Now Drinking

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Riesling

Grape: Riesling

Region: Southeast Australia

Vintage: 2006

ABV: 12%

Maker: McWilliam’s, ???, Australia (owned by ???)

One of the great aspects of wine is something called terroir.  Basically, this means that the wine reflects, in some way, the place in which it was grown.  The vine takes up different nutrients in the soil, it reacts to the climate and the weather, etc.  This has an impact on the grapes, and thus on the wine.  Certain grape varieties simply grow better in different places, and don’t do well in other places.

Riesling is a grape that was traditionally grown in Germany, Austria and Eastern France, and now has been grown sucessfully in the Northwestern and Northastern U.S. and Southern Canada.  It is late to bud (good in places with late frosts) and does well in moderate climates like those around the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Europe and the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest in North America.

When one thinks of cool, moderate climates, the country of Australia does not come to mind.  Neither does the state of California.  I’ve sampled a couple California Rieslings with the thought that if they’re growing it there, surely it can’t be THAT bad.  Both times I was proved wrong.

When I saw this Australian Riesling in a grocery store bargain bin I thought the same thing.  Sure New South Wales has an average July (winter) high of 60 degrees, and January (summer) high of 95 degrees (compare the same for Strasbourg, France and Traverse City, Michigan), but they wouldn’t grow it or sell it if it wasn’t half bad!

It actually wasn’t half bad.  It was all bad.  When a first opened the bottle it was just kind of dull, and lifeless, like the fruit-flavored water my wife enjoys.  But the longer it sat and the more it opened up, the worse it got.

The nose is remiscent of state park shower stalls: an earthy combo of lake water and dirt with a faint hint of urine.  On the palate it’s weak and limp, like watery lemonade made from artificially flavored powder.  The finish is sharp, with notes of gasoline.

Some of McWilliam’s reds have gotten fairly good reviews online.  Maybe they’re ok, but as for the Riesling, terroir really does matter.  Avoid at all costs or serve to someone you despise.

Good News!

Good news for micro-brew lovers!  Milking It brewery in Royal Oak, MI now has its products in finer party and grocery stores in Southeastern Michigan, in pint CANS, no less.  I’m a big fan of the Axl Pale Ale.  Pick up a six pack.  Yes, now.

Now Drinking

Powers 12 yo/o Irish Whiskey

Age: 12 y/o

Proof: 80

Maker: Midleton Distillery, Midleton (Cork), Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

I drink very little Scotch, but I drink even less Irish whiskey.  This is because most of the Irish I’ve tasted has been really, really boring.  But, encouraged by positive reviews of a few Irish whiskeys in my first issue of Malt Advocate a few months ago, I’ve decided to branch out.

I picked up a bottle of this a few weeks ago, as the beginning of a spot in my rotation for finer Irish Whiskeys.  I’ve had the standard Powers Gold Label before and while it does have some character, it was still very dull and had a nasty grain whiskey aftertaste.  Powers is made a the same distillery as Jameson, Midleton, Redbreast and Paddy’s. 

The extra years in the barrel have greatly improved this Powers.  I drank it with one ice cube, and now I’m doing it again.  There is a LOT of bourbon in the nose, but of course I think this is a very good thing.  Behind the bourbon is a nice fruitiness, lots of mango and buttery papaya.  It’s complemented by a bit of toffee.

On the palate the toffee jumps out at first, then it’s followed by more mango and some mandarin orange and a nice bit of burn (shocking in an Irish).  The finish is surprisingly dry, with a parting glance from the mango.  Another light, but flavorful, summer sipper.

Powers 12 only became available in the U.S. this year.  I hope it sticks around, because it’s not doing a very good job sticking around my house.

Now Drinking

Ecker-Eckhof Grüner Veltliner

Grape: Grüner Veltliner

Region: Wagram, Donauland, Austria

Maker: Ecker-Eckhof, Kirchberg am Wagram, Austria


ABV: 12%

Grüner Veltliner (nicknamed GruVe) is a grape with a mysterious history.  According to wikipedia it has been connected to the Traminer grape and a mysterious grape found in an ancient, overgrown Austrian vineyard.  At any rate, it is grown primary in Austria and the Czech Republic.

There are GruVe wines at all sorts of price levels and levels of age-worthiness.  This one is on the lower end, but still quite good.  When I first opened the bottle, I had to re-check the bottle to make sure I wasn’t drinking sparkling mineral water.  There is a good deal of fizz in this wine, not too far off from the young Portugese wine called Vinho Verde which is often a little “lively” as well.  The minerality is really what dominated the wine at first.  I felt like I was chewing on a piece of limestone.

The bottle is a liter bottle, so I naturally didn’t drink it all at one sitting.  After a day or so in my fridge, it began to settle down a bit.  The minerals retreated and a grapefruity acidity sauntered into the gap.  Now it tastes more like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc than a Vihno Verde, albeit a young Sauv Blanc.  At any rate, an enjoyable wine, but I’m not sure if I would buy it again.  If you like a stoney wine, though, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it more than I.

