Left Foot Charley Gewürztraminer

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USALFC Gewurz

Place of origin: Manigold Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 13%

Price: $20

Appearance: Light gold with not much in the way of legs, but that may be down to the glass.

Nose: White peach, Bosc pear, a pinch of curry powder and white pepper, woodruff and fresh thyme.

Palate: Medium bodied and medium dry. Spice moving to white grapefruit and unripe mulberry.

Finish: Fairly dry with some bitterness on the tail end. Lingers for a good long while.

Parting words: The Manigold vineyard is known for producing excellent Gewürz (Peninsula Cellars has also made Gewürz from this vineyard) and this is a very good example from a very good vintage.

The back label has a puzzling apology for “obnoxiously loud” LFC Gewürz of the past and hails their return to Manigold vineyards, albeit a different slope. The whole thing is curious but it is nice to have such detail right on the back of the bottle. Also included is the name of the growers, a description of the plot the grapes came from, harvest date and sugar levels at harvest and residual sugar.

This wine certainly isn’t obnoxious. The nose is rich with fruit, spice and herbs and enough sweetness and acidity to keep it all in balance. Like most Gewürz it goes very well with food, especially roast chicken and even Asian cuisine. The price is good for a single vineyard wine from OMP. 2011 Left Foot Charley Gewürztraminer earns a recommendation.

Head to Head Drambuie vs Drambuie 15

Drm= Drambuie

D15= Drambuie 15


Drm: 40%

D15: 43%

Michigan State Minimum

Drm: $39

D15: $60

Appearance: Old gold, with some necklacing. (both)


Drm: Orange blossom honey, alcohol, malt whisky, woodruff, tarragon, a touch of ginger.

D15: Much drier. Sherried single malt, woodruff, thyme, wildflower honey.


Drm: Sweet and syrupy. A bit of burn, then orange and lemon thyme.

D15: Still sweet but not nearly as thick. More like a top shelf toddy than a liqueur. Dry sherry, malt whisky, honey with a faint herbal background note.


Drm: Clingy and sweet like that person you dated in High School. Hangs on for a long time, but with little depth.

D15: Dry and short by comparison. Wildflower honey again, alcohol and malt whisky.

Mixed: I tried them both in three mixed applications: A rusty nail (using a 12 y/o sherried single malt), a recipe from the Drambuie website called a “rusty cola” (self-explanatory), and with club soda on ice. The rusty nail with the standard version was fine and the malt did a good job of cutting the sticky sweetness of the liqueur. The 15 didn’t really add much. It just tasted like a sweet malt. The rusty cola was tasty but very sweet with the standard. The 15 tasted weird with cola at first but it grew on me. Standard Drambuie was refreshing with soda but still very sweet. The 15 was really delicious with soda, like a high-end blend.

Parting words: I don’t review liqueurs much but I have a small bottle of Drambuie languishing in my liquor cabinet and I was able to find a mini of Drambuie 15 so I figured I should do a head to head. They are whisky liqueurs after all.

Anyhow, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed tasting these two. The ordinary Drambuie is so sweet that it’s not something I drink very often but is a nice change of pace. The spice and herbal flavors come through nicely and give it some character beyond the cloying honey. The 15 y/o is truly delicious and does best with soda or neat.

That raises the question of price. Drambuie is not too expensive for a high-end liqueur but for the price of the 15, one could by a decent Highland or Speyside single malt that is just as sweet and complex and have some money left over. That is what keeps it from getting a full recommendation.

If you enjoy honey whisky liqueurs, Drambuie is recommended for mixing and Drambuie 15 is mildly recommended for both mixing and sipping.

Head to head: Canadian Club Reserve vs. Canadian Club Classic 12

CCR= Canadian Club ReserveCC Res vs Classic

C12= Canadian Club Classic 12

Distiller: Hiram Walker (and possibly elsewhere), Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Beam)


CCR: 9 y/o

C12: 12 y/o

ABV: 40% (both)

Michigan State Minimum

CCR: $18

C12: $23

Appearance: Burnt orange (both).


CCR: Burnt almonds, cedar, roasted corn, habanero

C12: Leather, caramel corn.


CCR: Full bodied, caramel, cayenne, a touch of oak.

C12: Thinner and milder. Light brown sugar, vanilla and some oak.


CCR: Maple syrup, alcohol,

C12: Fades quickly. A little more oak and a light, warm sweetness.

Parting words: Before I say anything else, I want to say that I don’t like the newly revamped Canadian Club label designs. The different expressions look too much alike on the shelf.

That out of the way, CC Reserve recently got knocked back a year from 10 y/o to 9 y/o. The 10 was one of my favorite Canadian whiskies and I was pretty annoyed when the change was made. It doesn’t seem to have changed the flavor of what’s inside. It’s still spicy and bold and a pleasure to drink. The price is impossible to beat for a Canadian with this much character. It’s recommended, and a few proof points more would probably push it into highly recommended territory.

