Style: High gravity bock.
Appearance: Chestnut with a short-lived foamy head.
Nose: Malt, prunes, dark toast.
On the palate: Medium bodied. Bitter with just a bit of sweetness and malt. Like the burnt drippings of off a mixed berry pie.
Finish: Fruitier, but fades into warm toastiness.
Parting words: Bock is one of my favorite styles of beer. This is a decent example and a decent beer. Still, I would have appreciated a little less bitterness, a little more sweetness and a lower price. Atwater Winterbock is mildly recommended.
Distillers: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana (6 y/o, 95% rye component) & Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky (16 y/o, 80% Rye component)
Style: Indiana style rye whiskey (high rye)
Age: 6 y/o (but blended with a 16 y/o)
Proof: 92 (46% ABV)
Appearance: Copper with a pinkish hue. Slightly cloudy.
Nose: Cedar, barbecue sauce, fresh cut grass.
On the palate: Medium bodied and soft. Dry with some spearmint. Water brings out a gentle sweetness to balance out the grassiness. Thyme, caramel, allspice, ginger.
Finish: Light, with a little sweetness but mostly tarragon and burn. Some char comes through and then softly fades. Much the same with water, but the burn has been transformed into a pleasant tingle.
Mixed: Very tasty in a Sazerac. Didn’t try it in anything else.
Parting Words: Rendezvous Rye was the first (or at least one of the first) products to be released by High West. The source material has shifted since that first bottling, but Rendezvous has been HW’s most consistant, and to me, most successful product. The tangy ketchup notes that plague Son of Bourye are here too, but they are kept firmly in the background by caramel and herbal flavors and aromas. Through prudent barrel selection and judicious mingling of ryes of two different styles, High West as created a rye that is very much worth seeking out. With rye supplies tightening, I hope they can continue to keep Rendezvous at an affordable price and at its current level of quality. Rendezvous Rye is recommended.
Maker: Blue Water Winery, Carsonville, Michigan, USA
Grapes: Chambourcin, Catawba, Concord.
Place of origin: Michigan, USA
Appearance: Very dark purple. Nearly black.
Nose: Concord grape jelly, lighter fluid, moldy blackberries.
On the palate: Light -bodied and tangy. Grape juice, brown sugar, lemon peel with the pith attached.
Finsih: Charcoal, iodine, grape pips.
Parting words: When I first saw the name of this wine, I thought it was BBW House Red, not BWW House Red. That made me a little excited, but this wine has none of the voluptuous delights of a BBW. While most wine labels exaggerate, this one goes over the top in declaring this to be a “very drinkable wine”. “Barely drinkable” would be more apt. The label also recommends serving the wine chilled, which is excellent advice. I would recommend drinking it at around 33° F or 1° C or better yet, not at all.
The winery is located less than ten miles away from Lexington, Michigan, a popular vacation destination on Lake Huron, so I suppose the bulk of their business comes from well-meaning tourists looking for something local. I received a half bottle of this wine as a gift from a very sweet lady who also happens to be the mother-in-law of a good friend of mine. I didn’t take it personally. I’m just glad I didn’t spend any money on this.
I have no beef with native grape varieties or hybrids. Long time readers will know that I have given positive reviews to wines made with hybrids and native grape species. I am not a speciesist. I have had 100% Chambourcin , Catawba, and even Concord wines that were much, much better than this. This is just a bad wine.
What makes it worse is the price, $14 a bottle on the website. That is absurd. One can get a very tasty wine from practically anywhere in the world for that much, including all four Michigan AVAs. Why bother with something like this? In case you haven’t already guessed, BWW House Red is not recommended.
Distiller: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky/ A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA
Style: High Corn Bourbon
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Note: Triple distilled. Twice (column & doubler) at Buffalo Trace and once (pot still?) at Bowman.
Appearance: Light copper with fairly thick legs.
Nose: Caramel, oak, woodruff, alcohol, grape hyacinth.
On the palate: Light bodied and dry. Oak, alcohol, toffee, tarragon.
