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Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category

Here is the skinny on what we ate and drank. Please leave comments in terms of food and wine. My take on the whole event was a little skewed since I was knee deep in cheese and tomatoes for most of it. Comments on the wine would be much appreciated! Thanks to everyone who came. I hope you enjoyed it.

Our Menu

Nosh

Bruschettas

ricotta with sundried tomatoes

roasted garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes

roasted red pepper spread

Main

Assortment of Pizzas and Sausage

fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, ricotta, roasted garlic, basil

sausage, yellow and red peppers, feta cheese

mozzarella, feta cheese, ricotta, parmesan

sausage, sundried tomatoes, basil, fresh mozarella, roasted garlic

(one other combo I forgot…I made these up as I went)

Dessert

Pound cake two ways

with nutella and roasted bananas

with marsala wine soaked cherries and lemon curd

THE WINES!

Whites:
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2006 $24
- Damn Good
This Kerner is made in the northernmost part of Italy where the Italians speak mainly Austrian and the scenery is more reminiscent of Heidi than Under the Tuscan Sun. Light floral with a touch of minerality and a killer nose, this was definitely a good start to the evening for me.

De Falco Fiano di Avellino 2005- $22
- Pretty Good

This bottle had more minerality and was less fruity than the previous. Having a little bit of savoriness to it with citrus, it definitely paired well with the pizza. Light and refreshing I wouldn’t be opposed to cracking open another bottle for some seafood or sushi.

Santi Amarone dello Valpolicella 2003- $38
Damn Good
Mmmmmm….I liked this one. More old world in style, Amarone has a rich raisinyness (definitely not a word) and a velvety texture. The grapes are dried in the sun to intensify flavors in the processing. There were hints of spice and boldness to it that would please both old world and new world parties. (ie both peishan (new world) and I (old world) enjoyed it) I would love to eat this with lamb, or anything else meaty/gamey.

Prunotto Barbaresco 2004- $37 Not Bad
This Barbaresco did not wow me, but was good. It was the prototypical barbaresco with good fruit and depth, but for the price tag I feel I could get more bang for my buck elsewhere. Perhaps we opened it too early as it is just getting into its prime according the THE internet.

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2005- $18
Pretty god

Light and fruity, this chianti actually started us off with reds. It had a delicate sweetness and was not too tanniny. With hints of berries, savory notes, this went well with the pizza. It definitely seemed to be one of the most versatile at pleasing people’s palates, but did not wow anyone.

Forteto della Luja Moscato d’ Asti 2007- $20 Orgasmic
Holy crap the nose was AWESOME on this one, like whiffing a bottle of sweet honeyed perfume. The taste was there to match. Good thing I bought two bottles of this which went as fast as lightening. I caught some peach flavors, apple, and a lot of floral. So very drinkable, bubbly, and sweet. I wish I had gotten more.

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DGS went wild last night, with a tasting of wines from all over the world, in what we’d dubbed Dead Grapes Society Adventurous Wines. We had ~25 people and 16 bottles of wines (some doubled up).

1. Taberno Brut Champagne Style Charmat Method (Peru) $10

We kicked the tasting off with two bottles of Taberno, a Peruvian sparkling. It was a hit, everyone expressed surprise at how well done it was, nice and dry on the palate, with tight concentrated bubbles.

2. Lambrusco Cantine Ceci La Luna 2006 (Italy) $14

Most people haven’t had Lambrusco before, but since Wendy discovered the wine (Lambrusco Reggiano, slightly different from the one we had last night, this being a sweeter version) at Trader Joe’s a few years ago, this has been my favorite pairing with spicy food, especially curry. With a sandalwood perfume and big cherries mouthfeel, there was just the slightest fizz at the finish, as if the wine didn’t want to go without a fight. Really fun and delicious wine.

3. Chateau Bela Riesling Sturovo Region, Muzca 2003 (Slovakia) $14

This was a dry riesling from Slovakia, which doesn’t really produce much wine, especially not since it split from the Czech Rebpulic in the early 1990s. To be honest, I don’t remember much of this wine, except for the fact that it was drinkable, though not memorable. We started to play some wine trivia at this point. Did you know, for instance, that Prohibition lasted from 1920 through 1933? And that it only ended because of the Great Depression? The government, after thirteen long years, finally realized that the mobs were getting out of control running the speakeasies and smuggling operations, and that the population condoned the mobs because they needed their drink. Of course, they might have chosen to stubbornly – and pig-headedly – stick their stand if not for the fact that they were losing millions and millions of dollars from alcohol tax. Anyway.

