Friday, December 31, 2010

Grape Sense's Top 10 Wines of 2010

What do you get when you combine Cabernet, Malbec, a Beaujolais, a Chianti, Syrah, and multiple Spanish grapes? You get the Grape Sense Top 10 Wines of 2010.

Are these the best ten wines I tasted in 2010? No, but close. These are 10 of the best wines tasted that were under $20 and purchased in Indiana. Last year, I ranked the Top 10 – this year the best are presented in no particular order.

George Deboeuf’s La Trinquee Julienas - The Gamay wine from Beaujolais has nice fruit structure, tannins, and well-balanced acidity. It will change your mind about Beaujolais if you’ve only had the Nouveau. ($12-99-$15.99)

Domaine de Niza Languedoc 2005 - The French wine is a blend of 60 percent Syrah, 35 percent Mourvedre, and 5 percent Grenache. It has a big nose, an herbal, spicy, and smoky taste with a long finish. Wine Spectator gave this juice a 91. I might not go quite that high, but darn close. ($13.99)

J. Lohr Cabernet - The wine is a rich and well-structured bottle of Cab. It can be found in wine shops from $13-$17. It can be picked up at many Indiana groceries for $14.99.

Etim Seleccion - This is a blend of 60 percent Garnacha, 30 percent Carinena and 10 percent Syrah from Spain. It's aged six months. The wine has an irresistable rich black cherry and spice flavor.($13.95)

Montebuena 2009 Rioja – The 100 percent Spanish Tempranillo is about as good as you're going to find anywhere for $9. Getting good European wine under $10 is always a challenge. Wine icon Robert Parker gave this great wine 90 points!

Errazuriz Cab – The Errazuriz gets its own listing because it’s that good. Chile is making some great wine and the Errazuriz is widely available. They also make a dynamite Sauv Blanc. The Cab is widely available for $19.

Altos Malbec – A consistent 88 to 90 point wine delivers a great punch. Altos offers a deep colored hue with earthiness and a silky smooth finish. You even get a little sour cherry on the mid-palate. ($10-$13)

Il Fiorino 2008 Chianti - This is a really satisfying and easy-to-drink Chianti. The Il Fiorino is the classic and traditional blend of 90 percent Sangiovese with 10 percent Canaiolo. The winery Poggio Romita ages the wine in stainless steel instead of oak. It has that smooth drinkability new wine drinkers are always seeking out. ($13)

Este de Bodegas Alto Almanzora – A critic’s favorite from Almeria, Spain. It's largely Monastrell (Mourvedre), with a little Garnacha and Tempranillo, plus smaller amounts of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz. It is flavorful with bold raspberry and a hint of vanilla from the oak. ($9.99)

Durigutti Malbec - Last year I ranked my year-end wines 1-10. I didn’t do that this year, but if I did the Durigutti would be No. 1. This is rich wine with a peppery finish. And if you’ve never had Bonarda (traditional Argentinian grape), try Durigutti. The Malbec sells for $11-$14. They have a Reserva that is fabulous wine for $23.99

Howard’s Picks comes down to some personal highlights from 2010. I joined a group of 10 wine writers for a three-day press trip to Paso Robles, Ca, in October. I’ll be returning to California wine country in January.

For specific wines I’d list my discovery of aged French Vouvray (chenin blanc), Ortman Family Wines, Paso Robles, and my first excursions into Amarone from Italy as just a few of many highlights.

Thanks to you for reading Grape Sense and your local newspaper editor for carrying the column. I get lots of great feedback, usually when I least expect it.

Cheers to 2011!

If one of the above wines interests you and you can’t find it, write me at and I’ll tell you where I purchased the wine.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Toasting a Merry Christmas 2010 with Riesling, Pinot

It's Christmas morning in Southern Indiana. We had about an inch of fresh snow overnight for a beautiful Christmas card type morning.

Here is hearty wishes for a great time with your family and safe travels during the holiday season.

What wines are you enjoying this holiday weekend?

On Christmas Eve, it was Concannon 2009 Dry Riesling with ham and dinner. Great wine at a great price. Tonight, I'm going to share a bottle of Penner Ash 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with old high school friends!

Merry Christmas!
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Easier Now to Leave a Comment on Grape Sense

I'm blushing a bit, perhaps from stupid embarrassment. I just realized from a Facebook posting - whether aimed here or elsewhere - that the settings I left on default for Grape Sense were rather convoluted.

Or in other words, readers had to jump through numerous hoops to leave a comment. I've fixed it. I would welcome comment on anything appearing in Grape Sense - love it, hate it, or if you have a question.

Sometimes the drive to write and deliver the message is hampered byt he technology - sometimes hampered by the guy not taking the time to make it easy for readers to interact! Please, let's hear from you!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simple Rules for Wine and Cheese Pairings

Wine and cheese go together like Tom and Jerry, Sonny and Cher, and other iconic pairings.

I’m most frequently asked about pairing wine with food. I recently wrote about pairing wine with appetizers. I’ve written about pairing wine with chocolate.

Finding cheese you’ll enjoy is like finding wine you’ll appreciate. You have to taste and taste some more. But the same as wine, many people become intimidated if they find a large selection of cheeses.

And there is so much more to be enjoyed than simple Swiss, cheddar or Gouda.
“I like to introduce people to cheese by doing a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk, and a goat’s milkcheese,” said Fred Roesner, cheese specialist at Vine and Table in Carmel, In. “And a lot of the people who come in the store, when I say goat, they say ‘no way.’

Those not familiar with goat’s milk have often tasted fresh and very pungent goat cheeses. “They think of the animal, they don’t like it,” Roesner said.

“When they’ve tasted a couple goat cheeses here they go ‘Oh, wow – who knew? There are some wonderful goat cheeses and not all of them are fresh, a lot of them are aged a little bit and they’re delicious.”

Roesner even recommends fooling your guests just a little. “If you’re going to do something, you don’t have to tell people what it is,” he laughed. “You put a good cow’s milk, a good sheep’ s milk or goat cheese out there and throw in some cheddar or something that they recognize and they’ll love it.”

Pairing wine with cheese is similar to pairing wine and food. Seek out cheese that complements the wine or a cheese that will accentuate the wine by contrast.

“If you have a Cabernet that’s a big wine with big tannins, I’d send over a triple crème, very mild and very creamy. If you’re into the medium reds it gives you a whole wide spectrum of inexpensive cheeses that will go nice depending on your tastes.

