Left Foot Charley 2010 Riesling- Dry

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling

Style: Dry

Place of origin: The Terminal Moraine, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan

Vintage: 2010

Notes: Single vineyard, estate wine. Harvested 10/12/10. 22 Brix at harvest. pH 3.00, TA (?) 8g/L, 1% residual sugar.

ABV: 12.1%

Appearance: Pearly straw.

Nose: Dry but fruity. Under ripe peach, lychee, gravel, fresh squeezed orange juice.

On the palate: Medium bodied and slightly citric. Meyer lemon, lemon thyme, limestone, peach. Shades of Pfalz.

Finish: A little citric, a little sweet, but mostly dry and mineral.

Parting Words: Old Mission Peninsula is currently producing the best Rieslings in Eastern North America. Old Mission can more than hold their own against Rieslings from California and the Pacific Northwest. Left Foot Charley is one of the wineries leading the pack. Their grapes come from Old Mission, but their winery is on the campus of a former insane asylum (no joke!) in Traverse City proper. Don’t let that or the silly name scare you, LFC makes world class wines and ciders of all styles, often with price tags to match.

This wine is described as dry on the label, and it is that, but the label gets a little defensive of the wine’s statistical claim to be dry. Too much math for me, but on the first sip I was instantly reminded of dry Central European Riesling. It is not the bone-chilling dry of an Austrian Riesling but it has a bracing minerality that one does not expect from Michigan. It goes well with food (had mine with grilled sea scallops) but you may find yourself distracted by the wine. Left Foot Charley’s 2010 Dry Riesling is highly recommended.

Nicie Spicie

Maker: Short’s, Elk Rapids, Michigan, USA

Style: Spiced wheat ale

ABV: 4.5%

Appearance: Dark straw, cloudy and foamy.

Nose: Moroccan spicy. Coriander, Meyer lemon, hint of white pepper.

On the palate: Light bodied with lots of spice tempered with a little wheat character. Coriander, faint hints of citrus. Maybe even a little creamy.

Finish: Sweet and slightly fruity. Fades fairly quickly.

Parting words: This is a summer limited release from shorts in the vein of spiced wheat ales like Whitsun. The spice dries out (in a good way) the normally fruity wheat beer profile. It’s a fun drink, especially in late summer when thoughts of pumpkin ale are in the air. Another good solid offering from Short’s. If I have a criticism it’s that the coriander is a little too strong. I would have appreciated more citrus and pepper. At any rate, Nicie Spicie is recommended.

The Botanist

Maker: Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland, UK

Style: Dry Gin

ABV: 46%

Appearance: Crystal clear

Nose: Vaguely rustic. Juniper, heather, sweet angelica.

On the palate: Full-bodied and well balanced. Dry on first entry, but then skewing sweet. Classic gin botanical notes, but few stand out. Also, as in the nose, a vaguely earthy, rustic taste on the back end, maybe a hint of seaweed and rainy beach.

Finish: Sweet, then dry, then herbal and fruity. Raisins, figs, thyme.

Mixed: Works well in most drinks. Gets the job done in a Tom Collins and a Gin & Tonic. Works fine in a Negroni too, but seems wasted in the above three drinks. In a dry martini it really shines, but go easy on the vermouth. My usual ration is 2:1 gin to vermouth. When using the Botanist, consider something like 4-5:1. It will taste fine the other way, but this gin has so many beautiful nuances, you’ll want to make sure the Botanist is leading all the way.

Parting words: The Botanist is made by Bruichladdich (Brew-kladdy), a (formerly) independent whisky distillery on the isle of Islay in the Hebrides islands in Scotland. It thinks of itself as “progressive”, though the way they make this gin seems more retro than prog. Bu that’s a good thing. In addition to what they call the traditional nine botanicals used in dry British gins, 22 herbs and spices are gathered from around Islay, including some native juniper.

At any rate this is an excellent gin, one of the few I’ve had that I can actually enjoy neat. It is subtle, complex and all around delicious. The Botanist is highly recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé

Maker: Black Star Farms, Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan

Grape: Pinot Noir

Region: Montaña Rusa  & Capella, Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance:  Pale, grayish pink.

Nose: Dry. Cedar, peach, thyme, heather.

On the palate: Dry and refreshing. Cedar chips, sweet woodruff, pluot plum, rosemary.