4. Dragon’s Hallow Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 (China) $10

Did you know that China has actually the world’s fifth largest vineyard area and is the seventh largest wine producer??? Even so, I think the Chinese should stick to making rice wine. The chardonnay we had could be likened to a thick-headed fellow, stout and completely insipid and stupid. I gulped it straight down; some others (notably the Chinese people in the room) tossed it out. However, some people professed to liking the unoaked style, so perhaps there’s hope for the Chinese wine makers after all. Oh, in case you were wondering, Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to encourage the planting of vines in China in the mid 19th century.

5. Kerner Slifskeleni Neustift Abbazia di Novacella 2006 (Italy) $17

This was one of the favorites of the night. Sihao said it had all the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, and I have to agree – a little spicy, with strong notes of lychee and roses. Interestingly, the two bottles I picked up were from Italy (at the enthusiastic recommendation of the Sam’s wine expert), although this is a grape most commonly found in Germany. It’s a cross breed from a red grape Trollinger and Riesling. Speaking of cross breeds, another trivia question: what is Cabernet Sauvignon crossed from? Answer: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

6. Tinta da Anfora Vinho Regional Alentejano 2005 (Portugal) $12

Mm, quite a few people said they really liked this wine, which was quite tannic, but otherwise full bodied with lots of fruit and spices. It’s a blend of Portuguese grapes, including Trincadeira, Aragonez, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh, and did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of corks in the world?

7. Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato 2006 (Italy) $16

Another favorite of the night – those Italian wines really are something! Given the huge popularity of the wines Barolo, Barbera, and Moscato in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that Ruche does not get in the spotlight too much. I really enjoyed this smooth, and light-bodied wine.

8. Bull’s Blood Egi Bikarer 2003 (Hungary) $8

There’s a story behind the label, “Bull’s Blood” (don’t you love stories??). Anyway, as the story goes, in 1552, when the Eger fortress was under attack and looked to be giving way, the defenders, in a last desperate bid, downed copious amounts of red wine for liquid courage. Their hands must have been shaking from terror, for they spilled the red wine all over their chests. When the attackers saw these men running towards them with red chests, they thought the defenders had been drinking bull’s blood, and their courage faltered and they fled. And so the Eger fortress stood for another day. I think I’d have to bring this bottle to parties – it makes for a great conversation opener (I think anyway), and is really fun to drink.

Wine Spectator writes:

“Bull’s Blood must be made from at least three approved red varieties. Most producers use a fair amount of Kékfrankos, because its sturdy character and acidity provide backbone. Also used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The wine’s hallmark, though, is the indigenous, spicy Kadarka grape. During the Communist era, Kadarka nearly disappeared from Hungary because its sensitivity to rot and its tendency to grow close to the ground made it very labor-intensive.

But today, Kadarka — which can produce balanced tannins and complex flavors, such as black pepper, cherry jam and cloves — is viewed as essential for a quality Bikavér, and producers are scrambling to return Kadarka to the vineyards.”

9. Skouras Red Saint George 2004 (Greece) $7

I’ve had this light bodied wine on a few occasions already, and really enjoyed it – it is a great pairing with meatballs and pasta, and I might even stock up on more as my house wine. After all, at $7, it’s really a bargain, especially when you consider that Yellow Tail costs the same amount.

10. Garnacha Marco Real Navarra 2005 (Spain) $10

I think our palates were tiring by this point for I still have half a bottle of this sitting at my desk right this moment. Anyway, Garnacha is the Spanish name for the grape Grenache. Flavors of dark berries, it is juicy and great to drink on its own and with food.

11. Chateau Henye Tokaji Dry 2006 (Hungary) $13

I first came across Tokay in Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and had been lusting after it. Tokay is normally a dessert wine, but this version we got was off dry, and so wasn’t cloyingly sweet.

