Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USA.
Place of origin: Michigan (Pioneer wine trail)
Appearance: Light maroon with good sized, evenly spaced legs.
Nose: Oak, leather, black currant, blueberry, ground pink peppercorn, raspberry.
Palate: Medium bodied. Blackberries, leather, hint of roasted poblano pepper.
Finish: Light but long lasting. White pepper, oak, bell pepper.
Parting words: Chateau Aeronautique Winery is located in an air park near Jackson, close to Sandhill Crane Wineyards. Their stated aim is to produce Bordeaux-style wines but they also produce wines from a lot of the usual Michigan suspects like Reisling, Pino Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their Bordeaux style blends, Aviatrix Rouge and Crimson (a “right bank” style blend), are probably their best. They also do a good Syrah, quite a rare bird in Michigan. Cab Franc is much more common here and it features prominently in the Rouge. They use Michigan grapes exclusively.
This is one that has been sitting in my cellar for a little while and I think that time paid off. We had it with a meal of cheese ravioli and tomato sauce and it paired perfectly. Meat-filled ravioli might pair even better. As it sat, it tended to lean more to the peppery notes, but it never went off the deep end. This is a lighter style Cab Franc, though, so don’t go in expecting a bruiser. Michigan producers who can make a quality red like this get me excited at this state’s potential for Bordeaux varietals. Chateau Aeronautique’s 2010 Cabernet Franc is recommended.
Distilled by: Beam, Clemont, Kentucky, USA (Beam-Suntory)
Age: 7 y/o
Proof: 103 (51.5% ABV)
Purchased for around $20/1 liter (Not available in Michigan)
Appearance: Dark copper with thin legs and a lot of necklacing.
Nose: Sweet peanut butter, lavender, alcohol, cut grass.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, alcohol, milk chocolate.
Finish: Dry and herbaceous with a touch of toffee.
Parting words: Costco’s Kirkland brand has appeared on everything from bottled water to dog food and beyond, including booze. There’s Kirkland beer, wine, vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon, Canadian whisky and even a 40 year old single malt Scotch distilled by Glenlivet.
All are good values but the bourbon is a standout. On paper, it’s hard to do better. Where else can one get a liter of 103 proof, 7 y/o bourbon for around $20? Nowhere, unless you have a time machine. It’s almost as good in the glass as it is on paper. The label’s statement that it was distilled and bottled by a company with facilities in Clermont & Frankfort, Kentucky reveals that this is a Jim Beam product.
The Beam product that is closest to this is the 7 y/o, 107 proof Baker’s bourbon, a sleeper bourbon if there ever was one. While this is similar, it’s a bit milder (4 proof points will do that) but the lower price more than makes up for that. Kirkland is a little harsh at first pour, but opens up beautifully the longer it sits, bringing out chocolate-covered toffee.
I’m a sucker for a cheap, high proof bourbon in the 6-10 year range. The 6 y/o Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond is about the only one that tops this in that category. Kirkland Premium Small Batch is highly recommended.
Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA
Price: $20 (website)
ABV: Unknown (not listed on label or received from producer by press time)
Appearance: Medium gold with some necklacing.
Nose: Butter, toasted oak, plum, white peach, mineral water.
Palate: Golden delicious apple, lychee, oak, white pepper.
Finish: Chewy oak, canned pear, brown butter.
Parting words: Verterra is one of the best producers on Leelanau and it shows in this wine. They make two Chards, an unoaked (a popular style in these parts) and this one that spent several months in french oak before being bottled, also undergoing malolactic fermentation. It tastes pretty Californian to me, which isn’t a bad thing if you like that style like I do (usually).
As the wine sat and warmed in the glass, some of the fruit seemed to disappear, which was disappointing. It was still tasty, just not quite so well balanced as it was when the cork first came off. Unfortunately, due to poor meal planning, I was unable to taste it with food, but based on experience with similar wines I think it would pair well with chicken, swordfish, shark and the like. The price is very nice for a quality Michigan wine. The 2012 Verterra Reserve Chardonnay is recommended.
Price: Unknown, $35 for standard edition gin at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.
Thanks for Lee & Abby for the bottle.
Appearance: Mostly clear but with an amber tinge.
Nose: Grain alcohol, lime peel, caraway, pine sap.
Palate: Full and soft with some harshness on the back end. Citrus, angelica, licorice, caraway.
Finish: Big cough drop finish. Sap and alcohol linger for a very long time.
Mixed: Did very well in cocktails with vermouth (martinis, Negroni, etc), but overpowered in tonic and a Tom Collins.
Parting words: New Columbia was founded by two hobbyist couples (related I’m guessing) back in 2011. In spite of the corny prohibition-related marketing (The man with the green hat was apparently a DC bootlegger), this is an idiosyncratic but solid cocktail gin. It lacks the finesse of Miller’s, another caraway-forward gin, but if they’re going for something like Aquavit, as the name suggests, maybe the rougher character is in keeping with that tradition.
