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  • Michigan Wine from Old to New, St. Julian to Amoritas

    Posted: 2019-02-18 11:45
    February's weekly #WineStudio twitter chat is focusing on Michigan Wine and the non-profit collaborative Michigan Wine Collaborative (see intro post here).  The second week focused on two wineries St. Julian Winery from the ‏Lake Michigan Shore AVA and Amoritas Vineyards from the Leelanau Peninsula AVA -- most notable in that St. Julian is Michigan's oldest and largest winery and Amoritas is a relative newcomer.

    Family-owned St. Julian Winery has been operating since 1921 when Italian emigrant Mariano Meconi founded Border City Wine Cellars in Ontario at 26 years of age. Following the repeal of Prohibition, he moved across the border into Detroit and then eventually to the winery's current location in Paw Paw while changing the name to The Italian Wine Company. In 1941 the operation was christened St. Julian Winery to avoid any antifascist sentiment and to honor the the patron saint of his native village, Faleria, Italy. For the next eight decades St. Julian has facilitated the growth in the Michigan wine industry through the emphasis on hybrid and fruit wines to the more recent single varietal viniferia wines. Last week, winemaker Nancie Oxley presented two of these single varietal viniferia wines, a Riesling and a Grüner Veltliner.

    2017 Mountain Road Riesling Lake Michigan Shore AVA ($19.99)
    The 20 acre Mountain Road Estate was planted in the late 2000s  by David Braganini, third generation owner of St. Julian Wine Company and his brother John Braganini. This estate lies upon porous sandy soils and experience warm sunny days transitioning to cool evenings - very suitable for retaining acidity in wine grapes. Starting in 2015 the Riesling harvest was whole clustered pressed resulting in less juice but higher quality which was then inoculated with a yeast strain used mostly for Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation is stopped at 1.1% residual sugar to balance with the enhanced acidity. The result is a weighty wine, full of citrus flavors, slight petrol and loads of refreshing acidity.

    2017 Braganini Reserve Grüner Veltliner Lake Michigan Shore AVA ($19.99)
    In 1967 Ed & Phyllis Oxley purchased a farm located on the highest point in the county and planted with grapes and tart cherries.  This elevation provides abundant drainage and diurnal temperatures for the 100 acres of wine grapes which include Grüner Veltliner. These grapes are cold fermented - lengthening the process to enhance aromatics and acidity. And separate picking provides both tropical and grassy elements. The result is a delicious wine, with citrus aromas, tropical fruit, and racy acids. Showing its pedigree, the previous vintage was awarded the 2017 Jefferson Cup for White Vinifera Wine.


    Amoritas Vineyards is a 150 acre estate located in the Leelanau Peninsula AVA - home to Michigan’s first wine trail. The estate consists of rolling hills and sandy loam soils providing a very suitable climate for wine grapes. Initially the Goodell family sold fruit to other vineyards but more recently they have begun releasing small production single varietal wines. During our #Winestudio session Viticulturalist Emily Goodell presented their 2016 Rose Crest Vineyard Chardonnay - the first harvest from vines planted three years previously in 2013.

    2016 Rose Crest Vineyard Chardonnay, Leelanau Peninsula ($21.00)
    This unoaked wine provides typical Chardonnay descriptors of soft apple and citrus with subtle minerals and refreshing acidity.  Nicely done particularly from such young vines.

    For more on Michigan wines participate in the final #Winestudio session on February 19th 2019 at 9PM E.T. Cheers.
  • The 2016 Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards Valley View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

    Posted: 2019-02-12 06:20
    The Valley View Vineyard is a 35-acre hilltop vineyard in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley.  Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards grows several Bordeaux grape varieties on this south facing vineyard which overlooks the Santa Ynez River primarily because it is slightly warmer than in neighboring eastern and northern appellations. On the lower plots, Cabernet Sauvignon calls home whereas Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec are planted. These grapes provide the juice for their excellent 2016 Valley View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) - a 75% Cabernet Sauvignon wine filled in by these other grape varieties. Why just 75%? According to wine-maker Megan McGrath-Gates, each varietal input adds their distinctive "personalities" to the finished wine.  And after aging  21 months in 100% French oak barrels, the resulting wine provides fresh dark fruit, earthy tobacco, and a long juicy, tannic tail. A true bargain at this price point. Cheers.
  • Visit the Las Vegas Arts District & Hop Nuts Brewing

    Posted: 2019-02-09 05:00
    When visiting Las Vegas, it's usually a wise idea to leave the casinos and partake in the surrounding environment. After touring the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Red Rocks turn to the local craft beer scene. One suggestion is Hop Nuts Brewing - located in the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District. The tasting room is long and dark - providing a dive bar feel - with plenty of craft beer on tap. These included several styles of IPAs, Lagers, and Saisons. I started with small pours of the robust Bourbon Barrel Aged Omniscient Imperial Stout (10% ABV 69 IBU’s) and the smooth Harry Porter (6.8% ABV 46 IBU’s). The former was aged one year in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels and the whiskey profile dominates the chocolate coffee. On the other hand, the chocolate dominated the porter. However, my serial beverage was the Hell of a Helles (4.9% ABV 16 IBU's) a collaboration with Albertshöfer Sternbräu. This is a clean and fresh beer - spot on inviting easy and probably exceeding consumption. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to any craft beverage destination.  Cheers.
  • #WineStudio Hosts the Michigan Wine Collaborative during February

    Posted: 2019-02-06 17:26
    Those who have been following the Drink Local Wine scene know that Michigan has a thriving wine industry. To others, this may come as a complete surprise. According to Michigan Wine and theCompass Craft Beverage Finder, there are 180 winery tasting rooms operating in the Great Lakes state. These wineries produce 2.75 million gallons of wine per year from 3,050 vineyard acres which represent $5.4 billion in total economic impact. And according to the TTB, Michigan ranks 14th by state in bottled wine production.

    But a relatively new organization, the Michigan Wine Collaborative, is trying to improve that number. This non-profit collaborative has a goal to "enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers and other businesses and individuals connected to the industry...".

    And one avenue for promoting the Michigan wine industry is through the weekly twitter forum #WineStudio. On February 12th and 19th (9PM E.T.) participants will be learning and discussing wine from St. Julian Winery ‏Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Amoritas Vineyards Leelanau Peninsula AVA, L. Mawby Winery Leelanau Peninsula AVA, and Big Little Wines Leelanau Peninsula AVA.

    So why should you participate?   First, the state is dissected by the 45th Parallel -- the famed imaginary line that runs through Italy's Piedmont region; the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux in France; the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. The latter is home to the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail - perhaps the most prolific region in the state. Each wine region is unique but along the 45th Parallel vineyards receive the same angle of the sun and length of day. Second, Michigan also produces a wide range of wine styles from dry to ice wine, from viniferia, labrusca, and hybrid grapes to cherry and apple wines and cider. Like Rhone, Pinot grapes are prevalent as in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and even Pinot Meunier. Other cold climate grapes are Riesling and Gewurztraminer plus Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot (see Bordeaux reference above). Finally, you can learn how the cold climate nature of Michigan increases threats from spring freezes, winter burn, and mildew pressures from Michigan's high level of precipitation. This is amplified in tight cluster varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinots as wind flows are less likely to help dry the grapes.  See you online. Cheers.
  • Silver Spring Maryland is a Craft Beverage Destination

    Posted: 2019-01-11 10:36
    Probably because it is not incorporated, Silver Spring encompasses a large area bordered by the DC and PG County lines and extended to Burtonsville, Colesville, and Wheaton.  However the business district's heart is the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road and slowly a plethora of craft beverage establishments have opened in that vicinity.

    I recently visited a few of these including the neighboring Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park. This establishment recently moved from their Heyser Farms Colesville location where the delicious Spencerville Red apples mysteriously self- propagated. The winery first made a name for itself producing the Spencerville Red Hard Apple cider which is still a personnel favorite. The Black Twig is another single apple varietal cider but expect more traditional apple and pear cider blends. They also offer a range of wines from dry to sweet as well as local craft beer.

    Denizens Brewing Co. enjoys the honor as the first local craft beer producer in Silver Spring and since 2014 has provided a solid selection of core and seasonal beers. Their Born Bohemian Czech-style Pilsner, Southside Rye IPA, Third Party Belgian-style Tripel, and Ponch’s Porter have been staples during previous visits so this time I focused on their seasonals. This included the delicious Cool Breeze Oatmeal Stout, Animal IPA, Ill Cru Mixed Culture Strong Sour Ale, and the Lowest Lord Extra Strong Bitter. This last was an unexpected surprise - smooth but richer than those enjoyed in English pubs. Expect a larger portfolio and increased distribution as Denizens opens a new production\tasting facility in Riverdale very soon.


    Just down Georgia Avenue, Astro Lab Brewing opened just a couple months ago and the current lineup is IPA centric with a lonely Moo Milk Stout as the only alternative. This is a delicious beer, soft but packing loads of chocolate flavors. I included the S.P.F. 100 XPA Pale Ale into the IPA category and several years ago that would have been your strongest IPA. This is another well made beer joining the IPAs as approachable offerings. The Nebula Imperial Double IPA is so so smooth and the No Mates - Mosaic American IPA and No Mates - Columbus American IPA are great representation of a single hop varietal beers.


    For those seeking wine, The Urban Winery is located very close to Astro Lab and expect a new brewery, Silver Branch Brewing Company to open in the coming months. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will show you these destinations. Cheers.

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