12. Four Seasons Collection, Muscat Red Dessert Wine, Dionysos Mereni (Moldova) $6

I had to look Moldova up on the internet to see where it was… – somewhere in Eastern Europe. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Moldova may be one of the geographically smallest states of the former Soviet Union but it has more vineyard, 108,000 ha/267,000 acres in 2002 according to the OIV, than any other apart from Ukraine and the table grape producer Uzbekistan. It has the greatest potential for wine quality and range, thanks to its extnesive vineywards, temperate continental climeate, and gently undulating landscape sandwiched between eastern Romania and Ukraine.” We rounded off the evening with a bottle of Muscat, which was surprisingly palatable. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

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These are the middle of the road wineries that are worth while to hit, but wouldn’t be a great travesty to miss.

Lemon Creek Winery

Doubling as a pick-your-own fruit farm, this is a bustling little winery just across the street from Domaine Berrien. It’s got a rather sparse tasting bar, and the servers get you moving so you can mosey on to their fruit stall.

ORGASMIC :o : Moon Shadow Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($45)- With the same subtle raisin and nuttiness as a good Madeira, I was pleasantly surprised by this unique ice wine. Touted to be the only Cabernet Franc ice wine in the United States, this little gem is for those who like sweet fortified wines and their port on the tawny side.

NOT BAD :) : Silver Beach Sauternes ($9)- Although watery and thin for a Sauternes, this bottle is definitely worth the price. It drinks like a nice fruity Riesling. Clean, citrus, and refreshing, this would go perfect with seafood or any lighter fare.

KarmaVista

Among the wineries on the northern end of the trail, this small vineyard definitely has a vibe of serenity and calm. The tasting room is a cozy area with tons of trinkets and wine whatsits to buy.

NOT BAD :) : Ryno Red ($8.50)- Fruity and dry, this is a good basic table red. One of the better reds of the bunch I would say. Would go well with pasta or any meaty dish.

Warner Vineyards

The tasting room for this particular winery is full of character, featuring a random train car in front and a restaurant attached. The tasting room itself is a nice open space where you can sip and peruse. The wines here are decent, but do not back the pomp of being one of the oldest wineries in Michigan.

NOT BAD :) : Grapes of Love ($10)- This is a good fruity white with nice complexity and is on the sweeter side. Understandably their best selling wine, this is an all around good buy. Would go well with a chocolate or a fruity dessert.

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As the other Asian who did not venture on the Memorial Day Michigan wine trip, I felt obligated to go on my own outing and explore the wine region closest to the Windy City, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The trip was a great break from the city. We managed to fit in all the wineries. So there is A LOT to review, hence the “Part I.”

We stayed at Benton Harbor (features much cheaper lodgings) and drove the 5 minutes into St. Joseph’s and toured the local wineries. We used the handy dandy wine trail map provided by the wineries

wine_trail_map.pdf
There was a lot to do and see, especially since this was a first visit for all of us. So I want to keep this short and informational. We went to almost all of the wineries in the region, and almost all of the tourist attractions in there area. First the WINE…Some general comments:

  1. Stick to the whites, the reds fall a little flat and can be a little too tannin. Rieslings abound, many of them are styled more in the California or French style, meaning less fruity, more mineral
  2. Do leave room to try the fruit wines and dessert wines if you have a sweet tooth
  3. ALL of the tastings were FREE

THE WINERIES IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE

Best: Round Barn, Domaine Berrien, Tabor Hill

Eh, So-So: Karma Vista, Lemon Creek, Warner

Pass: St. Julian, Contessa, Free Run, Hickory Creek

Round Barn Winery

By far the best experience we had. The winery is nestled in a scenic spot. The tastings are generous and we felt it a rare treat to find a place that makes wine, beer, and vodka.

Tasting: $8= 5 wines, 1 dessert, 1 vodka, 3 beers + Free Glass + Free Tastings at Free Run Cellars

ORGASMIC :o : DiVine Vodka ($34.99)- A unique grape vodka, this stuff is smooth, so very smooth, makes-babies-bottoms seem-like-sandpaper smooth
DAMN GOODS ;) : Gerwurstraminer ($15.99)-floral, honey, spice, complex
NOT BADS :) : Artesia Spumante ($14.99)- fruity, refreshing, sparkling…you could get worse with the price, but you could get better
Golden Ale-
refreshing light, hoppy
GHETTO HOOCH :( : Pale Ale, Amber Ale, most of the dry reds

