put my two cents in, on someone else’s post.  I think some people think that it makes them appear better than the original poster.  Well, a little while ago, I did put my two cents in, but only because I have a long relationship with the poster, way back when we were just blogging, using the same publisher and since then we seem to be all over the place.  I mention all of this, because this blogger was discussing a sample wine that she was reviewing from Armenia.  Of course, my ears did perk up and I listened to her podcast or at least it was a video.  She is much more adept at using all the tools that are potentially at our finger tips.  As for me, I am lucky to have figured out how to do download or upload my photos and articles.  I mean I am old school, though I did teach myself how to type on an electric typewriter, way back when boys went to drafting class, while the girls went to typing class in Junior High School.  I got sidetracked again, what happened was, I complimented my colleague on a good job pronouncing some Armenian words, now this is from a guy that went to Armenian School two afternoons a week, back in the early Sixties.

My compliments eventually attracted the distributor that had sent the Armenian wine out as a sample.  The distributor asked me, if I would be interested in some samples to review.  I explained that I had reviewed many Armenian wines at a fund raiser, and that unfortunately the people that did the arrangements for the wine tasting, did not consult anyone in the wine trade, and the wines did not sparkle and I was embarrassed when it came to write my reviews and I did include a caveat of what I thought caused the problem.  I also sent links to my articles, as I like to be upfront about such things.  I also directed the distributor to my page where I wrote about my concerns about samples, as I do not go out seeking samples, which seems to be the way quite of few of the “influencers” do it.  I guess the distributor still felt safe enough, dealing with this crazy Armenian to offer to send me some wines to sample.  I mean the wines arrived almost overnight and there were four wines waiting for my reviews.  There was a Sparkling Wine, a White Wine, a Red Wine and a Reserve offering of the Red Wine.

I was flabbergasted (boy is that an old-fashioned word) and I had to figure out what to do with the samples.  Even the distributor was curious, because in a couple of days, I was asked how I liked them, and I said that they were still in the carton; I kind of work slow, but methodically.  After discussing the situation with my Bride, we decided to have an Armenian dinner, so I explained it to the distributor, so that she wasn’t in the dark and thinking that I was not grateful.  We also decided to invite the two best characters in my writings “The Caller” and “The Wine Raconteur, Jr.” and we had to work out a date that would work out for them and their spouses.  We would start off with the Sparkling Wine with one appetizer and then go to the White Wine with another appetizer.  The two Red Wines I thought would be perfect with the main entrée of Lamb and Armenian Pilaf.  “The Wine Raconteur, Jr.” and his wife were making debating between two desserts, and one would be Paklavah.  I joked with him and I had hoped that they were going to use commercial Phyllo Dough for the fifty-two layers and he confirmed that.  I was glad to hear that, because I can remember when my mother (who was not Armenian) first helped my grandmother and the old lady next door to make Paklavah, the older women nixed my mother’s rolling-pin, because, the dough had to be rolled using a broomstick cut at the right length.  I don’t think the broomsticks ever left our old homestead. Instead they made a Muhallabiyeh and instead of Hibiscus and Rose, they went with a Pomegranate glaze topping.  I am excited, because this way, I now have six reviewers for each wine, for the following articles.  I can smell the food already, and I am thinking about the wine as well.    

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Black Star Farms Club June 2021

Back in the dark ages, when we could visit wineries, we ended up joining the wine club at Black Star Farms, because of the excellent customer service that we encountered there.  Actually, it now looks like Michigan is opening up again, but it may be insane, because the whole state has been “stir crazy” from the lockdown and people are going everywhere, just because.  The good news is that the wineries have continued doing what they do, although they did lose a steady stream of wine tasting visitors and sales.  Though they have been selling as best as they can through the cyber world. The good news from the winemaker is that 2021 looks extremely promising with the bud break occurring in early May, and the they were able to skirt a couple of potential frost threats, so there should be a long growing and ripening season this year.

