SB: Even more leathery. Grape juice, alcohol, hay.
BP: More balanced. Peanut brittle, roasted corn, leather, purple koolaid.
Sm: Mild and sweet then slowly warms up. Caramel and little else.
SB: Fuller bodied with more oak. Drier but still has a sweet backbone with a pinch of allspice.
BP: Fully full bodied. Big grassy entry, prune then slow burn. Water brings out sweet caramel and cotton candy with oak and cola on the back end.
Sm: cherry juice, oak, caramel, sage.
SB: Following the pattern. Similar to the Sm but more intense. Brown sugar, allspice, oak, burn.
BP: Bursts into the room big and hot, but leaves gracefully. Oak, caramel, splash of black cherry then fades to a delicate fruit flavor.
Parting words: I’ve had these three sitting around for a long time. I had hoped to review them a few times before but never had the time to do a three-way review like I wanted. With other bloggers reviewing Col. Taylor again, I got inspired.
All three of these are Buffalo Trace’s #1 mashbill (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Benchmark, Stagg). This is the core range, with limited editions popping up from time to time like the Old Fashioned Sour Mash, Tornado Survivor, Seasoned Oak and a possible Opossum Survivor edition in the near future. There is also a rye that occasionally shows up. It is a different mashbill from the standard Sazerac rye, though.
I enjoyed all three of these quite a bit. The prices are a bit wonky, though. $40 is OK for Sm, but why is SB $20 more? It’s better, but not really $20 better. The Barrel Proof is excellent at $70, unless one considers that Stagg Jr, also cask strength, mashbill #1 and NAS is $50. BP is better than Stagg Jr. but I’m not sure if it’s $20 better. Complicating matter is that George T. Stagg is listed at a minimum price of $80 in Michigan. So I’m not sure what to tell you. All are recommended, but I’d have to give the edge to Sm because its price is not weirdly impacted by the Staggs or its CEHT siblings. You can’t go wrong with the other two either, though.
Place of origin: Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California, USA
Purchased for around $20 (lost the receipt)
Appearance: Light gold,
Nose: Canned pears, lychee, dab of brown butter.
Palate: Medium sweet. Golden apples, then buttery with a little bitter oak on the back end.
Finish: Oak, then green apple with a little bit of butter, then acrid oak.
Parting words: I don’t remember where I picked this up. It may have been Trader Joe’s. Before I dove into Michigan wine, I used to buy a lot of California Chardonnay, especially Wente. It’s nice to go back and check out a wine like that, especially a line extension like this Riva Ranch Single Vineyard. Riva Ranch is a Wente family owned vineyard.
It’s firmly in the California style, of course, Wente being one of the inventors of that style. Going by memory, it’s more intensely flavored than Morning Fog and as it warms up some unpleasant bitter tastes creep in, but overall it’s a tasty wine. I would appreciate more fruit, but those who enjoy the oaky/buttery style of Chard will probably enjoy this more than I.
The price is fair (though I wouldn’t pay much more than $20) and it’s nice that it’s single vineyard. Wente’s Riva Ranch Single Vineyard is recommended.
Palate: Medium bodied and medium sweet. Cinnamon, mincemeat pie, sugar plums, caramel, oak.
Finish: Hot and leathery, like me in my senior year of high school.
Parting words: Old Forester 1897 is the latest entry in OF’s Whiskey Row series. I reviewed the first one, 1870, here. Old Forester is a great old bourbon brand. I won’t recount its long history here. Google it if you’re interested. This iteration is named in honor of the 1897 Bottled-in-Bond act that established the BiB designation for spirits (not just whiskey) and other quality controls. Bottled-in-Bottle aged spirits are at least four years old, the product of one distiller at one distillery from one distilling season, and bottled at 100 proof. The distillery must be identified on the label as well as the bottler, if bottled at a different facility than the one at which it was distilled. Old Forester BiB was in production for decades (maybe even a century) until it was replaced by Old Forester Signature. Signature is 100 proof but not technically a BiB presumably because it is not taken from one distilling “season”.
1897 is bottled in bond and it’s very good. While I like OF Signature, 1897 is superior. It’s much more complex and fruitier than its dry, spicy sibling. It’s creamy and fruity and a joy to drink. $50 is much higher than most BiBs are priced these days, but this is not Jim Beam bonded or J.T.S. Brown. This is a complex, flavorful bourbon worth sipping alongside Blanton’s or Rock Hill Farms. Old Forester 1897 is recommended.
