Thursday, August 29, 2013

Round Barn Winery, Baroda, MI

Started in 1992 as Heart Of the Vineyard Winery; in 1997 the Moersch family transported and rebuilt a turn-of-the century Amish Round Barn. In 2004, the name was changed to Round Barn Winery.

Round Barn Winery

We visited on a "Jammin' in the Vineyard!" weekend, which is free entertainment every Saturday and Sunday afternoon during the summer. You can sip wines, spirits or micro-brews, while bands jam on the live music stage adjacent to the Beer Garden.Hungry? Grab a fresh grilled burger, brat, hot dog, chicken sandwich or veggie options at the Round Barn Cafe for a perfect vineyard picnic!

Round Barn Winery video

Make sure you make time to visit when following the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Precept Wine: An Elevated Taste of Idaho

Founded in 2003, Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest, and believes that:
WINE without character isn't worth drinking.
WINE improves the quality of life.
WINE reflects the people who make it.
We recently received samples of two Idaho wineries owned by Precept, Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth Winery. When Galileo Galilei famously wrote, "Wine is sunlight, held together by water," he was probably not referring to Idaho white wines, but he might as well have been. They are truly an astounding sight in the glass, glowing golden yellow like rays of the sun. Turns out they're pretty good to drink as well, as are the reds. Both wineries are based in the Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho's first designated AVA, established in 2007, and are nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Snake River. Leading varietals in the AVA include Syrah, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling, Malbec, and Tempranillo.

Precept - Idaho Wines

Ste. Chapelle:

Founded in 1976 by the Symms family, Ste. Chapelle Winery is named after the beautiful La Sainte Chapelle in Paris, built by King Louis IX as the court chapel during the 13th century. The winery tasting room follows the airy feel of La Sainte Chapelle with its high, bright cathedral-style windows, vaulted ceilings with wooden beams and a stained glass grapevine window greeting its visitors. Idaho native Maurine Johnson joined Ste. Chapelle in the summer of 1987 with agricultural roots and a background in chemistry and biology.
2012 Special Harvest Riesling: spice, melon, citrus, and floral aromas; honeyed apricot and honeydew melon flavors; luscious mouthfeel and finish (SRP $10)

2012 Chateau Series Riesling: pale straw color; floral and faint lemon scents; honey, stone fruit, and a bit of tart citrus flavors, creamy mouthfeel with a medium finish; sweet (SRP $8)

2012 Chateau Series Moscato: Amazing light straw color; floral, melon, and tropical aromas; stone fruit, melon and subtle raspberry flavors: tart citrus into a lingering finish; round mouthfeel; on the sweeter side (SRP $8)
One thing we did note is that, in general, these wines are more suitable for those with a sweeter palate. Not cloying, all well-balanced, but definitely on the sweet side of the scale. 

Sawtooth Winery:

The winery, formerly known as Pintler Cellars, was founded in 1987 and started as a fifteen-acre vineyard in the heart of the Canyon County region. The new Sawtooth label is distinctly unique, depicting the jagged Sawtooth mountains and conveying the grandeur of Idaho's scenic wilderness and sporting. Winemaker Bill Murray (no, not THAT Bill Murray) travelled from Napa via Spain to make wines here.
2010 Skyline Red: deep ruby red; dusty dark plum aromas; fruit forward with vibrant red cherry, peppercorn, and earthy red currant flavors; medium mouthfeel into tannic finish (SRP $12)

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon: opaque dark garnet color with mahogany edge; earthy dark cherry and cream soda aromas; stewed plum and black cherry flavors; round mouthfeel with slight tannic bite; medium finish (SRP $14)

2011 Syrah: dark ruby red; earthy red currant aromas; dark cherry and plum flavors; medium mouthfeel shot through with tannins; lingering finish (SRP $14)

2010 Chardonnay: pear and apple aromas; more apple with vanilla flavors; creamy and well-balanced (SRP $12)

2010 Late Harvest Riesling: Honey, stone fruit and stephanotis aromas; honeydew, tangerine, tropical fruit flavors; creamy mouthfeel with a caramel tasting finish that lingers (SRP $12)

2012 Pinot Gris: Beautiful aromas of grapefruit and musty flowers; honeyed almond and lemon flavors; nicely balanced into a finish with some earthy notes (SRP $12)