 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.  There were 567 Rieslings from six countries (Australian, New Zealand, USA, Germany, France and the Czech Republic).  The Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling 2017 scored 98 points, in addition to taking home Best Dry Riesling and Best American Riesling.  In fact, all six of the Riesling wines that Black Star Farms submitted took home medals, showing a consistency across vintages and styles.  The fruit is sourced from both of the proprietor’s vineyards and from local grower partners in both the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula.  The winery has three series; the premium Arcturos, A Capella and the Leorie Vineyard labels for sparkling and fruit wines.

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.  The perfect summer time wine that can easily be paired with lots of casual dinners and should be enjoyed in a couple of years.  The Black Star Farms Isidor’s Choice Terrace Red Leelanau Peninsula 2017 features fruit harvested from one of their partner-growers.  The wine is a blend of Teroldego and Lagrein, both grapes which are more known in Northern Italy, and for this version of the blended wine, they also added Cabernet Franc and Merlot to soften the “savage” character of the main two varietals.  I would have to say that this wine probably saw some oak aging, though the winery is a bit shy on information I say this, because they feel that it has aging potential of ten years or so.  They say that the two Italian varietals have great color and a “wild” fruit profile that they liken to wild blueberries that have been dusted with white pepper, and then mixing it with the two classic French varietals they say that the wine will offer a broad and complex dark fruit character with plenty of spice and girth that will pair well with big food flavors.

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Two Different Mimosas

There is just something civilized about having a Mimosa, perhaps it is just tweaking the nose of the people that say “a meal without wine is just breakfast.”  Now I know that some people disagree with me, as they are partial to having a Bloody Mary, and I even know one person that is very partial to a Bloody Caesar, and we can forgive him.  Hell, I can even remember back in my youth when the Canadians would invade our home in the summer, the afternoon drink of choice was the Red Eye, a mix of Molson’s Canadian and Tomato Juice. As always, I am rambling again and I may eventually lose my train of thought, so I better get back to having a Mimosa.

As we are trying to support the local independent restaurants during our lockdown period, one day we went out to our favorite Cajun Bistro for brunch, and while the place lost something with “social distancing” the food was still great, even without the party atmosphere of the French Quarter.  We expected to have some of their “Manmosa’s” which is what they call their party size Mimosa, about double the usual size.  In today’s political clime, I guess the term may be considered sexist, but no one there seems to mind. They normally use the standby that plenty of restaurants use, which is Wycliff Brut California Champagne from the William Wycliff Winery, which is under the umbrella of the Gallo Winery group. As I heard the traditional pop of a cork, I knew that they had changed the bubbles, and our waiter said that he had just opened a couple of bottles at once, because the others were not as adept at uncorking bubbly when the Wycliff was a screw cap. Our waiter told us that the restaurant was having problems getting their usual wine orders and they had to substitute.  We were given our Manmosa drinks in a tall glass with orange juice on the side to mix with the Jaume Serra Arte Latino Cava Brut, made in Catalonia by J. Garcia Carrion.  J. Garcia Carrion is the largest winery and the second largest fruit juice producer in Europe.  They were founded in 1890 and produce wines in ten different DO regions of Spain, and also more wines and brandies outside of the DO regions.  Their major label is Don Simon was created in 1980 and one of the first box wines in Spain, the label is now used for their Sangria, juices and soft drinks.  Jaume Serra is made in the Traditional Method that is required for Cava and is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.  While this wine is listed as a Brut, it was more Sec and when mixed with the orange juice, it was a rather sweet drink, but sometimes one has to roll with the punches. 

