Woodinville Private Select, Holiday Market, barrel 4884

Maker: Woodinville, Woodinville, Washington, USA

Style: Single barrel, barrel strength, straight bourbon.

Age: NAS (at least four years old).

Proof: 121.28 (60.64% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $70

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Spicy. Caramel, hot pepper jam, mace, cassia.

Palate: Full bodied and lucious. Caramel and cream, with big burn on the end. Water calms things down a bit, but doesn’t rob it of its richness. It also brings out the char and a little chocolate.

Finish: Sweet and oaky, in the “dusty” bourbon way.

Parting words: Woodinville is a farm-to-bottle distillery in the wine country near Seattle. Like many micro distilleries around the US, they claim the late Dave Pickerell as a formative influence on their business. After parting ways with Maker’s Mark in 2008, Pickerell went into business as a travelling consultant and worked with scores of start up distilleries over the next ten years, Woodinville included.

I’m not very well acquainted with Woodinville, and this is the first bottle I’ve purchased, so I had no expectations upon opening it. When I first opened it, I drank it mostly on the rocks, and I was not particularly impressed. Once I started drinking it in a Glencairn glass with a splash of water, my opinion changed immensely.

It has a richness that reminds me a lot of some of my favorite old “dusty” discontinued bourbons. I don’t remember how old it is, but I don’t really care, frankly. It’s one of the best “craft” bourbons I’ve had. $70 is a perfectly reasonable price given the quality and proof. I really like this, and I can’t wait to try more Woodinville selections. Woodinville Private Select, Holiday Market selection (barrel 4884) is highly recommended.

Bel Lago Cabernet Franc, 2016

Maker: Bel Lago, Lake Leeland, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Cabernet France (at least 85%)

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA. (at least 85%)

Vintage: 2016

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for $44 (Michigan by the Bottle Royal Oak)

Appearance: Brick red.

Nose: Blackberry, blueberry, violets.

Palate: Dry but fruity. Blueberry, mulberry, tiny nip of tannin.

Finish: Tart and a little chewy.

Parting words: Bel Lago consistently makes some of the best wines from Burgundian (and Burgundy-adjacent) grape varieties in Northern Michigan. Their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Auxerrois are all sought after by Michigan wine enthusiasts.

Judging by this wine, they have some work to do with their Bordeaux varietals. While perfectly drinkable, it lacks the depth and complexity of Bel Lago’s Pinots and Auxerrois. It’s virtually all fruit, without anything in the way of spice, minerals, or oak, despite spending 34 months in the latter. 2016 was a hot vintage, and Charlie, Bel Lago’s co-founder, likes his grapes ripe (and the microclimate of the estate is happy to oblige him) so perhaps they had a little too much hangtime.

As I said before, there’s nothing flawed or unpleasant here, it just doesn’t quite live up to my expectations of Bel Lago or of $45 wines. That said, I’m definitely trying the 2017 if I see it. 2016 Bel Lago Cabernet Franc, 2016 is only mildly recommended.

2 Lads Sparkling Rosé, 2018

Maker: 2 Lads, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

Grapes: Chardonnay (90%), Pint Noir (10%).

Place of origin: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

Style: Dry Sparkling Rosé.

Vintage: 2018.

ABV: 12.2%

Purchased for: $32 (winery).

Appearance: Dark pink (yes, that’s a thing).

Nose: Fresh bagette, strawberry, white mulberry.

Palate: Dry to semi dry (in the brut range). Very effervescent. Limestone dust, white raspberry.

Finish: Dry, but juicy and tart.

Parting words: We picked this bottle up from the winery back in July, when we were showing my sister and her husband around Old Mission Peninsula. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we stopped in and I asked what they had that isn’t available at Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room. The man I asked (looked like he wasn’t older than 23) gave me a puzzled look. When I explained what that was he said he didn’t know 2 Lads was distributed that far “downstate”.

Anyway, this is an easy-drinking dry, but not too dry, traditional method (I think) pink sparkler. It pairs well with just about any food, including stir fry and Indian food. It is at its best at the table, but is a good porch sipping wine too.

I like the pop-cap closure. It adds to the bottle’s contemporary look and makes opening the bottle much easier. I’m usually a romantic when it comes to these sorts of things, but I’ve wasted too much of my life screwing around with tiny cages and big corks. More caps, please, winemakers.

$32 isn’t cheap, but this wine doesn’t taste cheap either. Drink now through 2023 or so. 2018 2 Lads Sparkling Rosé is recommended.