Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris

Maker: Trimbach¸Ribeauville, Alsace, France (Diageo)

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Region: Alsace

Vintage: 2005

ABV: 13%

Appearance:  Medium Gold with thick, persistent legs.

Nose: Pear, apple, tangerine, maybe a little wood.

On the palate: Full bodied. Like an annoying country music group: Big and rich. Pear, apple, and lavender. As it warms, citron, orange and the tangerine again.

Finish: Light, sweet, and citric. Lingers on the tongue and in the nose for what seems like an hour.

Parting Words: What can I say, this is an excellent wine. Pinot Gris is one of the specialties of Alsace and Trimbach knows how to put it together. Even at six years of age, this wine is vibrant, rich, and deep.  I wish I had more to say about this fantastic wine, but it has rendered me speechless. Highly recommended.

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Maker: Alltech Brewing, Lexington, Kentucky

Style: Barrel-aged ale

ABV: 8.19%

Appearance: Light amber with a decent foamy head.

Nose: Sweet, roasted grain, dry and tangy, sundried tomatoe, tiny bit of wood.

On the Palate:  Medium bodied and fizzy. Rich, more of that sweet tomato taste, roasted grain, vanilla.

Finish: The bourbon influence comes in here strongest. Sweet bourbon flavors jump out at the top: sweet corn, vanilla, a bit of spicey, fruity rye perhaps.

Parting words:  More bourbon than barrel, this ale tastes like a pre-mixed version of a boilermaker. The bourbon and ale flavors don’t fully integrate and they seem to be fighting each other on the tongue. This is where busyness overwhelms balance. Still, the result is pleasant enough if you like bourbon and ale. Worth a purchase.

Hatter Royale Hopquila

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Age: NAS (unaged)

ABV: 40%

Appearance: pale, hazy yellow with decent legs.

Nose: Raw spirit, maybe a hint of flowers.

On the palate: light, creamy taste, then just burn.

The finish: This is where the resemblance to tequila really blossoms, no pun intended. Citrus, spice, sweetness. Not complex, but interesting.

Mixed: Does very well in a “hopquila sunrise” with oj, ice, grenadine and orange bitters. OK in a “hoprita”, no worse than a standard mixto tequila. With an ice cube and a squeeze of lime, the sweetness and citrus notes come to the fore, almost turning it into lemonade.

Parting words: Hatter Royale is an unaged barley spirit  infused with centennial hops, giving it a tequila-esque floral aroma. I’m not sure if it will ever be anything other than a novelty, but it works on that level. It does best as an interesting alternative to a white or mixto tequila in summertime mixed drinks. It will never work as a substitute for a fine sipping tequila, but I don’t think it was intended to. Recommended for mixing.

Camelot Mead

Maker: Oliver Winery, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

ABV: 11%

Appearance: Light straw, like a chardonnay.

Nose: Honey (duh), apples, citrus blossoms.

On the palate: medium bodied, big sweetness, fruit juice, more floral notes, followed by a slightly bitter honey flavor.

Finish: Pretty light. The fruity sweetness lingers in the cheeks and frankly makes my teeth hurt a little.

Parting Words: Camelot is a good beginner’s mead. In fact, it was one of the first products ever produced by Oliver Winery when it began nearly forty years ago. It’s light and sweet, not too bitter, but still has a decent amount of honey character. Works well on its own or as a dessert wine. Not life-changing, but at under $10, it’s hard to complain too much. Recommended.

Very Special Old Fitzgerald

Maker: Heaven Hill, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Style: Wheated Bourbon

Age: 12 y/o

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Dark auburn with quick legs.

Nose: Burn, sweet taffy, caramel, pecans. With a splash of water, cola notes pop out.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Cherry pie, pecan pie, and mincemeat pie (in that order). The nutty notes get stronger and stronger as it sits in the glass, until they begin to taste more grapey, like in a brandy. Water doesn’t change any of this too much, except to bring the nutty notes forward more quickly.

Finish: surprisingly dry. Burn, then some bitter walnut flavors and a reserved sweetness.

Parting words: Very Special Old Fitzgerald (VSOF) doesn’t get much respect in bourbon circles these days. It never really has. It was originally a part of the Bourbon Heritage Collection in which it played second fiddle to the revered wheater Weller Centennial. Centennial was 10 y/o and 100 proof, whereas VSOF was and is 12 y/o and 90 proof. I’ve had VSOF from that era and they are mild to the point of being dull. VSOF wasn’t helped by the fact that it was preceded by Very Old Fitzgerald and Very Very Old Fitzgerald which are regarded by wheater enthusiasts as two of the greatest bourbons ever made. Bottles of VOF and VVOF routinely go for hundreds of dollars on Ebay.