We actually had a chance to have brunch at the Michigan location of The Cheesecake Factory, and it was our first time there.  I am also happy to say, that they had a good rendition of the Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes that my Bride did not have when we were in Las Vegas, so she was very happy.  I was curious to see if they had a proprietary bubbly that they were using, but they went to the Columbia Valley in Washington State.  The Mimosa we were being served was made with Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut NV from Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Chateau Ste. Michelle is the oldest winery in Washington State and they have grown into an umbrella association with other wineries around the world.  The Columbia Valley is on one side of a mountain chain and the land is very arid, almost dessert like and irrigation is the key to their success in growing wines.  Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut NV, is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and is made in the classic “Methode Champenoise.”  It was a delicious wine and made a delicious Mimosa. 

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Almost Normal?

It has probably been over a year, since anyone has attended a wedding, though I am seeing some announcements now.  It is amazing how fifteen days can put everyone into such an upheaval.  People are starting to come out into the sunlight and that is grand.  I am writing this, because we actually attended our first wedding in ages.  I am sure that attendance was down a bit, because some people are still afraid and they may be afraid for the rest of their lives.  The structure was a bit different, as they had a public wedding at an open-air chapel on the grounds of the catering hall, and then there was going to be blessing of the bands and vows, the following day at a church, but that was going to be a private, immediate family event.  It could be, that the church did not have the capacity for the attendees, as they were still doing “social distancing” as they were under different rules than the airlines. It was odd to see banquet tables that should be for eight, but usually for ten, are now seating six.  Everything is an adventure and a new way to do things.  Of course, I have never been normal, since I was a clothier my entire career, I tended to favor interesting garments, because I never had to work in an office setting, and I was so looking forward to Spring and Summer attire. My Bride has been enjoying getting some new clothes as well, just in case we can start doing things again.

I have always made it a habit to eat before going to a wedding, as I have never had good luck with catering halls, and this goes back even to my student days, when my friends were piling on the food at the buffet lines.  I could never do that.  It was a buffet, which is fine, and everyone was enjoying the food, and I did pick at some of the food, but since I had eaten, I was fine, and yes, I know that I am not totally there, about my phobia of MSG and catering halls, by why take a chance with another reaction?  The other part of the wedding that my Bride was keeping abreast about, was the dancing.  The hall had an adjacent tented patio that was a very large smoking lounge, but the patio was also going to function as a dance hall, until our governor was caught breaking her own rules about socializing and lo, and behold there was dancing inside the hall, and if one was vaccinated, even masks were not required.  Now, my only mystery about weddings, is why do they play beautiful dance music during the cocktail reception and dinner, and then when it comes time for actual dancing, there is no dance music available, even when requested. To make up for it, the music does get louder.

My one constant that I find about catering halls and companies is that they go out of their way to find the most profitable wines for themselves at the expense of those that try to enjoy wine. The wine selection was Liberty Creek Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio and all were non-vintage and what I would classify as jug-wine. These are all massed produced California wines and I tried two of the wines and they both were much sweeter than I had expected, but perhaps that is what is wanted by young couples at weddings.  Now, I call them jug-wines, but they actually come in magnum bottles, because I am sure that size is more convenient compared to the old gallon jugs that one still sees every now and then.  Liberty Creek as best as I can ascertain is an independent wine maker offering eleven different wines basically for restaurants, caterers and hotels.  Almost all of the wines have a California appellation, though a few have an American appellation.  The wines are entered into competition and they have won awards in their classification, and they are also known as being some of the most affordable wines from California.  I did notice that a lot of wine was being poured, so I guess they have researched and know their designated market very well. 

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Dessert at Vertical

What can I say about a stellar evening of food and wine at a wine-centric restaurant like Vertical in Detroit?  Since Vertical is owned by the people that own my local wine shop and wine club The Fine Wine Source, we were actually counting the days to when they could open again.  It is always great to support local businesses, as a former retailer, I have always supported this concept, even before it was in vogue. I just enjoy going out for dinner, as fine of a cook as my Bride is, she needs to let someone else cook for her as well.  We normally don’t have dessert any more, but we were also buying some time, in hopes that we would see the owner show up, as we had been talking to his daughter that spends her time at the restaurant.  Instead of our usual Crème Brulee we opted to have something a bit interesting, so we had a Basil Cake with house-made Strawberry Ice Cream and these ethereal wispy meringue wafers, just a touch of sweetness and calling for a couple of dessert wines.  We split the cake and the wines and we had our own cups of coffee.