Finish: Dry, but with a fruity note that slowly emerges as the taste fades.
Parting words: Bowman single barrel is a stylish whiskey worth seeking out. The Buffalo Trace grassiness is apparent but the oak and caramel sweetness do an excellent job of keeping it from overrunning the whiskey.
The first one of these I purchased shortly after its initial release. It was very light with a vaguely coppery taste and aroma. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t great. This one is very, very good. I have had a few other bottles recently including a couple private selections and they have all been good, so I either got a bottle from a mediocre barrel the first time, or the product as a whole has been improved. Whatever the case, John J. Bowman is now one of those whiskeys that I always pick up when I am visiting a part of the country in which it is sold. Bowman Single Barrel is recommended.
Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Place of Origin: Montaña Rusa, Montague Estate & Capella vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA
Style: Medium Dry
Appearance: Pale straw with not much in the way of legs.
Nose: Lemon thyme, orange zest, ripe peach, mango nectar.
On the palate: Full bodied for a Riesling. Slightly racy but with just enough minerality. Fresh apricots, peach cobbler, hint of limestone.
Finish: Mildly sweet and citric. A little background minerality and then a soft fade.
Parting words: Long time readers of this blog have come to expect gushing reviews of Four Roses special releases and wines from Black Star Farms. This review will not depart from pre-established patterns in any way. This is a delightful wine. The 2011 vintage in northwestern Michigan continues to impress. This wine is like that rare friend who is intellectual but not pedantic and a lot of fun at parties but never embarrassing to be around.
My only regret is that I drank it too soon. I probably should have waited for until next summer but it’s damn good night now. 2011 Arcturos Riesling is highly recommended.
Appearance: Crystal clear.
Nose: Alcohol, juniper, lime peel, thyme. Opens up considerably with water. Aniseed, horehound, angelica, lavender.
On the palate: Full bodied. Sweet, hot. Cinnamon, juniper, fruity hard candy. With water, still full bodied and still sweet. Rock candy, alcohol, not much else.
Finish: Hot, menthol cough drops. More gentle with water, pleasantly sweet. Fades slowly with a hint of candied lemon peel.
Mixed: Makes a sophisticated and well-balanced martini. Also does well with tonic.
Parting words: Death’s Door is an excellent gin, one of the best micro-distilled American gins I’ve had. It’s versatile but interesting and sophisticated. Neat, the taste isn’t all that great but the nose is fantastic which is what gin is all about if you ask me. At $30 it’s at the upper end of the scale, but it’s worth every penny. Death’s Door Gin is recommended.
Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA
Style: High rye rye whiskey (I am now dubbing this Indiana style rye)
Age: 4 y/o
Proof: 110 (55% ABV)
Appearance: Fairly dark copper with thick legs.
Nose: Pine sap, oak, caramel, tarragon, alcohol, woodruff.
On the palate: Full bodied. Sweet and herbaceous, then hot. With a splash of water, the resemblance to Bulleit rye is very apparent. Sweet caramel, hay and spearmint.
Finish: Burn and a little caramel, then it’s all starlight mints. Lasts for almost as long as one of those would in the mouth! With some water, tarragon and basil come out and settle into licorice before gently fading away.
Parting words: The Willett ryes being released at increasing ages every year are from the same Indiana distillery supplying Bulleit Rye, Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye and many others. The differences being that the Willetts are all at barrel proof and are single barrel selections. They are not available in Michigan, but are fairly easy to find in Kentucky and Indiana. At over $30, they’re not cheap but these are at barrel strength so one is getting more for one’s money. If 110 proof is too high for you, that’s why God made water.
Anyhow, Willett Family Estate Rye is the finest example of Indiana Rye I have tasted to date. For something that is almost entirely rye and is only 4 years old, it has a good deal going on. I wouldn’t call it complex, but it’s more balanced than many of its siblings and it is a much better value than Templeton or High West’s Double Rye. I enjoy Kentucky “barely legal” style rye better, but if rye character is what you crave, Willett Rye is recommended.
Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir, Chambourcin.
Place of origin: Ontario VQA, Canada
Appearance: Dark crimson.
Nose: Blueberry jam, oak, hint of cedar, black pepper and allspice.
On the palate: Medium bodied. Wild blackberries, prunes, cherry juice, mace, toasted oak.
Finish: A little chewy and drying. Nicely balanced between fruit and wood.
Parting words: When I was at Pelee Island Winery last summer Eco Trail Red was by far the best red wine I tasted that day. They sell a bewildering number of different wines and as one would expect the whites are better on the whole than the reds. That said, some of their reds are very enjoyable and they’re not always the most expensive ones. This wine is a prime example of that.
Eco Trail is an excellent table wine in the best sense of the term, i.e. a wine to drink with a meal. The Cab Franc takes the lead and the two hybrids round it out nicely. It’s affordable and doesn’t need more than a year or two in the bottle to blossom. I have never seen it for sale in the US, or even anywhere else in Canada other than the winery shop. If you are in Ontario and happen to be driving by Kingsville on the north coast of Lake Erie, stop in and pick up a bottle. Eco Trail Red is recommended.
B. Beer Barrel
A. Heartland, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
B. New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA
Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA
A. 90 (45% ABV)
B. 80 (40% ABV)
A. Rebarreled in new charred oak barrels
B. Finished in barrels used to finish beer in
A. Light copper
B. Burnt orange
A. Wood shavings, alcohol, chocolate-covered caramels, fennel, leather
B. Dried cherries, roasted malt, corn chips, alcohol
On the palate
A. Sweet and hot. Medium bodied. Brown sugar, sweet tea, vanilla
B. Full bodied. Licorice, stone fruit.
A. Hot and long lasting with a bit of candy behind the burn.
B. Mellow and fruity. Grape soda, alcohol. Fades quickly.
A. Excels in a Manhattan and does well in an old fashioned. Gets a little lost in cola.
B. Adds an interesting fruitiness to the Manhattan, does the same in an old fashioned. Downright tasty in ginger ale.
Both of these bourbons are examples of small producers selling bourbon sourced from MGPI, Indiana but putting their own stamp on it. Both are successful in creating something different and probably superior to what they started with. As for Beer Barrel Bourbon (B), the fruity aspects of the stout that previously occupied the barrel come through the most, although a little of the roasted malt character also comes through. It is a successful experiment but I don’t know if I’d buy another bottle. Mildly recommended.
Spring Mill (A) has more of a classic bourbon flavor. Rebarreling the often lackluster MGPI bourbon has added needed depth and sophistication. One of the proprietors of Heartland was not forthcoming about the nature of the second barrel (char level, size) when I communicated with him on social media, but I suspect it is a slightly smaller barrel with a lighter char, maybe 2 or 3. Whatever the case, it worked very well. The ceramic bottle adds interest (although I’m not quite sure how to recycle it) and the fact that the bottle shares the name of a street on the North Side of Indianapolis near where I grew up is a sentimental bonus for me. Spring Mill is recommended. Looking forward to some of the new barrel strength version of this stuff soon!
Style: Tawny Port
Age: 10 y/o (bottled 2009)
Appearance: Rust-colored with quick legs.
Nose: leather, blueberry jam, black raspberries, alcohol.
On the palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Red currant jelly, allspice, clove, nutmeg, black cherry, oak, alcohol.
Finish: a hint of wood, berry jam, a bit of pumpkin spice.
Parting words: Otima 10 is the first tawny Port I’ve had in a long time. It’s much better than the supermarket garbage I used to get in my college days. While I don’t think tawny is my favorite style of Port, this one is certainly a very tasty wine that pairs very well with chocolate and rich desserts. It has that distinct leathery taste that all tawny Ports have, but with enough fruit to keep it from becoming unpleasant. It is easy to find and easy to drink. Simple, but sometimes that’s all you need. Otima 10 is recommended.