“If somebody says ‘I’m drinking a Pinot Noir tonight’ I’d say let’s try this and this and this. With Pinot, you can go light. There is a huge body of cheese right in the middle and a huge range of wine right in the middle.

Roesner might chuckle when asked about his “cheese specialist” title. After working in an unrelated industry in L.A. he decided to retire early. He wanted to work in wine but no openings were available. “So for me it’s been on-the-job training,” he said.

He’s spent the past four years learning about cheese and assisting customers in Vine & Table’s gourmet grocery.

“It’s educating people,” he agreed. “If I can introduce something new to somebody and they like it and their friends like it, that’s great to me. You should eat what you like and drink what you like.”

Howard’s picks:
Swiss Gruyere
- Gruyere is often easy to find at a reasonable price. French Comte is the same cheese, but with a richer flavor to my palate. Comte is $12-$14 a pound, the Gruyere a little less.

Triple Cream Goat Cheese – A triple cream, or crème, is the other end of the spectrum. It’s the creamy and mild delicious cheese that Fred recommended above. A good creamy goat cheese is likely to cost you $18 a pound and up.
Don’t let the price scare you, often you’re only buying a quarter or half pound if it’s for nibbling with wine.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Snooth Names Lange its Winery of Year

If you have ever gone searching for information on a particular wine on the internet there is a pretty good chance you have visited
The site is a great spot for a quick look at thousands of wines. This year the site is handing out awards ... a best of year type of thing.

This year the site named Lange Estate Vineyards, Oregon, as it's winery of the year. Read the story here.

Lange has long been one of my favorites. You can find Lange's great Pinot Noir wines all across the county - and yes, even in Indiana!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Check Out Deano Knows Vino on City360tv

One of my real wine 'mentors' is Dean Wilson in Indianaplis. He operated Deano's Vino wine shop and then restaurant in Fountain Square.

He's moved on from those ventures and now is working for Kahn's Fine Wines in Indy. He also is doing videos for a multimedia company in Indianapolis.

Check out his new venture. The guy is funny and very knowledgeable when it comes to wine. Here is a direct link to Deano Knows Vino. He's just completed his first episode but it will give you an idea, I'm sure, of things to come!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Octavin's 'Boxed" Wines Break Down Stereotypes

Several boxed and packaged wines have appeared on the market over the past few years. Heck, you can even buy wine in a can-like container.

I have written previously about the Octavin Home Wine Bar and felt compelled after a couple more samples to re-visit the wines. I was more careful with the last two wines to make a few notes within the time frame and how they held up over the promised six weeks of freshness.

Recently I had the Montahaven Cabernet and Seven, which is a blend of seven Spanish wine grapes.

The most remarkable thing about the boxed wines is the price and consistent quality. The suggested retail on all of the Octavin products is a couple of bucks past a twenty dollar bill. You can find them in some retail outlets as low as $17.99. The price is remarkable when you consider you're getting four bottles of wine.

The other startling thing about the Octavin wines is the preservation system works. With the last two wines, I dated the box when I opened it and made a few notes each time I poured a glass. In both cases the wine tasted virtually identical from week one to week six.

The wine-in-a-box system works well for the single wine drinker or for a big party.

The wines have been about what you would expect, but better than many others at the price point. The two most recent samples were two of the best. The Monthaven Cabernet had nice berry flavor with little finish but it was great to be able to pour a single glass of Cab without popping a cork. The Seven was actually a bit richer on my palate. Bodegas Osborne's Jose Maria Nieto blended primarily Tempranillo with six other grapes. This wine probably had the best finish of the bunch.

I've sampled seven of the Octavin's offerings. Along with the Monthaven Cab, I opened with the Monthaven Chardonnay. For me that was the weakest wine of the group.

But that was followed up by Silverburch Sauvignon Blanc that was the best wine I sampled. As a matter of fact, that Sauv Blanc was as good or better than many I've paid $12-$15 for in retail stores.

The Big House Red and Big House White have been around awhile and are delightful value blended wines. I enjoyed both. The Boho Vineyard's Zinafandel was pretty thin but I did find myself going back to the container to finish it off.

I haven't tried the Pinot Noir but I would say there really was only one stinker in the bunch. The others are decent wines and a couple darn good values.

Again, it is what it is. Just over $20 for four bottles of wine is tough to beat. The convenience of pouring a single glass is wonderful. The wines are better than many you're going to taste for the same bucks.

If you haven't tried boxed wine in years, it's time.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Uruguay's Monte de Luz Cab Franc Delivers

I once had a foreign college student bring me back a bottle of wine from Paraguay. Let's just say the Cabernet is not going to threaten wine off the shelves anywhere in Argentina or Chile.

So I was skeptical when Ashley at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis wanted me to try a Cabernet Franc from Uruguay.

Domaine Monte de Luz 2008 Carquera Cabernet Franc proved to be a suprisingly nice $11 wine. Uruguay is one of South America's smallest countries but has 300 wineries.

The wine grapes come from the Mohama Mountain, San Jose region. The wine is very soft and round in the mouth with a hint of tobacco and herbs. The balance is very nice and it still holds up to food. I opened the bottle last night and had a glass this evening with some chicken/marinara sauce pasta and it was refreshing.

You can generally find this wine any where from $9-$11.

You'll also find Cabernet Sauvignon and the relatively obscure grape Tannat.

I guess the moral of this story is never be afraid to try familiar grapes even from new countries.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Palate Press Book a Great Gift Idea

About the only thing wine folk like more than drinking the juice is reading and learning more about wine.

One of the really great things that has happened for me over the past 15 months or so was the launching of Palate Press. The national online magazine gives bloggers/writers a chance to be published in a national forum that has earned credibility through selectivity and editing.

I have written 4-5 pieces for Palate Press since its launch along with a handful of wine reviews.

Publisher David Honig, an Indianapolis attorney by day, came up with a great idea to publish a "Best Of" electronic and print book. I'm happy that a story I did on retail wine chains is included.

You can order the book by clicking here.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Madison Magazine: Holiday Cocktail Wines

NOTE: I have several irons in the fire when it comes to wine writing. I am about to write my third column for Madison Magazine, a publication of the Anderson Herald-Bulletin. The magazine is a quarterly publication aimed at higher incomme residents in Madison County. Below is the second column I wrote for them, published in November.

The holiday season is jammed with office parties, family gatherings, and friends celebrating the season.

While much is written about wine and food pairings for the main course, wine is an enjoyable cocktail or aperitif. Many people struggle pairing wine with appetizers and hors d’ oeuvres far more than they do counting on the old red-with-beef and white-with-chicken axiom.