We started with a glass of The Rare Wine Company Historic Series Madeira New York Malmsey Special Reserve NV made by Barbeito in Madeira, Portugal.  It may be one of the longest names for a wine and it is a classic caramel-based wine that can possibly live forever, even after opening with just a classic cork as a stopper.  The Rare Wine Company was and is the pre-eminent source of Vintage Madeira from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and in 1998 they began working with Vinhos Barbeito to create a series of Madeira wines with the proper blending of wines from ten to sixty years.  The use of different cities with old engravings on the labels tie the historical connection of America to Madeira, as the Old South preferred dry, the North preferred the sweeter Madeira like the Boston Bual and the New York Malmsey.  Malmsey is a fortified wine made from a group of varieties of the Malvasia grapes under the rules of Portugal’s Madeira DOC.  Malmsey is the sweetest and richest example of Madeira and contains more than twice the residual sugar of a Madeira Sercial or Madeira Verdelho. The name Malmsey is probably a bastardization or a second corruption, in nicer terms, of mariners trying to pronounce the Portuguese name.  This was a beautiful dessert wine that was sweet, but not cloying and very balanced.  With a nose of figs and dates and a touch of orange peel, the wine was very rich, with notes of fruit and a nice long count finish. 

The other dessert wine that we shared was Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Essence Benito Dusi Ranch 2017, that was quickly sold out and the only other vintages that I have found was from 2003, 2001 and 1986, but this was the first from the Benito Dusi Ranch.  Ridge Vineyards is one of the old and famed California wine producers, founded in 1962 and based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but they also have vineyards in other parts of the state.  They are famed for their Cabernet Sauvignon based “Bordeaux” blends, as well as their Zinfandels, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Grenache-Mataro blend and a Chardonnay.  The Benito Dusi Ranch is three miles south of Paso Robles and the only vineyard for Ridge in the Central Coast.  The ranch is twenty-five acres of Zinfandel planted in 1922.  The grapes for this wine were picked at extreme ripeness, the free-run juice was fermented quickly, and then the press wine with the increased sugar content was added back and it naturally stopped fermentation.  The fruit was hand-harvested, destemmed and crushed, using only native yeasts.  The juice was aged for eleven months in air-dried American Oak, of which sixty percent was new.  There were fourteen and a half barrels produced of this wine.  On the average, this type of wine occurs maybe once every five years.  The wine was a deep garnet, with a nose of dried cherries, plums and spices.  The taste was opulent with black cherries, terroir and a lively-fresh acidity that finished with a very long count finish that just totally impressed this old jaded wine drinker, and my Bride was very excited by it, as well.  Our dinner experience at Vertical was wonderful and we look forward to the next time.    

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Dinner at Vertical

As I am writing about a wonderful dinner at the restaurant Vertical, it was rather a harbinger of better times in Michigan.  It seems that our harridan was caught in yet another “do as I say moment” and it was so flagrant that it was carried not only by the local media (surprise), but also by AP, USA Today and all of the internet news channels.  Who would have thought that a “contrite human” actually was going to loosen up the lockdown, but she didn’t have time to announce it, until after her dinner party was revealed in Social Media.  I really don’t care, as I have always gone out to get fresh air without a mask, but I did abide by the rules and got my vaccinations, so that we could go originally to see the children and grandchildren.  Oh, well, I am glad to know that the restaurant industry will be picking up. 

