Carriage House at Hotel Iroquois

As we wandered around Mackinac Island, it dawned on us that something was different this time on the island, compared to all of the other times.  We were there on the weekend, and we have never been there except during the week and the island was overrun by rude and impertinent people; we made a vocal decision to never return on the weekend and only go during the week.  The Hotel Iroquois is a charming three plus story structure, that could have been a home at one time, or it could have been a boarding home, but it is a reminder of another era.  We arrived for dinner before five for our reservation, the restaurant was not opened yet, but we were led to the bar for something refreshing. 

As we were looking over the menu and the wine carte, the bartender was excellent, as he kept us entertained with this wonderful banter and his knowledge.  We couldn’t decide between two bottles of wine, and he poured a tasting of the two, and my Bride decided that her original choice didn’t compare to what I thought we should have, and that is not a boast on my part; “a happy wife, a happy life.” The wine that did not make the cut was Trig Point “Signpost” Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2018, and from all indications from the label, it would have been perfect.  A nice pale golden wine that offered notes of pear and melon.  On the palate, the wine reminded me more of a Chablis, with the fresh fruit, crisp acidity and a creamy texture, not oak induced with a nice medium finish of terroir courtesy of the Russian River Valley. This could have been the one.

We were taken to our table with a beautiful view of the Straits of Mackinac and were able to watch the boats.  We started off by sharing an order of Smoked Whitefish Cakes with a Mustard Vinaigrette, yes, we now share appetizers.  My Bride had the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with Lemongrass Ginger Aioli, Frizzled Leeks and Wild Mushroom Risotto.  I had the Berkshire Tomahawk Pork Chop with Wild Rice.  The bottle of wine that we decided on was Fournier Pere & Fils Sancerre Grand Cuvée La Chaudouillonne 2017.  Paul Fournier began with one hectare of land in 1950 and now has sixty hectares.  In 2015, the winery was acquired by Joost van der Does de Willebois and his de Villebois company.  This Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Loire Valley from the village of Verdigny in Sancerre, and La Chaudouillonne comes selected vineyards of the famed terroir Caillottes of Verdigny. The wine is cold fermented in small tanks, and each tank is aged on fine lees for about eighty months.  This pretty pale straw-colored wine offered passionfruit and lemon peel and a mature nose not often encountered.  On the palate, it offered candied citrus, a complexity of layers of tanginess, herbal acidity and ending with a nice long finish of terroir.  It was delicious and I think that we both raved about the wine, all throughout the meal. Now, you have to give us a break and cut us some slack as we share our desserts, just like we share our appetizers.  We had the Crème Brulee and we also shared a glass of dessert wine.  We shared a glass of Frost Bitten Wines “Ice Wine” Riesling Yakima Valley 2019 produced by Once Bitten Wines of Mosel, Germany and JZ Wine Company of Richland, Washington. The Riesling grapes had been frozen post-harvest, creating concentrated press juice of twenty-three percent residual sugar at harvest and once fermented the wine came out at 18.5 residual sugar.  A nice golden color that wine offered notes of apricot jam, orange marmalade and ripe peaches.  On the palate there was stone fruit, pineapple and honeysuckle without being syrupy or cloying and finished with bright acidity at the finish.  We actually liked the wine over the Creme Brulee.    

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A Walk to Mission Point

There is so much to see and enjoy on Mackinac Island, especially if it is your first time there.  We have been there many times and I think that we have stopped at every shop and tourist attraction on the island.  We have been to the Butterfly House, the museums and even the churches that line the main street.  We have been up to the fort to observe the tattoo.  We have had carriage rides out in the middle of the island and have seen the airport and the golf course.  We have stayed at both ends of the island and at several spots in between.  I have even seen the motor vehicles on the island, that are used by the local municipality.  We have even seen the summer home of the governor, as it is a perk of the office, paid for and maintained by the taxpayers.