Domaine Berrien Cellars

Although this has less of the fun and flair of vineyards like Round Barn, St. Julian, or Warner, the wines here are surprisingly good and very drinkable. There is a nice outdoor deck where you can enjoy your wine and they will fix you a nice picnic basket of local treats from their fridge case so you can have a little snack. Try the local buffalo and venison sausage. Laid back and unassuming, the standout thing about this place is its wine.
ORGASMIC :o : Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($50.00)- A cool half a benji this ice wine is unique and flavorful. If you like madeira and sherry, you might find yourself forking over the cash for this tasty liquid. With hints of toasted almonds, walnut, caramel, and raisins, its a complex rich drink. I did not regret giving up my 5 bucks for a taste, but unfortunately felt that I could get a better madiera like experience with a true $50 madiera. Still it is neat to see such a rare type of ice wine.
DAMN GOODS ;) : Vignoles 2006 ($10.50)- A nice summer white, it has hints of pineapple, apple, and citrus. Its a great clean and fruity pour and well worth the price tag.
Marsanne 2006 ($14.50)- I preferred the Vignoles, but this is less sweet and has a lot of great complexity. Hints of spice and honey, this has good body and is very light and drinkable.
NOT BADS :) : Crown of Cabernet 2004($23)- has good body, fruit, hint of oak. Not sure if its worth the $ Viognier 2006 ($18.50)- viogniers are so great in general, complex, flowery, fruity, this one is okay, but again you can get better for the money
GHETTO HOOCH :( : Grandma’s Red

Tabor Hill

Probably one of the most successful wineries on the trail, Tabor Hill is definitely has the feel of a larger more professional winery. The restaurant features fine American dining. There are several tasting rooms in the area so where ever you go it is worth a stop to sample. 8 Free Tastings offered.

DAMN GOODS ;) : Angelo Spinazze’s Spumante ($13.45)- Good complexity, sweet, bubbly, fruity, and floral. Worth the price, especially if you are a fan of sweeter spumante or asti
Classic Demi-Sec ($8.45)- One of their most populat with good reason. A very good basic fruity wine, refreshing and crisp.

NOT BADS :) : Blanc de Blanc ($13.45)- Not as sweet or complex as the Spumante, but definitely in the same vein of style. It is more of a mellow, fruity sparkling white. Some may prefer it over the Spumante if they lean more towards salt than sweet.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

 

 

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Ethiopian food can be a challenge to eat as a newbie. You eat only with your hands using torn pieces of injera, a spongy sourdough pancake like bread, to scoop pieces of saucy goodness into your mouth. Usually the food comes on one giant piece of flat bread with all your chosen entrees on top in sections. Needless to say, if you are at all a germaphobe this is not the thing for you and you should only eat with people you trust who will wash their hands and will not bogart your food. My trusted companions and I went to Addis Abeba. I was particularly excited because I wanted to try their tej. Tej is an Ethiopian honey wine, more like a mead, that is supposed to go beautifully with the spicy flavorful food. The waitress was great and allowed me to have a free taste before committing to buying more. It was extremely flavorful and had the rich aroma of honey. The taste was similar to mead, but lacked the yeastiness. So its flavors were very pure-honeyed and similar to ice wine. We decided to order a carafe to go with the meal, a very tasty decision. The food was great. We each got something different, chefs special, fish-meat combo, and veg-meat combo. The combos seemed the way to go if you want a good variety of flavors. One of my favorites was the yesiga wot (spicy beef stew) and yemiser wot (red lentels in a spicy red wot or sauce) With bread in hand we scooped ourselves to gustatory bliss. The soaked bread that had served as a plate combined with the last tidbits of every dish was a very tasty end to the meal. My only complaint was that the tej got a little sickeningly sweet as it lost its chill. All in all, Ethiopians know how to eat.

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Addis Abeba Tej- 1/2 Carafe 16.50- Damn good ;)

With a strong scent of honey, this honey wine is true to its name. Flowery and flavorful, it has a sweet richness to it that goes well with the more spiced food of Ethiopia. I would have also loved to have this with Indian food. It taste is very similar to mead in that there is a honeyed flavor to this, but does not have the heavy yeastiness of a traditional mead. Sweet enough to act as a stand alone dessert wine, but not too cloying to go with food. This wine is outstanding chilled, but can get too sweet when left at room temperature for too long. It is definitely not for those who are not a fan of sweet.

