Domaine de Font-Sane Vielles Vignes

Maker: C. Peysson & Son, Gigondas, France

Grapes: 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah/Shiraz

Region: Ventoux AOC, Vaucluse, Rhone Valley, France.

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Deep plum.

Nose: A bit of oak, lightly sweet and grapey. Pluot plums, black raspberries.

On the palate: Semi-dry. Easy going, sweet and mild upon entrance, but turns chewy. Strawberries, Black raspberries, blueberries, plums, then oak and leather.

Finish: Fruity and woody. Faintly lingers for a long while, but who wants to let it? Pour yourself another glass quick!

Parting Words: Domaine de Font-Sane Vielles Vignes is an easy drinking, but fairly complex red Rhone. Fruity but tannic and assertive. It is very food friendly. I would almost say it tastes even better with food. And it’s cheap to boot. This was a supermarket wine guy recommendation, and I must say I will be asking for another recommendation from that guy very soon.. Domaine de Font-Sane Vielles Vignes Ventoux earns a recommendation.

New Amsterdam Gin

Maker: E & J Gallo, Modesto, California, USA

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Crystal Clear

Nose: Alcohol, cucumber, cardamom, cassia, orange peel

On the palate: full-bodied and sweet. Candied orange, juicy fruit gum, lime peel.

Finish: Very sweet and a little tingly.

Mixed: Does well in almost everything. Best suited to Tom Collins and Gin & Tonics. Does OK in negronis. Makes for a sweet martini, which is ok but not my preference.

Parting words: New Amsterdam is a servicable gin that does well in applications that call for sour or bitter ingredients that can balance out its sweetness. It comes in a stylish bottle that makes the gin look higher on the shelf than it is. For a gin that sells for under $15 retail, it does well. My expectations were met. Can’t complain. New Amsterdam gets a mild recommendation.

Southern Belle Shiraz

Maker: R Wines (now bankrupt), location ???, Australia

Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia

Grape: Shiraz/Syah

Vintage: 2008

ABV: ??%

Appearance: Very dark purple, nearly black.

Nose: Black currant, concord grape jelly, plum, pecan, nutmeg.

On the palate: Not what I was expecting from a wine with such a typical Shiraz nose. Fairly light. The pecans have come to the fore. Little tannin, but softly sweet like the previous occupant of its barrel. Strawberries, vanilla, black currant, caramel, toffee.

Finish: Sweet and mild. Lingers on the lips like a faint hint of a stolen kiss. Faint barrel notes on the back end.

Parting Words: What makes this wine remarkable is its finish. It is not only finished in a bourbon barrel, but in a barrel out of which had come Pappy Van Winkle 20 y/o bourbon, one of the most expensive and most sought-after bourbons on the market. I had this when it was first released and it was really all over the place. Not a fun drinking experience. Like any true Southern Belle, this wine has aged gracefully. The flavors are much more integrated and she has grown into a refined, sophisticated lady.

Southern Belle is gone from the  store shelves, but bottles can still be found in private cellars if one asks around. A delight from top to luscious bottom, Southern Belle Shiraz is highly recommended.

Thanks to Oscar for cracking his open and getting me a sample.

Imperial Funky Monky

Maker: B.Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan, USA

Style: Cherry Melomel

ABV: 12%

Notes: Hopped

Appearance: Fizzy burgundy.

Nose: Honey, cherry, not much else.

On the palate: Medium-bodied, lighter than expected. Quite sweet. Lots of cherry, with the cherry’s tartness balanced off by the bitter notes from the honey. Honey also adds sweetness, of course and there’s lots and lots of it in here. Also a bit of a concord grape juice taste.

Finish: Sweet, not much else.

Parting words: This stuff is supposed to be hopped, but for the life of me I can’t find hops anywhere in the mix. To call Funky Monky one-dimensional would be wrong, but it’s not very complex either. Just a lot of cherry with a bit o’ honey. I think they were going for something like a cherry lambic (called a Kriek), given the monk angle. It works as a fun, funky warm-weather dessert wine and it’s priced like one. I just wish there was more going on. Imperial Funky Monky is mildly recommended.

Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac

Maker: Delord Family, Armagnac, France

Region: Bas Armagnac, Gers, France

Age: 6 y/o

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Auburn with thick, heavy legs.

Nose: Pungent, rustic, but rounded nose. Solera sherry, prunes, plum eau de vie.

On the palate: Very full-bodied, boozy and sweet. Raisins, prunes, star anise, clove. A tiny tannic hit of oak.

Finish: Warm and dry with a little more oak. Plenty of heat that seems to get more intense after a swallow.

Parting words: Armagnac has long been Cognac’s lesser known older brother, but the upside of that is while Cognac is dominated by big foreign-owned producers (the product of the British love of Cognac), Armagnac is still filled with family producers like the Delords.

This is the first brandy I’ve reviewed for this blog, and it was a fun one. Brandy is not something I drink a lot of, especially in the warmer months, but even on an 80 degree day Marie Duffau was a pleasant companion. She’s brash and spicy, but I’ve always enjoyed the company of such ladies. The Delord family makes a full line of Armagnac, all of which are very good according to bandy-loving friends of mine. Being a younger expression, this one is also a good value and a nice introduction to the flavor profile of Armagnac. Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac is recommended.