All this leads me to our latest walk, as we were parched and needed some of the nectars of the Gods.  There used to be a wine bar in the center of the town, but it and the restaurant that it was affiliated with has changed hands; nothing on the island has the endurance of the fudge emporiums.  We walked by the marina, but none of the cruise ships that ply the Great Lakes were moored at the moment, but definitely a great spot for a boat load of tourists.  It was Sunday, so there was no barge out in the marina holding a UPS truck, the truck is towed on the barge and then the driver has to unload the truck onto a horse-drawn lorry and then he can deliver his good.  When one is walking around away from the commercial part of the island, once can appreciate the beautiful homes and bed and breakfasts establishments as well.   Our walk ended up at the grounds of the miniature golf course looking out on the lake, at night the golf course changes to a night course.  We didn’t golf, but by then our thirst was excellent.

My Bride given a choice for a thirst quencher will always go to a Pinot Grigio, and she had Castello Sternati Pinot Grigio Friuli (-).  Well, it finally happened that I have encountered a current wine offering that even the search engines cannot find.  Friuli is a part of the large area known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia located between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea.  It is known as Friuli Grave gets its name, just like the Commune of Graves in Bordeaux, because of the gravely, alluvial soil and has been a wine production site going back to the days of the Romans. The region has a strong reputation for producing quality wines make of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Friuli.  The wine had a nice pale straw color with a floral nose.  It was very crisp and I will venture to say with no hesitation thaCot it was produced in Stainless Steel, and it had a very short finish, but on a sunny day, it was fine.   I had a glass of Famille Quiot Domaine Houchart Rosé Cotes de Provence 2020.   Famille Quiot has numerous estates in southern France, originally with their Domaine du Vieux Lazaret at Chateauneuf-du-Pape in 1748.  Domaine Houchart was acquired in 1890, a sixty-hectare estate.   The soil is clay and limestone that has decomposed from the mountain side. The wine is made of a blend of Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah and Tibouren.  The grapes are harvested in September, with cold fermentation of twelve to twenty-four days after destemming and direct pressing. The winery bottles the wine by December and the winery is known for using concrete vats and large oak foudres. The wine had a pretty coppery-salmon pink color.  The wine offers notes of red fruit and Herbs de Provence. This was a nice crisp-dry wine with tones of strawberry and cherry, herbs and a nice finish of terroir.  The perfect way to prepare for dinner.

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I Never Tire of Mackinac Island

One of the true treasures for the State of Michigan is Mackinac Island.  Only a couple of times of the year, does the manure of the politicians exceed the manure of the horses.  You see, there are no motorized vehicles on the island, save for a couple of government emergency cars, ambulances and trucks.  A couple of years ago, they experimented with allowing motorized bicycles, but I think that will be terminated, because of the rash of accidents.  So, the main modes of transportation are by horse, manual bicycles and foot traffic.  There is a small airport on the island, just in case the people that are anti-fossil fuel need to get on the island to complain about the excessive use of fossil fuel, or they can moor their yachts.  Otherwise, mere mortals must use the commuter boat services from the two peninsulas of Michigan to Mackinac Island and they have facilities to park your car on the mainland for however long you are going to stay on the island.  If you are a true romantic, the film “Somewhere in Time” was filmed there and most of the structures on the island didn’t need any alterations.  

There are two main hotels at the opposite ends of the main street in the downtown district.  Add that the multiple smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts, boarding houses and that doesn’t include the former dormitories for all of the employees that live on the island during the peak season; there are only a handful of hardy souls that reside on the island, year-round.  It is amazing the number of places one can eat on the island, from coffee shops, delis, pizzerias and other family-oriented eateries. Then there is enough fudge and popcorn emporiums, that have a made a name for themselves that they can be found in most of the tourism communities throughout the state.  There are also establishments that cater to adults and to some that should learn how to be adults. 

Finally, there are wonderful locations that have selections of wines, both with casual sides or full-service white table clothed establishments that further enhance the reason to go to a resort setting.  Only a few places feel the need to request proper attire, and there are plenty of locations that don’t.  I think that the fine dining is such a bonus on the island, and considering the logistics of getting the food, and the beverages, it is one of the greatest places to visit at least once.  We were going to the Upper Peninsula and because of the car rental requirements, we had to leave a day early and made the most of it, and having a casual afternoon and then some excellent fine dining for one day, before going back to the real world.  