My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores but others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself called the price book. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.
This post is a look at the new items for February 28, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.
HOTEL TANGO MIKE MOONSHINE 90, 750, $23.12 Listed under alcohol for some reason. See Hotel Tango Golf Gin below.
EZRA BROOKS BBN 90, 1000, $14.96
REBEL YELL BBN 80, 1000, $21.96 Two of the crummiest bourbons available in the state are now available in liter bottles. What a time to be alive. Both Rebel Yell and Ezra Brooks are from Luxco.
JEFFERSON’S OCEAN AGED CASK STRENGTH 112.0, 750, $99.99 “I’M ON A BOAT”. Jeff’s famous boat bourbon is now available in cask strength, although I would have called it naval strength. Seems like a missed opportunity. From Castle brands (Gosling’s, Knappogue).
1792 SINGLE BARREL 98.6, 750, $41.99 The latest in the flurry of 1792 line extensions spit out since Sazerac bought the brand. Hopefully, I will able to find and buy one of these, since the Sweet Wheat and Port finish seem to have been vacuumed off shelves instantaneously. Distilled in Bardstown at Barton-1792, of course.
Blended American Whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
TINCUP 84, 1750, $57.99 The sourced blend of straights from the former Stranahan’s guy is now available in handles in the Mitten State.
JACK DANIELS SINGLE BARREL RYE 94, 750, $54.99 At long last, JD has released a mature (on paper anyway) rye whiskey. The unaged and “rested” versions got mixed reviews, but hopefully this is better.
Straight Rye Whiskey
WOODFORD RESERVE RYE 90, 750, $42.96 WRR is finally making it to Michigan. The consensus was that Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection ryes were bad, but I liked them, despite the dumb price. Unlike those, WR Rye is made both at the historic Woodford Reserve distillery on the big copper pot stills and at the distillery in Louisville. [corrected]
KNOB CREEK RYE 100, 1750, $74.99 One of my favorite Kentucky style ryes is now available in a family size bottle. Whoot!
CROWN ROYAL W/BEANIE 80, 750, $27.99 Let the world know your questionable taste in whisky all winter with this gift pack that features a one-size-fits-all black CR beanie. Or make your own.
HUNTER RYE PLASTIC 90, 100, $1.89 Imported by Sazerac, this line extension to the old Seagram’s Canadian Hunter brand is now available in small 100 ml bottles. 50 ml bottles are also available hanging off the necks of bottles of Canadian Hunter blended. Canadian Hunter is sometimes called “the poor man’s Crown Royal” which makes me sad.
BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE EDITION: 07.1 119, 750, $164.99 This is the latest release from Bruichladdich’s super duper peated Octomore series.
BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE EDITION: 07.3 126, 750, $174.99 7.3 is the 100% Islay barley version of Octomore 7. Owned by Rémy Cointreau.
KIRKLAND BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY 80, 1750, $25.99 Sourced through Alexander Murray & Co. It’s good the state has finally allowed Kirkland/Costco brands in.
Irish Whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
KNAPPOGUE CASTLE-12 YR 92, 750 $47.99 One of my favorite Irish Whiskeys is back, although it never really left the shelves. From Castle brands (Gosling’s, Jefferson’s).
TULLAMORE DEW (IRISH)-15 YR 80, 750, $79.99 The knock on Tullamore has always been that it’s boring. I doubt this 40% ABV expression is going to help that perception. If tiny Castle Brands can release the 12 y/o Knappogue at 46% ABV for $48, then why can’t big boys like Wm. Grant release Tullamore 15 y/o at a higher ABV when asking $80? The mismanagement of this brand continues.
ST.GEORGE APPLE BRANDY 86, 750, $50.28 This is the (formerly?) limited release apple
brandy from Alameda California’s St. George microdistillery. Their fruit brandies were originally released under the Aqua Perfecta label, but have now thankfully been reissued as St. George fruit brandies. I’m always excited when a new apple brandy comes to Michigan, but a 3-4 y/o apple brandy selling for $50 does give me pause.
HOTEL TANGO ROMEO RUM 90, 750, $27.72 See Hotel Tango Victor Vodka below.