Bernheim Original Straight Wheat Whiskey

Maker: Heaven Hill, Louisville/Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Copper with thick clingy legs.

Nose: Alcohol, whole wheat bread, raisins.

On the palate: Medium-bodied, dry and subtle. Raisin toast, buttermilk biscuits, shortcake.

Finish: Slightly fruity, a little cinnamon, then fades softly.

Parting words: Bernheim Original came into being when Heaven Hill took over the Old Fitzgerald brand of wheated bourbons. For the first time in history, Heaven Hill was working with wheat, so why not try something different? They decided to name it Bernheim to honor the founder of their new distillery (or at least its immediate predecessor) in Louisville. If you’re ever in Nelson County, Kentucky, you can see I.W. and Mrs. Bernheim’s graves in the Bernheim Forest, a beautiful arboretum on land donated by the man himself.

My tasting notes are simple tasting notes because this is a simple whiskey. This is not a bad thing, but before you drink this keep that in mind. Rye whiskey has loads of flavor and character because of all the flavor rye brings to the party. Wheat and Corn have less flavor so Corn and Wheat whiskeys have less flavor. Bernheim Original is the only straight wheat whiskey being made by a major distiller, so there’s not much to compare it to. The whiskey to compare it with, in my opinion, is one of Heaven Hill’s aged corn whiskeys like Mellow Corn or Dixie Dew, rather than a wheated bourbon. The subtle, simple flavors of an aged corn are similar to the simplicity of wheat whiskey.

Bernheim Original works in Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, but some of its more delicate flavors can get lost. It works best as a refreshing summer afternoon sipper. And it’s at a reasonable price. Bernheim Original is recommended.

M. Lawrence Green

Maker: M. Lawrence/L. Mawby, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Cayuga, Vidal


Style: Extra Sec

Vintage: NV (Batch 1, current label shown)

ABV: 10%

Appearance: Very pale gold with bubbles that won’t quit.

Nose: Very light and dry. Golden Delicious apples, white grapefruit.

On the palate: Dry and clean. Crisp apple and grapefruit, as above. A bit of limestone and chalk.

Finish: More mineral notes and a slighl tang. Apple, underripe pear, white peach.

Parting words: Do one thing and do it well is an official motto of Leenlenau’s L. Mawby winery. They do nothing but sparkling wines. The L. Mawby label is used for their estate, methode champenoise wines and M. Lawrence is used for non-estate wines made with the cuve close method. The Mawby wines all have fairly staid names. The M. Lawrence line has attention-grabbing names like Fizz, Wet, Sex, Detroit, and of course, Green.

Nothing green about Green. It’s a crisp, clean, off-dry sparkler with a French accent. If I had not visited the website I would never have guessed that Cayuga and Vidal grapes were used in the production of Green. There is not a fox in sight.

Green works best on its own or as an aperitif. It might even work with mild fish, chicken or mildly seasoned pork. Green is recommended.


Maker: Shorts, Bellaire, Michigan, USA

Style: IPA

ABV: 6.55%

Appearance: Slightly hazy copper.

Nose: Effervescent, fruity, floral.

On the palate: full-bodied, very bitter and hoppy. Lemon pepper, hay, urn with dead flowers in a drained pool.

Finish:  Floral and bitter moving to just straight up bitterness

Parting words: It says a lot about the hop-mania the nation is in the grip of that this hop-monster is considered by some to be between an IPA and a Pale Ale. I taste very little in this beer other than hops, and I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of IPAs. But this  grew on me after a while, I must admit. It reminds me a lot of Two-hearted ale, but with a more aggressive edge. ControversALE gets a recommendation, if only because I know others will love this one.

Buehler Zinfandel

Maker: Buehler Vineyards, St. Helena, California, USA

Grape: Zinfandel

Style: Red

Region: Napa Valley AVA, Napa County, California, USA

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 14.5%

Appearance: Dark, deep plum.

Nose: Black currant, oak, blueberry jam, whiff of smoke.

On the palate: Fruity, strawberry. Lightly sweet, a bit fleshy.

Finish: slightly tart, leather, a hint of oak smoke.

Parting Words: At its best, California Zinfindel is something like this. It has the finesse and complexity of a red Burgundy and the drinkability of a Côtes du Rhône. This is a fairly complex, but easy-going wine, a bit surprising for something with its ABV percentage. It goes well with food but its more subtle notes might get lost in the shuffle. Not much else to say, but Buehler Zin comes recommended.

B. Nektar Orange Blossom Mead

Maker: B. Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan, USA

ABV: 12-14%

Appearance: Bright gold

Nose: Sweet, orange peel, lemon, orange blossom.

On the palate: Full-bodied, sweet. Orange blossoms (duh), lavender, tarragon, bay.

Finish: A bit of fruit, then a long, clingy, honeyed bitterness.

Parting words: This one is slightly different from the wildflower mead, but I don’t think I would do well in a Pepsi challenge situation. This bottle has been open for a while, but I haven’t detected much, if any, change in the flavors or aromas. This would support the bottle’s assertion that it ages well. Maybe I’ll buy another bottle to lay down to test that hypothesis. At any rate, this is a well-crafted, well-balanced, straight-ahead Orange Blossom Mead. Recommended.