My Bride had a wonderful entrée of Alaskan Shad with crispy skin on a bed of Mushroom Risotto and it was delicious, she even let me try some of it, neither of us had tried it, and when our waiter asked for a preference, my Bride responded that she will leave it to the Chef.  As for me, I was having a hard time, but I went with a favorite choice.  I had Soy-glazed Beef Short Ribs with Charred Broccolini and an Herbed Salad on a bed of Robuchon Potatoes that I had substituted for Sticky Rice (I know that I am a pain, where ever we go).  We both had excellent choices, her dish was more exotic and mine was more comfort. 

I wanted to get something a little different for my Bride and I found a wine that sounded very interesting.  Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard Caroline Lestime Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune “Sous Eguisons” 2016.  Here was a Chardonnay with a little different terroir, from an appellation where only twenty percent of the wine is white.  The wine is named for the “cliff above the vineyard” and a very enjoyable bottle of wine from a well-respected house and there were only three-hundred cases made of this wine. Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard managed the estate from 1960 to 1989 when his daughter Caroline Lestime took over, with planting new clones and abandoning fertilizers and herbicides.  Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune is an appellation that was created in 1961 for red, white and rosé wines from the high slopes of the southern part of the Cote d’Or, the terroir is even different from the lower-level vineyards and this appellation takes longer for the fruit to ripen.  It paired very well with the Alaskan Shad.  I went to the same region of France and had the Domaine Lignier-Michelot Bourgogne Rouge 2018, and the Domaine has been managed by Virgile Lignier since 2000.  Domaine Lignier-Michelot is a Burgundy producer based in Morey-Saint-Denis and the Lignier family has been there since the early 20th Century.  Originally, they sold their grapes to negociants each vintage, until 1992 when they began bottling some of their own wines. They own about eight hectares and some of the plots have vines that are fifty years or older, and one of the plots is so small that it only produces one barrel of wine.  The winery uses no pesticides or herbicides and they are vigilant in green pruning to maintain low yields.  They destem all the fruit and it undergoes five days of cold maceration, and depending on the wine, it may age from twelve to sixteen months in oak. The Bourgogne appellation was created in 1937 and covers wines made from vineyards in the Burgundy region that are not from more location specific, or from plots that may have been declassified due to their youth, or for other reasons determined by the vigneron.  There are about three-hundred communes that this appellation can be used for.  With my dish of Short Ribs, I could have almost gone with any big red, but I thought that the more feminine qualities of Pinot Noir might be interesting.  This wine was very floral in the nose and delivered a very fine quality Pinot Noir belying the modest appellation.     

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Going Out in Style

We were over due for a real date night and a fabulous dinner, so we went to Vertical in Downtown Detroit.  Vertical is located in the Harmony Park district of Downtown Detroit in a residential hotel, behind the Music Hall.  I live in a state where our harridan basically tried to destroy all the restaurants based on “science” that was never revealed.  While the healthy were quarantined for fifteen days that morphed into over a year, restaurants were shuttered for at least ninety days.  Then they were allowed to open for carry-out only, and then they were also allowed to serve food outdoors in the winter, I guess that was considered healthy.  Then finally, they started loosening up a bit, I am not sure if it was the “science” or the recall signatures and indoor restaurants were allowed to open at twenty-five percent capacity.  Still the majority of restaurants remained closed, because they could not make a profit.  Finally, it loosened up a bit more and we are up to fifty percent capacity and the finer establishments started opening, those that had deep enough fiscal responsibility to be able to weather the storm.  So, we were off for some pampering.

We took an early reservation, because we really wanted them to be able to at least have two turns on the table.  It is still nice to go out and see women dressed up and men in sport coats, instead of looking like they just arrived from the Northwest Territory or the Yukon.  The restaurant Vertical is owned by the people that own our local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan.  One can also get Vertical flights of some wines which is an excellent feature.  We started off with what has become a signature appetizer of the restaurant: Jumbo table grapes hand rolled in Brie and then coated with crushed pistachio nuts and drizzled with a gastriche.  It was pure bliss and somehow, my Bride even shared some with me (as a side note, she has bought the ingredients, but hasn’t attempted them yet). We followed that with a dish of Smoked Trout Toast with pickled onions, radishes, dill and trout roe: it was pure decadence and I think that my Bride would have almost ordered a couple more dishes of this and called it a night.  With all of the smoked fish dishes that we have had, and remember this is Michigan, this was the finest creation we have ever had.  