2011 Riesling: Magnolia and kumquat on the nose; starfruit, honey, and peach flavors; balanced feel leading into a crisp lemony finish (SRP $12)
Disclaimer: Wines were provided as media samples for review purposes.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From Barrel to Bottle. How to Bottle Wine. (Infographic)

Launched this year, Uproot Wines is "a modern, innovative wine brand pioneering a new approach to winemaking, where cutting edge meets traditional craft." They have some great ideas, like the "first-of-its-kind color bar, which serves as a visual representation of the wine’s tasting notes on the label, offering a guide to the flavors and aromas to be found in the bottle." It will be interesting to see how unique and innovative the wines are. Their first releases are  2 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs (one aged for 9 months!) and a Santa Ynez Valley Grenache Blanc. Some unusual bottle shapes as well. 

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lodi Summer Whites

Lodi has approximately 80 wineries and more than 750 growers and over 100,000 acres of vineyards. The unique Mediterranean climate allows for over 75 different varietals to thrive - With 75 different varietals, you could almost join the Wine Century Club in Lodi! While primarily known for robust reds, we recently had the opportunity to taste some outstanding Lodi rosés. We were therefore excited about the invitation to sample some Lodi Summer Whites.

Definite change (improvement) as these whites warmed up out of fridge and these also changed dramatically when tried with food; definitely food-friendly. So much lemon in these wines, love that for summer!

Lodi Summer Whites

From Lodi's ONLY all-white wine winery, the Acquiesce Vineyards 2012 Belle Blanc: very light golden straw color; pear, floral, honey aromas; melon, subtle spices; soft mouthfeel into honeyed citrus finish. SRP $24 - only 1800 bottles produced, so don't wait long! For more info, visit the Acquiesce Vineyards website.

Watts Wine Upstream 2012 Chardonnay: unoaked; pear, pineapple, green apple, citrus aromas; pineapple, green apple, guava, honey, lemon flavors: round mouthfeel into a tart lemony finish SRP $15 For more info, visit the  Watts Wine website.

Borra Vineyards 2012 Intuition Field Blend White: Kerner, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer blend; dried fruit, citrus aromas; lemon and pepper flavors; tart acidic finish; SRP $22 - only 200 cases made! For more info, visit the Borra Vineyards website.

St Jorge Winery 2011 Verdelho Seco: starfruit, lemon, dried coconut aromas: mango, lemon, vanilla flavors; pleasantly bitter finish. SRP $18 For more info, visit the St Jorge Winery website.

Disclaimer: These wines were provided as media samples for review purposes.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Baroda Founders Wine Cellar

"Baroda Founders Wine Cellar is nestled in the heart of southwest Michigan, one of the best grape growing regions of the world. With Lake Michigan to the west, the climate is ideal for growing bountiful harvests of fruit. The area is called the Lake Michigan Shore AVA (American Vinticultural Area) and it allows us and our fellow Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail wineries to produce high-quality award-winning wines."
Laima and I really enjoy driving around Berrien County, Southwest Michigan's wine country, and try to visit wineries whenever we have a chance. Since we try to get up there most weekends during the summer, it happens more often than not. It has been a dream of mine for quite a few years now to buy some land and start a winery there and, as the quality of wine has increased each year, the yen becomes stronger and stronger.

Baroda Founders Wine Cellar

Founders Wine Cellar has strong ties to the history of winemaking in this region. Leonard Olson, Wine Master, started in this area in the late 1960’s, when Olson and a partner planted the first commercial European vines in Michigan. Len obtained the first new Michigan winery license since prohibition and opened Tabor Hill in 1972.

If you get a chance to visit Founders Cellar, do so. There are wines for most palates and, if you're lucky, Len will be in. He's quite the raconteur, so strike up a conversation.

Baroda Founders Wine Cellar video

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Purple Wine Company Virtual Tasting

We were lucky enough to receive an invitation to participate in the Purple Wine Company Virtual Tasting recently and, when the sample bottles arrived, we could hardly wait. A great lineup: unoaked Chardonnay, old vine Zinfandel, and Spanish Garnacha, all possible home runs!
"Purple Wine Company was founded in 2002 by Derek Benham and is based in Graton, California. Its mission is to create high‐quality wines that offer outstanding value and are consistent in style from vintage to vintage. The wines made via its sister production company, Sonoma Wine Company, are produced using water and energy conservation practices, while reducing Green House Gas emissions.

