Resort Pike House Cider

Maker: Resort Pike, Petoskey, Michigan, USA (Mackinaw Trail Winery)

Apples: Undisclosed

Style: Semi-dry farmhouse cider

ABV: 6.5%

Purchased for $7 (I think)/16 oz can

Appearance: Light in color with big initial fizz and then steady bubbles.

Nose: Clean, with cut apple and a little caramel.

Palate: Light and semi-dry. Green apple and sage, with some tannin and a little acid as it warms.

Finish: Sweetness and chewiness with a hint of funk.

Parting words: The last time Liz and I were Up North visiting friends-of-the-blog’s cottage on beautiful Walloon Lake near Boyne City, Michigan, we took an aftenoon side trip to Walloon Lake Winery. It was much too busy for our liking, so we drove to the new-ish cidery and winery Resort Pike, owned by the same folks who own Mackinaw Trail winery.

The front door and porch of the Resort Pike tasting toom

It was much less crowded but the indoor seating was already maxed out after ordering, so we sat outside at a picnic table in the pleasant courtyard outside the tasting room, near a pen with a couple well-behaved goats. We got a flight of ciders and they were all interesting but my favorite was this one, the House. It’s semi-dry with a touch of acid and tannin to hold it all together. The next time you’re in Petoskey, stop in and get some. Say hi to the goats for me, too.

Resort Pike House cider is recommended.

Rosé de Gris

Maker: Bel Lago, Lake Leelanau, Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Style: Rosé

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2017

ABV: 13.6%

Price: $8 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room, Royal Oak)

Appearance: Bright, translucent pink.

Nose: Hi-C Fruit Punch, cedar.

Palate: Mild, but full-bodied. Mulberrry, light oak.

Finish: Light and a little chewy.

Parting words: I like it when Michigan wineries make wines that aren’t the usual varietals or styles that every other winery makes. I can’t think of another winery off the top of my head that makes a rosé from Pinot Gris.

This may be obvious, but this wine tastes like a Pinot gris-ish rosé. It’s more subtle than most of the Pinot Noir rosés I’ve had, but a little subtlety can be good in these topsy-turvy times.

OK, sorry about that. I really like this wine. If I have a complaint, and I do, it’s that like the Bel Lago sparkling Auxerrois I reviewed recently, this elegant wine comes in a bottle with a janky label. Bel Lago generally has good-looking, well-designed labels. I’m not sure why these two don’t.

Anyway, 2017 Bel Lago Rosé de Gris is recommended.

Ezra Brooks Straight Rye

Maker: Lux Row, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA (Luxco)

Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: Indiana high-rye straight rye.

Age: 2 y/o (“24 months”)

Proof: 90 (45%)

Michigan State Minimum: $15

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Butterscotch, tarragon, woodruff.

Palate: Full-bodied and fruity. Apricot, leather, serrano chili.

Finish: Hot, sweet and herbaceous.

Mixed: Yes.

Parting words: It’s cheap but not terrible. Ezra Brooks Straight Rye Whiskey is recommended.

Burgdorf’s Pinot Noir, 2016

Maker: Burgdorf’s Winery, Haslett, Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Noir (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan (100%)

Vintage: 2016

ABV: 11.5%

Purchased for $24 (Michigan by the Bottle, Auburn Hills)

Appearance: Translucent red.

Nose: Blueberry, blackberry, pepper, oak.

Palate: Juicy with very little acid. Blueberry, mulberry, a little oak.

Finish: Tart with a little tannin.

Parting words: Burgdorf’s winery is located to the east of Lansing, Michigan, and not close to any other wineries, at least ones that I’ve heard of. Owners Deborah and David Burgdorf, a microbiologist and an agronomist respectively, began as hobbiests making fruit wine and were so good at it, they opened their commercial winery in 2005. They still call themselves garagistes even though they don’t technically make wine in their garage anymore.