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A Retirement Party on the River

Not for me, I have been retired and in fact, we never even recorded the day or anything, it just kind of happened.  My younger brother retired and his wife had a surprise retirement party for him.  She did a great job with all of the planning, because everyone was kind of a co-conspirator.  All he knew was that he was going to a wine tasting that evening, he had even tried to get some of his pals to go golfing that morning, but they all had prior commitments.  So, I am sure that he was looking forward to having some wine and relaxing with some friends that were also going to the party.  My Bride was asked if she would take some photos and she is pretty sure that she took photos of everyone there, she even printed up a photo album and a complete disc of all the photos as well, she is very organized and likes doing things like that.

It was good that we had to get there early, because I and most of the others could not find this catering hall, and some navigation systems on some of the phones could not locate it either.  It was kind of funny, that everyone was saying the same thing, unless they actually had prior knowledge of the facility.  Most of us ended up gathering out on the rear verandah or patio of the facility, overlooking the river, and actually we could basically see his house on the island, not far from the bridge that connected the island to the mainland and the park setting. We were all kind of told to get into the main hall and to be quiet, as the Man of the Hour was coming, and we could all see his new gift to himself for retirement cruising on the island, the car is very distinct.  The surprise worked and he was broken up emotionally from the moment. 

The facility is a catering hall, and they did quite a decent job duplicating some Armenian dishes, because naturally everyone at our table and the adjoining table were all eating basically the same choices from the large array offered at the buffet.  By the way the bar was opened early for all the revelers, and they also had some appetizers arranged for everyone to munch on, until the main event. Most of the guests were enjoying beers and mixed drinks, but my Bride and I stayed true to form and had some wine; and I am sure that no one would be surprised by that tidbit of news.  All the wines were from Cupcake Vineyards and it was established in 2008 by The Wine Group.  The concept of Cupcake Vineyards is to offer value-priced wines from different regions like Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, Chardonnay from the Central Coast, Malbec from Mendoza, Riesling from the Mosel Valley, etc., etc., etc.  The wines are bulk produced, but a step up from jug-wines of yore. We started with the Cupcake Vineyards Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2020.  This wine had notes of citrus fruits and melons.  On the palate a crisp wine of apple and pineapple that had a finish of honey and lemon zest; it was a bit too sweet for both of us. With dinner we had Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon California 2019.  This wine had notes of dark fruits, and on the palate, I noticed mostly plum with a little blackberry and it finished with some spices.  The wines were better compared to other wines we have had from catering facilities, but hardly up to the caliber of the food that they served.  All in all, a delightful evening and the surprise worked.     

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Fine Wine Source Club June 2022

The month of June was the Trifecta for wine club selections as I also picked up from my local club The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan.  I always enjoy the curated selection from my shop, and a chance to catch up with them; if they are busy, I never interrupt a sale, which is one of the first lessons that one learns in retailing, but seems to be lost on the new crop of clerks and not salespeople.  Normally, the club selection offers a wine from the Old World and one from the New World.  The color of the wines will always be a surprise, as well as the actual wines.

Chateau Mourgues du Gres “Fleur d’Eglantine” Rosé Costieres de Nimes 2020 represents the Old World.  A former agricultural estate of the Ursulines de Beaucaire since the Sixteenth Century.  “Mourgues” is the word for nuns in the Provencal dialect and “Gres” refers to the round rocks that is part of the defining part of the soil of the Costieres de Nimes.  Francois Collard returned to his family estate in 1990, confident of the terroir and the newborn Costieres de Nimes AOP and his first bottling was 1993.  Costieres de Nimes is the southern-most region of the Rhone appellations and the entire region is based on the round rocks. The wine is a blend of sixty percent Grenache Noir, thirty percent Mourvedre and ten percent Syrah.  After the crush, the varietals are blended prior to fermentation.  The wine stays on the fine lees for a month and then is aged for two months in Stainless Steel, and there was no Malolactic Fermentation involved. A description from the winery describes the wine as a rose-petal colored wine with notes of red fruit and florals.  On the palate tones of cherry, strawberry and raspberry, finishing with subtle spices and terroir.