The Purple Wine Company portfolio includes Avalon, BEX, Four Vines, Cryptic and the newest addition to the PWC family, Alto Cinqo (which you'll be tasting!). While distinctly different, all brands maintain committed to producing the best possible wine in an environmentally conscious way."
The tasting was a lot of fun, with good interaction both from the presenters and the participants. As hoped, the wines were all amazing, and good values to boot. View the video at

Purple Wine Company Virtual Tasting Lineup

Tasting Notes:

Four Vines Naked Chardonnay is aimed at younger, neophyte drinkers, but we liked it plenty as well. The label is reminiscent of stainless steel, brings to mind how it was handled. If the  Four Vines Santa Barbara County Naked Chardonnay is any indication of quality we'll get at #WBC14, we're really excited!
2011 SBC Naked Chardonnay: lemon and starfruit aromas; bright lemon and stone fruit flavors; tart acidity, medium finish (SRP $12)
Four Vines Old Vine Zin is sourced from many California areas and has Syrah, Petite Sirah, Barbera and Sangiovese in the blend. Love their tagline, "Living in Zin."
2010 Truant Zinfandel: cream soda and smoky dark plum aromas; stewed plum and vanilla flavors, round mouthfeel; slightly tannic finish. (SRP $12)
Alto Cinco Wines "plays to the younger imbibing contingent;" it translates as "high five," nod to younger demographic and also high elevation, with “five” for 5th growing area in Aragon around Paniza Garnacha. This wine is 94% Garnacha, 6% Tempranillo. Bodegas Paniza, the winery for Alto Cinco Wines, has over 50 years of production history in Cariῆena.
2011 Garnacha: vanilla and black cherry aromas; spiced dark berries; dark cherries; nicely balanced; round mouthfeel;  slight tannins on finish. (SRP $15)
All of these wines are widely available and worth searching out.

Disclaimer: These wines were provided as media samples for review purposes.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Blogging Wednesday #80: Dry Rosé: Pushpin 2012 Grenache

We flat out love rosés, especially dry rosés. If I could drink only one wine for the rest of my life, it would be a dry rosé. They seem to go with everything, yet stand on their own really well.

Dry rosés seem to be popping up everywhere, an explosion in demand and availability, with dry rosés showing up everywhere you turn (and we're happy for that!). This wine, the Pushpin 2012 Grenache Rosé, comes from The Winery Exchange, which develops private label wines, beers and spirits for retailers around the world, developed the Pushpin rosé label specifically for Whole Foods.

Pushpin 2012 Grenache Rosé

This Grenache is a Vin de Pays d'Oc Languedoc-Roussillon, light and easy to drink. Light coral feathering out to an orange edge; red grapefruit and red berry aromas; watermelon and honeydew into tart strawberry flavors; crisp acidity; pleasant mouthfeel into biting finish. Not an over the top wine, but more delicate, dry, and light. You can't go wrong with this. SRP $12

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Creekside Vineyards, Preemption, Illinois

Creekside Vineyards Front Porch Traminette

We recently planned a trip to visit some wineries on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail, but, unfortunately, we only ended up visiting one, Creekside Vineyards. The business was started in 2006; today the winery and tasting room are located in a historic 1940’s building on Hwy 67, in Preemption, IL (great name for a town). Also part of the endeavor is the Creekside Vineyards Inn, a bed and breakfast with the winery's seasonal terrace -- when we visited, they were offering wine tasting and live music. It's a beautiful location, with the Inn surrounded by the winery's vineyards. They also source grapes from other Illinois wineries.

Tasting notes for the Front Porch Traminette NV: Lemon yellow in color; muskmelon and lemon aromas; melon, gooseberry and lemon flavors; medium mouthfeel; lingering finish.

Enjoy images from our visit:

A video souvenir of our visit to Creekside Vineyards

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wente Vineyards Front Porch Music Series

We were lucky enough to participate in a virtual wine tasting that was unlike any we've done before. Sponsored by Wente Vineyards, the tasting was a session on Music and Wine Pairing Video with Karl Wente and Shannon Koehler of The Stone Foxes. In addition to being a world class winemaker, Karl is also a serious musician. For this special tasting, Karl paired the below wines with up and coming indie bands performing during his Front Porch Music Series. As a way of supporting emerging talent, Wente Vineyards holds 3 performances at their property every summer featuring local and up and coming bands. This tasting was a prelude to the second concert on August 3rd.

