One of the perks of being in the wine biz is getting to go to really fine restaurants and wine bars for wine luncheons, dinners, tastings and the like. That’s how I was introduced to Bacco Ristorante a little more than ten years ago. I was fortunate enough to attend two events in quick succession back in the winter of ’05, and that’s when I learned to love Chef/Proprietor Luciano Delsignore’s cuisine. (Click images to enlarge.)
I took Kim for dinner there as soon after as I could, and she loved it every bit as much as I did, and it has remained on a very short list of our favorite dining establishments in the metro Day-twah area. Recently, she noticed that Bacco was celebrating its 13th anniversary in business for 11 days in May with a special $13 menu of favorite dishes from over the years, so we made arrangements to hook up with our friends Anne and Brian Klumpp to boogie on out and take advantage of the great prices for such delicious food. The plan was to meet at Chez Klumpp this Tuesday past and continue on from there.
Before departing for dinner, Anne delighted us with some wonderful Champagne from her cellar. Have I mentioned that I’m a bubble head?
At least a few folks have told me that they’ve noticed a big uptick in my activities here lately on the Gang of Pour blog, and they would be quite correct. Since late last year and on into 2015, I’ve been exploring wine with gusto again, sharing my findings here and having a fine time with it all. My infrequent postings over the previous few years had a lot to do with refocusing on my music after a long hiatus, but I think I’ve figured out how to balance both of these passions, and I really like how things have played out. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Because of all this, I’ve been actively seeking out new wines to try, and have been delighted by a number of surprises. My favorite of those in the red spectrum is undoubtedly Mathieu Lapierre’s Raisins Gaulois, of which I might still be totally unaware, had my buddy Jarred Gild at Ferndale’s Western Market not put in in my face (and then in my hand) and told me the back story. (Yes, I’ve been mentioning Jarred a lot lately, and that’s because he’s really good at what he does, and he doesn’t try to saddle anyone with the same old shit from the usual subjects. Even wine guys like me need a good wine guy occasionally.)
This one is composed almost entirely of relatively young vine cru Morgon Gamay fruit (around 20 years of age, whereas Lapierre’s Morgon appellation vines are 60 years or older), augmented with some A.O.C. Beaujolais, all farmed organically. The Beaujolais’ governing body decided to do away with the Vin de Pays designation, leaving only the appellations or Vin de France, so there’s no in-between.
So here’s the deal. I’ve decided that I haven’t been drinking nearly enough Riesling lately.
Riesling is considered one of the “noble” grape varieties of the world, and I used to drink my fair share (and some of yours too) back in the late ‘70s. Over the years, however, I gradually consumed less and less of the stuff, and for no good reason that I can figure out. True, I seem to like it better than Kim, and every once in a while, we’d try something that really struck a chord with us, like a tasty little number from Tawse, or that lovely, bone dry 2004 Wyncroft Madron Lake out of a magnum. By and large, however, we haven’t spoken much Riesling around Gang Central for a long time. (Click image to enlarge.)
A good part of the reason I’ve decided to explore more Riesling is due to the fact that Michigan is doing such a great job of growing and making very fine wines from it, a point brought home to me yet again while touring six Leelanau Peninsula producers the weekend before last. Another good reason is a bottle that I bought and opened the night before said tour.
Whenever we travel up to Traverse City, our first stop is always Left Foot Charley. Every time. We’ve followed Bryan Ulbrich’s urban winery from the very beginning, and I’ve stated on several occasions that his Island View Pinot Blanc is consistently one of my two favorite Michigan still wines. So, as I was driving up two weeks ago, I decided, pretty much out of the blue, that it was time to taste what was happening with Bryan’s Riesling again. When I arrived at the facility, I exchanged pleasantries with him and Meridith Lauzon, LFC Operations Manager, then went to check out the selection
I picked up two of the 2012 Seventh Hill Farm Rieslings and a 2013 The Missing Spire Riesling, and after the Friday night festivities in Leland, I opened one of the Seventh Hills in my room. When I tried the 2006 version of this wine back in 2007, Ulbrich told me that his intent was to fashion “a glass doll” with this wine, but one that won’t break, and it was lovely, almost delicate. Fast forward to the present day, and six vintages later, I doubt that anyone will refer to this one as “a glass doll.” It is something else altogether, and as I headed back to Day-twah on Sunday, I stopped back in and bought two more bottles. Here’s why.
I just love hanging out in the little town of Leland, in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. Straddling the 45th parallel and nestled between Lake Michigan and North Lake Leelanau, Leland is a picturesque community built on the site of the oldest and largest Ottawa village on the peninsula. I’ve had the good fortune and great pleasure to spend a few days there on two different occasions, the first during a musical road trip I took a few years ago. The second was the weekend of April 24-25, to participate in the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association’s Media Weekend, one of my favorite annual events. Add to that the fact that I had the opportunity to stop in for a plate of fresh smelt two nights in a row at The Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern, and it was all good. (Click images to enlarge.)
Our first encounter with the LPVA was in 2009, when Kim and I joined Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi for a whirlwind three-day tour of Leelanau wineries, organized and sponsored by the association, that culminated with a brainstorming session with member wineries on sharing ideas on how they could use social media to spread the word about their burgeoning industry. Kim and I came back from that delicious experience with a far greater feel for what is happening in the Leelanau wine culture, and we like what we see and taste a lot. We’ve been attending the Media Weekend since 2012, and we relish the opportunity to get up close with growers and winemakers to taste and hear what they have to say about their wines.
The release for May 2nd has three features. One can choose to peruse through some wines from New Zealand, a small allotment yes, but there are some tasty Sauv Blancs. Fans of Germanic wines can sample some of Germany’s next generation’s style of wine. Or, to make us really believe that summer is just around the corner, there are several Rosé wines to chill down and assist with some long awaited patio sipping. (Click images to enlarge.)