Sniff- honey, flowery, fruity

Sip- rich, sweet, honey, fruity

Eat- Ethiopian, Indian, spicy rich foods

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Nestled in the middle of no where fast, Three Floyds Brewery is a greasy beer saturated gem in the flatlands of Indiana. With a hopping brew pub attached, the brewery doubles as a great destination for a night of laid back drinking. The specialty brews are worth the visit. We tried all but two of the selections on the menu. The food was gut bustingly tasty. We started with the garbage fries which were smothered with a number of fixin’s featuring chili and cheese. The fry cone seemed to be popular. Its exactly what it sounds like a huge cone filled with fresh cut homemade fries. For more sophisticated tastes the menu includes more elaborate entrees and appetizers, including beer-steemed mussels. Since this is roughly a 45 minute drive from Chicago and there is quite a number of beers to try a designated driver is advised, and those not into brew pubs and beer most definitely would not find the trek worth it.

Rabbid Rabbit- Not Bad-Damn Good

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True to its name, this rich complex beer had the undertones of a delicious carrot cake. It had the spice, the richness, and fullness. Although this combination may sound unpalatable, believe me its fantastic. I bought two bottles at the brewery and was tempted to by more. If you like spice to your beer this is for you, with hints of cinnamon, allspice, sweet malt, and caramel this is a beer that can definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

Sniff- citrus, cinnamon, spice

Sip- carrot cake, cinnamon, allspice, caramel, malt

Eat- Good as a stand alone, or could balance out salty pub fair, but it is rich so some might prefer lighter food. Could also go well with dessert, something with a nice creamy texture like ice cream and apple pie

The Deuce-Not Bad-Damn Good

AKA The Chocolate Banana, does in fact taste like a chocolate banana. Its a rich creamy beer with an uncanny hint of banana that seems to work wonderfully with the yeasty chocolaty beer. Another beer reminiscent of a dessert. Heavy and thick with a fruitiness that adds lightness to it. Very complex and inviting, I would say this is another beer for those with a sweet tooth. It would be sensational with chocolate.

Sniff- chocolate, banana, sweet

Sip- bittersweet chocolate, banana, fruit, yeast, rich

Eat- Chocolate somethings or nothing at all

Gumballhead- Not Bad

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A light wheat beer, it is the classic summer drink. It is very hoppy (aka got a little bitterness to it) and drinkable, but did not stand out in my mind. It has a mild sweetness with some hints of citrus. I think its a pretty universally appealing beer, but no wows of where did that flavor come from. Could be a Damn Good for those who love hoppy light summer beers.

Sniff- Citrus, sweet

Sip- citrus, hoppy, sweet

Eat- anything under the sun, literally

MORE TO COME

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A rich golden yellow, Sauternes just looks heavenly. I would have included a picture, but its so gorgeously golden you might go blind looking directly at it. In any event, if you noticed an Asian girl rubbing her hands together in front of the Sauternes section of a wine shop it was most likely me. This beautiful dessert wine is a combination of three grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. However, its not the combination grapes that give Sauternes its lovely richness, honeyed flavor, and raisiny notes its a fungus that some call the Noble Rot. This little fungus helps the grapes collect high amounts of sugar and alcohol while they ripen. Unfortunately, its quite difficult to grow proper grapes and most bottles can be quite pricey, hence all the hand rubbing..sigh :( In terms of taste and luxury, Sauternes is the Apollo of wines, pure sunshine, honey, and to savor, but a little unattainable and fickle. Lucky me managed to snag a bottle though after all my lusting. In keeping with the fungus theme, I chose a salty blue cheese…mmm…amazing what a little something gross can do, Anjou pears, and some mellow cream crackers to balance out the sweetness of this wine. The combination was definitely tasty and appropriate for the lazy summer days.

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Chateau Broustet Sauternes 2001 (France) $30 – Damn good ;)

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Sniff, sniff…..look how little I have left. You know why?…because it was damn good. (as in damn that girl is fine….or damn this chicken is tasty) Anyways, down to the knitty gritty. This particular bottle, although on the cheaper spectrum of Sauternes, is fantastic. It had a little nutty raisiny tones to it and was refreshingly sweet but not cloying. Fruity and vibrant with a hint of pear, this would make for a lovely start or end to a meal, day, or night. For those not into sweet at all it may be a bit much, but paired with salty treats such as blue cheese or cured meats this can definitely please anyone.