At any rate, Green Hat Fall/Winter edition is recommended.
Style: Double Irish-style stout.
Purchased for $13/6 pack
Appearance: Dark coffee brown with a beige lacy head.
Nose: Slightly toasty, sweet malt.
Palate: Sweet and a little sticky. Oatmeal, molasses, effervescence.
Finish: Some bitterness and a bit of smoke. Dry.
Parting words: Moher Stout is named for a scenic group of cliffs in Ireland that were, according to the bottle, the scene of at least one shipwreck.
Anyway, this differs from their Uncle Steve’s Stout in two ways. First, it’s at “double” strength and second oatmeal is used in the making of it. These two factors lift it above Uncle Steve’s and into highly recommended territory. Unfortunately the high price takes it down a peg from there. Moher Stout is, like I said, recommended.
Style: Irish blend
Michigan State Minimum: $70
Appearance: Bright amber (coloring probably used).
Nose: Cut oak, cashews, vanilla, alcohol.
Palate: Full bodied, soft and mild. Butterscotch hard candy, alcohol.
Finish: Chewy. Oak with a whiff of smoke. Fairly short.
Parting words: There are two age stated whiskeys from Jameson available in the state of Michigan, this and the 18 y/o edition. The 18 y/o goes for $140 here so chances are good that this is the oldest Jameson expression you’ll see grace this blog.
This is certainly a step up from the standard Jameson. It has much more depth of flavor and a lot more oak. Unfortunately, the charming floral characteristics of the standard edition are gone too. Still, this is a tasty, flavorful whiskey.
Its only problem (one shared with all the other Jamesons) is price. In Michigan, Redbreast 12 is $65, Power’s 12 is $45 and Knappogue Castle 12 is $32(!). All of those are as good or better than Jameson 12, and two of those are made at the same distillery as Jameson! That price disparity earns Jameson Special Reserve, 12 y/o only a mild recommendation.
Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Style: Blended malt in American oak with toasted French oak barrel heads (see here for more information: http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/pdf/TheSpiceTree.pdf)
Region: Northern Highlands
Note: Not colored or chill-filtered.
Michigan state minimum: $62
Appearance: Medium gold with long thin legs
Nose: Sweet malt, vanilla, nutmeg, pinch of ginger.
Palate: Soft with a hint of spice. Custard, cassia, allspice, mace, ginger, clove.
Finish: Spice followed by a hit of vanilla fading into alcohol heat.
Parting words: The original edition of Spice Tree was aged with French oak barrel inserts. The Scotch Whisky Association threatened legal action against Compass Box because of this process. Compass Box decided not to fight the SWA and changed their process to one utilizing French oak barrel heads instead of the inserts.
I never got a chance to taste the old controversial version but this one is very good. I enjoy the Northern Highland whiskies very much on their own and the French oak process has nicely enhanced the spicy flavors of these malts. One would also be hard pressed to get a malt from any of those distilleries at this price that tastes this good. Spice Tree is recommended.
Place of origin: Alba, Cueno, Piedmont, Italy
Purchased for $17
Appearance: Very dark purple, nearly black.
Nose: Cherry jam, hardwood smoke, blueberry juice, blackberry.
Palate: Slightly chewy but not overly tannic. Toasted oak and cherry again.
Finish: Big cherry in the finish.
Parting words: Barbera is a long suffering grape. Given a bland or worse treatment in its Piedmontese homeland for many years, it was involved in a deadly contamination scandal in the 1980s when thirty people died from drinking Barbera containing a deadly amount of methyl alcohol. As one can imagine, when a wine kills a bunch of people consumers tend to shy away from it for a while.
Barbera can be delicious when done right and this is a great example. It’s bold and a little spicy but still very fruity and easy to enjoy with or without food. We had it with medium rare rump roast and roasted rutabagas (a.k.a. swedes) and it did well. It also threw a crazy amount of sediment into the glass, as you can see. Batasiolo Barbera D’Alba 2007 is recommended.
Price: Don’t remember.
Appearance: Dark chocolate brown with a short-lived lacy head.
Nose: Bourbon, sweet malt, strawberry licorice, light molasses.
Palate: Medium bodied and powerful. Coffee, anise, rye recipe bourbon, piloncillo.
Finish: Light with a little bourbon and molasses.
Parting words: Aging beer is something I got really interested in a couple years ago and it’s starting to pay off now. I had an aged Arcadia Imperial Stout at the Arcadia brewpub once and it was good but was all anise and little else. This is much richer but oddly playful. The various flavors pop up seemingly at random on the palate to engage in a tug of war with the others. The result is not well integrated but still very enjoyable. If I have a complaint, it’s that it’s too enjoyable. I almost never get drunk off of beer but after just one of these I felt a pretty big buzz. At 12% ABV this beer is best drunk in the same way as a fortified wine. Find a friend or two and split a bottle after supper. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I think it was around $8 for one bottle which I think is fair for a liquid dessert. Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is recommended. Put it away for a while if you can.