Kenwood Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County/Mendocino County 2018 from their “Discovery” series represents the New World this month.   Kenwood Vineyards was established in 1970 in Sonoma.  It was founded by the Lee family when they purchased the estate and winery of the Pagani Brothers that began in 1906 and were successful until Prohibition.  In 1999 the winery was bought by F. Korbel and Bros. and in 2014 Kenwood was bought by the international beverage concern of Pernod Ricard.  Kenwood Vineyards has twenty-two acres of estate vineyards and also sources fruit from dozens of other growers in Sonoma.  The winery has been known for years for some of their Single-Vineyard wines, as well as some of their other collections.  The wine is Cabernet Sauvignon with a little assistance of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  The wine is fifty-one percent Sonoma County and forty-nine percent Mendocino County.  A deep dark wine that offers notes of cassis, plum, black cherry and spices.  On the palate this full-bodied wine offers bright fruit and dried herbs and a nice long finish of terroir. 

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Two More From ATOM

It is always wonderful to be surprised when you receive a wine club shipment, of course from A Touch of Monterey, they ship three bottles at a time, and I normally only discuss two bottles of wine at any given time.  The main reason is that I have published for over ten years an article every other day and then I can “advertise” two different wines on Facebook and Instagram; and then I can start all over again. I have thought about cutting back, but I am already feeling lazy as it is, so I guess I will just continue having a glass of wine and try to concentrate. 

We received a bottle of Scott Family Estate Chardonnay Dijon Clones Arroyo Seco 2019. The funny thing is that Scott Family Estate is from Carneros in Napa Valley and is actually part of the much larger Rutherford Ranch Winery of Napa Valley, and they actually have a total of nine different labels and the wines can be tasted at their tasting room in Rutherford, Napa Valley.  The winery is named after the owner’s grandfather, and this wine is produced from Dijon Clones grown on the Arroyo Seco estate.  The estate has gravely soil, with hot days and cool evenings and almost a month longer growing season that is found in Napa Valley, so the region is perfect both for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The wine was aged for ten months in a combination of Stainless Steel and new and old French and American Oak. The aging potential is for five to six years. The wine has been written up as offering notes of stone-fruit, green apple and sweet oak.  On the palate tones of citrus and minerals with a creamy soft finish and some bright acidity.

Comanche Cellars Petite Sirah San Antonio Valley AVA 2019 is from a small winery that produces under a thousand cases of wine, and it is named after the horse that Michael Simon had when he was ten years old, and Comanche’s horse shoes are on the label. Michael Simon has created some long-standing relationships within Monterey and maintains a tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  San Antonio Valley AVA is a rather isolated district in Monterey and it is considered rather high in altitude, which allows intense sunshine during the day and much cooler evenings. The soil is alluvial, made of clay, loam and gravel and free draining.  This is a new varietal for the winery and it was aged for twenty-eight months in American Oak, of which half is new.  There were eighty-nine cases produced.  The wine is described as having notes of dark fruit, vanilla and bay leaf.  On the palate it is said to be big and bold with velvety tannins.  and they stress that you won’t confuse it with Syrah.

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ATOM Reserve Wine Club June 2022

We received our second shipment of wine club wines this month from A Taste of Monterey Wine Club and we opted years ago to get their Reserve Wine selections.  I mean back when we started with the club, Michigan was still a felony state for the shipment of wines, and this club said that they could ship to Michigan.  A couple of syndicated wine writers from Michigan had to sue the governor of Michigan, thankfully she lost, she ended up a one term wonder, moved to California and until recently was basically forgotten about.  I and many others were glad to see her go, as we could stop shipping “olive oil” to our home or business. 

The first wine in the carton was from Meniketti Wines, another celebrity winery, which is becoming all the rage these days.  I had to look it up, but Dave Meniketti is the lead singer, lead guitarist, principal songwriter and founder of the globetrotting rock band, Y&T.  Jill Meniketti is the manager for the rock band Y&T, as well as an author.  One of the perks of performing around the world, is the chance to enjoy beverages, especially wines.  They were tempted by both friends and wine industry associates to start their own winery and label.  They have sourced fruit from California vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey appellations.  They are eco-friendly and only deal with SIP (Sustainable in Practice) certified farming techniques.  They also use light-weight bottles, natural corks and their wines are Vegan.