BAYOU RUM SILVER 80, 750, $19.99
BAYOU RUM SPICED 80, 750, $19.99 Bayou rum is a product of Louisiana Spirits, located about twenty miles east of Lake Charles. According to their website, they use all Louisiana sugar cane and a proprietary cane yeast strain for their line of rums. In addition to the silver, spiced (see above) and the Satsuma orange liqueur(see below), they also make Bayou Select, an aged, pot still rum. How long is it aged? They don’t say. Anyway, I’m glad to see a microdistiller focus on rum instead of hopping on the bourbon bandwagon. We need more rum.
PELICAN HARBOR RUM 80, 750, $18.99 See XIII Kings below.
ESPOLON EXTRA ANEJO 82, 750, $99.99 Elderly line extension for Campari’s Espolon comes in a little on the rich side.
HERRADURA ULTRA ANEJO 80, 750, $54.99 Brown-Forman jumps into the weird trend of crystal clear añejo tequilas with this item. At least it’s not $100.
PURA VIDA ANEJO 80, 750, $43.46
PURA VIDA REPOSADO 80, 750, $38.94
PURA VIDA SILVER 80, 750, $33.66 The line of tequilas jointed owned by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and a man named Stewart Skloss has come to Michigan with the three standard variations. Distilled by Feliciano Vivanco & Associates who also make the Siembra Azul tequila line and the ArteNOM 1414 selection, among others.
ANDREW JOHN’S 80, 750, $19.99 There’s no information about this product online at all. It’s distributed by General Wine & Liquor. I’m guessing it’s either a gin named for the rugby player Andrew Johns or it’s something the BuzzBallz people are responsible for. Either way, the total lack of information doesn’t bode well.
SIPSMITH LONDON DRY GIN 83.2, 750, $39.99
SIPSMITH V.J.O.P. 115.4, 750, $59.99 Sipsmith is a gin microdistillery in Chiswick in western Greater London. Three new products from them are on the list, two gins and a sloe gin. The London Dry is their entry level offering. This is their higher end, higher proof gin, which the website describes as a “symphony in J major” (oof). V.J.O.P.= Very Junipery Over Proof Gin. The sloe gin (see below) is made by infusing their London Dry with sloe (blackthorn) berries. Most commercial sloe gin is made with GNS, so good on them for using the traditional method. The website is cheesy but the products sound intriguing.
GRAY SKIES BARREL FINISHED GIN 80, 750, $29.99 Hopped and barrel-finished gin from the Grand Rapids microdistiller of the same chipper name. They also make Gray Skies Utility Vodka below. Coming soon: Rum. Not coming soon (they want to age it): Bourbon & Rye.
HOTEL TANGO GOLF GIN 90, 750, $27.72
HOTEL TANGO VICTOR VODKA 90, 750, $23.12 Hotel Tango is a newish microdistillery in Indianapolis in the historic Fletcher Place neighborhood. Their whiskey is aging (of what type the website doesn’t say), but they also offer gin, rum (above) and limoncello (below). Their focus seems to be cocktails. I’ve never been there or tried any of their stuff but it’s nice to have more craft spirits (especially rum) available in Michigan, assuming they’re not awful of course.
XIII KINGS VODKA 80, 750, $19.99 The BuzzBallz (actual name) unspillable/unbreakable premade cocktail people are releasing their own vodka and rum (see Pelican Bay rum above). I imagine that it’s the same liquor they use in their cocktails so it’s bound to be top quality stuff.
HOTEL TANGO LIMA CHARLIE LIMONCELLO 70, 750, $27.72 See Hotel Tango Victor Vodka above.
BAYOU SATSUMA ORANGE RUM LIQUEUR 60, 750, $19.99 Erroneously listed under rum. See Bayou Spiced rum above.
SIPSMITH SPECIAL EDITION 2013 SLOE GIN 58, 750, $49.96 See Sipsmith VJOP above.
Nose: Canned Bartlett pears, apple juice from concentrate, leather, fresh fig. As it warms, a faint varnish aroma emerges.
Palate: Tart up front, then the pear and what I assume are tannic quince flavors take over. Some apple juice in the background.
Finish: Tannic, then tart. Long-lasting.