I've never thought much about music and wine pairing, at least not in a conscious or methodical way. It was great fun to listen to these guys riff on both the wines, their experience as musicians, and also what in the wine brought forth specific musical pairings. Great evening, great wines, great fun.

Wente Vineyards Front Porch Music Series

Tasting Notes and Musical Pairings:

2011 Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc: star fruit, melon, and citrus aromas; floral, melon, citrus, touch of honey flavors; nice acidity, well-balanced, crisp finish. Music pairing suggestion for this wine was Brown Bird, but I'd pair this Sauvignon Blanc with Split Enz.

2012 Eric's Chardonnay: aged in stainless rather than oak; subtle green apple and citrus aromas; stone fruit, green apple, pear, subtle citrus flavors; light body, crisp finish, pleasure to drink. The Wente music pairing suggestion was Wheeland Bros, but for me it was more Tom Waits.

2012 Riverbank Riesling: floral, spice, subtle petrol aromas; honey, melon, green apple, underlying citrus flavors; luscious mouthfeel, well-balanced, nice acidity on finish. Music and Wente wines pairing suggestion was The Kin, but for me, Liz Phair.

2010 Sandstone Merlot: vanilla and plum aromas; smoky, earthy, plum and dark cherry flavors; vanilla tannins on the finish. The Lone Bellow was the music suggested, but I'd pair the Merlot with Rusted Root.

Here's the video from the evening:

Video streaming by Ustream
Music and Wine Pairing Video with Karl Wente and Shannon Koehler of The Stone Foxes

Disclaimer: These wines were provided as media samples for review purposes.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chicago French Market

Chicago French Market

Several weeks ago, while I was downtown, I took the opportunity to visit the Chicago French Market, Chicago's first and only year-round, indoor marketplace. The Bensidoun family, the largest market operator in and around Paris since 1953, co-developed the market with Chicago-based U.S. Equities Realty, and operates and manages Chicago French Market. The Market is located in the Ogilvie Transportation Center, making it a convenient location for commuters and workers alike.
"Featuring nearly 30 individual specialty vendors, Chicago French Market offers fresh ingredients for cooking at home, delicious grab-and-go options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, light snacks, picnics, easy party planning for home and office settings, plus meaningful gift ideas, all in one convenient location."
It has been a while since I visited the Market, and over the years I've seen it full of interesting vendors and also struggling, seemingly empty of wares or customers. This time I was happy to see all stalls in use, with people wandering most of the aisles. Besides a fresh grocer, artisanal cheese, flowers and more hard goods, most people go to the Market to eat. Breakfast, lunch, a casual dinner or snacks, the Chicago French Market has plenty of options. From the must-try Saigon Sisters to Stephanie Izard's (James Beard "Best Chef: Great Lakes," Food and Wine "Best New Chef 2011") Little Goat Bread, the food offerings run the gamut from starters to entrees to desserts, with everything in between. It's a nice mix of offerings, with something for every taste and dietary restriction.

I still think their set-up works against them, with the seating area sequestered at one end, making it feel as a separate entity from the Market. If it were me, I'd move the tables and chairs to the center, and run the booths around the perimeter, making it more cohesive, livelier, and easier to navigate.

If you're in the downtown Chicago area and are looking for a different, casual place to visit (or more importantly) eat, head over to the Market. More information can be found on the Chicago French Market website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Chicago French Market video

Chicago French Market on Urbanspoon

Chicago French Market on Foodio54

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Beyond Beaujolais: Georges Duboeuf 2012 Jolie Saison Gamay

Everyone knows Beaujolais, right? At least Beaujolais Nouveau, the annual celebration of young, approachable wine. Most of Beaujolais vineyards are on hillsides or slopes that can only be hand tended. By law, the grapes in Beaujolais must be hand harvested and everything is handmade. Yesterday we went beyond typical Beaujolais, tasting a media sample of Georges Duboeuf 2012 Jolie Saison Gamay - a wine made from 100% Gamay grapes from 4 growing areas in France, which has never been done before.

Georges Duboeuf 2012 Jolie Saison Gamay

Tasting notes: dark fruit and sour cherry on the nose; dusty blackberry and dark cherry flavors; good structure, well-balanced but a bit tannic on the finish. Wonderful on its own, but even better with food.

This wine will be available at Seasons 52 Restaurant September 17th!

Here's the video from the tasting:

Jolie Saison Gamay webcast

Disclaimer: This wine was provided for review purposes.

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