Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wine Tourism Conference and Willamette Valley Wines

In a scant two weeks, we'll be attending the Wine Tourism Conference in Portland, Oregon. It will be our first visit to Oregon, though we've tasted and enjoyed many wines from the state. The Wine Tourism Conference agenda gave us hope that we'd get to taste wines from the Willamette Valley, as it starts in Eugene and moves north for the actual conference in Portland. Alas, the pre-Conference excursion is not to be, so we'll be in Portland for the duration. The missed opportunity did whet our interest in the Valley, though, so we decided to do some research.

Willamette Valley Wines

More than 100 miles long and spanning 60 miles at its widest point, the Willamette Valley is the oldest AVA in the state, having achieved that designation in 1983. The main AVA has six sub-AVAs and spans 3,438,000 acres. It is Oregon’s leading wine region, has over two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards and is home to more than 300 wineries, with the closest wineries less than an hour from Portland. It is mostly known for Pinot Noir, though other cool-climate varietals are present as well.

Over the next two weeks, we're going to post a series of articles about the six sub-AVAs: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton. We reached out to the Willamette Valley Wineries Association and, where a connection was made, sent a short interview form to wineries. We've also made an effort to procure wines from each AVA, either via media samples or by purchasing ourselves.

Check back in starting Tuesday and enjoy the series of posts!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wine Century Club

Wine Century Club

Yesterday, I received official acceptance into the Wine Century Club. It's been great fun searching out new varietals, especially as it forces one to drink from unfamiliar regions of the world. Membership requirements are that one taste at least 100 different grape varieties, which I did easily - now I'm working on my 200 (Doppel), 300 (Treble), 400 (Quattro) or 500 (Pentavini) memberships!

The Wine Century Club:
We Are:
  • People who enjoy wine
  • Wine adventurers
  • Consumers and promoters of uncommon wine grape varieties
We Are Not:

  • Wine Snobs
  • Advocates of single varietal wines (Although we like single varietal wines, we don’t favor them over wines blended from several different grape varieties – there are simply too many great blends!)
  • Anti-Chardonnay
  • Anti-Merlot (Pass the Petrus, please!)
If you want to follow along as I head for the 200 (Doppel) mark, head over to my Wine Century Club page - cheers!

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour

Simply Italian Great Wines

Yesterday, Laima and I had the great pleasure to spend the afternoon at the Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour. Held at the Hotel Sax, the walk-around grand tasting showcased over 40 wineries representing diverse Italian regions. This was the eleventh consecutive year that IEM of Verona and IEEM of Miami have hosted this Italian wine trade tasting.

From the start, it was a great event, as we found street parking just across the street from the hotel. Once past the registration desk, we admired the spread of food: hot, cold, and a dessert table. But first, wine tasting.

The room felt a bit constricted upon entering - there were a lot of tables and not a lot of room to maneuver. We noticed, however, that there were lulls in the crowds, so we wandered through the throngs until we came upon wineries devoid of customers, then pounced. Alternating tasting and food breaks, 2 very pleasant hours were spent. We're starting to recognize people as we participate in more of these Chicago events, which is kind of fun as well.

We tasted white wines, red wines, and, our favorites, white sparkling wines. Most of the winery reps spoke passable or better English, which made conversation pleasant and informative, though there were times when both sides searched for the correct words. Plenty of styles were featured, from fresh, light, and fruity whites to some seriously tannic reds. Overall a lot of great wine that should find importers and be sold in the U.S.

To me, the stand outs at the tasting were two wineries that featured Prosecco.  Azienda Agricola Biasiotto had an unusual and very tasty still Prosecco to go with their sparklers, all outstanding. Raphael Dal Bo was there with Prosecco from an organic DOC to a Rosé to their DOCG (my three favorites). They even produce a Moscato sparkler that does not overwhelm with sweetness, nicely done.

We always learn something at each one of these tastings and usually end up surprised by something fantastic. We're very grateful to Balzac Communications and Marketing for inviting us to not only this one, but all the others.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lynfred Winery Reds

When we visited Lynfred Winery a few weeks ago, their Marketing Director, Christina, sent us off with a few bottles for review (and pleasure) purposes. After tasting so many tasty wines at the winery, we knew it would be interesting to taste these on our home turf. Lynfred definitely has its own terroir. :)
Lynfred Winery Vin de City Red

Vin de City Red NV (My Kind of Wine!)

Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend; bright ruby red; earthy red currant and tart cherry aromas; dark cherries, black pepper, and vanilla flavors into a slight tannic yet lingering finish; medium mouthfeel; cork closure; 12.5% ABV; SRP $10

Lynfred Winery 2008 Chancellor

2008 Chancellor

Light garnet in color; earthy stewed plum aromas; red berry, plum and vanilla flavors; round mouthfeel into a slightly tannic finish. 80% Chancellor, 20% Syrah from Correll Vineyards in Newton, Illinois; Lynfred's first Chancellor; 12.5% ABV; SRP $18.25
While many of Lynfred's wines are just fine for drinking on their own, it seems like they all taste even better when paired with food. With a long and impressive wine list, we're looking forward to tasting many more of their wines!

Disclaimer: These wines were provided for review purposes.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

100-Point Wine Rating Scale: Grade Inflation?

100-Point Wine Rating Scale

Recently, I was reading James Laube's article in Wine Spectator about the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California. In general, I'm a fan of his writing - he has a similar worldview when it comes to wine and I usually agree with his criticisms of the wine world (and also his celebrations). This article, however, made me wonder a bit. In his writing, he references the Wine Spectator's 100-Point Wine Rating Scale - he rates the 2010 vintage as a 98, adding it to the 5 other 95 or higher vintages he's rated since 2004.
Here is Wine Spectator's 100-point scale:
  • 95-100 Classic: a great wine
  • 90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
  • 85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
  • 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
  • 75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
  • 50-74 Not recommended
(Now, I've never seen anything in the 50-74 range in the magazine, though I may have just missed it.)
I find it hard to believe that, in 7 vintages, 5 of them have been "Classics" across the board. How can so many vintages be "a great wine?" If basically every vintage is Classic, then either a) the wineries have perfected their production process, rendering weather and other circumstances irrelevant, or b) there is quite a bit of grade inflation going on.

I would suggest it's b). It's a shame, really, as, in general, wines have gotten so much better across the board. What used to be an outstanding wine is now pretty common, just because vinification has improved around the world, as have vineyard practices.

I don't use the 100-Point Wine Rating Scale, partially because it seems more a marketing tool than descriptor and I believe wine tasting is more nuanced than that. I could see it as a useful tool if it was used to describe just the quality of a wine or vintage, as it relates to other similar wines or vintages. As with every bell curve, the vast majority of wines and vintages should be rated 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine, with an occasional one above or below. It should happen rarely that anything is rated 90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style (superior being the operative adjective) and 95-100 Classic: a great wine should happen once or so in a lifetime for it to be truly useful.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Journeyman Distillery, Three Oaks, Michigan

After several years of procrastination, I finally got it together and headed to Journeyman Distillery for their handmade organic (and mostly local) whiskies and spirits produced at the historic Featherbone Factory in Three Oaks, Michigan. The factory was originally owned by E.K. Warren, a staunch prohibitionist, which is such sweet irony. The factory is a nice-looking building and also houses the Acorn Theater. The interior of the distillery has been beautifully redone, showcasing the original factory floors, some modern touches, and an open, airy feel.

Journeyman Distillery, Three Oaks, Michigan

They offer a free tour and tasting every Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are made online and its unlikely you'll get in on a walk-in basis. All tours begin and end at their tasting bar. The tour includes an overview of the production process along with a unique historical perspective on the building itself. Most importantly, at the end of the tour, you’ll have a chance to sample Journeyman’s finest spirits.

The in-house bar serves cocktails and small bites. Since we were getting tastes at the end of our tour, we skipped this option, but the flights sound like a great way to drink across their spectrum if the tour isn't available. The White Flight ($3) consists of their Red Arrow Vodka, W.R. Whiskey, Road’s End Rum, Bilberry Black Hearts Gin, and Humdinger Jalapeno Spirit. The Whiskey Flight ($4) is made up of the W.R. Whiskey, Ravenswood Rye, Buggy Whip Wheat, Silver Cross, and Featherbone Bourbon.