Compared to its current rival from the Buffalo Trace, Weller 12 y/o (also 90 proof), it seems a bit sluggish and muddled. Weller 12 has a bright acidic note that cuts through the rich brandy flavors and brings the fruit to the fore. If VSOF is mincemeat pie, Weller 12 is apple pie. Both are good, but unfortunately for the folks at Heaven Hill, Weller 12 is usually at least $5 cheaper than VSOF. Nevertheless, if the price is right (≤$35) VSOF is recommended.

Venta Morales Tempranillo

Maker: ???

Series: Jorge Ordoñez select

Grape: Tempranillo

Region: La Mancha, Spain.

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Inky deep purple. Thin quick legs.

Nose: Fruity, slightly dry, dark, slightly tannic.

On the palate: sweet, slightly dry and woody, black cherries, black currant. Has a lot of depth, but goes down easy . Geez, is that all you people think about?

Finish: dry, tannic with a touch of fruit

Parting words: This wine is one of my go-to Spanish reds. Like I said above, it goes down easy, but has a fruity complexity that is lacking in most reds in that price range.

Spanish reds are generally an excellent value, but Venta Morales is a value among values. In most cases it’s under $10 for one bottle. I do take price into account when I review beverages. I try to review wines, beers, spirits and other things for what they are trying to be, not for what they are not. Venta Morales tries to be an excellent table wine at an inexpensive price, and it more than suceeds. Highly recommended, and the 2009 vintage is even more highly recommended.

Loch Down Scotch Ale

Maker: Arcadia, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

Style: Scotch Ale

ABV: 8%

Appearance: Dark coffee brown, with a good head with an ivory foam.

Nose: Caramel-chocolate chip brownies

On the palate: Full-bodied. A nice hit of bitter chocolate or maybe full city roast coffee. This is tempered by just the right amount of sweetness, to bring a smile to the drinker’s face, instead of a grimace. Very nicely done.

Parting Words: This is the last of our little run of Michigan-made Scotch ales and it’s nice to be ending on a high note. This is a fine, hearty, porter-esque Scotch ale that works well with food or as a meal in itself. When Arcadia plays to its strengths, British ales, it’s the finest brewery in Michigan. Highly recommended.

Signatory Vintage: Mortlach 1992

Maker: Mortlach, Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland (Owned by Diageo, Bottled by Signatory)

Region: Highland- Speyside (Dufftown)

Age: 17 y/o (distilled 3/6/92, bottled 8/5/09)

ABV: 43%

Appearance: Light gold (natural color). Thick, heavy legs.

Nose: Oak, alcohol, a bit of citrus.

On the palate: a surprising hit of heat, otherwise mild and creamy, with a lot of body. This is a heavyweight Speysider. A touch of honey is also present and it dovetails nicely with the bitter notes from the wood.

Finish: Heat at first, then after the burn, the oak comes in very pleasant but still assertive way. Very nice finish. It’s a delicate balance of burn, wood, honeyed sweetness, and maybe the faintest hint of smoke.

Parting words: Another excellent bottling from Signatory. While it’s certainly good in the nose and on the palate, it’s unremarkable except for its weight. The finish alone is worth the price of admission. Simply beautiful.


Maker: Bell’s, Comstock/Kalamazoo, Michigan

Style: Wheat Ale

ABV: 5.8%

Appearance: Cloudy gold with moderate head.

Nose: Sweet, floral.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Rounded and light, a little sweet and a little fruity but dry for a wheat ale overall. A nice hit of bitter hops on the back end.

Finish: the hops persist in the finish for a long time but eventually fade.

Parting Words: Oberon is Michigan’s best known and most celebrated beer. What makes it successful as a summer ale is that it does not have some of the off-putting (to some) aspects of wheat beers. It avoids being a “banana bomb”, like many wheat beers, with deft use of hops. The sweet fruitiness wheat brings to beer is present but kept in check. Oberon is old news to many Michigan microbrew enthusiasts but it remains one of America’s finest ales. Recommended. Summer wouldn’t taste like summer without it!

Ole Ore Dock Scottish Ale

Maker: Keweenaw, South Range, Michigan

Style: Scotch Ale

ABV: ???

Appearance: Medium hazy brown. Nice, but not obnoxious head.

Nose: Fruity and sweet but pretty mild.

On the palate: vVry tangy like tomato ketchup. Nearing the finish a bitter note runs out of the bushes, slaps you in the face and then
runs away laughing.

Finish: The finish is mercifully short and unremarkable.

Parting Words: First let me say that I have loved everything else I have ever had from Keweenaw. That said, this is an awful beer. It’s like drinking cheap, over-sweet, half-spoiled tomato ketchup, but worse. Buy loads of beer from Keweenaw, but don’t buy this until it gets fixed. Terrible.