Sniff- honey, mild sweet

Sip- raisin, honey, pear, green grape (the real stuff, not the articial flavoring pop rocks kind)

Eat- salty fair balanced with fruit- cured meats, blue cheese, gruyere, feta, any salty cheese…would go well with goat cheese and light fruit

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This Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to take a trip to the nearby Michigan wineries – and then on to the not-so-nearby Canadian wineries…

Early Saturday morning, a group of eight of us from the Dead Grapes Society (DGS) made the 1.5 hour drive to St. Joseph, Michigan, where a whole belt of wineries is located. Our first stop was Tabor Hills, where we sampled over five glasses of wines each. Aza, with his sweet tooth, bypassed all the reds and dove straight into the demi-sweet wines and ice wines. He and Amelia quickly found that they didn’t like the vineyard’s rendition of Gerwerstraminer, which had spicy overtones. While he waxed lyrical over the $78 bottle of icewine that the manager Bob kindly let him try (it was noted down on the tasting sheet as “unavailable”), Amelia was taken with a bottle of semi-sweet Riesling Bob called the “romance wine” – evidently, everyone he’d recommended the wine to subsequently gotten married or engaged. I liked the ice wine tasting – in my notes, I’d written: “HONEY SUCKLE, HONEY, in the nose, body and finish. Beautiful.” I found the other whites – a couple of blends, the Riesling, and a Chardonnay pleasant-tasting but simple. They were all on the sweeter end of the scale, but then, the sweeter ones tend to sell better. I was disappointed with the reds that I tried – a Merlot, and a Cabernet Franc. Both wines were weak, watery, and flat in the finish.

Since it was noon (eastern time) at this point, we headed over to Tabor Hill’s restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is set on top of a hill and the tall elegant french windows offer a beautiful view of the green vines below. I could see why the vineyard is a favorite with the locals; it’s a relaxing and pleasant way to spend the weekend. I had grilled white fish washed down with a glass of Blanc de Blanc. The steady stream of bubbles from the light and semi-sweet sparkling wine nicely complemented the creamy fish. Quite a delicious combination actually.

Next, we drove around the corner to Round Barns, where we were treated to a long tasting list: 5 wine samples, 3 pis and/or brandy samples, a sampling of their famous grape vodka, four tastings from their still-in-barrel-wines-that-are-only-to-be-bottled-this-July, and two samplings of their own-brewed beer. Bruce was in high heavens over the grape vodka, so much so he was tempted to purchase a bottle ($39.95) right then and there, even though the manager told us that due to Michigan tax laws (a cool $20 per bottle), it was actually cheaper to buy it in Sam’s in Chicago. I had a glass of Cabernet that had a strong “steamed towel” nose – odd I know, but everyone else agreed with my declaration. Again, I wasn’t impressed by the red wine offerings – a Cabernet Sauvignon limited edition, a Merlot limited edition. Steve sampled a Pinot Noveau, which wasn’t actually on the list. That was a much livelier wine, bright and fruity, perfect for a light meat meal. The apricot brandy took me by surprise – its scent, and even mouthfeel reminded me of apricot-flavored hookah, and left a lingering spicy aftertaste. The cranberry pi was interesting – sort of a cross between a madeira (toasted nose) and a port, with a generous serving of cranberries. I enjoyed the yet-unbottled Pinot Noir that is still sitting in the barrel, served by the youthful-looking winemaker who began learning the art at the tender age of 6. The wine was still young, tasted a little rough on the edges and sourish, but evidently the vineyard thought it warranted the $36 price tag – $10 off if you pre-purchased it now, and then picked it up once it’s bottled in July. I think, my favorite Pinot Noirs still hail from Oregon, but Jonathan liked it enough to buy a bottle.

<b>Tabor Hill</b>

Lake Michigan Shore Barrel Select Chardonnay, $22.95
“Our 2003 vintage is one of our best efforts with this grape. Aged 18 months in French and American oak, this Chardonnay displays well-developed varietal character, great balance and a toasted, buttery finish.” –> It tasted very alcoholic; sour punch.