Video of Journeyman Distillery

Journeyman Distillery focuses on whiskey, though they also make vodka, gin, rum, and a surprisingly tasty bourbon-based Snaggle Tooth Coffee Liqueur (maybe my favorite - not too sweet!).

I'm really glad I made the trek over to Three Oaks to check out Journeyman Distillery - it's nice to see a company striving to do everything right, from the organic materials to the small batches to the welcoming vibe.

More information can be found on the Journeyman Distillery website, via Facebook, and Twitter.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winechat: Imagine Wine

Imagine Wines: “A small unique enological establishment.”

Last Friday night, a special #winechat was organized by Imagine Wine and Protocol Wine Studio - the public unveiling of Imagine’s 2007 Winged Paradise Mountain Syrah. Not content to simply unveil the new wine, Ross Jay Rankin gathered his faithful, added a Skype International conference call element to the evening and, of course, enlisted the winechat-ees to join in. We participated via Twitter, so cannot comment on the Skype aspect, though we were assured that it was fun to see the festivities and hear the discussions.

Imagine sent us the Winged Paradise Syrah to participate as virtual tasters and, to keep us from jumping the gun (tasting before the official reveal), they also sent us a bottle of their 2007 Paso robles Cabernet Sauvignon, also a single vineyard wine.

The Imagine Wine '07 Winged Paradise Mountain is 100% Syrah: single varietal, single vineyard. The label based on sculptor Blake Rankin’s “Winged Series 2.”  The Paradise Road Vineyard off of the 154 highway on the way to Santa Barbara.The grapes are de-stemmed but not crushed. The wine is a meaty 16% Alcohol, a result of picking the grapes at 26-27 Brix. The high alcohol is not noticeable, in my opinion due to the solid fruit and incredible balance, perhaps from 5 years in 30-40% new oak.

Wine Tasting Notes:
Imagine Wine 2007 Winged Paradise Mountain Syrah

2007 Winged Paradise Mountain Syrah: inky and dark in color, subtle lightness at edge; mocha, blackberry, dark cherry aromas; cocoa, vanilla, stewed prunes and dusty herb flavors; luscious mouthfeel; vanilla tannins into a tart red currant finish that lingers and lingers; 100% Syrah. single vineyard; aged in oak; 246 cases; 16% ABV; cork closure SRP $80

Imagine Wine 2007 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon: beautiful deep garnet hue, with a tinge of mahogany along the edge; red cherry and earthy herb aromas; dark cherry and chocolate flavors; vanilla tannins; luscious mouthfeel into luxurious finish; from the Sunnyslope’s “Katharina’s Vineyard;” 36 months in French, Hungarian, and American oak; cork closure; 15% ABV; 200 cases produced; SRP $39
More information can be found on the Imagine Wine website  and on Facebook

Disclosure: These wines were provided for review purposes.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Winechat: Argentine Pinot Noirs

It hasn't been too long since I discovered how fun it is to participate in #Winechat, hosted by Protocol Wine Studio. One of the best things is that, on occasion, one gets to taste wines that are either out of one's realm in terms of price or knowledge. When I think of Argentine wines, I immediately think of Malbec, as I think it is for many people. I was thus really excited when Dan of Argovino, sent me samples of Argentine Pinot Noirs.

I'm not well-versed in Pinot Noir, even though I've had some great examples, most notably at events like Pinot Days. It's a finicky grape to grow and then vinify, so good versions tend to be more expensive than not. Dan promised us that these wines would blow us away, especially for the price. The evening turned out to be a real treat.

Wine Tasting Notes:
Trapiche Pinor Noir 2012

Trapiche Pinot Noir 2012: sandy soils; up to 2,500 feet in elevation; aged for a short period in stainless steel; light filtration; light ruby red; tart cherry and floral nose; cherries, green pepper, and vanilla flavors; slightly sour finish; 13.5% ABV; synthetic cork closure SRP $6.49

Familia Schroeder Saurus Pinot Noir 2011

Familia Schroeder Saurus Pinot Noir 2011: picked by hand; fermented in stainless steel; 40% aged for three months in oak barrels; light ruby red; flowers, bright berries and vanilla on nose; blueberries, dark cherry, and red berry flavors vanilla and tannins on finish; noticeable alcohol: 14.3 % ABV; 7,000 cases; synthetic cork closure SRP $13.59

Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2011

Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2011: ungrafted vines from 1932 and 1955; aged 12 Months in French oak barrels; garnet red in color; red currant nose; bright red berry and fig flavors; tannic, almost metallic, most peculiar finish; 13.6 % ABV; cork closure SRP $24.99
I really enjoyed these Pinot Noirs and felt that they were pretty good from a quality to price ratio. While I don't think these will overtake Malbec in people's perception of Argentina in terms of wine, these definitely  offer a nice alternative.