Now Drinking


Ingredients: Boomsma Jonge Genever, Noilly Pratt Original Dry Vermouth

Makers: Boomsma, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Noilly Prat, Marseillan, France

Garnish: lime-stuffed olive

This a definately a different kinda martini.  Although made with gin and dry white French vermouth, there’s very little dry about it.  If it were a musical, it would be La cage aux folls; its Big, sweet and fruity.  Kinda of like a slightly herbal, higher abv kool-aid.  But in a good way.  Peaches, apricots, oranges, a bit of leftover licorice.  Too bad this this the last couple ounces of my Boomsma gin.  This is mad yummy.

Now Drinking

Gin & Tonic

Ingredients: Boomsma Jonge Genever, Q Tonic water

Garnish: Lime wedge

Makers: Boomsma, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Q Tonic, Brooklyn, New York.

Boomsma Jonge Genever is a Dutch-style gin.  For those who may not know, gin is vodka (grain spirit) infused with certain traditional botanicals, like juniper.  As with most liquors, there are a number of different styles of gin, although with gin, the differences are more subtle.  If this one is any indication, Genever is heavier bodied than London dry gins.  Smelled and tasted neat, the traditional juniper scent of English gins seems to be practically non-existant.  Delicate orange peel and licorice are leading the way here, but more by example than by force.

Q Tonic is a specialty tonic water that claims to be a return to traditional tonic water.  It uses real quinine, a substance found in the bark of a South American tree called the cinchona, and agave nectar rather than high fructose corn syrup.  Q tonic is much more citrusy than mass-market tonics, although whether that is a result of the quinine or the lemon juice added to it.  It has a nice bitter finish, like a good tonic should.

But of course the point is to have them together.  They are a good match for each other, and for the ice and the lime.  The gin comes through on the nose and upon entry.  The sour-bitter of the tonic is a perfect complement to the orange peel and licorice of the gin.  If one might dare to say such a thing about a G & T, it’s a triumph.  I’ve had this gin with the standard supermarket tonics and the sweetness of the tonic overwhelms the delicate botanicals of the gin.  Not so with Q.  It elevates this humble drink to another level.

Now Drinking

Woodchuck Summer Cider (Limited Release)

Maker: Green Mountain Cidery, Middlebury, Vermont.

ABV: 5%

Wow, I hadn’t realized that it had been this long since I posted!  Well I haven’t stopped drinking, but I have stopped writing.  So let’s remedy that right now shall we?

This cider is the special summer release for Woodchuck.  The bottle is mostly blue.  Initially I thought it was just to project a cool summer image of lakeside living.  But as it turns out there’s another reason.  As their website states,

“If there was going to be an official drink for the summer season, it would be our Limited Release Summer Cider. It was inevitable; we were going to come up with a Summer Cider at some point, mostly because the two just fit together so nicely. Our Summer Cider is light, crisp, and leaves the tingle of fresh-picked Blueberries on the tip of your tongue.

“Blueberries are a New England tradition that everyone looks forward to. They’re found in the cool shady spots off the trail when you least expect it. You’ve got to hunt for them, but the reward of sweet Blueberries on a hot summer afternoon is not to be forgotten. Neither is the stain they leave on your shirt.”

Wow, what a cool New England tradition!  I’ve never heard of those before, what are they called again?, blue berries?  Wow, us midwestern slobs have nothing like that around here!

All sarcasm aside, I did sense something a little different about this cider when I first tried it but I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time.  It’s a testament to how seriously the folks at Green Mountain take their produce.  The cider itself is a pale straw color (not some blue kool-aid color) and the blueberry is subtle but adds a perfect tang to the finish and to the nose.  Like blueberries, this cider has the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.  As a refreshing summer drink, it suceeds wildly.  Buy some.

Now Drinking

Pelee Island Winery Late Autumn Riesling

Vintage: 2007

Grape: Riesling

ABV: 12%

Region: Pelee Island VQA

Maker: Pelee Island Winery, Kingsville, Ontario

Yes, Canada does produce wine.  Most of it is in southern British Columbia or southern Ontario.  In Ontario, the Niagra penninsula, between lake Ontario and the Niagra river.  Pelee Island is the southernmost point in Canada.  It is an island in Lake Erie south of the Pennisula known as Point Pelee.  It’s a unique enviroment, being an island in a large inland body of water.  It is are famous for ice wine, but Pelee produces an impressive array of table wines as well.

The wine is light gold.  Three years in the bottle no doubt contributed a great deal to its present color, that’s is close to the upper limit for Rieslings.  The nose is rich, heavy on the apples and apricots.  It’s fairly heavy on the palate, too, for a Riesling.

 But when I first opened the bottle, the sweetness of it shocked me.  Since it is labeled as a “Late Autumn Riesling” I expected it to be sweet, but this is a different kinda sweet.  It tastes like there has been sucrose, table sugar, added.  This is not a rare thing, it’s even done in Riesling’s home turf, Germany, but it tends to be something of a distraction.  This is done to sweeten up wines that may not have had enough time to fully ripen on their own, a chronic problem in places like Canada and Northern Europe, even for a late bloomer like Riesling.  Nevertheless, after a sit in the fridge overnight, this sugary sweetness has disapated (or I’ve gotten used to it) and it now seems to be much more drinkable.  The apple has taken the lead, though, Paula or Gala apples specifically.

Overall, not a bad wine for drinking on its own, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth.