Category Archives: Liqueur

The Dregs: Cherry Wine Syrup over Ice Cream

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At one point I made the mistake of opening a fruit wine with only two people around to help drink it. The sweetness got overwhelming and both of us gave up after two glasses. 😦 To be honest it really drank more like a liquor. Since then a good portion of the remnants has been haunting my fridge door. Over time I have been using it to enhance fondues and whipped cream here and there. Finally I decided to kill the aging bottle by making a syrup for ice cream, drinks, what have you. I’ve done this with other wines before and it can be done with virtually anything your heart desires, reisling, roses, merlot, syrah…you get the idea. It is super easy and almost not worth putting a recipe down for, but I seem to always forget that this is an option for leftovers. I promise this recipe DOES NOT involve a candy thermometer; actually I don’t even own one. This time I used a cherry wine from Cream Ridge Winery in New Jersey (YES…New Jersey!). It tastes like liquid cherry pie and why I thought two people could drink most of a bottle of it is anyone’s guess. 🙂

Anyways, for the syrup it all starts with sugar, A LOT of sugar….

Wine Syrup
2 1/2 cups of wine
1 cup of sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of wine)

1. Dump wine and sugar in a sauce pan.
2. Stir together and turn heat to medium-high.
3. Stir, sugar with gradually dissolve
4. Keep stirring, do not let boil just mildly simmer at most
5. Stir
6. Stir some more (about 20 minutes total of stirring usually) until mixture thickens and leaves an open wake when you run the spoon on the bottom of the pan or coats the spoon
7. When the syrup coats the spoon you can stop there or keep going a little longer, depending on how thick you want it. REMEMBER when it cools the syrup will thicken so stay on the thin side of what you want especially if you plan on using it later and storing in the fridge.

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Wine Pairings from a Novice


I hosted October’s Dead Grapes Society Meeting and decided to concentrate on pairings. It was definitely a challenge deciding what recipes would bring out the flavors of each type of wine not to mention could be prepared in a reasonable time frame. So I decided to go with a wide variety of flavors to try and cover all our bases.

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Here is our menu with pictures, recipes, and tasting notes to follow

SAVORY

Cheeses
Blue Cheese
Port Salut
Brie (Double Cream)
Polder Blanc Goat Gouda
Raspberry Jam to complement

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Mains
Polenta Fritters seasoned with red pepper flakes, oregano, and parmesan
Mini Beef Wellingtons
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Parmesan Cheese
Chicken Kebabs with Red Peppers, Onions, Crimini Mushrooms, and Bacon Wrapped Prunes

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SWEET

Chocolates
Dark Lindt Thins 85% Cocoa
Bittersweet with Nouguat 72% Cocoa
Milka Milk Chocolate 50% Cocoa
Milka White Chocolate 0% Cocoa

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Fruit and Nuts
Fresh Fruit- Pears, Bananas, Honey Crisp Apples, Cantalope, Strawberries
Dried Fruit- Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Cranberries
Honey Roasted Almonds

Dessert
Cream puffs with Bittersweet Chocolate Whisky and Cherry Liquor Sauce and Homemade Caramel Sauce

RECIPES

I gathered most of these off the net with some minor adjustments.

Mini Beef Wellingtons
1 Steak cut into rough 3/4 inch cubes
Chilled Refridgerator Crescent Dough (makes four per crescent, wraps 48 cubes per tube)
Boursin Cheese

1. Quarter a piece of crescent dough
2. Place a 1/4 teaspoon dollop of boursin cheese in center
3. Place a cube of steak into the center a wrap dough around it, try to fuse all the seams
4. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown
Can be made ahead and frozen, bake straight from the freezer, no need to thaw.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
Seeded Dried Dates
Parmesan (not grated)
Bacon Strips
toothpicks

1. Cut parmesian into match stick pieces
2. Place cheese into date
3. Wrap with bacon (1/3 of a strip will do it)
4. Secure with toothpick and bake at 400 degrees, turn after 10 minutes, bake until bacon is browned

Chicken Skewers
Red Peppers
Chicken thighs cubed
Mushrooms
White Onions
Italian Seasoning
Prunes
Bacon
Bamboo Skewers

1. Chop onions, red peppers, chicken and mushrooms into bite size pieces
2. Wrap prunes with bacon (1/3 strip)
3. Skewer each alternating
4. Dust with italian seasoning
5. Place on baking tray
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until bacon is browned and chicken well done

TASTING NOTES

Chateau de Beauregard-Ducourt 2005 (80% Merlot/ 20% Cab)-$13– beef wellington, bacon dates, dark and bittersweet chocolate, port salut, brie, chocolate covered fruit
Despite being decanted for 1+ hour, the majority of us felt that this was a harsh minerally bordeaux that definitely needed food to take away from its chalky finish. It was noted that it brought out the meatiness of the beef wellington and paired particularly well with the bacon dates. The tannins in this pour definitely calls for a rich dish to cut through.

Domaine des Chazelles Vire-Clesse 2005 White Burgundy-$17– chicken, polenta, goat cheese, port salut, brie,
This was one of the favorites of the night. It had a savoriness to it that was described as cheesy and rich flavor. The polenta and goat cheese went particularly well with it as well as the chicken kabobs. Mellow and deep, this white burgundy paired easily with a wide variety of foods.

Domaine des Gatilles Chiroubles Cru du Beaujolais 2004-$13– bacon dates, strawberries, raspberries, port salut, brie, dark, bittersweet chocolate
This wine paired beautifully with strawberries and on the savory end the beef wellingtons. It was very fruity and light, a very drinkable wine although not very distinctive.

Les Tours d’ Amelie Viognier 2005-$12– chicken, polenta, bittersweet, milk chocolate, blue cheese, goat cheese, dried apricots, dates
Crisp and tart, this viognier went well with fruit, particularly cantalope, pears, and dried apricots. The blue cheese and chicken went well with it too. Most felt that it was high in acidity and was complex. More on the mineral side of the spectrum and less floral, this pour showed good depth of flavor. On the nose it was surprisingly savory reminiscent of aged cheese, but on tasting had the characteristic crispness of viognier. This was definitely another favorite of the night.

d’Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz Port 2002-$30– milk chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, fruit, brie, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, chocolate covered fruit
Although described as being part of the tawny spectrum of ports by the wine sellars, we felt that this definitely hovered towards the ruby style of ports. There wasn’t the sense of caramel or raisin notes that you would find in tawnies. However, the more caramel toasted nature came out with honey roasted almonds, and it paired wonderfully with chocolate. Notes of chocolate were found by most everyone in our group. Things to avoid were lighter sweet fruits like strawberries that brought out the berry quality of this port and made it border on cough syrup.

Chateau Huradin Ceron Sauternes 1999-$20– white chocolate, blue cheese, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, caramel, pears
Golden yellow in the bottle, this Sauternes was rich and sweet, some felt however that it lacked much depth or flavor. Although for the price and for the concentrated sweetness, its not bad for a Sauternes. This particular year is supposedly one of the better ones for the vineyard in terms of forming the nobel rot. However, most of the group felt it fell flat on its own. However, it paired well with blue cheese, cream puffs, caramel, and fruit. The food brought out interesting notes of apricots and burnt sugar.

Scotch Tasting 3

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This is the third installment on my three-part series on Scotch tasting, as I research and prepare for my upcoming trip to Scotland. In the first piece, I looked into how Scotch is made, and how one should go about tasting it. In the second installment, I examine how whisky – and Scotch in particular – is made. In the third installment, I will detail my itinerary and planned stops at distilleries along the way.

As my trip draws closer, I grow all the more anxious: there are over a hundred distilleries in Scotland – which ones should I pick to visit? I guess, my task is made easier in that I have to follow the itinerary I have mapped out. This trip, we would have to stick to the distilleries in the Midlands north of Edinburgh, Speyside, and the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, we’d have to bypass distilleries in the remote Orkney Islands, as well as my favorite distillery in the Isle of Islay, Laphroaig. I’ve tasted probably different 20 Scotches in my life, so while a good number of my favorites hail from those places, I figure I should be a lot more open to other labels.

Still, it’s taken me a while to narrow down the distilleries we might visit on the trip. I’ll be traveling with a friend who has never tasted Scotch before, so I can’t possibly drag her around to half a dozen distilleries. Moreover, we have quite a limited time in Scotland, and we intend to use the bulk of it touring castles and hiking, so drinking, this time at least, shall have to take a backseat.

After much poking around the Internet, I have thus finally decided on the following five distilleries. I figure we could decide which three to go to once we get on the road.

Glenturret Distillery
Founded in 1717, Glenturret is Scotland’s oldest distillery, and also one of the smallest.

Description from Scotland.com:

This distillery has been around through tumultuous times over the centuries. Glenturret has had a long and colorful history beginning with illicit stills and smugglers. It was successful right from the start till the depression of the late 1830. Many distilleries were forced to shut down at that time. In fact it was the sole survivor among the many small distilleries on either banks of the burn. The situation gradually improved for the Scotch whiskey business.

In 1870, Mr. Thomas Stewart the owner expanded the plant warehouses and machinery to cope with the increased demand for Scotch whiskey. It flourished in the worldwide boom in Scottish whiskey but was almost wiped out in 1920, during the US prohibition days and after. In fact the distillery closed down in 1921, leading to it falling into disrepair. It remained in this dilapidated condition till in1957.

The Glenturret distillery was purchased by James Fairlie in1957. He began its refurbishing and revival. By June 1960, the plant was producing whiskey once again. It was mainly used to supply blenders. It continued to make whiskey in the traditional way using the same methods and equipment and the cool, clear waters of the Turret Burn.

In 1981 Cointreau ET Cie who had been one of Glenturret’s faithful customers bought the distillery. They pumped in fresh investment and expanded the distillery to a great extent. The distillery was bought by Highland Distillers in 1990. Even today Glenturret whiskey is made using the Pot Still process with age old copper pots. The whiskey is matured in their traditional warehouses.

Glenturret is the most visited distillery in Scotland and its Famous Grouse experience describes its history, takes visitors on a tour and ends with a whiskey tasting session. The distillery produces an award winning single malt, Glenturret Single Highland Malt Scotch Whiskey, renowned for its glorious bouquet and natural golden hue. Besides this bottling of the single malt in the pure form, Glenturret whiskey is used in the blending of Famous Grouse. They have a new range of blended malts, available in various ages from 10 to 30 years. Personalized bottles and labels to mark l special occasions are also available.

Edradour Distillery
From Scotlandwhisky.com:

If you have been to the Edradour distillery it is easy to understand why it is so popular with visitors. Being the smallest and most picturesque distillery in Scotland it’s a must for visitors on the whisky trail, however it also offers a lot more.

It’s a charming and undisturbed niche of Scotland where the people are genuinely warm and hospitable, the landscape glorious and the lifestyle untouched by the perils of the twentieth century.

Situated in the heart of Tayside by the beautiful township of Pitlochry and surrounded by the wilds of the Grampians, Edradour is a wonderful diversion for hill walkers. If you’re en-route to Aviemore or Inverness it’s certainly worth dropping in.

I first tried Edradour at a Scotch tasting hosted by Sam’s Wine. My notes of the Edradour, S. Highland 10 Yr (86 proof) $53 bottle: thick, creamy, and sweet – due to the sherry barrel; interesting spice; made from water from spring flowing into peat; reminded me somewhat of Dettol, hospital, but a comforting scent; I like!

Macallan Distillery
Known as the “Rolls-Royce of single malts” – how can we not visit?

From Whisky-distilleries.com:

Situated near the village of Craigellachie, the Macallan distillery got its first distillation licence in 1824 thanks to Alexander Reid.

When he died in 1847, his namesake son managed the distillery until his own death in 1858. Then the distillery was controlled by James Shearer Priest and James Davidson until it was acquired by James Stuart (from the Glen Spey distillery). James Stuart rebuild the distillery.
In 1892, this old farm distillery become the property of Roderick Kemp.

From 1968, The Macallan is quoted on the stock exchange list and shares were purchased by great international groups as Suntory or Rémy-Cointreau, but also by the workers and the inhabitants of the village. That’s why the whisky from the distillery was nicknamed “Malt of the People”. The distillery remained in the Kemp family until 1996, when Highland Distilling Ltd bought the shares of Rémy-Cointreau, and later those from private individuals.
In 10 years time (between 1965 and 1975), The number of stills of the distillery grown from 6 to 21.

Maturation happens in sherry casks for 100% of the production, among which 75% sherry Oloroso casks. Macallan uses a traditional barley type, called Golden Promise.
The Highland Distillers group has been acquired by Edrington Group in November 1999 for £ 601m.

The whole production matured in sherry Oloroso casks is sold as single malt, the remaining being sold to blenders, among which Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, J&B, Chivas Regal, Lang’s Supreme, Ballantine’s or Long John.

Glen Ord Northern Highlands Distillery
From Whisky-distilleries.com:

From the dozen distilleries which used to operate in the area of Black Isle on the East coast of Northern Highlands, Glen Ord is the only survivor. The Glen Ord distillery has been founded in 1838.

First owner were Robert Johnstone and Donald McLennan. The company which owned the distillery, “Ord Distillers Co” changed several times from owner until James Watson & Co purchased it in 1896. Watson was a blender from Dundee and he owned Pulteney and Parkmore.
Watson refurbished and enlarged the distillery by adding new stills and considerably enhancing the malting floors.

The distillery closed during World War I and was bankrupt in 1923, before John Dewar who recently entered the D.C.L. group belonging to SMD, acquired it.

World War II was synonym of a second closing period, because of a general lack of barley.

Important refurbishment works have been done in 1960 and the malting floors were replaced by a “saladin-box” in 1961, with the modernisation of the distillery.

A new malting was build in 1968 to supply the 7 other distilleries of the group, amongst others Talisker on Isle of Skye.

A new modernisation of the malting took place in 1996.

The whisky marketed by the distillery has had several different names during the last years: Glen Oran, Glen Ordie and Glen Ord.

About 10% of the production is marketed as single malt, the remaining being used in the blends Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s.