We started with some bubbles, just to make the evening more festive.  My Bride went with the Isaac Fernandez Seleccion Biutiful Cava Brut Rosé NV. The Biutiful Cavas are produced at a winery created in 2007 with state-of-the-art technology. The vineyards are based in Requena, a region that has been growing grapes since the 7th Century.  The vineyards grow Macabeo, Chardonnay and Garnacha (Grenache).  This particular wine is pure Grenache and was aged on the lees for about fifteen months. There were five-thousand cases produced.  The wine was very easy to drink, though if I had to guess, I would not have guessed that it was made from Grenache, and I would have flunked at this wine in a blind tasting.  I started off with Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, Brut Premier is their designation for non-vintage, because otherwise the wine would read Brut and the Year.  This wine is a blend of forty percent Pinot Noir, forty percent Chardonnay and twenty percent Pinot Meunier and the juice comes from forty different plots.  There are no shortcuts in making Champagne, as they use assorted casks and the juice used in the Premier has a minimum aging period of three years on the lees, and then the wine is rested for six months after the disgorgement to perfect and maintain the maturity.  The wine offers the classic taste of brioche and vanilla.  Louis Roederer is a Champagne house located in Reims one of the two main cities of Champagne.  The house was founded in 1776, and while it has always been family owned in 1833, Louis Roederer took over the business from his uncle and renamed the company after himself.  One of the most unique business concepts at the time was when in 1845 he began acquiring some Grand Cru vineyards and got into the cultivation as well as the winemaking, because at that time, the houses just bought the grapes from the vineyards.  The house now owns two-hundred-forty hectares of their own vineyards.  They are also integrating the concept of biodynamic farming into their vineyards.  My Bride decided that I had the better of the two sparkling wines.

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Casa Raconteur

Every now and then we open the doors, for family in for a quick trip.  Of course, it has been a while, since we could do that, since we had a harridan that wanted everyone to be a Gladys Kravitz and report such evil going-ons. We actually have a four-bedroom home, but we are now down to the Master Suite, and a guest bedroom.  One bedroom became an office for the two of us, and another became a dedicated gift room, Christmas and birthday shopping is a year long endeavor, as well as all of the requirements for wrapping and bundling gifts.  It really is quite efficient.  We also have a “hide-a-bed” sofa in the family room that unfolds to a Queen size bed. 

I mention this, because we actually had company stay and it was fun.  My Bride was all excited to have someone else to cook for.  She made Chicken in Molé Sauce, and there are probably at least twice as many versions of the sauce as there are states in Mexico where the sauce hails from.  Most people that are not from Mexico, if they know it, call it the “Chocolate Sauce” and that can be true, for certain varieties of it.  The dark sauces like Molé Negro, Poblano or Colorado all have some Mexican chocolate, but it is not sweet like candy or even like baking chocolate.  I prefer the hot and spicier versions that have chili peppers, black peppers and cumin.  I first had it as a teenager with friends in Little Mexico when it was a city block in size and I was introduced to “Ribs in Molé” where the ribs were cooked all day in the sauce, and the meat would just fall off of the bone.  Nowadays, I mostly encounter it as a marinade and sauce usually with a pounded chicken breast.  My Bride earlier during the lockdown period, experimented and made it with Spare Ribs and they were so delicious, that she now is making the dinners with chicken and pork tenderloins.  We had it with the pork tenderloin the night I am mentioning and the meat was so tender, one only needed a fork to cut the meat.  We actually sat around the table just chatting and nibbling until everything was gone.

We started off with a wine, that might make you question my pairing ability, but it worked, and it happens to be the varietal that our guest prefers.  The bottle of Tudor Hook Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2010 really caught our attention. Tudor Winery has become one of my favorite wineries from the area, as their Pinot Noir wines have all been outstanding and I hope this wine will continue to be counted among them. The Hook Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands runs along the west side of the Salinas Valley. The suggested aging potential for this wine is five to six years, and there was only six barrels of this wine produced.  For an eleven-year-old, this wine was totally mannered and very mellow and a true pleasure for us to enjoy.  Since this wine evaporated almost after uncorking it, I had to disappear to the cellar for another selection.  I went for a bottle that I thought might be a stretch for our guest, but one that would make my Bride happy.  We had as our second bottle Celani Family Vineyards Robusto Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley 2018.  We have gone to Celani Family Vineyards wine tastings and we have some wines resting in our cellar from those events.  Tom Celani is lauded in the Detroit area for his largesse for charitable organizations that he helps in a grand manner.  He and his father ended up creating one of the largest Miller distribution companies in the United States along with other beers and wines.  Tom Celani fell in love with wines, first as a drinker and a collector and finally acquiring a Tuscan-style estate with seventeen acres of grapes and one-hundred-twenty olive trees in the foot hills of the Vaca Mountain range in Napa Valley.  As the proprietor of the Celani Family Vineyards he has chosen to bottle wine without costs becoming a consideration, to him wine is about quality and not quantity.  This is truly a Proprietary Red Blend, as there is no information even on the trade notes, but the winery grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and they are partial to new French Oak.  This wine has been made to be enjoyed young and it truly is, with a fruit forward taste, but not a jammy Napa Cab, and softer tannins.  We were literally chewing this wine to get all the flavor and the finish was excellent, and a perfect wine to have while we chatted into the wee hours.

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May 2021 Wine Club Selection

Getting back in the swing of things after a vacation and I had jumped the gun, so I had to go back to visit The Fine Wine Source twice in one week. Certainly, one of the better places to visit, especially twice in a week.  It is always a pleasure to pick up the monthly wine selections, and I don’t even look at the wines, until I get home. When I am there, we talk of other wines and subjects.  Somedays and sometimes, they are just so busy, that as a retired merchant, I just smile and appreciate their situation.

When I unpacked my wine bag, I looked at the Old-World selection first, and, it was in one of those impressive heavier bottles, that one doesn’t normally find in popular price wines. The wine was Enrico Marcato “La Giareta” Cabernet Franc Colli Berici 2016, the wine was formerly produced by Marcato Winery, which Enrico’s family still owns.  Enrico Marcato after working with his family in the Veneto region went and studied wine making at the University of Milan.  This was followed with work at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California and also at Wynns Winery in Coonawarra, Australia.   In 2003 he became the chief wine maker at Marcato Winery, and he also expanded his knowledge working for three years with a winery in Kazakhstan.  In 2014, he began Enrico Marcato Family of Wine.  The wine is pure Cabernet Franc, which is known as the third grape of Bordeaux, and this varietal is planted around the world and has its own legion of fans.  Colli Berici DOC is located in the center of the Veneto region, between Padova and Verona, while south of Vicenza.  The designation allows for red, white and rosé wines, both in still or Spumante.  The juice for this wine does the initial fermentation in Stainless Steel for ten days, and then is aged in oak for twelve months.  There was a production of eight-thousand bottles. The tasting notes for this wine suggest red berries and herbs with soft tannins and a long finish.  This wine won’t stay in the cellar long.