2016 was a hot (which usually =good in Michigan) vintage and the ripeness comes through strongly on the palate, but there’s still enough acid to keep it from going off the rails. I’ve had mixed results with Burgdorf’s varietals in the past, but this Pinot Noir was enjoyable and easy to drink without being too dull. It’s easily worth what I paid for it. Burgdorf’s 2016 Pinot Noir is recommended.

45 North Pinot Noir Rosé

Maker: 45 North, Lake Leelanau, Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Noir (at least 85%)

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Dry Rosé

Vintage: 2018

ABV: 11.5%

Purchased for $22 (Michigan by the Bottle, Royal Oak)

Appearance: Pale, orangey pink.

Nose: Strawberry, overdone mixed berry pie, cedar.

Palate: Full-bodied, pink raspberry, watermelon.

Finish: Semi-sweet with fruit and a little acid and oak.

Parting words: 45 North is located on Leelanau Peninsula about 2/3 of a way up the middle of the peninsula. It has a very nice tasting room with ample indoor and outdoor seating, fit for a senator.

At any rate, I really enjoyed this wine. Purely by accident, last weekend I was able to compare 45 North’s red Pinot Noir (2016) with this pink version. The red was good, but I think I like the pink even more. Northern Michigan is started to get very good at pink wine. $22 is an ok price, but remember, this isn’t pink supermarket plonk. 45 North Pinot Noir Rosé is recommended.

St. Julian Dry Sparkling Rosé

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin

Place of origin: Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: NV

ABV: 13%

Purchased for $8 (? Winery tasting room, Troy, Michigan)

Appearance: Orangy pink, effervescent.

Nose: Strawberry, mulberry.

Palate: Fizzy, medium-bodied and mild. White raspberry, mineral water.

Finish: Acid, a little tannin.

Parting words: I recall tasting this wine at the tasting room and I must have liked it a lot since I ended up buying three bottles of it! Oddly, two of those bottles are listed at $8 and one is listed at $14 in my Cellar Tracker account, so I’m not really sure how much I paid.

This is a decent, quaffable sparkling rosé that tastes best when chilled. There’s not much in the way of balance or integration, though, and the palate is a little flat. For $8 (if that’s what I paid for it), it’s fine. At $14, not so much. I’ll err on the side of generosity, though and give St. Julian Dry Sparkline Rosé a mild recommendation.

Note: This wine is no longer on the St. Julian website, but seems to have been replaced by something called Dry Bubbly Rosé. Hopefully the name change means that the wine has been revamped.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Malt Whiskey

Maker: Woodford Reserve/Brown Forman, Versailles/Louisville, Kentucky, USA (Brown-Forman).

Style: “Barely legal” (~51% malt) American malt whiskey.

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 90.4 (45.2% ABV)

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Alcohol, sweet malt, caramel, leather.

Palate: Rounded and full bodied. Vanilla, orange sherbet, but without the sweetness and oak.

Finish: Semi-sweet, creamy.

Parting words: For years, Woodford Reserve has produced its Master’s Collection, an annual release of an off-beat experiemental whiskey. It was a popular bunching bag in the old days for its failed experiments (eg Sonoma Cutrer finish) and high price ($90 was laughable at the time).

Some of those experiments ended up eventually turning into regular offerings, though, and this malt whiskey is one of them. The WRMC ryes (which also gave birth to a regular expression), were packaged as a two pack of 375 ml bottles, one aged in new cooperage and one aged in used. The malts were annoyingly released as two seperate 750 ml bottles, which is why I never bought them or tried them and they kinda made me mad.

Despite all that baggage, I’m glad this experiment made it to prime time. This is a straight malt whiskey. That is, it is to malt what rye whiskey is to rye or bourbon is to corn. The recipe contains at least 51% malt and was aged in new charred oak for at least four years.

I give a lot of credit to Brown-Forman for releasing an American style malt instead of trying to ape Single Malt Scotch. I don’t see the point in US producers of any size trying to out-Scotch Scotch while the American straight malt whiskey category exists and has been moribund for so long. If this whiskey is any indication, there’s lots of potentional in the category.