I also tried Glen Ord at the Sam’s Wine’s Scotch tasting. My notes of the 1998 Glen Ord N. Highland 8 Yr (86 proof) $65 bottle: “leafy, grassy”; leathery and nutty; whiff of barley at the end; aged in bourbon barrel; I like!

Talisker Distillery
Established in 1831, Talisker is set in Isle of Skye, on the exposed west coast of the island. In 1900, the distillery had expanded to the point where it had its own pier, tramway, cottages, and currency, denominated in days worked. Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye.

Good sources:
1. http://www.scotlandwhisky.com
2. http://scotchwhisky.net
3. http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail: Part I

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

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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 😮 : 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 😮 : 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!!!

 

 

Scotch Tasting 2

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This is the second installment on my three-part series on Scotch tasting, as I research and prepare for my upcoming trip to Scotland. In the first piece, I looked into how Scotch is made, and how one should go about tasting it. In this second installment, I will examine how whiskey – and Scotch in particular – is made. In the third installment, I will detail my itinerary and planned stops at distilleries along the way.

In general, whisky distilled from fermented grain mash (some varieties include: barley, rye, wheat, and maize) and aged in wooden (usually oak) casks. The word whisky is derived from the Gaelic word, water, so you could reasonably trace its origins to Scotland/Ireland, though its actual point of origins is actually unknown. Some scholars contend that distilled spirits were first concocted in the 8th century AD in the Middle East, and brought over to the UK by Christian monks. Still others believe that St. Patrick introduced the drink to the UK in the 5th century AD. I won’t delve too much into the history of the drink here, but I believe that Tom Standage’s excellent book, History of World in Six Glasses, will provide more insight.

[Here, I want to deviate a little to point something out. You may have noticed that in my earlier post, I referred to whisky as “whiskey”. Technically, neither usage is wrong, but one generally uses whisky to describe Scotch whisky, and whiskey to describe Irish whiskey. I guess here in the U.S., either variation would work, so don’t mind me if I jump from one word to the next.]

How to make whisky

Ingredients: The three basic ingredients are water, yeast, and grain.

The distillation process has roughly six stages:

Stage 1 – Preparing the grain

All grains are ground into meal. The meal is then mixed with water and cooked at boiling point to break down the cellulose walls that contain starch granules.

Stage 2 – Mashing

Mix the cooked grain with malted barley and warm water. To malt barley, soak it in water and keep it damp until it begins to sprout (after about a three-week period). At which time, the enzyme amylase is produced, and serves to convert the starch in the barley into sugars. After which, dry the barley with hot air from a kiln and then ground into meal (in Scotch, the fuel used in the kiln includes peat, which gives it its distinctive smoky flavor). Over the next several hours, the amylase from the malted barley will convert the starch in the other grains into sugars (only barley is used in scotch) as well, forming a sugary liquid known as mash/wort.

Stage 3 – Fermenting

Transfer the wort to a fermentation barrel – either stainless steel or wood. With the addition of yeast, fermentation begins; a process whereby the sugars in the mash/wort are converted into alcohol. After three of four days, the liquid in the barrel, known as wash, should contain about 10% alcohol.

Stage 4 – Distilling

Heat the wash to the boiling point of alcohol (78 degrees Celsius) to vaporize the alcohol and run the vapor through a water-cooled condenser. By running the distillation process twice, the new liquid should contain about 70% alcohol. Note that you don’t want to get too high an alcoholic content, as that would ruin the taste of the whisky.

Stage 5 – Aging

Add water to the mixture to bring the alcoholic content down to 50%-60% for the American whiskeys, and around 65% for the Scotches. Age the American whiskeys in warm, dry conditions so excess water will evaporate. Conversely, age the Scotch in cooler, wetter conditions so it absorbs more water. Age the whiskeys in wooden barrels – usually charred white oak, a preferred wood since it allows the water in the whiskey to absorb the flavors of the wood.

Stage 6 – Blending

Not all whiskeys are blended; for example, single malt Scotches are produced from single batches and bottled straight from the barrel. Mix different batches of whiskeys together; selectively add neutral grain spirits, caramel, and a small amount of sherry/port to add to the flavors.

There you go. The basic steps of whisky making. But how then, do you differentiate the different kinds of whiskeys? I guess, to put it simply, Scotches must be distilled (generally, they undergo distillation twice) in Scotland, and matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks. Irish whiskeys are generally distilled three times and they must be aged in wooden casks for a period of at least three years. Whiskeys from Kentucky, are known as bourbon if they have been aged in oak casks for at least two years, and are made up of between 51% and 79% of corn. Rye whiskies must consist of at least 51% rye. Most U.S. whiskeys also differ from the UK ones in that they have to be aged in new casks.

Source: Whisky.com

Ethiopian: Tej and Injera

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

Michigan Wineries

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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.