The Classic 12 is good too, especially for the money, but it’s held back by its low proof. It works as a first pour of the night sipper whisky, but that’s about it.  Classic 12 is mildly recommended.

Two Days in Napa

One of the things I enjoy about wine is its strong connection to place. There’s an old saying that when you taste cider, you taste apples and when you taste cherry wine, you taste cherries but when you taste wine made from grapes, you taste the soil and the sun and the rain. This concept is called terroir, and while it is often over emphasized there is a strong element of truth to it. Different varies of grape grow in differently in different places and the same variety or even an identical clone of the same plant will produce a wine that tastes very differently from vineyard to vineyard. That’s to say nothing of the different traditions and techniques of the world’s vineyards.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a wine lover is visiting these places where grapes are grown and wine is produced. Last year when I received an invitation to my cousin’s wedding in Fremont, California the little hamster wheel inside my brain started turning. My wife and I went to Sonoma years ago when my sister and her husband lived in Northern California so it seemed natural that the next area to visit would be Napa.

When we left Royal Oak in the morning, our backyard looked like this.
When we left our hotel in the morning, we saw this.
When we left our hotel in the morning of the next day, we saw this.

We arrived in San Jose late at night so we just stayed at an airport hotel and drove to Calistoga to Rivers-Marie HQ in the morning. The most harrowing part of the drive was the final leg driving up and down mountains on two lane roads with no shoulders. Luckily my wife was behind the wheel so I could just close my eyes for the most alarming parts.

The office for Rivers-Marie is in a beautiful, fairly large craftsman style house in Calistoga itself. After meeting with friend-of-the-blog Will (R-M’s employee, as he described himself), we hopped in the truck and went to the associated winery, Tamber Bey. They make wine for a variety of labels and from a variety of vineyards, but Rivers-Marie is the house brand. Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is their specialty but they also do a Cab and a Chard under that label.

When we arrived they were racking the wine and Will showed us around the equipment.IMG_20140327_121951

We then got a chance to visit the wines resting in the barrels and taste a few. With most of them, I took a sip and thought, “This isn’t so bad” and then got smacked in the mouth with a big burst of sulphur. Not good drinking but educational.


We then went back to the office for a great tasting and great conversation with Will. I learned a lot about Napa and Sonoma and wine in general from the conversation. My thinking was even changed on a few things, like being overly tough on certain Michigan wineries whose wine I haven’t liked.

We ended up ordering four bottles from them. Since they don’t have a Michigan distributor, we were able to have them shipped.

RM Wines

Nothing could really compare to that experience, but we visited a few more wineries over the next two days.

There was scenic and pricey Alpha Omega.
There was scenic and pricey Alpha Omega.
And Mumm, specializing in sparklers.

We also visited a couple “Judgement of Paris” wineries, Grgich Hills and Stag’s Leap. Both were nice, but Stag’s Leap was an especially nice experience and the wines were amazing. Thanks to the advice of friends of the blog Jessica & Brian we also stopped at Elyse winery, a small family-owned winery. It’s not particularly scenic but the wines were very good and it’s always nice to be able to talk to the people who helped make the wine while you’re tasting it. This was our haul, at least all that we could carry on the plane:




We had heard horror stories about how Napa was a wine-themed Disney World, but it didn’t strike me as Disneyesque at all. Yes, there are plenty of touristy wineries, especially the big or famous ones, but the ones we saw didn’t seem any more touristy than ones we’ve seen in Michigan, Indiana or New York. Our experience with Will and at Elyse was anything but touristy. So, like most places, it’s all about expectations. If you go to Mondavi expecting Robert to look up from picking grapes to wave to you from the vineyard as you roll up on the gravel driveway, you’ll be disappointed. Especially since Robert Mondavi has been dead for several years now. If you plan your visit carefully and know what you’re in for you’ll be able to have a good time.

Napa isn’t just wine of course, but lots of good food too. Oenotri in downtown Napa was a standout, but we hit a couple nice little bistros along the way.


The wedding was a blast. The ceremony was a shortened version of the traditional Hindu ceremony, but instead of a horse, the groom rode in on a Ford Mustang. That summed up the festivities pretty well. The reception (on the next day) was even better. Best Indian food I have ever had and best beer list I have ever seen at a wedding reception. My cousin is a big craft beer fan, and she especially loves sour beers. I think we clean up well, too.



It was a wonderful time, and it’s all thanks to my brilliant cousin Rhiannon (aka Rachel) and her brilliant husband Ashish, who is already living up to his name. May you have many more blessings in the years to come!





Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout

Maker: Anderson Valley, Boonville, California, USAAnderson Val BBS

Style: Dry stout aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels.

ABV: 6.9%

Price: $10 (Binny’s)/22 oz bottle

Appearance: Chocolate bown with a big tan head.

Nose: Roasted malt, soy sauce.

Palate: Mildly sweet and bitter with some butterscotch and salted caramel.

