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Thursday, May 27, 2010

2008 Wollersheim Winery Prairie Fume

Many places in Wisconsin have this wine available - if shelf talkers are to believed it is the number one selling Wisconsin wine (or is it wine in Wisconsin?...I think the former). This is made with 100% Seyval Blanc. Through the winery it's nine bucks, but figure a few bucks more if you shop elsewhere.

Lime and slate on the nose - a bit of air and grapefruit comes through. A bit more and some grassy notes come through.

Lime seems to dominate, with pink grapefruit, some pithy qualities as well. I don't often get the whole "slate" thing, but this definitely is bringing it through. My initial thought was this wine was flabby but with a bit of air it seems to balance itself out. A tad sweet, but not by no means cloyingly so. Low alcohol - 10% - though still dangerous as you can easily drink an entire bottle with little thought.

A very mild pink grapefruit quality is what lingers on the finish.

At nine bucks I cannot complain - a great picnic and/or patio and/or Ravinia wine. The price is right, the balance is good, and overall we have just a crisp, easy drinking wine. If you wish Sauvignon Blancs were just a bit sweeter and more approachable, this will be up your alley.

Score: 86

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2001 Kracher Zwischen Den Seen Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese #8

Kracher...ah, yes Kracher...some of the best dessert wines made come from this producer in Austria. This half bottle runs for, I kid you not, $80. If you live near Chicago, Binny's frequently 'end of bin' sales these so you can get them for far less if you time it right.

Potent dried fruit - apricot, mango, vanilla, plus some heat on the nose.

There are complex wines where you can rattle off a hundred things and there are complex wines where it's difficult to pull out even one. I'm going to start with peaches - not fresh though, the juice from canned peaches is what hits the palate first. Make some caramel and add a bit of vanilla and throw it in the mix as well as some golden raisins and dried apricot and perhaps a dash of honey. The mouthfeel is comparable to olive oil - thick and viscous. The wine is incredibly sweet, but it somehow manages to not be cloying - there doesn't seem to be much acid but it clearly works it all out. There is more...

A lengthy finish - a dried mango quality comes through, candied orange zest, and sugarfied peach last for minutes.

Dessert wine is tricky to even think about scoring, but this is just outstanding. It's complex, tasty, and balanced. Outrageously priced? Yes. Worth it? Perhaps. Kracher is known as being one of the best dessert wine producers on the planet, this wine proves it.

Score: 96

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2006 Almaviva Rothschild/Vina Concha y Toro Red Blend

This wine retails at various local stores for $89. I've seen it (and acquired it) for somewhat less than that. This was decanted for four hours before sampling. This is a Bordeaux blend with: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon 26% Carmenère, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot

Cassiss and cherry on the nose. Way deep in there is some campfire - burn some chunks of cedar to ash, splash some water on it, and breathe deep. Here you go. Tobacco and even green pepper as well. An almost startlingly complex nose.

Smoke hits me first. Plum, vanilla, mocha, cherry, blueberry, a bit of bell pepper - dare I even say, a bit of a beet quality? Deceptively smooth and balanced - great tannins, acid, fruit, and earth. That being said, the nose on this one is more interesting than the palate.

A funkier finish than one would expect follows - roasted red pepper with qualities that aren't necessarily tobacco, but actually straight up cigar. Imagine a cigar dipped in pureed red pepper.

A very good bottle of wine, but I am cringing at the notion of paying almost $100 for this.

Score: 93+

Dinner - Lockwood - 5/14/10

Oh, frustrate me, but I still like you. Like. I want to love you, but I can't.

I've been to Lockwood a few times mostly for lunch and had a dinner some time ago. I've enjoyed each visit. This visit - and a previous one - both shared one very large issue: every hot dish arrived lukewarm.

The bread at Lockwood is among the best I've had. I would visit this place for the bread alone.

A deconstructed shrimp cocktail was the highlight of the meal. Those are laughing bird shrimp and an array of sauces. Flawless.

The deconstructed chicken wings are good....lukewarm, though (the bread was warmer than the chicken). The menu describes these as "filled with great hills blue cheese" - these were not. There were, however, chunks of blue cheese on the plate so one could control the amount. This is merely an observation rather than a complaint - a comment in case it looks like the kind of think you want to try but you dislike blue cheese.

Saffron risotto was good, with a bit of lobster on the top there.

Four different preparations of pork - rib, tenderloin, and I don't remember what else. Everything was good, but yet again....lukewarm.

Frustrating. People on yelp complain about slow service at Lockwood. In my opinion, the service doesn't "feel" slow - it is certainly deliberately paced, but no more so than most high end restaurants. Is the lukewarm food the fault of the leisurely service? Or is the kitchen to blame? Perhaps the chicken wings were prepared and plated before the shrimp and it sat too long? I don't know. I liked our waiter - he was friendly and attentive, so I hate to blame him.

