Bubbly Nouveau

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay/Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Muscat, Cayuga

Region: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Style: Carbonated White Wine

Vintage: 2011 (different vintage pictured)

ABV: 7%

Appearance: Very pale, practically clear, with nice, spritely persistent bubbles.

On the palate: Sweet and foxy. The Muscat and Cayuga make their presence plainly known but are restrained (barely). Table grapes, Granny Smith apples with a hint of perfume and persimmon.

Finish: Tart and tingly but mellows within 20 seconds or so.

Parting Words: Bubbly Nouveau is a fleeting annual release from BSF. As one might expect from the name, it is recommended that this one be consumed promptly. I can’t imagine it getting much tarter than this and being enjoyable. Not everybody enjoys foxy native grape wines or Muscat but I do. This is a fun, rustic American wine that doesn’t require a lot of attention and is best drunk fast and early. Recommended.

NOTE: The original version of this review stated that Riesling was also used to make the 2011 vintage of Bubbly Nouveau. That is not correct. Thanks for the correction, @bstar2009!

White Horse Blended Whisky

Maker: Diageo, London, England, UK

Age: NAS

ABV: 80%

Appearance: Coppery caramel. Thin legs.

Nose: toffee, corn syrup, wildflowers.

On the palate: Thin, a bit of burn, caramel, some floral, maybe even peaty notes.

Finish: Sweet. Lots of vanilla with a bit of burn and some toffee.

Parting Words: I dunno what to think about this one really. On the one hand, it’s a cheap blend that is certainly worth what I paid for it, on the other hand, hearing that it contained Lagavulin Single Malt, my expectations were higher. The Islay influence is certainly there but in a very subtle way. In the end, I think White Horse is a serviceable bottom-shelf blend, and worth a mild recommendation.

Big Dick’s Olde Ale

Maker: Arcadia Ales, Battle Creek, Michigan

Style: Old Ale

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 9%

I reviewed this ale early on in the life of this blog, but I was curious about how it has changed since I first tasted.

Appearance: Monstrous head, overflowed my glass. Hazy, medium brown, like iced tea.

Nose: Sweet and fruity, not much in the way of toasty flavors, but a hint of bitterness lies behind the fruit.

On the palate: Medium bodied. A bit of toasty malt comes through here. It’s fruity and dry at the same time, like a middle-aged Cabernet. Even after close to an hour in my mug, it is still effervescent. Maybe more like a brut champagne now. I guess my point is that this is very winey ale.

Finish: Fruity and sweet. Slow effervescent tingle and a hit of bitterness. A tiny bit of green tea and gum drops.

Parting Words: This beer is like the kind of significant other you want as an adult: sweet, elegant and sophisticated. There is little suggestion of the ruthless, violent, absentee king Big Dick’s Olde Ale is named after. This is a great, flawlessly crafted beer. Highly Recommended.

Black Star Farms 10 year old Apple Brandy

Age: 10 y/o

ABV: 42.7%

Appearance: Copper with thick clingy legs

Nose: alcohol, mulled cider, apple pie, cardamom, lemon juice, apple sauce with sweet cinnamon, brown butter

On the palate: full-bodied. Sweet brown sugar, a good amount of burn, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom and tart apples.

Finish: warm, dry, that sweet cinnamon again, reminding me of my grandmother’s homemade apple sauce.

Parting Words: This a fantastic spirit. The standard Black Star Farms Apple Brandy is a pleasant sipper that performs nicely in cocktails and in mulled cider. But this 10 y/o apple brandy reaches sublime hights. Black Star Farms’ 10 y/o apple brandy was aged in a new toasted oak barrel, like those used for wine. This results in a spirit that, even at 10 y/o, still has a lot of crisp apple character. It is on par with a fine cognac or Armagnac and is best sipped neat or with a little water in a snifter or Glencairn glass.

There are few micro-distilling outfits that have been in business long enough to offer a 10 y/o product that they made themselves. Even some that are approaching that number have not been putting any back for longer aging. Black Star Farms had the foresight to let this brandy lay. It’s not cheap, I paid $75 at the tasting room for my bottle, but unlike most $75 whiskeys, this stuff is worth every penny. Highly Recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Laika

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Old Mission Peninsula , Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Grüner Veltliner (GruV for short)

Region: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.8%

Color: fairly dark gold.

Nose: Big, rich and peary. Surprising amount of fruit.

On the palate: Surprisingly dry and flinty, with a hint of tangerine. Full-bodied for a white of this type.

Finish: Lingering minerality with little sweetness.

Parting words: According to CGT, when their vineyard site on Old Mission Peninsula was first surveyed for grape variety possibilities, GruV came up as one of the suggestions. The 2009 vintage was their first shot at the variety, hence the name Laika, after the Russian Space Dog who was the first mammal in space. But this is no dog of a wine. If I had a complaint it would be that the fruity nose followed by the flinty dry taste are too jarring in the same wine. It does not have the elegant dryness of fine Austrian GruV, but on the whole Laika should be judged a success. It raises interesting possibilities for New World cultivation of this signature grape of Austria. Recommended.

Not many bottles of this were produced, so if you see some, get it! Better yet, buy one to drink now and one to cellar like I did.

Chateau Chantal Malbec Reserve

Maker: Chateau Chantal, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Malbec

Region: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14.5%

Appearance: Dark inky purple with long quick gams. Throws some intense amounts of sediment around.

Nose: Woody, intense, grapey. Almost like a Port or a Gran Reserva Rioja.

On the palate: Medium-bodied,  intense and grapey. Mildly tannic, coats the mouth. A powerful wine that stands up to rich food very well, but you don’t feel like you’re being punched in the face or about to fall off your chair either.

Finish: Fruity, like Concord grape jelly, but without the foxiness. The sediment coats the mouth and lingers for a long time.

Parting words: This is not a terribly complex wine, but it’s very good. Argentina’s Mendoza region is firing on all cylinders right now and Malbec, an old Bordeaux variety, is its flagship grape. Chateau Chantal owns a vineyard in Argentina and imports its wine to sell here. High-end Malbec can age for 10-15 years but most lower-end and middle-range ones are just fine after 2-4 years in the bottle, like this one. Michigan is not known for Bordeaux-varietal reds, but Chateau Chantal has found a great way to offer an excellent one to its customers. Recommended.