There are some rules to making wine your cocktail of choice. There is also the practical matter of serving two or three different bottles of wine instead of trying to stock a full bar for your guests.

Let’s start with easy to match white wine pairings. You want a lighter style white wine that is easy to sip, low in alcohol, and still pairs with the goodies. To really impress your guests, match up a nice semi-sweet Chenin Blanc with goat cheese.
Most wine shops usually carry a Chenin Blanc. But if you want to do something special seek out a bottle of French Vouvray. The French treatment of Chenin Blanc comes in a dry, semi-dry, and sweeter style. Look for “sec” or “demi-sec” on the label. There are lots of options on the goat cheese. I like the soft, funky ones which guests can spread on a plain cocktail cracker.

Buy the sweeter version of the Vouvray and serve it with “Pur chevre” which is 100 percent French goat’s milk cheese. The pairing has a “ying and yang” effect which will impress your guests. There is something about the light sweet wine and the earthy goat cheese that makes a perfect pairing! You will be the hors d oeuvres/wine maven in your neighborhood.

If you’re more jingoistic in your approach to wine and insist on buying U.S. juice, here is another great one. Seek out a nice California Sauvignon Blanc. You’re going to want a wine with that nice lemon, grapefruit taste and some zing on the finish. Try Provenance Sauv Blanc that is widely distributed in Central Indiana at about $15-$18 a bottle.

There are many Sauv Blancs on most wine shop shelves. Just ask your favorite wine shop sales person for one that isn’t as acidic or “grassy” as most New Zealand bottlings.

And here is your treat to pair with that white wine. Using a plain cocktail cracker, place a nice piece of smoked salmon, a little dollop of sour cream seasoned with dill. Then top it off with a few capers and your guests are sure to be all smiles.
Pinot Noir is always a great cocktail red wine and pairs with almost any party snack. I wrote about several really nice Pinot options in the first issue of Madison Magazine.

I’d recommend staying away from the bigger red varietals like Cabernet, Syrah, Zinfandel, and even Merlot. They really coat the palate and they are usually high in alcohol. Try a nice Spanish Tempranillo which is smooth and lighter in style. French Cotes do Rhone wines are also a fantastic option featuring the versatile Grenache grape. Many Argentinian Malbecs would work as a cocktail as well.

These milder red wines work great with meat balls, salsa, and bolder foods. These food flavors normally call for a bigger wine but keep in mind you’re looking for lower alcohol and something the guest can enjoy sipping throughout the festivities.
My absolute favorite red wine pairing is chocolate. Nice chocolates and delightful truffles are easy to find. Don’t rely on those on grocery shelves, though. There are many specialty shops doing handmade truffles including right here in Madison County.

Some of the basic rules of pairing chocolate with wine mirror those with regular meals. Chocolates or chocolate desserts/goodies at the 60 percent cacao level are going to pair best with the lighter style red wines. When approaching the 70 percent cacao level in your chocolate, you should move to a Zinfandel or Syrah for a great pairing. I’d also recommend you stay with dark chocolates for all your wine pairings instead of milk chocolate.

The best idea is buy some wine, cheese, and chocolate and try the combinations out.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Wine Shop, A Sassy Bitch & Notes

Anyone in the writing business knows sometimes there are ideas that don’t quite add up to individual columns. So, the following items are shared as Wine Briefs.

New Fishers Wine Shop
Any time a new retailer opens an Indiana wine shop, it’s worth a mention. Small retail is tough but wine shops and gourmet grocery stores really have to fight to find a niche.

Tasteful Times, at Olio Rd. and 116th St., Fishers, is a delightful shop with a big supply of gourmet grocery items and an eclectic wine selection. The store was opened by Ian and Linda Sadler along with their son Jonathan.

“We wanted to combine offering the finest products with having some fun,” Ian Sadler said. “We’re passionate about good food and good wine as a family and with friends.”
The British couple are delightful hosts. The grocery includes a wide mix of meats, cheeses, dairy products, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, flavored oils, and I was told a very popular Bloody Mary mix.

The wine selection included many labels not seen in other Indianapolis shops. “We’ve been very selective because we don’t want to carry wines that everybody else has,” Sadler said. “We also want to carry wines that we’d be proud to serve in our home to family or friends.”

Wines with Funny Names
Many a wine critic or writer will bash “critter” wines or wines with cute names. Much of the criticism is well founded. But I continue to stumble across some worth consideration. “Sassy Bitch” wines are available throughout Indiana.

Tami Fricks, a Macon, Ga., native started the company after talking with friends about how confusing wine buying can be for the average consumer. She and her husband wanted a good product with a catchy name and seem to have found both. They traveled to Chile and found boutique winery Casa del Bosque and then launched Sassy Bitch wines.

They are currently producing four wines right around the $10 price point - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Merlot. The Cab was named a Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy” this year.

I received media samples of the Cab and Pinot. I would describe them as good $10 wines. The Cabernet is rather soft without much of a finish but better than some I’ve tasted at the price point. The Pinot Noir was the better of the two. It’s hard to find a Pinot under $15 that is drinkable. This one doesn’t have big fruit but it is nicely balanced and drinkable.

Obviously, they wanted to have fun with the name (enough said), but the wines are good $10 values.

Stand up for Shipping Rights
You’ll be reading a lot about Sunday liquor sales over the next few weeks. But nothing is stranger than wine shipping laws and Indiana’s laws may be the most ludicrous in the nation.

Did you know if an out-of-state winery has a Hoosier distributor it cannot directly ship to you if you visit their tasting room? Did you know it can cost more than $500 to get an Indiana license if they don’t have a distributor and want to send you the 12 bottles you just purchased? It goes on and on.

Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, introduced the bill to allow Sunday sales. His quote, as reported in the Indianapolis Star, is what really caught my eye.
“No government, in my opinion, should create a monopoly in any one area,” Boots said. “We need to have a free-market society. We need to have a free-market environment where everybody can compete.”

Well said and I couldn’t agree more. Write your U.S. House representative and ask him to oppose H.R. 5034 which would cripple wine producers from all states. Write your state representatives and senators to ask them to tear down the antiquated three-tier system and to allow direct wine shipments to Hoosiers.

Welcome Aboard
Just a quick shout out to new readers in Monticello, Indiana. Editor Trent Wright has added Grape Sense to the Herald-Journal!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Sale of Paso Robles Winery; Online Wine Sales Report

I subscribe to a number of online wine sites and get daily e-mail updates on wine news headlines.