Finish: Mildly sweet and a little fruity, then a touch of bitterness.

Parting words: My first encounter with an Anderson Valley beer was not a very positive one. This is much better. It’s not particularly ambitious or edgy. It’s just a stout that has spent some time in a bourbon barrel. But it’s tasty. The barrel contributes some very nice sweet butterscotch flavors without making it too boozy or sappy. One might even call this a session bourbon barrel stout. Maybe.


The price isn’t too bad for a product like this, but it is near the upper limit of what I would be willing to pay. Knowing the origin of the barrel is a nice bonus too. Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout is recommended.

Fighting Cock

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USAFighting Cock

Age: 6 y/o

Proof: 103 (51.5% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $18.50

Appearance: Dark copper with long thick legs.

Nose: Alcohol, oak, jalapeno, caramel. Water brings out butterscotch and basil.

Palate: Hot and sweet with a touch of oak. Softer with water but still spicy. Caramel and cayenne.

Finish: Hot and spicy with caramel and a hit of oak. Finish is basically the same with water, but a little less hot.

Mixed: Does very well in all applications I tried. Stands up to Coke and does well with Benedictine. Shines in a Manhattan and an old fashioned. Gets a little lost in a boulevardier but almost everything does. Performs nicely on the rocks.

Parting words: Like most chickens Fighting Cock is delicious but flies under the radar. It’s Heaven Hill’s answer to Wild Turkey. It has a high, odd numbered proof (mine goes to 11!), a bird on the label and a spicy, aggressive taste and aroma. It originally was aged stated at 8 y/o too, just like Wild Turkey used to be.

I like it better than Wild Turkey. It’s hard to find an age stated bourbon at that proof for under $20 these days. The closest cousin to FC is Old Ezra at 101 proof and 7 y/o. It’s probably also distilled by Heaven Hill and it’s a little cheaper. It tends to be grassy which can be off putting to some. I’d probably rank FC above Old Ezra but both are very good. If you like bold, spicy flavors in your bourbon and the name doesn’t make you blush, Fighting Cock is recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir, 2011

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City/Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAArc Pinot 2011

Place of origin: Michigan (60% Leelanau Co., 40% Grand Traverse Co.), USA

ABV: 12% ABV

Price: $22.50 (website)

Appearance: Ruby red,

Nose: Lightly toasted oak, white pepper, strawberry jam.

Palate: Medium bodied and medium dry. Black raspberries, very ripe blueberries, pinch of pink peppercorns.

Finish: Light oak with a bit of fruit. Fades slowly.

Parting words: I was originally planning to let this one sit for longer but after tasting a 2010 Pinot Noir from a neighboring winery that had fallen apart last week I panicked and decided that now was the time to open my 2011 Michigan Pinots. I’m glad I did. This one was very tasty. It was fruity but the oak rounds it off nicely. There could have been more depth and integration of flavor but there’s nothing to complain about. Does fine with food or on its own. 2011 Arcturos Pinot Noir is recommended.

New Orphan Barrel Project release

I received a press release from Diageo in my mailbox this morning and as I don’t receive many of these so I thought I’d pass the highlights along to you. It’s about the latest new release in Diageo’s orphan barrel series of premium, very old bourbons.


TULLAHOMA, Tenn., April 1, 2014 — From Tennessee to Kentucky to Ireland, stories of old whiskies forgotten in the back of rickhouses and warehouses drift among distillers the world over.  From lunch breaks to happy hours, their debates over which whiskey would taste best has become the stuff of legend.  To offer resolution and expand a new line of rare spirits to a growing base of whiskey aficionados, DIAGEO (NYSE: DEO) today announced the latest project of  the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, Very Old Beaver Straight Bourbon Whiskey to be joining Old Blowhard and Barterhouse Bourbons this spring.Very Old Beaver is expected to begin appearing on select shelves throughout the U.S. in April 2014 under strict allocation due to limited supply of approximately 1,000,000 cases worldwide.  Very Old Beaver won’t disclose her age but enthusiasts will be able to tell that she’s been around the block a few times.

Very Old Beaver stocks were discovered in old warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller facility in Louisville, Ky.  Rumor has it warehouse workers have already begun lining up for a taste of Very Old Beaver with a soft aroma reminiscent of buttercream and smoked halibut.  The whiskey’s mellow taste includes notes of old leather box, salt cod, and aged gorgonzola cheese.  Very Old Beaver is filled in Tullahoma, Tenn. and will be expected to sell for a suggested retail price of $50,000.

Like the rickhouse and warehouse workers who uncover them and the consumers who drink them, Orphan Barrel Whiskies have distinctive personalities in taste and packaging.  Very Old Beaver packaging nods to the inspiration behind the whiskey’s name.  A vintage pink and brown label features a furry beaver after she’s been lightly groomed and stuffed.  Because when you’re tired of youth and immaturity, nothing is better than the warm comfort of Very Old Beaver.