The wine we received is Meniketti Wines “Forever” Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2017.   “Forever” is one of Y&T’s most popular songs from their “Black Tiger” album.  The fruit for this wine was harvested at the Tondre Grapefield in the famed Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.  The wine was aged in French Oak, of which twenty-five percent was new.  The aging potential is six to eight years.  The wine is described as having notes of spicy dark fruit.  On the palate tones of blackberry and cherry and spices in a medium-bodied, softer tannin and well-balanced wine with a finish of terroir.       

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Why We Joined Black Star Farms’ Club

Back when the world was young and fun, we were at a board meeting at the Inn at Bay Harbor, and a delightful time it was.  The food was excellent and normally the wine takes a back seat to the liquor selection and the craft beer selection, but this time even the wine was excellent.  The final evening of events the wines were from Black Star Farms of Michigan, and there was quite a lot of buzz, at least in Michigan wine drinking circles, because the Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling Michigan 2017 had won the Best in Show at the Canberra International Riesling Competition.  We did not have the Dry Riesling being poured, but we tried their Cabernet Franc 2013 and it was that great, along with two other wines, that my Bride wanted to make a special stop at the winery to see if we could get the Cabernet Franc and some of the Dry Riesling.  We were so impressed with the service from the representative that we did a tasting with, that we signed up for their club. 

We just received the June 2022 wine selections and the first two wines out of the box were the Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling Michigan 2017, as the winery decided to put two pallets aside for some additional aging and a surprise bonus to their club members.  So, we have a couple more of this exceptional wine, as we had bought as much as we could find.  At the Canberra International Riesling Competition there were 567 Rieslings entered for the challenge, from six countries; Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, France and the Czech Republic.  This wine carries the Michigan AVA, because the fruit came from their vineyards from both sides of Traverse City; Old Mission Peninsula AVA and the Leelanau Peninsula AVA.  According to the newsletter, the wine is drinking exceptionally well.  “Bright yet complex, this wine truly expresses its vintage and terroir.  Flavors of peach, honeydew melon, and ripe apple are complemented by nuances of honeysuckle and pear on the nose.”

The second set of wines in the shipping carton was Black Star Farms Arcturos Cabernet Franc Michigan 2019.  The first bottling of Cabernet Franc was 1998, and this grape has taken on a life of its own, not only in Michigan, but around the world.  What was once considered a blending grape by most, but others knew better; has become a grape of its own right and has even acquired its own wine day along the way.  The cooler climate and the extended growing season has been very beneficial to this grape, not to mention that the vines are also maturing.  There was a little over a thousand cases produced of this wine with fruit that was harvested from two of their best vineyards; Old Mission Peninsula AVA and Leelanau Peninsula AVA. The tasting notes described the wine as “dark fruit aromas, dominated the nose and are followed by flavors of blackberries, plums, oak and herbal notes in the finish.”   

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We Had Visitors

My Bride and I live in a suburb that was originally a township.  I am not sure what the definition of a township is where you live, but originally in Michigan in meant thirty-six square miles or six miles by six miles.  The old city planners were quite ingenious and created an industrial park that is six square miles through the city along the railroad lines, and this industrial park has always been beneficial to the homeowners when it came time to pay land taxes.  Even when the township became a city, to this day there are a couple of small farms, a turkey farm and at one time there was a mink ranch and a rabbit ranch.  The rabbits escaped and I would venture to say that there is a rabbit warren almost in every backyard here.  We have had pheasants, turkeys, rabbit, opossums, raccoons and the other day we had a young deer maybe checking out the real estate market here. 

We also had some of the family from Louisville for dinner, after they had lunch at my Brother-in-Law’s sister home and it had been a couple of years since he saw all of his family.  His sister probably only lives about five miles from our house, so, I just mentioned that my Bride should not even think of starting a dinner, until they showed up.  We just had a casual dinner with a Caesar Salad (are you surprised?), New York Strip Steaks and Candied Carrots.

I went into the cellar and grabbed something that I thought was interesting.  We had a bottle of Duckhorn Vineyards and Winery Decoy “Migration” Napa Valley Red 1997.  We still have some of the wines that we bought from our initial visit to Duckhorn, arranged through a customer of mine, one of the sons (when it was still a family-owned winery) gave us a private tour, and a private tasting in the back of a semi-trailer, as we sat on cases of wine, and on occasion we would have to get up, to open another case to try another wine.  Memories like that can’t be duplicated. The wine was a blending of different varieties and different contract and owner properties, back when Duckhorn Vineyards produced all of their wines in Napa Valley, now Duckhorn is one subsidiary and Migration is another subsidiary.  The original concept for Migration is that the wine could change from year to year.  This wine was produced from fruit harvested from seven different vineyards within the appellation.  The wine was fifty-one percent Cabernet Franc, twenty-six percent Merlot, thirteen percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged for eighteen months in a blend of sixty percent French Oak (ten percent new, sixty percent second and thirty neutral) and forty percent American Oak (all second use). I had my Durand corkscrew so the cork remained whole.  For a twenty-five-year-old the wine was excellent, with a beautiful deep color. The nose was vintage Right Bank, and on the palate the tannins were soft, but it was still a chewy wine with a good long finish; and for some odd reason there was no leftover wine for the next day. 

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An Eightieth Birthday

You may think this is about me, but I haven’t made this milestone.  It was going to be a surprise party, but at the last minute, his wife thought the stress might be a shock, so she told him.  It was quite a successful surprise party, until that moment, considering how many people knew about it and never let it leak out.  We got at the restaurant before the designated time, as we were going to help one of the co-conspirators decorated the room.  They showed up at the designated time, but there was plenty of time for the decorations as the guest of honor was almost an hour late for his own party.

We thought it would be rude to start eating ahead of time, but we did order a bottle of wine for our table, but we were the only ones to celebrate in that manner.  We had a bottle of Bodega Abito Rosé Barranca, Argentina 2020. A winery that has decided that their emblem is an eye, to let the consumer realize that the wine is watching them.  Barrancas is a small wine region in the Maipu district of Mendoza in Argentina and they have probably the lowest altitude, and hence the warmer climate typically means that the wines are softer and riper.  The soil is alluvial and allows the vines to grow deep roots. This region actually began producing wines in the 1880’s, making it one of the earliest areas.  This wine is a blend of fifty-six percent Malbec, thirty-six percent Syrah and eight percent Cabernet Franc.  Twenty percent of the wine was aged in French Oak for months and I shall suppose that the balance was done in Stainless Steel.  The wine had a deep rose color with notes of red fruits.  On the palate, this wine was crisp and dry with tones of raspberry, strawberry and cherry with a short finish. The crowd finally showed up and my Bride ordered a Chicken Bibb Salad with Romaine, Sundried Cherries, Cinnamon Pecans with Grilled Chicken Breast with Raspberry Vinaigrette with a side of fresh fruit.  While I had the Key West Shrimp, sauteed Tiger Shrimp with Spinach, Roma Tomatoes and Shallots, flash flamed with Tequila and a hint of garlic (I asked for more than a hint).

You might be surprised to find out the wine ran out, before the food, and way before the desserts.  So, we had to get something festive for the occasion and we went with splits.  One of the splits was Famiglia Zonin Prosecco DOC NV. Casa Vinicola Zonin SPA is based in the Veneto region of Italy with wineries across Italy and the USA.  They were founded in 1821, and in the 1960’s began an expansion starting in Friuli and Chianti Classico and finally the Barboursville Vineyards in the State of Virginia.  There was not much to find about this particular wine, but it probably is marketed to food establishments.  It is Prosecco DOC, so it is Prosecco and probably made in the Charmat Methode.  It was just an easy-going wine with a nice golden color, medium size bubbles with a very soft nose and a slightly sweet finish.  I liked it, just the way it was, and I think that it would be too sweet in a Mimosa, and perfectly priced for the majority of restaurants.

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