Parting words: Bonny Doon is best known for their cigare volant wine series. Those have weird, UFO-themed packaging, but are serious, delicious wines. Here the weirdness is all in the bottle, not on it. Querry is simultaneously very tart and very tannic but with enough sweetness to keep it drinkable. It’s too extreme to be a go-to, but as an occasional cider or something to share with adventurous friends it works. Pretty food friendly too. 2013 is the current release. A sparkling 2011 is also listed on the Bonny Doon website. Querry is recommended.
Palate: Medium bodied. Medium dry. Heavily spiced apple pie, dry cider.
Finish: Baked apple, brown sugar, ginger, oak, fades with a little burn carrying through.
Parting words: Founded in 1780 by a Scottish immigrant, Laird’s is one of the US’s oldest commercial distillers, if not the oldest. They are the big dogs of American apple brandy, producing 90% of it, according to their website. Their bottled-in-bond apple brandy was a favorite of mine for a long time. I’ve been actively hoarding it since it was changed to a 3 y/o.
Laird’s Rare is probably the oldest American apple brandy available. If there’s one older, I haven’t had it. It’s good, but the age seems to have stripped it of most of its apple character. Oak is there, but just in the background. I wanted to love this grand old brandy, but it’s too mild on the palate and lacks the complexity of 8-10 y/o apple brandies I’ve had. At $70, I need more. Laird’s Rare Old Apple Brandy is mildly recommended.
I love doing tasting notes, but I thought it might be fun and valuable to you, dear reader, to offer a new service. My thought was to list new and interesting items being added to the Michigan state liquor list and offer a few comments of an informational nature on some of them. This is the trial run of such a feature. Please let me know if it is informative or entertaining or both in the comments!
For those who may not know, Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. This often includes the sale of beer and wine, although not in the case of Michigan. One of the weird quirks of the 21st amendment to the US constitution is that while it repealed national prohibition, it also gave sweeping powers to the states to regulate alcoholic beverages in whatever way they saw fit. Many states like Pennsylvania, Utah, North Carolina and Vermont operate state-owned liquor stores as a result. Others, like Michigan and West Virginia, merely act as the sole wholesaler in the state. Most are somewhere between the two extremes.
As a wholesaler, the state maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself. This list contains information on the licensed distributor the spirit is available from (these are all private companies), the alcohol content, size of the bottle in ml, how many bottles are in a case, the price the state pays for them, the price to bars, restaurants and retailers and, most importantly to consumers, a minimum price the spirit must be sold for at the retail level (always with a built-in profit for the retailer). Retailers are free to hike prices up as high as they like above the minimum, but many advertise state minimum prices which keeps the prices on most low and middle shelf spirits at or close to the minimum. The price list is readily available on the internet, so it’s easy for costumers to shop around for the best prices, too.
The price book is issued by the state a few times each year with supplemental lists (now called new items lists) published in between price books listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. Lists of price changes for items are issued as well (I plan to make note of significant price changes in future posts like this). All of them come with a date on which the spirits in question are available for ordering from the state through to distributor. Each price book is issued in PDF and Excel forms. New items lists are only available in PDF.
The January 31, 2016 new items list is here. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. Bureaucracy works in mysterious ways.
HATFIELD & MCCOY: DRINK OF THE DEVIL 90 proof, 750 ml, $26.20. Made in Gilbert, WV from alleged McCoy family moonshine recipe.
BUFFALO TRACE BOURBON 90, 1000, 34.99. Now available in 1 liter bottles if that kind of thing turns you on.
REBEL YELL REBEL RESERVE 90.6, 50, 1.49. I really thought Rebel Reserve was dead, but I guess not.
YELLOWSTONE SELECT 93, 750, $44.99. Yellowstone, a hallowed old bourbon brand formerly made at the Glenmore distillery in Louisville, has just been rebooted by Luxco. It will be produced at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky eventually, but for now it’s sourced whiskey.
Other American whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
THE GIFTED HORSE 115, 750, $49.96. The latest from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel project, this is 17 y/o UD era Bernheim bourbon blended with 4 y/o MGPI bourbon and 4 y/o MGPI corn whiskey.
Single Malt Scotch
BUNNAHABHAIN-8 YR 86, 750, $20.78. This young Bunna is on here as a correction so I’m not sure how new it actually is, but it does sound interesting.
GLENMORANGIE MILSEAN 92, 750, $99.99. This year’s entry into the private edition range. Finished in re-toasted wine casks. “Milsean” is a Gaelic word meaning “candy” but is also the name of a well-known horse.