Disclaimer: These wines were provided for review purposes.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lynfred Winery, Roselle, Illinois

With Regional Wine Week in full swing, we thought it high time to visit Lynfred Winery, probably the closest winery to our home. For a variety of reasons, we had never gotten over to them, nor tasted their wines, but we finally did and we're really happy we did so.

Lynfred Winery

Christina, the Marketing Director for Lynfred, met us and took us on a whirlwind tour that included walking around most of the facility, eating sumptuous desserts paired with wine, and tasting many, many wines (15 or so, and they have a LOT more options!).

Our afternoon roughly paralleled Lynfred's Private Wine Tasting for 2 (Couples wine tasting): Enjoy a private tour, glass of wine, Epicurean Experience, chocolates and cheese - $100 for 2 people.

We started with a glass of Chardonnay in the Tasting Room, which is where one enters the winery. Walking through the winery's shop, we found ourselves overlooking the winery proper, giving us an overview of the tanks, barrels, and other equipment needed to produce over 100,000 gallons of wine(!). By chance, a delivery of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes had come in, so we got to see them open up the cartons, move the grapes onto the conveyor belt for sorting, then into the destemmer and crusher. Noisy but neat. Lynfred has a lot of sustainable practices in place, which is definitely a must these days.

We walked through the rest of the lower level, ending up in the original house's basement, where Lynfred Winery was started. It really makes you feel like you could do it as well, it's just a typical basement. There are barrels stacked throughout the facility, including that original basement. Another neat thing: while the tanks are stainless steel in the newer portion of the winery, the basement has some fiberglass tanks from way back when, still in use.

After our tour, it was on to the second-floor Harvest Room for the Epicurean Experience (six appetizers paired with 3 wines, with food descriptions from the chef). It is a beautiful room, with a fireplace if it's cool and doors out onto a balcony for nicer weather. Typically, the Epicurean Experience is six appetizers, but we lucked into a dessert version instead, eating all sorts of sweets with Chenin Blanc, Merlot, and Sparkling Almond wines. We were surprised at how well the wines went with the desserts, a great job by longtime employee, Head Chef Chris Smith. With so much sugar coursing through our veins, we were very happy for the cheese platter, though it was inexplicably lacking bread. Overall really tasty.

On the second floor near the Harvest Room, sort of tucked away in the back, is Lynfred's Bed and Breakfast. Consisting of four suites, with Italian, German, French and American motifs. Pure luxury and out of our price range, it would be neat to stay there and make an overnight visit to the winery.

Back to the Tasting Room for more wine! Lynfred sources grapes and other fruit for their wines from all over, though primarily from Washington State and California. Lynfred makes a gazillion different types of wine, some single varietal, some blends, some fruit wines. Our tasting included some vitis vinifera, some hybrid grapes, rhubarb, and a passion fruit based White Sangria (add some seltzer and I could drink this all day during summer). While not all the wines could possibly be to everyone's taste, one thing we did notice is that all the wines were well-made. 6,000 wine club members can't be wrong!

Video of Lynfred Winery

Lynfred Winery is clearly in the business of making people happy. Founder Fred Koehler came from a hospitality background and it shows. The employees were all relaxed and happy, with a pleasant and comfortable vibe permeating the whole place. Lynfred Winery should be on your list of places to visit near Chicago, with plenty of special events to entice you. The winery is easy to get to from the Interstate, but a better option might be to take the train from the city - they are just a 1/2 mile walk from the Roselle Metra station.

Christina continues to bring the joy through social media - connect with Lynfred via Facebook and Twitter!

Disclaimer: Our tour and tastings were provided to us for review purposes.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WineStudio: The Forgotten Isles

Tuesday nights are WineStudio nights at Protocol Wine Studio, who espouse the "True Wine Culture," wherein wine is placed in context, be it cultural, historical, social, or other. While they do one-off events, consisting of a single event, they also have educational programs that stretch for a month or so, meeting in the studio or via Twitter. During these longer happenings, several weeks are spent learning about a specific objective, be it a region or a style of wine. The most recent one, culminating in a grand tasting last night, was "The Forgotten Isles," featuring wines of Corsica and Sardinia. It was great fun to learn about these two islands that I had never really thought of in relation to wine, and even more fun to drink through the samples we were sent. The wines were from the monthly shipment that is the format of Le Metro Wine, unique offerings curated by Aaron Epstein.

Forgotten Isles WineStudio: Corsica and Sardinia

From Le Metro Wine. Underground :
"Corsica and its neighbor Sardinia both have torrid histories, as different from each other as they are from their respective nations. The two islands have unique cultures and landscapes, and their idiosyncrasies impart on their wines a wildness that I have always found to be incredibly compelling. These are not quite the tropical isles you may be picturing: Corsica is densely forested; Sardinia, further south, is drier and more rugged. Flying overhead brings to mind a woodland that sprouted granite teeth. 
Sardinia has seeped gradually into the American wine consciousness over the past decade, but Corsica is now poised to explode on the scene thanks in large part to the passion and dedication of one purveyor: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. The three Corsican wines in this collection were provided by Kermit’s San Diego representative – my friend Kate MacWilliamson – as were this month’s food pairing suggestions. Kate’s palate is as exceptional as she is lovely, and her enthusiasm for these wines is matched only by her knowledge of them.

The six bottles in this collection represent two islands and three different grape varieties: Vermentino (white), Sciacarellu (rosé), and Cannanau (red). All of them are sure to surprise you. Even if you weren’t able to venture as far from home this summer as you had hoped, this month Le Metro takes you on a true adventure."
Wine Tasting Notes:
Yves Leccia 2011 Patrimonio Blanc

Yves Leccia 2011 Patrimonio Blanc: 100% Vermentino; organic farming; stainless steel fermentation and ageing; light filtration; palest straw color; coconut, citrus and floral aromas; bright and clean acidity; faint melon flavor; surprisingly sumptuous mouthfeel into a citrus finish; cork closure; 13.5% ABV; SRP $35

Pedra Majore 2011 Hysony Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOG 

Pedra Majore 2011 Hysony Vermentino di Gallura Superiore: 100% Vermentino grown at 1,300 feet above sea-level; no oak, no malolactic fermentation; 2,200 cases produced; palest straw color; citrus blossom aroma; honeyed stone fruit, melon, and citrus flavors; medium mouthfeel into shorter citrus finish; cork closure; 13.5% ABV; SRP $25

Domaine de Marquiliani 2012 Rose de Sciaccarellu

Domaine de Marquiliani 2012 Rosé de Sciaccarellu: 92% Sciaccarellu, 8% Syrah; vines almost 50 years old; sustainably farmed; fermented in stainless steel; no malolactic fermentation; palest coral pink, nearly orange; floral nose; melon with subtle tartness; crisp and nicely balanced; cork closure; 13% ABV; SRP $28

Domaine Comte Abbatucci 2012 Cuvee Faustine Ajaccio Rose

Domain Comte Abbatucci 2012 Cuvée Faustine Ajaccio Rosé: biodynamic, 20 year old vines; 100% Sciaccarellu; vinified in stainless steel; biodynamic; poly-culture ecosystem with herds of sheep; light pink, almost orange in color; melon, grass and citrus notes; bright acid into a citrus finish; cork closure; 13% ABV; SRP $36

Giuseppe Sedilesu 2009 S'Annada Cannonau di Sardegna

Giuseppe Sedilesu 2009 S'Annada Cannonau di Sardegna: 100% Cannonau; Maturation: 12 months in barrels; not filtered; bottle aged for at least 3 months; production of 20.000 bottles; ruby red; earthy dark fruit and slightly barnyardy aromas; dark cherry and vegetal flavors; medium mouthfeel into slightly tannic finish; cork closure; 13.5%ABV; SRP $30

Tenuta Dettori 2005 Tuderi

Tenuta Dettori 2005 Tuderi Vineyard: 100% Cannonau, beautiful dark garnet with mahogany edge; earthy dark cherry and plum nose; dark cherry, green pepper, and vanilla flavors; beautiful balance; slight tannins on lush finish; produced in cement and glass; annual production: 3,500 – 5,000 bottles; cork closure; 14.5% ABV; SRP $42
The take-away is that, while not inexpensive, if you can find them, check out the wines of Corsica and Sardinia. Unlike anything their mainland counterparts in France or Italy are doing, these are unique, flavorful wines that reflect their island heritage.

Disclaimer: These wines were provided for review purposes.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, Oak Brook, Illinois

When Seasons 52 invited us to celebrate the release of their new Jolie Saison Gamay wine and the start of the fall menu, we jumped at the chance. We've dined at other restaurants located at Oakbrook Center, but this would be our first visit to this chain's offerings.
"Seasons 52 is a fresh grill and wine bar that invites guests to discover the sensational flavors of a seasonally-inspired menu and award-winning international wine list in a casually-sophisticated ambiance."
Even though this is a restaurant in a mall, once one is inside, the outside world disappears. A tad dark for my taste, it is still a nicely designed room, with an open kitchen with roaring fire creating an upscale, yet comfortable ambience. Wine is obviously very important to the restaurant. The menu has about 100 selections, with 60 offered by the glass, all chosen by George Miliotes, Master Sommelier for Seasons 52 and the 152nd Master Sommelier in the world.

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill 

To cover the entire meal, I decided to order a red and white, then taste them across the menu. I made it all the way to dessert before finishing them up and both performed flawlessly, definitely great choices, at least for my taste. I opted for two wines from the "Drink Them Before They're Famous Menu," the restaurant's own Jolie Saison Gamay, France '11 for the red, and the AZ Stronghold Tazi, White Blend '10/'11, for the white. Both outstanding. Laima chose to go the tasting route, going with the Flight and Flatbread option (3 wines to taste, with a flatbread and a full pour once you decide which of the three wines you like best). At $15 or $20, this is an amazing deal and one we'll return for in the future. Though she could have chosen from one of her three wines, we decided to test our server's expertise, asking for a suggestion to go with Laima's main course, a filet mignon. Without hesitation, she suggested the Lake Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander ‘10, which was a great wine on its own and the perfect accompaniment to the steak.

We started with the Blackened Steak and Blue Cheese Flatbread (with cremini mushrooms, spinach, and caramelized onions), also choosing the Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers (with Fuji apple slaw, sun-dried cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds) and Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli (with harvest vegetables, black mushrooms, and roasted onion jus). All of these starters were very good, with the ravioli the biggest surprise -- the goat cheese added a bite not expected in a pasta.

Seasons 52 Food

It was hard to decide on a main course, but we finally chose the Grilled Kona-Crusted Lamb T-Bone Chops (with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and 15-year aged balsamic vinegar) for me and the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon (with cremini mushrooms, steamed leaf spinach, mashed potatoes, and a red wine sauce) for Laima. While the entire meal showcased beautiful platings, I thought the Filet seemed a bit off in that respect -- perhaps it was the whole mushrooms circling the plate, but it appeared rustic when compared to the other dishes. A minor complaint as the meat was so good.

Seasons 52 Dessert

For dessert, a holder containing many small options is brought to the table. Unlike some restaurants, where a plasticized version is shown and then another brought to the table, at Seasons 52 the desserts are fresh and placed on the table immediately. Even though we wanted to try them all, we were getting pretty full, so a trio seemed a safe effort. We opted for the Key Lime Pie, Mocha Macchiato, and the Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Snap Crust Mini Indulgences, which are individual servings of classic desserts. We added Cappuccino and it was a great ending to a fabulous meal.

Seasons 52 is one of the few finer dining restaurants we've seen that posts the Nutrition information online. Kudos to them for that.  The other amazing thing is that their entire menu is under 475 Calories! So an appetizer, main course, 2 glasses of wine, and a dessert would total about 1,500 calories, probably the main course at most other restaurants. It's truly hard to believe when the food is so tasty and seemingly decadent. Brilliant job by the Chef.