The New-World selection for the month is Classified Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2018 from American Vintners.  American Vintners was long in creation mode, but finally came to fruition.  The production end is in Monterey, California while the offices and sales are located in Rochester, Michigan.  Today, they now have over forty-five wines, not only in California, but world-wide, and some of their brands have developed their own ideas and concepts.  “Classified Wines” are small batch wines from small vineyards that they have found and kept classified, which makes sense as I have discovered two different Pinot Noir wines produced by them from Sonoma, one from the Russian River and this wine from the Sonoma Coast. The Sonoma Coast AVA is one of the largest regions by area in the Sonoma region, but only a small portion is used for grape production.  Most of the AVAs were created using geological and climatological data, whereas Sonoma Coast was created in 1987 for political and commercial reasons. The problem was the term “estate bottled” was more clearly defined, as being wine from grown and vinified from one AVA, and this new AVA was over-arching of areas to work around the ruling.  The tasting notes for this wine offer a dark-cherry color with a floral nose; black cherry and strawberry notes on the palate with undertones of white pepper and nutmeg.  I am sure that this wine will not stay in the cellar long either.

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Going Home from Vegas

The last time we were in Las Vegas was in January 2019 and I have photos of snow on the palm trees and on the mountains, and when we flew back, we had a blizzard that didn’t look bad, until we got to our subdivision and got stuck, a half block away from our house.  We carried all the luggage to the house, and finally got the car unstuck and drove it a mile away to leave at a hospital parking lot, because it was the only area clear.  We were going to hold off our following trip to Vegas for May or June 2020 to see our old grandson graduate, well you know what happened that year.  We were all packed to fly home, and they were talking about snow in Detroit at the end of April, another example of Global Warming and should someone give back his money and award?

We were at the airport and made it through Checkpoint Charley, except that my Bride had forgotten that she had a bottle of water in her carry-on luggage, and she had also forgotten to pull her laptop out of her under seat bag.  The good news is that she didn’t get a colorectum examination on the spot. We had a couple of hours to waste at the airport, and there are only two places one could take off the mask for a respite, even though we had both shots; one was in the airport casino smoking lounge and we don’t smoke or at a restaurant that had a bar.  Since, we knew that there would be no real beverages or food for the next several hours of travel, we had to make the most of it.  We went to a PGA Tour Grill, even though we are neither golfers or really interested in the game.  I also might add, that they have not taken a tip from The Masters and kept food and beverages at ridiculously low prices, but it is an airport and a pack of LifeSavers is three bucks.  My Bride, true to form had a Caesar Salad with Chicken, and I had a Chipotle Chicken sandwich.

The best part of the meal was the nine-ounce pours of wine.  I guess everyone at the airport had the same idea and it was a zoo, so it was one of the few times that I could not take an actual photo of the wine and the bottle and I have to resort to stock images found on the web.  My Bride stayed loyal to herself and had a glass of Del Vento Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC (-), bottled by GI SPA, Trento, Italy. The rooster is a symbol of good luck, and Del Vento translates to “of the wind.”   The Venezie in the name, most people think is for Venice, the historic and romantic city of canals, island, bridges and gondolas, but it is actually for Tre Venezie, Triveneto or “Three Venices.”  These three are Venezia Euganea, Venezia Giulia and Venezia Tridentina and they were three Italian administrative regions which existed from 1866 to 1919 and now correspond to Veneto, Friuli-Venezie Gulia and Trentino-Alto Adige; Delle Venezie covers the entire area with the exception of Alto-Adige or Sudtirol. The DOC laws allow that the wine must be at least eighty-five percent Pinot Grigio and then there is a long list of local grapes that may be used to blend in.   This wine is produced using Stainless Steel and the maturing time is not long, so as to keep the freshness of the fruit. This was a nice crisp Pinot Grigio that was just easy to drink and refreshing.  I went with a glass of Charles & Charles Rose Blend Columbia Valley (-) from a collaboration founded in 2008 between Charles Bieler and Charles Smith, under the umbrella of Trinchero Family Estates. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.  Another easy drinking wine and between the chilling and the slightly sweet finish it was a nice pairing with the spices of my sandwich.  By the way, when we got to our parked car, there was several inches of snow on the car, and thankfully the snow brush was still in the car, but it seems that unlike the last return drive, most of the snow was at the airport and almost none at our subdivision.  

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