$38 is a long way from $90 and a very fair price for this kind of quality. I like this whiskey a lot. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Malt is recommended.

Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky

Maker: Hood River Distillers, Pendleton, Oregon, USA

Distiller: Undisclosed Canadian distillery.

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $23

Appearance: light copper.

Nose: Alcohol, hot nagahyde, artificial lemon extract.

Palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Caramel, plum, burn.

Finish: Very sweet. Purple stuff.

Parting words: Growing up in Central Indiana, Pendleton meant the massive state prision in Pendleton, Indiana. In Oregon, Pendleton apparently means a massive rodeo. So how better to honor one of America’s largest sporting events than with…[checks notes]…a sourced Canadian blend?

Anyway, Hood River Distillers are best known for owning Clear Creek and McCarthy’s single malt, which I dumped out in a previous review. Bafflingly, Pendleton has a couple of line extensions as well, 1910 and Midnight, if you’re interested.

I’ve had worse Canadian whiskies, but they were all under $10 a bottle. Nothing irks this reviewer more than overpriced booze. I’d rather drink a gallon of awful but cheap whisky than one shot of overpriced whisky. To me, it’s the unforgivable sin.

Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky is not recommended.

Mari Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling, 2016

Maker: Mari Vineyards, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Irish Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling (100%)

Vintage: 2016

ABV: 10.5%

Notes: 22.5° brix at harvest, 4.2° residual sugar

Purchased for $28 (Winery)

Appearance: Very pale gold. Tiny bubbles visable after pouring.

Nose: Cut Granny Smith apple, pineapple, lemon thyme.

Palate: Full bodied, but not syrupy. Medium sweet. More tart apple, ripe peach, mango, limestone.

Finish: Sweet with a big hit of acid in the cheeks.

Parting words: Like the Mari Vineyards “Monastery”, everything that appears on Mari wine labels has some sort of symbolic meaning. The bird escaping the guilded cage on the Late Harvest Riesling label is meant to represent winemaker Sean O’Keefe’s professional journey. He left his family’s winery, Chateau Grand Traverse, in order to spread his wings and make his own wines at Mari. CGT more or less set the standard for Michigan Riesling and the O’Keefe’s are one of the first families of Michigan wine, hence the cage’s guilding.

Sean’s late harvest Reisling (English for Spätlese) is different stylistically from those produced by his family’s winery. He strives first and foremost for balance, something this style is not always known for. The wine is undeniably sweet, but that sweetness is balanced with acid, fruit and a pinch of minerality. In fact, Sean has been making his late harvest Rieslings drier with every vintage, and just today he promised that the 2019 will be the driest one he’s ever made, firmly in semi-dry territory. I can’t wait to taste it.

Mari’s wines are near the top end price-wise for Michigan but I’ve never been disappointed. I’d easily pay $28 for a high-quality Spätlese, so I have no qualms paying that much for a wine this good. It’s maybe the best LHR being made in Michigan. As a result 2016 Mari Vineyards Late Harvest Reisling is highly recommended.

Jack Daniels Rye

Maker: Jack Daniels, Lynchburg, Tennesee, USA (Brown-Forman)

Style: High rye (70%) straight rye whiskey

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $25

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Potpurri, leather, tarragon.

Palate: Full-bodied and medium sweet. Spearmint, cinnamon disks.

Finish: Shamrock Shake.

Mixed: Performed adequately in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned and in a highball.

Parting words: Long time readers will know that, generally speaking, I don’t like anything with Jack Daniels on the label. Despite that fact, perhaps in an effort to punish myself or as a service to you, dear readers.

Despite my poor expectations, this rye isn’t bad. It’s much better than the George Dickel rye, which was slapped together by running aged MGP rye through a large vat of charcoal. The result was a confused, maple-flavored mess. Brown-Forman took their time putting this rye whiskey together and it shows. Not that it’s great, but it’s a perfectly servicable rye, on par with Jim Beam or Rittenhouse rye at about the same price. For once I gotta hand it to JD. Jack Daniels Rye is recommended.