095679 SAINT CLAIR PIONEER BLOCK 2 SWAMP BLOCK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 Dillons Point, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $24.95
Far from the typical in your face Sauvignon Blanc here. This has aromas of earth, apple orchard, tangerine, tomato leaf and citrus. The palate is rich with concentrated tropical fruit, kiwi, Meyer lemons, papaya and baked apple. I really like this style of sauvignon Blanc. Find this wine
063941 MAHI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 Marlborough, South Island $19.95
Very brazen, showing grassy, gooseberry, thyme and cumquat aromas; palate offers great acidity, lots of candied citrus notes and a herbaceous character that runs well into the finish. Find this wine
411603 TE WHARE RA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 Marlborough, South Island $24.95
Stony mineral, candied lime and gooseberry, quite grassy. Fresh squeezed grapefruit is the featured flavour on the palate, acidity is crisp, with hints of melon and papaya on the finish. Find this wine
408625 OPAWA PINOT GRIS 2014 Marlborough, South Island$16.95
Floral, stone fruit, toffee and apple candy aromas; nicely set palate, well balanced with apple and nectarine flavours, a rich chewy texture and caramel note on the finish. Find this wine
It’s not every day that Randall Grahm comes to Day-twah, so when it was announced a little over a week ago that the Bonny Doon Vineyard wine maestro was headed our way for a meet and greet at Cloverleaf Fine Wine and Craft Beer in Royal Oak this past Tuesday, Kim and I immediately adjusted our schedules accordingly. I discovered firsthand what a cool dude Randall is when I interviewed him back in 2005, so that was reason enough to attend this event. Add to that the fact that we’ve been enjoying his wines since well before that, and saying so time and again in numerous Gang of Pour reports, this was simply not something we were going to miss.
Randall’s appearance was sponsored by his Michigan distributor, Little Guy Wine Company, and ampelography, a fine wine sales and marketing company based in Toledo, Ohio. Both focus on artisan producers, and avoid corporate industrial wine manufacturers like that plague that they are. As for Cloverleaf, we’ve been customers for close to 20 years, so this was “old home” night for us. We were the first to arrive, following close on the heels of Randall and Adam Mahler, who IS ampelography (it’s a one-man outfit). On hand to facilitate to the festivities were Cloverleaf’s Tom Natoci, Little Guy Wine rep Ryan White and the ever delightful Rebecca Poling, of Great Lakes Wine and Spirits.
There are few moments of pleasure and satisfaction that are better than going to eat at a restaurant where a former student is in charge of the kitchen. Even better, my great friend and fellow chef Ruth Nixon and I were able to prop ourselves at the counter of the open kitchen and gaze at the goings on at the pass. As a topper, local lad makes good, Chef Anthony Greco (shown below, photo courtesy of zestfonthill.com), suggested we abandon menus, throw caution to the wind and trust him to serve what he felt would be his unsurpassed and finest food. (Click images to enlarge.)
Anthony Greco graduated from Niagara College eight years ago. Having apprenticed in numerous eateries in and around the region, he is now in charge of the stoves at Zest, a highly touted restaurant in Fonthill, a small hamlet just outside of Niagara.
Within minutes of being seated, a plate of P.E.I “Shiny Seas” briny and aromatic oysters arrived, all perfectly shucked, plump, juicy and neatly garnished with freshly grated horseradish and lemons.
Zest is one of numerous restaurants in the Niagara area that offers its clients the option to bring their own wine, aka corkage, so I had grabbed a couple of bottles from the cellar before we left.
We love dry rosé here at Gang Central, and we’ve stated on numerous occasions that we don’t consider them to be just warm weather wines; we drink them in June and we drink them in January. Still, with a recent outbreak of nice weather here in Day-twah, we took advantage of what seemed to be the perfect opportunity to chill down and try the two new 2014 Tablas Creek bottlings, and we really liked what we tasted. Tablas Creek doesn’t make bad wine, period. We’ve quite enjoyed the previous two vintages of these, and, if anything, these two new ones are even better than their predecessors. Here are my impressions. (Click images to enlarge.)
Kim and I had the pleasure of attending the Michigan Wines Showcase Detroit this past Monday, April 20th, at The RattleSnake Club. Hosted by Vintage Michigan and organized by our friends Master Sommeliers Claudia Tyagi and Madeline Triffon, the event featured the wares of more than 25 Michigan wineries, as well as appetizers created by RattleSnake Club Chef Chris Franz. This is a don’t-miss show that we go to every year, as much to renew acquaintances with our friends in the industry as to taste the wines being presented. My intent this time out was to focus on just a few producers that held special interest to me, and there was only one place to start, with Larry Mawby’s sparkling wines. All notes are necessarily of the “snapshot” variety, because of time constraints. (Click images to enlarge.)
I stopped into Western Market in Ferndale for produce and wine last week, and while I was chewing the fat with my buddy Jarred Gild, I noticed a couple of wines from Brengman Brothers Winery in the Michigan section. Kim and I had visited this producer during last year’s Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association Media Weekend, and we were quite impressed with the facility, the wines and the winemaker, Nathaniel Rose. It occurred to me that these two might be good choices to review in our continuing celebration of Michigan Wine Month. (Click images to enlarge.)
The Brengmans got into the wine game by way of their family business in the restaurant industry in the Detroit area. Their love of wine took them on site visits to wineries all over the world, in locations as diverse as California, New Zealand and Italy. After deciding to get into wine production themselves, Ed and Robert Brengman settled on a prime spot on the Leelanau Peninsula, and began planting Crain Hill Vineyards in 2004; over the next two years, 20 acres of vines were planted.