Lake Michigan Shore Dry Traminette, $13.95
“Made in a dry style, this wine is very much like a traditional Alsatian Gewurztraminer. It has a very fruity, complex bouquet and finishes slightly spicy. It will pair well with most foods.” –> I got a whiff of honeysuckle in the nose; body felt watery but also alcoholic.

Lake Michigan Shore Cabernet Franc 2004, $24.95
“The release of our 2004 vintage shows great varietal characteristics. this Cabernet has a luscious black cherry and berry nose with a soft pepper, chocolate and oak predominating the finish.” –> Smells: hay, farm, sweat; tuna mouthfeel, spicy; slightly bitter finish

Lake Michigan Share Merlot 2005, $31,95
“Our 2005 is one of the best in recent years. Deep color with a plum, dark chocolate and cherry nose. Big cherry, oak and tannin caress the palate with a smooth finish.”

Classic Demi-Sec, $9.45
“Our most consistent winner!!! Soft, slightly fruity and semi-dry… by far our most popular wine.”

Michigan Cherry, $10.45
“The closest thing to cherry pie in a bottle! Made from 100% Michigan Cherries, this wine is softly sweet with a spicy, yet tart finish.” –> Smells like a candy store; interesting nose, but REALLY not wine. Hooch??

Lake Michigan Shore Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2005, $78
“Intense, vibrant fruit flavors and aromas, blanaced with fine acidity, caress the palate leaving a lasting smooth finish.” –> HONEY, consistently thick throughout the nose, body, finish.

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South Africa Wine Regions

To be honest I know little about South African Wines and have not had the opportunity to partake in too many. What I do know is that they are relatively cheap and new to the business and art of wine making. Apparently lots of interesting flavors are coming from this area and their wines are slowly gaining popularity. So it was great to find that the tasting we went to this week featured this region. We tasted 6 wines from 4 different makers and got a brief introduction to Pinotage, a grape unique to South Africa. Here is a good article on South African Chenin Blanc from the NY times, WINES OF THE TIMES; South Africa’s Trove of an Elusive Grape

PS: We’ve actually held a South African tastings before – our second ever Dead Grapes Society meeting over a year ago now actually. I’ve included some information on that tasting my own journal over here, check it out: Wines of South Africa. ;)

Niel Joubert Chenin Blanc 2003 (Paarl Valley, South Africa) $8 – Not Bad :)

The cheapest wine in the lot, I was pretty happy to find that this stuff tastes pretty good. Described by the wine seller as a “Lincoln Park, patio sipping wine,” this chenin blanc is simply tasty, but not watery and insipid. I have a cold so not exactly sure what I was smelling, I think it was floral and fruity with hints of citrus. On tasting, it was sweet, refreshing, clean, and light. It’s not amazingly complex, but its definitely worth having on hand, making it a higher end “not bad.”

Sniff- floral, fruity

Sip- refreshing light, fruity, citrus, simple, sweet

Eat- seafood, fruit, grilled meat

I’d agree with the “Not bad” rating. It is a pleasant wine to drink on a breezy evening lounging on one’s deck. I’m looking forward to doing that already! Certainly very crisp and refreshing.

Niel Joubert Chardonnay 2005 (Paarl Valley, South Africa) $9- Not Bad :)

I am not sure if this Chardonnay answers the question of whether or not good cheap chardonnays exist. This to me was good but not great. Still it does have nice qualities that would match well with a meal, but definitely not what I would say worth drinking independently. On smelling there are hints of grapefruit and olives. At first taste there is definitely a nice oakiness as well as a cleansing tart acidic finish. I would definitely love to drink this with a seafood dish or something in a rich cream sauce. Like an extra on a movie set, this wine would not be the star of a meal, but would definitely enhance the experience.

Sniff- Olive and grapefruit

Sip- Oaky, tart, acidic, grapefruit, clean

Eat- Seafood, creamy rich dish

This Chardonnay was certainly a ton better than the one I had last week. I’d be keen to do a under $10 tastings of South African and Australian chardonnays, just to get a sense of the differences in style.

Remhoogte Aigle Noir 2003 (Stellenboch, South Africa) $13- Ghetto Hooch :(

Honestly, I had a hard time finishing my 1/4 glass worth. Far too bold for my taste, the nose had an acetone, strong metallic quality and it had a taste to match. Spicy, acidic, and bitter all at once I felt my tastebuds burn and churn. This is a blend of the pinotage and several other grapes. There is definitely the metallic quality of the pinotage but somehow with the other flavors introduced by the other grapes, bitterness and spice, it does not seem to work. Like a bad American Idol contestant, it’s a garish mess.