A couple of interesing news items hit the inbox this morning. I realize not everyone reading Grape Sense has the same level of interest that I do, so sometimes those story are worth repeating.

I was somewhat surprised to see this Wine Spectator story announcing the Fiji water people had purchased Justin Winery. Justin and Deborah Baldwin will continue to run the winery but won't have the financial commitment of owners and winemakers.

You can read the full story at the link in the paragraph above.

During my October Paso Robles visit I had dinner with a group of Paso Robles Pioneers, including Deborah Baldwin. She was charming, knowledgeable and poured Justin's great 2008 Cabernet. It's really one of California's best.

In what now seems like a previous life, I frequently bought wine from The online wine retailer lost its Indiana distributor so no longer ships here. (Insert profanity-laden tirade here about shipping laws.)

You can check out the P.R. Newswire story here.

Anyway they just announced their Top 100 wines of the year. It's significant because they are the nation's biggest online sales site. There should be lots of recognizable wines.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Dynamite Syrah from Cotes du Rhone

I've used the line before - but every now and then you open a bottle of wine that is just really special. It's a wine that reminds you why you like wine, drink wine, read about wine, talk about wine, and visit wine country.

I had an exquisite Syrah over the weekend that I'm still telling friends about after the fact. The wine was a Clos du Mont-Olivet 2007 Varene. It is 100 percent Syrah from the Cotes du Rhone region in France. The label is known for its Chateauneuf de Pape wines but this moderately-priced Syrah is memorable.

It's big, rich and beautifully balanced. You want more wine geek? I give you more wine geek. The Varene is an intence, black fruit wine that has strength and richness that combines for an elegant feel in the mouth. Still the spice, the tannins, the sheer power of this Syrah is beautifully intoxicating. There is an earthiness that reminds regular wine drinkers of the best Cotes du Rhone has to offer.

The winemaker, Thierry Sabon, is hailed as one of the area's best. Here is a blog post from the Watertown Press in Needham, Mass. The writer visited Sabon at the winery.

I paid $23 for this wine at Vino 100 in Columbus, Ohio.

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J. Lohr Very Nice, Affordable, Available Cabernet

It can be hard to find a really good bottle of wine at the supermarket or local liquor store that delivers great quality for under $15. That’s why this column is about a single bottle of wine.

J. Lohr Vineyards is one of the iconic names in California wine, particularly the central coastal region. The chance to share comments from Steve Lohr, Jerry’s son and COO of the company, made it easy to focus one column on J. Lohr’s Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is a rich and well-structured bottle of Cabernet for its mid-teen price. The wine can be found online anywhere from $13-$17. It can be picked up at one of Indiana’s biggest grocery chains for $14.99.

The chance to share Lohr’s comments on the Cab adds a little education rather than a simple review.

“With over 20 years of experience in growing grapes in Paso Robles, we know what it takes to coax the best flavors from our vineyards,” Lohr said. “Our Paso vineyards receive only 12 to 14 inches of rainfall per year, with almost none of that occurring during the growing season. Thus, we are able to limit how much water each vine receives, encouraging the vine to put more energy into fruit maturation than cane and leaf growth. We work diligently to allow just enough sunlight to penetrate the grapevine canopy. If there is too much light, the clusters will suffer from sunburn and turn rosy or raisin – just like humans! If there is too little light, they will not develop their full berry flavors.”

A recent trip to Paso Robles, CA., provided the opportunity to talk with many of the area’s pioneers.

“We feel Paso Robles is ideally suited for Cabernet in part because of the large diurnal changes in temperature (the difference between the daytime high and nighttime low) that occur here,” Lohr explained. “Cabernet needs warm days to bake out the (chemicals) that can lead to green vegetable aromas and flavors, and cool nights to preserve the acidity and color in wine grapes. With a daily swing of 40 to 50 degrees during the summer, Paso has the largest diurnal shift of any winegrowing region in the country.”

The great thing about this inexpensive wine is it tastes like a $20 or $30 bottle. The mouth feel is comparable to a more costly wine.

“We don’t over crop our vines since that dilutes flavors; however, we don’t under crop our vines either since that leads to aggressive vegetal growth and a reduction in the length of time the cluster remains on the vine, leading to sugar accumulation before flavor development,” Lohr said.

“This attention to detail is carried through the winemaking process. We ferment in small to medium size tanks which allows us to closely monitor color, flavor and tannin extraction from the grape skins and seeds. Our focus on traditional winemaking techniques, such as the exclusive use of 225 liter oak barrels to age our Seven Oaks, is more akin to a boutique winery than a winery with good national distribution. Balance in blending occurs with the addition of other Bordeaux varieties to our Cabernet such as Merlot and Petit Verdot, as well as other red varieties which grow well in Paso such as Petite Sirah and Syrah. The finished Seven Oaks is a wine that expresses rich blackberry, black cherry and vanilla aromas and flavors with a plump, softly textured mouth feel and finish.”

J.Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet is easy to find. Try it with the next big beef dish you have planned.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holidays Such a Great Time to Enjoy Great Wine

I've spent the past two weeks writing and talking a lot about Thanksgiving wine. I hope you enjoyed the "Dudes" videos. We got together this week and tried more Beaujolais - all Cru quality, no Nouveau!

Whatever you choose for your turkey day I hope you enjoy - Pinot to Beaujolais to Gewurzt to Sauv Blanc or soft drinks, coffee, or water - Happy Thanksgiving.

I brined a turkey overnight which is about to go in the oven. I am trying something new with turkey - one of the Beaujolais Cru wines we didn't try the other night. I'm going to open a 2008 Georges Duboeuf Chateau De Grand Pre Fleurie.

I may log back in later today with a short paragaph on the wine.

Happy Turkey Day!

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Nouveau Arrives but Try a Beaujolais Cru

November 18 - yesterday - was the third Thursday of November and the official celebration of the biggest wine marketing coup of all time, perhaps.

Beaujolais Nouveau is released each year at the same time, thanks largely to Georges Duboeuf. I read a marvelous book this summer - "I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine."

The book is fun, great story telling, and educational. You'll see why and how Duboeuf became one of the biggest names in French wine by selling this inexpensive and simple drink.

I had to be near a wine shop yesterday and so I picked up a bottle of Duboeuf's 2010 Nouveau for $11.99. I consumed it with a couple of friends last night and remembered quickly why it just doesn't do much for me. Indeed, if you're serving guests who are not regular wine drinkers Beaujolais Nouveau just might be a great pick. But there is no finish on the wine and a bit of funk that I find off-putting. And by the way, my friends agreed.