SPEYMALT FROM MACALLAN 1998 86, 750, $64.99. From Gordon & MacPhail’s series of vintage Speyside single malt bottlings. This vintage is listed as discontinued on the G & M website, though, so it’s a bit of a head scratcher here.
Irish Whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
THE POGUES 80, 750, $33.99 If there’s any band one would trust to pick their own whiskey, it’s The Pogues. From West Cork Distillery. West Cork’s standard blend and 10 y/o single malt are also available in MI, though I don’t remember ever seeing them on a shelf.
THE QUIET MAN TRADITIONAL IRISH, 80, 750, $32.99
THE QUIET MAN-8 YR SINGLE MALT 80, 750, $49.96 Named for the founder’s father and definitely not the cheesy 1952 John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara romance of the same name, The Quiet Man is hitting the US now. It’s a joint project between Ireland’s Niche Drinks (St. Brendan’s Irish Cream) and Luxco (Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks). Word on the street is that these were distilled at Cooley, according to blog friend Bourbon & Banter.
POWERS SIGNATURE RELEASE 92, 750, $44.99 This has been out for a while, but has just now come back to the state. It’s a single pot still release. Curiously, the standard Gold Label Powers has dropped off the list leaving this and the 12 y/o John’s Lane release as the only Powers offerings in the state. Powers is not a big seller in these parts so I’m sure there’s still plenty of Gold Label out there and it will probably come back onto the list at some point.
BARSOL PISCO SUPREME MOSTO VERDE 82, 750, $42.96 Not a lot of Pisco available in Michigan, so it’s always nice to get another one. Mosto verde (green must) Pisco is distilled from partially fermented must, as opposed to other styles that use fully fermented wine. This results in lower ABV and more grape character. Three other styles of Pisco are available from Barsol in Michigan. Imported by Anchor Distilling.
JOURNEYMAN BILBERRY BLACK HEARTS BARREL AGED 90, 750, $39.87
JOURNEYMAN ROAD’S END 114, 750, $54.99. Two barrel-aged non-whiskey spirits from West Michigan’s Journeyman distillery are listed as new, but they’ve both been around a while. Let’s hope this means wider distribution beyond the distillery and Binny’s for both of them.
BLUE NECTAR ANEJO FOUNDER’S BL 80.0, 750, $59.99 Founded by a Southfield, MI businessman with the help of former Bacardi master blender Guillermo Garcia-Lay, Blue Nectar is distilled at the Amatitán distillery, which also makes Don Azul.
MAESTRO DOBEL HUMITO 88, 750, $53.99. New smoked silver Tequila from Dobel.
TEMPUS FUGIT FERNET DEL FRATE ANGELICO 88, 750, $64.99. Imported Fernet bitters from Northern California Absinthe specialists Tempus Fugit (associated with Anchor Distilling). Distilled at the Matter-Luginbühl distillery in Kallnach, Switzerland from an old Italian recipe. Erroneously listed under foreign brandy. TF’s Gran Classico bitters are also available in Michigan.
CELTIC HONEY 60, 750, $19.65. Irish whiskey based liqueur made with Irish honey and Irish botanicals from Castle Brands (Gosling’s, Jefferson’s, Knappogue).
TIJUANA SWEET HEAT 70, 750, $14.96. Tequila based, agave syrup sweetened abomination from Sazerac, the people who brought you Fireball. The concept is the same. Shoot it while shouting “woo!” Also available in 1 liter and 50 ml bottles for your alcohol poisoning pleasure. Erroneously listed under Tequila.
LONG ROAD DISTILLERY WENDY PEPPERCORN 101, 750, $34.99. Pink peppercorn flavored vodka from the Grand Rapids based microdistiller. Good for Bloody Marys, probably.
OLE SMOKY MOONSHINE BLUE FLAME 128, 750, $19.99. Ole Smoky’s attempt at a “serious” “moonshine”. Formerly only sold at their distillery in Gatlinburg and their outlet in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Listed under miscellaneous whiskey.
EVERCLEAR ALCOHOL PL 151, 50, $1.49. Even though Everclear has an ABV% that makes it impossible to take on an airplane, you can now pretend you’re drinking yourself to death on one with these nifty, affordable 50 ml bottles. Also great for watching youth sports, long church services or Philadelphia 76ers games.
Images from Anchor Distilling website media section here: http://www.anchordistilling.com/media/
Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Caramel, amaretto, then burn. Opens up and gets fruity with water. Wild cherry, candy fruit slices.
Finish: Bubblegum, plum, then burn the rest of the way. A little less fruity and hot with water but otherwise the same.
Parting words: “World whisky”, i.e. whisky made outside of the five traditional whisky-making countries (Scotland, Ireland, Canada, US, Japan), is getting a lot of attention. New distilleries in Sweden, Australia, Taiwan, India and elsewhere are launching their products in the US and getting written about. James Sedgewick distillery is getting attention too, but it’s hardly new. It was founded in 1886 in the heart of South African wine country. Their Three Ships line is what they are best known for, but Bain’s appears to be their only product available for sale in the US.
It was a surprise to me. Before opening, I had expected it to taste like a Scotch grain whiskey or an Irish blend but it didn’t resemble either of those. The nose was very similar to a Canadian whisky but the palate was closer to a high rye bourbon with its bubble gum and caramel flavors. I bought it as a novelty but I could see Bain’s easily entering my regular rotation. It mixes OK, but I like it too much neat to use it for cocktails too much. Unlike many other world whiskies entering the US, Bain’s is very affordable at $30. All that adds up to a big recommendation.
Parting words: Pinot Blanc is a funny wine. In Europe, it’s associated with Alsace, but Alsatian Pinot Blanc is really just a white wine blend made with white wines from grapes in the Pinot family. In Alsace, Pinot Blanc (the variety) and Auxerrois (a very close sibling to Chardonnay) are the most common components. Sometimes Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white) are blended in as well. Comparing an Alsatian Pinot Blanc to an American varietal Pinot Blanc is not really a fair comparison because of that.
I had intended to compare this wine to an Alsatian I had in my cellar, Emile Beyer’s Tradition Pinot Blanc. I didn’t end up doing that comparison because it just didn’t seem fair to compare the two for the reasons above, but also because Tradition is $10 cheaper and is not single vineyard. That said, I did drink them in close proximity and the LFC Pinot Blanc held up well, for what it’s worth.
Pinot Blanc is a grape variety that has come up as a potential “signature grape” for Michigan. I’ve ranted about this on Twitter at least twice. When the marketeers who love the idea of signature grapes talk about Pinot Blanc they use buzzwords like “crisp”, “clean” and “quaffable”. Those words always translate to “boring”. The idea is to grab Pinot Grigio drinkers who are looking for book club type wines that are easy to pound down and don’t require much contemplation. I think this is the wrong approach because I don’t want to see Michigan tying its fortunes to a dull grape and being perceived as a dull wine state, instead of one producing robust, complex white wines on par with anywhere else in the world.
Most Michigan Pinot Blancs I’ve had have indeed been boring. They have very little going on other than acidity. The ones that aren’t boring have been bad. Left Foot Charley’s 2013 Pinot Blanc is the exception. It’s complex and fruity, but with plenty of acidity to keep things moving along. $24 puts it on the high side for Michigan whites, but it’s worth it. If all Michigan Pinot Blancs could be like this, I might change my mind about the grape. Left Foot Charley 2013 Pinot Blanc is recommended.
Maker: Blake’s Hard Cider, Armada (ar-MAY-duh), Michigan, USA
Style: Dry cider
Purchased for $10/6 pack (cans)
Appearance: At first pour has a big, fizzy, soda pop head. Light gold and slightly cloudy.
Nose: Homemade applesauce, medium sweet aroma.
Palate: Semi-dry. A little apple character and minerality. Tannin on the back end.
Finish: Tannic and bone dry. Apple core, fresh picked apple, gravel dust. Progressively less apple and more dryness as one moves throught nose, palate and finish.
Parting words: I reviewed Blake’s (semi-) sweet cider Flannel Mouth a couple weeks ago. It was fine as an entry level cider or something for the casual drinker. Beard Bender is drier but still very accessible. Drinkers who are used to sweet corporate ciders might be taken off guard a little, but by the time they finish it, they’ll love it.
Beard Bender is an ideal table cider as well. It works best with the sort of cuisine that naturally pairs with dry white or pink wines, but no need to get picky. I had it with a porterhouse steak once and it still did very well. Not as well as a big dry red wine or a porter, it still did well. $10 is a solid price, too. Beard Bender is recommended.