This is certainly where our tastes differ. I’d actually rate it a “Not bad”. Granted, it is not an easy wine to sip, but I really liked the minerally, earthy feel of it (~30% pinot noir). It was a little too tannic though, but nothing some decanting can’t help. I liked the fact that even though it had only 3% of Pinotage, you could still taste a tinge of metal in it. A pretty serious, complex wine. I somehow think it could pair well with some braised duck. Mmm.

Withington Merlot 2003 (Paarl, South Africa) $19- Not Bad :)

For the price, I might go with something else, but it’s a pretty nice glass I must say. The nose was pleasant, rich, and buttery. The taste had nice tannins, and a very smokey, nutty quality. It reminded me of sweet pipe smoke and buttery leather chairs. The finish was nice and dry, leaving your mouth ready to receive any succulent food pairing. I definitely would love to open this puppy up with a thick steak and maybe slide into that buttery leather chair while I am at it. ;) It’s a sophisticated glass, but does not have the complexity you would hope for in a bottle for 20 smackaroos.

Sniff- rich butter

Sip- smokey, nutty, tannins

Eat- red meats- steak, lamb chops

This Merlot was pretty pleasant to drink, but I don’t have my notes and I’ve already forgotten how it tasted… so I guess it’s not all that memorable. For $19, it’s pretty steep – I’d sooner spend that money on the Port, erm, which is precisely what I did. ;)

Niel Jourber Pinotage 2003 (Paarl, South Africa) $11- Not Bad :)

Oh Pinotage….how stinky yet tasty you are. The smell wafting from the glass cut right through my cold and reminded me a little of gasoline and rubber, pungent with each whiff. On tasting you get this surprising spiciness with a great acidity and bitterness. The flavor of Pinotage is described classically as a rusty nail, and after experiencing it for myself I have to agree. It’s a great complex wine with a lot of guts and glory. Gladiatorial in nature (is that a word? according to spell check it is ;) ), this wine is rough and bold with a metallic brashness too it. I think it would go great with red meat because it just screams blood. I would definitely bring it to a bbq or a meat eaters convention. No cowboy would be ashamed to drink this glass with his prime rib…well except that he’d have to pronounce the word Pinotage like a Frenchman…he he ;)

Sniff- gasoline, rubber

Sip- metallic, sharp, acidic, bitter, spicy

Eat- Red meats, BBQ….MEEAAAT!

I’d go as far as to rate this a “Not bad – damn good”. It was thoroughly enjoyable, with a nose so distinct, I’m confident that I can sniff it out blind. I’m not sure I agree with the bloody allusions, but it certainly has some kind of raw, elemental nature to it. Some scent of freshly stripped wood? It’s pretty light though, very quaffable. I’d want to try it with sushi actually. Heh.

Allersverloren Vintage Port 2002 (Swartland, South Africa) $19- Damn Good-Orgasmic :o

Ok, this is semi-orgasmic largely because 1. its a great port and 2. its simply awesome for the price. I nearly squealed with glee when I realized how cheap it was. A tawny port can really burn a hole in you wallet, but this one has a lot to offer with relatively little monies. More importantly, the beauty of ports is that if you keep it in a cool, dark place you can hold on to it for years and slowly sip you way through the bottle. On first whiff I got hints of raisin, dark chocolate, and coffee, the first sip followed suit. There was a lot of complex rich dessert flavors that bring to mind decadent dark chocolate cakes and wine soaked plums. It tastes like a cross between a ruby port (bold rich fruity sweetness with less caramel and nuttiness) and a tawny (raisin, caramel, nutty, and coffee). The hybrid car of ports, its economic, fun to drink, and pretty damn good.

Sniff- raisin, coffee, dark chocolate

Sip- nutty, toffee, caramel, raisin, coffee, dark chocolate

Eat- dark chocolate, rich dessert, creme brulee

Yes, this was good. I’m a Port lover, and this one has got to be one of my favorites. I loved how it isn’t as sweet as most other Ports, though it’s definitely thick enough. Flavors of dark chocolate, raisins, and burnt caramel. It’ll be absolutely delightful with a molten lava cake.

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