Seasons 52 has locations around the country -- if you have one near you, we heartily recommend trying them out. With tasty food, endless wine options, and a comfortable vibe, this is a place you'll want to return to again and again. I know we do.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Seasons 52 on Foodio54

Disclaimer: This meal was provided to us for review purposes.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wine Tourism Conference 2013

Wine Tourism Conference

Laima and I are in the midst of planning our travel to Oregon in November, to participate in the Wine Tourism Conference 2013 (WTC13). I enjoyed the Wine Bloggers Conference so much, I knew we had to get to this one if we possibly could. We'll see some great folks I met at WBC, make new connections, eat and drink locally, and enjoy the beauty of Oregon.

We're already setting up a winery visit at Hawks Views Cellars and are looking forward to the inaugural Great American Wine Festival, happening right after the conference ends.

Leading up the Conference, we'll be exploring the AVAs of the Willamette Valley, with some input from representative wineries and tasting notes from wines produced there. Keep an eye out for those posts, to be published between October 29th and November 7th.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winechat: Monastrell

Last week's #winechat (led by Cindy Rynning of Grape Experiences) focused on Monastrell from the Spanish region of Murcia, which has 52% Monastrell-4th most planted red in Spain. DO Jumilla produces the best known wines of Murcia -- soft, balanced wines of high quality. Monastrell is also known as Mataró and Mourvèdre, grown in France, Spain, California, Washington State, and Australia. 

Casa Castillo 2011 MonastrellJuan Gil Monastrell

Tasting Notes:
Casa Castillo 2011 Monastrell: beautiful dark ruby red; bright red fruit, orange blossom, and cherry aromas; prune and vanilla flavors; tannic finish. Young vines, up to 22 years , in sandy clay soils, then 6 months in French oak barrels, 3-4 years old, 500 liters. SRP $10

Juan Gil 2011 Jumilla Red Wine: dark ruby red; leather and red berry aromas; dark berries and vanilla flavors; round mouthfeel with slight tannic bite; smooth finish. 100% Monastrell, 40 year old vines; grapes whole-cluster macerated sur lie for 25 days; aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. SRP $14
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

12 Corners Vineyards, Benton Harbor, MI

12 Corners Vineyards

Several weekends ago, we headed up for a weekend to Union Pier, Michigan, one of our favorite getaway destinations near Chicago. On the way, we stopped at our first Indiana winery, Anderson's, then continued on to Benton Harbor, Michigan, for a tasting at a newer winery in the area, 12 Corners. The 12 Corners referenced are the intersection of 3 roads: the Red Arrow Highway, North Benton Center Road, and Euclid-Hicks Road(s). While they also have a tasting room in South Haven, we always prefer to go to the source, when possible.

"12 Corners Vineyards was started by a small group of friends who grew up in Michigan and recognized the uniqueness of a site just four miles off Michigan's famed "Gold Coast". The hamlet of Twelve Corners, Michigan is our namesake. We have a 115-acre estate planted with both vinifera and hybrid grapes. Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer are but a sampling of the varieties we offer as wines for your pallet's [sic] pleasure."
We counted 23 wines on their tasting menu, pretty ambitious, with a mix of grape and fruit represented. All grapes are sourced from other sites within the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, with 2013 being their first harvest of estate-grown grapes. It will be interesting to see whether using their own grapes will result in any significant changes. With wines vinified from dry to ultra-sweet, most people will find something to like. At $5 for 5 Tastes (including a glass and complimentary chocolate), we tried 10 different wines. Funny enough, Laima and I liked exactly opposite wines, which just shows that having plenty of options is good. One odd thing is that the winery charges for the tasting (which other wineries in the area also do) and hand out stemless glasses to take home (I'm not a fan of stemless wineglasses), but there is no incentive to bring them back, as at the other wineries. Something for them to think about.

12 Corners is a good addition to the Lake Michigan Shore AVA -- beautiful building, lush vineyards, and easily seen (and gotten to) from the Interstate (I-94). Definitely worth a stop.

Video of 12 Corners Vineyards

More info on the 12 Corners website, via Facebook, and Twitter.

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