For the newbies the Nouveau comes straight from the vineyard, through the fermentation process, bottled and onto shelves - no time, no oak, and not much going on.

With that being said, there are 10 Cru regions in Beaujolais growing Gamay and producing wonderful wines. The remarkable thing is the price range is so narrow in the Beaujolais region. An unremarkable Pinot Noir can cost $15 but a great one can easily be $50 or more.

The Cru wines are aged and present an entirely different and delicious alternative. And one of the great things, as opposed to my Pinot Noir example above, is you can go $5-$20 above the Nouveau price point and get great Beaujolais wine.

The Nouveau is always around $10-$12. But if you buy a Beaujolais Cru - Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié, and Saint Amour - you're going enjoy it much more.

I recently had a Duboeuf Juliénas for $14.99 and it totally changed my attitude toward the Gamay grape. It had structure, tannins, and nice acidity. It was a great bottle of wine.

Beaujolais is a great Thanksgiving wine but go for a Beaujolais Villages or one of the 10 Cru wines. The difference is small in price and substantial in value.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Column: Choices for Thanksgiving Dinner

Note: This was my last newspaper column written mostly from the series of videos found below. My friends, or the Dudes, tasted six wines one evening. The column appears in 12 Indiana newspapers reaching more than 200,000 homes.

What wine to serve with the Thanksgiving turkey? It’s the most frequently asked question of the season and one with plenty of answers.

Let’s talk some turkey about white and red wines which will really highlight your holiday meal.

Chardonnay is a really easy choice. But if it was that simple, who needs a wine columnist? The way food is seasoned, cooked, and side dishes should always figure into the equation of wine-food pairing for any meal.

Recently, I gathered four good friends to evaluate six wines to pair with turkey and the trimmings. It’s a great way to pick holiday wines and great fun.

We tasted three whites and three reds with some sliced turkey, bits of cheese with cranberry, pecans, and crackers. We started with a Michigan Riesling - a classic choice. The wine offers nice fruit and acidity and will pair well with nearly everything on the dining table. Riesling is widely available, just check out a few because the wine does come in sweet, semi-sweet, and dry versions. It’s also acidic (a good thing), but if that turns you off – just read on.

One of the most popular Thanksgiving wines in recent years has been Gewurztraminer. The French and German versions are widely popular for their strong floral and spicy nose and taste. In Indiana, you can buy a Traminette at your local Indiana winery and get essentially the same flavor profile. It is a great choice. But note, the Indiana versions tend to be on the sweeter to much-sweeter side.

Our final white was a very nice California Sauvignon Blanc. The group was pleasantly surprised how well the wine went with the turkey and trimmings. Ask your wine shop for a Sauv Blanc with mild acidity. Many California Sauvignon Blanc wines will go really well.

Still, there are those who want red wine with food regardless of the occasion and there are plenty of choices that won’t overpower the bird. My wine buddies first tried a nice Beaujolais Villages gamay-grape wine. The Beaujolais Nouveau is a fun wine, but for better taste pick up a Villages or Grand Cru Beaujolais. The difference is only a few dollars for much better wine.

The Georges Duboeuf Villages wine was beautifully crafted, light, and balanced nicely against food. It’s also a wine even your non-wine drinkers are going to really enjoy. You’ll look like the sophisticated host serving one of the beautifully-labeled Beaujolais wines.

The final two wines were both Pinot Noir, but from different regions. The first was a light and tasty California Central Coast Pinot at $14. Pinot Noir and Beaujolais are probably the most frequently recommended Thanksgiving red wines. The light Pinot not only pairs with turkey, but again is a good choice if you’re not regular wine consumers.

We also tasted an awesome $30 Oregon Pinot that might be a bit much for non-wine drinkers but will really impress regularly red wine fanatics. The Oregon Pinot is more Burgundian, or lighter in style, but earthy and aromatic wine that is made to impress.

The cook in the house invests a lot of time on Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends. So take a little time to get to a wine shop, ask some questions and pick a really great wine for the holiday.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

'Dudes' Wrap up Thanksgiving Picks with Pinot

This is the final installment of Dudes on Wine, a production of "Dudes on the Porch" wine guys. As I have written on the previous installment, it's really a great example of just getting some friends together to taste different wines.

This group has been getting together since earlier this year and agreed to let me videotape a session for the blog. We had fun, so I'm guessing we'll do it again and perhaps have a few variations on the concept as well.

The final wine was a totally different price point. Our first five wines were all in the mid-teen range. The Pinot Noir tonight is a $30 wine from Oregon. Cooper Mountain 2005 Old Vine Pinot is no longer available. But they have plenty of other Pinots available on their site.

I've long been a big fan of Oregon Pinot and written about it extensively. These are bigger and richer wines than some you'll find but would be beautiful with Thanksgiving if you're entertaining serious wine drinkers.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The "Dudes" Final Episode Monday Night

The "Dudes on the Porch" wine reviews for Thanksgiving will conclude Monday night. I had planned on putting up the last video tonight, but technical reasons have messed with the plan.

I was unable to access the video I produced so will have to post it Monday evening. The final episode features a $30 Pinot Noir and a great discussion between the "Dude" after we go around the room to ask each guy's opinion.

Sorry for the change in plans, the but the final "Dudes" wine review will be posted Monday night.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Dudes Take a Taste of $15 Pinot Noir

The next to last episode of Dudes on Wine .... or Dudes on the Porch ... focuses on Pinot Noir. We tasted a Monterrey County Estancia Pinot Noir which sells for around $15.

Pinot is really a great choice for Thanksgiving dinner. This wine was a lighter one that would pair well. But watch the video for the Dudes take on this tasty, light red wine.

Our last wine, hopefully, tomorrow night will be a higher price point Pinot Noir. I only say hopefully because I had some trouble getting the video uploaded. I'll update Saturday night.

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Michigan Wine Story Has Gone Viral

I know it's self-serving and self-congratulatory, but my Palate Press story on Michigan wine has really gotten noticed.

I posted Monday that Wine Business dot-com had picked it up. Then the one that did get my attention, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov listed the Michigan story on the NY Times Dining & Wine page under "what we're reading."

My wine-drinking neighbor Patrick, featured in the "Dudes" videos running all this week found a link to the story on several other sites.

Michigan by the Bottle

Hinge Line - a blog dedicated to promoting Traverse City and Northern Michigan

The Never Ending Vacation

Leelanau Peninsula Vinters Associations

Then I found more but some links didn't work so I couldn't post:

There really is a great sense of satisfaction seeing so many pick up on the story. Thanks to all!

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dudes Move on to Thanksgiving Red Wine Choices

The Dudes are ready for some red wine. After a Riesing, Gewurztatraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc, the guys are more than ready to try some red wine with our turkey snacks.

My intent with these six videos is to show how much fun tasting wine together can be, how much you can learn, and that your opinion counts just as much as the person sitting next to you.

The Dudes have elected to tastes a Beaujolais Villages wine - Georges Duboeuf's Julienas. It's a 2008 which you can find in better wine shops at a very, very reasonable $12-$14. Note, this is not a Beaujolais Nouveau - that simple little wine that arrives with great fanfare each November fresh from the French vineyards.

The village, specific appelation, wines are usually aged for a few years, see some oak and offer a much higher level of refinement. The wine is really a great Thanksgiving wine for the serious and non-serious winos at the Turkey Day table.

The entire Beaujolais region is rich with history. The history of this wine is that it was greatly enjoyed by the journalists and newspaper people Deboeuf would bring the Julienas each year to taste his wines. They, of course, in return would spread the word with great humor about these simple but enjoyable wines.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Okay, Stand By for Wine Name Dropping!

One of the really great things about having a national outlet like Palate Press for wine writers/bloggers is you never know who might read your work.

I got an e-mail this evening from PP Publisher David Honig. He saw something in the New York Times that was pretty darn cool.

The Dining & Wine section of the newspaper has some of the top writers in their field. Many write regular features, blog, and contribute in several ways in our multi-media world.

They run an occasional feature on what their writers are reading. So imagine my glee to see NY Times Wine critic Eric Asimov listed my Palate Press story on Michigan wine! It's just a mention, and not by name, but pretty cool to see my story mentioned in such an iconic American newspaper! Read more about Asimov here.

That's pretty cool.

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Dudes Check out Sauv Blanc for Thanksgiving

This is the third of six videos on wines for Thanksgiving. If you haven't been following along, it's simply some guys who like wine and talking about their wine choices.

It shows how easy it is to get together and enjoy wines with friends. Here is the schedule we're following:

Monday: Riesling
Tuesday: Gewurztraminer
Wednesday: Sauvignon Blanc
Thursday Beaujolais
Friday: Pinot Noir, California Central Coast
Saturday: Pinot Noir, Oregon

Tonight, we are tasting a traditional Sauvignon Blanc blend. This one comes from Clif Family Winery in California. This is a really nice clean-tasting wine that oenophiles will enjoy with the Turkey.

It's known as the The Climber White. It is 80 percent Sauv Blanc with 13 percent Pinot Gris, 5 percent Riesling, 1 percent Pinot Meunier, and 1 percent Muscat.

The grapes come from Napa Valley though I may have said Lake County, to the north, in the video. The winery is near St. Helena in the northern area of Napa.

This wine retails for $12 - a really great buy. This bottle was a trade sample.

Be sure to check back the next three nights when we move to red wines and the fifth "dude" joins the tasting.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

'Dudes' Tackle Round Barn Gewurztraminer

Tonight is Episode 2 of "Dudes on the Porch" Again, this is a group of my friends who get together regularly to sample wine. They agreed to do a video session for the blog and we had a blast.

Of course, we tasted the wines all in one evening but I cut it into six episodes with a new one scheduled for each night this week. You can go back for any you may have missed.

Here is the schedule:

Monday: Riesling
Tuesday: Gewurztraminer
Wednesday: Sauvignon Blanc
Thursday Beaujolais
Friday: Pinot Noir, California Central Coast
Saturday: Pinot Noir, Oregon

Tonight's wine is another from Michigan, Round Barn Winery's Gewurztraminer. The wine has been a popular selection, in recent years, for Thanksgiving. It is one that many will like because of its very floral and spicy characteristics. Check out the video.

The first two wines tie in with my piece currently up on Palate Press about Michigan wine. But you can find Riesling and Gewurztraminer widely available from many different regions and in different styles. Riesling is usually avaliable in most supermarkets.

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Michigan Story Picked up by National Biz Publication

Palate Press has been a great outlet for wine writers/bloggers across the country. Sunday night my story on Michigan wine went up on the site and I've already had some great feedback.

I was thrilled this morning to learn that Wine Business, a national trade site, picked up the story as well. Just scroll to the lower left corner. Here is the link.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

"Dudes" on Michigan's Leelanau Cellars Riesling

I've been promoting the "Dudes on the Porch" Thanksgiving wine reviews for a couple of days now and tonight - it's officially "Dude" time.

There are a few points I think anyone can take from the videos I'll publish each night through Saturday. First, is that getting together with friends, tasting wine and talking about wine is a lot of fun. Getting a group together is also a great way to increase your wine knowledge.

Our group has been getting together since late spring/early summer every 2-3 weeks and taste 4-5 wines. Sometimes we have a theme, like this week's Thanksgiving wines, and other times we just bring a bottle and some snacks.

We're thinking about doing more theme nights and maybe more video. If you like these, please leave a comment!

Okay, tonight's first Thanksgiving suggestion is Riesling. There are tons of Rieslings available all across the country in every imaginable price point. German and Alsace region French Rieslings are some of the best in the world. But don't underestimate the versions from N.Y. Finger Lakes region and Michigan. Indiana wineries produce sweet versions of the wine. Washington state produces a lot of great Riesling. You'll even find some Riesling out of California.

So here are the dudes trying a Leeleanau Cellars, Michigan, Semi-Dry Riesling:

This was our first attempt and the lighting could be a little better. I'm learning an editing program to add lots of features to future videos. I also owe a debt of thanks to a local college student who used the Flip video cam and took some photos for us, Drew Casey, from Portland, Ore.

Tomorrow night: The Dudes try Gewurtz!

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Michigan Wine Story up on Palate Press

Sometimes these things take awhile, but the story I wrote about my four days in Michigan this summer visiting wineries was published overnight on Palate Press - The National Online Wine magazine. Click here to go directly to the story.

The Palate Press story links back to Grape Sense for a quick review I did of the wineries I visited in three days. You can see that by scrolling down, or clicking here.

Michigan wine is not yet widely available outside the state but it can be found in surrounding states if you make an effort. The area up around Leelanau Peninsula is really worth a visit.

I blogged each day about my Michigan trip and wrote about the winemakers and wineries. There are more photos and a video in those posts. I wrote six related posts which you can read here:

Visiting an Iconic Figure in Michigan Wine
First Taste of Michigan Wine Impressive
Two Lads, a Schoolhouse, and One Sharp Young Man
Friday was Final Day of Michigan Wine Tour
The Beauty of the Traverse Bay Area
Now it's Time to Drink some Michigan Wine

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Dudes on Porch" Debuts Monday Night

One of the best ways to really enjoy wine and learn more about wine is to drink new wines with friends.

I have a group of buddies who get together every 2-3 weeks and we taste 3-4 wines. We talk about the wine, snack a little, and debate a few other topics. We started calling ourselves "Dudes on the Porch" because it just happens to be all guys and all summer we got together on my large front porch.

Last week I thought it would be great fun to do a video blog episode with the guys. Well, the "Dudes" were up for the video idea. Then "Dude" Patrick thought it would be a great to do Thanksgiving wines. I agreed.

So Tuesday night, Nov. 2, we got together in my living room - too cold for outside - and sampled three whites and three reds we thought would be great for Thanksgiving. We video taped everyone's thoughts about each wine.

I'm going to put the vids up one wine at a time, starting Monday night through Saturday. The videos are pretty simple, not over produced, and about two minutes each. But I think it provides a good example of how palates are different and how much fun you can have doing the same thing.

Make sure to check back Monday night for the debut of the "Dudes!"

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Banfi's Centine Toscana Quaffable Red Wine

"Drinkable enough" is hardly a full-hearted endorsement but sometimes good enough.

I opened a trade sample bottle of Banfi's Centine Toscana and found it very drinkable. The 2008 Toscana is a nice blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

You'll get a little berry and some other rather unidentifiable red fruit on the palate. It is a soft red wine. The tannins are quite soft despite a combined 18 months in oak. The soft finish almost always makes me say that this is a good red wine for beginners. Or, a good red wine to serve in mass quantities.

Banfi has a big lineup of great products. The Centine is the value line with prices around $11-$12. Previous vintages of the Toscana consistently scored in the high 80s.

Again, many people would like this wine. It would be great to buy in volume for a big Italian wedding. A little too soft and supple for my tastes, but it's a producer worth your trust and investment.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Errazuriz Cabernet Big, Smooth with Rich Tannins

I've found a lot of really great Cabernets under the $20 price point since the middle of this year. Several are iconic names you know while others may be a little less familiar to the average wine drinker.

Earlier this year I discovered Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc at Vine & Table in Carmel, IN. I thought it was one of the best Sauv Blancs I had had in a long time. Tonight, I opened a bottle of Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon I bought at Vino 100 in Columbus, Ohio, and it was a really great bottle of wine.

Errazuriz was founded in the late 1800s in Chile and been a vineyard ever since. It won an award for Chilean Wine Producer of the Year in 2008 at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in England.

I had the wine with a beef filet rubbed in cherry-smoke rub and a bit of dark chocolate powder. It has a big and lucious flavor of deep cherry and spice. The tannins were well balanced and pronounced without being over-powering.

The grapes come from one of the winery's best vineyards, the Don Maximiano Estate in the Aconcagua Valley. The wine scored a 91 from Wine Enthusiast and 90 (Oops, I had a typo up originally that said 80) from Stephen Tanzer.

I found the wine available online at $17.99-$21. I paid $19-something at Vino 100.

Errazuriz is widely available. For the price, it's really dynamite Cabernet!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Stories Restaurant a Hoosier Original

There’s nothing like a great restaurant and fine bottle of wine. But sometimes you can’t have it both ways. As a matter of fact, what's better than a home-cooking style restaurant on main street?

Stories Restaurant, Greensburg, In., doesn’t serve any alcohol but it’s a Hoosier legend. Many communities have such little diners and Mom-n-Pop places with a long history and great food.

I had lunch Monday, Oct. 25, at Stories for the first time in probably 10 years or more and it’s a real experience. The photos here probably explain the place better than I can but it’s a real step back into another era.

The place opened in 1977 right on the town square known for the famous little tree growing out of the courthouse tower. They offer up plate lunches, a big breaded tenderloin and homemade pie.

I had the tenderloin – still small town enough to say look who’s in the big town – and it was great. The breaded tenderloin has become such an Indiana icon. This one could star in anyone’s lineup. It was a nice piece of pork with crispy breading and no hint of the grease it was deep fried in before landing on our table.

It’s a family affair at Stories, 109 East Main, Greensburg. Many people come just for the pie. You can tell when the friendly waitresses puts a piece down on your table that it’s legit. The pie crust is handmade along with the delightful fillings.

I had a piece of cherry pie that was tart and wonderful. The pies sit in a pie case along one wall and you can see the majestic coconut cream pies with their meringue topping which seem to reach 2-3 inches above the creamy filling.

The last time I ate at Stories I had the fried chicken. I can’t remember the details but do recall my travel companions raving about the homemade style.

So no wine and that’s just great when it’s darn good home cooking.

You get near Decatur County, which sets along I-74 halfway between Indy and Cincy, run downtown and check out an American original.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Retailers Say Wine Sales Slowly Recovering

The growth of U.S. wine sales stuttered only briefly in the recent years of economic downtown. Though dollars declined, bottle sales did not drop significantly.

Going into retail wine stores the last two years has meant a wider selection of value wines and more bargains on premium wines as the nation’s economy continues to struggle with recovery.

When the economy soured, wine drinkers didn’t stop drinking. The $20-and-up customer just moved to $20-and-under wines. Retailers are beginning to see modest overall recovery.

“There has been some recovery but I would say not as much as we all hoped,” said Ashley Lockwood, owner of Cork and Cracker, Indianapolis. “I felt like we were picking up earlier this year and then in early summer the media was talking about double-dip recession and our sales took another dip.”

But speaking in early October, Lockwood was regaining guarded optimism. “Now I feel like we’re inching up over last year’s numbers. But if I look at them side by side I’ll be very surprised if we see much more than low, single-digit growth over last year.”

Lockwood’s shop is dominated by wines $15 and under. A little farther to the north, Vine and Table in Carmel has a wider selection of high-end wine but also a large value selection.

“I see the market getting a little better every year,” Wine Manager Bethann Kendall said. “We are still a long way away from where we were. I think in coming months we will see a nice increase from last year from consumers who are comfortable spending money without the constant fear of losing their jobs.”

Both wine retailers see customers moving back slowly to premium wines. “Everyone wants a good value but they all have that wine they adore at whatever price point and they consume for special dinners or to celebrate,” Kendall said.

Lockwood agreed consumers who had moved to her less-expensive wines are back buying more premium bottles. “I have a lot more people shopping the ($15-and-over) walls than I did a year ago,” she said. “One year ago I couldn’t sell a bottle of wine for over $20 to save my life. They’re starting to buy off the walls again and even in bad months those wines are moving again.”

Indianapolis is obviously the state’s most competitive market. Lockwood has heard from distributors that many retail outlets are worse off than her sales. “We have seen several places go out of business in the five years we’ve been here, places similar to us,” she said “And, we’ve seen a lot of restaurants close.”

The slow wine business has resulted in a lot of wine in warehouses and retail shelves. Customers benefit from the wine glut with more deals for the savvy wine shopper. “There has been some adjustment in prices and for us there were a lot of closeouts,” Lockwood said. “You do see that but I still think there is room for readjustment. It’s mostly domestic and largely California.”

Kendall echoed the sentiment and offering a heads up to consumers to look for great deals from most retailers during the holiday season.

Howard’s Pick:
Instead of a specific wine, its back to the advice offered in my first column two years ago. Find a wine shop you like and establish a relationship with the proprietor. Good retailers will help you find wines you like at the best price.

In photo: Ashley Lockwood at a Palate Press wine tasting.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 Michigan Winery Visits

Michigan has a diverse group of more than 70 wineries. Here is a brief overview of a few I visited in late July. Not every wine from each winery is listed. Many tasting rooms do not charge a fee while those who do are usually under $10. The average price point is slightly higher, overall, than surrounding Midwestern states. “Of Note” indicates wines I thought were particularly well made and interesting. “Best of Show” indicates personal favorites.

Black Star Farms
: 10844 E. Revold Rd., Suttons Bay
: Agri-tourism destination with beautiful luxury inn. Creamery on premises.
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Rose’, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Pear, Cherry, Riesling.
Of note: Pinot Noir that holds up to lighter style Pinots from any region. Also known for their unique dessert wines.
Best of Show: Sirius Raspberry Dessert Wine (unbelievable with good chocolate), $24.50
Prices: $13.50-$27.50

Shady Lane Cellars
Address: 9580 Shady Lane Rd, Suttons Bay
Uniqueness: Winemaker Adam Satchwell brings extensive California wine-making experience.
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Cab Franc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, blends, Lemberger, Vignoles
Of note: Beautiful Reisling and the best Pinot Noir of my visit.
Best of Show: 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve, the closest thing to Oregon I’ve tasted outside Willamette Valley, $32
Prices: $13-$32

Fenn Valley Vineyards
Address: 6130 – 122nd Ave, Fennville
Uniqueness: 30 years in wine business. Pioneer Doug Welsch conducts vineyard tastings.
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Traminette, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Blends, desert/specialty wines.
Of note: More than 30 wines on tasting room list.
Best of Show: Cabernet Franc. A number of surprisingly good ones all over, this one was best for $22.
Prices: $9-$22

Leelanau Cellars
Address: 7161 North West Bay Shore Drive, Omena
Uniqueness: Beautiful tasting room sitting on Grand Traverse Bay.
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Baco Noir, Baco Noir Rose’, blends, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, dessert wines, fruit wines.
Of note: States biggest producer with lowest prices. Many wines at $6.99.
Best of Show: Baco Noir. Certainly not a familiar grape. Very rich and full bodied, $14.
Prices: $6.99-$22

Chateau Grand Traverse
Address: 12239 Center Road, Old Mission Peninsula
Uniqueness: Another of state’s biggest wineries with large tasting room. Lots of medal winners.
Wines: Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Gamay, Merlot, Cherry.
Of note: Honored Riesling producer with lots of hardware to prove it.
Best of Show: 2007 Gamay Noir. I know this is crazy but it tasted like a Beajoulais Grand Cru, $18.99.
Prices: $7.99-$24.99

Peninsula Cellars
Address: 11480 Center Rd., Old Mission Peninsula
Uniqueness: Tasting room 1896 one-room school house. A must stop when in the area..
Wines: Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Cab Franc, Merlot, blends, fruit wines.
Of note: Several Rieslings which have won national accolades. Fun, inexpensive blends like Homework, Detention, and Old School Red and White.
Best of Show: Dry Riesling with elegant style and light fruit. $14.99
Prices: $11.99-$29.99

2 Lads Winery
Address: 16985 Smokey Hollow Rd, Old Mission Peninsula
Uniqueness: Modern/urban tasting room with spectacular view of east Grand Traverse Bay..
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Rose’, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab Franc, Reserve blends, sparkling wines.
Of note: Well-made wines from two ambitious, young winemakers.
Best of Show: Cabernet Franc Rose. Best Rose I tasted in about a dozen stops, $25, but worth it.
Prices: up to $30

Left Foot Charley
Address: 806 Red Dr., Traverse City
Uniqueness: Industrial Urban Tasting Room located in a series old mental health hospital buildings. Other shops there too!
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Apple Ciders, blends.
Of note: Beautiful, award-winning Riesling. But can they sell it for $35 a bottle?
Best of Show
: Pinot Blanc, 08 Best Dry White in Michigan competition, brightness but still bone dry, $20.
Prices: $15-$35

The following three Southern Michigan wineries are only a few miles apart:

Round Barn Winery
Address: 10983 Hills Road, Baroda
Uniqueness: Tasting room is Round Barn moved from Rochester, IN.
Wines: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, fruit wines, blends, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, numerous dessert wines.
Of note: Beautiful location, lovely dessert wines and a brewery on site for the beer folks as well as their own Bourbon, rum, and vodka.
Best of Show: Gewurztraminer, this was floral, spicy and a great bottle of Thanksgiving wine for $15.99
Prices: $9.99-$29.99

Tabor Hill Winery
Address: 185 Mount Tabor Road, Buchanan
Uniqueness: One of Michigan’s pioneers with winery and restaurant
Wines: Chardonnay, Chardonel, Traminette, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, Cab Franc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, dessert wines, sparking wines.
Of note: By far, the lightest wines I tasted in a dozen stops.
Best of Show: Norman Love chocolates available in tasting room.
Prices: $8.45-$31.95

Domaine Berrien Cellars

Address: 398 E. Lemon Creek Rd.
Uniqueness: The only official member of national Rhone Rangers organization in the midwest
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Marsanne, Traminette, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot.
Of note: Simple tasting room with really interesting wines.
Best of Show: Syrah was great for $25 but I brought home a $15.50 full bodied, complex Marsanne, with 20 percent Roussane.
Prices: $10-$19.50

I blogged each day I was in Michigan visiting the wineries. You can read those entries with more photos and video here.

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