Finish: Clean and, surprise, dry. Slightly sweet and tangy, then fading quickly.

Parting words: Rosé still has a bad reputation among some casual wine drinkers. Sticky sweet white Zinfindel comes to mind. That attitude is starting to change, though, and “serious” rosé like this are leading the way.

What makes this wine serious? First of all, its dryness. This is not a pop wine, this is a mealtime wine. Grilled pork or turkey, not potato chips. Second, connected with its dryness, is its ABV. 12% is an alcohol level that demands attention. Third, and most important, is its character. It is full of varietal and terroir distinctiveness. The cedar/rosemary notes are, in my mind, the hallmarks of fine Northern Michigan red wine (and well-made pinks!). This wine is not the product of a single-vineyard but of two, Capella and Montaña Rusa, both on Old Mission Peninsula. The label touts this as a summertime red wine alternative. It is that, but it deserves to be considered on its own merits as a legitimate style of Pinot Noir.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I won’t. Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé is highly recommended.

Chateau de Leelanau Cherry Wine

Maker: Chateau de Leenenau, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA

Region: Michigan, USA

ABV: 9.5%

Appearance: Translucent brick red. Like a ruby or unscooped raspberry or cherry jelly in a glass jar.

Nose: Slightly tart cherries, sweetness.

On the palate: Light-bodied and sweet. Sweet cherries, a touch of tartness. Not much else going on.

Finish: Sweet and light. Slightly tart.

Parting words: After tasting what Black Star Farms, Chateau Chantal and St. Julian do with their cherry wines, Chateau de Leenlenau is a disappointment. It’s not unpleasant. It could hit the spot on a hot afternoon or evening if properly chilled. But Michigan cherry wine can be so much more interesting than this. Sadly this wine was the best one at the tasting room, too. The folks at CDL are nice people, but I can’t bring myself to recommend this wine. There are better options for your cherry wine dollar.

Georges Buthet & Fils Fendant 2008

Maker: Georges Buthet & Fils, Valais, Switzerland.

Grape: Fendant (Chasselas Blanc)

Region: Vétroz ,Valais ROC, Valais Canton, Switzerland

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 11.4%

Appearance: Straw. Not much in the way of a robe.

Nose: Surprisingly fruity. Pineapple, mango, ripe peach, apricot.

On the palate: On first open, much more fruit forward than I was expecting. The nose definitely followed through on the palate. After a couple days chilling in the fridge, it has become drier. Still some tropical fruit, but balanced with a flinty taste I would expect in an Alpine wine.

Finish:  The finish is quite dry. Maybe a little grapefruit, but not much else in the way of fruit. A vegetal note creeps in at the end, like thyme.

Parting words: This is the first Swiss wine I’ve purchased or even tasted for that matter. The Swiss produce a lot of wine, but they drink even more. As a result, not much Swiss wine makes its way out of the country.

All that to say that I don’t have any knowledge of other Swiss whites to which to compare to this one. The fruit in this bottle was a pleasant surprise. It is easy drinking and goes pretty well with a meal but would probably work better with an afternoon snack of crackers, fruit and mild cheese on a warm afternoon. The fact that this wine is still very drinkable at a relatively advanced age is a testament to something. The grape? The winemaker? The vintage? If I knew more about Swiss wine I might be able to pin it down. As a bonus, the label is very artsy and attractive too. Georges Buthet & Fils 2008 Fendant is recommended.

Narragansett Summer Ale

Maker: Narragansett Brewing Co., Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Brewed: Genesee Brewing, Rochester, New York, USA (North American Breweries)

Style: American Blonde Ale

ABV: 4.2%

Note: Pint cans.

Thanks: to Jennifer & Pete for this can.

Appearance: Pale gold with a big foamy head.

Nose: Bright. Some hops, orange, lemon grass.

On the palate: Easy-drinking and light. Pilsner-like. Bright, hoppy, slightly floral with maybe a touch of lemon.

Finish: Pleasant. Long and bitter.

Parting words: This beer was brought to me by a couple friends who were vacationing in Cape Cod and this was their go-to beer for the trip. It’s not bad for what it is. It’s simple and easy. It’s light, refreshing beach fare, like a pulp novel. Narragansett Summer Ale gets a mild recommendation.