To be blunt: If I disliked Lockwood I wouldn't bother posting these photos. The food is quite good and the prices are fair for the quality. That being said, in order to truly enjoy the experience you have to look the other way on enough things that my recommendation is a qualified one. I will likely return, but it will be later rather than sooner.

Lunch - Blackbird - 5/14/10

We had lunch at Blackbird on May 14 as part of a weekend of gluttony to celebrate the ol' wedding anniversary.

We ate at Blackbird so I figured Blackbird rose was a fair choice. No notes, but I enjoyed it.

Sweetbreads was the appetizer. If you go to Blackbird, you must get sweetbreads. Seriously. The green stuff is not avocado but pistachio along with some preserved plum.

Blackbird is not only delicious, but it is a rather outstanding bargain at lunch. This pork belly sandwich - which was quite large - was $13. The fries were, without exaggeration, the best fries I have had anywhere ever. Seriously.

Fran had the grilled hanger steak with cavolo nero, cajeta-braised onions and watercress.

I was quite sold on Blackbird with our dinner visits, but lunch was outstanding all around. I don't think anything on the menu was over $20 except for a three course lunch deal that had three courses. Sold.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

N/V Portly Gentleman Australian Dessert Wine

Once in a great while I find a wine label that speaks to me....I present to you one such label. I'm not tasting this blind and am doing notes over the course of a few weeks. Retail on this is around $14.

Black cherry, black raspberry, and dark chocolate on the nose. After a few weeks of being open the nose is dominated by brandied cherries or maybe even cherry kijafa.

This wine needs air - pop it, pour a glass or two, and let it sit for a while (fridge or counter). Day one I called this flabby and dull. Now I'm rather sold. Big body, spice, oak, vanilla, spice, cinnamon, vanilla, plum, a bit of nuttiness.

A somewhat short finish - dark cherry at first, drifting away to vanilla.

Tasty and complex enough you'll want to drink it, cheap and tasty enough it would be great to poach some pears in. No complaints.

Score: 88* *not blind

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2005 Iron Horse Ultra Brut Sparkling Wine

This goes for $50 from the winery and appears to be a limited offering.

Green apple on the nose. As in bite into a ripe Granny Smith and shove your nose in it - this is it.

As expected, tart green apple dominates. There's also a grassy sort of thing going on, perhaps some lemon zest. A very nice stream of tiny bubbles that last quite a while give this a very nice mouthfeel. As it breathes, I do get a bit of doughy notes that I am digging.

More of that lemon with a bit of lime and some interesting floral kinda qualities.

A good bottle...quite good, in fact. Great? I don't know.

Score: 87+

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

2008 Two Lads Pinot Noir

This is a Pinot Noir from northern Michigan up on the Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. Recently we've had some Michigan Pinot Noir from Black Star Farms and Shady Lane Cellars and they both has similarities - perhaps terroir? Does this have it? Let's fine out. This goes for $35 through the tasting room.

The nose? Funk. Sassafras and earth - not much in terms of fruit until about two hours in, then some ripe, farmer's market style strawberry comes through.

All sorts of dark spice - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. I considered this to be perhaps even too spice driven, but that blows off after a few hours. Beautiful acid - integrated nicely, present and strong but not in your face or fact, in terms of acid this might be one of the best examples of 'balanced' that I've had in some time. For fruit, I'm getting mostly a black raspberry thing.

The raspberry thing really comes through immediately on the finish. A bit of vanilla bean seems to come through - in a spicy rather than creamy kind of way - as well.

Though I'm not doing a direct comparison and not taking away from the other wine, I do think this is noticeable step up from the other MI Pinot Noir. Of course, at $35 a bottle though, it's also a step up in price. Is it worth it? That's up to you. That being said, when I found out this was a Michigan Pinot I was not surprised - it had many of the same qualities, but the whole thing just hit me as a bit more polished.

Score: 91

Tweet and Taste - Monday, May 17

The next Michigan Tweet and Taste is coming up in a couple weeks. Monday, May 17 at 8 pm EST. Get on Twitter and search #ttmi to follow along.

This one will feature four different wines from the Lake Michigan Shore - the southwest part of the state.

The wines being tasted are:

Domaine Berrien 2007 Syrah
St Julian Braganini Reserve 2006 Chancellor and St. J Red
Round Barn 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Warner Vineyards Veritas

I will not be tasting along this time but it will be worth your while. Two (old-ish) reviews have been done of the wines in question and the hyperlinks above go to those reviews.